You read that right. Pumpkin. Chocolate Chip. Cream Cheese. Muffins. AND VEGAN. These muffins are so damn good. I came up with the recipe after craving some muffins I made around this time last year but wanted to find a way to add in some vegan cream cheese.
Some tips for the ingredients: The cream cheese I used can be found at Trader Joe's (grocery store gods). The vegan chocolate chips were found at my local grocery store in Tulsa but I imagine you can find a version at Sprouts and Wholefoods too.
Let's get to the dirty of it.
Makes 20 muffins.
1 3/4 cup of flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp clove
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 15oz can of pumpkin
1/2 cup of oat milk (or another non-dairy milk)
1/4 cup of oil (I used vegetable)
1/2 tub of vegan cream cheese (descriptive lol)
1 bag of vegan chocolate chips.
*Note: Unless fresh, these muffins taste best reheated. Zap them in the microwave for 30 seconds for gooey cream cheese and chocolate chips.
I'm trying really hard not to be the meme about the bloggers who have life stories before their recipes. You're welcome.
Cheap. Easy. Vegan. What more can you want?
When I checked the weather this week and saw cooler temperatures (well cool for September in Oklahoma), I immediately knew I needed to make a batch of vegan chili for this Rainy Tuesday.
Truly, this meal is incredibly simple to make and protein-packed (peep my blog post about vegans and our protein). Although I tend to just throw in different things to my vegan chili, this is one of my simple and easy recipes!
Prep time: 5 min Cook time: 40 min Total time: 45 min
1 cup of dried lentils
4 cups of water
I 15oz can of black beans
1 15oz can of kidney beans
1 28 oz can of diced tomatoes
2 tbsp of chili powder
Add the water and the lentil to a pot and bring to a boil. After it has boiled bring the heat down and let it simmer for 20 minutes.
Next, drain both cans of beans and toss them in. Add in the diced tomatoes and chili powder. Stir together. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes.
Serve in a bowl with some corn chips and vegan cheese or sour cream. BAMB. That short and easy! No chopping, barely any prep. Perfect when you want a hearty meal but are too tired to make anything that requires much effort.
Another bonus: this tiny powerhouse dish contains 27g of protein per serving! Vegans can eat!
he beginning of the school year can be unbelievable hard for teachers. and really, there is not much balance in any field of work nowadays. Americans are overworked, underpaid, and exhausted. Our society has built us to believe to achieve the American Dream we must work our asses off. For many people, they never achieve this "dream" and stay exhausted until they retire or die. That is incredibly morbid, but it's the truth of the system. Everything in our lives centers around work; what we do in the evenings and on weekends; how early we wake up; what we have for dinner (if work is tiring and we are too tired then it's take-out).
And frankly. I'm pretty tired of being tired. I want to enjoy my work but enjoy and actually live my life too. And some of you may be feeling this way too. Our lack of work-life balance creates crippling anxiety and depression. We can't quit our jobs because we need money. But what can we do with our jobs to make them slightly better and more manageable? That is my goal!
If you work in a high-stress job like me, you likely end up working longer hours than you are paid and take work home. So stop. When your paid time it up, or at least close to it, then stop. In some countries, like Germany, teachers are legally not allowed to work outside of their contract hours. Can you imagine how amazing that would be? After learning this, I've tried to take baby steps to get closer to this goal. Of course, I am not perfect. I work and extra hour here and there. I respond to texts from my parents or my boss in the evenings. But I have tried to put in a system that helps me be more productive during the day so I have less to do in the evenings and weekends. Being an avid adventurer, a grad student, a book club member, AND a teacher means I have to stay super organized.
1. Create a daily to-do list. Simple, but incredibly effective. It's so satisfying to mark things off the list. If you find this to be too much, then chances are you are overwhelmed and need a mental break to even think. This is where I say step away from your work. Even if it's just a brisk walk to the other side of the school, down the street, anything. Your brain needs to check out from what you are doing in moments like that when you are too stressed to think. When you come back, even if it was just for 5 minutes, you will be able to think more clearly. Chances are if your stress levels are that high, you will not be able to be productive even with the work you are currently doing. So take that quick brain break and get back to work. TRUST ME. I've been there, and this works wonders for me.
