Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A New Take on an Old Favorite or Cookies and Rainbows

Today is was rainy and gray outside so I decided cookies were in order. I don't make cookies often and when I do make them I usually look for cookies with some kind of nutritional value...cookies are not healthy, but I figure pumpkin raisin cookies are probably better for you than say chocolate chip. I was craving chocolate, but I don't have any vegan chips on hand so the Chewy Chocolate-Raspberry Cookies from Veganomicon caught my eye. I had all the ingredients and it calls for almond extract (I use almond flavor and I mentioned over a year ago I have several bottles of it for some reason...well, I finally used one up today on these cookies...score!) so that is what we baked. Now that I think of it, the raspberry fruit spread I used has something like 40% DV of vitamin C and the dark chocolate cocoa powder has to have antioxidants, right? See, I can find the silver nutrition lining in any vegan treat. The kids had a great time helping with this one which made for less than perfect looking cookies, but they are more fun and tasted great. We shared some with our neighbors, Vicky and Greg, who called offering mixed greens (great trade!). Nothing brightens up a cloudy day like baking cookies and these worked like a charm. As soon as they were out of the oven the sun came out and we went outside to our park to play. We saw a double rainbow which was quite exciting for the kids. I took pictures with my iPhone because it was quickly disappearing so I didn't want to run inside for my good camera and miss it.Dinner tonight was a new take on Esme Sauce. I've been playing around with it to cut down on the oil and tamari. I'm pretty pleased with tonight's results. Rob said he thinks I have it dialed in just right now.
"Dialed In" Esme Sauce:

1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 cup tahini
1/4 to 1/2 cup cooked chickpeas (optional...you could also use cashews)
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 to 3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 to 3 Tablespoons tamari (or Bragg's Amino Acids)
2 Tablespoons miso (I only have red miso right now so if you have something mellow like white you might want to add more)
1 garlic clove minced
A splash of mirin
3 Tablespoons to 1/4 cup water (add at the end to get the consistency you like)

Put all the ingredients in a bowl and use an immersion blender until smooth, adding the water at the end to get a pourable consistency.

Top with...

Raw Crunchies:
1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 to 1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds (the green ones, of course)
4 Tablespoons nutritional yeast
1/4 teaspoon to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

If you don't like to add crunchiness, but want to add the nutrition you can put the walnuts and pumpkin seeds in the sauce before you immersion blend it, but it will turn a little green. It is still good and the kids like it both ways, but I enjoy some crunch. You've seen this so many times on my blog I'm sure you know we like to serve the sauce over whole wheat pasta with peas, but it is also good with quinoa and broccoli or brown rice and kale. Use it on mixed greens...really anything. The topping is also great on lots of things like salads, pizza, soups, etc. This should make enough for a family of five, plus maybe a serving for leftovers. I made Chickpea Cutlets again from Veganomicon now that I've fallen for the baked version (I don't use oil, just parchment paper on cookie sheets) I will be making these all the time. I subbed nutritional yeast for the bread crumbs and this works quite well.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Busy Bees

We've had a busy time of it lately. No complaints because it is all fun stuff, but we should probably slow down a bit and get some things done around the house. Nah!

Thursday night we went out on a date (gasp!!!), yes, Rob and I ventured out together sans children. We don't do this often and we don't mind, but it is good for the ole marriage to get out from time to time for some adult conversation. My sister, Karen, was sweet enough to watch the kids and Josie was so happy to see her she didn't mind that we were leaving. I made the Cheezy Rice and Broccoli Casserole from The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook for the first time. It seemed like the gods of the kitchen picked it for me because I just happened to have exactly the rice amount of white basmati rice (usually we only have brown rice on hand). I also made pasta with my new take on Esme sauce (I'll share it with you when I've played around with it a bit more), peas, and my new crunchies (just raw pumpkin seeds and walnuts chopped up with some nutritional yeast and red pepper flakes mixed in - I decided it doesn't need to be heated or have oil and bread crumbs so this is my "healthier" take on them, but I'll still do the old crunchies for a special treat). I was impressed with the Cheezy Rice and Broccoli Casserole (sorry no pictures) because as I was throwing it together I had the sinking feeling it was too simple to be good. I had some when we got home and it was yummy. I'll make it again.

