Monday, December 20, 2010

What Babies Want

I know E.R. was always the TV show for the hottest men to be all medical and hot, but I never watched it, so I never fell in love with any of the "doctors."  Well, I'm in love with Noah Wyle now.  I just watched What Babies Want for maybe the 4th or 5th time.  It just gets better.  This film addresses the way pregnancy, childbirth, and early bonding imprint our children permanently.  There are some really amazing stories in this film, and there is heartbreak too.

As a former teacher, this film reminded me that there is so much we can't do for one another when the damage that has been inflicted is so basic and so early.  At the same time, I was heartened by the way hypnosis and therapy were used to heal pain that in some cases had gone on for decades.  It really inspires me to not only continue my HypnoBirthing teaching, but to some day expand my hypnosis training.  Hypnosis has such healing powers, and I'd love to explore that further when my life opens up the time and energy for that.

For now, finding the energy to do the dishes is a challenge some days, but films like this reenergize me too.  There were so many things that I instinctually did, and can't imagine doing otherwise, that were explained.  It seems so basic that you would not want your child taken away from you, isolated in a nursery, and left to cry alone in the first hours or days of life.  I am so grateful for my healthy pregnancy and birth that allowed me to be at home and never out of sight of my daughter for the first several months of her life.

I particularly loved the idea that being close with your child early on and then allowing them to explore the world when they are ready leads to them being more confident and outgoing when the time comes.  No one else held my daughter other than my husband and I for at least the first couple months, and some people expressed concern that she would be a total mama's girl.  Yes, she loves me plenty, but she is one of the most outgoing children I've ever seen.

I'm rambling in the afterglow of the lunar eclipse, but I wanted to add a post and definitely wanted to let others know about this film.  Such a great positive look at pregnancy, birth, and beyond.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Raw Fruit for Snacking

Lately, I have been putting a fruit bowl on the table.  Honestly, the reason is because my crisper is full- but imagine I was smart enough to realize the good this would do and that I did this as a clever parenting strategy.

Can't suspend disbelief that I'm a clever parent?  That's okay.  You can learn from my mistaken misfortune and be a clever parent.

So I put the fruit bowl on the dining room table, and Violet saw it at dinner.  She wanted the bright and pretty things.  I kind of thought it was just a visual thing.  Then, I gave her an apple.  She LOVED it!  Now, I will admit that my 16 month old does not eat an entire apple on her own, so giving her a whole one is not the clever part.  I need to either accept that I will be washing off and eating an apple I find on the floor or in the toybox at some point in the hopefully near future, that my dogs will be eating an apple later, or that it will be otherwise disposed of.  I've found that Violet won't eat apple slices most of the time.  She likes to eat it off the core, but not in slices.  She will nibble on the slices if I put We Can't Say It's Cheese cheddar spread by Wayfare, but really she's going more for the spread than the apple.

I moved the fruit bowl to the counter that Violet can get to (though I really don't like her climbing on it, so I probably shouldn't put bait there).  As a result, she's eaten ripe persimmons, pears, and oranges (she tries to eat the peel and I help out).  Yesterday she ate all five satsuma oranges that came in our CSA box by herself.  I was impressed and fearful for the reprecussions.  The only result is that her cold that has been lingering finally seems to be on its way out.

The moral of this story is that fruit in plain sight is a good idea.

I also keep grapes and baby peppers on the lowest shelf of the refigerator so she can grab them when I open it.  I give her celery or carrots out of the crisper if she's at the refigerator door asking- which is often lately.  She's all about the raw produce, and I can't complain about that.  It's great to watch her eyes light up as I put away the produce from our weekly CSA box, and the joy in her exploration of each new taste is a real treat for me just as much as it's a treat for her.

When good fruit goes almost bad?
Make fruit leather.  I have been making my own fruit leather with whatever is about to turn, and it's worked out great.  I chop and quickly cook whatever fruits I have left over or about to go bad, and then I puree them and spread them on a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  About four cups chopped fruit is just right for one cookie sheet.  I bake it overnight at 170 (or if I had a dehydrator I would use that), and in the morning I have a huge sheet of fruit leather.  I break it up and keep it in a ziplock bag in my Ergo pouch and we have fruit to go no matter where we are.  When I forget snacks or we just need a quick something, this has saved me many times.

My next trick will be to try to make some veggie/fruit leather.  We'll see how that goes...

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Teese Vegan Cheese

Violet and I had the pleasure of sampling some of Chicago Soydairy's Creamy Cheddar Teese this week and I just have to say it:  ooey gooey.  When my teese arrived in a sausage tube (sorry, but that's the image I have with this particular packaging), I was a little concerned.  It felt liquid in the tube and I was sure it was going to be a watery and flavorless sauce.  I can now say, with a bit of a scoff at my preconceived notions, LOL.

In the interest of purity, I followed the instructions on the tube to make a special treat for my poor little health foodie baby who gets mac and cheese only in the form of Jerusalem artichoke pasta or homemade pesto.  I got out the quinoa elbow mac and cooked it up right with some cheesy sauce.

The first thing I noticed as the sauce warmed with the pasta is that it not only thickened like my homemade cornstarch-based sauces, but it was stretchy and gooey like dairy cheese.  Also, the flavor had a great tang that I think I recall cheddar tasting like (it's been a while, so forgive me if I'm off).  There's definitely a tang different from other vegan cheeses though, of that I am sure.  It was delicious, and I highly recommend it.

But you don't have to take my word for it (I home Reading Rainbow doesn't have that trademarked...).  Violet was a huge fan.  I haven't seen her eat anything so voraciously since I gave her her first cookie.
Carefully using the fork.  After she tasted how good it was, this quickly was replaced by fist fulls to the mouth.

Right after a fist full.  Note the lovely orange all over her face.

Quinoa mac for added protein with green beans and apples.  It was a good meal.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Vegan Potlucks

As a vegan parent, I try not to segregate myself and my daughter from those around us who eat animal products.  I smile as I chase my daughter around at every play group, as all the other parents pass out cheese, yogurt snacks, gummy candies with gelatin, and other treats that I don't want my toddler having.  It's just a necessary part of caring about what she eats.  I'm sure it's much harder for parents of kids with severe allergies, and I know that at the end of the day it might happen that Violet gets a taste of something I don't want her eating.  It's not the biggest deal in the world, it's not something I can really control, and it wears on me without me knowing.

For Thanksgiving Violet and I were on our own, so we went to a potluck hosted through our local vegetarian meetup group.  The group has vegetarians, vegans, and veg curious members, but our potlucks and events are all vegan.  So not only did we get our first vegan Thanksgiving, but we still got to be with other people and have fun.

There were so many people at the potluck that we ended up all eating in the living room, on the couch, the floor, on pillows.  It was wonderful and open and free.  Violet and her friend Rakim played while the adults chatted.  It wasn't until we started eating that I realized how much energy and stress occurs when we eat in mixed company.

Violet is a mooch.  That's just her way.  She loves food, loves feeding others (much to the dismay of the parents of tiny babies who Violet tries to share with), and she loves being fed (though not from a spoon like a civilized child).  Since everyone was low to the ground, Violet simply wandered around the room and people fed her.  She didn't want to sit with me and be fed, she wanted a taste from everyone.  I felt a familiar pang of anxiety when I saw her approach a plate, and saw someone feed her from their plate...
until I realized- Everything was vegan.


