Vegan Manicotti

With my plate pretty full from working during the week & getting used to my daughters school routine, I’m on the hunt for some fast & easy dinners… So are you, right?!  Most days I work until 5:30-6pm, so I love a good homemade meal that I know the kids will eat AND that I can whip up fairly quickly. Kids or no kids, one can never have enough recipes like that in their possession!

In my experience, most kids – and some adults – are finicky eaters (one time they love something and the next time they wont touch it!) so I get really excited when I make something that my kids really love EVERY time. It is so comforting to know when they are going to bed with a nice full belly! Here’s a few links to some of our favorite family meals that are fairly quick to make: fettucini no-fredo, biscuits and gravy, soysage casserole (prepared ahead), homemade vegan mac, pancakes/waffles (sorry no direct link, theres too many to choose from!), pot pie, homemade pizza… &  spaghetti with meatballs!

My family loves this tofu ricotta! I love it for a few reasons – it is fast, it is versatile (it makes several meals – lasagna, manicotti, ziti), the dishes can be made ahead or frozen, & its  healthy- the ricotta is full of protein (tofu) & vitamin B-12 (nutritional yeast), two things that are especially great for vegans. In fact, I think this ricotta just so good that I keep putting off trying vegan ricotta using cashews, a recipe I’ve been meaning to try FOREVER! I’ll get around to it soon, it’s just that Vegan Gourmet Soy cheese is very accessible to me and I personally think its delicious. I have never tried to make this ricotta recipe with Diaya, but I’m sure it would be yummy too. Let me know if you try that!

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Vegan Manicotti

Manicotti is super easy and simple. The hard part is stuffing the noodles without splitting them! (Be sure to cook up lots of noodles cause they split fairly easily.) I think the best, fastest & most attractive way to achieve this is to use a pastry frosting piping bag or making your own by cutting the tip off the corner of a large freezer-ziplock bag. You can also just stuff jumbo shells if you prefer… They are easier to fill, but I find them messier overall. (TIP: Another quick meal to make with this ricotta is making baked ziti – cook & drain ziti noodles and just stir it all together (ziti noodles, ricotta, and sauce), shred some more cheese on top and bake it up!)

You will need :

  • 9×13″ baking pan
  • 1 jar of sauce
  • 1 batch of Tofu Ricotta (recipe below)
  • 1 box of Manicotti Noodles (Ferrara is what I usually use)

1) Make this tofu ricotta in a food processor. Blend all ingredients but pulse the basil in last, if you are using fresh basil.

  • 1 block tofu (I like to use extra firm)
  • 1 cup shredded vegan gourmet mozzarella, packed
  • 1 cup soymilk
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice (fresh is best!)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil – pulse in last! (2 tsp – 3 tsp if using dry basil)

2) Cook noodles according to box. (Mine cooked about 8-9 min.) Take the noodles out of the boiling water when they are done and lay them on paper towels to wait until they are cool enough to handle.

3) Spread a little sauce in the bottom of your 9 x 12 baking dish. Now fill the noodles carefully with the tofu ricotta by spoon or piping bag (I recommend the piping/ziplock bag method).

4) Arrange the stuffed noodles side by side in the pan. Cover with sauce and bake 25 minutes at 350 F. That’s all there is to it!

Serve with fresh garlic toast or bread. Mmmmmm! So easy and satisfying!

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The proof is on the plate… or in this case, an almost empty plate!!

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Arlo in action! Chomp! Chomp!

I cant even tell you how happy I am now that I found my camera!  Blogging recipes isn’t as much fun when you can’t share the visual of the finished product! More to come very soon! 🙂

Sesame Sweet Marinated Tofu

(First  A Quick Note from Your Vegan Neighbor:  Hi everyone! Please forgive me for being away so long – unfortunately during the move I misplaced my camera! I know its around here somewhere & I am one box away from coming across it & I will fill this post with pictures asap! I’m glad t0 be back! As always, feel free to send me suggestions for future posts or Dinner & a Movie ideas!)

I wish I could’ve shared this gem earlier in the summer! I was gonna call this recipe “sweet sesame marinated tofu”, but my kids love this recipe so much, we decided that flipping the words to sesame-sweet made a better name – because now they tend to call it “sesame stweet tofu” 🙂

My daughter just started kindergarden… I really can’t believe it. The time I part-dreaded/part looked-forward-to has finally arrived! Sending off my girl into the big world… It’s a big step for her and a dose of reality for me. My baby is growing up and a new chapter in her life – and mine – is beginning. I’m getting the hang of waking up at 6 am and making her lunch, getting her dressed, fed, ready… Some mornings I feel like I am in school too!!

