Tricks and Treats! Mostly Treats!

Happy Halloween!!!  as you can imagine, this is my favorite time of year!  i had planned to go big or go home this year… so i pretty much went home.  i knew october was upon me but all i’ve been able to think about is november and getting the nursery done (which it still is not).  so while i skimped on the decorations, totally neglected to make the hanging muslin ghost lights for the tree outside, and am still debating if i’m going to make the “future zombie killer” maternity shirt (since i waited too long to order the prosthetic to make the Alien chestburster shirt)- i refused to forgo the treats for trick-or-treaters!  this holiday is fun for all ages but it’s really all about the kids in my opinion.

every year i try to do something special.  one year my roommate used construction paper to make sturdy gift bags with jack-o-lantern faces cut into the front and lined with more paper.  several of the bags were constructed to have moving parts like tongues flicking out and arms moving.  they were really adorable!  we filled them with several novelty candies, stickers, and toy whistles.  i was so giddy when half an hour after the bags started going out, we started hearing whistles sounding all over the neighborhood!  oh bet parents and teachers were loving us that week!

living with my parents for three years, i didn’t get to celebrate the candy part of Halloween.  their home is in an older established neighborhood where there aren’t a lot of kids.  i think in those three years, we had a total of 6 trick-or-treaters.  also, the town’s central shopping center hands out candy at all of the stores early in the evening before the sun has even disappeared.

my love of traditional trick-or-treating is so great that i have already informed my husband that our daughter WILL go door-to-door in our neighborhood asking for candy.  he got excited too and insisted that she have a pillowcase for her collections!  fine by me!  OR she can carry a plastic pumpkin like i did OR i can even make a really cute trick-or-treat bag for her and I’LL carry the pillowcase that she can dump her treasures into every couple of houses or so.  for both of us, the memories we have of trick-or-treating are some of the funnest most exciting ones we have, we want that for our daughter, and i want to help create those memories for other kids every year.  WE’RE BRINGING TRICK-OR-TREATING BACK!

so this year i wanted to do a full size candy bar and a Halloween whistle for every ghoulish visitor.  i was really looking forward to hearing those whistles start going off around the neighborhood.  however, budgets being what they are and a baby on the brain, i had to modify my plan.  with some small delicious changes, this year’s treat bags were created.  and i’m quite proud of them!

Here’s the break down:

1. 25 pack of Halloween jack-o-lantern treat bags from The Dollar Tree (complete with 20 twist ties… yes… just 20.  that’s like 8 hot dogs and 6 buns!  why???)

2. a variety of candy.  we bought 2 variety bags of 95 peices each for $8.88 at walmart.  we have lots of extra candy left over for any ghosts, pirates, princesses, or zombies that show up after the first 25.  each treat bag comes with 4 pieces of candy: reeses’ peanut butter cup, crunch bar, whoppers, 3 musketeers, hershey’s chocolate, butterfinger, or kitkat.  every bag has a whoppers in it because there were so many!

3. a fiendish halloween pencil.  the one pictured has skulls running down it.  purchased at the 99 Cent Superstore in packs of 10.  since i need more twist ties for the final five bags, i’m going to pick up some accordion straws with skulls for those bags as they come in packs of 5.

4.  the final product.  tip: put the pencil or straw in the center of the bag so the twist tie can be wrapped around it for extra support!  well… at least I think i’m clever!

5. have to brag… freshly painted purple wall in nursery 🙂

6. adorable doorhanger skeleton bride and groom i bought last year before the wedding.  intended to use them to hang on our chairs but didn’t end up doing it.  so now they are my models.  don’t they look like they belong on ANTM!?  they haven’t eaten in years either and look at those figures!

