We have finally moved full-time onto our property! We are there. And, as my husband says, “it is one thing after another.” Moving was hard enough, but we also got a puppy. Maybe not the wisest decision ever. So, the dog has peed on the bed two nights in a row. It doesn’t sleep through the night. I am having to adjust my entire life and work schedule to try to take care of the dog. To top it off, we just got hot water last night, the gas keeps acting strange (works sometimes, doesn’t work sometimes), I have a completely new routine, and I haven’t figured out cooking. Now, I am coming to work mildly dirty and I cant find my work clothes.
The only light in the tunnel is that I found my sunglasses. Next week I have to be out of town for two days for work and orchestrating the dog and the kids and our new commute is like a symphony in progress. I have cried about it several times (just today). Oh and there was a coyote on one of the cars two nights ago.
There are some amazing things like the sweet face of the new puppy, all the stars in the sky, a sense of purpose, and the great view. But right now we are in the struggle phase, and I am not having fun. My husband looks miserable. The kids have been nonstop complaining about commutes and changes to schedules and sleeping arrangements. I know it is going to get easier and that this is the biggest change of our lives. I just wish it would get easier faster!
When we set out to buy property, it was overwhelming. How on Earth do we choose the right property that we are going to live on for the rest of our lives? How will we know we found the right one? There are so many things to think about and consider.
I told my husband when we first thought buying property might become a reality that I wanted a bathtub, a view, and a fireplace. Now, those are not helpful things in choosing a property. But that is what I knew I wanted.
So we started really thinking about what we wanted on property. I read a thousand blogs (I don’t even think that is an exaggeration) and watched so many YouTube videos. We also called around to the county building department. AND, we talked to people who lived here in town and the surrounding areas.
One of my friends lives on 100 acres. When she moved onto her property, she didn’t have water or electricity or a house. I spent a lot of time talking to her about her experience when she first moved onto her property. She didn’t have a shower or a real toilet for more than year. I sat down and really started thinking about not having a shower or a real toilet. Is this something that I could live with? Ehhh. I’m not so sure.
Of course, another major consideration is money. What can we afford to do when? Our ultimate goal is to be 100% off grid. However we can’t put out the money for solar energy or a generator right off the bat. It is a very difficult process to try to prioritize your needs. We looked at many properties before we finally settled on ours. Here are our top considerations:
Our number one concern was water. We live in the high desert of Colorado. Water can be expensive to have trucked in, and we weren’t sure we could afford a large cistern system right away. Drilling our own well was out of cost question. So, we wanted to find a property that already had water. We looked at several different properties. Ultimately, our property has a well. That fits our needs. We had the well tested prior to purchasing the property. It is a good well.
#2: County/City regulations
No lie. We spent hundreds of hours researching the cities and counties near our home to find out which had the cheapest and easiest building regulations. Unfortunately, because of our other desires, we ended up in a county that is a little more expensive and restrictive than we would have liked. We really made a compromise on this one. So, this was definitely our #2 consideration, but we ended up not getting what we wanted. My advice to you is to really research the county codes and the building permit cost. These are things that can really change the timeline and cost of your project and even the project itself. For us, we are going to end up spending more than $12,000 in permitting costs which is way more than we wanted to spend.
#3: The Road
We live in Colorado. The weather is not always perfect. We get snow, sleet, hail, rain. Accessing the property has to be a concern. More than that, I wanted to know if I could get off the property in the winter or would I always be snowed in? Then, we only have one four-wheel drive car. So, if the road is a dirt road, it has to be a well maintained dirt road. Considering the weather, your car, and the road conditions is really important. We found a property we loved, but the road was too rough, and we would have never been able to use the road for our needs.
#4: The commute
We definitely considered this. My husband says the commute shouldn’t matter. But the truth is that it matters a lot to me. We looked at properties that were about 45 minutes away, but our children still attend school in town and I have a job here. Our property we settled on is a brisk 17 minutes away. That is much more manageable. In order to get this commute, we had to compromise on some other issues.
