Friday, April 28, 2006

Cooking With Veggie Kids

This has been a long week and, for me, its not over yet. I've still got to teach 3 classes in a row today (45 minute strength training, 45 minute cardio, 45 minute cardio with 15 minute strength training.) I'm also teaching two back to back intro to Pilates and Yoga classes to a group of Girl Scouts on Saturday. If you're curious, the early part of the week didn't look much better.

I don't usually teach that many classes but every once in a while I wind up with a week like this. On these weeks, I rely on my daughters to pitch in with meal prep and sometimes some cooking as well. Last night was a prime example. By the time I was done helping the boys with homework, I had to run right out the door to teach a class. Either the girls made dinner or we wouldn't be eating before 7:30pm. (For those of you who wonder where Jim is in this cooking equation, lets just say cooking is not his forte. The last time Jim cooked a meal by himself was in 1992. The end result involved melted plastic in the oven. He's great at an amazing number of things, just not cooking.)

When the girls cook solo, we opt for a tried and true recipe. Last night they made Mac UnCheese with broccoli and carrots. I like the way they divided the task up. One put up the water to boil and set up the uncheese sauce for the pasta while the other washed and chopped the vegetables. I don't think they realize they've discovered the secret to getting a meal on the table with all components being done at about the same time. For them its more about hanging out and joking to make the job go more quickly.

I think its incredibly important to teach our kids to cook. Cooking is such a vital part of not only a frugal life but a healthy life as well. In this time of prepackaged, non-nutritive, high sodium junk food; cooking from scratch can be your key to good health. Here's a little tip, the food industry is big business and is interested in making money. Your good or bad health as a result of their products is not their concern. If you're not sure about that, check out Supersize Me or Fast Food Nation.

For my sons, who are only 5 & 6, cooking means stirring a bit, kneading a bit, or even just taste testing a recipe. This is how my daughters started out and you can see how much far they've come. There's nothing cooler than a child serving out something and being able to say, "I made that."

This afternoon, the boys and I will be experimenting with some cereal recipes that we discovered in The Vegetarian Mother's Cookbook. The best part of vegan cooking with kids is, I never have to worry about them licking a spoon. There's no salmonella lurking in my kitchen!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Two Recipe Finds & What I Made for Dinner Last Night

I just bought whole wheat couscous with my last food coop order. Today Christiane posted a recipe for Breakfast Couscous on the Vegetarian Group. Check out the link for the recipe and a beautiful picture. Veganize it by using the non-dairy milk of your choice.

Another recipe find comes from The Vegan Lunchbox. Jennifer gave a link for Polly's Perfect Blueberry Pie, a no roll pie crust blueberry pie recipe. DOn't skip reading Jennifer's post about the recipe. She gives some great tips on using frozen blueberries. As with the couscous recipe, veganizing this one is a snap.

Last night I made pasta topped with onions, garlic, carrots, broccoli, diced tomatoes and tvp. To make the TVP, I started with the broth that was leftover from making seitan this weekend.

I heated the broth to boiling and added enough tvp to absorb it. I added 2 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp basil and a drop of toasted sesame oil and mixed it all up. I spread the mixture in an even layer over two cookie sheets and put it in a 400 degree oven. The goal is to get it to brown not burn so keep an eye on it. After a few minutes, sorry I didn't time this, use a pancake turner to mix this around and get the unbrowned tvp to the top.

While the tvp was cooking I browned the onion, carrots and garlic. I added the broccoli stems first and let them cook until they were bright green. Then I added the broccoli florets, covered the pot and let them get bright green. This only takes a few minutes. A pot with a clear lid is so useful!

Finally, I tossed in the tvp and the diced tomato, gave the whole thing a stir and served it on top of whole wheat penne. It was delicious!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Vegan Cream of Tomato Soup (aka Healthier Cream of Tomato Soup)

Last night it did get chilly. I wanted a yummy soup to go with our veggie burgers and fries but I didn't feel like chopping veggies. I knew I had diced tomatoes in juice so I decided to give Cream of Tomato soup a try. Normally I use Amy Dacyzyn's recipe from The Complete Tightwad Gazette but that calls for tomato paste and I only had the diced tomatoes. Time for a little experimentation.

