Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The "V' word!

Veganism.....go ahead, let it roll around on your tongue. I know, I know most people don't react well to that word, unless they are a Vegan. I confess, I was one of them until recently. I mean, you need stuff from all the meat that you're suppose to eat, right? What about the fact they probably don't ever eat anything good. I mean at least Vegetarians get good stuff sometimes, right? I can't think of any other misconceptions I had of Vegans other than, growing up in the heart of the Midwest (beef and potato country), the idea of a Vegan was akin to eating out of a dumpster.

Now, now, for those of you who might happen to be Vegan, don't take offense to this, I don't think like this now and to be fair, I was brainwashed by the donkey! I mean, I grew up partially on a studding farm full of cows and one donkey. A studding farm, for those of you who've never been near a farm, means that our farm existed for the explicit purpose to breed cows so you all could eat it! Why a donkey on that kind of farm? You know, I have no idea but, I'm quite sure he snuk into my room while I was sleeping and brainwashed me! He was smart enough to do it too! Whenever you'd holler, “Hey Sporty, show me your pearly whites!”, he'd roll up his top lip and show you his teeth. He was a genius donkey, I'm telling you! :D

Anyway, the point was to explain that if you think you have an aversion to Vegans, you couldn't have gotten any further from it than I was. So to come 180 degrees seems insane to most who know me. I can't say that I am fully Vegan or that my boys even are, though they are gradually leaning more and more that way. In fact more often than not, 2 out of 3 meals and all 3 snacks a day are all Vegan approved.

So, what is a Vegan? A Vegan is a person whom for various reasons has chosen a vegetarian diet but, avoids the use of milk, dairy, eggs and/or any other food, clothing, etc. with animal products. Even including things like refined white sugar and wines!

I know you're bored and thinking how can this possibly pertain to me? What can be fun about munching on veggies all day? Trust me when I say that this is not what they do and in fact have some incredibly AMAZING recipes. Not all tofu and chickpeas all the time, trust me and if a born and bred Nebraska girl, raised on beef and potatoes can love it, you all will love it more! To prove my point, this post is dedicated to all of my (well, mostly the boys') favorite Vegan sites and recipes.

First up is Vegan Dad. A site that bosts a mere 2,000+ fans on his blog and 6,000+ fans on FB, you know he's got to be doing something right! With a vegan FAMILY in Ontario, a real job and a succesful blog, he even had time to get a recipe book published. I've not tried his zillions of recipes but, I did fall in love with his Crispy Cajun Chickpea Cakes, as did thousands more of his followers.
  His site is to the point, simple to understand and if you have a genuine question, he's always answered. One of his latest posts even gives us non Vegans an idea of how to accommodate our Vegan children, family and friends at a shindig, here.

Second up is a site that is only on FB. Vegan Recipes , Wheat, gluten and refined Sugar Free Recipe Exchange, is a great site full of recipes posted straight to their page. Loads of recipes from other people as well and it's Wheat and gluten free! So, if you or someone close is intolerant or allergic, this is one of the most perfect pages for you.

Another site that looks delicious is called Tapioca. I've not tried the recipes there yet but, I have to tell you if my eyes could taste, I'd have devoured half of that blog! The blog came highly recommended though and just reading the ingredients lent itself to how good the recipes would be. If nothing else, it will give you some ideas and you might try some yourself. Me, I'm gunning for the Baked Sweet Butternut Squash.

Though I'm not a fully flag waving fan of tofu, the Burrito Casserole looks yummy too!

Then there is Nomnoms as we call it, proper name of the blog though is, nomnomnom! Written by another published Vegan food lover, she has 3 books under her belt. All I can say for her blog is drool! One of Kris's newest posts is next on my nomnoms list...I HAVE to try it! Take a look at Pressure Cooking and tell me that doesn't look good! You can't can you?!

