Vegan pecan pie cookie (all the pie taste, sans work)

It's December. And it's wonderful because it means I get to bake and bake and bake - unapologetically. Because baking Christmas cookies has been a family tradition since I was a little girl, we've already got a pretty extensive cookie repertoire down. And because all of those cookies are not only utterly delicious, they remind me of the days we piled into my grandmother's kitchen, pressing out the Wise Men's camels and pushing hershey kisses into peanut butter blossoms, there isn't a lot of room to expand on said cookie list.

However this past Thanksgiving, we stumbled upon a cookie that might finally make the coveted list.

The pecan pie cookie.

Seriously, this is the most perfect cookie ever created. I don't know if it's just me, but I've never successfully baked a pecan pie. OK, I think it probably is just me, but still, sometimes you want pie, but you don't want to go to all the work to get said pie. Let's face it, pecan pie, is kind of the drama queen of the dessert world.

Here's the beauty about this little cookie. If you don't want to make your own pie crust, you don't have to, you can use a premade one. If you want to make your own pie crust, you can make it extra buttery, extra flaky, extra vanillay. You can do whatever your heart desires with this little cookie.

Just don't skip the chocolate drizzle. It's necessary - just trust me.

Vegan pecan pie cookies
(Makes two dozen)
For the crust:
3 cups all purpose flour
2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp salt
1/8 cup sugar
3 sticks vegan butter (we use Earth Balance)
1 cup vegetable shortening
2 cup cold water

For the filling:
1/4 cup (or half a stick) of vegan butter, melted
1 cup pecans (halved or chopped)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup corn syrup
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup vegan chocolate chips for drizzle (don't skip the drizzle!)

For the crust, mix together the flours, sugar and salt. Stir in butter, vegetable shortening and cold water. Once blended, divide it into two balls, cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15 minutes (makes rolling easier).

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a medium saucepan, combine vegan butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, maple syrup and salt. Cook on medium heat until the mixture starts to bubble. Stir in pecans. Remove from heat and set aside.

Take your pie crust out of the fridge and roll out until about 1/8-inch thick. Using a three-inch cookie cutter (I used one with fancy scalloped edges because it's the first three-inch one I actually found), cut out shapes. Combine dough and roll out as necessary, until you have 24 circles. Fold the edges around the tiny crusts, so the pecan filling can "sit" in them.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place crusts on sheet. Spoon filling onto cookie (not too much or it'll run over), just enough to "fill" the spot. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until edges are light golden brown. Remove and cool on a wire rack. 

Once everything is cooled, microwave vegan chocolate chips in a ziplock bag (only took about 30 seconds in our microwave). Cut a tiny tip off the corner of the bag and use this to drizzle over cooled cookies. Allow chocolate drizzle to set (I placed in the fridge for about five minutes).

Take them everywhere and show them off, because not only are they delicious, they're super cute too.

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The grinch of Thanksgiving

I need to get some things off my chest. 

Some things I'm not so proud of. 

Some things I've been struggling with. 

And some things I'm coming to cope with. 

The last six months have been frustrating, for reasons I can't really find words for right now. I've found myself withdrawn from things I generally love, people I love. I've found myself forcing smiles and forcing happy thoughts. But the truth is, no amount of force is going to make me really mean that smile. No amount of force is going to make me positive. 

I've been selfish. I've been trying to cover up all these messy feelings, and unfortunately, today, of all days, they came pouring out. That's the thing about these emotions; there doesn't seem to be a right way to feel them. If I let myself be jealous, be sad, be unhappy, then I feel like I'm being ungrateful for what I've been given, what I've worked for. But if I don't allow myself to feel these things, then I exhaust myself trying to NOT feel them. Do you know how hard it is to NOT feel something? 

And at the end of the day, I was still bitter. Still upset. Still jealous. Still sad. Regardless of whether or not I allowed myself to show these feelings, they were still there. 

And the truth is, I haven't really found the answer to my problem - I'm not even sure there is one. I know I need to relinquish control, I need to accept that I will end up with exactly what I'm meant to. I believe deep down there is a plan for everyone, and whether or not I understand the one I've been given doesn't mean it's a bad one.

I know all these things. I need to believe these things. And yet, I'm still struggling daily with the little nuances of everyday life. Of being human. Of being flawed. Of having lost. Of not receiving. 

Three months ago we parted ways with close friends, we'd "grown apart." There wasn't a day that went by up until two weeks ago that I hadn't thought about this event. What I said, what I could have said, what I should have said. And then, two weeks ago, I was sitting in my basement with my family, our best friends and their children. And everything was so easy. The kids were bouncing around each other, the men were talking about professional wrestling (I know, I know) and the women were talking about candles or something that smelled good. And it was wonderful. It was seemless. And it hit me. Things shouldn't be so hard. Friendships don't have to be so hard. People can grow and change and can fight and bicker, but at the end of the day, it shouldn't have been that hard. 

And finally, I felt a lightness. I understood why things had to happen and I feel comfortable and at peace with what happened. 

Today someone I love had amazing news. Wonderful news. Jumping-for-joy, eat-the-whole-can-of-whipped-cream, dance-with-no-music, shout-from-the-rooftop news. And while I was overwhelmed with SO much happiness for them, I found myself wallowing in pity for me. Not because they didn't deserve it. Not because I deserved it more. But because I was disappointed. So I cried. I let myself feel whatever I wanted and then I decided to be done with it. I would be happy for them. I AM happy for them. 

And just like I didn't understand three months ago what was happening, I need to just accept that in time this will all make sense too. And regardless, it will all be OK. 

And so today, after being the grinch of Thanksgiving, I'm thankful to find this peace. And I'm thankful for the people in my life who teach me these things, help me accept these things and love me just the same. 

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Creamy vegan alfredo and zucchini noodles

I probably should have been born Italian. I have an immense love for any and everything they put on their pasta and pizzas, not to mention, the pasta. THE pizza. I am a lover of all things carbs. It's not a healthy love. In fact, it's probably been a catalyst to what made me not quite as healthy as I should be. 

One of the things that rivals my love of carbs, is the ooey-gooey, melty, creamy, liquidy-heaven alfredo sauce that you PUT on said carbs.

Mmmm alfredo sauce.

I've been in search of making the ultimate vegan version of this sauce for years now and I finally feel ready to share it with y'all. This recipe is like eight years in the making folks. That's a lot of years.

I've tried the tofu-based alfredo sauce and couldn't get past the semi-sterile taste it seemed to have. It's not a secret that I don't really have a love affair with tofu, however. I also tried the sauce using oodles of fake cheese, which while it was better than the tofu version, still seemed to complicate the very delicate balance of garlic, cheesy, creamy, simple goodness that a truly amazing alfredo has.

Finally, between a little vegan cheese, a simple white sauce base and some nutritional yeast, we have mastered the perfect alfredo sauce at the Chubby Vegan household!

Because of my unhealthy obsession with carbs, we purchased a veggie spiralizer from Williams Sonoma and have been using it to make veggie noodles. And seriously, they're so delicious and this little gadget was so worth it.

We also added some sautéed tempeh to give it a little more bulk and protein. We have made this multiple times since, and it has yet to disappoint!

Creamy vegan alfredo sauce:
(Serves 6)
3 TBS vegan butter
6 TBS all purpose flour
1.5 tsp salt
2 cups plain almond milk
1/3 cup no chicken broth (we use Imagine brand)
4 slices vegan provolone cheese (We use Daiya)
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 TBS minced garlic
1 TBS Italian seasoning

Optional: Tempeh, cubed and sautéed in olive oil with a sprinkle of italian seasoning. Pasta or five zucchinis, spiralized and sautéed on medium heat for 10 minutes with some olive oil. 

Melt vegan butter in a small saucepan on medium heat. Once it's melted, stir in all purpose flour. Whisk until it makes a runny paste. Whisk in plain almond milk and no chicken broth. Add nutritional yeast, blend well.  