I struggled with the idea of homeschooling, which I find wonderful for many reasons, though I think my daughter is one who will thrive in the social environment of which modern day public school is… Plus she’ll have access to some things that aren’t as accessible to me daily (computer lab, science equiptment, my undivided attention for 8 hours).  Now that I’m working outside the home anyway, I’m not home as regularly to teach her as public school can!

(By the way, making a packed lunch that is healthy & exciting to eat is an art that I am trying to master! I’m intrigued by these bento boxed lunches, but haven’t ventured there yet. When I do, you’ll be the first to know! Right now, I’m just packing her favorites and keeping it healthy!)

I wanted to make this recipe because my daughter LOVES snacking on these straight from the fridge. They are an excellent quick go-to healthy snack for anytime, such as right after school or while dinner is cooking! They are also an excellent topping for salads… a great way to incorporate a little extra protein (and hey, maybe get your kid to try a salad)!  I strongly recommend using the firmest tofu you can find. I like to use bulk tofu, which is usually super firm!

Sesame Sweet Marinated Tofu

makes 16 squares

  • 1 block extra firm tofu
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp brown rice syrup
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 2 Tbsp tamari
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil (add last * see directions)

Turn the tofu on its side and slice the tofu in three slices lengthwise. (I cut down the middle first then cut each side in half carefully). Then lay the tofu flat and cut vertically and horizontally, turning it into 16 squares.

1) Using a large nonstick pan, lay out all 16 squares of tofu.

2) Add all of the other ingredients (except the sesame oil) right on top, drizzling the brown rice syrup and sprinking the ginger over the squares, then cook on med-high heat, jiggling your pan occasionally. Once you see the liquids cooking down some, flip your squares over carefully, then continue cooking until most liquid is gone.

3) Lower heat to low-medium and drizzle the 1 Tbsp sesame oil over the top. Cook until only slightly wet. Let cool on pan for several minutes after cooking, then refrigerate until ready to use. Store with any extra “sauce” and refrigerate.  Eat right from the fridge or on top of a salad! Before serving on salad, cut each square diagonally (making two triangles).

This tofu accompanies this Nori Sesame Dressing like a dream come true! Keep refrigerated & eat frequently!

Don’t you… Forget About Me!

Man… living in todays modern world with no internet connection is ROUGH… I havent had an internet connection since mid-March… Long story… I will say that I just moved and I havent had the chance to get my internet hooked up yet, but I hope to have it and my blog up and running again by next week. (Im at work on a break right now!) Im bummed that I have really missed some good holidays and opportunities to share recipes. Obladi, oblada, life goes on! Man, I miss you guys & I hope you have missed me. So, here’s to next week! I’ll bring the food! 😉

Nori Sesame Dressing

Wow… Spring already? Boy is time flying… and there has been a lot going on at your vegan neighbor’s house lately, which has been making things seem to move along even faster. Most recently, I started working at an awesome little shop downtown. (In fact, it was my first job in town when I moved here 13 years ago!)  It’s great to be back again (despite being away from my kiddos) because I really loved working there and being downtown. I reluctantly let this job go when I got hired to work as the bread baker full-time at the Green Scene Baking Company (a vegan bakery/restaurant), which is no longer in business… not because the food wasn’t great, but because the owner decided to move to California and become a nutritionist! I’m sure all of Athens misses the Green Scene – I know I do!

Anyway, I apologize for not posting for so long – I promise it’s not a sign of things to come!! I just needed some time adjusting to my new schedule and some other changes. And now that I’m a working mom (*all mom’s are “working moms” but what I mean here is outside the home), I will be able to relate more easily to those of you in that position, and I’ll try to post more recipes that will help make dinner simpler for everyone! That said, I am more than ready to start sharing some of my favorite spring & summer recipes with you!

Nori Sesame Dressing

This salad dressing may be familiar to those of you who have actually eaten at The Green Scene. It was one of the most popular salad dressings and was served on a mixed greens salad. (picture coming soon!)