I know at this point, I'm breaking the unwritten bloggy law that states keep your blog short and sweet but, I have to share just 3 more places to look for amazingly delicious things! As my son says, can you hang with me that long? This next one is short and sweet. Mainly because I've already expressed my love and undying devotion to them. It's the Daiya cheese YouTube page! Things are soo much more scrumptious when you can see them. It is a fact, we eat with our eyes! Right now, they're running a recipe contest too, so there are loads of video recipes there right now!!

Next to last is one of my new favorites, passed on by Daiya FB page no less and reading them over, I became addicted to her site. Mama pea is hilarious! Peas and Thank You boasts an amazing array of food and hilarity and in her Pea Mail:Make My Man Eat Plants, she understands how hard it is to feed the male species Vegan and leave them feeling satisfied, let alone like manly men. No idea why they envision Vegans eating salad all day but, most men I know do!

Last and by FAR not least is my boys' FAVORITE of favorite sites for Vegan cuisine. I warn you, it's not for the faint of heart, nor for those like myself, who harbor a real fear of....of....of zombies! Yes, I know it's just in movies but, how do you know your neighbor isn't going to come over in the middle of the night and try to eat your brains?!?! It could happen! So, if your strong enough, you suck up your fear of REAL zombies and go to the boys' The Vegan Zombie. He has a video blog site here, FB page and even a YouTube channel! My son told me he likes him because he's funny, and he makes grown up boy food! Which is true, his recipes are insanely delicious! The boys love his Daiya cheese contest video for cheese sticks but, the pizza rolls are a HUGE hit in the house and the boys want to try a new recipe of his almost daily now. Even I have to admit, not only are his recipes really, really good but, he's made the boys lifestyle cool and they're ok with not being able to eat various things. (Fair warning, he really does do the zombie thing now and again but my boys think it's hilarious and not the least freaky!)

Ok, I've gone on and on about some of these great sites and recipes so much, you'd swear I was the Vegan! I'm not yet but, I may end up slowly becoming a convert! Don't tell anyone but, I eat more and more the Vegan way, daily. In Nebraskie that is a HUGE no no, so don't tell my secret or the neighbors may lynch!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Ways to make Father's Day personal and fun for him and the kids, without breaking your budget!

Everyone typically thinks of Father's day as gifts, ties, golf tees, etc. Most of my fav bloggers even have the cards, and crafts covered, some I'll share with you on my Facebook page here in a bit.

In a blue collar home, where money is tight and the “man of the house” may not even consider playing golf, nor has a job that requires a tie, the day and the gifts tend to be a little more low key and a bit more personal. Mostly, it's a day filled with fun foods and personal things like, the cards and crafts from my fav blogs,  movie mania. Movie mania is when the boys would spend several hours, if not most of the day, devoted to their dad's fav movies (G  or PG rated of course!). Dad hike, where the boys would go on an outdoor adventure or hike with their dad and pretend that the neighborhood was full of pirates or they were hunting for treasure. They would have wrestling matches with their dad, etc. The day always involves the kiddos and their dad, because without them, he wouldn't be a dad. Right?! :)

I polled the boys today about what were some of their fav things we'd done over the years for their father and am going to share them with you! Naturally, since they are boys, most if not all of them had to do with food! :D Besides, getting your children involved in the kitchen is always a great way to spend quality time together, gets them invested in their own food, which in turn makes them more apt to eat the food being made and truthfully it's just fun. Some if not all, you may have already thought of but, we're going to share them anyway!

First up is breakfast, if you want dad to have a great day, the best way to start out is with a fantastic breakfast! (I don't have pics of everything that they've done over the years but, I'll find some that are close to it!)

