377. Flying Home Blondies

Flying Home Blondies | w PB Chips | Ann Ning Learning How

I’m celebrating 3 years of recovering at home on June 22. When we flew home I still didn’t understand what was happening.  I just felt instinctively that it was good that I was going home (from OR to MD) but was deeply grieved that I was leaving the hospital in a wheelchair, not on my own feet.

The first Therapist I saw at RIO (3rd Hospital) in April was PT2.  Hey, A, look – I can walk and stuff! I greeted him as he emerged from the staff room.  I also saw an OT and a longsuffering RecreationalT who recalled me as “the piano player.”  They had all been super nice to me although I was going through my “arms akimbo” stage.  My attitude then was that this whole thing was a ridiculous misunderstanding that could be resolved quickly if everyone didn’t insist on proliferating it.  I was much less verbal (thankfully for them) then, but I thought, since I’m stuck here I will need you to prove that A) you’re real, B) something really did happen to my brain, C) you are entertaining.  Since this is my dream it is my right to be entertained. So chop chop.  Daylight’s burnin’.

38.  "Look at the way she's wheeling that thing around!"

38. “Look at the way she’s wheeling that thing around!”

They weren’t very entertaining (at least not intentionally) but they were highly proficient – which is what I needed.  Turns out that I was entertaining enough (also unintentionally) for all of us.  Side note:  This was when Mommy started following me around during Therapy and apologizing.  No one really knows what my “end state” will be but the important thing to me is that I haven’t hit the ceiling yet.

49. Did she really just say that?


PS.  If you prefer something GF/flourless and vegan (but also delicious)…

242.  PT Pie [GF and Vegan]

242. PT Pie [GF and Vegan]

Flying Home Blondies

Baker Smurf reached into her handwritten archives and produced these blondies for me.  The original version is likely based on some Googling she did (she is great at using the iPad for recipe research – yay for Mommy!  Pride consumes me) but the source is unknown – sorry! These came out wonderfully gooey and delicious.  I requested butterscotch (not brownie) bars bc butterscotch pudding was the first thing I swallowed, and added PB chips bc peanut butter toast was my final challenge before PEG (food tube) removal.

preheat the oven to 350; grease a 9×13 pan

  • 2 sticks of butter
  • 2 c dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • generous splash of vanilla
  • 2 c flour
  • ~1 c peanut butter chips

Melt the butter and sugar together and let them cool a bit.  Beat them together until they’re smooth.  Stir in the eggs, vanilla, and then the flour.  Fold in the chips.  Bake for 25-28 minutes at 350.



375. PBJ Smoothie [Vegan]

PBJ Smoothie | Vegan | Ann NIng Learning How

I didn’t tell CMD I was having trouble eating prior to Oregon. She took one look at my tongue and knew. So while I was resting on the table and letting the needles do their magic she compounded some hardcore herbs for me. I meekly took the Ziploc bag and thanked her for her efforts but made a mental note that it would be a miracle if I could get those herbs down my throat. I kid you not – there were great big chunks of stuff in there! They were like trees. And she was very up front with me that it was definitely going to taste bad, but it would help with the nausea.

She was puzzled by the non-improvement in my tongue a few days later and I had to tell her that I hadn’t taken the herbs. She tried to wheedle me into compliance for a few minutes but then when she left me in the room to get ready she said she was done trying to convince me and I was big enough to make my own decision. Side note: I’ll let you guess what I decided :).

Coach R asked me about my diet last week while he was stretching me out and I immediately tensed up, ready for combat. This kind of response is unnecessary with him, though – I’m just used to it from Trainer D. During my first session Trainer D lost no time in telling me that his wife J (code name: Mrs. Miyagi) is a respected dietician in our community. Great. Just great, I thought, and assiduously avoided the subject of food for the next two months.

I met Trainer D right when I was doing my full force Vegan Experiment and I immediately ascertained that he is an enthusiastic and vocal supporter of eating animal protein. Furthermore he provides consistently spirited philosophical opposition to my non-or-low consumption of animal products.

Click for vegan recipes!

Click for vegan recipes!


