Monday, January 31, 2011

100th Post Celebration and Giveaway, Yippee!

It's taken me over a year to do it, but I finally am at my 100th post! Woo hoo! Whew who?

So, with that in mind, I've decided to have a giveaway to you! Here's a hint of what you can receive in the photo below. But, mind you, you are getting not one, not two, but three fabulously, indescribable gifts!

Here's JK and GR with me, intently reading The China Study. I now see with the poor lighting, what I would like as a brunette. G wanted me to drape my Raiders cozy over my lap, but Costco cut off the bottom of the picture. And, ignore the price tag, people - it's a gift to you, you know! Before you can see your total giveaway package, though, you have to endure a certain amount of nostalgia from me. You didn't think this was going to come without strings attached, did you?

I accidentally discovered food blogs in the Summer of 2009 when I was doing an online search for vegan pepperoni, since I couldn't find my brand in the store anymore. I was brought to a site that listed an amazing recipe. A recipe to actually make vegan pepperoni? I didn't know anyone could do that. Well, I thought I had found a unique website; I still didn't know that this was a "blog" or that others existed. When I started nosing around the site, I found links and comments, and I was just blown away. I realized if I wanted to leave a comment and not be anonymous, I had to have an account. That's why my profile says August, but I actually didn't start my own blog until October.

I originally started my blog for my children. I had been creating a cookbook on Microsoft Word for about ten years, and I thought a blog would provide a more professional look and a way for me to add photos for each dish. I still keep my children in mind, and I hope that they will appreciate Mom's recipes one day, and that maybe some of the better ones will be passed along to grandchildren and on.

I've realized that blogging takes up more time than I anticipated. When JK comes to me with a book, or when someone needs help with a math problem, or when my hand is being tugged to go outside and play, blogging has to take the back seat. As you know, posting is time consuming, but commenting is also time consuming. Sometimes, I just quickly look at what other people have posted without commenting because of the time issue. And, even that can become addictive. So, I beg forgiveness if you don't see my comments as much as I would like to leave them. I've probably just got done peeking at your site.

I'm announcing a NEW FEATURE! Introducing The Blessings Question of the Day. My children ask the darnedest things, and I thought I should let you in on the fun. So, with each new post, I'll pose one of their questions, and if you want, you can answer that in the comments section as well. Shall we start with this one from GR? Sure! Okay...Which would you choose to have angrily chase you in the wild: an elephant, a rhinoceros, or a hippopotamus? We'll revisit this at Post 200 to see if we will continue this. :-)

For the next 100 posts, I hope my recipes and my photography get better and better. We had already cut out msg and corn syrup, and last Fall we also eliminated artificial colors, artificial flavors, and petroleum-based preservatives. My first real challenge will be GR's birthday cake in less than two weeks because it will have a pink hue. I'm looking forward to the challenge and still being able to give my children fun food.

In the meantime, I'm showing a small sample of what I've made in my first 100 posts below. If you want to go directly to the recipe of any photo, just click on the picture caption. Meet me at the bottom for rules and what exactly I'm giving away!



Chunky Miso Soup



Candy Cane Coffee Cakes

Basic White Bread


Sourdough Soy Pizza

Chili Cheese Nachos

Broiled Avocado Cheese Sandwich


Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

Thank you for humoring me with that. I hope that wasn't too many pictures. So, what do you get in this giveaway? Have I built it up enough? I think not! It's just too spectacular.

You will be receiving a copy of The China Study by the father and son Campbells. It's riveting reading as you can see in my photo, especially with JK's tongue hanging out. It actually was a ground-breaking book when it came out, outlining how China's diets and ours are so different and the cause and effect between food and health. You will also be getting a small snack bag of Somersaults to enjoy while you turn the pages. And, finally, you will be getting the very photo of JK, GR, and me in it...autographed!! And, as my dear husband, G, pointed out, it's suitable for framing. So, you can place us on your nearest flat surface where you will be reading, and we'll all enjoy the snacks and book together.

