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New Year’s Shenanigans

I managed to stay awake until midnight New Year’s Eve.

Go me..

Actually, what helped pass the time was that the Mr. and I rented the movie, American Assassin.  It had a lot of action!

I slept in a little New Year’s morning.  It was the best night’s sleep I’d had since prior to my surgery.  Of course, it was the first time I was back in my own bed since then as well.

We got going pretty quickly and headed to the mall.  We had recently upgraded to the iPhone X and had purchased screen protectors and cases from Cellairis, a place in the mall that my Sprint guy had recommended.

Y’all, we usually buy this stuff on Amazon and don’t pay much for it; however, we weren’t willing to risk dropping our brand new phones without them being protected, so we coughed up the extra dough.  I was impressed by the young guy’s quick service and the fact that he got the protectors on without any issues.  I always ruin the first one when I do it myself.

My protector started lifting while I was out of town with family, so I visited a Cellairis in the mall there.  It took me a few hours to realize that they’d: 1) put it on crooked and 2) given me a matte protector.

Not good.

I went nuts.  I went back to that mall the next day and asked them to fix it but was told that they were out of them and to go back in a week.  I couldn’t do that because we were going back home the next day, so I figured that I’d go to the one in my own mall.

That’s what the Mr. and I were doing there at 10:00am New Year’s morning, but y’all, when we drove up, look at what we saw . . .

There were lines of people waiting to go into Dillard’s.

What the heck?

The Mr. dropped me off so he could park, and I got in the queue.  It was freezing, but the doors had just opened, so I didn’t have to wait.

Oh my goodness!  The people were NUTS!  They were almost running across the store, while I was doing my best to not get trampled or tripped.

I saw people grabbing blankets off of tables that only had 20% off sales signs.  What the heck?

I went past the shoe department, and that’s where the wacko behavior really cranked up.  I don’t even know that people cared what the shoes looked like.  They grabbed them and then jumped into a line that was marked off with a rope.

I just wanted to get out of there and into the rest of the mall.

The guy at Cellairis did NOT give me a new protector.  He had to call his boss who wouldn’t allow it because the other place had put on the wrong one.

Talked about MAD.  I was extremely angry and told the kid that it wasn’t his fault, but that this was horrible customer service.  I asked when his boss would be in, and he said later that day, but since the Mr. and I had plans to watch football, I told him we’d be back today.  He did straighten the matte protector, but y’all, do you know that it started lifting in the corner a little later?  I was DOUBLE-MAD.

I even tweeted out to corporate.

Take that!

When the Mr. met up with me, he told me that the line in the shoe department of Dillard’s was wrapped all the way around the corner.  Fortunately, he had parked in a different lot, so we didn’t have to risk our lives getting out of there.

We ran a couple of other errands before we returned home.

That’s when I got busy.

I had gotten an Instant Pot for Christmas and was eager to make my first dish, Vegetarian Instant Pot Chili.

First, I had the fun of using the new slicer that Chicky had given me to do some prep work.

You can find this at Walmart.

Look at that green, yellow, and red pepper deliciousness

I was so impressed with how quickly my veggies were chopped.

Next, it was time to get everything into the Instant Pot.  I was nervous; pressure cooking is something I haven’t done is probably twenty years, and it made me nervous back in the day.

Setup was actually pretty easy!  The manual that came with it had clear instructions.

Of course I chronicled my antics on Instagram (I saved the entire video story, posted below) . . .

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The dish itself took thirty minutes to cook.

I am sooooooo glad that I asked for the model that has Bluetooth; watching its progress on my app was fascinating.

I was like a mama hen and refreshed my screen often . . .

Isn’t this cool???

The pot took a few minutes to heat up and then about ten minutes to vent.  I’d read a few things about manually venting it or allowing it to do it naturally.  I turned the valve to venting after ten minutes of letting it do its thing on its own.

The results were sooooo worth my foray into new cooking lands . . .

The recipe is flavorful.  I’d suggest adding chili powder for an extra kick.

It made quite a bit, so I’ll be eating it for lunch this week – no complaints here!

Cleanup was a piece of cake!  Everything was seriously done in one pot!  I didn’t know that you could saute in it (this recipe didn’t require it, but I read that you could saute in it on a blog) . . . something that will be handy when I want to whip something up after a tiring day of work.

