Sat, 31 Dec 2016 20:27:43 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Mommy Life (and a Curry in a Hurry recipe) Thu, 01 Dec 2016 19:03:00 +0000 Sorry, guys. I left you hanging. More than a year ago I was going on and on and on about my pregnancy and cravings and musing on whether or not I had gestational diabetes. I was talking about my pregnancy body and pregnancy diet and all things pregnancy related and then…


Well, I am really sorry about that! You see, I totally wanted to shout to the metaphorical rooftops on every platform available that we had a baby girl back in December (yes, 2015!!). And I did, to an extent. I Instagrammed her pics. I posted on Facebook. I tweeted. But then when it came time to report back here, I lost track of time. I had the best of intentions to come back to this space and write a big long post about the end of my pregnancy, her birth, and life with a newborn, but then, you know, LIFE WITH A NEWBORN actually got in the way and I had little time to do anything besides feed her, change diapers, do laundry, and sleep. So, yeah, my post about life with a newborn could have been somewhat summed up in that last sentence.

But then there’s the other part about having a child. The part that includes the pure joy I get when I see her first thing in the morning, or when I come home from work and her eyes light up when she sees me come through the door. There’s the soft, sweet snuggles and the endless kisses I could shower on her chubby cheeks all day long. There are the giggles and the smiles that elicit such a strong emotional response from me that I sometimes find I have to catch my breath. Because I’m that taken aback by the pure love I feel for her in those moments…

One thing that I was unprepared for, though, was the lack of time I would have to cook. It’s gotten better, for sure. As the weeks with a baby turned to months turned to almost a year (what??), we’ve fallen into a new sort of routine. It’s different, for sure. While a year ago a typical weeknight might have consisted of working out followed by meal and smoothie prep for the next few days, I not only don’t have time for that anymore, but it simply doesn’t interest me as much. Other days, I am just too exhausted from balancing work with baby do deal with what now seem like more trivial household responsibilities. I still make dinners many nights a week, but they look different. I’m not afraid to add a canned sauce to my pasta or buy some pre-chopped veggies at the store.

It’s feels like there’s been so much more to cover in the last year. My birth story, my breastfeeding journey, my beautiful girl and the way she’s changed our lives immeasurably, the doggy jealously we’re currently just experiencing. I could go on for pages on these topics alone. But that seems overwhelming to me right now. And since this is a food blog, first and foremost, I wanted to come back here after a long hiatus with some sort of insight regarding food. So with that I’d like to share one of my favorite, super easy (barely a recipe) recipes with you — Curry in a Hurry. I make this several times a month, as it’s so easy to (almost literally) throw together, is filling and super tasty. I’ve shared steps for a similar recipe on my Facebook and Instagram, but wanted to share an official “recipe” here. This one is also amenable to many substitutions, such as frozen spinach in place of the kale, or chickpeas or some sort of other beans in place of the tofu.

And in the meantime, I’d love to hear from my readers (do you still exist??) about some other mom-related topics you’d like to hear about. Yes, I am raising a vegan baby and would love to share some of the recipes and foods she has been eating as she gets a bit older.

Curry in a Hurry:

Curry in a hurry


This entire recipe is made possible by Trader Joe’s, though you really don’t need to live near a Trader Joe’s to make it work. You need 1/2 cup of cashews. Make a cream sauce by either soaking cashews first (if you have a high powered blender just skip this step) and then blending the cashews with 1 cup of water. Set aside. I buy one of the pre-washed and chopped bags of Tuscan Kale from TJ’s (10 oz.) and saute it in a little olive oil. Once the kale has begun to soften and wilt, I add TJ’s curry simmer sauce (not the Masala sauce which is not vegan). But you can really use any vegan curry sauce  (if there is already coconut cream in the sauce, reduce the amount of cashew cream you use to your liking). Note that the TJ’s sauce is spicy and does have a kick to it. Next, I add cubed extra firm tofu (1 package drained and patted dry). I don’t pre-cook it but like to warm it through in the sauce. Finally, you will add your cashew cream and stir. Cook for a few minutes until bubbling, so that everything comes together. Serve over rice or cooked quinoa. My mom used to make something similar for us when we were kids (using frozen peas instead of kale) and it’s still a family favorite. Delish and soooo easy.

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Chocolate Protein Pumpkin Pie Smoothie Fri, 18 Sep 2015 15:33:28 +0000 Pumpkin Pie Chocolate SmoothieYes, I’ve fallen into the “pumpkin everything” trap. I told myself I wouldn’t succumb to those sneaky marketing ploys from the big chains and ignore the fact that it’s already September, and we’re supposed to be falling in line (no pun intended) with the fall-themed script: pumpkin, pumpkin and more pumpkin. I wasn’t going to do it. Wasn’t ready. Wasn’t feeling the pumpkin everything vibe.

But then, you know, this funny thing called pregnancy got the best of me. I saw a recipe for a pumpkin smoothie somewhere and suddenly my mind could not stop thinking about making one. Maybe all the stealthy marketing campaigns got to me. But suddenly, my mind was all pumpkin, and there was no stopping me until I had my fix.

But still another thing happened this week to lead to the creation of this smoothie — another thing that I can definitively blame on my pregnancy. I got my results back for my 1-hour glucose screening test — something I thought I would pass with flying colors, given my pre-pregnancy history of actually having low glucose levels on all my blood tests — and the results were not as I planned. My glucose levels were high. Now, I realize that a lot of women actually have this happen and they do end up passing their 3-hour test when all is said and done, without a diagnosis of gestational diabetes (I take my follow-up test next week, just to be sure). But the initial realization that my glucose was fairly high, along with even the possibility of having gestational diabetes looming in my mind, had me really re-thinking my diet and trying to re-imagine a diet plan if a gestational diabetes diagnosis were in my future.

So, naturally, I Googled “vegan gestational diabetes diet” to see what I could come up with. While there was sadly little there (as far as Google searches go, I mean), I did find some great blog posts from pregnant vegans who had been diagnosed with gestational diabetes (those posts can be found here and here). And what I came to realize is that the key to controlling blood sugars during a gestational diabetes pregnancy is not necessarily eliminating all carbs/sugars, but carefully building these components into a meal balanced with plenty of other things, such as fats and proteins, to stabilize blood sugars and prevent a huge spike.