Everything was vegan and everyone was feeding Violet and she was having such a great time and I was able to sit back and watch her interact with her new friends, asking for a bite or snack.  I didn't have to pull her away from someone else as soon as food was around.  I didn't have to load her with her favorite foods so that she wouldn't want to eat what others had.  She was free to sample and interact in the way she felt most comfortable.

I highly recommend vegan potlucks for any vegan parent.  I would add to that, if you have a child with allergies, I would suggest a potluck without those allergens, and maybe with those with similar allergies. As your local bounce house if they would do a "peanut free" day, or host a playgroup in your home with no gluten allowed.

We don't want to teach our kids to just eat anything that someone gives them, but we also don't want to teach them not to try new things.  It is liberating to be able to interact with others through food, and I believe that one of the most isolating things about being vegan is that you lose part of the social aspect of eating.  Either it's hard to sit and watch your friend eat a side of ribs, or you can't have people over without worry that they won't like what you are making.  You can't just go to someone's house without a list of things that you don't eat and finding a neutral location to go out to eat can be just as challenging.  It's lonely and it perpetuates both the stereotypes and realities of vegans not wanting to interact with others.  My grandpa always said that food is love, and I believe that.  Losing the part of your life where you dine with your friends and family in the same way you always have is one of the hardest parts of veganism.  The easiest part is when you feel the love of eating great foods that don't support the cruelty or killing of other living beings.

I wish I had pictures to share of the two vegan potlucks I went to this week, but I don't, so I'll post the menus for both instead.  Feel free to drool.

2 Tofurkeys
Mashed pototoes
Homemade rolls
Sweet potato casserole with prailine pecans
Green bean and mushroom casserole with almonds
Hazelnut and cherry stuffing made with homemade cornbread
Homemade and canned cranberry sauce
Acorn squash soup
No Bake Pumpkin Cheesecake

Thanksgiving Part 2:
Pesto pasta with fresh tomatoes
Brussel sprouts with pine nuts, capers, and raisins
Salad with spicy chipotle dressing
Fresh peppers with a pea puree hummus dip
Leftover acorn squash soup
Southwest tabouli
Homemade vegan fudge
Molasses ginger cookies

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Last Minute Lazy Vegan No-Bake Pumpkin Pie

Okay, I know this is such a cop-out and a lame recipe for someone who loves to bake as much as I do, but I don't care- it's DELICIOUS!  And as much as I love to bake, I love to grub on some tasty pie.

I got the ingredients by cruising the "I Can't Believe It's Vegan" list that PETA put out.  I love this list for when I'm being lazy.

This recipe is what to make when you realize you have an hour before heading to a Thanksgiving potluck and you need that hour to include shopping time.

1 store-bought graham cracker crust (read the ingredients, but most are accidentally vegan)
1 small/regular box Jello vanilla pudding mix
1/2 cup soy creamer or soy milk
2 cups pureed pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix, it will be too sweet)
1 tsp pumpkin pie seasoning (could this be easier? no.)

In a stand mixer, or with a hand mixer, or with serious energy and a whisk, mix everything but the crust for a couple minutes until it's a little fluffy, a little creamy, and firms up a bit.  Transfer mixture to crust and refrigerate for an 1-3 hours (you can make it and throw it in the fridge while everyone's eating, then have it ready for desert).

It tastes a little like pudding, a lot like pumpkin pie should, and the consistency is amazing.  I am going to try this with some tofutti mixed in for a cheesecake-like pie, but I don't want to vouch for the results until I've tried it.

Miso Soup Gravy

I recently received some Miso-Cup vegetable soup.  I was thinking about those packets of gravy mix, and when I saw the instant miso soup mix, I thought that would make a great gravy base.  I already had a stuffing in the oven, and while a gravy made with the same Not Chick'n bouillon that I had used in the gravy would have been fine, the umami of miso gravy sounded even better.  This was so easy, but had a really great complex umami taste that paired perfectly with stuffing.

1 1/2 cups hot water
1 packet of Miso-Cup Delicious Golden Vegetable Soup

2 Tbsp Earth Balance Buttery Spread
2 Tbsp flour

pepper to taste (you do NOT need salt with this, just add the pepper)

In a sauce pan over medium heat, melt the butter and then mix in the flour to make a roux.  Combine the packet and water and add a bit at a time while stirring constantly.  Stir and let simmer for another 5 minutes or so and you have your gravy.  I like mine peppery, so I added freshly ground black pepper.  This isn't a thick gravy, but if you like yours thicker you can add a bit more flour.

Stuffing/Dressing with Chickpeas, Yams, and Just a Little Bread

I love stuffing.  I LOVE STUFFING.  I really love stuffing.  Thanksgiving is my most favorite holiday, because stuffing is so much a part of that day.  Much more than a dead bird, stuffing is what people look forward to.

I started my festivity early, and made this great "stuffing" last week.  I didn't stuff it in anything other than my mouth (and is there anywhere better to stuff stuffing?), but you could use this recipe to stuff a homemade tofu turkey like the Healthy Hip Chick's recipe. Or any other tofu turkey recipe you like.  I have no idea how it would turn out within a ball of tofu, but I personally like a beautiful browned top, so I make it in my pretty stuffing pan.  Yes, I have a special pan that is for stuffing (but I let other things cook in it throughout the year).  I got it many years ago when I began my stance that stuffing would always be my Thanksgiving day potluck item.

I think the thing that really makes this stuffing is that I roast the yams, apples and turnips.  You don't need to use turnips if that's not your bag, baby.  You could just sautee everything with the rest of the veg, but you'll be missing out a bit.

1 yam, cubed
4-5 baby turnips (or 1-2 medium/large turnips), cubed
1 apple, cubed

1 cup hot water (or garbanzo cooking liquid) + 1/2 cube Not Chick'n 

1 1/2 cups cooked garbanzos (or canned, but wash them off so there's no slime)
1/4 cup tapioca flour

2 stalks celery, sliced thinly
2 carrots, chopped into cubes or half circles
1/2 yellow onion chopped
1 tsp garlic granules
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp dried parsley
(or use fresh herbs for better flavor, use twice as much)

3 slices Dave's Killer bread, Sprouted Good Seed

2 Tbsp Earth Balance buttery spread

First, preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Cube the yam, turnips, and apple.  Toss them with salt and pepper oil (your choice of oil), then spread them out on a baking sheet and roast for about 30 minutes.  You want them all delicious and roasty, so wait unti they are beautiful and brown to take them out.

Next, mix your broth up.  I used the Not Chick'n, which I really like, but you could use whatever veg broth you like.  Just make a cup of broth.  It shouldn't be too hot when you mix in the tapioca flour and I would make a small slurry and then mix it in so you don't get lumps.  *Slurry- your powder and a small amount of water make a watery paste to add to larger quantity of water to avoid lumps*  Set this aside.

Then, sautee your veg and herbs until they have that great smell.  When it smells like Thanksgiving you are ready.  Cook it on high heat to get some carmel to your onions and other veg.  Stir in the garbanzos once it's got the color.

