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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

Ingredients:
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

Directions:
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 10/13

Photo by Alisa Anton on Unsplash

Welcome to another edition of Friday Favorites!

Fall is (finally) in full swing here, complete with chilly temperatures and a lot of rain. It’s been a great week to snuggle up under a blanket with a good book and some tea. In fact, that’s my only real plan for this weekend.

Here is what I’ve been digging online this past week or two!

  • I’m not a big salad eater, but even this Fall Protein Power Salad looks like the perfect way to force some veggies into me this fall! (Hello Glow)
  • Another recipe I’m dying to try out is these Vegan Cheez Its. I’ve never made my own crackers before, and this recipe looks like the perfect snack to go with some hot apple cider! (Minimalist Baker)
  • If you’re looking to clean up your beauty routine, I suggest checking out The Detox Market. They have tons of great products that would make great gifts, and a monthly subscription box if you want to try something new each month!
  • I am on the hunt for my own vaporizer pen, and this rose gold version from Beboe is so pretty. Too bad they only sell them in California…sigh. Get on the rose gold weed pens, Washington!
  • Speaking of curling up with a good book, Wit & Delight’s list of uplifting and inspiring books is perfect for fall. I’ve got all 7 books on my library holds list!
  • This is the first Kickstarter campaign I’ve seriously considered giving to. Therese Shechter is making a documentary about the current issues surrounding women who choose not to have children. She talks to a couple living in the South who chose not to have kids, a woman whose fertility struggles led to a change of heart, and young women trying to build their lives without motherhood in mind. I think these are important stories to hear, especially now that our access to birth control and abortions hang in the balance. (Kickstarter)

I hope everyone has a great weekend, and I’ll be back next week with some new posts – if I don’t spend the whole weekend buried in a book!

Life on Instagram: August

Life on Instagram: August

Chopped Salad / Vietnamese Pork Soup / Pasta with Chicken and Zucchini / Oven-Roasted Ribs and Corn on the Cob

August was a challenging month for cooking. D decided to go low-carb, and wasn’t digging meat most of the month. Since I do the cooking, it’s my job to figure dinners out for him that meet those requirements (lucky me). Thankfully, it was hot as balls all month, so we ate a lot of salads or veggie-heavy meals. The ribs were a major success, and the first time I did them in an oven.

Life on Instagram: August

Lewis Creek Park / Cougar Mountain / Cougar-Squak-Tiger Mountain Corridor / Lakemont

I didn’t get out hiking as much as I wanted to in August, thanks to the crazy temperatures. It is cooling off finally, and I will hopefully get out more in September. In addition to exploring some new trails, I found a few places that I can go to write or chill out this fall when I need to get outside.

Life on Instagram: August

Coffee-fueled work session / First trip to Whole Foods ever / Re-potting plants / Trying new things…

After a bit of an un-motivated July, I took my time in August to get life back in order and get out of the house more. I found a great coffee shop to work in, got some chores done around the house, and hauled myself to a Whole Foods just to check things out. Oh, and the candy is because D was shocked I never had a Chick-o-Stick before (it was…kinda gross). It turns out there are a lot of candies I never had before. I guess I was more sheltered as a child than I thought (just kidding).

Make sure to check in during September for more updates on that trip to Whole Foods, what I’ll be wearing this fall, and a few easy DIY projects for fall!

Oh, and if you haven’t already:

Follow me on Instagram!

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!

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!

