Thursday, November 22, 2012

You're a Vegan, What Do You Eat? (Thanksgiving Edition)


We stayed at home for Thanksgiving this year, and for the first time in my life, I made a complete Vegan Thanksgiving dinner on my own.

The whole thing started when I got off work a little bit early on Wednesday afternoon.  I began cooking after I picked up William and he was (supposed to be) taking a nap.  First order of business was to make cornbread.  William eats exactly 5 foods, and "Mr. Mike's Cornbread" (Mr. Mike being the cook at daycare) is one of them.  I don't know how Mr. Mike makes his cornbread, but it surely involves eggs and probably butter and milk.  The cornbread I made did not, but it was both amazing and easy.  It involved ground up flax seed as egg replacer (my favorite form of egg substitute), flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, agave, soy milk, and canola oil.  Put it in a square baking dish and bake for 20 minutes.  Beauty.

Next, I made pumpkin pie.  Many, many years ago, I used to have this vegan pumpkin pie recipe that I got off a tofu box or something, and I have since lost.  I tried to recreate it from memory, using canned pureed pumpkin, half a tub of Tofutti cream cheese, half a block of silken tofu, some amount of soy milk, maybe 1/2 cup of brown sugar, a drizzle of molasses, and a good tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice.  Whirl that in the blender until it is well mixed.  Then pour it in to a graham cracker crust (surprisingly, the Keebler brand appears to be vegan).

The quantity of pumpkin filling I had mixed up way exceeded the capacity of the graham cracker crust.  I had also bought some little bitty, individual serving graham crusts, thinking that William might be intrigued by the smallness and cuteness of them, and so I filled 3 of these with the pie filling as well.  

Then it occurred to me that I had just made an entire pumpkin pie and 3 additional tiny pumpkin pies, and Rob probably wasn't going to eat it because he doesn't' like pie, and William probably wasn't going to eat it because pie is not on his list of 5 Approved Foods.  So I had a lot of pie going on, and in all probability, I was the only person who was going to eat it.  To make matters worse, there was still more filling.  I thought about putting it in a tupperware and freezing it, or maybe even throwing it out, but instead I took the I Love Lucy route and simply ate it.  Divine.

I baked the tiny pies for about 20 minutes and the big pie for about an hour, then I let them cool and put them in the fridge overnight.

My last order of business for Thanksgiving Eve was to make a cranberry relish.  Also a food that probably no one in my house cared about or would want to eat.  But I felt compelled to make it anyway.  I saw a couple of recipes here and there and decided to combine them into one of my own.  What I did was take 1/2 package of fresh cranberries, 3 stalks of celery, 1 apple, 1 orange, some orange zest, about 1/4 cup sugar, and a smack of cinnamon.  Then I put that in the food processor and 10 seconds later: cranberry relish.  

Thanksgiving morning involved going to the parade downtown via the MetroLink, or as Will likes to call it, The Train.  Will was more interested in climbing up and down the many staircases at Kiener Park, but I was in my element  watching the parade.

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First, we waited for the parade to start.



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When it finally did, we saw senior citizens playing accordions.


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We saw Frosty the Snowman.

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We saw Jackie Joyner-Kersee

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We got empowered by the YWCA.

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I became nostalgic for the days when I was 16 and marched in parades and had to hold my line.

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Finally, the real Santa Claus arrived.


After the parade, we went back home and while Will was taking a nap, I got the rest of the meal ready.  This involved a Trader Joe's Turkey-Less Stuffed Roast.  I have never before eaten something like this, and I hadn't even been planning on buying it last weekend when I was shopping at Trader Joe's.  But as I saw it in the store and stood there examining the package, another shopper saw my confusion and assured me, "I've had that before.  It's really good."  And so I thought, why not.  I'd been planning on making some kind of marinated tofu concoction and making my own stuffing and gravy.  But this Turkey-Less Stuffed Roast contained it all.  A texturized soy protein thing that was stuffed with stuffing and included a packet of gravy.  All vegan.  It seemed like a win-win situation.

