Vegan *Candy* Bars

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

I feel as though this title is a trick, because really they aren't candy . . . but they are sweet like candy and have chocolate (raw cacao, but still). Also, you can't exactly nosh a Snickers if your vegan so what the hell! These tasty bars put up a good fight towards the real deal candy bar. Even if you aren't vegan these bars are still enjoyable and deliver satisfaction when your hankering for something sweet yet healthy.

OK! Fine, they could also be considered granola bars. However, if you want to get your toddler or husband in on the goodness refer to them as candy bars and everyone will want 'em!



What You Need

1/4 cup Coconut Oil
1/4 cup Raw Honey
1/3 cup Almond Butter
1/3 cup Crushed Raw Almonds
1 cup Gluten Free Oats
1 tablespoon Chia Seeds
1 tablespoon Raw Cacao Powder
1 teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
1 teaspoon Coarse Sea Salt

What You Do

-In a large frying pan on medium heat melt together the coconut oil, raw honey and almond butter. Use a spatula to mix together and press lightly on the raw honey to help it melt. Melt these until it all becomes one thin batter. Lower the heat a bit and continue to stir. The honey is likely to burn if you don't keep stirring.
-As you stir add the vanilla and raw cacao powder. Stir until all the ingredients come together into a thin "milk" chocolate colored batter.
-Stir in a half cup of your gluten free oats. Stir until the batter coats all the oats. Now turn off the heat.
-Stir in crushed raw almonds.
-Now stir in the last half cup of gluten free oats. Stir until the everything is coated. The batter now should be thick with coated oats and almonds.
-Sprinkle in the chia seeds and stir on last time.
-Pour your batter into a small baking dish lined with parchment paper. Use the spatula to press into all corners of the pan and smooth out the top.
-Sprinkle the coarse sea salt on top.
-Place in the refrigerator over night. Or until the bars harden.
-Once the bars have set, cut into small bars and store in an air tight container and keep in the refrigerator. These can keep for about a week.






Enjoy these! I hope a few of you love them as much as I do.


Seattle // With & With Out Ryan

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Recently, my husband Dan and I ventured to Seattle for a weekend getaway. We were lucky enough to plan it alongside Dan's 30th birthday and it turned out to be a lovely celebration in the Pacific Northwest. What a beautiful place! My love birds on Instagram detailed thousands (literally thousands) of fun, exciting and delicious places to must-see. We could have built a two week itinerary with the recommendations! On the plane ride up we stuffed all the recommendations into two and half solid days . . . which left us with full bellies, full hearts and sleepless. Literally, we slept so little. Up early, falling asleep late. Sleepless in Seattle. ;)
Aside from our own plans, the lovely souls living in Seattle had a few surprises for us. I've never traveled to a place where the locals treated me with such love and generosity. What an incredible place it was.

Below are photos from our trip. Our favorite places, Seattle's surprises and the smiles that came easy while we traveled with Ryan shining above us . . .


Since first learning about Seattle when I was little I've always wanted to see three things. Albeit they are the three most classic Seattle spots, there is something really special about seeing popular landmarks that you've only read about or seen in movies. Whats better is getting to experience them with someone special. One of my most favorite things ever was experiencing holidays and fun places with Ryan. The face of your excited happy child never gets old. 

The Space Needle, Pike Place Market and the gum wall in Post Alley was first on my hand written list. All three exceeded my thoughts. I cried when I saw the Space Needle, I kept grabbing Dan's arm saying "Look! I can't believe it! Can you see it?!" It was awesome. I took Dramamine before riding to the top, because I get motion sickness and the elevator is FAST! Ryan would have loved the elevator ride. I imagined him asking a million questions and then running around like crazy round and round the top. There was also a cafe at the top and I'm sure he would have asked for a hot chocolate. Once at the top we saw everything and the best sight for me was the house boat from Sleepless In Seattle. Once I spotted it I had a huge yearn for my mom. We have watched that movie thousands of times and I know she would have shrieked in excitement with me as we. 


