Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Brooke, the Cutest Ever!

We super-love being parents to this little cutie! She's growing up way too fast for my liking, and I tell her everyday to knock it off. But she doesn't listen. She'll be 10 months in a few days. Here are some fun things about her:
  • She is a big talker, still. She makes noises a lot, and for extended periods of time. She's especially loud at church, which I think is kind of funny. Especially when Daniel tries giving her a pacifier to shut her up ... and then she just takes it out of her mouth and keeps talking.
  • She's getting pretty good at saying "ma" and "da" sounds.
  • She likes to shake her head. I think that is her main dance move. :)
  • She loves being outside. Anytime she's a little grumpy, we go for a walk, and we both come back feeling a lot better. We've been walking a lot. Not just to cure grumpiness. 
  • We go swimming a lot, since we now have a pool at our disposal (woohoo!); it's pretty fun, usually. Every once in a while she's not into it; but mostly we have fun.
  • Brooke has these rolley-poley legs that are so squeezable and I love them. Also, she has the cutest chubby cheeks that I pinch daily, at least a few times, usually many times.
  • She loves to be chased around. One of us will hold her and the other will chase around. She squeals and loves that.
  • Many times when we go in to get her after she's woken up from sleep, she'll kick her legs really hard in her crib. 
  • She likes to play with these little rattles made out of pill bottles. We put different things in each one and she'll take one in each hand and shake them vigorously. It's one of her favorite things to play with.
  • She still likes sucking on a pacifier, but she likes to suck on them upside down. We'll put them in right side up, and she'll turn it around.
  • She loves bananas, apples, refried beans, zucchini, carrots, tofu, spaghetti (this is a new one). I've started making my own baby food, which I really like, actually. And I think she likes certain things way better fresh than canned.
This is probably my favorite picture of Baby and Dadda

Daniel flying Brookie around the house. She squeals with delight


Making a mess with the cheerios.

"It wasn't me."

Such a serious girl. :)

This baby girl tickles my heart and fills my soul with joy! Who knew motherhood could be so fun, so fulfilling, so WONDERFUL?!?

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Home Projects: The Kitchen Cabinets

We have spent the past couple of weeks working hard to redo our cabinets, like we did to the bathroom. The bathroom and kitchen cabinets were not in good shape when we moved in.  The finish was peeling off and the kitchen cabinets were really dirty. It didn't cost a lot, but it was hard work, and took a lot longer than we had expected/wanted. 

BUT... look how great they turned out!!!! And I love them!!!!



Step 1 -- cleaning and sanding and taking apart

Step 2 -- stain coat #1

Step 3 -- stain coat #2

Step 4 -- stain coat #3

Step 5 -- 3 coats of finish and reassemble

 For anyone who is interested in doing a project like this, visit this blog for more in-depth instructions. My cousin, Kira (fabulous Kira ... thanks!) did her's first and led us here when we wanted to redo ours.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Mostly Vegan

I am a Mostly Vegan. Daniel suggested that I do a blog post about my way of eating, and since I get a lot of questions about it (and it confuses people sometimes), I thought it was a good idea. (For those of you who just want recipes, and want to skip my explanations, they are found at the end of this post. Enjoy! :) ) I don't pretend to be any kind of nutritional expert. I just wanted to answer some friends' questions and explain how I do this. And to share some good recipes, of course.

 A vegan is someone who does not use animal products. That's right. No milk, eggs, cheese, meat, etc. There is a broad range of vegans, from ovo-vegans (those who eat eggs) and pesca-vegans (those who eat fish) to raw vegans (who eat only raw plants) and really hardcore vegans (who don't wear leather, because it came from a cow). I sort of fall somewhere in that spectrum, and I like to call myself a mostly vegan. Here's why:

