Monday, December 29, 2014

The Pre-holiday stuff

I had the opportunity to make some more cupcakes for Kaleigh's 2nd grade holiday school party.  I made far too many but it was worth it.  I made a neapolitan theme.  Chocolate cupcakes with chocolate icing, vanilla cupcakes with vanilla buttercream icing, and I finnaly nailed strawberry cupcakes with strawberry icing.  The chocolate cupcakes were a huge hit with the kids.  They were all gone with a quickness.

Just after the girls left for their Georgia holiday vacation, I went to my mums' house for the eve.  She makes her traditional spinach pie which is not vegan so she made a great little butternut squash soup with roasted portabello mushrooms.  It was really good, something I might try to mimic down the road.

It has been a little lonely with the girls gone but they will be back soon and the house will be bustling action again.  In the meantime I have to just try to get things done and remember to cook for myself!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Chick-un Noodle Soup!

The girls are back in Georgia for the holidays.  That leaves me Tessa and Miley home alone for about 17 days.  I will have to focus on eating healthy foods since I too often eat quick, easy one-player foods when I am home alone.

Prior to leaving, Ashley had been asking me to make a chick-un noodle soup.  She had been craving the salty, simple, comforting food for awhile.  The day before they left, I dove in.  I nailed the chick-un with my own seitan recipe and a very slow roast with some broth and corn starch.  Then the soup was simple, a few veggies, noodles, and I tossed my chick-un in  just prior to serving to they were nice and firm.

It came out perfect.  Kaleigh really enjoyed it.  She said it was her favorite kind of chick-un noodle soup, chunky, veggies, and not slimy.  Ashley thought it was really good as well.

Sadly, as usual, I made too much and have been eating it alone for days.  I am about over it.  Fortunately, it is just about gone and I will be able to move on to other foods.  At least I have something other than veggie burgers on the menu while home alone!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

It's Nacho-city!

One of Kaleigh's favorite foods in nachos.  She eats them whenever she has the chance.  However, we rarely have them for some reason.  This week I told Kaleigh I would make nachos on Monday night.  When Ashley got home we ran out to Waterville to get some supplies for gifts.  It was an unexpected trip and we went with a much quicker meal.  Kaleigh threw a fit, she wanted her nachos.  Rain check.

Tuesday night was Kaleigh's first school concert.  We were short on time but I forced the issue and made nachoes!  We are them all together in one big pan with several towels as they were a mess.  They were also delicious!  Kaleigh just kept asking for more all night.  She could not get enough.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Wordless Wednesday!


BBQ Chicpeas

Tofu Stir-fry

Chocolate covered puffed rice bars

Split pea soup

Cubed seitan ham with potatoes, spinach and carrots

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Lentils are for kids!

Ashley and I always are impressed with how well Kaleigh eats.  For years, Kaleigh has eaten a wide variety of foods and I think it has really helped develop her palate.  Years ago, she would not go near certain foods that now she gets excited to eat.  I think parents really do their children a disservice by not introducing them to an array of foods as they are kids.

Recently. one of Kaleigh's favorite foods has been lentils.  I am not sure what it is that she loves about them but I wont complain that our 7 year old loves lentils.  She was recently excited that I made a lentil curry dish.  She ate her bowl faster than either Ashley or myself, asked for more and then took some to school in her lunch the following day!

Monday, December 15, 2014

The journey of a failed baker

I have been diligently working on my baking skills, focusing on cupcakes.  In just a few short weeks and hundreds of cupcakes later, I have come a long way.  Ashley and I have shared them with as many people as we can and they have gotten some great reviews.

It started with these.  They were a simple vanilla cupcake with vanilla icing that Kaleigh wanted to color red.  They were surprisingly good and when they were gone, I began making more.  Many more.

My mum's birthday came up and I was asked to make a cake.  I knew that was out of my league but thought it would be a good chance to try to replicate my recent cupcake success.  I went all in and made 3 dozen cupcakes.  A dozen vanilla with vanilla, a dozen vanilla with baked in sprinkles topped with sprinkle icing, and a dozen red velvet.  They seemed to be a big hit at the birthday party and it grew my confidence.

