Eat.Pray.Heal


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Vegan Chocolate Chip Brownies

I have several recipes for vegan brownies I use when I have a chocolate craving, but I found this one in Sauce Magazine.  The recipe comes from Beth Styles, who is not even vegan, but her brownies are awesome!  I made a couple of minor changes, which I’ll share with you at the end.

 

Ingredients

3/4 cup applesauce

1 1/4 cups sugar

2 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp salt

8 oz. dairy-free chocolate chips, separated into 7 oz. and 1 oz.

8 Tbsp Earth Balance

3 Tbsp cocoa powder

1 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 350.  Grease an 8×8 inch square pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the applesauce, sugar, vanilla, and salt until well combined.  Set aside.

Melt 7 oz. of chocolate chips along with the Earth Balance in a small saucepan over low heat, being careful not to burn.  When it’s completely melted, whisk in the cocoa powder until smooth and remove from heat.

Whisk the chocolate mixture into the ingredients you already combined.  With a spoon, stir in the flour until just combined (don’t over-stir or it will become cakey when it bakes), and then stir in the remaining ounce of chocolate chips.

Pour the mixture into the pan, smoothing out the top.  Bake for 35-40 minutes on the middle rack.

 

My Slight Changes:  I used raw turbinado sugar instead of granulated white sugar, which does give the brownies a unique taste, but it’s healthier and I like the flavor enhancement it brings.  I also stirred in 1 ounce of dark chocolate chunks instead of regular semi-sweet chocolate chips (although I did use regular chocolate chips for the other 8 oz.).  My variations really didn’t change the final product much, but my husband and I truly enjoyed these brownies.  They are very moist and gooey.  Just how a brownie should be!  I made these in honor of my husband’s first day at his new job today!!

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Party Food for Đầy Tháng

Saturday afternoon, we hosted a đầy tháng party for our new goddaughter (which happens to be my husband’s baby cousin).  A đầy tháng is the celebration of the first month of a baby’s life.  Infant mortality has historically been a major concern in Vietnam, so families would not celebrate a new baby until she had survived the first month of life.  Once one month had passed and the baby remained healthy, the family would host a party so that all their family and friends could meet the new baby.  This is when a baby’s name would be announced as well.  Traditionally, Vietnamese people believed it was bad luck to name the baby or say nice things about her (for example, “she’s so cute”), because that would draw attention from spirits, and if you caught the spirits’ attention, they might steal the soul.  They believed that once a baby reached one month of age, her soul was sealed inside of her and could not be easily taken.  Nowadays, Vietnamese families still celebrate đầy tháng, but in a more modern way.  People come to the hospital to see the baby and parents tell the baby’s name (sometimes even before the baby is born, although we know a lot of Vietnamese people who will not share the name, or sometimes won’t even choose a name, until after the baby is born), and while mothers still do not leave the house for a month, people can stop by the house to visit during those weeks leading up to the big celebration.  I guess you could say the modern đầy tháng is sort of like a baby shower AFTER the baby is born, because people bring gifts or money.

So, all that to say, I hosted a party, which means I made a lot of food.  When hosting a party, I think the best approach is to make as much in advance as possible, because once you see the to-do list (cleaning, cooking, baking, decorating, invitations, etc.) you realize there are a lot of last minute things to do and you don’t want to be stressed out the day of the party.

I started with the dessert.  I originally thought about ordering a cake, but vegan cakes from a bakery are pretty pricey; not to mention, EVERYONE has cake for these types of parties, so I decided to make homemade sugar cookies.  I had never made vegan sugar cookies before, but I found the most amazing recipe for them online (see recipe below), and they are seriously the best sugar cookies I’ve ever tasted.  They were a big hit at the party!

