Monthly Archives: November 2010

Menu, 11/29 – 12/3, along with some Thanksgiving stuff


Last week, I didn’t do a plan, and I didn’t do much cooking.  I don’t even remember what we did on Monday, Tuesday we went to my parents’ house for an early Thanksgiving dinner, since the kids were going to their dad’s for the holiday, Wednesday, we just had falafel with pita bread and tahini sauce, and the weekend I just kind of grabbed some leftovers or peanut butter sandwiches.  I did cook for my parents on Thanksgiving, but not as much as I have in the past.  I am saving my serious cooking for this coming Saturday, when I think there will be a lot of people here.  (Ack, I need to do a lot of cleaning!)  On Thanksgiving, I made cranberry sauce, mashed sweet potatoes with maple syrup and margarine, mushroom gravy, roasted Brussels sprouts, seamed green beans, and a roasted buttenut squash dressing.  Here is a picture of the meal:

The dressing was based on the carmelized onion butternut roast with chestnuts from Veganomicon, but I didn’t make it to the store, so I substituted walnuts for the chestnuts, a loaf of cubed cranberry pumpkin seed bread for the beans, and left off the breadcrumb topping, although I did add the seasonings to the casserole.  It was a huge hit–both of my parents loved it.  Also, since we had done the whole turkey dinner thing onTuesday (except I didn’t eat any turkey of course), my dad didn’t even bring any turkey, and we all ate the vegetarian meal,which was pretty cool.

Anyway, on to this week.  I actually didn’t make the menu and get to the store until today, but I wanted to put yesterday on this menu, since the idea is to help with future planning after all.  I did most of this menu and the grocery list while the girl practiced putting contacts in and out of her eyes for the first time in the optometrist’s office.  Way to plan ahead, huh?
Monday:  Chickpea noodle soup, from Veganomicon, without the mushrooms, since I am the only one who likes them (and we were out anyway), leftover steamed green beans and spinach

Tuesday:  Roasted butternut squash risotto, steamed broccoli

Wednesday:  Borrachos, whole wheat tortillas, sauteed turnip greens, steamed sweet potatoes

Thursday:  Fried rice/quinoa, cucumber wontons

Friday:  Pizza, one with chickenless strips and pineapple, one with sausageless Italian sausages

Saturday I am making a big meal for some friends.  I don’t have a full menu yet, but here are some things I am thinking of making:


Main meal:


  • cranberry upside down cake
  • double layer pumpkin cheesecake
  • apple cranberry crisp

I hope it is enough food.

What we actually had for dinner 11/14 – 11/18 (with pictures and notes)


In order to help me plan better, I decided I should document what I actually do with my plans, so I can use that information for future planning.  So, I took pictures of our dinners each night this week, and I am gong to compare the plan with what happened, along with notes about what changes I made to the recipes.  The pictures are not that great, but I have hungry children waiting to eat when I put this stuff on the table!

Sunday plan:  Carmelized Onion-Butternut Roast with Chestnuts, roasted Brussel’s sprouts, cranberry sauce

What we had:

Exactly what was on the menu.  It was so delicious, too!  Okay, I was the only one who liked the Brussels sprouts, but I only made the kids eat two bites, and they survived, and I liked them enough for everyone.  Both kids like butternut squash, so that was helpful. This was the first time I had had chestnuts.  They were good, but kind of expensive.  We will be having this again.

Monday plan:  Mole Skillet Pie with Greens, steamed broccoli, orange/blackberry fruit salad

What we had:

Pretty much what was planned, except that Trader Joe’s didn’t have any blackberries, so we had blueberries instead.  I know, totally out of season, but I am making many efforts to eat seasonally, and sometimes I just crave the out of season stuff.  As for the mole skillet pie, did you go to the link?  It has chocolate in it!  It was awesome.  I used turnip greens from the garden, and I added a grated zucchini to the filling because I had a zucchini in the fridge and I wanted to use it before it went bad.  My mom was over for dinner this night, and she said I should definitely make it again, which I was already planning to do.

