Curry Saves the Day

Whew–it’s been another whirlwind couple of weeks!  One week, poor Baby H was sick with an ear infection, followed by a big growth spurt, then the week after it was time for his two-month checkup (complete with his first round of shots).  He has grown so much already and is becoming more fun, alert, and engaging every day as he learns more and more about his world.  All I can really do is try to keep up!

It isn’t always easy to take good care of myself when it feels like all of my energy is being put toward this miraculous new person.  My diet has been far less than stellar and oftentimes I forget to eat at all.  And then there are other times when the little guy FINALLY falls asleep that I am racing to fit in at least 1 or 2 of the 68094887324 things on my to-do list.

Exhibit 1:
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This is my dining room table right now.  I’m trying to sort through Baby H’s clothes, putting away the stuff that doesn’t fit him anymore (there’s a lot of it!) and organizing the stuff that does so that it’s easier and quicker to get him dressed throughout the day (and yes, he goes through multiple outfit changes daily!).

Enter last night; around 6:00, baby boy went down for (what I thought was) his pre-bedtime nap and I figured I’d finally have the time to tackle some of the clothes sorting.  That was when I realized that I hadn’t eaten anything since about noon.  So the plan changes to: eat, then sort.

Fortunately, in the fridge I had a big batch of Red Lentil Cauliflower Curry (an all-time fave from Veganomicon) that I cooked up last week when my mom was here visiting and watching the baby.  I grabbed a baggie of brown rice that I had cooked and frozen when Baby H was about 3 weeks old and stuck it in the microwave to defrost for a few minutes.

Almost immediately the cries started from upstairs.  So I went up, picked up Baby H, and rocked him for about 10 minutes to get him to go back to sleep.  Meanwhile I could hear the stupid microwave beeping every 2 minutes downstairs to remind me that my rice was done.  All I could think was, “That had better not wake him up!”

Once Baby H was back down, I went back downstairs, added the curry to the defrosted rice, and began to  heat them up.  Once it was ready, I began to eat and even started drafting a blog post.  image (22)
Except that not five minutes later the crying started again (this time sounding pretty mad, actually).   I hurriedly shoveled the last few bites of curry into my mouth and went back upstairs to pick up Baby H again.

So, the clothes are still covering the dining room table.  But at least I had dinner!

Thanks, curry.
thanks-champagne

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Blogging With Baby

Oh my goodness.  That blogging once a week goal I set a few weeks ago didn’t exactly pan out, did it?

In terms of time management, this baby business is so much harder than I expected it would be!  Turns out Baby H is a pretty clingy little guy and wants to be held almost all the time.  Now that he’s almost six weeks old, he’s becoming more aware of his surroundings and is more interested in playing, so I have increasingly more opportunities to put him down while I play with him, but he still seems to prefer to spend the majority of the time in my arms.
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I’ve discovered that he loves to be in his baby carrier, so at least once a day I try to strap that on and get some stuff done around the house.  Eating and tidying up his areas usually comes first, followed by catching up on emails (especially as we continue our search for a nanny for when I go back to work in just six short weeks), followed by trying to finish up the endless amount of thank you cards and birth announcements I still have to send out.  After that, I would probably next turn to blogging, but unfortunately, I have to consider it a victory if he sleeps long enough for me to do even one of these things.

Nevertheless, today I find myself with a few extra minutes and dying to check in with the blog world!

As you can imagine, my eating habits have been less than ideal during these whirlwind past few weeks. Sometimes I don’t even realize I haven’t made time to eat at all until I find myself absolutely ravenous while breastfeeding at 3:00 a.m. and have to make myself a quick bag of microwave popcorn just to stay upright. The majority of the time, I just eat whatever is available, quick, and *clean* (take my word on this one…trying to eat spaghetti with one hand while holding a sleeping or nursing infant in the other does not end well).

One thing I’ve been eating like they’re going out of style lately is lentil dishes.   They’re cheap, filling, and taste good warm or cold…all wins for me at the moment. Finding time to cook has been one of my biggest challenges of all, so I’ve been buying most of my food pre-made, but I did also actually make two dishes myself!

Store-bought:
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So good. Exactly what you’d expect from TJ’s.

I also got a really tasty lentil soup from a local cafe called La Provence, which has a bunch of great veg options:
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And finally, I whipped up a batch of the tried and true Veganomicon classic, Snobby Joes.
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These were a lifesaver, as I was able to scoop them up with tortilla chips using only one hand. I definitely want to make another batch ASAP.

I also made a Lentil Celery Root Soup using this recipe from Fit Pregnancy.
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To veganize, I just subbed agave nectar for the honey and left off the parmesan cheese. The soup came out pretty good–it’s pretty sweet (in fact, you could probably leave out the honey/agave entirely), and very thick. Definitely best enjoyed with some crusty bread. The recipe also made a TON so my freezer also found itself with some new additions.

I’ll be back again just as soon as I can find the time 🙂

Sunday Morning Pumpkin Pancakes and Life Lessons

I woke up yesterday with a one-track mind: must. make. pumpkin. pancakes. A craving like this is one of the only things that can break through the wall of laziness and exhaustion that currently surrounds me at all times. I haven’t cooked in like a month, but this was an emergency.

