Sunday, November 30, 2014

You're Vegan, What Do You Eat? Thanksgiving Redux

We stayed at home for Thanksgiving this year, which was nice.

Technically, this was our second Thanksgiving in Fort Collins.  Last year, we drove to Colorado in what was basically a panic, because I had to see this place one more time before I quit my job and we uprooted our lives to move here.  But now this is really where we live, and when I think about how far we have come and how much everything has changed since that terrible, terrible time one year ago, I still kind of can’t believe it.

My parents had been hoping to come out and visit us, but they ended up unable to make the trip, so it was just the three of us.  I tried to re-create the magical Thanksgiving dinner I made in St. Louis in 2012, though with much less success.  Mom, Dad, don’t feel bad about not joining us this time; you didn’t miss my best culinary endeavor.

The whole thing started out when William and I made a pumpkin pie on Wednesday (he is still a difficult eater, but he does love to help bake).  I used this recipe for crust and this recipe for the pie filling.  I chose these recipes because of their simplicity: instead of tofu and soy cream cheese (the latter of which I always forget to buy), the pie filling took coconut milk and cornstarch, which I already had on hand.  It all came together very easily.

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On Thanksgiving morning, I got up early and ran at Horsetooth Mountain Open Space, something I sincerely hope becomes a tradition.

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IMG 44462.5 miles up this mountain (and back down again) was way, way better than choosing to do the local Turkey Trot.

Basically as soon as I got home and took a shower, I started cooking our Thanksgiving dinner.  Simplicity was the theme, so I really didn’t think it was going take that long to put together, but as these things often do, it took much longer than I was expecting.

I had bought a real, actual Tofurky because that was the only vegan, holiday kind of thing Whole Foods had when I went shopping, and at the time I was not feeling creative enough to come up with a fancy Thanksgiving dish on my own.  I figured it would be a lot like the “roast beast” we had 2 years ago when I did this in St. Louis, and that had been pretty good.

While the oven pre-heated, I sliced potatoes, purple sweet potatoes, carrots, and brussels sprouts to roast.  The Tofurky was a lot rounder than the “roast beast” of 2012, so not as many vegetables fit in the roasting pan with it.  I decided to roast the brussels sprouts separately.

Our internet randomly stopped working, so I couldn’t look up my blog to see how I had made the baste last time.  Winging it, I mixed together some melted Earth Balance, garlic powder, and a dash of soy sauce.  (**Note to self: for future reference, leave out the soy sauce.  Add fresh sage**).  I put the non-brussel sprout vegetables in with the (thawed) Tofurky and covered them with the baste so the whole thing could start cooking.  Then I made some gravy—also winging it, with no internet to look up a recipe.  I used vegetable broth, more garlic powder, nutritional yeast, and flour.  I may have added some corn starch (and possibly a few other things) too, I’m not sure.  

Then it was time to start the dinner rolls.  I had found this recipe a few days earlier, but totally didn’t realize it took an egg.  I usually use ground flax seeds as egg replacers; this works really well for things like brownies, but I did not know if it was the best option for dinner rolls.  It was my only option at the time, though, so I decided to try it.

While the dinner rolls were (hopefully) rising, I put the brussels sprouts in the oven and then began the stuffing.  The Tofurky actually had stuffing in the center, but I knew from 2012 that it wasn’t going to be very much, and Rob really likes stuffing, so I wanted to make sure we had enough to make this a celebration.  I had bought some packaged stuffing at Whole Foods.  It had the word “vegan” on the label and all you did was add water (and some oil) to it, so I figured how hard could it be.

The dinner rolls seemed to be rising quite fine, which was a relief considering 1) high altitude -and- 2) flax seed egg.  I put them in the oven and wondered how long it would take everything to finish cooking 1) at high altitude -and- 2) with 3 different things in the oven all at once.

I sort of managed to get the kitchen cleaned up, and then it was showtime.  Only about 45 minutes later than I’d estimated.

Deeply engrossed in some sort of train game, Rob and Will grudgingly came to the dinner table (mainly, it was Will who was grudging).  Will took one glance at the motley assortment of Thanksgiving dishes and said, “That looks disgusting, I don’t want to eat it.”  

Will eventually conceded to have a dinner roll and some raw broccoli, and I think I fixed him some apple slices too.

