Saturday, November 23, 2013

Vegan Mushroom Wild Rice Soup

Not sure what to do with that leftover wild rice mix from dinner  couple of nights ago?  Here is  a super, easy soup that I whipped up for myself a few days ago when it was chilly out and I felt like a nice, hot bowl of soup for lunch.  I made it by just throwing ingredients together and not measuring, so you have to trust your instinct when replicating this recipe. 

First, I sautéed sliced baby Bella (crimini) mushrooms and chopped onions in olive oil in the bottom of the stock pot with garlic powder and dried minced onion pieces for just a few minutes until the mixture was starting to brown.  Then, I added about 4 cups of water and a generous sprinkling of seasoned salt to the stock pot, brought it up to a boil, and simmered this for 15 minutes. 

Next, add your already cooked brown rice/wild rice mix.  Then, you add in the type of "milk" that you prefer.  I used soy, but rice milk or almond milk would work just fine, too, but probably  not any vanilla flavored variety.  Bring this to a boil again and turn in on low to simmer.  Mix up flour and water until it is a smooth, thick paste and add it to the soup little by little while stirring the whole time.  Let it simmer for about 5 more minutes to see if it is the thickness that you want.  Adjust the broth by adding more of the flour mixture, as desired (or adding in more milk if you have overdone the thickening). 

Serve and enjoy! 

Friday, November 22, 2013

A Coconut-Lime Peanut Curry with a Vegan Make-over

I was searching for a curry recipe a few days ago to try out that used coconut milk and peanut butter and I found this really great recipe at Family Fresh Cooking.  It isn't vegan, though, so I made a few substitutions. 

  • Fish Sauce:  I have a vegan fish sauce that my hubby found for me at a local Asian market, which is definitely the way to buy any Asian food supplies you may need.  Just be sure to look out for MSG on your labels before buying.  If you don't have vegan fish sauce, I recommend just using soy sauce or tamari (even better for this substitution) in its place.
  • Sesame Oil:  An ingredient that I have on hand sometimes, but not always.  In this recipe, I just omitted this ingredient because it really wasn't necessary to add extra oil. 
  • Chicken:  I cubed up a Costco size package of firm tofu into very small cubes and sautéed that up in coconut oil until it was turning golden brown before adding the sauce.
  • Asparagus:  I didn't have any asparagus, but wanted to add a few veggies to this dish, too.  So when the sauce and tofu were simmering, right at the end I added baby Bella mushrooms and chopped up bok choy.  I also thought that either broccoli or fresh green beans would be tasty in this dish, too.
  • Thinning out the sauce:  I felt that this sauce was pretty thick and wouldn't go very far, either, to feed the whole family, so I thinned it out with some rice milk which worked wonderfully.  You could also use vegetable stock to do the same thing and just thin the sauce to your desired consistency. 
This made for a very tasty supper served with hot brown rice and I will definitely make it again!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Mom, the Repair Woman

I anticipated many facets of motherhood and the many roles a mom fits into on a daily basis, but one job I never imagined I would participate in so often is that of Repair Woman.  Over the years, my kids have broken or had precious items fall apart on them quite consistently and they always come to me to see if it can be fixed.  Many times I have been able to repair broken items with my favorite tools: hot glue, Crazy glue, and needle & thread.  For the times when the repair is impossible, I put the item in a hidden cupboard and wait to get rid of it until it has been forgotten.  Recently, a bigger "oopsie" occurred than usual which resulted in Arianna's Bitty Baby having one of her legs detached (and she wasn't the one responsible for it, either).  This definitely was not an easy repair as it is quite difficult to put a needle through the hard plastic leg (by pressing it on a flat, hard surface each time), pull it through with pliers, thread it through the cloth part of the doll, and repeat, all the while trying to keep the loops semi-tight where the cloth and plastic meet.  Thankfully, Bitty did get her leg back and the great joy of my daughter after seeing her doll returned to a better state was worth the effort. 
The detached leg.

Needle technique, rough though it may be.

The finished product; not terribly pretty, but re-attached, nonetheless.

A happy girl.

Bitty's cast.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Bountiful Harvest . . . Although I Didn't Grow It Myself

You can see how big these pumpkins are when a 3 and 5 year old are sitting on them.

