Friday, November 30, 2012

Quick Eats and a New Addition to the Family

I know everyone needs more time as the calendar quickly speeds to the end of another year, but I feel like our lives have been hectic for months now with no slowing up. We had the Four Weddings and a Funeral (seriously, we had four weddings and one funeral, with only one event in town, all over a time span of about six weeks), followed by the non-stop birthdays, adopting a new dog (three hours away)*, a couple holidays, remodeling our living room, and now we are in musical mayhem as Parker experiences his first play with our local park district. Opening night was last night so locals still have time to check out Annie Jr. at Centennial High School. It is lots of fun for all ages.

Busy, busy days call for some shortcuts in the kitchen, but never falling short on flavor or cheating on nutrition. Thank goodness for homeschooling. I have the time to work with the kids on their academic endeavours and cook three times or more a day. We've been brunching it a lot since the weather has cooled off. Quick breakfasts of muesli, cereal, or even instant oatmeal are not good enough for my kiddos lately. They need a warm stick to your ribs type start to their day.
 We tried out Helen's Kitchen chorizo this month. While I can't see it becoming a staple, it is great for adding a bit more umpf to a meal. I roasted potatoes, sweet potatoes, and chickpeas for a meal the previous day and this time I added the vegan chorizo and heated it all up in my cast iron pan for a hash type dish. I whipped up some grits with jalepeno peppers and garlic with a bit of John's hot sauce, toasted Veganic Lentil Grain Bread with Artisana pecan butter and fruit spread.
Some of the kids like their grits and hash separate and some like it all together. I'm a mix it all up gal myself. Either way, it is satisfying and delicious.

*Meet Gracie. She is our lovely six year old greyhound adopted through American Greyhounds. We've been looking for a dog since our foster dog (whom we were hoping to become our forever dog) went back to NY. Persephone just had too many issues to be happy in our home of non-stop children, dogs, and cats. After several close calls and more than close calls with our children and friends getting bit, it was just not going to work out, but the kids missed her every day. Going through the rough times with Persephone made us realize we couldn't just jump in to a commitment so we went to the local humane society about once a  week, looked online, researched, etc. We worked over the phone with the lovely people at American Greyhounds and talked about different dogs they had for adoption, the special needs specific for greyhounds, etc. Finally, we found Gracie and she has settled into our lives like she was meant to be here. 
 Gracie sporting her sweatshirt be bought to bring her home in case it was too cold. Well, even for a small greyhound she was to burly for this article of clothing so we gifted it to our vegan neighbors across the park. We love seeing their pit bull mix strutting around it in.
One of Gracie's favorite activities is being pet or brushed by Parker.
 Gracie took over the "dog couch" that Persephone created. It is a lovely place to watch the park, bask in the sun, say "hi" to everyone who walks in the door, and cuddle under blankets. Gracie rarely barks, happily greets anyone who comes in, and loves to lounge so this had become her favorite spot.
 Josie can easily take Gracie for walks with me. We have to watch out for the hundreds of squirrels in the neighborhood because Gracie can't resist lunging for them, but she is quick to stop when told to and walks well on a lead.
 There is always something going on a the park worthy of attention.
 Gracie is really a cat in a dog's body. She looks for spots of sun in the house so she can warm herself. 
 For a long legged dog, she can really curl up into a small ball.
 Gracie is perfect with Josie and they are always together.
 We started the living room remodel as she moved in, but Gracie is taking the craziness well and loves, Eric, our contractor and she doesn't mind the loud noises, all the furniture crowded into other rooms in the house, and Eric carrying bags of plaster out the window.

 On the weekends, Gracie has to share her couch with the rest of the family and she snuggles gladly and suffers through the hugs and kisses with grace.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Tofu Florentine and Homemade Habanero Hot Sauce

 Tofu Florentine from Snarky Vegan. I asked Rob to make this dish early in November and I've been craving ever since. We're not new to tofu Florentine. We've been making the Veganomicon version for years and we also love the Vegan Brunch recipe, but this one has a Southern flare that made the North Carolinian in Rob happy.
 The base is a hoecake, which is new to the rest of our Yankee family, but we took to them right away. I wish I had a big plate of this right now.
 Luckily, Rob made enough for leftovers and we enjoyed them even more the next day because I remembered to use John's hot sauce. John is one of Rob's co-workers and he has a great garden, grows his own habanero peppers, and makes this knock your socks off hot sauce. This was the first dish we tried the hot sauce on, but soon we were adding it to everything. Parker decried his beloved Cool Cayenne hot sauce and declared a new Parker favorite. He thinks John should sell the stuff. 
Have this for breakfast, brunch, lunch, is all good. What can be better than greens, hoecakes, tofu, a decadent white sauce, and a bit of spice? Nothing. By the way, we are down to the dregs of the hot sauce. Yes, we went through this jar in a few short weeks and now we are can't imagine living without it. Everyone knows vegan food is the way to our hearts, but homemade hot sauce takes up a notch. John has rockstar status in our house.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Crushing on Community - CU Fab Lab

One of the many things I love about our little college community...

CU Fab Lab:
I didn't even realize this place existed until a local homeschooling family arranged for a "class". Another reason I love our homeschooling community as well!
You might also have a Fab lab in your area.
After touring the facility and getting an overview of all the amazing tools available at the lab, the kids had a time to play around and design something.
Parker, of course, went for something to do with Minecraft.
They had plenty of computers for everyone, even the parents, and the volunteers at the lab are enthusiastic and very knowledgeable.
The class didn't cost anything. The materials can be free if you use scraps, but there is a slight donation needed for use of some of the equipment. A small price to pay. Parker's project didn't even take a minute on the laser cutter.
All new skills should have some instant gratification attached to it so we want to continue learning. It was great to be able to have something in Parker's hands to spark new ideas of things to make at the Fab Lab.
He took Rob back to check the place out a week or two after the class. The Fab Lab is mainly for adults and college students, but they are very happy to have younger kids (10 and up) come and learn with parent supervision.