Gluten Free Pressure Cooker Chili

I went to a pot luck and made some amazing chili I got from Minimalist Baker, one of my favorite recipe blogs. But since I was going to make enough to share I wanted to alter it a bit so I could use my pressure cooker because I wanted a secure way to transport the chili in my car and The Pressure Cooker XL my mother in law gave us for Christmas 2 years ago has a fantastic lock.

This month I have entered in a chili contest and am trying different chili recipes. This has been one of the best chili’s I have ever eaten in my life. I also recommend eating it with some vegan cheese like follow your heart and some baked potatoes or corn chips and vegan sour cream.

What you will need

Pressure Cooker

1 large pot

3 colanders (1 for small things like lentils)

Food processor

2 yellow onions

2 red bell peppers

2 jalapeños with seeds

4tbs garlic

4 tbs coconut oil

2 tbs sea salt

2 tables spoons of pepper

4 tbs of chili powder

1 tbs smoked paprika

1 tbs cayenne powder

4 tbs cumin

3 tbs coconut sugar

2 cans of kidney beans

2 cans of corn (no salt added)

2 cans of black beans

2 cans of diced tomatoes (don’t drain)

1 1/2 cups of red lentils

1/2 cup tomato paste

3 cups of water

Instructions

First, gather your ingredients. Drain and rinse the corn and beans in colanders and set aside. Rinse your lentils in a colander and set aside. There’s preservatives in canned food and lentil can have a bitterness if not rinsed.

Next, chop onions in half and remove the outside layers the cut them into quarters to be run through the food processor on the shred side of the round blade. Add to a bowl and set aside. Chop bell peppers in half and remove the seeds and stem, quarter, push through the shred blade, add to the onions. Remove the ends of the jalapeños and put through the shredder.

In a large pot on the stove add the coconut oil and put burner on medium heat. As the oil is melting, add half of the salt recommended to the bowl of vegetables then add to the oil. Sauté for about 4 minutes then add the garlic, tomatoes, chili powder, cumin, paprika, cayenne, coconut sugar and tomato paste. Turn the heat up to medium high and when the water starts to boil add the water and lentils then turn the heat to medium low for 15 minutes. You want to make sure your lentils are submerged in water so add more water if needed.

Pour the mixture into your pressure Cooker and add your beans, corn, and the rest of the salt. (Taste and add more cumin or chili powder for smokiness, coconut sugar for sweetness or cayenne for heat)

After locking your pressure Cooker press the beans button and adjust the time for 20 minutes. After it’s finished release the pressure and you are ready to eat or to put in the car to go.

If you like this recipe please leave a comment or share on fb.

Shoe String Budget

November 30th 2016 Jason Barrow married me in front of our 2 month old son, my late grandmother, his mother, his boss, and our entire bar family in a very low budget wedding. I would even call it a shoe string budget. The venue was Area 51 in Sherwood, Arkansas (free because we have both worked for the owner for a long time) and it was also where we had our gender reveal and our baby shower. Also this was the place Jason and I used to work together when we started dating as well as the place I spent one New Year’s passed out in his lap before he and I began our courtship. Everything happens for a reason! I was not vegan at this time so I had non vegan foods and non vegan hot glue but I wanted to share my wedding in case anyone needed some inspiration on a nature or fall themed party. When I say shoe string budget I mean most things for the wedding were either donated, collected from nature or bought with very little money. My grandma and girl friends all pitched in for supplies, decorations, helped me craft, and even loaned me a wedding dress. We made everything when possible and bought everything else from craft stores, sams or Walmart. Our friend Jimmy Bunker was able to marry us, my mother in law gave me her ring, and even the wedding arch was a donation from a friend’s wedding. I didn’t have bridesmaids but I had a group of several girls who either helped decorate, donated supplies, or food for the event. I felt blessed beyond measure to Amanda Peters, Gloria Witcher, Christina Kelley, and Whitney Lukas just to name a few of the MANY people who helped pull this wedding together.

We couldn’t afford a wedding photographer but we had the talented Luke Williams perform for the ceremony. As my wedding troubadour he opened the ceremony with “Just the way you are” by Bruno Mars and we had our first dance to “Wonderful Tonight” by Eric Clapton.

