Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

This is one of those moments in time when I have so much information, so many thoughts, and so many pictures that I don't even know where to start...I just woke up from an amazing Christmas Day nap. I fell into such a deep sleep, and it was wonderful and helpful...and everyone else remains sleeping except Dash. I came downstairs to find him very quietly plinking away at his perfect-for-him dinosaur dig kit (more on that another day).

So...for now...Merry to you is what we enjoyed for our snack earlier today...I made it last year, also (this year using almonds instead of pretzels to make it even healthier), original credit goes to a Pillsbury holiday magazine. I made this vegan ranch recipe to go with it...and I got to utilize a couple of my new white dishes from my parents.

Yesterday, I heard Dash saying this very honest and sincere prayer,

"Don't let the tigers eat me, and don't let the lions eat me, and don't let the leopards eat me. And help the people who don't have money to get money. Amen."


Monday, November 30, 2009

This Is My Thanksgiving Post


For Thanksgiving, we did what we always do (since Tornado was about 2, I think) - honorarily adopt a turkey from Farm Sanctuary. This year, our turkey's name is Mello. $25, which gets us this photograph and certificate, plus membership to Farm Sanctuary.

Thanksgiving is...not really my favorite holiday. Don't get me wrong; I'm all about celebrating anything when the time comes. But I just hate that it's all about the poor little turkeys (and it makes me think of the Native Americans getting their land taken away and everyone who got killed on both sides back then...). I don't really understand why we have a holiday based primarily on eating an animal that suffered. A very smart animal with a good personality. Am I the Grinch who stole Thanksgiving?

Okay, but it's really about getting together with family and having a day set aside to feel thankful for everything, right? I'll try to play along. I really do like the "feeling thankful" aspect. We should really do that more often. And I won't even post the "videos" because I already did that on facebook, but if you want to see how most commercial turkeys are treated, you can see it here. Other than that, please understand my negativity (like I said, it's just not the best for me personally; some people don't believe in celebrating Halloween, Valentine's Day stinks for single know, it's kind of like that for me), and I really do hope you all had a Happy Thanksgiving Day.

I did, in fact, have one pretty, little pilgrim at her preschool Thanksgiving program. She very sweetly smiled on stage and every once in awhile she would sing a few words of the song - just when she would look at me, and I would mouth the words animatedly so she would sing, too. She and I ate lunch together after the program with the other kids and parents.

And one brave Indian boy. He did fabulous at his school's program. Papaw, Sissy, and I got to watch him and eat with him afterward. Googie came at the end and about started crying because she missed it.

We stayed put for Thanksgiving dinner this year, and it was just the five of us.

Tofurky is a joke of sorts that gets tossed around at Thanksgiving time. Well, we are one of those families that eats it and loves it. You know what I love as much, maybe even more than the Tofurky itself? The Cranberry-Apple Potato Dumplings that come with it. So good (but there are only 8 of them in the box). I did a lot of prep work for our meal the night before, and at one point I said to Ryan, "...I accidentally ate one of the dumplings." The box even comes with "Jurky Wishsticks" in case you just can't live without that tradition.

You know what I am most thankful for? No, not pumpkin pie, although I seriously LOVE pumpkin pie (I was in PANIC mode when I realized I only had one organic 365 brand crust in the freezer, and I had to MAKE another pie crust from scratch.). I love it so very much. I don't know why I don't make it all year round.
Like every night.
I am thankful for God's mercy and love. I am thankful for all of the many blessings He has given me (and really, there are so many...I don't deserve, and most of the time I feel whiny inside about what I don't have). I don't write that very often. I mostly always think it goes without saying how I feel about my relationship with the Lord. I don't speak enough about it, I think, because I don't want to sound trite or phony. I err by not saying it enough.

What is Tornado thankful for this Thanksgiving? "Googie" was his automatic reply. (That's my Mom.) Don't feel bad if he left you out; he didn't say my name either.

Oh! I'm also very thankful for my warming drawer. Such a non-necessity, but it's such a nice thing to have when I'm making big meals. I love it.

