Home Spa – DIY Style

Because I enjoy seeing just exactly how close I can come to giving myself an anxiety attack, I waited one week until Christmas to make my gifts for everyone. And in my brilliance, I decided to make not just one, but FOUR gifts per person for a home spa kit. …my friends better love me.

In my frenzy, I turned the kitchen in to what resembled an apothecary of sorts run by none other than the Tasmanian Devil – you know, the cartoon character that spins around and turns everything in to shambles and disarray. My very patient roommates did their best to turn a blind eye to the  disaster area that used to be the kitchen until I was finished. Not an easy thing to do.

With the exception of maybe one or two ingredients, everything I used to make my products was natural and organic. And I made them barefoot. With bell bottoms, flowers in my hair, and ‘groovy’ on the tip of my tongue the entire time. Jk. Mostly…

In each spa kit, I included: homemade lip balm, whipped body butter, bath salts, and a sugar scrub.

Peppermint/Rosemary Lip Dressing: For the lip balm, I used the same recipe and procedure as my Lip Dressing that I have made previously. For whatever reason, this batch turned out much better than the first. It yielded 38 tubes of chapstick, which means plenty left over for yours truly. Or you, if you’d like.

Orange Dreamsicle Sugar Scrub: Next, I made the sugar scrub. I found my inspiration for the scrub here. I liked that it had limited ingredients and was very easy to make….if you follow the directions right. Unlike I did. It essentially takes only two ingredients: sugar and almond oil. Pretty straightforward. About two cups of sugar to 1/4-1/3 cup of almond oil. Unless you misread the instructions and haphazardly use 1 1/3 cups of almond oil. Then it takes a WHOLE lotta sugar to make up the consistency. You want the mixture to be soft but not too oily. -I have never before used a sugar scrub and was constantly asking my roommates if my mixture looked or seemed right-

Sugar scrub ingredientsCombining almond oil with sugarSugar and almond oil mixture

If you want to stop there, you can! I can’t ever make anything easy, so I decided to add essential oils for scent and color for effect. I went with orange for the scent, because I figured it would be different and fun. I then divided the sugar into two bowls, one of which I dyed orange.

Plain and orange sugar scrub Orange Sugar Scrub

In small containers, I layered the colors. I gently padded down each layer with the bottom of a shot glass, because I’m innovative. The final product turned out a little something like this:

Orange Dreamsicle Sugar Scrub

Whipped Body Butter: The body butter was probably the most ‘labor-intensive’ process out of everything. That being said, it still wasn’t that hard. And I asked all of my giftees what scent they would like so that I could customize it for them. I found the original recipe for it here. I made a few small adjustments, but followed it for the most part. You essentially need 2 cups total of grease/oil, but I doubled the recipe. I used what I had: 2 cups shea butter, 1 cup coconut oil, 1 cup almond oil. I added the essential oils after for scent depending on what people wanted. I did not color/dye any of the lotion, but that is an option as well (just be cautious of staining skin….or don’t if that’s what you’re going after).

Shea butter, coconut oil, almond oil

Using a double boiler – or one you make yourself from a pot and a glass bowl, melt all the ingredients together, stirring constantly. Let it cool for a few minutes on the counter and then put in the refrigerator until it’s firm, but not solid. Mine took about 2.5 hours to cool.

Butter and oil on double burnerMelted butter and oils

Using a hand mixer, whip the body butter at a high speed for 10 to 15 minutes, or until fluffy. Add your essential oils for scent. Or, if you’re making several different scents, divide into separate containers and whip personalized oils in.

Whipping the Body ButterWhipping the Body ButterWhipped Body Butter

Spoon body butter into containers without packing down or spreading out. This keeps the ‘whipped’ illusion.

Whipped Body Butter

I kept one for myself, and let me tell you, it feels absolutely AMAZING. It’s a little heavy, so I put it on right before bed. The body butter is extremely nourishing and makes my skin very soft. I will definitely be making this bad boy again.

Aromatic Bath Salts: This was by far the easiest thing to make. I found several ‘recipes’ online, but ultimately went with my own. I combined 3 parts Epsom salt with 2 parts sea salt and 1 part baking soda. The baking soda is a skin softener. I added essential oils for scent – lavender and tea tree oil. Put everything into a big mixing bowl, and, well, mix! Like magic, you have aromatic bath salts. So easy, and people are SUPER impressed.

