Our Vegan Life

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Archive for the category “Food”

Summer of Salads

In our home we find that our family goes in cycles with food. During the winter we find ourselves consuming very hearty soups and chilis. In fact, every Sunday during the winter we have chili for lunch. Our kids love it. When we move towards the hotter months we seek not to eat such warm foods, but lighter and more salad like foods. This summer, we have decided that this is the summer of salads. What does this mean exactly?

 

Create your own salad bar! Dice up veggies, optional vegan "chicken" strips, and let everyone add what they want to they lettuce.

Create your own salad bar! Dice up veggies, optional vegan “chicken” strips, and let everyone add what they want to they lettuce.

 

We decided that for the months of June, July, and August we will try as much as we can to eat salads at both lunch and dinner (who knows, maybe even breakfast on occasion). We have taken all of our best vegan recipe books and looked at all of their salads and added some of our own to the mix and we have tons of amazing salads for the summer. Some of these salads will be completely raw, others will have cooked veggies or roasted nuts or beans and at times we will have bean salads or even fruit salads. We are totally excited about all of these opportunities to try different foods. We hear a lot from others that eating vegan means giving up so much, but looking at our “summer of salad” list we can’t help but think of all the amazing foods that we are adding to our meals and to our children’s taste pallets. It is only an experiment and there may come circumstances along the way that will dictate not being able to have a salad, or the kids may just really not like some of the salads we have planned, so there may be times when they may eat something different from the adults in the house, but we are trying to be as faithful to the plan as possible. So if you want, please feel free to join us for the summer of salad! We will be sharing some recipes along the way! Oh, and if you have a great salad to share with everyone, leave the type of salad in the comment section below.

 

Easy pasta salad: rainbow rotini with veggies of your choice + lemon juice, olive oil, and Spike seasoning for the "dressing"

Easy pasta salad: rainbow rotini with veggies of your choice + lemon juice, olive oil, and Spike seasoning for the “dressing”

Live long and eat salad (or maybe the other way around – hehe)!

— C&S

Kale and Quinoa Salad with Avocado Lime Dressing

Kale and  Quinoa Salad with Avocado Lime Dressing 

  • 1 bunch dinosaur/lacinato kale, chopped
  • 1 avocado
  • lime juice from 1/2 lime
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • 1 bunch grape tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 cucumber, diced
  • 1 cup chickpeas (precooked, drained, and rinsed)
  • 1 cup cooked and cooled quinoa
  • cilantro, chopped (as much as you like – I like to use almost an entire bunch)
  • optional: chopped bell peppers (yellow or orange, for added color), sea salt

In a large bowl, massage kale with avocado and lime juice. Add all other ingredients. Toss well together, and enjoy.

1 big bowl of delicious salad!

1 big bowl of delicious salad!

This recipe typically provides 4 servings, and is packed full of plant-based calcium (kale + quinoa)!

Raw Pizza and Ice Cream: Yes, you CAN have it all.

I recently made the most delicious pizza that I may have ever made in my life…..and it was totally raw. Yes, you heard me right. Raw pizza is delicious and it can be easy.

Raw Pizza (Step By Step)

(1) First of all, let me say that I cheated a little by purchasing the bread/crust from The Loving Hut Cafe in Cincinnati. They carry Love Force breads and energy bars, so we bought some Sun-Flax Focaccia bread that was perfect for pizza.

(2) For the sauce, I used some left-over raw marinara sauce I had made the day before for some pasta.

Raw Marinara Sauce:

  • 4 roma tomatoes
  • 2 big handfuls of grape tomatoes
  • 1 cup sundried tomatoes, softened
  • 2 dates (gives it just a little sweetness)
  • 2 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 small shallots
  • 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 cup fresh basil
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil (optional)
  • salt/pepper to taste

Put all ingredients in food processor and pulse until pureed.

(3) Then I marinated the veggies (I used spinach, red bell pepper, yellow bell pepper, onion, and mushroom) in 1 part olive oil and 1 part tamari. For this, I used 1 cap-full of each, along with 2 garlic cloves.

This was the end result. (Yeah, I took a bite before I took a picture, because…well…it was just that good.)

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I have also recently discovered a super amazing and super easy raw ice cream recipe that I simply MUST share with you.