  1. I never drink milk. I think cow's milk is bad for people. Yep. I just said that, and I'm sure there are some people who are outraged. Not only do I think it's bad for us, I also don't like it that much anymore. Apparently, my tastes have changed a lot. The last time I had milk was almost 2 years ago, and at the time, I had been off of milk for a while. When I drank it (at some family function or other) it tasted super-gross to me. I don't use it for cooking or baking, either. Anytime a recipe calls for milk, I substitute soy milk.
  2. I don't eat eggs. Once in a blue moon, I may say to myself, "Self, Toad in the Hole sounds really good right now" (mostly for nostalgic reasons, probably). And I'd make myself some Toad in the Hole. Usually, though, it's not worth it. I'm not much of an egg person. I do occasionally use eggs in baking; but usually I try to substitute something else for them. Which does work. I prefer to find vegan recipes, though, as opposed to trying to make a recipe vegan.
  3. I rarely eat meat. If I can help it, I don't eat meat. At home, we don't eat meat (except for when people come for dinner, sometimes. And even then, I usually opt out of having it). At ward functions where there are other food choices, I'll forgo the hotdogs (sometimes I eat beforehand, just in case). If, however, a situation arises where it would be better to go ahead and eat meat, I do, and I don't feel guilty about it (for example, going to someone else's house for dinner).
  4. I still do eat cheese. But only sometimes. In fact, it's been a while since I've bought cheese. We tend to go light-handed with the cheese over at our house. It is one of the foods that most people love (myself included), but is also the worst for us, unfortunately. I've been making a real effort to stay away from the stuff.
  5. I love honey. I'm never giving it up. And, I don't think it counts, because I haven't heard a lot of warnings about honey.
  6. Nope. I don't even do ice cream, usually. The one exception is when I go home. The Fernandez' are big ice cream eaters. :) Love you guys!
 I get asked a lot why I decided to switch over to veganism. There is one big, main reason, and one not so big, secondary reason.

First, the reason I decided to switch over was because of health. A few years ago, my mom told me that she was going to try the vegan thing, and she recommended this book to me. The gist of it is that animal products, consumed in high quantities (like the way we eat them here in good ol' 'Merica) can promote many of the most dangerous diseases, the ones that end up killing us: diabetes, heart disease, cancer. I completely believe that! No offense to anyone who may read this, but I have always thought that many of the popular high protein-low carb diets out there are dangerous. They just didn't feel right to me. When I read the China Study, it felt right. And I believe that it outlines how we should be eating: stick to the plants!

Let me preface my second reason by saying that I am not a huge animal rights advocate. I never have been, despite my love for and fascination with animals. However, once I made the switch to veganism, I started to do a little research about how animal foods are processed, and it made me cry. Really. I believe that God put animals on the earth for our enjoyment and our use. I do not believe He gave them to us to abuse in the way we sometimes do. And I do not believe that our "use" of them should necessarily include eating them. Now, as I'm writing this, I can hear some of you yelling that that's wrong. "God did include animals so we can eat them!" I think there is a time and a season for all things, and I think the time and season for eating animals in large quantities is definitely past. In this age and country, we don't really suffer from famine or shortage of food, do we? There is a plethora of healthy plant food available to us, correct? So we can plausibly make the decision to not eat animals and still be alright, right? That's what I think, too. :)

So, the main question I get is "What do you eat?" or some variation of that question. I also get the comment, "So, your food is gross, huh?" or "You basically eat like a rabbit, right?" Well, no. My food is actually really good. I eat plants. Hooray! Fruits, vegetables, beans, grains. And I like it. I recognize that it is entirely possible to be vegan and not have a healthy diet, but I try to eat more plants and less "vegan" junk food (like potato chips ... when was the last time I bought potato chips?). My food is not gross! We eat pretty well at our house. Right, Daniel??? Just try the recipes if you don't believe me. As with all kind of cooking, though, we do come across recipes we don't like. It's hit and miss. But, we still try new ones and we have a pretty big repertoire of good recipes under our belt now.

One last thing before the good stuff (ya know, ... food). If any one is interested in becoming vegan (or "Sort of Vegan" or "Mostly Vegan" or whatever), I would suggest you read this book and this book, along with the one I already mentioned. Also, there are some really great documentaries on netflix that are very motivational and informative: "Forks Over Knives" and "Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead". 

And NOW...

Pizza is a staple at our house. We have it all the time. It's one of Daniel's faves. But ONLY homemade pizza. Below is our vegan pizza dough recipe that we found online. Obviously, you can dress it up however you want. That's the exciting thing about it! We usually do it half and half: Dan's half with meat, mine without. This is one of the things I'll put a little bit of cheese on. But even in this pic you can barely see the cheese. We don't do it heavy handed.

