Thursday, January 30, 2014

Kaleigh turns 7 (and cookie cakes!)

When we returned from vacation, Kaleigh had a birthday party with her Atlanta family.  We went to a restaurant for dinner and presents.  I surprised Kaleigh with a shiitake mushroom log.  Ashley recorded her opening a log, as it was quite humorous.  Once she found out what it was, she was excited but prior to that she was a little upset and confused about opening a log on her 7th birthday.

The following day, Kaleigh got to have a birthday party with her friends at the movie theater.  They had a great time but it was a ton of work for Ashley and I.  We could have used another adult, we were in over our heads a bit.

Kaleigh is not a big fan of icing so she asked me to make a cookie cake.  I did her one better and made two!  I had never made a cookie cake before and it was slightly different than I had expected.  I figured it was "use normal cookie recipe, make one bit cookie".  Not quite,  I had to slightly alter the recipes, grease a pan, etc.  They came out great though!  They were a big hit at the party.  The double chocolate chip was such a big hit that I did not even get to try a slice!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Cooking with Kaleigh; Part 13: Tofu Scramble!

Just after we got back from our weekend in Maine, Kaleigh and I decided to have BAD (Breakfast and Dinner).  We have been having it a little too often for Ashley's taste so Kaleigh and I waited for her to be at work.  We got our pancakes and vegan sausage going then Kaleigh wanted to make a Cooking with Kaleigh video for tofu scramble.

Kaleigh has been saying for awhile that she does not like tofu but for whatever reason, she loves tofu scramble.  She gets really excited for the dish and likes to help make it.  By now, she can mostly make it by herself.

After our trip to Maine, she had a new excitement for the cooking series.  There were a lot of people in Maine that she got to meet that already knew her from the videos.  They all thought she did a great job cooking so she is back to being excited about the videos.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Weekend Vacation; Day 4: Sledding my my mums

Monday was our final day in Maine.  Ashley, Kaleigh and I got up and headed to Bagel Mainea in Augusta for some breakfast.  They have fresh made bagels, hummus, and vegan cream cheese.  Ashley really liked the place and we had a great breakfast.  This is one of the few places in the area that have vegan options like this.

After breakfast and a ride through Winthrop, we met with my sister, Cait and took all the kids sledding.  Mt. Tom is a huge hill in Gardiner that every year the kids slide down.  Kaleigh and Tayshaun were up and down the hill as fast as they could go.  They had a blast.  It was a lot of fun to see them sledding together.

After sledding and a late lunch, we headed to my mums for a little birthday party.  Kaleigh and Ashley got to ride on the snowmobile, we had a bon-fire for s'mores, we sat in a hot tub while the snow came down around us.  There were presents, pizza, cake, lots of friends and family.  It was a great way to end our weekend vacation.

We really appreciated all the effort that everyone put into the trip, parties and making Kaleigh and Ashley feel like part of the family.  It was a great trip and we hope to be returning soon.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Weekend Vacation; Day 3: Snow Storm!

Sunday, day 3, started out with Ashley, Kaleigh and I waking up as a snow storm began!  Although it amounted to just a few inches, it was the biggest snow storm either of the girls had seen.  After breakfast at the family restaurant, the Hi-Hat, we grabbed my mum and headed to the coast.

We took a detoured route to Pemaquid Point.  It is a trip I have taken the last few times I have gone to Maine.  It is a really nice place for pictures and relaxation.  There is a light house and plenty of space to roam.  When we arrived, we were the only people there.

Within minutes, Kaleigh and my mum had built a snowman that was taller than Kaleigh and the snow was continuing to fall.  We than walked down to the rocky coast and try the treacherous rocks in the snow.  Not feeling safe, we turned back and wandered the area.  We ended up having a snowball fight as well.  It was also a first for the girls.

After leaving the coast, we took a trip south.  We stopped in Freeport to some tourist stuff then it was off to Portland for dinner.  Years and years ago, my good friends Neal (of the Pickle Shack) and Chansopa introduced me to Indian cuisine.  We took a large group of punk kids to Tandoor, a fairly nice Indian place in the old port of Portland.  It was eye-opening or me.  I really enjoyed the food and since then I have introduced many folks to the cuisine.  Ashley really enjoyed Tandoor and we had a great dinner.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Weekend Vacation; Day 2: Gone to my Dad's

Shortly after waking up, Kaleigh, Ashley and I headed to Pittston Maine to visit my Dad.  We had the whole family coming to the house.  My sister and her three kids coming from Boston, my other two sisters and their families would also be there.

