Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Black Bean and Kale Quesadillas, The Great Cover Up, and Reading as Rebellion


Josie was super hungry last night after gymnastics and craving burritos, but we decided on warming up some tomato soup (with focassia bread we bought that day from our local bakery), kale and black bean quesadillas on tomato basil tortillas, and bananas with peanut butter and barberries. Super quick and easy, Josie helped saute the red onions, black beans, and kale which made her forget how hungry she was until the food was ready. Everyone enjoyed it and she had time to play xbox soccer with Rob before we settled in to read more chapters of The Girl Who Drank the Moon*.


Being true to my resolution to get out and see more local bands, Rob and I made it to our towns annual "Great Cover Up" which features local bands covering famous bands often in extraordinary ways. It is a favorite event for us and it usually last two weekends so we go once to see a band we know, but this year we were there for the first night and the closing night. It was nice to go out just the two of us and great to see bands we knew and others we are getting to know.

We finally got a change to see John Isberg (the director for Listen, a short film Dema was in over the summer, and several music videos the kids have been in) and his band, Tigerbeat, play. They covered The Church. I can't wait to check them out sometime soon playing their own songs.
Ryan Groff and Kayla Brown hilariously covering Flight of the Conchords.
This year Ryan from Elsinore didn't have his band, but joined up with his friend and amazing local female singer, Kayla Brown. It was the laugh out loud fun that I needed.
Here is Ryan and Elsinore covering Whitney Houston two years ago. It will always be one of my favorites:

And three years ago as Nirvana:

We didn't weren't at the Cover Up this year, but here is Ryan as Buddy Holly:

Okay, I got a little carried away there.

Activist Snippets:

*While Rob was in California last week, I decided to revive a favorite family time. All three kids shared a room for a while and even after they split up, I used to read to them. I read the entire Harry Potter series and many other books. It can be hard to find something that appeals to a seven and a half year age range, but some of my best childhood memories are of my dad reading to me and my sister and we are seven and half years apart. I  know 17 is less than a week away for my eldest, but he humored me and my 12 and 9 year old actually asked for more reading time and we started earlier each night. My sister had just given the kids bags of books and I picked The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill at random to read aloud. It ends up being a pretty good book for our current situation in the United States. It has a government lying to their people to keep the elite in place and in power. Sometimes the best thing we can do to "resist" is bring our family closer and read together.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Gymnastics Meet with Biscotti, a Short Film with Blood, and an Activist Snippet

So much going on in our part of the world right now with the new regime installed in the US government, it is hard to think about everyday things, but life goes one between protests and calling elected officials.


Josie attended a gymnastics meet in Indianapolis on Friday. Yes, meets sometimes start on Fridays to get everyone in. This means taking a day off school for many. We homeschool so not as much of issue for us. The boys stayed home and took care of the dogs and did the various activities they have on Fridays. Rob was traveling back from California so he couldn't come, but my sister was free and she even drove us since our car needs new tires. Not only did Karen drive, but she also made us some delicious vegan "Kitchen Sink" biscotti from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar.
Josie at "her tree" in the park next to our house. She was trying to calm her nerves.
Josie was not happy to attend Circle of Stars gymnastics meet this year. Last year it was her "worst meet". It was the only meet she didn't medal, it is one biggest meet she's ever attended, she doesn't like the floor routine setup (it is a long strip instead of a square), and with the hour time difference and travel time it takes longer. She doesn't have to go to every meet so we were going to skip this one, but after talking to her, we all decided it was better to face her fears.
Josie and Karen with their cheeks full of biscotti trying to smile for me.
It was so nice having Aunt Karen there. It took Josie's mind off her worries and I liked spending some quality time with my sister. I think this is the first meet Karen has been able to attend. The biscotti were full of nuts and dried fruit, but not too heavy or sweet so the perfect pre-competition treat! I think we'll have to make these for all our meets. Josie takes clementines, carrot and celery sticks, popcorn, and sometimes energy bars in her gym bag. She doesn't eat much before a meet because of nerves and this one didn't start until 5pm so that is a long day of eating small things like vegan yogurt and fruit. The meet (including awards) didn't end until 10pm Indy time so we didn't get to eat Ethiopian like we planned, but we did find a Taco Bell. Josie has only eaten from Taco Bell maybe once or twice in her life so it is kind of a treat. They are pretty vegan friendly. Rob and I used to have to stop their on trips 20 or so years ago because we didn't have as many vegan options as we have now. My sister is also vegan and she had never ordered vegan at Taco Bell so I showed her how. It wasn't the best dinner ever, but it allowed us to get on the road and Josie needed something savory. Next time I'll bake up some tofu or something in case the meet goes long.
Josie is on the far beam in the orange and blue leo.
Josie gets off music when she gets nervous, but she made it through and that was the goal.
Usually, vault is an easy 9. something for Josie, but she stayed in the 8's for this meet. All 8.5 and above which is what her personal goal was, but definitely not her best meet if you just look at the scores.