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I made a pumpkin spice cupcake.  I knew I had to break away from the vanilla & vanilla if I was going to test myself.  This cake was a little dense but I think most pumpkin cakes are.  The icing was spot on.  These were the first batch Ashley took to her work.  They were a hit and got some great reviews.  I kept plugging on...

Breaking Thanksgiving traditions, I made another 3 dozen cupcakes.  I made a chocolate cake with peanut butter icing, a lemon cake with lemon icing, and an vanilla cake with orange cream icing.  The lemon were not a huge hit but I think that lemon in baking is a hit or miss type item for some folks.  The orange was a win though.  They all got eaten.  The peanut butter and chocolate cupcake was the smash winner of all.  They were gone, gone gone.

With the peanut butter iced chocolate cupcakes being such a hit, I wanted to make another batch.  They were quickly becoming my favorite.  Light, fluffy, with a rich peanut butter topping.  I was also still making vanilla cupcakes to make sure I had my recipe memorized and was keeping the basics in my head.  However, it was time to take it up a notch.

I knew I was doing well when Ashley was making requests that would require me to just push the baking door open.  She wanted a streusel cupcake.  I went in on it.  It was a vanilla and cinnmon marble cake topped with a light cinnamon icing and garnished with a crunchy, savory, streusel crumble on top.  These are Ashley's new favorite cupcake.  She took a bunch to work to share and they got glowing reviews.  A few folks even said that they were the best cupcake they ever had.  One co-worker said I should open a bakery.  Pretty encouraging reports to hear as someone who can not bake.  I pressed on...

I went back to see if I could improve my chocolate peanut butter cupcake.  I did.  This was much more sophisticated and decadent.  I made the chocolate more rich while blending chocolate chips into the icing and topping it with chocolate crumbles.  This has been my favorite thus far.  I had another that I wanted to try though.

Strawberry.  It was a monster and gave me trouble.  The cake had strawberry juice as well as strawberry pieces and came out wonderful.  The icing was a beast.  It fell flat and was simply too wet.  However, the favor is wonderful.  This batch showed me that I still have a long way to go in the world of cupcake-ing but I feel confident in my efforts.

In fact, I have volunteered to make several dozen cupcakes for Kaleigh's 2nd grade holiday party!  Back to the kitchen!

Friday, December 12, 2014

What do I do?

Everyday I see a new story about the police beating someone.  I do not know what to do about it.  In my younger years I would have been in the streets every night demanding change.  Now, I have a family and a 7 year old to care for.  I have to temper my actions right?

If so, does not that mean I am also not doing my part to offer her the best world I can?  Does just talking with Kaleigh about police brutality, capitalism, racism, etc. do enough?  Being knowledgeable is certainly important but it is not going to solve the issue.

On the other hand, neither does holding signs and singing songs in the streets.  Not to mention that we all know moving within the system is a total waste of time if we want fundamental change and not appeasing reforms.

I want Kaleigh to grow up happy, safe, and experiencing freedom.  With living as a white girl in rural Maine, she is in a good position to experience much of that.  It makes me feel frustrated; Kaleigh should not be any more inclined to experience those feelings than anyone else.  Torn between being grateful and privileged is a difficult line in the sand.

What do I do for myself?  What do I do for the world I live in?  What do I do for my community?  Most importantly, what do I do for Kaleigh?

With each beating the pressure to act grows.  With each beating I wonder what to do.  With each beating the fury builds.  With each beating I feel trapped.  Each day I feel like lighting the world on fire.  Fire changes everything.

Oh, here is some food I made so I do not alienate my readership too harshly.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The sad granola tale...

I have been trying to make easy foods for Ashley to take to work with her.  I want to be able to make sure she eats well on her breaks as well as at home.  She got a special container to have vegan yogurt in the bottom and granola in the top.

Sadly, Each time I make granola is does not get eaten.  I have made it a few times and generally have to give it away.  According to Ashley, the granola is great but she can not seem to find a vegan yogurt she likes.  She says the coconut is too strong, the almond was soupy, and the whole soy was sour.  Any ideas?  What are your favorites?

What are some other food ways to eat granola other than with yogurt, or plain?  This sad batch of granola needs a belly to fill...

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Wordless Wednesday for the foodies!

