Monday, December 9, 2013

A Big 3rd Birthday Party!

Yep, I know, you don't have to tell me. I disappeared for what is it, 3 months now? It was just one of those times when life gets away from you. Now, don't think I have just been sitting around for 3 months not doing anything because that is far from the truth. At the beginning of September I asked Ashlyn what theme she wanted for her birthday party this year (at the end of October). Her response, Jake and the Neverland Pirates! I was thrilled, because how much fun is a pirate party! Except of course 2 weeks before the actually party she told me she now wanted a princess party. Well, she got a pirate party and enjoyed it anyway. This year I told myself I would concentrate more on the decorations and not so much on the food. Yeah, didn't really work out that way since I eventually decided to go big on both. What can I say I was having fun!
We did do something a little different this year by doing an open house birthday party since our house is not very big, but we have lots of family and friends. So, we had it from 11 to 4 and let people come and go as they pleased. Ashlyn opened her present right away when someone showed up. This actually worked out perfectly (since we are doing family parties right now) that I think until she starts having friend parties we will continue this. Now instead of boring you with me describing everything I will just show a picture montage (insert your own montage music here). Just a warning, when I took these pictures the light in our house was just right to cast shadows on everything, so the pictures are definately over edited to get rid of as many shadows as possible.

This is the whole spread. Obviously the picture is way over edited!
Different Angle and yes we did make all of the decorations.
The Dessert Table. We did make that sail.
Main Food Table
How do Neverland Pirates get their light? By trapping fairies in jars of course!
Oh how the cake pops flowed! 5 different flavors!
Yummy fall inspired fruit salad!
I think this is how I will serve veggie dip from now on.
Chickpea, Tomato, and Spinach Salad. Yum Yum!
So, as you can see I have been busy. But what about the last month you say? Well, I have been busy with other things as well, but that post will come very soon. I promise it won't be 3 months!
I hope you enjoyed your peak into Ashlyn's 3rd Birthday party! If you have any questions about how we did some of the decorations, or if you want me to post any of the recipes please leave a comment below.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Philly Cheeze Fakes


Have you ever had time go by and then soon realize that it is almost the end of the month when it seems like just yesterday it was the beginning on the month? That has been my August. I swear that yesterday was August 1st! It has been such a busy month that I forgot to post for almost the whole month. I guess between numerous out of town trips, an unexpected hospitalization of a family member, Internet outages, and Mark running his first triathlon (good job babe!) time has just gotten away from me. I even have recipes waiting in the wings ready to be posted! I guess this month I am just thankful that Ashlyn is far from starting school yet and I didn't have to add first day of school to that list.

OK, so on to what I am sure you have been waiting for. Now, as cute as the name Philly Cheeze Fakes is I can't take credit for the name. I ran across this recipe on Taste of Home and I just had to try it based on the name alone. Here is the original recipe Philly-Cheese-Fakes which I tweaked to fit our tastes. The original recipe calls for shiitake mushrooms which I am not a huge fan of, but more importantly are fairly expensive. So, I changed the shiitakes to cremini or button (depending on what you have available) and also changed the spices up a bit. I actually didn't even try the original recipe as written and just used it as inspiration to make my own version of the sandwich. Let me tell you though that my version is definitely worth making. We all love this recipe including Ashlyn! This is a for sure winner if you like the taste of a cheese steak sandwich, but would like to make it a little healthier. Hey, you can also make it for the reason I did, the name! How can you resist making something with such a cute name!

Philly Cheeze Fakes

24 oz of cremini or button mushrooms sliced thick
1/4 c worcheshire sauce
1/4 c water
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp pepper
4 split whole wheat hot dog buns

Cheeze Sauce
Caramelized Onions (optional)
Sauteed Green or Red Peppers (optional)


1. Saute the mushrooms in a little olive oil on medium heat until brown about 10 minutes.

2. While the mushrooms are cooking in a measuring cup or bowl whisk together the rest of the sandwich ingredients (except the buns).

3. Once the mushrooms are brown add the contents of the measuring cup and cook until the liquid is absorbed.

4. While the mushrooms are being glazed toast your hot dog buns.

5. Once the liquid is cooked out of the mushrooms and they are coated in the glaze place the mushrooms into your hot dog buns and top with Cheeze Sauce or cheese of your choice if you eat cheese.

6. If choosing to do so top the Cheeze Sauce with caramelized onions and sauteed peppers.

*Notes: We choose to use hot dog buns instead of hoagie buns to decrease the portion size, but feel free to use whole wheat hoagie buns.