My favorite event for Josie right now is the bars. She excels in strength, but doesn't have the control and pretty details down during competition. It is mainly mental and she'll get there. I am a competitive sports convert after years of being skeptical. I was all about cooperative games when Parker was little and tried that with the other two, but Josie was born competitive (she might get that from her father). It worried me for a long time, but after seeing her (and Dema) in gymnastics (and swim and soccer, but especially gymnastics), I realize there are so many things it teaches. My kids have learned to get back up and try again and again, making goals and achieving them, how awesome it feels to be physically fit, how to support teammates, and how to face their fears. All life skills that will stick with them long after they are done with gymnastics.


Here is a short film Parker was an extra in November. It was the first time he was able to experience blood make-up for a film. I took a picture of his "gun shot wound", but the film was released recently so I was able finally able to see it. He had a lot of fun, but it is pretty gory/graphic. ***Not suitable for all audiences.***

Activist Snippets:

(Re)Watching West Wing on Netflix got me through the GW Bush era and listening to the Hunger Games trilogy on audio book is my theme for the Trump days.
Parker's friend, Josie, Parker, and Dema at our local Women's March
Coming together with others in our community to have our voices heard, is also getting me through these dark days. What gets you through?
Our little local airport overflowing with cars and people with signs denouncing the immigration ban.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Activist Snippets - Where Do We Go From Here?

Okay, here we go.

Those of us in the United States, this is a wake-up call. We can make this into a positive. Often we grow complacent when someone is in office who seems to care about the environment/health/rights of all.

Now we know where we stand. We can not expect the government to take care of things like climate change for us. We never could, but now it is heartbreakingly clear.

What can we do in our every day lives to work toward a better life for all? 

If you are reading this, you might already be doing something. You might be vegan or converting to veganism. Awesome first step!

A local friend of mine is doing a year of not buying anything new (food excluded, of course) or used. Nothing. She's done a year before. I've been thinking about that, it is a great goal.

We went years without a car, but in the past couple years we've gotten lazy. We are definitely working on walking/biking/bussing more this year.

Another goal for me personally is getting more involved in my community. I've stepped away from community in the last few years and I think community-building is more important than ever.

Art is extremely dear to me and I found out that I've been totally naive when it comes to supporting local or not well known musicians. I thought watching their videos on YouTube or listening on Spotify was support, but it turns out that doesn't actually make much of a different to the specific artists. I will support them through attending more concerts, buying their songs/merchandise through sites like Band Camp, and telling others about them. I used to be on the board and have my own show on a local radio station. I haven't supported local stations lately and need to get back to it. Art looks like it is going to take a big hit the next four years.

What are you doing? I'd love to hear how you all are getting through the next four years and beyond. How are you making a difference in your daily life? I need inspiration!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Instant Pot Adventures - New England Glam Chowder

I knew I wanted to make a soup last night. There is a lot of illness going around and Dema hasn't been feeling great. Soup is always a comfort food, but also for healing, in my mind. We've also had no sun and lots of fog, rain, drizzle, which makes everyone a bit off. Soup to the rescue!

I haven't looked through a cookbook in a while so I turned to Isa Does It! for inspiration. I found her New England Glam Chowder recipe. I'd never made it before and I could see right away how I could use the Instant Pot.

I didn't really follow the recipe, but I used it as a rough guide. I sautéed red onion and minced garlic in a bit of leftover red wine in the Instant Pot. Once the wine cooked off, I added cubed white potatoes, two large carrots chopped, and one cup of vegetable broth. I didn't see a lot of herbs in Isa's recipe and I always add turmeric if I can so I added a bit of iodized salt, turmeric, black pepper, and oregano. Red lentils are a soup staple for me. I add them as much as possible since they give everything an easy nutrient boost.

