Monday, April 30, 2012

April Roundup

The month of April has flown by! We have been busy, busy, busy. Here are some meals I didn't get around to posting at the time.

From Vegan with a Vengeance, BBQ Pomegranate Tofu with Coconut Rice.

I didn't feel like the coconut rice added anything, since the subtle coconut flavor was drowned out by the bold flavors of the BBQ sauce. It was fine, but next time I would just use brown rice. The rice recipe makes a lot. I only needed half of it to eat with the BBQ tofu. We made rice pudding out of the leftovers.

The BBQ tofu, baking in its sauce. You might think it looks like there is too much sauce, since you can barely see the triangles of tofu in there. But this sauce is so fantastic, you will be glad there's a ton of it.

Pomegranate molasses was a new thing for me. It's like a syrup. Not sweet like pancake syrup, though. Kind of sour. It sure does make a delicious BBQ sauce.

One afternoon, we ate an early dinner at Shady Grove, known for its huge outdoor dining area that's shaded by pretty pecan trees. I love a good patio, so this restaurant would be a favorite of mine, if only their food wasn't consistently mediocre.

I ordered a frozen margarita swirled with sangria. Instead I got one that was swirled with a too-sweet strawberry syrup. The server kind of mumbled something about their margarita machine being broken and that was how they were coming out. It was really sickeningly sweet.

Our server was not really on the ball. We never got the basket of chips and salsa we ordered as an appetizer, and then my veggie burger came out without the fries that I ordered. Maybe he was actually trying to do me favor by omitting the fries., because when he brought them later, they were overcooked. The veggie burger was perfectly fine. I was just hoping for a better overall experience. I don't think we will return.

I always have mixed feelings about posting negative reviews of restaurants, but sometimes I feel like, "Why am I paying for this meal when I could do better at home?" That's not me bragging -- I'm certainly not a chef, and that is my whole point. When I go out to eat, I want something as good or better than what I can make in my own kitchen.

I would love it if a restaurant offered this dish -- it's a "Deconstructed Banh Mi" salad from Robin Robertson's Quick-Fix Vegan. I love all the flavors of a Vietnamese banh mi sandwich -- marinated tofu, shredded cabbage, scallions, cilantro, ginger, crusty baguette -- and they are all represented in this lovely salad. I will say that for me, it wasn't a quick fix -- it took almost an hour to prepare because there were a lot of veggies to cut/shred, as well as the tofu to saute and the baguette to cut up and slather with Veganaise. But it was worth the effort.

Finally, teriyaki burgers. These were inspired by a recipe in Peas and Thank You but I used frozen veggie burgers rather than making my own. I used Gardenburger Asian veggie patties, which are spicy and awesome. I topped them with Veganaise, teriyaki sauce, and pineapple chunks. So good! If you are bored with regular old lettuce and tomato on your veggie burgers, try this! We had Alexia sweet potato fries on the side.

So long, April! May, I hope you are awesome.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Doctor's Orders

We have been putting the blender to good use lately. Jackson and Olivia will drink a smoothie like it's a milkshake, so we've been having fun coming up with new combinations.

Blueberries, spinach, frozen banana, almond milk, vanilla and stevia. The frozen banana makes it thick and creamy.

This one was more of an agua fresca. Seedless watermelon, ice cubes, mint, lime juice, stevia, and just enough water to make it sippable.

I splurged a little and ordered a couple of smoothie mix-ins that I was excited to try.

Manitoba Harvest Dark Chocolate hemp protein. I like the nutty flavor of hemp protein powders.

I made a "smoothie in a bowl" with frozen strawberries, almond milk, vanilla, stevia and a big scoop of the protein powder. It was so yummy and chocolaty!

Spirulina powder. "Nature's Multi-Vitamin," it claims. Haven't tried it yet.  I'm curious if it will give me more energy. That would be nice.

Four out of five doctors recommend smoothies for optimum cuteness.

What are your favorite things to put in a smoothie?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Lonestar Roundup

Earlier this month, Austin hosted the Lonestar Roundup, a huge car show. Hot-rod and custom car owners from all over the country come to show off their rides. Saturday evening, there was a cruise on South Congress. We took the kids down there to check out these unique cars.

I liked this pale pink one. Too girly?

This guy incorporated Lone Star beer cans into his car's engine. He said he drank so much of it while working on the car, he felt like he had to pay tribute. Ha!

The kids did not know what to make of this crazy school bus that had flames coming out of it.

The cruise went on late into the evening, but we had to return home with our two little car lovers and get them into their pj's.

The next day we tried the lunch buffet at Taj Palace. It was good, although I think the quality of the food is better at their Tuesday night vegetarian buffet. The spinach pakoras were hard, like they'd been left in the deep fryer for too long. But the chickpea kofta balls and the sag paneer were delicious as always.

They always have tasty desserts to sample. The kids like the creamy pudding made with vermicelli noodles. I like the halwa -- it tastes just like carrot cake.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Monkey in Motion

Today was parent observation day in Jackson's tumbling class. Normally, we sit out in the lobby and watch the class through a window. But every few months, they let the parents into the gym for the last 15 minutes of class to take pictures and let the kids show off what they've been learning.

