Monday, October 31, 2011

We went to the pumpkin patch last week and our goal was to buy 100 pounds of pumpkins, because if you get 100 pounds, then the price goes down to $0.25 per pound. One of Emma's friends was with us and all the kids walked around the patch, grabbing pumpkins of all shapes, colors, and sizes, declaring each one the "perfect pumpkin". I was pushing the pumpkins around in a wheelbarrow, and as the load got heavier and heavier, I had to tell the kids not to walk next to the wheelbarrow because I expected it to tip at some point and I didn't want to crush any young children with tumbling pumpkins. I think I said, "Okay, that's the last one," about ten times, but finally we made it back. It probably shouldn't have been too much of a surprise, then, when the people weighed our wheelbarrow and we had 180 pounds of pumpkins! Sheesh. So, we have a LOT of pumpkins this year. We tried to give away a bunch to Emma's friend, but were still left with a huge amount.Steve carved a cute little one right away, and ever since then Emma has been begging to carve her own pumpkin. I was kind of against it but Steve said he would get some safer tools for her to use. I felt slightly better knowing he wasn't going to be just handing her a big old butcher's knife, but still a little nervous.She worked very intently for about an hour - apparently the little tools are not only safer but slower as well. I only came in the kitchen long enough to take these pictures. I couldn't bring myself to watch her for much longer than that because I expected blood to start gushing from her limbs at any moment.
Emma's pumpkin is the one on the right, and the other two are the pumpkins that Steve carved for Noah and Allie.
We've had these jack-o-lanterns out for two nights now, and they are already pretty deteriorated, thanks to our squirrels. They ate the one Steve carved awhile back, and they are wasting no time with these new ones. We can't remember squirrels eating our pumpkins before, but they are sure into it this year. Almost every time we pull in our driveway, it seems like there is a squirrel gnawing on our pumpkins. Weird.Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I have recently made three new cooking discoveries about which I am feeling kind of excited. It's very likely that no one else will be as excited as me about these things, but nevertheless, here they are:
1. Steve sometimes eats breakfast, but sometimes not, usually because he is in a hurry to get to work and doesn't have much time. I saw a really great way to make breakfast sandwiches on Pinterest a couple weeks ago, and thought they would be perfect for Steve (and anyone else who wants them) to have for breakfasts.
I used English muffins and bagel thins, but the bagel thins aren't quite as good as the English muffins. I only got them because initially I, for some unknown reason, only got one package of English muffins. When I went back to the store they were out of the whole wheat ones and I couldn't bring myself to by the white ones, so bagels it was. Ah well, live and learn. I also included sauteed spinach, eggs, soy "sausage", and white cheddar cheese. I wrapped and froze them all, and they are easy to thaw in the microwave for a quick breakfast or snack. They ended up being pretty delicious, and I will be making more of these for sure.
2. I have been seeing baked donuts on cooking blogs for awhile, and the idea seems pretty clever. However, I figured that most of the deliciousness of donuts comes from their being fried, so I did not rush out and purchase a donut pan. Eventually I couldn't resist anymore, and I decided that our first batch of donuts should be chocolate with chocolate icing. More "treat" than the donuts I will probably make most of the time, but I wanted the kids to warm up to these non-fried donuts, and also, I had half a carton of buttermilk in the fridge that I needed to use up.
Noah was so excited about making these donuts with me, and we both impatiently waited for Allie to wake up from her nap so we could all eat them together. Unfortunately, even though they were cute, these donuts were NOT good. I guess the buttermilk should have already been thrown out! We had to throw those donuts away, and I was starting to regret my donut pan purchase.
Luckily, I came across another delicious-sounding recipe for cider donuts and this one happened to also be much healthier than the first. These, thank goodness, were a hit! This afternoon we made our second batch of them in three days. Even though we just had them, the kiddos were pretty excited to have them again today - too excited, apparently, to let me take a picture!
If you ever try making donuts, it's a good idea to put the batter in a gallon Ziplock bag with a corner cut out and pipe it into the pans instead of trying to pour it in. I learned that the hard way. We also found out that, when sprinkling powdered sugar on the donuts, you should do it right before you eat them because if you do it on all of them at once, the sugar on the ones you don't eat right away will disappear. Then, of course, your children will insist that you add more powdered sugar before they eat those.3. There is a restaurant that opened up here a few months ago called Unforked. It's like a fast food place but with actual good food. They have this kale salad that is amazingly yummy, and sometimes we will go there mostly to get the kale salad. The other day I looked online to see if I could find that recipe anywhere, and voila! I tried it out at dinner last night, and it wasn't quite as delicious as the one at Unforked, but pretty darn close. I'm going to try to tweak it a little to see if I can get it to be exactly the same, but in any case, I see a lot of kale salad in my family's future!