I also did some baking.  The Mr. had requested the Peanut Butter Cake that he loves so much.

This thing usually sinks in the middle because he’s not allowed to have anything with baking powder, cream of tartar, or other leavening agents.  I decided to try adding a splash of lemon juice to the recipe with the hopes that it would interact with the baking soda and make the cake rise.

You can see that it worked!  I was shocked!

It looked like a real cake after I frosted it . . .

The Mr. said that the texture was spongy too.  Yay!

I wasn’t done in the kitchen, though.

Chicky had found a recipe for a Peanut Butter Lover’s Chocolate Tart, from Oh She Glows (I found the recipe online yesterday, so you’re welcome) in one of my books, but we had not had the time to prepare it, so I got busy.

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Every component was homemade . . .

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First I baked the crust, and then I made the filling . . .

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While it was setting in the freezer, I made homemade caramel sauce and chopped peanuts for the garnish . . .

This was seriously fun to assemble!

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Look how pretty it turned out!

I’m going to cut this into small slices and freeze them individually for a quick solution to a craving for something sweet.  This thing is DECADENT!

After all of that cooking, I finally sat down to watch football and knit.

I slept well again last night – past 9am – the Mr. thoughtfully got up early and fed the dogs.

We headed BACK to the mall.  Just look at the aftermath from yesterday’s sales . . .

I am so thankful that the Mr. was willing to take me out on errands.  This is the second time in just over a year that I’ve been unable to because of my ankle.

If only my makeup looked that good without the Snapchat filter!!

We first visited the Cellairis place, and this time the manager was there.  I went through the spiel again, and he had to call the owner.  I was just about ready to blow a gasket; however, I’d prayed before I’d gone into the mall, and God had answered.  The manager replaced the screen cover, even managing to apply it evenly.  Whew!

Then, the Mr. and I did a bit of shopping at American Eagle, where they were having a lot of sales.

Of course, the things that fit me perfectly weren’t on sale.  I got them anyway.  Ha!

Excuse the hair – it was clean and dry but not styled. #ChristmasBreakProblems

That outfit right there?  Yeah, it’s what I’m wearing for the first day back at school tomorrow, so if you see me, just know that I did not wear it home!

We also went by Books a Million; I had a gift card to spend!

It took two employees to locate the cookbook I wanted . . .

While looking for it, I found a lot of other books I wanted; however, I held myself to just one more . . .

Aquafaba is the liquid left over in a can of chickpeas, and it’s magical, especially if you’re a vegan and can’t use eggs for whipped stuff.  I am so excited about this cookbook!

I’m sad to see the end of the break quickly approaching.  I needed the rest that this break provided.  Although the first week of it was rough with my surgery and ensuing recovery, I still enjoyed not having to stress about writing up errant children, entering grades, or making lesson plans.

Please say a prayer for the Mr.  He’s got to get up to take me to school until the 22nd (boot removal day), and he is not an early-morning kind of guy, let me tell you.  He’s already refusing to take me to Starbucks for hot chocolate or by Panera for the free daily bagel deal that’s going on this month.

It should be an interesting series of mornings as our “together time” is put to the test.

Ha!

Shopping, Taste Testing, and Cooking

Is it Friday yet?

This was me, on Tuesday, after I got home from school . . .

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I needed groceries.  So badly.

I needed a nap even more.

Wednesday, I pulled up my big girl pants and went to the store on my way home.  That was after I spent my entire lunch break, my planning period, and a half hour after school inputting about 400 grades.  I’d taken up three assignments this week but had figured out a more fair way to grade the third . . . only AFTER I’d put grades in for three or four of my classes – because I suck at math and like to do things the hard way.

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And no, I did not go to the grocery store with my hair in a wrap, thank you very much.

I am not that much of a redneck.

Ahem.

I am glad, though, that I pushed through my fatigue and made it to the store.  Look what I found . . .

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When you play the video, it will right itself.

But y’all . . . look at all of the options!  I had a hard time deciding which one to buy, so I didn’t choose at all . . .

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Can someone please explain to me WHY my videos are sideways?  Ugh.

Anyhoo, I decided to do some taste testing to compare.  I felt a bit like Goldilocks.

