Monday, December 22, 2008

Tasty Tester Treats

I've been testing out recipes for a new vegan cookbook which I can't wait to be in print. This is my first time being an official tester and I have to say it is a lot of fun. It also makes me realize how much time, energy, and sometimes extra pounds all those great vegan cookbook authors put into every book. All the tester recipes I was given have been great, but I can't help but test them again and again just to make sure. I won't share anything about the dishes, but I'll let you know when you can go out and buy the cookbook and try them for yourselves!

Soba and Green Lentil Soup:A new favorite soup!

Chickpea Pancake with Rosemary:Don't let the dull picture fool you. This is something quick, easy, and tasty that you'll make over and over.

Two-Tomato Brunch Casserole:
This is amazing. Omnis will love it!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Dear Santa,

Really I don't NEED anything this year. I am perfectly happy and content. I have three wonderful kids who keep me on my toes and teach me more about life than I ever thought possible, a big old messy lived in house next to a cute park which makes me feel close to my mother even though she's been gone for 6 years, a husband who loves me more than I will probably ever comprehend, great neighbors and friends (close by and far away, ones we talk to daily and ones we catch up with every few years), a crazy extended family which I love dearly and try not to take for granted, and really so much more than I can list here.


Okay, okay, if you really twist my arm, I could come up with a list. World peace and long happy healthy lives for me kids (heck, all kids). More? Well, if there really was a Santa here are some things I wouldn't mind having...after everyone in the world is fed (nutritious vegan food), clothed, sheltered, has quality health care, etc. and all the non-human animals were let out of slavery and allowed to live natural lives without being eaten, tested on, worn, abused, etc. by human animals. Humans would learn to live sustainable, peaceful lives...okay, you get the picture.

1. An outdoor wood pellet and corn furnace. Thanks for the heads up on these Thomasanna! They look great. If anyone out there has one, I would love to know how you like it.
2. Cast iron cookware (Lodge or recycled from an antique store). I have a small skillet and a humongous skillet, I need one in between, a double boiler, and really any cast iron stuff. I love to cook with cast iron.
3. A kitchen remodel. I know I've talked about this forever. We put our plans for a kitchen redo on hold because Rob's company was laying people off. Luckily, he was not laid off, but still...things are tight right now all over.
4. Oven mitts. I have been using the same ones for almost 20 years. I need new ones.
5. A gift basket (or cases of them dropped in my helicopter) of yummy foods which I feel are to extravagant right now to buy for no good reason. Organic pitted Kalamata olives (we used to live on these, but I've been trying to keep our food budget down so they are a once in a while food now), my favorite hot sauce (we aren't living without hot sauce, no sir, but I don't buy this these days), vegan chocolate chips (the $10/lb. ones from the co-op), Teese vegan cheese (I just want to try it), any organic frozen fruit, for the boys (okay, I might have one) organic peanut butter pretzels, organic almond butter (can't believe we used to buy this stuff by the case), and my liquid gold organic orange juice.
6. An inexpensive way to scan photos into the computer. While we are at it, all my digital pictures backup and safely saved.
7. New vegan cookbooks:
Vegan Fire and Spice (love Robin Robertson and would be happy with any of her cookbooks, but Fresh From the Vegetarian Slow Cooker is another one I don't have which comes to mind)
The Vegan Dad Cookbook (check it out, all you need is a printer)
Vegan Soul Kitchen (okay it isn't out quite yet, but keep it in mind for the future and I would also take Grub)

I'm not all about the getting Santa, here is some giving...

****It is that time of year again and here is my list from last year of worthy organizations which need your help. I know giving is hard when the economy is in the toilet, but that is when non-profits need help the most.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Classic Comfort Food

I realize winter hasn't officially started, but there is enough snow and cold in my part of the world to warrant comfort food. Not just any comfort food, but something with tater tots in it. Yes, I've sunk to a new nutritional low. I have fond tater tot memories and apparently so does Rob because he was eager for me to make this dish. The kids had no idea what a tater tot was, which makes me very happy. I tried to introduce tater tots (the organic kind, of course!) when Parker was little and he had zero interest and then I thought to myself "Do I really want my kid to like tater tots?" and the answer was "no" so I never tried again. Then eight years later, I was reading Lindy Loo's blog (she is a bad influence in a good way) and saw Upside-Down Shepherd's Pie from My Veggie Kitchen and I knew anti-tater tot or no, I had to make this. It was very good and Parker asked me to make it more often, but Dema was wary of the tater tots. I used olive oil instead of Earth Balance, 1/4 cup nutritional yeast because we all love the stuff, and omitted the soy milk by mistake, but it doesn't need it. I used the water from boiling the potatoes with vegan bouillon cubes to make the broth. This is a great way to use up veggies and we all agreed next time we could leave off the tater tots, but we are strange that way. Great cold weather casserole, I do recommend it.To go with the classic comfort food theme this week, I also made FatFree Vegan's Chili Mac recipe I've been eyeing for a while. It is definitely healthier than the shepherd's pie, but very good and hearty. I used whole wheat pasta and didn't have chipotle chili powder so we added a little hot sauce. Quick, easy, yummy, nutritious, and tastes great the next day if you have leftovers.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


