Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Vegan Sugar Cookies

So. I’ve been busy…again. More like extremely tired on Monday after all the holiday chaos and didn’t feel like doing much of anything except watching Lily play with her new toys, which she actually did very little of. The child got plenty of new toys- puzzles, dolls, books, Radio Flyer Inchworm among them –yet she preferred to hang on Mommy and/or climb all over the furniture instead. Actually, she did quite enjoy the stickers Grandma got her, although she needed Mommy to peel them off their paper backing so she could make a huge sticker mess with them. At least it kept her busy for a while.

OK, enough venting. Let’s get down to the healthy, animal product-free recipe I was supposed to post on Monday. I made these dairy- and egg-free cookies because my niece is allergic to eggs and one of my BFFs is lactose-intolerant. Plus, I never made a successful batch of vegan cookies and I wanted to give it a go again. The first time around this time, they didn’t turn out so hot; the dough came out really wet and additionally I added food coloring (plant-derived, of course), which made them brown instead of red and pale green instead of dark green. That’s the problem with natural food coloring- it doesn’t last long and it takes a lot of food coloring to get it to the color you want. It worked well with the frosting I made for Lily’s birthday cake earlier this year, but not so much for cookie dough. Oh well, live and learn.

Anyhoo, the second attempt came out much better, although I will admit I am not completely satisfied, only because I wanted them to taste the same as cookies that are made with butter and eggs. I was told that that may not be possible since those flavors simply cannot be replaced with substitutes of margarine and almond milk. Paul liked them and so did my niece, however. Unfortunately, I have not had the chance to deliver them to my BFF since she had to work on Christmas when I had originally planned on giving them to her, but I think she will be happy enough just to be able to eat a cookie again (her dairy intolerance is a recent development).

Vegan Sugar Cookies


3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup margarine or other dairy-free spread
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup almond milk

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl then set aside. In a different bowl, cream the margarine and sugar together until fluffy. Add the vanilla extract and then the almond milk until well combined. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the almond milk and margarine mixture until dough is formed. Divide dough in half, then press onto separate plates like thick discs and refrigerate until dough hardens. This dough is extremely soft with the almond milk in it, and I found it best to refrigerate over night. If you have time to make ahead, I recommend doing so, otherwise keep it cold for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees then get the dough out. If you want to cut into shapes, lightly flour a cutting board and roll the dough out to about ¼” thick. Cut your shapes out then transfer them to ungreased cookie sheets or silicone baking mat. I have never had luck with cutting shapes out of cookie dough, and with this dough being softer than usual, I had no luck this time either, but if you want to take a chance and you do have the skills, go ahead! I ended up just rolling the ball into little 1” balls and placing them on the baking sheets, then flattened them into discs and topped them with red sugar sprinkles. Stick in the oven on center rack for 10-12 minutes until golden and lightly browned on edges.

Once the first half of the dough is in, you can bring out the second and get it ready to put in the oven if you had enough baking sheets; otherwise, wait until the first batch is out and cooled, then reuse the same sheets after rinsing. Once all the cookies are made- and you should have about 4 dozen with this recipe –allow them to cool for at least half an hour before decorating if you plan to do so. The blog where I got the recipe I based this off of included an egg-free icing recipe you can try too. Let me know how it goes!

I hope to one day be better at making shapes and decorating cookies and cakes and such. For now, a smidgen of colored sprinkles is what you get out of me.

Food allergies are weird to me since I don’t have any. Actually, I do get queasy from shell fish like clams and mussels, and I am told that counts as an allergic reaction, but my upset stomach is far from life-threatening like some allergic reactions can be. I had a friend who couldn’t even be within a few feet of peanuts or he’d start to get red and swollen-looking, and I had another friend who after taking one bite out of a fallafel wrap for the first time- and being unaware that it contained her nemesis chick peas, had her face blow up like a balloon in a matter of seconds. I often ponder (well, maybe not often) why certain people have food allergies. Why would nature cause this, and why only in certain people and with certain foods? Is it something genetic? Something inherited from our mother’s diet while we were in the womb? To me, it’s just so odd to think that food that is otherwise harmless and nutritious could cause a fatal reaction in someone. Do you have a food allergy or know someone who does? How do you/they deal with it? Is it a severe allergy, or just a mild one?

