Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Westmas Eve

Snow Day - The Aftersnack

I'm up late, wrapping presents. There's a batch of (my interpretation of) Mrs. Bean's Famous Nutmeg-Ginger Apple Snaps cooling on the kitchen counter. Westley is turning three, and yes, we're going to eat cookies for breakfast.

When Westley turned two, I kind of couldn't believe it. This year, I believe it. He just seems so...like a three-year-old. Like an awesome three-year-old.

On Westley's first and second birthdays, I found myself thinking often about his birth - looking back at my terrible, horrible no good very bad labor. This year, I'm more excited about the day. I can't wait to watch him open his presents, eat his breakfast, and get started on this new year.

Snow Day

I can't wait to see where he goes from here.


Monday, November 29, 2010

Post-Kid Kitchen: That's How I Casserole


Somehow, miraculously, the Thanksgiving leftovers were basically gone by Sunday afternoon. I had a fridge full of odds and ends - leftovers from dinners throughout the week - and no idea what to make. And when I have no idea what to make, I make a casserole.

I don't think I ever made a casserole before going vegan. My only explanation is that I was a strict recipe-follower back then. As I move more and more in the direction of forming my own one-woman kitchen-improv troupe, I make more spur-of-the-moment dishes. And casseroles are great spur-of-the-moment food.

I have a casserole "formula" that I follow, and it goes like this:

Start with a cooked carbohydrate (rice, pasta, potatoes...). Add cooked beans (white, black, garbanzo...) and cooked vegetables (carrot, celery, peas, green beans...). Choose something to give it some flavor (onion, garlic, nuts, seeds, sun-dried tomatoes, olives...), especially if your starting ingredients were pretty plain, and moisten (with vegetable broth, tomato sauce, gravy, cheezy sauce...) as needed. This is one of my favorite ways to use up leftover soup! Season with dried herbs and spices (my general rule is that if they smell good together, they'll probably taste good together).

Preheat your oven to 350 F to 400 F. Cover and bake for 30 minutes if the ingredients were room temperature or warmer, or 1 hour if the ingredients were cold.

Here's what I had:
3 1/2 large baked potatoes
1 1/2 cups plain black beans
2/3 large white onion
about 1 cup samosa-filling-inspired seasoned veggies (inspired by Veganomicon's Samosa-Stuffed Baked Potatoes)

Here's what I did:
Sliced the potatoes into, well, slices. Diced onion. Layered potatoes in an oiled casserole dish. Sprinkled beans and vegetables over the top. Whipped up a batch of the sauce for Susan's Creamy Scalloped Potatoes (using unsweetened almond milk and omitting the miso), and poured that over the whole shebang. Sprinkled with seasoned salt. Wrote a note for Rob, and left to spend the afternoon with my mom.


I don't know what possessed me to top curry-flavored vegetables with cheeze-flavored sauce, but it worked out pretty well. Even if it wasn't pretty.


I'm blaming some of the unappetizing hue on the lighting in my kitchen, but with casserole, beauty really is in the eye (er, mouth?) of the beholder.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Snow Night/Snow Day

Snow Night

Snow had been falling all day, and the more it accumulated on the front lawn, the more excited he got. By dinner time, he was actually jumping up and down.

"I wanna go play inna SNOW!"

It was all we could do to keep him from bolting out the door with bare feet.

Snow Night

Snow Night

Snow Night

Snow Night

Snow Day

Snow Day

Snow Day

Snow Day

Snow Day


Monday, November 22, 2010

Post-Kid Kitchen: Share the Loaf!

I loaf sandwiches.

Every Thanksgiving since Rob and I went vegan, I've fantasized about making a delicious celebratory vegan roast thing. I get in this weird headspace that says it's not Thanksgiving without a proteiny, turkey-replacing entree. The truth is that my husband would gladly eat a big bowl of stuffing and nothing else.

Yes, I know it's not technically "stuffing" if it's not stuffed inside anything. But to me, "dressing" will always be what goes on salad, so I call it stuffing. Also, since the ultimate goal is to stuff it inside ourselves, I'm pretty sure I'm still at least partially right.