Aromatic Bath SaltsAromatic Bath Salts

 

If you have the time, you can make labels for everything. I was pretty pressed, so I simply included a note with the gift explaining what each jar contained. The entire gift-making process was more enjoyable than I thought it would be, and everything turned out better than I thought it would. There were a few hiccups along the way, but with me that’s pretty inevitable.

Home Spa Kit

Last year, I crocheted everyone infinity scarves. This year, home spa kits.

Next year….gift certificates. 😉

Dark Chocolate Chip & Bacon Cookies

Remember me? Ya…I’m not sure if I would either. I’ve been neglectful, unreliable and seemingly nonexistent for a while.

“I’m sorry” can only go so far. And actions speak louder than words.

As a way to beg for forgiveness, I have made you something special!!! …well actually I’ve made a group of strangers at an upcoming holiday cookie exchange something special…

Side note: I’ve never been to – or heard of – a cookie exchange, but I’m pretty sure it’s just another excuse to sit around and drink wine, which is fine by me. No one really cares about the cookies – they’re just going to give them away anyway. 

BUT I’ve included the recipe and lovely pictures to accessorize it.

So, what do you say? Friends again?

Did I mention bacon AND chocolate are included?

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….I knew that would do the trick.

I bring you a little piece of heaven on earth in the form of Dark Chocolate & Bacon Cookies! Yep, I made it happen. Just for you!

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup butter, softened (1 & 1/2 sticks)
  • 1/4 cup bacon grease….that’s the good stuff
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (I always add a little extra)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 & 1/4 cup flour – or you can use rice flour to make it gluten free, which is actually what I did with this recipe
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 8-10 ounces of bacon…or until you feel satisfied there’s enough in there

Step 1: cook the bacon. No one wants raw, chewy bacon with their chocolate….

Step 2: save your bacon grease and let it cool until it’s completely solid

~Turn on the oven to 375°F~

Step 3: mix softened butter, bacon grease and sugars together until fluffy/creamy

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Step 4: add in eggs and baking powder and blend well

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Step 5: add vanilla and cinnamon

Step 6: stir in bacon and chocolate chips

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Steps 7-10: taste test the dough…for obvious reasons – check for poisons, determine quality, ensure bacon to chocolate chip ratio is satisfactory. You’re also doing yourself a favor and saving time making that one (or two) extra cookies. This of course is all a go unless you have issues with raw egg in your dough…in which case you can save the taste testing for me. I’m happy to help.

Roll dough into small balls (insert appropriately inappropriate comment here) and place on a greased cookie sheet, or a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

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Bake between 8 and 10 minutes. (Mine took closer to 10) Do NOT forget to turn your oven timer on….although burnt bacon cookies do make the house smell nice.

Makes about 4 dozen smoky, sweet cookies. Bacon really does make everything better. I may try to add peanut butter to them next time.

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Genius? I’ll take it . Isn’t it nice to know that (queue music) “You’ve got a friend in me…”

Sometimes the sweetest things in life take a little elbow bacon grease.

Dark Chocolate Chip & Bacon Cookies

Dark Chocolate Chip & Bacon Cookies

*This post was inspired by:  http://foodfunlife.blogspot.com/2013/02/bacon-chocolate-chip-cookies.html

 

I Can Can. Can You?

You know all those veggies in the previous post? Well they have to go somewhere, right? Mostly, they’re going to my stomach, which is super happy about that, but one person can only eat so many veggies…

Besides being frozen, dehydrated, put in recipes, given to the dog as treats, and given away, I have taught myself (with much help from others and from a step-by-step book) the art of canning.

My Mom and I actually went in on this project together. We acquired all of the supplies (minus a pressure cooker) and the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving. I read and learned…and then still asked for help because I am a disaster in the kitchen when it comes to cooking or preparing food at all.

For our first trick, we turned cucumbers into dill pickles. This actually was not that difficult to do. We went with a kosher pickle recipe and added a few things to it. All the ingredients, minus the spices, were from local farmer’s markets. The cucumbers were from my own garden.

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Washing off the cucumbers

Scruba, scruba, scruba

Scruba, scruba, scruba

Fresh dill from the farmer's market

Fresh dill from the farmer’s market

Garlic, bay leaf, 1/2 serrano pepper, and spices into each pickle jar

Garlic, bay leaf, 1/2 serrano pepper, and spices into each pickle jar

Klondike helped

Klondike helped

Heating jars, lids, ingredients

Heating jars, lids, ingredients

In they go

In they go

The final product

The final product

Mmmmm pickles

Mmmmm pickles

We ended up making 8 pints of pickles, which will be ready to open NEXT WEEK!!! I’m very excited to try them and see how they turn out!

In a frenzy of pickling excitement, we also made zucchini relish!! All of the zucchinis were from my garden.

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Chopped bell peppers, onion, and shredded zucchini

The spices

The spices

Ingredients

Ingredients

Toss everything in together

Toss everything in together

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Simmer

Can it! And there you have it: Zucchini relish

Can it! And there you have it: Zucchini relish

End of Summer BBQ anyone??

Canning is actually easier than I thought it would be….but I also haven’t done anything extremely difficult. I can still cross this off of my Summer Bucket List as my new learned skill.

*Pats self on back*

 

Comida de Gringa

Hola amigos. ¡Feliz Cinco de Mayo! ¿Qué estás comiendo hoy (además de cerveza y tequila – yo sé que son importantes)? Hoy en día es uno de mis días favoritos para comer y beber. ¿Qué persona no ama buena comida mexicana? De verdad.

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On this lovely Cinco de Mayo (that’s the 5th of May), I thought I’d share some of my favorite family Mexican recipes. I confess, I have not personally made all of them, but I have tasted all of them, so I’m going to say that’s good enough for now.

Growing up, a staple food of Mexican-inspired goodness was green chilie. This recipe was one my Grandma came up with and passed down to my Mom, who unsuccessfully has tried to pass it on down to me. I say unsuccessfully because she has given it to me several times, but I have yet to even think about attempting it. This vat of deliciousness has been smothered on burritos, tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas, and even been eaten plain. By me. It has the perfect balance of flavors and is a great addition to just about any Mexican dish. Or by itself. The catch? This green chili is not green – it’s more reddish in color. Surprise!

Green Chilie

2 tbs oil                             2-3lbs cubed pork
1 large onion, diced        1 tbs minced garlic
1 tsp salt                            1/2 tsp pepper

Brown all of the above in a large pot, just until the pork is no longer pink.

Add the following:

2 28oz cans diced tomatoes                   2 28oz cans water
4 4oz cans mild diced green chilies      2 tbs cumin
1/3 of a 4oz can of diced jalapenos       1-1.5 tbs chilie powder

Simmer for a couple of hours, occasionally stirring to make sure it doesn’t scorch. Smother on top of homemade burritos. ¡Qué rico!

Mexican Lasagna

12 corn tortillas                                 1 can (14 or 16oz) tomato sauce
1 med onion, chopped                     4oz diced green chilies
1 cup salsa or picante sauce            1/2 tsp oregano
2 tsp chilie powder                           2 eggs, slightly beaten
1lb ground beef                                 1 tsp cumin
3 cloves garlic, chopped or minced
1/2lb grated cheddar cheese  (or more if you prefer)
1/2lb ricotta cheese (can substitute with 1 cup cottage cheese)
1 can 16oz red kidney beans, drained
1 can 8oz whole kernel corn, drained

Preheat oven to 35o

Saute ground beef in a skillet with onion and garlic until beef is fully cooked. You could use ground turkey in place of beef. Add tomato sauce, salsa, green chilies, chilie powder, cumin, corn, and kidney beans. I also add some diced jalapenos. Stir to mix and simmer on low heat for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

In a separate bowl, combine eggs, ricotta cheese, and oregano.

Arrange 6 tortillas on bottom and up sides of a lightly greased 9″ by 13″ deep-sided baking pan, overlapping as needed. Add about 1/2 of the meat mixture. Spoon egg and cheese mixture on top of meat sauce and add 1/2 of the cheddar cheese. Add a second layer of tortillas and repeat layering ingredients until you run out. (I usually do 6 tortillas on the bottom, 4 in the middle, and 2 on top followed by the last little bit of what I have left to layer)

Finish with a garnish on top if you want. I like cilantro and sliced avocado.

