Saturday, August 19, 2017

Sifting Through Life: Stand Up




"If you stand for nothing, Burr, what'll you fall for?" from Hamilton.

This quote speaks volumes to me.  What am I willing to fall for?  What do I stand for?  

As I mentioned in my previous post, I took a two-year break from blogging and writing this page. In that time, I spent the few quiet moments in my life, asking myself those two questions. It wasn't until I went to San Fransisco and saw Hamilton that I made some connections. I've listened to the sound track hundreds of time. The musical is about one of the founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton. In the musical, there are many references to equality, injustices, immigration, education, and politics. I find the message of the musical penetrating to the events that we are watching unfold in our current society.

Standing up for our fellow humans who are our friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers who feel afraid, who feel less than others, who don't have the same advantages, who deserve an equal opportunity to basic human rights--should be natural, should be easy, shoud be a given.  It's not. Our culture makes decisions based on the color of our skin, gender preferences, religious rhetoric, physical/mental abilities and then decides who is worthy, entitled, and deserving of better schools, better employment, better neighborhoods, and/or better lifestyles.  The scale is not balanced. People are afraid that we are moving back in time. I'm afraid we are walking backward too. Until I go to church or talk to my friends. I hear their desires for change. I see them standing up to this inequality. I hear them condemning racism and fears about diversity. I see them standing up. I also see those who are afraid to stand up.  

We live in a culture that allows fear to reside because we are afraid to stand up. To say something. To begin a conversation that feels awkward. We are afraid because of what we might lose. We are afraid because our cultural norms tell us to be politically correct. We are afraid because we might lose.  

We might lose it all because we said NO. STOP. ENOUGH is ENOUGH. CHOSE a SIDE. 

If we can't stand up to hatred, our own fear, to th violence, and to the submissive and enabling attitudes, we have already lost. We have lost what it means to be a part of humanity that knows joy, acceptance, and love. From the ashes of honesty and truthfulness, we must rise like the Phoenix and fly proudly because we stand up, we preach acceptance, equality, and love.  Love is not passive. Love is fierce. It ignites a desire and a plan. It does something. Love brings change, breeds conversation in safe places. Love takes action and then listens, learns and challenges for change.  Love is a verb. 

I was mad at myself on Sunday.  I was mad at myself because I did not stand up as often or as loud as I should have. Oh, I tried. I would ever so gently try to steer conversations about racisms, educate ignorant family when they accepted the white/heterosexual/conservative ideas, and show them empathy because of who they were raised by. I have not been direct enough. I am whispering when I should have been loud. I was voiceless because I was afraid. I knew what I would lose and I was trying to keep my it all together because we were FAMILY.

Fuck that! Sometimes we are born into families that facilitate our up bringing but that's it. Children learn to treat others by the way their parents treat others. Kids listen and watch. I listened and watched my own parents and grandparents. As a child, I followed because I didn't know.  As an adult, I will stand up.  

Not another day will go by that I accept racist or dehumanizing talk, racist/misogynistic people, or hateful speech in my presence or home.  Opinions are fine but when your opinion preaches hate, violence, elitism, and separatism--you will be seen as a person that I will question and view in a different light. 

Stand up for the rights of humans who are hurting. Those who don't have the same equality as white America. Stand up for those who contribute to our society despite their religion, gender preferences, and/or color of their skin. If you don't think they have a place in our America, then open a text book, read a bit of history and check your own privilege. My daughter contributes daily. My nephews contribute daily. My friends contribute daily. This country was built on diversity and it will continue to flow and ebb. We are seeing this now play out and we are all being given an opportunity to stand for something. What will you stand for? What will you stand up to? What are you willing to fall for?

As a believer of good and love, and as a human-- I beg everyone to stand up to all that is wrong in our culture and country. We can make a difference if we are willing to speak for those who need our voices and stand together for change. Listen to their stories.  Listen to their pain and learn from it. Teach your kids to not fear different, or other, or them. Show our children by example how to be an advocate.  Erase the "us vs. them" and accept that they are us and we are them. We are one human race seeking after the same things: equality, love, joy, life, success, and acceptance. 