We ate our way through Pike Place Market and although I hate the smell of fish I didn't mind it here. It was all part of the experience. The best places to eat for us were; Beecher's Handmade Cheese for their "World Famous" mac & cheese, Rachel's Ginger Beer, Biscuit Bitch and this place that had the largest cookies but I can't remember the name. This marketplace is jam packed with tiny places to eat which I'm sure are all amazing. We walked through each day and found something new each time.





The gum wall was seriously disgusting and incredible all at once. I don't remember how I learned of it, but once I had I'd been dying to see it in person and add my chewed art. The colors were so bright and some people even left their mark by stretching out the gum to create letters. Ryan would have loved this as all to much. He'd first want to touch it and I'd probably spend my efforts on keeping him from getting to close. Then we would have stayed in that alley for far to long as he chewed gum piece after gum piece to place on the wall. "Just one more mom, pwese!" I had mentioned to Dan in a whisper "Ryan would have loved this..." Dan agreed and as we started to walk away we spotted his name . . . 



Each day I played a wicked game. How many cups of coffee can Jacqui drink in 24 hours? I maxed out at 6 the first day and the next just settled on having 4. But Seattle is like the coffee capitol and there is a cute cafe on each corner! The coffee was gooood. My favorites were; Uptown Espresso, Oddfellows, Pegasus ... all of them are honestly delicious. 


We walked through the Olympic Sculpture Park one morning. It was beautiful. The park is right on the water and it feels so cool to walk in between giant art installations. Thank you to the sweet stranger who recommended this place to us!



Just look at this guys smile! It looks so easy and relaxed. Dan is at his best when traveling. 



I don't know where these white feathers came from, but they were everywhere and seemed to fall from the sky. Maybe there was a pillow factory somewhere I had no idea about. But I sure did love finding them everywhere we went. Maybe I look to far into things for signs from my little man, it makes me feel comfort though. I love having an open heart and really searching. I have to believe Ry is working hard up there to send me little love notes, he knows I can see them. 


One night a sweet stranger left red balloons tied outside our hotel. I ugly cried in gratitude. We left them blowing through the night. On our last morning, while waiting for our cab back to the airport Dan went and un-tied the red strings to keep. 


Jacqui & Ryan


The Fremont Troll was weirdly cool and another spot I had seen in a movie. The day we went to see the Troll it was congested with tons of kids so we didn't get any good photos. Though Dan and I stood there for a long while. Both quiet. I think we were both thinking of Ryan playing in the mix with the rest. He would have been the loudest. He would have been partial to play with the girls. He would have seen the others climb and jump off the trolls arm ... then find my eyes as to ask "Is this Ok mom? Can I do that?" I'd walk closer and try to take photos of him. 


Besides coffee, donuts were all over Seattle too. I justified a dozen because we walked everywhere!


We traveled on a ferry to Bainbridge Island which was fun and somewhat relaxing. It was windy out on the deck and I fell asleep on the ferry twice. Bainbridge was beautiful and we ate our way through that little island too. 



We plan trips that we would have with Ryan. Family trips that get us out of our reality and into a world were we feel Ryan shine warm on our faces. We feel Ryan always, but when we travel we see him in different places. We dream of his physical body with us and his soft hand in ours. For whatever reason, smiles come with ease when we travel. Tears flow too, but we lean on one another and promise each other that we'll be alright. Ryan was showing us himself in everything while we walked through Seattle . . . 

Thank you Seattle for having us and showing us three a magical time. 

My Panic Attacks

Thursday, March 5, 2015

It starts out fairly slow. Almost as if its warning me. Brace yourself Jacqui, in a moment you won't be able to catch your breath. My brain barrels toward memories of Ryan. My mind makes me, forces me to search for his voice. It replays his little voice in my head with out warrant. I see Ryan and I fiercely miss him. I close my eyes and I want to hold him but I can't. Then my mind starts pointing out all the negative. His toys are in storage, I hate that there might be dust on them. His clothes that use to cover his body, his clothes that he use to love to pick out are all folded and have been still for ten months. I hate that. I hate that it gets so quiet at times. I want to hear his yell and cheerful screams.

