Friday, January 31, 2014

Heading to Philadelphia

Hey friends! Happy Friday. I'm taking a weekend trip to Philadelphia and am looking for recommendations! I've been once before - 10 years ago (I'm feeling super old right now). Anyway - suggestions for a vegetarian/vegan cheese steak? This is my main goal. Also, I'm sooooo looking forward to a high temperature of 49 degrees on Sunday. Do I sound crazy yet? I'm even feeling like 20 degrees is 'warm' these days. Oh, cruel winter, how I hate you.

Throwback from my Philadelphia trip - 10 years ago!! Whoa.

What are your weekend plans? Going anywhere fun or still snowed in?

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Vegan a Week #5

I'm not going to share my meals with you because they were repeats and I'm sure I'm already boring you enough with endless salads! But I did indeed have a vegan day this week on Monday, and to prepare, I made vegan cookies on Sunday! I thought I'd share my recipe because these are sooo good (and summery, if you're missing it as much as I am!)

Lemon Poppyseed Vegan Cookies
makes approximately 36 cookies
prep time - 15 minutes
baking time - 10 minutes per batch

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegan margarine
  • 1/2 cup vegan sour cream
  • 1/2 cup vanilla soy/almond yogurt
  • zest of one lemon
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons poppyseeds (optional)


  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a cookie sheet. Beat margarine and sugar until creamy. Beat in sour cream, yogurt, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Mix well.
2. Mix in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Fold in poppyseeds. With floured hands, roll into rounded teaspoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheets. Bake 10-12 minutes, until the edges are lightly browned. Cool completely before glazing.

I'm not kidding about the floured hands - this dough is sticky!

3. For glaze, mix the powdered sugar and enough lemon juice to reach your desired consistency. Place cooled cookies on wax paper to glaze.
4. Enjoy!

Share with your friends, family, and coworkers. They will have no idea they are vegan! So delicious!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Graze Box Review

I was intrigued by the idea of getting some tasty new snacks to try in the mail each month, with the first box being free, so a while back I joined the waiting list for graze. Graze is only $6 a box shipped (with the option of 1 or 2 boxes per month) for a "nibble box," which contains four snacks. I definitely think the price is right! I've never tried NatureBox, but I know those are more expensive (I'd love to hear about your experience if you get NatureBox though!)

My graze box arrives each month in a cute little cardboard box that is designed to fit in a standard size mailbox, which I don't have, not that it matters! Inside, I find my new snacks to try, some nutrition information about each, and the web address for the ingredients.

This month, my fourth so far, my favorite treat was the summer berry flapjack. I went on a trip to England a few years ago and discovered flapjacks - the best use of oats ever. Mmm, so good! It's worth it to me to keep my Graze box just to get the flapjacks!

I also enjoyed the salsa fresca and jalapeno fiesta. The coco paradise was pretty good, but I have a hard time enjoying dried fruit, which is mostly was that snack contained. To adjust what you receive in your boxes, you simply go to the website and review the available snacks. You can click one of four options - trash, try, like, or love - to help determine future boxes. 

So, my favorite things about graze in a nutshell:
  • Only $6, which equates to $1.50 per snack
  • Healthy snacks in a filling portion
  • Easy for grab and go
And a couple things I don't like so much
  • Rarely are the snacks vegan - with my resolution it'd be really helpful if more of them were!
  • Many of the snacks contain dried fruit, which I'm not a fan of (personal preference, of course!)
If you do want to try graze, please let me refer you so that your 1st and 5th box are free! That's a great deal that I didn't even get! And then let me know what you think! Are there other boxes besides graze and NatureBox? I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Farm to Table Roasted Vegetables

When winter is dragging me down I have to remember that even though I can't have a juicy, sweet, bright red tomato, winter has its own gifts from the ground and I need to work with that. I'm going to share a really easy recipe with you that you likely already make, but the story behind it is really the best part.

