Saturday, June 30, 2012

Dog Day of Summer

We started our long and exciting journey as canine caretakers today. A cousin of a friend had to give up his dog, Persephone. He drove from NY to IL and brought her to us. We've only had her half a day, but so far she is super sweet. She rarely barks, is great with the kids, listen to us (for the most part), etc. Her only issue is aggression to other dogs. We didn't see it at first (although her former caregiver warned us), but then this evening she attacked a neighbor friend's dog through our fence. There is no way, at this point, we could leave her unattended outside in the yard and I'm worried since we spend a lot of time at the park (where many dogs also spend time) that Sephy is going to hurt another dog. I just don't know enough about dog on dog agression so I'm reading everything I can and we plan to take her to a specialist. She's a beautiful gray color which makes her hard to photograph. She's super soft and very patient with Josie's undivided attention and affection. She took to her new veg food fabulously and our friends Angela and Daniel from across the park are going to give us recipes for making our own. They came over and spoiled Persephone with carob chips and cranberries. Added to all the other veg treats the kids gave her, she probably thinks our house means non-stop food. Smart dog.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Beat the Heat Eats

Our refrigerator is on its last legs. Don't get me started about appliances and how they don't last anymore. I feel like an old curmudgeon, but it is true. My parents had a refrigerator that lasted at least 25 years and ours is maybe 7 or 8 years old. We went to buy a new one and just couldn't do it so I'm trying everything to get this one to last a bit longer, even with the first major heat wave of the summer settling in for a while (85 degrees in the house and this is the morning). So I'm cleaning out the freezer and refrigerator a bit to make things easier to access and more room for a bag of ice which seems to be helping the freezer keep things cool (our popsicles were mushy). 
 It isn't all bad news because some of the best meals are made from cleaning everything out. Lunch was Soy Boy Verde Ravioli with a sauce starting with the cashew cheese from the Nachos with a Melty Cashew Cheese and then adding some leftover homemade tomato sauce and two kinds of salsa (you know the four of a jar that hides in the back of the refrigerator) one hot and one fruity. My kids are not huge ravioli fans, just like the aren't big into gnocchi...texture maybe? I this this ravioli is about as good as frozen ravioli can get. It really is tasty all on its own with just a hint of spice and perfectly filled with tofu and other good things. This time Josie asked if she could have this dish for breakfast this morning. I didn't have any more, but I served the sauce with whole wheat gobetti and peas to make her happy. Rob also loved the sauce, but too bad I'll never really be able to recreate it, but that is the beauty of clean out the frige meals.
 Our friends Maya and Kobe came over for 15 minutes yesterday. While their mom and I chatted before we both had to rush off, Kobe discovered some awesome insects in our garden and Maya gave Josie a complete makeover. Josie rarely even lets me comb her hair and in a few minutes Maya had done all this. Maya is maybe ten? Friends' kids are always getting older, but it is hard for me not to remember them as the age they were when we first met.
Josie enjoyed it so much. It is amazing to me how she will sit still for others and totally fight me. She's right though. Maya does a much better job with her hair.
 So the heat wouldn't get the best of us, Vicky and Greg invited the neighborhood over to swim. Josie is getting so close to actually swimming! She just doesn't have the breathing down yet, but she'll probably be there by the end of the summer.
 I think Parker should try out for a swim team. He loves to race with his friends and I think he would really enjoy it, but he's not convinced.
 I don't know how Dema talks his friends into carrying him around like this, but Jair said it was totally cool.
 We ordered delivery from Let's Take a Seat. I've been wanting to try this newish Thai place and the heat made for a perfect excuse. We all ate on Vicky and Greg's porch and then jumped back in the pool. Josie's favorite was the edamame. 
 Let's Take a Seat Veggie Delight
 Let's Take a Seat Pad Thai with no egg and veggies/tofu (you can order either veggies or tofu, but we paid a bit extra to have both).
 Mock Duck Curry from Let's Take a Seat...this is jus the "duck" part, but I didn't get a picture of the sauce and veggies that go with it.
 Bathing Lakshman from Let's Take a Seat (veggies and rice noodles with peanut sauce)
Crispy Tofu from Let's Take a Seat

