In the Kitchen

Today I thought I would share what’s been going on in our kitchen lately. The past few weeks I have been trying new products, cooking from favorite cookbooks and trying new recipes I found online.

In the Kitchen

I made another batch of the homemade vegan butter I wrote about previously. This stuff is so good I have not bought Earth Balance since!

In the Kitchen

Trey recently asked to try vegan bacon at Whole Foods. He loved this variety from Sweet Earth Foods. He has never been big on meat alternatives, but he has been asking for this every week. He eats it in sandwiches or just by itself.


I let Trey pick what we would have for dinner one night when Harrison wasn’t home. He saw a picture in Dreena Burton’s Plant-Powered Families of this baked tofu in a wrap with cucumbers and carrots. I was happy to make this for him with a little homemade ranch dressing added in. He has even been taking these wraps to camp with him this week. I’ll definitely be adding these wraps to his school lunch rotation.

In the Kitchen

Protein Power Balls also from Dreena Burton’s Plant-Powered Families. These were not a hit with Trey. I think it was because I used sprouted Watermelon seeds instead of pumpkin seeds. Next time I’m going to try mostly sunflower seeds since Trey doesn’t actually like pumpkin seeds either!

In the Kitchen

The final dish from Dreena Burton’s Plant-Powered Families was Spinach Artichoke Dip. This was so delicious served on small baguette slices. I didn’t read the directions carefully and accidentally blended all of the ingredients smooth. No matter – it was awesome topped with breadcrumbs. Next time I will follow the recipe so there is more texture.

In the Kitchen

Fresh Pomodoro Sauce from Giada in Italy. I watched this show recently and was intrigued with the fresh pasta sauce. Giada grates the tomatoes into the sauce and lightly cooks them with garlic and basil. I made this for lunch one afternoon, eliminating the cheese and adding in an additional 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 cup of cashew cream (2 TB of raw cashews blended with 1/2 cup water) to finish the sauce. Everyone in our house enjoyed this light, very flavorful dish.

In the Kitchen

I followed this online tutorial to make my own coconut butter. I’m planning to make Trey snack bars for school this year and since his school is nut free coconut butter is going to be my binder/healthy fat of choice.

In the Kitchen

S’mores Cookies – I was in the mood to bake one evening and had both the marshmallows and Cat cookies on hand. These were gobbled up quickly.

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A to Z Survey

I have been an avid blog reader for the last 10 years. One of the reasons I started writing this blog was to actively participate in the blogging community.

I love when my favorite bloggers post surveys so you get to know them better. One of my favorite bloggers is Gina Harney at Fitnessista. This week she posted an A to Z survey from another great blogger, Julie at Peanut Butter Fingers. I enjoyed reading their answers and thought I would share my own:

A – Age: 37
B – Biggest Fear: Fish. I can’t stand being around them in the water. When Harrison and I were dating we went to Hawaii and I went snorkeling with him. Afterwards my jaw hurt from clenching the mouthpiece to the snorkel equipment so hard. Never again!
C – Current Time: 9:39 AM
D – Drink You Had Last: A glass of William Hill Chardonnay. One of my favorites.
E – Easiest Person To Talk To: One of my closest friends, Elisa.
A to Z Survey 4
F – Favorite Song: Hard to pick just one, but I’ll go with “Don’t Leave Me” from Blackstreet
G – Grossest Memory: Trey broke his arm when he was 5. He was playing with his cousins and fell. I heard him scream and ran out to see what was wrong. He held out his arm and it was completely crooked. Thank god for endorphins or I would have fainted.
A to Z Survey
H – Hometown: I moved a lot as a kid. I was born in Rochester, NY and spent the 6 years before college in Menlo Park, CA. Harrison and I lived in Oakland for 10 years before moving to the suburbs. So I guess would call the Bay Area my hometown.
I – In Love With: My family (Harrison, Trey, and our dogs Zeus and Lana)
A to Z Survey 3
J – Jealous Of: People who make the time to meditate everyday. I aim to be one of those people.
K – Kindest Person You Know:  I’m fortunate to have a lot of kind people around me, but if I have to pick one I’d say my aunt, Jerolyn.
L – Longest Relationship: with Harrison – married for 11 years and together for 13
A to Z Survey 2
M – Middle Name: Michael. No that is not a misspelling of Michelle. My parents thought Michael would be a cool middle name. Not so cool growing up, but I’ve gotten used to it.
N – Number of Siblings: 2- my brother Rick and my sister Hanna
O – One Wish: That Trey lives a long, healthy, happy life
A to Z Survey (1)
P – Person You Spoke To On The Phone Last: Harrison
Q – Question You’re Always Asked: “Is that your son?” and “What do you eat?”
R – Reason To Smile: Watching Trey run. He is in his element and has a look of pure joy on his face.
S – Song You Last Sang: Back that A** Up from Juvenile. Yep. Disclaimer – Trey was not in the car during said singing.
T – Time You Woke Up: 6:30 AM
U – Underwear Color: Black
V – Vacation Destination: The Stanford Inn in Mendocino, CA. It is such an awesome hotel right above the ocean. They welcome dogs and have a vegan restaurant. Harrison threw me a surprise 30th birthday party there. I haven’t been back since but I’m itching to go.
W – Worst Habit: Getting too frustrated, too fast. I’m working on it.
X – X-Rays You’ve Had: Way too many to list! Lots on my stomach.
Y – Your Favorite Food: Chips & salsa. Now I’m hungry.
Z – Zodiac Sign: Virgo
Your turn – answer any of the following in the comments:
  • Last song you sang out loud?
  • Favorite food?
  • Vacation destination?
  • Reason to smile?
  • Question you are always asked?