Gluten-free Vegan Butter

I was at my first Vegan Dinner Club meet up in January at a local Italian restaurant that was hosting a Vegan night per our request. I had just lost my grandmother less than a month ago and I had recently started going to a Buddhist Temple. I was finally branching out and meeting some vegans and trying to not feel so down. The group I sat down with were very knowledgeable about veganism and animal welfare. The lady next to me told me that I should remember to bring dishes with me to restaurants so that I didn’t have to take home styrofoam containers that end up in landfills and never decomposes. Then she dropped a huge truth bomb on me that I have been ignoring for months. My go to vegan butter, Earth Balance, has palm oil in it. Palm oil causes deforestation and displaces orangutans! I. Love. Orangutans! Here is a picture of me with one of my most beloved toys as a child, aptly named “Baby Monkey”.

If you would like to learn more about this check out Orangutans Foundation page.

Since my last post in January I have been in a whirl of changes but now I am ready to step up my game environmentally. (I even started a compost). I have moved to a rural suburb, adopted 2 more dogs, and started a spiritual program that takes up a lot of my time.

Today I am sharing my first attempt at homemade vegan butter from A Virtual Vegan.

I picked up Almond Meal from Kroger in the aisle where I find most of the vegan friendly and organic items. I believe this bag cost $8 and I had all the ingredients at home already.

What you will need:

4 tbs almond meal

5 tbs of unsweetened non dairy milk (do not use canned coconut milk or soy milk)

1 tsp nutritional yeast

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup of melted REFINED coconut oil

2 tbs olive oil (extra Virgin olive oil leaves an olive oil taste in the finished butter but I don’t mind)

A pinch of turmeric for color

And a blender

I used a ninja blender to mix all the ingredients EXCEPT the oils. After the mixture is completely smooth then I added the oils and blended for about 1 minute.

Next I poured the liquid into a mason jar and let it sit over night. In the morning I had this delicious goodness…

it tastes delicious and acts like butter in it’s spreadability perhaps a bit softer because cold cow’s butter is too hard to spread.

Potato Leek Soup

There is nothing more comforting than potato and leek soup. Even though I grew up making it with heavy cream and other animal products it’s actually not that hard to make this a vegan comfort food!

You can make this in your crockpot on high for 4 hours or on low for 8 hours. Either way your home will smell fantastic.

Wash and chop 8 to 12 potatoes.

Take the leeks (organic leeks may come in a bunch or in a pair depending on size) and cut off the hard green part and slice off the root. Then thinly slice the leek and rinse under cool water in a colander to rinse off any dirt.

Chop a small onion.

Fill the pot with water so that there is a couple inches of space between the water and the top of your pot. Add salt, pepper, 1/3 minced garlic, thyme, parsley, and a tablespoon of vegan bouillon base or a couple of vegan bullion cubes. Season to your liking and add 2 bay leaves.

After your potatoes are soft enough to easily mash with a fork remove the pot with oven mits and place on the counter near an outlet. REMOVE BAY LEAVES.

Add a couple tablespoons of vegan butter (optional) and a plant based milk (unsweetened cashew milk works great) and using an immersion blender on low (don’t turn on your blending tool unless it is in the pot already or you may splash yourself with hot water). Blend and serve. You can add some chopped green onions and vegan cheese shreds for garnish but I was ready to eat so I must apologize for the plain jane pictures!

P.S. I feel that I must give a short explanation as to my absence. My grandmother, who I was caring for, finally lost her battle with cancer a month ago. She had been in and out of the hospital since before Christmas and she died on January 12th. I have been struggling with my grief but I am slowly getting back to me again. Thank you for reading.

Breastfeeding Vegan

Do you see the triumph in my smile? My husband Jason caught this on camera, the moment of joy I felt when my breast milk had finally come in enough to pump. A feeling I can only imagine is like scoring a touchdown in football.

I was blessed to be able to stay home through most of my pregnancy, and I read everything I could find on google, pinterest, and facebook about breastfeeding. My goal was 6 months. Not even once did I think I would be able to make it to 15 months!

I am not a dietitian or medical expert. I simply wanted to share some tips from one breastfeeding mama to another.

