Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Healthy Teeth and Coconut-Curry Chickpeas and Cauliflower

Busy, busy evening. Parker and I had dentist appointments in the late afternoon. We love our new dentist! This my second time seeing Dr. B and Parker's first. Rob found him a couple years ago when he searched for as dentist close to our home (being car-free encourages us to go for convenience). Dr. B is great and we've never clicked with a dentist better. He doesn't have a hygienist so you really get to know him while he cleans your teeth. He was very impressed with Parker's teeth and always gives me glowing reviews (I should floss more, but have lovely gums). It always makes me laugh at the notion we have as a society that one has to consume cow mammary fluid to have healthy teeth and bones.
Dema showing off his smile immediately after loosing another tooth this week.
Time was short and dinner needed to be prepared before I left for the gym. Thank goodness for Quick-Fix Vegan! In a matter of about 30 or so minutes, Coconut-Curry Chickpeas and Cauliflower over brown basmati rice with chapati from the freezer was on the table and I was on my bike. I added broccoli and more veggies than the original recipe called for and less coconut milk since I had some leftover in the refrigerator. I didn't want to eat before my Body Flow class, but it must have been good because Josie met me at the door asking for more when I arrived home. All the males in the house were upstairs and falling asleep so Josie and I had some groovy girl time with her eating curry and pistachios as I cleaned the kitchen. I look forward to the leftovers (curry is always better the next day) for lunch tomorrow.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Quick Capellini and Kale

Josie and I (more Josie than me) stumbled upon a video from C'est La Vegan (new site for me!) for Quick Noodles with Kale & Tofu which was posted on the Veg News site. Josie asked if we could have this dish for dinner. We had one of our weekly brown rice, tofu, greens (this time turnip greens), and sauce (we had a choice of tahini sauce or almond butter sauce) dinners Sunday night with sauce left. Often we use the leftover sauce the next night for a pasta dish so I was happy to appease Josie. I usually saute the kale, but lightly boiling the kale in the heating pasta water sounded like a great idea. I didn't have any tofu, but added carrots, pistachios, and a sprinkle of gomasio. I used whole wheat capellini for the noodles. Quick, easy, delicious, and it almost enabled me to make it to the gym tonight. Alas, things kind of fell apart and Parker had homework to finish, Rob had more work to do in his attic office, the younger kids were all but falling apart, and the rain started so I decided to spend the night at home instead. Now I'm off to check out more fun videos and post on C'est La Vegan.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

O is for Okra

Oh my, how I love me some okra! You would think I grew up south of the Mason Dixon Line, but no, this Yankee even liked okra as a veggie shunning child (all battered and fried, I would have eaten a shoe that way too). As an adult, I prefer my okra to be called bhindi and don't call me late for supper.
Josie cutting the cute little tops off the lady's fingers. That child can not be kept away from the cutting board. She is eager to help cook and chopping is her favorite activity. Luckily, my little lady kept all her fingers and was able to set the okra out to be dried as Rob prepared the rest of the Bhindi-Pyaj (Okra and Onions from The Indian Vegan Kitchen) and I whipped up some Rajmah (Quick Kidney Beans also from The Indian Vegan Kitchen).
The Rajmah was good,
but the Bhindi-Ryaj was fantastic. We couldn't get enough. The okra stole the meal.
I served it over brown basmati rice with chapati and samosas (from the freezer). The okra was from the Market at the Square. I tasked Rob and Josie to bring home more okra the last couple Saturdays, but no luck. We've been promised some this coming weekend and you can bet it will be bhindi for dinner. If you need more reasons to eat okra, other than the awesome taste, check out the nutrition profile for this often under-appreciated plant.
Josie was so happy the next day to notice the okra in one of our favorite books, Eating the Alphabet. This book has been in our lives since Parker was born and all three kids grew up loving it. They have so much fun pointing out all their favorite fruits and vegetables. I love knowing that they eat pretty much all of them on a regular basis.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Power of Paella

Watching Dr. Greger's recent nutrition videos on Alzheimer's (and the benefits of saffron) made us crave paella. Saffron is a wonderful spice which we used quite often pre-kids, but for some reason we don't go through the threads like we used to. Tonight Rob found this recipe and it turned out great. Parker had three servings and asked to take leftovers for lunch. Rob makes risotto quite frequently, but I think we'll go for paella instead. More veggies, complex flavor, and saffron. Sold.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Pizza Day