Rules? Very simple:

This is open to:
1. Domestic
2. International
4. ...Or Not
5. Lurkers, come on, introduce yourself already!
6. First-time Peekers, don't be shy.

I think that's everyone. All you have to do to enter is make a comment...that's it. I have two requests: Make only ONE comment. If you have a question for me, e-mail me at, as I will not be making any responses in the comment section. Rest assured, though, I'll be happily reading your comments. Also, when you comment, please number your comment, as I do not know how to have numbers inserted in. And, if the person above you forgot to number theirs, then please put the correct number down on your comment. For instance, Rose forgets to point out that she's number five. Shenandoah comes along, notices that, and after tsk-tsking, she correctly numbers her own comment as number six. See? That way, when I go to, I don't have to count everyone. New edit: Sometimes two people may type comments at the same time and enter in the same number. If that happens to you, don't worry about it. Hopefully, the next person in line will enter the correct number for themself. You may notice that my comment section says at the top how many comments are currently listed, without individually numbering them, so just add yourself as the next number regardless if someone else is slightly off.

I'm going to keep this open through this Saturday, the 5th and will announce the winner on Sunday, the 6th. No pushing or shoving, there's plenty of room here! Make sure there is a way I can contact you, if you're the winner - either in your profile or in your comment, unless you know that I already have your e-mail address. Good luck everyone, and thanks for coming by. I've already begun to meet some pretty wonderful people in the blogosphere, and I'm looking forward to being around a lot longer and meeting many more. :-)

Friday, January 28, 2011

Beginner's Soy Enchiladas

I call this dish Beginner's Soy Enchiladas because I'm nowhere near an expert enchilada maker. As a matter of fact, I can't remember the last time I made them, but I've been wanting to make them for years. For my first time in at least a decade, I decided to stick to the familiar tastes of the past. For me that meant using soy ground, vegan cheese, and yummy toppings. By the way, the cheese melted really nicely here - I did not have to use the broiler. I also used canned enchilada sauce because I've never dipped my toes in the territory of homemade enchilada sauce before, and I wanted this meal to be as successful as possible for my family without any of Mom's usual fiddling with ingredients. I had trouble with the corn tortillas cracking when I rolled them; I found that microwaving softened them a bit, or coating them in the enchilada sauce helped, although the latter made for a mess. When I can come up with a sure-fire way to fold corn tortillas without cracking them, I'll let you know. My family really loved these, and even though I made a lasagna-sized pan and a half, there were only two enchiladas left by the end of the night! G mumbled something about how lettuce doesn't taste as good the next day, mm-hmm. I think at the end, they were being polite in not taking the last of them. By the way, I only had two, so it wasn't me. Since these were so easy to make and required so few ingredients, I will be making these more often. If I come up with more creative recipes for enchiladas, I'll let you know. In the meantime, here's my super simple version.

Beginner's Soy Enchiladas (in the pan)

Beginner's Soy Enchiladas with a side salad (my plate)

Beginner's Soy Enchiladas

Corn Tortillas
1 - 28oz. can enchilada sauce, or your favorite homemade version
1 Tbs. canola oil
2 pkgs. Soy Ground, Mexican style
1 block of Follow Your Heart Vegan Gourmet cheese, mozzarella style, finely grated


Romaine lettuce, chopped small
1 - 15oz. can olives, sliced in thirds
Vegan Sour Cream


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large pan, heat oil. Add the soy ground, and cook over medium heat until browned, about five minutes or so. Add 1/2 cup of the enchilada sauce and stir into the soy ground. Put half of the finely grated cheese in with the soy ground and sauce, and mix well. Turn heat down to medium low, and cook for a few minutes, until cheese blends in. Set aside. Put a thin layer of enchilada sauce down in the bottom of a lasagna-type pan, about 1/2 cup. To soften corn tortillas, try microwaving a handful at a time for fifteen seconds. Put two to three tablespoons of soy ground mixture in the middle of each tortilla and roll the tortilla up the best as you can. Place seam down in pan. If it cracks, don't worry, it will still taste good. Do the same with as many tortillas as it takes to use up the remaining soy ground. I got about fifteen or so enchiladas out of this and had to get a second pan, which I partially filled. Once all the enchiladas are placed in their pan(s), pour the remaining sauce evenly over them. Sprinkle the second half of the cheese on top of the sauce. Cover the pan(s) with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Take out of the oven and cover with the toppings. So good. Feeds five hungry vegans.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

