Vegan Philly cheesesteak bites

It's football season again.

(And all the people rejoiced)

I celebrate football season for two reasons: the FOOD and the Carolina Panthers (more specifically, Cam Newton).

It's no secret I'm a lover of parties, hosting and all the fun food concoctions that come along with it, so to me, fall is the perfect time to take all your favorite meals and make them bite-sized.

We kicked off our first football Sunday with our own vegan version of Philly cheesesteak bites. Pinterest is a plethora of awesome ideas, but there aren't very many vegan ones. And when it comes to some recipes, it's a lot of trial and error in terms of finding the right vegan swaps.

Luckily, this one is A LOT of reward and very little effort.

Now, I won't lie. This probably isn't the kind of thing you want to eat every single day. It may be vegan, but it does utilize some fake meat products and vegan cheese. But I'm an "everything in moderation" kinda gal, so when we want to settle down and have some oh-so-delicious-but-bad-for-you vegan grub, we will, unapologetically.

We ate these with an Asian coleslaw (that's gotta be healthy, right!), but had enough to freeze and eat as a quick on-the-go snack or a moms-too-busy-for-dinner kind of meal!

Vegan Philly cheesesteak bites
(makes 24 "cups")
2 rolls of Pillsbury crescent dough sheets
1 package Tofurky peppered lunch "meat"
8 ounces (1 cup) vegan cream cheese
1/2 cup Vegenaise
1 package Daiya provolone slices
1 package vegan mozzarella cheese shreds
1 onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 tbs olive oil
2 tsp garlic powder

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, cut up vegan provolone slices into small pieces. Cut up or tear Tofurky peppered lunch "meat" into small strips. Stir in vegan mozzarella cheese shreds, Vegenaise and vegan cream cheese. Dice up onion, green pepper, and sliced mushrooms, add to creamy mixture. Stir in garlic powder and olive oil. Set aside.

Roll out the crescent roll dough. Cut into 12 pieces. Grease your muffin pan and spread one piece per cup. (They won't cover the whole cup, it's more like get the four corners to tough the top. Check out the picture if you need a visual for this). Repeat until you have two muffin pans filled.

Spoon the creamy mixture into the cups (about 2/3 full) and then bake for 10-12 minutes.

Cool and take out of muffin pans! Top with pizza sauce, banana peppers or mustard if you're feeling wild!

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Summer kicked my butt and other tales of woe

You may notice things have been a bit quiet around our humble abode this summer.

Don't worry, I didn't go anywhere, I'm just a busy, busy bee!

Summer officially ended nearly a month ago, but we just finished up our family vacation last week, so as far as I'm concerned it just ended for us.

It's kind of hard to believe I've had a kindergartner for almost ONE MONTH. Yeah, we start school crazy early here in the Buckeye State. I sent my first baby off on her school bus without shedding a tear (until a few hours later when I cried over something completely ridiculous). There is something so surreal about watching your first child head off to school.

About a week ago it hit me: she's not my "baby" anymore. I mean sure, she's always going to be my little girl, but she's officially in school. And she's going to be in school for at least a good 12 years now, and hopefully, once she's discovered her passion, another four to eight years of college after that. My "baby" has homework, wants to hang out with friends and is already telling me what's cool and what isn't.

Seriously, can we say five going on 15?

She absolutely adores school. She came home with her first homework assignment squealing for joy. (Remind me to remind her of that feeling in another year or two when she's totally over it and we have to twist her arm to sit down and do her homework). It's amazing to watch her begin this journey. And it's incredibly scary for me. I mean, I can handle kindergarten math, it's counting and coloring and whatnot. But what happens in a few years when I don't remember how to add fractions? Thankfully Chubby Vegan Dad has got quite the math sense about him, because legit folks, I struggle with that stuff.

When it's time to do some book reports or diagram sentences, though, I've got that covered. Do they even diagram sentences anymore? We didn't, so when I went off to college and had to take my fundamentals of English grammar my sophomore year, well, let's just say I was stumped.

I love to hear about her day, and she's already tired of telling me about it. She skips off the bus and I ask her about a zillion questions to figure out what she did. So far, her favorite things include: art class, math and checking out library books. And let's not forget the 4,578 different things the school does on the weekends, from pep rallies to ice cream socials, our little girl is fully-engaged in her school lifestyle.

And did I mention Braeburn is walking around and talking like a little man now? He uses six, seven word sentences, knows all his letters and adores singing songs.

I'm not ready for my children to be growing up so quickly. Trust me, I was on no level a baby whisperer, but between my best friend having a sweet little baby boy in July and my children practically ready to move off and start college, well, it makes a momma start to come down with that baby fever all over again. I'm starting to understand how people end up with four, sometimes five kiddos.