I heard an ambulance, Rob was supposed to be on his bike on his way home. I hear ambulances a lot on my street, but this one made me feel funny...not in a laughing way. I put my coat on and ran outside to see what happened. I was hoping it wasn't my husband being hit by a car. A couple neighbors were outside too and no one knew what was going on. Then I saw the orange light bouncing around on the house across our park. A fire! I didn't even know who's house it was at this point, but tears came to my eyes. I went closer to the house and could see it was our "twin" house. We have two white houses on the corner of our little neighborhood park and the other white house was on fire. I could see people still in the house, but as the realization set in maybe six fire trucks had quickly appeared. I had to go back inside to be with the kids, but I could tell things would be under much as a fire can be. We all watched from our windows and I went outside to see what was going on and talk to neighbors as much as the kids would allow. The smoke smell is so strong in our house, I can only imagine how bad it is for the house that is actually on fire. The sound of the crashing of windows has stopped...I hate that sound and assume it is the firefighters not the fire. It certainly brought out a lot of fire trucks. The houses are all older and very close together. It would be so easy for a fire to spread. Luckily, the wind is in our direction and we have a park between us and the house. The best case scenario for all neighboring houses. I hope everyone is okay.

Not a good year for Church St. in my town for fires.

12/17/08 Update: Here is the news story about the fire. Thanks to everyone who texted, called, emailed, etc. to see if we were okay. We went to another neighbor's party last night and even with all the fun (Santa Claus came and gave them gifts which is a new thing for them) they still had trouble getting to bed when we got home and this morning are talking non-stop about the fire. I'm just glad all the humans and furry animals are safe and so thankful the firefighters were so quick on the scene.

Odds and Ends

Josie wants to get in on the computer action so if she is awake, I am not on the computer except for very small spurts of time. She is also down to one nap a day and for some reason it is usually while we are out and about and if she is napping at home, I use that time to spend some quality time with the boys doing things which are hard to do while she is awake (like play board games, read long books, etc.), thus no quality computer time for me these days. No complaints from me, but I will say that I blog in my head daily, but sadly it will probably not ever get set into pixels for all to see. This time is fleeting and I'm happy to have less "me" time and more "family" time right now.On top of all that, most of you know my business website went down a few months ago and it turned out to be bittersweet. I have to enter ALL my products again (I still have a couple hundred entries to go!), but I like my new website much better (especially since I finally have my logo on the site which was created by Rainer-Media Group a few years ago...I know, I can't believe it took me so long to get it up on the site). This just means that any time I am at the computer, I am trying to get another product entered before the boys ask to use the computer or Josie comes up and starts pounding away or gives me that little look she has and lunges for the switch on my power strip. Oh how she giggles at my anguish when she turns off the power to my computer before I have saved my work. Luckily, my ole iMac is very forgiving.

I have taken a few food pics over the last couple of months so here are some odds and ends in no particular order whatsoever. It makes me feel better that the pictures (as bad as some of them are) were not taken in vain and it may inspire some vegan cooking out there.

