Teething Baby, Gratitude and Pumpkin Curry

We’ve been having some rough nights here lately. I’m running on probably 4 hours a night sleep, all broken up into little chunks. Ruby is teething. She’s been teething for months but is only now showing any signs of discomfort. Her bottom two front teeth came in last month with no issue. She’s now working on her top two front teeth, one of which has popped through, but just barely. On top of that, I think she has a cold. Runny and stuffy nose, sneezing, coughing. We had to do a middle of the night saline spray and snot evacuation that sent her into crying fits. But she couldn’t breath. I hate seeing her like this. She wants to be on me all the time. She has a hard time nursing because of the pain, so she cries. She’s just miserable.

I know this is all normal. But that doesn’t make it suck any less.

Because I haven’t been sleeping well Steve took Ruby for a little while so I could have some me time. To sleep. It didn’t really work out that way though and I found myself getting aggravated. At Steve. But that’s not fair. I mean, it’s not his fault Ruby doesn’t feel well. And while I had some alone time, he cleaned the litter box, did dishes, made me coffee and took care of Ruby’s needs. That’s a lot, even for a seasoned parent. So I just wanted to let him know that I appreciate him. I love him. And I love how much he loves his babies. I am grateful for him and his presence.

Being a parent is really tough. I’ve thought about it and talked about and written about it for months now, and I am still unable to truly articulate what it’s like. I mean, how does one express the most difficult, yet fulfilling thing that you’ve ever experienced? From what I’ve read (and lived so far), this first year is one of the hardest, most challenging things a relationship can go through. I can see that. When you’re sleep deprived crazy things can happen. Our diet certainly went down hill. All the way down hill. But we’re getting back to where we need to be. When your tired and hungry all bets are off. So there are occasional bad moods and what not. I really try to always remind myself how lucky I am. I know single moms, moms in bad relationships, and moms that have had to run for fear. I can’t imagine ever having to do this parenting thing alone. Even at almost 8 months in I still struggle. A lot. So I am grateful. For my partner, for my home, for family that cares, for the life we have, for this amazing baby girl.

Even though Ruby is teething, and we’re not sleeping great, we still have to eat. It is sometimes (read: often) a struggle to get into the kitchen these days. Even more so when everything you have has to be prepared from scratch, or close to it. But we have to eat and there’s not enough cereal left for both of us, so…. Luckily I’ve made curry enough times now that we almost always have ingredients on hand to throw one together. I’ve also tried to keep my freezer stocked with frozen vegetables since I found out I was pregnant last year. We used to do weekly farmers market runs but I just don’t have the energy anymore and frozen veggies don’t have to be prepped. Think what you will, but it works really well for us.

I threw together this curry pretty quickly and it wound up being a big hit for everyone, including Ruby. She LOVED the spaghetti squash. I don’t have a recipe (again) but like last time, it’s more about looking in your cabinets and being creative with the ingredients you have on hand. And to be honest, even as I was adding those first few ingredients to the pan, I had no idea what I was making. All I knew was that I had spaghetti squash, roasted and ready to eat. Here’s what we wound up with.

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Pumpkin Coconut Curry (approximate ingredients)

  • 1 cup frozen bell pepper strips
  • 1/4 cup frozen diced onion
  • 1 cup frozen sliced zucchini
  • 1 lb. sliced mushrooms
  • 28 oz. can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 2-3 tbsp. yellow curry powder
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp. grated ginger
  • 3 cloves garlic, grated
  • 1/2 14 oz. can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1/2 can coconut milk
  • 2 cups veggie broth (I used Better than Broth + water)
  • A big pinch cayenne pepper (added after I take some out for Ruby)
  • Spaghetti squash, roasted
  • Sea salt to finish

I literally just added all of this to a large pan, brought it to a boil, then turned it down to simmer for about 30-45 minutes. Be sure to stir well at first to combine, then occasionally along the way. I should also note that I personally tend to use more curry powder than most recipes call for, because I really like it.

So whether you’ve got a teething baby or a grumpy husband, go in the kitchen and make something yummy to eat!