In addition to raising tiny human beings, I also completed my first season of coaching select summer softball. It was a phenomenal experience, an emotional one for sure, but I'm ready and pumped to take on the challenge again with a crop of super talented 16U girls.

My career has been a wee bit volatile over the last few months, which was the cause of additional stress and time away. I was blessed to have to make an incredibly hard decision between two amazing companies and two amazing teams. Once emotion was removed I knew the right decision, but it didn't really make it any easier to follow through with. I'm excited for what I have ahead of me in 2016, and trying to leave what I have in 2015 even better than before.

There's so many twists and turns I didn't plan for in adulthood, but I pray I continue to have the support of my husband and kiddos to continue along this path with enthusiasm.

Other than that, we're just keeping on, keeping on. (A little Joe dirt humor for you there ... and if you didn't know, Crackle just released Joe Dirt 2, I highly recommend it).

So, I guess the real question now is, are you ready for fall as much as we are???

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Who are WE to redefine courage?

I may lose some friends over this.

I may lose some followers.

But at the end of the day, I'm tired of being quiet about things that stir something inside of me.

It's probably no surprise to most people who know me that I'm very pro-women's rights, probably more liberal than anything else and strongly in favor of equality. As a contrast, I too attend church, I am covered in tattoos and understand it makes me less desirable to some employers and I too am a mother who wants her children to grow up in a world which is morally sound.

I've been biting my tongue on this whole Caitlyn Jenner thing, because really, why jump on the bandwagon? She's not the first person to transition, perhaps the most famous one, but there have been many before her and there will be many after her.

And honestly, I'm not even here to debate transgender with anyone, because I am 100% in FULL support of the movement and nothing will change my mind. (Probably how most people against it feel as well).

But I am here to set something straight.

Something I've been seeing a lot of lately and am really, really sick of.

Caitlyn Jenner was awarded the ESPY's Arthur Ashe Award. The jist of this entails: "The Ashe Award is one of the most prestigious in sports. Recipients reflect the spirit of Arthur Ashe, possessing strength in the face of adversity, courage in the face of peril and the willingness to stand up for their beliefs no matter what the cost. The award is inspired by the life that Ashe lived, using his fame and stature to advocate for human rights, although, at the time, those positions may have been unpopular and were often controversial."

A lot of people are upset about this. A lot of people are irate because there are others who demonstrated "more courage" than Caitlyn Jenner did. In fact, there are A LOT of people who say what Caitlyn Jenner did doesn't display courage at all.

THIS. This is where I have a problem. Who are WE to redefine courage?

Google courage. Open a dictionary and look it up. Hell, ask Siri. Chances are, you're going to see something along these lines:

Courage: the ability to do something that frightens one.

See what I mean? No where in that definition, or any definition, does it say "courage is the ability to do something that frightens one, EXCEPT FOR" and then list a series of amendments that are not courageous. It's simple. It's doing something even though it scares you. It's facing YOUR fears, whatever they might be.

So maybe for Caitlyn Jenner, putting on some heels and picking out a dress IS showing courage. Maybe it's not for most women, but for her, it IS. And just because this seems like a small issue to everyone else, doesn't mean WE get to determine what is or isn't hard for her to do.

You know what was fearful for me? Putting on a bikini and wearing it out in public. My stomach is covered in stretch marks, has more fluff than I'd like, but you know what? I'm trying my damndest to love my body and that means getting over my issues with wearing a bikini. Is that particularly courageous to anyone? No, probably not. Did it feel like I conquered something when I wore it out in public? YES, it did. And it felt damn good to do that. And YOU don't get to define what is courageous to me.

Just like you don't get to define what courage is to Caitlyn Jenner.

Here's the thing. I'm not saying you have to accept the transgender community; I'm not saying you have to like Caitlyn Jenner; I'm not saying YOU should think she deserved the Arthur Ashe Award over anyone else; I'm not telling you how to feel at all because it's NOT MY PLACE to tell someone how they feel.

But I am saying this: WE do not dictate what courage is for someone else. WE do not get to redefine the word courage because it's being used for someone who is homosexual, transgender or anything else outside of the realm of what we deem "normal."

I am NOT a courageous woman just because I have ovaries. I am NOT a courageous woman just because I am capable of bearing children.

I AM a courageous woman because everyday I choose to do something I'm afraid of, whether that's wearing a bikini or fighting for equality.

Just like Caitlyn Jenner IS displaying courage because everyday she does something she is fearful of.

And based on the reaction most of the public has, I understand just how damn courageous she is.

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Why we need feminists

Maya Angelou said, “I’m a feminist. I’ve been a female for a long time now. It’d be stupid not to be on my own side.”

Can I get an A-freaking-MEN?

