Friday Treats Continue Through COVID-19 Lockdown

During this self-isolation period, we have continued the Friday Treats tradition in our house.

Every Friday morning, I rise early to make donuts, monkey bread, mini-loaves or scones as a way of singling the end to another week. It’s a sweet start to our Friday and reminds us to slow down to the speed of life going into the weekend.

While our days, in general, have slowed down due to COVID-19 self-isolation and I am currently not doing farmers’ markets, the tradition continues. I think for a sense of normalcy but also it gives us something to look forward to each week.

So, here are a few of our favourite Friday treats:

Vegan Monkey Bread

This is a quick recipe that can be done the morning of with just a bit of rising time.
https://www.onegreenplanet.org/vegan-recipe/cinnamon-sugar-monkey-bread/

Cinnamon Sugar Vegan Monkey Bread

Coffee Cake Donuts

These donuts are amazing and my husband’s favourite baked treat. Don’t have a donut pan? You can make one with tin-foil or turn them into muffins. https://bakerbynature.com/coffee-cake-donuts-with-vanilla-glaze/

Homemade Pop Tarts

Yes. We make our own pop tarts and our own jam. Here is a simple recipe for this amazing treat!
https://www.canadianliving.com/food/baking-and-desserts/recipe/frosted-strawberry-pastry-tarts

Happy Friday Treats!

Four Ingredient Vegan Shortbread Cookies

Vegan Shortbread CookiesA diet free of excess packaging was the main reason I became “vegan-ish.” I was looking for a meal plan that focused on food in natural packaging — and less manufacturing. Simply food. Food that is simple.

Which is why I fell in love with a four-ingredient cookie recipe given to me by a friend of mine and vegan, Christina.

Four ingredients. Yeah, I had my doubts. How can a four-ingredient cookie fulfill a sweet tooth craving? So, I put it to the test — I made it for my husband.

“That is like pecan pie . . . in a cookie,” was my husband’s very accurate observation. Nutty, sweet and with just a touch of salt, these vegan shortbread cookies have become a fav in our home.

Without further adieu, here are the four basic ingredients:

  • 2 cups raw pecans
  • 1/2 cup of coconut flour
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup

Pulse the pecans in a food processor until finely ground. Add flour and salt. Pulse until mixed. Add syrup and pulse until the mixture thickens. You want the dough somewhat firm, not very sticky. Roll dough into a ball and flatten on a parchment or silicone mat-covered pan. Bake at 300 degrees for 10-13 minutes.

Done. El Fin. Easy peasy.

Hat tip to Christina for this tasty recipe!

 

 

 

Six Months of the Vegan-ish Lifestyle

A friend of mine from high school posted on Facebook her intent to go vegan. I liked her status and gave her written support in the form of a comment.

But it got me thinking.

As of next week, Mike and I have been vegan-ish for six months. Six months. I don’t know that I have had a diet or shift in lifestyle (other than quitting smoking) that lasted longer than three months.

So, what have we learned?

Easier Than We Thought . . . At Home
The whole foods/plant-based/vegan-ish diet is easier than we thought — at home. While vegan is widespread, we have hit some challenges when eating out or traveling.¬† Grocery stores with salad bars or Nakd brand bars often come to our rescue. We do hit the road with homemade trail mix and baked goodies — but meals can be difficult and often the “ish” part of our lifestyle.

Takes a Bit More Time
Going the whole food route means that we are making a bit more at home, like sauces and spice mixes, chips and baked goods. We’ve made that choice — but it can add to the menu-planning and daily schedules. It takes planning and preparation.

VeganShawrmas.jpg
Cauliflower Shwarma

Nooch is Gold, When Used Sparingly
Nooch is short for nutritional yeast and it is what gives many vegan dishes and sauces the “cheesy” taste. However, we have learned that not all nutritional yeast tastes the same and I’m able to sneak it in to dishes if it isn’t the dominant favour.

VeganNachos
Vegan nachos with a cheese sauce made from nutritional yeast!

I’m a Bit More Vegan, Mike is a Bit More Ish
It seems my body is becoming a bit less forgiving when I allow meat or dairy to creep into my body. It reacts like an angry parent who has found out their child has smoked pot. “That’s it. You’re grounded to the washroom for three days.” No excuses. No reasoning. So, I’ve cut back drastically.

Mike’s body is a bit more forgiving and allows him to bounce back and forth with ease; thus, making a half and half diet easier for him to maintain.

VeganLoaf
Vegan Lentil Loaf

Cheese Cravings
Out of all the items we have been cutting out of our diet or finding substitutes for, cheese has been the hardest item for us to give up. When we go out or splurge, often times it is for cheese items like a veggie pizza with real cheese or mac and cheese. It’s not the meat we miss.

VeganCheeseIts
Vegan Cheez-Its (made with nooch)

Sauces & Spices
While the majority of our nutrients come from plants, the flavour comes from the sauces and spices. We have learned how to make our own chili powder, garam marsala, hoisen, orange sauce and hot sauce. We find that making it at home, we can adjust the salt or heat to our tastes.

VeganRamon
Ramen with hoison

Vegan Baking
I am learning to adjust recipes with eggs, butter and milk. I have started using flaxseed “eggs”, applesauce, pumpkin and peanut butter in our every day cooking. They are not exact replacements for eggs. Sometimes it turns out. Sometimes it doesn’t. It’s more experimenting than baking. I’m getting better at it!

VeganFailedBaking
Failed baking attempt on left, modified recipe with success on right.

While there has been learning lessons and challenges, we have felt better. Like I said, the six month mark surprised me. I take it as a sign that our lifestyle shift is a permanent one for us.