After I threw in the lentils, I added three more cups of water and a better than bouillon cube. The recipe called for soaked cashews and I never soak my cashews. I was also too lazy to use the Vitamin so I added the cashews, as is (raw pieces), to the Instant Pot. I stirred it all together and pressure cooked it for ten minutes. After the Instant Pot was done, I knew I was going to puree everything that had just cooked, but I didn't want the entire soup to be smooth.
Mushrooms and veggies being added to the pureed soup base.
While the base for the soup was cooking, I put the mushrooms in my cast iron pan to cook them with more turmeric, black pepper, and za'atar. When the mushrooms were almost done, I added two diced carrots (Josie hates mushy carrots so I wanted some carrots to have some crunch left), two diced celery stalks, one diced red pepper, and one bunch of kale chopped. When the Instant Pot was finished, I pureed the ingredients with some chickpea flour, nutritional yeast, tomato paste, and lemon juice added. Then I dumped the mushrooms and veggies into the Instant Pot to mix them in and keep the soup warm. At the end, I tore up a nori sheet and added that to the soup.
New England Glam Chowder with chipotle seitan crumbles and a slice of Pain de Julia bread from our local bakery.
I also warmed up some chipotle seitan crumbles for an optional topping on the soup. It came together very quickly, was warming and filling, and Rob (the only person in the family to ever try real clam chowder) said it was pretty clam chowder tasting. I would skip the nori next time because I really can't stand fishy taste or I wold have it optional since the rest of the family seemed to like it. The kids prefer smooth soups and Rob prefers chunky so this was a perfect compromise and I'll definitely make it again. It was fun to modify a recipe to incorporate the Instant Pot. I feel like I'm getting more familiar with ways to use the IP. I love it for keeping soup warm because I could never just leave a soup this tick on my stove burner set at low without a lot of babysitting. I could have cooked the base for less time, but I wanted to make sure the lentils were done, the potatoes were soft, and the cashews could be pureed easily. I also wasn't in a hurry.

Going back to my How Not to Die app, I will just count everything even if when eating a bowl of soup you might not get an entire serving. This meal has a "serving" of greens, all your your "other veggies", nuts, spices, and a "serving" of beans. I had a big spinach salad for lunch with three kinds of beans, dried cranberries, quinoa, broccoli, sunflower seeds, etc. so I was already pretty well set as far as HNtD and this soup got me over the hump. Most days I'm in the 70% without even thinking about it, but I don't always get everything in daily. I love days when I reach 100% on the app!

Monday, January 16, 2017

White Bean Soup and Kung Pao Tofu

Parker playing Green Day's Troubled Times on the bass. 
Parker has been listening to a lot of Green Day's Revolution Radio since the election so he's been playing a lot of Troubled Times. Ironically, it makes me feel hopeful.
Dory, looking exceptionally small in the greyhound dog crate.
We had a couple days with sweet Dory this weekend. She is a frequent boarder and she looks like a little Gracie. She is a senior, but you would never know it from her energy. She slept with Parker this stay. She loves the kids.
White Bean Soup with roasted potatoes and vegan bacon with a swirl of tahini and hot sauce.
Parker and Dema's D and D group meets at our house over dinner time so we eat late on Sunday nights and I try to make something like soup that can keep warm in case the rest of us want to go ahead and eat and not wait for the boys. I had cooked some white beans in the Instant Pot earlier in the day so I decided to make a soup on the stove top. I used some veggie broth, red onion, garlic, thyme, turmeric, black pepper, oregano, white beans, kale, nutritional yeast, some roasted sweet and white potatoes, and vegan bacon cooked cut up into bite sized pieces.
White Bean Soup
Here is a better picture of Parker's bowl of White Bean Soup. The kids put a sprinkling of Daiya cheese in their soup. I kind of just threw it together, but I need to make more bean soups. I love using the Instant Pot to cook beans and it makes me rely a lot less on canned beans.
Kung Pao Tofu in the cast iron wok. 
Parker helped me prep this new to us recipe for Kung Pao Tofu and then Rob cooked it in the wok while Parker and ran to the store for brown rice vinegar and garlic for the sauce. It fed five hungry people (one who just finished three hours of gymnastics). We probably could have had one more serving for leftovers, but it was too good. I would make more sauce next time and maybe add some greens, but definitely a keeper.
Brown rice and Kung Pao Tofu with peanuts garnish.
I used the rest of the red peppers I bought on sale at the co-op and half a red/purple cabbage (that is what made everything look so purple...next time I wouldn't cook the cabbage). So good!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

