December 30, 2011

Vegan Heartland's 1-year Anniversary!


I can't believe it's been 1 year already since I started this blog. It still feels like yesterday when I got the idea to share my ideas and recipes with more than just my friends and family. I felt I was doing something special - and I wanted to help other people by sharing delicious and easy recipes. I hope I've helped all of you in some way this past year whether it be by sharing important animal rights information, letting you know about a new Vegan product, or helping you find that special recipe you could make for your friends and family. The first recipe I knew I had to share with the world was posted on 12/26/11 and it was a recipe for...



I love those cinnamon rolls. I made them for Christmas morning last year - and made them again this year, but with some pumpkin butter and pecans in the middle. Delicious! Some of your (and some of my) other favorite posts this year have been my Pumpkin Spice Cake, Apple Crisp Cheesecake, Raw Strawberry Ice Cream, and my Peanut Butter "Cup"cakes. My Pumpkin Spice Cake is the #1 recipe here on Vegan Heartland with over 5,000 page views! If you haven't tried it - you must! It's so, so good!

I've learned a lot about myself this past year. I've always known that I'm a hard worker, but I've never had so much on my plate at once. I guess I would rather feel like I'm accomplishing something while having a TON to do than doing nothing at all and being stagnant. I still feel like I have SO much left to accomplish, but 2011 was an amazing year for me. I've gotten the chance to know some really amazing people through this site that I would have never gotten the opportunity to know otherwise. I've been fortunate enough to be able to talk to some of my amazing readers, other bloggers, reps from some AMAZING Vegan companies, Facebook Fans, and Twitter Followers. I love being able to chat with all of you!

I've hit so many milestones this past year with Vegan Heartland - it feels like it's been two years! I hit not only 1,000 fans on Facebook, but Vegan Heartland now has over 2,000 fans (and counting...). I love chatting with all of my over 700 Twitter followers and hopefully I've been able to answer any questions you've had. I can't wait until I hit that 1,000 Twitter followers milestone! I'm so honored you've chosen my blog to read and took the time to "like" me on Facebook or "follow" me on Twitter.

Another HUGE milestone that was hit this year just happened a couple of days ago. This December - I saw the most traffic in one month than I've ever had on Vegan Heartland. In December, Vegan Heartland had over 20,000 page views! I only have you guys to thank for that. Part of the reason I work so hard is knowing that I'm helping people and animals live a happier and healthier life. So thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for supporting me and Vegan Heartland every day. You all mean the world to me!

Lastly, I want to let you all know how important you are. You're changing the world by refusing to accept the way things are - the thing that we all have in common is that we found ourselves knowing something was wrong. Animals deserve so much more respect, love, and compassion than the Human race gives them. So we decided to do something about it. I believe that something so simple as switching to a Vegetarian or Vegan diet truly changes the world. By switching to a vegetarian diet, you save more than 100 animals a year from misery. So thank you.

Bring it on 2012. I'm ready for you! There's so many possibilities that come with a new year. I can't wait to see where this one takes me. So here's to possibilities - and to you! Happy New Year!

December 27, 2011

5-Minute Vanilla Mug Cake


Finally my 5-Minute Chocolate Cake has a friend! Introducing....the 5-Minute Vanilla Cake in a mug! This is such a great dessert for those who don't have the time and patience to whip up a full-size cake. Or for those who (like me), sometimes don't want a whole cake sitting on their counter. I just don't have the will power to resist a whole cake. Luckily - I can indulge every once and a while on this scrumptious vanilla cake whenever that craving hits!

I hope everyone had an amazing Christmas/Holiday this year. Mine was great! I got some really great presents - including an Immersion blender! Expect some delicious soups and dressings in the future! Keeva loved the presents she got. I'll share some of the photos from my Family's Christmas morning in a new post tomorrow!

*Adapted from this Non-Vegan recipe*

Ingredients:

  • 6 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 4 tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp apple sauce
  • 1/4 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tbsp non-dairy milk (I used So Delicious Unsweetened Coconut Milk)
  • 2 tbsp melted Earth Balance Spread (or your favorite margarine)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and cinnamon directly in your mug. Add in the applesauce, vinegar, non-dairy milk, Earth Balance, and vanilla. Stir until the dry and wet well combined.

