Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Almost Time To Go

Our home is becoming unrecognizable, with boxes everywhere. Poor Olivia. My sweet but high-strung baby girl is super nervous. It's her first move. She's been needing more cuddles and reassurance than usual. 

Jackson, on the other hand, is taking it in stride. Last night he was showing off his sweet breakdancing moves on the packing boxes.

Everything is an adventure for him. Besides, he is an old pro at this.

I made sure to walk around and take some final photos of our place, so Olivia can look at them when she is older. This was her first home. She learned to walk here.

We have shared many meals here.


This is the last one...cooked by me, anyway. It's take-out from now until Friday morning, when the movers come and we hit the road. I'm packing the kitchen as we speak.

Scrambled tofu, roasted broccoli, and home fries.

Speaking of last, this will most likely be my last post for a couple of weeks. I won't have my computer until the movers bring it, and I don't have a laptop.

But I do have car snacks.

And new toys to surprise the babies with over the course of our journey.

And soon, many more meals together in our new home.

We'll see y'all in Texas!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Kids and Veganism + Kid-Friendly Seitan Soup

The kids had their checkups recently at the doctor. They are both doing great. Olivia has always been tall. Jackson used to be wee (5th percentile at one point) but he had a growth spurt and now he is on the tall side, too. I guess this means they are getting the nutrients they need to grow, but I always feel like there is room for improvement with their diets. I want them to be as healthy and strong as they can be.

I'm sure I've mentioned before that Tony's an omnivore, and we decided back when I got pregnant with Jackson that we would raise him that way too, until he's old enough to make his own food choices. I went vegetarian at the age of six, with no exposure to the idea at all, just a love of animals. So I know it doesn't take very long for a child to form such opinions. Jackson currently eats dairy, eggs, and meat. (I never cook meat, don't even know how, but Tony will occasionally cook a steak or pick up a roasted chicken or something.)
When I was pregnant with Olivia, I seemed to crave eggs constantly. Funny since I was never an egg-lover before that. But after she was born, I developed a distaste for eggs and dairy, influenced by my watching Food, Inc. and reading Eating Animals around the same time. It was shortly after her birth that I started cooking completely vegan meals.

Now that Olivia is eating pretty much what we eat, Tony and I have discussed her diet. He says he is OK with me raising her vegetarian because he sees how healthy she is, and she's never eaten meat. She does eat dairy and eggs, however. As for Jackson, well, he seems to have a taste for meat, and I don't think it would be right to forbid him from eating it, while Tony eats it in front of him. So for now, the plan is to let him eat meat when he asks for it, and hopefully in a few years he will make the meat-animal connection and no longer enjoy it. We'll let Olivia eat meat, too, if she shows an interest, but so far she has not. I'd happily transition them all to a vegan diet tomorrow, but it's not only my decision. Tony says maybe he'll try going vegetarian after we move. That's something!

To use up the last of the seitan in my freezer, I was going to make chili, but then I realized I was out of chili powder. So I made this soup instead. It's not spicy unless you top it with sliced jalapenos. I wanted to make something Olivia would enjoy.

She loved it! Messy girl.

Kid-Friendly Seitan Soup
1 Tbsp. canola oil
1 lb. seitan, thinly sliced
1/2 large onion, chopped small
3 small tomatoes, chopped
4 cups water
2 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. salt
2 pickled jalapenos, sliced (optional)

Heat oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the seitan and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 7 minutes. The seitan will start to stick to the bottom of the pot a little; that's ok. Add the tomatoes, water, cumin, garlic powder, paprika, cocoa powder, oregano, and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer. Simmer 20 minutes. Serve over rice or with crushed tortilla chips. Top your portion with pickled jalapenos if you want heat.

Check it out - Vegan Heartland is giving away goodie packages including coupons and samples of vegan products such as Gardein, Tofurkey, and So Delicious. Go enter and get some vegan swag!

Friday, March 25, 2011

One More Week

Well, I've booked the movers, the car transporter, and even the pet courier -- yes, that's right, Monster is a spoiled little baby and gets to travel in his own posh accomodations.