Note that I used almond milk in this recipe, but you can use any lactose-free alternative, such as soymilk, rice milk or simply lactose-free cow’s milk. I always thought that was weird too, but I’m not going to get into that one right now. Seeing as how this is an allergy specific recipe, it’s possible the person you’d bake them for is allergic to almonds if they have a nut allergy, so make sure you know ahead of time.

Speaking of almond milk, almond milk is awesome. I don’t drink any other kind of milk as long as I have a choice anymore. It tastes so delicious and is really good for you. I fondly remember the first time I tried it and I recall giving quite the reaction of being pleasantly surprised. I had no idea it would taste so rich and creamy, unlike soy and rice milk, which I generally find bland and watery, especially now that I’ve tried almond milk.

Almonds are full of nutrients like manganese, vitamin E, and copper, to name a few. They are especially good at helping to lower your cholesterol for a healthy heart, as all nuts do, but almonds contain an especially high amount of magnesium and vitamin E that aid in doing so. They offer, according to, “double-barreled protection against diabetes and cardiovascular disease.” They are also good at helping you lose weight with their healthy fats, help prevent gallstones, and provide you with extra energy. Almonds do all this and more, so click a link to read all about the awesomeness of almonds!

As you may have already guessed, these cookies are totally kid and toddler friendly :)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

This week has been all about baking, and I will share every detail on Monday's post with a special vegan sugar cookie recipe! But, today I just wanted to pop on real quick and just say Merry Christmas with a few pics of my fam. I hope you have a lovely holiday no matter how you celebrate it :)

Merry Christmas from me and my family!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

My Favorite Etsy Shops

So I missed Monday's Meatless post due to the fact that I have had my hands quite full, and I have also not been cooking like I normally do. Lately it's been pasta or steamed veggies or sandwiches...nothing too fancy. Today I hope you will be okay with my deferring to a different topic in honor of the last minute shopping season, with a listing of some of my favorite Etsy shops! They're all art and jewelry shops, but since most of my readers are women, I don't think anyone will be complaining ;) And, yes, I know! It's almost Christmas so this is a tad last minute, but some may offer expedited shipping (I believe Loxly Hollow does and Jewelry by Jessicas does!), otherwise bookmark them for another occasion, or treat yourself!

I got all the kiddies in my life a print from this lovely seller's shop. She was super helpful at assisting me in finding the perfect prints and also informed me of a sale I didn't even know she was having (and still is!) and I got 3 prints for free! When I found her shop through one of my fave blogs, Free Pretty Things for You, I fell in looove. I think you will too! I mean, how cute is this???

Australia-based Enchanted Wonderland sells super cute jewelry, many influenced by Alice in Wonderland, all with a vintage-inspired flair. They're all also sold at very affordable prices. I'm a big Hello Kitty fan myself...

This is my BFF's shop that I help her manage, and which I also added some designs to myself! Many pieces feature glass work and fancy pendants. She searches far and wide for the perfect components to her creative work, and has claimed making jewelry is the way she helps to relieve stress. You can do the same by finding something special just for you or a loved one! Here's my fave (p.s. I named and shot them all!).

Love, love, LOVE this shop! Beautiful, vintage-inspired designs, all at affordable prices. Many feature birds, flowers, and leaves, most embellished with precious pearls and stones. Here's my favorite design, although I have many!

Here's another shop of a personal friend; artist duo HOUR Inc. makes incredibly creative and vivid work, sure to make your living room, bedroom, or refrigerator come alive! Cute magnets, affordable prints, and many one-of-a-kind paintings are available, and you will also be helping out genuinely passionate artists. Picture this lovely hanging in your BFF's room.

