Monday, October 31, 2011

Vegan MoFo: Seriously, chik'n nuggets & fries (Laziness #5)

Okay, okay, first dinner. Let's just get it over with people. I had meant to put something in the crockpot this morning since I knew we weren't doing anything tonight, but it didn't happen. I went straight from work to taking the Emperor out trick-or-treating downtown to coming home starving and so after discussing our options (there's plenty of good food in the house, but most of it involves like, peeling and stuff), Josh trekked out to the grocery store to find us something really lazy for dinner. Which is how we ended up with this:

Last minute dinner

Mmmm, beige food.Oh well, it was food. Look! We ate food (for some values of food) 31 days in a row and now my MoFo blog will stand forever as proof of this!

Thanks again to everyone who read along and commented this year. I had so much fun. Maybe you've seen in comments, but in case you didn't... I'm going to *try* to blog a bit more in the eleven months between now and next MoFo. Not making any promises, but we'll see. It really was a blast this year.

What else was a blast: doing Halloween stuff with the Emperor. For my last MoFo post, you are going to get BONUS bonus pictures. (Some of them have food in them. It's on topic.)

Pirate at productOps

Emperor in his pirate costume. This is after he spent all day at preschool in the costume-- we were amazed by how un-terrible his white shirt was at the end of the day though Josh was still referring to him as Filthy the Filth Pirate.

Pirate time is winding down

Here he is telling me we need to go back out trick-or-treating. Me: "I think we're going to stay in the house and hand out treats now." Him: "I think" (cocks head to side) "we go more trick-or-treat? Do more trick-or-treat? I think so."

Pumpkin peering

He only actually got about seven pieces of candy (and one cool eraser shaped like an ambulance) during downtown trick-or-treating. Seven pieces... probably plenty for him. I had him pick one piece to eat right away and he chose this lollipop. I read somewhere that these are accidentally vegan, just going to show once again that vegan doesn't necessarily equal healthy. Though in this case, it does equal adorable.

What we handed out

Speaking of vegan, we handed out little bags of pretzels as our treat. I was a little worried we'd end up hearing a lot of kids whining about this but no one seemed upset about it and we gave out every last baggy. We had 94 trick-or-treaters by the time we ran out-- at 7 p.m. We really only had our light on about an hour. That's nuts.

The Emperor was falling over tired by the end of the night. I feel him... what a long (but fun! but LONG!) day. Here's a picture of him (in his second costume, pajamas) looking about how I feel at this point.

Costume #2

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Vegan MoFo: Baba ganoush, flat breads & friends (Laziness #4)

First things first, people: tomorrow is Halloween. And people with kids in (pre)school know what this means: sending in a treat to your kid's class. I wanted to make cake pops like the awesome ones on Hot Vegan Chickpeas that were at a recent bake sale in SC. But I wasn't sure if most other parents let their 2 year olds eat chocolate (even at Halloween) and also I couldn't find sticks, so instead I went with my backup idea instead:

Rice krispie pumpkins

Little rice krispie treat pumpkins made with Dandies. Mmm, Dandies. It's hard to tell the scale from the picture, but these are very small... between a marble and a golf ball. I figure they're about the right size for little people to eat them, and I made enough for each kid (and the teachers) to have 2. I'm not 100% in love with how they turned out but the Emperor flipped when he saw them and was like PUMPKINS PUMPKINS I WANT TO EAT THOSE PUMPKINS so they seem to be age appropriate.

Now on to actual food: so what is the laziest possible thing a person can eat? A meal someone else cooked. I consider the ultimate in lazy food to be food that Josh makes me. It really ought to be equivalent to takeout but... somehow it's better if it's him, and if I don't even have to go so far as to pick out what I want to eat off of a menu, ha ha. We got some lovely eggplants at the farmer's market on Wednesday, and Josh proposed making baba ganoush with them. Then he went one step further and made his own flatbreads.

Josh's flatbreads

Mmm, flat breads. These are a combo of mostly whole wheat flour with some bread flour mixed in, and a combo of herbs including rosemary, cumin, and fennel. Sounds weird, but it works, it really works.

