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double chocolate magic bars

December 4, 2010

When my son was a newborn I was amazed how ravenous breastfeeding made me. My husband and I joke that formula would have likely been cheaper than the increased grocery bills that resulted from my nursing appetite.  In those early months, my mom would come over every weekend by to help me with the baby. She would usually bring lunch and a treat from a local bakery, most often magic bars. I took full advantage of my increased caloric needs and looked forward to these decadent sweets.

During my first few months as a new mother, we sampled magic bars from all the local bakeries. Magic bars are known by many names. Some bakeries call them Hello Dolly Bars or 7 Layer bars. After one bite, my mom and I agreed that magic was the best description. There were minor variations in ingredients as well as title. My favorite ones came from the bakery that made our wedding cake, and featured an oreo crust instead of graham cracker.

Last weekend I decided to make a vegan version of my beloved double chocolate magic bars. I started with this recipe from the Post Punk Kitchen, subbing chocolate cookie crumbs for graham cracker crumbs. I used Annie’s Bunny cookies, since I couldn’t find Newman’s Own chocolate alphabet cookies, which would have been ideal. I used unsweetened coconut (I have found that the Let’s Do Organic brand has a lot more flavor than other unsweetened varieties) and pecans were my nut of choice. Also, I didn’t measure the chocolate chips or coconut, I’m not sure how much I used but I know it was a bit less than the recommended amounts.  I cooked them a little bit longer than the Post Punk Kitchen instructions. I left them in the fridge overnight before cutting them, which I think is key.

The results were nothing short of incredible. I usually am very moderate about eating sweets but I had a hard time resisting these.


happy thanksgiving

November 24, 2010

butternut squash tart

November 12, 2010

Smitten Kitchen has always been a favorite blog of mine, and the smitten butternut squash and carmelized onion galette holds a special place in my heart. I’ve wanted to make a vegan version for the past month or so, but have been a little nervous. Honestly, I just thought it would make me miss cheese.

Sunday night, I decided to go for it. I was also feeling a bit lazy, so I modified it not only to be vegan but also for a lazy cook.

Butternut Squash and Carmelized Onion Tart; the lazy vegan edition (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

  • Small butternut squash
  • 1 onion sliced
  • 1 tablespoon miso
  • 2 tablespoons Wayfare Cheddar Spread (if you haven’t tried Wayfare you should or you could add a little more miso and nutritional yeast instead)
  • 1.5 tablespoons Earth Balance
  • Drizzle of maple syrup
  • Pastry dough (I used this pie crust recipe subbing whole wheat pastry flour, olive oil, and rice milk; Emily’s also looks good, and if you’re not vegan the Smitten Kitchen dough is delicious)

Preheat oven to 350. Cut butternut squash in half and scrape out seeds. Place face down on baking sheet and bake for 35-45 minutes until squash is tender. While the squash is baking, place onions, earth balance, and maple syprup in the bottom of a medium sauce pan over low heat. Make your pastry dough while the squash is baking and the onions are carmelizing. Roll out dough and place on a baking sheet greased with earth balance.

When the squash is done, remove it from the oven and turn the oven up to 400. When the onions are golden brown, scrape out the squash and add to the pan with the onions. Add the miso and wayfare cheddar and stir until well combined.  Spread the squash/onion mixture on the dough with a spatula and fold in the sides of the gallette.

Bake for about 40 minutes (it will vary depending on your crust).

I served ours with garlicky kale, which I sauteed with a little olive oil at medium-low heat.

It was divine. And I certainly didn’t miss the cheese. 🙂

embracing the label

October 18, 2010

There is a lot of talk in the blog world about food labels.

Not these labels, though I could think of a few things to say about those as well.

But the labels we use to classify ourselves and our recipes such as vegetarian, vegan, ethical carnivore, or gluten free. Some labels describe food allergies, while others reflect personal decisions made in the name of health or ethics.

There is a lot of sentiment among bloggers that labels are confining and unnecessary.  I’ll admit- and my mother will agree- that I have never been one to embrace rules. I do, however, embrace the vegan label that I have bestowed upon myself. Over the past year I’ve transitioned from eating a semi-vegan diet to living a vegan life. It has been a conscious decision that has absolutely nothing to do with physical health or taste preference.  I love goat cheese and wild salmon, and think both are perfectly healthy for my body. For the health of my soul, the earth, and my fellow beings, I choose to live a vegan life.

To me the term vegan is more of a mindset than a label. I simply do not want to inflict harm, even if that means never buying another coach bag or missing out on a slice of cake at a party.