Mix in food processor until clumpy:

  • 3 sheets Nori (look for this in the Asian section of your grocery store)
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup toasted sesame seeds

Then add:

  • 1/2 cup brown rice syrup
  • 3/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup water (I usually add > 1/2 cup, but you may choose to add the other 1/4 cup if you desire a thinner dressing)
  • 3/4 cup sesame oil (drizzle in slowly, last!)

BLEND ~ BLEND ~ BLEND

Apply to greens (with salad toppings of choice) and DEVOUR!

Potato and Vegetable Stir-Fry (compliments of The Grit)

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This meal is truly one of my favorite things in existence.

Ahhh… the Grit… If you are ever traveling near Athens GA, you would be wise to check it out. The Grit is one of my all-time favorite vegetarian restaurants, one of where I am never disappointed. I could eat there every day of the week and never tire of it. This is one meal that I order every time we go out for breakfast or for weekend brunch.  This recipe is featured in the Grit Cookbook.

This makes 8 servings, so feel free to halve it! It really makes a lot (even a half batch), which is awesome since its great for breakfast, lunch or dinner! I like to serve mine over brown rice with a side of toast (or a biscuit) and grits.

The Grit’s Potato & Vegetable Stir Fry

  • vegetable oil
  • 2 pounds boiling potatoes, such as round white, round red or Yukon Gold, peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes (I prefer using small red potatoes, scrubbed well and unpeeled)
  • soy sauce
  • 1 cup button or crimini mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and thinly julienned
  • 1 small head cabbage (preferably red) shredded or sliced thin
  • 2 small yellow squash, quartered and cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 2 small zucchini, quartered and cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, cut into thin strips (or red bell pepper)
  • 1 small or 1/2 large onion, cut into thin crescents
  • nutritional yeast
  • 1 batch of golden tofu
  • brown rice, or rice of choice… this could also be served over quinoa!

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1) Prepare golden tofu and set aside.

2) In a large non-stick skillet (or wok) coated with a minimal amount of vegetable oil, saute potatoes over high heat until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle lightly with soy sauce as they cook. Set aside.

3) Stir fry mushrooms until tender and golden around the edges, about 3 minutes. Add vegetables, pepper and onion. Using minimal oil and sprinkling lightly with soy sauce, cook until vegetables are crisp-tender and somewhat seared, about 3 minutes.

4) Return potatoes and golden tofu to skillet and stir to mix with vegetables, then add nutritional yeast to taste and toss to cover completely. Serve over brown rice. Devour!

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I apologize… I could’ve taken a prettier picture, but we could barely wait to eat!! I basically threw it onto our plates and served it right up –  without our usual sides of toast and grits! Mmmm! Sometimes you just cant wait for a good thing!!

Homemade Pita Bread

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As much as I love baking bread, I admit that I let my bread baking skills slack off majorly the last few years after my kids were born… I guess I felt that I didn’t have the time to bake fresh bread with a newborn… then I found another excuse when the toddler age stuck. But don’t fool yourself like I did. All you really need to make some kind of awesome homemade bread is a few minutes here and there.  The actual hands-on action (especially for loaves) is surprisingly minimal and you will find that fresh bread is worth the extra effort. Also, not only is homemade bread made to order & delicious, I personally feel a sense of real accomplishment serving and eating bread that I baked!  I am hereby swear I am going to bake more bread!!

I have a Kitchen-Aid mixer with a bread hook, which is totally worth investing in. I use mine often, mainly for making bread dough, pizza dough, cake batter and cookies. Mine was a gift from my husband (thank you, Steven!)… And no, I’m not one of those women who get offended getting kitchen items as gifts – in fact, they are among my favorite gifts to receive because I truly love to create things in the kitchen! If you don’t have a bread mixer, you will have to knead the dough by hand… but don’t frown just yet – and I speak from experience – this makes for some killer arm toning!!

Somehow, this was my first time making homemade pita pockets. I was so pleased at how simple and delicious these were! I think now that my family knows I can make these, I’m in real trouble! Next time, I’m definitely going to mix in some whole wheat flour to make them a little less white-bready tasting. We are usually whole wheat/mixed grain people over here… with occasional local sourdough 🙂

I mistakenly poked holes into the pitas with a fork before baking… Oops. I think I was remembering when we made pita-pizzas at a bakery where I used to work, not pita-pockets. My holes caused the dough to not poof out completely, so I ended up having to cut the insides of my pitas apart with a knife (which still worked fine… they all came apart easily). Anyway, you live and you learn, right?! So, unless you are trying to make pita-pizzas, don’t poke the dough with a fork!!

