Vegan Whipped Topping

I found ambrosia, ya’ll.  For real.  This recipe is posted on just about every vegan site and there’s a reason for that.  It’s so good, even meat eaters will want to beat you to the table to get it.  It’s that good.  Make this!

First, get a can of full fat coconut milk.  (Do not get reduced fat or any of that silliness!  It must be full fat, nothing else will work.  How do I know that…?)

This is awesomeness!

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Place your can of coconut milk in the fridge overnight.  This causes the fat in the milk to become solid.  I use this brand because it’s unsweetened, non-GMO and organic.  Plus, it’s fairly affordable and that’s always nice. 

 

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When you’re ready to make your whipped topping, take the can out and turn it upside down and open the bottom of the can.  The milk will be at the bottom and you can dump it out in a small bowl and save it for smoothies.  It’s yummy!  The milk fat will be at the bottom and you can scoop it out for your whipped topping. 

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Next, add 1/4 cup of organic powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon of organic maple syrup, a pinch of fine sea salt, 2 or 3 drops of alcohol free vanilla and a pinch of cinnamon.  I usually add my cinnamon after I’ve mixed it well.  I don’t know why, it’s just how I do it.  Roll with me.

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Now, the cinnamon:

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Continue mixing well:

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And you get this:

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It’s good on cakes, pies, in coffee, on cupcakes, by itself, by the spoonful, on a bowl of berries and pretty much any way you can think to use something light, sweet and delicious.  The really wonderful thing about this whipped topping is that it’s very light and not so sweet it’s overwhelming.  It’s perfection!  If you like super sweet, feel free to add more sugar, syrup or whatever floats your boat. 

Enjoy!

Kristi 🙂

 

Gardening

Before we learned that carcass really is bad for us, we loved gardening.  I love gardening for so many reasons it would be impossible to write them all in this space.  It’s like an outlet for my soul.  Watching something grow is soothing and revitalizing and reminds me that there are cycles to everything and every life.  The awesome taste of the offerings are a huge bonus, too.

January is always my thought month.  I think about gardening, read about gardening and seeds and just think about what I want to grow.  It’s also the time I check my soil and make sure it’s not crying for nutrients like a baby that hasn’t been fed.  If you’ve never checked your soil, you should.  It’s probably the most important part of gardening and your efforts will be mostly in vain if your soil is crap.  (Unless it’s garden appropriate manure,  then you’re totally good.)

February and March are the serious planning months!  What, where, how, when and how much are the right questions to ask in these months!  Check a planning chart to see what Zone you live in.  They are all over the internet, and this will help you know when to plant.

March and April are the time that I start my little babies (seeds) in indoor pots.  I’m thinking about making newspaper pots.  Anyone ever done those?  They are little pots of made of newspapers that you can plant directly into the soil and it’s GOOD for it and the plants aren’t sent into shock when they are transplanted because you don’t have to jerk them out to plant them.  Awesomeness.  (I’m easily pleased, OK?)

Here’s an image from cottagehill.blogspot.com for those that need a visual!

I think those are pure coolness!

April and May also bring tilling and adding in the soil nutrients.  We are 100% organic gardeners, so no pesticides touch our soil.  Ever.  We use manure, compost made by us and organic fertilizers only!  They aren’t terribly hard to find and composting is the easiest thing ever.  We built our compost holder out of old wood and some chicken wire. We pounded some wood and sticks into a squarish shape and circled it with chicken wire.  We dump our grass cuttings, leaves, food, coffee grounds, etc…into it and flip it about once a month. (Do NOT add dog/cat manure…ever) We also toss earthworms we find around the yard in it to help the process along.  Doesn’t get easier than that, right?  It’s ugly, but it works wonderfully.

We transplant and plant in early to mid-May and by the end of May we see a beautiful view of little shoots and blossoms starting to form.  We also have a 50 gal drum placed at the corner of my husband’s work garage that catches rain water.  If you’ve never done this, it’s a great way to catch rainwater and use it later for better watering and less hauling.

I’ll be posting pics as we start, so if you’ve never gardened, or are an avid gardener, join us and feel free to comment with suggestions or encouragement.  Gardening is one of the most rewarding things that I do and the food simply can’t be beat.  A home grown tomato is like ambrosia, people, and I may have eaten one or two (or three) like an apple, while standing in the middle of the garden.

