Thursday, January 27, 2011

Wee Ones Wednesday - Ice Skating (and More) in the South

Immediately after Christmas, we headed down to Charlotte, NC for warm weather, but we found ice and snow! The kids did their first sledding of the winter down the icy drive way on a boogie board.
Actually, we were there to visit Rob's family, but I was hoping for a break from winter. We did receive warm Southern hospitality from Marc and Stephanie (Rob's brother and sister-in-law), as usual. I always feel so guilty when we take over their house on our visits, but they are always so sweet and act as if it is no trouble at all. Josie couldn't stop talking about her cousin, Lillian, the entire twelve hour car ride. We weren't there a few minutes before the two of them were snuggled up together on the couch.
We happened to be visiting while Lillian was on break and Stephanie was off work so we had extra time to hang out with them. One day, at Lillian's suggestion, we went to the ice rink. My kids weren't so sure about ice skating, I think the boys have been once with my sister and her friend, Stuart, but that didn't go well. Once they were out on the ice, it was hard to get them to leave!
Rob was super dad, while Stephanie and I didn't even don skates.
Josie was super pleased to be able to skate a bit without holding Rob's hand.
Parker after a nervous start, enjoyed himself so much that he can't wait to go ice skating again.
Dema was especially smitten with ice skating and was amazingly blase about falling. He stayed on the ice long after everyone else had put on their street shoes. I love how he is going his own way in the picture above, so Dema.
Another day we went to Charlotte's Discovery Place. Here is Dema on the bed of nails.
The family using team work and some muscle.
As things tend to go, the kids spent an amazing amount of time building with Kapla blocks, which we have at home. Stephanie built the nicest looking tower.
Josie was proud of her tall one.
We also watched the Sharks 3D at IMAX. It was cool to see the sharks in 3D and thankfully not the least bit scary (Parker was worried) or bloody. The down side, of course, pretty much all the sharks on the endangered list. They mention this, but fail to mention that fishing (bycatch as well as intentional fishing) has a lot to do with what is happening to the sharks. The bycatch is the issue which should be, in my opinion, stressed in these movies because that is the action which most of the people watching the movie can effect. By not eating or buying fish products, one can cut down on the overall demand fish and save so many killed and not eaten (bycatch). I guess another option could be demanding "sustainable" fishing (although, I don't know how well this can possibly be enforced) practices. I really get irritated when "educational" movies or museums fail to talk about the elephant in the room. It does no good. Kids (and adults) walk away sad that the sharks are dying off, but with no real answers on what they can personally do about it. More about museums missing the boat regarding animals and environmental issues in a future post.
Before Discovery Place, we had lunch at Brixx. They have vegan cheese for their pizza which the kids thought was cool.
While we were at Marc's tennis tournament, I finally pulled out Dema's first tooth! It had been loose forever and was hanging on my a very thin thread and we were about to go out to eat so I just popped it out. Luckily, the Tooth Fairy was prepared with a present to exchange for the tooth.
We ate Thai twice, but it is hard to beat Thai in Champaign. We have friends who live in Cali and Chicago and they still crave Champaign's Thai (Thara Thai, Siam Terrace, and Y Eatery). The highlight of the Thai restaurant was Rob's dad sweetly saving his tofu for our kids. For some reason two of the dishes which would normally have tofu did not and Josie was so completely exhausted and hungry, after watching Marc's tennis match, that she was melting down without her tofu. The waiter brought us a side of tofu so the kids didn't need the saved tofu, but it was a very nice gesture. The best food of our trip, hands down, was breakfast at the The Common Market before we headed out of town. If we move to Charlotte, I will live at this place. It is quirky and fun with a neighborhood feel. The scrambled tofu wrap above makes my mouth water even now just thinking about it! Veggies, tofu, walnuts, and an amazing sauce in a tasty tortilla. Scrumptious! Finally, proof that there may actually be a veg*n or two in Charlotte.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tester Tuesday - Energy Bites

We don't make balls often, the last ones were a dehydrator recipe which took forever. After I tested these Energy Bites for Robin Robertson's new cookbook, the kids have asked for them at least half a dozen times. I'm glad they can make them by themselves! The first comment they made after trying the bites for the first time was "these taste like cookie dough". I don't know where they get that comparison since we rarely make cookies let alone eat the dough, but I have to agree they taste like they could be dessert. The ingredients are all healthy whole foods though, so I don't feel bad about making them often.
We've subbed different ingredients based on what we had on hand and they are always so yummy they disappear in minutes. I'll keep these in mind for our next time we travel.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Miscellaneous Monday - The Last Dragon