I loved, loved having the kids at home all week from school. I loved, loved that I didn't have to get up every morning in our panicked rush. (I can't wait for a snow day!) We got to snuggle in bed and do little projects together. We made crayons one day in preparation of making leaf rubbings. I have made these before, years ago as gifts. Lots easier when you have 3 eager kids helping. They really participated with this, and I guess it's a good fine motor activity, eh? (And uses up all our nubby and broken crayons.) Sissy loved it most of all, I'd say. Look how serious she was about it. I told her I was proud of what a great job she was doing and pointed out that she was making such a neat pile with her wrappers.

And then Dash asked, "Do you like my crazy pile?"

It just looks pretty.

One of our crayons has a big finger print in it because after I took them out of the oven, and they had cooled for a bit, Dash wanted desperately to touch them. I said, "You can touch it VERY lightly, but it's not completely hard yet. Don't push down on it." Well, of course, he pressed his finger down into that crayon as far as it would go. Of course, he did.
On Thanksgiving Day, while I was busy cooking, Ryan took the kids outside to gather leaves, then they worked on their big leaf rubbing sign, using our new heart shaped crayons.
The kids enjoyed making the sign so much, they made another one. This time they watercolored over the crayon rubbings like they did over at Filth Wizardry (fun blog, by the way).
Sissy, posing with their sign

Our noon meal consisting of rolls, mashed potatoes & gravy, green beans almondine, Lemony Roasted Brussel Sprouts with garlic, Cranberry Cornbread Stuffing, Asparagus, Sweet Potatoes with cranberries, apples, and walnuts, and Holiday Rice (Thanks Tofu Mom, for the brussel sprouts and rice recipes!). And of course, the Tofurky roast surrounded in roasted potatoes, turnips, sweet potatoes, carrots, and onions.

I took a picture of Ryan's plate...because I was so impressed at the sheer volume. My plate wasn't that full.

He even went back for seconds.

He's going to LOVE that I documented this. :) Then he had a big piece of pie. Ryan always likes to have dessert or something sweet immediately after a meal. I like to save a little something for later.

The bad thing about consuming all of this food is that we immediately had to clean up and drive 3 hours to see my brother and all of the rest of my family. Ryan said he needed 5 minutes to lie down. I gave him 5 minutes, then it was rush, rush, rush. That's okay, though. Spending time with my family is much better than a nap any day.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Favorite Smoothie and Playing in the Leaves

We drink a lot of smoothies around here. The kids like some of them more than others. The favorite lately is banana (we use several for one batch), So Delicious Coconut Milk beverage, coconut oil (read about health benefits), and frozen pineapple. They drink it faster than any smoothie. If there are leftovers, I make popsicles, which are eaten up quickly, too.
When we were looking to build a house, we went into it thinking, "How can we make life easier for ourselves?" One of our biggest requirements was NO YARD. This is against what most people want, but we did not want to spend our weekends mowing or with the added pressure of watering and keeping out weeds. Plus, fire ants are horrible in Arkansas, and they seem to be worse in grass. At least, we don't seem to have a fire ant problem at our new house like we did at our old house. Our 1.25 acres is wooded, and although Ryan does weed-eat a little bit during the summer (including weed whacking 4 wheeler trails through the woods for the boys), it's pretty low maintenance. So...when the leaves fall, we don't even have to worry about raking. In fact, we LOVE the extra ground cover. There are still some areas that are a little too exposed to mud from the building process. I think I might ask my neighbor for all of his pine needles next time I see him raking them up.
Ryan surprised the kids by raking up a huge pile of leaves for them to play in the other day. They were THRILLED. The pile is still sort of there, and I think they keep adding to it because every day they play in it at some point.
Miss Prissiness loved the idea of the leaf pile. She kept running full speed toward the pile, yell, "Cannonball!" just like the boys do, then would very gently lower herself into the edge of the pile. She just couldn't bring herself to fully embrace it.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Lots of Raw

Ever since I saw this "Trix" cereal that shannonmarie from Rawdorable made, I haven't been able to stop thinking about it. I decided to make it last week, even though I didn't have all of the ingredients I needed. (It stinks not having a Whole Foods in my town.) I did my best to make as many colors as I could. I was missing golden raisins (which I think would have been key here), rose water, and dragon fruit, and I was also making them in kind of a hurry because it was getting late. I could have ground up the nuts a little better. I dehydrated them for a little bit. I made a tiny bowl for my supper (that's all I needed - it was very tasty but filling), adding a little...