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I chose a butterflies and flowers theme for the party since the baby is a girl, so I bought some cute cookie cutters and decided to use pink frosting, but I didn’t want to feed people Red 40, which is well known for causing hyperactivity in children and possibly cancer in adults.  So, I used beets to add a natural pink color to the icing.  It’s so easy!  Just wash and peel a small beet, and then cut off a 1 inch chunk.  Cut the 1 inch chunk into little cubes or rectangles and microwave them for about 30 seconds (or until some juice starts leaking out).  Add the beet chunks to the bowl of icing and stir until you reach the shade of pink you desire, and then remove the beets with a spoon.  You can’t even taste the beet juice!  No one would have guessed I used beets to dye the frosting, and the color was perfect!

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Next, I moved on to salads.  I made a broccoli salad and my mom made a pasta salad.  Her pasta salad was very simple but delicious.  She used tricolor spiral noodles and added several different kinds of chopped vegetables and tossed it in an Italian vinaigrette.  For my broccoli salad, I used a “rainbow salad” mix (sometimes called “broccoli slaw mix”) and added raisins, green onion, and sunflower seeds with a homemade Veganaise-based dressing (see recipe below).

Finally, I prepped veggie burgers the night before.  This is one of our favorite veggie burger recipes, which I’ve written about before, although I’ve never shared the recipe on my blog.  I got the recipe from ohsheglows, and they truly are some of the best veggie burgers!  The only difference in mine is I add about 1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper to the mix.

The party was a lot of fun.  Actually, I should say parties (*plural), because I hosted a party for D’s friends at our house in the afternoon, and then we had another party with family and Vietnamese family friends at a friend’s Vietnamese restaurant late at night after everyone was off work.

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Vegan Sugar Cookies  (recipe from veggie-kids)

1 1/4 cup Earth Balance, softened

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup applesauce

warm water

2 tsp vanilla

4 cups flour

1 tsp baking powder

Directions

In a large bowl, mix together Earth Balance and sugar with electric beaters.  Beat in applesauce and vanilla.

Using a large spoon, stir in baking powder and flour, starting with 2 cups of flour and then gradually adding the last 2 cups.  It may take several minutes to get the dough softened up, and you may even need to add about 2 Tbsp of warm water, but it will soften.

Cover and chill dough for at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350.

Roll dough onto a floured surface about 1/4 inch thick.  Use cookie cutters of your choice to make cookies, and place them on a greased cookie sheet.  Bake in the oven for 8 minutes.  Allow them to cool completely before frosting them.  I had to bake these in 2 batches.  This recipe made 42 cookies for me.

Sugar Cookie Frosting

2 cups powdered sugar

1 Tbsp Earth Balance, softened

2 Tbsp non-dairy milk (I used vanilla coconut milk.  You may need more or less milk depending on the consistency you want the icing to be.)

1/2 tsp vanilla

Directions

In a large bowl, use a big spoon to stir together the powdered sugar and Earth Balance.  Stir in vanilla and then the milk, adding 1 Tbsp at a time until you reach the consistency you want.

If you want pink frosting, follow the directions I gave above using beets.  I know there are other natural ways of dying frosting, but I have not tried them yet, so pink is all I can tell you for sure.

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Broccoli Salad

1 rainbow salad mix (sometimes called broccoli slaw mix)

2 green onions, chopped

1/2 cup raisins

1/4 cup sunflower seeds

For the Dressing

1 cup veganaise

1/2 cup sugar

2 Tbsp white vinegar

In a medium bowl, toss together the rainbow salad mix, green onion, raisins, and sunflower seeds.  In a separate small bowl, mix together the veganaise, sugar, and vinegar.  Slowly add the dressing to the salad and mix well.  You probably won’t need the entire amount of dressing.  I usually end up using almost all of it, but there’s always just a little left in the bowl.