That’s why I avoided the topic with him for so long, but then he got it into his head that it was time to call in the big guns so he made me keep a food diary for a week, and roped J into a consultation. The contrast between what she wrote via email and what he delivered verbally was hysterically funny to me, but that’s another story for another time. The bottom line is that while I have no qualms about arguing with Trainer D, I immediately waved the white flag of surrender when the well-credentialed Mrs. Miyagi entered the scene.

I could have dealt with you by yourself, I told Trainer D, but noooooooo – you had to bring J into this. 🙂. FYI she is now Team Tanimal’s Dietician. Trainer D is in charge of the fight song.

So now, after prolonged debate, I ingest a lot of protein powder. It’s a vegan kind that the Miyagis are comfortable with in terms of amino acid profile. When the eating situation really deteriorated prior to OR I began to rely heavily on it. This is not a recommended course of action. Tanpo was two shakes away from inserting a new PEG (feeding tube) himself, and Mommy only tolerated it bc she knew I was trying to eat but honestly couldn’t. Even Trainer D didn’t fuss with me when he found out I was having trouble.

But now I’m really trying hard to get back into the swing of things. I told Ai Ai a few weeks ago, Hey, Boo Boo – I think I feel mo’ betta when I eat more food. She gave me the dirtiest look – you know, with squinty eyes over her glasses. She was like, Mmm hmm. I need you to not say that in front of our father when we go home.

I was doing great, and practicing my kitchen mobility skills – her family likes my food!! – but the last week has been tougher. I think it was the unanticipated stress of coming home and seeing the things the moving company delivered from my storage garage in OR. We didn’t bring home a lot, but it’s been enough to throw me off track.

So I’m still busy building my protein shake repertoire. I often like to add a ¼ cup of hemp hearts to my breakfast shake. I’ve seen sources state that hemp hearts are a complete protein, and others state that they are “almost” complete. From what I can gather (sorry I don’t have citations for you) hemp hearts do contain great Omegas plus all of the essential amino acids (the ones your body can’t make on its own), but not in the ideal ratios for protein “completeness.” Specifically, I read somewhere that hemp hearts don’t have enough lysine in them. So if I’m only using hemp and no protein powder I’ll dump some frozen peas in there bc peas are high in lysine and call it a day. I love using frozen fruits and especially veggies in my smoothies instead of ice bc you get a frozen texture plus nutritional value without the added bulk of ice. Here’s a favorite:


PBJ Smoothie [Vegan]

serves 1

10 oz almond milk

½ cup frozen blueberries

1 scoop vegan protein powder – plain or vanilla

1 heaping Tbsp PB2 or peanut flour

dash of cinnamon (optional)

3 frozen strawberries (optional)

¼ cup hemp hearts (optional)



369. School’s Out Brownies

School's Out Brownies | Mississippi Mud Brownie Bites | Ann Ning Learning How

55.  Progress

55. Progress

Today is the last day of school.  In celebration, Ai Ai made these little brownie bites for the teachers.  Aren’t they pretty?  That’s right – she was raised by Baker Smurf, too.  And Mommy didn’t raise no fool.  It also helps that Ai Ai hangs out with people like Miz A, who hosted a bunch of us a few weeks ago and made lunch such a beautiful affair.  I told her that just looking at her pretty water glasses (elegant etched glass, I think) and her teacup assortment ministered to my heart since I had just given away all mine.  The dessert options on the sideboard included a lovely platter of these brownie bars.  For ease of packing, Ai Ai did a brownie bite version in her mini muffin-tin.

Ai Ai also made a version for the kids’ soccer coaches.  The wife of one of the coaches sent Boo Boo a hysterically funny text the next day:  I don’t know whether to love you or hate you for these brownies.


School’s Out Brownies – this isn’t really a recipe – they’re guidelines.  Don’t worry, you’ll figure it out.

  • Make brownie bites – pour the batter into a lined mini muffin tin. This helps with portion control and packing – great for gifting teachers and other educators who are inundated with sweet treats.

This is easy as 1-2-3.  Or at least Boo Boo made it look that way.  I did quality control, which was really easy.

  1. After taking the pan out of the oven, let it cool enough for you to put some mini marshmallows on top of each one.  Pop the pan in the oven again for another couple of minutes so they melt.  You’re not browning them – they’ll be covered in other things anyway, and you don’t want them to puff up.
  2. Sprinkle with toasted chopped pecans
  3. Drizzle with chocolate frosting.  Here’s a recipe.


