The title says it all. I have had to take a break in posting, but I expect to be back to it after some of the dust has settled. This weekend, perhaps? Definitely by Monday. I just need some time to get re-organized. I’m posting this from my phone (I can do that!?!), as my computer isn’t yet comfortably set up. I have been book-marking so many great MoFo posts. As soon as I get the kitchen stuffs in order, we are going to have a blast experimenting with all the new recipes.
This past Saturday marked our last family trip to the local farmers market. Of all the places (events?) in Champaign Urbana, this lively and abundant market tops the list of things I will miss most. I have my favorite farmers, my preferred bakers, musicians that I look forward to seeing each week. Our family dinners and many cherished recipes are the result of the market’s seasonal offerings. It was certainly a bittersweet day.
Imagine my surprise when, after years of going to this market, it was only this past Saturday that I discovered that the Piato booth had smoothies. GREEN smoothies! They will add market fresh spinach to any smoothie on their menu; I went with a classic: strawberry and spinach. Delicious, and the perfect thing as it was mighty hot in that parking lot.
There used to be a vegetarian/vegan food truck at the market, but they sold their business last year. Since they left, finding veg food at the market can be a challenge (I mean, cooked veg food, because, duh, there are fruits and vegetables everywhere). The Cracked breakfast truck actually has an option or two, if you omit the cheese. The Plan B grilled wrap (yes, that’s a morning after pill joke, I’m pretty sure the truck was started by frat boys) is actually pretty good; it’s filled with sun-dried tomatoes, greens, peppers, onions, and hummus. Add some sweet potato tater tots, and that’s a pretty hearty meal.
I skipped out on posting yesterday, as our moving truck arrives tomorrow and I found myself too buried in packing duties to think of anything else. Moving is stressful, no doubt. Today is going to be a doozy as well, and I’m fully expecting that by the time the late hours hit, my organizational motivation will have disintegrated leaving me with at least a half a dozen boxes sloppily labeled “Miscellaneous.” Historically, at the eleventh hour of moving, I’ve been known to turn my frustration into generosity, and I am already eye-balling even more things to donate to charity. At least Calista is enjoying the opportunity to roost atop the towers like the queenly cat she is.
Seriously, look at that mug! A beauty!
I’m in the midst of moving, as evidenced by the towering bins and boxes and all manner of packing material strewn about. I’ve only recently started listening to podcasts, excluding the occasional NPR. Every morning I try to do a quick news browse (usually via the Guardian app on my phone or my twitter feed), save a few stories and longer pieces to my Instapaper for later reading, and set about my day. I don’t have a lot of time to dawdle in the mornings, but my mornings aren’t exactly strenuous. Are they demanding? Sure, in the sense that I must make time for some heavy duty play, get breakfast together for everyone, and do some yoga for my back. Okay, my mornings are pretty great (arthritis pain notwithstanding), but I do miss catching up on news and entertainment, which is why I’m falling for podcasts. Especially right now, as finding a moment to read is seemingly impossible.
As far as vegan podcasts, I’ve been making my way through the archives of the Food for Thought Podcast and Our Hen House. I would love more recommendations! What are your favorite podcasts? They don’t have to just be vegan focused, although please do share those!
I would also like to mention that I have an affiliate link in the side bar over there —>
It’s Vegan Cuts, which I have blogged about before, a vegan marketplace with wonderful discounts and a great variety of products. If you purchase something using the link, I get a small kick back. This isn’t a for-profit blog. It’s a hobby, and I have never wanted to fill my side bars with advertisements and sponsors, but this seemed like a reasonable opportunity to promote a company I actually use and that I think deserves exposure, while possibly making a few bucks for myself.
