Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Changing It Up

Most of my readers know that I am a stay-at-home mom. I have been since Olivia was born, and I most likely will be until my kids have started elementary school. That day seems far off, but I know it will be here before I know it. So I've been giving some consideration to what my life will look like when that time comes.

I used to work in libraries. I chose that career path almost by accident. I worked at the university library part-time while I was in school. It was an easy, stress-free job and I worked with my friends. I liked to read, I liked being around books. I enjoyed helping people find the information that they were looking for. Once I graduated, I couldn't immediately find a job with my art history bachelor's degree, so I continued working at the library as a full-time staff member. Eventually, I ended up going to library school, which I honestly didn't like much. The theoretical areas of library science did not interest me. I just wanted to do my job well. But I earned my degree and continued with my profession, working as an archivist at a newspaper for several years until baby O came along.

I may well end up working in libraries again some day, but as I become more and more interested in cooking and nutrition, I'm exporing other options. I've been looking into various dietitian and nutritionist certification programs, and the course titles sound fascinating. I've been adding nutrition textbooks to my Amazon wishlist to read for fun. I feel much more passionately about these subjects than I do about libraries, to be honest.

With two young children, I'm not sure if I have it in me to become a full-time student once again. I have some time to think about it. In the meantime, I want to get a little more focused with this blog. I still plan on documenting my activities with Jackson and Olivia and the meals I make for us. But I'll also be creating and sharing more original recipes and discussing meal planning and nutrition.

What's your dream career? Are you in it?

Monday, April 29, 2013

Revised Thoughts on Kombucha

We've had a number of chilly and rainy days so far this spring, which raises my hopes that summer won't be too brutal. A girl can dream. We spent this particular chilly day at a bouncy house with an exciting foam block pit. Watching Jackson and Olivia hold hands as they jumped in feet-first, I thought about how they are becoming real friends. Of course they still have their moments, as all siblings do, but they've reached an age where they can really play together. It's nice to observe.

Olivia is also at an age where she's distanced herself so much from being a baby, that she thinks it's hilarious to pretend to be a baby. When she saw this baby walker in the toddler play area, she clambered in and scooted around, exclaiming, "Goo goo, ga ga!" 

Kombucha used to scare me. I didn't like it. It smelled funky, it tasted sour, it did weird things to me. Perhaps my taste buds have changed, because I love it now. This was the game-changing bottle.

It tasted so good! So gingery. So I bought a couple more bottles.

And they were good, too! I fear I may become addicted. 

Have you ever given a hated food or drink a second chance?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Lemon Mint Hummus

It's been forever since I've posted a recipe, and when I do, it's a hummus recipe. I know, how original. Never been done here before. What can I say...I love my hummus! This one is perfect if you have a lot of mint growing in your garden and aren't sure how to use it up.

Lemon Mint Hummus
1 (15 oz) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
2 Tbsp. tahini
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt

Combine all ingredients in food processor until smooth. Add a couple teaspoons of water if a thinner hummus is desired.

Threading beads on string. They made a necklace for every member of the family, including Monster.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Cookbook Challenge: Vegan Diner

This week's selection in the PPK Cookbook Challenge is Vegan Diner by Julie Hasson. So far I've made three recipes.

Soft and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies. Mine were more crispy than chewy, I suspect because I ran out of brown sugar and had to substitute regular sugar for half the amount called for. I also subbed whole wheat pastry flour for half of the white flour. Oh, and I threw in some chopped walnuts. These disappeared quickly.

Blueberry Nutmeg Muffins. I made mini-muffins instead of regular-sized. This recipes calls for a lot of nutmeg. It worried me. I shouldn't have worried. These are fantastic, and I'm not really a muffin fan. Like, just give me a cupcake already. But when you combine blueberries and nutmeg, they undergo a magical metamorphosis and actually acquire the power of speech, so they are able to call my name from the refrigerator anytime I walk by.

Garlic-Roasted Brussels Sprouts. I've had a long-lasting love affair with roasted brussies. Throwing in a bunch of raw garlic at the end certainly couldn't diminish that love. Jackson, Olivia and I finished these off before Tony even made it home for dinner.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Food For Young Jedis

Today we attended a birthday party for Jackson's best school friend. It was a Star Wars-themed party. Darth Jackson brought his light saber and was ready for battle.

Olivia, doing her best Yoda impression. So serious.

Veggie hot dogs, kale slaw, and watermelon, yum!

Awesome cake.

Until next time, may the force be with you.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Kids Fest

At first, the Kids Fest and Baby Expo did not sound like something that would interest me. I thought it would be a bunch of vendors hawking toys which my children would then beg me to buy for them. In other words, not something a sane mother would subject herself to. But then I heard about the fun activities, and I thought we could check it out and just avoid the toy peddlers. And, to my complete surprise, this plan actually worked. The activities were so fun that the kids didn't even notice the toy displays. 

We started with rock climbing. Jackson was psyched.

Up he goes. He actually went up a bit higher than this picture shows, above our heads. He says that next year he will climb to the top and ring the bell.

Olivia climbed too, but I didn't get a good picture of her. She climbed a little bit and then politely announced that she was ready to come down. She was more excited about the bungee trampoline.

Jackson had to take a turn after seeing how much fun his sister had.

There were also pony rides.

It was Olivia's first pony ride, so she wanted hold Tony's hand, but she said she liked it. "I was brave!" she announced.