The apple does not fall far from the tree.  This is what happened when I graduated from Vision Therapy:

164.  S'more Brownie Cupcakes

164. S’more Brownie Cupcakes


341. Emergency Scones [Vegan, Flourless, NSA]

Emergency Scones | Vegan, Flourless, NSA | Ann Ning Learning How

This is a variation of my Emergency Cookies because sometimes you just need a scone.  This might be a foreign statement for you.  But I was raised by Baker Smurf – so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

I made scones routinely in Oregon.  I used whole wheat flour and subbed buttermilk for the cream.  I always added cocoa and dried strawberries so mine were chocolate strawberry scones, and I thought they were fantastic until Mommy would come to visit me, make a batch of her classic tender triangles and I’d remember how good the originals were.

This recipe uses no flour or added sugar and I made them orange cranberry since that’s Mommy’s go-to combination.  They are lovely!  They make two small scones, so Mommy and I shared them and she said she liked them and would enjoy them again when I made them next. Poor Tanpo was not invited to the tea party, not that he would have partaken anyway :).

But I’m not sure when the “next time” is going to happen bc I’m going through one of those not-wanting-to-eat phases.  CMD gave me some high-octane herbs to combat the nausea and make me hungrier but I haven’t been up to swallowing them.  The only thing that has helped is more exercise – so I’m going with the work-out route for now as best as I can.  So I might be light on the recipes in the next few weeks.

Emergency Scones – Orange Cranberry (Vegan, Flourless, NSA)
Yields 2 small scones
Preheat toaster oven to 350

  • 2 Tb almond butter
  • 1 Tb unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 Tb ground flax
  • 2 Tb rolled (GF) oats
  • splash of vanilla
  • handful of craisins
  • handful of slivered almonds (optional)
  • orange zest to taste – I used about ¼ of an orange

Note:  I used a dinner spoon and not an actual measuring spoon. 

Mix everything together.  Form into desired shape on a parchment lined pan.
(I made a square I cut into 2 triangles.) Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.

More Scones:

266.  Sun|Almond Butter Scones

266. Sun|Almond Butter Scones


339. Morning Glory Banana Bread [Vegan, NSA]

Morning Glory Banana Bread | Vegan, NSA | Ann Ning Learning How

We had the languishing banana problem again at my house a couple of weeks ago. So I looked up vegan banana bread recipes and decided to use [gasp!] real flour. I could not, however, bring myself to add the sugars recommended – multiple recipes called for several types of sweetener simultaneously. Perhaps it adds a depth of flavor my undiscerning palate wouldn’t appreciate, but I decided to forego the added sweetener and just let the bananas do the talking. I then decided to make this a “Morning Glory” loaf and threw in some carrots, coconut, walnuts and raisins. The results were delicious (mine got a nice crust on the edges, and the insides were wonderfully moist), even if I do say so myself. I was also glad not to have to add any oil. I added some almond butter, but I can live with that. I stored this loaf in the fridge and toasted a slice when I wanted it in the toaster oven. It is wonderful at any time of day. Try it with (vegan) cream cheese or more almond butter on top!

189.  Coconut Flour Banana Bread [Grain Free, NSA]

189. Coconut Flour Banana Bread [Grain Free, NSA]

Morning Glory Banana Bread [Vegan, No Sugar Added]

Preheat oven to 350 – yields 2 (smaller) loaves

Grease 2 small loaf pans or line them with parchment paper

  • 1 c oatmeal
  • 1.5 c flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 large dashes of cinnamon – or to taste
  • ½ c DF milk + 1 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar (let this sit for a fews minutes while you assemble the other ingredients)
  • 5 very ripe bananas
  • ¼ c unsweetened applesauce
  • ¼ c almond butter
  • splash of vanilla
  • 2 huge carrots or 3-4 small ones, shredded (I let mine bounce around and get chopped in my Vitamix)
  • ½ c unsweetened shredded coconut
  • ½ c walnuts (optional)
  • ½ c raisins

Mix everything together. Divide between your loaf pans. Bake at 350 for about 50 minutes.


