October 31, 2022

VEGAN RECIPE REVIEW: Chicken(less) Stew

I've made a few recipes from 'Plant Power Couple' since becoming vegan, and I just can't get enough. Their recipes are so good! It all started with the Lemon Pepper Tofu Cutlets--Jerry and I became obsessed with tofu after that.

They also have a post called "How to Make Tofu Taste Like Chicken: The Freezer Trick" which taught me a lot about cooking tofu. (Especially why using an oil-based marinade is better than other liquids.) If you're new to tofu, I highly recommend reading that post (and the Lemon Pepper Cutlets recipe is linked in that post as well).

The homemade vegan chicken-flavored bouillon is out-of-this-world amazing and I use it ALL THE TIME.

Anyway, normally I try to branch out and prepare recipes from sites I haven't reviewed before, but I was dying to make this Chicken(less) Stew ever since I made the Vegan Pot Pie. This stew looks and tastes pretty much like the inside of a chicken pot pie. Now that the fall weather is here, this bowl of stew was the perfect cozy comfort food. (I'll link to this stew recipe again at the end of the post)

Needless to say, I really liked it. I mean, I really REALLY liked it! There is quite a bit of prep work, but that might just be because I'm slow...? I don't know.

The ingredients include a couple of what I used to refer to as "weird" vegan ingredients (nutritional yeast, soy curls, and raw cashews); those are things that I assume most people don't have on hand. This recipe was so good though, I just had to share it! I wasn't sure if I was going to post it or not, so I took pictures just in case.

It calls for raw cashews, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes (Tip: when I need cashews to make cream in the blender, instead of soaking, I put them in a bowl, fill with water about an inch above the cashews, then microwave for 6 minutes. Then I add more water--because it will evaporate if microwaved without enough water--and nuke again for a few more minutes. Then I rinse them under cold water in order to keep the blender from getting hot. (I really do need to invest in a Blendtec or Vitamix!) But anyway, the goal is just to soften the cashews so that they blend smoothly.)

Okay, so here are the ingredients:

Raw cashews, olive oil, onion, carrots, garlic, cauliflower (a whole head!), water, soy curls, potato, frozen corn, frozen peas, nutritional yeast, vegan bouillon powder (here is a link to the BEST ONE EVER), thyme, sea salt, and black pepper. Seriously, the vegan chicken-style bouillon powder is absolutely amazing, and better than any store-bought chicken seasoning, vegan or not.

After making the Vegan Pot Pie, I learned that soy curls and TVP are actually not the same thing in different shapes and I'd assumed. The soy curls are processed differently. I didn't really understand it, but you can google the difference in them if you're interested. I have TVP "pieces"--which are about bite-size when rehydrated.

Moving on...

First, the prep. I like to prep everything before I even start cooking--which I know is inefficient--because it helps me from feeling frazzled and rushed when I'm actually cooking. The recipe said to "roughly" chop the cauliflower, so I assumed it didn't mean florets. I cut out the thick stem, then ran my knife through the cauliflower over and over until they were chopped pretty fine. I later learned that chopping them small was a good thing, because they get mashed anyway.

I also chopped the potato (I didn't peel it because it was a Yukon Gold potato, which has very thin skin) and onion, then peeled and chopped the carrots. I don't like any sort of crunchy texture to carrots, so I cut them pretty small.

Then I made the cashew cream. I love making cashew cream because it seems like magic, but I hate having to soften the cashews first. The microwave trick works, though--I usually put the cashews in the microwave before starting anything else, so that they are done before I need them.

To make cashew cream (which is neutral-flavored, unless you add seasoning to it), you just put the softened cashews in a blender with water. The ratio of cashews to cream varies by recipe--obviously, the less water you use, the thicker the cream will be.

I have to run it through 2-3 cycles to get it completely smooth, but if you have a good high-powered blender, the process is much easier.

I measured out the spices, peas, nutritional yeast, and corn, and finally--I was ready to start cooking.

First, you just sauté the onions and garlic until soft. Don't you love the smell of onions and garlic cooking?

Then you pour in water and all of the cauliflower. It looked like SO much cauliflower! Good thing I love it.

You let it cook until the cauliflower is soft, and then you use a stick blender to purée the whole thing. It ends up looking like lumpy mashed potatoes.

