Our Vegan Life

Food, Family, and Fun

Asian Inspired Raw Noodles with Peanut Sauce…and Delicious Raw Nori and Spring Rolls

Continuing in our experimentation with raw cuisine….

I had lots of leftover zucchini and yellow squash noodles from my first experimentation with raw noodle dishes, so I decided to try them with a peanut based sauce, like Pad Thai (since we can now have peanuts in the house)….which of course inspired me to make additional fun Asian inspired foods, like spring rolls and nori rolls. 

I’ve never made spring rolls or nori rolls before, but I do love to eat them, and making them raw seemed easy enough. The other day I saw a bag of shredded carrots, red cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli, so I bought it thinking that surely I could do something wonderful with it. And this was my opportunity. It would make a perfect filling for these delicious nori rolls and spring rolls! So I tossed the contents of the bag along with some diced cucumber into the food processor and gave it a few quick pulses just to dice it up a little more, and then let the veggie mixture marinade in a little bit of tamari. Meanwhile, I whipped up a little peanut butter, tamari, ginger, and garlic in the food processor, spread it out on the nori sheets, added the veggie mixture, rolled them up, and cut them into bite-size pieces. Perfection.

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To make the spring rolls, I ran the rice sheets under warm water until soft enough to roll. Then I added only the vegetable mixture, and rolled them, tucking the ends in before finishing the roll. So easy!

 

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And here is the final dish with everything on it….Image

 

For the main dish, I used leftover zucchini and yellow squash noodles, and then julienned some carrots and red peppers, diced some green onions, chopped some cilantro, and then pulsed the carrots, peppers, onions, and cilantro in the food processor just a couple of times to make them a little smaller. Then I tossed them into the bowl with the noodles. As for the sauce, honestly, I wasn’t crazy about the peanut sauce that I made, but here’s another one that I’ve made before (from the cookbook The Gluten-Free Vegan) that I really love.

Peanut Sauce (for noodles):

  • 1 1/4 cups light coconut milk
  • 1/3-1/2 cup organic peanut butter
  • 2 Tbsp raw agave
  • 2 Tbsp tamari
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp red curry paste
  • pinch of red pepper flakes

Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and process until well blended.

I did, however, like the simple peanut sauce I used in the nori rolls, so here it is….

Peanut Sauce used in nori rolls:

  • 1 Tbsp yellow mustard (or dijon could work here too if you want to add a little more zing)
  • 1 Tbsp tamari
  • 1 Tbsp peanut butter (or other nut butter)
  • 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • salt/pepper to taste
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp red curry paste (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process until well blended.

Enjoy!

 

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.

Beans and Rice and a Flavorful Tomato-Cucumber Salad

Since May 1st, I have been on a juice “feast.” I am drinking my fruits and veggies for every meal as well as for snacks. All in all, I consume about a half gallon of juice each day…..which is why I’m calling it juice “feasting” rather than juice “fasting.” I drank only juice (mostly green) for 9 days before I decided to alter my plan a bit to incorporate occasional “treats” of raw veggies, with the understanding that I can only eat what I can juice. My goal is to continue to juice a few more days (so 20-24 days total…depending on what I decide this weekend, which will be determined much by where my weight is by the 20th, because as of right now I still have about 5 pesky pounds I’d like to lose), while allowing myself an occasional raw veggie treat no more than once each day in case my family is eating something exceptionally tasty and it’s just too much for me to sit and watch them eat without crunching on something myself. 

Tonight was one of those nights….

When Chad and I were first married, one of our favorite meals was beans and rice. Simple and yet delicious. The first time I made it was on our honeymoon, and we will both admit that it was definitely lacking in the spice department….It was flat out bland. Over the years I learned to spice it up, and it became a favorite. 

And then we had children, and life became a little more busy, and so I found ways to take shortcuts in the recipe…..Just throw in some salsa….toss in a bag of frozen onions and peppers…..Yeah, these all work, but it just isn’t the same as doing the work of chopping the green onions and bell peppers and choosing the spices. So tonight I decided to go back to the basics….

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I started by sautéing 4 diced green onions, 1 diced green bell peppers, a small can of diced tomatoes with mild green chiles, and 2 diced garlic cloves (in some of the new cookware my family gave me for Mother’s Day).

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Next, I rinsed 2 cans of dark red kidney beans and 2 cans of black beans in a colander (you can also use cooked dry beans, and I usually would, but sometimes I just need a little shortcut), and then added them to the pan, along with chili powder and cumin (to taste). Finally, just for fun, I added nutritional yeast and chia seeds….because it’s always fun to add extra nutritional boosts to our food. 

Serve on top of rice and garnish with fresh cilantro. 

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This was definitely one of those meals that I needed a “treat” to crunch on while I watched my family eat, so I made my new favorite treat…..

