Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Enter Fall...

I signed up to participate in the VeganMoFo...the Vegan Month of Food. It's not a competition. I always have friends asking me to post more frequently and I thought this could drive me to blog a bit more. Reading vegan adventures has always been a favorite pass time and I'm looking forward to daily inspiration.

Since my last post, Finn has grown several inches. He's also requiring a bit more exercise...We have found a great rhythm/schedule. 5:45 am - we're 0ut the door, across the bridge to the Soldier Field, the sledding hill, and a nice dose of furry friend chase. In the evening, B or lil' bro head out with us for about an hour and a half. If you have a puppy or are thinking of getting a puppy, my best advise is EXERCISE! I do not run with Finn or rid my bike with him. He gets to burn off his pent up energy on his own. Visits to the 12st Street Beach are on the top of his favorites list. He's become an excellent swimmer but seems to enjoy diving into the sand after a toy over retrieving from the lake. I will try and capture a movie of this activity, he's extremely silly.

Being settled into a schedule, I've gotten back into the kitchen. Before I get into the photo frenzy that typically occurs when I make something I find delicious, I'd like to discuss the difficulties of pleasing the vegan/non-vegan couple.

Perhaps because my veganism did not sprout from a strong moral belief against eating meat/ dairy (not that it's not present at all) but from a conviction of eating simply, more basic, and as low as possible on the food chain that I occasionally have a difficult time coming up with the week's menu. I strive to eat lower on the food chain because I've noticed that my body feel better, acts better, stays healthy when I practice veganism.

I would be perfectly happy eating a baked potato and brussel sprouts or a big juicy salad with what ever veggies were in the fridge, every night. B doesn't share this ability to eat same-same all the time, although, he can eat ham sandwiches, eggs, and grilled cheeses every day of the week for lunch. I guess it's up to me to provide the variation in the evening. The pressure to provide variation can be overwhelming.

I try and make at least one "meat thing" for B per week. The rest he's subject to the vegan diet, but he's picky! I haven't reached a point or become confident enough in my abilities to invent things off the cuff with the beautiful bounty I pick up from the market. No, I have to be planned...Case in point, I visited the Green City Market on Saturday. Yeah! First day of apples! I wandered around the market, two times (!) before I decided which vendor to purchase apples from. General produce for the week? Forget it! Because I didn't have a menu plan, I was completely useless. I felt like an ADD child in the biggest toy store, completely overwhelmed and I shut down. Too many ideas flying around in my head! I did, however, decide to buy some staples that I know I always need: shallots, onions, and garlic. Oh yeah, I also bought an eggplant. So random...

So my journey will continue. I will always be in search of interesting, low food chain meals that are different enough from one another that B will not get bored. I try and remind him of the nutritional value of everything that he eats...that doesn't really work on a 32 year old. I'm not saying he doesn't appreciate and even enjoy most of what I make. But I can tell he's thinking..."vegetables, again"... problem...I own 7 vegan cookbooks and 8 vegetarian cookbooks (I don't really look that those much anymore, everything seems derive it's flavor from cheese). The top two Vegan Cookbooks I own currently are the Voluptuous Vegan and The Artful Vegan. The reason I choose to pick up these two books over the other is variety and my "taste record." The VV has not failed me yet. Yes, the dishes are sometimes very time consuming, but if you love to create, what's the problem. The AV hasn't always hit it out of the park for B. I believe that taking high production recipes to the home doesn't always work. AV is also very involved and almost always calls for extremely random ingredients. Both books give terrific plating/presentation ideas which I can transfer to other meals easily. The AV has amazing photographs, the VV doesn't have any but I've gotten over it.

The other 5 books sitting on my shelf pose this problem: they all have very boring, generic, "fake-y," recipes. Boring: the recipes are not very inventive...yeah, I could think of not putting cheese on my pizza. Generic: who hasn't thought of marinating portobello mushrooms and grilling them? or blanched some beans then tossed them on a hot skillet with some garlic? "Fake-y": one thing B hates more than anything about vegan/vegetarian cooking-serving something that is posing as something else. I have to agree with him. I no longer call my tofu creamy toppings "sour creme" but what they really are, whipped tofu with blah blah blah (I put a lot of different things with my whipped tofu). So, using tons of seitan is completely out of the picture. Yes, I use tempeh and tofu, more often tempeh. But I don't think of it as a meat substitute. I think of it as a cube of rice type stuff that adds a nice crunch to dishes because I love marinated tempeh that's been baked.