Baba g & friends

And here's the rest of our dinner spread. Baba ganoush, some za'atar, carrot sticks and chopped cauliflower (cut off in the picture), and some locally made dolmas.

The Emperor ate some carrots while we were making the rest of dinner and then gorged himself silly on flat bread. He tried cauliflower ("dis is white broccoli?") but gave it back to me. Wouldn't try anything else on the table but oh well. He had carrots and bread, that's not so bad.

He painted a pumpkin this morning, by the way. (He's not quite at the carving level yet. He can't even use scissors yet.) Here is a picture of him when he got past the painting on the pumpkin part and well into the painting on himself part.

Pumpkin painting pumpkin

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Vegan MoFo: (vegan) Bacon'n'egg burgers (Laziness #3)

Sometimes I wonder if I tracked the quality of my days on a scale of 0 to 10, 0 being a really crummy day (yesterday was a 3 or a 4) and 10 being a really great day, what the average would be. I guess this is a nerdy thing to think about, but I really love quantifying things like that and playing with statistics. Anyway, today was so good, so freakin' close to perfect, that I think it must've bumped up my average for the past week quite a bit.

This morning, the Emperor and I walked to our favorite local grocery store (Staff of Life... my favorite by merit of having the best bulk bins, which I am crazy for), which is about 2 miles away from our house. We started out both walking, and I figured he would make me pick him up two blocks later and I'd carry him on my back in the Ergo... this is how it always goes. But no, he actually walked the entire way today. Well, he meandered the entire way. It did take us an entire hour to get there. Once there, we split a gigantic vegan chocolate chip cookie and a soy latte. (Okay, I didn't share my latte.) Here he is with the cookie:

Quite the cookie

I felt kinda like a super bad parent letting him have a cookie in the morning when I knew we were going to a party in the afternoon and he'd have more treats there. But, eh. Every now and again we go on these little coffee dates together, and they make me so ridiculously happy. He's not going to develop diabetes from having cookies twice in one day occasionally. Anyway, I mitigated the damage to him by forcing him to give me about half of the cookie, ha ha.

After our coffee date, we went grocery shopping, then I did carry him on my back on the way home. (He fell asleep. Envy!) Later we went to another toddler friend's birthday party, which was a ton of fun. His parents are so sweet and thoughtful... in the midst of all their party planning, they made sure to find some great vegan options (including sweet treats at cake time!!) even though we were the only vegans at the party. I'm really touched by that.

And they ALSO had a huge dressup box out for the party, as the little friend's birthday is on Halloween. The Emperor was not in to most of the costumes, hats, and wigs. But he WAS really into... get this... a big, sweeping imperial robe. Which I swear, he picked out himself. Here it is:

Looking imperial

He was very careful not to step on the hem of it and walked in a very slow, stately fashion wearing it. This pretty much made my life.

We stayed at the party and played basically until he was falling over from tiredness. Then we came home and I put together a pretty quick dinner. I wanted to make another burger out of Best Veggie Burgers on the Planet and have been considering the Bacon and Eggs Burgers since someone else posted about them in the PPK Challenge thread. I tweaked the recipe a little bit on her suggestions-- added some nutritional yeast, a bit of black salt, and somewhat more vegan baco bits, and some water to make it all stick together after those additions.

"bacon and eggs" burger

Doesn't really look like much, but they were quite good. We had them with a copious side of snap peas... I was going to make some sort of potato something for maximum diner-i-ness, but I'm glad I didn't. We would not have had room. As is, we only made it through about 2.5 burgers between the three of us.