Raw Vegan Chocolate Ice Cream

  • 3 frozen bananas, sliced
  • 3 Tbsp cacao powder
  • 1 Tbsp cacao nibs (optional, but good if you want a little crunch/chocolate chip-like texture)
  • 1-2 tsp raw agave nectar (optional)
  • 1/3 cup non-dairy milk (I like to use coconut milk)

The end result is a creamy, dreamy, soft-serve, frosty-like chocolate ice cream, but without all the nasty refined sugar.

raw chocolate ice cream

So pop in your favorite family movie and forget about chow down on some raw-vegan pizza and ice cream!

Lunch on the light side: Eggplant Noodle Salad and Raw-Vegan Eggless “Egg” Salad

Looking for a quick, easy, and delicious lunch to take with you to work or school next week? Well, look no further. I have two yummy options right here.

Layered Eggplant Noodle Salad

  • 1 slice eggplant, lightly sautéed or grilled
  • 1 – 2 Tbsp roasted red pepper hummus
  • 1 cup zucchini and yellow squash noodles
  • 1 scallion, diced
  • 1/4 cucumber, diced
  • cilantro, chopped
  • 1/4 red bell pepper, diced
  • sprouts (whatever kind suits you)

Mix noodles, diced vegetables, and cilantro together in a small bowl. Begin layering with a slice of eggplant with roasted red pepper spread on top. Then add noodle salad on top of that. Finally, top with sprouts.

It’s light. It’s delicious. It’s satisfying.

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Raw-Vegan Eggless “Egg” Salad (from Melomeals)

  • 3 c cauliflower, pulsed in food processor
  • ½ c sunflower seeds soaked for 4 hours, drained then pulsed in food processor
  • 1 c diced celery
  • 1 c shredded carrots
  • ½ c scallions
  • ½ c nutritional yeast
  • 2 t dried sage
  • 1 T dried dill
  • 1 T dried parsley
  • ½ t garlic powder
  • ¼ t turmeric
  • 4 T tahini
  • 4 T yellow mustard
  • 2 T Dijon mustard
  • 4 T relish
  • 1 T chia seeds
  • 1 t salt
  • ½ c water

Pulse the cauliflower in a food processor and set it aside in large mixing bowl. Pulse the sunflower seeds, and add it to the cauliflower. Add the celery, carrots and scallions,  nutritional yeast and spices.
Then, in a separate small bowl combine the tahini, mustard, relish, chia seeds, salt and pepper along with ½ c water. Mix well and pour over the veggies. Allow the salad to chill for an hour before serving.

Serve on lettuce, in a pita, or with raw bread/crackers.

I served ours on lettuce, with a side of triangular-cut sunflower seed-flax raw bread (from Love Force).

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And because I love sprouts so much (but the kids don’t so much), I also added sprouts to mine.

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Chocolate Molten Crumble (Raw-Vegan)

Chad and I celebrated our wedding anniversary on May 22nd….Well, we didn’t actually get to celebrate it that evening, because we both teach classes on Wednesday evenings, so last night (thanks to some awesome friends who babysat for us) we finally got to celebrate our anniversary. First, we went out for dinner at Loving Hut Cafe in Cincinnati. Then we went to Jungle Jim’s to buy some cacao nibs, cacao powder, maca powder, dates, and a few other foodie items. (This has become our date night ritual.) We were looking for a special vegan or raw baked good to eat with a glass of port once the kids were in bed, but no such luck, so I pulled out my newly acquired raw cuisine baking skills and got to work once we got home…..and this is what I came up with.

Molten Chocolate CrumbleImage

It was super easy and delicious! (Plus, I got to use my brand new Ninja food processor/blender – like the Vitamix, but cheaper!) The recipe I found actually called it a molten cupcake, and required a dehydrator. Since I don’t have a dehydrator, I baked it in my oven for 25 minutes on the lowest temperature (170F). It also totally fell apart in my attempt to remove it from the muffin pan, which is why I’m calling it a crumble. So if you want to avoid the cooking process and make this totally raw, then just let it be a crumble, because honestly it tastes delicious either way.

Molten Chocolate Crumble

For the crumble:

  • 1/2 cup raw almonds
  • 6 dates
  • 1 Tbsp cacao powder
  • almond milk (as needed)

Put almonds in food process and process until coarsely chopped. Then add dates and cacao powder and process until blended. Add 1 Tbsp of almond milk at a time if needed to help contents stick together.