Stand up even if your legs shake, your heart beats fast, even if you're afraid. There is only one side as Joe Biden said over the weekend. Decide which side you are on and which part of history you want to be a part of. 

STAND UP.

Our future depends on it. 





Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Crispy Tofu #vegan



I like texture. I like the variety of textures that the vegan/plants only experience provides for our family. We eat a lot of foods that are crispy and crunchy.  We eat a few foods that are smooth and creamy.  Some foods simply melt in our mouths.  Like an overly ripe avocado.  I love that experience.

My family and I used to eat a dish called Tonkatsu. This is usually made with pork or chicken and served with a delicious sauce.  Obviously, we don't eat pork or chicken anymore but that doesn't mean we can't find a substitute for the experience of eating something cut into slices and dipped in sauce.  

I use Panko crumbs to create a crispy exterior and the tofu, when prepared properly, leaves us with a firm center....almost like a chicken nugget.  The Nutritional Yeast adds flavor.  It reminds me of a woodsy parmesan flavor.  The link will take you to information about the benefits of using nutritional yeast in your cooking experience as a vegan family.  I use it daily in a variety of dishes, sauces, and now, as a breading.

Let me get off topic for a minute. I used the words chicken nugget and I know this ruffles some people in the vegan/plant based community a bit because we have given up meat/animal products so why are we trying to replace these recipes in our menu planning.  Personally, I don't see it this way. I am not trying to replace the meat experience, just the crispy texture of some foods we ate before. To make it easier for you, the reader, to understand the texture of this dish, I use terms like chicken nugget to help you visualize what you will end up with after making this recipe. It's a label to allow us to communicate, especially, if you are new to this vegan journey. My kids don't want to eat meat and I don't buy vegan hot dogs, vegan lunch meat, or vegan bacon, etc.... Mostly because they don't taste anything like the original and often times, they don't taste good to me. We are still on our journey to go without overly processed foods. I see these replacements as very processed foods that I prefer to not buy. This does not mean that we haven't tried them. We did in the beginning. We needed the products to help us transition to where we are right now. Our family just didn't care for them enough to keep buying them. 

Our son came to dinner the other night with his girlfriend.  I made these for him. I didn't mention that it was tofu. The first words out of his mouth were, "Mom you made chicken?" 

 I laughed.  "Nope. TOFU!"  He smiled, took another bite, and said they were great.

Great!

So, there you have it. Even though we don't eat meat anymore, my family remembers meat and remembers the texture and the yummy dish we once ate together.  I was able to recreate a memory without using animal products.  

I like that.

Crispy Tofu #vegan
1 block of tofu makes 8-12 slices, depends on how thick you cut them

Ingredients

1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon onion powder
salt/pepper
1-2 teaspoon garlic powder
4 tablespoons Nutritional Yeast
1/4 cup non dairy milk (Almond, Soy, or Cashew all work)
1 package Firm Organic Tofu
Olive oil spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1. About 30 minutes before you make the dish you want to prepare the tofu.  This is done by removing the tofu from the packaging, wrapping it in a dish cloth, placing something heavy on top of it, and letting it sit.  You are trying to get some of the moisture out of the block. This creates a nice texture when the tofu is baked.

2.  Combine all of the dry ingredients in a pie plate or something like it. Add the milk to a small bowl.  Remove the tofu from the dish cloth and slice into 1/4 slices. (see picture below).  Dip each slice into the milk then into the breadcrumb mixture.  Try not to shake or everything will fall off.


3.  I use a cookie sheet lined with a cookie rack. Place each piece on the rack. (see picture below). Lightly spray the tops of each slice with the olive oil cooking spray.

4.  Bake for 30-40 minutes. I like the edges to be lightly brown.  Remove from heat and serve.  Cut, slice or serve whole.  I sliced ours for the kids into 8 pieces each.  I serve this with a variety of sauces. We have a deicious Tonkatsu Sauce that we buy from our local store.


