Have a holly jolly Christmas

Santa was way too good to the Chubby Vegan Clan this year.

I can't even begin to tell you how spoiled Pearyn was. From a new baby doll that talks and cries (thanks a lot memaw -- that's what Pearyn calls my mom) to a very real, very authentic Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, our little girl's Christmas was nothing short of amazing. My parents even got her a high chair, play pin and stroller set to use with her new talking and crying (again, thanks a lot memaw) baby doll.

Have I mentioned how awing it is to watch my 19-month-old daughter be a mommy? It's both frightening and breathtaking what happens when human instincts take over. She finds her baby, her Elmo -- heck, any stuffed animal she can get her hands on -- then puts them night night with a pillow and blankie. Of course she doesn't forget to give them a goodnight kiss, in addition to both rocking and singing them to sleep.

I have the proudest 19-month-old mommy around.

Considering my epic shortcomings as a mother at times, it's reassuring to know she's picking up good habits from somewhere or someone (thanks, A LOT memaw).

You just don't understand what Christmas is until you have a child to share it with. I was too enarmored with my daughter's excitement to bother opening my own gifts.

But I was blessed too -- and not just with a beautiful family to share the holiday with -- but with a husband who knows what to get his wife; exactly what she doesn't know she needs. I received an eco-friendly, cruelty-free, made from recycled tires purse, in addition to DVDs, gift cards and an absolutely gorgeous loaf pan.

You know you're an adult when you start asking for bakeware and other boring necessities. I can hardly wait to bake my first batch of lentil loaf. See? The loaf pan (er, ceramic dish) -- the gift that keeps on giving.

My husband didn't get overlooked, however. He got plenty of football fan attire, hot sauce and the first Walking Dead Compendium (a gift I now regret because every night after work I lose him to graphic novel zombies).

See what I mean? Ridiculously blessed.

We also received an Android tablet -- as a family gift -- although I think Pearyn and I use it the most. What can I say? We ladies love our technology. We got it for a steal and I can't recommend the Acer Iconia A500 more -- especially if you're looking for a champagne tablet (iPad) on a beer budget.

Because of the abundance and a tad on the extravagant side nature of our Christmas (not to mention Pearyn's mountain of toys overwhelming our living room), I'm looking for any and all tips you have on keeping your Christmas' in line.

How do you avoid going off the deep end -- or do you?


Wholesome Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Chunkers

These cookies just barely slide into the “I don’t feel completely guilty about giving one to my daughter,” because they’re filled with fiber, protein and awesome vitamins and minerals (can we give a shout out to all this Vitamin C, K and E, not to mention iron AND some B6 and folate – holler!)

Unfortunately, I couldn’t resist adding some not-so-healthy chocolate chunks to this cookie, because oats, flour and chocolate really go so well together.

Luckily, you roll them into balls the size of a small baseball (hence the name ‘chunkers’) so you really can eat one and be done with these babies.

Wholesome Oatmeal Chocoloate Chip Chunkers
(Makes 18-24 cookies, depending on how much size matters)
1/2 cup cinnamon applesauce
1/2 cup pumpkin puree (for the texture and the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants)
1/3 cup coconut oil
1 TBS blackstrap molasses
2/3 cup coconut palm sugar (a magical substance derived from coconuts that tastes like brown sugar and not one bit like coconut. It’s still sugar, but it’s not nearly as processed)
Flaxseed "egg" (2 TBS flaxseed, 3 TBS warm water, let it sit for 10 minutes)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup spelt flour
2 cups rolled oats
1 TBS cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 chocolate chunks (we've been enjoying the heck out of Enjoy Life's chocolate chunks)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Cream together all the "wet" ingredients (oil, applesauce, pumpkin, extract, "egg"). Stir in palm sugar.
Mix in dry ingredients, starting with flours, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and then oats. Add in chocolate chunks last.
Spoon onto greased baking sheet (slightly smaller than a baseball), squish down a little and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until bottoms start to get golden brown.

We don’t call them chunkers for nothing ya’ll!

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Mini-Me Caramel Apple Pies

My name is Amanda and I am addicted to sweets.

Like over-the-top, can’t control myself, would shove 15 cupcakes in at one time if I could manage it, addicted.

And I’m not one bit biased when it comes to sweets – I’ll eat any and everything – from candy and cookies to cupcakes and pies, if there is an unhealthy amount of sugar and fat in it, chances are I’ll inhale it.

There’s something about the holiday season (and all the cookies, candies, hot chocolate and pies that come with it) that reminds me just how gluttonous my sweet tooth is.

So while I’ve been curbing my sweet tooth over the last few weeks (and hopefully the next gazillion months), I’ve decided that when I do splurge on something sweet, it’s going to be really, really good.

Case and point: Mini Caramel Apple Pies.

They’re so, so, so good (and I imagine just as bad, bad, bad).

Are they something you should be eating everyday? Definitely not. Luckily though, they’re high maintenance enough that you won’t want to make them everyday!

But they’re a great treat every now and then and the making them miniature-sized makes them the perfect little pie to bring to a family gathering!

Be forewarned, these are super duper sweet (and worth.every.calorie).

Mini Caramel Apple Pies
(Makes 12)
Pie Crust Ingredients:
2.5 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp salt
3 TBS sugar
2 sticks butter
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup vodka (I used a fruiffy whipped cream flavored version, don’t worry the alcohol bakes out!)
1/2 cup cold water

Filling Ingredients:
4 Large Apples (Use a combination to make a more complex flavor profile, I used 1 Granny Smith, 1 Braeburn and 2 Jonagolds), diced into small pieces
1/2 stick butter (to cooke apples in)
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg (or to taste)
Splash of nondairy milk (I prefer almond)

Caramel Sauce Ingredients:
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 TBS corn starch
1/2 stick butter
1/2 cup nondairy milk (I prefer alomnd)
2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract

Crumb Topping Ingredients:
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup brown sugar (yes, MORE sugar)
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup butter (yes, MORE butter)

Directions for pie crust:
Blend “wet” ingredients, butter, sugar, vodka, water and shortening. Fold in all purpose flour, whole wheat pastry flour and salt. Knead until a smooth dough. Roll up in plastic wrap and stick in the fridge for at least 45 minutes.

Directions for apple filling:
Dice up all yoru apples and heat them up in a skillet with butter on medium-high heat. Add splash of milk and sprinkle cinnamon and nutmeg on top. Cook for about 10 minutes or until apples are half-way cooked.

Directions for caramel sauce:
In a small sauce pan, bring butter and milk to a low boil on medium high heat. Stir in sugars, salt and extract. Add cornstarch and stir like a mad woman (or man). Allow mixture to bubble and boil, while stirring rapidly with a whisk (don’t let this mixture settle for too long, it’ll burn and stick to your pan). Repeat for 5-10 minutes, or until the sauce thickens when removed from heat. (The longer you let it sit, the more it will thicken up).

Directions for crumb topping:
Pop the ingredients into a food processor and blend minimally to achieve a crumbly texture. Be forewarned, this part is a pain in the butt and is more than worth it.

Directions for mini pies (finally!):
Preheat oven to 375.
Take your dough and grab smaller than a baseball but bigger than a golf ball sized balls. Roll them out and place them in a greased muffin pan. Repeat until all 12 muffin cups are filled. (Tip: make sure some crust hangs out over the edge so the gooey caramel apple filling doesn’t burn and stick everywhere).
Stir apple filling into caramel sauce and fill muffin cups a little more than halfway.
Drop liberal amout of crumb topping on mini pies and bake in the oven on 375 degrees for 10-15 minutes (or until edges of pie crust are lightly brown).


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Merry Christmas from the Chubby Vegan Clan!

Just a quick post for all my wonderful friends, family and followers!

