Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Vegan Cheese Sauce


Mmmm, cheese sauce ready for consumption.


Cheese sauce on a mighty fine black bean burger.


Cheese has always been one of my favorite things ever, in fact, one of my life's mottos was, "Just put some cheese on it." Besides eggs, cheese was one of the reasons I stayed vegetarian for so long. I was able to finally go vegan because I discovered chickpea 'eggs', and that a few vegan cheeses that made my switch easier. One of those cheeses was a miracle cheese made out of potatoes and carrots. Say what?! Potatoes and carrots? Yep, truth. Once you try it, you'll be hooked. As a side note, I've seen lots of recipes for this cheese sauce out there, and they're all quite similar, this one just happens to be my twist. 


Vegan Cheese Sauce

Ingredients:

2 c. peeled & diced potatoes (yellow works best, but any kind is fine)
1 c. peeled & diced carrots
3/4 c. water
1/3 c. oil (olive and canola work best)
1/2 c. nutritional yeast
1/4 t. turmeric
2 t. sea salt (or 1 tsp regular salt)
1 t. each black pepper, granulated onion, granulated garlic, and smoked paprika
1 T. steak seasoning
1 t. miso paste (or mustard if you don't have miso)

Instructions:

1. Bring potatoes and carrots to a boil in a pot of water. Cook until fork tender. Drain, give them a quick rinse to get off the excess starch, and let cool for about 10 minutes.

2. Put all the ingredients in a high-powered blender, and mix, scraping down the sides a few times, until well-blended. 

3. Put in an air-tight container and keep in the fridge.

Notes:

 This should last at least a week in the fridge, although it gets eaten up so quick in my house that it never gets to that point. I made everything from mac n cheese to nachos to enchiladas and everything in between. This stuff is almost good enough to drink! 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Good Memories and Bad Times

I'm going to admit it: last week was a terrible week. Between hormones, life problems, and a very sore back, I had a hard time getting anything done and was left with a serious case of the doldrums. My daughter's birthday was Saturday, and we started the festivities on Friday night. Overall, it helped to brighten my mood. Last night, reflecting on the past week, I realized how up and down our lives can feel sometimes, and that how we deal with them can make all the difference. 

So, I made peace with my crappy week, and resolved to bring myself back to inner calm, hopefulness, and motivation. I reminded myself to stay focused on the future, and not to worry so much about the present. I can sometimes get mired down with feeling that I'm on a bike with broken wheels, which I'm sure many of you can relate to. I gave myself some me time, and then this morning I relaxed with a wonderful breakfast, some good tea, and caught up on some little things. 

I had been meaning to go through my Pictures folder on my computer, and as I was lazily looking through it, I came across my folder of pictures from Denver. I spent two weeks there a couple of years ago for a former job, and while I was there, got to spend a glorious weekend having fun. On a Saturday we explored the city, and then on Sunday we packed a picnic and made for the Rocky Mountains. It was an awe-inspiring day, and I had never seen anything so magnificent in my life (until a few years later when I got to see the Cliffs of Moher on the coast of Ireland). 

It was so wonderful to relive that most happy of days, and it really helped to shut the lid on my doldrums of last week for good. I decided to share some of my favorites, so enjoy!








This last photo is of the legendary Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, which sits at the base of the Rockies. I am a huge Stephen King fan, and stopping by here was a great capstone to a perfect day. I hope you have a good week, and remember, there's a light at the end of every dark tunnel.  -H.A.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Change



I can remember when I first moved out of my parent's house and lived on my own, I was scared at first. The change was daunting, and it took me a few years to warm up to the idea. Once I did though, I never looked back. Over the next twenty years I've gone through many changes, some bad, and many good. Whether good or bad, I wasn't afraid of them. In fact, I looked forward to change...I embraced it. I used to brag that I never lived anywhere longer than five years. But then, I got older.

Once I hit my mid-30s, change once again became a daunting thing, and I've resisted change as much as possible. The devil-may-care feelings of my youth gave way to a desire for security and stability. After all, I'm a mom now, and my kids need stability. Or is it me that needs the stability?

