Feb 27, 2013

Noodle Stroganoff (V, v)

1 32 oz Box of mushroom soup
1 cup chopped onion
1 T Worcestershire sauce*
1-2 C Veggie broth
12 oz button mushrooms
salt and pepper to taste

4 ounces tofutti cream cheese (for Vegan), or regular cream cheese (Vegetarian)
1 bag of Eggless Noodles of your choice (Vegan), or any noodles (Vegetarian)

Add all (except tofutti, and noodles) to crockpot.

Cook on low for 5-6 hours. If the sauce is not thick enough, add about 1/4 c or so of cornstarch.

30 minutes before serving, add tofutti or cream cheese and stir to combine. I then added the noodles on top of the mushroom sauce and VERY lightly stirred them in, just to get the flavors mixed in.

I served it over a slice or two of bread. Even my 22 month old chowed down! It is so delicious!!

Standard Poodle: The Best Dog Ever

In case you didn't already know, I LOVE poodles! Standard poodles in particular. I think that every dog lover has a particular breed or breeds that they tend to gravitate towards, and/or that suits their personality and lifestyle better than others, and for me that breed of choice is poodles. (In case you haven't figured it out already... this post is going to be extremely biased! Lol.)

I didn't always have such an affinity for these amazing dogs. It all started with a little white toy poodle rescue named Molly. Molly was such an awesome dog. She quickly taught me just how special having a poodle can be. Later I acquired a tiny toy poodle named L.B., who was equally as smart and lovable, to keep Molly company while I was at work. And then, of course, came my beloved Sophie, a standard poodle rescue who stole my heart forever.

I have to say that of the three sizes poodles come in, standards are my preference.

The Top Five Reasons Standard Poodle is the Best Dog Breed:

Standard Poodles are extremely intelligent.
They have a high tolerance for small children and other pets.
Standards aren't yappy like most smaller poodles.
They are big enough so you can give a nice hug, but not so big they take up the whole sofa.
They are very loyal and loving.

Stuff I've learned from being owned by a Standard Poodle (and my other various animal experience) -

If you want an intelligent dog that won't make you break out in hives, you may want to take a look at the Standard Poodle. If you are under the impression that Standard Poodles are not real dogs, because you've seen those ads where the woman in the pink dress is walking along the street with her matching pink Standard Poodle, take another look at this breed. These big dogs are not silly or shallow. They are loyal, spunky, and smart. In fact, the Standard Poodle was originally created to be a working dog, and many hunters still use this versatile dog to retrieve waterfowl.

Standard Poodles are big dogs, standing at least 15 inches tall and weighing over 45 pounds. Their floppy ears, curly coats, and dark eyes give them a gentle appearance. You can find these dogs in a wide range of colors, from black to parti-colored. Interestingly enough, I have noticed that many of these dogs are more nervous and high strung if they are white or cream colored, while most black Standard Poodles are dependable, calm dogs.

If you want your Standard Poodle to be happy and well adjusted, you will need to be prepared to teach him obedience. These dogs love to learn and excel in both obedience and agility trials. Standard Poodles are eager to please and do better with positive reinforcement, such as clicker training, than with negative forms of training.

The biggest drawback of the Standard Poodle breed is the amount of grooming required. You will need to brush your dog's coat out several times a week to avoid mats and tangles. When your puppy begins to develop an adult coat, it will require daily brushing, because the changing coat tangles constantly. Your dog will also need to be clipped. You can try a puppy clip or go for a more exotic lion or lamb clip. If you can find someone to teach you how to groom your dog, you can buy a good pair of clippers and do the job yourself. Otherwise, you will need to set aside $60 or more for monthly trips to the groomer. Luckily for me, I was a dog groomer and Mark is a dog groomer. Poodles make the best practice dogs!

So, if you want a big dog that loves kids, gets on well with other dogs, and spends his life trying to make you happy, you may want to take a close look at the wonderful Standard Poodle.

We recently decided to add a standard poodle to our family again. It's been over a year since we lost Sophie and it's been a difficult adjustment. Once you've known the love of a standard poodle life just seems empty without it.

While I usually advocate rescuing animals, rescuing just wasn't in the cards for us this time around (we filled out several adoption applications, but all of the dogs we were interested in found forever homes before the adoption groups got back to us). However, as soon as we decided to get a standard poodle everything seemed to magically fall into place. The breeder I preferred had dogs with the temperament that I wanted, in the colors we preferred about to give birth. The puppies were born on February 25th! We will welcome our new family member in 8-10 weeks. :)

The photo below is of me and my girls a month after Tallulah was born and about 9 months before Sophie passed.

