Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A big bowl of quinoa (Thankfulness #30)

Thing I'm thankful for #30: blankets.

Is there anything better in the world than curling up with a nice soft blanket when it's cold out or you don't feel well or just when you want to be cozy? No, I don't think so.

My favorite blanket of all time recently passed into the possession of the Emperor. Oh yeah, big news, people: he got his own bed just before Thanksgiving and has actually been sleeping in it every night. He's been using this cottony blanket with rainbows on it that I've had since I was a little kid. (It's a full sized blanket though.) Bittersweet moments for me... I'm so enthralled by all his new developments but I am starting to understand why people sometimes feel like OH NOES MY BABY IS GROWING UP.

Speaking of oh noes, I am still feeling super unwell. So tonight for dinner, we had... a big bowl of quinoa. Really. For Josh and myself, I added some Indian eggplant stuff from a pouch that I found in the cabinet. But that's it. The Emperor was totally thrilled, of course. Me? I feel kinda like the worst mom ever but I really can't stand up and cook right now.

Here's the picture of the Emperor from yesterday. I haven't got a good one of him yet today so this will have to do:

Inari eater

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Takeout sushi (Thankfulness #29)

Thing I'm thankful for #29: wireless internet.

Networking technology has come a fascinatingly long way in the past 50 years... especially in the last 20. It's something I love thinking about. Mobile wireless networks were my focus in grad school and while that didn't pan out for me (long story), I still have a great appreciation and love for the subject.

What does this have to do with food? Um, nothing. Sorry, I am super spacy today. Feeling very unwell.

We had takeout sushi for dinner tonight because it was the only thing I could think of that I was interested in eating. I forgot to take a picture.

The Emperor ate an entire piece of inari sushi (skin as well as rice), a big piece of pickled radish, and the contents of several other pieces of sushi (rice, avocado, orange) but no seaweed. He was mad about the lack of tofu in dinner and the seaweed touching his rice, but otherwise he was very pleased.

I took a picture of him but am too tired to upload right now. I'll add it in tomorrow at work.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Tofurky & kabocha squash (Thankfulness #28)

Thing I'm thankful for #28: people who read and abide by signs. Particularly cyclists and automobile drivers.

There's a pedestrian bridge that I cross on my way home from work every day. It is a REALLY narrow fit-- you would be hard pressed to get two adults to pass each other shoulder to shoulder. Usually people have to turn sideways and such. There is a BIG sign posted on either end of the bridge asking cyclists to walk their bikes.

Almost no one walks their bikes across it. It drives me crazy. I have lost count of the number of times that people who couldn't be bothered to walk their bikes for 90 seconds have bumped into me with their bikes. It is bad for my soul. It makes me crabby.

So when I have a day where I actually see someone else with a bike walking theirs across this bridge, it brightens my day. Ditto for people who read and abide by signs saying to share the road with cyclists in areas where there is no bike lane. And likewise for people who read and abide by the no parking in the bike lane signs that are on part of my route (and where there is almost always a car parked). Ayup.

I asked Josh to stop at the store today and see if Tofurkeys were half off. They usually are right after Thanksgiving. I wanted to try cooking one in the crockpot per a suggestion on the PPK.

He came home with six of them.

We had Tofurkey #1 for dinner tonight, with some kabocha squash:

Tofurky & kabocha

The Emperor wouldn't try the Tofurky at Thanksgiving or the day after. But today? He was all about it. He ate two big slices. He also tried the kabocha squash but after thoughtfully eating one cube of it, told me that it was not yummy and that he did not want anymore. Alas. I'm happy that he tried.

I think I've taken more or less exactly this picture of him before:

Not buying something

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Noodles'n'tofu (Thankfulness #27)

Guys, I am just not feeling very thankful today. I'm crabby. I don't want to go back to work. I don't feel good. I didn't have a restful vacation and blah and blah and blah.

Maybe it's days like this when it's most important to reflect on what's good in one's life. Grumble.

Thing I'm thankful for #27: that I have a home to come home to, both physically and mentally.

We live in an awesome house right now. It's the first place we've lived in a long time (maybe ever?) that I didn't dread coming back to after being away. There are no animals living in the walls, no stompy neighbors upstairs keeping us awake at all hours, no mystery mold, no motorcycles on adjacent highways, etc, etc. I really like it here. I hope it stays good.

Here's tonight's dinner, courtesy of Josh. Noodles and tofu and misc vegetables he found in the freezer. Pretty tasty.

Josh's noodles and such

The Emperor helped him cook it. It was quite entertaining to listen to their banter from the living room. At one point the Emperor declared that the yellow noodles were his FAVORITE and kept going on that vein for some time. He also learned the word "marinade" today and used it quite extensively. There was a tense moment when Josh accidentally called the marinade a sauce but we seem to have sailed through that... the Emperor went on to eat big pile of tofu and noodles, despite them being covered in marinade and vegetables.

We stopped at this weird strip mall megaplex thing on the way home that has a cool outdoor kid area with a train and a carousel. The Emperor ran around like a little crazy person. I think his very favorite thing was this wall with a bunch of doors and windows in it for taking photographs. It's been his favorite thing when we've been here in the past too. Here he is peeking out of the bunny window:

Bunny boy

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Martolli's Pizza in Ashland, OR (Thankfulness #26)

Okay, I am writing this on my phone in the car, so please excuse typos or weird formatting. We're still a ways out from Red Bluff, our stopover town, so I'm writing now so I don't wuss out later.

Thing I'm thankful for #26: that the Emperor is a good car traveler.

One thing I was dreading about parenthood/having kids was not being able to travel as much. I love traveling-- pretty much anywhere, for any reason. Finances and limited free time mean that most of my travel has traditionally been by car (and before that, by bus) and fortunately, the Emperor is great with car travel.

We stopped in Ashland in time for a quick stop at the park and then dinner at Martolli's pizza. Excellent pizza with vegan options. I wish their menu was explicit about whether or not the soy cheese is vegan. I wanted to ask but it was super busy so I just ordered and hoped... I don't think it was dairy-y but not sure. Couldn't quite recognize the brand-- reminded me of Teese maybe?