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No Guilt for Starting to Get Healthy

i try to be healthy, i really do!  but most of the time it just doesn’t really work out.  i’m a pretty sedentary person who enjoys unhealthy food.  i also enjoy the way i feel when i exercise and eat well and understand why i should do both more often.  but i have weak will power and a lifetime of bad habits to combat.  i used to feel guilty about all of this.  not so much anymore.  it’s who i am, what i am and i will just always be one of those people who struggles with this.  i’m not ashamed and nor should i be.

but knowing this about myself, i also know that i need to work in healthy choices in to my lifestyle.  being pregnant has really given me motivation to do that, especially now in the second trimester.  i eat a lot more fruit now, which i’ve always enjoyed doing but just didn’t do!  part of that is because of all of the conflicting things i’ve heard about fruit.  south beach says not to eat too much because of the sugars, other sources i’ve heard that it’s best to avoid high sugar fruits such as bananas.  and then, like every other food the health experts talk about, i’ve heard information that conflicts with this; i’ve heard that any and all fruit you eat is good for you for various reasons.  the vitamins, the minerals, the antioxidants, the good sugars, the good fats, and the full calories as opposed to empty ones.  weight watchers now allows any and all fruits for 0 points and encourages at least 5 servings a day.  that right there is the philosophy i’ve tried to go with on my fruit consumption: whatever i want, as much as i want, just make sure i get a healthy variety to maximize the potential health benefits.  i even accept fruit juice into my diet now for the vitamins and minerals, and i try to get the “no sugar added” varieties when i can afford them.  unfortunately i’m still not getting as much as i should be but i’m getting a hell of a lot more than i was 6 months ago.  it’s a start, and i can’t feel guilty for starting.  oh and did i mention, fruit can be damn expensive!  a bag of grapes for $5 that i’ll eat in a day and a half?  are you kidding me??

favorite breakfast: sandwich bread toasted, layer of peanut butter, layer of cottage cheese, and banana slices. finish the banana and add a glass of orange juice. i use whole grain toast then i get protein and calcium from the cottage cheese, more protein from the peanut butter, and lots of goody vitamins from the banana and oj.

i am in the same boat with vegetables.  i take em where i can get em!  whatever i want, whenever i want.  unfortunately i want them a lot less than i want fruit!  such a sweet tooth!  but i am finding my ways.  for instance, the sandwich i’m going to share (which is my current favorite meal) has tomatoes and spinach.  i also do not shy away from products like pastas that claim a serving or two of vegetables.  if that’s what it takes.  you may recall i posted about Kraft Veggie Mac ‘n Cheese.  as i said, i have no shame for making good attempts.  could i be doing better?  yes, and i know that.  but i am already doing better and this is just a beginning.

any bread toasted (this is ciabatta but i’ve also used bagels and sandwich bread; they’re all good with these toppings), mayo, mustard, 2 slices cheddar cheese, 2 tomato slices, baby spinach (about 10 leaves pictured), and phony baloney (fake meat). when i use the toaster oven, i will throw the cheese on one half of the bread and toss it back into the oven to melt, mmmmmm! eat with fruit! i love spinach! it’s a total super food! and if you reduce the cheese, you also reduce the fat and calories but it’s cheese and i’m only human!  also, you could lose the mayo entirely, use light or fat free, or butter instead.  i use mayo just because it’s been a craving lately.  better than braaaaaaaains!

my other downfall is exercise.  i don’t do nearly enough of it.  i didn’t when i wasn’t pregnant, and i don’t now.  actually if anything i’d say i do less now.  when i got married, my husband and i bought bikes and were building our stamina.  i think we had biked as much as 8 miles in one trip (to, around inside, and back home from the zoo).  we biked to the farmer’s market on saturday mornings, to the library for books, to the post office, to restaurants, and down around “the green belt” (a section of connecting parks and golf courses that runs through scottsdale).  and we didn’t necessarily stop when we found out i was pregnant.  oh no!  my intention was to continue and build more stamina.  we wanted to work up to eliminating the need to drive to any place within 3 miles of our home (first goal).  but then my ob told me to take a break from the biking for a couple of weeks.  i’ll have to ask my husband if he remembers exactly why.  i remember i had a cyst on my ovaries (that has since gone away; perfectly normal) and due to a LEEP procedure in october 2011 they have been very watchful of my cervix.  but i don’t feel like either of those were the reason.  oh now i remember!  the placenta had not yet attached itself to the uterine wall and they didn’t want me doing anything strenuous.  by the time it had attached and i was good to go, i wasn’t so good to go anymore!  the extreme fatigue of first trimester had set in.  one day we went for a ride and i actually cried because i was so frustrated and knew i was frustrating my husband.  i just didn’t have the energy in my legs to peddle, we weren’t very far from home at all, and my husband was VERY keen on going like we had done previously.  i just couldn’t do it.  by second trimester i had lost all get up and go.  it didn’t help that i’d been told that i shouldn’t start any new exercise routines; anything i hadn’t already been doing, except walking a few times a week.  that was my excuse!