2. Take a break. Get up and stretch. Go for a walk. When you are stressed it is hard to think clearly and be productive. A little jaunt down the street could make your mind feel at ease and ready to take on the next task.
3. DRINK WATER. This is hard to do when you are in the zone but you have to literally to live. When I am tired and sluggish, I realize it's always when I am dehydrated.
4. Don't overdo it on the coffee. Yes, it might help at the moment, but there is always a crash afterward. Opt for a cup a day and add in some tea instead of some lighter caffeine.
5. Practice mindfulness. I am finding myself depending on a lot of breathing exercises throughout the day to help keep my mind clear and focused. Often I get frustrated, and my mind gets jumping. Breathing exercises are helping me to set my intentions.
6. Stop working when your shift is up. I'm serious. Close your computer and enjoy your life. Work is not the end all be all. It feels like it a lot (especially as a teacher when so many depend on you) but just stops working. Don't be afraid to tell a coworker, boss, or stakeholder (like a parent for teacher) that you will get to it in the morning. We are all human and we all need rest.
I hope some of these tips help you to set boundaries and take care of yourself. Enjoy those evenings and weekends. And work productively but don't overwork yourself!
This is probably the most common question I get when talking about my veganism with people. They will often ask "Where do you get your protein from?" or "How do you get enough protein in the day without eating meat?" And truly, it isn't that hard. As a disclaimer, this is my personal experience and not the opinion of licensed doctors. If you are having protein deficiency or are just interested in learning more about veganism, here are some tips. Absolutely consult your doctor if you are having serious issues because it might not be protein but vitamin deficiency!
There is a protein in every plant. Some have more than others, but it's always present. When I first went vegan, I focused on my calorie intake (yes, I counted calories but not for THAT reason). I used an app to log how much protein, fat, and carbohydrates I was getting. At first, I focused a lot on protein but we can't ignore carbohydrates and fats. That's where we get our energy from. Many people think eating lots of fatty foods is bad, and over-indulgence can be. But healthy fats are really good and boost your energy. Fat is basically stored energy. That's why diet culture has you cut down on fat because it will stop storing in your body. Or diet culture tells you to work out a lot because when you use up the energy from the carbohydrates in your body it will start taking energy from fat (aka using up the fat). I don't hate eating fats and carbohydrates because I know my body needs them and I like having energy!
Back to protein, a lot of people do not make the jump to go plant-based because they are worried about getting enough protein. I am not here to guilt anyone into becoming vegan but rather break it down for you!
An important thing to note with veganism - it does require you to eat higher quantities and this is something people do not always think of when they are transitioning. That's where the shakiness may come in; your body is telling you it needs more food. Sometimes that's protein and sometimes its carbohydrates. Fruits and vegetables are known for being low-carb (YAY!) but this also means in order to get your daily amounts of carbs to stay healthy, you simply need to eat more.
When I first went vegan, I looked for protein in the form of smoothies and plant-based meats. And it really was helpful. It helped me to kind of gage how much I needed to eat during the day. Smoothies are a lifesaver because you can get in a lot of healthy carbs and protein quickly. Your body views it as less food because it's liquid so you can have more quantity. Another important factor is how much protein your body needs because everyone's body is different! Your daily protein grams will be affected by how active you are and if you are trying to build muscle. For example, I try to get around 64g of protein a day. This works with how much I weigh and how active I am. There are different formulas you can plug in to find your daily protein goal or you can consult your doctor.
Here are some high protein foods you can incorporate for a vegan diet:
So to meet my daily protein needs, I'll break it down for you a bit meal-by-meal.
Breakfast: smoothie (pea protein, soy milk, blackberries, raspberries). Protein total: 29.75. With that, I am almost halfway to my daily protein goal!
Lunch: quinoa bowl (quinoa, mushrooms (2.2g/cup), butternut squash (1.4g/cup)). Protein total: 9.3 (for the servings I would eat).
Dinner: lentil loaf, potatoes with nutritional yeast, and asparagus. Using the items in this list for a meal you can easily up your protein intake! Total meal protein: 19.5. This is without me adding in the other proteins in lentil loaf (solely just the lentils so anticipate this being higher with an actual lentil loaf recipe).