Anyway, every year, in my quest for an entree, I've ended up making a Tofurkey. Which is fine, unless you're gluten- and soy-free. Or if you'd prefer something a little less "from a box."

Despite its unappetizing name, loaf seemed like an obvious contender for homemade Thanksgiving protein goodness. It's totally easy to put together, can be made ahead of time, and is made even more delicious when smothered with mushroom gravy. My favorite loaf recipe is Sarah Kramer's "Tip Top Tofu Loaf" (from La Dolce Vegan via Vegan a Go-Go). It's delicious, but so not soy-free.

I put my own spin on this favorite from my pre-soy-free days. The results left me with more than a week's worth of delicious loaf sandwich lunches, and answered my Thanksgiving prayers!

Kick-ass Chickpea Loaf

4 tbsp canola oil, divided
2 cups cooked chickpeas
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup
coconut aminos (or veggie broth)
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 cup ketchup (I used agave-sweetened)
1/4 cup dijon mustard
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 cup gluten-free rolled oats (or gluten-free breadcrumbs)
2 tbsp tahini

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Oil two loaf pans with 2 tbsp canola oil each. Leave remaining oil in pans. If, like me, you don't usually cook with a lot of oil, this will look sick and wrong. But the oil is what gives the loaf its beautiful crispy outside.

Combine remaining ingredients in food processor. Process until smooth. Divide evenly between loaf pans. (The oil will kind of ooze up around the sides of the loaf "batter." It's all good. You totally want this to happen.) Bake 50 minutes. Allow to cool at least 10 minutes before removing from loaf pans and serving. Serves 6.

Leftover loaf makes a delicious sandwich filling - hot, cold, or at any in-between temperature of your choosing!

It's a CLLT!
1/2 slice Chickpea Loaf + Lettuce + Tomato (+ mustard, on rice bread) = YUM!

I'm looking forward to my first Tofurkey-less vegan Thanksgiving! (And as for stuffing, I'm going to gluten-free up Joanna Vaught's Mushroom Dressing with the cunning use of rice bread.)

What are you making for Thanksgiving? And are you Team Stuffing or Team Dressing?


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Preganoia Will Destroy Ya

Since ditching IUD numero dos a few months ago, I have become a hyper-crazy symptom-watcher. Every twinge or tummy rumble can only mean One Thing:

"I must be pregnant!"

The non-plan plan had been to treat the (maybe) having another child thing in a very relaxed, no-big-deal fashion. No talk of "trying" or timing or ovulation. We'd just go about our normal, everyday activities (though not, ahem, every day) and not think about it.

Except that I can't stop thinking about it! I am a preganoid lunatic.

So I do things like come out of the bathroom topless and stick my chest in my husband's face. "Do they look bigger?"

"Not really."

"But feel!"

"Um...they feel about the same. Maybe a little smaller than yesterday, actually."

Because, yes, I made him do this yesterday too.

Over the past two weeks, when I haven't been making my husband manually estimate my bra size, I've been taking naps and crying over every little thing (including but not limited to Disney's Robin Hood and not one but two Katy Perry videos!). I remind myself that I haven't been sleeping well, and that sleep deprivation (in me) means teariness and even sometimes nausea. So I'm probably just really tired. But what if I'm pregnant? Oh, God, I'm totally pregnant!

Besides, lack of sleep doesn't explain why I've been craving curried everything. (Black bean curry, potato curry, delicata squash curry, mmm...)

Last night, I had heartburn for the first time in, um...ever? No, wait. There was that one other time. When I was PREGNANT!

The problem is I go through this every month. And then every month, I get my period and feel like an idiot. For about a week and a half, and then I decide once again that I'm pregnant. And I think about taking a pregnancy test, even though I'm probably not pregnant and even if I were, it's way too early to test. Some months, I take a test anyway. The little 'minus' sign convinces me about half the time.

Someone should make giant, economy packs of pregnancy tests for crazy girls like me who want to take one every day. Or maybe I should skip a step and just start peeing on $10 bills.

(As I'm writing this, Rob is out shopping for more curry ingredients and a box of Mother to Be tea. I think he might be an enabler.)


Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Most Helpful

My back hurts. It really. Fucking. HURTS. And so far, all of the things that are supposed to help it not really fucking hurt have come up short - or flat out failed.

