Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Who Knew?

I'm quickly becoming a BBQ addict. The Rough Rider Barbecue Sauce from Vegan Diner is just so quick and easy. I play around with it a bit (it was too sweet for our tastes so I omit the agave nectar and use blackstrap molasses instead of light molasses. This time I slathered it on tempeh. I always boil my tempeh for 10 to 20 minutes before cooking it so I sliced it into thin strips and lightly fried it to get some of the moisture out. I couldn't think of what to serve with the bbq tempeh so I looked around the kitchen. Several large onions made me remember Lindy Loo's recent post with baked onion rings (OMG Oven Baked Onion Rings from PPK/Appetite for Reduction to be exact). Yeah, that was the ticket. I'm not a huge onion ring fan and I really can't stand deep frying things, but I needed something quick and since these were baked it was worth trying. The onion rings were a keeper, so much better than the fried version. My only complaint is the breading mixture was super sticky after a the first batch of rings. We made a second batch with panko instead of regular bread crumbs and this worked better. It is key to keep the liquid mixture on the onion to a minimum. To add to the oniony goodness, I sauteed the part of the onions which didn't stay together as rings or were to small. I will have to do this with onions more often. It reminds me of my mother (she loved onions, especially fried/sauteed) and the sauteed onions made the bbq tempeh sandwiches. A mixed green salad and a plum rounded out the meal and some of us dipped our onion rings in ketchup.
Everyone enjoyed the meal, but I have to say they were even better for lunch the next day. The leftover onion rings were limp, but oh my so yummy and the bbq was to die for (I added guacamole and a little shredded Daiya to the bbq tempeh, onions, and lettuce). Josie and I were the only ones eating since the boys were gone and Rob was working. She stopped mid-bite to say "Darn (okay, it might have been "damn", but don't tell), this is good!" Three year old for OMG, I suppose. When the boys arrived home, Parker ate two bbq tempeh sandwiches before dinner. He was disappointed the onion rings were gone, but was satisfied with stuffed grape leaves instead.
Who knew baked onion rings (some of them day old at that) were so much better than fried?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Simplify Saturday

We had a yard sale this weekend. The goal is to simplify, simplify, simplify. I ran a business out of our home for several years (from the time my second was a babe and he is now seven). It was a labor of love, but definitely not something that was going to make us rich. In fact, after being someone who could sell anything to anyone in my mid to late teens, I no longer had it in me. I sold only products which I felt where quality and environmentally friendly, but I still couldn't stomach it. The fun was in the meeting people and helping them find something (especially baby carriers) that worked for them, but when it came time to take the money it always made me feel slightly sick. Not good. For that reason and others, I decided to close up shop at the end of last year. This was probably the best decision I've made in a long time and now I want to continue simplifying and "de-stuffing". If I don't love it, I want it out. I don't, however, feel good about throwing anything away. We compost and recycle, much of our things can be reused so a yard sale was in order. Our friends David and Loretta are moving so they are downsizing quite a bit as well, this gave me the push I needed to get off my butt and start tagging. The entire weekend was full of selling what we no longer need, chatting, hanging out, kids playing, eating take out, drinking wine, kids sleeping over...just the kind of crazy weekend I love with the bonus of a little lighter load emotionally and physically. I need to have another yard sale in the fall, but it was good to get the simplifying wheels rolling.
Cooking was at a minimum with everything so busy, but Rob did take time to cook one of our favorite meals for lunch. Just one day of eating take-out burritos and delivery pizza was enough for me to feel the need for real food. The best part was dinner Saturday evening at Gita's house. The sale was done, we delivered most of the what was left to various charities in town, and it was time to relax and eat. Sometimes the simple meals are the most satisfying. We couldn't get enough of her whole wheat capellini with pesto and roasted veggies. It was perfect! Dema's favorite part was the roasted beets, but it was all just so good, I had seconds (and maybe thirds). The mixed greens salad was Josie's favorite, when we finally convinced her to take a break from playing with her friends. All the kids scarfed down the bread from Pekara. The evening was not too hot or humid so eating outside in Gita's awesome backyard was lovely until the mosquitoes chased us home. Life is good!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Cabbage Noodle Soup

