Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Skull Car

Today, a couple more testers for Joni Marie Newman's vegan fusion cookbook.
First, a gorgeous jade-green chimichurri sauce. This parsley-based sauce is garlicky, tart, and addictive.
It makes a perfect marinade for grilled corn.

Next, Sloppy Joe Pho. Yes, Joni has managed to combine sloppy joes and the spicy Vietnamese noodle soup known as pho. I admit I was a little skeptical, but wow, this soup is so good. Tony and the kids liked it too.

Jackson was so awed by this sweet purple ride, he insisted on posing for a photo in front of it.
"Come on, Mommy, it has skulls on it!" Who can pass up skulls?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Snow Day

Last weekend, we attended the re-opening of the newly renovated downtown YMCA. The big draw was...10 tons of snow! I have no idea where they got it from, and it was partially melted by the time we arrived, but there was still plenty left for a good, old-fashioned snowball fight!
Well, Olivia didn't really want anything to do with the snow. She doesn't remember it from when we lived in New York. She was just a baby. But Jackson has fond memories of playing in the snow. He also remembered how to pack a snowball!

There was also an inflatable mountain for the kids to climb...
And a snow slide!

After the kids wore themselves out (and changed into warm, non-soggy socks and shoes), we headed to Habana for lunch. We started with the mariquitas, thinly sliced, fried plantains that come with a meat-based mojo sauce, but you can ask for the vegan chimichurri sauce. And then ask for refills, because you will understand that the plantains simply serve as a conduit to get as much delicious chimichurri sauce into your mouth as possible.

I had quimbombo, an okra stew with bell peppers and onions. It comes with sides of seasoned rice with pigeon peas, and beans. (The beans had pork in them, but they were for Tony, since I don't eat beans.)  The stew is phenomenal. I mix it up with the rice, the rice absorbs all the extra juices, and it's all so, so amazing. I've done a little digging around online for a recipe, and this one looks so simple, I may have to give it a shot.


Monday, January 28, 2013

Elephant Brunch

The circus was recently in down, and while we did not shell out the big bucks to attend (I have mixed feelings about circuses), I took Jackson and Olivia to a midday elephant feeding on the circus grounds. When we arrived, four elephants were lined up in a row, with tables full of fruit before them. There was a big crowd, so the kids took turns on my shoulders, craning to get a good view.
 They were pretty amazed at the elephants' method of selecting a piece of fruit with their long trunks, which they used to transport the fruit to their mouths.
After they had eaten their fill, the elephants formed a single-file line, linking tails and trunks, and made their way back indoors.
Jackson and Olivia noted that there was some fruit left on the tables and asked if we could eat it. But I chose to take them home and make them a lunch that was free of elephant slobber. We had Babe's Bocadillos from The 30-Minute Vegan's Taste of Europe. These simple sandwiches feature marinated, baked tofu that has a sweet, smoky flavor. Very nice.



Friday, January 25, 2013


I'm a little embarrassed to say that I spent 35 years of my life eating microwave popcorn. All those chemicals, the weird fake buttery substance coating each kernel. And, I don't know about you, but I have a talent for burning it half the time.
But no more!
I've started making stovetop popcorn, and I will never go back. All you need is coconut oil, popcorn, and a big pot, like you'd make soup in. Coat the bottom of the pot with about 2 Tbsp. of coconut oil. Once it melts, add 1/2 cup kernels and cover with the lid. Cook on medium-high and leave the lid slightly ajar to let steam out. Once the kernels start popping, shake the pot around to prevent burning. Do this every few seconds. You'll know the popcorn is done when 2-3 seconds elapse between popping sounds.

I love this popcorn seasoned with a sprinkle of garlic salt. If you have only made microwave popcorn, try out this method! I was amazed that I had NO burnt kernels.
How do you like to season your popcorn?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Big Kids

Olivia is totally over sliding down slides the normal way. Her big brother taught her that it is much more fun to climb them.

Jackson wanted me to take a picture of him crossing the "forest." Last time we went to the playground, he needed to hold my hand. Not this time. My kids are getting more and more independent every day.

After the playground, we baked peanut butter cookies. These are the Peanut "Better" Cookies from Vive le Vegan. I love their slight saltiness; it really enhances the flavor of the peanut butter.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


This afternoon I had a very specific craving for the cashew tamari dressing made by Mother's.  Tony also had a hankering for their traditional hippie-vegetarian fare, so off we went.
Started with salads, with the aforementioned dressing. If you tasted it, you would understand how it's possible to crave salad dressing.
I had the fettucini primavera.

Tony had the southwestern stuffed pepper, filled with rice, corn, peas, and tempeh. Came with sides of black rice and sauteed summer squash.
Jackson and Olivia had black beans and rice. Chomp!

We all shared a slice of vegan blueberry pie.

Mother's is so reliably good.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Camp Mabry

Today I took the kids to Camp Mabry, a military base here in Austin.
"Kid-friendly" isn't the first term I'd normally associate with "military base," but Camp Mabry really is. There are a number of jets and helicopters, situated in an open field that's ideal for little legs to run and stretch.