We had a very low key Thanksgiving this year. I made several soups and we had a little open house. Friends, family, and neighbors stopped by anytime during the day and had some hot soup and bread while we caught up. I have a couple friends who fast for Thanksgiving and think of the native peoples who were killed and displaced by the Europeans who came to this land. I thought a simple meal of soup and some family discussion was what we needed this year. We've been studying US history this year in homeschool so the kids have been asking lots of questions and reading lots of books about the early US and the native peoples who lived on this land before we brutally took it from them.
Top left to bottom: Thanksgiving soups: French Lentil Soup with Tarragon and Thyme from Veganomicon, Black Bean and Butternut Squash Chili from Vegan Planet, African Sweet Potato and Peanut Stew from Vegan Planet. This is a picture while I still had to use my iPhone for photos. Really everything was quite tasty. I didn't have apple juice so I subbed orange juice concentrate in the Black Bean and Butternut Squash Chili (it wasn't butternut either, but another kind of squash which I don't remember now which we received free from our friends Kit and Emily at a wonderful harvest celebration/bonfire at The Great Pumpkin Patch where we learned from Steph how to roast bananas and chocolate instead of s'mores for which I will be forever grateful). I used the rest of this unknown type of squash in the African Sweet Potato and Peanut Stew instead of sweet potatoes and I added spinach because I like greens, especially in an African stew. All our visitors left full and they enjoyed trying each of the soups. As the evening progressed I made the Chocolate Chip Cookies from Vegan with a Vengeance (no picture, sorry). I don't make chocolate chip cookies often because they just seem so completely void of nutrition, but it was Thanksgiving after all and Rob was off at a movie and there was a lull in the visitors so I thought "why not?". I was surprised because the dough was very, very dry and I didn't have time to search blogs to see what others had experienced so I went on and they were good, but I would add more liquid next time. Gita and her family came over as the cookies were baking so I decided not to stress about the dough and enjoyed the company. It was nice to have a relaxing day.
I've blogged about Vegan Dad's Peanut Tempeh with Noodles before as Sunbutter Tempeh with Noodles, but here I go again. I never make this the same way twice. Above it is with udon noodles and some vegan frozen meatballs someone gave us a while back. Parker was suspicious of the "meatballs" although I assured him they were vegan he wouldn't eat them, but Dema ate Parker's share.
Here is is again, but I made the tempeh into Vegan with a Vengeance Tempeh Sausage Crumbles before adding it to rice noodles. This is Dema's dish with hot sauce on top.One of my favorite chili recipes is Cashew Chili from The Best of Bloodroot Volume Two. I don't make it enough, but when I do, I'm always happy. Chili should always have cashews and raisins in it. This time I didn't have the ingredients for homemade cornbread so I found a long lost Bob's Mill cornbread mix I found in the back of the cupboard.I made the Raspberry-Chocolate Chip Blondie Bars from Vegan with a Vengeance for a dinner at Gita and Seth's before the holidays. Our friends Matthew and Sandra made these for a party at our old house years ago before they moved to Portland and I still remembered them fondly. I didn't, however, remember what they looked like. I was so thankful to have blogs to look at when it came to the top. I thought it was supposed to completely cover the pan, but it so obviously was not going to and I almost whipped up some more dough. Instead, I checked out some blogs and the pictures helped me figure out what it was supposed to look like. Oh how I love vegan food blogs. This is another one of those desserts which really has no nutritional value, but Dema has been asking for me to make more blondies for weeks. I'll have to break down and make some for Christmas.Homemade black bean burritos. Burritos are so much better at home. This one is on a sprouted grain tortilla with black beans, sauteed sweet peppers, salsa with corn, and avocado. Yum!Here is another fast and yummy family favorite. Whole wheat pasta with Esme Sauce, peas, and Crunchies. I've blogged about it many times before and I have several friends who are now also addicted to his sauce...the simple stuff is the best.Pureed Curried Squash and Yam Soup from The Everyday Vegan (I have two cookbooks by this name, this time it is Dreena Burton's) topped with a couple drops of hot sauce and crunchies. I made this with more squash from The Great Pumpkin Patch and it was super yummy. Give me an orange soup this time of year and I'm in heaven.On my birthday last month, my uncle Frank (mom's brother), my grandfather Clifford (mom's dad), my mom's cousin Nancy (she's my cousin too, but I always forget if she is once removed or a second cousin, but I love her and always enjoy her visits), my brother Jim and his girlfriend Carol (they live in town, but we don't get to see them often so it was a present to have them over!), my sister Karen and her boyfriend Stuart, and my dad all came over. Stuart took the picture so he isn't in the photo. I should have had Rob take the picture since he was already in his soccer uniform running out to play his last game of the season. Feel the love, people, feel the love. I made lunch and we visited. It just happened to be my wasn't planned that way. My uncle offered to bring over my grandfather since they live a couple hours away and I love to see them. Nancy was going to go visit my grandfather and found out he was going to be at our house so she drove a couple hours to our place instead. It worked out beautifully for me because I can't think of anything better than cooking and having a house full of people I love on my birthday. My grandfather recently moved into a nursing home and my uncle is cleaning out his house. My grandfather used to fix furniture for people and has lots of furniture accumulated from many family members over the years. The resting place for a lot of this furniture is my house. I'm happy to have things around me which are probably not worth much as antiques, but are useful and belonged to a great, great grandparent or a bachelor great uncle. This time they brought a piece of furniture with shelves and doors which I quickly decided would be a great new home for my cookbooks. It is nice to have them all alphabetized and in one place. Yay! Another great birthday gift! Having all of them neatly in my living room has inspired me to crack open a few cookbooks I haven't look at in a while. It is like reconnecting with old friends which is another reason I don't have as much time to blog...I've become addicted to Facebook, but that is perhaps a post for another time. Whew, I guess you are all caught up.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

All She Wants to Do is Cook

Josie is a little singer and dancer. I need to get some video of her before she hits a shy phase. Right up there with her music love is her love to help me cook (and eat, of course). All I seem to want to do lately is cook so we are happy spending our days in the kitchen. The guys are right there too, helping, and eating. We even had a neighbor friend eat three bowls of one of the soups I made. I may not get the house clean, bills paid, clothes folded, or anything else I really need to do, but I'll make some tasty food.
Today's lunch was French Lentil Soup with Tarragon and Thyme from Vegan with a Vengeance with mashed potatoes. I didn't want Rob to miss out because this lentil soup is his second fave soup so I served what was left for dinner. Parker had his on top of his mashed potatoes for dinner. I made my fave, Carrot Bisque, also from Vegan with a Vengeance. I like mine over quinoa. Since I had a house full of boys this afternoon, I decided to get away from the noise and keep Josie safe from the running so we made The Best Pumpkin Muffins from, you guessed it, VwaV. I threw the remaining pumpkin from the muffins into the bisque which is a great way to use up pumpkin. These muffins are good, but have tons more sugar than the Carrot-Raisin Muffins so I won't make them often.
It was all fun, simple, and warming on this cold day. After dinner all I wanted to do was go back into the kitchen and cook some more.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

B is for Brunch

Dema is going around trying to spell everything or asking how things are spelled. He gets insanely happy when something has one of his letters in it (you know D-E-M-A...a lot of things have these letters so he is a pretty happy little guy).