The year is 2015, friends, and yet, we’ve still got famous women and men out their spilling some insipid garbage about what it is to be a feminist and how they’re not? (I’m looking at you, Lady Gaga, with your and I quote “I’m not a feminist, I hail men. I love men. I celebrate American male culture – beer, bars and muscle cars.”) Look, I’m not saying there aren’t certain stereotypes that don’t ring true, but let me just get this out of the way right now:
Being a feminist is:
• Equality

Being a feminist is not (although, you could do these things and still be a feminist, it’s just not required):
• Hating men
• Growing your armpit hair out
• Hating men
• Burning your bra (or not even wearing one)
• Hating men
• Wanting special treatment
• Being angry
• Hating men
• Being unattractive
• Hating men
• Hating sex
• Dating only women
• Hating men
• Shunning motherhood

Did I mention, in order to be a feminist, you DON’T HAVE TO HATE MEN? It’s quite the opposite really. As a feminist, I don’t need to hate men; I fully realize we are equal to men – I’m just waiting for the rest of the world to catch up with those views. So for someone like Lady Gaga with all that prowess and power to sculpt minds to say she’s not a feminist because she loves men, is exactly what’s holding us back. Guess what? I AM a feminist and I love men, I adore my husband, I like beer, I love bars and while I don’t really love muscle cars, that’s not because I believe in equality for all genders, it’s because I think cars are boring.

And let’s not forget Carrie Underwood’s snafu of “I wouldn’t go so far as to say I am a feminist, that can come off as a negative connotation. But I am a strong female.”

Look, I’m not saying you have to be a feminist. I mean, while it’s hard for me to grasp a female not being a feminist, I respect everyone’s decision to choose their belief system. But to say you’re not a feminist because it carries a negative connotation is the coward’s way out. Rather than identifying as a feminist and doing positive things to repair the negative stereotypes, you’ll just keep contributing to them by selling the same bullshit you don’t want to be associated with. 

Not cool, Carrie, not cool.

Yep, we’ve come a terribly long way, and I’m more than thankful the battle that lies ahead for my daughter or myself is far less treacherous than the one previously trekked by the likes of Susan B. Anthony and Gloria Steinem.

But guess what, we’ve still got a hell of a long way to go.

A few weeks back EA announced they’d be including women’s teams in FIFA 16. When I read this news my heart smiled a little. Sure, I don’t really follow soccer or even like it, but adding the female stars representing today’s teams means little girls who do like soccer will get to actually play their idols. Seems pretty cool, right?

Well it did, until a bunch of random bitter peeps decided to use social media to air their concerns, which would be fine, if they weren’t completely sexist and pardon my language, fucking stupid. Didn’t see it for yourself? Peruse this nice screenshot I have:

Gems like: “Who cares about Women?” (oh you know, just humans who were born to women, which consequently, is everyone in the entire world. And thanks for the completely incorrect capitalization of the word ‘women,’ I don’t need to be a feminist to tell you that’s grammatically STUPID.”)

Or my personal favorite: “Lets hope EA haven’t gone to far an added periods,” (Seriously, where to even begin with that garbage. Periods. Haha. Haha. That’s funny. Let’s hope for your sake, sir, that EA didn’t add periods because I’m willing to be you’ve never had a girlfriend if you still think periods are funny. ASSHAT. And let's hope EA hasn't raised the vocab level above, what, second grade, because you're clearly still struggling with things like past tense and the word AND.)

I mean, for reals, society? Feminist or not, if you have a mother, sister, daughter, girlfriend, female in your life that you don’t hate, these people are making the rest of us look pathetic. I mean, really, they add female teams to a video game for the first time in like ever and the best you can come up with are some pathetic jokes about periods and not being able to park a bus. Wow. If that’s the best you’ve got then I suggest you surrender now, because we’re definitely smarter, we’re stronger and we’re not going away.

I am a feminist and I’m proud of it. I hope to influence others in my life to have the same strength. I hope by bringing to light what a feminist can be (as opposed to what everyone else thinks it is), it will put a tiny dent in the negative connotation that scares people off.

I’m a feminist, and I like: dresses, high heels, my husband, being a mother, coaching softball, baking cupcakes, writing, reading, whisky, country music, scrapbooking and yoga.

What kind of feminist are you?

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Foo foos, pee pee and mommy guilt

His name is Braeburn and he has a problem.

He's two and a half years old and he needs a foo foo (binky, paci) to go to sleep. 

And not only that. But he's also ... not potty trained. 

That's right. My son is over the age of two and when he lays his sweet baby head down to sleep he wants a pacifier. And forget sitting him on one of those tiny toilets. He is completely and utterly freaked out about that entire concept and I just can't bring myself to toilet traumatize his darling little baby bum yet. 

