Because…well, we’ll get to that. First let me explain what it is.
Basically, The Artist’s Way is a 12-week program whose goal is to unleash your creative kraken.
Each week, you read one of twelve chapters and follow the assignments and prompts, all the while committing to regular daily and weekly exercises. So when I say I’ve “read” it thrice, I mean I’ve DONE it thrice. (…That’s what she said.)
See that? Yeah, that was the result of one of the trademark assignments in The Artist’s Way, from one of my weekly “artist’s dates.” On these artist’s dates, you must go do something that delights you, and you cannot -I repeat, cannot- bring anyone with you.
That particular week, back in 2000, I thought taking photos of “typical New York City life” in black and white was absolutely essential. I was 18 years old, boldly hopping the train from suburban New Jersey and traveling one whole hour into Manhattan. I wore all black, feeling above on top of the whole world…until someone my age commented, “Where ya going? A funeral?”
I brushed it off (except for the part where I vividly remember that comment nearly two decades later), got the film developed, framed that shit, and thought, Here we go, I. Am. An. Artist.
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During my most recent attempt with The Artist’s Way, in my late 20s, I found out the book had become a trilogy.
Yeah. So. Thirty-six weeks of waking up at 5:30am every day to squeeze in 30 minutes of stream-of-consciousness journaling before driving an hour to my day job so I could still beat traffic.
Each and every time I read did The Artist’s Way, I found some of that magical “flow.” I experienced the synchronicity that Julia Cameron, the author, loves to talk about.
But I kept sweeping away what seemed like, on some level, a pesky mouse trying to cross the threshold into my just-fine-thank-you-very-much home. (And sorry to anyone with brooms, and to mice everywhere; I honor and respect you and don’t know what I’m allowed to use as metaphors anymore. But since I’m a) a woman, b) a person who has swept things, and c) vegan, I’m going to go ahead and assume I get a pass on that last one.)
Obviously, the book wasn’t the problem.
I’m 36 now. So that’s eighteen years and three attempts with The Artist’s Way, collectively adding up to, what? A little over a year of prioritizing my creativity? And I wonder why things stagnate?
Don’t listen to your [relative/friend/colleague/inner critic/cat], Chipmunks.
Being an artist is hard work.
And it’s every bit as valuable as whatever else is taking up your time.
Even if you still can’t seem to get anyone to buy your black and white photographs…
Have you read The Artist’s Way (or anything similar)? Did it help you?
I’ll be honest, Chipmunks. I’m shocked that my first vegan food hack post wound up being one of my most popular ones ever. Usually I write something, my mom reads it, and I move on. That post gets new views and likes every day, even two months later. Whether you’re reading this because you love me food, love saving money/animals/the planet, or any combination of the above, I’m so glad you’re here. BECAUSE…
I HAVE SO MANY MORE (VEGAN) FOOD HACKS!
They’re so cheap. And so easy. And so yummy.
And? We’re on the heels of my 2-year veganniversary (May 17, 2016…not that I’m keeping track of the spiritual awakening that completely turned my world inside-out or anything), so what better time to celebrate a few more?
Let’s do this.
Heads-up: My recipes are very informal because I want to encourage you to experiment! Most of these are really hard to mess up, so let your vegan flag FLY. And if you do mess up? You get to blame me!
1. Orzo is a fun word
16-oz package orzo
1 jar (about 8.5 oz.) oil-packed sun dried tomatoes (chopped or julienned)
That’s right. One 99-cent package of orzo (tiny, scrumptious, basmati rice-shaped pasta) + a jar of julienned sun dried tomatoes in olive oil (about $3.00 from Trader Joe’s) = all you need for several filling meals. Just cook the pasta according to the instructions, strain, and then dump in the jar of sun dried tomatoes, oil and all. DONE.
Don’t live near a Trader Joe’s? Check out the food aisle at TJ Maxx/HomeGoods – you’ll often find great deals on things you can stock your pantry with like sun dried tomatoes, condiments, seasonings, nuts, coffee/tea – even almond butter!
For other cheap additions, stir in a some baby spinach (it’ll wilt just from the heat of the pasta), sautéed onions and garlic, and/or any other vegetables that tickle your fancy (asparagus? Zucchini? Cherry tomatoes?). Speaking of fancy, if you want to splurge, add some pine nuts!
You can serve this hot, cold, or room temperature, and it’s a great make-ahead meal for a picnic or party. Or, try mixing in some vegan mayo (Hellmann’s is my favorite) and turn it into a traditional cold pasta salad with celery, red onion, mustard and dill!
