Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Family, Food and Fun

Last weekend was family fun time. And it's never family fun time without food. I was invited  to a fall menu tasting at The District lounge last week. I was pretty excited because I love free food supporting local businesses. I'd been to The District before, my brother has played gigs there, but I've never eaten there. My original plan was to cruise there by myself - maybe meet my next husband (or next babydaddy?). But then I got a facebook message from my cousin that morning (that's the only way my family communicates these days) stating that she was going to be in town later that day for a fellowship interview. I hadn't seen my cousin in about 4 years, so I was excited to have her and my brother join me for the tasting.

The food was...good? The tasting didn't have a very large selection so we ordered a few items off the menu as well. I didn't jump up and down about it, but it was nice tapas pricing and you could certainly do worse in the U District late at night. My favorite was the Roasted Beet Carpaccio above. The free wine definitely made everything better. I'd say my enthusiasm ranged somewhere between my cousin's:
And my brother's:
After dinner we walked over to Flower's for drinks. We had a good time catching up and joking around:
My brother is not an attention-whore, at all.

Saturday was all about kids. It was the joint birthday party for my absolutely wonderful nieces Penelope and Charley!

My brother and I are very close. I'm also close with his ex-wife. On top of that my oldest, Malcolm, is only two months older than Penelope - so the kids are very close.
I love these girls like I gave birth to them.

Charley turned 7 this month and Penelope turns 9 next month. We had a small celebration at the local skate deck.

 I was very good - I turned down pizza and cupcakes, but I just couldn't turn down this:
I'm convinced that anybody who went thru grade school in America is forever addicted to these things. Orange creaminess...

I can't believe how big all the kids are getting. I still remember the baby smell they used to have. Now the girls are dreaming of boys and my boys are taking flight lessons:
More on Malcolm's first flight on a later post. I just can't believe how time flies. I'm so lucky to have so many amazing young people in my life. I get to watch them grow and see what sort of adults they will grow to be.

Friday, October 22, 2010

We Have A Winner!!

I'm happy to announce that our randomly picked commenter to win the $45 CSNStores gift card is:

Her favorite fall food is pecan pie. I must admit that's one of my favs as well. Anybody have any vegan recipes?

Hope, I will email you your gift card today. Congrats! Thanks to everyone who left a comment and became a follower of this blog. I hope to have another giveaway soon!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Peace and Comfort

I spent two years in a relationship where I felt betrayed, disrespected and unappreciated. I walked around with a  constant sinking feeling in my stomach that came from knowing that the thing that I wanted more than anything was eating me alive. When it all ended as badly as these things must, I spent two years mourning that horrible relationship. I raged that something so important to me could mean so little to someone else. I carried so much anger and hurt around that it changed who I was. I fed my anger and fear and sadness - literally. I would cry and eat and sleep. I tried to take comfort in the thought that perhaps my heavier self would not be attractive to someone as shallow as he had been. I wouldn't be so easily hurt. Then when I tried to lose weight it was purely out of revenge - to show this man what he missed. My life remained wrapped around a crappy relationship that doesn't exist.

When you have a child with someone who broke your heart, you can't just cut all ties and pretend that person doesn't exist. Not when you love your children and you know that your ex is a good father. Our families are forever intertwined, and though I have so much love for my ex-in-laws, it has been hard to not see them as a reminder of what would have been.

But this year when I contemplated dating again, I found myself making some of the very same bad decisions that had brought me to my current heartbreak. I realized that nobody was hurting me but myself. The anger and hurt that I was holding onto was more about not wanting to admit that I had sunk all my resources into a losing battle. That it was doomed from the start and I held part of the blame for not wanting to admit that at the beginning. I realized that it was taking all of my energy to be angry and hurt - energy that I could be giving to myself and my kids. So I let it go.

It wasn't very easy, and it wasn't very quick, but over the last 5 months or so I've let it go. This blog is part of that. This is about me and my life, which is pretty darn great. I'm happier and healthier than I have been in years. I have fantastic friends and family. I have a good job that I'm great at. I am constantly aware of how great it is to no longer have that pit in my stomach.