Warning, the recipe that follows is a very loose one. You may find you want to add a bit more tomato if its not tomatoey enough for you. Its perfect for those of you who like to tinker in the kitchen. Those of you who like to follow a strict recipe might be dissapointed with this one. This made enough for dinner last night and lunches today so you may want to halve the recipe if you're not cooking for a crowd.

I put 2 cups of bulgur into a dry pot with a heavy bottom over medium/high heat. (You need to stir this frequently to prevent burning.) While that was toasting, I put 4 cups of diced tomatoes, drained, into my Vita-Mix and pureed them until smooth. Once the bulgur had browned a bit and began to smell nutty, I poured in about 1 cup of water and 1 cup of juice from the diced tomato can. Once the bulgur had absorbed most of the liquid, I added the diced tomato puree, about 6 cups of plain soymilk, 2 tsp celery seed and 1 tsp seasoned salt. I stirred it all together and let it simmer over low/medium until the bulgur was tender. Don't let the soymilk boil or it gets disgusting.

Another option would be to cook the bulgur seperately. In that case you'd just mix the tomato puree, soymilk, celery seed and seasoned salt in with the cooked bulgur and just heat through.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Guess Where I'm Typing This From??

I am typing this post from my new room! I think my secret for success in a project like this is that I realize, sometimes you just have to dive in and get started. There rarely is a perfect moment to start anything around here. Ultimately, I'd love to have a solid block of time to bring the project start to finish with few interuptions. Being a mother of four, this is not likely to happen.

Instead, I get everybody into the act. The girls helped move furniture and the boys helped move food into the new pantry. Even poor Jim got in the act. He walked in the door last night and was handed a drill so he could reassemble my craft table. Slowly the room where we piled everything is getting cleared out.

Last night we gave tempeh a try in Tempeh-Herb Sandwiches from the Compassionate Cook. It was the first time we actually enjoyed tempeh.

Today was food pick up from our food coop. I've got bags of lentils, black beans, rye flour and more to put away. Dinner tonight is a bit of a treat. I rarely buy premade veggie burgers but my families' favorite are Soyboy Okara Burgers. They were on sale this month so I broke down and bought a case. We'll be having the burgers with oven roasted French Fries and Carrots. The temperature has begun to drop in NY so there may be soup on the menu as well.

Monday, April 24, 2006

The Last Room is Painted

The final room to be painted, has been painted. Since it rained all weekend in NY we dragged the dehumidifier into the room to help speed the drying process. It worked like a charm. The boys help me concoct the color for the walls using several cans of leftover laytex paint. The room is now a beautiful shade of lavender.

Here's a space saving tip, put leftover paint for a particular room in the smallest jar it will fit in rather than keeping it in a bulky paint can. From painting the two rooms, we had enough leftover paint from each to fill a quart glass jars. They take up less space to store and you can see the color. Although, labeling the paint jar really takes the guesswork out if you do need to touch things up.

Knowing that we'd be busy with this project, we used the crock pot to make sure a hot meal was waiting for us at dinnertime. Breakfasts and lunches were equally simple. We stuck to oatmeal and almond butter and jelly sandwiches. Everyone has come to recognize that meals will be much simpler on days where we need to acomplish things and that helps a lot.

Tasha pitched in on Saturday and helped me make the Jerk Seitan recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance. She did most of the work, I just provided support as I ran back and forth sorting miscellaneous piles of junk that have resulted from all the room moving. It was a delicious treat.

Today's activities will revolve around getting my room set up. Tonight's dinner will reflect this. I'm planning on using the leftover bean dish that I made in the crockpot as the base for tonight's dinner.

