Monday, August 31, 2009

A Cool Summer's Bounty

It hasn't been all green food around here. Oh no, in fact most days lately it the color is red. We planted a dozen or so tomato plants this year. While, the summer was a little cool for tomatoes, it seems, we still have been enjoying ours quite a bit. We planted mainly Roma so we could freeze or can them for the winter. We also have a couple beautiful and tasty heirloom tomato plants which are wonderful for slicing and eating in sandwiches. So far, no canning nor freezing has taken place where the tomatoes are concerned. The squirrels* are one reason and as luck would have it, I get about the right amount of ripe tomatoes a day to cook them up in all sorts of different dishes. Kinda perfect for living in the now, but I know I'll be sad when winter comes and we don't have any tomatoes stored in the larder from our garden. I admit I do like enjoying them in the moment and I love cutting up tomatoes and cooking them down over a couple of hours. It has such a relaxing effect. Maybe I have a little Italian blood in me, but I feel transformed when making tomato sauce. There is just something about the way tomatoes smell as you pick them from the vine, the way they start out so hardy and then reduce over the course of heat and time into something that is much more than chunks of tomatoes...something which can be backdrop to a dish or the star of the show. I will miss my daily ritual of picking tomatoes with the kids and watching them (the tomatoes, not the kids) break down and turn into some creamy base for the next dish.
Creamy Curried Potatoes and Peas from Healthy Cooking for Kids by Shelly Null is a classic favorite in our house. I don't know why I don't make it more often, but I'm always looking for new things to try so sometimes our old faves are made too infrequently. This dish reminds me of Parker when he was Josie's age. It makes me smile and a little sad and longing for the quiet simple life of being the mom to one sweet little boy instead of three fun-filled energetic sweet kids. It also reminds me of a time when my mom was still alive and enjoying being a grandma for the first and only time. Isn't it amazing what is all wrapped up in a simple dish of food? Here I've added carrots and brown rice to this simple, but satisfying classic.
This early cool weather has me appreciating even more the last of the summer bounty. The watermelon from the Market at the Square, the sweet corn from our CSA share, and fresh salsa (tomatoes, black beans, corn, sweet pepper and hot, summer squash, onions, lime juice, and love) made with friends.We've been enjoying the salsa we made midweek in Kit and Emily's lovely new kitchen (oh, how it makes me want to get moving on our remodel!!!) Emily and Kit's beautiful old home was the inspiration we (meaning me, since Rob just went along with what I wanted) needed a few years ago to move out of our suburban type neighborhood with our newish house (we bought it when it was 2 years old) and make the plunge into our current 100+ year old house. I think it was the best move we've even made, but we are still learning what it means to be owners of This Old House. Our wonderful neighbors and Emily and Kit continue to be our inspiration as we feel our way through with little skills and even less money. Ah, well, back to the food...Rob makes the best, yes the best, refried beans on the planet. This time we soaked the last of our pinto beans, cooked them, and a couple days later Rob made them into refried beans (I'll have him tell you his secret sometime) to put in these amazing burritos. The whole wheat wrap contains brown rice, pinto beans, salsa, collards (one of the best parts!!), and avocado. This makes me hungry just thing about them! We could eat burritos ever day, but they don't photograph well (so sorry that all the pictures are from my iPhone other camera at the moment). The garlicky collards on the side was the perfect touch.You all know, we are far from raw around here, but I was putting our fruit away after our "weekly" grocery shopping and it hit me how much raw (organic, of course) fruit we eat. I try to have this tray brimming with fruit and it is down at kid level so they can come by and pick something at any time (which is usually several times a day). This week, you can see bananas (I used to freeze sliced bananas for smoothies, but since our blender is no longer and the kids go through them so fast, bananas never make it to the freezer anymore), nectarines, plums, peaches, apples, and dried figs in the baggies next to the other fruit. That day, we also had green and red grapes in the refrigerator and a huge watermelon on the floor and berries from the Market at the Square, but the berries were eaten before I could put the food away. All this fruit lasts us until about midweek when I do a mini-run to the co-op for fruit and greens or use what we've stored in the freezer. This is our fruit without a blender...when we were making smoothies daily, this would last us even less time.Who needs sweets with all this fruit around? Well, for the latest Vegan Meetup (only the second one I've been able to attend and we hosted at our house again), I baked the Chocolate Sin-nammon Cake from Eat, Drink, and Be Vegan because when vegans get together they love to have baked goods. The kids realize this and look forward to the yummy desserts a little too much because they miss the rest of the wonderful potluck food which they would normally go crazy for like stuffed shells and barbecue seitan sandwiches. Baked goods are pretty rare in our house because even vegan baked goods are not the healthiest thing to consume, but we've had a lot of birthday parties and events where vegan goodies were available and for Dema, who hasn't figured out self regulation just yet and seems to be effected by sweets much more than the other two, it can border on obsession. I'm sure he'll figure it out. I don't keep a lot of sugar on hand so I couldn't make the frosting in Dreena's book, but I did find in the back depths of a cabinet a long forgotten Cherrybrook frosting mix from a few years ago (I'm pretty sure it moved with us to this house). It called for an insane amount of Earth Balance, but I guess it is frosting. Parker loved spreading the icing on the cake for me (you can't see it, but there are two cakes with a little frosting in the middle), but we had to wait until people were about to arrive since the frosting (even after chilling in the refrigerator for a few hours) wanted to melt. The cake was great, but I would make my own frosting next time and we have signs are oven is on the outs. I think the kitchen remodel gods are trying to tell us something. Too bad they aren't providing the money.
*One of the many thieving squirrels. This one is on top of our cross section holding our clothes line. Often I find them eating our tomatoes on our front porch table. Relaxing, kicking back on our table, eating our tomatoes. Since moving to our wonderful house on the park with the tall trees., I have a different view of squirrels.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