I tend to think it's a bit of the former, but largely the latter. The last few years have seen many changes in my life, and big ones to boot, but they didn't require any sort of uprooting. I felt pretty secure with my feet firmly on the ground. Now, I sit here and contemplate my future...the best future I can imagine for my changing life. Adaptation is a necessity.

I can't put it off any longer, and I know that something has to give, but I am so comfortable that it's a scary proposition. I'm just going to face it though, the best way I know how: with confidence and with the hope that I can conjure up a bit of that excitement I felt when I was young and unafraid of the unknown.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Happy Father's Day!


I hope everyone had a great Father's Day! I wanted to dedicate a special post to my own father, Bill, for being the best dad a gal could ask for. 

My parents got divorced when I was young, and my mom left, leaving my dad in charge of taking care of me. To that end, he was pretty awesome. He worked really hard to provide for us. He always spent time with me, spoiled me, and let me know how much I was loved.

 He was there to help me with buying my first bra, and wasn't afraid to go get me feminine supplies, because, and I'm quoting him here, "Everyone knows they're not for me."  

He taught me how to hike, fish, camp, what poison sumac was, how to shoot a gun, how to canoe, and how to float if the boat tipped over. He played games with me, instilled a love of nature in me, and gave me an appreciation for music that burns like a fire within me to this day.

So thanks daddy for being my daddy.  I sure do love you, and I hope everyday is a good day to be a father!  <3<3<3

Shakespeare on the Green


Hey everybody! Sorry I've been absent the past week. First, I had a big old garage sale this weekend and that kept me solidly busy for three days. I put my back out during this time and had to take it easy for a few days, which just gave me time to finish the monthly editorial I write for a local publication. So, at any rate, I'm a bit behind!

Every year since 1987, people have gathered on a large green space at the campus of University of Nebraska-Omaha to watch one of two Shakespeare plays. This year the troupe is performing "As You Like It" and "Othello". Last Thursday, I went with my best friend and my son to see "As You Like It" set in the Roaring 20s. It was definitely a blast, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, although my son had a hard time understanding old-time English.

This is such a great event that brings culture to the city for free! Although there are plenty of concessions for purchase, they also provide a hand-washing station as well as kid-friendly activities before the play starts. You can bring in any food and drink you desire, and we usually come armed with chairs, blankets, picnic food, water, and wine. 

If you ever get a chance to go to one of these, I would highly recommend it! Get your culture on!  


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Vegan Chocolate Cookies



The other day, I was really craving something chocolately-sweet. Since I don't keep junk food around, and I have plenty of things to bake with, I decided to whip up some cookies.  These came out so good!  Try them when you get a chance.

Ingredients

2/3 c. coconut oil
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. brown sugar
2 T. ground flax
1/3 c. flax milk (any vegan milk will work here)
1 t. vanilla
1 t. baking soda
2 c. flour


Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
2. Mix the ground flax with the flax milk in a small bowl and set aside.
3. Using a hand mixer, mix together the coconut oil, sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla until incorporated.
4. Sift together the flour and the baking soda in a separate bowl.
5. Add the flax mixture to the wet ingredients and mix again.
6. Add the flour and baking soda mixture to the wet mixture in two parts, using the mixer to mix well.
7. Drop the mixture by the teaspoon (or tablespoon if you like bigger) onto cookie sheets.
8. Bake in the preheated oven for 8 minutes, transfer off the pans to cool.


Notes

This is a simple, delightful chocolate cookie that is crispy on the edges, and chewy in the center. I've seen plenty of other recipes, but I've really tried to cut the sugar and oil down as much as possible with my recipe. There's always room for additions: think vegan chocolate chips, nuts, or a berry glaze on top. Enjoy!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Final Verdict!


Ok, here it is! Ta da! This is a completed look using only the drug store products I bought the other day. I love the potted gel liner, but I had to play around with the artist's brushes until I found the right one. 

I feel that the eyeliner could be a bit more moist for easier application, but that might improve with a different brand (Love My Eyes is the cheap brand). 

I used the browns trio of the Maybelline Blushed NUDES for a more nighttime look, and I like the way they looked. 