Parker has a weekly pizza day at school and even the other kids who bring their lunch from home usually buy lunch on pizza day. I remember pizza day from my school days and it wasn't ordered from Papa Johns or some other chain like the schools do today. I don't know where it was made, but what I do remember is it had seeds. I remember coming home and telling my mom about them. She didn't believe me at first and we finally figured out they were fennel seeds (I am thankful my kids know what fennel seeds are and they aren't some exotic ingredient). Anyway, I like to mix it up and send different pizzas each week so he doesn't get bored. This week I sent pizza with our old standby Vicolo cornmeal pizza crusts. See here for an example, but we (meaning Rob) usually make our own crust these days so this was a treat. I made a batch of Herbed Breakfast Sausage Patties from Vegan Diner early in the week, but I made it as a loaf instead of patties to use in all sorts of different ways for Parker's lunches. I crumbed some onto his pizza and it reminded me of the fennel seeds I used to find in my school cafeteria pizza. He requested kalamata olives, carrots, and mushrooms as toppings too. The pizza sauce was slow cooked earlier in the week from fresh tomatoes. He can eat an entire pizza on his own so I packed everything except a couple slices he ate with his breakfast (I had everything ready the night before and cooked it while he was eating oatmeal and getting ready for school).
As a side while the pizza cooked, I made Curried Puff Pastry Nibbles from Quick-Fix Vegan* by Robin Robertson for a new twist on bread sticks. I made these for the first time on Sunday right before I left for my radio show and I was able to make two batches and the kids were able to devour them within minutes. Parker immediately knew these would make awesome lunch time eats. So I kept them in mind for pizza day. We don't usually have puff pastry on hand, but I bought some in preparation for Josie's party that turned into a little afternoon tea and I needed to use it up. The lunch was easy to eat, since school doesn't allow much time for eating this is key, Parker loved it and it with a little forethought it was easy to make that morning. Dema and Josie were happy to have pizza and Curried Puff Pastry Nibbles for breakfast (I was going to save the second crust and nibbles for lunch, but when they smelled it cooking they couldn't wait) so it all worked well. I want to try these with pizza dough sometime for a healthier take.
*Quick-Fix Vegan is Robin Robertson's newest cookbook. She generously sent a copy a couple weeks ago for my testing efforts. I was so happy to receive it, but didn't crack it open immediately since the tester recipes have become staples in our house I feel like I already know this cookbook. Check out my tester posts by searching for "Tester Tuesday". You will be seeing much more from Quick-Fix Vegan in the near future. It came to the rescue last night when we had guest showing up in one hour and I still had no clue what I was going to prepare. I've talked about how I'm not a huge planner so this cookbook has a special place in our house already. Quick-Fix Vegan is available for pre-order now and the release date happens to be Rob and my anniversary.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Vegan Unplugged

In 2007 a neighbor's tree limb came down and took out the power to our house and cost us about $1,000 to repair.
Well, it happened again Friday morning. Around 6 or 6:30am a loud bang woke me from my sleep and I saw the house shake and a flash. I was sleeping with Josie in her room so I woke up to looking down the hallway toward the back of the house. I thought Rob had dropped a big piece of furniture or something, but he was asleep in our room until I shouted. He investigated and found yet another huge tree branch had fallen from the same tree and taken out the power and cable line (we don't own a TV, but use the cable line for our internet access and Rob works from home and it completely dependent on connectivity). Our power wasn't knocked out because the power line wasn't severed, but that meant a live line was on the ground in our yard and across the little alley behind our house.
I was worried about school kids not seeing the downed line, but it was pretty obvious. We called Ameren immediately to come shut of the power (which they did to our house, but the line on the ground was still live...please, please don't touch downed power lines!) and then called several electrician to come out and repair the power line attached to our house. It was amazingly difficult to find someone to do the work, but luckily Remco came out in a timely manner and did the work. Then the inspector came out and said it was attached too close to our second story windows and the electrician had to come back and redo the work (he had put it back up exactly the way it had been originally so I guess not really his fault, I don't know if this is a new rule, but I suspect it is because it wasn't inspected after the 2007 incident). Then Ameren took their time to restore power and Comcast didn't make it out until the next afternoon, but it made think about all the people without power recently due to adverse weather (this did not happen during a storm or anything, just a little rain overnight with no high winds) and the people who spend their lives restoring power.
It also made me want to get out my copy of Vegan Unplugged. It is a fabulous resource for feeding oneself without power and has great tips for emergency preparedness (for anyone, not just vegans). Luckily, we didn't loose anything in our refrigerator or freezers during the power outage. When it become clear that our power would be out for a prolonged period of time, our neighbors set up an extension cord for us to tap into our power. We are lucky the property with the tree is now owned by our fabulous neighbors Margie and Rick (who even offered to pay for the repairs) who have already had an arborist come out to figure out how to deal with the tree. We didn't get to try out any of the recipes in Vegan Unplugged. We all went out to eat downtown since it was an early dismissal from Parker's school and Rob already had lunch plans with friends, but I did stock up on supplies and I'll be reviewing some of the recipes soon.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

