Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tester Tuesday - Black Bean Sunburgers

We rarely buy prepared vegan burgers, but when we do, we buy Sunshine Burgers.  So when I saw Black Bean Sunburgers listed on Robin Robertson's test recipe list, I knew I wanted to try this one out.  I have made my share of veggie burgers at home, but never a sunburger.  We were so happy with these burgers, I had to make this twice in one week.  The kids loved them, they are quick and easy, the texture is great, and best of all, they are sturdy!  For people who have not made veggie burgers, they may not understand what a big deal this is, but believe me, it can be hard to come by.  I have several vegan burger recipes I love, but I don't think I have ever made any before which could stand up to an outdoor grill.  I didn't try the grill since we've had snow on the ground all month, but I believe these burgers are grill worthy.
Black Bean Sunburger (Robin Robertson test recipe) on whole wheat bun with Vegenaise, pickles, ketchup, and avocado.  Side of orange slices and almonds, cashews, raisins, and dried cherries.  A lovely winter lunch for my gang.
Black Bean Sunburger on a whole wheat bun with guacamole, vegan cheese (Follow Your Heart brand), Vegenaise, ketchup, and sauerkraut.  Side of apple slices and peanut butter for dipping them.  Another winning lunch for the kids.  I will try making a big batch next and freezing them.  I'll let you know how they do.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Pad Thai and Mock Duck Product Review

I've mentioned before how much I love the Pad Thai recipe in 1,000 Vegan Recipes.  I've started doubling the sauce when I make pad thai for dinner so I can make more later in the week for quick lunch. The kids are always eager to help make Pad Thai, any time of day.  This time, Josie was cubing the tofu for me while I prepared the veggies.  I looked over to see how she was doing, I am never far away from my three year old with a knife, and she looked up at me with an apologetic grin.  She pointed to some of the tofu which looked more like scramble than cubed and said, "That is collateral damage tofu." and shrugged.  I don't know where she comes up with this stuff.
My co-host, Meat-free Mike gave me some canned mock duck a while back and I decided to add it to the Pad Thai.  I don't use canned foods often, but he knows we enjoy mock duck dishes when we eat out and I was happy to give it a try.  It had a texture which I haven't been able to duplicate with homemade seitan so it was a nice change and very convenient.  The ingredient list wasn't too bad so I could see buying this again sometime.  I'd like to try the mock duck in a curry next.  You should be able to find this product at your local Asian market.  Thanks, Mike!

Christmas 2010

Christmas tree 2010 (We've had this tree for ten years and we couldn't get the pre-strung lights to work and we gave up, but Parker came to the rescue and was able to save the tree and added colored lights to the mini tree to the side.  What would I do without my ten year old handyman?)
Dema and Josie with their stockings.  I am still not used to Dema's short haircut.  I think he looks so grown up these days.
Vicky had the kids over to her house, last week, for a top secret activity.  They came home with presents addressed to me.  So sweet!
Opening the presents the kids made for me at Vicky's house.  I was completely surprised.  I can't believe how long they kept it a secret.  Josie is wearing her new tutu, just like Teagan's.  The boys are being silly.  Way too much sugar this year, as you will see!
I love all the jewelry the kids made for me, with Vicky, but this bracelet from Parker is my favorite.
Katie's vegan rum balls (just for the adults) and Danielle's vegan spicy chocolate cookies.  Oh so yummy!
Seth's amazing vegan homemade caramel with chocolate and pecan topping.  Oh my!
Swedish Tea Ring from Vegan Dad  (Rob used soy milk instead of rice so the icing is a little dark, but delicious just the same!)
Mashed Potatoes and Gravy (just a wing it version of both), Swedish Tea Ring, Seitan and Vegetable Roulade from Vegan Appetite, and focaccia (Rob used kale instead of spinach in the Seitan and Vegetable Roulade, which we will definitely make again.)

Vicky and Greg gave the kids gifts and so did Margie and Rick.  The kids loved them all, and are excited about thinking of something to do, to show their appreciation.
It was so nice to spend a relaxing Christmas day with my sister, my dad, and our friend Stuart, who gifted us this beautiful rosemary plant.  It was so thoughtful and useful.  The kids are all still hopped up on sugar and spent the day putting together Lego and playing.  We shoveled a bit, but the snow was so pretty, I didn't mind.

I hope you all had a wonderful day!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

We have so much to be thankful for in our lives.  Yet, I am more than a little melancholy tonight.  The prospect of our last Christmas Eve on Davidson Park is very tough for me to wrap my head around.  When we moved, eleven years ago, to the Midwestern twin towns of my childhood, I was a little anxious.  I asked Rob to promise that we wouldn't end up dying here.  I know how C-U can suck people in.  It is the Bermuda Triangle of the Midwest.  There is something that keeps people here, even with the lack of natural beauty (we have no mountains nor ocean, just flat plains filled with corn or soybeans, as far as the eye can see) and entertainment (although, the downtowns are hopping compared to when I was a teenager).  This area is transient.  Many wonderful friends have come and gone when they are through with the university.  It is also a place many people come back to and never leave.  Manic depressive, our town is.  From the day we moved here, I expected our stay here to be short.  We have always been lucky to have nice people near us.  Yet, when we moved to our old house in a new to us neighborhood, four years ago, I truly understood why people stay.  We are surrounded by lovely people who are the most thoughtful humans on the planet.  We are gifted year round by their existence in our lives.  Just today we had several neighbors stop by unexpectedly, just to drop off vegan cookies, or say "Merry Christmas", or hang out and chat/play.  I didn't think this kind of community existed before living here and it is worth more to me than they will ever know.  I am unable to repay what they have given  us.