G's Birthday and German Chocolate Cake with Coconut Pecan Frosting

Friday was G's birthday, and so for two weeks, he thought I was too old for him. This happens every year, and he thinks it's hilarious each time. I thought I'd show you how we enjoyed the cuisine for his day, as well as the small gathering my mom threw the next evening to celebrate his milestone. For his birthday cake, I made his favorite: German Chocolate Cake with Coconut Pecan Frosting. I've gratefully adapted and used both recipes for a few years from some I've seen online in a few spots, and of course, I've made minor adjustments for my clan. Happy Birthday, G!

German Chocolate Cake with Coconut Pecan Frosting

We had lunch out at one of the Sacramento area's oldest vegetarian spots, the Sunflower Drive-In. Here, I'm enjoying their nutburger (veganized) with chips and salsa.

Here is one of Sunflower's resident chickens that visit the diners.

Here is G's requested birthday dinner: slow cooked pinto beans, fried potatoes cut his favorite way: julienned, and corn bread. I made him unsweetened cornbread in his own star pan, and sweetened the children's and mine into teddy bears. It's not much of a different menu from last year's.

On Saturday night, my parents took us out to Thai Takieng, where I enjoyed a small bowl of Hot and Sour Soup...

...and Red Curry with Tofu. Delicious. Excellent. Superb.

My amazing mom insisted on baking all the goodies for G's small party. She has three different kinds of cookies, two bars, and a birthday cake - all vegan. The only thing that's not vegan are the Raiders M&Ms. And, yes, G thoroughly enjoyed the Raider theme. Thanks, Mom!

Here is what the German Chocolate Cake looked like the morning after G's birthday. I guess five hungry vegans know how to make a dent in a birthday cake! G did NOT want me to skimp on the inside layer of frosting, so I made a large amount to ensure that he would have enough!

German Chocolate Cake with Coconut Pecan Frosting


3 cups of flour
6 Tbs. of cocoa
2 tsp. baking soda
2 cups vegan or raw sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup of canola oil
2 Tbs. white vinegar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups cold water


2 sticks of vegan margarine
1 and 1/2 cup of vegan or raw sugar
3 cups of shredded coconut
2 cups of pecans, coarsely chopped
1 cup soy milk
2 tsp. vanilla


For the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease and flour two round cake pans, and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients: the flour through the salt. Make three deep wells, and pour the oil in one, the vinegar in a second, and the vanilla in the third. (I have made this cake without making the wells, and just mixing the wet ingredients separately and then adding to the dry. For some reason, the cake bakes quicker and makes a thicker batter when creating the wells. Don't ask me why. I have seen this in other recipes, though, too.) Pour the cold water over all the wells, and thoroughly mix well. My mixer broke on Christmas Eve, so I mixed this by hand, and it turned out great. Divide between the two cake pans, and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick or skewer comes out clean. Cool in pans on cooling rack for fifteen minutes. Then, turn cakes out on rack and finish cooling.

For the frosting: Once the cakes are cooled, begin making the frosting. In a medium pot, heat all the ingredients over medium heat, stirring frequently. Once the margarine is completely melted, remove from heat. Let cool for ten minutes, and spread half on the bottom cake layer and the other half on the top layer. Leave the sides bare. Feeds five hungry vegans over a couple of days.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Garden Pictures - January, 2011

Time for more garden pictures! When I started posting pics of my garden last year, I made a plan to do this every five months to illustrate what can grow in a Sacramento garden throughout the year. Well, apparently January gives us a pretty dismal garden, but it's a pact that I made with myself, so it cannot be broken! We had a pretty hard frost that lasted about a week that really took a toll on some of our plants, as you'll see. I didn't photograph everything because some of our trees, as adorable as they are, are just sitting there. So, I'm showing stuff that actually has some action, or I have questions about, and then a strangely sparse ground that has something to do with my husband, G. Oh, and some new pics of the pets, of course!

