Monday, January 30, 2012

Our B Game

Several dinners lately that were good, but not awesome. They were all just a bit off. Parker gave them a "B".* When I make them again, I'd probably change a couple things to get the grade up.
Caldo Verde with Crumbled Tempeh from Appetite for Reduction
This one grew on me so maybe it is one of those soups that is better the next day. I used sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes and the red chard Josie talked me into buying (she loved to beg for chard at the co-op even after I've filled our cart with kale and collards, this is good because she is teaching Rob and me to like chard more). Josie ate all her chard first then didn't want to eat the rest of the soup, but she liked the leftovers so maybe she was being stubborn.

Mac and Cheezeburger Bake and Energy Bites from Quick-Fix Vegan and version of my Cherry Chocolate Nut Green Smoothie
The only changes I would make for the Mac and Cheezeburger Bake were things I did outside of the recipe anyway. I used quinoa pasta which didn't work so well in a bake because the pasta got pretty crunchy unless it was completely covered in sauce. Whole wheat pasta next time. I loved the carrots, peas, corn, and green beans I added, but the Daiya cheese was completely not necessary so I'd omit it (the Daiya was my addition just because we had a bit to use up). I change up the Energy Bites every time so these have cashews, apricots, walnuts, sunflower seeds, tahini, and blackstrap molasses. Energy Bites are always a hit with the kids and they will gobble up as many as I make. The smoothie actually didn't have greens in it this time, just frozen cherries, cocoa, walnuts, flax seeds, rolled oats, soy milk, and an peeled orange beet. Delicious and nutritious.
Here is Dr. Greger's recipe for a healthy milkshake that is similar.

 Cajun Beanballs and Spaghetti from Appetite for Reduction
Creamy Mushroom Fettuccine from Appetite for Reduction
I made both of these dishes on the same night so we could each have our pick of tomato sauce or mushroom sauce and just made a big batch of whole wheat spaghetti. The kids were pretty disappointed with the Beanballs. We prefer the Tempeh Sausage Crumbles. I might play with the beanballs to make them more flavorful. The tomato sauce was just okay. I prefer the one I usually make, but this isn't the recipe's fault. I think it was actually the tomatoes I used. I bought a case of Eden's tomatoes in the amber jars, but everything I made with them tasted a little off. The packaging is new so maybe I'll wait for the kicks to get worked out. The tomatoes were also much darker than normal too. We all preferred the mushroom sauce, but even that was just okay. I added red pepper flakes to mine and enjoyed it much more. Overall we have really enjoyed Appetite for Reduction, just a few recipes we probably won't make often. We can't always bring our A game.

*I have to mention that I despise grades and this is one of the many reasons I homeschool. Parker has taken a liking to grades now that he's in public school which makes me want to bring him home, but I totally understand. I was a grade hound in school and had to have the best grade and everything was about the A+ or the test scores. I would rather Parker not make the same mistakes and learn for the sake of learning and not just do what needs to be done to get the A. Love of learning is something ever child has naturally and I don't want him to lose that love and just go for grades. Grades and learning are not the same thing. He came home with several awards from school and while I understand why they do awards, it makes me cringe.
A bonus picture of Josie's new haircut. Actually, it is her first haircut ever. Rob cut all of our hair (I have banges now and our friend Chandra was sweet enough to come fix them a bit). I love being able to see her eyes now!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Veggies and Dumplings or Peanut Sauce and Quinoa Pasta