Luckily, I can always make my own vegan chocolate cake. 🙂

simple harvest salad

October 14, 2010

After an exceptionally hot summer, when cold salads were frequently the most appealing meals, I have been making a lot of soups and hot casseroles for dinner. But when I was planning the menu for my dad’s birthday dinner, I decided it was time to bring a little salad back into my life. I still made a hot casserole; I just served this seasonal salad on the side. 🙂

Harvest Salad

  • Seasonal greens
  • Half a butternut squash diced
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • ¼ cup pumpkin seeds

Preheat the oven to 375. Toss the butternut squash in olive oil with a dash of salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 10- 20 minutes (depending on how small the squash is diced)- tossing about half-way through. Squash should be easily squished with a fork after baking.

Maple Fig Vinaigrette

  • 3 dried Turkish figs
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup

Remove hard ends from figs. Emulsify in blender or food processor.

To make your salad pretty: Toss  about half of the dressing with the greens. Greens should be flavored but not drenched with dressing. Arrange squash, pumpkin seeds, and cranberries on top of greens.

To make your salad extra delicious (in my opinion): Toss ½ dressing and all of the salad ingredients together with tongs.

I always sacrifice looks for flavor. 🙂

Do you naturally eat less salad in autumn?

my yoga story

October 13, 2010

I’ve told my vegetarian story but I’ve never told my yoga story, so here goes.

To start at the beginning, we have to start with dance. I started taking dance classes in preschool and continued until my freshman year of college. I played lacrosse in high-school but I much always preferred dance over sports. I was lucky to attend a high-school that gave me the option of taking dance classes in lieu of PE.

During my freshman year of college I took ballet one semester and would run on the track with a couple friends here and there, but was not as active as I had been throughout high-school. I have always been a bit of a perfectionist, but less-so my freshman year of college.

When my sophomore year commenced, my inner perfectionist came back stronger than ever. I took three lab sciences and studied like crazy. I went to the gym more frequently, mostly just because I thought I should.

After my first semester of my junior year, I decided to take a year off. It was an emotional year in my personal life, and certainly a low point in my young life. At the end of my year off, I transferred to a school closer to home and was ready to reclaim my happiness. I started walking on the treadmill for the mental benefits but never enjoyed walking or running as much as I had enjoyed dancing.

In the spring I decided to try a yoga class at a new studio. Seventy-five minutes later I was seriously in love.  My body was happy to be stretched like it did throughout years of dance classes, but without the competitive and often critical environment. My mind was clear and the sense of community in the room made me smile. I immediately bought an unlimited pass and would go to two classes in a day at times. I tried all sorts of classes, but especially loved the Ashtanga classes. The set series in Ashtanga allowed me to clear my head and I moved with my breath without even thinking about it.

After practicing for a couple months I noticed some wonderful changes. I became less anxious and put on a few welcomed pounds of muscle. Most importantly I felt full of life again. I was completely unaware of the 8 limbs of yoga, or the yamas or niyamas at that point. My practice was strictly a physically demanding style of yoga, yet I was reaping considerable mental benefits. Why and how this was happening I didn’t know, and still don’t, but I am certainly glad I decided to take a chance and go to that first yoga class.

My yoga practice has had its ups and downs over the years but it’s remained a strong force in my life. I listened to my body throughout my pregnancy, teaching Ashtanga fot the first 5 months and then allowing myself a more gentle practice the last four months. After my son was born I found myself branching out a bit from my strict Ashtanga practice.  My home practice and the classes I teach certainly still have Ashtanga roots but with more variation. In the past year I have found myself choosing to meditate after my home practice and my commitment to ahimsa, living a non-harming life, is stronger than ever (which deserves it’s own post). Yoga has been a wonderful journey that never ceases to amaze me.

rainy day breakfast

October 2, 2010

I love the rain.  My love for rain may seem a bit out of character, since I am an outdoors person.  But I find rain to be quite cathartic. Not to mention that it’s a great excuse to curl up on the couch with a good book, or head to hot yoga, which is even better with the sound of rain outside. And don’t get me started on rain boots.

When I’m faced with a lazy, rainy morning the baking bug always bites.  When there’s a pumpkin or fall squash on the counter, that’s where I always start. While my kuri squash roasted I thought about what sort of treat I should make . . . cookies, bread, scones, brownies.

Since it was well before noon I settled on scones. Every fall I make pumpkin bread with dates that the husband loves, so pumpkin kuri squash date scones it was.

Vegan Autumn Scones (whole grain and refined sugar free to boot!)
makes 6 scones

  • 2 cups spelt flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • cinnamon
  • nutmeg
  • all spice
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil (canola oil would work)
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 cup pureed kuri squash (pumpkin or butternut squash would be great too, as would canned pumpkin)
  • 6 dates (chopped and tossed in flour)

Mix dry ingredients. Add wet ingredients. Form a circle on a greased baking sheet (I used coconut oil to grease). Cut into 6 triangles. Separate and bake at 350 for 25 minutes.

I enjoyed mine with a cup of green tea while curled up on the couch with my favorite boy and a stack of Little Critter books.

What are your favorite rainy day activities?