Monday, October 31, 2011

Thai-Centric Mac and Cheese

Thai-Centric Mac and Cheese from Urban Vegan's new cookbook, Celebrate Vegan
Love Thai, love vegan mac and cheese so no surprise that it was love at first bite! I didn't use coconut oil (don't usually have it and am trying to cut down on all oils), used the Vitamix, served with quinoa pasta, and added some veggies for a orange Halloween lunch. Celebrate Vegan is going on my holiday wish list.

I hope you all have a great Halloween. I really enjoyed VeganMoFo this year and look forward to catching up on all the posts I missed during the month.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Control the Water and You Control Everything

We watched Rango this weekend. Lots of guns for a movie without humans (okay, there were a few), but it was cute (okay with Johnny Depp as Rango, it was pretty adorable, if he would just go vegan...). Rango covered water issues/control over natural resources/greed/over or unsustainable-development, as well as friendship and team work as all good family films are wont to do. All good topics for discussion and thought. Water is/will be the big environmental issue of our children's generation.
Hydration was on my mind so I decided to review our newest coconut water purchase. Naked coconut water was on sale through our buying club. I send coconut water in Parker's school lunch a couple times a week. Our main hydration drink at home is water, but we also consume our fair share of white tea, veggie/fruit smoothies, and as a special treat, coconut water. We like the mango peach flavor with actual mango puree and a bit of peach it has a subtle, but a taste which isn't over-powering, but very refreshing. I think we've tried enough coconut water brands now to conduct a taste test to figure out which one is our family's favorite.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

No Such Thing as a Free Lunch

There is such a thing as free dessert. Thanks to the wonderful folks at VeganMoFo headquarters, we won free Amande Yogurt in the giveaway. I never win giveaways, so it was even more fun. The kids waited impatiently every day for our coupons to arrive in the mail. They came the day we went shopping, after we had already returned...bummer.
Rob went shopping this morning and came back with a bike trailer filled with food and four containers of almond yogurt. Parker and I were already preparing lunch, but Josie and Dema could barely contain their excitement so I said they could have some as dessert.
Parker made some yummy vegan mac/quinoa shell and cheese for lunch and I warmed up some Diwali dal and chapatis. Parker has a new blog and will share his recipe for cheese sauce there. It is definitely full fat and low on nutrition, but sometimes comfort food is more than the sum of its nutrients.
The kids tried the cherry flavor and the coconut flavor Amande yogurts and the boys preferred the cherry. Josie and Rob preferred the coconut. I had a small taste of each and I like the shredded coconut texture in the coconut, but I think I liked the cherry a bit better. The texture was very similar to the soy yogurt we usually buy and the kids said they like it just as well. "It was filled with delicious yumminess." said Parker, but he added "I don't want to insult the soy yogurt company. I really enjoy them both." Always the diplomat. I would buy both again as a special treat, but when we buy yogurt we usually buy bigger containers so my next Amande purchase will be the 24 oz. vanilla.
Thanks Amande and VeganMoFo!!!

Friday, October 28, 2011

I Want to Eat My Kitchen

My friend, Loretta, cued me in to a lovely smelling new-to-me cleaner. I picked some up at Healthy Green Goods in Evanston, IL during our visit. I am usually fragrance adverse, but the Sink Into Your Bliss tub, tile, and basin cleaner in tea tree and peppermint is so yummy it makes me want to find more things to clean in my house. I tried it out on my kitchen sink first and I wanted to lick my kitchen. I know we are supposed to talk about food during mofo, but this cleaner will remind you of candy canes and holiday treats. Remember, it really isn't a food and don't eat it, but it will make you happier to clean your sink.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Tahini Snob

I am married to a tahini snob, there I said it. Rob is as into organic foods as the next vegan, but when it comes to tahini he kicks my organic jars to the curb. You have never seen a grown man throw a sulk like Rob sulks if we use some sub-par tahini. People have given us jars of their favorite tahini, but none of them stand up to his brand. We are known far and wide for our awesome hummus and maybe it is due to the tahini. He buys it in the 1/2 gallon jars, which, once empty, make great containers to store bulk foods in. Rob's tahini brand of choice is Ziyad. He is serious about tahini. Except no substitutes!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Happy Diwali!

