Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Goooey gooooey goodness - We love Dandies!

Soooo, any of ya'll who regularly read this blog might have realized that I am a teensy, weensy bit obsessed with baseball and the San Francisco Giants. And, as you might well expect, I am a little insane over their ummm.....

(I sincerely apologize to any of my readers who are fans of teams that suck. )

Anyways, when I am stressed, I eat. And I want the ultimate comfort food - CHOCOLATE! So, while the boys were battling into first place, and I was pacing, bitting nails and not breathing, I decided to bake. Well - to not bake. 

A while back, I mentioned Dandies. For those of you still living in the pre-vegalicious age, Dandies are AMAZING-MAKE-YOU-BOW-DOWN-TO-THE-SOY-DAIRY-GODS-SQUISHY-MELTY- GOOEYNESS that does not contain the collagen of animals skin and bones! Yes, boys and girls,  I speak of the holy grail of veganess..... MARSHMALLOWS! (Those of us who remember the Great Marshmallow Fiasco of 2007 are especially appreciative).

I had been playing with ideas for a while, but had tons of trouble coming up with an recipe  idea worthy enough to give these babies justice. The stress eating finally took over, and I just did it! The recipe is to follow, but the verdict is VEGAN MARSHMALLOWS! There is no way to go wrong!

I've said it before, and I'm gonna say it again - I am not a brilliant chef. My food is UGLY. But it always tastes good! That being the truth, I'm going to show you the end product first:

I'm the Queen of Ease - I love being in the kitchen, sometimes. World Series game 5 was not one of those times. I chose to make do with what I had in the kitchen and could put together quickly!

Here are the ingredients:

Yes! That's it! 
* Original graham crackers, vegan chocolate chips, Dandies! * 

And again.... I make UGLY food. Thank goodness for me, Dandies taste great no matter how hard you try to screw them up! Please, please, please don't judge me based on the below, please! 

Step 1. Place graham crackers in baking dish 

 Step 2. Melt the chocolate

Step3. Quickly stir in Dandies vegan marshmallows 

 Step 4. Try to spread it over the graham crackers. I ended up using a piece of foil to pay over it and smooth. (Waxed paper would have worked better.)

Step 5. Refrigerate for 30 min.

Step 6. Cut into squares 

VoilĂ !!

(Not so ugly, right?!) 

Thank you, thank you, thank you to Chicago SoyDairy for this phenomenal product! Trust me, go get your Dandies today! I will be making these again for sure! Hope you enjoy! 


Friday, October 29, 2010

To Trick-or-Treat or Not?

Yes, definitely! At least, that's what my kids would say! I am a mom who tries to keep her kids away from candy and other crappy sugar- and dye-laden products as much as possible, but we do participate in this Halloween tradition. Kaylee has been vegan ever since she could tote around her own treat bag, and we've always gone trick-or-treating with her.

The kids know in advance that we will be getting vegan and non-vegan candy put into our bags and that we will be separating the candy at the end of the night, giving the non-vegan candy to the cousins that we traditionally trick-or-treat with. Kaylee and Braeden have even gotten pretty good at knowing which candy is vegan and which is not (although Braeden definitely needs some help and supervision). In the past, it hasn't been a problem to give away half (or more) of their loot. (I like that we end up with a pretty small amount of candy in the end!)

This year, I wonder if it will be a little bit more challenging. Braeden came home from preschool today with a little goody bag that contained stickers, a small toy, and three pieces of candy--disappointingly all non-vegan. He was quite sad that he couldn't eat any of the candy. My non-vegan toddler niece was over and we decided to give her the candy to eat at home and I let Braeden have some vegan candy that I kept in the pantry. It helped, but I do think that Braeden is more sensitive to not being able to eat everything than Kaylee has ever been.