Tuesday plan:  Tempeh noodle casserole, steamed broccoli/carrots/snap peas, pineapple

What we had:

I volunteered at the elementary book school fair from 4 – 6, then we had to walk through the book fair and pick out some books, and then we walked home, and we had a pretty short amount of time to get dinner cooked, served and eaten before the kids were picked up by their dad.  Fortunately I had some gnocchi and a jar of sauce in the cabinet, which I can get on the table in 20 minutes from taking out the pot.  I added some frozen peas and a bit of baby spinach, and rounded out the meal with some steamed green beans and applesauce.  We all liked this, and it saved us on a busy night.

Wednesday plan:  Lentils and rice with carmelized onion tahini sauce, beets, steamed sweet potatoes

What we had:

I got this started, with onions carmelizing on the stove, and brown rice and quinoa in the microwave steamer, when I found that I was out of tahini!  How could this happen?  I definitely need to head to the international foods store for the big tub of tahini this weekend–that is the best part of the meal!  It was still pretty good, though, although the beets were a bit old, and neither the boy nor I liked them (the girl doesn’t like them anyway.)  I spent all of the time that I would have used making the sweet potatoes looking for tahini, so we did without and I grabbed a bag of broccoli and cauliflower florets I could throw in the microwave for 5 minutes instead.
Thursday plan:  Peanut noodles, steamed green beans, green smoothies

We ate the green beans on Tuesday, so those weren’t available tonight.  The peanut noodles had plenty of veggies, though, so I decided to just forget that element of the meal.  I made a double batch of the sauce, and used a tub of Healthy 8 diced veggies from Trader Joe’s, along with a pound of extra firm tofu.  Personally, I think that if this was the only recipe I ever got off the internet, it would be worth it, because it is just so darn awesome, but the kids aren’t really fans.  Of course, the boy said he didn’t like it, but still had seconds; the girl didn’t eat much.  We all liked the smoothies, though.  I used 2 cups of calcium-enriched orange juice, 1 cup of vanilla soy yogurt, 1 cup of blueberries and a bunch of baby spinach.  The girl does not like that they are green, but she does like the taste.
All in all, a pretty good use of the plan.  We mostly had what I planned on, with some slight changes in the side dishes and one wholesale substitution.  I think we did get a fair amount of fruits and veggies with dinner, and I ate a lot of leftovers for lunches, so I got plenty of veggies during the day.  The kids did bring some baby carrots, so they did get a bit more veggies, although we are still working on that.

Book review: Buzz: A Year of Paying Attention by Katherine Ellison

Standard I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, I am currently investigating the possibility that my son might have ADHD, and I am newly diagnosed with the condition myself, so I have a lot of identification with this situation. Many things that Ellison describes in this book seemed right on target. I recognized many situations, which was validating. Also, she has some very good suggestions and does a fairly thorough review of the treatment philosphies and options out there for this condition.

On the other hand, she seems a bit overly antagonistic toward her son at times. I understand that there are two things going on here, probably: her need to make people understand that this really is outside the normal high-spiritedness of kids, and does deserve a diagnosis and support (because there is a lot of bias toward this diagnosis, and a widespread belief that the condition doesn’t really exist), and the fact that she is focusing on the difficult behaviors because that is what the book is about. However, it seems she could have done that in the context of a more well-rounded view of her son and their relationship. For the first third of the book or so, this kid sounds terrible. She talks so much about how he hurts his brother, I started to wonder why she didn’t consider institutionalizing him. Once she established the severity of the problem, she did seem to back off that a bit and he sounded like a not bad kid who happens to have some difficulties, but geez, it was a bit much. Also, it seemed farily clear that the biggest thing that she did during this year of working on her son’s problem was to stop seeing him as the enemy and start working with him rather than against him, which I found a bit frustrating. Parenting 101: you never win a power struggle with your kids. Never. This has nothing to do with ADHD.

