Sunday, July 29, 2012

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Persephone?

Our weekend was made even better with a visit from Loretta and her family, a 6th birthday party for our friend Maya, and hanging out with everyone at Brian and Erin's Saturday evening. Unfortunately, I have a lot on my mind with our Persephone situation. I mentioned when we took her in that she has some aggression with other dogs. We had our doubts that living next to a very dog friendly park was a good fit for her. Well, she is a great dog in many ways and we were happy to work with her on her issues. Now after having her for a month. We can see that we have more than our work cut out for us. She is not used to the busy house and life we have...lots of people coming and going, lots of friends stopping by with and without dogs, etc. We are at a loss of what to do. We are worried that instead of getting more socialized, she is actually getting less predictable. We are not sure what we can do. Anyone with suggestions, please let us know. We've had a dog specialist come over and work with us, but it is hard to give her consistency when their are five people in the house giving her directions and Persephone is getting more territorial as she settles into her life with us. This has brought up more issues. Sigh. It is really weighing heavily on my mind. Here are some of the fun highlights from our weekend.
Kieran and Dema excited to eat Thai food at Thara Thai.
Teagan and Josie enjoying their pad thai.
My yellow curry with broccoli.
Parker woke up one day wanting to make a pina colada (not realizing they are usually made with rum). The next time we were shopping at the co-op, he picked out a pineapple. We finally cut it up on Friday and he put the pineapple, shredded coconut, banana, soy milk, and ice in the Vitamix for his take on a pina colada. He wanted to make it for Loretta and her family, but we weren't sure if the pineapple was too ripe. We all enjoyed it and we should have waited for our guests. Next time we'll trust Parker to make something yummy for them.
Rob woke up before I did on Saturday morning and made scrambled tofu with the tomato sauce I made Friday with tomatoes from our garden. Rob also added some green olives so it turned into Puttanesca Tofu Scramble. Grits with hot sauce and some of the best organic strawberries from co-op completed our breakfast.
Loretta helping Teagan get started on Josie's bike. Teagan has been using one of our balance bikes up in Evanston for a while so transitioning to a pedal bike is no big deal.
Another child learns to ride on the Tiger bike. We've had two of our kids and several friends' kids learn on this beat-up orange bike.
Parker found and photography this cicada at his "imagining tree" (his place to be alone and daydream) at the park.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Pasta and Pool

This goes along with my last post where I admitted to referencing A Game of Thrones to help illustrate a life lesson for my kids (almost 5, 8, and 12...none of them watch or read the books so chill). Rob was all about my reference and that is when I realized how lost we are on this long lovely parenting road. Then this morning I was surfing (avoiding cleaning the house) the web and found out that perhaps my instincts are so off. How did I not know that Peter Dinklage is veg? I was totally blown away by Peter's acting several years ago in one of my favorite movies, The Station Agent. I started a blog post once about the movie and abandoned it because I just couldn't do it justice. Dinklage is the only reason I started and continue to watch The Game of Thrones. He has the best lines and is one of the only redeemable qualities about the show. I'm now hooked on the books which accounts for why I haven't been posting much lately. I stay up until the early morning reading since I don't get much time during the day. T Anyway, Peter is leading the 2012 Walk for the Animals (Farm Sanctuary) and now I can feel slightly better about my current guilty addiction and using some of Tyrion Lannister's words to help my kids feel good about being themselves. Thanks to our friend, Tasha, for feeding my latest obsession by supplying us with the books.
Speaking of feeding. I'm tired of thinking about the heat and I'm trying to just embrace it, but the drought is another story. Come on and rain already! We've been cooking up some simple meals. This one is an oldie, but a goodie. Whole wheat pasta with tahini sauce and veggies topped with walnuts. This time the veggies were from the freezer since we were in a hurry to get to the pool*. Seapoint Farms has a frozen organic veggie blend (edamame, spinach, green beans, asparagus, and broccoli) that helps us get out of our kale and sweet peas rut. The kids gobbled it up. I also added some Co-op Sauce (original/mole - vinegar, chocolate, chillies, walnuts, black pepper, sesame seed, cilantro, olive oil, onion, garlic, water, chilies, salt, sugar, and lime zest) to mine. I love this sauce, but it isn't for every dish. It does complement our tahini sauce very well. We are huge hot sauce freaks, we love local foods (this is made a few hours away in Chicago), we enjoy trying to live sustainably (the group helps kids in Chicago learn about the environment), and we care about kids so this hot sauce tastes even better when you watch the video about the organization. Truly this hot sauce stands on its own so not only are you helping out a good cause, but you are doing something nice for your taste buds.

