Vegan pretzel dog bites and beer cheese (we're knee deep in baseball season)

It's the most magical time of the year again! No, I'm not crazy and stuck in a winter wonderland, it's baseball season folks.

Every baseball season my husband and I try to celebrate it with some of our favorite ballpark foods - veganized of course. One year we did chili cheese fries, the next chili cheese dogs, heck, we even ate peanuts out of the shell once (we're dedicated, what can I say).

So this year it was kind of challenging trying to come up with something to top all our other favorites. Instead of focusing on just traditional ballpark fare, why not try to go a little more upscale on our first-pitch favorites. (Bet you're wondering how many cliche baseball references I can squeeze into this one recipe, aren't ya?)

Well, lucky for you, I've got plenty more under my ole' cap, and this is actually going to be TWO recipes in ONE blog post.

I know, right?

OK, all kidding aside, if you're a fan of America's favorite past time, if you just like hot dogs rolled up in pretzels or hell, maybe you like eating food made of beer, I don't know; you should really, really, really give this recipe a try. Total moment of honesty here: I've never made my own pretzels before, let alone shoved a hot dog in the middle of one.

But this was much easier than I ever dreamt it could be and the result was SO so SO so good. I was seriously leery of even attempting my own pretzel dough because, well, sometimes I don't have the best luck with dough. Crazy, right? And when I started reading more about pretzel dough and how you achieve it's pretzelness, I was seriously confused. But I promise you. Just follow these directions and you will be so happy you have these little bites a shot!

Partner them with the ever-sophisticated beer cheese dip and you've got yourself the perfect pair to take you out to the ball game (you can even have some Cracker Jack after because they're accidentally vegan)!

Vegan pretzel dogs and beer cheese dip
(serves 3-4)
Pretzel dog bites ingredients:
1 cup warm water
1/2 stick of vegan butter (we use Earth Balance)
4 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 TBS light brown sugar
2 tsps active dry yeast (or almost the entirety of one little package)
2 tsp salt
1 package vegan hot dogs (we used the Lightlife Smart dogs, the regular ones, with 8 in a package)
Oil to lightly coat bowl
Water to boil
1/2 cup baking soda
Coarse kosher salt to top pretzel dogs

Beer cheese ingredients:
1 bottle beer (I chose Eurotrash Pilz)
3 cups shredded vegan cheese (I used cheddar Daiya shreds)
8 ounces vegan cream cheese (we used the Trader Joes variety)
1 TBS garlic, minced

In a mixing bowl, stir together warm water, melted vegan butter, brown sugar and yeast. Mix in stand mixer or with hand mixer until fully combined (a couple of minutes usually). Add salt and flour (cup by cup), either stir by hand or on low with your stand mixer. Repeat until all the flour is added. Knead the dough until it pulls away slightly from the bowl. If the dough is too sticky and damp, add 1 TBS of flour until you achieve the stretchy, doughy consistency we want.

Set your dough aside in a ball-shape and lightly oil a clean bowl. (Just a thin coating). Place your dough ball in it, cover with a damp kitchen towel and place in a war spot for 45 minutes. The dough should double in size.

Once your dough is ready, boil a medium or large pot of water on high (I think I used around 8 cups of water). Stir in the baking soda until it's dissolved.

While you're waiting on your water to come to a boil, cut your hot dogs into thirds. Next, tear your dough ball into four different smaller dough balls. On a lightly floured surface, roll your dough into a large rope. You'll cut this into six different pieces. Take one piece and wrap around a vegan hot dog third. Make sure to pinch the beginning and end of the pretzel dough together on the dog. Repeat with all the dough balls until all your hot dog bites are covered.

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

Next, drop your hot dog bites into the boiling water (I did about four at a time) and leave them in for about 30 seconds. You'll notice they've puffed up some. Take them out and place on a greased baking sheet, sprinkling with coarse salt while they're still damp. Bake them in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until they achieve the brown-doneness you like in your soft pretzel! Take out and let cool.

The beer cheese is ridiculously simple. In a medium saucepan, bring the bottle of beer to a simmer. (Note, a full bottle of beer in this recipe WILL leave a strong beer taste. If you don't like that I suggest halving it and adding a couple tablespoons of butter to substitute.) Next, stir in the vegan cream cheese until smooth. Add in the shredded vegan cheese and mix until creamy and silky.

Share and impress all your friends or fight with your loved one over the last dog!