We drove straight through (over 12 hours) to Charlotte, NC to see Rob's family, after Christmas. We listened to The Last Dragon written by Silvana de Mari and beautifully narrated by Patricia Conolly. The story was mesmerizing and just adorably sweet enough for my sensitive children to enjoy, even with loads of suspense and tragedy. The kids were quick to point out the main character, Yorsh the Elf, is veg*n. This was just a pleasant surprise. I quickly picked it up from the library on our way out of town, knowing nothing of the story. The entire family was quite taken with this audio book and I would be happy to listen to the almost ten hours over again. Young Yorsh has to make sense of the human world in much the same way all children have to make sense of things. He starts out with such innocence, it is hard not to fall for him right away. Conolly's voice is the perfect accompaniment to Mari's prose. We didn't want the story to end. The dragon doesn't come into the story until late, but such as life is about the journey, so is this book. Even weeks later, all three kids will bring up a part of the story they want to discuss further. There is hope and sadness, birth and death, mystery and romance. Something for everyone! Thumbs up from Josie (3), Dema (6), and Parker (almost 11).

Sunday, January 23, 2011

When It Absolutely Has to Be on the Table in Minutes

Last night the boys came home late from playing with friends (sorry, Cynthia!) and they were starving. I had already started to prepare Parker's Brassica Soup (you can throw anything in this soup, last night I added chickpeas and topped with pumpkin seeds, hot sauce, and za'atar) but I hadn't decided what else to fix and it was clear food was needed now. Sunshine Burgers to the rescue! I picked some up at the co-op when they were on sale the other day. Pictured is Parker's with his usual Vegenaise, nooch, za'atar, pickles, avocado, and lettuce. He ate three larger bowls of soup. He is definitely getting the appetite of a pre-teen as he approaches his eleventh birthday.
Tonight, I arrived home from the radio show and I was thinking of taking the gang to the local Vegan Meet-up, but it was clear they were hungry and tired (not due to staying up past eleven last night, oh no, I'm sure that isn't it) so I thought for a second about ordering out. Dema was already gearing up to fuss about whatever he could and I said dinner was going to be a treat. Then I remembered a can of Kaeng Kuea Curry Paste, Meat-free Mike, my co-host, gave to me weeks ago. I had thawed out some tofu earlier in the day and lightly sauteed it with some onions, boiled potatoes, steamed peas and carrots, pressure cooked some brown rice, and threw it all together with some water and coconut milk. Dinner was prepared, eaten, the kitchen clean, and the kids upstairs with teeth brushed within an hour and half. I would say it wasn't quite as good as my In a Hurry Thai Red Curry, but it saved me from relying on take-out. The kids ate seconds and then fresh mango for dessert. Thanks, Mike!

I'm trying to be okay with relying a bit on some prepackaged foods while Rob is out of town with his family. It actually hasn't been too bad and things have flowed really well, but I'll probably keep some items on hand for those meals when it absolutely has to be on the table in minutes. I have always had deep respect for single parents, but this respect is growing each day.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream For...

(all together now)...beta-carotene! What, not what you were thinking? Are you crazy? It is waaayyyy to cold for ice cream, but whatever the weather, beta-carotene is always in season. We all have a nice healthy orange glow this morning and we didn't even have to visit a hideous tanning bed.
Dinner last night was Carrot Bisque from Vegan with a Vengeance and Kale Puffs*. For the bisque, I used less coconut milk because I had some leftover in the freezer and I used however much was left...maybe half a can. Thanks for the tip, Jacqueline, on freezing coconut milk! I usually add quinoa to the soup after I puree it, but I used leftover brown rice instead. I subbed blackstrap molasses for maple syrup, as usual, for the calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, etc. If I'm going to add a sugar, I might as well get a little nutrition to sweeten the deal. I sprinkled some pumpkin seeds and za'atar on the top. The kale puffs are an old favorite which we haven't made in a while, but I found some forgotten kale in the back of my produce bin last night and decided to whip up a batch.
Bonus picture of some beautiful fresh fruit, a treat this time of year! Our talented neighbor, Vicky, worked with Dema last year on a treasure chest. She made each piece out of wood, took him to the local wood shop to pick out the hardware, helped him put it all together, and stained it. A wonderful project which I never would have managed! This Christmas, she gifted Josie her treasure chest set. So Josie and Parker went over to Vicky's yesterday to work on the chest and they came home with their arms full of produce. See why I hate to leave my frozen wasteland home? We don't have mountains or beaches or beautiful weather, but we have some of the best people on the planet. This fruit was part of their bounty and they eagerly gobbled it up. I'll share pictures of the treasure chest after it is finished.

