Escarole (Pronounced “Shkodole”, FYI) & Beans Inpsired Soup.

Let’s just start off with the very predictable comment on this weekends weather… oh. my. gosh. SNOW. More snow than I have ever cared to see at one time. But, I will say that seeing my busy city neighborhood completely quiet and shut down was pretty nice.

Thankfully we live on a main road that that lies perpendicular to two other main roads. Our friends Kiki & Cheech live on a one way on the street that is parallel and directly behind ours. That street does not get paved.  A bunch of our awesome friends cleared a path to their car, and through the street because Kiki is getting sort of close to the due date of their second kid; a boy. He and Jackson are gonna be buds.

Anyways, Saturday night  we were fortunate enough to be able to walk around the corner, and through that path they worked so hard to clear, and have quality time with some of our best friends! As Joe and I were making the familiar stroll down familiar streets, I couldn’t help but realize it was a completely different experience. No traffic. No noise. It was so still. Looking to the left down the long stretch of road that borders our street I could see two more people walking in the distance in the middle of the road. To the right there was a man walking along on his way. It made me wonder what life would be like if it was always like this. What if there weren’t so many cars that rushed by or crowded streets? What if we all had to walk every where we went? Was this what is was like back in the day? What would life be like? I liked the thought of it honestly. I guess it was just a really great change of pace in that moment.

Out of my head and back to reality we arrived safely and spent the evening communing, eating, and playing a game that is kind of like a cross between Catchphrase and Charades. It was amazing fun. We had so much fun that we went back Sunday morning to share breakfast, worship, and listen to a recorded sermon by our friend and lead pastor Justin Kendrick. It was City Church‘s first ever “Church on the Couch” since service was cancelled due to the weather. Nothing better than sharing a meal and having church in the living room with your closest friends. Pretty close to how the New Testament church did it! I must also add that one of my friends is gluten free, so for breakfast I made the best ever blueberry muffins  sans gluten by subbing oat flour for the wheat flour and they were a hit. Still completely amazing and the best ever vegan gluten free blueberry muffins.

Along with all of that was lots and lots and lots and LOTS of shoveling. I am happy to be pregnant, but am even more happy that I am pregnant because of the fact that I did not have to shovel. HA! Is that selfish? 😉 Man my friends and husband worked their butts off. The hubs didn’t go into work today, and yet more work had to be done un-burying  my car and our friends Teresa’s car that were parked at the top of our driveway. I thought it would be the perfect day to make a comforting pot of hot soup. I could not help but think of one my cute Italian grandma and mom prepared, and still prepare, often as I was growing up: escarole and beans. Only 1. I’ve never made it before. 2. I didn’t have escarole. 3. If I had escarole I wouldn’t want to clean it. One day I will actually make escarole and beans, but today I made a soup inspired by the idea of greens and beans. 🙂 (Is it just me or is it fun to say “shkodole”?! It just sounds better that way. If you don’t say it that way, you should.)

Ingredients

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 1/2 c soy chorizo (You could use any of your favorite soy sausage, crumbled, or even crumbled tempeh if you prefer.)
3 cloves of garlic, minced
6 c veggie broth (I used low sodium.)
2 15 oz cans of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 c packed kale, chiffonade (rolled up and sliced thin) (You could use any green of choice really: spinach, swiss chard, a combo, etc.)
1/2 c fresh basil, chopped
1 tsp sea salt (If using a higher sodium broth you may want to start with 1/2 tsp and add more if needed.)
fresh ground black pepper

Directions

Heat a large pot on medium heat. Drizzle oil, add onions and pinch of salt.
Once the onions begin to brown and turn translucent add the chorizo. Sautée until browned, about 5-6 minutes, then add the garlic. Sautée for another minute then add salt, pepper & veggie broth.
Cover, turn up heat and bring to a boil. Once boiling remove lid, reduce heat to a simmer and add in the beans.
Let the beans cook for 3 minutes then add in the kale or greens of choice. Once they have wilted stir in the basil.
Turn off the heat, cover and let the flavors meld for 10-15 minuted before serving. Unless you are ravenous, then eat it right away. 😉 Serve over quinoa, pastina, orzo, or some crusty bread.

Note: I used a spicy chorizo, but if you are not using a spicy protein you can add some crushed red pepper for a nice kick and added flavor.

Now I am going to enjoy the rest of this quiet rainy snow day with my hubby before it is somewhat back to the hustle and bustle tomorrow.

How are you all holding up after Nemo?? Any comfort food that’s been getting you through?

Reason # 874382 It’s Easy Being Vegan…”Best Ever {Vegan} Blueberry Muffins”.

One of my favorite things to do is recreate yummy looking recipes to become its vegan counterpart.

It is my opinion that, if you give it the good old college try, you can be pleasantly surprised at how great things turn out vegan.

