due to a shift in our lifestyle that has kept us busy, we haven’t had much time to focus on the holiday season.

on top of all that, the weather has been abnormally warm, not providing any snow for outdoor play this year, I am reminiscent of last years holiday season, the photos taken last year have surfaced.

anyway, HAPPY HOLIDAYS everyone!

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citrus sea salt

I participated in a white elephant gift exchange with my colleagues this past week. We used a fun poem for the exchange. It is never easy to pick a gift when you are unsure of the recipient. 

I knew I wanted to give a gift that would be only be useful, (NOT something that had potential to be re-gifted,) I also wanted to give a gift that displays my excitement for delicious food.  I decided to make a batch of this Citrus Salt and pair it with a kitchen apron and a recipe book. Cute, right? I could have used that kitchen apron last week while I was baking cookies….. 

This Citrus Sea Salt is simple to make and offers a distinctive quality. Who would NOT love to be the recipient of a gift that will keep on giving over and over again in various homemade dishes including: Chocolate Mousse with Sea Salt, Lemon Chickpea Lentil Soup, Citrus Collards with Raisins Redux, Olive Oil, Lemon, & Sea Salt Sundaes, Lemon Asparagus Soup, or Margarita Guacamole.

citrus sea salt

Citrus Sea Salt
  • 2 cups coarse sea salt (I used Himalayan Pink Sea Salt)
  • 4 tablespoons of zest from a combination of limes, lemons, or oranges
  • a really cute sealable jar
  1. Preheat the oven to 225 degrees.
  2. Mix the salt with the zest and spread evenly on a baking sheet.
  3. Place in the oven and bake for 1-2 hours until the zest is dry. (I use a convection oven and only had to bake for 1 hour). Turn once, if possible.
  4. Put the salt mixture in to a food processor and pulse until evenly mixed.
  5. Pour the salt mixture in to a sealable jar & decorate.

citrus sea salt





I eat bananas on a daily basis. I like them in my oatmeal or cereal every morning. I use them in my fruit smoothies. I keep them in my bag or in the car for a quick snack. I eat them at night when I need a “sweet” fix. in fact, I had bananas, blackberries, and pecans in almond yogurt for dinner last night. Dessert?: apples+ salty caramel. (that’s beside the point)

On a typical visit to any grocery store, I rummage through the available selection of bananas, searching for the most ripe bunch. (the browner the better!) Often times, I choose the rejected bananas that got torn off of a bunch for whatever reason, maybe it was too brown, maybe it was too many. 

Typically it seems as though the grocery stores stock an over abundance of bananas but the other day when I went to pick up a bunch of bananas, they were sold out. 

I guess I’m not the only person in love with the banana.

At the sight of the empty banana stand, I was instantly reminded of a story I heard on NPR that featured Dan Koeppel author of Banana: The Fate Of The Fruit That Changed The World.

I quote: “What’s happening [now] with bananas is that they are being struck by a fungus called Panama disease that is incurable and that pretty much wipes out banana plantations within a matter of years,” Koeppel says. “And what’s really interesting is that the banana that’s being struck was one that was believed to be and selected to be resistant to this fungus after the earlier banana crop, the one our grandparents ate, was destroyed by the same fungus about 50 years ago.” [NPR]

Within 10 to 30 years, we will no longer have bananas available for consumption in the United States. As they once were, they will become an “exotic fruit” only found on foreign land. 

If you love bananas as much as I do, you probably want more information on this heart breaking topic.

Click here to listen to the story on Fresh Air.

