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Archive for December, 2011

This Christmas was really nice.  I hope everyone enjoyed it as much as I did.  It was a time to say Hello New Life and Goodbye Old Life (well I’m getting there…tiptoeing remember?)  Grill King gave me two gifts in particular that go far in the Hello and Goodbye category.  I do not know if he realized it or not, but it could not have been more perfect.

Grill King, aka my husband Scott, is usually the one that gets slammed on my blog.  That is because he is the biggest carnivore I know, is always with me and I get to see him when he is going meat crazy.  This behavior occurs when he has gone without hooves, beaks or varmints for a few days.  Imagine a polar bear after walking 100 miles with no seal in sight.  Get the picture?  You either run or you just get out of the way because there will be meat pieces flying everywhere.

Anyway,  my Hello New Life gift was a Vitamix!  Excitement does not even begin to cover it.  This is going to make my new journey towards veganland fun and easy.  I am so excited about the things I am going to create with this baby!  Today I made fantastic smoothies for the whole family.  Tomorrow I’m thinking butternut squash soup since I have 2 of them currently begging to be cooked.  I’ll let you know how that turns out.  I am armed with a vitamix cookbook and I am ready to roll!!!  I am also ready to experiment on my family.  They will either love me or run for the porcelain god.  Either way, I’ll be having fun.

My Goodbye Old Life gift was Norman Love Confections.  They are by far some of the best chocolates in the world.  They are all handmade.  They are beautiful.  They are sinfully mouth-watering delicioso!  You almost do not want to eat them because you don’t want to disturb perfection.  With names like Roasted Almond Truffle, Peanut Butter Banana, Mango, Florida Orange, Hazelnut Cream, Cranberry Orange, Eggnog, Passion Panna-Cotta, and Java Jingle to name a few, one cannot help oneself and slowly the chocolates disappear but not without being washed down by a glass of wine.

The kids look over at mom and ask to have one.  The answer is NO!  Go eat your Herseys or Reeses.  Kids do not appreciate fine chocolates or at least mine do not.  They throw the whole thing in their mouth and it’s gone in 2 seconds.  Not good.  Chocolate like this is to be savored and really tasted one small bite at a time.  This is how I am currently treating my box of Norman Love Confections.  With Dairy about to exit my life, I am savoring, enjoying, and spending a great deal of time saying goodbye.

I want to share with you a picture of these chocolates.  Actually, it is almost hard to even call them that.  They are so much more!  If you allow yourself to have such treats, you will never go wrong with these.  I realize I sound like it’s time for the men in white coats to come take me away, but this will be a hard one for me to give up.

Norman Love Confections....Oh So Good!

Another great gift I got that I am really excited about is a cookbook that my neighbor gave me.  I will blog about this later after I make something from it.  I have to purchase something first in order to really make the most of this cookbook.  I gotcha wondering, don’t I?  Stay tuned.

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Ok, first let me say that these were Oh So Yummy!  My kids downed the first batch within minutes.  As I took a bite, my daughter looks at me and says, “You can’t have these, they’re not vegan.”  As I chewed that bite I said, “Oh yes they are honey!’  Disappointment crossed her face.  I don’t know if the disappointment stemmed from the fact that she was loving a vegan dessert or if it stemmed from the fact that she might have to fight me for the last few on the plate.

My mom turned me on to this recipe.  The original called for things that my tiptoeing towards veganism journey wouldn’t really allow (butter, honey graham crackers).  So what’s one to do when one is on the road to veganland?  Take that recipe and veganify it!

I love when things turn out good.  The original recipe called for pecans but I used walnuts instead.  I like that walnuts have that extra heart health thing going for them, but if you have pecans instead of walnuts, then use them.

One of my favorite things to do when in Savannah, Ga. or New Orleans, La. is eat homemade pralines.  These two cities can do pralines like no other.  They also do some of the best seafood in the world.  How I am going to ever give that up, I do not know.  Hmmmm…I wonder can I become a part time vegan/part time pescatarian vegetarian when I am someplace that has killer seafood?  I do realize though that my pralines days are numbered and so I am thrilled to have found a vegan alternative.