The Emperor ate a TON of snap peas, before, during, and after the cooking process. He probably ate about a third cup raw, a third cup partially cooked, and a third cup cooked. Maybe more, I don't know. He also ate close to an entire half of a burger. This is the third or fourth time now that he's had snap peas and been really enamored of them... I'm delighted and hope it sticks. Today he told me he likes them because "I like to go CRUNCH CRUNCH! I want to CRUNCH CRUNCH snap peas!" And here he is crunch crunching:

Chewing chipmunk cheeks

Friday, October 28, 2011

Vegan MoFo: Bean & Rice Burritos (Laziness #2)

Okay, so look. I was going to cook something tonight. Really, I was. I was going to make chickpea nugglets, which are what you get if you take the chickpea cutlet dough from Veganomicon and shape them into nuggets instead of cutlets and then roll them in bread crumbs and bake them. That plus some swiss chard plus oh I don't know what else I was thinking of. It all seems so long ago now!

I got home with this plan in mind and discovered... that I had locked myself out. I was about an hour and a half later getting home than I usually am because I dragged my aching body (not been a great week for me physically) all around town running some mostly fruitless errands before heading home. But getting home an hour and a half early meant I was still home over an hour before Josh usually gets home. So I had two options: wait in the back yard, with nothing to do except think about how hungry/thirsty/tired/in need of a bathroom I was, ooooor get back up and walk back downtown.

At the end of the day, I'll almost always choose action over inaction (because I hate boredom more than I love laziness) so I got up and walked back downtown. So when I got there I was basically like I NEED FOOD OR I AM GOING TO COMBUST and J suggested we could go pick up the boy from preschool and then go get takeout.

Bean & rice burrito

Which is exactly what we did. We stopped at Planet Fresh Burrito in Santa Cruz, which is a place that I kind of really love. You can get a big vegan burrito for about $5... your choice of beans and rice and tortilla. (I always get black beans, brown rice, and whole wheat tortilla, personally.) And a side of house-made fresh tortilla chips. The best part? By default, there's no cheese or sour cream or anything on the burritos, so you don't have to spend five minutes telling the guys hold this, hold that. They have a couple of tasty vegan add-ons... guacamole and smoked tofu are the two that most often end up in my burrito. Oh, and they make their own fresh salsas... like six different flavors... which are self-serve, all you can guzzle from their salsa bar. I have a serious weakness for their smoky chipotle salsa and like to just drink it out of a little cup (really) while I eat my burrito.

I've been wanting one of their burritos for MONTHS but I only ever think of them on weekdays when I'm at work and can't easily bike down and get one on my lunch break. So it was nice to enjoy that treat that I had so pined for.

The Emperor used to love these burritos when he was first getting into solid foods ("black bean" and "tortilla" were two of his earliest words) but then he went through a phase where he absolutely wouldn't touch them. He was really in to talking about the burritos ahead of time tonight, and was telling me, "I want to eat a burrito. I want a burrito on my plate. I want Grey to eat a burrito. I want to eat a burrito with black beans, brown rice, and tortilla. And salsa. On my plate." He was really articulate about it. And you know? When I actually put burrito on his plate after all this talk? He ACTUALLY ATE everything except the salsa. Black beans, brown rice, and tortilla! And some shredded lettuce. Amazing.

Here he is in the car while we waited for Josh to get the burritos from the restaurant. He was insistent that we were going to go eat in the restaurant and I was insistent that we were going home to eat. He's making a good "whatever mom" face here.

Early evening in car

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Vegan MoFo: Tortilla chips & cheezy salsa sauce (Laziness #1)

Hi again! Like I said yesterday, I am still MoFoing these last few days even though the alphabet is over. I have to tell you that in my normal life, I usually make dinner about 5 days a week... then usually we eat out for a late lunch/early dinner on a weekend day and Josh makes something the other day or we eat whatever's lying around that requires very little effort. So cooking something requiring thought for 26 days in a row was a little intense for me.

So laziness dinner #1 is a really, really, really lazy dinner. Cut me a little slack guys, I needed a break.

Here's what I did, on a tip I picked up on the PPK or somewhere else on the internet:

Lazy dinner components

Take a container of Wayfare Foods Cheddar Spread, put it in a bowl. Mix it with slightly less salsa of your choosing. (Ours is a local brand which we first sampled from the hands of Mrs. A. herself. Sweet older ladies are always selling us stuff at the grocery store. It's a problem!) Not too much salsa, or it will get watery, which will defeat the point of even including the Wayfare stuff (which is mostly for texture). Mix together!

