Creamy vegan alfredo and zucchini noodles

I probably should have been born Italian. I have an immense love for any and everything they put on their pasta and pizzas, not to mention, the pasta. THE pizza. I am a lover of all things carbs. It's not a healthy love. In fact, it's probably been a catalyst to what made me not quite as healthy as I should be. 

One of the things that rivals my love of carbs, is the ooey-gooey, melty, creamy, liquidy-heaven alfredo sauce that you PUT on said carbs.

Mmmm alfredo sauce.

I've been in search of making the ultimate vegan version of this sauce for years now and I finally feel ready to share it with y'all. This recipe is like eight years in the making folks. That's a lot of years.

I've tried the tofu-based alfredo sauce and couldn't get past the semi-sterile taste it seemed to have. It's not a secret that I don't really have a love affair with tofu, however. I also tried the sauce using oodles of fake cheese, which while it was better than the tofu version, still seemed to complicate the very delicate balance of garlic, cheesy, creamy, simple goodness that a truly amazing alfredo has.

Finally, between a little vegan cheese, a simple white sauce base and some nutritional yeast, we have mastered the perfect alfredo sauce at the Chubby Vegan household!

Because of my unhealthy obsession with carbs, we purchased a veggie spiralizer from Williams Sonoma and have been using it to make veggie noodles. And seriously, they're so delicious and this little gadget was so worth it.

We also added some sautéed tempeh to give it a little more bulk and protein. We have made this multiple times since, and it has yet to disappoint!

Creamy vegan alfredo sauce:
(Serves 6)
3 TBS vegan butter
6 TBS all purpose flour
1.5 tsp salt
2 cups plain almond milk
1/3 cup no chicken broth (we use Imagine brand)
4 slices vegan provolone cheese (We use Daiya)
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 TBS minced garlic
1 TBS Italian seasoning

Optional: Tempeh, cubed and sautéed in olive oil with a sprinkle of italian seasoning. Pasta or five zucchinis, spiralized and sautéed on medium heat for 10 minutes with some olive oil. 

Melt vegan butter in a small saucepan on medium heat. Once it's melted, stir in all purpose flour. Whisk until it makes a runny paste. Whisk in plain almond milk and no chicken broth. Add nutritional yeast, blend well.  

Tear up vegan cheese slices and stir them into the mix. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly and then lower heat to a simmer and stir, for three to four minutes. Add in garlic and Italian seasoning. The sauce will thicken as it cools. Pour over pasta, veggie noodles or anything, because it's delicious. Top with tempeh or some veggie chicken strips. 

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How massively important communication REALLY is

The last few weeks have been sort of demanding. Between some downright hateful responses to a story on the website I'm an editor for (not CVM), to some throw-down, blowout, blood-curling tantrums from my kiddos, I've found myself reflecting a lot on communication lately.

Or, more specifically, the lack of communication in our everyday life. Or, even more specifcally, the breakdown of our ability to openly, honestly and respectfully communicate with each other in this day and age.

How absolutely terrifying is it, that with the technology we have at our means, the Facebooking, emailing, tweeting, Instagraming, texting, Facetiming, Skyping, phones on us making us connected 24 hours a day, we seem to be communicating less and less?

And I'm not pointing fingers at technology. Of course I can see the way it has degraded our face-to-face communication; I see the parents playing on their phones, counting their Facebook likes, meanwhile their children are playing pretend and aching for their moms and dads to sit down on the floor and join them. Any one can see that certain technologies, when abused, can lead to poor communication. But it's unfair to blame Snapchat and Netflix for the way WE use them, they're simply providing a service. We're the ones deciding what to do with them.

When it comes to all the means we have at our disposal, shouldn't it be easier than ever to call up that friend and tell them you miss them? Tell them something is bothering you? Tell them you're not happy with the way something is going? Between email and texting and phone calls, shouldn't it be simple to work your problems out, even if you're too embarrassed to do it face to face? If we want to make lasting, impactful relationships, shouldn't you WANT to communicate openly with each other?

Through the relationships I've formed in my life, I've learned so much about what I bring to the table. I've also learned what my opportunities are. I have a very dominating personality. I like to be the center of attention and I like to voice my opinion. I often find myself close friends with people who aren't so ready to communicate in this manner. I met my best friend in college. We bonded over her braiding my hair and sharing our scathing experiences with the opposite sex. She is loud and boisterous when she's comfortable with you, but when she's in a large group, her voice can be silenced. Sometimes, I found myself silencing her unintentionally. She helped me realize how intimidating I am when I communicate, because of my loud opinions, don't-care attitude and verbose choice of words at times.