334. Spicy Spinach Egg Bake [Dairy Free]

Spicy Spinach Egg Bake | Dairy Free | Ann Ning Learning How

This dish was inspired by my Care Group.  R made some wonderful Mediterranean egg “muffins” (crustless quiches) that were fantastic, and Mrs. R brought a spinach casserole to our house I immediately had to know how to make. I modified it so it’s now dairy free.  I also took the opportunity to use two of the lovely eggs our CSA gave us that week.  The panko on top is optional.  The first time I used two pint-sized baking rounds with my panko mix on top and it turned out nicely colored but kind of moist.  The texture was still enjoyable, though.  I wanted to avoid adding another fat source so I stuck with my nut/egg mixture.  The next time I used a pie dish and it came out golden brown without the panko.  So depending on your dietary needs, go with what you want!

Spicy Spinach Egg Bake
Preheat oven to 350
Grease a pie dish or two approx. pint-sized dishes

  • 4 cups frozen spinach, defrosted – I poured my spinach (very nice quality, the leaves were frozen but separate) in a 4 cup Pyrex and microwaved it for 2 minutes.
  • ¾ cup raw cashew (pieces), soaked and rinsed
  • ¾ c water
  • 3 Tb nutritional yeast
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 spoonful garlic-chili sauce – if you don’t like spicy food try 2 cloves of garlic or some garlic powder
  • salt and pepper
  • optional:  2 Tb panko

Place the spinach in the bottom of your dish(es).  In a blender, combine the cashews, water, eggs, nutritional yeast, chili sauce, and salt & pepper.  Blend until smooth.  If using panko, pour a splash over the panko in a small dish, stir to combine.  Pour the rest of the eggy mixture over the spinach.  Sprinkle the top with your panko if you like.  Bake for around 25 minutes at 350.

192.  How to make Simple Cashew Cream

192. How to make Simple Cashew Cream


I do not make health claims for any of my recipes/practices.  This theoretical conversation illustrates why:

Friend:  Do you seriously eat like that?

Me:  Yeah.

Friend:  So how’s that working out for ya?

Me:  Well… [makes sucking teeth sound]

327. Cake Batter Bars [Flourless, Gluten Free, Vegan]

Cake Batter Bars| w beans, GF, vegan | Ann Ning Learning How

These aren’t brownies, promise.  They just look dark bc I made them from beans and the only beans I had were a dark rosy color.  I started feeling better last week and was itching to make something in the kitchen and I was craving cake mix bars.  But after careful combing through both pantries I ascertained that we had no cake mixes in the house.  So I figured I’d Google quick and easy blondies and I happened upon a recipe from one of my favorite sources – Chocolate Covered Katie.

I have long resisted the idea of bean baking.  But I tried it this time since it seemed like the lowest hanging fruit and I adapted the recipe to better suit my measuring, lower sugar, and cake-batter(ish) requirements.  If you want the original chocolate chip blondie (with peanut butter) original recipe go to the source here.

Cake Batter Bars [Vegan, Gluten Free, with beans]

Adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie
Preheat oven to 350.  Grease an 8×8 pan.

  • 1 can (~15 oz) beans, drained and rinsed.  (The color of your beans will influence the color of your bars.  That’s why mine are dark and I cannot call them “blondies” in good conscience.)
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • ½ cup coconut sugar (or sub brown if you like)
  • big splash of vanilla
  • small splash of almond extract
  • ¼ cup ground flax
  • ¼ c almond butter
  • handful of chocolate chips & palmful of sprinkles

Grind everything (except the chips and sprinkles) in a food processor or high-speed blender until nice and smooth.  Mix in the chips and sprinkles.  Spread into your greased 8×8 pan.  Decorate the top with more chips and  sprinkles if you like.  Bake for about 30 minutes at 350.

J came over later that night to drop off the CSA we’re sharing so I made her sample the goods.  Of course they looked better once my food stylist arranged them for me.


