I have decided to change things up a bit here.  I love cooking all things vegan (well, almost all things).  My children are excellent eaters, probably because they have been vegan for a while now.  I have been experimenting with a lot of recipes lately and I'd like to share my experience as a mom with the recipes and how the kids are responding to them.
 
 
Yesterday was my birthday.  Birthdays are just another day in the year for me.  I don't care if I get a card or a phone call or a present.  But the one thing I don't want to get is criticism and judgment.  Our world is full of that and for one day I'd like to be spared.  

My family has been following a vegan diet for over three years.  We are constantly fielding questions about it and what we eat. Initially these questions annoyed me.  Now I just laugh.  

I got a great laugh last night.  I received a phone call from a relative last night.  She insisted it was to wish me a happy birthday but I knew better as soon as the conversation began.  And so the judgement and criticism began....

She told her friend, who coincidentally happens to be a doctor (and clearly an expert on all things vegan) that I am doing "the vegan diet and making her children do it too".  This expert on all things vegan recommended that she tell me "to do some research on the vegan diet and the dangers of it".  Naturally, my relative, who now happens to also be an expert on all things vegan did the research for me.  Evidently she wanted to save me the time.  

Last night I learned
1.  You can use the google page and put the words "vegan diet dangers of" in that little white box.  
2.   You will find some "alarming things" such as "death by veganism".  This is naturally due to lack of protein (come on....us vegans definitely don't get enough of that ever).  
3.  And she always knew that my children were too skinny and likely malnourished (in which case I could be in trouble as their mother).  

For the record, my children are thriving. They are in fact healthier than most children.  I have lost 100 pounds on a vegan diet.  We are getting plenty of protein and I mean plenty and many other nutrients as well since we consume plant foods every time we eat.  

I appreciate the concern, but I don't ask people how they feel about consuming saturated fat, cholesterol and rotting carcass or foods made from infected pus and blood filled udders at every meal.  I have compassion and love for the way everyone chooses to live their life.  If you can't provide that in return, then let's talk about something else.  
 
 
I cook all the time.  It's second nature to me.  It's stress relief.  During the most difficult times in my life, my refrigerator is full of cooked dishes and my counters piled with baked goods.  I read blogs with recipes, I read cookbooks, I read magazines. 

As the cold weather sets in, a plethora of winter squash arrives in my farm box.  I dislike winter, but I love winter squash.  This week alone I have butternut squash, acorn squash, kabocha squash, and delicata squash. 

So I decided to adapt a recipe from the Vegetarian Times for a winter squash pot pie.  And I have so damn much squash I decide
to triple the recipe and feed it to everyone I know because peeling and cutting squash is a huge pain in the ass and I know I am just going to let the rest of it rot on the counter unless I roast it whole which takes a long time (time I don't seem to have these days). 

Whole Foods didn't have any vegan puff pastry or pie crust and I forgot to buy canned chickpeas so this meal was turning out to be quite the project.  And honestly I was not enjoying it because then I had to make the sauce for the pot pie which I am not getting into here because it didn't thicken well on the stove and was just pissing me off.  By the time this stupid thing was ready to go into the oven I was ready to take a nap and I never wanted to see another squash again. 

I am positive the instructions on the original recipe didn't indicate that it would take 4 hours to prepare this dish before it even goes into the oven.  I would like to confirm that but I seem to have misplaced the issue of Vegetarian Times where I got the recipe.  And I have no desire to ever make it again unless someone does all the prep work for me so I am not searching too hard. 

The end result of hours and hours of cooking was a delicious casserole (I ended up doing a bread crumb topping because making a crust was not in the plans) that everyone loved.  And then I had the winter squash revelation....

I am buying a one way ticket to the cbecause if I live there, I will never have to cook another winter squash again....because it will never be winter.




 
 
A brief recap of my vegan summer up until now.
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VEGAN PIZZA
Summer is for grilling and we have been grilling varieties of vegan pizza all summer.  This one is my favorite - caramelized red onions, artichoke hearts, and spinach on a whole wheat crust.  One half has some of the Field Roast grain meat sausages on it.  But not my half.  Some people have been lucky enough to get deliveries of this....you know who you are!

