Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Hoppin' Around

This morning we had a play date at Hoppin' House. I had fun chatting with my mama friends while Jackson and Olivia wore themselves out bouncing, jumping and sliding.

Weeeee! Once Olivia saw Jackson go down the giant slide, she was determined. She is fearless!

Then she took a breather in the little kids' play area.

The foam block pit was the real attraction, though. They spent the better part of an hour flinging themselves into the pit, crawling out, and jumping right back in again. I wish we could build one of these in our backyard.

After the kids were sufficiently exhausted, we went next door to Which Wich for lunch. I was pleased with their veggie options. You mark on a paper bag what you want on your sandwich. A few minutes later, they call your name and you pick up your paper bag with your sandwich in it. So you can get whatever strange fixin combination you want and no one will look at you funny, haha. Hence my hummus, spinach and cucumber sandwich with jalapenos, pickles and mustard. Yum!

Contrary to her expression, Olivia enjoyed her PB&J sandwich. She has been practicing this look lately. I think it's pretty intimidating, don't you?

Hope you're having a good day!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Dinosaur Park

Today I took Jackson and Olivia on a special day trip. We went to the Dinosaur Park, located outside of Austin.

They have a cute little gift shop with a play area. My kids happily entertained themselves until my friend Jacqueline and her daughter arrived.

We set out along the trail through the woods. The first dinosaur we spotted was just a little guy.

But as we went along, they got bigger...

And bigger...

And bigger! Jackson loves the T-Rex. On the way to the park, he said, "When I see the T-Rex, I will shake his hand and say nice to meet you. Then he will share his apple juice with me." Apple juice?
"T-Rexes like apple juice." I see!

We found a nest of dinosaur eggs...

We dug for fossils...

Jackson even climbed into the mouth of the T-Rex. So brave!

For dinner, I made tofu salad --.a vegan take on egg salad, served on pumpernickel bread. I forget where I got the recipe, but it wasn't very good, so it's probably for the best that I can't link to it. The tofu dill salad from Vegan with a Vengeance is way better.  I also made Oh She Glows' Cilantro Lime Chickpea Salad -- wow!! I want to eat this stuff all the time. I'm always looking for new ways to eat my beloved chickpeas, and this easy recipe gets five stars from me.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Green Gate Farms

One morning last week, our little playgroup made an outing to Green Gate Farms to check out their farm stand.

We got there just as the volunteers were setting up the little farm stand. It was small, just a single shelf of offerings, but charmingly arranged. There was no attendant, just a sign welcoming us and a list of the prices. Payment was on the honor system, with a box to place your payment in.

We had fun checking out the rest of the farm.

Did you know that pigs snore?

The farm dog was the kids' favorite part of the whole visit. They found a basket of dog-grooming supplies and set about making him pretty.

The dog ate up the attention. He did not want that brushing to end!

I actually didn't buy any veggies, but I did pick up a bottle of local honey. Tony's allergies are bad right now, and several friends have recommended local honey to help his symptoms. Have you guys had any luck with this?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Weekend Eats and Treats

The weekend is almost here but, before I forget, we had some great food last weekend! 
Friday night, it was just me and the kiddos. I made a quick pasta with basil pesto and cherry tomatoes. The garden has been going crazy with all the rain we've had this summer, it's wonderful! I made a big batch of pesto and froze it in ice cube trays, so I can pop out the amount I need. I topped the fettucine with a few shreds of pecorino romano cheese. Pecorino romano is so salty and has such a big flavor -- it's great if you're trying to watch your fat intake but want the richness of cheese, because you only need a tiny bit.

We got our grocery shopping done, then we stopped by the Capital City Bakery trailer for cupcakes. The kids had vanilla with sprinkles, and I had a black forest cupcake -- chocolate cake topped with whipped cream and cherries. Delicious, vegan cupcakes -- a perfect little treat after a week of eating light.

Saturday morning, we had to drop off Tony's car for some maintenance. While we waited to pick it up, we had brunch at Kerbey Lane. I ordered the vegan breakfast platter, which came with raspberry pancakes, tofu scramble, and vegan sausage patties. The tofu scramble was spicy and came covered in chopped tomato and scallions. The pancakes, although they didn't really taste like raspberry or have any visible raspberry pieces in them, were fine. The sausage patties were overcooked, hard and chewy. This has happened before, so I will probably find something else to order next time I eat breakfast there.