This is our nectarine tree. We planted her last March, and over the summer she gave us one beautiful nectarine that we shared. I'm not sure what these little bumps are, they aren't quite green buds, but I like 'em!

This is our grapevine. We're not sure if it's dead from the frost, or just dormant. We're new at grapes. Anybody know?

Okay, this shot has a story. I planted rows and rows of seeds for short, stubby carrots. As planned, up sprouted blades of green, boldly reaching for the warm sky that was lurking above the gray pillows hiding it. So, I come out one day to check on them, and they're all gone! It turns out my dear G weeded that nasty grass for me that was growing in my garden bed. I couldn't thank him enough! Now, instead of grassy, non-existent carrots, I have several of these things coming up, which mysteriously resemble my bulb flowers from the front yard. Did they migrate here, over the fence, and around the corner? I'm curious to know what these little buggers will turn out to be. Maybe they're really mutant, husband-resistant carrots, come to plump up my salad bowl!

Oh, this pathetic bed has tried and tried to provide good service to me over the past several months. G has transplanted our too tart, too small strawberries, that nobody likes, in here in the bottom left corner and upper right corner. That sprig of lettuce in the upper left corner has been growing for about a year and hasn't gotten any bigger. Can you make out the purply leaf near the upper middle? That's a beet plant. I planted dozens of seeds, and most of them came up, only to be gobbled up by pesky slugs. This is the lone survivor, but he is badly chewed, and hasn't grown since the frost. I may harvest it just to see what's underneath. In the bulk of the bed, I've just planted green onion seeds. Gulp...they look like grass when they grow, don't they?

Okay, here's the bed that houses my once flourishing artichoke plant and kale. In the foreground is my once thriving artichoke. That big stalk is the original trunk. Well, I wanted to let one thistle completely bloom to see what it would look like, and apparently that's a sign to the plant that it needs to die. And, it did. We were going to pull it, when we saw new signs of life near the bottom; so here it is again, springing forth anew. The one just behind it, we planted last year. They probably won't give us new flowers until next year. Our kale, to the right of the artichokes, has been hit hard by the frost. I'm hoping for a resurgence in the Spring.

This is our little Mandarin orange plant. Look at the cute, little presents she's giving to us!

Here's Mindy. She and Abby are 9 and 1/2 weeks old now.

And, Abby.

Last time I took pics of the cats, their tags showed our info, and I didn't want all you guys, er, I mean the Internet calling me, so I didn't print them. Now, my kitties are private, so you can see them again. Here's Charlene, on our car, looking superior, as she should be.

This is actually a neighbor's cat, Fancy, who's here 95% of the time, so I included her.

Here is cranky Sparkly in one of the three cardboard boxes that we keep putting out for Fancy.

And here is one of the two brand-new cat houses that G made for Sparkly and Charlene, complete with a porch and roof, a scratching post, and a ledge for their food. The blanket is sticking out of their cozy home. But they sleep in cardboard boxes. And, Fancy sleeps on the soil underneath a folding chair by the door. Silly cats.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Pasta Salad with Tofu

Here's a very simple dish that I make several times a year that offers just a small twist for fun. I like to see where I can add tofu in dishes for variety and a little extra protein. Tofu works very well in pasta salads and soaks up some of the flavor of the dressing. I also like it here because it shows how my children don't always need to eat their tofu cooked; they actually love it raw and sometimes eat it straight off the cutting board before it goes into the bowl. If you toss the veggies into the bowl with freshly cooked pasta, the heat from the noodles will actually soften the veggies enough to imitate blanching. If you wait until the pasta is cold, I would suggest blanching the firmer veggies before adding to the bowl.