Even if Braeden gets a little upset at having to part with some candy, I do think he'd rather do that than skip trick-or-treating all together. I feel like, as vegans, our kids already have to do so many things differently and miss many of the things that most kids do. If I can let them participate in a fun tradition that I enjoyed as a child, then I will. I think it's nice to see my cousins become aware of which candy is and is not vegan and offer to trade candy with my kids. Dressing up it itself is so much fun, and who doesn't like to show off their Halloween costume as they go door-to-door to collect candy? (Me, that's who...Yes, I WILL be dressing up this year!)

So, if you're so inclined, print up PETA's list of vegan-friendly candy, grab your plastic jack-o-lantern, and trick-or-treat until either you or your kids drops--and I'm guessing you'll poop out before your youngster does!!

Spooky Celebrations

Two weeks ago, we hosted our second annual Halloween/birthday party for our now eight-year-old daughter, Kaylee. As is common for us, we had about forty-five guests at the party, including about 15 children.

Halloween has been special to me ever since I was a little girl and my mom threw birthday/costume parties for my birthday. I would have about 8 girls come over and my mom would have fun party games for us to play, and we'd often end the night with a sleepover. I remember my party in seventh grade when I had my first boy/girl party where we batted at a candy-filled pinata in my front yard. Oh, the memories. The cute boy I liked was there in his costume and I hoped he would like me in my ragged black witch's dress and ratted up spray-painted hair. My mom, a single parent, always managed to throw the best parties. A few years back, I ran into a childhood friend who brought the parties up and commented on how great they were. My mom also found time to sew elaborate and unique costumes for my sister and I. I remember LOVING my costumes and enjoying all the compliments I got when I wore them.

Because my mom created so many wonderful memories surrounding the spookiest holiday of the year, I am now trying to follow in her footsteps, at least a little. I am more into the Martha Stewart holiday crafts than she was, so I spent two weeks preparing my home for the ghoulish get-together. My mom does have me beat, though, in the costume department. This is only the second year that I've made all of the kid's costumes and they were much simpler than the ones she made for us as children.

Aren't we lovely in our party attire?

I though I'd share some of the pictures and food ideas from Kaylee's party with you in case you are hosting a Halloween shindig of your own. I hoped to post this earlier and I apologize for not doing so, but even if you don't use any of the ideas this year, maybe you'll use them in the future.

Most of my food ideas came from Martha Stewart's Halloween magazine and from her website. My husband made the witches' finger (see photo below) from her magazine and used soymilk to adhere the salt to the fingers instead of the egg wash called for in the recipe. My mom made a "spooky cemetery" dip that I found in another magazine. It was basically a layered mexican dip that we often make for parties, but we just rearranged the layers. The layers are: (starting with the bottom) refried beans, guacamole, Tofutti sour cream, tomatoes, and green onions. The top layer is shredded lettuce, which represents the grass in a cemetery. I made tombstones, a tree, and scaredy cats out of different flavored and colored tortillas (which I cut into shapes, brushed with oil, sprinkled with salt, and baked at 350 until crispy) and stuck them into the dip. Chopped olives were placed at the base of the tombstones to represent fresh dirt.

Cemetery Surprise

Witches' Fingers

I had "guacamoldy" with "toasted spirits" (more baked tortillas cut with Halloween cookie cutters and and baked as described above), sliced baguette with heads of roasted garlic ("to keep the vampires away") and "chopped beetles" (olive tapenade). A delicious favorite recipe( from Vegetarian Times) for onion dip became "puree of carmelized worms" with "dragon skin flakes" (potato chips). A bowl of black olives were "spider bodies", and red salsa with blue chips became "diced witches' hearts" and "lizard skin". Really, you could think of any spooky-looking food and find a creepy name for it. Kaylee made little cards with the creative names of the foods on them to place around the table. We also had a large pot filled with a simple punch with dry ice in it to become "bubbling blood."

Party-goers mingle around the food

For dessert, I made full-size mummy cupcakes and mini-spider cupcakes, again from Martha Stewart. (I used her decorating ideas, but used vegan recipes for the cake and frosting.) They were time-intensive, but I like to make fun and unique desserts/cakes for the kids' parties. Food is a good way to impress those skeptics we know who doubt the deliciousness of vegan goodies!