Friday, April 21, 2006

A Simple & Successful Breakfast and Dessert

Yesterday, I made some fancy oatmeal for breakfast. It was a big hit with everyone. Here's the recipe:

In a microwave safe bowl combine:
1/2 cup uncooked oatmeal
1 Tbs flaxseed meal
1 Tbs sunflower seeds

Pour in:
soymilk (We made some with vanilla and some with plain but both tasted good. As for how much soymilk to use, this is a personal choice. My kids like it with varying amounts. You need to put in at least enough to cover the oatmeal mixture completely.)

Sprinkle cinnamon over the top and microwave for about 1 - 1 1/2 minutes. You can always add more soymilk now if it seems to dry.

The dessert was a strawberry ice cream that took about 3 minutes to make. I used my Vita-Mix but i'd imagine another high powered blender would work as well. Here's the recipe:

Place the following in a blender:
1 1/2 cups soymilk (we used a mixture of plain and vanilla)
3 unsulphured dried pinappple rings

Blend until pineapple is ground up. In retrospect I think I should have soaked the pineapple to make this easier on my blender. It also would have given me a smoother, less gritty end product.

1 10 oz bag of frozen organic strawberries
1 Tbs vanilla sugar

Blend until combined. If using a Vita-Mix, use the tamper to press food into blades. For other machines, turn off blender, scrape down sides and blend a little more. That's it, just serve and eat. The result was delicious!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Gardening & Foraging Notes

Yesterday, Tasha and I rounded up the containers for the garden and started remixing the soil in them. We emptied about 1/2 of each container into a larger container. Kyle helped us crumble in some dried up leaves from the back yard while I was on worm compost harvesting duty.

Harvesting worm compost from the outdoor bin is easy because it is divided into two sections. When there is nothing for the worms to eat on one side, they migrate to the other where new food awaits them. Its easy to get the compost out because you don't really have to be on the lookout for worms.

In our over the winter worm bin, an old cooler, there is no such luxury. To harvest the compost you have to push everything to one side and wait for the worms to migrate away from the light. In short, its a pain in the tail but you can't beat the compost!

We also added some compost from our big compost heap but not too much. It really hasn't decomposed enough yet and there's way too much ash from the woodstove in it right now.

The soil in the containers is looking crumbly and ready to be planted. I love this time of year! My strawberry plants are coming back as well. This is especially exciting because these plants are the offspring of a lone strawberry plant. The strawberry plants were sold in a hanging bag. This sounded like a great concept except they got knocked off the wall repeatedly and eventually all died except for one puny one. I took the one plant and set in a container and despite the battering it had recieved, it even gave us a few strawberries. I never expected it to survive the winter.

On the food front, this is the time of year when you can start to pick the dandelion greens and they'll still be tender and not so bitter. Use common sense when harvesting. I don't pick ones where the dogs do their business or where the septic fields are. You get the idea. They make a nice addition to soups and tomato based sauces. If you're really organized about it you can have two buckets going, one for greens and one for blossoms, which besides being used to make wine, are edible as well.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Jim's Frugal Wine Making Experiments

Jim's been doing a little homemade winemaking over the last few months. His first batch, a quickie, ready to drink in two weeks recipe, was less than stellar tasting and strong enough to fuel a small city. Based on the recipe, we weren't surprised. Here's the recipe for anyone who's curious. I realize that it uses honey and therefore is not vegan. I think that's why I'm happy it was so lousy!

His second batch has been brewing (is that term used for wine or only for beer?) since December. This one is vegan and uses grape juice rather than honey as its base. I realize that any serious wine drinkers have just recoiled in horror but what can you do. I'm curious to see how it turns out. Here's the link for the recipe we used.

The latest twinkle in his eye revolves around all the dandelions popping up on our lawn. You guessed it, he's planning on making a batch of Dandelion Wine next. Here is a Dandelion Wine Recipe. We've found a few others in old cookbooks as well but the basic elements of the recipe remain the same. There does seem to be some debate about whether or not it is necessary to remove the green portions of the flower. Some say it lends bitterness to the wine.

