Catching Up

I love scheduled posting because sometimes I find a few minutes and can put together blog posts and other days I just never get to the computer and am only able to keep up via my phone.  The downside is that I have periods of time where lots of neat stuff happens and I want to write about each things properly but I forget things that way since I don’t hit “publish” right away.

So, here’s what I’ve been working on (snippets and drafts and photos here and there):

– a post about some of our summer activities like swimming and visiting the splash pad (I never knew about the great pools in Henderson before some friends introduced me, for example)

– a post about my failed Father’s Day baking (I used a springform pan and it didn’t seal so when I put a yeasted gluten free cinnamon roll recipe together and left it in a water bath to rise. . .um. . .yeah, not so good)

– a post about our spontaneous weekend in San Diego (Legoland, the beach, the hotel, and most of all, traveling with most of my kitchen and pantry so I could cook our meals while we were there — we filled a table miter saw box full of food and put E’s mattress in the car’s skybox, among other things)

– the carrots we grew

– caterpillars in the front yard

– fun with spray bottles

– visiting Windmill Library and seeing a marionette show (preview here)

– a post about the Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay (when we get over there finally it will be R’s first time there and E’s second)

– some more recipes (not using tomatoes is hard so I have some ones I photographed but hadn’t posted yet and am working on new things without tomatoes)

– updates about the kids and how different they are

– a post about a great blog post I read regarding the depiction of women in films, especially kid’s movies (I think this is relevant for girls AND boys because even the occasional movie has an impact)

– some more vegbooks.org reviews (I’ve got to get to work on those, one of them will be about an allergy-specific children’s book)

– another master bedroom re-do post (Blinds!  Well, sort of.  Long story.)

– more food finds

– book reviews (my brother gave me his old Kindle and I downloaded my first book, Tina Fey’s Bossypants, so I have been reading it on my phone and on the kindle)

– some more thoughts about cooking and eating this way, a friend asked for some pointers on cutting back on over-processed food and I wanted to gather some of my favorite resources into a post for her

R and E have been trying to get my attention the whole time I’ve been writing so I have to run but I wanted to write all this out while I was thinking about it!  I also have to get to work on E’s 3rd and R’s 1st birthdays in August and my husband’s birthday in July.  We’re a good kind of busy which I think is indicative of all the fun you can have in and around Vegas even when it seems just too hot to do anything.  I don’t want to miss sharing anything because it will make a nice planning guide for us for next summer!

Trader Joe’s Lentil Chips – New Find

I get giddy when I read the label of a new product and it looks like something we can safely have.  I love potato chips but often the oils they’re cooked in aren’t safe so we have only one or two safe non-homemade versions in our house.  We get a little tired of them and the other day I saw these lentil chips at Trader Joe’s and was happy to see they didn’t have any of the usual suspects like wheat or corn.  I took a picture of the package in case anyone else is curious about them, the ingredients should be readable.  Of course, you should always consider your particular circumstances and what has been safe for you.  Also, read an re-read the ingredients because companies like to change things up.  I have heard that there may be cross contact issues with TJ’s products but I avoid most of the products that share equipment with tree nuts and make a judgment call on the rest.

Re-reading the above it makes shopping sound exhausting!  Which it is, in a way, but now that we’re almost a year and a half into this way of eating and living it has become second nature.  Sometimes I learn after the fact that something is really a corn derivative (maltodextrin often is, though on this label it is listed as a tapioca derivative!) but, again, I do my best.

Almost forgot to mention, these are quite good!  They have a soft crunch to them and are quite spicy but E doesn’t mind that.  They tame a little when you eat them with bean dip.

The Vegetarian Mother’s Cookbook Review

The Vegetarian Mother’s Cookbook by Cathe Olson (amazon affiliate link) is one of my favorite cookbooks of all time.  I used to judge cookbooks by their pictures.  Did the recipes look good?  I would often either not make the recipes or, even worse, spend time and effort for lackluster results.  I got this book while I was pregnant with E, actually according to my records I got it in March of 2007 so I was only into my second trimester.  The book takes you through pregnancy and beyond and has an eye toward freezing meals and nourishing your family.

It has no photos and there are little sentences to introduce the recipes as well as menu plans but everything is clear and simple so you can imagine what you’re getting into with each recipe.  I can’t make many of these things now but I have adapted some of them and they’re still great.  I remember the enchilada sauce being fabulous and the yogurt quiche being perfect (and I don’t usually like quiche).  I combined the spanikopita recipe with some tips from Ina Garten’s version and really had a great thing going before it turned out I was making a pretty dangerous dish (cheese! pine nuts! phyllo dough! the list goes on…).  So if you’re just vegetarian and not vegan this is a VERY useful book but the principles I learned have served me well.

