Monday, August 30, 2010

On this first day of kindergarten

My youngest started kindergarten today. She had a half day and is excited to have a full day tomorrow. She was very eager to get to school and was fine when I left her in the classroom. I, however, was not fine. After I walked out the classroom door I looked back and saw the back of her head in the middle of the room. She was not looking after me and it was apparent she was no longer just my baby, she was now someone's student. My eyes welled up with tears as I walked out of the building. I held it together because I had to focus on preparing for my own students. After a full day I came home exhausted and threw together the following for dinner:

Sweet potato samosas, recipe from You Won't Believe It's Vegan, however, I had only one sweet potato left, so I just eyeballed the ingredients rather than measuring. I freakin love curry! Stir-fry: tofu marinated according to Your Vegan Mom's "House Tofu," yellow squash, broccoli, portabello mushrooms. YUM. G had thirds of this dinner.
I'm off to a good start this school year with following through with good dinners. I even got all the dishes washed.

Friday, August 27, 2010


I'm super excited to start the new school year. My oldest has already had two half-days of school. The youngest starts kindergarten on Monday. She's excited, but also stressed. And of course, I'm stressed. The feeling of stress takes away my feeling of hunger. I just don't have interest or energy to put into food. Don't get me wrong, I eat. But it's not "fun" like it had been just a week ago. Work definitely keeps me busy and keeps my mind occupied even when I'm not there, so thinking about meals isn't a priority. I don't want it to fall to the wayside, though. I want the kids to have enjoyable lunches and dinners and stress-free breakfasts. That means I have to keep planning and get up in plenty of time in the morning to make breakfast happen. My goal is to keep meals planned and easy and to keep everyone as stress-free as possible in the busy school year. Just hope my own appetite comes back.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Food Blog Summer Edition 2010: Garlic Basil Pasta

I've been having fun experimenting with different versions of mac 'n cheese. I like the recipe in 30 Minute Vegan that uses nutritional yeast and curry powder. I bought cheddar flavor Daiya vegan cheese, so used that to make my latest batch yesterday. I heated 1 1/2 cups of rice milk until it was steaming, then added 1/4 cup nutritional yeast and 2 tbsp of flour together. I whisked that in until the milk was bubbly and thick, then I added 1 cup of the Daiya cheese and stirred until melted. Prior to starting the cheese sauce I had pureed 1/2 cup of fresh basil and 3 cloves of garlic in the food processor. I added it to the cheese sauce and poured the sauce over the cooked whole wheat pasta shells. Here is the cheese sauce just before pouring. The mac n' cheese could have been eaten from the pot, but I put it in a baking dish and sprinkled bread crumbs on top and baked for 20 minutes. Half does not have bread crumbs because the kids don't like it.
The girls had theirs with a side of spinach salad. G could not stop raving about this dinner. She was so excited to try the newest version of mac n cheese with HER cheese. Any vegan cheese is her cheese. Only now big sister and I are having it too. G enjoyed her salad with Asian Miracle Dressing from Vegan Lunch Box. Every time she has it she explains that it's called miracle dressing because it's a miracle kids eat their salad. And it's true, she ate it all!

I enjoyed my bread crumb-topped pasta with a side of sweetened stewed tomatoes. YUM! I discovered I liked this combination when I had my first child. The first meal I ate in the hospital was mac n' cheese and stewed tomatoes. I was famished and didn't hesitate to eat everything on my plate. It was delicious! My midwife was still there and commented on how she could see I was a real Marylander by my liking the stewed tomatoes. I told her it was the first time I'd had it, but I loved it. I thicken them with cornstarch mixed with a little water and add a little brown sugar. So, so good. I don't like to add it on top of the mac n' cheese, but I eat some with every bite of it.

I went to Moms Organic Market recently and bought three heirloom tomatoes. I'd read about heirloom vegetables in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and took the opportunity to try some. Here is my last one on my favorite "palette plate" a friend gave me a couple years ago. I use it for the produce I leave out of the fridge.

