The Weekly Wrap-Up: Volume 1

Although I haven’t been blogging about what TKA and I have been making in the kitchen, we have been really busy cooking up a storm! Using up our weekly box of CSA veggies is no easy feat and I’m on a mission to ensure that nothing gets wasted!

We get a LOT of carrots and spinach in each box, so although there aren’t a lot of spinach recipes listed in what we’ve been cooking, we’ve been drinking a spinach smoothie at breakfast or having a spinach salad with dinner nearly every day. I am sure we will have Popeye-like strength very soon!

These are most of the things I’ve made over the past week or so:

Whole Grain Vegan Carrot Cake Loaf with Lemon Glaze
I thought this was awesome, especially for something without sugar in the “cake” part. I actually made this in an 8×8 pan and omitted the lemon zest (I didn’t have a lemon). I also used whole wheat flour instead of spelt flour as gluten isn’t an issue for us. We all really liked it a lot and I don’t think it needs the lemon glaze if you’re avoiding sugar.

Quinoa Chickpea and Avocado Salad
Made this for a picnic lunch with friends. I used green pepper instead of cucumber and served the avocado on the side rather than in the salad. Husband and I actually ate the leftovers without any avocado and I didn’t miss it at all and that really reduced the fat content of the salad! I also used chives (from the CSA) instead of onion. Husband declared that this was “beautiful!”

Vegan Vanilla Berry Muffins
I made these to take along to a group we attend, so I doubled the recipe and made mini muffins. I think they would probably be better as regular sized muffins as the big berries (I used raspberries and blackberries) caused the mini muffins to be a bit unstable. If I made these again, I would probably mash up the berries a bit or make them full sized. Everyone who ate them (at least 40 people!) declared that they were delicious and I saw some people sneaking some to take home. All in all, they were a big hit!

Banana Bread
As a disclaimer, I can’t eat bananas. Usually TKA is the big banana eater in our house. Last week he was under the weather and wasn’t eating much so we ended up with a few black bananas. I mashed them up into this recipe. From how quickly Husband and TKA devoured it, I can only assume that should we find ourselves with more black bananas, I should use them to recreate this bread! I really want to try it again omitting the sugar and using a substitute instead!

Our Perfect Veggie Burger
We made these before, but in my quest to use up my carrots, we made them again! TKA helped with nearly every part of these burgers. I was working on them and he pulled a chair over to the kitchen counter to climb up to assist. Obviously, I hadn’t invited him to the party soon enough! He was awesome at food processing and measuring and bean rinsing and draining!

Sesame Miso Ginger Salad Dressing
I made this to go on our salads paired with the veggie burgers. I thought it was really good and I would definitely make it again. The nice thing is that we have left-over dressing so I can use it for at least a couple more nights.

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Plated: A Review

Two weeks ago I happened to see a promoted post on Facebook about Plated and I somehow decided that it would be a good idea to try it out. The promotion I saw was to pay $20 for four meals (which was really two dinners, but four plates total). I was a little disappointed that there weren’t that many vegetarian options and no vegan options. I tried to pick recipes that I thought didn’t need the cheese that was listed as ingredients on the recipe.

On Tuesday, I made the Lemon Asparagus Cavatelli. TKA was critical in supervising the chopping of the asparagus, basil, and the lemon zesting and juicing. I do a fair amount of dinner preparation while he sits in his high chair and eats his dinner and watches me prepare the grown-up dinner. I followed the instructions exactly, with the exception of the addition of the cheese. I had a feeling when reading the instructions that the asparagus would be overcooked (for my liking) and I was correct. All in all, Husband and I thought this dish was just okay. It didn’t really have much flavor at all and required us to add additional salt, which we don’t usually do. For our first try with Plated, I was a bit disappointed and really felt like the prices were pretty high if we had paid full price ($15/plate).

Tonight I made my second selection, the White Bean Fritters with Sun-Dried Tomatoes. What a difference!

My Tiny Kitchen Assistant

This recipe (without cheese), was full of flavor and Husband must have exclaimed at least 10 times that it was delicious. There were a couple of differences, I think. Every time the recipe suggested adding salt and pepper, I did. The recipe also had red pepper flakes that I think gave the fritters an extra flavor kick. Sadly, TKA has been a bit under the weather the past few days (I think it’s his last baby teeth coming through) and he really hasn’t been up for helping in the kitchen much. As a result, I was actually glad to have the Plated dinner tonight that I knew was already all portioned out and wouldn’t take long to get on the table.