How can I do justice to Vicky and Greg?  They are so talented and generous.  Vicky is better than Martha Stewart, but so down to Earth and giving.  Greg is the neighborhood doctor with a fun sense of humor and always willing to help out.  Vicky's father is just as warm-hearted and sweet as he could be.  My kids have gained so much having them in their lives.  Parker has learned woodworking skills and all three kids learned to swim in their pool, but really there is so much more that is hard to put into words.  I can not imagine our lives without them in it.  To think, we were dreading the day when they would move to be closer to their grown children, yet here we are leaving first.

Margie and Rick, oh how do I explain how giving and wonderful they are.  Margie always listens to the kids and to us.  I only had to mention a need or the kids would mention a favorite color or toy and we would find the need met or the toy gifted or special presents in their favorite color.  Rick is so dependable and quiet, riding his bike around the neighborhood and working tirelessly on the house next door.  He always has a new joke for the kids, which they adore.  Margie, the artist, shared her love of art with Parker and taught him how to knit.  She is always so understanding and patient with Dema, in a way that is inspirational to me.  She spoils them all in a grandmotherly way.  Since my kids are growing up without any real grandmothers in their lives, this care is even more meaningful and precious to me.

Chandra and her boys, how they liven everything up.  Chandra brightens up my day, even if I just see her for a few minutes as she is always so busy.  She is beautiful inside and out with her nails and hair in the latest fashion and a voice made for singing.  She has the best sense of style and is an awesome mother for two amazing boys.  My kids are always happy to see her children at the park.  Her youngest has always looked after Dema and Josie.  It has been so much fun to see her eldest growing to be a young man.

Cynthia and Ernie, oh I'm sure you know them.  Cynthia is more honest and open with her life, than anyone I have ever met.  Their boys were one of the reasons we bought this house and they have been companions for my kids which will be impossible to replace.  I can't imagine summers without chatting with them outside, maybe with a drink or two, watching the kids play in the lot next to their house until it is too dark to see and the mosquitoes are too thick to ignore.  Their house concerts introduced some great music and musicians into our lives.  Summers will not be as sweet without our visits.  With them comes their neighbor, Dave, how I'll miss Dave.  You just can't be sad around Dave.  Josie will always have a place in her heart for Dave and his son.

Deborah and Scott, I can't bare it.  Their eldest is Dema's best friend and their youngest is Josie little boyfriend.  How special to be able to spend hours talking, have impromptu diners, take care of each others children at a moments notice, and their house is the only place Dema has ever felt comfortable sleeping over.  They have been a second set of parents to our kids, especially Dema, and true friends to us.

Bob, the grandfatherly professor of the neighborhood.  He is strong and fun.  He rides his bike to work and is the first one out snow blowing after a snow.  He always livens up the park when he comes out to visit.

Anthony and his family.  How we will miss talking politics and life with Anthony.  Conversation is always powerful and passionate with Anthony around.  I admire his sister's green thumb and how I wanted to learn so much from her as we slowly starting working our yard into a garden.  I always loved seeing his wife, Jean, riding home on her bike and enjoyed chatting with her at the park as we pushed our girls in the swings.

Gita and Seth.  Friday afternoon yoga with the kids which turns into Friday evening potluck dinners.  How my kids will miss Gita's pies and how I will miss seeing Seth's projects around the house.  Josie looks up to their girls, that year older being oh such a big deal at three.  She wants so much to be like them and we look up to Gita and Seth with the same admiration.

Aviva and Steve, who we stalk every time they came to the park.  Seeing them always makes my day better.  I will miss their bare feet, wit, and talking about local food.  They are so alive and involved and it is, thankfully, quite contagious.  Their adorable little daughter, who Dema has loved from her birth.  I can't imagine not seeing her grow up into a young woman.

Katie and Ian with their daughters and Jim and Danielle and their daughters.  How nice it was to have more girls in the park to keep up with Josie or for Josie to corrupt with her wild ways.  What will Rob do without sharing a beer with the guys as they try to master the slack line?  I lived vicariously through Katie and Danielle's pregnancies this summer and can't believe I won't see their babies learn to walk.

There are so many more, I can't list everyone here and it makes the tears come as I think of all the people we will miss.  Countless more people in the community at large, from the ones we see and know only enough to talk at the farmer's market to the ones we brunch with until into the evening.  We will miss each and every one.