Going out was even more of a treat because we went out with Loretta and David so I have to say we were having so much fun we didn't even miss the kids like we usually do. For the locals, we tried out the newish (okay over a year old, but still) and new to us Yellowfin. Sorry, no pictures, but we were all happy with our meals. Both couples ordered the same thing to share with each other; vegetarian sushi meal (four different kinds of rolls - avocado, gourd, cucumber, and pickled something) and Yakisoba (basically stir fried vegetables with noodles). Yum and yum! They gave us edamame and fried banana on the house as well. The restaurant was surprisingly nice (it looks like a "hole in the wall" from the outside) on the inside and the waiter was good. It was less expensive than my beloved Ko-fusion and quite good so I think we have a new place to dine out. We went to Boltini for drinks after dinner which was great and we found our friend Mark has a drink named after him there. We didn't get a chance to try it, but I will (Rob's not a big martini fan) next time. Gotta love our small college town.
Friday night we had a surprise 30th birthday party to attend, but Dema fell off the playground equipment right before we were about to hop on our bikes so this delayed us enough to miss the "surprise" part. Dema is fine. He bled quite a bit because he hit his mouth and he thought he'd chipped a tooth so he was pretty worried, but he still wanted to go to the party. The party was a potluck and while I was deciding what to make (embarrassingly close to our departure time) I still had the Cheezy Rice and Broccoli Casserole on my mind, but I didn't have an white basmati rice left and I would rather not use white rice. So I created a new dish that I will call Cheezy Quinoa Casserole. I know, I know, I have a talent for creative names...ha! It was a little bit of a risk because I didn't taste it before arriving at the party, but at least one person asked for the recipe so it was okay. I'll share the recipe if I can recreate it sometime soon. I have to say there was also another yummy quinoa dish at the party...that is my kind of birthday party!Saturday night we finally had Ricky and Catharine (and they boys) over for dinner. I made French Lentil Soup with Tarragon and Thyme and Creamy Tomato Soup (both from Veganomicon). This time the Creamy Tomato Soup was my favorite. I just wasn't in the mood for lentil soup for some reason. The picture is the Creamy Tomato Soup with raw crunchies on top. I also made baked tofu and Colcannon Puffs (I seriously could make these every day). I was so nice to get together, but I felt bad because Rob and I were pretty tired from our week/weekend.We were supposed to go to another Vegan Meetup on Sunday, but we just had to take a little time to get some things done and just spend time as a family. I'm sad we missed it, but we will definitely made April's potluck!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Almost Wordless Wednessday

I'm not good at the "wordless" thing so this will be less wordy Wednesday instead:
Our sweet neighbor, Bob, took pictures at "our" park Monday night with his new camera. Josie is all tired after a long day of playing at the park. The rosy cheeks are from the windy Spring day. The sweater is the one our other sweet neighbor, Margie, knitted for her. We live in the best neighborhood on the planet.Bob also took a rare picture of Rob and I together right before I took off for a WEFT meeting. I have one of Rob's cycling jackets on so I have a little reflection action going on. Spring days mean evenings hanging out and chatting with neighbors at the park. One of the nice things about living in the Midwest and having cold, long winters is it makes one really appreciate Spring so much!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

I Was Wrong

I am going to share something with you that I don't think I've mentioned before.

(Dramatic pause while you think of what interesting or horrific bit of VeganLindaology I'm going to reveal.)

If my life was a movie it would be "Please Don't Eat the Daisies".

(Looks of bewilderment and disappointment and more bewilderment.)

I know, I know. Say what you will, but there is not a day that goes by that I don't think of a line in that movie. It isn't so much the movie that fits my life as the lines. Classic. It is hard to explain and I think that is why I have not gotten into this before, but we know each other pretty well now and my life is pretty much an open book so here ya go. I am stuck, in my mind at least, in a silly 1960's film. It isn't even what I would classify as my "favorite movie". I don't think I have a favorite. It was a movie I used to love to watch pre-kids and even pre-Rob when I was home alone cleaning my place.

I even think I may have been Doris Day in a previous life...well, except for the fact that we are alive at the same time. One can't be held back by silly little facts like that.

AND...Doris Day is pretty good in the animal welfare arena (she's no James Cromwell, but she likes her cute furry animals). She seems like a very decent person, but even if she wasn't...I would still be stuck in that movie. In fact, no one can truly understand me without knowing the entire movie by heart. I will say lines to myself and chuckle because pretty much no one will have any idea of what I'm talking about.