RIP Breville Blender

We haven't owned a TV for ten years now.

We haven't owned a microwave for over ten years.

We lived for over a year without a dryer when we first moved into our "new" old (100+ years) house.

We went about a year or so without a dishwasher, with a very shallow sink and we had to do dishes in plastic tubs.

A while back while making cookies in the middle of the night my hand mixer died. It was probably a year or two or so ago. I didn't use it much and we have a KitchenAid stand mixer when mashing with a potato masher or mixing things by hand just won't do.

We haven't owned a car for about eight months with no plan on buying one in the near future.

None of this was/is a hardship. But, now...

I have been living a month without a blender and I don't think I can take it anymore! You may remember when my newish moderately expensive blender broke making Veganomicon hummus, and Breville replaced the blender which made me happy, but then about a month or so ago while making an ordinary smoothie on the "smoothie setting" my beloved blender died a slow agonizing death. It was very odd...working for a half a minute, then 20 seconds, then 10 or so...until it would no longer turn on. I've contacted Breville to see if we can pay to get it fixed, but no luck yet and seriously, I am pretty disappointed that it has broken twice in year and a half or so that we've owned it. I'm wondering if the vegan gods aren't trying to tell us something like "Buy a Vitamix already!".

For those who have never heard of a Vitamix, it is one of those rites of passage things for vegans, or so it seems. We've never really wanted a Vitamix until we got into green smoothies and now it seems like we can't live without one (although we've both been happily vegan for many, many years without one). I love my immersion blender and my food processor. How many kitchen tools do I need to completely pulverise my food? I mean, I have great teeth in working order so why do I long to have things pureed? Do I really love smoothies and to be specific, green smoothies so much that I need to spend $500 which we currently do not have on a Vitamix?

I'm trying to be good and wait. Waiting for what? I always ask the kids to wait before making a purchase. Wait and make sure the "need" or desire for the item doesn't go away with a little time. Well, over the month I've waited...looking at my dead blender in the corner of the kitchen...mocking me. Watching summer fly by with all its kale and chard which has been consumed in many different and yummy ways, but alas not in my morning smoothie or my lunch smoothie or my after dinner smoothie. Sigh. No, the desire for a Vitamix is just growing stronger.

Waiting for money? Perhaps. Well, yes. I've started a change jar to help save for my Vitamix, but it is slow going my friends. Then I think of how $500 could go toward so many things...a kitchen remodel, a new fence, a new garage door, painting the kid's rooms and window treatments, a wood or pellet stove to actually keep us warm this winter...oh so many things.

