Sunday Morning Pumpkin Pancakes and Life Lessons

I woke up yesterday with a one-track mind: must. make. pumpkin. pancakes. A craving like this is one of the only things that can break through the wall of laziness and exhaustion that currently surrounds me at all times. I haven’t cooked in like a month, but this was an emergency.

I broke out Vegan Brunch and set right to mixing and measuring. Almost immediately, I noticed that the batter looked a little thin.

But I got my griddle nice and hot, sprayed my cooking spray, and added the first scoop of batter. When I eventually tried to flip it, however, it basically completely crumpled, and started to tear. Even after cooking for a few more minutes, it was really hard to get it off the griddle and onto the spatula, and it still seemed kinda gooey.

Immediately I started running through possible causes for the problem. Did I somehow not measure my ingredients correctly? Is my flour too old? Was the first pancake too big?

For round 2, I tried making two smaller pancakes. Still no dice. I ended up with these too-soft, crumply messes:
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At this point, I figured I had just done something wrong, but I was determined to finish cooking the rest of the batter (waste not!). And I decided that I was NOT going to settle for mediocre pancakes. I would keep trying different tweaks and approaches. If they turned out mediocre anyway, at least I’d know I tried.

My first fix was to switch out Earth Balance for the cooking spray the recipe recommends. I noticed an almost immediate difference in the way the pancakes were cooking. The edges were getting golden and crispy and, while still very thin, they were much easier to flip over without crumpling.
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Second fix was to use slightly less batter. Third, let them cook longer than I had previously been doing.
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I ended up with a plate stacked with beautiful pumpkiny goodness, which I served with a dab of vegan cream cheese and some dried cranberries. It was absolutely perfect.
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At some point, I realized that this pancake-making process was like a little analogy for so many of the things I’ve experienced in life so far, and so many, many things that I will experience in the near future when I become a parent.

Life lessons, people. Sometimes you just have to adjust your approach. Follow your instincts. Sometimes the instructions you are given aren’t the be-all and end-all.
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Adjusting your approach won’t always necessarily yield the result or reward you initially were going for, but maybe you will be pleasantly surprised when you find that you end up with something just as good, or maybe even better, than what you set out for.
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Bottom line: don’t be so hard on yourself if things aren’t perfect, but also don’t just throw up your hands and give up–take action and make it better!

Vegan Snacking from a Prego Pro

Hey there! I’m still here…things have just been super-crazy. Does anyone else feel like time is just racing by? I can’t believe we’re only a week from Thanksgiving!

Aside from being crazy, things have been pretty great on my end. At 33+ weeks, Baby H is continuing to grow, and as s/he gets bigger and bigger, there is less and less room for other things…like, y’know, my lungs and stomach.
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It will be at *least* another 3 weeks until s/he drops, so until then I have been taking it slow to try to avoid shortness of breath, and eating small meals and snacks throughout the day to avoid feeling too full.

Fortunately I just so happen to be a master of vegan snacking. Aside from obvious choices like fruit and nuts, here are some of my pregnancy-approved snacks:

Non-dairy yogurt with hemp seeds:
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This was my first time trying So Delicious almond milk yogurt and it was pretty good, but didn’t taste much different to me than soy yogurt. It also suffers from the common yogurt pitfall of having way too much sugar, so this has only been an occasional one for me.
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Sriracha popcorn:
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This one is a bit more of a guilty pleasure. H and I bought a bag of this at the NYC Hot Sauce Expo earlier this year, and it had been hiding, unopened and forgotten, in our cabinet ever since. I remedied the problem pretty quickly.

Barbara’s peanut butter Puffins with almond-coconut milk [it won’t let me load my own photo for some reason so here’s a nice stock image from the Barbara’s website for ya]:
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I have always loved Puffins but am now officially obsessed with them. The supermarket by my work almost always has them on sale at 2 boxes for $6, so I’ve been buying them up like mad. Plus, between this snack and my morning coffee, I’m now going through almost a gallon of almond-coconut milk each week. I’m not even sorry.

Carrots and hummus:
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The tried and true classic. I grabbed a few of these little individual sized hummus cups at the Boston Vegetarian Food Festival a couple of weeks ago, and love how convenient they are.

