RSS Feed

Best Pecan Pie Ever

This pie is super delicious AND vegan. You’ll never be able to eat the other stuff again.  And its so rich your antivegan for friends will  have nothing to complain about!

– 1 cup pure maple syrup

– 1 cup brown sugar, packed

– 1/2 cup coconut milk

– 1 tbsp molasses

– 4 tbsp earth balance

– 1/2 tsp salt

– 3/4 cup silken tofu

– 1 1/2 cups pecan pieces, toasted 5-10 min @ 350

– 1 recipe pie dough, fitted into 9″ pie plate

Adjust oven rack to lowest position & heat to 450. Heat syrup, sugar, coconut milk and molasses over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves (~ 3 minutes.) Remove from heat and let cool 5 minutes.  Add cooled syrup mixture and tofu to blender and blend until smooth.

Scatter pecans evenly in the pie shell. Carefully pour filling over pecans, and place pie in oven. Immediately reduce temperature to 325. Bake until center is bubbling, about 1 hour. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Serve at room temperature, then take a nap.


Pie Time is Over

Oh Reader, I have been absent far too long. I could make excuses and explanations, but I won’t. I don’t have to explain myself to you! Or really, we can just say I’ve been lazy and busy.

But I HAVE been up to so much! More than I could recount in one blog post. And where would I start anyway?

Oh dear lord…

with pie, that’s where! This is the Best Pecan Pie I’ve ever made, or even eaten. Plus it’s vegan. Plus I ate almost the entire thing myself. Here’s the deal, it has all the delicious caramelized sugar and pecan goodness you’re used to, but without that center layer of mucousy goo. And, Sister showed me how to make a braided crust! Perfection.

But Thanksgiving was a week ago, and it the leftover indulgence parade must end. So save this recipe for your next celebration, and in the meantime let’s get into some seriously healthy stuff. Stay tuned.

We Didn’t Start the Fye-Uh!

and, It’s Getting Hot in Here!

also, Puttin Out Fires with Gasoline!

and mostly, Burnin Down the House!

The silhouette of a house you see there? That’s our house. Or “Our House, in the Middle of Our Street,” since that’s how we’re doing things today.

Seriously though, the other night around 1:30am a neighbor came and woke us up because the vacant house next door to us was on fire.

And what I didn’t realize at the time, was that this was serious sh*t people. Not until the neighbor returned and frantically told us to get out of our house. Then I considered the fact that we may be in danger.

Turns out Eric is the one who takes charge in a crisis. I would not have assumed that, nor would I have guessed that I would be utterly clueless. As in without a clue. Not only did I have to ask him what to do, but I spent a few moments deciding what to wear before evacuating my family from the house… Ah, well, at least we know that one of us isn’t a moron.

But we did get out, and then we stood there waiting for either our house to be engulfed, or for the Hot Firemen to save the day. I was surprisingly calm. I mean, physiologically I was in panic. I could practically palpate the adrenaline coursing through me. But mentally, I was calm. I just kept thinking, “Okay, we’re going to lose our house tonight. That’s okay, because we’re all safe.” Apparently I’m the one who will help after disaster strikes. We’re learning our roles here people.

Hooray for the Hot Firemen(HF!) They arrived after about an hour, or maybe a few minutes, and saved our home. But here’s what we hadn’t planned on (because we had planned on everything else thus far,) when you add water to a ginormous fire, you get even more ginormous smoke. It was BAD! And we couldn’t go back into our house, since it wasn’t exactly safe just yet. So the boys and I went to my moms, while Eric stayed to talk with the HF.

In case you don’t my moms, let me tell you what a couple of badasses they are. When I called at 2am to ask if we could come over, they got up and made us beds with fresh linens, and turned on white noise for little Oliver (or He Who Does Not Sleep.) When we arrived, Mom jumped into Social Worker mode to council Sebastian, then stayed up therapizing me until Eric came. In the morning Beth made us pancakes. How did we thank them? We drank all their (open) wine and left their sheets smelling like campfire. Thanks Moms!