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

I am pretty lucky, as far as cooking goes, that Steve and Emma will eat literally anything and Noah and Allie will eat most things. Even if something doesn't turn out very well, I know that Steve and Emma will still eat it, even if they are ("they" meaning Steve) making fun of it the whole time. In particular, I can think of a certain lentil casserole from a few years back that is still brought up around here from time to time. Still, even with his non-pickiness, Steve has always preferred to have meat at a meal rather than not.
Spicy African Peanut Stew served over Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread

Back on August 13th, Steve and I were having a discussion about how people in America eat so much more meat than anywhere else in the world, and Steve commented that maybe we could stop eating meat for six months, just to see what it's like. Because of his fondness for meat, I totally scoffed at him and said there was no way he would do it. I'm pretty sure that my skepticism encouraged him to do it even more, just to prove that he could. We were going to Waldo Pizza the next afternoon with my family, so we decided we'd still go and have our beloved Roasted Corn and Bacon Pizza there, but after that, no more. We did want to leave the option of fish in our diet, so for the next six months, Steve and I planned to become pescetarians.

On our first meat-free day, we went to Blanc Burgers for lunch. I ordered the lentil burger because it's delicious and I order it regularly, but I was still in doubt that Steve would actually stick with it. I never thought I'd see the day when Steve would order a lentil burger, but he did, and now we are roughly seven weeks into it and neither one of us has had a bite of meat.
Broiled Tofu with Mmm Sauce and Veggies

So far, I really don't think it's hard at all and Steve says he is not missing meat, either. I've cooked lots of new things, most of which have really been delicious. I already had several vegetarian cookbooks, but I ordered this one for new ideas, and it's awesome. Really, really awesome. There are a number of things I've made from that book that the kids have asked to bring to school for lunch the next day, which is always a good sign. I wonder if they're the only kids at their school eating tempeh tacos for lunch!

We like to eat out quite a bit, and at first we thought that might be tricky, but it's really not at all. Of course, there are always fish options at restaurants, but most places we go have other delicious meat-free options as well. We've been eating Thai food a lot, because you can basically choose from the entire menu and just order tofu as the protein instead of meat or chicken, but that is certainly not a problem because we all love Thai food. We have been invited to a couple picnics/parties where we had to eat before we went, knowing the only options there were going to be hamburgers and hot dogs. Also, some friends invited us over for dinner one night, along with a couple other families, and we worried about feeling awkward if they served meat and we didn't eat any. They knew about our no-meat thing, and sweetly ended up calling us beforehand to make sure it would work for us if they made pasta with shrimp and scallops. Absolutely no issue - perfect!
Tempeh Tacos with Yogi Gracamole (from the Peas book but not online anywhere)

My grandma and my parents (and apparently some of their friends and co-workers!) are wondering what we could possibly be eating, so I've posted some pictures of recent meals to ease their minds. Contrary to what some people think, vegetarians do have other options besides macaroni and cheese and cheese pizza! It's usually getting pretty dark these days by the time we eat, so these pictures are not great, but you can at least get the idea.