well today i said no more!  NO MAS!!!  after about an hour of fiddling with different devices capable of playing DVD, i settled on my laptop.  i popped in a DVD i had purchased in the first trimester, “Denise Austin’s Fit & Firm Pregnancy.”  i only did 20 minutes which is the length of the entire “second trimester” workout routine but it felt lovely!  it was a slow speed so i could keep up, the stretches were comfortable but felt deep, and denise gave tips for how to do the exercises at varying levels of intensity depending on comfort level and ability.  the DVD also includes a cardio routine that looks doable and gives tips for workout during all 3 trimesters.  in addition to this, last week my husband and i started walking around the mall 3 days a week in the mornings when he gets home from work.  this is arizona… it’s hot… so yes i do the mall walk like a senior citizen and those grannies and grampies can out walk me i tell ya! so i decided to create for myself an exercise plan; goals.  i may only have 16 weeks to go, but it is never too late to start being healthy.  from what i understand, it is safe to exercise right up until the 40th week but  i’ve marked that week off as a week of rest; we’ll see how i feel then.  again, if i’m too tired in parts of the third, i won’t feel guilty for backing off from my plan.  some is better than none and doing what my body says is best for my baby is always going to be my best bet!

the plan:

after week 28 it all looks the same.  walking 3 times a week, 3 days of strength routine, and 3 days of cardio and not all in the same day but spread out over the week so that almost every day i can be sure to be doing something active.  each time i complete a planned activity, i will clear the cell of color so i know it’s done.

so this was a very long post, and if you stuck with me through it, thank you!!  what little things do you do in your life to bring in a little bit of the healthy?  any food suggestions or exercising suggestions?  especially once the baby is here, i’ll need quick and dirty (fast and healthy hehe), suggestions??  please comment below!

Garlic Avocado Bread to Knock Your Brains Out!

i’ve noticed that i post a lot about food, almost exclusively!  i guess we can all tell what i’m passionate about.  hey its either food or my cats (and soon my daughter!), take your pick!  cooking is what i missed most during the first trimester.  my older sister loves to cook and is much more dedicated and better at it than i am.  she finds gourmet recipes, buys the ingredients even the exotic ones, and puts together fantastic dishes.  in my family she’s known best for her baking – cupcakes, my favorite rum cake, cookies, bars – Christmas dinner isn’t finished until we bring out her deserts.  but she cooks a lot of savory recipes as well and i’m so excited when she shares them with me!

she’s always been attentive to what i eat.  i find it amusing now but that wasn’t always so.  i mentioned the rum cake she makes, its my favorite and has been since i was a little girl.  she often makes it for Christmas and the first year or two that she brought it over (rum balls one year too!) i would always have a slice (or two and some extra glaze scooped up on my finger!).  then one year, i think i was about 12 years old, she brought over the rum cake and i spent the entire day walking by it with a line of drool hanging off of my chin.  i couldn’t wait to get dinner over with and dig into a slice of that cake!  i was more excited about the cake than i was presents!  dinner ended and, after an agonizing half hour of coffee and chit chat, dessert was brought out.  the rum cake sat on the table, glistening with yummy goodness.  the glaze ran down the creases of the bundt cake, the cake itself moist with the flavoring it had soaked up, and the glaze covered the glass plate in a pool of sugary white love.  my mom and sister began passing out the desserts and when my sister asked me what i wanted i immediately asked for a slice of rum cake.  then my heart broke.  she looked at me and said, “oh honey, that has alcohol in it and i’d really be more comfortable if you had something else.”