I hope that your days are all merry, bright and full of love. Regardless what faith we follow, what we celebrate and what food we eat, let's all agree to dedicate one day to loved ones, family and friends that become both! The Chubby Vegan Clan is blessed to have a smart, wonderful, healthy little girl, parents and in-laws that are active in our lives, brothers and sisters who love and care and particularly friends who call not only on Christmas, but all year round. We love you.


When reducing my stress increases it ...

The holidays are a time for family, more cookies than any one person should eat, Silk nog, cheesy Christmas movies and love.

Oh, and did I mention stress? The holidays seem to bring out the frazzled, burning-both-ends, a little scary, stress in most of us.

While often times this stress festers during a shopping war, a mile-long traffic jam at the mall or a burnt 19th batch of cookies, every once in a while there is no real cause, there's just stress. And more stress. And anxiety. And more anxiety.

Last week we had dinner with our family friends. They have a little boy just a year older than Pearyn, so we always let the kids do a mini gift exhange (aka, us creative moms churn something out for our little one to give to each other's little one). For the little man this year I made a scarf. A bright blue, green and yellow scarf (which I'm happy to report he wears in the house, anytime he feels a drift).

That's right folks, not only do I work, keep my daughter from putting herself in harms way everyday and put dinner on the table and delicious cookies in the cookie jar, I like to knit as well. It's a hobby that comes in spurts, and I'm currently on a mission to knit the Chubby Vegan household more scarves and hats than any family of three needs. I realized something today while I was knitting, though. What is supposed to be something I do to unwind and shut my mind off a bit, results in my clenched jaw and several other parts as well.

I am incapable of relaxing.

It started sometime after graduating from college. I spent four years majoring in English (in addition to pitching for the school team, having the best friends a girl could ask for, working tedious waitress jobs and meeting the love of my life), then all the sudden I graduated and had to do something with said degree.

Somewhere along the road I decided the only way I was going to be successful as an adult is if I hung up that fun, carefree side of myself and worried my life away.

I find ways to take seemingly relaxing activities and warp them into chores of doom. I worry that my knit isn't tight enough or my rows aren't straight enough. I love yoga, except I spend so much time analyzing whether I'm in the right pose that I forget to calm down and stretch my muscles. I'm not against the occasional glass of wine here or there, but let's face it, I'm already the Chubby Vegan Mom, I don't need to be drinking any more calories.

Do you see how I just turned my stressing out about how much I stress out into worrying about gaining weight? It's seriously a talent, I know.

So while it's too early to call this a New Year's resolution (and well, let's face it, I never stick to those anyway and I really, really need to stick to this promise), I'm going to let myself off the hook more often. I don't need to be perfect at everything, heck I don't need to be perfect at anything.

I just need to be the best version of me I can be - mistakes and all, burnt cupcakes and all, neurotic tendencies and all, extra love handles and ALL.

If I can focus on being the best Amanda I can be (did you even know my name was Amanda!?) maybe I won't be worried about being everything to everyone, it'll come naturally.

So let's hear it CVM followers, what do you do to unwind during the holiday season? Better yet, what can I do to start unwinding during the holiday (and every other) season?

Have you made your Not New Year's Resolution this year?


The perfect pumpkin pick me up

This week in the Chubby Vegan Household, we dove headfirst into the world of healthy cookies.

And let me assure you, my little girl is a cookie pro.

We didn't ease in to anything this week, we jumped on the healthy train and never looked back.

It is with great pleasure I post our Pumpkin protein plumps!

These cookies have a really, really earthy taste. Not recommended for the sweetest of sweet tooths, but a great little cookie to start your day off with.

Pumpkin protein plumps
(Makes 3 dozen)
1 can pumpkin
1 1/2 cups cooked lentils (I promise you won't know they're there!)
1/3 cup date sugar (I know it says "sugar" but it's made from dates and it's surprisingly delicious)
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 TBS pumpkin pie seasoning (or to taste, my first batch with only 1 TBS was really bland)
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 TBS molasses
1 cup oats
1 1/2 cups spelt
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds ground up (don't skip this part, they give a nice crunchy boost)
Sesame seeds (enough to roll the cookies in)

Cook the lentils and then blend in a food processor with the date sugar.
Preheat the oven to 375.
In a bowl, mix pumpkin and pureed lentil/date sugar mixture. Stir in applesauce, vanilla extract pumpkin pie seasoning and oats. Add ground up pumpkin seeds.
 Next, mix in all of the spelt flour. Begin adding the all purpose flour until you reach a lumpy, stick consistency (think chocolate chip oatmeal cookies). You may not use ALL of the all purpose flour or you may need more, this depends largely on the gooeyness of your canned pumpkin and the water absorbed by your lentils. The important thing here is the consistency.
These cookies will be lumpy and sticky. If you add so much flour that they become more doughy and sugar cookie like, that is too much. We want them lumpy and sticky enough for you to form a messy ball (which you will then roll in sesame seeds to control the sticky issue).
Pour your sesame seeds (or if you're really, really crazy about pumpkin seeds you can crush more of those and sub them for sesame seeds) into a bowl and set aside.
Once you've got the batter where you need it to be, roll it into ping-pong sized balls and then roll around in the sesame seeds, coating the ball.
Smoosh them with your hands into plump discs and place them on a greased cookie sheet.
Bake on 375 degrees for 12-15 minutes (or until the bottoms become light brown).
Don't let them deceive you, they dry out really quickly if you leave them in too long. They should be firm, but still springy.

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I'm suffering from a case of 'Split Personality Tuesdays'

I realize that it's technically Wednesday when I'm typing up this blog. It's actually 1:19 a.m. to be exact, you're probably wondering what the heck I'm doing up. Heck, I'm wondering what the heck I'm doing up.

The answer? Rehashing the day's events, of course.

It's not much of a secret that I'm battling a serious case of the negative nellies this holiday season and today's prognosis seemed bleak.

But instead of spending the rest of my blog whining up a storm about what didn't go my way (or what might have actually gone my way, but I didn't feel was up to par with 'my way'), I'm going to celebrate the Split Personality that was my Tuesday. Chubbyveganmom.com is my attempt to portray my real, hot-mess-of-a-mom, chubby-vegan-lifestyle-living, slightly neurotic self. So while I'm doing my darndest to focus on the good, I'm going to have to conquer some of the bad and downright ugly along the way.

We'll start with the ugly. The really, really, really ugly - my husband's ass.

Don't mistake me. Chubby Vegan Dad actually has a really, really good ass; one of those perky bubble ones in fact. But in addition to this trait, he's got a digestive system that seriously doesn't play nice - with anything. While he tries to spin these fallacies about vegan cheese and beans being the culprit for his seriously offensive digestive track, the truth is air, water and puppy kisses would cause the same reaction. And it's such a volatile reaction, that sometimes, I get angry. I seriously get angry at my husband for passing gas, because it's clearly something he can control, right?

Yeah, bet you're starting to feel really bad for my husband now (but hopefully not too much, because I have to sleep next to his stinky butt all night).

On a positive note, Pearyn is slowly moving into her cuddly phase. (I'm starting to see how easily attached I could become to attachment parenting.) I'm reaping all of these benefits and enjoying every.last.minute.of.them. Even if it means watching an extra 20 minutes of Mickey Mouse here and there or being pushed out of the bed because my 19-month-old wants to lay horizontal in between mommy and daddy. It's totally worth it.

On a less than stellar note, I've been devoured by a spider or some other evil, evil bug. I know I'm vegan and all, but if some little bug is going to get all up in my business and eat me while I'm asleep, you better believe it better not let me catch it. Seriously, it looks like I was bitten by a vampire. Two fabulous little bites on my neck, that are all sorts of itchy, sore and bruising (because my body is a big cry baby and doesn't respond to insect bites very happily).

And even though it's winter and that encourages all those Chubby Vegan Mom-chomping bugs to make their way inside, it also means I get to drink hot chocolate, lots of it. And this isn't your run-of-the-mill cocoa powder and milk hot cocoa. This is your heat up the milk and melt some vegan chocolate into it and the top it with Healthy Top's AMAZING whipped cream. Seriously, we're talking fattening, over indulgent, crazy decadent in a mug. And it's worth every.last.calorie. Trust me.

