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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

When Life Gets You Down and You Just Need A Drink To Match the Mood

I have neglected to post in the last few days. My parents were visiting on the weekend then one of my cats became very sick. We have been back and forth between home and the vets since Sunday. The prognosis unfortunately keeps changing which has certainly taken its toll but now the outlook is bad for my poor little kitty. He is on a pile of drugs now in the hopes that one will work by some miracle but at this point it is getting unlikely. To add insult to injury at the worst possible time, the government has decided I don't qualify for a tax benefit that they thought I did and would like me to pay them back $200 "immediately". It's funny how they take forever to pay us out any money but they want theirs "immediately".

So vodka is the current solution (which is a pun). Since stress causes my body to be ridicules I was blessed with a UTI out of nowhere. 100% cranberry juice fixes these up in no time but is not particularly enjoyable. Hides the taste of vodka like a champ though. So here is my easy cocktail for when one is stressed out to the point of minor immune failure.

F**K Everything I Need a Drink Vodka Cranberry

1. Fill half the glass with 100% cranberry juice
2. Add vodka, don't measure, just pour. Add about 1-3 ounces.
3. Top with some water to take down the tartness of the cranberry juice a bit.
4. Drink and forget your troubles just for a little while. It is not a sweet drink, but sweet drinks don't fit with sour situations.
It's really not much to look at. Not sure why I even took a picture.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Easy Vegan Pasta Salad

This is an easy, weeknight meal. I also served corn on the cob that night because corn was on sale so we had this a more of a side dish I suppose. I also had it for lunch the next 2 days. If made 4-5 servings as a side dish, probably 2-3 servings as a dinner.

What You Need:

  • 2 cups of dried pasta. Most shapes will work for this, I use noodles made of durum semolina because they are vegan and cheep. 
  • 1/4- 1/2 cup of vegan mayonnaise. I would recommend Earth Indian (green lid) or homemade mayo because they are good and most vegan mayonnaise is gross. Very gross. 
  • 1 small carrot, chopped
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Decorate With Your Stuff: A Few Easy Ways To Make Your Closet More Interesting While Spending Nothing

This decorating project started as a storage problem. I have a small jewelry box and not all of my stuff fits in there so I can't find anything and rarely wear any of it. So first, out came the bracelets. I put some nails in the wall and hung them up. (Note: Maybe don't display expensive jewelry this way as you may get robbed)

I also hung up some hats along the ceiling because I want the shelf space for other things. Scarfs are hung below on command hooks. I need a few more hooks to make it look a bit more symmetrical.

I really like dangly earrings. I could not wear them for a while out of fear of having them ripped out of my ears by my son but he is old enough now to know better (I hope). I wanted to hang them up so I could see them all. This was my solution:

This was a very fast project.
1. Staple some colourful paper to a canvas.
2. Staple a string on the back to hang it up.
3. Nail some nails around the edge of the canvas, more or less evenly.
4. Weave embroidery thread haphazardly around the whole get up and tie it.
5. Add earrings.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Motivated Morning Chocolate Protein Mocha Shake

For mornings when you need some protein and a kick of caffeine. Also good for warm, humid days when the idea of drinking a hot coffee is off putting. Makes about 2.5 cups.

What you need:

  • 1 1/2 cups Soy Milk
  • 1 scoop of Plant-based Protein Powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp Cocoa Powder
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Vanilla Jello Pudding Mix Powder (this is the secret ingredient, there is no gelatin in the powder)
  • 2 tsp Instant Coffee
  • 2 tsp Sugar
  • 6-10 Ice Cubes

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

A Place to Grow Vegetables All Winter Long

This project took my husband and I most of the day yesterday but it was fun to put together. We basically made a 3x3x3 foot cube cage to keep the cats away from our plants. The front panel is on hinges and opens so we can easily access the plants. There is an eye and hook latch to keep it closed. The lid is not attached. It lifts off easily in case we want to work in there for a while. We covered the whole thing with chicken wire, the door and the lid separately so they can be removed. My husband bought the grow light online, it makes the whole room pink. Now I just have to fill it with plants. I'm not sure which ones work best in these conditions. There will probably have to be some experimentation. I think leafy greens like kale and spinach will do well. The pictures are not great due to the lighting but you get the idea.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Vegan Criss Cross Nacho Fries