Anyway, if you'd rather not take the risk, they're also happy to make totally cheeseless pizzas. Always nice to see that option on the menu.

The Emperor ate about a slice of pizza. He made me pick off thr kalamata olives, which he generally loves. Just not on pizza?! After dinner, he asked me, "what flavor was that pizza?" and I told him it was plain with garlic and he told me "I *love* garlic!" You and me both guy.

Friday, November 25, 2011

BBQ Tempeh Burger at Grilla Bites (Thankfulness #25)

Well, why not finish out the month with a couple more thankful things? I think I can probably think of six more...

Thing I'm thankful for #25: that I have in-laws who I like and have a good relationship with.

So many people have struggles with their in-laws, enough so that whenever I start a story with "my mother-in-law..." I can see some people visibly cringe/brace themselves for some horror story. I'm fortunate that my in-laws are lovely people, really thoughtful and kind and generous in nature. I look forward to visiting them, even if I weary of 13 hour drives and such.

Speaking of 13 hour drives, we'll be heading home tomorrow. Ugggggh. Already. Not sure what I'll do about posting, but I think I'm going to *try* to do at least a short post at some point.

Tonight we had Thanksgiving leftovers for dinner, and since that's not too excited, I'm posting a picture of a meal we had on the way here. We have been stopping in Ashland, OR on our trips up here over the past year so that the Emperor can play in the very excellent park there. Each time we're there, we try to eat somewhere different. This time we stopped at Grilla Bites, which is a sandwich shop (small chain?) that is supposedly really vegan friendly.

Which is sort of true. The only thing I saw on their menu that looked vegan without substitutions was the PB&J in the kid's menu. Some of the other stuff might have been vegan but it's hard to say because it wasn't marked. They did note that they use vegenaise for mayo on everything, and had options for "soy cheese" (vegan? not vegan? menu didn't specify) and veggie burgers (vegan? not vegan? menu didn't specify) and tempeh burgers. I got a BBQ tempeh burger, which looked like this:

BBQ tempeh burger

The tempeh was just a slab of steamed tempeh. Really, I don't think it was cooked at all beyond that. Not bad, just really bland. The rest of the sandwich was good though. The bread was very nice, and you know how I like bread. Overall, not awful, not great, just sorta in the middle.

Here's the Emperor sprawling out this morning in a rare moment of stillness:


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving! (Thankfulness #24)

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope that everyone out there reading this got to do or eat *something* enjoyable today. I did, and while my day was not without stress, there were plenty of good points...

Thing I'm thankful for #24: The Emperor.

Awww. I don't know, what else do I have to say about this? This guy lights up my days, even while simultaneously driving me mad. After his nap today, he was snuggling with me and he leaned in and pressed his face to mine and said, "Mommy, I really love you." Then he tried to stick his fingers in my mouth or something. Still, it was so sweet.

We had a pretty good plate of dinner:

Thanksgiving plate

Tofurky roast, sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts with pecans (mmmm), mashed potatoes (I didn't end up eating mine), apple-thyme rolls, wild rice stuffing, cranberry ginger chutney. There was fruit salad too but I had no room for it at all.

My sister-in-law made an excellent vegan pumpkin pie (the Voluptuous Vegan recipe) which was almost my thankful thing for today because damn that was some good pie. They also brought Soyatoo with them-- so the Emperor has now had whipped cream for the first time. I think it blew his little mind.

Oh, that and the cranberry chutney. He ate fruit salad, rolls, and cranberry chutney and nothing else from dinner... but he enjoyed those three things enough to make up for the rest of it. He was particularly impressed with the cranberries and really pounded them. Here he is eating his last bite of fruit salad, with some cranberry dregs still on his face:

Meal defeated

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Tofu & bok choy udon bowl (Thankfulness #23)

We made it to Oregon, finally, after way way way too long in the car. I'm about falling over tired so let's get right to it:

Thing I'm thankful for #23: copious rest stops along the interstate between California and Oregon.

Self-explanatory people.

Look at this great dinner that was waiting for us:

Bok Choy tofu bowl

Baked tofu and bok choy in a ginger-garlicky broth with nice fat udon. Yummmmm. There were also rice crackers and apple slices.

The Emperor ate a ton of tofu and rice crackers and apple but would not touch the noodles. I think he had just stuffed himself by the time he found them in his bowl.

Here he is at the beginning of dinner. You can tell he is VERY intent on eating this meal:

Serious supper

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A brief discussion of road food (Thankfulness #22)

Okay, here is my compromise! Since I am not expecting us to hit the hotel until ~10 p.m. tonight and I just can't commit to writing a blog post that late (10 p.m. people... I am usually asleep by 9, and often by 8:30!), I am writing you one on my break at work instead. The downside of this is that there's no dinner picture (it's not dinner time yet) and no Emperor picture from today (I haven't seen him awake today yet) but work with me people!

Thing I am thankful for #22: ZANTAC.

Zantac? Zantac. Anti-heartburn medication. I know I have complained about it a little here already, but I have had heartburn more or less non-stop for 3 or 4 days now and maybe 50% of the days in the two or three weeks before that. It's just getting to the point where newbaby is so big that he's crushing my stomach all the time, so if I eat (or drink, even water) just a tiny bit too much (which is to say, still 50% less than I would need to eat to feel full), I have a first class ticket booked on the acid express.

With the Emperor, I had heartburn/reflux for almost all of my pregnancy and didn't really think to do anything but take tums and papaya extract for it. This time I asked around for recommendations and kept getting told zantac by other pregnant ladies. And guess what? It's working for me! Yaaaaay!

Let's talk car food a little bit. One of the things that I actually really like about long road trips is picking out snack food to take in the car. Even before I went vegan, I didn't do fast food... so as long as I've been doing road trips, I've been picking out and packing yummies. I did a post last year solely devoted to the food we took in the car on the way to Thanksgiving in Oregon.