We had a fruit-filled day today. Since it is still dark when Parker gets up for school, the younger kids have been sleeping in so they have breakfast after Parker is long gone. This means I don't cook bigger breakfasts as often anymore since we have two of them. Dema and Josie feasted on kiwi, soy yogurt with blueberries, and grapefruit.
Josie wore the new outfit she bought this weekend, at the vintage store downtown, to ballet. She pretty much wears it as much as she can. Who can resist sparkles and bright colors?
We cycled from ballet to the library where we also had lunch. I had it together today and brought water, lunches, and Josie's new snack bag. Tofu wraps with Mindful Mayo and mustard. I am now a fan of Mindful Mayo after years of being a Vegenaise girl (I haven't tried their new soy-free version yet, though). Rob's a tough sell so we'll let you know when he tries it. Dema and Josie don't like any mayo at all, but Dema said it was pretty good. Josie only had mustard on hers.
They also had apples and an assortment of nuts/dried fruit in Josie's snack bag. We love all nuts, but we've been spending the money on pistachios more often since reading Vegan for Life. Pistachios are a good source of lysine which is an amino acid that can sometimes be hard to get in a vegan diet (although it is found in soy products, legumes, and quinoa and we obviously don't avoid soy or any other legumes or quinoa). It really is just an excuse to eat pistachios more often. They are ranked in the top five nuts for antioxidant levels and they are addictive.
Dema's snack after our appointment downtown was the last of our watermelon which will probably be the last one of the year. As he was eating this one, he asked for more. Sorry, bud, it's all gone.
Dinner was our Diwali celebration. We aren't Hindu, but we have quite a few Hindu friends. Last year my husband celebrated Diwali at work, but this year he works at home and I wanted to get the entire family involved.
I lighted the candles,
cooked up some Sweet Potato Dal*
and some paratha from the freezer.
We served it with brown basmati rice and garlicky kale (we had a tahini and walnut sauce Rob whipped up for the kale that some of us put on after the picture, not so Indian tasting, but still delicious).

*The Sweet Potato Dal was one of the first dishes my mom made vegan and could prepare by heart. That was her biggest complaint when I went vegan that she had to open cookbooks again. Soon she embraced it and delighted in finding new recipes and cookbooks, but remember 17 years ago there weren't a lot of vegan cookbooks readily available like they are now. I don't know where she found the recipe and she passed away over nine years ago, so sorry if I'm stepping on any toes or breaking some copyright.

Mom's Sweet Potato Dal

1 Tablespoon canola oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander or garam masala
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 cups red lentils, rinsed
6 - 8 cups water
2 - 4 cups peeled, diced sweet potatoes
1 tsp iodized salt (or to taste)

In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat,. Add the onion and saute until translucent, add garlic and heat for 2 minutes. Stir in the spices except salt and cook stirring for one or two minutes. Stir in lentils and water and cook uncovered over medium heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the sweet potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are tender, about 30 - 40 minutes. Add salt. Serve hot. Feeds 6 - 8 people.

As we enjoyed dinner, I read the Hindu section from our Faiths Like Mine book. The Story of Divaali was our bedtime book.

I hope all of you who celebrate Diwali had a great one!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Things That Make You Go MMMMM