The company I work for (Steelcase) brings in different internal and external speakers for an ongoing series we have called Curious Minds. Last summer, they held a Curious Minds event to launch a new mobile farmer's market that would be visiting us each week, called the Veggie Van. The Veggie Van is part of our Grand Rapids YMCA community outreach efforts, and the purpose is that they bring fresh fruits and vegetables to urban areas where they might otherwise not have access while supporting local farmers by selling their produce. To help keep this program sustainable from a cost standpoint, they visit locations like my workplace, hoping we will spend more than the people in the urban areas. Not only does the Veggie Van have local produce, but they come up with their own fancy recipes (in the fall my favorite was butternut squash risotto) and they also sell things like local raw honey, maple syrup, and cheddar cheese.

I look forward to shopping there each Thursday afternoon! Lately I've been buying root vegetables to roast. It's really easy and delicious! I use beets, carrots, potatoes, and onion that I buy fresh from the Veggie Van.

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees and cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. Wash, peel, and/or cut everything into bite size-ish chunks and place in a large bowl. Cover your veggies with olive oil (a tablespoon or two) and some spices - I use lemon pepper, garlic, and sea salt and stir to coat evenly. Spread your veggies onto the parchment paper like so...

And bake for about 25 minutes - take it out to turn over/spread around and bake about 20 more minutes. My oven is a little iffy, so keep an eye on it! When they look good and roasted, remove and enjoy! They go well with anything - we had them as a side with crab cakes this weekend. I know I've been trying to eat vegan, but the crab cakes were so good!!

Do you have any good wintry produce recipes? Next I need to experiment with squash, cabbage, and cauliflower and spice up my repertoire!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Vegan a Week #4

Geez, this week has been kinda busy with work and extracurriculars! I had hoped to post sooner. Anyway, it's hump day and also my vegan day of the week! For breakfast I had a quick cup of coffee and an almond poppy seed muffin from a mix I had that happened to contained no dairy - yay!

For lunch I had my typical salad with my typical dressing, which may sound boring, but I love salads! I had some pretzels and fruit on the side.

For dinner I made another Plated dish. I broke down and ordered a second box because I had a $10 off code for the polar vortex induced late delivery of my first box. This was Andrew's and my least favorite dish so far, even though we both liked it and felt like it was healthy. I made Israeli couscous and kale with za'atar seasoned tempeh and tahini dressing. If it weren't for the freshly squeezed lemon juice on top, I really wouldn't have been able to enjoy this, but that made all the difference. We both felt like there just wasn't a lot of flavor, and I'm not one to add salt so I just dealt with it. But it was still good and actually this was the easiest dish to make so far, which counts for something a lot!!

Doesn't it look fancy?

I've had so much fun making vegan dishes so far this year, but this week I'm really feeling strapped for time which makes it difficult. When I have a little extra time I still need to look into make ahead things like soup and snacks. Keep those recipe suggestions coming!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Now Playing: Mutual Benefit

A couple months ago, Andrew kept listening to these beautiful songs over and over again, and I quickly learned about Mutual Benefit. As Christmas became near, I was fortunate enough so incredibly lucky to find out about a small house show they were playing in Grand Rapids, so I emailed one of the people who set it up to get a spot on the list. Then, even though it was so super hard not to tell Andrew, I kept my mouth shut and gave him the news in the form of a Christmas gift. The show was last night, and it was so beautiful. Jordan Lee is Mutual Benefit, and right now he's touring with five extraordinary musicians alongside him (including his sister who sang backup vocals) to recreate his album Love's Crushing Diamonds. Wow, we are seriously so lucky we got to attend that show. I'm pretty sure they are already way too big to be playing house shows, and Andrew said it was the best Christmas gift he'd ever received! Thanks for coming, Jordan and crew!

This was the best picture I could get because that lamp back there eventually was unplugged, but you get the idea!

Jordan is a tiny and adorable man who acts and sings equally as adorably as he appears. He told us jokes about soda (we told him that we call it pop) during the set - "someone got hit with a soda can... It's okay though - it's a soft drink." He also very humbly joked with us that they normally play to thousands of people and their last show was on a yacht. And the house we went to was so lovely - there were autumn leaves hanging from the ceiling and owl decorations everywhere (!!). I might not be hip enough for the Bird House, but I'm so glad I got to go there! Thanks to the hosts, if you by chance ever read this.