Josh always insists on a large quantity of Red Vines. I usually like to have some sort of genuine people food with us like sandwiches... last Thanksgiving we made vegan pigs in blankets and brought them. The Emperor is somewhere in between. He'll happily nosh on fruit in the car but he also loves to eat these baked snap pea crackers (which are soooooo messy) and basically any other snack you offer him. It's like the car magically makes all food appealing to him. Maybe we need to start having dinner in the car...

I'm not sure what we'll take as car snack this time. Josh is in charge of acquiring things because I have to go straight from work to a doctor's appointment, which we're (fingers crossed) hoping to leave right after. It doesn't look like it'll be quite the feast we had last year but I trust he'll pick something good.

Speaking of last year, here's a picture of the Emperor and me on our way to Oregon! There was SNOW! Jeez I hope there's not snow this time. I am so not prepared for that.

Grey & his mother

Monday, November 21, 2011

Potpie leftover noodle surprise (Thankfulness #21)

Thing I'm thankful for #21: the amount of stability in my life at this point.

This time of year often makes me reflect on this, as I spend a lot of time thinking about my family. I grew up in a very unstable environment with people who, while wonderful on many levels, were not what you would call reliable or predictable. Sometimes I look at my life now and I think, how pleasantly dull this all is!

Speaking of pleasantly dull, here's tonight's dinner:

Potpie noodles

It's some of the leftovers from last night (the part that was in the pie shell, and the remains of the pie shell) mixed up with some whole wheat noodles and Trader Joe's chicken-less strips. Not fancy, but it took about 15 (almost entirely inactive) minutes to make and it was actually quite tasty. The Emperor got plain noodles and chickie strips and was delighted. He ate a huge bowl of noodles with seriously nothing on them. He was so disappointed when he finished them and there were no more plain noodles to be had.

We're leaving for Oregon tomorrow and I'm really not sure if I'll do a blog post or not. We plan to overnight in Red Bluff, CA but probably won't get to the hotel until like 10 p.m. or not. I'm dismayed by the thought of missing a post (I've been going for 51 days straight now!) but we'll see.

Here is the Emperor helping me pack. Helping me pack the Emperor, that is.

Packing for Oregon

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Vegetable potpie (Thankfulness #20)

Well, today was a very up and down day. At the end of it, I am just brutally tired... which segues into:

Thing I am thankful for #20: That this pregnancy has been about 100% easier physically than the one with the Emperor was.

With the Emperor, I was sick throughout the whole thing... had a kidney infection that put me in the hospital for a week... stopped exercising at 32 weeks (which is what I am now! and still going strong!) because I felt so poorly... suffered non-stop heartburn for months, and all manner of other gastric disturbances... my hands were totally numb for a couple of months... and I just generally had a lot to complain about physically. This time? Other than being incredibly tired all the time (which may just be related to, you know, working full time and being one of the primary caretakers for a 2 year old) and constantly pulling muscles in my pelvis, I've felt fine.

I am fortunate in that I have experienced very little swelling of note in this pregnancy or the last, but I have found that when I am on my feet too long, they just ache and throb. So it was probably foolish of me to get out of bed, stand up in the kitchen cooking (pancakes!) with the Emperor, then go out for a long walk with the same, then go on a lengthy grocery shopping expedition with the same, then carry the same home on my back, then spend the afternoon/evening on my feet in the kitchen cooking more stuff (two things for presents, and then potpie for dinner). But, well, all of this was pretty fun, so I guess I can't complain too much...

The Emperor is SO in to helping me cook recently. He has a step stool that he pulls up to the counter and stands on while helping me mix things and trying to convince me that everything needs more cinnamon. It's very sweet and cute and a good way to pass the time, especially on a rainy ol' day like this.

Vegetable pot pie

He got really mad when I wouldn't let him help with dinner, but there just wasn't space-- the counter was covered with my other two projects (gingerbread biscotti and spiced pecans) cooling and that's just a recipe for disaster. So he sulked in the living room while I put together this potpie. Which he then refused to eat even one bite of. Oh well.

It's the potpie stew from Appetite for Reduction, poured into a pie shell. The original recipe makes an incredible quantity of filling-- the book says 6 servings and I am a big eater and I still think it's more like uh, 1.5 to 2 times that many servings-- so only about 1/5 of it ended up in the pie shell. The rest I put into the freezer, working towards slooooowly building up my stash of things to eat once this baby is born.

It took me all day to get a picture of the Emperor where he wasn't looking super crabby or crying about something. (Did I mention it has been an up and down day? It really has.) Finally got this one while he was brushing his teeth before bed:

Enjoying his dental hygiene

Worth the wait.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Orange-persimmon salad & red rice (Thankfulness #19)

Thank you to everyone who sent me well wishes etc yesterday... today was a MUCH better day on every level. Basically any day that I'm at home with my family is going to be a good day, and today was really nice. In part because I got the most incredible, most thoughtful package of presents I think I've ever gotten from *anyone*, which leads right into:

Thing I'm thankful for #19: how incredibly thoughtful, caring, and generous totally random strangers can be.

SW 3

Now I don't even know how to start to explain this package to anyone who isn't familiar with the Switch Witch secret Santa-esque swaps on the BPAL forums. (If that means nothing to you, don't worry, just roll with it.) But let me put it this way: someone who got randomly paired up with me spent like two months straight paying attention to all the dumb stuff I say online and figuring out what my interests etc are, and then used that information to put together a package of things that she knew would delight me. EVERY thing in this package was so incredibly tailored to my tastes that I teared up a little opening it because sheesh, how incredibly sweet and nice and wonderful. I am so, so, so touched by this.

I hope the package that I sent out made my recipient (yet another person) feel half as good as this one made me feel.

On the food front: we actually ate something really tasty and not totally boring for dinner tonight. I saw this recipe for Persimmon & Orange Salad in the New York Times earlier this week and really wanted to try it even though I usually don't really find the idea of savory things and sweet things together appealing. I made about a 3/4 recipe and served it on top of Bhutanese red rice (another random grain from my random grain cabinet) cooked in a bit of veggie broth. It made enough that Josh and I could have good sized portions with a small amount leftover... I really don't think a full recipe would serve 8-10 but perhaps as a (smallish) side.

