Goodbye 2011

The news reported  most people polled can’t wait for 2011 to be over and are excited to usher in the new year. They didn’t poll me, obviously. I’ve had a pretty good year. I very recently celebrated my first wedding anniversary, I started this blog, I got serious about exercise, I made lots of new friends, and I conquered my fear of Twitter. (Ok, the fear may be gone, but the knowledge hasn’t quite replaced it; If Twitter and I were in a relationship, our Facebook status would say, “It’s Complicated.”) So for me, all of those things add up to a pretty good year.

I hope your 2011 was good, too, and I hope your 2012 is even better.

Cheers to good health, more happiness than you know what to do with, and prosperity up the wazoo! Kale to you, my friend. Kale to you…

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Recipe Review: Macaroons

As you know, I’ve been doing a lot of baking over winter break. I’ve already shared my adventures in snickerdoodles, peanut butter cookies, and gingerbread/molasses cookies, but, of course, I’ve been baking other goodies too. I guess I’ve been using this time to make some of the more decadent treats that have caught my attention but that I haven’t wanted in the house to tempt me. This time of years is the prefect excuse to bake something you only want one of because you can give the rest away, and people are more excited than leery.

One of the cookies I’ve been dying to make is Chocolate Covered Katie’s Four-Minute Coconut Macaroons. I came across the recipe again one day a couple of weeks ago, knew I had all the ingredients on-hand, and knew I would be having lunch with a serious coconut fan the next day. Perfect!

I assembled my ingredients, but after I opened my can of coconut milk, I realized it was full fat, although the cream at the top wasn’t very creamy, and hoped that wouldn’t make much of a difference during the cooking process. I don’t know if it did or not, but I had to add an extra TBSP of oat flour (which may have also played havoc with the consistency) to the mix and cook it WAY longer than suggested to make the coconut mixture thick and dough-like as opposed to runny and soup-like. It tasted awesome, so I guess cooking it for a while longer didn’t affect the flavor. I also cooked my cookies less time than suggested because the tiny shred of coconut that stuck out away from the cookie started to burn. Again, this didn’t seem to affect the taste at all, and after I let the cookies sit for a few minutes on the hot cookie sheet, their consistency was fine.

Naked Macaroon

After I sampled one (as good cookies do – ha ha), I decided they needed something to cut the intense sweetness, so I melted one square of Baker’s semi-sweet chocolate and drizzled it on each cookie by the spoonful. Then I set the chocolate drizzled macaroons in the freezer over-night to set. The resulting product was super delicious – and super rich! I thought they were very reminiscent of a mounds bar, but double the sweetness.

All dressed up with some place to be.

My friend said she and her parents all ate one of the macaroons the day I sent them home with her. Woohoo – omnivores eating vegan cookies equals success!

Your Freezer is Your Friend

With winter here and bad weather coming and going, chances are pretty good you I won’t be able to get to the store some day when the craving/need for veggies hits (This actually happens pretty often, but it’s usually from laziness – ha ha!) That’s when it’s a blessing to have a well-stocked freezer.

I almost always have a couple (or more!) bags of frozen veggies in the freezer.

What is your favorite style of frozen veggies?

I actually keep quite a few things in the freezer: left-over dinners, muffins, frozen fruit (frozen bananas are overtaking the entire left side of the freezer right now), nuts and seeds, Daiya (Who knew you could freeze it?!), misc. meat substitutes (usually a bag or two of Gardein and TJ’s meatless balls), and whatever Mr. M has managed to squeeze in there.

Ignore that turkey pot pie and the dairy ice cream; those, of course, belong to Mr. M. Ah...the joys of a mixed marriage (vegan/SAD).

We use the freezer so much, we’ve seriously been discussing purchasing a small deep freeze. We’ve talked about it before, but we’ve never actually looked at and priced them, nor have we chosen a definitive place to put it in the basement. (It’s going in the make-shift pantry.) I’m excited! I hope we’re able to get one sooner than later.

Anyway, back to why the freezer is your friend. Besides the obvious benefits of being to preserve food for a length of time, the freezer can be home to some great, quick, and easy meals. This is one I came up with last week.

