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back roads and mason jars

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that’s vegan?!

Adventure Days!

Sometimes it’s nice to not have a plan.  My husband and I set out this weekend with only one goal – get our fur baby his favorite treats.  Anything else was just an adventure.  These days are usually my favorite since we can end up anywhere or find some awesome hidden gem.  These days aren’t glamorous or as thrilling as a roller coaster ride, but I love them.  It’s time that we get to spend just chatting about random topics while having fun.

To fuel our adventure day, we choose a classic favorite – Chipotle.  I am pretty sure the entire world is in love with Chipotle at this point.  It’s great for my family since I can easily eat vegan while my husband can get his carnivore fix.  My favorite combination, pictured to the right, is a burrito bowl with white rice, black beans, fajita vegetables, pico de gallo, corn salsa and lots of guacamole!  A little secret for you – if you don’t get a meat in your bowl, guac is FREE!  I mean who doesn’t want free guac on everything!?  They do have a vegan meat alternative that is delicious and tofu based.  You may have even tried it by accident already!  That option is sofritas which is braised with chipotle chilies, poblanos, and other spices according to their website.

Below is a list of all the vegan options at Chipotle to help you make your favorite combination.  The allergen page on Chipotle’s website lists every vegan item as well.

Soft Flour Tortilla (Burrito & Taco Size)

Corn Tortilla (Soft & Crispy)

Sofritas

Cilantro-Lime Brown Rice

Cilantro-Lime White Rice

Black Beans

Pinto Beans

Fajita Veggies

Fresh Tomato Salsa (Mild)

Tomatillo Red-Chili Salsa (Hot)

Tomatillo Green-Chili Salsa (Medium Hot)

Roast Chili-Corn Salsa (Medium)

Romaine Lettuce

Guacamole

Fresh Tortilla Chips

Bye y’all!

Yesterday’s – A Present Favorite

A few years ago, a good friend of ours moved back to her college town – her second home.  The very first time we had the opportunity to visit in her element, she introduced us to one of her all time favorite places to be where everyone knows her name.  That place is Yesterday’s.

The first time I visited, I did still eat meat, but I was in the “cutting back phase” of my journey and only eating meat or eggs about two meals a week.  I heard stories about Yesterday’s for years throughout our friendship before actually enjoying the restaurant so my mouth was watering before I even walked in the door.  I ordered a classic southern staple, Shrimp & Grits, which used to be one of my all time favorite meals, but my husband ordered a unique variation of the classic – Buffalo Chicken & Grits.  He loved it so much that he still orders it every time we have the opportunity to visit!  I have changed up my orders a little bit now.  During our last visit, I tried their Veggie Mushroom Burger which was delicious as always, but you have to ask for no mushrooms since they are sauteed in butter.  It’s worth noting too that even though it is a southern comfort food restaurant, they have made an effort to accommodate vegetarians/vegans as well as those that follow a gluten free diet.  Their menu is clearly labeled which items are vegetarian and the staff is well versed in what items have hidden non-vegan items like butter, milk, and eggs.

Fast forward a few years and I see food a little differently now.  When I dine out for a meal, I think “Can I make that vegan?” when reading through the non-vegan portions of the menu.  My husband and I will toss around ideas while waiting on our order.  This is where some of my inspiration comes when planning my blog posts as well.  When I was planning out my meals for this week, I was craving this dish and knew instantly that I could easily make this vegan.  Check out my easy and quick version below!

Vegan Buffalo Chicken & Grits

1 pack of Gardein Seven Grain Crispy Tenders

1 cup of Grits

4 cups of water

Salt & Pepper to taste

Vegan Butter to taste (I used Earth Balance)

Optional – Vegan Cheese will add a creaminess to the grits.  I recommend Follow Your Heart Parmesan.  For this recipe, I only seasoned them with salt, pepper and vegan butter.

