Friday, June 28, 2013

Collard Green Burritos and Black Bean stuffed Potatoes With a Vegan Queso Cheese

I posted a few pictures of my dinner on Facebook, because... well because my kids haven't done anything particularly cute today and that's what Facebook is for. The response was a resounding, "GIVE ME THAT."

 As one of the people who got to eat this tonight, I couldn't agree more.

 I kind of got myself into some trouble by saying to my husband as he was leaving for work this morning, "When you get home tonight, I will have a delicious dinner ready for you." This was unwise, A.) because we usually get take and bake pizza without cheese on Fridays and I get the night off cooking, and B.) because I set pretty high standards for myself on a regular dinner, and the added stress of saying it would be special was unbearable.

 The only thing to do was really blow the roof off dinner.

The finished product (before becoming the finished product in our bellies)

I began thinking about this nacho-y cheese that I learned how to make at a fun cooking class at Radical Eats on Wednesday.  If you live in Houston and you want to learn to make yummy vegan food, I highly recommend these free classes held on the last Wednesday of each month.  You go and order dinner, get a free class, and samples of all the good food.  This week was all vegan cheeses and she did the great cashew and nutritional yeast blend that most vegans are familiar with, then she did an unbelievably simple one from Daiya cheese, Tofutti sour cream, and a little red bell pepper and salt and water to blend it.  I keep thinking about this cheese...  I considered nachos but since my husband loves pototoes I opted for roasted red potato halves topped with refried black beans and then the cheese sauce and green onions.  I also wanted a collard green wrapped burrito, mostly because I had a ripe mango that needed to be salsa.

I halved my red pototoes, sprayed them with spray coconut oil, and sprinkled with salt.  I put them in a 400 degree oven face down (flat side down) for about 20 minutes, then turned them over, added a bit more salt, and baked for probably 15 minutes more.  

While my potatoes were cooking, I got to work on the burritos.  I made my general "mom pilaf" in that I take whaever veggies desire to be cooked and mix them with a grain.  I had some beautiful rainbow quinoa that I love and knew would cook quickly, so I started by looking for what veggies I'd like with it.  I had the stems from a bunch of kale since I had a batch of kale chips in the dehydrator, and I grabbed a carrot and the end of a red onion that was sitting in the refrigerator as well.  I had some fresh salsa that needed to be used as well.  

I chopped my kale stems, carrot, and onion in small pieces and put in a pot with a little olive oil and sauteed briefly before adding the quinoa, water, and salsa.  I also added some garlic salt and "Organic No-Salt" from Costco which has a good blend of Mexican flavor.  I let that boil and then covered and turned off and ignored it while I trimmed off the stems of the collard greens and steamed them.  I let both these things cool off while I made mango salsa.

My mango salsa was just a mango, a lime, an avocado, a little red onion, a quarter of poblano pepper, and a handful of cilantro with a bit of salt.  I chopped up everything but the lime and tossed together.  

My daughter "helped" assemble in that she told me the order to put the two ingredients on and sampled all parts for quality control.  Everything was up to snuff.  

Once the burritos were done, I finally scooped about a Tbsp of black beans on each one, put them back in the oven, and turned it off.  The potatoes were crispy and I didn't want my beans to dry out, just warm through.  

I mixed up my cheese sauce while the beans were warming through, and basically followed the recipe except I added some salsa instead of water.  That was added at the end for garnish.

It worked!  My husband came home from work to an amazing meal, we had a nice dinner, went for a swim, and now he's attempting to put our son to bed while I mess about with my blog.  I can't imagine it going better.

Some tips:

*The mango salsa recipe can be blended smooth and it makes a wonderful sauce that is sweet, spicy, and tangy.  It's good on stuff, but you'll probably just want to drink it.  

*Steam your collards just until they are flexible and bright green.  You loose flavor and nutrients once they turn brownish.

*When I do rolls in collard greens, I always trim the stem off, and slice the vein down the center so that it's flush with the leaf.  I also make a point to roll the bottom in first, so the outside just has the nice thin tip of the leaf and it sits flat and stays rolled much easier.