Orange-persimmon salad 2

Salad before dishing out.

Orange-persimmon salad

Salad with dressing & rice.

It was actually really quite tasty... the dressing made the flavors pop and helped it not feel overwhelmingly sweet. I loved the pairing of the persimmon and the orange. Persimmon is one of my favorite west coast fruit discoveries but I skipped them last year (can't remember why) and was so happy to be reunited. The only thing I felt like the salad was missing was like nuts or something. Maybe toasted walnuts? Maybe next time.

The Emperor ate some orange slices and a couple of bites of rice but honestly, he was still full from GORGING himself on pumpkin flax cookies that were in that awesome package earlier in the day. Really-- I got 2 cookies out of I'm not sure how many. (8? 10?) They were so good, but he was enjoying them SO much that I ceded some of my cookie rights to him. The things we do for love, people... I guess I felt a little generous myself this afternoon.

Here he is post-cookies. I should have taken a video because he was saying "THANK YOU FOR COOKIES, FRIEND!" over and over.

Thanks for the cookies!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Potato-leek soup, salad, garlic bread (Thankfulness #18)

Today was the pits. It really was. But guess what?! It's almost over and tomorrow is THE WEEKEND. Also, I just got out of the tub from a nice bubble bath and even though I am still achy all over and have a laundry list of grievances (as John Darnielle would say), I am actually starting to feel semi-cheerful again.

Thing I am thankful for #18: JOSH!

Young coconut, young boy

(Ha ha ha. Look at what a little mister chubby face the Emperor used to be!)

I have been saving this one because well, it's so obvious. Of *course* I'm thankful for Josh! Also, I don't want him to get too pleased with himself if I laud him on the internet. Don't want him getting any ideas.

But he merits extra mention today. Here are four things he did today that I am thankful for:

1. He loaded the dishwasher. (No joke, this is a fast and easy way to my heart.)

2. After a toner cartridge exploded on me at work and I was freaking out, he came and picked me up so I wouldn't have to bike home in distress/in the rain.

3. When I charred the garlic bread, he did not react by sitting down on the kitchen floor and crying (my reaction). Instead he carefully scraped off the burnt parts for us so we could eat the garlic bread.

4. He consented to the Emperor's unrelenting demands to watch an episode of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, which let me spend another 10 minutes in the bath tub by myself and gave me adequate time to towel off and put on clean jammies.

He is pretty good.

Dinner tonight: not as good. Well, not bad, just uninspired. I was in no mood to cook, so we just had potato-leek soup from a carton, garlic bread (burnt, but salvaged) and some salad. Here's the salad and the garlic bread:

Salad and garlic bread

Isn't that the saddest food picture?

The Emperor helped me make the garlic bread and really loved eating it, even though it was not really very good. Here he is enjoying a piece:

Thoughtful garlic bread

Thursday, November 17, 2011

OATMEAL! (Thankfulness #17)

So I have been trying not to use thankful things that are kind of lame but um, this one keeps floating to the surface and so I'm just going to go with it...

Thing I'm thankful for #17: Skyrim! And having a little time to play it here and there.

I've been hotly anticipating the video game Skyrim for like, um, four or five years. It was released about a week ago and after playing it in every moment I could squeeze out of my day (which is not a lot of moments... certainly not a bucketful of moments) for a week, I can say that it was worth the wait. So. Much. Fun. Sometimes it's just so nice to be able to immerse oneself in a world other than this one and, well, to know that no matter how bad of choices you make, you can always just reload if you need to. Sometimes I wish real life had that feature.

Anyway, if you've noticed that we've been having low intensity meals this week... that's part of why. I get home about 2:30 and the Emperor gets home about 5:30 so that's my window for playing a game. I could *easily* play this game for 3 hours straight, but of course, dinner needs to get made, I need to shower, stuff like that.

Tonight was another very laid back dinner... one I've been dreaming of all week. OATMEAL!

Oatmeal... For dinner!

Nothing too fancy here people. Just oats + equal parts unsweetened soymilk and water. Cook til desired thickness, then stir in about 2 tbsps brown sugar, 1/4c raisins, 1/4c walnuts, 1 tbsp (or to taste; I like a lot) cinnamon. Top with a pat of earth balance if you like that sort of thing. EAT.

And eat we did. I had a big bowl, Josh had a big bowl, the Emperor had a small (but not unreasonably so) bowl. He really liked it except for the walnuts, which he kept fishing out and giving back to me. He did try one, to his credit, but he was just not into it. Weird, he usually really likes nuts. Maybe it was just the combo of the oatmeal texture + sort of hard walnuts.

We stopped at the grocery store on the way home from preschool (I went with Josh to pick him up tonight, because he was going from home->preschool because oh yeah, he was home early with the plague again) to get raisins and walnuts and brown sugar. Here is the Emperor at the checkout:

Grocery getting

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Little Shanghai takeout (Thankfulness #16)

Thing I'm thankful for #16: weekends!

My job is really grinding me down right now, and that's the truth of it people. I'm trying to stay cheerful and upbeat but it's a lot of work at present. So right now, the thing I'm thankful for is the fact that I have two whole days a week where I don't have to go to my job, I just get to spend time with the people I love doing the stuff that I like doing. (Well, and chores and errands and the other stuff one always ends up doing on the weekend, but that's life.) Weekends: what a good invention!

Between work stress and then another time commitment, I was just totally wiped out today so we got takeout for dinner from Little Shanghai. That's the place in town that has vegan things labeled clearly on their menu. They make this dish that I like a lot which they call Vegetable Cho:

Vegetable cho

They're basically balls of chickpeas and some vegetables rolled up, fried, and covered in sauce. They're not nearly as heavy or greasy as you might expect them to be. (They don't really oversauce terribly either.) I've been looking for a recipe for them since the first time I had them; I think they're actually very similar (if not identical?) to an Indian dish, vegetable chop. DIfferent seasonings, and no potatoes... but I think that's their origin.