For molten chocolate:

  • 3 Tbsp raw agave
  • 2 Tbsp cacao powder
  • 1 Tbsp cacao nibs
  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil

Combine all contents in a bowl, and mix with a fork until combined.

To put it together:

* For cupcakes, press 1/2 of crumble mixture on bottom and sides of 2 muffin tins (makes 2 cupcakes). Fill with molten mixture. Cover with remainder of crumble mixture and seal edges with fingers. Bake in dehydrator for 30 minutes OR bake on lowest temperature of oven for 20-25 minutes.

* For crumble, warm container that molten mixture is in under warm water to heat molten mixture a bit. Combine crumble mixture with 1/2 molten mixture. Place on a plate and drizzle remainder of molten mixture on the crumble.

Serve with a side of strawberries and perhaps an almond or cashew cream.

This was so incredibly rich that honestly I think we could have shared one. 

Going Raw-ish: Raw Pasta and Marinara with Lightly Sauteed Veggies and “Neatballs”

One of the things Chad and I have discovered through juicing is that our bodies truly want (and actually crave) nutrient-rich foods. Since we started juicing about three months ago, our senses have become more acute….especially our sense of smell and taste. And with our increased sense of taste, we have come to realize that healthy food actually tastes amazing, while unhealthy food tastes more like what it is….garbage. Also, since we have been doing more research on food and nutritional health, we have made a new commitment to feeding our family nutrient-rich foods, while trying to eliminate as many processed foods from our diets as possible. One way we are working toward doing this is through adding more raw cuisine to our diets. We are not ready to go 100% raw, but we are interested in incorporating as much raw food as possible, in order to obtain as many nutrients as possible from our food.

And so tonight I prepared a mostly-raw meal of zucchini and yellow squash noodles with raw marinara sauce, and lightly sautéed eggplant and mushrooms. Then my son came into the kitchen asking what we were eating for dinner, and when I informed him we were having spaghetti, he asked if we were having meatballs, so I quickly whipped up some vegan “neatballs.” The “neatballs” are intended to be raw, but on my first attempt they were a little mushy, so I ended up needing to bake them a little in order to give them a more firm texture. Next time, I’ll allow more time to make the “neatballs” so I can bake them on the lowest setting of my oven, if needed.

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To make the raw pasta, slice zucchini and yellow squash in thin strips (or use a spiralizer-type utensil).

Raw Marinara Sauce: (Recipe adapted from The Simple Veganista)

  • 4 roma tomatoes
  • 2 big handfuls of grape tomatoes
  • 1 cup sundried tomatoes, softened
  • 2 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 small shallots
  • 1 cup fresh basil
  • salt/pepper to taste

Put all ingredients in food processor and pulse until pureed.

“Neatballs”: (Recipe adapted from The Simple Veganista)

  • 2 cups mushrooms (I used baby bellas)
  • 2 Tbsp tahini
  • 3/4 cup almonds
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 shallot
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp tamari
  • 1 Tbsp dried Italian herbs
  • salt/pepper to taste

Put all ingredients in food processor and pulse until blended, but still slightly chunky. Scoop out by the tablespoon and form into balls by rolling between palms. If needed, bake in the oven at lowest temperature until firm to the touch (or bake at 350F for 15 minutes).

I also made some simple vegan parmesan to sprinkle on the top of the pasta dish, by combining 1 cup of raw almonds, 2 Tbsp of nutritional yeast, and 1 tsp of garlic powder in a food processor and processing until the texture of parmesan cheese. (Recipe also from The Simple Veganista.)

Our little vegans are still getting used to the idea of raw cuisine. I think it will take their taste buds a little while to adapt. However, our 2 1/2 year old enjoyed the noodles and our 7 year old understands the importance of healthy habits, so I am hopeful that soon they will adapt to the changes.

One additional thing Chad and I noticed about raw cuisine is that it is very rich in taste and texture, so a little bit goes a long way. I suppose it is in part because of the richness of the nutrients in raw food that it is also very filling, so be warned…use a small plate to avoid the feeling of being overstuffed.

Juicing, Abundance, and Health

” Most people spend the first forty years of their lives unknowingly harming their bodies and the next forty trying to stay alive. I was the poster boy for this behavior, but I’m committed to spend the next 40 living fully—and healthfully.”