Then you just dump in the rest of the ingredients (including the cashew cream). From there, you just let it simmer until the potatoes are fork tender. I probably let mine cook too long because I was waiting for Jerry to come inside from doing yard work. It still didn't look very pretty in the pot (I probably should have cut the veggies larger) but I took a taste and it was delicious!

The color always looks better when it's not under the stove light!

Next time, I think I'll cut the potatoes bigger and I'll double the corn and peas. But this made a super thick and hearty stew--thanks to the cauliflower and cashew cream. And the flavor--it all comes down to the vegan chicken-style bouillon powder! I make it in huge batches now because I use it all the time. 

This recipe was a hit with the whole family--even Eli!! I was shocked. He didn't ask what was in it, which was a good thing. If he knew about the cauliflower, the TVP, and the cashew cream, he probably wouldn't even want to taste it. But he ate a full bowl of it! It made a large enough batch for all of us to have a filling bowl and enough leftovers for Jerry to take to work.

Again, here is the link to the full recipe: 'Plant Power Couple' Vegan Chicken(less) Stew

October 30, 2022

Super Creative Skeleton Displays for Halloween! (repost)

I was going to post a "Wordless" post today because I've had an insanely busy day, but then I remembered that I'd completely forgotten about collecting photos from readers' skeleton scene decorations for Halloween this year. 

I meant to send out a request early this month! I absolutely LOVE seeing skeleton scenes in peoples' yards this time of year! It literally brings me so much joy to see the creativity. Last year, I put together a whole post of skeleton photos that readers submitted. So, I'm just going to repost that here rather than a "wordless" post. At least it's more fun :)

Here is a new skeleton picture from a few days ago. Eli had a friend spend the night and I offered to make pancakes and turkey bacon for them for breakfast. Before the boys came in to eat, I sat the skeleton at the table.

So, below is the post from Halloween 2021...

This is quite possibly my most favorite post ever. As you may know from reading my blog, I absolutely LOVE skeleton displays. They actually make me look forward to going for walks or runs in October because they are so fun to see! (Sadly, I do not have skeletons to display, but after this post, I really want to buy some.)

I asked on Facebook for followers to send pictures of skeleton displays in their neighborhoods so I could compile them in a blog post. And here it is! If you have skeleton photos to share, please email them to me! I'll add them to this post up until Halloween, and then I'll do another post next year. Just send them to katie (at) runsforcookies (dot) com. (Don't worry about resizing or blurring addresses or anything--I'll do that before posting.)

You all are so creative... I love it!


Thank you so much to everyone who shared these--this totally made my day!

October 29, 2022

My Plans for 75 Hard

My plan to start the 75 Hard program starts in just three days, on November 1st. I've really been looking forward to it! I think that because I'm doing it for reasons other than weight loss, it has a different meaning to me. I'd love to get more disciplined (especially with exercise), drink more water (I used to drink a ton, but I got really bad at it), and read some books that are out of my norm. I'm not a fan of self-help books, but reading just 10 pages a day is doable--and hopefully I'll enjoy them enough to want to read more than that.

If you missed my post about 75 Hard, here is the program in a nutshell (it's by Andy Frisella):

  1. Follow a diet. It doesn't matter what you choose, but you cannot have cheat meals or alcohol.
  2. Workout for 45 minutes, twice a day. At least one of these 45-minute workouts must be done outdoors. (You cannot combine the two workouts)
  3. Drink 1 gallon of water per day.
  4. Read 10 pages of a non-fiction book.
  5. Take a progress picture daily.
The last time I did this challenge was in 2020 and I didn't make it all the way through. The only things I kept up with were the workouts (I did 45 minutes twice a day with at least one being outside) and taking a progress picture daily.

This time, I feel much more prepared (mentally and physically). My diet is simple: I'm going to continue to eat a healthy vegan diet, just like I have been all year. However, I am going to throw in a little challenge so that it's not TOO easy--I'm going to eliminate sweets. I haven't been eating many as it is, but it can't hurt to cut them out completely for a while. (I already don't drink, so giving up alcohol isn't a problem.)