As well as a market place full of goodies, they offer a monthly subscription snack box, which I don’t get (yet), and a subscription beauty box. I’ve received the first two, July and August, and it is such an incredible value. I would say that about 80% of the products that come in the box have been right in my wheel house of things I would want to try or buy, and the other 20% have been more the kind of things my much girlier daughter has loved (example: pinky-coral full-sized LVX nail polish, not my thing, but Miette sure did squeal with delight when I decided it could be her new pedicure polish). The variety is great, and I have integrated a few things into my daily routine already, such as the Relogy Targeted Spot Treatment, the Schmidt’s Bergamot Lime Deodorant, and the Lippy Girl Extra Virgin Lip Gloss. At the moment, we are running a pretty tight budget, so I’ve decided that this is my monthly “treat.” The days running up to its arrival, I can be found panting like an excited dog waiting by the mail box. If you are into discovering new products (all vegan and cruelty free, of course), this should be on your radar.
When I look back at the way I fed my daughter when she was younger, I shudder. I knew very little about nutrition and she was very picky, preferring to graze on all foods beige. She was a crackers and applesauce kid through and through, and while there isn’t anything inherently wrong with the occasional fruit and carb-filled snack, we wanted to start Cia on a rainbow of healthy, fresh foods. As an aside, it took years and many tears, mine and hers, for us to get Miette on a healthier track. Perhaps that should be a topic for a future post?
This time around, I was far more prepared. I had my blender, which funnily enough I justified purchasing when Casey and I decided we were going to try to have a baby (“If I get pregnant, I will need to eat lots of greens; our blender can’t even handle a rib of kale!”), and I had obsessively poured over dozens of books on vegan nutrition*. Even with all of this, once my darling little baby got to eating, he developed a hefty preference for self-feeding. In other words, all those purees that had been carefully planned and so well balanced were fast becoming obsolete. His spoon skills are not as developed as his appetite, so I had been scrambling to come up with a good variety of finger foods. We are finally hitting our rhythm with the menu and his burgeoning skill sets (and teeth!), so this seems like the perfect time to share some of Ciaran’s favorite finger food snacks and meals.
A little extra prep work is really worth the effort here, as being able to throw together something quickly can be the difference between a happy kiddo and total meltdown. We’ve taken to making large batches of black, white, pinto, and adzuki beans in our crock pot and freezing them in one cup portions and thawing them out as needed. Same goes for chickpeas. Frozen organic peas, edamame, and corn can all be thawed and kept in the fridge. If you make tofu or tempeh, cook up some extra to keep on hand.
Cia likes a good mix; above he is munching on leftover tofu, edamame, peas, corn, fresh red peppers, and bananas. Another of Ciaran’s favorite all-finger food meals is what I like to call “The Deconstructed Burrito” which consists of beans, rice (if I have some leftover, he is not the biggest fan of rice, so sometimes I skip this), fresh chopped tomatoes, romaine lettuce (the inner part can be quite crunchy and satisfying, it turns out, making it a better choice than other greens), and avocado.
When I don’t get around to prep cooking, sometimes I will make him a Hilary’s Eat Well Adzuki Bean Burger. Their ingredients are reassuringly wholesome and they can be cooked in a toaster. I just cut them into bite-sized pieces and Ciaran devours them. Another favorite is kale chips. While I have in the past taken the time to make my own in the dehydrator, in this 2 kid household I haven’t managed to get around to it lately. There is a local company called Patrick’s Raw Vegan Creations that makes a great “Tangy Cheeze” kale chip with nutritional yeast, which boosts his B-12.
When feeding him finger foods, I still try to keep it balanced, even small snacks. There are so many fruits that are obvious choices for finger foods because of ease, but I like to keep them to minimum and offer them along side more substantial and less sweet foods. It’s not uncommon for me to cut up half an apple and serve it along side chickpeas. Black beans and bananas also seem to pair well. If I’m feeding him a high-sugar fruit, I try to make sure there is something with plenty of protein to keep his energy steady. And sometimes, when it comes to family meals, we get pretty liberal about our definition of finger food.
This is Chorizo-style Tofurky with kale and sweet potatoes, served on top of polenta. We tried spoon-feeding Cia, and he began to get extraordinarily frustrated. You can see the results when we just let him have at it on his terms.
*My favorites are Becoming Vegan and The Vegan Pregnancy Survival Guide, the former for its thoroughness, the latter because its format is brilliant as a sort of quick guide for finding foods for specific nutritional needs.