Snacks: edamame (17g), a BIG spoonful of peanut butter (8g). These are small amounts of snacks but still with a protein total of 25g.
Eating these meals would give me a daily total of 83.55g. This is WELL over my daily protein goal and must of it was from foods you probably already eat too. Being vegan certainly has its challenges but it is easier than many people think!
And I do not eat these foods every single day but I do find ways to get my protein from them some days and eat other foods not on this list too!
Keep in mind, this is without fully diving into nuts and seeds (and their amazing amount of protein and fat). I hope this is helpful for anyone trying to go plant-based or even just eating more meatless meals!
When traveling, eating vegan can always be a bit of a struggle. For example, if you are flying and get an airplane meal but forget to mark that you are vegan when you check in, you are basically SOL.
However, London is a very vegan-friendly city and had many options during my 2.5 days stay. I'll walk you through everything I ate, where I ate, and how delicious it was to prepare you for your next trip to London!
Day 1: After exploring some of the sights in London I was starving and dying to check out the McDonald's vegan scene. Although McDonald's in the US has... well nothing really, McDonald's in the UK has plenty of vegan options. I got the vegetable deluxe sandwich and LOVED it. I ate it on the floor of the subway because that was my level of exhaustion.
For dinner, I treated myself to a delicious meal at the French restaurant Le Pain Quotidien on my way to see Wicked at the Apollo Victoria Theatre. The meal was French Onion Soup, sourdough bread and vegan yogurt, and potatoes. Add a glass of Merlot and tell me I have not been craving this meal since I left. I plan to stop here again (I loved this location in Victoria) when I am in London next!
Day 2: I grabbed a small breakfast at my hotel then headed out for another day of exploring. My mid-day stop was Covent Garden so I began searching for a vegan restaurant nearby. I was looking for a different restaurant but stumbled upon Cold & Press'd by PLNT instead. This cafe is small (I was looking for by. CHLOE but this cafe just looked too heavenly to not go inside). I had a matcha latte and vegan BLT. I loved getting to chat with the owner who was American too!
For dinner, I tried to head to a pub to have a vegan Sunday Roast, did not understand how pubs worked, walked right back out, and found a cute restaurant on the street corner a few blocks from my hotel in Pimlico. Uno, an italian restaurant, had quiet music playing and an excellent wine selection. It would have been a great date night had a not turned down an evening with my German coffee date from earlier in the day. I opted for another merlot and got a potato dish with a side of potatoes (was still craving them from my last dinner). The dish was called Consistenze Di Patate Con Soffritto E Tarallo Croccante and was a mixture of different forms/textures of potato. For dessert, I had Panna Cotta Alle Mandorle e Limone that was delicious and quite different from anything I had before.
Day 3: On my way out to visit my last few stops, I grabbed a smoothie from Pimlico Fresh on my way to take the underground to Kings Cross Station. After a few stops and crossing Abbey Road, I grabbed a coffee and reflected on my amazing trip at Cafe Nero. This small coffee shop down the road from Abbey Road Studios and filled with Beatles regalia. Then I boarded a train and headed to the airport. After perusing the airport vegan options, I decided upon Pret because it had some great options. I got a vegan mushroom grilled cheese and savored the fantastic weekend spent across the pond.
Next time you're in London, check out some of these great stops. I had a wonderful experience at all of them. Who knows, maybe you'll see me back in one of these cafes or restaurants someday!
In the past two years, I have tried to make meaningful New Years Resolutions. Last year, I made "environmental resolutions", which eventually led me to go vegan in February 2019. This year, I resolved to visit one new place each month. The first three months were incredible. I went to London for my first solo trip and first time to Europe. February was Yosemite and I still dream of going back. March was Utah. We spent about a day in Arches National Park, but we did not get to venture much outside of that because of COVID-19. My April and May trips, of course, did not happen. I had planned to go back to Europe for an extended stay at the beginning of June-Early July. The rest of 2020 was going to be spent exploring North America.
The funny thing about life is it rarely goes as you planned. Of course, I was bummed about not getting to travel to these places. That's partially where I got the idea to start a bucket list in my state.