Cinnamon Sugar Doughnut Holes

S'more's Pie

Fried Eggplant

Lentil Soup

Tofu Curry

Cuban Black Beans and Coconut Rice

Butternut Squash Curry

Tempeh Bacon

Monday, December 8, 2014

Buffalo Pizza!

We have been doing pizza Friday for months now.  Kaleigh has joined in and really started to enjoy pizza too, which Ashley is thrilled about.  I think that Ashley would eat pizza every meal of everyday if she could.

This week we tried something new.  After making Buffalo Seitan late in the week, we had some leftover seitans.  We opted to make a buffalo ranch pizza!

We used our usual marinara but added some buffalo sauce to it.  Then topped it with some buffalo friendly toppings, including a bunch of the buffalo sietan.  Once we pulled it from the oven, I drizzled my vegan ranch over the top.  It was really incredible.  I am really starting to come around on the buffalo thing...

Friday, December 5, 2014

Buffalo in Maine?

I could eat BBQ sauce on nearly everything, nearly every day, nearly every meal.  Ashley is over it.  She needs a BBQ break.  Disgruntled, I obliged.  Ashley is partial to buffalo sauce.  As a southerner, she ate it often as a kid.  As a northerner, I avoided it.  I surrendered and have been making fantastic sandwiches! 

I went back to basics on the seitan recipe.  It was hard to let go all of the more fancy stuff I have been experimenting with but sometimes you have to bring it home.  To my surprise, these buffalo seitan sandwiches were fantastic.  I have made them a few times now and I am gaining some more confidence in them.

Ashley loves them, Kaleigh destroys.  They are great as leftovers for Kaleigh's school lunch or Ashley to take to work, especially when topped off with my ranch!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Thanksgiving part two

Sunday, Ashley, Kaleigh and myself went to my dad's house to have a family get together.  Thanksgiving two in a way.  It was pretty low key but a lot of fun.  Ashley and I brought a chicpea turkey loaf, mashed potatoes, mac and cheeze, cranberry sauce, corn bread muffins, tangy carrot and green apple slaw, gravy, smoked sweet corn soup, and sesame spinach.  There were vegan pies abound and we had a great feast!

Everything we brought was not only vegan but also wheat and soy free.  I really enjoyed the challenge of bringing so many dishes with so many restrictions.  It forces me to think outside the box. Too often I am the one everyone has to make accommodations for, it is really fun when I am pushed to think about it from another side.  Some dishes were a hit while I felt others were not quite on par.  For a first time Thanksgiving with that side of the family in well over a decade, I thought it went pretty well.

I even got to see more family while we were there!  We went old school and broke out some games too.  I was concerned that Kaleigh might struggle with some of the adult through process of the games but she did really well.  I am always impressed with how her mind works.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Reflections of a struggled holiday

My first thanksgiving in Maine in well over 10 years was a good one.  I am sure it was a little sad for Ashley and Kaleigh to be so far from their family on such a day but I hope that they feel the welcomed by my family.

As a younger guy, I protested the holiday due to the genocide it was founded on.  In my older years I have come to the conclusion that it would be too easy and too sad for me to die alone and right.  Sometimes you need to pick your battles and take the opportunities to enjoy the community support, and family around you when you have the chance.

This holiday, I often found myself thinking about the families of people who have been the victim of police violence.  The idea that they must really struggle with these family events left me angrily cooking dinner sides and shoveling my driveway.  My mind quickly turned to the rage I felt for the families of the perpetrators of such violence; I felt sickened by the idea that they get to spend these holidays with their families.

As the thoughts flowed through my veins I began to feel empathetic to my younger self and the rejection of such a celebrations.  The protest of a genocidal holiday now transformed into a day spent thinking about police violence, after centuries some things stay the same.  I pushed through it as my distance from those circumstances and my privileged permitted me to have a great thanksgiving.  A day I got to see family that I had not seen in over a decade.

The evolutionary dynamics of life change is fascinating.  I was fighting against my younger self while enjoying stories of life events that have been occurring in my families lives.  Bouncing from the present to the past all the while enjoying the moment.  It was a great day for me, if not for everyone who is experiencing hardships my privilege will not allow me to imagine.