Phew. Now that I have that off my chest I can quote Please Don't Eat the Daises to my heart's content all over the blog and still no one will know what I'm referring to unless they too have watched PDETD until they know every single scene, but I feel like you have now been warned.

(Silence as people quickly unsub from my blog and back away from the computer or as they hurriedly go to their local library/local movie store site and reserve Please Don't Eat the Daisies before they are all gone.)

I'll set the scene (if anyone is still out there or if anyone was out there to begin with...you are all very quietly lately, but it might be better for me to talk to myself on days like this so hopefully you are just enjoying the Spring weather and rejoin the blog when I'm not quite so silly):

David Niven's character has insulted Janis Paige's performance in a musical he was reviewing. He claims that she can't act. He said all she did was shake her "fanny" (gotta love 60's movies). Which is a legitimate reason for being on the stage, it depends, to be blunt on the fanny. In her case, he writes, she still has no reason to be on the stage. Janis Paige's character is not so stunned by the insult to her acting talent or lack thereof, but she is furious about the comment about her fanny. She shows up to a party with a tight skirt on and asks him if he would reconsider a "perhaps hastily formed opinion". David Niven, always the gentleman, says of course he would. Janis Paige throws her jacket over her arm and walks away from David. He checks out her fanny and shrugs and says, "I was wrong."**Well, my dear friends, I also made a hastily formed opinion about the Veganomicon Chickpea Cutlets. I didn't think they lived up to the hype. I was disappointed and blogged so. Tonight I gave them another chance. This time, I baked them and they were great. I doubled the recipe and they weren't chewy at all, but they held together well. We were outside all day enjoying the Spring windy weather (we had to drag the kids in to eat), chatting with neighbors, and enjoying each other. It was a quick meal and satisfying. I served the cutlets with Vegan Dad's Creamy Mac and Cheeze and green beans with frozen mango for dessert. The Chickpea Cutlets are good! I was wrong.

**Please no hate mail about how sexist this all is. It is a 1960 movie and I promise I don't condone judging women or men on their fannies. Although, I have to say Rob has got a pretty cute one, but I promise I married him for his mind.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Kale Three Way

I used to have a friend/co-worker from Buffalo, NY who would get excited about visiting Illinois so she could eat Chili Three Way at Steak and Shake. Last night as we sat down to dinner with kale in three places, I thought of this and laughed. I wonder if Nancy would enjoy Kale Three Way? She should because it was all super yummy. Thumbs up all around. We had Colcannon Puffs, Coconut-Curry Rice with kale (this is a tester recipe for Robin Robertson's new cookbook and we love it and have fun adding new things like kale), and a green smoothie. For the smoothie I used up some coconut milk we had left from the Southwestern Corn Pudding, kale, frozen mangoes, soy milk, cashews, ground flax seeds, and mango-orange juice. Here is a link to a recipe for what I loosely call the Pina Colada Smoothie, but I usually make it different every time depending on how I feel. This time it was very light and just want we needed. The coconut milk was lite and I didn't use much since it was just what was left in the can after using a cup. Just right! I can't wait to plant some kale in the garden soon.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Heavenly Jalapenos and Swimming in Gravy

Loretta came by with her lovely kids the other day to play in "our" park. It was a beautiful day and we stopped to have a snack on our porch. Loretta brought some yummy things to share and one of them was Southwestern Corn Pudding from Veganomicon. I already had my eye on another recipe with jalapenos so I had some on hand was determined to make it that night, but I didn't have corn. I thought about it all week and finally went shopping Saturday morning. I needed to make dinner Saturday evening and leave for a book discussion with some of the moms from our home schooling group so I decided it was a perfect time for a quick southwestern meal. I took the Veganomicon suggestion of pairing the "pudding" (I would say it is more like a casserole) with the Chili-Cornmeal Crusted Tofu. I added Voracious Vegan's Cheezy Jalapeno Biscuits to complete the jalapeno theme. I didn't have jarred jalapenos so I just finely sliced up one raw jalapeno for the biscuits and it worked out fine. It was all very good. I only wish I'd taken the time to saute some garlicky kale and it would have been perfect. I gave the leftovers to my sister and she enjoyed it too. Rob and I had salsa with ours which was very good because the pudding is a little sweet. I think the Southwestern Corn Pudding would make a great brunch dish paired with breakfast burritos (tofu scramble in a tortilla). I love how pretty the corn, sweet pepper, and jalapenos looked cooking in my cast iron skillet.Dema kept grabbing the food while I was taking a picture so I told him if he would leave the plate alone, I would take his picture eating the tofu. So here ya go. The tofu was still really hot so he is trying not to burn his tongue, but he couldn't keep from digging in.
I had a lot of lentil mixture leftover from the Swedish Meatballs this week so I made Urban Vegan's Carbonata for the first time, but used the lentil meatballs. It was good, but very high in fat so I won't be making it often. It was a good way to use up the leftovers, but not pretty.We don't make gravy very often, but the last couple weeks we've had it several times in different dishes. It reminded me one of our favorite Disney movies (we aren't big Disney fans past Bambi, but this one we've seen over and over), The Emperor's New Groove where Yzma says "Is there anything on this menu that is not swimming in gravy." The Colcannon Puffs we made the other day are "spinach puffs" in house because of this movie.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Colcannon Puffs