More super cute jewelry! I love these because she creates amazingly detailed pendants that include a mini toaster (with toast!), mini sewing machine (with scissors!), mini ruby slippers, mini Hedwig (from HP) in a cage!!!! So much cuteness! My personal fave is this this bluebird locket, which, unfortunately for me, sold earlier this month, so get these sweet designs while you can!

This art is so cool, and I think all you need to see is this amazing print to understand why. 

When I first started browsing Etsy, this necklace was the first item I favorited. I just love the clean, geometrical look and the fact that she uses natural and sustainable materials. And guess what else- I just bought this for myself for Christmas! It's been a while since I treated myself, and I think I deserve it :)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

To Santa or not to Santa?

Hello, my lovelies. 'Tis the season, as we all very well can't walk down the street without hearing Christmas carols blasting on speakers, without seeing lights and tinsle decorating every home and storefront you go by, or without encountering someone in a Santa suit at some point in time during the month of December. Which brings me to the current dilemma I have at hand concerning the Fat Man in Red...

Lily is less than a year old- 21 months to be exact. She has a pretty limited vocabulary at this time, her favorite words being "mama", "dada", "Ogum", "more", and "yeah." "Ball" has also become a new one she likes to say several times a day and address to anything resembling a sphere, from Christmas tree ornaments to oranges to actual balls. Somewhat surprisingly, a new word has entered her index that I didn't expect her to learn so soon, and it's "Santa." It actually comes out sounding more like "sana" from her young tongue, or sometimes "sasa." But, this word is only used when she sees any likeness to the one and only Santa Claus.

Paul and I talked about how we'd handle the whole Santa thing- should we play along with the game of pretend? Use it to our advantage to get her to behave, like so many parents do? Or should we take the more truthful, but far less fun, route of filling her in on the Santa myth early and not buying into something that may just confuse her and have more extreme repercussions later in life? Paul wanted her to have fun with the classic Santa tale, but also liked the idea of being more honest, and so did I, yet we couldn't help but realize that she may end up spoiling it for other kids who do believe in Santa Claus when she tells them what her parents told her. to handle such a dilemma?

So, you must know what I'm asking here now: how do you handle Santa Claus in your home? Whether you're a Christmas celebrator or not, I want to hear from you! Does your child or children believe in Santa Claus, and if you have older kids who know the truth now, how did you break it to them? Or how did they find out? Do you stand by your decision? Would you do anything differently if you could go back? If you don't play the Santa game, what do you do instead? How do you keep your kids from spilling the truth to their peers?

Tell me in the comments, I really want to know! Lily is still young and I want to know what the best route is since I'm still unsure of what the future holds for the Santa myth in our home. It's really sweet to see her enjoying Mr. Claus' image so much (she has a little rattle toy of his likeness that she hugs and kisses all the time!), but I don't want to give her the impression of consumerism and material things being such an important component to the Christmas holiday. I spoke to Paul as I started writing this, and his answer was (as it tends to be): "just let it evolve, let her have fun." What do you think? Am I reading too far into this, or is it a legitimate cause for concern? 

Thanks for your responses, and thanks for reading!!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Meatless Monday: Red Lentil Curry Soup

I have been quite a busy bee with all the holiday planning- on top of everything else, that is! Work has been keeping me quite busy as well and Lily's sleeping habits are being weird again (as in, THE CHILD WON'T GO TO BED!). Yet, somehow I managed to find time to write you this quick meatless monday recipe for a delicious red lentil curry á la Healthy Mommy, Healthy Baby.

Red Lentil Curry Soup


1 1/2 cups red lentils
3 cups vegetable broth
3 cups water
3 carrots, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, diced
1/2 cup mixed grains 
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp ginger powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 bay leaf

First, rinse the lentils under cold running water repeatedly until the water is no longer murky and gross looking. This may take a while, but it is worth it; otherwise, it could make you gassier than normal and also make the soup look like the picture below (ick). Plus, rinsing them increases the lentils size and soluble fiber content.

yucky water!

If the soup does get a little murky, it' not a big deal; it will still taste the same, but just look a little less appetizing and likely give you...gas. You've been warned!

