Friday, October 26, 2012

Vegan Comfort Food Part Quattro - Italian

The folks at The Red Herring are reading my mind! The kids all of the sudden have been begging for vegan lasagna and we made some for the last vegan meet-up, but they were so bummed when we didn't have any leftovers to take home. It is not often that we make lasagna. I don't know why. My mom used to make lasagna all the time when I was a kid (it took me years to acquire a taste for it and then I went veg and didn't eat it anymore). When Rob and I lived in the DC area, we would go to Food for Thought (sadly gone now) as much as possible for their unbelievably good vegan lasagna (fortunately for people in that area, it still lives on at the Black Cat). We would sometimes buy an entire pan of this addictive lasagna, eat it over the course of the week, and bring back the clean pan. True story.

Since moving to the Midwest, we've had a heck of a time finding vegan lasagna. This made this week's Vegan Comfort Food dinner even more of a treat. We went out with my dad because he turned 76 this week! (I wrote a post about my dad's 71st birthday and it pretty much sums up my feelings five years later.) Rob, my sister, Karen, and her husband, Stuart, met us there.
Here is a shot of the spaghetti plate. The sauce was chunky with lots of onions and carrots and a bit of spice. The broccoli also had loads of onions (and spices) so Parker surprised me and went with the spaghetti (he is an onion lover). Dema loved the minestrone soup and ate two bowls along with his lasagna, bread, and broccoli.
 Parker's tomato shirt from the co-op was very appropriate.
I think half the fun of eating this dish was swirling the pasta around the fork.
 Dad looking serious.
 Dad looking blurry and happy.
 The lasagna was also full of veggies, Field Roast "wheat meat" and no cheese (didn't need it)...delicious! We all cleaned our plates so well you couldn't tell we'd ever had food on them. I think this might be Dad's first time eating lasagna since my mom died (over 10 years ago). He doesn't cook.
 Parker being goofy.
 The gang (Stuart, Josie, Karen, Parker, Dema).
 Rob listening to Stuart.
 The lasagna was our table's favorite (even Parker got to try some), but the pasta was stellar too. The soup and broccoli were so tasty they could have been a meal on their own. It was the perfect way to celebrate my dad's birthday and it made me feel like my mom was there with us. Thanks to the crew at The Red Herring for another wonderful, homey, comfortable, vegan dining experience. I can't wait until next Thursday, I hear they might be doing some frying!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

This and That Thursday - Vegan Frozen Pizza (Gluten-free)

We are not gluten-free. None of us seem to be sensitive to gluten and I feel it can be a healthy part of one's diet. I echo JL Goes Vegan's post about being a gluten vegan. Rob and I went vegan looonggg before the gluten-free craze started so I find it interesting that we'll get questions if gluten is vegan or not or "you're vegan, but you eat gluten so you must not be into the healthy veganism" (for the record we also often hear comments about how we must be "healthy vegans"...still not sure what people mean by any of this). We are vegan primarily for ethical reasons. Yes, the environmental and health benefits are great, but ethics is paramount in my reason for being vegan. For the last 13 years I've had more than my own health to think about so, of course, nutrition is something I spend a lot of time thinking about, researching, talking about, etc.