Vegan Chex Mix Methodology

One of my favorite things about high school was the access to vending machines.  My mom fed us healthy food at home and packed our lunch every day.  When I arrived at high school and realized I had access to vending machines anytime I was hungry I was in heaven. I loved to buy a Diet Coke and Chex Mix for my morning snack. In retrospect I can’t imagine why I was so damn tired by lunch, but hey I didn’t know any better. Now that I do know better I like to recreate healthier versions of my old favorites.  I came up with a basic Vegan Chex Mix recipe that I like to use with whatever cereal, snacks or nuts I have on hand.

Vegan Chex Mix Bowl

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What’s Vegan at Target?

A few weeks ago when I was writing my recipe for Vegan Bolognese with Beyond Meat I did a little research on the company.  I was surprised to see Beyond Meat mention that their products could be purchased at Target.  I love Target, but I almost never look for food there.  I am usually looking for clothes for Trey, household items or vegan shoes when I’m there. Hearing that Target sold Beyond Meat in the store got me thinking that I should check the grocery aisle myself to see what is vegan at Target.  My list of 15 surprising vegan foods you can buy at Target is below.

This list is mostly of prepared vegan foods.  Obviously I think most people know you can find fruits, vegetables, beans, rice, pasta etc at Target since they are a grocery store.  I hate when you read a list of “vegan finds” in certain stores and they list things like bananas.  Thanks for the hot tip!  Never would have guessed a grocery store would carry a rare fruit like a banana.

Here are my vegan Target finds beyond produce and grocery staples:


Vegan at Target Beyond Meat I found the beefy crumble and the grilled chicken strips in the freezer section.


Vegan at Target - So Delicious Coconut MilkI was very impressed with the number of non-dairy milks in the refrigerator case.  They had Soy Milk, Coconut Milk and even a Cashew Milk.


Vegan at Target - Gardein Tenders

Target had a wide variety of Gardein products in the freezer aisle.  These Crispy Tenders are Trey’s favorite.


Vegan at Target - Sabra HummusI love adding single servings of hummus to Trey’s lunchbox.  We also pack them as a snack for road trips.


Vegan at Target - Spectrum Shortening I use this shortening to make frostings following the recipes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.  


Vegan at Target - Dang CoconutThis is a sweet, filling snack that is great on its own or to top ice cream.  I have also added it as sweet component to homemade trail mix.


Vegan at Target - Amy'sWhen you have a busy vegan family having a few frozen dinners on hand makes life easier.  This pot pie is filling and makes a nice dinner for Trey when we hire a babysitter or when I’m too tired to cook.


Vegan at Target - The Good BeanHigh protein, savory snacks that are not nut based can be hard to come by.  These are great snacks for school or on a road trip.

Vegan at Target - Justin's Nut ButterI keep a stash of these in my car for Trey.  When he is hungry and I don’t have another snack on hand these are convenient, filling and he loves them.


Vegan at Target - Earth BalanceMy favorite vegan “butter”.  Another woman at Target saw me take this picture and came over to grab a tub.  She said “I never knew they sold this at Target!”.