I followed that up with my darker Wet 'n Wild brow liner that I reserve for night looks. I don't care for it as well, because you really have to blend it in to look right, but it does work with some TLC.

For my lips I used a Milani lip liner on my whole lips, and then added the new Wet 'n Wild natural blend lip stain/chapstick combo on top. Looks pretty good, and stayed well.

For my face, I used my new Maybelline FITme! foundation mixed with L'oreal's Infallible Pro-Matte foundation. I used a foundation brush to dab the foundation on, and then used a damp, foam beauty blender to blend it in to my skin. I finished it with the matching FITme! powder.

I have the right amount of waves from the TreSEMME Make Waves. It works well! Just run some through freshly washed hair and scrunch. After it dries run a wide-toothed comb through it!

Additionally, I used a Pür mascara that I'm not fond of. I need a good anti-clumping mascara...anyone have any good suggestions?  Comment below!


Thursday, June 11, 2015

Drugstore Makeup Haul!

I haven't been shopping for any beauty supplies lately, and it was bumming me out!  I had to go to the store to pick up some staples, which I dutifully picked up first, and then I made my way to the makeup aisles where I got lost for awhile.  Hey, no kids today!  ;)



I've seen Maybelline's NUDES pallette around for awhile, but I had not seen their Blushed NUDES one!  I loved the colors, all of them, and for just under $10, how can I lose?  I will try these out later today and take a photo with these...I can't wait!  They look like the perfect colors for summer.


I am a fan of Maybelline's FITme! foundation. I'm nearly out of my old bottle, and decided that I would grab a new one. My old one was 120: Classic Ivory, but this time I chose 115: Ivory because it seemed closer to my natural skin tone. I decided to get the matching FITme! face powder as well. For years I was a Covergirl powder gal, and I used it with any foundation I had. Now I like to have different foundations for different times of the year, and for different coverage, as well as having the matching powder for the foundation. They're designed to go together! Anyway, the 115: Ivory powder was considerably lighter than the foundation, so I went with the 120: Classic Ivory as the color matched better.


I've been wanting the potted gel eye liner for quite some time. MAC is a little off my price radar right now, but I had been eyeing a Rimmel one I've seen around. I found a Love My Eyes version for $3 so I grabbed it. I want to see if I like it. I like the liquid eyeliners over the pens, but the liquid is finicky and easy to smear, so I'm hoping this will be the answer to my problem. I didn't like the brush they included as it's too wide and fat for eyeliner application, in my opinion. I didn't see a good brush in the makeup brush section, so I went over to the artist brush section and found a package of detailed brushes for $3!  Heck yeah.


Here's a better view of the potted gel eyeliner. I can't wait to try this along with the BlushedNUDES eyeshadow later today!


I saw this Wet 'n Wild natural blend lip color which is almost a chapstick as well. This color (hard to see sorry!) is a burgundy color even though it says Cocoa.  Weird.  Anyway, it looks like it will be a good color to wear with the BlushedNUDES. Another to wear later!


Finally, I am at the stage where I just want to wash, lightly scrunch, and then let my flat, limp hair air-dry into some subtle waves. This was the only product I saw that looks like would fit my needs, TRESemme Make Waves cream, so I'm going to try it out and see how I like it.

I'll remember to take a selfie after I have all my goodies on later so you can see how it all looks!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

My Journey Towards a Healthy Life

As I’m sure most of you have noticed, I like to post pictures and recipes of delicious food. I’m also quite sure that you’ve noticed the food is vegan. Yes, I am vegan. Have I always been vegan? No, I haven’t, and, in fact, it’s only been recently that I went full vegan. Here’s why.

In early January of 2014, I drug myself into a local health clinic because I had a mystery ailment (of three months) that turned out to be a horrible case of hives. At the clinic they weighed me, took my blood pressure, and none of it was encouraging.

The fact of the matter was that I was on a road to certain death. I had just turned 42 years old, and I was in the worst shape of my life. I was grossly overweight; I drank heavily at least three times per week; I smoked like a chimney; I ate unhealthy food too much too often; I was sedentary; my knees hurt all the time and I felt like they were ready to break at any moment; my pallor was red; I coughed all the time and rattled as I slept (the tell-tale signs of chronic bronchitis); I had these horrible hives that made me want to itch my skin off; and, on top of all that, my blood pressure was sky high! 