Tear up vegan cheese slices and stir them into the mix. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly and then lower heat to a simmer and stir, for three to four minutes. Add in garlic and Italian seasoning. The sauce will thicken as it cools. Pour over pasta, veggie noodles or anything, because it's delicious. Top with tempeh or some veggie chicken strips. 

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How massively important communication REALLY is

The last few weeks have been sort of demanding. Between some downright hateful responses to a story on the website I'm an editor for (not CVM), to some throw-down, blowout, blood-curling tantrums from my kiddos, I've found myself reflecting a lot on communication lately.

Or, more specifically, the lack of communication in our everyday life. Or, even more specifcally, the breakdown of our ability to openly, honestly and respectfully communicate with each other in this day and age.

How absolutely terrifying is it, that with the technology we have at our means, the Facebooking, emailing, tweeting, Instagraming, texting, Facetiming, Skyping, phones on us making us connected 24 hours a day, we seem to be communicating less and less?

And I'm not pointing fingers at technology. Of course I can see the way it has degraded our face-to-face communication; I see the parents playing on their phones, counting their Facebook likes, meanwhile their children are playing pretend and aching for their moms and dads to sit down on the floor and join them. Any one can see that certain technologies, when abused, can lead to poor communication. But it's unfair to blame Snapchat and Netflix for the way WE use them, they're simply providing a service. We're the ones deciding what to do with them.

When it comes to all the means we have at our disposal, shouldn't it be easier than ever to call up that friend and tell them you miss them? Tell them something is bothering you? Tell them you're not happy with the way something is going? Between email and texting and phone calls, shouldn't it be simple to work your problems out, even if you're too embarrassed to do it face to face? If we want to make lasting, impactful relationships, shouldn't you WANT to communicate openly with each other?

Through the relationships I've formed in my life, I've learned so much about what I bring to the table. I've also learned what my opportunities are. I have a very dominating personality. I like to be the center of attention and I like to voice my opinion. I often find myself close friends with people who aren't so ready to communicate in this manner. I met my best friend in college. We bonded over her braiding my hair and sharing our scathing experiences with the opposite sex. She is loud and boisterous when she's comfortable with you, but when she's in a large group, her voice can be silenced. Sometimes, I found myself silencing her unintentionally. She helped me realize how intimidating I am when I communicate, because of my loud opinions, don't-care attitude and verbose choice of words at times.

Since then I have actively worked to communicate better, to not step on the little guy. I ask my friends if they have a problem. I ask my husband if I'm not hearing him. I tell my kids I'm listening and understand their feelings. I try to go out of my way to ensure the people I truly love feel heard and comfortable talking to me. And yet, at the end of the day, I still had people near and dear to me telling me that "I just didn't hear their needs," "they were scared to open up to me" and "we were drifting apart."

I've struggled for a few months now to grasp how people can just throw in the towel on a friendship. What I could have done to communicate better. And the truth is, there's only so much YOU can do. If it's just you talking, just you reaching out, just you asking questions, then it's simply a one-sided conversation. If someone would rather talk at you than with you, well, that's not really communication, is it?

Take for example my problem with work. While several readers enjoyed the article, we found a small group perceived the article in a very negative light. They were deeply offended and voiced their opinions on any platform they could. The problem was despite their fervor, they simply weren't willing to communicate with us. They were content yelling at us for gravely insulting them, but when we reached out to find out what they wanted, what they would like to see, only one of them interacted with us. ONE person. Instead, the others continued to point fingers at us, for pointing ours at them.

You cannot communicate with someone who isn't willing to communicate with you.

As human beings, we need to connect. We need to hear each other. We should speak kinder to each other. Care more about each other. With all these amazing ways to communicate with each other, we should be reaching out more. When is the last time you told your best friend you loved them? You missed them? How often do you ask people how they are, how their day was, and really listen to the answer? When is the last time someone asked you how you were, and you were honest and open with them?

George Bernard Shaw said "the single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place."

Have you really been communicating?

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Vegan chocolate-covered strawberry cupcakes

It's no secret that I'm a fan of all things sweet.

I'm particularly a fan of sweet things in cupcake form. 

And because my husband can't actually stomach a strawberry in it's berry delicious form, I have to come up with new and clever ways if I want to make a sweet strawberry treat. 

So for Sweetest Day a few weeks ago (yes, I'm a sap that celebrates this holiday, I always have and always will), I decided to turn chocolate-covered strawberries into a more edible delight for my husband.

And if you're STILL not a fan of Chubby Vegan Mom on Facebook, then you missed out on some serious vegan cupcake food porn.

This recipe uses a combination of strawberry jelly (to ensure seed-free frosting) and strawberry puree to flavor the cupcakes! 

The best part of this cupcake is how fancy schmancy it is. With the help of a quick chocolate mousse, vegan chocolate chips and a little vegetable oil, this recipe packs loads of strawberry with the perfect hints of chocolate. 

They're a wee-bit labor intensive, but I promise, they're worth the TLC. 

Vegan chocolate-covered strawberry cupcakes
(makes 24 cupcakes)
Cake ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1.5 cups cake flour
1 cup strawberries (pureed)
1/4 cup applesauce
1 cup sugar (it's a cupcake, I didn't say it was healthy)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup vanilla coconut milk
2 tsps baking powder
Dash of salt
Optional 2-3 drops red food coloring (Our health food store sells a vegan, locally-sourced variety)

Chocolate mousse ingredients:
2  ripe avocados
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 vanilla coconut milk
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Frosting ingredients:
1.5 sticks vegan butter, at room temperature, we used Earth Balance
6 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup coconut milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup strawberry jelly, melted(I used some made for us by friends this past summer!)
Optional 2-3 drops red food coloring

Chocolate "shell" drizzle ingredients:
1 cup vegan chocolate chips
2 TBS vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl mix together all your dry ingredients (all purpose and cake flour, sugar, baking powder and salt). Take your one cup of strawberries and puree them in your high-power blender or food processor. Soften your vegan butter in the microwave (again, soften, not melt) and pour into a large bowl with the rest of the liquid ingredients (strawberry puree, applesauce, coconut milk, water and optional food coloring). Stir the dry ingredients into the liquid ingredients (about a cup at a time) and then blend with a mixer.

Line your muffin pan with cupcake wrappers and fill each a little over half full. Bake for 20-25 minutes, the edges will pull away from the pan some and you'll be able to stick a toothpick into the middle and pull out out cleanly. Once they're done set them aside to cool.

Now, for the frosting. In a large mixing bowl, blend together 1.5 sticks vegan butter (at room temperature), coconut milk, jelly and vanilla extract. (Add optional food coloring if you'd like). Blend in powdered sugar (about a cup at a time), until it's all mixed together. Refrigerate until use. 

For the chocolate mousse, puree the avocado and set aside. Mix together the cocoa powder and milk and add to the avocado. Stir in the sugar, and vanilla extract, blend well with a mixer. Store in the fridge until you're ready. 

Once your cupcakes have cooled, use your finger to make a small hole in the center of the cupcake. (It should be deep enough to fill, but not so deep that it goes to the bottom). Using a bakers bag (or a zip lock bag with the tip cut off) fill the center of the cupcakes with the chocolate mousse (it's possible depending on the size of your strawberries that you may need more, make it as you need it).

Next, pipe on the frosting (I use a bakers bag and a really big tip, like the extra large ones, because they cover more ground and I'm a busy woman!). 

Set cupcakes aside and in a microwave-safe bowl, melt chocolate chips and vegetable oil. Take out and stir until well combined. Using a fork, drizzle this chocolate all over the frosted cupcakes. Wait 10-15 minutes for the chocolate "shell" to set and then serve! (We kept these in the fridge for a couple days until they were all gone). 

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Dear stressed out mama: Just hang in there

It's been a trying week.

Heck, maybe it's been a trying two minutes. I'm not judging.

