Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Vegetable Coconut Curry; A Family Favorite

Awwww, thank you so much for your comments about the whole balance thing. Tabitha and Katie, you have such great advice -- the kind that people need, and use.

I like the idea of blogging because I want to. Because I have something to share. Because it is a concrete place to put my thoughts when there is nowhere else that satisfies that need. Thank you, thank you.

Happy, Happy Halloween!!!

I have decided to dress up as Elvira...or is it Alvira? You know that lady that is friends with Frankenstein, and she has long black hair that is crimped, with white strips down the sides? It would be so easy and fun!

I asked Paul what he would be and he said he's protesting. Halloween is a children's holiday not meant to be darkened by adults, and their scary costumes. Might I add, sometimes tacky costumes? Like mine? He, he, he. Oh, well. I'm suspicious he just doesn't want me to put Frankenstein makeup all over his face. I don't blame him. He is very excited to attend the Halloween parties with us, though. Totally his thing.

Well, I am just so excited! I hope you have the best Halloween!

My recipe today has nothing to do with Halloween or Thanksgiving. Maybe because I am stuck in between the two.

Anywho, last night I made an indian-inspired Red Lentil Dahl (from, "Let Them Eat Vegan!") and while I thought it was delicious, because I love food from India, my kids would. not. eat. it. Grrr. Fine, more food for me!

But, I don't like posting things on a family-friendly site that my kids won't eat. I do recommend you try it out on people you know love Indian food. Or just eat it yourself.

However, I am going to post a recipe that I have cooked for my family for the last seven years. It is an Indian-inspired dish that everyone in my whole family will eat, and enjoy. It is quite popular with my extended family, and guests. A crowd-pleaser.

Love it.

All I had to do was remove the chicken, and replace it with a few extra vegetables to make it vegetarian.

Pre-vegan days, I have clear memories of my pushing the chicken to the side of my plate, and gobbling up the potatoes and carrots. I even remember thinking, "This dish would taste so good if it didn't have chicken in it." Which wasn't normal for me. Usually, I loved chicken. With this dish, I went through the torture of eating it because I was convinced I would die without animal protein. Yay! So glad those days are over.

Anywho again, onto this fab recipe. This Fab, family-friendly recipe. That I hope soon joins your recipe rotation.

It makes a ton. Ah, but as chefs, our problem is never, 'too much food.' Am I right?
You'll need either a very large skillet, or a big electric skillet to fit it all.


It is so yummy.

Here I tried using chickpeas, and did not enjoy it. I prefer the bite that cauliflower adds, and the chickpeas did not pick up, and accentuate the Indian flavors.


But you can see how the dish begins.

Some onion, spices, garlic, sauteed in water. Just imagine cauliflower instead of chickpeas. Work with me, here.

Cauliflower, instead of chicken. Added at the very beginning with the spices, so that it simmers and softens, picking up the spices as you add the other ingredients.

Carrots. Love cooked carrots infused with spices from India.

Cut into fourths, add a chopped onion.

Chopped green bell pepper.

Don't forget the chopped potatoes, which add so much texture, satiation, and satisfaction.

Add some coconut milk, diced tomatoes. Sugar accentuates the spices and adds flavuh.

Simmer, simmer, simmer. The longer it simmers, the deeper the flavors. 40 minutes of simmering is just about right, for me.

I love to toss in one cup of petite peas at the end, to round it out. Serve with a salad.

Who doesn't love tender potatoes and carrots, simmered in a fantastic curry coconut sauce?

Curried Coconut Vegetables
Modified by Ashlee Crozier, From


1 head of cauliflower, broken into bite-size peices
1 teaspoon salt and pepper, or to taste
1/4 cup of water (for sauteing)
3 tablespoons curry powder
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (the more you add, the spicier)
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 (14 ounce) can coconut milk
1 (14.5 ounce) can stewed, diced tomatoes
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
3 tablespoons sugar (don't omit!)
4-5 gold or red potatoes, washed and diced
4-5 large carrots, cut in half and quartered
(optional) 1-2 coined zucchini makes a great addition
1 cup petite peas


1. Season cauliflower pieces with salt and pepper, and set aside.

2. Heat onions and spices in a large skillet over medium-high heat for two minutes. Stir in garlic, and cook 1 minute more. Add cauliflower, tossing lightly to coat with curry and spices. Add chopped green bell pepper. Reduce heat to medium.

3. Pour coconut milk, tomatoes, tomato sauce, and sugar into the pan, and stir to combine.

4.) Add remaining vegetables (potatoes, carrots, and optionally, zucchini), except for the petite peas. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, approximately 30 to 40 minutes. Stir in petite peas.

5.) Serve warm, with salad and/or bread. A must-do, one pot wonder. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Halloween Recipe Round-Up

Now that I've gotten this off my chest, I can write about Halloween.


I think your Halloween day would be perfected with:

This Pumpkin Pie Smoothie for breakfast

And some oatmeal with fresh fruit for you and your family. You probably are trying to pack as many health-giving nutrients into your child's tummy throughout the day, to prepare for the candy mania...

A quick and easy recipe of Pumpkin Macaroni and Cheese for lunch.

With a very big "sanity salad" and oil-free dressing for Mommy. Or maybe you prefer a dressing and salad like this?

And an easy, (pictured) Golden, crowd-pleasing soup to bring to that Halloween potluck, or fuel those cute little fairies and puppy dogs on their nights' spook-fest. Paul and I also love this Hearty Vegetable Soup, and Coconut Corn Chowder is another favorite, crowd-pleaser.