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Oh, and please don’t let the long instructions below deceive you! Sometimes I have a tendency to over-explain things! It’s really quite simple! I should mention that my kids were dying to help roll out the dough into pitas! If you don’t want little hands helping, you better set them up with some playdough and let them make their own “pitas” 😉

HOMEMADE PITA POCKETS

  •  2  1/4 tsp of jarred yeast – I used Fleishmans  (1 envelope of quick rising yeast should be the same amount)
  • 1  1/2 cup very warm water, plus extra for warming the mixing bowl*
  • > 1 tsp sugar
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (I used unbleached bread flour, but next time I will be using whole wheat flour for half of this amount)
  • 1  1/4 tsp salt

* First warm up your bread bowl by letting it sit full of hot water. Now, pour 1 cup of very hot water into a large measuring cup and then add cold water to fill it up to the 1  1/2 cup mark. Sometimes I have to dump some water out to add more hot or cold water until the temperature is “just right”, which to me means you can stick your finger in it, it feels pretty hot, but it’s not going to burn you. If the water is too hot, the yeast will die. If it’s too cold, the yeast wont grow.

1) Dont forget to dump your bowl-warming water before you add your measured water!!  Now, pour in your measured water and sugar.  Stir.  Add yeast. Wait 2-3 minutes. Your yeast should start to look frothy/foamy. That means you did it right!! YAY!  (If nothing happens after several minutes, your water was either too hot or cold or your yeast is dead. Try again!)

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Foamy looking areas means you are good to go!

2) Add about half your flour and add the salt and turn on the mixer. Then gradually add the last half of the flour as it begins to mix. It may look sticky or dry, but just let it mix around a minute to come together. (At first, mine looked sticky but then it came together well and I didn’t have to add any more flour or water.) Let it mix 5- 6 minutes on medium speed. I like to turn up the speed a little faster at the end for about a minute. The dough should be smooth and elasticky… A good dough feels a little sticky but comes out of the bowl pretty cleanly. It shouldnt be acting like gum! It should feel more like soft warm slightly sticky play dough! 🙂

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Here is my finished dough ball. Nice and soft.

3) Put dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. (I did this right in my mixing bowl, pictured below.) Let rise in a warm draft free place until doubled in size. This took my dough about 45 minutes. The dough is ready when you poke it and the indention remains. If it bounces back out, give it a little more time. It may take an hour or more if your kitchen is cold!

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I picked up my dough, oiled the bowl and then put the dough back in there, covered, to rise.

4) Punch it down and roll it out like a rope so you can cut it into 10-12 pieces. I made 12 but my pitas were pretty small. Form balls with the dough. Sit the balls on a floured surface, cover with towel and let rise another 10 minutes. (Bakers tip: shaping the balls can be very quick if you take a dough ball in your dominant hand and roll it in circles against a wooden cutting board, pulling it tighter with your curved fingers as you go. Once you get good, you will be rolling dough balls in both hands at once!)

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Separating the dough and rolling it into balls…

5) Preheat oven to 500 and place your oven rack on the lowest setting. (It also helps to pre-heat your baking sheet). I hear you can also use a cast-iron skillet for this to add extra iron. I may try that next time.

6) Roll out each dough ball into circles about 5 – 6″ across and 1/4″ thick.

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Rolling the balls out into pitas…

7) Bake 4-5 minutes until they are puffy. Smash down with spatula. Flip and bake them 2 more minutes. Smash again if necessary. Repeat until all are baked.

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Ta-Da! The finished pitas!

Stuff them, use them for dipping… whatever you wish! These should freeze well (in a freezer bag) up to 1 month. They last about 1 week fresh.

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First we served these right from the oven with some baba ganoush and cucumber slices.

NOTE: They are AMAZING if you lightly brown them up on a cast iron skillet in a tiny bit of olive oil… We did that (pictured below) and cut them into triangles for dipping into baba ganoush with some shredded and sliced vegetables. You could also serve these pita triangles with hummus. Mmmm! I never knew pita making was so easy! I will probably be making these for my family several times a month!

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Homemade pitas make for a seriously impressive and scrumptious appetizer… or sandwich!

Celebrating Dr. Seuss

Hey everybody! Did you know that tomorrow is Dr. Seuss’ birthday?! If you missed it last year, you gotta try our vegan version of “green eggs and ham” (pictured below)! I think our green eggs are especially special because they are made green with spinach instead of food coloring 🙂

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Make a tofu omelet & crack a book instead of an egg!

