We are two individuals, sister-in-laws, and friends who are striving to thrive and be our personal best as well as making our surroundings a better place to live! Connected by faith, family, friendship, photos, and writing, we just want to share our journey with you!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Three Cups of Tea by Morentson and Relin

I just finished reading this book (a way too long time coming, I kept getting distracted with real life to finish it!). Every one needs to read this book. If you want to be inspired, or learn more about Pakistan and the reality of one small man's dream... then this is the book you should read.

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

Greg is a man who grew up in Africa but became a nurse in America. In the beginning of the book he lays out his passion for climbing and everything seems to center around that. As he tries to scale K2 he ends up in the tiniest of tiniest villages in Pakistan (you don't understand poverty until you read how they live) and becomes inspired and promises to build them a school (the children used sticks and drew times tables in the dirt for the little bit of education they can muster... with no teacher). One of my favourite parts of this book is how many hurdles Greg goes through trying to raise money in the beginning of this project, but he keeps going. He would literally sleep in his car because he would see how much any bit of money made a difference in this small village in Pakistan and he was not going to waste this money on rent or food.

The book evolves to Greg making it his mission to continue building schools in Pakistan and his continuous struggles (trying to raise a family and jet over to Pakistan, trying to raise money and trying to keep up hope... and being safe). The book also highlights a lot about what was happening in the world during the time of 911 (at this time Pakistan was his second home, and Greg was actually in Pakistan when the towers were bombed). He has so much insight and is so giving that this book is a must read. Both this book, and especially his second book (Stones into Schools - about building schools in Afghanistan), have skyrocketed in popularity (which is great for his non-profit organization the Central Asia Institute) in the past little while.

So pick this book up!

Vegan Pumpkin Cookies

We all know I love pumpkin, cookies and icing... so enjoy!

Pumpkin Cookies
From Allrecipes.com

Makes: 18

2 cups shortening (used Earth Balance shortening sticks)
2 cups white sugar (used organic dried cane juice)
2 cups canned pumpkin
2 egg's worth of egg replacer
2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp salt (used sea salt)
4 cups all-purpose flour (I used 2 cups white, 2 cups whole wheat... next time I will try a mix of spelt and whole-wheat)
6 Tbsp butter (used Earth Balance)
8 Tbsp non-dairy milk (used soy)
2 cups vegan icing sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup packed organic brown sugar

-Line cookie sheets with parchment paper and preheat oven to 350F
-Cream shortening, cane juice and pumpkin and then add the egg replacer and mix well
-Sift together the baking soda, cinnamon, salt and flour and then add this to the pumpkin mixture and mix well
-Drop from spoon onto sheets and bake for 10 minutes
-For frosting: cook butter, milk, sugar until dissolved and then cool and add the icing sugar and vanilla - spread over warm cookies

Notes: These made many more than 18 and took a longer time to bake (but they should be cakey)

These are delish! Very cakey (in a good way) and not too sweet. If wanting a sweeter option then the icing is a great addition, but still great on their own (a little plainer). I decided to ice a plate full and then froze the rest un-iced and every once-in-a-while pull out a few to nibble on!


Monday, April 11, 2011

Vegan Hawaiian Pita Pizza!

I had been craving for the longest time Hawaiian pizza. That was always my pizza of choice as a kid. I just loved the mix of the sweetness of the pineapple and the tomato. Now I've been lactose intolerant (and apparently allergic??) to dairy since I was at least 10, so I'm quite used to ordering cheeseless pizza. I don't really crave cheese because cheese is something that is so mentally ingrained in my mind as something that will make me sick, but after I bought some of this pre-shredded Daiya cheese (non-dairy, vegan cheese... the best "melting" and "real" vegan cheese that I've heard of) I've been quite enjoying it (in moderation... again I don't really crave it, but kind of enjoy it as a treat and also as something very 'foreign' to me).

I had seen other people making pita pizzas at home and I thought... why can't I do this with Daiya cheese. So I experimented and.... wow! Delicious! Still definitely a treat for me, but very very good.

I used a Pita Pocket (it's a pita that's a little bit smaller than normal size pitas). I layered on top of it an organic pizza/spaghetti sauce (from Eden), put on some chunks of pineapple, then some pre-shredded Daiya cheese, and then some more chunks of pineapple... and voila! I baked it on parchment paper on a cookie sheet at about 375F for maybe 20 minutes? I just kept checking it every 5 minutes of so. I let it cool it a little and then sliced it into pizza slices with a pizza cutter (you don't have to slice it, but I really wanted to feel like I was eating a pizza like all those other people who get to experience eating a real pizza... I don't even remember what it's like!).

I loved it :)

P.s. If you live in the Winnipeg area you can buy Daiya Cheese at Eat It Organic!

Black Bean Patties - Vegan Burgers

Who doesn't love a veggie or vegan burger? Honestly, I crave these much much more than I ever craved beef or bison or turkey or chicken or any meat burger! I still feel very full after I eat a veggie burger (sometimes even more than after I ate a meat burger), but I also feel more "full" (aka, it's made of so many better ingredients that I also feel satisfied nutritionally as well as full).