*We are so spoiled to have our awesome neighbors, Vicky and Greg. They have a fabulous pool with a diving board, slide,  and loads of toys, floats, etc. to entertain us. I love being able to walk a couple houses away to cool off. On hot days it is the only thing that keep the kids sane (I'm beyond sanity). Josie is turning out to be a fish (or mermaid - she corrects me) like her brothers. Don't ever stress about learning to swim (or most things for that matter). It comes in its own time. Her latest thing is snorkeling in the pool. She took to it right away and she rarely swims without the flippers these days. So much fun!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Old Friends and New Low

 I'm tired of waiting for cooler weather. We just have to cook. Galicky kale with Rob's tofu and my mashed potatoes with Rob's gravy. I love how easily we cook together.  I come up with the meal plan and he is happy to help execute said plan since the heat bothers me more than it dow him.
 My friend since middle school, Julia (red dress - sexy and silly), was in town with her adorable and funny husband, Kyle (far left). So we had to go out for a couple drinks and too much crazy conversation. Jason (far right) also went to school with us and is hilarious - so much fun to hang out with. Great to see them all.
 Monique, my lovely friend since Parker was little, was sweet enough to come back downtown to meet up with us. I've been trying to connect Monique and Julia for a while and I'm so glad they finally were in the same place at the same time. Thanks to Destihl for having very friendly serving staff, one with a beautiful daughter around Josie's age and one that made my night by carding me and looking surprised when he did the math all the way up to my 40 long years of life. The Hawaii Five-Ale (brewed with five different fruits) made me feel better about consuming more glasses than I dare mention...I mean it had fruit in it how bad could it be?
My first official tomato sandwich of the summer. Heirloom tomato from the farmer's market (not from our far we just have sauce tomatoes in which I've been making into...well, sauce), avocado, Pekara rye bread, and Chipotle Vegenaise (I could drink this stuff).

I used to look to The Continuum Concept for a guide to parenting and one of the reasons my eldest is so well adjusted. Twelve and a half years after becoming a parent I have sunk to a new parenting low. Today I used A Game of Thrones for a important life lesson for my kids and Rob had my back. Some things get better with age...we, obviously, don't.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Mile High Pad Thai

Another great meal when you are short for time and it is sizzling outside...pad thai. You can make it pretty healthy at home. Start with brown rice noodles if you can find them. I like Annie Chun's. Let the noodles soak (per the directions on the packages) in some hot water. Then find some veggies. This time we used broccolini (from the farmer's market), peas (frozen), and red onions (Common Ground Co-op), but I've used almost anything. We also like to add tofu, seitan, or tempeh. This time we used both crumbled tempeh (from the buying club - steamed for 20 minutes) and tofu (Common Ground Co-op). Perhaps most important is the sauce. Play around with the sauce to find one you like the best. I kind of make it up as I go along each time, but 1,000 Vegan Recipes has a great pad thai sauce recipe (we omit the oil) to get you started. This time I got Rob going and then took Persephone for a walk. I'm usually the pad thai maker in the house so he did things a little differently. At first, Dema complained that Rob's wasn't as good as mine and then we all agreed it was different, but very good. That is the lovely thing about pad thai, you can make it different every time, but it will still taste fabulous. The huge pad thai pictured is Rob's serving with a hefty amount of sriracha. The rest of us also had cashews, gomasio, and Ginger-Amalki Mix (perfect on pad thai, why didn't I do this sooner?!).