Part of me feels like there has been one thing after another all year. Specifically, one near-tragedy after another. To many close calls, dear reader!! This same part of me feels like saying, “Why us? Why do these bad things keep happening to us?” Sometimes I wonder if we’re being punished, and then I wonder what we’re being punished for

But really we’re lucky. We keep getting lucky! Our house is fine. Fine! Yes, we lost a good chunk of our fence. And the trampoline, which for some reason is particularly depressing. Maybe because we associate trampolines with children’s laughter and joy? Or maybe because we call it a “Tramp,” and subconsciously this makes us feel bad for prostitutes? No one will ever know.

Yeah, it’s created a lot of work for us. We have a lot to clean up, and a fence to rebuild. But it’s kind of a blessing. The vacant house will finally be leveled, though it’s taking longer than we’d like. And we’ve met tons of neighbors that we’d never known. In fact, we met a guy who’s lived in the here for 50+ years, and he told us all about the WELL that’s under under our house. We’ve wondered for years what’s flooding our crawlspace! Turns out it’s an artisan well. Yeah, expect some updates once we figure out how to unearth it.

I hope I don’t sound like I’m trying to convince myself here. I really am so grateful that my family wasn’t harmed. I’m not sure I can convey just how close we came to disaster, or how surreal this whole experience was. As I took photos of the house next door, the house that was destroyed, all I could think was how lucky we were.

Thank you to everyone who’s been there for us. And thank you in advance to all those who will continue to help us with cleanup and repairs. We are sooo grateful and so happy to have you in our lives.

Blurting It Out

Sometimes that’s the only way to get things off your chest. It’s not beautiful, graceful, or eloquent, but it get’s the job done. And let’s face it, it’s time…

Here’s the deal: I’ve been avoiding certain topics for a (long) while now. A LOT has happened since I last posted, but I haven’t been ready to write about any of it. I’m not actually ready now either, but keeping secrets (although fun) isn’t always practical. Sometimes you have to be a little vulnerable. Sometimes you have to face inevitable judgement, whether it’s real or imagined. So I’m coming out of my safe and cozy little bubble to update you. Because it can’t all be the sweet morning snuggles with those two gorgeous boys (above.)

So here goes nothin!

1. Turns out Oliver isn’t allergic to most of the things we thought he was. Not the dog. Not soy. Probably not MOST of it. He is allergic to dairy, we know this for certain. But the rest? Not so much… And it’s embarrassing to admit I was wrong, and even worse that I was sort of conned by a “doctor.” Ugh.

2. I’m vegan now. Mostly. Well, like vegan-light. The Vegan Police will undoubtedly take issue with my diet, as will all my carnivore friends. But this isn’t about conforming to rules, or proving things to the world, or being part of some elite group. This is about my health, and the health of planet. It’s about shrinking my ass, and reducing my risk of  heart disease, and doing my part to care for the planet. I’m not going to get preachy or judgy about. I wasn’t even going to tell anyone, but it’s becoming inconvenient when people cook for me and stuff. The good news? Get ready to have your mind blown with new recipes and cookbook reviews. Yep, that’s gonna happen.

3. I was in a car accident. Oliver and I were the only ones in the car, and relatively speaking, we’re okay. Not my fault, no major injuries, and all things considered I’m just happy Oli wasn’t hurt. I suffered a sprained neck and a concussion. I only bring this up because I’m super forgetful and sort of stupid right now (yes, even worse than before,)  and it ties into my next item of business. So cut me some slack if I forget to return your calls, or repeatedly ask you the same questions. AND this brings me to…

4. I’m no longer breastfeeding. I plan to write a more detailed explanation soon, but for now I’ll give you the basics. I planned to nurse Oli until he was like 45, or at least 1, but it just didn’t work out that way. I’m taking drugs for my neck that aren’t good for babies, and I don’t have the time to “pump n’ dump” AND care for my family. I feel sad, like I’ve lost something dear to me. And I’m sure the Teat-Nazis will be coming to take me away any day now.