Verdict? It is hard to beat our favorite Thai place in town Thara Thai, but the food was good (a little too sweet and not spicy enough, but we ordered no spice so everyone could share...Rob did get a spicy green curry that he thought was good). They were very late with the delivery and offered to take some money off, but we were fine. They also didn't deliver one dish and I called them a couple hours later after we were done swimming and they were super sweet about it. They even called me back to ask how we liked the food and let me know when my credit card would be credited. They have about ten items on their vegetarian menu and others can be made veg so I appreciate that and they seem to value feedback. I would eat there again, but my heart still belongs to Thara Thai.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The New Vegan Cheeze

I saw a new vegan cheese in the buying club catalog and new I had to try it. I searched for a month to find vegan blog reviews for this cheese and really came up with nothing. I made the leap anyway because I think of it as my duty to try to vegan products. I used the radio show as an excuse, but now that we've dissolved the show I really don't have a valid reasons so I'll use you, my dear readers.
Photo from the Lisannati website
According to the nutrition info on their website, Lisanatti brand shredded vegan mozzarella is lower in saturated fat and sodium than Daiya shredded mozzarella. I was looking for a Daiya-like cheese that isn't too greasy, but as I suspected the fat is probably what helps it melt and the sodium makes it addictive. Lisanatti doesn't claim their vegan cheese melts and so far it hasn't. Lisanatti is not the go to vegan cheese to keep toppings on your pizza or keep your quesadilla from falling apart, but I like the lighter taste and the texture isn't off-putting. It has a different feel than Daiya that Josie describes as "pasta-ish".
We tried first to broil it on a bun in the toaster oven. It did stick together more, but never melted. As you can see it doesn't turn into a gooey greasy mess. That was okay. Thumbs up from the entire family for eating Lisanatti on a sandwich.
Baked hot sauce tofu (marinated in watered down hot sauce and baked), Lisanatti shredded vegan mozzarella,  Chipotle Vegenaise Gourmet*, and avocado on a whole wheat bun. I added sauted mushrooms to this sandwich after I took the picture. The sandwich was a winner and Parker requested these for "snack" all week during College for Kids.
Lisanatti isn't going to supplant Daiya in our lives. Instead it adds a different dimension all its own. I wouldn't put Daiya on top of pasta (without melting it) or a salad, but Lisanatti is great on both. It added almost a parmesan taste to our pasta last night that was really delightful. Sorry I didn't take a picture, but you know what whole wheat pasta with tomato sauce looks like and just add some Lisanatti cheeze on top.  Lisanatti is way better, in our opinion than the Galaxy mozzarella shreds which we found way to chalky tasting and couldn't even finish the bag (sadly because the Galaxy shreds actually have some calcium and no saturated fat so we really wanted to like them). Glad to have more options out there and I'll add more to this review as we get a chance to try Lisanatti on pizza.
*Chipotle Vegenaise Gourmet is also a new product for us. It is too good. Just the right amount of chipotle zing without over-powering what it is paired with. We have a family of spice lovers so the complaint is that we'll use way too much of this stuff. Rob would almost eat it right out of the jar and he is not a big mayo fan. I can't wait to try the chipotle Vegenaise in Rachel's Samosa Potato Salad.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Midsummer Night's Meet-up

