Vegan Shepherds Pie

Ohh how I love the pie. Not your traditional pie, but vegan shepherds pie. Everybody does it a little differently so I’ll share my own recipe with you.

I’ve never been good at paying attention to measurements, so you’ll have to wing it!

Ingredients:
1 cup brown lentils
2 cup veggie broth
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp marjoram
3 cloves minced garlic
1 minced onion
3 stalks celery finely chopped
4 skinny carrots finely chopped
4 button mushrooms finely chopped
1 can corn
dash vegan worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper
enough potatoes peeled and quartered to fill a medium pot
grapeseed oil for frying

I started by prepping my veggies..
41 43

Then I got the potatoes into a pot of water and started to boil them.
While they were boiling, I got the lentils going. First I added the lentils and broth, followed by the thyme, cumin and marjoram. I stirred it all up to distribute the spices and added the bay leaf, then simmered the lentils for about 20 minutes until the water was absorbed.

44

Next I fried the garlic for about 30 seconds on low-medium heat, followed by the onions until fragrant. I added the carrots and celery, and covered the pan to cook the veggies until tender. Then I added the mushrooms and let them cook for a few minutes. Add the corn and cooked lentils, a dash of worcestershire sauce, some salt and pepper and cover it. Cook until thoroughly heated and the flavors are well incorporated.

While the flavors are mingling, mash up the potatoes. I usually add a bit of garlic margarine to mine, not mentioned in the ingredients above. Make them up however you like them.

Now just put it all together. I used small tinfoil pans to store mine in as I made one for a friend and two for myself and needed a reliable way to keep it fresh in the fridge/freezer. Layer in the lentil/veggie mixture, then top with the potatoes.

45
This is all that was left on my plate when I remembered to snap a pic.

 

Keep Being Awesome

It can be tough to live a vegan lifestyle; watching everyone around you become sick because of what they are eating but being unwilling to change for their health, the contradictions of people who are so upset about a cat who was abused or a barn fire that kills 40 cows but then they go home and eat their beefy burger or some other carcass. Then there are the environmental “activists” that speak on the pollution of transportation and factories but ignore the fact that factory farms are the primary source of methane emissions, deforestation, water pollution, and so on.

How frustrating it is to listen to these people complain about their health or become passionate about a world issue and only touch on a very very small part of it.. and when you try to provide friendly information in a non-threatening, approachable manner and the door is slammed on your face regarding those topics – it’s no wonder activists experience burn out.

There are ways to affect others without having to go through all of that.

1. Set a great example!
This one is by far the easiest way to influence people around you. If you are a beacon of shining health and fitness, you have amazing colorful appetizing food, and are friendly and open to questions then you will go far.

This is something that I am personally having success with, especially at work. The store I work in is very small, and when I heat up my food (double baked potatoes, masala wraps, rice dishes, etc) in the microwave the fragrant scent wafts through the entire store. As I sit there eating my lunch I can hear customers and coworkers alike discussing how great my food smells. Several coworkers have been drawn to the lunch room to see what it is that I am eating and if they can try some, too! They see that I am healthy and have the energy to get the tasks at hand done, and they often ask me what they can do for their own state of health.

2. Share. 
With so many people curious about what a vegan eats and all of our delicious food, it’s a good idea to bring extra. I do this a lot right now and it feels really good to share a dish that I made and everyone love it, or to see my coworkers eating fresh foods that are so healthy for them. So when I want to bring some grapes in my lunch, I will bring the entire bag and let everyone pick away at them. If I have some vegan candies to make the day a little sweeter, I bring extra to pass out – especially for the boss ;)

3. Be social.
No, I don’t mean you have to stop random people on the street and become the worlds most obnoxious extrovert. Just be open to others. So many times in the grocery store somebody will ask me about a vegetable or fruit that I am buying that they have never tried before. These can lead to really meaningful and eye opening conversations if you remain approachable and let the other person guide the conversation.

Another way to be social is to get together with other vegans or even the veg-curious through potlucks or hosting a dinner at your house. If you give people an opportunity to learn on their terms, it will happen.