Vegan at Target - Coconut Milk Ice CreamTarget had a great selection of coconut milk and soy milk ice creams.  This cookie dough variety is one of Trey’s favorites.


Vegan at Target - Nature's Path WafflesOn weekday mornings when Trey wants something different than his normal smoothie I use these waffles.  I toast two of them. Then I spread one waffle with peanut butter, add a little maple syrup and put the other waffle on top.  It is an easy “waffle sandwich”.


Vegan at Target - Pacific Foods I know I said I wasn’t going to include staples like beans, but these stood out for me.  I use refried black beans in quesadillas to add protein in Trey’s lunches.  I was impressed to see this organic variety in a septic pack (rather than a can) at Target.


Vegan at Target - Suja Lemon LoveSuja juices are a treat for me every once in a while during my weekly grocery shopping.  Target had a great selection of flavors.  My favorite is this Lemon Love variety.


Vegan at Target - Sweet Earth BurritoLike the pot pie above, this Sweet Earth burrito is perfect for keeping on hand in the freezer.  It makes a great weeknight, after practice dinner when needed.

Overall I was blown away by the number of vegan items Target carries.  The prices were reasonable and if you have the Target Red Card you get an additional 5% off.  I hope that Target will add more items like tofu, non-dairy yogurt and non-dairy cheese.  The more vegan items we see in non “health food stores” the better.  Everyone can benefit from adding vegan foods to their diet and having them in stores where people already shop is a huge win for veganism!

Any products I missed?  Leave a comment and let me know your favorite vegan Target finds.

*This post was not sponsored by Target Corporation or any of the companies mentioned above.

Making a Vegan Birthday Cake

On Friday Trey celebrated his 8th birthday.  It is true what they say: “The days are long, but the years are short”.  It seems a long time ago that he was a baby that required constant care, but those baby giggles seem like just yesterday.  For his birthday Trey requested a vegan birthday cake.  Specifically he wanted a vanilla cake, with vanilla frosting and chocolate drizzles.  Of course I was happy to honor this request!

Vegan Birthday CakeTo make the cake I grabbed one of my favorite vegan baking cookbooks – Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.  My copy has been thrashed from overuse through the years.  This book is truly a must have for anyone who wants to impress vegans and non vegans alike with tasty desserts.  Every recipe I have made from the book has been a crowd pleaser.   It is very helpful for parents who have children with egg and dairy allergies as well.

VCTOTWFor Trey’s cake I made the Vanilla Cupcake recipe from the book, but poured it into 2 6-inch cake pans.  These 6-inch cake pans are awesome for small families.  This was my first time using them and they resulted in a perfect sized cake for 3 people.  Since the cakes are larger than individual cupcakes I increased the baking time to 30 minutes.

While the cake was cooling I made the Basic Vanilla Buttercream from VCTOW.   One recipe was perfect for this 2 layer, 6-inch cake.  I then followed these instruction for creating a crumb coat to the cake.  I have wanted to try this technique for awhile, but have never taken the time to learn how.  A crumb coat is basically a thin coating of icing over the cake that seals in the crumbs.  It is supposed to give the cake a cleaner, more polished look.  You refrigerate the cake for a bit after applying the crumb coat and then proceed with the final coating of buttercream.

Crumb CoatThis crumb coat method worked really well for me.  The instructions were easy to follow and the finished product looked a lot more professional than cakes I have made in the past.  My husband commented on how different the cake looked.  Probably because it wasn’t tilting over to one side like many of my cakes seem to do!  I melted a cup of chocolate chips with a teaspoon of coconut oil to create the chocolate drizzle.  I drizzled the chocolate over the cake with a spatula.  Then I put the cake in the frig to let the chocolate harden up.

CakeTrey was thrilled when he got home from school and saw the cake.  We went out to dinner where he had pasta and french fries (it was his birthday)!  After dinner we had cake at home.  I surprised him by making the inside of the cake a bit orange, his favorite color.  I added about a 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric to the batter recipe to create the color.  I wouldn’t really recommend this step unless your child loves orange as well.  The coloring didn’t distribute totally evenly so the cake looked a little strange..slightly ombre (see below)?  Fortunately it tasted delicious and the birthday boy was thrilled with his vegan birthday cake.