I’m not sure that I am Plated’s target customer, but I can see that it would be especially helpful on busy nights for any family. Part of my issue with the service is that it seems that you have to order really far in advance, rather than the week of (they seem to sell out quickly). It’s hard to know exactly when you would want meals two weeks in advance, I think. I have seen other similar services in our area that are all vegetarian recipes and I would be far more likely to try those out before I went back to Plated. For the price, I would rather have more vegetarian/vegan options that I think an all vegetarian meal service would provide.

Disclosure: I paid for Plated with my own money. I was not compensated in any way for my opinions.

Cakes and More Cakes

Over the weekend I had planned to make a carrot cake. Even though our weekend travel plans changed, I still had all of the ingredients and wanted to make the cake.

I actually ended up having to make the cakes twice. The first time I under-baked them and they ended up totally falling apart as I took them out of the pan. It wasn’t a total loss, though, since we ate that cake for breakfast (without frosting)! Another bonus of vegan baking is that there aren’t any undercooked or raw eggs to worry about if you slightly under-bake things!

On my second attempt, I baked the cakes for about 35 minutes (rather than the 18-20) in the recipe. They held up perfectly when I took them out of the pans. They weren’t too dry even with the extra baking time.

TKA was my frosting assistant, which meant that I put the mixing bowl on the floor and used the hand mixer on the ground while he crouched over to supervise. He was far more interested once the frosting started to be applied to the cake. He might have stuck his fingers in the frosting more than once…

All in all, even though I made the cakes twice, I really only had my own impatience to blame for the first round issues. It was a delicious cake and even the non-vegans declared it “the best carrot cake” they’d ever eaten. I have never claimed to be a cake decorator, so the palm tree looking carrot was my best attempt with the limited cake decorating tips that I have!

Cooking With Auntie

This past weekend TKA’s auntie was visiting. We all had a great time and even had some fun in the kitchen! I decided we should try out some veggie burgers and ended up making Oh She Glow’s Perfect Veggie Burger. TKA was very glad to help out with the oat flour processing. We have a mini cuisinart and under auntie’s supervision, TKA ground up the oats like a professional! He was hilarious since the mini cuisinart only has two buttons, he would alternate pressing each one. I don’t think anyone could have processed the oats better. I think he was even happier that I decided to make a double batch of burgers so that we could freeze some as that meant that he could spend even more time perfecting his food processing skills.

As a side dish, Husband cut up some sweet potatoes into wedges and baked them with some olive oil and herbs. I don’t even know which herbs he used, but the wedges were delicious when we first ate them and TKA ate them as leftovers for dinner all week and loved them, too! TKA prefers his wedges with hummus, of course.

I thought the burgers were a bit labor intensive, but totally worth it. I’m also really glad we made a double batch. I made the burgers we were eating right away in the skillet so they would be ready faster, but the remainder I baked in the oven and then froze. This way I’ve been able to defrost them one at a time for TKA’s dinner as needed. Our whole family has declared them pretty tasty.

I am a big fan of Oh She Glows and it is definitely my “go-to” for recipes that are sure to be crowd pleasing — even for non-vegans (like TKA’s auntie!). For the weekend, we are going to Husband’s mother’s house and I’m looking forward to making some more delicious vegan food and hoping that others realize that it can be delicious and not lacking in any ingredients!

A New Take on Tofu

Yesterday TKA and I took advantage of the nicer weather and the new wagon he got for the holidays and walked to the grocery store. We only bought a few things, mostly because I was envisioning TKA throwing everything out of the wagon on the ride home and I thought there was a good chance I would have to end up carrying everything and pulling the wagon. Luckily he cooperated and kept all the food inside the wagon!

One of the random things I grabbed that wasn’t on my list was some tofu. We are pretty lucky in that our grocery store stocks locally made tofu. The only bad thing is that it isn’t always available!

Last night we made Mexican food for dinner (no real recipe, just veggies, beans, and seasonings sautéed). I bought a few extra veggies so that we could have a tofu stir-fry tonight.

TKA was pretty helpful. While he ate his dinner he supervised me chopping up the peppers and pressing and cutting the tofu. I was using this recipe for the stir-fry (with mushrooms and bell peppers as the veggies) and was intrigued by the method of baking the tofu prior to including it in the stir-fry.

Of course TKA couldn’t be bothered to wait for the baking or stir-frying to be done. He ate his stick of tofu as it was straight out of the package!

