Vegan Macaroni and Cheese from The Guilt-Free Gourmet

As a bridal shower gift, my mom gave me a series of cookbooks called The Guilt-free Gourmet by Vicki Griffin. There are some great vegan recipes in these books, although it was hard for a beginner like me to follow the recipes, especially with no pictures or detailed instructions. I decided to try an old favorite: mac and cheese, but with a twist. Since the book includes only vegan recipes, this recipe replaces the cheese with cashews.

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I started by cooking small shell pasta. I kept a close eye on it because I didn’t want it to get too water-logged, since the recipe bakes in the oven later.

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Small shell pasta, drained

In the meantime, I gathered the ingredients for the cheese sauce: raw cashews from the freezer, sesame tahini, lemon juice and water, nutritional yeast flakes, garlic cloves, and a small jar of pimientos (not pictured).

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Ingredients for the “cheese” sauce – except I forgot the pimientos

I blended it all together in the food processor, and this is what I got.

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Vegan cheese sauce. I can’t believe I got this from cashews and tahini.

I poured the “cheese” sauce into a baking dish, then added the shells. I topped it with Panko breadcrumbs and frozen peas, and stuck it in the oven for 30 minutes.

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Vegan mac and cheese, pre-baked

This is what I got!

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Vegan mac and cheese, out of the oven!

Eric said it tasted like Korean Shin Ramyun, I think because of the pimientos. Not exactly typical macaroni and cheese, but a much healthier and tasty substitute!

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Have you guys ever tried vegan cashew cheese?

Wednesday Wedding Thoughts: The Registry

While Eric and I planned our wedding, something we really looked forward to was the wedding registry. It seemed like a piece of cake: go to the store, go shopping (!), and point the clicker at plates, bedding, towels, and gadgets. In reality, we forgot a TON of stuff – mostly the less glamorous items, like home organization items and cleaning supplies. Luckily, we could assess our registry online and added (and deleted!) several things. Here are a few.


These Glasslock containers are absolute lifesavers. After we cooked dinner with our fancy new pots and pans, we realized that we needed a place to store leftovers. We bought two sets, and they’re microwave and dishwasher-safe and basically unbreakable. We also take our lunches to work in them, and it works like a charm.

glasslock containers

We had a lengthy debate over our shower curtain.. and of course forgot that we couldn’t hang it without hooks and a liner.

shower hooks shower liner

Similarly, something else you can live without – until you can’t: an ice cube tray.

oxo good grips ice cube tray

We also added a bathroom scale , as well as a bottle brush to clean water bottles, vases, and other narrow items.

taylor glass scale      oxo good grips bottle brush

What are some other easy-to-forget items to add to a wedding registry?

Raw Almond Butter Cups from Oh She Glows

I have a longstanding love for dark chocolate, but I don’t love the calories from all the enticing fudge-y, gooey desserts out there. This recipe from Angela Liddon at Oh She Glows is a great and delicious alternative to those calorie-dense desserts.


I started by making the base for the almond butter cups. I combined raw almonds and rolled oats in the food processor.

almond butter cups flour ingredients

Raw almonds and rolled oats in the food processor

After I blended it, it had a “meal-like” consistency. I then blended in almond butter, coconut oil, pure maple syrup, cinnamon, vanilla extract, and a pinch of kosher salt. The dough was fairly sticky, sort of like a loose cookie dough.

almond butter cups almond and oatmeal processed

Almonds and oats, blended into a meal

I put the base aside and melted some dark chocolate chips for the topping. (The recipe called for cocoa powder, but dark chocolate worked just fine.) I added more coconut oil and maple syrup, plus another pinch of salt, whisked it together, and it combined to make a smooth and decadent chocolate sauce.

almond butter cups chocolate frosting

Chocolate sauce from melted dark chocolate, coconut oil, maple syrup, and salt

I spooned the almond-oatmeal base into paper liners in a muffin pan, then drizzled the chocolate sauce on top. I stuck the pan into the freezer (make sure the pan is flat, and not tilted!) and waited for about 30 minutes.

almond butter cups in the pan

Almond-oatmeal base, plus a drizzle of the chocolate sauce, in the pan

The cups were melt-in-your-mouth delicious, sort of like a Reese’s peanut butter cup – but so much healthier! If you’re like me, I sometimes equate “healthy” with “tasteless” or “bland.” These almond butter cups are anything but. The almonds give the cups a smooth, creamy taste, and the chocolate sauce added buttery richness – just what you’d want from a delectable dessert.

almond butter cups finished

Finished product. Good enough to share!

