MINI Thanks!

My beloved, recently-acquired, neglected-in-a-previous-life, 2012 MINI Cooper has been in the shop quite often since we bought “him” used. Ringo has been a bit of a problem child, but so far most of the issues can be attributed to a failure to keep up routine maintenance by a previous owner. Besides, he’s so handsome, I’ll forgive him a lot.


At any rate, we have been very pleased with the mechanics at the shop who are doing the work for us, and feel like they have really gone the extra mile to work with us in getting the car brought up to speed.

As a gesture of appreciation, I wanted to make them a special cake to say “thanks”. If you’ve seen my previous post regarding cakes, you know this is something that I am just beginning to be interested in. I baked my first “grown up” cake a few weeks ago, and now I just want to do more and get better at it.

To make this cake more personalized, I wanted to add the MINI logo. Since my piping skills are kind of non-existent at this point, I thought it would be cool to create the logo in chocolate, as a topper. A little research turned up this Castin’ Craft, which is FDA approved and can be used to create your own molds for casting just about anything, chocolate included!


I found the product very easy to work with, and after making a practice mold of a sunburst, I was ready to make my MINI emblem. Fortunately, I had a keychain I could use to make the impression. The mold only has to set up for about 20 minutes, though I did let it sit a little longer. When done, the silicone is pliable and rubbery and the keychain popped right out. I rinsed the mold and dried it, added my melted chocolate and let it set. The chocolate also popped out easily. I added a little edible silver metallic paint to more closely resemble the actual emblem, and aside from my messy painting, I think it turned out really well.

I’m still experimenting with frostings, and though the frosting was perfect on my practice cake the day before, this time, it was extremely dry and didn’t do well, at all. So I whipped up a different recipe for the piping and I liked it much better! I will try frosting with it on the next chocolate cake I make.


It’s not as close to perfect as I would like, but that’s okay! I learned a lot, and I’m looking forward to my next experiment! I already have plans for a special St. Patrick’s Day cake!


Berry Easy

If you are looking for something quick and nutritious for breakfast, a snack, or (like me, this evening) for dinner, consider this: A toasted plain bagel, delicious dairy-free plain cream cheese from Kite Hill, and fresh fruit. I sprinkled a little chia seed for extra nutrients. And, because February is heart health month, it’s important to note: it’s all cholesterol free, thanks to the almond-milk-based cream cheese and accidentally vegan bagels from Costco!

Vegan Southern Cream Cheese Cake

I’m not a cake maker. For that matter, until a few years ago, I wasn’t a maker of anything. Last week, I decided I was going to make a nice cake. I turned to YouTube, watched a few videos, ordered a few “must haves” from Amazon,  and got started. I had a beautiful inspiration cake, but created my own recipe, using a mashup of recipes I found on-line. Technically, my cake isn’t an Italian Cream Cake, because, as Tad pointed out, I’m not Italian. But it is a tasty, moist cake with a lot of toasted pecans, toasted coconut, and cream cheese icing. I guess we can call it a Southern Cream Cheese Cake.

My cake doesn’t look a whole lot like the inspiration because I need to work more on making icing for piping. I learned a lot, and hope to make more cakes in the future. Nothing too elaborate, just good, classic cakes.


Southern Cream Cheese Cake

Vanilla Crazy Cake (One 8” round or square layer)


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp white vinegar
5 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 cup water
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1.     Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a greased baking pan.

2.     Make 3 depressions in the dry ingredients – two small and one large. Pour the vinegar and vanilla in each of the two smaller depressions, and the vegetable oil in the large one.

3.     Pour water over the entire thing and mix until smooth.

4.     Bake on the middle rack of the oven at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. Let it cool, then top with your favorite frosting and enjoy!

*This is supposed to be a one pan recipe, but since I doubled it for two layers, I used a large bowl for mixing. There are several flavors of Crazy Cakes, I love the chocolate one! Be sure to look them up.

For the Southern Cream Cheese Cake, I added approximately one cup of shredded coconut and about 1.5 cups of toasted pecans into the batter, stirring in after all the other ingredients were mixed.