I've included a lot of photos for you to look at for decorating and food ideas. I hope you find them fun and helpful! I love throwing the party, even though it takes me two full weeks to prepare for it. (When my husband would come home from work at night, I would ask him to spot the decoration I had added that day and would be annoyed if he didn't notice all my hard work. Poor guy!) I think it took me longer to decorate for this party than it does when I decorate for Christmas!

I hope my party ideas show you that it's possible to create a successful, fun, tasty, all-vegan party that family and friends will be happy to attend! I must admit that many of my family members tell me that my parties have the "best food" and that one aunt and cousin drive for several hours to come to our parties. I think I'm changing misconceptions about veganism and opening minds one party at a time! =)

Anyways, Happy Halloween to all you wonderful vegans! And may you get lots of Smarties, Skittles, and Laffy Taffy in your trick-or-treat bags this Sunday!

My spooky living room. A fog machine and strobe lights are a MUST!

Each year I take serious-faced photos of all of us at put them in my everyday frames. I also have pictures I took from the internet of The Adams' Family, The Munsters, along with a werewolf and a vampire. Everyone loves to look at them. (I print them in black and white for a creepy effect.)

Water and food coloring in old jars make for a simple and fun decoration. My mom found the labels at a craft store.

Cauliflower in a jar with water, food coloring, and a splash of soymilk make a gross specimen jar, giving the impression of a floating brain. Eew!

I used old wine and lemonade bottles from family members and filled them with colored water. Martha comes to the rescue, again, with ready-made labels. Tealights add a nice effect when placed on the mirrored tray.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

This is what a vegan eats

Ah hem.. excuse the lack of veggies. My CSA delivery is tomorrow and I've been on vacation! Yes, it may seem exceedingly strange to the naked un-vegan eye to view a veg fridge so devoid of VEGGIES, but rest assured it is the exception!

 My favorite artwork in my kitchen

FOOD in the fridge:

Silken, firm, and extra firm tofu
YVES chicken patties
Soy milk - vanilla, plain, and chocolate
Tofutti sour cream
Flax seed
Daiya cheese
and of course... beer!

Speaking of beer, ya'll know my obsession with beer and baseball, so I gotta say:


What Should Vegans Do?

Okay readers, I know you're out there (in my head you are all members of a giant fan club that have banded together and are inspired and confidant to raise you're kids as vegans knowing there is such a goddess as myself sitting at her kitchen table, just waiting to read her words of wisdom gained form years of vegan parenting...)

In any case, I'm asking for advice. A vegan friend is planning a dinner time (only opening and location that works)  birthday party for her 7 year old, and the joint says nay on the vegan pies. They want her to buy cow cheese pizzas. GROSS!

I've written  about my feelings of financially supporting the meat and dairy industry, and she shares similar views. But is there ever a time when it is okay to give in to the peer pressure of the carnivorous society at large?

The Good:

*Others coming to the party are veg-UNfriendly. Having cow cheese would make them shut up and avoid comments like "eewww, my kids won't eat this"!

*Easier and cheaper

* Can still bring in 1 veg pizza for b-day boy under guise of allergies

The Bad:

*What the heck is the world coming to? Serving curdled baby cow juice at a veg b-day party?

*If she doesn't, they'll be 21 kids with a veggie plate (no dip) for 2 hours - during dinner time!

The Ugly:

"Presumably, the first cheese was produced by accident when the ancients stored milk in a bag made from the stomach of a young goat, sheep or cow. They found that the day-old milk would curdle in the bag (stomach), yielding solid chunks (curds) and liquid (whey). Once they discovered that the curd-chunks could be separated out and dried, they had discovered a means by which milk, an extremely perishable food, could be preserved for later use. The addition of salt was found to preserve these dried curds for long periods of time.

