2.21.2013

Pretty in pink cookies and (almond) milk

I'm a big fan of sugar cookies.

And I'm not talking about the soft, puffy, must-be-covered-in-icing variety here.

I'm talking about the chewy kind that only results from the perfect melding of softened vegan butter and sugar.

I'm also a really, really big fan of vegan white chocolate chips. (If you haven't invested in any of these, I highly suggest hopping on the internet and ordering them right away, you've been missing out and there's just no need for that).

Normally, when I'm having a serious sweet-tooth craving, I whip up a batch of super simple sugar cookies or the perfect chocolate chip cookie. But lately, every time I open the cabinet I have a big ole' jar of maraschino  cherries staring me in the face.

It's not that I'm particularly in love with maraschino cherries, the truth is I planned on using them in a super fancy cherry cookie during the holiday season, but never quite worked up the effort while busy being giant pregnant.

So finally, I decided it was time to do something with those cherries. And for good measure, I decided to use my go-to sugar cookie recipe and white chocolate chips too, just to make sure this cookie couldn't suck.

And guess what? It surpassed any and every expectation I didn't have for it.



Pretty in pink cookies and milk
(Makes 24)
Ingredients: 
2 1/4 cups white flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
12 ox jar maraschino cherries
1 1/2 sticks vegan butter
1 cup vegan white chocolate chips
1/4 cup water
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp salt

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium to large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir in softened butter, water and vanilla extract. In a food processor or blender, dump in the 12 oz jar of cherries and blend up until pureed. Stir in cherry mixture (this will serve as your egg replacement and a moisturizer for the cookies). Last, but definitely not least, stir in vegan white chocolate chips. I advise one cup, but you can add more or less according to your taste.

On a greased cookie sheet, use a spoon to drop medium, one-inch sized cookie dough balls. Bake for 8-12 minutes (depending on your oven). The cookies are done when the edges just barely start to brown.

Let them cool, or don't. Just dive in and devour them!

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2.20.2013

Embracing the chaos and admitting defeat

I apologize that I've dropped off the face of the Earth for the last 12 days or so. It's been really busy around here, between getting ready for my return to work and still dealing with some of Braeburn's tummy issues (expect a post on this tomorrow sometime).

The good news is I've made it through more than half of my first week "back" to work (I use the terms return and back loosely as I actually work from home in the comfort of my pajamas).

The even better news is that I got a promotion. I'm officially going to be taking on a heavier editorial role for the website my company operates, which means a lot more decision making and a chance to do things my way. (And all those naysayers said the only thing I could do with an English degree was teach)!

The bad news is I haven't had a whole lot of time to do much of anything else. My day is pretty regulated, I get up around 6 a.m. with Braeburn to feed him, his sister wakes up soon after to get dressed and ready for preschool and then I work from 7:30-4:30, with an hour lunch break in there to squeeze some QT with my babies and maybe do a load of laundry. Once work is finished I usually tidy up whatever mess has been made throughout the day and then hand my kids off to my husband, while shuttling my baby-weight-carrying butt off to spinning or running. By the time I get home from this there's enough time to squeak in dinner before it becomes unhealthy late and then comes all the bathing.

And finally, around 9 p.m., I get a few hours to play couch potato with my husband while Braeburn falls asleep in his arms and Pearyn drools all over my lap.

And then I go to bed. Wake up and do it all over again. Sure, there are a few side trips in there, things like grocery shopping, softball lessons and an occasional night out with the girls, but for the most part, finding time for these things are few and far between.

When my husband and I had Pearyn, we used to joke that married couples without children are just "playing" house. Now that we have two children, we joke that parents of one are "playing" as well. I'm sure parents of three, four and more children feel like we're all in the minor leagues, while they've been called up to bat in the big show. After all, once you hit the three mark, you're officially outnumbered. There's only two of you and at least one too many of them.

I've always pictured my life with three bundles of baby in it, but now that we have two and I can barely find time to floss and take a shower by myself I don't know if we'll ever make the plunge to three. Perhaps if I could just birth a two year old I'd consider it. I am in no way, shape or form what you would consider a "baby" person. Babies scare the living bejeezus out of me. They cry, a lot (especially mine) and aside from a few smiles and gurgles here and there, they're kind of boring. I like the toddlers, the feisty ones that tell me to go to my room and remind me that I'm not supposed to say things like "hate" and "stupid."

I'm reminded every day how lucky I am to have my husband. Someone who doesn't just pitch in every now and then, but understands how working from home leaves me a little stir crazy by the time he walks in the door. He doesn't question my need to get away and run around a track aimlessly (like a hamster on a wheel) and he encourages me to take a little me time and have dinner with a friend. I take better care of myself because he takes such good care of me.

So long story short, we're all still here. We're all just trying to settle into our new routines, our new ways of life and I especially am trying everyday to embrace the chaos a little more.