So if you haven't heard Mutual Benefit, they aren't just like a one hit wonder. The whole album is a stream of gorgeous songs and thoughtful lyrics. You can order that here, through whichever format you prefer (but obviously you should get the vinyl). And they just began their tour, so if they happen to be coming to a city near you, I highly recommend not missing that opportunity!

Advanced Falconry is probably their most popular song - take a listen! Side note: I love the little boy in this video, he reminds me of my brother when he was little! So cute.

Rookie Mistake

This morning as I was pinning, I came across the image below and it suddenly occurred to me - honey is not technically vegan! Oops!! I had some graham crackers on two of my vegan days so far and honey is in the ingredients. I wanted to apologize to any vegans out there who may have been rolling their eyes at me, so although I doubt I would ever completely give up honey (or become completely vegan), I will have to be more careful on days when I am eating vegan. Thanks for you patience with me!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Vegan a Week #3

It's only Thursday and I've already had two vegan days this week! I've already become much more conscious about what food choices I'm making even on the non-vegan days. It is hard though, if I don't bring enough food to work and need a snack, I can't just get any old treat from our cafe, so I need to look into good vegan snacks that I can buy or make ahead of time.

So on Monday and Wednesday I basically had the same thing for lunch. I made a red leaf lettuce salad with veggies and an avocado - since I can't have the creaminess of goat cheese, I love having avocado in my salad! I made a simple vinaigrette dressing - olive oil, balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, and garlic, shaken. I had blackberries, strawberries, and clementines and mixed nuts on the side. On Monday, I still had leftover French breakfast puffs, so I brought along one of those for dessert. On Wednesday, I brought an apple cinnamon oatmeal.

For dinner on Monday, I had my leftover Frito casserole. Then last night I made one of my favorite dishes, avocado enchiladas. Here's the inspiration: a few years ago, I went to San Francisco with my cousin Andrea. We were in the mood for Mexican one night, and a Google search led us to The Little Chihuahua, where I had their amazing avocado enchiladas. I needed to recreate this dish, so I found an amazing recipe for homemade vegan enchilada sauce from Bonzai Aphrodite, and covered some simple tortillas rolled with guacamole for my own version. (Just bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes). Yum! I normally heat up some black beans for the side.

I cleaned my stove top for you guys!

& I even have leftovers to eat for lunch today! 

So my new year's resolutions have been going really well! My other resolution is taking the stairs instead of the elevator if I'm not in a hurry (mainly at work, I'm not trying to climb 12 flights of stairs just to prove a point), and I haven't taken the elevator since new year's eve! I like to shoot for goals I can actually achieve. A few years ago my resolution was to keep cash in my wallet at all times, and I've been doing that ever since. That might not make sense for everyone, but I've found it really helpful.

Thanks to those of you who have left me vegan recipe ideas! That is so nice of you. Keep them coming!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Now Playing: Real Estate

I just have a few minutes before I have to get to work to tell you that one of my favorite bands, Real Estate has a new single out for their forthcoming album. The album is Atlas and you can preorder through iTunes (although I'm holding out for the vinyl) and the song is called Talking Backwards. If you've never heard Real Estate, they are definitely worth a listen! They are like dreamy beach rock. Other great songs by them are It's Real and Beachcomber. Enjoy and let me know what you think!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Easy Vegan Frito Casserole

This one is a throwback (and how can it not be, with a name like Frito casserole). My mom used to make this for us when we were little, only with ground beef. I tweaked the recipe just a bit to make it vegan. I know this sounds silly, but seriously, it's so good!

1 can chili beans
1 can black beans (rinsed & drained)
1 can tomato sauce
1/2 cup frozen corn
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1 chopped pepper (red, yellow, or orange)
1/3 cup almond milk
1 tbsp flour
1 tbsp chili powder
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp cilantro (optional)
Fritos (lightly salted, if you can find them!)