Click here to read what the New York Times has to say. 




homemade Candy Cane Joe Joe's

Today, December 4 is National Cookie Day.
To celebrate, I cooked some vegan Candy Cane Joe Joe’s.
Oh, you don’t know what Joe Joe’s are? They have their own Facebook Page
The Candy Cane Joe Joe is a rich cocoa cookie filled with a peppermint filling and crushed candy canes.
Fans of Trader Joes know that the Joe Joe is a stand-in for the Oreo, the Candy Cane Joe Joe is a seasonal offering available only during the holiday season.
Below you will find the recipe which I adapted and made vegan.
I made these for a work party where many non-vegan girls will be exchanging treats and gifts.
These girls won’t even know that these cookies are vegan!
They are so buttery. and chocolatey, and pepperminty, and sooo good. 

homemade candy cane joe joe

Today is National Cookie Day: Homemade Candy Cane Joe Joe's
What you need for the cookies:
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 1½ cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 15 tablespoons (7½ ounces) Earth Balance or vegan margarine – at room temperature
What you need for the filling:
  • ½ cup Earth Balance or vegan margarine
  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons peppermint extract
  • 2 tablespoons non-dairy milk (soy, almond, hemp, hazelnut, or coconut)
  • 1 teaspoon red food coloring
  • 10 small candy canes chopped finely
What you do to make the cookies:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees & line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In the bowl combine the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix on a low speed with an electric hand mixer or a stand mixer.
  3. Add the softened Earth Balance butter to the mixture, a few tablespoons at a time. The mixture will have a sandy texture at first and then will begin to form pebble-size pieces. As soon as the dough starts to come together, stop the mixer. Make sure all the butter is well incorporated. If there are large butter pockets, mix for a few seconds more.
  4. Form the dough in to a large ball and cut in half.
  5. One at a time, roll the dough out on to a floured surface until ⅛-1/4 inch thick.
  6. Cut into rounds using a cookie cutter. My rounds are approximately 2½ inches in diameter. After your rounds are cut, use a pastry brush to brush off excess flour. If you don’t remove the excess flour, your cookies will look white instead of brown.
  7. Place the round ½ – 1 inches apart on the lined baking sheet. collect the scraps and repeat the procedure.
  8. Bake for 10-13 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on the sheets for 2 to 5 minutes. Transfer the cookies to a cooling rack and let cool completely.
What you do to make the filling:
  1. With an electric hand mixer, cream the softened Earth Balance butter until it is smooth and begins to fluff.
  2. With the mixer on low speed, add confectioners’ sugar and fluff for another few minutes.
  3. Add the vanilla, milk, food coloring, and peppermint extract.
  4. Once all of the ingredients are well combined, beat on high for 3-4 minutes until the frosting is light and fluffy.
  5. After finely chopping the candy canes using a food processor, add them to the frosting. Fold in to the mixture with a spatula.
  6. The consistency of the frosting will change after adding the candy canes.. Add more powdered sugar if necessary for desired consistency.
Assemble the cookies:
  1. After the cookies have cooled, put two tablespoons of filling in between two cookies.
  2. Store the cookies in an airtight container overnight.

{recipe adapted from Gastronomy}

Homemade Candy Cane Joe Joe

**this recipe is part of LoveFeast’s 2012 Holiday Cookie Exchange

LoveFeast's Holiday Cookie Exchange




For several years, my mother-in-law has participated in an annual local Chili Cook-off and has won first prize every time she’s entered. I’ve attended one of the cook-off events. Unfortunately I couldn’t try any of the chili because every contestant makes their chili with meat. It’s a shame that no one makes a vegetarian chili for the cook-off.

Veg Chili Cookoff

Chris & I decided that we were going to enter the chili cook-off with a vegetarian chili this year, but we never did. Regardless, I made some delicious chili tonight, it would definitely worthy of a first place prize if it were entered. There are many different ways that you can customize a chili recipe, I believe my recipe to be unique. I use apples my recipe, most people turn their noses up when they see the apples being added, but end up smiling with delight when they take their first bite.

