Jul 21

Better Chocolate Cake

I love sweet treats for myself and the kids, but I try to make them as healthy as I can. Healthy doesn’t have to be boring!

Always looking for new and healthier recipes to try, I came across a chocolate cake recipe in a recent issue of Mother Earth Living. I made some modifications and opted to leave off frosting. I have to say that this is the lightest cake I’ve made. It was firm like a brownie after a night in the fridge but once I put it at room temperature again, the light texture was back. This may be my new favorite chocolate cake recipe!


Chocolate Cake

1 cup coffee

1 1/2 cup raw cacao powder (or cocoa powder)

1 cup coconut oil (room temperature or melted)

2 cups sugar

4 egg equivalents (6 tsp EnerG + 8 Tbsp water, whisked together)

2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 3/4 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup almond flour

1 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 cup coconut cream, whipped (chill can of coconut milk at least 24 hours in advance)


Chocolate Cake - the final product!

Chocolate Cake – the final product!

Preheat over to 350 F.

Whisk cacao powder into hot coffee and set aside to cool.

In stand mixer, mix coconut oil and sugar for several minutes, until creamy.

Prepare egg equivalents, add to sugar/oil mixture and mix until combined. Add vanilla and continue to mix.

In a separate bowl, combine flours, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Fold dry ingredients into wet ingredients. Do not overmix.

Open can of coconut milk and pull off the solid cream layer into a small bowl. With a hand mixer, beat until fluffy. Fold into cake batter until just combined.

Grease baking dish (I used a glass 9″ x 12″ dish) and sprinkle with cacao powder. Pour in batter and bake 25 minutes. Check center with toothpick and bake until it comes out clean (In my glass pan, it took 35 minutes).

Transfer to cooling racks and let cool completely before removing.

Want a layer cake? Use three cake pans instead of a glass baking dish, and frost beween layers! 


May 05

Perfect Potatoes

We love baked potatoes but don’t love the tedious process of poking, wrapping, baking, checking for doneness, and of course heating up the kitchen for an hour baking them.

I wanted to prep potatoes for dinner, as well as enough for sending in with my husband for lunch. I prepared half a bag of russets that ranged in size from small to medium/large.

Preparation was a simple scrubbing under running water with a vegetable brush and removing any eye spots.

Instant Pot cooking times for potatoes can be found here.

Perfect Potatoes

2 1/2 pounds potatoes, scrubbed and eye spots removed

1 – 2 Tbsp olive oil

1 – 2 Tbsp coarse salt

1 cup water

Add oil and salt were added to inner pot and set Instant Pot to Saute.

Add potatoes to the pot and use tongs or a large spoon to “stir” the potatoes while sauteing. Potatoes should have a light coat of oil and some coarse salt.

Saute for 5 – 7 minutes until potatoes are evening coated. Turn Instant Pot OFF.

Add 1 cup water, close and lock lid, and make sure the Steam Release is set to Seal position.

Set to Manual 15 minutes (adjust time if using only small potatoes).

Use Natural Release (approximately 20 minutes) when timer is done, and Keep Warm while pressure is releasing.

Saute potatoes for several minutes in olive oil and coarse salt.

Saute potatoes for several minutes in olive oil and coarse salt.



Allow pressure to release naturally while set to Keep Warm. Potatoes will be cooked through and ready to serve.

Allow pressure to release naturally while set to Keep Warm. Potatoes will be cooked through and ready to serve.

I served these hot with Earth Balance and Daiya cheddar. I've been sending potatoes in with beans and cheese for work lunches all week.

I served these hot with Earth Balance and Daiya cheddar. I’ve been sending potatoes in with beans and cheese for work lunches all week.


May 05

Seasoned Anasazi Beans

I finally caved to peer pressure and ordered an Instant Pot. Here is the model I got – we are a family of six, so I opted to go with the 8 quart model. You can expect a ton of new recipes as I explore my new gadget! Note: I am not familiar with other pressure cookers, so you may need to make adjustments based on your particular pressure cooker.

One of the main reasons I wanted a pressure cooker was to cook beans – as vegans, beans are a big protein source for us. And let’s face it, there are so many varieties of beans to try. But I often forget to soak beans overnight, and then I have to remember to do a quick soak, which is an hour-long process, before setting up the slow cooker for several hours. So obviously, a pressure cooker, which can cook beans from dry to ready-to-eat in about an hour, is exactly what I need!

The Instant Pot guide as well as the website has a thorough table of pressure cooking times for beans (for dry and soaked). You can view the table here.