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2.08.2013

Victoria and my not so little secrets

Baby boy is six weeks old today. Let's have a moment of celebration that not only have I managed to keep two children alive, in addition to myself, I haven't gone completely off-the-wall insane (yet).

I have a feeling that's all going to change pretty soon though. 

For starters, I make my return to work in just a little over a week. Yeah, that maternity leave seriously flew by. It's something I'm really, really looking forward to, but also am pretty damn scared about. What if I magically forgot how to do my job in the almost eight weeks I've been off? What if my brain is so permeated with sleep deprivation and baby boogers that I sound like a complete moron when I come back? That's the thing about dedicating your college education to the English language, people kind of expect you to sound the part. Know what's not included in that part? Baby talk. Poopy talk. Booger talk. 

Not to mention I just picked up my bridesmaid dress yesterday for my best friend's wedding. I made the really stupid mistake of trying it on. Surprisingly, it zipped, but I wouldn't say it "fit." I'm a few pounds shy of my pre-pregnancy weight which explains the slightly snug waist. Which is fine, I have four months to shed those last straggling pounds, what's panicking me is when the hell I'm going to be able to WORK on said pounds. Before I went and got all knocked up I was going to spin classes two or three times a week at 5 a.m. or running a few miles on my lunch break. But with two kids now, one who would rather scream or stare at my face than sleep, how am I supposed to have enough energy to not just work out at 5 a.m., but to pull my ass out of bed? 

By the time a child reaches twoish, you kind of forget how hard newborns are. How chaotic and determined they are to shit (literally) all over your schedule or any plans you thought you'd made. 

Maybe I can convince the bride to let me wear a maid of honor moo moo instead?

Which leads me to one last thing. 

My boobs.

I'm pretty much over them already. Trust me, I get the allure of big boobs to those of you who don't have them. They're supposed to be all sexified and hot and who doesn't like a little cleavage? Well, ladies, let me tell you, there's a really, really big difference in some peek-a-boo boobage and a mountain range located directly under your chin. Who knew I'd have a built in chin rest?

But let me fill you in on something. Coming from a busty-most-of-her-life gal, I seriously fantasize over having small boobs. If it were up to me (and I was able to lose, say, 50 pounds so they wouldn't look weird on me), I would be like an A cup. The bras are cute, they ALWAYS have those sizes and you can lean forward on a flat surface (like a desk or table) without facing the ever-challenging conundrum of "do I prop them up and give everyone an eyeful or do I shove them under and cut off circulation to my upper body?"

I seriously dream of the day I can get a minimum of two cup sizes sucked out of my chest, JUST so I can get back into the first four letters of the alphabet. 

So with a gift card to good ole' Vikki Secrets, I happily grabbed the six different bra styles in my size and scurried off to a changing room to torture my boobs (I mean, try to find them a new home). I kid you not, half of the bras were push-up bras. And not the type that provides the lift a large-chested woman needs, but the kind that has enough padding in it to serve as a pillow for my newborn. Seriously, I'm in triple digits and letters my daughter can't even make it to when she's singing her A-B-E's and we're still padding those? 

There was even a bra that promised to add TWO cup sizes to my chest in my already-comical giant size. 

Seriously? 

Vikki can't be bothered to make cutesy lingerie that my giant-ass boobs will fit into but she went to the trouble to make a bra that can add two cup sizes to my already-crowded chest area?

2.05.2013

New Vegan Style Clam Chowder and a little male bonding

I'm sure you've all been dying with suspense to find out what we made for Superbowl Sunday.

Was it some sort of fancy dip? Did we turn some mundane entree into a trendy appetizer? Perhaps we spruced up a fan favorite?

Braeburn enjoying some football with papaw
Alas, we went with something tried, true and traditional.

New England Style Clam Chowder.

Minus the clams. And the cream. And all the other animal-riddled ingredients.

I'm sure you're wondering how the heck you go about making "clam" chowder without any clams, but you'd be pleasantly surprised by how well the combination of diced oyster mushrooms and portobellos fit into the chowder. I know, I know, fungus doesn't seem like it could replace a clam, but it really, really does.

I'm not going to lie. The making of this chowder was slightly arduous, but the end result was so close to the original dish that this is the kind of thing you make an exception for.

So get out your fungi, soy creamer, your favorite seaweed and some cashews, because vegan clam chowder is coming to a dinner table near you.