um… WHAT???  this was never an issue before!  our parents didn’t care!  quite often on holidays they would even allow me a quarter or half glass of Beringers White Zinfandel with dinner, which more often than not, i would end up giving to someone else after a couple of sips.  hey once wine got room temperature, i wasn’t interested.  anyway, i was so angry!  my parents hate confrontation so they told me to just roll with it and pick something else.  i did, and pouted.  when she and her husband went home that night, she left the rest of the cake behind for my parents.  as soon as the door closed, i looked at my mom and said, “please?”  she said of course and i got my delicious slice.  i’ve never been denied that cake since.

as a kid, i thought this was incredibly unfair and i didn’t understand where she got off!  as an adult, i still think it was overkill but i realize now that my sister was trying to look out for me.  yes the alcohol cooks out, but she had used a lot of rum that year and wasn’t sure it had all cooked out.  she was near her 40’s at the time and going through a period she later described as trying to be more like a mother than a sister to me.  something she later said she regretted.  but with that age difference, its actually endearing that she would be so concerned even if it wasn’t necessary.  it was love.

now she seems very intrigued with my being a vegetarian.  i don’t think she fully understands that it isn’t eating meat that i’m against.  it’s the practices within the mass meat industry.  i’ve recently discovered kosher meats and CSA (consumer sustained agriculture) farming and may eat meat again myself.  i’ve even decided that i won’t necessarily raise my children vegetarian so that they aren’t limited when they stay with family.  i’ll raise them to respect life and when they’re older, they can make their own decision.  i’ve never thought that meat didn’t taste good (except corned beef one year… never again!).  sometimes i even crave it and i was so excited when Jack-in-the-Box released a bacon flavored milkshake!  no actual bacon in the shake or the syrup but it had the taste and it was bacon-rific!  but that’s another tangent!

anyway, the perk of her interest is that she often comes across vegetarian and vegan recipes, even if they aren’t labeled as such, and passes them on to me.  and never has she suggested anything that didn’t sound amazing!  and that held true this week on Facebook when she sent me this message:

OMG, you have to try this recipe: 4 slices of rustic bread (we use pugliese from Safeway/Raley’s), lightly grilled or toasted. Rub the hot bread with a clove of garlic. Scoop out the insides of a very ripe avocado onto the bread. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt. Drizzle lightly with good EVOO. Sprinkle with crushed red pepper, to taste. It is to die for! You can’t eat it just once. We made it last night and Uncle Stan [what i call my brother-in-law] just came and asked me if we had any more avodaco, and we did!, so we are having it now.
I used a really good EVOO from Italy that Fr. Jeff gave me for Christmas; I sort of hoard it for the special things.

i ran to the grocery stores and immediately sought out bread (small french bread loaf from Trader Joes), an avocado, sea salt, and garlic cloves.  the rest i had, who doesn’t have EVOO and chili pepper flakes!  granted my EVOO isn’t of the quality she used, but it does well.  this afternoon, i threw the bread in the oven at 400 (left it in for either a bit too long, or it was too hot but it dried out a touch on me) then covered it in the rest of the ingredients.  i used the entire avocado cuz that’s how i roll (get it… roll? bread roll?  *rimshot*)

it looked so pretty, that i had to take pictures and get it up here to share!  and it tasted great!  i’m eating the whole loaf to myself since my husband doesn’t like avocado.  what’s nice too is that i don’t have to feel guilty about eating this.  everything on it is healthy for me and the baby.  sure there’s a lot of fat, but it’s the healthy fat which is so much better than the Cheez-its fat i’ve been eating lately!

this bread makes a great lunch or appetizer for company.  i’d like to try it with spinach, cheddar cheese, parmesan cheese, and/or tomatoes.  i bet it makes a great sandwich and if you eat meat, it probably would go great with a little sliced turkey and swiss!