Yesterday's lunch, Veggies and Dumplings from Vegan Diner. I made the Chicken Style Seitan Loaf from Vegan Diner first and then decided to the do the veggies and dumplings so I add about a fourth of the seitan loaf to the finished dish. I used red onion, Better than Bouillon, and white whole wheat flour (which is really all we have on hand so I use it for everything), but pretty much followed the rest of the recipe. I don't think the kids have eaten dumplings before, but I assumed they would like them. Parker loved it, but said he'd like it without the dumplings too. The little ones completely surprised me, especially my bread loving Dema, and they ate around the dumplings. Crazy kids! Rob was happy since veggies and dumplings are a comfort food from his childhood and I thought it was a nice stick to your ribs kind of meal.
Since we had a late lunch I thought we'd do something light for dinner. I saw Robin's post for National Peanut Butter Day and was inspired to make a version of one of her peanut sauces in Quick-Fix Vegan, but because of the peanut shortage and the fact that I only had almond butter on hand it became almond butter sauce. Whatever, it was good (Parker asked for leftovers to be packed in his lunch and Dema and Josie asked me to make it again tonight) and I added a bit more of the seitan. So we didn't have a total gluten overload, I made quinoa pasta and you can see the peas and carrots. Severed it with more of the veggies and dumplings and some apples. That is a picture of a young me in the background.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Everyone Needs a Day Off

One of the most stressful times for me as a parent is Parker's pediatric cardiologist visit. Don't get me wrong, pediatric cardiologist are some of the best people on the planet. I am always amazed by how down-to-Earth, respectful, compassionate, intelligent, (insert your favorite positive adjective here) ped cards are and I'm not a huge fan of allopathic medicine. We've seen several ped cards in the last twelve years and I have loved each and every one of them. Still, I dread the visits more than anything else in my life. Fortunately, Parker only has to see them every other year now, but in some ways that makes the visit even more difficult.
I walked to Parker's school yesterday right before lunch to pick him up and then we walked downtown for bite to eat. We don't get a chance to eat together without the rest of the family very often so it is a big treat for both of us. Parker chose Esquire for a black bean burger. Now this probably sounds pretty awful for me to take my child to grab a veggie burger prior to getting a cardiac ECHO, but he eats healthier than most people I know and it is a fun place to go.
Eating at a bar before or after his appointment is starting to be a tradition. This is Parker and Rob playing billiards at Crane Alley after his appointment two years ago.

After lunch, Parker and I caught the bus to his appointment. The ECHO is first so the doctor has something to look at and it is the part of the appointment that bothers me the most. When Parker was just a baby I would nurse him during the ECHO. Both of us on the examining table and the sonographer being ever so sweet to try to work with us. Actually, the technicians have always thanked me for nursing him (as he grew older we would bring a portable DVD player or some favorite books) since it can be a horrible experience for everyone involved trying to get a baby to be still for 20 minutes or 60 minutes in some cases while they have goop on their chest and are being prodded with a transducer. While I don't have to cajole Parker into being still anymore, it is hard to hear the whoosh whoosh instead of a proper thumping and I used to watch the screen to learn as much as I could, but now I avoid the screen for fear of seeing something. Yesterday the sonographer asked Parker is he has been short of breath, this sends my mind into all sorts of places I don't want to go. No, he hasn't shown any signs of anything wrong EVER. Yet still they told us he needed open heart surgery at two and a half years old. Did the sonographer see something? I hate trying to read the technician as much as I loathe to look at the Doppler imaging of my child's heart on the screen like a growing Midwestern storm.

After the half hour ECHO, we wait and wait and wait. Over an hour, in an examining room, not the waiting room. We've been forgotten at a pediatrician appointment before so we start to get a little nervous. We open the door a bit and talk tad louder so they know we are there. Parker brought a book, but he doesn't read much before he gets antsy. Talking is better. We talk a lot, but not about his heart. We talk about Minecraft and school. We talk about the environment and dogs. We tell silly jokes and get slap happy. It has been two hours now and the highly refined carbs of his lunch added to the hospital lighting is making Parker sleepy. We are moved to another room and told we are next. The ped card has an intern with him today so things are taking a little longer. I really don't mind, I would rather the doctor not rush. These things can not be discussed in five to ten minutes. I am happy to wait for our time and I'm happy for other families to get their questions answered by a doctor who is willing to spend quality time.