I broke out Vegan Brunch and set right to mixing and measuring. Almost immediately, I noticed that the batter looked a little thin.

But I got my griddle nice and hot, sprayed my cooking spray, and added the first scoop of batter. When I eventually tried to flip it, however, it basically completely crumpled, and started to tear. Even after cooking for a few more minutes, it was really hard to get it off the griddle and onto the spatula, and it still seemed kinda gooey.

Immediately I started running through possible causes for the problem. Did I somehow not measure my ingredients correctly? Is my flour too old? Was the first pancake too big?

For round 2, I tried making two smaller pancakes. Still no dice. I ended up with these too-soft, crumply messes:
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At this point, I figured I had just done something wrong, but I was determined to finish cooking the rest of the batter (waste not!). And I decided that I was NOT going to settle for mediocre pancakes. I would keep trying different tweaks and approaches. If they turned out mediocre anyway, at least I’d know I tried.

My first fix was to switch out Earth Balance for the cooking spray the recipe recommends. I noticed an almost immediate difference in the way the pancakes were cooking. The edges were getting golden and crispy and, while still very thin, they were much easier to flip over without crumpling.
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Second fix was to use slightly less batter. Third, let them cook longer than I had previously been doing.
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I ended up with a plate stacked with beautiful pumpkiny goodness, which I served with a dab of vegan cream cheese and some dried cranberries. It was absolutely perfect.
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At some point, I realized that this pancake-making process was like a little analogy for so many of the things I’ve experienced in life so far, and so many, many things that I will experience in the near future when I become a parent.

Life lessons, people. Sometimes you just have to adjust your approach. Follow your instincts. Sometimes the instructions you are given aren’t the be-all and end-all.
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Adjusting your approach won’t always necessarily yield the result or reward you initially were going for, but maybe you will be pleasantly surprised when you find that you end up with something just as good, or maybe even better, than what you set out for.
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Bottom line: don’t be so hard on yourself if things aren’t perfect, but also don’t just throw up your hands and give up–take action and make it better!

BOWLS! by Becky Striepe – Review and Recipe for Chai Spice Oatmeal

Hi there!

Today I am super-excited to share with you my thoughts on BOWLS!, a brand new cookbook by my friend Becky Striepe.

You may already be familiar with Becky’s amazing blog, Glue and Glitter, where she shares mouthwatering recipes, beautiful crafts, and lots of tips and tricks for living a simple, green, vegan lifestyle.  Becky is also the author of 40 Days of Green Smoothies.

In this new book, we are promised a collection of “mix-and-match recipes to fill your favorite vessel,” and BOWLS! certainly delivers!
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BOWLS! starts out with a genius, yet foolproof, formula for constructing the perfect meal: a bottom layer (consisting of potatoes, grain, pasta, or salad greens) + a middle layer (of raw or cooked veggies) + a top layer of protein, and then an optional “tippy-top” layer of add-ons and sauces.

From there, you get a chapter full of Breakfast and Brunch bowls (such as Chai Spice Oatmeal [get the recipe below!] and Cheesy Stovetop Grits).  Next are Lunch and Supper bowls (like the Roasted Veggie Bowl with Tahini-Miso Sauce and Peanut Butter Tofu Bowl), followed by Soups & Stews (including such gems as Creamy Curried Tomato Soup and Green Lentil & Potato Stew).

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Sort of Cheesy Broccoli Bowl (so scrumptious!)

After that, there is an entire section devoted to Sauces and another to various Layers.  The Layers section is particularly invaluable, because it not only contains recipes for toppings that can be used in multiple way (such as Vegan Bacon and Perfect Mashed Potatoes), but also instructions on Basic Grain Cooking and Cooking Dried Beans.

I love this, because not only does BOWLS! give you a bunch of great recipes as a starting point, but it also arms you with everything you need to be able to mix and match components to create your own bowl of vegan goodness at a moment’s notice.

Becky’s friendly, approachable style shines through in every page of BOWLS! This book is a treasure trove of quick, simple-to-prepare yet insanely tasty recipes and meal components that you can and will use over and over again.  The bold, colorful photos only add to its appeal.  I’ll also add that it displays absolutely gorgeously on a tablet.

Becky has generously offered to share a recipe from BOWLS! with you all today.  I’ve chosen the Chai Spice Oatmeal, a recipe I’ve made probably about a dozen times since receiving the book for review, because it is so incredibly delicious, without being too sweet, and perfect for fall of course!

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Chai Spice Oatmeal
reprinted with permission from BOWLS! by Becky Striepe, copyright 2014 by Cattington, Inc.

Ingredients for 1 serving
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 cup water or almond milk
1 small handful dried cranberries
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon cardamom
1 tablespoon brown sugar

1. In a small saucepan, combine all of the ingredients.  Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes.  Serve immediately.

2. Alternate cooking instructions: Combine all of your ingredients in a very large bowl with high sides.  Microwave for 2 1/2 minutes, stir, and microwave for 2 1/2 minutes more.  Serve immediately.

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Dry ingredients, measured ahead to be microwaved at work–how’s that for convenient?

BOWLS! is available in print or as an ebook.  Details on how to order BOWLS! can be found at the bottom of this post.

Do yourself a favor and snag a copy today!