"At some point, someone discovered that the most active portion of the young animal's stomach to cause curdling was the abomasum, the last of the four chambers of the stomach of a ruminant animal. (In sequence, the four chambers are rumen, reticulum, omasum and abomasum.) In particular, the abomasum from a suckling kid or calf was especially active. The abomasum was cut it into strips, salted and dried. A small piece would be added to milk in order to turn it into curds and whey."

It's too late to change the location, date or time. So.... what would you do? Give in or stand your vegan ground?



Thursday, September 30, 2010

Gross Out!

My kids are dutiful vegans, and I'd like to keep them that way. When a commercial comes on for fast food, I point out the commercialism of it-  how the food isn't healthy, how they just give toys to kids to get their parents to spend money, etc. My kids are really good about it, and I don't think they have any desire to eat those foods. Just in case, though, I occasionally will share visual reinforcements: 

A chicken: 

Princess Tosha, Farm Sanctuary, CA 
Photo courtesy of amazing animal friend Kerrie!

Sadly, this beautiful lady passed away about a month ago. Heartbreaking as it is, I am happy to know that it was from old age and that she spent her golden years surrounded by love & friends 

The  inside of a chicken nugget: 

According to the USDA, mechanically separated poultry is "a paste-like and batter-like poultry product produced by forcing bones with attached edible tissue through a sieve or similar device under high pressure to separate bone from the edible tissue." 

A McDonald's Chicken Nugget: 

And in case that's not enough of an incentive to avoid this crap: 

Want one? EWWWWWWW!! 

B12 and Iron and Calcium, Oh My!

Awesome article on vegan baby's first year!

The following article was written by animal rights activist, vegan mother, and former PETA staffer Lauren Rainbow.

When I went vegan almost four years ago, I wasn't overly concerned about the mythological nutritional deficiencies that many people assume go along with a vegan diet. I knew about the importance of vitamin B12, calcium, and iron and knew where I could get them. In fact, it was easier than I thought it would be. When I became pregnant with my son, I was excited and firm in my conviction to raise a vegan child from conception through adolescence. Although I was always confident in my own nutrition-rich diet, I have to admit that I was slightly concerned when it came to providing my son, Danny, with everything that he would need, especially in his first five years. Looking back on my initial reservations, I now realize that I just didn't know anything about babies—although I was pretty sure that I couldn't blend up a veggie burger, put it in a bottle, and feed it to an infant.
Well, I got wise to the game and did my research. I soon learned that nearly all baby food is vegan. Most babies start out on rice cereal, bananas, apples, yams, and simple grains. Animal-derived products start to creep into most children's diets at the age of 6 months. One book I read stated that veal is a perfect first meat for a baby. Veal? Why on Earth would I want to feed my baby another baby? Even my omnivore friends balked at that one.
When Danny hit the one-year mark, the pediatrician brought up his vegan diet and began gently probing me for details about what he ate. There was no doubt that he was growing just fine; he weighed close to 24 pounds, which put him in the "sumo baby" category. I explained that he gets vitamin B12 from nutritional yeast sprinkled on toast and gets calcium from leafy greens in homemade soups. Iron is abundant in beans, which most babies love to eat with their hands. Power foods, such as fortified cereals and soy milk or yogurt, give Danny just about everything he needs in one go. While I think the pediatrician was impressed by my knowledge of nutrition, she suggested that we do a blood test to make sure that Danny was getting everything he needed. I was all for it because I wanted to be absolutely certain about something as important as his diet.
The tests showed that Danny had ample amounts of iron and B12 in his body. (I was beaming.) I wanted to know about his calcium levels but found out that there isn't a test for the calcium that builds strong bones, only for blood calcium, which is a whole different story. She said that based on the variety in his diet and his other nutritional levels, she wasn't concerned about it. So I guess I did it—I managed to get Danny through his first year without any dents, dings, or deficiencies. It's not like this was a difficult task by any stretch of the imagination, but getting through that first year of infancy can be daunting in and of itself, especially since I was assuming the responsibility of providing Danny with a healthy dietrather than relying on food schedules that are suggested in books or on bottles of Gerber baby food. It was good to know that all was well—in fact, very well.
Here is a soup recipe that is a staple in our house. It's loaded with protein, iron, calcium, and everything that's good for babies and parents. As with most homemade soups, the quantities are approximations.
2 quarts vegetable stock or water
1/2 cup dry lentils
1/2 cup dry beans (any kind)
1/2 cup dry quinoa
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 gloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
2 Tbsp. cumin
2 Tbsp. Spike seasoning
3-4 cups of your favorite chopped vegetables (yams, carrots, zucchini, broccoli, spinach, etc.)

