Monday, March 26, 2012

Super-Delicious-Amazing Mac & "Cheese" {Vegan}

I am in SHOCK right now about how amazing this mac & "cheese" turned out. I actually liked it better than real mac & cheese. Plus, it's milk-free, butter-free, cheese-free, and VEGAN! Even if you are not vegan, or dairy-free, you have to try this recipe because it is SO delicious!

I'm not going to take credit for the recipe because I followed Chef Chloe's recipe to a tee (minus the broccoli). I used almond milk, not sure if that would make a difference in the taste compared to other non-dairy milk. I know that you can just click on the link to get the recipe, but I want to post it here so you can see just how great it is. It's fast, easy, delicious, comforting,'s also toddler & husband approved! I am trying to hold back from eating another bowl as I type this. 

  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 1/4 cup vegan margarine (I used Earth's Best)
  • 1/3 cup all purpose flour (or gluten-free all purpose flour)
  • 3 cups unsweetened almond milk (soy or rice)
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast  (I puchased in bulk at Sprouts for $8.99 per lb, sounds expensive, but you don't need that much)
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste (You can purchase it in a tube from Trader Joe's if you don't want the rest of a small can to go to waste, or you can cook Stuffed Portabellas- recipe coming soon!)
  • 1.5 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp agave nectar
Cook the macaroni according to package directions in heavily salted water. 

In a large sauce pan, melt 1/4 cup vegan margarine, then whisk in 1/3 cup flour. Make a paste with the two ingredients, and cook on medium for 3-5 minutes, whisking often.

Add 3 cups almond milk, 1/2 cup nutritional yeast, 2 tbsp tomato paste, 1.5 tsp sea salt, 1 tsp garlic powder and whisk well. Cook on medium heat until it comes to a boil, whisking often. Then, simmer until it thickens (keep whisking!). Once thick, add 1 tbsp lemon juice, and 1 tbsp agave nectar.

Add the cooked macaroni to the should be the perfect amount of sauce for a 1 pound package. You can also add some cooked veggies, like broccoli!

If you make this recipe, please let me know what you think...I am dying to hear!

Saturday, March 24, 2012


My in-laws were nice enough to let us borrow their Jack Lalanne juicer. And the most exciting thing about it is that my daughter is ASKING me for vegetables! The other day she asked me to make her a "special juice" with carrots, oranges, and "leaves". She loves to be the little helper. We have experimented with all different kinds, and the kids like it all! I have found that if I add at least one or two fruits to mostly veggies, it is still sweet enough to mask the veggie taste. 

The Jack Lalanne isn't very good at juicing leafy greens (like spinach, kale etc), so for greens I have been using baby bok choy (because I can roll it up so it juices better), cucumbers, and celery. The only fruits that you have to peel are citrus, and even then you can leave on most of the white part. Apples are optional to core, but I like to because the seeds have cyanide in them, and the juicer needs the apples at least cut in half anyways. Since most of the peels are left of, we make sure to wash everything really well. The juicer comes with a little brush that helps.

The only other downside to the Jack Lalanne juicer (totally not trying to sound ungrateful, just wanted to mention for people thinking about getting it), is that you can only fit a small cup under the spout where the juice comes out. Since I've always made more than a small cup's size, we had to change out the cup multiple times.

Our first juice: 
  • 1 green apple
  • 1 fuji apple
  • 4 carrots
  • 2 oranges, peeled
  • large handful of spinach
  • 2 tangerines, peeled

Taste test:
Still deciding....

Verdict: "I like it!"

The second mix we made included a lot more green. The kids still loved it just as much! I read online that you didn't have to peel the kiwi, although I did scrub off all of the fuzzy part. It was a little too tart, and left my mouth with kind of a fuzzy feeling, so the next time I peeled the kiwi.

Our Second Juice:
  • 4 celery stalks
  • 2 kiwi
  • 1 green apple
  • large handful of spinach (Jack Lalanne didn't juice the spinach well, so it was kind of waste. I will save the spinach for smoothies)
  • 1 baby bok choy
  • 2 carrots

"Hey, Julian took my juice!" 

My Favorite:

  • 2 oranges, peeled
  • 1 tangerine, peeled
  • 4 stalks celery
  • 5 carrots

My version on MEAN GREEN:
pictured below

  • 1 baby bok choy
  • 1 green apple, cored and quartered
  • 4 sticks of celery
  • 1/2 cucumber
  • 1 kiwi, peeled

It was really good! The (peeled) kiwi added a bit of tartness to it that I loved.