The night I took the pictures I was out of peppers, so these pictures just contain caramelized onions. I also served the sandwiches with roasted potato wedges and steamed green beans.

If you choose to use the optional toppings you can still make this an easy one pan meal (minus making the Cheeze Sauce) by caramelizing your onions, removing them from the pan, sauteing the peppers in the same pan, removing them, and then doing your mushrooms.

This is one of my family's favorite recipes so I hope your family enjoys it just as much as we do.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Where have all of the stickers gone?

*Warning: I am getting on my soap box for this one.*
When I was younger I remember being so excited to go to the bank with my mom. The reason? I was going to get stickers! The bank that we went to gave the kids that came in stickers. I had a notebook with my sticker collection and every time we would come home from the bank I would sit down with my notebook and put my stickers in it. I was so proud of my sticker notebook. So, when did it change from giving kids stickers to giving them candy?
Growing up I really don't remember a lot of candy in the house. We got candy on Halloween, in our school Valentine's, and in our Easter baskets. We may have gotten a candy bar at the store maybe twice a year if even that. That was about it for the candy. I remember candy being a special treat that we got on certain holidays, but we never expected to get it on a weekly or even monthly basis.
Now that I am a mom I am mortified at the amount of candy that is being shoved in my toddler's face. We go to the grocery store they offer a sucker. We go to another store, here is another sucker. She goes to daycare and has a good week, here we go with another sucker (this was actually worse because she was getting candy every day until I stopped that one). We go and visit people here is a candy bar and more suckers. And this is just in the last week! Where have all of the stickers gone?
I really want to start acting like a two year old, stomping on the floor and screaming NO NO NO! Being the mom I have to deal with the consequences of other's actions. Weather that be the temper tantrum that will probably occur when I take the candy away or the 2:30 am tummy ache and diarrhea that occur if she eats more than her little system can handle (which is maybe one sucker). Where have all of the stickers gone?
When did candy change from a special treat that kids get a couple of times a year to an every day occurrence? Should my toddler get candy just because we went to the store? NO! Should she get candy just because we went to visit people? NO! Should she get candy because she had a good day at daycare? NO! Should she get praise and hugs and high fives from people instead of candy? YES! We are getting to the point where she knows who gives her candy and she is expecting it. It is now not a treat, but an expectation and I am NOT OK with that. Where have all of the stickers gone?
Now, I am not saying that my toddler needs anything, she doesn't, but if you feel the need to give her candy instead BRING BACK THE STICKERS! I am urging everyone who thinks that kids need treats just for being kids to BRING BACK THE STICKERS! One very small way to fight childhood obesity in this country is to BRING BACK THE STICKERS! Please, from one mom trying to do what is best for her child's health and well being PLEASE BRING BACK THE STICKERS!
*OK I have now stepped off of my soap box*

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Roasted Garlic and Mushroom Cream Sauce over Pasta

I have been meaning to post this for two days now, I guess life just gets away from you sometimes. Anyway, I don't know about you, but whenever we go out to eat at a pasta restaurant I almost always get some sort of creamy pasta dish and then pay for it the next day due to all of the cream and cheese. I really don't know why I do this to myself. I think for some reason the white sauces are just so much more a comfort food than a red sauce. I have tried to make cream sauces in the past and they just don't turn out like you get in a restaurant, so I had given up until now. Obviously from my previous posts I am still obsessed with cashew cream and the versatility of it.

One night this week we did not feel like what I had on the menu, so instead of heading out to eat and spending money I went scouring my pantry and throwing things together and this recipe emerged. I was smart enough to actually write this one down and take pictures, most of the time that doesn't happen and I almost always regret it. After I tasted this I was dancing around my kitchen because I knew this was a recipe I was excited to share with you.

As far as the family front and their opinion Mark did really like this one. I actually think he went back for seconds. Ashlyn on the other hand preferred the garlic bread that was served with this pasta dish. She did take two bites of the pasta, like I asked, and that was it. It really didn't surprise me because she prefers tomato based pasta sauces over creamy ones I mean she doesn't even like mac and cheese. If this had been tomato based I am sure she would have had two helpings. I knew she probably would not eat it, but I made it anyway because if I cooked around her requests all we would eat would be tacos, pizza, and tempeh. OK I am done rambling here is what you have been waiting for.