Today I ate two tomato sandwiches with mayo (not vegan), Dijon mustard, organic romaine lettuce and fresh basil. SO good. Then I had the last tomato a couple hours later with left-over mac n' cheese.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Fresh Basil

I have fresh basil from my mom and some from my own plant. I'm going to try to make a cheesy, garlic, basil casserole and have stewed tomatoes on the side. I'll let you know if it was successful!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Great conversation

There is a great conversation going over at Eat, Drink and Be Vegan. The post about the freedom of being vegan is exactly what I was trying to convey a few days ago to the teachers. Being vegan is freeing in there not being sanitation worries as there are with meat and eggs. It's also freeing in that it forces you to think outside the box and explore new foods. I had never heard of Nutritional Yeast or Egg Replacer before I needed to "substitute." Being vegan doesn't only omit animal products, it greatly adds a variety of foods.

BTW, I've been vegan the past two weeks until tonight. I went to a social function and had conventional desserts. :( BUT they had brownies and my favorite: homemade TASTY CAKES! YUM! That's really my downfall: social situations. When I go to a BBQ, I have the coleslaw made with mayo. I have the desserts. Oh well.... still on the journey.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Food Blog Summer 2010 Edition

This post includes my very first published self-designed recipe!
Here we go! Good eats this August:
Meal #1
I recently had my best trip to the grocery store with the kids. I gave them both items they were in charge of getting, so they were occupied and excited to shop. It worked very well because they didn't fool around and get on each other's nerves. G (5 years old) got the produce bags and started gathering. She saw these bright green chayote from Ecuador. She probably thought they were pears, so I pointed out they were a vegetable. The sign said they were similar to zucchini. We got two. I chopped them, sauteed them with salt, pepper and garlic powder. They remained crisp. I put them in a bowl and added lemon juice, chopped cilantro and chopped avocado and served it warm. We ate it the next day cold, which I prefered, with salad.

Here is the chayote with vegan mac n cheese from 30 Minute Vegan and a baked sweet potato. Not sure where these potatoes are from as I bought them at Giant, but they were naturally sweet and very delicious with a little vegan butter mashed in. YUM!

Meal #2

Here is a dinner that took very little time to prepare and got me much praise from the kids.
I put the left over mac n cheese in a pot with a jar of tomato sauce. I added half a bag of Trader Joe's Meatless Meatballs (REALLY GOOD!) and heated for about 20 minutes. I toasted bread, added butter and garlic powder for a quick garlic bread and also included a spinach salad.

Meal #3
Falafel! My sister gave me a great falafel recipe. Since I still had cilantro left I decided to make them, only I didn't have chickpeas. So I used cannelini beans. Simply drain and rinse the beans and put them in the food processor (I have a mini size) with 1/4 cup bread crumbs (I used Trader Joe's Panko Bread Crumbs), 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, 2 chopped garlic cloves, 1 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp ground red pepper, and Egg Replacer equivalent of 2 eggs. Blend, shape into patties and saute in olive oil until browned on each side. The cannileni beans were stickier than the chickpeas, so I added more bread crumbs.

Meanwhile, I had this yummy soup simmering on the stove: ACORN SQUASH SOUP!

Here are the falafel coated in bread crumbs before sauteing. I made 8 about 2 inches in diameter.

Here is the delicious soup garnished with cilantro:

I gave the kids their falafel on a bed of spinach.

I ate mine wrapped in romaine leaves with a slice of tomato (not pictured):

Here is my soup recipe MADE BY ME! Yes, I've finally become proficient enough in the kitchen to design my own recipe! I've sort of made my own recipies before and I certainly throw together things, but I was so confident in this recipe I wrote it down before I made it and it turned out wonderfully.
2 Acorn squash peeled and chopped (You could halve them and bake them in the oven and add the cooked flesh to the pot, but this is how I did it. I hate handling the hot squash.)
3 carrots peeled and chopped
1 onion chopped
4 cloves of garlic minced
2 apples chopped
2 tsp cumin
salt/pepper to taste
In a large sauce pan, warm 2 tbsp olive oil and saute garlic, onion, carrot, squash and apple until vegetables are starting to brown. Add vegetable broth or water enough to cover vegetables. Cover. Bring to a boil. Lower temperature and allow to simmer stirring occasionally for 20 minutes. Uncover. Add salt, pepper and cumin and simmer uncovered 20+ minutes until all vegetables are cooked. Puree (I used my nifty immersion blender) and serve. Don't forget to garnish with cilantro! It's very refreshing!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Favorite Kid Shows