Apologies to those of you who came to this blog because I'm in the Healthy/Whole Foods MoFo category. With all the trips to the Chicago Diner and busy days/nights, I think I belong in the Comfort Food section this month. That is how it goes sometimes.
I have fond memories of waking up to English muffins for breakfast. As I recall, it didn't happen too often, but sometimes my mom would spread margarine on the muffins, top them with jelly (my favorite as a kid was grape and I pretty much wouldn't eat anything else), and broil them until the edges of the muffins were dark and crisp. The jelly would almost turn to candy and it would stick to my teeth as I ate them. I made these on a whim this morning since we receive several packages of whole wheat English muffins in our buying club order on Monday. Luckily, my kids love a variety of organic fruit spread and I rarely buy grape. I guess this whole wheat version with Earth Balance and fruit spread might be slightly healthier than my white flour muffins with sugar filled jelly. I think this is the first time I've made them since Josie's been alive so it isn't like we have them often. If you want to make your own, check out the Earth Balance Giveaway.
I served them with English muffin baked tofu sandwiches with Daiya. Broiling the Daiya in the toaster oven works well and I have to admit my baked tofu* is the bomb so these were pretty darn tasty. We may have gone through two packages of English muffins today (without Rob eating any) between the younger kids eating them for brunch and Parker eating some for an after-school snack. Okay, I had one just to make sure all the "mmmm"s from the kids were for good reason.
I had to make two batches of baked tofu to keep up with my hungry crew (Rob eats it with a few drops of hot sauce as he walks through the kitchen back to his office). I picked up some hot sauce labeled "local" at the co-op the other day and decided to put a bit on the tofu as it baked as well a bit on it after. We now have a new favorite hot sauce. It is made with organic ingredients and less salty than many hot sauces. The version I bought, Devil's Breath is made with balsamic vinegar which adds dept and the peppers have just the right amount of heat so you can use a little and still get quite a kick.
On the website it says they are located in Broughton, Illinois and they have a few other products we will have to try.
Josie got a bit too much Devi's Breath and cooled off her mouth with one of her favorite treats, vanilla soy yogurt with frozen blueberries. It is so much more fun and economical to buy the big containers of yogurt and everyone can add the fruit they prefer. It looks pretty too.

*Slice a pound of tofu any way you like, I often do long rectangles because it is easy and quick to flip. In a large long baking dish put some olive oil (doesn't have to coat the bottom), Bragg's amino acids or tamari (now it should coat the bottom), a teaspoon or so of blackstrap molasses, sprinkle nooch over the bottom (add a bit of hot sauce or curry power if you like) and spread it all out with a spoon. Dredge the tofu in the sauce and pack them into the dish. Cook at 400 to 415 degrees for 10 minutes and turn them over to cook for another 10 to 20 minutes (depending on how crisp you like your tofu...Rob likes it crispy and the kids like their less so).
It wasn't just the food that made us go "mmmm" today, it was the beautiful weather. 70 degrees in late October is heavenly and fleeting.
We spent most of the day out in "our park"; climbing trees,
checking out leaves,
 chatting with neighbors,
and hugging trees. mmmm!

Monday, October 24, 2011

What Should I Do With My Tomatillo?

We received some tomatillo fruits in our mini-CSA on Friday. I didn't realize what they were at first because I don't think I've ever grown or bought them. Crazy, eh? I love the outer paper-like shell and the slight stickiness to the fruit inside. I immediately thought of salsa, but there has to be something more creative to make with these...any suggestions?
We have a monthly buying club where we buy in bulk directly from UNFI. We've belonged to buying clubs off and on for years and it really cuts down on our food budget and allows us to eat mostly organic foods. It also makes shopping easier because we can concentrate on produce. I rarely run out of nuts because I have a steady supply in the freezer and we have space to store 25lb bags of dried beans and flours.  The only drawback is when I'm counting on something to come in and it is out of stock. I don't know until the delivery day what is actually coming so it can be pretty disappointing. This time it was nut butter. I had promised Josie I would make what the kids lovingly call Glorious Pad Thai.

I'm sure you've all seen this video and the kids love it. I don't follow the Black Metal Chef's recipe, but I find it fun and I started making my Pad Thai all in one pot like he does when I'm in a hurry. Homemade Pad Thai will forever be "Glorious Pad Thai" to my kids. No peanuts and no nut butter made me skip the Pad Thai. I could have made my own almond butter with the raw almonds and the Vitamix, but I didn't. I use brown rice noodles (from the buying club, I haven't found them locally yet) so it makes me feel a little better about making pad thai and I can't really tell a difference in taste or texture.
Instead I used the quinoa pasta I ordered (it came in 8oz. boxes so I had to supplement with whole wheat) and improvised a tomato sauce (tomatoes from our CSA and a can of fire roasted tomatoes, green peppers from the CSA, a hot pepper from the CSA, some cashews, some chickpeas, a load of garlic, miso, and kalamata olives topped with fresh ground pepper, a bit of nooch, and walnuts). The quinoa pasta was fine, but the nutrition content didn't seem to be much different from my whole wheat pasta and we obviously aren't gluten free, but it makes a nice addition/change to regular pasta. No complaints and great Monday night meal.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Pale Pizza Pajama Party

