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Going Vegan for February

going vegan

Photo via Unsplash

In January, I decided one of my 2018 goals is to stop overthinking things. To honor that, I’m going vegan in the month of February!

Going vegan is something I’ve talked myself out of trying for years. I’m already a part-time vegetarian, vegan-before-6 kind of gal – so why not go whole hog and see what happens? Add in that I’m in a cooking rut, the winter months always make me feel like crap, and I could use a hormonal “reset,” and you have a recipe for change.

For now, I’m committing to going vegan for a full month to see how it goes. I spent January researching recipes, trying out adaptations to my favorite foods, and getting my pantry prepared. Oh, and I ate my last cheeseburger last weekend before I say goodbye for a while.

I’ll see where I am at the end of the month and assess things from there. Even if I go back to my occasional cheeseburger, I still plan to work more plant-based meals into my life.

My husband won’t be joining me on this one – at least not full time. He worked more vegetarian meals into his life, thanks to my gold-star cooking. I’ve also tried a few vegan recipes out on him already, and he seems to like them. At this point going vegan isn’t for him, and that’s fine. He’s supportive of my doing this for me, and leaving him to his own devices when he wants some meat or cheese. I’m sure he’ll end up eating a lot of what I cook anyway – he has a hard time saying no to falafel, black bean soup, and just about anything else I make!

I’m not sure how much I’ll post about this over the next month, but I’ll definitely let you know at the end of February how going vegan went! Until then, check out my Instagram, where I’ll be sharing all the delicious new food I’ll be trying out!

My Favorite Pumpkin-Spiced Recipes

Photo by sydney zentz on Unsplash

Fall is for more than just the PSL – it’s the perfect time of year to break out your favorite pumpkin and squash recipes! I have a few recipes that I’ve grown to love over the years. They go beyond the typical pumpkin pie, and make for great options to take to your next fall dinner or Thanksgiving.

Here are a few of my favorite recipes that use pumpkins or squash to their full flavor potential – and my personal recipe for the perfect PSL you can make at home!

Acorn Squash and Black Bean Empanadas

I recently started cooking my way through Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook, and this is one of my favorite recipes so far! It’s savory, sweet, and a little spicy. The cornmeal empanada dough is a little sweet and crispy. You can make a bunch of these to freeze and reheat later, or just bake off today! They’re super filling, too!

King Arthur Flour’s Easy Pumpkin Bread

If you’re looking to add even more pumpkin flavor to your breakfast, bake a loaf of this pumpkin bread! It’s super easy to make, and in about an hour you’ll have a moist, decadent compliment to your PSL!

Butternut Squash Stuffing

I made this last year for Thanksgiving, and it was a huge hit! It has some bold flavors, thanks to sourdough bread, butternut squash, bacon, and plenty of sage. If you’re looking for a fun alternative to traditional stuffing, try this one out!

Pumpkin Bars

For those who aren’t a fan of pumpkin pie, you can’t really go wrong with pumpkin bars. It’s a classic Martha Stewart recipe for moist, flavorful pumpkin cake and a sweet and tangy cream cheese frosting. This would be great to make for a party, or for breakfast (if you’re not looking to keep things even remotely healthy).

Butternut Squash Mash

I’m sure you could figure out how to do this on your own – simmer up some squash, mash it up, add some salt and pepper, and you’re done! This is a great side dish for all the fall roasts I do once it starts cooling off outside. I sometimes do half squash, half yukon gold potatoes – it’s a great way to tone down the sweetness if you’re not a huge fan of squash.

Now, for my all-time favorite homemade pumpkin-spiced recipe: my homemade PSL! There is no pumpkin in it, but it sure tastes like it!

My Homemade Pumpkin-Spiced Latte

2-3 Tbsp ground coffee
8-12 oz. boiling water
1/4 tsp pumpkin spice (my favorite is from Trader Joe’s)
1/2 tsp. raw sugar
Almond milk

1. Put ground coffee and pumpkin spice into French press. Pour boiling water into press and let sit for 3-5 minutes (however long you like to steep your coffee).