I can't imagine ever living away from the park.  My life will be lacking when I can't walk out our door and live all day at the park, reading and learning, then playing at our park.  I can't imagine not having any more parties with 200+ people, in the house, the yard, at the park.  I gave birth to our last child in the room over-looking the park.  We buried two placentas in the yard and expected to grow lovely fruits and vegetables on the spot for years to come.  Literally and figuratively putting down roots with our gardening and living.  Now pulling them up makes me miss crazy things.  Our compost bins.  We moved compost across town, but we won't be moving it across the country.  I get sad when I think of our compost.  How silly!  Our cycling neighborhood.  How I will miss so many of our neighbors coming and going on their bikes.  Our car free life, a pain at times, but a luxury at others.  How I will miss being able to bike, bus, and walk for all our daily needs.  When we needed a vehicle, our neighbors, many listed above, were happy to hand over their keys to their car or give us a ride or pick up groceries when they were out.  So many lovely memories we have to hold onto, but our time here is ending way too quickly.  I had finally felt a desire to grow old here and now we must go.

As the snow falls peacefully, just as a perfect painting outside on my lovely neighborhood, I am warmed by the thought of so many people I love living nearby.  I am also sad because our time here has come to a close.  I wrap it all in a warm mental embrace and tuck it into a place in my heart where it will stay forever.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Wee Ones Wednesday - Cooking with Kids

I've decided, for the time being, to dedicate Wednesdays to my kids.  Here only for the food?  Skip out on Wednesdays.  Here to see the fam?  Wednesdays are your day.  Well, today I have food and family, a little something for everyone and I can't promise I won't go on about my kids on other days, but I am more motivated to post when I have cute names for the days of the week.  Deal.
Josie, 3 years old, woke up the other morning and asked if she could make breakfast.  I am happy for the kids to cook so I said yes, she could help.  No, she didn't want to help, she wanted to do it all.  Okay.  She also wanted to make pancakes, something the kids help with on a regular basis.  I asked if she wanted me to read off the ingredients and help her with the measuring and she said, no.  Alright.  I try not to argue with three year olds, unless absolutely necessary.  In my experience, the three year old brain is way beyond us mere mortal adults and has the tenacity of nothing else on the planet.  Add to this mix, the fact that despite their intellect, when challenged, they tend to throw all sense out the window. (Honey, the glass will break if you throw it on the concrete.  No it won't!!!  Crash, followed by tears.  This situation is easier to avoid when adults trust the children and don't challenge them to challenge us, but this is easier said than done.)  We arrived down in the kitchen and Josie started asking for ingredients...."Mom, give me the flour."  I handed her the ingredients she asked for and strategically got out the proper measuring tool for the job.  I would politely suggest two of cups of flour and she was happy to go with my suggestion.  She asked for all the ingredients we normally put in pancakes, she forgot the name of baking powder, but had me pick her up and she pointed to it.  I was pretty impressed and made a mental note that we've been making way too many pancakes lately.  When the batter was ready and the skillet heated up, I moved in to take over.  Me:  "Josie, pouring the batter can be messy and tricky so I'll do that part."  Josie (without missing a beat):  "Mom, I need to try, trust me to make my own mistakes."  How could I argue with that?  She poured the batter and flipped the pancakes by herself, until the boys clamoured for their breakfast and she joined them in the dining room to dine on her blueberry coconut pancakes.  The kids were on a kiwi kick for a few weeks while they were available (and on sale...score!) at the co-op so she cut  up some "kiwi salad".  She also made grits (this is pretty easy, but she did her normal peeling of the garlic and I pressed it for her) and added the hot sauce.  She also set up the photo, complete with insisting the shot have her hand since she had made the breakfast.  As the kids were eating and I was finishing the last of the batter, they asked if they could add kiwi  and tangerine slices to the pancakes as they cooked.  I was pretty sure kiwi blueberry coconut pancakes would not be a taste sensation, but they turned out really well.  The tangerine ones, not so much, but that is how we learn in the kitchen, trial and error.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained.  I know it is a cliche, but kids, they grow up so fast.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tester Tuesday - Three-Nut Cheeze Whiz

Another excellent tester recipe from Robin Robertson's new cookbook.  This one is called Three-Nut Cheeze Whiz and I think the better name would be Three-Nut Crack.  It is delicious on everything and addictive!
The first time I made Three-Nut Cheeze Whiz, I served it over whole wheat pasta with steamed broccoli and peas.  I took a bite and was instantly transported back to my childhood.

This sauce is the mac and cheese sauce I grew up on.  Sure, my mom used Velveeta and cow's milk in hers, but I swear this sauce is spot on.  It seems that most Americans have a certain, special way of preparing mac and cheese.  Some bake theirs with bread crumbs, some like to mimic the boxed sauce of their childhood.  Mac and cheese was the dish I asked for, as a child, when I had a choice of what was to eat.  My mom prepared the white pasta (she was particular about the brand, maybe De Cecco, that part of my memory is fading after years of buying my own organic whole wheat pasta, but I do remember she would get put out with my father if he didn't buy her favorite brand) in a big green pot.  She would melt the Velveeta, cow's milk, and maybe some margarine and black pepper to pour over the strained pasta.  She never added vegetables to her mac and cheese, but I rarely make mac and cheeze without veggies.  We have probably a dozen cheeze sauces we love and use on pasta, but this one will always have a special place in my heart.  In the picture, I added freshly ground red pepper flakes and gomasio.  I think my mother would approve.  I've often thought that if my mother was still alive and continued to explore vegan cooking, her style would be a lot like Robin Robertson's.  Thank you, Robin, for providing recipes for such warming comfort foods, which take me back, without compromising on my ethics.
The second time I made Three-Nut Cheeze Whiz, I served it over brown rice, sauteed kale, steamed carrots, and fried tofu.  Oh my!  This was even better than the pasta!  I had to force myself to stop eating bowl after bowl of the brown rice and kale with this sauce.  My mother always tried to get me to eat my broccoli by smothering it in cheese sauce.  It didn't work.  Now I adore greens, but I still think the Three-Nut Cheeze Whiz sauce makes them even better.  This might be just the encouragement some kids need to eat their vegetables.  I can't wait to explore even more uses for this fabulous sauce.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Miscellaneous Monday - Animal Rescue Team