Fortunately, there was still some snow at my dad's house and Kaleigh was able to slide with the kids.  It was really her first time sledding.  She loved it, it was difficult to get her to come back inside to eat, visit, or even thaw.

Once she did, she enjoyed playing with the other kids and the dog that lives with my dad.  We even had a birthday party for her.  Sue made some amazing food, sweet potato soup, green bean casserole, and even some homemade ice cream, not to mention cookies and pies!

After dinner, the adults and Kaleigh played a good game of Munchkin to close the night out.  It began to snow later in the evening and Kaleigh was able to see her first Maine snow storm.  She was extremely excited to make a snow angel.

We had a great time and really appreciated the effort that all of my family put in to make Kaleigh and Ashley feel welcome and a part of the family.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Weekend Vacation; Day 1: Old Town

We kept it quiet for a number of reasons but, as a celebration of Kaleigh's 7th birthday, Ashley and I took Kaleigh on a weekend long vacation to Maine.  It is not a typical winter vacation spot but most of my family (both blood family and chosen family) are there.

Being a couple of girls from the south, neither Ashley nor Kaleigh had much previous experience with snow so this was going to be an adventure for both of them.  Much of the snow had melted away in a recent warm spell but it was still far more then they had experienced in Atlanta.

Our first day we took the drive to Old Town to spend the day with my long time friend, Jonny and his wife LeeAnne.  For me, Jonny is always a priority on a Maine trip.  We have been about as close as you can be when long distance for over 20 years.

After some brief introductions and video games, Jonny, Kaleigh and I made some stir-fry for lunch.  After lunch we set out to find some snow for Kaleigh to play in.  We found a bit near the campus and went "shoe skating".

After some snow and ice time we picked up some coconut ice cream and headed back to the house.  For the holidays, Jonny got an amazing pink salt brick.  We took 3 flavors of ice cream and slathered in on the salt brick.  It really added a lot of depth to the ice cream flavors and we all enjoyed it.

Unfortunately, our time in Old Town was limited.  We left just before dinner to get back in the Augusta area.  We were staying with my grandmother, Priscilla.  It was a good start to the vacation even if any time I see Jonny, I miss being closer to him.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Kaleigh went to a punk show!

Most punk shows in Atlanta are late at night in smoke-filled alcohol laden clubs with folks pushing and shoving.  The Garden is a space in Atlanta that is unique.  She shows start and end early, the crowd in very mellow and best of all it is a sober space.

In fact, the shows start early enough for Kaleigh to go!  When ever I am going to a show, she asks if she can go and the answer is always "no".  This time, wiht her great report card, she was able to go!  Ironically, due to some unforeseen circumstances, the Garden show started later then expected and we had to leave before the final band played.

Kaleigh got see meet some really nice folks, see some folks she had not seen in awhile, experience her first punk show, and the drummer from Rapturous Grief was even nice enough to let her wail away on his drums while people were setting up!

She had a lot of fun, despite us making her wear ear plugs.  I hope she gets more opportunity to have these type of experiences.  I know it was extremely important for me as I grew up.

Thank you everyone who was nice enough to allow a 6 year old into your space!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Report card time!

Kaleigh's birthday is right around the corner now.  I am pretty excited for it as we have some great things planned.  She will be celebrating for over a week,

After a long winter break, it was also report card time.  As a child, I always hated this time.  I was a solid C student for most of the younger year.  Primarily, I was bored with school and did not put much effort in.  On the other hand, Kaleigh is an academic.

Kaleigh gets all A's all the time.  However, she seems to also suffer from a bit of boredom in class.  For her, it manifests itself in getting in a little trouble at school.  Nothing major, just talking and not listening.

This report card was excellent!  Not only did she earn all A's, but she also got all good marks for classroom behavior!  She even recognized that she had put in a lot of effort to make sure she was making improvements.  She was proud of herself.

With such a great report card, she got to pick dinner.  She wanted fried rice (made with the veggie broth that we made recently), and stir-fry with double shiitake mushrooms and a side of brussel sprouts.  My kind of meal!  She is a great kid and we are very proud of her effort and hard work.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Stuffed peppers for lunch!

