Sunday, October 31, 2010

Ready, Set....Vegan MoFo!

I'm busy mentally preparing myself for Vegan Month of Food right now.  My goal is to post something worth reading 5 times a week.  This will be my 4th year participating, and every year it slaps me out of my 1-2 time a week habit and into blog overdrive.

I have a few things planned- Some reviews, some recipes, some rants.  Mostly, I'm going to go with the flow and see what inspires me this month.  Lucky for you, I'm easily inspired.

If you're home on a sick day, bored or stalking me, just click on the "Vegan MoFo" labels to read my posts from past years.  Oh, heck.  I'll give you links.
2007    2008    2009

And I'll give you a photo of Billie Cat reaching for one of Mike's banjos.  Think he wants to learn to play?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Halloween Elves!

One of my very favorite things to do each year is to make the kids' Halloween costumes.  I don't do much sewing, other than mending, during the rest of the year.  I have plenty of good intentions to sew other things, but most of those items are tucked away in my little sewing desk.  

But letting the kids design their own costumes is crazy fun and I really love a good project.  So we go all out! 

This year they both wanted  to be elves (not the Santa variety).  So we busted out the mythical creature &  Dungeons and Dragons reference books and got to work designing.  Basically, they found items they liked in the books or thought them up on their own- I drew them out and then we headed to the fabric store.  

I seriously love it when these boys get into the crafty spirit.  They actually LIKE going to the fabric store!  The sewing process is something I mostly do on my own, but the boys helped refine the designs and recommend any changes needed.  It was sort of like Project Runway, but with a smaller budget and more felt.

G opted to be more of a nature-y elf with leaves around his collar and a leaf-shaped hat.

S is more of a warrior elf with totally adorable felt elf ears and wrist cuffs.  

I'm so excited for them to get to wear these this weekend!  Anyone else have some cool costumes they made?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Strawberry MIracle

One of the best parts of the kids' birthday cake was the strawberries.  Strawberries are their favorite fruit (and all-around favorite food on some days), but their birthday is in October- not exactly prime season for these little berries.  

But thanks to the miracle of hoop houses, we have locally grown, organic strawberries in October.  Pretty amazing, but it makes sense.  We're got fantastic sunshine well into fall in Minnesota (okay, except today).  Adding even a little greenhouse/hoophouse/old window pane over a garden can dramatically raise the temperature and extend the growing season.  These strawberries tasted almost as good as the June berries from our garden!  I'm tempted to start construction on one now so I can be eating garden berries in April!

Now more about that cake:  Out of endless possibilities of flavor combinations, the boys chose chocolate peanut butter with strawberries on top.  They couldn't really decide between chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting or peanut butter cake with chocolate frosting.  So I did what any chocolate and peanut butter lover would do.  I made both!

oops- forgot to take an inside shot until now.  Just a few slices left!

This cake has peanut butter cake with peanut butter buttercream and then chocolate cake with chocolate ganache over the whole thing.  It was kind of like a giant, cakey peanut butter cup (no complaints here).  

The coolest part was that all the kids at their party were asking for more strawberries before they even finished their cake.  Hooray for fruit-loving kids!

So grown up! 

Friday, October 22, 2010

Make Ahead Shells

This past week's "make ahead meals" included stuffed shells.  I'd be lost without these easy oven meals that I can prep on the weekend!

Weeks ago I found this "grand shell" Tinkyada pasta at some co-op besides my own.  Maybe Valley Natural Co-op?  Can't remember!   We love stuffed shells, but haven't made them in quite a while because that'd be really mean to Mike.  So I was thrilled to find some gluten free ones- especially Tinkyada brand, because that's our favorite brand.  

I very loosely followed Lucinda Scala Quinn's recipe from November's Living.  Basically, I just liked her idea of adding raddichio or cabbage to the shell mixture.  Great way to get more greens!  I would usually have just used spinach, but I used both spinach and savoy cabbage and it was great.  My favorite shell filling is the cashew ricotta from Veganomicon.  And, of course, homemade tomato sauce- This was my first jar from this year's batch- Yum!

And because I love Tinkyada pasta so much, here's a picture of our cat, Trouble Tinkyada.  She likes yarn.

 Another easy meal in my lunchbox this week was roasted carnival (or maybe acorn) squash with balsamic vinegar.  I paired this with all sorts of other veggies and soups in my lunches this week.

It's especially good cold with toasted walnuts and greens on top- Like a squash salad bowl.

I scooped some of this squash out of the peel tonight and added it to a hot skillet with leftover green beans and Tofurky Italian sausage.  Sounds a little weird, but it was amazing!  I will definitely be repeating that combination- sweet squash and spicy sausage with slightly crunchy green beans.  Wish I had more squash right now...

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Two-Cake Kind of Week

 I had really good intentions of posting up some photos and stories about the food I made earlier this week and last week.  I even took photos.  But things have been crazy busy lately.  I was preoccupied with planning my co-op's annual meeting (hooray for having 250 attend!  I'm super proud!), planning the stepkids' birthday party and making Halloween costumes.  But all that is almost over.  Annual meeting is done.  Party is tomorrow and cakes are in the oven as I type.  Costumes are almost finished- only some snaps and some stitching left to go.  I'll have 2 (eleven year old) elven creatures soon.

And in the middle of all that, Mike and I had our 8 year anniversary.  He got us this cake from CakeEater Bakery.  It's not only beautiful, it's gluten free and vegan!  And I didn't have to bake it!  This was a fantastic surprise and I'm going in to the kitchen now to eat some with a giant glass of almond milk...

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Thank goodness

Sometimes I'm super glad that there's convenience food. Usually I avoid it like crazy to stick to my budget, but tonight I'm just hungry and tired and so thankful that there was a Sunshine Burger in my freezer and an avocado in the fruit bowl.

Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

Sunday, October 3, 2010


 A few months ago I agreed to show my garden in St. Paul's  2011 West End garden tour.  Is it bad that I'm already getting nervous?

I'm not just nervous, of course.  I'm also really excited about getting to tell my garden's story and getting advice from all the other gardeners that will be visiting.  But there were some seriously amazing gardens on last year's tour (thousands of bonsai trees?!?!) and it's a bit intimidating.  

I show plenty of photos of my garden here, but that's a bit different.  I get to choose which parts to show you.  You've never seen the huge pile of logs in the corner of the lot that has vines growing over, through and around it.  Or the kids' play area that is a tangled mess of lilac bushes, battle weapons and forts.  You've never see me struggle to unleash my hair from the obstacle course that is the thorned berry patch.

I'm really hoping that this garden tour will help me see the garden with a new light and fix up a few areas that have been low on the priority list (like any part of the yard that isn't for food production...).  I'm getting started already- planning changes, making lists and mentally preparing myself to have hundreds of people in my backyard. I should be ready by summer, right?

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Big Apple

Sorry, New York.  I'm talking about an actual big apple here.  

We've been watching this apple for months.  You see, our apple tree produces fruit every other year and this year is NOT the year for it to make babies.  So when we saw this little apple starting to grow, we knew it was something special.

Normally we don't end up using our apples as eating apples- I make sauce or cider or butter, because our apples aren't usually the prettiest.  But somehow this apple was perfect!  You might look at it and see some spots or little blemishes, but it's by far the most beautiful apple we've grown.

I'm looking at our apple tree differently now-  I know what it is capable of and it just needs a little help to make all of its apples this beautiful.