homemade almond milk. I had high hopes for doing away with so many Silk cartons, etc. in our lives...but the kids weren't big fans. I will keep trying to get them used to it. I could definitely see using only homemade almond milk with cereal, cooking, and in smoothies, etc. Would make a great shake with some bananas, etc. It was SO easy to make. Just soaked my almonds overnight, blended them with water, strained the pulp, then blended it again with some vanilla and agave nectar. I tried blending some also with soaked dates to see if that made it any tastier for the kids. Sissy did drink a cup, saying, "Yummy!"
The next day, I made pancakes using the leftover almond pulp. I added Bob's Red Mill garbanzo and fava blean flour (bean pancakes, anyone?), flaxseed meal, and a little whole wheat flour because I didn't know how it would turn out without any...baking powder, dash of salt, almond milk, dried cranberries, pineapple chunks, and blueberries. Obviously, they aren't as fluffy as "normal pancakes," but the kids and I didn't hesitate in chowing down a couple apiece.
Our new favorite thing...homemade vegan parmesan cheese. I used to buy yummy Parma whenever I was somewhere that had it...but the ingredients are simply walnuts, nutritional yeast, and salt, and that's what we used in ours. Just ground it all up in my mini-food processor.
We used liberal amounts with our brown rice pasta, sauce, and broccoli. This is what Dash said,

"It's so good an elephant would eat it!"

Friday, October 30, 2009

Michael Scofield Cheesecake

Ryan and I reached a pivotal milestone in our lives...

We finished Prison Break.

It has been with us almost every night for many months...and I'm sad to let it go. We even waited about a week after we finished the four seasons to watch the 2 hour movie, The Final Break. I couldn't bring myself to watch it because 1) I was so emotionally exhausted after the finale, and 2) I knew as soon as we watched it, that would be it. I didn't think I would cry during the movie because I had cried enough during the finale, and because I already knew months ago what was going to happen. (I can't help it; I always look at spoiler sites.) Well...I was choking sobbing. I kept apologizing to Ryan because I was crying so loud. I was gasping for breath I was crying so hard. Good grief. Obviously, I needed for this to end so I can move on with my life.

Our movie watching party in bed was complete with a homemade cheesecake.

In food processor, I crumbled Barbara's Bakery Snackimals oatmeal animal cookies and Health Valley graham crackers. I added enough melted Earth Balance and agave nectar to press the crust into the springform pan. (I love springform pans. They're one of my favorite kitchen-y things.) This made a really easy, great crust.

Beat together 2 8 oz. packages of vegan cream cheese, 2 cups of sour cream, and 1 cup organic sugar. Add 1 tsp vanilla, 1/2 cup flour, 1 1/2 TBS of egg replacer, and 1/2 cup water and continue mixing until creamy. Pour into sprayed pan. Cook at 300 degrees for about an hour and a half. Let it sit in fridge all day or overnight.

For sauce, I mixed fresh chopped strawberries, strawberry fruit spread, and a little organic sugar in a pan and let it sit. I poured it on the cheesecake and let it sit in the fridge long before I removed it from the pan.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Pasta, Four Ways

Isn't it pretty and bright? And it was delicious, too.

The top spaghetti was mixed with basil walnut pesto and peas. The next one was a nutritional yeast and nut based cheese sauce. The next one was just marinara with seitan, olives, and tomatoes. Finally, the last one just had olive oil and spices with broccoli. I added strips of stir-fried squash, bell peppers, and more broccoli to separate the different kinds.

Plus, Dash is much more willing to eat his veggies if they are "on the side."

This is one of my favorite places to look at beautiful dishes of food.
They're always so well presented and photographed. I wish I could LIVE in their house.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Seen and Heard Lately

Seen, Heard, and Eaten Lately

My nephew Pierson couldn't have drawn on a more perfect black bean goatee.
The kid loves beans.

my niece, Winnie...look at that little face

the Chicago Diner cheesecake my sister brought with her from Whole Foods in St. Louis Thank you, again!

In not so cute puppy news...they are like completely different dogs when they are soaking wet from their bath. I told the kids it's just like in Harry the Dirty Dog. (Harry gets so dirty they don't recognize him; they think he's another dog.) If I didn't know any better, I would never assume these were ours.

Here we are excited about our 15 pounds of Daiya cheese we got in the mail. I seriously cannot keep Sissy from making these crazy faces in pictures sometimes. She and Dash are experts in absurd faces.