Saturday, August 12, 2017

Sifting Through Life: Because of You



I've decided to start writing the Sifting Through Life pieces again. It has been a few years since my last one. I guess I had some sifting in my own life to do. The last two years have been filled with growth, strength, weakness, and change.  This year I turned 49 and in this new season I find myself in has led me to reevaluate and connect to a version of myself that is authentic and true.

I want real. I want strong. I want truth and honesty. I want to love and be loved. I want you to be the best you, while I am trying to be the best me. No competition, no arguing, no protesting, no guilt, no expectations.

I read something recently that spoke to me. It was written by a woman to her father. She went through the reasons why she is the way she is. Her words hit me. They touched me. They allowed myself to see for the first time why I am the way that I am in a new light.  I am this way because of you.

I am a feminist because you are not. I accept all people because you only saw white.  I am a fighter because you won't stand up for those who can't defend themselves. I stand up for my kids because you don't. I love hard with expectations because you loved freely with no boundaries. I crave control because you brought chaos into our home. I seek education because you are content without it.  I want peace because you want to stir the pot. I look for the good in people because you always tore them down.  I see rainbows and unicorns because you see fear and hate.

Because of you, I am me.

I don't know if I should say thank you or "oh shit".  My awareness of this whole situation sparked a response within me that created a wealth of emotion.  At times I feel happy, angry, relieved, and not surprised. Other times, I loathe all of this and want to erase everything from my memory.

To start over.
A reset.
A redo.
A new beginning.

How do we stop this ride and get off?  Or do we?  Are we imprisoned forever in the turmoil that plays over and over in our minds searching for reasons why we are the way we are, or, do we accept it all and move on?

Accepting it does not make it right or wrong.  This acceptance allows us/me to move forward. I am who I am because of you, but, I am also who I am-- because of me.

My choices over the last almost 50 years have redefined me many times. It is through this sifting of life that I am able to see for myself that the bondage of staying in unsafe spaces keep us victims of the same turmoil that we found ourselves in as kids.  I chose to use my voice to say enough.

I need time away from those that continue to make decisions that don't fall in line with my values. Values are important. Values allow us to connect to other people. When our values don't align then friction presents itself. I'm tired of the friction.  All of this has been a weight on my shoulders.  A huge stone around my neck holding me back out of fear and confrontation. Fear of the unknown. Fear of failure. Fear of being me.

Our family is working on building a community in our new home that allows for diversity, acceptance, love, openness, mindfulness, service, mercy, and honesty.  We've worked hard to get to this point and yet something is always holding me back.  What is it?  It's the weight of conflicting values of who I am today and the values of where I came from as a kid.  I'm not that kid anymore, yet my extended family still holds those values true. Where do I fit in?  I don't. Why can't I accept you? I don't know.  Maybe it's because my childhood still hurts, my faith in you is gone, your actions continue to hurt others.

I don't fit into their world any more than they fit into mine. We are simply too different.

Can we just be okay with it and move on? We are different. We are not going to see eye to eye. It's just as uncomfortable for you as it is for me. Can't we be okay with this?  I need it to be okay. I want it to be okay. Honestly, if we were not family we wouldn't be friends. That's harsh. That's the truth.

I want a release.  I want to be set free. A release from pretending it's all okay, pretending their actions don't hurt me, pretending their political views are okay, pretending their beliefs are mine, pretending I care when at times, I don't. I will no longer stand shoulder to shoulder with those that are idle and complacent.  Change is essential and necessary for our survival. Change is what saves us, prepares us, and allows us to be free.

Because of you, I am here at this place in my life.

Because of you, I am me, and it still hurts.

Because of you, I need to let go and be free.










Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Mushroom Risotto #vegan


Mushroom Risotto is a family favorite.  We love the creamy texture of this dish. It warms our bellies on those cold days while living at the beach. Normally we would be eating this more in the winter months but this year, it's cold.  The beach is cold, windy, and most days, misty.  Last year we had beautiful weather and this year is different. 

To escape the cold we have been leaving the area and camping in Bend, Oregon.  We love Bend.  We were there two weeks ago and it was 95 degrees.  AHHHHHH...that felt so good.  So good, in fact, we just scheduled another week.