A Taste of Summer Mid-Winter

We had a thin layer of ice in our part of the world yesterday morning and Dema woke up with a headache which quickly spread to me. Rob went up to Chicago with some sailing friends to attend a boat show so the kids and I had a bit of a sleepy snuggly morning. Then, as I am apt to do, I started getting stir crazy. Too dark and slightly slippery out, no place we had to be, a bit of pain, and it adds up to me getting into cleaning mode. What will getting going late and putting myself into sorting/organizing/cleaning, lunchtime went by without me noticing. The kids had made their own breakfast of croissants and fruit spread, then they snacked on apples and nuts/dried fruit so I don't think they noticed either until we were all starving.

Josie's friend and our neighbor, Leif, came by and played outside with her at the park then they played board games inside when the cold got to them. That was just what she needed. Josie was getting as stir crazy as I was, she just doesn't turn that energy into cleaning, sadly.

Lovely red peppers were on sale at our local food co-op and were sitting on the table begging to be eaten. I cooked some whole wheat angel hair pasta and some red peppers, kale, garlic, olives, nutritional yeast, and a Tofurkey sausage (also on sale this week) in my favorite cast iron pan. Dinner in less than ten minutes and it tasted like summer. Leif enjoyed some of the pasta too. Just what we all needed.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Restaurant Review - Kohinoor Indian Restaurant and Lounge

The restaurant business is a brutal one and consumers are fickle. Our modest college town has not been kind to Indian restaurants in particular. It seems like we find a good Indian restaurant and then a year later it is gone. Several of our favorites have come and gone in the last 17 years we've lived here, but to be honest, none of them could compare to the Indian restaurants in Chicago or DC so we didn't frequent them often. Most of the restaurants in town serve Northern Indian food, which can be harder to find veg options. One such restaurant opened recently just a a couple blocks from Rob's office. We weren't in a hurry to try it since we expected much of the same. Then Rob's coworker came back from India and they decided to try it for lunch. They both enjoyed it quite a bit so I was curious too.

Yesterday I joined Rob downtown for lunch without the kids. One of the things I'm trying to be more mindful of this year is finding time to be a couple. This is quite hard for me since I really like having the kids around, but they can make it difficult to talk and connect as a couple. The kids each get a private lunch with Rob once a month too so everyone gets some special time.

The new restaurant is called Kohinoor and Rob's coworker/friend/lunch buddy from India explained that is the name of a diamond England stole from India. This made me like the restaurant even more. 
Shared Veg. Combo Platter appetizer, includes samosa, aloo tikki, and mixed vegetable pakoras.
We decided to get an appetizer since we know the kids will want samosas when they come with us. We shared the veg combo platter and my favorite was the aloo tikki and then the samosa. They are served with three chutneys and they are all very good. I ordered the baingan aloo (eggplant and potato curry) and it was perfectly spiced and more tomato based than other baingan I've tried, but I was pleasantly surprised. Rob ordered channa aloo (chickpea and potato curry) and we shared, but I preferred my dish and he preferred his. We finished it all, but I could have easily eaten half and taken half home for dinner. Sometimes when I eat Indian, it can be so greasy I feel bad later, but this food was not at all greasy.
Baingan Aloo with rice.
The wait staff was extremely nice, our water was never empty (something I really appreciate in a restaurant), and food came out quickly. The building used to be a Latin American eatery and I had only been there once in the decade they were open, but it doesn't look like the new owners changed much. I like the bright yellow/orange walls, it makes it feel bright and clean. The food was much better than what I was expecting, the price for lunch downtown was excellent, the portions had me full enough to skip dinner last night, and I can't wait to take the entire family!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Help Ethan Episode Six, What (Else) I'm Watching, and Instant Pot Adventures - Tomato Soup

To see the history on this web series see my original post, to see the entire series go here, and to donate go here.

