October 31, 2011

Secret Ingredient Soft-Serve

I love ice cream.  So, I eat it about once a week!

WHAT?!  A vegan who eats ice cream?!  Heresy!

Actually, this post is evidence that vegans can eat ice cream whenever they want to.  And this recipe isn't just for vegans; it is husband-approved too!  Even more shocking, this ice cream is healthy!  Yes, you aren't imagining things.  The words "ice cream" and "healthy" were absolutely used in the same sentence.

So what's in this cold, creamy concoction?!

Secret Ingredient Soft-Serve
Serves 2

2 very ripe, frozen bananas
2-4 T unsweetened almond milk (or other milk)
Flavor additions of your choosing (see below for some of my favorites)

Flavor Additions:
Peanut Butter Swirl - peanut butter
Mint Chocolate Chip - mint extract, chocolate chips
Fudge Tracks - peanut butter, chocolate chips, vanilla extract
Cherry Chocolate Bomb - frozen cherries, chocolate chips
Pina Colada - coconut extract, mango chunks, shredded coconut
Chocolate-Dipped Strawberry - frozen strawberries, cocoa powder, chocolate chips

And the flavor additions list could go on...and on...and on...

  • Place frozen banana chunks in your food processor (before freezing, break up each banana into 4-6 pieces).
  • Process 1-2 minutes until bananas are broken up and beginning to smoothe out. (see picture below)

  • Add a scant 2 T of milk for each banana (i.e. scant 4 T for two bananas)
  • Process until smooth.
  • Add flavor additions of your choosing.
  • Process until smooth.

Today's flavor is Chunky Peanut Butter Cookie (peanut butter, butter extract, salted peanuts).  YUMM-O!

While I was making this I had an idea for Chunky Butter Pecan soft-serve!  Just swap out the peanut butter for almond butter (or pecan butter from Whole Foods), and substitute the salted peanuts for roasted pecans.  If you ask me, that sounds like the perfect Thanksgiving-esque ice cream!  You could even add a few tablespoons of pumpkin puree!  I know, I know, now I am getting weird!  Maybe I will try it first and then let you know how it goes :)

If you want to get really fancy, you could make some old-fashioned vanilla bean soft-serve (vanilla extract, beans from a vanilla pod) and serve it over the Apple Crumble Bars I made last night!

I borrowed the recipe from Chocolate-Covered Katie (one of my personal favorite blogs)!  She is a genuis in the kitchen!

Last night I served this with a dollop of vanilla yogurt, but it was calling out for some soft-serve.  Too bad I didn't have any frozen bananas on hand at the time (insert sad face here).  Oh well, lessoned learned.  Next time I will be prepared!

Next time - I am feeling a non-food related post...stay tuned!

Question of the Day:

What is your favorite ice cream flavor?!

Ally and Bo

October 30, 2011

Vanilla- Maple Hot Cocoa and a Good Read

My decision to go vegan was never a difficult one, and the transition was completely painless.

HOWEVER, my decision to give up caffeine was a totally different story.  It was both difficult and painful!

So, why did I want to give up my beloved cup o' Joe in the first place? Well, for starters, I had begun to notice some of the side effects of my addiction:  Specifically:

  • when I didn't drink my latte first thing in the morning I would have en excruciating headache by 10:00 a.m.;
  • around 2:00-3:00 p.m. I would experience a rapid energy slump;
  • I was visiting the ladies' restroom more than normal following my caffeine consumption (I will spare you the details!); and
  • perhaps most disturbing, I was dependent on my latte fix every day...sometimes more than once a day.

I finally decided to give up caffeine while I was training for my yoga teacher certification at Satchidinanda Ashram-Yogaville this past spring.  It was a natural decision to go-for-it while I was there because the ahsram doesn't actually serve caffeine at all (therefore, it would never be a temptation to cheat!).  Sadly, but not surprisingly, within one day of being caffeine-free I had a constant headache that didn't diminish for about two weeks. Owww!

This picture was just too cute to pass up!

Needless to say, I didn't do my headstand in yoga class for a few days...

But after those two weeks I emerged feeling fantastic! 

  • I no longer had withdrawal headaches;
  • my energy was constant throughout the day;
  • my restroom visits had noticeably diminished; and
  • best of all, I didn't feel the need for my caffeine fix!

As of today, I haven't had caffeine in over six months!