  • Pour the vegetable stock or water in a large soup pot and bring to a boil.
  • Add all the ingredients to the mixture.
  • Simmer for about an hour or until all the beans are cooked and soft. (More veggie broth or water may be added at any time.)
  • Blend the soup in a blender until smooth.
  • Set aside a generous amount of soup for your baby and season the "adult portion" with salt and pepper, to taste.
Makes 6 servings

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

LOL's for veg kids!

Why did the tofu cross the road?
              To prove he wasn't chicken.

What do you call a militant vegan?
              Lactose intolerant.

What's the best way to keep milk fresh?
             Leave it in the cow.

What did one vegetarian spy say to the other vegetarian spy?
               We have to stop meating like this.

What does a vegan zombie eat?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Vegan in NYC? Holla!

My husband and I took a trip to NYC during Labor Day weekend, and let me say it was... AWESOME! I know that this is a vegan kids blog, but come on, parents need a little TLC, too! My amazing mom volunteered to watch our kids while we went for a long weekend to visit my cousin in NY. She recently moved to NY to go to NYU (yes, she is brilliant), and by recently, I do mean that she had only been in NY for one week before we had visited her. She was already homesick, and greatly appreciated the company of her favorite vegans (excluding our children who would beat us out).

We don't normally take lavish weekend trips, but Nate was already traveling to North Carolina (from the SF area, where we live) on business, so his flight from NC to NY was covered by his company. Kind of on a lark, we talked about me meeting him in NY, so when my mom offered to watch the kids, I seized the chance to not only be alone with my spouse, but to visit my beloved cousin, Sam, and take a huge bite out of the delicious vegan Big Apple.

And eat the Apple we did...Oh, my goodness! NYC really is a haven for vegans. I am imagining the angels singing as I write this. It really was that good. The first night, we ate at Angelica Kitchen and it was probably my favorite dinner in NY. I had this amazing Asian crepe filled with delectable goodies, including shitake mushrooms, and drizzled with a wasabi cream. Oh, yeah. Nate had a seitan wrap with a mole sauce that I recreated in my kitchen upon returning home. (Check out my photos: I was so proud of my fancy creation that I made my mom pose with her plates! She looks too young to be a grandma, doesn't she?)

My cousin, Sam, had glazed tempeh on little crostinis with a brown gravy and Yukon gold mashed potatoes. So good! Sam, by the way, is totally vegan-friendly and was just about as excited as we were to try all the good vegan food. She had only been to one vegan restaurant with us before, in San Francisco, but had happily consumed many a meal at our home. This was Sam's first try of tempeh, and she enjoyed it. It really is great to have such supportive family members!

For the two mornings we ate breakfast in NY, we ate at The Organic Grill, a vegetarian restaurant within walking distance to NYU in Greenwich Village (Angelica Kitchen was even closer to Sam's residential hall). They had great vegan omelets, tofu rancheros, waffles and drinks. (There is more on the menu, but we ate the omelets and tofu rancheros both days due to their amazing taste.) The Organic Grill has a unique way of grating their tofu to use in omelets and tofu scramble that is really good. We loved it, hence the reason behind us dining there two days in a row (even when we had to wait 25 minutes for a table on the second day).

Before we went to see the Broadway show, Promises, Promises, (which was AWESOME), we dined at Candle Cafe where we each enjoyed a different, tasty sandwich. It was really good! We also purchased some cookies to-go to eat in the show. Yum!

