hearty vegan basil tomato soup with pasta

 I got this idea originally from here. Obviously, I had to find a way to veganize it, though, since I don't eat meat or cheese. Simply omitting those ingredients was a success in my book, but it just didn't feel right calling it "lasagna soup" anymore, since it didn't really remind me of lasagna when I was eating it.
 But it was still yummy :)
Here's what I did:

3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 pint baby portobello mushrooms, chopped
1 Italian pepper, finely chopped
2-3 vine tomatoes, chopped (optional, I just had some to use up)
1 cup of fresh basil, chopped (plus a few extra leaves for garnish, if desired)
2 28 oz cans of crushed tomatoes (I used one regular and one fire roasted)
28 oz of water
1-2 Tbsp coconut or safflower oil
1-2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt & pepper, to taste
2-3 cups dry pasta (I used spirals, which I think work best)

In a medium pot, set water boiling for your pasta and cook according to package directions until al dente.

While pasta water is heating, in a large pot, heat your coconut oil over medium heat. Once hot, add your garlic, onion, mushrooms and Italian pepper and turn the heat up to medium high. Saute, covered, until mushrooms have released their moisture and onions have begun to turn translucent.

Add your fresh tomatoes, basil, crushed tomatoes, water, olive oil and salt & pepper. Once pasta is finished cooking, drain and rinse under cold water and add to the soup pot. Allow to simmer for 15-20 minutes on medium low. This will allow the flavors to meld.

Serve hot.

This makes a lot. 6-8 servings, I would say. Unless you're feeding a 6 1/2 foot tall man, in which case it is about four. I have strong feelings about overeating and this soup sparked a huge controversy in my weird world.

So be warned, it is delicious and should not be left unattended.


etsy love: jewelry edition

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I've been getting a little bored with my jewelry lately. I only own a couple of rings and one of them looks a little cheap (and turns my finger green), one of them is my class ring from high school (I think we all only wore ours maybe the first day we got them. In hindsight the whole class ring thing seems like a bit of a scam. Sorry Mom and Dad!) and then I have a little opal ring my sister gave me for Christmas one year that I love but only wear sometimes.

I have a lot of bracelets but I haven't bought any new ones in a while and I'm not really a necklace person. I have one I wear a lot, my locket, and one Tom gave me for Christmas, and a little pearl necklace for fancier affairs.

Some cute baubles on Etsy have caught my eye. I know that scarf is not jewelry but it's been on my mind for ever. Perhaps it's time to update my collection?

And can we just talk about that gorgeous feather bangle for a second? Made by Rosella Resin which I've posted about before. How magnificent is it? I want it. So. Bad. I love all of their items. They're so beautiful. I've been thinking about picking out one of the rings to buy for myself. The two things keeping me from doing so are a.) the money and b.) I do not know my ring size.

And c.) how could I ever just choose one?!

Decisions, decisions.


vegan burrito with garlic jalapeno sauce

Because it's for a serious health problem this time around, I've been trying to be very strict about my vegan diet (except for eggs). When I slip up I feel very guilty. 

I see it's difficult for people to understand (or even believe) why I need to be so careful, so if I do slip up, it really doesn't help me to convince them and it also introduces things into my body that could complicate my condition. 

But if you don't do it properly, veganism can get dull pretty quick. Especially because I cannot have any of the processed delights that most vegans can treat themselves to, or tofu (although admittedly I've been eating too much of it lately). 

It does get tiring--checking labels, always cooking from scratch. And being tired leads to laziness. Laziness leads to slip ups. I'm pretty proud of myself, though, because I had to be in a room with a bunch of people gorging on pizza (my favorite food) this weekend and I couldn't have any. Sure, I was surly about it, but I held strong, anyway, so whatever.

So, to keep myself on track, I've been trying to diversify my meals by looking up recipes online. I keep up with several vegan food blogs, such as Oh She Glows, Vegan Richa and Vegan Yum Yum (which is no longer updated, but still has good recipes!). 