Making risotto is not as quick as throwing rice in the rice cooker. It takes some time. Just clear your schedule for about 25 minutes and devote the time to bringing this creamy and filling dish to your family's table. The key to making risotto is adding enough liquid to ensure the rice is not crunchy.  I personally do not like the rice to have a bite to it. I want mine to be a smooth bite.

This is a vegan recipe. I have chosen to use a vegetable stock, no cheese, and fresh vegetables from our local Farmer's Market.  I will say that I used Miyoko's European Style Butter to saute the vegetables and it added a depth of flavor to this dish.

**This is not an ad.  All of the products I mention are simply because I use them in my kitchen and they are what works best in our menu planning.

Next time I will be making the risotto with corn. MMMM...now I want Corn Risotto.

I use the Braggs Amino Acids at the very end to add a robust flavor.  I hate to say the word "meaty" but that is what it does in my opinion.  We use a lot of vegetable stock and sometimes it is nice to have a different flavor and this provides that. This dish with the mushrooms and black pepper pairs nicely with the "meaty" flavor of the amino acids.



Mushroom Risotto #vegan

Makes about 4 cups.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons vegan butter or oil, see comments above
1/2 zucchini, diced small
1/2 medium onion, diced small
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1.5 cups Arborio Rice (risotto rice)
4-6 cups vegetable broth
 1 small can of pre-cooked mushrooms, drained
1-2 tablespoons Braggs Amino Acids

1.  In a heavy dutch oven (I use Le Creuset), heat vegan butter.  Add the zucchini and onion. Saute until clear, about 3-4 minutes.  Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute more.

2.  Add rice and lightly brown rice.  Warm the broth/stock in a separate pan and have near by with a ladle.  Prepare to stay at the stove until this dish is done.  The risotto will stick if you do not stir constantly.

3.  Ladle one scoop at a time to the rice mixture. Stir until absorbed and then repeat.  Stir, add broth, stir, add broth, repeat.  Do this until the rice is creamy and soft.  HINT: My rice tripled in size when it was close to being finished.

4.  Add the amino acids and mushrooms. Continue adding broth until risotto is complete.

5.  Serve immediately or store in a covered container in the refrigerator.  Warm to serve left overs.




Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Aquafaba Mayonnaise #vegan



This recipe really excites me!  

I've been making this mayonnaise for about two years. It really does taste, feel and look like mayonnaise.  I guess that's because, to me and my family, this is our vegan mayonnaise.  

We use it on and in everything that calls for mayonnaise. What makes it so special to me is it taste just like mayonnaise used to taste when I was a kid. It could be my taste buds have changed but the mayonnaise, especially the vegan mayonnaise on the market, is bland and boring.  This has a hint of lemon, a touch of garlic, and a slight twang of salt.  

We have a friend staying in our home and he is slowly being introduced to all types of new flavors and foods.  This is his favorite!  Just the other day he had a good laugh.  He said, " I can't believe that I love fresh tomato on sliced bread with VEGAN mayonnaise."  


What is aquafaba?   It is the liquid that comes in a can of garbanzo beans or white beans.  I have used the liquid from great white northern beans too with great success. I personally do not notice a change in flavor if I use different liquids from different canned beans.  You can also make the beans from scratch and save the liquid.  I have yet to try this method.  If you google aquafaba you will be directed to a variety of recipes.  For me, I think egg whites describe what it looks like best.  The liquid has the same consistency and reacts the same in similar situations.  So far, I only have used the aquafaba to make this mayonnaise. Others have made meringue, frosting, omelets (egg free), cookies, cakes, etc...The list is getting longer and longer and for that, I am so excited.


As far as the oil goes, you can use a variety of oils to achieve slightly different flavor profiles. I personally have used Algae oil from Thrive, a light olive oil brand, avocado oil, and coconut oil (melted).  HUGE SIDE NOTE: if you decide to use coconut oil, then prepare for the mayonnaise to become hard in the fridge.  Not all is lost though. This happened to me. I simply warmed it up, stirred it, and then took my stick blender and re-whipped it to perfection.  I did this twice and each time the mayonnaise was successfully whipped to mayonnaise perfection.  

