abundantlifevegan

Spiritual Musings, Creative Inspiration, and Simple Vegan Recipes


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Sweet and Simple: Lemon Coconut Mug Cake

It is often said that necessity is the mother of invention. I wouldn’t call my desire for a lemon cake on this snowy Valentine’s Day a true necessity…. but there are times in life when we all just need a piece of cake!

One of my recent obsessions has been mug cakes. My first inspirations were from Chocolate Covered Katie’s blog: http://chocolatecoveredkatie.com/

She has a lot of great ideas for single serve desserts, but to be honest, they are too small for me. I have been making my own mug cakes that are a bit more filling, although I still wouldn’t share. Unable to venture out in the snow to get ingredients for my usual coffee cake in a mug, I discovered a bottle of lemon extract and a bit of shredded coconut leftover from making granola in my pantry. Thus, the lemon coconut mug cake was born. I tried with several different flour blends, and even once with protein powder until I nailed what I think is the perfect blend.

Did I mention that this recipe takes less than 5 minutes, is vegan, gluten free, and incredibly easy?

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Ingredients:

2 tbsp rice flour

4 tbsp almond flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/8 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar, stevia or xylitol

3 tbsp So Delicious Vanilla Coconut milk

1 tbsp. + 1 tsp oil (you can use any, I used a neutral tasting olive/ vegetable oil blend)

1/2 tsp. lemon extract

2 tsp. Shredded unsweetened coconut

1 tsp. Lemon Zest (optional)

Directions:

Grease the inside of a mug or ramekin. Combine all dry ingredients directly inside the mug or ramekin. Make sure you mix very well. And wet ingredients and mix to combine. Add about half of the lemon zest and coconut to the mix. Cook for about 1 minute in the microwave. Sprinkle with remaining lemon zest and coconut if desired!

This recipe is part of the The Fast and Fresh “Dairy-Free Time Trials” Recipe Contest! 

See link to contest here: http://www.godairyfree.org/news/dairy-free-time-trials-recipe-contest

And check out more about So Delicious here:

http://sodeliciousdairyfree.com/

https://www.facebook.com/sodeliciousdairyfree

Category: Less than 5 minutes!

Fast and Fresh Dairy Free Time Trials Recipe Contest


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Why I am happier without Facebook (or at least less Facebook…)

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Of course this all started because of a conversation with my mother. Most of the time when my mother challenges me on something, I bristle at first, maybe get a bit defensive, and eventually come around to the conclusion that she is, in fact, correct.

About two weeks ago, my mother and I were chatting on the phone, and I was (as usual) complaining about how busy I am with my full time job, long commute and teaching several yoga classes a week. “I’m trying to meditate” I told her, but it still feels like there is not enough “space.”

“What about all the Facebook posts?” she queried. “Where is there room to be creative, to just think, to just be, with all the Facebook updates and sharing?”

Deep breath. Followed by several more deep breaths. Then the realization that she was absolutely, 100% right. Like many of us, I had access to Facebook on my phone, and on my computer at home, and literally every time I had a spare moment—I was checking Facebook or Instagram. Has anyone liked my post? Any good pictures to share? Have I been invited here or there? Etc. etc etc.

I decided at first to give it a week. One week, no Facebook, not on the phone, the computer anything. I admit—the first two days were very hard. I posted on my page letting people know I would be absent, and I was VERY tempted to check and see who liked it almost immediately! But after the first two days—I felt free. Yes, truly, I wanted to run around and wave my arms and shout “FREEDOM!!!” at the top of my lungs. Strange as it sounds—I was no longer tied down. It was so incredibly liberating to NOT feel obligated to check up on everyone’s life/ status/ baby photos/ vacation/ buzzfeed….

Some other things happened too. I was leaving the house earlier for work or the gym, because I didn’t have to check my phone first. I was enjoying the walks between the buildings on the campus where I work—because I was present, and not staring at the screen. I enjoyed the commute more, I either talked to my carpool buddy, or if she was driving, I slept. I felt more rested, more present, and that there was more “white space” in my head. When I got home from work, I would sometimes just sit, cup of tea in hand and (drumroll please…) DO NOTHING!!

