Becker 2nd Annual Pumpkin Carving Contest

Well… we didn’t win a prize, but I’m pretty happy with our pumpkin.

Derek can take all the credit for carving. I just hovered over him nervously. But I did pick out the pumpkin so at least I contributed a tiny bit. We make a good team like that. 🙂


What’s Cooking: Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

It’s been a week since I made these, but they were so tasty (and out of my comfort zone to create) that I think it should be documented. The recipe came from a vegan blog that I recently discovered– Hell Yeah It’s Vegan. It’s a great source for delicious vegan treats that even omnivores will love; I’ve already made the vegan carrot cake and the peanut butter chocolate chip bars.

Make sure you read through the directions before starting–these buns take a while to make. Perfect for a cozy Saturday morning but probably not something you wanna try before work.

Shopping List:

For the buns-
2¼ teaspoon active dry yeast
¼ cup warm water
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons Earth Balance, melted
2 cup whole wheat flour, plus more for dusting
2 tablespoon sugar
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt

For the Filling-
½ cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
¼ cup Earth Balance, melted

For the Icing-
1 teaspoon Earth Balance
1 teaspoon vanilla
1½ cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoon water or soy milk

I also added a little pumpkin syrup to the icing. If you wanna be a copycat, combine equal parts water and sugar on the stove (1/2 cup of each). Boil until sugar is completely dissolved. Turn down the heat and add 1 tablespoon of pumpkin puree and 2 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice. Let cool and then transfer to an air-tight container. Add a couple spoonfulls to the icing and use the rest in coffee (pumpkin spice lattes on the cheap). The syrup can be stored in the fridge for a few weeks.

Step by Step-

In a small bowl, mix yeast, warm water and 1 teaspoon of sugar; set aside to proof. It should get nice and foamy after about 5-10 minutes. (If it doesn’t, your yeast is bad and this recipe isn’t gonna happen). Add pumpkin puree and meted Earth Balance to your foamy yeast mixture; blend well.

Now, in a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, nutmeg and salt. Make a well in your dry mix and add yeast liquid, stirring to incorporate. Knead for a couple of minutes until smooth. I didn’t need to, but you have the option of adding a little extra flour to keep it from sticking to everything. (Just don’t add too much or your rolls will end up tough). You’ll know you’re done kneading when the dough bounces back from a gentle poke.

Cover tightly with plastic and set in a warm, draft-free place (I stuck mine in the turned-off oven). Let the dough rise for about an hour or until it has doubled in size. In the meantime, mix the filling ingredients together and set aside. When ready, punch the dough down and roll out until it’s rectangular and about ¼-½” thick. Pour filling mixture on top and spread around.

Applying slight pressure, roll up the dough the long way. Firmly saw through the roll with a serrated knife to create about 9 rolls. Arrange in a pan a 9×9 square should work fine. Cover and set in a warm place to rise for another 40 minutes.

After the second rise, bake at 375° for 25 minutes.

While the buns bake, whisk together icing ingredients until smooth. When the buns are ready, let them cool for just a few minutes and then drizzle icing generously.

What’s Cooking: Easy Peasy Potato Burritos

At Jessie’s request, I bought some tater tots at Trader Joe’s the other day. I made some for her but there was still more than half the bag in my freezer. And while I think tots are pretty tasty on their own, last night I decided to replicate a favorite from the burrito bars in my college town: the potato burrito.

The outcome was delicious and the process was super simple. I don’t even know if I should count this as cooking. But I thought a few of you would enjoy this (I’m talking to you hermano) so I’m sharing anyways.

Shopping List
whole wheat tortillas
brown rice
black beans
tater tots
Non-vegan optional ingredients: cheese and sour cream

Step by Step

The longest step is cooking the rice so start with that first. If you have a rice cooker it’s pretty painless. You’re on your own for stovetop cooking though; I don’t mess with that anymore. I haven’t done it yet, but I think it would add a little something to dish if you used veggie broth instead of water. Lemme know if you try it.

While that cooks away, pre-heat your oven and cook the tater tots according to the package. I like mine crispier so after ten minutes, I turned up the heat by 25 degrees.

When both the rice and the tots are just about done, warm the beans in a pot (or in the microwave if you must).

Get the tortilla ready and then fill her up. Top with salsa and any other burrito garnishes you love (cilantro would be delish).

If you have teeny little tortillas like I do, make sure to grab a couple dozen napkins cause you’re about to make a mess. A yummy, yummy mess.