Pasta Salad with Tofu

1 lb. of medium pasta (I used rigatoni)
1 pkg. of extra-firm tofu, drained and diced small
3 - 4 cups of veggies - we used:
1 tomato, diced
2 cups of broccoli, diced small
1 cup of asparagus, sliced into one inch diagonals
1 cup of your favorite salad dressing
Salt and Pepper to taste


Cook pasta according to package directions. While pasta is cooking, prepare your tofu and veggies. Put into a bowl. Drain pasta and add to bowl. Add the salad dressing and salt and pepper and toss well. Chill for at least two hours before eating, although I've eaten warm pasta salad on occasion, and it's tasty as well. Before serving, taste and adjust dressing and salt and pepper, if necessary. Feeds five hungry vegans.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Our Newest Family Members...Arf, Arf!

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while know that last April our sweetie-boy doggie, Earl, died from terrible whip worms. He literally took his last breath in front of us while we were in the back yard with him. He was such a good doggie and was perfect with the children. We have all had a doggie-sized hole in our hearts since he passed away, and the girls have been wanting a dog ever since.

So, finally last week we picked up a couple of the cutest little sisters you ever saw! They are 3/4 Labrador Retriever and 1/4 Golden Retriever and were seven and half weeks old when we brought them home. They have brightened our lives. Instead of replacing Earl, they are a tribute to him because he was so special. They are officially the girls' puppies, so I can actually relax when they need to go outside or need to be fed. As Grandma Pup, I get to hold them and smooch them and then hand them over when there is a "duty" to be done with them. Very fun, indeed. I should say that the girls saved allowances and Christmas money to pay for these puppies; we just had to help GR a smidge, but that's it.

Before you see the pics, I start you off with this song from VeggieTales, Esther: The Girl Who Became Queen, sung by a contestant who wasn't picked, poor thing.

"Puppies are cuddly.
Puppies are cute.
They're never nasty or mean. Sniff (inhales deeply through one nostril)
I'd give a home to all the lost puppies,
If ever one day I were queen! Arf! (barks while eye twitches)"

On with the pictures!

Our sweet puppies, Abby and Mindy



SR with her puppy, Abby

GR with her puppy, Mindy
Just so you know, GR thinks her expression makes her look sad, but I think she looks fine!

All four girls!

JK and the pups bonding

Napping together

And they call it puppy love...

Thanks for checking out our new, darling family members. I'll keep you updated with "aw-worthy" pics.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Birthday Ups and Downs

Yesterday was my birthday, and so I created a photo log of all the food, except my breakfast cereal, that I ate - just for you! I call it ups and downs because of a few things: some of the food was great, some was ethically horrid to the point of sending me to the brink of anger, some of my photography was totally out of whack, and my presents were great: I got a Christian book on tape, a new apron, and doughnut pans. Read on, if you dare!

This is my birthday cake that my ten-year-old, GR, made all by herself. She was disappointed that it turned out to be enough batter for only one layer, the frosting was thin, and she forgot to mix in the chocolate chips. But, I assured her that nothing tastes better to a Blessed Mama than something that was made from love by one of her Blessings. And, this tasted good! It was a marble batter with vanilla frosting.

Here's my slice of that delicious cake. The photo doesn't do it justice.

We went to the same Ethiopian restaurant for lunch, Queen Sheba, that we went to last year. They have a lunch buffet that we like to hit, and it's darn good!

We went to an all-vegan diner, Sugar Plum Cafe, and got some sweets from their bakery. I ordered from the day-old section (half price, you know), and I got a carrot muffin with frosting. I really only got it for the frosting because it was the only day-old choice with some. Four-year-old JK ate his red velvet cupcake frosting in the car on the way home. What I like is they use beet juice instead of dye to color their frostings. This stays in line with our Feingold plan, so it was perfect for us. Well, anyways, typical for JK, he ate the frosting, took a bite or two of the cake part and handed it to me, saying he was full. Then that's when a plan started formulating in my head. I put my unsuspecting frosted carrot muffin on the table...