Eat with tortilla chips or, if you're less lazy than us, maybe some cut up veggies. (I was going to have celery but we're out of it. Out of celery! Yes really! And I could not bring myself to peel a carrot.)

It is not the most beautiful looking food but there's some appeal in that this looks so gross, it's got to be good kinda way:

Cheesy salsa dip

Josh and I were both happy to eat it. The Emperor wouldn't touch it. He had a Smart Dog instead (which he would live off if we let him, which we don't) and some plain tortilla chips instead. By merit of eating some protein, I think he had a healthier dinner than us.

Before dinner but after preschool, we went out to the local pumpkin patch to get some pumpkins. The Emperor had a blast wandering around and (eventually) making us pull him around in a pumpkin wagon. He became bizarrely attached to this little white gourd from about the moment we got there, and we're such suckers for a cute kid with a gourd that we let him bring it home... where he attempted to smuggle it into bed with him. No bed gourd, kid. Not til you sleep in your own bed anyway.

Grey and the gourd

Vegan MoFo: Where we've been, N through Z

We made it! Through the entire alphabet! I made a plan and stuck to it for TWENTY SIX DAYS IN A ROW people! For me and my kitchen, this is big. I did a roundup post of A-M already, and you can also see the entire A through Z as a nice orderly Flickr set. (Or see all of the daily Emperor pictures from this MoFo.)

For the purpose of not cluttering up the MoFo feed too much, I'm just going to recap the second half of the alphabet here:

NutmegWaffles with orange-nutmeg tapioca
N is for Nutmeg - Waffles with Orange Nutmeg Tapioca

OliveMixed olive-walnut spread
O is for Olive - Mixed Olive Walnut Spread

PortMushroom-port tart
P is for Port - Mushroom & Port Tart

QuinceQuince glazed black bean cutlets
Q is for Quince - Quince Glazed Black Bean Cutlets

RosemaryRosemary potato apple rosti
R is for Rosemary - Rosemary Apple Potato Rosti

SorrelPesto & peas (sorrel & snaps)
S is for Sorrel - Pesto & Peas (Sorrel & Snaps)

TurmericLaksa with fresh turmeric
T is for Turmeric - Laksa with Fresh Turmeric Pickle

UmeboshiUmeboshi onigiri
U is for Umeboshi - Simple Onigiri

VanillaVanilla bean pudding
V is for Vanilla - Vanilla Bean Pudding

WineSunday seitan roast with red wine
W is for Wine - Sunday Seitan Roast with Red Wine

XanthanGluten free quatre epices shortbread
X is for Xanthan - Gluten-free French Four Spice Shortbreads

YamChipotle sweet potato burger & tots
Y is for Yam - Sweet Potato Chipotle Burgers

Za'atarZa'atar crusted polenta on garbanzos & greens
Z is for Za'atar - Za'atar Crusted Polenta

Some statistics for the second half of the alphabet:
Favorite meal series of meals from the second half: Q-R-S-T was just a really great streak... I loved the quince glazed cutlets (a really good leftover), loved the rosti (especially as a leftover), was surprised by how much I loved the sorrel pesto (also a great leftover), and totally adored the laksa with turmeric pickle (amazing leftover). I can't pick a single favorite.
Least favorite meal of the second half: The only thing I didn't really like was the orange nutmeg tapioca with waffles... I liked the components but it was a weird dinner.
Number of ingredients I had never cooked with before this month (total): 12 (xanthan, umeboshi, fresh turmeric, quince, sorrel, longan, jaggery, kimchi, icewine, fresh horseradish, farro, bourbon) - almost half of my MoFos!
Number of ingredients I had flat out never eaten before this month: 6 (fresh turmeric, sorrel, quince (? not sure), longan, fresh horseradish, farro) - about 1/4 of my MoFos!
Worst chalkboard picture (second half) - port or wine. The port one just looks grimy and the wine one, "vanilla" isn't erased well enough and you can still see it written... upside down.
Best chalkboard picture (second half) - two way tie, sorrel & rosemary.
Number of pictures taken for MoFo, mostly trying to get 26 passable shots of the Emperor not including ones so bad I deleted them instantly: 1308

And last but not least (to me, anyway), best picture of the Emperor that didn't make it into the daily MoFo shots by merit of being taken too late in the day!