Regardless of what you do, this recipe is sure to be a home-run! (Hey I had to sneak one more in there!)

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We interrupt your regularly scheduled programming for a ... CONCUSSION

I should preface a few things before diving into this post.

For starters, I'm not exactly squeamish. I've had my fair share of bloody lips, stitches, scraped knees, massive strawberries from sliding in softball, in addition to a collection of bruises, sprained ankles, bruised tailbones and even a broken arm. 

I should also note that I am usually a pro in tough or emergency situations. My senior year of college I came back to my dorm from a late shift at work to find a freshman guy who lived on the same floor as me standing in broken glass with a super bloody hand, cut so far deep you could actually see some muscle or tendon. While he and my friend were freaking out I grabbed him a towel, got him to my car and drove him to the emergency room. I sat there and held his other hand (slightly less bloody) at 3 a.m. while they stitched him back up, all while the doctor showed me the different things that make up your hand muscles. 

And I am seriously excellent when dealing with vomit. While I don't prefer to hang around it, I can handle it and be the galpal holding your hair back while you toss your cookies. 

You'd think all of these things would qualify me for a mother-of-the-year award when it came to scary situations involving my kids. Unfortunately, something completely different happens. 

When something less than sugar and spice and everything nice impacts my kiddos, I turn into freakazoid, leaky-eye mom. Take for example Pearyn's salmonella outbreak of 2012. When she started Exorcist-style throwing up we had her over to an ER faster than you can say Linda Blair. And for the weeks following that incident, I don't think I slept more than 45 minutes at a time because I had to make sure she wasn't throwing up and she wasn't choking on said imaginary throw up. 

So it's safe to say I'm great in a snafu, as long as I didn't birth you from my body. 

Case and point last week. In a stroke of timing, coincidence and luck, my college roomie was in my very own town meeting with a client. Naturally, we decided to meet up for a bite to eat and I brought my kids in tow. The meal was going smoothly, we were ordering a cupcake and signing the bill when Braeburn stood up and took a tumble from his high chair. On the way down he hit the back of his head on a table. (Before you ask he WAS strapped in his seat, however, he did apparently find a way to wiggle himself out of it). He started crying instantly and got up to try and walk to me. I picked him up and consoled him for the next five minutes, until he was finally calmed down as I placed him in his car seat. He was a bit fuzzy and tired, but it was his nap time. Besides, he was smiling, so he had to be OK, right? 

So I called his doctor and asked if I should bring him in to be safe. They told me I could monitor him for the next day and if he started to go limp, act listless or throw up to run him straight to the ER. I felt a little more at ease and started the commute back home. 

Two minutes into said car ride and my poor baby boy started vomiting everywhere. And not like, "Oh I've been crying a bunch and am gagging myself" vomiting, but all-out, emptying the contents of his stomach, vomiting. 

Thankfully I was less than a half a mile from an emergency room, but it didn't make the drive much easier. I debated the entire three-minute drive over whether I should pull over and help him vomit, if he could choke on it or if I did pull over and help him vomit would his brain like implode or bleed or blow up? 

Somehow I made it with my daughter and dazed son in tow, covered in the vegan pancakes my little man had just thrown up, trying to check him into the ER. They kept asking me all these pesky things and I remember thinking "I'm the worst mom in the world" because I can't recall his social security number all while trying to keep my daughter calm, get my son checked in and not completely fall apart myself. 

The check-in nurses were a Godsend. They were both mommas themselves and understood exactly where I was coming from. They reassured me time and time again that it wasn't my fault, things happened and I was still a good mom to my baby boy. 

Three hours, an exam and a set of x-rays later and Braeburn was awarded his first mild concussion ever. 

He's doing fine now, he was actually on the mend as we were checking out of the hospital, but it doesn't ease my worried mommy mind or make me feel any better. All I keep telling my husband is that I'll probably lose it he ever wants to play football. 

What amazed me most, however, is how freely life went on while all of this was happening. There were people going through emergencies all around me and I couldn't begin to tell you what it was or why they were there. 

I'd like to say it was at least a valuable lesson learned by Brae, but judging by the number of times he tried to climb his lawn chair this weekend I'm starting to think he didn't. 

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6 things this vegan mom wants you to know

I keep coming across all these different blog posts, things like "36 things your server wants you to know" or "7 things your bartender wants you to know." Not only are most of these posts kind of funny, they're also the perfect outlet to get some things off your chest and hash out some of the nitty gritty details of your life.