Bake for 30-45 minutes.

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Mexican Lasagna

Chicken Tortilla Soup

For an amazing Chicken Tortilla Soup, check out this recipe. I don’t use the roasted poblano peppers, but instead add 2 diced fresh jalapenos and 2 cans of green chilies (mild). Additionally, I add a small bag of frozen corn, and 1 can of drained and rinsed black beans. I would also add more tomato than it calls for and a little more salt. I personally stir guacamole in to my own bowl, but you can use sour cream as well. Top with cheese. Makes my tastebuds want to Salsa.

And of course you can’t celebrate Cinco de Mayo without some killer margaritas. This is my FAVORITE margarita recipe. Again, from my Grandma. Very simple. Very strong. Very perfect.

Killer Margaritas

1 cup Tequila (I personally use silver tequila – I prefer it over gold)
1/2 cup Triple Sec
2 cups Sweet & Sour Mix (I do 1.5 cups)

Put in blender with ice till foamy.

If you want, you can choose to dip your glass in Sweet & Sour then in salt…serve with a wedge of lime and enjoy!

¡FELICITACIONES! You are now fully prepared for a proper Cinco de Mayo! If you make any of these recipes, let me know how they turn out! Oh, and no skimping on the guacamole…that should be homemade too.

¡BUEN PROVECHO!

Banana-Breaded Bliss

There’s nothing that hits the spot quite like warm banana bread fresh out of the oven on a chilly-and-waiting-for-snow-on-the-last-day-of-April-even-though-it-was-70°+-yesterday-because-Colorado-has-multiple-personality-disorder day.

Growing up, my Mom made banana bread often, and there was never much of it leftover. Because I can’t summons my Mom to make me whatever I want at my beck and call, which is a huge bummer, I have got to be the banana bread queen now.

I can honestly say that before today, I have never before made banana bread. Yay for turning over a new leaf! Or banana peel.

I didn’t have my Mom’s banana bread recipe at the time, which is also my Grandma’s, so I found a different one to use:

Shrinking Kitchen’s Best Ever Banana Bread

Prep Time: 15 minutes             Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 1 hour, 25 minutes

Yield: 12 slices/loaf                   Serving Size: 1 slice

Best-Ever Banana Bread {vegan-friendly, too!}

Gather

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp cinnamon
6 Tbsp margarine {I used vegan spread}
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
3 over-ripe bananas
1/4 cup non-dairy milk {I used almond milk}
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Step by step

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Lightly grease loaf pan w/cooking spray.
  3. In large bowl {i just throw everything in my stand mixer}, combine flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.
  4. In another bowl, cream together margarine, brown sugar, white sugar, bananas, vanilla, milk and cider.
  5. Combine wet and dry ingredients.
  6. Pour batter in your loaf pan and bake for 60-70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  7. Remove from oven and cool.
  8. Notes: I used my Kitchen-Aid mixer and simply added in all the ingredients as they are listed above. One bowl. Less clean-up. Delicious. WIN.

I altered a few things with this recipe. I didn’t have regular white sugar so I used coconut palm sugar. I used 2 cups of whole wheat flour instead of 1 cup of white flour. I also added sunflower seeds to mine, too.

I highly suggest that, unlike myself, you have or purchase a mixer – smashing bananas and ‘creaming’ ingredients together by hand is hard. I most definitely think I got my arm workout in for the day.

While this recipe is delicious, my roots tie me to the family recipe.

Directly copied and pasted from my email, here it is.

Banana Bread from Grandma Judy

3-4 ripe bananas
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. white sugar
1/2 c. oil  (not olive oil)
2 eggs
2 Tbs. sour milk  (put in cup and add a little white vinegar; this makes it sour)
2 c. flour
1 tsp. soda
1 tsp. salt
1/2 c. walnuts

Preheat oven to 350°
Mix brown sugar, white sugar and oil in bowl with mixer.  Add eggs and
sour milk and mix really well. Add bananas and mix really well. Add salt,
soda and flour and mix really well. Add walnuts and mix really well.