These are super easy and can be made and consumed within about 20 minutes.  They get crunchier if you let them completely cool and are excellent the next day.  Makes a great and yummy food gift.

First take your graham crackers (Nabisco Original Grahams are “Accidentally Vegan”), break them apart and line them up side by side single layer on a jelly roll pan.  Fill the whole pan.

Mix together 1/2 cup of non dairy “butter” (I used Earth Balance) and 3/4 cup brown sugar.  Heat together till melted and bubbly.  Remove from the heat and stir in 1 tsp vanilla.  Let sit for about 1 minute.

Spoon the mixture on top of the graham crackers and spread it around.  Then sprinkle about 1 cup of chopped walnuts all over the top.

Place in the oven, bake at 350 degrees for about 7 minutes or until things start looking a little bubbly in there.  Remove from the oven, let sit for a few minutes, then transfer to your platter or to your mouth, which ever you prefer.

These are so good warm.  If you let them completely cool, they become crunchier and are super good this way too!  They also go great with a glass of almond milk.  Santa might even prefer these to his regular cookies.  Enjoy!

Vegan Graham Cracker Walnut Pralines...YUM!

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Well, my great big family Christmas party has come and gone.  It was a very nice evening that was over too quickly.  I’m not sure if it is even possible to explain my family and all the stems, fingers, and leaves that make up our somewhat erratic family tree but just for fun I think I will try.  After that I’ll explain the food situation and the fact that if I was a full fledged vegan, I would have starved to death.  If after reading this, you understand who everyone is, than you are better than we are.  Still to this day, at every Christmas Party, I look up and say, “Who is that?”

Our family is very large and sometimes people do not always make it.  Newbies are placed at the end of all family photographs, that way if they don’t survive the cut they can be easily cut out of the photo.  Laugh all you want but I have no doubt that we are not the only crazy family who partakes in this ritual.  Grill King and I have been married for over 16 years.  He is confident in this relationship because he finds himself somewhere in the center of the photo.  If his position changes to the outer limits…well that’s the time to worry.  For years, my mother had a photo of me on her refrigerator.  She thought it was a good shot of me.  However, there was an arm behind the back of my chair with no body attached.  The missing body was that of an old boyfriend who never made it to the center of a photograph.  A few snips with the scissors and my mom still had her photo.  Never mind the bodiless arm!  According to my mom : “Well, it’s such a nice picture of you and who’s going to notice an arm?” Oh, only EVERYONE !

Now, let’s begin.  I’ll start with the three sisters which are my mom (Rachel), my Aunt Eleanor and my Aunt Sallie.  By the way, my Aunt Sallie and my Aunt Eleanor were not happy with their photograph in my previous post.  My Aunt Sallie said it was the worst picture ever of her and Aunt Eleanor wasn’t thrilled with the whole cleavage thing.  Please note though that not many women in my family would be welcome at the small boob association meeting.  So my point of view is be happy with what God gave you until you can afford to have it changed.

Aunt Sallie’s contribution to the family is the simplest.  She married.  She had two children.  Those two children had children.  She divorced a long time ago and decided that being single suited her much better than picking up after someone (can’t blame her there).  Her contribution to the family is 7.

My Aunt Eleanor’s contribution to the family is a little more complicated.  My Aunt Eleanor married and had two children.  These two children (my cousins Stefanie and Steve) have since married and also have had children.  Steve married a girl who already had one child.  That child is now married and has three children.  Steve and his wife have two children of their own.   Stefanie and her husband also have two children.  Their daughter has a boyfriend who has made it to the last two Christmas Parties.  This year he walked out with some of the cash from the money game.  Hence risking bodily harm!  After two years, he is moving his way to the center of the photo.  Stefanie’s husband is a very nice guy who comes from a very nice family.  He is also secure because he is often in the middle of pictures.  Once his security was established, his parents and sister started coming to the family Christmas party.  His sister has two children and we have been friends since the 3rd grade.  His mom and dad always bring great food and his dad smokes the best turkey you will have ever put in your mouth.  I did not not have any this year for obvious reasons.  Grill King ate 1/2 of one of the turkeys.  There were three.