We don’t eat a lot of tofu around these parts, mainly to avoid too much soy/estrogen in our diets, but I would like to find a good (and relatively easy) method of preparation.

I thought the tofu was really tasty straight out of the oven and as a whole we really liked the recipe, but I don’t know that I would go through the trouble of baking then sautéing the tofu in the future. Husband’s main comment about the dinner was that it was tasty but wished for water chestnuts as part of dinner. But he has quite a soft spot for those things!

Overall I thought the sauce was good and I would absolutely use this recipe again.

We have a really cheap rice cooker and I have found that making brown rice in it isn’t that great unless you soak the rice for a few hours before cooking. We are in the market for a new cooker that makes tasty brown rice easily. Does anyone out there have any recommendations?

Trying Miso At Home

Today TKA and I took a walk with our next door neighbors to Whole Foods. I managed to leave with a bill of only $27, which was pretty good for us. Of course we only bought 7 or 8 things, but I try not to dwell on that part! One of the things we bought was miso – my first time trying it out!

Even though my mom doesn’t love cooking, she has always been a big fan of looking at all the shelves in the grocery store and finding interesting products. She often gives me a hard time for missing things on the bottom
shelves! She recently told me that miso was one of her new finds at the store. Since I have also seen a handful of recipes with miso recently I wanted to try, I was excited to finally have some in the fridge!

I had a couple pounds of CSA carrots to use up so we tried out a carrot-ginger-miso soup for dinner tonight (substituting olive oil for butter). I am not much of a recipe creator, but I am always up for trying out new recipes so I will be sure to link to all those we make.

Our CSA was cleaning out their winter storage vegetables in our last box so we ended up with more onions than we could use quickly. We ended up freezing them (pre-chopped) so we could be sure that they didn’t go bad. We used our first bag of frozen onions on this recipe (I sautéed them rather than roasting) and somehow TKA got his hands on the bag before I was ready to use it. There was a bit of water that escaped from the bag onto the floor, which made for a bit of a slip and slide on our hardwood floors for my barefoot baby! It was a bit funny to see him sliding around on onion juice (not an everyday occurrence, I assure you)!

In stark contrast to the onion “helping” my tiny kitchen assistant was actually helpful with the carrots today. I peeled and chopped them up. He taste tested one while I was working on those tasks. After I put some olive oil and salt and pepper on the carrots to roast, TKA though his taste-test carrot was tasty and should be roasted up as well! As soon as anything goes into the oven, I will turn on the oven light for TKA to watch the cooking process.

Once everything was sautéed and roasted, TKA was also essential in the blending of the soup. He loves to turn on the Vitamix and he now knows when I get it out of the cupboard that he will be able to help!

As usual, TKA was my first taste-tester and found the soup good, but enjoyed it more paired with oyster crackers. Husband and I paired our soup with simple green salads. I was really excited to try miso in my own kitchen, but overall we thought the soup was fine. We will eat up the leftovers for lunch tomorrow, but I don’t know that I would make this particular soup again. I am still excited to work with miso some more!

My Tiny Assistant

Let me introduce you to my kitchen assistant. I’ve known him for just over a year now and he couldn’t be more interested and curious about everything that happens in the kitchen. I am a stay at home mom and I prepare most everything my little family eats. My tiny kitchen assistant (TKA) is always there underfoot.

He is quite an observant little guy and has always been interested in watching people cooking. Even when we go out to eat, he’s always watching the servers and would ideally always be watching the line if he could. We like to joke that he will grow up to be a chef someday!

Cooking has always been something that I’ve enjoyed, which is a little bit funny since my mom doesn’t really love to spend time in the kitchen. Even so, I grew up with a childhood of family dinners largely made at home and I would love to continue that tradition with my husband and my son.

The only difference between those childhood dinners of grilled meat and a vegetable side dish? My little family is vegan! We made the decision to eliminate most animal products from our diet at the end of last summer. I actually think we eat a more diverse diet now that when we ate a “traditional” Western diet. We don’t kid ourselves that when we go out to eat in restaurants that some foods may be made with butter or milk, but we do our best.

It has been a really good decision for our family to choose to eat this way and for now our 16 month old is also vegan. (Um, except for the cat food he ate once or twice). I know as he gets older he will be able to make his own choices about food and my mindset is to discuss that as it comes up.

For now I’m content to try to make tasty meals for all three of us and try out new foods, flavors, and techniques in the process. All under the supervision of my tiny kitchen assistant!