Help Ethan Episode Six:

Besides watching my son, Parker, and other talented locals in Help Ethan, I have been binge watching  Call My Agent! on Netflix. I haven't spoken French in years so I have to put the English subtitles on, but it is totally worth "reading" this show. I really like all the actors, the premise, the quirkiness, and seeing an interesting often comical take on the agent side of the acting business. Let me know if you check it out, I'd like to hear what people think of it.
Rob came home from work and only had a few minutes before he was going to head out again to meet a friend for a drink at our neighborhood bar. I quickly threw tomato paste, diced tomatoes, water, sun-dried tomatoes, dried red lentils, Very Veggie Juice, chickpeas (cooked in the IP on a previous day), nutritional yeast, turmeric, black pepper, oregano, za'atar, parsley, and a little iodized salt to my Instant Pot. I pressure cooked it all for seven minutes, quick released the pressure, pureed it, and tomato soup in no time. I served it with bread from our local bakery and everyone gobbled it up while we discussed World War I (Dema's current homeschooling obsession), Josie's recent film shoot, and Parker's pediatric cardiologist appointment (it all went well, but please don't let ACA go away!*), and other things from our day before our neighbor friend came to walk to the bar with Rob.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Morning Zen

We had a super busy day planned yesterday. Parker started rehearsal for another Shakespeare play with our amazing local homeschoolers, Josie had a full day of shooting for a short film, and Rob just got back from North Carolina so he had a lot of work to do. I was catching up on laundry and other day to day tasks which went neglected so I could do some organizing and purging. I dropped two bags of usable to someone, but we need it out of our house, stuff at the IDEA Store and one load of books to Orphan's Treasure Box. I have seven more bags of things to take to consignment stores or donate. I've just made a dent. 2017 is going to be my year to minimize.

After Rob leaves for work and before the kids wake up, I try to take a moment to refocus and relax. I don't need long, but I've found it really makes a huge difference in my day. I have more patience, I feel more focused, and I'm a happier person.

Yesterday's moment of morning zen was brought to me by...
Golden Masala Chai from Blue Lotus Chai. It was on sale at my local food co-op and I've enjoyed Blue Lotus Chai before. I was so excited to see a variety with turmeric since I usually add a bit of turmeric to my morning beverage anyway. The chai tea also contains cloves, ginger, black pepper, cinnamon, and other beneficial spices. Their chai tea has less caffeine than coffee which can be helpful on busy days. Sometimes coffee makes me jittery and I have a hard time focusing, this doesn't happen with chai. I sometimes add non-dairy milk, but I don't usually sweeten my chai like most cafes do. I add my homemade blend of dark cocoa powder and cinnamon instead. It is a delicious and relaxing way to start a busy day.
Blue Lotus Golden Masala Chai with a splash of unsweetened soy milk and a shake of dark cocoa powder and cinnamon.
You can see my 2017 American Greyhound calendar in the background. This is the organization we adopted Gracie from and I board a lot of the fosters and adoptees in this area. It is such a pleasure to get to know each Greyhound and their unique personalities, but also fall deeper in love with the breed. They are so gentle and sweet, love walks, most of them are huge cuddle bugs, and funny!

Reasons to eat dark unprocessed cocoa powder.

Why I add cinnamon to my cocoa powder sprinkles and why I'm happy to drink tea with cloves.

More info on cinnamon.

I've blogged about turmeric before.

Monday, January 9, 2017

New Year's in Wisconsin Part 2 - Quick Trips - Comet Cafe

Part two of our quick trip to Wisconsin. See part one here.