And realize that it is okay to take a break. Sometimes walking away and giving yourself the time to recharge is the best thing you can do for yourself and for others; because a burnt out, frustrated vegan is not nearly as effective as a happy, patient vegan.

It’s another (cupcake) Sunday..

It’s another Sunday, and let me tell you; it’s a good one.
Not only is today going to be beautiful (a high of 9 degrees, yay!) but it is also my oldest sons 9th birthday party; to which 9 children will be attending. Are you seeing a pattern here?

Last night we made really simple cupcakes for his party using this recipe. It took all of five minutes to throw together. Then I tossed on some chocolate icing and let my son decorate them for his friends.

14

13

It’s been a weekend full of cupcakes, honestly. My four year old son was having cupcake day in his classroom so I had written it on the calendar, and when the older two went to school that day they were expecting cupcakes too. So when their Grandma picked them up they shared their disappointment as they realized only their little brother got cupcakes that day. Being the freaking cool Grandma that she is, my Mom decided she would do cupcake day with them on Friday after school while I was at work.

10

11

12

So on top of some really great cupcakes this weekend, we’re taking a layered chip dip to the party and some veggie dogs. The chip dip was a can of Amy’s refried beans, a layer of salsa, tofutti sour cream, and daiya cheese shreds. It’s so easy and so fantastic. I was even able to make an extra dish of it with the left over ingredients for work tomorrow!

We’re off to party!

Sunday Kid-Free Meal Prep

Every other Sunday, I am free of major commitments. It’s grocery day, and my only real day to relax before another two weeks begins. And today grocery shopping was exciting!

I’m always excited to bring home food, especially whole ingredients that I can turn into yummy dishes. But this Sunday was special because I ran into a vegetarian couple; who happen to be second cousins! We started talking about food and how for him it started as health reasons but the morality of it all sank in. We discussed how some family members are supportive and others are down right hostile. The topic of food cravings came up, and he mentioned that he sometimes misses ribs (but luckily he can get some Gardein products to fill in for the flavor sensations). I spoke to him about my occasional cravings for my Dad’s smoked turkey, and that I just get some tofu and my sweet Dad does it on the smoker for me. And it was all so refreshing.

The cashier rang through the fragrant bunch of cilantro and told me she keeps trying it but can’t seem to like it. How do you store it, anyway? I don’t know, because everything I have tried fails. We agreed that freezing it in ice cubes is the best way to store cilantro, but it’s still not as good as fresh cilantro sprinkled over a dish.

I am telling you all of this because as of late, being the passionate vegan has been discouraging. I gave up talking about it, I stopped posting on my Facebook pages, and if somebody asked me a question about it the door was slammed on me before I could get a word in. So feeling frustrated with the world, I felt alone and withdrawn. And I know that this is the reality for many of you. But hear me, fellow vegans; there are others out there that get it. I mean really get it.

And to make this weekend even more amazing, I have managed to open the eyes of a friend to the contradictions and abhorrent views of mainstream society regarding animal agriculture.

So to celebrate, I did some cooking and meal prep!

2
C
hickpea Cucumber Salad, with a homemade citrus and herb dressing. Oil free, too! This will be my go-to snack for work and when I am tempted to eat junk food. 

3
Another oil-free delicious meal! These double baked potatoes that are filled with nutritional yeast and green onions will be another meal for work this week. My coworkers are always sniffing around my food at lunch time, and I am looking forward to their questions this week. 

1
Mulligatawny soup. Mm’mm! This deeply flavored Indian soup is fantastic. This soup was (for my lazy ass) a labor of love. I was first introduced to it by a couple that opened a little soup shop downtown. They have a few vegan options on hand all the time, either freshly made to eat right there in the shop or frozen to buy and take home. When I saw it in my new cookbook, I knew it was going to be the first thing I made.

4
I scored this gem at the thrift store I work in for only $1.00! Might just be the best money I have ever spent.

Vegan Treats for Santa!

Ho, Ho, Ho!

No, I’m not trying to be insulting.

But YAY! Santa is coming!! And we are so so excited here that I’ve decided to be extra generous and share with you the links to all the goodies that we made for Mr. HoHo himself.

