Sunday, December 18, 2011

Rain, Rain, Go Away

We had some warm, rainy, humid, basically miserable weather this past week. Luckily, we know how to keep ourselves entertained indoors.

Wrapping presents...

Jackson's class did a book exchange, which I thought was such a great idea. Each child got to have the excitement of unwrapping a gift, and they all came home with a new book to read!

Blowing bubbles...

And of course, dance parties...

We made some goodies, these Chocolate-Almond Butter Truffles (from 1000 Vegan Recipes.)  They are so fast and easy to make, if you need a quick food gift idea.

From Quick-Fix Vegan, Chard and Red Lentil Soup. Although healthy and hearty, this soup was missing something in the flavor department. If I make it again, I'll probably dump in a bunch of cumin and lemon juice.

Also from QFV, Seitan and Slaw Wraps. Tony and I really enjoyed these Asian-inspired wraps. Sweet and just a little bit spicy. Jackson loved the seitan -- he was eating it all by itself.

Hoping we get some cold, dry days this week. If not...more dance parties!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Spruced Up Cedars

While running errands this weekend, we stopped to take some pictures of some particularly well-dressed cedar trees.

It seems that people have taken to decorating random trees along the highway.

 Don't the trees look happy, with their festive trimmings? I hope they bring a smile to commuters' faces.

One of my errands was to replenish my tea stash. Now that winter is just around the corner, I'm drinking countless mugs of tea all day long to keep warm! Natural Grocers was having an awesome sale on Yogi Tea. Better than turning up the thermostat!

 Another thing I crave during cold weather is oats. I loved this bowl of oat bran with chia seets, cacao nibs, and of course a big scoop of peanut butter.

Here's the first meal I made from a cookbook I just purchased -- Robin Robertson's Quick-Fix Vegan. I'm a big fan of Robin's recipes, and of course I'm also a big fan of meals that can be on the table in half an hour or less. I loved the subtle flavor of the tahini-sesame sauce in this Farfalle with Sesame Cabbage.

One morning, Jackson and I made Magical Coconut Bars. They will be a Christmas present for his daycare teacher.

When I was small, I helped my Granny make these bars every Christmas. They are the first food that comes to mind when I think "Christmas."  So I was really excited to make them with my little one. Granny called them Hello Dolly bars, and she made them with sweetened condensed milk. This recipe calls for coconut milk, which makes the bars super coconutty and awesome.

Tonight, Tony is watching the Cowboys game, so I thought I would make a "game night" meal. First I made spinach dip in a bread bowl. I got the spinach dip recipe off the side of a silken tofu package. I love using recipes that I find in random places -- especially when they turn out this good! Tony loved this dip. We all did. I'm sure it will make another appearance before the holidays are over.

I also made another recipe from Quick-Fix Vegan, called Muffaletta Pizza. Muffaletta, if you didn't know, is a sandwich that originated in New Orleans. It's typically loaded down with meats and cheeses, and dressed with a tangy olive salad. In this recipe, you top the pizza with a spicy chickpea spread, artichoke hearts and avocado, then you spoon the olive salad on top. Since it features several of my favorite pizza toppings, I was loving this pie. Now I'm totally looking forward to trying more of Robin's quick meals.

My goal this coming week is to greet every morning with a smile as big as the ones you see below. The fact that I stocked up on all those yummy teas should make that goal a little easier to accomplish.

Hope your week brings lots of big smiles, too!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Black Bean Soup

Today, at Tony's request, I made black bean soup with a side of cornbread. The recipes came from Peas and Thank You, and they couldn't have been any easier to put together. No-fuss recipes like these are perfect for Jackson to help me with.

See all the ingredients sitting out on the counter? This is something I've found myself doing more and more -- getting everything out before I start cooking. I then put each ingredient away after I use it. Yes, this helps reduce clean-up time at the end. But the real benefit is this: if I get distracted, it prevents me from omitting anything! While making the cornbread, I was about to combine my wet and dry ingredients, when I saw the baking powder sitting out. Which means I had forgotten to add it. I'm not sure how cornbread without baking powder would turn out, but I don't think it would be pretty!

As soon as I turned on the gas under the soup pot, Jackson exclaimed, "Now we add the onions!" I had to think about it, but I guess you do always add the onions first when you make soup. Smart little dude.

Due to my bean allergy, I had to take Tony's word for it that the soup was "perfect."  I do know that the cornbread was quite tasty. The kids crumbled it into their soup. Along with the cornbread, I was eating sauteed spinach and leftover queso. Man, that stuff is good!