*Always save stems and bits for pilaf.  It's a great way to use up the parts that aren't pretty.  Broccoli stems are another great addition to a pilaf like this.  You could also just as easily skip the sautee part and leave out the oil.

*If you don't have plans for dinner except that someone else was going to take care of it for you, maybe don't talk up a big meal.

This meal was gluten free and I wasn't even trying!  Gluten free vegan is not an impossible task, it's a fun challenge!  We aren't gluten free, but just making some fun substitutions like collard greens for tortillas is a way healthier option and you get the benefit of simply making something GF.  

Friday, June 21, 2013

It's a Small Vegan World

I love that veganism is growing and changing to include more and more people, but I have to say that it's also pretty amazing what a small world it still is.

Just this week, through social media groups for vegans, I have seen this come together.

First, I was making banana bread, and when I went to my link in my favorites, the link was gone and I couldn't find the recipe.  Luckily, I remembered that the author of that recipe is married to someone in one of the veg groups I'm a member of, so I took to social media!

Then, I got to ask the creator of one of my favorite websites out there a question about something on the website through a smaller veg group, and she chatted with me like it was nothing.  Totally awesome.

I also promoted a new book by one of my favorite authors, who is technically on my friends list, and she posted a thank you- to me :)

Now, I'm not hanging out with Alicia Silverstone or Woody Harrelson- yet, but it does feel like a small world, like a community.  We can't all live in Portland where we are surrounded by fellow vegans and just live life in our own way, so the internet really does bridge the gap between us all so that we have a sense of likeminded community even though the miles and state lines separate us.

Sunday, June 16, 2013


Yesterday I was in the shower with both children.  They wanted to stay forever, and we ended up all sitting on the shower floor.  My daughter on one knee, my son nursing, the three of our skin tones all mixed up in a sweet cuddly blend, and the water was falling down on us.  I thought to myself, "If only there was a cameral, right here and right now, to capture this.

I took a mental picture.  It's all you can do sometimes.   There are so many perfect moments like that that I want to remember.  Perfect moments in our daily life.  Instead, I spend a photo session trying not to pull my hair out or scream as we recreate cuteness.

We have been blessed with two amazing family portrait sessions with professional photographers that came to our home and captured our family moments.   FLS Photography and FreeSpirit Studios both really captured our family in all our messy, silly, and loving reality.

Sometimes I worry I'm taking too many pictures.  Looking at life through a lens instead of appreciating it in action and fun.  It's a tough balance.

My daughter swam for the first time yesterday, totally unassisted.  The kids are the cutest and most hilarious in the pool, but I'm not taking pictures then, I'm making sure they are safe.  Maybe it's just another thing to experience mommy guilt over, that I don't take enough pictures- or I could be guilty that I take too many.

What do you make sure to get on film, and what do you just enjoy?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Watermelon, Avocado, Red Onion- The Trinity Summer Salad

You know how in cooking, there are all these "trinities of flavor" that we have?  Celery, carrot, onion.  Tomato, basil garlic.  Chili, lime, salt.  Oreos, soymilk, and guilt.  Rosemary, thyme, parsley.  You know what I mean?
I've discovered the perfect trinity of Summer.  It started out as a green salad that I added watermelon, avocado,  and red onion to.  I just used whatever greens I had on hand, a poppy seed dressing, and lemon pepper.  It was AMAZING!

So AMAZING, in fact, that my son finished the bowl I was eating and asked for more.

And then MORE.

This is the third bowl I had to make.  At this point we had run out of lettuce, and I discovered it was just as amazing without.  The balance of sweet, creamy, a slight spice, and the tang of the lemon pepper is just heavenly.

Another time I made it with steamed kale as the base then just put all my yummy stuff on top and added hemp seeds- a complete and delicious meal!

Last night I didn't have any poppy seed dressing, so I just skipped that part- still AMAZING!

I've decided that really it's just about the trinity of watermelon, avocado, and red onion (and I guess lemon pepper plays a pretty important part, but that doesn't fit my trinity metaphor... so...  You know, use it, but let me have my fun too!

What is your perfect Summer salad?