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For this beautiful salad, I cut grape tomatoes, cucumbers, green onions, and cilantro, and then tossed with lime juice and a dash of salt. I wish you could smell and taste this blog, because it is truly a party to the senses!

We’re nuts about compassion!

When our son was 13 months old, he had an allergic reaction to touching peanut butter. Two days later (at his well-child check-up), our family doctor prescribed an Epipen Jr, which we have since carried with us everywhere we go with him. And, much to our daughter’s dismay, peanut butter has been absent from our home and lives. 

But yesterday, all that has changed! A month ago, we finally had him tested for allergies. When his skin scratch tests came back negative, we (including the allergist) were all puzzled, so the allergist ordered a blood test. When the blood test came back negative, the allergist recommended he come back to her office at a later date for a food challenge with peanut butter. Yesterday was that day. He started with 1/32 tsp of peanut butter and every 15 minutes the nurse came in with twice as much peanut butter, until he got up to 4 tsp. When he first tasted it, he said, “mmmmm” and confirmed that he liked it, but by the 4 tsp dose, he was less than thrilled and even somewhat resisting it (climbing underneath the chairs and laying down on his stomach so I couldn’t reach his face with the spoon). They wanted to give him 8 tsp (an adult dose), but decided that by that point he had eaten enough to confirm that he had outgrown his allergy. 

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Needless to say, we are thrilled! It is a scary thing to have a child with a life-threatening allergy….to live with the fear that at any moment (while out in public) your child may come into contact with his allergen or to know that if a food item isn’t labeled properly it could send your child to the hospital. 

When we picked our daughter up from school, I told her the good news, and she said, “YEA! Can I have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?!” Of course, I made her one when we got home, and the smile on her face said it all. 

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For the past year and a half, our daughter has exemplified such compassion for her little brother…sacrificing her love of peanut butter for his well-being. It is this compassion for the needs and well-being of others, both human and animals, that we try to teach our children. Our wants are not more important than others needswhether we are talking about not eating nuts around nut-allergic people out of compassion for their lives, or whether we are talking about not eating animals or consuming animal byproducts out of compassion for the lives of those animals. As parents, it is our responsibility to teach our children the difference between wants and needs. As vegan parents, compassion plays an essential role in that lesson. 

– S

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

The Cat in the Hat Goes Vegan

Ok so maybe the Cat in the Hat isn’t really vegan…He is a cat after all. And Dr. Suess’ characters weren’t exactly known for their veganism. I seem to recall a “roast beast” mentioned in The Grinch That Stole Christmas…but in our household you are far more likely to see roast beets than roast beast. However, one of our son’s favorite characters is the Cat in the Hat, who he calls “Go-Go” (from the theme song of PBS’s “The Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot About That”), so when planning his 2nd birthday party, our minds almost immediately went to Dr. Suess (Eric Carle’s Very Hungry Caterpillar was a close 2nd, because he also loves caterpillars and butterflies). With 2012 marking the 75th anniversary of the publication of Dr. Suess’ first children’s book, fortunately there were plenty of ideas floating around on the internet (especially Pinterest).

Here are some photos and ideas to share from our son’s Dr. Suess themed 2nd birthday party…

GAMES

Shannon’s mom, “Nana,” is an artist, so we requested her artistic skills in preparing for one of the games, Pin the Hat on the Cat. Nana drew the Cat and the cut-out hats. We added some poster putty to the backs and voila…a homemade game was made! Blindfolds were optional, much based on age, but everyone got a dizzy spin around.

Our son and his friend playing “Pin the Hat on the Cat.”

We found a link with a pdf file of this next game, “1 fish 2 fish” online, so we printed it out, put clear contact paper on it, and Shannon had already made homemade goldfish crackers for the party (with the help of a crafty friend who made the goldfish shaped cracker cutter). There are 6 goldfish bowls numbered 1-6 on each page. Each child counts out the number of crackers indicated on the bowl and places them “in” the bowl. The children at our party ranged from ages 2-6, so this was a bit of an advanced learning game for some, easy for others, and just right for those in the middle. In the end everyone won, because they got to eat the goldfish crackers! Also, each child got to keep her or his game page and a bag of goldfish crackers to take home.

Our daughter taking her turn playing 1 fish 2 fish with homemade vegan goldfish crackers.

FOOD

On the food table, we included a copy of the Dr. Suess book “Happy Birthday to You!” for guests to write a note for the birthday boy. Also on the food table were Hat Pizzas, 1 Fish 2 Fish Crackers, Strawberry Banana Fruit Hat Kabobs, and of course cake…lots and lots of cake.