I really like the flavor profile when using the refined coconut oil. I might use this oil if I am making a small batch and I know that it will all be eaten that day or night.  





Eating only plants allows me to be creative in the kitchen, even more so than before when I ate meat, dairy, cheese, and eggs.  I have to get creative with flavor profiles and ingredients.  Some times I see myself as a mad scientist speaking a foreign language.  This happened last week.  In my excitement of sharing our plant based lifestyle with others, I decided to start a monthly potluck dinner for those who are transitioning to plants only, are already vegan, or have questions of where to begin. Everyone is welcome.  At our first meeting, we had three people. Two were brand new. I started rambling about ingredients, techniques, and recipes.  I could tell that I was losing them and I had to back up a little bit. The ingredients alone are quite foreign to those who don't prepare plant based foods from scratch: nutritional yeast, amino acids, aquafaba, miso paste, etc....

We are excited to meet next month. I met two new people today at the grocery store while standing in line to pay for our groceries. She looked at me and noticed that our purchases were very similar. I asked them if they were vegan. They said YES.  I invited them to our meeting next month along with their daughter.  I love to teach and share my ideas. This gathering is a place for us to find a community of like minded souls, to share in this journey, and to build a strong foundation for helping those who wish to also eat plants only.

Today while at church a lady said to me that it must be hard to be vegan at the beach.  I had to think about that for a minute. I replied, "not really."  I don't crave seafood anymore. I don't want to kill animals.  I believe living at the beach is the perfect place to practice a plants only lifestyle. I see the animals in our area not merely as food anymore. I see them as a friend.


Aquafaba Mayonnaise #vegan

1/2 cup aquafaba (the liquid from a can of garbanzo beans)
1 1/2 cups of your favorite oil in liquid form
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon lemon juice, fresh if possible
1 teaspoon powdered mustard
salt--start with 1 teaspoon and then add/taste, repeat
2 teaspoons minced garlic from a jar (raw garlic will be too strong)

TOOLS:  A stick blender is the only thing I have ever used to make this mayonnaise. Trying anything else may deliver different results. (The link is not an ad, it is only to show you what I mean when I say stick blender).  

1.  I use a quart canning jar because this recipe will make about 2-2.5 cups of mayonnaise.  Our family uses one quart a week. Add the aquafaba and all ingredients EXCEPT the oil.  Blend on low until bubbly.

2.  Slowly start adding the oil.  I have a way of holding the measuring cup on the rim of the canning jar and letting the oil sssllllooooowwwwllllyyy drizzle into the aquafaba mixture.  This takes about 8-10 minutes.  BE patient.  It will be very loose, and then suddenly it will come together. More oil will make the mayonnaise thicker.

3.  As you go, periodically taste your mayonnaise.  Add more salt, lemon, garlic, or mustard powdered based on how you and your family want your mayonnaise to taste.  Our family likes it to have a slight lemony flavor with a hint of garlic.

4.  When finished, refrigerate.  It should stay thick, unless you used coconut oil, for up to 7-9 days.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Asparagus Dill Pinwheels #vegan



I am always looking for ways that I can use leftovers. These pinwheels allowed me to use up the blanched asparagus from the night before. My original idea was to keep the asparagus long and place them in rows on square sections of puff pastry. 

This is my issue with using puff pastry. I feel like it doesn't always bake consistently.  Sometimes I bite into a piece and it's hard, not flaky.  For me, this is a bit disappointing as I like to have every bite flaky and crispy as the layers separate in my mouth. Not to mention, pinwheels are easy. You spread the inside out, roll, slice, and bake.  

That's pretty simple for a wonderful little morsel of deliciousness.

I know the issue may be me or my oven with using the puff pastry in other ways besides the pinwheel format.  I will continue to work on that.  To be honest, we don't eat much puff pastry so it may never turn into a huge problem for me to solve.

I use a vegan puff pastry that I find at my local market. I have not tried to make it from scratch with out butter. I have made it with butter before with great results.  We eat a ton of fresh food.  It's nice for my family to have something different once in a while.