What makes this batter taste “eggy” is the black salt (a.k.a “kala namuk”) which you can order online, or find at a health food or specialty store. (FYI black salt has a sand-like texture and is dirty-pinkish in color. It isn’t actually black.) You could always leave it out as well, but it is the sulfur in the black salt that really gives it that eggy flavor.

So… in preparation for Dr. Seuss birthday, we made something to wear for our Dr. Seuss breakfast tomorrow… just some fun cutting & pasting, which the kids always LOVE!! Drum-roll please… announcing… Cat in the Hat HATS and Thing 1 & Thing 2 Popsicle Stick Toys!! The best thing about these 2 projects is that I already had everything in our art box to make them! 🙂

To make a Cat in the Hat hat: (2)

  • 1 sheet red construction paper, cut into 1″ red strips, lengthwise
  • 3-4 sheets white cardstock (this will make the hat, the bottom part of the hat, and the headband straps
  • glue stick

First cut one hat shape out of each piece of white cardstock. Then use another piece of white cardstock for the 2 bottom parts of the hat.  Then you will need several long strips of white cardstock that you will use to tape together for the headband part (last). Cut a bunch (like 10) of red construction paper stripes.

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Your basic hat making supplies… here is everything all cut out and ready to go! (note: we did end up cutting the bottom hat piece skinnier).

Now, the fun part! Let your kids glue the red stripes onto the hat! We used a glue stick to keep it from getting bumpy from using too much glue. Make sure the kids cover the strips completely and then smooth them down well. After all the stripes are glued on, trim the excess of the edges.

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My kids LOVE cutting and pasting!!

Next, I glued the bottom part of their hats on and set them under something heavy to flatten them while they dried.

Once dry, staple 1 headband strap to each side of the bottom of the hat with 2-3 staples and fold edge slightly (I stapled vertically)… and I ran out of staples, which is why my kids arent pictured together!

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Here you can see how i folded and stapled the straps to each side, and taped the middle after “the fitting”.

Fit your hat around your child’s head and tape the straps together where they meet!  Voila! Your kids look just like the Cat in the Hat (but without all the hair!). You could even paint their faces like cats, if you so desire! I know my little cat lovin’ girl would be all about that!

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There’s a spunky new cat in town, Dr. Seuss!!

To make a Thing 1 & Thing 2:

  • 2 big fat popsicle sticks, any color will do
  • blue yarn (cut into 2″ pieces) or some blue fuzzy hair
  • some little googly-eyes
  • two small white cardstock circles to label “Thing 1” & “Thing 2”
  • craft glue
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If you have this stuff, you can make a Thing!

First glue the yarn-hair on. I did this part myself because it was a little tricky and sticky. First generously apply glue (real glue, not a glue stick) to about 1″ of the end of the popsicle stick. Lay hair across it horizontally and then generously add more glue and lay more hair vertically. Tap it gently to push it down (be careful! It gets sticky fast and then it tries to glue the yarn to your finger!). Set aside until completely dry (several hours).

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First glue yarn sideways and wait several minutes

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Now carefully glue some yarn in the other direction. Let dry for several hours!

Next, decide where you want to glue on the googly eyes and the circular name-tags. You can add a mouth, eyebrows, etc. if you want to give it an expression! Voila! Your very own Thing 1 & Thing 2 to play with… guaranteed to be less trouble than the real ones!!

(The “Things” pictured below are still drying… which is why we havent drawn on faces yet. I just placed the eyes and nametags on in different ways so you can see different ways of designing your Things!)

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At first I thought the glued part of hair would be the back… but maybe not! The first one looks more like a  “wild thing” Thing! I like him!

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You could even position their name-tags up top of the yarn. You decide how you’d like your Thing to look!

I hope you liked our crafts today, it was too cold to go out and play!  So go buy your tofu & your kala namuk… cook up a green breakfast and then go read a book! Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!!

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This little trickster cat looks ready to get into SOME kind of trouble!