With a side of scarily-delicious chocolate cookies (sans tummy ache!) so you don't have to feel deprived as all the donuts and other masses of junk food are served.

And, good news folks, I am starting to get into perfecting the oil free, whole food cake. Hope to see one around here, sometime soon.

Next up, is Thanksgiving. I am becoming a total believer in seasonal eating. I can't believe what a difference it makes to eat fruits and vegetables, in their season. Not only are the prices fantastic (my grocery bill has gone way down!) but I feel amazing when I eat food in it's season.

I will try to find and post as many seasonal recipes as I can, as Thanksgiving fast approaches. (No promises, though, cuz I don't do well with pressure.)

I hope you have a wonderful Halloween. Stay safe, and keep those kiddos warm. (And steal some of their candy, no Halloween is complete without imposing candy taxes!)

Finding Balance in My Blogging

My sisters, Samuel and me, at my Brother's wedding, July 2012

Writing comes as a challenge for me.

I have perfectionist tendencies, and often have difficulties publishing posts that I feel aren't perfect. Generally, none of my posts are even close to perfect. You can see how putting my imperfect thoughts and feelings out there for everyone to read can sometimes be impossible.

Yesterday I had a lot of conflicting feelings. I really wanted to write, but I just couldn't let myself. I have very nearly reasoned that blogging is bad, and that I can't be a good Mother, Wife, or a happy person if I keep a blog.

Balance in life has not really been my forte. I'm not only a perfectionist, but I often have an 'all-or-nothing' approach. When I decided to back off of writing and tech time in general, it kind of started to slide into 'I guess I should just completely nix the whole idea of maintaining a blog. After all, so-and-so does a much better job of writing than I do.'

Throughout the course of a day, however, I start to feel little nudges. Small pushes toward the imperfect process of continuing to write. Yesterday, on the phone, I asked my Mom, "You really think it is nice, a good thing? Sometimes I stand back and wonder, 'Is this whole thing just a big waste of time? Is it just a distraction from the things I really should be doing?'" She enthusiastically responded, "Oh, no, it's wonderful. I love to see what you have, there. It's not a waste of time at all."

I originally started this blog because many dear friends wanted help on their journeys to better health. Some wanted recipes, some wanted to understand health principles, or ways to streamline their time in the kitchen.

The purpose was to inform.

Somehow the blog has morphed into not only sharing food, but sharing me.

I am not a spotlight person. I avoid attention and make a better wallflower than spotlight girl. It's hard for me to imagine that anyone would ever want to know about me. I'd frankly rather learn about you. Far more interesting.

I guess it's hard to not share a person's food choices, without sharing the person; behind food, and food choices, there is always a person. Granted, vegans are sometimes thought of as freaks, so hopefully sharing the real me, helps to dispel some of those myths (unless, of course, I really am a freak!?).

I came to the conclusion yesterday, that I should only blog when I have an absolutely mind-boggling recipe to share. Leave it at that. No more embarrassing or revealing posts into the real me or my life. Go back to the original intent of the blog in the first place.

Trying to cook in the kitchen, after reaching that conclusion, was a nightmare. I made a great new soup, that Paul loved. But because it wasn't the most perfect soup in the world, I told him, "I don't think I'll make this again." When what I really wanted to say was, "Since I don't think I'll put this on my blog, I don't want to cook it." There comes a point when, as a blogger, you realize that you are starting to live for your blog, instead of your blog being a reflection of your life. That's when you have to pull back. Almost start over again. Re-think the writing process.

Back to the drawing board. What is this blog really about? In what direction do I want it to go? How much time should I blog, and how often?

Is it really worth it? Will I look back on my life and be glad that I kept this little bloggy going? Should I only blog about food, and nothing else?

Ultimately, Paul says it's about balance. He is. Very balanced. He brings balance to my life. But really, what is balance? I was so frustrated with wanting to have the perfect soup in my kitchen yesterday because I wanted to write. I wasn't going to let myself write unless the soup was out-of-this-world delicious. I was a mess. My self-imposed restrictions were too strict.

If I had time, I would write every single day. Sometimes twice a day. I have to live, though. I have to find that balance between writing, and living. Right now, I am not completely sure what that means. I think, over time, I will be able to figure it out. I know I am grateful for you, and your comments. You keep me going. I think about you when I think about not giving up. I think about some of the recipes you have loved. I really want to keep going, for me, and for you.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Double Chocolate Chippers // Cleaning Up 26

Underneath piles of wood, leaves, and old broken down planters, lay pretty little red brick stepping stones. I had to dig them up. Brush off the dirt. Re-position them.

It took three cartfuls to carry away all the junk. It still needs a lot of work.

And I thought. Why would anyone live with all of this trash, when they could have enjoyed the red brick stepping stones lying underneath it all?

Remember these little tummy aches? It took me three days to officially throw them out.

Why would I live for so long with cookies that made me feel sick, when I could have been enjoying these happy little festive things?


Samuel and I got along very well with these cookies. I honestly have not seen him love a cookie this much.

They very quickly met their demise.

Chocolate, oil free with amazing texture, oats, coconut, craisins and the occasional chocolate chip.

Dunked in milk? Heaven.

I am off to go make some more.

Right after I tell you the recipe.

Double Chocolate Chippers
Adapted from Dreena Burton's, "Let Them Eat Vegan!"