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Natural Tick Repellents

A friend of mine posted these Tick Repellent recipes on Facebook today, so I wanted to share with all of you.  I don’t know where you live, but here in the Midwest, we have a LOT of ticks!  My husband and I love the outdoors, so I will definitely be trying this recipe next time we go hiking.  It’s crazy how different regions have different insect troubles.  For example, my sister and her husband live in New Orleans (this is their first year there), and they were completely shocked and disgusted to have a swarm of termites buzzing around their patio and trying to get into their home when summer began.  Meanwhile, when we lived in Alabama, I was covered in mosquito bites all summer and fall.  In fact, when I was still seeing a Reproductive Endocrinologist regularly for fertility treatments, the nurses would always ask me what was wrong with my legs because they were constantly covered in pink bumps.  (I’m sure the fact that we lived by a lake and had a pond in our community made the mosquitoes much worse.)  We also saw cock roaches every night in the summer crawling all around sidewalks and parking lots.  It was absolutely disgusting!  However, in all our time in Alabama, I never once had a tick on me after being in the woods.  In fact, last fall, our puppy was finally big enough to go hiking (we started taking him when he was 4 months old and could handle the long walks better, although we never went on very long hikes with him at that time), so I took him with me on short hikes at least twice a week.  I mean, we lived just a few miles away from a beautiful state park, and within about 15 minutes of a few other great hiking spots.  He NEVER had a tick attach to him, and he spent quite a bit of time in the woods with us.  Fast forward to this summer, living in the Midwest, and we go on our first hike since moving here and he is covered in ticks!  We were forewarned, though.  When we took him to get his annual vaccines a few weeks ago, the veterinarian told us he needed to be vaccinated for Lyme Disease since he didn’t receive that vaccination with his other boosters at 8 and 12 weeks.  She told us Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever are major concerns in this area because of the large population of ticks that carry those diseases.  Thank God we had him vaccinated before our first hike of the year, because wow–she wasn’t kidding about the huge tick population around here!

Anyway, that was a really long introduction just to give you these simple DIY Tick Repellents:  one for your pets, and one for you and other human friends.

 

Natural Tick Repellent for Dogs

Mix one cup of water with 2 cups of distilled white vinegar in a spray bottle.  Add 2 spoonfuls of vegetable or almond oil, put on the lid, and shake up your dog’s new tick repellent.  This is safe for dogs and should keep ticks at bay, because ticks hate the smell of vinegar, and the oils contain sulfur, which also keeps ticks from wanting to bite into your dog for a meal.

Spray this mixture all over your dog’s fur, avoiding sensitive areas such as the eyes, nose, mouth, and genitals.  Reapply no more than 3 times per day.

Natural Tick Repellent for Humans

Mix one cup of water with 2 cups of distilled white vinegar in a spray bottle.  Add in about 20 drops of an essential oil to prevent you from wreaking of vinegar all day.  Eucalyptus oil and citrus oils are good options, because they also work to repel ticks.  Put the lid on the bottle and shake up your new tick repellent.  This can be sprayed on clothing, skin, and hair, and should be reapplied every 4 hours as long as you are outside in a wooded area.

 

Even though these sprays should keep ticks from catching a ride on you or your dog, be sure to check everyone for ticks when you return home just to be safe.


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Fruit Trees

Thanks to my husband’s green thumb, we have two fruit trees starting to grow:  a Meyer Lemon Tree and an Ambarella Tree (it took us forever to find out what kind of fruit it was in English–we both only knew the Vietnamese word “Trai Coc”).  The trees are just sprouting, but we are excited nonetheless.  I took some pictures this morning of our little plants, so here they are for your envious viewing!  😉

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The top pictures are the Trai Coc tree (Ambarella).  The fruit from this kind of tree is really good!  It reminds me of an apple.  I can’t wait for it to mature so we can have this fruit whenever we want.  Here’s what the Trai Coc (Ambarella) fruit looks like:

Trai Coc

The bottom pictures are of our Meyer Lemon trees.  And yes, that is supposed to be plural.  We bought some organic Meyer Lemons from Whole Foods earlier this year, and my husband saved a bunch of the seeds.  He did a water test with them to see which ones were viable.  If the seeds float, then they probably won’t sprout; however, if they sink, then they should be good quality seeds.  We only had 2 viable seeds, and it was slightly too early in the year to plant them, so my husband wrapped the seeds in a wet paper towel and put it in a ziploc baggie.  He stored it in the vegetable crisper drawer of the refrigerator for at least 2 weeks until the weather was warm enough to plant them (no more frost outside for the year).  He planted both seeds in a large pot with quality soil, but we weren’t sure if they would grow or not.  In fact, my husband noticed the soil had small holes in the two spots where the seeds were planted, so we thought maybe the squirrels had gotten to them already (the squirrels in this area ate all my mom’s tomatoes just before they were ready to pick the last time she planted them).  But, to our pleasant surprise, a couple of weeks ago we went outside to discover two little sprouts–BOTH of the seeds actually worked!  Assuming they both survive, we’ll have to put them in separate pots once the roots get too big to fit in the shared pot.  Oh, and I should have mentioned earlier for those not familiar with Meyer Lemons–they are a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange.

Do any of you have fruit trees?  We don’t own a house yet, which is why we have ours in pots, but hopefully one day we’ll be able to have several fruit trees growing in our yard.


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Independence Day

For those of you who live in the United States, what did you do for the 4th of July?  We had such a wonderful day!  We left in the morning to drive one hour to Pere Marquette State Park for a hike and picnic lunch.  I haven’t been there in years, so it was really nice.  And we saw several fun things along the way, which you’ll see in the pics.

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I packed us a yummy lunch to replenish us after our hike.  We had stir-fried sweet potatoes, sliced strawberries, a banana, and a broccoli salad that consisted of shredded broccoli, shredded red cabbage, shredded carrots, raisins, dried cranberries, sunflower seeds, and a homemade dressing.

After our hike, Xanh and I napped the whole way home, leaving my poor husband to drive in silence for an hour.  Then, we rushed to pick ticks off Xanh (he had 6!!!), give him a bath, feed him dinner, and get ourselves showered and ready so we could go to a party with my in-laws.  A family friend owns a Vietnamese restaurant in the area, so oftentimes they will host holiday parties up at their restaurant so there’s plenty of seating and a big kitchen to prep all the food.  And the female owner was so sweet and made a couple of special vegetarian dishes just for us.  🙂  Another plus of that party is my husband won $10 playing blackjack with the kids!  Haha.  After that, we came home, watched fireworks, and fell fast asleep after our packed day.

By the way, before I bring this post to an end, I need to pause here to tell you about the strange thing we saw when we were leaving the restaurant party.  We almost hit a turtle in the road!  My husband immediately did a u-turn and went back to get the turtle out of the road.  As we approached the turtle, a man came running out of nowhere to pick it up and told us it was his pet turtle.  He explained that he had his turtle out with him for the 4th so he could “play in the grass” and didn’t realize he was capable of making it out to the road so fast.  We thought it was kind of weird…  Who takes a pet turtle outside to “play”?  What if something ate it or a car ran over it?!

So what did you do for the 4th?  Did you grill anything good?  Share your 4th of July food ideas in the comments section.


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Dogs who are Scared of Shots

Our baby dog, Xanh (pronounced Sahn), recently turned a year old, so we took him earlier this week to get his annual vaccines and a 6 month exam.  This was our first time seeing this vet, because we moved here from out of state this past winter.  This was also Xanh’s first time getting shots since last summer when he was still a tiny puppy.  Fortunately/unfortunately for us, the vet is Xanh’s favorite place to go, because when we lived in Alabama, we took him to our friend who’s a veterinarian, so he knew her outside of the vet office as well (and knew her dogs, and I’m sure had their scent on her regularly).  I say fortunately/unfortunately, because I’m glad he isn’t afraid of seeing a vet, but he gets SO excited.  It’s actually quite embarrassing now that we have to see a vet we don’t know personally.  We take Xanh with us everywhere a dog can go, so he’s very well socialized, and we started training him at 8 weeks and he is a GREAT dog.  People compliment us everywhere we go with him…except the vet’s office.  As soon as we walk through the door, he is uncontrollable with excitement.  That was all fine and well 6 months ago (sort of), but now that he’s 80 lbs and still growing, it’s a bit of a problem.  This vet sees pit bulls a lot, so she knew he would be high energy and was okay with it, but it’s still embarrassing for us, because he acted like he had never been trained a day in his life.  Sigh…

