Saturday, May 23, 2015

Recipe: Chef Chloe's Coconut Cake

I know, I know. I post a lot of Chef Chloe's recipes. Her cookbooks were the first vegan cookbooks my husband bought for me. Out of every recipe we have tried, all have been delicious so we just keep trying them. This coconut cake recipe is no exception. I wanted to make something special for my daughter on the day of her ballet performance. Seeing as how she has a sweet tooth like her momma, this cake was the perfect thing.
The cake is very sweet. It is unlike the coconut cakes I grew up eating in Hawaii (those are very light and refreshing). This cake is a bit more heavy, but it does provide a lot of coconut flavor. If it does not satisfy your sweet tooth I don't know what will!
For those who are seeking a gluten-free cake, I've included the ingredient alternatives in the recipe below. I have not tried the gluten-free version, as I do not have an issue with gluten in my diet.

Chef Chloe's Coconut Cake
Recipe Source: Chloe's Vegan Desserts by Chloe Coscarelli

3 c. all-purpose flour (or GF all-purpose flour + 1 1/2 tsp. xanthan gum)
2 c. sugar
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 c. non-dairy milk (I used soy)
1 c. canola oil
1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 c. shredded coconut

2 c. shredded coconut, for topping

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease two 9-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together non-dairy milk, oil, vinegar, and vanilla. Pour the wet mixture into  the dry mixture and whisk until just combined. Do not overmix. Gently fold in coconut.

Fill each prepared cake pan evenly with the batter. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out dry with a few crumbs clinging to it. Rotate the cakes halfway through baking time. Let the cakes cook completely before assembly.

Vanilla Frosting
1 c. vegetable shortening
3 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3-5 Tbsp. non-dairy milk

Using a stand or hand mixer, beat shortening until smooth. With the mixer running on low, add powdered sugar, vanilla, and 1 Tbsp. non-dairy milk at a time, as needed, until frosting reaches a spreadable consistency. Increase speed to high and beat for 2 more minutes until light and fluffy.

To assemble the cake: once the cakes have completely cooled, run a knife around the inside edge of each pan to loosen, and gently unmold. Peel off the parchment paper and slice the dome off the top of each cake for even assembly, if desired. Place one cake on a serving plate . Spread a generous later of frosting on top of the cake. Place the second cake on top of the first and spread a generous later of frosting on the top. Frost the sides and sprinkle coconut over the entire cake.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Week in Review 2015: #20


We've been busy this week with activities for the kids coming to an end. Bridget had her ballet performance on Saturday. It went very well and she played the part of a little woodland pixie. At her age (5), the dancers don't have huge parts. Bridget was on the stage for about 3 or 4 minutes. She worked hard on her part and was very excited to be on the stage. If interested, you can click here to read more about her performance and see a lot of pictures.

She's sad to be done with ballet until the Fall, but I think I'm going to enjoy our 3 month summer break. On Monday, both Bridget and George had their last gymnastics class for the season. The parents were invited to come into the gym and the kids did their little routines, posed for pictures, and received medals. George was so excited about getting a medal, since Bridget has had one since last year.
The kids have a week off from gymnastics before the summer session starts. They will be in different classes this time. You can click here to see more pictures from gymnastics.
The rest of this week resulted in a lot of boo boo's. The kids were running back and forth through the living room from the foyer and Bridget stumbled, with George falling on her back. Her back was fine, but her mouth was bloody and she skinned her knee. I swooped her up and took her into the kitchen where I rinsed her mouth out trying to figure out there the blood was coming from. Thankfully, her teeth were still firm in place, but they did pay a little visit to her top lip and gave it quite a cut. The sweet girl had a fat upper lip and spent the rest of the evening on the couch watching a movie.

On Thursday, George was playing in his room when all of the sudden he screamed and came running. He had apparently pinched his arm in the closet door (which I had just told him moments before not to play with). Then not even an hour later during lunch, he fell off his chair and hit his head either on the table or the chair. It was only a matter of time before this happened. He is always standing in his chair and getting up and down. He cannot hold still even if his life depended on it. I feel like I spend all of meal time telling him to sit on his bottom.