–Joe Cross, Filmmaker of “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead”

juice

During this Lenten season I have been able to witness a new Lenten practice from our former congregation, Broadway UMC in Indianapolis.  Lent is a season often known for “giving up” something…you know, chocolate, candy, alcohol, meat, or in my case this year, wheat gluten.  It is a reminder that God fully provides our sustenance without our need for such things and also it is a good practice for forming strong spiritual disciplines.  This approach, however, has one downfall and that is that it tends to point at what we do not possess or consume and has the potential to lack awareness to what God is doing or has provided us already in our lives.  It neglects to celebrate the abundance that God has already given us.  So, this Lent, the folks of Broadway UMC decided to look at their lives as being filled with abundance and the challenge was for them to take a picture every day for 40 days of that abundance and post it on Facebook.  I have truly enjoyed witnessing the abundance in people’s lives from sunsets, food, children in sports, diplomas, and musicians.  What a wonderful way to spend the Lenten season, honoring and bringing attention to where it is that God is at work and abundantly calling us “to life.”

I couldn’t help but think of this notion of abundance as I came across a newly found space of abundance in our vegan life.  Near the beginning of Lent I came across this documentary video by Joe Cross called, “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead” and I found it inspiring.  It was a story of an Australian man who found himself incredibly sick because of how poorly he was eating.  He was so fat and miserable and because of a debilitating disease found himself on the brink of death.  Until, one day he discovered the power of juicing and decided to live a more balanced and healthy lifestyle.  He bought a juicer and decided to go on a 60 day juicing cleanse before moving into living a fully balanced life.  For 60 days he would consume nothing but juice for meals and water.  He would try all different kinds of juices that included fruits and veggies mostly and through this process he ends up changing his body, his life, and the lives of many others whom he meets along the way.  The most inspiring was the story of a 400 pound man who transforms his life by going on this same 60 day fast and he eventually loses a ton of weight and gets his life back.  Wow, what a great story!

I (Chad) am not naïve enough to believe that the secret to a healthy lifestyle is simply drinking juice at all meals and neither is Joe Cross who produced the film.  He was doing a cleanse and not trying to produce a new fad diet.  His goal was a balanced life and this begins with the juice cleanse to get all the nasty toxins out of the body so our body can literally reboot.  Hence, his website is rebootwithjoe.com.  I found this idea of utilizing fruits and vegetables, in their raw and living form, to be so inspiring and connected to my desire to be more balanced in my eating habits, that I had to try this new idea of juicing (Well, new to me anyway).  We did not own a juicer, so we did some research and asking around about juicers and sure enough we bought a Jack La Lanne’s Power Juicer and it is awesome!

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Ever since we got the juicer I have been juicing daily.  My morning breakfast now consists of a palm full of almonds, 2 dates, and the juice I make for the morning.  I find that this fills me up for the morning and packs into my body wonderful vitamins and antioxidants that I would not be getting through heavy gluten filled breads like toast or bagels or with sugary cereals.  Now in the evenings instead of filling my body with junk food nightly as I watch my favorite shows, I will make myself a juice.  It truly has transformed my thinking about the way I eat and about my over all health.

As far as I am concerned, this is abundance, a place in my life of connected joy and peace where it was needed and where it had really been all along.  I have always had a desire to be more healthy, to connect with my body, to eat more raw and living foods, but never had the discipline.  I have tended, even in being vegan, to fill my body with negative and toxic foods, certainly foods that do not connect to a whole foods plant based diet.  Now, I see this new practice of juicing each day as a mountain of abundance, one that fills me not only with the foods my body truly needs, but is a place of joy.  I really truly do (en)joy the process of making juice and discovering new recipes and knowing that I am doing my body a huge favor every time I drink a glass.  This is abundance beyond measure, so thank you Broadway for reminding me of the power of abundance in food and thank you Joe Cross for opening my mind to a new way of eating and drinking in my life.

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I continue to find ways of putting together new recipes from day to day, but here is my favorite to this point.  Try it yourself and enjoy.

Orange Delight  (2 servings)

1 lemon (peeled)

3 apples

1 mango  (peeled and cored)

3 oranges  (peeled)

6 carrots

1/2 cucumber

1 sweet potato

Valentine’s Day Fun!

(I know it’s been a few days since Valentine’s Day. Unfortunately, we had a bit of sickness run through our family during V’Day week(end), so the post ended up being postponed. However, I didn’t want to omit it all together, so here it is……)

We don’t do a lot of lovey-dovey stuff in our house around Valentine’s Day. As a couple we have decided that it is more important to show our love for each other on a daily basis, through the little things, rather than spend a lot of money on each other to show our love one day each year. (This is not to say that it is bad to celebrate Valentine’s Day…we have nothing against it…it’s just not our chosen way of showing love to each other.)

