Hello, my friends and happy February!! How are you?? I think last month I worked my body too hard – a little increased stress and not sleeping enough (which took a toll on my immune system) that I got sick! Started with a couple of days of fever, body aches and chills and ended with a little congestion and cough…unfortunately, I passed it on to Willow, but luckily she didn’t get hit as hard. I haven’t been sick like that since I was a kid!! I couldn’t help but snap this photo of Willow and our foster dog, Gary, passed out on the couch while Willow was sick:
Speaking of Gary…he got adopted after spending five weeks with us! So bittersweet and we all miss him a lot, but what an amazing experience to witness him meet his forever family. We’ve taken a couple of weeks off and will be picking up our next foster dog on Monday. I think Rockford and Moxie have enjoyed the quieter days!
January also kick started our buckling down harder on our budget! If you’ve been a reader here for a few years, you might remember a post I did on how we budget many years back. We’ve been using a cash system for groceries (and various other things) for a long time, but since seeing how close we are to paying off student loans, we’ve been cutting back on unnecessary spending. This means making a lot more things from scratch and buying less treats/”luxury” items, such as drinks from local coffee shops, kombucha, crackers, vegan cheese, granola, and desserts (chocolate bars, etc.). After the first two weeks alone, we had cut our grocery bill in half! We’ve made a lot of other changes, but rather than making this post any wordier than it already is, I’m working on a separate post to go into more detail – in hopes of helping other people!
I have several recipes that I had hoped to share here last month, so here’s hoping I get my act together in February!! So stay tuned for a couple of soup recipes, dips, and treats!
January 2020 in Review:
R E C I P E S :
Vegan Vanilla Cake Waffles >> The Vegan 8 >> I forgot to add this into my December review! We were gifted a waffle maker for Christmas and I remembered seeing this recipe a while back and we finally got to try it! You would never know these are gluten free!! SO wonderfully fluffy with an amazing texture (not gummy) and literally taste like cake! We made a minor adjustment and used tapioca flour instead of cornstarch because that’s what we had on hand – Willow declared them the best waffles ever! Ours is a Belgian waffle maker, which makes thicker waffles, so I “cooked” them longer and we also ended up with fewer waffles (4 instead of 7) than the recipe indicates since more batter is required for a Belgian waffle maker. The second time we made these, we used almond butter and they were equally delicious!
Creamy Curried Cauliflower Lentil Soup (1 Pot!)>> Minimalist Baker >> No photo to accompany this review, for a couple of reasons: (1) we were so hungry and anxious to dive into our bowls and (2) the lighting at dinnertime isn’t the greatest in January 😉 But I will say that all of us enjoyed this a lot…Willow most of all! The night we made it, Willow went back for seconds and then a smaller third helping and then she ate it for leftovers the next day! Very rarely does she get excited about soup, but she said it reminded her of the soup she used to LOVE from Kebaba (before we all got food poisoning). We love a good 1-pot meal and especially one that requires very little prep! Since we were hoping Willow would eat it, we skipped the cayenne and it passed her approval on the spice level. Josh and I amped up the heat a bit by adding in some hot sauce and topped ours with some freshly chopped spinach. All of us adding an extra swirl of coconut milk! Really delicious!
Cinnamon Buckwheat Banana Bread >> Feasting on Fruit >> Our new FAVORITE way to banana bread! Say goodbye to mushy, wet centers and banana bread that falls apart! That is the magic of buckwheat flour…one of my absolute favorite flours to work with! The texture of this bread is pure perfection, sweetness level is just right, and the flavor is out of this world. I used the full two tablespoons of cinnamon and the optional molasses, which paired wonderfully with the banana. I highly recommend topping it with the optional chopped walnuts and dusting of coconut sugar because it just takes it to the next level of deliciousness…the coconut sugar gets a little caramelized and the walnuts add a great crunch + texture. A really great thing about this bread is that there’s no waiting until it’s fully cooled to slice up! I did use unsweetened almond milk instead of sparkling water because that is what we had on hand. We actually made this a second time using pumpkin puree instead of banana (just did equal weight measurement) and instead of walnuts, we added dairy-free chocolate chips! Super good!
Coconut Curried Golden Lentils (20 Minutes!) >> Minimalist Baker >> Willow and I were getting over being sick and our pantry and fridge were a bit bare…so I looked at what we did have and Googled red lentils…this was one of the recipes that popped up! I used red lentils in place of golden, cut back on the fresh ginger (to keep the spice level down), and absolutely LOVED it! So much so that we made it a second time! Both times we served it over quinoa and I sauteed some kale to go with my bowl. Loved how this meal was packed with protein, fiber, and bold flavor. The recipe calls for shallot as an optional ingredient, but we used a small onion instead.
Chickpea Noodle Soup >> Vegan for Everybody: America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook >> I wish I had a photo to accompany this recipe review, but know that it was amazing!! We ended up making it a second time when we had friends over for a soup night. Such a great remake of the classic chicken noodle soup! It’s a one-pot meal, which is a huge plus and comes together in a flash. Cooking the noodles in the soup adds a starchy, creaminess that is delicious. We used a gluten-free brown rice elbow noodle instead of the wheat based one it called for and while they hold up the day it’s made, leftovers ended up broken and overly soft. Another thing we loved about this recipe is that it calls for ingredients that we always have on hand!