It's worth it to take our buddy back to Texas where he was born and raised. We got him as a puppy right after we moved to Austin the first time in 2006.  He'll love going to the Boston Terrier meetups and seeing his doggy friends again.

I've started packing little things here and there. Last night I did the books. Ten boxes! Our stuff that we don't use very often is still in boxes from our last move, so that gives me a head start. In one week, we hit the road!!

Here are some recent forays into the kitchen:

Pumpkin Chocolate Bread Pudding from Urban Vegan. I used up my last can of pumpkin, left over from the holidays, to make this.  I loved it. Of course I did; I'm the pumpkin fanatic in the family. Tony didn't care for it. The mushy texture of bread pudding is not for everyone. Do you like it?

Tofu Omelets from Vegan Brunch, filled with homemade seitan chorizo. After I took this pic, I doused it in salsa. Yum! Garlicky chard on the side.

Pizza with homemade vegan pepperoni, pickled jalapenos and faux parmesan for me and Tony. Plus a couple pieces with just sauce and cheese, for the babies.

Finally, Coco-Manda Muffins from Urban Vegan. I made these last night for a bake sale at Tony's job, to benefit a coworker whose daughter is battling cancer. I don't have a lot of stuff in my cabinets right now, but fortunately I had a can of mandarin oranges and some shredded coconut. So I was able to make these little treats and contribute something. The coconut oil and coconut extract in these muffins makes them smell absolutely heavenly.

Have a lovely weekend!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Chickpea-Harissa Cakes with Lemon-Dill Dip

I'm not usually a creative cook -- I read cookbooks, I follow recipes.  But, on occasion, I can find inspiration by looking through my fridge and cupboards. Today, I challenged myself to use up a bunch of stuff in preparation for our move. Here is the result. Recipes included!

Spicy Chickpea-Harissa Cakes - sort of like baked falafels, but with the spicy chili flavor of harissa. These are soooo good.

I served the cakes with a Lemon-Dill Dip. This would also be a good dip for potato chips or carrot sticks.

Spicy Chickpea-Harissa Cakes (makes 10)
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 small white onion, chopped
2 Tbsp. harissa
2 Tbsp. flour
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. olive oil for brushing

Preheat oven to 400F. Combine chickpeas, onion, harissa, flour, lemon juice, garlic and salt in your food processor bowl. Mix until it has a smooth consistency like a thick hummus, scraping down the sides as needed. Form into small patties and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Flatten each patty slightly with your spatula. Lightly brush each patty with olive oil.

Bake for 20 minutes at 400F. Flip patties and brush with olive oil. Bake 10 minutes and remove from oven. Serve with Lemon-Dill Dip.

Lemon-Dill Dip
1 12-oz. block silken tofu
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp. dried dill
1/2 tsp.salt
Combine all ingredients in food processor. Thin with soymilk if desired.

I also made Horseradish Potato Pancakes -- my first go at making potato pancakes. I'm not ready to share my recipe on this one, since my mixture was on the gummy side. I'll work on it. Potatoes love horseradish. So do I!

Check it out -- John and Jill over at Vegan Backpacker have started a new program called Vegan Cuts. Sign up and you'll receive a weekly email featuring deals on vegan products and services.

Also, Molly of Vegan Flower has over 250 blogs already on her new Vegan Blogs List. It's quite a compilation -- I've found several new blogs to start following. If you have a blog, you can contact her and get yours listed.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Candle Cafe and Farewell to NYC

Hi guys, how was your weekend? First off, I want to say thanks for all your congratulations and kind words over the past several days regarding my move back to Texas.  You all are so sweet and supportive. Thank you! It's hard to believe that two weeks from today, I'll be arriving back in Austin. Yay!

Sometimes by the end of the week, I feel uninspired to cook. I think I make better meals at the start of the week because I want to make sure all my fresh produce gets used up before it spoils. So by the end of the week, I'm left with unexciting options like spaghetti or veggie burgers. This week I purposely saved one of my favorite meals for Friday night -- the Vietnamese French dip sandwiches from Veganomicon. I think this is my favorite cookbook recipe ever. I make it every few weeks.  Just seeing all the ingredients set out, ready to assemble, makes me practically giddy.