More vegan cake batter fun from CCK:

So Simple:  Cake Batter Ice Cream from CCK || Ann Ning Learning How

316. Cinnamon Raisin Ezekiel Bread Pudding (Vegan)

Cinnamon Raisin Ezekiel Bread Pudding | Vegan, 3 Ingredients | Ann Ning Learning How

I have gone back and forth on the subject of eating bread over the past year.  Contrary to what I’ve absorbed in my internet travels, my GI tract did not explode when I reintroduced gluten into my diet.  Just kidding.  People don’t really say that – it’s just that I was hoping living a gluten and/or grain free lifestyle would make me feel dramatically better.  But no, it didn’t.  But apparently it does make people with gluten intolerance feel better, and it’s almost magical for people with more severe allergies.  The source of my problems, though, is my brain, not my gut – and alas, I did not notice a significant change in my physical condition when I avoided grains 100% this summer.  I still avoid grains/gluten often (out of habit, and the fond hope that I will start seeing a difference), but I make an exception with Ezekiel bread.  This bread is made from sprouted whole grains, and it’s vegan.

Click for vegan recipes!

Click for vegan recipes!

I have felt better since I started pretending to be vegan.  I love the idea of eating a plant-strong, whole food diet, plus the last time I saw CMD she said my tongue looked pretty good.  SCORE one for ME.  (Remember, looking at your tongue is a diagnostic tool for digestive health in Chinese Medicine.)  So I’m trying to eat things that will keep my digestive pot boiling.  Seriously, I told my parents that I might be more Chinese after having the bleed/stroke bc of CMD’s influence.

Due to my dental discomfort (I can only chew on the right side bc my face is messed up, but now the teeth on the back/right are acting up) I’m trying to eat softer things, hence this bread pudding.  It’s only 3+ ingredients, it’s hot, and it’s a great vegan breakfast option. If I were to make this for dessert I’d use plain Ezekiel bread then sprinkle some DF chocolate chips and orange zest in there.  YEAH.  Maybe that will be another post.  Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Cinnamon Raisin Ezekiel Bread Pudding (Vegan)

Serves 1, great for breakfast, preheat oven to 350

  • 2 slices of Ezekiel Bread (cinnamon raisin)
  • 1 spoonful almond butter
  • ½ cup nondairy milk
  • dash of nutmeg (optional)

Tear up your bread and put it into a small (single-serve) baking dish. Measure ½ cup of DF milk and add a spoonful of almond butter.  Mix well.  Pour the milky mixture over the bread.  Sprinkle with nutmeg if desired.  Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes.

311. Black Cake Brownie Bites [GF, Vegan, Oil Free]

Black Cake Brownie Bites| GF, Vegan, Oil Free | Ann Ning Learning How

I am Asian. I am not Jamaican. But I have a taste for the ultra-dark and rich fruit cake that comes from Jamaica since we grew up eating the version made by one of the F daughters. SO good. I just refer to it as “black cake.” That, along with Mommy’s Fried Rice, is one of the foods of my youth. Ai Ai told me that our friend S starts preparing hers months before Christmas.

So when I set out to make these brownie bites I was aiming for a gingerbread taste. They came out more reminiscent of the black cake I love. I was not disappointed – it was a happy accident! My apologies to real Jamaican fruit-cake makers – I know the real thing is irreplaceable – I’m just pleased I came up with an easy alternative for myself. If you’ve never had the kind of cake I’m talking about, be informed that the taste is strong (although alcohol-free in this case). To achieve a lighter taste, try ¼ cup maple syrup and ¼ molasses. Or a scant ½ cup maple syrup and a splash of molasses. I haven’t tried this yet, but once I finish the rest of my brownie bites I will. Oooh – or use all maple syrup and add a splash of mint extract for mint brownies. I bet you saw that one comin’.

Black Cake Brownie Bites [Gluten Free, Vegan]

Yield: 24 mini muffin-size brownies

Preheat oven to 350

Line mini muffin trays with paper liners

    • 3 Tb ground flax
    • 1 c unsweetened cocoa powder
    • ½ c molasses
    • ½ c unsweetened applesauce
    • 1/2 c GFDF mini choc chips
    • splash of vanilla
    • dash each of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg
    • 2 dashes of ginger powder

Mix everything well. Fill your mini muffin cups and bake at 350 for 20 minutes. After they cool, frost only those you’ll be consuming with a white glaze (e.g. powdered sugar + non-dairy creamer), sprinkle with your favorite toppings. Mine aren’t necessarily GF/Vegan, e.g. crushed candy canes, M&M’s (I love the dark chocolate mint, green ombre variety), but if you need a safer choice, try colored sanding sugar.