That’s it. And now we can get back to the fun stuff!

Five Years

Yesterday was the anniversary of the day I met my husband. Five years!

We met at a Shins show of all places. He was so cute, trying not to get caught looking at me. And of course I was playing the same coy game. Who knew we’d fall in love?  (Side note: the image above is of a print that Eric tracked down and gave to me for Christmas this year. He got it at Signed and Numbered. Yay!)

photo by B. Elenor Photography

Oh, remember how exhilarating everything is in the beginning of a relationship? Your body is making nearly toxic amounts of endorphins,  you don’t sleep, every touch is electric. But that ends guys, and in the past, for me, when the intense physiological stuff died down I lost interest. Honestly, I was the queen of the six-week relationship. Not this time though! Yeah, the endorphin induced love-fest ended, the “romantic love” as it’s called began to fade a bit (though I’m lucky to report that he is still a very romantic man.) But our bond held tight! Because we had more than love or infatuation, we had a partnership! We even got married!

photo by B. Elenor Photography (what can I say? We love her!)

And things have changed a lot. We’ve gotten to know and understand and accept each other. We know and love every flaw the other has. I’m more comfortable with him than any other person in the world. I really do adore this man. Even when he makes me crazy. Maybe especially when he makes me crazy… I feel that we’re growing together, and I love this little life we’re making.

Two of the people I love.

And maybe it’s nice to settle down, and have replace that initial replacement with something more calm and steady. Maybe it’s good that I can fart in front of him ( and do… a lot) or that he loves me even though I look like a Monster in the morning.  I like that the man who swept me off my feet is also the man who takes turns holding the screaming baby. And even though things have gotten comfortable, he still buys me flowers.

His gift to me.

And even though our lives sometimes feel chaotic, what with the children and all that, we still acknowledge a special day with a special meal. Because I firmly believe in the bonding power of the ritual of shared meals. We had homemade brown-rice sushi and crab claws.

My gift to him.

It’s Not Me, It’s You

The tale of how and why I’m breaking up with my dog. (It’s a dog-blog!)  I know, just look at her! She’s so cute. And you may be thinking, “What an evil person Natalie must be. How could anyone want to end their relationship with that slobber-faced cutie?” Ah well, yes, I am somewhat evil. […]

Things from the Brighter Side

Ugh, I know. I haven’t posted in like days. This is because I am: a) utterly sleep deprived, b) coping with stress, c) anxious by nature, and d) probably still more than a little hormonal. These four things combined have left me little time for internetting, let alone writing. In fact, these four things have put me into a bit of a Dark Place, which I must admit, is fairly easy for me to fall into from time to time. Are things terrible? No, not at all. So let’s focus on the brighter side for today.

We’ll catch up on things that have happened!

Eggplant and Asparagus

Tuesday night Sister Sarah joined us for a Harry Potter night. It’s a bit of a tradition, you see. Normally Sarah will read a volume of Harry Potter to Sebastian, and then once they finish, they watch the movie together and have dinner. But part way through the reading of Book Five, Sebastian decided he had outgrown being read to. So he finished the book on his own, but we still gathered to discuss it, watch the film, and break bread.

I don’t know if he’s really outgrown it, or if he just got tired of waiting around while Sister had her adventures around the globe. He’s eight, so you can’t really blame him for being impatient. And Sarah is young as well, so you can’t really blame her for seeing the world while she has the chance. But not to fret, they have a bond that is not easily broken.

What did we eat? Well, I adapted a Mario Batali recipe for Eggplant Caponata, but the result was not very Italian. We’ll call it Moroccan-Italian fusion. Not what we expected, but absolutely delightful. Next time I’ll substitute pearl couscous for the pasta. Side note, Eric always calls couscous “goose-goose.” Always. It’s very cute.