Over the past three years, I have spent hours complaining and explaining to doctors and family members and friends, only to continue to feel unheard and unsupported. Everyone does their best, says they hope I get some relief soon, and nothing changes. Life goes on. I'm still in pain.

This morning I was having a particularly difficult time of it. The latest Thing That's Supposed to Help appears to be making the pain worse instead. I spent half an hour complaining and explaining (and sobbing), pacing the kitchen because it hurt to sit down. And then Rob left for work, saying, "Feel better," and I just lost it. I threw a fucking tantrum.

After Rob cleared out, I was just starting to calm myself down when I caught Westley staring at me.

"Mommy? he said, "I'm sorry you're not feeling well."

I forced myself not to burst into tears again. The kindness and sincerity in his little voice made my pain disappear for a beautiful instant. I took a deep breath, and got it (mostly) together.

"Thank you, sweetie. It's really helpful to hear you say that."

Westley has no idea how much of a help he is to me in my fucked-up state. And that's probably for the best. It seems strange and wrong that the most supportive person in my life right now hasn't even turned three yet.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What We Do Eat

For a vegan family, we own a surprising number of children's books about eating animals.

I think Rob and Westley had read one of them while I was at an acupuncture appointment yesterday, because when I arrived home Westley was adamant that he would have chicken for lunch.

"Vegan chicken," Rob said firmly. It bothers him when we don't put the veg modifier on animal-named food.

"Sure, no problem, dude." I told Westley. "We'll pick up some vegan chicken at Trader Joe's when we go."

Of course, when we arrived at Trader Joe's, it was Thanksgivinged out like crazy. (Is anyone else completely astounded that Thanksgiving is NINE days away?! How did that happen? [What the hell am I going to make?!]) Westley immediately spotted a giant cardboard turkey.

"A turkey!"

"Yeah, awesome!"

"Mommy, let's get some turkey!"

"No, honey, we don't eat turkey." My vegan parent reflex went off before it occurred to me that he probably meant a decorative turkey.

Westley didn't miss a beat. "What's it made of?"

"Uh, turkey..." Now the he's-talking-about-decorations connection happened, and I said, "Let's see if we can find some rice bread!" Distraction FTW.

We shopped, all was well, I dropped some "Chicken-less Strips" in the cart, and we headed home for lunch.

Over his plate of strips of allegedly chicken-flavored seitan, tomato slices, toast, and tangerine, Westley could not stop talking about chicken. He was explaining to me that there were chickens (the animal) and "food chicken."

And I had to open my big mouth.

"You know, some people eat the animals."

Westley froze, peering up at me with huge, wide eyes. His mouth gaped a little, and he shook his head quickly back and forth. Both No, I didn't know and That can't be.

I knew I'd fucked up before his expression confirmed it, and I had to say something good, fast.

"But not us," I told him. "We never eat animals."

Westley stared. I went on, a little too fast: "That's what being vegan means - never eating animals. We try to be kind to animals, because that's the most important thing we can do...being kind, and--"

Westley held up a strip of flavored seitan. "Kind chicken!"

Yes. Awesome. Thank you, Mary!

"That's right."

Then Westley furrowed his brow. "What's dis chicken made of?"

"Plants," I told him. It was the first thing that popped into my head. Fortunately, he thought that was extremely funny. "Everything we eat is made of plants," I said, and then repeated, more relaxed this time, "We never eat animals."

Pocket goat!

And then he asked The Question: "What do we eat?"

I took a deep breath, and tried not to laugh. "Well, we eat apples, and broccoli, and bananas, and beans, and soy milk and almond milk and--"

"What else?"

"Rice, and avocados, and quinoa, and tomatoes, and oranges..."

Westley laughed. "What ELSE!?"

"Spaghetti, and squash, and chocolate, and--"

And on, and on, and on.


Monday, November 15, 2010

Post-Kid Kitchen: Hippie, Dippy, Trippy, Crunchy...


Here it is! The first installment of my (I hope) weekly round up of soy-free, gluten-free vegan goodness. And I'm totally pumped! Woo!