You can really juice whatever you like! I think it's good to keep it at least 60% vegetables. I have yet to do anything with the pulp other than throw it away, but I do have intentions to make some muffins. I think that muffins from "My Favorite" juice would be delicious!

Side note: A lot of people don't like juicing (as opposed to smoothies) because of the leftover pulp, but from what I have read, seperating the fiber from the fruits/veggies, and just drinking the juice allows for your digestive system to rest, and clean itself out. My ultimate goal is to juice every morning, but I think that it's not a realistic goal with this machine because it is so time consuming to take apart and clean. Maybe one day I will get a Hurom. The Hurom juicer is a slow juicer, so it squeezes the juice instead of using friction that can disturb the produce, cause seperation, and knock out some of the nutrients. Plus, to clean it in the moment, you can just run water through it! 

On another note, check out new little office. It's our "command center", where we keep our calendar, meal plan, bulletin board, mail, home management binder....all that good stuff. (Ignore the dirty chair...I've tried to clean that a million times, and the last time I did, it ended up looking like that. Desperately need to be re-upholstered.) I love organization!!!! 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Chocolate Mousse {Vegan}

Easiest recipe ever, and extremely delicious with fresh strawberries. I'm a sucker for chocolate mousse, and I LOVE that I found one that is non-dairy (and vegan) and just as good!


  • 2 cups chocolate chips, melted
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder (I used dark)
  • 1 package soft tofu
  • 3 tsp soy creamer (or almond, rice, or soy milk will do)
  • fresh strawberries (or other topping)
LOVE that Sprouts has non-GMO tofu.

Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave on 50% power, stirring every 30 seconds, until melted. Let the chocolate chips cool to before moving onto the next step. My microwave has a "melt chocolate" setting, so I just used that.

 If you don't want to wait, (I didn't), you can keep going, but the mousse will be a little gritty. 

Combine all of the ingredients in the food processor (or blender) until smooth.

And you have, chocolate mousse!

I really want to bake a vegan chocolate cake, with this mousse as the filling. Oooh wouldn't that be delicious?!?!

Not related to this recipe, but I tried coconut-milk yogurt out last time, and I've decided that I like the soy yogurt better. Even though the coconut-milk yogurt is good, every flavor has a slight hint of coconut. It's not too bad a first, but then you kind of get sick of it. I feel the same about the coconut-milk ice cream. It doesn't really taste like coconut at first, but the more you eat, the more you notice it. The soy yogurt (and ice cream) is a lot creamier, richer, and only takes on the flavor that's on the package. This one is organic, non-GMO, and made from soybeans grown in the US.

Beet Burgers {Vegan} -- You are really going to need a food processor for all these Vegan recipes!


I had to post so many pictures of these burgers because they were AMAZING! And...they look so much like real meat that it was kind of creepy. The had a mildly sweet, but yet savory flavor with great texture. (The rolls that we put them on, weren't vegan. Oops. We used what we had. But, you can put them on whatever bread or rolls that you like.)

I hope that with these posts, I am inspiring some one out there to eat healthier. It was pretty funny, because Adrian went to Sprouts for groceries, and 15 out of 20 items on the list were fruits/veggies/herbs. That's pretty awesome! And the bill was really inexpensive. My approach to eating vegan is to use sensible ingredients that you can buy at (pretty much) any grocery store. I don't want to spend money on crazy, out-there, ingredients that I wouldn't consider "everyday" food.

I planned our meals for the next week, and have some pretty exciting things to make. I'm thinking I might start sharing our weekly meal plan (with recipes) if anyone is interested.

(Recipe from here)
  • 1 cup shredded beets (about 8oz or 4-5 medium sized beets) I used already cooked & peeled beets from Costco
  • 1 cup cooked brown or green lentils, canned or fresh (a little less than a 15 oz can)
  • 1 1/4 cups cooked brown rice   I used frozen from Trader Joes, it was a little less than a whole package
  • 1 sweet onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 tsp sea salt
  • pinch of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp dried thyme, rubbed between your fingers
  • 1/2 tsp ground fennel, or finely crushed
  • 1 tsp dried mustard (mustard powder)
  • 2 tbsp smooth almond butter
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Shred your beets in the food processor. Does this look familiar?  