 After we got home, I made Sarah's Super Healthy Banana Breakfast Donuts. I have a hard time getting my kids to eat breakfast lately. I offer them oatmeal or waffles, and they tell me they are not hungry. An hour later, they are asking for snacks like Goldfish and string cheese. The donuts were a hit when they were fresh out of the oven. Jackson and Olivia each ate three. But come morning, they didn't want to eat them. Same result the next morning. Tony and I are still trying to finish them off. At least I tried.

If you have kids, what do they like to eat for breakfast? 

Friday, April 19, 2013

Spring Cleaning

I know I just posted yesterday about fried pickles, but I've actually been trying to eat more "clean" in general. Less processed foods, less sweets.

Oats for breakfast. I think the key to enjoying oats is keeping a variety of healthy toppings on hand so I don't feel like I'm eating the same exact thing every morning. Today I had them with sliced banana, cinnamon, maple syrup, and a splash of soymilk.

Snacks are simple. Trail mix is super filling, and the dried cranberries and blueberries make my sweet tooth happy.

I couldn't pass up a giant tub of cherry tomatoes. Jackson, Olivia and I sat on the patio and ate the whole tub one afternoon, sliced and sprinkled with salt. Soon we'll have our very own fresh-picked cherry tomatoes to snack on.

I've been making smoothies every other day or so. This one had kale, blueberries, coconut water, soymilk, hemp protein powder, and spirulina.

This is my favorite time of year in Texas. The fragrant honeysuckle and jasmine are in bloom, it's warm but not hot, and the evenings are getting longer. And I really feel a difference in my energy levels from making these little changes in my diet.

I'm thinking of doing a juice or smoothie cleanse for a couple of days. I have zero interest in a hardcore "drink nothing but lemon water with cayenne pepper for 3 days" type cleanse...mostly because I have zero interest in passing out with two small children in my care! I'm thinking of something like this. Have you ever done a cleanse? What was your experience?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Nayonaise and Space Exploration

Recently I was contacted by Nasoya to see if I was interested in sampling their Nayonaise sandwich spread, which has been reformulated with a smoother, creamier texture. They sent me a jar of Nayonaise and a jar of their new NayoWhipped, which has a tangier, sweeter taste. Both of these vegan spreads are made from non-GMO soybeans and expeller pressed oil, and are fortified with Omega 3 ALA.

The NayoWhipped worked well in my favorite sandwich, a BLT with tempeh bacon on rye bread. Tony said it tasted like Miracle Whip, which I've never had. To me, the NayoWhipped was very tangy and had an "eggy" taste and smell.

I used the Nayonaise in the Creamy Fiesta Dressing from La Dolce Vegan. It's a little thicker than the NayoWhipped. Tony said it was more like traditional mayo. I made the dressing as a dip for my first ever batch of homemade fried pickles. I've become slightly addicted to fried pickles of late, ordering them whenever I'm at a bar or a movie. So I took the next step of buying a deep fryer. This may not end well. Soon we'll be deep-frying everything in sight. But man, those pickles sure are tasty. 

I also used the Nayonaise to whip up a creamy honey-agave dipping sauce for my kids' Gardein chicken tenders. Jackson gave his endorsement by licking the bowl clean.

Today Olivia became the first kidronaut in space. A momentous occasion. 

Actually we spent the day at the McKenna Children's Museum, which features a wonderful space-themed play area. Jackson manned the controls.

There's also an awesome climbing structure outside. Last time we visited, it was too cold to play outside. So this was a new discovery.

Taking good care of baby. She is going through a baby obsession. Me too, maybe, a little bit.

Born a Yankee, Olivia is a true Texan now. One hand!

Do you have a deep fryer? Favorite fried food?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Lonestar Roundup 2013

The 13th Annual Lonestar Roundup gave us a chance to see some very cool old cars. On Saturday night they were parked up and down South Congress, and we cruised up and down, taking pictures of our favorites. 

Jackson was in his element. He kept pointing and asking about all the different cars. 

I know nothing about cars, but I had to admit, these were pretty sweet-looking.

Afterwards, we ate at Hyde Park Bar and Grill.  I like that they clearly label the menu items as vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free.

We all shared a big plate of their "famous" buttermilk-dipped French fries. 

I had a cup of lentil soup, chock full of veggies.

I also had a salad with chipotle ranch dressing.

I don't typically go the soup-and-salad route at restaurants; my appetite is usually bigger. But the French fries were there to fill me up and I remembered liking Hyde Park's lentil soup from the last time I ate there a few years ago, so there ya go.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Zoo and Paella

Today we visited the Austin Zoo, which is actually an animal sanctuary. Jackson and Olivia were excited to ride the train, as we had never ridden it before.

The petting zoo was our top destination. The kids couldn't wait to hand-feed the hungry goats.

One little goat wasn't feeling snacky. He just wanted to hang out.

This dude, on the other hand, was eager for his share of feed.

The tiger seemed to be posing just for us.

For dinner I made the Artichoke Paella from Vegan Eats World, as part of the PPK Cookbook Challenge. It looked so gorgeous in the pan, making me really excited to dig in!

And the flavor did not disappoint. Tempeh chorizo, artichoke hearts, and an array of veggies are blended with creamy aborio rice. I subbed Spanish green olives for the pearl onions since I had a jar in the fridge. I've only tasted paella once before, at a restaurant years ago that offered a vegetarian version (it's typically made with sausage and seafood.) My memory is hazy, but I think this was better. And it wasn't much harder to make than boiling a pot of rice, if you make the tempeh chorizo the day before (that recipe is also found in the cookbook.)