Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Cooking with Natvia and Norbu

The kind people at Natvia and Norbu sent me some more of their natural stevia and monkfruit sweeteners to try out in recipes. First I made Isa's Marbled Banana Bread. (This recipe is also found in Isa Does It, if you own that.) I substituted an equal amount of Natvia for the sugar. It turned out lovely, except I noticed my loaf was done after 45 minutes, rather than 55. I'm not sure if that's due to using the Nativa, or other conditions.  The bread was sweet enough to eat for dessert, had a rich chocolaty flavor thanks to plenty of cocoa powder.

Next up, I used the Norbu to make pumpkin eggnog.

Norbu Pumpkin Eggnog
1 box silken tofu
2 cups nondairy milk
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup Norbu sweetener
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg

Combine all ingredients in the blender until smooth. Enjoy with a shot of rum, if desired.

Inspired by our Christmas tree, Jackson decided to become one himself.

All he needs is a star on top of his head.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Christmas 2014

Is it too late for a Christmas recap? Sorry for my absence, but I am battling a cold that has turned into bronchitis. I think I am finally turning the corner. I hope so...I don't want to start the new year sick!

On Christmas morning, the kids crept downstairs before sunrise to see what Santa had brought for them.

The first present Olivia opened was a new Elsa gown, which she immediately changed into.

Jackson sorted his stuff into a pile and went into a frenzy of tearing wrapping paper.

Legos and more Legos for our master builder.

Olivia's favorite present was a Lalaloopsy doll that, um, poops charms.

While we opened our gifts, Monster enjoyed tearing the stuffing out of his annual sacrificial stuffed toy.

Beginning the assembly. This would become an all-day project.

Pooping charms!

After awhile my parents came over bearing more gifts.

More assembly.

Jackson's gift from my parents, a wrestling cage match.

Showing Grandma her new dolls.

While the kids enjoyed some grandparent time, Tony and I put together the feast. We had tarragon green beans, homemade applesauce, maple dijon roasted Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes topped with pecans and Dandies marshmallows, baked beans, broccoli rice casserole (from Cookin' Crunk), rolls, mashed potatoes, creamy sage gravy (from Vegan Diner), and corn. There were also ham slices. I was very pleased that everything was vegan this year except for the ham.

The gravy was a highlight for me. I could eat mashed potatoes and yummy gravy all day long, and this is one of the best gravies I've made. It was very black peppery and I am going to try it with biscuits next.

For dessert I made Vegan Richa's salted caramel chocolate pie. YOU GUYS. Make this pie! It's a no-bake pie, so I made it the day before and just stuck it in the freezer. Since I was already sick by this point, I was thrilled that it took so little effort. I thawed the pie for an hour before serving and then kept it in the fridge for the next few days while we finished it off. It maintained a perfect, creamy consistency. The layers of nutty, chocolatey crust, creamy salted caramel, and rich chocolate ganache are just heaven.

After a feast like that, it was time for relaxing in front of the fireplace. Do you like our double Yule log action?

Hope you had a merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Nutcracker 2014

This Christmas I decided to start a new tradition of taking Olivia to see the Nutcracker ballet.

She loves to dance and we have watched Nutcracker clips on Youtube many times, so she was excited to see it in person. 

When we walked up to the Long Center, she had to pose on the red carpet.

She loved the life-sized Nutcracker in the hall.

It was a huge theater!

This was our view. Yes, we were up high! But we had a perfect, unobstructed view of the stage. I took this picture before the show started. They showed commercials on a huge screen. At showtime, the screen went away and the dancers took over the stage. I didn't take any pictures then, because I was paranoid about my flash accidentally going off!

It was a beautiful production. Olivia enjoyed the first two acts, but after the intermission, her 4-year-old attention span was being tested. We ended up leaving about ten minutes early. I just found out that there is a more kid-friendly version put on by a different ballet company, so we may try that next year.

For dinner I made the Buffalo Tempeh from Appetite for Reduction, and served it on ciabatta rolls with the Cole Slaw from American Vegan Kitchen. What a combination! I love the lime tartness of that coleslaw, and it provided just the right amount of coolness with the spicy tempeh.

Tonight we will do our usual Christmas Eve traditions of reading Twas the Night Before Christmas and watching Love Actually. 8 is a lot of legs, David! Hope you all have a Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

All I Want For Christmas is Space Rocks

Today Olivia and I finished our Christmas shopping. Nature's Treasures is one of the most unique stores in Austin. They sell rocks and crystals. Olivia wanted to climb inside this geode, but she settled for a picture in front of the "space rock" as she called it.

She was so excited to look at all the crystals, it was very hard for her to remember to keep her hands to herself. She informed me she needed to take a break in the salt lamp room to relax a little bit.

For dinner I made the Everyday Quinoa and Chickpea Salad from Appetite for Reduction. I added in some cubed, baked tofu, but even still, this just wasn't super satisfying to me. Like, I would have to eat a lot of it to really feel full, which kind of defeats the purpose.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas is Coming

Our Christmas preparations have been underway for awhile. Elfie the Elf showed up December first, ready for a month of hijinks and spying. 

Actually he is a slothful elf, spending days at time in the same place, but he does occasionally change his vantage point. The kids like to write him notes telling him how good they have each been (and how naughty the other has been, hmm!)

Olivia helped decorate by making a handprint Christmas tree.

Jackson opted to paint a nutcracker instead.

I even got in on the arts and crafts action, turning our door into Frosty.

The stockings are hung.

The tree is lit.

Here's a throwback, such baby faces!

I made my annual batch of magic cookies (or Hello Dolly, 7-layer, whatever you call them!) using the PPK recipe.

We've also been eating a lot of popcorn tossed with nutritional yeast. I think I'm late catching onto this, but it really does taste like cheese popcorn! 

These accidentally-vegan cookies came free with my dish soap purchase. For real, HEB, your buy-one-get-one deals are both crazy random and awesome.

Soups are always good for chilly evenings and saving a few calories in preparation for Christmas feasting! This was the Butternut Squash & Apple Soup from Appetite for Reduction. It's made with apple cider and it was super sweet as a result. We all thought it was a little too sweet, for a soup.

Finally, look who we came across in our neighborhood, just hanging out by the gas station! Thank you, hood Santa, for saving us a trip to the mall.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Changing Seasons

Happy Winter Solstice! Sorry for the absence. Tony has been traveling a lot for work, and blogging does not fit into the schedule when I'm on single-parent duty. But he is home now, so I will try to get caught up.

We have had a mild fall, and the leaves did not change colors until early December.

The trees in our backyard looked so pretty for a few days. A nice visual diversion while I have Monster out there to do his business, haha.

Then, one day, all the leaves were on the ground. At pickup time, Jackson and his friends were so excited when they came outside and saw piles of leaves just waiting to be thrown.

Nothing like a good leaf fight to end the school year.

Jackson is on winter break now, and it's going to be wonderful to have both of my kiddos at home with me for a couple of weeks. Tony has to work a couple more days and then he gets a vacation as well. This is my favorite part of the holidays, spending lots of family time together. Preferably in front of a fire.

Today's lunch, Cream of Tomato Soup from Oh She Glows. The Italian-seasoned chickpeas are all stirred in, but rest assured they are there and they are delicious.

Hope you have all been well, now time to go warm up my toes in front of the fire again.