I’m wrapping up my week, and planning on spending my weekend knee-deep in boxes, firing off Craigslist ads to get rid of unwanted furniture, and hauling stuff off to charities. We are indeed downsizing. Casey innocently asked, “What size truck do we need? 10 foot, 14 foot or–,” and I quickly snapped, “If it won’t fit in 14 feet of truck, we can’t have it!” Luckily, he liked my resolve as we’ve both been feeling rather suffocated by possessions in the last year or two.
While I am pretty happy that I have thus far managed to post everyday I’ve planned to so far, I’m going to have to admit that I haven’t made it anywhere close to visiting all of the blogs on the MoFo roll. Even so, here are some highlights from what I have seen. Please leave links to your own blogs and/or favorite recipes in the comments so I can go check ’em out!
Windy City Vegan – Buckwheat Cornmeal Pear Pancakes Casey had developed superior brunch-cooking skills, and buckwheat pancakes are on the top of his list. I’m pretty excited to kick this recipe his way and sit back while he does all the work. The addition of cornmeal and pears makes this seem incredibly early-fall appropriate, and we may have to make this part of our first official family breakfast up North.
Oh She Glows – Sugar-Free Apple Pie Chia Seed Jam and Breakfast Parfait Sticking with breakfast, this parfait over at Oh She Glows looks pretty great. Her chia jam recipe is a little different from mine; I’ll be posting mine later this month. I’m most excited to try the overnight oats. Miette would probably love to construct these with me and take them in her lunch or eat them on the way to school.
The Vegan Kitchen of Dr. Caligari – Azuki Bean Paste Filled Cupcakes with Green Tea and Caramel Frosting WHAT!?! No, really. WHAT!?! These cupcakes sound completely ridiculous/crazy/delicious/creative/fun. Miette (and I) both really love Sailor Moon, this gets me thinking we should have a theme dinner with lots of great Japanese foods, featuring these as dessert. Sailor Moon Says!
The Kitchen Operas – Kale and Garlic Scape Hummus Lindsay at Kitchen Operas is doing an entire month of hummus! Hummus was one of Ciaran’s earliest foods, and one he still loves, especially when it is extra garlicky. I’m also a fan of adding extra greens, kale sitting at the top of that list, whenever I can. This might be the new staple hummus recipe around these parts.
Carrie on Vegan – Portabello Pizzas Miette is the picky one, but if you call it a pizza, she will eat it. She also happens to love mushrooms. I could see these being a regular weekly meal, and if they taste good cold, making their way into the lunch box, too.
Hot Vegan Chick…Peas! – Puppeh Edition I don’t know if you all know this, but even though I am definitely a cat person, in that I might actually believe that I can’t make it through life without a glorious feline beast by my side and I feel lost when I go too long without hearing and feeling a faint contented purr, I love dogs. And I have missed having dogs so much, but my life just hasn’t been stable enough for such a creature. Up North, I have a beautiful Boxer for a Fur-Nephew, and while he already totally adores me, I have some extra flour I want to use up before leaving, so he is definitely getting a batch or two of these dog biscuits.
I would like to take a minute to say that the images above are not mine, which should be fairly obvious, as links to their creators follow each one respectively. But just in case, if you share these recipes/photos, please give credit to the original sources, not me. Food blogging and photography are hard work, y’all! Also, if I’ve posted something of yours, and you would like it to not appear on this blog, please just contact me. I usually don’t post other people’s content, but for the sake of MoFo linking, I think the photos speak louder than text :)
Happy Weekend everyone!
It’s been a long day full of travel, visiting a new school, and dealing with the fussiest of toddlers, so this is going to be short and sweet tonight.
A couple of years ago, we built my mother in law a cedar garden box, just like the one I wrote about here and here. This year, she and my sister in law had the brilliant notion to attach some casters to it, so it could be moved in and out of the sun as needed. I also love how it can turn the driveway into a functional part of the garden, but be pushed aside easily when more parking is needed.