Finally, spray or whipe oil on the inside of your most beautiful baking dish, and toss everything in there and mix it around.  It's going to be hot, but your hands really will be the best tool for this.  Once everything is in, make sure to press it all down so all the bread is soaked through.  Sprinkle with 2 Tbsp melted Earth Balance, or leave little bits of it around the top to make pretty brown and buttery flavor pockets.

Turn your oven down to 375 and bake for about 30-40 minutes.  It should be bubbling, and not dried out.  Serve with miso soup gravy.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Coconut Flour Blondies with Chocolate Chips

I got a bag of Let's Do... Organic Coconut Flour and could not wait a full day even to try it out. They have coconut cream too, which has the wheels in my head turning. I'll definitely post about that later. I have been experimenting with gluten-free recipes, and saw this recipe in Living Without a few months ago. I decided to adapt it and make it vegan. I also decided not to do gluten-free for this one, because I wanted all the other flavors to be familiar except the coconut flour. It tasted nutty and coconut-y just in the powder form, so I figured in a blondie it will be perfect.

Here's the recipe the way I did it.

1/2 cup SOFT dates (it took 6 for me)- if your dates are not soft, soak them in about 1/2 cup warm water, and use that water for your flax eggs
3 Tbsp flax mixed with 1/2 cup water (let it sit and gel)
1/4 cup agave nectar
1/2 cup extra virgin coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line an 8X8in pan with parchment paper. Spray oil over the parchment and pan. Put all the wet ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Try not to drink the resulting liquid (this may be the hardest part of this recipe). Blend the dry ingredients in a large bowl (not including chips) with a whisk or fork to break up any coconut flour clumps. Pour wet ingredient liquid into THE BOWL, not your mouth, and combine completely. Add chocolate chips and give it another spin with your spoon. It will look like cookie dough and taste like awesome. Don't eat it all, but go ahead and taste that. It's got hints of macaroon flavor, but the texture and chips bring you back to memories of chocolate chip cookies. Now fight the impulse to form this into balls and press it down into your pan evenly and bake it for 25-30 minutes. It will leave your hands feeling luscious with coconut oil, which is a really good moisturizer. You may lick the bowl now. And the spoon. And the inside of the food processor (watch for blade). Let them cool a bit before pulling it all out in your handy dandy parchment paper and cooling competely before cutting. The original recipe says this makes 16, but realistically, I'm going to get 9 portions from this.

These had a great chewy moist texture, a perfect flavor that just hinted at coconut, and a pretty slightly browned top.  I think next time I'll use a little more agave and fewer chocolate chips, but overall it was a success!  My husband who isn't a coconut fan ate them up and said they didn't have the coconut flavor he doesn't like.  I, on the other hand, got my hints of maccaroon flavor without it being overpowering.  I think these would also be great with shredded coconut and macadamia nuts instead of chocolate chips, because they already have a slight island flavor.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Yam Au Gratin

I love potatoes au gratin, but I had some yams that needed eating.  Usually with potatoes I make a gravy-like sauce with herbs and veg broth and flour, but I wanted a creamy au gratin this time.  I looked up some recipes and of course they called for heavy cream, like I make heavy cream with my dismal mammaries.  Luckily, I had a little box of Mimiccream that I've been looking for a use for.  It says it can be used in the place of heavy cream.  The nice thing about this is that it doesn't have any sweetener or flavoring like soymilk, and it's made from cashews and almonds.  I love making sauces with almonds, so I figured it should work fine.
This is all that survived to be photographed

2 medium sized yams sliced thinly
1 1/2 cups unsweetened Mimiccream
1 Tbsp tapioca powder (I hadn't used this before, but it says to use in place of cornstarch, so I gave it a try)
1 tsp Lawry's seasoned salt (or less if you aren't a salt fiend)
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (or less- it turned out good and spicy)

cooking spray and salt and pepper
Nutritional yeast for topping

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Spray an 8X8 inch pan with cooking spray and line the bottom with yam slices season your layer of yams with salt and pepper.  Combine mimiccream, tapioca powder, and seasonings in a bowl and pour half the mixture over your yams.  Add another layer of yams, salt and pepper and the remaining sauce. Cover with a thin layer of nutritional yeast and spray with cooking spray to get a browned top. Bake for 30-40 minutes (until yams are soft).

This turned out so delicious and creamy.  My husband said it was the texture of a cheese sauce.  I loved it and will use Mimiccream for this again.  I used Let's Do... Organic Tapioca Powder from Edward and Sons and it didn't leave an odd aftertaste like cornstarch sometimes does.

Sour Cream is Back in my Life

I got a coupon for Wayfare products, so I headed off to the store ready to get some cheddar spread. Wayfare makes these awesome cheese-like spreads in Cheddar, Hickory Cheddar and Cheddar Sauce. I have had the Hickory and Cheddar and both were awesome. It's not hard like a block cheese, but it has a great flavor without any weird aftertastes. That's because it's soy-free, gluten-free, and still manages to be vegan! I love soy, but in analogue foods I taste it and it's a little off.

Right when I was about to grab that cheddar and run, I saw "We Can't Say It's Sour Cream." Hmmm... I have had Sour Supreme by Tofutti, and the aftertaste just kind of ruins it for me. I looked at the ingredients. Lima Beans, Rice, Oats, Vegetable Oil Blend (Safflower and Coconut Oil), Sea Salt, Citric Acid, Onion Powder. Those things all sounded good to me, but not like sour cream. I figured I might as well take a chance and try it out.

I came home and whipped up some quinoa pilaf with zucchini and bell peppers, black beans with homemade mole, and spicy baked plantain chips. This kind of meal requires a cooling element. Usually I would make a lemony guacamole, but my avocados were all underripe, and I had something sour and creamy to try out. I tasted a bit right out of the container and I wasn't sure I would like it. Then I thought about a bite of sour cream on it's own. Ew. I put a dollop in the middle of the plate, and my bites contained a little of each thing. It was the perfect cool, tangy, delicious addition with my plantain chips, and tasted just as great with my beans.

The next day, I was thinking that large container was just too big for my needs... I mean, I don't eat spicy Mexican food every day! Then, I remembered the other thing that goes well with sour cream- horseradish.  I roasted some beets and served them over my leftover quinoa with toasted hazelnuts on top.  To make it perfect, I mixed horseradish and my We Can't Say It's Sour Cream and added a hefty dollop.  PERFECTION!  No one needs to be eating prime rib and creamy horseradish when you have this.

Then I though I had really exhausted the possibilities. I mean, I had Mexican food and a classic American diner taste, how much more "sour cream" flavor did I need? Well, I had some precooked falafal from Costco and needed a quick lunch. They have okay flavor, but are unbearably dry. I mixed up the last of my We Can't Say It's Sour Cream with some vegenaise and dill for a perfect cool dip to balance the heavy cumin and spice of a falafal.

I will definitely be getting this spread again, even without a coupon!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Iditerod Baby: Putting the Pups to Work

When we first got out puppy, Clover, people told me time and again that her breed (she's a mystery mix as far as I know...) needed to pull.  They said she's a work dog who would take pleasure from pulling a sled or person on skis (aka skijorning).  So when the baby came along and the snow came out, I figured it was as good a time as any to give it the old college try.