When we arrived in Appleton, WI Romeo (our guest dog) quickly made himself at home. He loves a good adventure, meeting new people, playing with our friends' cat, going on long walks in a new neighborhood, and rolling in the snowbanks.
Sweet Romeo immediately at home.
Brian and Erin have two daughters. One is a a year older than Josie and one is a couple years younger so our youngest two loves to play with them. Parker likes to hang with the adults. We have a fair amount of relaxation and playing on the wii.
Romeo is so excited to sit on Rob's lap, he is almost falling off.
Brian bought soy whipped cream for the kids to use in a fun, but messy game of Pie Face. Brian and Erin aren't veg, but they have always been so vegan friendly and thoughtful!
Dema after he ate some of the soy whipped cream off his face.
I love that our friends love to play games and play outside. The kids always have a great time together!
Norah with soy whipped cream on her face. Josie and Maya never got pie faced.
My kids loved having a cat around to cuddle! Neli got so much attention! Romeo and Neli also played together a lot. It must have been so quiet for her after we left.
Their cat, Neli, and Josie.
Parker and Neli snuggling.
We haven't had much snow at all and when we do get snow, there aren't a lot of great places to go sledding. Our friends have a pretty good sledding spot just a few blocks from their house. The kids had some extra energy early New Year's eve and asked to go to the sledding hill so the kids got some night sledding in and I almost froze watching them. I also found out that taking pictures of night sledding with my phone is pretty tough. I did get several flights on "stairs" in on my Fitbit going up and down the icy/snowing stairs off to the left in this picture. It kept me warm.
Josie has the white hat on and she walking on ice getting back up the hill.
New Year's Eve with our friends would not be the same without some Just Dance on the wii. All three of my kiddos love Just Dance and we don't have this at home so it is a treat.
The girls dancing and Romeo hanging out under the Christmas tree.
Brian made a bunch of vegan snacks for New Year's Eve and this one was Dema's favorite. This is the vegan caramel turtles before we cut them into squares. I bet Dema ate more than anyone else.
Vegan turtles.
We were all pretty tired and not sure if we could make it until midnight so we kept ourselves going with different games.
Brian, Maya, Parker, and Rob playing Jenga.
We did all make it until midnight! Brian, Erin, and I made it all the way until 2am, but the rest of the house went to bed well before that.
Norah, Rob, Dema, Josie, May, Parker, Erin, and Brian all at midnight. Happy New Year!
Romeo at midnight. He was so excited to come out of his crate, where he had been sleeping, to join in the celebration. 
 The next day we went sledding again. The sun felt much better, but it was still pretty cold and icy.
Dema "skiing" down the hill without skis.
Josie intentionally doing the splits in the snow.
Josie posing for pictures.
Dema, Maya, Josie, and Norah all on the same sled! 
We left Appleton after sledding and stopped in Milwaukee again. This time we went to Comet Cafe. What a find! Rob really wants to live part-time (really he would love to live full-time) on a sailboat. We've discussed different ways of making his dream a reality. One way is having a sailboat on Lake Michigan in Chicago. There is a much shorter sailing season than if we had a boat on one of the coasts, but it is more doable in the short term. When Rob walked Romeo while we ordered food, he found a great trail close to the restaurant and he could see Lake Michigan from the trail. The kids aren't super into the idea of cruising life on a sailboat, but we talked later about how we could ride the train to Chicago, eat at Chicago Diner then take a day trip on the sailboat to Milwaukee and eat at Comet Cafe and suddenly cruising life was sounding a lot better. Nothing like appealing to their stomachs!
Part of the Comet Cafe menu. They had several things already named "vegan", but then even more options with the rabbit logo which could be made vegan.
Comet Cafe has a bit of a hipster bar feel, which really appeals to our hipster teen, Parker. Definitely, vegan and family friendly (at least at the time we were there...dinner time). The waitstaff was wonderful even on an insanely busy New Years Day. The food was so much better than normal bar fare! Everyone was very friendly. My only critique would be their bathrooms...only one seemed to be working and it wasn't the cleanest, but that is coming from a family of five traveling...we probably wouldn't have used the bathroom if we lived there and just came in for dinner.
Dema with his Big Rig and fries. The Big Rig is vegan riblets, BBQ sauce, tomatoes, lettuce, and onion on an Italian roll.
Josie and I ordered the vegan salisbury steak. This steak is a hazelnut crusted herb cutlet with mushroom gravy and chive-mashed potatoes with the vegetable of the day.  This was so good, I can't wait to go back again. The steak was wonderfully seasoned and not to tough, the potatoes were just like homemade and the gravy was savory, but not too salty. You can't ever go wrong with brussel sprouts.
Vegan salisbury steak. Yum!
Josie absolutely loved brussel sprouts so she was so excited to have roasted brussel sprouts as the veggie of the day. She took some of her steak and potatoes to go since it was a huge portion, but I was able to savor all of my meal since I hadn't eaten anything all day.
Josie so happy with her brussel sprouts!
The steak came with a soup or salad option and I went with the salad and I wanted to take a bottle of the ginger dressing home with me, it was that good! Since I told Rob about the side salad when he came in to eat after his shift with Romeo, he ordered the Vegetable Heaven Salad. They describe this salad as mixed greens, marinated tofu, roasted red peppers, shaved carrots, scallions, tomatoes, and toasted almonds with a side of ginger dressing. This salad was exactly what the doctor ordered after Rob's day of snacking on New Year's Eve stuff. He still had a few more hours to drive so he didn't want to be weighed down by a heavy meal, but he was satisfied without being stuffed.
Rob's Vegetable Heaven Salad.
The was parking right outside the cafe so it was a great place to stop with a canine passenger, the people were friendly and competent, the food was great, and the kids bought a vegan red velvet cupcake to split when they got home. We'll definitely be back!
I love all the bike parking at Comet Cafe too!
I hope all of you are having a good start to 2017 and are trying to find the kindness and happiness as we go into the next four years. One of the things that really made me happy as I walked Romeo around our friends' neighborhood in Appleton, the yard signs which read "No matter where you are from, we are glad you are our neighbor." in Arabic, Spanish, and English. So nice to see in a "red state".