My ex's sister and I are closer now then we were during the relationship, especially now that her brother is (when not working together for our son) just some guy now. We even went to Maui together. She also came with me to support my brother during a comedy show that he performed at last weekend.
She is a truly wonderful person. A smart, supportive, funny and loyal friend. I'm so very glad that I met her and the rest of her family.

Honestly, I'm glad for a lot of it now. I'm so very glad that I met a man who is a good father and who gave me a beautiful, funny, energetic and loving son
And is a great little brother to my other amazing son.

I'm so glad that I got out of an unhealthy relationship before I had thrown more years of my life at it.

I'm so glad that I learned that I have fun, loyal, true and kind friends (any friends not pictured below, please know that I love you and just don't seem to have proper photo documentation).

I'm so glad that I learned that nobody is ever worth forgetting who I am at my core. I'm so glad that I learned that I can get past heartbreak fully intact, if not stronger, without turning to unhealthy distractions. My strength, intelligence and creativity are more than enough to get by.

Now, I'm not against feeling sorry for yourself every once in a while. I think that every loss needs a little time to be mourned. And I believe there are times when we all need a little comfort food. Like potatoes au gratin, or lasagna, or macaroni.
What's the secret to getting comfort without paying later? My awesome bechamel. I use it in so many recipes. A good bechamel should always be in your comfort food arsenal.

Spiced Bechamel
makes 2 cups

2/3 cup onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons Earth Balance butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups nondairy milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cayenne powder

In a large skillet, saute onions and garlic in oil over medium heat until carmelized, about 8 minutes. Remove and place in blender or food processor and let cool. Return skillet to heat and add butter and flour. Stir constantly until flour mixture is a nutty brown. Slowly whisk in milk. Add remainder of ingredients and cook for a minute or so. Take 1 cup of the sauce and add it to the blender or food processor with the onion mixture. Puree until smooth. Add the puree back to the pan and cook for another 2 minutes, adding more milk if needed for desired consistency. Serve over pasta, with potatoes, over toast - just about anything!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Fall is for Pancakes

I love pancakes on fall mornings. Don't they seem perfect on a lazy weekend? The air is crisp, the leaves are turning - you just want to fill your tummy with something warm and sweet and a bit spicy.

The inspiration for this breakfast came from this:
This sweet potato was threatening to take over the kitchen. As you can see, it's been hanging around for a while. I woke up this morning knowing exactly what I was going to use it for.

These sweet potato pancakes were a more than fitting use. They are warm, oh so moist, sweet and a bit spicy. Every bite is pure fall.

Sweet Potato Pancakes
Serves 4

1 1/2 cups flour (I used whole wheat pastry flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie seasoning
1 cup cooked sweet potato, mashed really well
1 tablespoon vegetable oil + any needed for griddle
1 1/2 cups non-dairy milk (I used soy)
1/4 cup brown sugar

In a large bowl mix flour, baking powder, salt and pumpkin pie seasoning. Set aside. In a smaller bowl, mix remainder of ingredients. Add to the flour mixture and stir just until combined - do not overmix. Cook on a griddle over medium heat, flip when edges are set and bottom is medium brown. Top with maple syrup and enjoy!!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Spaghetti - Kansas Style

Don't forget to enter my drawing for a $45 gift card to CSN Stores! It's easy! Click here>>

Family gatherings with my extended clan are usually hectic affairs.

People are coming and going, everybody's shouting, kids are jumping. I'd like to say that we all calm down to gather around the table, but we don't. I can't remember the last time we sat at the table at all. The table is just a place to hold giant pots of food while we all fan out around the house, lounging on chairs, squeezing together on couches, sitting crosslegged on the floor. And to add a bit of excitement to it all, we are usually eating spaghetti.

Now this isn't the spaghetti that will make your Italian grandmother proud. This is the spaghetti that will make my your midwestern grandma proud. My mom's family hails from Kansas and our spaghetti is full of Americana - a thousand pounds of ground beef, ketchup, Worcestershire...I know the sound of this might make some foodies cringe, but damn - it is tasty. Now that the weather has been cool, the kids and I have been craving that hearty fare. I decided to try to work up a vegan version of this sauce that tastes meaty and hearty - without forming an inch of yellow grease on top when you put it in the fridge.

I cooked this up yesterday and it definitely hit the spot. It was meaty, thick, flavorful, and made me want to take a nice carb nap. The kids seriously scarfed it down in record time.

Kansas-Style Spaghetti Sauce
Serves 6

1 8oz package Tempeh
1 cup onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, diced
1 medium zucchini, chopped
1 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms
28 oz can diced tomatoes
6 oz can tomato paste
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
2 tablespoons Braggs Liquid Enzymes or soy sauce
1 tablespoon dried basil
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Steam tempeh for 10 minutes; set aside to cool for a few minutes. Mash tempeh in a bowl with a fork until it approaches ground beef consistency. Stir in 1 tablespoon Braggs and the nutritional yeast. Set aside. 

In a large skillet or saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat and saute until softened, about 6 minutes. Press tempeh mixture into the pan and let it brown, then turn with a spatula and cook the other side. Go ahead and let it get crumbly.
Add zucchini and mushrooms and cook about 5 more minutes. Add remainder of ingredients: tomatoes, tomato paste, basil, cayenne, vinegar, and Braggs. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Serve!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

It's Giveaway Time! $45 Gift Card from CSN Stores!

Huzzah, another giveaway! I love giving things away. I really do. Usually, I knit things and force people to wear them lovingly give them to friends, but for those of you not in need of a new hat, you can win this gift card! The lovely people at CSN stores have sent me a $45 gift card which I've decided to share with you (because I need more readers your love).

If you missed my last CSN giveaway, here's a bit about them. They have over 200 stores with just about anything you can imagine for your home. You can use your gift card for something big, like these great drop leaf tables or maybe some great dishes or kitchen gadgets.

Even Marcus is excited about this giveaway:
 Ok, he's really just excited about enchiladas for dinner. But think of how awesome your enchiladas would be on your nice new table, or served in your nice new casserole dish?

"So Ijeoma," you say, "How do I win this gift card?"

It's crraazzzy easy, here's how to enter:

  1. Become a follower of this blog, if you aren't already.
  2. Leave a comment on this post sharing your favorite fall food.

That's it! You have until Thursday, October 21st at 10pm pacific to enter. I will randomly pick the winner the morning of the 22nd. Good luck - I can't wait to read your comments!!

Please note: gift card does not cover shipping and handling.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Art and Food

Last night was filled with two of my favorite things - art and food. I met up with my friend Michelle Khazak to make an awesome trade - art for crafts. Outside of being a totally cool person, Michelle is an extremely talented vocalist and painter. I met her thru my brother on music projects they've done together. Michelle proposed a trade of hat for painting.

I must say that this is the best idea in the history of all ideas in the world.

I met up with Michelle yesterday to exchange goods. She wanted something orangey-yellow, a bit fuzzy and slouchy. The hat fit her perfectly and the color looked fabulous on her.
She's a bit camera shy.

I do think I got the better end of the deal though. Check out this great painting!
Doesn't that look great with my orange walls? She painted this based on a piece of music that I sent her. I couldn't be more pleased. She has a lot of fabulous paintings. If you like to support smaller artists (and add awesome paintings to your walls), you should really take a look at her work. You can see her gallery here and her Etsy shop here.

After chatting in the coffee shop we were having such a good time that we decided to grab dinner and drinks. Michelle suggested 22 Doors, and I'm very glad she did! We sat outside on the covered patio, and even though it was chilly and raining outside, the heaters made for a lovely and comfortable atmosphere. I should also add that the service was great - very attentive without being annoying and very friendly and accommodating.

Makes me want to decorate my small patio.

Their tapas menu had a nice selection of veggie items and prices that kept my broke ass happy.
Fried cauliflower with cauliflower and truffle puree. Yum.

Gnocchi with asparagus, olives and loads of garlic. I ordered it without feta. Sooo yummy.

The drinks were fantastic. This warm concoction was another great suggestions of Michelle's
It's called Levitation. It has voyager gin, yellow chartreuse, averna, chamomile tea and orange bitters. I love that it was warm and comforting and not too sweet. Oh, and full of alcohol. That was a nice touch.