In fact, both bloggers I linked to above posted their meal plans, which included morning smoothies that still, miraculously, contained fruit. It was just that there were more limited amounts of fruit, and the smoothies centered more around protein than anything else.

Now, here’s my standard disclaimer. I am neither a doctor, nutritionist, nor a dietician. I am not claiming  that this smoothie is safe for women with gestational diabetes, or people with diabetes in general. I created this smoothie as I was inspired to tweak my own dietary habits while I await more testing, and to play around with combining small portions of fruit/carbs with more protein in general. It may or may not be the perfect “GD” morning breakfast, but it’s what I’m enjoying now. 

Anyways, the idea of tweaking my pregnancy diet led me to look more closely in general at what, and how much, I was eating. Whether or not my second glucose test comes back normal, I do plan to continue to track my calories and macro nutrients more closely, as I feel better throughout the day and feel I am managing my weight gain a bit better by paying closer attention to the nutritional and caloric breakdown of what I’m putting in my body. For that reason, I’ve included the calories and macro nutrient breakdown in this smoothie for those who are interested. It’s also worth noting that the addition of cocoa powder (depending on the brand) adds about 15-20% of your daily iron, which is great during pregnancy (I’m always trying to look for foods to up my iron intake).

And in other pregnancy news, I am actually feeling pretty good! I am feeling even better now that I’ve semi (see disclaimer above) adopted a gestational diabetes diet (for trial purposes, not because I was told to) and am eating more protein and fats, fewer carbs, and eating more often (but smaller portions) throughout the day. For a few weeks prior to this, I’d been really, really, run down after eating lunch, and feeling extremely tired in the afternoons. Not that I still don’t get fatigued from time to time (especially when I’ve had a busy day), but I really just feel I have a lot more energy in general with smaller meals throughout the day.

My bump is also rounding out a bit. For awhile it was looking really pointy — and it still looks like baby girl is sort of reclining back and sticking her legs out straight — but it’s definitely more round than it was a few weeks ago. At the 28 week mark, I finally hit the point where strangers began asking me my due date, so I think it’s probably fairly obvious that I’m pregnant now. And baby girl is now kicking a lot harder and more often, which I’m still loving (I have a long torso, so I’ve thus far avoided the dreaded rib kicks).

bump collage

27 weeks (left) vs. 28 weeks (right). The bump got a bit higher and less pointy.

As far as workouts go, I am trying to get in at least 60 minutes of moderate exercise a day. Lots of that is walking, but I also continue to do Zumba (I modify if I feel the class is too strenuous), Zumba toning, prenatal pilates, and prenatal yoga. One of my favorite prenatal yoga sequences is actually one I found on youtube — check it out here. I try to do that one a few days a week to keep myself stretched and limber. I also have been really enjoying the 10 Minute Solution Prenatal Pilates. I do the entire sequence, but skip or modify a lot of the core work that seems too strenuous on my abs. I’ve heard conflicting info about core work during pregnancy, so I tend to err on the side of caution.

And that’s about it for now! Hope you enjoy this delicious fall pumpkin smoothie.

Chocolate Protein Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

Yield: 1 serving

Calories per serving: 340 calories

Fat per serving: 7.5 grams


  • 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1 medium frozen banana
  • ½ cup canned pure pumpkin puree
  • ¼ cup unsweetened, pure hemp protein powder* (See note on why I recommend Manitoba Harvest)
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 packet stevia (I used Sweetleaf stevia)** (See note on stevia brands)
  • Pinch cinnamon
  • 1-2 dashes nutmeg


  1. Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth. For an icier smoothie, add a small handful ice cubes if desired.
  2. To serve, top with unsweetened shredded coconut or hemp hearts, if desired (not included in nutritional info).


This smoothie also contains 54 grams carbohydrates and 16.3 grams protein

To increase protein in this smoothie, sub unsweetened soy milk for almond milk. 1 cup unsweetened soy milk contains 7 grams protein, as opposed to only 1 gram for almond milk. This would increase the total protein in this smoothie to 22.3 grams (but would also slightly increase the calories, fat and carbs).

If using an unsweetened milk that is not vanilla flavored, consider adding just a very small drop or two of vanilla extract (be careful not to add too much, which can overpower the smoothie).

*Also note that your protein content may change depending on the hemp protein brand you use. I linked to the brand I used above, which I think actually has a lower protein content than other brands, but seems to blend better in smoothies and has less of an overpowering hemp taste. I recommend this brand for pure taste purposes.

** Like the hemp protein powder, taste may change depending on the stevia brand you use. I really like Sweetleaf stevia, but if you use a different brand, please add slowly and adjust sweetness according to taste.



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A Pregnant Pause Mon, 17 Aug 2015 19:01:49 +0000 Our baby girl at just 7 weeks. Our very first ultrasound.

Our baby girl at just 7 weeks. Our very first ultrasound.

I hope those of you who follow my blog haven’t given up on me entirely. Yes, I have been a horrible slacker when it comes to posting new recipes. Believe me, I have ideas swirling in my head all the time — zucchini muffins, chickpea lemon dolmas, raw banana-strawberry cheesecake — but when it comes time to executing those recipes, well, I am falling a little short.

As the title of this post might convey (not to mention the above photo), there’s a reason for my “pause” from this blog. I’m pregnant. Those of you who follow me on Instagram will likely not be surprised by this news — I announced my pregnancy weeks ago over there. But that’s because it was easy for me to type up a quick post on my phone. But doing a real blog post about my pregnancy? That would take effort — something I am noticeably lacking these days, mainly due to fatigue. Also, I am a little distracted. My brain is on all things baby. Baby room, baby clothes, baby delivering. I mean, who knew there were so many decisions to make when it comes to how, and where, you want to give birth? And while my mind has also most certainly been on food, that’s where the attention to creating recipes sorta ends. I want food. I eat it. I don’t want to think about how many servings my meals make, or whether something would be better with a little more seasoning, or if my photo would come out better at a different time of day.