006

Eeeek! Aren’t you so so so hungry looking at those?

I don’t even know where to start.

1. Okay, SMORES COOKIES. Isn’t that a genius idea?! While these smores cookies turned out to be like fluffy gingerbread cookies filled with oozed marshmallow and chocolate chip morsels, they are still yummy! I think these ones are the kids favorites.
You’ll find the recipe for these at Keepin’ It Kind:
http://keepinitkind.com/smores-cookies/

2. Raspberry Almond Thumbprint Cookies. They are so delicate tasting and fantastic for my refined adult palate! We didn’t have raspberry jam so we used strawberry, and I have to say that I don’t think it would have mattered what kind of jam we used. Pumpkin jam? Booger jam? It would have been delish either way. Well, maybe not that last way. But here’s the recipe!
Cooking Classy:
http://www.cookingclassy.com/2014/12/raspberry-almond-shortbread-thumbprint-cookies/

3. Powdered Not-Quite Donuts, AKA Mini Homemade Snowball Donut. Being the amateur not-so-great-cook that I am, this recipe was really easy to follow. We don’t have a mini donut pan (I wish) so we had to make do with mini muffin tins. I think I added too much of something because my donuts ended up being mini muffins in texture, and I couldn’t get the icing sugar to stick! But they are still yummy and kid approved! When we make these again (and we will) I’m thinking of rolling them in a lemon glaze, then the powdered sugar. I bet Santa is going to eat ever last crumb! ;)
Find them at Chocolate Covered Katie:
http://chocolatecoveredkatie.com/2015/02/20/mini-homemade-snowball-donuts/

4. Snickerdoodle PB Chocolate Chex Bars! Oh my. The name of these alone makes me salivate. Have you ever had pretzels and chocolate? My Aunt used to make these amazing treats every year for Christmas; it was the highlight of my holiday. They were pretzels and cheerios and a few other dry cereal/salty-like ingredients (peanuts..) mixed together with WHITE CHOCOLATE melted over them and then broken apart into chunks. It was incredible. I can’t find vegan white chocolate, but when I saw these I figured it was close enough. The bottom turned into a chex mix soft peanut brittle, with a chocolate top. Amazing. Word of warning, don’t eat these straight out of the cold fridge – they’re hard! If they sit at room temperature, they are just right.
And if the name of this site doesn’t make you think about food, nothing will! Find these treats at Half Baked Harvest:
http://www.halfbakedharvest.com/idiot-proof-snickerdoodle-peanut-butter-chocolate-chex-mix-bars/

5. 15-minute Thin Mints… no really. They only took about 15 minutes! Alright you got me. With my lacking skills, it took me about ten minutes to de-icing the oreos (I did two full packages!) and about 10 minutes to melt the chocolate. Then 20 minutes to coat them all – it was a lot of cookies! These really are easy to make though, and a hit with my coworkers. See Santa? I’m good – I share! Still waiting for my vehicle with a big red bow on top……..no? For some extra fun lovin’ with this recipe, we used the leftover mint chocolate in the bottom of our pot and added some almond milk to make the most delicious hot chocolate and not create waste! It was so creamy.
You can make these simple tasty treats by Top With Cinnamon here:
http://www.topwithcinnamon.com/2013/02/15-minute-thin-mints-3-ingredients-no-bake-vegan.html.
35

6. Last and everyone’s favorite, No-Bake Coconut Delights.
No-bake is my ideal treat right there. I had my boss begging for the recipe and they were a hit all around. Really simple to make; though I did add some agave nectar to the food processor and did these in two half-batches to get them fine enough to hold together. Which they did, really well! For the coconut lovers in your family, these are a great no-bake option! We call them coconut snowballs!
The place to go for this recipe is Whole New Mom:
http://wholenewmom.com/recipes/no-bake-coconut-delights-sugar-dairy-egg-and-grain-free/
28

