Ahhh! Four years ago today I adopted Millie. That’s crazy to me. In some ways I feel like it hasn’t been that long, but it many others I simply can’t imagine my life without her.
I get a million questions about Millie so I thought I’d address them here!
1. How did you adopt Millie?
the very first photo/selfie of us together!
Senior year of collage my roommate needed to move and we ended up breaking our lease and because no one needed a roomie in the middle of October I ended up living alone. I didn’t mind it, but I also desired companionship and have always been an over-the-top animal lover so I began exploring different pet options.
For a while, I toyed with the idea of a cat or a some sort of rodent. I was still a college student and lived in New York City and had no idea where I’d be living after graduation, so I kept convincing myself a dog was impractical.
It’s not a secret that I have been a vegetarian for over 13 years now. Or maybe it is. I don’t know how well you know me.
As my choice to not eat meat is judged as hashly by some as my love for the Kardashians and Teen Mom, let me delight you with the story of my vegetarianism:
It went like this: I stopped eating meat around age 10 because I straight up didn’t like it. That was pretty much it. I got tired of explaining to friends’ parents why I didn’t want to eat the cheeseburgers they served for dinner or to the paraprofessionals why I had zero desire to touch those “chicken” nuggets on my tray.
So one day, I just started saying “Can I have something else please? I’m a vegetarian.” And then before I knew it, I actually kind of was a vegetarian. We didn’t eat too much meat in my household anyways (mostly poultry and fish, and in smaller amounts than most) and my parents didn’t see it as a problem, so vegetarianism has since turned into a pretty regular part of my lifestyle for so long that I can honestly never realistically see myself eating meat again. I genuinely just don’t even think about it.
Sure, I’ve cooked chicken and seared lamb chops and gutted shrimp in my food science class, but I didn’t want it. If I ever did crave a piece of chicken or a beef burger, I’d eat it. But in the past 13 years, it hasn’t happened. And through diet analysis projects I’ve done for nutrition classes, I have learned that I do eat a varied, balanced diet, and am not missing out on any vital nutrients whatsoever (yes, I eat plenty of protein, through the diet analysis I learned I almost eat double what I actually need and actually started cutting back my overly-consciencious efforts to “get enough”). So do I have any desire to eat meat? Nah. But if you do, that’s your thing. Go for it. I’m not going to stop you.
I’ve always wanted to try out the vegan thing, even if just for a little while. A lot of people may ask themselves (or directly to me, some quiet rudely and judgmentally I might add), why I would try this.
Well, shit. I don’t know..a lot of reasons. For one just to see if I could do it. Secondly, to see if I felt any different. Third, it’s not a secret that this country tends to consume quite a large amount of animal protein compared to others, and that trying other things might not be the worst idea. Lastly, as a way to be forced expand my culinary creativity and as an excuse to try new recipes. I tend to be a creature of habit and get into eating a lot of the same.
So for the first time since the birth of the Greek Yogurt mega-fad, I broke my 2-Fage-a-day habit and ate a primarily plant based diet for 5 days.
Notice how I didn’t straight up say “vegan,” because my intent wasn’t to be 100% pure vegan. Primarily Plant Based means the following (at least to me):
I did not purposely consume any diary or meat products (obviously meat, but also no direct cheese, eggs, milk, ice cream, etc, etc)
I did not freak out at small traces of things in products, ie, if there were “traces of egg whites” in my toaster waffles. You better believe that those babies still entered my body. This made it much more realistic to stick to, and far less restrictive.
So, last Monday through Friday, I gave this a whirl. And here’s what I experienced:
I ate a boat load of creative oatmeal bowls. The key, I tell you is canned pumpkin. #sogood
I made lots of vegan tacos, with black beans, squash, avocado, black rice, salsa, and all sorts of other goodies.
I enjoyed a delicious vegan meal at Beans & Barley with some friends. [PSA..their marinated tofu is on another f**king level and everyone on earth needs to try it]. I also need to recreate it. ASAP.
I tried some other new things, like making my own cheese from cashews, and creating other nut butter sauces for pastas. Lots of new recipes from this experiment will be popping up on the blog in the coming weeks. hashtag creativity
How I Felt:
I didn’t feel deprived or hungry at all. I ate a lot, and a wide variety of foods. I even purchased some really delicious vegan cake slices from whole foods and found some diary-free cookies at Target and snacked on these chocolate muffins I made. Instead of my usual basically-ice-cream-flavored froyo, I forced myself to try some of the non-dairy berry sorbets and found out they were delicious. I also got some really good sorbet gelato one evening. I realized I have been neglecting fruity frozen things because I like classic ice cream so much. No longer. I will now be mixing it up more. I thought the whole desserts thing would be a huge road block, but it wasn’t that hard at all. I honestly thought the whole thing would be a lot harder.