So, now that you’ve heard all of my excuses for why I’ve been a terrible blogger as of late, let me get into the fun stuff (for me at least, not sure if anyone else really cares…) —  my pregnancy cravings, quirks, and other tidbits I thought were worth sharing here.

Pregnancy Details:

I am currently almost 24 weeks pregnant, due in December. According to our 19 week ultrasound, we are having a baby girl.



Berry smoothie bowl topped with fresh fruit and gluten-free granola.

I can’t say there have been any super definitive, late-night “I need to have this right now” moments yet. But I have definitely had a hankering for FRUIT. Lots and lots of fruit.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always loved fruit. But I would normally have, maybe, a couple pieces of fruit a day and be happy to let it supplement the rest of my diet. Now? I can’t get enough fruit. I want it all the time — and I don’t care what kind of fruit I’m eating. Luckily, summer has been pretty generous with blueberries, figs, nectarines, cherries, and other seasonal favorites that I cannot stop eating.

With my fruit craving has come some “offshoot” cravings for fruity things. Mainly, fruit smoothies and especially smoothie bowls topped with — yes — more fruit (I told you I can’t get enough).

Other things I’m eating:

Being pregnant and vegan is actually not as taboo as I once thought. In fact, even the classic What to Expect When You’re Expecting acknowledges that vegan diets are totally safe and healthy for growing a baby. You just have to do a little extra planning to make sure you’re meeting all the necessary nutritional needs during pregnancy — as many pregnant women do, vegan or not.

Some important considerations:

  • Omega-3s: Very important for baby’s brain and eye development. Vegan diets are commonly thought to be lacking in Omega-3s, which isn’t quite true. Though fish is widely considered a great source of Omega-3s (especially salmon), it is certainly not the only source of these important fatty acids. Good vegan sources of Omega-3 fatty acids are flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds and walnuts. I make sure I have at least one of these options each day. Smoothies are a great way to add many of these Omega-3 sources into one simple meal. Oatmeal is another great option (I add flax to mine while cooking and then top with hemp or chia seeds before eating). I also supplement with a vegan DHA supplement, which vegans tend to need more of, especially in the third trimester.
Berry smoothie made with soy milk, banana, coconut yogurt, chia seeds, hemp hearts and raw coconut sugar. Good source of omega-3 fatty acids.

Berry smoothie made with soy milk, banana, coconut yogurt, chia seeds, hemp hearts and raw coconut sugar. Good source of omega-3 fatty acids.

  • Folate: One of the most discussed nutrient requirements for any pregnant woman, folic acid gets a lot of attention due to its importance in fetal neural tube development. Since I’ve been diagnosed with an MTHFR defect, which affects my body’s ability to break down folic acid (an actually common though rarely diagnosed condition which can lead to miscarriage), I take Optimal Prenatal from Seeking Health, which contains methylfolate, an already converted type of folate that can be readily used by the body.
  • Iron: Pregnant women tend to need more iron than most, especially in the second trimester and beyond, due to increased blood volume, among other factors. Though I have read literature indicating that vegan iron needs can be met during pregnancy with whole foods, I still feel most comfortable taking a supplement, just in case (especially since my prenatal vitamin does not contain any added iron). I take Seeking Health Optimal Iron plus cofactors. In addition to this supplement, my diet is pretty high in a lot of plant sources of iron, such as kale, lentils, beans and tofu. I try to make sure I am eating a lot of these with extra vitamin C sources as well, for enhanced absorption.
  • Protein: Anyone who’s been vegan for awhile can attest that the “where do you get your protein?” question can get a bit old. O.K. More than a bit old. But when you’re pregnant, it’s actually a question that is worth some consideration. Not that there aren’t plenty of plant protein sources that aren’t perfectly fine for helping grow a baby. It’s just that, one might need to think about getting more of these sources than usual. I try to make sure all of my meals contain protein sources such as hemp, soy, beans, quinoa or nuts. I like adding hemp seeds to my morning smoothies, walnuts and soy milk to my oatmeal, tempeh to my salads, and tofu to my stir-fries for added protein. And during the day, I have been known to snack on lentils or beans for a healthy, protein-filled snack. One of my favorite ways to up both my protein and iron intake is to make a lentil bolognese pasta sauce using store-bought jarred sauce, sauteed veggies, and lentils. For a creamier sauce, you can also add some cashew cream. Then, for an even more protein/iron-packed punch, use red lentil rotini or penne in place of “regular” noodles. I love TOLERANT organic, non-GMO red lentil rotini for this.
Lentil rotini topped with marinara sauce made with more lentils.

Lentil rotini topped with marinara sauce made with more lentils.

Symptoms: In the beginning, I felt nauseous from weeks 5 1/2 though about week 12. I had no vomiting, but did feel queasy throughout the day, and did not want to eat anything green — no veggies, salads or green smoothies for me. I also could not stand the smell of coffee. Luckily, the nausea and food aversions have passed, and I am back to my normal appetite. Now, my biggest symptom is fatigue. It’s not so bad right now, but I still find I need more than 8 hours of sleep these days to function.

I have also noticed that my nails are growing exponentially faster than they did.

Bumpdate/weight gain: Well, I have been really trying not to obsess about the weight. But I’ve gained about 25 pounds already at almost 24 weeks. My doctor said some women just tend to gain more, and if I’m not drinking lots of sugary sodas or eating tons of sweets (ha — she clearly hasn’t read my blog) there’s not much I can do — especially since I am staying active and still working out, albeit not as intensively as I once did.

I think a lot of my weight gain has been due to water weight as well. I have always been someone who tends to bloat and swell up easily with hormonal changes and excess sodium. I’m struggling to keep wearing my wedding ring these days because, though I can get it on in the morning, if I do anything to exert myself during the humid Michigan summer weather, my hands swell up so much that it’s hard to get my ring off at night.