It's the "Post-Kid Kitchen" for two reasons: As you know (or maybe you don't), my food sensitivities showed up after my son was born. Perhaps because I spent my entire pregnancy eating whole wheat everything. Post-kid, I've had to learn a whole new way of cooking and eating, not only because I have a tiny vegan to feed, but also because a lot of things I used to love now make me sick.* Post-Kid Kitchen is also, of course, an homage to Post Punk Kitchen, a major source of vegan inspiration (veganspiration?) for me pre- as well as post-kid. Also, Rob's #1 celebrity crush happens to be a certain cookbook author...


We're starting with breakfast. It's the most important meal of the day, after all. But, for me, often a challenging one. I never know what to eat first thing in the morning. I've always liked the ease of cold cereal: bowl, cereal, milk, done! I'm not so keen on the extra packaging, not-so-healthful ingredients, and expense that come with buying ready-to-eat cereal. Plus, the taste of a lot of that boxed stuff? Meh. So I started making my own.

If you're looking to level up as a hippie, this is the recipe for you. It doesn't get much more granola than making your own granola. For one thing, since most of the time it takes to make granola is inactive - the granola is in the oven, getting crunchy and smelling delicious - you have time to watch a documentary about midwifery or practice yoga or work on whatever DIY project you've got going.

I use rolled oats to make my granola. I like them, and they seem to like me back. I realize that this is not the case for everyone who avoids gluten (and I promise future recipes will not be so oaty). You could always make your homemade cereal with quinoa flakes, but things would get real expensive real fast. The nice thing about oats - if they do jive with your gluten freedom - is that in addition to being highly nutritious, they're fairly inexpensive.

Sunflower Granola Crunch

6 cups rolled oats
1 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/2 cup oat bran
1/3 cup ground flax seeds
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup canola oil
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla
12 fl oz water
1 1/2 cups raisins

Preheat oven to 300 F. Spray two rimmed baking sheets with oil.

In a large bowl, combine everything except the raisins. Stir to combine. When everything is well-mixed, spread the mixture evenly on baking sheets. Bake 1 hour, stirring half-way through.


Allow granola to cool on baking sheets before stirring in raisins. Store in an airtight container. Makes about 10 cups.

In theory, this recipe will last a good long time. In actuality, it'll get eaten up before you know what happened.


Recently, while experimenting with making a granola that was slightly lower in fat and didn't require as much sweetener, I remembered the existence of muesli. I quickly threw this recipe together using basically the same ingredients I use in granola. Rob still vastly prefers the cooked version, but I like the raw, health-foodiness of muesli.

Minute Muesli

5 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup flaxseed meal
1/2 cup oat bran
1 cup raisins
3/4 cup sunflower seeds

Combine everything and mix well. I do this in two glass canning jars, because I get a lot of satisfaction out of shaking everything to combine it.

Before shaking...

...and After!

Makes 7 generous cups.

Store muesli in an airtight container. Serve topped with almond milk, fresh fruit, and a drizzle of maple syrup. Enjoy!

*According to my doctor, I don't have celiac disease. But I have most of the symptoms of celiac disease, and when I do eat something wheaty or gluteny now, I'm not a pleasant person to be around. I don't want to be around me, even.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Married Life, Kitchen Edition

Rob has been sick for almost a week. (He's going to the doctor tomorrow.) We could probably fill the bathtub several times over with all of the tea and soup I've been making. Our whole house smells like onion, garlic, and ginger.

When I asked Rob if I could get him anything from the store this afternoon, I was expecting him to ask for a bottled smoothie, or something equally throat-soothing and overflowing with vitamin C.

His reply? "Something not tea or soup. Maybe a cookie?"

I thought about buying a bag of vegan trail-mix cookies from Trader Joe's. But that would inevitably lead to Westley asking, "Can I have a cookie?" every five minutes. So I racked my brain, wondering where in the area I could get one ABC cookie. When I realized it would be at least a 20-minute drive to acquire said cookie, and it occurred to me that if Rob is going to get a cookie, I should also get a cookie, I gave up.

Fuck it. I'm making cookies from scratch.

(Yes, I realize, this doesn't solve the problem of the "Can I have a cookie?"-at-five-minute-intervals conversation. But at least I can make as many or as few cookies as I want.)