I craved greek yogurt on the second day, and was going to quit my experiment and eat it because I don’t believe in denying your body it’s cravings, but because a crazy rain/hail storm prevented me from getting to the store I couldn’t get my paws on any, so I ate something else, and the craving passed, and I didn’t crave greek yogurt (or any dairy, actually) for the rest of the experiment.
I felt quite energized throughout the whole thing. Actually, moreso than usual, but I’m not going to make any miracle claims because this could have been placebo or a combination of many factors.
I genuinely, truly, did not miss dairy or eggs as much as I thought I would. And I’m a Wisconsin gal.
I realized that a lot of things I like are already vegan without trying to be. Like a lot of dark chocolates. Oreos are also vegan (which goes to show just how real that cream filling is….).Also Trader Joe’s soy cheese is actually delicious, but contains casein, and is therefore not vegan. #awkward
I felt like my dogs still looked just as cute this entire week as they usually do. Okay yes that was necessary to include.
What Was Not So Great:
I feel like a completely vegan may get tricky hard to follow in a lot social situations. When cake is served, you better believe I’m finna want to eat it. I also felt that for me personally, it could also be tricky when to be a guest at parties or family functions. Which is why I don’t plan to stick to this long term (like I said, it was an experiment).
I was a bit less regular than normal (#tmi). Perhaps it’s all the time I’ve spent around pre-med people and/or working in hospitals, but I’m not shy about the fact that I have a long history of chronic IBS. And strangely, even though I was eating probably even more fiber than usual, I wasn’t quiet as good at my business as usual. I think my body is used to all the probiotics from all the yogurt I usually eat. Yes, I know probiotic pills exist. I also know that your body better processes all things directly from foods in place of from vitamins or supplements.
Nope, I’m not vegan-ish this week. I stopped on Saturday because I was at a bachelorette party and wasn’t about to pass on cookie cake or mac’n’cheese being served. I’m not about that #denial life. I am eating less Greek Yogurt [as in, not a giant tub per day as pre-experiment] and am really into some of the new things I whipped up last week. Recipes soon, I tell ya, recipes soon. I also haven’t craved eggs at all since, but next time I do I will eat them. I’m also now also on a vegetarian taco kick, as well as a pasta and undying black rice kick. These are not bad things.
Overall, it was an interesting experiment. I know my choice to do this experiment was greeted by delight by some and some pretty rude comments by others, but I my reasons for the experiment were purely for personal growth and curiosity and I have zero regrets doing it.
At the end of the day, what people choose to put or not put in their mouths is actually a really strange topic, but it’s everyone’s personal choice, for better or for worse (I personally hope you make good choices and please #dontdoatkins if ily). It’s also important to point out that vegan is not synonymous with healthy. Like I mentioned above, Oreo’s are vegan. lol enough said.
So I end this far-too-long post with a glass of almond milk hot-chocolate and a puppy snuggled into my side, and ask you to be mindful of the following things: what you eat, what you read, what you believe, and to remember that you must moderate all things, including moderation. Cheers to all people who stopped reading 6 paragraphs or earlier ago; have a great week!
As long as I’m rolling out candy recipes, (Kit Kats earlier today, Take 5 Bars with Graham Cracker and Sea Salt yesterday,) I thought I’d also post my homemade Twix and homemade Almond Joy bars. These were also part of my DIY Candies piece for NYU Spoon and were featured on The Daily Meal. I gave Kit-Kats their own post because Kit-Kats are a godly food in my eyes so I felt they deserved it. I’m combining Twix and Almond Joy because they’re also in my top 5 favs, but I’m also kind of lazy right now and I think my pup has to poop so I’m anxious to finish this post so we can go on a walk. And you know what? My blog my rules. *whip crack* Anywhoo, I feel like everyone loves Twix. I do too. I also feel like a lot of people think of Almond Joy as “old people” candy. It’s not. It’s great. Don’t judge my love of it and think I’m an old grannie. Even though ever since I turned 22, I’ve been going to bed progressively earlier. It’s fine trust me, I just like my bed a lot.
I feel like it is my responsibility to clarify, while I categorize all these homemade candies as “easy,” I should also mention that they’re all putsy. (ie: you got to have a bit of patience because it’s a lot of repetitive handling and spreading of chocolate etc). But spreading chocolate and being putsy is fun when you get delicious end results. At least in my eyes. Give these a whirl. And just like the Take 5 Bars, I reccomend Sea Salt. Also that Real Salt brand Sea Salt is dank monies. You should buy it. It’s like $6 for that bag, but so, so, so worth it. Last night I ate some food just so I could have a vessel for the salt. I do that a lot with hot sauce too. And salsa. And then I need a sugary chaser, like these bars. Life is all about balance, people!