My husband and I used to eat at this place called Squirrel Tooth Alice's. That is where we were introduced to nachos made with criss cross fries instead of chips. They were fantastic but loaded with cheese and sour cream. I chased the dream of homemade criss cross fried for years so I could pull off this dish but I never found the right mandolin slicer and I since got rid of my deep fryer. Then I saw them in the freezer section at No Frills. This recipe feeds 2.5 people. The limiting factor is the fries so you could always buy 2 bags to feed more people.

What you need:

  • a bag of criss cross fries
  • daiya
  • salsa
  • chopped red pepper
  • optional: you could add a lot to this. Beans, green onions, jalapenos, olives, etc. 

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Cheap and Easy Wall Art: Paper Stars on a Stick

I originally saw some folded paper stars on Pinterest from this website. I was inspired to try this simple little craft for myself so I made some stars in Word, printed them, cut them out and folded them up. Repeated 5 times and tied them to a stick with some white thread. The result was a simple wall hanging to take up some empty wall space.  My husband said it looks kind of communist so that is neat I guess. It costs nearly nothing to make. 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

How To Water Your Plants When You Are Not At Home

We are away for the weekend. The plants need to be watered every day. What can be done? Though most of my plants have a water reservoir, they don’t seem to help much so I saw on this website a method of watering tomatoes and adapted it to my whole container garden. I will use the containers afterwards as planters in my new basement garden. 

The process should have been easy, just drill some holes in some cheap containers. Add some manure, fill them with water and close the lid. The lid should hopefully reduce the flow of the water out of the containers so it is slow and steady. The manure should reduce flow and add a boost of nutrients.  This seemed to work for most of the containers but I didn’t get to see them for long. If my plants are alive when I get home either it worked or it rained.

Now this was not as simple as the steps I listed of course because I have a little dude in toe who likes to explore his surroundings. I told him not to touch the manure because it is poo and that is yucky. He said he would not touch it. Turn my back for a second and there he is, he has grabbed a spade and is digging in the manure. It is all over his hands. I tell him not to move and he proceeds to wipe those hands all over his shirt and shorts. My cries to stop are in vein. So I had to pause half way to clean him up. That’s life I suppose.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Potato and Cauliflower Curry Made Easy

There are a lot of recipes out there for potato and cauliflower curry as it is a pretty common dish in Indian restaurants. Most of these recipes seem to involve a lot of steps and separate sauce involving blending things and that is just too much work for me. If I have to use the blender, I will have to clean the blender and I am just too lazy for the extra work. I like curries where you just dump everything in a pot. That is what this is. Makes enough for 2 large portions. My son is not a fan of spicy food yet but I bet this would feed 2 adults and a kid.

What you need:

  • oil
  • onion, chopped
  • potato, peeled and chopped
  • 1-2 cups cauliflower, chopped
  • water
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp of cayenne powder
  • 2 tsp curry powder
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • salt to taste (1/2 tsp was not quite enough)

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Vegan French Onion Soup the Easy Way

This is an easy recipe but it is not terribly filling so be warned, this will not suffice as a whole meal on its own. It's good though. I don't have the right kind of oven friendly bowls for this so the recipe is modified to not require them. Makes 2 big bowls.

What you need:

  • 2-3 onions chopped up
  • 1-2 tbsp oil
  • 3 cups of water
  • 1 vegetable broth cube
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • cooking wine (optional)
  • stale or toasted baguette, broken into 4 pieces
  • Daiya

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Easy and Delicious Banana Chocolate Chip Pancakes

No small talk today, my 3 year old kept me up all night so I am exhausted. I thought we were past this phase. I guess not. So pancakes, my son and husband both love these. The pictures are a little blurry, the lighting was not great last night. 

