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What I ate the day before the big day…

Nothing pleases me more than spending the majority of the morning in the kitchen. Chopping, sautéing, sipping coffee, listening to the Wailin’ Jennys (love bluegrass!) and watching my kids tramp around outside with Matty B? Nothing better.

But preparing for Thanksgiving is no small feat (even if you prepared like an expert) and it requires expert nutrition. Thankfully, I’m fairly confident in both my eating AND cooking abilities, so today was a win!

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Eggs and toast. Easy and satisfying. I added bell pepper and leek to my mess of a scramble. Without belaboring the fact, can I just mention how simple it is to be vegetarian and not vegan?

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The kids and I went to pick up my last (sniff) CSA share and on the way back, stopped at Starbucks. I tried their new chestnut praline thingy. What was I thinking? I knew, deep down in my heart, that it would be too sweet. It didn’t disappoint. Sickeningly sweet. I came home, made a keurig pod and then mixed half black coffee with half the chestnut praline. That made it palatable.

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Before you get all judgy judgy on me because my lunch was carrot/apple juice, let me just say that in addition to this juice I also had about five tastes of everything I was making including:

Potato soup
Cornbread
Balsamic/brown sugar reduction
Corn casserole
Fruit salad
Veggie tray

Needless to say I was very full.

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Yet, I was still starving for dinner. We went out to eat like every other person I know. No one wants to cook on Thanksgiving Eve!

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Veggie fajitas. Typical. Sour cream? Not as typical.

Good thing I’ve got the turkey trot tomorrow morning!

Maple Apple Kabocha Squash

So, apparently Kabocha squash is trendy.

I mean, I guess.

It seems odd to say that a squash is trendy (and I’m not on the front line of “trendsetters”- I just got on the leggings/boots bandwagon and now I find out that I’m supposed to get special socks that go over the leggings but under the boots and they’re supposed to show, but just a little bit? Bri! Help me!) but everywhere you turn, bloggers are waxing eloquent about the esteemed Kabocha.

1. How to cut and peel a kabocha.

2. Kabocha is a beauty detox!

3. Kabocha squash helped me win the lottery!

(Okay, that’s not real, but I’ll bet someone somewhere attributes their good luck to Kabocha.)

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I got a Kabocha in my CSA box. It’s been sitting on my counter cluttering things up taunting me.

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I didn’t really know what to do with it. Do I roast it, steam it, purée it? Do I wear it over leggings and under boots? I’m clueless!

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Roasting is my “go-to” cooking method, so I decided to mix it up. I actually cubed the Kabocha and boiled it in apple juice. Yeah. Is that weird?

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I used about 1/2 of the squash, cubed in 1 in. (or so) pieces and about a cup of apple juice, more or less. Then I simmered it for about 20 minutes.

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It tasted good- kind of tart. But I was looking for a little more sweetness.

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So I drizzled the Kabocha with (approximately) a teaspoon of pure maple syrup. That was the ticket! It was so good!

A little maple syrup oozed onto my cauliflower. That was pretty good too. Maybe I’ll start a maple syrup/cauliflower trend.

Or maybe I’ll just leave the trends to the trendsetters.

Now back to the boots, socks, and leggings. Are there any other rules that I need to know about?

Thanksgiving Prep

On a stress scale of 1-10, if 10 is J Man during a fire drill at school and 1 is Unk C at any moment of any given day, holidays tend to make me a very strong 9.

For Thanksgiving this year, we’re hosting family from Florida and Iowa.

You’d think that this might send me over the edge, into fire drill territory. I’m surprisingly relaxed. Eerily calm. Excited to see family, and feeling somewhat que sera sera.

However, if you’re not as perfectly mellow as I am:) here are my tips for relaxing Thanksgiving prep.

1. Light a turkey candle. This is a must.

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Bonus points if the candle is cinnamon scented or some other “fallish” scent.

2. Freeze whatever you can ahead of time.

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Freeze your apple pie (unbaked). This probably wouldn’t work with pumpkin, but I don’t eat pumpkin pie so this is of no concern to me.

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Freeze your ice cream. A no brainer, I guess, but especially helpful if you’re a rockstar like me who’s making her own homemade cinnamon vanilla bean ice cream. That’s right. I just won this game called Thanksgiving.

3. Eat all of the Chex mix.

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All of it. My favorite pieces are the whole wheat Chex. Matty B’s favorite pieces are the rice Chex. Our love is meant to be.

4. Channel your inner Martha Stewart and preset your table.

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This is tricky when you have two eager helpers with sticky hands and clumsy feet. I almost had a heart attack 11 times as I handed over Grandma V’s china to my well-meaning, yet 3 year old baby girl.

5. And then I took it a step further by setting out the dishes that I’d bake/serve each item in.

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You kind of hate me, don’t you? In my defense, I’m working this week AND J Man has a Thanksgiving program/feast that we have to attend AND I promised I’d help with Christmas shoeboxes AND it might be nice if we changed the sheets on the guest beds for our family…so obviously the #1 priority was knowing which dish the Brussels sprouts should go in. (Of course I’m making Brussels sprouts. No one has to eat anything they don’t want to eat on Thanksgiving which means I’ll have all the deliciousness to myself.)

6. Finally, my top tip for relaxing Thanksgiving prep?

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Lay on the couch and watch football. Go cowboys!

