Thursday, July 7, 2011

How Many Veg Guys Does it Take to Grill Tofu?

We decided to totally relax this three day weekend. We (okay, I) always try to get a lot of work done around the house, special projects, do all the holiday stuff, entertain, etc. on long weekends. This sometimes turns into a lot of stress and really unproductive which leads to more stress. This weekend I wasn't going to plan anything and we were going to just relax. Well, in reality that means we only had one dinner at a friend/neighbor's house, my radio show, the neighborhood parade, cycling as a family on one of the hottest days of the year, and 20 people over for a cookout. That is as relaxing as it gets around here, but it was quite an easy-going weekend.
Saturday morning started out with the family waking up to oppressive heat which would only get worse. What to do? Hop on our bikes and head to the Market at the Square and Common Ground Co-op. It was worth it, of course, but poor Dema was pooped by the time we arrived home. He usually rides on the back of my Xtracycle when we venture more than a couple miles, not because he can't ride that far, but because he is still a little distracted at seven so it stresses me out unless Rob is with me. Two adult eyes on him is best. We were all hot and cranky (due in no small part to some really amazingly clueless drivers) when we arrived home, but the free Zico coconut water, that was handed out outside the co-op/farmer's market, quickly put things right. Our favorite was the pineapple flavor. It reminds me, what is your favorite coconut water? We love the stuff, but it is expensive and some brands have added sugar so I only buy it as a special treat when we eat a the co-op. The Zico people said their product is premium because it only contains coconut water and natural flavors (the flavors are the kicker, I really don't like that catch all "natural flavors"). We will definitely buy Zico in the future. It is a pretty subtle taste and not too sweet like some of the other coconut water I've tried. The mango was also nice, but pineapple really hit the spot. The rest of Saturday was pretty much spent trying to stay cool in kids room (they have a small window A/C unit which takes the edge off) and finishing Cutting for Stone.*
Dinner at Cynthia and Ernie's Sunday night was just what we needed. The kids played, we got to catch up with our neighbor/friends (including Rebecca and her brand new babe), and meet their friends down from Chicagoland (they happen to have two adorable young boys, who Josie took to right away). Oh yes, and the food was great too. Rob and I made the Skillet-Baked Panko Cutlets because it was something I could start before the radio show and he could finish up while I was gone. I just arrived home and sat down when Owen knocked on the door to remind us we were supposed to be at his house for dinner. It was really cute and I was glad the cooking was done.  Little did I know that the friends from out of town we were there to meet are gluten free! There was plenty to eat though. Cynthia made a wonderful veggie curry and our favorite kale (she added currants, I will have to try that next time). I didn't get a picture, but trust me it was all yummy and pretty. We chatted about homeschooling, parenting, homebirthing, living abroad, nuclear power, and all the fun things that make a meal interesting. As we walked home, long after dark, we met up with other neighbors and we all watched the last of the Country Club fireworks and chatted before calling it a night.
Monday (the 4th) was beautiful weather-wise. In fact, I can't remember a July 4th in Illinois that was as nice. Usually it is 99% humidity with blistering heat, but it was quite pleasant for midsummer. I woke up minutes before the neighborhood parade and quickly dressed, dressed everyone else, grabbed the kids' bikes and walked down to Eisner Park for the sweet little "parade" that makes our neighborhood so quaint (in a good way). It was great to run into neighbors who don't live near us anymore and see how their little ones have grown-up. Josie had a grand time riding her Like-a-Bike balance bike in the parade with the big kids (her brothers and their friends). She insists she "won" the parade (yes, that non-competitive parenting is completely lost on our three year old these days). I think it is due to the bike races we attend every year. Notice the dress she insisted was the only thing to wear on the 4th of July. She is my little ninja princess.
We cooked a bit for the evening potluck at the park before heading to Vicky and Greg's to swim in their pool and socialize. I really don't think I could survive a no A/C summer in Illinois without our awesome neighbors. They are great in so many ways and the pool is just a bonus, but this year it has been a lifesaver. We were all cooled off and refreshed for the cookout. Unfortunately, Greg and Vicky had other plans, but they gave us a yummy watermelon before heading out to their event. The park district recently installed a grill at "our park". At first I was a little worried. The grill location is really close to our house (and several large trees) and I was not looking forward to the smell of charred animals. Then we decided to make use of it ourselves. We have a hand-me-down gas grill my brother gave us years ago, but for some reason using charcoal at the park was more interesting to Rob. It was quite fun to see four veg guys trying to get the grill working without lighter fluid. Kit is the man and kept a level head even as he was holding a flaming piece of cardboard (I didn't ask how it got that way) in his hand next to 100 year old trees. Too bad I didn't get a picture. Nothing burned down and all was well. Katie introduced us to grilled tofu. (Why have we never done this? Katie's not even veg! We should be ashamed.)
Katie brought the most festive dish of the cookout. This strawberry rhubarb crisp was amazing and adorable at the same time. Is was Katie who convinced us to do something on the fourth and I have to say if she offers to bring food and beer to your house for any reason, take her up on it. You'll be glad you did.
Parker had three servings of Katie's quinoa salad. So I knew I had to make it myself. I asked Katie for the recipe and this is what she said:
1 cup quinoa (I used a mix of white and black)
soy beans (I steamed a frozen bag out of convenience)
2-3 carrots - shredded
2 green onions - sliced thin
cilantro - chopped