1 small box butter shortbread cookies
1 9 ounce bag baking caramels
1 12 ounce bag chocolate chips
sea salt (optional)
1. Place parchment paper or aluminum foil onto a large plate or baking sheet, and place it next to your work space.
2. Unwrap caramels and place in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high in intervals of 30 seconds until melted, stirring between each interval.
2. Spread caramel onto shortbread cookies using a knife. Place each caramel covered cookie onto the prepared sheet. Sprinkle with sea salt if you’re fancy.
3. Allow caramel to cool on cookies. This should take about 20 minutes.
4. Empty the chocolate chips into a large microwave safe bowl. Place in the microwave and microwave in increments of 30 seconds, stirring after each increment, until chocolate is melted. Be careful not to burn chocolate.
5. Use a knife to spread chocolate on all four sides of the caramel coated shortbread cookies and place back onto prepared pan.
6. Place cookies in the refrigerator until chocolate has set, about 30-60 minutes.
4 cups sweetened flaked coconut
7 ounces sweetened condensed milk (half of a small can)
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 12 ounce bag chocolate chips
1/2 cup raw almonds
1. Line a 9×9 pan with parchment paper or grease with butter or nonstick spray.
2. Pour sweetened condensed milk into a medium sized bowl and add powdered sugar. Mix until smooth and well combined. Fold in sweetened coconut.
3. Pour coconut mixture into prepared pan. Spread and pat it down evenly with a spatula.
4. Place almonds in rows on top of the coconut mixture. Press each one into the coconut just a lightly, until each nut is about half submerged in coconut.
5. Place pan in the refrigerator for about an hour until coconut is set and firm.
6. Grease a sharp knife with cooking spray. Cut the coconut mixture in rows following the pattern made by the almonds, and then into individual 2-inch bites.
7. Place parchment paper or aluminum foil onto a large plate or baking sheet, and place it next to your work space.
8. Empty the chocolate chips into a large microwave safe bowl. Place in the microwave and microwave in increments of 30 seconds, stirring after each increment, until chocolate is melted. Be careful not to burn chocolate.
9. Using hands, dip each 2-inch bite in chocolate and use a knife to coat chocolate evenly. Place on lined baking sheet.
10. Place almond joys in fridge for 30-60 minutes until chocolate is firm. Keep cold until serving. Nom it up and defend these beauties as young AND old person candy.
Do you know what I love? Candy. Always have, always will. I have longtime standing favorites, like the Kit-Kat, which I conquered in the kitchen here, but a more recent candy to hit the scene and secure a place in my heart is the oh-so-wonderful Take 5 Bar.
In my humble opinion, these beauties are underrated. They are simple in principle (pretzel, caramel, peanut butter, peanuts, chocolate) but perfectly combine the salty-sweet-crunchy-chewy combo, which I consider to be synonymous with the ideal dessert. It’s like a mash up of the Salty Pimp and American Glob minus the soft serve. And y’all know ANYTHING that reminds me of Big Gay Ice Cream is the way to my <3.
Any sweet treat I like to eat I like even more as a challenge to make in the kitchen. And hence, the homemade Take 5 Bar became this afternoon’s adventure after a lovely hour long stroll with Millie and her Uncle James. She also functioned as a sous-chef/major creeper in the process of making these babies (see below).
I googled recipes and found a lot of Take-5-like layer bars, but those didn’t satisfy my desire to duplicate down to appearance. The only possible problem I came across while conceptualizing was how to avoid the pretzel topped with the goodies to stay together when I dipped em in chocolate. I decided I needed a base. And then I thought of graham crackers. I love graham crackers, so I decided that adding them to Take 5 Bars would only make them better. I was correct in this idea. Huge fan.
This recipe is not gluten-free, sugar-free, paleo, #fitspro, or antioxident rich. It is, however, delicious. And as much as I am a typically healthy eater I stand by my belief that nourishing your mind and your taste buds is just as important as nourishing your body.
So here is my recipe for Take-5s ft. Graham Crackers. Make these. Eat them. All of them. Top them on vanilla soft serve for best results. *~*drool*~*
1 sleeve graham crackers (9-10 whole crackers)
1 cup “Snaps” shapped pretzels
1 cup caramel candies (use a nicer kind, like werther’s baking caramels)
about 1/3-1/2 cup peanut butter
about 1 cup salted peanuts
18 oz chocolate chips (1 and a half bags)
sea salt (optional)
1. Break graham crackers into quarters. Just follow those handy lines on the squares. I know you can do this. I believe in you.