Josh got some tofu in sauce. The Emperor was THRILLED with our dinner selection. We have eaten at little Shanghai once and had takeout from there maybe 2 times other than this in the past year... but apparently it has made a big impression. His first three sentences to me this evening were:

1. It's Grey!
2. Take my shoes off Mommy!
3. I want to eat CHINESE FOOD!

And eat he did. He had a ton of the brown rice we got to go with our entrees, a bunch of Josh's tofu, and even one of my cho balls. He asked for seconds of everything, which is quite uncommon for him. And everything except the rice clearly had sauce on it, yet he ate it. How fascinating! I sometimes wish I knew what goes on in his head.

Here it is clear that what is going on in his head is WHEEEEEE GLOWSTICKS:

Glowstick glee

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

GF Smoky Mac'n'veggies (Thankfulness #15)

Thing I'm thankful for #15: all the wonderful vegan bloggers out there. Though the vegan blog-o-sphere has slowed a bit now that MoFo is over, I still find someone posting something delightful every day, something that inspires me or makes me think. That's really cool.

Tonight's dinner: gluten-free smoky mac'n'cheez with special guest star, quinoa shells!

GF smoky mac & vegetables

Now let's talk about these quinoa shells. I saw them on sale a while ago and thought I would try them. (They are always prohibitively expensive here.) It wasn't til I got home that I realized that the first ingredient in the quinoa pasta is... wait for it... wait for it... CORN. Um. Shouldn't it be called *corn* pasta? Anyway, it's been in my cabinet since then, not because I hate corn but because I keep forgetting I had it/getting distracted by all the other grains in there.

Tonight I thought of it because I was thinking of Cara from Fork and Beans, whose birthday is today! Say happy birthday to her if you haven't already! She's a gluten-free lady and this made me think of doing a GF dinner. So I used the "quinoa" shells and made a cheezy sauce based roughly on one in the Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook, with soy flour in it instead of wheat flour. (Why soy flour? It was the first thing I found in the freezer.) Originally I was just going to make it sorta orange with paprika but I dumped in a little too much smoked paprika. And then I thought, hell, why not throw in some TVP-based smoky bits too? Throw caution to the wind!

The end result was pretty good. I enjoyed it. I served it with the last of like three different bags of frozen vegetables because we're out of everything except eggplants (not with mac) and carrots (didn't want today) right now.

The Emperor would not touch it. He literally shrieked in horror when he saw the mac. He pointed at it, huffed several times, and then told me, "that is NOT yummy mommy." Nevermind that he didn't even try it. Oh well. He ate some peas and some broccoli and I suppose if that's all he wants for dinner...

Here he is making an odd face while listening to one of his favorite songs after dinner:

A happy face?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Daal with kale and quinoa (Thankfulness #14)

Woo woo! Monday is almost over for the week! Isn't that great? I have to tell you that after this weekend, I just didn't feel well rested and when the alarm clock went off this morning, I did NOT want to get up and go. (Our alarm clock records a sound and uses it as the alarm, and the Emperor very helpfully changed it to say MOMMMMMMYYYYYYYYYYYYY yesterday... which certainly did alarm me this morning.)

In my semi-sleep deprived state, I thought of a great thing I am thankful for!

Thing I'm thankful for #15: OATS!

Guys, I eat so many oats these days. I'm like a spoiled pony. (Hmm... I eat a lot of apples too.) My normal breakfast right now is a bowl of healthyish granola with unsweetened soy or almond milk. Later, at work, I usually have a snack/mini-meal of soy yogurt + more granola. And though I've resisted it to this point, at the end of the day, I keep finding myself thinking that what I'd really like for dinner is... a big warm bowl of oatmeal. Mmmm.

Reasons why oats are the perfect food: they have protein! they have fiber! they have a cool texture! they taste good with EVERYTHING! they cook fast! they keep really well! they're CHEEEEEEEAP! Oh man, I love oats.

Maybe we really will have oatmeal for dinner some night this week. But not tonight. Tonight we had another wonderful cheap/fast/easy combo of foods: red lentils with kale and quinoa, and a tarka made out of cumin + coriander seed + mustard seed + some random dried peppers I had.

Daal with kale, quinoa

Really tasty and filling, and requiring almost no work on my part. Some people might look at this and think "sheesh, typical vegan food!" but you know why it's typical... because it's freakin' good.

The Emperor first told me repeatedly that he wanted me to eat his "quinoa rice" while pushing his bowl at me... then once it became clear that I was not going to do such a thing, he demanded his bowl back and ate a ton of quinoa but nothing else. He considered the kale but was freaked out because I cooked it in the lentils so it did have traces of lentils on it. When he finished, he looked over at Josh and said, "I think Daddy is full of dinner." He was intensely irritated when he proceeded to sit at the table and chat for some time after that while I finished my dinner. Parents! Are they just the worst or what?!

Here's a picture of him looking a bit weary of our dinner conversation:

End of a long day

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Ginger-garlic tofu with special guest, black rice! (Thankfulness #13)

For those playing along at home, our past week was-- Tuesday: Emperor sent home from preschool with suspected pinkeye, Wednesday: Emperor home with probably pinkeye, Thursday: both Josh & I feeling a little run down at work, Emperor fine, Friday: Emperor struck by stomach illness, Saturday: I'm struck by stomach illness and Josh developing cold, Sunday: Josh - cold fully developed. I'm hoping our whirlwind tour of every illness ever is over at this point. If you think it's gross to read on a primarily food blog, you should know that it's gross to live it too people!

Anyway, since the Emperor and I were both better today after being trapped in the house for like a million years, we made a point of going out and having fun today. We went to the park for an hour and a half pre-nap and then after nap we went on a coffee date. Which leads me into today's:

Thing I'm thankful for #13: Amey! Do you know Amey from Vegan Eats & Treats? She is a wonderful lady, extremely sweet and talented too. And she has cute dogs. She came to meet us for coffee date today at the Delmarette, which was so nice. You may not know this, but I am an eXtreeeeme! introvert in my real life. Even though I've lived in Santa Cruz for almost five years, I really don't know a lot of people here and honestly I'm horrible about meeting new people. So I really cherish the friends I have here. I'm thankful for all of you, but only Amey went to coffee with me today, ha ha.