When I was a kid I watched:
1. Sesame Street
2. Pinwheel
3. Today's Special
4. Popples
5. Kids Incorporated
6. The Smurfs
7. The Littles
8. The Snorks
9. The Noozles--I can never find anyone who remembers this show except my sister who watched it with me.
10. Rainbow Bright
11. David the Gnome
12. Hey Dude
14. Full House
13. Family Matters
14. Small Wonder
15. Pound Puppies
16. Belle and Sebastian
17. The Little Prince
18. My Little Pony
19. Shirt Tales--Since I just found the name of this show recently, in describing to people a bunch of little animals who live in a big tree, no one knew what I was talking about.
20. Fraggle Rock
21. Maple Town--I have a bunch of these little toys (all animals) and my girls love to play with them now.
22. Fluppy Dogs--Another show I couldn't remember the title of.
And then there's this obscure TV Special: The Hugga Bunch. There are clips on You Tube. WTF! I was three years old, but I've remembered the plot very well because it had a huge impact on me. It was the start of my "getting into movies." I see it in S, as well. We become very enthralled, physically reacting to the movie. At the end of the Hugga Bunch I sobbed uncontrollably. I remember standing in the doorway to the TV room off the kitchen with my parents on either side of me begging me to tell them what was wrong. My dad said, "You won't be allowed to watch movies like this anymore if you don't tell us." haha! Of course, in my memory the girl seemed older. She's so well spoken, though only about 6 or 7 years old. To a 3 year old that's a big kid! I watched the ending on You Tube and it's completely cheesy. Maybe I never did watch the ending because I started crying before seeing the "happily ever after" conclusion. I wonder...
If you want to find shows you remember (not all kids show, either) check out:

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Organic MUST Buys

This list is on the latest post from Crazy Sexy Life:
I don't have a Whole Foods or other organic/natural food store nearby, so I predominantly shop at Giant. When I go to my parents I try to stop by Mom's Organic Market which is near their house. However, I don't usually buy produce there, but I get my vegan items. After looking at these lists, I should start getting produce elsewhere. Giant usually has about 10 items in the produce department that are organic and these are the ones I get.

When you MUST buy organic:
1. celery I usually buy conventional as I have not seen it organic at Giant.
2. peaches Conventional :(
3. strawberries Conventional :(
4. apples Organic apples are always in stock at Giant and I keep them in the house. I buy organic apple sauce from Mom's.
5. domestic blueberries I buy these frozen (they say "wild blueberries"). They are conventional.
6. nectarines Conventional :(
7. sweet bell peppers Conventional :( We eat these a lot.
8. spinach, kale and collard greens I always buy organic spinach whether frozen or fresh. Giant has not had organic kale.
9. cherries I don't buy them. I don't like them.
10. potatoes Conventional
11. imported grapes Conventional
12. lettuce Giant carries organic bagged lettuce and often has organic large leaf lettuces, so I get those.

When you can skip it:
1. onions Too bad I didn't know this! I just bought a bag of organic onions at Giant. Oh well!
2. avocados I figured these were OK conventional, so this is good to know.
3. sweet corn
4. pineapples
5. mangoes
6. sweet peas
7. asparagus This is a relief 'cause we love it!
8. kiwi fruit good!
9. cabbage
10. eggplant
11. cantaloupe I figured melons were safe because of their thick skins.
12. watermelon
13. grapefruit Love this too!
14. sweet potatoes Why are these safe, but other potatoes are not? Oh well, I buy these more often than potatoes.
15. sweet onions

Next March we'll have to see where we are financially. I would LOVE to invest in a local organic CSA. But, we could also plant our own pepper and tomato plants. It's the greens from the CSA that are worth the investment. In fact, I can see a freezer stocked with frozen green juice if that happens! YUM!

My first Vegeducation Experience

I've discussed my diet with coworkers, friends, family. But today, I shared information with strangers. My youngest had a speech therapy evaluation today which involved a full IEP meeting. The school psychologist, nurse, speech pathologist and special ed teacher were present. I had filled out a health history form on G in which it asked about the family diet. I wrote that the family is vegetarian, but G is vegan because of her food intolerance, which I explained in detail. The nurse verified some information and stated that G eats vegan. After that I got the following questions: "Does everyone eat vegan? What's the difference between vegan and vegetarian? How do you know what to cook? Can you recommend some cookbooks?"