This recipe from Oh She Glows is simple to make. Its perfect for a hot day because it requires no baking, no hot oven, and not too much waiting :). What dishes do you make on hot, humid days?

Favorite Kitchen Organizers

I love shopping – not for clothes – but for home organization solutions. Creating a beautiful space doesn’t always mean boxes, drawer organizers, and matching canisters lining your pantry. Here are some simple solutions to keep your kitchen space clean and tidy when you’re cooking.

Oxo Good Grips stainless steel mixing bowls are some of my favorites. Nesting bowls are automatically easy to store, and they are multifunctional: you can use them for meal prep, and they’re pretty enough for serving. I use mine to mix ingredients for baking, toss salads, whip up sauces, and even eat popcorn.

oxo good grips nesting bowls

I love Pyrex’s glass measuring cups for the same reason – their many uses! I use them to measure out ingredients and keep sauces and reductions until needed. Plus I store my cooking spoons in them so the spoons don’t drip on the stove. Because they’re glass, they can handle the heat better than plastic.

pyrex measuring cups

Lastly, these magnetic measuring spoons by Progressive and stainless steel measuring cups by Oxo Good Grips are super efficient and pretty. The measuring spoons, especially, because they stay together neatly and have two ends – a narrow end to fit into spice jars, plus a rounded end for everything else.

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I use these to stay organized in the kitchen. What are some products that you like to use?

Wednesday Wedding Thoughts: Venues

Today is Eric’s and my 10-month anniversary. Even though we don’t celebrate our “month anniversaries” anymore, like when we were dating (ah fun times), I still like to reminisce about our wedding day and how it all came together.

View More: http://lifelightimage.pass.us/erickellee  View More: http://lifelightimage.pass.us/erickellee  View More: http://lifelightimage.pass.us/erickellee

When I first started researching, I read an article online that helped us immensely through the planning process.

The article recommended that a couple should choose 2-4 elements that were important to them, in order to decide where to concentrate their efforts and spend the majority of their funds.

Examples included the number of guests, venue, photography and videography, music and dancing, food and drink, getting married on a significant date, the attire, flowers and decorations, etc. Eric and I ultimately decided on the venuefood, and photography. I knew I wanted to get married in a beautiful setting. Eric knew he wanted delicious food, and we both wanted a great photographer to capture the memories.

We started with the venue. After tons of research online, we took a drive to Southern Exposure Herb Farm (pictures below). The farm was gorgeously laid out, with wonderful attention to detail, and offered an all-inclusive package. We ultimately decided that the farm wasn’t “us.” It had a shabby chic, country feel, and we wanted something a bit more elegant. Going to the farm helped us realize that.

southernexp_barn  southern exposure - wedding table

Next, we toured the Goei Center. It was a little too huge and industrial, and we had to provide all the tables and decor. It was located in a rougher part of town, despite its gorgeous interior. A quick no.

goei center wedding  goei  center tables

We toured the Blue Dress Barn.

blue dress barn ceremony  blue dress barn inside

We toured Millcreek Barn. (Seriously, what was it with us and barns?)

millcreek barn ceremony  millcreek barn outside

We toured the Eesley Place. This venue, by the way, required us to serve a minimum amount of alcohol.

eesley place outside  eesley place hall

We knew we wanted something unique. I researched museums, art centers, libraries, golf courses, colleges, conference centers, and a ballroom. After considering tons of options, we discovered the Kellogg Manor House. At this point, we were a little disillusioned with wedding planning, but when we stepped foot onto the grounds, we both knew.

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It was a gorgeous, grand, historical estate house and a non-profit organization owned by Michigan State University. Built on the crest of a hill, it looked down onto a beautiful blue lake. A staircase crisscrossing the hill led down to the water and surrounding grounds. It was everything we wanted, it was available, and it was the right price.

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We had an incredible experience here, and I’m so glad we didn’t give up! Where did you guys get married?

Easy Vegetarian Pad Thai from Veggie Belly

My post yesterday included a screenshot from my Evernote recipe folder for pad thai. Pad thai is one of Eric’s and my absolute favorite dishes, but it can be difficult to make because of the ingredients. Inspired, I found a vegetarian recipe that didn’t call for fish sauce, tamarind, or any other hard-to-find ingredients. Thank you Veggie Belly! I added this recipe to our menu for this week, and I tried it out for lunch today.

