Sunday, 28 October 2012

Ghosts, Goblins and Willy Wonka, Oh My!

One of my biggest struggles as a vegan is deciding how to participate in Halloween with my children. Do we go trick or treating and trade the candy for vegan goods or toys? Should we stay in and pretend that Halloween doesn't even exist? Do we go out and visit family? Would the kids be happy with a Halloween party? There are other events in town, should we try that? It is a never ending pool of options and questions and pros vs cons.

So this year, after Ape Boy's new fascination with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory we decided to have a small (very small) Willy Wonka Halloween party. You see, he loves the spooky stuff like skeletons and goblins and zombies.. just as long as they don't actually DO anything. And, Tiny Twirler has a hard time watching any movie that has any sad parts at all. In fact, she'll refuse.

What did we decide to do? We told the kids we could have a Willy Wonka Halloween party! Rock on, right? It turned out to be very small, and a little under prepared with everything that's been going on in the world of our vegan family. Infact, each child was asked to invite just one friend, and only one of them showed up. On top of that, they want to have their cake and eat it too. We're going trick or treating on Wednesday and exchanging their candy for something vegan acceptable. In a world of junk food and obesity, disease and slaughter - I have no idea why we will be supporting this. But we are. And that's okay with us, because we know that our children are health concious, vegan-loving kids.

Camino bite sized bars turned Willy Wonka, complete with golden tickets.

Some goodies in the goodie bags.

They included candy, glow in the dark stickers, bats, and animal noses.

Veruca Salt fell down the garbage chute.

Fast food is slowly killing us, says Hirad Zafari, who’s calling on students across Ontario to boycott unhealthy foods for the month of November.
Zafari, president of the Ontario Student Trustees Association, is making the request as part of a campaign to raise awareness about childhood obesity and the negative health impacts of eating fast food.
Zafari’s initiative is titled, “Stick it to fast food,” and features a playful logo of a fork giving the finger.
“We’re the first generation that’s expected to have shorter life spans than our parents,” said Zafari, 17. “We need to put aside the temptation and use logic to stop because these foods are actually killing us.”

I love this. A student, reaching out to the citizens of the world to create change. THIS is what I am all about. It is people like these students that give my passion the fuel it needs to keep going. Boycott fast food for the month of November. Do it, they're brilliant.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Product Review

With my husbands new job, come many perks. Often we get to sample items, or bring stuff home that is otherwise not being used. It's pretty kick ass. Here is one such product.

Coconut Secret Aminos. It's a soy sauce without the soy.
It is also raw and gluten-free! 

"Coconut palms are one of the oldest flowering trees in the world.  For centuries throughout the tropics, the traditional practice of "tapping" coconut trees for their prized "sap" is a time-honored art form.  The nutrient-rich sap that exudes from the blossoms before they mature into coconuts, is used to make many unique and nutritious food products.  The Coconut Secret line is the direct result of these artisanal family recipes."

When the Cave Man told me about this product, I thought he'd lost some marbles. A "soy free" soy sauce, made from coconut? It seems like coconut is a growing trend (with good reason) and that is what I expected from this product. It is truly, just coconut tree sap and salt. After reading the ingredients, my expectations hopped to a salty, coconutty, soy flavored sauce.

But when I tried it, I was surprised. Coconut Secret Aminos has a very light, smoky flavor and does not taste at all salty. I tried it on some rice with stir-fried veggies, and it has almost a barely-there flavor. It was just subtle enough to make my rice that much more enjoyable. And, you sure do learn something new every day. Coconut Secret also makes vinegar, nectar, flour, snack bars, coconut cream desserts and coconut crystals. 

I believe it when one of Cave Man's coworkers suggested this product as a marinade. Organic Tofu is going to become very, very intimate with the sap of a coconut tree.

Everybody Loves Chili

Well, everybody but my Mom, and my kids. And so far, I have not made a yummy chili yet. I have made a lot of yummy "well, it's not really chili, but it is some kind of soup/mash/mystery pot of.. what did you say that was again?"

But here I was, really dying for some chili that doesn't taste like a garbage can. So I used some ideas from a few different chili's that I have enjoyed, and you know what? It actually kind of rocked! The only trick was how in the world will I get my texture sensitive boy to eat it?