 

Buffalo Sauce:

1 cup of your favorite hot sauce (I used Frank’s Red Hot)

1 tablespoon of Vegan Butter (I used Earth Balance)

 

 

  1. Bake the Gardein Seven Grain Crispy Tenders per the instructions on the package.  I baked mine a few minutes longer than the package instructions.  This really paid off because the chicken stayed crispy after it was tossed in the buffalo sauce.
  2. While they are baking, you can get started with the grits and buffalo sauce.  I used stone ground yellow grits in this recipe, but you could use polenta or even instant grits.  I used 1 cup of grits and 4 cups of water which makes about 6 servings.  Adjust your ratio based on how many servings you need.  I’ll be having the leftovers for lunch and grits are never wasted in my house.  Again, depending on what type of grits you are having, this will affect your cooking times.  After they are done, I like to add some vegan butter for a more creamy consistency and salt & pepper to taste.  For the buffalo sauce, melt the tablespoon of vegan butter in a saucepan with a cup of your favorite hot sauce (Only Frank’s Red Hot will do in our house!).  Simmer to make sure the butter is well combined and transfer to a bowl to toss the chicken.
  3. Once the chicken is done cooking, simply toss the chicken in the buffalo sauce and assemble your plate.  To kick it up a notch, you could drizzle a little bit of vegan Ranch dressing on top to cool down the heat.  Enjoy!

Bye y’all!

Is it seriously almost June?!

In 2016, my little family took a chance for a better life that we had been striving for in the city for so many years with no luck.  I left my job of over five years and we moved into a 600 square feet cabin that challenged us in many ways.  As our lease was coming up for renewal, we were struggling finding something affordable to rent with still one income.  After months of searching and interviewing, I was offered a job in my hometown that I started the day after our house closed.  All of our dreams were realized within a short 30 days.  With the help of our family, we were able to move into our dream home in March.
Since then, I have been focused on learning my new job and loving being back home only a few miles from my family’s farm where I was raised.  In addition to all those life changes, there have been holidays, birthdays, baseball games, concerts and home improvement projects that have kept us busier than ever!  With all that said, I am back to doing what I love – blogging!

Just to share a little bit of our lives with you, here’s what we’ve been up to so far in 2017.

Our forever home tucked down a back road
Almost front row at Jason Isbell in Charlottesville, VA      (I’ve lost count how many times we’ve attended his concerts)
My husband and I at Carolina Rebellion in Charlotte, NC.
Before: The original fire pit at the new house.
After: Brodie enjoying his new fire pit thanks to the help of my Grandpa! We completed this project on Memorial Day 2017.

Now, let’s talk about something I was so excited to learn recently.  Girl Scout cookies are vegan!  I know you’ve seen the troops sitting outside every Wal-Mart or local grocery store in your town.  There is a catch though – you have to check to make sure your local troops get their cookies from ABC Bakers.  The list includes my family’s favorites and more!

Pictured left to right are Peanut Butter Patties (non-vegan name is Tagalongs), Thanks-A-Lot (an exclusive ABC Bakers cookie),  Girl Scout S’mores (non-vegan version has the same name but it shaped like a sandwich cookie), Lemonades (non-vegan version is Savannah Smiles), and Thin Mints.  Thin Mints are actually the only Girl Scout cookie that is vegan when made by ABC Bakers or Little Brownie Bakers.  If your local troop is unsure what bakery supplies their product, you can always email their corporate office to find your closest troop.

Bye y’all!

Welcome to 2017!

brodie-snow-2016The holidays are over.  The tree has been removed.  The lights have been packed away until next December.  As you can see by the photo, we’ve even had a decent snow storm.  Brodie loves watching and playing in the snow as long as it’s not taller than him.  The magic is over and we have to transition back to reality.

In our small little world, 2017 has already started off with a bang!  My husband and I have new jobs and we are closing on a new house.  We are absolutely thrilled with the idea of having our little slice of heaven tucked in the woods down a dirt road.  We are looking forward to sipping our coffee on the front porch in the mornings and drinking a beer at the fire pit with friends on the weekend.

chex-watermarkOver the holidays, I made one of my husband’s favorite treats – homemade Chex Mix.  His Mom made it every year and it was always a huge hit for the entire family.  It took me awhile to find some vegan Worcestershire sauce, but I finally found some!  In fact, I actually found 2 varieties!  I was very excited to find this baking staple as I also use in my favorite gravy recipe.  Follow my tweaked version of the traditional recipe for a tasty, vegan snack.

