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?