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Monday, February 29, 2016

vegan blueberry cornmeal waffles

sometimes vegan recipes get a bad wrap.  i have run into lots of people who assume that anything labeled vegan must be dull, tasteless, and boring, but that's not the case at all.  the truth is, vegan recipes can be just as great and often even more flavorful compared to their non-vegan counterparts.  take this waffle recipe for example . . .

these insanely gorgeous and decadently delicious blueberry cornmeal waffles are vegan you would absolutely never know it by looking at them or by tasting them.  they're vegan because they do not have any eggs, milk, or butter in them.  instead of eggs, ground flaxseeds do the trick to act as a binder.  almond milk substitutes for dairy milk, coconut oil takes the place of butter, and the batter is sweetened with pure maple syrup.

we have incorporated cornmeal into our pancake and waffle batters before, and let me tell you, cornmeal makes these waffles insane!  they are like the waffle version of cornbread.  the cornmeal gives them an awesome texture.  they have a great crisp outside and the beautiful blueberries give them a nice pop of extra flavor too!

vegan blueberry cornmeal waffles
prep time: 10 minutes
cooking time: 10 minutes
yields: 3 servings
adapted from one ingredient chef

1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
2 tablespoons water
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 cups almond milk
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted to a liquid state
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup blueberries

preheat your waffle iron according to the manufacturer's instructions.  in a small bowl, combine the ground flaxseed with the water.  stir and then set aside until the flax has just about absorbed the water and turned into a gel (about 5 minutes).  meanwhile, in a larger bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, salt, and baking powder.  in a separate bowl, combine the almond milk, maple syrup, coconut oil, and vanilla.  whisk together to combine.  add the flaxseed gel to the wet ingredients and stir.  add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir just until combined.  gently fold in the blueberries.  pour enough batter into the waffle iron to just barely cover the waffle grid.  cook 4-5 minutes, or until the waffles are golden brown.  once cooked, transfer the waffles to a cooling rack while you prepare the remaining waffles.  serve warm, topped with warm maple syrup.

love, laurie

Friday, February 26, 2016

it's friday!

it's really chilly today and i'm dreaming of warmer weather for bike riding.  i'm longingly looking at this picture and really hoping spring hurries up and gets here fast.  come on, mother nature, i'm done with hats, gloves, and scarves.

thank goodness it's friday.  this week has left me completely exhausted and run down.  we have a whole lot planned for this weekend and our schedules are packed.  i think it's going to be a whirlwind but i'm ready for it!

have a lovely weekend!
love, laurie

Thursday, February 25, 2016

cat behaviors explained

as we have documented here on this blog numerous times, leko sure does some funny things.  he has some of the cutest and oddest habits.  so, i absolutely could not stop laughing when i came across this list of 17 funny illustrations that explain cat behaviors, because all 17 of them explain leko purrfectly!  (see what i did there, ha!)

have a great day!
love, laurie

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

vegetable fried rice

over the weekend we were craving chinese food.  instead of going out to eat or ordering take out, we made homemade vegetable fried rice right at home.

we had a ton of fresh veggies that we had just picked up at the grocery store, so we threw all sorts of yummy veggies into this dish including red pepper, yellow pepper, scallions, carrots, celery, broccoli, mushrooms, and zucchini.

the scrambled eggs and soy sauce give this dish that distinct fried rice quality, and the sesame oil and toasted sesame seeds give it a great flavor!

this recipe is a great base recipe because you can add anything into the fried rice that you want in order to make it your own.  this dish is so easy to make that you won't need to order fried rice take out again!  it makes enough for leftovers all week long too!

vegetable fried rice
prep time: 10-15 minutes
cooking time: 30 minutes
yields: 6-8 servings