BTW, we actually do have a fair amount of basic winemaking equipment that we got from our local ecycle group (it works like freecycle but is not connected with the freecycle organization.) Having the large fermenting pails and the airlocks definitely makes dabbling in wine making a lot easier. Craigslist would be another great place to check for equipment that people are looking to get rid of.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Home Canning

With the first buds of spring it may seem an odd time to talk about canning but if you've always wanted to learn more, now is the perfect time. The National Center for Home Food Preservation is offering a free, self paced homestudy course online.

I've just signed up for it and haven't actually started the course so I can't tell you much more about it yet. I learned about the course from a gardening list I belong to. BTW, when you sign up it asks for your social security number. You can email the person in charge and get an alternate number to use if you don't want to give your social security number out.

With tag sale season just getting under way its also the perfect time to be on the lookout for canning jars.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Miscellaneous Monday Thoughts & Updates

Its hard to believe the weekend is already over! We snuck up to the Adirondacks Friday night and enjoyed a beautiful weekend. The weather on Saturday was so perfect that we were able to get the yard all cleaned up. For those of you not familiar with pine trees, cleaning the yard entails raking up several inches of pine needles, so that the grass has a fighting chance to grow.

The best discovery of the weekend was the currant bushes I planted in the fall are budding! Click here and here for the back story on the currants. Its such a thrill/relief when something you plant starts to grow.

We were even able to put a top dressing of compost from the worm bin on each plant. I am really pleased with the way the worm bin has worked out. Its so much faster than regular composting.

I made a batch of vegan French Toast yesterday that's an amalgam of the recipes from the Compassionate Cook and The Vegetarian Mother's Cookbook. According to my kids, it was the best batch ever. Here's the recipe.

Katie's Vegan French Toast
Mix the following together in a shallow bowl:
3 heaping Tbs flaxseed meal
1 Tbs nutritional yeast
1 tsp cinnamon
dash of nutmeg
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups soymilk (I used plain but in retrospect I should have used vanilla and skipped the vanilla extract.)

Dip bread into mixture and coat both sides. Place on a hot, oiled griddle and let cook until it easily releases. Flip and do the same for the other side. I didn't time this precislely but it took about 5 minutes on each side. The result was a golden brown French toast with no added sugar that was tasty enough to not require syrup. That amount of batter was enough to make 8 slices.

Today its back to room moving with a top priority of cleaning out the boys' old room. Yuck! Dinner is destined to be made in the pressure cooker.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Bunkbed Adventures and Final Easter Basket Plans

The boys slept in their new room last night thanks to a great deal of help from their sisters. My neighbors got all the entertainment they could handle as they watched us pull the seperated bunkbeds out one bedroom window, walk along the deck and then shove them in the new bedroom window.

Of course it didn't go quite that smoothly and our cat, Milo, sitting on the deck rail rubbing on us and meowing as we hoisted the beds around didn't help. Milo just didn't understand the possible consequences of huge pieces of moving furniture and the 15 foot fall that he might endure as a result. Cats, they think they know everything!

There's still more cleaning to do and I still need to get Jim to run a phone line into my new room. We've agreed to take a break over the weekend and just relax. We'll continue our adventures in moving furniture on Monday.

I've gotten my Easter basket plans just about wrapped up. I liked Ruthie's idea about using graped in the chocolate/shredded wheat baskets but since I could only find organic grapes with pits, I opted for dried cranberries instead. My kids love them. This keeps with my goal of making it a healthier holiday. I really like combining foods in ways that makes it enjoyable but still healthful.

On a side note, I'm almost finished with Disease Proof Your Child; Feeding Kids Right by Dr Joel Furhman. Its a very interesting and informative book. He really does a wonderful job of making you concious of the foods you put in your body, your kids' bodies and the effects these foods have on overall health. When I'm done blogging, Kyle, Am and I will be making Date Nut Pop'Ems. We made this once before and I'm not certain what the boys enjoyed more, making them or eating them.