Biscuits, Babies & Fall

Happy Fall! The weather has cooled and I find myself craving soup. I’m a big fan of soup personally, and would eat it everyday if given the opportunity. It’s warm and filling, you can add just about anything to it including leftovers, you can pack in a ton of nutrients, you can dip bread products into it and top it with nooch. I mean, there’s really no downside to soup. Plus, I love getting creative with my crock pot. But that’s another post.

The guys had quesadillas the other night, but for whatever reason I just wasn’t into it, so I threw together this soup with items I already had on hand. I think being able to just throw together a meal with random stuff you have in your kitchen is an amazing feeling. Almost as good as picking food from your own garden to make lunch.

Minestrone is really an easy soup to make, and I generally have most of these items on hand because I use them for many different meals. I guess you could say that these are some of my ‘staples’. Aside from the fact that this soup is simple and quick — you literally just put everything in a pot and cook it for like 20 minutes — you can be super flexible with the ingredients using what you have on hand instead of having to go to the store.

Super Quick Minestrone Soup

The recipe listed below is just a guesstimate as I didn’t write down what I added. But that’s sort of the point here.

  • 1-12 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 4 cups vegetable broth (I used Better than Bullion + water)
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked kidney beans or 1-15 oz. can, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup frozen mixed veggies
  • 1/2 cup frozen greens (I used collards)
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 small potato, diced and boiled until tender
  • 1/2 cup dry pasta, cooked
  • 1 tsp. dried rosemary, crushed
  • 1 tsp dried Italian seasoning, crushed

Add all ingredients to a large pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a low simmer. Cover and let cook for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

So it really is that easy. And to take it a step further, you could absolutely replace the pasta with some leftover rice you have in the fridge, or perhaps you’d like barley or quinoa. No problem, go for it. You can switch all of the veggies and use what’s leftover from the week. You can use chickpeas instead of kidney beans and thyme or dill instead of rosemary. You get the point.

The first night I made it I enjoyed it with the last of the bread I had baked a couple of days before. I had it for dinner again last night with some biscuits. I really love biscuits. Maybe that’s because I’m from the south or maybe it’s because of a biscuits warm, fluffy goodness. I haven’t quite perfected my vegan biscuit recipe but I’m getting closer. I’m still working on the crust. Nothing I’ve tried gets me the golden brown color I desire, with the crusty edges that sort of taste fried because the butter melted in just the right way. I know that whole wheat flour doesn’t brown as well, in general. I’ve tried coconut oil, olive oil and earth balance with no luck.

I make a sweet potato biscuit that is delicious, especially smothered in roasted cranberry chutney, but I’d love to get more of a rise to it. I make a pretty darn good buttermilk whole wheat biscuit, and today kicked it up a notch by incorporating chickpea flour. I’ve been using more chickpea flour in my baking because I think it adds a certain crunch to the crusts that I really enjoy. Steve said they were really good.

Biscuits

  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour*
  • 1/2 cup chickpea flour*
  • 1/2 cup spelt flour*
  • 2.5 tsps. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup plant butter (I used Earth Balance Original)
  • 3/4 cup plant milk (I used Silk soy)
  • 2 tsp. apple cider vinegar (I used Bragg’s)

Combine plant milk and vinegar. Stir well and set aside.

Add all dry ingredients to a large bowl and whisk together to blend.

Using a pastry cutter, large forks or knives, cut in plant butter until you’ve created a large crumb like texture. Place the bowl in refrigerator for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Remove the bowl from refrigerator and add all but about 2 tbsp. of the milk mixture to the flour mixture. Stir until well combined, adding remaining milk mixture if necessary, until a large, soft ball of dough is formed. Place the bowl in the refrigerator for another 15 minutes (optional but recommended).

After 15 minutes, remove the biscuit dough and place on a floured surface. Sprinkle the top with flour, and gently roll out dough until it’s about 3/4 to 1 inch thick. Cut biscuits using a biscuit cutter. If you do not have a biscuit cutter, you can use a sharp knife and be sure to cut straight down, in one swift motion, cutting the dough into squares instead of circles.