We enjoyed a lot of the recipes while I was still pregnant as my mother in law would cook out of the book when she’d visit but after I had E I was home and didn’t have any more time really than I used the time had come to stop eating processed vegetarian fare all the time.  The gravy recipe is one I have since adapted with potato flour and a couple other substitutions but the best thing of all is that I can start several pans all at once and even make several meals at a time when the chance presents itself and I credit the confidence this book gave me.

I stopped looking for books with pretty pictures and have never looked back.  There are some splendid cookbooks out there if you look for them!

Desert Spiny Lizards

When we first moved to this house we were pleased that there was a lot of wildlife to enjoy.  Among them were several lizards that liked to climb to the top of our brick walls and do what looked like push-ups in the sun (to attract mates, I think).  Sometimes two or three of them will be doing it in a row.  We discovered that they were the Desert Spiny Lizard or Sceloporus magister.  This guy pictured here let me come pretty close before scampering off, they are bold creatures I’ve found.

E loves to spy them and pretend to do push-ups like them.  In fact, before she really talked she’d mime their push-ups to represent any lizard.  A funny thing is that when R is excited and in a crawling position he kind of does these same push-ups.  I guess I wanted to share a little about them because they are so neat and I don’t want to forget how they make our yard their home.  You can see them at the Springs Preserve but last time we were there their exhibit was empty, I hope they have brought them back!  Oh, and the other day a large one got caught in our compost box (we are using a large old furniture box to contain the compost) and my husband made a little ramp with a piece of wood to let him climb out.  I love cats but I scare them from our yard now to protect these amazing creatures.

R’s favorite in the yard right now is this bird that comes looking for bugs in the evenings.  The kids are usually in the pool and when he spies the bird he throws his arms up and yells excitedly.  I am going to try to remember to take a picture of his feathered friend.

VegBooks.org Review – The Book About Moomin, Mymble, and Little My

Right about when I first signed up on Twitter, @vegbooks started following my feed (you get e-mails when someone subscribes to posts by your username) so naturally I checked out their site and it had a great premise – reviews of books and movies for vegetarian and vegan parents with a mind to the messages about animal ethics.  So when a call went out a while ago for potential reviewers, I thought I’d see if they would like me to contribute and, well, here’s a link to my first review on the site!

The Book About Moomin, Mymble, and Little My

I will add that E is obsessed with Little My, she always asks me to tell her stories about Little My so I just make them up.  Usually the story involves E and Little My going to the store to buy berries or Little My eating the tomatoes in E’s garden.  She got a huge grin when I told her a story about Little My demanding particular cookies at E’s birthday.  My cousin gave the kids the cutest stuffed animals of Moomintroll and Snork Maiden, I’ll have to take a picture of them at some point.

I reviewed two Moomin board books on Amazon, I can’t get enough of these cute stories, (image links are amazon affiliate links) I have a few more still to do as I like to post Amazon reviews when there are none currently:

 Moomin’s little book of Numbers – I really enjoyed the story of Moomin, Mymble, and Little My that my cousin sent to us from Finland for my son and daughter. Having since read some of the other Moomin books I am a big fan now. The stories and characters are charming and unique.

Construction: This is a nice, heavy board book. The pages are thick and shiny. My 9 month old likes to hold it but my 2 3/4 year old loves the pictures.

“Story:” Here are the numbers you’ll find in here, I wondered about how far it went and what represented each so I will describe the pages a little below…each two page spread has two numbers represented except for 9, 10, and the last page:

1: One Moomin (he’s hugging a tree)
2: Two Trees
3: Three Umbrellas (Moominmamma and the Snork Maiden are under two of them)
4: Four Clouds
5: Five Butterflies (above Moomintroll)
6: Six Flowers (two in the Snork Maiden’s hair)
7: Seven Boats
8: Eight Shells (Moominmamma is picking them up)
9: Nine Fish (Moomintroll is fishing)
10: Ten Birds (Moomintroll is picking flowers and the birds are overhead)
Lots and Lots of stars (my favorite page, it has Moomin and the Snork Maiden hugging on a bench under a night sky full of stars)

I think the last page is a nice touch. The colors are lovely and even if you have never read the other stories the characters are cute.

