Sunday, April 22, 2012

Boneyard Arts Festival

Parker has loved the art festivals in our town since he was a baby. He would get really upset if we ever missed one. This year the Art Club at his school displayed some of their works at Caffe Paradiso for the annual Boneyard Arts Festival so he had even more excitement than usual. We took in the sights and sounds Friday and Saturday in both twin cities. Friday night we walked downtown to check out some of the art displayed in downtown Champaign and went to Cream and Flutter to watch Ryan Groff perform. We've been fans of Ryan and his band, Elsinore, for years, but just recently Rob and Dema started taking guitar lessons from Ryan so Dema didn't want to miss seeing him perform.
Josie on the walk downtown (she put her outfit together herself just for the show, complete with cheetah print shirt, black scarf, and silver earrings).
Unfortunately, Cream and Flutter is about as unvegan-friendly as you can get (they don't even have soy milk for the coffee), but we ate downtown before we went to Cream and Flutter and there was some fruit at the art exhibit attached to Cream and Flutter. One of the downsides of our eldest going to public school now is that all the kids have a pretty firm bedtime now. We used to be able to go out to events and the kids would be fine all night, but now they all start to fade around nine. Josie was super disappointed when we left before Ryan was done and begged me to stay with her until the end, but we were with our friends Monique and Aidan who sweetly offered a ride home in the chilly night air. I knew staying until the end would mean walking over a mile home with a heavy sleepy four and a half year old in my arms.
We arrived very early to get seats (the place was packed by the time we left). Josie was hoping Ryan would ask her up "on stage". I don't know where she gets these ideas. She wasn't disappointed to just watch him perform though.

Saturday after Josie's soccer game, we all walked a few blocks to take the bus to Caffe Paradiso. We met Parker's charming art club teacher (a student at the local university and we've heard she is interested in veganism) and checked out their work.

 I love the idea of this project. They were supposed to send a text message to the world.

After taking in the art exhibit, we walked to a newish Thai restaurant on campus. Bangkok Thai and Pho 911 is in the same space that used to be Zyggyz and before that it was the original Basil Thai (whoa, we have been in this town too long now). Anyway, the ambiance is the same. Slightly greasy and fast food feeling, but the food was pretty good for the price.
Rob's Mussamum Curry with Tofu
Parker's Yellow Curry with Tofu
Josie's Pad Thai with Tofu (no egg)
Dema's Pad Lard Nar with Tofu
My Eggplant with Basil Leaves
We all agreed the curries were good, but not great (everything was a bit greasier than we like), but we would get the Pad Lard Nar or the Eggplant with Basil Leaves again. We would take our Klean Kanteens and bamboo forks next time because all they have is plastic wear and Styrofoam cups. We ate our fill and I walked with the boys to the library and Rob walked with Josie to the Walnut St. Tea Co. We met up halfway home to all walk home together. We thought about renting a Zipcar for the day, but it was so much nicer taking the bus and walking. We didn't get as much done, but it was so much more fun doing it. We made it home in time to visit with our friend Kurt (former neighbor) in town from California and Rob and I used the long afternoon walk as an excuse to take a luxurious late afternoon/early evening nap. We had family movie night of Sky High (pretty cute and one of the characters is veg!) and popcorn with nutritional yeast and pepper.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Mac 'n Cheese Bites

Busy, busy spring here. Too much beautiful weather to enjoy, soccer balls to kick, guitars to strum, slack lines to walk across, bikes to ride, scooters to race, neighborhoods to walk, friends to chat with, etc. Unfortunately this has meant relying on some processed foods I try to keep in the back of the freezer for emergencies.
Mac 'n Cheese Bites (used Daiya mozzarella and added a raw red sweet pepper for fun and nutrition, next time I would use quinoa instead of whole wheat pasta), roasted beets, Gardein Mandarin Orange Crispy Chick'n with broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots, green smoothie (one bunch of kale, almond milk, frozen banana/strawberries/mangoes, ground flax seeds, one fresh orange), and we had fresh pineapple (not shown) for dessert

Dema asked if we could have the same thing for dinner tonight. Silly boy.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Pineapple Cake-ish Butternut Squash Casserole

I almost didn't post this because my family gave it a thumbs down, but they tend to dislike sweet dishes - crazy! So just because this didn't work for my family, I personally enjoyed it (although did get a tad tired of it since I was the only one eating it). I'm pretty sure if I'd called it dessert they would have gone for it, but I tried to pass it off as part of dinner and they are savory fans all the way.
Pineapple Cake Casserole (inspired by this Butternut Squash Casserole recipe)

3 cups butternut squash (cooked and mashed - I used one butternut squash and a pit of canned pumpkin puree I had leftover in the refrigerator)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup margarine
1 can (14oz.) diced pineapple
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup quinoa (optional)
water to cook quinoa based on package directions

Roast the peeled butternut squash while you cook quinoa (set aside once the quinoa is done). Start a small sauce pan on medium and add the margarine, sugars, pineapple, cinnamon, and vanilla extract. Cook until the sugar dissolves, stirring regularly. Take the pineapple mixture off the heat and set aside. Mash the squash when it is done roasting. Mix the mashed squash, pineapple mixture, and quinoa all together in a lightly greased casserole dish. Top with chopped walnuts and bake at 325 degrees F for 45 minutes.