Roasted Garlic and Mushroom Cream Sauce over Pasta

 2 heads of garlic
drizzle of olive oil
1/2 c soaked cashews
2 c almond milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp cornstarch
8 oz cremini mushrooms sliced
1 medium onion diced
handful of baby spinach chopped
1 tsp dried basil
12 oz farfalle pasta

1. To soak your cashews put them in a bowl, cover with water, and place them in the fridge overnight.
2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
3. Cut the top 1/4 off of each of the heads of garlic. Place each head on a square of foil and drizzle with olive oil. Wrap the foil around the garlic like a little pouch. Place the two garlic pouches in an oven safe dish and place in the oven. Roast for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the garlic cool down.
4. While the garlic is cooling cook the pasta according to the package directions.
5. In a saute pan drizzled with olive oil add the mushrooms and onion. Saute on medium heat until the mushrooms are browned and the onion is translucent.
6. Once the garlic is cooled remove the cloves from the garlic paper and add all of the cloves to a blender. Also place cashews, milk, salt, pepper, and cornstarch in the blender. Blend for about 2 1/2 minutes (depending on your blender), until you have a smooth consistency.
7. Add your cream sauce and basil to the pan with the mushrooms and onion. Whisk the sauce every couple minutes until it starts to thicken.
8. Once the sauce thickens remove from the heat and stir in the spinach.
9. Serve over pasta and enjoy.

*Next time I make this I will probably use double the amount of mushrooms.
 * I always keep soaked cashews in my fridge so I have them on hand, just keep them in water and change the water every few days.


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

My High Needs Child

The day I became a mom is definitely number one on the list of the happiest days of my life (sorry Mark). It was also the day that my world as I knew it did a back flip. I was responsible for my daughter now and her needs came before anything else. I was overjoyed and already exhausted (I went into labor at 9 pm and gave birth at 6:58 am) little did I know that the exhaustion was just beginning.

From day one we knew Ashlyn was a little spitfire. Isn't it funny that as a mom even on the first day of life you already have a perspective on your child's personality? We found out in that first day that everything we thought we knew about being a parent did not really apply to Ashlyn. She would cry of course, but this was no ordinary cry, it was an I am hungry and I want it now kind of cry. She really only slept for a few sporadic hours, and was very alert for only having been born that morning. She also had to be held and would cry her "need it now" cry if she was put down. We could also see in her little eyes that she was constantly studying the world around her. That first night was a rude awakening, OK never mind I didn't get any sleep that night so that might not be the right phrase. One of the few things I do remember about that night was our night nurse who made a comment, "I don't know why she is not sleeping, babies always sleep the first night." Ha Ha, not my child! Anyway these are the traits I saw the first day that gave me an indication of the ride I was about to take.

Looking back now I can laugh, but back then I was shocked!  Babies are supposed to give you hunger cues before they cry. I promise you I looked for them, but alas they just never appeared. A newborn is supposed to sleep 15-18 hours a day. Because mine didn't. You don't need to hold your baby all of the time. Really, because mine would freak out if I put her down. How could this be? Everything that I had read in books and that we were taught in classes just did not happen. These were supposed to be professionals giving this advice right? Ha Ha yeah right, I can tell you now after having experienced it myself most books and classes will not cover raising a high needs child. Through trial and error you will learn what is best for your child, your self, and your sanity.

OK, so many of you out there probably don't know what a high needs child is, and to be honest I had no idea myself until Ashlyn was about 18 months old. I just thought she was a little different than most babies, until I came across Dr Sears' website and the section High Needs Baby. I was so excited to find this little section on a website that helped me to understand my child a little bit better.  The 12 features of a high needs child are: Intense, Hyperactive, Draining, Feeds Frequently, Demanding, Awakens Frequently, Unsatisfied, Unpredictable, Super-Sensitive, Can't Put Baby Down, Not a Self Soother, and Separation Sensitive. Below are examples of how Ashlyn fits into each category now as a toddler.

Intense: We call this passionate. She has always known what she wants and just goes for it.

Hyperactive: She is always on the move. Mark commented that he wishes he could "bottle that up" and sell it as a new energy drink.

Draining: She always wants to share her adventures with the people around her.

Feeds Frequently: Even as a toddler she constantly wants to eat and out eats me on occasion.

Demanding: She constantly needs attention and wants to be involved in anything you are doing.

Awakens Frequently: She did not sleep through the night until she was 16 months old. Even as a toddler she is not a great sleeper. She sleeps maybe 9 hours at night with a 30 to 60 minute nap during the day.

Unsatisfied: This one has never really applied to her.

Unpredictable: You just never know if you are going to get a good day or a bad day.

Super-Sensitive: She wears her emotions on her sleeve (and her face) so you always know how she is feeling.

Can't Put Baby Down: Even as a toddler she still loves to be hugged, rocked, and cuddled.