For the Love of Laksa

The recipe in Appetite for Reduction is a bastardized version of a traditional Curry Laksa and I took that recipe and substituted the heck out of it, but we'll still call it laksa, shall we?
Instead of red onion, I used yellow. Rob bought a bag of sweet red peppers at the Market at the Square Saturday and proceeded to roast them all so I cut up his roasted red peppers for the raw. I forgot the tamari, but Rob added some after I served it up or I never would have known. The kids and I preferred it without. I used thawed tofu from a batch I put in the freezer so I used a bit more than a pound, I used a sprinkle of sugar instead of agave (we're out), used the entire can of coconut milk (there goes the low-fat aspect), and vermicelli noodles instead of Pad Thai noodles (all we had). I also never boil rice noodles, but just soak them in warm water until they soften and drain. I find they are less likely to break apart. The biggest difference is the use of cauliflower (Josie has been begging for it) and broccoli instead of bok choy. I was attracted to the recipe as something to do with bok choy, but we didn't have any and I hate to let the fact that I don't have a third of the ingredients stop me from making something.
Parker had four servings, Dema had two, I didn't count how many Rob and I had. Josie thought it was a tad spicy so she washed hers down with vanilla soy milk. Yes, I will make it again, bok choy or no. I will use less coconut milk next time, but this time I cooked off a little too much of the broth and thought the coconut milk would make up for it which it did, but it wouldn't hurt to use less. I need to buy some of those awesome Asian soup spoons now.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Polenta Rancheros

Polenta Rancheros is one of our favorite warming foods for cold mornings. With the weather oscillating in our area between the chill of autumn and the dog days of summer it is hard to know until I wake up what might be the best breakfast. We made this on the weekend, but if you use leftover beans like we did, it can easily be a quick breakfast to fill up the kids/adults before setting off for school/work. The beans were made into burritos the night before and the polenta/grits made that morning and topped with Amy's salsa, fresh avocado, and a dab of vegan sour cream.
Vegan Brunch has a recipe for Polenta Rancheros, but I usually am too lazy to try Isa's version. It is too easy to just throw leftovers together and call it a meal. This dish will keep you full until lunch or after and packs a big protein punch. Great for anytime of the day.

Friday, September 9, 2011

She Flies by the Seat of Her Pants

Josie woke up at 12:30am on Sept. 7th to go to the bathroom and sneak into bed with me and I surprised her by saying "Happy Birthday!" which she didn't think could be possible since it was still dark outside. (When a day ends and begins can be a tough concept to grasp.) I assured her that she was 30 minutes into being a four year old and she asked if she could still nurse (she was going to give it up on her 4th birthday, more on that in another post) and promptly went to sleep.

When she woke up "for real", you know when the sun was up and all, I was still sleeping so Rob made her favorite breakfast, steel cut oatmeal. When I finally rolled out of bed, she informed me that today was her birthday and she wanted to have a tea party.