Instead I start to scream with anger.

I grab my chest and I can't catch my breath. Sometimes I punch a pillow if I'm on my bed. Sometimes all I can do is fall to my knees. That's how fast it hits. What starts it can be anything, but whatever it is, a song, a comment ... it quickly sparks a memory of my son that pulls so deep on my heart. It pulls me do deep I can't focus. All my strength and confidence of "living a full and happy life for my son" vaporizes and leaves me in a dusty reality. The dirty harsh reality that my son is forever gone. Our beautiful moments together are never to be felt or lived again. In this life anyway. In this life, his life is over. I hate that more than anything.

My body and mind panic together with my heart feeling lifeless in the middle.

I have panic attacks. About once or twice a week the big scary ones hit. I cry everyday and let myself have the moments I need, but the real panic attacks arise out of no where. I'm assuming they are happening to me because I'm going through something extremely tragic. And although I experience these a few times a week I still feel so unfamiliar with it all. They feel insane and horrible and last anywhere from ten minutes to an hour. I don't do anything or take anything to make them stop. I just succumb to whatever it is my body is doing and let it run its nasty course. I have found that if I give in and let it have control it ends faster.

My poor husband is so great and handles me with care. Though I'm positive it is not an easy task. I figured I need help to try and curb these attacks. But I'm a freak and want to try and stay as natural as possible . . . So I'm going to try and get into essential oils and see how that bodes.

We are all different, especially with the ways we handle hard things such as grief, anxiety, all of it. Oils may not work for everyone or me. Nothing may work who knows! I don't know much, but I'm eager to learn how to cope with my own struggles. I hope that you are confident to find ways that work for you no matter what it is. At the end of it all we just need help putting one foot in front of the other.

Up until right now only my close family has known about these panic attacks of mine. The thought of sharing them and what my mind and body goes through while experiencing them is scary! I usually try and stay positive but the truth is, this grief of mine is dark and twisted at times. I'm happy to write out the feelings that flow through me during my panic attacks because I want to remember them. Even though these experiences are intense and terrifying, they are mine. They are specific to the grief of losing my son. My baby boy. It is a horrible and tragic thing, but there is beauty sprinkled through out it all. My baby boy is beautiful. And who knows, maybe someone out there has these kinds of panic attacks too . . . we can help one another.


Wonton Turkey Tacos

Monday, March 2, 2015

It has been nearly three weeks since I've posted on this little blog of mine. I guess that means February was a long and busy month. We definitely celebrated, struggled and grew ... I have so much to say and feel. I'll set aside some time to process it all and write a few a things down as it helps me. Thank you to everyone for sticking by my side as I hustle through the depths of my grief. It can feel so lonely at times and then I'm swiftly reminded of the immense support. 

I recently posted a photo of these yummy little things and a lot of people asked for the recipe. It is something I made up on a whim. Dan and I love tacos and decided to switch it up one night. I always ask for extra wontons on my salad at Tender Greens so I decided to try my hand at working with wontons at home, since I love them so much. My mom always taught me to throw together things you have on hand in case you find yourself with out a packet of taco seasoning or whatever it is you may think you need to make your food taste good. So, I figured out how to make a sauce from scratch that made my food taste dang good. Anyways, thats how this weird creation started and turns out a lot of you were curious. 

Let me know if any of you make these in your home. I saw all the pancakes and cinnamon rolls on Instagram and it just makes me feel so happy! You all are the absolute best ... 