Optional toppings
sour cream

Now all you need to do is combine all the ingredients in a big bowl until mixed...

And then transfer to your 1.5 quart round casserole dish...

Top with however many Fritos you feel like topping with, and cook for 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

After patiently waiting half an hour, add a few toppings and enjoy!
Note: The dish on the left does have dairy cheese on it - but mine on the right is sans dairy! One thing I want to try making this year is vegan cheese...intimidating!

What are some of your so-easy-you-can't-believe-it's-vegan favorites?

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Vegan a Week #2

Week 2 ended yesterday and I again waited until the last day of the week, but I'm okay with that. With all the crazy weather we've been having, I didn't have a chance to really go shopping until the end of the week, plus my Plated box had arrived late Thursday, with one of the meals being vegan, so Saturday was the day!

I wanted something sweet for breakfast, so I found a recipe for some French breakfast puffs that I hadn't made in a while. Although this isn't the recipe I used, it appears to be exactly the same. I obviously substituted the dairy ingredients with vegan alternatives. I had to run to Meijer for the almond milk before I could make them, so this ended up being more like brunch. Bonus: when I went to Meijer I also picked up grapefruits! Mmm. Along with my coffee and a few blackberries, this was a delicious brunch!

I had a small snack in the afternoon of cinnamon graham crackers topped with Jif natural peanut butter and a clementine on the side.

For dinner, I made my second Plated creation. This one was for tofu, cashew, and pea stir-fry. Although it still took me a little longer than the directions stated, I have made stir-fry many times before, so it was much easier. I loved learning a different way to cook tofu, it turned out beautifully! And the recipe included ginger root, and I LOVE ginger. I was really impressed with the portion size of this meal. Both Andrew and I had a little bit left over for a midnight snack.

Andrew and I then headed out to see the Grand Rapids Symphony perform, and since I'm a member of their young professionals group, we were invited to a post-concert champagne toast. I had to avoid all the fancy chocolates, which was difficult, but I did enjoy a drink or two. I also happened to reconnect with a woman that I met like two years ago at a vegan potluck. She is going to invite me to a monthly vegan get-together she sets up here in Grand Rapids. It really is a great city for vegan options!

Vegan week #2 was a success! I can't wait to see what other meals I create or get to try this year!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Plated Review

I'm not a Birchbox gal because I know I would never use random beauty samples up, but I'm definitely intrigued by these custom curated subscription boxes that seem to popping up everywhere. I'll tell you my reviews of Graze and Conscious Box soon, but today I'm kicking it off with Plated!

Plated delivers to you the ingredients to make (at a minimum) two servings of two meals that you choose from the weekly menu. Their chefs create the dishes, and then put together the exact ingredients you need to prepare them - in 30 minutes or less (their words). Through facebook, I signed up with a free first box (just pay the shipping) deal. Since I'm a pescetarian but truly not interested in preparing my own fish, I looked at the vegetarian options. There seem to be three each week, and one was already sold out. I selected the two remaining veggie options and waited for my box to arrive. It's supposed to arrive on Tuesdays, but due to the awful weather, I got an email saying it would instead arrive Wednesday - but that my ingredients would no doubt be as fresh as ever.

Wednesday came and went and I ended up receiving my box late Thursday (like 7pm). Everything seemed to be fresh, although the Swiss chard was a little questionable. It was my first time ever using chard, but I think it was slightly past its peak. No matter, I was still really excited to try out my recipes!

After work on Friday, I started to make the goat cheese and quinoa stuffed Swiss chard, covered in marinara. The instructions were straightforward, with six steps in the process. On the recipe sheet, it said it would take between 30 and 40 minutes.

I first cooked the quinoa, and as that was cooking, chopped up my various veggies and spices to saute. The quinoa, veggies, and goat cheese was mixed together to be stuffed. I blanched (a new term for me) the Swiss chard and then all was ready to roll, literally. I felt like I didn't have a perfect Swiss chard to stuffing ratio, but the stuffing was delicious on its own, so we had the remainder on the side. While stuffing, I did feel like maybe I could have had a better bunch of Swiss chard, as many of the pieces I ended up with had holes (not ideal for holding stuffing) or were small. That is my biggest complaint with this meal.