I’m off to make vegan Cheez-its and experiment with a sweet and sour cauliflower recipe. Like I said, more experimenting than cooking. In a good way.

Our First Plant-Based/Whole Food Holiday

“I feel like a professional chef,” my husband said after our Thanksgiving morning pow-wow.

Want the real story on our first plant-based, whole foods/veganish holiday? Here’s how it went down:

Whole Foods Thanksgiving 2017 - Weegee SachtjenOne Week Til Thanksgiving
I decided to approach my husband to have “the talk,” also known more commonly as “the break-up.” We’ve had the discussion before when we decided to break-up with tradition and ditch Christmas presents three years ago.

This break-up was going to be tougher. I was going to ask my Idahoan farm boy husband to part with the tradition of a holiday bird with all the fixings and go more . . . veggie.

The conversation went something like this:

“Any thoughts on Thanksgiving? It’s just the two of us this year and I am pretty sure that we will be doing meat and sides at Christmas.”

Cue the raised eyebrow from my husband. He’s astute enough to know where my thought train was headed before the tracks were laid out.

“So, vegan?”

Whole Foods Thanksgiving 2017 - Weegee SachtjenNext Three Days
We poured over websites, cookbooks and Pinterest boards looking for what vegans eat for Thanksgiving. Most looked like side dishes to the nth degree. Where the green bean casserole morphs into an intricate dish with more complex ingredients . . . but in the end is still just green bean casserole.

The two of us decided we just needed to find something that was outside of our normal cooking repetitore. That’s when we settled on a main dish we had tried once before but failed in execution: ravioli.

Our Thanksgiving menu was set — homemade sweet potato ravoilis with a mushroom ragout and a beet salad.

The Day Before
While I was at work, the hubster took over the kitchen and prepped the sweet potato filling and mushroom ragout. Individually, the filling and topping were awesome. However, when it came down to tasting the prepped ingredients in tandem, there was an unexpected issue. The sweet potato filling was a bit heavy on the sweet side while the mushroom ragout fell into the overly savoury category.

In short, the two were not playing nice on the tongue.

Plant Based Thanksgiving - Weegee SachtjenThe Morning Of
Like spaghetti and chili, the hubster and I were hoping that the flavours would alter or change with the overnight stay in the fridge. They did, but not towards a complimentary middle.

What to do? Well, if we used the mushroom ragout, we needed a different filling. Here’s were we almost fell into a past habit trap. Typically, a cheesy interior would be a nice rounder of flavour.

My hubster vetoed this path. In his words, “it wouldn’t be vegan. So, let’s get creative.”

Spinach? Maybe. Chickpea mixture? Possibly. What about using the ragout as the center and dusting the tops with sage, walnuts and lemon zest? Winner.

This where my husband uttered, “I feel like a professional chef.”

The Takeaway
Changing up our lifestyle takes commitment from both of us. This was the first time we were challenged by more than what to make for dinner. We were up against tradition . . . and an unsuccessful flavour combination.

We are still learning and encountering obstacles in our lifestyle shift. But after our teamwork for Thanksgiving, I’m grateful for my supportive, creative “professional chef” sidekick!

 

Taking a Crack at Crackers

Cheez-It Cheese Crackers
Cheez-It Cheese Crackers

Cheez-Its. For those people who know about this scrumptious cheese cracker, you know there is nothing that compares to its salty, cheesy yummy crunchy goodness.

Sadly, this sultan of snacks isn’t available in Canada. A fact that didn’t stop me from consuming high quantities of Cheez-Its for I had a steady flow coming in from visiting friends and family.

I even had my husband pack light for stateside business meetings so he could grab a box or two before heading home.

I, however, had to cut myself off from my snack fav once I switched to a whole food/plant-based lifestyle. Reducing my consumption of processed foods meant crossing Cheez-Its off my eligible foods list.

It wasn’t just Cheez-Its but all crackers. Sigh. I thought my afternoon crunchy munchies were going to go unfulfilled.

And then I stumbled upon a vegan Cheez-It recipe.

What?

Yeah, I know. I had to sit down and let my mind take it all in!

Homemade Vegan Cheez-It CrackersCheez-Its would now be available in my Canadian kitchen with little processing (and no single-use packaging).

But I’ve never made crackers. Bread, yes. Scones, all the time. But crackers?

Crackers intimidated me on several levels. Crackers have always seemed like this complex, super hard and not worth the effort food item. What if they don’t taste like cheesy salty yummy goodness? What if they don’t taste like crackers?

But they’re homemade Cheez-Its. I could make a batch every day. If only I make the first batch.

After a few days of mentally talking myself into baking something new, I stepped up to the oven and took a crack at making my own crackers.

I always saw baking as a “hopeful” actitivity. I mix ingredients together, put them into a container and pop it into heat with the “hope” that something yummy will emerge for my tummy.

When I popped the crackers into the oven, my fingers were crossed. There was a lot riding on 12 minutes in a 375 oven. I paced. I checked the progress through the window.

Homemade CrackersIn the end, we had a cracker that was pretty darn close to my original obsession. It was tasty, salty, crunchy and hit the cheesy goodness target dead-on.

But more than that, that first crack has inspired both my husband and I to try other crackers. We’ve made rye crackers with a sweet honey coat . . . and I continue to fill Tupperware containers with homemade Cheez-Its.

Inspiration can challenge us in unique ways. What I saw as a boundary was really the catalyst to a new area in our kitchen craft repitore.

Don’t be afraid to take a crack at something new.

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