To cook the Turkey-Less Stuffed Roast, I took some celery stalks, quartered small potatoes, turnips, carrots, and garlic and layered that in the bottom of the roasting pan.  I put the Turkey-Less Stuffed Roast on top of that and basted it with a sauce made of Earth Balance (they claim to responsibly source their palm oil, which I hope is true), garlic powder, and fresh sage (that I had bought for some other purpose but since forgotten why) and a smack of liquid smoke.  I covered the the whole thing with foil and cooked it for about an hour and a half.

I also made peas, which involved taking a bag of frozen peas out of the freezer and microwaving them.  And I made gravy, which involved opening the container of gravy that came with the Roast and microwaving it.  At the last minute, I juiced some apples and cranberries to make fresh cran-apple juice.  Festive.

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When Will woke up from his nap, he was in rare form-- in a good way.  He had been thrilled to ride on the train earlier in the day and run around at the park while (sort of) watching the parade.  We had also been talking up Thanksgiving, and I could tell that the didn't know exactly what that meant, but it intrigued him.  He was on his best behavior.  When I told him that we were having cornbread with dinner, he squealed and jumped for joy (literally) and then went to his chair to sit and wait for the meal.

So here it is, our Vegan Thanksgiving Spread:

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And here's a close-up of the Trader Joe's Turkey-less Stuffed Roast, or as I now like to call it, The Roast Beast

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Okay, so it looks really weird, but honestly, it was pretty good.  The vegetables were the most amazing part of the whole meal, though.  Roasting them in the Earth Balance/Garlic powder baste and then drizzling them with gravy made them out-of-this-world sublime.


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Will ate some peas and cornbread of his own volition.  He declined the cranberry relish (so did Rob) and he told me he didn't want any of the vegetables or "Roast Beast."  With an extreme amount of coaxing, but less frustration than a normal meal (it generally takes about 10 years off of my life just to get him to eat 100 calories worth of food), I did manage to get him to eat one roasted carrot and a slice of Roast Beast.  Victory.

True to my prediction, I was the only person who ate any pumpkin pie.  And wine.

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Above all, I was really thankful to get to stay at home and have a very nice, very relaxing Vegan Thanksgiving with Rob and Will.  Rob and I are both under immense pressure from up-coming deadlines, and the stress around this household has been all but palpable for the past several weeks.  Adding in a multi-state traveling odyssey to this mix felt like it would have pushed us over the edge.  We did not get to see our families, but at least this way, we got to have real, actual, vegan food and do everything on our own schedules.  Which is to say, Will's schedule.  We needed this.  We had such a great time together, the three of us, and there were very few moments when anyone threw himself on the ground screaming and crying.  It was an all-out stellar day.

Cooking the meal wasn't really that hard, and I think it turned out pretty darn good.  I'd do it again, and again.  I'll do it for Christmas, and next year too.  You're all invited.


Thanks for reading.


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Sunday, November 18, 2012

You're A Vegan, What Do You Eat (Part 2)

I forgot to mention in my last YAVWDYE post that Rob is now a vegan too.  He made the switch sometime during the summer.  June, I think.  I get the feeling that it really wasn't that much of a change for him.  He was effectively vegan anyway-- for years, he hasn't had milk or eggs (unless they were baked in something) and he generally eats what I cook for dinner.  Which is vegan.  

I asked him recently how it had been going for him, and I can't remember our conversation exactly, but I  think he said it was surprisingly easy.  One of his main reservations that kept him from going full-on vegan for so long was pizza.  How in the world was he going to get along without that?  But I guess it wasn't as hard as he'd thought.  Plus, I really think that after you become vegan (or make any dietary change), you create new eating patterns, and those become your new normal.  You go a while without eating melted cheese, and you stop thinking about it.  A different set of foods become your staples, and your tastes change.  Honestly, I do not even regard cheese (particularly in melted form) as an edible substance, but maybe that has more to do with hyperemesis than with being a vegan, per se.  I am not actually a huge animal-rights activist (recall: I hate cows); one of the major reasons I am vegan is so that there is not any chance I will ever, ever throw up dairy again. *Shudder.*

This all being said, we sometimes eat vegan pizza.