Use cooking spray in loaf pans and coat with flour.  Discard
any extra flour.  Pour in batter to about half full.  This will make 1
large loaf or 2 medium or 4 small loaves.

For a large loaf bake for about 55 minutes
For medium bake for about 50 minutes
For small bake for about 45 minutes

Check for the crack along the top and no “gooey” and golden brown.

Enjoy!

There are a ton of recipes out there. Do you have a family or favorite one? I’d love to try it out.

It’s good hot, cold, toasted, with butter, with peanut butter, with chocolate chips, with blueberries, plain, for breakfast, for lunch, for dinner, for a snack….you get the idea.

And that’s my banana-breaded bliss. Perfect for a freak winter storm warning on the last day of April.

Vegan Diaries – The Final Countdown

Originally posted on http://shrinkingjeans.net

vegan diaries

As of today, I have successfully been a vegan since March 11. That’s about 5 weeks, people! I have been diligent and faithful with minor unintentional slip-ups. And guess what? I survived! It IS possible to go vegan without starving yourself or depleting your body of the vitamins and minerals it needs. In fact, I have eaten cleaner and healthier in the past 5 weeks than I can remember doing before. I didn’t really lose weight (maybe a pound or 2), I didn’t become anemic, and I didn’t join PETA. But I did learn a great deal more about food than I ever thought was possible, and has sent me on a mission to be much more aware of what I put into my body from here on out.

As a way to commemorate my last few days of this vegan challenge, I hosted a vegan potluck where people crept out of their comfort zone and made some dang delicious vegan grub. Simply seeing that vegan smorgasbord brought me great happiness. Some of the scrumptious dishes provided (and devoured) included:

SOOOO much good food and a fun thing to share with friends. Everything turned out great and everyone enjoyed themselves, sans dairy and meat and all.

Learning and researching have been important aspects in this journey. And insanely eye-opening. Among the documentaries I watched, the articles I read, and the book I devoured, I have discovered there is a great deal more about the food industry that is not necessarily common knowlege, and not necessarily advertised. You have to search out the information, take the initiative to read and research it, and have the diligence to apply it to your every day consumption.

A few of the areas that I am much more aware (i.e. a label-reading fiend) include:

  • Corn and its many different masks. Corn is in just about everything at the grocery store, but may be labeled something different depending on its purpose in the food.
  • Sugar and sugar substitutes. Fake, real, or what have you, something sweet is added to many different products that wouldn’t even necessarily call for it. Not only am I looking for this culprit, but where exactly it is on the ingredient label. Remember, the higher up on the list, the more it makes up that particular product.
  • Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). Holy yikes! They are in EVERYTHING! It’s hard to stay away, especially because they are labeled as so many different things, but chances are most of the items in your grocery cart contain them. There are organizations and companies out there who will provide labels on their products if they do not contain GMOs, such as the Non-GMO Project.
  • Enriched vs. Unenriched ingredients. Enriched flour, sugar, etc. is processed so that it is stripped of any nutritional value, but is made to have a longer shelf-life and a more concentrated flavor.
  • Artificial food dyes. This is an issue most people don’t necessarily think about. Artificial food dyes are in many foods that you wouldn’t even think of: marshmallows, pickles, chocolate pudding. Not only are most of them petroleum based, the chemical make-up can cause a whole mess of health problems. Although they may be FDA approved, in many other countries a warning label is required to inform consumers that there are unnatural food dyes added.
  • Grass fed vs. not; farm fresh vs. not; organic vs. not.

It baffles me that we must become our own educators when it comes to our food. Many people won’t. We put faith in a system with little question, because we don’t think it would fail us to the point of allowing harmful products to be obtained. That’s just wishful thinking. It’s not about the good of the society anymore; it’s about marketing and target audiences and pretty colors and enhanced flavors. It’s about the money. Bottom line. Priorities have certainly become skewed, and we’re supposed to fall victim unless we have the audacity to go beyond what we’re being sold and dig a little deeper. And I do.

As a recap, these are some of the places I got my information, education, recipes, inspiration, and motivation.

Documentaries

Books

Websites (blogs, recipes, etc.)