February on Instagram

february on instagram

February was a great month for hiking! The weather was sunny and warm most days, and even if it wasn’t, I managed to get out anyway. It has been amazing to see things starting to sprout, even if it does mean allergy season is fast approaching! Hopefully I’ll be able to get out even more in March!

february on instagram

I didn’t write much about food this past month on the blog, and I probably won’t much next month – but I instagrammed about it a lot. February was all about getting back to normal after the holidays, and I’m looking to keep up the good work in March. Fat Tuesday, or as I know it Paczki Day, was obviously an important day for me (holla to my fellow Poles out there), but after spending the month behaving myself, I could indulge without feeling guilty. I’m finding a balance between eating healthy while still eating well, so of course I make sure not to cut out anything too crazy. I still love a glass of wine…but now, I stop at one (otherwise I’ll be eyeballs deep in junk food later). 

february on instagram

Finally, this past month was big for stocking up on things for spring. I updated my skincare routine after a nasty breakout, renewed my love of print magazines, and did some serious thrift shopping. I can’t wait to share more of what I scored while thrifting this past month – so stay tuned to find out what I came home with!

March is going to be a busy month, with moving into a new place, more job hunting, and some of my favorite shows coming back to TV (is anyone else excited for House of Cards?). I’m also planning to kick up the posts to 4-5 days per week, if I can manage to work that around packing, unpacking, and spring cleaning (which should be easy in a new space, I hope)!

If you want to catch up with what I’ve been ‘gramming, make sure to
click here to follow my Instagram feed!

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!

Best Websites for Recipes

Last week, I shared some of my recent favorites when it comes to cookbooks. Since I know not everyone has the budget to buy cookbooks, or a nearby library to borrow from, I thought I’d also share some of my favorite websites that I use to find great recipes! Some of these are pretty obvious, and some aren’t – but they’re all great for their own reasons, and hopefully will inspire you to try something new this week!

Favorite Websites for Recipes

1. A Beautiful Mess

Best Websites for RecipesWhile I’m not an avid reader of A Beautiful Mess, I go to them for recipes because they offer a lot of things that are outside my usual cooking routine. Their Homemade Falafel & Cucumber Dressing recipe is one I’ve made dozens of times, and my husband brags to everyone who will listen about how great my falafel are. They also have great recipe ideas for parties, like their Candy Corn Jello Shots and Baked Jalapeño Poppers done 3 ways!

2. No. 2 Pencil

Best Websites for Recipes

This is another blog that I turn to for a very specific reason – their Single Serving Size Chocolate Chip Cookies. It makes enough for two giant (bigger than my hand, and my hands are huge) or four normal-sized cookies, which is perfect when you’re craving something sweet, but don’t want to bake a crap ton of cookies. Melissa also has other single-serving desserts, like Microwave Rice Krispies Treats for One and Bake Just Two Peanut Butter Cookies. She also has several one-pot dinners and other easy recipes for busy people who hate doing too many dishes!

3. Food Network

Best Websites for RecipesI watch way too much Food Network, both alone and with my husband. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), their website includes most of the recipes you’ll see on television! My husband is a huge fan of Good Eats, and I often end up on the Food Network site looking up recipes from the show that my husband wants me to try. So far, he’s gotten me to make Alton Brown’s Granola Bars and Shoo-Fly Pie – both of which he loves. I’ve also gotten several recipes from Ina Garten, Giada De Laurentiis, and Bobby Flay from there!

4. Martha Stewart

Best Websites for Recipes

It’s no surprise that I’m a big fan of Martha Stewart’s recipes or website – I’m on there constantly. I only recently started making my own pizza dough on a regular basis, mostly thanks to Martha Stewart’s Quick Basic Pizza Dough Recipe, which really is as easy as the video makes it sound! Her website is also the ultimate reference guide for basic cooking skills I can’t commit to memory yet, like how to make hardboiled eggs or baked potatoes. We also both come from Polish backgrounds, so it’s cool to check out her website every year for great Polish recipes!

5. The Kitchn

Best Websites for Recipes

I’ve been reading The Kitchn for years, and while I don’t get many recipes from them directly, I’ve learned a lot of great tips and tricks from them, like how to make a better iced coffee. If you’ve ever wondered what random kitchen gadgets are for (or if they’re worth buying at all), found yourself lusting after kitchen designs on Pinterest, or want to know how to make your own dill pickles, this is a great place to start!

