Sunday, April 25, 2010

Kids Cooking, Consuming, and Creating

Josie and Her Green Smoothie
Most days we drink at least one green smoothie. Often they are red or purple, but 99% of them contain greens of some kind (kale, chard, collards, etc.) and Josie thinks they are all picture/blog worthy. Problem is, she is usually a mess, but she insists I take the picture anyway. Green smoothies are not for parents who like their kids super clean or my kids are just super messy. Anyway, she is sad that these smoothie pictures never show up on my blog so here ya go. She is a little less messy in this one, believe it or not. Most of our smoothies contain greens, various fruits, nuts, water (sometimes a vegan milk), flax seeds, and recently the kids talked me into buying Vega Smoothie Infusion. I think it is a tad chalky tasting, but the kids insist it takes great. I'm not a protein or any type of powder person, but I thought I'd try it out. We will use it up, but I can't say yet if we'll buy more. Here is a review from a fellow vegan blogger which makes me think it will grow on me like the hemp shake powder.

Parker's Painting
Parker painted this a few months ago when he wanted to do something nice for our neighbor/friend who was going through a lot at the time. He knew she liked flowers and thought the bright colors would cheer her up and the leaves are intentionally hearts. He hasn't painted much since because another wonderful neighbor has taken him under her wing and is teaching him knitting. Parker loves it. Soon he will take pottery again through the local park district (his favorite class to date). He loves anything artistic, but doesn't get enough art time away from his younger sibs who do not make it easy to concentrate and who always want to "help".

Perfect Pancakes from Vegan Brunch, Vanilla Ice Cream from Vitamix cookbook (Parker made), thawed wild blueberries, Cheesey Grits with hot sauce

Parker takes after me and can be found thumbing through vegan cookbooks on any given day. He loves to read the recipes and find new things to make or inspiration for his own creations. One such time, Parker was flipping through the cookbook which came with our beloved Vitamix. We were very low on ingredients in the house so the only recipe he found which we wouldn't have to substitute something was the Vanilla Ice Cream. I decided to make dinner into breakfast and he could top the pancakes with the ice cream. You have to eat it really quickly because it starts to melt immediately, but it tasted a lot like the homemade dairy ice cream I remember from my childhood. It was fun and easy to make. Parker had the idea to top it all with blueberries from the freezer and this made them complete. The cheesey grits are always a favorite any time of day. We love hot sauce and each member (including Josie, our two and half year old) has his/her own special hot sauce. Thus, grits means five hot sauce bottles on the table.

Ginger-Pear Pancakes (made by Parker) from 1,000 Vegan Recipes
We eat a lot of pears. We also eat a lot of ginger. Josie has been know to eat raw ginger from time to time. Parker often is the first one downstairs in the morning and he loves to whip up some of these Ginger-Pear Pancakes from 1,000 Vegan Recipes. Smelling these pancakes gets the rest of us up in a hurry! We use white whole wheat flour, of course, date sugar (date sugar is perfect in this recipe!), and canola oil instead of melted Earth Balance or apple sauce instead of any oil. Picture by Parker.
Blueberry Banana Pancakes by Parker (just a wing it thing)
We were out of ginger and pears one morning so Parker decided to make blueberry and banana pancakes instead. He just made up the recipe. The funny thing is we noticed weeks later that the recipe after Ginger-Pear Pancakes in 1,000 Vegan Recipes is Banana-Blueberry Pancakes. Neither one of us had noticed that before. We'll have to try Robin's version sometime. These were delish, but Parker didn't keep track of exactly how he made them. Picture by Parker.
Avocado Hummus Za'atar Sandwich on Veggie Seed Bread by Josie
Josie wanted to make her own sandwich a few weeks ago. She got everything out, came up with the combination herself, helped me make the hummus, cut the avocado, spread everything, and took the picture with my iphone. I cut the sandwich. She loves za'atar and would put it on almost anything. In fact, when we ran out of za'atar the other day she broke down and cried on the kitchen floor. I think she might have a past life which was not based in Midwestern America.

Chickpea and Vegetable Curry

I've mentioned before that I tested some recipes for 1,000 Vegan Recipes. One of the recipes is now called Coconut-Peanut Chickpeas and Vegetables in the cookbook. It is similar to the Chickpea and Vegetable Curry so it might look a little familiar.
Chickpea and Vegetable Curry from 1,000 Vegan Recipes. In this picture I pretty much followed the recipe, but added cashews for garnish, omitted the white potatoes, and served over brown rice.
This time I served it over quinoa and subbed sweet potatoes for the white potatoes (I am doing this more and more with great results. Sweet potatoes are so much better for you than the white potato and I've read that white potatoes are one of the most consumed vegetable in America. As I say over and over again, a varied diet is key, in my opinion, to health so why not reach for your sweet potatoes.) I subbed blackstrap molasses for sugar and I didn't have enough chickpeas so I subbed cashews for the rest of the chickpeas. I used jarred jalapeno peppers for the canned green chilies. It was so delish, I think I'll make it this way every time.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Beautiful, Intense, and Amazing

This is how I think of my second birthing experience. This is also how I think of its result. Demetrius (Dema), my second born turned six today. Six years ago I had a life altering experience. Yes, every birth is life altering. The family is changed forever and a new life emerges into the world. The world full of human beings. A world, possibly, over full of human beings. It is extremely significant and awesomely insignificant depending on if you look at the macro or micro level. Just the same, a change. Life is altered.