Feb 25, 2013

Cheesy Double Bean Quesadillas with Homemade Avocado Ranch


1 cup black beans
1 cup cannellini beans
2 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, freshly grated
2 ounces pepperjack cheese, freshly grated
4 whole wheat tortillas
a little butter or olive oil for toasting

Avocado Ranch:
1 ripe medium avocado
1/3 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley
2 tablespoons freshly chopped dill
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

In a large bowl, mash together black and cannellini beans with a fork, spoon or potato masher.

Heat an electric griddle or skillet over medium heat. Add a bit of butter or olive oil.

Place 2 tortillas down, covering each with a bit of both cheeses, then evenly distribute the mashed bean mixture over top. Place the tortilla on the griddle or skillet, then cover with bean mixture with the remaining cheese and the other tortilla. Cook until the bottom is crispy and golden brown, then gently flip and cook for another 2-3 minutes until crispy and golden.

To make the avocado ranch, combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until creamy, scraping down the sides occasionally when needed. Taste and season additionally if desired. Store avocado ranch in a seal-tight container for 1-2 days!

***I made this tonight for supper and it came out amazing! You could switch up this recipe in so many ways. Try adding spinach or other veggies to it! Add some lime to the avocado sauce for a little extra zing! Whatever floats your boat. This is a very kid friendly meal. For a snack, cut the recipe in half and cut the quesadillas in 8ths instead of 4s... Etc... Etc...

Feb 22, 2013

Crockpot Tortellini

Easiest meal ever! And according to my fiancé, Mark, it's a new favorite.

I happen to be in a cooking "funk" recently where, quite frankly, I just don't feel like cooking AT ALL! This "funk" is aligned with a cold that has once again swept through my household due to this on again-off again weather we have been having. How can anyone cook with a stuffed up nose?! If you can't smell the sweet aroma of your meal then your food will just be substance instead of the fine luxury that it should be.

Usually when I don't feel like cooking we end up doing something really easy like sandwiches, salad, or soup from a can. That's if we don't order in. That can only go so far, especially on a budget! The conundrum? How to have a scrumptious home-made meal in as few steps as possible and with minimum effort.

Ladies and Gentlemen I give you Crockpot Tortellini!

1 Bag Frozen Tortellini
1 Small Bag Fresh Spinach
2 Cans Diced Italian Tomatoes
4 C Veggie Broth
1 Block Cream Cheese, chunked

Just throw it all in the crockpot on LOW and cook 4-6 hours. Voila!

Feb 17, 2013

Animal Rights VS Animal Welfare

A lot of people don't know that there is a big difference between Animal Rights and Animal Welfare. There is. A BIG difference. Many animal lovers take bits and pieces from both to formulate their own personal belief systems on animals. I just wanted to take a few moments to define and clarify different missions and goals and to highlight the main organizations associated with each cause.

Animal Rights

Goals/Purpose/Mission: To end all human "exploitation" of animals - this includes, but is not limited to, raising and slaughtering of livestock for human or animal consumption, eating meat, hunting, using animals for any medical or veterinary research, zoos (regardless of how well managed), circuses, rodeos, horse shows, dog shows, animals performing in TV commercials, shows or movies (regardless of how well treated any of the above are), guide-dogs for the blind, police dogs, search & rescue dogs, and the practice of owning pets.


PETA (People For The Ethical Treatment Of Animals)
HSUS (Humane Society Of The United States)

Animal Welfare

Goals/Purpose/Mission: To prevent suffering and cruelty to animals. And to provide care and good homes for pets in need. This often includes, but is not limited to, the funding and running of animal shelters (to provide a sanctuary for abandoned, abused, homeless, or unwanted pets, and to place them in good homes where possible, provide painless euthanasia for those that cannot be adopted, and to educate the public about the need for spaying/neutering their pets to prevent more surplus animals ending up in shelters), enforcement of anti-cruelty statutes (where their authority permits), initiating, lobbying for, and monitoring enforcement of legislation to ensure more humane standards of care for livestock, laboratory animals, performing animals, and pets.


ASPCA (American Society For The Prevention Of Cruelty To Animals)
NAIA (The National Animal Interest Alliance)
AHA (American Humane Association)

Why Should You Adopt Pets?

Today is the one year anniversary of the passing of Sophie Marie, my most beloved pet. She died of Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy - a rare heart condition that is notoriously difficult to diagnose. She was the best dog that I have ever known and I miss her every day. Rescuing her was the best thing I ever did. She was with me through the most difficult times of my life and I don't think I would have made it through without her. I hope we meet again.