Veggies, Beans & Greens Saute

2 bags frozen veggies (your fav)

1 box frozen spinach, thawed and drained

1 can diced tomatoes (about 1.5 c)

1 can black olives (about 1 c)

1 can white beans (about 1.5 c)

Seasonings to taste (I like Italian flavors: oregano, basil, dried parsley, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, etc)

Thaw and squeeze the excess water from your spinach. (I heat mine for 3 minutes in the microwave then squeeze handfuls until dry.) Add to large, deep sided skillet along with frozen veggies, died tomatoes, rinsed and drained beans and black olives. (I left mine whole, but sliced/diced may be easier to spear with your fork.) Heat everything through until vegetables are thawed and beans are hot.

I eat my veggies on their own, but you may want to add them to a bed of grain, such as brown or wild rice, quinoa, or even some pasta.

Frozen Veggies, Beans & Greens Saute

Product Review: ChaLEAN Extreme

I’ve been pretty active on the fitness front for the past year and a half or so, but most of that time has been spent doing cardio. I’m sure you remember my love affair with the treadmill. I have, however, been half-heartedly lifting light weights with a few videos, but I’ve been in the mood for more for quite a while.

I don’t remember the first time I came across the ChaLEAN Extreme program, but I’m guessing it was about the same time I found Turbo Fire. I’ve been a huge fan of Turbo Jam for years (and I still love it!), so I was really intrigued by both programs.

After debating over the investment in a new exercise program for what seemed like forever, I finally broke down and bought ChaLEAN Extreme about six weeks ago – and I’ve been doing the program ever since.

Today was the first day of the second phase of the program, PUSH, and wowza! It was tough, but I made it through the first video. So far, I’ve learned that I’m much stronger than I thought. I can easily squat 40 pounds (20 in each hand), and 30 pound sit-ups are nothing. Plus, I can do 15-20 push-ups now!

All of this may not seem like a huge accomplishment to some people, but it is for me. I think I was the world’s biggest couch potato before I decided to get healthy.

Sometimes, when I’m hogging the kitchen, my husband jokingly asks when I”m going to go back to lying on the couch, eating chocolate covered donuts, and drinking gallons of creamer with coffee. (Yes, I meant to say it that way – ha!) My response…NEVER!

If you want a real challenge in a relatively short amount of time, check out ChaLEAN Extreme. It’s worth your time and money.

Grain-Free Veggie Lasagna

I came across this lasagna recipe by Mama Pea a few weeks ago and knew I had to make it – or something like it. It had been forever since I’d made a lasagna; as a rule, I try to avoid pasta, and I made zucchini noodles this summer with great success, so I knew they’d work in a lasagna. Actually, I may have already tried something like this, but this time, I had a much  better game plan.

Grain-Free Veggie Lasagna

4 small zucchini/summer squash

1 bunch kale

16 oz mushrooms, stemmed and sliced

1 med onion, diced

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

1 box silken tofu (firm or extra firm), boiled to remove bean flavor

1 can (about 1.5 c) white beans

1 c nutritional yeast, divided

Splash lemon juice (about 1 tsp)

1 can (about 1 c) diced tomatoes

1 can (about 1.5 c) tomato sauce

Seasonings to taste

Slice zucchini lengthwise. Roast until tender (at 425F for 30-45 mins)

Meanwhile, saute garlic, onions, mushrooms and kale until veggies are tender and greens are wilted. (Use a little veggie broth or water to saute – no need for oil.)

Blend beans and tofu in food processor until smooth. Add 1/2 c nutritional yeast, a splash of lemon juice, and a little salt. Stir to combine.

To make sauce, combine diced tomatoes and tomato sauce in a bowl. Add Italian seasonings to taste (dried parsley, basil, oregano, salt, pepper, etc).

To assemble lasagna, spray a large, rectangular or oblong glass dish with no-stick cooking spray. Then spoon in a thin layer or tomato sauce. Top it with enough slices of roasted zucchini to cover the dish. Add a layer of satueed veggie and top with dollops of bean/tofu mix. Top that layer with more zucchini slices, and top them with tomato sauce. Add remaining sauteed veggies, bean/tofu mix and tomato sauce. Top lasagna with remaining 1/2 c of nutritional yeast.

