Monday, September 30, 2013

A Little Bit of This, a Little Bit of That

I love throwing things together. I like to have a well-stocked pantry, refrigerator, and freezer so I can just let the creative juices flow. I have a complete library of cookbooks and am always eying more, but just throwing things together is really my style. Friends have suggested I write things down and create my own cookbook, but that isn't even the slightest bit appealing to me. Even when I have delicious meals, I rarely cook them exactly the same way twice...where is the fun in that?
Udon noodles, kale*, red onions, chickpeas, red curry cube**, water, nutritional yeast, a dash of tamari, and ***Sweet Earth curry seitan

*We stock up on kale when it is in season and then clean, chop, and freeze. I love having kale stashed in the freezer when I haven't had a chance to go to the co-op. Frozen kale is perfect for smoothies.
**These curry cubes (the red and yellow) are my secret ingredient in many dishes these days. The "magic cubes" are not too spicy, but they add a little somethin' somethin' to any savory dish. Love them!
***Often I am disappointed with pre-packaged seitan and it is so easy and inexpensive to make it myself, but Sweet Earth was on sale through our buying club so I bought some. We love the curry version and it is so convenient to get us through our unbelievably busy fall schedule.

Broccoli, diced red onion, roasted garlic, red curry cube, water, red lentils, tri-color quinoa, nutritional yeast, fresh ground pepper, chickpeas, and tahini. Parker's bowl is topped with hot sauce, and onions too. (I usually add nuts like cashews, but I didn't because Dema attends a school where they are nut free and I knew he'd want leftovers for his lunch.)

Both of these soups were complete wins for the kids. They asked for leftovers in their lunches after having several bowls at dinner. Both soups are jam packed with protein and other nutrients to fuel their growing bodies for their active lives.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A Childhood Taste - All Grown Up

I think I've mentioned before, I am not a huge cereal fan. I think most cereals are a waste of time nutritionally and flavor-wise. Yet, once in a while (usually during the heat of the summer) I cave in and buy cereal. Weetabix was on sale the other day through our food buying club so I bought a case. Going back through my blog, it looks like we were first introduced to Weetabix in 2007 by our then neighbors Mike and Alison. I mentioned Weetabix again in 2008, showing the kids' favorite way of eating this simply cereal biscuits...with nut butter and fruit spread. I think we've gone a few years without eating them and now we have a case. I noticed when grabbing a quick breakfast before heading out the door that unsweetened chocolate almond milk over Weetabix sends my taste buds back to the 1970's (when I was just a wee babe) and Count Chocula. I'm not even sure I ate it that often, but I do remember some refrigerator magnets that were a permanent fixture in our kitchen. It is crazy how memories and food go together. This is my embarrassing secret summer fling. I add frozen blueberries and smile the entire time I eat this treat. The kids just roll their eyes and me and slather the Weetabix biscuits with nut butter and fruit spread or ask for a "real breakfast" like a tofu and kale scramble.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

(Home) School Lunches

I will get into this more in a future post, but our middle child is attending a private school this year while our eldest and youngest are enjoying our weekly homeschooling co-op for the second year in a row. This means three packed lunches once a week and one packed lunch the four other work days. My husband's office provides lunch (they try to have vegan options and I will have him guest post sometime) so we don't worry about his lunches anymore.