Homemade Granola Bars

Homemade Granola BarsMy husband, D., is a huge fan of Alton Brown’s show, Good Eats. In addition to learning about the chemistry and history of food, he likes finding new recipes for me to try. I’ve made a few of Brown’s recipes in the past, most notably his Shoo Fly Pie. I can’t stand molasses, so I never eat it, but everyone else I’ve made it for loved it!

When our grocery store discontinued D.’s favorite protein bars, he asked me to make these as a work snack. He saw the recipe on the show, and said it looked healthier and probably cheaper than buying granola bars at the store.

It took me a few batches to get the hang of them, and I’ve adapted things as I go, so I added notes below to help. While I don’t eat them (I’m not a huge peanut fan), I’m sure I could add some things to this basic recipe that I would enjoy, like shredded coconut, white chocolate, and apricots. In fact, I might try that next weekend!

If you want the original recipe, you can find it here on the Food Network website. Enjoy!

Homemade Granola BarsHomemade Granola Bars

(adapted from Alton Brown’s recipe)

To begin, I gathered up the dry ingredients:

8 ounces old fashioned rolled oats (about 4 cups)
1 1/2 ounces raw, shelled sunflower seeds (about 1/2 cup)
3 ounces sliced almonds (I subbed in peanuts – about 1 cup)
1 1/2 ounces wheat germ (about 1/2 cup)

I highly recommend doing this by weight, rather than volume. The bars turn out more consistent this way. You can get pretty decent kitchen scales like this one from Amazon, many of which are under $20!

Homemade Granola BarsOnce you get your dry ingredients measured, place them on a dry baking sheet and bake them at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. About half way through, give it a stir to make sure everything browns evenly. The wheat germ is prone to burning, so keep an eye on it for the last 5 minutes or so. My oven isn’t consistent, so sometimes I have to take it out a couple minutes early.

Homemade Granola Bars

Homemade Granola BarsWhile the dry ingredients are baking, gather up your wet ingredients:

6 ounces honey (about 1/2 cup)
1 3/4 ounces dark brown sugar (about 1/4 cup packed)
1 ounce unsalted butter, plus more to grease pan (1 tablespoon)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Throw all of the wet ingredients in a small saucepan, and cook over medium heat until the brown sugar is dissolved. I usually start this when the dry ingredients have about 5 minutes left, and they’re both done at the same time. You want this mixture nice and hot when you add it to the rest of the granola so it coats evenly.

Homemade Granola BarsAlso, while you’re waiting, get your dried fruit together. You’ll need 6 1/2 ounces of whatever fruit you want – apricots, raisins, cranberries, prunes, cherries, blueberries, etc. Today I’m using cranberries because they were cheap and easy to find.

Homemade Granola BarsTake your dry mix out of the oven, and put it in a large bowl. Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees.

Add in the wet ingredients and toss to coat, then fold in the dried fruit. It’s really hot at this point, so be careful handling it (and don’t try to eat it straight out of the bowl, unless you like a burnt tongue!).

Homemade Granola BarsThe Alton Brown recipe says to butter a 9×9 inch glass baking dish. I tried that once, and it didn’t work at all – it took forever to get it out, and I was left with a few bars and the rest in crumbles. I suggest either heavily coating it with cooking spray, or even better, line the pan with parchment paper that has been lightly sprayed with cooking spray. Less cleanup later, and less frustration! Press the granola into the pan really well to ensure even bars.

Bake the granola at 300 degrees for 25 minutes, then leave on a wire rack to cool completely. Once cooled, you can easily slice them into 16 bars, and store in an airtight container for a week (ours easily survive 2 weeks just fine).

Homemade Granola BarsIf you’re looking for a cheaper alternative to grocery store granola bars, or just want to try out something fun, I highly recommend using this recipe. It’s a great base for adding whatever you want for flavor, and once you get the hang of making them, you can easily knock out a recipe while watching your favorite Food Network shows!