Finally, one of my favorite doctors in the world walks in. He is brought to our little college town from Children's Hospital of Illinois in Peoria, IL. I appreciate his willingness to come to us so all the heart families in our area don't have to drive a couple hours to him. Our doctor is so sure and completely competent, but in such a wonderfully accessible way. He is "old school" and able to diagnose many heart issues with his stethoscope (backed up by the latest in technology, but he gets it right before all the expensive pictures). I want to tell the young intern (who I find out is going in family practice not cardiology) that she is so lucky to have even a few hours with this doctor. I want to grab her by the shoulders and shake the yawn out of her. I know she is overworked and has little time to sleep, but seize this time with this doctor...please!

Notice how respectful and sweet he is with my growing boy. My twelve year old with his shirt off and two people listening to his heart, he is a person. A person born with a heart condition. Not someone who has treated their body like crap for years and now has heart "disease". He didn't do this to himself. He didn't make the poor choices and then ask for pills to make things better. This person before you was born (probably due to environmental factors as we destroy this planet we all live on) with two holes in his heart, a tricuspid valve with only two cusps and a leaky aortic valve. Listen to his heart and empathize with what he is feeling. Only a few days from turning twelve, he is getting to the age where his condition is becoming his responsibility and not something his parents can shoulder on their own. Be careful with the words you use. Our wonderful grandfatherly ped card knows all of this and more.

Dr. A talks directly to Parker and carefully explains everything to him. As he writes down notes, he exclaims how much Parker has grown and how incredibly healthy he looks. I start to breathe normally again. I didn't even know I was holding my breath. I heard Dr. A talk to the technician, I know he's thoroughly looked through the ECHO results. The other shoe is not falling today. The probably inevitable valve surgery is not in our near future. Not today. We never know as his body grows how it will affect his heart. Kids at school, even adults, say things about Parker's stature. Taller is always better for boys this age. Dr. A is happy. Parker height and weight are great. He has shorter parents and shorter  grandfathers so being the tallest is probably not in his future, thankfully. We don't want his heart to have to work too hard just to live. He's played soccer, flag football, cycled in races, and is generally a very active kid. He can remain so, hopefully, for his entire life. The doctor is very impressed with how well Parker is doing, how well the surgery was performed almost ten years ago now, and how Social Studies is Parker's favorite subject in school. Dr. A tells us we should come back in two years, growth is a variable that can change things quickly for his heart, best to keep a close eye during these years. I'm happy with two years, it seems like such a long time when the forms have three months, six months, nine months, and one year at the outside. Once Parker is done growing, he'll probably be able to go much longer between visits, but a cardiologist will always be in his life.

The one sad part of the visit is our doctor will probably be retired within two years. Of course, I don't know how old he is, but I'm sure he has put in his time for longer than I've been alive. When Parker was in NICU, I saw some of the long hours ped card put in and I feel for their families. I don't know how they do it, but I'm so glad they do.
When we arrived home, after a short bus ride and a mile walk, I realized how draining the day was for both of us. I offered Parker the day off from school the next day (today) and Thai take-out for dinner. He was happy for both. So, yes, I'm the bad mom who encouraged her son to cut school today (we called in to excuse him), but really I think a mental health day was needed. He read a lot and did some of the homework I assign him as extra to what they do at school, but he also relaxed and I slept for twelve hours straight last night (never happens) so I know it was the right decision for both of us. We did get some time alone to talk about yesterday's appointment. Parker thinks about other first and really didn't want me to worry yesterday, but he was able to articulate his own anxieties today. He asks a few questions about what the intern said and he hugs me close to say how happy he is that he is vegan. He knows he is doing the best he can for his heart and that he's decided to practice yoga more often and meditate. How I miss having my sweet smart eldest son around every day. Every moment with him is a gift.

Everyone needs a day off.