I was able to get frisbees for 99 cents each so I'll be using them in place of baskets. To do this, turn the frisbee upside down so its like a plate. Cut a paper bag into strips and fold the strips about 1/2 inch wide. (Its really up to you how thick you make these strips.) Have someone else hold the ends and braid three together to make a handle. Attach the handle to the underside of the frisbee (which is really the top of the frisbee) and fill with treats. There's no waste except for the handle and you don't have to store a basket for next year.

I'll be enjoying my family this weekend so there will be no posts this weekend. I'll be back with a new post Monday morning.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Vegan Peanut Butter Cups the Lazy Girl Way

I made these last night for the Easter Baskets. Take a mini muffin tin and line it with the little paper liners. If you don't have the liners skip this step and I'll tell you how to deal with it later.

Put a few pieces of chocolate into each cup. I used a 70% cocoa extra bittersweet chocolate but you might want to use a semi sweet chocolate instead. You want to put enough chocolate in so that once melted it will fill the cup about 1/3 of the way.

Cover the mini muffin tin with a second mini muffin tin and place both on top of a pot of boiling water. I suppose a sheet of foil would work here as well. Keep peeking but don't let the condensation drip into the melting chocolate. Once melted add a dollop, you choose how much, of peanut butter. It should sink into the chocolate a bit.

Break several more pieces of chocolate and place on top of each peanut butter dollop. Recover the muffin tin and let top layer of chocolate melt. You may need to use a toothpick to make sure the chocolate spreads out and covers the peanut butter completely.

Remove the mini muffin tin from pot and place on rack to cool. It should be uncovered. If you've used the paper liners just let cool and you're done. If you didn't, wait for the chocolate to firm up a bit and then run a toothpick around the outer edge of each peanut butter cup. Transfer the tray to the freezer and, once frozen, use a butter knife to pop the peanut butter cups out. Make no mistake, its much easier to use the paper liners.

I've seen other ways to do this like in the microwave and they all taste good but this way maximizes the number of peanut butter cups you can make at one time while minimizing the number of dirty pots.

Now I'm back to room moving. The painting is complete. The rug is clean, except for some ink marks where our puppy chewed up a pen. To get the ink out spray a little hairspray on the spot and blot with a dry cloth. Its tedious and time consuming but it works.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Easter Baskets and the Kids

I was really hoping to have my Easter plans wrapped up by today. I've got the ideas now but I still need to get everything together. I'm not the official cook this Easter so the plans I'm sharing revolve around the kids baskets. If you need meal ideas check out Animal-Friendly Easter Menu: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and Dessert from COK or Peta's Easter Cooking. I'm hoping to sneak out after work tomorrow for an hour and get a few supplies.

I like some of the ideas that Jennifer shared on the Vegan Lunchbox a few days ago. I especially like the one from veganmum. I'm planning to make some little nests like she describes out of shredded wheat, coconut and chocolate and fill them with a few vegan jelly beans or chocolate. We usually do one small gift to go along with the baskets but this year I'm a little stumped. In the past we've found that flip flops are perfect for this but the girls just bought flip flops last week. The boys will still get them but I think I might get sunglasses for the girls. I'm also considering skipping the baskets altogether and using frisbees to hold the chocolate nests instead.

No matter what, I'll be making some of Ruthie and Russell's Old Fashioned Vegan Fudge recipe. Thank you Ruthie for posting it!

Room Painting Update

I chickened out yesterday. When faced with a wall of seven zillion paint chips, I couldn't make a decision. The boys wanted green. I brought home some chips they picked and decided to get Jim's opinion before actually buying the paint. This morning we had picked out a color, although we were still waffling when Jim suggested we see what paint we already had in the house.

It turns out we had quite a bit. We were able to mix the paints together to make a beautiful shade of green for the boys' room! As a bonus, it looks like there's enough paint here to mix a shade of lavender for my new computer room as well. We didn't spend any money and that's a few less cans of paint that will wind up in a landfill down the road.