To cap off our busy long, but not long enough weekend, we had our friends Ricky and Catharine and their boys and Deborah and Scott and their boys over for brunch. (Gita and Seth, if you are reading this, we missed you and the girls!) We woke to the first real snow of the season which was both pretty and fun for the boys, but makes me a little sad. I always worry more about Rob riding his bike when there is snow or ice on the road. I'm getting wimpy in my old age and cold weather just means a cold house and snow/ice means danger. I need to let go. It was quite beautiful seeing the park and the trees all covered with snow, but I sadly didn't get a picture since I was off to the kitchen to start making brunch and clean (which never did get done, but they are sweet guests and didn't complain).
I went simple and satisfying for the brunch menu:

H is for Home-style Potatoes (peeled/cooked potatoes boiled and then lightly fried with sea salt and fresh ground pepper and I added some chopped onions - not in the picture because they were all gone by the time I took a picture)

S is for Spicy Sweet Potato Hash from Vegan Planet (I had some veggie crumbles in the freezer someone gave us so I thought it would be a good time to use them was good, but next time I'll just use some homemade seitan instead of pre-packaged crumbles)

J is for Julie Hanson Steamed Sausages (I am the last vegan on the planet to make these...they were going around the vegan blog world almost a year ago that is how incredibly behind the times I am...I've been thinking of making them forever, but this brunch was finally the excuse I needed. I used Bryanna's Homemade Vegan Chicken-Style Broth Powder instead of the seasoning she suggests because I have no idea where to buy the one she has in her recipe. I can't wait to try the different variations everyone has come up with these.)

K is for Kitchen Sink Scrambled Tofu (I just threw everything I needed to use up in the scramble - tofu, obviously, spinach, some Bryanna's Homemade Vegan Chicken-Style Broth Powder from the sausages, shredded carrots, onions, etc.)

B is for Blueberry Coffee Cake from Vegan with a Vengeance (I've made this and blogged about it many times before, but this time I realized too late I had about ten frozen blueberries left - the kids inhale them - and I'd already gone to the store for soy yogurt and raisins so I wasn't about to go back. So I cut up some frozen cherries in lieu of blueberries. I have to say, I think I will use cherries next time. I thought it was just as good or better than the blueberries.)

C is for Carrot-Raisin Muffins also from Vegan with a Vengeance (I mentioned I went to the store specifically for soy yogurt for the coffee cake and raisins for these muffins. I somehow forgot the raisins. I know, I know, I have no excuse. I did have currants around and used them instead and it was just as good. My family loves these muffins because they aren't too sweet, but still a treat and have some nutrition.)

I think brunch with friends is my favorite meal of the day. If we opened up a vegan restaurant, I would just serve brunch which start around 10 or so and last until people were done chatting around 3pm or later.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Mostly Mushrooms

I don't post much about mushrooms. Rob and I love mushrooms, but the kids are not big fans. Recently they have been trying them more so I'm thinking mushrooms will be on the menu more often. You probably know all about the reason why you might want to eat mushrooms (nutritional analysis here). I knew they were good for me, but I didn't realize they were a source of Vitamin D. Yet another reason to pick up some mushrooms.I made the Scrambled Tofu from Vegan with a Vengeance for lunch Friday (breakfast can be eaten anytime around here and Rob was home from work so it was kind of a laid back day). I don't usually use a recipe per se for scramble tofu, but I've been looking at recipes in VwaV lately so I thought, why not? I served it with Tempeh Sausage Crumbles also from Vegan with a Vengeance which we've had before. Stick to your ribs vegan food and enough protein to knock the socks of any omnivore.
Although our shopping once a week was shot all to "you know where" lately, I still am trying to use up things instead of running to the store for every little ingredient. So I had some mushrooms (and shallots...what are the odds!) to use up today so I made Thai-Style Coconut Soup from Vegan Planet which I've been wanting to make forever, but never have mushrooms when I think about it. I roasted some Brussels sprouts for a late breakfast/snack so the oven was warmed up and I didn't want to waste the heat so a I baked half of the tofu with some olive oil and tamari before I added it to the soup. I also used lite coconut milk which worked fine. I didn't have limes or lemons so I just used bottled organic lime and lemon juice and instead of the lime zest I used some lemon extract. I also went the easy route on the ginger and used this jarred fresh (is that an oxymoron?) grated ginger I bought at Common Ground which I needed to use up. This stuff is great! I always have ginger root in the freezer, but I forget to grate it until the last minute and then I get annoyed at that step in the recipe for some reason. COlazyUGH. So I went very heavy on the ginger. Rob came in a smelled the soup and said he wanted me to make Tom Yum soup sometime and looked sceptical at what I was making. I decided make Sesame Soba Noodles also from Vegan Planet to go with it. I used udon instead of soba and added extra carrot and peas to make up for the lack of a red pepper and threw in the rest of the tofu. The kids enjoyed it, but the soup was a little too spicy for them to eat so they added crackers (rarity to have some in the house, but fate was with us). Rob LOVED it. He ate after us because he was helping a neighbor with a bike, but I heard him almost moaning and saying how great the soup was while I was doing the dishes. If you want to get on my husband's good side, you will make this soup for him. It is nice to have recipes like this one in case I need to convince him to do something or make up with him after a fight (no, we never fight).