What did you make today?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Gingerbread! Po'Boys! Queso! (Not All At Once)

Brrrr, it is chilly out there. This morning I had to unpack the gloves and scarves we haven't seen since we lived in New York. So we are staying inside as much as we can, spending a lot of time in the kitchen, of course.

One morning we made gingerbread men (as well as gingerbread footballs, trees, and stars!) Olivia helped with the rolling...

while Jackson assisted with the icing. They are both such good helpers these days.

One evening, I made two dishes from Appetite for Reduction that paired well together -- Cranberry Cashew Biryani and Curried Chickpeas & Greens. Opinions were split over which dish was best. Tony and Livi preferred the biryani, which is slightly sweet, thanks to the dried cranberries. Jackson and I preferred the savory chickpeas and greens. I used two giant bunches of kale in this recipe. I think it's my new favorite way to eat kale.

Another day, I had the idea to make a homemade version of the popcorn tofu po'boy from Wheatsville. I've raved about this sandwich before. It is a thing of beauty. But, Wheatsville is kind of far from my house and, unless I'm already in that part of town running errands, I sometimes feel silly driving all that way for a sandwich.

For my version, I prepared some Tofu Fun Nuggets from Peas and Thank You.

Since the tofu nuggets are baked, they have a lighter texture than the fried popcorn tofu. Not as chewy. But still delicious, especially once the po'boy is fully assembled: ciabatta roll, tofu nuggets, lettuce, tomato, red onion, sprouts, and dressing. I found a cashew tamari dressing recipe online and I think it's pretty close to the one Wheatsville uses.

I'm so psyched that I still have another po'boy in the fridge to eat tonight!

Finally, I knew I had to make the Post Punk Kitchen's Cashew Queso as soon as I saw the recipe. Tortilla chips, salsa and queso can be a meal for me.  I just love it.  When I'm eating at a Mexican restaurant, it is really hard not to indulge (thankfully, at least one restaurant, Guero's, now offers a vegan version.)  

 I was in a time crunch, trying to have the queso ready when Tony came home for lunch, so I half-assed the directions. I didn't soak the cashews, and I only cooked the queso for ten minutes. And, because Isa's recipes are amazing, it still turned out fabulous.

The recipe makes a good amount, so I have plenty left over to use for tacos or enchiladas. You know, do something a little more fancy with it.  But for a warm, comforting lunch on a cold day, give me hot queso ladled over crispy tortilla chips, and I don't need anything else.

Except maybe a hose. Look what these two got up to while mama was making that queso!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

My Blog Name is No Joke

My goodness, we have been so busy lately. Today, Olivia and I accompanied Jackson's school on a field trip to a Christmas tree farm. It was so much fun, but this mama is wiped out! Truly, if the energy of a pack of three-year-olds could somehow be harnessed, we would never be dependent upon foreign oil again. I thought for sure J and O would take nice long naps this afternoon, but actually, twenty minutes in the car on the way home was enough to recharge their tiny batteries.

Some recent eats:

Vegan Brunch Pumpkin Pancakes.  Seen here with Jackson's pinecone turkey.

Appetite for Reduction Lotsa Veggie Lentil Soup.

Peas and Thank You Chewy Energy Bars.

Appetite for Reduction Catalan Couscous Salad with Pears and Romesco Dressing. Like a dummy, I forgot that I don't really like the mealy texture of couscous.  It had been so long since I'd eaten it. Next time I'll make this with a chewier grain like quinoa or bulgur. The dressing is amazing.

Appetite for Reduction Chipotle Lentil Burgers.

So good on a whole grain bagel with spinach, Veganaise, and dill pickles.

Gratuitious cute toddler shot. She will tire soon. I know she will.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Saturday Shopping

Yesterday was Black Friday.  Did you get up early to take advantage of sales, or stay far away from the stores? We avoided the shops on Friday, knowing the parking lot and checkout lines would be crazy.  But we did do a little shopping today.  

Why does Blogger have this habit of turning some of my pictures sideways, like the one above? I can't figure out how to flip it back the way it should be. Thanks Blogger, but I want landscape, not portrait.

Anyway, my personal jeans, red flats, purple tights, blue nail polish, blue belt, and some new eyeshadow. I feel a bit weird buying for myself at this time of year.  However, since my birthday is coming up, I did treat myself to a few items.