Want to hear another (and far more hilarious) side of this story? Click here!

Also, the other day my dad came up to SLC and we had breakfast at my place.

Isaac the Viking-Wizard came to explore some bacon!

Sister Nikki joined us with her cute kiddos, as did Brother Sam. Good times were had by all, take a look:

Sister's looking mighty fine for 9am

Brothers makin' creepy look, well, creepy...

Poppa Marty read stories and played with the grandsons while us the “kids” occupied the kitchen and had all the real fun. Which is to say we made inappropriate jokes, and ate most of the bacon before anyone else had a chance. Ha!

How could you not love those boys?

We ate fried egg sandwiches and drank coffee. PS Thanks for the coffee Dad!

Ripe tomatoes and gooey yolk. Heaven in between bread.

In other news, I’ve used my Blendtec blender over 100 times!

See, I have proof. Evidence if you will.

To celebrate the centennial use of this very fancy gadget, I made a delicious Chocolate Greens Smoothie. It’s the boys favorite. I’ve been making green smoothies for a while now, but they are SOOOO much better when you make them in a Blendtec. It’s like VitaMix, which you may have heard of, but they’re made locally and apparently fit better under the counter. Anyway, I love it. Thanks Don and Eileen!

I got a package!

Another time I received a package addressed to “Mrs. Eric Jensen.” That always cracks me up. They could just address it “To the Property of Eric Jensen.” Ah, well…

It was a Valentine!

The boys at the shop have been working crazy hours lately, so the company sent chocolates to all their wives so they wouldn’t divorce them. Unfortunately I can’t eat them, so Eric and I are splitting up. No, we’re not. Not even close. I love him even when he works he works hard to support his family. Silly people. If our marriage ever is in trouble, they’d better send some champagne. Just sayin’.



Oh Little Sprout, Little Sprout

Right of the start I have to tell you that I only know how to do this because of Eric’s Aunt Jan. She is a wonderful woman,  a vegan and  is full of great ideas. About a month ago, on my thirtieth birthday to be exact, she showed me how to make bean sprouts, and even gave me this:

The key to sprouting beans.

I’m 99% sure that this green plastic is cut out of a strawberry box, or something of the like. So, you’d just cut it to fit whatever jar you plan to use. I used a widemouth mason, well a “Kerr” to be precise. It doesn’t matter, though I will quickly inform you that I actually prefer Ball Mason Jars. Apparently Kerr is made by Ball, but it just isn’t the same! Actually, the best kind of jar is the one that is given to you by a friend, filled with something the made with love.

So, you’re going to take your recycled jar, and fit into the lid a recycled bit of plastic. Easy peasy. Now, add about 1/2 cup of dried beans. I’ve used garbanzos, lentils, and mung, all successfully. Jan uses a mix of several different beans. I think any will work, so try them all!

Day One, Mung beans getting their soak on

Next you’ll fill the jar with water, and let the beans soak overnight, of for most of the day. When they’re done soaking, you’ll drain them and leave the jar inverted in a sunny spot. I like to put mine in a bowl in the windowsill. Jan has a dishrack in a sunny spot that works great too.

Day Two, Sunbathing

Now each morning and evening you simply rinse the beans, drain, and set back in their sunny little home. It really is so so simple. Sprouts appear sooner than you’d expect. Look!

Day Three, maybe Four.

Look how much they grow! And they aren’t even finished just yet. I mean, you could start eating them when they look like that, but I like to wait a little bit longer. It always makes way more than I need, but I like that. This way I always have something to send home with my guests. This is the finished product:

Day, umm Seven or so. They're finished!!

See? So many sprouts, so little time. And they’re actually sort of beautiful. Green, white and purple. Who knew that would happen?

Such pretty little things.