I knew that he was beginning to really enjoy salsa. Before, the sight of something red that wasn't tomato soup would send him screaming. Same thing with beans, there was no way that boy even wanted to see a bean, forget about eating it! Though, he was beginning to enjoy refried beans in salsa, black bean brownies, and even enjoys hummus on a regular basis.

Every kid loves to dip. Small bowls of chili, with some lovely organic corn tortilla chips. Now, don't get all confused. They did not eat the chili. Tiny Twirler and Ape Boy both relished in the dipping process, but refused to scoop and left their plates chip-less and the bowls nearly full. I still consider it a win-win. Good homemade chili, and both of the big wee ones enjoyed some. Victory!

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Cave Man Turns Superhero

I feel like I have been grasping at straws to meet the recommended Vegan MoFo quota of 20 posts for the month of October. We went from 0-60 this week.

Unexpectedly, The Cave Man scored himself a full-time job! After being at home with him for almost an entire year now, this past week has been a huge adjustment for all of us. Now when I am getting tired out and frustrated, I can't tag team him like usual. If the dishes are piling up and the baby is climbing the walls, Cave Man isn't there to pick up the slack. When the kids want to play lego or barbies with Daddy, they have only 45 minutes to do so right before bed and they'd better make it quick.

So, while we are super excited for this development (and let me tell you, this job REALLY has it's perks!) it has been a long, rough week. So rough, that I almost sent the kids to school on a Friday that was not their day to go. I happened to check the calendar while they were noshing down their breakfast, only to see that it was not an "A" day at all, but a "B" day! When I tried to send them back to bed, they laughed at me.

Our little girl (Tiny Twirler) has not been sleeping well. Infact, one night it took her three hours of screaming at me that she needed to go pee EVERYTIME she got into bed. This is because of one accident. Suddenly, she is terrified of having another accident in her bed. That first night we did not do well. So we came up with a plan, eased her back into her routine, approached the situation firm but gentle, and our nights have been peaceful. Maybe I should say that the Cave Man's nights have been peaceful.

Usually, it's the Cave Man that gets up through the night with the big wee ones, because I'm snuggled up with the Wee Piglet and do not want to wake him, or leave his side just incase he does awaken. But now that the Cave Man has a job, I've been letting him sleep and taking over night waking duty. The only thing? Tiny Twirler will get up through the night and start fighting with me all over again, throwing all of our progress right down the swirling express.

To get to the real point I'm trying to make, we really appreciate the Cave Man for these full hours he has been putting in, the sacrifices he has made, and are impressed with him for still keeping all of his volunteer commitments. Basically, he ROCKS.

So we wanted to show him that. The kids and I planned a surprise.

I found this recipe here

This is the first gluten free, vegan cake recipe that I found via google. But it looked great, had a wonderful review, and best of all I had all of the ingredients for the cake on hand. So I dove in! It was easy, fast, and let me just say - the batter was like warm caramel. I had super high hopes.

The recipe says to split the batter in two 9 inch baking pans, but when I poured it in, there did not seem like enough! So, I put it all in one pan. Ooops mistake number one! So, as you can see in the picture below the middle was a bit uncooked, yet still it was delicious! I can not wait until I make this again (but properly!).

I did not however, have all of the ingredients for the icing! So I improvised (mistake number two). When I tasted the icing, due to my improvisation it was super bitter. I HAD to change something and fix it, and fast. I'm glad that they used beet juice for the color as well, because it inspired our dinner for the night. I totally recommend this recipe, but don't be foolish like I was and just follow the damn recipe.

Our wonderful artwork. We did a second one that had a mish-mash of fatherly poems written on it, and a stick figure family portrait. We freakin' rock!

I love the kids contribution, their paintings are so very sweet. That is Ape Boy's painting on the left, and Tiny Twirler on the right. I love them so much, they helped out all day and were super nice. Everyday I think that I could not possible be more proud of them, and everyday my pride grows. This adjustment is very hard on them, as it is on my husband. It is a wonderful thing, though.