2. InstaPot: What Can’t She Do? (Refried Beans Recipe)
Don’t have an InstaPot? You can do this on your stovetop, just plan for a 1-2+ hour bean-cook time. (Less if you soak the beans overnight.)
16-oz. bag dried pinto beans
However many cups of water it takes to cover said beans
Your favorite seasonings, e.g., 1 bay leaf, 1-2 peeled garlic cloves, 1 onion (peeled and quartered), 1-2 spicy peppers (stems cut off), and a teaspoon each of smoked paprika, salt, pepper, oregano, etc.
1/2 c. reserved cooking liquid (see instructions)
1/4-1/2 c. your favorite oil
Rinse off your beans and dump ’em into your InstaPot (IP).
Cover with water, leaving about two inches of extra water on top of them (those suckers grow faster than my waistline after Thanksgiving).
Add whatever seasonings make you smile from the suggested list above – or come up with your own!
Set the IP on manual for 38 minutes (this is the magic pinto bean number – they will be extra soft), and make sure to turn off the IP when the timer sounds. Feel free to use those 38 minutes to catch up on my blog.
After about 10 minutes post-timer, you can manually release the pressure valve without melting your face off.
Strain the beans and any other veggies you added (garlic, onion, peppers, etc.), reserving the cooking liquid. If you used a bay leaf, discard/compost that.
Put the beans in a food processor, along with any other veggies you used, and blend.
Add about 1/2 cup of the reserved cooking water, then slowly add about 1/4 c. of oil while the food processor is on. Do all of this while everything’s still warm, and you’ll be AMAZED by the results. So light! So fluffy!
Give it a taste, and then add more of the cooking water, oil and/or seasoning as needed to light your tastebuds on fire. If it seems thin, it will firm up once it cools.
Like I said, this makes a ton, but it’ll keep all week. You can eat it cold, reheat it and serve with tortilla chips, make a layered bean dip, spread it on tortillas (#foreshadowing), or just eat it on a spoon! Heck, one time I used it as the “sauce” for a Mexican pita pizza (pictured below), adding green chiles, tomatoes, corn, cilantro and vegan cheese!
Pita Mexican pizza
3. You Get a Tortilla, You Get a Tortilla, Everybody Gets a Tortilla!!!
I buy these tortillas from the refrigerated dairy section of Stop & Shop for $1.49. Eight, succulent, giant, versatile blankets of magic for less than $1.50. The possibilities? Endless.
Here are a few of my favorites:
1 tortilla per quesadilla
Your ‘main’ filling of choice: ~1/2 c. refried beans, hummus, mashed potatoes (sweet or regular), or meat substitute
1/4-1/2 c. vegan cheese (optional)
1/4 c. sautéed veggies/greens (optional)
I’m telling you, just about anything will work in quesadillas if you have a pasty-bean-like-filling; you don’t even need cheese, although I’m in love with Trader Joe’s vegan mozzarella and Follow Your Heart.
Once you add your fillings to one half of the tortilla, fold over, and toast on a large nonstick pan (no greasing necessary) on medium-high heat for a couple of minutes on each side.
Last week I microwaved frozen vegan meatballs and mashed them up, added some vegan mozz, put them in a quesadilla, and used marinara sauce for dipping. Italian ‘dilla – BAM!
Enchiladas are more labor intensive (because of prepping the filling), but they’re GREAT for leftovers/work lunches, and I’ve got an awesome hack coming up here.
4 large tortillas
~2 cups of your grain of choice (rice, couscous, bulgur, quinoa, etc.)
~2 cups of your veggies of choice – cooked (spinach, zucchini, mushrooms, onions, peppers, etc.)
~1 to 1 1/2 cups vegan meat – cooked (optional), e.g., soy chorizo, “beef,” etc.
1 jar marinara sauce (anything from 10 to 24 oz. will work)
About 1 teaspoon each (or to taste): oregano, crushed red pepper, chili powder, paprika, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder
8 oz. vegan cheese (optional)
Preheat oven to 350.
Prepare your filling and distribute it evenly among the four tortillas, wrapping each into a burrito.
Place four burritos in a 9 x 13 pan.
Now for the hack! Aside from the dirt-cheap tortillas, you can buy ANY marinara sauce and just add your favorite Mexican seasonings (suggested list above) and VOILA! Enchilada sauce for about a buck.
Pour your genius sauce over your burrito babies and feel free to top with vegan cheese.