Note From Ashlee: I've discovered that it's the chocolate chips that cause my tummy aches, not cocoa powder. Therefore, I used only 2 Tbsp. of chocolate chips, but you can feel free to increase that amount. These cookies have some serious satiation power with the oats and other components. They make me feel great when I eat them. If you would rather have oil in your cookie, replace the soy yogurt and the almond butter with 1/4 cup neutral-flavored oil. But the oil free texture is amazing. I recommend it.


1 cup sifted spelt flour
1 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup finely shredded coconut
1/2 cup craisins
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup unrefined sugar (I cheated and used white sugar!)
2 TBSP to 1/3 cup nondairy chocolate chips (use combination of white and dark if you want)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder (High Altitude: 1/2 teaspoon baking powder)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda (High Altitude: 1/8 teaspoon baking soda)
1/3 cup, slightly over-flowing, maple syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons, heaping, almond butter
1 tablespoon soy yogurt, applesauce, or chia seed gel (I used soy yogurt)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a bowl, combine the dry ingredients (including the chips or your substitute of choice). Sift in the baking powder and baking soda, and mix well.

In a separate bowl, combine the maple syrup with the vanilla, then stir in the almond butter and soy yogurt (or replace with 1/4 cup of neutral-flavored oil)until well mixed. Add the wet mixture to the dry, and stir until just incorporated. If they are oil free, you will get quite the arm workout stirring these.

Place spoonfuls of the batter (about 1 tablespoon) on the prepared baking sheet and flatten a little. (If they are oil free, you may need to smash them down quite a bit). Bake for 11 to 12 minutes (mine were perfect at 11 minutes, 11 minutes if your cookies are smaller, 12 if they are larger).

Remove from the oven, let cool on the pan for a minute (not too much longer, to prevent drying, and if they are oil free I would remove the cookies from the pan immediately). Then transfer to a cooling rack.

If This Apron Could Talk: If cookie batter is dry when mixing, add another teaspoon of maple syrup plus 1 teaspoon of oil (or soy yogurt) and incorporate. The batter should be thick and somewhat moist, but not too moist, so go easy with incorporating more wet ingredients.

The kids and I have actually been having a lot of fun cleaning up our cottage, which we have now lovingly nicknamed, "26."

It's helped keep me occupied and productive, while Paul is away. We are trying to get it ready so we can have an open house tomorrow. Paul says we lose $26 a day on #26, when we don't have it rented out. Ha. Numbers man.

Do you have costumes yet? Are you going to dress up, or just your kids? I have no idea what I will do! Essie wants to be a cheerleader, Samuel, a fireman, and Megan is going to be a flower. YAY! I love Halloween!

I thought it might be fun to have a recipe round-up the day before Halloween, of recipes that would complete your healthful holiday. What do you think?

And yes, we are one of those families who is actually going to give out Halloween candy, not pencils and toothbrushes. Probably skip the milk chocolate stuff. How about you? What are you planning to give to trick-or-treaters?

I hope you have a great weekend, and enjoy the anticipation of Halloween!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Reporting For Ashlee's Blog, From Austin TX; How to Stay Healthy on Travel

My husband Paul, holding our third child, Megan, a few days after she was born. Right now he is on travel at a conference in Austin, Texas, experiencing what it's like to eat whole foods away from home.

I wasn't going to blog today.

I had a goal to not blog today.

I'm weird. But we've already established this.

I came home from a very full and busy day. Opened my email.

How totally sweet is this?

Dear Ashlee,

Do you take guest writers on your blog? If so, please consider posting the following little experience that I’d like to share.


How can you eat a plant-based whole foods diet while on travel?

I’m currently on travel at GEC 2012 in Austin, Texas learning more about plasma and atomic physics, but was unable to take my lovely wife, Ashlee, and our three energetic children on this trip. So I have to fend for myself as far as food goes.

As you’re likely aware, my wife is an outstanding chef, and very health conscious. But without her help, I’m stuck living off of the local restaurants and the spotty fare provided by the workshop.

The complementary workshop snacks are actually remarkably good for breakfast: fresh fruit bar, steel cut oatmeal, fruit juices, and breads. But what to do for lunch and dinner?

So far, I’ve tried several of the local restaurants, with mixed results. I started off with Veggie Heaven,, and was happy, but not overly thrilled. I find that they, like most vegetarian or vegan restaurants, offer too much oil and not enough fresh vegetables.

I also tried a Vietnamese restaurant next door,, with which I wasn’t very impressed. For dinner yesterday, I walked into one of the hotel restaurants downstairs, but they appeared more interested in serving alcohol than their guests, so I walked out and tried, which wasn’t bad for fast food, but didn’t feel all that healthy either.

Today for lunch, I decided to try to assauge my craving for salad by trying out a local Mexican grill. I’ve been impressed with Café Rio, and Chipotle’s ( looked similar, so I decided to check it out. I was very impressed! I ordered a salad with lots of Romaine, cilantro-lime brown rice, fajita vegetables, black beans, guacamole, corn, tomatoes, and WOW was it delicious. I feel so good after eating this way that I decided I needed to write a special guest entry on Ashlee’s blog!

So here are some of my conclusions:

1) Careful selections at vegetarian-friendly restaurants like Chipotle’s can beat exclusively vegetarian/vegan restaurants like Veggie Heaven in terms of delicious and healthy fresh vegetables, beans and rice. You don’t even have to like tofu!

2) Restaurants that are at least aware of special diets, but perhaps not exclusive to those special diets, are usually the best. Chipotle’s has a nice special diets page.