Each year, our girls want to stop and buy pumpkins at Bates Nut Farm which is not far from our house, but during the month of October, the road going to and from Bates has an insane amount of traffic.  They have fields of very large pumpkins called "Big Macs" and several years ago, we bought one for $10 which was a steal considering the pumpkin was about 75 lbs.  Over the past few years, however, the price has gone up to $1.00 a pound.  My hubby, however, was biding his time and decided to stop by the day after Halloween to see if there was a deal on these monster pumpkins.  As it turns out, the Big Macs were free for the taking if you could manage to wrangle it into your vehicle (minus the wheelbarrows that are out during October).  I ended up being the happy recipient of three Big Mac pumpkins, which is a lot of free food. 

One of the 3 Big Macs my hubby brought home.

I have heard many people over the years say that you can't eat the big pumpkins, but I can tell you from experience that is definitely not true.  The Big Macs are not super sweet, but they are in the squash family and have a lovely taste once they are baked and pureed.  The meat from this pumpkin can be used in everything from pumpkin soup to pumpkin muffins and pie.  Yum!
Part of the pumpkin after cutting up and baking much of it.

The beautiful pumpkin puree.

Friday, November 8, 2013

A Last Minute Halloween Costume

Sully and Mike Wazowski from Monsters U.

Some years back, we were given a really great Sully costume from Monsters Inc. and a Mike Wazowski costume, as well.  The Sully costume continued in stellar form, but unfortunately, the Mike costume's big plastic eye got cracked and then just went downhill from there.  Since Monster's University came out the summer, the girls wanted to revive the monsters costumes.  So, we needed a new Mikey costume and we also wanted to make Sully look like he was from Monsters U.

In order to accomplish our quick, costume update, we went to JoAnn Fabrics and bought 2 green t-shirts ($3 on sale, each), flannel, and a blue visor.  For Sully's fraternity shirt, I just freehanded the letters with a pencil and went over them with yellow fabric paint.  For Mike, I cut out each piece of flannel in its proper shape and then glued each piece on in order with fabric glue (which dries in 24 hrs.)  I used sparkly, silver fabric paint for Mike's retainer.  Then, I drew the MU with an eye on the blue visor and painted that on, too.  And, voila, we had Sully and Mike for Halloween.  I think they made pretty cute monsters!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Pups on the Move

The puppies are six weeks now.  They have gone from being wobbly and unsteady on their feet to running, jumping, digging, playing, and doing all things puppy at this point.  Trying to get them to pose for a picture is not easy, but here are some shots of them in action, doing what they love the most - having fun. 
The high excitement of finding a toddler's sock to chew on.

You know those teeth have really come in when a rock seems like an exciting chew toy.

A favorite sibling pastime - wrestling.

"I can't believe they fenced off that fig tree!  It would be so fun to rip up those leaves!"

Nothing better than lying in the damp dirt and thinking about doing a little digging.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Creative Minds

I love how kids' minds are still so creative and imaginative.  Unlike so many adults that have lost a sense of imagination and play, children are less inhibited when it comes to creating things.  As a parent, I want to fully encourage creativity in my children, especially as they are getting older.  Many entrepreneurs and successful people in our world are ones that have been creative and think outside the box.  I want my children to know that making good use of the brain God gave them isn't just through rote memorization and the accumulation of facts, but also and especially through exploring, analyzing, and experiencing the world around them. 

Selah's result of playing with math manipulatives
Selah's person.
Arianna, creating her own notecards to send to friends
A flaming soccer ball.
A stenciled duck with added details.
A ninja, with an added "puppy print" (done with fingers and a stamp pad).

Sunday, September 29, 2013

R & R

Gotta love that "sleeping-with-the-eyes-half-open" look!
This is what Mama Lilah likes to do now that the puppies are becoming more independent.  She is catching up on some well-deserved sleep and replenishing her stores of energy. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

4 Week Old Pups

If you are wondering about the relative size of a 4 week old goldendoodle pup, check these pictures of puppies in a small tote bag.  The first ones were taken of "Yellow", our biggest pup.  The second set are of "Purple", one of our females that is more medium-sized.


