Thursday, August 29, 2013

Sleeping Like a Baby

This is how small a 6 day old pup is, the size of a 10-year-old's hands.

Sweet, little green collar boy.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Vegan Peanut Butter Cookies

Baking with just plant-based foods can be tricky at times and has required quite a bit of experimentation on my part.  Sometimes, a recipe turns out really well, though, and is worth sharing.  Livia, our 5-year-old, wanted to make some cookies yesterday afternoon, so I decided to modify a "Crisco" peanut butter cookie recipe ( I like Crisco for the occasional piecrust, because it turns out so flaky, but otherwise, it isn't a fat I would recommend for baking). 

Karlie's Vegan Peanut Butter Cookies

3/4 c. creamy, all-natural peanut butter
1/4 c. coconut oil
1/4 c. applesauce
1 c. loosely packed brown sugar
1/4 c. white, granulated sugar
2 Tbsp. soymilk (or other dairy-free milk)
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1/8 c. of very warm water + 1 Tbsp. Ener-G egg replacer (beat together until it is the consistency of very stiff egg whites)
1 c. white, all-purpose flour
3/4 c. whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt (or less, if desired)

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Combine peanut butter, coconut oil, applesauce, brown and white sugars, soymilk, vanilla, and egg replacer mixture in a large bowl.  Whisk together until thoroughly combined.  Combine flours, baking soda, and salt.  Add all at once to the wet mixture and stir together with a spoon until the dry ingredients are fully incorporated.  Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet (or put parchment paper on the cookie sheet and give it a light spray with canola oil cooking spray).  Flatten slightly in a crisscross pattern with tines of a fork.  Bake one cookie sheet at a time for 8-9 minutes, or until set and just beginning to brown.  Cool 2 minutes on baking sheet.  Remove cookies to cooking racks to cool completely.

Makes 2-3 dozen cookies (depending on the size of cookie).

Note:  Vegan chocolate chips mixed in at the end before baking would be wonderful in this recipe.  (I didn't have any on hand, or I would have put them in this time around.) 

This was super easy to make, bake, and the whole family loved them.  We'll definitely be making these cookies again!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Puppy Love

The puppies are 4 days old today and still so new.  My girls have been so wonderful, always helping out with the puppies to be sure they stay safe, get equal chances to feed on their mama, and are loved on by our family right from the get-go. 

Isabella holding the "blue" collar boy, or "Little Boy Blue", as I call him.

Selah, making sure everyone has a place to eat.

Selah, my animal lover, with one of the puppies.

Little Boy Blue - what an irresistibly, darling face!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Mac N' No Cheese

Our girls are enthusiastic eaters and on most days, they are also happy to be eating a plant-based diet.  But, there are a few menu items from our former ways of eating that they still miss and request at times.  So, I decided to make them a "no-cheese" version of mac n'cheese.  Here is the basic recipe.

For a big batch for our family  I used:

24 oz. (1 1/2 pounds) of dry pasta (I didn't have macaroni on hand, so I used another shape)
2-3 Tbsp. of olive oil
1/2 - 1 cup of soymilk
7 oz. of  "Follow Your Heart" cheddar style vegan cheese, cubed
1 tsp. Lawry's seasoned salt
Any additional salt and pepper to taste
Optional:  Panko bread crumbs, garlic powder, spray canola oil

Boil the noodles according the package directions and drain.  Put them back in the cooking pot and in the olive oil, cubes of vegan cheese, and 1/2 cup of soymilk.  Heat this on low to medium heat so that the cheese begins to melt, all the while stirring frequently to coat the noodles.  Add in the seasoned salt and if the noodles seem to be drying out, add more soymilk as needed to keep the consistency creamy.  Once the vegan cheese is fully melted and incorporated and the sauce is the desired consistency, test it and add and more salt and pepper, as needed.  You can either serve it this way, or if you want it a little fancier, put the mac n' no-cheese into an oven safe dish, sprinkle it with Panko bread crumbs, sprinkle it with garlic powder, and spray the top with a light coat of canola oil spray.  Put the dish, uncovered, in the oven at 375 degrees F, for 10-15 minutes or until the bread crumbs just start to turn a golden brown cover.  Then, enjoy!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Lilah's Puppies Arrive At Long Last

Well, she went a couple of days overdue which was a good thing because the puppies are all a good size and had a few more days to mature inside their mama.  Lilah gave birth to 4 girls and 6 boys between 3 a.m. and 9 a.m. this morning (although she was also laboring from about 7 p.m. on starting the day before).  They are so new and little, but are all eating like champs already and can latch on really well.  Here are a few of the puppies just hours, and even minutes, after birth.