SunButter Latte >> Feasting on Fruit >> There is just something so cozy about a cup of coffee that I have grown to look forward to each morning. I rotate through several ways I like to make it – always with a non-dairy milk of some sort and usually sweetened with a touch of maple syrup. When I saw this recipe come through, I hesitated because I couldn’t fathom adding sunbutter to my coffee! But then I realized, I add TAHINI to my coffee on many occasions! I ended up loving this SO much that I made it three consecutive mornings! The creaminess factor is incredible and if you really like sunbutter, you’ll love this! Such a bold, roasted, slightly nutty, perfectly sweetened cup of coziness. I have tried this with cinnamon and vanilla…both wonderful additions! I do not have an espresso machine, so I just brewed my cup of coffee as usual and then blended it with the other ingredients (minus water). This has become a great recipe to add to my rotation of favorite ways to drink coffee!
Healthier Monster Cookies >> Feasting on Fruit >> Growing up, I remember LOVING the junk-filled, bad-for-you monster cookies. All of the different textures (depending on the candy ingredients used), sweetness overload, and strong peanut butter flavor…they were goooood. So when Natalie came out with this recipe, I knew I had to make them for the next family gathering…which ended up being for my aunt’s birthday! I searched a few stores for vegan sprinkles, but options were severely limited and the ingredients weren’t very good. Then we had this ‘aha’ moment and grabbed a bag of those UnReal dark chocolate crispy gems (they remind us SO much of M&Ms) and used 1/4 cup of those in place of the sprinkles! These were a big hit and very reminiscent of the monster cookies I ate as a kid. I failed to snap a photo of these before they got devoured! It’s been requested that we make them again, so I’ll have to add a photo in here once we do.
Chocolate Chip Granola Bars >> The Vegan 8 >> I love finding new snacks to make for Willow and these have become a favorite of hers (all of us really). It’s funny though because she keeps calling them brownies! Really easy to make with great ingredients. The day I made these, we were almost out of almond butter, so I mixed in some roasted, runny tahini as well! Absolutely LOVED the flavor! Great texture, holds up (doesn’t fall apart), and it’s a snack I feel good about giving to Willow. We will definitely make these again!
B O O K S :
The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You by Elaine N. Aron >> This book was recommended to me by several people (the latest one being a therapist), so I finally borrowed it from the library! As a whole, it wasn’t my favorite book on this subject matter, but I was able to walk away with a lot of great insight and it certainly brought a sense of normalcy to my own habits…explained a lot!
How Not To Diet by Michael Greger >> I LOVED the book How Not to Die so I immediately put myself on the library waitlist when I heard this latest book of his was coming out. Definitely not a quick read as it is over 500 pages and full of research studies and scientific evidence…but I found it incredibly fascinating! I in no way think I need to lose weight or go on a “diet” but I love learning about how the body works and any tips for optimal health. Like with any book regarding health, I do keep in mind that you need to find what works for YOU and makes you feel your best. I actually learned a great deal from Dr. Greger and have made minor adjustments in my daily habits…but I was also happy to read that I already do a lot that he recommends!
The Names of the Dead by Kevin Wignall >> This was one of the books I downloaded for free via Kindle First in January. Super quick read, entertaining, and a pretty decent mystery/thriller/suspense. I ended up giving it three stars on Goodreads.
Thief River Falls by Brian Freeman >> Another book I downloaded for free via Kindle First (you got to choose two books for January) and I actually really enjoyed this one! A great mystery/suspense with a twist I did not see coming! I really loved the writing…very poetic at times and the author did a great job pulling me into the story as well as feeling for the characters.
Vegan For Everybody by America’s Test Kitchen >> Just like how I love learning and reading about how our bodies work, this book breaks down the science behind the ingredients and why they work! They’ve done the work for you and found the best ingredients that work for each recipe they’ve created. While a lot of the recipes contain soy and/or gluten, I still enjoyed reading through this book! We’ve only tried one recipe (the Chickpea Noodle Soup), but I have a few others I hope to try soon!
The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein >> Holy tear jerker. My favorite book from January though! I have been wanting to read this book for a long time and actually found it at my library book sale last month. Told through the eyes of Enzo (the dog) you will feel a wide range of emotions in these pages. I don’t want to say much more because I don’t want to spoil it!
You’re Not Listening: What You’re Missing and Why It Matters by Kate Murphy >> Please read this book!! I can’t recommend it enough. Short chapters, thought-provoking, eye-opening…you are guaranteed to learn a lot and reassess how you listen. I have always been told that I’m a great listener and have always considered myself to be a great listener, but this book taught me I can definitely improve! I remember in college while studying to get my B.A. in psychology, we learned active listening skills and role played being a therapist, but this book taught me WAY more. I am so much more mindful now of how I’m listening and the questions I am asking! This book will definitely be applied to my daily life…it already has.
Willow and I are over halfway through Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix (the 5th book) and absolutely loving every minute of it. It’s really cute because after we’ve finished reading these books together, she goes back and re-reads either the book in it’s entirety or her favorite parts…she’s always walking around with one of the Harry Potter books in her hand! I know I said it in last month’s post, but re-reading these has been so much fun and being able to share this experience with Willow is priceless.
I am almost finished with Nevernight by Jay Kristoff…Josh got me the first two books for Christmas (they’ve been on our to-read lists) and while I am enjoying this first installment, it has been an adjustment from my previous reads. His writing has taken some time to get used to and the footnotes are not my favorite. They break up the flow of the book and slow me down. People I really respect have given this series great reviews (people with similar tastes in books), so I’m definitely sticking with it.
As always, I want to hear from YOU! And I have double and triple checked to make sure that the comment box is actually available (SO sorry for that error last month!) so please let me know below what you’ve been reading, recipes you’ve tried or are making on repeat, shows you’re watching, or new products you’ve tried. I appreciate those of you who continue to read these rambles! I hope you have a great month!