The idea came from seeing a friend post a picture from a place that looked like Utah. I clicked the link and quickly realized the location was only a few hours from me at Gloss Mountain State Park. I sent the location and pictures to my best friend/travel buddy and my little sister, my other travel buddy. Both were down to take a trip and SHOCKED something so cool could be found in Oklahoma.
This led me to start searching for and making my list. After a couple of hours and getting suggestions from friends, my list is at 37 places to visit in my beautiful state. Some places I had visited as a kid and do not remember much. Some places I had visited more recently but wanted to go back to see again. And some places sounded amazing, and I had never been to before! Number 2 on the list, but the first stop, was Black Mesa State Park.
Black Mesa State Park is in the panhandle of Oklahoma, a less-traveled part of the state. The Mesa itself is the highest point in Oklahoma, a fact I remembered from 4th grade when we learned about Oklahoma at school. Oklahoma is not known for having high heights most of the state is relatively flat, which leads to excellent farming. However, Black Mesa is at the very tail end of the Southern Rockies, before things flatten out the further south you go.
We stayed in Boise City after some confusion with camping at Black Mesa State Park (the website says first come, first serve but now all reservations have to be made online). We left before sunrise to drive the 45 minutes to the trailhead. The views with the rising sun on the drive were gorgeous and we arrived at the parking lot of the trailhead right at dawn. And that's when things got interesting.
Now, I have been in my fair share of nature bathrooms. Whether that be flushing toilets or vaulted toilets. However, I have never quite experienced anything like the bathrooms at the Black Mesa Summit Trailhead. I'm not one to have a weak stomach but these bathrooms did me dirty (pun intended). Knowing it was a longer hike, we decided to all use the bathrooms beforehand. My sister went first and quickly warned us of the stench as soon as she got out. Next, was our friend Jamie, whose advice was to "Breath through your mouth." As I went in, I joked about how I am incapable of breathing through my mouth (there are some snorkeling stories to go along with that one but I'll save those for another time). I was in this restroom for maybe 1 full minute and as soon as I emerged I knew I was in trouble. I was gagging while in there, from the stench, and ran out to say "I am unwell."
We started to walk towards the trailhead and I knew something was very wrong. I said I needed to stop to get gum, hoping the mint would deter nausea. Two steps later, right at the trailhead, I threw up. I hoped for the best and thought that might be it and immediately said "I'm okay" and kept walking. About five feet later and my entire vegan protein shake and all the water I had drunk on the 45-minute drive in were coming up rapidly and uncontrollable. My sister starts laughing, an appropriate response. Jamie starts panicking and repeatedly asking me if I am okay and if I can make it while I am hunched over purging that horrid bathroom from my body. I left a little bit of my dignity and soul on that trail.
After a fresh piece of gum and some adrenaline, I was ready to go and killed the first mile. At mile two, with the high from the hilarious moment behind me (serious apologies to anyone who had to pass my vomit on their way starting the hike), I realized my stomach and body were going to have to slow it down a bit. Aside from lots of nausea and several stops to settle my stomach, we made excellent time hiking to the summit and I felt much better after having a little bite to eat.
Most of the hike is relatively easy, aside from being rocky. The first mile is mostly flat and you meet some local cows along the way. Mile 2 consists of a slight inline then a series of switchbacks to the 3-mile marker. The 3-mile marker is in the midst of a heavier inline (and rocky) but goes up for about a quarter of a mile until you are on top of Black Mesa. You have a slight incline for just over a mile until you get to the summit. The views are incredible and well worth the hike. Most of the hike is not strenuous at all but you need to have the ability to do the actual climb up the plateau, as it is steep for about a mile and very rocky. Hiking boots are preferred! We decided we started our hike at the perfect time, 7:30 am, and would have preferred to begin earlier. We got back to our car around 11:30 am and would not have been able to handle the dessert-like heat much later than that. Start early! The total time was four hours but we did stop several times for water and to hydrate the world's best hiking dog! We spent a good chunk of times resting, eating, and exploring on top of Black Mesa.
Overall, Black Mesa was a wonderful hike, and if I can do it having puked two times at the very beginning, then there is the motivation for you to do it!
Fun fact: at the mile 2 bench, if you look under the tree, you will find a weather-resistant box containing notes and trinkets from hikers. We added a note and a granola bar to help the next lucky hiker!