Archive for the ‘family/kids’ Category

What to do with produce before it goes bad

There are few things I hate more than buying a bunch of fruits and vegetables  and finding them pushed into the back of the refrigerator 2 weeks later rotting and turning to mush.  Many of my most well-intentioned eating plans have ended just that way.  Here are a few tips for keeping up with your produce.

1.  Know what’s in season and plan meals accordingly.

You’re going to go to the grocery store in summer and see tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers dirt cheap in the summer.  Make sure you plan your meals to include lots of these ingredients.  This is the time to have homemade salsa, cold pasta salads, black bean salad (see yesterday’s post), and other such creations.  Likewise, you’re going to see winter squash, sweet potatoes and other root vegetables later in the summer.  If you match your meals to the seasons, you will lessen the risk that what looks good in the grocery store has no use at home.  As an added bonus, changing your meals with the seasons builds variety into your diet.

2.  Hang a list on your refrigerator of the produce you bought and what you plan to do with it.

A magnetic pad with a couple suggestions might keep you from forgetting that there’s a quart of strawberries in the bottom drawer.  As an added bonus, the kids might remember to eat some too.

The green sheet is my plan for the fridge. Now I’ll be reminded of what produce I need to eat.

3.  Have a few go-to recipes that use up lots of ingredients.

The other night, we made pasta and sauteed vegetables for the simple reason that we needed to use up lots of produce.  I had peppers, yellow squash, zucchini, mushrooms, onions and broccoli that were all looking a little rough.  We sliced off the ugly parts, ran the remainder through the slicing blade on the food processor, and ended up with a butt-load of vegetables for sauteeing.  The keys to making it good are don’t overcook them and be generous with the seasoning.  I seasoned ours with garlic powder, salt, pepper, an Italian blend, and a few drops of hot sauce.  Also, I sauteed in red wine instead of oil.  It made for a good Sunday lunch and a couple of good lunches at work too. When I ran out of pasta, I spooned the reheated mixture into pita bread.

For fruit, try a smoothie.  The key to a good smoothie is a banana–it makes it creamy.  Whenever a banana starts to turn brown in my house, we peel it and put in a plastic bag in the fridge.  For your smoothie, add whatever fruit you have on hand.  The other night we used a half bag of frozen mixed berries, cantaloupe, pineapple, a half an orange my son didn’t want to finish, and enough soy milk (or fruit juice) to cover it in the blender.  I froze the leftovers and ate them for breakfast.  It was like having ice cream for breakfast.  All our fruit goes into the freezer when it starts to get mushy or overripe.  It makes a great smoothie that way.

Off to the Farmers Market!

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A Little Relief–Kids in the Kitchen

Let me show you something amazing. 

I know it doesn’t look like much, but I think these three little list will make my summer much easier.  In case I haven’t bellyached enough in previous posts, I work full-time, have four kids and two dogs, and live in a 1,000 square foot house.  Neither luxury nor time abound in my life.  On top of all that normal aggravation, I have made the commitment to be as vegan as I can be.  It’s not easy.  Being as vegan as I can be means that I can’t just pop a Stouffer’s lasagna in the oven or pour a bag of Chicken Voila in a skillet.  We can’t drive through Arby’s and get the 5 for $5 deal on the way to ball practice.  I can’t complain about it too much because it’s a commitment I made by choice and generally I’m very happy with the results.  However, on a busy weeknight, it’s difficult.

So, I have devised a plan and you’re looking at the beginning of it.  Last weekend we did something brilliant–we told two of the kids to decide what they wanted to fix for dinner.  They looked up recipes online and in magazines and wrote up their shopping lists.  I added their lists to my grocery list and got all their ingredients for them.  Then, I wrote down what we’d be eating for the whole week.  Now, when someone meets me at the front door 2 nanoseconds after I get home from work and asks, “What’s for dinner?”  I don’t have to blink.  I just read the plan straight off the fridge.

If you would like to engage your children a little more in dinner, I have a few tips.

1.  Most importantly, be prepared to eat it no matter what it is.  After all, if you want great food, fix it yourself.  If you want a break from kitchen slavery, don’t bite the hand that’s feeding you. 

2.  Don’t expect them to be able to choose a recipe and follow it right away.  For a child that’s under 8, let him make sandwiches or a simple salad.  If you’re worried about knives, find a child-safe knife.  I have a couple of child-safe pumpkin carving knives that my kids used when they were younger that did the trick just fine.  Older kids can make just about any pasta dish (if you drain the hot water.)  By the time a child is 12, she should be able to follow a recipe off a box and then out of a cookbook or magazine.

3.  Don’t help.  If you’re in the kitchen overseeing every last step, they’re not really making it on their own.  If you’re doing all the hard parts or all the tricky parts, they’re not going to have the satisfaction of doing it.  Of course, you will have to supervise novices at the stove or pull a hot dish out of the oven.  But, that’s all.  Leave them alone and let them learn.  If you think they don’t know how to do something, then teach them one night when you’re cooking or write down specific instructions for the hard parts.