Slice of vegan birthday cake

Kale Caesar Salad aka “Awesome Salad”

“Mom, This salad is awesome!”  That magical sentence was uttered by my 7 year old, Trey, as he ate the Kale Caesar salad I made with dinner earlier this week.  I made the salad following this delicious recipe from the lovely Oh She Glows blog.  This Kale Caesar has a nice vinegary dressing with crunchy garbanzo beans croutons.  The “parm” topping rounds out the salad with a nice bit of savory saltiness.

Kale Caesar CollageI made the salad in a few parts as Trey wanted to go to the park and play baseball after he finished his homework.  Before we left I roasted the garbanzo beans in one of my favorite kitchen appliances – my convection toaster oven (similar to this model).  I love using this oven for quick, smaller jobs.  The oven heats up quickly and doesn’t heat up your whole kitchen in the process.

Garbanzo Croutons

After I roasted the chickpeas I started chopping the romaine and peeling the stems off the kale.  My dogs, Zeus and Lana, are completely obsessed with kale stems.  They love to eat the stems like little bones.  As soon as I peel the leaf off the stem they come running.  In this case they heard me from the backyard (eagle ears) and ran to find the screen door closed.  I had to take a picture of their sad “Please give us some kale” faces before they got to have their treat.  What faces!!

Kale Please

Once we got back from the park I put together the dressing.  I altered the dressing just a bit from Angela’s original recipe.  I used almonds instead of cashews because that is what I had on hand.  Having made this recipe before I think the cashews definitely work better…they make a creamier dressing than the almonds. However if you only have almonds on hand I wouldn’t hesitate to use them.  The other change I made was to add 1 TB of balsamic vinegar to the dressing.  I saw an episode of Pioneer Woman (a show I really enjoy despite it not being vegan friendly in any way!) where she made a caesar salad and added balsamic to make the dressing a bit “richer”.  I tried it here and I loved the flavor.

I had some walnut/nutritional yeast “parm” that I made previously in the refrigerator.  To make my “parm” topping I add 1 cup of walnuts, 1/3 cup of nutritional yeast, and 1/4 tsp of salt to my food processor.  I pulse the ingredients until they are a fine crumble.  I store the topping in the refrigerator in a glass container. I’m sure the topping recipe included in Angela’s recipe is also delicious.  The topping brings the whole recipe together so be sure to add it if you can.

Kale Caesar

Once I tossed everything together I served it with dinner.  It was music to my ears to hear Trey declare “This salad is awesome” about a kale caesar salad!  Hope you have equally rave reviews if you make this for your family.

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Vegan Brunch at Herbivore

Vegan Brunch can be fantastic.  I love a good tofu scramble, with hash browns and toast.  The problem with vegan brunch is that normally you are cooking it yourself!  Being vegan has been one of the best decisions of my life and I have not found the transition overly difficult.  I have figured out how I can eat out in most restaurants without any issues.  But when someone wants to go out for brunch I know a not very exciting meal is in my future.  Oatmeal made with hot water anyone?

Thankfully as veganism has become more popular there are more vegan brunch options.  Given that we have an almost 8 year old any brunch is now a very rare treat.  It is normally more like wolfing down breakfast smoothies on our way to Trey’s sporting events.  Last weekend though we went out for a great vegan brunch and I realized that we haven’t taken Trey out for brunch in a LONG time.

Trey at Brunch

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Lemon Olive Oil Loaf

Dreena Burton’s Vive le Vegan was the first vegan cookbook I purchased that completely blew me away.  It was exactly what I needed as a new vegan.  The book was filled with recipes that I had been missing since becoming vegan: muffins, snacks, breakfasts, dips, and easy, satisfying main dishes.

Since purchasing Vive le Vegan I have purchased every book Dreena publishes.  She writes her recipes in a way that feels like she is in the kitchen with you.  Dreena is raising 3 vegan daughters so her recipes are always kid friendly or she offers kid friendly modifications.  Her books have been an invaluable resource as I raise Trey.

Her most recent book, Let The Eat Vegan, is another hit.   One of my favorite recipes is for Citrus-Scented Almond Muffins.  These muffins are made with olive oil which gives them a very unique, not too sweet flavor.  They also include almond meal which I love as a nutrient boost.

I made my last batch as a loaf rather than as muffins.  On a recent Starbucks trip Trey saw the lemon loaf they sell and asked what it was.  Once I explained it he asked if I could make a vegan version.  I have always let him know that almost everything we see can be made vegan, so he frequently makes this request when he sees food he is interested in trying.  Trey has had the olive oil muffins before and loved them so I decided to recreate them in a loaf form.


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