It reminded me of a healthier version of my mom's pineapple cake and would work well for breakfast, brunch, or dessert.
 Josie after her first soccer game on Saturday. Soaked, but very happy!
 Josie "taking a bit of shade" on the way home from ballet yesterday.
Josie "helping the bees out" by smelling the roses.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

My Kumquat Turns Eight Today

Dema with his new electric guitar in his favorite color (orange). Happy Birthday!
My middle child turned eight today. Our first child was our sucker child. The child that is so easy he/she sucks you in, makes you think you are wonderful parents and should have more children. The sucker child is dangerous. Our Demetrius, our Dema, our middle child is my kumquat. He is the one who taught me all the dark things about myself and made me become a better person. I love kumquats and we usually have some at Dema's birthday, thanks to his uncle Stuart (my sister's boyfriend). It was during one of the Dema's birthday parties while I was eating a kumquat that I realized that fruit was a perfect analogy for my beloved son. He is a perfect mix of sweet (so very empathetic and deep) and sour (so very stubborn and intense). If you take him as you should a kumquat, in one wonderful little package instead of focusing too much on the sour or trying to just eat the sweet, then you get something that is completely unique and so worthwhile that you want to experience it again and again.

Editor's Note: Dema was assigned a poem in a homeschooling group recently and I thought what he came up with was a perfect.

Adorable Dema!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Hibiscus Tea, Vegan Pho, and Mango with Sticky Rice

I make a big glass container of hibiscus tea each day. It is the best drink after mowing the lawn with our new cordless electric mower. Yes, I did something I told myself I would never do...I mowed the grass with something other than a reel mower. Our grass was long, I mean a couple feet long in some places and the reel mower is a tough mow anyway with all the tree suckers, hidden sticks, dips, and bumps. Anyway, this weekend Rob came home in the Zipcar with a...gasoline powered mower. I know! We had a little "discussion" and he took it back. I ordered a Toro e-Cycler online and I am now in charge of mowing the lawn. The hibiscus tea hit the spot after my first time mowing (with something powered by a motor) ever in my life.
The best vegan pho in town can be found at Thara Thai. The owners are the sweetest and happy to work with veg*ns. Tonight we ate Thai food on Vicky and Greg's porch with neighbors and some wine. And...
Greg's homemade mango and sticky rice. The best I've tasted. A lovely evening. I love my neighborhood!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Colorful Quinoa

I was a little bit happy to see the temps lower to "normal" Illinois spring weather this week. If only so I could make broccoli soup out of the broccoli I scored on sale recently at the co-op. Then this morning when I was freezing my buttum off at Josie's first soccer practice I was pining away for the heat. You just can't please me. Well at least dinner last night made me happy.
I started to make the Vegan Cream of Broccoli Soup (I didn't soak the cashews because I never think about dinner an hour ahead, I omitted the nutmeg and added a red bell pepper then used an immersion blender) when Josie begged to go out to the park. The boys took her for a while, but it was clear I was needed.
This is what I love about soup, I can leave it on the stove while we play and then I resorted to fruit from the freezer, dolmas from a can, and the Gardein from the freezer, but it was worth it to hang out with the kids. Parker requested a replay of dinner for his school lunch today.
Josie showing off her tats from Easter egg hunting this weekend. I hope this isn't what we have to look forward to in twenty years. I like the tattoos that come off. She pretty much lives with her soccer ball and her pink and black cleats these days.

Friday, April 6, 2012

What's Hot?

I mentioned that our weekend was fun filled. Sunday included going to see The Lorax in 3-D with our fantastically fun neighbor friends, Vicky and Greg. We all went out for Thai after (lunch since the movie was in the morning) and that evening Vicky made a fire and we roasted vegan hot dogs and marshmallows on her perfect fire while chatting with all the neighbors. The weather has great for fires at night, but warm to hot in the day. It is like we live in California, but without the ocean or mountains.
(picture from the Field Roast website)
In preparation for neighborhood fire season, we stocked up on some hot dogs. When we saw Field Roast now has hot dogs, we had to buy them from our local co-op. I've always said hot dogs are really not tasty themselves it is all about what you top them with, vegan - non-vegan - it doesn't make a difference in taste if you've got some good mustard, relish, ketchup, etc. Even I have to admit, some vegan hot dogs have a tofu-ish texture. Not bad for those of us who like tofu, but not for everyone. Then cooking some vegan hot dogs over a fire can produce a bubbled up effect that is not entirely appetizing. With Field Roast Frankfurters limp puffy wieners are a thing of the past. Their texture is better than any hot dog I've eaten (even in my pregan days - none of those little white gristle like flecks here and there, yes please think about what that is in meat hot dogs) and the taste is good enough to eat naked, but not overpowering if you want to pile on the condiments (we topped ours with some leftover shredded horse radish as well as the typical fixings). Even Greg had no complaints about the one he tried. Josie's six year old neighbor friend had two (one she stole from me so I only got a bite, but that was enough to know these hot dogs are different). We are not huge hot dog fans, but we are going to stock up on these puppies and keep them stashed for neighborhood cookouts and camping. Get 'em while they're hot!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Robin Sauce