Additionally, when I first started this journey, I set some goals for myself. I feel I have accomplished and exceeded even my own expectations. They included:

  • Become more familiar with the vegan/vegetarian community
  • Gain an appreciation for a strict plant-based diet
  • Actually cook a few recipes from the cookbook
  • DON’T CHEAT
  • Be an inspiration (hopefully) for those interested in trying it
  • Learn – I feel like this will be happening a lot
  • Have fun!

I have most certainly learned, become appreciative, and had fun throughout this challenge. It wasn’t all easy and wasn’t all hard; it was an adjustment. My mom has told me she has started reading labels more carefully when she goes grocery shopping. I’ll count that as being an inspiration. Who knows, maybe I’ve struck something in someone else along the way, too.

What now? Honestly, I’m not quite sure. What I do know is that I will be making more educated decisions about what I eat. I also intend to severely limit my meat and dairy in-take going forward. My new goals are to buy local (when possible), stay educated about what I’m eating, continue to read labels, cut out what my body doesn’t need, eat clean, and make choices that will benefit me in the long run. Armed with information, I plan on applying it as much as possible when it comes to food choices.

Whether vegan, vegetarian, or omnivore, it’s important to educate yourself about what you’re putting in your body. If I am to take one thing from this entire experience, that would be the meat tofu of it all.

Vegan Diaries – Comfort Zone

Originally posted on http://shrinkingjeans.net

vegan diaries

Well that’s it. It’s over. I officially give up on this vegan challenge and lifestyle. Sayonara veganness, welcome back meat and dairy!

APRIL FOOLS!

I just couldn’t help myself. *Chuckle*

All joking aside, week 3 has probably been the toughest week so far in this challenge. Not due to a waning enthusiasm for all things vegan, not due to overwhelming cravings for pork chops or cheesecake, and not due to peer pressure or arguments against veganism. It was due to little things here and there that added up over the course of the week: my boyfriend decided he couldn’t hack the vegan lifestyle (proving once again that women are the stronger sex) and went back to eating ‘normally;’ I went to a family dinner that displayed homemade chocolate-chip cookies and cheese-and-meat-laden dishes; above all, I was ridiculously sick and in dire need of comfort food (and an exquisite compilation of cold and flu medication). When I think comfort food, I think hearty, homemade, stick-to-your-ribs food that satisfies some innate insatiable hunger for said dishes, which, somehow also make you feel better no matter how crummy you feel or sick you are. Miracle food, if you will. The problem with most ‘comfort food’ dishes is that they have some combination of meat or dairy in them. I attempted to combat the comfort food stereotype and create versions that maintained the vegan credentials. Therefore, there will be no ‘Eat Of The Week,’ but instead:

Comfort Food(s) Of The Week

Let’s start with the Italian-turned-American-defining dish that can be tailored to innumerable desires, satisfy the pickiest of eaters, and hold its own in the comfort food category: Pizza. There are few and far between who can turn down a piece of piping-hot pizza straight out of the oven, bursting with gooey cheeses and a plethora of delicious toppings, creating a perfect harmony of sweet, salty, and savory flavors delivered directly to your taste buds. You can be as creative or simple as you’d like with pizza, which is one of the love-evoking characteristics. For vegan pizza, there are a few caveats: thou shalt not have cheese, pepperoni, sausage, ham, canadian bacon, buttered crust, or fake-ground parmesan for topping. There are thousands of homemade pizza recipes online. I (sadly) did not take a picture of the final product, but this is essentially how it went down:

  • Homemade whole-wheat, seasoned, agave drizzled crust
  • Arrabiata sauce (now we have sweet AND spicy) – ‘doctor’ up your sauce however you’d like
  • Sautéed portabella mushrooms, spinach, and onions with olive oil and Italian seasonings
  • Sliced white onion, green and red bell peppers, olives, tomatoes
  • Garnish/top with a little sea salt, fresh spinach (you can let it wilt on the hot pizza), basil, and if you’re like me red pepper flakes

I actually didn’t even miss the cheese!

While pizza is a nice start to some comfort food-filled days, there’s one thing that I kept thinking about over and over again.

Homemade macaroni and cheese.