Ruby had her first play date this past weekend. It was also my first time meeting a new friend from a FB vegan mom group. We had doughnuts (Ruby did not have doughnuts). Vegan doughnuts from Dunwell Doughnuts. It was such a good opportunity for both Ruby and me to get out of the house and go on an adventure. Ruby was sporting her ‘dance to the beet’ onsie. It was amazing meeting a new friend. Especially someone who is vegan already. Not that I don’t welcome all friends, but food is a huge part of my life so it’s something that I look for. Anyway, being a parent is daunting. I was never really a social butterfly as it was. But being a parent really forces you to get out there and socialize and get your kiddos involved. Though I suppose it can be pretty therapeutic too. Reason #293 being a parent blows my mind. As my niece-in-law said today, “Best thing about life is being a mom.” It’s so true.

Until next time….

 

 

 

 

Something different, something new

So I was just writing this longish post in one of the Facebook groups I’m in, sort of an update post, when it occurred to me that this could easily be a blog post. And I’ve really been looking for the inspiration to get blogging again so….. Then it occurred to me that my blog posts don’t have to be all recipes. I wish I would have realized that years ago. So here we go. Let’s see if we can get blogging again.

Anyway, today was a pretty good day. Though Ruby did decide not to nap so much over the last few days, she is generally still in good spirits. She is all over the house and now crawls across the living room into the hallway, down the hall a few feet to the kitchen, to find me.

I spent some time in the kitchen today. It’s a rarity for me since Ruby was born. Most days I just don’t have the energy. But once in awhile I get in there and make a bunch of stuff. This morning I made a potato and chorizo fritatta or casserole. Potatoes, onions, peppers, collard greens, Field Roast Mexican Chipotle Sausages and Daiya Cheddar Farmhouse Block. Then I added a double batch of chickpea pancake batter (I use this recipe as my base, Giant Chickpea Pancake) to the dish and baked it for about 40 minutes. It was fantastic!

While I was cooking, Ella Bella took a much needed nap. It’s tough being a kitty. Especially when there’s a little one pulling your tail and your mommy forgets to feed you all day😦.

Oh, I made bread today. I love making it. It’s cheaper, it’s yummier, but we eat more of it. Not that I have a problem with that. But this is a 4 cup loaf here, every two days now. Even though today’s batch stuck to the bowl, it was really delicious. Maybe the best loaf I’ve ever made. It has a really nice crumb and chewy texture thanks to the blending of different flours. I’ve been adding a bit of chickpea flour in with the spelt and bread flours because it gives the crust an airiness, and a lovely crispy crunch.

I also made coconut curry and yellow rice. I forgot to take a picture of it before I packed it away in the fridge. I added a photo.

The last photo I just threw in because it was YUM. This is sweet potato and zucchini enchiladas that I made a couple of days ago.

p.s. I know it’s been a long, long time since I’ve published a post here. A lot has happened since then.🙂

Veggie Chips {Photos}

Veggie Chips3I’ve been working on making veggie chips for awhile. I still haven’t gotten it quite right so I’m not posting a recipe, but wanted to post these photos because they’re just so pretty.

Steve got me a Benriner slicer for Christmas last year and every so often, in between work and school, I slice up some veggies and give them a roast, in an effort to get perfectly crisp veggie chips to snack on. Unfortunately what I get is mostly dried out veggie chips that are crispy (almost too crispy) on the edges and quite leathery and tough in the middle (see photo above). So they’re a work in progress.

Veggie Chips2I love the colors here. The watermelon radishes are so striking and I love the variation with the three different color carrots.

Veggie Chips

So until I get this recipe just right, please enjoy the beautiful colors here.

Camp Eats from the local Farmers’ Market

School starts tomorrow. I’ve been going a bit crazy for the last month or so trying to get things done before school starts. Cleaning the house, cooking as much as possible, sleeping. Once school starts life is going to get a bit full. I won’t have a lot of time to do those things that get done on a daily and/or weekend’ly basis. So in trying to plan out some recipes for the blog for the next few months I was looking through my photos and I came across these from a camping trip we took back in August. I know they’re late. I know there’s a foot of snow on the ground outside so they’re not exactly timely. But this was a great camping trip and I’m gonna write this post anyway.