Now we were going to do a tea party on Monday (Labor Day) and we canceled it for many various reasons and she had said this coming weekend would be fine. Now this was just a figment of my imagination and she needed to have a tea party and it needed to be now! I didn't have the makings or the energy for our favorite birthday cake. So I checked my cookbooks and cupboards to put together the following: pretzels, Caramel Almond-Oat Bars from Party Vegan, Health Valley's Amaranth Graham Crackers (we just had these on hand because cookout weather is almost upon us), baby carrots (Josie's request), and Party Vegan's Brownies with Walnuts. Not my proudest party moment and not as healthy or balanced as we like our birthday parties but, we had Good Earth Organic White Tea Sweet Citrus tea and 
This is the best I could do and she loved it. Of course, one can not just have a tea party with your mom and seven year old brother (she wasn't even willing to wait until Parker was home from school) so I contacted Gita. Luckily, Gita's girls (two of Josie's besties) are always up for a tea party and were working on her birthday presents when I called (great minds and all that). So I talked Josie into waiting just a few hours (it reminded us all of one of our favorite Mr. Putter books, Mr. Putter & Tabby Make a Wish where he decides he is not too old for birthdays and asks his good neighbor over, but she makes him wait because she is baking him a cake). She sat on the porch for a while before I convinced her that was no good.
I made her pad thai for lunch, which she ate still dressed in her pjs. I mean really, does she look ready for a party? It was her birthday after all and we can do pjs all day if we have to and besides they are organic Hannas so judge her not. As a side, we ended up ordering Thai from My Thai (Thara Thai was closed, boo!) for her birthday dinner that night (her choice, oh course) and I came to the realization that we like my pad thai a lot, I mean it is really pretty freaking awesome. I based it on Robin's in 1,000 Vegan Recipes, but I add some peanut butter, more garlic, red pepper flakes, etc. and make it my own. This time I used peas, corn, carrots, and green beans for the veggies. We were literally making mmmm noises as we ate and I felt guilty that we were enjoying it with Parker at school.

I digress.
A surprise package arrived to wile the time away. Yes, Josie finally received that KISS costume she's always wanted. (So dating myself with that one. I just don't know what was up with the tongue in this picture.)
Here we go, Pink Batgirl unmasked, much less '70s rock band and more super heroine (not heroin, get your mind off KISS). I had no idea Batgirl outfits came in pink, but they do and Josie picked it out for Halloween (how on top of it am I, I ask you?) and it serendipitously came on her birthday as I was furiously trying to put together a semblance of a tea birthday party and she was impatiently waiting for friends to arrive who did not know about said party more than an hour prior. I could have hugged the UPS man! So Josie ran around fighting crime and Dema donned his outfit. Three cheers for all the Halloween costumes arriving at once.
Queue menacing music. Oh wait, look at the cute toes, maybe just some friendly ninja music.
Apparently, it is a bit embarrassing for the dark ninja to be seen with anyone wearing all pink. Her sparkles might rub off and how on earth would be able to sneak around without being seen in the middle of the night?
A face off with the pink one? Now that is a different story. I'm sure he let her win because it was her birthday and the dark ninja did not get beat by pink Batgirl (almost half his age). Yeah, that's it.
I mean, even dark ninja's have a heart. My toothless.

Gita's girls finally (in Josie's mind) arrived and they partied. Amara and Indigo are so dressed for a fun tea party! Poor Dema in the background. Parties are hard on him, even sometimes his own. He has OCD (another post for another day) and surprises or changes in our schedule on short notice is not easy on him. He and Josie might be oil and water when it comes to being spontaneous, but they work it out. He certainly enjoyed the goodies!
Josie put all the candles on the brownies herself, but we never could get them to light because of the breeze. She was happy with the singing and we'll light something on fire this weekend.
The Caramel Almond-Oat Bars had us at "caramel". Can you see how incredibly rich these are? Just a little bite with satisfy your sweet tooth, but I had a few bites because I couldn't decide what they reminded me of...then it hit me, my mom's English toffee. Not spot on, but close enough to make me smile. The caramel didn't have time to properly set so they were gooey fun. Next time I would save some of the caramel and use it on popcorn or something. Don't even think of the calories in this one!
The kids had a great time playing in the park. Batgirl is Ms. Safety and knows not to ride her balance bike without a helmet.

Amara and Indigo sweet and wonderful gifts:
A reusable snack bag (Gita made it and in pink)! Josie has coveted the girls' snack bags for a while now and she is super jazzed to have one of her own now! Parker was almost as excited when he checked it out after school. He would love to try his hand at sewing one. Inside Josie found two adorable handmade bracelets. The girls love to dress up together so these will be well used.
How cute is this card?
And the fairy and the cute butterfly below?
My favorite is the picture from Josie's 3rd birthday party (coming in post soon) of all three girls in a tree at the park.
Because Josie never wants her friends to leave and they are always up for a sleepover, the birthday didn't really end until they all woke up together the next morning (after a night of eating Thai and watching a few too many Madeline episodes on Netflix). Josie thoroughly enjoyed her 4th birthday, even if I was all last minute or maybe because it was last minute. As our wise neighbor Vicky said when she stopped by the festivities in the park, "Sometimes spontaneous parties are the best. They can be a lot less stress." Less waiting, minimal pre-cleaning, more sweets...hmm, she might be on to something here. My four year old flies by the seat of her pants, kinda like her mama I suppose.
She is smart enough to take off her cape though, so she's one up on me.