Pictures of Dema in his school "uniform" for his first day ever of conventional school. The following lunches are certainly not the healthiest, but they served their purpose. One of the things I like about homeschooling is eating together three times a day so I will probably never prefer packing lunches. The entire heat of the summer has been beating down on us the last few weeks so much cooking in our non-air conditioned house is out of the question.
 I felt a tad sad and nervous about Dema's first day so I made sure to pack extra Country Choice Duplex cookies, Hilary's Eat Well Veggie Bites (I bought these through our monthly buying club and there are similar to tater tots while I was hoping for more nutritional value, sigh), Yves Meatless Ham (I obviously stocked up on easy lunch fixings since I knew the first week would be tough) on sourdough bread with Vegenaise, mustard, and mixed greens, a tomato tortilla wrap with baked tofu, Vegenaise, mustard, and mixed greens.
 Parker had a similar lunch without the veggie bites.
 Dema has a snack time and it has to be nut (peanut and tree nut) free. I usually give him sliced apples, but this day I added Back to Nature Classic Rounds (on sale at the co-op, I don't usually have crackers on hand) with Yves Meatless Ham and vegan cream cheese.
 The crackers were such a treat that he asked for them the next day (this time I used another Back to Nature cracker which was on sale), more sandwich cookies, and some fruit salad.
 His snack for the day was Yves Meatless Ham on sourdough with mixed greens, Vegenaise, and mustard.
 Josie had a similar lunch with the cookies, crackers, and fruit salad, but I added raw cashews with dried cranberries, Hilary's Eat Well Hemp and Greens burger on whole wheat bread, Vegenaise, mustard, mixed greens, and guacamole, a pitted date with cashews in the center is in the middle.
 The container we usually use for soup worked well for keeping her fruit salad cold.
 Parker had the same lunch as Josie and a can of stuffed grape leaves (not pictured).
 I packed half of a hummus sandwich on rye with tomato from the co-op, a tofu wrap on a tomato tortilla with mixed greens, Vegenaise, and mustard, melon, sandwich cookies, crackers with vegan cream cheese and vegan ham for Dema's lunch this day. I always send a Klean Kanteen with water, but I added a Mango Good Belly straight shot.
 Dema's snack from carrot chips in his new snack bag (both from Common Ground Co-op).
Annie Chun's Organic Shiitake and Veggie Potstickers, the last of the harvest whole wheat crackers, sandwich cookiesYves Meatless Ham on whole wheat with mixed greens, Vegenaise, and mustard. Organic strawberries was Dema's snack that day. He said one of his classmates was commenting on how much she liked strawberries so he shared. So far, the kids have been super sweet and welcoming at his new school. I hope to get into a better groove as the school year progresses and the weather cools off.

Monday, September 2, 2013

What We are Reading (Listening to)

Dema (9) and Josie (5) share a bedroom and they always want to fall asleep to an audio book. In fact, we have an audio book on in at least one room probably 8 hours a day. They have one on in the background as the draw, play with Legos, etc.

It can be hard to find something that appeals to both of them. They have different likes and dislikes so we usually try to pick books out together at the library. Sometimes they come to an agreement and other times they pick a book out for each other knowing they won't like it themselves, but it would appeal to their sibling.
This was the case with our current book. Josie picked out The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell when she noticed the picture of Chris Colfer. Dema and Josie both enjoy Glee (we don't own a TV, but they watch episodes on Netflix which usually entails leaving the room until the next song comes is all about the music for Dema). Anyway, I assumed Chris was just the actor hired to read the book, but he wrote it as well. I just hear snippets here and there as I put the kids to bed or what I overheard as they played in their room while listening to the book. Thus, I will let Dema and Josie review it.

Dema's review:  I enjoyed The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell because it is a story packed with adventure, mystery, and romance. Connor (male) and Alex (female) are twelve year old twins and they are the main characters of this book. Alex is the brains of the expedition to find the wishing spell and Connor is brave. Connor does help out in some situations, but throughout the book they have many setbacks. The story kept my attention by adding new twists and depth to familiar storybook characters. I was happy to listen to this book more than once and Chris Colfer's voice added to my enjoyment of his book. Some of the parts of this book may be too dark for younger readers. My little sister was a little scared at different points, but it was fun to listen to The Land of Stories together, especially since the main characters are siblings. I have already asked my mom to request the next book in this series.

Josie's review:  (WARNING - SPOILERS) Alex and Connor find a frog man that is the youngest prince charming and he was scared to let people know who he truly was because he was too embarrassed to show himself. Wolves were trying to get Alex and Connor and that part was scary, but don't worry, they escaped. I liked the part where Snow White helps her step-mother and her love (in the mirror) get away to the next realm. The book was very adventurous and interesting. It was fun to hear it! I can't wait to listen to the next book.
I recently watched Orange is the New Black* on Netflix and I decided to read the book. I found it somewhat entertaining and understandably disturbing. While the obvious privileged viewpoint of the author is somewhat off-putting (as it was in Eat, Pray, Love), her acknowledgment of her background and her fortunate situation compared to many of her fellow inmates made that part more bearable. The Netflix series is very, very loosely based on the book so don't worry if the show was a bit too over the top for you. The main reason I recommend Orange is the New Black is for the stats she quotes and the human faces she puts on the usually forgotten part of our community. Our "justice" system is broken and this book will, hopefully, encourage the reader to delve deeper into these issues.

*If you haven't watched the show yet, it is worth your time for other reasons. I love a show that brings together so many strong actresses in one place and while the sex and violence is what you would expect from the creator of Weeds, it doesn't loose the message and the inmates are more complex than the book portrays them.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Though She Be But Little, She is Fierce!