I am fortunate to have the support system that I have to keep me on track and motivated. My husband and two girls that I have been friends with for a long time also had babies around the same time as me. Both ladies breastfed and were experienced mothers who I could call or message at any time to ask questions and vent. Then there is my husband, Jason, who had to live with me through the entire pregnancy and post partum hormonal swings. When we found out we were pregnant I expressed my intentions to breastfeed and stay home with our son until he was at least 2. No arguments or qualms just “Yes whatever you want.” My husband has helped me immensely through the process. He has heard me curse and seen me cry due to pain from raw nipples and eaten whatever foods I decided was best for my milk supply. Everyone in my immediate family and some of my extended family and friends have seen me nurse openly in my home and even seen me pump.

It is my belief that breast feeding is an important bonding and imprinting experience for you and baby. Breastfed babies are happy and healthy babies so don’t be ashamed if your baby doesn’t like to be covered up to nurse. In Arkansas they encourage mothers to breastfeed and in my first year of breast feeding I spend 50% of my time in hospitals with my Grandmother who was undergoing treatments at the VA for small cell lung cancer. I nursed in many bathrooms but nurses would also help me find sanitary places to use my pump if my son was at home with someone else. I have even had to nurse my son in front of my grandmother’s doctor so that I could be there to hear everything I needed to know about my grandmother’s condition. I struggled with my emotional health and questioned my abilities as a caretaker and mother but I’m here to give you my advice so hopefully you can take courage when you hit some rough patches on your journey.

Hydrate

That seems like a no brainer but it is crucial that you drink lots of water. One gallon to be exact. You aren’t just hydrating yourself. Your body is doing a myriad of amazing functions besides making food for your baby and it all requires water to be successful at it. When I first started breast feeding I was not a vegan but I became very interested in what foods were best for promoting a healthy milk supply. Read on for more.

Foods for Milk Supply

  • I start every morning with oatmeal. I used to eat instant oatmeal until I read a pinterest article about how most oatmeal you see in the stores are so processed they have hardly any nutrients left in them. So that means I had to find whole grain rolled oats. I have been using Bob’s Red Mill and if you follow the directions it tends to try and over boil on me so I always use a large pot and lid just for my oats. Then I had to expetiment to find what to put in my oatmeal every morning. From fruit, to nuts, to pumpkin puree and peanut butter and bananas I have a list of ingredients on my cabinet to give me inspiration in the mornings or sometimes I meal prep my oatmeal in advance.

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Spinach (I eat a box of pre washed organic spinach a week)
  • Asparagus
  • Fruits (Seriously just start buying all kinds of fruit from apples to pineapples but make sure if you are able to watch out for non organic Papaya which is one of the highest recommended fruits for increasing milk supply.
  • Brown rice (Don’t like it? Well it’s very good food for you. Maybe you should try it again, I recommend adding a bullion cube to it while its cooking or eat it with hot sauce).
  • Beans and Lentils
  • Raw nuts (stay away from salted and sweetened nuts if you can stand it. I like to buy bulk nuts, vegan chocolate chips, and dried fruits and pretzels to make trail mix bags to last all week.
  • Carrots
  • Beets (I enjoy fermented ginger beets)

Beverages

  • I know I already said water but for the last time drink more water. I rarely drink sodas but I do splurge occasionally and get one. My biggest issue was struggling with the whole “No Caffeine” during pregnancy thing. I often times would feel so tired I regularly drank coffee and espresso drinks and still do. I do notice that if I have drank too much caffeine not only am I anxious and sweaty but the baby spits up more.
  • Raspberry tea with whatever sweetener you perfer is highly recomended for boosting your milk supply.
  • I would also recomend camomile tea because stress is the #1 reason most moms, in my observations, quit breastfeeding. More on that in a minute.

Beer. Yes I said it. A few beers a week will not hurt your supply or your baby.

Make Time for Calm

Back to the stress factor I mentioned. Stress affects your milk supply. It can also effect your mental health which is one reason I recomended the chamomile tea and the beer.

I can tell you that I know what living with daily stress is like. If you can play some relaxing music while you nurse and have lots pillows cradling you and the baby to protect your back as possible you may find nursing a lot easier. Also try to pay attention to your breath as a way to help you relax when nursing. The more you can relax the better.