Moving on...after the lentils have been rinsed, set them aside. In a medium pot, cook the grains according to package; when I made this, I used a combination of red wheat, oat groats, triticale berries, barley, rye berries, white wheat, and rye berries. This combo added an interesting chewiness to the soup, and it was good! I had some I'd previously cooked the other night and just threw it in to the pot. You can use any type of grain or grains you want, or you don't even have to- but I highly recommend it.You can also add more than half a cup if you want extra whole grain power.

In a separate large pot, saute the onion and garlic in olive oil over medium low heat for about 5 minutes. Once they are browned and fragrant, add the broth and water and bring to a boil. Add the lentils and carrots and boil for about 3 minutes, then reduce heat to a high simmer. Add all other ingredients, adjusting to taste as needed. Once carrots and lentils are softened, heat over a low simmer for about 10 more minutes, enough to ensure the flavors meld together nicely. I enjoyed this soup with slices of fresh pineapple, providing a pleasing sweet and spicy flavor combo. This would also work well served over rice or couscous, or with some whole grain bread and cheese.

I found this soup tasted even better the day after I cooked it when I had leftovers for lunch, making this a great "make ahead" meal. You could even easily make this in a crock pot if that's your style, and if you do, let me know how it goes!

After 6 months, babies can eat beans like lentils, and what a wonderful food to get introduced to! Not only are they yummy, but quite versatile, and few children will turn their noses up at them if prepared right.  I remember when I was a kid at my baby-sitter's house and she would make lentil soup during cold weather. It was out of a can, if I remember correctly, but I enjoyed it anyway as it filled my little belly right up to satisfaction. 

Babies can enjoy lentils cooked until very soft, and red are even preferred since they are smaller and cause less intestinal discomfort for new digestive systems. A proper portion for a 6-9 month old would be 1-2 tablespoons. You can mix in some peas and carrots too if you like. Toddler can enjoy them just the same, or give them this soup recipe to try and don't be surprised if they like it too! Lily sure did! Sprinkle a little cheese on top for picky eaters.

Lily dug it!

It's a known fact that whole grains are waaay better for you than white grains, but how often do you use the other grains I added to this soup? I know I'm guilty of rarely using any of them, and let's face it, we all know why- they don't really taste good! Why do you think I had enough left over to add to this soup? But, this is why I'm here- to help you find recipes that work well with healthy foods you may not normally like to eat because they just make you feel like you're eating cardboard. Throwing some in soups and breads is a great and simple way to add more whole grains to your diet, though. 

One of the grains I mentioned is definitely not a leader in the "most popular" category when it comes to planning meals, and that's barley. Barley is SUPER good for you though! It's not only loaded with fiber, but also selenium, copper and manganese to name a few, which are all rich minerals that can help lower your risk of diabetes, prevent gallstones, reduce your risk for breast cancer, and reduce high blood pressure. If this doesn't get you wanting to add barley to your diet, click here to look at some delicious-sounding recipes that include this amazing grain (gotta love!).

I hope you enjoy this delicious creation of mine as much as my family did. Let me know if you experiment with any additions, I love to hear how others change recipes up and make them even better!

Monday, December 5, 2011

I finally made a button!

I am so happy because I have tried to make one a couple of times and it never worked! But, this time I used the coding from this site and it worked!!!! YAY! So, if you'd like to support my blog and share with your readers, please grab a button! If you post it on your blog, let me know and I will do the same for you!

I had a pretty poopy weekend due to my monthly lady troubles which just took over my body all weekend, so I have no cool new recipe to post today :( BUT we did get our tree up, so please enjoy these pictures of it and stay tuned for this week's posts on Wednesday and Friday!  Thanks for stopping by!

For some reason the angle I took this from makes my window look crooked (?)