#5: Other amenities
We eventually want to be off grid, but it isn’t financially feasible on the front end. We want to have access to electricity and to the internet. So we were willing to compromise on this point, but we didn’t have to.
I have a life update! My life is taking a new direction. A drastic change. We are living in Colorado. This has been a huge adjustment. We are 3,000 miles away from our friends family. Here in Colorado, there are wide open spaces, mountains, crisp air, and cheap land.
For as long as Robert and I have been married, we have talked about wanting to have a piece of land to call our own. We spent so much time driving around Georgia, Florida, and Texas looking for a little piece of land to call our own. But, alas, we could never afford it and it was always just out of reach.
Even here, in Colorado, we just couldn’t pull the money together to buy land. But that didn’t stop us from dreaming. We watched YouTube videos, read blogs, watched documentaries, and kept hoping there would be a way.
Finally, something changed. A family member wanted to buy land. It worked out that we could buy the land together and both live on the property. It was a dream come true.
The question still remains on why we are choosing to embark on this adventure. (And it already is an adventure). So here are the top five reasons we are starting this new phase in our lives!
1. To not pay a mortgage/rent payment. We want to live rent free. Building a home on our property is the easiest way for that to happen.
2. Being naked. Ok that is kind of a joke. But only kind of. We want freedom to do our own thing. We don’t want to be tied down by people telling us what we can do to our house or our yard. We want to be able to walk outside naked if we want to. We want the wide open spaces.
3. The environment. I feel like everything I do always comes back to this. But we want to be sustainable. Our property is not 100% off grid right now. We do have access to mainstream electricity. This is something we want to change in the future. But, we want to be sustainable. We want to have a garden, compost, reduce our garbage. Live off the land.
4. The view. This one isn’t so existential. I really want to see a beautiful view everyday. We have a panoramic view of the mountains. Everyday, I get to see that.
5. Family. We are going to live on the property with family. We get to be close to our family. We have been working on getting the property ready for 2 weekends and we have spent so much time with our kids working toward a common goal. It is amazing to have that opportunity.
For now, I am going to continue to think about food. I will continue to post about food. But I am going to focus on the “Live Well” part of this blog and write more about my homesteading experience. Join me, it’ll be fun!
Always wanted to make a really good egg replacer, but didn’t want to spend a fortune at the grocery store for those fancy brands?
Have no fear! Use the Flax Egg. The great thing about the flax egg is that it can be used in savory and sweet dishes. Not only that but it is also super easy, super fast, and super cheap.
For 1 Egg–
2 TBSP Ground Flax Seed
3 TBSP Water
Mix it together with a fork and let it sit for 2 minutes until it is gooey.
Use whole flax seeds.
Buy a coffee grinder that you plan to only use for spices.
Grind up said Flax Seeds.
Follow Method 1.
It is seriously that easy. I want to say as easy as pie, but pie isn’t easy, so easy as . . . smiling.
You can download my weekly menu plan here! I also made a video on how I made this menu plan, so visit my youtube channel to check that out! https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfRLJ11PwzDe4rE5Ut11DKQ
My daughter, as you may know if you have been reading this site for awhile is gluten free. My older daughter’s friend’s mother makes these monster cookies based off a recipe published by Bob’s Red Mill. They are gluten free, but they aren’t vegan. They are loaded with butter and sugar and eggs. But according to my children, they taste like crack cocaine, not that they know what that tastes like either. I bet it does, literally since sugar and the like are more addictive than cocaine. Anyway, off my high horse. I decided in this week’s batch cooking during a snow day (yes, we have ANOTHER snow day in Dallas) that I would attempt to recreate these little fan favorites. We shall transform these monster cookies and they shall become the belle of the ball. Let the transformation commence!