Also, I addressed my Christmas cards.

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Now you really hate me, don’t you?

She & Him, 47/52

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A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2014

She: Sitting patiently in her car seat, waiting, because J Man was inside, insisting on tying his shoes all by himself. Sigh…

Him: The expression I get when I say, “Don’t smile!”

Thursday Thoughts, XXI

1. I signed up for the Walla Walla Turkey Trot. I’m making Matty B and his brother and sister-in-law do it too.

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Today was a warm day. It’s been in the low 20’s most of the week. Andrew and Sara, bring your gloves. And hats. And snow pants.

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I’ve been preparing. Thank goodness for my yak tracks.

2. Yesterday was National Peanut Butter Lovers Day. How could I have missed that?

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This is my current stash. I’m getting kind of low.

3. 12 ridiculously hot products that every ridiculously cold person will want.

Yes to #’s 1, 15, and 19. Did you not see my frosty face above?

4. J Man has taken to writing us messages and posting them for all to see.

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Translation: No going in our room unless we’re in there.

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Translation: Be careful with our clothes.

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No, thank you.

5. I saw this in a magazine and I think I could totally pull it off.

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And then I read these Thanksgiving pinterest fails and now I’m sure it’s going to look like this:

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Any ridiculously complicated crudités platters on your Thanksgiving menu? No? Just me?

An announcement

So, I have something to say.

No, mom, I’m not pregnant. Good try.

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The picture above is a hint and if you’re much of a consistent Versatile Vegan reader, you might have your suspicions.

You might think that I’m more versatile than actually vegan.

You’d be right. And if we’re coming clean, I’m not at all vegan anymore.

It started innocently enough with the fact that I couldn’t handle soy or almond milk yogurt. So I ate regular Greek yogurt, but that was it. No other dairy.

But cheese? Oh, cheese. There is really no substitute for good cheese and I went through all the stages of grief with this one before I decided, why not cheese?

And then as I was training for my 1/2 marathon, I really started craving eggs. Yes, smelly, smelly eggs. I ate some the evening after I finished the race, hoping that the craving would be satisfied. It only seemed to fuel the fire. Now I eat scrambled eggs at least once a week.

And at that point, resisting the ice cream above seemed absolutely futile. I’m still very vegetarian, but I can no longer resist the siren song of real butter.

I felt like I had to tell you. Many of you have been with me for a good two years and I owe it to you to be honest. I feel like I’ve been pretending for awhile. Well, no more pretending.

Miss Rae just came running up the stairs.

“Mommy, will you play house with me? And let’s pretend that you’re the Mommy and I’m your baby.”

See? No more pretending!

I’m still going to yack about my running and my kids and the good food I eat. I hope you stick around!

Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes

So, Jack the cat died.

Mom, you might want to stop reading.

If you’re new, we moved in with Great Grandpa about 16 months ago. Well, we moved in with Great Grandpa and Jack the cat. (I’m not sure why we always add “the cat” after his name, but we do.)

Sadly, Great Grandpa died almost exactly a year ago. And last week, Jack the cat missed Great Grandpa too much and he died too.

Jack was old. Super old. And I was sad, of course, but kind of relieved that he didn’t have to endure another winter (he didn’t like to be in the house) and while I was certain that the kids would be sad, I wasn’t prepared for J Man’s emotional response.

My buddy burst into tears. He immediately wanted to know where Jack the cat was and questioned whether or not Daddy had thrown him very high into the sky so Jesus could reach down and take him to heaven. The theology might be lacking a little, but I assured both kids that we would see Great Grandpa and Jack the cat again when Jesus comes.

J Man was still pretty morose, so I suggested that he make a picture for Jack the cat.

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To translate, we’ve got a sign at the top with “No Jack”. Underneath he’s written, “Jack is a rock” and then that’s supposed to be a star. Jack’s house makes an appearance along with a pen drawing of Jack himself. The final word on the page, Jack, crossed out really gets me.

And now J Man is already talking about getting another pet. Oh boy…

I thought of Jack the cat tonight. Well, I actually thought of mashed potatoes, because that was dinner. Mashed potatoes always makes me think of Great Grandpa because he loved mashed potatoes and gravy. And thoughts of Great Grandpa led to Jack the cat.

Great Grandpa would actually have been pretty irritated with the way I prepared my mashed potatoes.

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I used cauliflower. With the holidays coming up, I’m trying to pre-watch my calories so I can have my Christmas cookies and eat them too. Cauliflower is lower in calories than potatoes, so that helps, but just plain mashed cauliflower isn’t my favorite.

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Two tips for making awesome cauliflower mashed potatoes
:

1. Use 1/2 potatoes and 1/2 cauliflower. I really truly couldn’t tell that I was eating cauliflower when it was mixed in with a small amount of potatoes.

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(Sorry for the foggy photos- my potatoes and cauliflower were steamy!)

2. Cook your cauliflower well. No one wants crunchy mashed potatoes and use a potato ricer. The mixture was super smooth and silky, just like mashed potatoes should be.

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Great Grandpa would’ve wanted nothing to do with my mashed cauliflower potatoes, but he would’ve been happy to know that J Man was so attached to Jack the cat (although I’m certain that he would’ve frowned on J Man’s idea for how Jack might get to heaven…)

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