With Dema, my life was altered in profound ways that I still do not quite understand. I didn't know it at the time, but the timing of his birth both in season (Spring) and time of day (early morning) was telling. More so than anything or anyone else in my life, Dema has made me look at myself. Sometimes I do not enjoy what I see. Sometimes is hard and painful. Sometimes it makes me so happy that my heart breaks from joy. When I see him touch other people when he doesn't even try, it shocks and amazes me.

His intensity is not easy for me and it showed itself at an early age. He was a super easy baby. He has always been a great sleeper. I could take him anywhere and everywhere. I just wore him in a carrier and he was happy. However, when he did get upset, he would crawl under the bed and was inconsolable for a few minutes. We thought it was funny at the time because he would crawl out all better and ready for the cuddling that he loved/loves so much, but now after knowing him for six years, I see how his strong feelings, be it love or frustration or happiness or pain, can be tough for me. Tough, but oh so necessary. I have been "born again" through my life with Dema. Birth is beautiful, birth is amazing, and for me it has always worked best if I just went with it. I have never had a problem doing this when birthing a child. The ebbs and flows of contractions is like riding a wave or powerful moving music. I give in to natural process and enjoy the ride. It is spiritual. Not so much with my birthing into a new person. I fight it and whine that I can't do it. I scream and beg for the drugs. Why I can't use the same peace and calm and inner power I tap into when I actually give birth, I don't know. Maybe I need something hard and dirty to wake me up and make me take a good hard look at myself and my life.

Rob and I joke that Dema is the canary in the coal mine of our family. When things are not right with him, it is a symptom that things are amiss with us. He is empathic and sensitive in ways that I will probably never understand. He questions everything and is always searching for answers. He always wants to go deeper. It can be endearing and infuriating depending on the topic and the day. I somethings feel like I connect to him and other times I feel like I lack the grace to be his mother.

The birthing process isn't done. I still fight it as Dema brings me kicking and screaming into my new self. I thank him for his courage, his insight, his complete honesty, his raw and real way of living. I hope one day I have the strength and the nerve to be with him in the moment, but I am not quite there yet. His spirit burns way too hot and it still touches long buried nerves which were formed before he was. I find myself too frightened to look at him directly, as one avoids looking at the sun.

Dema, brings out strong emotions in people. He is like cilantro. You either love him or you have trouble liking him. Believe me, I have been on both sides of this myself. He is fiercely loyal and often I feel like I don't deserve him. He needs a mother who is up to his challenge. Yet here I am. I birthed him at home into my own hands. We are forever connected. Even death will not break the tie that binds us to each other other.

Dema, I am so glad I've had you in my life for six years. Please keep pushing the envelope. Keep asking the hard questions. Keep saying what needs to be said. Keep your intense determination. Keep taking the risks that make life worth living. Keep enjoying the speed. Keep being you. I promise, I will try to catch up even when it feels like I'm going to die from the effort. Keep your faith in me, my overwhelming complex sweet love.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Even Sponge Bob Would Eat These

Y'all know we don't own a TV, but I remember the day Sponge Bob was introduced by a well-meaning neighbor when our eldest was maybe five. Our then neighbor, Joanne, gave Parker a Sponge Bob balloon. When he was bewildered, she went on to explain who he was. To our glee, Parker never took much interest in Sponge Bob once the balloon was no more. However, it was the first of many pop culture influences which we as parents could certainly do without. Our second son, Dema, does have a little interest in Sponge Bob and has asked for me to read him Sponge Bob books at the library or bookstore (they don't come home with us) and our sweet lovely intelligent niece is a Sponge Bob fan so I have to think he can't be all bad. Even with my limited Sponge Bob exposure, I can't think of crab cakes (not that I do think of them often) without thinking of Sponge Bob. Thus, when Rob made brunch this weekend for our friends Ricky and Catharine (and their boys, but to be honest all the kids end up playing together and not eating much until hours later when they come to us "starving" and the adults have already consumed everything) and picked out the Chesapeake Tempeh Cakes from Vegan Brunch, I had a fleeting vision of a yellow square with big eyes and pants....shudder.

I was kind of shocked that Rob picked anything out to be honest. I am usually the idea woman even if I don't do the cooking. I was lavished in luxury this time because Rob did absolutely all the cooking. It was Sunday morning and we had a loooonnnnngggg fun weekend with perfect weather so the house was an absolute mess and the kids wanted to be at the park. I took tidying up and kid duty while Rob slaved away in the kitchen. This made brunch taste even better than usual, but I think I still would have been completely taken with the Chesapeake Tempeh Cakes no matter who made them. They are awesome! Go to this link for the recipe and a much better picture, then make them immediately!