No capes! This super ball of energy and passion makes my life so much more interesting. Happy 4th Birthday, Jo. I love you all the muches!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Josie's Birthday Odyssey

Today is Josie's last day as a three year old. I realized I never posted about her third birthday and she loves to come to the blog and see pictures of her life so better late than never, right?

We started out her birthday week last year with some camping. It was her first camping trip and she loved it!
We listened to Odysseus by Geraldine McCaughrean on CD on the drive to and from Indiana. Oh my, I can not recommend this audio book enough. The voices were perfect and the kids were so enchanted by the story and the way it was told. I will always think of Josie's third birthday trip as our own Odyssey because of this fantastic version of this timeless tale.
We drove first to Turkey Run State Park (Indiana) and it is a place with great childhood memories for me, so much fun to share with the kids.
Josie was so excited about setting up the tent. Notice I let the kids help Rob tackle the tent while I took pictures.
They loved exploring the area around our campsite. Dema was so thoughtful and sweet to look after his little sister, but really she was happy to do everything herself and kept up with the big boys.
I didn't want to rely on the boring stereotypical vegan hot dogs so I made a big batch of Green Curried Chickpea Patties which we ate on whole wheat buns. They were excellent car camping food, full of chickpeas, quinoa, and kale I didn't sacrifice nutrition just because we were away from home and they are always a hit with the kids. Breakfast was a super treat of organic instant oatmeal. They never get this stuff at home since we use steel cut oats, but it is an easy and fun breakfast when on the road. What is your favorite vegan camp food? I need more ideas for our next trip.
In lieu of a birthday cake, Josie had her first s'more, another awesome treat.
We like Dandies best. We use Health Valley's Amaranth Graham Crackers because I can never find ones without honey and I'm too lazy to make them myself. They are good and just the right size. I don't remember what wonderful fair trade vegan chocolate bars we used, but they were yummy!
Here is Parker's s'more, a little more appetizing than the picture with Josie.
Checking out the trail map. Josie wanted to go on trail number 3 since that was her special number.
Look at Josie with the cutest backpack. We bought it for Dema on our trip to Colorado when I was pregnant with Josie. She was a trooper carrying her pack with her snacks the entire day as we hiked. I love that girl!
The kids in one of the many cool caverns.
She was amazing on the steep climbs. I didn't get the best pictures of her going back and doing a climb a second time just because Rob put a hand out to help. He is just behind her on these stairs, but isn't allowed to help. She wanted to do everything on her own. Rob was big into rock climbing when we met and we have wonderful memories of camping/backpacking/climbing together, but we stopped when we had children. I think Josie might be up for climbing as she gets older.
The kids and I on our snack break. Apples always give you energy to finish the hike.
Dema walking across the tree bridge with no fear.
Suspending from the suspension bridge.
Some of the friends we made: Parker's Skipper Caterpillar. See the real poop this interesting creature here.
Dema's Phasmatodea (stick-bug).
Josie's Millipede. Now back to food.
After a couple nights, we broke camp and took a detour to Indy before heading home. Ethiopian food at our favorite Ethiopian restaurant west of Maryland, Abyssinia. Josie enjoying her lentil sambousa and mango juice before the main course arrived.
We couldn't go to Indy without visiting our favorite Children's Museum.
Fun with contradictions: Josie, our girl-power daughter with the anti-feminist, Barbie.
Dema, who grew up strapped to me via baby carrier attending anti-war demonstrations and who would go to sleep listening to Michael Franti (two of his first words), checking out the GI Joe exhibit.
Parker, who wants to remain car-free as long as possible, in a race car.
Their favorite part of the museum is the Egypt exhibit. We spent hours playing with the Egyptian food and the play cafe.
Parker enjoying the pretend mango smoothie (with kale, Josie insisted).
This museum worker really earned his pay this day. We pretty much had the museum to ourselves and he gave us the royal treatment. He taught the kids about mummies as an archaeologist, played music as we "attended an Egyptian wedding", taught Dema how to juggle as a street vendor, and all around showed the kids (and us) an awesome time. A very memorable third birthday for my Josephine Marie. I'll blog about her 3rd birthday party soon since she decided against a big 4th birthday party. I can't believe she'll be four tomorrow!
I'm thankful for this blog so I have some sort of record of the last four years with her in our lives. I feel completely blessed to have all three of my children and Josie completes our family perfectly. I love you ninja princess!