However, I (Shannon) have grown to love every holiday just a little bit more since having children. I enjoy doing fun little things with the children around various holidays throughout the year. One of the things I remember my mom doing for me growing up was having a Valentine’s Day tea ready for me when I came home from school. It was such a nice, special surprise, and a way of her showing love to me through something we both enjoyed.

So….last year, I put together a Valentine’s tea for my daughter. And this year, I asked her if she would like to invite 3 friends to join her at our home for a Valentine’s Day Tea Party. (Incidentally, I made enough tea sandwiches and goodies to share at lunch with Chad and our little boy as well.)

I had such fun putting the party together. I planned it for at least a month…putting together the menu, making little trips to the dollar store here and there to put goody bags together for the girls, and then searching Pinterest for ideas for a craft for them to do.

Valentine's Day Tea Party!

Valentine’s Day Tea Party!

For the food, I prepared two different type of heart-shaped tea sandwiches (cucumber with herbed vegan cream cheese, and sunbutter and raspberry jelly), heart shaped brownies, and a coconut yogurt parfait with strawberries and raspberries and topped with unsweetened coconut shavings.

the food

sandwiches and brownies

parfait

parfait

In addition to the food, the girls had a selection of berry teas to choose from: raspberry tea or a mixed berry tea. These teas were differentiated by the color of the heart tag on the tea bag. Raspberry tea had a pink heart tag and mixed berry had a red heart tag. The tags were attached by sewing them to the tea bag.

tea bags with sparkly heart tags

tea bags with sparkly heart tags

Each girl received a crown and a goody bag filled with stickers, bubbles (the kind used at weddings), a ring pop, and 2 heart-shaped bracelets of varying colors.

goody bags

goody bags

In my research for the tea party, I came across a fun craft idea for the girls to do after the tea party. Each girl received 2 smooth stones (from my personal collection), along with glue and a variety of colorful glitter with which to decorate their stones.

glitter rock valentines

glitter rock valentines

The end result of the craft and the tea party was a table full of glue and glitter and lots of smiles.

Herbed Cream Cheese and Cucumber Sandwiches

1 pkg Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese

dried dill

Spike seasoning

Combine ingredients to taste and spread on pre-cut bread. Add 1-2 thin slices of cucumber for small sandwiches or more slices for larger sandwiches. Serve.

German Chocolate Brownies

  • 3/4 cup pitted dates
  • 1/2 tsp coconut extract
  • 1/16 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder (or raw cacao powder)
  • 2 tbsp shredded coconut
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup raw almonds
  • 2 Tbsp non-dairy milk (almond, soy, coconut)

Combine ingredient in food processor and process until well mixed. Press into small square pan and cut into squares or with cookie cutter.

Frosting

  • 1 tablespoon melted coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon raw agave or maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons cacao powder

Combine ingredients in bowl and spread on top of brownies. Enjoy!

Old and New

Happy New Year! I know it’s been a while since we have blogged…and November and December would have been such great food blogging months, since that’s what most of us do a lot of during those two months. We have had quite a bit going on over the past couple of months, so we wanted to share some highlights with you as well as share some plans for the New Year.

A RACE: 

On November 3rd, I (Shannon) ran my first 5K.

After finishing my 1st 5K!

After finishing my 1st 5K!

I did not grow up an athletic person by any means, but as a 30-something year old I have learned that my metabolism requires it of me. Chad is a runner, and our 7 year old daughter enjoys it as well.  In May, Chad ran his first half marathon, and our daughter and I “ran” (jogged some/walked some) the “Kids’ Marathon” (1 mile).  That was the beginning of my relationship with running. After the 1 mile race in May, I slowly began training for a 5K. I had 3 goals: (1) to finish, (2) to run/jog the entire time (no walking), (3) to finish in under 40 minutes. I accomplished every one of the goals, finishing in just over 37 minutes (I don’t remember the exact seconds)!