With all injuries, I got to snuggle them and it seemed to make them feel better (and it made me feel better, too). George especially didn't want me to stop snuggling him. Every time I'd ask him if he was all better, he'd say "almost", then snuggle into my arms further. This middle child is trying to squeeze in all the snuggle time he can get!
On top of George's injuries, his legs have quite a few bug bites from playing in our back yard. We'll have to start putting some sort of bug repellent on him every time he goes outside. For some reason, the bugs don't seem to be biting Bridget.


Most people seem to be winding down for the school year, but we're going to keep going. Because Liam was born in July, things got off to a rough start and we're not fully caught up. A few months ago, I decided that I would continue school through the summer, but on a light schedule. I then decided that every summer we'll continue with reading (because this is most important) and math (because when I was in school, we spent at least the first month reviewing what we learned the previous year).
We will be going on a few field trips this summer. We're studying American history and there are a few key places near where we live that we'll be visiting to give Bridget a better understanding. We also have a science field trip coming up.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Little Flippers

The kids had their very last gymnastics class together this week. Bridget has been in the Little Flippers class for two years and George just started in March. It's fun to be able to sit in the gym and watch the kids do their routines. Bridget's confidence has grown so much in the past two years. She started off being very scared of the equipment. Now, she knows what she's doing but still approaches with caution.
This was George's first time performing a routine. I could tell that he was nervous. Normally, he does the routines with a big smile and shows off his silly side. This time, with all of the parents watching, we got to see his shy side.
He was so proud of himself after each routine. I could tell he wanted to let out a big grin and laugh. He held it in well. It was precious to watch.

He wasn't as graceful as his big sister, but he did great with following the routines without being prompted too much. It's not easy for any three year old to follow instructions, but George did great. I wish there was a way to get him to do this at home!

We have been fortunate to have two awesome coaches. They've been with Bridget for two years and she trusts them both completely. They have made the class so much fun for the kids.

We'll have one week off from gymnastics and will be starting back up in June. Bridget will be moving up to a new level and will have new coaches, and because Bridget's new class will be meeting in the afternoon, I moved George to a class on the same day and time as well. Bridget is unsure and doesn't know what to expect from her new class. George. I think, will be a little confused when Bridget goes off to her own class and he has to stay in his. He's gotten used to following her lead. It won't be too long before I'll have another one in gymnastics. I wish they didn't grow up so fast.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Recipe: Vegan Chick'n Katsu

Another family favorite, inspired by the delicious "local style" food I grew up on. Chicken katsu is a favorite in Hawaii, served at many local eateries such as Blane's Drive-In, L&L, etc. It's served "plate lunch" style with heaping scoops of macaroni salad and white rice. The chicken katsu itself is dipped in a special sauce. It is so tasty that even the more upscale restaurants in Hawaii serve their own versions, usually with the same sides but with a fancy twist.

When our family stopped eating animals, we thought our chicken katsu days were gone forever. Then we found the meatless Gardein Chick'n Scallopini in the frozen section of Harris Teeter (now also found at Wal-Mart). It is a little less than $4 a bag, making each piece about $1, but you don't have to trim any fat, skin, tendons or any other yuck like you would a real piece of chicken. Not only are they meatless, but they also do not contain eggs or dairy (and no gluten either, for those who are intolerant).

My husband never cared for steak or porkchops, but he loved chicken. He had real chicken katsu in Hawaii numerous times when we'd visit so he knew what it should taste like. He was very surprised at how good this vegan version was. We were both blown away by the flavor and texture. With this dish, we've never looked back.

Vegan Chick'n Katsu

2 bags of Gardein Chick'n Scallopini (each bag contains 4 pieces)
non-dairy milk (we use soy)
panko (must be panko, NOT any standard breadcrumb)
sea salt
canola oil (for frying)

Prepare three bowls, large enough for dipping a piece of the chick'n. Your first bowl should have flour, seasoned with salt and pepper. The second bowl has the non-dairy milk. The third bowl contains the panko, and seasoned with salt and pepper if desired.