Monday, January 23, 2012

C is for Curry Powder

Used a load of curry powder tonight. Curried Cabbage and Peas, Butternut Coconut Rice, and Masala Baked Tofu all from Appetite for Reduction. Dema and Josie talked me into buying two cabbages today at the co-op so I decided to make the purple one into Curried Cabbage and Peas. Josie wasn't super hip about the Butternut Coconut Rice, but Parker, Rob, and I loved it. Parker didn't eat seconds of the Curried Cabbage and Peas, but that wasn't a big surprise since he shares Rob's dislike of all things cabbage. We are working on that since purple cabbage is a inexpensive antioxidant boost.

All three kids enjoyed the tofu, but no surprise there. I served all this with a Orange and Blue and Green All Over Smoothie (one bunch kale, 4 Tablespoons ground flax seeds, one bag frozen peaches, frozen blueberries, a bit of shredded coconut, one ripe banana, and soy milk) just in case the kids didn't eat enough of their dinner. I liked each part of the meal and they all tasted good together, it was a lot of curry. I need to find a curry powder (or make my own) that we really love. The one we have is just okay. Anyone have suggestions?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Clean Out the Refrigerator Champagne Brunch

A lovely brunch this morning with things from our 'frige that needed to be used up. Collards from Farmer Greg, an orange pepper from Greg and Vicky, mushrooms from Farmer Greg, carrots, olives, capers, tofu, and the rest of the Daiya cheese and panko from last night's meal. There was also a bottle of champagne taking up room so we made it a champagne brunch for the adults. Hearty, tasty, and we have room to add this week's produce delivery from Farmer Greg and our weekly co-op run. After brunch, Rob and I snuck away to his attic office to watch Downton Abbey on Netflix while the kids played downstairs. Josie loves to watch Downton Abbey with us, but she doesn't stop asking questions ("Mom, I think he is in love with her? Is she in love with him. I think the daughter is really a princess. Do they pay the servants?) the entire time which makes it less enjoyable for us. The rest of the day will be spent playing games with the kids, reading books, walking to the library, and enjoying a sunny lazy weekend.

TGIF Comfort Food

We had our friends Alicia and Sean over tonight with their adorable new baby, Easton. It has been way too long since we've seen each other so it was great to catch up.

I made Skillet-Baked Panko Cutlets from Vegan Diner and

Butternut Squash Mac 'n Cheeze from Oh She Glows. Comfort food on a cold night, sweet friends, and good conversation. My kind of Friday night. Now off the cuddle with my family.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

More Soup For YOU!

Okay, really more soup for us, but feel free to stop by and have a bowl.

Rob made Parker's Favorite Turnip and Kale Soup last night with turnips we bought a last week from Farmer Greg. I'm posting the recipe again for Rachel since she is supposed to be cooking with turnips this week. Parker asked for leftover soup for lunch today. Did you grow up eating turnips? The greens or the root or both? We don't make this delicious dish often enough. That is Parker at six months behind the soup. He was about seven or less when this soup became his favorite.
Parker's Favorite Turnip and Kale Soup 

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 pound turnips (the root), peeled and cut into a 1/2-inch dice
6 cups vegetable stock
1 1/4 cups barley (barley gives a great toothy texture and we prefer the non-polished barley)
1 bunch kale cleaned and cut in bite sized pieces
salt and pepper to taste
Garnish: minced parsley and hot sauce (optional)
Heat oil in large soup pot. Toss in the turnips and saute covered on medium heat, about 15 or so minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour in the broth and barley, bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook, covered, for about 30 minutes. The barley should be soft and chewy. Add kale and wilt for 5 minutes covered. When ready to serve, stir in salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into bowls and garnish with parsley. We also like to add a dash of Cholula, but it tastes great without.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Bringing Out My Inner B****

Baker, what were you all thinking?