You want to throw in the towel. You are wondering what on Earth you got yourself into when you procreated this tiny little human being and doubts are swirling in your head — how did you ever think you'd be good at this whole motherhood thing?

Maybe your baby is two days old, maybe your baby is 14 years old. Regardless of how much time has or hasn't passed, one thing is certain: you are on the verge of breaking down and you're no longer questioning whether or not you're a terrible mother, you KNOW you are.

And it's not enough that you've just succumbed to some of the most berating, intimate and heart-wrenching feelings a mother can have. Now, you're going to slip into the next stage of self-loathing — the one where you think about how much better everyone ELSE is doing as a mother and how you're never, ever going to be able to compare to them. And how unfair that is, because you love your kiddo so much and they deserve so, so, so much more than you, the world's WORST mother, can provide.

But this is where I'm going to stop you. I want you to stop all those thoughts you're having and I want you to focus on that last sentiment. Your mind is in one of the most fragile states it could possibly be in — you feel like you might never stop crying, like you might snap, like you might really be done for good — but you're not actually worried about any of those things, are you? You're not worried about how all those other perfect mothers are going to whisper about you behind your back. You're not worried about having to tell your spouse that you might really be done for good.

No. Instead, you're worried about all of the damaging, scarring things happening to your beautiful, perfect baby because they are stuck with you as a MOM. You're worried about whether they'll be a loving and gentle parent one day to their baby, because maybe you raised your voice too much, let them cry it out too long. You're worried they'll be unable to face the challenges that come their way because you weren't able to be strong and sturdy for them.

You get that? You are worried about THEM, even when your mind is barely grasping at sanity, your mama-bear nature is still buried in there somewhere and is rearing her big ole' stubborn head.

And thank the Lord for that.

I promise you, you're not done. I promise you are not the worst mama in the whole wide world. I promise your child is still going to think YOU make the moon sparkle and the sun shine. I promise this will get easier. I promise this will not be your last battle, there will be many, many more. And I promise you will make it through those, too. Even when you really, really think this might be it, the crying might break you, the tantrums just might win, I promise they won't. I promise you'll remain strong. I promise you'll get through this. Really, you will. I know I'm some stranger on the internet, so you're probably thinking "she doesn't get it, she doesn't know how bad of a mother I really am, she doesn't know, it will not be OK."

It's going to be OK, mama.

The first two weeks of Braeburn's life, I stayed up all hours of the night, sobbing in the dark while I nursed my son. He was SO good at breastfeeding, it was a dream compared to the ordeals we faced with Pearyn. He was such a good baby. He had big, sweet cheeks and all he wanted to do was nuzzle my neck and eat and eat and eat until he passed out. And he wanted to do this every hour. Sometimes, just as I put one breast away, he was ready for another. And while my baby longed for my scent, my touch, I longed to just put him down. Just for an hour or two. I longed for it to be easier. I willed him to sleep more and nurse less.

And when none of those things happened, I sobbed.

I sobbed because I wasn't a good mother; good mothers were excited to be breastfeeding their big, healthy baby boys. I sobbed because my nipples were raw and bleeding, which was further evidence that I wasn't a good mother; good mothers knew how to unlatch their babies from their breasts so they wouldn't be sore. And I sobbed because my perfect little boy had the most imperfect mother.

As mothers, we have this bad habit of idly suffering as we struggle to live up to the standards we think every other mother is soaring past. When in reality, all of us are treading water at some point. In reality, all of us are barely getting by, at some point. In reality, stressed out mama, we've all been exactly where you are right now, at some point. And at some point, you'll be consoling another mother for this very same thing.

Last week was a struggle. Between working, coaching and trying to be everything to everyone, all while smiling, mind you, I found myself down and out. I just needed a minute to myself. Just a break. A quiet, simple minute where I didn't have to think and I could enjoy my coffee in peace. So I hid in my closet. That's right. I'm a 29-year-old mother and I hid in my closet from my two-year-old son. He was riving and screaming and five-minutes deep into a tantrum to end all tantrums and I hid in a closet from him for two minutes so I could take one sip of my coffee without tasting my own salty tears. And then I took a deep breath, put my best mommy face on and picked my child up off the hallway floor just five feet from my closet. We were both worse for the wear, but that wasn't because of my two minute coffee break, it was because we'd been feeling this way for a while and we just had to get it out.

It doesn't ever get easier. You don't just unlock the magic key to solving all of your baby's problems. And even when you're doing an absolutely phenomenal job as a mother, you still think you're failing. No matter how much you're rocking it as a mom, you won't ever realize how amazing you really are.

I promise you, stressed out mama, you ARE amazing. Even if you feel like the world just ate you up, regurgitated you and then chewed you up some more, you ARE amazing.

And this moment you're in right now, where you don't think you're good enough or you're not sure if you'll make it out alive, it's just a moment and it will pass. And even though another one will inevitably come, it will pass too.

And somehow, you'll be on the other end of this letter.

And you'll be telling another stressed out mama that she's going to be OK. That she really is the absolute best mama in the whole wide world for her baby.

Just hang in there.

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Vegan broccoli beer cheese soup ... it's legit folks

The last week has ushered in some serious fall weather. Between the crisp, wispy breeze flowing in through our still-open windows, the leaves which are anything but crunchy (thanks to all the rain we've been having) and the bright yellows, oranges and red dotting the landscape, autumn has taken October by storm.

So in my natural must-eat-according-to-season fashion, I've already started concocting delicious soups and stews to welcome the cool weather with a big, giant, chubby-vegan hug.

Last week, after three straight days of rain and a pleasantly chilly trip to the pumpkin patch once it finally cleared out, I decided the perfect meal to thaw our stomachs with would have to be broccoli and cheese soup.

Here's the thing about broccoli and cheese soup though. It's been done. About a quadrillion times. And only about two different ways. I mean, let's be for reals here. It's a good soup, it's warm and cozy and the kind of comfortable you feel sleeping in your childhood bedroom when visiting home ... but it's not something you want to do all the time. Am I right?

I mean let's be honest, the best part about growing up and having your own home and bedroom is that you don't have to make the bed every single day if you don't want to. In all actuality, I think we make our bed two days a week.

So when coming up with an updated recipe for broccoli and cheese soup, I decided to spice it up a bit. I grabbed a deliciously light IPA (that's a beer in case you're not privy, which I only am because my husband and his friend have eccentric tastes in beverages), and decided to toss it in, I mean why not?

And let me tell you, the results were superb. This soup is creamy (thanks to some yellow potatoes), somehow still lightish feeling, uses one of my favorite veggies ever, the vegan "cheesy" flavor hugs your body in the most perfect way and the added IPA gives you a nice little zip to let you know it's not your run-of-the-mill soup.

Vegan broccoli beer cheese soup
(serves 6-8)
2 cups plain almond milk
2 cups vegetable broth
6 ounces of your favorite ale
5 cups broccoli florets
2 cups yellow potatoes, diced
1 TBS olive oil (for sautéing)
1 medium sweet onion, diced
2 TBS minced garlic
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 cups Daiya cheddar cheese
Vegan bacon bits to garnish (optional)

In a large stockpot, bring plain almond milk, vegetable stock, six ounces of beer and broccoli florets to a boil. (Once things are boiling bring it down to medium-high heat to keep things cooking). In a smaller pot, bring two cups of diced potatoes to a boil. Once these are cooked (about 10-12 minutes later), puree this in a food processor. While these are heating up, take a skillet and saute the diced up onion and garlic with some olive oil on medium heat until light brown (this took about 10 minutes for us). Add this to the stock pot. Stir in salt and pepper. Mix in potato puree. Stir in Daiya really well until melted. Cook soup for another 10-15 minutes, until broccoli reaches desired consistency (we like ours smooshy). Serve with a monster salad or some little crunchy breads. 

Eat and enjoy tomorrow, too.

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Warm bread salad (it's real and it's delish)

Something momentous happened last night.