Since then I have actively worked to communicate better, to not step on the little guy. I ask my friends if they have a problem. I ask my husband if I'm not hearing him. I tell my kids I'm listening and understand their feelings. I try to go out of my way to ensure the people I truly love feel heard and comfortable talking to me. And yet, at the end of the day, I still had people near and dear to me telling me that "I just didn't hear their needs," "they were scared to open up to me" and "we were drifting apart."

I've struggled for a few months now to grasp how people can just throw in the towel on a friendship. What I could have done to communicate better. And the truth is, there's only so much YOU can do. If it's just you talking, just you reaching out, just you asking questions, then it's simply a one-sided conversation. If someone would rather talk at you than with you, well, that's not really communication, is it?

Take for example my problem with work. While several readers enjoyed the article, we found a small group perceived the article in a very negative light. They were deeply offended and voiced their opinions on any platform they could. The problem was despite their fervor, they simply weren't willing to communicate with us. They were content yelling at us for gravely insulting them, but when we reached out to find out what they wanted, what they would like to see, only one of them interacted with us. ONE person. Instead, the others continued to point fingers at us, for pointing ours at them.

You cannot communicate with someone who isn't willing to communicate with you.

As human beings, we need to connect. We need to hear each other. We should speak kinder to each other. Care more about each other. With all these amazing ways to communicate with each other, we should be reaching out more. When is the last time you told your best friend you loved them? You missed them? How often do you ask people how they are, how their day was, and really listen to the answer? When is the last time someone asked you how you were, and you were honest and open with them?

George Bernard Shaw said "the single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place."

Have you really been communicating?

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Vegan chocolate-covered strawberry cupcakes

It's no secret that I'm a fan of all things sweet.

I'm particularly a fan of sweet things in cupcake form. 

And because my husband can't actually stomach a strawberry in it's berry delicious form, I have to come up with new and clever ways if I want to make a sweet strawberry treat. 

So for Sweetest Day a few weeks ago (yes, I'm a sap that celebrates this holiday, I always have and always will), I decided to turn chocolate-covered strawberries into a more edible delight for my husband.

And if you're STILL not a fan of Chubby Vegan Mom on Facebook, then you missed out on some serious vegan cupcake food porn.

This recipe uses a combination of strawberry jelly (to ensure seed-free frosting) and strawberry puree to flavor the cupcakes! 

The best part of this cupcake is how fancy schmancy it is. With the help of a quick chocolate mousse, vegan chocolate chips and a little vegetable oil, this recipe packs loads of strawberry with the perfect hints of chocolate. 

They're a wee-bit labor intensive, but I promise, they're worth the TLC. 

Vegan chocolate-covered strawberry cupcakes
(makes 24 cupcakes)
Cake ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1.5 cups cake flour
1 cup strawberries (pureed)
1/4 cup applesauce
1 cup sugar (it's a cupcake, I didn't say it was healthy)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup vanilla coconut milk
2 tsps baking powder
Dash of salt
Optional 2-3 drops red food coloring (Our health food store sells a vegan, locally-sourced variety)

Chocolate mousse ingredients:
2  ripe avocados
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 vanilla coconut milk
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Frosting ingredients:
1.5 sticks vegan butter, at room temperature, we used Earth Balance
6 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup coconut milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup strawberry jelly, melted(I used some made for us by friends this past summer!)
Optional 2-3 drops red food coloring

Chocolate "shell" drizzle ingredients:
1 cup vegan chocolate chips
2 TBS vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl mix together all your dry ingredients (all purpose and cake flour, sugar, baking powder and salt). Take your one cup of strawberries and puree them in your high-power blender or food processor. Soften your vegan butter in the microwave (again, soften, not melt) and pour into a large bowl with the rest of the liquid ingredients (strawberry puree, applesauce, coconut milk, water and optional food coloring). Stir the dry ingredients into the liquid ingredients (about a cup at a time) and then blend with a mixer.

Line your muffin pan with cupcake wrappers and fill each a little over half full. Bake for 20-25 minutes, the edges will pull away from the pan some and you'll be able to stick a toothpick into the middle and pull out out cleanly. Once they're done set them aside to cool.

Now, for the frosting. In a large mixing bowl, blend together 1.5 sticks vegan butter (at room temperature), coconut milk, jelly and vanilla extract. (Add optional food coloring if you'd like). Blend in powdered sugar (about a cup at a time), until it's all mixed together. Refrigerate until use. 