Did I mention also, that the Cave Man's new job relates to food? Mm'hmmm, that's right baby. My man scored himself a job at our local health food store. I guess I'm really quite proud of my entire family. Each and every one of them. We all work hard as a team unit, and I wouldn't change a single, imperfect thing.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Penny Stretcher

A few days ago I posted about the things that we purchased at the market. What I did not mention in that post, was the cost. One of those big containers of soup that would only feed two adults (and leave us hungry for more) is $11.00

To some of you, that may not seem like much. But when you can buy tomato soup in a can for less than $1.00 and it feeds us even more than that container, it is. Though since having home made soup, tomato soup in a can is really, really gross.

Either way, we can't afford to just single serve that soup and buy it weekly. So tonight, I used it a different way.

It could really use some garnish, right?

Around 14 years ago I took my first and only plane ride, out to B.C. I still vividly remember the food that I was served on that plane. I was always a finicky eater, and I remember being really nervous about the meal that they would serve. I remember even at the tender age of eleven, being blown away by the flavours. It was chicken (I know, lets pretend I said tofu because that tastes much better) and cream of celery soup over rice. It very quickly became my favorite meal and I asked my parents to make it often.

What I did not know at the time, was that this one meal would teach me about being even more resourceful. Don't have enough soup to go around? Abracadabra, it's sauce instead! A container of soup fit for two, transformed and served five. Do you want to hear the very best part? There is still half of the soup left over, even after double servings. Sauce for another night, soup for one, or something else? I guess we shall wait and see.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Product Review!

Today is a very special, monumental day. For today is the day that I was introduced, quite officially to ..



Seriously, where have you been all my life? Growing up as a child, cheese wasn't really my thing. My Mom would fill up a plate for me at a family function, full of crackers, cheese, among other things. I would usually eat half of one piece of cheese out of roughly six, and give the rest to my family members that wanted them. But, bring me a block of Harvarti and don't expect to even see it if you blink!

We have been vegan for three years now, and I do not regret the choice in any way, ever. I am grateful that we have found this path, and will never go back. But this made my day.

The Havarti Cheese Wedge is so creamy, so bursting with flavour! All I could think about was throwing some on my favorite black bean burgers, and kicking everybody else out of the kitchen. That's right, I wanted to be alone with my cheese! So if ever you find yourself walking past our kitchen and happen to hear the words "my precious!" I suggest you just keep on moving.

In all seriousness, I am just happy to find foods that I really like. This cheese is so creamy it tastes like cream cheese. At first, you get the cheesy flavour with a complimentary amount of garlic, and then you feel the spicy bite! It is just the perfect amount of jalapeno for this Mamma. Then again, I like it spicy.

The Cave Man made us some refried beans over rice for lunch, and I couldn't wait to put this Daiya Cheese on top.

I Love Cabbage!

Cabbage is spectacular! It can build muscle, has cancer fighting compounds, can soothe aching breasts for nursing mothers, is sweet, juicy and full of antioxidants.You can eat it as a wrap, in a soup, salad, or be like my children and eat cabbage "cookies." Which is really just large chunks of raw cabbage to munch on.

And, it looks so pretty!

Once you are done admiring the beauty that a cabbage witholds you can chop it up, blanch it, and freeze it!

It may not look as pretty, but it is still full of rich colour, and rich nutrients!

Cabbage Tip: Eating raw cabbage will not cause that embarassing gas issue that so many experience. It is when you cook cabbage that it can clear a room!

Something else that is magical about a cabbage? When you are done blanching it for the frigid North Pole or boiling it, you are left with a pot full of purple potion. Oh yes, it is a secret, magical potion. For that potion will turn any normal dish into a spooky, fun dish of purple potion rice!

AKA "Hulks Blood Rice" (thank you again, the Cave Man and his Ape Boy).

Saturday, 13 October 2012

A Tisket, A Tasket

I didn't take a basket. Before I let you in on our market adventures today, I have something to show you. Prepare, to be - AMAZED! For today I was enlightened into the world of.. are you ready.. it might be too much.. no stay with me! Okay. I'll get to it.


They grow like this!? Seriously, who knew? Certainly not me.

