Natural versus Safe

This is going to be short since I have a lesson to teach, but it’s been on my mind for a while. As I’ve mentioned in various previous posts, not everything natural is safe and not everything created by science and technology is bad.

Case in point: lead. Lead is a completely earth-made, naturally occurring element that happens to be very toxic to people. People still managed to line their water pipes with it and slather it on their faces for centuries. We’ve just now begun to ban it from our cosmetics (which is rather scary it’s taken so long).

I definitely support living a more healthy lifestyle, which in many cases does mean adopting the use of more natural materials in daily life. But I’m also thankful science and technology have come up with ways to extract surfactants from plants to make soap so I don’t have to stand in the hot sun with ashes, urine, and/or animal fat trying to make lye soap.

I think it’s good to be somewhat flexible with goals like this. Trying to live more naturally in a modern society isn’t always easy, and it’s also not always practical nor healthy to go completely in one direction (toothpaste doesn’t occur in nature but it’s important for one’s dental health). My goal is health. I’ve seen family members who didn’t take care of their health suffer for it, many times painfully and for years, and I don’t want that for myself.

I’m not going to swear off using the microwave, but I have said goodbye to commercial deodorants, soaps, makeup, makeup removers, many home/bathroom cleaners, cologne, and more because I can make my own. I choose not to eat fast food because I prefer whole, natural, and unprocessed foods (except pizza. Give me ALLLLL the pizza. And ice cream, although I do often make my own vegan “nice” cream these days). I prefer to dress in sustainable, comfortable fabrics and try my best to shop from manufacturers who don’t mistreat people nor the planet.

But I’m not perfect. I bought a wedding dress because of how it looked, not who made it. I ordered my niece a game on Amazon for her birthday instead of making something.

It’s okay not to be perfect on the quest for a healthier life.

Science and technology are not the enemy. Perfection is.

If a Millennial travels and doesn’t Instagram it, did it really happen?

No, really. We’ve all heard someone say “pics or it didn’t happen” about something. In this age where we carry cameras in our pockets, travel has become a key target, especially among millennials.

I try to take photos whilst traveling to remind myself of the places I saw and the people I met. When I look at the pictures months or years later they really help jog my memory and bring back stories that would have otherwise been buried. I like turning the pages of printed photo albums and remembering that those moments were real.

That said, I’ve tried to take fewer pictures as I’ve explored more. The ocean may not look exactly the same everywhere, but it’s blue and made of water. I don’t need to take 25 shots of the ocean every time I see it. If the weather is particularly unusual or the landscape surrounding the ocean is unique, yes, definitely. Even better if the photo includes people (either people I’ve just met or those I’m traveling with) as that’s when the pictures truly stop time forever: seeing a day, a moment, a person exactly as it was.

With social media, we now see everyone’s photos all the time. Moments don’t stop. They just keep piling up. People are booking vacations just to get a photograph of a particular location because they saw it on Instagram. While it’s great people are exploring more of this beautiful world, it’s not great when travelers aren’t earth-conscious or respectful of others. Ecosystems are suffering from an influx of human activity which they cannot handle. Economies are booming from tourism and yet the residents are still living without basic necessities. All this, just to get a better Instagram photo than someone else?

I’m not saying we shouldn’t travel. But maybe we should put some thought into our goals and reasons for traveling. Posting a cool pic on social media isn’t really well-thought-out criteria for selecting a travel destination (nor the best use of one’s time, in my personal opinion).  What matters to do? Do you have a list somewhere of things you’d like to accomplish and places you’d like to see? Focus on that. Take pictures and don’t worry about posting them on social media. Stop following people whose posts “give you wanderlust” and choose your own adventure. Seriously, unsubscribe. We’re pummeled with messages about the next coolest destination and the most beautiful locations. Let it go. Those do not have to be your adventures.

It is entirely possible to travel to really awesome places without taking the whole world with you in your pocket. You may find you’re able to enjoy it more because you’re more focused on the moment than the perfect filter for the frame. Don’t travel somewhere because everybody else is. Travel if you want to, where you want to, when you want to. Your adventures are real, whether posted on social media or not. Share your life and adventures with people in real life instead of “sharing” with a screen. I guarantee your grandma will love looking at a photo album and hearing your stories and she won’t care whether it’s the most beautiful picture of the Pacific Ocean she’s ever seen. She cares that you enjoyed yourself and your life is richer because you went somewhere new.