3) We’re very blessed here in the U.S.A. with lots of restaurant choices, many of which offer abundant delicious plant-based foods. In my experience traveling abroad, plant-based diet restaurant diners outside the U.S.A. will have a somewhat harder time finding fresh fruits and veggies on the menus. I had a real struggle with this when I traveled to Japan recently.

4) We need to find good Mexican grills in Albuquerque! Café Rio hasn’t arrived in NM yet, but I just found a Chipotle’s in Albuquerque: 6810 Menaul Blvd NE. We must try it out, and find other similar restaurants!

That's all for now. Off I go to learn more atomic physics.

Hasta entonces,


Made my day! Love you, Paul!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Listening to My Body

I really wanted these evil little things to work out.

I used to love No Bake cookies. And while they can be made with coconut oil instead of butter, quite successfully, I really wanted to make them without any added oil. I melted chocolate chips and mixed them with peanut butter, with some sweeteners, and vanilla.

They tasted good. They set up nicely. My kids ate'em up. I probably ate three in the afternoon, and three around dinner. They gave me a stomach ache when I ate them, but I ate them anyway.

And woke up with a raging tummy. Let's just say the oceans are tossing and turning.

Last week's Intuitive Eating post by Janae, from Bring Joy, had me thinking. It had me remembering that over a year ago I had no sense of eating intuitively. I had successfully muted my body, and after making the switch to whole foods, I realized something.

My body has a voice.

When I give it the right fuel, it will thank me. Profusely. When I give it the wrong fuel, it will let me know. With oceans, tossing and turning.

It communicates. Quite clearly.

But in order to wake that voice up from the dead, I had to make a lot of changes. Eliminate junk. First dairy and meat. Then eggs and butter. Six months later, oil. I have not been able to eat excess amounts of oil since then, without my body communicating its frustration. The transition process to whole foods made me realize that I had been smothering a very important voice for a very long time.

Yesterday it gave me warnings. When I ate cookies, it ached. When I ate my Vegetable Soup and my Pumpkin Pie Smoothie, it thanked me. I refused to be smart and listen. I lack self-control, really. When I have something in my kitchen, just sitting on the counter, staring at me, there is a %98.7364 chance I will eat it.

This morning my body decided it needed to yell. Loudly. Don't eat cookies anymore! So much for chocolate and peanut butter. My body is much happier with whole grain and fruit desserts than desserts made of chocolate and peanut butter.

Gratitude moment.

I am so thankful that my body has a voice.

I do not want to mute it, ignore it. I do not want to smother it.

P.S. Thank you so much for all of your comments, lately! Now that Paul is away, I save them for reading after I put my kids to bed. It gives me something to look forward to. Instead of nothingness in an eerily silent home.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Weekend Highlights and Deep Beauty

Paul is gone. Flew to Texas for a conference, and will get back on Saturday.

Don't be surprised if you see chocolate on the blog over the next few days.

Feels like I've gained two pounds this last week. Eating Cheesy. Yum.

I figured out a modification trick that makes me love the basic cheese sauce even more. Paul gave me one of the sweetest compliments after serving it to him. "You know how I always said that the hardest part of going plant-based is that I miss cheese? Well, you can cross that off your list. I think you've got it."

Yay! Paul has always loved his cheese. Modification trick coming soon. With Calzones.

On Friday, we signed all the papers and completed the purchase of seven additional acres, with a 1,500 sq. ft. cottage.

Complete with a large garage.

A full barn.

Windmill. The kids love using it to pump water out from the underground well.

Paul had us roaming around on our now 10 acres.

Land means a lot to us. Probably more than the cottage.

We love the idea of giving our kids 10 acres to just roam around on, play on, even do work on.

Renting out the cottage to another family will pay for the land.

Living room. I love the wood beams in the ceiling. Classic New Mexico.

Don't ask me why there is a bed in the middle of it. Needs to be moved.

What I love about this place? It's old school.

Literally. It is a 100 year old school house, renovated to be a cottage.

Some things look new.

Some things look old.

It needs a lot of work. I may post more pictures once we get the place in better shape. But you can kinda' see why the movie industry would possibly want to use it in one of their western movies.

To finish off our weekend.

Last night Paul and I got to have a discussion with the youth of our church about proper dress and grooming.

We got a babysitter. Got all dressed up fancy shmancy in our church duds. Had fun taking turns telling the young adults about our dating stories. It was kinda' like a fun little date.

My favorite part of the discussion was how the youth opened up and talked about some of the difficulties we face nowadays with pressure from media, from peers. To look a certain way. Wear certain clothes. Along with the desire to look attractive.

We showed this movie about deep beauty. It speaks to me.

I hope we made a difference, even in just one young life.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Coconut Banana Muffins & Fruit Salad; A Plant-Powered Breakfast

Coconut Banana Muffins. Our favorite muffins.

And fruit salad. Simple. Breakfast.

I've had some recipe requests.

And I am behind.

Fruit Salad.

Lemon cake.


And one other...oh, now I can't remember. I haven't forgotten you, though!

My sister, Aimee, requested the fruit salad. It's a simple recipe, but I really liked the flavor combinations. My kids ate it out of the bowl. Except Essie, who won't touch cantaloupe.

Isn't it interesting to see the things our kids don't like. I love cantaloupe.

Sometimes I don't want to drink my breakfast. I want to chew it.

Sometimes I actually eat green, leafy salads for breakfast.