Also, has Cedar’s changed their recipe? I find myself *loooooving* their hummus recently, where previously I thought it was only okay.  It’s creamier or something.
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I enjoyed it so much in the little travel packs that I went out and bought a giant 16 oz. container of it, which I’ve been using to enjoy…

Hummus and olive tapenade on crackers:
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So…this is the one that I truly cannot get enough of. I buy the olive tapenade from Trader Joe’s and if you haven’t had it, I’m telling you it’s a must-try. So salty and delicious. Baby H approves.

Trader Joe’s roasted plantain chips:
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These are cheap and great in a pinch. I keep a bag in my desk drawer to keep afternoon hunger pains at bay until I can get home and fix myself some hummus and tapenade :)

In the next few weeks as the countdown to Baby H’s arrival continues, I’ll be turning my attention to clearing out our freezer in the hope of restocking it with meals that will be easy for H and me to thaw and eat in our first few weeks as new parents. Hopefully I’ll come up with some fun concoctions to share with you all!

Return of the Green Smoothie

Green smoothies are back in my life.  Life is good.

Green smoothies played a big role in the early days of my pregnancy. I was blending them up almost daily with plenty of fresh ginger (remember the Tropical Ginger Smoothie with a Secret Ingredient?) to help combat my nausea while also giving Baby H a nice dose of fruit and veggie goodness to start the day.

But after first trimester I found that I lost my taste for smoothies for a while (ironic since this coincided with the middle of summer!). It was one of those situations where the thought of one brought me back to the queasy, unpleasant feeling I had had for those first few months. Just…not appealing.

Miraculously, however, over the last two days my taste for green smoothies has come back with a vengeance!

Last week H picked up some Orange Peach Mango juice from Trader Joe’s (sooooo good) so I used that for the base. On Monday I made one with 1 cup of OPM juice, 1 frozen banana, 3/4 cup frozen strawberries, and a large handful of organic baby spinach.
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Yesterday I did the same thing but used 2 frozen bananas because I was out of strawberries.
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So sweet and frosty and delicious–I can’t get enough!

And I swear you cannot taste the spinach at all. Not that I personally mind the taste; I just think this would be a great starter smoothie for people who feel weird about drinking their greens.

Just a reminder: today is your LAST CHANCE to enter my Ecolissa infinity scarf giveaway! Don’t miss out!

Amazing Vegan Garlic Bread

Garlic bread is really a no brainer that doesn’t need a recipe. However, last week I tried a new-to-me method of making it, and it came out SO GOOD that I had to share it with you!
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I discovered the method (again, hardly want to call it a “recipe”) on PureWow. The only change required to veganize it is to use Earth Balance (or similar) to replace the butter (duh).

Basically, you warm whole cloves of garlic in olive oil until tender, then mash them up into a paste that you spread over the bread before baking. I’m telling you, it’s freakin’ delicious.
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Bon appetit!

P.S. – Don’t forget to enter my Ecolissa giveaway!  It is open until Wednesday night.

Ecolissa Eco-Friendly and Vegan Fashion: Review and Giveaway!

Today I am excited to tell you all about Ecolissa, an online retailer whose entire selection of clothing and accessories is eco-friendly and made from completely vegan materials!

Their website is super-easy to navigate.  You can shop by category (accessories, dresses, etc.), material (bamboo, organic cotton, etc.), or by designer.  There is truly something for everyone.

For this review, I received the Chunky Infinity Scarf in Camel. This gorgeous handmade scarf is comprised of a blend of acrylic and recycled polyester–no wool or cashmere in sight.
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I love this scarf!!!  It is soft and warm without being scratchy, and looks cute with a coat or as part of an outfit, in a single loop or doubled up. I picked the camel color because I thought it would go with a lot of my fall wardrobe (and I was right!), but it also comes in mink, mauve, and black.
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Ecolissa is generously offering my readers a 20% off coupon! Just enter the code acitm20 at checkout.

They have also agreed to give away a Chunky Infinity Scarf, in the color of your choice, to one lucky reader!  Enter using the Rafflecopter widget below.  The giveaway will run until midnight on Wednesday, November 12, 2014.  Good luck!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary scarf from Ecolissa but was not compensated in any other way for this review. All thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.

Halloweekend 2014

Hi there! I hope everyone had a great Halloween weekend!