2 cups water
1 1/2 cups botan white rice
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 small red bell pepper, diced
1 small yellow pepper, diced
8 scallions, diced
4-5 medium carrots, peeled and diced
2-3 stalks celery, diced
1 head broccoli, broken into small florets
8 oz. white mushrooms, diced
1 medium zucchini, diced
1 tablespoon salted butter
2 large eggs, scrambled
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

in a sauce pan bring the water to a boil.  add the rice, reduce the heat, and simmer covered for 20 minutes until the rice has absorbed all of the water.  fluff with a fork.

meanwhile, heat a wok over medium heat and add the sesame oil.  add the diced vegetables and saute until tender (about 10-15 minutes).  once the vegetables are cooked, remove them from the wok and set them aside in a large bowl.

melt the butter in the empty wok.  scramble the egg in the butter.  add the cooked rice to the wok and pour the soy sauce over the rice.  toss to evenly coat the rice, adding more soy sauce if needed.  cook for 5 minutes.  add the vegetables to the rice.  toss to evenly incorporate the vegetables into the rice.  top with toasted sesame seeds.  serve warm.

love, laurie

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

fur baby

we were thrilled to be able to catch up on some sleep, errands, and quality time with our fur baby this weekend!  leko took advantage of every moment that we were home and sat on our laps to make sure he pinned us down so that we couldn't go anywhere.  we didn't mind one bit!  i snapped this picture on sunday of leko on ryan's lap nestled in a fleece blanket to stay warm.  what a cutie!

love, laurie

Monday, February 22, 2016

creamy vegetable tortellini soup

the weather has been all over the place lately.  some days have been so cold that i feel like my face is going to fall off as soon as i step outside, and then other days have been so lovely and warm that people are walking around without jackets.  what is going on, mother nature?!

on the cold days in february, we crave warm meals.  recently we made a batch of this soup when it was particularly cold outside.  we made enough so that we could have it all week for lunches at work.  it was so nice to have something to look forward to all morning at work, knowing that the soup would warm us from the inside out when our offices were so bitter cold.

this soup is packed full of goodness.  it has lots of veggies like onions, carrots, celery, tomatoes, and spinach for nutrients, and it's flavored with garlic, oregano, basil, and rosemary.  the tortellini give it something special, and the cream makes it decadently creamy.  this is the perfect cold-weather soup!

creamy vegetable tortellini soup
prep time: 10-15 minutes
cooking time: 40-45 minutes
yields: 8 servings

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small spanish onion, diced
6 large carrots, peeled and chopped
4 celery stalks, chopped
5 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
32 oz. low-sodium vegetable stock
3 cups fresh spinach leaves
5 oz. cheese tortellini
3 tablespoons heavy cream

in a large soup pot, over medium heat, warm the olive oil.  saute the onion, carrots, and celery until tender.  add the garlic, oregano, basil, and rosemary.  cook for 1-2 minutes.  add the crushed tomatoes and vegetable stock.  stir well.  simmer for 25-30 minutes on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally.  add the spinach and tortellini and cook for 4-6 minutes until the tortellini are tender and fully cooked.  stir in the heavy cream.  serve warm.

love, laurie

Friday, February 19, 2016

fun links

this week flew by, but it was challenging to say the least.  work was mentally, emotionally, and physically draining.  we're looking forward to the weekend to hopefully be able to relax, decompress, and get caught up on some sleep too!

here are a few fun links that i found around the internet recently . . .

1. this saying should have been taped to my forehead this past week

2. twelve tips for blending in like a local in nyc

3. love this behind-the-scenes shot of my blog friend lauren at work - check her out, she's amazing!