Lily checking it out right after getting up this morning

Friday, December 2, 2011

December's Featured Blog of the Month

It's that time of the year- the time of the year where I like to get all crafty and DIYy and dream of the day when Lily and I can get creative together (at this time, she's not even interested in coloring). Whenever I browse through the posts on Whole Child Creative Curriculum, this month's featured Up-and-Coming Blog, I always mentally bookmark the great ideas Carla has on her awesome blog. Some fun recent entries are "Owl Finger Puppets and Rhyme" which includes a link to finger puppet-making instructions and cute rhymes to sing with your little one while you put on a show, and a fun and easy way to make your own homemade piñata with the aptly titled "How to Make a Piñata".

If you have kids preschool age, this is the blog for you- it's perfect for rainy days when you're stuck in doors, or for whenever you want a fun activity for your kids that's as creative as it is educational. There are even recipes you can do with your preschooler! Since it's the holiday season, I'm betting she'll be featuring plenty of fun Christmas crafts and projects for you to enjoy with your son and/or daughter.

So, stop by and show Carla some love for her rockin' blog!

Thanksgiving Leftovers: Simple Turkey Soup

Here is the second recipe in my Thanksgiving series, and will likely be the final one unless I come up with something else awesome. This one is pretty quick and simple as long as you have the stock ready. This would make the ideal quick lunch, at home or to-go.

Simple Turkey Soup

4 cups turkey stock (click here for recipe)
2 cups water
2 cups chunks of roast turkey
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
3 celery stalks, sliced
1 small or medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, diced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp parsley
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper

Saute the onion and garlic with the seasonings in the olive oil until fragrant for about 5 minutes. Add the turkey and veggies and stir around until coated with the aromatics for about 1 minute then add the stock and water. Boil until carrots are softened. Add seasoning to your liking. Ready to serve or store! Great with crackers and cheese or rolls fresh out of the oven.

This is super easy. You can even make it per bowl if you have everything right on hand; in fact, that’s what I did when I made a version of this with just the turkey, veggies and a little seasoning in broth. I simply boiled the stock then threw in all the ingredients, cooking for 5 minutes on high. Even easier!

I neglected to talk about the health benefits of turkey in my last post, so here’s that info now if you were wondering. First of all, not only is turkey particularly high in protein, but- as we all know –it contains a significant amount of tryptophan, which is notoriously known to promote sleepiness, when in fact there is no research that proves this. It also contains, selenium, B6 and B12, and is a good choice if you are on a low fat diet as it is not associated with the health risks that eating red meat is.

Now I want to talk about celery, which is actually a pretty amazing detoxifier. It contains a large amount of vitamin K as most green veggies do, and a fair share of folate, and vitamins A and C. Celery has cholesterol and blood pressure lowering benefits and acts as a strong diuretic making it the perfect addition to your detoxifying fresh-squeezed juice. In fact, here’s a really good recipe for your juicer if you happen to have one.


1 apple
2 regular size carrots or 1 large one
2 celery stalks
1 small piece of ginger, approximately the size of your thumb
Squirt of lemon juice

Throw it all in the juicer according to instructions and top off with a squirt of lemon before drinking. Very refreshing!

I also just found out, according to, that celery contains “coumarins that help prevent free radicals from damaging cells, thus decreasing the mutations that increase the potential for cells to become cancerous.” Pretty interesting! This is a vegetable that is often over looked and merely thought of as a “diet food” or filler for soups and stews, when in fact it is good for you in a number of ways. Makes a great snack with some peanut butter or pimento spread on top!

Lily loves celery with peanut butter on it; it’s the only way she’ll eat it actually! Celery is very good for your little one who has trouble eliminating due to it’s diuretic properties and large amount of fiber. If your young child or toddler (with teeth) has tummy troubles, give them a piece of celery to chew on.

Here’s a classic you may already know that your kids will enjoy:

Frogs on a Log

2-4 celery stalks cut into quarters
Cream cheese
2-4 green olives, sliced

Spread some cream cheese onto each celery section enough so that the little cavern is filled. Top with 4-6 olive slices as shown in the picture below. Serve as an afternoon snack.

Image courtesy

Kids will like the name and you will like that it’s healthy and easy to make. You could also use peanut butter and raisins instead!

Do you have any interesting celery recipes to share? Share in the comments!
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