On Saturday, I hadn't slept well and it was super windy outside, but Tony convinced me we should go to NYC one last time before we depart. He promised we could eat lunch at a vegan restaurant of my choosing. Sold!

Since I had heard wonderful things about it, I picked Candle Cafe. I'm so glad I did, because it was awesome. There was a short wait for a table, and I spent that time spazzing out over seeing Lily vander Woodsen (uh, I mean Kelly Rutherford) paying for her food and leaving the restaurant with a friend. (Any other Gossip Girl fans?) She looked like she had been at the gym -- dressed in sweats, hair pulled back, normal-looking. Wonder if she's vegan?

We were seated and quickly offered high chairs for the kids. Total family-friendly vibe. The waitress brought us some tasty lemon-ginseng iced tea, and we started with the Mezze Plate -- hummus, tabouli, olives, and lemon-date chutney. We're always happy to see hummus listed among the appetizers because the babies love it and it keeps them happy while we wait for our entrees. The chutney was sooo good. I wanted a jar of it to take home.

Sorry for the dark pics. The restaurant was packed and I didn't want to use my flash.

I ordered the Pomegranate Grilled Tofu. The slabs of tofu had a smoky charred flavor (although I couldn't taste any pomegranate) and were served over a bed of mashed potatoes and sauteed greens. It was all covered with a delicious sage gravy. It tasted really healthy (but not in a bland way) and definitely helped my energy levels. The greens were my favorite part.

We ordered Jackson a Paratha Pizza from the kids' menu. Paratha is an Indian flatbread. He didn't eat much of it, really. He was more interested in the mezze platter. I tasted the pizza, and I think they used Daiya on it.  I guess Jackson shares my distaste for that stuff. Tony liked it, though.

Tony chose the Cajun Seitan Sandwich. We traded plates halfway through and I was dying over it. I mean, my own meal was excellent, but this sandwich -- crispy seitan, chunks of avocado, and sweet caramelized onions on chewy focaccia bread -- was mind-blowing.  I actually just made Cajun seitan sandwiches a few days ago but my homemade seitan was nowhere near as crisp and flavorful as Candle's. I thought it was deep-fried, but the menu says it is pan-seared. Definitely something to aspire to in my sandwich-making endeavors.

I meant to order a dessert to go, but the kids were getting restless and I forgot. We walked over to Central Park and let Jackson run off some steam. They were filling up the fish pond for spring, and he was entranced by the water flowing out of the hose. He also tried to chase some giant grey squirrels. He's so funny and curious.

Olivia was a little chilly and mostly wanted cuddles. She likes to people-watch from the comfort of me or Tony's lap. She's also really interested in dogs. Every time one passed us, she would crane her neck to watch it until it was out of sight.

As the wind picked up again, we said our farewell to the city and headed home. I'm sure the babies will return to New York some day, but they won't be babies anymore. So it's nice to have this memory of watching them play in Central Park when they were little.


Friday, March 18, 2011

A Little Retail Therapy

Hey all, I hope you had a good St. Paddy's Day. Did you do anything fun that you feel like sharing? My manner of celebrating in years past was to go to the nearest pseudo-Irish bar and get my drink on while listening to loud music, but that isn't really doable with babies. It's okay -- I've had my share of green beer! The highlight of my day was taking Olivia for a nice long walk outside while Tony made veggie burgers and oven fries for dinner. She is so curious about everything. I'm really glad the weather is warming up so we can go explore nature together. 

We are just eating simple, no-fuss meals, trying to clean out the cabinets in preparation for our move. The other night I tossed gemelli pasta with cherry tomatoes and pesto. The kids couldn't get enough of this. Gemelli is a good type of pasta for Olivia -- easy to grasp. Ditalini and rotini are other good baby pastas.

I've been wearing my eyes out looking at house rentals, pet couriers, and movers. Lots of emails and phone calls. When I needed to take a break, I went to the mall and bought a few things.

I'm going to try to use this bag as a diaper bag. It has pockets on the side that should be perfect for holding sippy cups, but I'm not sure if it's big enough. The bag I used since Jackson was wee finally wore out, and I've been using a backpack that I got for free. Free is nice, but it's too bulky for my taste. Besides, this bag is much cuter.