Isn't that awesome? I explained that the kids are free to eat meat away from home if they choose, but at home I cook mostly vegan. I recommended 30 Minute Vegan and You Won't Believe It's Vegan as two books I use regularly. I said that changing to vegetarian really freed me and I enjoy cooking so much more now. So, some people got some new information from me today.

As a clarification, if you're interested: I am vegetarian at home and away from home. I do not eat any meat or seafood. I eat egg and dairy on occasion, but am moving toward veganism. I do not purchase eggs or dairy (except pizza), but for family get-togethers it's easier to allow them to make things with these. S is basically the same way (at home). Occasionally she'll have cheese. G, as you know, eats no dairy or egg, so is vegan (at home). Will, who increased his vegetable and fruit intake with green juices and smoothies a while ago had never cut out meat. However, since we've moved to our own house, he has greatly cut down on it and is opting for fish instead of other meat. That makes me so happy!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Broccoli Rabe Fail

My mom made some good broccoli rabe a while back. It was delicious and a little sweet. Maybe she added sugar, I'll have to ask her. I bought two big bundles of Andy Boy broccoli rabe expecting the same results. It smelled delicious, but when we tasted it... YUCK! We spit it out. Seriously, I couldn't even force myself to eat it, so there was no way the kids could be expected to. What did I do wrong? I tasted some raw leaves that had fallen to the wayside when I cut it. They were very bitter. I had sauteed it in olive oil with garlic, salt, pepper and lemon juice. That's how I do kale, so I thought it'd work great for broccoli rabe too. Not the case! According to eHow, I should have boiled it briefly, then put it in ice water, THEN sauteed in olive oil. Other sites recommend adding some kind of sweetener at various points in the cooking. Well, sugar is out. Dinner is dinner, not dessert. I could use agave, though. I also found out through my internet search that the bigger the broccoli rabe, the more bitter it is. So much for my big beautiful bundles!
Disclaimer: Photo from google image search.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Getting my classroom ready

Will came to school with me today to help move furniture around in my classroom. We did a lot of work rearranging shelving, clearing out trash and recycling materials and removing furniture I don't need. The room just had too much in it. I'm getting rid of two desks, a shelf and a metal cabinet. There was a mountain of trash and recycling in the hallway when we finished and the room has ROOM. I am so glad to be rearranging the room and I'm thinking of the best way to make it functional. The problem last year was there wasn't a proper place for everything and the students and I were overwhelmed with where to put things, so it just stayed cluttered and messy. This year, I'm organizing and labeling drawers and shelves so materials will be easily (I hope!) returned to their correct homes. I also hope clearing out the junk for more space will keep materials from being misused and left covered in paint or glue. When it looks like there's junk everywhere students don't respect things. Plus, I cannot work in a messy environment! It was very frustrating last year. I may be artsy fartsy in some respects, but I like a neat and tidy classroom. I love my husband so much and I greatly appreciate his help.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


I'm not doing very well here! I just love the coffee. :(

Monday, August 2, 2010

Goal: Break the Coffee Addiction

Coffee is so good. I just spent a week away from home and enjoyed some delicious coffee--better than I usually have at home. The problem with my drinking coffee is I have to put 2 tsp of sugar and if I'm somewhere where there is half 'n half I can't resist it! Dairy, sugar AND caffeine! I have to stop abusing my body with this stuff. The good thing is I like tea and I can use green tea to keep from having caffeine withdrawal and then slowly change to caffeine-free teas. Green juice in the morning also helps because it provides such great energy and hydration. I want to do what I can to have a happy and healthy winter this year. While I managed to not have any colds this past winter, my seasonal affective disorder was the worst it's been in years. Cold juice may not be something I crave, but it will keep me energized and feeling good.

Plan: Tuesday 8/3/10: Green tea (1-2 cups as needed) with agave.

Wednesday 8/4/10: Green JUICE and green tea; continue with this for a few days and try to just go with the green juice and no tea.