5.31.2012

The top five kitchen gadgets I'm lusting over

Something routine happened tonight.

While I was making dinner (nothing fancy here folks, tempeh stir fry) I did what I do every time I make a rice dish, but swear I'm never going to do again.

I half-burned it and made it stick to the pan.

Don't we feel bad for Chubby Vegan Dad and Pearyn now? I'm a much, much better baker. There's something to be said about throwing something in an oven and being able to leave it there for a block of time.

Now, because I have a little bit of pride left, I'm going to go ahead and contribute my inability to cook rice partially on my own impatience when it comes to watching over it, but mainly due to the pots we use to cook said rice dishes in.

Don't get me wrong, they're gorgeous pans, shiny, stainless steel, ridiculously expensive pans that Chubby Vegan Dad picked out (because at the time he did all the cooking) because they were his dream pans. And well, while Chubby Vegan Dad might be able to handle this caliber of pan without completely ruining it, this Chubby Vegan Mom cannot.

With me working from home and tending to most of the household duties (cleaning, cooking, making sure the child doesn't maim herself, although Chubby Vegan Dad almost always does the dishes), I've decided that if I'm going to be spending all this time in the kitchen I should be able to purchase all the ridiculous kitchen gadgets I've been lusting over.

Starting with brand-new, spanking, not stainless steel, won't make the bottom look like crap pans! The problem with my taste in pans is that I have a serious crush on copper. It's heavy duty, looks like it belongs in a professional kitchen and isn't impossible to keep clean. Unfortunately, copper cookware is lacking one of the really, really big check marks I do have when it comes to new pans - hard anodized, won't let rice stick to it as easily, insides. So lucky me, after a bit of perusing, I've found the best of all worlds. I've fallen madly in love with this Anolon 11-piece bronze cookware set, because it's almost coppery but it's not as easy to screw up. Sigh, who knew I'd get so excited over pots and pans?

And speaking of new pans, we wouldn't dare get rid of Chubby Vegan Dad's fancy pant pots and pans, so I'll need somewhere fabulous to store my awesome collection. I've had my eye on one of those nifty pan racks for ages now, mainly because I love the idea of how much space they free up. Also because I think they make your kitchen look all sorts of grown up and sophisticated. Of course I fell madly in love with a copper one, which would probably look less than stellar with my bronze cookware I've decided on, but this was just love at first sight (minus the hefty price tag).

I'm also terribly afraid of these devices as I feel like I could never understand how to properly install one, which would then result in not only a heavy rack falling on my head, but lots of pots and pans and probably half the ceiling as well.

In addition to my love of copper, there's also another handy kitchen accessory I've been infatuated with since science class in high school. A big ole, giant, takes up the whole counter, is so heavy you have to lift it with like 8 arms, mortar and pestle. I'm not talking about a tiny one for the faint of heart either, I'm talking about a seriously big bowl that could do some serious damage to some herbs, graham crackers or whatever else my heart desires to smash up. It's not healthy, and I'm not sure I could ever use it enough to constitute spending money on it, but darn it I just want to carry around my mortar and pestle and have people wonder.

I found my next kitchen accessory when we were over at my parents house for a Sunday hang-out day. I'm pretty sure my dad and husband were in the living room drinking coffee and trading baseball names like they were ESPN sports anchors or something, meanwhile I was wandering around the kitchen looking for something to eat. (I do that a lot lately).

While shoving something bite-size in my mouth, I got sucked into a cooking segment on QVC that showed these silicone plates with a tiny little mandolin (that had a guard on it so you wouldn't cut your finger off). It was a microwave chip maker. Seriously? Microwavable chips in like five minutes tops? Don't mind if I do! The best part is you don't even have to make the traditional potato variety, you can basically make whatever chip your heart desires. From beets to carrots to parsnips and heck, maybe even an apple, you can crank out these bad boys just in time for the big game your father and husband are talking about! Or, you can just make them and shove them all in your mouth before you leave the kitchen. At any rate, I feel like I need to own this gadget on the now.