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A picture of our pizza before I cooked it.  I forgot to take a picture afterwards.


For the crust, I use a recipe no-yeast pizza dough-- not because I am opposed to yeast, more simply because I never have any of it on hand.  Also, the recipe I found (first hit when you Google "no yeast pizza dough") is incredibly easy.  2-1/4 cups flour, 2-3/4 tsp baking powder, 1tsp salt. Mix that together and then add about 1 cup of water and 1tsp olive oil.  Stir it up, knead for a couple minutes, and then roll it out into a circle.

I guess it sounds kind of labor intensive, but really, it is very fast.

Then I top it with tomato sauce (usually I end up making pizza when we have leftover pasta sauce that I want to get rid of) and whatever vegetables we have on hand.  In this picture, I used red and yellow bell peppers and red onions (a food I had about a 3-year hyperemetic aversion to, and now can almost sort of eat again).


Sidenote: Once over the summer, I made us vegan pizza and nearly severed my left pinky finger trying to open the pop-top can of Kalamata olives pictured below.  It was the kind of thing where I definitely should have gone to the ER and gotten stitches, but I didn't because I hate hospitals and also because it seemed too complicated what with William to take care of and all. It eventually stopped bleeding and began to heal, but now 5 months later, it is still surprisingly tender to the touch.

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After I regained consciousness, I took a picture of the offending can.  Needless to say, I have not attempted to put Kalamata olives on any subsequent pizzas.


For "cheese," the going thing among vegans these days is Daiya. And the important thing to remember about Daiya is that a little goes a long way.  I'm not a huge fan in general of vegan products that try to approximate a non-vegan thing, but I guess as far as cheese goes, this is about the best you can ask for.  I like it okay enough on pizza, but I am not going to sit around and eat it out of the bag.

There are several different varieties of Daiya "cheese," including a Mozzarella flavor (which doesn't actually taste like Mozzarella) that would probably work on pizza a lot better than the Pepper Jack variety I used on this particular occasion.  But Pepper Jack was what we had, so I made it work.

I also added freshly grated pepper to the top of the whole thing.  That is something Rob invented, or maybe Monical's.  Whichever.  Rob really likes pizza that way.

The end result was… decent.  I've never been a huge pizza fan myself.  Honest to god.  Ask Amy.  In truth, my aversion to melted cheese pre-dates hyperemesis and probably goes back to at least May of 1998.  As a vegan, I can handle non-dairy pizzas on rare occasions, but I am certainly not going around looking for a cheese-like product that actually tastes, looks, or makes me gag like cheese does.  So this is okay.  Also, the crust is really, really good.  And the important part was that this time, nobody almost sliced her finger off.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Dear William (39 months)

Dear William,

Today you are 39 months old!

We enjoyed some wonderful fall hiking this month.

Babler hike

Babler hike

Babler hike


We took a trip to Illinois where you visited with some of your cousins.



Back at home in St. Louis, you finished up your gymnastics class.  You got to wear a costume for the last day.



You also got to wear your costume when we went to Boo at the Zoo, a special night-time party at the St. Louis Zoo.

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You really liked the Fragile Forest exhibit because there were lights and bubbles.

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You spent some time checking out a steam engine.

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Then we had Halloween, and you got to wear your costume again.

Trick or treat


You got tired while we were out Trick-or-Treating.

Waiting around


You really enjoyed having candy in your "punkin."  When you eat a good dinner, you get to choose a piece of candy to have for dessert.  You get so excited about this.  You say, "I want to go have punkin on the couch."  And you sit there on the couch with your pumpkin, selecting your candy.  You are very sweet.


This month, you frequently pushed the limits of your bedtime by taking forever to choose a story.



