Vegan Taquitos

Vegan Taquitos

Note: these are pre-cooked. Cooked taquitos will be a nice golden brown on the edges.

These taquitos were so easy to make that I also had time to cook up some rice and fry some corn tortillas–cut into triangles–for the sides. They were also really great dipped in the mango peach salsa, which makes up a big part of the yummy–and nutritious–insides. I made a whole bunch so that we could have lunch for tomorrow, so this recipe could easily feed a family of four.

And if you really want cheese, you could go vegetarian and grate some sharp cheddar into the prepared sauce, or use vegan cheese. But don’t worry if you don’t have cheese on-hand, these were totally great without!

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20-30 minutes

Total Time: 30-45 minutes

Yields: 25-30 taquitos

What you need:

1 pkg of corn tortillas

1 can diced tomatoes with onion and garlic

1/2 cup to 1 cup of frozen bell pepper blend (depending on your tastes)

1/2 jar mango peach salsa

1 can black beans drained and rinsed

1 can sliced olives

1-2 tablespoons of your favorite taco seasoning

salt and pepper to taste

few tablespoons chopped cilantro (optional)

olive oil

How to make it:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line a baking sheet with nonstick foil (you might also spray the foil with nonstick spray, just to be on the safe side).
  2. In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, bell pepper, salsa, black beans, olives, and seasonings.
  3. Wrap five corn tortillas in wet paper towels and heat them in the microwave for 45 seconds.
  4. Spoon a small amount of the mixture onto each corn tortilla and roll the tortilla up, placing them seam-side down on the baking sheet.
  5. Repeat steps three and four until all of the mixture is gone.
  6. Brush the tops of the taquitos with olive oil.
  7. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until the tortillas are browned.
  8. Serve with remaining salsa in jar and any sides you like.

Have your own favorite vegetarian or vegan taquito recipe? Feel free to share in the comments below!

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Leavened Chai Bread

Leavened Chai Bread

I love baking bread. Not the quick bread, but the bread that takes you all day. From kneading it, to watching baking shows as I let it rise, to shaping and baking, and to the way my house smells like butter all day long, there’s nothing not to like about it.

What else do I love? Chai. One sip of it on a rainy day tosses me right into autumn, no matter what season it is. I like to shake up some almond milk in a mason jar and heat it up in the microwave, add it to my chai with a little vanilla and sugar, and voila! Chai latte brewed right at home.

Needless to say, when I found a recipe the other day for chai quick bread, I was super excited. It was an almost success–I didn’t have medjool dates, so I did use walnuts instead–but one thing I didn’t really like on it was the rise (most likely my own doing). Plus I didn’t really get a chance to “dig in” and feel like I was working with my hands. So, I decided to give it a try the traditional way, adding yeast and kneading the spices right into the dough. I’m not a baking savant, so I wasn’t sure if the yeast would even work after adding all of the spices and flavors, but it turned out just fine! I made my other loaf a basic white bread so I could compare their rise. The chai bread actually rose higher than the white bread. Possibly because of the warmth from the marinated walnuts.

Please note: this is not a sweet bread. If you’re looking to add a bit of sweetness, knead some dried fruit into the dough. For me, this bread is perfect with just a little bit of honey drizzled on top. Next time I plan to add the chai as part of my moisture to get more of a chai kick.

The chai dough is on the right, and the white is on the left
Chai on the left, white on the right

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Rise Time: 80 minutes

Rest Time: 10 minutes

Bake Time: 35-40 minutes

Oven Temp: 375 degrees

Yields: Two loaves

What You Need:

5-6 cups all purpose flour

1 tbsp butter (I used vegan butter)

2 tbsp sugar

1 1/2 tsp salt

2 1/4 cups unsweetened almond milk or milk of your choosing

1 packet active dry yeast

1 cup brewed chai tea

3/4 cup walnuts, chopped finely

1 tbsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp cloves

1 tbsp canola oil

How To Make It:

  1. Pour your chopped walnuts into the cup of brewed tea to soak. I like to keep the tea bag in there just to steep everything longer.
  2. While walnuts soak, mix 2.5 cups flour with yeast in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Heat milk, sugar, and butter, and salt in a small saucepan to just about the point where the butter is almost melted.
  4. Create a “well” in flour and pour warm mixture into it.
  5. Using a hand-held mixer, mix on low for 30 seconds, then high for three minutes.
  6. Strain walnuts, then add them to your mixture.
  7. Using a wooden spoon (or your hands) knead the rest of the flour into the dough. Then knead until you get a nice soft ball of dough. If dough is too wet, simply add more flour.
  8. Coat your mixing bowl with the canola oil and then place dough into bowl, turn the dough once to make sure it gets coated with oil (but not saturated).
  9. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for one hour.
  10. Punch dough down, then flip onto lightly-floured surface and split into two equal halves. Cover with a towel and let rest ten minutes.
  11. Grease your bread pans, then carefully shape your dough into loaves by rolling gently and pinching the sides underneath.
  12. Place loaves seam side down into your pans. Cover with a towel and let rise another 35 minutes.
  13. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  14. Bake loaves for about 35-40 minutes, or until bread sounds “hollow” when you knock on it. (note: it will not sound as “hollow” as basic white bread, or bread without fillings, but it will definitely have a hollow sound).
  15. Cool on racks for at least an hour before storing.
  16. Serve with honey, butter, or honey butter. Yum!

Did you try this recipe? I’d love to know how it turned out for you! Tell me in the comments below.

Lethargic, but Seizure-Free

Lethargic, but Seizure-Free

Tomorrow will be around two months and two weeks since I’ve eaten meat. I made it about two months vegan before deciding to ease into a more vegetarian diet, to give myself more flexibility. I ordered a veggie pizza with cheese from the grocery store and ate a few slices, then saved the rest for the next day. I felt no different that night, but the next day, no more than ten minutes after eating the leftover pizza, I had what my neurologist calls an “aura” seizure (feels like a long bout of lightheadedness followed by an hour or two of grumpiness, nausea, and a headache).

The cheese, I thought almost immediately. It had to be the cheese. After all, I hadn’t had a seizure in weeks. What also hadn’t I had in weeks?

It made sense. I have Catamenial epilepsy, which means I have seizures during hormonal changes–primarily when I ovulate, or have a period–and there are hormones in dairy products, even the kind made from cows which haven’t been injected with anything to help their production. Adding these hormones to my diet seems to affect my own hormonal balance.

It took a week or so before I worked up the nerve to try cheese again, just in case it might have been something else. But during a family emergency, I had no choice. I didn’t have a seizure–that I know of–but wound up with one of my “electrical headaches” (basically feels like someone is crumpling tinfoil in my head).

So I decided that was it, and have decided to give up dairy for good. Since then I haven’t had any issues.

Now I do still have the occasional egg, as some might have guessed from my recent recipe post: Tiny Vegetarian Quiches, and so far I haven’t had any issues from them. I make sure to buy the local Amish eggs, which are certified Humane, free range, hormone-free, etc., etc., which makes me feel better about eating eggs.

Now for the exhaustion

One of the reasons I decided to try switching to a vegetarian, or even a light meat clean-eating diet, was because of this sudden wave of fatigue which seems to be clouding up each and every day. Things have stopped getting done. I watch TV. I’m lazy. I hate it! I made a list of potential suspects:

  • Burnout (this stay-at-home momma might need a mini vacay)
  • Depression (not surprising, considering I’d weaned to a lower dose of Lexapro)
  • Cabin Fever (haven’t driven in 2.5 years! It does things to you!)
  • Nutrient Deficiency (though an extra B12 supplement gives me headaches)
  • Meds (Most likely, especially since I read Lexapro interacts with Klonopin and makes you more tired)
  • Allergies (Also likely)
  • Unknown

Once I had my list, I started to try a few remedies.

  • I called my doctor and talked to her about switching me from Lexapro to something else and she started me on Zoloft. So far, I’m getting more done, but the exhaustion hasn’t left me.
  • Maybe I was sleeping too much? Decided to stop the snooze button and just get out of bed. Didn’t seem to work.
  • Tried Yoga first thing in the morning. All it did was relax me, which made me more tired.
  • Instead of eating a breakfast on the run, or drinking my coffee in front of the TV, I sat at the table to write a morning blog with a bowl of oatmeal and my coffee. That seemed to work. It turned a few gears and got me moving. From there I began working on a list of things I needed to get done around the house, and even got some gardening done. It was refreshing!
  • I’ve started to have less “lazy” meals. For instance, instead of throwing a vegan TV dinner into the microwave, I’ll make a yummy chickpea salad sandwich with a ton of veggies and nutritional yeast for an added vitamin boost.
  • DRINKING MORE WATER. Apparently it doesn’t take much to get dehydrated and feel fatigued. Whenever I start to feel a little run down, I go drink a big glass of cold water and it seems to perk me up.