...set down JK's partially munched on cupcake...

...and SCRAPED off the frosting, smearing it all over JK's topless cake. And voila, I had just what I wanted: chocolate with frosting. I gave the soy-free, gluten-free carrot muffin to my eatin' machine hubby, G.

We headed later over to my parents who were taking us out to dinner. My amazing mom is always trying out recipes for us. She brought out chips and salsa and made homemade hummus for the first time. She found a recipe that had peanut butter in it. It was so good! I am very proud of her. You can see JK is enjoying some, too.

We headed over to the Noodle House, a restaurant near their home in Carmichael that I've really liked in the past. I always order the same soup, so I was really looking forward to it. We started off with our usual spring rolls and peanut sauce.

My soup is Number 91, which is described as a hot and sour soup with noodles, tofu and vegetables. The noodles are served on the side, and I add them in as I wish. Not hard, right? Never had a problem before. Well, first off my mom's dish arrived about fifteen minutes before anyone else's - I don't like that when that happens. They also brought out tofu on a small plate that I was supposed to add to my soup - weird. Well, it turned out they thought my mom's dish was mine, and that I wanted tofu on the side. I explained I had the soup with tofu in it, and they finally understood, I thought. Moving on... Then my dad's dish arrived about another ten minutes before "my soup" arrived. Something looked different. First off, the noodles were already in the soup, but I thought maybe they just changed their procedure. No big deal. The broth looked different though, and G noticed an oily residue on top. As I started swirling my spoon around, I couldn't see any tofu, but I did pull up a suspicious looking chunk of something. G hoped it was a very large piece of ginger, so my mom tasted it, and confirmed it was indeed chicken. Chicken?! I called the waitress over and said there's chicken in my soup, hello??? She went over with me again what type of soup I ordered, and I explained. Up until this point, with just my parents served, and with me getting the wrong dish, I was still chalking things up to "things happen" and not getting too stressed. So, about ten minutes later, my dad now done, my mom eating slowly, my soup came back out. I gave the before-mentioned tofu to the kids, who were so hungry. (The picture above is from this soup.) Still no food for G or the Blessings. I didn't want to eat in front of my children, especially JK, who kept asking about his food. I asked about their food, and was told they were "working on it." About another ten minutes later, my mom was about done by now, their food arrived. The girls ordered a sweet and sour, and JK just had simple steamed veggies with tofu and rice. His came with an obvious sweet and sour sauce, and I didn't notice until later that the girls came with a brown sauce. Hmm. So, I thought, let's see if JK will eat his even though there's this sauce on it, and he seemed to do fine, so I let it go. I started on my soup. It definitely tasted different, and there weren't many veggies, and only three pieces of tofu. Not to worry, they're having a bad night, we're still coming back. About half way down, I pull another piece of chicken out! What???? I call the waitress over, now I was irritated - very - and asked what was going on. Well, I actually told her I knew what happened before she had a chance to answer. They brought the soup back into the kitchen, fished out all the chicken they could find, and added three pieces of tofu back in. Not only is that unsanitary, it's illegal! I expressed my frustration and disbelief, and said I wanted a new soup, unmarred, and packaged to go. My dad was not to pay for the new soup or old. I couldn't believe it. I was ready to come back again and forgive all the errors up until I discovered their gross slip of the hand. What if it was seafood, and I had an allergy? I explained that I was vegan for ethical reasons and how much this offended me. Then we all looked at the girls' brown sauces, and I gave all the food to my parents.

This is my mom at the restaurant with SR and GR acting silly. Their expressions capture my feelings of thinking of going back to that restaurant ever again.

We went back to my parents' home for my mom's Blind Date Bars. The picture, again, doesn't do it justice. It's a chocolate cake foundation with chocolate chips and walnuts. So, it ended on a happy note. Yay!