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!