Microwave on HIGH  for 3 minutes. I like to let mine cool for a couple of minutes before eating!

December 24, 2011

Christmas Cut-Out Sugar Cookies


Just in time for Christmas - my family's recipe for Christmas Cut-Out Sugar Cookies! I'm sorry I didn't get this recipe up sooner, but I've been so busy with all of my Holiday shopping, baking, and parties I've gone to. I got all of my presents wrapped last night and now they're sitting underneath the tree. I can't wait to give Keeva her presents tomorrow! I know she's going to love them! I'll be posting pictures of Christmas morning over on my Facebook page. Be sure to check those out!

Does anybody else feel that all bets are off when Christmas time rolls around? I tend to not eat anything with artificial colors or flavors during the rest of the year, but when it comes time to make Christmas cookies - I find myself reaching for the food coloring and neon red and green sprinkles. I guess I'm allowed to indulge once and a while, right?

These cookies are scrumptious. The dough rolls perfectly after being chilled for a little bit. When they bake up - they're perfectly browned at the edges. Not too soft or crunchy! They're just right! Plus, they're really fun to make with your kids - especially if they're a treat for Santa! I used Pillsbury's new Easy Frost Vanilla Dream Frosting. It comes in a can with a piping tip attached! It's perfect for decorating cookies, cakes, and cupcakes! It does have artificial ingredients in it - so if that's not your thing - try topping the cookies with my delicious Buttercream Frosting!

Happy Holidays everybody!

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup shortening
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 4 tsp non-dairy milk (I used So Delicious Unsweetened Coconut Milk)
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Frosting and Sprinkles for decoration

Thoroughly cream the shortening, white sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla. Add in the applesauce and beat until light and fluffy. Stir in the non-dairy milk.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Blend in with the creamed mixture. 

Chill the dough for 1 hour. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. After the dough has been chilled, roll out on a floured surface and cut into your favorite holiday shapes. Place the shapes on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.

Bake at 375 degrees F for 6-8 minutes until the edges become golden brown. Top with frosting and sprinkles. They're even delicious without the decorations!

December 21, 2011

Coconut Milk Whipped Cream


I hope everyone is surviving these pre-holiday shopping days! 4 more days until Christmas and I'm not even done buying all of my gifts yet! Luckily I have a three day weekend - so hopefully I can get everything done! Does anyone spoil their pets as much as I do? My Mom, my Dad, my sister, my brother, pretty much everyone else I bought presents for - get 1 thing. Keeva - gets 4 presents. I can't help myself sometimes! Every time I've been out shopping for Christmas presents this year when I see something cute for her, I have to get it! I'll have to share Christmas morning pictures with you guys! I always get some good ones of Keeva opening her presents! Anyways - let's get to the recipe!

Keeva last Christmas enjoying one of her Christmas presents -  Yummy Treats!

I figured out I could make whipped cream out of coconut milk about a year ago. I had used some coconut milk in a recipe and refrigerated the leftovers. When I went to use the next day, I found out that it had thickened and became the consistency of whipped cream! So I've been doing it this way ever since! I made it this year for Thanksgiving and brought it over to my Grandparent's house. My Mom and Grandpa both tried and said they loved it! My Mom even preferred it over the Cool Whip she had on top of her Pumpkin Pie! It's so simple and easy - you'll have no trouble at all making your own homemade coconut milk whipped cream!

P.S. - Sorry about the crappy picture of the whipped cream! I'm making some again tomorrow and I promise I'll take another one that's way prettier!

Ingredients:
  • 2 cans of 14oz FULL FAT Coconut Milk 
  • 1/4-1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Refrigerate the two cans of coconut milk overnight. When you're ready to make the whipped cream - remove from the refrigerator carefully. Don't shake the can. Refrigerating the coconut milk separates the thick, creamy party from the liquid. Open the can and scoop out the thick layer on top into a bowl - leaving the watery liquid behind.

Whip on high for about 5 minutes, incorporating as much air as possible into the whipped cream. Add in the powdered sugar and vanilla extract. Whip for 1-2 minutes. Refrigerate until ready to use.

December 19, 2011

Mobile App Review: Serve by American Express + a chance to win $100!


