Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Easy Vegan Nacho Cheese Dip (Nut-Free and Soy-Free)

So, I have a confession. I was slowly poisoning my husband! Seriously, this is real life and not some Lifetime movie!

At the end of my pregnancy, I was getting really lazy with my cooking and when I get lazy, I turn to cheese meals. It's quick, easy and my pregnant self love it! However, Paul being slightly lactose intolerant (he can have cheese but the milk and cream make his tummy turn), could not handle all the cheese. For about three weeks, we couldn't figure it out. We thought he gained a gluten intolerance, we thought he had eczema, our heads were spinning! We were trying tons of different things. Then it dawned on me, we had been eating an extreme amount of cheese and I hadn't been making him salads for his lunch. This meant he was eating leftover cheese dinners for lunch. I was poisoning him!

So, we went dairy free and after three days he was back to normal. Phew! After about two weeks, I slowly added a little cheese back in and he was back to normal. This little ordeal got me back in love with my vegan cooking ... especially on Mexican nights!

Easy Vegan Nacho Cheese Dip (Nut-Free and Soy-Free)

I have been making vegan nacho cheese dip for over a year. Sometimes I would add cashews and sometimes tofu. Hands-down, this is the best and easiest way to make it. It's so easy! I (almost) always have all the ingredients on hand and it only takes about 15 minutes to put together. What else can a girl as for. Instant, healthy, easy nacho cheese dip ... and without poisoning anyone! Now, I have been making double batches because I have been putting it on just about anything I can. It's a great bonus too because as I'm trying to get back in shape, post-baby, it's a quick and filling snack that I love munching on.

Easy Vegan Nacho Cheese Dip (Nut-Free and Soy-Free)

Vegan Nacho Cheese Dip (Nut-Free and Soy-Free)

Makes 1 1/2 cups

1 c diced potatoes (unpeeled)
1/2 c diced carrots

2 t jarred jalapeños, diced
2 t juice from jalapeños
1/4 c nutritional yeast
1/4 c olive oil
1/2 t salt
1/2 t garlic
1/2 t onion powder

Bring a pot of water to boil. Cook potatoes and carrots until they are tender. Drain when done.

In a bowl, put all the ingredients. With your immersion blender, mix until smooth.

Serve right away or refrigerate. When you are ready to warm it up, keep it covered while you warm in the oven. Enjoy!

Vegan Nacho Cheese Dip (Nut-Free and Soy-Free)

Friday, April 8, 2016

Garlic Scapes and Chive Flower Pull-Apart Bread

Spring is here ... so they say!

It may be April, but we are still getting light snow a couple days a week and then a mix or 50º-60º weather for the rest of the week. It is a strange season, for sure! Every time it hits even 45º, I get excited for the garden to start, partially because my seeds are growing so well in the basement and I'm antsy to transplant and the other reason is that I can already see my chives and garlic coming up so nicely! Both plants are already about 6-7 inches tall. This is my first year planting garlic and I can't wait for first harvest!

For me, spring equals garlic scapes and there is nothing better. The thought of scapes got me remembering a bread that I was addicted to last spring.  Mix garlic scapes with carbs and I am one happy girl!

Garlic Scapes and Chives

Now, if this weather would just cooperate so I can really see my plants grow, we're in business. Until then, I think I'll be making a loaf with fresh garlic and some chives that I have in the freezer from last season.

If you love scapes too, don't forget to try some Garlic Scapes Hummus or Garlic Scapes Pesto this season!

Garlic Scapes and Chive Flower Pull-Apart Bread

Garlic Scapes Pull-Apart Bread

Makes one loaf

Bread Ingredients:

1 c milk
1 egg
1/2 c mozzarella cheese
3 c bread flour
2 t organic cane sugar
1 1/2 r dried oregano
1 r salt
1 r active dry yeast

Garlic Butter Mixture:

1/4 c butter, melted
Diced garlic or chopped garlic scapes to taste (we like a LOT of garlic flavor!)
1/4 c chive flowers or sliced chives.

Optional: Parmesan cheese for topping.

