3.20.2015

Vegan samoa truffles

In case you missed it, the Girl Scouts are coming to the dark side. And by the dark side ... I mean they're now offering a vegan cookie. That's right, vegans all over rejoiced as we learned the Thin Mints we grew up knowing and loving are now VEGAN. It even says so right on the order form.

So last week I was headed into a grocery store to get my coffee fix on, when I passed a table of Daisies selling girl scout cookies. FYI, these gals are getting high-tech these days. They have little things that connect to cell phones which allows them to take CREDIT CARDS. Yep, long gone are the days of needing cash! Anywho, I decided to do my part and bought a couple boxes of Thin Mints.

And while these cookies are as delightful as I remembered them, there was still something missing. The samoas, or now-named, caramel delites. See, when I was a kiddo I had a pretty strong aversion to coconut. It wasn't the flavor of it, but the weird texture. Eventually I grew to love all things coconut, but then I chose the vegan lifestyle and have been without these delightful cookies for nearly seven years now.

Last year I made a seriously amazing vegan bar version of the coconut and caramel Girl Scout cookie, but it definitely was a labor of love. So this year I set out to make something simpler - both in making and eating. And alas, I give you these six ingredient vegan samoa truffles.

These little balls of Heaven are absolutely amazing, and seriously, ANYONE can do these.

(I often have the sauce made up due to my love of fancy schmancy coffee drinks, but if you don't, you can use my vegan caramel recipe!)



Vegan samoa truffles
(Makes about two dozen)
Ingredients:
One package of vegan vanilla creme cookies (like golden oreos).
4 ounces of vegan cream cheese
1/2 cup vegan caramel sauce
1 cup vegan chocolate chips
1/2 TBS coconut oil
Shredded coconut

Directions:
In a food processor, blend up one package of vanilla creme cookies. Place in a medium bowl and mix in vegan cream cheese. Roll into one-inch-sized balls and place on a cookie sheet with wax paper. Stick in the fridge overnight.

In a microwave-safe bowl, melt chocolate chips and coconut oil, stirring frequently and until melted. Using your hands (if you like to get messy) or a skewer, dip the balls into the melted vegan chocolate and then place back on the wax paper. Sprinkle some coconut on top.

Stick back in the fridge until the chocolate coating hardens.

Share with friends because you'll eat them all if you don't!


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3.19.2015

Finding a balance between her dreams and mine

It’s after dinner and I’m sitting in the parlor of our church. In front of me is a large circle of children, from four years old to eight or nine. They’re rocking back and forth impatiently, waiting to be fit for their costumes for the musical “Noye’s Fludde.” There’s a group of girls, the “cats,” pretending to lick their hands and wash their ears, while another group of boys karate chops and kicks each other.

My daughter is sitting Indian-style, with her back straight and her eyes glued to the choir teacher. A little girl next to her asks her to thumb wrestle, Pearyn panics and looks at me.

Does she know how to thumb wrestle? Is she even allowed to? Will her Godly play teacher be upset if she does? Will mommy say no?

I’m raising a three-foot-version of myself – and some days – it absolutely breaks my heart.

I know the struggle she has ahead of her. I can see what mountains she has to tackle. I can feel the uncertainty she balances as she contemplates whether she should appease her peers or the adults. I remember those feelings. I remember that confusion. And I remember feeling left out.

Eventually, whether it was my mothers prodding or the confidence I developed from my athletic ability, I found my comfort zone amongst my peers. I flourished within my group of friends and by the time I went off to college, making new friends and being the loud, bold girl who could talk to the guys was a role I’d grown accustomed to. I knew my role and for the most part, I was good at it.

I can’t help but wonder how much easier my high school career would have been had I simply embraced who I was back then. Sure, at 14, 15, I didn’t really have an idea who I was, but I was so concerned with what my parents and friends were thinking I didn’t bother to wonder what the hell I wanted. College allotted me the experience to decide if I wanted purple hair, 15 piercings or a wardrobe consisting of crop tops and mini skirts (thankfully, it didn’t), imagine how much happier I might have been had I developed a comfort with myself earlier in life.