I paid way too much at the local chain grocery store for my "natural" ingredients, but whatever. Westley would be napping when I got home, and he'd get to wake up to the smell of freshly baked cookies.

I gluten- and soy-freed the Big Gigantoid Crunchy Peanut Butter-Oatmeal Cookies from Vegan with a Vengeance. After taking them out of the oven and waiting the recommended 10 minutes before transferring them to cooling racks, I stood back to admire my work.

Me: What is it about homemade cookies?

Rob: The awesomeness?

Me: There's so much love in them.

Rob: You don't make cookies for someone you hate.

And this summed up why I'm starting a gluten-free, soy-free vegan food section here (very soon! I've already taken a bunch of [bad] food pictures, and I have thoughts and recipes and randomness ready to share). Caring is a huge part of feeding my family. I shop and cook the way I do because being hands-on and do-it-yourself in the kitchen is something I believe in very strongly. But I also do it because I just plain love these people I live with, and I want them to eat well.

Unfortunately, way too often, I fall through the cracks in this food-love relationship. I'll make delicious, flaky whole wheat biscuits for Rob and Westley, and nothing for myself. I'll buy an ingredient that makes me sick, or plan a meal I can't eat. Rob's comment about cookies made me realize it's time for a little more self-love in the kitchen. Instead of hating my dietary restrictions, self-imposed and health-imposed alike, I can celebrate them. To paraphrase the great philosopher RuPaul, "If you can't make cookies for yourself, how the hell you gonna make cookies for somebody else?"

I have to start making cookies - and meals and drinks and snacks - for myself. (Can I get a Amen up in here?)


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

When Everyone is Sick

When Westley, Rob, or I come down with something, I do pretty well at maintaining my normal routine. If I'm the sick one, I tend to withdraw into myself a lot and let Westley watch stupid amounts of TV. But I still manage to plan the day, and even get some rest. If Rob or Westley is the sick one, that's a hundred times easier, even if it does involve a cranky husband or toddler.

Right now, Rob, Westley, and I all have colds. Or something. Our house is a mucus factory, and all of us would just as soon nap as do anything else.

With both guys out of commission and my own symptoms to fight, I find myself feigning enthusiasm for everyday tasks, just to keep the house from collapsing into a heap of unmade beds and stuffed animals. I'm cooking up a storm - instead of resting - as I chop vegetable for two different soups. I brew cup after cup of tea.

Rob takes care of Westley, and I take care of Rob, and then feel very sorry for myself that no one is taking care of me. But I have to keep going, because if I don't clean up the kitchen, no one else is going to, and I can't make ginger-onion soup and black bean curry and other spicy, sinus-clearing, throat-helping things in a dirty kitchen.

This has been going on for several days now. While I can get very grumpy about having my favorite water bottle co-opted or my sleep disrupted, I'm also pleased to realize that in pushing forward with my work, I seem to be the least sick of the three of us.


Friday, November 5, 2010

No-Career Woman

I'm tall.

Four times a year, my alma mater publishes its Alumnae Quarterly. So four times a year, I get a message in my inbox inviting me to send in an "update" that details my current goings-on.

I almost never know how to respond to these invitations. When Westley was born, it was easy; I sent in the "I had a baby! Here are his stats!" update. But most the the updates are from alumnae living in such-and-such a city, doing important-and-or-interesting work for such-and-so a company, and seeing fellow alumna So-and-So on a regular basis. Now that I'm not working, not changing cities, and not doing anything particularly interesting, I feel like I have nothing to contribute.

Noelle continues to live in the Seattle area with her husband and son.


I struggle with the emotional push-pull of trying to believe that what I'm doing really is important, while knowing that the world doesn't give a shit.

Why is having a job and making money somehow better and more interesting than making a home and raising a child? (Because we all got together as a society and decided that money is the shit, and if you're not making any, you don't matter?) Why is this work perceived as so valueless - even by those who do it willingly?

Noelle is putting off finding a preschool for her son, because she feels grossly unqualified to shop for preschools, and probably can't afford a decent one anyway.