In that same week, our desktop computer and my digital watch both died—as if the universe was coming together to say—“let go! You don’t need to be constantly connected, overwhelmed and burdened with the constant onslaught of information!” I even decided to take the Facebook phone app off of my iPhone. No more check ins, no more status updates. No one needs to know that I am at Durham Yoga Company for the 102nd time. Just sayin’.

After one week, I went back on— and discovered 4 messages, and 99 notifications. No way was I going to check all of those. And I had to laugh…there is also no way in hay am I that important! I made a commitment then and there to only check once a week. Just once a week. I would comment on or like things that were truly interesting, and then go. Go do something else. Connect with a real person. Breathe in the white space and feel grateful.

Thankfully, it hasn’t been that hard! I was worried that moderation would not be possible—but it is, and once you go off the Facebook for a little while, it becomes a whole lot less interesting.

To be fair, I am not fundamentally opposed to Facebook or any other social media for that matter. I love connecting with friends, and I DO enjoy seeing your baby pictures. (I also recognize the irony of sharing this blog link via Facebook. But I am grateful again that wordpress.com allows me to do that—otherwise most of you reading this would not see it, and would not consider possibly going on a Facebook diet. )

Changing my relationship with social media has changed my relationship with myself above all. I had become so hyper aware, hyper connected, and over informed—that my brain had lost the ability to truly pay attention. I had also lost the ability to just BE. Less connection with social media has helped me be more connected to myself, and with my priorities. And again, I am not against Facebook. But thanks to Mom, I began to see what I was missing out on in my own life while I was too busy updating my status.

Thanks Mom!


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Trail Running, Meditation and Homemade Chocolate

January has been a good month for me so far.  Along with sticking to a spending fast, I have also set a goal to return to a consistent meditation practice, as well as return to running (albeit in a different and way) than I have in the past.

Meditation is a practice that I have dabbled with for about two years now. In the past I have been consistent for a little while, then life would get busy—and I wouldn’t prioritize it any more. I know that I am a calmer, more grounded person when meditation is a regular part of my routine. I know that I am a sweeter wife and a more effective therapist when I simply start my day with deep breathing.

I have tried a few different practices, but finally two weeks ago—I found the key that makes meditation work for me.  I had the opportunity to attend a one day workshop on mindfulness, where I was introduced to the “gatha.”

In case you don’t know, gathas are short poems or verses that we can recite, regardless of where we are, to help us return to the present moment and to dwell in mindfulness. I finally found one that worked for me, and using this gatha as I meditate has helped me be consistent in my meditation for 10 days—the longest I have sustained a practice in quite some time.

The gatha I use is this:

Breathing in, I calm my body

Breathing out, I smile

Dwelling in the present moment,

I know this is a wonderful moment!

 

At the training we learned to practice like this, as you breathe say the words in parentheses silently:

Inhale (in)

Exhale (calm)

Inhale (out)

Exhale (smile)

Inhale (present)

Exhale (wonderful)

There are of course many variations of this, explained in Thich Nhat Hanh’s lovely little book, Present Moment, Wonderful Moment. I have found this little volume invaluable as I learn to practice mindfulness in my daily life. I am also learning that having a seated meditation practice is key for creating mindfulness in life. The other crucial piece has been choosing to meditate first thing in the morning, (rather than playing on my phone or on the internet, my usual morning routine!) Deepak Chopra calls this the “RPM” method—rise, pee, mediate. Trust me, it works. Some days I rise, pee, mediate, mindfully drink a cup of coffee, than meditate. But I am sitting, and practicing, and I can feel the difference.