For the chocolate mousse, puree the avocado and set aside. Mix together the cocoa powder and milk and add to the avocado. Stir in the sugar, and vanilla extract, blend well with a mixer. Store in the fridge until you're ready. 

Once your cupcakes have cooled, use your finger to make a small hole in the center of the cupcake. (It should be deep enough to fill, but not so deep that it goes to the bottom). Using a bakers bag (or a zip lock bag with the tip cut off) fill the center of the cupcakes with the chocolate mousse (it's possible depending on the size of your strawberries that you may need more, make it as you need it).

Next, pipe on the frosting (I use a bakers bag and a really big tip, like the extra large ones, because they cover more ground and I'm a busy woman!). 

Set cupcakes aside and in a microwave-safe bowl, melt chocolate chips and vegetable oil. Take out and stir until well combined. Using a fork, drizzle this chocolate all over the frosted cupcakes. Wait 10-15 minutes for the chocolate "shell" to set and then serve! (We kept these in the fridge for a couple days until they were all gone). 

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Dear stressed out mama: Just hang in there

It's been a trying week.

Heck, maybe it's been a trying two minutes. I'm not judging.

You want to throw in the towel. You are wondering what on Earth you got yourself into when you procreated this tiny little human being and doubts are swirling in your head — how did you ever think you'd be good at this whole motherhood thing?

Maybe your baby is two days old, maybe your baby is 14 years old. Regardless of how much time has or hasn't passed, one thing is certain: you are on the verge of breaking down and you're no longer questioning whether or not you're a terrible mother, you KNOW you are.

And it's not enough that you've just succumbed to some of the most berating, intimate and heart-wrenching feelings a mother can have. Now, you're going to slip into the next stage of self-loathing — the one where you think about how much better everyone ELSE is doing as a mother and how you're never, ever going to be able to compare to them. And how unfair that is, because you love your kiddo so much and they deserve so, so, so much more than you, the world's WORST mother, can provide.

But this is where I'm going to stop you. I want you to stop all those thoughts you're having and I want you to focus on that last sentiment. Your mind is in one of the most fragile states it could possibly be in — you feel like you might never stop crying, like you might snap, like you might really be done for good — but you're not actually worried about any of those things, are you? You're not worried about how all those other perfect mothers are going to whisper about you behind your back. You're not worried about having to tell your spouse that you might really be done for good.

No. Instead, you're worried about all of the damaging, scarring things happening to your beautiful, perfect baby because they are stuck with you as a MOM. You're worried about whether they'll be a loving and gentle parent one day to their baby, because maybe you raised your voice too much, let them cry it out too long. You're worried they'll be unable to face the challenges that come their way because you weren't able to be strong and sturdy for them.

You get that? You are worried about THEM, even when your mind is barely grasping at sanity, your mama-bear nature is still buried in there somewhere and is rearing her big ole' stubborn head.

And thank the Lord for that.

I promise you, you're not done. I promise you are not the worst mama in the whole wide world. I promise your child is still going to think YOU make the moon sparkle and the sun shine. I promise this will get easier. I promise this will not be your last battle, there will be many, many more. And I promise you will make it through those, too. Even when you really, really think this might be it, the crying might break you, the tantrums just might win, I promise they won't. I promise you'll remain strong. I promise you'll get through this. Really, you will. I know I'm some stranger on the internet, so you're probably thinking "she doesn't get it, she doesn't know how bad of a mother I really am, she doesn't know, it will not be OK."

It's going to be OK, mama.

The first two weeks of Braeburn's life, I stayed up all hours of the night, sobbing in the dark while I nursed my son. He was SO good at breastfeeding, it was a dream compared to the ordeals we faced with Pearyn. He was such a good baby. He had big, sweet cheeks and all he wanted to do was nuzzle my neck and eat and eat and eat until he passed out. And he wanted to do this every hour. Sometimes, just as I put one breast away, he was ready for another. And while my baby longed for my scent, my touch, I longed to just put him down. Just for an hour or two. I longed for it to be easier. I willed him to sleep more and nurse less.

And when none of those things happened, I sobbed.

I sobbed because I wasn't a good mother; good mothers were excited to be breastfeeding their big, healthy baby boys. I sobbed because my nipples were raw and bleeding, which was further evidence that I wasn't a good mother; good mothers knew how to unlatch their babies from their breasts so they wouldn't be sore. And I sobbed because my perfect little boy had the most imperfect mother.