14 weeks (Left) vs. 22 weeks (Right)

14 weeks (Left) vs. 22 weeks (Right)

Now, my bump is rounding out a bit and is even bigger than the picture on the right. And I’m sure will look even more “bumpy” in the coming weeks, when I’m told most people really start to “pop.”

The best part: You know what makes the weight gain thing much easier to handle? Hearing that my little girl is looking healthy and growing right on track when I visit my doctor. Even better? Feeling her kicks get stronger and stronger as the days and weeks go by. Most recently, dad has been able to feel her kicks as well, which is so cool, as I am finally able to share this thing that has had me feeling giddy for weeks. Literally feeling a life growing inside you is pretty darn cool.

And…that’s about it! Let me know if there are any specific posts you guys would like, pregnancy related or not. Oh, and standard disclaimer, but I am not a doctor and all medical info I’ve posted on here is simply based on my experience and what works for me. It’s not intended as medical advice. 

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Heart Healthy Meals to Serve Your Sweetie Fri, 13 Feb 2015 17:38:48 +0000

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Clockwise from Top Left: Carrot Cake Overnight Oats, Skillet Fajita Hash, Banana-Omega-Chia Pudding, Super Simple Incan Quinoa

Clockwise from Top Left: Carrot Cake Overnight Oats, Skillet Fajita Hash, Banana-Omega-Chia Pudding, Super Simple Incan Quinoa

Tomorrow is Valentine’s day — the universal day of love (or, the day Hallmark says we need to buy stuff to show our love, however you want to look at it). Traditionally, our expressions of love come in the form of flowers, chocolates or fancy meals. Unfortunately, the latter two traditions can ironically have a negative impact on our hearts.

Indeed, the #1 killer in the United States is heart attacks, a disease that literally attacks our hearts, the symbol of love. So it’s funny (but not so funny considering that last sobering statistic) that on a day meant to celebrate love, we often do so by buying foods that are damaging our hearts.

A low-fat, vegan diet is the only diet on the planet that has long been scientifically proven to not only prevent but actually reverse heart disease. So while soaked oats and chia seed puddings might not at first scream “romance” to you, think about it this way: what’s more romantic than keeping your loved ones alive and healthy for years to come by feeding them foods that promote a healthy heart and prevent disease? I’d say, not much.

So on this Valentine’s Day eve, I’ve decided to compile a list of my favorite heart healthy foods from this site — recipes that are completely oil–free, and many which are low in fat. If you’re really serious about getting your heart or your Valentine’s heart healthy, consider purchasing one of the following books to get the real science behind why a plant-based diet is the only sure way to a healthy heart, and for recipes, tips and more inspiration:

Here’s my list of oil-free or low-fat plant-based recipe favorites:


Single-Serving Carrot Cake Overnight Oats

Tempeh Hash

Tropical Green Detox Smoothie

Single-Serving Banana-Omega-Chia Pudding

Skillet Fajita Hash

Main Courses:

Super Simple Incan Quinoa

Baked Tofu-Teriyaki Skewers

Lentil Tacos

Fajita Bowls with Pineapple Pico de Gallo

Lentil-Sweet Potato-Kale Enchiladas

Sides and Salads:

Raw Broccoli Salad

Fat-Free Potato Salad

Fat-Free Green Bean Salad

Soups and Stews:

Low-Fat Lentil-Quinoa Chili


Fat-Free Berry-Oat Crisp

Easy, Healthy Fruit Desserts


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Slow Cooker Quinoa Chili Tue, 10 Feb 2015 22:27:45 +0000 quinoa chili

For obvious reasons, winter has never really been my favorite. And by obvious reasons, I just mean, well, the cold. And the short, dark days. And the dry, chapped hands. The slippery roads. The salt that is copiously strewed over every business’ sidewalk, which stains my boots and requires my dog to wear boots because it stings his paws. That’s what I’m referring to when I say “obvious.”

But then there are days like the one I had last Sunday — days that remind me of winter’s virtues. Here’s a little bit how it went down: with my slippers and pajamas on, I snuggled with my dog and binge-watched Friends on Netflix while the smell of chili simmering in the slow cooker permeated my comfortably warm old home, enough that I wasn’t even thinking about the dropping temperatures outside.

While the slow cooker has long been touted as a working woman’s (or man’s) greatest asset for having ready-to-eat meals available upon walking in the door, I have long loved the slow cooker for its equally important role in helping me facilitate a day of doing absolutely nothing. And by nothing, I mean binge-watching Netflix shows.

If you don’t have a slow cooker, you can always make this on the stovetop. I recommend sauteeing the mushrooms and peppers prior to adding the other ingredients if you go that route. Just remember that even though this chili doesn’t otherwise require a lot of cooking other than warming through, chili still benefits from the flavors being allowed to develop for awhile. So if you’re going the stovetop route, I would still let it simmer. Otherwise, if you’re looking to invest in a slow cooker, this one seems to be the latest version of what I use, and I’ve had good results with it.

Some toppings that I think would go great with this chili include:

Sliced avocado

Vegan sour cream

Hot sauce

Diced raw onion

Corn chips

Sliced green onion

Slow Cooker Quinoa Chili

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 4 hours, 30 minutes

Total Time: 5 hours

Yield: 8-10 servings


  • 3 14 oz., cans fire roasted diced tomatoes/diced tomatoes
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 14 oz. can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 14 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 14 oz. can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 14 oz. can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 14 oz. can northern white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen corn
  • 8 oz. white button mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 green bell peppers, stemmed, seeded and diced
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt (or to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa, well rinsed


  1. Add all ingredients except quinoa to slow cooker. Cover and turn on high. Cook chili on high for 4 - 4 1/2 hours, or until chili is simmering and peppers and mushrooms are soft. If possible, stir halfway through to prevent burning on the bottom.
  2. In the last 1/2 hour of cooking, add rinsed quinoa to small pot with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and simmer until all water is absorbed and quinoa is cooked (about 15 minutes). Add cooked quinoa to chili and stir to combine.
  3. Add more salt or seasoning to taste. Serve chili with desired toppings.