UPDATE 8/6/12: elsewhere in the wordpress.com blogosphere, a more detailed recipe for this deliciousness has been provided by salt and serenity.  read it here!  detailed pictures and steps provided 🙂

Kraft Veggie Mac ‘n Cheese

for a vegetarian, i admit i eat like crap.  i’m a carb addict.  my staples are breads, pastas, and cheese.  carb, carb, fat.  i try to eat whole grain when possible but more veggies on my plate would still be a better way to go, and i know it!  i love most veggies so why don’t i eat more.  well the answer is easy, i’m not very good at making them and prepping them is tedious (not the first time i’ve admitted to being lazy!)   i can steam em, sauté em, even grill em.  but plain veggies are still so boring.  covering them in cheese isn’t really a healthy solution though it’s my go-to.  butter; not better.  i know the right sauces can add some flare, but i don’t know how to make those sauces off hand.  so i get disillusioned with veggies and i end up not making them nearly as often as i should.  bad vegetarian! bad!  someone should roll up a newspaper and slap me on the nose when i cook!

so how can i get more servings of veggies without feeling put out, annoyed, or frustrated at my lack of skills in that area? Kraft Veggie Pasta & Cheese. you can look at it as “hiding the vegetables” if that’s what you want to do, but i see it as awesome!  i see it as finding an opportunity to fit yet more vegetable servings onto the plate and cut down on useless regular simple carbs.

the noodles in kraft veggie mac ‘n cheese are actually made out of cauliflower flour!  right there i get a serving of vegetables.  now is that enough to live on?  should mac ‘n cheese become my new staple?  no of course not!  but i don’t see how it can NOT  be beneficial when paired with more veggies.  for instance, tonight was mac ‘n cheese with green beans.  normally i would have done broccoli on the side, but i had none.  and i could easily pair the mac ‘n cheese and broccoli with tofurky sausages or morningstar farms riblets for a fun summer bbq meal.

now i’ve read some blogs where people have complained that if you “hide” the vegetables to trick your kids into eating them, then you aren’t teaching them good eating habits and how to make good decisions.  when i was a kid, my mom cooked just about every meal with sides of vegetables, and usually additional carbs.  spaghetti with meat sauce, broccoli, green beans, and cheese bread.  the point is the veggies were there, and i ate them.  i didn’t have to be tricked or have them hidden.  i liked them, i ate them.  yet still as an adult i make poor eating decisions when it comes to creating my own plates.  furthermore, i feel a lot of very busy parents often end up giving their kids simple meal fixes (such as just mac ‘n cheese) or at least whatever will elicit the least fight at dinner time.  for those who are going to do that anyway, why not make it something they’ll eat that has a little extra nutrional value to it.  if it’s that big of a deal to you, then after your kid eats it and expresses liking it, tell them the secret.  it’s also okay for kids to think that food they actually enjoy, and see as a treat, can be good for them as well.

so boil up a box, pair with a salad and some steamed veggies, a little protein AND ENJOY!.

Baked Chik’n Salad

this weekend is memorial day weekend.  this three-day weekend holiday is set aside to remember and honor all those brave men and women who have fought, been injured, or died fighting for our country.  it is also a favorite weekend for backyard barbeques, drinking, and swimming.  it’s a weekend that we all bask in the beautiful weather of spring and await the lazy burn of summer (you can tell by my language that i’m in arizona!)

yesterday, our friends threw a grilled pizza barbeque.  i love when people mix tradition (bbq on this weekend) with something new and totally unique (pizza instead of burgers… sweet!)  and perhaps most inspirational of all, they made their own dough and sauce and used the fresh basil from their yard. *droool* best pesto ever!