•1 pound (4 cups) of Powdered Sugar

•1/2 cup Butter

•8 oz. Cream Cheese*

•3 teaspoons of Vanilla


1.Beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla in a mixer until blended.

2.Add powered sugar a cup at a time and continue to mix until sugar is incorporated.

*I used Kite Hill Almond Milk Cream Cheese. To finish the cake, I covered the sides in Toasted Coconut and the top in Toasted Pecans.

Please leave a comment if you try my recipe!




Easy, Vegan, No-oil Pizza Crust

This crust meets all my criteria! Quick and easy with few ingredients, vegan and no oil!! Forks Over Knives friendly, and best of all, Esther Approved!!


From Esther’s Kitchen:  Here is a super easy method to make a 12″ thin pizza crust! This recipe is for the crust with suggested topping ideas and baking times. The crust is oil-free, thin and crispy with some air pockets that firm while baking. You can have a homemade Esther Approved pizza in 30 minutes! Enjoy!

Esther’s Thin Pizza Crust
Cuisine: Esther Approved Pizza Crust
Prep Time for Crust: 18-20 minutes
Bake Time for Pizza: 10 minutes
Serves: 12″ pizza crust
Author: Chef Linda

½ cup warm water (110°F/43°C to 115°F/46°C) (125ml)
½ teaspoon active dry yeast (2ml)
1 teaspoon granulated sugar (5ml)
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour (750ml)
½ teaspoon salt (2ml)

Topping ideas
Canned crushed tomatoes
Esther Approved cheeze (Daiya mozzarella style shreds were used.)
1-2 minced garlic cloves
Crushed pepper flakes
salt and ground black pepper
Pizza seasoning blend
Fresh basil leaves

1. Place the warm water in a small bowl. Stir in the granulated sugar until it is dissolved. Stir in the active dry yeast. Stir quickly to combine. Let the mixture sit undisturbed for 10 minutes. The surface of the water will begin to foam around 10 minutes. Your yeast is proofing in this step.
2. Add the all-purpose flour and salt to a large mixing bowl. Stir to combine. Pour the water/sugar/yeast liquid in with the flour and salt. Stir the dough with a spoon until a dough ball forms, about 1 minute.
3. Lightly flour your worksurface. Grab the dough and little bits of dough from the mixing bowl. Transfer the dough onto the floured work surface. Knead the dough with your hands for 1 minute until it is smooth. The dough ball will be stiff. Let the dough ball rest for 5 minutes. Roll the dough out to a 12″ circle with a rolling pin. Start from the center and apply pressure as you roll out to the edge. Flip the dough over a few times while you are rolling it out.
4. Transfer the pizza dough to a pizza pan. Add the crushed tomatoes in a thin layer, minced garlic, salt, ground black pepper, pizza seasoning blend, crushed pepper flakes and Esther Approved cheeze.
5. Bake the pizza in a preheated 450°F oven. Bake the pizza for 10 minutes or until the crust is crispy. Add fresh basil leaves on top of the pizza. Slice and serve.

Here is a super easy method to make a 12″ thin pizza crust! This recipe is for the crust with suggested topping ideas and baking times. The crust is oil-free, thin and crispy with some air pockets that firm while baking. You can have a homemade Esther Approved pizza in 30 minutes! Enjoy!

Please visit Esther’s Kitchen for more great recipes!

Thanks for reading!

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Esther the Wonder Pig

Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary


Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Two companion recipes to the previous beans post! From Esther’s Kitchen, Mexican Rice & Bean Burritos:



Happy Cinco de Mayo! Our beans are cooked from Esther’s Crockpot Beans recipe that we shared yesterday. Here is an easy baked Mexican Rice that does not require any frying. This Mexican Rice is similar to the type you enjoy in Mexican restaurants. Rinsing the rice in a fine mesh colander helps to removed excess starch and lends a fluffier rice. Enjoy!
~Chef Linda

Mexican Rice
Cuisine: Esther Approved, GF
Serves: 9
Prep including Cook Time: 1 hr 10 minutes