This was the only picture I got of Jackson where he was sitting still.

Such a little monkey.

His balance has really improved.

The dismount, his favorite part.

He can do a somersault now. He's even taught Olivia to do it as well.

Here are some weeknight meals I've made to keep us all energized.

From 1000 Vegan Recipes, California Pasta Salad. How can you go wrong when kalamata olives, basil and avocados are involved?  I could possibly live on this stuff.

Also from 1000, Chickpea Kofta with Mango Chutney. Jarred mango chutney tends to taste, well, like it came from a jar. So I like Robin Robertson's idea of pureeing it with lime juice and cilantro to give it a shot of fresh flavor.

From Vegan Brunch, Curried Cauliflower Frittata. This was not bad, but we decided we prefer frittatas that have greens in them. I think it's a texture thing.

Hope you had a great day!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Mini Golf

When I learned that one of Jackson's classmates was having his birthday party at a mini golf course, my first thought was, "A bunch of 3- and 4-year old boys swinging golf clubs? That child's parents are brave!"

Actually, it was a great idea. All the little guys were really excited to golf, and nobody got nailed in the face with a stray club or ball.

The mini golf course was super cute and kitchy. It has been around since 1946!

After the party, we met up with Tony and Olivia for lunch at Matt's El Rancho, another Austin institution that has been around since the 50's. We knew we had eaten there a few years ago, but we couldn't remember if we liked it or not. That probably should've been a red flag, because it was not that good, and too expensive. My veggie fajitas were $13, which is kinda crazy for a little plate of sauteed veggies, and mildly insulting to vegetarians when you consider that Tony's combo fajitas were $14 and came with beef, chicken and veggies.

$13 worth of veggies?

Note the sad tablespoonful of guacamole. It is a pet peeve of mine when Tex-Mex restaurants skimp on  guacamole like that.  We are in Texas...avocados are cheap!

Oh well, every meal can't be perfect and there are plenty of other awesome Mexican restaurants in this town. Sorry, Matt's.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Austin Art Yard Tour

Austin recently held its annual Art Yard Tour, a couple of days where "yardists" open up their yards and sometimes their homes to the public so we can see what kind of artistic scenes they've created on their property. Sometimes the yards are silly, sometimes funny, and sometimes a little creepy.

I found this front yard extremely cheerful.

The yard that goes by "Smut Putt Heaven," on the other hand, sorta creeped me out!

I think this yardist has a mild fetish for doll heads.

Ya think?

The woman who lives here, Florence, was really cool. She explained that, living in a low-income area, she wanted to create a safe space for the neighborhood children to come and play and learn. She is also a mosaic artist.

Her yard contained a playscape, classroom-type area, garden, and other fun stuff for kids to. 

I wish I had time to visit more yards on the tour. I know there are dozens of awesomely weird art yards in this town. The Cathedral of Junk is my favorite. It's even interactive -- you can climb on it!

After the tour, Tony took Olivia to run some errands, and I had some one-on-one time with my little dude. We went to Sweet Ritual for vegan ice cream. We sampled their salted caramel soft serve at VegFest a few weeks ago and I was excited to visit their ice cream parlor and see what else they offer.

I tried to guide Jackson towards a bowl, but he insisted on a cone. He definitely needed a change of clothes by the time he was finished! But he loved every messy, drippy bite of that chocolate cone.

I had a mint cookie shake with Oreo bits crushed up in it. Mint chocolate chip ice cream is my favorite. This shake was so good. Minty perfection, the perfect cap on a fun Austin afternoon.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

More Good Times with the Dehydrator

Since I had already brought the dehydrator in from the garage to make peanut kale chips, I figured I would get some more use out of it before I returned it to its exile. (Does anyone really have the counter space to keep a dehydrator in their kitchen on a permanent basis?)

First I made dried bananas. Very easy. Toss three sliced bananas with 2 Tbsp. maple syrup and 2 Tbsp. lemon juice (to prevent browning) and dehydrate for...a long time. They do take awhile but the result is chewy and sweet as candy.

I also made another batch of kale chips, since my kids have become such fans. Who am I to deny them the awesomeness of kale? This time I made pizza kale chips using this recipe. I didn't have any sunflower seeds or hemp seeds, so I just used 1/2 cup cashews. These are delicious. The fennel seed and sundried tomato really do impart a pizza flavor.

I didn't use the dehydrator for these, but I also made some baked falafel patties. We made quick work of them with some Veganaise/cucumber/dill dipping sauce. 

And for dinner I made Spaghetti Squash Casserole. I think this was my first time preparing spaghetti squash. It really does resemble spaghetti and has a neutral flavor. I really liked this recipe, but next time I will omit the 2 tsp. each of oregano and basil. The marinara sauce I used already contained basil and the additional dried herbs were overkill, giving the casserole a slightly bitter flavor.

I'll leave you with this little guy who was hanging out on my trash can when I took out the recycling.