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.
On November 3rd, I (Shannon) ran my first 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)!
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
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
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
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
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)!
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
Happy Birthday to you!
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
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.
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.
- 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….
…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 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!
- dairy free milk
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.
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!