We have a crazy male robin attacking our window starting each morning around 5. It started a couple weeks ago and now he is like my alarm clock. At first I was worried this protective papa was going to get hurt, then I worried our etched glass windows were not going to hold up to his assault. We tried everything to ease his anxiety (we assume he sees his reflection in our not so clean windows and is protecting his chicks from his imaginary foe). We put up blankets on the windows, placed stuffed animals in the window sills, etc. but he would just find another window. On my last count he regularly goes at seven of our windows on three sides of our house. He is one tenacious fellow. I had hear his brood chirping from their next and I'm hoping they take flight soon so this rabid robin can take a rest.

I think I've mentioned before that Rob is not a huge fan of "yellow sauces". He likes tahini based sauce and would eat that every day, but the higher the nutritional yeast and the less garlic the more likely he is to give it a "so-so" rating. He does really like Raw Red Pepper Aioli (Eat, Drink, and Be Vegan) and Three-Nut Cheeze Whiz (Quick-Fix Vegan) so this week I made a fusion sauce with both of these in mind.

A friend who is new to veganism was asking some questions about what we eat and I forgot to get into the magic of sauces. If you have a couple sauces you enjoy then the possibilities are endless. Sauces are like soups. Once you know the framework you enjoy, you can make it different each time based on what you have around. Then serve it over different things to make completely different dishes. This one I served over whole wheat pasta shells, broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots served on a bed of garlicky kale and garnished with red pepper flakes and gomasio. It would work equally well with quinoa and baked tofu (and veggies, of course - asparagus and Brussels sprouts come to mind). It would also make a good sandwich spread. Since robins are on my mind and this recipe is full of seeds and as a nod to Robin Robertson who created the Three-Nut Cheeze Whiz recipe in her awesome Quick-Fix Vegan, I am calling this version Robin Sauce. The sauce also turns out to be close to to color of our crazed robin's breast.
Robin Sauce
1 cup roasted cashews (raw would work too, I just happened to have roasted this time)
1/3 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1 cup unsweetened plain almond milk (I usually just put a cup of raw almonds and two or three cups of water in the Vitamix if I don't have almond milk on hand, but this time I used a new almond, cashew, hazelnut blend beverage)
4 cloves garlic
1 Tablespoon walnuts
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 Tablespoons tahini
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard
1/4 teaspoon iodized salt (or to taste)
1 raw red pepper (seeded)

All of this goes into a Vitamix or equally awesome blender and blend until smooth. If you don't have a strong blender then soak the nuts and seeds for an hour.

Now those of you who read me regularly know that I don't just throw extra ingredients into a recipe without a reason - usually based on nutrition. Raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas) are high in iron as well as good fats and protein, etc. The red pepper is high in vitamin C (and vitamin A, etc.) and we all should know by now that vitamin C aids the absorption of iron. Why do we care? If I use salt, I used iodized sea salt because we don't really eat enough sea veggies to rely on them for this important nutrient. The kale adds calcium and lots of other lovely things. Walnuts are great for omega three fatty acids. I'm sure I don't have to go on, you get the picture.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Drinking Pudding

My kids mainly drink water and then tea (usually white or hibiscus so not a big caffeine boost), but Josie likes to drink plant milks. She isn't picky like I was when I first went vegan, she'll pretty much drink any plant milk - plain, flavored, sweetened, unsweetened. So I've been buying primarily unsweetened soy milk, whatever brand is on sale that month. This month I also bought a sweetened vanilla almond milk because it is new and it is my job to stay on top of new vegan products.
(picture from the So Delicious website)
Josie tried Vanilla Almond Plus Almondmilk on her Flax Plus Flakes with Cinnamon and declared it dessert-like. I noticed when I first poured the beverage that it seems thicker than most plant milks. It seems to thin out a bit as we use the rest of the container. It isn't clumpy and I always shake our plant milks up before pouring so I'm not sure why it is thicker, but it isn't off putting for us. It kind of reminded me of drinking vanilla pudding and I mean that in a good way. I can't wait to bake with it.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Birthday Brunch

Super busy weekend which started with a fun birthday brunch for (and hosted by them) our lovely friends  Ricky and Catharine. We don't have any pictures of the brunch, but it was full of kids from toddlers to teens playing fabulously together and lots of interesting adult conversation about everything from politics to companion animals.
Rob took charge of providing Bloody Marys (using the Bloody Moskowitz recipe from Vegan Brunch except for the pickle juice). The stuff in the container is shredded horse radish which is why I put the actual horse radish on top. What should I do with the rest of it?
He also make two batches of Whole Wheat Vegan Cinnamon Rolls because this is his speciality now.
I suggested he make Classic Broccoli Quiche (also from Vegan Brunch) and we need to make this more often. It reminds me of our friend Loretta (which is always a good thing) and Parker said this would be nice to take in his school lunch sometime soon.