And last, and honestly, kind of least, the last kitchen gadget I find myself kind-of, sort-of wanting, is the illustrious KitchenAid 5-Quart Stand Mixer. People think I'm crazy when I say this. How could I NOT want an elusive KitchenAid stand mixer? It makes life so much easier for bakers (and butchers and candle stick makers?) and allows you hands-free mixing while you can move onto some other menial task. Truthfully, I thought I really needed one for a long time too ... and then I used one at our family Christmas cookie bake-off and decided I didn't need it so much. I think the concept is great and I understand why a lot of people lust after these things, but for me, it just didn't do it. I don't like following recipes (I know, I know, something that is supposedly hard to do in baking), I like throwing in some ingredients and mixing them until they FEEL right. This means stirring that annoying cookie dough with my giant wooden spoon until my hand feels like it might fall off. Or, this means whipping up my cake batter until I find the right fluffy meets pourable mixture. When I just pour things off into the stand mixer, I have to measure things out and follow instructions, because I don't get a very good feel for the texture of whatever I'm blending.

I know, I'm crazy, but it's just the way I bake. So why on Earth do I want one of these things then? Because I'm dying to make some homemade whipped cream from a cold can of coconut milk. I want to mix together weird, science-like ingredients to make vegan marshmallows (both recipes I attempted but fell short on because my poor hand mixer just didn't have the spinning power. I'm probably not going to run out and spend all my money on a stand mixer to complete these two tasks, but if one fell in my lap I'd be OK with it too.

I realize my list might seem a bit pricey, you're probably wondering how I plan to afford it or when I became so snobby in my kitchen purchases. The truth is, I'm incredibly, incredibly cheap (I prefer to say frugal, but my husband insists cheap), so I probably won't be getting most of these kitchen gadgets for quite some time. Or, like my frugal self, I'll purchase a cheap version of them, have them break and then ultimately blow more money on the real versions, eventually.

A Chubby Vegan Mom can dream though ... right?

What kitchen accessories are you lusting for?

5.23.2012

My no-bake cheesecake shake brings all the vegans to the yard

Something happened last night.

I should probably mention that I'm basically the world's pickiest eater ever. It's not that I don't like a lot of foods, because I really do, it's mainly that I'm moody eater. I can't just eat tacos for dinner, unless I'm craving tacos for dinner. Between meal planning and trying to save money, I've trained myself to at least be able to pick  from one of the seven meals I have planned for the week, but things have been really hectic in this Chubby Vegan household and I've been lazy.

Then, last night, out of no where, I got the strongest, had-to-have, would drive to the moon and back, craving for vegan cheesecake.

Do you know what I absolutely didn't have an intense craving for? The whole process of actually to making and baking said cheesecake.

So after stewing for a while about living in a city where vegan cheesecake isn't readily available (I like to throw myself pity parties over things that aren't important, don't worry, I'm working on it), I decided if I was too damn lazy to make myself a vegan cheesecake, I'd have to to the next best thing, I'd make a cheesecake milkshake.

I figured this would be a piece of (cheese) cake. Surely with the plethora of milkshake flavors out there I'd be able to find some easy recipe for one to veganize.

Guess what, it basically doesn't exist. Unless you want to just pick up a hunk of cheesecake and put it in a blender with some milk and ice cream, you're basically out of luck if you want a cheesecake milkshake. (This posed a serious dilemma for me as I didn't want to waste time baking said cheesecake and waiting for it to set).

However, in the event you want "grandmas raspberry truffle cheesecake" or a "pistachio almond creme fresh cheesecake" milkshake, you'll find oodles of recipes for them. Apparently no body out there wants a lazy cheesecake milkshake like me.

So I present to you, dear readers, my take of a lazy, too tired to make real cheesecake, cheesecake milkshake.