Healthy Italian Breadsticks or Pizza Crust
Total Time: 1 hrs 15 mins
Prep Time: 45 mins
Cook Time: 30 mins

Serves: 12
Yield: 12 sticks
  • 2 cups water , very warm
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons yeast
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 4 cups unbleached white flour
  1. Mix all ingredients together and knead dough for 5 minutes. Let rise 20 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Divide dough in half. Place one half on a floured counter top and roll it out to form a rectangle about 1/2 inch thick.
  3. Place dough sheets on a vegetable oil-sprayed cookie sheet. Cut dough into thin strips about 1/2 inch apart along the width of the pan. Repeat this process with the remaining dough portion.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes.
  5. Serve warm with salads and entrees.

I LOVE this one. I think it is SO good. I put dijon mustard on mine, too, which adds a lot of flavor. Daniel hasn't ever tried this one because he doesn't like mushrooms. He's missing out!


Serving Size

mushrooms (sliced) - 4 ounces
Bragg Liquid Aminos - 1 ounces
bread (whole grain) - 2 slice
green onions - 2 ounces
cilantro - 6 teaspoon
baby spinach - 12 ounces
Sauté the mushrooms on medium heat in a nonstick skillet for about 5 minutes or until soft. 
Season lightly with tamari or Bragg’s. 
Spread all 4 bread slices thickly with hummus.
Sprinkle two pieces of the bread with green onions and cilantro and reserve the other two pieces as sandwich tops.
Using a slotted spoon to allow any liquid to drain away from the mushrooms, place them on top of the green onions.
Put a handful of spinach on top of the mushrooms.
Top the two sandwiches with the reserved pieces of bread, and press to seal.
Carefully place the sandwiches in a nonstick skillet.
Place a heavy casserole dish on top of the sandwiches to flatten them.
Cook the weighted sandwiches on one side over medium heat for about 5 minutes, taking care not to let them burn.
Flip sandwiches and cook the other side in the same way.
When done, paninis will be quite thin and browned on both sides.


The name is a little misleading, because there's no ranch. But it's still super-delicious!

BBQ Ranch Quinoa Salad
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1 ½ cups cooked pinto beans, drained and rinsed (about 1 can)
  • 1 cup quartered cherry or grape tomatoes
  • ½ cup frozen corn, thawed
  • ½ medium red onion, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped romaine lettuce or mixed greens
  • 3 tablespoons light Vegan Mayo or Low Fat Mayo
  • 1 tablespoon almond milk or milk of choice
  • 1 tablespoon gluten free barbecue sauce
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced or 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 4 corn tortillas, cut into strips
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange tortilla strips in a single layer. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, checking towards the end to avoid burning.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl combine quinoa, pinto beans, chopped tomato, corn and red onion. Add lettuce or mixed greens if serving immediately. (Otherwise wait to add the greens until you toss and serve.)
  3. In a small bowl combine veganaise, milk, barbecue sauce, onion powder, garlic and parsley. Whisk well until smooth.
  4. Toss ¾ of dressing with quinoa mixture and lettuce. Drizzle with additional dressing or barbecue sauce as desired.


This picture does not make it look good. But I PROMISE! It is SO good! Just thinking about it makes my mouth water. My mom gave me this recipe. :)

Vegan Jambalaya

1 T. Olive oil
1 Onion, medium size, minced
2 cloves Garlic, minced
2 – 3 vegan Italian sausage links, cut in half & sliced
1 – 2 C Tofu or chicken Seitan, cubed (drain tofo and pan fry)
1 Green Pepper, diced
1 Red Pepper, diced
14.5 0z diced tomatoes
2-3 dashes Tabasco ( start w/ 2 and add more until desired hotness)
2 tsp. Cajun Seasoning
½ tsp. Liquid Smoke
½ tsp. Smoked Paprika
Red Pepper flakes (optional, only if you like it hot)
3 cups water ( may need more)
2-3 Tbsp Vegan Chicken Bouillon
Salt & Pepper to taste
1&1/4 rice- UNCOOKED

Heat oil in large pot. Saute onions  until translucent. Add bell peppers, garlic and sauté for 3 minutes. Add everything else except rice and cook on medium until it is simmering.  Allow to just barely simmer for however long you want it to cook.  35 minutes before you want to serve the jambalaya add the rice.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, for 20 minutes.  Check for doneness of rice and cook a bit longer if needed.  Don’t allow rice to get mushy.