Not a Self Soother: When upset she has a hard time calming down and lots of cuddles are the only help.

Separation Sensitive: She hates to see people leave. She will cry when people leave our house.

 Until you have lived with a high needs child you may not understand any of this or why it is so important to post. I have to say that the first 6 months were probably the hardest. At that point we quit taking people's advice and we did what we felt was best for our child. If you have a high needs child you understand how much advice people (even complete strangers) are willing to give. The best advice I can give since having Ashlyn is to do what is right for your family (and sanity) and take time at least once a week to do something that makes you happy even if it is just 5 minutes alone in the bathroom painting your toes. Because as the old saying goes if mama isn't happy no one is happy.

The best thing we did for our family was to embrace Ashlyn's qualities. It is OK that we held her all of the time as a baby and still do. It is OK that I cried right along with her on many a night. It is OK that we unintentionally co-slept and slowly transitioned her to her crib and then her crib out of our room at around 20 months. It is OK that she used a bottle until she was 16 months old. It is OK that I still rock her to sleep at 2 1/2 years old. It is OK that I take time for myself once in awhile. And it is OK that she does things on her own terms and not before.

We know that she is a passionate, creative, and intelligent child that puts her whole self into her activities. We know that as long as we embrace the traits that make Ashlyn who she is she will grow into the person she is meant to be.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Roasted Tomato and Onion Bread Salad

Have you ever come across a picture of some sort of food and said to yourself "I just have to have that"?  That is what happened to me with this bread salad. I was looking through the newspaper at the office and came across this recipe for a tomato, onion, and bread salad and knew at that moment I had to have it. I also knew I could improve the recipe a lot to fit my tastes. So, that is how this salad was created. I have to urge you to try this because I don't think you will be disappointed.

I loved it, but my family was on the fence. Ashlyn loved it while it was sitting on the counter and I was getting the other elements of dinner together. She kept coming up to me asking for more bread out of the bowl and I of course let her have some and it was met with Mmmms. Then comes dinner time and I put in on her plate and she won't even try it. This one I definitely did not push on her partly because I knew she had already had quite a few bites and also (I confess) because it was so good I wanted it for myself. Mark on the other hand wouldn't even try it. He now likes bread, tomatoes, and onions separately, but I think it may have been too much for him all mixed together in a salad. Oh, and I say now because he used to tell me that he hated tomatoes and onions, but now that we changed our diet all of a sudden he likes them and will actually admit to it. Getting him to admit that he likes something that he previously disliked is a challenge in and of itself.

So, all in all this did not go over great with the family, but to be honest I really did not care because that just meant more for me! I also had the leftovers the next day warmed up and they were still very good, the bread was not as crunchy, but it was still drool worthy.

Roasted Tomato and Onion Bread Salad

1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 medium onion sliced
2 Tbs olive oil
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
2 1/2 c cubed bread
3 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs nutritional yeast
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp fresh basil chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place tomatoes and onion slices on a baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 Tbs olive oil and add salt and pepper. Toss with your hands to coat the tomatoes and onions. Place the baking sheet in the oven for 14 minutes. Remove from the oven and dump the tomatoes and onions into a bowl. Add balsamic vinegar and toss to coat. In a separate bowl whisk together 3 Tbs olive oil, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, dried basil, and dried thyme. Add the cubed bread and toss to coat. Place bread on same baking sheet that the tomatoes and onions were on and place in the oven. Bake for 7 minutes then remove from oven and place the bread in the bowl with the tomatoes and onions. Combine the contents of the bowl and add the fresh basil. Enjoy warm or at room temperature.
*If you have leftovers you can store them in the fridge and it is good warmed up the next day.
*I know it is summer, so if you don't want to turn on your oven you can easily grill the tomatoes, onion, and bread instead of roasting.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Milk does not do a body good in our family

I really want to share our family's story of why we cut dairy from our diet especially with a toddler in the house. I came across the below article a couple of weeks ago and it inspired the topic of this post. Now, I am not a health care professional and this is not medical advise. This is just our story.


Milk does a body good?

Milk was always a big part of my diet growing up. My mom can attest that I was a milk junky. It also did not stop with milk, I was in love with all dairy. That is probably why I worked at the local Dairy Queen in high school and college. I mean really, soft serve ice cream around all of the time, who could resist? I also remember when I was growing up always having digestive issues. I  had random stomach aches quite often and I would also vomit on occasion which would usually make the stomach ache go away. I did go to the doctor for this and they could not find anything physically wrong, so we just figured I had a "weak" stomach and it was something I would just have to live with.