Don't blame me, blame my Mom. Who first gave me the crazy idea. I think it's yummy. And no tummy ache in the morning from sugary cereals, all that stuff.

Salad for breakfast, haven't you heard? It's the new thing!

Simple Fruit Salad
By Ashlee Crozier


1/2 cantaloupe, seeded and cut into small cubes
1 orange, peeled, and sliced, then cut the slices into bite-size pieces
1 bartlett pear, ripe, sliced and diced (core removed)
2 small bananas, or 1 very large banana, cut into coins
2 large handfuls (or more) of blueberries, (or grapes, in season)


Thoroughly wash your blueberries and pear. Cut each kind as indicated. After cutting all of your fruit, gently toss them all together (except blueberries) in a pretty serving bowl until well combined. Sprinkle with a few handfuls of blueberries, for color and flavor. Eat hardy.

To complement your fruit salad.

These are some of our most favorite muffins. I modified them to be oil free. I actually have also tried making them with oil, and I did not like them nearly as much. The soy yogurt seemed to intensify the flavors. And when I eat these, for me it is reminiscent of a donut. Except these don't make me feel like I ate a donut.

My family loves them. I have to double the recipe, and still they are gone within half a day. Great for lunches. Great for on-the-go. They are just great.

I actually am going to make these again for breakfast today, for my kids. And pack it in Essie's school lunch.

This could be a great weekend breakfast, too!

Coconut Banana Muffins
Modified to be oil free from Dreena Burton's "Let Them Eat Vegan!"

Makes 11 small to medium muffins

Topping: (optional) (I never use it because it requires oil, and I like my muffin unadulterated. It's less work and just as deeeelish.)

1 1/2 tablespoons unrefined sugar
1/2 teaspoon neutral-flavored oil

Muffin mixture:

1 cup whole-grain spelt flour
1 cup oat or barley flour
1/2 cup unsweetened dried, and finely shredded coconut
1/4 cup unrefined sugar (I use coconut palm sugar)
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon (rounded) sea salt
2 teaspoons baking powder (High Altitude: use only 1 teaspoon)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda (High Altitude: use only 1/4 teaspoon)
3/4 cup mashed, over-ripe banana (1 to 1 1/2 bananas)
3/4 cup plain nondairy milk
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 tablespoons soy vanilla yogurt (3 tablespoons neutral-flavored oil, if you are not oil free, yet)


Preheat oven to 375.

In a small bowl, combine the topping ingredients, if using, and set aside until the muffin batter is ready.

In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients, sifting in the baking powder and baking soda. Stir until well mixed.

In another bowl, combine the mashed bananas, milk, maple syrup, vinegar, vanilla, and oil (or soy yogurt!). Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture, and gently fold and stir until well mixed.

If your muffins are oil free, you will need to either have a silicone muffin tin, or, you will need to use paper muffin liners, briefly sprayed with a tiny bit of nonstick spray. (If you don't like nonstick spray, then you could just wait for the muffins to cool quite a bit longer after baking, before you eat them, so that your muffin ingredients don't stick to the paper liners).

Scoop the mixture into a lined muffin pan, filling nine muffin cups (for larger muffins) or eleven or twelve muffin cups (for smaller muffins). If using the topping (I don't) sprinkle a few pinches of it on top of each muffin.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes (less time for smaller muffins, longer for larger), until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Remove from oven, let fool for a couple of minutes in the pan, and then transfer the muffins to cool on a cooling rack.


This is totally not a kosher question to ask.

But, has anyone tried the Pumpkin Mac yet? Alisa?

We had it again yesterday and I really like it. But it really matters to me whether or not YOU really like it. Or not. I'd love to way or the other.


And, our reduced computer time is going really well. I like it. I don't feel so much pressure to constantly be doing something else. I can be present. With my kids.

Samuel has reduced computer time, too. It is hard for him. He's thrown fits. But you know, I was able to sit down with him and talk about why it was important to do other things. He genuinely cared. His countenance, attitude, and behavior changed. He understands. Once I opened my mouth and talked.

We went to the park. We did laundry. Homework. Dishes. We played. Listened to music. Oh, yeah. My kids really love this song. We danced to it.

Have fun dancing, and have a happy weekend!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

My Regrets & What I Am Going To Do About It

If we fail to give our best personal self and undivided time to those who are truly important to us, one day we will regret it.

Let us resolve to cherish those we love by spending meaningful time with them, doing things together, and cultivating treasured memories.
(President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Of Regrets and Resolutions, October 6, 2012.)

Yesterday was a particularly hard day. Many little things reminded me that I had not given my undivided attention to those I love.

I forgot to feed Megan breakfast. Samuel needs a haircut. Essie didn't practice her piano enough. Paul ate dinner by himself.

I am a tortured person.

I think in recipes. I think in blog posts. My mind writes posts all day long. Recipes stream in and out of my head. If they stay in my head, I can't do anything else. They occupy the greater space of my mind and overtake my logical thinking until I write it down. I have to have a mental dumping ground for my thoughts, or I can get nowhere.

Which is why I must own at least twenty spiral-bound notebooks. Filled with notes.

This constant streaming of thoughts can get me in trouble. If you watched me clean my kitchen, or make a meal, you would see my torture. Clean five minutes, find a notebook and hurriedly scribble down notes. Clean for five more minutes. More notes. Find my kids and tell them they need to eat something. Scribble. Make my kids something to eat, and while they are talking to me, thoughts occur. Scribble.