I think I've mentioned before, but I'll say it again.  We love books!  We own way too many of them, yet we still go to the local libraries up to three times a week to check out more.  The kids love to listen to a book together so I read hours and hours of books to them, but I also rely on audio books.  This way, I get a break, they get to hear other readers (for us, an audio book can be a yea or nay, depending on the reader), I am able to do some housework while they are mesmerized by the story, and the kids can listen as they drift off to sleep with no lights on.  We have so many books I intend to review, but Animal Rescue Team Gator on the Loose by Sue Stauffacher is this week's pick.

We have been in need of light and fun entertainment, lately.  My grandfather passed away (more on this in a later post) and my husband was laid off so there has been quite a lot weighing on all our minds, especially the kids.  They are super sensitive to our moods and to life changes.  Our three are at very different developmental stages and with three distinct personalities, so they have different ways of dealing with grief and loss.  This also makes it challenging, at times, to find a book which will be of interest to them all.  The Animal Rescue Team series seems to fit the bill.

Of course, the animals is what originally caught my eye for this audio book.  As vegans, I have always gone out of my way to pick books which portray animals as respected beings.  A large portion of our children's books are nonfiction books about animals or fiction books about people respecting nature and all creatures.  Unfortunately, even in the best books, there is often meat-eating as part of the story.  The kids were quick to pick up on Charlotte's Web and the consumption of bacon.  This in itself can lead to interesting reflections.  Animal Rescue Team Gator on the Loose is no different, food plays a part, possibly a bigger part than one would expect.  While there is certainly animal eating, I was pleasantly surprised to hear quite a lot of talk about jicama and other foods which don't often make it into children's books.  One of my pet peeves is children's books which promote over-consumption of junk foods.
Although we listened to the audio book, it was clear from the cover that the family in the book is biracial and multi-generational.  Two big pluses before we even listened to a word.  Listen, we did, and all three of my kids (3, 6, and almost 11 years old) loved the book.  The book has a great family focus with lots of community.  The inter-sibling relationships are believable, yet adorable.  The family rescues wild animals and returns them to the wild, when possible.  There was just the right amount of factual information about the wild animals for us all to learn something and spark interest in learning more.  This information was presented in a fun and engaging way so as not to bore or lose the younger audience.   The story was interesting enough for me to listen along with the kids.  We can't wait to visit the library for the next book in this series.  If you have animal lovers in your family, you might want to check it out.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tester Tuesday - Tempeh Normandy

 I'm testing recipes for Robin Robertson's new cookbook (Yes, the author of my "magical" vegan cookbook, 1,000 Vegan Recipes, is coming out with yet more delicious dishes to share with everyone.  How does she continue to come up with all these wonderful new recipes?  This woman is amazing!  When does she sleep?) and here is the first blog post about one of the latest tester recipes.  I made Tempeh Normandy last night and served it wish noochy mashed potatoes and tangerine slices.  I have never eaten a Normandy dish, to my knowledge, so I was intrigued by the ingredients. The first bite seemed surprisingly sweet, but it quickly grew on me.  So much so that Rob and I were eyeing the kids' plates hoping they didn't want to finish their portions.  This dish is something I would love to double and serve to guests.  It was quick and easy to prepare with only one ingredient we don't normally have on hand, but something I would be happy to stock in the future.  The meal was hearty without being to heavy with an addictive taste.  I can't wait to make it again!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Confession Time

I have a secret I just need to get off my chest.  I just can't hold it in any longer.  After over a decade of giving something up, I have found myself secretly addicted.  I am ashamed and elated at the same time.  I didn't realize what I had been missing, but now that I have had a taste again, I fear I will never deprive myself again.  Sure, during the last ten years I've had a bit here and there, usually in times of weakness or stress.  Once in a while, in times of boredom or when I was in need of comfort.  It usually isn't my idea to indulge, but I am am weak and find myself caving at the suggestions of others, even when my ethics would have me abstain.  Yes, my dear readers, I can no longer call myself completely....tv-free.  (Bows head in shame.)  We still don't own a TV, but my well-meaning husband bought us a new computer as my six year old Mac was dying a slow, painful death.  The screen is big enough for me to see figures without a microscope so the temptress which might be named Netflix has enveloped me in its grasp and I may never break free.  My also well-meaning friend, Charity, happened to mention, at a girls night out, a BBC series she had watched and it piqued my interest.  I thought I could just watch one episode, after everyone else had gone to bed, but I found myself quickly engulfed in the story (okay so several of the characters are easy on the eyes) to the point of late night/early morning marathons of this show.  Tears of shame slowly ran down my cheek as I experienced almost orgasmic pleasure in the drug of a nation I had shunned for so long.  Too long.  I have decided that not all drugs are detrimental and I no longer think it is unethical to watch the boob tube.  In fact, I think it is natural and I have been going against my human desires too long.  Possibly at the risk of my own health and sanity.  I feel more energetic now that I've been watching well into the early morning.  In fact, I have found that I can operate fine on no sleep some days.  I sleep deeper and more satisfied on the nights I do sleep.  How did I ever think that staring at a screen and getting involved in the imaginary lives of others was not healthy?  I am proud that I have come out of the closet.  Now I will save you the thousands of words I could have typed up and finish this post so I can watch BBC's Robin Hood with my honey.  Chow!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Tempeh with Potatoes and Cabbage or Farewell VeganMoFo