I am always up for that!

So, naturally, when I cam across a recipe for the most delicious home made blueberry muffins I had ever seen, but discovered they were loaded with butter (and a bit too much sugar for my liking), I set out to make them vegan. (Also, let’s face it; vegan or not, the general public in the U.S. could stand to live with less dairy & sugar in their diet.)

Outcome: I was not disappointed.

Complete. Deliciousness.

Best Ever Vegan Blueberry Muffins

recipe source: Adapted from A Cook’s Quest, “The Best Ever Blueberry Muffins“.

Streusel Topping

2 T white sugar
2 T brown sugar
1/3 cup oat flour flour (Grind old fashioned oats in a food processor or spice mill.)
2 Tbsp of whole old fashioned oats
Zest from one lemon
5 T melted coconut oil

Muffins
2 cups fresh blueberries (or frozen, thawed & drained)
3/4 cup + 1 teaspoon sugar, divided
1/4 cup agave nectar
1 tablespoon water
2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (to make gluten free sub oat flour. You can make your own by grinding up 2 1/2 c of gluten free oats in a food processor or spice/coffee grinder.)
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
2 flax eggs (2 Tbsp flax meal mixed with 6 Tbsp of water)
4 tablespoons vegan butter (such as Earth Balance), melted (You can also use coconut oil here. note: If/when adding the melted coconut oil to the recipe it may begin to solidify, which is no big deal really, but just work quickly.)
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 cup vegan buttermilk (1 cup of unsweetened almond or soy milk + 1 Tbsp of white or apple cider vinegar, whisked together til foamy.)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions
Mix streusel ingredients together with a fork until combined & set aside.Adjust oven rack to position and heat oven to 425 degrees.

Prepare standard muffin tins with nonstick cooking spray, liners, or if you are like me, make shift liners made out of parchment paper.

Prepare your flax eggs & set aside to thicken. Prepare buttermilk mixture & set aside.

Bring 1 cup blueberries, 1 Tbsp water,  and 1 tsp sugar to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, mashing the berries with your potato masher or fork several times and stirring frequently, until berries have broken down and mixture is thickened and reduced by about half.  This will take about 6 minutes. Transfer to small bowl and cool to room temperature, 10 to 15 minutes.

In a large bowl whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together. In a separate medium bowl whisk remaining 3/4 c sugar, agave and eggs together in medium bowl until thick and well combined. Slowly mix in melted butter and oil until combined. Whisk in buttermilk and vanilla. Using rubber spatula, fold egg mixture and remaining 1 c blueberries into flour mixture until just moistened. (Batter will be lumpy; do not over mix.)

Using a scoop (I used and ice cream scoop) or large spoon, divide batter equally among prepared muffin cups. Completely fill each cup. Spoon teaspoon of cooked berry mixture into center of each mound of batter. Gently swirl berry filling into batter using figure-eight motion. Sprinkle streusel evenly over muffins.

Bake until muffin tops are golden and just firm, 17 to 19 minutes. Cool muffins in muffin tin for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack and cool 5 minutes before serving.

I got 12 muffins out of this recipe.
My husbands response: "Eat your heart out McDonalds! I'll take a muffin from foodformyhouse any day..." #win

My husbands response: “Eat your heart out McDonalds! I’ll take a muffin from foodformyhouse any day…” #win

I am going to try it with strawberries next I think! You can use this recipe as a base & use any fruit you like.

Other Nutritional Info…for all the food & nutrition education junkies:

You may notice I cut some some of the sugar & substituted it with agave. Agave is a natural sweetener with a low glycemic index. According to a comparison of agave vs. granulated sugar, white sugar has a glycemic index in the high 60’s, but agave generally scored under 30. It does have calories, but it is low-carb compared to regular sugar, which is why it is a good alternative for diabetics; it does not spike the blood sugar quickly. Also, agave is plant based & completely vegan. Some granulated sugars are filtered using animal bone char. For this recipe the granulated sugar I used was Bob’s Red Mill Evaporated Cane Juice Sugar. It contains more of the natural nutrients found in sugar cane than refined or processed sugars.

Familiar with Dr. Oz? He is pretty popular nowadays. His website provides a detailed explanation of the health benefits of coconut oil. I will let you read up on that on your own!

One of my friend Alayna‘s favorite desserts are home made lemon bars, which apparently would be really hard to make vegan. This just may be my next attempt! Anybody ever done it before??

A New Kind of Time Management.

I am sure that it’s obvious that I am a sucker for family. It’s something that is near and dear to my heart. You also may or may not know that I am giving birth to our first baby, Jackson, in May. Now, I do not intend for this to become a mommy blog, but becoming a mommy is kind of at the forefront of my life right now, so it is inspiring some of my posts…including this one.