Bake at 350F for about an hour, or until sauce is bubbly and nutritional yeast has browned.

Makes 6 large servings.

Grain-Free Vegetable Lasagna

Check out those layers!

Recipe Review: Happy Herbivore’s Cinnamon Buns

Christmas morning I was determined to make cinnamon rolls for breakfast. So I did. And they were delicious!

HH Cinnamon Roll

This was the first time I’ve ever made homemade cinnamon rolls, having only made the tube kind before, (All those trans fats from back in the day are still haunting my hips me.) so I’m really glad they turned out well!

I made Happy Herbivore’s Whole Wheat, Fat Free Vegan Cinnamon Buns (You can find this recipe online or in The Happy Herbivore Cookbook); I did have to make a few alterations, including using only 2 cups of flour instead of 2.5 (the dough was already pretty dry with the 2 cups, so adding that additional 1/2 cup would have made the dough WAY too dry), and using 5 tsp of almond milk in the glaze instead of 1 (1 didn’t even touch the 1 cup of powdered sugar). (I also added a dab of vanilla). I didn’t mind making the alterations because the final product was so delicious.

HH Cinnamon Rolls swimming in glaze

I ended up with 7 giant rolls instead of 6 as the recipe indicated, but that’s fine with me! After Mr. M and I each ate cinnamon rolls until we were in sugar comas (I call them rolls, but Mr. M and Lindsay both call them buns – interesting), I ended up freezing the left-overs in individual portions for one of those I-need-sugar mornings.

Cookie Bake-Down Part 3: Gingerbread/Molasses Cookies

The final cookie bake-down occurred between two similar, yet slightly different cookies, which might lead you to believe this isn’t a fair comparison. And while I don’t disagree, I don’t think these two cookies are different enough from each other to not be compared, either. Did that make sense? Ha ha!

The first cookie in this bake-down is Oh She Glows’ Wedded Bliss Soft Ginger Cookies.

OSG Ginger Cookies with raw sugar sprinkles

I had such high hopes for these cookies because Angela said she made these for her wedding, but I must have done something wrong. Instead of being soft and sweet, my cookies were crunchy and had a weird taste. Maybe it was my molasses. Or maybe it was the fact that I’ve never made – or even had – a gingerbread cookie before. (Yes, as sad as that sounds, it’s the truth.) Apparently, it’s difficult for me to make something I’ve never made/eaten before. (Hello, rock-hard biscuits, anyone?!) I still took these cookies to work, and people ate them with positive reviews, so maybe it was just my taster. Not sure, but I don’t think I’ll be making these again.

OSG Ginger Cookie

The last cookie in the cookie bake-down is Happy Herbivore’s Soft Molasses Cookies. Lindsay sent out this recipe one morning, and I had enough time before work  that day to whip up a batch, so I did. But again, these cookies didn’t do it for me.

HH Molasses Cookies

Also again, I had high hopes for these cookies. I love that they’re naturally fat-free (except for the trivial amount of fat in the whole wheat flour) and low in sugar, and they came together quickly. Unfortunately, I think the amount of molasses in this recipe was too much for me. It was a little too much for my co-workers, too.

HH Molasses Cookie with raw sugar sprinkle

Today’s cookie bake-down lesson: I don’t like molasses. A little late,  but good to know.

Merry Christmas!

While I realize the majority of the world doesn’t celebrate Christmas, and many of you may not (Happy Sunday!), Mr. M and I do, so we’d like to wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas/Happy Sunday!

I hope you had a blessed day, and if you haven’t, please share something with someone else – give a gift, give your time, give a smile.

Merry Merry!

Decked out in antlers and my new orange scarf while holding my brand new, super-heavy duty food processor. Woohoo!

 
 

Chad making a typical, goofy face for the camera while holding his Christmas Blu-Rays. Over 13 hours of Star Wars. Help me!!

Cookie Bake-Down Part 2: Peanut Butter Cookies

Everyone gets the bake-down thing, right? It’s a comb of bake-off and show-down. Ya, I know. Cheezy. (Or should I say cookie-y?!)