The Original Silk Nog is thin but tastes most like what I grew up drinking (before I became lactose-intolerant and a vegan).

The So Delicious Coconut Milk Holiday Nog is the thickest of the three and has a distinct flavor that I can’t quite put my finger on – maybe it’s a subtle hint of coconut. It’s almost as though I’m drinking a version I’d find on a Caribbean island. Delicious!

The Califia Farms Holiday Nog seems, on first appearance, to be the second thickest, but after going back and forth, I think it’s actually more watery in flavor.

While I was taste testing, I was also hard at work cooking up a new-to-me recipe from a blog I follow.

This recipe is called Meatless Meatloaf Cups.

I used black beans instead of the white ones suggested in the recipe.  I also used my food processor to mix everything together.  I think I’ll try mashing up everything with a fork the next time I make this for a chunkier texture.

Still, the flavor was amazing!  My house smelled like I’d been cooking real meatloaf.

The cooking didn’t stop there though.

Well, okay.  So I actually had a break . . . say a seven hour sleep break 😉 . . . and woke up with the plan to make one more dish I’d seen in an email . . .

That is Snickerdoodle Mug Cake, a recipe created by A Virtual Vegan.

Preparing it was super easy.  I used almond butter and almond milk.  I did NOT use my microwave – I quit using this appliance quite a few years ago.  Instead, I baked this in my toaster oven at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.

The texture came out perfect!

I snacked on it all morning at school!  Since I haven’t been baking lately, the treat was especially delicious.  My taste buds were not complaining one little bit.

Time to Make the Donuts

Y’all, I am constantly on the lookout for yummy things to make.  I’m just about willing to try anything vegan related.

Last week, the Mr. and I talked about how much we missed Krispy Kreme donuts.  Neither one of us can have them due to our special dietary needs.

Well, I did what I do best and googled.  My search proved fruitful when I hit upon this Vegan Glazed Donut recipe.  I headed out to the store on Saturday to pick up the ingredients I needed.  Then, I got busy.

It’s been a long time since I worked with yeast, so I was a little nervous.  I used aquafaba, the liquid leftover in a can of chickpeas, as an egg substitute.  I wish I’d saved the photo of my dough rising.  It was pretty though.  I love when magic happens.

Then, I rolled out my dough.  I didn’t have a lot of space because there were a ton of dirty dishes on the counter.  Since I had not been feeling well the past two days, I wasn’t up to washing them by hand, and the dishwasher was full, so there was that little problem.

I had a bit of an issue when I realized that I’d forgotten to purchase a donut cutter when I’d been at the store earlier.  I googled what to do, but I still didn’t have what I needed.

I found a round cookie cutter among my baking items and used that first.  Still, I needed something to cut out the centers, and after thinking and thinking about it, I went back to my cabinet where I found a cupcake center removal thing – the tool you use to take part of the cupcake out so you can add filling to it.  I’ve never actually done this before, but I had anticipated a time when I would, hence the item in my kitchen.

It worked perfectly.

I had to let the donuts rise a second time.

They weren’t the prettiest, and some were thicker than others.  Since I didn’t have much space on the counter, I couldn’t roll them out evenly.  It’s okay.  It was my first time, so I was still in the experimental phase.

I didn’t waste anything and even let the donut holes rise.

The thicker ones got HUGE after an hour of resting . . .

I’ve never seen Krispy Kreme donuts that thick before, but whatever.

Then, I fried them in canola oil.

Oh my heavens.  I should have downloaded the Instagram story I did on it.

They took about 45 seconds to cook on each side and came out amazingly well!

The icing was a piece of cake to whip up, and I gave each donut a quick bath before setting it on a rack to cool off.

These donuts are so delicious!  Because mine were kind of small, I was able to get make almost 36 out of the dough.

I’ll be sharing these with friends at work to prevent me from eating all of them and, thus, keeping my cold, which is a result of too much sugar and stress in my life of late.

But y’all, I freaking made donuts!!!

The Mr. is a bit jealous and said that he wished I’d enjoyed cooking like this before he’d been forced to change his diet.  Poor dear.  I’m going to be on the hunt for something he can have.  It won’t be a Krispy Kreme donut, but maybe it will be an acceptable alternative.