When I got home, I checked the mail and found this...

As if the day didn't already feel like Christmas, I received my copy of The Best Veggie Burgers on the Planet that I won from Kimmy, of the Vegan Conversion Challenge blog.  Thank you so much, Kimmy! The burger recipes look awesome and I can't wait to try them out.

For dinner we heated up some leftovers.  Then, while Tony got a fire going, I made some Eggless Eggnog (from How It All Vegan).

I have to say I like this recipe better than any of the store-bought vegan eggnogs I've tried.  It takes only a minute to throw together, and I sweeten it with stevia, so I don't feel bad about drinking a lot of empty calories.

Jackson doesn't care about calories, he just loves some tasty eggnog. Even more yummy because he helped me make it! 

Have a lovely evening! We're going to.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving '11

I have so many things to be thankful for this year. I'm thankful that my health problems, which started back in August, finally appear to be mostly cleared up. This means I'm enjoying spending time in the kitchen again.  If I don't feel like cooking, I don't feel like me -- so I'm incredibly thankful that I had the good health and energy to prepare today's feast. I love to take care of my family by cooking for them.

Last year we celebrated Thanksgiving in New York. This year we are back in Texas. Who knows what big changes will come over the course of the next year? I've always found it challenging to deal with uncertainty -- I want to know what's going to happen next. But I have to be thankful for the experiences that help us learn and grow and for the surprises that life brings, because they are what keeps it so interesting.

And of course I am thankful for family and friends, near and far. And that definitely includes y'all. Happy Thanksgiving!

This year we had tofurkey (homemade -- the recipe is from How It All Vegan) with mashed potatoes and mushroom gravy, roasted brussels sprouts, and pumpkin garlic knots. I made the knots last year using Angela's recipe, and they were such a hit that I had to make them again. For dessert, a vegan cheesecake (from 1000 Vegan Recipes) topped with strawberries that I cooked down to a syrupy consistency. Everything was so good.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Up Goes the Tree

Since we did our Thanksgiving traveling last week, visiting family in Oklahoma, we are looking forward to a long, relaxing weekend at home. To make things feel a little more festive, we decided to go ahead and put up our Christmas decorations.

This is Olivia's second Christmas and, for the first time, she's big enough to help put up the tree.

However, she was a little more interested in the decorations. Like her mama, she is all about the sparkly.

Jackson has learned to wink, it cracks me up. He is such a cheese ball.

Somehow, all the trimmings eventually ended up on the tree.

I still haven't decided which is my favorite soup recipe from Appetite for Reduction -- the Arabian Lentil & Rice, or the Smoky Split Pea.  Rather than force myself to choose between them, I'm making both soups this week. Here is the Arabian Lentil & Rice. I love the strong lemon and cumin flavors.  Sorry for the shadowy pic -- it gets dark early now.

 I've started keeping bars in my diaper bag at all times, for when the kids get snacky in the car. I picked up these seasonal Clif Bars -- Peppermint Stick, Iced Gingerbread, and Spiced Pumpkin Pie. I don't really want to share the Peppermint Stick with them, but I do.

I also picked up some time-saving frozen falafel balls and Cedar's stuffed grape leaves. The only thing I made for this meal was the hummus.  The grape leaves are awesome! They're filled with rice that has been seasoned with dill and lemon juice.  I've also had the kind that are flavored with tomato sauce and cinnamon, and I'm not a fan. Lemon and dill is where it's at!  Have you ever made your own stuffed grape leaves? I am thinking about giving it a try.

Next day for lunch, we had a few more falafels and stuffed grape leaves to finish off, so I made a couple more finger foods to go along with them. I put my oven on double duty, baking a tray of Alexia sweet potato puffs and roasting a head of broccoli.  The sweet potato puffs are amazing! They're basically tater tots made from yams -- is that the best idea or what? The only thing is, what do you dip them in? I don't really like the combination of sweet potato and ketchup, so I was just eating them plain. Maybe some kind of Veganise-based dip? I am open to suggestions. :)

Today, while out with the kids, I picked up a popcorn tofu po'boy from Wheatsville. This sandwich is so huge, it provided lunch for all three of us, along with some ginger tempeh pasta salad on the side.

And now, I'm off to make a vegan cheesecake! Since it's just our little family at Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow, we can make whatever we want. Tony doesn't do pumpkin pie, so cheesecake it is.

I know I have so much to be thankful for, tomorrow and every day. Hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving!