Monthly Archives: January 2013

Coconut Oil Winner

Congratulations, Kristen! I’ve sent you an e-mail, please respond within 24 hours with your mailing address so that my friends at Tropical Traditions can send you your coconut oil! So exciting!

coconut giveaway winner

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Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins

Yesterday my sweet sister sent me her pumpkin bread recipe because she was going to make muffins out of it and wanted my opinion for a cooking time. And then my thoughts for the rest of the day were consumed with pumpkin muffins.

So when my sweet husband offered to go to BOTH of the grocery stores I needed to go to last night, I seized my opportunity and whipped up a batch. It’s always a game of baking roulette when you’re replacing more than one egg with flax “egg” but I’m happy [very happy] to report these muffins as winners.

vegan chocolate chip pumpkin muffins

Chocolate-Chip Pumpkin Spice Muffins
Adapted from my sister’s adaptation of this recipe [hehe]
Makes 15-18 muffins

1 cup spelt flour
1 cup oat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice
1 1/2 cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup pumpkin purée
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup applesauce, warmed
2 flax eggs [2 T flax meal mixed with 6 T warm water. Let sit 5 min]
2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3-1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F. Line muffin tins with paper cups. In a medium sized bowl whisk together flours, spice, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl add applesauce, flax eggs, coconut oil, vanilla, and pumpkin. Cream in the sugar. Add the dry to the wet. Fold in chocolate chips. Scoop batter into muffin cups, 2/3rds full. Bake for 20-25 minutes [I baked for 15, rotated my pans, and baked for 8 more].

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vegan chocolate chip pumpkin muffins

They were a delicious compliment to this morning’s greek yogurt [sweetened with a little honey & brown sugar, topped with sunflower seeds, granola, & blueberries].

Kid verdict: They both liked them. Though Landon ate 2 and 1/2 and Lucy only ate 1/2 in an attempt to find as many chocolate chips as she could. She’s in this phase where her diet is consisting of broccoli, blueberries, vegan cheese, corn tortillas, strawberries, and rice cakes smeared with sunbutter.

vegan chocolate chip pumpkin muffins

Making the ‘more’ sign [sort of].

UPDATE: I’ve had success making these gluten-free by subbing the spelt flour with a cup of Bob’s Red Mill and 3/4 teaspoon of xanthan gum.

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Life With Lucy

I know I’m not going to want to forget these days.
I know they can be hard. And challenging. And sanity-stealing.
But they also always feel worth it. And rewarding.

Today was one of those days. You know, when you experience every possible emotion – most of them at the hands of your children. Days where within the same hour you can feel both confident in and embarrassed by how you handled different situations.

But I want it to be funny.
Does that even make sense?
It just feels like if there’s enough to laugh at when the day ends you can box all the crazy up and start fresh the next day.
I don’t know if that’s healthy.

this kid cracks me up

But here are all the things my daughter said today [yes, just today] that made me laugh.

Lucy: “Dance with me, Buddy.” [Grabs his hands].
Landon screams and throws himself on the floor.
Lucy: “This will not do. A princess does NOT dance alone.

[While raking gumballs.]
Lucy: “This is hard work. I don’t want to do this anymore.”
[Goes over to gumball tree and starts to push on it.]
Lucy: “I’m gonna clean you up like a Christmas tree.”

[I’m cooking dinner while Landon is in his highchair eating his first dinner (he eats two… every night)]
Lucy: “Now, Buddy. Mommy is going to open the oven door and it’s very hot so you shouldn’t touch it. I touched it and I burned my fingers and it hurt for a long time. Don’t touch it.”
Me: “She’s telling the truth, Landon.”
Lucy: “Yes. I’m telling the truth because that’s what my teacher at church told me to do. You have to tell the truth.”

Lucy: “Thank you for no broccoli. I really like this pizza. It’s making my tummy feel better. And it’s making my mouth very happy. But Buddy can’t have it [not true]. It would make him sick [also not true]. I need to eat all of it [true].”

Me: “Lucy, why did you say that mean thing to Daddy? That wasn’t nice and I think you hurt his feelings?”
Lucy: “Well. I think I’m very sleepy.”
[Happens to me too, kid.]

We’re Makin’ Sushi, Y’all!

Really, maybe the title of this post be: “What Making Sushi Taught Me About Real Life.”

You see, it all started when my friend YK asked if I’d like to learn how to make some Korean dishes. Who would ever say ‘no’ to that!? So YK came over a couple times and shared a few of her favorite dishes and a few that she thought would be easy for us to recreate.

what sushi taught me about real life

One thing she brought was a fried tofu triangle type thing that you stuff with some seasoned rice. Yum.

what sushi taught me about real life

yk3

We also made some spring rolls. I’m going to give myself a ‘Needs Improvement’ for those.

Next we made Japchae which is a stir fry that combines sweet potato starch noodles with fresh vegetables. Here’s a similar recipe that looks yummy [this is definitely going in the meal plan rotation].

what sushi taught me about real life

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We added a little cucumber to the top of ours for a fresh crunch.

[My husband is reading this over my shoulder as I type and he just asked, “So what did making sushi teach you about real life?” I’m getting there. Work with me. I have a process.]

The next thing we made was sushi. And, you guys, she complimented my rice [insert goofball smile]. Okay so if you’re wiser than me to the ways of the Far Eastern World than you’ll know what I’m talking about is actually Korean Kimbap. It’s seasoned rice and vegetables wrapped in roasted seaweed. There are a lot of add-ins that are off-limits to us because of allergies. But it’s basically a Korean sushi. If you see it on a menu the kim means seaweed and the bap means rice.

what sushi taught me about real life

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[We used cucumbers, carrots, avocado, beef, fresh spinach, and shiitake mushrooms.]

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[Got to work on my technique.]

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So as YK is showing me all of the ingredients she’s picked out for the kimbap she asks why I’ve never tried to make it myself. I mean, when the kids were diagnosed with allergies we pretty much had to stop eating Asian out because it was too hard to control the cross-contamination. And my answer kind of disappointed me: because I didn’t want to do it wrong.

As someone who has gone from not trying any new recipes to someone relatively fearless in her menu planning, I kind of did a double take [yep, at myself]. If the family likes the way it tastes and it’s healthy for us, what does it matter if it’s a less than traditional? FYI here’s an example of a more involved and traditional kimbap.

Woah.

Yeah.

So that’s what sushi [now revealed to be kimbap] taught me about cooking. And probably about life. Don’t worry about doing it right. Or doing it like you’re supposed to. Work it out however it’s right for you and your family.

kids like seaweed

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Here’s the best part: they both liked it. Awesome.

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Kid Art: Free Art

Surely you’ve heard that kids need free, unstructured play time each day. Time to use their imaginations to change building blocks into princess towers and sofas into rocketships [at least around these parts]. A few months ago it occurred to me that I’ve never extended this idea to our art projects. I saw a real opportunity to give a little control of our art creation over to Lucy. [This is like the opposite of what pinterest tells me to do.]

So I started by giving her a blank sketchbook journal and a set of colored pencils [I really, really like these.]

kid art: sketchbook

Seriously. I could not pick my favorite page if I tried. I do love that I can see some important milestones in here: she’s starting to draw people [I see eyes and legs], she makes “lists”, she draws shapes, and she can describe and recount what she drew later.

kid art: self portrait
Self Portrait, ca. 2013
Lucy Baker (2009-)
Marker on Paper (8.5 x 11 in.)

Here’s her latest self portrait. I asked her about it and she said, “This is me. I have eyes.” Deep.

Landon seemed super tired at naptime today so I crossed my fingers it would be a long one and got out the paint supplies. I gave Lucy a blank canvas and no direction.

free paint

free paint

She had such a great time whirling and twirling the brush around.

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free paint

I loved that she kept sticking her little tongue out.

free paint.

When her art heart was content we put some white paint towards the top of the canvas and used a bench scraper to pull it down the canvas [I scrape most of Lucy’s projects because otherwise they’d take a super long time to dry and they’d be super goopy.] Also, by scraping it I can reuse the canvas when our next inspiration strikes.

free paint

I added some visual interest by scraping in a few different directions. [Don’t mind the weird afternoon shadows. After cleaning up the paint mess this is the best picture I could muster.] It’s maybe no masterpiece. Nothing crazy special. But it gave her an hour of complete bliss. She enjoyed it so much it was her answer to Chuck’s “What was your favorite part of the day?” questioning. And, honestly, it’s fun to watch her work. To watch her expressions while she creates.

free paint

I have big dreams to add some text but Chuck says he likes it just the way he is. Anybody out there have a vote?

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First Sensory Experiences

Landon’s coming to that wonderful and magical age of 18 months. It’s full of new experiences and becoming a little dude. So he’s been having a lot of firsts lately. Leaving the baby behind [sniffle].