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Sunday Brunch at Dancing Dog

One of the hardest things for me when we moved back to the Midwest college town from the DC area was the lack of vegan breakfast/brunch options. We basically had nothing unless we wanted to travel 45 minutes. So we started making brunch for friends many weekends and all was well. Then we all got busy, many friends moved away, and we stopped having people over. So brunch isn't on our radar much these days. I've been wanting to indulge in Sunday brunch at our only full-time vegan restaurant, Dancing Dog, but Rob isn't usually up for it. Rob's in North Carolina for his dad's birthday, so I decided to take the kids to brunch.
Breakfast Nachos 
Breakfast nachos are genius. Roasted potatoes are so much better than chips, in my opinion. While these nachos aren't an eat with your hand type dish like "normal" nachos, I enjoyed them better. We all shared the nachos like an appetizer and the "cheese" sauce tasted a bit like tahini which I also prefer to vegan cheese. Everyone was very satisfied with this dish and they were practically licking their plates.
When we made a benedict at home, we usually add greens. I missed the greens and the holidays sauce was a bit too "mustard" tasting for all of us, but Parker and I still thoroughly enjoyed the whole wheat English muffin, breaded tofu, and vegan sausage with more roasted potatoes. 
Vicken and Waffles
Josie had a hard time deciding what to order, but she and Dema went for the Vicken and Waffles with maple syrup and cinnamon butter. The cinnamon butter seamed unnecessary and went to waste, while they could have used more syrup. Dema loved the Vicken and the waffles, but Josie could only eat one Vicken and gave the other to Parker. I don't think the Vicken is made in house, but I don't know what brand it could be since it doesn't look like anything I've seen locally in stores like Gardein. It was sort of hard for the kids to eat, but they enjoyed it and would order it again. I didn't try a bite, but it was fun to find a vegan version of this popular brunch dish.

While I feel like we've spent way too much money lately eating out with our trip to Wisconsin and North Carolina, I do want to support local eateries more this year. I appreciate the options we have and especially with new restaurants opening with absolutely nothing vegan on their menu, I would to make sure the vegan and vegan-friendly places stay in business.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Instant Pot Adventures - Mushroom Risotto

Rob is the one who makes risotto in our house. I don't have the patience to make sure it doesn't stick. I like to throw things in a pot and make something else while it is cooking. That is not how one cooks risotto...until now!

Parker made a sweet risotto pretty early on in our Instant Pot Adventure. He had great success so I knew I needed to try a savory risotto. I found this great video:

I doubled the recipe, but my family was wishing I had tripled it by the end of dinner. I only had red wine on hand so I used that instead of white, it worked well. I added a bunch of fresh chopped kale and next time I would add even more veggies, but it is a great recipe. Parker and Dema had their Dungeons and Dragons group over and they were at a really exciting point in the story so they went an hour longer. Josie was just getting done with three hours of gymnastics and I knew the boys would be starving too so I started cooking up this risotto. One of the girls from the D and D group came into the kitchen to tell me how good dinner smelled.
Vegan Mushroom Risotto made in the Instant Pot.
We don't usually make risotto often, but that is going to change. I need to find a whole grain option, like barley, if we are going to eat more risotto. I can't wait to play around with different flavors!