Confession:  Once I week my girlfriends and I meet for coffee.  I always order a decaffeinated, almond milk latte.  Although it is labelled "decaffeinated," all coffee still has a small amount of caffeine.  So, in that respect, I have had some caffeine these past few months.  However, I believe in balance in all things, and having this time with my girlfriends each week is worth the trace amounts of caffeine!

Regardless of my no-caffeine intake, I still need something warm and comforting to start (and frequently end) my day.  Enter vanilla-maple hot cocoa!

Vanilla-Maple Hot Cocoa
Serves 1

1 T unsweetened cocoa (I prefer Ghirardelli)
1 C + 3 T unsweetened almond milk (or milk of choice)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1-1 1/2 T maple syrup (I prefer 1 T, but I don't have much of a sweet tooth these days)


  • Add cocoa and 3 T of milk to your mug, and whisk together.
  • Add remaining milk and microwave for 1 1/2 minutes.
  • Add vanilla and maple syrup, and whisk together.
  • Microwave an additional 1 1/4 minutes.
  • Enjoy! (pastry and/or book optional)

I make other variations of this hot cocoa as well (can you say peanut butter?!), but that recipe will have to wait for another post!  Recently, this simple vanilla-maple concoction has been my go-to.

As many of you know, I also LOVE a good read!  A couple of months ago I discovered novelist Kate Morton.  In the last couple of months I have read all of her books, and her latest, The Distant Hours, has been my favorite!

An editorial review summarizes the book as follows:
A letter posted in 1941 finally reaches its destination in 1992 with powerful repercussions for Edie Burchill, a London book editor, in this enthralling romantic thriller from Australian author Morton (The Forgotten Garden). At crumbling Milderhurst Castle live elderly twins Persephone and Seraphina and their younger half-sister, Juniper, the three eccentric spinster daughters of the late Raymond Blythe, author of The True History of the Mud Man, a children's classic Edie adores. Juniper addressed the letter to Meredith, Edie's mother, then a young teen evacuated to Milderhurst during the Blitz. Edie, who's later invited to write an introduction to a reprint of Raymond's masterpiece, visits the seedily alluring castle in search of answers. Why was her mother so shattered by the contents of a letter sent 51 years earlier? And what happened to soldier Thomas Cavill, Juniper's long-missing fiancé and Meredith's former teacher? Despite the many competing narratives, the answers will stun readers.
Literally, I received this 600-page book on a Monday afternoon, and by Friday I was finished.  It was so good that in-between all of my teaching, cooking, and cleaning, I couldn't put it down!  If you like a good mystery, driven by gothic romance and intricate family dynamics, you will adore this book!

Question of the Day:

What is your idea of comfort?  Obviously mine is hot cocoa and a good read...

Ally and Bo

October 28, 2011

Spiced Pumpkin Dip + Muffins from Another Kitchen

Every Thursday night I head to Youga Yoga (one of the studios where I teach) for Yogatluck (yoga + potluck).  As the name implies, we always start with a yoga class around 7:30, and then we have an amazingly scrumptious potluck afterwards.  Seriously, the food is always awesome at this event!  Each week the food theme changes, and I must say, I have been waiting for this week's theme since we arrived in Corpus: PUMPKIN!

I eat pumpkin year 'round.  But, during the fall, I just can't get enough of the orange, creamy stuff!  I stir it in oatmeal, add it in smoothies, mix it in pudding, add it on sandwiches (trust me on this one!), but never in a million years did I think I would be adding it to, of all things, hummus.

Wait!  Where are you going?!

Don't run away! 

I promise you, spiced pumpkin hummus really is fantastic! 

(Although, I must admit, I did sort of fool you with the title of this post.  I figured if I came right out and told you this post was about spiced pumpkin hummus you wouldn't even give me a chance to explain.)

But please, here me out on this one!

I assure you that I am telling the truth when I say that I received over half a dozen compliments on my recipe last night.  Every last dollop was devoured before I even had the chance to bring it back home for personal snacking.  And yes, that makes me a little sad :(

So what's in this magical orange concoction of creaminess?  Well, I have to admit that I was a little worried as I was throwing all of these ingredients into my food processor.  But as I have previously mentioned, the final result was YUMM-O!