 

Thankful Thursday

You may have noticed that I’m writing more lately.  Well, cue in summer break and a promise to myself to let my heart speak through my favorite medium . . . the written word.

I struggled, though, with an idea for today’s post . . . until I saw Rebecca’s, and then I knew I just had to join in on the fun.  So, I’m linking up with her for my first Thankful Thursday post!  I’m not going to number my items, though.

  • Summer Break – This week, I am so very thankful for summer break.  I don’t really think it’s hit me that I don’t have to go back for a couple of months; it feels more like a long weekend.  I will say, though, that I’m deriving a delicious sense of joy that I can do such things as read a book at leisure, while enjoying a glass of wine, on a Wednesday night.  Yes, that was me last night.  The glass?  I got it from BoredTeachers.com.

  • The Furminator – Y’all, I have dogs who shed.  Like seriously bad.  I’d washed the dogs on Monday, but because it took forever for them to dry, I never got them brushed out.  Molly looked horrible; her fur was sticking out in all directions.  She was also shedding all over the place.  I was vacuuming AFTER the Roomba had run.  I decided she needed a good brushing, and WOW, what a difference!  Not only does she look better now, but my house doesn’t look like it’s been snowed in.


  • Rare Impulse Buys – On Tuesday, I had an appointment with my surgeon.  His office is two hours away, because when you need a good surgeon, you don’t mind traveling.  As I was leaving the city, I passed by a fun little boutique that I knew sells Ginger Snaps.  I don’t know if you remember, but Super Sis bought me a necklace with a charm for Christmas, and I’d since purchased a few more.  You can change out the snaps according to what you’re wearing or your mood.  I absolutely love this piece of jewelry.  It’s so fun and versatile.  So, because the store is located right next to the interstate, it was convenient to run in real quick.  Oh my word, but I saw an adorable little purse, and it just called out to me, as did the Buy 4, Get 1 Free sale.  Ahem.  So, I splurged, while I talked to Super Sis on the phone (she totally agreed that I’d earned it since I survived the school year with all of my various challenges).

The two snaps in the middle are only placed there so you can see them . . . they don’t really snap in place there. That would look weird.

  • Vegan Recipes – Boy, am I thankful for people who know how to write recipes that cater to my dietary needs.  On Sunday, I whipped up a batch of Vegan Almond Flour Chocolate Chip Cookies and Vegan Peanut Butter Date-Sweetened Cookies.  I did take a few of each to share with the physical therapy gals.  They adore baked goods.


  • Long Phone Conversations with Wonderful Friends – On the way home from my doctor’s appointment on Tuesday, I rang up my sweet friend, Jane.  She and I taught our first year together and have enjoyed a sweet friendship since that year.  She recently retired, sort-of, moved to south Florida, and continues to stay rather busy.  I miss her so much.  She’s both a friend and a mother figure.  So, we spent one hour and 47 minutes catching up . . . nearly my entire drive home.  She’s coming to town this week, so we are hoping to meet up for lunch one day.  That will definitely be an afternoon of many laughs.  I love her so.
  • New Friendships – Yesterday, I told you about a new friend I recently made.  I am extremely shy, which is kind of surprising to some people given my presence on social media and this blog; however, I don’t do the public social scene very well.  Thus, it can be hard for me to make new friends.  It’s not that I don’t want to; it’s just hard because I have so many insecurities.  I’ve been rejected a few times, hurt in ways that left lasting impressions.  Plus, it takes a lot of time to invest in a good friendship . . . time that a lot of people aren’t willing to spend or are already spending on other friendships.  I guess there’s a difference between acquaintances and deeper-level friends.  Maybe I just expect all of my acquaintances to be those deep-level friends.  Dang, but see how I overthink things?  Cue in the social awkwardness.  Anyhow, I am thankful for common bonds that bring new friendships together.

There are so many more things I am thankful for, but it’s 12:30, the sun is shining after two solid days of rain, so I’m going to head to the pool (remember the first item on this list?).

I am thankful for soooooo much, but this has been fun . . . purposely listing a few of them.  Thanks, Rebecca (I’m thankful for YOU too!!!).