As mothers, we have this bad habit of idly suffering as we struggle to live up to the standards we think every other mother is soaring past. When in reality, all of us are treading water at some point. In reality, all of us are barely getting by, at some point. In reality, stressed out mama, we've all been exactly where you are right now, at some point. And at some point, you'll be consoling another mother for this very same thing.

Last week was a struggle. Between working, coaching and trying to be everything to everyone, all while smiling, mind you, I found myself down and out. I just needed a minute to myself. Just a break. A quiet, simple minute where I didn't have to think and I could enjoy my coffee in peace. So I hid in my closet. That's right. I'm a 29-year-old mother and I hid in my closet from my two-year-old son. He was riving and screaming and five-minutes deep into a tantrum to end all tantrums and I hid in a closet from him for two minutes so I could take one sip of my coffee without tasting my own salty tears. And then I took a deep breath, put my best mommy face on and picked my child up off the hallway floor just five feet from my closet. We were both worse for the wear, but that wasn't because of my two minute coffee break, it was because we'd been feeling this way for a while and we just had to get it out.

It doesn't ever get easier. You don't just unlock the magic key to solving all of your baby's problems. And even when you're doing an absolutely phenomenal job as a mother, you still think you're failing. No matter how much you're rocking it as a mom, you won't ever realize how amazing you really are.

I promise you, stressed out mama, you ARE amazing. Even if you feel like the world just ate you up, regurgitated you and then chewed you up some more, you ARE amazing.

And this moment you're in right now, where you don't think you're good enough or you're not sure if you'll make it out alive, it's just a moment and it will pass. And even though another one will inevitably come, it will pass too.

And somehow, you'll be on the other end of this letter.

And you'll be telling another stressed out mama that she's going to be OK. That she really is the absolute best mama in the whole wide world for her baby.

Just hang in there.

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Vegan broccoli beer cheese soup ... it's legit folks

The last week has ushered in some serious fall weather. Between the crisp, wispy breeze flowing in through our still-open windows, the leaves which are anything but crunchy (thanks to all the rain we've been having) and the bright yellows, oranges and red dotting the landscape, autumn has taken October by storm.

So in my natural must-eat-according-to-season fashion, I've already started concocting delicious soups and stews to welcome the cool weather with a big, giant, chubby-vegan hug.

Last week, after three straight days of rain and a pleasantly chilly trip to the pumpkin patch once it finally cleared out, I decided the perfect meal to thaw our stomachs with would have to be broccoli and cheese soup.

Here's the thing about broccoli and cheese soup though. It's been done. About a quadrillion times. And only about two different ways. I mean, let's be for reals here. It's a good soup, it's warm and cozy and the kind of comfortable you feel sleeping in your childhood bedroom when visiting home ... but it's not something you want to do all the time. Am I right?

I mean let's be honest, the best part about growing up and having your own home and bedroom is that you don't have to make the bed every single day if you don't want to. In all actuality, I think we make our bed two days a week.

So when coming up with an updated recipe for broccoli and cheese soup, I decided to spice it up a bit. I grabbed a deliciously light IPA (that's a beer in case you're not privy, which I only am because my husband and his friend have eccentric tastes in beverages), and decided to toss it in, I mean why not?

And let me tell you, the results were superb. This soup is creamy (thanks to some yellow potatoes), somehow still lightish feeling, uses one of my favorite veggies ever, the vegan "cheesy" flavor hugs your body in the most perfect way and the added IPA gives you a nice little zip to let you know it's not your run-of-the-mill soup.

Vegan broccoli beer cheese soup
(serves 6-8)
2 cups plain almond milk
2 cups vegetable broth
6 ounces of your favorite ale
5 cups broccoli florets
2 cups yellow potatoes, diced
1 TBS olive oil (for sautéing)
1 medium sweet onion, diced
2 TBS minced garlic
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 cups Daiya cheddar cheese
Vegan bacon bits to garnish (optional)

In a large stockpot, bring plain almond milk, vegetable stock, six ounces of beer and broccoli florets to a boil. (Once things are boiling bring it down to medium-high heat to keep things cooking). In a smaller pot, bring two cups of diced potatoes to a boil. Once these are cooked (about 10-12 minutes later), puree this in a food processor. While these are heating up, take a skillet and saute the diced up onion and garlic with some olive oil on medium heat until light brown (this took about 10 minutes for us). Add this to the stock pot. Stir in salt and pepper. Mix in potato puree. Stir in Daiya really well until melted. Cook soup for another 10-15 minutes, until broccoli reaches desired consistency (we like ours smooshy). Serve with a monster salad or some little crunchy breads. 

Eat and enjoy tomorrow, too.

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