A word of caution on paint mixing, we only combined indoor laytex paints. I'm not certain if you could add oil based paint to the mix or not. Amy Dacyzyn discusses this in greater detail inThe Complete Tightwad Gazette if anyone is looking for more info.

The first coat of paint is up already. Its a beautiful breezy day in NY so once I'm done blogging, I'll be putting a second coat on. I'm hoping to have some of the furniture moved in tonight, although the boys won't move their beds in until tomorrow. I think when this painting/paint is done I'm going to explore some less toxic/stinky paint options.

I was able to get the rug steamed last night, except for the spot where the dresser was. That's been moved so I'll steam that spot later tonight as well. I'm psyched that things are falling into place with all this room swapping.

I had red beans cooking overnight in the slow cooker. This morning I added the rest of the ingredients. I'm modifying a spicy bean with chorizo recipe. I'm anxious to see how this recipe turns out. The original recipe called for chorizo but I'm substituting a recipe for vegan chorizo from Vegan with a Vengeance. I'll let you know.

I made a huge batch of Mac Uncheese last night. I added steamed broccoli and carrots as well. The leftovers made a fantastic quick lunch along with dried fruit (papaya, figs and apricots.)

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

A Soda Update

My daughter, Leen, has requested that I clarify her reasons for not drinking the soda that winds up in the garage. Its not that she forgets its there. She simply doesn't enjoy drinking soda because it makes her teeth hurt. It doesn't matter if its diet or regular, both make her teeth hurt. You just never know what will comeout of the mouth of a 13 year old.

Recycling Your Food

The point of yesterday's ramblings about food was, food from one meal can be recycled into a new meal with a little creativity. Its a great way to save time on a busy weekend or a hectic night.

Of course simply making a large amount of one food with the intention of using it at multiple meals works well also. For example, the leftover pasta dish became lunch yesterday and there was enough leftover Pasta Fagioli for us to have it as dinner last night. (It was a very hearty soup.) Not worrying about cooking allowed me to help the girls get their old room completely empty. Once empty it was clear the room desperately needs to be painted.

Jim spent this morning spackling the seven million thumbtack holes in the wall. I'm heading out to buy paint. By the way, if you're interested in my frugal perspective on paint, don't get cheap paint. In my experience cheap paint doesn't cover and it doeasn't hold up well to cleaning. Later today, I'll steam the rug in there. (Check out the March 13th post for more info on cleaners I use.) The plan is to jump up tomorrow morning and get the whole room painted before Jim goes to work.

Tonight, I'll be replenishing the quick grab food since there's no leftovers left. Knowing that I'll be busy all morning, I'll plan my lunch and dinner for tomorrow tonight. I anticipate lunch will be cooking in the slow cooker while dinner will probably make use of the pressure cooker. I'll also be tinkering with the banana bread recipe, seeing if I can get the liquid proportions right when I substitute blackstrap molasses for half of the sugar.

Tomorrow's post will be up after lunch because of the painting.

Monday, April 10, 2006

What a Weekend!

We were so busy this weekend that it barely felt like a weekend at all. The girls are sleeping in their new room, although their old room currently qualifies as a disaster area. By tonight the girls' old room will be empty, vacuumed and either ready for a paint job or ready for the boys to move in. I can't tell for sure. Thanks to some help from my father in law, the girls' new closet is finished as well.

The boys helped me plant the Jerusalem Artichokes yesterday. I'm wondering how they'll do because the bulbs didn't seem to be in the best shape. I have to wait a few days to plant the potatoes because they need to be exposed to light to encourage sprouting before they are planted.

Food was definitely not foremost in my mind this weekend. We started each day with a big breakfast; things like banana pancakes, potato scramble, breakfast patties made from whatever leftovers were in the fridge, banana strawberry smoothie, Russell's TVP breakfast style. Saturday's lunch was leftovers from the night before, cheered up with some tortilla chips and salsa. Dinner on Saturday was split pea soup, made in the pressure cooker, and served with the leftover tvp from breakfast. I also made potato biscuits (using leftover potato scramble from breakfast).