apple carrot quinoa chili

Apple Carrot Quinoa Chilli
  • 10-12 tomatoes OR 2 cans of stewed tomatoes
  • 1 can pinto beans
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 can northern white beans
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • ¾ cup quinoa
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, finely chopped
  • 2 large carrots, coarsely chopped
  • 3 small {honeycrisp} apples, coarsely chopped
  • 2-3 small squares of raw cacao nibs or a few scoops of cacao powder
  • olive oil
  • curry
  • cumin
  • nutmeg
  • chili powder
  • cinnamon
  • agave nectar
  • sea salt
  1. I highly recommend you ​stew your own tomatoes, you will get better flavor and less preservatives in your chili. If you are not stewing your own tomatoes and you choose to use canned tomatoes, start the recipe at step #3.
  2. For stewing, put your tomatoes in boiling water for about 1-3 minutes until you see the skins begin to peel back. In a colander, peel the skins off of your tomatoes. After the tomatoes have cooled slightly, chop them into small pieces.
  3. Put the tomatoes into a large pot with 1 tablespoon of salt and 2 tablespoons of agave nectar. Stew over medium heat.
  4. Cook quinoa according to the directions.
  5. Sauté the onion, garlic, and jalapeno in olive oil over medium heat for about 5-7 minutes.
  6. Combine the onions, garlic, and jalapeno with the stewed tomatoes.
  7. Add all 4 cans of beans and 1 teaspoon of each spice: curry, cumin, cinnamon, nutmeg, and chili powder.
  8. Add the carrots and apple to the chili.
  9. Stew for 20 minutes.
  10. Add the cacao and then taste the chili. Add more seasoning (including salt & agave nectar) to taste.
  11. Add cooked quinoa 5-10 minutes prior to serving.
Serve the chili with your favorite cornbread.
{To spice up your favorite cornbread recipe, add ½ finely chopped jalapeno to the mixture prior to baking.}
Nutrition Information
Calories: 1386 Fat: 15g Saturated fat: 2g Unsaturated fat: 10g Trans fat: 0g Carbohydrates: 281g Sugar: 96g Sodium: 1001mg Fiber: 59g Protein: 54g Cholesterol: 0mg




The essence of autumn has me craving foods of the orange and green varieties; butternut squash, carrots, pumpkin, kale, zucchini, and broccoli. I yearn for comfort foods that warm the soul; soups, stews, and  apple pie. It’s the time of year to divulge exotic seasonings that will take your soups, stews, and rices from bland and bleak to complex and flavorful.

Mushroom Barley Soup

Lately, I have been making soup 3 days a week and I am sharing one of the recipes in a guest post I wrote for Rock Salt today. The soup is a Mushroom Barley with kale and carrots. It is one of my favorite soups, reminiscent of fall. Check out Rock Salt for the recipe.

The base of all of the soups I’ve made lately consist of my homemade vegetable broth. Just recently I’ve learned how EASY it is to make the broth.

Step 1: You’re going to need some vegetable trimmings.

You can use the insides of a bell pepper, carrot tops, broccoli stems, beet trimmings, the spine/stalk of kale, etc. ANYTHING that you would cut off of your fruits & veggies prior to eating them can be used to make the broth. You have the option to use variety of fruits as well including the core of an apple, the rind of an orange/lemon/lime, the core of a pear, persimmon trimmings, the core of an apricot, etc.

Lately, I’ve been juicing every morning. All of the pulp I have left over after juicing is used for my vegetable broth. I also use all of the trimmings from the juiced fruits and vegetables for the broth.

Fruits & Veggies

Step 2: Put the vegetable trimmings in a big pot of water and boil for 10-15 minutes.

vegetable broth

Step 3: Strain the vegetable trimmings out of the water.

vegetable broth

Use your vegetable broth immediately, or store in the refrigerator for use within 3-4 days. If you are not going to use the broth within a week, you can store it in the freezer.




As Thanksgiving nears, I am scrambling to put together the menu for my Annual Vegan Thanksgiving Dinner that I prepare on Black Friday. Over the years, whether I have been alone or not, I have made bountiful meals every Black Friday since the day I went vegan. I can have the day all to myself and I can eat as much yummy vegan food as I want. I don’t bother my family much with my vegan food on Thanksgiving – they just don’t understand.

The last few months have been hectic for us and I have had very little time to spend in the kitchen. Thanksgiving this year will be tricky because I don’t have my own kitchen to work in, which means that I share preparation and storage space as well. I decided to reach out to some of my favorite bloggers for recipe inspiration because I just don’t have time to think up a meal on my own – and I found some damn good recipes. I have narrowed down my menu to the dishes pictured below. I am hoping that my boyfriends family will eat some of my vegan cooking even though they’ll have leftovers from their own Thanksgiving feast.