Dip each piece of chick'n in each of the bowls, first the flour, then the non-dairy milk, then the panko.

Heat about one inch of oil in a frying pan. Add chick'n, no more than about two pieces at a time. Cook on each side until golden brown. Remove from oil and place on a plate with a napkin for draining. Once cooled enough, place on a cutting board and chop into strips.

For the sauce:
vegan Worcestershire sauce

The amounts really depend on personal preference. To start, combine about 1/2 c. ketchup and 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce. Adjust to taste. Some people are perfectly fine with dipping the katsu in plain ketchup, but my husband and I prefer the sauce mixture to get the full experience.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Act I, Scene I: "Tinker's Nook"

Bridget completed her second full year of ballet and participated in the Spring Production again this year. Act I took us to Pixie Hollow, and Bridget appeared in the first scene. She had been practicing for weeks and was excited that performance night was finally here. We were unsure how things were going to go, as she had developed a fever after rehearsal on Thursday and had a bit of a runny nose. But with a lot of rest, fluids, cold medicine, and determination, she was able to fight off whatever sickness she had and made it to the stage!
She was a little nervous but mostly excited. Last year, she was so nervous I could barely get a smile out of her. I thought it would be fun to compare the two pre-performance shots from last year and this year:
How did she grow up this much in just one year?!?
After a few pictures, it was time to send her off backstage. George wasn't so sure of this whole thing. All he knew was that he wanted to go back to the water fountain and throw more leaves in (that is what he is looking at in the bottom picture).

Both sets of grandparents were able to make it again this year. We headed in to the auditorium, found us some seats, and waited. Bridget was part of the very first scene, so I quickly switched out camera lenses and waited.

What Bridget did not know was that she was sharing the stage with Tinker Bell. Bridget is on the far left, and Tinker Bell is on the right. She walked right by her. Bridget almost couldn't believe it when I showed her the pictures. I'm glad she was so focused on dancing her part not to notice the other fairies in the background.

After her scene, we watched the rest of Pixie Hollow, and also Act II "Kids on Broadway". George got into this one when Mary Poppins came on stage (the kids LOVE this movie), and his eyes were glued to the stage when they did the chimney sweep song, "Step In Time". Finally after Peter Pan, it was intermission and the little girls were being released back to their parents. They had been backstage watching a Tinker Bell movie.

After being showered with flowers, gifts, and "congratulations" from her adoring fans, she posed for a few more pictures by the water fountain.
We are so very proud of our pretty little pixie. I don't know how she does it. She's an extremely shy girl, but she looks forward to being on the stage. We're sad that ballet is done, but we are looking forward to the start of a new season after summer ends!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Recipe: Chocolate Strawberry Shortcake Cupcakes

Here in eastern North Carolina, strawberry season is in full swing. There is nothing quite like tasting the very first fresh-picked strawberry of the season after a winter of consuming last years frozen ones. One of the more popular things to use strawberries for here in the South is strawberry shortcake (sweetened strawberries, angel food cake, and whipped cream, for those who may be unfamiliar).

My children enjoy their strawberries plain. We've had them for breakfast, snacks, and even for dessert with nothing added on top. Occasionally, I do like to change things up a bit and give them an extra special treat. Our favorite strawberry treat are these chocolate strawberry shortcake cupcakes. All of the credit goes to the amazing Chloe Coscarelli for the recipe. It is a light and airy chocolate cupcake with a fluffy icing and fresh strawberries, which leaves you feeling refreshed, yet satisfied.

Chocolate Strawberry Shortcake Cupcakes
Recipe Source: by Chloe Coscarelli

Makes 14 cupcakes

Chocolate Cupcakes
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. sugar
1/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. soy milk (or water or almond milk)
1/2 c. canola oil
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with 14 cupcake liners.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa, basking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together water, oil, vinegar, and vanilla.  Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and whisk until just combined. Do not overmix.