Sometimes the recipes are a little too complicated for what I feel like doing, or I don't have the right ingredients on hand, or they inspire me to get creative and come up with my own dish. 
For this recipe I used a sauce from Vegan Richa, found here. I made the garlic jalapeno sauce exactly as instructed but instead of having it over pasta (which I also want to try), I decided to have it over some sauteed veggies, beans and rice.
It was really yummy and sort of satisfied the dairy cravings I've been having lately (even if only temporarily). The sauce was creamy and had the flavor of the jalapeno and a little of its heat, but not too much.
Get the sauce recipe here and for the rest you'll need:

1 small orange pepper, sliced
1 small yellow pepper, sliced
1/2 a medium onion, chopped
1 cup of brown rice
1 can black beans, drain and rinsed
1 Tbsp coconut oil (or other oil)
Wraps or tortillas (I used spinach wraps because I could not find flour tortillas at the store that day)
1/4 garlic jalapeno sauce
Optional toppings: salsa, vegan sour cream, vegan cheese shreds, avocado, etc.

Start your rice according to package instructions.

In a pan, melt your coconut oil over medium high heat. When you've brought your oil to temperature, toss in all of your veggies and sauté until they begin to soften and brown.

Add 1/4 cup of the garlic jalapeno sauce, and stir until the sauce is heated and the mixture is well combined.

Warm a tortilla in a clean warm frying pan or in the microwave (10-20 seconds) until soft and malleable. Layer rice, black beans and veggies and fold into a wrap.

Best served hot.

You could add more sauce if you like, or use a different kind of rice, or rice recipe (I bet Spanish rice would be delicious, too!)

I had mine with salsa and it was just wonderful :)


spaghetti and veggie sauce

Every Sunday I try to make a big meal that will last for my lunches through most of the week. But sometimes I don't have time or the motivation to cook. Sunday are for relaxing, after all. 

A couple Sundays ago I was short on motivation so I decided to use whatever I had lying around which resulted in this yummy veggie sauce! It made A LOT. So I had plenty for lunch all week.
I had mine over whole wheat linguine, but any pasta would do, or you could incorporate it into any dish that requires a tomato sauce base.
This recipe is very versatile, but for mine, I used:

1 large carrot, roughly chopped
1 zucchini, peeled and roughly chopped
1/2 of a large onion, chopped
6 small tomatoes, chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
2-3 garlic cloves, to taste
salt, pepper & Italian seasoning, to taste

Place all of your ingredients into a blender and pour in enough water to almost cover your veggies. Blend until you achieve a sauce-like texture.

Pour the mixture into a sauce pan. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to low. Allow sauce to simmer, covered, on low for 20-60 minutes (depending on how big of a rush you're in). This is just to allow the flavors to meld.

Serve hot over pasta.


cozy reading nook

Maybe it's because is freezing in my office, or because I was awake until 2am after drinking my first coffee in two months at four in the afternoon yesterday. Such a bad idea!

Maybe it's because, even though it was beautiful when I came to work, it is now drizzling and dark.
socks, sweater, top, mug, scarf, book
Whatever the cause, I am feeling a little down and a little sleepy today.

I really just want to be someplace warm and cozy, snuggly, with some tea and reading a good book.

Don't you?

Right now I am reading The Child in Time by Ian McEwan, who you may know, also wrote Atonement. I love the way he writes. He's very wordy and a little dry, but I like that. He really gets into the psychology of the characters, too, which I love. His characters are so believable and alive.

I would much rather be in my room at home curled up with my book.

Alas, c'est la vie. I had a long weekend which I enjoyed very much, so I should just be happy with that, no? :)


heart patch & embroidered blanket

I meant to have this up by Valentine's Day, as you might've already guessed, but it just didn't happen.

No worries though! There's always next year :)
I picked up this plain fleece blanket at Ikea for a few bucks. I think it was actually like, $3. Super cheap! The red felt I got from Michael's.
I attached the heart patches with variously colored embroidery floss and I loved the way the other side of the blanket looked so much that I added a few embroidered heart without the felt patches. This would be a cute gift for a young one. It would be a great project for a kiddo (with supervision of course!).
I think I may, over time, add more heart patches and embroidered hearts, as I have time to do so. There's plenty of space left, so why not fill it up? :)
A super simple and sweet project for a gift to a loved one or yourself!


vegan chocolate tea cup cake

I don't think I'm alone when I say this: I love cake. Chocolate cake in particular, but any cake, really, will do just fine. 