Susan at Fat Free Vegan has another winner with her Cabbage Noodle Soup. I made this soup half a dozen times before summer hit and I thought I should blog about it before we creep into the 90's again. Our lovely friend, Emily, had her third baby in April and I needed to make something vegan for her family. No problem, but it also needed to be tomato, pepper, and eggplant-free. I wanted to make something they could easily reheat and filling for the new mama, but it was also a really busy time here so I needed something quick and easy. Cabbage Noodle Soup seemed like the way to go. I've mentioned before that cabbage is not one of our "go to" vegetables so I'm always looking for new ways to incorporate it into our diet, especially since Josie insists we buy cabbage any time she sees in the co-op produce section. This is a chickpea noodle soup with cabbage standing in for the noodles, but I couldn't help myself and added udon noodles as well (I upped the liquid a bit too).
The second time I made the soup, I used white beans instead of chickpeas and whole wheat orzo instead of udon, but remember it really doesn't need any noodles/pasta so great for the gluten free crowd. I threw in some kale too. This soup is a keeper and light enough to serve on cool summer nights so you don't have to wait for winter.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Dad is Great, He Gives Us (Vegan) Chocolate (Strawberry) Ice Cream

I bought a new ice cream maker recently while Rob was out of town in Charlotte, NC. It was super hot and we needed an ice cream maker, it was an impulse buy. The kids have been requesting ice cream be made in the new ice cream maker, but I couldn't find my copy of Vice Cream so I said to wait until Rob was back in town. We still blew off their requests until last Sunday when we couldn't take it any longer. Rob made a yummy coconut milk based strawberry and chocolate ice cream.
The kids, of course, thought it was a great breakfast. I tried to feel okay since there were real strawberries and dark chocolate has anti-oxidants, right? I was the one who opened Pandora's box in the first place so I couldn't fault Rob. Luckily, it made just the right amount (maybe 3/4 of a pint) so no one overindulged.

It was also the day of their big flag football game against an adult team, so dinner was Village Inn Pizza. The Blue Jays are an awesome homeschool flag football team with a wide range of ages where girls and boys play together and they all have loads of heart and team spirit. They also had the best coaches one could ever ask for. It was a great season! Not the most nutritious day, but lots of fun.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Sometimes It's Easy Eating Green(s)

I think I've mentioned some sort of variation on this meal dozens of times, but really it is always a winner so I'll keep blogging about it. It was a beautiful evening, things have cooled off a bit from the 90's earlier in the week. We had fresh produce from the Market at the Square and Common Ground Co-op so it was a perfect night to eat our favorite meal. Josie kept exclaiming how good the meal was with every bite.
Garlicky kale topped with brown rice, garlicky tofu, and almond butter sauce (almond butter, ketchup, rice vinegar, tamari, garlic, ginger, dried red chili pepper, a little coconut milk, and water). Mixed salad greens, raisins, walnuts, and salad beans (we forgot to soak beans last night so I opened a can of salad beans which was an impulse buy the other day, just for this type of occasion) topped with Vidalia onion dressing. We can now shut our produce drawers...those darn things are way too small. Vicky and Greg brought over some ripe mangoes while we were cooking so the kids had those as an appetizer and white tea to wash it all down. Life is good!

Why people who care about the environment don't eat factory-farmed meat.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Simple Suppers and Wrap it Up Lunches

When it heats up outside, the last thing I want to do is slave over a hot stove in our kitchen (no A/C!), but we have to eat. Especially, since we have hours to spend at the park/pool, we need to refuel, but we need to get back to the fun as soon as we can. Here are a few quick, simple meals we've made to beat the heat.
Whole wheat fettuccine with sauteed garlicky collards and kalamata olives.
Sauteed farmer's market Asian greens (I say this because when Rob buys them from farmer Greg, he says they are "Asian greens") with black "Forbidden" rice, pan seared tofu, topped with tahini sauce and hot sauce
Vegan Dad's Peanut Tempeh with Noodles (this is an old fave or ours, but I haven't made it for a while, great with whole wheat spaghetti if you don't have rice noodles on hand, I didn't have any cilantro, but I added peas as it cooked and cashews for garnish) served with mangoes and cherries
Vegan Diner Q Sandwich on whole wheat bun, mixed greens salad with raisins, chickpeas, walnuts, and homemade tahini dressing, yellow pasta and peas with hot sauce (this is what my eldest used to call vegan mac and cheese when he was two and it still sticks for whatever yellowish sauce I come up with to serve over pasta)

Okay, that last one comes together really quickly if you do some prep work ahead of time, but it isn't like the others which you can blow off dinner until the last minute and use what you have on hand. The Smoky Seitan from Vegan Diner is the base for the sandwich and it smells wonderful steaming. All the seitan recipes are super simple and quick to put together, the steaming takes most of the time, but that isn't active kitchen time. The Smoky Seitan calls for porcini mushroom powder, which might be hard to find, but it is worth it. Of course, it would work fine with any seitan recipe. Rob made the Sandwich Slaw (also from Vegan Diner) a day before. He thought it cold be more vinegar-y, but I thought it was just fine and it was good to let it marinate in the refrigerator for a day. I made the Rough Rider Barbecue Sauce (Vegan Diner), but I had to sub maple syrup for the agave nectar since we were out. This just might become my go-to bbq sauce. Yes, we went from using bbq sauce once a year or less and now I might make some sort of bbq a couple times a month.