A BIRTHDAY:

On November 9th, we celebrated our daughter’s 7th birthday! (Well, her party was actually on the 10th.) We had just moved to a new house a couple of weeks before, so our home was in no condition to host a party. However, we had been spending a lot of time back and forth between our house and Home Depot. On one of our trips there, I noticed a sign that read, “Ask us about our birthday parties.” So I did. As it turns out, Home Depot had just started providing a party room for children’s birthday parties. They provide tables, chairs, and table cloths, as well as the activity, a small building project for all of the children to put together. All we have to do is bring the food and any extra decorations we might want. Our daughter was excited about it at first, and then she wasn’t sure, because there were other thematic party ideas she was also interested in.  In the end, she was glad she decided to go for it, because it was a huge success! Everyone had a blast!

The food table

The food table

We kept the food pretty simple, just some veggies and pita chips with hummus and a fruit salad, which both kids and parents enjoyed very much.

Simple snacks: veggies and hummus, and a fruit salad

Simple snacks: veggies and hummus, and a fruit salad

Our daughter said she wanted carrot cake for her birthday cake, but she was concerned that a friend of hers doesn’t like carrots, so I made both carrot cake and chocolate cake cupcakes……

vegan cupcakes: chocolate with "butter" cream icing and a sprinkling of cocoa powder, and carrot cake with "butter" cream frosting and a sprinkling of cinnamon

vegan cupcakes: chocolate with “butter” cream icing and a sprinkling of cocoa powder, and carrot cake with “butter” cream frosting and a sprinkling of cinnamon

And it’s a good thing I made both kinds of cupcakes, because despite the fact that she insisted on carrot cake, she apparently did not remember what carrot cake tasted like, and decided after taking a bite that she in fact doesn’t like carrot cake anymore. Oh well…We had not cut into her big birthday cake yet, so we were able to share it at church the next day.

The birthday cake: Carrot Cake with "Butter" Cream Frosting and a sprinkling of cinnamon, with fun/funky candles

The birthday cake: Carrot Cake with “Butter” Cream Frosting and a sprinkling of cinnamon, with fun/funky candles

Since the birthday girl had been a little uncertain about whether or not to have the party at Home Depot, we spiced it up a bit with decorations that were more suited to her likes….like a pink rock star pinata!

rock star guitar pinata (filled with left-over Halloween treats)!

rock star guitar pinata (filled with left-over Halloween treats)!

For the activity, our daughter was able to choose ahead of time from a selection of building projects.  She selected a tulip box, so all of the children got to use wood glue and hammers and nails to put a box together. They even got to paint them! And Home Depot threw in some bulbs as a bonus surprise!

Birthday party activity: tulip boxes

Birthday party activity: tulip boxes

Happy Birthday to you!

Happy Birthday to you!

HOLIDAYS:

Of course, any recap of November and December wouldn’t be complete without at least a mention of holiday foods!

This year, we spent Thanksgiving Day with my parents in Indianapolis and then drove to Illinois to visit with Chad’s family. So on Thanksgiving Day, I prepared a meal at my parents’ house. We had Tofurky with roasted vegetables, garlic rosemary mashed potatoes (with sweet and yellow potatoes), and green beans, along with a gluten free vegan chocolate pie.

Tofurky with roasted vegetables

Tofurky with roasted vegetables

chocolate pie

chocolate pie

And the following day with Chad’s family, we had leftovers.

I got a little crafty this year, too. My children have a felt board where they can use felt cut-outs to make stories or designs. Since I knew we would be spending some time in the car over the holidays, I put together 2 gallon-size zip lock bags with travel felt boards. One was a “build your own snowman” and the other was a “build your own Christmas tree,” but instead of carrying the bulky felt board in the car with us, I included a large piece of sandpaper in each bag. It was perfect for traveling, as well as for carrying in the diaper bag for an extra activity in case of bored children….and sometimes they even take the pieces out and play with it at home on the big felt board.

Solstice Bread

Solstice Bread

A couple of years ago, we started celebrating the cycles of the seasons, so each year during Summer and Winter Solstice I make “Solstice Bread” (an adaptation of Beltane Spiral Goddess Bread in the book  Circle Round). It is a delicious slightly sweet, yeast bread that I shape in the form of a sun spiral. I make it over many hours the day before Solstice, and then we eat it for breakfast in the morning. So on the morning of the Winter Solstice, we shared “Solstice Bread” for breakfast, and welcomed the rebirth of the Sun.