Fast forward to my mid twenties, I started having some painful abdominal cramps which I had never had before. These were very sporadic and didn't occur very often at all until I hit my late twenties. That is when I would get these cramps all of the time and this really scared me (oh yeah, google painful abdominal cramps and I am sure it will indicate that you are dying). Now, I went to the doctor again because this was defiantly a change. So, they did an ultrasound and other tests that came back fine. I was told that I probably had IBS and just had to live with it.

I then got pregnant and had my beautiful baby girl. At two months she was diagnosed with MSPI and since I was breastfeeding I had to eliminate dairy and soy from my diet. Now, I did have the IBS throughout my pregnancy, but the funny thing is once I was on the no soy and dairy diet my abdominal cramps went away. I could not believe that for four months I was cramp free! I quit breastfeeding when Ashlyn was 6 months old and I admit that I am weak for dairy and soy, so that was back on the menu and wouldn't you know the cramps came back. Now, at this point in my life I was so sleep deprived and busy with family and work that I really just did not care about the pain.

Fast forward to Ashlyn's first birthday. We tried giving her cows milk and it did not go well, so we switched her to soy milk and she did great. After her 1st birthday we tried cow's milk on and off, and by the time she was 18 months the cow's milk seemed to finally agree with her tummy. I was very happy at that point because now we could buy the less expensive cow's milk. Around this time I went to see a GI doctor. I told him about how my IBS issues cleared when I removed dairy and soy from my diet, but he was not convinced and told me if it is IBS there is no known cause, it just happens. He wanted to do some invasive tests that I declined, but I did agree to do a blood test for a gluten allergy and that came back fine. At this point I was fairly convinced that my issue was dairy related.

Fast forward to January 2013. At this time Mark, Ashlyn, and I all seemed to be having digestive issues. That is when Mark and I really started doing research on our diet and how our digestive issues were most likely due to our diet. All of a sudden a light bulb was turned on and we made some drastic changes to our diet. After 2 weeks of removing all processed food, dairy, eggs, and meat from our diets our digestive issues were clearing up and as time went on they just continued to get better. We also saw an improvement in our congestion, sleep habits, and energy levels among other things.

I look back now and I am positive that dairy was the culprit in my life long battle with my "weak" stomach. Mark and I love cheese (Ashlyn has never really liked it unless it is on pizza), so that was the hardest to remove from our diet. We do have times now where we do eat cheese and when I do I feel the effects. I cannot say that I will never eat cheese again, because that would be a lie, but at least know I can make a choice knowing the consequences of my actions.

We now have unsweetened almond milk in our home and that is what Ashlyn drinks as her milk. We have discussed this with Ashlyn's pediatrician (who we love) and she is perfectly fine with our decision to remove dairy from Ashlyn's diet. She said that dairy and meat are not necessities in her diet. Because this diet change is always a learning process, and I know we do not get enough dark leafy greens in our diets we all take a multivitamin to make sure we are all getting enough iron and vitamin B12. So, in the article the Dr. suggested making the recommended dairy intake 0-3 servings per day. I want to tell you that we are mostly in the 0 servings per day and our tummys could not be happier.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Taco Flavored Pinto Beans and Individual Taco Pizzas

I told you there would be a reason and this is it. This is the reason you got two sauce recipes in a row. Believe me this is definitely worth the wait if you want a quick and yummy meal. OK, quick if you have the two previous sauces made and waiting for you in the fridge. If not it is still fairly quick with a fast blender rinse in between making the sauces.
I have a serious love of Mexican food, but if we go out to eat it usually does not love me. Tacos, burritos, enchiladas, and of course my all time favorite the chimichanga. I am fairly sure my love of Mexican food is in my genes because my whole family loves it. My parents can lots and lots of salsa every year, which is delicious by the way. OK dad maybe not the hot stuff, in my opinion, but I know that is the boys' favorite. My mom makes delectable chicken enchiladas which are of course smothered in cheese and have a sour cream based sauce on top. I can't even tell you how good those are. I am fairly certain that part of the reason Mark married me was because of those enchiladas. I am also fairly certain I have passed my Mexican food loving genes onto Ashlyn. When asked what she wants for dinner tacos are always on the list (along with pizza and tempeh).
That is why I love the two recipes below. I love the bean recipe because instead of the beans being cooked in water, like I have seen, they are cooked in a delicious taco flavored broth and end up picking up that flavor all the way through the bean. I also love the individual pizzas because they can be a super quick dinner if you do a little prep before hand and they can be customized to each persons taste. I love everything listed below on my pizza, but Ashlyn just wanted beans, tomato, and olives on hers. This is a dinner that can make everyone in the house happy and you can feel good knowing that you are serving plant based whole foods.