Quick lunches are often wraps, but I rarely photograph them because it is hard to make them look good. You can put pretty much any leftover in a whole grain tortilla and you have a winner. All our leftover Indian food from Memorial Day ended up as wraps....yum! The tortillas we prefer right now are Maria and Ricardo's 12 inch whole wheat tortillas. For some reason at our co-op, they only carry the white flour or sometimes the sun dried tomato, but I buy the whole wheat ones through our buying club. Tortillas are more fun than bread and lighter, but still have about 10 grams of protein per serving, if you are tracking that sort of thing.
Here is one of Parker's latest creations. Yes, this has vegan hot dogs in it. We bought some for our friend/neighbor, Jair's pool birthday party/cookout (loads of fun!) and had a few left over. We had just roasted some asparagus for soup and Parker asked if he could use some for his wrap. He also included Vegenaise, guacamole, mixed greens, pickles, za'atar, hot sauce, and mustard. He loves coming up with new combinations of foods. He finished of this one and went for this baby next.
Leftover black rice, Common Ground Co-op Brazilian Black Bean Soup, hot sauce, and guacamole. I am always surprised how much my eleven year old eats and I love that he enjoys making healthy foods.

What is your favorite quick and easy summer meal?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Living on (Friends') Leftovers or When the Vegans Move Out

Living in a small Midwestern college town means change, this time of year. Everyone is preparing to move or has already moved on. It bothered me growing up here because I was full of wanderlust and I was disappointed to be staying put. I moved out of my childhood home right after my seventeenth birthday and soon moved out of state. It wasn't because I didn't love my family, I just couldn't wait to be out of my hometown. Since then I've lived in several different states, visited even more countries, yet here I am back where I never expected to be...back and not really wanting to leave. Quite unexpected. I remember people not wanting to get to know us after we said we were only here for a year or two. I thought it was funny at the time, because that is the type of friendships I am often drawn to, but the joke was on us now that we've been here almost 12 years! Even typing that out makes me feel a little sick to my stomach. Way too long to be in one place, right?

I'm not good at long-term.  I am not one to be close friends with people I knew since we were kids. Not that I didn't like the people I grew up with, sometimes quite a lot, but I have always thrived on the new. I am not one to remember people's birthday for years after we met (thank you Facebook for doing this for me!) and I always intend to send cards for this and that, but rarely do they make it in the mail. I love the beginning of relationships, the getting to know new friends or loves, the new life stories, the open book not filled in yet with the endless possibilities, the first kiss or the first chatting as friends over a drink, I love the newness of it all. This may be why I was engaged (but never married) several times before Rob and I met. As I hurtle toward the big 4-oh no!, I feel something I've really never experienced before, I guess it can be described as a need for permanence. Or the illusion of permanence, since there really is no such thing. I feel the mourning of relationships, which never quite became what they could have because life gets in the way, or ones that will change due to location or children growing older or other situations beyond my control. Before I would embrace these ebbs and flows in friendships/loves and look forward to the "new kid in town", the getting to know each other period, the fresh friendships. Yet now I feel like I'm traveling unexpected territory and wanting the Earth to stay put beneath my feet instead of the constant shifting. This feeling puts me out of sorts and I'm not sure what to do with it. We had the opportunity, actually more like a need, to move to a new town a few months ago and normally I would have jumped at the chance, but instead I dug in my heels. Knowing that some of what I was staying for was going to leave around me, like sand washed away by the tide, as I sink my toes deeper, trying to keep my balance. For this and other reasons, like seeing my eldest come closer and closer to being a young man and perhaps our own aging, I feel the need to "circle the wagons" so to speak. To concentrate on my immediate family in a more purposeful way, maybe as a way to save my heart from the constant comings and goings of this town.

Sigh, get on with the food.