These little flaky pinwheels are fun, easy, and a nice change of pace from our everyday crunchy, juicy, and fresh fruits and vegetables.



I used two products that you might not be familiar with.  I spread Wildwood Garlic Aioli as the base before adding the filling. I did this because I wanted to make sure that the insides did not fall out as I rolled the puff pastry. You could easily use hummus, homemade mayonnaise, or a vegetable spread of your choice.  The second thing I used is Miyoko's Vegan Cheese. This is a company that I found online. I love her cheese. I used a thin amount to add flavor and a bit of gooeyness to the pinwheel. Both of these items are not necessary to make the pinwheels but they do add a layer of flavor. 

* This is not an ad. I really do use these products in our kitchen.



Asparagus Dill Pinwheels #vegan

Makes about 15 pinwheels, depends on how wide you make them

Ingredients:

1 sheet of puff pastry (two come in each box), thawed
1.5 cups of pre-cooked asparagus, diced small
1/4 cup minced red onion
2 teaspoons minced garlic
salt/pepper
1 tablespoon fresh dill
Mayonnaise, Veganaise or garlic aioli
cheese-optional (I use a vegan cheese, see above)

1.  Preheat oven to 450.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

2.  In a small bowl add asparagus pieces, red onion, garlic, dill, salt and pepper.

3. Take thawed puff pastry and unfold.  Using a small spatula, spread a thin layer of garlic aioli or veganaise as the first layer.

4.  Add the asparagus mixture and spread evenly.  If you are using cheese, add now.  (see pictures below).  The cheese is a vegan variety with the texture of cream cheese.

5.  Choose an end and roll the puff pastry.  Take a sharp knife and cut into pinwheels. I tried to cut every 3/4 inch or less.  Be cautious about cutting them too thin. Lay them out on the cookie sheet with two inches in between. They will puff as they bake. (see pictures below)

6.  Bake for 15 minutes and then check.  I baked mine for 24 minutes but I like mine with brown edges and my oven bakes cooler than most.

7.  Serve hot. Store leftovers in fridge and microwave to warm up for a few seconds the next day.








Monday, July 17, 2017

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies #vegan


According to my kids, I have committed a royal sin.

 I announced I made cookies.

Now you would think that Mom making cookies is a good thing, right?

I have learned that not all cookies are the same.

If, and only when, they contain chocolate will they ever be deemed "a cookie" in my home.

Finnley schooled me on exactly what constitutes a "real" cookie. Keep in mind she is three.  Her favorite saying of late is: "I'm outta here."  I haven't the slightest idea where she is learning these things but they are funny coming from such a small human being.

I explained to her when she woke up that I made cookies. Oh, she was excited!  She ran to the kitchen.  Reached her tiny hand to the top of the counter and grabbed the first one she touched. As she brought it to her mouth she stopped.  She looked at me and cried with frustration.  I had not made a proper cookie. There wasn't a single chocolate chip present.  She quickly returned the cookie and said, "I'm outta here."

Maybe this isn't a kid cookie. But, when I take these cookies to a function with adults, they love them and some kids gobble them up too. The cookies are soft on the inside and crispy on the edges.  I personally think they are a bowl of oatmeal just in a cookie form.  To be honest, sometimes I get tired of eating oatmeal.

I never get tired of eating these Oatmeal Raisin Cookies.



Oatmeal Raisin Cookies 
Makes 24-36 cookies, depends on size of cookie scoop

Ingredients

2 flax meal eggs (1 Tbsp flax meal/3 Tbsp warm water)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup of flour (white or wheat)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups old fashion oatmeal (uncooked)
1 cup golden raisins

1. Preheat oven to 350.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

2.  Prepare flax meal eggs and let sit for 3-5 minutes.

3.  Add remaining ingredients to a medium bowl.  Stir to mix well.  Add flax eggs.  Mix together until well combined.

4.  Use a cookie scoop and space cookies 1 inch apart. The cookies do not spread.  They will puff up and outward. I can get 15 scoops on each cookie tray.