Sam with her decadent Tuscan Seitan Parmesan Sandwich, and my goofy Nate with his classic Tofu Club.

Our last dinner in NY was at a chic narrow place called Red Bamboo. We were actually heading toward a different restaurant when we passed Red Bamboo, and I recognized it from our online searches. A glance at the menu and we were up for a try. The dishes are mainly soy- and wheat-meat heavy with an Asian slant, as hinted at in the restaurant's name. I was in the mood for a salad because of all the eating we were doing, and it had terriyaki soy chicken in it. All of our plates were tasty, but it was perhaps one of our more indulgent meals due to the amount of processed veggie meat. I would love to have this restaurant around us to head to on occasion, but it didn't top Angelica Kitchen--for me, anyway.

Sam and I pose at Red Bamboo.

Now I've been mentioning a lot of savory meals, but who can ignore a nice sugary treat? Well, not me, and definitely not Nate! Our first sweet success was at Stogo, a relatively new all-vegan ice cream store. It is a clean-lined modern place that would appeal to anyone. I had Salted Caramel Pecan, and Peanut Butter Fudge. Sigh...I wish I was back there right now (and that's not only to escape the bickering and fisticuffs of my son and niece that I am currently witnessing). No, the two flavors I tried were AMAZING (imagine me singing that word aloud for the true effect of my joy)! The Salted Caramel Pecan was the best vegan caramel I've ever had, with just the right amount of saltiness. It was so unique and scrumptious! And, can anyone resist the divine combination of peanut butter and chocolate? Not in the Wall house. The container of Peanut Butter Fudge had a layer of fudge with crushed peanuts on top which I was lucky enough to get a chunk of in my scoop. It was crunchy, salty goodness! I would love for there to be a Stogo near me...but maybe my scale would not!

I think one paragraph is sufficient to express my love of our first vegan ice cream experience in the city that never sleeps, so on to the final stop we made before heading home to the SF Bay Area. It may have been the pinnacle of our noshing in New York. After reading many glowing Yelp reviews (many from omnivores who were "forced" to go to a vegan ice cream parlor--yuck!--but discovered that it was, after all, quite amazing) we had to make the trek on foot to Lula's Sweet Apothecary, a teeny--and I do mean teeny--ice cream parlor straight out of the 50s...except that everything was deliciously vegan. Aaah! I read that their soft serve ice cream, with one of the two flavors always being Cake Batter flavor, was to die for (except no one had to die, right?). So I got a sundae with one of the "scoops" being the Cake Batter soft serve, and the other being something with chocolate and peanut butter. The whole thing was covered in the best hot fudge I've tasted in years, topped with coconut whipped cream, peanuts and a cherry on top. It was humongous, but I somehow managed to eat the whole thing. (See photo below) It was the most remarkable ice cream experience ever! At first, the parlor only had a few people talking outside the door, and a small group of customers at the counter before us. After we ordered, the place got packed! The one place to eat inside opened up, and we were able to take our towering sundaes in to sit on the stools at the counter which looked out into the street. It was the full Lula's experience, in my opinion. When next I visit New York, this will be the first place I head to, be it breakfast, lunch or dinner time. As soon as it's open, I'll be there!

If we had brought our kids along on our trip, it would have been a TOTALLY different experience. The plane trip alone would have been a challenge. I flew alone from SF and had several delays and an aircraft switch, causing me arrive in NY six hours late. Not too fun even if you're an adult traveling alone, but very difficult for children. We walked as much as we could around Greenwich Village and its surrounding areas, and we took the subway (fun!) several places. I think that Braeden and Kaylee would have enjoyed some of the walking and all of the restaurants, especially the ice cream shops, but they would have tired out faster than we did, obviously. Cristian, who is now sixteen months, would have changed the whole dynamic of the trip, with naps, fussiness, and wanting to walk on his own. I definitely think he would have been too young to handle the trip, but Kaylee and Braeden would have been fun to have along. Nate and I did feel bad eating at places we know they would have LOVED and talked about it while we were there. We will most surely take them with us when they are a bit older. (We had to promise them this to placate them. Kaylee was very sad that she was not accompanying us and didn't understand why the two of us were going alone. Poor girl!) I think we'll be going to Sam's NYU graduation in four years with all the kids---if we are feeling especially brave and wealthy!