i was so inspired by their industriousness that when they asked folks to bring snacks to munch on, i decided to make this Baked Chik’n Salad from Morningstar Farms.  everytime i’ve made it, it’s been a hit! but as you’ve probably no doubt devised, i’m a little short in the confidence department and this endeavor was no different.  i’ve made it for picky friends, a picky husband, and my critical (but loving) family who have requested it a couple of times now. but this weekend i was making it for people who MAKE THEIR OWN DOUGH AND SAUCE!  i mean come on!  they can cook! and the rest of our crew can have discerning tastes as well.  add to that still feeling like the newb of the bunch, i don’t want to make anyone start asking, “Oh no! What fresh hell has she cooked this time??”  well this time was no exception… everyone who tried it said they really enjoyed it.  WOOT!!  it feels good to have the approval of more than just my too-polite-to-say-otherwise parents and husband!

the best part is… it’s vegetarian! can be made vegan, but the vegan mayo AND shredded cheese were just too expensive for my budget this time around.  but i’m eager to try it in the future!

you’ll notice a lot of blue text below.  as always i was very careful to follow the recipe exactly… NEVERRRRRR!  zombies don’t follow RULES! we use our BRAAAAAAINS!

Baked Chik’n Salad

(MorningStar Farms) 

Ingredient List

Serves 6

1 package MorningStar Farms® Chik Patties® Original
2 cups diced celery (i doubled this recipe except for the celery.  it had PLENTY of crunch without it)
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/4 cup diced pimiento
1/4 cup diced green pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
1 cup shredded American cheese, divided (i use cheddar, mild this time… i’m a cheese snob and can’t stand to cook with american “cheese” aka orange plastic)
1 1/2 cups reduced calorie mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup crushed potato chips (i used lightly salted.  it still tasted great and reduced the amount of salt for those with high blood pressure)

Directions:

1. Place MorningStar Farms Chik Patties, celery, peas, pimiento, green pepper, and onion in large mixing bowl. if your patties have just come straight from the freezer, i suggest removing them from the packing and letting them sit on the counter while you dice the rest of the vegetables.  though the directions don’t call to do so, i chop up the patties first before mixing everything together.  if they aren’t thawed a little then they are way too rock solid to get a knife through easily!

2. Combine 1/2 cup of the cheese, mayonnaise, salt, and lemon juice. Add to MorningStar Farms Chik Patties mixture, tossing to combine. Place in shallow 2-quart casserole coated with cooking spray. i forgot the cooking spray but with all that mayo, it wasn’t an issue… it almost slid out of the casserole dish in the car!

3. Bake at 350° F about 30 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Sprinkle with chips and remaining cheese. Return to oven and bake 10 minutes longer or until cheese melts. Serve hot. i sprinkled chips, cheese, then more chips.  also, it’s not necessary to meassure the chips, just do to taste and add enough to give a crunchy top.

Some more images to feast your eyes upon:

And it’s been awhile since I last saw you…

wowza!  i haven’t posted anything since march 5th!  what up wit dat??  well there’s been A LOT going on.  well really there’s been ONE major thing going on but that one major thing has had a ginormous impact on my life.

I’M PREGNANT!  yes, this zombiewife is going to be a zombiemommy!  i suspected in march but found out for certain on april 13th.  at that point i was 8 weeks 5 days!  hearing the heartbeat was the most beautiful sound i’d ever heard in my life.  however, i had a few pregnancy symptoms in, what i felt, was extreme abundance.  primarily exhaustion and sickness.  oh man i was tired ALL THE TIME the first couple of months, and even now i have a hard time staying up past 9:30pm regardless of how late Big Kitty lets me sleep before waking me up for 3rd or 4th morning feeding (my kitties in their mature ages are providing me with lots of late-night-wake-up-for-feeding practice).  i haven’t yet thrown up but that’s been more of a matter of will power than sensation.  i HATE HATE HATE vomiting.  and so even though i’ve had a lot of nausea, and felt like i could throw up many times, i haven’t done it.  that means a lot of laying on the couch or in bed moaning and groaning.  but, nearing the end of the first trimester, its subsiding a bit.  so combine the constant nausea with the debilitating exhaustion, and you have one zombie who hasn’t wanted to make the effort to post a thing!