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FARM BOX
We are getting CSA deliveries of fruits and veggies every week and this is just one delivery.  Every week organic fruits and vegetables arrive on our doorstep (some we have never heard of) and we challenge ourselves to use everything in the box.  This can be difficult during weeks when ten green peppers and ten eggplants arrive along with many other items.  I have loved the different summer squash varieties that have come and we are enjoying all the greens (no such thing as too much swiss chard).

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HOMEMADE ICE CREAM
I have been visiting Lula's Sweet Apothecary on the lower east side all summer.  There is nothing like an all vegan ice cream shop!  But I did pick up a little vegan ice cream book that was published in July and created this awesome concoction with the kids.  It is peanut butter ice cream with crushed peanut butter filled Newman O's and roasted, salted peanuts.  I have made lots of vegan ice cream but this was by far the best. 

I completed a certificate program in plant based nutrition in July and connected with a lot of interesting people.  I have yet to try it but one woman from the course taught me how to sprout grains to put in homemade bread.  I bought the grains and now I just need to start sprouting. 

Although it didn't contain sprouted grains I baked my first loaf of fresh bread and gave it to someone for a dinner party.  I heard it was pretty good.  When the kids get back to school I will bake the bread more often. 

My next cooking project, thanks to the lastest issue of VegNews, is homemade vegan cheese (fresh mozzarella, to be exact).  It takes a couple days so check back next week to see how it turned out.  I have too many fresh tomatoes from the garden so now is the perfect time to have some mozzarella around.
 
 
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In a recent issue of VegNews there was a map of the lower east side of NYC with several vegan restaurants pinpointed on it.  I love VegNews and even more now because it pointed me in the direction of the most delicious vegan ice cream I have ever eaten.  I am not a big fan of sweets but I do LOVE ice cream. 
Last night after a vegan dinner we walked down 6th Street into Alphabet City in search of the tiny vegan ice cream mecca, Lula's Sweet Apothecary.  I had read several reviews on line and couldn't wait to try it.  And when I saw it I knew it wouldn't let me down.  There were many people outside and more crammed inside the tiny storefront that is sandwiched between residential buildings on a dark block. 
There were so many vegan flavors to choose from!  This is only possible in an all vegan ice cream shop.  Most regular ice cream shops have one soy flavor (if any at all) and some sorbets.  So imagine my excitement when I saw cookies and cream, peanut butter fudge, mint chocolate chip, raspberry chocolate chip, caramel graham cracker marshmallow, and more! 
They have the traditional ice cream cone but also offer shakes and sundaes and a selection of vegan candy bars and other vegan treats (think Sweet and Sara).  I chose the cookies and cream because this is an old favorite of mine and I haven't had a good scoop of that since my prevegan days.  Vegan ice creams are often chalky and difficult to scoop but not this stuff.  It was creamy and delicious with huge chunks of cookies in it.
I have done nothing but think of that delicious ice cream since I got home last night.  I had to make a difficult decision this morning and came to the conclusion it's only fair that my children share in the joy that is Lula's Sweet Apothecary.  Unfortunately we'll have to return this weekend to taste some other flavors.  After all, it wouldn't be fair for us to be giving this place props if they don't really deserve it.

 
 
I find the best way to get my kids to try a new food or a new combination of foods they like is to put it in their lunchbox and not tell them it is there.  Kids are definitely hungry come lunch time and if noone is around that they can complain to they will likely try the new food.  Lila is picky about lunches.  She doesn't like peanut butter and often just wants plain crackers which do not really offer up much nutrition. 
Yesterday for zoo camp I gave her a slice of sprouted grain bread and spread an avocado on it.  She loved it (because she enjoys both bread and avocado) and asked for it again today.  I feel much better giving her that than I go giving her plain crackers.
 