Fill the cupcake liners about two-thirds full with batter. Bake for 16 to 18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean with a few crumbs clinging to it. Cook the cupcakes completely before frosting.

1 c. vegetable shortening
3 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 to 5 Tbsp. soy milk (or almond milk)

Using a handheld or stand mixer, beat the shortening until smooth. With the mixer running on low, add powdered sugar, vanilla, and 1 Tbsp. nondairy milk at a time, as needed, until frosting reaches a spreadable consistency. Beat on high for 2 more minutes until light and fluffy

1/2 c. hulled and sliced strawberries

To assemble the cupcakes: Once the cupcakes are completely cooled, slather with frosting and top with sliced strawberries.

If you click on this link to the recipe on Chef Chloe's website, you can see how she assembles her cupcakes. I've done it this way a number of times and they're very pretty. But with 3 young children, I don't have the time to spend on making the cupcakes extra fancy. With these, they're going to taste amazing no matter how they're assembled.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Week in Review 2015: #19


This week has been much like the last. I am mostly recovered from sickness, except that my voice takes some time to wake up in the morning, which has put a damper on our morning reading.

On Sunday morning, George came into our room complaining of a tummy ache. This is rare for him to complain about, so I took it seriously and we stayed home from church. Nothing came of his tummy ache and by about 10 o'clock, he was feeling much better. On Tuesday, Liam developed a fever. He fussed when he wasn't being held, so I spent most of the day snuggling with him.

Other than sickness, this week (and last week) have been very busy for Bridget. Her ballet performance is tomorrow and she has been rehearsing a lot. This week, she had rehearsals on Tuesday and Wednesday at the studio and on Thursday was the dress rehearsal at the university auditorium. The girl's got their costumes on Wednesday and we came home and tried hers on. The straps were way too big but luckily it was a quick fix. When we arrived at the dress rehearsal on Thursday, so many of the little girls had costumes that were practically falling off. I'm glad it wasn't just Bridget's costume that didn't fit!

After rehearsal (and dinner), I managed to get some pictures of Bridget all dolled up with her high ballet bun. She tries so hard to be a goof when the camera comes out. However, she got herself laughing so much that I caught some pictures of her natural smile, instead of the forced ones I tend to get.

While Bridget was at her dress rehearsal, my dad and I took the boys to the greenway for a little nature walk. George loved throwing sticks and rocks off the bridge into the stream. He's so much fun to watch but he has way too much energy. 

At 4 a.m. this morning, Bridget came into our room complaining she didn't feel well. She had a fever so I gave her some medicine and sent her back to bed. Of course it would be the day before her big performance that she'd get sick. Today we are taking things easy, drinking lot's of fluids, and hoping she rests enough to be better by tomorrow evening. She has been working so hard for this and is excited to be on the stage. I'm being optimistic about it and I think she'll be fine for tomorrow. Her fever is down and her spirits are high.




Bridget has been doing so well on her drill sheets!



Bridget memorizes poems so quickly and there are certain poems she wants me to read over and over again (even though she knows them by heart) because she thinks they're so silly. George sort of babbles along when Bridget recites her poems, and sometimes even prompts her with the beginning sound when she gets stuck.


The kids finished The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe on audio book and at Bridget's request, we are listening to it again. We've spent so much time in the car lately going back and forth from lessons and rehearsals. I am so glad we purchased the audiobooks!

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Recipe: Penne with Sun-Dried Tomato Cream Sauce

When this book arrived in the mail, my husband opened the box and found this recipe. He told me that this is the recipe he wanted me to make first. So I did. I've made it a few times since then. Recently, my 9-month-old had his first taste. He ended up eating about as much as his big brother and sister. This has quickly become a family favorite. The grown-ups love it and so do the kids.

