Monday, September 30, 2013

Food Not Bombs!

I have had the past two Sundays off, which is incredibly rare.  It was a great opportunity to do somethings that I often miss out on due to my heavy weekend workload.  With Kaleigh in tow, we decided we wanted to go to help cook, transport, serve, and clean-up at the Atlanta Food Not Bombs.

For folks who do not know, Food Not Bombs is an autonomous veg(an) organization that uses surplus foods from local spaces to serve people free in a public park.  It does not seem like such a radical idea but it can be quite a disruptive entity.  Free food is apparently quite controversial.

Kaleigh and I had a great time.  The first week we chopped and prepped veggies and fruits for salad, chili, and smoothies.  Kaleigh really had a blast, especially when given the chance to play drums in the park.  The Atlanta Food Not Bombs folks were really welcoming and exceptionally supportive of Kaleigh's involvement.

Once we left on the first Sunday, Kaleigh could not stop talking about it the whole ride home.  She had a blast and said she wanted to go back every week.  Fortunately, I was also off the following Sunday so we returned.  Kaleigh and I made a tomato and herb soup and help prep as well.

Again, Kaleigh had a great time.  The cops showed up the 2nd week but I think Kaleigh was too preoccupied with drumming to notice.  Hopefully she will get a few more years in before she realizes that the police are there to protect businesses and it is not in the interest of business to feed people for free off the surplus of food.

It was an amazing time and I think that, for her age, Kaleigh was a big help.  She really felt like she was doing a "good" thing and being helpful.  Kids have such a great empathy that us old folks seem to lose as we age.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Wordless Wednesday!

Mac & Cheeze

Zucchini Cakes


Lentils, Veggies, and Soy Curls

Potato Salad, Butternut Squash, Asparagus

Meatball Subs

Mango Lemonade Pop

BBQ Tempeh, Brussel Sprouts, Butternut Squash

Seitan Fajita
Having the girls here has been great!  The kitchen is really churning out some good dishes!  I can not wait for fall foods to roll in!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Cooking with Kaleigh (and the cracks); Part 10: Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ashley, Kaleigh and I hosted out first dinner guests since the three of us began living together.  It was our old friends, Nate and Adrienne of Crack the Plates fame.  They had not been over for dinner in awhile so we got to give them a new tour with the new homey feel of the house.

For dinner, I made Gazpacho and Portabello and Eggplant Panini's on tortilla bread.  Sadly, I once again forgot to write down my Gazpacho recipe as I was making it.  I will need to be more on top of that in the future.  This meal was also a nice soup for Ashley to eat since her mouth is still recovering from her wisdom teeth.

After dinner, we decided to make some cookies.  Adrienne had the idea to let Kaleigh make them and film a video.  Kaleigh bought in and we were off and filming, with Adrienne at the helm.

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Connection; Soups and Wisdom Teeth

It has been a hectic two weeks.  Ashley had her wisdom teeth out and there have been some unexpected complications.  At this point, she seems to be on the mend and feeling better.  She is not able to eat mostly solid foods and stay awake for large chucks of time.

The last two weeks she has been in a lot of pain and needing mostly soft foods.  We have been on a soup kick.  So much so that, the measure of washing dishes now is when we run out of spoons.

First we made some split pea soup.  This lasted several days and was easy for her to eat since it is a soft and I was able to puree it.  I do not often make split pea soup but really enjoy it.  Kaleigh did not eat much of it but both Ashley and I liked it.

Next up was roasted red pepper soup.  This soup is a favorite in the house.  I make it more in the late fall as it tends to be a comfort food.  It was easy for Ashley to eat and Kaleigh even took a bowl to school in her lunch.  The other kids thought she was very daring to eat a pepper soup.  She tried to tell them the peppers were sweet but they would not hear of it.

The three of is have even gotten a few treats in as well.  What better way to make Ashley's mouth numb?  Strawberry milkshakes!  I used coconut milk, soy ice cream, strawberries, and soy creamer to make this a super rich indulgent treat.  We ate these a couple of nights in a row.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Stir-fry and Cake!

With the merger of the two households, we have been trying to make space in the fridge and freezer for our combined items.  I noticed I had a package of matchmeat crab and decided to make a stir-fry.  It turned out pretty well but I am not the biggest fan of the matchmeats.