He’s been having his first art experiences.

landon's 1st art

And then he ate the entire tip off the blue marker [hehe].

He’s had a few sensory firsts as well. One of our favorite activities is pouring and sorting dried beans.

sensory tub

sensory start

He loved it so much. So, so much.

sensory start

But he kept looking to his older sister. To see what she was doing. He was so proud to use the spoon to move beans from one bowl to another [which is great because he’s not into the spoon during mealtimes].

sensory start

He tested them out; not too tasty.

sensory start

And away they played. Happily.

sensory start

[hehe] His first playdough experience was a little confusing for him. He didn’t understand why it wasn’t something to eat. It didn’t help that he was feeling bad.

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Incoming

There’s a giveaway coming soon!! I’m so excited, so stay posted!

Cooking With Coconut Oil [And A Giveaway!] – CLOSED

We are coconut oil fans in this family. When we switched to vegan baking and cooking to accommodate the kids’ allergies, coconut oil was a lifesaver.

I use them in my Apple Pie Muffins, Blackberry Lemon Chia Muffins, Campfire Cookies, Chocolate Chip Cookies, and Chocolate Cupcakes [we even tested it against our vegan butter with our graham crackers and the coconut oil won out]. You get the idea, we like our coconut oil.

So we recently had the opportunity to try out some Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil from Tropical Traditions. I’m no stranger to Tropical Traditions. My mom and my sister rave about them. When we all began this real food journey together they both switched to palm shortening and ditched the hydrogenated shortening we grew up with. We’re also big fans of the Rapunzel Cocoa they have [Such big fans that I got two cans for Christmas presents- yep!].

When people ask me about coconut oil they usually have two things holding them back: either they think it’s too expensive or they have no clue how to use it. So I thought this little opportunity from Tropical Traditions would be a good excuse to share my coco love.

coconut oil giveaway

So it’s true that coconut oil is going to be pricier than more traditional oils like canola or vegetable. But, if there’s one thing I’ve learned on my food journey it’s that good food should cost money. But you will save quite a bit of money buying coconut oil online instead of at the store. I have noticed that if you keep a look out Tropical Traditions runs various sales and free shipping deals.

coconut oil giveaway

What do you do with coconut oil? Well, kind of anything. You can replace your cooking oils and baking fats pretty seamlessly. I mentioned above that nearly all of our baked goods use coconut oil but we also use it for a lot of our veggies. I like that it adds a deeper flavor than some more neutral oils. My favorite dishes to use it on are sauteed green beans and roasted veggies.

roasting veggies with coconut oil

One of our go to meals when I need something that doesn’t require a lot of imagination but does leave us with full bellies is roasted veggies with quinoa. It’s also a great way to use up veggies that are on their last leg. That, my friends, is a triple win.

roasted veggies with quinoa

Chop up whatever’s handy [we used mushrooms, broccoli, red and yellow peppers, carrots, onions, and zucchini]. We try to eat a lot of veggies. Here’s a good calculator to see how many you should eat a day. While the veggies are roasting [I put them in at 425 for 25 minutes or so] I make some quinoa. I like to make our quinoa in broth, everyone seems to like it best that way.

roasted veggies with quinoa

Comparing this coconut oil to the one we usually use I could definitely notice a difference. This is the only coconut oil on the market still produced by hand and it’s definitely smoother and less crumbly. And I loved the idea of supporting small scale family farmers.

So, Tropical Traditions has given me the opportunity to sponsor a giveaway of their Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil!

To enter the giveaway, Tropical Traditions has asked that you go here and subscribe to their sales newsletter. You’ll also need to share this post by way of facebook, pinterest, twitter, or whatever your favorite way of social network expression may be. That’s it; nothing too crazy!

After you do those two things leave a comment here and you’re entered to win! The giveaway ends Wednesday, January 30th at 10 p.m. CST.

Disclaimer: Tropical Traditions provided me with a free sample of this product to review, and I was under no obligation to review it if I so chose. Nor was I under any obligation to write a positive review or sponsor a product giveaway in return for the free product. Additionally, if you order by clicking on any of my links and have never ordered from Tropical Traditions in the past, you will receive a free book on Virgin Coconut Oil and I will receive a discount coupon for referring you.

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Graham Cracker Cookies

This is a tale of two cookies [and a cracker, too].