Personal Pancakes:
The fastest one is pancakes! Even if you're not a “make them from scratch” kind of person and use the premixed stuff from a box. The easiest way to personalize this easy breakfast is to add flavor. Does dad like apple cinnamon? Instead of using water, throw in apple juice and cinnamon. You can use apple sauce but, it will often times make your pancakes really thick, so keep that in mind if you opt to use it. If he's a banana bread kind of guy throw in mashed bananas (obviously a very ripe banana!). If you have leftover flavoring syrup, like the vanilla you use in cookies, you can throw those in too! A tsp or so of coconut flavoring or whatever you have on hand, can lend a personal and yummy touch to pancakes. For example, one year I had no mint leaves or crushed mint on hand, so I put in some mint flavoring and the leftover chocolate chips. Those pancakes went over extremely well! For fun, I do this for the holidays even, you can add food coloring. Is dad a Packers fan? Divide your batch and make one yellow and one green! The boys love doing this.

Want to involve the toddlers and preschoolers even more than just mixing the ingredients? Take out those old cookie cutters, even if they're for specific themed holidays, like Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc. Let the kiddos have a go and they will revel in the fun!
 This was taken from my Christmas post but, you get the idea.

Again, this comes down to making it your dad's fav flavors. Got some milk and again the flavored syrup? You can make your own coffee flavoring this way. Add a bit of whatever flavor you have like Coconut, Hazelnut, etc. and a splash of milk. Even mint and chocolate milk if that's all you have can make a nice cup of coffee for a loved one!

French Toast:
I LOVE french toast but, truth be told for years was intimidated by making it. Why you ask, because lets face it, who doesn't like french toast?!?! It's fairly simple though. About one egg per slice of bread you're going to use (and this is great with bread that might be starting to get a little dry. You know those ones at the end of the loaf? Perfect for this!). Add vanilla, a little splash of milk, cinnamon and even a bit of sugar to the mix. Mix together and drop your bread in. I always drop a dollop or pat of butter to the pan (Even if it's non-stick) and lay the egg soaked bread on top. Helps it to caramelize nicely. Want jobs for the kiddos? Get out those cookie cutters again and let them go to town before adding the toppings or just have the kiddos top with your choice of a butter and sprinkle with powdered sugar and even your regular sugar if its all you have on hand. It's still delicious.

The everything or whatever you got omelet:
Not a french toast fan, and no pancake mix in sight? How about an omelet? They're perfect for any meal and you can put just about anything in them! Leftover burgers from the night before, extra brats, sausage or chicken. The kiddos even made their dad a hot dog omelet one year and truth was, it wasn't half bad! You can throw in whatever veggie you want, whatever spices you want, etc. It's really something you can't mess up. Heck, even if your omelet ends up scrambled eggs, they're still good! It's also a very easy food to teach the older kids to make.

Every time I think of what kind of food makes a blue collar worker happy, I can't help it, I think of pubs or bar food! Wings, nachos, burgers, onion rings, you know the kind of thing you can use one hand to eat! :D I think that's a man thing.

So, to top my list I got this recipe from a friend and even I surprisingly liked it!
Beef Nacho Casserole

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1-1/2 cups chunky salsa
  • 1 (10 ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
  • 3/4 cup creamy salad dressing (e.g. Miracle Whip)
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 cups crushed tortilla chips
  • 2 cups Colby cheese

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  • Place ground beef in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring to crumble, until evenly browned. Drain grease. Remove from the heat, and stir the salsa, corn, salad dressing and chili powder into the beef. In a 2 quart casserole dish, layer the ground beef mixture, tortilla chips and cheese twice, ending with cheese on top.
  • Bake for 20 minutes uncovered, in the preheated oven, until cheese is melted and dish is thoroughly heated.

One of the boys' fav boy foods is our
Allergy free onion rings.
Rice milk
rice flour
1 onion slice into ¼” slices

Simply, slice your onion. Soak in rice milk and then into the rice flour. I usually do this a couple times and then into a hot fryer or pan with hot grease. You need to have at least a few inches of grease in a saucepan to allow the rings enough space to cook evenly and NOT touch the bottom. Once they are golden brown, remove to a paper towel lined plate to allow the excess grease to drain and the rings to cool. Salt and pepper if you wish and then eat.