Ashley has been working a lot of evening shifts during Kaleigh's winter break.  Due to this, we have been having some more fun lunches and quicker dinners.  This allows Ashley to eat a nice meal while Kaleigh and I have something quicker for dinner.

One of the dishes we made recently was stuffed red peppers.  I filled them with rice, mushrooms, and veggies.  They were pretty decent but not as wonderful as I had hoped.  Maybe a gravy or dressing of some sort was needed.

I wonder what the rest of the blog world puts on their stuffed peppers to avoid a bit of dryness...

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Ice cold!

It has been extremely cold (for the south) here in Georgia.  While I grew up in Maine, I have grown accustom to the easy "winters" here.  I heard a rumor that the weather here was colder than it had been in 80 years.  Kaleigh's school was even canceled due to the cold.  They said the school did not have the ability to keep the kids warm!

What does a Mainer, stranded in the south for a historically cold few days do?  Root beer floats!  That's right.  A big FU to the cold from a Mainer in the south.  You can't get me!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Our new pizza stone!

For a holiday gift, Ashley got a really nice clay pizza stone.  In a way, this was a much a gift for me as her.  We have used it a few times now and are starting to get the hang of it.  On Saturday, Ashley and I made her favorite pizza, salsa pizza!

Topped with onions, tomatoes, peppers, cilantro, and a few vegan pepperoni we had leftover, the pizza came out perfectly!  We had to stop ourselves from eating the entire thing in one sitting.  I can not wait to keep making perfectly round and well cooked pizzas.

Friday, January 3, 2014

DIY veggie broth, months in the making.

I consistently keep and freeze the scraps from chopped vegetables.  I toss them in baggies and hang on to them for future broth making.  After a large trip to the grocery store with Ashley and Kaleigh, Ashley thought we might need to make some broth to free up freezer space.

Kaleigh and I were bound to spend the evening in anyway and she was excited about the idea of doing some cooking.  This was right up her alley.  We had about 12 bags of frozen scraps ranging from zucchini to shiitakes, from peppers to cabbage, and brussel sprouts to onions.  Making broth also gave us a great excuse to wear our matching homemade aprons that Kaleigh's grandmother made both of us for the holidays.

Kaeligh and I took our tow largest pots, divided up the bags, added water and boiled for about 6 hours.  We occasionally added more water to each depending on the need but it is an extremely easy process is you have the day at home.

It makes a wonderful vegetable broth for virtually no cost.  My broth turned out more of an orange color as I snatched up a lot of red pepper bags.  Kaleigh's broth was more of a purple color because she got a lot more red cabbage and shiitakes.

After we finished cooking them, we let them cool, strained the broth out and then combined the two broths.  We gave it  taste test and is fantastic!  I will freeze it in serving sizes of two cups.  Those size make it easy for our household to use to make rice, lentils, etc.


Thursday, January 2, 2014

Asian night!

We recently had an Asian themed dinner.  I had some left over store bought mushroom vegetable buns that we steamed to perfection.  I made some quick rice noodles, miso soup and a stir-fry.

The soup was not a big hit with the girls.  We do not often eat miso soup and the foreign taste turned off Kaleigh.  She also was not a face of the fried tofu cubes.  Ashley's position was not much different.

However, Kaleigh ate lots of her stir-fry.  I used fresh shiitake mushrooms, thai basil, baby bok choy, and even tossed in a few soy chicken chucks for good measure.  Both Kaleigh and Ashley have really begun to enjoy shiitake mushrooms.  I just wish they were a little cheaper!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

I am nothing if not a traditionalist...

Since moving to the south, I have heard rumors that on New Years day, people eat black eye peas.  Apparently, it is for good luck.  I can not imagine where this tradition came from and it makes no sense to me.  Most of the New Years traditions make no sense to me. 

I do not believe in luck and I am not much for traditions however, I do like black eye peas!  I made another batch of my seitan jerky and had a little seitan left over.  I cubed it and fried it up with some onions, garlic, parsley and then added the black eye peas.  The dish turned out pretty good!

As for the jerky, the recipe is still not where I want it.  This time it turned out a little too tough.  I will perfect it and share eventually though!  The flavor was still spot on.  I just need to master the texture.