I grew up spoiled. We rarely had mac n cheese out of a box; it was always a deliciously creamy 3 to 5 cheese dish of baked goodness that my mom ruined us with. Others rarely compare, and the boxed stuff is just out of the question. I even made it as my ‘American’ homemade dish for my Peruvian family when I studied abroad. That and guacamole. Separately, of course. They LOVED it! But, I digress. Cheese is nixed from the vegan food pyramid, so I went searching the web for ideas. I found one from Chef Chloe, whose cookbook I bought, and decided to give it a go. It had great reviews and sounded delicious.

Vegan Mac ‘N’ Cheese

I followed this recipe exact, not knowing exactly how these ingredients worked together. The resulting product actually looked like mac n cheese, so that was very exciting! As I dug into my pseudo cheesy noodles and broccoli, delicious as it was, I was a little disheartened. Don’t get me wrong, it had great flavor and texture, but it definitely left something to be desired for the cheese factor. Pushing aside the inclination to compare it to the mac n cheese I’m used to, I embraced the noodle dish I had created. It would be a great alternative for those who cannot have cheese. For those who can but are looking to try something different, go for it, but think of it as a new dish altogether, and not necessarily as the mac n cheese that you’re used to.

macncheese

Vegan Mac ‘N’ Cheese

Of course, with comfort food you have to factor in something sweet, and, preferably chocolatey. I found a recipe for a vegan chocolate orange pudding, which fit in line with the comfort food theme. I have never been a fan of jello or pudding (I think it’s a texture thing), but the combination of orange and chocolate kept me coming back to the recipe. It’s about trying new things, so why not?

Chocolate Orange Pudding

The recipe turned out to be a complete disaster, so I’m not even going to post it on here. I dug deep and bribed my inner Betty Crocker to come save me on this one. The final product actually turned out beautifully. This is essentially what I did:

  • 1 ½ ripe avocados
  • Almond milk (unsweetened)
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Agave nectar
  • Orange zest
  • Garnish with small orange slices
  • Refrigerate for at least 1 hour prior to servingchoc orange pudding

Forgive the vague measurements – I literally have NO idea how much of everything I put in there. Like I said, I started from scratch since the recipe led me down the pudding path of Hell (glimpse: fake vegan chocolate chip explosion in microwave, insta-drying to vegan chocolate cement). I do know that I put A LOT of agave nectar to sweeten it. You could use whatever sweetener you’d like. You could also start out with sweetened cocoa powder – the unsweetened stuff was all I had. Additionally, I put the avocado, almond milk, and cocoa powder in the blender to smooth everything out. I added the agave nectar and orange zest separately and mixed everything in a bowl. It turned out so creamy. I would say it made about 3 cups of pudding total. Oh, and HOLY CHOCOLATE GODS THAT’S GOOD!

Eye-Opener Of The Week

DIVE!

This 54-minute documentary takes us in to the world of wasted food. Directed by Jeremy Seifert, this documentary follows a group of dumpster divers who routinely get their food from big name grocery chain dumpsters, and exposes the wastefulness of the American consumer, grocery chain, and producer. In America, 96 billion pounds of food are thrown away every year. That’s about HALF the food that gets produced. “We pressure supermarkets, hotels, restaurants, and corporations to Save More and Waste Less. We highlight the role of hunger, poverty, and waste in society and take this on as an issue of justice, ethics, morality, and common sense. We imagine a world of empty dumpsters, full bellies, and regular people leading sustainable lives.” Seifert attempts to explore hunger in America, the amount food waste, and the large gap that could be closed as a result of wasted food ending up in hungry hands. He talks with food banks that acknowledge they have an annual food shortage, and continually strive to feed those in need. While many grocery stores and chains have agreements with food banks, that’s not always the case and there are many clauses and circumstances that create, what should be an easy process, a convoluted one. This award-winning film is literally an eye-opener to a world of waste that rarely comes to the forefront of current societal issues, and up until now, to my mind.

Director Jeremy Seifert is planning to launch another documentary this year that focuses on GMOs and the companies behind them. With the current controversy surrounding Monsanto, as well as GMOs in general, this film is sure to spark the interest of many. Check out the trailer here.

With a tough week behind me, I can keep my focus strong on the next 2 weeks of this challenge. Sometimes the desires of comfort and familiarity can be a learning curve that force us to think a different way. And sometimes that way is out of our comfort zone.