Kristi 🙂

Pina Colada Smoothie

I’m sure people in Wisconsin will view this as a comedic performance, but it’s cold here in the South.  (Michigan residents are also laughing now, I’m sure)  Anything below 40 degrees may as well be Arctic in my little corner of the world and I’m missing hot, muggy summer days where smoothies made of frozen pineapple are a must every night.  So, about 10 minutes before typing this, I was sitting in front of a fireplace, with my feet on the hearth, drinking a Pina Colada Smoothie and dreaming about St. Martin, or Barbados.  You can pick whichever works for you.  My dream place had sandy beaches, sunny climates and warm, aqua colored water.  And this:

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I use fresh, frozen pineapple, but you can use pre-bagged and it works just fine.  Since we don’t cut our fresh pineapple in pretty little squares, use at least 1 1/2 cups if you’re using pre-bagged frozen pineapple.  We usually use 10 medium sized pieces from a fresh one.  Add 1/2 banana, 1 tablespoon of raw, organic honey, 1 tablespoon of chia seeds, 1/2 cup of coconut milk and mix until well blended.  I don’t use any ice because the frozen pineapple and chia seeds make this nice and thick.  (Did you know chia seeds turn into a gooey substance when they’re added to water or milk?!”   Top it off with some shredded unsweetened coconut and it’s a keeper!

That’s it!

Enjoy.

Kristi 🙂

Baked Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal

I wanted something decadent yesterday in the worst way! Something sweet and delicious, but all we had was crunchy peanut butter, so I ate some.  With a spoon. Straight out of the jar. Ever done that?  (you should!)

After that, I was still on a sugar hunt, so I decided to make some no bake, mason jar oatmeal for this morning.  And then I decided that I wanted something different and I’d find something to bake, but I didn’t want it to be hard.  Mornings have their own set of challenges, so who wants to make it more complicated, right?  Here’s what I came up with and I think it turned out perfectly.

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First, you’re going to start this the night before with these ingredients:  (this process takes all of 5 minutes and I cook for six people, so this should work for almost anyone’s busy morning!)

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Fill your mason jars about 1/2 to 3/4 of the way full with old fashioned oats and place three or four heaping tablespoons of pumpkin pie puree on top. Then, press it down with a spoon.  I used a canned version of pumpkin that had nothing else added. The ingredients literally say: 100% pumpkin puree and nothing else. Try to find that because we’re going to add all the good stuff and you don’t want extra things you can’t really pronounce, right?

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Then, pour 1 or 2 tablespoon of maple syrup, 1 heaping teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice and 1 or 2 drops of vanilla extract on top.  Then, slowly pour some dairy-free milk into your jars while sliding a knife around the edge to get the milk all the way to the bottom and incorporated into the oatmeal very well.

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If you look in the top left corner of that picture, you see a blue thing lying in the floor. That’s our Pug’s chewy toy.  He sits in the kitchen while I cook because he thinks he’s human and all food is really made just for him. His name is Loki. Here’s a picture for you because I’d like to introduce you to my fur baby:

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How cute is he?!   …I digress…

When you’re finished, the entire jar of oatmeal and spices should be nicely covered in your milk, but not floating in it.  Place caps on your jars and stick this in the fridge overnight. Too easy!!

In the morning, you’ll find that the milk has soaked into your oatmeal and it’s ready to go! Preheat your oven to 350 and then pour your oatmeal into an oven safe pan. I use a cast iron skillet.

It’s ugly, but it gets so much better:

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Smooth your oatmeal out and top with pecans.  Drizzle some more organic maple syrup and a tiny bit of organic brown sugar over the top and place your pan into a 350 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes.  Serve in individual bowls and top with cinnamon and more milk to taste. (I love cinnamon, so I used it pretty liberally and only used a splash of “cream”.)

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When I woke up this morning, my sweet tooth and craving for something over the top had passed.  It turns out that this was perfect!  It wasn’t too sweet, but sweet enough that I was pleased with the results.  You can add or take away depending on your own tastes to make it as sweet as you’d like.  The warm oatmeal keeps this feeling like a really wonderful breakfast and the pumpkin flavor makes it feel like a special occasion.  Always a good thing.

Kristi 🙂

Vegan Margherita Sandwich

I’m ready to start gardening so badly that I spend most of my evenings reading my gardening books and thinking of ways to pack the most punch for our space.  We’re blessed because we live on over an acre and our garden is a good size and usually produces pretty well.  I’m sending my soil sample to Clemson next week, and I’m thrilled!  (They do soil sampling for six bucks in case you’ve never done that!!)

Tomatoes are one of my favorite things to grow and eat.  I love how they look, how they smell, how they taste and how abundant they are in my part of the country.  I’d just mentioned to Dave that I’d be glad to get a “real” tomato once summer comes blazing in because whatever the things they have in the grocery stores down here in the winter, are not “real” tomatoes to a Southern girl.  And then I walked in the Fresh Market and they had some heirlooms sitting on the front counter and I may have made a tiny noise of excitement when I saw them based on the sweet greeters face.  Or it could have been that the young greeter is always normally hesitant to speak to customers (but I doubt it!).  Who can say?