First Day of Fifth Grade

Our oldest, Isabella, started school yesterday.  She is finally at the top of the pecking order at her Elementary School (which is just grades 3-5).  Isabella was a little nervous/excited for the big day and it was sweet to see her head off to another year of learning ready to go and wanting to do her best!
Her goofy pose.

The standard 1st day of school picture.

Arriving at school.

And she's off . . .

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Quick Cabinet Re-do

When we bought this house two years ago, the kitchen was painted in white and a light turquoise color.  Don't get me wrong, I like turquoise, but it didn't do much for my country kitchen.  It was painted as an accent color inside the one large cupboard which is above the island/bar (which I would love to get rid of someday, but it is staying for now).  The cupboard has glass doors, so you can see inside while the doors are closed.  So, to give a tiny face-lift to the kitchen and cupboard, I decided to just find a pattern I had in mind in Contact paper and put it up over the turquoise paint.  I looked several places for a product like this and was having a hard time either finding what I wanted, or finding an affordable product that covers a lot of square footage.  So, I did what I should have done in the first place and shopped on Amazon.  I found a 2-roll pack of Laura Ashley contact paper that is nice and sticky on the back, comes with lines printed on the back for cutting, covers up to 30 square feet, and was $11.00 and change.  Here is my new look achieved on a budget. 



This is also a good way to line the back of a bookshelf, line a shelf itself, or as a drawer liner (as it was intended). 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A Cheer for Plant-Based Eating

My 3-year-old really likes to watch "Go, Diego, Go" and sing songs from Dora and Diego around the house.  So, the other night after a yellow coconut curry dinner that everyone was wild about, my 10 and 7-year-old decided to remake the Diego song for me into a plant-based eating cheer/song. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Speeding Toward a New School Year

Dakota, 3.

Isabella, 10, and Selah, 8.

Arianna, 7.

Livia, 5.

The summer has flown by and we are closing in on another school year.  The girls continue to grow and mature.  Dakota is 3, and even though she is our "baby" of the family, she isn't a baby any longer, but a smart, determined, and funny toddler.  Isabella, just 10 and going into 5th grade, is definitely in the tween years.  She loves the Kindle reader we gave her for her birthday and has not only read all 7 Harry Potter books this summer, but has also just started on The Chronicles of Narnia.  Selah, 8, is gearing up for 3rd grade by also doing lots of reading, and also helping Mom out with the animals and volunteering to help out when a job needs to be done.  Arianna, 7, remains as zany and energetic as ever.  She is always looking for a project and loves painting and drawing.  She also just started soccer this fall and is really into it.  Livia, 5, had her big 5th birthday party this summer (a family tradition).  She is sweet, inquisitive, and ready for a year of at-home learning with Mom before going to kindergarten next year.  I love my girls and the women that they are becoming! 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Sprouted Bean Bulgur Burgers

I do a lot of cooking at home by experimentation and using ingredients or leftovers I have on hand.  We have a bag of sprouted beans in our pantry that come from Costco.  These beans are really handy because they cook up in 20 minutes and can be added to a variety of dishes.  My kids don't really love the sprouted beans just on their own, so I have started to incorporate them into other dishes.  They work really well in vegan chili and as a supplement to an Indian style curry with vegetables.  Recently, I thought they might make a good base for a vegan burger and the burgers turned out quite well. 
Here is the general recipe that I used for making the burgers, but it can be modified using whatever you have on hand.  First, I boiled about 1 1/2 cups of the sprouted bean mix with about 1/2 cup of bulgur.  This would work with another grain, too, if it needs to be cooked for approximately the amount of time that you are boiling the beans.  I boiled the bean/bulgur mixture together for approximately 30-35 minutes until the water was absorbed in the mixture and it was starting to get a little mushy.  I took the mixture off the stove to cool and added garlic powder, dried onion flakes, and seasoned salt and mixed it well (For just adults, I would add additional spices and or/chili; chipotles in adobo sauce would go really well in the mixture, too.).  Then, I finely chopped half an onion and half a red bell pepper (some corn kernels would taste good in this mixture, too) and added it to the beans.  I dumped in a lot of panko crumbs to the mixture, about 1 cup, and then added water to all of this for moisture and mixed it all together (veggie broth would taste good, too.).  The original batch was a little dry, so when I finished up with the leftover mixture, I added more water before forming the patties.  It shouldn't be so dry that it is crumbling apart and it shouldn't be a mushy mess, either.  It needs enough liquid to stick together and to form patties.  This batch made 12 burger patties.  When I am ready to cook them, I get out a non-stick pan or griddle and spray it lightly with canola or olive oil cooking spray.  Then, I fry them up nicely on each side until both sides are golden brown.  Fix them up just like you would a burger on a bun or bread with all the fixings. 
My daughters really like this burger and our middle child that always speaks her mind said, "This is the best vegan burger I've ever had!"