That said, I read the book in less than 2 days after it came in the mail, and I feel that I learned a lot from it. I particularly liked seeing this Pulitzer prize winning journalist struggle with the same day to day tasks that trouble me. It makes me feel better about my potential and the accuracy of my own diagnosis. I appreciated Ellison’s bravery and honesty in detailing both her son’s and her own behaviors that were, at times, (far) less than perfect. All parents have an ideal that they strive toward as a parent, and they all fall short at times. Showing her own failures opens her up to negative feedback that must be difficult to hear. Despite my criticisms above, I could clearly tell from this book that Ellison loves her sons and is a good parent to them. Overall, definitely recommended, despite my annoyances with a few points.

Menu, 11/14 – 11/18


I am continuing my quest to make more of the delicious recipes from Veganomicon this week with two casseroles.The girl will probably not be happy (she doesn’t like her food to be touching!), but I am really excited about these recipes.  The menu only goes through Thursday this week because the kids are going to their dad’s on the weekend, and I get paid on Friday.  I will probably eat something out on Friday, then do a new plan on Saturday.

Sunday:  Carmelized Onion-Butternut Roast with Chestnuts, roasted Brussel’s sprouts, cranberry sauce

Monday:  Mole Skillet Pie with Greens, steamed broccoli, orange/blackberry fruit salad

Tuesday:  Tempeh noodle casserole, steamed broccoli/carrots/snap peas, pineapple

Wednesday:  Lentils and rice with carmelized onion tahini sauce, beets, steamed sweet potatoes

Thursday:  Peanut noodles, steamed green beans, green smoothies

I am going to use up some of the turnip greens that are still going strong in my garden despite the frosty nights, and the butternut squash I still have from the garden, so I am still using some garden produce!  You can also see how much I love carmelized onions in this menu.  I tried to add plenty of plained steamed veggies and furits to the menu so that the girl doesn’t starve, but I know she will also be happy on Tuesday and Wednesday–even though the main dishes on those nights aren’t plain foods, she still likes them.  I am going to wear her down eventually on the casserole thing, I am sure of it!

Some thoughts about last night’s dinner


  • It turned out to be more universally orange than I was anticipating.  It still had plenty of nutrients, but the plate would have been more interesting if we could have seen more colors.
  • The hot sauce glazed tempeh was amazing, and even better the next day.
  • This is a huge casserole.  We had a friend over, and only ate half of the casserole.
  • The nine corn tortillas that I had on hand were enough, although the 12 called for would have provided better coverage.  I was maybe just a little bit crazy trying to make the pieces I had cover the whole layer.
  • I added a diced Anaheim chili to the veggies (you knew that was coming, didn’t you?)
  • Obviously, the lack of garlic in the original recipe was an oversight.  Who would purposely leave garlic out of such a recipe?  Crazy peole, that’s who.  I added about 3 or 4 cloves of crushed garlic after the onions had cooked for a few minutes.  I also added just a bit more cumin.
  • Overall, it was delicious.  I will just have a non-orange vegetable instead of the sweet potato next time.

Menu for the week of 11/8

Standard I know, this week is more than half over when you consider that I only made a Monday through Friday plan, but I want to document it anyway. I like to look back at old menu plans when I am making new ones, and my usual method of writing the menu on random pieces of paper is not very helpful for this. Plus, I can add notes on what I actually did this way, which is also useful.

Monday: Chickpea Noodle Soup (from Veganomicon), apple cranberry crisp

I was going to make grilled cheese sandwiches with some shredded Daiya cheddar cheese, but I didn’t make it to Whole Foods to get the cheese, so we did without. Also, I added some spinach from the fridge and chopped turnip greens from the garden to the soup. The kids were unimpressed with the addition of the greens, and with the mushrooms called for in the recipe, but I am hoping to wear them down eventually.

Tuesday: Orange Roasted Tofu and Broccoli, brown rice and quinoa, pineapple, roasted butternut squash

I substituted broccoli for the asparagus called for in the recipe (because the kids actually eat broccoli), and added a lot more—two 14 ounce bags of florets. I also doubled the sauce to make sure there was enough. The butternut squash wasn’t on the menu to begin with, but I had gotten a bag of cubed squash from Trader Joe’s to make risotto last week and only used half, and I decided to use it up while it was still good. I just sprinkled it with some cinnamon and nutmeg, sprayed it with some cooking spray and mixed it up a bit, then tossed it in the oven where I was roasting the tofu and broccoli already. The kids liked this, which is fantastic!

