Friday, November 30, 2012

Foodie Pen Pals Reveal - November!

   Hi Friends!

   It's that time of month again when I get to reveal my amazing goodies from my pen pal.  This month I recieved a package from Stacie who is a blog reader from B.C.  She happens to have a dairy and egg allergy which worked to my advantage!  I must admit, I was super spoiled this month.

Wanna see what I got?

A sweet letter from Stacie...
Kettle Corn from Trader Joes... I loved this and I may or may not have eaten half the bag as soon as I opened it! 
Sweet and Salty!

Roasted Coconut chips - I haven't opened these yet but I'm looking forward to using them soon!

Dark Chocolate Crisps - these are really decadent... I had to tuck them away so that I didn't eat them all in one go!  Plus, I want to bring them out for the next girl's night which is just around the corner...

Raspberry and Boysenberry fruit chews... can't wait to try these!

Vanilla Rooibos Tea - I've made this tea for a few people and they've all liked it.  I haven't tried it yet but it smells good!

All of my wonderful goodies...

Packed away in the Christmas cookie jar!  Well, except for the Kettle Corn... that's all gone!  Ha.

Thanks again, Stacie!

For more info on the Foodie Pen Pals program head on over to The Lean Green Bean.  Next month Lindsay has something special planned for those that were affected by hurricane Sandy.  If you want to get involved, head on over to see how you can help.

The Lean Green Bean

Enjoy the last day in November and TGIF!

Ves xx

Monday, November 26, 2012

Pecan Tarts - Recipe!

   Hi Friends!

   I made this recipe over the weekend and absolutely loved it!  Plus everyone who tried it loved it, too.  Pecan Tarts are amazing, but definitely full of fat and calories.  I was thrilled when I found this recipe on and was even more thrilled when I only needed to tweak it a bit. 

Here's how I made it:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 
Layer the Phyllo dough and brush a bit of coconut oil between each sheet.
Cut out circles using a round cookie cutter (if using mini cupcake pans) or the bottom of a bowl.
Place each piece of dough into the greased well of the cupcake pan.
Add the filling into each piece of dough and bake in the oven for 23-25 minutes.
Allow to cool before removing them from the muffin tin.

Pecan Tarts 
(adapted from a Spark Recipe)
Makes 12 OR 24 Tarts 
depending on the pan that you use

8 sheets phyllo dough, thawed 
2 tbsp coconut oil, melted and slightly cooled
+ 1.5 tbsp for greasing the pan and extra for the phyllo dough
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed 
1/2 cup pure maple syrup 
2/3 cups old fashioned oats 
1 cup pecans, chopped 
1 teaspoon vanilla 
pinch salt 
2 Flax eggs (2 tbsp flax mixed with 6 tbsp water)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease two mini muffin pans (or 1 regular sized muffin pan) with a bit of coconut oil.
  2. Place one sheet of the phyllo dough on a cutting board. Brush lightly with remaining 1 tbsp of coconut oil.  Repeat with 3 more layers, brushing the coconut oil between each layer. Cut the dough into circles using a 2 1/2-inch round cookie cutter or using the bottom of a bowl and a knife.
  3. Place one piece of dough into each well of the muffin pans.   Repeat with the remaining 4 sheets of dough.
  4. Combine all the remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl. Spoon a large tablespoon of the batter into each prepared dough shell. Bake for 23-25 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool at room temperature.  Refrigerate after cooled if serving the next day.
   Promise me that you will make this recipe for your upcoming Holiday party?!  You will not be disappointed and everyone will love you.  It is so unexpectedly (yet so obviously) delicious!

   And speaking of the holidays, I put my Christmas tree up on Sunday and guess who helped me with the decorations?
You'd think it was her first tree!

Patchie - so curious about what is occupying her couch!

The finished product!
Happy Monday everyone!

Ves xx

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thanksgiving Recap... OR: WIAT

   Two Thanksgiving Dinners down and one full happy belly!  I hope everyone enjoyed some yummy food and fun family time on Thursday.  We celebrated Thanksgiving on Friday and Saturday, since I had to work on Thursday.  Yes, two Thanksgivings!  My belly was doing a happy dance all week.  Which is probably how long I've been planning and preparing this meal!  Ha.