Try traveling and not posting all your pictures. You’ll like it, I promise.

A Happier 2017 – Month Three

Another month is behind us already! I know as you get older time seems to pass by faster. It makes sense logically: when you’re five years old, a single summer takes up a massive portion of your time on earth. When you’re 30, 65, 80, a single summer is just a short blip of time out of the many seasons you’ve experienced. And I’m now officially a year older, as I turned 33 last Friday. In keeping up with my monthly tradition, here’s a recap of how I did on my goals throughout the month of March:

Practice mandolin at least once per week with book. Fail. I didn’t pick it up once this month. My wrist is still bothering me but that’s not really a good excuse as I’ve managed to play both guitar and piano. Maybe it’s because I moved the case to the side of my piano where it’s partially hidden by a curtain and I sometimes forget it’s there. But I think there’s a bit more to it (as you’ll see in a few paragraphs).

Pay off my student loan. Obviously this is still done, although I’m still awaiting my payoff letter. Still haven’t received an official payoff letter although I did receive a request to “write my story” about how I paid off my student debt early. I totally wrote my story.

Write 2 blog posts per week. Look at me go! This makes my 9th post for the month. I thought I was slacking off but turns out a few recipes and some shorter posts really rounded out the imagined gaps.

Read “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson as well as at least one John Muir book. “Silent Spring” has been read! Muir’s “The Yosemite” is staring at me from the coffee table right now. I don’t think I selected well for my first book of his. I adore the way he writes but having never been to Yosemite it’s a bit difficult for me to imagine everything he describes. I’ve actually looked up images of the places on Google to get the proper breathtaking feeling his words alone should give me. That said, I’m going to press on and complete it. I read through those physics books when I was 29…this will be easy.

Leave my corporate job. Not yet. BUT: I got my first TWO freelance clients and a handful of potential clients. I am STOKED! All it took was a little courage…and a LOT of time and patience. I believe this point is the real reason behind my lack of mandolin practice: I spent HOURS this month crafting profiles on freelance sites, bookmarking the top freelance writing job boards, applying for projects, and finally, WRITING AND GETTING PAID FOR IT!! HOORAY!!! So I can now say I’m heading in the right direction on this one.

Hike the Long Trail. Still gainfully employed and also, weather. Soon. 

Pay off Round #2 of Invisalign. Still done, and more trays keep coming. I can’t wait to see my smile when I’m done…I will need to pay for retainers when that dally finally comes.

Cut out the noise and enjoy the stillness. Overall I’m doing okay with this one. I don’t miss Facebook nearly as much as I thought I would. I’ve started using Reddit to help find clients and homestead ideas instead of brainless memes. (Here’s what I did: I went through my subscribed subreddits and unsubscribed to anything I never visited. Then I looked for subreddits that would actually add value to my life: homesteading, camping and hiking, wedding planning, recipe planning, freelance writing, and subscribed to those instead. Now my homepage is a list of interesting points of view, pretty wedding dresses, delicious healthy food, and potential clients. Score!)

Read 12 books (one per month). Seven down. I finished Bill Bryson’s “A Short History of Nearly Everything” along with JD Vance’s “Hillbilly Elegy” last month. Both interesting reads. I should write about them.

Do a guided meditation once per week. I did a couple, but definitely not every week this month. It was a strange month as Travis had his surgery and I didn’t go to work as usual for a whole week. Then some students were sick so I used the extra time to write instead of meditate. That said, I DID get in touch with my therapist and have had Skype therapy sessions each week. They’ve been helping me process some things that don’t directly impact my day-to-day life but have been indirectly impacting how I feel. They’ve also helped me get back to the right mindset and remember how to reframe situations that happen to be less than ideal. I won’t be needing weekly sessions going forward but will probably touch base on a monthly basis, just to make sure I’m taking the best care of myself.