Vegan Thanksgiving Feast

Annual Vegan Thanksgiving Dinner Menu

Apple Pie Chia Pudding
from Vegan Yack Attack

Kale Salad 
from oh she glows

Fall Holiday Fruit Salad
from Healthy. Happy. Life.

Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash Rings
from Oh My Veggies

Green Beans & Carmelized Shallots
from Rikki Snyder Photography

Hasselback Sweet Potatoes
from My Recession Kitchen

Cranberry, Apricot, and Pecan Wild Rice Pilaf
from oh she glows

Sugared Cranberries
from Gabby’s Gluten-Free

Happy Holidays everyone!




The post I share with you today is a post I wrote on Nov. 27th, 2008. Back then, I lived in Minneapolis, MN, hundreds of miles away from my family. The few years that I lived in MN brought me ambivalence and sensitivity. I would spend Thanksgiving alone (or with a few friends), I would only go back to Indiana to visit my family once a year: Christmas. As I read through this post over and over again, it brings up a lot of memories. Amazing how some things change but some things just stay the same…. Anyway, enjoy this Thanksgiving Throwback. (it’s so good)

As a vegetarian, the #1 question I am asked is: “How do you get enough protein?!?!”

This question is especially annoying because the people who ask are obviously un-educated as to what a well-balanced meal really looks like (their idea of a hearty meal is steak/pork chops/meatloaf, fried potatoes, a dinner roll, and a diet coke).

For those of you curious: vegetables, soy, legumes, fruits, nuts, seeds, and grains all contain protein


Over the last few decades, wide spread practical experience of the vegetarian diet, knowledge of traditional cultures, and hundreds of health/diet studies all tell a different story.

    • Too much protein is as harmful as too little, and is linked with shorter life expectancy, increased cancer and heart disease risk, widespread obesity and diabetes, osteoporosis, kidney stress, and bad digestion
    • High protein-diets bring about temporary weight-loss, at the expense of overall health, and people quickly regain weight once they return to a normal diet
    • A varied vegetarian diet with a balance of protein, fats & carbohydrates, and adequate calorie intake provides more than enough protein
    • Complete animal protein is not superior to complete protein from more than one plant source – they give the same result in different ways
    • Protein from plant sources doesn’t include excess calories from fat, toxic residues, or an overabundance of protein, which stresses the kidneys


Protein deficiency is very rare in the US and is generally diagnosed in people living in countries suffering from famine. It’s been estimated that the average person in this country eats two – six times more protein, usually from animals, than is needed for good nutrition.

So then comes the question on Thanksgiving: “Am I REALLY NOT going to eat TURKEY on Thanksgiving??” To be completely honest, if i WERE going to eat meat, TURKEY on THANKSGIVING would be the last piece of meat on my list because I know the facts:

  • There are 300 million turkeys killed each year—more than 40 million during the holiday season alone—for human consumption. Turkeys on factory farms have their beaks and toes cut off without pain relief. They are crammed by the tens of thousands into dark, stifling warehouses where disease, smothering, and heart attacks are common. Today’s turkeys are genetically bred to grow so quickly that their bones and leg muscles often give out under the stress of supporting their huge upper bodies. Millions of turkeys die every year from heat exhaustion, freezing, and accidents during transport.
  • Thousands of free-range turkeys are raised in a single warehouse-like structure forced to stand on accumulated fecal waste and breathe in ammonia fumes. These turkeys are then taken to the slaughterhouse through transport containers where they are hung upside down in shackles. There they cry out in fear and pain as they await their own slaughter. Think of how much it hurts when we get a little speck in our eye, and we might understand the degree of suffering that the turkeys are been forced to endure day after day.

The Union of Concerned Scientists points out that 70 percent of the antibiotics sold in the United States are used to treat healthy livestock… 

Anyhow, due to my family being hundreds of miles away, I am spending Thanksgiving at home, alone, with the pooch. I have resorted to the couch, in boy shorts, un-showered, with Forrest Gump on the tube.