Viking hat

That's it! Thank you guys so much for all the love and feedback-- it really made my MoFo this year extra fun and extra special.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Vegan MoFo: Za'atar Crusted Polenta (Z is for Za'atar)

Aieeeee! It's Z! Z snuck up on me!

Most of the alphabet I decided on as I went along. A couple of these, I didn't know what I was going to do for that letter until uh, the day of. I am not a great plan-ahead-er when it comes to cooking. (I am a big planner in my non-cooking life, so maybe that's why. Balance, people.) But I knew what I would do from day one: za'atar!


What is za'atar? I thought I was cheating by using it initially, since I thought it meant a particular spice blend. But za'atar (or za'tar or zatar or however you want to spell it) actually refers to any herb in the same family as wild thyme: thyme, marjoram, oregano, savory, and maybe a few more. Za'atar the spice blend is usually some combination of these (thyme being most common) plus toasted sesame seeds plus salt plus ground sumac. I had a little bit of a pre-made mix that was thyme/sesame/salt/sumac and nothing else, and then I bumped it up with additional thyme, marjoram, oregano, sesame seeds, and salt. Basically extra everything except sumac (which I don't have, sadly).

One of the most common things to do with za'atar is to mix it with oil and slather it on things. Usually flatbread but sometimes also vegetables and such. I had this urge to put it on polenta. Why polenta? I don't know, but isn't polenta good? When I first went vegan, I used to always broil it and put tomato sauce on it and just eat it like that, and it was so good, so crusty and crispy on the outside and soft and pillowy on the inside. So I thought, I'll slather the outside of it with za'atar and then broil it.

Za'atar polenta

You can see from the picture above that the polenta ended up in a frying pan instead. Broiling probably would have worked, except I always used to broil polenta... in the toaster oven... on a rimmed baking sheet. Which I forgot until the polenta slices on my non-rimmed half-sheet in the normal oven (our toaster oven died, alas, alas) SLID OFF THE SHEET. After I recovered from it, I laughed so hard, because really, it was like a bad comedy sketch, all these beautiful pieces of polenta sliding towards the oven floor and me catching them on the end of my spatula and flipping them back as fast as I could.

Za'atar crusted polenta on garbanzos & greens

Anyway, I finished them in the pan instead and they weren't quite how I wanted them (more greasy than intended) but still quite good. We ate them on top of chickpeas & chard cooked in tomato sauce, which I think was an idea beamed into my head by reading a post on One Arab Vegan. Or someone else in MoFo. I definitely stole that from someone.

It was really good but, alas, I have terrible heartburn again today and fried things on top of tomato sauce is basically the worst thing I could possibly pick to eat in this situation. I got through three small slices of polenta and about a third cup of chickpeas/greens/sauce.

The Emperor actually ate his polenta of his own volition and said he really liked it. He would not, however, touch the chickpeas. Not surprising-- he has a very negative stance regarding tomato sauce on things. (Or any sauce on anything.)

Oh hey! It was our last farmer's market of MoFo 2011. (Aw, that's sad.) Want to see my loot? Here it is:

Farmer's market 10/26/11

About the last couple of days of MoFo: don't worry, I'll be here! I think my theme for the remaining 5 days will be easy dinners. (Josh joked that we should just have takeout for the rest of the month to make up for all the cooking.) And of course, there will be a wrap up. And Emperor pictures.

Speaking of which, the first time I tried photographing him tonight, he told me very pointedly, "I don't want Mommy to take pictures of me." Well, excuse me. Later I got him wearing my bike helmet:

Bike helmet