I can drink one gallon of water a day when I put my mind to it. I'll start with a quart first thing in the morning (I'm always SO dehydrated when I wake up). I'll drink a quart after each of my 45-minute workouts. And finally, I'll drink a quart in the evening, a couple of hours before going to bed. I like to drink water by the quart instead of the cup, because it seems simpler.

I'll likely take my progress photo first thing in the morning. I've also decided that I'm going to wear the same clothes for my progress photos every day. That way, I'll be able to see a difference if the exercising actually does change my body composition. I'd *like* to take my photos in shorts and a sports bra, but that would take a LOT of courage. I'll probably just wear running tights and a form-fitting top.

For my workouts, I want to get creative this time! I will likely do my outdoor workout as a walk with Joey like I used to. He could stand to lose a few pounds and I know he'd love to see his buddy Roomba on our five-mile route.

For my second workout, though, I've thought a lot about it and I want to do some things I don't normally do. Other than the treadmill (which I'll probably do three times a week, and maybe for only 30 minutes before switching to something else for 15 minutes), I am going to do the old school EA Sports Active on the Wii (Amazon affiliate link). Remember that?! I used to do it faithfully in 2012 and I think there is a 30-day challenge on it. It involves a lot of strength exercise, which I can definitely stand to do.

I just read a post I wrote about it and according to what I wrote, it was HARD. So, I'm curious to see how I'll do with it! This was the summary after the first workout.

I can also use the Wii Fit U (assuming I'm doing the "real" exercise stuff and not just messing around with simple games). Finally, I used an Amazon gift card (given to me from my cross country team!) to buy two very, very random pieces of exercise equipment: 

The first is a sort of weighted hula hoop, only without the actual hoop swinging around. It's a belt that you wear around your waist and it has a weight on it that you swing around as if you are doing the hula hoop. (I used to use a weighted hula hoop and I loved it!) Here is a screenshot of a video to the one I bought on Amazon (affiliate link):

That could fail miserably, however, when I'm sure the cats will try to go after the weight. Haha!

The second item is even more random for me: it's a Squat Assist "Row-and-Ride" trainer (Amazon affiliate link). Basically, you sit on it, holding the handles in front of you, squat down while extending your arms, and then return to upright position. Hard to explain! But here is a stock photo:

It was inexpensive and it looked like it might be fun, so I thought I'd give it a try. It folds flat, so it won't get in the way, either. But it looks like it would be a decent workout and definitely something different for me.

I also have a good jump rope that I am pretty sure I've never used, as well as some body weight exercise cards lying around somewhere. I have a bike in the garage that I rarely use. I even have about 10 exercise bands. So, I have a ton of options! I'm going to try to mix it up as much as I can. 

Finally, for my books... I'm a very slow reader, so I'm not sure how much I'll get done in the 75 days. But I've had this book called Running & Being by Dr. George Sheehan that I got when I was invited to the Runner's World headquarters way back in... 2014? It's described as the "philosophical bible for runners". It's not a typical running book, like 'Hansons Marathon Method' or '80/20 Running' (both books I love). It's about much more than just running; from what I understand, it's about how exercise and competition (including running) can be thought of as fun and a lifelong wellness plan for personal growth.

As you know, I LOVE my Kindle Paperwhite; however, since I've had this paperback for so long and it's literally brand new, I'm going to go ahead and read the paperback for 75 Hard.

Once I'm done with it, I'll give it away on my blog for anyone who may be interested in reading it.

In a nutshell, my day should look something like this for 75 Hard:

Wake up, get dressed in exercise clothes, then take a mirror selfie.
Drink a quart of water. Eat vegan breakfast while I read 10 pages of my book.
Go for a 45 minute walk with Joey. Drink another quart of water.
Go on with my normal day, eating a vegan lunch.
Sometime in the afternoon or evening, do another 45-minute workout--some sort of combination of the things I listed. Follow up with another quart of water.
Cook and eat a healthy vegan dinner, either before or after the second workout.
Have a healthy snack if I am hungry after dinner. Drink another quart of water.

That will get in all of my 75 Hard steps for the challenge. The hardest part for me is going to be fitting it all in. Despite the fact that I don't work a 9-5 type job, I'm very busy throughout the day. So I'll just have to adjust things around to fit everything in.

But I'm excited about getting started!

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