BONUS!!
So not only did we give all of these treats to Santa, I shared them at work and made up gift boxes of all these goodies for my extended family. I wanted to include a little something extra though, so we made personalized hot chocolate mix in little jars to hand out. There are no pictures, they weren’t very pleasing to look at – especially compared to my nieces hot chocolate who really got in touch with her inner creative child and made the cutest snowman hot chocolate jars, complete with actual stick arms! We just put ours in plain plastic jars with aluminum lids from the dollar store and wrote on them with permanent marker. But they were still fun to make and when I put all these ingredients into the food processor the whole kitchen smelled like heavenly creamy chocolatey goodness. Don’t take my word for it, try out the recipe at Live Simply:
http://livesimply.me/2014/11/25/diy-homemade-hot-chocolate-mix-without-refined-sugar-powdered-milk/

I did make a few changes to this recipe for our own convenience, using regular old organic sugar in place of the sucanat and adding a packet of vanilla sugar ( a fine sweetened vanilla powder). 

It’s Christmas!

Just a quick to message of love to everyone on the holidays.

009

In all the hustle and bustle it’s easy to lose sight of the true meaning of whatever it is that you celebrate. There’s enormous pressure to give the best gifts, prepare a fantastic feast, give and give until you have run dry both in your wallet, your energy and your time. It can be overwhelming.

So here I am to remind you to be thankful, have gratitude for everything in your life that is great! The holidays aren’t happy or magical for everyone. There are people out there struggling to feed their families, battling illness both physically and mentally, losing loved ones or missing them dearly, there is war and destruction and slaughter. Santa doesn’t visit everyone you know. So be thankful. If you are reading this, you have access to the internet via your home, a phone, a library, or some other amazing resources. Chances are, you have a roof over your head. You are warm. There is food in your belly.

I am thankful for all of this. I have loved ones around, even though the holidays can be bittersweet. We have everything that we need and more, and access to resources for things that we sometimes don’t have. We are healthy. We are safe. And that is enough.

I am also thankful for you, readers. It means the world to me that I can sit here and type whatever is in my heart in that moment and share those words with you. In every post I am putting a little bit of myself on the page. And you, lovely souls, are paying attention.

So Merry Happy Blessed Yule Holidays and all of that. For those that I left out, it’s not intentional. That’s just how I celebrate. You’re free to do your thang. Let love in, radiate love out, and be compassionate and kind.

015

016

 

Daiya Cheezy Mac Review!!

Yay! It’s a Daiya Cheezy Mac review! Okay, so obviously I have failed in my plan to go McDougall. There’s always tomorrow, right? RIGHT?!

Okay, here’s what the box looks like:
Daiya Cheez

Oh my goodness I can not tell you how excited we were to try this. Now I have never claimed to be a good cook – in fact let me be the first to tell you that I am TERRIBLE. So when we make “mac and cheese” it goes something like this…
1. Boil the noodles.
2. Drain the noodles 3/4 but leave some water.
3. Dump in Daiya shredded chedder. THE WHOLE PACKAGE.
4. Cut a brick of Daiya Havarti in thirds and add 1/3 to the pot.
5. Stir.
6. Let sit for five minutes to melt.
7. Stir again and serve.

Not to mention, the cost of doing it that way. Noodles are really cheap, but the bag of Daiya shreds is over $5 and so is the Havarti block. This was much cheaper.

Okay, first impressions:
Daiya Cheez Impressions

I was happy to see that the cheeze packet was so big! But.. but.. where’s the rest of the noodles? Really, that’s it? I read the back quick and it said it serves three. Uh oh, there’s four of us! Seriously, the noodle packet is small. So I just added regular old elbow noodles from our own stash. Okay, not OLD.. that sounded bad!

Good food, crappy pic

Sorry this picture sucks. But I was too busy eating to take a new one! This mac and cheeze got three thumbs up from the kids and a half thumb rating from me (before I added ketchup and hot sauce and pepper). Overall, it was a success and I recommend it on those quick nights when you just don’t have time and kids are screaming and you all need some comfort food.

New Health Journey

Most of my life, I’ve been relatively weight conscious. In my late teen years I spent a lot of time working out every night before bed, and tried hard to eat healthy – even switching to a vegetarian lifestyle.