My parents presented me with this bundle of sprouts on our way to the market this morning. I was blown away, I have never seen anything like it before. And as soon as I got home want to know what I did? I ordered brussel sprout seeds. That's right, this lady is going to be growing giant sprout stalks. Apparently the man who grew these ones had to chop them down with an AXE. Phew, I'm going to need to build me some muscles.

I have been meaning to post about some of our favorite things to buy at the market besides produce. Well, today is your lucky day. Do you feel lucky? If you do, keep reading. If it's not so much, then maybe you ought to start.

Top: Ghost Pumpkin Soup and Thai Curry Lentil Soup
Bottom: Peppercorn Pate, Green Olive and Roasted Garlic Bruschetta, Lemon Garlic Hummus

The same as the above, only with the addition of Apple Cider.

Yes, one of the dishes is empty. Thank you, lovely Cave Man. Now to be totally honest, these are just a few - of our favorite things. Often we buy home made Tofu, Chutney, Hot Pepper Jelly and a to die for (thankfully nobody did) Grapefruit Tomato Soup.

Ghost Pumpkin Soup: So creamy! I was not sure about this one when I heard about it from our chef people, but Mrs. Chef Lady gave me a sample and it tasted like a very creamy potato soup. Very hearty, indeed!

Thai Curry Lentil Soup: Wow. If you love curry, this soup is great! Also quite creamy, but with much more density thanks to the added lentils and veggies.

Peppercorn Pate: I have never tried "real" pate. We buy this at the Sunday markets from a lady who sells raw foods. That's right, it is RAW. With a base of nuts, and a few whole peppercorns on top I can never resist this purchase.

Lemon Garlic Hummus: Honestly? Not my favorite, but it was purchased as a treat for the two big wee ones. I find the lemon a little too strong, but otherwise it is a really good hummus! And the best part is that I did not have to make it, and it is not full of the preservatives and junk that they put in the grocery store versions.

Now, the empty container. That one I bought for the Cave Man. It is one that he has a hard time resisting, because he is an olive man. And this bruschetta is rich in the olives. Clearly, it is one of his favorites!

In the spring I will do a more thorough blog post about our local market, so just FYI - if you want to see that one, you will have to follow me. Follow me everywhere that I may go. Sorry, could not resist.

If you are unsure of HOW to follow my blog, click on the blue "Join This Site" button on the top right hand side of this page. A window will pop up, and follow the instructions from there. Not so hard, right?

Thank you to all of my readers! I really need to say this, because I have seen that I now have over 700 views. So thank you! This would not have happened if it were not for Vegan Mofo. I cheered the first 100 views, became like a school girl at 200, and felt incredibly proud and humbled at 500 views.

Love and Peace.

The Best Part

What is the best part about being a vegan? Raising vegan children. Our children are proud, happy, healthy and everybody praises them where ever we go. They dream big, they are mini activists of their own free will, and are each very unique. Here are some of my favorite pictures of them munching down on raw foods.

Tiny Twirler over two years ago.

Ape Boy 2011

Tiny Twirler 2011

Ape Boy 2012

Tiny Twirler and Ape Boy 2012

Wee Piglet munching trees.

Wee Piglet after playing with some dates.

So this is a picture heavy Vegan Mofo contribution, but it could be so much more. I have pictures on my phone that I look at and think "Oh! I went into the wrong business." However, I can not transfer them to the world wide web. Thank you for that, technology and consumerism.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

It's In The Books!

As a vegan, gluten-free family it can be a real challenge to find suitable recipes. And when we do, it often requires one substitution or another - especially when it comes to baking. I am an inventive cook by no means. So "The Allergy-Free Cook Bakes Bread" cookbook is essential in my kitchen.

Laurie Sadowski solves the mystery of flour substituting, explains each type of flour and what it is good for (as well as why, how it tastes, etc). Laurie also breaks down egg replacements, and when it is appropriate to use flax instead of applesauce. Her recipes are clear and easy to follow, inventive, and very yummy. I know because this morning I made the Quinoa Raisin Breakfast Bread.

Here is the small morsel that was left after breakfast, and packing some in the wee children's lunches.