Original Recipe published by Bob’s Red Mill
1 c. Peanut Butter
3/4 c. unsalted butter
1 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 & 1/4 c. gluten free rolled oats
3/4 c. Gluten free all purpose baking flour
2 tsp. xanthan gum
1 tsp. baking soda
1 c. peanuts
1 & 1/2 c. chocolate chips
1/2 c. raisins
In a large bowl, beat together the peanut butter, butter, brown sugar, white sugar, eggs, and vanilla.
In a separate bowl, combine rolled oats, flour, xanthan gum, and baking soda. Stir dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix well. Stir in the peanuts, chocolate chips and raisins.
Drop by large spoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350° F for 10 to 12 minutes turning pan around at 5 minutes.
Ok, so that was it. These delicious monster cookies that literally disappear before your very eyes if my daughter brings home a batch. I actually made a batch sans eggs using egg replacer and earth balance, and they were amazing. Like OMG amazing. Of course they were. Did you see how much sugar and butter are in those things?! So, the quest began, and here it is. The monster cookies 2.0. But monsters are cool, so I’m not changing the name. Boogey monster cookies.
Boogey Monster cookies
1 c. peanut butter
1 c. mashed ripe banana
.5 c. maple syrup
.75 c. unrefined sugar
.5 c. milled flax seeds (or 6 TBSP. ground chia seeds)
4 tsp. vanilla extract
4 c. rolled oats
1 c. all purpose gluten free flour
3 tsp. baking powder
.5 c. vegan chocolate chips
I’m lazy. Super lazy. Ain’t nobody got time for dishes. So behold the wonder of one bowl cookies. Preheat oven to 350° F. Put some parchment paper on a cookie sheet. In a big ‘ol bowl, mash the bananas. Add the peanut butter, maple syrup, flax seed, and vanilla extract and stir until mixed. Add in the rest of the ingredients. The key is to distribute the baking powder, so I add that first and sprinkle it evenly over the wet ingredients. Mix until everything is wet. This is a very, very wet batter.
Spoon onto your baking sheet and flatten with the back of your spoon. They won’t spread out because of the oats, so you have to flatten them. Bake for 11-13 minutes. They will still look tan on top but be browning on the bottom. They will still be soft. They will firm up as they cool, I promise. Let them cool on the cookie sheet for a minute or two and then transfer to a cooling rack. Don’t have a cooling rack? Just set them on a cool counter or plate.
I seriously believe cookies should be no fail and the only time ingredients should be mixed separately is if you are making a cake (or cupcakes) and they really matter because you are taking them to your kids’ school or a wedding or something. These cookies aren’t going to mess up. The best part . . . My daughter’s friend was over from across the street building snowmen in the yard. She said the cookies are amazing. She asked how I make everything taste so good. So yes, they still have sugar. A little bit. Quite frankly, you could cut the white sugar in half or probably eliminate it. I am going to work on the sugar and keep cutting it back. I will update the next time I make these on how less sugar works. Anyway, these cookies are a win!
As you can see in the title, I can’t oversell these. I mean, they are awesome. Like you might flip out when you taste them, so make sure you have a cheer mat near by. You will be all like
Self, are you sure there isn’t butter and cream and sugar and stuff in these cookies?
No self, I’m sure, these are like the healthiest cookies ever.
Nah, self, there is maple syrup.
But like, self, did you do the math, there is like literally a teaspoon per cookie, yo.
Then you will start doing flips. I used to teach SAT prep classes. I would bring in these cookies because the kids always wanted to try something vegan. After everyone had tried one, I would have them do math problems to get the leftover cookies. It would be all out math war. They were very popular cookies. So, you could bring these to an Omni gathering at work or school and no one would be the wiser and everyone would gobble them up and ask for more.
You can’t mess these cookies up. You just basically throw everything in the bowl. You cannot mess it up. If they are too runny, put them in a casserole dish and make bars. If they aren’t moist enough, add more applesauce. If you undercook them, there is nothing in there that will hurt you and you can either throw them back in or they taste good a little raw. If you overcook them, they are a little crunchy, but still yummy. No problem. You can not mess them up. So even beginner bakers will love these cookies.
