November 23, 2015

5-Minute Lentil Tomato Salad

Just 5 minutes and 5 ingredients (or less!) is all it takes for this flavor-packed salad. I've been making it for years and always thought it was too simple for the site. But quick and easy is what it's all about here, and after devouring another batch I knew I had to share :) This actually started as something I threw together for a road trip - wanting healthy plant-based protein to keep us energized for driving. (I'm all about the road snacks!) It became a road trip ritual, and then a quick lunch or easy "pull out of the fridge" snack. It always disappears so fast! I've made it plenty of times without the chives so I left them optional, along with other herbs or olive oil if you wish. So tangy, flavorful, and delicious - hope you enjoy too!

Vegan, gluten-free
Serves about 4 side servings

15 oz. can lentils
1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup white wine vinegar (or white balsamic vinegar)
1/8 cup chives (optional)
Salt to taste
Other additions: olive oil, basil, parsley, etc.

Rinse and drain lentils. Halve/quarter cherry tomatoes. Slice chives.
Add all ingredients to a small bowl and toss to combine. Salt to taste, and adjust vinegar if necessary.
Serve immediately or refrigerate in a covered container to let flavors develop more.

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November 17, 2015

Heartland Farm Sanctuary

I'm still floating on a cloud of warm-fuzzies after our family field trip to the amazing Heartland Farm Sanctuary. So grateful for the opportunity to meet the animals and people in this beautifully tranquil setting. After a couple hours watching, learning, and snuggling the critters, I'm tempted to start a full-time position as "volunteer goat-petter". Please tell me that's a real thing?! Surprisingly enough, sitting on a grassy hill with a goat is incredibly therapeutic. Animals have such a gentle, yet undeniably powerful presence that immediately calms your mind and soothes your soul. As much as the workers and volunteers are doing to help these beautiful creatures, the animals have their own way of giving back just as much in return. Full circle happiness!

Entering the barn, we immediately saw Baine scooting around in his wheelchair. (That face! That hair!) He was born with his back legs paralyzed, and a University of Wisconsin Engineering team designed and built this contraption just for him.

Winnie's story captured my heart and I was so excited to meet her in person. We watched her playfully root around the mud before coming over to greet us. (You can read her story here.)

Sweet Daisy and her buddy Beau were happily grazing when we walked down to visit them. I could snuggle all day next to their soft, fluffy coat of fur! My daughter is still giggling about Beau giving her a playful lick on the face :)

Frosty was calmly gazing over the beautiful grassland. This handsome fella got his name from severely frostbitten ears that caused the tips to fall off.

My daughter felt an instant connection to Amy, the elderly sheep with arthritis who has free range to roam the barn. Amy's a big fan of bananas, and my daughter loved feeding her!

Spending some quality time with Opal... while seriously contemplating life as an official goat-petter ;)

Lola emerged from her cozy pile of blankets to snack on some yummy apples.

Majestic Nilly soaked in the beautiful November sunshine!

Those eyes! Maxine had me in the palm of her hand (er, hoof?) after showing off some of the softest, sweetest looking eyes I've ever seen.

Don't let the soft, fluffy exterior fool you - Frances is a firecracker!

Fonsi and his brother Chachi were happily grazing near the barn during their lunch hour when we strolled over to say hi.

Bertram came over to check us out and give a quick hello. Hi Bert!

My daughter and I couldn't help but keep snuggling Michael. Such a sweetie!!

Gracie the goose and Amy the sheep are adorable together! Apparently they're best buds and like to stick close to each other :)

About the Sanctuary
I first learned about Heartland when they were mentioned in VegNews Magazine.  I immediately jumped on their website, and within in hour I was excitedly emailing them; hopeful with the opportunity to set up a tour. The sanctuary is located a little southwest of Madison and it's the only dedicated farm animal sanctuary in Wisconsin. They're a "non-profit organization who's mission is to provide care for farm animals in need, nurture people through the human-animal bond, and foster respect and kindness toward animals and each other." If you're ever in the Madison area, I highly recommend making it part of your visit!

Human-Animal Connection
The connection between people and animals is a powerful, beautiful thing. Heartland puts heavy emphasis on creating this bond through programs designed to provide meaningful therapeutic activities for vulnerable youth and others. (Visit their site to learn more about the incredible connections they're making.) It certainly left a lasting impression on us - my daughter continues to talk about the farm and animals everyday, and I haven't been able to stop thinking about their sweet faces and stories since we left!

Offering Help
If you're willing and financially able, please consider donating to this incredible farm. Even just $5 or $10 a month is a huge help! (See their site for donation info.)

Thanks to the Farm
A big shout out and special thanks to Sarah for taking time out of her day to be our amazingly awesome tour guide :) We're still overjoyed with the opportunity to experience this special place.

October 29, 2015

Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili

Hugging a warm bowl of chili totally comforts the soul. Especially on days like yesterday; it was a textbook autumn day with plenty of spooky Halloween vibes. Dark clouds looming, with sprinkles of rain. Wind swirling the dull, crispy leaves in whimsical patterns. Ravens perched on the fence, crowing to the bare trees. It felt like something out of a movie, practically begging me to make chili. You don't have to ask me twice! ;) Luckily this one comes together super quick and easy. The thick broth develops a rich, comforting flavor, spiked with cumin and smoked paprika. It's one of my all-time favorite chilis - black beans and sweet potatoes are such a delicious marriage. The heat level is mild as written below, so add more chili powder or cayenne pepper if you prefer more spice. Or try chipotle powder for a nice, smoky kick. This also makes a fun color-themed meal for Halloween! Perfect for get-togethers or warming you up after those trick-or-treat shenanigans :)

Vegan, gluten-free
Serves about 4-5

1 onion
1 bell pepper (I use yellow or orange)
1 large sweet potato
4 cloves garlic
15 oz. can black beans
15 oz. can pinto beans (or kidney, black, etc.)
15 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 Tbsp. chili powder
2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. smoked paprika
Salt to taste
Optional: chipotle, cayenne pepper, or more chili powder
Toppings if desired: green onion, avocado, cilantro, vegan sour cream, etc.

Dice onion and bell pepper. Peel and dice sweet potato. Mince garlic.
In a stockpot over medium heat, saute onion and bell pepper for 6-7 minutes.
Add sweet potato, chili powder, cumin, and smoked paprika. Saute for 3 minutes.
Add garlic and saute 1 minute.
Add vegetable broth and diced tomatoes with juice.
Rinse and drain beans. Add to stockpot. Add a little more broth if desired.
Increase heat and bring to a boil. Then cover, reduce heat, and simmer for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Adjust seasoning if needed and salt to taste.
Add any desired toppings (avocado and green onion are my favorite!)

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