Lunch never quite happened on Sunday but we didn't eat breakfast until almost noon and no one really seemed to notice. By dinner time we were starving. We started with Pasta Fagioli from the Lorna Sass book made in the pressure cooker. I also made pasta with a quick chunky vegetable sauce and a little tvp (Russell's recipe again). Tvp is such a great quick protein source. I'm really loving the pressure cooker.

I'm no closer to having Easter baskets done but I'm kicking around some ideas. I'll be sharing them in Wednesday's post.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

What I'm Reading

I just picked up Disease Proof Your Child; Feeding Kids Right by Dr Joel Furhman from the library yesterday. I haven't had much time to read it yet but the few stolen peeks I've had seem very interesting. I also took out three Lorna Sass cookbooks, The New Vegan Cookbook, Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure, Lorna Sass' Complete Vegetarian Kitchen.

Kim asked for the Peanut Noodle recipe so here it is. I also added a link to it in the post from a few days ago.

Today we're moving the girls' loft beds (these are a great space saver) into their new room.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Tinkering with Sweeteners & a Garden Update

I've been tinkering around with recipes again, trying to decrease the amounts of sugar in them. I substituted blackstrap molasses for half of the sugar in my banana bread last night. It worked out very well in terms of sweetness, however, I forgot to adjust the amount of liquid in the recipe. As a result, its a bit gooey and needs to be toasted prior to serving. Overall, I'm very pleased. I'm fairly certain I can solve the liquid problems in the next batch. Once I've got a more reliable recipe, I'll post it. I like blackstrap molasses because its a good source of iron and calcium, two things vegans need.

The organic seed potatoes came in yesterday. Thanks to a wise gardener's input, I'll be planting them in two old garbage cans that have holes in the bottom. To see more about potato planting click here. I've also gotten Jerusalem Artichokes to plant as well. I'm told these will grow in containers but I'll be planting some in the ground as well.

We still belong to the CSA but each year I want to increase what I personally am growing. Our next trip to the Adirondacks should provide me with an update on the currant bushes that we planted in the fall. I've got my fingers crossed.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Teenage Snack Attack

Yesterday my daughter had a group project to work on. The result was about 11 teenagers at my house after school. I offered to make some muffins or peanut noodles or popcorn but none of these things met with my daughter's approval. Instead, she opted to give me $10 of her own money and a shopping list of snacks, with the instructions "get the biggest bag that's the cheapest."

She lucked out in the beverage department. Both sets of grandparents have taken to bringing over cases of soda when they visit. We let the kids have a can each and then put the rest in the garage. We just don't normally drink soda and the kids forget its there so they never ask for it. Leen was delighted to discover a full case of soda and an almost full case of Snapple.

I hate buying junk but I think this was important for two reasons. First, she had to decide to spend her own money and she'll have to work to earn more. She's got a big school trip coming up so the need for her to have cash is very real right now. Second, she's begun to recognize how crummy she feels after gorging on junk. Her misery provides me with an opportunity to remind her how much better she feels when she's eating healthy foods.

At the end of the evening, the snacks were demolished and only one friend was still waiting to be picked up. I had made peanut noodles and leftover soup for dinner and offered some to the friend. Turns out she loved the peanut noodles and insisted on finishing what was on her plate even though her mother was waiting in the car. Sometimes getting kids to take the first bite is the hardest part.

Did my daughter think it was worth the $10? I'm not sure but she certainly wasn't asking for more snacks last night. Actually, my daughters paid me a high compliment just this past weekend. After spending most of the weekend with their grandparents, they announced that they were "sick of pizza and veggie burgers" and wanted some of my "real food." I think that sums up how she felt last night. She was ready for some real food.

I've got some over ripe bananas so I'll be making some banana bread tonight and freezing the rest of the bananas. Remember to freeze things in useable portions, it makes life so much easier. If you know your banana bread recipe calls for two bananas, then freeze two bananas to a container. If it uses two bananas but you always make 2 loaves, freeze 4 bananas to a container.