Seasoned Anasazi Beans

1 pound dry Anasazi beans, picked through and rinsed

1 medium onion, chopped coarsely

3 cloves garlic, uncut

1 Tablespoon salt

1 Tablespoon olive oi

water to cover (no higher than the 8 cup mark on inner pot)

After closing and locking lid, and setting steam release to the sealing position, set Manual to 25 minutes (if using soaked beans, half the time).

When timer is done, use Natural Release to release pressure, leaving Instant Pot on, in Keep Warm mode, for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, pressure should be released and you can unlock the lid.

Beans can be used in various recipes, or served over rice. Store beans in cooking liquid to retain flavor.

Anasazi beans, seasoned and ready to serve. Store beans in cooking liquid to retain the flavor.

Anasazi beans, seasoned and ready to serve. Store beans in cooking liquid to retain the flavor.


Serving suggestion - over rice and topped with Daiya cheddar cheese and avocado.

Serving suggestion – over rice and topped with Daiya cheddar cheese and avocado.

Apr 05

Potato Soup For All Seasons

potato soup 2xMy husband and I have a running joke – after serving soup for dinner, he will eat his fill, compliment the food,  and then ask what’s for dinner.

Soup is often relegated to the lowly position of side dish or appetizer  – Do you want soup or salad with your meal? – instead of main course.

Maybe in restaurants, but not in my kitchen.

I LOVE making soup for dinner. Hearty, one pot meals that get us through at least two meals?! Yes, please!

Soup is also very forgiving. While baking is probably my real passion, it doesn’t always leave room for mistakes (you can ask my daughter about the time I forgot to add the oil to a batch of blueberry muffins…). But with soup, there is a lot of wiggle room when it comes to ingredients.

If I have a bunch of veggies that I am wanting to work through, often times I won’t feel inspired enough to find a recipe for that one thing – like daikon or turnips. But these work so well in a soup along with a bunch of other ingredients.

My basic potato soup is one of these “throw in what you have” soup recipes. I can make a basic pot of potato soup and will liven it up with anything else I happen to have in my vegetable bin.

Basic Potato Soup Recipe

6 – 8  medium potatoes, peeled and diced

1 medium onion, diced

2 – 4 cloves garlic, minced

3 – 5 carrots, peeled and sliced

2 -4 celery stalks, sliced

8 – 12 cups of vegetable stock

olive oil for sauteeing


Add-ins (early)

2 – 4 turnips (or parsnips or rutabagas), peeled and diced

1 large daikon, peeled and diced

1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced


Add-ins (late)

2 cups (1 can) cooked white beans, drained and rinsed

2 -3 cups cooked seitan, diced fine

1 bunch chard or kale, rinsed and chopped

1 cup each of frozen corn or peas


potato soup 1x


Heat olive oil on medium heat in a large stockpot or cast iron dutch oven.

Add onion and garlic and saute for 2 minutes.

Add diced vegetables from basic recipe and any from early add-ins.

Stir to combine and saute an additional 5 minutes.

Add 8 cups of vegetable stock (or more if needed) to cover vegetables), stir well, and cover pot.

Keep remaining stock in reserve.

Heat on medium heat for 25-30 minutes or until vegetables are cooked through (do the fork test).



Soup will have reduced a bit, so add enough reserve stock to adjust consistency to taste (or you are adding late add-ins, you’ll probably use the entire 4 cups of reserve stock).

Add late add-ins at this point and cook an additional 10-15 minutes uncovered.

Serve with biscuits, bread or cornbread.

Dec 28

Keeping Up With The Bills (Revised)

It’s that time of year again – time to empty out my bill folders and reset my Due Bills system for the new year.

I detailed my Due Bills system a few years ago here, and I tend to share it each year at the end of December. The key part of the system is the monthly folders, and the only adjustments I have made over the years is the method in which I track bills as they come in and record payments.

Here is a brief overview of my Due Bills system:

  • Stand-alone hanging file folder box (I’m still using my original box, and it is due to be retired soon…)
  • 12 manilla folders labelled for each month
  • Tax Documents folder
  • Basic monthly-style calendar
  • Record sheet for due dates, amounts, confirmation numbers, etc.
  • 12 envelopes labeled for monthly receipts

Before the new year starts, I set up the file folder box.  In the front, I have a folder labeled taxes for all incoming tax documents I am expecting.

In each monthly folder, I include a record sheet and an envelope for receipts. I fill all the folders at the beginning of the year so I am not scrambling at the beginning of any month.