And there's this whole missing all my friends part. I love the people I'm surrounded by at home. I love my mom friends, I love my crazy hippie veggie-baby raising friends and I adore my family, but every once and a while I find myself craving (seriously) some time with my best friends. The girls who knew me before I became a mommy, before I graduated with my super awesome English degree and before I became a wife. The one who sat in our college cafeteria coming up with ways we could get out of pitching practice (my best friend and I were college softball pitchers) and conditioning (like, say, throwing ourselves down a flight of steps or developing malaria).

The one who used to chew my ass out on the pitching mound when my head was stuck in it (yes, I'm a glutton for punishment, our other bff was our catcher).

And the one who I met when I had to meet my husband's hetero life mate; the girl who sat at the bar with me playing stupid photo match games while our boyfriends verbally expressed their love over too many beers (and the same girl who subsequently racked up a really, really high bar tab for said boyfriends).

Sometimes, I feel like I need a little old me in my life, not because I don't love every minute of my life now, but to remind me that I was once someone else.

I've got a million things in this world to be grateful and happy for. And despite all the spider bites, smelly farts and bff hankerings I have, all I have to do is look at my beautiful, smart little girl and know that I did something seriously, seriously right to have her precious little self here. I don't care how cliche that sounds, sometimes cliche is exactly what needs to be said.


Yes Pearyn, there is a Santa Claus

"Your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except what they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds."

Let's face it.

We might be big kids at heart, but for the most part, we're far too cynical for our own good. 26 years have made us skeptical, a skeptical society has made us bitter and our bitterness is rubbing off on our youth.

Not only do children not get to believe in Santa for long, some don't get to at all. Trust me, I'm not trying to step on any toes here, in fact, I have incredibly close family friends who will raise their child without a faith in Santa Claus.

They have their reasons for wanting to raise their child on an honest foundation, just like I have mine for believing every child should get to be a little more innocent, a little more hopeful and a little better for a little bit longer. I think children should get to be kids for as long as they can.

So when Pearyn asks for the truth, that's exactly what I'm going to give her.

"Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to our life its highest beauty and joy."

Because when it comes down to it, wouldn't the world be better if he did exist? Shouldn't at least the spirit and the emotions Santa Claus is supposed to evoke survive the skepticism, the reality, of our modern world?

"Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see."

Perhaps believing in Santa Claus is a fallacy, perhaps it's a betrayal to allow my daughter to believe in something I know isn't metaphysically present, but then again, is it wrong to let my daughter believe this world is a little bit better than we all thought? Is it wrong to want our children to find more in this holiday than just a big price tag mommy and daddy conquered for them?

"Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else as real and abiding."

As long I have a say so, this is precisely what my daughter and any future children will be raised to understand.

"No Santa Claus? Thank God he lives and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, maybe 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the hearts of children."


Traditions are traditions for a reason

Bah Humbug!

I'm just kidding.

Kind of.

It's not really a secret that I can be a bit of a grinch when I'm in a less than stellar mood. Unfortunately, in addition to the over-the-top merriment I feel during the month of December (who wouldn't with all those cookies, pies and tofu scramble wreathes just waiting to be baked, not to mention watching our darling little girl maneuver her way around some wrapping paper, bows and scotch tape), every now and then I'm overcome with that misery-loves-company mentality (namely, when I think about all the cleaning I have to do, not to mention the putting up and taking down of all those festive decorations).

With just under three weeks until Christmas, we've got our miniature village up and running, in addition to some Santa and snowman decals, a Minnie Mouse door hanger (complete with jingle bells), a Mickey Mouse stocking for Pearyn, a Batman one for Chubby Vegan Dad and an old-school knit one for me, Christmas Minnie and Mickey Mouse stuffed beanies (to add some pizzazz to Pearyn's room), some miscellaneous garland and an oversize, plastic snow globe that Pearyn refuses to put down.

Did you see what we left out? That's right, a Christmas tree. We STILL don't have our Christmas tree up yet.

This year we've opted to put up a fake one (complete with all the decorations my mamaw used to put on her tree), mainly because of the real, live Christmas tree fiasco we faced last year. No seriously, we didn't just have a real tree, we had one that still had it's big ole root ball intact, so we could plant it in the backyard after it served its Christmas duties.

Then we moved. We moved away from our precious first tree.

All my rambling does in fact have a point, I promise.

So this year we were bickering about when to put the tree up (and when I saw we, I mean me, because I'm the grinch of Christmas present). I was complaining about the whole shaping of the tree, not sure whether Pearyn would respect the boundaries of the tree this year and not looking forward to throwing (MORE) junk in our garage.

And then I looked at all those ornaments. I looked at all the shiny, pretty glass bulbs that ordained the same tree at my grandmother's house, and I felt sad; I felt really, really sad.

This will mark out first Christmas without my grandmother, the first year she won't be around to put far too many ornaments on her extravagant tree, burn too many candles in so many "holiday" scents they all start to blend together, but mainly, she won't be around to remind us of all the small things.

She had this way of making you appreciate the little things in life, probably because her love of things simple, from an old song she used to dance to, a gaudy ring she bought from the home shopping network or even 10 pairs of the same, exact shoe (in different colors) because they were THAT comfortable.

 She was the kind of grandmother who displayed her grandchildren's ugly macaroni art not because she felt she had to, but because she was genuinely proud of it.

 But most of all, she was proud of her Christmas tree. She was proud of the countless trinkets that lit up, rang and jingled, she took pride in the grins that appeared on her grandchildren's faces when they saw the trimmed tree. Making us happy, made her happy.

It was that simple.

Because traditions are traditions for a reason (and not to be a pain in the butt), but to help us remember.

And that is why this year, although she won't be here to celebrate with us, and even though I might have to put up 1,000 bulbs and trinkets simply to put them away in a few weeks, we will not only put up her Christmas tree, we will decorate it the way she would like it.

This year, we will make her proud.



Sometimes, I can be a bit of a negative Nelly.

While I like to sound all cool and say I'm neither a glass half empty or glass half full kind of gal (it totally depends on what's in the glass, am I right?), the truth is I'm more of a "it doesn't matter what's in the glass because it's dirty, chipped, too small, too big, too wide, the wrong shape and no matter what I'm going to dislike it" kind of gal.

I know, it's utterly infuriating and depressing, right? Trust me, it's even worse when you have to live with it, ALL the time.

It's not so much that I enjoy the bad "juju," it's just that it's so easy for me to slip into that way of thinking; you know, the kind where you see the absolute worst in everything (even cuddly kittens and puppies' wet noses). I feel all woe is me about anything and everything; from not being sure that I'm really where I should be in my life, being envious of my friends and family for their super important careers, education and lifestyles, to wishing I just had the white picket fence and 2.5 kids right this very second (or at the very least, wanting it). I'm not kidding friends, when I throw myself a pity party, I throw myself a pity party about every.last.thing.

I know, you're wondering how I'm married and have friends when I'm such a soul-dampening succubus. The good news is I can pull myself out of these types of moods, usually before wreaking too much havoc in my life  (or else I'd just have something else to complain about).

I should probably extend my forever gratitude to my incredibly loving husband, ever-understanding mother, mood-lightening father, my too-generous-for-his-own-good brother, my always-there-to-lend-an-ear aunts and cousins and my best friends for always holding my hand (or lying in bed with me and watching a marathon of Sex and the City) and reminding me that I'm not a terrible mom, I'm just human.

For the last week and a half I've been miserable and loving my own company. I've been whining to myself about not living the American dream, not having enough money, not exercising enough, not eating as good as I should be, not being a better friend, not making enough time for everyone in my life; you name it, I've found a way to make it ridiculously pessimistic.