After ballet today, Josie asked if we could go to one of the local cafes for a vegan cookie. In a moment of lunacy I thought I was one of those homeschooling moms. You know the type; perfect, making batches and batches of great tasting baked goods for their brood while knitting all the clothes for the kids and teaching the family dog sign language at the same time teaching college level classes to their seven year old and administering first aid to the baby bunny they found on their daily nature walk and blogging about the entire day in their spare time*.

So I promised delicious fresh-baked cookies to Josie as I bundled her up for the bike ride home. I managed to put off baking cookies pretty much the entire day because to be perfectly honest baking does not bring out the best in me. It brings out my inner two year old.

I open up the cookbook (in this case, Vegan Diner by Julie Hasson) and I'm immediately irrationally defiant. Oatmeal Raisin Cookies is the one I chose since they are Rob's favorite type of cookie, I have all the ingredients (sort of, we'll get to that in a minute) and aren't they supposed to be one of the easiest thing to bake?

I am not known for following recipes. I used them as a jumping off point or sometimes as something to read while I make something completely different, but following a recipe to the letter...not my style.**

So I start to question everything. What do you mean "preheat the oven to 350 degrees F"? Is that good for the environment?***  "1 cup plus 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar". Whoah, wait a minute, aren't we working toward a color blind society? What do you have against dark brown sugar?**** Hm?***** Soften the margarine? F that, I'm keeping that stick of Earth Balance in the refrigerator where it belongs until the last possible second.

Okay, now maybe I'm acting more like a teenager. Most kids at two don't know their alphabet well enough to say "F that". "3 Tablespoons of soymilk or almond milk"? I have both soy and almond milks, but I use unsweetened coconut milk just to mess with this recipe. It has somehow become personal. "In a large bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the..."? I have a stand mixer, but just because YOU told me to use a stand mixer I am using my 50 year old hand mixer. Got something against my antique hand mixer? Not good enough for you? "Don't overbeat the batter." Like this? Overheating my hand mixer and then kneaded the crap out of the dough isn't good enough for your wimpy dough? I don't have any use for delicate cookie dough in my house.

Wrestling with sticky dry dough, checking to make sure I did indeed put all the wet ingredients in the mix, and ignoring the fact that it was suggested that I wet my hands prior to forming the cookies, cursing all baked goods under my breath, and finally throwing the two baking sheets in the oven. No I did not press them down a bit as per the instructions. If they want to flatten into cookies instead of being a ball lump, they had better melt. I gobbled up some of the remaining dough because at this point there is no way in hell I'm going to cook another batch. Disgusted with the raw sugary sweetness I encourage Rob and then Josie to eat the rest of the dough.

The kicker was the truly helpful note at the bottom. It starts with "As a perfectionist cookie baker..." and this pushes my perfectionist buttons and I go through all the reasons we should or shouldn't strive for "perfection" and guilt issues about not following the directions and not heading the warnings which were meant just to help me make the best cookies I can possibly bake. This drama could be exasperated by the fact I just started my period today.******
Leave the cookies on the cookie sheet until the completely cool? Hell no, I'm taking those bad boys off so soon I cause 2nd degree burns on my fingers so I can use the last bit of daylight to snap a crappy picture. So there! I really showed that recipe, damn these cookies aren't half bad. I think I'll eat six...

Why don't I bake more often?*******

*Spare time is code for nursing the baby.

**Unless I'm testing recipes for a cookbook. It just shows how much I love helping new vegan cookbooks birth into the world.

***I read somewhere years ago that most of the time we really don't need to wait until the oven is preheated and it is a big waste of energy, but I'm guessing wherever I read this that they made some exclusion for cookies.

****For some reason we have two packages of dark brown sugar, several packages of powdered sugar (which we rarely use...where did they come from?), and date sugar, but no light brown sugar.

*****I want to be clear I am not talking to Julie Hasson. I don't know her personally, but on her blog and in videos she seems like about the cutest nicest person on the planet. In fact while I'm getting belligerent with the recipe, I'm saying a little mental prayer-like apology to Ms. Hasson as I pretty much go against everything she has carefully written.

******Yes, I have just joined the list of food bloggers who talk about menstruation during a post about cookies.

*******Visions of my kids creating a cool cookie jar in pottery and me filling it with healthy-ish baked goods and the kids self-regulating their sweets consumption while they remodel our kitchen with the math skills they learned at home.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Orange and Blue and Green All Over

I made some seitan from Vegan Diner last night and decided to make Diner Granola (with walnuts and cranberries) while I was at it. So the kids had a bit of granola before I walked Parker to school and then headed out with the younger ones to walk/bus to the co-op.
We brought my BAB (big ass bag) and filled it with kale (okay, there is also chard, two bags of clementines, a bag of apples, a four pound package of tofu, a couple bulbs of garlic, several big red onions, a rutabaga, ginger, bread, Veggie Booty (on sale), several bags of Daiya (sale!), yam and black bean tamales, a bag of local salad mix, and big local carrots, but most of the room was taken up by lots of bunches of two different varieties of kale).
The kids had a little lunch before we headed out again. Josie is crazy about the vegan quiche at the co-op. Today it was greens and onion quiche. Dema had half a vegan breakfast burrito and they both had a snickerdoodle, but they saved most of their cookie to eat with hot cocoa at home. The lovely Illinois weather went from the 50's while I was walking Parker to school to flurries while we waited for the bus after shopping. Thus, I felt a warm beverage was in order. I used a tablespoon of chocolate hemp shake, soy milk, and a bit of cocoa powder for the hot chocolate. The kids used their Sweet and Sara mini marshmallows I bought them for the holidays. It warmed them right up. Then I cooled them off again when Parker came home from school.
I couldn't fit a couple bunches of kale in the refrigerator (they need to make those silly produce bins twice as big) so I cleaned them off and put some in what I will call the Orange and Blue and Green All Over Smoothie. The colors for the university in our town are orange and blue. This means everything is orange and blue so Strawberry Fields has a smoothie made with blueberries and peaches (I don't know what else, but pretty sure just soy milk and maybe banana) called the Orange and Blue. This is our version of it with kale, soy milk, frozen blueberries from a local farmer, frozen peaches, a banana, three tablespoons of ground flax seeds, and a sprinkle of shredded coconut. All organic, of course. The kale originally took up the entire Vitamix container so Dema helped me pack down to get the rest of the stuff in, but the banana stubbornly stuck up over the top anyway. The Vitamix handled it fine and the kids were slurping their smoothies from the glass straws and asking for seconds. Glad I made a bunch! Our friend Jair was over and he took a sip (usually he enjoys the food I offer him), but I think the color was too much for him so Josie drank his.
I chopped up the rest of the kale that wouldn't fit in the refrigerator for soup. I'm on a big Appetite for Reduction kick lately (if you haven't noticed) so it won't come as any surprise that tonight's soup is from this cookbook. Quinoa, White Bean, and Kale Stew was started with one of my favorite kitchen activities
crushing herbs! Josie helped me crush the fennel. There is just something completely gratifying about working with the mortar and pestle.
I was able to use one of my huge local organic carrots I just purchased (these four carrots weighed more than 1.5 pounds).
During the vegan meet-up, Mel and Sue (from the Decatur Vegetarian Society and former and hopefully future guests on FFT) suggested Rachel and I talk about new-to-us produce on the show. I vowed Sunday on air to try out rutabagas. I don't think I've cooked with rutabaga before. It isn't really attractive from the outside.
But it looks kind of cool on the inside. I used the rutabaga in place of the parsnip the recipe called for. I also substituted sweet potatoes for the white potatoes in the recipe (I have yet to find a recipe that isn't improved by this switcheroo). I added a couple tablespoons of nutritional yeast at the end as well.
It was just what the doctor ordered on this cold blustery evening. The taste reminded me of another favorite, Chickpea Noodles Soup from Veganomicon.
I served it with a little local mixed greens salad with walnuts, golden raisins, and some pomegranate seeds from the freezer (I buy them when they are on sale and freeze the arils) and topped it with a little Annie's Naturals Pomegranate Vinaigrette. I don't usually buy salad dressing since it is super easy and much cheaper to make our own, but this was on sale a while back.
With the addition of an organic clementine we scored at the co-op, it was another winning winter dinner.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Leisurely Lunch and Laksa

2nd Avenue Vegetable Korma and Cranberry-Cashew Biryani from Appetite for Reduction
Since Parker had the day off from school and we were all home for lunch. I decided to spend a bit of time in the kitchen making a leisurely lunch for all of us. I was in the mood for Indian today and Rob was busy working in his attic office. Rob is much more comfortable cooking Indian food than I am, but I didn't want to bother him. This meal came together almost effortlessly and the results were so satisfying that I will never be shy about cooking Indian again! Both of these recipes use minimal oil so while it was very filling it wasn't heavy, if that makes sense. I used a combination of broccoli and cauliflower and more of the zucchini our friend/neighbor Vicky gave to us. The kids really enjoyed this meal with the subtle not overpowering Indian spices. I also baked some vadas (from the freezer) for them. I biryani recipe only called for one cup of rice (precooked) and I was skeptical this amount would be enough for all five of us. We usually cook three cups of rice at a time, but it was really a perfect balance for the korma and even with everyone having seconds (or thirds in Parker's case) it was plenty of food for lunch.
I made the Curry Laksa from Appetite for Reduction for dinner to use up the rest of the coconut milk from lunch and some bell peppers from a couple days ago. We always love laksa

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Whirlwind Weekend

A busy weekend for us and it isn't even quite finished.
We hosted a vegan meet-up Friday night. The hit for me was Rachel's Spinach Balls, but then I saw the amount of Earth Balance and my heart fell. No wonder I loved them! I have to come up with a 40 year old vegan friendly version. I just can't eat like a teenager any more. Of course, my kids can and did. They loved the peanut butter cupcakes provided by our new neighbors (yes, we now have a couple living across "our park" from us and they are vegan...we are taking over the world).
 Lots of yummy hummus. This one was happy hummus (I think the green is pesto?)
The roasted cauliflower and pita chips was a favorite of Josie's.
This pasta, beans, red sauce, kale, and Daiya bake was a big hit too. I think Amelia? brought this one and I need the recipe. Amelia definitely brought some chocolate peppermint soy milk, a little adult beverage to go in it, and some spectacular whip cream (did you make it, Amelia?).
Here is Parker's first plate of food with the scornbread (Jazzy Vegetarian's cornbread made with bananas courtesy of Eric) and There was a lot of food I didn't get a picture of. Everything was delicious, as usual.
My contribution to the evening was Lotsa Veggies Lentil Soup from Appetite for Reduction. I used red onion for the onion and kale instead of spinach because that is what I had. My neighbor, Vicky, brought over some zucchini Friday or I wouldn't have made the soup. We rarely have zucchini around this time of year. I didn't try the soup during the meet-up because I was too busy eating what everyone else brought. There was a bit leftover so I warmed it up for breakfast the next day and it was even better than Rob's favorite (the French Lentil Soup with Tarragon and Thyme from Veganomicon). I also made a version of our new favorite soup, Coconut Corn Chowder from Quick-Fix Vegan. I've made quite a few changes to the chowder so I'll post the recipe soon, but I highly recommend Quick-Fix Vegan. It is one of the few cookbooks I just leave in the kitchen to use on a daily basis.

Two of our young friends joined the fun at the meet-up because it was our neighbor/friend's 40th birthday and they went out for dinner without the kids and then to a local bar. We joined them at the bar after most of the meet-up guests had left, thanks to my sister who stayed to watch all five kids and host the remaining vegan meet-up guests. We felt awful running out so early, but we wanted to take to join our friend for a drink and toast his 40 years on the planet. I'm glad the meet-up people felt comfortable enough to hang out even after we left.