I warn you, while an actual piece of cheesecake did not go into the making of this milkshake, the calories themselves speak otherwise. This is a special treat, one I recommend not having on a daily basis, as it would probably qualify for a "very naughty" dessert list.



The No-bake Cheesecake Shake 
(Serves one, duh)
3 big scoops of vanilla ice cream (we really dig Trader Joes soy creamy version)
1/3 container vegan cream cheese (we really dig Trader Joes)
1/2 cup almond milk (this is the consistency I like in my milkshakes, feel free to take away/add depending on how thick or thin you like it)
2 1/2 sheets graham crackers
1 TBS butter (we generally use Smart Balance Lite, the vegan version)

Directions:
Take the butter and melt it in your microwave. Take your favorite mortar and pestle (or the bottom of a $3 spice grinder and bowl because you don't have a favorite mortar and pestle) and grind up the graham crackers into crumbs (or buy a vegan graham cracker crust if you're really lazy) and then mix with the butter to form a delicious looking crust. I'm telling you, don't skip the buttery crust part, it really adds to the shake.

Take your ice cream, cream cheese, almond milk and crust mixture and dump it into your favorite blender. We use the Vitamix, but what don't we use it for? Blend until the consistency you enjoy.

If you want to get especially fancy, feel free to add fresh fruit preserves to give it a little character, however, I strongly recommend enjoying this bad boy all by itself the first time.

Enjoy the hell out of it (but not too much, because it's probably really, really bad for you).

5.22.2012

Why we chose a montessori bedroom for our daughter

I know what you're thinking.

Gosh, won't these people just let their poor child live a normal life already?

First they don't let her eat any meat or dairy, now she has to have some weird kind of bedroom?

It probably doesn't shock any of you that when it comes to our daughter's bedroom, environment and future education, we've got big ideas and different plans for her than most.

Last month our darling little girl kicked her hardest habit yet - she quit the pacifier's - cold turkey. This month, she's tackled a whole new feat - she graduated from her crib, to a big girl bed. And we're not talking any big girl bed here, we're talking no sides, no rails, twin mattress big girl bed. The best part about it? Not only is it a floor bed, it is a built-from-scratch by Chubby Vegan Dad and our vegan best friend, Kevin, framed, floor bed.

And let me tell you, it's adorable as hell.

I wish I could take the claim for this darling bed, but unfortunately, all I contributed was the crazy cute polka dot fabric and the batting underneath it to help pad everything.

It may not seem like much to you, but this was one very big task we were over-the-top excited to complete. Interested in building your own? We used this DIY site for guidelines, more because the finished product was exactly what we were looking for.

Unfortunately the instructions are a bit vague, but ultimately, we measured our twin mattress, got the wood to create the sides (allowing about an extra inch of length and an extra two inches in width to allot for the batting, fabric and bedding) and a few more pieces for the "headboard" part. Chubby Vegan Dad and Kevin opted to put the core of the bed together using hinges on the inside corners (in the event we ever needed to move the bed) then good ole-fashioned female bolts and screws to attach the headboard. Then we stapled layer upon layer of batting along the wood, covered that with fabric and added a few more staples.

It sounds kind of complicated, but looks fairly easy, but believe me when I say this, easy or not, it took a LONG time. Be forewarned, not only will this project possibly take all night, but once you're finished you'll want to sleep in the bed because it's just that damn cute!

You might be asking why on Earth we'd want our child to have such access to every part of her room in the middle of the night. Why we'd put her on the floor level and how the heck we get her to bed at night now. (Or better yet, does she even take naps anymore).

The concept behind the montessori-style bedroom has basically branched from Maria Montessori's educational strategies. Montessoris are alternative schools which embrace a child's independence and curiosity when it comes to learning. Instead of strict, rigorous lesson plans, the children come to understand lessons through their own exploration, also gaining insight from other children.

Don't be fooled, however, it might sound all hugs and kisses and hippie on the outside, but the curriculum itself is just as demanding. It's basically about achieving the same education (perhaps with more focus on independence) through a different, more kid-friendly approach.