   Even though I planned and prepped ahead of time, it still wound up being a race to the finish.  And I must admit, even though both parties were a success in terms of yummy food, Saturday's was way more calm and relaxing for me.  I served the Stuffing and Lentil Loaf from the day before, and made the Sweet Potatoes, Brussels Sprouts and Gravy fresh.  I also made the Appetizers and Pecan Tarts on Saturday, as well.  So, it's not like I did any less, but maybe I was just less stressed on day two?  Hmm?

Here's What I Ate on Thanksgiving:

Grilled Cheese and Apple on a baguette (click here for the recipe)

Herb and Cheese Drop Biscuits

The Sides:
Garlic Mashed Potato and Parsnips, Biscuits, Brussels Sprouts and Gravy + a bevy of fun juices and of course, some wine!

 Mashed Sweet Potatoes

The Main: 
Glazed Walnut Apple Lentil Loaf and Apple Sage and Sausage Stuffing (click here for the recipe)

My Dinner Plate - Day 1
We had a simple green salad with Balsamic dressing because I ran out of time to make a dressing.

My Dinner Plate - Day 2:
We started with an Apple Cranberry Pecan Salad with a homemade vinaigrette. 

PLUS the usual suspects!

The Dessert:
Sweet Potato Pie with Pecans and a Gingersnap Crust (click here for a similar recipe... I tweaked it a bit)

Apple Pie Pudding with Ginger cookie crumbs (click here for the recipe)

Pecan Tarts

Deconstructed Sweet Potato Pie

Nephew approved!

   So there you have it!  What we ate on Thanksgiving (or the day after, and the day after that!)
For more yummy meal pics head over to Peas and Crayons and check out other mouthwatering Thanksgiving dinners!

I'm off to go decorate my tree and work off some of these holiday calories... before stuffing my face with leftovers!  Ha.  
Ves xx

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

WIAW #20 OR The Day Before Thanksgiving!

   Hi Friends!

   It's the day before Thanksgiving and I'm feeling a little odd that my actual gathering isn't until Friday (oh, and did I mention that I'm also having a Thanksgiving Lunch on Saturday? Yeah.).  But, that doesn't mean I'm feeling any less stressed.  I just finished the rest of my shopping tonight, save for a few ingredients that I'll be picking up tomorrow, and I'm a little overwhelmed!  My menu is a little ambitious (3 desserts!) but don't worry, I'm making a game plan.  I know exactly what I'll be making and prepping tomorrow so that I won't be doing everything on Friday.  I also stopped by the DollarStore tonight, for a few extra serving dishes, napkins, etc. I'm trying not to leave everything for the last minute.  So far, so good.

   But, let's get on with the eats, shall we?  This is kind of mish-mash, a What I ate while grocery shopping for Thanksgiving, and what I ate while watching the Season Finale of the Amish with my sis, if you will.

As always I start my morning off with some sort of water concoction.  Wouldn't have it any other way!
Not sure why this GREEN smoothie looks gray, but it was SO yummy regardless of the color!
Coffee on the go!
Snack/Lunch:  Grilled Cheese and Apple on a Baguette.  I needed to sample what my Thanksgiving appetizer would taste like!
Dinner: A Whole Foods Picnic!  I raided their salad bar during my shopping trip in the morning.
What my sister and I ate while watching the Amish finale... Triscuit Nachos!
What we drank while watching the finale... well, not this exact wine, but you get the idea!
   Well there you have it.  My yummy eats leading up to this amazing day.  I know it may look pathetic, but everything was super delicious!  Happy Thanksgiving to all of you celebrating tomorrow (or Friday, or Saturday...)!  And stay tuned for my What I Ate on Thanksgiving post.  It's the biggest food day of the year, so I've got to devote a post to it, right?  Right!
Ves xx

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Menu (maybe)

   Hi Friends!

   If you're living in the States there's only a couple of days left until Thanksgiving!  I hope you're all ready for it... or at least almost ready!  Ha.