Saturday morning Rob and Josie walked downtown and caught a train to Chicago. Josie's bestie, Teagan had a birthday party in Chicagoland on Sunday. Our fabulous friends Todd and Katherine let Rob and Josie stay with them even with the due date for their second child coming up very fast. Katherine is the most amazing person working full time at her toy stores at nine months pregnant and then keeping her son and my daughter last night while Todd and Rob went to see a movie.

Meanwhile back in C-U the boys and I were eating brunch on Saturday of blueberry and banana pancakes, snuggling in bed reading books, laughing, playing Minecraft, and watching one of their favorite cartoons on netflix. I don't think I've mentioned Avatar: The Last Airbender before, but I should. The kids discovered the show after a trip to North Carolina a year or maybe two ago. They love that the main character is a ethical vegetarian and values all life. The show teaches wonderful lessons, but it a interesting way (Rob and I even like to watch the show). It is something all three kids can and want to watch. Check it out!

Saturday evening our friends Ricky and Catharine had us over for dinner. The boys were able to play with their twin boys without Josie getting in the mix. A nice change, of course they miss their sister, but sometimes it is nice to not have her always with them. Ricky made yummy curry and we had great conversation and they picked us up and dropped us off since it was pretty cold out and the bus isn't super convenient on the weekends for our area. We really have the best friends!
Today the kids were eating leftover coffee cake (I made another East Coast Coffee Cake for our dinner at Catharine and Ricky's) late this morning when one of their friends called asking if the boys wanted to meet at a local school yard to go sledding. We all walked to to the "hill" with the sleds, but they also took turns with their friends "snowboard". Yes, we have very little hills around here, but they work. The friend lives close to the school so we went to his yard to see the amazing igloo he built. All three boys could fit inside it.
I had the radio show and in the afternoon so we had to leave before the kids were ready. I arrived home around 4:45pm after the show, but we still finished a wonderful fun dinner and cleaned the dining room and kitchen before 6:30pm. I started marinating the tempeh before we left for sledding (it doesn't have to marinate more than an hour, but it seemed fine being left longer). The dish is Buffalo Tempeh over Mac and Trees both from Appetite for Reduction. I was not blown away about the Easy Breezy Cheezy Sauce the first time I made it, but it really works with the Buffalo Tempeh. I used Parker's favorite hot sauce for the tempeh and it took almost an entire bottle so I'm not sure how often I can make this. Rob is not a big mac and cheese kind of guy, but I know he would have enjoyed the tempeh. The picture in the background is a four year old Parker. I can't believe he'll be 12 in just a few weeks!
The boys had one of my favorite So Delicious products yet for dessert, the Coconut Almond Mini Bars. Purely decadent coconut, almond, and chocolate combine to taste toffee-ish to me and it is just the size for a special treat. Speaking of treats, Rob and Josie are on the train headed home!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Kale Quesadillas

Have you ever felt like you are being pulled in ten different directions? I feel this a lot lately. Especially with my eldest being seven and a half years older than my youngest it seems that it is getting harder and harder to make everyone in the family happy.* Dinner is the exception, the kids are almost always happy with their food.
Thursday night was another cheater night and Rob and I decided to make kale and pepper quesadillas with Daiya's pepper jack flavor. We had some on hand since Parker asked me to try to make calzones at home. The kids haven't had quesadillas often so they were fussy when we first mentioned what Rob was making for dinner. They quickly ate their words and their weight in quesadillas.

*Life seemed so much simpler back when this picture was taken. Rob and I were sixteen years younger and living in DC. I am carrying Rob on my back (I'm not sure why, but it was foreshadowing to the many years of babywearing ahead of me) as we showed his father and brother the DC tourist spots. I wouldn't trade now for then, not even for a second, but it was very easy.