I imagine this recipe can also be made on a "low" slow cooker setting, just allow additional time for the vegetables to soften. If making over the stovetop, I would saute the mushrooms and peppers in the oil first, then add the remaining ingredients.

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A Gluten-Free, Vegan Thanksgiving (Part 2) Mon, 24 Nov 2014 22:09:22 +0000 gluten-free, vegan thanksgivingI know it has been quite some time since I posted. As I’ve mentioned before on here, work has become increasingly busy in the last several months, and has left me struggling to find time to do much outside the office. When I do have free time, I made a promise to myself to spend it in ways that have a positive impact on my mental and physical health. Of course, it’s hard to argue that cooking healthy food at home has a negative impact on one’s health. Yet the stress of creating recipes (which can be time-consuming), combined with writing them down, photographing the finished project and blogging about them left me depleted. Although I know I don’t particularly owe an explanation for my absence, I nevertheless seem to want to provide one with every new post.

I am still trying to navigate how to move forward with this blog in the face of an increased workload and other responsibilities. I’ve decided to simply take things day-by-day. While I still love cooking, I’ve been posting more and more to my Facebook and Instagram feeds, which I found provides an outlet for me to share my cooking and ideas without the work of creating full recipes and new posts. If you’d like to see what I’ve been cooking lately, I encourage you to follow/like Delectably Free on one of those pages.

Then again, Thanksgiving is a great time for a new post that doesn’t require any new recipe-making. I love compilations because they let me look back on past blog posts that even I may have forgotten about. So this year, I’ve decided to do a take-2 of my previous gluten-free/vegan Thanksgiving ideas post. I hope you find inspiration in some of these ideas. While a lot of what I’m sharing could fall into the “traditional” Thanksgiving-fare realm, other dishes veer from the traditional Thanksgiving menu (lasagna on Thanksgiving, anyone?). I hope you enjoy and have a wonderful, safe and happy Thanksgiving.

no turkeys were harmed in the making of this Thanksgiving menu

No turkeys or other farmed animals were harmed in the making of this Thanksgiving menu

Breads and Rolls:

Cheddar Scallion Biscuits

Traditional Cornbread


Side Dishes:

Cornbread Stuffing

Fat-Free Potato Salad (oil-free, fat-free)

Zucchini Potato Latkes

Green Bean Casserole

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese with Kale

Portobellos and Gravy

Entrees/Main Courses:

Winter Rice Bake

Grain-Free, Vegan Layered Vegetable Lasagna (oil-free)

Butternut Squash Lasagna (oil-free)

Cran-Apple Lentil Loaf (oil-free)

Adzuki-Millet Cakes


Warm Green Bean and Potato Salad

Fat-Free Green Bean Salad (oil-free, fat-free)

Raw Fruit and Nut Kale Salad (oil-free)

Antioxidant Quinoa Salad


Applesauce Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Chocolate-Pumpkin Mousse Pie

Apple Crisp

Cranberry-Oatmeal Cookies

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Super Simple Incan Quinoa Fri, 11 Jul 2014 23:14:05 +0000 Incan QuinoaI think I’m ready.

If you hadn’t noticed, I took a little bit of a break. You may know that I’ve been dealing with fighting Lyme and other chronic Tick-borne infections in the last two years. After a year on antibiotics and steady improvement, I decided to return to blogging after a long hiatus. I blogged again for about a year before realizing I was, quite simply, exhausted. Physically — after coming home from long, stressful days at work — I was pushing myself to make multi-step meals to test for the blog in time to take photos while there was still daylight. Then I would spend the rest of the night editing said photos, then forcing myself to sit and write a meaningful and informative post — all while watching the clock in panic mode, hoping I could make it into bed to ensure my requisite eight hours of sleep were possible that night (otherwise, I might as well call off tomorrow on account of the inevitable brain fog and fatigue).

The weekends provided more opportunity for cooking, picture-taking and writing posts. But that turned out to be a problem as I found myself turning down plans or opportunities for much-needed rest and self-care in order to make sure I got my quota of decent posts lined up for the week ahead.

The pace was unsustainable, and I found myself getting more tired and, perhaps worse, becoming grumpier. So I got burnt out and quietly went away for awhile, hoping that the much-needed reset would help me return with a purpose and vigor like never before.

The problem is, I’m still not feeling 100% recovered. I have more good days than bad than I did, say, two years ago. But on my good days I tend to do too much to compensate for the apparent lack of productiveness of my bad days. And then I get burnt out. And I want to quit everything and sleep for days like Carrie Bradshaw in the first SATC movie that was better than critics gave it credit for.

But recently, something was stirred up in me that had me wanting this platform to share my feelings, and my food. I’ve been seeing a lot of press about fellow vegan bloggers who have caused quite a stir by announcing they were no longer vegan. One in particular (whose name I will not mention) seemed to confuse veganism with an eating disorder. Thus, her year-long foray into veganism was basically, by her own account, a juice fast. She of course lost weight, but became obsessive about it. She rarely allowed anything but kale or raw juice to pass her lips (again, I am paraphrasing her words). When she realized she had a problem, she started adding fish and eggs back into her diet. Miraculously, her periods returned and her energy improved. Thus, the moral of the story was: eat animals and you will feel better!

Incan Quinoa Bowl

Now, I am not here to make light of eating disorders or to attack this individual, whom I do not know and do not claim to understand. I think it’s brave for anyone to share their story with the internet world, knowing there’s a host of people waiting to tear it down. But I do feel I have a moral obligation to speak out on behalf of the animals and share with the world the other side of things — that veganism is not a fad diet, nor is it a good way to mask an eating disorder. It’s a lifestyle centered around compassion for one’s own body, for the animals and for the planet. It’s about healthy whole foods, grains, legumes and — gasp — sometimes even processed foods for when we’re missing something from our pre-vegan days.