5.  Bake for 9-10 minutes. We like ours a little under cooked. If you want a crispier cookie then bake a few minutes longer. Remove cookies to a cookie rack and let cool.  Keep unused cookies in an air tight container.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies with Chocolate Frosting (dairy-free,egg free)





I'm off for the summer!  Yahoo.

This past semester has been long. The good news is that I got an "A" in my math class.  My next math class doesn't happen until September and my brain is looking forward to the break.  

What's this mean?  Well, hopefully, it means more blogging, more cooking, more camping, and more summer fun.  

I made these cookies after we went to the aquarium today and my husband picked up a peanut butter cookie. Unfortunately, I was not able to eat any of it. These cookies--yes--I can eat every single one of them because they don't have any dairy or eggs in them. 

I learn something every time I step into the kitchen. Today I learned that I can make a really good dairy-free chocolate frosting.  I always thought you had to have butter and milk to make it rich and spreadable. This frosting is perfect. I used powdered sugar, almond milk, a pinch of salt, Scharffen cocoa powder, and avocado oil.  I blended it all together until the consistency was what I needed to spread on each cookie. Recipe is below. *Scharffen Cocoa has the ingredients listed as just cocoa. Please read your own labels on your cocoa and decide for yourself if you are okay consuming the product of your choice.




Why frost the cookies?

First of all, you don't have to frost them. Personally, they remind me of a muffin, not too sweet, so the frosting is only an option.  The frosting adds a bit of sweetness that I felt my kids and neighbors would enjoy. I also prefer the frosting to the non-dairy chocolate chips.

Can they be Gluten-Free?

Yes, they can be gluten-free. I used whole wheat flour in this recipe but you can substitute a one-for-one gluten free flour blend in this recipe. I still do a lot of gluten-free cooking because my son's girlfriend is gluten free.

How many cookies does this recipe make?

This recipe makes about 50 cookies. I make a full batch and freeze half the dough for a later date.



Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies with Chocolate Frosting (vegan)
 Recipe adapted from Beaming Baker

2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups rolled oats (uncooked)
1.5 cups unsweetened, shredded coconut
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup creamy peanut butter (I use an organic, peanut only peanut butter)
1/2 cup avocado oil
1 cup brown sugar
2 flax eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2-3/4 cup of almond milk (more may be necessary)

Chocolate Frosting

2 cups sifted powdered sugar
1/2 cocoa powder (more if a darker chocolate is wanted)
1 tablespoon almond milk
1-2 tablespoons avocado oil
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with a parchment sheet or oil cookie sheet.

2. Combine the dry ingredients. Use a whip to blend well.  

3. Make flax egg. Take 2 tablespoons flax meal and add 6 tablespoons water. Stir and let set for 3-5 minutes.

4. Combine remaining ingredients and then add to dry ingredients. Use a wooden spoon and mix dry and wet ingredients until well combined. I use my hands. The dough is thick.

5. Use a cookie scoop and place 15 cookies on each cookie sheet. Use a fork to flatten and criss-cross the tops of each cookie. Bake for 9 minutes. Let cool slightly. Move to a cookie rack to cool.

6. To make chocolate frosting: Sift powdered sugar.  Stir in cocoa and salt.  Drizzle oil and milk. With a spoon or whisk, beat frosting. If too thick add more milk.  Too thin, add more powdered sugar.

Taste the frosting! Make adjustments as needed. You can always add more cocoa or sugar to the bowl.

7.  Frost cookies and serve. Keep in an airtight container for up to 7 days. 

*Dough can be frozen for 3 months. To use: thaw and bake as recommended above.

Cookie dough is thick. I use a scoop to ensure the cookies are all the same size.

I shaped the cookies with my hand after scooping the exact amount.

I used a fork to criss-cross the cookies. They do not spread on the baking sheet.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

2017 Spring Break in Portland,OR-LINKS, IDEAS, and PICTURES


This year we have decided to stick around Oregon for our vacations. Our first stop was Portland, OR.
This is a place that Cory and I have visited many times as a teenager and when we were a young married couple.  We took the older kids but we wanted to also share this amazing city with our little girls. The hardest part about going on vacation with a 10-year-old and a 3-year-old is there is a huge gap in age. What one can do, the other can not. I had to be really picky about the types of things we planned for this vacation.