And then something incredibly small happens, the tiniest thing and I'm reminded what an absolute (pardon my French) ass I'm being. And I slowly get myself out of my funk.

Today I found a vintage cookie press from the 1950s. It happens to be the exact same one my grandmother used every Christmas when all the women (and kids) got together and made our holiday cookies to divvy up into tins and take home (just enough to tide us over until our big Christmas party where we'd indulge in far more than any family should). I knew it was her exact one because of the copper accents on the actual press and the weird camel disc it came with. I remember being little and trying to figure out why on Earth anyone would ever need to make a camel cookie (I'm still trying to figure that out). And my husband ordered it for me, without question, because he knew I'd been holding out for a vintage cookie press and not one of the crappy plastic ones they sell nowadays. And it's not so much that "getting a gift" cheered me up, it's the memories this 60-year-old press is bringing back and the ones it's going to allow me to make with my daughter.

And boy, my daughter, I can't tell you enough how blessed I am to have her. Here I can't turn my brain off about whether and when to have a second child, when there are people out there dying to have a first that haven't. To those of you experiencing that pain, I'm sorry, and I'm embarrassed to seemingly take for granted what an amazing miracle my little girl is. She really, really is.

And we have these friends, these superb people in our lives, ones who celebrate our anniversary with us, ones who see our daughter as their own and ones who listen to the rambling texts of their college friend who isn't too sure what she's doing with her life. We are so blessed.

And what about the food? From the Christmas season's first sugar cookies to Brussels sprouts roasted in olive oil and sea salt, it's all about looking at the bigger picture. It's my daughter's eyes when she tries a new food (and loves it) and my husbands excitement when I make him his favorite vegetable ever. With sometimes above average skills in the kitchen, being able to cook my way out of a bad mood is such a wonderful outlet.

And let's not forget Christmas - the most wonderful time of the year. Nothing can bring you out of a pity party faster than remembering how fortunate you are (especially when you have a roof over your head, food in the fridge and a beautiful, healthy family). Although, the hot chocolate, lights, tree and pretty villages don't hurt the spirit either.

Not to mention my daughter's eyes when she takes it all in.

It's settled, I'm so blessed. Really blessed.

What do you feel blessed with?


This blog post is sponsored by condoms, vegan ones, lots of them.

OK, not really.

But I figured it'd get your attention.

And I really do wish this particular blog post was sponsored by vegan condoms because I know a handful of young women (and probably even more I don't know) who could use them.

This isn't going to be one of your" keep your vagina disease-free by making him wrap it up" disclaimers, instead, this is going to be a plea.

From me.

And I'm sending it out to all you teeny boppers, barely over the legal drinking age, wannabe, getting-yourself-knocked-up mommas.

Please, start using condoms (vegan ones if possible), but in reality, any will do.

Just please, please, please stop having kids on purpose.

And let me just clarify something here. In no way or shape am I trying to insinuate that you won't all be perfectly wonderful mothers, that those of you who are teenage mothers aren't phenomenal or that being a certain age will make you ready for motherhood. (Nothing, I repeat, nothing, will prepare you for that constant, uphill marathon).

I genuinely believe that there are women out there who made mistakes (I am not saying your child was a mistake so chill out) and maybe had children a little earlier than they wanted. In the same hand, I know there might be a few (a very, very small few) who at 21 or 22 have settled down, have a stable environment to raise a child in and are at least ready on the outside for the challenge.
Wait until you're ready to rock the
unkempt, who knows where your make-up
went,  haven't showered in three days, don't
give a damn if everyone in the world just saw
 your vagina and have fluid leaking out of
 every orifice of your body look.

Unfortunately though, a lot of us aren't. (Notice how I said us. I'm a 26-year-old mother, with lots of 26-year-old mother friends, and at some point or another, we've all questioned whether or not we were truly ready to tackle parenthood).

The girls I'm addressing, are the ones I have sprinkled throughout my life. The ones who are, in fact, barely women yet, and decide getting pregnant would be a great idea for whatever reason.

Maybe it's because you think that super awesome boyfriend of yours will stick around if he finds out you're pregnant with a mini (pooping, screaming, messy, expensive) human. Because yeah, I think that's every 20-year-old guy's dream, something that's going to take away from beer and video games, or at the very least, your sex life.

Or perhaps you just don't have enough love in your life. If this is the case, let me know, I'll do all parties involved a big favor and come love you myself. That way, you can get all the love you want without having to raise a small child while you're still one emotionally.

Who knows, maybe you just think you're totally ready for one. You're 20 (which means you're basically a sage), you have a job, a kind-of boyfriend, a place to live and parents with a lot of money. Having kids can't cost that much, right? Your job will support you (and if it doesn't your parents can, right)? And your kind-of boyfriend, well, he'll stick by your side?

No. No. No.

You're 20 (or 18, 19, whatever). You should be growing up with your girlfriends, staying out too late and figuring out your life. You're not ready to create another human being because you're not even done being created. The person you are now is only a shadow of the one you're going to become. Do me a favor. Look back at your life three years ago, it's probably a lot different than it is now, right? Now imagine your life in three years. It's probably going to be even more different, right?

At the very least, do me a favor.

Wait until you have your own place (not one that you share with your 14 best friends).

Wait until you have someone in your life who has not only seen you at your worst (and no, that night you spent hugging the toilet does not count) but has stuck by the morning after. If you can be patient, wait until you're married and can share this experience as a husband and wife.

Wait until you're not a dumb kid anymore. Chances are, right this very moment, you think you know it all. You think you're big, bad and totally prepared for whatever comes your way. Wait to have a kid until you know you don't know it all. Until you know when to ask for help.

Wait until you have a stable environment (and I'm not just referring to the roof over your head). Wait until the drama that ensues your life is which big girl job to take, what kind of dressing to put on your salad and which shows to DVR because it can only do two at a time, rather than what boy you want to sleep with tonight, which "hoe" is getting all up on your man and which "totally cute" top to buy to go clubbing.

Do me a favor and wait until you know what I meant by "sage," hint: I'm not talking about the spice.

Wait until you don't have friends who still ask you to buy beer or at the very least, wait until you're old enough to buy it yourself, drink copious amounts of it or none at all. Just wait until you have the choice to legally drink or not (the key word there being legally).

I promise you it'll be better. I promise that in a few years you're going to feel a lot different about yourself. In a few years you're going to have that someone who makes raising a kid seem not so scary.

And note to you, if having a kid doesn't scare the bejeezus out of you, hold off on getting pregnant until it does. You are so totally not ready to become a parent if there's not this massive part of you doubting your ability to be said parent, provide for said child and frankly, push a seven, eight or nine pound baby out of your very tiny vagina.

But most importantly, use condoms (vegan ones), lots of them.

Disclaimer: I do not know it all. I am not the queen of motherhood. But one thing is for sure. I know how it feels to want a guy to stay, to be lonely and to think I know it all. I know what being 20 feels like and I know you might feel like you're on top of the world. But I also know how it feels to be a first-time mom at 26, one with a husband who started a college fund for our child and one that is finally starting to grasp exactly who I am as a person. It may not qualify me to make life decisions for you on your blog, but it does for mine. 

Also, young, single mothers who are doing an amazing job raising kids, way to go! This is not a post meant to attack or belittle you, I think the world of you for being able to raise a child without wanting to pull your hair out. This is just my message to young girls who are purposely trying to get pregnant before they give themselves a chance to grow up and really appreciate their time as a young, single woman. 


What kind of parent are you?

Well friends, it's happened again.

With Thanksgiving all up in my grill last week (I get sort of gangster when I get riled up) I've found yet another aspect of modern day child rearing and living that's just not acceptable to me.

I can't tell you how many posts, blogs and comments I've seen over the last four days from a "worried" mother about how to get her two, three, 12-year-old child to eat meat (particularly turkey). From chopping it up super tiny, mincing it and bribing the child with toys, candies and ice cream, I could not be more disheartened by the lengths people will go to in an attempt to trick their child into eating meat.