Bake for 25-30 minutes or until nice and bubbly. (If you’re worried about the cheese burning, you can cover the dish with foil for the first 15 minutes.)
One time I boiled a head of cauliflower and blended the sh*t out of it and used that as a topping, too (swirled like in the photo above). Funky-smelling like cheese, healthy, delicious. Oh, cauliflower, you are the Justin Timberlake of vegetables: limitless potential.
Chickpea salad wraps
1 can (about 15 oz.) chickpeas (a.k.a. garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
~1/4 c. your favorite vegan mayo
1/8 c. finely chopped red onion
1/8 c. finely chopped celery
1 t. dijon mustard
1 T. red wine vinegar (optional)
1 T. relish (optional)
1 T. fresh or 1 t. dried dill (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
Think tuna salad, but swap out a can of chickpeas for tuna! The above are really just suggestions meant to play around with – go crazy! I mash the chickpeas a bit with a fork so they’re even more “tuna”-like.
I love to make wraps out of this with those bargain tortillas, topping with lettuce, tomato, and/or sprouts. You could even skip the mayo and just use oil and vinegar though it would cause me to reevaluate our friendship.
I could go on and on about tortillas, but I’ve still got two more hacks to go! (And hey, aren’t you supposed to be working?)
4. Carrot-Ginger Soup
Feel a cold coming on? Want comfort food that won’t require wearing yoga pants for the next week? This is one of my absolute favorite soup recipes, and I just realized how cheap and easy it is. To make it vegan, simply swap out the butter and milk with plant-based options. (Earth Balance and Westsoy unsweetened soy milk are my favorites, respectively.) To make it even easier? Buy baby carrots – no peeling or chopping necessary!
5. You Say Potato, I say Potatohmygod
Ohhh, are we ever ending with a bang here, Chipmunks! I often keep a container of whole, roasted potatoes in my fridge so that Uncle Jesse (the dog) and I can enjoy them in myriad ways throughout the week. Here are just a few:
I have my friend Christine to thank for this miracle. (Remember Christine? The mastermind behind the vegan dinner party?) When she first found out I went vegan and had me over, she made this as an appetizer and blew us all away!
Tortillas (1 per quesadilla)
Your favorite potatoes, roasted or boiled (1 per quesadilla)
Vegan butter spread (e.g., Earth Balance) – about 1 T per quesadilla
Plant-based milk (optional) – about 1/8-1/4 c. per quesadilla
Salt and pepper to taste
Other optional fillings: vegan cheese, sautéed onions, peppers, spinach, jalapeño, tomato, scallions, cilantro – you can’t go wrong!
Mash up potatoes with a fork and add non-dairy butter, milk (if using), salt and pepper. I use yukon gold potatoes and leave the skins on (mmm yeah that’s right).
Add any other optional fillings, spread that sh*t on one half of a tortilla, fold over, and toast on a nonstick pan over medium-high heat. No greasing the pan necessary. It takes about a minute or two on each side – watch it closely!
Serve it with whatever you’d like: Salsa, vegan sour cream, ketchup, hot sauce, etc.
Roasted sweet potatoes with creamed spinach
Sound a little weird? Good. I like pushing you outside your comfort zone.
3-4 sweet potatoes
1 onion (any kind), roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
~12-oz. baby spinach (roughly chopped, if desired)
1/4-1/2 c. your favorite vegan “cream” (Cashew cheese? Non-dairy milk, sour cream and/or cream cheese? Tahini? They all work!)
Nutmeg, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper to taste
1-2 T. nutritional yeast (optional)
Preheat oven to 375.
Wash and prick sweet potatoes with a fork and pop ’em in the oven (usually takes about 1 hour).
While the potatoes are roasting, sauté the onion and garlic over medium heat in a large nonstick skillet (use whatever you prefer to sauté: plant-based butter spread, oil, water or stock).
Once the onions are translucent (5-10 mins), add the baby spinach a few handfuls at a time, letting them wilt.
Now the fun part. Add 1/4-1/2 cup of your vegan cream of choice. My favorite (and arguably easiest) is half tahini, half unsweetened soy milk. Tahini is ground-up sesame seeds, and it’s delicious. It’s also mild in flavor so you don’t have to worry that it’ll outshine your garlic and spinach. They usually sell it in a jar right by the peanut butter, typically on the top shelf. It can be a little pricy (don’t pay more than $7.00 if you can help it), but a little bit goes a long way in things like dressing, hummus, and the wacky recipe I’m giving you right now. My favorite is Whole Foods 365 brand. I’ve gone on so long about this that I kind of want to make a “The More You Know” video.