And it basically makes me a shameful, neglectful, irresponsible mother according all to the perfect internet Leave-it-to-Beaveresque mamas out there. Which are a lot, by the way.

I'm losing sleep, fingernails and probably growing some grey hairs over Braeburn's paci habit. When it was time for Pear Bear to give up her binkies, it didn't really phase her. She never really used them anyhow, she just liked to hold them in her tiny baby fists. So when we took her to Build-a-Bear and let her build her very own binky bunny, she went to sleep that night still clutching her precious foo foos -- in the foot of her new stuffed accomplice. 

It was easy, breezy and happened long before she passed 24 months of age. 

Braeburn, however, isn't the same. He adores his foo foos, he's cutting all four of his two-year molars and the poor thing is just so damn angelic when he asks for it I would probably buy him 50 more if it were possible for him to use them. 

Do I know he needs to give up his paci habbit, yes. Do I know the long-term impacts of using a binky on a child? Yes. 

But I also know what my baby needs. And I know what our family doctor says. AND our pediatric dentist. And all are in agreement that by limiting his use of it to naps and nighttime and by weening him off of it by the age of three, will result in him speaking just fine and with no more damage to his mouth than if I pull them from him right.this.second. 

If you make the mistake of googling "when to get rid of the paci," you're going to pull up about a million results of crap. You'll find a few legitimate sources (which still shouldn't replace the opinion of your family doc and dentists), but ultimately, you're going to find a zillion posts from all those momvice sites (see what I did there, I combined mom with advice, because that's what those sites are). Well-intentioned mamas post their questions "my son is seven months old, when should I get rid of his pacifier?" And while there are a few heartfelt responses here and there, for the most part, this is the type of advice these women are getting:

"Never offer one. Then you won't have to get rid of them."
Gee, thanks for that piece of advice. That's terribly helpful considering the mom already let her child use one. Thanks. Now I'm going to go beat myself up over the last seven months of usage. ASSHAT.

"Allowing children to use pacifiers and bottles past the age of 1 is ridiculous."
 Wow, that's quite a gem there, isn't it. Thank you, internet dad, for calling me ridiculous and not actually using facts or anything else to back up your claim. Just straight up ridiculous. ASSHAT

"I don't recall that any of my kids used a pacifier. It's a substitute for good parenting."
Oh, OK. Well I did carry this baby in MY uterus for 40 weeks and eight days, so naturally once I popped his giant ten-pound body out of mine I decided to be a shitty parent. ASSHAT.

"6 months. But there is a point where kids try to get rid of them on their own. It's the parents most often that continue to plug them in."
Yep, you caught me! I do continue to plug them in his mouth ... after he shrieks for 20 minutes asking for his foo foo and chewing on his hands because his teeth are hurting him so damn bad. Thanks for the recommendation of six months, too. WITH NO FACTS. JUST SIX MONTHS. ASSHAT.

Look, here's the thing about trying to "guilt" moms into feeling bad for their parenting decisions. The ones you really impact, the ones who really give your advice a second thought, are usually the ones who are already beating themselves up. So instead of being helpful, instead of offering them genuine advice for them to consider, you just find a way to make them question themselves more, beat themselves up more, and ultimately, what -- make yourself feel better because you were able to belittle a mama 20 states away? That makes you an ASSHAT.

Heaven forbid we support each other. Heaven forbid we think about other mamas' feelings. Heaven forbid we try to be helpful and not hurtful.

Of course I know not EVERY mother is looking to bully others. It just seems like they're so much louder than the friendly ones, the ones who really want to lend an ear and offer help. 

So what did we decide about his foo foo and potty habbits? Well, we're taking it day by day and giving him until the age of three. Right now, he has his foo foo during nap and nighttime. And while not every mama, doctor or dentist may agree with that, this one and ours do, so that's good enough for me. Does that make me right? Of course not. But if I've done the research and asked the questions and found the answers, it's right for me. It's right for Braeburn. 

Am I worried about his speech? Not really. There have been OODLES of studies done and the results are very inconclusive when it comes to using a pacifier until the age of three and impact on speech. He already uses bigger words than some of Pearyn's friends. I understand him. Strangers understand him. There have been no delays or inconsistencies found by the professionals at his school, so we're going to keep on keeping on. 

And just like his sissy, we're going to encourage him to like the potty, to sit on it, to get comfortable with it, but we're not going to force it. I stressed and worried so much over Pearyn being potty trained (because she was a girl afterall and she was supposed to be potty trained much easier and earlier than boys, right!?) that I made us both miserable. So on her third birthday she decided she wanted big girl princess panties and she got them, and never looked back. 

So this time, I'm going to trust myself a lot more and all that googling a lot less. 

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