After I made as many rolls as I could with what I was given, I placed them in a cooking dish and poured the marinara over. According to the recipe, I put them in 400 degree oven for 15 minutes. Andrew and I loved the result, though (a couple more complaints) - it took me a little over an hour (not 30-40 minutes), and the rolls weren't very hot, so I would have cooked longer than 15 minutes had I known. I am making my other meal - tofu, cashew, and snow pea stir fry for dinner tonight, so I imagine that will be a bit simpler.

Overall, it was fun to make a new meal without having to go to the store and buy all the ingredients individually. I think the price is probably great if you live in a bigger city, but honestly, if I had paid full price for this shipment, Andrew and I could have gone out to eat somewhere in Grand Rapids and had a pretty nice meal. I was going to order another box for next week, but all three vegetarian options were sold out! I will probably only order from Plated again if there is some sort of discount. EDIT: I ordered another box for next week because I had a $10 off code. I'm a little bit addicted, I guess! Anyway, if you want to try Plated, please use my referral code - we both get two plates if you do!

Have any of you used Plated? What was your experience?

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Renting Textbooks

Classes have started back up for many of you this week (or maybe you've been enjoying snow days!), and if you haven't gotten your textbooks yet, consider renting instead of purchasing. I'm not currently in school, though considering going back, but who can forget the steep cost of buying books each semester and the pure agony felt when they are considered too outdated to sell back mere months later?

My friends at asked me to talk about the perks of renting and also about a new program they have where you can actually rent out your books to others. Pretty cool, huh?

So why rent?
  • you can save 40-90% off of bookstore prices
  • free shipping both ways
  • you can highlight in the textbooks
  • they offer flexible renting periods
  • a donation is made to Operation Smile for each textbook rented
If you want to know exactly how it works, watch this short video.

I mentioned the pain our bank accounts feel when we try to sell books back at the end of the semester and are rejected or underpaid. sounds like a really cool solution! I wish this had existed when I was in school. RentBack is new initiative that allows you to rent the textbooks you own to other students. You will make 2-4x more money compared to what you'd make through buyback options! No more feeling screwed at the end of the semester!

I'm definitely trying this out when I return to school, and encouraging my boyfriend to use the site as well this semester. Not only is it hassle free and saving me time and money, but part of my money is going to a great charity. Operation Smile provides safe surgical care to children born with a cleft. Did you know that 10% of these babies will die before they reach a year old? With staggering numbers like that, it's no wonder there's a whole operation in place to fix it. I really love when companies give back - just another reason to support CampusBookRentals!

What's your experience with renting textbooks? I'd love to hear a firsthand account!

This is a sponsored post from All opinions are my own.

Monday, January 6, 2014


Are you in the part of the United States experiencing the polar vortex? Luckily, I was able to work from home today, so I've only gone outside to help Andrew move his car, shovel our steps so I could get mail, and take a couple photos. What are you doing on this snowy day? Stevie and I are just trying to stay warm - I can seriously feel cold air coming through the windows in my old rental house. And it's really not the snow that bothers me, it's the subzero temperatures!

Not even a covered porch could save them.

Should we open a bottle of wine? ^.^

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Vegan a Week #1

One of my resolutions for 2014 is to eat a vegan diet at least one day per week. I've been wanting to incorporate more vegan meals into my life, but having a tough time actually doing it, so I think this is the perfect way ease into it. Once a week is still a bit challenging for me, but it's just enough to allow me to see how time and wallet consuming being vegan might entail. I began yesterday, so I wouldn't skip the first shortened week of the year.

For breakfast I made coffee and added a bit of coffee-mate (not the purest of choices, but it doesn't contain dairy), had a couple clementines, and cooked up some Ore Ida hash browns with red onions, garlic, and topped with Tabasco sauce. I would normally cover my potatoes with cheese and cook an egg or two for the side, but I skipped it this time. I also considered making a package of muffin mix, but it contained egg. Darn, you really have to pay attention!
Mug from The Mitten State.