Where does the time go? It seems like just yesterday I was posting about her birth, her first birthday, Josie at twoher 3rd birthday a year late, Josie at four, and five with some flashbacks to three. Now my baby will soon be six going on sixteen. Slow down my sweet strong soul. There is plenty of time later to be grown. With a 13, 9, and soon to be six year old in the house I can say I want them to be kids as long as they want. We have a crazy culture where we rush their growth academically and socially, yet we don't truly respect them as people and "baby" them in the worst ways possible. Cry it out and helicopter parenting is a lot of what is sold to us. I love that we shared our sleep with our kids, I nursed them until they were ready to move on (which was a different age for each of them), and I have the luxury to homeschool, public school, or private school them based on their unique needs. The hardest times in our relationships is when I try to "speed up their growth" instead of respecting where they are...when I respect them as they are, I am always amazed at their maturity.

We had Josie's party this weekend at one of her favorite places in town.
 The party at the gymnastics academy with smiles. Josie is the black and red leo in the middle.
The party group with funny faces.
 The birthday girl in the middle of the parachute.
 Parachute fun after all the running and jumping in the gym.
 Coach Ian carrying the birthday girl out to enjoy pizza and cake.
 Josie taking a piece of her favorite pizza; Mandarin orange with tofu from one of her other favorite places. Josie picked out six pizzas for her sixth birthday.
 Gluten free crust with Mandarin orange and black olives for Josie's bestie, Indi.
 Mandarin orange, vegan sausage, and sauerkraut.
 Seitan Reuben pizza (seitan, sauerkraut, and dressing) for her brother, Dema.
 Mandarin orange and tofu.
 Carmelized onion and broccoli for her brother, Parker.
Caramelized onion, broccoli, and artichoke with pesto instead of tomato sauce for her mom (who didn't get any because the guests devoured it).
Dema and Josie are best buds and after singing happy birthday, Dema came up and gave her a sweet hug and she kissed him in front of everyone to his embarrassment.
 Rob's cakes are never pretty, but they are always delicious.
Rob made two of his traditional birthday cakes (the kids ask for it every birthday) from Vive le Vegan! (Raspberry Frosted Cake with Chocolate Cream Center), but with a gluten free twist.
Josie said it was her best birthday yet. Here she is with our gift, a horse from a secondhand store. I don't have pictures of her with the gifts she received from her party guests. They were so so sweet! We asked for no presents, but she received so many thoughtful gifts from handmade cards, to gift certificates to the gymnastics academy to ballet outfits, to art supplies, to Legos, to bling, etc. Happy Birthday to my sweet baby doll ninja princess. You are so strong, passionate, loving, strong-willed, thoughtful, protective, wise, articulate, forgiving, and you have a sense of fashion that stops people in their tracks with a memory that always amazes me. I love you "infinity most no one can beat". Though you be but little, you are fierce.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Few Scenes From Our Spring

 Our sweet greyhound rescue (love American Greyhound!) snuggled up on her couch. She learned early on what couch was hers and what couches belong to the humans. She easily figures out the rules.
 On party nights (this one was for Rob's 51st birthday) when the adults (and kids) stay up too long rules can get blurry. Our little friend, Norah, fell asleep on Gracie's couch so Gracie hopped up there and fell asleep on her. 
 Josie's spring soccer team. Josie is the one standing behind the male coach (fourth from the left).
 Parker was Prince Eric in the CPD show, The Little Mermaid Jr., this spring. Here he is after the matinee performance with his sister and brother.
 Our awesome young teen neighbor gave Josie one of her old homemade Halloween outfits...a mermaid! This made Josie so happy! With all The Little Mermaid shows for Parker it was great to have Josie join in the fun at home.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Splurging on Gardein

Once in a while you just have to reach in the freezer and make something easy. Especially, when it is almost 90 degrees in the house (100+year old house and no central air and some rooms without grounded electrical outlets so we can't even use window units) and humidity is through the roof. That is where Gardein comes in.
Gardein Marinara Crispy Chick'n Filet over whole wheat fettuccine. Simple, quick and everyone liked it. I prefer my homemade marinara sauce though. The kids are kind of anti pasta lately (unless it is rice pasta for pad thai) so I have to do something to jazz it up.
Gardein BBQ Riblets on a whole wheat bun with whole wheat gobetti pasta and cheeze with broccoli and carrots.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Wrap it Up!

I will put absolutely anything and everything in a whole wheat tortilla and call it a wrap (and breakfast or lunch, heck, even dinner). 
 Leftover lentil soup? 
I can wrap that.

