Archive | February, 2012

Cookies ‘n Cream Cupcakes!

29 Feb

Can you believe it’s SPRING!!!??  And that means I’m starting another cleanse! I feel like nows a great time to kickstart the system and kick any bad habits that may have been forming over the past few months!  I wouldn’t say I am an unhealthy person whatsoever… but I tend to go through binge phases of snacking and digging on desserts!  I eat my fair share of salads, always eat enough fruit, take my vitamins, exercise, and ingest plenty of fermented foods filled with healthy bacteria.  But when temptation is around, I can’t help but give in! (:

Now… after all that cleanse talk… here’s the recipe (from the cookbook Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero)

Cookies n’ Cream Cupcakes

Makes 12 cupcakes

1 cup non-dairy milk (I used unsweetened almond milk)

1 tsp. apple cider vinegar

3/4 cup granulated vegan cane sugar

1/2 cup coconut oil, melted

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup cocoa powder (I used half carob powder and half cocoa to equal 1/3 cup)

3/4 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

1 cup (about 10) vegan chocolate sandwich cookies, coarsely chopped

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. Prepare your cupcake tins by lining with paper or foil liners.

In a small bowl, combine the milk and vinegar; set aside to curdle, about 5-8 minutes. Combine with the sugar, melted butter, and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, carob (if using), baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet in two batches; beat until practically no lumps remain. Stir in the chopped sandwich cookies.

Evenly pour or scoop the batter into the prepared muffin tins. Lick bowl clean.  Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely. Frost and enjoy!

Cookies n’ Cream Frosting

Makes 3-4 cups of frosting

1/2 cup mashed vegan chocolate sandwich cookies

1 cup Earth Balance butter (I used the coconut Earth Balance butter)

3 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla

1/4 cup plain non-dairy milk (or creamer)

Directions:

Using a stand mixer, or a bowl and electric handheld mixer, beat the Earth Balance and shortening together until softened and creamy. Slowly and carefully add in the confectioners’ sugar. Wipe down the bowl every so often to make sure all the ingredients are being incorporated.

Add the vanilla and the non-dairy milk and beat until fluffy (5 to 7 minutes). Add the cookies and beat until combined.

Secret Recipe Club- February!!

20 Feb

So after a little break from the Secret Recipe Club, it’s that time again! This month I was assigned the blog Wives With Knives! I love this site. Its fun and easy to look at and has a great mixture of recipes and personal posts! Cathy, the author, is a self-taught cook who prepares many recipes that have been passed down from her relatives. Very cool!!

After perusing her site I came, finally, to the hard decision: sweet or savory… and in the end, after consulting with friends and family… I chose to cook savory style: Roman Style Artichoke Hearts.

I really didn’t change too much with the recipe because it was already completely vegan (:

Roman Style Artichoke Hearts

Serves 3-4

2 cans artichoke hearts, in water

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 organic lemon, 3/4 thinly sliced with seeds removed, 1/4 zested and juiced

4 Tbsp. fresh, flat-leaf parsley, chopped + 1 extra for garnish

2 Tbsp. fresh mint, leaves only, chopped, divided

1 tsp. red pepper flakes

4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil – (3 Tbsp. for cooking, 1 Tbsp. for marinade)

2/3 cup dry white wine

1 pinch sea salt

Directions:

Drain the artichoke hearts, coarsely chop and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine parsley, mint, garlic, salt, lemon zest, lemon juice, and 1 Tbsp. olive oil. Add in artichoke hearts and gently stir to combine.

In a stainless steel skillet, add the artichoke hearts, lemon slices, red pepper flakes, remaining oil, wine, and a pinch of salt. Heat on medium and simmer for about 10-15 minutes, or until tender and juices have reduced. Remove lemon slices and artichokes with a slotted spoon and layer onto a serving plate. Cook remaining liquid to reduce, about 5 minutes. Drizzle the artichokes with the sauce from the skillet.

Garnish with mint and parsley. Enjoy as a side dish or delicious appetizer warm or at room temperature!!



Secret Recipe Club

Homemade Sweet Mint Sugar Scrub!

17 Feb

Though here in Massachusetts we’ve had one of the mildest winters I can remember, this dry, cold weather is still doing a number on my skin!  My skin is dry, chapped, all over uneven, and not smooth.  Sounds sexy, eh?  Though I lotion, it still doesn’t help for more than a couple hours.  So I decided to make a scrub that will help to rid my top layer of dry skin and allow for hydration and smooth skin!

This recipe is so fun and simple and it would work great as a gift!  I found a recipe on care2.com titled Simple Sugar Scrub and I just had to give it a try.

Sweet Mint Sugar Scrub

Ingredients:

3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp. vegan granulated sugar

1/4 to 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

5-8 drops mint essential oil

Directions:

In a container with a tight fitting lid, add all the ingredients and stir well with a spoon or popsicle stick until the sugar is moist.  Store in a dry area for as long as it lasts!  Enjoy!!

Use a quarter size for your hands; massage gently, being sure to get every part of your hands and wrists.  Rinse with warm water, pat dry, and hydrate well with an all-natural chemical-free lotion or oil.  I love using coconut oil as a moisturizer.

** Note:  This sugar scrub is rough and therefore should not be used on the sensitive facial skin!!  For a face scrub use sea salt mixed with oil (if your skin can handle oil) or water.  Thanks Em!! (:

Don’t mind my weird looking hands here please…

Essential Oils

Essential oils are a great addition to anyones routine.  Found naturally in nature in shrubs, flowers, trees, bushes, roots, and seeds, these oils not only smell great, but they heal as well.  Naturally defending themselves against insects, environmental conditions, and disease, they are also key in the plants growth, life, evolution, and adaptation to surroundings. Sometimes referred to as nature’s living energy, essential oils’ benefits are vast ranging from migraine healing to mosquito repellent.  I personally use essential oils to protect my dog, Betty, from tics by placing some of the oils on her collar before we head out in to the woods.  I also have a homemade bug repellent for buggy summer nights that I spritz on my clothes and around the vicinity.

Today, essential oils are used for aromatherapy, massage therapy, emotional health, personal care, nutritional supplements, household solutions, and much more!  Here’s some of my favorites and their uses.

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Peppermint Essential Oil:  who should not use this essential oil: pregnant women (it is an emmenagogue = stimulates menstruation); persons with heart conditions; young children with sensitive skin; never on infants; always perform a skin sensitivity test and if redness or other skin irritation appears after 10 minutes or more, use with caution if at all

Use peppermint oil for:

- Triggering the body’s limbic functions to “wake up” your mind, stimulate mental agility, and improve your focus, while also moderating depression and the feeling of apathy; the limbic system regulates emotion, behavior, and long-term memory and is closely connected with the olfactory structures in your nose

- Helps with recovery from mental states of shock, mental distress, or nervous stress, like from traumatic events:  add to bath

- Helps with dizziness or feeling faint, headaches, and migraines: inhale the vapors and rub diluted oil on your temples

- Cools down irritated and itchy skin: dilute oil with olive or coconut oil and rub it directly onto irritated, itchy, inflamed skin for relief from dermatitis, acne, ringworm, scabies, and pruritus, sunburn; may also add to bath for relief from skin irritations

- Soothe muscle aches and pains: acts as a muscle relaxer and pain killer with no undesirable side effects: use in bath (preferably with epsom salts) or apply diluted oil directly onto aching feet, arthritic joints, and/or strained muscles

- Eases cramps due to women’s menstrual period while also stabilizing irregular periods by stimulating menstruation in cases of amenorrhea (absence of menstruation)

- Helpful with respiratory disorders because of peppermints high menthol content; used as an expectorant and decongestant; heals dry coughs, sinus congestion, asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, and even tuberculosis and cholera are improved when peppermint oil aroma is inhaled; use steam inhalation by adding a couple drops to 6-8 cups of water, boil and inhale the steam; or run through an oil diffuser or vaporizer; my also diffuse with “carrier” oil and rub on chest, neck (lymph glands), back, and bottoms of feet

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Lavender Essential Oil:  Diffuse or inhale directly for aromatherapy, add 4-5 drops into your bath water, combine a few drops with an oil of your choice (like coconut oil) and use as moisturizer/massage oil, or simply add 1-2 drops to your pillow for a peaceful nights sleep.