Taco Flavored Pinto Beans

1 c dried pinto beans
1 bay leaf
1/8 c cumin
1/8 c minced onion
1 Tbs chili powder
1 Tbs dried coriander
1 Tbs Spanish paprika
1 Tbs garlic powder
3 c water
salt and pepper

Rinse and sort your pinto beans. Place all ingredients except the salt and pepper in a slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours. Drain any excess water, salt and pepper to taste, and use your flavored beans anyway you would like. These store fantastic in the freezer, so if you have any left freeze them for future use.

Individual Taco Pizzas

Taco Flavored Pinto Beans (mashed)
Whole Wheat Tortillas
Cheeze Sauce
Black Olives
Ranch Dressing

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. While the oven is preheating take as many pinto beans as you would like and mash them with a potato masher or fork (the potato masher is much easier). Once preheated put your tortillas on a sheet tray and toast in the oven for 5 minutes. Watch these closely as oven temps vary and they can burn very quickly.
Once toasted spread your mashed beans on the tortilla. Spread your cheeze sauce on top of the beans. Put in the oven for another 2 minutes to warm up the spreads.
Top with your favorite taco pizza ingredients. I used iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, black olives, and a drizzle of ranch dressing. If they would have been in my fridge I probably would have also added avocado and green onions to mine, so adjust the toppings to your tastes and preferences.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Ranch Dressing

Oh ranch dressing how I missed thee, until I developed this recipe that is. I have to say that Mark and I were addicted to ranch dressing before we changed our diet. It was our condiment of choice for fry dipping, on top of baked potatoes, and burgers, etc. I would have to buy 2 big bottles of ranch at Sam's Club about every two months. Then I started reading ingredient labels and our beloved Hidden Valley disappeared from our lives. Luckily we did not have to ween Ashlyn since we never gave it to her anyway.

I have a confession, I am currently obsessed with cashew cream, if you haven't noticed from this post and my Cheeze Sauce. So, if you see more sauces coming out of my kitchen with cashew cream don't worry, my obsessions tend not to last too long and I will move onto something else eventually.

OK, so I know this is my second sauce recipe this week, believe me there is a point to it and I will post it soon I promise.

Ranch Dressing


1/2 c soaked cashews
3/4 c unsweetened almond milk
1 tsp dried dill
3/4 tsp dried chives
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp minced onion
1/8 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar

You first need to soak your cashews overnight. Place the cashews in a bowl, cover with water, and place in the fridge overnight.

Once the cashews have soaked overnight drain the water and place them in the blender. Add all of the other ingredients into the blender and blend on high for about 5 minutes or until you reach your desired consistency. If you do not have a high speed blender this will take at least the full 5 minutes to get a smooth consistency. Also, feel free to adjust the amount of milk to make it as thin or as thick as you like. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving. It will thicken up a little in the fridge.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Cheeze Sauce

Sorry I haven't posted in awhile, I have been very busy developing new recipes. So, keep coming back because in the next couple of weeks I should have a lot of new recipes for you.
One of the things that I have missed most since removing dairy from my diet has been cheese. Oh how I loved the stuff, but starting in my mid-twenties it did not love me. So, once we changed our diet I found in vegan cookbooks and on vegan food blogs the term cheeze sauce. I was definitely intrigued. I tried a couple versions, but non of them gave me that taste and texture I was looking for, so I decided to develop my own version to suit the tastes of our family. After a few attempts I finally came up with a basic cheeze sauce that we have fallen in love with! Finally, I can have mac and cheeze, nachos dripping in cheeze sauce and whatever else my little heart desires. This is definitely a big hit in our house, so please try it as a healthier version of the "Velveeta" cheese sauce because I know you will not be disappointed.

Cheeze Sauce

1/2 c cashews
1/2 c nutritional yeast
1 c unsweetened almond milk
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp ground mustard
1/4 tsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder

You first need to soak your cashews overnight. Place the cashews in a bowl, cover with water, and place in the fridge overnight. I usually just keep a bowl of soaking cashews in the fridge so I can have this cheeze sauce whenever the urge hits.

Once your cashews have soaked drain the water and place all of the ingredients in your blender. Blend on high for about 5 minutes if you are lucky enough to have a Vita-Mix this should not take as long. I will usually stop it a couple times to scrape down the sides.