That all said, we do make quite a few accidentally gluten-free dishes or on purpose for our gf friends and I do like to try new gluten-free vegan foods. Today I'll share our lately gf find, Bold pizza.
I won't compare Bold to other gluten-free vegan frozen pizzas because I don't think we've tried any others. I first saw this pizza at Common Ground Co-op. I think it was on sale (frozen pizzas are not cheap) so I bought one. I made it as a snack that very day for the kids and they requested we buy a case the next buying club order. I did, but then we had the refrigerator drama (the unreliable refrigerator has since been recycled) so we had to move through our frozen foods faster than normal (hence all the convenience food posts). 
 Anyhoo, what do we like about these pizzas? They taste great and we certainly didn't miss the gluten. The crust bakes up very flaky and crunchy. The toppings are just the right amount. Not too much vegan cheese, just enough to keep the veggies from falling off the pizza. Bold uses Vegan Gourmet cheese instead of Daiya which is nice because Daiya might over-power the other tastes. I also like that I can throw these little babies in the toaster oven. So handy! Especially, since we've had more appliance woes lately. The flattop oven that came with our house has given us problems for years. We've lived without one burner (if you turn it on, it won't turn off and there is no way to fix it because they don't make the part anymore) for longer than I care to remember. Then recently the oven would just start freaking out, even if you weren't cooking anything, on humid days. The other night the oven just quit on us because we had the audacity to try to roast veggies with some broth and that was too much liquid. I texted our fabulous neighbors, Vicky and Greg, and asked about their old extra oven they keep in the basement.
 The next day we had a new-to-us appliance that might be as old as I am. I love the retro feel!
 We have an oven thermometer because ever oven we've ever owned was off by some degrees. The one that just quit on us was off by sometimes TWENTY degrees! Not this old girl! She is SPOT on. Love it!
 The vintage look totally goes with our 100+ year old house. Yes, I know this isn't 100 years old, but I like the look.
 It took us a day or two to get used to the knobs instead of the digital buttons, but I'm hooked now. I never want to go back.
 We also have four, count 'em, 4, working burners at our disposal. Sweet! It is the little things people. It is so nice not to HAVE to buy another appliance yet when our last appliance purchase has yet to enter our house. Thanks to awesome neighbors who don't just get rid of old working appliances. What happened to ours? We set it by the curb and a nice guy came by and asked about it. We told him the troubles we've had and he said he wanted it anyway because he collects old appliances and uses them for parts to get others working again. We felt good about recycling our old stove and the man was super  happy to take it off our hands. I love a happy ending!
Back to the pizza. You can cook them in the oven, but I highly recommend you do as they suggest and cook it directly on the rack. I used a pizza stone one time and the crust was a little soggy. Dema says this is his favorite frozen pizza now. This is high praise from someone who is pretty picky about pizza. I asked him what he likes about Bold, "Everything! The crunchy crust, the veggies, the cheese, it is all good!" Dema often will pick the veggies off his pizza and then eat them later, but he eats Bold pizza all together and all in one sitting then asks for me to cook a second one.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

My husband was looking at blogs on his laptop last night and saw a blog that interested him and was about to nudge me to have me take a look...then he realized it was my blog. Love my silly guy!
Josie playing in leaves at "our" park, graciously piled up by sweet neighbors. 

Around this time of year when the leaves are falling and the weather is cooler, Rob starts pining for Veganomicon's French Lentil Soup with Tarragon and Thyme. I didn't get around to making it so he finally broke down and made it himself Sunday evening while I met with a friend at a local coffee shop. Monday we had three extra girls at our house most of the day and they had a spread of pistachios, cashews, dried apricots, dried mangoes, pb and j on bagel flatz, kiwi, apples, kale chips, etc. After the friends left, we had a short time to get ready for Josie's gymnastics and Parker's play practice, but I knew they needed more food before heading out the door.
Leftover French Lentil Soup with Tarragon and Thyme to the rescue! I topped it with the crumbs from the bag of kale chips (I hate to let them go to waste and they are super yummy on soup). Amy's Black Bean and Veggie Burger on Ezekiel sprouted sesame seed bun with a bit of melted Daiya, Vegenaise, mustard, and pickles. It fueled the kids for their evening activities, but took just a few minutes to make.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

(Home) School Lunch Tuesday

Here are two more weeks of PlanetBox homeschool lunches:
 Josie's Rover PlanetBox packed with carrot sticks, homemade nut butter and fruit spread sandwich (with Rudi's whole wheat bread), Funky Monkey freeze-dried pineapple and guava (thanks to friends in our buying club who gave us a bag), dried mango, and Justin's Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter cup (thanks to our neighbor, Margie, who sends the kids home with them).
 Dema's Launch PlanetBox was filled with a bit more of the same. The Launch box has bigger spaces (and less of them) to hold the food.
Parker's Launch PlanetBox filled with carrot sticks, Qrunch burger with pesto Vegenaise, lettuce, pickles, and horseradish mustard on an Ezekiel sesame bunFunky Monkey freeze-dried pineapple and guava (thanks to friends in our buying club who gave us a bag), dried mango, and Justin's Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter cup (thanks to our neighbor, Margie, who sends the kids home with them).
Josie's Rover PlanetBox filled to the brim with a mix of cashews and pitachios, Late July Chocolate Sandwich Cookies*, dried mango, almond yogurt with mixed berries and ground flax seeds**, carrot sticks, and chocolate covered mulberries.
Dema's Launch PlanetBox with Late July Chocolate Sandwich Cookies, dried mango, almond yogurt with mixed berries and ground flax seeds, peanut butter and fruit spread on Rudi's whole wheat bagel flats***, and carrot sticks.
Parker's Launch PlanetBox with Alive and Radiant Southwest Ranch Kale ChipsLate July Chocolate Sandwich Cookies, homemade baked tofu with pesto Vegenaise, lettuce, pickles, and horseradish mustard on an Ezekiel sesame bun****, and almond yogurt with mixed berries and ground flax seeds. 
I added carrot sticks to Parker's lunch after I took the picture, but I did take a pic with the sandwich open.

*Our new favorite sandwich cookies. We don't buy sandwich cookies often, but they were on sale. These have no strange aftertaste or chalkiness that I've experienced with other sandwich cookies brands.

**I obviously worked around the lack of space for yogurt containers. We usually buy the 24oz. vegan yogurt containers anyway for less waste and more savings and then add our own fruit. I bought Amande brand this month because it was on sale through our buying club. I added thawed frozen organic raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, and ground flax seeds  to the yogurt before pouring it in the containers.

***Pre-kids, we used to eat bagels all the time. We lived in the DC area with an abundance of good bagel shops. They are pretty empty calories though so I don't serve them to the kids often. This month I tried these whole wheat flats (much thinner than normal bagels) and we all fell in love. We had three neighborhood children over yesterday and they enjoyed them too.

****If you like sesame, you will really like these buns!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Go Raw Spicy Seed Mix

I was shopping at our local co-op the other day with the kiddos. They always love to check out the bargain bin to see what deals they can find. This time they pulled out Go Raw Spicy Seed Mix. Score! We haven't tried this before, but we love seeds ans we love spicy so were sure this was right up our alley. Don't worry if you aren't into spicy. I would call them more tangy, not at all overpowering.
 You could definitely just eat this mix right out of the package, but I've been trying to savor them by using it as a topping to normal dinners. This night's dinner was whole wheat gobetti with broccoli, peas, carrots, cauliflower, corn, and green beans, some Field Roast Smoked Apple Sage Sausage, and tahini sauce.
I steam three pounds of veggies for one pound of pasta. This ratio works really well for us. We could eat a different variation of this meal everyday just with a new sauce and maybe quinoa or brown rice instead of pasta. Tahini sauce is one of our favorites and we put it on everything. Basically, just blend together tahini, lemon juice, garlic, nutritional yeast, tamari, and water. The spicy seed mix topped it all off so well. I make a pumpkin seed mixture myself, but it was nice to try Go Raw's version. We love a bit of crunch and nutrition boost to our meals.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

What I'm Sipping Sunday - Chai!

I used to be completely addicted to chai tea. I was never a big coffee fan, but chai was my weakness. I've found that I do not handle caffeine well, I get jittery and wired to the point where I don't stop talking (I know that is normal for me, but really I get worse with lots of caffeine). I do get a lot of housework done when I'm "on chai", but it definitely makes me feel funny. Autumn is when I crave the taste of chai the most, but I don't have to deprive myself this year since buying Frontier's organic and Fair Trade green tea chai. Just a little less caffeine makes all the difference between me buzzing and just being able to relax with a big cup of tea (or two).
 My husband works for Yahoo! again and this means I now have a HUGE mug to drink my chai. I have to say that our Hamilton Beach kettle has also changed our lives for the better. It is one of those inexpensive kitchen gadgets that we put off buying and I'm not sure why. We haven't owned a microwave for over 13 years and we've gone through several stove top kettles over these years, used just a small sauce pan, and I don't know why we never thought about an electric kettle. So much better than forgetting the kettle or sauce pan on the stove. We live in a cold old house and we drink hot tea non-stop during the fall/winter/spring to keep us warm so this kettle gets lots of love. We use it to heat up water to shorting the cooking process for pasta, soak rice noodles, add hot water to soups, make broth, etc. I highly recommend buying one!
 My other new obsession is Sunsational sunflower milk. Josie introduced me to sunflower milk after drinking some at Gita's house. Now it is one of her favorite treats. I bought vanilla and love it in my chai or my occasional cup of coffee. Why do people still drink cruelty-laden and unhealthy dairy* with so many wonderful options out there?
Monday I added a bit of So Delicious Pumpkin Spice Coconut Milk to my chai for an even more autumn-y taste while I sat on my porch enjoying the trees in our park. I love fall!