But there's something sinful about making a whole cake for no reason, isn't there? It makes me feel guilty. Probably because I know that if I make a whole cake, I am going to eat a whole cake
Tea cup cake to the rescue!
Because making a batch of cupcakes is just as bad as making a cake. Just because it's already divided up into individual servings does not mean you're not going to eat each one, individually.
Solution: Make one serving at a time!

Or make two, for a quick, romantic dessert!
You will need a microwave safe tea cup (or mug) and:

1 Tbsp + 2 tsp Dutch process cocoa powder
3 Tbsp flour (I use whole wheat)
2 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp baking powder
dash of salt
2 Tbsp melted coconut oil (or vegetable oil)
3 Tbsp almond milk
1/4 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp chocolate chips (optional)

In your cup, mix together your cocoa powder, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt, thoroughly.

Add your oil, milk, and vanilla and mix very well, being sure all of the flour mixture gets incorporated. It may seem a little thicker than standard cake mix. That's ok.

Mix in your chocolate chips and place in microwave for 1 minute on high.

I like the addition of chocolate chips because it makes it a little more moist. You could also microwave it for less time. 45 seconds results in a fudgier cake.

If you don't have cocoa powder, you can simply omit for a plain cake. I wouldn't recommend omitting the chocolate chips and the cocoa powder, but you could sub them with blueberries or other fruit, probably. I haven't tried that, but the plain cake tastes a lot like a muffin.


what to wear while exploring

 This crazy winter weather we've been having in New York this week is making me stir crazy for summer. Especially summer in Maine. Summers exploring the countryside were the tops. It's been a while since I've got to go exploring like that and winter is not the right time of year for it, anyhow.

At least I haven't had poison ivy in recent years. That is a horrible possible side effect of exploration and last time I had it, we were legit worried I could lose my foot (no lie! I had to go to the hospital and everything).

Our vacation spot in the DR is right next door to a national park. I'm not sure if we'll be able to get into it, but I'm hoping we'll get to do some exploring outside of the resort and really hoping some of that could be in the jungle! (The truth is, neither of us is sure what to expect yet.)

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When exploring, comfy clothes are a must, of course, along with good sturdy sneaks or hikers and a backpack for snacks, water, insect repellant and if you like to climb rocks and trees, probably a first aid kit! :) I love climbing on things, but I'm super clumsy.

I posted about this little backpack before. I just received it last week and I LOVE it. It'll be perfect for carrying around my camera since my camera backpack is in Maine, and is also pretty big for taking on little excursions. I like having a backpack more than a purse. It's way more practical and easier on my shoulders. I'm thinking about eventually getting this pack in different colors, since they have a million!

All of the above are examples of similar things I'll be bringing along for our trip. Luckily I've already got these things so I don't have to spend more money buying new stuff :)


happy valentine's day!

I love Valentine's Day--and not just because I have an amazing boyfriend.

I've seen a lot of people this week, shaming couples for being happy on Valentine's Day and I think that's sad.

I have spent my fair share of Valentine's Days alone and I'll admit that it's great to have someone to go on a date with, but that's not all it should be about.

There are so many different kinds of love. Valentine's Day should be about celebrating all of those kinds in your life.

For instance, I always try to send my sister and niece a Valentine's Day card and a few little gifts (. . . okay, so I haven't sent them yet this year. . . . But I WILL). I've been doing that the last few years, so even when I haven't had a Valentine of my own, I still had someone for whom I could express my love :)

Growing up, our parents always got us little gifts. They would be on the kitchen table in the morning when we woke up. Little stuffed animals or bags of Hershey Kisses.

So, whether you are in a relationship or not, who cares? Celebrate the love you have for friends and family!

It's all about LOVE! Not strictly boyfriends, or girlfriends.

And I mean, Tom really wins Valentine's Day, but not all boyfriends do. I've found in the past that sometimes a V-Day with a romantic partner can be more disappointing than being on my own! Anyone with me on that?