And since I am pulling from my cell phone for photos tonight anyway, here is one of my all-time favorite combinations for a quick and healthy lunch/snack: French breakfast radishes (THE BEST RADISHES), carrots, kalamata olives, garlic stuffed olives, and a generous scoop of hummus. I also like this combo thrown on top of greens with a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
I’m off to catch up on all those delicious MoFo posts popping up in my feed, read a little MaddAddam (It arrived today, Yay!), and snooze. Hope everyone is having a great night!
I have long wanted to be the kind of person that makes their own fresh nut milks on a regular schedule. Or at all. There is something seemingly wholesome and quaint about it, although I may have built up a bit of an unrealistic vision of how it would go: a pastoral setting just after dawn, my hair in braids and and a scarf, my body draped in layers of comfortable linen as the sun shines down just beginning to burn off the early morning dew. A simple rustic log for a table, a bright orange electrical extension cord, the strong whir of a Vitamix on max. I kid. Truth is, somewhere between buying nuts and getting around to soaking nuts, the nuts disappear. My family? Squirrels, I tell you. Add the fact that we are still introducing foods to Ciaran, and nut milk just doesn’t seem to fit in our lives very well at the moment. Which got me thinking about that giant bag of GF oats sitting in my pantry.
I wanted something rich in protein and fats, naturally sweetened, quick to make, and of course, it had to taste good because what’s the point if it doesn’t pass muster with the wee palates? The results of my experiment? Creamy, flavorful oat milk that Miette excitedly declared, “The best milk ever made for cereal.” I would like to add that it is pretty spectacular in smoothies as well, and Cia was quite happy to throw it back in a sippy cup.
Ingredients (makes 2 quarts):
2 cups rolled oats, soaked for twenty minutes (I use Bob’s Red Mill Certified GF Oats)
1/2 cup hemp seeds
1/4 cup coconut butter (not oil! I use Coconut Manna by Nutiva)
6 dates, pitted
1/2 teaspoon salt
Recommended Special Equipment: Nut Milk Bag & High Speed Blender
Soak oats for twenty minute, then drain and add to blender. Fill blender to top with filtered water and process until smooth.
Now the gross part, or the fun part if you are into wet, squishy tactile sensations. I used a two quart mason jar with a canning funnel on top and poured part of the oat mix into the nut milk bag. My set-up looked like this:
Then I squeezed the liquid through the bag, stopping when it started to get a little bit slimy. I dumped my pulp into a separate dish and did the whole process over again, until the blender was empty. Next, pour your oat milk back into your blender and add the remainder of the ingredients. Blend until smooth. Store in a tightly sealed jar for up to 4-5 days. It will separate, so be sure to give it a good shake before consuming.
This milk tastes a little sweet and a touch grassy, which I attribute to the uncooked oats. I personally really like the freshness it imparts, but if you doubt you would enjoy such a flavor, you could cook your oats instead of soaking them. If you don’t have a nut milk bag, cheesecloth or even a semi-fine strainer would likely do the trick. Somethings I plan on trying in the future include adding cacao powder to make chocolate milk, and blending it with fruit and freezing it to make creamy popsicles. I’ve also got a theory that an unsweetened version might make a killer base for a mac and cheese recipe. If you try it in a recipe, let me know how it goes in the comments!
I decided to wait until after the holiday to get my MoFo going this year. I had themed days planned and intentions of featuring recipes and tutorials for some of my fancier kitchen equipment. And guess what? Life happens, and this month is going to be a little more chaotic around here. The short story: I had an allergic reaction to my arthritis medication, wound up in the E.R., and basically can’t continue working until I get my pain under control. Because life with two children can cause a lot of wear and tear on even the healthiest of mothers, we’ve decided to move North towards Chicago to be near family and get ourselves sorted. This is happening now, as in this month. I am still going to try to post very frequently, and do my best to stick with a few themed days.
Mondays – Vegan Babies and Kiddos! Expect to find baby food recipes, snack ideas, and at the end of the month I will be hosting a give away for Super Baby Food.
Tuesdays – Media! I’ll be sharing more cookbook reviews, as well as some of my favorite podcasts and ebooks.