In memorial of her, I dedicate this post to adopting pets. I have always advocated for animals. Always. I've worked in the pet field as a pet store employee, small animal massage therapist, rescue volunteer, pet groomer, and even studied to be a veterinary assistant. I have aided in the training of dogs and have even been a surrogate to puppies and kittens that have lost their mothers. Animals are one of my greatest passions!

If you’re ready to get a pet, congratulations! You’ll add a loving member to your family and enrich your life. The best place to find a dog or puppy is your local animal shelter or breed rescue group. They have plenty of purebreds, mixed-breeds, big dogs and little dogs -- you’re sure to find a pet that suits your personality and your lifestyle.

When you adopt from a shelter or rescue group, you’ll give a dog a second chance at finding a home and you will not add to the nation’s pet overpopulation problem. The reality is that an estimated 3.7 million unwanted pets are euthanized at animal shelters every year -- many because they could not find families to adopt them.

Here are five reasons to adopt your new best friend according to The Humane Society of The United States.

"1. You'll save a life -
Sadly, between 3 and 4 million dogs and cats are euthanized each year in the United States simply because too many people give up their pets and too few people adopt from shelters. Because there is limited space at shelters, staff members sometimes need to make very hard decisions to euthanize animals who haven't been adopted.

The number of euthanized animals could be reduced dramatically if more people adopted pets instead of buying them. By adopting from a private humane society or animal shelter, breed rescue group, or the local animal control agency, you'll help save the lives of two animals—the pet you adopt and a homeless animal somewhere who can be rescued because of space you helped free up.

2. You'll get a healthy pet -
Animal shelters are brimming with happy, healthy animals just waiting for someone to take them home. Most shelters examine and give vaccinations to animals when they arrive, and many spay or neuter them before being adopted. In addition to medical care, more and more shelters also screen animals for specific temperaments and behaviors to make sure each family finds the right pet for its lifestyle.

It is a common misconception that animals end up in shelters because they've been abused or done something "wrong". In fact, most animals are given to shelters because of "people reasons," not because of anything they've done. Things like a divorce, a move, lack of time or financial constraints are among the most common reasons why pets lose their homes.

3. You'll save money -
Adopting a pet from an animal shelter is much less expensive than buying a pet at a pet store or through other sources. In addition, animals from many shelters are already spayed or neutered and vaccinated, which makes the shelter's fee a real bargain.

4. You'll feel better -
Pets have a way of putting a smile on your face and a spring in your step. Not only do animals give you unconditional love, but they have been shown to be psychologically, emotionally, and physically beneficial. Caring for a companion animal can provide a sense of purpose and fulfillment and lessen feelings of loneliness and isolation in all age groups.

Pets can help your physical health as well—just spending time with an animal can help lower a person's blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and dog walking, pet grooming, and even petting provide increased physical activity that can help strengthen the heart, improve blood circulation, and slow the loss of bone tissue. Put simply, pets aren't just good friends, they're also good medicine and can improve a person's well-being in many ways.

5. You won't be supporting puppy mills and pet stores -
Puppy mills are "factory style" dog-breeding facilities that put profit above the welfare of dogs. Most dogs raised in puppy mills are housed in shockingly poor conditions with improper medical care, and the parents of the puppies are kept in cages to be bred over and over for years, without human companionship and with little hope of ever joining a family. And after they're no longer profitable, breeding dogs are simply discarded—either killed, abandoned or sold at auction.

Puppy mill puppies are sold to unsuspecting consumers in pet stores, over the Internet and through newspaper classified advertisements to whoever is willing to pay for them.

Marketed as coming from great breeders, well-rehearsed sales tactics keep money flowing to the puppy mill by ensuring that buyers never get to see where the pups actually come from (a vital step in puppy buying). Many of the puppies have serious behavioral and health problems that might not be apparent for months, including medical problems that can cost thousands of dollars to treat, if they are treatable at all. Unfortunately, a lot of people are not even aware that puppy mills exist, so when they buy a pet from a pet store, online or other retail outlet, they are unwittingly supporting this cruel industry.

By adopting instead of buying a pet, you can be certain you aren't supporting cruel puppy mills with your money. Puppy mills will continue to operate until people stop purchasing their dogs. Instead of buying a dog, visit your local shelter where you will likely to find dozens of healthy, well-socialized puppies and adult dogs—including purebreds—just waiting for that special home—yours."