4.  Warn the kids ahead of time that they will have to clean whatever they mess up.  Naturally, when dinner is over, you’re going to help clean up the kitchen.  But, if the kids don’t go into it with the idea that they’ll have to clean up their own mess, you’ll be in trouble.  Besides, the point of this whole exercise is to make your life easier.  Cleaning up after a culinary tornado is not my idea of taking the evening off.

Our experiment has just begun, but we’re happy so far.  Last night we had a sugar snap pea stir fry and Israeli couscous compliments of our 14-year old.  Tonight we’re having arugula and peach salad, corn on the cob, and coconut milk ice cream compliments of our 12-year old.  Not bad, huh?

Men Think Eating Meat is Manly

VegNews Daily

Culture Affects Men’s Perception of Meat, Study Says

By Rashida Harmon | May 18, 2012

Researchers from numerous American universities have determined that men feel meat is manlier than vegetables.

Mainstream attitudes about veganism and manhood seem to be changing as more male celebrities adopt the diet, but apparently not everyone is convinced. According to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research, many men continue to associate meat with masculinity and, conversely, conflate plant-based lifestyles with weakness. Analyzing the language subjects used to describe various foods, as well as their evaluation of men who follow different diets, researchers determined: “To the strong, traditional, macho, bicep-flexing, all-American male, red meat is a strong, traditional, macho, bicep-flexing, all-American food. Soy is not. To eat it, they would have to give up a food they saw as strong and powerful like themselves for a food they saw as weak and wimpy.”

Ok, guys, I think this is pretty pathetic.  Greasy, fattening, bloody and bacteria-laden is not sexy.  Neither is obesity, diverticulitis, gout, heart disease, or constipation.  My husband is a big, hairy, sexy vegan!!

Have you tried Zumba?

This picture right here is why I never wanted to try Zumba:

But, my daughters really wanted to go so I went too.  I learned 2 things:

 1.  It’s pretty fun for an exercise class.  I’m over the 1980’s aerobics class or the 1990’s Firm Fanny Lifter.  Zumba goes by quickly, wrings out a killer sweat, and engages both mind and body.

2.  I don’t know what I look like doing Zumba, but I was pretty darn impressed with the other women in the class.  They’re not all 20-somethings or fitness fanatics, but when they start rolling their hips ands shaking their shoulders, they look pretty damn hot.  No wonder Latin and South Americans are known for being passionate–they’re dances are like foreplay.  I come out of Zumba thinking that if I weren’t soaked in sweat and smelling like a gym sock, I’d be one sexy bitch!

All that to say, if you haven’t tried Zumba, you probably should.  You may feel ridiculous, but you’ll look fabulous!

 

How much protein do we really need?

I get asked about protein and calcium every time I tell someone I’m trying to be vegan.  It amazes me how well we’ve all been brainwashed into believing that only meat has good protein and only milk has good calcium.

Let’s go over a few simple facts that have put my mind at ease about my potential deficiencies:

1.  Behind these questions about protein and calcium is the assumption that non-vegans have all the nutrition they need.  In fact, that is not always the case.  Vitamin D, C and E deficiencies are common among meat eaters.  Omega 3’s also have a tendency to be out of proportion with omega 6’s because of the inordinate amount of omega 6’s in processed foods.  Beta carotene intake is often lower than it should be, and so is fiber intake. Vegans, on the other hand, may have low levels of one B vitamin, but only if they don’t drink fortified soy milk, which I do. Otherwise, the vegan diet is complete without supplements.

2.  If increasing your protein made you thin, than the United States should be the thinnest country in the world.  We have a protein-heavy diet and yet we are getting fatter and sicker all the time.

3.  When was the last time you heard of a cow, hippo, giraffe, or whale with a protein or calcium deficiency?  They don’t eat meat.  They don’t drink milk once they’re adults.  The largest mammals in the world are vegan.  How many gorillas suffer from osteoporosis?  They don’t drink milk either once they’re out of their infancy. 

4.  Countries that consume the most dairy have  higher rates of osteoporosis.  The condition is almost unheard of in areas of the world where milk is not consumed (rural Asia).  Here’s why:  Excessive protein, like the type found in animal products, causes your body to become more acidic.  Your body, in order to keep its pH balanced, uses the calcium stored in your bones to bring your body chemistry into balance (like a Tums for your circulatory system).  Thus, your body loses calcium at a higher rate when animal products such as milk are consumed.  If you didn’t need to leach calcium out of your bones to straighten out your body chemistry, you wouldn’t need to consume such high amounts of it or risk lower bone density.  By the way, grown cows don’t drink milk.  They get their calcium the same way vegans do–from greens.

 I should follow the protein question with a few of my own.  The conversation may go like this:

“As a meat eater, where do you get your fiber since animal products don’t have fiber and a lack of fiber has been linked to certain cancers?”  …Pause for interesting answer…

“What about the calcium deficiency that comes from having an acidic pH?”…pause for another answer that will probably cite some experts called “they”….