What you need:
  • banana
  • 1 cup of flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 cup of soy milk
  • 1 tbsp oil for in the pancake and more for frying
  • a squirt of lemon juice (the secret weapon for making stuff fluffy)
  • 1/4 cup of chocolate chips

Monday, August 10, 2015

An Adventure in Drunken Cooking: The Vegan "Chicken" Wrap

It was early evening and the little one had fallen asleep early. This gave my husband and I a rare opportunity to spend time together alone. I am a light weight so after 2 drinks on the deck I was in the bag and I still had not made supper. Opps. Oh well, convenience food to the rescue. Here is a wrap recipe that is easy enough for a drunk me to make.

P.S. I don't recommend cooking drunk as you risk cutting yourself. Do unwise things at your own risk :)

What you need:

  • wraps
  • 3 vegan chicken strips per wrap
  • chopped up kale
  • Lima beans (optional but awesome. Any beans would work)
  • Vegan mayo

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Simplified Vegan London Fog

I love London Fog teas but when I went searching for a recipe I could not help but notice how complicated or time consuming the recipes are out there. I don't have a lot of time and there are only a few basic elements to this so here is a quick and easy way to make a London Fog. You need a milk frother for this recipe.

What you need:
1/2 cup of water
Earl Grey tea bag
1/2 cup of milk
Sugar or alternative, to taste
1 tsp vanilla syrup, the kind you put in coffee (optional)

What to do:

1. Heat up 1/2 cup of water in a mug in the microwave. Add earl grey tea bag and steep a few minutes.

2. Heat up 1/2 a cup of soymilk in the microwave (I used 1 minute 40 seconds for the water and the milk) than froth with a milk frother.

3. Remove the teabag from the tea and sweeten to taste. Add a teaspoon of vanilla syrup. Stir.

4. Add the soymilk to the tea and enjoy.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Simple and Delicious Vegan Matcha Latte

Matcha powder is not easy to come by. It is pretty rare and very expensive but I got lucky at the Chinese grocery store across the street and found a bag for $5. I doubt it is "authentic" but it tastes good so I don't care. A milk frother is required for this recipe.

What you need:

  • a scoop of matcha powder
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • sugar or whatever you like to sweeten your tea, to taste
  • vanilla soy milk- about 1 cup.
What to do:

1. Put the scoop of matcha powder into a mug with the water and mix with the frother. 

2. Add the sweetener you like. I would use as much as you typically like in tea. I used about 1 tsp but I like things sweet. Mix with the frother. 

3. Put soy milk in a microwavable mug and nuke for 2 minutes. You could heat it in a sauce pan on the stove if you don't have a microwave

4. Add half the hot milk to the matcha. Froth the remaining milk so there is lots of foam than add it to the matcha too. 

5. Give the whole thing a gentle mix and enjoy.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Another Pinterest Trick, Tested and Works

I heard about this a long time ago. If you have greasy hair and you don't have time to shower, you just rub a bit of cornstarch in your hair and it isn't greasy anymore. I don't have the opportunity to shower a lot but I don't want to leave the house with greasy hair so I tried this and it worked great. I didn't take pictures because I didn't think to but next time I will try to remember. Didn't even need a lot of cornstarch. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Irish Spring Soap Actually Seems to Keep Squirrels Away

Last year I got a total of two peppers out of my two pepper plants and the squirrels got one of them. I like squirrels but that sucked. This year something has been eating the shoots off the snap pea plants and we didn't get a tone of peas as a result. I could hear them through the window at night, routing around, getting up to no good. Well, not anymore.

I saw the Irish Spring soap trick on Pinterest so I bought 2 bars from Dollarama. I chopped them in half and drilled a hole in them for the string and hung them on the deck. They are pretty smelly but it is not a bad smell and the critters have not come around since so far.

Something on Pinterest that did what it promised!

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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Organizing meal planning so anyone can do it when I get too busy

I am too busy to plan meals sometimes during the school year. Traditionally, I have always been the one to cook the meals, so I plan and make the grocery lists and often do the shopping. Luckily, my husband can do the shopping part on his own and often does if I make him a list. The planning of meals is complicated by my being vegan though also because I took over the cooking almost 10 years ago. My husband is fully capable in the kitchen, and seems happy enough to cook but like many young girls in love I think I was overly eager to prove my homemaking skills early on and thus the traditional roll became established.