Spiced Pumpkin Hummus (roughly adapted from here)
Serves 10-15 (2T per serving)

1 can Great Northern beans
1 C pumpkin
1//4 C raw almond butter
2 T grapeseed oil (or other subtle oil)
3 T maple syrup (or honey)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/3 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/16 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp salt


Put all of the ingredients into your food processor and let it run for approximately two minutes.  It will appear to be mixed after about thirty seconds, but the longer you let the processor do its job the creamier your hummus will get.  So let it rip...or should I say whirl?

At the Yogatluck, we ate the spiced pumpkin dip with crackers and apple slices.  But this dip is very adaptable.  On the one hand, it works great with savory flavors such as crackers and celery,  but it also complements sweeter foods such as fruit or muffins.  I would love to feature this dip on an apple and cheese sandwich (trust me!), or spread it onto a sweet bread such as gingerbread or coffee cake. 

In addition to the spiced pumpkin dip, I also brought "The Best Pumpkin Muffins" (recipe from Post Punk Kitchen) to the Yogatluck.

My blog is evidence of my love for creating new recipes, but if there is one area where I feel uncomfortable creating a new recipe, it is baking.  Baking is such a science...which, ironically, is one of the things I love most about baking.  If you follow the directions to-the-"t" everything turns out exactly as it should.  There is no room for guesswork.  It is exact.  Baking is a controlled science (go figure that I would be drawn to that! HA!).  Therefore, because I don't understand the scientific principles that dictate very specific ratios of certain ingredients, I don't feel comfortable creating my own baking recipes just yet.  For now, I turn to some of my faithful blog friends to apply their delectable inspiritation in my own kitchen.
These muffins lived up to their name!  They were sweet - but not too sweet, spicy - but not too spicy, and moist - but not crumbly.  Here is a picture of the batter:

And of the muffins, pre-baked:

And post-baked, while cooling (I don't have a cooling rack, so I just use one of the oven racks):

Only two of these beauties remained at the end of last night's Yogatluck, so for breakfast this morning Bo and I each had one smothered in Smart Balance.  My tummy is still saying "thank you" :)

I also had a homemade, vanilla-maple hot chocolate with my muffin.  But, more on that yumminess in a future post...maybe tomorrow?!

Question of the Day:

Do you enjoy cooking?  If so, is there a food (or types of food) that you are hesitant to make because the technique seems too daunting?

Ally and Bo

October 26, 2011

Crunchy Pumpkin Granola

This post is for my mom.

My mom loves to eat!  Actually, her whole family loves to eat.  It is in the blood!  Never, and I mean never, can you plan a Rives get-together without lots of yummy food (not that I'm complaining!).  But let's get back to the post at hand...

My mom loves to eat!  She "grazes" all day long, and she always has snacks on hand.  One of the foods my mom loves is granola.  I think she like the crunch...or maybe it is the salty sweetness that comes with nut-infused, honey-toasted granola.  In the end, I'm not sure exactly what about granola she loves.  But then again, what's not to love?!

So, just the other day, I decided to throw together a uniquely fall granola recipe.  I hope that my mom is able to make this granola in her kitchen back home in Alabama.  And when she does, I hope she thinks of me and remembers just how much I love her.

Crunchy Pumpkin Granola
Serves 2-4 (2 large breakfast servings, or 4 snack servings)

1 C oats
1/4 C pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1 T chia seeds (or other seeds)
4 T mixed nuts
pinch of salt
1/2  heaping tsp pumpkin pie spice
2 T ground flax seeds
2 T brown rice syrup (or maple syrup)
1 T honey
1 1/2 tsp blackstrap molasses* (see note below)
3 T pumpkin puree
1 tsp butter extract
1/2 T grapeseed oil (or other subtle oil, like canola or coconut)

*  Blackstrap molasses is an excellent source of manganese, copper, iron, calcium, potassium, and magnesium. Also, and particularly important for vegans such as myself, blackstrap molasses is a good source of vitamin B6 and selenium.

  1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Mix all of your dry ingredients together.
  3. Mix all of your wet ingredients together in a separate bowl.
  4. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix well.
  5. Spread granola in a single layer onto a greased baking sheet.
  6. Bake for 15-20 minutes, tossing every 5 minutes to ensure the mixture bakes evenly.
  7. Remove when oats begin to brown slightly.
  8. Allow to cool completely before storing in tupperware. 

I am a little ashamed to say that Bo and I have already devoured every last oat of this granola!  Yes, it was that good!  Although it is still in the 90's (and above!) here in Corpus Christi, this granola made it feel just a little bit more like fall around here.  Now, if it would only get cool enough for us to enjoy that gumbo I have pre-made in the freezer...