So, I decided to make a Margherita sandwich with a few twists because heirlooms need special treatment, even if they are winter heirlooms.  I’d found some rice bread at the Fresh Market, too, so what better way to make use of a bread I’d never tried than with flavors that I love?

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First, get a good bread! (I liked the gf rice bread, but I’d use grain next time)  Then, get your tomatoes, hummus, basil (dried or fresh…I used dried because I didn’t have fresh and it was fine), Vegenaise, Daiya mozzarella,kale and salt and pepper.

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Place 1/2 cup of garlic hummus in a small bowl and mix one to two heaping tablespoon(s) of dried basil into the hummus.

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Smear as much hummus/basil mixture onto one slice of the bread as you’d like and smear some Vegenaise onto the other slice.  Place your mozzarella, tomato and kale on the sandwich, salt and pepper to taste and close her up.

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Place your sandwich in a skillet on med-low heat in a sliver of vegan butter (I use Earth Balance).  I use an iron skillet because I like the way it cooks the bread much better! Cook each side about 2 minutes and then flip. I turned my sandwich twice and recooked each side to make sure my cheese was melted well and my bread had a nice crunch.

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This was wonderful and easy!  I think the garlic, basil hummus really made the sandwich, so if you have that on hand, give it a shot!

Enjoy!

Kristi 🙂

Spicy Thai Noodles with Broccoli

I love Thai food.  I love spicy food.  I love food.  When those things come together, it makes me so happy! I found the basis for this recipe here and then changed it around to suit our tastes and preferences.  By the way, I adore Leanna’s pictures, so if you haven’t checked her out, it’s worth it just to look at her beautiful food photos! (her recipes are pretty great, too!)

First, turn your pot of water on for your noodles and get a steamer or another pot going to steam your broccoli.  These will be ready to go by the time the sauce is done because the sauce takes about four minutes to toss together! 

Place 1 1/2 cups of sesame oil in a small pot with 1 heaping tablespoon of red pepper flakes and cook on medium for around 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and strain the flakes while reserving the oil in a small bowl.  Then, add 6 tablespoons of Agave nectar and 5 tablespoons of organic Tamari to this mixture. (you can use soy sauce, but I think the Tamari is way better!)  You can find Tamari in the Asian foods section of most grocery stores. 

Then, add one tablespoon of all natural peanut butter. (the chunky peanut butter works, too)  Whisk this mixture together and set aside.

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Toss your noodles in their pot and the broccoli on the steamer.  While these are cooking, chop and dice your toppings: 2 carrots, 1 scallion, a few sprigs of fresh cilantro and 1 to 2 cups of unsalted roasted peanuts and place them to the side.

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I used two kind of pasta with this recipe because I like the textures and size variations when I eat pasta. Your tastes will determine what you use, of course, but I like Ezekiel fettuccine and whole wheat spaghetti.  There’s no pasta law on this dish, so use whatever you like or whatever you have on hand.

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Drain your pasta and then you should be ready to add the broccoli.

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Coat the entire dish with your sauce and mix well.  If you need to add some more soy/agave mixture, then mix another few tablespoons together and mix well.  I like a lighter coat of sauce than some people, but adding to the dish is relatively easy on this recipe.  I doubt most people would need more spice because the sesame oil/red pepper mixture is delicious and has a nice kick to it.  However, if you like to scald your taste buds off, then by all means begin with two cups of sesame oil and 2 tablespoons of red pepper flakes to cook into the oil. 

After mixing well, toss the coated pasta and broccoli into bowls and top it off with your garnishes.  I use all of them and it makes the perfect combination!

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I absolutely love this dish!!   It’s perfection! 

Enjoy!

Kristi 🙂

Money Matters

One of the biggest challenges for everyone I know is money and one of the most asked questions that I’ve received as a vegan who is actively seeking to not only remove meat and dairy from our diet, but to also eat as organically and truthfully as I can is, “Isn’t that a lot more expensive than just eating “regular” food?”   Honestly, the answer is, “No, it’s not that much more expensive, if at all”.

First, meat isn’t cheap.  Even cheap meat isn’t cheap. Do we need to discuss the crazy price of milk?  Load a grocery cart with hamburger, sausage, hotdogs, sandwich meat, gallons of milk and cheese and steak and compare that to a grocery cart loaded with veggies, fruits, beans, nuts, grains, rice, oats and spices and compare them.  No difference except in the nutritional value that you’re consciously putting in your mouth.