I do not have pumping tips. With all that I had going on pumping made me feel defeated. I believe that you make much more milk when you nurse then when you pump. I was constantly worried about my supply until I gave up regularly pumping. Just trust your instincts. And please do not take breast my feeding advice as a criticism if you decided not to breast feed your child. The last thing I want to hear is unsolicited advice from strangers so please take this as a guide and not rules. Everyone is different and what works for me may not work with you. Thank you for reading. And as always #normalizebreastfeeding

DIY Dog Treats

That’s right folks its cheap and easy to make dog treats from simple things you can buy at your local grocery store or farmers market. One of the stores I shop at was selling sweet potatoes for .25 a pound so I stocked up!

Not only are sweet potatoes inexpensive but they are full of good things for both you and your dog. They are high in dietary fiber which is good for your digestion and regulatory systems. They are an excellent source of B6, Vitamin C, and MANGANESE! Manganese, which helps maintain normal blood sugar levels and optimal thyroid function. Sweet potatoes have also been shown to promote immunity and reduce inflammation throughout the body.

I have 2 dogs, 2 cats, a baby and I don’t have a lot of money and last time I bought dog treats I was shocked at how expensive they were. Being the crafty vegan mom that I am I started looking up recipes.

Here is your handy guide:

Preheat your oven.

Wash your sweet potatoes.

Line your pans with parchment paper and spray with a non stick spray.

Cut into small pieces, ideal for taking with you as a training treat out of the house, or you can cut them into long chewy treats if you prefer.

They can take up to 3 hours to bake so wait until you are going to be home for a while and put your favorite tv show on netflix, you need to be nearby to “keep a nose out”, as it were, so you don’t overcook them as I did in the first picture. But my dogs LOVE them despite me over cooking them. I find 2 to 3 hours depending on how big you cut the sweet potatoes.

Dog moms, please be careful not to give them any pieces that feel hard or sharp because it could scratch their throat and cause irritation.

Bringing treats with you is important especially if you and your dog are new to training. It helps keep them motivated to learn your commands with positive reinforcement. I carry them with me at the dog park and on walks. If you decide to try these please let me me know in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Pitas and Lettuce Boats

Today for lunch I made these delicious pita pockets and lettuce wraps and shared them with my son.

With the cold weather I crave carbs more than anytime of the year. I have been eating sandwiches, plural, and getting chunky watching documentaries instead of working out or walking my dogs. As of the last two weeks I have walked for an hour almost everyday and last week I bought romaine leaves and pita bread instead of getting sand which bread.

If you would like to know how I made the filling read on…

To make the filling you will need:

2 small or 1 large sweet potato peeled and cut small

Olive oil (I try to always buy organic but if I’m broke I get my olive oil from the Hispanic grocery aisle)

Minced garlic

Ground Turmeric

Fine sea salt

3 mushrooms cut small

A few sprigs of fresh cilantro (you can used dried if you have this on hand in your spice cabinet)

First preheat a large skillet to med hi heat with about 1 Tbs of olive oil and add the minced garlic and diced sweet potatoes.

Next cover the pan with a lid and preheat a second large skillet with desired amount of olive oil at med hi heat and add minced garlic while you cut your mushrooms. (Don’t crowd the mushrooms!)

Turn down the first pan to medium and mix the potatoes in the olive oil and add a sprinkle of sea salt and turmeric and the cilantro then re-cover.

While the potatoes are cooking and absorbing the flavors of the cilantro and spices mix the mushrooms so they will brown evenly. Now take your kale and rinse it thoroughly in a colander and remove the tough spines and tear the kale into smaller pieces. Add the kale to the mushrooms and sprinkle sea salt on the kale.

Take the lid from the sweet potatoes and cover the kale and mushrooms while turning the heat down to medium.

Check the tenderness of the sweet potatoes you want them to easily be squished with your spatula or other cooking utensil. I would only leave the kale on the stove for a few minutes because the less you cook it the more vitamins it retains.

I ate this with sriracha but you can also make your own creamy dressing using a vegan mayo as your base. Sriracha and vegan mayo together is one of my favorite sauces to make.

I hope you enjoy this recipe and if you make it please leave a comment on how it turned out. Thank you for reading.