I was chosen by Foodbuzz, the company that does the advertising on my site, to try out this really great app called Serve by American Express. Serve was born out of the idea that it should be easier for people to pay people. Whether you're splitting a lunch bill, placing an order with a small business, or paying the babysitter, you may be stuck using cash or other high-fee, less secure payment methods. They decided to take the cash and cards in your wallet and make them virtual! So it was my job to go out to eat with a group of family or friends and use Serve as our way of splitting the bill. My Mom, Sister, and I decided it was also a really great opportunity to check out a really great, local, Vegan restaurant here in Minnesota. We decided to head on over to Pizza Luce in St. Paul for our dinner - armed with our smart phones that had been installed with Serve!


Pizza Luce offers delicious options for vegans and non-vegans alike - so it was the perfect destination for my  me and my family! I wish I would have taken a picture of the menu for you guys, but I was too distracted by all the yummy descriptions on the menu. I'm not used to going out to eat and having so many options! They offer Vegan appetizers, salads, hoagies, pizzas, pasta, and even desserts! I ended up getting the garlic cheese toast for my appetizer - and it was delicious! Is it weird that I knew which Vegan cheese they were using just by the smell? I knew it was Daiya right away - and that my friends, is a good thing.



For my entree, I decided on the "Pizza Athena". It was SO GOOD. Here's the description from the menu: "You don’t need to consult some internet oracle to know this little goddess has fresh spinach, tomato, , Kalamata olives, artichoke hearts, red onions, Greek oregano and toasted garlic with light mozzarella on Bianca sauce." It was all of that deliciousness - topped with ooey gooey Daiya Mozzarella! I was in Vegan heaven guys. And not only was the food good, the service was amazing! I totally recommend it if you're ever in the St. Paul/Minneapolis area.


So after the meal was over, it was time to split the bill! We all whipped out our smart phones and brought up our Serve accounts. I tried to take a good picture of the Home Page for you - but it was a little dark in the room! To send money all you need to do is log into your serve account, choose the "send money" option, type in the person's e-mail or mobile phone number, enter the amount of money you want to send, and click "send"! It really is that simple! I instantly received the money from my Mom and Sister - so there was no waiting around figuring out how to pay the bill and who was going to pay for what. One of my favorite parts of Serve is that it even has a Pizza Party calculator. You type in the total of the bill, the number of slices of pizza, and the number of people in the party - and it calculates how much everyone should pay! Serve really makes dining out so much easier! If you and your friends all have smart phones - I HIGHLY recommend it.


One of my favorite parts of reviewing this product is that as an added bonus, you guys can comment on this post for a chance to win a $100 credit in your own Serve account!* Even if you don't win the $100 - they give you $10 just for singing up! Here's the contest info:


As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program, I received a $250 stipend to try Serve from American Express. Sign up for Serve and receive $10 credit towards your first use.  Comment below within the next 7 days for your chance to win an extra $100 credit to your account! Official sweepstakes rules and regulations may be found here: http://www.foodbuzz.com/blogs/4622317-win-serve-dollars-giveaway-official-rules

Good luck everyone!!

**NO PURCHASE NECESSARY.  Legal residents of the 50 United States (D.C.) 18 years or older.  Ends 12/27/11.  To enter and for Official Rules, including odds and prize descriptions, see Official Rules 

December 18, 2011

Black Bean and Rice Enchiladas


I hope everyone is having a great Holiday season so far! I've been so busy with work, baking, cooking, exercising (Yep - still doing P90X), keeping up with Keeva, and keeping up with the blog! I love staying busy though! It's much better than the alternative right? I can't stand being bored!

If you've been following me over on Facebook then you know that I made some delicious bars for a family Christmas party last night. The good news is that everyone loved them. Some even went back for seconds! The problem is that everyone ate them so fast I didn't get a chance to take a picture! So I'm going to bake up another batch tonight and take a picture for you all tomorrow! Meanwhile - I thought I'd share with you one of the meals that I've been having in my P90X meal rotation.