None of us wore green today, we just didn't think about it until we were already dressed, but we are always in the mood for green foods. Those of you on my Facebook friends list (I'm a tad addicted to FB so you can find me there), you've already heard me rave about these. Susan at FatFree Vegan has done it again with her Colcannon Puffs. It is no secret that we love kale, but even those of you out there who are kale skeptics will like this little gems. Check out her pictures because I added more kale so mine are quite green, but they still tasted great. They are shown here with some unsweetened ketchup and a SO'G (sort of a vegan version of corned beef, but oh so much better) sandwich with avocado and horseradish mustard on flax nut bread. On another Irish note, some of you have asked about our friends Alison and Mike who I mentioned were in the process of having a baby last week. Well, they did indeed have the babe, named Larson Ash O'Connor (what a great name!!!). I haven't seen pictures yet and I'm trying not to call for fear of waking the new parents, but I will bug them tomorrow and find out all the wonderful details. Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone!!

Cherry CoffeeCAKE and Swedish "Meat"balls

Sunday Breakfast was Cherry Coffeecake from Vegan Family Favorites. I was going to make this for a potluck which we were supposed to have with some friends which sadly keeps getting postponed. I decided to make it once for us first. I'm glad I did. It was much more cake and much less coffeecake. It is a dessert not a breakfast since there is absolutely no nutritional value (okay, my cherry pie filling did have vitamin A and C, but still) so this is good to know. I didn't use Earth Balance and subbed some canola oil instead and much less than it called for. I broke down and served it with vanilla soy ice cream and frozen raspberries. It reminded me of that line in Steel Magnolias, "I serve it with ice cream to cut the sweetness". I figured what the heck...if you are going to have cake for breakfast, might as well go all the way. The cake was completely gone in minutes, although even Dema couldn't finish his last piece. Luckily, it is small or the kids would have been bouncing off the walls.When I saw the post for Vegan Swedish Meatballs on Voracious Vegan, I knew I had to save the recipe. I don't know if I've had Swedish meatballs which aren't vegan...I'm guessing my mom may have made them when I was a kid. Rob remembers them from his own childhood, so I thought it would be fun to make a lentil based version. Any recipe with a cup of ground flax seeds gets my attention. I served them over wide udon noodles with peas and bake potatoes. I felt like our Sunday was very '80's Betty Crocker-ish with a vegan twist. Not complaints though. I gave Rob the last serving for his lunch Monday and it was fun to use the To-Go Ware side kicks for the sauce. I baked most of the meatballs, but they are better fried. The baked ones are like lentil cookies. That is what I get for trying to cut down on the fat. The baked ones were great crumbled into the gravy though so nothing was wasted.The weather has been beautiful lately so you get bonus pics of the kids. Here is Dema striking his Jedi Knight pose. Josie is waiting for me to take the picture so she can get back to be a little blur of running up the stairs and sliding down the slide and running up the stairs and sliding down the slide.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