Tempeh with Potatoes and Cabbage (1,000 Vegan Recipes) and Berry Smoothie (by Parker)

If there is one vegetable Rob and I don't reach for often, it is cabbage.  I don't know why, but we rarely buy it and when it comes in a CSA share, I leave it until I have to make something with it.  The one exception is sauerkraut.  We love sauerkraut and Rob has been known to eat it straight from the jar.  Sauerkraut is what saved me from making a mistake and overlooking this recipe from 1,000 Vegan Recipes forever.  I had a package of tempeh in the back of the refrigerator that was dangerously close to going into the compost bin when I decided to open 1,000 Vegan Recipes to see if any of the tempeh recipes spoke to me.  I don't know why I even looked at Tempeh with Potatoes and Cabbage because it doesn't really sound super appealing and I had no cabbage.  I looked anyway and I am so glad I did!  I, obviously, used Robin's sauerkraut option she mentions at the beginning of the recipe so I can't vouch for plain ole cabbage, but I might buy some just to try it out.  This dish is that good.  She says it is "stick-to-your ribs cold-weather comfort food" and she is right.  It is also one of those meals my family was talking about days after.  It is oh so easy and I served it over whole wheat pasta just because, but I think it would be great by itself or over brown rice or quinoa.  Vegan sour cream is an optional ingredient and I just happened to have a bit also in the back of the refrigerator needing to be used or composted.  I love it when meals just come together and I get to clean out my refrigerator at the same time.  Parker completed the meal by throwing some frozen berries (I think he used blueberries and blackberries), flax seeds, beets, almond milk, and rolled oats in the Vitamix for a tasty dessert.
Don't forget to head over to Vegan MoFo Headquarters to make sure you didn't miss out on any notable posts this November.  It was so nice to read new blogs and see old favorites do a bit more blogging this month.  See ya in December.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Seitan Noodle Casserole and Broccoli Soup

 Broccoli Soup (loosely based on V-con recipe) and Seitan Noodle Casserole (from 1,000 Vegan Recipes)

A family pleaser from the week before Thanksgiving.  Often I have dinner to put on the table and then I need to run to a meeting or the gym so I like to have meals I can stick in the oven or let simmer on the stove.  This way the food is ready when people are ready to eat, but I can cook when it works into my schedule for the day.  As I've stated before, I'm not a huge plan ahead kind of gal, but I do have key ingredients in the back of my mind.  I asked Rob to cook up a double batch of Simple Seitan from Veganomicon since we hadn't made seitan in a while.  The double batch was added to a wide variety of dishes throughout the week.  On this particular night, I searched my magic cookbook (1,000 Vegan Recipes) for seitan and the above is what I came up with.  Seitan Noodle Casserole is satisfying comfort food.  It is also a great way to get non-mushroom loves to eat them.  I used whole wheat pasta and topped it with chopped walnuts instead of vegan Parmesan.  I started making Broccoli-Potato Soup with Fresh Herbs from Veganomicon, but I was low on fresh herbs so I winged it (adding za'atar, of course, because I'm obsessed).  I also used sweet potatoes from our garden instead of white potatoes.  Broccoli soup is super nutritious, fulfilling, versatile, and delicious.  If I don't know what make to go with a main dish, in cool weather broccoli soup is often the answer.

 Crispy Tofu with Sizzling Caper Sauce (from 1,000 Vegan Recipes)

Here is a bonus picture of Crispy Tofu with Sizzling Caper Sauce from 1,000 Vegan Recipes.  We've already made it again since our first experience.  This is also a great quick addition to any meal.
As VeganMoFo 2010 draws to a close, I was reflecting on how often to blog and find that while I didn't write every day in November, by a long shot, I do enjoy updating the ole blog more often.  I have several posts in my drafts folder and in my mind.  I think my kids might get more involved as well.  My ten year old, Parker, is starting a homeschooling project today and he would like to share it with all of you when he is done.  Sometimes, I will log what we eat for a week or two to see how it stacks up nutritionally or to help others see what we eat.  This time, Parker is logging and choosing all his food himself.  He will use the nutrition info online to see how he does for a week.  He'll do a guest post at the end of the week to let you know what he learned.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving Present