Although the day was not vegan, we brought quite a bit of food and there were several accommodating dishes for us to partake.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Wordless Wednesday; from around the yard

All photos taken while wandering with Kaleigh in our backyard.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Cream of Broccoli Soup!

Ashley has been making requests for specific soups recently.  I really enjoy the autumn/winter months for the hearty roasted veggies dishes and soups.  I am generally very happy to oblige a good soup request!

The initial request was for my broccoli and cheeze soup.  I do not make it often, while very good it is not my favorite of the soups.  I designed the recipe for the cheeze lover folks out there more than myself.  Ashley then said I could try to make a cream of broccoli soup if I wanted.

I jumped at the chance!  I made some cashew sour cream, a recipe that I think was very good and will work to perfect and share another time.

Once the sour cream was done, it was off to the races with the soup!  Shredded and pureed broccoli all over the place!  Not to mention some nicely fried onions and garlic in some coconut oil.  It turned out to be a very delicate and delicious dish.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Playing at the table...

I am not sure the popularity of the show but Ashley, Kaleigh and I have been playing Chopped at dinner recently.  Basically, I cook dinner, then Ashley and Kaleigh critique it in the same fashion that the judges on the tv show Chopped would.

There are no mystery baskets which makes my job much easier but I think it is a good exercise for both myself and Kaleigh.  For me I get to hear some constructive criticisms of my food and get to think about meal plate and dish construction in a unique way.  For Kaleigh, she has been able to think about food and how flavors can work together or apart.  It is helping her develop a good palate while also helping her be articulate.  It has been a lot of silly fun.

Shepherd's Pie

Apparently, my Shepard's Pie needed me to transform the corn in some way.  The potatoes were the highlight of the well balanced bite.

Fried Banana

For dessert, I whipped up a fried banana.  It was a little too sweet and needed to be fried for a shorter amount of time on a higher temp to get that good crisp.

Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash

My Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash was in need of a crunch.  Maybe some walnuts tossed in at the very end of the cooking to add some more texture.  Additionally, the green peppers were out of place.  It was all I had so I blamed the lack of items in the pantry.  However, the dish would have benefited from a more earthy veggie like cauliflower.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Can you dig it?

About 2 months ago, Ashley, Kaleigh, myself, and my sister and her family went apple picking.  I was just starting to get into jarring/canning and thought I would try something fun.  I made an apple crisp, admittedly not my strong suit and put about 5 servings in jars.  Yesterday, I wanted to see if it worked and kept a good lifespan.

Kaleigh and I were the brave folks who popped the jar and took the first bites.  It was very slightly soggy but nothing that it would not have been if it were a 3 day old freshly made crisp.  Otherwise, it tasted fresh.  It had worked!

We torn threw the jar as Kaleigh's after school snack.  I am pretty excited to have had this work. I still have some jars in our canning room and will keep trying it until I can tell it has hit its limit.  It really makes me wonder what else I could jar/can that will keep and be awesome!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Weekend Visitors!

Ashley, Kaleigh and I hosted my sister and my nephews this weekend.  They came up around noon on Friday.  We liberated Kaleigh from school and Ashley took the day off from work.  It is not often we get to see the relatives from Boston.

Kaleigh and the boys played very hard.  They played in the snow, we got a few inches the night prior, they played hide and seek and all sorts of other games.  They had a blast.  For dinner, in our tradition of Friday nights, we made pizza.  This time we made 3 of them.  They kids all ate them up and there was even enough left for the adults to get their fill.

As they were eating pizza I told them I had a surprise for dessert.  Kaleigh new what it was because she helped me make cupcakes the day prior.  They youngest of the nephews, age 5, was extremely skeptical of the possibility of dessert.  He even tried to convince the other kids that there was really nothing for them.  It was quite funny to him hear try to make his case.  After all his efforts, I broke out the cupcakes for the kids!  They were thrilled and destroyed them.

The following day, I made lunch.  Salad, mac and cheeze, and fried tofu tossed in a mesquite lime rub.  One kid ate all everyone's mac, the other ate all the tofu, the other all the salads.

It was a great time with the family.  Hopefully the house will be closer to finished on their next visit.