Over the past month the restaurant I have been working at since around August/September changed my set hours to “on-call”, only I never really get called. So, after working full time Monday through Friday for years now, I found myself at home all day, 3 days a week. I soon realized that (besides having more time to blog…yay!)  managing time at home was something that was COMPLETELY foreign to me. The minutes and hours ticked by, and at the end of the day I had watched one too many episodes of Downton Abbey or Parenthood and was left feeling completely unproductive. Can anyone relate?!?

The reality of being a stay at home mom in just a matter of months has started to settle in, and although, realistically, my main concern for a while is going to be caring for a newborn, I want to get a leg up! A little Melissa nuance is that I need to be well prepared. I function best when I know what to expect, have time to digest and make a plan, or am able to make some kind of analysis or resolution. Is this always realistic in life? Probably not. But I try to set myself up for success when and if I can.

So, I did some research. Minimal research actually…but, in the minimal research I did, I found some good info to glean from. I will post links at the end of this post.

What I discovered:

1.) Acknowledge time suckers. For me, for starters anyways, it’s wasting time scrolling mindlessly on my phone. I’ve determined that I do not need to check every notification or email as it appears. Assess what is necessary to read or respond to, do it, and then put it down and walk away. I’ve also started to take note of the clock while on my phone, and not let myself get caught up for more than 2-3 minutes. It is so easy to go from one link to the next, to the next, to the next. Also, watching shows when I am home during the day. There is always something that can be done or is more worth my time than a show. So, IF I am going to watch something, it is going to be as a reward for accomplishing something else more pertinent first. Can I also throw in here that I takes me kind of a long time to shower and get ready? I have always been a 20 minute shower taker. Always. Anyone have any tips on cutting that time down other than shaving my head? 😉 I honestly have a thick head of hair. Moving on…

2.) Make priorities. This is obviously different for everyone. Everyday make a list of priorities of what you would like to get done and what you absolutely need to get done. For one, it will help you put in perspective what is actually important and what you can realistically accomplish. Do the most essential things first, and with whatever time you have left tackle the less important items on the list. The fact of the matter is crossing anything off a list is gratifying and will make you feel productive and motivated. Go us! 

3.) Establish routines that make life easier. Ok. What’s important to you? A clean house? Getting the kids ready faster? Right now I’d say that if I am going to be home 3 days out of the week I want my house to appear clean when my husband gets home from work…especially the bathroom, kitchen and our bedroom. When I wake up before I even go downstairs for breakfast I make the bed. Makes the room look 10x better. You may be thinking, “Duuuh.” , but can I honestly tell you I never did that before! When I am done folding laundry I have started putting them away immediately instead of stacking the piles in my closet. Again….what the heck was wrong with me?! When it comes to the bathroom the sink & toilet looking clean on a daily basis is specifically important to me. My husband tends to shave in the morning and his little ginger beard hairs (side-note: he hates when I call anything about him “ginger”…) are left speckling the white porcelain sink. Pet. Peeve. He works really hard so I gladly clean them up after him. Instead of waiting once a week to wipe down the sink & toilet, as soon as I am done with my shower I have made it a routine to spray down the sink and toilet. It literally takes 3 minutes or less to do and makes the bathroom sparkle and smell nice. As far as the kitchen goes, after breakfast I will wipe down the counters and table. At the end of the day it is my goal to sweep the floor and not leave any dishes in the sink for the next day. Hubby is good about doing the dishes since I cook dinner every night. I am usually not a stickler about leaving dishes at the end of the day, but once we have a baby I don’t want to come downstairs to a chore I could have easily done the night before.

4.) Make time for you. We are not a bunch of robots who can live day to day checking tasks off a to-do list. We all are made with gifts and talents and things that make us thrive. As much as I want to be productive, I know that in order to maintain my health, well-being and sanity, I need to incorporate things I am truly passionate about into my day. It doesn’t mean I have to fit them all into one day either. Prayer and quiet time, reading, writing, blogging, learning a new song, knitting (a new hobby I am learning!), spending time with loved ones, running, yoga, creating a new recipe, learning about nutrition, being crafty; these are all things that I value and that help me thrive, so they should be a part of my life.

Ultimately I am not going to be a slave to a schedule; life is meant to be enjoyed and lived in each savored moment. With that in mind, it is incredibly healthy to have a standard to go by, as well as boundaries.

The next step for me is actually making daily, weekly and monthly schedules that makes sense for me, and to start setting some goals for myself. I have never really been good at setting goals in some areas of my life, so I am excited to delve into that. I also found some great resources from Money Saving Mom. She provides a whole bunch of free household management forms that I am going to check out and put to the test. Let me know if you check them out too!

Here are a list of links that helped me on my quest to stay at home time management:

http://stayathomemoms.about.com/od/tipstimesavers/tp/timemanagementplanformoms.htm

http://voices.yahoo.com/managing-time-as-stay-home-mom-2989576.html?cat=25

http://www.mommieswithcents.com/2010/07/time-management-as-a-stay-at-home-mom.html

http://moneysavingmom.com/2010/11/time-management-101-home-management-part-1.html

http://moneysavingmom.com/2010/12/time-management-101-home-management-part-2.html

Alright all you veteran stay at homers…what tips do you have for a newbie like me? I look forward to gleaning from you!

TGI…Saturday.

Happy Saturday everyone! I am gladly spending this day doing not much of anything…catching up on the blog (obvi), finishing Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, by Ina May Gaskin (thanks to my good friend, Alayna, for letting me borrow it!), adding items to my baby registry (SO. much. fun. I can spend hours doing this!), and later we are going out to dinner with some friends.

Yesterday afternoon turned into quite the adventure. I had lunch with my Grandma and headed from there to my monthly midwife appointment. The traffic on the highway was pretty bad; it was backed up for 3 exits before the one I needed to take, so I decided to get off the highway and go back roads. Well, although I have lived in the New Haven area for my entire life, I knew I was not going to be able to navigate the way from the exit to the doctors office without my GPS. It was about 3:40 as I was driving down the off ramp. There was a glare from the sun on my windshield and I looked down to enter the address into my GPS, and then BOOM. I rear ended the PICK UP TRUCK in front of me. How I did not see a pick up truck, even with the glare, I do not know. I felt so awful, but was mostly shaken up because all I could think was, “There’s a baby in my uterus!!” The guy got out of his truck, looked at his bumper, said everything was fine and  just drove away. I was so relieved at that anyways. The drive the rest of the way to the doctors office was miserable. The GPS on the iphone often has the opposite orientation, and let’s face it, I am not good with maps. I took multiple wrong turns having to back track, fighting back tears and sheer frustration at uncooperative drivers, the fact that I was so late for my appointment where my husband was waiting for me, and really just the entire situation itself. I couldn’t believe what was happening. My poor husband didn’t know whether to comfort me or just leave me and the steam coming out of my ears alone.

When I finally got into the doctor’s office the women at the window said, “You know your appointment was at 3:45 right?” Oh yea lady, just what I wanted to hear. I had no response other than “Yea.” My husband, knowing my complete frazzledness & frustration & inability to gather a fruitful sentence, chimed in, “There was traffic.” We were informed that the midwife took her next patient & it would most likely be a half hour wait.

Once we were in with the midwife she asked me how I was. I was able to calm down and regain some peace by then, and so I told her what happened and that I was just a bit frazzled at the moment. She immediately asked if I told that to the women who checked me in, and I told her no, I really couldn’t even talk about it then. She compassionately encouraged me to make sure I tell them if something like that were to happen again, because obviously it is relevant to my visit, and also why I was late. So, she did the exam and the baby sounded fine (Who is a boy by the way! Who we are naming Jackson!).  But, standard procedure, for even the most minor accident, would be for me to go to hospital and have the baby monitored for 4 hours. Not exactly how we anticipated spending our Friday night, but obviously, we would rather be safe than sorry. So, off we went. It was about 5pm at this point.

I got checked in and three different hospital employees offered to take us up to our room. Apparently everyone wanted to escort us. It made us feel special. We had the sweetest nurse, and thankfully everything went completely smoothly. Jackson was as fine as ever, so at around 8pm, after 2 hours of getting to hear him, and watching some Restaurant Impossible, we got to go home. It wasn’t even until leaving the hospital did we notice that I probably need my bumper and hood repaired. Clearly that was the last thing on our minds! I couldn’t eat or drink while I was there and was starving by the time we left, so we stopped at Mamouns for some Mediterranean goodness. Oh, and the valet guy didn’t charge us anything to park our car. There were so many little blessings along the way, not to mention that our little boy is doing perfect. I am full of gratitude for that. When you adjust your perspective it is so easy to see how God really does pour out His good on situations that are not so good.

Me...listening to Jackson's healthy heart & little movements!

Me…listening to Jackson’s healthy heart & little movements! I’ll be back there in a couple months and then we’ll get to meet him!

So yes, after an eventful Friday, I am very grateful for this relaxing Saturday!

For  your entertainment check this video out: two Dutch men who host the TV show Guinea Pigs experiencing simulated labor pains. 🙂 Thanks for the entertainment boys.

Hope you all enjoy your weekend!!

Vegan Chocolate Chip “Oreo” Brownie Bars with a Holiday Twist!

My husband had his company Christmas party tonight, to which they do not invite spouses. hmph! LAME.

Anyway, I was sitting here, alone, eating some ginger snaps with almond milk & realized it’s been over a month since I’ve posted! (How does that happen?!)  AND that I promised an amazing veganized recipe for chocolate chip oreo brownie bars that can easily be made with a holiday twist!