The house next door was on fire this AM? 5 Fire Trucks parked outside of my window, Channel 5 news, & LOTS of firemen (including the Chief).

Throughout the week, I have been busy creating my very own little Thanksgiving meal. On the menu: Sweet Potatoe Souflee, Apple Crisp, Butternut Squash Soup, Black Bean Salad, Minnesota Wild Rich & Squash, Spinach Salad, Jalapeno Cornbread, Apple Cider, Cranberry Fruit Salad, and Pumpkin Pie – mostly made from scratch. THAT’s enough to be thankful for. (did i ever mention that i LOVE cooking in my kitchen??)

I rarely get excited about the holidays, for various reasons. The #1 reason tends to be the many obligations that arise: being expected to show thanks, thinking of thoughtful gifts, (gift-giving is no longer natural – it is EXPECTED), the consumption of garb foods, the guilt of gathering with relatives ONLY once a year , and a years worth of the positive & negative life stories (I feel guilty telling a positive story, when everyone else is living in the negative).

I DO enjoy Gift Wrap. (actually, I’m obsessed. I have a collection of wrapping paper, bows, string, glitteratti, need I go on?!?!) 

OH AND, I do enjoy sending Holiday Cards. 

I have been humbled on this day, Nov. 27th, 2008…. Thanksgiving. I will pour one for all my Turkey homies that were literally plumped to death for your dining pleasure. 


Of Calves and Carnivores” in Oct 2008 issue of Mpls St Paul Magazine.




Our trip to Costa Rica was lovely however it could have been burdensome and cruel without the proper gear. After we booked our trip to Costa Rica, we went crazy trying to figure out what to pack for our trip. I hear it’s the rainy season, did we need rain jackets? Wait, what’s the weather like? Will it get chilly at night? Do we need hiking boots? Should they be waterproof? Water shoes? Should we pack a travel safe to store our belongings? Someone told me there is a chance our car will get broken in to. Should we take our mobile phones? Will we be able to make phone calls from CR? Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah. We had heard so many different things from so many different people, that it was hard to decide what we did need and what we didn’t need.

{ Disclosure: I am grateful to be of service and bring you this packing list free of charge. In order to do this, please note that when you click links and purchase items I will receive a referral commission in most cases. Your support in purchasing through these links enables me to maintain my blog and continuously provide valuable content. Thank you! }

Costa Rica Packing List


Our trip included 6 days in Dominical, Costa Rica which is on the South Pacific during the winter/rainy season. During our trip we ziplined, hiked, climbed waterfalls, and laid around at the beach. We stayed at two beautiful rainforest resorts, our trip did not include any primitive stays. I will say that our trip within itself was fairly inexpensive, however we spent a great deal of money on accessories. This packing list that I am providing includes the items that worked for us. I have offered commentation on the big “why” behind the items listed. You may need to add to this packing list if you are staying longer, doing different activities than we did, attending an event, or if you are camping. 


  • Tanks & T-shirts
  • multiple pairs of Shorts
  • Moisture-Wicking Pants/Shorts
  • 2 Sundresses
  • Lightweight Hoodie or Sweater
  • Lightweight Water-Resistant Jacket
  • 3-4 Bathing Suits
  • comfortable Underwear
  • Sports Bras
  • Sleepwear

Whatever clothing you decide to pack for Costa Rica, be sure that it is lightweight and will dry out quickly especially if you are visiting during the rainy season (which is a beautiful time of year to visit.) I would not recommend taking heavy jeans or denim jackets. Most days we wore our swimsuits underneath our clothing in place of undergarments – you never know when you’ll come across a waterfall that you must jump in. I doubt you’ll need fancy clothing for your trip to costa Rica (unless you are attending a Wedding or an event.) The Ticos do not ever dress fancy –  if you choose to, you will look silly.  