The Emperor and I spent so long out at coffee that we had to put together a pretty lazy and fast dinner together when we got home. I was thinking brown rice in the rice cooker + ginger-garlic tofu (based on a recipe in Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian) + broccoli. But then TRAGEDY struck! I went to get brown rice from our big rice bin and... the bin is full of MOTHS. MOTHS, people. In my RICE. Even though I buy grains from the bulk bins constantly, I have really never had a bugs in grains issue before. (I've seen bugs in flour, but interestingly, *not* bulk bin flour.) I was not prepared for moths in my rice. I kinda freaked out.

Garlic-ginger tofu, black rice, broc

Luckily, my grains & legumes cabinet is totally ridiculous so I fished around til I found something else I could make in my rice cooker, some black Japonica rice-- actually a combo of short grain black and medium grain mahogany, according to the bag-- that I don't remember buying. (Maybe I got it as a backup for J in MoFo?) No moths there, and it's basically just brown rice that is a different color, so I cooked that stuff up and served it.

The Emperor LOVED it. It's funny, I was telling Amey how lately he mostly likes to eat just one item on his plate-- usually the one he's most familiar with/likes the most. He might try one bite of something else, but he'll only really work on one item. Usually I give him three things-- I aim for a protein, a carb, and a green for most dinners-- and he'll eat a lot of one, one bite of another, and none of the third thing. And that's exactly what he did tonight, except instead of doing what I guessed he'd do (eat a ton of tofu, eat one bite of broccoli, ignore the rice), he went to town on the rice, had one big piece of broccoli, and totally refused the tofu. The tofu! Didn't see that coming.

Here he is eating some grapes while we had our coffee date:

Coffee date

PS that coffee was INCREDIBLE. I love the Delmarette.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Citrus spice muffins (Thankfulness #12)

Thing I'm thankful for #12: that little kids recover quickly from illness.

On the upside: the Emperor has made a full recovery and seems to be more or less totally fine today. I'm so happy/relieved about this... it's so sad when he's sick. He is such a vivacious little person normally, and when he's sick he just becomes so limp and miserable. Poor guy. He recovers fast, though.

On the downside: sometime in the early afternoon, after having felt totally fine this morning, I suddenly began experiencing dramatic gastric woes. Aha. The Emperor must have passed the curse on to me. So, no real dinner for me tonight (more on that momentarily, so here's what I made for breakfast instead. I wanted to make something that would be fairly gentle on the Emperor's stomach and after trying to sell him on pancakes for some time (usually one of his favorite foods, but apparently an abhorrent thought today), we made these together instead:

Citrus spice muffins

My iPhone really didn't want to focus on these muffins. Really annoying. This is the best shot I got.

These are based on the lemon-poppy seed muffins out of Vegan Brunch made with a combination of lemon & orange, without poppy seeds (wasn't sure if Emperor would eat them, was feeling anxious after him not eating anything of consequence yesterday), but with cinnamon (he was helping and insisted we add some) and some extra orange extract added. Very tasty but I slightly overbaked them... they came out a little too crispy.

The Emperor liked them, but only ate about half of one over the course of two or three hours. He took it slow this morning.

What he really liked was dinner tonight. Somehow this didn't go into the laziest dinners week here, but it really should have. Tonight was popcorn night! Where we just eat popcorn for dinner. I used to think this was crazy when I first met Josh, but apparently his family did it every week when he was growing up and he and his brother aren't malnourished or anything. And, well, it is very easy and everyone pretty much loves it. We got an air popper a few years ago and have never looked back.

Here's the Emperor enjoying his:

Eating popcorn

Friday, November 11, 2011

No food/sick kid (Thankfulness #11)

Oogadie boo, people. Oogadie boo. This has been a bit of a week for the Emperor healthwise. He's feeling better from his maybe-pinkeye... but it's a good thing preschool was closed for Veteran's Day today because he's had a stomach ailment all day today. How can you tell he's not feeling well? He asked to come home from the park (instead of having to be dragged away) even though it was raining, his favorite thing. And he hasn't wanted to eat *anything*. Sad to see him in such a state.

But don't worry, he's getting lots of fluids and lots and lots of snuggles. And we had a very nice bubble bath after non-dinner. Which leads to today's...

Thing I'm thankful for #11: bubble baths! And cruelty free bubble bath related products.

Holiday swap 1

Isn't this a sweet package? I'm participating in a winter themed swap on a forum I read and got this little bundle of Lush stuff from the person who is spoiling me. Awwww.

Baths are, in my mind, the ultimate form of relaxation. If I could somehow find the time to relax in one every day, I probably would. When we lived in our last place, we only had a shower, no bath, so I went almost *two years* with no baths. Imagine how delighted I was to move somewhere with a tub! Once I discovered that the Emperor also really liked taking bubble baths, we started taking one together at least twice a week. It gives me an excuse to buy nice bath stuff from time to time... one bubble bar will last us a couple of weeks, which is not bad. We recently got some nice powdered bubble bath that's lasted us almost two months and is still going strong.

What's cool is that you can find all sorts of vegan friendly, non animal tested bath stuff on the internet these days. There's Lush, of course, but also scores and scores of lovely e-tailers who sell through places like etsy and will make whatever your little heart desires. Type "vegan bubble bar" into the search on Etsy and you can waste quite a bit of time trawling through the results, drooling over lovely looking and sounding things. Ah, bath stuff.

Well, I really don't have anything foodwise to talk about. We had takeout for dinner (Engfer's) because we were hoping the Emperor would eat some plain vegan pizza. He was really enthusiastic about it until we actually had it, when he rejected it outright. So since I got home from work at noon, he's had a couple of bites of apple, a plain piece of bread (no crust) and just now he's eaten about half a banana. Even for a little guy, that's just not much. :/ Hoping he's feeling a little better tomorrow.