One of our dinners recently was completely inspired by a bottle of bbq sauce given to us by our friends, Faith and Wade. They are moving out of the country, which makes us sad for several reasons, one is we never were able to spend much time with them, except at the vegan meet-ups. Two because they are vegan and it seems that our little college town is always losing the cool vegans. The bonus to their move is that it is a dream come true for them and they gave us some fun food. When vegans move out of town, we often get the food they don't want to/can't move. Bonus for us and we get to try new foods which we might not buy ourselves.
In this case, we scored White Chocolate Wonderful peanut butter. Now this is something I would never buy. I am a purist when it comes to peanut butter and pretty much stick to organic brands with only one ingredient...peanuts. I have to say the kids thought this was the best treat ever and they may leave us to go live in Canada with Faith and Wade (they are easily wooed by vegan treats and the kids love them anyway based mainly on their potluck offerings). The pre-parent part of we thinks it is pretty awesome this item even exists. I mean think about it, vegan white chocolate peanut butter. The kids suggest it eaten on slices of organic bananas to cut the sweetness.
Back to the bbq sauce. I made this dinner on a whim, which is just how things are working lately. Around 5:30pm I realize dinner needs to be made NOW and I go down to the kitchen and whip something up. It works for me and I really like cooking this way, but I know deep down some planning would probably be a good idea. We have a fairly well stocked kitchen at all times since we buy in bulk things like nuts and grains from our buying club and we buy our produce from the farmer's markets or our local co-op. We still live pretty well within our budget without meal plans, but I'm trying to tackle some major house projects so I might not have the luxury to cook by the seat of my pants this summer. I found Week in a Weekend while I was researching topics for Food for Thought and I'm thinking I may need to try this. I love that Alex Jamieson (from Super Size Me fame) has come up with a vegan cook for the weekend on the weekend meal plan. All her recipes, I've seen over the years, seem to be focused on nutrition as well as taste, which appeals to me a lot. I'll let you know if I can tame my inner spontaneous cook for a more plan oriented one. Yes, we had bbq sauce back in the deep darks of our cabinets anyway, but there is something about someone giving you a bottle which makes you want to use it. Never had that happen? This happens to me all. the. time. I live in some crazy other's leftovers dimension because to be honest, people are always giving us vegan food, even if they aren't leaving town or vegan. I love it. So I had this sauce and I had Vegan Diner and I put the two together and made Barbequed Ribz. I also mashed up some taters I had sitting around and sauteed a mess o'greens to make it a meal. The kids were so quiet (those of you who know us, will realize how rare that is) as they devoured everything. I made a double batch of the seitan ribz so I used up our old bottle of sauce too (which happened to be exactly the same brand and style). We don't eat bbq often, obviously, but we might have to rectify that because this was really a yummy meal.
The texture of the seitan was great and the flavor was just the right amount of heat, although Julie Hasson wasn't kidding when she said these are even better the next day. The sandwiches I made for the lunch the day after were something I can't wait to eat again. I added some of Rob's leftover tomato risotto to make it a meal. Come to think of it, I think Faith and Wade gave us the arborio rice too. I'll not be shy and make make my own bbq sauce next time and we might actually grill them. This time we just stuck them on broil in the oven after they were done cooking. It worked and no bother with the grill.
We always have rolled oats on hand, but Faith and Wade gave us some oats so I made granola for the first time ever. I know! For many years we've been labeled as "granola" and "crunchy" yet we rarely eat granola and I've never made it from scratch before (at least not that I remember). Vegan Diner has a recipe for Diner Granola which I will have to make more often. Not too sweet and so easy (yes, I know, homemade granola is always easy). I used Brazil nuts instead of hazelnuts since that is what I had on hand. Again, the kids thought we were on vacation because of the rare treat. We don't do a lot of cereal and sweetened cereal is only bought when we are on vacation. I made the Pumpkin Spice Pancakes from Vegan Diner for dinner the same evening I made the granola (found an forgotten can of pumpkin in the back of the cabinet, I really should clean out the cabinets more often). Josie calls these pancakes "candy pancakes", but I didn't add the sugar the recipe called for and just used the molasses so they didn't taste overly sweet to me. Even after consuming a double batch on their own (Rob and I are eating light dinners these days, so no pancakes for us), the kids asked if I could make more. I've made them twice (the second time with canned sweet potatoes, I don't think there was any difference). If you haven't made pumpkin pancakes before, they can be a little tricky and sticky so be patient. I added chopped walnuts (omega 3's, protein, copper, manganese) and raisins (iron, potassium) to most of the pancakes because I can't resist. Yes, I add things for flavor, but I always have the nutrition aspect in mind. They loved them even more.