I don't have any pictures, but we had dinner at our friends Neil and Hilary's. They invited us to a Vegan Mexican Fest so how could we pass that up? There was only one other vegan at the dinner so it was even cooler to have everything vegan. It was a lot of great food, great music, and fun. I think Parker ate his weight in guacamole, Josie would have stayed forever watching and listening to the music if she wasn't so tired, and Dema demanded to know when we were going back again.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Climbing Back On

Yes, I fell off the edge of the Earth. I could go into the reasons, but it is the normal stuff. I am working on climbing back on, but today I'm just sending you to my friend Ricky's new blog for something to "chew on" for those on you celebrating a holiday today in the US.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

93 Years Ago...

My maternal grandfather was born. Wow, I can't imagine all the changes my grandfather has been through. He is an amazing man and I am lucky to have him in my life. It is funny to think about now, but as a child I was sort of scared of him. He worked a lot in his garage on all sorts of wood working things and my step-grandmother (my mom's mom died when I was very young so I don't remember her and my granddad remarried a couple years later) never let me go out there while he was working. Granddad Clifford was a quite man who could do anything in my childhood mind, but he was larger than life so I felt in awe of him, but not close to him.

When my step-grandmother Mary was sick with osteoporosis and cancer, I saw my grandfather as someone with more patience than anyone I had ever met. He was tireless and tender. Most men, especially of his generation, are not good care-givers, but he seemed to fall into that role with ease. I'd seen him fix things for neighbors and people from his church and do just about anything anyone asked of him, but caring for Mary was hard and 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It didn't ever get easier, but always harder. In the end, I think her last days were the first and only time I've seen him really cry. She was not herself at the end and said some terrible mean things, but he was a rock.

After my step-grandmother died and I was still in my teens, my mother and I would visit him pretty regularly and I got to know him as a funny sweet man with lots of jokes and stories. His signature joke, "Hi, my name is Cliff, drop over sometime." always makes me smile. He was always a hard worker and I rarely heard him complain. He always seemed to take people where they were in life. He never seemed judgemental to me. He was as strong as anyone I've ever known and moved heavy furniture by himself into his basement without so much as a whimper.

My grandfather probably thinks we are crazy for being vegan. He was a farmer with livestock and then a butcher while my mom was growing up. He was an avid fisherman until after Mary died. Yet, he has always eaten our food and never once complained or acted like it was odd. He even commented at our wedding how wonderful the food (vegan) was.

While my mom was dying of cancer, Granddad came and sat all day in the hospital with her and drove a couple hours home and then would come back the next day. He was volunteer of the year several times at the hospital near him and would help "elderly" people who were often times younger than him.

Granddad is great with my kids and they adore him. They love to talk with him and sit on his lap. Sometimes I wish he wasn't so quiet. I wish I knew more of his thoughts and what he feels, but he is who he is and I love him. I am so glad I've had him here for so long and the world will not be the same place when he is gone.

Friday, November 7, 2008


My little boy has his first really short hair cut. It makes me a little sad, but he loves it. He looked in the mirror and said in a very satisfied voice, "I look like Gail." I couldn't think of who he meant and then he said, "You know, the one who gave me an apple!" Our neighbor, Gail, gave him an apple on Halloween which was a highlight of his night. He wants it shorter so he can "be completely bald".
Josie is 14 months old today. She is working on her sixth tooth...finally the girl is getting her teeth in. She is super affectionate and cuddly. She loves to kiss/hug her brothers and her dolls/stuffed animals. She is so into Rob and looks forward to playing ball with him when he gets home from work. She loves to ride on the peapod bike seat on my Xtracycle and still only signs bike (which is tapping her head to signal a helmet). She doesn't say "no" or "yes" yet, but she shakes her head negative or positive to any question asked of her. I'm glad the "nos" haven't started yet. Josie loves to take the boys by the hand and "position them" in the house where she wants them. She puts Parker next to the refrigerator in the kitchen for some reason. She loves to play hide and seak with them and throw balls. She will take me upstairs to the bedroom when she wants to go to sleep or take a nap. She will go get a new diaper when she needs one, but she has refused to pee or poop on the potty lately. She is easy going and laid back, but also strong-willed and stuborn if that is possible. She is a complex little girl and a complete joy.There was a fire in our little rockin' downtown this morning. It is sad and scary. I don't know what started the fire, but a wonderful old historical building (a block away from where Rob and I met and I worked for four years and a block away from where my father worked for 30+ years) is not completely gone. No one was hurt from what I read, but it must be a mess because Rob couldn't even bike past on the way home with all the police and crews cleaning up. A building is there one minute which I pass every day (on the same street we live on, but about a mile form us) and today it is gone. (AP Photo/News-Gazette, John Dixon)
Rob's job is laying people off after Thanksgiving. If he gets laid off this would be the second time since I've been pregnant with Josie. We moved to my hometown back when I was pregnant with Parker (he'll be 9! in February) for a computer consulting job which was for one year. It lasted several years and then they offered Rob a full time position. He didn't take it and instead took nine months off where we didn't have any income. Then he worked at a company he liked, but after about two years they closed the office here and laid off pretty much everyone. A new company came in and hired a lot of the people who were laid off and now they are laying people off. Rob is at that point in his life where he would really like to be settled in a job until retirement, but it doesn't look like that type of job exists anymore.

