Monday, August 31, 2015

Best Vegan Biscuits and Gravy


One of my favorite dishes from way back in my omni days was biscuits and gravy. I've gone through a few trials and errors trying to get my vegan version to taste as good as the original, and I've succeeded!  

Vegan Biscuits and Gravy



Baking Powder Biscuits:


1. Sift together 2 cups of flour, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 5 teaspoons of baking powder.
2. Cut in 5 tablespoons of refined coconut oil. 
3. Add 2/3 cup of unsweetened cashew milk (any unsweetened vegan milk would work fine) and mix together until it just comes together. 
4. Turn out onto a floured work surface and knead for only a minute. 
5. Roll out and cut to desired size/shape. 
6. Bake at 450 degrees for about 15-20 minutes, or until lightly browned on the outside.



The Gravy:


1/4 c. refined coconut oil (unrefined works well also)
1/3 c. flour
1 1/2 - 2 c. unsweetened vegan milk*
1 t. salt
2 t. pepper
1 T. steak seasoning (any kind is fine)
3 T. nooch (nutritional yeast)
1/2 - 2/3 c. TVP sausage crumbles - recipe here

Melt the coconut oil over medium-high heat in a frying pan with high sides or a sauce pan. When the oil is melted add the flour immediately and whisk until smooth. As soon as it starts to bubble add the milk and whisk to incorporate. Add the seasonings and nooch, as whisk continuously, but lightly, until it thickens. When it's the desired thickness, remove from heat so it doesn't burn. Add the sausage crumbles and stir to incorporate.** Serve with the biscuits. 

Enjoy!




*You can use any vegan milk, that's fine. Start with the 1 1/2 cups and then add as much as desired after that to achieve the desired consistency. You can add more than 2 cups if preferred or less. This is just a ballpark estimate based on my own preferences. You can always start with 1 c. of milk as well and work your way up. It's better to start with less and go up than start with too much and try and figure out how to get it thicker without adding lumps!  ;)

**Do NOT add the TVP until the gravy is done and off the heat, even if the crumbles are cold. The gravy will warm them right up! Otherwise, the tvp will enlarge and lose it's form, and we don't want that! 


Sunday, August 30, 2015

Gel Eyeliner Review


As most of you know from previous posts, I had been really wanting to try gel eyeliner since the beginning of the year. I'd always used a combination of a felt-tip eyeliner accentuated with liquid eyeliner. Gel eyeliner looked liked a quicker and easier way to achieve the look I wanted using only one product. In one of my previous make-up haul posts, I had purchased a gel eyeliner from Love My Eyes. Remember them? Back in the 80s, I used to buy their cheap pencil eyeliners and eyeshadows.





I honestly didn't even know Love My Eyes was still around when I spotted their inexpensive version of a gel eyeliner. Unsure of how well I'd like gel eyeliner, I decided I would give this one a try before spending a lot of money on some. This is their pot along with the brush that came with it. I could tell right away that I wasn't going to like that brush.




Instead, I opted for one of my detail artistic brushes. I had gotten a multi-pack of these awhile back for use with more intricate eye applications, so I used this particular brush, the smallest and finest of the pack. Honestly, none of the artistic brushes, or any other brush I own for that matter (and I have a lot of brushes), worked very well in application. I could tell right away that the gel eyeliner had potential, but after using it a few times I realized that the brand I was using was just not very good. I still had to use liquid eyeliner to correct the ragged way it ended up on my eyelids. It was also kind of dry and dried quickly, making applying it even more of a challenge. Admittedly, after using it a couple of times then, I gave up using it.




I hadn't, however, given up on using gel eyeliner so I decided to purchase a better quality version and a gel eyeliner-specific brush. One day while I was perusing Amazon, I decided to look for some. I settled on the NYX gel eyeliner as it had decent reviews, and I also purchased the daVinci gel eyeliner brush. Needless to say, this version was a HUGE improvement over the Love My Eyes version. It goes one smooth and easily, and gives great coverage in one quick step. One word of caution though, don't flub it up or you have to remove all your eye makeup and start over or it doesn't look right! I speak from experience on that one.


Overall, if you like a nice precision eyeliner on your top lids, then get this!  




Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Switching up the book cover for The Station

So, as you know, a few months back I revealed the cover for my third book, The Station. For those who need a reminder, here it is:






I liked it, but I felt it was a little off from what my vision was, so I made a second cover. This one, I feel, more accurately represents the story line of my book:





What are your thoughts?  Comment here or give me a shout out on facebook, twitter, email, or google+ using the links on the sidebar!

Monday, August 24, 2015

This thing we call Life


When I was young, I always pictured my adult life to be a certain way. I imagined that I would be either a college professor or a professional musician in an orchestra; living in a big city; taking up residence in a fabulous brick house in a bucolic suburb that was covered every fall in gold, brown, and red leaves; and taking vacations every year to exotic locations. That vision never really varied much, and stayed constant throughout my 20's. When my 30's beckoned, and then became a reality, I realized that I hadn't done much of anything I had imagined myself doing, but still held firmly to this idea that I had plenty of time to accomplish those things.

Then, somewhere around age 35 I became acutely aware of my own mortality, and when the dawn of my 40th birthday was upon me I was overtaken with melancholy. At that moment, I understood the truth about myself: I had wasted away half of my life. I had totally blown all my prime years, and that truth was a devastating blow. How could I have failed myself so much? I looked at what my life was. Far from the fabulous life I had imagined, I was poor (and had been my whole adult life up until that point), had saved nothing, flitted around from one worthless job to the next, lived in a crappy apartment, drove a crappy car, and had never been anywhere except for a couple of trips to see my mom in Texas (that she paid for).

What should have been a milestone in my life--one to look back on the years before with a smile and to look towards the future years of my promising future--became a depressing day filled with misery and tears. What came next were a few crazy years of trying to do everything at once and having just more trying days. After that, I finally figured myself out. I knew who I was, and what I wanted. More importantly, I started making the necessary changes in my life that I needed in order to move forward in all aspects of my life.

Time isn't permanent for us, and we've only got a limited amount of it. Once I understood that, I was finally able to start doing what I needed to do in order to take charge and start living my dreams. I needed an attitude adjustment first and foremost. I needed to kick bad habits to the curb and begin adopting good ones. I needed to take responsibility for my shortcomings and make peace with it. Lastly, I needed a plan.

I've now realized a few of my dreams, but I have an actual bucket list that I'm working on. I've also realized that the vision I had of my future self back when I was young is not the vision I have of myself now. Future me doesn't desire the same kind of life that younger me did. So, while I'm traveling a different path than I had imagined all those years ago, it's still pretty great none-the-less.

I've also come to the conclusion that the old adage "It'd never too late to realize your dreams" isn't just a dumb old saying. I might be in the second half of my life, but that's still half of a life to do the things I want, and as long as I take care of myself, I should be able to keep on keepin' on well into my twilight years. Two things I know for certain: 1. I'm not taking my life for granted anymore, and 2. I'm not going to sit back and let the rest of my life just pass me by. Wiser, older me is taking over for naive, not-so-wise, younger me, and we're going full throttle from here on out.

Let's get busy living shall we?


Thursday, August 20, 2015

My Journey Towards a Healthy Life - Part 2


Awhile back, in Part 1, I talked about my journey towards being in better shape and living a healthy life. While I've made great progress that I'm quite proud of, I still have to deal with one more thing: my weight. I have lost 25 lbs, and for that I am also quite proud, but I have more to lose. After I lost the initial weight, I leveled off and I haven't lost a pound in a few months. I had to take stock of what I was eating and realized that although I was eating much better foods, I was eating too much of it!

Since weight loss is my last healthy goal, I decided to dust off the old My Fitness Pal and start taking account of what I eat. I hadn't used it since my last weight loss, so the evil app decided to chop more off my daily calorie consumption...the big jerk. I kid, but in all seriousness, I have my work cut out for me. Being a vegan has come in handy though, because all the crap in the food market at work that would normally tempt me is not vegan. This makes it easy to stay away from the ice cream, candy bars, and other calorie dense-low nutrition foods! I've found myself just eating more veggies so I can consume more food and not feel so hungry.

So, wish me luck! I need it, and I will keep you updated. Have you found any good methods that work for you? Leave me a comment.

Have a great day,

H.A. Larson

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Success


For many people, it's easy to dream about success and how they envision their future, but for a large portion of these people it will never be anything more than that: a dream. It's one thing to daydream about something, but it's entirely another to actually work towards it.

I talk to many people where this rings true. They talk about all the things they're going to have in the future, and they use the word 'someday' so frequently it almost hurts. But when does someday come? The truth is, for many people it never does. The reason? It's easier to dream about something and hope it just happens rather than actually start working towards their goal.

And herein lies another truth: nothing is ever going to just fall in your lap...you have to work for it. I'm not just talking about jobs and money here, I'm talking about dreams. You want to be a writer, an artist, a musician, a doctor, a world traveler? You'll never be any of those things unless you start working towards it, not someday, but today. Now.

Furthermore, dreams don't happen overnight (maybe for a select few, but that's not reality for the majority of us). It takes patience and time to be a success. Giving up should never be an option, because some dreams take years to realize.

When I first started writing, I researched the Indie market and knew right away that realizing my dreams of being a successful author was going to require a lot of work, patience, and time. My other dream, besides being a writer, is to be a traveler. I've already worked hard to make that happen, and I work hard now by working two jobs and saving my money regularly so I can continue to make that happen.

I know that being a successful writer will take years of hard work, and that it might never happen at all, BUT at least I tried by working as hard as I could at it. I know that being a successful traveler require a lot of work, saving, and the realization that I can't travel all the time.

What I want you to take away is that if you really want something, start working hard for it, and start working now. Someday never comes and today is already here.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Better Late than Never

Long time no see!  Okay, so it's been 10 days, but who's counting?!  The truth is, I've been blessedly busy. As you know from previous posts, I went back to work full-time, I still work part-time from home, I shuffled my kids back and forth from their yearly trip to my parents' house, and, of course, there's the never-ending cycle of errands/house cleaning. Amongst all that, I took a girls-only trip this last weekend with a dear friend of mine from high school. 

We had originally planned to hit up the Wisconsin leg of the Mother Earth News fair, but with me starting the new job (and a new schedule along with it) we knew we wouldn't be able to make that far of a journey work. Rather than scrap the whole weekend, we decided on somewhere closer to home: Des Moines, IA.

I hadn't been to Des Moines in years, and I was pleasantly surprised at how far it's come along. So, here's my girls weekend in picture form. Enjoy!



On our last night, we took a walk around Grayslake Park. The sun was setting, and we both paused to capture the moment.



On our second day, we drove north out of town aways to Ledges State Park. It was gorgeous and we hiked over 5 miles in it.




The Ledges are so named for their sandstone 'hills'. We hiked some of the various trails in and around the hills.


This picture kind of sums up the trip. From top left corner going clockwise:
*Our first night, we enjoyed drinks at the Jasper Winery.
*After a few more drinks at a local bar, we were ready for some tattoos. I got my kids' names on my arm (we went simple or we would have had to come back for an appt) while my friend got "All those who wander are not lost" around her ankle.
*A self-portrait of our hiking trip at Ledges.
*Some very delicious, albeit very tiny, vegan tacos from Tacopalypse.
*A view of Des Moines skyline from Grayslake Park.

We also had some delicious vegan Vietnamese food, which made me wonder why in the world I had never eaten Vietnamese cuisine before!  

Have a great day!  -H.A.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Vegan Breakfast Pizza


It's been a long, busy week in writer-land. I went back to work full-time this week while keeping my part-time work-from-home job; I had two kids to get ready to send off to Papa & Grandma's house which included a trip to the laundromat since my washer at home died on me; keeping up with my social media; working on my third book; and all the other writing I do. Whew, that was a mouthful to type, I imagine it was to read too! Anyway, I think you get my point: BUSY! 

I also had a weird phenomenon happen: I had the house all to myself for two whole days! Yes, that's right, H.A. had 48 wonderful hours of peace & quiet, and my house stayed immaculate the whole time. I visited a friend, entertained some friends, opened up my yearly schnapps (which was my best yet), and made a heap of delicious vegan food. 

I've really been craving pizza lately, which comes as no surprise since I'm a huge fan of pizza, and I've mastered the art of making vegan pizza. This morning though, I was really craving a breakfast pizza. A certain gas station chain I grew up with makes wonderful carnivore breakfast pizza that I used to devour. Now that I'm vegan, I had yet to have a vegan breakfast pizza that mimic'd the omni ones I've had.

I solved that problem this morning by coming up with the greatest idea ever! It came out just as delicious as it looks! I made this using a pre-made crust because I wanted to make easy pizzas this weekend. Made sure you read the notes at the end!


Vegan Breakfast Pizza

Ingredients:

1 pre-made pizza crust (any pizza crust will work)
1/2 c. of chickpea omelette mix, mixed with water and ready to use (recipe here)
1 vegan burger patty, crumbled and fried in
1 T. coconut oil
1/4 c. black olives
1/4 c. chopped onion
1/4 c. chopped green pepper
1 c. sliced mushrooms
1/2 c. vegan cheese shreds (I used Daiya)

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Lightly grease a pizza pan or a baking sheet.
3. Spread out the chickpea omelette mix over the crust.
4. Add your toppings, starting with the "meat" and ending with the vegan cheese.
5. Bake for 20 minutes.
6. Let cool for 10 minutes before cutting.
7. Enjoy! (Mine was enjoyed with a cup of coffee and a large, cold glass of cashew milk)

Notes:

The toppings you choose are limitless. You could add the TVP crumbles from my recipe, and you can add any combination of veggies you want. Use your favorite cheese, but I suspect that my vegan cheese sauce would be fantastic on top of this pizza. Just make sure you use a crust and the chickpea omelette mix and everything else after that is up to you!