Happy Valentine's Day!


a simple garland

For this garland you will need the following:

paint swatches (free at Home Depot, I used Martha Stewart colors)
embroidery floss
a heart-shaped cookie cutter or stencil
a needle
cotton balls
red felt

Cut your hearts out of the paint swatches in pairs, same with smaller hearts from the felt.
Use your needle to string the cotton balls, as many or as few as you'd like, then glue the sides of the hearts together over the string. Be sure not to lay the string too high or low in your heart because it'll tilt forward or backward if it's not balanced.

If your paint swatch hearts aren't even around the edges, you can trim them. I left mine for a more handmade look.


heart shaped frame

I found this cute little frame at Michael's several weeks ago. It was only a buck so I picked it up. At the time it was just unfinished wood.
I painted it an antique white and at first I tried to paint the lines of words, but I found that a Sharpie worked much better.
It was a really simple craft that didn't take much time, but in my opinion turned out really cute!

Valentine's day is coming up! Last year Tom surprised me by showing up at my work with flowers, and because I was just becoming vegan that very week, some fresh berries instead of chocolates. It was very sweet and exciting because we had not been together long and it'd been a few years since I'd last had someone to celebrate with.

Tom and I agreed that our gifts for each other this year was our vacation, but we are also going to go out to dinner on Thursday (to beat the Friday Valentine's crowd). I'm looking forward to a quiet evening in on Friday :)


a relatively healthy chocolate peanut butter kale smoothie

 Smoothies have been my jam lately. They're simple to throw together and I discovered that my new apartment came equipped with a really great blender that actually blends things, rather than just chopping them into tiny bits (and I don't have to quarter my frozen strawberries by hand anymore!).

Also great about smoothies, you can throw in healthy stuff and not have to taste it.

I'm probably the worst vegan in the world and not only because I still eat eggs (which makes me not vegan, technically, but it's too difficult to explain to people all the time and my diet seems to come up a lot at work for some reason), but also, I hate kale. I don't like the texture, I don't like the taste. Cooked or raw. I just plain don't like it. And believe me, I've tried.

But I found that incorporating it into my morning smoothie and covering up its taste and texture by blending it with other things I DO like, has enabled me to eat kind of a lot of kale on a regular basis.
This smoothie is the best thing in the entire world. I promise you, you won't taste the kale even remotely. All you can taste is banana, chocolate and peanut butter. And if you don't like those things . . . well, I can't identify with that (But I will likely post some other recipes with other foods mixed with kale, that maybe you will like!).

For this you need: 

1 banana
2 Tbsp cocoa powder (Dutch process is best)
1/4 cup peanut butter (I use straight up peanut butter with zero additives) or almond butter
1 cup of kale, torn up or chopped
1 handful of ice cubes (optional, you can also freeze your banana for a few hours or omit altogether)
1/2 cup of water, or so (or you can use almond milk! which is what I usually do, but I was out this time)

Throw all your ingredients into your blender and voila! A delicious, filling, chocolatey smoothie that is relatively healthful for you.

Some nutrition info for you:

To consider: Bananas and peanut butter both have fat in them. Processed peanut butter like JIF or Skippy also has tons of added sugar, oils (more fat) and carcinogens . I recommend using a grind-your-own PB machine--they have them at Whole Foods--or buying peanut butter without additives.

But both ingredients also have healthy things for you, too. Peanut butter has healthy fats, fiber and protein and bananas have fiber, and (of course) potassium, and also iron.

As a vegan, it's good for me to get my fat this way because I don't eat dairy, but if you do consume a lot of dairy, take it easy on the chocolate banana smoothies, you are already getting plenty of fat in your diet.

If you're looking for an even more healthful smoothie, kale also blends really well with mixed berries, tropical fruits (mango, pineapple) and you can add to those either orange juice or almond milk. The thing to remember about fruits is that they have a lot of sugar.

I know, I know. You're thinking, "WELL WHAT IS HEALTHY?" It can be confusing! Fruits are healthful because they have a lot vitamins and fiber, and berries have a lot of antioxidants, too, but the MOST healthful things of all are veggies. Vegetables do not contain the same levels of sugars and fats that fruits and bananas and peanut butter do, but they do have as many vitamins and as much fiber, among other healthful nutrients (minerals, etc.). Just FYI :)

Health is all about balance! It takes some thought and consideration, and you should educate yourself if you don't already know this stuff, but it's totally worth it. Your body is what houses you, you should take pride in it and reward it for not letting you just be a brain in a jar. That would be a lot less fun.