4. this mango ginger kale smoothie sounds delicious

5. five-minutes standing ab workout for building a strong core

6. six style secrets from fixer upper's chip and joanna gaines

7. how to eat vegan at any restaurant (without having to just order salad)

8. speaking of vegan, i can't wait to make these vegan blueberry cornmeal waffles

9. i absolutely need to buy this catnip feline yoga mat for leko!

have a wonderful weekend!
love, laurie

Thursday, February 18, 2016

baby, it's cold outside!

it has been super cold lately, and when it's chilly leko loves to curl up with us to stay warm.  of course we don't mind one bit.  normally leko favors ryan's lap, but the other day ryan was at a meeting and i had the privilege of having my lap warmed by leko.  it was so nice to spend some time relaxing on the couch with leko, staying toasty warm under a blanket and his warm furry little body.  i just couldn't resist snapping a few pictures on my phone of some of the positions he got in while he was on my lap to show ryan when he got home!

hope everyone is staying warm!
love, laurie

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

broccoli and cheddar crust-less cast iron skillet quiche

i love traditional quiche, but sometimes it's nice to lighten it up and make it crust-less, which saves both time and calories.  recently we needed to throw together a quick yet hardy breakfast.  we beat some eggs and threw them in a cast iron skillet along with broccoli and cheddar for a delicious crust-less quiche.

the eggs are whipped with mayo and milk which makes them light and fluffy.  as the eggs bake in the cast iron skillet, they form a great "crust."  this recipe is perfect for a quick yet satisfying breakfast on the go.  it's a great base recipe because you can add anything to your quiche.  we added broccoli and cheddar, but you could add any veggies or meat too.

broccoli and cheddar crust-less cast iron skillet quiche
prep time: 10-15 minutes
cooking time: 25-30 minutes minutes
yields: 2 large servings

1 tablespoon salted butter
4 large eggs
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
3 tablespoons milk
1 cup cooked broccoli florets
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
ground black pepper

preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.  place the butter in a cast iron skillet and put the skillet in the oven while it preheats to melt the butter.  meanwhile, whip together the eggs, mayo, and milk.  remove the skillet from the oven and swirl the butter evenly around the bottom and the sides of the skillet.  place the cooked broccoli in the bottom of the skillet.  pour the egg mixture over the broccoli and top with cheddar cheese and ground black pepper to taste.  bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the eggs are set.  serve warm.

love, laurie

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

ice, ice, baby!

every year, clarks summit holds their annual ice festival over presidents day weekend.  we always think about going, but each year something comes up and we end up missing the festival.  this year we were determined to check it out.  on friday after work, despite the zero degree temperatures, we headed to clarks summit to check out the festival of ice.  the theme of the festival this year was the frozen frontier and there were over 50 hand-carved ice sculptures all western themed.

we bundled up in multiple layers and walked up and down the streets of the town checking out the different ice carvings in front of the local businesses.  since we were there at night, it was neat to see all of the ice sculptures lit up.  the festival also had free trolley rides around the town to view the ice carvings.  after walking around for a while, we hopped on the trolley to warm up for a bit.  it took everything in me not to break out singing the trolley song from meet me in st. louis!

afterwards, we popped into a mexican restaurant for some dinner, and much to our surprise the waiter gave us a free dessert.  the night turned out to be a lovely little winter date!

love, laurie

Monday, February 15, 2016

valentine's day weekend 2016

we were excited that valentine's day fell on a weekend this year and that neither of us had work or plans.  we kicked off our valentine celebrations on saturday.  when i came home from dance class on saturday morning, ryan and leko surprised me with flowers.  the potted pink gerber daisies were from ryan and the orange gerber daisies were from leko.  both of my valentines are so sweet!

later in the evening we got together with my parents.  my mom made some great french onion soup for dinner and surprised us with heart-shaped cheesecake and chocolate-covered strawberries for dessert.  we all curled up on the couch under blankets to watch a movie.  it was the perfect thing for such cold weather.

on sunday, we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast at home in our pajamas, went out to a new restaurant for lunch, ran some errands, and then came home to collapse on the couch with leko to watch a movie.  it was great!

hope everyone had a lovely valentine's day!
love, laurie

Friday, February 12, 2016

happy valentine's day weekend!

it's hard to believe sunday is valentine's day already!  i am thrilled that ryan and i don't have to work on sunday, and as of now we don't really have any major plans this weekend.  we're looking forward to actually being able to spend some time together.  that is a great valentine's day gift if you ask me!  

this will be our 12th valentine's day that we have celebrated together as a couple.  time sure does fly!  since valentine's day is this weekend, here are a few fun facts about valentine's day . . . 

happy valentine's day weekend!
love, laurie

Thursday, February 11, 2016

small batch brownies for two

for christmas this year, ryan's parents bought me christina lane's dessert for two cookbook.  all of the recipes are miniature sized which makes them perfect for times when you want dessert but you don't want a whole ginormous amount of something.  the first recipe that we made from the cookbook was a six-inch chocolate cake with peppermint frosting for my birthday in january.  since then, i have been excited to make another recipe from the book.

for our little super bowl party on sunday, i wanted to make brownies for dessert, but i didn't want a whole bunch of brownies sitting around all week tempting us to eat them.  i turned to the cookbook and found a recipe for a small batch of brownies.  perfect!

the recipe suggests using a loaf pan to bake the brownies and then cutting them into two.  instead, i baked the brownie batter in my brownie pan which was perfect because it made 4 individual brownies.

these brownies are classic old-fashioned style brownies.  just like the brownies i remember growing up enjoying as a kid.  they have a wonderful chocolate flavor and are not too sweet at all.  i added a few mini chocolate chips to the top and sprinkled a few flakes of sea salt over the top to give them a little extra piazza.

this recipe is wonderful for those times when you are craving brownies but you don't want to feel guilty about making an entire batch of brownies.  it's down right dangerous how easy this recipe is to make!  go ahead and make you and your sweetie some brownies this weekend for valentine's day!

small batch brownies for two
prep time: 5-10 minutes
baking time: 15-20 minutes
yields: 4 brownies (2 servings)
adapted from dessert for two cookbook

4 tablespoons salted butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/4 all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons mini chocolate chips
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. in a microwave-safe bowl, combine the butter, sugar, and cocoa powder.  microwave for 30 seconds, then stir to combine.  microwave for another 30 seconds, then stir well to cool the mixture.  stir in the vanilla.  add the egg and stir until incorporated.  add the flour and stir well until incorporated.  spread the batter evenly in a loaf pan lined with parchment paper, or divide the batter among 4 cups of a brownie pan or a muffin pan.  top with mini chocolate chips and sprinkle with sea salt.  bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

love, laurie

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

never miss a chance to dance

i've mentioned before that i absolutely love dancing.  i'm so happy that i get the opportunity to dance several times each week with my local dance studio.  i love being able to do ballet, pointe, jazz, hip-hip, and tap every week.

one style of dance that i really miss is lyrical.  when i was younger, my mom and i took lyrical dance lessons for many years from maria triano at pa dance network.  i lost touch with maria when i went to college, but my mom reconnected with maria about two years ago and started taking classes with her again.  since then, i have been really missing maria's lyrical classes.  for christmas my sweet parents surprised me with a private dance lesson with maria.  i was beyond excited to get the chance to dance with maria again.

this past weekend i got a chance to use my christmas present from my parents.  it was so amazing to have a private lyrical class with maria.  i seriously spent the entire time smiling.  while i was there, maria made a little video and recorded a bit of our time together.  i'm so glad she thought to do that because it turned out to be such a sweet memento of the day.  here are a few still screen shots from the video . . .

thanks again, mom and dad!  it was awesome!
love, laurie

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

happy mardi gras!

happy mardi gras / happy fat tuesday / happy fasnacht day!  no matter what you call it, it's a great excuse to eat a doughnut today!