  • Hats
  • multiple pairs of Sunglasses
  • Bandana / Headbands
  • Poncho
  • cheap waterproof Watch
  • small Umbrella

I struggled with deciding whether or not we would need to purchase expensive rain jackets and ponchos. Although we were in CR during the rainy season, the rain did not bother us much. The rain came around 2PM and was gone around 5:30PM. We came equipped with rain jackets and ponchos, we only wore our rain jackets once and it was because we were a little chilly, not because of the rain. We never wore our ponchos. You could probably get away with purchasing a $5.00 poncho and leave the Rain Jacket behind. I was so glad that I didn’t spend $200.00 on a rain jacket from REI (I found one at TJ Maxx for $15.00.)


  • comfortable Flip Flops
  • Hiking or Trail shoes
  • Waterproof Shoes, I recommend TEVA’s (for rafting or waterfall play) -find a pair that you can wear comfortably without socks
  • lightweight Hiking Socks

Whatever foot wear you decide to take, make sure that it is comfortable. You will not need fancy footwear (unless you are attending an event.) Take shoes that you are OK with ruining. I wouldn’t recommend taking your gym shoes that you’ll want to continue wearing to the gym when you get back. Purchasing a pair of Teva’s prior to the trip was the best decision we made. 


  • Bobby Pins
  • Hair Ties
  • Tweezers
  • Clips
  • Ziplock Bags (variety)
  • Nail Clippers / File
  • Sunscreen
  • Lip Balm w/ SPF
  • Feminine Products
  • Insect Repellent
  • Cortisone Anti-Itch Cream
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Bandages
  • Small Roll of Toilet Paper (keep this in your day pack) 

Don’t expect to find any of these items in CR if you forget to pack them. Shopping in CR is minimal – close to non-existent, even for items like Bug Spray and Sunscreen. Take a small roll of toilet paper and keep it in your day pack. Just trust me on this one. 


  • Camera
  • Waterproof Video Camera, I recommend a GoPro Hero Cam
  • Laptop (I recommend you dump your memory cards at the end of each day)
  • Chargers
  • Travel Alarm Clock
  • Spare batteries
  • Spare Memory Cards
  • Flashlight

We took a lot of electronics with us with no regrets. We had a DSLR Camera with waterproof casing and a GoPro Hero Cam. Between these two, we got some phenomenal photos and video footage. Be sure to dump your memory cards at the end of each day, you never know if you’ll lose your camera or ruin your memory cards the next day. We did lose our Hero Cam to the ocean half way through the trip – thank goodness we dumped our memory cards and still came home with a decent amount of footage. One of the hotels we stayed at did not have an alarm clock or a TV, it was nice to not be worried about the time – but let’s face it, sometimes you need to know what the time is. 


  • Reading Books
  • Guidebook
  • Journal
  • Pens & Pencils
  • Quick Dry Towel
  • Lighter / Matches
  • Mesh Laundry Bag
  • Swiss Army Knife
  • Duct Tape
  • Travel Yoga Mat
  • Backpack Food (for hiking)
  • Airtight Waterproof Bags (variety of sizes)

We stored a variety of different things in the airtight/waterproof bags: money, electronics, toilet paper, our Passports, etc…


  • Passport
  • Driver’s License
  • Credit Cards (as backup – use mostly cash)
  • Travel Confirmations
  • Copies of your Passport & Credit Cards (or scan them and e-mail them to yourself)
  • Travel Itinerary
  • Numbers for Emergency Contacts
  • Numbers of CC companies

You may not have access to phones & e-mail while you are in CR so make copies of anything that is important to you JUST IN CASE. Before you travel, print off directions for your first destination if you are renting a vehicle. I recommend that you plan to pay for most everything with CASH in CR. Most places will take a credit card, but you will be charged international fees every time you swipe that card. One of the hotels we stayed at gave us a discounted rate because we paid in cash. 


  • Backpack
  • PacSafe (if you are hiking for multiple days)
  • TSA Approved padlocks

You will only need a PacSafe/Travel Safe if you are planning on camping if you are staying at a primitive hostel. If you are staying at a resort/hotel, your belongings should be safe. DO NOT ever leave your valuable items in the car, keep them on your person at all times. Although a few people mentioned Costa Rica not being safe with a risk of being robbed, we never felt that our safety is at risk and we were never robbed – or even messed with.