I want these things for Pearyn. I want her to feel comfortable in her own skin. I want her to be confident in herself (and to know her parents love her, no matter what, well, unless she becomes a serial killer, we might have some issues there). I want her to WANT to be her own person.

This is the hard part about parenting, I think. We have all these hopes and dreams for these tiny human creatures, things we think are good for them, but it doesn’t mean that’s what they’re going to want. It doesn’t mean it’s THEIR hopes and dreams. And I’m finding it difficult to find the right balance between hers, mine or if there even is one?

And if this balance even exists, how do we encourage it, employ it, without losing a little bit of Pearyn along the way?  

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3.14.2015

You can't make everyone happy

First off, I should probably say an overwhelming thank you for all the support, encouragement and personal stories I received after opening up about my emotional issues. For the most part, you all appreciated the honesty, could relate and were happy to hear someone open up and talk about it like it’s no big deal.

Because guess what, it’s not a big deal. There’s nothing I should be ashamed of, nothing I am to be embarrassed about, I had a problem, I sought treatment. If you had a broken arm, you wouldn’t just “get over it,” try harder or let it heal on it’s own, no, you’d go to a doctor and you’d get that bad boy put in a cast.

Suffering from depression, anxiety or a mood disorder is essentially the same thing – only it’s with your mind. Just because you can’t see a physical break doesn’t make it any less real, any less deserving of treatment or any easier to get over. If anything, realizing you’re suffering from it is if anything, harder to uncover.

I can’t tell you how many years (actually, I can, it was 13, but who’s counting) I spent trying to “fix” myself (without the help of a professional) because of this stigma around emotional issues. Why couldn’t I just “suck it up and get over it” like everyone else? Why did my emotions seem to be so extreme compared to my friends and family? People want to play emotional illness off as “being in our heads” and some of us just being “weaker” than others, would YOU seek treatment if that’s what you heard? Imagine you had a fever for two weeks, but instead of encouraging you to go to the doctor, everyone told you to “just get over it” or “rub some dirt on it and get back in the game,” it’d make it pretty hard to take yourself seriously when it feels like NO ONE else does.

I spent 13 years, that’s just a few years shy of HALF MY LIFE, trying to “cope” like everyone else. And after ONE month of being on a low-dose antidepressant, I’ve been able to relax, to not just enjoy life, but to HANDLE it.

Unfortunately (and to be expected), not all of the feedback I received was supportive. In fact, I lost five followers and received a handful of emails informing me of how I wasn’t really being “treated.” Why would I promote and “glamourize” going on medication? Why couldn’t I just go talk to a counselor? Evidently, after spending five minutes reading one blog three readers were able to tell me what was wrong with me, how I could fix it (and it didn’t involve “feeding into the pharmaceutical machine”); something I was incapable of doing for the last decade!

Normally, this type of flack, losing a chunk of followers, would have bothered me in the past. And not in the “I want more traffic and readers” way, but in the “why don’t these people like me as a human being” way. But now, I can honestly tell you, I don’t really care what these people think. I appreciate individuals who want to reach out to me in a respectful manner, however, I have no desire to enter a battle with people who simply want to tell me how wrong I am and how I’m going to fail.

What people don’t see is the way I’ve been feeling for all these years. The coping methods I used (self harm, binge drinking, the usuals), were easily hidden by some of those closest to me. And while I may not have been engaging in those harmful ways over the last few years, it doesn’t mean my mind wasn’t still broken.

Deciding to go on medication was not something I chose lightly. At one point, probably within the last six months, I realized it was probably my best bet for healing myself, but I didn’t want to take that route. I didn’t want to be “weak.” I didn’t want to become dependent on drugs to make me happy and I didn’t want to be robotic – those things all seemed like giant steps back. But after sitting in the exam room with a doctor who has known me since I was eight, crying because I have all these blessings and I’m still not happy, he helped me decide enough was enough. He listened to me and he made me feel like Amanda, not his patient, and so I put my trust in him.