Monday, July 16, 2012

40th Birthday Party and Peanut Tahini Sauce

We went to a friend's surprise 40th birthday party this weekend. His wife throws the best parties and it really did end up being a surprise. It was a beautiful day to celebrate a party and play outside on the trampoline and hula hoop.
The highlight for the kids was the zip line they set up in their spacious back yard.

 It looked like so much fun, I almost tried it. Josie said it was terrifying and wonderful at the same time and she went on the zip line again and again. We need on of these at our park. 
Last night I made Peanut Tahini Sauce from Let Them Eat Vegan!. We make peanut sauce quite often and tahini sauce at least once a week, but I never think to put them together. I used molasses instead of maple syrup or agave because molasses actually has some nutrients and I use a bit less. I served it with whole wheat pasta shells, seared tofu, broccoli, cauliflower, and sweet peas. I also added some red pepper flakes and gomasio as toppings. Then I thought, this sauce would be perfect for my Ginger-Amalki Mix and it was wonderful. While the sauce might not be enough of a zing for some people it is a great jumping off point and easy to make your own with a little something here or there. I can't wait to make more recipe from LTEV.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Parker's Hummus, BBQ Riblets, Vegan Meet-up, and Pool/Park Fun

 Parker insisted we needed hummus to go the zucchini in our refrigerator. He wanted to make it himself (without a recipe, of course) so I soaked some chickpeas and he helped cook them the next day. He threw a bunch of stuff in the food processor (chickpeas, olive oil, tahini, carrots, peppers, lemon juice, paprika and I don't know what else) then he plated it and took pictures. I didn't even get to taste it, the kids ate it so fast.
 I mentioned the Gardein BBQ Riblets before and here they are in a bun. The kids love them for a quick meal.
 We had another vegan meet-up at our park Friday evening. I love how so many people brought dishes made with plants from their garden, the farmer's market, local CSAs, friends' gardens, etc. This simple, but delicious zucchini and corn dish was one of my favorites.
 Can't go wrong with potatoes from the garden.
 I believe this was a red bean dip.
 Pasta salad with baked tofu that Melissa said she used celery salt instead of celery seed, but it tasted great to me.
 Peanut Butter Blondies which got the thumbs up from all the kids (and I'm sure the adults as well).
 Charity and Derek brought her kiddos (my kids were so happy) and this delicious tofu fried rice. This was Josie's favorite.
 Here is my plate with Rob's Chana Masala served over brown rice, chapati, and mini samosa.
 Potato salad loaded with onions, yum!
Robin's cookies that disappeared too quickly for me to try one, but the kids promise they were excellent. We had a lot of new faces for a small Friday potluck. It was so nice getting to know everyone.
 Josie at Vicky and Greg's pool with the flippers be bought for Parker years ago.
 She loves the flippers and can swim "super fast" with them on.
 Dema hanging around at the park. Vicky made these cool rings and she puts them up once in a while at the park. He looks like a bat to me.
Dema loves them.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Nutty Kids and Veggie Burgers