There's also the Texas Military Forces Museum, a modest but informative museum that contains still more military vehicles. Most are roped off, display-only.

But there is one jet that kids are welcome to climb into, and of course this was a big hit with Jackson and Olivia.

They also had fun "cooking" in the mess truck.

A final stop at the tank display just outside the museum.

For dinner we had Greek food, courtesy of Tino's.  I ordered the veggie plate, which comes with five choices. I went with a Greek salad, stewed lima beans (yummm), hummus, falafel patty, and spanakopita.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

More Vegan Fusion Testers

Here are a couple more tester recipes I made this week for Joni Marie Newman's upcoming vegan fusion cookbook. First, Baked Avocado Fries with Cilantro Chili Lime Sauce. Panko breadcrumbs make for a crunchy exterior on these tasty little appetizers.

I had Olivia's help on the next one. She has become quite the little sous-chef. Every time I go into the kitchen to start cooking, she trails after me and requests that I get her step-stool so she can assist.

Coconut Curry Pea and Potato Chowder. The ingredient that makes it special is homemade curry powder! I'd never made my own before. All of us liked this one, especially Tony who has a cold. He said it was just what he needed to fight those germs!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

I Scream for...Frozen Yogurt

With an Amazon gift card burning a hole in my pocket, I treated myself to a post-Christmas present in my favorite color. Nope, not a new sweater.

I've wanted an ice cream maker for years, it seems. During an Austin summer, I could eat ice cream every day. This summer, maybe I will.

I tested out the machine by making a batch of blueberry cheesecake frozen yogurt. I used soy yogurt, vegan cream cheese, vanilla, and stevia. During the last few minutes, I stirred in a ton of blueberries and a handful of oats (the "crust" of my imaginary cheesecake.)

I don't want to post a recipe yet because this was just a test. The result was tasty, creamy soft-serve. It was totally fine for a first attempt. The only issue was that we didn't eat it all (crazy, I know), and when I put the leftover fro-yo in the freezer, it froze into a solid block. I'm not sure what ingredient store-bought ice creams contain to keep it from freezing like that, but I'd like to figure it out and make a recipe that's more freezer-stable, so you don't have to eat the whole batch in one sitting. I just ordered a book called The Vegan Scoop, so hopefully that will help.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Lucky Day

Over the weekend we were out for a family stroll, and I stopped to take pictures of Jackson and Olivia in front of this mural. 
This is a very popular mural. Every time I pass by it, there are tourists posing in front of it, film students shooting a scene, or a couple having their engagement photos taken. When I finally came across it when it was deserted, I felt like it was my lucky day.
And it really was. As we continued our walk, we spotted a $50 bill on the ground! I immediately felt bad for the poor soul who lost it. But, after looking around to see if anyone had dropped it, we realized there was nobody in our vicinity. We were cutting through an empty parking lot. So, there was nothing left to do except celebrate our good fortune!
My good luck continued at home, as I tried out three new recipes from The 30 Minute Vegan's Taste of Europe, and they were all phenomenal. So far I've been very impressed with this cookbook.
Spanish Rice, with olives and capers. This would be perfect in a wrap with some veggies and salsa, or as a side with any Mexican dish.
Chickpeas and Roasted Garlic...did you know it's possible to roast two heads of garlic in ten minutes? Neither did I, until I came across this recipe. Now, you do have to peel all of the cloves first. That actually might have taken longer than my traditional method of roasting the bulbs whole for 45 minutes, then squeezing the roasted cloves out of their peels. Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating, but I don't really care for peeling garlic. I typically reach for the giant Costco jar of minced garlic rather than buying fresh. Oh well. It was worth it in this case. There's nothing better than the smell of garlic roasting in the oven, and it made this chickpea salad special.

Paprika Tofu...yes, there are slabs of marinated tofu hiding under that beautiful rainbow assortment of roasted veggies. You season both the tofu and the veggies with smoked paprika and pop it in the oven, couldn't be easier or more delicious.

This dinner was a hit with all four of us, and that is rare! Jackson and Olivia seem to be polar opposites these days, with their taste preferences. It's almost guaranteed that if Jackson likes a certain dish, Olivia will turn up her nose at it, and vice versa. Hearing them both request seconds, I felt like it was a lucky day, indeed.


Monday, January 14, 2013

Our Guest, Ozzy Owl

This weekend, Jackson brought home a furry little friend from school.
Last year he had some great adventures with Molly Monkey and he was excited to do the same with his pre-k class mascot, Ozzy Owl.
First we took Ozzy to the playground.

Afterwards, we stopped for ice cream at Paleteria La Selva. We love their huge selection of paletas (popsicles). It's a bit out of the way for us, but it happened to be right down the street from the playground we had visited. So of course we had to pop in for a treat!
Jackson chose strawberry.

Olivia went with mango.

And I had pistachio.

In the evening, we contined to take advantage of the beautiful weather and had dinner at Phil's Icehouse. The kids love Phil's for its playground.

I love Phil's for its awesome veggie burgers and mix of sweet potato and regular fries.

Thanks for visiting us, Ozzy! Hope you had fun!