And after four years as a vegan mom (five if you count the 41 weeks of my first pregnancy, which if you've been pregnant, you do), there are a few things I feel like the rest of the world should probably wrap its big ole' judgmental brain around when it comes to cruelty-free parenting.

In fact, there are SIX things.

I'm not going to ease into this, so I'll just come right out and say the number one thing you should know about vegan mums. We ARE NOT trying to kill our children. Wait, let me say that one more time, just in case the cheap seats missed it: we ARE NOT trying to kill our children. And in fact, 99.9% of us are not, at all. Every few years we responsible vegan parents get our titles tossed to the trash as some news outlet or blogger picks up a story about how a "vegan diet killed a child."

The funny thing about these headlines is the bajillion of them that are out there are usually referring to the same two or three children, whom, VEGANISM did not kill, but STUPID PARENTING did. These children were deprived of vitamins and minerals, and that's not simply because they were vegan (although many would like it to be), but because their parents didn't pay attention to what they were giving their children.

Both of my kids were fed from my body and that's through all the grueling months of pregnancy and the breastfeeding after. We took our kids to pediatric dietitians when they were one and onward to ensure they were getting the right combination of vitamins, minerals, protein and healthy fats. And they've received gold stars for the foods they're eating, not because it's vegan or not, but because it's GOOD food.

So to rehash the events of that first point there, the large, large, large majority of us are in fact, not, killing our children.

And while we're on the topic, this might seem like a loaded statement, which, it kind of is, but please quit worrying about the well-being of my children. Just because we choose to follow a lifestyle that's not on the mainstream band wagon, doesn't make it fair game for public scrutiny and check-ins. For the first few years of Pearyn's life I felt like I was constantly trying to justify our lifestyle and the food we were putting on the dinner table, and why? Not because I had doubts, but because everyone else did.

It's different, I get that, so people will talk. I'm cool with talk. I'm cool with questions. But I'm not cool with people accusing me of "neglecting" my children because I'm not feeding them frozen chicken nuggets with a tall glass of chocolate cow's milk. Seriously? I have people sending me emails and links about how soy is going to make my son "too feminine," but half of them aren't coming from concerned parents, they're coming from parents who want to point a finger. And if we want to start pointing fingers, I've got more than enough ammo to turn it around on them.

So how about I'll worry about how much soy I'm putting into my children's bodies and any one who has a problem with that can start researching the impact of hormones and antibiotics in dairy and meat on THEIR kids' health and get back to me.

While we're on the topic of what everyone else thinks I'm doing wrong, as a vegan mom I'd like you to know that I'm actually NOT imposing my beliefs on my children anymore than any other parent is doing. Wait, wait, I know what you're going to say "but you are, Chubby Vegan Mom, you're making your kids be vegan and they're not even old enough to decide if they want to!" Yep, you're right, I AM choosing to have my children live a vegan lifestyle, just like trillions of parents decide to have their family NOT be vegan every day. What makes that decision different from mine? Nothing. We're all trying to do the best for our kids and our families, that doesn't mean what's best for your family is best for ours and vice versa.

And since you're now probably picturing us sitting around the table munching on raw carrots and drinking shots of wheat grass, let me go ahead and burst that bubble too. As a vegan mom, I think it's incredibly important that you realize we DO eat junk food. A huge perk of veganism is the health benefits, but that's not the only thing. When we decided to raise a vegan family, I decided our kids would not miss out on stuff. And it's a rule I'm adament about. So that means every class party, every birthday, bonfire and every holiday our kids have had their fair share of Christmas cookies, Cadbury "cream" eggs, smores and smash cakes - simply veganized.

You should also probably know we take our veganism seriously, actually, a lot of you do probably know that, because I've seen tons of vegan memes that say things like "how do you know if someone's vegan?" Followed up with "Don't worry, they'll tell you." If you think we take ourselves so seriously, maybe you should too. I had a friend once tell me that if my kid had attended a birthday party at his house for his child, he probably would have fed her a hot dog, cheeseburger, whatever she wanted - simply because he thought all vegans were just fruity hippie jerks. On the same hand, if someone were say, Kosher, he would have strictly adhered to their beliefs, because they were "real."

He later admitted now knowing our family he wouldn't do that, because we aren't just following a "diet," but a lifestyle; however, he opened our eyes to a battle I had no idea I was up against. Look, you might think we're mean for not letting our kids have "real" hot dogs (is there such a thing!?), but from one parent to another I sincerely hope you will respect our wishes when it comes to what goes into our kids' bodies. Not only is it NOT for you to decide, it could seriously make our children sick, something you probably didn't consider.

The last thing I want you to know as a vegan mom is really, really important, so listen up! Contrary to very popular opinion, I'm not judging you. I'm not judging your family, your dinner table or your grocery store purchases. If you catch me staring at you a second too long, I'm probably admiring your hair, lipstick color or your nails, because I like that stuff. Or maybe I'm admiring your abillity to remain sane, look completely put together, all while toting around 5 unruly children. But the truth is, I'm not tabulating in my head how much sugar is in those popsicles, how many bags of potato chips you're buying or whether or not you're going to consume those 12 cases of soda. In fact, you might find some of those same items in my cart as well.

So the next time you see me posting a recipe for some elaborate dinner I've made or cupcake I've baked, all while you just finished feeding your brigade some frozen pizza and hot dogs, please, please, please know, that I'm not judging you. In fact, I'm probably planning the same dinner for my kids - tomorrow night.

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Go "Green" (BEAN) without even leaving the house


It's good for you, it's kind of awesome, but it's also super expensive, right?

Well, not exactly. 

I'm not going to tell you that eating organic costs the same as non-organic food, because that's just not the truth. But the claim that everything organic is going to make you go broke is also just not correct. 

Case and point, Green BEAN Delivery. 

Haven't heard of it? Well, if you live in Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky or Missouri you should probably hop onto the Green BEAN Delivery website and see if they deliver in your area today! This service is something that is sorely needed all across the nation. 

Not familiar with it? It's pretty simple.

Green BEAN delivers organic produce and natural groceries to your door, weekly or bi-weekly,  year round! Even better? There's no crazy delivery fee!

We've taken part in local food co-ops and area farm delivery services before, and honestly they were great.

But we ran into some snafus with them, things like trying to customize orders for certain fruits made it more expensive, the off season made it difficult, all we had at our disposal was produce (meat or dairy, which we don't do, obviously). And I'm happy to report, what they were missing, Green BEAN delivers! 

It all starts with a produce bin. You've got lots of options, ranging from a small one for $28 that you add groceries to, a $35 "small" bin for 2-3 people, a medium fruit and veggie bin for $42, a fruit-only bin for $42 and a large fruit and veggie bin for $49 suitable for four or more! 

The best part? You can customize these to fit your family needs! Take for example the small produce bin, for $35, might start out something like this: one head of romaine lettuce, one cucumber, one lemon, one bunch bananas (three), four apples, four mandarin oranges, one bunch of carrots, one pound berries, one pint peppers, one bunch of broccoli, one bunch of radishes. Yeah, that's a GOOD amount of produce! 

But our kids aren't crazy about some of that stuff, so we were able to change things up. Instead of radishes we got an extra bunch of bananas. We got another head of broccoli instead of carrots. 

And there's no need to worry about "what if I pick a piece of produce that's too expensive for my swap?" When you choose to subtract an item there will be a little message telling you "hey, you need to add something else, try the stuff with a symbol for an even exchange." And then, sure enough, when you click on the list to select a different piece of produce, you'll see them clearly labeled! 

And it doesn't stop there! In addition to produce, there's also a whole hoard of natural groceries you can add on. I was pleasantly surprised at how many different vegan items appeared on there! Things like Dr. McDougal's soups, bulk energy bites, LUNA burgers (!!!), hummus and cookies! Yeah, it was seriously refreshing to see this kind of selection. And not only are they fairly-priced, some of them are even better than store deals!

I'm also super happy to report the customer service team is seriously on the ball when it comes to helping you figure things out. I was a little confused about when my order would start arriving, so I sent them a quick email and they responded within a few hours! 

The only thing I saw during the entire system that made me a touch uneasy was when I first signed up. After filling out your information you'll see a message that says you'll receive a confirmation email about your sign-up withing three business days. 

That made me a little nervous that the team wouldn't be as responsive as might be needed, but it ended up taking only a day for me to get the email and as I said above, they were always ready and willing to help a sister out! 

I can't rave about this service enough. It's less time in the grocery store and it's high-quality products, what more could you ask for!?

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