Use lavender for:

- Calming the nerves, releasing tension and stress, lessening the feelings of anxiety and/or depression, and curing insomnia; great for adults of babies

- Healing migraines and headaches (gently rub on your temples)

- Relaxes muscles and relieves pain and swelling due to injury, overuse, or joint problems because of lavenders anti-inflammatory qualities

- Soothes colds, coughs, bronchitis, whooping cough, laryngitis, and even tonsillitis: diffuse oil, add to a vaporizer, or apply to the neck, chest, and back

- Antiseptic and anti-fungal: treats acne, wrinkles, psoriasis, and other skin disorders; apply straight without diluting (be sure to TEST FOR SENSITIVITY FIRST) or add to a “carrier” like coconut or olive oil; for eczema: add oil to chamomile tea and apply directly to the affected area; for burns, sunburn, and wounds: lavender promotes quick regeneration of skin cells and scar tissue- use a damp cotton ball or cloth soaked in water mixed with a couple drops of essential oil

- May lower high blood pressure, sooth menstrual cramping, and boost immunity and resistance to diseases

- Stimulates the production of gastric juices and bile therefore it is useful with the treatment of indigestion, stomach pain, colic, flatulence, visiting, and diarrhea: make lavender oil tea

- Use as insect control: mosquitos, moths and bedbugs dislike the smell of lavender; use this oil instead of poison in and around pantries and closets, when preserving wool clothing, on beds and bed linens, and on your clothes

Mixes well with: Almost all oils, and particularly well with allspice, anise, basil, bergamot, citronella, chamomile, clary sage, clove, eucalyptus, frankincense, geranium, grapefruit, hyssop, jasmine, juniper, lemon, lime, tangerine, patchouli, peppermint, pine, rose, rosemary, spearmint, tea tree, and thyme.

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Eucalyptus Essential Oil:  Do not apply directly to skin; diffuse, dilute (with “carrier oils such as coconut, olive, almond, grapseed, etc.), or vaporize- steam inhalation should be avoided by those with heart or central nervous system conditions.  Not safe for infants, children, pregnant or nursing women; for external use only!

Phew… now that that out of the way…

Use eucalyptus for:

- Relief of congestion due to colds, coughs, flu, asthma, and sinusitis; reduces inflammation of the mucus membrane: sprinkle a few drops onto a damp cloth and hold it over your nose

- Disinfect a “sick” room to keep germs from spreading by diluting a drop or two in a spray bottle of water- spritz liberally

- Help cuts, scrapes, and minor wounds- tend them with a drop of eucalyptus oil mixed with olive oil (inhibits infection); staph infections, boils, and cold sores also respond well to this procedure

- Anti-inflammatory effects help with muscle aches and joint pain: mix several drops with “carrier” oil and massage the affected are; add a few drops to a warm bath (also lifts your spirits)

- Reduces dandruff: add a few drops to your chemical-free, gentle shampoo

- Helps with relief from allergies due to dust/dust mite/respiratory allergies (watery eyes, skin problems, runny noses, unstoppable sneezing, and other  miseries): add a generous amount of eucalyptus oil along with all-natural detergent to your washing machine load filled with bedding sheets, mattress pads, and/or blankets; agitate briefly, stop the machine, and let soak for about 30 minutes, then finish the cycle; wipe down the bare mattress after spraying with diluted oil; you can also spray down your pillow and let air dry in the sun

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