One of the unexpected ways that my mindfulness helped me, was this past Saturday when I ran a 10 mile trail race—the first race I had done in nearly 3 years. It was a very cold, windy morning and I was wondering why I even signed up when we were waiting to start. As we started running, navigating single track trails, and alone with each other and the breath, I found myself reciting the gatha. And each step that I took was wonderful. I realized I had to focus as I ran in much the same way that I do when meditating. Each step, each breath, was something new. A new root, a new rock, a fresh patch of mud met me at my every step. I finished strongly (although I am not sure of my place or time—practicing some non-attachment with that!), and most importantly felt present throughout the entire run. I am eager to sign up for another trail race and practice my new favorite form of moving meditation.

One final piece to share—on my spending fast I challenged myself to make my own chocolate instead of buying the expensive “Endangered Species” chocolate bars I usually favor. I figured I could save money and probably make it healthier too. Enter the world’s easiest and healthiest homemade chocolate!

Dark Pecan Chocolate Bars

Ingredients:

½ cup cocoa (unsweetened)

½ cup coconut oil

1/3 cup coconut nectar

1 cup chopped pecans

Directions

  1. In a small pan, over medium heat, heat cocoa and coconut oil. Once combined, stir in coconut nectar.
  2. Once combined remove from heat and stir pecans in the mixture.
  3. Line an 8 x 8 pan with parchment paper, pour mixture into the pan, and spread with a spatula.
  4. Place entire pan in freezer, and let harden for at least one hour.
  5. Remove, slice and enjoy!

I recommend storing these in the freezer if possible, I had to store mine in the back so I wouldn’t eat them all at once. You could easily sub 1 cup of any chopped nuts you would like, or add dried fruit, coconut, etc.

Happy January friends. Enjoy deep breaths, time outside, and plenty of chocolate until we meet again!

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Cultured Coconut Cranberry Pistachio Bars

So Delicious Dairy Free 3 Course Recipe Contest Badge

I am super excited about sharing this recipe for several reasons,

#1—It’s SUPER easy and takes next to no time to make.

#2 —It’s not only VEGAN but also gluten free and soy free.

#3 —It’s part of the So Delicious 3 Course Recipe Contest—in the “dessert” category. (Although I think you could eat them at any time…)

My husband and I have often joked that we should actually buy stock in “So Delicious” because we consume so much of it. He is obsessed with the coconut creamer, which he puts in his coffee multiple times daily, and has even been known to travel to several different stores if he can’t find his preferred vanilla flavor.

I am the coconut yogurt junkie myself. I love the “Greek style” and the plain, and it’s pretty much a fridge staple in our house.  I eat it in smoothies, make popsicles, and even bread dough using coconut yogurt. This recipe was what we call an experiment gone well…and there are only 3 total ingredients!

Ingredients:

Serves 16, 10 min Prep Time, Total time 1 hr 10 minutes (or more depending on how long you let them freeze)

1 16 oz container So Delicious Cultured Coconut Milk (Plain or vanilla)

½ cup crushed pistachio kernels

¼ cup dried cranberries

Directions:

Combine yogurt, pistachios, and cranberries in a bowl until well blended. You might have to crush the pistachios using a food processor depending on how finely they are crushed.

Line an 8×8 pan with parchment paper and spread mixture evenly in the pan, flattening with a spatula.

Place pan in the freezer, and let it harden at least 1 hour, or overnight if you prefer.

Remove from freezer and let them thaw about 10 minutes. Slice into squares and eat immediately. Freeze any unused portions!

I imagine this recipe would be easy to do with any variation of the nuts and fruit, I just happen to really love the cranberry and pistachio combination. This would probably also work in popsicle molds—but I was really intrigued by the idea of making bars.

And if you were wondering (like I was…) if coconut milk freezes well, this shows it can freeze beautifully!

Hope you enjoy, and please go check out:

http://www.godairyfree.org/news/so-delicious-dairy-free-3-course-recipe-contest and  Continue reading


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Month One—Spending Fast in Review + Intentions for the New Year

One month into my spending fast, and I have to admit, I am loving it. It seriously feels GOOD to be able to put a little bit more money into paying off debt. But there was a part of me that felt guilty giving people DIY gifts at Christmas, especially when they had already purchased things for me. It wasn’t that there was anything “wrong” with the gifts I had made, but it seemed “unequal” in a sense. The truth is that everyone LOVED the things I made them— and I had A LOT of fun making Christmas gifts. There was equal love, even if not equal cost. Here’s a recap of how I did it—>

I reserved a little time on the weekend, usually Sunday afternoon, to devote to gift making and I really enjoyed the process. I made peppermint sugar scrub, which was easy and worked out well. You can find the directions here: http://www.mommymusings.com/diy-peppermint-sugar-scrub/. This awesome blogger even had little printable labels! Hooray!