Write one handwritten letter per month. Done, but barely. A dear friend and I send each other bracelets when we travel and my bracelet for her from Hawaii had been sitting on my counter for four months. Sorry, Linda. I hope you like it.

Have “Happy Hour” once per week. Nope, nope, nope. But all is not lost as I’ve done a great job ensuring I read and work out almost every single day anyway. I just haven’t given it a name and hit “start” on my stopwatch app. 

Sleep more, drink less. Max 2 drinks per day, preferably wine if during weekdays. Hooray and go me! I had a beer with lunch today. I had a beer with dinner last weekend. I drank a bottle of red wine – over the course of an entire WEEK, one (properly-sized) glass per evening. It now feels much more like a treat to enjoy a drink instead of “something you do.” I truly enjoy wine and beer, but, as with all my other treats, all in moderation. I know it’s a terrible idea to come home from a bad day and dive into a box of cookies (homemade or not), and thus I also know it’s a terrible idea to dive into a bottle of wine. We all do it sometimes, but I’ve definitely started to look at drinking as a bit of a reward to celebrate instead of a background activity to dull the mind. And that said, I’ve been sleeping pretty well too. I picked up a Somnilight reading lamp  and it’s AWESOME! I love reading at night now and I haven’t been waking up in the middle of the night, unable to fall back to sleep. I want to get all their lamps now…and even the glasses. Who knew using a different reading lamp right before bed would actually help me stay asleep? I think I look less tired in my eyes now too. Thank you, Somnilight!

Why I’m a Vegetarian

I’ve been a vegetarian for most of my life and I’m often asked why. There’s a cute little story about how it all began, and I’ll follow it up with why I still am, after more than 20 years.

I grew up on a small farm in Maine. We had horses, rabbits, chickens, and a garden. I grew up eating meat but I never liked it very much, except for my grandmother’s delicious turkey soup. I didn’t like steaks or burgers at all. Once we got a flock of chickens I spent my afternoons playing in the yard with them. One chick in particular was my favorite – a beautiful Bantam hen I named Peeps because she was always making little peeping sounds. I’d come home from school, pick her up, climb the willow tree, and lounge in the branches, reading a book, with Peeps in the crook of my elbow. I would often give the chickens scraps of whatever I was eating. One day I made the connection between the fact chicken nuggets are made out of chickens – the very kind of chickens I was playing with each day. Chicken nuggets look nothing like living chickens – very few meat products resemble their roots – so although I’m somewhat embarrassed it took me so long to make the connection, I’m not surprised.

It took me about two months to completely give up meat and ensure my family respected my decision. I received cookbooks from my grandparents but my mother would continue to feed me chicken-and-rice baked dishes, telling me to “eat around the chicken,” although the entire thing was simmering in chicken broth. I remember during that time we visited a bison farm, and for the first time in my life, I enjoyed a burger. Bison was the most delicious red meat I had ever tasted, but a few minutes later when a bison approached the fence and let me pet his nose, I knew no matter how delicious it was, I wasn’t going to eat it again.

This was the mid-90s when vegetarianism among teenagers was quite popular, and I would be lying if I didn’t say the choice was also partly social. I had friends I respected and admired who were already staunch vegetarians and as we talked about their choices it made sense to me. So, the last meat I ate was bacon at my grandmother’s house – because it smelled so good the morning she cooked it during a visit that summer – and I gave it up after that.

These days my body can’t process meat. If I eat a soup made with chicken broth, or have a bite of a party dip with chopped chicken, or even eat veggies cooked on the same griddle as meat, I find myself in the throes of gastric distress within a few hours. People often don’t believe that when I first explain, but science proves that when one foregoes meat for long enough, the body stops creating the enzymes necessary with which to digest meat. It’s been more than 20 years – those enzymes are long gone. Should I ever choose to eat meat again I’d need to introduce it slowly and carefully.

I don’t think that’s going to happen. I fought with myself a couple years ago when I began traveling, especially to countries in which meat is extremely popular (especially South America). I wanted to be able to enjoy eating whatever the locals are eating without worrying about tummy troubles due to confusion over ingredients or shared cooking surfaces. I read recipes for meat dishes and considered ordering a chicken dish when I was in a restaurant.