You also demonstrated how well you can dance.

We went to a Dance Marathon on campus, where you didn't actually dance, but you did go through a Bounce House with your dad about 500 times.



You got tired on the way home.


William, I think you have slept in bed with us every night this month. Aside from the week that your dad was on a work trip and I didn't even try to get you to sleep in your own room, you have always started out in your bed. But you wake up somewhere between 2 and 5am and come in to join us. You pad across the floor and stand at our open doorway, breathing heavily, and wait to be admitted. I fear that one day I might not wake up to the sound of your breathing, and I wonder if you would stand there for hours. It worries me. I have told you repeatedly that you can just come on into our room, or at the very least you can say, "Mommy, can I come in?" because my answer will always be yes. But so far you have not done these things. You just breathe until I wake up.

After I hear you and tell you to come in, you run into the room and vault onto the bed. Then you situate yourself between your daddy and me. You even have a little pillow that you use just for sleeping with us. Sometimes you want me to spoon you, sometimes you want me to hold you tummy to tummy. If your feet are cold, you wedge them between my knees. Within seconds, you are fast asleep. You snore, you drool, and you take up more than your fair share of space in the bed. I never sleep very well after you have joined us, William, but I don't mind.

I love these moments when I get to hold you. The other day I was running early in the morning (as I often do), and I saw 16 or 17-year old boy come out the front door of his house, bound down the porch steps, then get into his car and drive away to school. You're going to be that big someday. I need to hold you while I still can.


This morning was the best. I woke up before you and watched as your eyelids fluttered open in the dim light of the room. When you saw me, your whole face burst into joy. You threw your arms around me and whispered "Mommy!" Then with your lips pressed against my ear, you sang me your morning song: "Morning, Mommy, how are you? How are you today?" And I told you, "I'm good, William!"

Love you,

Your mom

Friday, November 2, 2012

You're a vegan, what do you eat? (Part 1)

A long time ago when life was a lot different, I had this great idea to do a blog series entitled, You're vegan? What do you eat? and showcase some of my better culinary endeavors.  Life and hyperemesis intervened, and I spent a lot of time dealing with that.  I'm still dealing with that, and there are a lot of foods I used to eat that I still can't eat, but I think that things are finally starting to get a little bit better.  Plus, I feel like much of the rest of the world probably thinks that vegans eat only iceberg lettuce (which we don't), and I would like to set the record straight.

So here's a compilation of what we ate (mainly for dinner) this week.

You'll notice that almost everything comes from my new favorite website, Plant Based on a Budget, but also that nothing I make follows their recipes exactly because I am incapable of following a recipe exactly. Also, I don't measure anything.  I think I own measuring cups, but I do not use them.

Monday 29 October

Up at 6:15am to run 5-ish miles then shower, get ready, and get little people their breakfast before school.  While Will was dawdling over his Raisin Bran, I made what I like to call Chickpea Salad-- a modified version of Mock Tuna Salad from the good people at PBB.

I used some chickpeas that I had previously soaked, boiled, frozen and then thawed overnight.  Gave them a whirl or two in the old food processor and then mixed them up with Vegan Mayo (currently using Nayonaise), chopped green onion, parsley, and celery, lemon pepper, sea salt, and apple cider vinegar.  Sometimes I also add smoked paprika, but on this particular occasion, it seemed too overwhelming to search through my spice bin for that, so I left it out.  I put the whole thing in the fridge to chill, and left for work.

It was a good thing that I made dinner ahead of time because I ended up having to work until 8:30pm that night.  

When I finally got home, this was like heaven on a bun (with romaine and sliced tomato).



Tuesday 30 October

I soaked some lentils overnight, and after my pre-dawn run (this time a bit less than 5 miles) I boiled them enough so that foam formed on the top, and I skimmed that off.  I've found that using this foam-skimming technique eliminates any kind of gastric distress anyone might experience from eating beans or legumes.