While I am scribbling I can't hear anything around me. I don't even know what is going on. When I wake up from scribbling I can actually recall what my child just said to me. And I am always surprised. I was deaf while I was scribbling, and they were talking, and somehow my mind was able to record it. Save it for when I stopped scribbling and am conscious again. I will be able to answer their question, or respond to whatever it was they had to say.

This constant stream of thoughts can be exhausting. I would love to be able to turn my brain off. Where, or where is that off switch!? Maybe then I could have a normal conversation with people. Including my children.

The computer. It is like a sedative. The mute button. An off switch. If I am not careful, I can be on the computer for too long, because it mutes my brain. While I am writing, it creates the greatest sense of relief. I can focus. I can tune into my mind one hundred percent. This is why I write at 2,3,4, or 5:00 in the morning. When no one talks to me, no one interrupts my thinking.

I don't even write at those times by choice. I wake up with thoughts that have to be written. I can lay there in bed for hours, willing my body to sleep and my mind to quiet. It will not happen unless I write.

If I read something else interesting and educational on the computer, it trains my thoughts. Turns the intensity off for just a few minutes so I don't have to listen to myself anymore. Relief.

It's a trap. Once I sink into the abyss of tech world, it takes courage to turn off the screen and return to reality. Real reality. Courage is facing dirty diapers, dirty dishes, dirty laundry, hungry children, homework, exercise, and yes, even cooking. Courage to face my thoughts. Courage to face loneliness, with the knowledge that my husband is so busy that I won't see him for a week. And then the week after that he will be gone. Flying to Texas for a conference.


What if yesterday was the last sunny day of Autumn?

I woke up to the wind blowing hard against the trees, creating a whistling and whirring sound. I could hear the trees bending and moaning against the pressure of wind.

Sounded like a storm coming in.

And I knew that sleep was over. Only four hours. My mind only gave me four hours of quiet. Why?

I don't want to repeat yesterday's mistake. I spent about four hours on the computer. Two hours writing. One hour reading. Then again in the afternoon, another hour of reading.

And that is the thought that very first entered my mind when I woke up -- what if yesterday was the last sunny day of Autumn?

And you spent it inside.

Whole foods eating has changed me. It's much more than just health, or weight loss, or whatever. I know that now. It has brought back to my physical self, the vitality of childhood. The biggest struggle I had in childhood was trying to pull myself away from being outside.

I lived to be outside.

We had a trampoline, a badminton set, bikes, a basketball hoop, a garden, and a very large yard. Instead of doing homework, I found solace in playing soccer, basketball and badminton, jumping on the tramp, going for a long bike ride, climbing trees, gardening, and just plain running around with my three younger siblings.

If I was inside, I had to be reading. Books and books. My Mom even got so frustrated with my need for reading at one point, that she declared, "You read too much! I am taking you to counseling!"

If I allowed myself, I would have the same trouble as an adult. I would spend my life outside. If I ever came back inside, I would be reading. Books and books.

As adults, we have all learned to train ourselves. Deny ourselves of that longing for clean, fresh air, and warm sunshine. Repress that need to learn, and be mentally alive.

Something about plant-based, whole foods, has made the possibility of denying those needs anymore almost impossible. I feel the need to move. Be active. Run. My mind races so quickly that it needs outlets, and it needs training. Training that can come from reading and listening.

The computer mutes those needs. So I can pretend to be an adult. Pretend that I like holding still. Pretend that I want to be inside, when I really could be outside.

When the end of the day comes. And I recall that I spent a total of four hours on the computer. I want to cry. Scream. Why? Why did I let myself do that, when I could have just listened to my body and ran. Ran around outside, jumped on the trampoline, read books with my kids, studied educational books, or listened to religious talks on my MP4 player. I could have listened to my heart and paid undivided attention to my beautiful children. Who will some day be grown. And gone.

Only at the end of the day does it become clear that I let the computer rob me of the joy of life. The joy of actually physically being with those that I love. Connecting with them. Creating memories with them.

I'm not going to do it anymore. At the end of the day I don't want to look back on the way I have spent my time and then feel like screaming.

Something else plant-based eating has taught me. It's not about self-discipline. It can't be. Or it simply won't last. It's about finding replacements. Crowding out the junk.

Find a new mute button. Or, as Paul says, "channel my passion," don't repress it.

Turn on my MP4. Listen to books on tape. Jump on the trampoline. Start up a formal exercise program. Go shopping. Read books. Both by myself and with my kids. Crowd out the computer so much that it can no longer take place in my life. And start feeding the true hunger inside me. The hunger for movement, for knowledge, for human connection.

Most of those statements are "results." Aimee let me know that the creative mind will not get anything done if it only thinks in terms of results. It has to have step-by-step actions that lead to results.

So. By 8:00 a.m. I will lock my computer. Turn off my computer. Walk into the kitchen. Into reality.

I will write down on paper the things I want to do that day. Specifics. Action words. A channel for my hunger.

I will live in reality, and create an even more beautiful reality by my choices and my actions. I will pay attention to my thoughts and my hunger for life. I will pay attention to my children and be awake. Because in 60 years I will not wish that I had spent more time on the computer. More time inside.

It will take time. I know I will mess up. Creating new habits. I might have relapses. But I will learn to forgive myself, and most importantly, I will not let the difficulties of 2:00 p.m. rob me of my joy at 6:00 p.m. I will learn to move on, and create happy memories.

At the end of the day. I will choose to be happy.