When we finally made the decision this year to stay home, Rob had already arranged for a week off from work.  He decided to go ahead with the time off, even with more layoffs looming, so we could get some things done on the house and maybe relax a bit.  We went back and forth on what to do for Thanksgiving and we went with Rob's idea of an Indian food feast.  As I've mentioned before, we all enjoy Indian culture and food so it seemed like a great plan.  Rob and I have issues with Thanksgiving and what it is supposed to celebrate.  Of course, a day of gratitude I can get behind, but the horrible history of genocide and deceit should make the Thanksgiving myth hard for any of us to swallow.  We have friends who fast on Thanksgiving and I understand their reasons.  We've decided to take back Thanksgiving and make it a time of deep thought, reflection, and a time to count our blessings.  We both loved the irony of feasting on cuisine from the the area in the world which was the destination for Columbus, which had an impact beyond imagination on the people of the time.
One of the things Rob is particularly grateful for this year is spices.  So incredibly appropriate for our celebration.  We do love our spices and we are so very abundantly endowed.
We have an entire little table to hold our most often used spices and a cabinet for our more exotic spices or surplus of other spices, since we usually buy organic in bulk and refill old spice jars.
We think a lot about what we eat and where it comes from and spices are sometimes taken for granted these days, but spices have a long and important history which has touched more than just food.
I know, I know, get to the food.  Rob started cooking Wednesday night because he just couldn't wait.  There was a Diwali celebration at his office, a couple weeks ago, and Rob cooked up over ten pounds of chole/channa masala (an Indian chickpea curry) for the event and one of his friends loaned him traditional dress (see picture above).  The recipe he used was from Manjula's Kitchen website.  It was quite good and disappeared quickly so he was tempted to use the same recipe.  I talked him into using The Asian Vegan Kitchen because we were so taken with the aloo gobi.  At first, Rob was worried the channa masala was going to disappoint, but it ended up being one of his favorites from our Thanksgiving spread.  I think making it the night before was genius because Indian is so much better the next day, after the spices have a chance to meld.
Our buffet with aloo gobi (Cauliflower and Potato with Spices from The Asian Vegan Kitchen), baingan bburta (Spicy Roasted Eggplant Curry from The Asian Vegan Kitchen), and channa masala (Chickpea Curry from The Asian Vegan Kitchen).  You can also see the pumpkin in the background which our neighbor, Margie, gave us before Halloween and Dema cut and cleaned so I would make the pumpkin pie I had promised him since the pumpkins arrived.  Yes, we had pumpkin pie for dessert.  I was going to make sheera (Semolina Pudding which is Indian, but we went with the pumpkin pie for Dema instead).
The okra drying for the bhindi masala (Rob used the recipe from Manjula's Kitchen).  We had okra all over the kitchen.  Bhindi is one of my favorite ways to eat okra.
Gita and her family came over for Thanksgiving.  We've been talking about having an Indian potluck for a while and this was a great excuse to do it.  Gita is an expert with Indian and she brought Mutter Paneer, which was a real treat because we never eat paneer in restaurants since it is a cubed cheese.  Gita used frozen tofu thawed then fried for the paneer, with great success.  It was one of Dema's favorite dishes of the day.  Gita brought raita with soy yogurt, a cooling condiment we rarely eat unless we are at Gita's.  Gita also brought basmati rice, her rice cooker, and spices to make lovely rice and she made the dough to fry poori.  For some reason, the poori did not really puff up much, but deep fried bread is a hit either way.  Rob made aloo paratha from Manjula's Kitchen for our bread contribution and biryani (from The Asian Vegan Kitchen) for our rice contribution.  The biryani soaked cooked for a little too long so it was a tad sticky, but we'll definitely make it again when timing is not an issue.  Not pictured is Gita's perfect gin and tonics and the pumpkin pie (see that below with the picture of leftovers).  We chatted with Gita and her family almost into the next day.  When we finally went to bed, we were warm and full.
Obviously, we made enough food to feed several families so we had lots yummy leftovers.  Indian is always better leftover, in my opinion, so we were super happy to indulge in homemade Indian food for a couple days after.  Here is breakfast Friday with mango juice (don't know why I didn't remember we had this on Thanksgiving).   Our Thanksgiving this year was aromatic, delicious, nontraditional, and oh so enjoyable.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Ghost of Thanksgiving Past