Beginning of the month

By establishing a routine, I ensure bills are not misplaced,forgotten or payed late. At the beginning of each month (or even at the very end of the previous month) I do several things:

  • Check all account balances (Checking, Savings, any credit cards) and record at top of record sheet (I check all balances again mid-month and have a second column to record updated balances).
  • List all recurring due bills (name, due date and amount due if known). Bills like cable, utilities, mortgage typically have the same due dates each month, and this makes planning easier.
  • On calendar, add list due bills on their due dates. I highlight  in yellow (my Due Bills color) so I can scan the calendar quickly and due dates stand out.
  • Move any unpaid bills from previous month’s folder to current folder and list on record sheet. Things like subscription renewals or even tax payments that have a few months to pay would be handled this way.
  • Pay all bills due before the middle of the month. If I am sending a check, I record the check number on record sheet. Electronic payments, I record the confirmation numbers. I also note the date payed for each.
  • For any bills that I have a paper statement, I record date payed, amount payed and either check number or confirmation number.

Middle of the month

Our bills typically are due in two waves, at the earlier part of the month, and close to the end. Any bill due on the first of the next month, I list as a payment due at the end of the previous month – this ensures it gets payed on time.

Sometime between the 15th and 20th of each month, I sit down and recheck all account balances, and then pay all outstanding bills for the month, following the same steps listed above.

Ongoing Tasks

While many bills are recurring, we do occasionally get one-time statements in the mail. For these, I add to the folder as soon as they come in, list the due date and amount on the record sheet, and immediately list on my calendar.

Some bills are quartly or once-a-year – these I file in the month they are due, and mark on the calendar. This ensures that something due six months in advance doesn’t get lost or forgotten.

While I typically do not store non-bill related paperwork in my monthly folders, the one exception I do make is record of any reimbursment. This isn’t common however. If we received a paper reimbursement check, I would store in that month’s folder in case I needed record of it at tax time.

**Autodraft payments are recorded on the record sheet, along with the due date (date it is expected to draft) and the amount. I regularly check my bank account and as I see autodraft payments clearing my account, I note the confirmation number and mark it as payed on my calendar.

Tax Documents

I like to have a Taxes folder at the front of my box to collect any documents as they come in. Tax documents, ranging from various 1098s to our W2s start arriving early to mid-January, but I won’t sit down and prepare our taxes until closer to April when I am sure I have received everything. After tax season is complete, my filed and printed tax returns will go into this folder, and it will move from my bill box into my regular file drawer with previous tax year records.

**In previous years, I have maintained a Medical Receipt folder to collect receipts for doctor appointments or prescriptions. This is used to itemize medical expenses at tax time. We haven’t had to itemize in the past few years, however, and so these receipts tend to be filed with any other receipts.


In the past, I have just kept all receipts that come in, and sort through them at the end of the year for anything of importance. But that system gets unwieldy pretty quick.

Now I check my receipts throughout the month, usually when I clean out my purse and wallet. Most receipts are groceries or consumables that won’t be returned, and so they go into the trash or shredder. Medical receipts and bank deposit receipts are always retained.

If the receipt contains something of higher value (like an electronic or hardware item) I toss into an envelope in the monthly folder.  Anything of importance that my spouse has purchased, he gives me the receipt to set aside as well. If i need a receipt, I should be able to go back to the month I purchased the item and retrieve it.

This system works! I’ve been doing this for several years now, and it keeps me organized and our bills payed on time.

I am including the record sheet that I use – feel free to use the PDF or grab the Word file and modify to suit your own needs.

Due Bills Record Sheet (Word)

Due Bills Record Sheet (PDF)



Aug 19

Bacon Kale Skillet

I am a fan of simple, one skillet meals – easy on prep and easy on cleanup.

This dish certainly fits the bill. I used my largest cast iron skillet, and a smaller saucepan to prep the gravy. Very easy for cleanup.

Bacon Kale Skillet

1 package Benevolent Bacon (Sweet Earth) or other vegan bacon
3 cans sliced new potatoes, rinsed (or 3 -5 pounds peeled sliced potatoes)
3 cups chopped kale, fresh
1-2 cups gravy (recipe below)
olive oil for cooking

Saute vegan bacon in oil, chopping coarsely with spatula while cooking.

After bacon begins to brown, add sliced potatoes to skillet and cook on medium heat until they start to brown and crisp.

Add kale by the handful and slowly stir to incorporate. Kale will start to wilt and shrink as it cooks. Add 1 -2 Tbsp water to skillet to loosen up potatoes and bacon and to help steam kale.

After kale is cooked, remove from heat, and mix in gravy.

Thick Southern Gravy 

I took my go-to gravy recipe, and  just scaled down the final volume and decreased the liquid, which makes for a much thicker gravy.