Our first stop was EVERGREEN MUSEUM and WATER PARK in McMinnville. The reason we stopped here is because it was on our way. We traveled on 99W from Corvallis and we drove right past it.  This park was a great decision. It met everyone's needs and we all had a very good time.

Things to note:  You can not bring any food inside but you can leave and return to the water park. They have a small restaurant upstairs that has basic fast food.  Towels are not provided. Bring your own. Get there early to get chairs or a table. 



The Oregon Zoo located in Portland was up next. Again, this is a place that is pretty age friendly to accommodate all ages and abilities. The girls loved seeing the animals. I believe their favorite part was the carousel. The train came in second.




A bonus of the zoo is that it is attached to Washington Park. This includes the Japanese Gardens and the Rose Gardens.  You can walk, take the metro or the train (when in service).  We drove and parked closer because the walk was too far for Finnley's little legs.  If you get a chance walk to the park below the Rose Gardens. It is wonderful. We brought bubbles. This was a nice place for MOM and DAD to sit and rest and let the little girls play hard.

NOTES:  This area is hilly. Prepare to wear comfortable shoes and hit the hills. Layer your clothes because you will find the need to remove a few (especially after a few hills are under your belt).


We attempted OMSI but the lines were too long. We made a last minute decision to go to the Portland Art Museum downtown.  Finnley was bored. We did the best we could keeping her occupied.  This translates to walking through it as fast as possible.  Isabella found it interesting and it held her interest.  Personally, Cory and I thought it could be have been filled with more interesting art collections. Our favorite was the first floor and all of the ancient pieces from China.


The primary reason we chose to Portland, Oregon in March is specifically to see the Cherry Blossoms. They were beautiful. The girls loved walking around the trees and exploring the blossoms. We saw pink and white almost everywhere we went.


We took the girls to 23rd street. This is a great walking district filled with restaurants, shopping, and scenery. We went to visit Salt and Straw. This is an ice cream shop. The line is usually out the door. They specialize in unique flavors. We loved our selection and will try to go back again.



We took the RV and stayed at Roamer's Rest RV park in Tigard. The location was perfect.  We were 20 minutes from downtown. It was easy to get to everything on our to-do list. The RV park is in pristine condition. It is on the Willamette River and can support very large rigs. I do not believe they have any tent camping. The management was helpful too.

While at the RV park we found a few parks nearby. Roamer's did not have a playground for the kids. We visited Cook Park.  Amazing!  Lots of trails, toys, and restrooms.  We tried to go back but our schedule was too full.




Are you getting tired yet?  LOL  we were!  Our last day in Portland we visited Multnomah Falls. The kids did great until we passed the falls and started the 11 switchbacks to the top. We made it to 4.  It's steep and narrow. Not to mention, we ran into rain and it made the hike a bit more uncomfortable because we were really, really wet.  We turned around and promised ourselves we would return.




Did I mention the rain?  We had a bit of rain on our Portland trip.  We had originally planned on staying until Friday, but the weather suddenly turned beautiful and I couldn't return home just yet. We booked it over to Champoeg State Park to try and get a spot. We were lucky enough to get two more nights. This, for me, was my favorite part of the trip.  We finally returned to a slower pace and found the most gorgeous location to park the RV. It is a wonderful park to visit.

The park used to be a city that was washed away by a flood. The family that owned the property has several buildings to explore. They have a living museum/barn to visit. The trails are numerous. They have a disc golf course.  A cool play ground.










This trip was busy but so worth the planning and the packed days. I ended the day with this view. I long to return to this position: feet crossed and a gorgeous view to boot.


I will be blogging about our travels.  I will try to provide links too. If you have any questions, please ask and I will try to answer them for you. Oregon is an amazing place to visit.

Our next RV trip is to the Tulip Festival in Woodburn, Oregon for my birthday.
Stay tune for those updates.

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