Weekending

Even though it’s my summer break, and the days kind of run together, I find myself looking forward to the weekends when the Mr. is home from work.

As new empty-nesters, we are starting to fall into routines that work for us.

I kicked off the weekend on Friday with a beach lunch date with Rooster’s girl.

We ate at one of my favorite places right on the beach.  The view…so lovely and peaceful.

Saturdays find us sleeping in.  It’s a luxury that I do not take for granted…especially with 4am wake-up calls looming on the horizon again (for me…not him).

Even though I got up late, I still managed to get in my workout.  I just don’t feel as though I can enjoy my day guilt-free if I skip out on this.  Plus, it burns extra calories that I can later eat.  🙂

Ever since Rooster left in April, we started making trips to the beach on Saturdays.  Sometimes, we just head to the neighborhood pool.

We’re getting pretty good at this, even keeping a bag ready with our towels and sunscreen.

I always throw in a book, and we fix coolers with snacks and drinks.

First, though, was lunch…a necessity given my workout.  I was starving!  I ate a bowl of West African Peanut Soup.  It’s less like a soup and more like a stew.  The next time I make it, I’ll either increase the vegetable stock or will decrease the amount of brown rice.  It’s delicious, though!!!!!

The Mr. surprised me as I was selecting my water wear.  He’d purchased a new bathing suit for me!  They’re on clearance right now at Victoria Secret.

Because the water at the beach had been FILLED with seaweed the week before, we opted for the pool this past weekend.

It.  Was.  Hot.

Unless it rains, the water is tepid…not cool.  At least it’s wet and offers a bit of respite from the heat and humidity.

I loved my new bathing suit.  It was the perfect fit.

We really enjoy watching young families at the pool.  The little kids are too cute.  I have discovered, though, that I have a limited tolerance for boys between the ages of nine and twelve years old.  Oh my, but they are LOUD at the pool!  And they are rough.  And they don’t care who they splash when they jump in.

The Mr. knew I was starting to get annoyed, so he suggested that we leave.  We’d already been there a couple of hours, so I quickly agreed.

The Mr. wasn’t feeling well, so we stayed in for dinner.  I ate another helping of the soup.

Sunday mornings find us going to church.  First, though, was my workout.

We skipped our usual lunch with friends to run to the grocery store and Hallmark.  I picked up this Itty Bitty at Hallmark…

These are all the rage with my Facebook support group.

Then, I ignored the huge pile of dirty dishes in the background below and got ready for a second stint at the pool.

The weather was uncooperative, though.  We kept a close eye on the sky and my weather app, and hoped that the promised thunderstorms would skirt us.  They did.  For all of thirty minutes before it started raining.

Back into the house we went, where I picked up the third book in The Testing series and started reading.  I couldn’t help but notice the blurb you see boxed in below.

How fitting, do you think, regarding the leadership crisis we are experiencing right now in America.

Hmmm.

I watched First5’s weekend video message, which was one of the BEST since this free app started last year.

I was in tears by the end.  God’s provision…His promises…they just awe me.

The dogs tried to use their cuteness to get me to fix them an early dinner.

Their charms did not work, by the way.  Poor babies.

Dinner was leftovers again, but I was craving something sweet.

I turned to one of my newest favorite recipes…Crazy Cake…which is so simple and contains NO eggs!  It and the chocolate buttercream frosting are vegan-friendly.

The rest of my evening consisted of Big Brother (what a crazy episode!!), Next Food Network Star, and more of my book.

I absolutely love my weekends.  We don’t run hard any more.  I’ve learned the value of lying low and taking things easy.  There’s a peace that my soul has yearned for and is now able to enjoy.

Summer Fun

Oy vey, but my blog stats really stink!  I am enjoying summer a little too much, if that’s possible.  I have so much to write about too.

One of these days I’ll get caught up.

For now, let’s begin with a brief post about some fun I’ve been having.

First of all, my brain is working again.  That’s probably because I’m actually sleeping more than eight hours each night.  My alarm clock is feeling neglected.

I’ve maintained my workout routine, albeit I’m not exercising at the butt crack of dawn.  I am completely in love with Beachbody.  For someone who was a skeptic for a couple of years and actually avoided conversations about it, I am hooked.  The structure has been good for me because I am a person who craves organization.  As a teacher, I’m burned out on keeping others organized, so the workout schedules that come with the programs remove the planning and thinking.  All I have to do is show up in front of my TV with a good attitude.