Wednesdays – ???! This was going to be “How to Use that Fancy Equipment” but since my kitchen and equipment are going to be packed up and shipped off, I’m not sure that is really feasible. Let’s make Wednesdays just general original recipes? I may be pulling from some unseasonal posts I stashed away, like strawberry-rhubarb chia jam, but I will try to make some suggestions for seasonably appropriate modifications.
Thursdays – Miscellaneous! Since I will be leaving Champaign-Urbana, I thought it might be nice to highlight some of my favorite local dishes and restaurants again–this is, after all, how my blog began. I think we are planning on going to Chicago VeganMania mid month, so that may come up, as well adventures in finding vegan food in the ‘burbs. Casey and I are expecting to spend weekends in Chicago for farmers markets, food co-ops, and vegan restaurants. What I am saying is, I don’t know what Thursday will be about; it’s a day of discovery!
Fridays – MoFo Love! Fridays I’ll be sharing links to my favorite MoFo posts of the previous week. I’m looking forward to making new friends and finding new blogs to follow.
Today is Tuesday, so it’s Media Day. It also happens to be the release date of Margaret Atwood’s new book MaddAddam, the last book of a trilogy that has greatly influenced my life. What does any of this have to do with vegan food, you ask? Nothing. And Everything! Reading and writing have always been at the center of my life. It’s not uncommon for a piece of literature to hit me fast and hard, shake my core and influence my reality. A few years ago, I finally got around to reading the first book of the trilogy, Oryx and Crake.
It’s masterful speculative fiction: it takes on climate change, genetic engineering, food production, inequality, and abusive corporate entities. Atwood weaves a tale of global destruction that seems highly plausible, with elements of the fantastical. I’m not going to give a full review, and I don’t want to spoil anything for those of you who haven’t read it, but it features a group of vegans (well, “beegans,” as they do keep bees in their roof-top gardens) called “God’s Gardeners.” The parallels between the real world and this fictitious one were frightening, and sent me on a long journey of researching food production, environmental practices, and yes, veganism. Like only the best fiction can do, Oryx and Crake shook the apathy out of me and caused me to reevaluate my convictions, to rethink the world I want to live in and focus on how my behavior contributes to that world. Highly recommended reading!
Is there anything in particular any of you would like me to cover this month? Feel free to leave suggestions in the comments section!
I wasn’t a big fan of stone fruits growing up, and who could blame me given that my exposure had been limited to canned yellow cling peaches in heavy syrup. But last year, I tried fresh nectarines from the farmers’ market for the first time. WOW! I had been missing out! I’ve since expanded my stone-fruit palate, and I can say without a doubt, that plums and pluots are THEE fruit of this summer for me. So, lucky me when a cooler started acting up at work (I’m now a part-time baker at the local food co-op) and I was granted a boon of these luscious fruits.
This recipe makes use of an Excalibur dehydrator, but I’m sure you could use an oven on low to get reasonably similar results. I’ve never made fruit leathers in an oven, so if you do try this recipe, feel free to leave a comment about the time/temperature you used and how they turned out.
1 pound (roughly) of various plums and/or pluots (I cut up enough to fill the vitamin to the top)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
dash of ground clove
2/3 cup of unsweetened shredded coconut
Add fruit, vanilla extract, and spices to high speed blender, and blend until smooth. Add shredded coconut, and blend until mixed. Cover your dehydrator trays with a dehydrator sheet (like these). Use 1/3 of a cup of the mix for each roll, pouring much like you would for a pancake; each tray fits four. Using an offset spatula, spread your pancake out into an oblong shape (they roll up rather elegantly this way).
Dehydrate at 105 degrees for 8-12 hours, until they are no longer sticky and easily peel off. I did mine overnight; they were perfect after about 10 hours. Roll up and store in an airtight container. Makes about 15-20 rolls.
Everyone in my family–baby, picky child, and adults–loved these. They are a little tart, a little sweet, and very toothsome. I’ve had to ration them out or they would have all been devoured within a day.