Now back to my Aunt Eleanor who divorced many many moons ago.  She remarried a wonderful man who had three children.  All three of these children have significant others and they all have children of there own.  You keeping track here?  Now, not only are his children nice and I guess they would be my step-cousins? but his ex wife is also a nice lady so she and her husband also come to the Christmas Party.    So between my Aunt Eleanor, her husband, and their extensions, we have a contribution of 25.  Usually about 4 of the 25 do not make it to the party due to living out of state.

Now on to my mother, who is to never be outdone by her sister Eleanor.  My mother married my father.  They had my sister and I.  My sister and I each married and had two children.  My sisters two girls are adopted from China.  You would never know that because when they open their mouth it is all southern.  Now, my sister and her husband divorced several years ago and my sister just remarried this year.  How she managed to find the great guy that she did, I’ll never know.  He too has worked his way  inward from the outer limits of the photographs.  He has four children.  My sister and her new husband are now a family of 8.  We call them the Brady Bunch.  All 6 children range in age from 13 down to  10.  Three of which are triplets. 5 girls and the youngest a boy.

My mother and my father divorced when I was young.  Luckily for my sister and I, our parents knew how important they both were to our lives and they made sure that both of them were a big part of it.  Also lucky for us, my mother ended up marrying my stepdad who has always treated us as one of his own.  They have now been married for 31 years.  To our family he brought 4 children.  So, I have two stepbrothers and two stepsisters who have all married and have children.  My Stepsister Kim who is no longer married brought her new boyfriend to the party.  This was my first time meeting him and already he made a big impression because he actually read a post in my blog.  My mom and stepdads contribution to the family is 30.  However about 7 of those 30 usually do not make it to the Christmas party because they live out of state.

Now my Grandmother who was the greatest woman I have ever known had a sister named Eleanor.  My Great Aunt Eleanor who was also a great woman, is not to be confused with my Aunt Eleanor.  My Great Aunt Eleanor had two daughters (my mom’s first cousins).  One makes it to the Christmas party every year.  She is married, has two children, and one of them is married with two children.  The other lives out of state and every once in a blue moon makes it to the party.  She has two boys who are both married with children.

I think I should mention the fact that my mother also has a brother.  My Uncle has always been married to the same lady.  They have two boys who are both married with children of their own.  They are never able to make the Christmas party because all of them live out of state.  There are more of us but I think it’s time to stop. I am getting myself confused.

With such a huge family it’s amazing but no “intermingling” has ever occurred.  We may be southern but we do draw the line somewhere.  Ok, well that’s not exactly true.  When I was researching my family history several years ago.  I found out that my Great Great Grandparents on my mother’s side were cousins.  Hmmmmm…maybe that’s the situation from which all of this has stemmed.

So our family Christmas party usually ranges somewhere between 40 – 60 people, depending on who shows up and who brings a guest.  There are kids everywhere.  It’s crazy.  It’s loud.  It’s wonderfully fun!

Now about the food.  With all of those people, you would think that there might be one vegetarian/vegan in sight.  NO CHANCE!  I was the only one currently tiptoeing towards veganism.  Eyes were all on me as if the carnivores were waiting on their chance to pounce if I took one bite of the oh so good smoked turkey.  Thankfully I have not completed my journey towards veganism or I would have starved.  Looking at the table, the only thing available for a true vegan was a fruit tray and some celery.  Even the salad had cheese in it.  I did not let this stress me but it was an interesting observation that if I plan on eating next year, I had better fix several dishes myself.  I went ahead and ate all the glorious food except for the meat.  I am sure that somewhere in a few of the items I ate, there was egg.  If you remember, I gave up eggs about a month ago.  I didn’t exactly see any eggs but I’m guessing they were hiding in something I ate.  My Aunt Sallie again brought her homemade chocolate pie and swore to me that no egg went into the piece I ate.

My family are not the shy type.  When there is a table of food around we do not stand around waiting for someone to first approach it.  We are the first to approach it!

I stood back and watched my family fixing their plates with all the same foods that I had but their plates included things like ham, turkey, meatballs, chicken wings, sausage thingys and more.  Then I watched them eat.  Basically I would compare it to a pack of wolves who have just made their way into a rabbit burrow.  There were hooves, beaks, and varmint pieces flying everywhere.