P.S. I tagged this in the “Dinner and a Movie” category since there are several Dr. Seuss movies you could use this food/craft with (including the Cat and the Hat cartoon and/or the Mike Myers version)!! 🙂

Apple Rosemary Scones

Since we have a seriously enormous rosemary bush growing in our front yard, I am always wondering what I can make that includes this delicious aromatic herb. Our rosemary bush is so large, in fact,  that it is now blooming in age with beautiful purple flowers. We use rosemary regularly in pastas, sauces & in general cooking… sometimes we even place a bunch of stalks of rosemary in a jar of water to freshen up the room, but… in a scone?  I admit I was a bit hesitant to try this combination (which you can guess means made my kids extremely hesitant to try it!), but, how will you know if something is for you or not unless you give it a try, right?!  Once again, an important lesson I try to teach my kids daily comes out through baking! (One more reason to love the kitchen!)

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Who doesn’t love the smell of fresh rosemary?!

Warning: The wonderful aroma of these scones will fill up your house and make your tummy growl! These scones are perfect for spring or fall. They are light & crispy on the outside, & soft on the inside. I think they are best served warm. Add butter if you like.  If your kids are anything like mine, they love to help in the kitchen  – so send them out to help pick the rosemary… or perhaps even the apples, if you are so lucky!!

Tip: If you make big scones, you can heat them up the next day in your toaster oven, carefully cut the scone in half horizontally and add a soysage patty to make a mini biscuit-sandwich! Can you say “Wow?!” Oh sorry!… I didn’t realize your mouth was full! Mmmmmmmmmm………….. Delicious!

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Apple Rosemary Scones

  • 1  1/4 cups non-dairy milk
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 3 cups unbleached flour
  • 2 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed gently
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening (I use Spectrum)
  • 2 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1  1/2 cups diced sweet red apples (about 3 small apples)
  • 1/8 cup finely chopped fresh rosemary (or 1 Tbsp dried & crushed)
  • a little sugar for sprinkling (raw sugar or brown sugar)

1) Preheat oven to 375. Mix the milk and vinegar in a large measuring cup. Set aside.

2) Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, brown sugar, nutmeg and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl. Add the shortening in clumps, mixing in well with a pastry cutter, a fork or your hands. Break it up until it is in little pea like crumbles. Add the rosemary and apples.

3) Mix the oil and vanilla into the milk/vinegar mixture. Create a well in the center of the dry mixture and pour the liquid into the center. Mix until it is all just moistened, flipping and folding the batter this way and that, trying not to overmix.  A few dry-looking spots are okay.

4) Using a 1/3 cup measuring cup, scoop & drop the scones onto a parchment covered baking sheet.  You should get 12-16 scones, depending on the size you scoop them. Sprinkle the tops with some sugar, then bake 18-22 minutes until the tops & sides are lightly browned. Transfer to cooling rack to cool and enjoy warm! Devour!

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Apples + Rosemary = Heaven (who knew?!)

Vegan Strawberry Shortcake #2 (the yellow sponge cake version)

I don’t know if its pre-spring fever or what, but I have definitely been pretty busy the last few days… chasing the kids around the house & yard, playing with play-dough, water-painting, going on walks, trying out the new sports equipment that they got for their birthdays, etc. (We had a superhero themed birthday party this year, which I will post about later!) And on top of all the normal “busy mom” activities, I just completed a commissioned portrait. You may not remember I mentioned I was an artist… my art kinda got put on hold after I had kids. One of my resolutions this year was to start doing art again, so needless to say, I was thrilled when a great opportunity to draw a portrait came my way.  Hopefully it is the first of many to come!

Time is just flying and I can’t believe my little girl will be starting kindergarten in the fall. I guess now is the time to really make sure we “live in the moment” and enjoy the last few months of sleeping late and doing what we want all day!! Which leads me to…

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Saturday-morning Strawberry Shortcakes! I definitely have fond memories of eating strawberry shortcakes when I was a kid. (And, no, this isn’t deja vu… I posted a scrumptious strawberry shortcake biscuit recipe a while back).  Anyway, when I was a kid, we usually ate the round spongy yellow cakes with the concave center for filling with strawberries and whipped cream.  My family must have loved them because I never ate strawberry shortcakes on a biscuit until I was an adult! (If you haven’t tried my shortcake biscuits, click the link above and take a look! They are deeeeelicious!)

My husband also grew up on the yellow sponge-cake shortcakes… So, with a carton of organic strawberries calling to me in the fridge and a can of soy whip in the door, I knew it was time to try to make some vegan strawberry shortcake “sponge-cake”… and I knew the kids wouldn’t complain!