Monday, September 23, 2013

Vegan Zucchini Muffins

This is the time of the year for squash, zucchini, and pumpkins.  I love zucchini muffins, so I adapted my favorite banana muffin recipe for zucchini and they turned out great! 

Karlie's Vegan Zucchini Muffins
1 medim-size zucchini, skin on, grated
1/2 c. applesauce

1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice mix
1 c. unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 c.  white, whole wheat flour (I get mine at Trader Joe's)
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/8 c. of very warm water whisked together with 1 rounded Tablespoon of Ener-G egg replacer; whisk until it is fluffy and thick
Mix the above ingredients together either by hand or on low on the Kitchen Aid.
Sprinkle 1 tsp. baking soda over the batter.
Pour 4 Tbsp. of warm water over the baking soda and let it mostly dissolve. 
Mix the batter together gently one more time.  Mix in walnuts or pecans at the very end, if desired.
Bake at 375 F for 20 minutes, or until a inserted toothpick comes out clean. 
Let cool for a few minutes and then enjoy!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Enthusiastic Eaters

This is what it looks like when I get out the puppy mush for our 10 little pups.  They just started eating "baby food" this week and as you can see, they love it!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Pups Just Hanging Out

The pic is a little blurry, but I thought it was cute with the puppy's paw in her mouth.

Working on becoming a Red Sox fan by osmosis.

Ghost, getting treated like the baby that he is.

Hanging out in the stroller under close supervision.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Plenty of Love to Go Around

The puppies are just 10 days old, but they are certainly well-loved already.  They are also being socialized and getting accustomed to being around kids and adults.  There are two great benefits to this:  (1) the puppies will be more tolerant pets from their early exposure to children and better socialized by living in a family environment, and (2) my girls get the awesome and fun experience of seeing puppies from birth right on through to the super, fun puppy stages before they leave our home for new homes of their own.  I'm so glad my girls have had the chance to see baby animals growing up as part of their own childhood experience; yes, it is educational, but it also just outright fun to see the absolute sweetness and cuteness of a tiny puppy or a newborn chick. 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Vegan Latkes

I had never made latkes before, although I had thought about it many times in the past, but just never gotten around to doing it.  Then, my oldest, Isabella, was looking through a potato cookbook from the UN that my mom bought us as a gift and she determined to make latkes for the family for dinner.  I found a vegan latke recipe on Alicia Silverstone's blog, The Kind Life .   She found the recipe on another blog called, Girlie Girl Army.  Here is the link to their recipe for delicious vegan latkes.
I wish I had taken a picture of this meal, but it was eaten up so quickly that we didn't have time to take a picture.  All of Isabella's younger sisters were either requesting that she make another batch immediately (even though we had almost doubled the original recipe) or make them for their special birthday meal. 

We didn't have parsley like the original recipe called for, so we used fresh thyme out of our garden and that was a great substitute.  Also, I not only used a colander for squeezing out the grated potatoes, but I also put them in a tea towel and really squeezed out the excess liquid which worked really well.  The latkes have such a wonderful flavor with the onion and herbs that hey don't really need a topping, but we had applesauce, chipotle Vegenaise spread, and sauerkraut out for anyone that wanted to mix it up a bit.  We were also thinking that a plain, non-dairy yogurt would be a good alternative to sour cream as a topping, too. 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Sleeping Like a Baby

This is how small a 6 day old pup is, the size of a 10-year-old's hands.

Sweet, little green collar boy.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Vegan Peanut Butter Cookies

Baking with just plant-based foods can be tricky at times and has required quite a bit of experimentation on my part.  Sometimes, a recipe turns out really well, though, and is worth sharing.  Livia, our 5-year-old, wanted to make some cookies yesterday afternoon, so I decided to modify a "Crisco" peanut butter cookie recipe ( I like Crisco for the occasional piecrust, because it turns out so flaky, but otherwise, it isn't a fat I would recommend for baking). 