2 Tbsp whole wheat flour
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
1 Tbsp oil
1 cup almond or soy milk
1 cup vegetable stock

Heat oil in a medium skillet, and then add flour and nutritional yeast. Whisk until ingredients are coated with oil (will be crumbly). Continue to whisk until mixture starts to brown – be careful to not let it get too dark as it will affect the gravy flavor. Add milk and whisk while cooking on medium heat. Once the milk is incorporated, add vegetable stock. Continue to stir with whisk over medium heat for a couple of minutes while gravy thickens. Remove from heat.





Aug 14

Life and Fresh Salsa

This evening I made fresh salsa. I’ve made salsa before, and it is always a hit around here. I’m a firm believer in “fresh and homemade is always better.”

It really isn’t that difficult – chop some tomatoes, peppers, onions, tweak it a little, and Boom!

And yet, I can’t recall the last time before tonight we had fresh salsa, it’s just been so long.

Somehow, even with the ease of making homemade salsa, it has become easier to just grab a jar at the grocery store.

I try to give myself a healthy dose of grace when it comes to things like this. I’ve got four young children, and animals, I work and homeschool. I’ve come to realize that sometimes I have to let things go and opt for convenience for the sake of a few more free moments or one less task. Like any good manager, you’ve got to know what can be delegated and what you need to do yourself.

Since starting work this spring, I have leaned more on convenience than I have in the past. For example, I love homemade laundry soap but it’s been weeks since I’ve prepped any. I’ve gone back to Ecos for the time being to save me the prep time.

I think some soul-searching is in order: what am I willing to “delegate” to ease the burden, and what do I just have to make time for?

My short list of Keepers?

Hmm, well after tonight, I’d say salsa is on the list. I had forgotten how awesome it is when homemade. Bread is another one. Tortillas – I am struggling with this one. It involves a rolling pin so for the foreseeable future, it may get delegated. Laundry soap, delegated. I’ll be working on this list over the next several days to try and help get my already overburdened schedule under control.

How do you decide what to keep making homemade and what to delegate to being store-bought?

Anyway… about that salsa.

I tend to eyeball measurements when there is wiggle room, so I will give my best estimate on amounts. But in the end, adjust to taste.

Jalapeno Habanero Salsa


10 -12 roma tomatoes, chopped (should yield approximately 5 cups chopped)

2 jalapeno peppers, seeds removed and chopped fine

2 habanero peppers, seeds removed and chopped fine

1/2  sweet vidalia onion, diced

1/2 Tbsp coarse salt

1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper

juice from 1 lime



To prepare:

Chop tomatoes, peppers and onions by hand or in food processor.

Add salt, pepper and lime juice and mix well to combine.

Cover and transfer to fridge to let juices mingle. Adjust to taste.

*Even with four peppers, this salsa was milder than expected. I was tempted to add a couple more since we’ve got plenty in the garden, but opted to stay mild for the sake of the children’s palates.

** Don’t be afraid to add cilantro to this! I didn’t have any on hand or it would have made it in.



tacosThis works great as a topping as well as an ingredient.

I prepped some taco filling – sauteed TVP, onions and black beans seasoned with cumin and a little coarse salt.

Before serving, I mixed in a scoop (approximately 1 cup) of salsa, being sure to get plenty of the liquid.

Topped with some Daiya vegan cheese and salsa, this simple dinner made me reconsider what I’m willing to give up for the sake of convenience.

Laundry soap? I’ll stick with store bought for now. Salsa? Only homemade will do.





Jun 07

Berry Oatmeal Bars

I’ve been in another kitchen rut since our schedule has become more hectic. With four kids, having snacks on hand is an absolute must. It is too easy to lean on prepackaged snacks – crackers, graham crackers, granola bars, etc.

In an attempt to stock the kitchen with grab-and-go snacks that aren’t processed, I modified a recipe from the wonderful cookbook The Baker Creek Vegan Cookbook. And a bonus – I am using my homemade jam in the recipe!

Berry Oatmeal Bars

1/2 cup coconut oil
3/4 cup Earth Balance vegan margarine
1 3/4 cup unbleached sugar
2 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 1/4 rolled oats
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup Blackberry jam
1 cup Strawberry jam
2 cups raspberries (frozen, slight thawed or use fresh)

In a stand-up mixer, combine coconut oil, Earth Balance and sugar and mix until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes.

In a separate mixing bowl, combine flour, oats, baking powder and salt.  Combine dry and wet ingredients in mixer, and mix on low speed. Dough mixture will be loose.

Stir together jam and berries and set aside.

Press 2/3 of dough mixture into the bottom of a 9″ x 12″ baking dish. Spread jam mixture evenly over dough. Spread remaining dough mixture on top of jam mixture.

Bake at 350 degrees F for  1 hour until lightly browned. Remove and let cool completely before cutting.



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