It might not look like much, but I assure it was a great start to a cold day. Nice and warm, with a little touch coconut oil melted on like butter. I switched out the raisins for cranberries and added a little bit of extra cinnamon. My picky eaters ate every last crumb, and the husband had many good things to say as well.

This is definately a book I recommend for any vegan, gluten-free (or very ambitious) kitchen.

Cheap Meals, Good Eats

My husband makes a wicked dish that is his go-to every time for events such as pot lucks and having company. Do you know what it is? Shepherd's Pie! Sometimes he makes it round in a spring-form pan, and sometimes he bakes it as a square. No matter what it's shape, this shepherd's pie is always spectacular!

I do not know the full extent of his recipe, and dare not ask - for a magician never tells his secrets. I do know however, that it includes celery, carrots, onions, garlic, a lot of potates, and in this particular version lentils and split peas done up like refried beans! O.M.G I LOVE refried beans. My favorite version of his sheperd's pie yet. It might not look completely pretty; all flowers and rainbows, but it had fantastic flavor. 

The second best part? It is really inexpensive to make, and stretches for a long way. We are a family of five (though only four of us actually consume food stuff) and this will last us each about three meals! Maybe some day I will convince him to write this recipe down, but that day is not today. You are SOL people.
*-insert evil laughter here-*

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Our Kitchen Friends

Let me tell you about our favorite kitchen tools. They actually belong to my children, and I can only tell you about one today. You see, they have legs and tend to wander off into random bins of toys, and visit inside baby mouths (caves) quite often.

So, not only are these rockin' tools flexible, soft (rubbery), function and fun - you will never guess what the BEST part is. The part that my kids love the most about these tools (and many adults) is that..

They have BUMS! Seriously, these guys are awesome. We have baked many a delicious treat using this exact spatula. In fact, he really does need a name. But you're really in for a treat today, because I have heard that he wants to share a wonderful recipe with you.

Black Bean Brownies:

1 can black beans
1/2 cup sugar
egg replacement for 2 eggs
1/3 cup butter
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips

Put all of the ingredients, minus the chocolate chips, in the food processor. Process until smooth and batter-like. Mix in the chocolate chips (I use Enjoy Life). Pour into an 8x8 baking pan,  and bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes. Let cool completely before consuming, to give the chocolate chips time to reform.

Thanks for reading my blog!

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Mamma Does the Can-Can!

So yesterday we spoke a little bit about freezing. Actualy, today my husband chopped and froze 12 pineapples for later use. But today I need to tell you, some things are better in a jar.

After I blanched the carrots, and used the same water to blanch the potatoes, I did a major fridge clean out. I took all of those bits and pieces from my fridge (you know, that just about too floppy celery and slightly wrinkled bell pepper) and threw them in the water also. Then I boiled that sucker right down. After scooping out all of the slightly expired produce do you know what I ended up with? Lovely broth.

And since I was on a roll (speaking of roll, check out the Vegan MoFo Blogroll here) I decided to continute with my canning (jarring) experience. After all, I had some lovely un-hot peppers to use up.

*Note: Un-hot peppers are so-called jalepeno peppers bought from a farmers market by the bushel basket for my Dad's famous spicy hot relish, but they are more of a cross bred pepper between a sweet bell and jalepeno. They were not at all spicy, and therefore he "donated" them to me.

I had some other stuff to use up too, like those onions I spoke about in my last post, and tomatoes kindly given to us at our last vegan potluck, by a very interesting and wise man named Udo.

Then I added some really, very hot peppers from our garden. Real jalepenos, and hungarian wax peppers. I did not want to fuss around with these babies.

Then some of it in the pot.. but I needed to use a potato masher to mash it all down and fit the rest in!

But alas, the salsa was snug and cozy in six big jars.

Speaking of food and Vegan Mofo, October 1st to the 7th is Breastfeeding Week! Our local Early Years Center, Breastfeeding Buddies Group had a celebration. There were super cute cookies with icing to look like boobs (which I did not eat, as I'm sure they were not vegan friendly). We were taught some baby sign language. The sign for "milk," "more," and "all done!" was enjoyed by all. I nursed our wee piglet, other Mamma's nursed their little ones, it was a good time. They even had a wee give away! I took a picture of mine.