2. Strain coffee, then pour into your favorite fall-themed mug.

3. Stir in sugar, and pour in almond milk to taste. If you want to make it extra decadent, froth your milk before pouring in!

4. Enjoy your tasty PSL for a fraction of the price you’d pay at Starbucks!

Friday Favorites

friday favorites

Time for this week’s Friday Favorites!

It’s been a very long week, and I’m glad to spend the weekend catching up on my meditation practice, spend time with family, and celebrate the return of Chelsea Handler’s show on Netflix. I also plan to eat as many chocolate eggs as I can stuff in me! Here are a few of my favorite things from this past week:

I hope everyone has a fun and sunny Easter weekend!

July on Instagram

July on Instagram

Holy shit, July flew by quickly this year!

I started out the month doing what I spent most of June doing – hanging out by myself. The husband was insanely busy at work, either working late or going in super early. For the second year in a row, I wound up alone watching fireworks on the 4th. One more year, and I’ll consider it a tradition!

One reason I didn’t blog much last month is that some family came in to visit. It was…mostly stressful, to be honest. I spent much of the week feeling like a chauffeur/house mom – and don’t get me started on how long it took me to clean the place after they left. Boys are gross. Grown men aren’t much better. Sure, there were some fun moments – but I don’t remember them yet. Ask me again in a few months, and I might be over the trauma to come up with something. 

After going through my Instagram photos from last month, I also realized I spent much of the month cooking. I’ve gotten into the whole “meal prep” thing. Unfortunately, I am starting to find it’s more work than I wanted to deal with. Meal prepping for a family of 5 is probably worth it – meal prepping for 2 people isn’t. The weather was so hot that we ended up eating salads most nights anyway.

Speaking of hot weather, I did manage to make it to the beach once this summer! I’ve been trying to find unique and chill places to read my blogger buddy Kayley’s “The Year of the Work” letters, and I attempted to do that at the beach in July. Instead, I ran into an old college friend and spent the afternoon catching up with him. It was just what I needed to wrap up a long month of solitude! Hopefully we can keep in touch, since he’s the only person I know out here who isn’t family!

I haven’t really made a plan for posting in August, so this month will be more “flying by the seat of my pants.” I miss blogging a bit, but man it’s hard to get back into the habit!

Enjoy the last remaining weeks of summer, and start working on your Pumpkin Spice Latte recipes!

Friday Favorites

friday favorites april 8

(Finally back to work after a month of moving, unpacking, and lots of allergy meds!)

Friday Favorites

I’m not sure what my plans are for this weekend. Last weekend was a busy one, since my husband basically kicked me out of the house all day Saturday (and for a good chunk for Sunday) so he could work on some writing alone. Hopefully he won’t do that again, but if he does, I guess it’ll be a good excuse to take my laptop somewhere awesome – like the Starbucks Reserve Roastery downtown. Come to think of it, I might have just come up with some plans!

What are you doing this weekend?

Weekly Meal Prepping?

weekly meal prepping

Leftover Bits Pasta Salad / Pumpkin Bread Muffins

Weekly meal prepping has become insanely popular lately, thanks to Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, and other social media sites. You can go online and find weekly meal plans for just about any life goal you have: lose weight, stick to a budget, save time, reduce waste, change diets, or save sanity.

The most exciting aspect to weekly meal prepping is that by spending a few hours, once a week, cooking and preparing your meals, you can save yourself time throughout the week. It’s also supposed to reduce the temptation make “bad” choices (takeout, restaurants, or frozen foods) when you’re not in the mood before or after work to prepare meals. For those on a budget, weekly meal planning can reduce wasteful grocery expenses or food waste.

I’m a huge fan of weekly meal prepping, and have been doing some form of it for years. I got into it a few years ago when I was teaching 12-hour days and didn’t have time to prepare lunches every morning. I also didn’t have a lot of time to eat, so having everything for lunch and snacks on hand made my life so much easier when I was hungry between classes, meetings, or driving between schools.