Grill King was in heaven eating as much meat as one could pack in for the evening.  Which reminds me, I better check his pockets.  He also received lots of attention and condolences from all my family members.  It was as if his real wife had died and in her place  stood a non-meat-eating-alien-vegan-monster.  Yes, I should have brought some bark in a bowl!  If I’m not careful though, I may find myself at the end of the photographs.

After the holidays I plan to take another step on the yellow brick road to veganland.  I will be saying goodbye to most dairy.  I am thinking I may allow myself coffee two mornings a week.  You see my coffee is more like a dessert and consists of flavored coffeemate and whipcream.  Once I get use to my other dairy being gone then I’ll work on the coffee thing.

The good news is I have 11 months before Thanksgiving and 12 months before the next family Christmas party.  This gives me plenty of time to turn into a full fledged vegan alien who has a will made of steel and who will not cave even for her Aunt Sallie’s homemade chocolate pie.  Aunt Sallie and I are going to have to get together and work on a vegan edition of her pie.

Check out the food below and try to find something a vegan can eat.  Good luck.  I should have taken a picture of the dessert table.  Yes there was more food!

FOOD

MORE FOOD

Now for another picture of the three women from which this family stems (hopefully they will approve of this one).  If not, I’ll hear about it.

Aunt Sallie, Aunt Eleanor, and Mom (Rachel)

Wishing you all A Merry Christmas.  Hopefully you will get to enjoy your family as much as I get to enjoy mine!

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My family Christmas Party is this weekend.  When I say family I mean Aunts, Uncles, Cousins (first, second and third) and everyone that is married to, connected to and spawned from.  It is a huge family event that we have every year.  I always look forward to it because some of these people I do not see all year.  I have a close family and instead of dreading family events, we have always looked forward to them.  My cousins and I grew up like brothers and sisters.

Santa makes an appearance every year and brings a gift to all the young ones.  Us not so young ones end up playing some sort of money game which usually turns out hilarious with some guest of a distant cousin walking off with the jackpot while the rest of us try to decide who is that?  and should we beat them up outside and take the money back?  You think I’m kidding?

The food is always really good.  Everyone brings a dish.  Usually it’s a finger type food.  We also have turkey or ham and some side dishes.  There is always tons of food which brings me to the whole reason for this blog.  I had an interesting phone call today.  It was from my Aunt Eleanor.  The party is at her house and she calls to see what I am bringing.  Now I’m wondering… is she calling everyone else to see what they are bringing or just the one who is currently tiptoeing towards veganism.  You gotta wonder here because most of my family is a little freaked with the whole vegan thing.  I’m starting to think that they picture me digging up roots in the yard, chowing on them, and then hugging a tree while I sing Kum ba yah.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that (remember the Seinfeld  episode).  

First my Aunt Eleanor asks me what I’m doing, then she brings up the kids and the Christmas Party.  Next thing out of her mouth is what do I plan on bringing?  Then the real reason for her call escapes her lips, “I don’t want you bringing any vegan food.”  As if Vegan food is different from say….normal food.  Honestly, I’m thinking about going outside, pulling some bark off of one of the trees and throwing it in a beautiful christmas bowl just to see what happens!

Actually, I had no idea what I was bringing because here’s the deal:   Saturday morning Grill King and I have to be at a swim meet with my kids on the West Coast of Florida too early to fix anything.  When that swim meet is over, Grill King and I have to race home, get ready and be on the East Coast of Florida for the Christmas Party that same evening.  It is going to be an exhausting day.  My thought was that instead of bringing something that I had to fix, I would just pick something up.

My Aunt asked what I brought last year.  It was brie, crackers and red pepper jelly which by the way is super yummy and since I have not yet given up dairy (though I have cut it back big time), it was doable again.  It’s super easy and I happen to have everything I need to do it.  I may not eat it myself but at least the others will enjoy it.  This satisfied my Aunt who hung up thinking she had just saved the Christmas party from some bark and leaf salad.