Ours was very low-key, for obvious reasons. We didn’t have any plans except to hand out candy to trick-or-treaters and to stop by a small “open house” type gathering that some of our neighbors had organized. Suburban living at its finest :)

I stuck with a super-simple DIY costume (shirt, sharpie, and fabric paint) for Baby H and me:
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And worked up these little clementine Jack o’ lanterns to bring to the neighbors’ house:
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I did not come up with this idea! I just saw it floating around the Interwebs and thought it was cute. Plus, it matched my costume! The neighbors seemed to get a kick out of it too!
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Interestingly, I ended up being pretty judicious with the amount of candy and sweets I took in over this sugar-filled holiday (in stark contrast to last weekend!). The sweets craving was fun while it lasted but I am glad that it seems to have subsided. Lord knows I won’t need any extra help putting on the pounds in these final two months.

Later this week I will have a fun giveaway so come back and see me then!!

This Sweet Tooth Is Real

These days it seems that Baby H’s main interest, besides somersaulting, is sweet treats.  According to the Old Wives’ Tale, this apparently means I’m having a girl.  Of course, the latest poll of 16 of our nearest and dearest, collected at my baby shower on Saturday, reveals that only 4 (including H and me) think we are having a girl.  We’ll find out for sure in about 10 weeks!
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That belly don’t lie…

In the meantime, I’m trying to moderate how much I’m actually taking in, but also make sure I enjoy the indulgence whenever I do decide to treat us!

And fortunately, I’ve had access to some of the best vegan sweet treats in existence.

A couple weeks ago, H and I took a quick trip to NYC.  We both knew that we wanted to visit the Cinnamon Snail food truck while we were there, so on Saturday morning, we checked their facebook page and learned that they would be at the monthly Vegan Shop-Up in Bushwick that day.

Some of you may already know this, but the Cinnamon Snail is very close to my heart.   Before he started the food truck, I used to visit Chef Adam’s booth each week at the Red Bank Farmer’s Market, about 3 miles down the road from the town I grew up in, to sample some of his vegan donuts, raw pizzas, and other incredible vegan fare.  His astonishing success has been hard-earned, and honestly, is extremely well-deserved.

The Cinnamon Snail is, quite simply, amazing.  They have all kinds of food but their baked goods are especially outstanding.  When H and I visited the truck a few weeks ago, we stocked up!
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Double-Chocolate Fudge donut (this is H’s all-time favorite!)

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Thai Basil Coconut donut (an incredible flavor combo if there ever was one)

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Pistachio donut (with tantalizing hints of cardamom)

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Gluten-free Peanut Butter blondie (great texture and not overly-sweet)

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And my absolute favorite…the Vanilla Creme Brulee donut

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You guys…seriously. This thing was soaked in gooey caramel and had the most delicious, crunchy, sugary crust.  I was in heaven eating it.

This past Sunday, my sister Marley and I headed down to the annual Boston Vegetarian Food Festival.  Initially I didn’t plan on going inside, because it’s usually crowded to the point of not being able to move, and that is something I’m not comfortable with in my present condition.  However, we got there right when it opened up so I managed to make one good round and pick up some coupons and samples.  And then I got in line for Vegan Treats.

Vegan Treats is based out of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and is the highlight of the VegFest for me every year.  Their peanut butter bombs are one of the best and most decadent things I have ever tasted, vegan or not.
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It’s basically a layer of dense chocolate cake, topped with fluffy peanut butter mousse, and then the whole thing is covered in a chocolate shell and a peanut butter drizzle.  Ah-maz-ing.

I got two (the third was for Marley, I swear!).
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I also snagged a black and white donut, a white chocolate key lime cheesecake for my parents, and a pumpkin cheesecake on a stick (!) <–it’s the candy corn looking thingy in the middle–so cool, right?!

Then we went outside to patronize the fabulous Like No Udder vegan ice cream truck!  I still get giddy when I think about the fact that something like this exists!
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Baby H and I settled on the Oreo milkshake. It was sweet and creamy, with lots of delicious cookie chunks, and totally hit the spot!

Marley, who has developed a bit of a sensitivity to soy, went inside to grab some coconut-based ice cream from FoMu.
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She got a cup of apple cider donut ice cream.  Yes, you read that right…vegan apple cider donut chunks esconced in creamy, cinnamony ice cream.  I tried some and it was effing amazing.

So there you have it.  All the vegan sweets fit to eat!

Fortunately, my other cravings at the moment are broccoli and black beans :)