Here's today's bonus picture, which I snapped during naptime, right before I laid down to get a little rest with him. Doesn't he look peaceful?


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Chik'n'kale burritos (Thankfulness #10)

So today was a bit of a challenge after last night. The Emperor ended up having a HUGE melt down that meant he didn't go to sleep until almost an hour after his normal bedtime, and then he woke up several times in the night upset. No rest for him = no rest for me so I was pretty close to hysterical when I got up for work this morning. Getting through work without falling asleep at my desk was a bit of a challenge but-- I had something really fun waiting for me at the other end! Lunch with friend Alana! Which leads right into:

Thing I'm thankful for #10: having access to a variety of restaurants with vegan options.

Didn't manage to snap a picture of it because I was too busy visiting... but we went to Cafe Gratitude's Santa Cruz branch, which opened a couple of months ago where Asana Tea House used to be. I am not thrilled with the whole reciting positive affirmations about oneself in order to order food thing, but I figure that these guys must be doing something right foodwise to still be in business despite that. Josh has refused to go there with me so I was glad to find a friend who was willing to chance it! Other than the shouty birthday song (which happened twice while we were there), I thought the atmosphere was nice and non-creepy. The food was great. The chai was good too.

While Cafe Gratitude is the only all vegan restaurant in SC that I can think of right now, we're lucky to have a lot of places that have at least some token offering for vegans. The Saturn is probably the most well known, but there's also: Dharma's (vegetarian, almost everything has a vegan option), Cafe Delmarette (usually at least one sandwich and one salad are vegan), Planet Fresh Burritos (vegan options), Malabar (vegan options), Little Shanghai (vegan options, which are VERY clearly marked on the menu, which I appreciate), Pearl of the Ocean (vegan options, Sri Lankan food!), Sitar (some buffet options always vegan & marked; some things on their fixed menu vegan but you have to ask for confirmation), Real Thai Kitchen (vegan options), Mobo Sushi (creative, well marked vegan rolls... not just cucumber rolls), Engfer's Pizzaworks (they make my favorite vegan pizza), Hula's (some of the tofu things are vegan; nothing's marked though so you need to ask for confirmation) and on and on. Even Chocolat has a vegan chocolate cake (not marked on the menu; ask about it) and one of their hot chocolates is vegan (the coconut milk one, I think).

I could keep going but I'm getting a bit sleepy and those are probably my favorite places with veg options in Santa Cruz right now. There are some other places I could name that aren't really restaurants (New Leaf, vegan sandwich options & deli salads and such) and some places I'm not going to name that I can care for. While I don't think Santa Cruz is the best place I've ever lived restaurant-wise (Worcester, MA has a ton of freakin' variety... surprisingly good food town), there ARE a ton of places to get some good vegan grub. More than just the Saturn.

Phew. Want to see my dinner? Here is my dinner. Very basic burritos with kale and Trader Joe's chik'n strips. I was going to write up a recipe for it but really I just threw in some spices I liked and cooked some things and mixed it together. Mmmm, stuff in a tortilla.

Chik'n'kale burritos

The Emperor ate an entire tortilla and precisely one chik'n strip, then declared that he was full. I had torn his tortilla in half. He took this as a sign to put an entire half of a full-sized tortilla in his mouth at once. Josh then tore the other half of the tortilla into four or five more strips to keep him from doing the same thing over again... and he picked up the strips and jammed them all into his mouth at once. One of these days, he's going to dislocate his jaw or something.

Here he is looking cute though, hearing a book before bedtime:

Reading, flailing

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Roasted root vegetables & tofu (Thankfulness #9)

Today was a long day, but a good one. I went to work for about 5 hours and then came home to swap off with Josh so he could go in a bit. (The Emperor is home today with the pink eye.) Half a work day + almost a full day of the Emperor = whoooooo eee, I am a little bit tired. But happy tired.

Josh came home a bit late (having gone in late) and brought home the most wonderful thing from the farmer's market! Are you ready for it?

Thing I'm thankful for #9: Black Twig apples!!!

Black Twigs are here!

When I was growing up, I don't think I even really realized that there were *types* of apples. Well, Red Delicious and Yellow Delicious-- my grandfather was a Red Delicious man and extolled their virtues often while disparaging their yellow counterparts-- and Granny Smith, which I knew from pies. Imagine how my mind was blown when I reached adulthood and started shopping for apples on my own and realized there are about six million different types.

To this day, I mostly cannot keep apple names straight. I like almost all of them. There are some that I think get too mushy too fast, and some that I think just aren't that flavorful or good (aforementioned Delicious apples are in here), but overall, I'm easy to please. Usually I just buy whatever smells good at the apple lady's stand.

But Black Twigs are another story. They are tart... but not too tart. Not super sweet. They're almost cider-y in flavor. And they stay crisp even if you don't eat them for some time. No mushy mealy apple flesh here. I bought one on a whim a couple of years ago because I liked the name (and they smelled good). Changed my apple life. Not only do I know what they're called, I know when they're in season here (usually mid October through Novemberish) and I stalk them. I am SO excited that they are finally here this year!

I did manage to not eat my first one until after dinner. Which was hard, because Josh went to the market today and brought home a ton of them and they were calling my name. Here they are with our other market stuff for today:

Farmer's market 11/9/11 pt 1Farmer's market 11/9/11 pt 2

We had an incredibly lazy dinner... one of my favorite throw it together quickly things. Roasted root vegetables and tofu. Based loosely off of a recipe in Joanna Vaught's zine Potluck Mania #1. I've made this about three thousand times over the past couple of years... you basically chop up whatever root (or other) vegetables you have on hand, cube your tofu, toss it with some olive oil, salt, pepper, lemon juice, and whatever herbs you have on hand, and roast for an hour. Bam! It's dinner!

Roasted root veg & tofu

Today's version had carrots, parsnip, celery, potatoes, onion, tofu, rosemary, sage, thyme, and parsley in it. Very tasty, I thought. In fact, I am going to go back and eat a second helping of it when I am done typing this because that's just the way I roll.

