Monday, March 28, 2016

Evolution of an Eatery or Everyone Needs a Second Chance

For a college town, we don't have a lot of vegetarian/vegan restaurant options. We only have one 100% vegan full-time restaurant in town, Dancing Dog. The other vegan restaurant, Red Herring, is student run and usually open only when classes are in session for lunch and sometimes for dinner, it depends on the semester. When Dancing Dog opened late 2014 or early 2015, we were pretty excited.  We really wanted a vegan restaurant to succeed in our area. I don't think I've ever blogged about it because initially we were less than impressed. The space is not really family or even bigger group friendly so we could tell right away it wasn't going to be our new go to place to eat. It has a great little hipster feel, which isn't bad, necessarily, and most of the new places downtown have that vibe. We cook some really good food at home so we eat out rarely these days to be healthier and save money. When we eat out at vegan restaurants in Chicago, the food is memorable so we tend to save our restaurant splurge for times when we are in bigger cities. When Dancing Dog first opened  they were serving Gardein and other pre-package vegan convenience foods at a higher price which made no sense for us. Our non-vegan friends seemed to like the place, so we kept our mouths shut. We would try back from time to time and gradually things have gotten better. 

This week was spring break for our town and Rob was working on the sailboat (a topic for a future blog post) so I decided to take the kids to Dancing Dog on a whim. Four is a much more manageable number at this eatery and Dema had some things to celebrate. We were all pleasantly surprised on how things have evolved at Dancing Dog since our first visit.
Dema with his vegan Reuben and fries.
Dema absolutely loves the vegan Reuben at Common Ground Food Co-op so I should have suggested he order something else, but he did enjoy his Dance Dog Reuben and said it was a close second. The sandwich filled him up so he barely touched his fries. I'm not sure what ketchup they use, but it always tastes a little off to us. We buy unsweetened at home so we may just have a different palate, but they don't usually mind ketchup at restaurants. Josie said the ketchup tastes like cinnamon so I wonder if they make it in house or add spices to it. The menu describes the Reuben as "Corned beef style house seitan and sauerkraut sit perfectly on grilled rye with Swiss cheeze and 1,000 Island dressing".
Parker's DD Burger and fries.
Parker thoroughly enjoyed his Dancing Dog burger and again he couldn't finish his fries (but he came closer). It appears the burger is made in house, which is always a plus to me. When we dine out, I want the food to be something I couldn't easily make at home. The menu describes the burger as "fresh avocado and chipotle aioli top our burger made from black beans, roasted sweet potatoes, corn, red bell pepper, red onion, millet, and oats with spices. All of this piled onto a whole-wheat bun with lettuce, tomato, and onion".
My Pesto Grilled Cheeze with Roasted Vegetables and Quinoa Corn Salad.
I don't usually go for grilled cheeze sandwiches, but I liked the sound of pesto, what sounded like house made cheeze, and option of adding roasted vegetables. I was not disappointed. I would definitely order this sandwich again and with the quinoa corn salad side, I was full, but not uncomfortably so and I felt like it was a pretty healthy for restaurant fare. The cheeze tasted great, but did get a little clumpy as it cooled and tried to slide out of the sandwich as I would take a bite. This made it a bit messy, but that is my only critique. The roasted veggies really added to the sandwich. I remember seeing eggplant and zucchini, but I was too busy eating to really notice much more. I love quinoa with black beans and corn so I would would add a full entree salad with this as the star, but I'll settle for having it as a side. The menu describes the Pesto Grilled Cheeze as "a blend of our signature cashew and almond cheezes, spinach pesto, 
and fresh tomato slices served on grilled seven-grain bread".
Josie's Pesto Grilled Cheeze with Avocado Slices and Creamy Coleslaw.
Josie ordered the Pesto Grilled Cheeze too, but with the optional avocado slices instead of roasted vegetables. Josie really loves the red cabbage savoy slaw from Common Ground Food Co-op so she went with the creamy coleslaw as her side. Josie raved about the grilled cheese, but the slaw was not her favorite. I ate a few bites, but it was way too sweet for my taste.

All four of us decided we need to eat at Dancing Dog Eatery & Juicery more often. They have come a long way and we look forward to trying other options on their menu and seeing what they come up with next. I feel confident now suggesting Dancing Dog to friends (vegan or not) and I really appreciate having this establishment in our community. They were hosting a clothing swap the day we were there, which is an awesome non-traditional use of their upstairs space. Several local short films have used Dancing Dog as a location and they display local art. I heard one of the employees mention that they compost. Support of culture, bringing people together, and caring about the environment go a long way to making me feel even better about giving this evolving eatery my money.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Spring Break 2016

Our sweet neighbors wanted to go out of town with us during spring break, but I needed to take care of several dogs (over this one week, I will have five extra dogs at different times), Rob's work has been crazy busy and he's about to leave for a sailing trip in Florida soon, Dema started having full blown panic attacks (more on that in another post), Parker would rather stay in town to see his friends who attend public school and are on break this week, and Josie was bummed to not travel with Vicky and Greg due to our excuses. So I let Josie tag along with Parker and his homeschool buddies at the skating rink one evening, Vicky and Greg took them to a movie one afternoon and bouldering another afternoon. Josie also was able to play in the park a lot with the neighborhood kids since the weather for the first part of the week was beautiful. It hasn't been too bad of a time after all.
Josie doing the splits in one of her favorite Magnolia trees in our park.
Josie spends a good portion of her park time in the trees.
Josie doesn't skate often, but she loves it and she was pretty good about leaving Parker and his girlfriend alone to skate together.
The teens even let Josie join in laser tag.
Josie was so happy our little friend Dory loves the window seat. She only spent one night with us, but she is loads of energy and fun.
Josie helps me brush the dogs who stay with us. Lara is waiting her turn as her play pal, Lola, enjoys some belly grooming.
The dogs all want to be together and with us, but they also like their own space. You can just see Lara in the background on the couch, Romeo likes to hang out near his cage when he isn't snuggling with us, Lola loves to spread out on the floor, while Gracie is cuddled up on her dog bed just out of the picture to the right.
Dema rocking the new bouldering gym.