I will be able to look back on my day, knowing that I lived.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Cheesy Potato Bar & Easy Pumpkin Molasses Beans

I'm not much of a chips person. Never have been. I am more of a potato person. My family loves chips, so sometimes I serve nachos. But I would much rather have my refried beans on top of chopped romaine lettuce. Not because I know it's healthier, but because I really am not a big chips eater.

I love a good potato. Never get tired of them. Baked, steamed, boiled, sauteed, there are so many ways to eat a potato.

I got caught up in making a fancier version of apple crisp yesterday, and realizing I didn't have a lot of energy left to make dinner, I decided to throw some potatoes in the oven.

They could bake, while I finished the apple crisp.

I am so glad I don't have to rely on dairy cheese to please family and friends. Thank you, basic cheese sauce.

That everyone seems to just love.

I was gonna' make a fancy pumpkin molasses baked beans recipe. There was too much going on. So I opened a can of organic baked beans, instead. Threw in some pumpkin to make it festive. Adjusted the seasonings to taste.

My pictures aren't fancy today.

You know those days where everything around dinner seems to be chaos? Where everyone's needs are suddenly voiced, and there are a million things that need to be taken care of, all at once?

Well, last night was one of those nights. It was busy, but I loved it. My sister loved it. We grew up in a family of seven kids, so a little bitty chaos kinda' feels like home.

Needless to say I was lucky to get a picture. At all. Mom world.

I served up some potatoes for my kids, and poured cheese sauce on top. After fixing up my own plate I looked up. I couldn't believe it.

Their potatoes with cheese had been completely devoured. I had to smile, albeit an inward smile so they couldn't see that I was happy. Children are always suspicious if Mom is happy that they ate something.

It must be healthy.

For the Baked Potato Bar, you will need:

2-3 baked potatoes for each person (I baked about 12 potatoes, but I wish I had baked more. We are pretty good at eating them for leftovers.)
1 Recipe Basic Cheese Sauce

Steamed vegetable, some good options are (pick your favorite(s)):
Green beans

Optional Toppings:
Green chili
Tofu Sour Cream
Green onions, chopped
Red pepper flakes, if you like it hot

For the Easy Pumpkin Molasses Baked Beans:

1 15 oz can of organic baked beans (check to make sure it is vegan)
1 tbsp ketchup
1 tbsp maple syrup
1/3 cup pumpkin puree

Heat on the stove and mix together well. Serve hot.


A trick I learned with baking potatoes.

I used to buy those little pre-cut foil pieces, until I ran out. I didn't use them enough, so I didn't want to buy them again.

I do not like tearing foil. I do not like wasting excess foil. Maybe that's just me.

If you take a large piece of foil, and fold it into fourths, it creates a crease.

Tear along that crease and it will tear evenly. Ta-da! No wasted foil, and perfectly shaped little foil squares.

Wrap your potatoes in the foil squares, and place directly on the middle oven rack. Bake for about 45 minutes at 400 degrees. I used gold potatoes. If they are a larger kind of potatoes, like russet, they may need to bake for longer.

I thought I would go ahead and add the Basic Cheese Sauce recipe here, so you wouldn't have to go to other pages to get it.

A potato bar is another great way to use it.

Simple Cheddar Cheese Sauce
From Neva Brackett's, "Seven Secrets Cookbook."

Note From Ashlee: I've had quite a few taste testers try this cheese sauce. Family and friends have all stated that it tastes exactly like the dairy nacho cheese sauce. Or better. It's ALWAYS been gobbled up. Sometimes I have to go back and make a second batch. Amber has incorporated it into her home, and met with great success. Her kids STILL don't know it's dairy free.

If you follow the directions EXACTLY, you will find yourself with a really good cheese sauce. Best for Mexican types of dishes, but also good on kids' pizza.


1 cup raw cashew nuts
2 cups water
1/2 large or 1 small red bell pepper, or 1/4 cup canned pimentos or roasted red peppers (I ALWAYS use the jarred, roasted red bell peppers, also called pimentos.)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 tablespoons food yeast flakes (nutritional yeast)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Blend smooth (about 2 minutes) and then bring to a boil, stirring until thick. Use for pizza, lasagna, burritos, etc.

Lite Cheese Option: Use only 1/2 cup cashew nuts plus 1 tablespoon cornstarch.

*Makes 3 Cups*


Total side-note.

Remember how we kept trying to get a decent appraisal on our house so we could buy the old cottage with 7 acres across the street? We switched banks, and got a great appraisal. We close with the bank on Friday.

Paul came home from work yesterday and showed me a typed note that had been fixed to the cottage gate.

It was from an "area scout." She wrote that they are filming a movie with Ed Harris and Eva Longoria, and that our cottage was the perfect location. Left her number, and asked that the owner of the cottage would please call her.

So Paul called her. $1,000 dollars a day, they want to give us. To use the property for five days.

I am not even kidding. No joke.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

How much change is undergone before you can call a recipe your own creation?

My sister and I had a phone conversation about this last night. She is an artist. In art world, a piece of work can be called yours if it has undergone a 30% change, or more.

How do you measure that in food?

When I first tried this pumpkin pie smoothie, I really, really wanted it to work out. There's all this talk about pumpkin pie smoothies.

Well, I don't want to be left out.

I want a yummy piece of pumpkin pie in my smoothie, too. You can say that in a whiny voice, and I will fully support it.