I am all about the accessories.

Last but not least, couple of shirts. How fun to look at short-sleeve shirts, skirts, and sundresses, knowing that I will soon be putting away my sweaters and corduroys.

I rarely shop without the kids, so it was relaxing to take my time browsing the clothing racks and trying things on.  I'm no fashion plate, I usually stick to Target and H&M with the occasional band t-shirt or thrift store find thrown into the mix. Works for me. Where do you like to clothes shop? Bought anything cute lately?

Have a great weekend you guys. And if you haven't seen this video yet, you must watch, although your ears will be mad at you. We we we so excited!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

No Scrambled Tofu, Just Scrambled Thoughts

Last night, I woke up at 3:30 a.m. and couldn't go back to sleep. I laid in bed for a couple of hours and finally got up and started looking at house rentals on the computer. The babies weren't even stirring yet. Safe to say my mind is working overtime these days. In a month’s time we will be settled back in Austin. So crazy to think about. 
Although it has been stressful at times, the past year and a half has been a huge learning experience. I learned never to buy a condo when the market is about to take a nose dive! Ha. Seriously, I learned a lot about real estate. Should I ever want to buy again, I will know what to look for -- and watch out for -- in a realtor and in a property. I also learned that the grass is not always greener and realized how lucky I was to live in a city like Austin, which has so much to offer in terms of nice weather, music and art scene, friendly people, vegan-friendly dining, and activities for kids.  When I was attending college in Oklahoma, I always loved driving down to Austin to see bands play and hang out. I wanted to move there for a long time. It just took awhile to realize that dream. Once I got down there, I was so happy. But then we bought the condo and quickly discovered what a money pit it was (and how gross some of the other tenants were -- ugh, the stories I could tell!) Also, Tony and I were having a hard time, as I think a lot of couples do when they first become parents, and I wasn't loving my job, either. Put all that together and I was becoming quite the bitter little pill.
Who would have known that Tony losing his job was really a blessing?  We went through several months of thinking we were going to be foreclosed and our finances would be screwed forever.  And we had to move to upstate New York, an area I had never even thought about visiting. But in the end, it made me stronger. If I can pack up everything I own and move 2000 miles to a place where I have no family or friends, with a 1-year-old in tow, while extremely pregnant mind you, I can do just about anything and get through it. And that is a good thing to learn about yourself. 
We were able to sell the condo and get back on our feet financially. As much as I bitch about certain aspects of the East Coast (seriously, winter, I give up, you have beaten me, it's okay to retreat now), I'm thrilled that I got to visit Boston and Montreal, and of course all our day trips to New York City.  And now that this chapter of my life is coming to an end, I'm getting a second chance to appreciate all that is good about Texas, and raise my family there as I intended.
In less than three weeks, we're setting out on a road trip, stopping in Nashville and Memphis and I'm not sure where else along the way.  We are going to find a place to live once we get there. I've never done anything like that, just packed up and hit the road with no forwarding address. I can't wait.
So, uh, I guess this is a food blog, yes? Where does food come in? Well, I'm trying to use up stuff I have in my freezer and fridge. Dry goods can be packed and shipped. I hate to toss anything. So my meals might be sort of...interesting...for the next several days. 
Last night I made Moroccan Lentil Stew, from Vegan on the Cheap.
My slow cooker gave off a horrible burning smell as it started to heat up. You know when you turn on the heater in a motel room and you can tell it hasn't been used for awhile because it smells like burning dust? It was like that. I was pretty scared; I really didn't want to get electrocuted while making soup. But I turned it down to low for awhile and the smell went away. I'm not sure my 1970s crockpot will be making the move with me. Sorry, buddy.
I also made a huge batch of kale chips, using Averie's recipe. Best snack ever. Here they are ready to go in the oven. I don't have a dehydrator but the oven works fine.

Even though Olivia just got her two front teeth, for a grand total of four, she wants to eat everything she sees us eating. She loves to gnaw on the kale leaves until there's nothing left but a few soggy strands.