Plant Based Growing in Arkansas

I have been slacking hardcore on the blog posts as of late everyone. I think I am finally feeling better. I felt amazing when I first changed to a Plant Based Diet but being the only vegan in your family, at your job, or in your community can be frustrating as well as depressing. Everyone thinks you’re “crazy” because you don’t eat meat or dairy. If you decide you no longer want to consume any animal products or byproducts you feel even more ostracized because you’re now the most high maintenance person in any social situation and on top of that you have an abundant amount of new information that you basically have to keep to yourself because no one wants to hear about how animals are being treated or how farming animals effects our health or the environment. It’s inconvenient. The burden of knowledge I call it. You do all this research just to make yourself even more depressed.

So I decided I needed to start reaching out to the local vegan community. First step of course was check the local event page on fb and mark my calendar for events that had to do with vegan food. I decided to go to a food demo at The Mosaic Templar Cultural Arts center about a week after the Vegan Food Truck event at Viva Vegan.

The first thing I tried was from a truck called Kathmandu MoMo. The Momos were so delicious. I have loved dumplings and dim sum forever and I was excited to get something entirely new and from a region that I had never tasted food from which is Nepal. My mother in law is from Thailand and is a tremendous cook but she is at a loss of how to translate her cooking to plant based and I miss her delicious foods she used to make for me. This was comfort food to me. But I will say I couldn’t finish the spicy potato salad. It was good but too spicy for me.

The next meal I bought was no problem to finish at all! Melanie Lacy, owner of Harambe Market in North Little Rock, loaded me up with the goods. Garlic tofu, Supreme Greens, Nori Nut “Meat” Roll, and Vegan Ranch. And as it turned out she was teaching the class at Mosaic Templars Cultural Arts Center that I marked to go on my calendar.

my husband got some vegan soul food but forgot to get me a card from their tent but it was delicious as you can tell by this picture.

No that is not rib but it’s a tasty alternative and the sweet potatoes and greens we’re phenomenal!

I got some immune boosting fermented lemon and thyme from a tent where a woman who told me she also was the only plant based eater in circles as well and like the other vendors I met realized that there is a need for people to learn about the healing powers of Wholefood and a need to bring the people together in the less affluent neighborhoods who have so many fast food and gas station food options in their vicinity isn’t it obvious why more and more Americans have the health issues that we have? If you ask most people in Little Rock or north Little Rock how often they eat fast food it’s not unlikely to hear daily. I relied heavily on fast food for the past 10 years and most people I know do also. Here are some more cards I picked up at the food festival for clothes and social media connections.

I will be posting a separate article just about Miss Melanie Lacy and the Yum Yum Cafe’ food demo. Melanie is the one on the left with the glasses .

I loved meeting families that worked together to set up their food tents even if they weren’t vegan but because they supported their spouse or sister or friend gave me hope. I know that I am not the best at expressing myself but it gave me inspiration to see the community of people who came to the plant based diet for different reasons and showed the utmost respect to each other in the muggy heat of the day. There were no fights, no one was upset about anything, causing drama or forming elitist cliques. Vegan or plant based whichever the individual prefers to be called and for what ever reason we can take the label off and really look at the common ground. Peace and good health. That’s what I feel the heart of the local vegan community is truly about. Please keep up with me by subscribing to my blog and thank you for reading.

Sweet Potato Fries

I had a bunch of ugly little sweet potatoes that almost looked inedible to me in my giant wire basket. But I figured with a little fine tuning we could make something yummy. I chose Healthy low-fat sweet potato fries and took pictures of course.

I would like to say this cut did not work for me. I would have been better off following the directions But I never follow them word for word. It left some mushy parts and I was hoping for a bit crispier but I’m positive it was user error.

The dressing is pretty standard. I use veganaise as a base for dips and dressings galore. If you have any tips on using vegan mayo substitutes please comment below. Thanks for reading!

Spaghetti Squash

Today I tried out a recipe called Vegan Cheezy Marinara Spaghetti Squash and my husband and I agreed it was delicious!

Here is a few of the ingredients I used. The marinara was from Sams Club and the nutritional yeast and spaghetti squash were from

I was visiting family in Hot Springs and was looking for a health food store that I hadn’t been to yet.

After cutting the Squash lengthwise and scooping out the seeds and pulp I placed it on some parchment paper on a baking sheet. I basted the Squash with about a half tbs of olive oil on each side and lightly sprinkled with sea salt and pepper. I baked it at 400 for 40 minuets.

While that is baking I chopped a purple onion and sautéed it in olive oil and minced garlic in a saucepan over medium high heat until they began to soften then I added the pasta sauce. I added a half a cup of the Nutritional Yeast and it certainly looked and tasted like a cheesy marinara sauce to my husband and I both! I will say make sure you dice or mince your onion not chop it with tears streaming down your cheeks so you can’t see. It would have made a difference in the texture of the dish.

Keep the sauce on low heat until you have played your noodles. After the squash is done let it cool then scrape out noodles with a fork and top with sauce.

We ate way too much and had enough left over to send to work with husband.

I have been struggling with my depression and has made it harder to concentrate and finish tasks like write in my blog but I am still plant based in an omnivorous family and very encouraged by my husband and all my veggie supporters. Thank you for reading.

For an appetizer I toasted two pieces of bread and cut into tiny squares and topped them with a vegan smoked cheese that I got from Good Earth on sale.

I also bought local baby chard and kale and I have been enjoying my salads this week immensely.

Where to begin…

First, a little about me and my hopes for this project.

  • I have a one year old son.
  • I decided to become a vegan recently.
  • I am a homemaker and I deal with anxiety, depression, and ADD.
  • I want to find my voice with writing. I spent most of my life wanting to be a writer and I’ve decided to blog about what I am learning about nutrition, vegan substitutions, and meal prepping.
  • Also what I’m learning about self care and self love after having a very traumatic childhood.
  • I want to show people that eating good food can be fun and exciting.
  • And finally yes I do want to grow my blog into a buisness and be able to work from home because my top priority is to take care of my home by being home BUT that is not the goal right now.

This year is going to be about focusing on personal growth and developing my relationships around me before try to take on too much. I have a lot to learn about writing, blogging, and social media before I try to make a go at my own buisness. But it feels good to be writing again. Thank you for reading.

Who Dat’s

In life and especially in a marriage you have to learn how to compromise. Deciding to eat a strictly plant based diet is not only difficult and overwhelming for us but also those around us. If you and your partner are used to a standard american diet, high in meat, refined sugars and dairy deciding to “Go Vegan” is a big change that requires years of documentary watching, book and e-book reading and of course the countless days on google and social media sites to learn how to be a vegan and what to eat and how to make it and what in the world is macro? I have been feeling so overwhelmed with so many things to do and learn as opposed to eating frozen convience foods or grabbing pre made foods that are fast and simple. This made cooking and meal prep even more stressful to me and ontop of that I have been dealing with stressful family issues that have been causing my ADD to get worse which makes it even harder to complete tasks around the house or write ontop of having a great big 1 year old who is walking and getting into everything.

So back to compromise. I realized I was being a terrible example to my son while trying very hard to set a good example. Funny how that happens. Because even if I did influence my son to eat a plant based diet I wasn’t showing him the root of why people go vegan. Kindness. And I haven’t always been very kind with my speech.

So my compromise was to go to a resteraunt with my husband for a steak dinner and make due with whatever I could find. Because my diet choices shouldn’t effect how I treat people. And everyday we have an opprotunity to do the kind thing and not the thing that feels right in the moment.

A friend recomended a destination date in quaint Bald Knob, Arkansas to eat at Who Dats, a cajun ispired resteraunt that was rumored to have big steaks which my husband would apreciate since I respectfully declined to cook meat or dairy at home.

I was pleasntly suprised at the salad bar selection.

Shown here

I asked the waiter about the resteraunt’s produce which he told me came from near by at Gillam Farms in Judsonia where they procured the most delicious muskadine grapes I had ever eaten.

Who Dat’s much more famous for their giant steaks and cajun seafood which my friends and husband all loved. But thanks to our server Russell, for his excellent service and helpful information, I also enjoyed myself. Here are some of the meals from my date and when I went back again with some friends. I highly recomend them even if it’s a long drive for me.