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Anyway, all that to say, we had an awful time with him at the vet.  He was so excited that he wouldn’t stop spinning in circles when the vet tech tried to take his temperature and check his eyes for glaucoma, because he wanted to see her face and lick her, etc.  We had to bribe him with treats.  A LOT of treats.  Thank God they were low fat (and I might add that he wasn’t too hungry for dinner that night).  Then, my biggest nightmare happened.  Well, maybe not my biggest nightmare; I mean, it could have been far worse, but I never thought of the fact that last time Xanh had shots he still had saggy puppy skin and baby fat.  He used to never even notice needles going into him.  Well now he does, and he hates them!  He has a bruised arm that he doesn’t want us touching, because when they drew his blood to check for heartworm he jerked his arm away and the needle came out fast and at a bad angle.  Then, the nightmare–he started growling at the vet when she was giving him shots.  He had to have 4–one in each leg.  One vet tech straddled him to hold him still for the shots, and another vet tech tried to distract him with affection and treats, but he was NOT happy.  He didn’t try to bite anyone or anything like that, which is why I say it could have been far worse, but I’ve never seen him respond this way to anything!  I know it was all out of fear, because as soon as each shot was over he turned around and started licking the vet and getting up in her face so she would pet him, but I still hated to see that kind of reaction from him.  I would say thank God it’s over and we made it through ok, but apparently lyme disease is a common problem for dogs in the Midwest but not in the South, so he was never vaccinated for it as a puppy.  That means we go in for 2 more booster shots in 3 weeks.  Lord, help us…

Do you have a dog, and if so, does he/she not like shots?  What do you do to keep your dog calm and relaxed for them?


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Chocolate Goo

Craving something sweet but don’t have a lot of time or just don’t want to bake something that will have leftovers to tempt you in the fridge?  I don’t know where we came up with this or why we started making it, but my sister and I used to make something we called “chocolate goo” when we were kids.  I still make it to this day when my sweet tooth starts to ache.  Below I’ve posted the original version and the “healthier” version.

 

Original

Chocolate Goo Unhealthy

Put ingredients in a bowl in this order:  1/4 cup oats, 1 heaping Tbsp peanut butter, 1 Tbsp brown sugar, 1 tsp Earth Balance, small handful vegan chocolate chips (I’ll the leave the amount to your discretion).  Do not stir the ingredients together; just place them in a bowl in that order and then put it in the microwave for 45 seconds.  Remove from the microwave, stir, and enjoy!

 

Healthier Version

Healthy Goo

The directions are the same as for the original recipe, but the ingredients are just slightly different:  1/4 cup oats, 1 heaping Tbsp of peanut butter, 1 Tbsp raw turbinado sugar, 1 tsp coconut oil, small handful vegan chocolate chips.

 

As you can see from the pictures, the consistency of the goo varies depending on which recipe you use, so that may be something to take into consideration when deciding which one you want to try.  Also, the “healthier” version does have a slightly different taste because of the coconut oil.  You may like that or you may not.  It’s all up to your preference, but I personally like both, and I’m telling you–this simple recipe is perfect for a quick chocolate fix.

 

I also wanted to let you know that if you read my last post about the homemade sunscreen and are wondering how it turned out, we ended up not going to the lake after all, so I haven’t made the sunscreen yet.  I’ll let you know as soon as I do!