We hosted this month's vegan meet-up at "our park". Lots of fun, lots of great food, a little too much of Chase's homemade cherry beer (just me), catching up with the old-timers, and getting to know some newbies.
 I asked Rob to make Nachos with a Melty Cashew Cheese, Lemon Herb Sour Cream and Guacamole from Spork-Fed. He doubled the recipe, but the cashew cheese was enough before doubling so if you make these keep in mind that you will have extra cashew cheese. He also used agar powder instead of flakes because we don't have any and halved the amount, but it was still VERY stiff. You might even be able to omit it. We'll let you know as we play around with the recipe.
 Rachel made her "famous in our house" Samosa Potato Salad. I love her idea of using sissors to cut up the cilantro.
 Joy made Stuffed Mushrooms that were so good I was craving them again today.
 Melissa and her granddaughter made this marvelous Carrot Slaw.
 She also made this Chocolate Mint Pie that Parker raved about, but I didn't try it. I must get the recipe and make it soon. It looked great.
 Amelia made Zucchini Herb Biscuits that I couldn't get enough of and Parker's (non-veg) friend gave a thumbs up.
 I don't know who made this beautiful fruit salad, but it was perfect.
 Cajun Red Beans and Rice (again, I'm sorry I don't remember who brought this, but it was great).
 Meat-free Mike made BBQ Tofu and Josie was so smitten she had to go over and tell Mike several times how much she liked it.
 No vegan meet-up is complete without hummus and this was pretty as well as tasty.
 Our new veg neighbors, Katie and Wade, brought some fabulous tofu. We are so excited to have them in the 'hood and hopefully they will make it to more meet-ups.
 Our vegan neighbors across the park, Angela and Daniel, made tabouli, but it didn't triple well so they quickly saved the day and won Dema's heart with this quick cookies.
 Here is my first plate. More food came later, but I couldn't find my camera at that point and I was too busy drinking cherry beer and chatting. So glad everyone made it and it didn't rain (a couple sprinkles). It was great to have Parker's friend, Forest, over for the day and he and his dad stayed at the meet-up for a bit.
 We hung out with the veg*ns until well after dark and Josie pretty much crashed as soon as she came in the door. All the kids said they had a great time and can't wait to have another meet-up!
 The kids wanted more nachos today for lunch so Rob assembled more.
I love that these are made without any packaged vegan cheese. I'm usually the one keeping chips out of the house, but I think we'll have fun playing around with nachos this summer.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Solstice Sushi

We never make sushi. I don't know why, but we don't. Well, I guess I should say we didn't. This summer solstice was a hot one and Josie had been begging for sushi for weeks, but I hate forking out the money for my bottomless pit children to eat vegan sushi out. So...
 Dema happy with the first sushi roll (Rob didn't have his technique down yet so it fell apart, Dema didn't mind) brown rice, cucumber and carrot.
 Rob (a novice himself at sushi rolling) is showing Parker how to do it.
 Goofy Parker showing off his work.
 The guys perfecting their sushi.
 Josie's brown rice cucumber, avocado, and carrot sushi in front of her new bamboo plant.
Josie so happy to be eating homemade vegan sushi!
Before rolling. This was really simple, doesn't heat up the kitchen (we just made brown rice in the pressure cooker), not too heavy but very satisfying, and the kids love it. Sushi shall be our go-to summer meal. We can't wait to experiment with other fillings. I think the new horseradish Vegenaise (haven't tried it yet) would be great in sushi. What is your favorite vegan sushi?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Cauliflower n' Cheese

We knew dinner Wednesday night was going to be cauliflower because I bought a couple heads for some specific recipe, but four days later I couldn't remember what the recipe was or where I had seen it. Rob offered to cook aloo gobi while I took the kids to our neighbor's pool, but we didn't have any potatoes so I asked him to fix Cauliflower n' Cheese.
It looked good and we had the ingredients, but it didn't look like a meal so I asked him to make some brown rice and Field Roast frankfurters (since I didn't have any homemade vegan sausages). The result was very good, but I think it needs some greens, even peas would have been nice. The kids gobbled it up.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