We also had to try Allison's Gourmet Fudge...since we were paying for the freezer pack with shipping anyway. It was yummy. I probably wouldn't order it again just because it tastes like fudge I can make. What I WOULD order again (so if anyone needs a Christmas idea, hint, hint) is Allison's Gourmet Almond Toffee. Mmm.

THIS is what we saw on the road in front of our house.
I'm surprised Dash didn't want to scoop it up and bring it inside.

THIS was the first day in awhile that didn't require coats or umbrellas. I insisted that we go outside and soak in the goodness...and again, today I sit here, looking at the pouring rain outside my window.

Tornado planned this activity all on his own. He told us we were going to go on a nature walk and find leaves, pine needles, etc. to make pictures. All I had to do was bring out the glue, crayons, and paper, and they stayed outside, busy with this for quite awhile.

We were excited to get our 2 sets of popsicle molds in the mail. We only had 5 individual molds before, and that was clearly not enough. Now it's easier to make bigger batches at once. These are BPA free and a lot better than our old ones, as far as removing them from the mold. However, it still takes a bit of effort to remove them. I think the silicone kind can be removed without running it under water...if anyone needs another Christmas gift idea, hint hint...

I've been looking at this thing for weeks. Dash brought it in and said he wanted to add it to his cicada shell collection. Do we have a cicada collection? Oh, probably around here somewhere.

At a b-day party for a classmate, Dash got to have Mom and Dad to himself for a few hours. It was at Johnston's Pumpkin Farm near Greenbrier, and they had so many great activities planned for the kids, including a hayride and pumpkin story.

Dash, with his veggie dog...We brought our own "weiners" since they were going to be roasting hot dogs over a fire. And interestingly, there was a man who asked if he could have one. This was...well, let's just say, not someone we pictured eating a veggie dog. However, he had experienced a pretty bad heart attack a few months earlier and was trying to eat better. I was proud of him! He said it wasn't bad. :)

Look at these fun Organic Ladies we bought at the store.
They weren't the greatest tasting apples we've ever had, but they sure were cute.

This post has been edited/shortened from its original posting on my other blog.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Few Meals

Just a few meals we've eaten this week:
This dish is dedicated to my Momma. When we were young and she would have to leave for work on a summer day or whenever we were going to be alone, this was a dish she often left for us in the fridge. (Probably often in this same casserole dish I've inherited.) We just had to stick it in the oven. Pasta, peas, sauce, and cheese melted on top. It's just as good now.

Oatmeal with almonds, flax, agave, and berries. I'm REALLY trying to eat more oatmeal. As opposed to...ahem...Panda Puff's or something like that. (When I do eat Panda Puffs, I try to, at least, add some almond slices.) And breakfasts these days have been eaten on the car, on the run (for the kids, usually apple slices, toast, granola bar, or bag of nuts).

I made these Blueberry Banana Muffins from a recipe I got out of either How it All Vegan or Veganomicon...I can't remember which. I was scribbling some recipes down quickly, while in the library parking lot before I left those books in the drop-off. Those are both great books, though. I just need to purchase them. I'm pretty certain it was my fault they didn't turn out they way I'm sure they were intended. I think I was missing a liquid ingredient because the batter was really dry. They seemed more like scones than muffins.

Regardless, they were eaten, and the key to this story is: I don't know why I don't make muffins more often. They're always a sure-fire hit around here.
See? I can barely read my own writing. I always think I'm going to be able to read my writing when I write fast, and I always think I'm going to remember what I meant by an abbreviation...I never learn.
I attempted this recipe for the Mac 'n Cheese Bites that I've really been wanting to try from Vegan Mom. Here is the recipe. Hers look a lot prettier than mine.

I started making it then realized I was out of key ingredients. I tried to "make do." I was out of soymilk, onions, and Earth Balance. Pretty substantial ingredients. I should have just waited. I used water, tahini, and cream cheese. Haha. I was also out of cooking spray so I just oiled the muffin tins with my Spectrum Organic Shortening. It actually turned out really tasty, despite the fact they were stuck to the pain without the Earth Balance and spray. (I made 12 "muffins" and 12 "loafs," and there was nothing left. They were scraping at the pans to get everything they could because they all liked them so much.)

I look forward to trying this recipe again as it was intended, with all the proper ingredients.

I think they're a great idea, regardless.