I went home feeling completely dejected, but I set about making a change. So, on January 12, 2014, I smoked the last cigarette of my life. It was tough, but I was motivated. I also added supplements to my daily routine that were good for heart issues: turmeric, fish oil, and potassium. After a few months, I could breathe better, and the supplements kept my BP under control. Things were better, but I hadn’t changed anything else and I was still miserable.

When January of 2015 rolled around, I braved the scale and was promptly mortified. I was even heavier than I was when I went to the doctor the year before! Sure, I had quit smoking and kept my BP under control (as long as I took my supplements), but I was no picture of health.

Right then and there, I decided that I needed a lifestyle change. I didn’t need a diet, I didn’t need a pill, but rather an honest-to-goodness lifestyle change. Over the next few months, I struggled to make the necessary changes, but I reminded myself that if I could quit smoking, I could do anything! After a few months, I cut my alcohol consumption down to once a month, I started moving around more (even if it was just housework, I made myself get off my butt), I did more walking & hiking, and I went full vegan.

Recently, I braved the scale again and was elated to see that I had lost 25 lbs! My high BP (that I monitored often) was gone and I didn’t need supplements anymore. My knees quit hurting, I slept better, and my skin took on a normal pallor. My mind was clearer, which made me more productive, and I had more energy.

Seeing my own personal results has steeled my resolve to stay plant-strong and avoid crap as I continue on my journey. I have a lot of life to live yet and I’ll do whatever I need to, to live a long and healthy one. Besides, I feel better than I have in many years, both mentally and physically, and how can you beat that?


I write monthly health editorials for a magazine, and every time I read up on a health issue, doctors ALWAYS advise eating better foods, getting more exercise, quitting smoking, and limiting alcohol consumption...for EVERY HEALTH ISSUE! As we reach our mid 40s, all of the things we do, that are harmful for our bodies, catch up with us and cause health issues. 

Do you plan on dying young, or living a poor-health existence in a hospital bed somewhere? Or would you rather be able to get around easily and enjoy life until you pass from this world? I know what my choice is. Now, I’m not saying you should all go vegan, but it’s worth considering, especially if you have health concerns like I did. 

Whatever you feel or think about your own life, I wish you good health.

-H.A.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Station Teaser

Ok folks!  Time for a teaser from my forthcoming 3rd book "The Station".  Let me know what you think!  Enjoy!


“As winter approached, she started talking to herself a lot, and barely acknowledged my existence on my daily visits.  I thought maybe she was just depressed, that dad’s death had finally hit home.  Then, one day, she suddenly became quiet.  I looked at her and said, ‘Mom?’  She looked at me and answered, ‘They keep talking to me.  You have to find them and save them.’”
            “After a few more questions, I figured out she was talking about the radio.  She was sure that voices were coming from the radio, even when it was turned off, and they were telling her things.”
            “What kind of things?” Eric inquired.
            Butch shrugged, “From what I could gather, the ‘voices’ were girls that needed help, needed saving.  I went home that evening with a heavy heart and cried on your mom’s shoulder.  It was so hard to see my own mother-the woman who gave me life, protected me, loved me, whose strength carried me through the tough times, and was a shining example of womanhood-become as vulnerable as a child.  Your mom and I talked for hours that night, and she was a rock to me as I made the tough decision to put your grandmother in a nursing home.  I knew it was only going to go downhill from there, and she would eventually need specialized care.”
            Eric could see the sadness in his dad’s face as he spoke.  “I went over to her house the next day, like usual, and I found her sleeping in her chair on the porch.  Only she wasn’t sleeping…she was dead.  As I checked her pulse, I noticed that the radio was no longer on the end table.”
“Something willed me to turn around, and when I did I saw the radio lying on the floor, face down.  It was as if your grandmother had thrown it, but because she was so weak, it hadn’t done any damage.  I went over to pick it up and, right before I reached it, it turned on all by itself.  It wasn’t tuned to any station because it was pure static, and the volume was all the way up.  The sound was loud and grating and I grabbed it quickly, setting it down on the large table.  I turned the volume button counter-clockwise to turn it off, but it was already turned all the way down.”
“I took a step back, and panicked as I realized it wasn’t plugged in.  My panic turned to fright and I grabbed it, lifting it above my head.  My intention was to fling it to the ground, shattering it and making that god-awful noise stop, but as suddenly as it began, it ended, and the radio was quiet once more.”