Josie and I finished up our girls' weekend with a pale pizza pajama party. I have a hard time cooking for two when I'm used to cooking for five or more so I decided to be lame and use up some things we had around. The result was this pale pizza and the last of the Brassica Soup I made for the guys. I wasn't even going to mention it, but Josie said it was super yummy and I should blog about it. Vicolo crust, a big layer of homemade hummus, some Daiya, and Tofurky sausage. I fell for hummus pizza when we were in Colorado before Josie was born, but don't make it often enough. We prefer my homemade seitan, but the co-op had Tofurky on sale. After eating, we snuggled in bed and read books, then she insisted on doing some homework in her workbook which I use to keep her distracted while I'm homeschooling Dema. We topped off the evening by watching A Hard Day's Night.

The guys were home on the morning train today and it wasn't soon enough for Josie. She loved our girl time, but missed her bros. She also missed seeing Todd, Katherine, and Tai.
Rob brought a picture of Tai asleep on Todd's shoulders so we had a cuteness fix. Rob also took pictures of their first trip to Handlebar, a place for vegan food and cycling advocacy. Two of my favorite things.
Dema's French Toast with candied pecans and blueberries from Handlebar
Rob's Vegan Diablos from Handlebar
Vegan Breakfast Burrito from Handlebar
Thumbs up from all the guys and I can't wait to try it myself sometime soon!
Thanks to Not Your Parents' Granola for the Liebster award! This is sweet and what makes it even more awesome is she also highlighted I Eat Grains which is written by Rachel, a local blogger, vegan meet-up participant, and we've recently added her to our radio show. Very cool!

Here’s how it works:
  • You show your thanks to the blogger who gave it to you by linking back to them.
  • Spread the blog love by picking your top 5 bloggers (supposed to be those with less than 200 subscribers, but it’s hard to tell) and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
  • Post the award on your blog.
  • Bask in your vegan blogger awesomeness.
I've added so many new-to-me blogs to my blog roll it is hard to bring it down to five, but here we go...

1. The Happy Go Lucky Vegan - fantastic food and fashion all in one blog.
2. Fork and Beans - love the name of the blog and the vegan candy posts have me drooling.
3. Second City Vegan - we obviously enjoy Chicago and Lisa's blog.
4. One Arab Vegan - more than great hummus, I can't wait to read more of Nada's blog. She is currently studying in Nottingham, England where my sister studied and lived for a time (and found it tough to be veg) so I love to see her living there vegan.
5. Olives for Dinner - we are olive-lovers and I'm always intrigued by couples who can make it work when one is veg and the other isn't.

I hope you all had a great weekend and check out these great blogs.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Disco Lemonade

Crazy girl weekend started last night as we patted the guys on their heads and watched them walk downtown toward the train station and their guys weekend in Chicago. We partied hard and long, starting with peeling into Josie's pomegranate from Common Ground Co-op. We made a tactical error and only bought one so we had to hide the precious fruit and dig in once the big brothers were out of sight. Josie sneaked a seed or two as we extracted them from their home, but she took a picture before taking them upstairs.
Nothing like snuggling under the covers eating pomegranate seeds and watching movies on Netflix with someone you love. Once the sweet jewels were devoured (I didn't get a one), the noochy popcorn was requested and inhaled solo by my little sweetie. I am the youngest of three too and I know the sweet peace of not having to share with siblings with bigger hands.
She did share a square of my new favorite candy bar, Equal Exchange Organic Dark Chocolate with Almonds. I had to check several times after biting into this tantalizing treat to make extra sure it was vegan. It just tastes so smooooootthhh and with just the right about of almonds. I will never eat a handful of vegan chocolate chips with almonds again, this chocolate bar is the only way to combine two of my favorite foods. Send us case of these and we'll love you forever.
We took our time waking up this morning, but the first words out of Josie's mouth "I miss my boys." made me get out of bed to call them. Luckily, we were able to catch them before they headed out our beloved Chicago Diner and I convinced them to check out Handlebar instead, for blog purposes don't ya know. I took a shower as Josie lounged and I heard her talking as I dried off. I was hoping no one was in the house, but it didn't seem like her normal imagining voice so I came into the bedroom to see her chatting away with Amara and Indigo on my iphone.
We finally got our bums up and out of the house into the warm fall sun. We walked to Champaign Surplus and downtown to get a drink after the crazy crowds and lines. We stopped in at Pekara to see if they had anything to wet our whistles. I noticed French Lemonade on the menu and asked what made lemonade French. The woman working the counter showed me a bottle and said it is flown in from France. Well, it is girls' weekend so I said, we'll take two. We love to support our local economy while staying true to our international tastes. I have to say the French know how to make some lemonade, not too sweet and a bit fizzy. It would make excellent disco lemonade.