This year we decided to stay home for Thanksgiving and we had a lovely Indian feast.  Our friends/neighbors, Gita and Seth came with their girls and my sister was here, but I'll cover this year tomorrow.  Today I don't feel like uploading pictures and I still have some dishes to do so I'll share last year's Thanksgiving instead.  I never posted about Thanksgiving 2009 because we spent the week in North Carolina visiting Rob's family.  I always feel so busy when we arrive home that I don't get around to blogging about our trips.
Thanksgiving 2009 was very traditional, or at close as we get.  We stayed most of the week with Rob's cousins John and Jamie. They are so incredibly sweet and generous to open up their home to a family of five, especially when they don't have any human children (horses at their country place and dogs and the dogs had to spend most of the time outside because they don't do well with kids).  Not only did we stay several nights, but on Thanksgiving Rob's family, on his mother's side, converged on their house for lunch.  Here is a picture of some of the kids.  My kids only have one first cousin (my brother and sister don't have any children) so they adore getting together with extended family and running around with a hoard of cousins.
One of the nice things about spending Thanksgiving in North Carolina is the weather.  We had beautiful weather so the kids could spend a good portion of the day running around outside and some of us ate outside in John and Jamie's beautiful yard.  What a contrast to Thanksgiving this year in the Midwest.  It was cold and rainy and we even saw the first snow of the season.  As nice as this year's Thanksgiving was, I have to admit looking back at these pictures does make me appreciate this part of our celebration last year.
John and Jamie were gracious with their kitchen and we pretty much had the run of it to cook up our vegan fare.  Rob has been vegan over twenty years, but I fear many in his family still don't quite understand it.  We made collards and when people arrived with collards (as all good Southerns do on Thanksgiving) they questioned why we went to the trouble to make our own.  Our collards were the only ones not "seasoned" with meat, of course.
I also whipped up some Car Crash Casserole and Field Roast Sausage.  Rob's sister-in-law, Stephanie, roasted some squash which rounded everything out nicely.  The food was great and none of us went hungry.  It was hard for the kids to see a turkey being carved, but it was a good time to discuss how to respect our loved ones, even when we don't agree with certain actions.  I feel torn sometimes about how much to suppress or discourage certain questions from the kids.  Dema, especially, feels compelled to ask people about their food choices and bring up the cruelty involved in meat.  While I understand where he is coming from, I think there are times and places for such discussions and our views on the subject are not a secret.  Sigh, I'll save this for another post, but holidays with family are always bittersweet, veganism or no.
Speaking of sweet, we made two Double-Layer Pumpkin Cheesecakes from Fat Free Vegan and it was divine.  Sadly, pretty much no one else would try it...being a "vegan" dessert and all, but there was a brave soul or two.  More for us! Other sweet parts of our holiday included Dema on cloud nine playing cards with everyone, all the cousins running around laughing and jumping rope, Rob's uncle's wife from Russia teaching Parker new logic games, seeing the newest additions to the family so Josie and I could get our baby fix, watching The Count of Monte Cristo with Rob's nuclear family in the evening after everyone else had gone and our kids and their cousin, Lillian, sneaking down to watch long after they should have been in bed, Josie passing out from exhaustion after playing and laughing for so many hours straight, and all the adults catching up on each others lives.  It makes me miss Rob's mother, although she died from cancer in her early fifties, years before I met him.  It makes me miss Rob's grandparents, whom I did know and love, and how they hosted Thanksgiving every year before his grandmother passed away.  The family is still feeling their way through losing their matriarch, which is understandable.  It was so lovely how everyone made it a priority to get together even without the glue of the Joyce and how new traditions may be able to emerge.
On the long drive home to Illinois from North Carolina, we stopped at Stephanie's parents' cabin in the mountains.  Stephanie and Marc (Rob's brother) and their daughter Lillian are also quite accommodating and generous with their time and space.  Visiting them is always the highlight of any trip south.  The five of us crash for a couple nights at their house nearly every trip.  Stephanie's parents are so sweet to the kids and we all love visiting them.  Their getaway house in the mountains is beautiful and being from the flat Midwest, I completely understand the allure of such a place.
Since Dema was not exactly cooperating in the group picture, I snapped some of him at the Indianapolis Children's Museum.  We've found Indy is a great stop before we make the final leg of our trip and the museum lets the kids get some suppressed energy out.
All three kids love ICM and are happy to spend hours there, but while I love to have a break, I'm usually pretty spent from all the driving and living out of suitcases.  This year it was nice to stay home and cook in our own kitchen.  I would love for Rob's family to come to our place one Thanksgiving, but I know this will probably never happen.  Being the odd ones out, living out of state, the traveling is usually ours to do.  So we enjoy my family and friends when we have holidays at home.  I'll post about our 2010 Thanksgiving feast tomorrow.  I hope all of you in the US had a great Thanksgiving and some rest and relaxation.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

'Tis the Season

 Does anyone else out there have difficulty resisting seasonal non-dairy milks?  Come on, admit it, they are addicting.  I know they have more calories than eating a spoonful of sugar, but I can't help myself with the pretty packaging and the allure of something which is only around for a limited time.  I make myself feel better by cutting a glass of seasonal succulence with enriched non-flavored non-dairy milk and lately even adding DHA (more on that in a later post), but I still indulge.  Oh yes, I do!
Sauteed kale with scrambled tofu and hash browns help to round out our breakfast of Pumpkin Spice Silk (complete with a pinch of Ceylon cinnamon).