Ok, so onto the next batch of cookies, which were peanut butter. I have an awesome peanut butter cookie recipe I love, but they are healthy. And they taste healthy. Not everyone is into healthy cookies, especially people who follow a SAD diet. So, to accommodate the people who were to be eating my cookies, I went ahead and tried a couple new recipes.

Flourless PNB Cookies

The first PNB cookie recipe I tried was from Love Veggies and Yoga. Averie’s flourless recipe caught my eye a few months ago, but I hadn’t had an occasion to make it yet – until the holidays.

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

The first time I made these cookies, they turned out great! They were an OK thickness, and they didn’t spread all over the cookie sheet. The second time I made them, they were really thin and spread like crazy. But both times, they were delicious – if you like sugar. Lots and lots of sugar. Wowza!

I remembered the fork markes!

Overall, these cookies were a huge hit, especially with the male gender (no idea why). I even made a couple additional batches of these cookies with White Chocolate Wonderful peanut butter – one with chocolate chips and one without – and my husband took them to work for his office-mates. They gobbled them up!

White Chocolate Wonderful Peanut Butter Cookie with Chocolate Chips

No Added Fat PNB Cookies

The next peanut butter cookie recipe I tried was Chocolate Covered Katie’s Secret Peanut Butter Cookies. I’m not sure what the secret was because they didn’t have any unusual or unexpected ingredients. Maybe she thought the lack of added fat was the secret. Regardless, the flavor of the raw dough with these cookies was awesome. However, when I baked them, they spread paper-thin and wouldn’t come off the parchment paper. I ended up scrapping the whole batch after I peeled off what I could and tasted the results – burnt sugar. I don’t know what I did wrong with these cookies, but I don’t think I’ll make them again.

A little too thin and flat

It was nice to try a couple of different PNB cookie recipes. And I’m glad I had people to bake them for, so I wasn’t tempted to eat more than one or two by having them in the house!

It’s my Anniversary!

It’s my anniversary. That’s right, one year ago today,  Mr. M (whose first name is Chad, by the way) and I got married.

Anticipating the ceremony, slippers included!
 
Our wedding was kind of a whirlwind. We got our marriage license at the beginning of December, but we didn’t really have a date in mind. (In our county in Ohio, marriage licenses are good for six months, so we weren’t in a rush.) And, I’d been visiting my engagement ring at the jewelry store since I found it in early October. Mr. M wasn’t in a rush to drop the cash on my way-over-budget wedding rings, either, so December sped along without any wedding plans. Until…I got into the Christmas spirit.
 

I'm still waiting on another band to go in front of my engagement ring. But in the mean time, I'm enjoying these two!

 
 I’ve always loved Christmas Eve. Christmas day I  can take or leave; it’s really more of a let down than anything. (Someday, if we ever have children, I’m going to make Christmas day as fun and joyful as Christmas Eve so they don’t feel that same sense of deflation I always felt as a kid.) Building on that joy of Christmas Eve, I thought,  “Why not get married that day?” So we did.
 
I decided to keep my own last name and add Mr. M's to mine, so now I technically have two last names without a hyphen, which is proving to be quite a challange in some situations!
 
I knew I didn’t want a big wedding. Most of my family has passed away (my grandparents, dad, mom – all gone), and Mr. M’s family lives at least 5 hours away (plus they aren’t super close), so anything more than a friend or two was off my wish list. I guess I think of a wedding as an intimate moment between two people. It’s your lives; it should be your moment. (Kudos to those of you who choose to share your moment!) Anyway…I found an officient, arranged for a friend to be our witness and take a few photos, and we did it; we got married in our home in front of the Christmas tree on December 24, 2010.
 

Chad & Me with the Officient

 

Me and Ellen - our witness and photographer

I hope to some day take a cruise to renew our vows and have a more traditional ceremony where I wear a white dress and carry some kind of flowers. I’ve always wanted to do it on a beach at sunset, so whenever I lust over cruise packages, the first thing I check are the ports and times; if there isn’t at least one in the evening, it’s off the list.
 

Chad in his engagement chair. (His wedding ring came with a much-coveted recliner.)

 
Happy Anniversary to my hubby, and Merry Christmas Eve to those of you celebrating today. I hope you’re able to enjoy some time with those who make your world a little brighter and your face a little happier.