Penne with Sun-Dried Tomato Cream Sauce
Recipe Source: Chloe's Vegan Italian Kitchen by Chloe Coscarelli

1 lb. penne
1 c. chopped sun-dried tomatoes
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1/3 c. all-purpose flour
3 1/2 c. almond milk
1/4 c. nutritional yeast flakes
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. dried basil

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add penne and cook according to package directions. Right before draining, add 1/2 c. of the sun-dried tomatoes to the boiling water. Drain and return to the pot.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, make a roux (or paste) by whisking the oil and flour over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes. Then all almond milk, nutritional yeast, tomato paste, salt, garlic powder, and basil to the saucepan and bring to a boil, whisking frequently. Reduce heat to low, add the remaining 1/2 c. sun-dried tomatoes, and let simmer until the sauce thickens. Add sauce to pasta, and toss to coat. Season to taste and serve immediately.

(To make gluten free: Replace penne with a gluten-free pasta and replace all-purpose flour with gluten-free all-purpose flour.)

Monday, May 11, 2015

2015 Week in Review: #16, #17, and #18


The last few weeks have been full of camping trips, conferences, and rain. We spent the last weekend of April at our church campout. It was the first time they've done it and we're hoping it becomes an annual thing because the kids had a blast. The campground is owned by our church and it is very family friendly. There are cabins, a mess hall, lake with canoes and paddle boats, firing range, playground, and more. We opted to sleep in a tent because that is what the kids wanted to do. The cabins are very basic so I thing I would have preferred a tent anyway.

When we got there, my husband first set up the tent with the kids and then off they went to gather firewood for the fire. The kids are far more helpful in the great outdoors than they are at home, and helped daddy carry the wood and gather pine straw.

Families brought their own food to cook over the fire. Bridget really wanted to have veggie kabobs instead of a simple hotdog, so that's what we did for dinner. George made me very nervous near the fire. Next year I hope he'll be more cautious and give me a break (but then of course Liam will be toddling around and I'll then be worried about him).

Liam spent about 20 minutes in his stroller until he had had enough and he had to be held for the remainder of the camping trip. I can't complain too much, since he was rather snuggly. It was very cold that night and we spent the evening by the fire because it was time to turn in. George fell right to sleep but poor Bridget was freezing and could not fall asleep for a long time. I moved closer to warm her up and Liam slept between us. I was pretty miserable with it being so cold that night and did not sleep much, and neither did my husband. Once the kids fell asleep, they slept through the night.

The next morning, the kids went on the lake with daddy. After that we had breakfast and then I packed up the tent and supplies while my husband took the kids to the playground. After the van was loaded, I joined them with the camera. They were having fun on a see-saw. My husband had George and Liam on one side and Bridget on the other. Bridget especially was having a grand time.

Two weeks after our family camping trip, my husband and George went back for the father-son campout the church has done since even my husband was a little boy. My husband's father also went with them. While the weather was much warmer this time around, it did rain briefly. Instead of a tend, this time my husband opted for a cabin and air mattresses. While it rained, George rode his tricycle around the cabin (we really need to get him a bike).

It did not rain long and soon George was back playing outside. We all really enjoyed the camping trips and want to do more camping in the future.

While George and daddy were on their camping trip, Bridget, Liam, and I had some fun at home. We ended up sleeping on the floor in the living room. Not very comfortable for me, but Bridget had fun and it was special for her.

She got to play with Liam on George's truck. She pushed him around (slowly and gently). Liam loved it! He was all smiles and so was his big sister. I'm glad to have Bridget around to help play with her brothers. She is especially helpful with Liam.




We've been working on drill sheets a lot. We're close to the end of her Primer math book. She enjoys the drill sheets right now because if she gets them all correct, I draw a smiley face on her paper. It doesn't seem like much, but she likes it and it makes her feel proud. It's the simple things.


The kids have been listening to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe on audiobook. I have not done much reading to them this past week because I got a cold for the first time in years. First my throat hurt to talk even though I still had a voice. Now, I don't have much of a voice and when I do try to talk a lot I start coughing. I think the cold is nearing its end.


Due to being sick, I haven't done much cooking this week. The most elaborate meal I made was spaghetti... from a jar.

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