*A looonnnnnggggg time ago, I promised my version of Susan's wonderful Colcannon Puffs (I asked her permission first, of course). I even hooked several friends and their children on these little dandies and promised them I would give an updated recipe, but life gets in the way at times. Then we cut down on our white potato consumption after researching Dr. Greger's information on white potatoes in his Latest in Clinical Nutrition (I believe it was volume 3) DVD, but I've been thinking of using sweet potatoes in the recipe ever since. I finally made Kale Puffs last night and decided it was time to go ahead and share the recipe. If you have kids who stick their noses up at green foods, you may want to work up to the pound of kale. The longer you cook the kale, the softer the taste.

*Kale Puffs
(yields about 50 puffs - cut the recipe in half if you don't have a family of five because they taste best warm)

3 lbs. potatoes peeled and diced (I used 2 lbs. sweet potatoes to 1 lb. white for puffs we enjoy the best, but you can use all white if you prefer)
1 bunch kale (about 12 oz. or maybe a pound)
1 cup nutritional yeast
1-2 tsp iodized salt
4 cloves garlic minced
1 tsp thyme (we also use za'tar instead of thyme when we are in the mood, but it is a stronger flavor)
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
2 Tablespoons potato starch (or corn starch, whatever you have)
3 Tablespoons ground flax seeds

Steam the potatoes for 20-30 minutes (until they are tender).  While the potatoes are steaming, devein the kale and soak or wash the leaves.  I like to tear the leaves off the main stalk into smaller pieces and soak them. Put all the ingredients, except the potatoes and kale, in a food processor. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. When the potatoes are tender, put them in a large bowl, saving the steaming water. Place the drained kale in the water from the potatoes and cover the pot with lid for about five minutes to wilt the leaves. Once the kale is wilted, use a slotted spoon to put the kale in the food processor (full with the other ingredients) and add 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid to the potatoes. Mash the potatoes with a hand masher and process the kale, etc. Once processed, add the kale mixture to the potatoes and mix thoroughly. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly oil if you like (I never do). Form the mixture into tablespoon size balls and place them on the parchment paper. If the mixture is took liquid, you can just let it sit for a few minutes and the flax seeds firm it up or you could add more nutritional yeast. If the mixture is too dry, you can add a little soy milk. Once you have filled up your baking sheet (or two), cook for 15 minutes. Turn the puffs over and cook for another 15 minutes. They will be hot inside even after they are cool to the touch, so eat carefully. Most kids (and adults), I've introduced these to, love to dip the puffs into ketchup (we prefer unsweetened or fruit sweetened) or soup. These are much better warm, but the kids did eat the few, which were left from last night, for pre-breakfast this morning, as they waited for their blueberry coconut pancakes. Enjoy!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Leftovers as Breakfast

A local parenting group was discussing quick nutritious breakfast ideas, on Facebook, a few days ago. I thought about mentioning one of our favorite quick morning meals...leftovers! Often leftovers are more nutritious than a bowl of cereal or other "traditional" breakfast fare, super quick, my kids love them, and it clears out my refrigerator for something fun and new later in the day.
Here is lunch; Cuban-Style Black Beans from Vegan Planet topped with a dollop of Tofutti sour cream and avocado, organic Clementines from Common Ground Co-op, and whole wheat pasta with peas and carrots with Robin Robertson's Three-Nut Cheeze Whiz tester recipe.
Here is breakfast the next day; Cheesey Grits topped with Cuban-Style Black Beans, fresh salsa from Common Ground Co-op, a dollop of Tofutti sour cream and za'tar.  The kids ate kiwi while the grits cooked and we all enjoyed a tasty, hot, hardy start to our busy day.