When Advertising Works

We don't own a TV and my husband used to work at Yahoo! so I pretty much ignore all internet ads. I buy mostly used clothes or get hand-me-downs from friends. I'm an advertisers nightmare, but once in a while something catches my eye. This time it was our local health food store posting a picture on Facebook. A picture of pb and j cupcakes. I was taken in. I only shop at Strawberry Fields about once every couple of months and then it is usually to stock up on sandwich bread (it freezes beautifully). Our favorite is the veggie seed bread with whole grains, zucchini, carrots, seeds, etc. so it isn't the easiest bread for me to make at home. This time I didn't just buy the bread, I bought the kids the cupcakes too. They proclaimed them delicious, of course.
I also grabbed some new to me bars that were on sale. Good Greens Bars look pretty darn good from the nutrition standpoint, they are made with organic ingredients, raw, full of whole foods...but how do they taste. OMG, these bars are two thumbs way up! I tried the chocolate peanut butter and it was better than any candy bar (vegan or no) I've ever had. Parker took the chocolate raspberry (20% off right now on their website) to College for Kids to eat as a snack and declared it his favorite bar. Dema gobbled up the Wildberry and asked if we could buy a case. I was saving the chocolate coconut for Josie, but Parker asked if I could sneak it in his snack bag tomorrow and buy more. My only complaint is the inclusion of spirulina as an ingredient.

Sigh, so I won't be buying more until they get the spirulina out. I'd also like to know more about Hydrilla Verticillata (listed as an ingredient). Too bad because these babies taste great and could be a nice easy snack for the kids when they are on the go.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Delicious and Nutritious Vegan Food is Easy Peasy

One of the first recipes I made from Chloe's Kitchen was her Easy Peasy Pasta Salad. I could tell from the ingredients the sauce was going to be fab and I was right. Don't just make this for pasta. Double the recipe and put it on anything that doesn't move. Heck put it in a vat and swim in it...wait no that would be wasteful, just make a lot and eat it with a spoon. It is that good.
Of course I didn't make the recipe as written (see link above or here for the recipe or go out and buy her cookbook). I used a sweet potato instead of a white potato and I think that is the best choice for flavor as well as nutrition. I threw in more garlic, used horse radish mustard instead of regular Dijon, cut the olive oil down to 1/3 cup (I used the some water from steaming veggies to make up the liquid content), and reduced the salt a bit. I then served it over brown rice, peas, and seitan (Vegan Diner's Chicken Style Seitan Loaf). Orange slices and dried peaches* on the side. When I took Rob's lunch up to him in his office, he was a little skeptical. He was expecting a nooch based sauce. The zing of this sauce perked him right up and had him coming downstairs for seconds.
I the easy peasy sauce with whole wheat pasta shells (sorry about the picture!) and asparagus and more peas. We were hungry and I wasn't going to take a picture, but it was too good not to mention.
Later in the week Rob made a clean out the refrigerator stir fry that was delicious. As usual one can't go wrong with brown rice and a bunch of veggies, mushrooms, and a bit of tofu.
The next day I turned the stir fry into quesadillas with a little help from Daiya cheese (to keep it together), avocado, and the easy peasy sauce. The kids ate their weight in these quesadillas and some liked the sauce in inside while other kids liked it on the side for dipping. Scrumptious! I used the sauce for so many other things like a spread on sandwiches instead of mustard or mayo and thinned out for a salad dressing before I finally broke down and just ate the last bit with a spoon.

*A friend in our food buying club ordered dried peaches last month and I thought I'd give them a try. They are so good! They look like mushrooms or something in this picture, but they taste much better than they look. All the peachy goodness without the sticky hands and chin. These little wonders are packed with vitamin A, iron, potassium and some vitamin C and protein.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Dumplings, Donuts, and Dogs

Parker woke up the other morning determined to make Asian dumplings. It was a busy morning for me so I couldn't help him, but he figured it all out even with all the chaos in the house that day (a friend was also over to hang out before he moved out of state). I didn't get a chance to taste this first dumpling attempt and he didn't take pictures because they all fell apart, but he ate happily ate it all. Parker was not deterred so he was back in the kitchen a day or two later. He blogged about his second dumpling batch. Rob and I did get a bite this time and they were really good. I mean we were pretty skeptical because Parker said he wanted to make them with dried mustard seasoning. He is really on to something. I could have eaten these all day. I am no good at working with rice paper wrappers so Parker is pretty much on his own. He has more plans to experiment with the recipe since he wants to steam them, but they end up sticking to each other and the bamboo steamer (that was fun to clean up). Any suggestions, leave a comment on his blog.