2. Unwrap caramel candies. I highly recommend you do not skip this step. Place said caramels in a microwave safe bowl and microwave for about 30-45 seconds on high until *~*melty*~* <3
3. Use a knife to spread gooey melty caramel onto each graham rectangle. This works best if you set up a nice parchment paper work tray on a baking sheet.
4. Press 2 pretzels on top of each graham rectangle.
5.Take your peanut butter and spread it on top of the pretzel layer.
6. Sprinkle 5-6 peanuts on each peanut-butter-covered rectangle.
7. Pour chocolate chips into a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for 1-2 minutes in 30 second intervals, stirring at each interval until melty and smooth.
8. Use a spatula or knife to scoop chocolate on top of each bar and smother the crap out of it in with chocolatey goodness. Sprinkle with sea salt if you are fancy. I am fancy. Not “so fancy,” though. Just the regular type.
9.Place each on on parchment paper lined tray and freeze until chocolate is set.
I got home a little over a week ago. Since then I’ve somehow ended up working back at Yo Mama, a local froyo shop doing a million different things. Like working in their new “Party Room.” And helping out in the back making froyo cakes and chocolate dipped rice krispies and pretzels and pizzelle cookies. When I’m working with the pastry stuff I can’t believe I’m getting paid to do it because it’s like getting paid to do my hobby. Hours whizz by and I barely look at the clock. When I’m scrubbing cookie dough off the floor or cleaning the bathrooms I feel slightly differently.
Along with seeing how much work and planning goes into opening and running a food shop,this week I was lucky enough to learn the valuable life skill that is ice cream cake making. Let’s be honest – who doesn’t love ice cream cake?
There’s the ice cream layers.
And there’s the crust.
And there’s the fudge layer.
And that frozen frosting.
It’s just too good. Such a good combo of crunchy, gooey, and cold and creamy in every bite. It’s like, perfect. And as much as I love fine pastries and cakes, you better believe I go ape-shit when I see a DQ cake.
And now I know the process of how to make them. It’s not necessarily difficult, it just kinda takes a lot of steps. It’s time consuming. Not really a set-it-and-forget-it type thing. Kind of like croissants. Just a lot of steps. Anyways if you want an ice cream cake, I can do dat for ya. Please don’t hesitate to ask 🙂
I also made really really really wonderful whole-wheat blueberry muffins this week. They were not-too-sweet. Perfect for breakfast. I almost have the recipe *perfected* and I think a key was apple sauce and greek yogurt. HOLY FLUFFY! Recipe soon.
I posted this pic to my Instagram (@katherinebaker4) and infatuation (#eeeeats) liked it. I felt momentarily cool. Then embarrassed for feeling cool and back-hashing the eeeeats thing. How lame. All photos in this post were taken with my iPhone. I’ve yet to whip out my DSLR since being home. Not sure why. I think it’s still packed somewhere. I’ll find it. I have the day off today. I’m probably gonna do a lot of baking and cooking and blogging and puppy hanging. I’m pretty jazzed about this.
Speaking of puppies, I had some good times with Millie this week. We went to a park with my mom (her grandma) and my family dog, Sasha. A good time was had by all. Sasha is nearly 14. She’s a sweetie-pie and melts my heart. I’m very lucky to have such great dogs in my life. Millie is exploring this whole new world that is nature. She still usually chooses to pee and poop on concrete over grass (a true city-pup for sure) but is really enjoying chasing birdies and butterflies and seeing trees and open grassy fields and whatnot. Such adventure! Many wonders!
Millie and I also went to Panera to dine al-fresco. It was fun. Except some lady outside didn’t like her and had to give us a dirty look and move inside. That’s her problem though b/c Millie’s frickin’ awesome. I feel like you can learn a lot about people by how they treat animals. Very telling.
I ended up working a lot this past week, and it broke my heart to leave lil nugget home alone so much. According to my mom this is how it feels to be a working parent. Lord help me. I worry myself sick about my pup (even when her grandma is watching her!), I’m not sure how I’ll handle real children. I’ll cross that bridge when we get there. In like, 5ever. Anyways, her grandma watched her yesterday when I worked a long shift. Apparently after I left, she howled and cried and peed on the floor in protest of my leaving. *guilt* Seems I’m working too much for her liking. She’s become quite a spoiled lady. Looks like we’ll be having a mommy-daughter day today. She’s currently curled up in my feet. Not a bad start to the day.
Other than that this week I’ve just been talking to people and picking their brains about life as I try to figure out my own. Post-grad life is pretty awkward for most people. More on this later. For now, I need a nugget walk and maybe a trip to Alterra (or collectivo or w/e you call it). Happy Monday everyone!