Solstice Bread

  • 1 Tbsp dry yeast (1 yeast packet)
  • 1/4 c warm water
  • pinch sugar
  • 8 Tbsp Earth Balance buttery spread, softened
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • equivalent of 3 eggs
  • 1 c dairy free milk
  • 1 Tbsp orange zest
  • pinch salt
  • 4 1/2 – 5 1/2 c flour

Combine the yeast and water, sprinkle with pinch of sugar, and let set until foamy. Cream together with the Earth Balance, sugar, egg substitute, milk, orange zest, yeast mixture, and salt. Mix in first 3 cups of flour 1 cup at a time, first with a whisk and then with a wooden spoon. Add flour 1/2 cup at a time until the mixture if too stiff to beat. Turn out onto a flat surface dusted with flour and knead, adding flour until dough is silky and barely dry. Continue kneading a few minutes.

Put dough in lightly oiled bowl, turn dough over and cover with a damp cloth. Let rise in a warm place until 80% doubled in size. Punch down and divide loaf into two parts, one about 70% of the dough, the other about 30%.

Roll larger part of the dough into a coil about 2 inches in diameter. On a lightly oiled cookie sheet, wind the long coil into a spiral. Tear off smaller pieces from the smaller piece of dough and form into triangular shapes, attaching them around the outer edges of the spiral to form the flames coming out of the sun.  Cover with a clean cloth and set in a warm place. Let rise until almost doubled.

Bake for about 45 minutes in a preheated 350 degree (F) oven or until done. When the loaf is still warm, spread glaze over it.

Move the bread carefully, as the sections may separate. (Slide it onto its serving piece).

Glaze:  2 Tbsp melted butter + 1/2 c powdered sugar. Whip until blended. Spread on warm bread.

In my last post, I mentioned that I had completed my first attempt at canning. I started with apple butter and apple pumpkin butter, and then I decided to continue with some other foods. I ended up canning homemade spaghetti sauce and Milanese Tomato Soup (soup recipe from The Great American Detox Diet). Chad’s siblings have had babies in the past year, so we put together baskets with soup and sauce along with appropriate accompaniments, so they will have quick ready-made homemade meals for those days when they are just too busy to make anything. We also gave pumpkin apple butter to my sister and brother-in-law, and gave my parents canned Milanese Tomato Soup, canned spaghetti sauce, along with some meals we had frozen for them (chili, gumbo, Ethiopian cabbage stew, and minestrone soup). It was a vegan food-gifted holiday for us.

A day or two after Christmas, we had our first snow of the year….

snow

snow play

snow play

…and with the first snow of the year, came not only lots of fun for the kids, but also the first snow cream of the year!

snow cream

snow cream

Snow cream is a long standing tradition in my family. I’ve been making it with my mom for as long as I can remember. It’s such an easy recipe, and such a fun family tradition to pass on to our kids!

Snow Cream

  • snow
  • vanilla
  • dairy free milk
  • sugar

In a large mixing bowl, gather snow from a clean, undisturbed location. Scrape off the top layer, lifting the middle layer of clean snow and placing it in the bowl, until bowl is full. (Note: snow will reduces in size, so fill the large bowl entirely.) Add sugar and vanilla to taste. Add dairy free milk according to desired texture. Serve immediately for best results. You may also put it in the freezer, but it will need to thaw out a bit before serving it.

On New Year’s Eve, we had a New Year’s Party with our best friends and their kids, who we more often refer to as “The Godfamily” because we are the Godparents to one another’s children. They recently moved from being over 2 hours from us to being just about 2 minutes from us, which we are all loving! So on New Year’s Eve, we put together a little New Year’s party, snack foods, dancing, and counting down the New Year….at around 7:00PM…Yes, that’s right, 7:00PM, because that’s what happens when you have small children.

2013!

So here we are now in 2013…What are your resolutions?

Chad and I have each made our own very complimentary resolutions. I have decided to make mini-resolutions throughout the year. I personally think it’s easier to keep short-term resolutions rather than committing to do something all at once for 365 days. It’s kind of akin to the idea of taking something “one day at a time.”  That said, I have committed (along with some friends – we even have a group on Facebook) to give up processed/refined sugar from January 2nd – April 27th (my birthday). At that point, I will evaluate and determine whether it is something I want to continue or if I want to do something else….or both. Let me clarify what I mean by “no sugar.” For me, this means that I will do my best to refrain from “sweets” made with processed or refined sugar. I will, however, continue to eat fruit and naturally sweetened foods. I also recognize that there is sugar in a lot of foods, so occasionally sugar may inadvertently sneak it’s way into my diet, but I am going to do my best to avoid it without beating myself up or driving myself insane.