Wonton Tacos



What You Need
- one pound of turkey (you can use whatever meat/meat substitute)
- 3 green onions
- tablespoon of roughly chopped cilantro
- wonton wrappers
- 1/4 cup of canola oil
- 1/2 cup shredded carrots
- 1/2 cup shredded broccoli (I use the pre-shredded broccoli slaw mix from Trader Joe's)

For The Sauce
**You can totally buy a bottle of 'General Tso' sauce if you don't want to make it yourself**
- 1/2 cup of soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons of rice wine
- 1 1/2 tablespoon of rice wine vinegar
- 3 tablespoons of brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon of Siracha
- 3 cloves of chopped garlic
- 2 teaspoons of cornstarch 
- 1 teaspoon of chili flakes (we like it spicy so don't add if you don't like a little heat)


What You Do

- The first thing I do is fry all the wonton shells. To be honest they are a pain in the butt, but I hope that doesn't turn you off. They are so tasty, crispy and delicious it will be worth it. I promise. In a frying pan heat your 1/4 cup of canola oil on medium high heat. You can also use veggie oil if that's what you have on hand. Once the oil is hot put one corner of the wonton in. (It is a square so act like you are folding it corner to corner.) Use tongs to hold onto a corner of the wonton while the other other corner is frying. You fry one side of the "taco" and once it is light brown you flip it over and fry the other side. You have to use the tongs to hold one side while you fry the other so it stays open like a taco. Does this make sense? If not email me and I can walk you through it. I feel crazy typing this. I just made this up one night in my kitchen and figured it out on the fly. Once both sides are crispy light brown place on a paper towel and continue frying. 

-Once all your wonton shells are finished frying start browning your turkey meat. You can use ground beef or really any kind of filling you want. It would be great with just vegetables too. Again, I'm all about getting creative. Hopefully a few of you do! Let me know. 

-While your meat is browning start on the sauce. Again this sauce can be found in a bottle at any store and would cut dinner prep in half. It is called 'General Tso' at Trader Joe's and is really good as a marinade too. So go for easy if you can. If you are like me and make everything hard for yourself ;) prepare from scratch like this;

                             - In a saucepan on low heat warm all but the sugar & corn starch.
                             - Stir in the brown sugar and whisk until it dissolves. 
                             - Whisk in corn starch (this will thicken the sauce).
                             - Toss in chili flakes at the end...If you want.
                             - Take off heat and store in fridge for up to three days or use right away. 
                             - This amount is good for about one pound of turkey. 

- So, your turkey is brown and you've drained all the fat. Add your sauce and stir. 
- Add your chopped green onions, shredded broccoli and carrots. Cook until the veggies soften. I do like to keep the veggies a little crispy but that is totally up to you. Once everything is coated with sauce and cooked to your liking ... carefully put the filling in your wonton shells. I say carefully because  the wontons break easy. 
- Just top with chopped cilantro and enjoy!








Nine Months

Monday, February 2, 2015

It is true I guess. It has been nine months.

I went to bed and awoke with the second of the month staring at me in the face.
I pushed it away and it moved into a dark mass over my head.
I tried to shake it off but it goes no where. All the progress I've made, all the smiles I've forced to be real, all the steps forward I've taken vanish.
I'm left a heaping mess and I let myself hate everything because I have zero strength to do much else.

Nine months is a scary thought. Nine months since I've heard his voice for real. Nine months since I've touched his silky, smooth, chunky, cheek.  To say I miss it all feels like an understatement. I more than miss it all. Is that real? Can I more than miss it all? I miss you more and more everyday Ryan.

Nine months and I feel broken. Shattered.

Today I will let myself break. It feels good to break sometimes.

When I come up for air, I'll use my sleeve to wipe my tears and snot just as my son did when he had a runny nose. I'll smile small smiles when I remember Ryan's little body and the giant way he moved along his life. Slowly, I will pick up all my bits and pieces and begin to rebuild myself. Stronger. Rebuild myself with more power and grace. With more love and understanding of this life I lead.

It is true I guess. It has been nine months.