More Chickpea Noodle Soup and Homemade Crackers

We went to the EOH (Engineering Open House at our local college) today and didn't get to do our weekly shopping. The weather was nice so we played at the park after we arrived home so dinner needed to be something quick using stuff we had around the house. I made more Chickpea Noodle Soup from Veganomicon and Rob made homemade crackers from Simply Heavenly! (a cookbook our friend Marty bought us years ago and it is a gift which keeps on giving, especially since this cookbook is out of print). We had apples, mangoes, and pears too.Here are the boys at the transportation booth. Parker, the environmentalist, was quick to point out that trains are more efficient than trucks for moving cargo. Dema, the bounds checker, was quick to find the flaw in the exhibit and showed the students that their setup was flawed and that the truck was actually more efficient the way they displayed them. Josie was just having fun shouting "bike" or "bus" whenever she saw a bike or bus. She is obsessed! Dema, the future doctor?, loved the MRI machine (no picture...too dark) and Parker, the current scientist, was great at matching the brains with the animal (Rob and I were not as skilled). Josie pointed out all the "babies" aka any child in a stroller regardless of size.Here is a picture of the Tesla coils. You can search YouTube to hear and see them in action. My iPhone can't do it justice. Lots of fun and a beautiful day!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Chickpea Noodle Soup, Sweet Sweaters, and Labor Light

Saturday Rob had a cold. We all had some sniffles for a couple of days as the weather went from cold to unseasonably warm which tends to get the nose running. I had sinus headache last week for one hard night, but really I can't complain. As illnesses go it was short and if not sweet, it wasn't awful. We've been super luck all winter so a last minute cold is no biggie. Except for my sweet hubby. He doesn't get sick often, but when he does he lays around talking about how sick he is and incessantly asking me if he has a fever. I keep telling him that he doesn't HAVE to be feverish to be sick and I believe him (I'm not his mom and I don't need him to have a fever in order to keep him home from school). I was kind of excited at his pain (I'm not really that mean, I promise) because I could make the Chickpea Noodle Soup from Veganomicon. Sure, I could have made it without anyone in the house being sick, but I'm silly that way and needed an excuse. I lovingly prepared it and everyone enjoyed it! Parker asked for me to make it "every day". I think Rob liked it...he ate two huge bowls...but he didn't say a thing...I guess he wasn't impressed by my making homemade chickpea noodle soup for his vegan soul and just wanted more sympathy instead. I'll work on it. Don't feel to bad for him. He was better on Sunday and able to bike five miles and play indoor soccer and bike back. He was sick poor guy, but he is better.

I added kale at the end as it suggested on the recipe online, but in my version of V-con it doesn't mention the kale...add the kale. Always add the kale.
Since we are talking about colds and comfort, I thought I'd add a picture of the adorable sweater our neighbor Margie made for Josie. Ignore the fact that Josie is not really awake yet and I'm rushing to take the picture before we head out the door on a manic Monday. The sweater is warm, cute, and made with lots and lots of love. You can just tell. We have the best neighbors!

I can't get anything done today because I'm thinking of our friend Alison. She went into labor many hours ago now so she might have the baby in her arms as I type this. I lit a labor candle for her today and I've been thinking of her non-stop. I wish I could jump on a plane to the east coast right now and be there for her. She and Mike are destined to have a child who is amazing. Strong willed and loving and lots and lots of fun is the child I see in store for these new parents! We love guys and hope all is going and has gone well during Alison's labor. We can't wait to meet your new precious little being!!!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