Add bread ingredients to bread machine and set on dough cycle. If you don't have a bread machine, mix them all together and cover with a towel. Let dough rise until it doubles in size. Punch it down.

When finished, place dough on lightly floured surface and pat to 1/2+ inch thickness. Cut dough into about 32 pieces.

Mix garlic butter together.

Dip dough chunks into the garlic/scape mixture and place them butter-side down in a bread pan. Continue dipping and layering dough with butter side down until all dough is in the pan. If you would like, sprinkle the top with a little parmesan cheese.

Bake at 375º for 15-25 minutes or until it starts turning brown.

Invert onto a serving dish and serve warm (but it's still great cold).

Garlic Scapes and Chive Flower Pull-Apart Bread

Garlic Scapes and Chive Flower Pull-Apart Bread

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Garden Beds: To Raise or Not to Raise

The past four years we have gone with raised garden beds. Paul built them when we first moved into the house. This past fall, we decided to demo them and do one large garden. Surprisingly, this was a tough decision that we went back and forth a bit for quite a while, but let me tell you, I am SO excited to start our big garden. Here's why ...

Raised Garden Beds or Traditional Garden Beds

When we first moved into our house, we knew we wanted a garden but we didn't realize the extent for our love. The first year we built three 4' x 8' raised beds. The following year we added on two more. Then we added on one 4' x 12' lower bed. The final year we added yet another 4' x 12' lower bed! Our back yard was turning into a geometric design of raised beds! We never realized when we started how big they would get. We were simply wasting a lot of great garden space in between the beds that we had been creating. Gardening has turned into a major part of our food supply and we really want to make the most of the space we had. Simply said, the walls had to come down!

I was apprehensive though. We spend a lot of time in our backyard, both as a family and entertaining. The garden beds had turned into a landscaping design that complimented the look of the yard. I did not want to turn our yard into a chicken-wire mess. Luckily, my friend made a garden for his parents earlier in the season. When I saw it I realized that big gardens can be just as part of a beautiful landscaping look as the raised beds were. Luckily, Paul was on board, were were able to reuse the lumber from our raised beds and we didn't have to buy anymore soil simply by spreading around the raised beds.

Why Raised Beds:

  1. Easy Weeding: Weeding could not have been easier. I would simply sit on the ledge and pick away. Working all the way around the bed without having to be on my hands and knees. 
  2. Pretty Landscaping: I love the way raised beds look. They can be a major part of your landscaping design and you can fancy/rustic them up how you see fit to match the rest of your look. Personally, I don't like chicken-wire. I really didn't want a yard of it. I know, this is getting picky, but whatever, it's my yard :) 

Raised Garden Beds or Traditional Garden Beds

Raised Garden Beds or Traditional Garden Beds

Then Why Lower the Garden?

  1. Wasted Space: After we realized all the space we were using up as walkways in between the raised beds we knew we were crazy. All that walkway space equaled loss of vegetables in our fridge!
  2. Larger Vegetables: In the raised beds, I never wanted to do many large vegetables: squash, pumpkins, etc. They would take up too much real estate in our precious area. 
  3. Still Pretty Landscaping: Lower beds can still look just as decorative as raised beds. I absolutely love our new look!
  4. Less $$ for Maintenance: With our raised beds, we had to add a lot of compost every because the soil height would drop down so much. In our 4x8 ft beds, it would lower about 4 inches a year!
Raised Garden Beds or Traditional Garden Beds

Now, in the same footprint as the raised garden beds, we have TWICE as much room for vegetables in our large, lowered garden. We decided that with the extra space, we are going to try forgo our CSA membership too and really work on ours. Having multiple plantings. We will have to have a few extra trips to the farmers market but I really think we're going to be saving a lot of money in the long run!

So basically, my conclusion is if you are planning a smaller garden with a few choice vegetables and herbs, a raised bed is perfect. They are easy to maintain and look great in the lawn. If you are planning a bigger garden with larger vegetables, don't waste your green space and make one large lower garden! Regardless of your choice, enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of your labor!