Last year, Clover pulled my tiny Violet all through the dog park for a month or less.  We didn't buy our sled until March, so it was just the last of the snow we got to enjoy.  This year, we had the sled from day one, and Clover has been making the most of it.

We use an infant sled that we got at the Great Outdoor Clothing Store next to REI in Anchorage.  It has a pull rope, so we attach a retractable leash to the pull rope.  Then, the split leash is also attached to the pull rope using the clip from the retractable leash.  The dogs wear regular harnesses and are attached to the split lead, and the baby goes in the sled (in case this is hard to follow).  The adult, or safety brake, holds onto the retractable leash.

Most days, Violet loves her sled and Clover loves her pulling.  Some days one or the other does not.  I'm not trying to make anyone unhappy, so we just take those days off.  It's great fun though, and for my little dog-loving baby, there's not much cooler than being pulled along by your dogs.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Follow Your Heart Vegan Mozzerella

I haven't eaten cow's milk cheese in about 4 years (maybe longer...), so go ahead and take this post with that particular grain of salt.

When you can't eat cheese, you find great alternative pizza toppings, because giving up pizza just isn't an option in our home.  We have made some amazing pizzas with cheese-free pesto, hummus, spicy peanut sauce, bbq sauce, and all other manner of medium to cover the top of the pizza and bring it all together.  These are all great replacements.

But...  An ooey, gooey, cheesey pizza is another story.  A story I like to hear every once in a while.  When I discovered Daiya I was thrilled and made many pizzas with it.  However, there is a slight aftertaste with Daiya, and the cheddar is cheddar-y, but I don't get the white Daiya's flavor as much as cheddar-less.

Then I tried Follow Your Heart Mozzerella.  Again, it's been years, but it actually has that luscious mozzerella flavor.  A tiny tang, a mellow and rich flavor that just makes you want some fresh basil and ripe tomatoes.

Night before last, we went out to dinner and got a "vegan greek" pizza with pesto, kalamata olives, sun dried tomatoes, and spinach... then it had little cubes of tofu for the "feta."  Well, looking like cheese and tasting like cheese are not the same.  So last night we had to remake the pizza ourselves and use follow your heart shredded on top instead of cubes of tofu.  Yes, we ate pizza two nights in a row.

I tried out a new "pizza crust yeast" that worked pretty well.  I know it's great because I didn't have to wait for it to rise, and it did get a great chewy/fluffy texture with a great crisp to it too- it just doesn't seem right to me that it could do all that.  It literally took longer to preheat the oven than to have the dough completely ready for the oven!  You should definitely try out this yeast though, if you get the chance.  This is the stuff.  I wouldn't buy it on Amazon, but if you buy it from my link I get a few cents, so why not post it that way?

I've heard some people say they don't like Follow Your Heart because it doesn't melt, but as you can see from my picture, it not only melts, but after a couple minutes on broil it browned.  I've never had melting issues with it on pizza or in grilled cheese (garlic sautteed greens and this mozzerella make an AMAZING grilled cheese to go with tomato soup).

Thursday, October 28, 2010

My Little Puppy

The only word she has consistently said has been dog.  This is her new word.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

DIY Heated Neck/Back/Chest Pillow

I'm in such a DIY mood!  I am sick, and pretty miserable.  I don't really get sick often... almost never.  I remember when I was in high school I got a cold (or flu, or whatever people get from mass exposure to other sick people).  I thought I was dying.  I was this close to giving away my possessions and saying goodbye to loved ones.  It was unbelievable to me that most people went through this every year, if not every season.

I get sick about once a year now, sometimes every other year.  I was a teacher for almost five years, and that ensures you get sick.  Now I spend at least 5 days a week with several toddlers and their parents.  I might as well get used to this stuff.

Anyway, my neck is sore and I used to have this great heated neck pillow thing that I would put in the microwave and then lay on my neck.  It was the kind of thing that you get at some girly shoppe (yes, a shoppe with an extra p and an e) for more than it would cost to make ten of your own.  I made one of my own because the good old gift one has disappeared.

There are many tutorials for this online, and if I had an ounce of energy I would have at least fired up the sewing machine, but this is bare bones simple for anyone else who might be sick and in need of a quick fix.

What you need:
1 old sock, the longer the better
about 2 cups of rice (I used the small bag of rice that my husband used to dry his cellphone in after our daughter put it in the toilet.  He put it BACK IN THE CUPBOARD like it hadn't been used to leach toilet water, so this was a good use for it instead of a revenge dinner for him.)
1 rubber band
optional: tea bag of chamomile, dried lavender, etc. (I used a bag of Tension Tamer by Celestial Seasonings).

Put rice and contents of tea bag in sock, secure open end of sock with rubber band.  Microwave for about 1- 1.5 minutes and you have a nice warm neck pillow.  The tea bag helps offer some calming aromatherapy to the mix.  Sure, you might feel dirty using microwave aromatherapy, but when you are sick you make exceptions.

DIY Snack Carrier

Today I was looking everywhere for Violet's Muchkin snack catcher.  I love how easy it is to hand off some o's cereal, berries, or peas in this device and let her feed herself.  But today I am sick and tired and not interested in going on the hunt that will likely lead to the back yard because the dogs also love this clever little catcher.  We have lost many to dog destruction, and keep buying more.  While they are affordable, I just didn't want to go buy anymore today, so I made my own.  Mine doesn't have handles, so Violet had to sit on the floor to enjoy her snacks, or hold it with her arm, but that wasn't a problem.

To make this, I used an old margarine container and my kitchen scissors.  And thin plastic container with a lid would work, and it would probably be nice to have different shapes and sizes for different purposes.

I like the way the curved slits on the Munchkin Snack Catcher fit together better than those I've seen with straight across slits, so I imitated that shape and cut my own slits with a similar curve.
Once I had added the o's cereal, I passed it off to Violet for some product testing.  She discovered that this larger container could fit both her hands, and like she does with her Munchkin Snack Catcher, she promptly pulled out a handful for the dog before feeding herself.
She didn't take off the lid though, so it served it's purpose well.  I have some grapes and blueberries in the refrigerator, and tomorrow it will go to good use because I can give her berries that way without ending up with purple feet from the mess of giving her an open container (which I did this morning- call me Smurfette).

High Calorie/High Protein "Cookies" for Toddlers

I was hiking with a group from my parenting meetup, and I mentioned one of the snacks I give Violet to help pack on the calories.  As a vegan, I do often find myself making a very conscious effort to get lots of healthy fats into my girl.  Protein isn't as much a concern of mine because Violet loves beans and hummus and drinks both soymilk and breastmilk regularly, but it is a concern of many parents both veg and omni alike as kids go through picky stages.

I am happy to share some ideas for snacks that Violet likes, but I'd love to hear back from my readers to know what kinds of foods their children avoid.  When we went vegan, we had to learn to eat in new and diverse ways.  As a result, our diet has so much variety that I don't really notice Violet being picky yet.  She could be avoiding certain things, as she throws many meals almost completely on the floor, but since he have few repeats it's not obvious to me.  Anyway, my point is that if there are things your child doesn't like, I might have some suggestions of things that have similar nutrients or qualities.