(This is a work of fiction written by H.A. Larson, and is the sole property thereof.  Copyright 2015 - H.A. Larson)

Monday, June 8, 2015

Milestones



Here it is, another Monday, and the start of another work week. I have my coffee, and I'm ready to work. I hope everyone had a good weekend. As for myself, I traveled up North with my kids, to my hometown, for my folk's 25th Wedding Anniversary. They served cake and other goodies after church service, and the other girls and I helped serve and clean up. Afterwards, we all went out for pizza buffet, sat around talking for awhile, and then made our goodbyes. I went out to my folk's house for about an hour or so afterwards, and I was the first one to arrive as my kids rode with my parents and then made a pit stop.

My dad's house is out in the country, and now that it's early June everything was in full bloom. I walked around the yard for awhile, admiring things here and there that I hadn't seen in years. My favorite part of the yard is the tree-lined driveway. Big trees stand diligently along both sides of the road, and provide cover from the elements. 

My dad bought that house 25 years ago, right before he got married to my stepmom. There weren't a lot of trees on the property, and my dad set to remedy that by planting several, including the ones that line the drive. I can remember when he planted them, they were all just little saplings, no more than a few feet high. 

It struck me then, as I gazed at these trees, now magnificent in size, that they were a metaphor for my dad's marriage. The seeds were planted 25 years ago, and, over that time, so much has happened, so much has grown. The house transformed and grew over the years, as an addition was built, decks were added, a few re-paintings occurred, and the landscaping changed.  Three children grew up, moved out, went to school, got married, and had children. Over the years, grandchildren have turned from babies to big kids to teenagers, spending time visiting grandma and grandpa along the way.

As the years have gone by, the love has grown deeper between two people. While it may seem like it's reached its peak, there is still room for growth. Like our blended family, the trees saw their biggest growth over these 25 years, and even though they don't grow as fast as they did before, they still get a bit taller every year. Our family has grown taller every year, and the change is just as magnificent as the trees that line the driveway of my dad's house.

If there's anything we can take away from this, it's that there are milestones in life. Milestones mark the distance between two places, and in life, we use these to mark significant events. There's a deeper meaning to be gained from these events, and it's that the people you care about give your life such meaning, indeed they are a part of your personal story. Milestones we mark means we made it. Through the trials & tribulations of our lives, we made it! We have progressed in life, and we can look forward to more. It means that we can learn to dream big, or believe in something we never thought possible.

Happy Anniversary you two!  We all love you very much, and we can't wait for the next 25 years.  I wonder what the trees will look like then.



Friday, June 5, 2015

Chickpea Omelette/Denver Hash Brown Mashup!


As most of you know, I am a vegan. (For more on that, stay tuned for an upcoming post.) When I was making the transition from carnivore to vegan, the two things that prevented me from making the full change were eggs and cheese.  It was difficult to give up my morning two-egg omelette filled with a good amount of meat, cheese, and some veggies, and not being able to eat cheese on everything.  I really loved a good tofu scramble, but, honestly, a tofu scramble can take some time, and when I'm really hungry in the morning, I just want to eat and eat quickly.  I had heard for a quite some time about using chickpea flour to make 'eggs' but I took forever in trying it.  I can't believe I waited so long!  The chickpea egg is the bomb! I eat them almost daily, and the other day I was craving Denver-style hash browns so I thought, "Why not put them together?" Best idea ever!  It was so delicious that I wolfed it down. Without further ado then, here's the recipe.


