Spiritual Musings, Creative Inspiration, and Simple Vegan Recipes

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Harry Potter-Themed Anniversary Dinner

Very Vegan Holiday

So, as I said in my last post, Saturday was mine and my boyfriends six-year anniversary. With Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One coming out on Friday, we decided to start re-watching all the movies. So I decided it would be a good night to make a Harry Potter-themed anniversary dinner! I didn’t want party-style food, so cupcakes and cookies and all the really “fun” Harry Potter foods were out. I wanted a real meal for our anniversary. So, this is what I came up with:

Herbology Salad with Liquid Luck Vinaigrette
Shepherd’s Pie
Sauteed Gillyweed
Golden Galleon Beets
Pumpkin Pasties

Butterbeer, which is a drink that regularly shows up in the books and movies, can be served either hot or cold. It is described as having a sort of butterscotch flavor to it. You can read more about it here. I wanted to…

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Plum Tart (Gluten and Sugar Free)

plum tart

One of the things I love most about summer is all the variety of fresh and local fruit ripe and ready for eating. My mother and father in law have several fruit trees in their yard, and have supplied my husband and I with a bounty of small and super tasty peaches and plums this summer. So far I have made peach cobbler, peach crisp (twice), peach muffins, and peach jam. But what I really wanted was a tart, a bubbly, crispy and not too sweet— I think I found just the thing. I adapted a recipe from Barefoot Contessa (No joke!) to create this plum tart, if you need some more sweet you can always add some brown sugar– but I think the plums stand alone just fine.

Plum Tart – gluten free, dairy free, soy free- Serves 8
2 cups gluten free all-purpose flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill)
3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts (to appear crumbly)
6 tbsp. ounces Earth Balance Soy Free Spread, chilled and diced
2 tbsp flaxseeds + 4 tbsp warm water (mixed to make an egg)
2 1/2 pounds firm, ripe plums, pitted and quartered lengthwise (any variety you like will work here)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Combine ground flaxseeds and water in small bowl, whisk them together and then set aside to give them time to gel. In a medium bowl using an electric mixer combine the flour and walnuts and mix until well blended. (I chopped the walnuts the lazy way by putting them into my mini food processor for a brief time). Incorporate the earth balance using a pastry cutter. Then add flaxseed mixture. Mix until the batter looks crumbly, about 3 minutes.

Press about two thirds of the crumb mixture (1 1/2 cups) in an even layer into the bottom and along the sides of a 9 1/2-inch tart pan. Arrange the plums in the pan, skin side down, begin at the outside and work your way in.

Sprinkle the rest of the crumb mixture evenly over the plums. Bake the tart for 40-45 minutes or until the top is brown and bubbly!


How I survived (Sort of….) my 6 month Spending Fast

It has been a very long time since I posted, but I have several excuses! I took a long break from technology and social media (a much needed fast for me) throughout much of March and April. Then in May I got a new job, and to put it mildly, the schedule was utterly insane.

Somehow, the end of my 6 month Spending Fast crept up on me (almost) without my realizing. The good news, is that the fast was not nearly as difficult as I imagined it would be.  I imagined myself never “having fun,” always turning friends down, feeling bored at the house, etc. This wasn’t the case at all! (More on that in a moment). The bad news is that I did cheat (partially out of necessity) a few times.

Here is what went well. I LOVED making DIY gifts. I made homemade sugar scrubs, cloth bowls, jellies, granola, and an earring holder for my sister. I managed to find simple and inexpensive ways to  give gifts, which of course was great. But, even DIY costs money of course– and you have to budget time to do it. Still, it was well worth it and I plan to keep doing at least some DIY gifts in the future.

Cosmetics were another area that went better than expected. I made my own facial exfoliator using 2 ingredients– leftover coffee grounds and olive oil. It worked even better than store bought. I also tried to go “poo-less”— (the popular baking soda method, just google it and you’ll see)— but this was not right for my hair at all. I just looked greasy and smelled like biscuits all the time.