Karlie's Vegan Peanut Butter Cookies

3/4 c. creamy, all-natural peanut butter
1/4 c. coconut oil
1/4 c. applesauce
1 c. loosely packed brown sugar
1/4 c. white, granulated sugar
2 Tbsp. soymilk (or other dairy-free milk)
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1/8 c. of very warm water + 1 Tbsp. Ener-G egg replacer (beat together until it is the consistency of very stiff egg whites)
1 c. white, all-purpose flour
3/4 c. whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt (or less, if desired)

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Combine peanut butter, coconut oil, applesauce, brown and white sugars, soymilk, vanilla, and egg replacer mixture in a large bowl.  Whisk together until thoroughly combined.  Combine flours, baking soda, and salt.  Add all at once to the wet mixture and stir together with a spoon until the dry ingredients are fully incorporated.  Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet (or put parchment paper on the cookie sheet and give it a light spray with canola oil cooking spray).  Flatten slightly in a crisscross pattern with tines of a fork.  Bake one cookie sheet at a time for 8-9 minutes, or until set and just beginning to brown.  Cool 2 minutes on baking sheet.  Remove cookies to cooking racks to cool completely.

Makes 2-3 dozen cookies (depending on the size of cookie).

Note:  Vegan chocolate chips mixed in at the end before baking would be wonderful in this recipe.  (I didn't have any on hand, or I would have put them in this time around.) 

This was super easy to make, bake, and the whole family loved them.  We'll definitely be making these cookies again!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Puppy Love

The puppies are 4 days old today and still so new.  My girls have been so wonderful, always helping out with the puppies to be sure they stay safe, get equal chances to feed on their mama, and are loved on by our family right from the get-go. 

Isabella holding the "blue" collar boy, or "Little Boy Blue", as I call him.

Selah, making sure everyone has a place to eat.

Selah, my animal lover, with one of the puppies.

Little Boy Blue - what an irresistibly, darling face!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Mac N' No Cheese

Our girls are enthusiastic eaters and on most days, they are also happy to be eating a plant-based diet.  But, there are a few menu items from our former ways of eating that they still miss and request at times.  So, I decided to make them a "no-cheese" version of mac n'cheese.  Here is the basic recipe.

For a big batch for our family  I used:

24 oz. (1 1/2 pounds) of dry pasta (I didn't have macaroni on hand, so I used another shape)
2-3 Tbsp. of olive oil
1/2 - 1 cup of soymilk
7 oz. of  "Follow Your Heart" cheddar style vegan cheese, cubed
1 tsp. Lawry's seasoned salt
Any additional salt and pepper to taste
Optional:  Panko bread crumbs, garlic powder, spray canola oil

Boil the noodles according the package directions and drain.  Put them back in the cooking pot and in the olive oil, cubes of vegan cheese, and 1/2 cup of soymilk.  Heat this on low to medium heat so that the cheese begins to melt, all the while stirring frequently to coat the noodles.  Add in the seasoned salt and if the noodles seem to be drying out, add more soymilk as needed to keep the consistency creamy.  Once the vegan cheese is fully melted and incorporated and the sauce is the desired consistency, test it and add and more salt and pepper, as needed.  You can either serve it this way, or if you want it a little fancier, put the mac n' no-cheese into an oven safe dish, sprinkle it with Panko bread crumbs, sprinkle it with garlic powder, and spray the top with a light coat of canola oil spray.  Put the dish, uncovered, in the oven at 375 degrees F, for 10-15 minutes or until the bread crumbs just start to turn a golden brown cover.  Then, enjoy!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Lilah's Puppies Arrive At Long Last

Well, she went a couple of days overdue which was a good thing because the puppies are all a good size and had a few more days to mature inside their mama.  Lilah gave birth to 4 girls and 6 boys between 3 a.m. and 9 a.m. this morning (although she was also laboring from about 7 p.m. on starting the day before).  They are so new and little, but are all eating like champs already and can latch on really well.  Here are a few of the puppies just hours, and even minutes, after birth.

First Day of Fifth Grade

Our oldest, Isabella, started school yesterday.  She is finally at the top of the pecking order at her Elementary School (which is just grades 3-5).  Isabella was a little nervous/excited for the big day and it was sweet to see her head off to another year of learning ready to go and wanting to do her best!
Her goofy pose.

The standard 1st day of school picture.

Arriving at school.

And she's off . . .