   I think I have pretty much finalized my menu for our dinner, but I'm sure something will change.  Here's what my menu looks like as of today, and if there are any changes I will definitely update it.

For Starters
Grilled 'Cheese' and Apple on a Baguette
Herb and Cheese Drop Biscuits

On the Side
Spinach Salad
Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Apple Cider Sauce

Main Attraction
Chestnut, Cranberry and 'Sausage' Stuffing
Glazed Lentil Walnut Apple Loaf

Sweet Potato Pie
Petite Pecan Tarts
Apple Pie Pudding Parfait

Mulled Wine with Cider
Assorted Vegan Wines:
MASI - Pinot Grigio
Yellow Tail - Pinot Noir or Cabernet Sauvignon

   After seeing my menu items all written in one place, it seems pretty ambitious.  But, I have faith, and if it doesn't all work out, well, at least I tried!  Ha.  I'll do my best to post pictures and recipes later this week.  Our actual Thanksgiving dinner will be on the Friday this year because I'm working on Thursday, so the recap will be after that.

Good luck with your menus and I wish you all a very happy, successful, and kind Thanksgiving!

Ves xx

Monday, November 19, 2012

Adopt-A-Turkey, Take 2

   Hi Friends!

   It's that time of year again.  Last year I participated in Farm Sanctuary's Adopt-a-Turkey project for the first time and this year is no different.

   It's not too late for you guys to join in!  Visit Farm Sanctuary to find out how you can save a Turkey this year and enjoy a kinder Thanksgiving.

Me and Raphael at last year's Thanksgiving!
Ves xx

Friday, November 16, 2012

Sheesh, What's Up With the Silence?

   Hi Friends!

   I'm so sorry for the silence around here.  I have been totally preoccupied with work, meetings, and Thanksgiving preparations that I haven't had any energy to devote to my blog.  I actually have quite a few posts on the go but no desire to finish any of them!  What the...? 

   I should explain that by "Thanksgiving preparations", I really mean surfing the interweb and watching The Chew.  Ha!  I don't have a set menu yet so I've been searching for inspiration and loving what I'm seeing.  Because this is only my second all vegan Thanksgiving, I don't actually have a traditional menu.  I will be making one repeat from last year - my Grilled Cheese and Apple Crostini.  I was already thinking of making this appetizer and then my sister-in-law requested it and I knew it had to go on the menu officially.   So I have one appetizer figured out and two possible desserts, but no idea what to make for my main and sides.  Obviously I'll be making a stuffing and gravy, but not sure what else.

   I have to admit that this is my favorite part about menu planning.  I love reading recipes and looking at the mouthwatering photos that accompany them.

Here's some of the yummy recipes that I've been drooling over:

New-Style Thanksgiving Potatoes with Walnut Guacamole à la Mode - Vegetarian Times
This looks like an adorably easy recipe and we all know how much I love anything to do with avocados!
Sweet Potatoes with Collard Greens and Aduki Beans - Whole Foods Market
This recipe looks so fresh and delicious.  It also happens to combine my two favorites: Sweet Potaoes and greens!  Yum.
Superb Squash Soup with the Best Parmesan Croutons - Jamie Oliver
This recipe sounds so good and can easily be vaganized.  Plus, it's by Jamie Oliver, my imaginary husband.  Ha.
Smokey Pumpkin Grits with Maple-Roasted Pepitas - via One Green Planet
I love polenta and would totally use it in place of traditional grits.  Otherwise, this recipe looks super yum!
Glazed Lentil Walnut Apple Loaf - Oh She Glows
I know that I've already made this for Canadian Thanksgiving, but I couldn't resist adding it to this list.  It's so yummy!
Vegan Pumpkin Pie - Kathy @ Healthy Happy Life
I absolutely love her recipes and this one looks sinfully delicious! 

   I've just given you a bunch of drool worthy recipes to feast your eyes on, and I hope that if you try one of them you will let me know how they turn out.  If you are attending Thanksgiving at my house next week and are thinking that you have an idea what the menu will look like, you don't.  I'm not making any of these recipes.  BUT, as soon as I figure out my menu I will post it here!

Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

Ves xx

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Apple Cinnamon Oat Bran!

   Hi Friends!

Here is a quickie recipe that I have been enjoying for breakfast for the past couple of weeks.  I'm really loving my oat bran in the morning after my green juice and my favorite way to have it is with apples.

Here's my super simple recipe:

Apple Cinnamon Oat Bran
Serves 1

1 cup water
1/3 cup oat bran
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 apple, chopped
1 tbsp raisins
pinch sea salt
Optional Ingredients:
1 tbsp ground flax seeds
1 tbsp ground chia seeds

In a small sauce pan bring 1 cup of water to a boil.
Whisk in the oat bran, turn the heat down and simmer for a minute.
Add cinnamon, apples, and raisins.  Stir and cook for a minute more.
Add the flax and chia seeds, if using, and remove from heat.
Serve immediately.


Ves xx

Monday, November 12, 2012

Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)

   Hi Friends!

   Well it's back to the grind after a fabulous weekend of warm weather, Fall cleaning, lots of laughs and a Breaking Amish marathon.  My sister somehow coerced me into that last one but we manged to turn it into a mini party so I didn't mind.  The show is definitely entertaining, but not something I would have chosen to watch on my own.

   Anyway, I promised that I would share with you some of the health benefits of including Apple Cider Vinegar into your daily diet.  Read on for the different ways to use it and why you'd want to.  I'll also post a few links at the bottom for further reading, including one that also lists some risks in taking ACV.  I'm not a doctor so I don't want to recommend that you add anything to your diet unless you are well informed.  I am constantly reading and researching different health claims and then immediately trying them on myself, so you can definitely learn from my mistakes!  Ha.

 What kind of ACV should I buy?

You'll want to look for a good quality raw organic version with "the mother".  This is a cloudy film at the bottom of the bottle which occurs naturally as strand-like enzymes of connected protein molecules.  Just shake before using.  I use Bragg's Organic Raw ACV.

What are some of the Internal Benefits?
  • It aids in weight loss by breaking down fats so that your body can use them rather than store them.
  • Can help regulate blood pressure and reduce bad cholesterol.
  • ACV is rich in enzymes and potassium
  • Promotes digestion and PH balance
  • Helps reduce sinus infections and sore throats.
  • Improves bowel irregularity and can be a natural cure for constipation.
*Start with 1-2 teaspoons of ACV diluted in about 8-10oz of filtered water and work your way up to 1-2 tablespoons.  This can be taken first thing in the morning, afternoon and evening.  For weight loss it is best to drink a glass before each meal.

What are some of the External Benefits?
  • ACV can help to clear up skin.  Use it as a toner after washing your face before bed and in the morning.  Dilute one part ACV with two parts water and apply with a cotton ball or pad.
  • May ease a sunburn - fill a bath with warm water and a cup of ACV and soak for ten minutes.
  • It adds healthy body and shine to your hair.  Use it as a rinse after you shampoo.  Dilute 1tbs of ACV with a cup of water and add it to an empty shampoo bottle.
  • Soothes tight and aching joints and sore muscles from exercise - rub a little ACV on the sore spots.
If you are interested in learning more, here are a few other sites to check out:

Benefits and Risks of ACV - Web MD
ACV Health Benefits - Home Remedies Web
Raw ACV and Ab Definition - Tosca Reno

**Don't use the ACV without diluting it first.  I did this both on my skin, and in drink form.  Apparently it's not very good and can have adverse effects if you don't dilute it first.  This is why you should research more before you dive in!  When I used to drink it on a regular basis I always added it to a glass of water, this time around I thought it would work better with a straight "shot".  Whoops.  Oh well, no harm done!  Ha.

Have a wonderful Monday!
Ves xx

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

WIAW # 19

   Hello Friends!

   I can't believe it's the middle of the week already!  It must be a "time-change" thing but, it feels like this week is just flying by.  I'm also feeling extra tired and I'm thinking the reason is because it's practically dark out by the time I get home from work.  Gotta love daylight savings!

On to my oh so yummy eats...