In other news, Vegan Month of Food is starting in September, and I will be attempting to post 5 days a week! I’m really excited about it being bumped up a month as there will be a lot more on offer at the farmers’ market (not that I don’t love posting tons of winter squash recipes, but variety is nice). I’ll be focusing on gluten-free and whole foods, some vegan baby food recipes and tips, and updating my cookbook reviews. Any specific content you would like to see? Leave a comment and I’ll see what I can do!
This summer has been bittersweet and full of sweeping change. Casey and I have both put school on hold and are now employed. Miette is a full-blown bookworm, reading anywhere from 5-20 books a week depending on size, in both English and Spanish. Watching her transformation from inquisitive kindergartener, just starting to sound out words and read basic sentences, into devoted and disciplined devourer of non-fiction and picture books, and most recently entering the world of novels, has been so heartwarming, but also a reminder that she is growing up so rapidly. The ability to read and a desire to learn means that nothing is off-limits; she can explore anything in this world. She has the tools and the drive, and that is at once humbling, inspiring, and a touch scary. Ciaran is a lively little spark plug, sporting his dimple-cheeked grin more often than not. He’s wild and mischievous and gregarious, whereas baby Miette was meticulous and sensitive with a heightened sense of empathy (qualities she still possesses). Parenting him has required a degree of athleticism and endurance that I was not expecting. So, now that you’ve had a bit of catch up, I’ll let you know that I’ve been debating this post for a while, because it feels so deeply personal to my family, but I think it is worth sharing, as I feel that being open about grief is an important part of not letting it have too negative an impact on one’s life. This deals with animal death and euthanasia, so if you find such things difficult to read about, please feel free to skip this post.
One of the biggest changes for our family came when our beloved Mo Vox experienced a sharp decline in health. She had been suffering from a degenerative neurological disorder for a few years, and there was no course of treatment. She began having seizures, and I will spare you the gory details, but we decided that the responsible thing to do was end her suffering (a very difficult decision, one that we wrestled with for quite some time).
This wasn’t the first time we had discussed death with Miette, but it was the first time that it had a personal impact on her life. Casey and I debated what was best: should we include Miette or take Mo to the vet while she was at school? Ultimately, we decided that we would be crushed if Miette had wanted to say good-bye and we had deprived her of that opportunity. We picked her up early from school, and when we told her that we would need to euthanize Mo, she immediately asked where she was. I felt relieved that we had made the right choice, even though it was so difficult. We talked about how special it was that we got to have Mo in our lives, and how important it was that we make responsible decisions about her life and health, that that was our duty to her. And we talked about how, in spite of all the pain, we were really lucky that we had the opportunity to say goodbye and be present to comfort her. Miette, through sobs, asked me if I felt as sad as she felt when my mother died. I told her I did, that feeling sadness was part of the process of grieving but it is also a reminder of the fullness we can feel in our hearts for our friends and family, of our capacity for love and caring. I want to share some of the photos from that day, because I find them to be some of the most simultaneously life-affirming and heartrending images of the depth of love and friendship we can feel for our animal companions.
We gave our heavy hearts some time to heal and settle into life after Mo, but we knew that we wanted to open our home to a shelter cat as soon as we all felt able. A few weeks ago we made a trip to the local shelter and after looking at nearly every cat in the place, we found ourselves smitten by the sweetness of one fluffy black and white beauty.
Her name is Calista, she is seven years old, and she was brought to the shelter because her previous “owner” had passed away. She was suffering from heart worms and intestinal parasites (now rectified), and has a bad case of gingivitis. She’s playful, full of purrs, gentle, and tolerant of the baby. She sleeps in the napkin basket on our dining room table, and since she looked so comfortable and at ease, I couldn’t possibly reprimand her, so now the napkins live elsewhere and we eat our breakfast with this beautiful beast snoozing lazily beside us. We are falling in love and becoming family. We are really excited to share our home with Calista Lou (I added the “Lou,” just like I added the “Vox” to Mo’s name). When I told a good friend of mine the circumstances that led to Miss Calista Lou finding her way to the shelter, she said, “You’re meant for each other.” I think we all agree.