One of Violet's favorite snacks right now is "cookies."  Basically it's a raw vegan cookie, the quotes are just because I don't add sugar or bake it.  I take quick oats (although I'm sure it would be healthier for me to use rolled oats or other grains- spelt in particular has a nice flavor and is higher in protein), walnuts/almonds/pecans/whatever nuts I have on hand, and dates and blend in the food processor until it's fairly fine and a bit sticky.  For extra protein and fat I add flax meal or whole raw sesame seeds (sesame seeds are a really good source of calcium as well).  I sometimes add a little cinnamon, cardamom, or other spice to give it some nice flavor.  Lately we've been going without spice.  Finally, to get a smooth consistency, I blend in some coconut oil.  The perportions are different every time and I really just add a little of this and that until it's a gooey consistency.  I scoop it out with my little cookie scoop and put it in tupperware in the fridge.  These become "cookies" full of protein, vitamins, and healthy fats.  It's sweet from the dates and seems like a treat to my little darling.  I joke that these are my insurance on those days when it doesn't seem like she's eating anything because I know she's getting a good protein and calorie boost even if she won't eat the other food I try to give her.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Meat Free Mom: The Class/Tutorial!

Obviously, with my blog and all, cooking healthy food for my family is my passion.  I have offered to do a class/tutorial for some of the parents in my parenting group.  I'm realy excited to share compassionate, healthy recipes that should please the parents and kids.

I'm looking for ideas though, because I'll be teaching people who aren't vegan, and I want to know what the common parent is looking for.  I am thinking I'd like to do something with quinoa, probably a simple pilaf.  I'm going to make Violet's "cookies," which I just need to add a picture for and I'll post that as well.  I want to have some one pot meals that appeal to the parent on the go or with limited prep and cleanup time.  I'd also like to have something that children can help with.  That sounds crazy, but just last weekend I let Violet mix the dry ingredients for our Sunday waffles (yeah, we have waffles every Sunday).  She can also press the button on the blender or shake a jar of dressing.  Getting kids and parents in the kitchen together means not having to worry about the kids distracting you while you cook.  

So here's your chance readers, tell me what kinds of foods you wish you knew how to make.  What dish takes you a long time, and you'd like a quicker version?  What meals do your kids love?  What veggie have you never cooked but always been curious about?  I want some inspiration!  I'll share all the recipes on here that I share with my group, so there's an incentive to put in your requests.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Vegan Smores Brownies aka I Love Dandies

I hosted a vegan cookie swap last weekend to kick off the holiday season early and start getting ideas for what to bake for friends and family gifts.  I wanted to do something unique for the exchange, and I recently discovered that my local natural foods store has Dandies vegan marshmallows.  I had only had Dandies once before, and they were well beyond dandy.  Oh sweet mother of all that is campfirey and delicious...  

You see, conventional marshmallows are made with ground up animal bones, which doesn't sound like candy for anyone, but especially not vegans.  I'm not really sure who's idea is was to make candy out of ground up bones, but it certainly wasn't a sweet kid sitting by a campfire, and it wasn't the kick ass creators of Dandies, Chicago Soy Dairy.  Dandies taste like a real candy, fluffy, sweet, no guilt ridden aftertaste, and just a hint of magic.  I say magic because I've tried to make my own vegan marshmallows twice to such hideous failure I don't even want to go into it.  I'll just say that if you plan on making your own vegan marshmallows, get a candy thermometer.  

So since I had some Dandies (I bought three bags as soon as I saw them- I was so overcome with excitement), I decided to make a 'smores brownie.  I have a favorite brownie recipe that I used quite often while pregnant, and I have a favorite vegan graham cracker, Health Valley.  I made a simple graham cracker crust, added marshmallows, topped with brownie mix, added more marshmallows, and then topped with graham cracker bits.  

Another excellent feature I discovered with the Dandies is that they puff up and brown just like the marshmallows of my childhood.  When the brownies were done, they not only had the components of the classic smore, but the browned and crisp-on-top marshmallows had been baked to really taste like roasted treats!  These were the favorite of almost every guest at the cookie swap (she says modestly).  

The other cookie I made was the pumpkin whoopie pies from Vegan Yum Yum with a double batch of filling to make them extra decadent.  

Here is a picture of the leftovers from the party:

Not a single type of cookie was repeated and there were no duds in the bunch!  I would call this swap a success!

Recipe Sources:
Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar
Viva Vegan
Vegan Yum Yum

ERGO Changed My Life

I can't believe I finally caved and spent over $100 on a carrier for a baby!  Everyone in my meetup group has one and they all sing it's praises, so I obviously decided to make my own.  Har har.  That was funny.  It was really cute and more of a Mai Tai style.  The thing is, the Ergo can't be replicated.  I even tried out a knock off made by Infantino, who may be maligned for their slings recently, but whose frame backpack I adore.  Alas, nothing would cure my thirst for the Ergo.

When I went to try them on, I should have known it was meant to be.  I tossed Violet on my back and she just sat there, perched on my back, while I figured out the straps.  I thought I was going to have to pick the sales woman's jaw off the floor.  She said, "She's helping you."  I guess most babies don't take to being tossed on their mother's backs like mine does.  She knew we were in for something special.

Within a half hour of purchasing my lovely cranberry organic cotton Ergo, I was walking through the dog park with my lovely on my back.  The cool thing about the Ergo is that when my toddling toddler wanted to get down and play with the dogs, I just unsnapped the chest snap and put her down to play.  I could comfortably continue to wear the carrier strapped around my waist, and as soon as the little legs got tired I tossed her back in the saddle.  We go to the dog park every day, and we had been having quite the conundrum of her not wanting to ride in her backpack the whole time, and not being able to do a full loop on foot (at least not at a pace that works with only 12 hours of daylight).

After we left the dog park, we headed home.  Home is where many things go to be destroyed by the dogs during fits of separation anxiety and other angst of unknown origins.  I quickly put a hook up in the kitchen and hung up the Ergo away from sharp teeth and prying claws.  No sooner was a hot pan a-poppin' with oil that Violet wanted to be held and would not accept no for an answer.  Easy peasy lemon squeezy, and no one handed cooking or oil splatter burns required.  I grabbed the Ergo off the hook and wore my little lady while I cooked.  It was at that moment that I realized my life had changed.

It's been about a month now, and I use the Ergo no less than three times a day.  I use it for hikes, chores around the house, and unloading the groceries from the car (that's right, I can strap the baby to my back and unload the car in ONE TRIP).  Violet doesn't even cry half the time when she wants to be held, she just goes over to where the Ergo hangs and points at it.  Yesterday she actually fell asleep while I wore her on my back, and I was able to unclip her and lay her on the couch where she continued to sleep for another half hour.

And speaking of sleeping, since we moved up to a big girl car seat, there's no more grabbing the bucket seat and letting her finish a car nap in the grocery cart.  With the Ergo, I just strap it on my front and I can transfer her without waking her and just let her sleep through a shopping trip.  She did that just today to my delight.  I was able to peruse the vitamin isles and find what I needed without a single bottle being thrown off the shelf.  That's a treat.

Anyway, I just wanted to share this great product because it really has changed my life and I wish I had gotten it sooner.  Even though I waited a year though, I still think it was worth every penny.