I made Baked Sprinkled Donuts from Chloe's Kitchen for breakfast. Yep, the kids love me. I promised Josie I would make these when I first checked out the cookbook from the library so I couldn't take it back without making a batch. I even (pretty much) kept to the recipe. I didn't use my white whole wheat flour instead of all purpose, but I did omit the powdered sugar in the icing recipe because we are out and the kids didn't mind a bit. We had several friends over throughout the day and they all liked the donuts too. In fact, they would say "Where did you get the donuts?" and I said, "I made them." and they looked at me like I had a cape and big SM (for super mom, of course) on my shirt. Chloe is a fan of nutmeg and I am too so these donuts were spot on for me, but if you don't like nutmeg you might want to scale it back a bit. I don't make donuts often and I was a little skeptical of Chloe's method of piping the batter into the pan. I figured a lot of dough would get stuck in the plastic bag and be wasted. Never fear because one could just pipe the dough directly into one's mouth so none of the good stuff is wasted. Not that Josie and I did that, just conjecturing.
We are taking care of our friend's dogs and cats. We've been the care-takers for cats before. When Rob and I moved in together we both brought cats. We have never been dog people. We both grew up with dogs around, but my dogs were backyard dogs and I rarely interacted with them (my older sister was the dog person in the family). I think it was a similar situation in Rob's family. Dogs were outside - period. Over the last couple years I've been thinking more and more about adopting a dog. Our cats have all lived out their long happy lives and passed on. We've been fur-free for years. One of the reasons we haven't adopted another cat is food. Our cats ended up on a vegan diet because of health issues (long story, but one of my cats was told he had a few weeks to live and we transitioned him to a vegan diet and he lived several more years without the health problems that had plagued him since I found him as a stray kitten). We didn't feel comfortable having vegan cats without the other issues so we made a decision not to adopt. I totally understand why people feed their companion animals all sorts of different things, but for me I can't take in a cat and then feed the cat another animal I've paid to have killed. The cat is not more important than the chicken, lamb, cow, fish, etc. that would be served up as their dinner. Do I fault cats in the wild for taking a life? Of course not. I get the web of life, but it is different to me when I take this being into my house and make all the food choices. Would I be okay with a cat that caught, killed, and ate her own food? Sure. We all have our lines and our ethics. This is my line right now. I've been feeding our friends' companion animals a raw food diet this week. I totally understand raw meat for cats and dogs. I get why they do it and I can see the arguments for the health of the cats and dogs. Yet, I am more sure than ever that I could not do raw feeding in my own house. I feel like Lady Macbeth walking around all day cleaning my hands to excess trying to get the blood off. Yet, I really enjoy taking care of the dogs and cats, seeing the personalities shine through, and I like getting to know how they all interact as a family. The kids have loved helping me take care of all the animals and when I see Josie and Dema walking the dogs and cuddling with them it makes me more sure that a dog would be happy in our home and would add to our lives. One of the reasons we are still dog-free is I don't take this decision lightly. Even taking care of our friends' animals for a couple weeks is a big deal to me. They completely depend on my care and I want them to be happy and healthy. It is a big having a child, but one that never grows up past four years old and will need to be walked, fed, poop cleaned up, etc. for their entire life. I care deeply about my children and spend a good deal of time thinking about their nutrition. The same will be true if we bring a companion animal into our lives. We've had several friends over the years who've very successfully fed their dogs a vegan diet. We have neighbors who are giving us a lot of tips on cooking veg food for dogs. I know it can be done, but I still want to be sure that I'm doing the right thing. I know for sure now that I can not offer meat (raw or kibble) to anyone in our home so should we just remain fur child free? Should we adopt a dog and have them on a veg diet? Should we adopt a naturally veg animal? So many questions and I don't have the answers yet, but I'm enjoying my time with the animals in our neighborhood and hoping I find what works best for our family.