The food table

Hat Pizzas: dough + sauce + Yves brand vegan pepperoni cut in half + Daiya brand mozzarella shreds

Strawberry Banana Hat Kabobs

1 fish 2 fish, red fish blue fish: homemade vegan goldfish crackers (Shannon tried to color some red and some blue, but they turned out more blue green and salmon colored – LOL!)

a sample plate of the food

Chad’s mom is an amazing baker! She actually runs a business out of her home, baking cakes and cupcakes for people in her community. So it’s pretty much a given that Grandma will be making the cakes for birthdays in our house, and we have never been disappointed. Her cakes are not only delicious, but their super cute! For our son’s birthday, she made red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese (Tofutti brand vegan cream cheese) icing.

Birthday cake and cupcakes!

The decorations were made by placing 2 Dr. Suess character foam stickers back to back around a toothpick, and Shannon found the Cat in the Hat cake topper with candles online (but couldn’t find it again to include the link…sorry).

The birthday cake!

PARTY FAVORS

Shannon is by no means a sewer. She openly admits that her sewing skills typically end at sewing on buttons. But when she saw this idea for a library book bag, she just had to try it, and despite a few thread tangling mishaps, she was pretty proud of the end result. It was made by cutting out the hat shape in red and white strips of felt, and then loop stitching it onto a canvas tote bag. Then with a fabric marker, she hand wrote the Dr. Suess quote, “The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” Since Dr. Suess was a children’s author, what better party favor than a library book bag for the children to take with them and fill with books a their local library! We also filled the bag with some fun Dr. Suess inspired items: a Dr. Suess character coloring/activity pad, crayons, Dr. Suess character foam finger puppets, and Cat in the Hat bookmarks.

Party favors: Dr. Suess/Cat in the Hat library tote bag filled with goodies

OTHER FUN ITEMS

We think those t-shirts with the sewn on ties are super cute, so when gathering items for the big day, Shannon started looking for a Cat in the Hat tie t-shirt. Lo and behold, she found one at an etsy shop. The super cute Cat in the Hat tie shirt that our son is wearing in the pictures below was purchased at Bella’s Sweet Boutique. (We’ve ordered other items from her since then, and she’s always been super helpful and accommodating. She even made a special order for us as a gift for someone.)

Birthday boy!

A Dr. Suess birthday party wouldn’t be complete without a Hat. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a picture of our birthday boy with it on, but here’s one of Chad wearing the big red and white striped hat.

Chad sporting the Cat’s Hat with our little girl

MORE HAPPY BIRTHDAY MEMORIES…

Shannon helping the birthday boy blow out his birthday candles. He ended up blowing out one and she blew out one.

The birthday boy eating his cupcake with big sister showing the Cat in the Hat cake topper.

Is Breastmilk Vegan?

Today marks the end of World Breastfeeding Week (August 1-7), a time to bring awareness to breastfeeding throughout the world. And so with breastfeeding on the mind, this seemed like a good time to address a question I have been asked on more than one occasion: “Is breastmilk vegan?”

This question may have crossed your mind, too, or perhaps this seems like an obvious answer. In actuality, the answer is a little more complicated than a “yes” or “no.”

The simplest answer, and the answer that probably most vegans would agree upon is an overwhelming, “Yes!” However, there are other, more strict vegans, who might answer that breastmilk is only vegan if the lactating mother follows a vegan diet. Both answers are actually right, and regardless of which answer one might lean toward, I think both parties would overwhelmingly agree that “Breast is best!

But I think what most people are really getting at when they ask, “Is breastmilk vegan?” is a confusion about the abstinence of the consumption of dairy products by vegans. There is an assumption that if vegans do not consume “milk” then we must be opposed to the milk of any lactating mother, animal or human. And so let me clear up this misunderstanding….

Cow milk is actually vegan, even by the most strict vegan standards…when it is consumed as nature intended. That is, cows are by nature herbivores. They are vegan. And cow milk is actually breastmilk, which nature intended to feed to baby cows. Udders are called udders to make humans feel more comfortable drinking the breastmilk of another species. Really, udders are just multiple nipples, and what comes out of them is breastmilk…breastmilk intended for the cow’s baby, not for humans. (The same goes for goats or any other animal whose milk humans may choose to consume.) And that is why vegans don’t drink the milk of another species. It’s not intended for us. (Well, that is part 1 of why vegans don’t drink the milk of another species. Part 2 is another conversation.)

In fact, humans are actually the only species that consume another species’ breastmilk. So the next time you see a mother breastfeeding her child and you (or someone around you) comments (or thinks) that it’s somehow “gross” or “weird” (or insert other derogatory comment), look at that glass of milk in your hand or that carton of milk in your refrigerator, and remember this image…..

And so to finally answer the question…Yes, breastmilk is vegan…but only for the species for whom that milk was intended.

a mother cow breastfeeding her baby

Me breastfeeding (and babywearing) my sleepy 2 year old son in the dairy aisle of the grocery store.

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