Tony ordered the migas. I may try them some time, so I thought I would take a picture. I've never been much of an egg eater, but the urge does strike me once or twice a year. He enjoyed these.

That afternoon, a couple of my friends were running a craft booth at the North Austin Trailer Yard, so we stopped by for a visit. While we were there, we checked out a trailer food competition, part of the Go Texan Restaurant Roundup. Each of the food trailers on the lot was offering free samples of a special dish made from local ingredients. You could try them all and vote on your favorite dish.

We were still pretty full from breakfast, so we only got one sample, but it was quite a sample. It was actually a full-sized pecan pie sundae from The Yogurt Experience, made with Texas pecans. It took a lot of restraint to just take one bite and allow Jackson and Olivia to finish off the rest -- it was so good! They loved it. Now I know where to take them next time they deserve a Friday night treat!

On Sunday, I cooked a sort of multicultural dinner. I made a couple of Ethiopian dishes from Appetite for Reduction -- Y'abesha Gomen (gingery collard greens) and Mushroom Tibs. I rounded out the meal with curried lentils and garlic naan bread. A light and healthy meal to make up for the weekend's excesses, but also a spicy and satisfying feast!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Salad Days

Sadly, I wasn't kidding about needing to go on a diet after eating Tex-Mex pretty much every single day of our vacation. Especially considering that my parents are coming to Austin in early August...and we'll be eating Tex-Mex pretty much every single day of their visit! So between now and then, I'm monitoring my eating habits more closely than usual.

I'm not following any kind of trendy diet plan or anything. I've just stopped snacking between meals, and I watch my portion sizes. I also try to eat as many fruits and veggies as possible.

One night I made fettucine with tons of fresh zucchini, from my uncle's garden, and cherry tomatoes, from my own. Keeping the veggie-to-pasta ratio high allows you to eat a big helping, with fewer calories.

H-E-B has started carrying this crazy powdered peanut butter stuff called PB2. You add water, and it turns into a peanut butter sauce. Not quite the consistency of regular peanut butter, but similar. However, almost all the fat has been removed. This is a wonderful find for a dieting peanut butter lover like myself. Peanut butter is awesome, but it's also high in fat.

PB2 sauce is great spooned over apple or banana slices. This is a typical lunch. Apple slices with PB2, and Wheat Thins with a little cream cheese and raspberry chipotle jam.

One day I roasted some beets. Pretty purple jewels!

I made a salad with romaine lettuce, beets, red onion, and avocado. I blended up some Creamy Horseradish Dressing, from Appetite for Reduction. Such a fantastic pairing! I bought a huge thing of prepared horseradish -- this is my go-to salad dressing now!

Here's another salad I made, also from Appetite for Reduction. It's the Sushi Roll Edamame Salad with Green Onion-Miso Vinaigrette. This salad totally has a huge "wow!" factor when you place it on the table. Just gorgeous. And it has all the lovely flavors of veggie sushi. Most importantly, it's quite filling, thanks to the brown rice in it. It's a salad you can eat for dinner and be satisfied.

I had a couple of less successful attempts from AfR, as well. The Apple-Miso Tofu sounded promising, but I found it bland and way too salty. Tony agreed.

I served the tofu over rice alongside Orange Scented Broccoli, which I didn't care for, either. It was too spicy. I should've cut the amount of red pepper flakes in half. 

Oh well, they can't all be favorites. AfR will still be getting a lot of use over the next several weeks.

Tony loves to dine out and so do I, and I can't deprive us of that just because I'm trying to drop some L-B's. I just try to eat mindfully and stop eating when I'm full, since restaurant portions are always huge. My veggie enchiladas from Chuy's provided some tasty leftovers.

I said that I've restricted my snacking, but Natural Grocer was having a really good sale on Go Raw snacks, which I'd been wanting to try. So I picked up a couple of bags. I sampled them, then passed them over to the kids.

The Pizza Flax Snax really do taste like pizza! They have a strong fennel flavor, and a nice satisfying crunch. Olivia loves them. The Chocolate Super Cookies are slightly chewy and have a rich chocolate flavor. Although they are small little discs, these snacks are filling.

Here's one more lunch I had this week -- beets, carrot sticks with Sanctuary Dressing from AfR (didn't care for its thick texture -- the horseradish dressing is better), and a few Go Raw cookies.