I ate a salad. And I was satisfied. And warm. And content.

I never feel that way after eating salads.

Even when I eat big salads with chick peas and loads of veggies, I still find myself famished a few hours later. I don't know if it's just my mind playing tricks on me or if my stomach wants to keep its few extra pounds, but I always want more more more after I eat some cold greens.

In an attempt to declutter my house, I got rid of all these Food Network magazines I'd been holding onto. I love using their weeknight meals for ideas to veganize, so I tore out a bunch of them and recycled the 10 months of recipes I'd been clinging too.

I came across a recipe for "warm bread salad" and almost tossed it into the recycling bin as well. But I decided hey, let's keep it, maybe it'll make a good fast and easy meal.

I have to be honest here, I didn't actually look at the recipe at all. It called for stale bread and frying peppers and cheese, things which I don't even know if we have in our area stores, so I just made up our own warm bread salad.

And it was warm. And delicious. And I didn't want to eat 14 cupcakes after it.


I encourage you to add this to the mix - you won't be disappointed! These were the add-ins we used, but the beauty of this is how simple it is to customize to whatever you're in the mood for or have on hand!

Warm bread salad
(serves four)
One head romaine lettuce
One head Boston lettuce
2 carrots
1/2 a medium onion
5 small sweet peppers
1 ready-to-bake baguette of whole grain bread (we had the skinny long kind)
1 jar large black olives (use as many per salad as you'd like)
1/2 block Daiya jalapeño garlic wedge of cheese
Balsamic vinegar (enough to drizzle)
Dressing to top (we used a balsamic one as well)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Tear bread into small pieces and place on a greased baking sheet. Cut sweet peppers into pieces (ours were about the size of a quarter) and place on baking sheet. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until it begins to crisp up and brown. Dice up all the lettuce and onion. Shred two carrots and mix all these together in a large bowl. Chop up 1/2 block of Daiya and set aside. Once salad bread and peppers are ready, serve salad and place bread, peppers and Daiya on top. Enjoy. And be satisfied. FROM A SALAD!

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Being thankful

Close to a year ago, when we first moved into our current home, we finally had enough space to have a real, grown up, dedicated dining room. (Who am I kidding, regardless that I'm just a few months shy of turning 30, very few things in my life are truly "grown up.")

We barely had the dishes unpacked before we started sitting down to dinner as a family. And because we closed on our first home EVER the day before Thanksgiving, we spent our actual holiday eating cold stuffing and some variety of Tofurky while sitting on the dirty kitchen floor of the house we were leaving behind.

We had so so so much to be thankful for, but we couldn't find the time to really BE thankful. We were busy sticking all those things we were thankful for into boxes, taping them up and then moving them around. And so even though it's not Thanksgiving, we have a habit of ending our day by talking about everything we're thankful for.

Before I settled into bed tonight, my daughter cozied into my arm and told me how thankful she was to get to snuggle with me at bedtime. And suddenly, those few nights a week I moan and groan because she should be spending far more nights in her OWN bed and not in the "big bed" (aka, my husband and I's king-size bed that is usually inhabited by one of our offspring or a furball more than it's not), they didn't seem to matter. Because it's not going to be like this forever. She's not going to want to snuggle with me forever.

As we huddled under the covers, she asked me what I was thankful for. I paused for a moment as I recalled the events over the past week; it was certainly a trying one. It wasn't hard to nail down the culprit, but it was the compilation of lots of little things that made everything seem bigger than it had to be. So I told her I was thankful for our family. For her daddy, her bubby, our fur babies and of course, her.

And she sat up, grabbed my face and told me she was thankful for her family too. But that wasn't all. She was thankful for everyone in her whole WORLD.

I asked her what she meant by her whole world and she looked at me quizzically. How could I NOT know who her whole world was. So she told me. It meant all her memaws and papaws, her aunts, uncles and cousins, Kara (our phenomenal high school babysitter), Kenzie and Gavin (oh and of course their mommy and daddy too) and all the people at her school, all the people who help her at gymnastics and mommy's best friend Chelle who came to visit (because she makes mommy smile a lot).

Isn't it amazing how something so simple and easy to a preschooler can be so much deeper to you? I started to realize how thankful I should be for the people in MY world, rather than bogged down with the anxiety some things might bring. Being a mother and wife is difficult, but they're also the two roles that keep my world spinning. And they've made me so much closer to the other people in my world. I have such a large, wonderful world of people. From my own family to my work "family," I need these people in my day-to-day life. Not just to get tasks done or for babysitting, but because they fill a little piece of my world. And my girlfriends, they're so, so, so much a part of my world that without them I'm not sure it would remain spinning. And surprisingly, the group of girls I'm blessed to coach. Sure, I want to pull my hair out from time to time because they can't seem to see the amazing talent they have, but you know what? They keep me young. And they make me laugh. And they keep me on my toes. In the best possible way.

Our worlds are made up of so much more than just jobs, houses, bills or things that we have to do. The more diverse and big and welcome we make our world, the more amazing things we'll have to be thankful for.

Or at least, that's what my daughter seems to think. And I can't help but wonder if she's the teacher and I'm the one who should be learning.

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Vegan butterscotch coconut thumbprint cookies

Happy FIRST day of FALL!

Little factoid about me? Fall is hands down my absolute favoritst time of year. SO much my favorite that I actually make up words to describe how utterly fantabulous it is. (It's OK if I make up words, I was an English major, so when we graduate we receive a card that allows us to do this).

No but for reals, we're all giddy with excitement for the changing colors, the fall smells, the bonfires, football games with friends, haunted hayrides and pumpkin-infused everything!

But before we bust out all things pumpkin, which, well, we've done a lot around here, I've got one fabulous cookie up my sleeve that says farewell to summer and all of its awesomeness, while welcoming fall with a warm bear hug.

Now there's one trick about this recipe. In order to give it the shazam it needs, you're going to have to hop on the internet and buy something you may not have bought in a very, very long time. Vegan butterscotch chips. Yes, they exist, yes they're worth the $5 price tag for a 10-ounce jar. Don't overthink it. I usually order these with a bit batch of stuff from VeganEssentials when getting all my Christmas Cookie needs (yes, I do that in like, September. I'm prepared!)

The butterscotch is essential in this recipe as it plays off the subtle coconut notes and then gives in to a chocolate drizzle in the most perfect way EVER. Seriously, you're so welcome for this awesome little cookie.

Vegan butterscotch coconut thumbprint cookies 
(Makes 24 smallish, but oh-so-good cookies)
1/2 cup vegan butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup applesauce
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
2/3 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
10-ounce jar vegan butterscotch chips
1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, cream together softened vegan butter, sugar and applesauce. Add salt, baking powder and coconut flakes. Stir in flour. Roll cookie dough into one-inch balls and place on a greased cookie sheet. Squish them down a little bit and make an indent in the middle with your thumb (they should still be about 1/2 inch thick or a little less when you are done with them, don't squish them flat!) Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the edges turn golden. 

Allow to cool on a rack. Once cookies are cool, melt the vegan butterscotch chips in a microwave-safe bowl. Cook on small increments, taking out and stirring frequently (you don't want to overcook them!) Using a small spoon (or a baby one if you have it handy!), smooth melted butterscoth chips into the cookies' indentations. Allow to cool. 

To give these cookies some serious pizzazz, melt vegan chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl (the same way you did the butterscotch chips). Spoon melted chocolate into a ziplock bag and cut a small tip off one corner. Squeeze chocolate over cookie in a zigzag pattern. 

Enjoy. Share. Impress. Hug fall. These cookies do it all. (I also use my English degree to rhyme). 

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Soy. Carbs. Dairy. Meat. Plastic water bottles left in the hot car. High fructose corn syrup. Dirty produce. Cooked food. Vitamins. Microwaved foods. Your cell phone. Foods with more than five ingredients. Sugar. Caffeine. Diet soda. The chemicals in your cleaners. The chemicals in your make up. Bug spray. Medicine. Birth control. Not taking birth control. Not having babies. Protein shakes. Energy drinks. Fatty foods. Greasy foods.