Next I concocted homemade granola, which was a HUGE hit. I found a recipe that called for ingredients you already have in the house, which made it very easy and affordable. The inspiration and directions are found here: http://ambertheblack.com/no-recipe-easy-homemade-granola/

Finally I made these super easy fabric bowls—> (See picture below, my word press site is not fancy enough to allow me to place a photo any old place!)

This was a delightfully easy and fun project. So easy, that even a less than adept seamstress like myself could make it. I’ll share a tutorial in a separate post.

The hardest part of the spending fast has been food and restaurants. I really love good food, and I LOVE supporting local eateries. I am trying to stick to a food budget, and had completely eliminated eating out as an option. A friend suggested that I allow myself to eat out IF it was within the budget I had already set aside for groceries. This seemed much more realistic, and so still sticking to my budget, we have eaten out (albeit at cheap places!!) twice in the month of December. Bahn’s Cuisine and Ninth Street Bakery here in Durham, NC have vegan friendly eats that cost around $5-6 dollars for a full meal. It is very hard to beat that!

A few more tips on sticking to a budget while grocery shopping.

1. Do NOT go to a “big box” store such as Target or Wal-Mart to get groceries unless you have to. You  WILL think you need other random things, like scented candles, a new ironing board, or other random plastic shit, that I PROMISE you DONT NEED. :) Just go to a regular grocery store, they have everything you need, and if you aren’t afraid of generics, it will be just as cheap.

2. Keeping a grocery budget low means avoiding all pre-packaged food, including the healthy stuff like salad dressing, hummus and my beloved Lara bars. All of these things you can make at home very easily. Again, I plan to offer separate posts on the most financially friendly ways to make these items at home. Plus they are way tastier!

3. When you start cooking and creating more at home, there will be a “Start-up” cost. Buying tahini,miso, dijon and maple syrup to make my favorite salad dressing IS more expensive than grabbing a bottle. But those few ingredients will make salad dressing for the next several months. A very significant savings overall.

Finally, my intention going into 2014 is to have FUN with this spending fast. This doesn’t have to be torture, it is a choice to live more simply and see what emerges with a more mindful approach to spending. Cheers to a frugally fun New Year!

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Why I am doing a Spending Fast–> and How I plan to do it.

Perhaps it is just the time of year (Black Friday!, Christmas Shopping!!), but I have felt overwhelmed with the pressure to spend, all the while worried about having more financial freedom and security.I think many of us can learn a lot about ourselves when we examine our relationship to our finances, how we spend and save, and how we think about our money.

First of all, I want to say that I am incredibly blessed financially. My husband and I both work full-time, not super high paying jobs, but we do have all of our needs met and then some. We are slowly paying off on our house and car (those are the only big ticket items we have) —and we can meet our basic expenses month to month. We are so grateful and blessed. So why go on a spending fast?

  1. To reduce the amount of educational debt we have accrued getting our awesome graduate degrees.
  2. To become more aware of how I spend, and why. (Boredom? Keeping up with the Joneses? A false sense of security? Image?)
  3. To challenge myself to discover more ways to have fun with friends and family that do not involve spending money (i.e. simple pleasures!)
  4. To purposefully and actively take a stand against materialism, consumerism and waste.
  5. Finding freedom from the need to feel secure—based on the items that I own or buy.

So here is how the fast will look. The fast will start on December 1st and go through May 31st—and may continue longer. I didn’t want to set a goal that wasn’t feasible, and I feel that this will be.