In other news, I am now a part-time amphibian!

Hehehe...Bo calls these my frog shoes :)  Actually, they are called Vibram FiveFingers and you might have seen them around.  Here is a basic description from the official Vibram website:

Bramani and Fliri[, founders of Vibram,] developed the first shoes then showed the concept to Vibram USA president & CEO, Tony Post. As a former collegiate runner, Post quickly became a firm believer in the benefits of natural running and fitness training. He discovered that Vibram FiveFingers were the unique solution to the knee pain and soreness he was experiencing when running.

Soon, they collaborated with the full Vibram team to position Vibram FiveFingers® as a performance product for running, fitness and outdoor sports. FiveFingers not only encouraged a more natural forefoot strike during running, but also allowed the foot to move and work in a completely natural way, while providing grip and protection over a variety of surfaces.

What's even better about my Vibrams is that I got them for FREE! 

For the past several weeks I had been talking about purchasing Vibrams once my current walking shoes wore out.  At this past weekend's yoga retreat, our hostess allowed me to try on her pair, and when they fit me perfectly, she gave them to me!  I couldn't believe it!  Not only that, but they were the exact color and style I had been dreaming about.  Too cool!

It just goes to show you: God listens to our words, our wishes, and our desires; and he responds in unexpected and beautiful ways!

Tomorrow - maybe I will finally get that ice cream recipe out to you!  I know I keep saying that, but trust me, it is worth waiting for...

Question of the Day:

Has God ever unexpectedly given you something you asked for (perhaps without you even noticing you had asked for it in the first place)?

Ally and Bo

October 24, 2011

Weekend Fun

First things first, I apologize for being MIA these past few days.  I had an amazing weekend filled with fun, friends and laughter, and I can't wait to share it with you in this post!

It all began with Friday's afternoon trip to Port Aransas with Bo.  Port A, as it is affectionately called by the locals, is a quaint, artsy, beach town that draws a lot of tourists from Texas big cities like Dallas, Houston, and Austin.  This time of year it is pretty quiet, but still so much fun! 

I recently picked up a flyer for a glass artist located in Port A, so we decided to check that out first.

Here is the kiln.  That machine was huge and hot!

The artist knew so much about her craft; it was amazing!  Her work was so unique.

Bo and I loved this little sailboat! 

We wanted to buy it for ourselves, but we decided to buy something for my best friend, Liza, instead.  She has a little one on the way, and we saw something that would be just perfect for the nursery.  I would show you a picture, but she might be reading the blog and I don't want to ruin the surprise. :)

After the glass studio, we decided to head over to a working pottery studio.  On the way there, we saw this (?!?).  Interesting, huh?  I just couldn't resist taking a picture...

We didn't see anything we couldn't live without at the pottery shop, so we decided to cruise down the "main drag" of Port A, and then we headed home.  We have already talked about heading back to Port A for Christmas shopping, so stay tuned!

Friday evening, after teaching my yoga class, I headed down to Rivera, Texas with about a dozen girlfriends for a women's yoga retreat.  A fellow yogini hosted the retreat in her beautiful home!

Here is a peek at the guest house (where I stayed):

Here is a look at the back of the home:

I was never able to get a great picture of the whole house.  It was so large that I couldn't seem to fit it all in my frame.  You'll have to take my word for it.  The house was stunning!

There were a couple of trees in the backyard that took my breath away.  If you ask me, they were just itching to be climbed!

Here is a picture of our gracious hostess Michelle, her son, me, Lindy (owner of Youga Yoga Studio, where I teach), and her daughter, Purusa.

The weekend was filled with fun in all different shapes and sizes!

We spent hours talking in the kitchen (and may, or may not, have solved a couple of the world's problems):

We had several yoga classes:

Ahhhh...Savasana (Corpse Pose)

We colored (really, does that surprise you?!):

One guess as to who brought the coloring supplies :)

We made meditation bead necklaces (also known as mala beads):

Lindy was gracious enough to bring lots of supplies!  There were a plethora of beautiful beads to choose from.

Here are a few samples of the beautiful finished product(s):

I think it is so neat that each mala seemed to perfectly represent its creator.  I think if you would have laid the finished products out on a table you could have matched each one with its owner.  So neat!

Of course, the weekend was also filled with a ton of great, healthy, yummy food!