Now I am somewhat ticked because if I had time I would make a fabulous vegan dish and not tell anyone.  Then after they devoured it and asked for the recipe, I would tell them IT’S VEGAN!!!!  But what’s a girl to do with no time.  I do have tomorrow but unless something easy pops into my head, I guess I will bring the brie.

Next year though, my plan is to arrive bearing many delicious vegan dishes.  Somehow, I’ve got to change the vegan phobics in my family and help them to realize that just because it’s vegan does not mean that it tastes bland or yucky.  So basically the same group of people who have encouraged me  in my journey towards a healthy heart are fine with it as long as it doesn’t interrupt their eating ritual of bacon, butter and biscuits.  Hmmmm…..I wonder what their cholesterol is?

Below is a picture of my mom and Aunts.  My mom is in the middle, my Aunt Eleanor is on the left and my Aunt Sallie is on the right.  Three beautiful ladies whom I have the privilege of being related to.  Now, if only I can serve them some yummy vegan food that would make their mouth water and make them ask for seconds.  It could happen!  Just give me time.  I’m new at this.

Aunt Eleanor, Mom (Rachel), and Aunt Sallie

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I recently cooked plantains for the first time.  I don’t know what took me so long to cook them myself.  I grew up eating them often.  I ate them “Cuban style”.  The ones I cooked were “Jamaican style”.  There is a difference.

I grew up in a small town with a pretty decent Cuban population.  Going into a friends house was always a treat because I could get fantastic dishes like black beans and rice, yucca, and plantains.  We also had a couple of cuban restaurants that were very good. Two of my best friends are Cuban and when we get together for our once a year girls weekend (yes at 43 I still meet with my high school girlfriends once a year; there are 7 of us),  the “Cuban” who lives in Miami comes bearing fabulous authentic cuban cuisine and pastries.  They are to die for good.  Anyway, Cubans wait for the plantain to get black on the outside.  Basically they look really rotten.  This however makes the plantains sweeter.  They cook theirs in lots of oil (vegetable, mazola, whatever).  Those things are usually pretty greasy and need to sit on a paper towel for a while to drain.  They are sweet and they are delicious.

In the last couple of years and thanks to a friend, I have been having plantains “Jamaican style.”  I actually prefer this style because it is less greasy and just seems healthier while still maintaing that yumminess.  Jamaicans cook their plantains when they are still yellow but with lots of black spots.  Basically they look like a banana that is getting rotten.  They are easy to cook. You just cut the peel off and slice the plantains.  Place some coconut oil in a pan, just enough to cover the bottom.  It must be coconut oil because that makes it taste sooo good.  Fry the plantains on one side and once they are brown, flip them to the other side.  The coconut oil will caramelize the plantains and give them a fantastic flavor and color.  Nothing else is needed.

Plantains are in the banana family.  They are starchy though and low in sugar when compared to a banana.  Plantains are eaten more like a vegetable while bananas are eaten as a fruit.  Plantains have thicker skin and are usually longer than a banana.  Plantains are a good source for potassium, vitamin A and vitamin C.  They are high in fiber and carbohydrates.  Plantains are usually fried or baked as they are unsuitable to be eaten raw.  They keep their shape when cooked.  I have not tried to bake them but I think I will try that next.

Plantains go great with just about anything.  They passed the “Grill King” test and the “kid test”.  Even my picky eater enjoyed them.  My son, who I now refer to as the “Golden Child”  because he eats every vegan thing I  put in front of him, really liked them.  Treat them like a potato and pair them with your favorites.  Enjoy!

Plantains perfect for cooking.

A plate of fried plantains - "Jamaican style'

Plantains served with fresh green beans and brown rice.

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So the other evening the tribe decided they wanted hamburgers for dinner.  Uh Oh!  I love hamburgers or at least I use to.  I knew this would be tough. Grill King was absolutely thrilled to have that grill smoking.  It must be a man thing.  I personally believe his happiness stemmed from the fact that he was not only having meat, but that the kids would be joining him on his favorite ritual of stuffing a cholesterol laden animal part into his mouth.