For more information, visit the Ergo website.  If you are lucky enough to get next year's calendar, I'm in the December picture.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

How to Make a Fleece Overcoat for Babywearing

I have been looking over some friends' great jackets that go over baby while baby is in a carrier (quite frankly, everyone I know wears an Ergo, so let's just say Ergo).  One friend has a jacket that is a fleece layer that she can wear when it's chilly but not dead-of-winter-in-Alaska, then there's a waterproof cover she can wear over it.  It has slits in the front and back for baby's head to pop out.

I'm cheap, and a bit crafty (I own scissors), so I decided to raid my closet and see what I could come up with.  First, I considered cutting into a very nice, very warm jacket that my husband got me for Christmas a few years ago.  Luckily, I wasn't drunk, so I didn't have my scissors handy.  Next, I started looking at all my husband's fleece jackets.  They aren't super-warm, but they sure do the job.  If you had a tiny warm body pressed to your back, they would be even warmer...  Again, I thought better of mangling one of his jackets also.  Then, in the back of my closet, I found a fleece jacket that I haven't warn in years, and that I got for free when I taught at a middle school.  It's really big because that's the only size they had left when I made it to the office to pick up my free jacket.  Perfect.  A large sweater/jacket fits over a baby and me quite easily.  Hmmmm...

So I put on the sweater, then the Ergo, then the baby.  Once the baby was secure, I asked my husband (who was just happy I wasn't eyeing his favorite jackets with scissors in my hands anymore) to pinch the fabric right at the base of the baby's neck.  He held on while I took off the jacket and I cut a slit about 7 inches long where he had held.  I didn't worry about slits in front, because if I'm wearing my daughter in front I can just wear a zip front jacket and not zip it all the way... Not rocket science here, but somehow I have now saved hundreds of dollars and spent ZERO dollars.  If you count the cost of the scissors you are ridiculous.

We tried it out on a very crisp day when we went hiking in Glen Alps in light snow.  I was sweating like an animal that sweats a lot (most people say pig, but pigs don't sweat- that's why they hang out in the mud).  The baby was so cozy she slept for the entire hike, including some serious scrambling up a mountain when I was literally on all fours at points.

Hands and feet were tucked in snug as a bug in a rug.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Getting Outside With Your Kids

My daughter is so happy lately, and so in love with the outdoors.

We've been going to the lake at the dog park every day, and she's been walking out to the lake, throwing sticks for the dogs, and being the happiest kid you ever saw.

Raised by wolves.

Purple rubber boots- perfect for my little Violet.
She's been saying "stick," and "dog" and trying to say "trees."  I should also mention that she doesn't say anything else.  Not Mama or Dada (okay, she says both of those, but not to us, not because she knows their meaning).  Violet has a particular tree she can stop and just stare at for 5 minutes mesmerized.  She will pick up a leaf and inspect it with reverence.  Today, she picked up a stick and promptly began using it as a walking stick to go up a hill.  No one taught her that, she just did it like John Muir's ghost is her imaginary friend.  

When I was pregnant and my mom told me to start walking, I did.  I wanted to stay healthy and strong and comfortable.  It became more and more of a compulsion to go out and be in nature.  I didn't want to jog on my elliptical machine.  I wanted to hike, canoe, kayak, and swim.  I felt this urge as strongly as other women crave pickles and ice cream (I ate a few pickles along the way too, I'm not going to lie).  

Once Violet was born, I continued walking when I could, and when she was 6 months old, I started a mom's meetup group and one of the members started a regular hiking meetup on Thursdays.  Another member started a Tuesday morning outdoor playgroup.  It's easy to say these are too early or it's too hard to get out of the house with kids.  It's easy to say that it's not going to make that big of a difference.  It's not easy to teach a toddler to have reverence for a tree or leaf.  That's something that is taught over time.  That's something that happens when you genuinely love nature, and you SHOW your child that you love nature.  That's something that comes from letting them play in the dirt, eat the stick, taste the rock, and feel the texture of the bark on a tree.  I saw Violet laughing as she ran her hands over the papery trunk of a birch today and knew all that dirt she ate went toward making something great.

For recommended reading, I am suggesting a book that so far I have just skimmed, but glad I baught.  Many of the moms in my group have taken a class with Jennifer Aist, and were inspired by her assertion that getting your kids out in nature is essential.  Her book, Babes in the Woods, is a staple of most Alaska moms, and relevant for any climate.  

My second suggestion is for a book I haven't read yet, but is on my list and will hopefully be a book club book for us.  Last Child in the Woods has inspired many moms I know to take action and get their kids outside.  The premise has been described with this question, "Did you climb trees and build forts when you were a kid?  Do your kids do those things?"  A must read especially for parents who worry about the dangers of the outside and forget how much good is out there.  Again, all that dirt my daughter has eaten has made her who she is- an awesome kid.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Teriyaki Nori

All my baby wants in Teriyaki Nori.  I'm talking about little snack sheets of seasoned and toasted sea vegetables (seaweed).  Obviously, teriyaki nori is delicious, and a favorite snack of mine... But this is just crazy.  Violet goes to the cupboard where she knows the nori is and does her happy dance while pointing.  The happy dance is when she steps back and forth from one foot to the other.

As soon as I get out the container of nori, the dance takes on a new energy and she begins smiling and laughing.  This is her greatest pleasure.

I have been taking this snack to our playdates and it's been hilarious the way the teriyaki nori craze is spreading among the toddlers.  They all want the nori.  Kincaid wants the "fish."  It is like tasty vegan fish snacks.

A note on the vegan quality of this snack:  Most brands include bonito and shrimp, so it's important to read labels on this as with everything else.  There are also some with more sugar and sodium. While it's still a little high, it's actually not more than most crackers or other snacks I'd give to the baby, so it's okay by me.

I don't know what else to say about this, but it's just too funny not to mention.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

What Do You Eat? Day 7

One week of recording everything I ate and I'm exhausted from it all!

Breakfast was multigrain oatmeal with some flax meal, coconut milk, and maple syrup.  Sweet and decadent!

I didn't really eat much of a lunch.  I tried to eat some leftover chili verde, but the bitterness got worse overnight.  I finished a container of vanilla coconut yogurt that Violet hadn't eaten the day before.  I grazed on snap peas and raspberries in the garden.

Dinner was angel hair pasta made with Jeruselem artichoke flour.  I tossed it with some nutrtional yeast and added pesto.  The baby didn't get pesto on hers because I think it was too spicy for her (although she's usually a big spice fan).  Mac and cheese, even vegan kids like their version of it.  For sides I roasted baby cherry tomatoes and some rapini.  That was my first time cooking rapini and I wouldn't roast it again.  Next time I'll try a sautee or steam method.

The baby's appetite was back in full force though, and she ate every last noodle, pea, and grape off her plate.  It really makes me happy to see her eating so much again.

Friday, September 3, 2010

What Do You Eat? Day 6

Second to last day!!  It's getting hard to keep up with this, so I'm kind of glad it's almost over.  Again I'm posting the next day because I just didn't have time yesterday.

For breakfast I made a stir fry, just like I said I would.  I used yummy big soba noodles as a base with my veggies.  I used onion, garlic, ginger, zucchini, baby bok choy, Yoshida's Gourmet Sauce (a favorite of mine, even though it has high fructose corn syrup), and lots of toasted sesame seeds.

I ate a nectarine after my hike, then came home and had toast with jam and a cup of tea because it was cold out.