Denver Chickpea Omelette Hash Brown

Ingredients:

3/4 c. chickpea (aka garbanzo bean) flour*
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon each: Mrs. Dash (or any other salt-free herb blend), garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper
1 T. nutritional yeast
1 T. flax meal
1/2 c. + 1 T. warm water
1/2 medium potato, grated
1/8 c. each diced onion, green pepper, and jalapeno pepper
3 T. cooking oil, use your favorite
1/3 c. vegan cheese, grated (I love cheddar Daiya on this one!)

Instructions:

1.  Mix together the first 8 ingredients in a mixing bowl.

2.  Warm up the cooking oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat

3.  Add the grated potato and diced vegetables to the chickpea mixture and incorporate just until mixed.

4.  When the oil in the pan is rippling, add the full mixture to the frying pan.

5.  Fry until the edges are golden brown, and the center looks dry.  If you flip too soon the omelette will fall apart, so give it some time!

6.  After flipping the omelette, add the grated cheese to half of the top.  When the bottom is done, which doesn't take more than a couple of minutes, fold half of it over the half with cheese.

7.  Serve immediately. Serves two.

Notes:

Denver hash browns are usually made with red bell pepper, green bell pepper, and onion. I prefer to use a seeded and stemmed jalapeno in place of the red bell pepper. When you seed and stem a jalapeno, it has just a light kick, and a delicious flavor, but you're welcome to used whichever you'd prefer.  This omelette serves two (in my house it serves one, lol), but can easily be doubled (which is a given in my house considering the half a grated potato), or quadrupled.  I serve with toast or bagels, and some cold vegan milk to wash it all down.  Enjoy!

*You can also use the mix recipe I have listed in the Cooking & Recipes tab here.  Just mix 3/4 c. mix with 3/4 c. warm water then add the potatoes and veggies.  

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Strawberry Moon

I'm sure at least some of you saw the images floating around recently, on various media sites, about the strawberry moon that was to occur on June 2. I saw it, and since I love that kind of thing, I decided that I would view it. So many times I see some notification about some cool moon happening, and I either forget or fall asleep too early!  Not this time!  

I went to visit a friend and her baby in the hospital, and, as such, I arrived back home around 11:30 pm.  I then logged onto facebook and saw the image about the strawberry moon (so yeah, I did forget), and so I grabbed my kids and we drove out to where we could get a better view of the moon-my town is a tree town, and sometimes it's really hard to see celestial objects.  We didn't see a pink-colored, strawberry moon, but we did see a large, bright moon!  

Usually, when I try and take a picture of the moon on my camera, it's just a pin prick on a field of black. Here are the three pictures I took, the first is larger than my regular pin prick photos, and the other two are different stages of zoom.  Not strawberry, but still cool!  We enjoyed it, and it was fun to get outside with the kids at midnight.  

The next day, I did read a friend's posting about it, where it was discussed that when the moon first hit the sky, it had a pink hue.  Oh well, it was cool anyway!







Time



I was raised by a single father, and I can remember, growing up, how we always did something on the weekends. Whether we camped, hiked, fished, took a road trip, went on vacation, went shopping, visited friends, or just played games, my dad always made sure we spent time together. I always, always, remember those times with fondness.

But, it was more than just doing something, it was bonding. We had the best conversations, I gained respect for nature, and I learned many things from my dad, who was seemingly an endless fountain of knowledge. I learned what plants were poisonous, how to float in the water, the importance of being prepared, and so many other things. Most of all, I spent quality time with the person I loved most: my dad.

Now that I'm grown, I strive to do the same thing with my own children. Whether we pack up some food and hit the trails, grab blankets for free movie night in the park, have a slumber party in the living room, or make homemade pizzas together, we make the most of our time together. What could be more fun or important than that?

Your children will not remember that thing you bought them 15 years ago, but they will remember that time you went camping, it rained, and you made light of it by whipping out a pack of cards to play a game in the tent.

Someday, all too soon, your children will leave the house and start their own lives. They will have their own families and their priorities will shift to them. You will always be important to them, but it won't be the same. So, instead of letting time slip through your fingers, build memories that they will cherish forever, and I guarantee they will do the same with their own children.

Children are a gift, don't take it for granted, and time is a gift, so use it wisely.

Enjoy your day,


H.A. Larson