My Girl is 18 mo. Old

I've been trying not to bore you all with monthly updates, but Josie is 1 1/2 years old today so I figure you won't mind hearing how she is.
She is so big and not my baby anymore! She is already trying to fill Rob's shoes. Here Aunt Karen has infinite patience walking around the neighborhood with Josie slowly clopping along in the huge shoes. Josie is always ready for any adventure. She is the first to want to go out the door. She loves to go on the bike and still signs bike by patting her head signaling the helmet. Here she is after a bike ride home in the cold from our friends Susan and Ercan's house on Superbowl Sunday. She is always happy to bundle up and go!An update on ECing: Josie went awhile where she was completely not interested in using the potty so I figured she would tell us when she was ready and I embraced her using the cloth diapers. A little while after she turned one, Josie made it clear she no longer wanted to wear diapers. So I would keep her diaper-free at home and then when she needed to go she would ask for a diaper (go get one or say "diper"). Then in January we went to North Carolina and I was sure she would use her diaper during the long car ride, but we would stop and she would still be dry. She used the potty or the toilet very consistently on the trip. So eventually, I would put a diaper on her when we were traveling around town (since we don't have a car and we were taking mass transit I wouldn't know when the next time we'd have access to a bathroom and didn't think it was fair to make her wait). Then I found she was dry and didn't seem to mind waiting even a couple hours sometimes so I would ask her once we got to our destination if she wanted a diaper or she wanted to tell me when she had to go tot he bathroom. Most of the time, she chose to tell me. So I stopped taking diapers with me. Most of the time I didn't have a change of clothes either. She was that consistent. Josie has for some reason the last couple weeks had an issue with one place we go for a homeschooling group. She doesn't like using the restroom there now so she had a couple pee accidents there (she hasn't pooped anywhere except the toilet for months). I will keep the diapers out for this place, but other public places don't seem to bother her so I'm trying to figure out what might be the issue. So I'd say we are 99% done with diapers. She does better when we don't ask her and we wait for her to tell us. She is pretty stubborn that way...where does she get that? She likes the whole process of going to the bathroom. She likes to dry to wipe herself which makes me laugh since Dema still has us wipe him at almost five years of age. In fact, she will race to the bathroom to wipe him when he calls for us to do. The picture is from Christmas and we don't usually take the potty outside of the bathroom, but with all of the excitement from opening presents and stockings I set it there for her. She also doesn't usually eat on the potty, but as I said it was Christmas.She still loves water and will take a couple baths a day if you let her. She especially likes to splash around with her brothers in the bath, pool, hot tub, etc. She still dislikes the shower quite a bit which is so different from the boys. The boys loved and still love the shower. I just didn't take her in the shower enough when she was little. She'll get used to it eventually. She reminds me of my dearly departed cat Felix. Felix used to worry about me every time I took a shower and he would come watch and meow and fret and pace until I was done. Josie will do the same thing. She assumes since she doesn't like the shower that it must be torture for everyone. Here she is during out trip to NC in January at the hotel pool trying to talk Rob into taking off his shirt and swimming with her.She is quite the communicator. At this age, Dema was talking up a storm. Josie has some words like; Mama, baby, diaper, Parker, Rob, Dema, brother, ow, oh (she has like 20 different ohs which mean different things...kind of like proverbial "snow" for the Eskimos), bye, bite, water, apple, pee, pea, etc. but mostly she uses her eyes and gestures and intensity to get her meaning across. She will answer any yes/no question you give her with what seems to be a very accurate reply. She mimics conversation with great zeal. We have five talkers in our family now so dinner time is quite lively. Josie also has a great sense of humor. She is so funny. Here is a picture of her mimicking Dema sleeping on the bus. She looked back at the boys (she always keeps a close eye on them) and saw Dema and tapped me and closed her eyes like him and smiled. Then she opened them and pointed back at Dema and laughed.Josie is a natural little caregiver. Parker was and still is so I don't think it is completely a gender thing, but she does a lot of care giving to dolls as well as real live people, insects, and animals. She is the first one to be concerned any time people get hurt or upset. She is there to hand out hugs and kisses. She also loves to have me nurse her dolls or she'll nurse them herself when they need some extra comfort.
All through the winter we still had ladybugs living in our house. Every time she found one she would make a huge todo. She would shriek with pleasure and touch it gently and make sure it arrived where she thought it was going safely. She accidentally stepped on a ladybug the other day running away from Parker and she was so incredibly distraught. She has me move bugs off the slide before she goes down. She is also pretty fastidious and has me remove all dirt as well. She also likes to organize things around the house so this picture of her in NC playing with her cousin Lillian's dolls and stroller combines two of her favorite things. She is arranging and care giving. She likes to get things just so. Her Aunt Stephanie was sweet enough to send home an extra play stroller with us and she uses it daily.Josie has a soft spot for Dema. She takes care of him more than anyone. She loves to mimic him in a sweet way and will do anything he does. Sometimes I feel like I have twins who just happen to be 3 years apart. They have a lot of the same intensity so things are not always gentle between them, but their love for each other is fierce.I think Josie sees Parker as another adult. She goes to him in times of need or if she needs help. Oh yes, that is her big phrase "Hep me, hep me!" She will say this to Parker when I won't let her get into something. She asks him to see if she'll have better luck. She will get herself in pretend peril and yell "Hep me!" to have Parker come running to "save" her. She plays the damsel in distress, but she is anything but. She can handle herself in any situation. Josie knows that her big brother is there for backup if she needs him. She also knows how to get what she wants. If I'm not moving quick enough in the mornings, she'll get Parker to take her downstairs and feed her breakfast. He is all too willing to be at her beck and call. Here is Parker and Josie sharing some love in our neighbor's hot tub a couple days ago. She was fine with me not coming in (I am so not ready for swimsuit season yet), but she had to have her biggest brother.Josie is such a joy and we are lucky to have her in our lives. It some ways it seems like she was just born yesterday and then it seems like she's always been a part of our family.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Tamale Casserole and Creamy Mac and Cheeze