In other words, if you are new to vegan baking and are super nervous, then these cookies are for you.
As usual there is a helpful video here
Unbeatable Oat Cookies
2 cups rolled oats
2 cups oat flour (you can make your own, so don’t let this stop you)
1/2 hemp seeds (alt. chia seeds, pumpkin seeds or no seeds)
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
(alt. use pumpkin pie spice instead of cinnamon and nutmeg)
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 cup apple sauce
non dairy chocolate chips to taste
This is a one bowl deal, so only dirty one bowl, don’t go getting fancy on me. Preheat oven to 350°. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper.
In a mixing bowl put oats, oat flour*, hemp seeds, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and stir until mixed.
*If you don’t have oat flour, put some rolled oats or regular oats in your blender or food processor and blend until flour. Seriously, it is that easy.
Add in the apple sauce, maple syrup, and chocolate chips. Mix until all the ingredients are mixed together and the batter is moist.
Form into cookie ball shapes, and place on the cookie sheet. Bake 12-14 minutes or until firm and slightly crispy. Cool on a wire rack. (Don’t have a wire rack? Don’t worry, just cool them on your counter.)
Put them in a freezer safe container and throw them in the freezer . . . if you don’t eat them all before then!
When I was a kid my grandpa would sing this little song
Beans, beans, the musical fruit
the more you eat
The more you toot.
The more you toot, the better you feel.
So eat your beans at every meal!
And we loved to eat our beans. For our family, that meant, putting some pinto beans on the stove with a big ‘ol ham hock and having at it. Well, I’m vegan now, but I still love me some pinto beans, and you don’t even miss the ham hock. For serious. Because of the magical ingredient . . . liquid smoke. They are so yummy.
One of the funniest memories I have, although it wasn’t funny at the time, is of my dad burning some pinto beans.
He had hurt his back, it was the dead of winter, a log fell off the fire and was burning our brand new carpet and the beans were going up in flames. Looking back on it now, it is something straight out of National Lampoons, then it wasn’t so funny. But my dad is hilarious and can do no wrong (my mom just screamed, “what am I, chopped liver?”) so it is so funny now.
Now to the beans of it all. My bean making method is traditional and therefore controversial. There is a new group of cooks who say you need not soak or quick soak your beans. They throw their beans in pressure cookers and say presoaking is for babies. But, you know what, I cry a lot, so call me a baby. I presoak. I like it like that. I quick soak. I like it like that too. Trust me, my beans are the bomb worthy of the name musical fruit, so put that in your pressure cooker and well cook it.
You can find my delightful how to video here:
Batch Cooking Pinto Beans
5 cups pinto beans
3 veggie low sodium broth/ bouillon cubes
3-4 TBS. no salt seasoning
6 dashes liquid smoke
1. Take 5 cups of pinto beans and rinse in cold water. Put in large pot. Cover with water. Make sure water is covering beans by double (the water is twice as high as the beans).
2. Bring the water and beans to a rolling boil and let boil for 2 minutes. Then turn the heat off, and let the beans sit for 2 hours.
3. Drain the beans and rinse them in cold water and put them back in the pot. Cover the beans with water and make sure the water is at least six inches above the beans. Keep checking them throughout the cooking process to ensure the water hasn’t been absorbed or evaporated. If it has, add more liquid.
4. Add the broth cubes, seasoning, and liquid smoke.
5. Bring the water and beans and seasoning to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Let them simmer for 2-3 hours or until the beans are soft and creamy tasting.
6. Drain the beans and rinse them in cold water. There will still be seasoning on them, and you aren’t trying to rinse of the seasoning. I just run cold water over them for a few seconds.
7. Scoop them into freezer safe ziplocks or containers. I use 3 cup servings based on my large family, but you can portion them out based on the size of your family.
8. To reheat, either thaw on the counter or in the fridge. You can also just put them in a pan with a bit of water or broth and soften them up. Enjoy!