To tackle this roll I created for myself, I thought up a way to simplify to planning process. Menu planning is important because not planning results in multiple trips to the grocery store when we don't have time, or take out when we don't have money. It can also lead to more expensive meals at home and more food waste.

First I separated my freezer door into 7 sections to represent days of the week. They were big sections so I made enough spots to plan for 2 weeks just in case. I used painters tape, hopefully it doesn't fall off but it seems stable so far. I used my fancy label maker to mark each day.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Simple Vegan Cream Cheese

I was always interested in making cheese but before I had a chance I went vegan and now cheese smells like feet to me. I use to like cheese and miss some aspects of it so I was thrilled when I discovered you can buy vegan cheese at most grocery stores. I tried as many as I could find that did not have casein hiding in the ingredients and they were usually awful. They were also expensive. Life changed for me with the advent of Daiya. Beautiful, wonderful, fantastically melty, this put a lot of options back on our menu. The local pizza place now makes vegan pizza with Daiya. The shreds are the best but they are expanding to sliced and cream cheeses. They all cost a lot.

I have been experimenting with cashew cheese and I am very happy with the results of this cream cheese. It is simple, doesn't require anything that is hard to find and it tastes good. It is more on the subtle side of the cheese spectrum. You could probably use it in desserts if compelled to.

What you need:

  • 1 cup of raw cashews soaked overnight
  • water
  • 2 capsules of probiotics
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp of salt

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Fantastically Filling Taco Salad

I love taco salad but it doesn't feel worth eating if I am going to be hungry still after I finish the meal. No problem with that in this recipe. It's packed with beans and tofu. My non-vegan husband really likes this meal so I make it a lot. Serves 2-3 people (usually two adults and a 3 year old with some left over for a lunch the next day).

What you need:
  • ice berg lettuce for crunch
  • Dandelion greens or any other leafy green
  • Chopped tomato
  • Chopped pepper
  • Salsa
  • Daiya
  • 2 tsp oil
  • Black eyed peas or any bean you like- rinsed
  • one package of firm tofu cut in squares
  • chopped onion
  • 1.5 tsp chilli powder
  • a few squirts of lime juice
  • Nacho chips

Friday, July 31, 2015

Rekindling the Romance With Salad

I got sick of salads long before I ever went vegan. We had salad most days with dinner growing up but it was the same everyday and I am one who lives for variety. So I rarely eat salad unless someone makes it for me. I am trying to change that as the salad is simply a medium through which one can unleash culinary creativity. When properly assembled, the salad can be a game changer when it comes to keeping one healthy.

I learned a while back just how fantastic bitter green vegetables are for the digestive system and I need to eat leafy greens to keep my iron up anyway. Dandelions have become my all time favorite since I found them in the budget grocery stores. They are bitter, very bitter. I always hated bitter foods so I weaned myself on to them slowly, starting with slightly bitter greens like escarole, working up to off season dandelions then the more bitter in season ones. I typically just much on them without any dressing but putting them in a salad makes dandelions far more palatable. Dressing and raw cashews really cut down on the bitterness. 

Dandelions need to be washed well then I chop them up with kitchen scissors because it is easy. French dressing went nicely with this salad in the end. 

This salad is pretty simple.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Super Easy, Healthy and Nutrient Dense Breakfast

Step 1: Throw a bunch of nuts and seeds in a bowl. I like pralines and raw cashews in the morning.
Step 2: Add fruit. This could be berries, sliced banana, apple, anything you have handy that is easy to chop up.
Step 3: Top with ground flax seed and soy or other milk.
Voila! Crazy healthy breakfast that tastes great and is quick to make.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Fantastically Refreshing Strawberry Water

This is so easy I don't think I can count it as a recipe. You blend a handful of strawberries in some water. That's it. It makes a quick flavoured water which is great if you are like me and cannot stand the taste of city water but also can't afford (and are morally opposed) to buying bottled water. And you get some bonus nutrients from the strawberries. This is way better than drinking those chemically flavoured waters you can buy in the store.