Thanksgiving dinner

Rob and I sat down to the rest of the meal.  It was… meh.

The Tofurky was kind of tough and dry, despite all the basting I’d done, and the stuffing had weird tiny hard bits in it that I didn’t care for.  The vegetables were kind of bland, and I forgot, I still don’t like sweet potatoes (thanks, hyperemesis!) even if they’re purple.  The dinner rolls were a bit too sweet for my liking, and the gravy tasted like it was missing something.  The brussels sprouts were good though.

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Rob said he liked the dinner, and he and Will were both big fans of the rolls, so maybe I will be making those again.  We didn’t actually have as many leftovers as I’d been expecting, but the next day when I ate some of the roasted vegetables, I thought they tasted even better than they had for our Thanksgiving dinner.  Maybe I had just been too tired from my jaunt up Horsetooth and the subsequent hours in the kitchen to enjoy it, although I'd have thought that would make me enjoy it more.  I don’t know.

We waited several hours before eating the pumpkin pie later in the day.  Will was actually pretty excited about this, I think because some of the kids at school had been talking about pumpkin pie and he got caught up in it.  Also, once when he was 2 he ate pumpkin pie at daycare and I was told he really liked it.

Pumpkin pie

The pumpkin pie was… okay.  Rob and I are both not really “pie” people, but Rob bravely tried some and managed to get through a slice.  I do have a greater pie tolerance than Rob, but this pie was not my favorite.  It occurred to me as I took my first bite, that I do not really like coconut milk (the kind that comes in a can) and that was one of like 3 ingredients of the pie.  I had thought that the pumpkin and the spice would cover up the coconut flavor, but… you could definitely still taste coconut.  Which is great if you like coconut, I suppose.

On the bright side, Will did actually eat a piece of the pie.  With his hands.

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Pro-tip: I discovered later that the pie becomes amazingly fantastic if you warm it up (12 seconds in the microwave for a slice) and then put (vegan) chocolate chips on top.  Chocolate makes everything better.

We finished out the weekend with some light bouldering...

Stuck between a rock and a hard place


… a few great sunrises...

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… some movie watching...

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… and a trip to get a Christmas tree at the unceremonious location of a Do-It Hardware store near our house.  

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The proximity of the store did, however, allow us to revive a Ragfield Family Tradition that we haven’t done since sometime before Will was born, when we lived in Urbana.

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Will and I decorated the tree together while Rob went running that evening.  It turned out pretty nice, I think.  And Will was a great help.

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Next year, I promise I’ll get the Tofurky figured out, so hopefully you can enjoy it with us, Mom and Dad.

Thanks for reading.

IMG 4493A white butterfly for you, Jackson.  Love, Auntie M.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

You're Vegan What Do You Eat: Roasted Vegetable Salad

I think I have discovered the secret to life, and it is this: roasted vegetables.

Ever since the temperatures started dropping, I have been eating roasted vegetables all the time.  Every day.  Generally I eat them in salad, but it started out in a way that initially did not involve roasted vegetables at all.

I got the idea from this restaurant in Fort Collins called Garbanzo where we've occasionally picked up lunch or dinner.  It’s the kind of place where you can “build” your own meal, in the form of a bowl, wrap, or pita.  Well, I’ve become less and less fond of “wraps” over the years (generally too much wrap, not enough veggie), and their pitas contain milk, so I’ve always opted for the bowl.  It kind of opened my eyes to what you can consider a “salad.”  They scoop in different stuff according to what you choose.  So I end up with hummus, baba ganoush, tabouli, shredded cabbage, falafel, turmeric rice, etc.  It is not a lettuce based salad, which was kind of a new concept for me.

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One day I found pre-made falafel at the grocery store, and I decided to recreate a Garbanzo bowl at home that was even more to my specifications: mixed greens, onion, pepper, avocado, sautéed mushrooms, falafel, Dayia cheese, and my signature spicy sriracha dressing.  OMG, it was fantastic.

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The idea continued to evolve on Tuesday nights, which have become designated as “Taco Tuesday”  by William.  The rest of the family likes to eat their tacos in shells, but I’m just not a huge fan of shells or tortillas these days.  One Tuesday I decided to mix all my ingredients together in a bowl: salad greens, Boca crumbles, roasted potatoes and sweet potatoes, avocados, crushed tortilla chips leftover in the bottom of the bag (Rob calls these “Melissa Chips”), and, wait for it, spicy sriracha dressing.  Divine.