If there’s anything I’ve learned from having epilepsy, it’s that our bodies are a work in progress. We are always learning what works and what doesn’t. Although I’ve gained a deeper understanding about what makes my brain go haywire, I’ve run into a road block of exhaustion. Is it the meds? The pollen? Or is it something I’m not getting enough of, like water or B12?

Fingers crossed I find out soon!

Mini Vegetarian Quiches

Mini Vegetarian Quiches

These were super yummy, and an awesome start to our Saturday morning. So simple, in fact, that I just threw these items together without paying much attention to a recipe. I did my best to get the times and measurements right, but you may need to make a few adjustments based on your own personal tastes and how your oven cooks.

Oven Temp: 375

Prepare Time: 10 minutes

Bake Time: 15-20 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yields: 6 Quiches

Ingredients:

6 eggs

1/2 cup unsweetened plant-based milk (I used almond)

chopped veggies of your choice (I used spinach and tomato)

1-2 tsp nutritional yeast

1/4 tsp onion powder

1/4-1/2 tsp garlic powder (depending on how much you like garlic)

salt and pepper

bacon bits (optional)

Directions:

  1. Grease a 6 muffin pan
  2. Chop your veggies
  3. Add veggies to the greased muffin pan, filling each cup evenly
  4. In a bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk together milk, eggs, and spices
  5. Pour egg mixture into each muffin cup
  6. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a fork comes out clean and the insides are no longer runny
  7. Eat them all before you can get a picture! (oops)

These quiches are easy, yummy, and apparently you can freeze them! Whip up a batch, let them cool, then wrap them individually in cling wrap for some breakfast on the go.

Have your own vegetarian or vegan breakfast recipes you’d like to share? Feel free to paste links in the comments below!

Drink More Water With The Plant Nanny App

Drink More Water With The Plant Nanny App

I love virtual pets. I had four Tamagotchi/Giga Pets on a keychain when I was a kid–and they were all taken care of–and I could play Sims through the apocalypse. A few days ago, I decided to add a new virtual pet to my phone, and I found the Plant Nanny app. I was immediately drawn to the cute plants and their gooey eyes. Reading the description, I learned that you water the plant when you give yourself water. So not only would I receive an adorable virtual plant, but I would also be forced to take care of myself so my plant wouldn’t die. Best of all, it’s FREE! Win-Win-Win! I downloaded the app, put in my weight info, chose the devil’s ivy, and named it Little Green.

When I woke up the first morning, I had a splitting headache. I tried getting more sleep, but that only numbed it a little. So, I rolled out of bed and popped some aspirin. While getting breakfast ready for the kiddo, I checked on Little Green and noticed he was wilted and yellowish. I immediately gulped down a big glass of water.

Little Green didn’t stop wilting until I had five glasses of water down, and maybe it was a coincidence, but that was also around the time my headache finally went away (hours later). It was like Little Green had become a visual representation of what was going on with my body.

That’s not all, however, the next day I was surprised to learn that you can level up in the game! Little Green was growing!

From the many different plants to choose from, fancy pots, and even different backgrounds, this game is super cute and versatile, and it will get you hydrated. Ever wonder how much water you were drinking? I still haven’t made it to eight cups in a day. I wonder what will happen to Little Green if I do.

Check out Plant Nanny for iPhone

Check out Plant Nanny for Android

The Minimalist Challenge

The Minimalist Challenge

I learned about the minimalist game on Twitter, and was soon redirected to the site of the The Minimalists (the guys who made the documentary, Minimalism, which is currently on Netflix and a good watch).

The idea of the game is to find someone–a friend or family member or even someone online–to compete with for an entire month. On day one you each get rid of one thing. On day two you each get rid of two things. You go on like this until one of you ducks out, or you guys make it the full month. The person who gets rid of the most junk wins. Or if you both make it the whole month you both win.

As for me, I have no one to compete against. So I’m calling it a minimalist challenge instead of a game.

Today is day one and I have to get rid of one thing. Won’t be hard, considering the fact that my dining room is in shambles right now as I empty two very tall bookshelves. If you’d like to see what I get rid of each day, follow me on Twitter! I’ll be sharing there.

Happy Decluttering!

Five Reasons I want to Go Minimalist

Five Reasons I want to Go Minimalist

When I was twenty-four, I sat across from my husband on Navy Pier and fed bread crumbs to the sparrows hopping between our feet. The morning fog still hadn’t lifted, and I admired the sailboats, mere black triangles on the horizon. We had been going to Chicago every year on Labor Day weekend and every year I fell in love with it even more.

Let’s move here.