I let myself break and now I can begin to conquer this ninth month, just as I have been doing with months eight, seven, six ...




Not Just Pancakes

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

My mother loves to tell this story. When it happened she called me right away and was convinced her little grandson was in fact a comedian ...

Dan and I were enjoying a weekend away as parents do. My mom was watching Ryan as grandparents love to do. Saturday morning she took Ryan along for breakfast with her girlfriends. While the waitress was taking orders my mom told Ryan to tell the nice lady what you would like for breakfast. My mom, always an advocate for "Do it yourself". So Ryan perks up and says "PANCAKES." My mom tells him to say please so Ryan orders again this time with "Pancakes Pwese". The waitress then gets down on his level sweetly and asks "Would you like bacon or sausage with that sweetie?" At this point I'm sure the waitress thinks this kid is cute ... She also probably can't decide if this kid is a boy or girl as my son's long red hair fooled many. Then as my mom loves to tell it ...
 Ryan gives the waitress an awkward confused look (aka a dirty look) and says "I want dem wif syrup!" (insert my mom's laughter here...okay I'm laughing now too)
Duh lady! Give the kid (boy or girl) pancakes with SYRUP!


If you knew Ryan personally you would know in detail of his strong sweet tooth. Actually, if you can find a three year old who doesn't have a severe soft spot for sugar congrats! My son is just like me, coat it in sugar and we will eat it. Aside from sweets, Ryan had a continuous love affair with Macaroni and Cheese (shocker). His favorite though was pancakes. Pancakes were his jam and they were mine too when I was little. They are my jam now! The second Ryan was old enough for solids I was so thrilled to mix up pancake batter just like how my grandma does and serve him right! That is right buddy! Breakfast gets way better than mushy baby cereal and bananas! His first pancake day was fun. I had music playing, Ry was squeaking and bubble babbling in his Bumbo chair. Probably thinking "my mom is a fool!" I had read somewhere that you should talk out every little thing you do in front of your baby in hopes of the baby learning words and in turn learning how to talk. So I did and my whole family thought I was nuts. I narrated everything from cleaning, diaper changing to cooking. It was annoying I'm sure. It makes me laugh though thinking of myself  saying "I'm cracking the eggs. I'm mixing! This is called mixing Ryan ..." Terrible, but Ryan did start talking early so there you have it. Coincidence? I think so yea.

From the first pancake morning to the last it was an adventure. Never the same, but always fun. Now, I've just begun making pancakes again. With Ryan looking down at me. I imagine him squeezing in-between my legs. I think back at the times when we would drag his stool into the kitchen and request "I help now ... I can do it mom!" I can see his chubby hands strangle an egg until it cracks and oozes through his fingers. He always looked up at me with a smile and giggle. I'm making pancakes again and it sucks with out him. But making pancakes again, that is progress. It shows I'm growing with Ryan within me. Pancakes for me are not just pancakes. When I make, order, eat pancakes its me thinking of Ryan and all our pancake quests.



It never is "just pancakes" or "just breakfast" ... It is an adventure. 



 Jacqui & Ryan's Go-To Pancakes
What You Need
- 1 1/2 cup flour
- 1 cup of almond milk
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon melted butter for batter
- more butter for the pan in between pancakes and more butter ...
- 1 tablespoon of sugar
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- a few table spoons of water to smooth the batter




What You Do
- mix dry and wet ingredients
- melt the tablespoon of butter in the pan. When it is melted add to the batter.
- add water and whisk your batter till it is smooth (no lumps)
- add a pad of butter into your medium hot pan.
- once the butter melts add about a 1/3 cup of batter.
- let it bubble. Once the bubbles are evenly popping up all over its time to flip!
- once it flips add a little butter to the top
- after a few seconds  and the butter on top has melted the pancake is done.
- serve warm with your favorite toppings. aka syrup!



Pancake Tips

-Make sure the batter is smooth with no lumps. The lumps are flour pockets that won't cook. Use a whisk and your muscles. Also you can add a little water at a time to get to that smooth texture.