Until then, we'll have our memories, menus and photos to look at to remind us of one of the most incredible weekends we've had, hands-down. I will never forget the dining experiences, seeing a great Broadway show, and spending time with my cutie pie cousin. I'm adding some final pics from around NYC, because, well, why not? It was just too fun not to share. =)


Home garden=kids eat more veggies!

We have had a home vegetable garden for maybe five or six years now. We don't have a big yard; our front yard is mostly paved driveway with trees and plants along the fence, and the backyard is mostly an aggregate patio with some dirt areas near the back fence. There was a large metal storage shed in the corner of our backyard when we bought our home. It added no interest to our yard and was a place to collect junk that we'd forget was in there as soon as we put it inside. So, several years back, we got rid of the shed and Nate built pretty raised planter beds on the concrete slab that had been beneath the shed. Last summer, Nate built a three-tiered planter along the fence near the first garden. It's not a huge space by any means, but I love it!

Having a vegetable garden is so great for kids and encourages the whole family to value and enjoy eating fresh produce. My kids love to go to our local nursery and pick out plants for our garden. Helping to do the planting of the veggies is an especially wonderful experience for them. Kids get to see firsthand how plants, and vegetables, grow and change. They get to pick food right from the plant and, often, just pop it into their mouth, as they do with the little tomatoes in our garden. I think that seeing how the food grows and is "harvested" in our own little garden can help children connect to the bigger agricultural picture and begin to imagine where other fruits and vegetables come from.

I've also noticed that my kids will try, and grow to enjoy, foods they might not have been interested in. I remember last summer when I would take care of my, then 1 1/2 year old, niece, Caitlyn, three days a week. We had a good crop of cherry tomatoes growing along our driveway, right next to where I'd park my minivan. Before our tomatoes began to ripen, Caitlyn would not eat tomatoes in salads, on their own, or in any manner. As the first weeks of tomato season began to pass and Caitlyn saw my kids and I grab a couple of tomatoes from the plant while we entered and exited the car, she became curious and finally tried one. Soon, she was wiping out my supply of tomatoes!

My kids love to have the contents of the garden at their fingertips. This summer they spent hours playing in the backyard, picking tomatoes and washing them with the garden hose. Last week they borrowed a plastic knife and some bowls from the kitchen and cut a bunch of tomatoes in half for them to eat. Braeden likes to make "cilantro sandwiches," as he calls them, consisting of a lettuce leaf rolled up with cilantro inside. It's exciting for them to eat the food from the garden, especially if they get to pick it themselves. It's also a great element for them to incorporate into their pretend play.

This summer we have many times consumed a delectable sandwich that has now become Kaylee's favorite sandwich. We take pieces of whole grain bread and spread one piece with Wildwood Garlic Aoili and a little mustard. Then we spread avocado on the other slice. The beauty of this sandwich is the fresh-from-the-garden tomatoes and lettuce that we put on the sandwich. Yum! Top the veggies with a little sea salt and freshly ground pepper, and viola, you have a wonderful summertime sandwich. (Braeden and I like to sprinkle a little cayenne on ours as well.) Kaylee is quite excited when I make this sandwich for her school lunch in the fall when the tomatoes are still plentiful. (I make sure to keep the lettuce and tomato separate from the bread and let her assemble it herself in order to keep the bread from getting soggy.) I think I may make this sandwich for lunch now that I've been thinking about it!

Kaylee and Braeden enjoying our garden fresh sandwiches!
See our gorgeous tomatoes?

So, even if you have a small space to work with, try planting a garden with your children! It's economical, earth-friendly, educational and delicious...and your kids just might eat more veggies!