I do enjoy the occasional Bocca Burger and in training for the Chicago Marathon a couple of years ago I was all about the Tofurkey Sausage. But I don't really see the need for all the protein in that form in my diet.

Although I'm not done and I could ramble for another hour, I'm sort of, actually completely, under the weather and I can no longer swallow so back to bed. I just wanted to be sure I posted on the first day of the VeganMoFo!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Over Two Months Gone By...

How many times do I start a post with..."Where should I start?" or "It's been a while..." So, no excuses (I feel like I have a baby on my hands and it occupies the majority of my time so it's not really an excuse, it's a reality, right?).

Finn is growing like crazy. He is 6 months old today! Yesterday, B & my lil' bro, F. & his lil' bro golfed 36 holes so I had a full-Finnegan day. We started out the beautiful Saturday morning by heading to 12th Street Beach, right next to the Planetarium at 5:55 am. Yes, wicked early for a Saturday. What a find! Dogs can be at any beach when the beach is closed...not great for my tan, but fantastic for my puppy! We played with a tennis ball & Finn frolicked in the water. We met 4 retrievers who were NUTS about swimming. Finn observed carefully but he is still trepidacious about "swimming-swimming". He typically swim-swims two times to get a ball. We are careful to throw the ball close to shore to build his confidence in the water. The other dogs we saw charged into the water and started swimming out to sea, without a ball being thrown! The owners all have 2 ball with them so they can "steer" their dogs when they get too far out. Enjoy a couple of photos of the Birthday Boy!

The photos in the water were taken in Michigan at my parents house the weekend following Mother's Day, hence the waders, the water was more than chilly. It was Finn's first time in the water. The first photo is a snapshot of what we call "Hog Dog". In subsequent visits to the beach, he looked like Tigger from Winnie the Pooh bounding through the water, almost like he thought he should be able to walk on top of the water. The last picture is Finn at 5 months or so. He's now about 50 pounds. I'll post a picture from this week...we'll be seeing Brooklyn, LR's puppy-Finn & Brooks are BFF.

While at my parents, we prepared a fancy Mother's Day Brunch. Crab Cakes with Mixed Greens, French Toast, Asparagus Fritatta with a Salsa thing, and Fruit Salad. Oh, I forgot to mention B & lil' bro's favorite, Maple Glazed Bacon.

I was commissioned to sew two aprons for Mother's Day for a friend which was such an honor. Of course, I was completely paranoid that first, she wouldn't like them, and second the recipients wouldn't like them. They must have liked them because the younger sister asked for one for her birthday! It starts small, right? LR is my model below.

B's cousin recently got married and I was invited to the Bridal Shower before hand. Here's the Bride-to-Be in a cute Brown & Orange Bistro I made.

I will leave you with my Appreciation Dinner from last night. Finn is going through a little phase...separation anxiety. Lil' bro has helped me out TREMENDOUSLY, getting a 6:45 am Saturday phone call, begging him to get in a cab asap and rescue Finn as the neighbors called the front desk to complain...taking a cab directly from the airport after a 2-week business trip so we could enjoy the Cubs/Sox game at Wrigley where they SWEPT the boys in black. Our friend, F. has also puppy-sat on a Saturday night. He couldn't even go out to get take out from downstairs! He put Finn in his kennel and by the time he was halfway down the hall, the crying/screaming/barking was too much for him. He called and asked for delivery! I wanted to give my puppy-sitters a well deserved meal...I don't think the Chicken was great but they seemed to enjoy everything. For your viewing pleasure:

We had Pommes Frites with Roasted Garlic Rosemary Aioli (the vegan version, of course).

The Vegetable Platter makes me miss catering...isn't it gorgeous? I made my new favorite Herbed Farm Dip to go along with the bounty. Another Vegan find. I also discovered that blanching the carrot boards & the pea pods makes them even tastier.

Appetizer time needed some meat for the boys so meat disks it was! Chorizo meatballs and Bratwurst. The boys were ecstatic!

And the main course, Garlic & Lemon Roasted Chicken with Bacon. Plating this also made me sad my profession isn't in food anymore.

What's an appreciation dinner without dessert? How do Chocolate Cupcakes with Strawberry Ganache & Buttercream sound? Yeah, I thought so...the table was quite for a while when it was time for the sweet treats. They honestly, are the best cupcakes I ever made. Would you like to purchase some? :)