Something fun I’m doing right now is working out, virtually, with my friend, Rebecca.  She’s a way better blogger than I am…blogs real regularly and everything.  I really need to follow her example.

She and I decided to do Hammer and Chisel together.  I was ahead of her by a couple of days because she changed her rest day, but then I got behind her a few days when I went out of town for almost a week.  We post near-daily pictures on Instagram and even have a clever hashtag #chiseledknitters (because we are aiming to get chiseled, and we are both knitters).  Go ahead and marvel at our smartness.

We’ve decided to do a second round of Hammer and Chisel when we finish this one and then move into a new program together.  Today, I started Week 7.  There are eight weeks total.  I love, love, love this program because I’m lifting weights again.  The payoff has been amazing!!!

I bought a heart rate monitor to go with my Garmin Vivoactive fitness watch.  The strap goes around my chest and helps me monitor the number of calories I’m burning during non-running exercises (something I couldn’t do before).

Ignore the yard in the next collage. That’s a story for another day.

Another fun thing I got to do was eat lunch with my sweet friend, Jane.

I met her six years ago when I started teaching.  We were first-year teachers together at a small private school.  I’ve talked about her before.  She’s my friend and mama-figure all in one.  Our lunches stretch for hours…usually into dinner time…because we always have a lot to catch up on.  She retired at the end of the school year and moved to another part of the state for the summer.  I already miss her terribly.  Despite the age difference (only a year or two), we have so many things in common.

Of course, summer just wouldn’t be summer without cooking.  Now that I have time to look at recipes and grocery shop, I’m having fun trying new things.

Rooster’s girl’s father gave me three cookbooks.  This one has quickly become my favorite…

I’ve only had one recipe not turn out that great (taste-wise, it wasn’t my preference…not that it was bad or anything).  The recipes are extremely easy to make and only require a short list of ingredients.

This afternoon, I made the Creamy Mushroom Tomato Soup.  Oh my goodness…it was so easy!  It’s got a fresh flavor (I roasted the tomatoes myself), and each serving doesn’t have a lot of calories.

I’ve also been prowling for dessert recipes.  The Mr. likes having something sweet to munch on.  I hope he likes this Cracker Candy I quickly whipped up today after watching a video that’s been making the rounds on Facebook.

It is seriously the easiest recipe ever!  You wind up freezing it and then breaking it into pieces.  The center has something akin to caramel (it’s melted butter and brown sugar).  I veganized the recipe, of course.  I envision breaking up candy canes and sprinkling them over the top during the holidays.  Yum!

On Sunday, I made this No-Bake Peanut Butter Cup Pie, from Detoxinista.  Surprisingly, it’s not overly sweet, but it is addictive once you have a slice…or two…or three.

So, that’s just a small glimpse into what I’ve been up to.  It certainly isn’t everything, but maybe, if I feel up to it, I’ll post more sooner rather than later.

I do want to share about the big trip to Texas that I made three weeks ago.  That will actually have to be a series of posts because the awesomeness of it is just too much for one reading.

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

It’s been years since I’ve eaten a good chocolate chip cookie.  Becoming a vegan put quite the damper on my dessert eating (my waist line hasn’t been complaining though).

Still, I grew up eating chocolate chip cookies and used to make them for my family.

I’d found a recipe a couple of weeks ago but only got around to baking them on Sunday.

You can find the recipe here.

I was shocked at how few ingredients it called for, and prep was a snap.

I was eager as I put them in the oven…

They came out of the oven looking…gasp…normal…

The true test would be in the taste…

Warm cookie + dessert-deprived vegan = BLISS

The cookie…

Was like a small piece of heaven…

Descended upon this earth.

I called the Mr. in.

He was skeptical.  He loves my non-vegan version; however, he is severely lactose-intolerant and has been extra careful ever since I joined forces when I became a vegan.

He took one bite and tried to hide his reaction.

Cookie joy came shining through his eyes, though.

There was no hiding the sparkle that radiated there…

Nor the fact that he returned more than once for more cookies.

Ahem.

This recipe is a keeper!

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