I also ordered another lovely warm cocktail. But I was too tipsy by then to take note of what it was called or take any pictures. 

After hours of gabbing we parted ways. It really was a fun time and I'm so glad that we got a chance to connect after years of traveling in the same circles.

After dinner I was still tipsy, so I made my way to Barnes and Noble. I don't know why I always find myself at Barnes and Noble after drinks, but I'm pretty sure the staff there is beginning to think I have a problem. I was not too tipsy to snap a pic of this magazine cover:

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Broke as a Mofo

While I certainly didn't make any extravagant purchases in Maui, this trip definitely tapped out my bank account. It's been a while since I've been so strapped until payday (which is still over a week away). I'm also PMSing, so I'm stressed, poor, hungry and in need of chocolate.

The one good thing about tight money times is that it forces me to cook all meals from scratch and try new recipes to accommodate my strange and limited assortment of remaining food items. I'm finally using the tempeh in my fridge that I've been too scared to try. I'm making seitan for the first time with the wheat gluten I bought months ago. I'm using every scrap of vegetable in my crisper. I'm eating more brown rice than any human being should.

And I'm making waffles, CHOCOLATE WAFFLES.

I was craving chocolate desperately, but had no money to go buy some. I don't usually eat chocolate, so it's not something I have in my cupboards. And honestly, even when I crave chocolate, it's usually chocolate things, like cake, not chocolate itself. And dark, fudgy chocolate. Lucky for me, I always seem to have cocoa powder left over from a previous birthday party or fancy dinner. I dug thru my recipe books and found these Chocolate Chip Brownie Waffles in Veganomicon. Due to pantry and taste constraints, I made a few modifications:
  • Instead of soy yogurt, I just used soy milk with a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to culture it.
  • Used white whole wheat flour instead of plain flour.
  • Used walnuts instead of pecans.
  • Omitted chocolate chips.
 There are no words for how delicious these turned out. Okay, there are words - words like DELICIOUS, FUDGY, CHOCOLATELY, AMAZING and PERFECT. They knocked my chocolate craving out cold without being overly sweet and the strawberries added a great freshness. The kids loved them too, but I was too busy shoving waffles in my mouth to take a picture.

For those of you who have this cookbook, definitely give this recipe a try. For those of you who don't have - hahah, that's just silly, OF COURSE you have this cookbook already.

Now if you excuse me, I have a giant pot of brown rice to make.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Muffins for Motivation

During this first post-vacation weekend, I wasn't motivated to do too much. But the universe doesn't care about my motivation. My mom and my brother were both moving to new residences and needed help, and Malcolm had not one, but two soccer games.

So I dragged my tired ass out of bed far too early (still on Maui time) and started making muffins. I made a giant batch and then we dashed out the door while shoving muffins in our mouths

We showed up at my mom's and the muffins quickly disappeared (my grandpa, with his Alzheimer's, can't remember much - but he never forgets his love of baked goods and he ate 5).

After a few hours of moving, we took a break to watch some soccer action.
The call Malcolm "the wall" - is that not adorable! Seriously though, nothing gets past him as a goalie or defender.
He's perfected the Oluo face of concentration.
Go Pirates!
Sometimes the excitement can be a little too much:

But at halftime big brother shows up to make it all ok - and also breaks out some sweet headbands!

Then it's back to the game. Marcus is now calm and ready to enjoy:

The headband adds extra fierceness:
The pirates are victorious!

Can I take a tiny bit of credit for such great morning muffins? Sure, why not

Banana Walnut Muffins
makes 16

2 cups white whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups non-dairy milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon flax seed
2 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
2 large ripe bananas - mushed
16 walnut halves for garnish

Preheat oven to 400. In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl or cup mix the milk and vinegar and let sit a few minutes to curdle. In another small cup, mix the flax and water and stir until gelatinous. Combine milk mixture, flax mixture, oil, sugar, nutmeg and vanilla. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir until just combined - do not overmix. Gently stir in banana and chopped walnuts. Fill greased muffin tins 3/4 full. Place a walnut half on top and pop in the oven for about 12-15 minutes until golden brown. Enjoy!