*If you want to see the how many diary cows are treated (not for the faint of heart), you can check out this recent undercover video from Mercy for Animals.

I can't help but add this song from Pink. I always think of the scene of the calf drinking human breast milk when I see people consume dairy. Don't watch it if you are easily offended.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Vegan Meet-up - Oktoberfest!

We had a vegan meet-up with an Oktoberfest theme tonight. Great people - even better with our vegan meet-up founders, Faith and Wade, down from Canada. Great food - we made Ultimate Vegan Lasagna from Vegetarian Times (first time making this recipe, we usually try new recipes for potlucks).
 Her is Parker being goofy and eating a vegan sausage in a blanket with Josie over his shoulder.
Parker's first plate with our lasagna taking up a big portion of the right side of his plate, bread, Amelia's pretzels (the bread stick looking thing in the middle - soooo good!), Faith's mashed squash with roasted onions and sage on the left-hand side (unbelievably simple and good), vegan sausage in dough (can't go wrong), potatoes and green beans (one of Parker's favorites) and a squash or sweet potato dip that I kept going back for more of. Chase brought his home-brewed Oktoberfest beer and there was more food, but I was eating, chatting, and having fun so there are no more pictures. If you are local, com to one of our meet-ups! Everyone is welcome. I don't think I've been to a meet-up yet where everyone was vegan. The food is always fabulous and the conversations are always interesting. We host about half the time, but this evening it was Kenworthy's turn. If you aren't local, start a vegan meet-up of your own!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Vegan Comfort Food Part III - Breakfast for Dinner

What is better than having breakfast for dinner? Eating out and having breakfast for dinner! Yay, baby! The Red Herring out-did themselves last night and I forgot my camera, but here are iphone pics (too dark to do the food justice, but it was amazingly good). We were prepared last night. I didn't eat all day (okay, a few pistachios and some dried mango) because I knew Thursday night is Vegan Comfort Food night at The Red Herring and we would stuff ourselves silly. We look forward to going out as a family Thursday nights, but I was especially psyched because the menu was breakfast food. That is what I miss most about living in a bigger city, vegan breakfast/brunch options. I dream about someone opening a vegan brunch joint every weekend, but it never comes true. Last night we had my dream, if only for one dinner. If you have not come to a Thursday night yet, you must make it soon. I promise you'll leave satisfied, vegan or not.
 Biscuits and gravy, scramble tofu, tempeh bacon, potatoes, and vegan sausage. It was all so perfect!
 The kids didn't waste any time digging into their meals. I brought the to-go ware this time expecting their leftovers, but they practically licked their plates clean.
In fact, Dema kept trying to bribe us into buying another plate of food for him to take home for breakfast the next day. Poor guy is now obsessed with biscuits and gravy. I gave him some of my food, but he was still begging for more. He is going to try to talk them into making breakfast a regular thing.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

This and That Thursday - Veggie Burgers

Okay, this is not a true this and that Thursday since I'm not comparing two foods side by side, but work with me here. It has been a busy week. There is a new veggie burger in our lives and it is call Qrunch. I'm so happy to see so many foods now made with quinoa and how adorable is crunch spelled with a q? Too cute! Qrunch most resembles Hilary's Eat Well and Asherah's Gourmet which I reviewed side-by-side previously. Qrunch has similar ingredients:
Photo and ingredient list from the Qrunch website.