The Emperor ate some tofu out of his (like 2 cubes) and one small piece each of potato and parsnip, by merit of him thinking they were more tofu. He was really in a crummy mood this evening (after having a great day) so I just didn't push it with him. Not worth the fight.

Here's a picture of him walking in the park this afternoon/evening, before the cranky monster struck:

Into the woods

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

GF Pumpkin pancakes and seitan breakfast sausages (Thankfulness #8)

Oh internet... what a day. My workday could be best described as "unrelenting." I came home exhausted from that and set to some leisurely cooking. About 30 minutes into that, I suddenly hear Josh's car in the driveway... turns out he was called to pick the Emperor up at preschool on account of the Emperor having a goopy eye/suspected pinkeye. Doh. So we got him a doctor's appointment this evening at 7p.m. (read: nearly bedtime!) and took him in and had the diagnosis confirmed and got him some eye drops and stopped to get his prescription filled and now we've just gotten home and he's in bed singing to himself and AAAAAH ITS NINE PM WHY AM I AWAKE!!


Thing I'm thankful for #8: I have affordable health insurance. Which means that when my kid brings home the plague from preschool, I can take him to the doctor promptly.


I actually probably wouldn't have taken him in for this if not for the preschool's policy-- you either need to receive treatment for pinkeye or bring in a note from the doctor saying you don't have it. Either way, he needed to go to the doctor before going back to school.

On to dinner: and you will laugh because this is sort of a paradoxical pairing: gluten-free pumpkin pancakes and seitan breakfast sausages!

GF pumpkin pancakes & seitan sausage patties

Both based on recipes in Vegan Diner. The pumpkin pancakes are the pumpkin spice pancakes from the same with a GF baking mix (quinoa flour, white rice flour, almond meal, tapioca flour, flax seeds) subbed in for the wheat flour. The sausages are the breakfast sausages with some fresh herbs (sage, parsley) in instead of dried because that's what I had on hand.

Both very good. I thought this was a good place for the quinoa flour... the heavy spicing and pumpkin flavor in the pancakes hid a lot of the quinoa bitterness. Would definitely make again. The sausages were nice too but not a smash hit with me. I liked the flavor a lot but not the texture so much. Sometimes I really love steamed seitan and sometimes it squicks me out and this was leaning towards a squick.

The Emperor loooooved his pumpkin pancakes. He ate 2 (out of 8) and probably would have eaten more if there'd been more. He wouldn't touch his sausage though he pretended like he was going to and made me cut it up into pieces for him. Then he picked up each piece, showed it to me, and assigned it a size. "Look, mommy! This is a BIG sausage! Mommy look, a little sausage! This piece is TINY!" and on and on. He is a little nut. But I like him.

Waiting room

Monday, November 7, 2011

Grilled Smoky Mountain Cheezes (Thankfulness #7)

It's Monday... yaaaay. Today I felt kinda uninspired most of the day, and then I saw a thread on the PPK which made it totally clear what today's thankful thing needed to be.

Thing I'm Thankful For #7: my kitchen!

We rent an awesome house. The kitchen sold me on it before anything else. It's really quite a wonderful little place, in a nice neighborhood, right next to a park, etc. But it could have been a total pit and I still would have been like THIS ONE THIS ONE if the kitchen had remained the same.

Kitchen 2

The main workspace... look at all that counter top!

Kitchen 1

The stove. On the wall you can see the very tip of my spice iceberg (spiceberg).

Kitchen 3

Cookbook shelves, kitchen table. The table has a leaf that pulls out, which is good because it's a little awkward to get 3 chairs around it otherwise.

Kitchen 4

CABINETS! And our rolling dishwasher. And some other stuff.

You see why I love it so much. It's huuuuuuuge. It's bigger than like my last two kitchens put together. Also, so much counter space. Also, so many cabinets! We actually keep books (not cookbooks) in some of the cabinets because there are so freaking many of them. (And we have too many books.) And drawers. And other storage spaces.

Our landlords believe the (newly installed) granite counters are one of the main sells on the kitchen but actually they're just about my least favorite part. They're beautiful, but that's where their awesomeness ends. They look instantly filthy if anything gets on them and you have to be VERY careful with them... can't splash lemon juice on them and not clean it up instantly. And apparently you're really not supposed to put hot pans directly on them either. They're kind of a pain.

Still... a really great kitchen.

What did I make in my really great kitchen tonight? Well, first the fun thing. This was inspired by Cara of Fork and Beans and shows why I leave the fancy stuff to the professionals:

Snack turkey

Snack turkey! After taking this picture, I piled up celery with peanut butter and raisins all around it. I had this vague idea that the Emperor might eat the celery if it proved too difficult to extract the peanut butter and raisins from it. This is probably why the dish ants on a log exists... someone else's mom had exactly this same idea. It probably didn't work for her either.

And I did another something I never, ever, EVER do this afternoon: I got home and put my jammies on (normal) and then realized I didn't have an ingredient I needed and (shudder) put my normal clothing back on and went out to the store. I didn't want my family to go hungry, which was obviously the only alternative to making these:

Grilled smoky mountain cheeze

Grilled cheezes made with the Great Smoky Mountain Cheez from Vegan Diner. I didn't have agar or onion powder so had to go out for those things.

The cheeze is really nice. I'd had it before as made by ameyfm, who sold me on this book by merit of the cheezes. But I'm pleased to report that even I could make it without screwing it up. It's quite a gorgeous orange color, and nice and perfectly smooth. The agar gives it a wonderful texture. Cheese-like? I dunno. But good anyway.

I really like it on the sandwiches, more so than most vegan cheeses. It is perhaps a little heavy on the paprika for me. (I know, how is this even POSSIBLE?)

The Emperor ate all but one bite of the (small) sandwich I made for him, which was a surprise. He's often resistant to sandwiches and since this had "sauce" of a sort inside, I was concerned he might not even try them. But he dove right in and loved them. He also licked the peanut butter and raisins off of several pieces of celery and ate about half of the turkey's head. Not a bad dinner for him.

Here he is chomping his sandwich:

Sandwich chomp