-Always add a teaspoon of vanilla. For all you box pancake makers even adding a dash of vanilla will change the taste for the better.

-Remember! The first one is always a throw away. I don't care if you are a professional chef the first pancake is always burnt, not cooked through, whatever just throw it away and start the second. I feel like that applies in life the first attempt at anything is always a throw away. Dust yourself off and start again.

-Butter Butter, give me the butter baby. If you are afraid of butter you can use coconut oil with ease. You have to butter your pan in between each pancake. Once your pancake is finished spread a little butter on top to melt away as you pour the batter for the next one. Honestly butter is where its at.

-Let the littles do it! (with caution) Let them crack the eggs, mix or pour. Trust me you both will love it and you'll all get used to crunchy pancakes. Egg shells add texture and confidence.


---

The goal here is not to steer you from creating pancakes from a box or however you do it. The goal is to just create a fun loving breakfast with your little one. A breakfast that has cake in the name and can be sweet, smothered in more sweet. The goal here is to create memories and get messy while doing so. Enjoy!


Together

Sunday, January 25, 2015

"It's easier to be brave when your not alone." - Amy Poehler

For me I can only be brave when I am surrounded by incredible people who love life and cherish all that it brings. This is not to say I'm never alone or if I'm alone I am crying hot mess ... But to really do good and get through the grit I must be with people who support it all. Plus, it is much more fun when you aren't alone. It is easier to laugh, it is easier to take on the things that scare you, it is easier to learn more about yourself and how your insides work. 

This past week I attended Alt Summit with zero intentions. In the back of my mind I had hope to learn more about blogging ... though that notion was broad and it scared me so I pushed it away. The other scary thing was the fact that I was about to toss my fragile self into a pot of talented strong women. I was about to test myself and how I'd hold up in this hot soup of brilliant bloggers, photographers, mothers and business owners. Would I wilt away and become tasteless or melt right in and prove flavorful?

I arrived clutching my best friend Alissa Circle's arm and made her promise to not let go. I've been to blogging conferences before, but this time I was different. This time I was attending with most everyone knowing every detail of my life and the tragedy I now walked with. It's one thing to be on the Internet talking and letting it all hang out ... It's different talking in person and letting them see it all out. Alissa let go, but only because she knew I could handle it. Though she never ventured far. We were in this together. 

As  I met amazing women and sat through knowledgeable keynote speakers I learned  a whole lot. However, one major theme stood out day in and day out. There is one thing that all this Alt Summit magic has been built upon. Togetherness. We are all great and incredible because we are all doing it together. We are buying from each other, contributing for each other, listening together and laughing together. This community it is special because we are together. 

For me it isn’t about networking so much as its about making friends. I found myself with business cards only to exchange phone numbers instead. It was a truly beautiful experience to meet the people who have been supporting, praying and keeping Ryan on their hearts. I had heart to hearts with strangers and cried with a few who just wanted a hug. I realized this hot soup was indeed flavorful with me in it. This hot soup was damn good with everyone in it. 

What I learned at Alt Summit was pretty simple. In order to do good and get through the hard stuff … You have to surround yourself with amazing people. I learned that spending time knee deep in a conversation about how twisted life is and how we are coping is worth everything. I learned that laughing that real deep laugh about something silly is worth everything. Crying because you finally met the person who drew a beautiful sketch of your son holding a red balloon is worth everything. 

It was overwhelming and by the last day I ditched the last keynote speaker and went back to my room to order a hamburger via room service. I realized I felt whole for a split second. As if all these new friends of mine were stuffed in my wound to stop the bleeding. For a fleeting moment my heart wasn’t broken anymore. 

The thought is simple. Together. We can do it together. We are doing it together. Thank you to all of those who let me hug you. Thank you to my roommates for making me laugh and letting me be myself. Thank you to all my new friends … I look forward to the good we will do together. 









 

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