That evening, Kaleigh wanted to make a treat so we decided to make a chocolate cake.  It is my go-to cake recipe that I developed years ago.  Kaleigh then wanted to put sprinkles and such of the top which actually turned out pretty cool.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The return home

Now the vacation has been over for awhile and the girls (Ashley and Kaleigh) have been living here for a few weeks, things are starting to get into a normal routine.  It has been good for all of us.  I have really enjoyed having a reason to cook more meals.

One of the first meals we had acfter being back was a some BBQ tofu with mashed potatoes and brussel sprouts.  Kaleigh loves brussel sprouts and we often have to make double the usual amount in order for Ashley and I to even get any!

The following night, Ashley made some vegan nachos!  These are also one of Kaleigh's favorite foods and they were great.  I rarely eat nachos but they are often a nice treat when I get the chance.  These were even made with some fresh picked tomatoes from Kaleigh's garden at her grandmothers house.

Things are getting unpacked rapidly and organized nicely.  It is transforming the house into a home and I am really enjoying having the two of them here.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Vacation Day 10; Seattle and flight home

We awoke in a bed for the first time of the trip.  After packing our things, we headed into Seattle to spend a day sight seeing and eating before an evening flight back to Atlanta.  We had a few places on the agenda.

First up was a franchise restaurant that has been popping up along the west coast called Veggie Grill.  We had an early lunch of chickin nuggets, nachos, a buffalo chickin sandwich and a crunchy chickin sandwich with sides of mac and cheese and sweet potato fries.  It was a huge meal for a lunch but we figured that we might not get another chance to try these dishes out so we gorged a bit.

After lunch, we headed to Singles Going Steady.  This is Seattle's resident punk and hardcore record shop.  They had some amazing vinyl but sadly, I didn't think I had a reliable way to get in on the flight.

After Singles Going Steady, we headed to the super touristy Pike's Market.  After struggling to find parking, we headed into the market.  Fortunately, the only salvation for this area is Left Bank Books.  We wandered around the area for awhile and then headed out to a vegan bakery, Flying Apron.  At the bakery we got a whoppie pie and a slice of vanilla, chocolate, strawberry cake to go.

After the bakery we rode around a bit and opted for an early dinner at Plum Bistro.  This was kind of Seattle fine dining for vegans.  Ashley ordered the mac & cheese again.  I can not express how good this was.  This was the best mac & cheese either of us had ever had.  It was awesome.  Then she had a triple mini burger plate and I had some seitan and oyster mushroom alfredo.

After dinner, we cleaned out the rental car, dropped it off and headed back to the airport for a red eye flight to Atlanta.  Why can vacations not be forever?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Vacation Day 9; Mt Rainer National Park

Day 9 was going to be our final day in the woods.  After some discussion, we opted to get our first hotel of the trip and stay that night in Seattle.  The following day would be a day to do some random things in the city before catching out flight back to Atlanta.

We were not going to allow day 9 to be ruined by the return to civilization though.  We drove to the Paradise area of the park where we hikes several different trails over a couple hours of time.  We got to see a nice falls, a little wildlife and some amazing views of Rainer.

As quietly as it was kept, I had been thinking Mt. Rainer National Park was not going to be quite as stunning as the rest of the trip but I was actually quite surprised.  It was an amazing place.  A great finally to our time in the woods.

We even got to see the work of a group of beavers that had been taking down trees as well as sulfur vents coming from the active volcano underneath.  We were both feeling sad that our time in the wild was coming to a close and we both had to part ways with our walking sticks and the woods altogether.

After some brief hikes, we headed back toward Seattle to get a hotel and some showers.  We went to dinner at a Bamboo Garden.  It reminded me a lot of the Asian vegan spots here in Atlanta.  The decor was a little underwhelming but the mock meats and sauces were excellent.  We are a huge meal, having chicken nuggets as an appetizer.  Ashley ordered the chicken and beans with black bean sauce and I had the crispy chicken.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Vacation Day 8: Dungeness Spit

Another early morning of packing up the campsite and heading to the hiking trail-head.  This time we were braving the longest spit in the world.  It was 12 miles round trip, on a half rock, half sand beach.  Walking that far in the sand with the sun beating down on you is no joke.