If you've gotten this far, thank you for reading my thoughts on moving and everything. Writing helps me clear my head. Have a great day!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Sag Paneer and Food Farewells

Hi guys, how was your weekend? Did you remember to set your clocks forward? We didn't! We did not realize it was Spring Forward until we noticed our clocks were messed up on Sunday morning. Good thing it wasn't a work day for Tony!  It's nice to have that extra hour of daylight in the evenings. Spring is really on the way now.

Saturday night, Tony and I stayed up late talking, planning our upcoming move. We are so excited, but we are trying to calm down and get organized. Today Tony finds out when his last day of work is at his current job. They are kind of being jerks about it. This attitude is just one reason why we are so ready to move! After he gets that straightened out, we can start scheduling the movers and everything else.

On Sunday we made a farewell trip to the cute, artsy town of Hudson. Full of little galleries and secondhand stores, we've always enjoyed our day trips to Hudson. And although we will have no shortage of Mexican restaurants to choose from in Austin, we wanted to eat one more time at Mexican Radio, where we've had so many tasty meals.

On one of our previous visits, Tony ordered the carne asada fries, which looked so good that I was inspired to make it at home.  This time I decided to try Mexican Radio's version for myself, veganized of course (they'll veganize pretty much anything on the menu.)  It was so perfect -- a bed of French fries covered with chunks of crispy-on-the-outside-chewy-on-the-inside seitan, and topped with guacamole, pico de gallo, and vegan cheese and crema.

While Jackson was helping me devour it, the waitress brought over some jalapeno ketchup to dip the fries in. Yum!

So long, Mexican Radio! We love you. P.S., I'm going to decorate my new house like you.

I also did a little home cooking over the weekend. My latest tester for the Urban Vegan was Sag Paneer with Dry-Fried Tofu. This is one of the top recipes I've tested so far. You guys are going to love her new book when it comes out. So many winners.

Sag paneer, if you don't know, is an Indian dish consisting of creamed spinach studded with cubes of cheese. It's usually quite rich. In one of his books, Anthony Bourdain notes that people are often disappointed when they try to recreate a restaurant meal. They just can't get it to taste the same. The reason, he says, is because they have no idea how much butter and cream are used in restaurant dishes. That is where the rich flavor comes from. I've found this true in the past when I've tried to cook Indian food at home. Even before I was vegan, I didn't want to invest in a jar of ghee (Indian clarified butter) or use heavy cream, so something was missing in the end result.

But I have to say, nothing is missing from this Sag Paneer. Vegan half and half adds the necessary richness without the cholesterol, and dry-fried tofu stands in for the cubes of cheese. I'd never browned tofu without using oil, but it works quite well when you use a nonstick pan. I had golden brown cubes of tofu in minutes with no added fat.

Roxanne recently shared a useful article with me --  a long list of vegan recipes that are especially appealing to kids. I'm definitely going to be making some of these dinners for my little dudes, so I thought I would share it with you guys, too.

Have a great day!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Olivia's Birthday

Olivia is one.

My serious, mysterious baby has grown into a giggly, happy little girl.

Don't let the smile fool you. She let us know early on that she was a tough cookie.

And she is definitely still the boss.

Jackson didn't know what to make of this new little creature at first.

Now he is pretty thrilled with her, especially when she shares cake with him.

Baby girl, I am so excited to watch you becoming this awesome little person. We love you more every day. Although we love to see every step of your development, there are some things about you that I never want to change.

 Your strong opinions

Your curiosity

Your infectious smile and laugh

Your love of learning

And playing

Your bravery in trying new things

Your reflective, thoughtful side

And most of all, your sweet, loving nature that makes you so lovable and amazing

Happy birthday Miss O!

The cake is Rene's Tomato Soup Cake with Vanilla Frosting from La Dolce Vegan. Tomato soup sounds bizarre in a cake, but you don't taste it. It just tastes like a spice cake. I used to really dig this cake, but this time it was too sweet for my taste.  I mean I know cake is supposed to be sweet, but it was like hurting my teeth.  It's been a couple years since I made it last. So I don't know if I did something different, or maybe my taste buds have changed. The important thing is that the kids loved it.  It was Olivia's first taste of cake and I think she's hooked now!