here are some of my favorite homemade doughnut recipes:
- baked mocha cake doughnuts with coffee cream cheese glaze
- baked strawberry cake doughnuts with strawberry glaze
baked pumpkin doughnuts with brown butter and apple cider glaze topped with pecans
- baked apple cider doughnuts

love, laurie

Monday, February 8, 2016

super bowl sunday 2016

even though we're not really into sports, we do like to tune into the super bowl each year, mainly for the commercials and the half-time show.  ryan had to work on sunday so we recorded the super bowl and watched it when he got home.  luckily he got home only about 45 minutes after it started.  we threw together a little super bowl party for ourselves.  i made vegetarian nachos, boneless chicken wings for ryan, and cut up some veggies to dip in blue cheese.  we followed it up with brownies for dessert too.

just like in years past, leko was in on the action.  leko wasted no time at all and jumped up on ryan's lap as soon as ryan sat down, and that's where he stayed for the whole night.  it was so nice to be able to sit on the couch and relax.  the three of us really enjoyed our little super bowl party in our pajamas!

ps: the commercials were totally lame this year, however, we did get a good laugh out of honda's "a new truck to love" commercial because the sheep reminded us so much of leko!  i liked snickers' "marilyn" commercial too.

love, laurie

Friday, February 5, 2016

kitten bowl weekend!

almost everyone will be tuning into the super bowl on sunday, but don't forget to check out the kitten bowl on the hallmark channel on sunday too!  we have watched it the past few years with leko, and it's always so cute!

have a great weekend!
love, laurie

Thursday, February 4, 2016


this time of the year is always difficult to navigate.  however, i recently found solace in two quotes that i stumbled across at exactly the right moment:

"at some point you just have to let go of what you thought should happen and live in what is happening." - unknown

"nothing can bring you peace but yourself." - ralph waldo emerson

wishing everyone inner peace today.
love, laurie

. . .

ps: the metal butterfly sculpture is by artist david kracov.  ryan and i have actually seen several of his butterfly pieces in person in nyc and they are beautiful and fascinating. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

vegetarian tamale casserole

on sundays we love to cook and make big dinners to last us all week long.  it sure makes life easy to come home on a weeknight and just heat something up in the microwave.  recently we made this vegetarian tamale casserole.  it really reminded me of a mexican version of shepherd's pie, with polenta on top instead of mashed potatoes.  this is healthy comfort food with a kick of spice.  the recipe makes enough for leftovers to last all week long.

vegetarian tamale casserole
prep time: 15 minutes
cooking time: 90 minutes
yields: 8 servings
adapted from annie's eats

2 (28 oz.) cans diced tomatoes
1 onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
1 teaspoon chili powder
4 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1 (15 oz.) can black beans
1 (15 oz.) can pinto beans
1 1/2 cups frozen corn
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon dried oregano
8 oz. cheddar cheese, shredded
4 cups water
1 1/2 cups cornmeal

preheat your oven to 475 degrees F.  lined a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.  drain the cans of diced tomatoes, but reserve 2 cups of the liquid.  in a large bowl, combine the drained tomatoes, chopped onion, minced garlic, oil, and salt/pepper to taste.  toss to combine, then spread evenly on the foil-lined baking sheet.  roast for 35-40 minutes, until the veggies begin to brown around the edges.

remove the veggies from the oven and lower the oven temperature to 375 degrees F.  transfer the roasted veggies to a blender.  add the chipotle, chili powder, lime juice, and the reserved 2 cups of tomato juice.  puree until just slightly chunky.  in a large bowl combine the blended sauce with the rinsed and drained beans, corn, cilantro, and oregano.  toss to combine.  evenly distribute into a 9x13 baking dish.  evenly spread the shredded cheese on top.  set aside

in a saucepan over high heat, bring the water to a boil.  slowly add the cornmeal while whisking vigorously to prevent clumping.  reduce the heat to medium-low and whisk until the cornmeal softens and the mixture thickens (about 3 minutes).  remove from the heat and spread over the casserole with a spatula.

place the casserole on a baking sheet to avoid a mess if it bubbles over.  cover the casserole with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes.  remove the foil and continue to bake for 30 minutes, until the crust begins to brown and the filling bubbles.  let cool for 10-15 minutes before cutting and serving.

love, laurie