I am definitely in the Christmas spirit since we put our cute little tree up a couple weeks ago, and went into NYC this past weekend to see the tree in Rockefeller Center, as well as eat lunch at Serendipity and stroll through both Central & Bryant Park.

Hubby at Serendipity

Hubby at Serendipity

Us at the tree in NYC...

Us at the tree in NYC…

I personally like our tree better. :)

I personally like our tree better. 🙂

Back to the baked goods…

I for one love new dessert recipes, as well as switching it up during the holidays from the typical cookie or pie that usually appears on the table.

I found the original recipe for the goodies to follow from Kevin & Amanda, then made the appropriate changes to make it vegan, and maybe a liiiiiitle bit healthier.

Holiday Chocolate Chip “Oreo” Brownie Bars

First off, preheat oven to 350 degrees. And let me just say right off that it may seem like a lot to make brownie & chocolate chip cookie batter for 1 dish, but it’s super easy, goes super fast & is totally worth it! Now go for it & let everyone tell you how amazing you are.

For the Brownies: (altered from here.)

Ingredients:

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1.5 cups sugar (I use raw (turbinado) sugar pulsed in a spice mill to make it finer)

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1 cup water

1 cup unsweetened apple sauce

1 Tbsp canola oil

1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:

In a large bowl mix together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder & salt. Add in the water, apple sauce, oil, & vanilla, then mix until well combined. Set aside & prepare chocolate cookie batter.

For the Chocolate Chip Cookies: (altered from here.)

Ingredients:

2 3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1 cup vegan margarine at room temp. (Earth Balance has a variety using veggie, soy or coconut oils)

1/2 cup organic brown sugar

1/2 cup sugar (again, I use raw sugar pulsed in spice mill)

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 cup mashed banana

12 oz dairy free chocolate chip (I use Trader Joes brand usually)

Directions:

Sift together the flour, salt and baking soda in a large bowl and set aside.

In a separate large bowl, beat together the margarine, sugar, brown sugar, vanilla and banana. Add the dry ingredients to this and stir until combined well.

Stir in the chocolate chips.

Holiday Twist!

Heck yes.

Heck yes.

OK – To Assemble:

Line a 9×13 baking dish with parchment paper and press the chocolate chip cookie dough into the pan to form the bottom layer.

Next, place the Candy Cane Joe Joe’s in rows over the chocolate chip cookie dough. You should get 4 rows of about 7 cookies.

Finally pour the brownie batter over the whole thing.

Cover the pan with tin foil & bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil & then bake for 15-25 minutes more until fully cooked. You do want it to be nice & fudgey though!

Let them cool before cutting so it sets nicely & enjoy.

so. stinkin. tasty.

so. stinkin. tasty.

I am sure that your family & friends will LOVE this & you even more for making it!

Tomorrow is ultrasound day to reveal the gender of our little one, but we are going to have the tech put it in an envelope & open it on Christmas morning for memorable Christmas surprise. I have a fun plan to reveal the gender to our families that day and will be sure to share it with you all.

Hope you take time to enjoy this season amidst all the holiday preparations!!

Forever & a Day.

That’s how long it seems to have been since I have posted!

So, today I am going to fill you in on some important news AND update you all on what’s been filling this past week with amazingness.

Well, to start… … …

I am 3 months pregnant!! 🙂 Baby Jacobs is expected to enter this world on May 6th & we could not be more thrilled! You may have seen a picture on instagram or twitter (follow me at @foodformyhouse), but here is the little cutie at 10 weeks.

Our sweet little guy or girl.

This week started off with some Fall fun at Bishops Orchard in Guilford, CT. We had our annual pumpkin picking and carving day with some very good friends of ours. Here are our creations all lit up:

Joe did the Giants logo & I did a baby sucking it’s thumb. So fitting.

My vegetarian friend Cory found this picture this week which I got a kick out of & thought I’d share it with you all. I’m thinking about framing it & putting it my kitchen or something.

Onto FOOD.

NEW. FAVORITE. RECIPE. I am not a huge chinese food fan, but lately I have had some cravings for it. Sooooo, I did what I do & found a vegan recipe for orange “chicken”. It is made with battered & friend seitan. Omg. Make this. Please. And never get take out again. I don’t know where you’re from, but CT does not have a good reputation in the Chinese restaurant department.

mmm mmm good.

What is Fall with out all things pumpkin & delicious warm beverages???

I love love love love LOVE Sarah Matheny’s blog, “Peas and Thank You” and her fantastic recipes. They are a staple in my kitchen. This week I tried her pumpkin pie ice cream sandwiches, and, as usual, was not disappointed. Give ’em a try!

Pumpkin Pie in frozen form. And vegan. And much healthier.