I also tried to make my own shampoo with water and castile soap and essential oils. Nope. Made my scalp itch like mad. Did not cut it. I ended up finding a good deal on my trusted Avalon Organics shampoo and conditioner and went back to buying it from the bottle. At least the bottle is “now more eco-friendly”…whatever that means!

I successfully avoided Etsy.com and modcloth.com (probably the most difficult part for me)– but when I got my new job, I needed to purchase a few more “business casual” clothing items and a laptop. Both of these were unexpected, but since they were work-related, I let them slide, although I felt some guilt about it.

Eating out, entertainment, groupons, etc. all turned out to be no big deal. We had friends over for lunch, or we had them over to play games, or I met friends for yoga or walks, etc. I did “cheat” on the coffee shops. I had a set budget for our groceries, I used cash weekly. And anything leftover was allowed to be used for the occasional coffee or bite to eat. A friend suggested that early in the fast and I am really glad she did!

But here is my biggest cheat. The fancy fitness classes I wasn’t supposed to buy? I bought a 15 class pack at Sync Studio (Cycling, Yoga and Circuit Training) just a few months into the fast. I love working out there. I again felt some guilt at first, but in the end I don’t regret it. I go there once a week as a treat to myself, and I think that sweating my butt off at 5:45 am because I enjoy it is worth the investment in my health and happiness.

At the end of the fast I didn’t find myself feeling deprived, or needing to get everything on my Amazon.com wishlist. In fact, I felt like my husband and I had created a lifestyle that we could sustain. I DID splurge on a “veggie spiralizer” and a new cookbook from Amazon when the fast was complete, AND another class pass card to Sync Studio. But that was it. We plan to stick with a grocery budget and do DIY as much as possible for gifts. About once a month we have a special date and go to eat out or see some local entertainment, again very manageable. Still no TV, still avoiding Whole Foods, heading to the library instead of Amazon.

The best feeling was how much of our debt we were able to pay off. It was incredibly gratifying each month to see the balance go DOWN, instead of hovering at the same place month after month. No numbers will be shared, but if we can keep up the “spending diet” we should have all educational debt eliminated within the next 2 years, which for us would be a huge accomplishment.

My Top 5 tips if you want to try a spending fast or “diet”—>

1) Don’t deplete your savings to try and eliminate debt! You never know when the car will break down or the roof will leak and you need some extra reserves. (Both of these happened to us!)

2) Don’t be afraid to ask friends and family to meet for dinner or lunch at home, or go for a walk, or just spend time together. Chances are they want to as well.

3) When something breaks or seems to be working improperly, try to explore all your options before rushing out and buying something new. During the fast my watch broke, and instead of getting a new one, I discovered an old one and had it repaired for a fraction of the cost. Our washer was malfunctioning, but a few Google searches helped us solve the problem and continue using the one we have now.

4) Use cash whenever possible, especially for groceries and household items. This was probably the most helpful tool for me. If I went in with a set amount of money to use, obviously I was making more economical choices. And no, this doesn’t mean buying unhealthy foods or processed crap. It does mean buying more locally, purchasing bulk foods and checking out ethnic food stores for spices and herbs.

5) Auto debit is your friend. Oh, and mint.com. Setting up a monthly recurring transfer of my paycheck to pay off debt AND to go into savings takes all the thinking and work out of saving and eliminating debt. I highly recommend this if you don’t already do it. And mint.com is a fantastic budgeting tool,  free and has a decent phone app as well.

So, I survived and thrived and lived to tell about my 6 month Spending Fast. I would love to hear your feedback, and tips and tricks you might have for living simply and being more frugal.


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?



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)


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:



Category: Less than 5 minutes!

Fast and Fresh Dairy Free Time Trials Recipe Contest


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


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!


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


½ cup cocoa (unsweetened)

½ cup coconut oil

1/3 cup coconut nectar

1 cup chopped pecans


  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!