 Morning:  I've added on to my morning ritual and by the time mid-morning rolls around I don't even want to look at anything resembling a liquid!  Ha.
For starters:  A shot of Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) with a water chaser (haha).  Then it's on to my morning hot water, lemon and cayenne pepper drink.  After about a half an hour, I have a green juice.  By this time I'm so full of liquid that I don't even want to think about breakfast.  But there's always room for COFFEE!  Later... Breakfast!  Today it was Oat bran with Apples and Raisins.  I put it in a mason jar to bring with me to work.  Lunch:  Well, I'm sure you can guess what I had... Salad!  Snack:  Mango and Banana Smoothie.  Evening:  Dinner:  Leftover Vegan Jambalaya.  Yum!  I could probably eat that everyday...  And of course:  Water, water and more water!

There you have it, my eats for the first week of Daylight Savings... not that my eats are ever really that different from the week before!  Ha.

Happy Wednesday!
Ves xx

ps:  I'll talk about all of the crazy good benefits of ACV in a later post. :)

Monday, November 05, 2012

Jambalaya - Vegan Style!

   Hi Friends!

   It's Monday morning - are you ready for the week ahead?  I sure am.  It's been a really strange weekend (er, past week) and I'm looking forward to the "fresh start" that a new week brings.  Plus, it was Daylight Savings this weekend which means winter is on it's way.  Fresh start, new season... I'm liking the way this is going.

   Speaking of winter...  here is a Jambalaya recipe to warm you up on those cold nights.

   Before I got started in the kitchen, I searched for inspiration on the interweb, since I've never made Jambalaya before.  It turns out this is a really popular dish to make on Fat Tuesday.  Who knew?  I really liked how it turned out but I've already made notes about how to make it even better.  I will definitely be making this again in the winter (or perhaps for a Mardi Gras party?) and when I do, I'll share my modifications with you guys.

Vegan Jambalaya
8 servings
1 onion
2 or 3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 peppers (I used one red, one yellow)
1 cup celery
4 vegan sausages (I used Tofurkey Polish style sausage)
1 cup vegan chicken style pieces (I used Blue Menu)
2 cups short grain brown rice, rinse and soaked
1 1/2 cup frozen organic peas
1 1/2 cup organic sweet corn (canned, fresh or frozen)
1-28 oz canned tomatoes, whole or chopped
1 can diced green chiles
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tsp chili flakes
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp pure maple syrup or a pinch of sugar
+ 1 cup water
Tabasco sauce (as much as you like)
large handful of freshly chopped flat leaf parsley
coconut oil
salt and pepper

1.  Rinse and soak your rice (I used the black rice from my pen pal package)
2. Add a small amount of oil to a large skillet and place over medium heat.
A co-worker told me about this so I thought I would give it a try in this dish.
3. Cook the vegan chicken a few minutes per side until cooked through.  Set aside.
It's crazy how much it looks like chicken!

The taste and texture was better than other "chicken" strips that I've tried.
4.  In the same pan add sausages and cook until beginning to brown, about 5 minutes.  Set aside.

5.  In a large soup pot, heat some oil over medium heat and add the onion.  Cook until soft, a few minutes, and then add the minced garlic.  Mix in your seasonings.

6.  Add the chicken and sausages and cook for a few minutes.

7.  Next add the peppers and celery and cook until they soften, about 7 minutes.  Toss in the green chiles.

8.  Stir in the rice and then add the tomatoes with the juice, pure maple syrup, one cup of water, and as many shakes of Tabasco as you'd like.
Check out the soak water from the rice!

9.  Gently simmer for about 45 minutes or until rice is cooked.
10.  Add your peas and corn within the last few minutes of cooking time and cook until warmed through.  Stir in about half of the parsley.
11.  Serve in bowls and garnish with the rest of the parsley.

   I'm really happy with how this dish turned out although, I did notice that because of the black rice everything took on a reddish color.  I enjoyed the flavor of the rice but next time, for presentation purposes, I wouldn't use it in this recipe.

   I hope you all have a great start to your week!

Ves xx

Ps: I'm not a huge fan of using "mock meats" but once in a while is okay and I had fun using them in this recipe.
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