Unfortunately, I forget my camera battery in the car charger and have no pictures of the hike.  We saw so many seals that is was almost mundane.  At one point, there was a seal so close to the shore that Ashley yelled "Look Look!", the seal must have thought she was talking to him/her since he looked her dead in the eye and swam closer.  Once the seal realized that it was the cause of her excitement, he/she dipped back into the water and swam off.  It was pretty cool and we had a good laugh about it.

At the end of the spit is a light house.  I still do not see the fascination with them but it was the 2nd one we got to see on this trip.  We took a little tour of the lighthouse and had lunch before hiking back.  Front the end of the spit, you can see Mount Baker in the distance.

Ashley did a great job at mostly staying out of the sun by using the best hiking accessory ever, a bandana.  We both got a little sunburn on our faces but nothing severe.

After the hike, the sun had drain much of our energy but we had a long way to drive.  We intended on camping in Mount Rainer National Park that night.  The GPS was struggling to find a good route and we ended up finding a cool local nut shop on the side of the road.  We got all sorts of free samples and even go some to bring back with us.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Vacation Day 7; Hoh Rainforest!

We woke up in the Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park but had yet to explore. When we set up camp the night prior we were fairly tired and went straight to sleep.  After breaking down camp, we started out for the 5 mile island trail-head.  We were intending on hiking the full 5 miles in and 5 miles out.

Before heading down the hike we took a detour.  Hall of Mosses.  It was a short 1 mile hike but ended up being one of my favorite spots on the entire trip.  Hall of Mosses was magnificent, completely unlike anything I had ever seen before.  It was a true (temperate) rainforest experience.  There were massive old growth tree (hundreds of feet tall and some 40 feet around) covered in moss.  The sunlight barely (if ever in some places) touched the forest floor.  New tress grew from nurse logs, which are fallen trees that provide nutrients for small trees to grow and possibly make it to the top of the tree line.  This place was amazing.  I would hike it daily if I could.

The hike to 5 mile island was much of the same but significantly less dense.  To our right there was a river that broke the forest apart.  About half way to the 5 mile island (which is more of a marker then a destination) there was a really nice waterfall.  With the moss all around the green everywhere, it felt like a jungle falls.

After about 11 miles of hiking, we were taking the long drive back toward some civilization.  We got to the campsite just prior to sunset in the Dungeness Spit National Wildlife Refuge, got a fire going and I took some pictures of the sun setting over the Pacific ocean.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Vacation Day 6; from mountains to the beach to the rainfoest

We slept in a bit on Day 6 as we were starting to adjust to the time change and sleeping outside.  We packed up the tent and headed for Hurricane Ridge.  We opted not to walk the skyline because it was extremely overcast and it seemed like we would not get the great views we wanted.  We hiked only about a mile in and a mile out.  Ashley was also having some pain in her teeth so we went into town to address it.  A couple hours later we were back on the road.

Our next stop was Sol Duc Falls.  On the drive to the falls, we spotted a young adult bear about 30 feet from us on the road.  Sadly, I was not quick enough with my camera.  Bear sighting are not nearly as common in Olympic National Park as they are in the Great Smoky National Park, where we have seen most of our bears.

A short (but nice) hike lead us to an amazing falls.  This was one of the places on the trip I wished I had invested in a super wide angle lens prior to leaving.  I simply could not capture all of this three pronged falls in a single shot.  On this hike we were actually starting to see some of the Olympic Peninsula old growth threes as well.

After spending a few hours on the Sol Duc hike, we took the scenic drive past Crescent Lake and headed to La Push and Rialto Beach.  The beach was amazing.  In a lot of ways in reminded me of Maine with its rocks shoreline.  This was very wooded however and the water was much warmer.

We waded through the ocean waves as the tide was still going out and headed to a rock formation that seemed rather unique.  After climbing around on the rocks for a bit we realized there were huge starfish everywhere!  Not to mention sea urchins and crabs.  I have never seen so many starfish in a single area.  There were several rock formations that literally had 100 or more starfish.

There were all sorts birds there as well.  We saw pelicans (which are insanely large), seahawks, and even a bald eagle.  We left the beach shortly after and headed to the campsite in the Hoh Rainforest.

We had some hikes planed the following day in the rainforest.  That evening was our typical trip meal of greens and hummus with vegan deli slices on a bagel.