I was at an age, being nine and half years younger than him, that I was still wanting to take risks and didn't get too worried about layoffs. Now two days away from my 37th birthday. I am in a very reflective mood. I am officially middle aged (or worse since my mother and maternal grandmother died in their 50's). I've noticed that instead of being the youngest in my friend circles, as I as for most of my life, I am now older than most of my friends. I'm an adult. I've been on my own since I turned 17 years old, but it has hit me in the last couple weeks that I'm really an adult. Maybe it has something to do with being married to man who is the age of our next president so I feel like we are really responsible people now and not just "playing house" or something. I know, I'm a little slow on these things.

I'm happy about the election and cautiously optimistic about the future, but I also feel it may be too late...all the change we've been promised. I just hope it isn't too little too late. I have a big urge to move back to the DC area now. I don't know if it is the change in the political climate or just a point in my life. I do love our neighborhood and our life here, I just feel the allure of DC. I feel very unsettled these days.

Lots of changes.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Pumpkins, Presents, Pad Thai, Pathetic Pictures, Presidents, and Pecan Pie

The day before Halloween and the day of, Parker spent most of his time outside carving pumpkins. Our neighbor Margie had a great collection of pumpkins and she let Parker carve them. He had a great time. I was impressed with his dedication to the job. The yellow house in the background is not ours, but I mention it because it has come a long way in the last year. If you go back to this post, you will see the transformation from a house where they were shoveling out garbage out of the attic into a truck to haul it to the dump (the previous owner) to this yellow beauty which people stop and admire.
The weather was beautiful and leaves are finally colorful and falling. It was a great way to spend the day. The boys would play, Parker would carve, they would chat with Margie and other neighbors, they hung out on Margie's porch and arranged the pumpkins, Parker would carve some more, Josie would watch the guys and swing, etc.
Dema carved the little one to the left (it had a lot of "eyes" and three mouths, but mostly Dema liked poking little holes in it). Once in a while one of Parker's neighbor buddies would come out to the park and watch him carve. I think in the end Parker carved (and cleaned...that is the part I don't like) ten pumpkins. I didn't get a picture of them lit up since they weren't at our house. Margie offered for Parker to bring some of the pumpkins home, but he was happy to leave his creations at her house.This one is winking. Parker did everything freehand with the little pumpkin carving "knives" Karen brought over. He would finish a pumpkin and then make a face to me and say "this is what the next one will look like". Then he would take a picture with my iPhone when he was done. The squirrels were crazy on our porch and started eating our pumpkin as soon as Parker set it on the porch. Margie has cats so the squirrels weren't quite so bold and seemed to leave her pumpkins alone.The kids kept going back and forth about what they wanted to be for Halloween. We just started doing the costume thing last year (before that the boys were happy just to hand out vegan candy and look at all the costumes from our porch). This year some friends made it easy on us. Margie gave Dema this kangaroo costume and our friend Charity gave Parker the Boba Fett costume. Rob took all the kids out (Josie wasn't in costume, but rode in the Ergo on his back) while I stayed behind to hand out candy to the droves of trick or treaters we have come to the house (between 150 and 200 people each year since we've lived here). They had fun trick or treating with the neighbor kids for an hour. Several very thoughtful neighbors had some special organic, fair trade, vegan candy for our kids when they came trick or treating. One neighbor offered Dema an apple he was so happy! They left out all their candy, except for the special candy from the neighbors, for the Halloween Sprite and the Great Pumpkin brought them Barefoot books, wooden trains, and cooperative games from Tribal Life (my store...Parker did comment that the Great Pumpkin shopped at our house this year pretty much exclusively).We had fun the day after Halloween celebrating the Day of the Dead. It was nice to have Rob along this year since it fell on a Saturday. Last year was our first time celebrating and now we look forward to it...the kids have been talking about eating pad thai and taking some to grandma's grave for a days. We went to Thara Thai for the pad thai this year since The Y Eatery is only open during the week days. The weather was perfect so we placed the rose and pad thai on her grave and talked about her and then we all took in the day and sat in the grass and looked at the sky. It was quite nice. We were the only ones in the cemetery until we were about to leave and a woman drove up and got out of her car with a flower arrangement and walked 30 feet to a grave and replaced the old flowers with the new ones and got back in her car. No big deal and not strange except for the fact that she looked at this strange family in the grass looking up at the clouds and pushed the lock button on her keys. It just struck me as insanely funny that she locked her car in a cemetery when she was out of it for less then 120 seconds and was at the most 30 feet from her car. What did she think was going to happen to her car or the contents in a cemetery which was pretty much deserted except for a family of five? It made it even more ironic when I noticed that I knew her. She wouldn't recognize me as an adult, but she lives in my childhood neighborhood and her son (now was his grave she was visiting) was a good friend of my brother's growing up and they went to our church.