I was the product of a montessori-meets-public-school classroom. Two grades were combined and we spent most days learning our lessons through different stations which harnessed the many different learning types, from visual and auditory to sensory and literary. All and all, I absolutely adored the educational experience I had. I'm not sure it's a style for every one, but I think there are children who can really blossom in this environment.

Back to the montessori bedroom. The concept of creating a montessori bedroom (or home if you dare to go that far), is to allow your child to gain independence and confidence by enabling and encouraging them to do things on their own. This ranges from making their beds, hanging up their jackets, putting away their clothes, picking out books for night time reading and selecting their outfits for the day. In order to allow your children the freedom to complete these tasks, you have to tailor the bedroom to the child instead of the adult.

What does this mean exactly?

“We must give the child an environment that he can utilize by himself: a little washstand of his own, a bureau with drawers he can open, objects of common use that he can operate, a small bed in which he can sleep at night under an attractive blanket he can fold and spread by himself. We must give him an environment in which he can live and play; then we will see him work all day with his hands and wait impatiently to undress himself and lay himself down on his own bed.”
- Maria Montessori

It means planning your kid's bedroom with them in mind instead of you. Rather than hanging up all those pretty, colorful drawings at your eye level, place them lower on the walls so your child will be able to appreciate them (albeit, keep in mind that if little hands can get a hold of it, they will, so be careful in regards to sharp, glass and heavy items). It means sticking that five-foot tall dresser in the garage and getting them some drawers they can actually open and access themselves. And much to many parents' dismay, it means letting go of the crib and letting your child have the freedom to put themselves to bed and wake themselves up. 

Don't misunderstand me here, I'm not saying to let your kid run around and be a terror until midnight. What I'm saying is to allow your child to figure out it's their bedtime. We lay Pearyn down any time between 9-10 p.m. depending on when she took her nap in the day, and while I'd love to tell you her eyes shut and she's snoozing as soon as her head hits the pillow, I'd be lying. It takes our little girl about 20-30 minutes to fall into a deep slumber, which I'm proud to report is actually 30 minutes shorter than when we had her sleeping in her crib. She also cries A LOT less now that she has her big girl bed. I was afraid she'd be getting in and out of it constantly, but to my surprise, she usually says in it from the time we lay her down until about an hour after she's woken up in the morning. I think it's a comforting thing for her now, to realize if she wants or needs to get up in the middle of the night for anything, she can now. Imagine how terrible it would be to have someone not only tell you when you're going to bed, but to throw you into a little bed that has bars and no hope of getting out until they decide it's time. 

We've made the full, montessori transition to Pear's bedroom. We've got clear drawers that are labeled with words and pictures of what article of clothing belongs in them (to help her when we give her clothes to put away), not to mention a big, shelf that holds several colorful bins we keep her toys and books in. The key to a montessori bedroom is to foster creativity, but to make sure the child realizes and accepts the responsibility that everything has a place. Pear might have creative freedom in her room and wardrobe now, but she also has to put her toys and clothes away in their appropriate bins. 

We got creative when it came to a too-tall bookshelf we had in Pearyn's room. Instead of throwing it in the garage with all the other too-big stuff, we turned it on it's side and pulled one of the shelves out. We stuck sticky 3-M type hooks in it and made it out to be a coat, jacket, hat and scarf closet. We even put a big, wicker basket in the bottom to hold all of Pear's shoes. Pearyn absolutely adores running and putting away her shoes when we get home from running an errand. 

It's the little things that matter folks. 

The important thing about the montessori-bedroom is to make sure it's 100 percent kid-proofed. You're giving your precious bundle of joy access to anything and everything in that room, so make sure to plug up outlets, put up the breakables and only leave the things kid appropriate out for them to see and utilize. 

We have yet to implement the montessori way of thinking into every room of our home, but if her bedroom is any indication of it's success, we might well be on our way. 