dressing (fresh ginger, toasted sesame oil, garlic, braggs amino acid, rice vinegar, agave, orange juice) I wanted to put in some rooster sauce, but knew someone was avoiding peppers and Adelaide was watching me. I only made about 1/4 cup of dressing because I didn't want to overpower the dish, but clearly this dish is about knowing your audience.

Boil quinoa in lightly salted water, drain then put quinoa back in cooking pot and back on the stove (burner is off). Add dressing to warm quinoa and toss. Then add everything else. So simple and delicious.

This is also really good with cooked greens, roasted veggies, you name it. I take it to work most days and eat it with lettuce.
While we are talking about salads, I was so glad Erin left the rest of the this lovely lentil salad at our house since they headed to Dodd's for the fireworks. I ate the last of it yesterday in a wrap (well the kids helped) and it was so good! Lentils, carrots, onions, peas, peppers, but my favorite part was the golden raisins. Yum!
Kit and Emily brought hummus and chips, always a favorite.
Rob made Channa Masala and rice because we had chickpeas and that is what he thinks to make when we have chickpeas. It was wonderful as usual. We can't have a holiday without cooking Indian.
I also asked Rob to make Patriotic Potato Salad. I made a cookbook for my mother the Christmas before she died. I put this recipe in there because it was on of the first 4th of July recipes my mom veganized for us. I've been thinking about my mom a lot lately and I just needed to have this potato salad. Rob and I had plans to make a lot more, but I'm glad we didn't. It was plenty of food. We were worried about making things gluten-free for Katie, but we completely forgot about omitting the nightshades for Emily. I could just kick myself! The next get together, we promise to be better about making things everyone can enjoy.
Katie also made these vegan peanut butter cups which I completely resisted, but will have to try the next time. We never found out who took the one before the picture, but the kids all gave them three yums up!

Gita is famous in our house for her pies and she brought two peach and raspberry pies that were to die for, but I didn't get a picture. She had some difficulty with the crust she showed up with the pies after I took pictures. Just perfect with vegan vanilla ice cream on top!

After we all ate our fill and cleaned up, most of us walked over to the vacant lot next to Cynthia and Ernie's to watch a neighborhood fireworks show. We never see a need to go to the big show put on by the city because how can it be better than sitting on a blanket a block away. The mosquitoes didn't even bite me! Rob and I had a few minutes alone on the blanket watching the show before the kids cuddled in with us. So nice to not have to deal with crowds and just walk home with our tired little ones. All in all a very restful holiday!

*This will be a post to itself and the Ethiopian food we cooked.

Josie-isms for today:

Me, "What are you up to?" Josie, "Throwing a party with my dolls." Me, "Nice." Josie says dreamily, "The heart enjoys."

I know I've gone on and on about our awesome neighbors, but really we are so lucky to be surrounded by such an amazing and diverse group of people. Josie doesn't play "house", she plays "neighborhood". She is always having me be a "neighbor/friend" when we play.

Josie has an unlimited amount of imaginary sisters, but the other day she cracked me up because she announced she now has twin sisters named Cilantro and Coriander. Filed under, "your daughter might be growing up to be a foodie if..."

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