15 December 2014

Vegan Kid: 2 Years

Our Woodrow Fox turned 2 a few weeks ago.  It's really hard to believe we are here, 2 years on from having our wee little baby, now with a full blown little boy.  A sweet and sensitive, rough and tumble ball of energy.

Woodrow is fiercely independent these days, wanting to do and explore all on his own and I have been trying to sit back and let him take (safe) risks even if it means I'm a stressing out about the cookie that might now be perfectly cut, the tumble he's about to take or the milk he's about to spill. It's all about learning after all.

For all his independence he's had a difficult time adjusting to more time away from me.  We started daycare 1 day a week about the time of his birthday because I felt I needed a full day that I could dedicate to work without interruptions.  It's made for a challenging few days (and half days) full of tears (for us both).  But after we started having Mark drop him off in the mornings, it seems the transition has eased a bit.  He's in a small home setting with only 2-3 other little ones and a wonderful caregiver, so we're crossing our fingers it will work out.

Between a constant stream of chatter (just like his mama), moving into a big boy bed and weaning, it seems all bits of baby are gone.  (Except for the diapers - and I will NOT miss those when they go!)  Our breastfeeding relationship came to an end about 2 months ago.  Although I had been hoping to breastfeed until 2 years, I had to stop abruptly after requiring a CT scan with contrast dye.  That dye took 2 full days to flush from my system during which I couldn't nurse, and after that the hard part of weaning was over so we just went with it.  In retrospect it was probably the least stressful way that I could have approached the situation as I wasn't able to give in to his requests for "mama milk", and all in all I'm very pleased with having nursed until 22 months.

My sensitive little guy has also taken to requesting me to read Are You My Mother? lately and he gets all teary at the end of the story every time the little bird finds his mama.  My heart!  And so we've been spending lots of time together still and have ourselves a new Saturday morning standing date of swimming, followed by a stop at the cutest little bakery for coffee & vegan donuts.

Aside from the overly chlorinated pool, it's kind of the best thing ever.

14 December 2014

Vegan Empire Cookies

They say that absence makes the heart grow stronger.  I like to think it also makes the cookies taste all the sweeter!  I am really quite excited to share a doozy of a cookie with you today.  Not only because they're vegan empire cookies, which are sweet and lovely and jam-filled, but also because I'm sharing it as part of Kristy's awesome vegan cookie swap party over on Keepin' It Kind! 

The darling, delicious little sandwiches are perfect for any holiday party, Christmas cookie plate or even a high tea. They're composed of a light, lemony shortbread cookie that creates a sandwich filled with raspberry jam, and then to top it all of, they're finished with a dollop of vegan buttercream. 

In one word, they're heavenly.  And more-ish.  As in I want more and you will too!  Head on over to Keepin' It Kind for the full post and the recipe.   

I'll be back soon with a much overdue little update on the wee little vegan in our house!


25 November 2014

Winter Kale Salad with Avocado + Pomegranate

It's always about this time of year that I begin seeing giant displays of pomegranates pop up in the grocery store.  Their gorgeous pink hue always beckons me closer and I inevitably leave with one or two in my shopping bags.  More often than not I do nothing special with them, other than eating the entire harvest of arils straight up with a spoon, but sometimes I manage to wait long enough to add them to a dish.  Proper like.

Recently while at home visiting my parents I added them to a super simple massaged kale salad (literally the only 3 ingredients were kale, pomegranate and dressing) and it was amazing.  I decided to recreate it and to add a few more ingredients to really make it complete.  I was not disappointed with this wonderous salad - but really how could I be with nature's very own sweet tarts in the mix?

Also, poms just have a way about being festive, so I feel like any recipe making use of them automatically can be considered holiday-meal appropriate.  (ie. I will be bringing this salad to any holiday potlucks I get invited to!)

Winter Kale Salad with Avocado + Pomegranate 
serves 6

1 head kale
1 pomegranate or 3/4 cup POM POMS Fresh Arils
1 avocado, diced
1/4 cup roasted pumpkin seeds
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp maple syrup or agave
sea salt & freshly cracked black pepper

Prepare the vinaigrette dressing by whisking together the oil, lemon juice, sweetener and salt and pepper to taste.  Set aside.  Wash and dry the kale leaves.  Strip the greens from their tough stem and chop or tear leaves into small, bite-sized pieces and place them in a large bowl.  Drizzle kale with half of the dressing and using clean hands, massage into the kale for 2-3 minutes.

Remove the arils from the pomegranate and add to the kale along with the avocado and pumpkin seeds.  Add the remaining dressing, toss well and serve.

If you are craving something sweet, I've been adding fresh pom arils to my vanilla chia pudding and it's so yummy - it really perks up the flavour!  This recipe for POM Sorbet also looks great - and I'm sure you could substitute a quick simple syrup in place of the corn syrup it calls for.