5.18.2012

"May"day "May"day ... we're going down

Oy vey.

(OK, so I'm not Yiddish, but I'm pretty sure it's a derivative of a common German phrase and I am part German, so it's allowed). 

Seriously though, May = Oy vey. 

We've been so utterly busy I have been neglecting you all yet again.

I wish I could give you an incredibly long, detailed account of my whereabouts the last few weeks, or why I've mysteriously vanished, but alas, you're going to have to wait a little longer for that explanation. 

It's a good one, I promise. And you'll forgive me, I swear.

But for now, you're going to have to be distracted by all the distractions this Chubby Vegan Clan has faced over the last few weeks. 

For starters, Pearyn experienced her first non-womb baseball game! We're blessed to live in a city that has a super awesome minor league team, one that actually holds the sell-out record for pro sports (take that Portland Trail Blazers)! So when my dad passed along two of his season tickets as part of my birthday gift, I decided it was definitely time to test out the Pearyn-sporting even waters.

The good news? We made it through five FULL innings before we had to haul off with our rambunctious toddler. She did such an awesome job. She alternated between my lap and Chubby Vegan Dad's and the seats were stellar - just a few rows off of home plate, so she got an excellent view of all the pitching and hitting. None the less, her attention was usually focused on a random-passing bird, a piece of dust that kept floating in her eye sight or our neighbor's bag of popcorn. (Note to self, never leave the house without popcorn).

The ballpark brought up a few issues for us though. While we of course refrained from ballpark dogs, hamburgers and Dippin Dots, we were faced with the dilemma of cotton candy. It's a baseball game staple, the dye in it while not made from animals has been linked to be occasionally tested on animals, and there's always that pesky issue of where the hell the sugar came from. 
Considering these are all things people are ingesting on a daily basis, you'd think we'd do a better job tracking the origins down. At any rate, perhaps a perfect, vegan-police member wouldn't have partaken in the eating of said cotton candy, but this chubby vegan clan did. 

Feel free to shake your head or scold me all you want, if you want to consider me five percent less vegan then go ahead. I'm not going to lie. I'm not a perfect vegan. While I vehemently abstain from dairy and meat and all things animal oriented, I drink a soda every now and then, which probably has sugar from an unknown source in it, or a dye that could be linked to something somewhere, and admitting this probably makes me less perfect. Call me a poser if you want, whatever. 

I believe in living as cruelty-free as we can. If I had all the time and money in the world to buy natural, made on a leaf in some magic eco plant somewhere cane sugar and eat cotton candy that has food coloring made form hugs in it, I would.

But I can't, I'm one woman. I'm one woman (who's also a mother, wife, career woman, sister, daughter, friend, cousin, coach) who makes an average living and is trying to get by with what we can. The house I live in most likely contains paint that has something nonvegan in it, the people I rent from probably consume meat and the grocery store I shop in sells hoards of nonvegan products. 

I'm doing what I can, with what I have.

I'm sorry if that's makes me less vegan in your eyes. We made a decision as a compassionate family to let our daughter enjoy cotton candy at a baseball game. I'm going on good faith that our footprint is still light and cruelty-free lifestyle still in tact. 

We celebrated a wedding, one Pearyn was blessed to be the flower girl for, and the same one she unfortunately suffered through the stomach flu with. I can't tell you how many poopy diapers I changed in a matter of two days, not to mention walking into a reception with poop smeared ALL over my arm, not once, but twice. 

When I actually found remnants of it on my dress and shoe, I knew it was time to get the little flower girl and me home. Chubby Vegan Dad's rented tux was unfortunately in the line of fire as well, so needless to say, none of us ended up poo-free. Sigh. 

And our little darling girl turned two. It's impossible to believe. We celebrated with birthday cake for breakfast. I plan on giving a full rundown of birthday events once the party has passed, but we're not throwing the shindig until Memorial Day Sunday. 