So, I wait. Smoothie-less. Breville blender, your time with us was way too short. RIP.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

When it Has to Be Green

This lunch was from last week. We've been to a lot of parties and events lately with vegan cakes and goodies and I felt we needed a day of greens. Green on Green Soup, Whole Wheat Pasta with Pesto (based on the recipe in Vegan Planet, with basil and walnuts with more walnuts sprinkled on top), and Kale Chips. The kids loved picking the basil for the pesto from the garden and we enjoyed our greens on the porch with lovely weather.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Go Raw? Tempt-ing?

Sorry about the play on words, but it is late and I'm punchy. Here are a couple product reviews from today...

Go Raw Super Chips/Super Cookies:

The Go Raw display appeared at my local health food store and I was drawn to it, but thought to myself that I could make most of the stuff at home so no need to buy it packaged all nice and neat. Then today, after Dema and Josie had their blood drawn (I have to mention here that they are AMAZING! Both of them were so calm and cool and didn't mind a bit having this annual blood taken to test for lead, etc. The nurses were pretty blown away.) at the doctor, I thought we could all use a little treat. I bought Pumpkin Super Chips, Ginger Snaps, and Chocolate Super Cookies to try out a couple flavors. I went for the Chocolate Super Cookies first and they were quickly devoured. Ginger Snaps were next later in the day and Parker and Josie (my ginger lovers) ate the entire bag before I was able to get more than one. On the way to pick up the CSA share, Parker suggested we walk instead of bike and take the Pumpkin Super Chips (I think these were his favorite, but they were all well loved). I read the packaging on the walk back from picking up the produce and it sounds like a great company. We don't own a dehydrator anymore (gave it away years ago because we never used I'm sad), but I think I could probably make something similar in the oven on the lowest setting. I will buy these again when I'm feeling the need for some quick, but healthy snack. They will make great snacks for our homeschooling group days.

Tempt Hemp "Ice Cream":

I bought Edward and Sons ice cream cones on sale at Common Ground Co-op the other day. I thought they are nice to have on hand and we'd probably make some vegan ice cream at home before the summer was over, but then today I realized I hadn't tried Living Harvest Tempt non-dairy dessert and decided that was just not right. The kids loved it and I had a lick and liked it very much, but we all really like coconut and lime (that is the flavor we bought). So much so that for lunch I made a coconut lime rice noodle dish with carrots, broccoli, and cashews to go along with our kale chips. My kids have never had any ice cream that wasn't vegan and they love Hemp Milk so they are pretty easy to please on the non-dairy front, but I think most people would like this one. Not as decadent as Coconut Bliss, but quality and nice to have more soy free vegan ice cream options. It really is amazing how many different vegan dessert products are out there now!

Sunday, August 9, 2009


The ultimate summer sandwich, Tempeh Lettuce and Tomato:
The picture doesn't do this delight any justice. It was dark and I only had my iPhone which doesn't like to take pictures inside with poor lighting. The heirloom tomato from our backyard, farmer's market salad mix, and sauteed tempeh (in tamari, water, and a little oil) on German Sourdough Potato bread from Strawberry Fields and some Nayonaise*. This was supposed to be my sandwich, but Josie ate most of it so I had to make another (she ate half of the next one too). She is not a big fresh tomato person (she likes them in sauce, etc.), but she was begging for more. Since the greens aren't lettuce and I feel the Nayonaise made the sandwich. It could be called a TNT instead of TLT. Okay, I have to go make one now.

*When I first "went vegan", I preferred Nayonaise. I was a Miracle Whip (ugh!) eater as a child so that may have something to do with it (there are theories we vegans have about why vegans will like Nayonaise or Vegenaise and it can become quite heated). Anyway, I was converted at some point to Vegenaise and then, as I've posted before, I am now trying out lower fat versions. Well, I bought some Nayonaise on sale the other day at the co-op and decided to try it out. It was good...really good. Even Rob liked it and he was the one who converted me to Vegenaise in the first place. I checked the fat content...same as the Light Canola...hmmm. We may have a new favorite in the house. Tomato sandwiches are really the one thing that really calls for any kind of mayo in my opinion. Mustard and/or unsweetened ketchup is a preferred choice, but when it has to be mayo, I think it will be Nayonaise from now on.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Channa Masala and Raja's Cup