I used to hate Mexican food when I was younger. Well, honestly, I really didn't eat anything other than hot dogs, macaroni and cheese, and grilled cheese. It's a miracle that I survived childhood. But seriously, I was a really picky eater. Luckily as I grew older and eventually became a vegetarian, my taste buds evolved and my meal possibilities expanded! I grew to love Mexican foods (among other foods...) and these enchiladas are one of my favorite meals! I sometimes will have leftover beans and rice, but I just refrigerate them and save them for my next enchilada! Next time, for an extra protein boost, I'm going to try adding seitan! I'll let you guys know how it goes!

Ingredients:
  • 6 whole wheat or corn tortillas
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 1 cup cooked or canned black beans
  • 3/4 cup corn
  • 3/4 cup canned fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 of a medium onion - finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove - minced
  • 1 bottle/can of enchilada sauce (I used Frontera's classic enchilada sauce)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium bowl combine the rice, black beans, corn, diced tomatoes, onion, and garlic. Mix together until well combined. Pour in a little bit of the enchilada sauce and mix with the grains and vegetables until moistened.

Pour some of the enchilada sauce into the bottom of your baking dish until the bottoms is covered. Measure 1/4-1/2 cup of the mixture into each tortilla and roll up. Repeat until all of the enchiladas are filled. Place the filled tortillas in the baking dish and cover with the rest of the enchilada sauce. Sprinkle with some Daiya cheddar or pepper jack if desired!

Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes until the cheese is melted and the enchiladas are heated through.

December 10, 2011

5-Minute Chocolate Mug Cake

Seen here drizzled with almond butter!

I have stumbled upon the Holy Grail of desserts. Don't have time to mix and bake a huge chocolate cake? Make a 5-minute cake! Single and don't want an entire cake sitting around your kitchen just waiting to be eaten? Make a 5-Minute, Single Serving cake! The best thing about this dessert for me is not having a bunch of bowls to clean up at the end. One bowl for the dry ingredients, one bowl for the wet ingredients, measuring spoons and cups, spoons and spatulas from mixing, and let's not forget we still have to wash that cake pan once the cake is gone! All of that goes away with the 5-minute cake! When I saw the original recipe here, I knew I had to adapt it to make it Vegan! All you need is a couple of measuring spoons and a mug! It's as simple as that.

I know a lot of people these days are super busy, but still want that home baked taste of a fresh chocolate cake. It may seem a little strange to use a microwave, but I promise you it tastes fresh out of the oven! I can't wait to expirement with different flavors too. Expect a 5-Minute Vanilla Cake in the near future!

Ingredients:

  • 4 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 4 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 3 tbsp applesauce
  • 1/8 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tbsp non-dairy milk (I used So Delicious Unsweetened Coconut Milk)
  • 1/8 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp chocolate chips

Mix together the flour, sugar, cocoa, and baking powder in a large mug. Once the dry ingredients are mixed add in the applesauce, vinegar, and non-dairy milk. Mix together the dry and wet ingredients - then stir in the chocolate chips. Microwave on High for 3 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before eating!

December 5, 2011

Peanut Butter Blossom Cookies


Another day, another cookie. I think if I was forced to choose my favorite Holiday cookie - these would be it. I don't think it's a secret that I have a love for all things peanut butter and chocolate (see here, here, here, and here...), so when I was deciding on my list of cookies to make for my Christmas Cookie Party - these were on the top of the list! These were always a childhood favorite of mine. Every Christmas when I would go over to my Grandparents house, the air would be filled with freshly baked Christmas cookies and I knew I could always find a plate of my Grandma's Peanut Butter Blossoms.

When I went Vegan though, my days of eating Peanut Butter Blossoms were done. Or so I thought! When I was chosen by Foodbuzz to throw a Christmas Cookie Party - I went digging through my Grandma's recipes and stumbled upon this childhood favorite. I knew I couldn't use Hershey's kisses - so I had to improvise. It may look and sound a little daunting to make your own chocolate kisses, but it's actually really simple! If you're a peanut butter and chocoholic like me - you're gonna love this cookie!

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter (I used Earth Balance Creamy Peanut Butter)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/8 cup applesauce
  • 1 tbsp non-dairy milk (I used So Delicious Unsweetened Coconut Milk)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • a small bowl of sugar to roll the dough in

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Cream together the shortening, peanut butter, brown sugar, sugar and applesauce. Add non-dairy milk and vanilla and beat well.

Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. Add to the wet ingredients. Beat on low speed until well combined.

