Archive for October, 2010

Simple Shoes

I simply love my new Simple Satire sneakers.  I went into Nordstrom’s the other day to try on Tom’s shoes.  Tom’s apparently don’t fit me well but are still great shoes from a company that built its reputation on giving back to those less fortunate.  I like that, I like that Tom’s has vegan options, they just didn’t fit.

On a display a few feet away from Tom’s were Simple’s Satire vegan sneakers.  I had read about them and found them to be an impressive company so I tried them on.  These shoes are super comfortable, have great arch support and are made by a company that cares about the planet and it’s inhabitants.  I like that.  My new sneaks are vegan, and made with sustainable materials.  Their goal is actually 100% sustainability.   The laces are recycled elastic, the bottom is from recycled car tires.  All of the supportive inside stuff is made of EVA with BIO-D to make it biodegradable.  I just hope they don’t start breaking down while I’m wearing them!  Last they actually have a nice comfy arch support.

More importantly they are actually really cute!  I had a hard time deciding which style and color to purchase.  I ended up with Charcoal because they go with pretty much anything.  My first time out in them was a work day.  I wore them with no socks all day and had no problems.  I could have bought them right from their website but decided to purchase from Zappo’s because I first heard about them there.  At you can actually search for shoes under the word “vegan” and they have a lot of options.

My one issue is that Simple manufactures their shoes in China.  They say that they pay reasonable wages and overtime when appropriate.  They do not hire children under 16 years of age.  But what about the fact that these ‘eco-friendly” shoes have to be shipped halfway around the world?  I’m not sure if it’s environmentally irresponsible or just part of a global economy.  I like purchasing products made in the USA but am more concerned that the people making a product are treated fairly.

They also have some cute ballet flat styles that I’ll purchase soon.  I like that they also have mens and kids shoes so the entire family can be eco-friendly.  Check them out, they’re reasonably priced and come in many great colors and styles.




Slow Cooked Barley Lentil Soup

I seem to be easily falling into a habit of using my new crock pot to prepare Monday night dinner.  I assemble most of it the night before, add a few last-minute items and plug it in right before leaving the house.  Sunday evening prep was simple because I was already chopping veggies for dinner, I just chopped some into a separate bowl.  I had the barley and lentils measured out in a bowl ready to add in just before cooking.  My only job on Monday morning was to scrub and dice the potato.  Does anyone know if it would have gone bad overnight with the broth while refrigerated?  I decided not to risk it.

A couple of people have asked about my new job.  This week is better than last.  It’s all starting to come together for me.  I was told that they have a term “Lightbulb Tuesday” which is apparently when most people have their “Aha” moment.   It was true for me.  Now I just have a couple of exams to pass Thursday and Friday.  Next Monday I go live.  I’m pretty excited about that!  I’m working with an incredible group of people who are intelligent and interesting to hang out with.  It’s all good.

Anyway, try the soup, it’s souper (haha) easy and makes a hearty fall meal.  I can easily see adding some other veggies or beans but really it doesn’t need it.  The spices really gave it a unique flavor but if you don’t have all of them just wing it and use something else that will provide a similar richness.

Vegan Persian Barley Soup in a Slow Cooker


1 cup of lentils (rinsed)

1 cup of pearled barley (rinsed)

1 medium onion, finely diced

1  large or 2 small potatoes, diced

1 cup sliced carrots

2 garlic cloves, grated or in small pieces

1 teaspoon  each turmeric, cumin, garam masala

6 cups vegetable stock (low sodium)

1+ cup water (I added more before serving because it was so thick)

8-12 oz can tomato sauce (or a can of petite diced tomatoes)

Salt and pepper to taste

Fresh chopped herbs of choice for topping if desired


1. Combine all dry ingredients into a large slow cooker (mine is a 5 1/2 quart beast). Stir thoroughly.  I combined all ingredients except the lentils, potato and barley the night before and refrigerated, then put them in the pot just before cooking.

2. Cover and cook for a minimum of 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low.  Check seasoning before serving and top with choice of herbs


Butternut Squash Chili in a Crock Pot

I love when I find a recipe that my husband enjoys without commenting on the lack of meat protein.  I was surprised to find out that this was one of them.  As far as I know he’s not a big fan of squash but he happily ate this meal including a second helping as well as leftovers later in the week.  That makes it a hit in my book!  Another great thing is that this is a vegan and gluten-free dish.

I wish I had taken a picture of this because it’s actually a very pretty chili.  It’s quite colorful with the dark red sauce, bright orange squash, and the assortment of beans and peppers.  However, having assembled it one day and completing it the next I totally forgot.  It’s been a crazy week for me.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned that I’m starting a new job.  I’m in the process of becoming an insurance claims adjuster.  A few weeks ago I had to go through a course to get my state license.  That was tough enough.  Now I’m in training to learn how to actually do my job.  For the first time in my life I feel at a disadvantage and I’m trying to figure out if it’s age related.  It definitely feels like those in their 20s and 30s are catching on quicker than us older 40 somethings.  I am enjoying the process I just wish it would come to me a little quicker.

With that said, I don’t remember the last time I was so grateful for the weekend!  I’m considering a trip to the beach while my husband is thinking about chores around the house!  Perhaps we’ll barter for a day of each.  In the meantime I’ll be looking for something new to make using some of the 2 bags of barely I have.  Another sign of aging, I  bought 1 bag this week and realized that I already purchased barley last week.  If you have a great barley recipe for me, please share!


1 medium butternut squash peeled, seeded and cubed into 1/2 pieces

1 28 oz can tomato sauce

1 28 oz can Bush’s Pinto Beans in Chili Sauce

1 28 oz can Black Beans rinsed

1 large onion chopped

2 cloves of garlic chopped

½ to 1 whole jalapeno finely chopped (depending on personal taste)

1 red or green pepper chopped

A few shakes of Tabasco Chipotle flavor

Pepper, Chili powder, and cumin to personal taste

Vegetable or Canola oil just a few teaspoons

Optional grated cheddar or vegan cheese to top


The night  before, or early in the  morning:

In a large pan saute the butternut squash in oil for a few minutes  on medium high and then add the onion and jalapeno and pepper

Saute 2 until onion becomes translucent and add the garlic, saute 1 more minute

Turn heat off and add sauce, beans and seasoning, stir well

Add a little water, tomato juice, or broth to bring to your desired consistency, I like it thick so I use very little

Transfer mixture to your crock pot.  Refrigerate over night if needed

Place in crock pot on either low heat for the entire day or if possible high heat for several hours and then more to low once heated through and the squash is tender.  We had it on high for about 4 hours and low for 2 hours before serving

Season to your own taste, and serve with cheese if desired

If cooking on a traditional stove use the same steps but simmer until the squash is tender


Vegan Pumpkin Cookies

The best thing about vegan baking is that you can eat raw batter to your hearts content!  No worries about salmonella here.  Another bonus with these particular cookies is that your house smells delicious. The cookies themselves are quite tasty too!  This is a win-win situation in my opinion.

I’m not sure if canned pumpkin is in the stores yet.  I actually stocked up last year and have a couple of cans left.  During the winter I like to use the cans to make Pumpkin Black Bean Soup which is another family favorite.  It’s a rich hearty soup that takes no time to make and is a meal in itself.

As for my cookies, well they simply taste like autumn.  I gave into my chocolate addiction and added some chcolate chips with the cranberries.  I omitted the nuts because my niece doesn’t care for them.  However, this is another base recipe that you can change the spices and add-ins to your personal taste easily enough.


1.5 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
2 teaspoon vanilla
1 15 oz can pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon each – cinnamon & pumpkin pie spice
1 cup oatmeal
2 cups of add ins such as raisins, cranberries, chopped nuts, chocolate chips (optional)
3 cup all-purpose flour (or a mixture 1 cup whole wheat, 2 cups white)


Beat the oil, pumpkin, sugar, and vanilla in a bowl, add in oatmeal and blend

Add in the flour, baking powder, and baking soda a little at a time until well blended

By hand incorporate the add-ins

Bake at 350 for approximately 12 minutes


Homemade Bisquick Recipe

For those of you who don’t know Bisquick is an all-purpose baking mix.  You can make all kinds of biscuits, pancakes and simple bread recipes by using this.  However, it’s pretty expensive for a simple baking mix.  Besides the expense, I realized at the last-minute that I did not have any in the house.

My original plan was to make Baked Quesadilla which is a favorite of my niece.  However, she will not be home for dinner so I decided to hold off on those for a day or so.  My next thought was to make Spinach Pie.  Bisquick is one of the main ingredients in this and I was out of it.  After a quick search I discovered that it’s quite simple to make.

I noticed a few different recipes, some had a little sugar some used shortening while others used butter.  The recipe claims that it can be stored airtight, in the fridge for up to 4 months.  Frankly, I don’t like the sound of that so I made 1/4 of the recipe which was exactly the amount I needed for the Spinach Pie.  Also, I used butter and whole wheat white flour for my recipe.  Nobody seemed to notice the healthier flour.


  • 6 cups all-purpose flour (or white whole wheat)
  • 3 tablespoons baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 cup shortening or butter (butter cut into small cubes)


Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl

Cut in the shortening or butter until the mixture is a fine crumble

If desired store in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 4 months


Breakfast Bread Pudding

I’m finally posting this recipe I baked last weekend.  I’ve been enjoying this bread pudding all week.  This recipe has a sweet (but not overly) taste.  The texture of the bread, cranberries and crunch of nuts really works well together.
I’ve been enjoying this bread pudding for breakfast but really it would be great anytime.  Serve it warm with some vanilla ice cream and I’m certain it will be a hit.  The fact that you assemble it the day before and just stick it in the oven for an hour before serving makes it great for company.  Oddly enough it reminds me of a mix between my mom’s stuffing recipe and her noodle pudding.  Whatever you do with it, enjoy it!
  • 4 beaten eggs (or I cup egg replacement)
  • 3 cups cubed day old Italian bread
  • 1 2/3 cups milk (I used skim)
  • 1/3 cranberries
  • 1/3 cup  chopped nuts (I used walnuts
  • 1/3 cup agave nectar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla, cinnamon
  • (If you don’t have agave used 2 cups milk and 1/3 cup sugar)
  • ICING:
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/8 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp orange juice
Mix eggs, milk, agave, cinnamon, vanilla and flavoring, Mix in bread, cranberries and nuts 

Place mixture in 8″ x 1 1/2″ baking dish, cover and place in the refrigerator overnight.

In the morning, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove cover and place on center rack. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes until knife inserted near center comes out clean.

Mix ingredients for icing and pour evenly over mixture, allow a few minutes to settle in, if desired poke a few holes with a fork into pudding so that icing will drip down into it

Serve warm or cold


This is the first time I’ve ever made Panzanella and I was really pleased with the results.  The combination of fresh tomato, cucumber, onion, and bread, combined with the dressing works very well together.  The quantity I made was for 2 main course servings or approximately 4 side salads.

I really wish I had some leftover grilled asparagus to toss in it.  While not a traditional ingredient I think it would have added an excellent complimentary flavor.  Another possible toss in would be some fresh mozzarella if you don’t mind dairy.  I kept to a basic recipe for my first time but will try variations in the future.

When making this I used only 1/2 a loaf of bread.  The other half I made a small bread pudding with.  I’ll post that later.  I’m trying to cook appropriate amounts of food with the hopes of having less waste.  It seems like a simple concept yet is proving to be quite difficult.  On one hand I enjoy leftovers on the other I always end guessing wrong and still making too much.  Hopefully, I’ll get the hang of it soon.


  • 3+ tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 large French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (3 cups)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 4-5 Roma tomatoes quartered and cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1 medium cucumber, halved, seeded, and sliced 1/2-inch thick
  • 1 yellow or red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/2 red onion, cut in 1/2 and thinly sliced
  • 10+ large basil leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 2 large cloves garlic sliced in half


  • 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • salt, pepper to taste


Place oil and garlic in a pan and heat on medium heat for a few minutes, remove garlic and add bread, saute the bread until lightly browned adding more oil if needed

Toss all sliced veggies, bread and basil leaves in a bowl and season

Toss all ingredients for dressing in blender and blend until smooth and pour over salad, gently toss salad until evenly coated

Serve immediately or let sit for up to 1 hour