And medication isn’t my only “treatment” method, nor is it something I’m planning on being on forever. I’m not going to put a timeline on my healing, but I also realize this isn’t completely sustainable for me. I’ve also been talking with a counselor every other week, someone who specializes in women’s mental health, women’s transitions (I’m turning the big 30 NEXT month) and young mothers. I’m also finding new hobbies, whether it’s a photography class or a painting class, something I can immerse myself in something that will give me a new “high,” something that can help me figure out who I am outside of this “cloud.”

And I have the support, love and help of my family and friends, which is possibly the most important factor of all.

So I’m sorry if you’re offended that I’m willing to discuss my struggles so openly, I’m sorry if you think I’m weak because I’m on medication.

Actually, I’m not. I’m not sorry about any of those things. And if you want me to be, if you’re waiting for an apology from me, do us all a favor and unfollow me now. This blog is a space for anyone to talk about their struggles, their successes and their battles. This blog is where I want people to find comfort and hope. It doesn’t need any one person’s approval or judgment – especially if it’s hateful and not helpful.

You don’t have to agree with me. But you do need to be respectful.


You’re never going to make everyone happy, but as long as I am, I’m going to keep on keeping on.

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3.10.2015

The truth about being messed up

You may have noticed things have been kind of quiet on the blog lately.

Don't worry, I haven't forgotten about you all or turned in my laptop, I've simply been getting better.

I've tried to write this post so many different times, but never had the right words. To be honest, I'm not sure I currently do, but I just couldn't be quiet any longer. I've spent so many years burying so many things; it's time to be real.

While my family did succumb to that nasty upper respiratory virus that was going around this winter (several times, in fact), that's not what I've been getting better from. Like many women, young mothers, wives, adults, parents, human beings with responsibilities, I've been going through a lot, for a long time, like since high school. And I never really understood or accepted that there was something off about me, I kind of just pushed it aside and figured somewhere along the way it would fix itself. I would be fixed. I would be normal.

After a few months of feeling withdrawn, a few months of feeling off center, a few months of experiencing too-high-highs and too-low-lows, I finally opened up to my family and friends and asked for help.

What was the breaking point? There wasn't an extreme one, more like a compilation of things adding up until enough was enough and something had to be done. I've spent the last month on a non-dependent, extremely mild medicine to help with my mood swings (it's like the perfect PMS pill, OK, I'm kidding, kind of) and I've started talking more openly about my feelings.

So here's the truth about being messed up.

Sometimes, actually, most of the time, it's not your fault.

This has been a really, really hard one for me to accept. This is actually half of the reason it took me so long to seek treatment. I was convinced the problem wasn't the chemicals in my brain or the hormones in my body, but instead, was me. It's not like I was being dealt these terrible life cards or horrible problems in which I had to handle. No, it was the everyday nuances that were wearing me down. So in my head, it wasn't that I was suffering from depression or anything, no, it was just me. I just wasn't capable of properly coping with things the way "normal" people did, which in turn, was why I thought I was unhappy.

After a month of being on an incredibly low-dose anti-depressant, I can tell you, that wasn't the way I was supposed to be feeling. That wasn't my fault. It WASN'T that I was simply unable to properly "handle" things the way other people did, no, there really was an imbalance. Now, I feel more like me, ALL the time. I don't have these periods of terrible mood swings, where anything could bring me to tears. Now, things just don't seem so hard.

The other reason I put off addressing my issues for so long?

The guilt. The guilt I felt and am still dealing with. I had a wonderful childhood, a loving and present family, I was a talented athlete, I had friends, boyfriends, I did well in school, I fell in love, had two healthy, wonderful babies, have a beautiful home, an amazing career, the best of friends and a seemingly charmed life. I shouldn't be unhappy when I have such a blessed life. In my mind, I wasn't allowed to be "depressed," what on Earth did I have to be depressed about? And because I was still feeling those things, I concluded something was just wrong with me. I wasn't grateful enough. I wasn't doing things the right way, I wasn't trying hard enough. In my mind, I had nothing to be sad about, so what the heck was my problem?

The root of my problems, aside from the chemicals in my body toying with me, was that I never validated my feelings. That's the problem with feelings, as much as you want to control them, you can't really. If it were so easy to control them, we'd all choose to ignore jealousy, anger, frustration, irritation; we'd just shut them off and choose to be happy instead. But feelings aren't like that. Feelings are messy. They pop up when we don't want them to and if we don't address them, well, it messes us up.