I raided the fridge to see what I would have in place of hamburgers.  I found a portobello mushroom, an orange bell pepper and an onion.  I gave the top of the mushroom, a big slice of the pepper and the onion to Grill King and asked that he grilled them along with burgers (as long as they didn’t touch the burgers.)

Then I proceeded to make some hummus for the spread.  I used my basic hummus recipe which I must say is quite yummy.  The basic recipe is usually the same.  I just switch up the flavors depending on my mood.  This time in my hummus I added two big handfuls of fresh spinach and 1/2 cup of sun dried tomatoes instead of the roasted red peppers and portobellos mushrooms in my hummus recipe.  Now, about this hummus –  It was delicious, however, it was not pretty.  The spinach and sun dried tomatoes gave it a color that fell somewhere in between chicken poop and a dirty baby diaper.  Not a pretty sight.  So my advice is to not serve this at parties.  Save it for sandwiches and spreads where you and those close to you are the only ones who see it.  I took a picture of it but if I showed to you, you would go ewwww and might run for the bathroom.

When the vegetables are grilled to perfection, take the bun of your choice and lather it up with the hummus then pile on the onion, the mushroom and the pepper.  Don’t forget some lettuce.  Place the bun top on, press it all together and chow down.  I thought I would miss the hamburger but I did not.  My portobello mushroom burger was fantastic.  I did not miss out on any of the taste just the fat and cholesterol.  Gotta love that!

Served with the burgers was some roasted home fries that started as an experiment and ended up darn tasty.

3 medium potatoes, diced

Coat potatoes with 1 -2 Tbsp of olive oil or the oil of your choice, or even cooking spray

Then sprinkle with salt, pepper, garlic powder, dried chopped onion, and chili powder

Stir around so all potatoes are coated

Bake at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes.  YUM!

Portobello Mushroom Burger with Roasted Home Fries

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When I first decided to start tiptoeing towards veganism, I searched the internet looking for vegans and recipes.  Much to my surprise, there are tons of you people out there.  Thank you is all I can say.  I have stumbled upon many blogs and websites for and by vegans and I have found some killer recipes to try.  To think that I was actually worried about what I was going to eat is almost laughable now.  Some people have even found me first which is always a huge surprise.  Hear I am with only a handful of followers (you can count them on your hands, and 1/2 of them I know so I’m not sure that counts) and someone with hundreds of followers suddenly finds my blog and lets me know because either they decided to follow or clicked the like button.  It is very humbling and I am filled with gratitude every time it happens.  My husband aka Grill King doesn’t understand the thrill of Someone Found Me!  Which I occasionally shout throughout the house with a big smile on my face.  Not too long ago, someone from across the pond found me.  I nearly peed my pants.

One of the first websites/blogs I came across was www.happy-vegan.com which is now called www.the-real-meal.com.  Allysia’s website has tons of recipes and vegan information.  Since I was new to veganland, it was a super nice surprise to find her.  Recently I made her Creamy Roasted Cauliflower Soup.   Let me just say that it was so super yummy and I will most definitely be making it again.  Soon in fact with the weather finally getting a nip in the air here in South Florida (yes I know, there are many of you with snow already on the ground and I’m talking about a little nip in the air.  BRRRRR.  Don’t know how you guys do it.)  If you are interested in making this easy and mouthwatering soup, just zip on over to Allysia’s place and check it out.  You won’t be sorry.  Anyway, this fantastically fabulous soup goes great with a salad.  The two together make a perfect meal.

Actually, it makes a perfect meal for me and most other people who are not into eating hooves, beaks and varmints.  Grill King on the other hand had a hoof of some kind laid up next to his soup & salad.  I think I saw it move.  Not a pretty picture.

I was a little nervous about serving cauliflower soup to the kids or at least to the picky one.  Cauliflower is usually not in the gotta have it food group that my kids have created in their heads.  No worries there, the soup passed the kid test, even the picky kid test.  My son actually asked for seconds.  He has been the easiest one so far because he will pretty much try anything and could careless if there is a chunk of meat on his plate.  If it tastes good and there is plenty of it, he is happy.  Check this soup out:

Creamy Roasted Cauliflower Soup

Now go make you some.  I promise you’ll make it again!

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