Hot Chocolate. I haven’t been drinking coffee since I’ve been pregnant and this so hits the spot. It’s my own recipe of 1.5 c of almond milk (or any non-dairy milk), 2 Tbsp of unsweetened cocoa powder & 2 Tbsp of agave. If you like cinnamon add a couple dashes. Wisk on medium heat until hot and serve. Perfection.

Another thing I will never buy packaged again.

Food for the soul. Just as important as food for the body. I have had my nose in Streams in the Desert by L.B. Cowman for this entire month…pretty much since it came in the mail from Amazon. Life. Giving.

So good.

So that’s that. What’s been going on in your life? New recipes, exciting news, awesome finds you don’t know how you lived without?!?

Stay tuned because soon to come is my vegan version of a chocolate chip oreo fudge brownie concoction that you will want to try for yourself!!!

New Seasons & Complete Faith

The last few days have brought that crisp fresh fall air, hinting that a new season is just around the corner.

Yes, I am a summer girl at heart, but the changing of the seasons always leaves me excited for something new.

{Plus, Fall means colored leaves, apple cider, all things pumpkin and some of my favorite spices.}

Just as the seasons are changing from Summer to Autumn, the seasons are changing here in the Jacobs household as well.

“You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness’—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone…For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.” James 2:19-24, 26

This has been a season of learning the completion of faith. Not just believing in faith. But acting in faith.

This month I left my “safe” and “familiar” office job, complete with benefits and a guaranteed sufficient paycheck to nanny a 2 year old 2 days a week.

I had been feeling the restlessness of needing to make a move for quite sometime; but the husband got a new job that was starting out part time and was settling into that, so he felt it was best for me to stay put for the time being. {Patience, Melissa, patience.} It was a good time to learn contentment and faithfulness, even when I was in a situation I did not want to be in anymore.

When August came around I started describing my job as a relationship where you know you need to break up with someone, but you just don’t because it’s easier to just stay in it; where you know it’s not healthy but you almost can’t picture your life with out it…yea. It was time to make a move. But to where?

That is when I heard that my friend, Alayna, was looking for someone to nanny her son 2 days a week. “Hmmm…” I thought, “I’d actually really like to do that.” “But that doesn’t even make sense.” “Why would I leave a 5 day a week 9-5 to watch a toddler 2 days a week?” “But I reaaalllllyyyy want to.” “I know I need to leave my job and start doing what I am passionate about. I love kids. I should do this.” {Don’t you love conversations with yourself? Anways…} Suddenly it clicked, do what you love. The only person who would make me stuck in a “hamster’s wheel”, going through the motions is myself. Or I can take a step of faith. Even when it doesn’t make sense. Even knowing I would need to get another job to make up the difference, and not knowing where or how.

So, after prayer and consideration with my husband, I took the nanny job.

“…for we walk by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7

I told my boss hoping he’d let me stay part time and forgo the need to find another job. But not so much. God doesn’t always let us take the easy road. Why? Because He loves us. Because He has the best for us. Because He cares about the dreams & passions of our hearts.

So, to Craigslist I went, searching for cafe jobs in the area, and low and behold I found a listing for a brand spankin’ new cafe opening less than 5 minutes away from my house. The owners seemed super cool, the food would be from local farms in the area, and I thought it would be an overall perfect fit. I went to the open interview session, got called back for a 2nd interview, and GOT. THE. JOB. Wheelers Market Cafe y’all. Come visit us for the grand opening on Monday the 17th!

Not only do I get to serve people food, make smoothies & delicious lattes, amongst many others, I ALSO get to spread my writing and social media wings working on their online properties. Which is completely awesome, and a perfect opportunity for me.

Finally, my boss at the office told me that my last day would need to be September 7th. That same day Joe found out from his boss that they would like him to start full time on September 10th, much earlier then expected. Talk about perfect timing.

The moral of the story? God is faithful.

When we don’t have eyes to see, He sees.

When we don’t know where the path is leading, He leads.

He is good.

Here is to a good God and a great new season.

“Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works!” Psalm 105:1-2

Thank you, Lord.

A Date & A Nut Walked Into A Bar…

Or more like…found themselves in a food processor and were formed into a bar for my delectable enjoyment.

I like snacks. One in particular that I have been fond of  lately is the Lärabar.

Gluten free.

Raw.

Kosher.

Low carb.

Vegan.

Soy free.

Oh so simple and delicious. I thought to myself, “I could make these.” And so, I did.

What you will need:

32 pitted dates

1/2 cup raw or roasted unsalted almonds

1/2 cup raw or roasted unsalted cashews

2 Tbsp shredded unsweetened coconut

1 tsp cinnamon

2 tsp vanilla

I split the batch and did 1/2 chocolate. To do 1/2 chocolate you need 2 Tbsp of unsweetened cocoa powder. To do all chocolate 4 Tbsp of cocoa powder.