 
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I have learned to read recipes ahead of time because in vegan cooking and baking there are often unusual ingredients that I don't have on hand.  This week that ingredient is arrowroot powder.  I am not sure exactly what that is but I can read the bag and get back to you.
I live near a large market that carries specialty items.  So this afternoon when I came across the recipe for banana split pudding brownies I hopped in the car to pick up the arrowroot powder.  What often happens with these ingredients is that the recipe calls for a small amount and then you are left with a full bag wondering what you are going to do with it.  Proof of that lies in the photo below.

The result of using only one tablespoon of arrowroot powder is a delicious batch of banana split pudding brownies.  And since I have estimated I can make another 67 batches with what is left in my cabinet, send some overripe bananas my way and I'll bake some for you!
 
 
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In the city there are vegan restaurants with lots of healthy and delicious meal options.  The suburbs, however,  are lacking those options.  Even take out has become difficult - what can you get from the local Chinese place besides steamed veggies and rice or some veggie spring rolls? 
Prior to converting to veganism, the kids loved Chinese take out.  Their favorite dish was General Tso's chicken.  While shopping last week I came across a bottle of General Tso's glaze and sauce. 

I thawed some Gardein scallopini, chopped it up and sauteed it in a little peanut oil.  Then I tossed it in the sauce and served it over brown rice, steamed broccoli and green beans.  Another hit with Mr. Picky (Ben).  They all loved it but since Timothy and Lila eat everything I use Ben to determine the success of a kid friendly vegan meal.  He gives this one a thumbs up.
 
 
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Ben is my junk food lover.  He loves junk food of any kind - chips, candy, cookies, you name it.  Before we embarked on our vegan journey, Ben had a few cookbooks, one which included a recipe for chocolate chip muffins.  They were a favorite breakfast of his but we haven't had them since transitioning to the vegan lifestyle.  This week I finally caved and decided to veganize the recipe and surprise him with his favorite muffins, in a healthier version.  The recipe is adapted from a children's cookbook we own.

Chocolate Chip Muffins
makes 12
Ingredients
2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup vegan margarine (such as Earth Balance)
1 cup vegan sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons Bob's egg replacer with 6 tablespoons of water
3/4 cup non dairy milk of your choice
1 cup vegan semi sweet chocolate chips

Directions
1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.  Spray muffin tin with non stick spray or line with paper liners.
3.  In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt.
4.  In a large bowl, using electric mixer on medium speed, beat the margarine and sugar until creamy, about 3 minutes.
5.  Combine egg replacer with water and add to margarine mixture with vanilla.  Beat until mixed in. 
6.  Beat in half the flour mixture, then the non dairy milk, and then the remaining flour mixture. 
7.  Add chocolate chips and mix until just distributed. 
8.  Fill muffin tins mostly full with batter.
9.  Bake 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  
10.  Cool for 15 minutes and then serve while still warm or remove from pan and let cool to room temperature. 

 
 
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I have wanted to participate in a farm share.  But I usually travel most of the summer and therefore it wouldn't be worth it for us.  Due to my new career as a yoga teacher I am working this summer and therefore unable to spend six weeks lounging by the pool in southwest Florida.  The upside is I get to receive a box of fresh fruits and veggies for the next 26 weeks.
I have been waiting for weeks for the first delivery and it finally arrived this week.  The box contained kale (which I consume a lot of!), romaine lettuce, garlic scapes, beets, radishes, bok choy, and leeks.  Garlic scapes are something that I think only arrive in farm share boxes.  I have never seen them in the grocery store and I have visited some fancy markets.  So I did a little research and found a recipe for garlic scape pesto.  I changed it up a little to make it vegan and created a dinner that everyone enjoyed!  

 

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When the pickiest eater in the house has three servings, it must be good!

Ingredients
6-7 garlic scapes
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 lemon, juiced
salt and pepper
3/4 cup olive oil
Put everything except olive oil in the food processor
Pulse until roughly chopped.  Then, with motor running, pour olive oil slowly through the feed tube until pesto is well blended but not completely pureed.
Store, covered, in the refrigerator until ready to use
Serve over pasta (or however else you would like)