Sometimes I add hot sauce or more veggies, perhaps some Vegenaise or hummus to leftovers when I wrap them. When you wrap soup and curries, you have to be careful about not using to much liquid. Wraps are a great way to put a re-energize leftovers and who doesn't like eating with their hands? It has become a family joke that I'll put everything in a wrap and reminds me of Porlandia's pickle it episode.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Sh*t is About to Get Real

Why do people blog? Do we all need to have our stories heard so much that we want to put them out for the world to see? Are we seeking attention? Closet writer wannabes? Why not just keep a personal journal?

Food bloggers are a particular breed of bloggers.

I'm obviously not a photographer nor am I a chef or someone who is expert at plating. I am just someone on a journey like everyone else out there. Why share that journey with the entire world (or the few people who bother to read it)?

I started blogging because I read a vegan food blog that made me laugh, possibly shocked me from time to time, and kept me reading. The blogger primarily wrote about food, but in a real way and with enough personal antidotes to make me appreciate the being behind the beans. The blogger inspired me to write again. I used to love writing.

Then I lost my nerve.

I decided to be safe instead of edgy. I'm not sure if I'm an edgy person anyway.

I live in a small college town. Sometimes suffocatingly small. People over the years have come up to me because they read my blog. While that can be fun, it can also be stifling.

Now I feel after months of a blogging break that I can make this space something just for me. A place that may not always be pretty and I'm not just talking about the food photos.

Do I want people to read it? Sure. I think. I am putting it out there.

I'm okay if no one reads these words too.

While I am still snapping pictures of food and fun. I will also write about the tough things. The things that keep me up at night.

It is almost 3am and yes, I consumed almost a full Chemex* of coffee post kids' bedtime. Thus I have more than my unrelenting all-consuming thoughts keeping me up.

Let's talk about OCD.**

The lovely twisted thing about being a parent of a child with OCD is getting all "ocd" about said child. He never leaves my thoughts and I refuse to stop trying to figure it out and I will never stop beating myself up for all the times I don't handle it well. At the same time, I know obsessing about my child's anxiety is totally f-ed up. Yep, my life, like so many lives out there, is a crazy roller coaster ride and sometimes I just want to get off.***

This mom is human and I have some very bad parenting days.

Today was not one of my bad days, but Dema's OCD over the last several months has been "louder". Some days I almost forget about it. The hand washing changes to something less obvious like only going to the park through two imaginary "gateways" and things are my all seems to chill and "normal". Other days, like the last several months, I feel like it is a struggle just to get through the morning and I'm drowning in the sea of OCD.

Dema doesn't get that break though. Inside that wonderful intelligent compassionate brain of his, things are always chaotic. He doesn't get the luxury of living in the moment. Oh how we all struggle with that, but for him it is so much more. His struggle goes to 11, it is one louder.****

It gets tedious for those of us who love and know him. I can't possible understand how tiring it gets for my sweet little nine year old boy. Imagine never being able to turn "it" off. It being all the anxieties we all have, but with the weight of the world added on. Every single disease we have ever heard of, each tragedy we can imagine, such intense emotions...all of them...talking at once. A cacophony of anxiety and intensity inside while on the outside we are supposed to follow all the society's unspoken rules.

Someone opens the door for Dema and he has to walk through under their arm. This arm, in Dema's world, puts him in another dimension so he has to have it pass over him the other way to be "okay". He can politely walk in the door that is so nicely being held for him, but then possibly be lost forever in this different place he imagines himself transported to or decline the open door and look rude and ungrateful.*****

At some point, I can't even remember when, Dema started asking what number he should brush his teeth to...not really knowing what he meant, I started giving him a number. It was immediately clear that the number had to be and increment of 10. Rob would try to say 25 and Dema would get so fussy. I still don't completely comprehend this ritual, but is also includes him counting by twos and is not to be taken lightly. We talk about his OCD openly, partly because I think it is good for people to understand it and partly so people don't loose their patience. I used the tooth brushing routine the other day as an example when I try to explain OCD (because people throw this term around like it is nothing and most people don't have a clue, which I totally get because I never had a clue either until Dema came into my life). So I used this example and Dema was all like, "Is that part of my OCD? Hmm, I didn't realize that." He thinks everyone does it. Just like it is hard to comprehend what OCD is like when we don't have it, Dema has trouble wrapping his head around what it is like for people who don't live with constant anxiety.

I want to understand my son. I try so hard to put myself in his shoes. We started a new approach with him and we call OCD his super power. Because it is, in a way, a gift. People with OCD are sometimes able to do repetitive motions that would bore other people which can make them talented at athletics or even in academic endeavors. He isn't "broken" and in need of "fixing". He has something inside of him that can give him strength and power. Allow him to reach goals that others would find daunting. Yet, when the anxiety part of OCD makes him sad, angry, and keeps him from being a happy care-free kid, my heart breaks over and over again.