Wednesday: Fried rice/quinoa, made with tofu and chopped veggies, plus Island teriyaki sauce

I know, that is two nights of vaguely Chinese tofu and rice dishes in a row. Originally this was supposed to be Thursday’s dinner, but my friend Andrea is coming over tonight, and she will appreciate the original Wednesday menu more than the kids will, so I did a switcheroo.

Thursday: Chilaquiles casserole, hot sauce glazed tempeh, steamed sweet potatoes

I am hoping that if I steam a bunch of sweet potatoes, the kids will take some in their lunches. They actually like sweet potatoes. I am really trying to get more veggies in their lunches, because they cannot eat enough at dinner to cover a full day’s supply, and that is where they eat most of their veggies now. Oh, and I personally am really excited about the hot-sauce glazed tempeh! I am thinking of making a double batch so that I have leftovers for a long time.

Friday: pizza, baby carrots, green smoothies

I don’t think the girl is going to be excited about the green smoothies, but the boy will! And everything goes better with pizza, at least around here.

I haven’t really thought through the weekend, but I have plenty of stuff around the house.  I am going to so some more planning this weekend.  I would like to avoid going to the grocery store until payday on the 19th.  I could buy groceries (although not many!), but I want to try to use up what I have and see how creative I can be.  I suspect there will be at least a short trip to the store for fresh fruit and veggies, but I am going to see what I can do with what I have first.

Using up the garden: Various saved up pictures and meals


wwwI have been cooking and using the garden produce, but I haven’t had a lot of blogging time to post about it, so this post is just going to be a mishmash of what I have available. First, pizza!

Here are two mini-pizzas with some chopped Anaheim chilis and basil leaves from the garden, along with some chopped mushrooms from the fridge:


And here they are out of the oven with Trader Joe’s sausage-less Italian sausage and Daiya mozzarella added to the top:

The next day, I used the rest of the basil I had picked to make some awesome, garlicy pesto. I didn’t really follow a recipe for it, I just added a bunch of washed basil leaves to the food processor along with some minced garlic, nutritional yeast and pine nuts, then streamed in some extra virgin olive oil while pureeing. So good! I used a little of it to mix with tomato sauce for some more mini-pizzas, but I didn’t take a picture of those.

I decided to use a bunch of the pesto to try and recreate a veganized version of the pesto cavatippi dish I like to get from Noodles & Company. Every once in a while I get this dish without the cream or added Paremesan, and it is so good. I am sure that there is some more parmesan in their pesto, but I try not to think about it, because I do love me some pesto. But, I thought I could surely do better at home with my fresh pesto, and looking at the nutritional info on the Noodles site, I think mine has to be better on some of those categories as well (particularly because mine has no cholesterol or saturated fats!)

Anyway, here is the picture:

And here is what I did:

Olive oil, 1-2 TBSP
1 pound of tofu, cut into small-ish squares
1 cup of sliced mushrooms
1 onion, diced
1 or 2 Anaheim chilis, diced (frankly, I am not certain about this one, but I have been adding them to everything–Marsha gave me some extras, in addition to the ones I have still growing outside, so I probably added these)
1 pound of whole wheat pasta (rotini is what I had on hand)
About half a cup of pesto, maybe more (I didn’t really measure, sorry!)
3 – 4 cups baby spinach

Start boiling the water for the pasta. Fry the tofu in the olive oil until browned on at least one side. I did this slowly, over medium-high heat, while I chopped the other veggies and chatted with my mom. This is one of those things that just takes some time, and you don’t want to stir too much, which is one of the hardest tasks for me. Add the pasta to the water in the other pot as soon as it is boiling. Once the tofu is browned on at least one side, addethe onions, mushrooms, and chilis. Gently fry all the veggies with the tofu, stirring occasionally. When the pasta is cooked al dente, ladle out a cup or so of the pasta water to add to the sauce, then drain the pasta.