New Vegan Style Clam Chowder
(serves 6-8)
Ingredients:
16 oz raw cashews (soak in water overnight to use the next day)
2 cups plain almond milk
2 cups plain soy creamer
1 cup vegetable broth
1 stick vegan butter (I used Earth Balance)
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
2 tsp liquid smoke
1 cup vegan bacon bits
4-6 Yukon Gold potatoes (diced)
1 medium onion (diced)
1 cup diced celery
2 TBS minced garlic
6 oz oyster mushrooms
2 large portobello caps
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp onion powder
4 TBS arame seaweed
Olive oil to cook with

Directions:
Soak cashews overnight in water (you want them softened for the puree). Next, peel and dice potatoes and boil on medium to high heat until tender. Take half of these cooked potatoes and set aside. Place the other half in a food processor with your soaked cashews and 2 cups of almond milk and blend until it forms a nice puree. If your processor gets bulked up easily just do two batches instead of one big one. Dice up your mushrooms, onion and celery and minced garlic and cook in a saute pan with a little olive oil on medium heat for 15 minutes. In a large stock pot, pour in cashew, milk, potato puree and add creamer, vegetable broth, stick of butter, liquid smoke and nutritional yeast. Stir in paprika, onion powder, seaweed, bacon bits and remaining potato chunks. Cook on low to medium heat. Add in contents from the saute pan and cook until desired warmth is reached (about 10 minutes or so). Serve with a slice of crusty bread!

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2.02.2013

My Super Bowl Sunday picks ... for eating of course

I owe you all a serious apology.

It didn't even occur to me until two days ago while talking to my dad that this Sunday was THE Sunday.

Super Bowl Sunday to be precise.

No, it's not THE Sunday of the year because I'm obsessed with football (I'm not, at all, in the slightest actually), but instead because it's like the one day of the year you get to turn any lunch or dinner into a dip and it's perfectly acceptable.
Rather than repeat recipes, I decided to photo bomb
you with pictures of my children. Please enjoy.

Not only that, but you can actually eat teeny weeny appetizers ALL day and consider it breakfast, lunch and dinner. Oh and did I mention the desserts? There's no such thing as too decadent.

Unfortunately, I've been slacking and didn't have a chance to put together something uber special to post before the big day. So instead, I'm going to kindly direct your attention (and growling stomachs) to a few of my prior recipes that are sure to impress on game day, meat eaters and vegans alike. And once I actually figure out what the heck I'm making I'll fill ya'll in on that too.

In the mood for something filling but prefer to eat it on a chip? Let me recommend the following three dips:

  1. Vegan Pizza Dip: One scoop of this pizza dip and you will absolutely swoon. You won't care that it's loaded with vegan cream cheese or mock pepperoni, all you'll be concerned with is grabbing another bread stick to scoop up all this deliciousness. The best part about this recipe is that you can cater it to whatever your pizza preferences are, from pepperoni to sausage to all veggies!
  2. Jalapeno Popper Dip: Who needs to stuff a pepper and bread it when you can throw all the ingredients into a casserole dish and make a ridiculously easy and delicious dip? This one will be a serious hit for anyone who likes a little kick to their dip.
  3. Spinach Artichoke Dip: This spinach artichoke dip will squelch any craving you had for the old days. It's creamy, loaded with artichokes and has the right amount of spinach. It's got veggies, so it must be good for you, right?
Braeburn is resting up for the big day.
And if for some reason dips aren't your thing (aka you're crazy):
  1. Stuffed (with mushrooms) Mushrooms: I've never stuffed a mushroom before, so if you haven't lost your stuffed mushroom virginity yet might I suggest you hop on this bandwagon now? They're so so so simple, yet you'd never be able to guess how easy they were - or that they're vegan!
  2. Macaroni and Cheese Bites: If you REALLLLLLY feel the need to add something healthy into your superbowl line-up, might I suggest these mac and cheese bites stuffed with your favorite veggie? From broccoli to carrots, you can sneak anything into these baked bites of cheesy goodness.
  3. Buffalo Chickpea Chili: What would Superbowl Sunday be if it didn't include some sort of hearty stewy goodness? If the regular red bean variety isn't your style, I suggest giving this chili chock full of pasta, buffalo sauce and chickpeas a whirl. The best part? It cooks in the crock pot, so you can walk away from this and focus on more important things ... 
Like desserts: 
  1. Vegan Peanut Butter Brownies: These have just enough peanut butter in them to take the edge off the your decadent dessert craving, but they're not overpowering so you can basically eat the entire pan. Oh, and the vanilla frosting on top certainly doesn't hurt either.
  2. Flawless Fudge: This is a kick-ass recipe for (get ready) vegan fudge that requires NO candy thermometer. I know, amazing right? I've heard fudge can be tricky, but this chocolatey version was super simple and uber rich.
  3. Cheesecake Bites: If you're wanting to impress your superbowl crowd, but still appeal to a variety of flavor palates, I recommend trying your hand at backing some cheesecake bites. Because they're travel-size (aka 'fun' size), they set up much faster. And as a bonus? You can customize each one with some delicious lime curd, strawberry preserves or a melted chocolate chip! 
What's on your menu for Super Bowl Sunday?

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