We vegans spend a lot of time criticizing our community from within. The oil-free folk attack those who use oil. The raw foodists scoff at anything cooked. As a gluten-free, sugar-free and often oil-free vegan, I am no stranger to restrictions within a vegan diet. while I went vegan “for the animals”, I do many of these other things for my health — because I know that if I eat too much sugar, my candida will flare after two years of being on antibiotics for Lyme. I know that if I eat gluten, my inflammation markers will skyrocket, and my stomach troubles and headaches will return. So I don’t. But I also don’t feel like I am starving myself.

When I tell strangers I am vegan, some get a concerned look on their faces and tell me “you will starve to death!” or something along those lines. I usually shut them up by pointing to my fit yet by no means supermodel-esque figure and telling them “I’ve been vegan for four years and haven’t starved yet.”

Me: rocking my Vegucated t-shirt. That Einstein guy must've known a thing or two...

Me: rocking my Vegucated t-shirt. That Einstein guy must’ve known a thing or two…

So, here I am, slowly trying to get myself back into the blogging groove. I know I need to slow down. But I need to get my voice out there somehow, because I am on a mission to tell the true story of veganism: that you can eat a balanced, healthy, delicious vegan (and gluten-free and low-sugar) diet and STILL never, ever starve or put your health at risk.* Heck, the only reason I believe I was not worse off than I was after 4 years of undiagnosed Lyme disease was the fact that I had been unknowingly medicating myself with plant-based diet, well before I even knew what I was medicating.

* I am not saying that every single person, in every situation can eat a vegan diet without troubles. Perhaps there are those rare occurrences where a person needs animal protein to thrive — but I believe this is the exception, NOT the rule. 



  • 1 cup dry red quinoa, rinsed well and cooked according to package directions
  • 1 medium sweet potato, unpeeled, washed and diced
  • 6 tablespoons + 2 tablespoons vegetable broth (divided)
  • 1 14/15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed (or fresh corn)
  • 1/4 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice (about 1/2 large orange)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • salt to taste
  • avocado for serving (optional)
  • fresh salsa for serving (optional)


  1. Add sweet potato to a large skillet with 6 tablespoons of vegetable broth and cover. Cook sweet potato over medium heat until soft and cooked through, about 8-10 minutes. Add a few tablespoons water, if needed, if liquid is evaporated before sweet potatoes are soft.
  2. Add in cooked quinoa, black beans, corn and spices. Toss and heat through(still at medium heat), about 1-2 minutes. Add additional two tablespoons broth and orange juice and cook for another minute before removing from heat.
  3. Add salt to taste. Serve topped with avocado or salsa, if desired.

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Strawberry-Spinach-Quinoa Salad Wed, 07 May 2014 15:57:13 +0000 Strawberry-Spinach-Quinoa SaladThe simple fact of the matter is, I needed a reset. It had been months of chocolate this and chocolate that, and I was feeling my body slowly tell me I had had enough. Enough chocolate? Yes, it’s possible. I started to suspect something was amiss when I brought home from work an empty tupperware container of what once contained my double chocolate chip cookies. “Oh, did you bring your cookies to work?” my husband asked, when he saw me come back in with the empty container. I had. “How did your co-workers like them?” he wondered. I looked sheepishly back at Gennaro, ashamed to admit that my coworkers hadn’t eaten them, I had. I had eaten 4 chocolate chip cookies in one day. They were my lunch. And my mid-afternoon snack. This is what happens when you have a full work schedule and nothing else to bring for lunch at work except chocolate cookies — seemingly the only thing I had been working on in the kitchen that past week.*

As a side note, I did eventually bring my double chocolate chip cookies to work. And my co-workers did love them, thankfully. 

So, after months of chocolate desserts interspersed with some thumbprint cookies, I was ready to call it quits on the desserts for awhile and get my sweet fix elsewhere. Like in a salad. A fresh, seasonal, whole foods, plant-based salad. Something bursting with color and nutrients, that wouldn’t leave me feeling heavy, weighed-down or sluggish.

Strawberry-Quinoa-Spinach Salad

And I have a rule with salads. They cannot, under any circumstances, be boring. I’ve done the bagged lettuce with bottled dressing thing and I’m not into it. I love and respect vegetables too much to relegate them to an afterthought next to “the rest of” my meal. This salad isn’t the afterthought. It’s the main event. Though it can also certainly round out the meal as a lovely side as well.

Enjoy this salad warm or cold, depending on how the weather is behaving in your area. Where I’m at, we’re still not-so-patiently awaiting a consistently warm spring. But we’re getting there, slowly. So this salad is the perfect compromise of fresh seasonal fruits and veggies, with quinoa for just a bit of warmth and heartiness, if you please.


Yield: 2 servings as a main course salad; 4 servings as a side


  • 1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar (I use Eden brand because it's naturally fermented and unpasteurized)
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 6 oz. pre-washed baby spinach (the size of one bag from Trader Joe's)
  • 1 heaping cup fresh strawberries, quartered (or cut into even smaller pieces if strawberries are larger)
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa (for a warmer salad, make sure quinoa is still warm)
  • 1/2 cup finely diced red onion
  • 3 tablespoons hemp hearts, for sprinkling (optional)


  1. Make dressing: whisk together orange juice, red wine vinegar, olive oil and sea salt in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. Assemble salad: Toss remaining ingredients (except for hemp hearts) in a large salad bowl. Add dressing and toss to combine.
  3. Serve: serve each salad sprinkled with some hemp hearts (optional).


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Vegan Mexican Lasagna Sun, 04 May 2014 14:48:27 +0000 Gluten-Free, Vegan Mexican LasagnaYes, I made this Mexican lasagna with Cinco de Mayo in mind. But truthfully, I really don’t need an excuse to bring Mexican food into my life. Rice, beans, tortillas and salsa all top out the list of foods I regularly enjoy in some capacity. And I think it’s fair to say by now that I am a huge fan of cashew cheese, including the cashew nacho cheese sauce that I used here.

While I was making this dish, it occurred to me that it would be really difficult to mess it up. I suppose you could. But there’s not much science that goes into layering things and baking them together for a casserole-like dish — and even less science when it comes to using tortillas rather than lasagna noodles because there’s less risk of overcooking the tortillas than the noodles. I tried to keep this recipe as simple as possible, but that doesn’t mean sauteed vegetables, black olives, veggie crumbles or any number of other ingredients won’t also work here.