Just because I have an extremely awesome support network and am on an even more awesome path in life, doesn't mean I won't feel sad, mad, frustrated from time to time. Are people out there going through much more difficult storms than I am? Sure. Does that mean I'm not allowed to face ones of my own? Absolutely not. Not allowing yourself to be upset, just because someone out there has it worse, is like not allowing yourself to be happy because someone out there has it better. It's just silly.

Does that mean I'm allowed to throw myself a 24/7 pity party? Heck no. And that's why I finally sought treatment. That's why I'm finally starting to feel like me again. That's why I'm finally starting to discover who the real "me" is. I allow myself to feel what I'm feeling, and then I move on.

For the first time in YEARS, I'm experiencing things in a more positive light. And now, all the things I loved to do, coaching, having a family, writing, editing, baking, going out with friends, they're all so much more enjoyable, because I'm not constantly fearing the low that will come after these "highs."

I get it. I probably sound like the TV commercial where a cloud was following me around and now suddenly it's sunny, but it's really not like that. There are still clouds, still rain, but for once, I actually feel equipped to deal with these things. I actually AM handling things.

And for now, I'm a little less messed up.

I strongly encourage anyone experiencing these types of feelings to start a conversation with someone you trust. It's completely OK to be messed up, but as I'm slowly learning, you don't have to feel that way forever. It's not easy to talk about these kind of things, but it should be. And if more of us speak out and share our stories, it makes it easier for someone else to. 

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2.12.2015

The perfect vegan white cupcake with bakery frosting

What's that saying?

'When the going gets tough, the tough get going.'

Well, part of that is right.

When the going gets tough, the tough bake cupcakes. Lots of them. With uber-rich, bakery-style frosting that gets a teeny bit hard on the outside but remains sugary and smooth on the inside. Yeah, that's what we do when life throws us a curveball in the Chubby Vegan household.

I've been a bit of a funk lately. Maybe it's the weather, maybe it's because I'm going to be the dirty 30 in a mere two months (and still don't feel like an adult!), I don't know.

What I do know, is this: I am a firm believer that there are few things in this life cupcakes won't make better. So I set out this time to create something really, really simple, but really, really sweet and really, really perfect.

The result is reminiscent of that white-on-white bakery birthday cake you used to get from the grocery store. You know, the one that's all dense and heavy with the super rich, almost overwhelmingly sweet frosting? Yeah, we busted out a dozen of those in our Chubby Vegan kitchen and lets just say I had to make MORE icing because the first batch didn't quite make it all on the cupcakes (OK, some of it ended up in my stomach. It was good, what can I say.)

Here's the secret: don't skip the vegetable shortening. I get it, you want to try and be healthy, but for reals peeps, it's a cupcake, make it right or don't make it at all. (Adorable cupcake trophy stand courtesy of my equally adorable and awesome boss!)



Bakery-style vegan white cupcakes with white frosting
(makes 12 dozen deliciously-iced cupcakes)
Cake ingredients:
1.5 cups all-purpose flour
1.5 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
1 stick vegan butter (we used Earth Balance)
1/2 cup applesauce
1/4 cup vanilla coconut milk
1/4 cup vegan sour cream
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt

Frosting ingredients:
4 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup vegan butter (softened)
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon almond extract

Cake directions:
Preheat oven to 350 F. Place cupcake wrappers in a pan muffin tin. Cream together vegan butter and shortening until light and fluffy (with a hand or stand mixer). Stir in sugar and applesauce. Slowly mix in flour, baking powder and salt. Once combined, add coconut milk, vegan sour cream and vanilla extract. Fill cupcake wrappers a little over half full. Bake for 18-22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or edges become a very light, golden brown. Set aside to cool.
Frosting directions: 
Mix shortening, vegan butter, vanilla, almond extract,and half of the powdered sugar with a mixer for *at least* five minutes (possibly up to 10 minutes depending on the power/speed of your mixer). Add the rest of the powdered sugar and beat just enough to mix in. Frost cupcakes as desired, store in fridge when not in use. 

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