My goal this next year is to be better about keeping in touch with our far away friends. We fully intended to move back to the DC area at some point and I miss the people we left so much, yet many of them have moved one, things have changed, kids, divorce, new jobs, life goes on so fast. We have family and friends on the west coast and some days it feels like a world away. It would be great to get to New England soon to see friends and their children we've never met. So many places and wonderful people. I hope we get a chance to visit friends more and keep connected. We are so fortunate to have our lives touched by so many amazing people.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Lazy Summer Porch Day

Just found this post in my draft section from a particular hot day in early May, but here you go anyway:
I don't know about the weather in your part of the world, but our weather has gone from too cold to have an outside birthday party (I still have not posted about it!) for my middle son in mid-April to 89 degrees at 4pm today. The kids and I took a break around noon today to "water the garden".
The water guns were a birthday present to Dema from our neighbor/friend Jair. I have gone 11 years of parenting without any type of gun (I even have friends leave their toy guns at the door, I feel like someone out of the Old West confiscating guns at the edge of town), but today I did see the value of water guns.
They had a blast staying cool and didn't beg for hours to go swim at Vicky and Greg's pool (which is not open for the season yet, but the kids start asking about the end of March). The garden was watered and the kids were watered.
My view of the porch when I wasn't watching the kids. In warm weather, it is my favorite part of our house.
I had some relaxation time in the hammock on the porch reading The Lacuna and drinking one of these babies (unsweetened chocolate soymilk, coffee, and a splash of peppermint over ice...ahhh!), as the kids dried off they drank these babies
(one bunch of kale, two oranges, one banana, vanilla soy milk, Brazil nuts, shredded coconut, a few frozen raspberries, and ice)  and read about the true history of chocolate...it all comes together at the Vegan Linda Academy. Have I mentioned how much I adore homeschooling?
Our lunch was baked tofu wraps with walnuts, Nayonaise (don't tell Rob, he loved the wraps and even came down from his attic office to steal half of mine, but believes he doesn't like Nayonaise), mustard, Cholula, guacamole, and salad mix in a sun-dried tomato wrap. Served with our first sun tea of the season (Afternoon in Provence from my friend Julia's business, Bingley's Teas).
Dinner was just as good as lunch; roasted local mushrooms and asparagus (inspired by Richelle's dish at the Easter potluck), sauteed beet greens from Kit and Emily, brown rice, Raw Red Pepper Aioli (Eat, Drink, and Be Vegan) topped with gomasio and walnuts. I love the spring growing season with all things green in abundance. Life is good!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A Memorable Memorial Day

Memorial Day was beautiful with swimming at Vicky and Greg's pool and enjoying the hot weather. We spent the evening with friends (sadly, two of the families are moving out of the area so it might be the last gathering with all of us together) at Gita and Seth's. The kids were excited as we headed off to the party with two of the dishes we brought. Luckily, Seth loaned us the wagon or we would have needed to make a couple trips.
I wish I had a picture of Gita and Seth's backyard because they have turned it into a lovely space. They really have an eye for taking a meh backyard and making it fun and useful. Great for entertaining or relaxing and they have quite a large garden space there as well. Instead I have this pick of Josie and Asher managing the steps (the door and steps used to be on the opposite side of the mudroom...so much better on this side) with their lemonade.
Loretta brought yummy samosas from World Harvest. They went really fast, probably due in a large part to my three kids. Josie loved them, but had to take a drink between each bite, just the right amount of spicy. I might have to buy some of these this weekend, they were so good!
It turned out to be quite the Indian food feast, yum! Gita made raita (something we rarely make so I was happy to supply the soy yogurt if she would make it, a treat!), we provided Channa Masala (to the right of the raita), Jasmin's Mattar Pulao (page 97 in Ginger and Ganesh), I made Meena's Rajma (page 52 in Ginger and Ganesh), Gita made some basmati rice too (I think it was brown basmati, the yellow rice) and Aloo Gobi with peas. It was all delicious and I can't wait to make Rajma again....it was my first time. The Rajma recipe was poorly edited (didn't list garlic in the ingredients, but says to add it, I love garlic so I didn't mind making up my own amount), but the kids loved it and I would like to play around with more kidney beans. We also had mixed greens salad, fruit salad, Emily's strawberry crisp and Erin's peanut butter cookies, which the kids devoured. Nothing is better than a enjoying beautiful day and Indian food with great friends.