Monday, July 2, 2018

The Red Herring - Fusion Dinners

For a college town, we have a sad lack of completely veg restaurants, but we have one mainstay that has been here for decades. It changes a bit every year or so, trying new things with different students getting involved. Some years they are only open for lunch and only during the normal school year. This year, The Red Herring is open for dinner once a week, even during the summer, for fusion dinners. They use as much local produce as possible and highlight different cuisines each week. We've only been a couple times this year because Josie had gymnastics during the dinner hours until her gymnastics schedule switched for the summer. Josie would go every week if she could.
Indian fusion night at The Red Herring; vegetable biryani,  tofu paneer saag, massor dal, and salad.
Four of us made it to the Indian fusion night and I was surprised how much Dema enjoyed it. He is not the biggest Indian food fan, like the rest of the family, but I think he appreciated the subtle Indian flavors of fusion night.
For fusion night, they just have one platter (usually with a gluten-free option too)  for everyone, but you can choose the extra sides or appetizers.
Desserts at The Red Herring are always a treat!
Josie has swim team practice in the evenings on fusion night so we usually go directly to the Red Herring. This means she is tired and starving so we order everything we can. This night was Americana and she got the roasted cauliflower buffalo dip. It totally held her over until the main course.
We don't use cauliflower enough at home. I need to remedy that. It is such a nutritious and versatile vegetable! This is one of the benefits of eating out at The Red Herring, I get some great ideas of things to make at home! The burger was my favorite and I'm not a huge veggie burger fan these days...too often it is the only option at restaurants so I avoid them now. I'm so glad I didn't miss out on this eggplant black bean burger, it was the best burger I've eaten in a long time! I love veggie burgers with actual veggies and with good spices. I totally understand some people want a vegan burger that mimics judgement, but that isn't what I like.
Yes, she ate everything!
Josie always gets dessert at The Red Herring. It goes back to when she was younger and The Red Herring was one of the only places in town to serve vegan desserts. Now we have too many options, but she still loves the slightly healthier inventive desserts at The Red Herring. This evening it was the dried coconut bacon chocolate cake. She shared a bit with me and it was quite good, but not overly sweet and it was a great end to a wonderful dinner packed with local produce!

Thursday, June 28, 2018

A New Driver in the House

Our eldest was born in a hospital and he had a several day stay in the NICU due to an congenital heart defect, diagnosed prior to birth. I remember very vividly, even over 18 years later, how we felt when we got into the car to drive the 1.5 hours home with our newborn. After fighting to get Parker released, having to jump through hoops, strangers telling us how we were allowed to interact with our child...we finally had him to ourselves...we were terrified! Everything in the hospital was setup to protect the child, but makes the parents feel less than competent to care for this fragile life.
I was reminded of that feeling yesterday when Parker finally got his drivers license. He was never in a big hurry to drive. He understood from a young age the huge responsibility driving a motorized vehicle. We were all in a car accident when Parker was 8. Thankfully, no one was seriously hurt, but it affected each of us more than we realized at the time. I'm sure the accident also had something to do with his lack of enthusiasm for learning to drive. We were car-light or car-free for a good portion of his life and he knew how to bike and use mass transportation where he needed to go. My sister's husband is in his 60's and he never learned to drive. I think for a while Parker would have been happy following in his uncle's footsteps. Parker is also extremely frugal and the price of car insurance, etc. was also a factor. While he was ready to get his license yesterday, there were the hoops and the paperwork and the tests that can make one feel incompetent. Then bam they hand you this piece of paper and send you out into the world.

Life is a series of "you aren't ready, you aren't ready...go fly" moments. I'm so glad I was there for so many of them with Parker, but I also look forward to him sharing them with me from far away.

Friday, June 22, 2018

What We're Sipping, RBG, and Produce Turned Dessert

We've had some brutally hot weather already this summer and it just officially started yesterday! We are beating the heat with hibiscus tea (I just buy dried hibiscus in the bulk section of our co-op and steep the petals overnight refrigerated in our glass pitcher) with lemon puree ice cubes. I got the ice cube idea from How Not to Die Cookbook. I buy lemons when they are on sale, peel a bag of them, blend in the Vitamix, and freeze in my silicone ice cube trays Rob bought for me. We were never big ice cube users before so we don't have the ice cube maker hooked up in our freezer and we never had any trays. Now I use them all the time! Pureeing the lemon gives you all the vitamin C, etc. of the juice, but also maintains the fiber. It ends up being cheaper than buying jarred organic lemon juice and the ice cubes are the perfect portion for most of my recipes.
Parker, Josie, and I finally were able to see RBG at our local co-operative theater. Loved it!
In previous weeks, we received a lot of delicious fresh carrots from our CSA share. The kids, Josie especially, love carrot sticks so most of our carrots were used as snacks between activities or during swim meets. My sister doesn't have children and she and her husband weren't consuming their share as quickly. So she asked if any of the kids wanted to come over and help make a vegan carrot cake. Josie was the only one available and she was more than eager to help Karen bake!
The carrot cake was so fresh and light tasting with just the right hint of sweetness. I really need to bake more or the kids just need to make this themselves because it was scrumptious! They followed the recipe from The Joy of Vegan Baking.
Josie got the last piece since she helped make it and she decided to cover her slice with fresh blueberries. She said it was even better that way. CSA produce is great, even when turned into dessert!

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Summer CSA , Grease, and Daily Dozen

My thoughtful sister, Karen, bought my family a weekly CSA* share this year from one of our favorite local farms. Karen worked on the farm last summer and it gave us a new appreciate for what it takes to grow the food we all need to survive.