I have to say again what an cool neighborhood we live in. Around 8am, we realized we didn't have any capers (well, Rob realized it then and I continued to rifle through the pantry for awhile before I admitted defeat...I just knew I had some somewhere, but I do use them more than one would think). Rob discussed subbing something or leaving them out (how far he has come from the "stick to the recipe" man I married). I would have none of it, but we really didn't want to trek out to the store since we had cooking and cleaning to do. I texted our wonderful neighbors, Vicky and Greg, and they responded right away that yes they had capers and they would bring them down. I mean really, how many people can say they can borrow capers before nine am on a Sunday morning from their neighbors? We ate outside at the park so the kids could play and we enjoyed the weather. We chatted with neighbors as they came in and out of the park. Ricky and Rob put up a slack line with climbing rope and the trees, no one ended up needed emergency medical attention so all in all it was a success.

Along with the Chesapeake Tempeh Cakes, you can see garlicky kale with Basic Tofu Scramble, and Perfect Pancakes (we make them whole wheat, sub molasses and date sugar for maple syrup, etc.). I thought it was funny that none of us could ever remember eating actual crab cakes before so we don't have a lot to compare them to, but trust me they were excellent. I'm pretty sure even Sponge Bob would give them a wacky thumbs up.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Scrumptious Simple Suppers

Tempeh and Vegetable Stir-Fry from 1,000 Vegan Recipes

Another simple yet amazingly good recipe from 1,000 Vegan Recipes. Tempeh and Vegetable Stir-Fry (page 295) hooked me in when I searched the index for something with red peppers and broccoli (the veggies I had in the refrigerator at the time). The recipe looked too simple and we do a lot of wing it stir-fries so I don't really need a recipe, but I thought I'd try it out. I was blown away. While cooking, I was a little worried it wasn't enough to fill my hungry crew, but it was a perfect amount for our family of five. Seriously, simple and very good. Even Rob was impressed. I served it over brown rice with peaches from the freezer.
Here is a picture of a standard stir fry in the wok (brown rice, carrots, onions, garlic, broccoli,peppers, chickpeas, tofu). We make a lot of meals like this right now. We are busy and loving the longer warmer days so dinner has to be quick and nutritious and then we are back outside.
One of the secrets to quick scrumptious meals without a lot of time in the kitchen is "go to" sauces. Thai Peanut Sauce and Coconut-Peanut Sauce from 1,000 Vegan Recipes are two of our favorites. In this picture I used almond butter instead of peanut butter (we like to alternate our nut butters for diversity, nothing against peanut butter) in the Coconut-Peanut Sauce and served it over a bed of garlicky greens, brown rice, tofu, and carrots. Seriously satisfying, seriously simple, seriously scrumptious. We could all eat like this every day. Just mix up the sauces (not feeling like a nut? go for a tasty tahini sauce), add different veggies, quinoa instead of brown rice, and gobs of greens and you have something totally different, but the concept is the same...quick, easy, good!
Here is a picture of collards with vegan sausages. This time they are store bought. The co-op had a sale on Field Roast (the best vegan sausages on the market if you ask me) so I couldn't resist. I know, I know homemade are easy, better tasting, and cheaper (for people living under a rock who haven't made their own, check out Julie Hasson's recipe, Vegan Dad's recipe, or Fat Free Vegan's recipe to just name a few.) See also brown rice with peas topped with Esme sauce (or our version of it, but it will forever be Esme sauce in our house) and walnuts.

Now I'm off to saute some greens, cook a grain, chop up some veggies, and pour on the sauce!

Going Vegan Doesn't Mean Giving Up Barbecue

Barbecued Tempeh, Kale and Sweet Potatoes both from 1,000 Vegan Recipes

I don't think I've ever barbecued anything before. I've eaten barbecued things in my pregan days (not a lot, I wasn't a big bbq fan as a kid) and vegan (at restaurants), but I don't think I've ever made barbecued sauce and done it myself. It was quite good, but the family asked that I cut the tempeh thinner next time. (There definitely will be a next time.) The kids like more sauce and are not huge on chunks of tempeh (they prefer it crumbled). The kale and sweet potatoes was simple, but amazingly good. Rob is skeptical when I mess with garlicky kale which is a big favorite for the entire family. Why mess with perfection? Well, he had to eat his words on this one. I will make Kale and Sweet Potatoes again and they went well with the tempeh. I think this meal would probably work well served to adventuresome omnis.

1000 Vegan Recipes is like a magical book for me. I can look up one or two ingredients and be transported to recipes that will be sure to please. What I love best is the recipes can be messed with (I rarely follow any recipe to the "t") and still turn out well. If you only want to buy one cookbook, this is it!