You can take the kid out of the gymnastics gym, but you can't take the gymnastics out of the kid. All three of my children can't resist climbing ropes and gymnastics rings.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Nacho Nostalgia

Dema was perusing Isa Does It and noticed Nachos Night. He dropped not so subtle hints about this being a great idea. I decided it would be an easy dinner for everyone to make the way they like them and we still had some black beans left (I didn't follow her recipe at all, but I would like to sometime...she makes nachos with brown lentils).
Red corn chips, black beans with red onion, garlic, red and orange bell peppers, kale, turmeric, black pepper, and chipotle peppers, roasted potatoes with turmeric, black pepper, nutritional yeast, iodized salt, and olive oil, sliced kalamata olives, salsa, and tahini sauce.
Nachos isn't something we eat often in our house, but it is something Rob and I used to eat two decades ago prior to having kids. We devoured a lot of vegan nachos at Food for Thought* in Washington DC while discussing politics, life, and love. This was in the dark ages before Daiya and so many other vegan cheeses were invented. Vegan cheese that tasted good and would melt was the stuff of dreams, but Food for Thought made a tahini sauce that made you wonder why people ever used cheese for nachos (vegan or not). Their nachos were loaded and almost as addictive as their vegan lasagna. I haven't had Food for Thought nachos for years, but I decided to use Rob's tahini sauce on our nachos (the kids can have their Daiya) and it took me back to my early vegan years and to some of my favorite vegan restaurant memories. Still addictive and fun to eat after all this time.

*Food for Thought is long gone, sadly, but some of the food is still served at Black Cat

Monday, March 7, 2016

Last Minute Lunches

When I'm packing lunch for the kids, I try to pay attention to nutrition, but also ease of eating and something that travels well, and of course, something they enjoy eating. I know I packed a good lunch that day when there is nothing left over. I don't like packing lunches the night before and the mornings are usually me up before the rest of the family. Since we only have one child outside of homeschool, the other two sleep in a bit later. I like to let Dema sleep as long as possible and I like the quietness of the kitchen without anyone else around. This means I am often getting lunches together last minute.

I have some pictures of school lunches for my sixth grader and some homeschool co-op lunches for my sophomore in high school. They have very different tastes and the environment in which they are eating lunch is very different. They both need to take into consideration various allergies of their friends. No nuts is very important for the safety of the children around them.

Dema, my sixth grader, has a finite time to eat and he is always in a rush to get outside for recess with his friends. I have to pack foods to be bite sized for quicker consumption. Dema comes home and immediately needs more food, but if I pack more in his lunch, he doesn't have time to eat it. He's gone to school since 4th grade and I have the balance of food down for him.
Homemade baked tofu with greens and chipotle Vegenaise on our local bakery's rye bread, organic carrots, organic green grapes, and organic strawberries, with dark chocolate chips and dried organic barberries.
Organic apple, prepackaged raspberry fig bar, organic strawberries, Field Roast deli slices with organic spinach and chipotle Vegenaise on our local bakery's rye bread, dark chocolate chips with dried organic barberries.
Organic pink lady apple, organic green grapes, organic strawberries, organic carrots, sunbutter and raspberry fruit spread on our local bakery's rye bread, and dark chocolate chips with organic dried barberries.
Parker, my sophomore has a more relaxed time frame to eat at his weekly homeschool co-op. He tends to eat a lot during meals, but he's not a snacker in between. Parker loves savory foods so he often takes some of dinner from the night before.
Leftover brown rice, organic peas and carrots microwaved that morning, and Gardein Mandarin Orange Crispy Chick'n
Field Roast deli slices, melted Chao Coconut Herb cheese slice, chipotle Vegenaise, organic spinach on our local bakery's rye bread, dark chocolate chips with organic dried barberries, organic strawberries, brown rice and aloo gobi from last night's dinner, and a few pieces of Peelu gum.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Everything Tastes Better in Homemade Pottery

Parker, my sixteen year old, has been working on mugs lately. I love using his bowls everyday for food and storing things, but he's still working on handles. He wanted to make a mug for his girlfriend, but these didn't make the cut. His mistakes are our gain! I really like the blue and green swirled together and while the size is more like teacups, I can tell he's getting better.
Parker's latest set of mugs and a bowl.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Broccoli Soup for Breakfast

My favorite cold weather breakfast is leftover broccoli soup. I make some version of this soup about once a week in the cooler months and I enjoy it the most for breakfast (if we have leftovers from dinner). Last night I decided to made cream of asparagus soup with some asparagus our neighbors gave us and Josie was begging for me to cook. This picture if before I added the broccoli to turn in into broccoli soup, but you can see the red onions, red lentils, asparagus, and quinoa.
I walked Dema to school in the freezing cold, but sunny morning, today and I couldn't stop thinking about a nice warm bowl of broccoli soup.
I added a drizzle of tahini sauce and hot sauce. really hit the spot.