And then I went to the grocery store and saw the meat products sitting in the coolers and I knew I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t take raw flesh and turn it into something edible. Today, I’m not only a vegetarian because I care about animals, but also because I care about my health, and – probably most importantly – because I don’t believe it is my place to take the life of another living being. Of course, the response to that is often, “plants are alive! Plants have feelings too!” Well, yes, that’s true. But I personally have no moral issue pulling a carrot from the ground and eating it.

I could not take the life of an animal – cow, chicken, turkey, goat, sheep, deer, mouse, caribou – with my own hands. I have absolutely no problem with people who choose to do so, and I actually believe strongly in the ability to hunt. I think hunting is a fantastic way to enjoy healthy, fresh meat with which to feed your family, and I much prefer hunting to the industrialized “agriculture” system on which this country currently runs. But I couldn’t do it myself – I don’t even kill spiders or bugs in the house. I put them in my hands and set them free outside. Who am I to decide who lives and dies?

I’m a vegetarian because I believe in treating life with respect – all life. I do my absolute best to never waste food: we freeze our vegetable scraps to create stock and have begun composting on a small scale in our condo. Unless food is clearly and truly spoiled I can find a way to use it or preserve it (soups are awesome for cleaning out the veggie drawer and even giving stale bread a new life). I’m respecting my body by feeding it what feels good. I’m respecting animals by not eating them. I’m respecting the planet as a whole by not supporting industrialized “farming” and not throwing food away.

My life as a vegetarian hasn’t always been healthy and wasn’t nearly always so easy, even for me, to understand. That’ll come in another post. It’s important to make an educated choice to become vegetarian. It’s not difficult but it does involve some effort in terms of nutrition – and that’s why I often offer recipes here too.

Pumpkin Molasses Cookies

We wanted the house to smell nice last night so, of course, I had to make cookies. That’s the best way! I had about half a can of pumpkin sitting in the fridge, a bag of dark chocolate chips, and a hankering for something chewy and warm. Pumpkin chocolate chip cookies? Yes.

This time around I sweetened them with molasses instead of maple syrup and I switched up the spices. If I were going to go the molasses route again I’d up the ginger to make them a bit more gingersnap-esque, and I’d also like to try them with raisins instead of chocolate chips. Warming, cozy cookies at their best! These can very easily be vegan if you use vegan chocolate chips, and they have no refined sugar/flour.

Pumpkin Molasses Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp chai spice
  • 1-2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1tsp or more ground ginger, if you wish
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • dash of salt
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree (1/2 a can)
  • 2 tbsp melted coconut oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup blackstrap molasses
  • dark chocolate or vegan chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk together dry ingredients until well mixed.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together wet ingredients until smooth. Tip: I melt the coconut oil RIGHT before I use it so it doesn't harden again if my kitchen is a bit chilly.
  4. Pour dry ingredients into wet and stir with a spatula until fully incorporated.
  5. Stir in chocolate chips.
  6. Wet hands and scoop dough out, roll into a ball, flatten slightly, and place on the baking sheet. They won't spread during baking.
  7. Bake for about 13-15 minutes or until fairly set.
  8. Allow to cool and harden for a few minutes before removing from the baking sheet.

A Happier 2017 – Month Two

Last month I followed up on my goals for the year with a recap of the first month of 2017. I outlined my progress with the goals I’d created prior to the year beginning as well as a few new goals. Now that we’re at the end of Month Two, let’s check in on my progress.

Practice mandolin at least once per week with book. My wrist is still bothering me so I’ve continued to be lax here. However, I’ve managed to progress, and I can now play a range of standard I-V-IV folk/bluegrass tunes in the keys of G, D, A, E, and C, which is pretty great. Seeing how the chord shapes relate to one another (just like all other instruments) has been helpful. 

Pay off my student loan. Obviously this is still done, although I’m still awaiting my payoff letter. Come on, Navient…

Write 2 blog posts per week. I slacked off a bit here. I’ll have 6 posts for February by the completion of this post, and if I don’t write again tomorrow, that means 6 for the month. Still more than usual, but not quite as consistent. I’ve started a ton of posts with prompts about topics I want to discuss, so at least the ideas are actually out of my head!