Add your seasonings, tasting as you go (a little nutmeg is usually all you need).
Dump that gloriousness on top of your roasted sweet potatoes and have at it! (Pssst. This keeps well as leftovers for a few days.)
Do you watch Counting On? It’s one of my favorite guilty pleasure shows where the parents have 867 kids, all the women wear long skirts, don’t dance, and make some really f#@$*& delicious-looking food.
One of those foods is “tater tot casserole.” That is the inspiration behind this much somewhat healthier, vegan version. Thank you, Duggar family.
4-5 your favorite potatoes, cut into 1-inch (ish) cubes – I use Yukon gold and keep the skins on
1 or 2 onions (any kind), peeled and roughly chopped
~1/4 c. oil
Salt and pepper to taste
~15 oz. can black beans
8 oz. your favorite vegan cheese -OR- 1/4 c. nutritional yeast + 1/4 c. walnuts ground together
Optional: 1/2-1 c. corn, chopped tomatoes, wilted greens and/or spicy peppers, etc.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Toss potatoes and onions with oil, salt and pepper, and roast on a baking sheet in a single layer for about 35-45 minutes. (Check on them and give a stir about halfway through. You’ll know they’re done when the potatoes are fork-tender.)
You could seriously stop here and just eat all of it while standing in front of the oven, leaning through the doorway to catch the new Tig Notaro stand-up special on Netflix. No? Okay. Carry on.
Rinse and drain the black beans and add those to the cooked potato-onion mixture, combining into a 9 x 13 pan.
Add any other optional fillings from the list above – or your own invention!
Top with vegan cheese or walnut/nutritional yeast combo and bake for another 15 minutes, or until the cheese is your desired bubbly, golden brown-y-ness.
Don’t tell anyone you made this, because you won’t want to share.
Happy Cooking, Chipmunks! I love you as much as I love carbs.
Third floor walk-up? No yard? No parking? No laundry? No oven?? What was I thinking???
From my summer-long search I learned that studio apartments in this area, close to a major train line bringing well-dressed commuters into New York City, were in high demand. When I stumbled upon this one after two months of scouring the internet, I knew I had to pounce.
Within an hour of seeing the ad on Craigslist, I met with the landlord, beating out over thirty other interested callers in that first day. (It may have helped that I came equipped with my credit report, five references, my three most recent pay stubs, my dog’s vet records, an irresistible photo of said dog, and my current Masters degree transcript. This project manager don’t play.)
When the landlord confessed she was a dog lover, Uncle Jesse and I had no choice but to sign the deposit check right then and there.
Make no mistake about it, this decision wasn’t easy. The down-sizing itself was a down-right pain in the chipmunk tail. I got it in my head that the best way to sell my stuff was to turn my entire apartment into an Amazon warehouse and hold an “estate” sale.
I also thought it made sense to spend hours of time, and $14.00 on glass knobs I just had to have, to makeover old furniture that I’d inherited for free before trying to sell it on Craigslist.
We won’t even talk about the box spring that somehow got into my old apartment, but met an untimely demise trying to come out of the very same apartment.
And it was no small (heh) feat to turn 350 square feet of this:
So by now you must be thinking:
Was it worth it?”
Let’s find out, shall we?
DISCLAIMER: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission if you purchase the linked product, at no additional cost to you. I only ever link to products that I truly love. Like this.
1. I Don’t Miss Any of the Stuff I Got Rid Of
To be fair, there’s still a mountain molehill of boxes and pieces of my dining room table in my parents’ basement, but those 87,000 picture frames? GOOD RIDDANCE.
2. Now I Wish I Had Even Less Stuff
Do I really need two giant Tupperware containers of gift wrapping supplies? I don’t even give gifts. I just show up and take things from people.
Sometimes…there are no words.
My, the pink against the white is a whole new level of class, Winston.
Like the good old days when I took all of your photos of your pets wearing slap bracelets.
3. I Feel (Almost) As Free as a Bird Flying Chipmunk
Whenever I move again, I’m excited to see how fast I can pack up. Could I ever live out of a duffle bag?
4. Climbing Two Flights Only Sucks if You’re Carrying a Case of Wine #worthit
I wound up finding an old laptop backpack as I went through all of my crap before moving, and have devised a nearly hands-free strategy for getting my work supplies, coffee, water bottle, lunch and dog down the stairs and around the corner holding only a leash. I can park in a reserved spot right by my door on nights and weekends, so I plan my grocery trips around that.