The Vacation’s Over

And now my little sis is gone. We checked out three schools while she was here and she likes two: Cornell and Boston University. She’s quite the smarty pants with a long list of extra curriculars and leadership positions, so I’m pretty certain she’ll be accepted to any school she applies (and that’s not just because I’m her supa proud big sister, she really is amazing). But just to be safe, I listened carefully to what the admissions committees are looking for so I can help edit her application.

These pictures are of the beautiful Cornell campus. When we went into Boston I accidentally turned my camera to video. Since the screen is cracked, I didn’t realize until I uploaded everything to my computer. The short clips are funny but not worth sharing on the big ol’ internets.

I had a blast with Jessie. I hope I was cool enough that she’ll consider going to college out here. If she choose either school, I’ll be real jealous of her. One is in the city and the other has a Jimmy John’s.

But seriously, they are both great choices and I think Jess would do well and find her place at either. I can’t wait to see where life takes her.

I love you Jessica!

Can’t Wait Til Tomorrow

Because this little lady will be here!

My younger sis is graduating high school this spring (how is she that old already?!) and we’re taking a look a couple colleges on the East Coast. Here’s to hoping the visits go well and she decides to move out this way. I’d love to see her more often. But until she makes that decision, I’m just happy to have her with for the super-quick-and-busy five days that she’s here.

Jessica, I’m so proud of you and I know you’ll be successful at any college you choose. But…choose the one that’s closest to me, ok?

p.s. There’s a Jimmy John’s in one of the college towns. OHMYGOSH I’m excited.

What’s Cooking: Apple Crisp

I’m still in apple-overload from the trip to the apple orchard a few weeks ago. Even after this recipe, I have a fridge drawer full of apples. But I’m not complaining. I also didn’t have any complaints about the crisp, fall weather we had over the weekend. Perfect for throwing on a sweatshirt, lighting a pumpkin candle and making a yummy fall dessert. Even though this recipe is vegan, I promise it won’t disappoint.

(recipe from here)

Shopping List:
6-7 apples, peeled and sliced in 1/4-inch slices
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoon cinnamon
1/8 tablespoon nutmeg
1/8 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup quick cooking oats
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/6 c. canola oil (I think applesauce would work as a healthy substitute, but I was out)
1.5 tablespoon vanilla soy milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt

Step by Step:

Preheat oven to 375.

Layer the sliced apples in a small baking dish. Mix together the cornstarch, spices, sugar and water and drizzle over the apples. Give it a good shake to make sure you get all the apples covered.

In a separate bowl, mix together the crisp part. Spread on top of your apples. Cover with foil and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 20-30 minutes.

Top with coconut ice cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Enjoy in cozy clothes.

Vegan Report: Month One

It’s been one month since I cut dairy and eggs from my already-vegetarian diet. I had flirted with the idea for several weeks before really making the commitment, so I was pretty sure I knew I was getting myself into. And for the most part, my expectations were correct. I knew that it would require more cooking. I knew it would be harder to dine out. I knew that there was no good substitute for cheese.

What I didn’t really expect, though, was all the support I’ve received. Derek has been awesome with all my food changes–he’s happy to eat vegan dishes and pays extra attention to labels on the food we buy. And the people I work with have repeatedly gone out of their way to make versions of food that I could eat. Someone even made a separate batch of vegan cupcakes so that I could celebrate International Talk Like a Pirate Day with the rest of the office (yep, we did that).

I’ve found suitable substitutes for every dairy product I ate regularly except for cheese. Fake cheese is disgusting. And I never really ate eggs on their own, so all I needed to do to cut them out was find egg substitute for baking. Turns out there’s a lot of options (I usually mix 1 tbsp of ground flax seed with 3 tbsp of water for each egg).

That being said, I still don’t really know if a vegan diet is something I’ll stick with forever. It’s possible that I’m still figuring it out and that it’ll last. But at this point, I feel like it’s possible that I will allow myself to occasionally eat dairy (namely cheese). I don’t intend to return to my old eating habits, but I’m not sure I’m ready to commit to a life without pizza or nachos. I’m still trying to determine if I could be comfortable in the ethical grey area that I would create for myself if cheese found its way back into my diet.

I think it’s too early to tell. And I want to give my body and mind adequate time to adjust to the new diet before I make a decision one way or other. So please bear with my monthly reflections (or skip over them if you like) and cut me some slack if I end up straying from a strictly vegan food choices.

Much love,


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