Honestly, I usually try not to make things that require a lot of sugar, but on occasion, I will allow my kids to indulge on this kind of special breakfast/dessert.  I also look at it this way: #1) I know exactly what’s in it #2) The ingredients are as simple & as natural as I can buy them… unbleached flour, raw sugar, etc.) #3) it’s not a fried donut or some kind of fast food, and #4) it contains real fruit, which we always buy organic.

Fresh strawberries are probably only one of the fruits found at your local Farmers Market. Our market starts up in March… and I can barely wait! I love supporting the local community and farmers! You can also make this with blueberries and it is just as good!

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This is close enough to “the real thing” for me! YUM!

Vegan Strawberry Shortcake (yellow “sponge” cake version)
(makes 9 squares)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 egg replacer “egg” (I used Ener-G-Egg Replacer where 1  1/2 tsp egg replacer powder + 2 Tbsp water = 1 egg)
  • 1 cup raw sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup soy milk (or non-dairy milk of choice)
  • 1 1/4 cup unbleached flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • strawberry “sauce”  (optional)

1) Mix all ingredients together.

2) Pour into a greased 8 x 8″ pan and bake at 350 for about 25 minutes until a knife inserted in center comes out cleanly. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan to a wire rack to cool completely.

3) Cut into 9 squares. When assembling the shortcakes, cut each square in half  horizontally. Layer your shortcake as desired, alternating the cake, strawberries, whipped cream, and strawberry “sauce” if desired. Devour!

I especially find that if I mention the possibility of a special weekend breakfast in trade for good behavior during the week, the kids try a little harder to be good (though I admit, when I do this, I have to remind them by saying “shortcakes” a few times a day when they start to misbehave!) And it also doesnt help that I’m a bit of a pushover for sweets! 🙂

Vegan Broccoli Cheese Grits

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I suppose if living in the south means I have to like grits, then, well, I have no problem with that!  Grits can really hold their own! They can be breakfast (a giant bowl of grits served with a side of toast is a filling & delicious meal) OR they can sit on the sidelines alongside a tofu scramble or biscuits & soysage.   If your kids like broccoli and cheese rice, you have got to try this recipe!!!

If you don’t have nutritional yeast in your pantry yet, it’s time to break down and go buy some! You wont regret it! It’s delicious! I regularly put it on pasta, popcorn & tofu, just to name a few things. Red Star is a popular brand.  Check  your nearest health food store!

I can’t believe that I had never thought of this delicious & easy addition to traditional grits! Adding broccoli not only increases the deliciousness, but adds tons of nutrients and makes the desire to add cheese obsolete! I used to melt soy cheese into my grits, but I can honestly say, THIS is the way I’m eating my grits from now on! It’s healthier and it tastes better! Win-Win! 🙂

Vegan Broccoli “Cheese” Grits

  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup corn grits (yellow or white) (please note: cornmeal is not the same thing as grits)
  • anywhere from 1/2 – 1 cup chopped broccoli (I like to use 1 cup)
  • 2 heaping Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 2-4 tsp olive oil or soy margarine (I used Earth Balance)
  • 1/2 tsp salt

1 – Combine the water and broccoli in a non-stick saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes.

2- Remove from heat and stir in grits with a long-handled wooden spoon. Return to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes.

3- Stir well, add remaining ingredients and mix. Devour!

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I enjoyed my grits with some buttered toast & “eggplant” bacon. (Note: the eggplant “bacon”
did NOT turn out as expected! Maybe its just not for me. Or maybe I made it wrong. Next time I’m using my good old reliable tempeh bacon or Smartbacon!)

I saw some new “faux shrimp” recently at the grocery store. It was NOT vegan… It contained egg or something. (It may have been the Yves brand?) It was alongside even more “faux seafood”, which I thought was pretty cool.  If you are vegetarian, you could even make “shrimp & grits”, which is one grit dish I have never had… Honestly, it doesn’t sound very appealing to me… but neither did pineapple on pizza, which is one of my favorite things! (If you ask me, the grocery stores are doing a pretty good job overall keeping up with us vegans! Of course health food stores are still the best places to find what you are looking for, but I was very happy with all the vegan-friendly additions to the natural food section/produce department in the our recently revamped Kroger.)

Man, I wish that all these faux meats were around back when I first went vegetarian! In today’s world, there is really no reason to eat meat! They make being a vegetarian so easy! And more and more stuff is becoming vegan, by demand! Being vegan takes a little more effort – but hey, that’s where I come in, right?!