I get it people, you're worried. You're worried that because your four year old doesn't eat something that can bleed, he or she won't get enough protein, will be malnourished and then die. You're worried because here in America, the only (seemingly) acceptable way to get protein is either from a dead animal or from a liquid supplement. 

Let's talk about that five year old who pushes their plate away at the sight of chicken. Or your 8-year-old who is figuring out where exactly their food comes from and has no desire to ingest something with a face. Heck, let's just say that for whatever reason your child has jumped ship and refuses to eat meat. What are you to do?

Well, how about a little research?

There is nothing that discourages me more than indolent parenting. Reality check, when your child is concerned, ignorance is not always bliss.

Now don't misunderstand me here folks. I'm not here to argue about the safety or healthiness of raising a child on a meat and dairy diet; we've been doing it for thousands of years and I get the point, it works. So let's just throw that argument out the window because I've fully accepted and admitted several times that there's a responsible way to incorporate those things into a healthy diet (I just can't work it into the moral aspects of my life).

What I am here to raise a big ole fuss about, is completely active, get-your-hands-dirty parenting. Months ago I had a friend whose son showed little interest in eating meat. After asking her pediatrician what to do about this, the lackluster response was something along the lines of "Oh, give him PediaSure on the days he refuses to eat meat." 

PediaSure, the liquid supplement? That's a pediatricians best answer? Perhaps I've missed the PediaSure bandwagon or maybe doctors have stock in it.

If you're a parent and that response is good enough for you, maybe you should revisit the food pyramid. 

This is what I know.

My family doesn't eat meat. Ever. We don't use liquid supplements to achieve our daily intake of vitamins, minerals and proteins. We try to balance our diet with nutrients from vegetables, fruits, grains and every now and then we get wild and throw a legume in there. (What is a legume??) 

My daughter doesn't drink PediaSure. Ever. She doesn't drink whole milk or even two percent. Sometimes she has soy milk, sometimes coconut milk, every now and then we throw in some almond, flaxseed, oat or hemp milk. And at 18 months old she is thriving. Boy, is she thriving. 

How, you may ask? Since apparently the answer to growing a healthy child is be either tricking them into eating meat (through mashed potatoes laced with minced chicken) or by giving them PediaSure.

The answer is simple. It's the right combination of plant-based proteins, a family doctor who supports our vision of a vegan family, a clinical nutritionist who broke through the animal-biased protein barriers and a mother and father determined to raise a healthy girl the compassionate way.

I'm not asking you to go vegan. I'm not even asking you to eliminate all meat from your child's diet. I'm asking you to stop trying to trick your kids, stop funding the PediaSure campaign and start educating yourselves. 

This isn't 50 years ago when being a vegetarian or vegan was a seriously scary, undeveloped and totally experimental thing. This is 2011.This is the day and age when soy, almond and coconut milks can coexist on the very same shelves as the "real" dairy stuff. This is the land where vegan cheeses appear in large grocery chains like Kroger and where restaurants offer vegan alternatives. This is the future, the time when vegetarians and vegans are no longer a myth, but walk among you, populate your work office, get coffee at your Starbucks and (gasp!) live on your street. 

There are more than a handful of options when it comes to picky non-meat-eating children, from the tried and true peanut butter and jelly, to more exotic foods like lentils, tofu and tempeh, to protein-rich vegetables like beans, peas and spinach and to grains like barley, quinoa and oats. 

Maybe you don't know what some of this is, maybe you're afraid to try new things. 

But let me ask you this. If you're not willing to open your own mind up to new foods, tastes and nutrients, then why on Earth should your own child?

Even a hamburger is (at some point or another) a "new" food to every child.


Nothing like the holidays to bring out the crazy

I know what you're thinking. 

It's Wednesday, I haven't posted in like 100 years (or six days, whichever), I was supposed to be "getting real" and then I just crapped out on you.

Well, what can I say, nothing like "getting real" with some real realness. Life got in the way. Unpacking, holiday shopping, decorating and all the other duties of being a working mom and wife took over. I got burnt out and exhausted, so the last thing I could think about was writing all you fine people a summary on how much of my day I spent being fake.

Which as we learned last week, is a lot more than we all thought. 

I'm proud to say we've pretty much wrapped up our Christmas shopping, get it, "wrapped up." Ha. Aside from a few miscellaneous stocking items for Pearyn and my gift for Chubby Vegan Dad, we have checked off everyone else on our Christmas list. Hip hip hurray?

We even have a plan for our holiday photo cards we send out every year -- and guess what folks, the 2011 is going to be a doozy. Yes, I did just say doozy. It's midnight and I'm running on five hours of sleep from the night before. We're doing a photo theme to the ever-popular Christmas song "Nuttin for Christmas." It promises to be a good time. Heck, any song that starts out "I broke my bat on Johnny's head" has to be a good time, right? 

And in true Chubby Vegan Family fashion, we also picked out our Christmas jammies. Pearyn and I had a pajama party and sported some of our favorite threads, including her cupcake set and my snowman pants and a tank top. What can I say, we like our pajamas in this household.

The holiday spirit has seemed to escape us this year. One minute we're totally digging the Thanksgiving and Christmas vibe, the next we're cursing and shaking our fists at everyone (yes, like we're 75 years old). If I had to be honest, I think it was the ridiculous extortion of Pearyn's beloved deluxe Mickey Mouse Clubhouse playset that put me over the edge. It was listed on the Disney website for $59.95, but sold out in basically a minute. (Am I the only one who didn't know things could see out on the website?). So we were forced to scavenge other places for it, which basically meant paying more than double the price of it on eBay.

Nothing says Christmas like turning a profit on a toy designed for a three-seven year old. Thanks, no, serious, thanks so much jerk faces. I love being reminded on a constant basis just how insanely greedy our nation is. 

Bah hum bug.

OK, that's it, we have family coming in tomorrow and A LOT of cooking to do over the next few days. I'm going to turn in (and check my attitude at the blog).

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, I hope it's as turkey-free and delicious as ours is (details to come!)



Because I'm real, lazy and real lazy

I was a seriously busy bee today.

I got lots of Thanksgiving and Christmas shopping done today, which may not sound like much, but when you're carting an 18-month-old around to said shopping, it is. A lot. A lot a lot. Especially when one of those stops includes a trip to Toys'R'Us, aka crack for toddlers. Everywhere we turned there was Mickey Mouse something, books, games, dvds, toilet paper (OK, I'm exaggerating a bit there), which meant I had to move through the aisles really, really fast. Like speed of light fast, to avoid a meltdown from Pearyn.

We did, however, get her a Mickey Mouse stocking. I plan on keeping it until she's 18 and absolutely detests Mickey Mouse and everything he stands for. Isn't it nice how I'm already planning on torturing my teen and she's not even out of diapers yet?

But I can't lie (especially during my 'get real' week), she was a real trooper. She hardly threw any fits and she definitely kept a smile on my face. So I got her more Mickey Mouse stuff, of course, because good parents feed their children's obsession. I just hope this loving Mickey phase lasts long enough to get our money out of all these things.

And then, while Pearn was taking a late nap, I got dinner ready. Baked coconut lime tofu with sesame ginger broccoli. If I weren't being real I'd probably tell you it was delicious, but it wasn't. Well, Chubby Vegan Dad said it was amazing and he could eat it every day, so I guess the real truth is, I'm just really, really picky when it comes to tofu. Don't get me wrong. I can put back a lot of tofu when it's lightly friend and thrown in some vegan yellow curry with potatoes and carrots. We're talking serious.tofu. But when it's me, squeezing the water out of the tofu with 150 napkins and then cutting it up, letting it soak in frothy coconut milk and then baking it for a bajillion hours to evaporate that marinade, well then, I don't like it so much.

The broccoli was good though.

But the tofu, I ate three bites of it and then pawned the rest off on my daughter and Chubby Vegan Dad.

I know what you're thinking, 'but Chubby Vegan Mom," that doesn't look like a Chubby Vegan Meal. It's not folks, it was actually incredibly healthy. If I made more meals like this a week (and less lentil "cheeseburger" and onion rings), I'd probably be above-average Vegan Mom.

But as you can or can't see from my super organized meal plan (assorted with Pear's breakfasts throughout the week of either oatmeal or coconut yogurt, sometimes we get crazy and give her waffles), we don't eat tofu very often. We eat tempeh plants, lentil burgers and fries, Indian with homemade naan (drool), tomato barley risotto with sauteed mushrooms, "cheezy" chick pea casserole and sweet potato and black bean enchiladas. Those, my friends, are the kind of meals that make Chubby Vegan Mom, chubby.

So to balance out all that broccoli and three bites of tofu I ate, I had a mini ice cream sandwich and like 14 cookies. OK, I'm exaggerating again, I had 19.

I thought to be incredibly "real" I'd include a snapshot of that freezer my ice cream sandwich came from. This probably wouldn't be picture worthy if we didn't have a random glass of ice (used to be water I'm thinking) and a hot dog bun just hanging out by themselves. And one of Pearyn's old binkies. We're cool like that. I feel like our freezer would make a good seek and find.

That's all I got today folks. In fact, I fell asleep on the couch at 9 p.m. watching football with my husband. I don't have a creative word left in my body and I've still got an opinion column to write for the Saturday paper by noon tomorrow.

Maybe I'll "get real" in it too.


Like mother, like daughter

There's really no easing into this topic.

My 18-month-old daughter, Pearyn, is a complete and utter weirdo.

She wears her pajamas all day (OK, I can't really blame her on that one), eats with a ladle, wears her winter hat indoors and speaking of 'doors,' she licks them. And her hand. And the dog. And basically anything she can get her hand (er .. tongue) on.

At not even two years old, she has this amazing little personality. Toddlers are the definition of "getting real" if you ask me. They don't know to be embarrassed or self conscious, which in turn, means they don't have a reason to be fake, try to be cool or try to fit in. They're these bundles of completely pure, innocent, naive and untarnished little humans. They're 100 percent real and absolutely perfect without even trying to be.

Now, on a completely "real" side note, sometimes I am astonished and completely ashamed by my ability to be too serious, too realistic and just no fun. On really bad days, I have to fight the urge to spoil my daughter's carefree spirit. When I'm completely drowning in bills, responsibilities and woes, I find myself envious of my daughter's whimsy to a point of jealous and borderline spoil-sport. I don't ever want to be the cause of my daughter's neurosis, so if I'm being truly "real" here, I should probably make myself a note to stop being such a caustic bitch every now and then.

On a completely unrelated note, we're slowly gaining control over our home. Our counters are visible and our dinner table is set up. The living room is pretty much a disaster area though, so don't worry, I'm not going all responsible and clean on you.

And while we're talking about weirdo, here are a few "get real" Chubby Vegan Mom moments from my adventure cooking dinner tonight. Please note I STILL haven't styled my bangs once in four posts now. Yay lazy Chubby Vegan Mom!

Is it really any wonder where my precious little P gets her quirky, endearing and completely off-the-wall crazy attitude from? I suppose it's true ... like mother, like daughter.


Getting down and dirty with Chubby Vegan Mom

Now that I've got your attention.

Don't worry friends, I won't mislead you.

I am not going to be getting physically down and dirty in this blog, nor will I be ripping the clothes off my body and wrestling some hot vegan chick in some mud.

What I AM going to do however, is give you a few snapshots on the kind of house we "keep" in the Chubby Vegan Clan, despite what my weekly Thursday cleaning stints might lead you to believe.

If you are someone who is allergic to absolute clutter and disarray, you should probably just switch to a different blog post now, because we're two weeks deep into a household move and you're going to see even more madness than you can probably handle.

Don't say I didn't warn you.

It's day three friends, and it's time to "get real."

Do you see those photos over there? No, that's not just a bad day. It's not our house after a playdate with 50 toddlers and we haven't been ransacked either.

That is the utter chaos in which we live. And on my really, really good days, I almost convince myself that one day I'm going to learn to embrace the chaos and see the beauty in it. One day, I'll wake up and be not just accepting of the calamity which enthralls my life, but I'll welcome it.

It's a fun lie I like to tell myself. In fact, sometimes, I even manage to persuade myself that I'll know I'm ready for a second child when I can fully give into the anarchy. I know that having a second child will tear away whatever remaining shred of control I have in my life, so on a good day I feel just on the edge of ready for pandemonium and on a bad day, well, I have one of my infamous Chubby Vegan Mom meltdowns. Yes, they're really as fun as they sound.

The worst part of it all?

I don't even know where these slightly obsessive compulsive tendencies came from. I've never been one who needs to "keep" a clean home, in fact, I could probably life without hangers, drawers or irons forever. But ever since Pearyn came into the picture, I feel like I have to maintain a certain level of housekeeping. (Trust me, I'm not trying to say I want to live in a bug-infested, pig sty, but does it really matter if every.last.toy is arranged in the exact.spot. I feel it should be)?

The worst part about my compulsion? It doesn't extend to every facet of housecleaning. It's like I do just enough that makes me sleep better at night, just enough that I don't want to pound my head against the cabinets when I get up and ready for work in the mornings, but not enough to actually qualify as "clean."

So there you have it. I'm a big, ole "laid-back," OK with chaos faker. And I'm a really bad faker at it anyhow.

My house is a mess. Most days, my life is too. While there might be an appropriate place for every item in our kitchen, I couldn't tell you where it was. We have pliers, nail clippers and canola spray within inches of each other. Sometimes I wash laundry twice because I can't remember if it's dirty or clean. I clean up all of Pearyn's fake kitchen food, but leave her random assortment of stuffed animals, balls and books strewn about the floor.

I'm kind of neurotic in every sense of the word.

But, I know this about myself and I embrace it.

And to be completely "real," I'll fess up to one more thing. We moved our kitchen table into the dining room (see photo two) and while I'd love to report that we've unpacked every frame and decorative item from those boxes that once occupied it's space, we haven't. We just shoved them into the third bedroom and decided to ignore them until next week when my brother, sister-in-law and their kids invade our home and need somewhere to sleep.

And don't even get me started on our first "family dinner" at the table. It's probably a little "too real" for anyone to handle.

How can I expect to deal with the calamity of life, when I can't control the food (and books) on my kitchen table. Pearyn wasn't in the mood to eat her dinner tonight. Instead, she decided to take this opportunity to play peek-a-boo with our newly placed Christmas table cloth, napkins and placemats.


Monday's "Let's be real" moment is brought to you by ...

Well, I didn't have to try very hard to find something to "get real" about today.

Monday's "Let's be real" moment is brought to you by my burnt cookies. 

The worst part? I was using the incredibly rare and elusive vegan butterscotch chip (that I ordered online forever ago from a tiny kosher store) for the first time.

That's at least 1/3 a bag of waste.

Now, if I weren't being real with you, this is probably the image you'd see, in addition to my super perfect recipe for the most amazing butterscotch chip cookies you've ever had.

Which, in all realness, isn't completely unreal because I think about 15 of the 25 cookies actually did come out as delectable as the one I'm eating looks. But the first batch, oh boy did those not look even remotely edible. They're basically the color of gingersnap cookies, except, you don't realize they're in fact not gingersnap cookies and just burnt ass, ruined butterscotch cookies until you've already bit into them and broken a tooth. OK, maybe that's a bit of stretch, seeing as how my husband ate at least five of these horrible cookies and didn't chip a tooth or break a bone. 

But still, they were really, really bad and under normal circumstances, I probably would have just faked a post about how wonderful they all came out because I'm clearly the most perfect, amazing and fabulous vegan baker in all of the world.

Yeah, that's real "real." Ha.

So instead, I'll regale you with my "get real" photo, the one featuring my first batch of black sheep butterscotch cookies. The one that would not only never, ever make the blogroll, but would probably fail to be mentioned because let's face it, I need y'all to believe that I'm the most perfect, amazing and fabulous vegan baker in all of the world.

And because you're probably still questioning exactly "how real I'm getting," you can fact check these photos with my first fake post from yesterday regarding how I have super cute bangs that I never, ever actually wake up and style, even though ALL my Facebook photos say otherwise. And I still rock ribbons, even though I'm a 26 year old and a mom! You might be asking yourself if I really wear a cupcake apron and the answer is yes, that's totally real. I figure my husband spent way too much on it in the first place (because, hello, it's pink, ruffly, covered in cupcakes and totally adorable) so I might as well wear the heck out of it. 

And if you want to get extra-real, I'm going to let you in on another Chubby Vegan Mom secret. I have to force myself to write amounts of ingredients down the first time I make something because after that, I never follow the rules again. I hate measuring things out (my husband calls it impatience, I call it kitchen creativity), so more often than not, my recipes are one, two or three time wonders (with a few one hit flops mixed in there too).

So there you have it friends. Not only does this Chubby Vegan Mom only do her hair and wear outrageously uncomfortable heels when she's out in public, but she also burns cookies too. 

Our Monday nights aren't anything special. We usually spend them in our favorite pajama pant (as soon as we get out of work of course), playing with Pearyn, making dinner and smothering her in kisses. And to be as real as possible, yes, I do rock my Christmas pajama pants year round because they're that.comfortable. 

High fashion, eat your heart out.


How much time do you spend faking?

Something struck a chord with me today (you know it's going to be a super insightful blog when I start it off with a cliche).

It was Sunday, our family day (I have a very strict no one works on a Sunday rule) and I was walking into the fourth grocery store I'd been to in a matter of 30 minutes. OK, I lied, it was the third grocery store because I made a desperate plea at a beer, wine and cigarette carryout about five minutes before. (I think the carryout had bread though, so it could for all intensive purposes, be a 'grocery store.')

In case you live in a state other than Ohio (or for some odd reason your world doesn't revolve around the Buckeye State), we're all in a tizzy because Yuengling (America's oldest brewery) has finally made it's way to us. Draft hit bars on Halloween and bottles were supposed to decorate store shelves on Saturday. So being the dutiful  wife that I am, I left the husband with my father to watch their football teams play while I drove   all over hell and back around looking for said Yuengling.

Anyway, so I was walking into Kroger, my fourth and final stop, when I was basically trying to hold back tears because my feet were literally raw. Since we've been enjoying brisk fall weather the last few days, I decided it was time to bust out my favorite faux-leather, super snazzy, slouchy boots. They're crazy cute, but they always give me crazy blisters if I wear them too much before breaking them in again. (Which is basically what I do every.single.time).

But they're too cute not to wear the hell out of, especially since I was rocking my dutiful wife pink and glittery Tony Romo Jersey and a pretty pink bow. I felt girly, what can I say. (My husband bought the jersey for me as a gag gift one Christmas, but it's now become superstition that I have to wear it or I curse Romo).

So despite the fact that I basically lost all the skin on my pinky toes, I have gigantic blisters eating through the balls of my feet, I decided I was not going to be that girl. You know, the one that everyone is thinking "God, why is she wearing those heels, doesn't she know it's don't dress like a hoochie mama Sunday?" Who does she think she's fooling? Well, apparently everyone, because I even had a mom comment on how I could be walking in such high heels without breaking my ankle.

It made me proud.

But then it made me wonder. How much time in a day do we spend faking something? Whether it's protruding confidence for that Mr. Right, pretending to know what the hell you're doing at work or simply convincing you're husband that you're super into his boring sports stories, how much time are we wasting pretending to feel something or be someone we're not?

So I'm challenging you Chubby Vegan Mom friends, to get real. In an effort to hop back on the blogging train (after my 14-day-still-lingering illness left me keyboard stricken) and be less fake, I'm going to dedicate my posts this week to real things happening in my real life.

The rules are simple. Either leave me a comment detailing something in your life that you want to be real about or go all out and write a post of your own about getting real and leave a link to it in my comment. Next Sunday (supposing I have people play along), I'll compile a list of all you fabulous people who were brave enough to "get real" and share it with the rest of my readers.

Feel free to even give that cute little photo in the top right corner of this blog a right-click with your mouse, a "save image as" and then rock it on your blog too, whatever. This will be a lot more fun if we can reach out to more people, so feel free to click that little "tweet" button in the corner and share with your tweeps. The more real we get the more fun we'll have.

I'll start today by coming clean about my "look." Sure, my current Facebook photo has the right balance of sassy, sweet, mysterious and a wee-bit of "she was just caught in the moment looking wistful with that whisk" carelessness to it, but it really took a good 20 photos or more to make me not look like an ogre.

And how about those oh-so-adorable bangs and pig tails I'm rocking? Well, for starters, I do love my bangs, but I don't like washing them every 10 minutes, so they usually end up clipped to the top of my head giving me a weird, spazzy, did she stick her hand in an electric socket look to it. And those pig tails might have a sort of sexy anime look to them, but my long strands are usually pulled into a messy side ponytail that looks more like Punky Brewster gone wrong. And just look at those big blue eyes and my mischievous smirk, it's so quirky yet intriguing, right? Well, fear not, I'm usually rocking an awkward "what's the funny smell look" and I suffer from left-eye-doesn't-open-quite-enough-so-I-wind-up-looking-drunk-itis. Don't worry though friends, at 26, I still rock ribbons, so that pink bow is 100% Chubby Vegan Mom.

So let's hear it ladies, gentlemen, family and friends, what do you want to come clean about?


I'm failing at a lot these days ...

I hope you'll all forgive me for falling off the face of the Earth for the last week.

For the entire month of October I was attached to this keyboard, uploading photos, recalling measurements and trying to convince all the other amazing vegans that I was as capable as they were at making delicious food.

It was a fabulous Vegan Month of Food.

And then November happened.

We moved all our belongings into a new home, cleaned the old one top to bottom and tried to settle back into our routine.

And then croup happened.

It started with Pearyn getting sick randomly in the middle of the night. We thought maybe it was just too much sugar, too much food too late or a little stomach bug.

We fed her vegan jello, mashed potatoes and crackers for days on end. We let her suck down an inhuman amount of juice, anything as long as it was a liquid. We let her lay around, using us as her personal couch as she watched countless Mickey Mouse Clubhouse episodes.

Somewhere around the third or fourth day the terrible cough started. The rattling in the chest, sounds like shes struggling to breath type wheeze kicked in. They told us she had croup, to give her a medicine to help keep her airway open and to make sure her fever didn't get too high. And here I always considered a 101 to be too high.

And then I got sick.

It started about the same time as Pearyn's, although I chalked mine up to the routine sinus-cold-flu-esque bug I always get when the weather changes. Ten days later and I'm pretty sure I'm dealing with a completely different beast. I'm still waiting to get better.

And then Ryan got sick.

Between cleaning, moving and being sick, life is really taking a lot out of the Chubby Vegan Clan. Every night after putting Little P to sleep and sending my husband off to bed, I stare at the computer screen waiting for something witty, charming and funny to come out.

And then nothing comes out.

Nothing happens.

So I apologize, dear friends. I am too sick, run down and boring to come up with something witty or clever for you.

Sometimes that's what life is. It's filled with heavy lifting, croup-suffering toddlers and 10-day-crappy-sicknesses (that show no signs of ending) that infect your loved ones.

I promise I'll be back to myself next week.

But for now, I'm going to be sick, whiny and having-a-hard-time-swallowing vegan mom.


And the VeganMofo winner is ...

First off, tens of thousands of thanks to everyone that entered! Dessert is one of my favorite things to veganize, so it's wonderful to see that so many others enjoy it too!

Enough with the blabbering.

The winner of a cookbook of their choosing is ... 


VeggieJead tweeted and left a comment on the blog asking for "the Joy of Vegan Baking! I'm trying to transition to an egg free and dairy free diet, so I think this book would be a great jumping off point!"

Congratulations! I will email you shortly for details!

Again, thanks to everyone for entering and for sticking around with Chubby Vegan Mom this whole VeganMofo.

I promise to give away something uber fun next month too!


Fab Five Friday ... the LAST VeganMofo

Well folks, it's been real.

It's been fun.

It's been real fun. (I know that's totally overused and cliche, but I'm in an overused and cliche sort of mood!)

We are literally just days away from the end of VeganMofo 2011 (I know I'm sad, who's with me?), which means we're also concluding our special VeganMofo edition of Fab Five Friday.

On a serious note, I'd like to just throw a huge thank you out to all the new followers who have taken an interest in this Chubby Vegan Mom and an even bigger one to all my fellow vegans who participated in VeganMofo. It's so flipping wonderful and inspiring to read about all the positive things other vegans are doing all around the world. So give yourself a pat on the back because we kick ass. All of us.

And now, without further ado, I present the conclusion of VeganMofo Fab Five Fridays!

No. 1) Barefoot and Frolicking presents us with a super yummy recipe for Apple flip flapjacks which use two of my favorite (and severely underused ingredients) -- buckwheat flour and quinoa! Not only do these fluffy disks look absolutely delightful, but they've actually got some bulk (aka really good for you) ingredients to them! Besides, who wouldn't benefit from a little extra buckwheat in their morning?

No. 2) Kohlrabi and Quince baited me with her love of tiny foods. Aren't all things better in miniature form? She focused her post on mini coconut cream pies (and even noted that apparently vegan meringue is possible, who knew?), which had ridiculously flaky and delicious-looking crusts.

No. 3) Cookies for alligator dedicated a post to another one of my favorite vegan tricks, Black bean brownies, proving yet again that we vegans are absolutely amazing at hiding good-for-you ingredients into not-so-good-for-you desserts. But don't worry folks, she doesn't actually feed any cookies to any alligators.

No. 4) I'm basically a new stalker of the My Peanut Butter's Tachy blog. She's a med student and a vegan, which happens to be a pretty sweet combo if you ask me. If you surf her page you might find some posts on what being a med student is like (even a vegan one), in addition to some super yummy recipes she tests out eats! Her most recent food audit on Slow cooker pumpkin white bean lasagna still has me drooling.

No. 5) The Awesome. Vegan. Rad. blog is literally everything it claims. It's awesome, vegan and rad at the same time. I couldn't help but notice an even more awesome, vegan and rad recipe for Ripoff Curried Mango Tempeh Salad. And if the crazy yummy photos don't do it for you, this chick's reasoning for spicing food up is pretty concrete ... "just because, duh." I couldn't agree more!

That's it y'all.

Flawless fudge (sans cruelty)

What can I say? I'm a sucker for vegan marshmallowey goodness, this recipe pays homage to vegan "fluff."

I've never made fudge in my life.

While I've tackled multiple layer cakes, cupcakes with fillings, frostings and ganache galore, even pies with homemade crusts, dizzying lattice weaves and complicated crumbles.

But I've never, ever made fudge.

Supposedly there's an art to it. A magical time that signifies the chocolate goop is ready to become a real, live block of fudge. But apparently if you so much as blink, this streak of fudge perfection will pass you by and you'll be stuck with a very unhappy, not delicious glob of burnt sugar and chocolate.

It's a really good thing I didn't read all of that "fudge lore" prior to making this fudge, because I might have been too scared to try it.

And then, I wouldn't have ended up with this ridiculously fabulous, almost sickeningly sweet pan of fudge.

Flawless Fudge
(Makes 9" baking square of fudge)
2 1/2 cups sugar (certainly can't go wrong with a recipe that starts like this)
12 oz bag of chocolate chips (I use Enjoy Life because I have the best results with this company)
7 oz marshmallow fluff (I use Ricemellow from Heaven for all my vegan fluff needs)
1/2 stick butter
1/4 cup almond milk (although I imagine coconut milk would have been fabulous too, just nothing too watery like rice milk)
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp salt

Grease a 9" baking square and set it off to the side.
In a large saucepan, stir sugar, salt, butter, almond milk and fluff on low heat until melted and blended.
Increase to medium heat and stir mixture into a boil (a consistent boil, not a "air bubble or boil" boil).
Boil slowly and stir for about 3-5 minutes (shouldn't go over 5 minutes).
Try the "soft ball test." This is that magical moment of fudge puberty I was referring to. Basically all you do is take a glass of ice water (minus the ice, you just want it that cold) and dribble a few drops of this fluff mixture into it. After letting it cool in the water for 10-15 seconds, you should be able to take it out of the glass and roll it into a small ball. If it seems too melty still, allow it to boil for the full 5 minutes (total, not additional).
Once the fudge passes the test, remove it from heat and stir in the vanilla and chocolate chips.
Stir until you can stir no more.
Pour into baking square and allow it to sit. (Throw it in the fridge if you're really impatient).

You can add nuts and all those goodies, but I prefer good old fashioned, clean fudge.


Bite-sized cheesecake (need I say more?)

I am a huge fan of any cheesecake-based dessert.

Whether it's actual cheesecake, cheesecake muffins or cheesecake-chunk ice cream, you can pretty much sign me up if the words "cheese" and "cake" are smushed together.

These little bite-sized cheesecakes were a lot easier to deal with than one big-ole-pan-o'-cheesecake, especially when it came to the little bite-sized, homemade (aka squashed by hand) graham cracker pie crusts.

Speaking of graham cracker crusts, do not try to go the easy way route on this recipe and use a premade one, you'll be sorely, sorely mistaken. This quick and (almost) painless method of a super rich, slightly sweet and salty graham cracker crust construction is seriously essential in relation to the over-indulgent cheesecake portion.

Bite-sized cheesecake
(Makes 24 mini-muffin-sized cheesecakes)
8 oz package of vegan cream cheese (we used Tofutti because we love it)
1/4 block of silken tofu (don't you skip this ingredient, it helps bind the fluffy deliciousness together)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 TBS lemon juice
1 TBS butter (it gives it a little richness)
Any kind of pie filling, fresh fruit or chocolate to drizzle on top

Pie crust Ingredients:
6-8 graham crackers (you may need a few more, it depends how good you are at crumbling them and how thick you like your crusts, you be the judge)
3/4 stick of vegan butter (softened)
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp salt (this adds a whole new dimension of flavor to the crust!)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Take a masher, a sealed ziplock bag or your hand and start crumbling up the graham crackers in a smallish bowl.
Once crumbly (I like my crust to have a little texture to it, that and I'm lazy) add in the sugar, salt and softened butter.
Mix together until easy to pack and slightly crumbly.
Line two mini-muffin tins with mini-muffin wrappers and then take about 1 1/2 tsp of graham cracker and pack it in the bottom of a mini muffin. We like our crusts a little thicker so I packed a little more. Again, you be the judge of this. Some smaller chunks are OK and will work, but try not to have too many or else the crust won't stick together.
In a medium bowl, whip softened cream cheese, sugar, butter and tofu together. Add in extract and lemon juice and blend (I use the whisk attachment on my mixer) until fluffy, light and hard to resist.

Spoon filling into muffin tins about 2/3 full and then bake in the oven on 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Take out and let the little bite-sized pieces of Heaven cool for AT LEAST an hour. They get super hot, super melty and gooey and need a little extra time to sit and regather their composure. Respect your cheesecake's needs for a little alone time. Read a book, eat some celery or build a sand caste, whatever. Just let these bad boys rest.

Top with your favorite pie filling, fresh fruit or chocolate sauce. I guarantee you won't be able to have just one!