So what are you waiting for? Adopt a new family member today. You'll be glad that you did!

The End of Co-Sleeping

Hello friends! If you are new to my blog, I would refer you to a previous post before continuing reading this one. This first post goes over why we co-slept with our daughter in the first place.

Although we planned to co-sleep longer than the 22 months that it has been we found that for our family a transition needed to be made sooner. Tallulah is very active in her sleep - always has been. Face punches and spinal kicks notwithstanding, co-sleeping is not something we would ever take back or not do with any future children. Now that we have potty training out of the way and she rarely wakes up in the middle of the night we decided it was a good time to move her into her own "big girl" bed in her own room.

At first we tried putting a toddler bed in our room. We would let her fall asleep in our bed and then move her into the toddler bed. Without fail she would wake up within a few hours (or less) and crawl back into bed with us. While even this was an improvement, it just wasn't enough of a break for our bruised kidneys!

I did some additional research online and found that most co-sleeping parents found it easier to move their kids from the family bed into a twin or even full sized bed of the children's own. And of course they did! Let's face it, toddler mattresses don't come anywhere close to the comfort of a real mattress. (One of those times I had to hit my forehead and say "duh!" Brittany.) The search for a twin mattress began!

We went to a few different furniture stores before we found the one that would come home with us. Of course you can't expect a toddler to do any mattress testing for themselves so the task fell to me. This worked out better anyway because we wanted to find a mattress that a) would be similar in comfort to the mattress she was already use to and b) would be just as comfortable to us if we ended up falling asleep while putting her to sleep.

We ended up getting her mattress at a discount store. As it happens, the mattress we found was above the price range we had set for ourselves but it was $200 cheaper than the same exact mattress we found in every other furniture store we had traversed. Bingo! The best part is that getting her a good mattress at this stage of the game means that it will last her a long time!

I think the most important part of transitioning Tallulah from co-sleeping was feeling that we were ALL ready for the shift, not just my fiancé and myself. I really believed that our daughter was ready. It's been nearly a week now and the transition to her own bed and room has been nearly seamless! The first couple of nights one of us laid in bed with her until she fell asleep. Now we sit beside her bed. Gradually we will move farther away from her as she goes to sleep until eventually we won't have to be in the room at all for her to put herself to bed. I shouldn't forget to mention that she has not awoken in the middle of the night once! She seems to sleep better in her own bed just as we do now. She certainly sleeps longer!

Not all family situations or personalities are the same. The important thing is to figure out what works best for you and yours. I am very happy with our choices so far.

Thai Red Curry

Everyone has food preferences. Most of the people that I know gravitate towards Italian or Mexican food. I, on the other hand, have always been a big fan of Asian food. Mainly Japanese or Thai dishes. Thai being my personal favorite!

When I was pregnant with my daughter I CRAVED Thai Red Curry and for the better part of my pregnancy it was the only food that I could even keep down. Before we made the decision to go veggie, Thai Red Curry with Chicken was on the menu... often. Once we made the switch I found that Vegetable Red Curry was just as satisfying!

Here is the recipe for Red Curry with Chicken -

Yields about 4 Servings.


1 1/2 c. water
1-2 chicken breast(s), cut into pieces
1 Tbls red curry paste or less if you don't want it too spicy. ;)
1 c. coconut milk
1/2 can bamboo shoots
1/4 c. peas (optional)
1/4 c. mushrooms (optional)


Pour half of the coconut milk into a large pot, over low to medium low heat.
Add the red curry paste.
Break up the paste and mix it with the coconut milk.
Stir constantly.
Lower the heat if it splatters too much.
Add the chicken when you see red oil bubbling on top.
Stir and coat chicken with curry sauce.
Add bamboo shoots, peas, & mushrooms when chicken is mostly cooked.
Stir veggies in well.
Add the rest of the coconut milk and water.
Let boil.
Serve hot with rice.

Tips and Substitutions:

In Thailand, people start off their cooking with the top layer of coconut milk, which is thicker and contains more oil. The rest of the coconut milk is added later to make the volume. For this recipe, you could use diluted coconut milk instead of water. However, this curry is quite thick already, so I just use water. In most other curries, you can use water in place of diluted coconut milk to keep the amount of oil down.

Cut bamboo shoots into small pieces along the grain.

Now for Vegetable Red Curry you follow pretty much the same directions except substitute the chicken for buttloads of your favorite veggies! I steam all of the veggies before mixing with the curry sauce. This gives you more control over your veggies' tenderness. Some people like their vegetables more crisp than others.

Voila! You just saved yourself about $12 per person by not running out to your local Thai Restaurant when a craving struck! If you're me, you saved yourself more than that because once you're there it's hard to refrain from Thai Spring Rolls as an appetizer and a Thai Tea or two! Haha.

Sopa de Lima

Lime Soup: Sopa de Lima

This specialty of the Yucatan, although it comes from a warm climate, is great winter comfort food. The variety of lime called Citrus Limetta grows in abundance in the Yucatan, although other varieties of limes can be used in making this soup.


* For the broth.
* 1 whole chicken, cut up, or 2 whole chicken breasts
* 10 cups water
* 2 sprigs of fresh oregano or 1/2 teaspoon dried
* 3 large garlic cloves, peeled and halved
* 1 medium white onion, quartered
* 4 whole allspice
* salt to taste

* For the soup:
* 2 tablespoons corn oil
* 1 medium white onion, peeled and chopped
* 2 large cloves garlic, roasted, then peeled and pureed
* 2 roma tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
* 2 serrano chiles, seeded and chopped, or 1 green bell pepper, chopped, for a milder taste
* 6 limes, sliced
* 6 corn tortillas, cut into Frito-size strips, fried and drained on paper towels


Make the broth by placing the chicken in a large stockpot or saucepan with the water, oregano, garlic, onion, allspice and salt to taste. Bring to a boil, skim, and simmer, covered, 45 minutes. Cool, strain and set aside. Shred the chicken meat and set aside.

In a medium-size saucepan, heat the oil and add the onion, roasted garlic, tomatoes and chiles or bell pepper and saute over medium heat until the vegetables are soft.

Add the strained broth and half the lime slices and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the rest of the lime slices and the shredded chicken.

Serve immediately, accompanied by fried tortilla strips, to be added by each diner.

Serves 6

Traditional Lasagna


1 lb box lasagna (boil or non-boil)
1 lb sweet sausage
1 lb ground beef
1 1/2 lb fresh mozzarella
1 lb ricotta
2 jars pasta sauce
2 c freshly grated Parmesan


Cook lasagna (if boil) according to pkg.
Sautee sausage on low heat until cooked, drain on paper towels, slice into 1/4'' discs, set aside.
Sautee ground beef, drain, then add to jars of sauce (in a pan or bowl).
Thinly slice mozzarella, set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In bottom of pan(s) spoon in some sauce and spread over.
Put lasagna strips overlapping slightly - add a little bit more sauce, cheese slices, ricotta dollops, sausage discs, and Parmesan.
Top with more sauce.
Continue layering until ingredients are gone or pan(s) is/are full.
Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 1 hr in preheated oven.
Uncover and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes until brown and bubbly.
Let set for 20 min. before serving.

ENJOY! And remember... fresh cheeses are key!!

Feb 11, 2013

Mushroom Quinoa Salad

Mushroom Quinoa Salad

Serve 1 - Multiply ingredients by amount of people to be served.

1/2 cup Quinoa
1 c. Vegetable Broth
Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Shallot, finely chopped
1 Garlic Clove, chopped
6 mushrooms, sliced
1-2 Springs Fresh Thyme
3 Sun-Dried Tomatoes, chopped
1 Tbsp EVOO
Salt & Pepper, to taste
Fresh Parsley

1. Rinse Quinoa and place in a med. sauce pan. Add vegetable broth and bring to boil. Simmer over med-low heat for 25-30 minutes or until Quinoa is tender.

2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a frying pan and saute onion for 2-3 minutes, add garlic and fry for another minute. Add sliced mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Finally, add Thyme sprigs. Stir fry about 5 minutes or until mushrooms are softened.

3. In a small bowl, mix cooked Quinoa with olive oil, add mushrooms and tomatoes, mix well. Check the seasoning and add more salt and pepper to taste. Scatter fresh parsley on top and serve.

Vegan Pumpkin Spice Cake

Vegan Pumpkin Spice Cake

Servings:12. Per Serving (1 Cupcake): 135 Calories, 2.50g Fat, 27g Carbohydrates, 1.50g Protein, .75g Fiber, 12.7g Sugar.

1 1/2 Cups Cake Flour
3/4 Cup Light Brown Sugar (Packed)
1 1/2 Teaspoons Pumpkin Spice
1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1/4 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
3/4 Cup Pureed Pumpkin
1 1/2 Tablespoons Canola Oil
1 1/2 Tablespoons Light Vegan Butter (Melted)
1 Teaspoon Vanilla
1/2 Cup + 2 Tablespoons Water
1 Teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar

Preheat Oven to 325 degrees. If you are making this in a loaf pan or into cupcakes etc, spray loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray, or insert paper cups into cupcake pan. Flour loaf pan after you have sprayed it.

We want to mix the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl from the wet before you join them. We don't want to activate the baking soda and powder too quickly.

In a large mixing bowl, put cake flour, brown sugar, pumpkin spice, baking powder and soda, salt. Stir the dry ingredients until well incorporated, making sugar that the brown sugar isn't still packed together.

In a small mixing ball mix together wet ingredients; pumpkin, oil, butter, vanilla, canola, water and vinegar.

Now join the wet with the dry ingredients and stir with a rubber spatula, slowly stirring, scraping the sides and mashing the lumps out as you stir. Stir until the batter is pretty much free of lumps.

Pour batter into loaf pan or if making cupcakes pour into cupcake well 3/4 the way full. Place into oven immediately.

Cupcakes usually take about 15 to 20 minutes to cook. The loaf pan takes about 25 to 35 minutes. Don't open the oven door until after the first 15 minutes of cooking, but after that stick a toothpick in the middle and check to see if it comes out clean. Keep checking and don't take them out until the toothpick comes out clean. Let cake cool completely before icing.

Orange Carrot Soup

Orange Carrot Soup

2 seed-less oranges, pilled
2 pounds carrots
2 stems of fresh mint leaves chopped
half a bunch fresh cilantro chopped
half tea spoon cumin seeds
2 cinnamon sticks
4 cherry tomatoes cut in half
3 shallots chopped
a quarter tea spoon car-demon seeds
4 cloves fresh garlic chopped.
Chop carrots and oranges into small pieces and place them in a blender. After blending them well, put them aside for now.

In a medium size pot, on medium heat add 4 spoons olive oil. Sauté the shallots for 2 minutes. Add the cinnamon, cardomon and cumin seeds and fry for several minutes untul very fragrant. Add garlic and cherry tomatoes. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add mint and cilantro, stirring and cooking 2 minutes more. Stir in blended carrots and oranges. Add water if needed to thin. Bring to a boil, cover and remove from heat.

**This wasn't my fave, but for cilantro lovers it was pretty good.

Baby Sign Language Cheat Sheet

Sign Language Cheat Sheet – Lula

All Done: move hands away from body as if pushing away a plate

Bath: move fists up & down as if scrubbing your body

Bed/Sleep: make a pillow with both hands and rest your head on the pillow

Book: make book with hands and open it

Clean Up: top hand swipes bottom as eyes frown

Dad: tap thumb to brow

Diaper: 2 fingers over thumb pat hip

Down: point down

Drink: make a “c” hand and bring to mouth

Eat: fingertips to mouth

Grandma: thumb to chin, then arch out twice

Grandpa: thumb to brow, then arch out twice

Help: use one hand (flat) to help the other hand (fist) up

Love: cross fists over chest

Mommy: tap thumb to chin

Mine: flat palm to chest

More: tap fingertips together

Play: make “hang loose” sign with hands and shake back and forth

Please: hand to heart in circular motion

Stop: pinky side of hand to palm of other hand

Thank You: fingertips to mouth then move outward

Walk: hands pointed downward then imitate walking movement

Want: palms up – curl fingertips and move straight in towards body

Water: curl thumb and pinky to palm making a “W” out of the other fingers and bring to mouth

Why Vegetarian/Vegan? Why Organic? Why prepared fresh?

Why vegetarian/vegan?

Healthier for the individual — A large body of scientific research indicates that a vegetarian diet is the healthiest. Vegetarians, for example, have the lowest rates of heart disease, cancer, arthritis, and many other ailments.

Healthier for the environment — Animal agriculture poses a threat to the environment. Central and South American rainforests, for example, are being destroyed in part to provide cheap beef for export to other countries, including the U.S.

Why organic?

Healthier for the individual — Organic fruits and vegetables are free of pesticides and herbicides used in conventional agriculture. Organically grown produce, moreover, is not genetically engineered. The long-term effects of consuming genetically modified food are not known.

Healthier for the environment — The chemicals used in conventional agriculture end up in our streams, rivers, and lakes and in our water supply. Organic farming methods, on the other hand, focus on building the richness of the soil through natural means.

Healthier for the farmer — Farm chemicals are linked to higher incidence of cancer among farmers. Organic farming is not only healthier but more financially sustainable in the long run.

Why freshly prepared?

Whereas most people these days rely heavily on pre-prepared and frozen foods, I prefer to make freshly prepared food so that our meals are more nutritious and delicious.

I get asked these questions a lot and decided to come up with these SIMPLIFIED answers.

Feb 5, 2013

Religion vs Spirituality

Well, first of all. Spirituality and religion are not the same thing and most people confuse the two. Religion and spirituality have their differences but at the same time Religion can embrace spirituality - which accounts for why most people confuse them.

Many followers of religion feel that only their path can lead to salvation. They have tremendous faith in their own religion, but at the same time they feel other religions are wrong. Therefore, they can feel a necessity to convert others to their faith.

Spirituality feels that all religions are valid; like the analogy of many paths leading to the same goal. Spirituality embraces all the world religions, but at the same time, is not constrained by any religious dogmas or forms.

Religion tends to take great inspiration from the past. It reveres the ancient religious texts as the way to achieve salvation. Spirituality is not so concerned with the past. Spirituality believes in the eternal now. To attain liberation we need to live in the present. It is not the past or the future that gives us liberation. We achieve peace of mind only when we concentrate on doing the right thing here and now.

Religion places great emphasis on outer forms and outer rituals. These are helpful for giving a sense of formality to the worship of God. But spirituality is not concerned with outer rituals. Spirituality says that what is important is a seeker’s inner attitude. Through practicing spirituality we seek to develop an inner shrine in our own heart.

Thus said... I am a Spiritual creature. I am not religious.

Feb 3, 2013

Making Memories

Your family is changing so fast, isn’t it? Your children (and yes, they will be your “children” even when they’re married and have kids of their own) are growing up, and becoming more like adults every day. Don’t you wish you could just “freeze time” and hold these special moments forever?

Having family portraits taken are a great way to memorialize a special moment or phase of your lives. We, very recently, had family portraits taken. I didn't want more "Mall Portraits" taken in a studio so I searched for local photographers and looked through all of their portfolios to see whose style would fit us best. I found Jess Falcone Photography!

Working with Jess was pure joy and our family portraits turned out fabulous! I couldn't be more pleased with her work. She was absolutely amazing with our 21 month old as well! I highly recommend her to anyone looking for a photographer.

Here is her information:

Jess Falcone Photography

Email -
Website -
Facebook -
Twitter - @jessifalc

Feb 2, 2013

Vegetarian Chili Recipe

The weather has been really wonky here in North Carolina lately. It seems like one day it is in the 30s and the very next day it could be in the low 70s! Because of this huge fluctuation in temperature everyone has been sick on and off for a couple of months. Bleh! So, in an effort to warm everyone through and through regardless of the outside temp, I made a scrumptious vegetarian chili!

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 Hr.
Servings 6


1 (12 ounce) package frozen burger-style crumbles (optional)
2 (15 ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
2 (15 ounce) cans dark red kidney beans
1 (15 ounce) can light red kidney beans
1 (29 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (16 fluid ounce) can tomato juice
1 lg. onion, chopped
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, combine meat substitute, black beans, kidney beans, diced tomatoes, tomato juice, onions, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cover. Let the chili simmer for at least 1 hour before serving.

***Feel free to adjust the recipe some! Like adding peppers, using fresh garlic instead of garlic powder, the burger-style crumbles can be optional, etc.. etc..***

Vegan Cream of Broccoli Soup

Since I seem to be on a soup kick, here is another house fave!

Vegan Cream of Broccoli Soup

Serves about 8

1 Bunch Broccoli
1 Lg. Chopped Onion
1 Carrot
2 Stalks Celery w/ Leaves
3 med. Potatoes – peeled
1 Head Cauliflower
12 c. Vegetable Broth
Optional: Soy or Rice Milk


Chop all of the vegetables and cook in the broth until soft. Puree everything in blender and return to pot. Add soy or rice milk to taste if desired. Reheat (do not boil).

**I did not add soy or rice milk and it came out wonderfully on its own. :)

Vegan Spinach Lasagna (low-fat, vegan)

There are certain things you just can't help but miss when you change your eating habits from omnivore to herbivore. When you go vegan cheese is always your achilles heel and that means all of the yummy cheese filled meals you grew up looking forward to.

One such meal for me is LASAGNA! That ooey gooey scrumptiousness with a variety of cheeses that are just difficult to replicate. Well, believe it or not, this recipe does a damn good job! It's low calorie, a good source of protein and there isn't a shred of cheese (or meat) to be found. Even my non-vegan family members were impressed.

I made my own sauce, but if store bought is your thing then by all means!