Second, most people think that vegans eat salad and that’s all.  I’m hoping to change some of that perspective with this blog, although there is nothing wrong with a beautiful raw salad and we have one every single day. (We usually add the vegan ranch that I posted a few weeks ago. You can find it here.) I can’t believe how passionate I’ve become about food in such a short time!  I can’t read enough, study enough, learn enough.  I shamefully admit that I was willfully ignorant of how important our food choices are to ourselves and the people we love the most, so I completely understand the reaction that people have when I discuss this topic.  It seems foreign to them and it is.  However, it shouldn’t be and that’s important.

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I’ve found that I’m seeking out foods that I never thought of when I was a carnivore!  There is a big food world out there and it’s kind of exciting.  Here’s some good places to start:

Beans:  Beans are so much more than they appear.  They are inexpensive and they can be used in so many ways!  You can transform them into much more than just beans.

Those salads I mentioned:  There is a plethora of ingredients to make a salad.  All kinds of salads.  We have some posts we hope to work on through the summer as our garden progresses that will prove this theory.   …grin…

Potatoes.  Enough said.  (How good are sweet potatoes?!)  And again, an entire bag is usually less than five dollars in my area.

Veggies can also be used in ways I never considered when we started this journey.  We’re looking for a Spiral Veggie Cutter right now.  Did you know you can make veggie pasta?!  Just looking at recipes and thinking about all I can do with them makes me happy.  The health benefits of this idea are endless to me and we’ll definitely be sharing what we learn and experiment with, for sure.  Once again, veggies are not super expensive.  Lettuces, cabbages, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, celery, peppers, etc…are not super expensive.  (they are no more expensive than that bag of junk potato chips that costs four dollars a bag)

Fruits really deserve a completely separate post, but for our purposes we’ll keep it short.  Fruit is spectacularly good for you and in such abundance in the United States.  We have a great deal to be thankful for in the US and one of the primary ones is how much food we can get with such little effort. Even better is that organic fruits are making a huge leap into our stores and farmer’s markets are showing up more and more in areas where they’d once drifted away.  We grow virtually every kind of fruit (really any kind of food!) and it’s so easily accessible that there’s little excuse for not consuming more of it.  Berries alone are worth their weight in gold, as well as their superfood status.  Can I admit I’d never eaten a medjool date until we first stepped foot on this path?  I know.  It’s sad.  I’m having a love affair with them now, though, so show me some grace.

Grains and oats are so plentiful that it’s crazy.  For those that are gluten intolerant, I’m thrilled they’re lots of alternatives for you, but I’ll admit that I love all grains, even wheat laden ones, and I’m blessed to say I actually prefer the ones that aren’t whitened by bleach.  Awesome!  Oats can be used in many recipes in so many ways that it’s amazing.  Mix them with some almonds in a processor and see what happens.  It’s lovely.  Oh…and steel cut, old-fashioned oats are cheap!!  MUCH cheaper than the sugary, fake cereals  many kids begin their day noshing on.  Granola can be made at home and it’s excellent and inexpensive, plus it’s awesome.  We’ve been making our own granola long before we started our food challenge;  I’ll share it soon, too.  I’ll throw in rice here, as well.  A huge bag of brown rice is super inexpensive and can be added to just about any dish to make it more hearty.

Nuts and seeds are fabulous and plentiful and again, not so expensive when you realize that you only need to buy a small amount to go a LONG way!  Plus, there are nut butters and nut cheeses that add to your huge supply of food choices and nuts are really a beautiful thing.  Organic, all natural peanut and almond butters, people.

This post is literally the tip of a great big iceburg of food choices that are healthy and inexpensive.  This journey is worth the time and the effort that it takes.  What’s more, our lives are at stake.  Food matters and what you put in your body can genuinely mean the difference between a life well lived and a life barely lived.  Food is causing some major problems for people that we love and care about.  Problems like obesity, depression, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, arthritis, body issues, high blood pressure, stroke, some cancers, osteoporosis, etc…  This is important and I want to treat it that way.  I imagine that every person knows someone who suffers from one, or more, of these diseases. I know I do and I’ve struggled with my own body image my entire life.  Now, just imagine a world where those problems were solved by food and not big medicine or big hospital bills or fad diets or crazy diet pills or medication that makes you sicker.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned so far in our journey to rediscover food and reprogram our thoughts about food is that most people don’t believe that they can make this kind of lifestyle change. They can live with their diseases and their broken body image, but they simply cannot give up ground carcass or pus filled milk!  I’ve learned that the food challenge isn’t just “ours”.  The food challenge applies to almost every person I know and food, especially in the US, shouldn’t be challenging, at all!

Finally, we’re making some Vegan Thai food tonight! (Who doesn’t want Thai food, right? It may also involve peanut butter. Even better.) I’ll share that recipe this weekend or early next week.  It’s a big, lovely world of food options out there, and I can’t wait to discover more of them and show others that healthy eating doesn’t have to break the bank account in the process!

Many Blessings, Kristi 🙂