If you listen to someone somewhere, one of these things is going to kill you. Thanks to Dr. Google and its magical powers, we're using the internet to not only diagnose our kiddos fevers and coughs, but to become doctors, research scientists and dietitians.

Every once and a while a few of you appear on my blog. Letting me know "why I'm overweight" and what precisely I'm doing wrong (because clearly, there's no way I am in control of how I look or am choosing to look like this. Why on Earth would anyone want to be on the thicker side?) Thankfully, the self-proclaimed nutrition experts are there to let me know where I went astray. Clearly, it's the fake soy meat we eat. And the vegan cheese. The vegan cheese that's free of that evil, evil soy, but contains other items that MUST be dangerous. Or sometimes, it's because I splurge when I'm out at a restaurant and have a Coke. Don't I realize what soda is going to do to me? Thankfully, you're there, trusty internet gurus, letting me know the DEEP, DEEP error of my way.

There's probably something you should know about me. I'm not a fan of people who assume things. Particularly, I don't like people who assume things about my life, or anyone else's for that matter, barring they don't actually know the person.

Something else you should know about me? I AM a big fan of MODERATION. Recently, I've had a few naysayers on my blog calling me irresponsible for having recipes with soy-based meats in them. I am by no means a nutritionist, dietitian or doctor. I don't pretend to be. Most of you aren't either. So let's leave it to the professionals shall we?

One reader actually informed me they can tell that I'm unhealthy because of my eyes and that I don't have a "glow." While I appreciate the concern, I'm going to continue to listen to my doctors (who beg to differ on your opinion of healthy) and not some "anonymous" poster. If you don't like soy meats, don't use them. I will admit this: in our household, we do eat the occasional veggie dog from time to time.

We don't eat seven of them a day and then have some fake chicken nuggets followed up by some soy burgers. That's not because I think soy meats specifically are going to kill me, it's because I think consuming, using too much of anything isn't good for you. Kind of like carbs. I love me some carbs. But if all I ate every single day was carbs, I'd be incredibly unhealthy. If someone sat around eating strictly meat all day for the rest of their life, their cholesterol may not be the best. Too much of anything is usually not a good thing. MODERATION.

Take for example our meal plan this week: we had mushroom barley soup and pretzel rolls for two days, lentil loaf with a veggie and mashed potatoes, an eggplant stirfry, big salads with chick peas and one day we had vegan meatball subs. For lunch, we had peanut butters and jelly, big bowls of broccoli or cauliflower, three bean salads and one day a veggie dog (that did not fall on vegan meatball sub day). Breakfast consisted of lentil sausage links, oatmeal, bananas or coconut yogurt. So out of 21 possible meals in the week, we consumed a fake "meat" product for two of them. TWO.

So please, please don't try to tell me why I'm chubby. Or that I'm "endangering" my children by letting them have a veggie dog. Instead, why don't you let ME do the talking about my life and if you like it, you can hang out and join the fun. And if you don't like it, you can move along to "helping" the next person.

P.S. It's the two miles on the treadmill and my morning coffee that are making me chubby, I know it!

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Kickstart your fall with this vegan lasagna soup!

In case you haven't heard of it, September is the Vegan Month of Food! For the last three years I've participated in it and it has been a blast. Unforunately this year, because of vacation, softball, work, home life, it just wasn't in the cards for me to sign up and give it my all.

But fear not - I've still got some killer recipes headed your way that I've been holding onto for a while. I kicked it off with a killer recipe for vegan maple butter bacon cupcakes, which, you might want to run out and make now if you haven't already. Because they're that good.

This week I'm going to let you in on my latest secret - vegan lasagna soup. You may not know this about me, but I'm a fan of making soups out of complicated casseroles and dinners. What can I say? I adore lasagna, but all that layering, saucing and noodling just makes me go bonkers. So after having a lasagna craving for the last few weeks, I decided it was time to address it.

And because fall is just a week away, this might just be the perfect hearty soup to help you welcome it's perfect temperatures, hoodies, leggings and cute boots with open arms (Warning: I'm pro-leggings. As long as you've got something to long on top to cover those unseemly lines, I say rock the leggings like pants all ya want. And I do).

This soup is super delicious. And hearty. And so so so filling. And I promise you'll want to make it again. And again. And maybe again.

Vegan lasagna soup
(serves 8-10)
1/2 box (or 8 ounces) of your favorite pasta
1 LARGE (we're talking the 28oz variety) can of diced tomatoes
1 24-oz jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce (or your own homemade recipe, whatever floats your boat)
2 cups white sauce (see recipe below)
1 package of Gimme Lean vegan sausage
1 8-oz package of mushrooms (white or baby bella, whatevs)
1 large sweet onion, diced up
1 small bag frozen carrots (cut in coins)
1 bunch of kale, stems removed and torn into bite-size pieces
1 big can (46 oz) vegetable juice, we opt for the low sodium variety
1 cup vegan mozzarella cheese (we used Daiya)
1 TBS Italian seasoning
1 TBS minced garlic
Splash of olive oil for sauteing

White sauce ingredients & instructions:
2 TBS vegan butter
4 TBS all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
2 cups plain almond milk

Melt vegan butter in a small saucepan on medium heat. Once it's melted, stir in all purpose flour. Whisk until it makes a runny paste. Whisk in plain almond milk. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly and then lower heat to a simmer and stir, for three to four minutes. The sauce will thicken as it cools. Prepare first and set aside.

Soup instructions:
In a large pot, bring vegetable juice to a boil. Add pasta and reduce to medium heat, stirring consistently so the pasta doesn't stick. Add carrots. Tear Gimme Lean vegan sausage into small chunks and add to pasta and vegetable juice. Try to keep your hands damp as it helps to keep sausage from sticking to you.

In a large skillet, saute kale and garlic in a little olive oil on medium heat for five-seven minutes. Add mushrooms and cook another five minutes. Add entire contents of this skillet into soup mixture. Take your white sauce and add it to the soup mixture along with spaghetti sauce. Add diced onion and Italian seasoning. Allow to simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add in one cup of Daiya vegan cheese. Cook for another five minutes and you're DONE!

You can "garnish" this soup with more Daiya shreds, vegan parm or vegan ricotta (Tofutti makes a pretty solid one!), or serve all by it's lonesome and prepare to have your socks rocked.

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Pear Bear's LAST first day of preschool

It's hard to believe my little girl is in her last year of preschool. There are some days I look at her and can't quite wrap my brain around how we made this amazing, perfect, funny, sweet, witty, beautiful little human being. I mean seriously, how did we?

And how is it even remotely possible that she's four? Next year I'll be shipping her off to kindergarten, and after that - like real life school. I'm SO not.ready.for.this.

It's times like this when it really starts to hit you. Do my kiddos rattle my patience every now and again? Of course, that's what little kids do. They love hard. They play hard. And they go super hard when driving you bonkers.

They do everything HARD ... which is what makes them simple and a complete enigma all in one.

Pearyn was excited to "go back to school." Sure, she's been attending her regular sessions throughout summer anyhow, but this is the time of year when she gets another "teacher" and goes to a "classrom" for two hours a day.

We like to get her pumped up for school, so we take her "back to school" shopping and let her pick out a new outfit, some new super awesome markers, crayons and a coloring book or two. What can I say, I'm a sucker for new school supplies. Even before I had kiddos, I still went "back to school" shopping for notebooks and pens, mainly because I just really dig that stuff.

The night before she didn't want to go to sleep - of course. So our "first day of preK" got off to a slightly bumpy start. It didn't help that being the obsessive mom that I am, I was up until some obscenely late time trying to put together Pear's pinterest-inspired back to school info board. It's super cute, wasn't THAT hard to put together, I just obsessed over the writing a lot more than I should have.

Not sure what I'm talking about? You can do it with whatever you want, but I used a dry erase board, then you make a bunch of cute pictures and write the date, school, grade and your kiddos name, not to mention tons of awesome facts about them (like what they want to be when they grow up or their favorite food).

Then, each year, you ask them the same stuff and watch how their answers evolve. Cute, right?

Once we finally stopped taking photos and got her to school (seven minutes late, NATURALLY), it was all a blur. She got to meet the class pet (a fish!), find her name to put up on the wall and then had to hang her bag up, wash her hands, conquer the world, the usual.

Regardless, she had an awesome day and was beaming when I picked her up. This little girl adores learning in pretty much any capacity, except for T-ball, don't try to teach her T-ball.

For her lunch she wanted a vegan cheese sandwich, in the shape of a school bus, of course, but it was so worth it to hear her rave about how cool it was and how she'd eat anything if it was in the shape of a bus.

She's already finished her second week and is coming home asking to do more. She wants to do chores to earn an "allowance" and she wants to learn to read everything, from books to the time. It's amazing to be able to see the different stages of learning both Pear and Brae are in. They're equally inquisitive and absorbing everything they possibly can, and yet, they're still more than two years apart.

Pearyn has also moved onto gymnastics, after a little trial and error we've found a place we really like, so I guess the rest is up to her! She's so excited to be doing her "big girl things."

I just wish I could keep her my little girl for a little while longer.

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Vegan maple butter bacon cupcakes, your next party touchdown

So we're doing something different this year in the Chubby Vegan abode. Last year, both Chubby Vegan dad and I did a fantasy football league, but they weren't together and he was far more serious than I was. This year, we've started a couples fantasy football league amongst our friends and while it just started, I have a feeling it's going to be quite the ride. 

For those of you not consumed by football or interested in it merely because you want to beat all your favorite couple friends, last night was the opening game of football season.

Seattle and Green Bay faced off, which mean my running back, kicker and defensive special team were all playing. Needless to say I ended up with some pretty sweet points.

And not only were my fantasy points sweet, the vegan maple butter bacon cupcakes I made to celebrate the beginning of football season surpassed that.

Let me repeat that one more time: vegan maple butter bacon cupcakes.


Yeah, don't tell anyone, but I'm not really sure if I actually like football, or if I just like an excuse to bake delicious treats, partake in some pumpkin adult beverages and get together with friends.

Needless to say these bad boys were a hit.

And just in face you're not a football fan either, I give you full permission to makes these cupcakes JUST BECAUSE. (Not that you need permission. Or a reason. JUST DO IT!)

Vegan maple butter bacon cupcakes
(makes one dozen)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 tsps baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
5 tablespoons vegan butter (I used Earth Balance), softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp maple extract
1/2 cup applesauce
1/4 cup almond milk
1/4 cup pure maple syrup

Frosting ingredients:
1 stick vegan butter (I like Earth Balance)
1 3/4 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 TBS vanilla coconut milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
(You can add a few drops of food coloring if you want, we purchase ours from a nearby natural parenting store, it's locally made, natural and vegan)

Candied 'bacon' bits: 
1 ounce Bac'Uns (vegan bacon bits)
2 TBS pure maple syrup
2 TBS brown sugar
sprinkle of cinnamon

Cupcake directions:
Preheat oven 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl, combine sugar, flour, baking powder and salt. Stir in almond milk and applesauce. Add vanilla and maple extract. Stir in softened vegan butter and maple syrup. Whip with hand or stand mixer on high for two minutes. Pour into cupcake wrappers and fill a little over half full. Bake for 20 minutes. 

While the cupcakes are baking, in a small skillet on medium heat, saute the vegan bacon bits, maple syrup, brown sugar and cinnamon. Stir frequently and cook for three to four minutes. The mixture will be gooey and smokey smelling.

Frosting Directions:
Soften the vegan butter (soften, not melt) and then in a medium bowl, mix butter, vanilla coconut milk and extract. Blend in powdered sugar with a hand mixer. Stick in the fridge to thicken up for an hour. 

Once the cupcakes have cooled, either spread or pipe on the frosting. Top with the candied bacon bits. Listen to everyone rave about how delicious they are! 

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Chubby Vegan Family: the vacation edition

"Want a towel on a chair in the sand by the sea, want to look through my shades and see you there with me. Want to soak up life for a while in laid back mode ... no boss, no clock, no stress, no dress code."

OK. So maybe my work dress code is pajamas. And I actually really like my boss. But the no clock? The no stress? The towel and the sea? Sign me up. 

You might have noticed things have been a little quiet on the Chubby Vegan front for the last few weeks. We went away on a fabulous vacation with our friends. It was exactly what we needed to end our summer of fun. Things didn't go according to plan, but when do they? At the end of our trip, it was one we'll look back on with laughs, smiles and ultimately no regrets. 

We rented a beach house on Seacrest Beach. It was located a few miles shy of Panama City Beach on the panhandle. If you haven't had the chance to visit this side of Florida, I highly, highly recommend it. We've been to a few different parts now and the beaches are simply magic. I know, I know, that's a really loaded statement, but I absolutely adore this area. There's always a breeze, even when its a jillion degrees out. The sand on the beach is like white. Like, so white and pretty that Pear made the comment "I didn't know the sand could look like snow!" And the water is flawless. It's that perfect hue of crystally teal, deep blue and clear. It should be known that I'm actually NOT a huge fan of the beach (give me some mountains and snows any day), so when I say I could retire to a place like this, you know it's totally legit. 

And when we weren't at the beach, we were chilling by one of the four massive pools we had at the community our beach house was located in. It was a picture perfect set up. There was a large 'L-shaped' pool that two smaller kid-size pools attached to and at the bend of the "L" there was a massive round pool with a fountain. Every day we had somewhere new to explore and we shared the pool with maybe four or five families. While we were there we got into a nice routine. We'd go to the beach in the late mornings, the men would retire to the beach house and watch golf or football while the babies napped and the ladies (Pearyn included) sat poolside. I walked away with a pretty nice tan, but we basically discovered I birthed a bronze goddess. Seriously, Pearyn had the most impecable tan when we left the beach, and she had no desire to even get one! Not to mention the platinum blonde streaks she got from all her fun in the sun.

We got to explore while we were there too. We went shopping on the strip, ate at an amazing restaurant on the beach with the kind of view you'd see in a movie and went on an ocean "cruise." We got to see sea gulls, dolphins, jelly fish, starfish, all the awesome things you should see when you go to a beach! We were lucky to see a family of dolphins (I don't know what that's called) playing and swimming with each other. They did back flips and blew water out of their blowhole. All of this - from a boat - in the middle of the ocean. We picked sea shells from the shore, we built sand castles and we were able to decompress and just "be." The men went golfing and the ladies had a spa day, complete with a girl's night. 

We were even able to find plenty of vegan options to eat. If you're ever in the area, I have to name drop Runaway Island. It was the restaurant on the beach. While it had virtually nothing "vegan" on the menu, we were able to explain our lifestyle to the chef and waiter and they pieced together a ridiculously delicious mean. Fresh veggie tacos with crunchy sweet soy green beans. They were mouthwatering.

A lot of people are always surprised to find out the other family with us wasn't vegan - contrary to popular opinion, we're perfectly cool with nonvegan families. We don't go all "RAWR" and red paint on people who don't follow our lifestyle, that's silly. And we don't expect them to eat like us "out of respect" for us. We CHOSE to be vegan, it's not something we were forced to do. And it's something we realize not everyone wants to do either. It's silly, and quite frankly, it sends a terrible message out to nonvegans if they think we're keeping tabs on them and what they are or are not eating. On the nights we stayed at home and cooked, we made meals that were customizable depending on what everyone wanted. We grilled out, the nonvegan made potato soyrizo hash - not because it was vegan - but because it's what we had on hand for breakfast and it was DELICIOUS. 