While I’ve gotten out of the habit of packing a daily lunch, I do think it’s time to get back to weekly meal planning. I find that when I have breakfasts and lunches pre-planned, I’m less tempted to eat crap we have at home, or buy something terrible while I’m out running errands. It also forces me to get creative with things I have in my pantry, which helps our budget and reduces the food we waste or just leave sitting in our pantry for months. I’ve also been trying to eat healthier lately, and this helps me better keep track of how much I’m eating as well.

I can’t wait to share with you what I come up with over the next month or so! I’ve been watching YouTube videos and stalking Pinterest to find new recipes to try, and different methods to keep things interesting!

2015 Year in Review: Food

2015 Year in Review: Food

Homemade Granola Bars / What I Eat: Summer Edition / My Relationship With Food: A Love/Hate Story / A (Dangerous) New Toy

In 2015, I cooked at home more than I ever have in the past. Not working left me with a lot of time to read cookbooks, research new recipes, and try out a lot of new foods. I also enjoyed sharing with you what I eat on a regular basis, and some of my favorite new recipes.

While I did cook a ton over the past year, I was usually too hungry or rushed to photograph or write about it! I hope in the next year I can take more time to share my favorite recipes, and do more cookbook reviews.

I’ve been in a cooking rut for the past month or two, and with the holidays, I’ve been giving more attention to baking cookies than making dinner. Hopefully now that the holidays are over, things will get back to normal!

2015 Year in Review: Food

Cookbook Review: Everyday Food: Great Food Fast /  Cookbook Review: I Quit Sugar / Meal Planning 101 / Cookbook Review: The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinnertime

Oh, and did I mention I read a lot of cookbooks? Our local library system is a great resource for finding cookbooks to check out, which helped me expand my horizons a lot this year!

I also found a few cookbooks I want to add to my stash in the next year. Danny surprised me with Ree Drummond’s new book, and I also have a few from Martha Stewart and America’s Test Kitchen I want to grab whenever they go on sale!

Overall, it was a great year for cooking and baking in our house, and I look forward to much more in the next year. This might be the year I finally tackle sourdough!

Decoration Inspiration: Thanksgiving

Decoration Inspiration: Thanksgiving

(All images taken from my Pinterest page)

Always a guest, never a hostess.

One thing I’ve dreamed of doing since I was a kid was hosting my own Thanksgiving dinner. I technically did one year, when my mom woke up sick and we all had to pitch in to help her out (I think I was maybe 7 or 8). That’s right – I’ve known how to prep a turkey since I was 7. Unfortunately, I’ve never had the space, budget, or permission to host one.

So until that day comes where I have a dining room and proper kitchen of my own, I spend my time fantasizing about it on Pinterest – and perfecting my apple pie recipe (my go to thing to bring).

If you grew up in the Midwest like I did, you know how corny people get about decorating their homes for Thanksgiving. The amount of orange, yellow, and brown decorations, napkins, and whatnot is sickeningly cheesy. I’ve always been one to rail against the “traditional” stuff, which is probably why I gravitate toward the images above. The decorations are colorful, but muted, and include natural elements that reflect the food being eaten. There will also be no faux turkeys of any kind – only a real one to eat, of course.

When I do get my chance, you know it’s going to be a classy affair, with cloth napkins, candles, and the most amazing apple pie I’ve spent years perfecting.

A Dangerous New Toy

A Dangerous New Toy

Recently, my husband decided to splurge on a new KitchenAid mixer for our kitchen. I’ve wanted one for years, but never pulled the trigger because it’s a lot of money, and I assumed that I could survive just fine without one. I’ve been baking just fine for years – why bother with a high-end mixer when my own two hands do just as well?

Boy, was I stupid.

I’ve always heard one of these mixers can change your life, and I have to agree that it does – in both good and bad ways.