The recipe calls for some traditional Asian ingredients that might not be in your pantry: rice noodles, tofu, and bean sprouts. I live in a rural community, with no ethnic grocery stores, but I found these at the local Meijer (our big grocer in the Midwest). According to Veggie Belly, the noodles may also be labeled “Bahn Pho” or “XL” and should only contain rice flour and water. I do wish I had better rice noodles, but these served their purpose.

thai kitchen rice noodles      nasoya tofu extra firm blue bean sprouts


I began by soaking the noodles in hot water. While I waited, I cut the tofu into 1/8 inch thick slices and used a large pan to fry them in coconut oil. (Of course, you could always use canola or vegetable oil.) After the tofu fried up, I took the slices out of the pan and combined the sauce ingredients in the same pan – brown sugar, freshly squeezed lime juice, Bragg’s aminos (or soy sauce), and water – and brought it a boil, then lowered the heat. This caramelizes the sugar a bit, deepens the flavor, and may thicken the sauce (it didn’t for me). After a few minutes, I poured it into a measuring cup to save for later.

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Ready to go: bean sprouts, fried tofu, sauce, and cooked noodles.

While I waited for the sauce to thicken, I had minced the garlic and chopped the broccoli and carrots. I threw them into the same pan. (I love one-pot meals!) As they warmed, the garlic became fragrant and the broccoli became more green and vibrant.

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Garlic, broccoli, and carrots in the pan. I love these colors!

That was the sign to add the noodles, sauce, and cooked tofu and stir it all together. After the broccoli and carrots softened up, I added bean sprouts and took the pan off the heat. (I chose not to add green onion or peanuts.)

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Almost ready to eat! Plus a stray noodle.

I topped the dish with cilantro and a lime wedge. I personally like strong citrus flavors, but I understand that not everyone does – there are so many versions of pad thai! I decided to keep the sauce pretty neutral – sweet and salty with the brown sugar and Bragg’s aminos – and saved part of the lime to add more sour flavors later.

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My lunch today. I most definitely had seconds, mmm.

There you have it! Pad Thai for lunch today, courtesy of Veggie Belly. Plus tons of leftovers for Eric. 🙂

 

Mondays are for Menu Planning

menu planning made easy

I used to open my cupboard doors, stare into their depths, and sigh, “What can I make for dinner?” I’m definitely not the creative type that can whip up dinner without a recipe, and I hated that feeling of not having a plan. After Eric and I got married, we brainstormed different ways to do menu planning to make dinner hassle-free.

We decided to assign different themes to the days of the week. This method calls for variety, while at the same time, limiting choices to make it easier to decide what to eat on any given day. Of course, we don’t always stick to these themes, and some dishes fall under multiple categories. We just roll with it.


Monday is “Ethnic Day”  – delicious pastas and curry dishes.
Tuesday is “Soup/Salad Day” – soups for winter, hearty salads for warmer weather.
Wednesday is “Rice Day” – really any grain: fried rice, risotto dishes, and quinoa.
Thursday is “Korean Thursday” – where Eric cooks the food of his homeland, like spicy jjigaes or noodles. korean flag
Friday is “Sandwich Day” – although its more for foods that wouldn’t necessarily be good for a brown bag lunch to take to work the next day, things like sandwiches, baked potatoes, and the like.
**We reserve the weekends for a more flexible eating plan, since we usually go out. I might make bread or vegetable stock, depending on what we need.

In the beginning, I had a hard time sifting through the many cookbooks, blogs, and websites to find ideas. I began to use Evernote to catalog favorite recipes. Usually, I compile my recipes from blogs online. It’s super easy: find a recipe (love it when there’s a picture!), then copy and paste into Evernote. I even type my own notes on the bottom, in case something doesn’t work, or I added my own twist to the recipe. On the occasion that I find a recipe in a cookbook or magazine, not a problem. I just take a picture and insert it into Evernote. This system is perfect for browsing through recipes quickly. If I add a recipe using my iPad, it’ll sync across all devices, which is super convenient. I also have the app on my phone, in case I need to look up a recipe in the grocery store. I could sing Evernote’s praises for a while..

Evernote screenshot

My Evernote recipe folder

The fun part is picking recipes, finding new ones and rediscovering old recipes. I browse through Evernote to look at the ingredients that I’ll need, compile a grocery list, and stock the cupboards for the week. This system has saved us so much time and effort, plus it helps us stay within our grocery budget.

This system works for us. Thoughts on how you do menu-planning?