Baking is totally a science. When I was a conventional baker it was pretty easy to hypothesize about how any given baked good would come out. Unfortunately, it’s a little harder with vegan baking. Still more so with vegan and gluten free baking. So we have a lot of experiments in this little kitchen of mine [much to the joy of my taste testers].

So when Landon fell in love with these graham cracker sticks by Back to Nature [that amazon price is ridiculous] while we were at my parents house I knew I had to recreate them. I found a basic graham cracker recipe and subbed in oat flour and earth balance’s buttery sticks.

graham crackers

I got the graham cracker recipe from here.


Graham Crackers

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup honey

So I whisked the dry together and then added the wet. I ran out of honey with only a 1/3 of a cup and so I filled my measuring cup up to a 1/2 cup with maple syrup. I really liked the extra depth the maple syrup gave the cookies. It was a sticky dough using the oat flour and vegan butter so I rolled it out between two pieces of parchment. I baked it on the parchment on my baking stone at 400 for 10 minutes [but my oven is a slow cooker]. As soon as they came out of the oven I used my pizza cutter to slice them up.

The verdict? The taste was great but the prep time left something to be desired. Feeding kids with allergies forces you to make a lot of stuff from scratch, so the easier I can make it on myself the better. The challenge: create a graham cracker cookie without refined sugar that can be made quickly.

And so, thus began the journey of two cookies. The thing that was bothering me about my initial batch was the use of the vegan butter. I appreciate that there’s an alternative to butter for Lucy but I don’t love how processed the buttery sticks are. I decided to make two batches of cookies: one using the sticks and one using coconut oil.

graham cracker cookies

The bowl on the left is coconut oil and the bowl on the right is the vegan butter. Same with the cookies: those on the left are coconut and the right are butter. I knew at this stage the coconut oil recipe was going to need more flour than the vegan butter.

I feel like I should mention now that I’ve changed how I’m baking my cookies. My sister bought my mom a cookie sheet from Hartstone Pottery for Christmas. Mind blown. You mean you’re going to bake cookies on stoneware? Why? Because it makes them amazing chewy, pillows of cookie goodness. Give it a try; your pizza stone just may be the most under-utilized tool in your kitchen. And maybe [just maybe] you’ll be so enamored you’ll end up wondering what else you can cook on there [muwahahaha…].

bake cookies on your pizza stone

So here’s the recipe I landed on:

graham cracker cookies

Graham Cracker Cookies
Makes about 30 cookies

2 1/2 cups oat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup honey, fill to 1/2 cup with maple syrup
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup applesauce, warmed

cinnamon, to sprinkle

Preheat oven to 375F. Whisk dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Add wet ingredients [ensuring all are warm enough to keep the coconut oil liquid]. Scoop cookies onto parchment [I use a #40 scoop which is 1.75 tablespoons]. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake for 10 minutes or until you can press them without leaving an indent.

[I added the applesauce to make these less crumbly (and cleaner for toddler eating) but if you want a crisper snack just make the graham crackers. They are seriously delish.]

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graham cracker cookies

And don’t you worry, the little man was a big, big fan.

gimme

Gimme all your cookies, lady.

p.s. I may or may not have taken two cookies and made these s’mores. Wowza.

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Lucy the Princess Ballerina

The princess title is self-proclaimed. :)

My sweet little girl is reaching a milestone this week: she’s going to her first dance class. I spent hours [and hours] researching dance schools. And then I realized how crazy expensive dance classes are [who knew!?] so we added it to her Christmas list. That genius idea was inspired by my friend Melonnie and I must say, it’s kind of a combination of practical/magical/gift-that-keeps-on-giving amazing.

Lucy is ready. I mean, she’s been training for this day for years. Literally. When she learned to walk it seemed running and ballerina twirls were immediate as well.

And she’s serious about it. We rented some dance class videos from the library [like this one] and she diligently watched them and memorized the moves. I know I’m biased but I think she’s fantastic. And I’m so, so very excited for her. I get to attend the first class with her and I can’t wait to see her face. She’s already talking about the new friends she’s going to make, who are also ballerina princesses.

To get her ready for class we had to make a ballerina bag with her name on it. I flipped through 101 One Yard Wonders [which I totally recommend] and found a pattern shape. I then scaled down the pattern to make something Lucy-sized. The ballerina inspiration came from this completely adorable little number.

bag for ballet class

I also let her try on her ballet outfit and do a little pre-class practice to her favorite music. She loves Mozart. Seriously. Begs for it.

Now let me shower you with too many some pictures of my awesome ballerina princess.

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