Vegan Spinach Lasagna (low-fat)

Servings:9. Per Serving (3 X 4 inch piece): 201 Calories, 7g Fat, 29g Carbohydrates, 11g Protein, 6g Fiber, 4.50g Sugar.

Tomato Sauce Ingredients:

1/2 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 Medium Onion
2 Cloves Garlic, Minced
3 8oz.Cans Tomato Sauce
1 6oz.Can Tomato Paste
1/2 Teaspoon Oregano
1/2 Teaspoon Basil
1/2 Teaspoon Marjoram
1 Tablespoon Sugar
1/2 Teaspoon Salt

Creamy Spinach Sauce Ingredients:

1/2 Cup Blanched Slivered Almonds
1/2 Cup Soy or Rice Milk
2/3 14oz. Block Firm Tofu
1/2 Tablespoon Canola Oil
1 Tablespoon Red Wine Vinegar
1/2 Lemon, Juice
1 Teaspoon Sugar
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1 Teaspoon Onion Powder
Dash Black Pepper
1 Tablespoon Grated Onion, Well Drained
1 1/2 Cups Frozen Spinach, Cooked & Well Drained
8oz. Box Organic Whole Grain Lasagna Pasta, Cooked
1/4 Cup Nutritional Yeast Flakes (for topping)

Start by sweating the onions and garlic with the olive oil in a sauce pan on medium heat. Pour in tomato sauce and paste, oregano, basil, marjoram, sugar and salt. Let simmer on low-med heat for about 25 minutes. A word of warning, this sauce makes a bit more than you will need, so don't try and add all the sauce if you see that it's not going to take it all. Or else you'll wind up with soupy lasagna.

Now for the creamy spinach filling. Place almonds, soy milk, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, sugar, salt, oil, onion powder and pepper into a blender and blend until smooth. Squeeze water from tofu and place into mixing bowl and crumble with a fork. The key is to make this look like ricotta cheese. Now place the almond mixture and spinach into the bowl and mix well.

In a large pan, boil lasagna noodles until almost tender or just before they become al dente. Preheat oven to 350°.

In a 9 X 13 glass casserole dish, sprayed with non-stick spray, start layering with the tomato sauce at the bottom to prevent sticking. Then a noodle layer, then a creamy spinach layer with tomato sauce on top of that. Repeat until you have enough noodles left to make one last top layer with just sauce on the top and finishing it off by sprinkling the yeast flakes on the top.

Bake uncovered until it becomes bubbly hot.

****Make this dish in advance, separate into perfect portions in freezer-microwave safe containers, without baking, and freeze. From freezer to the microwave, it's ready in 5 minutes flat. Makes a quick lunch.

Pumpkin Soup

Who likes pumpkins? I do! I like pumpkin pie, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin bread.... You name it! When most people think of cooking with pumpkin they typically include cinnamon in their plans, but what if the pumpkin wasn't being used for its sweet decadence? Here is a twist on pumpkin that really spices it up! Perfect for the chilly weather, I give you Pumpkin SOUP!

Pumpkin Soup

1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 15 oz. can pumpkin
2 cups vegetable broth
2 cups Plain Soy or Rice milk.
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon dried parsley or oregano.
Salt and pepper to taste
Croutons (optional)

In a large saucepan or stock pot, cook onion and garlic in olive oil until translucent. Add curry powder and parsley and mix well. Add broth and pumpkin and mix well. Bring to boil and reduce to simmer. Add soy or rice milk and simmer for about 20 min. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Chickpea Rice Soup With Cabbage

Time for another recipe! This one is a house favorite and perfect for a chilly day.

Olive oil (1 teaspoon to 2 tablespoons, however much you want to use)
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dry thyme
1 teaspoon salt
Fresh black pepper
1/2 cup jasmine rice, rinsed
1/2 lb baby carrots or carrot shreds
1 lb cabbage, shredded (about 1/4 of a big head)
6 cups broth
1 24 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (about 3 cups)
3 tablespoons fresh chopped dill, plus extra for garnish

Preheat a stock pot over medium heat. Saute onion in olive oil with a pinch of salt for about 5 minutes, until translucent. Add garlic, thyme, salt and pepper and saute a minute more.
Add rice, carrots and cabbage and then pour in the broth. Cover and bring to a boil.
Once boiling, bring down to a simmer, add the chickpeas, and let cook for about 15 more minutes, until rice is cooked and carrot is tender.
Stir in the dill and season with salt and pepper to taste.

*This definitely tastes better the longer you let it sit, but it can be enjoyed right away, too. Top with extra fresh dill.