By the end of the day, it was gorgeous, so the baby and I spent a lot of time in the yard, and consequently we both enjoyed many raspberries.  Dinner was a homemade chili verde with homemade seitan.  I make my chili verde by roasting garlic, onion, tomatillos, and zucchini and then blending it.  It had a bitter taste this time, and I'm not sure what the cause of it was.  I served it over brown rice.

I finally ate my last Almond Joy cereal bar last night, sadly, and had a cup of tea after dinner.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

What Do You Eat? Day 5

Okay, I know it says day 4 was today and nothing was yesterday, but there was just no time yesterday and I had to post both today.

For breakfast I finally cooked up some more of those great potatoes from my garden.  I chopped them small and cooked then in oil with mushrooms and sweet peppers.  Unfortunately, my wrist got splattered with oil and it's horribly painful.  There's a reason they tell you to test a bottle on your wrist, it's very sensitive. I topped my breakfast creation with chopped up baby cherry tomatoes and nutritional yeast.

Lunch was just grazing...  I made an ear of corn, ate a nectarine, then picked and ate raspberries and snow peas from the garden.  Lazy afternoon.  I also baked chocolate raspberry muffins with some of those raspberries.  I used the recipe from Vegan Brunch.

I picked up my CSA box today too, and got a huge bag of basil, so homemade pesto was in order.  I toasted some almonds and pureed them with the olive oil, garlic, and basil.  Then I zested a lemon and added the juice as well.  I froze half the pesto and will use the rest over the next few days.  It should keep for a while.

For dinner I made quinoa and added the pesto and nutritonal yeast to make it cheesy good.  I steamed an artichoke as well, which the baby enjoyed even more than the quinoa.  I'm still working through those tomatoes, so they topped my cheesy pesto quinoa.

I splurged after a run on my elliptical tonight and had two muffins because they were so tasty.  I froze most of the rest so I won't eat them all with the excuse, "I don't want them to go bad."  I've eaten many cupcakes for that reason...

While the baby and I were having some pre-dinner wading and splashing at the lake by our house I heard someone talking about ordering Chinese food for dinner.  I have some great thick soba noodles from Costco in the fridge that popped into my mind immediately.  I don't want to alarm anyone, but tomorrow morning I'll be having a stir-fry.  Just so you are prepared when you see "stir fry" as the first meal.  It's crazy, but I can't justify eating white flour noodles at night.  I'm planning on going on a good hike tomorrow though, and if I eat them before the hike I figure it's okay.

What Do You Eat? Day 4

A friend of mine made pancakes for dinner yesterday and posted pictures on facebook, so breakfast was pancakes with fresh raspberries from the garden.  I added some maple syrup for the full effect, and they were just as lovely as I had imagined all night long.  I use this recipe, but I only use 2 teaspoons of baking powder, not two Tablespoons.  I also add a tsp of vanilla and use maple syrup instead of sugar.

Lunch was leftover hoisin beets with brown rice wrapped in nori.  For a little tang, I cut up an umeboshi plum and addd that.  Yummy yum yum.  I snacked on an extra sheet of nori a bit later too.  I followed it up with a cereal bar for lunch desert (they are almost gone- I'm addicted to these things!).

For dinner I made a deconstructed pasta.  I have never been one of those, "my food can't touch!" people, but for some reason I always liked my pasta with just some oil and salt and pepper, and I like my veggies on the side.  The real irony is that I then take bites with a little of each thing on the fork.  Go figure.  I sauteed the zucchini and mushrooms with some garlic in olive oil and salt and pepper, then I tossed my whole wheat rottini in that same pan with the leftover oil and added nutritional yeast to get in all those great curly folds.  For the "marinara" effect, I cut up adorable baby tomatoes and ate them fresh.  

Like any kid, my daughter loves her mac and cheese (even if the variety I give her is someone unconventional) and the rottini with nutritional yeast were a big hit.  She hasn't been eating much lately, but that did the trick!

I had a little caffein in the form of green tea in the afternoon, but drank decaf Earl Greyer in the morning.    Later at night I had some chocolate coconut milk which was not as tasty as I had hoped.  Back to soy once I finish this carton.

Monday, August 30, 2010

What Do You Eat? Day 3

Ugh.  It's been a tough couple days.  Last night the baby was up quite a bit, and finally at 6am I just brought her into my bed and let her nurse away to her heart's content.  Her heart desires a LOT of nursing lately.  With two molars coming in, she has very little interest in solid food, but her appetite doesn't match her lack of desire to eat.

As a result, I didn't actually get out of bed until an hour before I needed to be at the sing-a-long playdate I go to each Monday.  Oops.  Baby got a snack trap of multigrain Cheerios and I had two pieces of Dave's Killer bread toast with Earth Balance spread and my mom's homemade blackberry jelly.  12 grams of protein pretty easy.  That extra sleep I got by bringing the baby to bed seem to have allowed for a seemless transition away from coffee, which I have been wanting to do but haven't seen as a possibility.  I've actually been having headaches lately, and thought maybe a day without coffee would help.  I had no headache or stomach ache today, and no coffee.  We'll see how this continues.

Lunch was most of a yogurt (SoDelicious coconut yogurt in vanilla flavor) that I tried to feed the baby.  She ate some, but even non-solid solids don't interest her.  I also had leftover curry chickpeas and later a plum.

Dinner was a bit of a disconnect.  I just didn't know what I wanted.  I chopped up half an onion and some mushrooms and started to sautee them without a clear plan.  I had started beets roasting in the oven and didn't know what their final destination would be either.  I ended up slicing the beet greens and adding them to the pan along with some five spice.  I chopped up the roasted beets and tossed them with a mixture of tahini and hoisin sauce then put them over the hash of other veggies.  I cooked up a couple of the potatoes from the garden (just microwaved them) and topped them with Bragg's Liquid Aminos.  For some color and to try to entice the baby to eat, I opened a can of mandarine oranges and just put them cold on the plate.  Nothing fancy, but it was really tasty.  I will have leftover hoisin beets tomorrow in some form...  Not sure what yet.

I had a tall glass of chocolate soy milk and an almond joy cereal bar this eveing for a sweet treat.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

What Do You Eat? Day 2

Today's breakfast was the same as yesterday.  Still loving those fresh raspberries from the garden.  I also did some more harvesting, and pulled up my first potatoes of the season as well this morning.  Violet and the dog ate all the snow peas, but that's okay.  I'll take a kid that loves snow peas.

For lunch I made a soup with the carrots from the garden and one of the potatoes.  I added fresh ginger, peanut butter and sriracha- spicy goodness!  I also made a sandwich with Yves salami and lightly crisped kale.  I used my favorite bread, Dave's Killer Bread Good Seed.  This bread is crazy good and made with only the best ingredients.

Dinner did not get a picture.  The poor baby is teething something fierce and it was all I could do to cook and eat dinner.
The menu was:
Roasted chickpeas with curry powder
Steamed artichoke with vegenaise
sauteed zucchini and onions

Desert was a yummy cereal bar I made with multigrain cheerios, brown rice syrup, almond butter, roasted almonds, melted down chocolate chips, and coconut flakes.  I call it my Almond Joy Cereal Bars.  I didn't measure anything, so I can't post a recipe, but I do have a picture (I ate way more than the tiny piece in the picture!).