What I did next, versus what I think will work better next time:

Actually did: Add the pasta to the skillet with the tofu and veggies, then add in the pesto and the reserved pasta water. Stir to mix, then add baby spinach in handfuls, covering to let the spinach wilt, then stirring and adding more until the spinach is all incorporated.

Next time I will: Add the pasta water and pesto to the skillet with the tofu and veggies, stirring to make a slightly thinned out pesto sauce, adding enough liquid to make it saucy, but not so much as to make it too thin. Add the pasta to the skillet, stir to combine, and then start adding the spinach a few handfuls at a time.

I also added a bit of Trader Joe’s everyday seasoning to this, because I add that to a lot of things these days. If you don’t have a Trader Joe’s nearby, or you don’t want to use a seasoned salt, Mrs. Dash salt-free seasonings are a good substitute.

I meant to add some cherry tomatoes to the skillet right before the pasta was added, so that they would cook down some but not completely lose their shape, but I totally forgot. That would make it more like the restaurant dish, as would a bit of wine, but I forgot that, too. Next time, I will probably add a little bit of wine with the pesto, maybe half a cup of Pinot Grigio.

I still have just a little of the pesto left, but I am not sure what I am going to do with that yet.

The rest of the season in basil:

  • Mostly, I just went out before cooking many, many things and got a small handful of fresh basil leaves to add to the dish. 
  • I did make the Sweet-Basil Tapenade from Veganomicon for my birthday open house, but I forgot to put it out, :-(. I ate some of it after the party, though, and it was a mixed success. I have been using the Grade B maple syrup lately for it’s richer maple taste, and that may have been a bit too much for the tapenade–I suspect it was supposed to be mostly pesto-y with some sweetness, but it was very sweet and maple-y, just a little too much. I may try again next year with some Grade A maple syrup, or less syrup or something. 
  • Like the mint, I should have been using more of this earlier. Although I did use basil a lot when it was growing strong (I don’t think there was a week that went by once it was coming in that I didn’t use it two or more times per week in recipes), I could have used a lot more when it was growing back in almost as fast as I picked it. I could probably have made a big batch of pesto every week and popped it in the freezer without noticing a decrease in the amount of basil I had available for other uses. 
  • Next year, I want to try basil lemonade, like the mint and lavender lemonades that I made this yea
In other news, I still have a lot of greens to use. For brunch last weekend, I made the Collard Greens and Sausage recipe from Vegan Brunch, although I used turnip and mustard greens, mostly. It was really good, although I think I could have cooked it a bit longer. Doesn’t it look pretty, though?

I made pumpkin pancakes and cranberry ginger sauce from Vegan Bruch as well to go with, along with hash browns. Such a yummy, nutritious and filling brunch!

I have a LOT of parsley out in the garden. I cannot believe how well that herb is still growing. I gather that it is supposed to be biennial, but it never died off this summer, and it is still going strong out there. I think I am going to ask a friend to let me use her dehydrator to preserve the rest of it soon, because I don’t want to just let it die, but I am not sure what else to do with large quantities of the stuff. Another thing to research for next year.

Here is a mostly non-garden dish, with some pretty parsley sprinkled on top:

The garden is mostly done for the year. I have a few Anaheim chilis, and some turnips and beets to dig up, along with all the parsley, but my days of going out to pick dinner ingredients are numbered. I still have a big adventure figuring out what to do with all the turnips that are coming in, but for the most part, the work and preserving food is finished. I think I did pretty well this year, barring the time when I was broken and couldn’t do much. I am feeling pretty good about expanding the garden next year, and now I just need to start planning what I want to do with all the extra space. Also, I want to review these posts about what I did this year and what I want to do differently next year, along with some research for new things I can do next year to make sure I grow what I want and preserve it well. I have a few things that I will carry into the winter months this year, but not many. Next year, I would like to do a bit more preserving for long term. So, I don’t have to stop obsessing about the garden after all, even though this season is ending! That is a post for another day, though.