It has been a few years since we've had a backyard garden and since we've had a CSA share. I was a little worried some of the produce would end up in the compost, but so far we have used everything we've received. The kids have a renewed interest in cooking and using produce we don't buy on a regular basis. Especially, Parker, my 18 year old. He's going to be moving out in the next year or so and he is soaking up everything he can about buying food and preparing it.

Yesterday's CSA share: 
  • 1 head of broccoli
  • 2# tomatoes
  • 1/2# scapes
  • 1/2# baby bok choy
  • 1# mixed summer squash
  • 1 bunch parsley
I've already used a big portion of the CSA share and picked it up less than 24 hours ago! I already had some bok choy, the last leftover from last week's share, and I had Tofu Broccoli Bok Choy Stir Fry with Garlic Sesame Soy Sauce and Soba Noodles bookmarked. I hadn't made it yet because I need the broccoli. This week's share provided the broccoli so I knew I had to make this dish for dinner. I doubled it, but the five of us could have been satisfied without doubling. We were happy to have enough for second helpings and a little leftover. I used udon noodles instead of soba because that is what I had on hand. Everyone loved it! I was a little worried it was going to be too time consuming for a busy weekday night, but it really came together quickly and easily. Parker had to DM** so he didn't get to eat until a couple hours later, but it was still good. Before Parker left, he cleaned and chopped the bok choy for me since I was at swim team practice with Josie (10 years old). Having the kids do a little prep is really helping me get delicious nutritious meals on the table. 
Dema learned how to play guitar for this role as Doody in Grease.
Dema was super nervous opening night so he forgot something and I had to bring it to him.  It was okay since I was able to get a sneak peak at his costume.
Dema (14 years old) is currently Doody in a local production of Grease so he only ate a small serving before he ran out the door for rehearsal, but he requested we save him some for when he got home that night. This almost NEVER happens. He's been going out several nights a week with his friends from the musical and they often go to fast food places (he is the one in our family who could tell you every vegan option at any chain restaurant). This means he has been craving pizza, burritos, or take up more than normal. Once you start eating that stuff on a regular basis, it gets a bit addictive. So, I was thrilled that he enjoyed something homemade and asked for more!

Normally, all three kids have swim team practice for a couple hours in the morning so lunch is often something quick before Josie goes off to 3.5 hours of gymnastics team practice, Parker goes to work as a nanny, and Dema does yard work for our neighbor or goes out with friends. Today a storm rolled through during swim so it freed up our morning. This meant I was happy to use up more CSA produce for lunch.
I re-introduce Parker to garlic scapes. It has been a long time since I've used them. I happened to be cooking up some brown basmati rice in the IP*** when Parker came downstairs to ask if I was cooking Chinese. I decided to spice up my rice during cooking by adding turmeric, black pepper, and garlic and apparently it smelled like Chinese to him. I was just cooking the rice to have in the refrigerator as a staple during the week, but I decided a Chinese inspired stir fry sounded good for lunch and I would use the garlic scapes and summer squash. I also found a can of baby corn to add to the mix. Parker loved the scapes and I saved some to make into pesto later in the week. All three kids loved the stir fry. There for a a while Dema and Josie would complain if I was making stir fry AGAIN, but using produce we don't use all the time is key to keeping it fresh.

*Community Supported Agriculture
**Dungeon Master
***Instant Pot

Parker and I both have Dr. Greger's Daily Dozen app on our phones. I used to use it all the time, but I got lazy the last couple weeks. I decided to keep track again.
How Not to Die/Daily Dozen Score for broccoli bok choy dinner:
Beans 1
Cruciferous Vegetables 1
Greens 1
Spices 1

How Not to Die/Daily Dozen Score for lunch stir fry:
Beans 1
Other Vegetables 2
Spices 1
Whole Grains 1

Monday, April 23, 2018

All in a Day's Work - Easterseals Disability Film Challenge

Parker helped The Prompting Theater (a local acting troupe for adults with disabilities) with their Easterseals Disability Film Challenge again this year. It is very entertaining and he loves working with this group! The more views and shares they get, the closer they are to winning the challenge so please watch, like, and share. Thanks!

Monday, March 26, 2018

Vegan Haluski with Smoky Tofu - College Recipes

 After a few days in Chicago and eating out a every day, I came back home craving simple, but healthy homemade foods. I also am trying to simplify our house by donating things we don't use and minimizing my electronic clutter by closing open tabs on my phone/computer. This includes lots of recipes. One of the recipes was Vegan Haluski with Smoky Tofu. Parker helped me cook this and we decided to go for brown rice instead of noodles since we had pasta yesterday. We used red cabbage and red onions so it made for fun spring color. I'm starting to make a note of recipes that are good for Parker to make when he moves out and this one is pretty inexpensive too so it makes the "college recipe" list. It is easy, flavorful, and full of crunchy brassica goodness!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Short Films: A Thief Named Skip is Driving Me Nuts

Parker was involved in a short film for a young budding film director. It was a lot of work and fun, but filming at night with weapons is always interesting. Always make sure your director has notified the local police and sometimes even then things can get interesting. I believe this is Parker's first role as a thief and he got to "kill" a friend of mine from high school, Eric Sizemore. I love that my kids have worked with Eric in several different projects.

This was a 48 Hour Film Project short film. We didn't get to participate as much as we usually do, but the boys have been in non-stop, overlapping live theatre productions and Parker was sick during the 48 film weekend. He had promised, Brian Hagy, the director weeks previously so he was able to put in a few very cold hours before he had to get to the theatre for a performance. He was running a fever and was losing his voice, but the show must go on. I'm always amazed what the groups can come up with in just 48 hours!