You may wonder what you would do with sprouts, and so I will tell you. I use them in salads, stir-fry, on sandwiches (they are fabulous on Black Bean Burgers,) and by the handful as a snack. Jan also showed me how she likes them for breakfast mixed with dried fruit and nuts. Don’t knock it, it’s surprisingly yummy. And why would one want to eat sprouts? Well, aside from their beauty, they’re crunchy and fresh, and very nutritious.

Now go try it out Reader, and tell me what you think.


This Mornings Bounty

So, I did a new thing today. I woke at what for me is the crack of dawn, and for my dad is sleeping in, and for the rest of you is just called 6:30 in the morning. I fed the baby and put him back to bed, slipped on my shoes and coat, and snuck out of the house into the cold morning for a trip to the State Fairgrounds to pick up  my first ever Bountiful Basket!

First let me tell you what a Bountiful Basket is: A large quantity of fresh, mostly local (or as local as possible,) produce for $15. Half veggies, half fruit, organic optional (for $10 extra dollars.) You order/pay on Monday, then pick up on Saturday.  What’s in the basket is a surprise, and also you don’t get a basket, you bring your own. You can add on extras like granola, bread, and extra “packs” of fruits and vegetables. It’s also a co-op, and is run entirely by volunteers. If you participate you’re asked to come early and volunteer from time to time. Awesome, right? What a perfect and interesting subject for today’s post.

An adorable cabbage

What’s missing from this post are pictures of the scene this morning, and the reason for this is that it was not what I expected. Not at all. I expected some camaraderie with my fellow early morning co-opers. So I hopped out of my car and hustled over join the line filing out of  the green and white “building” (more like giant shed) I was told to go to. I smiled at the first person who’s eyes met mine and silently said to them, “Look at us! Doing this wonderful thing! Strangers united by a common love for fresh produce and good deals. This is the beginning of a beautiful thing. We’re changing the world, I can just feel it!” And in return this person turned away and silently replied, “It’s early and it’s cold, and it’s only goddamned produce. You’re an idiot.”

And so I lost my confidence in  an instant, and therefore took no pictures. But I wish I had so you could see just how glum this lot was, and maybe I could’ve gotten someone to take my picture so you could see that moment of letdown. Also, the moment of hope! Because I had a moment of hope when I overheard one of the volunteers enthusiastically asking someone “Did you see the Asian themed veggie pack? Look at this! All of this is only $8.50!” And I thought, “Yes, I know! Amazing!” Then the woman behind me mocked him. OUT LOUD. My heart sunk.

So no, apparently we were not united after all. Just some people getting fruits and vegetables. Nothing more, nothing less. I lugged my goods to the car for the cold but brief drive home. And thankfully I received a warm welcome, and my gloomy morning turned sunny, just like that.

Sick little Sebastian, so so sweet.

Sebastian is an early riser, so he kept me company while I sorted through our new purchases. He drank hot cocoa and told me all about last nights fever dreams. Fascinating and insane. I love spending time with sick children. They’re so sweet and calm and loving and cuddly. It’s weird I know, and always makes people think of that lady in the Sixth Sense that poisons her daughter. But I promise, I’m not that crazy! And who doesn’t have a guilty pleasure or two?

Right now you’re thinking, “How nice to know that Natalie is crazy, but look at that basket overflowing with fruits and vegetables. Is she going to tell us what she got? Was it worth facing a hostile crowd? Should I start getting into this thing?”  Yes, yes and yes. Let me tell you all about it. What I ordered was this: 1 Conventional Basket, 1 Veggie Lovers Pack (Asian theme) and 1 Tropical Pack (fruit.) Here’s what I got:

  • 1 head romaine lettuce
  • 1 head green cabbage (above)
  • 1 head Napa cabbage
  • 1 head (or bunch?) bok choy
  • 1 bundle spinach
  • 1 thing of celery (you tell me what it’s called!)
  • 2 bunches asparagus
  • 3 green bell peppers
  • 1 large package green onions (about 3x what you normally get at the store)
  • 3 lbs. small red potatoes
  • 1 package snow peas
  • 1 package green beans
  • 1 eggplant
  • 6 yellow onions
  • 1 head garlic
  • 6 fresh water chestnuts- I’d never seen these before. Look how cute they are

Exciting new things!