The Difference a Little Sun Can Make

We moved to a townhouse a year ago. We found it difficult to be happy in an apartment in Toronto, especially one beside the 401. This is our first full summer at our new place which has an amazing feature none of our previous rentals have had: Sunlight. There is full sun on the deck and yard below in the afternoon and sun in the front yard in the morning. Growing vegetables is just so much more possible here. The two pepper plants we had last summer produced two peppers in total. There are at least 3 per plant here and we have room for more plants.

We are trying to be as cheap as possible so our planters are a mix of small garbage bins that I think my husband got at ValueVillage and dresser drawers that someone left loose to be hauled away as garbage. We added a few hollow recyclables to the bins as a reservoir for water. 

There are beans climbing along the fence and up the walls which add to ambiance a bit. Despite all the plants there is still room for us to enjoy the space. 

We fit a few planters on the ground below the deck for some extra tomatoes. Over 20 of our seedlings survived so we had to put them somewhere. You can't have too many tomatoes. 

Since the sun makes it into the house, I am starting so beans in hangers inside. Just 2 up now but I am working on 2 more bean plant hangers and one onion hanger to avoid buying as many onions.

This is a bit experimental but why not grow a pineapple. 

There was an empty patch of dirt in the front yard for all our lettuce and rainbow chard, which just turned out to be all yellow but still neat. 

We were blessed with some nice wide window sills in the kitchen for our kitchen herbs to grow on. 

The stinging nettle is really not a house plant I suppose but I love nettle and I found this little guy growing randomly in my seedling tray with the tomatoes. Not sure how it got there but its a pretty awesome weed to have around. I'll have to plant it somewhere a kid is not likely to get stung by it. It has outgrown its living space. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

Make a wish

Today, for the first time in a very long time, I went to church. Not the type of church I tried to fit myself into when I was younger, this place is a bit different. It is profoundly accepting. I could not count the number of churches, the different denominations and eventually religions I investigated over the years. Each one brought I new hope that I had found the one I belonged to but this hope was always short lived. Sometimes I knew right away that I was in the wrong place, other times it took me a while. During this while I would try to get involved a bit and try to fit myself in the mold of that particular group, but there would always be the nagging feeling that I did not fit into this mold and I would be found out, not accepted and shamed. This notion would occasionally become reality. So I have let go of my process. I will not try to fit myself into someone else's specific expectations, I go as I am and nothing else. I do not fear nonacceptance or worse. It is a welcome sign that I must be on my way. There is a difference between universal admittance and universal acceptance. Most churches offer the former but I was in search for the later. 

But it looks like I found one that I mesh well with without effort and I am pretty excited. 
It is a church that accepts and celebrates everyone just as they are, and I don't mean just welcoming everyone then challenging their personal attributes as some churches have tried with me in the past. There appears to be little in the way of judgement which brings me to the whole point of this post. We were asked to make a wish. A big, influential wish. I thought about this deeply, however briefly and decided that the worst thing in the world are the judgments we place on others and ourselves. These judgments create all the great problems in the world. There could not exploitation if someone had not made a judgement that those they exploit are not as worthy as themselves. There could be no genocides if one group had not judged another inferior of life. There would be no poverty if employers had not made the judgement that their employees where not worth an acceptable wage or that one country was less deserving of resources than another. Many in my generation who search for employment would have it if we collectively had not been judged as lazy. I suspect much depression, disordered eating, addiction and mental anguish could be avoided if we avoided the harsh judgement we place on ourselves.    

These judgments spread like viruses, and once they are shared with us by another, they are planted in our minds and difficult to uproot. 

I did not wish to end these judgments however. That would be a pretty lame wish. It is negative, focusing on what should not be done when I needed to look from the other direction. So I wished for universal acceptance for all people. And all day long I have been witnessing these acts of acceptance. I had never noticed them before.