Now I’m in my late 20’s, vegan, with three kids and gaining weight. I stopped being health conscious when my family fell apart. Convenience became the norm, and then my kids Dad stopped feeding them healthy and they were no longer interested in healthful options.

I’m currently 155 lbs, at 5’5 and about 38.5 inches around the largest part of my waist/stomach. I have noticed new stretch marks appearing on my chest and some cellulite coming back around my thighs. Yesterday at work, a man and his wife asked me if I am expecting. I wanted to cry and never eat again.

So I am vowing to get my act together and toughen up. Right as soon as I buy groceries…
I’m putting this out into the world for accountability purposes. My hope is to stick to something between the McDougall diet and Raw Till Four.
(Information for both can be found below.)

Let’s do this.

RAW TILL FOUR

 

McDOUGALL STARCH SOLUTION

I will also be using CRON-O-METER to keep track of my progress, nutrients and calories.

I am Guilty.

That’s right. I’m guilty.

I’m guilty of neglecting this blog. You got me.

So I’m here to check in with some small excuses updates on why I haven’t been around.

We all know that life gets busy. This year all three of my littles are in school, my three year old just started every day full-time junior kindergarten and at the same time I started a job! It hasn’t been an easy adjustment. I often don’t see my children until bedtime each night and sometimes less than that if they go to their Dad’s house for the weekend. It’s been an emotionally trying time for all of us. My kids are going to a sitter for the first time in their lives ever.

Our house is in a constant state of distress, because I’m mid-purge/back to school cleaning but I keep putting it on hold halfway through for work or my parental responsibilities and there is just stuff everywhere.

Which brings me to my so called journey to minimalism! Somehow in the last few months we have accumulated more stuff. I don’t really know how. It must be the stuff that was already lurking in closets, and we’ve been trying to redecorate. But why a family of four needs more than 15 bath towels I will never be able to say. (I’ve since cut that down to our three favorite large bath towels and one patterned beach towel per kid). How nice would it be, to come home from work to an orderly house each day because there isn’t enough stuff to make a mess with?! It sounds like a distant dream.

So there you have it. I’m still here, hiding around the corner and trying to keep my lid on.

My Three Top YOUTUBERS!

Just a quick post today about my three favorite youtubers. With so many people turning to youtube for information or income, to share their knowledge, and just for fun, it can be overwhelming to sort through which ones are right for you. Many times I have subscribed to people and after a few weeks realize that their content just isn’t for me.

Here’s my top three youtubers and why I love them.

1. Brittany Taylor.
I can not tell you how much I love her channel. She is so inspiring in that she is not afraid to chase after her dreams and lives life simply by following a minimalist lifestyle. Truly beautiful inside and out, Brittany Taylor will take you through her journey of a life fully lived. Her channel covers travel, minimalism, and life improvement including a raw vegan diet. She inspires me to be the best version of myself.

2. FruitAndFamily Natalie.
This channel speaks directly to my life! Natalie is from my corner of the world, has three children and a husband and is living her own vegan path. Follow her journey while she inspires her own family to eat healthier, talks about pregnancy and weight loss, and is always very positive in her message. I love this channel because it is a no judgement zone, understanding that often vegans can be harsh in their passion to change the world and that can easily backfire. A wonderful Mom and person, FruitAndFamily Natalie is a great channel for women, Mom’s, and anyone curious about the vegan lifestyle.

3. Bite Size Vegan.
Super cute, with a fun personality and no BS attitude, Bite Size Vegan will tell you what is up in the world of veganism. With motivating interviews and a great sense of humor there is something here for everyone. Even kids! The new series of kids videos are to the point, interesting, but not graphic or disturbing. After all, the goal isn’t to scare the poor children and cause permanent psychological damage! So weather you’re young, old, or somewhere in between I’m sure you can find inspiration and useful information from Bite Size Vegan. An entertaining vegan encyclopedia in video form for extra convenience.

*Note* These are just my top three vegan channels; there are a lot of wonderful youtube channels out there about several topics! It’s up to you to explore them and find what fits you best.