The number one recipe people request is an oil free hummus. Well in my world, we call that party hummus or just plain delicious. But there is something weird and off about oil free hummus. It is in the consistency. There is something missing in the taste. And well, let’s be frank, I haven’t recreated oil laden hummus here. It can’t be done.
But this hummus is pretty darn delicious. You can add a few spices or a some add ons like jalapenos or red peppers and it is even better. After the first batch, you won’t miss the stuff from Costco. Ok, I’m a liar. You won’t miss it very much. And that is a step in the right direction.
You can even feed this hummus to regular folks who don’t follow your whole foods, plant based (do they call it your hippie eatin lifestyle like they do in Texas?). Everyone will love it. So let’s quit the chatter and start the hummus party in your mouth.
As usual, you can watch a hilarious and informative video here:
Roasted Garlic (Oil Optional)
1 head of garlic
1 tsp of olive oil (optional)
Preheat oven to 425°. (If you are doing this while multi-tasking, 350° works just fine). Cut the top of the head of garlic off. Drizzle oil over the garlic if using. Wrap garlic in foil and roast until tender, about 35 minutes.
Oil Free, Salt Free (Low fat) Hummus
6 cups of chickpeas (4 cans if using cans)
2 TBSP Tahini (optional for a lower fat version)
1 head of roasted garlic (alternative 3-4 cloves non-roasted garlic)
Juice of 6 limes or 2-3 lemons
1 tsp. chipotle seasoning
1 1/2 tsp. no salt seasoning
2 c. vegetable broth or water
pepper to taste
(optional ingredients: roasted red peppers, jalapeno, nutritional yeast)
In a large food processor combine all the ingredients except the water or broth. Run the food processor on low while slowly adding in the water or broth. You will see the hummus start to “loosen” up and mix together. Add enough liquid so it is smooth. You may need to occasionally scrape down the sides.
Everyone has a favorite marinara sauce. I like to say you have a favorite you buy in a bottle and favorite you make at home. The problem is the bottle one usually has tons of oil, salt, and sugar (even high fructose corn syrup), and sometimes when you become vegan making your homemade sauce becomes a real challenge.
Then there is that ever present problem of having to let it simmer on the stove all day long. You have to watch it and taste it and baby it like a child, and well, let’s face it, it never turns out like grandmas. Well fear no more. I have the solution for you.
It is a salt free (well no added salt), oil free, crock pot version of the classic. It is so easy to make. And it is seriously yummy. I will say, I am not a fan of marinara. My mom doesn’t like it, so we didn’t eat it a lot growing up. I’m super picky about which ones I like. This one is so tasty. It really is a crowd pleaser. My husband fancies himself a marinara aficionado and it even passes muster with him. What is even better is that it freezes really well. It reheats well. It works on pasta and pizza and even on eggplant and potatoes. It is just great.
To see the video click the link below:
Oil free, Salt free, Crock Pot Batch Marinara (um that needs a better name)
84 ounces of crushed tomatoes (that is three of the big cans)
1- 15 ounce can of diced tomatoes
2 of the small cans of tomatoes paste
8 cloves of garlic
2 TBSP dried basil (or one bunch of fresh)
1 medium diced onion
1/2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. chipotle seasoning (or red pepper flakes)
4 diced carrots
4 diced celery stalks
1/2 yellow squash
2 mushrooms sliced
1 handful of spinach
In a large crockpot set to low heat, add in the tomatoes. Then add in the rest of the ingredients and stir. Put on the lid and let cook for 8-10 hours.
Once the mixture has cooked. Let cool for at least 30 minutes (if you can wait). Mix in a blender in batches for about 10 seconds to get a finer consistency. This really helps meld the flavors and is key to making this sauce freeze well and taste delicious.
Add to glass jars (or another type of freezer safe container). If using glass jars, make sure to let the sauce cool completely before putting it in the freezer. To reheat, is best to defrost in the freezer to prevent breakage of the jars. Just reheat on stove top.