 

Homemade Vegan Chex Mix

6 Tbsp of vegan butter (I used Earth Balance)

6 Tbsp of vegan Worcestershire sauce

2 Tsp of seasoned saltchex-mix-watermark

2 Tsp of garlic powder

2 Tsp of onion powder

3 cups of corn Chex

3 cups of wheat Chex

3 cups of rice Chex

2 cups of dry roasted and lightly salted peanuts

1 cup of sesame sticks

  1. Preheat your oven to 250 degrees.
  2. In a saucepan, melt the vegan butter.  Whisk in all of the seasonings once the butter has melted.
  3. Combine all other ingredients in a large roasting pan.  I find it easiest to just purchase one of those throw away pans from the dollar store.
  4. Pour butter and seasonings all over the cereal mix and combine.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes then stir.  Repeat this process for an hour making sure to stir every 15 minutes.

Bye y’all!

Santa wants vegan treats this year!

It’s that time of year – baking season is here in full swing!  Many of my favorite memories as a child were held in the kitchen of my Grammy’s home.  The smells, the fun and the occasional mess were all a part of the creative process.  This year I took on the challenge of “veganizing” some of my family’s favorite holiday treats and not surprisingly – they came out fantastic!  Hope you enjoy these vegan versions!

Gingersnaps

Ingredients:

2 cups of all purpose flouruntitled6-watermark

1/2 cup of sugar

2 tbsp of ginger powder

1/4 cup of water

1/4 cup of molasses

1/3 cup of vegan butter (I used Earth Balance)

3/4 tsp of salt

1/2 tsp of cinnamon

1 tsp of vanilla extract

1/2 tsp of baking soda

2 tsp of baking powder

  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Sift the flour, sugar, ginger powder, cinnamon, salt, baking soda and baking powder into a large mixing bowl.
  3. Melt the vegan butter on the stove top.  Once melted, add the molasses, vanilla extract and water and mix thoroughly.
  4. Combine the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients and mix until the dough becomes a ball.  If it seems too dry, add more water 1 tablespoon at a time until all the dry ingredients are incorporated.
  5. Use an ice cream scoop to portion out the dough and roll into even balls with your hands.  Roll them in white sugar and place on a baking sheet.
  6. Bake for 8-10 minutes.  Cookies will be soft the day of and will become crisper as they cool.

Sea Salt Chocolate Fudge

Ingredients:untitled-watermark

2/3 cup of coconut milk

2 tbsp of coconut oil

12 oz. semi sweet vegan chocolate chips

1 tsp of vanilla extract

  1. Line your storage vessel with parchment paper.  I used a glass baking dish.
  2. In a medium sized pot, melt the coconut milk and simmer for a few minutes.  Remember to keep stirring to avoid burning.
  3. After the coconut milk is melted, add the coconut oil and stir until melted.
  4. Add the vegan chocolate and stir until completed melted and well combined.  *I used Wegman’s brand semi sweet chocolate chips.  They are actually vegan, labeled as such and very affordable.
  5. Pour the mixture into your parchment lined dish.  Top with sea salt and let cool.  I found that it really needs 24 hours in order to cut into squares.

Peanut Butter Fudge

Ingredients:untitled4-watermark

3/4 cup vegan butter

1 cup extra crunchy peanut butter

3 2/3 cup powdered sugar

  1. Lightly grease an 8 X 8 baking dish.
  2. In a medium sized pot, melt the vegan butter.  Once the butter is fully melted, add the peanut butter until it is well combined.
  3. Remove from the heat and add the powdered sugar about 1/3 at a time until fully combined.
  4. Place in the baking dish and let cool for at least 3 hours before cutting into squares.

Bye y’all!

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