Next year I hope to do more to remember Rob's mother. I asked Rob what she really liked to eat and he said she made a shrimp curry so now I have a year to find out the recipe and veganize it for next year's celebration.

Just a comment to say, I know my pictures are more pathetic than usual, but I still am down to my iPhone for pictures with the other cameras out of commission so I'll try to rectify this situation soon.

Lastly, we went to our friends Ricky and Catharine's to watch the election results last night. It was so nice to watch with friends who also have a Kucinich bumper sticker on their car. It was also nice to be with Ricky who is from Mississippi and see his sister call from the southern state elated that Obama won. Rob was so happy to see his home state look like it might (I haven't heard the final results) have gone for Obama. Dema fell asleep on our way over (Rob got off work late) and Josie was pretty mellow and eventually fell asleep (Parker was the late night man staying awake until we left after midnight). I can't really add anything to what everyone has already is awesome to have our first African American president elect and it is about time! It gives me some hope for this country and this planet. I know politicians are mortals so I don't think Obama is the cure for everything which is ailing us, but it is a step...a small baby step in the right direction. The second highlight of the night was Ricky's pecan pie. I need the recipe. Parker was talking about it all day today and Dema was sad he slept through it. I don't think I've ever made pecan pie before so if anyone out there has a great vegan recipe, send it my way.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Let Them Eat Cake or VeganMoFo Day 24

I've blogged about my friend, Kris before and the amazing cakes she bakes. She is a big reason why my kids have vegan cake at most of the birthday parties we attend. She is incredibly talented. For you locals, you may want to check out her new website. (Even for non-locals, take a look and drool.) I highly recommend you contact Kris for your next cake worthy event. She doesn't just make vegan cakes, but I guarantee if you buy a vegan cake your guests won't know the difference.

Now I'm trying to think up a good reason to have her make a cake...maybe my birthday. It is coming up soon.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Quick Red Bean Dal or Vegan MoFo Day 23

Sunday night after the kids went to bed, I made Carrot Bisque from Vegan with a Vengeance again because I'm so in love. I used the other curry powder this time and it was not as hot, even when I accidentally dumped what was left in the soup. The kids liked it better this time, but that could just be a second time around type thing. I also made some quinoa to go with it and that was really a great combo. The kids and I ate it all Monday and Tuesday and didn't leave any for Rob. Parker asked for baked tofu sandwiches for lunch on Monday with leftover risotto so I made baked tofu Sunday night as I made the bisque. Mondays are kind of busy with homeschooling activities and this Monday Rob had a ceremony to go to at the local high school for a teenager he tutors and I had a WEFT board meeting, so it takes a little prep time the night before. I don't have pictures of any of this, sadly, because it was such a busy day.
I did take a pick of dinner last night which was Quick Red Bean Dal from Robin (Vegan Planet fame...I've mentioned the Vegan Planet cookbook quite often on this blog). Robin has a new cookbook out called Vegan Fire and Spice (it is on my wish list, hint hint) and she generously shared this recipe on her blog. This dal is quick and simply good. Josie couldn't stop eating it while I was cooking. Parker had two servings this size served over brown rice...good thing I made a double batch! The kids asked for a smoothie when they saw kale in the fridge, but Rob insisted the kale was too good for a smoothie and made garlicky kale instead which made them just as happy. I used the leftovers of the today for lunch over leftover whole wheat pasta for a chili mac type dish. Simple, quick, hearty, and warm!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Pepper Pizza or VeganMoFo Day 22

Sunday night was pizza night since we had some leftover sauce from pasta and thawed out pizza dough from the co-op. Rob decided to saute some peppers to go along with our normal carrots and kalamata olives. He also picked some fresh basil from our neighbor's garden while picking up the kids for dinner. It made a super yummy pizza. Too bad I only have an iPhone pic because both my "real" cameras are out of commission.