You won't believe my line of thinking. Please don't laugh. Okay, laugh if you want to, as long as I can't hear you. My line of thinking went something like this: How can I make this a green smoothie? I really don't like drinking smoothies without a vegetable in it. Yes, it took me a few minutes to recall that pumpkin, after all, is a vegetable. Genius. Are you sure you want to eat my food after hearing this very sad tale about moi?

All right. Brought myself to attempt said recipe.

Paul is a green smoothie drinkin' monster. Most any green smoothie I give him, even if it's not-so-good, he will drink it. This tall glass of pumpkin-ness, however, sat. Half consumed. I could see him glance at it every once in a while, intermittently throughout his meal. Trying to determine what he thought of it, and figure out a way he could get the rest of this health food concoction into his body. Without having to taste it.

And I stood there, staring at him, staring at his smoothie. Willing him to like it.

Please, please like it.

Realized I could taste my own tall glass of pumpkin-ness to see if it was good or not. I have taste buds, too. Wow. So thick that it is hard to swallow; gives me the sensation that I really should be chewing it.

First taste pumpkin. Then banana. As an aftertaste, spices that make my throat burn. Every time I swallow. These flavors take turns dancing on my tongue.

There is no way. No way I can post something like that on my blog. Or even make reference to it, or add a link to it, if I myself am having difficulties choking it down or having to remind myself it is healthy, and therefore I need to finish it.

I was torn. This recipe had serious potential. I could tell it was a work of art in the making, and I did not want to kick it. I wanted, very badly, to keep it.

Then, I remembered. Oh, yeah. I modify recipes. It's what I do.

Went back to the drawing board, and made my little modifications.

Paul and I went from trying to choke down the smoothie, to trying to figure out how we could scrape every last bit of pie goodness out of the blender. Off of the blender lid. Out of our green smoothie jars.

I might have even licked the rubber spatula.

First taste...pumpkin pie. That's it. And then I want more.

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie
Adapted from Angela Liddon

~2 servings

Note from Ashlee: The changes I made are small, but they made a big difference. The smoothie went from too thick and overpowering, with choppy flavors, to sweet, nicely textured, well-combined flavors. I removed the dried ginger, reduced banana and molasses, incorporated more ice, and added stevia. It wasn't sweet enough without stevia. After making my modifications, and recording them carefully, I made this recipe three more times, with the same great success every time.

Portions of this recipe have to be prepared in advance. An oat/milk/chia seed mixture needs to thicken, and you will need a frozen banana.


2 cups almond milk
1/2 cup rolled oats
2 tbsp chia seeds
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 tsp blackstrap molasses
3/4-1 frozen ripe banana (less is better than more, otherwise it will just taste like banana)
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
15-22 ice cubes (creates better texture, and makes it cold which enhances flavor)
2 tbsp pure maple syrup
3-4 packets of Stevia (don't skip! This makes the smoothie sweet without adding sugar!)
Coconut Whipped Cream, for garnish


1. In a medium-sized bowl whisk together the milk, oats, and chia seeds. Place in fridge for 1 hour or preferably overnight.

2. Add soaked oat mixture to blender along with the pumpkin, molasses, frozen banana, stevia, spices, ice and maple syrup. In other words, just throw everything in your blender all at once.

3. Blend until smooth. Add additional ice cubes to achieve a smoothie-like texture. It should not be so thick that it looks/feels like pudding. Blend until ice cold. (If you don't have a high powered blender, you may need to layer your ice in the blender first. Or use less ice. I would start out with 8-12 cubes, blend, and then add more from there. The additional ice is what changed the texture and made it drinkable, instead of being so thick. I would hesitate to reduce the ice cubes.) It takes three full cycles on my powerful blendtec to get this smoothie completely smooth -- there should be no grittiness. So blend the tarnation out of it.

4. Serve with Coconut Whipped Cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon on top! (I don't do this because I am too lazy, and find that the smoothie is great without it.)

Some things you should know about this recipe:

It's one of those "you have to prepare the night before" things. Or at least let it sit for an hour or so.

I know.

I am not an overnight prep girl, myself. I don't do overnight lasagna, overnight breakfast casseroles. Any of that stuff. And I have to tell you that I was frustrated.

I wanted my smoothie. NOW.

But I went ahead and made the prep ingredients, and then put it in the fridge. Later the same day, I made my smoothie. Right after finishing it, I made another batch of prep ingredients for overnight.

Now, it's a habit. I make the prep part right after blending the previous nights' concoction. Ready for tomorrow!


It requires frozen bananas. I would not use a banana that has not been frozen.

Here is what I do. After being addicted to banana ice cream all summer, and then needing bananas for my favorite muffin recipe, I learned to buy a lot of bananas.

Every week when I go to Costco, I buy 4-6 bunches of bananas. At $1.29 per bunch, this amounts to about $6-$8 a week. Totally affordable. The kids and I eat through as many as we can over the course of the week, while the rest sit on the counter to sweeten.

When they are speckled brown, I grab my kids and we have a banana party. They coin bananas and put them in freezer Ziploc baggies, while I clean the kitchen.

Sometimes we eat the bananas. I have no complaints. Dr. Atkins, if alive, probably would, though.

They store very well, lying flat in my freezer, inside freezer-Ziploc gallon bags, available for banana ice cream.

Also available for a great Pumpkin Pie smoothie. I can't remember the last time we threw away an old banana in the trash. They are too precious around here.

Lastly, oats and pumpkin are some of the highest fiber foods. Sorry, Metamucil. I'll put you out of business.

Happy Autumn!!