 Moomin’s little book of Words – I enjoyed Moomin’s Little Book of Numbers so much that I purchased this one as well. It has the same great construction and thick pages. The colors inside are similar to the ones used on the cover and each two page spread features a word on the left with the specific item it references above it and on the opposite page you see Moomintroll (also check out The Book About Moomin, Mymble and Little My and Comet in Moominland (Moomintrolls) if you want to get a good introduction to the world of the Moomins. interacting with it in some way. I have quite a few word books and I really like the reinforcement here with the item featured twice. My almost 3 year old daughter is able to “read” this book to my almost 1 year old son, I think helped in part by the format of the pages.

As I am always curious about the words chosen in these types of books, here’s the breakdown, the colors might be useful for practicing colors:

Apple (red on a green page) – Moomintroll is climbing a ladder to pick apples from a tree
Cup (blue on a red page) – Moomintroll is drinking a mug of tea
Flower (pink on a yellow page) – Moomintroll dancing in a field of flowers
Shell (yellow on a blue page) – Moomintroll is looking at shells on the beach
Paint (blue on an orange page) – Moomintroll is painting a wall blue
Book (green on a pink page) – Moomintroll reading a book (I posted a picture of this page)
Moon (yellow on a purple page) – Moomintroll in bed looking out the window at the moon

Both of the Moomin board books end with a night time scene which is good when you’re reading these at bedtime. They are simple and cute and though I know it is suggested that babies prefer, and benefit greater from, books with photos I think that it is fun to include some imagination and charming artwork in the mix as well!

Stuffed Cabbage Photos

These photos are from a recipe that, with the falafel recipe, makes The Whole Foods Allergy Cookbook by Cybele Pascal (amazon affiliate link) worth the price of admission.  The book sadly features recipe upon recipe that use meat and the baking recipes I have yet to try because they use oat flour and I will have to figure out some substitutions.  All that said, this recipe in particular is labor intensive and cooking time intensive (almost 2 hours in the oven!) but it is delicious.  I didn’t get any photos after I had them out of the oven for some reason but you can still see how yummy they are in these photos.  I leave out the currants/raisins, put a little more garbanzo beans and a little less brown rice, and use agave nectar instead of honey but otherwise the recipe is pretty much as-is.  It is on pages 136-137 of the book.

As a little girl stuffed German cabbage was my favorite dish that my mom made.  Is that weird?  I also liked burgers and pizza like average kids in the US but I always loved stuffed cabbages!  These vegetarian ones are different but just as good.

Here they are almost ready to be covered and go into the oven. . .

Next time I may forgo the whole stuffing process and just make the whole mixture and bake it because my husband likes the filling (which has chopped cabbage) more than the cabbage leaves when they are intact.  I would be able to make it more often if I didn’t have to spend too much time prepping it!

(I bought more cabbage to make this again but it is pretty tomato-centric so I’m not sure I will do it again for a while).

Allergy Free Pizza

So what did I do with the lovely sauce I made with my fresh, organic, roma tomatoes?  I made the pizza recipe from Cybele Pascal’s book, The Allergen Free Baker’s Handbook (amazon affiliate link).  The crust was only so-so when I made it with guar gum but once I invested in corn-free xanthan gum it made a world of difference!  I also adjusted the recipe to omit the olive oil in the crust mixture because I like a drier crust and I use flaxseed meal at the base of the pizza instead of cornmeal for the obvious reason.

The picture above is before the pizza went into the oven.  There’s a fake cheese called Daiya cheese that people really rave about but it has corn-derived xanthan gum so our pizza goes without anything melty or gooey.  Fear not, it is still tasty!  We like to add halved grape tomatoes, chopped pineapple, and fried mushrooms & onions.  This time around I went with just mushrooms and onions and the sauce was the star.

You can make the crust into two rounds but I have had the best luck making one big jelly roll pan full of the crust.  We like to dip it in gluten free German mustard or just eat it as is.  E never really liked the guar gum version of this crust but she’ll eat this one!  To make this tomato free I would suggest just brushing extra olive oil on the crust and topping with caramelized onions, mushrooms, and diced pineapple.  It turned out really tasty that way too.

I know I really write a lot about the Baker’s Handbook but it has really stood the test of time.  We still make the recipes in it over a year later.

I read that most people only make three recipes out of any one cookbook, isn’t that wild?  I’m sure I used to be in that category in the past.  I mean, most of us know how we like to make certain dishes and we don’t go off the beaten path.  I wish now that I’d have been more adventurous but at the same time I would get home from a long day at work and easy dinners sounded good to me.  There is another book I adore but don’t cook from too much anymore, The Vegetarian Mother’s Cookbook by Cathe Olson (amazon affiliate link) and I should write a dedicated post about it because it was the book that made me feel competent in the kitchen.