I knew it would make certain things easier, but I wasn’t expecting was how much easier everything is with it. For years, I hated baking bread because of all the leg (or, better, arm) work that went into it. Now, all I do is put in a dough hook, set to low, and walk away. I can’t say I’ll ever go back to store-bought sandwich bread ever again, especially with such easy, healthy recipes out there! Cleanup is easier, and I find that I use fewer bowls because most recipes just call for me to dump it all in the mixer anyway. It has made breads, pizza dough, cookies, brownies, and many other things less time consuming and more fun.

However, there is a problem with making things easier: things are almost too easy now. I’ve baked more bread in the past few weeks than I have in 10 years…and I’ve been eating the shit out of it too. I also have a serious problem with desserts, and making it easier for me to whip up a batch of brownies is..well…not always a good thing. My pants are a little more snug than they were a month ago, and I know this new mixer is contributing to it. It’s also not helping that my husband keeps asking me to try new recipes with it (that’s where the cinnamon rolls come in), and I know he’s expecting me to use it all the time since…you know…he paid a lot for it.

So for now, I’ll continue to make bread on a weekly basis because I like controlling the nutritional content (mostly sugar) in my food, but maybe cool it with the desserts. I know the holidays are coming up, but man at this pace I’m gonna be a fatty-fat-fat by then!

A Dangerous New Toy

Since I’m going to try to find healthier things to use this mixer for, what are some of your suggestions? Are there any recipes I can try out with my new mixer that won’t include baking sweets or breads? I know I can shred chicken in it (something I’m excited to try), but aside from that and basic whipping (mashed potatoes, soups, etc.) I don’t really know what else people use them for!

Also…don’t tell me they have an ice cream maker attachment. I know they have one, and I’m not buying it. If there’s one thing more dangerous than brownies on demand, it’s homemade ice cream. That is just straight up bad for me!

Friday Favorites: Halloween Prep

Friday Favorites: Halloween Prep

I think I found my Halloween costume for this year! Now all I need to do is find a ridiculously big wine glass!

Happy Friday!

It’s been another long week, and I’m looking forward to spending the weekend learning how to bake cinnamon rolls, getting out in the sunshine (if there is any), and catching up on some reading. I have four books from the library sitting on my bookshelf, and I’ve only gotten through one of them so far!

Now that I’m not sick anymore, and can focus for more than a couple minutes, here are some things I’ve been enjoying on the web lately! This list is going to be a lot longer than normal because I have like, two weeks of catching up to do!

  • One of the prettiest pumpkin decor projects I’ve seen this year – and since it’s done on a faux pumpkin, you can use it for years to come! (Hunted Interior)
  • A home tour that makes me question whether I chose the right coast to live on… (Remodelista)
  • The fall version of a gimlet, which I might try out this weekend! I was hooked on gimlets this summer, but we’ve moved out of lemonade season – and this seems like the best substitute! (Because I’m Addicted)
  • “I didn’t have any eggs, so I replaced them with a banana-chia-flaxseed pulse. It turned out terrible; this recipe is terrible.” If you’ve never read the comment section of recipe websites, you should – they’ll make you laugh for hours! People are so stupid sometimes, and I love it. Here is a rundown of every ridiculous comment you’ll see! (The Toast via Cup of Jo)
  • So Ryan Adams did a cover album of Taylor Swift’s 1989 album…and I have to say it weirdly works. I highly recommend checking it out if you need something chill to listen to – and I swear, you won’t even know they’re Taylor Swift covers! (Goop…or go find it on Spotify!)
  • I had no idea that a gold-plated toothbrush existed until yesterday, and now I want one! This post also has a few other gold beauty tools as well, but the toothbrush was just too good to pass up! (Mane Addicts)
  • I have a bunch of leftover butternut squash in the freezer, so I might try out The Pioneer Woman’s version of Butternut Mac and Cheese next week. It sounds yummy! (The Pioneer Woman)