Chili Cheese, Please!

I adore versatile foods that can help stretch out the dollar! I don’t have a recipe to share with you, but this week I made chili. It was “use up everything in our freezer” chili. There were pre-cooked frozen beans that I did in a big batch cook, vegetable mixes, frozen from the garden spring onions that were given to me, vegetable quinoa and barley mixes, veggie burgers, and so on. If it needed used up, I threw it in the pot. I added a few cans of chopped tomatoes, as well as a frozen container of left over tomato sauce. I didn’t know if it was going to turn out, but I needed my freezer back in order.

Only it did turn out! It was fantastic, and even my bean-phobic 9 year old son loved the chili.
As I was packing it away, I wondered how we could use it all. The chili is great, but I only like it once in a while.

My kids love eating chili if they can use tortilla chips to eat it instead of a spoon or fork.
Chili can be used over rice or baked potatoes.
There’s always the “chili cheese dogs” (veggie dogs).
And from that, I think nacho’s or even chili smothered french fries.

But I figured none of those options will work with my kids for very long, if at all. So we’re going to stuff noodles with chili and vegan cheese, because who doesn’t love a stuffed noodle?

From one pot of chili, we can make several different meals.

And that is what I love about chili.

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! ūüėČ
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.

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.

Vegan Sloppy Joes!

It’s an awful dreary day here in Ontario, so what better warm bellied comfort food than sloppy joes? In all honesty, it’s likely been around 18 years since I’ve had them but I have to say that these were pretty exceptional.

I often receive cans of baked beans in tomato sauce from the local food bank, so that was my inspiration for this dish. We ate them up too fast for a photo op.

Ingredients:
(serves 4)
1 can beans in tomato sauce
1 small onion chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1 package yves veggie ground round
3 tbsp smoky barbecue sauce
garlic margarine
hamburger buns

Prepare the buns by spreading some garlic margarine on the open face of each half.

Start frying the onions in a bit of olive oil until they’re translucent. Add in the yves veggie ground round and saute until well heated.

Stick the buns in the oven on low (no higher than 200!) for a few minutes just to lightly toast them.

Add the can of beans in tomato sauce and stir thoroughly. Mix in some smoky barbecue sauce for extra flavor.

Scoop the bean mixture on top of the garlicky buns and enjoy!

**Bonus: Even my 8 year old highly sensitive kid who despises any beans and would once never eat anything brown ate his full serving without complaint.**

What $11.67 Looks Like

So my budget got a little smaller over the weekend. And just as I’m sitting down to lunch, the phone rings. It’s my Mom, asking me if I want to run to the grocery store with her. I don’t have much money, and I won’t know much on what I need until after I go to the food bank on Tuesday. But I said sure, why not?

This is what I picked up while we were there:

36

I know, it doesn’t look like much. Here’s a breakdown:

1 two-pack discount blueberries 0.99
1 pack potatoes 0.49
2 packs bananas 0.49 each
1 organic lemonade 1.99
2 almond milks 2.99 each
Pack of noodles 0.98

And there you have it. Total of 11.67 (with tax)

Everything was on sale. Tomorrow night we’ll be having tofu sesame noodles made with that pack of noodles above. One night this week we’re having mashed potatoes with gravy and some Gardein “chicken” that I have in the freezer. Blueberries for snacks and lunches, bananas for snacks and smoothies. And I still have roughly $50 left in the budget for this week!

Food Saving Tips – Discount Produce

I just wanted to share that during yesterdays grocery shop, I picked up a few cheap items from the discount produce shelves. This is a great way to save money though you always need to check the produce over carefully before committing to the purchase!

The first thing I picked up was a bag of eight¬†small corn on the cobs for $0.99. I cut them all in half, sliced off any sketchy bits and threw them in a pot to boil. We ate them with veggie burgers and fries. Corn isn’t something that I would typically buy but my kids really enjoy corn on the cob. We each ate one half and the rest went into the kids lunches.

34

The next discount item that I bought was fresh chives! They come in over priced plastic containers but they’ve been on my list for ages. The problem was, any time I found the dried chives in the spice aisle I found that they were asking a horrendous amount of money for a very small amount. So when I saw two containers going for $0.99 total, I tossed them in the cart. When I got home¬†I sat down and picked out any pieces that were too far gone, and chopped the rest using my little kitchen scissors. Then I rinsed them in a “quinoa strainer” as I call it (just a metal strainer with very tiny holes) and shook them out on a tray to dry out before putting them back in a tupperware container to freeze. I love using chives in many recipes, including twice baked potatoes and pizza dough.