Then add the brown rice and lentils, and pulse until it starts to come together. Don't mix it too much, you still want it to have some texture.

 Isn't it crazy how much that actually looks like ground beef? Kind of creepy!

I decided to mince up the garlic and onions in the food processor as well. Less chopping! If you want bigger chunks of onions, go for it. Your preference.

Then mix the rest of the ingredients together. Including all of the spices.

Does that look just like hamburger meat or what??? Refrigerate the "meat" for about 20 minutes. It will make it easier to form patties.

Form patties. I made 5 patties, but it's up to you on the size.

Then, heat up some olive oil in a large pan on medium heat. Cook the patties for about 10-12 minutes , flipping occasionally. They should be heated through, and have a nice color & crispness.

We served them with vegan mayo and organic ketchup. The organic ketchup really does taste a million times better than regular ol' ketchup.


Picture Wall

We recently decided to mount our tv on the wall to save space. The spot where we mounted it was where my picture wall used to be. The pictures really needed to be updated. None of them included Julian. I made the picture wall in December 2009. Yeah...that long ago! Since I have recently been trying to simplify our house (less furniture, more functional), I had an empty wall in the dining room....which will now be my NEW picture wall. I've looked at lots of inspirational photos on Pinterest, and was finally motivated by this one. Buying all of the frames, and printing quality pictures, can get pretty costly. For this project, I used frames that we already had (purchased at Costco in 2009), and went cheap, and printed the pictures at Costco also. I know, not as great of picture quality, but if I were to order prints from the ideal place (like mpix), it would cost at least 5 times as much. Prints for this project cost me about $30 from Costco. 

I like the look of more eclectic photo walls, with different frames, randomly placed...but, my goal for our home right now is simplicity. That's why I decided to keep all the same frame, in the same color. First, I identified the wall, and placed tape across the middle as a reference point. All the pictures will go above or below it.  I measured the wall, so I would know how big to plan out the frames when spacing them out on the floor.

Things to think about when planning picture wall:
  • matting or no matting
  • color or black & white photos (choose ONE)
  • different size frames or all the same
  • how large of a wall
  • how many photos
  • where to purchase frames (if you want all the same, IKEA is a great place)
  • what pictures to use (I think it looks better with pictures all of the same "photoshoot"
  • randomly spaced or more organized

 Then, I laid the frames out on the ground, and played around with the positioning, until I found something I liked. I really wanted to cover that ugly white outlet cover on the top right (behind it is a random cable that we don't use. What an awkward place!). I didn't want to cover the light switch, so I kept that in mind when mapping it out.

Then, I made a collage in Picasa to get an idea of what pictures to use. I found it a lot easier to be able to see the placement of the photos. Have I mentioned how much I LOVE Picasa? It's also how I made this collage for Julian's 1st Birthday, which I picked up on Monday, and it looks beautiful! The only thing I regret it adding my own white border to it, because Costco adds a 1/2 inch white border also, which made it a bit too big. Oh still looks great.

We had a family photo shoot last fall, with over 150 pictures to choose from (none of which were represented in my home).

The pictures in this collage aren't exactly to scale, but it gave me a good idea of how it would turn out.

If you haven't used Picasa before, it's really easy. Just google "free Picasa download", then download it. To make a collage, just click on a picture, then click on "Collage" at the bottom. You can drag more pictures into the collage, and position them however you like. Once you are done, click "Create Collage". Then "Export" it. If these directions are too simple, you can follow this tutorial that I used when I made my first blog header. 

Adrian volunteered to put the pictures in the frames. He actually said, "Can I put the pictures in the frames?", in a really excited voice. He also said, "Don't take a picture of me!"....sorry babe.

I was struggling for about 10 minutes to get the tape level, then I remembered that Adrian has a laser level. That helped a lot! I didn't take out the white anchors in the wall because I thought the picture frames would cover them. All but one was covered, so I still need to take out that one (far left), then patch and paint the hole. Or...I may just leave it.....

I cut these little slips of paper so that I wouldn't have to measure each time for the spacing in between and where the nail would go. 

I started on the far right, mainly because my goal was to cover that ugly white square. (scroll up for pic)

I love how it came out! In my opinion, choosing pictures that match your home decor is important. If we were all wearing yellow and orange, it might look out of place in my house.

All I see in this picture are our ugly baseboards, and yucky carpet. The carpet is coming up in the next couple months, and will be replaced with wood laminate and new baseboards!

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