Yesterday was the Farmers Market on Historic First Street. I walked downtown with Parker (rare one-on-one time with my eldest) to buy some kale, onions, and salad mix from our favorite vegan vendor, The Gray's Farm. We also picked up the last pint of blueberries from another vendor because I can't pass up berries. On the walk home, we discussed what I should make for dinner and Parker mentioned our lovely dinner last Friday night at our friends, Gita and Seth's house. Gita made a marvelous Indian meal starting with samosas, going on with three different curries with bread and vegan raita (which is really a treat since we never get to eat the raita at restaurants and rarely make it ourselves), and ending with homemade pineapple sorbet. They even sent us home with leftovers in our To-Go Ware. Great food and wonderful company (Loretta with her beautiful family and my sister were also there). We finished up the night at Cynthia and Ernie's (all a block away...I love my neighborhood!) for highly entertaining music by Amy Rigby and more great company (including Dave who lives next to C and E and never ceases to put a smile on my face and who held Josie for a long time as they listened and waxed poetic about Josie being a surrogate grandchild). It was such a lovely night.I have no pictures from last Friday, but as Parker and I reminisced about our great night, he suggested we eat Indian food. Well, I had just seen a recipe for Channa Masala on The Voracious Vegan that I wanted to try out and thus diner was set. I used Roma tomatoes from our garden (they have been ripening a few at a time so I use them up as we go, but I expect before long I will need to can or freeze some). I forgot to take pictures that night, but this is leftovers for lunch today which the kids devoured. I mixed the brown rice together so it doesn't look pretty or saucy, but check out The Voracious Vegan for great pictures. I subbed panch phoran for the fenugreek and the kalonji since I had neither on their own and both are in panch phoran and I used hot curry powder because we like things spicy. We made some sun tea from our stash of teas my dear highschool friend, Julia (we recently reconnected, gotta love Facebook) brought to us from her new business July 4th weekend. The Raja's Cup tea iced was the perfect drink for a summer lunch of curry on the porch. I will definitely be stocking up on Raja's Cup. The kids loved it too. We drank the tea ou of canning jars which always reminds me of my fraternal grandfather, but his tea was probably Nestle and filled with sugar, but he was a farmer and even after he retired he worked three hard jobs which made him thirsty in the summer for his gallon of iced tea. Making sun tea in my glass gallon jar is so much fun. The kids look forward every morning to choosing what type of tea, filling the reusable organic cotton teach pouch with loose tea, filling the jar with water, and setting it outside in the perfect sunny spot. Then in the afternoon, they love enjoying a cold glass (or mason jar) of their tea. Scrumptious plums and the remaining farmers market blueberries were eaten as well, but not shown in the picture.
Today Josie is one month shy of two years old! She loves to plan her birthday party with her brothers. She already stated that she wants a cake made by the magnificent Kris with her two favorite beings as decoration (human babies and pigs...she loves them both so much). Here she is today in all her messy "tomboy" glory sitting in "her" tree trying to ignore me taking pictures with my iPhone.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Pizza Pizza

Friday night we had the best Indian food, prepared by our friend/neighbor, Gita. I'm always super appreciative of people who aren't veg who cook lovely vegan food for us. It is an extra special treat. The food was wonderful and I so wish I had a picture to share. Gita has energetic twin girls so I don't know how she cooks anything, but she made so much yummy food we didn't think we would need to eat for a week. Well, we skipped breakfast Saturday, but after the farmer's market we were in the mood for some "light" pizza...

Rainbow Pizza:

The kids' favorite pizza is fresh pineapple, carrots, kalamata olive, and kale. Oh, and with a sprinkle of nutritional yeast for good measure. It always looks like a rainbow to me.

Mushroom Pizza:One of our favorite farmers at the Market at the Square is Greg from Clay Bank Farm. He is sweet, funny, and has great produce. This week, Rob couldn't resist the mushrooms grown on a log in Greg's basement. They taste sooo much better than that sounds. Kale, green onion, mushrooms, carrots, sweet peppers, and nutritional yeast top this yummy scrummy pizza. It is all CSA, farmer's market, our garden except the kalamata olives, nooch, and the crust.