 Parker goofing around on the porch, but I like the "plant strong" caption this picture brings to my mind. I love seeing my eldest grow for the last 12 1/2 years on a plant-based diet. I have enjoyed seeing his veganism become his own over the years. He has very strong convictions and opinions. Sometimes we agree, sometimes we don't, but I appreciate that we are close and communicate and discuss issues with mutual respect. I have learned more from my children than any of my fabulous teachers in school. I'm so fortunate to have them in my life.
 Our friends Erin and Brian gave us some zucchini from their garden (along with some kale which we used with the Salisbury Steak and some awesome grapes). I was at a loss of what to make for dinner the Tuesday night. We always need something quick before the kids head out to the park and don't come back in until after dark. I had nothing thought of or prepared, but I had a gift zucchini. I also had Let Them Eat Vegan! borrowed from the library. The zucchini turned into Nutty Veggie Burgers and it was  like magic. It only took minutes to prepare and we had everything on hand, they don't have wheat gluten as an ingredient which is a nice change. I knew we were on to something good when Josie wouldn't stop eating the raw burgers. This on has Chipotle Vegenaise, horseradish mustard, avocado, sriracha, and more shredded zucchini.
 Speaking of gardens, we have our first tomatoes!
 Fortunately, I doubled the Nutty Veggie Burger recipe because that is what they wanted for lunch the next day too.
This time Parker added some pepper jack Daiya as well (he can't get enough spice). He's now on a zucchini kick and they all love these burgers so much that it is worth buying Dreena's new cookbook just for this recipe. This will be handy for Rob's lunches as he goes back to working in an office at the beginning of next month.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Slowing Easing Back into the Cooling Kitchen

If you live in the U.S., chances are that it has been a hot dry summer. It has been here. Hot and humid weather makes me think of the native Americans and then the pioneers who came to Illinois and how completely insane they must have been. Why live in the Plains? No ocean, no mountains, and lots of inhospitable weather. Our house is over 100 years old and has no central A/C. I think about what people must have felt like on hot and humid days (or weeks) back when the house was built. At least we have electricity, fans, a couple window units (the only one that really makes a difference is in Rob's attic office where his three work computers would suffer without the cooling), and a refrigerator/freezer stocked with cool tea and ice. Our computer which is no where near a window A/C had to be shut down for a couple days to prevent over-heating. Even Parker's laptop, which was being used in Dema and Josie's bedroom where a window unit was keeping it around 80 degrees, started to overheat after a couple hours of use. Our oven alarm kept beeping (even though it was off) because of the humidity. Vegan chocolate chips normally stored in a glass jar in the cabinet had to be put in the refrigerator to keep them from completely being a big melty mess. Our refrigerator almost went kaput during the heat wave. It seems to be coming back, but it could not deal with the mid to upper 90's in our kitchen. The females in our family are especially irritable during heatwaves. We sit around sweating and it doesn't help so I try to get things done and that just makes me crankier. It hasn't been pretty. Thus, not a lot of cooking and not a lot of pictures.
Josie cooling off with a mulberry juice popsicle.
 We don't usually eat granola for breakfast, but I just couldn't bring myself to make breakfast during the intense heat. Love Crunch to the rescue. The kids do love it and it isn't insanely sweet like most packaged granola.
 Josie usually has her hair wild, but the temps made her frustrated and sweaty so she asked for braids.
 A cooling front finally moved in and brought some much needed rain so we spent Sunday on the porch reading during the mild calming thunderstorm.
 Usually Persephone can't hang out on the porch (she has dog aggression issues), but I figured with the rain (she doesn't seem to like to get wet) and no one out walking their dogs, it was good time to let her out with us.
 Rob playing the guitar while the boys read. Rob gave their shaggy manes a bit of a trim on the porch so they would be cooler.
 I eased back into cooking with Dreena's Mac-Oh Geez (you can find it in her new cookbook, Let Them Eat Vegan!). I've made this before, but this time I omitted all of the olive oil, added cauliflower, broccoli, peas, and a little Field Roast Mexican Chipotle sausage. I used whole wheat gobetti for the pasta.
Dinner last night was Vegan Dad's Salisbury Steak. I have a lot of tempeh in the refrigerator and I found this older recipe on Vegan Dad's blog. I wrapped the mixture in a clean dish towel instead of making patties before steaming and it worked fine to just slice off part of the steamed loaf and fry (I ate mine pre-fried). We'd never made it before, but we will definitely make it again. It was quite delicious. I served it withe sauteed kale over quinoa and topped with Rob's gravy. I doubled the recipe (everything except the water which I kept the same) so we could try the "steak" as a sandwich for lunch today. A great way to eat tempeh for people who think they don't like it.