Also on my to do list is to get moving on the kids' Easter baskets. Every year I swear I'm going to just order vegan chocolate from Pangea and I never do. I'll keep you updated on my progress.

Click here for a peek at how we handle Easter last year.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Saying Good Bye to the Saturn

This morning we sold our 1994 Saturn SL1. We bought it with 12 miles on it and as of this morning it had 232,491 miles on it. I think we got our money's worth. Did I mention that it still had its original clutch?!

Like so many decisions we make every day, the decision to sell came down to a simple matter of dollars and cents. While it has been downright convenient to have three cars (check out The Parable of the Spare Car for the back story) for the most part one of the cars just sat in the driveway.

Also, in the 10 months since we bought the spare car, Jim started carpooling to work. This, combined with the cost to insure an extra car, gave us ample reason to cut the third car free.

Some, like my 13 and 14 year old daughters, would argue that we should have kept the Saturn with the thought of giving it to our daughters to use when they got their licenses. Although it felt like the Saturn would run forever, I'm not sure the original clutch would hold up teaching not one but two new drivers on it!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

A Nifty Way to Defrost Dough

Today has been far too hectic. Here's a little timesaver that I just discovered while making a big pot of lentil stew with barley. (The temperature dropped way down in NY today and its definitely soup weather again.) I had pizza dough in the freezer that I wanted to defrost to make foccaccia or bread sticks to go with the stew but in the craziness of the day, I forgot to defrost it.

I greased a cookie sheet, put the blob of frozen dough in the center, covered it with a towel and placed the cookie sheet on top of the pot I was cooking the lentil stew in, leaving a space for the steam to vent from the pot. In other words, I used the cookie sheet as a pot lid. The results were wonderful. The dough defrosted in about 45 minutes while the soup was simmering.

A word of caution, if you try this make sure the towel is not hanging over the edge of the cookie sheet or use a pot lid instead of a towel.

Monday, April 03, 2006

A Lunch Box Treat

Some of my best creative work is the direct result of something I've screwed up. The lunch box treat is a good example. I got so involved with the room switching yesterday that I forgot I needed to make bread. There weren't a lot of leftovers so I needed a lunch that I could make quickly. This is a miserable realization at 7pm after losing an hour to daylight savings the night before. Here's my creative solution.

First, I made a basic whole wheat muffin recipe. I substituted oat flour for 1/2 of the whole wheat flour because I seem to have a lot of oatmeal in the house. I put a small scoop of the batter into greased muffin tins, followed by a small scoop of almond butter, then a bit of grape fruit spread and finally another scoop of batter. I baked these about 5 minutes longer than the muffin recipe called for.

The result was peanut butter and jelly muffins for lunch. The kids were all thrilled. I think in the future I'd use a little less oil in the muffin batter since the muffins seemed a little oily to me but no one else seemed to notice.

Hey, its not the Vegan Lunch Box but I try.

Saturday, April 01, 2006


Smoothies got discussed a bit in yesterday's comments and some recipes were shared. I thought others might be interested so I've decided to share our favorite smoothie recipe. Bear in mind that my blender is a Vitamix and holds about 8 cups, so you may want to cut things down for a regular blender.

I've found the secret to a great smoothie is over ripe bananas. They lend a mellow sweetness that can't be beat. Buy them on sale, let them get spotty and when you can stand it no more, peel and freeze them in whatever portion size is useful to you.

My Favorite Smoothie
4 frozen bananas
1/2 cup frozen strawberries (about four big ones)
Place these in the blender jar and fill half way with soymilk (I prefer plain but vanilla works also). Fill the rest of the way with water, making sure to leave enough room for the blender to froth up. Blend until its a combined frosty delight.

I've also used mixed berries and just blueberries instead of the strawberries but hands down, strawberries are the favorite. If I was making this as a solo breakfast I would use all soymilk and skip the water. Adding the water makes it a little lighter and more refreshing.

What's you're favorite smoothie recipe?