Saturday, August 28, 2010

What Do You Eat? Day 1

This is a true account of what I ate today, and will continue to be true accounts of what I eat.  I am only human, so I will admit that I might be eating better while I record than if I wasn't.

I started my morning with my homemade multigrain oatmeal.  I make my own blend from bulk grains.  I use oats, rye, kamut, barley, and spelt.  Two parts oats and one part all the rest.  I blended in almond butter and fresh raspberries from my garden, along with a splash of maple syrup.  I drank coffee with soy creamer and liquid stevia.  My one year old had the same cereal breakfast, but she had much more almond butter blended in to hers.

For lunch I got a special treat because we were in Girdwood for the Fungus Fair.  We went to Jack Sprat, one of my favorite restaurants.  I had never seen their brunch menu, but I was pleased with the chia muesli and yam fries without the aoli.  The little one liked the muesli, but hardly touched the fries (leaving way too many fries to me).  
I didn't get pictures, but if you look at the menu, the muesli is the stuff in a cup, and the yam fries are stacked all pretty.  The yam fries are always a favorite of mine, but I have to say I also liked the muesli a lot.  Homemade almond milk really makes a difference!  
I took some in a box and snacked while we did Fungus Fair stuff (mostly putting Violet in her Muddy Buddy rain suit and letting her go wild in the awesome park while it rained).

When we got home, I roasted eggplant and cooked brown basmati rice.  I added peas to the rice and mushed the eggplant with finely minced garlic, tahini, lemon juice, paprika, and salt and pepper.  I roasted some small sweet peppers and stuffed mushrooms with the eggplant mixture.  In my meat/cheese eating days, stuffed mushrooms were a favorite of mine, but eggplant stuffed mushrooms are a million times better!  Violet disagrees and only ate the rice and peas, but she was feeling yucky tonight, so don't trust her judegment. 

For desert I'm having this cowboy cookie from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar.  I made a big batch to send to work with my husband and this one is just for me.  For those without THE book, it's a cookie with oats, toasted pecans, coconut, and chocolate chips.  It seems a bit fancy for a cowboy to me, but what do I know?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Girls Night

Tonight was just the girls (my daughter and I), so I made what I would consider "girly food."  I'm not sure why, but our dinner just struck me as very feminine.

Angel hair pasta tossed with nutritional yeast then topped with sauteed asparagus and garlic in olive oil.  I topped it all with lemon zest and juice and toasted almonds.


Is that girl food?

My husband was in the land of manliness and ate a burger and fries, so maybe there is something to this gender specific food idea.

Travel Travel Family Family

Since my husband lost his job in May, we have been having family and travel time extreme.  I feel bad not keeping up with my bloggy blog, but I wouldn't trade the last few months for anything!  I have been cooking all our meals and loving a varied and cheap vegan diet.  It is amazing how "beans and rice" can be so many different things.  One night we'll have chickpea Indian food over brown basmati, and another we'll have spicy pintos over short grain brown rice.  We've also been enjoying cannelini beans and pasta or black bean salad on a summer evening.  These tight times have been a reminder that vegan eating is much more affordable than meat and milk.  My dried beans and case of soy milk don't spoil, and the farmer's market and CSA keep me in fresh veg.

I have so many blog posts in my head that I want to share, but I might have to do a miniseries because of a questions I kept getting while visiting family, "What do you eat?"  Many family members and friends want to accomodate us, but honestly just can't fathom what we eat.  Our diet is so varied that it's a hard question to answer.  We eat a huge variety of legumes, veggies, fruits, grains, and some processed products, so I never know how to answer that.  Many meat-eaters think we must eat like them, but with the meat replaced by something else (most imagine tofu), but we just don't eat that way often.  Vegetarians often rely so heavily on cheese and eggs that it's even harder for them to imagine our daily diet.

I plan on starting tomorrow morning and at least listing and hopefully photographing everything I eat for one week.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Naked Baby Party!

I started a parent's group on that has turned out really great.  I was talking to one of the other moms in the group and telling her that I had some clothes that might fit her daughter, then I realized that we probably all had clothes that would fit one of the other kids in the group.  So today I hosted a "Naked Baby" party, inspired by the Naked Lady party concept.  I put out a lovely vegan spread of lemon blueberry muffins, oatmeal cookies with chocolate chips and pecans, hummus with homemade rosemary foccacia and celery, homegrown tomatoes brought by another mom, cherries, plums, and "candy" (that means dates in our house).

We all brought boxes of clothes and everyone went home with something.  The leftovers are going to be sold to a local consignment shop to help pay the dues for our MeetUp group.  Overall, a great success.

The best part was probably having a house full of babies and toddlers.  My little Violet is almost one and already such a social little hostess.  She was in her room with the other babies showing them her toys, playing with all the new stuff that was out, and munching on good food.

I recommend joining or starting a MeetUp group for any parent of a young child.  It's a great way for the babies to interact, but it's also such a good opportunity for parents to get out of the house and spend time with their kids AND spend time with adults.  We have a weekly hiking group, Taiga Trekkers, Monday music at the zoo, and outdoor play group, and various other MeetUps to welcome all different interests.

What a joy for my little social butterfly to get out and have fun!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Swimming Baby!

I can't remember a time in my own life when I couldn't swim, and I have always felt a need to be close to water sources.  When I was deciding on a college, I chose mine for two water-based reasons.  First, I saw a poster for Humboldt State that featured a fountain in an open area with people sitting on the edge studying. The fountain was not pretty (I have since seen a documentary about it called "The World's Ugliest Fountain"), and it seemed like the kind of fountain you could get in and dance around without anyone minding.  This was essential to me, especially after I had attempted to dance in a fountain in Rome only to be yelled at by police.  So the fountain was the draw.  Then, when I went to visit, I took a tour.  I saw the fountain and it seemed to fit the bill.  I saw the campus and the town and everything about both fit my needs and personality perfectly, but I still wasn't sure.  Finally, I asked the tour guide for directions to the closest beach, about 5 minutes away.  As soon as my feet touched the water of the Pacific I knew I was home.  It was that simple for me.  

So, for me, it was important that my daughter be connected to water as well.  I swam in the lake while pregnant, and was kayaking as close as 5 days before I gave birth.  Sometimes I joke that I paddled her right out.  We had a home water birth, and the three of us bonded in the tub for a good half hour before she left that warm water.  She bathed with me the next day, and instantly loved being in water.  When she was old enough, we signed her up for swim classes, and it has been so amazing to see her fall in love with swimming.

As soon as she sees the pool, she starts smiling and waving her arms.  Once she's in the water it's all smiles and splashes.  And even when she goes under water, she smiles there too!  

I highly recommend swimming classes for infants.   One of my baby books says that they don't suggest swimming classes for infants and toddlers, but that seems silly to me.  You can't treat it like it will train a baby to swim on their own without supervision, but you can get water safety, skills, and comfort through classes early and often.  

I am including two videos of my daughter Violet swimming, and one of a child who is far more advanced using the ISR method.

Violet Swimming 1

Violet Swimming 2

ISR Method, taken from YouTube.  Our instructor doesn't teach this method, but I am interested in it and love the results seen in this video.