All and all, it was a vacation I couldn't have planned if I wanted to. We were blessed to do so many wonderful things - from laying in the sand (sometimes even with a cold beer!), to swimming in the pool, to hanging out with sea creatures in their habitat. And while Pear wasn't the most enthralled with the ocean, Braeburn got to see it for the first time. And seriously, his reaction, made it worth the 12-hour drive and then some. If you don't believe, watch for yourself!

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Load up your lunch with this AWESOME (Beanfields!) giveaway

Last month you may or may not have seen my review on the vegan chip brand "Beanfields." (AKA the most magical vegan chip in the Universe). If you didn't see it yet, you should go read it, but whatevs, I'll give you a quick low down on the company again!

Beanfields is a family-owned snack company that wants to make good food for good people! They want to leave a lighter foot print, all while making a delicious VEGAN chip. They have seven ridiculously amazing varieties: unsalted, sea salt, salt and pepper, barbecue, pico de gallo, RANCH and NACHO!!!!!  Yeah, you'll basically never think about Doritos again, they're that good.

In addition to be utterly delicious, they're also way more stacked than your run-of-the-mill chip. They're also a complete protein (hello beans and rice in chip form), they've got more protein and fiber in one ounce than a tortilla chip, potato chip or egg, and they're FREE of the eight most common allergens. Oh, and did I mention they're CERTIFIED gluten free too? Yeah, so you basically have no reason not to run out and by these in hoards. For reals, HOARDS.

They also come in two tasty sizes: the "shareable" 6oz bag and the pack-in-your-lunch 1.5 oz bag. We sent Pearyn off to preschool with a small bag and they were more than enough for her to snack on and have a little leftover for an afterschool tidbit.

And because Beanfields is such an awesome company AND you're getting ready to send your kiddo (or yourself!) back to school, they have generously and graciously offered to let me host a giveaway for one lucky reader to receive their very own CASE (yes, you read that right, 24 1.5 oz bags of these awesome chips) for FREE!

Seriously, you have no excuse to not blow up social media with this killer giveaway, because if you haven't tried these chips yet, you need to. And if you have tried them, then you know you want more.

To enter, simply follow the instructions through the Rafflecopter widget! You can earn more entries by liking Chubby Vegan Mom on Facebook, Twitter, leaving a comment on the blog about what YOUR favorite school lunch was and by tweeting it out!

  a Rafflecopter giveaway


Let's stop the parent bashing already

I've said this before and I will more than likely say it again (and again and again): You are the absolute BEST parent you will ever be, BEFORE you have children.

There's a growing trend on my Facebook friends list. An imaginary, but very evident and very clear line is starting to be drawn.

It's the non-parents vs the parents.

And folks, let me tell ya, one of us is being really, really unfair to the other.

I get it, as non-parents, you probably get really tired of seeing 95 pictures of my baby's first bite of carrots. Or maybe you didn't like reading the gory details of by 18-hour labor, I can understand that. I remember seeing those posts before I had children and sure, I'd roll my eyes and scroll on. But you know what? All those pictures, the videos of my babies' first steps, the TMI-posts, those are things I write because I'm proud or excited. They're not designed to offend, tear-down or hurt YOU or any non-parent in any way.

But your posts, the ones about how "no good parent would let XXXXXX happen to their child," those, they're critical, they're mean and they're rude. Sure, maybe you think they're funny, and sometimes, they might be. But they're also funny, because they're picking at all us parents out here who, guess what, don't ALWAYS know what we're doing.

Newsflash, parenting, it doesn't come with a handy guide, and kids, they're not like purchasing a car where you just let them know the make and model and everything make sense. No, kids are much, much more complex than that. And just when you think you have them figured out, they change the game on you again.

So you post something maybe you think is harmless. Like a picture of a warning label that appears on a giant tub. It warns you not to let your child play in the giant tub with the lid because they might become trapped in there. And then, well, you know, something really, really awful might happen. Sure enough I had a friend post something on her Facebook about this. And then all the others joined in on the fun: "I hope if you can't keep your kid out of a big storage tub that you don't have kids." Or, "wow, they really need a warning label on that? How smart are parents today." My favorite would have to be "I don't know whether to find this label hysterical or be completely scared that it's needed."

Hardy har har. Aren't y'all sooooooooooooooooo funny? Having a kid is sooooooooooo easy. No good parent would let their kid play in a storage bin, duh. Don't they know it's dangerous? DUH.

Guess what? When you actually take time to BECOME a parent, which I can only hope you'll lose the judgmental attitude by then (for the sake of your child, who, like you, will be imperfect), you'll find that nearly everything in your day-to-day life should come with a warning label. And even if it shouldn't, you'll be able to come up with about 1,000 ways it should. Because that's what happens when you become a parent. You love this tiny little creature so much, that you start to see all the dangers in the world.

Take for example my son's predilection to jam his chubby baby thighs in his crib slats. Even knowing he only had them stuck in there for oh, three minutes, made me delirious with thoughts of him losing all the blood in his leg and needing it amputated. Or me breaking his tiny little knees trying to get his legs out. Are those things likely to happen in three minutes? Probably not. But when you become a parent, this is the kind of crap that runs through your brain, 24/7.

And you know what? It's exhausting. EXHAUSTING. In fact, it's so exhausting, we should invent a different word for it to truly encompass how DAMN exhausting it is, but we can't, because we're way too tired.

Guess what else happens when you have a child? All those responsibilities you had before having a child? Yeah, they're still there. Birthing a child doesn't automatically include a nanny, a maid or a personal chef. So eventually, you have to start cleaning your house again. And a lot of us go back to work again. And have seemingly normal lives again. Except now, we don't just have to remember that trash day is Friday and the mortgage is due on the first of the month, we have to remember that little Jimmy has a checkup on Wednesday, Suzie has gymnastics on Tuesday, soccer on Friday and a playdate on Saturday with little Jimmy down the road who can't have nuts. And let's not forget when the preschool money is due. Or that the cat needs fed. Or the pile of dishes in the sink. Or that you have a meeting on Wednesday. Or which store your husband is working out of in case you need to call him to pick something up from the grocery store, which you inevitably forgot because you were trying to deal with little Suzie's meltdown because you won't let her have a king-size candy bar. And most importantly, don't forget to schedule time for yourself. Because you wouldn't want to have a nervous breakdown when all these people are relying on you.

See what I mean? It's kind of overwhelming to think about all the things we have to think about in a day. And that's just scraping the surface.

And on top of all this, guess what? Becoming a parent, doesn't make us immortal super heroes. In fact, it makes us a little more human and a little more imperfect. So have I let my kids play in a storage bin? Probably. If it granted me three minutes of peace and stopped them from screaming, I probably giggled as I watched my four-year-old push around my son in a laundry basket.

And all those dangers you think "I should know about or I shouldn't even bother becoming a parent," they sneak up on you out of nowhere. And then they haunt you forever. When Pearyn was still a baby, probably six months old or so, I locked myself out of the house with her in it. Alone. On the loose. With no spare key. That's probably not something a "good" or "prepared" parent would do, right? So I probably shouldn't have had kids, right? Because if I could make such a dangerous mistake, surely I'm an unfit mother.

In the 60 seconds it took me to realize what I had done, my instincts took over. I grabbed the ice scraper from my car and broke the basement window. I put a blanket down to hopefully keep the shards of glass from cutting me and I went, with reckless abandon into that broken window and creepy basement, because in the moment I made such an awful mistake, that's the fastest way I could see to rectify it. I ended up with a small gash on my hand and butterfly stitches. And Pearyn was none the wiser. But I still remember what happened. I still check my purse for my keys 19 times before I leave the house.

It's easy to think you know everything before you have a tiny human of your own. It's easy to laugh and point at our mistakes. But just know that while you might be sitting high and mighty now on all your knowledge of "how to raise your non-even-born-yet child," we parents will be over here waiting for you. We'll be waiting for you to lock yourself out of the house on accident, we'll be waiting for your child to fall from a high chair that you swear you tightened as much as you could. And when that happens, most of us, the ones who've been where you are, we'll welcome you with open arms and maybe a really, really stiff drink. Because even though it's your first time, we've been there. And we know how hard it is.