What to do:

Add dates, almonds & cashews into a food processor & blend. It will look crumbly at first and you may have to stop it to push the contents back down the sides. It may take a couple minutes to get the right consistency. You want it to be somewhat fine and able to mold. When it’s ready you will notice the contents start to stick together and build up then wave down back toward to blade as it’s running.

At this point stop the food processor and transfer the date & nut  mixture into a medium mixing bowl, then mix in the coconut, cinnamon & vanilla with a wooden or hard spoon.

Mmm mmm mmm

Once that’s combined add in the cocoa powder (remember to split the mixture if doing 1/2) then mix in with your hands to get it fully incorporated.

Now you just need to roll out the sticky mixture and cut it into bars and VOILÁ!

I individually wrapped them and stored them in my fridge, ready to grab!

All rolled out and ready to cut.

Cut chocolate bars.

All individually wrapped & ready to enjoy.

These are awesome because they have the perfect sweetness to them to satisfy a sweet tooth, but with no added or processed sugar.

Also, did you know almonds & cashews not only contain protein, but calcium??? Love knowing I’m getting that calcium. So they’ve got that going for them.

PLUUUUS, the hubs, in his number loving fashion, did the math, and the average cost of one these bars is about $0.80! Hello savings.

AND you could pretty much mix in whatever you like…dried cranberries or blueberries, chocolate chips, ground coffee for a little pick me up…have fun & experiment!
Have you ever made a home made version of your favorite store bought snack?! What would you add into these little winners?

Tuesdays…and Eggplant Basil Curry.

Tuesdays are busy.
I’m typically up around 6:15-6:30 in the morning and have about an hour of devotion time – reading my bible, prayer, worship, journaling, drinking tea…you know, all that good stuff. Then I’m off to work around 9 until 4:15 usually, get home, make dinner, head to the yoga studio for 5:30, clean and check people in, take class from 6:30-8, tidy up, head home, and sit down to eat dinner around 8:30 or 8:45 with the man of my dreams. Then it’s just kind of random tasks or wind down time until bed. Phew.
I’m sure you all know what it’s like! 🙂
I say all that to say, Tuesdays are typically quick and easy meal days. But that doesn’t mean it’s gotta skimp on taste!
A while back Joe & I went on a date night to Thai Pan Asian, a restaurant in New Haven, and I had an eggplant curry dish that I LOVED…and devoured. I love curry, remember??
This past Tuesday I thought I’d try my hand at crafting a dish with some ingredients from that date night meal.
I had an hour from when I got home from work to cook, clean up a bit, change, and be at yoga; so I chose to serve it over quinoa because it cooks a lot faster than rice. Other than that, my plan was keep it a simple, one skillet process that is still yummy. End result: success.
Eggplant Basil Curry with Quinoa
serves 4-5
Ingredients:
For quinoa:
1.25 c dry quinoa
2.5 c water
For curry:
Olive oil for pan
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 of large eggplant, or about 3 c or so, 1 inch cubes
One 15oz can chick peas, drained & rinsed
2 hot house or beefsteak (so ironic) tomatoes, cut into medium chunks
2-3 Tbsp curry powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp of crushed red pepper (1/2 for mild spice)
2 Tbsp of agave or honey
1/4 c veg broth
14 leaves fresh basil, chopped (see my favorite way of cutting leafy things…)
Directions:
Heat a large cast iron skillet, or other large skillet to medium high (7 or 8) heat.
Add oil and toss in eggplant and salt. Cook for about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until eggplant is browned and starts to become tender.
*Start quinoa while eggplant is cooking.* (read package for instructions, but generally: put quinoa & water in a pot, cover with lid & bring to boil. Once boiling turn heat to low & simmer for 15 minutes until water is absorbed. Remove from heat and fluff. )
Stir in chick peas. Cook for a couple minutes then add tomatoes, 2 Tbsp curry, garlic powder, crushed red pepper, agave or honey & veggie broth.
Turn the heat up to high and let liquid come to a boil for 3 minutes then turn heat to low. Let it simmer on low for about 8-10 minutes until tomatoes are rendered down & eggplant is soft but not mushy.
Turn off heat, stir in basil and let the flavors meld for a few minutes. Taste to see if you need more curry or salt and add as your taste buds so desire. Then, serve over quinoa and enjoy!

Scrumptious – that’s a good word.

I am trying to get better at the whole measuring thing because I’m typically winging it, or eye balling it and going by taste!!!
I offer my experiences and encourage you to experiment, have fun and make it your own!
So, yes, Tuesdays are busy days…but being in the kitchen, preparing a meal for my husband and I to enjoy, grounds me again to gratitude in the present moment, and brings me back to that thing called joy.
Maybe your busy day is Monday or Wednesday, or every day these days. Find joy in the little things. See the every day moments you’ve become tired of in a new light. Life suddenly becomes more simple.
And at the end of the day, there’s always a simple plate of eggplant curry to delight you along the way.