Anyways, the good weather is finally returning to us (yes... Winnipeg got to plus 14 and sunny today... crazy! ... for those of you who don't know Winnipeg very well, that would put most Winnipeger's outside in their bikinis... or at least a pair of short shorts) and that means its burger time!

This recipe is actually fantastic, probably my fave so far (not that I've tried thousands). It's the perfect mix of easy to make, simple but good-for-you ingredients and a great taste (some burgers are very bland and you have to use the toppings to make it a burger, this one has lots of flavour... but I still love the toppings!).

My dad even loved it too!

Black Bean Patties (Vegan Burgers)
From Tosca Reno's Eat Clean Cookbook (Thanks Tosca!)

Prep Time: 30 min
Cook Time: 20 min
Yield: 10 x four-inch patties

Note: Makes 10 patties... so unless you're having a dinner party or want lots of leftovers adjust accordingly!

2 cups/480 mL black beans, canned or cooked, rinsed and drained
1 small onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 cloves fresh garlic, left whole
1 carrot, chopped fine or grated
1/2 cup oats
1/4 cup/60 mL natural nut butter -almond, cashew or peanut (I used almond!)
1/4 cup unsalted, raw sunflower seeds
3 Tbsp flaxseeds
Dash vegan Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp coconut butter or best-quality olive oil
2 egg white's worth of egg replacer
Pinch red pepper flakes
1/2 cup chopped celery leaves (I used flat leaf parsley!)
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp unrefined sea salt
1 Tbsp fresh thyme

-Preheat oven to 375F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper
-Place all ingredients in food processor and process until uniform
-Divide mixture into patties of equal size (about four-inches in diameter) and put on sheet
-Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown on top
-Serve on toasted Ezekiel or other whole-grain buns and garnish with what you'd like!

Notes: Mine took about 25 minutes to bake... but bake to the firmness you would like! Great toppings: salsa, hummus, organic agave ketchup, pickles, lettuce, tomato....

Other Ideas: I made 5 patties and therefore had a few leftover. Save to make a burger another meal, or use in other ways. For work one day I packed a small salad with dressing on the side and then packed a patty with a little container of salsa, heated up the patty and dolloped it with salsa... delish! I think it would be also delicious served crumbled on top of a salad :)

Nutritional Info (for one four-inch patty):
Calories: 178
Protein: 7 g
Carbs: 20 g
Total Fat: 9 g
Saturated Fat: 2 g
Trans Fat: 0 g
Fiber: 7 g
Sodium: 367 mg
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sugar: 1 g

My burger looks very plain... but let me tell you it was not!

I definitely garnished it with a few of these... and some pickles and ketchup!

I made a delicious salad for the side (spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, artichoke hearts and hemp hearts)



I just thought I'd share this tidbit with you. I visited with my Grandma this afternoon and then took her to the Pancake House (her fave place... she has the strawberry blinces!) with my family for her birthday (94 years young).

I asked her how her day has been and she replied "good, well you know, all days are really good... some are different, but all good". She has so much wisdom and looks at life with such great perspective. She is such a blessing in my life and she is such a Godly woman.

Hope you enjoyed!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Vegan Blondies

It has been FAR FAR FAR too long! Jay and I have been so distracted with life that we haven't had time to blog! We both have lots of things to share with you though! I feel Jay has a few more things on her plate to distract her from blogging than I do (she's due with her second child in a month! Woohoo!) but I've also been super busy. Anyways, fear no more... we are back!

I made these probably a month ago and they were delicious.

Vegan "Blondies"
From Babycakes (by Erin McKenna)... Thanks!

Makes: 36

1/2 cup garbanzo-fava bean flour
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/2 potato starch
1/4 cup arrowroot
1 1/4 cups evaporated cane juice
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp salt (I used sea salt)
1/2 cup coconut oil, plus more for the tins
1/3 cup homemade applesauce
2 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup hot water
1 cup vegan chocolate chips

-Preheat the oven to 325F and lightly grease three 12-cup mini-muffin tins with oil (see notes).
-Whisk together flours, starch, arrowroot, cane juice, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum and salt in a bowl
-Add the oil, applesauce, vanilla and hot water and stir until smooth
-Gently fold in chocolate chips using a plastic spatula
-Using a melon baller, scoop batter into cups
-Bake on center rack for 9 minutes, rotating 180 degrees after 5 minutes (they will be golden brown and firm to the touch when done)
-Let them stand in the tins for 10 minutes
-Cover and store at room temp for up to 3 days

Notes: The 1/2 cup coconut oil is after it's been melted (HUGE tip for me... when I started baking with coconut oil I wouldn't melt it, and the batter would always have little chunks of coconut oil and it was always a disaster! melting is so much easier!). I also used muffin cups instead of greasing the tins (they were a little too stained from past endeavours, so I thought this was better). I didn't have mini-muffin tins, so I used the regular ones and adjusted baking time (it has been too long since I made these, but I would guess somewhere between 20-25 minutes in the oven would do the trick).


The final products were delicious! I'm not how to describe the taste though. They are very sweet and cakey, they do not taste like muffins. I love them!


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Reshaping It All by Candace Cameron Bure!

Happy Sunday! I wanted to share with you an amazing book that I just finished reading and LOVED so so much! It's called Reshaping It All by Candace Cameron Bure (she was DJ on Full House)!!! Ally told me about this book before it was available and then she wasn't able to find it in Winnipeg so when she visited us in Victoria, we went to Vancouver for a day and I bought her a copy (on her b-day) and then decided to buy one for myself! I didn't think that I would be drawn to it initially before I read the back. First off, she is not a vegetarian or vegan and I didn't know if I would feel any connections with this book. When I flipped through the book which in summary is motivation for physical and spiritual fitness I was really impressed and intrigued.

I think that in every aspect of your life, good and bad, you take away what you like and leave won't you don't. I believe that you learn more about yourself when you experience different views, cultures, religions, families, friends and you really evolve into the person that you want to and will be.

When I began to read this book I already knew that I wouldn't be reading it for recipes (a lot of meat and dairy recipes and pretty basic, easy recipes that don't contain or mention the importance of organic or local). Instead I was reading it for the spiritual and mental stimulation that I seek. Cameron is a devote Christian and I admire how passionate she is about her beliefs. Dan and I are very spiritual. I am very faithful and believe in God and love going to church with our family but I also find beauty in so many diverse religions and don't believe that one is better than another necessarily. I don't know enough about a lot of faiths so who am I to make that judgment? Anyways, I am not here to preach about faith because I truly believe that each journey is individual and we are all growing in different directions and I am on my own personal journey that may be very different from yours and I respect that completely! I do want to tell you how I took so much away from this book though!

This book made me smile so much and made me want to communicate even more with my husband and connect on a deeper level and it inspired me to be confident and believe in myself when I'm feeling doubtful. I have been struggling with so many torn feelings and guilt over whether or not I have it in me to become a doctor and complete all the courses necessary and if I even want to sacrifice the time away from my children (not before they are in school)! I am taking an online class right now which I find very challenging! I have been knocked off my feet by a sprained sacroiliac joint which has put me on as close to bed rest as I can muster with a 2 year old (if you know me and how HUGELY passionate I am about being active and fit, then you must know how much this kills me)...this book though has shed so much light on my life! I have so much respect for anyone who juggles parenting, work, life and still pursues their dreams. Cameron has done this by publishing this very open and honest book. She doesn't sit on a pedestal and look down like 'Hey I'm this amazing Christian'...she talks about her journey and how she struggled with bulimia and food issues and vulnerabilities and how her relationship with God has been such a gradual, and beautiful journey. She is so passionate about her family (her hubby and beautiful children), and stresses the importance of what matters most to them: faith, family and being healthy and fit together! I love that! I have been inspired to new levels to continue my journey and hold my head high and be thankful for EVERY day even when it's not turning out the way that I had imagined! This injury will only make me stronger and love every healthy day and every post-baby run so much more! I encourage you if you are at all interested and seeking any inspiration about anything in your life, to check out this book! Again remember, that you take what you like and leave won't you don't :) I will leave you with some amazing quotes from this book that make me smile so so much :) Cameron ends each chapter with what she calls Food For Thought which is a recap of scriptures she has used and also The Candy Dish which consists of a quote or two that is just random but beautiful and inspiring! LOVE that! I am a huge quote person!

The reason most people never reach their goals is that they don't define them, learn about them, or even seriously consider them as believable or achievable. Winners can tell you where they are going, what they plan to do along the way, and who will be sharing the adventure with them - Denis Waitley

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matt. 6.34)

People who soar are those who refuse to sit back, sigh and wish things would change. They neither complain of their lot nor passively dream of some distant ship coming in. Rather, they visualize in their minds that they are not quitters; they will not allow life's circumstances to push them down and hold them under. -Charles R. Swindoll

I could quote forever because there are really so many inspiring quotes but I will leave you with a final thought: I really feel that the reason Cameron has been so successful in her weight-loss (she is 25 lbs lighter than when she was on Full House), her career and her family is because she found such peace, love and faith and let all the other 'stuff' go! I think when we hold on to fears and doubts, it really is so damaging to ourselves. I found such a release and pure happiness after I had Noah and then doubts and fears crept back in at times and I still will have struggles with self-doubt but I am learning to believe in myself and love myself purely because it's really the best way to live and the way I want my children to live and the way I want my relationship and journey with my husband to be :)

I want to thank each and every one of you for being in my life too! I am a pretty happy, positive person but like everyone, we are human and we all have moments of weakness and vulnerabilities! I find so much inspiration all around me and I am so passionate about everything that I talk about! I love my friends who each are unique and bring something different to my life. I love my family and am in awe of them for who they are. My son amazes me every day and my husband is such a rock and incredible man to walk with through life! He encourages me when I doubt myself and supports me when I decide to branch away from what may be mainstream and loves me for me. I wish all of you balance, health, love and faith - no matter what your faith is in this life :) Carry happy thoughts with you throughout your day!