After the lentils were boiled and soaked, I added them to the crock pot with chopped onion, crushed (canned) tomatoes, chili powder (a ton, seriously, like 1/4 cup), soy sauce, brown sugar (just a pinch), and … get this … the secret ingredient to virtually all my recipes … liquid smoke.



Set the crock pot for 8 hours, and you come home to this:



The recipe is based off of Sloppy Lentils from Fat Free Vegan, but we do not actually eat it in a sloppy joe form.  We ate it in bowls, with Ritz Crackers, and Will prefers to call this concoction Chili.  He actually ate some of it, with a lot of coaxing.

Wednesday 31 October


 Red glasses Meli halloween

The red sunglasses and jaunty cap might look like a Halloween costume, but really, it was just what I wore to walk to work. The festive witch hat helped liven things up a few hours later when I was giving an exam to 350 students.

I had to work a little bit late (grading exams).  When I got home, we had leftover lentils for dinner and then went trick or treating.

Thursday 1 November

Too exhausted to run in the morning.  Slept in an extra hour and then got up and made Garlic Ginger Soup.  This was a little scary for me because all of the times I tried to consume ginger in an effort to calm my nausea when I was pregnant, and since ginger doesn't do a f*cking thing for hyperemesis, I just ended up throwing it up.  To this day, if there is a noticeable taste of ginger in anything that I eat, I instantly feel like I am 9 weeks pregnant and dying again.  Not fun.  But I decided to try the soup anyway, just with a drastically reduced amount of ginger.

To make the soup, I first cubed some tofu into tiny pieces and sautéed that with red pepper, garlic powder, and the tiniest smidgen of freshly grated ginger imaginable (I skipped the powdered ginger that the recipe called for).

Meanwhile, I heated up water in a pot and added some vegetable bullion cubes, unpeeled garlic cloves (I was confused about that aspect of it, but it ended up fine), the tiniest sliver of fresh ginger, soy sauce, lemon juice, and sriracha sauce.  I also cooked some rice noodles (real, actual rice noodles that I had gotten at an Asian market up on Olive Street).  I added everything together, and at some point I also added some chopped cilantro.


Then I put it all into a pyrex serving dish and stuck it in the fridge.  Doing all of this took a lot longer than I had, and I ended up having to (literally) run to work so that I wouldn't be egregiously late.  

All day long, I was looking forward to this soup, and when we finally sat down to dinner that night, it was the best thing I have ever tasted in my entire life.  (Rob will tell you I say that about a lot of foods.  But this time I really mean it, I swear).


I added a lot more sriracha to mine.  William refused to eat the soup, but he had some rice noodles with nutritional yeast on them.

Friday 2 November

Today.  It would have been my Grandma Florence's 97th birthday.  I thought about making some lemon sugar cookies or strawberry pie to honor her memory with the things she would want me to eat, but the reality is that I do not have time for any of that.

I ran this morning and then had to work a little bit late again.  When I got home, I made some whole wheat rotini and unthawed a few Avocado Pesto cubes.  Avocado pesto is another favorite of mine based on a recipe from PBB.

Basically, you take a ton of basil, avocado, garlic, lemon juice, pine nuts (I do not use pistachios like they call for in the recipe), cumin, olive oil, and sea salt, and you puree it in the food processor.

I like to keep this stuff on hand, so I make a big batch and then freeze it in cubes.  On nights like tonight, I can thaw about 4-5 cubes to put on our pasta.



Before I tried Garlic Ginger Soup earlier in the week, Avocado Pesto was my all-time favorite meal, ever.  It still ranks as a very high second.  Okay, maybe a tie.  Unfortunately, Rob doesn't like Avocado Pesto as much as I do, but he usually endures it.  I even got Will to eat some of this tonight, although it required a lot of bribing.  Still, it was a huge victory.  Massive.  Add in his consumption of lentils earlier in the week, and I am over the moon.


And so that's a week of vegan dinners, more or less. No iceberg lettuce to be found. Thanks for reading.