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Pre-Puppy Excitement

Well, we have another litter of goldendoodles du,e literally, any day now.  Lilah has done so well this pregnancy, going along normally, although she has been sleeping quite a bit extra.  She has eaten really well and is gaining weight nicely, and now we are just hanging out waiting for her to go into labor.  Just last night, she started her "nesting" in weird spots around the house routine where she tries to find a nice tight spot and go curl up in it.  She also is breathing more heavily, dreaming very actively, and is more protective of us than usual.  Last night, I kicked into high gear and started my own "nesting" even though I'm not the pregnant one.  I wanted to be sure I had all the birthing supplies right at hand, all in one place and ready to go.  Once again, I dug out the heating lamp (that we also use to warm chicks when we have any), a box and linens to line a puppy warming box (where we keep puppies as another one is being born), got out used towels, plastic liners, and old sheets for the actual birth, and found our old quilt that we use in the whelping box once the birthing is done and they are all settling in with their mama.  Now it is just a waiting game and we are staying at home as much as possible to be sure we are here for the BIG ARRIVAL.  I'm sure there will be plenty of pictures in the days to come. 

Newborn puppies from our previous litter, sleeping with their mama.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Mini Pizzas on the Go

We have pizza night at our house on a regular basis.  Eating a plant-based diet has not changed our pizza tradition, either.  We use our homemade 1/2 whole wheat dough, pizza sauce, and pile on the veggies for a full and satisfying pizza, and occasionally we will buy a vegan cheese for a little extra something on our pizza.  We like the Daiya mozzarella-style shreds, and we also tried the Follow Your Heart block of mozarella-style vegan cheese and that was pretty nice on pizza, too.  I while back, I was reading a magazine or on the internet and came across the idea to make mini pizzas in muffin tins.  I made them this way several times last spring during softball season when we needed a  meal that was portable and could be taken on the go.  Unlike a usual, messy pizza slice, these little mini pizzas are very manageable and much less messy if you need to take them in the car.  The girls also just like to eat them at home, too, because it is a variation on the usual pizza theme.

I spray my muffin tins with a spray canola oil before putting the pizza dough into the tins to avoid sticking.  Then, I grab a small ball of dough and stretch it with my fingers into a small circle.  Fit the circle into each hole of the muffin tin.

Then, spread a small amount of your desired pizza sauce (many times, this is marinara at our house) on each  circle.  Top the way that you like.

Bake at 375 degrees for approximately 10 minutes, or until the crust is baked through and the ingredients look done.
The kid's favorite, olive pizza.

The parents' version, with lots of veggies.


Saturday, August 10, 2013

Don't Overthink the Salad

When my girls requested salad last night for supper, I told them it would have to be a really simple one and they said, "Great!". So many times, I don't make salads because I don't want to clean and chop my veggies or I don't have lettuce on hand, but I realized that it doesn't have to be a chore.  The key is just using what you have on hand and putting a simple dressing on it.

Here is last night's salad:  tomato, cucumber, kalamata olives, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper.  It was delicious and super simple to make . . . and everyone ate a nice portion of raw veggies!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Back from Summer Vacation

Our first day of summer vacation started by taking our 2nd daughter, Selah, down to Children's Hospital for a week where she received antibiotics via a PICC line that aren't given orally.  This was followed up by giving the second week of antibiotics at home via the PICC line on our own after being instructed on the proper technique by an at-home-care nurse.  This, of course, was not how we planned to start the summer, but over the past year we have come to accept that there are situations that have to be accepted and walked through as part of our journey of having two daughters that have bronchiectasis (a chronic lung condition stemming from permanent lung damage).  During that time, I never once got back on the computer to blog and after that, I just disconnected from my school year routine for awhile along with the rest of the family while on summer vacation.  With a husband that is also a teacher, we really do live on the school schedule, so summer is our big time for kicking back and taking a break from the routine, doing household projects, and taking road trips.  Now, however, that is all quickly coming to an end.  School is quickly approaching and  my calendar book is filling up with appointments and events.  I will have new blog material as I start on a new adventure of sending to of our girls to a charter school where the majority of the school work is done at home, all while welcoming another litter of new little goldendoodle puppies into the household in the next couple of weeks. 

Another big part of our summer has been food preparation and eating.  No matter how the routine changes, feeding a family of 7 takes time and is always a big part of my day.  It has been a year now since we began eating a whole-foods, plant-based diet and the more we eat this way, the more excited I get about continuing to explore this way of preparing foods and enjoying the tasty results.  So, I will try and post food ideas and recipes here, too, to share our love of plant-based eating.