Once blended pour the mixture into a small sauce pot and heat on medium low. You want to watch it very closely at this point. Whisk every couple of minutes until you reach your desired consistency. It will take a little while to thicken up, but once it starts it can get really thick really fast. If it becomes too thick whisk in a splash of milk until you reach your desired thickness.

Enjoy your cheeze sauce and keep those cashews soaking because I know you will want this again and again.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Strawberry Lemonade

Do different seasons stir up memories from your childhood? For me that is definitely the case. I remember when I was a kid my mom would make Kool-Aid every once in a while during the
summer. I always thought her Kool-Aid was way better than any other moms because she always put a can of lemonade concentrate in her version. Now that I am a mom I would love my daughter to have memories like that. I don't have Kool-Aid in the house, and I never will, but I wanted to find a drink that Ashlyn could love just as much, but the ingredients could not be mystery powder in a packet and the cup of refined sugar that you add to it. So, this is my version made with plant based ingredients and the taste will definitely remind you of summer.

Now, last year was my first attempt at making homemade lemonade and it was a sticky sugary mess! The lemonade tasted good, but it was a lot of work, a lot of lemons, and a lot of sticky clean up for a little bit of juice. I told myself that I had to find a better way or we would just not have lemonade in our house. So, thinking back to my mom's Kool-Aid I decided to make a flavored lemonade that should give me better results and boy did it ever! Now, this is a little more work than opening up a can of frozen concentrate, but I am happy to do this work to get the results. There are two steps to the process, making the simple syrup and then making the strawberry lemonade. Once you make the simple syrup it does make enough for 2 batches of lemonade.

Simple Syrup

Makes 1 1/2 cups of simple syrup

-1/2 c Sucanat *this is unrefined sugar that I find at Whole Foods, so if you can't find it you can use white sugar or just increase the amount of honey
-1/2 c honey
-1 c water

1. Put all of the ingredients into a sauce pan and simmer on medium for 10-15 minutes making sure to stir often. After about 15 minutes you should end up with about 1 1/2 cups of dark simple syrup. Sorry forgot to take pictures of this.
2. Cool before using.

Strawberry Lemonade


-25 Strawberries
-zest of one lemon
-3/4 c water
-1 1/4 c fresh lemon juice (strained) about 6 lemons
-3/4 c simple syrup
-4 c cold water


1. Put the strawberries, zest, and 3/4 cup of water into a saucepan and simmer on medium heat for 15-20 minutes until the strawberries break down. About 10 minutes into the process take a potato masher and mash the strawberries in the pan while continuing to cook. Once you get a strawberry "sauce" remove from the heat and cool.
2. Put the lemon juice and simple syrup into a pitcher and stir.
3. Strain the cooled strawberry "sauce" into the pitcher pressing down on the strained goop (yes, that is a technical term) to get as much juice out of the strawberries as possible.
4. Add 4 cups of cold water to your pitcher and mix.
5. You will end up with some pulp at the bottom of the pitcher if it stands for too long, but a good stir will solve that problem.
6. Chill to your desired temperature and enjoy!

Monday, June 10, 2013

"Meat" Balls

Oh the joys of toddlers and meal time. OK maybe I shouldn't be so general and assuming and instead say oh the joys of Ashlyn and meal time. We have our off days and our on days, but when it comes to how much food will be consumed we never know. There are days where she will out eat me, literally she can eat 4 slices of pizza in one sitting, no problem. Then there are the days where I can't figure out how she can function off of a handful of raisins and half of a peanut butter sandwich. One day she likes mushrooms the next she hates them. It is day by day with her eating habits, but there are a few tried and true dinner items that I know she will always eat.

One of those is meatballs, so when we quit eating meat in our house I had to come up with an acceptable alternative. I tried lots of "meat" ball recipes and non of them really satisfied all of us, especially a 2 1/2 year old that loves meat. I finally came up with my own recipe that the whole family will eat. Now, if you are looking for the texture of a meatball these will not do the trick, but if you are looking for a healthy alternative to the traditional meatball I would call this one a winner.


-1 onion
-3 cloves of garlic minced
-2/3 c rolled oats
-1/3 c walnuts
-1 c dried red lentils
-3 c water
-4 cremini mushrooms
-1/2 small zucchini
-1 carrot
-6 oz tomato paste
-1 Tbs dried basil
-2 tsp dried oregano
-1 tsp dried thyme
-1/3 c breadcrumbs
-1 tsp salt
-1/4 tsp pepper
-olive oil spray *I use an oil mister which is perfect for this*

1. Put your lentils and water in a sauce pan and simmer on medium heat for 20-30 minutes. You want them to be a very mushy consistency. Let the lentils cool. Once cooled add 1 cup of the cooked lentils to a large bowl. You can freeze the leftovers for future use.