It is almost unbearable.

I just want to turn back time and take all of this away. Whatever triggers caused his pain...the car wreck? the motorcyclist hitting him while he was riding his bike? being pushed from a rock when he was three and ending up in the ER? the birth of his baby sister? or was something completely benign to me that was Earth shattering and life changing for him?

I want to hold him and make everything better. I want him to trust that people around him aren't aliens and that his dad and I will always be there for him. I want him to slow down. I want for his mind to give him a break. I want the drone of apprehension to be silenced.

I wonder if it is like having a pot of coffee in his mind, but not just for a self-inflicted night of buzzing on caffeine. All. The. Time.

*I bought Rob a Chemex last winter solstice. We both love it. We usually only drink coffee together on the weekends so it is a treat. After years of trying to convince Rob to kick his caffeine habit, I finally joined him a bit. Now in an ironic twist of fate, Rob has completely cut down his coffee consumption. He has moderately high blood pressure and has since before we met, but he started taking it seriously after turning 50. He recently started charting his blood pressure at home and he noticed without coffee his blood pressure is completely normal. He is now joining me in my obsession with tea, but we do still make coffee from time to time.

**You should hear the tune of the Salt N Pepa song, Let's Talk About Sex.

***Not in a suicidal way, but in a "I'd love for life to be even keel for a bit and everything to work  out all neat and tidy like the American sitcoms teach us" way.

****Spinal Tap

*****This is a true story that used to be one of his issues a couple years ago. Fortunately, at seven years old he was in touch enough with what was going on inside himself to finally explain this to me (after much frustration since passing under things happens quite a bit when you are seven and surrounded by people taller than you).

Common Ground Pizza and Sandwiches

Our local co-op is fantastic and feels like a second home to our kids. They know many of the people who work there and love to chat with them, but what they like best is eating vegan food from the deli. Around Parker's 13th birthday, the co-op started offering their own pizza. It was an awesome birthday present. Since we live in a small college town, we don't have many options for vegan pizza and no options anymore (now that One World is gone) for pizza with vegan cheese.
 The dough is New York style and so good. This picture shows the Tofu and Mandarin Orange (Josie's favorite) on the left and I think the Very Vegan Veggie on the right. Since early this year, they have gone from just offering pizza by the slice to making them to order and selling entire pizzas. Common Ground is now hands down our favorite pizza place we're ever tried, not just favorite local.
They don't just serve excellent pizza, they now have made to order sandwiches too. This one is the seasonal Butternut Squash and Pesto. It has us looking forward to fall. So delicious and a combination I never would have thought of on my own! There will be many more pictures of Common Ground food in the future, the pics are being held prisoner on my Samsung phone which does not play nice with my IMac computer.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

For the Love of Pad Thai

 Pad Thai is one of my favorite things to make. It is so versatile and forgiving. It goes along with my advice to anyone wanting to add more plant foods into their diet..sauce. Play around with sauces. Find some you like. A good peanut sauce goes a long way to putting dinner on the table. Some ingredients I usually put in my pad thai sauce: garlic, peanut butter (when I talk about peanut butter on my blog, I mean natural peanut butter - just roasted organic peanuts, nothing else), tamari, tamarind, hot peppers of some sort or red curry paste, tomatoes and/or tomato paste, pitted dates or dried figs for sweetener, and lime juice. I have been known to add all sorts of other ingredients too, but that gets me started.
My pad thai is never the same twice. Sometimes I mix it up and don't use peanuts at all and use other nut butters. I make it tangy or spicy depending on my audience. There are are so many different rice noodles to choose from now too. I usually use brown rice noodles, but I also use red rice noodles and very rarely white rice noodles. I've seen corn rice combo noodles. They are all good. I like to make my pad thai pretty veggie heavy. The top dish has roasted white sweet potatoes and peas, the bottom one has broccoli different and colored carrots (the kids love a mixture of colors so we try to keep the local purple, yellow, and red carrots in our produce drawer when they are in season). I add tofu or tempeh (sometimes both) most of the time, but sometimes I also add chickpeas and/or seitan. Often I garnish with nuts, cashews and pistachios are my go to nuts, but if I have peanuts on hand I will use them too.

Last week we ended up having 7-9 adults (people kept dropping by, which I love!) and 9 kids for dinner. Veggie pad thai, salad (provided by one of our lovely neighbors who came for dinner), and fresh strawberries (also provided by one of the sweet diners) fed everyone easily. We used three packages of pad thai noodles, loads of veggies, and tofu. One of the kids we had over is gluten-free and pad thai is an easy to make gluten free meal.