Chad has committed to conserve. For him this means conserving time, money, food, and such. So we will be asking ourselves the hard questions of whether or not we really “need” something before we buy it or eat it, work toward better use of time…we’ve even initiated Family Game Night (by request of our daughter). I think this idea of conservation is very relevant to being a vegan family. In a consumer culture, it is easy to get swept up in “stuff” and forget about the larger ramifications of our actions or our consumption to the rest of life on earth. As vegans, we think about ingredients in things, and we have curbside recycling, but perhaps the true reduction of harm comes from reduction of consumption. Eat less to feed more. Use less to share more.

One other thing we want to try to work on this year is keeping up with this blog on a more regular basis. We are going to try to share more recipes and life lessons more regularly than we have done lately. We’re not making any specific time-centered promises (like a daily blog or a weekly blog), but we are committing to at least be more regular with our blogging.

Happy New Year! We’ll talk to you again soon!

It smells like autumn…

There is something in the air even in early September. Summer is not quite over, and yet fall is not quite ready to emerge. It is a time of transition between the seasons. The mornings are cool and crisp (and lately rather foggy) and the afternoons are warm. I used to call the dewy, cool air smell that is present on these mornings “the first day of school smell” (or “the beginning of school smell”). We send our daughter to school in layers, so she will be warm in the morning but cool enough in the afternoon when we pick her up from school.

Last week when some friends sent Chad home from work with a huge bucket of apples my first thought was to make some baked apple goodies….although I was also pretty much resigned to the fact that this was not really going to happen. You see, Chad has a major aversion to baked apples with cinnamon, so I have never actually made apple butter or apple pie. Sadly, when he was a child he saw a friend throw up apple pie, and since then he has not been able to even smell baked apples without feeling like he, too, will throw up.

Maybe the transitions happening around us aren’t only with the seasons, because the unthinkable happened this weekend…Chad reluctantly agreed to let me do some baking while he was out for his 15 mile run (yes, he really ran 15 miles). So with the crisp pre-autumn air blowing through the back door, I happily took him up on that offer and commenced with the apple baking. And as the aroma of baked apples mingled with the crisp air outside, I felt like I was taking part in a welcoming song to autumn.

The fruits of my labor resulted in apple butter and an apple pie.

Apple Butter

Ingredients:

  • 4 large apples, cored and diced (keep skin on)
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions: 

  • Add all ingredients but the vanilla to a pot and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce the heat and simmer on low/medium heat for 45 – 60 minutes, until the apples are really soft and the liquid is gone.
  • Puree the mixture with the vanilla in a blender until smooth.

apple butter

apple butter preserved in jars – This was also my first canning experience.

Apple Pie

Ingredients:

  • 8-10 medium – large apples, peeled, cored, and diced into thin even pieces (enough for 6 cups of apple slices)
  •  ¼ c sugar + ¼ cup light brown sugar (add more if apples are more tart than sweet)
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 ½ Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 double recipe vegan pie crust

Directions:

  • Mix together the sugar, cinnamon, and cornstarch. Gently stir into apples until well coated.
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees F
  • Roll out top and bottom crusts, making the top one about 50% bigger. Press bottom crust in pie plate.
  • Place apples in bottom pie crust. Cover with top crust, flute edges together, and use a knife to make several steam vents.
  • Bake at 450 for 10 minutes and then turn the oven down to 350. Continue baking for 35 to 45 minutes
  • The pie is done when the crust is golden and the contents are bubbling. Insert a fork gently into a steam vent to see if the apples are tender. If the crust is done but the apples are not, turn the oven down to 300 and bake another 10 or 15 minutes, until the apples are tender.

apple pie before the top crust was added – I used 6-7 cups of chopped apples!

apple pie fresh from the oven – yummmmm…

The baking continued throughout the weekend and even into the early part of this week. We still had enough apple butter left over, so I made some mini-pastries using apple butter and crescent rolls. I simply spread the apple butter on the open crescent roll and then rolled it up, sealing the edges as much as possible. Ironically although Chad still can’t stand the smell of apple butter cooking, he does like these apple butter crescent rolls. Perhaps it is truly a season of transitions.

apple butter crescent rolls

Mmmmm…it smells (and tastes) like autumn already.

— SA

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