One of the best things about this trip was the food. Usually when we go camping I plan and plan and plan. I love the challenge of making delicious, healthy food in an outdoor setting. But it can be a bit exhausting as well (the planning part). This trip though, was a bit last minute. I didn’t really have the time or the energy to plan, so I didn’t. Instead we stopped at the local farmers’ market, picked up a bunch of stuff (and a few items from the grocery store) and ate off of that for the weekend. We also picked up this cool grill thingy from the local hardware store. Because of the lack of time and planning, we also forgot our handy cast iron pans that we generally take camping with us.

We wound up with these delicious open faced sandwiches with hummus, heirloom tomatoes and cucumbers, with spinach and avocado on a local artisan bread for lunch and marinated and grilled tofu with eggplant, asparagus, mushrooms and corn on the cob with garlic bread, for dinner. Plus we had yummy peaches, blueberries and yellow watermelon to snack on. It was awesome!

What I learned from this trip was that we CAN go camping without me obsessively planning. And it will be awesome and delicious. Especially if it’s summer and the farmers’ market is in session.

Steve’s Pesto Pasta

Steves Pesto PastaSo, this post is actually from last weekend. I started on it and another, but was so busy last weekend that I never had the opportunity to finish them. And I really wanted to share this post because it’s about Steve’s pesto, which was so delicious. So delicious.

Last Sunday I got a special treat. Steve made us lunch! It’s a special treat because sometimes it’s challenging to get him into the kitchen. But that’s another story. Even though I love to be in the kitchen playing with food, it’s really nice when someone else cooks me a good meal. Today Steve made us pasta and homemade pesto with seared asparagus and tomatoes for lunch. It was so delicious. But I’ve already said that.

Before I went plant-based, pesto pasta was something we enjoyed on a regular basis. Actually, one of Steve’s go-to meals was tortellini with pesto. It was easy and tasty and we could toss in any number of veggies. It’s also great added to my salads once it chilled in the fridge overnight. Unfortunately, both the tortellini and the pesto contained dairy, so it had to come off of the regular rotation until we could find tortellini that was vegan. Which we weren’t able to do. And, since this was one of Steve’s go-to meals, and was now off the list, it’s been even harder to get him in the kitchen.

I think we’ve found our alternative, though. And it’s so ridiculously easy I wish it would have come to us sooner. I mean, it’s not like we haven’t made our own pesto before, several times, in the last year. But I guess that’s how things work. Sometimes it’s just not the right combination of ingredients to make it into the rotation.

I’m not exactly clear as to why this came together so perfectly. One thing I suspect is the pasta. I love this pasta. It’s one of my favorites. It has such a nice bite to it, firm and chewy plus not too bulky. And it holds on to sauces really nicely. But I do not buy it often because a) I try not to have pasta in the mix too often and b) they don’t have this particular variety in the whole wheat/grain type at my local grocery. So, when you’re not using a certain product, it’s hard to realize it’s the perfect thing for a dish you make.

The other reason I think this all came together so well was because of the amount of olive oil we used in the pesto. Now, I’m not advocating for using such an amount, but it was really fantastic and I’m sure that is part of the reason why. The recipe below will not reflect the actual amount of olive oil we used because we didn’t actually write it down. But also because next time we will definitely use less. The recipe will say that you can adjust the amount based on your taste. And yes, while it was really good, I don’t think we needed quite so much. As long as you can taste the fruitiness of the olive and the pesto has come together nicely, that’s all you need.

So it just all came together this time. And it was perfect. Looking at these photos now, a week later, my mouth is watering. I want this again. Maybe I’ll get Steve to make it tonight for dinner. I didn’t record the recipe exactly. But that’s okay. It’s a standard pesto with a few tweaks that are optional. So go and make it. Make it tonight.

Steves Pesto Pasta2Pesto

  • 2 cups packed fresh basil
  • 1 cup packed fresh Italian flat leaf parsley
  • 1/3 cup mixed nuts (walnuts, cashews, almonds, pine nuts)*, toasted
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • Zest + juice of half a lemon
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/2 c. – 3/4 c. good olive oil**

Combine all ingredients, except the olive oil, into the bowl of your food processor. Secure the lid and pulse until the contents stop moving around freely. Turn the food processor to the on position and slowly drizzle in the olive oil until everything is purreed and mixed together, moving freely and loosely around the bowl.