Similarly, if you don’t have a blender or don’t feel like making the homemade cashew sauce, you could easily substitute a vegan cheese for the cashew cheese sauce. If you do that, I would suggest adding a little extra salsa to the middle layers.

For me, the best part of this lasagna — aside from the taste, of course! — was that you get to avoid the frustration of having to soften corn tortillas and roll them into enchiladas. If you’ve ever tried this before, you understand first-hand how nearly impossible it is to do this without breaking any tortillas. I sort of decided at some point that I wasn’t interested in dealing with that sort of annoyance in the kitchen anymore. Layering the tortillas solves that problem while keeping the flavor and spirit of enchiladas intact.

Enjoy with a side salad and/or your favorite accompaniments. For me, that would be chips and lots of guacamole. And margaritas, of course!

Note: if you’re budgeting your time for this meal, make sure to set out time to soak your cashews, if necessary. As I’ve said before, I never soak my cashews but am confident in my blender, which leaves no cashew pieces and gives me a smooth sauce. Without soaking my cashews, I was able to have this dinner ready in under an hour (including the 30 minutes needed for baking) If you’re less certain about your blender, though, be sure to soak your cashews first for at least 2 hours. Alternately, simply use my suggestion of spreading middle layers with salsa and sprinkling with a vegan cheese of choice. 


Yield: 6 servings


  • 2 cups good quality jarred salsa, not super chunky (plus more needed for nacho cheese)
  • 12 or more corn tortillas (12-17, depending on size of baking dish)
  • 1 15 oz. can refried beans (I prefer Amy's brand)
  • 1 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups frozen corn, thawed
  • 1 prepared recipe nacho cheese sauce from Ultimate Vegan Nachos
  • Blue Corn tortilla chips, crushed, for topping (optional)


  1. Spread 1/2 cup salsa over bottom of an 11x11" (or similar sized) cassrole/baking dish. Then line the dish with a layer of tortillas so the bottom is covered but the tortillas are not overlapping too much (you may have to cut some).
  2. Spread 1/2 of the refried beans over tortillas. If the beans are too hard and not spreadable, thin out with a little salsa or water until they spread but are not too watery. Sprinkle beans with about 1/2 of the black beans and 1 cup of frozen corn. Pour 1/2 of the nacho cheese sauce evenly over beans and corn. Spread to cover if necessary.
  3. Add another layer of tortillas, then repeat above steps using remaining refried beans, black beans, corn and cheese sauce.
  4. Spread the final layer of tortillas on top of everything, then cover with remaining 1 1/2 cups salsa. Spread to cover tortillas evenly. Sprinkle with crushed blue corn tortilla chips if using.
  5. Bake lasagna, uncovered, in preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit for a few minutes before slicing. Serve warmed with desired toppings.


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Triple Chocolate Brownie Doughnuts Mon, 28 Apr 2014 14:16:05 +0000 gluten-free, vegan triple chocolate doughnutsI read an article around New Years last year that had food experts predicting the next food trends of 2014. One expert pegged 2014 as the year of hybrid desserts, in light of the recent cronut craze of 2013.

In our home, if we had to predict what sort of surprises 2014 would bring, I don’t think either of us would have predicted that this would be the year we’d find raccoons living in our attic. But that’s exactly what we were presented with a week ago yesterday. Had it not been for that little fly – er, raccoon – in the ointment, so to speak, last Sunday would have been a wonderful day. It was Easter Sunday, so we packed up our car bright and early, Woodley in tow, to attend church and then a day of festivities and vegan feasting at my parents’ home. It was a beautiful outside – in the 70s and sunny. Once we got home for the evening, we took a long family walk through the neighborhood, enjoying the warm and peaceful evening. As we rounded the corner of the street back to our house for the night, it became apparent that there was some sort of creature up on our rooftop, staring at us as we approached our home. That creature, it turns out, was a quite large raccoon. We locked eyes for a moment before she quickly darted back into, well, our home. From the roof. I was too creeped out to keep watching her, but Gennaro stayed outside only to learn there was another adult raccoon with her as well. The “baby daddy”, if you will (side note: when raccoons take up residence in the attic, they are almost always preparing for babies to come, which would explain why the raccoon who greeted us when we came home last Sunday night was nearly the size of our 45 lb. dog, and why there was a second adult raccoon with her).

A frantic Google search later, we learned that homes like ours – bungalows with dormer rooms built out over the roof – provide the perfect entryway for raccoons into an attic. Did you know raccoons can fit into holes only 4” wide? Yup, neither did we. Keep in mind that, as we were doing this Google search, we could clearly hear the unsettling pitter-patter and thumping of our house guests above us.

Instinctively, without a second thought, I began searching the internet for ways to get them the hell out. This, in turn, presented a rather interesting vegan dilemma that would have me losing sleep in the week that followed.

I ended up calling an animal control place that advertised eco-friendly and humane pest control options. Easy enough, right? No need to let my silly conscience get in the way of this one. But my conscience did somehow sneak in there, once I realized that humane pest control is not as easy as a few hired helpers going into the attic, scooping up our animal friends, and immediately relocating them to another area where they could get right back to nesting and preparing for the arrival of their babies.

This is more like how it goes: you call pest control Monday morning. They come out Monday afternoon, set up a few live traps around the raccoon entry point of your home. They leave live traps baited with cat food overnight. Then they tell you to just call them if you find something in there in the morning. They’ll swing by to pick up the raccoon at some undisclosed time the next day. This would mean we’d in all likelihood had a live raccoon sitting in a small cage, overnight, for up to 24 hours outside our home. We’d have trapped him or her, likely separated them from their family (assuming we didn’t trap both raccoons at once), and would be leaving them out in the cold, without any food or water, indefinitely.