Super Gym Night Supper

This evening was an early gym night and temps were dropping. I knew the kids would be cold and hungry by the time we arrived home so I needed something quick and comforting. I started Chickpea Noodle Soup from Veganomicon on the stove before heading out. I prepared the soup up to the point of putting in the noodles (I used whole wheat spaghetti instead of soba this time), then put the lid on turned off the heat. On returning home, I turned the heat back on to get the soup bowling while I prepared grilled cheese sandwiches with Sprouted Wheat bread from Strawberry Fields and FYH Cheddar. We don't make grilled cheese often, but this classic comfort food from my childhood was calling out to me. When we do make them, Rob is usually the one to do the cooking, but with him gone, I ventured out on my own.
I was so glad to have worked out, even if it was BodyFlow so nothing that burned off the calories I consumed, but still, it made me feel better. I was in such a calm state, I didn't even get the least bit upset when my sandwich fell to the floor before even one bite was taken. I just made a replacement, I thought for a second about just eating the yummy soup, but the kids were enjoying theirs so much, I couldn't resist. Rob's secret grilled cheese ingredient is vegan Worcestershire sauce, but I forgot to add some. I did add fresh salsa from the co-op, avocado, sauerkraut, and za'tar. Mmmm, mmm, good!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

WTbleep or Wacky Wednesday

I will hopefully do a Wee Ones post today, but I had to cover a couple things which are better suited for a "whatthebleep" (as my six year old likes to say...shakes head and sighs) or a wacky Wednesday post so here ya go.

First off is How to Date a Vegan.  Gotta love an article on how to get intimate with a vegan when you aren't one.  It has been a while since I've covered vegan sex on this blog, apparently, I am total slacker. As covered in my 2007 post linked above, vegans prefer vegans mate-wise.  So I guess How to Date a Vegan is right, we travel in packs and it is hard to separate us to take one down, so to speak.

So, let us see how my vegan mate and I size up on the bullet points:
  • membership to rock-climbing gym (okay, yes, we had memberships while we were dating and early in our married lives, but I really don't see how it relates)
  • early Bj√∂rk album (check)
  • dreads or hipster haircut (no, but our three year old is seriously working on the dreads part)
  • fixed-gear bike (Rob is probably on his fixed-gear as I type)
  • Thich Nhat Hanh book (check, but come on, who doesn't have a Thich Nhat Hanh book?)
  • yoga mat (or half a dozen...we have kid yoga at our house on Fridays)
  • facial piercing or tattoo (nope, probably never gonna happen, we like to be alternative vegans and live on the fringe)
  • PETA paraphernalia (sure, but much more Vegan Outreach, VRG, FARM, etc. paraphernalia)
Viva la stereotypes.

I would add some tips of my own.
  • read Eating Animals (more on this in a future post)
  • dump the Michael Pollan-ish reasons for not going vegan (lame)
  • be up-to-date on B12 (go ahead and stock up)
  • listen to Food for Thought (a little self-promotion)
  • alcohol, lots of vegan alcohol (joking!)
  • know how to listen and converse on multiple topics (we vegans are a deep thinking lot)
  • learn how to cook vegan food (the way to a vegan's heart is through his/her stomach)
I get a kick out of veganism current popularity and that people have come up with ways to get us in bed.  We do it all for the animals!

Another article not to be missed is Human Cheese.  As I commented on FB, "Why would cheese from milk (human milk since it is the original milk consumed by humans made specifically for humans) be seen as gross and cheese from bovine milk be seen as "natural" and tasty? Strange, strange beings, we are."  Much more on this topic at a later date.

I hope I've helped you get over your humpday, enjoy!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Persimmons

Thanks to our local co-op and the lovely produce section, (seriously, they have the best produce section I've seen, hands down) we have been introduced into the wonderful world of persimmons. I don't think any of us had eaten one before so I did some quick research. See video below or just search YouTube for "how to eat a persimmon" and be entertained for quite some time.

The kids were eager to jump right in.
Josie, with remnants of green smoothie still on her face, processing the persimmon taste.
Parker giving it a try.

The verdict?  They were not an instance hit, but grew on us all.  We were happy to see persimmons in the fruit bowl a couple days later when we visited Rob's brother, Marc, and his family in North Carolina.  We gobbled them up!

There are several funny persimmon videos out there, but this one is informative.