Asparagus & Tomatoes

  • 1 bunch fresh asparagus, trimmed
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • Sprinkle of sea salt

Heat a large oven proof skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium high heat. Turn your oven on broil. Add the asparagus and tomatoes to your skillet. Drizzle with olive oil and salt and toss to coat. Transfer the skillet to the oven and broil until the asparagus and tomatoes begin to caramelize, about 5 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

Pesto Pasta

Toss 1 pound of cooked gemelli pasta with the pesto sauce, coating well. Add the asparagus and tomatoes and toss gently with the pesto pasta.

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*While most pesto recipes call for pine nuts, you can use other nuts instead. Walnuts work particularly well in a pesto. We tend to use what we have on hand. Which is usually a combination of walnuts, almonds and cashews. I rarely buy pine nuts. They’re outrageously expensive in my neighborhood.

**You may adjust the amount of olive oil you use to your liking. If you use less, add water until you reach the right consistency. The finished product should be loose enough to sauce your pasta, but thick and not watery.

 

Almond Butter

As I was making my standard weekly batch of almond butter it occurred to me that I’ve never done a post about almond butter. I’ve mentioned that I make my own, but never shown you how. Well today’s your lucky day! Okay, maybe not your lucky day. But a good day, nonetheless.Almond Butter2

I love almond butter. Before I discovered almond butter, I loved peanut butter. By love, I mean that I eat it nearly everyday. I’ve eaten almond butter or peanut butter nearly everyday for as long as I can remember. I don’t really remember eating it when I was a child, but certainly since I was a teenager and since. And since I’ve started eating almond butter, I’ve almost eaten it exclusively (instead of the previously loved peanut butter). I do use peanut butter for cooking on occasion and always have a jar in the fridge just in case. But almond butter’s my thing.

Anyway, when I finally started making my own almond butter, about a year and a half ago, I was so excited. I’d wanted to start making it sooner, but I didn’t have a food processor. I actually finally bought a food processor for the sole purpose of making almond butter. Gladly, I use it for tons of things now. One of the reasons I wanted to start making my own is because the only store bought almond butter that I found I liked was the roasted unsalted from Trader Joes. And getting to Trader Joes on a weekly basis was not something I was able to do. So I would go once a month and buy 4 or 5 jars at a time. If they had it in stock. Which often enough, they did not. Trader Joe’s was also a good option because the almond butter was about $5 a jar, which was a bargain since many of the others I’d found were upwards of $10 or more per jar. I’d even gone to Whole Foods and Fairway to grind my own. But I didn’t like the taste or texture of those either. Since I was eating almond butter nearly everyday, almond butter was a BIG part of my food life (and still is).

So I bought a food processor and found a great little specialty market, Carmel Grocery, sort of near my house where I started buying raw almonds for 5.49 a lb. Also, a huge bargain. I think they’re like $5.99 now, but still…

Now that I’ve gone on and on, let me tell you how to make it. It’s incredibly easy, if you have a good food processor. I like to start with raw almonds and roast them myself. I just think it’s better that way.

  • 1 lb. raw almonds
  • Pinch of cinnamon (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread out the almonds on a baking sheet. Roast for 12 minutes. Turn off the oven (don’t open it). Let the almonds sit in the oven for 5 more minutes. Then remove from oven and let cool completely. Ovens vary, so adjust your roasting time as necessary. But don’t roast them for too long because the almond butter won’t be nearly as delicious.

Once the almonds have cooled completely, dump them in the bowl of your food processor and add a pinch of cinnamon, if you like. Secure the lid and turn on full power. Grind for 1 and a half minutes or until the the almonds stop moving around the bowl of the food processor. Use a spoon to thoroughly break up the mass of almonds.

Secure the lid and turn the food processor back on. Grind for another 5-6 minutes or until the almonds are fully ground and moving very freely and evenly around the bowl.

Then, blend it for another 30 seconds.

Transfer the almond butter to a 16 oz. jar, put a lid on it and store in the fridge. This will last for several weeks, though I’m sure you’ll eat it all up before then.

Enjoy!

 

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