Sorry, we heard that song on the way to Evanston a couple weekends ago and I had to work it in. We were refreshed enough to take in a couple secondhand/vintage stores downtown. We both found some dress up clothes. Hers would be fun for ballet as well and I think mine will be my first adult Halloween costume (that I can remember, we are not big into dressing up, but this year I've been feeling the urge). After trying it on at home, I've decided it is Morgana from Merlin, but that could be the excess of Netflix Merlin episodes last night after Josie fell asleep. No pictures, sorry. We did talk to the guys on while playing at Westside Park and they thoroughly enjoyed Handlebar and Rob promises he got pics.

Friday, October 21, 2011

MoFo Miscellany

Let's all do a happy Friday dance. It is also sunny in my part of the world today so things are cold, but bright which always makes me happy. It is also the last (probably) day of our mini-CSA from The Mulberries Farm and Orchard so I have broccoli/kale soup cooking on the stove and tofu baking in the oven to make room for the new local produce.
If you are local and not in the mood for cooking, Friday means Cactus Grill has a deal on their vegan tofu burritos. Yum! This one was Josie's, but your burrito could be even better with veggies, hot sauce, and/or guac, whatever you like. If you have a family of five, I suggest calling ahead to make sure they have enough tofu cooked up. No problem if you don't call ahead, just a longer wait. Love local restaurants, especially when they have vegan items on the menu.
Rob and the boys are taking the Brassica Soup and baked tofu on the train to Chicago tonight. They are staying with our friends, Todd and Katherine. Katherine's awesome toy store is having a huge 15th anniversary sale this weekend so if you are in Chicagoland, check it out and you might run into my guys. Building Blocks has some of our favorite games like Apples to Apples, Bananagrams, and Bug Bingo, wooden toys, educational toys, books, and so much more.
For locals who into fall camping, looking forward to the cold winter ahead, or planning how to survive car light/free in cooler months. You might want to check out the "sidewalk sale" at Champaign Surplus.
We bussed to Common Ground Co-op today to pick up some fruit and staples we won't get from the mini-CSA and they had these awesome t-shirts. Parker couldn't wait to put his on. You know you want one!
We also tried the chocolate flavor Zico coconut water. This flavor has coconut cream as well as water so it tastes more coconut-y than their other flavors. A plus for coconut lovers like our family, but more of a dessert than a hydration drink. Ironically, the Iron Chef challenge this weekend is coconut...mmm.
I have to brag about my new bag too. My neighbor/friend, Deborah invited me to a Thirty-one party at her home. I'm not usually big into going to home sales parties, unless they are "romance products" since those can actually be pretty fun, but even then how many sex toys does one household need I ask you...anyway, Deb is uber cool promised mixed drinks and yummy appetizers prepared by her hubby so I went. I'm glad I did. I scored this awesome bag which starts out normal size and then expands when you buy too much at the co-op after going in for "just one thing". At least that is what I use the bag for. I don't even want to add up the poundage for this haul (two 3 lb bags of onions - they were on sale, two banana bunches, loads of sale honey crisp apples and some red pears, a couple yams and a sweet potato, local hot sauce, a bag of grapefruit, a loaf of bread, coconut waters, popcorn, Tofurky, etc.) and I don't suggest you all try this at can be a back-breaker.
Here is what it looked like all filled up. Cute, eh?
Josie and I will be having a glorious girls' weekend. I'll post about our adventures in the kitchen and elsewhere this weekend. Check out Aladdin Jr. at the Virginia Theater (the last show is Saturday) starring our friend, Isabella, as Jasmine. If you have some time on Sunday, listen (online for you non-locals or people tied to their computer) to Food for Thought with Rachel and me. Have a good one!