What I will spend on:

  • Car payments
  • Loan payments
  • Insurance
  • Medical appointments
  • Gas
  • Food
  • Routine car maintenance

What I won’t spend $ on:

  • Gifts (sorry ya’ll, it is a handmade and homemade Christmas—except hubby who was lucky that I purchased his gift a week ago!)
  • Coffee/ Tea out (this will be one of the hardest. I frequent Cocoa Cinnamon, Bean Traders and Mad Hatter’s in Durham. This will require major willpower!)
  • New Clothes. So long modcloth.com
  • Etsy. I love to support handmade arts and crafts, these next 6 months I will be making my own!
  • New makeup and toiletries ( I have noticed that I have a strange obsession with buying moisturizer, lip glosses, shampoos, etc.—even when I already have them. I currently own 6 facial moisturizers. No one needs 6 facial moisturizers!!)
  • Manicure/ pedicure (I don’t do this often, but it won’t hurt me to take a 6 month break and use one of the many nail polishes I already own. See above).
  • Fancy haircut—as I need to grow my hair out anyway, if anyone reading this in the Durham area know how to cute hair and would like to barter haircuts for yoga or baby-sitting let me know.
  • Movies (we do have Netflix and the library—not to mention my latest favorite is “The Paradise”—and  I can watch that on PBS online for free.)
  • New music (another addiction…)
  • Amazon purchases (Because I need to OWN that book has been stated way too many times.)
  • Restaurants (AHHHHH!!!!! Like coffee shops above, this will be very difficult. Luckily I LOVE to cook, and know how to do so cheaply).
  • Groupons (They just tempt me to buy things I don’t need).
  • Whole Foods—Again, I am always tempted to buy more than what I need. Kroger and Trader Joe’s literally have everything I need.
  • Fancy Expensive Fitness Classes. I have free memberships at 2 gyms in town, and free yoga as well. There is no reason I need to buy more. Much as I love the classes at the local Cycle/ Yoga Studio, this requires me to take a break—I hope to go back to them someday.

So there you have it, this is modeled somewhat after the inspiration I discovered at this blog: http://andthenwesaved.com/about-the-spending-fast/

I encourage you to check out what she has written. I plan to blog further on how the fast goes, what I discover and how I find ways to save (which I think will be mostly about NOT spending). I am declaring this publicly not only as a way of holding myself accountable, but also to garner support from friends and family. Thank you for supporting this effort, and comment below if you have any tips, ideas or suggestions!

I am eager to see what I learn not only about myself, but my relationship with money along the way.

 


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High Protein Pumpkin Pancakes (Vegan and Gluten Free)

When I first became vegan, I of course already had celiac disease– and for a long time assumed that pancakes were something of an off-limits food for me. Obviously, the pancakes I had known were filled with flour, sugar, usually eggs– all ingredients I tried to avoid. Plus, they always made me crash mid-morning or more likely 10 minutes later…..Pancakes the way I knew them growing up were the type of food that just made me feel hungrier after I ate them.

Recently I have run across some great pancake recipes here: http://www.rickiheller.com/ (Sugar-free! grain-free! vegan!)

Her recipes inspired me to re-create my own version of a truly breakfast-worth pancake— and these were super easy to boot. My pictures aren’t so pretty yet, but I assure you this recipe is amazing. :)Image

Pumpkin Protein Pancakes

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 of a medium banana
  • 1 chia seed egg (combine 1 tbsp chia seeds with 2 tbsp warm water)
  • 1 scoop Raw Protein Powder (I use Garden of Life)
  • 1 tbsp ground flaxseed meal
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor or coffee/spice mill until smooth.
  2. Heat pan (or griddle) over medium heat; coat with non-stick cooking spray.
  3. Pour batter onto the pan/griddle.
  4. Cook each pancake for 2-3 minutes and then flip. Cook on the other side for about 1 minute.
  5. Serve with your favorite toppings. (I like coconut nectar or berries!)

Makes 2-3 pancakes

P.S. This recipe is part of Ricki Heller’s latest Wellness Weekend, Check out more here :

http://www.rickiheller.com/2013/08/wellness-weekend-august-29-september-2-2013/

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