Read “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson as well as at least one John Muir book. “Silent Spring” has been read! Hooray! And boo for chemicals…wow. More on that later.

Leave my corporate job. Not yet. Patience, grasshopper.

Hike the Long Trail. See directly above.

Pay off Round #2 of Invisalign. Done, although I had a little less in my bank account than usual since I sucked it up and paid it right away. But now I don’t have to worry about it. 

Cut out the noise and enjoy the stillness. I’m doing pretty well on this. My daily news emails didn’t show up for a few days so I had to sign up again, but in the meantime, I didn’t bother logging onto a host of news sites to dull my brain. I hop on Reddit here and there, mostly to check out the wedding planning forums, and I limit my NPR listening to my commute home instead of both ways. 

Read 12 books (one per month). Four down, currently reading two which must be returned in a month, so I have to get cracking. 

Do a guided meditation once per week. I’ve been doing them Tuesday afternoons between leaving the office and going to my piano students. They’ve helped me shake off the day before I go do what I love doing, and approach the students and the lessons from a more peaceful place. 

Write one handwritten letter per month. I wrote TWO this month! Go me! One was to my aunt because Travis and I found her a little gift from an art museum in Philly. The other one only half-counts as it was on the back of a (very large) postcard, sending guitar strings to one of my old bandmates. His girlfriend makes awesome handmade jewelry and I’d been saving strings for her for a while. 

Have “Happy Hour” once per week. I mentioned Happy Hour last year and I’ve been wanting to incorporate them into my regular routine a bit more but I’m still not doing very well with it. I have been making a much larger general sweep of reading, writing, making music, and working out without setting the timer, which is probably better in the long run. Still, on those busy days, it’s good to make sure I set aside time.

Sleep more, drink less. Max 2 drinks per day, preferably wine if during weekdays. Epic utter failure. That wine and pizza night I mentioned last time? I haven’t had any red wine since. Our tolerances have really gone way down. I’ve been fine with a glass of white wine or a couple beers here and there, but whew boy was I in rough shape after a “normal” amount of wine. I still love the taste but I’m in no rush to crack open a bottle of wine at the moment. I’ll stick to a post-workout refreshing, replenishing brew for the time being. 

No-Bake Chocolate Protein Brownies

I’ve been on the Black Bean Brownie kick for a couple of years. I have a major sweet tooth but once I started focusing on cooking and eating for health and nutrition as well as taste, I’ve been phasing out a lot of traditional sweets. The one recipe I keep and continue to make is my Grammy’s Pumpkin Bread…I’ve modified it here and there and it still tastes great, but the original is the best.

I digress…

When I want brownies but I don’t want to have a crazy sugar rush afterward, I go the black bean route. The first ones I tried were the Chocolate Covered Katie Black Bean Brownies. I even made them for a baking contest at work. They’re delicious, fudge-y, and chocolatey. Everything you could want in a brownie, minus the feeling of eating a bowl full of sugar.

It’s no secret I love making treats with Orgain.  I’ve made protein shakes (obviously), overnight oats, cheesecake, cookies, and more with this awesome, simple, vegan protein powder. So of course I decided it was time to take the Orgain to the black bean brownies and devise the ultimate protein-bar brownie. Still chocolatey and fudge-y, a bit lighter than the original black bean brownies (no chocolate chips, no cocoa powder), and you don’t even have to wait for them to bake.

Success!

As usual, I don’t measure too carefully. I tend to eyeball most of my recipes, so feel free to modify the amounts to suit your tastes. Love peanut butter and no so keen on maple syrup? Great – add more PB and dial down the maple syrup (you may need to add more almond milk) – you get the idea.

Also: be careful with your food processor/blender. I think I actually killed our Ninja last night. I’ve had my eye on a Vitamix for a while and my birthday is coming up…anybody want to donate to the domestic cause? You will after you try these!