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It’s even better if you add Horsetooth Hotsauce and pair the dish with some kind of Fort Collins beer, served in a beer glass you won as an age group award in 30-mile trail run.

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Experimenting with Taco Tuesday salads broke the ice, so to say, for adding roasted vegetables to salads.  Now I add all kinds of roasted vegetables to my salad.  Basically, if it is a vegetable, you can roast it, and you can eat it in a salad.  My favorite by far is Brussels sprouts, but I’ve also become quite fond of roasted cauliflower and red cabbage.  The red cabbage in particular looks kind of gross, but I promise, it tastes very good.

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I’ve even occasionally used store-bought salad dressing.

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My protocol for roasting vegetables is pretty simple.  I chop or slice the vegetables into bite size pieces (for brussels sprouts, I cut off the ends, then cut them in half).  Then I dump everything into a big mixing bowl and drizzle it with: olive oil, sea salt, pepper, garlic powder (this is a must), and turmeric (this is also a must).  Supposedly turmeric has all these health benefits; I don’t know if the amount I’m eating in roasted vegetables is actually beneficial, but it tastes good, so it’s got that going for it.

After preparing the vegetables, I put them on a cookie sheet and then roast them for some amount of time—usually 15 to 20 minutes.  If I think about it, I may stir them around about halfway through.  I’ve found that roasting works at pretty much any temperature from 375 to 425, and cooking time varies accordingly.

On days when it is colder, or when you’ve run up and down Horsetooth Mountain and really need something to stick to your ribs, you can add a variety of other stuff to it too.  This hearty salad has: mixed greens, lentils, edamame, roasted Brussel’s sprouts, roasted potatoes, and some variety of Annie’s dressing.


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I feel like, unintentionally, eating roasted vegetables has drastically improved my diet.  Not like I really thought my diet needed much improving in the first place, but adding these daily salads means that now I eat a ton more greens.  The other thing about roasted vegetables is that they are just so satisfying, filling, and nutrient dense.  I no longer get that intense hunger and need to snack in the afternoons that I’d become accustomed to as part of long distance running.  Of course, that could be because this is sort of the “off season” right now, and I’m running less (heal tibia, heal) than I normally do.  So we’ll see.  But for now, I definitely feel fantastic about these roasted vegetable salads, and I’m pretty sure that I’ve stumbled upon the secret to life.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Dear William (63 months)

Dear William,

Today you are 63 months old!

Daddy was out of town for about two weeks this month, so you and me were on our own for a while.  

We climbed Horsetooth Falls, which at this time of year is really more about the journey.

IMG 4129 Is that a waterfall?

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We went to the CSU Homecoming parade and found a bounce house (you love bounce houses).

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We did some school work.

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You often convinced me to let you stay at the playground after school for a while.

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On more than one occasion, you convinced me to let you eat a banana in the bathtub.

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You made a few messes.

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We went to a Halloween party at the Gardens on Spring Creek.  It was, like, 80 degrees that day.

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Bike parking was at a premium.

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Then our friend Mel came to visit!! We were so happy to see her.

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We took a long drive and went hiking in the Poudre Canyon.

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We went out to dinner on a school night, at a Nepalese restaurant.  You were thrilled about eating naan and drinking orange juice.

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We were very sad when it was time for her to go.

IMG 4252 Don’t go, Mel.


But soon enough, Daddy came back home.

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And then it was time for Halloween.  You decided to wear your C3PO costume from last year.  Hooray!



There was a parade at school.

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Even the teachers dressed up.

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Then you had a room party.

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We did some light trick or treating that night. 

These aren't the droids you're looking for


This month, you surprised your mom and dad by showing us your fierce and fearless love for bouldering.





Mt. Margaret Trail

Mt. Margaret Trail

Mt. Margaret Trail
Arthurs RockArthur’s Rock

It has started to get cold out, but you and daddy bundled up and still biked to school.

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We finished out this month with a crazy snow storm and a few days of below-zero temperatures.  Welcome to Colorado, everybody says.  You and your dad still rode the bike.

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If this is any indication of what winter here is like, well then, I guess I am very much looking forward to when it is over.  Sometime next May.


William, I love you through and through.

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Love always,




IMG 4259 Your school picture.