We have decided Rob will make pizza dough on the weekend for us to use during the week because it just tastes so much better to use homemade dough and Rob is the dough guy around here. The boys can eat an entire pizza on their own (and Parker ate some of ours as well) so we are becoming a three pizza family with Josie eating her share.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Oktoberfest or Vegan MoFo Day 21

My dad's birthday was Thursday, but I had the 40N 88W ACE Awards Thursday night (no, I am not an artist, but I was a judge this year for the awards and they like the judges to be at the event). I have to say that it was a lot of fun being a judge and I was impressed by all the people, businesses, organizations which are worthy of an award for work in the arts in our little town. 40N 88W is a great group and promotes art in this area. WEFT 90.1 FM was a ACE award winner in 2006 and I'm on the board of directors at WEFT so that is how I was asked to be a judge. Both organizations are great groups and worthy of volunteer and financial support as we enter the "season of giving". While Rob and I were at the ACE awards (it was kind of fun to go out just the two of us dressed up a bit...we need to do this more often), my sister Karen and her boyfriend came over and watched the kids. Karen, ever the fun aunt, brought several pumpkins and all the stuff to carve them with and the kids had a grand time carving pumpkins.
I saved the pumpkin seeds and toasted them the next day (put some olive oil and tamari on the seeds and baked them around 250 degrees until they smelled done). The seeds were great, but it got me wondering why the raw pumpkin seeds we buy in the store are green and these are white until you roast them...of course this is because we buy hulled pumpkin seeds in the store, but I did ask a couple people before it came to me and they didn't know the answer either so I don't feel so bad. Why should you eat pumpkin seeds? Pumpkin seeds have Protein, Magnesium, Zinc, Iron, Calcium, Potassium, and Manganese (nutritional analysis here). They are super tasty and fun to eat especially this time of year.
Anyway, I invited my dad to our neighborhood potluck today to celebrate his birthday since we didn't see him on his actual birthday. Rob made what I have deemed Rob's Risotto, I made Mac-Oh Geez from Dreena's blog (except with pumpkin seeds and walnuts as topping instead of bread crumbs) and Pumpkin Crumb Cake with Pecan Struesel (except I used walnuts) from Veganomicon. The doughnut is from a friend of Rob's who is in town from Portland and very, very sweetly brought Rob a dozen vegan donuts from Voodoo Doughnut. Parker wanted to share the dozen doughnuts with his friends, but I said that we should just eat them all ourselves because his friends wouldn't understand the value of a vegan doughnut flown all the way from Portland, OR. I know, I'm an awful mom to keep the child from being generous, but come on...these are precious vegan doughnuts we are talking about.
Rob had to leave the potluck early because he messed up his neck. He slept wrong a couple nights ago and hurt his neck and it was finally getting better and then he took the kids on the weekly shopping. Dema accidentally pulled the shopping cart over while he was trying to help get the food out and Josie was in the cart. Rob lunged to save Josie and hurt his neck again pretty severely. Josie and Dema were both fine. It was a little chilly and I felt bad for Rob, but it the potluck was a lot of fun and the food was great. We really are lucky to have great family, friends, and neighbors.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Golden Potato and Tempeh Casserole or VeganMoFo Day 20

I've blogged about FatFree Vegan's Golden Potato and Tempeh before. I've used tempeh and tofu and we liked them equally (well, the kids preferred the tofu). This time I didn't like the flavor of the tempeh as well (it was a different brand (Soy Boy) and a little strong tasting for me). I don't know if I did something different, but it was good just not quite as good. Next time I will use tofu or use our normal brand of tempeh.20 days of vegan food...done! Whew! That was fun so I'll try to keep it up, but I don't know if I can manage 20 posts a month. We shall see. I will at least keep it going the rest of October. (Cheering and applause.)

Last week I shopped more than our usual Saturday shopping so I tried to make it last through this week. I made it until Thursday and just had to buy some apples, bread, and a couple other things. It does feel good to use what is around and not run to the store on every whim. We end up spending less and it makes mealtime interesting as we get to the end of the week. I like thinking more about our shopping choices. We still have a lot of room to improve, but it feels good to be more and more deliberate and not take food for granted while still enjoying what we eat.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Carrot Bisque or Vegan MoFo Day 19

Every once in a while you make something and you think to yourself, "How have I lived this long without eating this before?" or at least I do. The Carrot Bisque from Vegan with a Vengeance is one of those dishes for me. Really, where has this bisque been all my life? I've owned Vegan with a Vengeance since it came out, I sell it in my store, and I have never made this...for shame! It is love at first bite.
For added pleasure, this soup is very easy to make, especially if you have children. Dema peeled the carrots while Parker diced them so it came together in no time at all with a little help from my favorite kitchen immersion blender. We made tomato sandwiches with the rest of the tomatoes our neighbors gave us and called it a meal. I will be buying and growing carrots just for this soup.

If you have kids or don't like spicy food, you might want to go easy on the curry. Rob brought home two curries a couple months ago from a local international store and said something like "this curry is really spicy and this is normal spicy", but I didn't really pay attention and I sure as heck didn't mark them so I have no idea which is which. We like spicy so it is not an issue, but I could see how some people would find this soup a little on the hot may be my particular curry though. I don't think I have to sell anyone out there that carrots are good for ya, but just in case here is the nutritional analysis. Carrots have Vitamin A (duh), Thiamin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Manganese, Vitamin C, Vitamin K and Potassium. When I was a kid, I would only eat raw carrots and never cooked. Thank goodness I got over that, especially since there is some evidence that eating carrots cooked helps the body absorb more the nutrients. Raw or cooked, orange, red, purple, yellow, white, or black, carrots are yummy!