I couldn’t believe what I’d just said, but at the time it totally made sense. I was a pretty impulsive person. I liked doing spur of the moment things, which was how we’d wound up in Chicago the first time. So I was dead serious. I wanted to move to Chi-Town, get a studio apartment, even transfer to UIC. I had it all planned out.

We could have breakfast on the pier every weekend. We could bike all over town. I wouldn’t have any transportation issues due to my epilepsy because there were plenty of cabs and buses and trains. And I could totally work at some quaint little bookstore and work on my novels at night to the lit buildings.

It sounded amazing.

We acted on it, emailed college advisors, and I began tossing everything in our condo. Everything we didn’t use within the last thirty days was either getting donated or thrown out. Because studio apartments are small and there was no room for our end tables stuffed to the brim with old receipts and textbooks from my first semester of college. We planned on getting rid of all of our furniture and buying a futon and a small table. We gave away a flatscreen we weren’t using. We threw out our big Christmas tree and opted for one of those cute little three-footers.

This was my first taste of the minimalist life.

We didn’t wind up moving to Chicago. Once I began to de-clutter, I began to feel less and less like running away. Instead I fell in love with our condo all over again and gazed longingly into the empty room across the hall from ours. Something was missing. Someone was missing. We decided not to move to Chi-town and had a baby instead.

Fast-forward five years and my house is cluttered with toys and rock collections and cicada shells and dog fur and empty film canisters and movies we don’t watch and art projects gone wrong. Each day is spent cleaning and straightening for the next day. I clean and clean and do laundry and clean and it always seems like something has to be done.

It’s time. Time again to make those “toss” and “donate” piles and find myself at home in my own home again. It took several years to get to this point, so it might actually take a year or two to get to a point where I can sigh with relief.

So why would I want to embark on such a long and tedious journey? Why can’t I just buy a storage shed and dump it all in there? Outta sight, outta mind, right? Right….like that would solve the problem.

I actually wrote ten reasons today why I want to go minimalist, but these are the top five:

1. Less Laundry!

I hate laundry. With every fiber of my being I hate laundry. Sure, having less clothes will mean doing laundry more often, but I’d rather do it more often than fold a mountainous pile of clothes at the end of every streak of procrastination.

2. Cooking will be simpler

My tired brain might deny it sometimes, but I actually love to cook. It’s soothing to chop veggies in front of the window as I listen to Lia Ices and Agnes Obel on Pandora. I love smelling the seasonings and putting new meals together.

But right now my kitchen is stuffed with pots and pans I no longer use–we went green when we got our canary, Apple–and coffee mugs we haven’t touched in years and appliances we may have used only once or twice. I can’t count how many times I’ve been hit with an avalanche every time I was trying to find the strainer.

A minimalist kitchen would mean knowing where absolutely everything is, and having only what I really need.

3. I will appreciate my items more

Why don’t I use those white mugs in the cabinet? Because I like my mug with the pretty birds, and the other mug that looks like a beehive. They are like small artifacts that add flair to my day. Same goes for my cameras and my art easel, which is hiding somewhere in the art closet. Once I’ve de-cluttered, only what I love will remain. Which means everything I own will matter to me in some way, and will actually add something to my day. Even if it’s just a smile.

De-cluttering will also mean Goo will appreciate her toys more: a valuable lesson I think is super important for her to learn.

4. Clean-up will be super easy for Goo

I will knock on wood repeatedly after I write this: Goo is actually very good at cleaning up when told. But right now she has so many toys that one afternoon in her room results in some kind of post-apocalyptic explosion all over her floor. It takes her forever to get everything back to where it belongs.

Less toys will mean more organization, and less time to clean up. It will also mean less clutter all over the floor during the daytime hours.

5. More time for creating!

Clutter drains my creativity. It makes me tired just to look at it. Less junk would mean less time cleaning and more time to do the things I like doing. It might even clear out the room in the basement, currently our “storage area,” and give us a room dedicated solely to our hobbies. I would love to be able to one day sit at my table with my watercolor easel with a fresh breeze blowing in through the window, or develop film in a spider-free and roomy room. Perhaps I could even start to do my own printing. After all, having less means having more money, space, and time for things like film enlargers.

While I’m going through this process–and begging my husband and kid to go through their things–I know it will be important to remember that minimalism isn’t just about de-cluttering, it’s a way of life. So I will also have to pay close attention to how I see material objects, and work on not adding more to the mix as I try to remove. I will work on trying to find the positive in moments and with my family as opposed to things. After all it’s memories, not objects, that we hold dear to our heart when we’re lying on our death beds.

Though I might want to be buried with my Rolleiflex.