No-Bake Chocolate Protein Brownies

Ingredients

  • 1 can black beans, rinsed well
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • dash of salt
  • dash of baking soda
  • 1/4 - 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/4 - 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 rounded cup rolled oats
  • 3 scoops chocolate protein powder (I used Orgain)
  • 1/4 cup almond milk, as needed

Instructions

  1. Add all ingredients to a food processor or blender and process until very smooth. You may need to add more almond milk as the mixture comes together. It should stick to itself but not be runny (if it's too runny, add more oats or protein powder).
  2. Pour into an 8x8 or 7x9 baking pan and press down.
  3. Refrigerate until firm and cut into squares.

A Happier 2017 – Month One

About a month ago I outlined my goals for the year. I don’t call them “resolutions” because I don’t like the idea of “resolving” to do something. Rather, they’re my goals for the year – achievements, milestones, and actions to take pride in. To keep myself accountable, here’s my first monthly recap of how I’m doing this year so far.

Practice mandolin at least once per week with book. I’m doing pretty well on this one, actually. My callouses have come back with a vengeance. Those tiny, tightly-wound strings really do a number on your fingers. I will say I was a bit lax this past week due to a wrist injury, but I’ve been pretty consistent.

Pay off my student loan. Done, as soon as we returned from our holiday family trips. What a relief! That said…Invisalign is back (see bottom of post). 

Write 2 blog posts per week. I’m doing it! Once this post is complete, I’ll have 8 posts for January, and for most four-week months, that’ll be a solid average! Downside: January was a five-week month. I have a little work to do, but the habit is definitely sticking. 

Read “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson as well as at least one John Muir book. It’s sitting on my living room table and I’m about 15% of the way in. In my defense, I read three OTHER books this month, plus I have a fourth on my nightstand. I’m doing really well reading more in general. 

Leave my corporate job. Not yet. Patience, grasshopper.

Hike the Long Trail. See directly above.

I also mentioned I’d likely have some additional goals as the weeks went by. I sure do. Here they are, in no particular order:

Pay off Round #2 of Invisalign. Oh boy. Now that my top teeth are looking great, my bottom teeth are looking (and feeling) comparably worse. Luckily, Round #2 is only about a third of the cost of Round #1. This won’t take too long, but I was hoping to bank all that extra money for at least a couple months. 

Cut out the noise and enjoy the stillness. I logged out of Facebook maybe six weeks ago and I honestly haven’t missed it. I keep a page for my teaching, writing, and music, but nothing personal anymore. There are occasions I’ll think, “Huh, I haven’t heard from so-and-so for a while, I wonder what she’s up to,” but the thought will leave my mind just as easily as it enters – unlike before, when I could type any name into the search box and find out unnecessary details about anybody who crossed my mind. Outside of social media, I signed up for a daily news digest and deleted the News app from my phone. No more mindless scrolling. That’s been super helpful as it prevents me from falling down the headline rabbit hole. I will admit to listening to more NPR and less classical music during my commutes over the last two weeks as the country’s leadership has drastically changed and I want to stay informed but I am trying not to let it control me. 

Read 12 books (one per month). Killing this one. I better keep it up. My 12-year-old self would be disappointed in such a low goal. 

Do a guided meditation once per week. I could improve. I think I’ve done four, but I doubled up during a particular emotional week. 

Write one handwritten letter per month. Tomorrow is the last day of the month. Who wants a card? I forgot about this one. Whoops. My grandma turned 80 last week so she’ll probably be the lucky recipient. 

Have “Happy Hour” once per week. I mentioned Happy Hour last month and I’ve been wanting to incorporate it into my regular routine a bit more. However, I’ve been pretty bad about it. I HAVE been making a point of working out, reading, and playing music, but I haven’t actually set the timer to do “whatever” on any of these days. I need to get to it. 

Sleep more, drink less. Max 2 drinks per day, preferably wine if during weekdays. Meh…I had some whisky when we went to the jeweler to design a setting for a Colombian emerald I have. And by some I mean I’m glad I wasn’t driving. Otherwise, I’ve been pretty good, although I’m meeting a friend for wine and pizza Wednesday and I may have more than two glasses there as well. Still, now that Travis and I have both cut back on the booze, we’re sleeping better, waking up more easily, and feeling more alert. The problem is we really enjoy the taste of a rich, dark beer or a full-bodied red wine – we just don’t like the effects. Le sigh. 