35

The trick with most produce (discounted or not) is to take care of it right away. While some hardy produce can last a week or two, there comes a point when it must be used up or stored differently if you don’t want to throw it away like money down the pooper. If I had waited a day or two before tending to this produce it would have been too late. Now I have fresh chives at my convenience any time I need them and we were able to get a meal and two lunches out of the corn. I would say that it was $2 well spent!

Grocery Haul Over Budget

I’m not going to post my full grocery haul this week, but I’ll give you a brief break down! Off we went to the grocery store, precise list in hand including estimated dollar amounts based on the flyer and experience alone. My plan was for $70 and that would leave me some wiggle room for the health food store with a max budget of $100. I was doing great, two stores in for all the best deals and only $67!

Then we went to the health food store (dun dun dun!). All I wanted to get were some veggie burger buns, vegan cheese slices and maybe some tofurky slices for the kids school lunches. But oh look, ice cream! We missed our special ice cream day this past weekend and my kids go off to their Dad’s on Friday. So I got to thinking.. but when I looked at the price of our regular size ice cream container it was nearly $9! That’s $3 more than what I would usually pay at Wal-Mart. But there was a package of four coconut ice cream bars on sticks (whatever you call those things) dipped in chocolate. That was much cheaper (only $5!). Yeah why not, right? But next to the ice cream is nori sheets. And I’ve had vegan sushi on my mind lately. I wandered over a few steps to check out the prices.. opted for the cheapest one at $7 and went to get those buns and tofurky slices. But then.. they had some cheese shreds on sale! ON SALE! Despite the fact that I already picked up two bags of the Daiya Chedder shreds at a cheaper store, the mozerella shreds here were even cheaper! Another bag won’t hurt anything. Then I realized that if we wanted to eat veggie burgers and fries tonight, I won’t feel like making the burgers so I’d better pick some up. And oh hell, it’s hard work buying groceries! A natural root beer and dark chocolate bar later.. we were finally at the check out when I saw that naan bread taunting me. “It’s pizza night.. you know it is.. the kids should have pizza in their lunch for pizza day tomorrow.. pizza.. piizzaaaa…” Yep. So $51 later we’re finally home.

A total spent of $118.11

Here’s a break down of our items, if you wish to continue reading..

Foil Wrap
Fries
Daiya Chedder (x2)
Strawberries 1lb (x2)
Green Onion (Scallions) (x2)
Navel Orange 3lb (x2)
$21.43

Laundry Detergent
Reduced Produce (chives and corn on the cob)
Sweet Red Peppers(0.900 kg/1.98 lbs)
Bananas (3.14 kg/6.92 lbs)
Sweet Onion (1.20 kg/2.64 lbs)
Frozen Strawberries
Coconut Whipped Topping
Soy Milk (x2)
Wheat Tortilla
45.25

Chocolate Bar
Naan Bread
Root Beer
Tofurky Slices
Tofutti Cheese Slices
Whole Grain Burger Buns
Coconut Ice Cream Bars
Sol Burgers
$51.43

So there you have it. A not so brief break down of our grocery shopping day. This will last us a while though and is just fill in foods for what we already have at home. The nori will make for an extra meal that wasn’t planned on but it’s so nice to switch things up now and then. We have enough cheese for two weeks. We have cereal that needs to be eaten before we buy more even if it’s not the kids favorite. Canned goods to be used up. And from Friday evening until Sunday at bed time I am only feeding myself. That small break in custody every two weeks does a lot to stretch my grocery budget out! All of the above is for a family of four; myself, my 8 year old, 7 year old and three year old.

Little Food Haul

It’s grocery shopping day! If you saw the last food haul post you will know that it was big! So big in fact that I still have a lot of produce and other items left, allowing me to do a smaller grocery haul this week.

32

So in this food haul from two different stores, I was able to cash in on some sales from last week with rain checks. Here’s what I got:

Blueberries (as a treat for my son)
Avocados
Bananas
Grapes
1 Onion
Tomatoes
Brussel Sprouts
Tortilla Wraps
Bread (x2)
Bagels
Frozen Strawberries (x2 on sale)
Almond Milk (x2 on sale)
Clif Bars (x2 boxes on sale)
Root Beer (natural, my treat)
Rice noodles (x2)
Daiya “Cheese” (x2)

Also, three itty bitty bite sized chocolates; one for myself, my Dad who was with us and my son.
The grand total came to $85.63 – Just over $14 under budget!