1 jalapeño, seeded for less heat if desired
1 large tomato, chopped
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
1/4 cup oil (vegetable or olive)
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon fresh black pepper, or to taste
2 cups vegetable broth
2 cups long grain rice (white or brown), rinsed
1 large carrot sliced lengthwise then diced
1/2 cup frozen corn
1/2 cup fresh or frozen green beans, sliced in 1/2″ pieces

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 9 x 13 baking dish. Set aside.
2. In a blender or food processor combine the jalapeño through the S&P ingredients. Purée until smooth.
3. Pour the 2 cups vegetable broth in the baking dish. Add the rice and puréed veggies. Stir in the corn, carrots and green beans.
4. Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 45-60 minutes or until the rice is cooked and most of the liquid has been absorbed by the rice.
5. Serve with additional fresh cilantro, salt and pepper to taste.

For our next Cinco de Mayo recipe we have Bean Burritos with Green Tomatillo Sauce. We used the beans from Esther’s Crockpot Bean recipe. You may also use canned vegetarian refried beans. Note: 1 (15 oz) can will yield about 1-1/2 cups of beans. This recipe comes together quickly with store bought green chile or tomatillo salsa. Enjoy!
~Chef Linda

Bean Burritos with Green Tomatillo Sauce
Cuisine: Esther Approved
Prep including Bake Time: 1 hr
Serves: 8 burritos

2 cups jarred Green Chile Salsa, store bought
8 (8″) plain or spinach flour tortillas
6 cups cooked pinto beans per burrito
1 cup Daiya mozzarella style shreds
Cilantro for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 8×8 or 8.5×12 baking dish.
2. Pour 1 cup of the green chile salsa on the bottom of the baking dish.
3. Add 3/4 cup refried beans into each tortilla and fold into a burrito.
4. Place the burritos in the baking dish. Pour 1 cup green chile salsa over the burritos.
5. Sprinkle the Daiya shreds on top of the burritos. Bake uncovered for 35-45 minutes. The burritos will puff up.
6. Serve with fresh cilantro.

Thanks for reading!

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Esther the Wonder Pig

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Comfort Food

We are having a rough week, here at The House of 9 Lives, as we lost our precious dog Trixter over the weekend. So, thanks to Chef Linda at Esther’s Kitchen for sharing this recipe, as it looks like great comfort food in the making.


Esther’s Crockpot Beans
Cuisine: Esther Approved, GF
Prep including Cook Time: 6 hours +
Serves: Approximately 24 cups

3 lbs organic dried pinto beans
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
1 Tablespoon garlic powder
1 large organic yellow or white onion, chopped
1-1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon salt
12 cups water

1. Combine all ingredients in a large crockpot. Toss any floating beans.
2. Set the temperature to high and cook for 4 hours. After 4 hours turn down the temperature to low. Cook for 2.5 more hours. Remove the lid. Remove the excess water on top and reserve the water.
3. Using a hand immersion blender or hand masher, mash the beans to your desired texture. Add more water back to the beans if you desire a runnier style bean.
4. Note: If you are using these beans for burritos, do not add additional water while mashing the beans. Serve the beans plain or sprinkled with a non-dairy cheese. Adjust the salt and other seasonings to taste once the beans have been mashed.

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Funky Monkey Overnight Oats


ANOTHER winning recipe from Esther’s Kitchen!!

Funky Monkey Overnight Oats
Cuisine: Esther Approved, GF
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Serves: 1 (2 cup) mason jar

2/3 cup rolled oats
1 Tablespoon flax meal
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of ground nutmeg
1 heaping Tablespoon peanut butter
1 Tablespoon Canadian maple syrup
1/2 of a large ripe banana, sliced
1/4 cup walnuts
3/4 cup unsweetened plant milk, almond milk was used

1. Add the following ingredients in the mason jar in this order: oats, flax meal, cinnamon, nutmeg, peanut butter, maple syrup, banana slices, walnuts, plant milk.
2. Tighten the seal and lid on the jar. Place the jar in the refrigerator overnight.
3. Stir or shake the next morning before eating.


Word is this tastes like banana bread with peanut butter. What’s not to love about that?!?!

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