Shape the dough into 1-inch balls and then roll in the small bowl of sugar. Place 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. I used parchment paper on my cookies sheets to ensure that they didn't stick. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and immediately top with your homemade chocolate kisses. Cool on wire racks before serving.

I made my chocolate kisses by using one of my favorite kitchen tools - my dessert decorator. It's basically just a fancy tool I use instead of using a piping bag. I usually use it to frost my cakes and cupcakes, but it works really well here. Just fill with melted chocolate and pipe your kisses onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Be sure to give your kisses that classic swirl on the top (or at least try like I did!). Refrigerate while the cookies are baking to ensure they set well.

This recipe also makes a really delicious plain peanut butter cookie. Just make the balls of dough a little bit larger and press down on them slightly before baking. Follow the rest of the directions exactly.

And the Winners of the So Delicious Giveaway Are....



Congratulations ladies! To claim your prize, email your name and address to matthew@vegan-heartland.com. You have 2 weeks to claim your prize. If the package is not claimed after two weeks, I'll choose another winner using random.org!

Thanks to So Delicious and all of you guys for making this another fun giveaway! I'm hoping to do another giveaway really soon around Christmas time - so watch out for that one!

December 1, 2011

Peanut Butter Reindeer Cookies


Happy December everyone! Can you believe it's almost 2012 already - and Christmas is right around the corner?! I had some of my friends and family over to my house for a Christmas cookie party where I served a few of my favorite Holiday goodies! If you missed the post (that includes a recipe for my Great Grandma's Melt-In-Your-Mouth Sugar Cookies!) you can read it here! I have to admit this wasn't my idea! I saw a picture of these little guys on pinterest and I knew instantly I had to make them!

They loved all the cookies I made, but this one was hands down one of the favorites! It takes a little time and effort, but it's worth it! Your friends and family will love these cookies and will see the love in all the little details!

*Makes 18-24 cookies (depending on the size you make them)*

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter (I used Earth Balance Peanut Butter)
  • 1 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 3 tbsp non-dairy milk (I used So Delicious Unsweetened Coconut Milk)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt

  • Chocolate Covered Pretzels (directions below)
  • Chocolate Chips (for the eyes)
  • Red Sprinkles (for the nose)

Making Chocolate Covered Pretzels

Set up a double boiler on your stove-top by filling a large pot with water and setting a glass bowl on top. Turn your burner onto medium-high and pour a 11.5 oz bag of chocolate chips into the glass bowl. Stir consistently until the steam from the boiling water melts the chocolate.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and spray the parchment paper with cooking oil. Throw a few small or mini pretzels into the melted chocolate and cover them with the chocolate. Lift them out with a fork and gently tap them on the side of the glass bowl (over the chocolate...) to shake of the excess chocolate. Place them on the parchment paper to cool. Once you've done all of the pretzels you'll need (you'll need about 48...if you have extra they make a yummy snack!) place the cookie sheet in the refrigerator to cool completely.

To make the nose - I used my really cool dessert decorator to pipe out small little balls of melted chocolate (use the same chocolate you used for the pretzels) onto a parchment greased, parchment paper lined cookie sheet. You could easily do the same thing with a small 1/4 tsp. Once you've created enough chocolate noses, shake some red sugar sprinkles on top to make that classic Rudolph nose! Place the cookie sheet in the refrigerator to cool completely.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.

Beat peanut butter, brown sugar, shortening, non-dairy milk, vanilla, and applesauce in large bowl. Beat at medium speed until well blended.

In a separate, medium sized bowl combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to wet ingredients at low speed. Mix until the dough is just blended.

Form the dough into one inch balls. To make reindeer-shaped cookies, pinch the bottom of the ball slightly to form a small point, then gently flatten with your hand. Space cookies about 2 inches apart on a greased or parchment paper lined cookie sheet and bake for 7 to 8 minutes until the cookies begin to brown. 

Remove from the oven and immediately (and gently) press two chocolate-covered pretzels into the tops of the cookies for the reindeer's antlers. Press two chocolate chips upside down (pointy top going inwards so the flat part of the chocolate chip is showing) in for the eyes and one chocolate oval that you've made for the nose!

Allow to cool for 2 minutes before picking up or serving!