Also, if you're still spending a lot of time and frustration trying to seed your pomegranates, then you need to watch this video!  The wooden spoon technique just might be my favourite kitchen hack.  It's SO easy.  GAME CHANGER.

What's your favourite way to enjoy pomegranate season?  Please share in the comments!

Disclaimer: POM Wonderful provided me with pomegranates which I happily consumed in all sorts of delicious ways.

09 November 2014

Banana Bread Cookies

Cooking with kids has always been something I enjoyed.  I loved sharing in food preparation on canoe trips that I led when I worked at summer camp.  Later on in teacher's college I found ways of incorporating cooking and baking into lesson plans and carried this on to my work at our local food co-operative, doing hands on demos.  But I've really found a whole new love of it in baking with Woodrow.

He is always SO eager to work in the kitchen.  Often times it's as simple as making pancakes or oatmeal in the morning (He adores scooping the oats and chia seeds into his bowl and sprinkling cinnamon and nutmeg on top!) and baking has become one of our favourite afternoon projects.  I usually keep things fairly healthy and load the bowl up with fruit or veg - carrot, applesauce, pumpkin, zucchini all make regular appearances, but banana tends to rule to roost.  They're always there on the counter and there are usually a couple that are a little too ripe to eat on their own, making them perfect for adding sweetness to cookies.

These cookies are incredibly easy (proof: my almost 2-year-old can pretty much make them on his own), filling, and healthy as they're filled with fruit, oats and nut butter.  They're free of refined sugars and totally fit the bill for a grab-and-go breakfast when you're heading out the door.  And the kicker?  They taste just like banana bread, especially warm from the oven.

These cookies are perfect to make when you want banana bread but don't want to wait an hour.  15 minutes and then it's eatin' time!  Kid (and husband) approved.

Banana Bread Cookies
makes 18 cookies

2 very ripe bananas
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 tbsp maple syrup
2 cups quick cook oats*
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp sea salt (omit if PB is salted)
dash nutmeg
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350f.  Mash the bananas in a large bowl.  Add the peanut butter and maple syrup and mix well.  Stir in the oats, chia seeds, cinnamon and nutmeg and mix until combined and you have a thick batter.  Fold in the chocolate chips.  Scoop about 2 tablespoons for each cookie onto a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet.  With wet hands, roll into a ball and fatten a bit - the cookies will not spread out while cooking.  Bake for 14-15 minutes.  Enjoy them warm from the oven and store the rest at room temperature for up to 5 days.

*Use certified gluten-free oats if needed

02 November 2014

Pumpkin Cream Pie

I hope you're not sick of pumpkin yet this season, because I've got a doozy of a pie recipe for you today.  It's so good, that we enjoyed it 2 Sunday dinners in a row.  And for the second time there remains only a small piece left for tomorrow.  (If it lasts that long.)

This pumpkin pie is not your usual pumpkin pie.  This one is light, and airy and uber creamy.  It tastes so decadent but it's actually full of protein.  And the best part of all - it's a no bake pie!  With only 5 ingredients, the filling literally takes less than 5 minutes to prepare, and then after it's poured into a pie shell, it needs only to chill and set.

Then, voila! Pumpkin Cream Pie.
Mmmmm.... So good.

I made a quick shortbread crust for my pie, but you could easily make a cookie crumb crust or a pastry if you're feeling adventurous.  You can also save some time and work by using a pre-fab crust from the store.  No shame in that.  In fact, last week's pie was made with a frozen pastry shell I had kicking around my freezer and it was every bit as delicious.

This pie is a breeze to make and a refreshing change up from traditional pumpkin pie.  It's possibly my new favourite.  It's easy, nut free and the crust can easily be made gluten free too.

Pumpkin Cream Pie
makes one 9" pie

For the crust:
1 cup all purpose flour (or use gluten free)
1/3 cup coconut oil or vegan butter, softened but not melted
1/4 powdered sugar, sifted

For the filling:
12oz package of firm silken tofu, drained
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup + 3 tbsp powdered sugar, sifted
2 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/3 cup melted coconut oil

Preheat the oven to 350f.  Mix together the shortbread crust ingredients in a medium bowl, using your fingers or a fork to combine them.  Press the mixture into a 9" pie plate, pressing it most of the way up the sides.  Prick with a fork once or twice and bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes or until it begins to brown lightly.  Remove from the oven and allow to full chill.

Place the tofu, pumpkin, sugar and spice into a food processor or high speed blender and process until smooth, stopping to scrape the sides down if need be.  Once smooth, add the melted coconut oil and blend again.  Pour filling into cooled pie crust and smooth the top with a knife or spatula.  Place in the fridge and allow to chill for at least 6 hours, if not overnight.  This will allow the filling to set - if you try to cut it sooner than this it will be a hot mess.  You can also help the setting process by using the freezer, but be warned - this will make the shortbread crust really hard to cut!  Best to let it thaw a bit on the counter prior to slicing and serving.