2. Saute the onion at medium heat until it turns translucent. Once translucent add the garlic and saute for another minute. Add to the bowl with the lentils.
3. Put the rolled oats and walnuts in a food processor and pulse until you get a fine consistency. Transfer to the lentil bowl.

4. Add the mushrooms to the food processor (no need to clean it out) and pulse until finely chopped. Add the mushrooms to the bowl. Repeat separately with the zucchini and carrot.

5. Add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl and mix with your hands until everything is fully mixed (you cannot over mix so no worries).
6. Spray a sheet tray with olive oil (or I am sure you could use parchment paper as well)
7. Form your balls *giggle* and place on the sheet tray. I used a 1 Tbsp cookie scoop to get even mini meatballs. I like mini meatballs because they are great finger food for a toddler. *If you do make them larger the cooking time may vary.

8. Spray the "meat" balls with your olive oil spray.
9. Cook for 20 min @ 400 degrees flipping halfway through. Be careful when flipping because they are delicate.

10. Serve with your favorite sauce.

Mark and I enjoyed these as sandwiches and Ashlyn dipped hers. You could definitely serve these with pasta though.

I hope you enjoy this recipe! It is late and I am going to bed, so I hope you have a great day tomorrow!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Blueberry Vinaigrette

So, I don't know about you, but when blueberry season arrives Ashlyn and I do a little dance in our living room and yes Mark just sits back and rolls his eyes with a little grin on his face. I can't help it because to me blueberry season should be celebrated! I am obsessed and I am sure I am taking my daughter with me. Ashlyn can't get enough of these little treasures although she prefers the raw approach of just grabbing handfuls out of the fridge. The funny thing about her and blueberries is that she can tell just by tasting them that blueberry season is over. Last year around her 2nd birthday I bought some blueberries at the end of the season, OK probably way after the season ended, and she refused to eat them after tasting one. But, this year when the season started again she has been seen with a little ring of purple around her mouth.

Especially this year once I saw the blueberries pop up in stores and started to go on sale all of these ideas swirl in my head of blueberry syrup on pancakes, blueberry muffins, and blueberry cheezecake. Today, since it is my first recipe and I wanted to keep it simple I settled on a blueberry vinaigrette and I am so glad I did. I have to give credit to all those food bloggers out there because I did not realize how long the whole process takes until I did it myself.

Now when I settled on this recipe I did remember that in my first post I made a comment about not being a rabbit. All of a sudden the song "Isn't it Ironic" popped into my head. Of course it is ironic that I make a comment about salads and then my first recipe is a salad. So since I haven't heard that song since probably early high school I had to hum it to myself while preparing this recipe. Anyway enough with my ramblings and on to the show!

Blueberry Vinaigrette on a Mixed Greens Salad

Vinaigrette Ingredients:

1 cup blueberries
4 Tbs red wine vinegar
3 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs honey
1/4 tsp thyme *yes this is missing from the pic
salt and pepper to taste (I used 1/2 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper)


Put all ingredients in the blender and turn on high. Now if you have a high powered blender like a Vita mix you probably won't have to blend as long. It will start off looking like a hot mess.

But, I promise it does get better just keep blending.

I think I blended anywhere from 3-5 minutes and then I got a dressing that I had to control myself not to drink. YUMMY!

Chill before serving in an air tight container. The longer it sits in the fridge the more the flavors will develop. If it sits for awhile it may separate, so give it a shake and it will come together.

Salad Ingredients:

Combination of lettuce and spinach or any mixed greens will do
1/2 of a Red Pepper
Handful of Cherry Tomatoes
1/2 of an Avocado
Handful of Radishes
1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds

*Feel free to use whatever salad ingredients you have on hand, this is just what I had in my fridge. If I had them on hand I probably would have added a handful of strawberries and a 1/4 cup of sliced almonds as well.

Add the sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds to a dry saute pan and turn the heat to medium low. You are going to toast the seeds. Keep a very close eye on these as they do burn easily. Saute giving them a toss every minute or so. Your nose will know when they are done (or burnt believe me I have been there). When they are done they will have turned golden in color. I didn't cook these long enough to develop a super golden color (sorry I was starving), but there are a few golden ones in there.

Mix all of your salad ingredients together pour on your delicious dressing and commence to stuff your face. I hope you enjoy this recipe and I promise there are a lot more to come. Have an amazing day!