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Give yourself a HighFive (Naturals!)

You probably know this about me, but I have an extreme love of cupcakes. I mean a super, over-the-top, try to translate every dessert under the sun into a cupcake kind of love.

However, I have been lacking one thing SERIOUSLY when it comes to baking.

Pot holders. Oven mits. Trivets, all that crazy stuff. I own those items, but I never really like them enough to keep them handy for when I'm actually baking. So I'm usually stuck grabbing a kitchen towel and pulling my baked goods out, meanwhile trying not to burn whatever part of my hand I accidentally didn't double up on the towel layers.

Yeah, I get it, it's my fault, but seriously, who really has enough space for pot holders to just be hanging around. Ain't nobody got time for that. And am I the only one who seems to find a way to burn myself with those, too?

So one lucky days I was sorting through some emails, when I came across a ridiculously timely one from the HighFive Naturals. They wanted to know if I would give their silicone cooking gloves a go! And since I've been busy burning myself in the kitchen, I figured, what the heck, it was worth a shot!

We've had these babies for two weeks now and I'm happy to report they have not been tossed aside or hidden in some drawer. In fact, they've been in our sink, on the oven, on the counter, basically any and everywhere my baked goods go. They've even traveled outside to help us grill some veggie burgers and a pizza!

Want to know another secret? I've used these to open a jar of pickles (because we all know that's basically impossible unless you're like, a man, or maybe they're just Chubby Vegan Mom, proof), rendering my husband ALMOST useless. ( I keep him around because he's pretty, not just because I can't open a jar by myself!)

So the details on these gloves? They're heat-resistant to 446 degrees, 10-fingers, super duper easy to clean (I just rinsed them off in the sink), sure-grip and odor and mildew resistant. We've used these to turn things in the oven, to pull steamy vegetable bags out of the microwave and to carry in that ridiculously scorching pizza pan from our grill.

Other suggestions for these can be easier handling for a campfire, in a smoker, a wood stove or even to handle those super frigid items before they give you frostbite!

I haven't tried these suggestions yet, but I can't wait to pop these on the next time we have a campfire. I'm always the first person to burn my hand on the vegan marshmallow stick holder, not to mention the fire pit thing itself, so I have a feeling these will come in handy.

These silicone gloves are eco-friendly, cruelty-free and a super bright, awesome orange color. You can snatch up your own pair at amazon for only $20, and if you decide you HAVE to have them right now, you can save 20% through August 14 by simpling entering the code "SGLOVES1" at checkout!

Stay tuned to my next blog for a recipe with my absolute favorite cupcake in the WHOLE world!

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How we got our baby's leg out of the crib slat (again and again and again)

OK, so I guess he's technically not my "baby" anymore. Judging by his full-blown tantrums, insatiable appetite and the current "18-month-old sleep regression" we've entered, I've got a toddler on my hands.

Another fun thing he's been doing for the last month and a half? Oh you know, just shoving his chunky thighs through his crib slat EVERY chance he gets. Yeah, we're not talking about "oh, he accidentally rolled over in his deep sleep and got tangled," no, we're dealing with a "purposely shoving his leg through there and then wailing when, SURPRISE, his sweet toddler thunder thighs won't come back out." 

Sigh. I think this boy is going to give me grey hair. 

You'll be even more amused to know that crib slats are not the only things he tries to stick his body parts through. He also does is with the kitchen chairs backs and his arms, floor vents and his fingers and the occasional head-through-the-porch railing. Yeah, is there a milestone for sticking his limbs in inappropriate places? Because check and check, we've totally surpassed that bad boy.

And then a little over a week ago, Braeburn jammed his leg REAL good. So good that I couldn't get it out. And when I tried to, he cried and writhed in pain. And I panicked. Every other time this happened my husband was home. He would pry the slats apart and I'd slide Brae's leg out. But now, this particular morning, I was home alone. I was by myself with Braeburn screaming, reaching up for me, wanting me to stop his pain and I had no idea how to. 

Thousands of things ran through my mind, from getting a hand saw to just breaking the damn thing with a hammer. But I worried about the impact those would have on his little knee. Chubby Vegan Dad was a good 30 minutes away and I couldn't wait that long. So I did it. 

I called the fire department. Yep. I was that mom. 

And sure enough, three burly dudes show up at my door, in their big ole' truck and gear. I've got giant raccoon eyes from bawling and apologize OVER AND OVER to them. (Why do the stupidest things happen to me?) They reassure me about a jillion times and ask me for some dish soap. They were able to grease up Braeburns leg, and each one pulled on a slat while the third lefted him up and out of it. It took about three minutes total and I felt like a moron.

They were kind enough to inform me that he had really jammed it in there, this wasn't the only call like these that they've gotten and one of them was even going through this with his baby at home.

His advice? Keep a block of wood nearby that can fit in between the slats and help "separate them" so I can get his leg out if I'm home alone. Bless these men. Seriously, bless them. For three seconds I didn't feel like the worst mother in the world. And Braeburn got a plastic fire hat out of the deal, so that's a win.

This was the last straw. After the embarrassment of having to call the fire department and weeks of waking to a pain-addled, leg-jammed-all-the-way-to-his-hip, screaming-bloody-murder little boy at two or three in the morning, I did what any overly protective and sleep-deprived mother would do: I googled "how in the hell do I stop my baby from getting leg stuck in his crib slat."

We tried your run-of-the-mill breathable bumper - no such luck (and I'm not starting a bumper war here, so please don't incite one). He simply put his leg over the bumper, shoved it down and jammed it up a bit higher. We tried readjusting it so he couldn't force it down, he just tried to hit a ride on the bumper and climb out of the crib. Yeah. Super fun. 

Eventually, we surrendered ourselves to the idea that we'd just have to put him in a toddler bed, although, I was more worried about all the other stuff he could get into that way and the lack of sleep he'd be getting because this boy is not ready for a toddler bed. We started Braeburn-proofing everything, which, is almost an impossible feat for this curious little boy.

And then, I came across a few reviews for Go Mama Go Designs Wonder Bumpers. These bumpers zip on each crib slat individually and have a layer of foam with cloth surrounding it. You can buy them in a 2, 24 or 38 packs.So there's still a small space between each slat (helping them be breathable and so you can still see in), but not enough that babies can jam limbs through them. They're super soft and I imagine it probably feels better to bash your head on these than the bare crib slats, so bonus points for that. 

Plus, we put the zippers on the outside and at the bottom, so Braeburn hasn't been able to take them apart or get his little hands on them! 

And they're long, so they can't use them to hitch up on and get out the crib. Seriously, they've solved like every problem we've run into. 

Let me tell you parents, these babies worked. I mean really, really worked.  (And side note, this is not a product I was asked to review. This is something I found doing my own googling and absolutely LOVE). 

There's one downside to them, they are not the cheapest things in the entire world. We purchasaed a 38-pack on Amazon for $120, which I get it, probably sounds pretty extreme for "bumpers." 

But please trust me on this, they have been a lifesaver. An absolute lifesaver. Our little boy no longer wakes angry in the night because he can't free his leg. In fact, the most he's been able to get his leg through is just to the ankle. And that was when he was really, really trying to force it in there. 

They're soft, they're cute and are worth every.last.penny. It is the one thing I have now recommended to my parent friends. I don't have a tiny newborn of course, so while the company promotes this as a "safe alternative" to bumpers for newborns and what not, I can't validate that statement. However, I would certainly talk about it with our child's doctor if we had another baby, because it seems like a viable option. But once your out of the SIDS risk and you don't want tangled limbs or bumps and bruises because of those hard slats, Go Mama Go Designs Wonder Bumpers ARE THE ANSWER.

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