DYI dry shampoo from ingredients you already have!

 The weather lately has been pretty dreary. I don't know about you, but that usually makes it hard for me to get things done. It's dark all day (hence these crazy photos). It's winter, so it's really cold. One thing it makes easier is showering! Nothing like getting in a nice hot shower after slogging through twenty blocks worth of slushy corners and icy sidewalks.

But when it's too hot or you don't have time to hop in the shower before you have to make a public appearance, here's my recipe for the best darn dry shampoo I've ever used!
 My hair tends to run on the oily side of things. After a day or so it starts looking a little slick at the roots. I'm one of those people who likes to shower every other day, as opposed to every day, because more frequent hair washing makes it too dry but if I get it wet without washing it, it gets super oily.

I don't know. It's complicated.
 I've tried the spray kind of dry shampoo that you can buy in stores but it just kind clogs up my combs and brushes with gunk and doesn't really make my hair look clean and dry.

THIS HOWEVER WORKS AMAZINGLY. When using it, people cannot tell that I haven't just washed my hair. And it's cheap as heck because you probably already have this stuff in your cupboard!
I put mine in a little mustard jar.

So here are the instructions:

 Equal parts corn starch and cocoa powder, mixed well. Apply with a brush (mine is from a bronzer compact I used to have; any kind of brush for applying blush or face powder will work). Dip your brush in your dry shampoo and tap off the excess. Apply at the roots, working your brush in between the strands, and brush outward. When you've finished applying to all the greasy areas, comb through with a finer-toothed comb or a hairbrush.

And you're done! The cocoa powder tints it so it won't show up like dandruff in darker hair. I would think if you have lighter hair, you could adjust the ratio to make the mixture a little lighter. I'm so sorry, I don't have an answer for you flaxen haired beauties out there, but if you have dark hair this is your new best friend!

And it makes your head smell like chocolate!

I have been caught in the rain a couple of times with this concoction in my hair but I have not noticed that it made the cocoa powder run down my face or stain my clothes, though it does obviously cancel the affects and makes the chocolate smell stronger.

The application process can be a little messy so I highly recommend applying in the bathroom and not over a carpet, or with a light color shirt on.

It works great, though and it lasts all day. And it's free. It can't be beat! Enjoy!


carried away

Big news you guys! Last week Tom and I booked a vacation in the Dominican Republic! We found a very reasonable deal on Groupon Getaways, so I'll let you know how that turns out. . . . We're a little apprehensive about what hidden fees might be lying in wait for us, but even if, it was still too good to pass up. Our flight, our room, our meals and all of our drinks were included for six nights!

I already made a mental list of all the things I'll need (and somethings I don't) and set out to acquire them.

So far, I've acquired a few dresses, a little backpack and sandals (the latter two I did not have before, so that's pretty legit, right? ...I know, I know. I didn't have SANDALS. There's something wrong with me).

flamingo, dress, bag, sandal, beach

Our vacation isn't until May . . . and yes, I'm probably [definitely] getting ahead of myself.

But you can't blame me! I've never ever been on a beach vacation before (in fact, I've never been to a beach where the water is warm!). And the closest I've ever been to a tropical paradise was Disney World. . . . And, I get to go with my guy! Who wouldn't be thrilled?

Oh, and the only time I have ever used my passport was when I was 16. I've only been to Canada (many, many times) and France (once). I'm pumped to get a new stamp in my passport. Even though, I have to get a new passport later this year.

It's the idea of the stamp, more than the stamp itself, right?

The pictures above are of Dominicus Beach, where our resort is! Isn't it beautiful? I've been trying to research things to do but it's been tough to find anything that won't cost a fortune. Luckily, Tom is fluent in Spanish so it won't be difficult to communicate with staff and locals and find out what's really neat in the area.

Anyone else been to the DR? Have any suggestions? We'll be just 20 minutes out of La Romana!