And there we have it. My list of goals grew, but remember, I accomplished my 30 Before 30 list in a year, and those were some pretty big goals. These are more like habits – much easier to achieve.

How are you doing with your resolutions? Do you prefer goals or resolutions?

10 Easy Vegetarian Super Bowl 2017 Snacks

The Superbowl is looming ever closer, and our fridge is PACKED. Aside from the holiday season, the Superbowl is a great excuse to cozy up whilst cooking up a bunch of delicious food.

But we don’t have a TV.

We aren’t even hosting a party.

We’re planning to stream the game on our (shared) laptop, all snuggled under blankets, eating our hearts out – just the two of us.

It’s not the size of the party that matters. It’s the company…and, perhaps more importantly, the FOOD.

With that in mind, here’s a roundup of 10 delicious (mostly secretly-healthy) vegetarian recipes for your Superbowl celebration. Whether you’re hunkering down at home, hosting a party, or attending a party, you’ll find something on this list to please everyone, from starters to desserts.

QUICK SNACKS

  1. Kale Chips by Oh She Glows
    • I know we’ve all heard about kale chips, and you may have tried a batch or two without being sold on the idea. But this summer, with our abundance of kale thanks to our CSA, we perfected this simple snack. Angela’s tips on preventing burns and soggy chips will have your entire crew crunching in no time. Our batches barely made it to a plate before we polished them off. Experiment with seasonings – we kept ours simple with salt and pepper, but you can get really creative here.
  2. Cashew-less Vegan Queso by Minimalist Baker
    • Full disclosure: we have not yet tried this recipe. But you better believe we picked up an extra eggplant this week to try it out. We love cheesy snacks here but try to limit how much dairy we eat, for both health and sustainability reasons. Cheese is pretty high in calories and I could easily eat my daily caloric needs in cheese. Thankfully, I stumbled upon Minimalist Baker’s queso recipe this week, and we can’t wait to try it out. Creamy queso-y goodness, without the calories, with the added benefits of eating more veggies? Yes, please!
  3. Maple-Roasted Chickpeas by A Pastry Affair
    • I had this recipe bookmarked for months but kept forgetting to actually make it. How I “forgot” to simply empty a can of chickpeas onto a sheet and forget about it for 40 minutes is beyond me, but I finally remembered to make them, and I’m so glad I did. Much like the kale chips, you can experiment with flavors here. I’ve omitted the maple syrup and simply baked them with cinnamon and sugar too.
  4. Mozzarella-Stuffed Rosemary Pretzels by Baker by Nature
    • We made these delicious soft stuffed pretzels for the Superbowl last year. They’re soft, chewy, and flavorful, and you can customize the herbs and cheese to your liking – or omit them entirely for a plain soft pretzel. I let Travis handle all things yeast-based in our house, thanks to his years of beer-brewing, and these came out so well, we’re having a repeat performance. This year we’re using cheddar instead of mozzarella. Yum!

HEARTIER FARE

  1. Vegetarian Baked Potato Nachos by Sarah Goes Places
    • This is one of my favorite simple veggie recipes. You can use any type of potato, sliced super thin, and top with any combination of beans, veggies, and optional cheese, to create your preferred nachos. I almost always include tomatoes and peppers along with black beans, but the rest is up to you. Bake the potatoes, toss on the toppings, and bake until the cheese is melted.
  2. Easy Eggplant Pizza Bites by Sarah Goes Places
    • Another easily-customizable veggie recipe, these eggplant pizza bites are a great way to get delicious pizza flavor for a fraction of the calories. Using eggplant slices as the crust means they won’t be super crispy, and you may need a fork to eat them, but they’re still a great party option. Plus, you can make a few batches with different toppings – even including meat if you have some omnivores present!
  3. Hearty Veggie Mac and Cheese by Julia Moskin, NYTimes Cooking
    • The official title for this recipe is the decidedly-classier “Hearty Whole-Wheat Pasta with Brussels Sprouts, Cheese, and Potato,” but I think “Veggie Mac and Cheese” covers the topic just as well. It’s a warming way to sneak in a few extra veggies with a creamy classic. We made this with sweet potatoes and omitted the parmesan on top, and it was perfect for a cold winter dinner. You could also bake it into muffin cups to easily create single servings for guests.