You can also do this in a crock pot.  The rice tends to get mushy in the crock pot so I just cook the rice normally and add it to the Jambalaya before serving.

This is really yummy.

(whichever name floats your boat. HA!)

I want these every single day. Not kidding. I love them! This recipe is from Chloe Coscarelli. She's my new best friend. Everything from her cook book we have loved so far!

Potato Slugs

10 small-ish potatoes, red or white
2 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp sea salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper
3 avocadoes, pitted, peeled and diced
2 tbsp lemon or lime juice
¼ cup salsa fresca (1 med. Tomato, seeded and diced, 1 tbs. finely chopped red onion, and 1 tbs. Finely chopped fresh cilantro)
½ tsp. sea salt
½ tsp ground cumin
Freshly ground black pepper

1)      In large bowl, toss potatoes with oil salt and pepper. Spread potatoes on a large baking sheet, bake for 45 minutes or until tender. Remove from oven, let potatoes rest until they are cool to the touch. Cut potatoes in half and scoop out the centers with a spoon. Save insides for another use.
2)      Turn oven to 400. Place the scooped out potato skins cut side up on large baking sheet and bake for additional 15 minutes until edges are crisp.
3)      In medium bowl, using a large spoon, gently mix avocado, lemon juice, salsa fresca, salt, cumin and few grinds of pepper. Adjust seasoning to taste.
4)      Stuff each potato skin with a spoonful of avocado salsa. Plate and serve.


1 large russet potato per person
Olive oil
Natures Seasoning

Peel potatoes and cut into large-ish cubes.  In a bowl toss with a bit of olive oil.  I used about 2 to 3 teaspoons, depending on how many potatoes I made.  Generously sprinkle potatoes with Natures Seasoning and salt.Put potatoes onto a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper and bake at 450 degrees for 35 minutes or until soft when pierced with a fork.

chop 2 - 3 fresh tomatoes
Heat black beans ( I use one can for every 4 servings)
Slice avocado
Grate cheese (We use just a wee bit but you can omit this, as well)
Slice black olives

Make Yumm Sauce

To serve:

Put everything on the table in bowl and let everyone top the potatoes with whatever they like.  I put the potatoes in a bowl, top with 2 ladles of Yumm Sauce, top with 2 large spoonfuls of black beans on top (use a slotted spoon).  Now top with whatever you like.  I like tomatoes, olives with just about 1 tbsp of cheese.  Mary likes a dollop of sour cream and avocado.  I imagine you could top it with whatever you like.....green onions, sauted' muchrooms, onions, corn....the skies the limit.

Yumm Sauce
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup almonds or almond flour
1/3 cup brewers yeast (I omit)
1/3 cup garbonzo beans – drained
1/4 cup soybeans  ( I just used garbonzo beans....2/3 cup) 
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. dried cilantro (I did not have)

Blend nuts, beans and oil in food processor. Then blend in yeast and liquids one at a time. Puree until smooth. I also added 1 tsp. of ground rosemary (but that was just my addition because I love rosemary)

I made this for myself for my birthday a couple years ago and really liked it. I seem to recall one of my uncles really enjoying it, too. :)

  • 1 ¼ cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp distilled white or apple cider vinegar
Chocolate Glaze
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 4 tbs. margarine
  • 2 tbsp. soy milk
  • 2 tbs. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Mix dry ingredients.
  3.  Seperately mix the wet ingredients.
  4. Fold wet mixture into dry. Stir until combined.
  5. Pour into non-stick 8 X 8 in. pan.
  6. Place in oven and bake for about 30 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean. Cool on a rack completely (2 hours).
  7. For the glaze, in a small saucepan, bring sugar, margarine, milk, and cocoa to a boil. Stir frequently; then reduce heat to a simmer for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. It'll look gloppy, but it's just the bubbles! Remove from heat and stir for another 5 minutes.
  8. Add vanilla, stir, and immediately pour onto cake. Glaze dries really quickly, so spread it immediately and add any sprinkles now. Let this cool for an hour, if you can wait that long!

See? So it is entirely possible to enjoy food and be a vegan! Unheard of!