Since I didn't have a pictures of the Black Bean Tamales from Parker's party, I'll share the tamale casserole I made the next day. I haven't made this in a very long time, but it is great for leftover refried beans. I have to add here canned beans can't come close to dried beans, soaked, slow cooked, etc. (and then some chipotle chillies added), but use canned if that is all you have on hand. Basically, you take some prepared polenta and slice it and cover the bottom of a casserole dish, add a layer of refried beans, and top with your favorite salsa (I used Desert Pepper Peach Mango to add some sweet to the spicy beans). Cook at around 400 for 30 to 45 minutes. Easy peasy and yum. With a big helping of garlicky kale it is a meal. The kids couldn't get enough of the kale. It hit the spot after the weekend party food.I haven't made Vegan Dad's Creamy Mac and Cheeze for a while and I know I've blogged about it before, but I was reminded once again how wonderful it is, especially with steamed broccoli. I had to actually make more broccoli before we finished dinner because Dema requested more. It would be a great sauce to serve on top of broccoli if you don't want to do pasta. I subbed walnuts for the cashews and almonds for the pine nuts (I don't think I've ever actually used pine nuts in this recipe now that I think of it, but any combo of nuts I've used has been great). I served it with a green smoothie (not shone because my kids inhaled it so quickly I couldn't take a picture, but it had kale, frozen mangos, soy yogurt, and coconut milk) because it is finally warm enough for me to feel like making smoothies. Spring really is on the way.

Parker's Party

We finally had Parker's official birthday party Sunday. He had a great time and a full house. Over 80 people came (this includes adults which hung out to chat). I was hoping for nice weather, but it was quite cold. Some of the kids went outside to play for all of maybe five minutes and they were back in. Parker likes to invite all his friends so we had babies to teenagers. Everyone got along really well and at one point I went upstairs to see several of the older kids sitting around reading in Dema's room and then babies and toddlers playing in the play area right outside the room. It really was quite tame for so many kids in the house.Kris made a beach cake requested by Parker. She did an amazing job as always. Parker put a Lego shark, surfboard, guy, and some vehicle from the coast guard set. I wish I had a better picture, but it was kind of crazy and I assigned my sister Karen to photo duty, but failed to charge the battery first. If anyone has a better picture of the cake, please send it to me. Kris would like to put one on her website. The sand was really cool and sand-like and yummy at the same time...how does she do it???Here is Parker after he put the finishing touches on the cake trying to explain the scene to some of his friends who probably just wanted to dig into the cake.The party was in the afternoon so we just made some like snack food. It was a crazy busy week so I wasn't as organized as I wanted to be so I didn't have all the food I'd planned on serving, but it worked out and everything usually does. Rob made a ton of black bean tamales from the Vegan Lunchbox recipe. I wish we had a picture of the tamales because he made about 70 of them. He is a tamale wizard. I made several batches of Quick Pinto-Potato Empanadas which I can't believe I've never blogged about. I think it is because I can never get a good picture of them. This picture is actually from a mardi gras party at Kit and Emily's house which I'll post about later. Anyway, the empanadas are a tester recipe from a Robin Robertson cookbook coming out this year and they are always a HUGE hit with everyone. They are super-duper easy and I've had rave reviews from omnis and veg*ns alike. We had hummus too and I realized we've almost gone through a half gallon jar of tahini in one month.The last guests left about seven and I expected the kids to crash, but all three of them were still up and going strong for hours later. I'm guessing the sugar buzz had something to do with it or maybe it was the excitement and fun of building the many new Lego sets (we said "no presents", but he received some very fun thoughtful gifts from handmade cards to seeds to art supplies to games to Legos). At the end of the night, Parker said it was one of his favorite birthdays ever. He thanks everyone for coming. He said he doesn't have any "best friend" because they are all the best.