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The vegan sukkah Nazi

I get to use the word Nazi 'cause I'm a Jew... : ) 

And Jews build sukkahs. Without going into a lot of detail, we celebrate Sukkot, which is a holiday best described as a Jewish Thanksgiving. The sukkah is a structure we build in the yard to commemorate the 40 years the Jews spent wandering in the desert, and we decorate it with fruit and palm leaves to celebrate the season's harvest. The best part is that we eat and sleep in it for a week! Eating in the sukkah is very important, and eating good food always jives well with veganism! 

Our sukkah is still in progress of being decorated, but here is the structure: 

We are SUPER lucky to have a group of amazing volunteers come out each year to help us build ours. These volunteers come through a Jewish network and it's everyone's first time meeting. The first year, the organization offered to provide bagels and cream cheese. I wrote back thanking them, explaining that we are vegan and that I would be happy to supply tofutti vegan cream cheese and bagels. The coordinator was super sweet, said they would supply the nosh, which they did... in addition to cow cream cheese. 

Each year since, there has been non-vegan food brought into the sukkah by the volunteers. I appreciate their help so much, it is difficult to ask them not to eat in it, especially since it is such a special part of building a sukkah (and, many times there are young toddlers eating in it). But I can't shake the feeling that it's been "contaminated"! Am I being overly dramatic? Yeah, probably. But would any of them bring non-kosher food into a kosher sukkah? I bet not! Plus, as I've written before, the kids really dislike being around non-veg foods, so it makes me feel like I'm not ensuring their own home is a "safe zone" if I stay quiet. 

So what to do? Endanger the virginity of the veg sukkah, or play the vegan sukkah Nazi? Because as I've found countless times over, it's easy for people to ignore veg requests and "forget". Meaning, I would be paranoid and guarding the structure rather than enjoying it, and really, who wants that? At the same time, there are very few vegan sanctuaries in our lives, and I'd like to keep this as one. 

I think next year I will the organization to forward a nicely worded email to the volunteers from me, hoping that will ward off the issue... and if not, suck it up and deal with it. Another way to teach the kids tolerance.... 

If you're familiar with Judaism, you're aware that many Jews keep kosher - meaning, there is no mixing of dairy and meat, and that all foods are labeled "meat", "dairy", or "parve". This means TOTAL SEPARATION of meat and milk - different dishes, sinks, refrigerators, counter tops and  those food items at all meals (yep, cheeseburgers are OUT!)  Yes, it's a TON of work! And beyond me why they aren't all just vegan - let me tell you, it makes it WAY easier! : ) 

So when the Rabbi's sons asked why my kids couldn't have the snacks they brought, I tried explaining veganism. They were young, so I just said "we don't eat any meat or dairy", knowing they would be very familiar with both terms. He looked completely perplexed until I said, "oh, we only eat parve foods without eggs or fish". He smiled and said, "oh, I get it!"


Friday, September 17, 2010

Tami has returned to the blog!

Please let me apologize for my long absence from the blog! First, I was quite busy with the three plus (neighbors, cousins, niece) little ones at the start of summer and so neglected the blog, then when I was feeling like I had a little more free time to write, my laptop died! My husband did his best to fix it, but he just couldn't revive the poor thing. Next, I got an itch for an iPad and after MUCH discussion with my husband, he agreed I could buy one. I was quite excited to see all that the iPad was capable of and how well it could replace a computer. Alas, I discovered the iPad is cool, but can't do everything, including write this blog!

So, then I was left without any means to attend to the blog. Months had passed since I had a convenient way to type, and I felt pretty bad to aks my husband (he does bring home the veggie bacon, after all) for another expensive gadget. But, I finally did and he eventually succumbed to my demand. So, Wednesday night, he came home with a new laptop for me! Go Nate! Now I can write to my heart's content...well, as long as housework, grocery shopping and the children allow me to!

Some of my planned entries may be a little dated now, so bear with me. And thanks for hanging around. =)