DESSERTS

  1. Lightened-up Protein Cheesecake Cupcakes by Sarah Goes Places
    • We may not all be NFL players, but we could all use a nutritional boost from a dessert that’s low on sugar and high on protein. Baking the cheesecakes into cupcakes makes them easier to serve a crowd (if you don’t eat them all first). And who doesn’t love cheesecake?
  2. Dessert Hummus by Sarah Goes Places
    • We probably make this close to once a week these days. I’m almost embarrassed to admit how often we make it, but it’s just SO GOOD! If you’re serving to a crowd, you can spoon it into shot glasses for a fancy presentation, or have fruit/graham crackers handy to scoop it up.
  3. Chocolate Brownie Breakfast Bars by Chocolate Covered Katie
    • I’d be remiss in my healthy vegan and vegetarian desserts if I didn’t include a post from Chocolate Covered Katie. I’ve tried a ton of her recipes and been inspired by many others. Her classic black bean brownies are on our regular rotation list, and the dessert hummus above is inspired by one of her recipes. These chocolate brownie “breakfast” bars are tasty as-is, although we took it a step further and subbed out the cocoa powder for chocolate Orgain protein powder to give them an extra boost.

BONUS COCKTAIL

Travis told me I couldn’t choose sides in this post, but I know my grandma reads my blog, so, for my family back in New England – where I grew up – this cocktail is for you:

Winter Tea Julep by We Are Not Martha

This Boston-based blog cooked up a cold-weather cocktail sure to keep you and yours warm whilst watching the game. You’ll need to boil some water to create the simple syrup, but, as the name implies, it’s simple. Then you just brew some tea and add the bourbon.

If you’re not in the mood for peppermint tea, I’ve had great success making Hot Toddies with ginger tea, honey, lemon juice, and bourbon too. I’ll leave the amounts up to you.

And there you have it – our 2017 Superbowl Snack Recipe Roundup. If you try any of these, let me know! GO PATS!!

 

Vegan Apple Pumpkin Oatmeal Muffins

I went a little overboard at the apple orchard this fall. I also went a little overboard with canned pumpkin. Every time Travis or I needed groceries, I put a can of pumpkin on the list. Since we rarely had the chance to shop together during the fall, we ended up picking up a can – each – every trip. Last weekend we were tidying up our pantry and realized I managed to collect almost ten cans of pumpkin. I’d used maybe two cans since September. Whoops.

Luckily, I LOVE baking with pumpkin. We even tried an experiment this fall during which we roasted and ate our carving pumpkins because we were traveling on Halloween and didn’t get to carve them. Even that made a delicious dinner, though I prefer to bake pumpkin into muffins, pancakes, and the like. Once I discovered all the cans in our pantry, I had to do something about it – and I could be liberal with my choices! First order of business: using up the very last of the apples we got from our winter CSA. I’d made some Apple Cinnamon muffins earlier in the season that were tasty but I didn’t pick up any greek yogurt this week when we got groceries. I knew pumpkin was a pretty great substitute for fats whilst baking, and so was applesauce, so I modified that recipe a bit to create these. Enjoy!

Vegan Apple Pumpkin Oatmeal Muffins

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup oats
  • 3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • Dash of salt
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 3/4 cup almond milk
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon ground flax seed mixed with 3 tablespoons water (to create a flax egg)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon melted coconut oil
  • 3 apples, any variety, grated

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 and grease 12 muffin cups with coconut oil.
  2. Whisk together flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together pumpkin, almond milk, maple syrup, flax egg, vanilla, and melted coconut oil. You may need to work quickly here as the coconut oil may harden. If this happens, you can microwave in short bursts just to get it liquid again.
  4. Pour the liquid into the dry ingredients. Add the grated apple and stir until combined.
  5. Scoop into prepared muffin cups and bake about 20 minutes or until set (I don't use a toothpick, but I poke the tops to make sure they're firm).