My sweet little niece (who happens to share the same birthday as my daughter, simply 15 minutes apart), will be partaking in our double birthday bash as well. It's going to be a hot doggin time. That was me using corny Mickey Mouse language to describe our Mickey-themed party.

Other than that we're being pretty normal. I've been baking up lots of delicious breads I plan on posting soon (when my epidemic sleep wave is over), I've been balancing working from home and being a mommy and wife and I'll pick up softball lessons in June again. 

May has required a lot of rest. Chubby Vegan Dad is working his butt off and Pearyn is continuing to flourish and amaze us everyday. Her most recent accomplishments include describing all her food as "delicious" and singing "Five Little Monkeys" over and over again.

I think this is a long enough ramble, but with May halfway over, I can promise June will bring some super awesome announcements, new enhancements on the site, guest bloggers, and even a few vlogs if you behave. It's sure to be fabulous. And don't forget about some kick-ass giveaways I have in the works.

Bear with me. We're about to embark on a fabulous new journey if you want to ride it out with us. 

5.01.2012

Vegan french toast casserole bake ... need I say more?

I don't know if you've been trolling Pinterest lately, but there has been one photo that has gone viral on all my friends' boards, the infamous night-before, french toast casserole.

Think I'm kidding? Peruse over to Pinterest.com (add me if you like all things Chubby, Vegan and Mom, by simply clicking the red "Follow me on Pinterest" button to the right of this post or by searching chubbyveganmom on Pinterest under people) and type in "french toast casserole" and you'll probably find the same photo of kind-of addictive, sickeningly sweet, sort-of soggy looking delicious bread blob scattered throughout the results.

So I did what any good Chubby Vegan Mom would do; I followed the link on over to this blog (because I want to give credit where credit is due) and tried to figure out how on Earth I was going to substitute something vegan for four eggs, without giving the french toast a funky flavor or texture.

Mission accomplished friends.

The vegan version is slightly different than the original, but it's got the most perfect sweet, gooey on the bottom but crisp on the top just like every plate of french toast should be balance to it, so I don't think you'll notice the difference.

This is the quintessential, go-to breakfast food for a busy mom on the run. It's loaded with butter and sugar and what I can only imagine is a day's worth of fat, but as long as you don't make it an everyday staple I think you can cheat just this once (or once a month, whichever).

Here it is, a cheap, ooey-gooey, no fuss breakfast for all your vegan sweet tooth needs.



Vegan French Toast Casserole Bake
(Serves 6-8)
Ingredients:
1 1/2 sticks of VEGAN butter (melted, I used Earth Balance)
1 1/2 cups vanilla almond milk
1 cup brown sugar (and a little more for sprinkling purposes)
1 loaf of deliciously perfect bread, sliced thick (we used sourdough, yummo)
1/4 block of silken tofu
1 TBS vanilla extract
Cinnamon (for sprinkling purposes)
Powdered sugar (for sprinkling purposes)
Maple Syrup (for delicious purposes)

Directions:
Cut your bread into thick slices (we did about an inch thick) and lay out the pieces on the bottom of a sprayed casserole dish (I used a 9X9 glass one). Melt one stick of butter and stir in brown sugar. Once all the sugar is dissolved, pour the butter goop on top of the bottom layer of bread. Sprinkle with cinnamon.

In a small bowl, mix the melted half stick of butter, almond milk, vanilla extract and silken tofu. Blend in a food processor until all the little tofu lumps are gone. Place the rest of your bread on top of the gooey sugar and butter covered layer, then drizzle the butter, milk, vanilla and tofu mix over the entire casserole.

Top with cinnamon and brown sugar and refrigerate overnight.

Pull it out the next morning and bake on 350 for 45 minutes, uncovered. Serve (make sure you pair a piece on bottom with a piece on top to get the overall french toast feel) with powdered sugar, maple syrup and a side of vegan sausage!

Tips: In the event your bread looks a little dried out in the morning, freshen it up with a few pats of butter and a tiny drizzle of milk.

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