For lunch I just made a salad with red leaf lettuce, cucumbers, tomato, and a simple homemade vinaigrette (dijon mustard, garlic, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil - shaken). I had Stacy's Pita Chips and spinach hummus on the side.

That didn't quite fill me up, so sure enough, my cinnamon graham crackers contained no animal products, and I covered them in peanut butter for dessert.

I wouldn't say I cheated for dinner, but I wasn't sure I had anything to make at home, so we grabbed Qdoba after running some errands. I got a naked vegetarian burrito, skipping the cheese and sour cream. (Don't you hate it when they don't give you enough guacamole)? 

So that was day/week 1 of 52! I definitely snacked way less than I would have on a normal day, especially with all our Christmas candy still laying around, and I really had to pay attention to those hidden ingredients because a lot of stuff contains a little egg or milk! 

If you have any great (preferably easy/with few ingredients) vegan recipes on your blog or somewhere else on the interwebs, please share! I want this to become so easy that I do this more than one day a week.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

2013 In Review

You likely don't care about my year, especially since I gave up on blogging for the majority of it. Anyway, if I don't post it somewhere, I might never remember what I did in 2013, so with the help of my Outlook calendar and Instagram feed here it goes!

Stevie was still a relatively new addition to the family, and I enjoyed very much getting to know my little lovebug.

Not a whole lot happens in Michigan in the winter. Especially by February when we're all burned out. We did have a fun Valentine's Day bowling outing with friends!

Even though I didn't officially get hired until later this year, March was when I found out that I would be hired and I also helped begin Steelcase's first young professionals group. We started super grassroots, just organizing volunteer events and happy hours, and we took off from there. Now we even have a budget!

I also got to see the one and only Kate Nash perform for the first time. Best show I saw all year!

There was a crazy flood in Grand Rapids! According to my twitter, it also snowed. Ugh. I almost forgot how short this summer was.

I got to attend TEDxGrandRapids! It was such a great event!

I finally was hired at my first 'real' / 'big girl' job at Steelcase in Grand Rapids. I love everything about it - from the culture, to my role in social media, to being a mobile worker. Getting this position also allowed me to really de-stress about money, which feels so, so good!

Right before I began working at Steelcase, Andrew and I visited our friends Ricardo and Kathryn in Palo Alto and also my cousin in San Francisco. We got to go north of SF one of the days and saw some real beauty in California. Andrew and I spent our last day in Napa, which was gorgeous!

I helped plant three trees with the United Way for Filler' Up Fuller. It felt so good!

I also hit the streets for Festival of the Arts in Grand Rapids. I was on the PR team, and we launched an Instagram contest. It was a ton of fun!

I also got to see Hillary Clinton speak and Lord Huron play a show in the same night.

Andrew's sister got engaged. Her wedding is in about 2 months! I also had a great 4th of July, visiting my Grandma and shopping at the nearby outlet mall. I apparently was pretty engrossed in Pretty Little Liars in the month of July as well. Lastly, I won tickets to see Rodrigo y Gabriela!

I went on an amazing vacation in Turkey and Greece with Andrew and his family! I can't believe I didn't take a break from not-blogging to blog about it! I will have to soon.

I was able to find one of the stray kitties (Brave, below) a home with friends. They love having him so much! The other five kitties disappeared a couple days after my birthday and I haven't seen them since.

I turned 25. Two weeks later I rented my first car when I took a business trip to Alabama. Booyah!

Andrew and I attended our third annual Alpaca Fest.

I got to attend JiveWorld in Las Vegas. It was my first time seeing the city, which I liked better than I thought I would! Plus, the first snow in Michigan fell and melted while I was away, so that was a bonus.

I won an iPad mini from the conference I attended in October for participating in their gamification series. So awesome! Thanks, Jive!

Also, Kate Nash followed me on Twitter!

I received my first pair of boots that fit over my calf. Although snug, I am so happy they zip up all the way! I also got to visit my Grandma and my Grandpa and spend a week at home with my family and my cats. A very nice December!