“Where do you get your vitamins?”…pause for explanation of how some of their meat and cheese has vegetables under it in a salad…

I wouldn’t ask any of those questions obviously because that’s obnoxious and really none of my business.  Besides, meat eaters may have very complete, well-rounded diets.  They’d have to be very conscientious and plan their meals carefully to fit in all the nutrition they need without exceeding their caloric boundaries, but they could do it.  I respect that and wouldn’t dream of interrogating them over it.  Maybe someday my well-meaning friends will feel the same way about me.

Eat Pizza and Feel Good About It

Mothers, do you know that feeling you get when you make a delicious and nutritious dinner?  That feeling that makes you feel like the love child of Mother Theresa, Benjamin Franklin  and Martha Stewart?  Contrast that to the feeling you get when you’ve given your kids crap that you know you shouldn’t and you start saying things to yourself like “one night’s not going to kill them” or “for pete’s sake, I can’t do everything perfect”?

Put this on the schedule for Friday night.  You won’t have leftover food or regret.  Vegetable Pizza!

This is not my pizza. I got the picture from http://www.celestopea.com/Pizza-Recipe.htm. It looks like my pizza.

I know, I know.  I should take my own pictures!  My pizza was prettier anyway.  My pizza had more color.  Orange carrots, red and green bell peppers, black olives, green broccoli. It was gorgeous.  I could have worn it to work it was so impressive.  And, my pizza was a super easy, veganish delight.

Roll out a couple of tubes of refrigerated pizza dough or make a batch of your own if you’re so inclined.  (If your homemade dough recipe is easy, please share it with me.  I look for dough recipes online, but I’m just not sure about them.  I’d love to have one that I know a normal person makes.  That does, of course, assume that you’re a normal person…) I lay one crust on top of the other because they get flimsy under the weight of all my vegetables.

For the sauce, mix one packet of Ranch seasoning (vegan-ish–I’m sure there are some milk solids in there or something) with 1/2 c of veganaise and 1/2 cup of Tofutti sour cream.   Sprinkle the sauce with 1 cup of grated Follow Your Heart Mozzerella cheese.

It's about $4 for 10 oz., but you can make it last for a while.

Here’s a tip about vegan cheese:  it doesn’t taste like the real thing.  Don’t expect it to.  Don’t eat it plain and then whine that it’s not good.  Cook with it.  It melts fine and tastes creamy.  On this pizza, it’s perfect.

Now, the fun part.  Chop up every vegetable you have in your house that looks pretty, tastes good, or cooks nicely.  Definitely include carrots, bell peppers of any variety, broccoli, and black olives.  Your pizza has to be gorgeous or you’ve failed.  But, look around your kitchen for mushrooms, banana peppers, artichokes, tomatoes, pineapple, spinach, or whatever else.  You really can’t mess it up.  If it tastes good with ranch dressing, it’ll taste good on this pizza.

Next time I make it, I’ll take a picture of it to show you.  And, judging from the way my family scarfed it down Monday night, I’ll be making it again real soon.  Here’s the recipe in a pdf so you can make it too:  Vegetable Pizza

Let’s Have Soup for Dinner

I made this soup last night pretty quick, and it was awesome.

This picture is from browneyedbaker.com. But, my soup looked just like this, I promise!

I’ve always considered Roasted Apple and Butternut Squash Soup to sound like something pretty difficult, but it certainly wasn’t.

First, cut a butternut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Put it cut-side-up in a baking pan.  Let 4 granny smith apples join it the exact same way, except peel it first.

You have to use granny smiths, or it won't be as good.

You can put this into a hot oven (425) for an hour or you can put this into a cooler oven (300) for a couple hours.  I opted yesterday for the cooler oven because I wanted to get some other things done.  The good news is that once you’ve done the roasting, you’re about 15 minutes from having dinner on the table.

When you think your squash and apples look pretty soft, chop up a medium-sized onion.  In a soup pot, saute the chopped onion in 3 tablespoons of oil, 3 tablespoons of brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon of cardamom, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of ground black pepper.  It will smell fabulous.  (If you’re having company or if you want to show off to neighbors, now is the time to invite them in.)

This is cardamom. Use it ground, of course. Don't leave it out. It's the cardamom and cinnamon combination that makes this soup great.

Turn the heat off your onions.  Scoop the flesh out of your butternut squash, and add the squash guts and apples to your onions.  Transfer all of the mixture to a mixing bowl.  (You’re going to blend up the soup in a blender and put it back into that soup pot to warm up for serving.)  If you’re vegan, you’ll need 5 cups of vegetable stock.  If you’re vegan-ish, you’ll need 5 cups of water and 5 cubes of chicken bouillion.  Blend a scoop of the mixture, 1 cup of water and a bouillion cube on high in blender or food processor until it’s smooth.  Pour it into the soup pot.  Repeat this process until all ingredients have been blended.

Heat your soup on the stove until you’re ready to eat.  Our soup last night went great with a veggie pizza.  Even my kids loved it, and a couple of them are ungrateful bastards!

Here’s a better copy of the recipe, if you’d like to see it:

Squash and Apple Soup

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