Not paying for that parking spot during the day? = $1,200/year extra to spend on wine. (I’m not making this up. Twelve. Hundred. Dollars!)
5. It’s Totally Cool to Wear Those Pants Twice in a Row
I fear this strategy has only worked well because it’s been winter.
6. You Can Cook an Entire (Vegan) Thanksgiving Dinner with Two Electric Burners, an InstaPot and a Toaster Oven
I live on a busy street now, near the center of town, and I can’t believe how often people lay on their horns with the determination of a gaggle of hipsters waiting in line for boozy brunch. I have to shut the windows if I want to ensure I hear every word of John Mulaney’s new Netflix special (OMG WATCH IT).
On the flip side, it means the train, great restaurants, coffee, and Trader Joe’s are all just a few steps away.
8. Living Next Door to a Catholic Church Will Not Make You More Godly
Speaking of unexpected noises, my nearby nuns are still messing with me at all hours, despite the anonymous letter I may or may not have sent a month ago.
9. “Need” and “Want” Are Two Very Different Things
When you don’t have any space to put anything, you’ve gotta decide pretty quickly if it’s a “need” or a “want.” For example, I need to bathe once a month, but I probably just want those pug slippers.
10. If I Can Do This, I Can Do Anything…Like Cut My Own Hair
I recently found out that watching six minutes of a YouTube instructional video and then cutting your hair in a mirror using scissors meant for a righty that you found in the back of your dresser was more bold than wise. But if there’s anything I’ve learned from my ‘stache, it’s that hair grows back. Often more quickly than you’d like.
11. If I Can Do This, I Can Do Anything…No, Really
Much like those who are bringing water to impoverished communities and winning Olympic gold medals, I too have learned that anything is possible if you just put your mind to it. Hang on. That came out wrong. I know this move wasn’t a missionary trip or a heroic act of strength, but taking this leap into the unknown has really galvanized my belief that most of our limitations are set only by our thoughts. So what if you don’t know what path will appear when you take that first next step? You’ve just got to have faith that the universe has your back.
Huh. Maybe that church is rubbing off.
What lifestyle changes have you made that surprised you (for better or worse)?
After about two and a half years on the couch, including a brief affair with hypnotherapy, I was released.
But Go Jules Go, you’re probably thinking. You? Therapy? How can this be? Is it the chipmunk thing? ‘Cause that’s been making me kind of uncomfortable for a long time now.
It’s true, friends. This hilarious, blonde bombshell you see before you has some clumps in her mascara.
At first I felt uneasy being set free. Who would I talk to? And then I remembered you!
The thing that made me realize my therapist was right, that I was indeed ready to stand on my own two, massive, massive, size 11 feet, was the fact that I had made friends with my demons. I’d invited them onto that couch with me, and instead of trying to suffocate them with one of my therapist’s oversized pillows, we started chatting.
The one demon in particular who led me to therapy was an old friend frenemy. FOOD.
Every moment in my personal history, a history rich with love, laughter, beautiful sights and broken hearts, is colored by whatever I happened to weigh at that time. Give me any year back to 1991, when I was 9 years old, and I can probably provide an exact number – and exactly how I felt about that number.
During my first couple of years in therapy, I thought I could fix whatever the hell was wrong with me. I knew food was a merely symptom, but for goddsakes, I was in my mid-30s now, surely time to turn a corner here. Then I realized: My issues were never going away, least of all this one.
And that’s what has made all the difference.
My issues and I can sit side by side in this life, sometimes in companionable silence, other times in a raging battle, and everything is going to be O-KAY. It’s how I relate to them, how I deal with them moment to moment, that really matters. Why not pull my darkest parts into the light where I can admire and understand every ugly lovely inch of them? They are part of me, after all.
Besides, if I’m going to fret over anything, it should be the fact that Darren Criss STILL hasn’t called me back.
“I remember how panicked I was when I first came here,” I said to my therapist on our second to last visit, gazing between her cluttered desk and oversized necklace. “It’s not that my issues have gone away. It’s just that I feel so much differently about them. So much calmer.”
She nodded. “Does that feel like progress?”
“If that’s not progress, I don’t know what is,” I replied.
So now that I’ve invited my favorite frenemy over to spend some quality time, I’ve decided (s)he needs a name.
I’m thinking Osama binge Laden. Yes? No?
Any other frenemies out there you’d like to introduce?