Monday, November 22, 2010

Slow-Simmered Collard Greens

This past Saturday was the Thanksgiving potluck for our local Vegan Meet-up group.  In the stereotypical S(tandard)A(merican)D(iet) Thanksgiving fashion, we all stuffed ourselves silly and appeared to be in food comas for a few minutes.  The food was just so good!  I wish I had pictures, but alas, I was too busy stuffing my face and helping the kids' fill their bellies (Rob was at a friend's 50th birthday party so he missed out).
 I did take a picture of the leftovers from the dish we contributed (Rob actually cooked it, but I picked it out), Slow-Simmered Collard Greens from 1,000 Vegan Recipes.  Yes, I am the one who brings the greens to the party.  I figured mashed potatoes and seitan dishes would be abundant and we all needed a little green to round out our meal.  I feel a bit like the Vegan Meet-up den mother encouraging the kids to eat their greens, but don't write this dish off too fast.  The optional and I would say "secret" ingredient in Robin's recipe is chipotle chili in adobo sauce.  I am a fan of chipotle chilis in adobo sauce and often have the remainder of a can in the refrigerator since a little goes a long way.  The little chipotle zing was what transformed a possibly obligatory eating of the greens to a "Who made the collards?!" kind of dish.  People were pleasantly surprised and asking for the special ingredient.
I baked up some tofu for Sunday breakfast and Rob and I enjoyed the last of the collards as the kids got stuck with the apple walnut steal cut oatmeal and whole wheat blueberry pancakes.  We didn't feel like sharing.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Aloo Gobi or Cauliflower and Potato with Spices

Oh how I've missed blogging.  My computer completely bit the dust in the middle of VeganMoFo.  I am up and running on a new machine and can't wait to share so many different foods we've been enjoying over the last week and a half.
The other day while surfing my local library website, I put a few vegan cookbooks on hold.  A short decade or so ago, I would just buy any cookbook with the word vegan in the title.  Vegan cookbooks were few and far between.  Now, it seems everyone has a vegan cookbook out, even non-vegans.  While, I am pleased to see veganism crowding the shelves in bookstores, I am not so quick to snatch up each and every vegan cookbook with my hard earned money.  I love to be able to test drive a cookbook by borrowing it from my local library.  One of the cookbooks I have on loan this month is The Asian Vegan Kitchen Authentic and Appetizing Dishes from a Continent of Rich Flavors by Hema Parekh.  This cookbook attracted me because it features vegan recipes from all over Asia, but I didn't have high hopes.  We have quite a few Indian and Thai cookbooks and still find ourselves scouring YouTube for cooking videos and blogs for tried and true recipes.

Our love of Indian food and culture is no secret.  My first love, when introduced to Indian food years ago, was Aloo Gobi.  A spicy mixture of potatoes and cauliflower sealed my fate, to forever adore Indian cuisine.  Since my love affair began, years ago, I have branched out to many other dishes as my love of darker vegetables evolved and the pale Aloo Gobi is no longer my go-to dish when eating Indian in a restaurant or at home.  It has been way too long since I tasted the dish which sparked my interest in all things Indian. 
Rob cooked the first recipe from The Asian Vegan Kitchen on my prodding to whip up some Aloo Gobi.  OMG!  The house was soon filled with an amazing aroma and my mouth was literally watering.  When we finally sat down to eat, I was not disappointed.  The dish was probably the best Aloo Gobi I have ever tasted.  In some restaurants, I find Aloo Gobi a tad greasy.  Not so with Hema Parekh's version.  It was spot on.  The perfect amount of spice, we like things spicy at Case Vegan Linda, but it wasn't so spicy to induce water chugging and nose blowing.  We served it over brown rice, although basmati would have been more traditional.  I wouldn't change a thing.  Parker had two large servings and all Rob cooked was consumed in record time, although Rob and I intentionally restrained ourselves.  We will be making this dish again (Rob assures me it was quite simple) and we look forward to trying so many of Hema's other recipes.  She covers India, Japan, China, Thailand, Vietnam, Burma, Indonesia, Malysia, and Korea.  Her forward is delightful and she talks about how she tried to stay with recipes which are traditionally vegan instead of relying on a lot of substitutions.  Hema titles her recipes as English descriptions, but includes the traditional dish's name as well.  Appetizing pictures are included, which always makes me happy.  We've already decided this is a cookbook we must own.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Crispy Tofu with Sizzling Caper Sauce

When I first started cooking from Vegan Planet, I was intimidated by the long or expressive sounding titles to Robin's recipes.  I quickly got over this and realized although the titles were great and very descriptive, it didn't necessarily mean the recipe was difficult.  Now I look forward to seeing what Robin comes up with in each new cookbook.
Tonight my sister had a friend over for dinner so I felt a little more pressure to make something good and hearty, but I ended up with just one hour to decide what to make and cook it.  I decided on Chickpea Noodle Soup from Veganomicon because we had chickpeas in the refrigerator and Parker has been asking for this soup.  I realized too late, I didn't have an udon noodles, or noodles of any kind, so I subbed some star pasta, we had in the deep dark corners of the cabinet.  I ended up adding more water to account for the different type of pasta, but it turned out fine and even easier for the kids to eat than noodle soup.  I'll have to make it with star pasta from now on.  I didn't want to just serve soup, especially since the weather is super warm for November this week.  I went to my favorite "go to" cookbook (1,000 Vegan Recipes) and looked under her fast recipes (they are labeled and indexed).  I only had 15 minutes before our guest would arrive and I really had no clue what to pick.  Then Crispy Tofu with Sizzling Caper Sauce caught my eye.  Anything with capers is pretty much a must make in our house.
I doubled the recipe so we were a little late sitting down at the dinner table, since I had to fry the tofu in batches, but it was a complete hit. The guest even took the last few pieces home with him which always makes me happy.  It didn't photograph well in kitchen after dark, but you can see the top view and side view.  I promise it tastes much better than it looks.
Rob can't wait for us to make this dish again.