Squash and Polenta Bake

Everything Salad

Seasonal Squash w/ Brown Sugar and Grapeseed Oil

In the end, the retreat was all about learning:
  • I learned how to make a mala necklace;
  • I learned interesting things about new friends;
  • I learned more about my yoga practice;
  • I learned about new foods and cooking techniques; and
  • I learned more about myself.
I am so grateful for weekend getaways with amazing women.  As always, God knew what he was doing when he sent Bo and I to Corpus Christi!

Here's to always learning!

Tomorrow - maybe I will finally get around to that ice cream post!  Yum!

Question of the Day:

What are your favorite "getaways"?  What do you learn when you "getaway"?

Ally and Bo

October 19, 2011

Primary Yoga Series: Dogs

I lied to you.

There is no ice cream in today's post. 

(Don't worry...I promise to give you that ice cream post soon enough!)

Instead, we are going to talk about dogs...yoga dogs to be exact.

Sorry...I couldn't resist :)


Today's blog is all about downward-facing dog (adho muka svanasana) and upward-facing dog (urdhva muka svanasana).  If you have ever been to a yoga class, you have probably performed each of these asanas a dozen or more times.

In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali defines asana as a "steady and comfortable" posture.  I find it interesting that Patanjali didn't describe yoga postures as "difficult" or "challenging."  Instead, he implies that relaxation and peace (as opposed to strain and discomfort) are the keys to truly experiencing an asana.

Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Muka Svanasana)

Among other benefits, downward-facing dog:
  • calms the brain and helps relieve stress;
  • stretches the shoulders, hamstrings, calves, arches, and hands;
  • strengthens the arms and legs;
  • helps prevent osteoporosis;
  • improves digestion; and
  • relieves headache, insomnia, back pain, and fatigue.
Although downward-facing dog is intended to be a restorative rest-stop during a yoga class, for many students it is difficult, painful, and uncomfortable.  This is particularly true if you have tight hamstrings, tense shoulders, and/or a stiff spine.  As a result, many practitioners look like this in a downward-facing dog:


One way to counteract tight hamstrings and a stiff spine in adho muka svanasana is to deeply bend the knees.  In this way, pressure is taken off of the hamstrings so that:
  1. the spine can lengthen and extend;
  2. the pelvis and sitting bones can tilt up to the ceiling; and
  3. the shoulders and heart can release towards the floor. 

Over time, as your hamstrings become more flexible, you can work to release the heels towards the floor.  However, be careful not to rush your progress!  The integrity of the spine takes precedence in this asana.  Only release the heels to the mat if the spine can maintain its length!

Aahhh...now that looks comfortable!

Upward-Facing Dog (Urdhva Muka Svanasana)

Upward-facing dog is a whole different animal (pun intended!).  Among other benefits, it:
  • improves posture;
  • strengthens the spine, arms, wrists;
  • stretches chest and lungs, shoulders, and abdomen;
  • firms the buttocks;
  • stimulates abdominal organs; and
  • helps relieve mild depression, fatigue, and sciatica.
Not only does this asana require spinal flexibility, it also requires quite a bit of arm strength (specifically biceps and triceps) to perform correctly.  As a result, it isn't uncommon for students to thrust themselves upward into the pose while collapsing into their low-back, shoulders, and abdomen.


Instead, if you know that upward-facing dog isn't the appropriate pose for you (which is totally ok, by the way), you can do cobra pose (bhujangasana).  In cobra pose you will both stretch and strengthen the upper spine without having to worry about arm strength or spinal flexibility.

Make sure to tuck your chin slightly so that you lengthen the back of the neck!

For those practitioners that are able to perform upward-facing dog, the tendency is to focus on the upper-back and arms, and as a result, collapse in the lower-back and legs.  By short-circuiting the energy flow through the lower half of the body, you may cause damage to the lumbosacral region of the spine.


Instead, focus on continuing the energy through the low-back, behind the kness, and out through the toes.  Finally, engage the lower abdominals to support the low-back stretch.

Take a look at my up-dog :)  It's taken me almost 5 years of "steady and comfortable" practice to get here!

 I love this pose!  It makes me feel strong, flexible, and graceful.

With all these yoga dogs in my life, I hope I can convince Bo to get us a real dog soon...hint hint hint ;)

Next up - hmmm, maybe I will revisit that ice cream post...

Question of the Day:

Do you practice yoga?  If so, do you enjoy downward-facing dog?

Ally and Bo