I am down three pounds so far, so I'm pleased with that. We'll see how this next week goes.

Hope you have a great week!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Summer 2012 Road Trip, Part 5

With all our food souvenirs in tow, we bid farewell to our friends in St. Louis and drove eight hours back to Oklahoma to spend a few more days with my mother-in-law before heading home.

One day, we took the kids to the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History in our former hometown of Norman. The museum features complete dinosaur skeleton models, which are quite impressive. Jackson, our dino lover, was enthralled. Imagine how enormous they appear to a three-year-old!

This smaller dinosaur was more to Olivia's liking.

A special exhibit about Chinese dinosaurs included an informational film. I laughed when Jackson and Olivia sat right down on the floor and started watching. Future paleontologists!

The kids tried to walk in the giant footsteps of some prehistoric creature.

As we left, the kids wanted to pose with the Oklahoma buffalo in front of the museum.

Afterwards, we took Tony's mom to lunch at Ted's Cafe Escondido. I had the spinach enchiladas with corn and papas, as usual.

Can't pass up free sopapillas for dessert!

The next evening, Grandma was nice enough to babysit the kiddos so Tony and I could go out to dinner on our own. We chose Victoria's, also known as the site of our first date some twelve years ago. It's crazy how their food has not changed at all over the years. That's a good thing.

We started with some stuffed mushrooms. Can you see them under all that grated parmesan?

I ordered the sampler, which lets you pick and choose three different types of pasta. I went with the marinara, pesto, and primavera. Again, I promise you they are somewhere under all that parmesan cheese. The marinara is my favorite. That is some exceptional tomato sauce there.

We left the next morning and arrived back in Austin ready to sleep in our own bed...and perhaps embark on a diet to make up for the past week and a half's indulgences.

My first dinner at home? Veggie burger patties. I didn't have buns and grocery shopping would have to wait until the next day.

Thanks for checking out my vacation pics, you guys. Are you looking forward to a fun vacation this summer? Where are you going?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Summer 2012 Road Trip, Part 4

Are you tired of my summer vacation snapshots yet? I feel like my dad, showing my aunt and uncle a slideshow of our trip to Disneyworld. "And here is the Tiki Room..." Remember when people bought slides as a memento of their vacations? That seems so weird now. Why wouldn't they just take pictures? I guess people have gotten more confident about their photography skills since the early 80's.

On our last day in St. Louis, we ended up at the Global Foods Market. Our hosts Rick and Carla pointed us there. Thank goodness for foodie friends who can enlighten us to treasures like this place! The Global Foods Market is a supermarket unlike any other. Each aisle features food from a different country.

Here in Austin, we are spoiled with a plethora of Mexican, Indian, Asian, and Middle Eastern markets. Global Foods Market is like all those markets rolled into one. Check out their drinks section.

This was just a portion of the tea aisle.

I couldn't buy everything that caught my eye, so I resorted to snapping pictures of items that appealed to me so I could hunt them down in Austin at a later time. Carob molasses...grape molasses...who knew these even existed? What do you use them for? So intriguing, at least for a food dork like me.

Orange blossom syrup, quince lemon syrup...would these be good in iced tea?

Huge array of super-spicy Indian junk food. I've actually tried some of these before. Have a cold drink nearby!

Here are Tony's selections -- coconut Pocky, El Yucateca hot sauce (we buy this in Austin, he just needed to replace his bottle and it was cheap), Hungarian hot paprika, a red pepper tapenade, and hot mustard. "Hot" seems to be the theme here.

I also picked a couple of hot things -- Serbian ajvar, a red pepper spread that I will probably eat on toasted baguette.

Also, sambal oelek. Does anyone have any good Indonesian recipe recommendations? Although not Indonesian, these chard and tofu wontons look good.

Next, I bought something sweet to counteract all the spicy -- Iraqi date syrup. This has to be good stirred into Greek yogurt, right? I wonder what else I can use it for. Oh, here we go. 

Thai coconut cream powder -- for the next time I want to make coconut tres leches cake!

Giant tube of harissa. Isn't the packaging pretty? I'll use this to make my chickpea-harissa cakes.

Finally, alphabet pasta. For the little dudes.

Tomorrow -- the final installation -- the return to Oklahoma and home sweet home.