Knowing the raccoons would likely come out of the attic around dark on Monday night, my stomach started to turn and knot at the thought that I would soon be the source of some animal’s fear and, God forbid, suffering. I’d lived the last few years of my life trying to do as little harm as possible to other creatures. Now, I’d become part of what now seemed like a cruel and elaborate plan to trick them into a small cage just because I didn’t want them in my home. I went back to Google to see if I could rectify the situation. Maybe there was another way – a way we could live harmoniously with raccoons in our attic and let them have their babies here and raise them as a family together! What had I been thinking, wanting them out of our home? A “good” vegan would have gladly welcomed these creatures, maybe even thrown a baby shower, or something.

gluten-free, vegan triple chocolate brownie doughnuts

If the above internal dialogue sounds ridiculous to you, think of how it sounded to my husband as I presented him with the thought of just letting the raccoons live in our home. When I saw the look on his face, it was clear the issue wasn’t up for debate, which I pretty much knew all along. But that didn’t stop the tears from pouring down my face as I faced the deep guilt of knowing an animal was going to be captured outside my home, with my permission. I felt even more horrible once I heard the early sounds of struggling and commotion outside, knowing that we’d caught the first raccoon.

In the end, the “first” raccoon would end up being the only raccoon we’d catch. It was the dad. Apparently, the moms can sometimes get spooked and just leave once their partner is caught, which is likely what happened to our couple.

Once I’d heard the noises outside indicating he’d been caught, I couldn’t bring myself to look. Gennaro urged me to go to bed. But it was Gennaro’s reaction to the whole thing that would reinforce for me in the next day what a great “catch” (pun intended) I’d managed to land for a husband. Instead of scoffing at my emotional meltdown over the humane capture of some “pest”, Gennaro comforted me and reassured me that this was really the only legitimate option we had. Then, he made a point to check on the raccoon for several more hours that night. He made a makeshift rain cover for him with a table in our garage once it started to rain. He came out and fed him some of Woodley’s food. He went out again later in the day to give him some more food. He quizzed the animal control guy on where our raccoon friend would be released. And it was reassuring to learn that the company we hired did their best to keep the animals’ welfare in mind. They released them to a wildlife reserve with lots of other raccoons in the area. They also made sure that the raccoons – who can actually go up to 72 hours without food or water – would never have to go 24 hours without it. And if they mother somehow got separated from her young, which they tried to prevent whenever possible, they’d bring the young to a place where they could be raised and fed until being released into the wild.

So that, my friends, is the story of that time we found raccoons in out attic in 2014, and how the whole experience created an inner ethical and moral crisis that would disturb me in a way most would find disturbing in itself. I re-read this article from Piper Hoffman over at Our Hen House what seemed like a million times over the last week, as it helped me come to terms with the fact that we can’t always be perfect. As Piper so eloquently says, “sending a message that being vegan means living with insect infestations is not inspiring to others or tolerable to me” (Piper also has a great follow-up article that can be found here). I would imagine the same could be said for raccoons living in ones attic. The thought that being vegan requires one to dispose of all logic and welcome wild animals into the home seems ridiculous in retrospect. It would mean countless dollars worth of repair bills and exposure to germs and disease. So while I’ll admit that the idea of letting the raccoons stick around was not my finest idea, I’ll also not apologize for caring enough about the raccoons to find myself worrying about their welfare and safety once they were caught.

I believe that every experience teaches us a lesson in life. In this instance, I learned that reason (the idea that it’s probably not the best idea to allow raccoons to take up residence in your home) and compassion (wanting to do as little harm as possible to other creatures) need not always be mutually exclusive, but are both tools we can use to weigh our choices in every moment in order to make the best choice possible for others and for ourselves.

With that ordeal over, I hope the rest of 2014 proves to be a little less eventful in our home. Heck, I hope this does turn out to be the year of hybrid desserts. That is something that seemingly presents no moral conflict. One can have their vegan doughnut, and eat it too. These brownie doughnuts taste like brownies, but have the cakey texture of a baked doughnut. They’re great with a cup of coffee in the morning, or as a sweet treat after dinner. They’re lower in sugar and fat than their non-vegan counterparts, so you can have more than one and not feel weighed down and can avoid that sugar crash that is otherwise inevitable when doughnuts or brownies are involved.

I loosely adapted this recipe from various ones on the internet, I think which were based on the doughnut recipe from Vegan Yum Yum.

Triple Chocolate Brownie Doughnuts:

Makes about 9-10 doughnuts


2/3 cup Bob’s Red Mill All-Purpose Gluten-Free Baking Flour

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

½ cup Big Tree Farms Coconut Palm Sugar + Stevia*

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon sea salt

¼ teaspoon xanthan gum

½ cup unsweetened soy milk

½ teaspoon apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup light olive oil or liquified coconut oil

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 tablespoons applesauce

1/3 cup Lily’s Dark Chocolate Premium Baking Chips

Glaze ingredients:

1/3 cup unsweetened soy milk or other non-dairy milk

½ cup Lily’s baking chips (same as above)

1 tablespoon Coconut Palm Sugar + stevia sweetener (same as above)

*Note, I list the brand here not because I have any affiliation with them, but because using another brand or mixing your own coconut sugar with stevia might result in varying levels of sweetness. Feel free to experiment, but for best results, please stick with that brand, if you can. It can also be found in most health food stores. 


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Whisk together dry ingredients (baking flour through xanthan gum) in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, which together wet ingredients (soy milk through applesauce). Add wet to dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips.
  3. Using a tablespoon, spoon batter into ungreased non-stick doughnut tin. If needed, spread gently to fill each tin. Use about 3 tablespoons batter per doughnut.
  4. Bake doughnuts in preheated oven for about 13 minutes, or until dough bounces back up when pressed gently.
  5. While doughnuts are baking, make glaze. Add ingredients to a small saucepan and heat over medium heat until melted together, about 3-5 minutes.
  6. Let cool for a few minutes before flipping over a wire rack to remove doughnuts. Let them cool on rack.
  7. Allow glaze to cool about 10 minutes before using. Place cooled doughnuts over parchment paper and spoon desired amount of glaze over each doughnuts (about a few tablespoons per doughnuts). Let cool before eating. Glaze will harden completely after about an hour.
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