So I'm not working, not interning somewhere cool, not teaching abroad. I'm not studying to be anything. I'm not sure I want to be doing any of those things, and yet, I feel less than because I'm not doing them. And because my "job" comprises so many things that employed, earning, interesting women have to do also, at the end of their workdays.

Noelle is staring down a mountain of clean laundry that is actually last week's laundry, because it's impossible to fold laundry while the kid is awake, and in the evenings, by the time Noelle cooks a nutritious dinner, cleans up the kitchen, attempts to enforce a bedtime routine, sings three-to-five pop songs as lullabies, cleans up the kitchen again, showers, and has a three-to-five-minute conversation with her husband, it's time to go to bed and there is never any time to fold laundry ever.

On one hand, I feel like ignoring this idea of alumnae updates is the best policy. No one outside of my small circle of college friends really cares whether I'm married, homemaking, child-rearing, or anything else. On the other hand, by leaving the updating to the lawyers and doctors and world-travelers, I perpetuate the notion - to myself and anyone else who might be paying attention - that "no career" is synonymous with "not worthwhile."

Noelle writes a blog where she occasionally navel-gazes into her feminist dilemma.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

One Year Weaniversary

A year ago, I nursed Westley for the last time.

I struggled so hard with breastfeeding. At first, because it was really difficult and painful and I had to wake Westley up to feed him. And later, because it made me feel anxious and trapped.

I could take him to [name of any number of places I might've gone]. But what if he needs to nurse?

It took me way too long to figure out that if you take the baby somewhere, and he needs to nurse, you just FIND A PLACE TO FUCKING NURSE HIM. And everything is FINE. (Especially if you have a husband who, while being a complete and total pacifist at any other moment, will happily kick the snot out of someone who gives a woman shit for nursing in public.)

I breastfed everywhere. In the fabric store. During brunch. At the doctor's office before, during, and after every single one of Westley's vaccine shots. In a moving car (just once!). One of my favorite memories is of wandering through the (now closed) Goddess Shoppe with a two-month-old baby happily chowing down at my breast.

At the time, I hated breastfeeding. I was miserable, wondering why I'd signed up for this gig. Of course, being a mammal, I hadn't really "signed up," per se. I just let my biology take me along for the ride, and I let it make me crazy. When Westley was teeny and refused to eat, I'd threaten him: "I'll show you. I'll nurse you 'til you're twelve." Sixteen months later, I was afraid I'd have to make good on that.

But no. (Thank goodness.)

Then, shortly after my breasts got the memo to stop making milk, something really strange happened. I decided the whole breastfeeding thing was pretty awesome. And furthermore, I sort of rocked for having stuck with it! I totally deserve a pat on the back (or the front, really).

Westley and I nursed for almost 2 years. A year post-weaning, I can finally say that I love breastfeeding.

New to Nursing
hours old (minutes before I started crying)

Diary Queen
(not quite) 3 months old

Afternoon Snack
4 months old

PAX Lunch
9 months old

17 months old

"Molk" Man
19 1/2 months old

* * *
He's (still) my Punky Pie.
(Warm drink of milk, such a sweet lil' guy.)


Monday, November 1, 2010

Happy Homemade Halloween


When Westley decided he wanted to be a Grouch spaceman with a trash-can rocket for Halloween, I knew I was in deep shit. There was no way I would find anything useful at the local party supply store. It was do or DIY.

Except that I don't DIY. (DIM?) Dinner from scratch? No problem. Costume from scratch? Uh...not so much.

So I went to Goodwill and bought a colander for 69 cents. I managed to put together the helmet - All By Myself! - in a couple of evenings. Then I called my dad, who went to the hardware store and bought a garbage can for $10.00. A few days later, we had an Othmar the Grouch costume.

Othmar the Grouch

In the days leading up to Halloween, Westley treated his trash-can rocket like a new toy. I hoisted him into and out of it dozens of times a day. He walked it up and down the hall (by holding the handles my dad so brilliantly placed on the inside of the can), careful not to bump his orange Styrofoam "fins." Still, they had to be duct-taped back on before the Big Night.


Unfortunately, even a lightweight garbage can turned out to be too heavy for Westley to lug around trick-or-treating. Rob stashed the rocket back in the car.

Our spaceman had a blast anyway. And he wore his helmet almost all night.