A Few of My Favorite Things.

Happy 4th of July my friends!

July has always been my favorite month. I was reminiscing about this to my hubby as we were driving through some back roads near our home town a couple of days ago.

For one, I absolutely LOVE summer. Sunshine, waves crashing, sand beneath my feet, a cool breeze blowing through my hair…it all rejuvenates my soul.

It is the season for picnics, the char of grill flames, bonfires and fireworks. Utter delight.

And it also helps that my birthday is July 6th. 🙂

Every single year growing up my parents had a HUGE 4th of July party that doubled as a birthday party for my twin, Erica, & me. I am pretty sure that every human being that my parents ever had contact with came to this shin dig. Even family from out of state – Long Island, Staten Island, California, etc – would come. It was so exciting to see everyone, and it became such a highlight of the summer.

As you can imagine, Erica and I were in our glory. We had a massive in-ground pool and decent sized back yard, and we would run around and play with our friends and cousins like party animals. There was always a clown, or some form of entertainment, that undoubtedly picked us out of the crowd to be an assistant, or make us a balloon animal because we were the birthday girls. It may not seem that thrilling now, but back then it was a kid’s dream!

As the sun went down my daddy prepared an awesome fireworks show. One year he destroyed the grass in our front yard with “The Waterfall”. I just remember a long wire being tied from one tree to another one across the yard, and a colorful blast of glittery sparks cascading down to the ground for what seemed like FOREVER. It was a hit with everyone, except for maybe my mommy when she saw the big patch of dirt that was left where lush green grass once grew. Worth it.

These are such fond memories. Looking back now I understand why a love for summer, and this month especially, is engrained into my being! I look forward to making special memories like these with my husband and the children we will have.

Today, we are going to be celebrating this day at a picnic with some dear friends from our church community, City Church. The hosts, Joe & Nancy, dominate on the grill. They make a mean burger & grilled pizza! They were also kind enough to provide veggie burgers…yay!

As a vegan, especially just starting out, it can be intimidating to go out to typical functions that are meant to be enjoyed with loved ones. Maybe vegetarian or vegan options are not always provided, which leaves you worrying about what you can or can’t eat.  Or, you end up eating something you really don’t want to, then potentially start feeling guilty about it. Who needs a damper like that getting in the way of fun and making fond memories?!

I have learned to not set myself up for failure and stay prepared. It may seem simple, but you’d be surprised!

Amongst all of my other loves is my love for home made veggie burgers. There are a couple veggie burger recipes that I adore, one of which I am sharing with you today. When ever I make them I wrap 2 individually in plastic wrap and throw them in the freezer so they will be ready to take with me when needed. This has been a life saver multiple times already this summer!

Now, this recipe is super simple & super easy – whether you’ve been in a hospital for 7 hours and need a quick dinner, or want a tasty veggie burger to take to take to a picnic, it’s a winner.

Puttanesca Inspired Veggie Burgers

(recipe adapted from Isa Chandra’s Quinoa Puttanesca)

Makes 6 Burgers

Ingredients

1 c cooked quinoa

2 cups oat flour (old fashioned oats + food processor = oat flour.)

1 15 oz can of cannellini beans, pureed in food processor (chick peas work fine too.)

1 flax egg (1 Tbsp flax meal + 3 Tbsp water, whisked together)

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 c kalamata olives, sliced

1/4 c capers

1 c crushed tomatoes (+ some for topping, optional)

1 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp marjoram

1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (use 1/2 tsp if you don’t so much care for spice)

2 tsp fennel seeds

Directions

Add all ingredients – except the crushed tomatoes – into a large mixing bowl and use hands to combine until incorporated.

Once incorporated add 1/2 c of crushed tomatoes and combine with hands. You want it to be kind of like the consistency of chop meat, so slowly add as much of the remaining crushed tomato as necessary to get a mixture that is moist, but slightly sticky & able to hold the shape of a burger.

Heat a cast iron skillet to medium-high heat, drizzle with olive oil and mold 6 patties while the pan heats up.

Cook the patties for about 6 minutes or so on each side, or until they have a nice brown.

Serve on a delicious bun of your choice & enjoy!

For toppings I enjoy warm crushed tomato sauce, roasted red pepper, fresh basil leaves, lettuce & a pickle on the side!

dee-licious.

Great news – they taste even better on the grill – so get out there and fire it up! 😉

What fun traditions do you & your family have? Do you have any tricks or tips that help you stay prepared for picnics and BBQs?

Have fun at all your holiday festivities!!