Qrunch is sturdier like Hillary's Eat Well and I think they are all great veggie burger options, but without comparing them next to each other, I would say that Qrunch is a little better.
 I bought the Spicy Italian flavor through our buying club so I don't know for sure if they are available locally yet. The Spicy Italian immediately won Parker over. He is the one who adds hot sauce to all his burgers, but he didn't need to on this one. I have to say that we came up with the prefect combination of toppings and you should all try Qrunch exactly the way we had them. Teese cheese broiled on Veganic Ancient Whole Wheat bread (available locally at Common Ground Co-op) with romaine, pesto Vegenaise, sauerkraut, and mustard. Exactly. Like. This.
Okay, I'm sure they are good served other ways too, but the kids and I agreed this was perfect. Kiwi fruit on the side made for a lovely lunch.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Creamy Black Bean Soup

Fall means leaves turning, kids wearing a bit more clothing, the view from my dining room is more colorful,
and I crave soup.
Josie has gymnastics until after 7pm one day a week and by the time we walk home it is dark, late, and I have one hungry gymnast on my hands (or really in my arms since she starts to balk at walking the closer we get to home). I don't always feel like cooking supper before we leave for gymnastics because she doesn't feel like eating a big meal before class and Rob's not quite home from work yet. So I've started leaving recipes for Rob to cook when he arrives home. I ran out to the library before gymnastics for Dema's homeschooling literature class (they are reading By the Great Horn Spoon!). I couldn't pass up the new vegan cookbooks on the library shelves so I grabbed Quick and Easy Low-Cal Vegan Comfort Food by Alicia Simpson. I cooked a batch of black beans this weekend so I picked out Creamy Black Bean Soup and left. By the time Josie and walked in the door, the house was full of the wonderful smell of soup. This soup isn't rocket science, but it is a solid soup with just the right amount of spice (I didn't even add hot sauce to mine). The entire family enjoyed the soup with Rudi's whole wheat bagels, a bit of Earth Balance, and za'atar. I can see this soup filling us with warmth all fall/winter. I can't wait to try more recipes.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Homeschool "School" Lunches

Tuesdays are our homeschooling co-op so that means "school" lunches for three kiddos. Here are a few PlanetBox pictures of what the kids are eating at "school".
 Dema's Lauch PlanetBox with Good Health Peanut Butter Pretzel Bites, Alive and Radiant Southwest Ranch Kale Chips, a samosa, Field Roast Lentil Sage Deli Slices with mustard, ketchup, and Vegenaise on Veganic Ancient Whole Wheat Bread, and an Almond Dream yogurt that doesn't fit inside the PlanetBox.
 Josie's Rover PlanetBox with peanut butter and fruit spread on Veganic Ancient Whole Wheat Bread, chocolate mulberriesAlive and Radiant Southwest Ranch Kale Chips, a samosa, Good Health Peanut Butter Pretzel Bites, and an Almond Dream yogurt that doesn't fit inside the PlanetBox.
 Parker's Lunch PlanetBox with Good Health Peanut Butter Pretzel BitesAlive and Radiant Southwest Ranch Kale Chips, a samosa, Field Roast Lentil Sage Deli Slices with horseradish mustard, mixed greens, pickles, and Horseradish Vegenaise on Veganic Ancient Whole Wheat Bread, and an Almond Dream yogurt that doesn't fit inside the PlanetBox.
 Josie's Rover PlanetBox with Alive and Radiant Southwest Ranch Kale Chips, dried mangoes, chocolate mulberries, apple slices, and leftover rice with SoyBoy baked tofu.
Dema and Parker had identical Launch PlanetBoxes with apple slices, carrot sticks, and Sukhi's Red Curry Tofu and Vegetables. The boys loved the curry and it makes a quick and easy lunch for days when we don't have leftovers. It isn't as complex tasting as my homemade curry, but it does pack a spicy punch that the kids enjoyed.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Two Bean Quinoa

 I'm in a little bit of a delicious rut. My new favorite way to cook veggies is in the 40 Clove Broccoli and Chickpeas from Appetite for Reduction. So much better than just steaming. Our oven is a little finicky and doesn't like to get too humid (it even beeps if it isn't in use and it is really humid outside) so I didn't get the veggies as roasted this time, but it was still so good. I served the broccoli and cauliflower with quinoa and Field Roast Mexican Chipotle sausages. I also made a tomato based sauce with garlic, red onions, Italian seasoning, and white beans. I pureed the sauce a bit before serving really see the white beans. It all went smashingly well together.
Dema preferred his separate though. Oh well, at least he enjoyed it. I like how easily it all came together so I could sneak out after dinner with some much needed girlfriend time downtown.