add to that the fact that i’ve had no motivation TO DO anything.  i’ve hardly cooked in the last three months.  mostly, if we’ve eaten at home at all, its been boxed mac ‘n’ cheese or frozen food from trader joe’s, which, btw, they make some awesome polenta dishes!  and the gorgonzola gnocci… YUM!! so sad that i’m not allowed soft cheeses LIKE gorgonzola anymore 😦

remember the Vegetable Wellington i made in february to practice as a possible Easter dinner?  well i bought all of the ingredients again, and on Easter… i was too sick and tired to make it!  double 😦  we ended up having mac ‘n’ cheese i believe.  i later found out i’m not supposed to have goat cheese so it was a good thing i skipped.  okay let me just say, i know its UNpasturized cheeses i’m not supposed to have.  and as long as the goat cheese is pasteurized i can have it.  but this is my first… goat cheese isn’t worth the risk.  no matter how herby and creamilishious it may be… mmmm!

however, i did make Mexican Wedding Cookies for a Cinco de Mayo pot luck we attended the other day.  now let me just start by saying i am not a baker.  so this was definitely a learning experience, but it turned out to be a rewarding one.  if you aren’t familiar with these cookies, they are dry but kind of melt in your mouth, filled with chopped pecans, and covered in powdered sugar.  i found a recipe on kraftrecipes.com that looked fairly easy with few ingredients and steps.  i wanted to make the cookies vegan because i knew most of the attendees would be vegetarian, and one would be vegan.  as i’ve said before, i hate being the only vegetarian in a group of meat-eaters and feeling left out.  so, since she is the only vegan in the group, i didn’t want her to feel left out when it came to desserts.  so i discovered Earth Balance which makes a couple of butters and margarines without any animal products (fish oil, whey, etc).  however, Albertson’s didn’t carry Earth Balance but i did find Smart Balance Light which had no fish oil and no whey… yey!  i bought my ingredients and got to work.

first of all, if you decide to use margarine, don’t use tub margarine!  i didn’t know this and found out the hard way (though it still turned out okay).  i followed the recipe pretty much (except i forgot to divide the powdered sugar and i didn’t coat the cookies in powdered sugar).  when i had all of the ingredients mixed, my batter seemed too runny to “form into 1″ balls” so i added about 3/4 cup of flour and a splash of vanilla.  that did the trick!  so i formed my balls, stuck them in the oven, and pulled them out at 15 minutes.  still looked raw inside and not yet browning.  hmmmm… another 5 minutes?  10?  a total of 35 MINUTES cooking and they finally seemed done through.  the uncooked dough in the bowl had also developed droplets of oil like a cheese pizza.  i frantically texted my sister who bakes all the time and provides the desserts for all of our family gatherings.  per her suggestion, i popped the dough in the fridge and resolved to never use tub margarine in place of butter for baking again!  too much oil!!  after that the balls still took 25+ minutes to cook but what other choice did i have??

on the way to the potluck, we stopped at Food City to pick up some “authentic” mexican baked goods just in case my cookies didn’t go over.  well guess what??  our friends LOVED my cookies and didn’t even touch the store bought stuff!  i was so flattered and surprised!  now imagine how good they would’ve been if they’d been done right!!  sorry i don’t have any pictures of the finished product… i ate them all! 😛

Loving Hut – Restaurant Review

my husband and i loved going to a restaurant called “Veggie House” while we were dating.  it was a great vegan place with delicious lemongrass “chicken.”  but a couple of years ago they sold out to vegan restaurant chain called Loving Hug.  we were wary at first, afraid they would totally change the menu.  while they made a few tweaks and parred it down a bit, they still offered our lemongrass chicken.  so we gave it a shot and loved it!  the sage lemongrass chicken is just as fantastic done by Loving Hut.  we also have ordered the potstickers and the wontons, both are also deliciouuuuuus.  so if you have a Loving Hut near you and are considering trying it, GO! go now!  vegan chinese food that never misses!