  • 1 good sized package basil
  • 1 package mint (a lot of mint)
  • 4 lemons
  • 8 tomatoes
  • 5 kiwi
  • 2 mangoes
  • 8 apples
  • 5 oranges
  • 2 grapefruit
  • 2 boxes blueberries
  • 1 pineapple
  • 1 coconut
  • 1 plantain
  • 2 fresh vanilla beans that smell amazing
All for like $35. I can’t tell you which items came from what “pack” or whatever. I was too excited, like a kid on Christmas morning who can tell you everything in their haul, but not who gave it to them. Luckily I don’t have to try to remember in order to send Thank You notes. But I got a ton of stuff! And some of it, like the fresh water chestnuts and plantain, is new to me. SO I get to research and find the best way to prepare and eat it. I love this. Love love LOVE. What am I going to do with a coconut? No idea. Not eat it, since Oliver is sensitive to coconut. But the other boys aren’t, so we’ll put it to good use I’m sure.
Was it worth it? Yes. Will I do it again? Yes. And you should too! We can go together, and it will be us against them. We’ll turn it into the beautiful thing it should be. You and I, dear reader, will change the world. Or at least change the menu for the week.

Oliver had fun regarding, and then throwing, a lemon.

(PS I was turned on to this by my dear friend Kim, who just started her own blog! You must read it, you won’t regret it. Click here!)

The New Cheese

… is bacon!

Oh come on! Did you really think it was strictly veggies in this kitchen? It’s not, not at all. Oh sure, we eat well, and we are focusing on more of a plant based diet, especially since Little Oli can’t tolerate dairy. But sometimes you’ve just got to have a little of what I call “Fat Girl Surprise.” And that’s exactly what’s for dinner- Bacon & Greens Risotto! I adore risotto, but how to make it without the butter and cheese? Try bacon and bacon. Dairy-free, yes. Heart healthy, no. Here’s how we did it:

Good bacon

Start with good bacon, this is crucial. If you’re going to eat bacon at all, you’ve got to eat the good stuff. None of that cheap paper thin crap, each slice should be about as thick as a leather belt. Otherwise you’re wasting your time. And money. And you’re insulting the poor pig that gave his life for this meal!

So, yeah, get the good stuff… About eight slices, cut into one inch chunks and fried in a large pot until chewy (or crispy if you’re my dad.) Then set aside on some paper towels for later. Leave the grease in the pot (not a healthy choice, but a tasty one,) and add one  chopped yellow onion- cook over medium until soft. Then add one cup arborio rice and two minced cloves of garlic. Cook until rice is translucent, the add one cup dry white wine. It will look like this:

The beginning of a beautiful dish.

Pump the heat up to med-high and stir like crazy until most of the liquid is absorbed. Get used to stirring, you’ll be doing it almost constantly in order to coax the rice into creaminess. So worth it.

In a separate pot heat about six cups low sodium vegetable stock (I like to use Better Than Bouillon because it’s easy and delicous)  along with the juice of half a lemon and 1/4 cup nutritional yeast until hot. Add one or two ladle-fulls of the stock to rice mixture and stir until absorbed.

Ladling the stock.

Next, add about three ladle-fulls along with a bunch of chopped greens. I used a mix of kale and Swiss chard. Stir until the greens have softened a bit, and (again) most of the liquid is absorbed.

It's looking like this about now. Almost done!

Then just keep on adding stock and stirring until the rice is al dente and everything is nice and creamy. Then add back in the cooked bacon (what’s left after everyone stealing nibbles) and half a cup chopped fresh basil.


Give it one last stir, and serve it up. Dinner is served my friends!

Sebastian approves.

Bash said something like “Risotto is  good, and bacon is great. Together it’s epic.” I completely agree.

Oliver is shocked.