These make some of the crispiest onion rings ever and they taste amazing!
Again, burgers always come up this time of year. You really can't mess a burger up. Top with fried, sauteed or even fresh onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, blue cheese, regular cheese, pepper jack, etc. You can include a nice sized pickle on the side or in our case the boys love to put those little, whole, dill pickles to the side.

With a burger, you can actually put things inside, which I know I've said, over and over again. So, if your dad like mushrooms, onions and pepperjack, throw them in a bowl with your raw meat and mix together before making the patties, along with your choice of seasoning or salt and pepper. Wash your hands well afterward though.

One of the boys' dad's fav was always :
Tuna Salad in a Tomato Bowl. 
Easy as anything and I know most of us have done it, seen it or heard of it.
Just mix together a can or pouch of tuna, your choice of miracle whip or mayo, some salt and pepper, relish even if that's to your liking.
Hollow out a nice, ripe, decent sized tomato. Put tuna salad mix into the center and top with a bit of Mrs. Dash's lemon pepper seasoning and serve. Every time I've given this to someone, they go nuts and devour it!
*Here's a hint, even when making a regular tuna salad sandwich, just adding the lemon pepper seasoning is a HUGE success!

One of the boys' fav things to make is hot turkey and Daiya cheese sandwiches. You can obviously do this with any lunch meat and brand of cheese though. Just do like a grilled cheese only you slap some lunch meat on one side (always put at least 3 slices of the deli sliced meat) and cheese on the other. As silly and simple as it's seems to do a hot lunchmeat sandwich, you'd be surprised how often no one thinks of it!

Extra spaghetti and meatballs from dinner left? Throw it on a toasted bun or even toasted bread and you've got a meatball sandwich!

There is also the ever classic, BLT sandwich! Always a hit but, if you've no bacon, even leftover chicken (just shred up) or leftover hamburger/turkey burger, etc. Get crafty and use what you have lying around. To make it fun for the kiddos, they have those sandwich cutters that make the kids' sandwiches all sorts of fun shapes, let them pick one out and cut their dad's sandwich.

There really is no end to the things you can make dad to make his day an unforgettable day, without breaking the bank or your budget. Just get creative and use what you've got around the house and to make the day just as fun for the kids, the best thing I can tell you is to think like a kid! I hope you all have a great weekend!

Friday, June 17, 2011

The 'V' Word!! Think V when you think food allergies and intolerances. The Blue Collar househould's healthier staples.

I know it's been a while since my last real post but, life seems to have gotten away from me these last several months. I found out my children have more food allergies and intolerances, there have been med changes and now we're at that time of year where there are 3 - 4 appointments a week to boot. Throw in colon surgery for my mother and her heart stent, then moving her to her new apartment, then the's been absolutely nuts around here.

I have posts lined up for this upcoming Sunday and Monday but, in the meantime, I wanted to share with you all some things that we've found helpful or addictive in our lives as we deal with allergies and protein intolerances. Things that have brought either the boys or myself some kind of pleasure as they've made the transition to mostly organic, vegan foods and I myself, have begun to transition albeit a lot slower because on a VERY tight budget, some organic, hypoallergenic and/vegan foods can be expensive! We've had to find the things that we eat or love the most and go with those first and foremost to spend the money on. and then if there is extra, fill in the rest.

First I cannot stress enough that while most health food stores like Whole Foods, do a great job of carrying products that mark whether an item has specific allergens in it like, milk, nuts, etc. If you've a child with allergies it is still important to periodically check the ingredient list to make sure that they've not changed a thing.

Ok, onto our favorites, you should know that my boys help me pick out this list! :D First up, the one thing this household CANNOT live without, Daiya Cheese.

Why Daiya?? I'm sooo glad you asked. Daiya is one of THE best Vegan cheeses you will EVER come across! It actually melts when cooked or heated and the taste is incredible. They now make a pepperjack flavor too. You can do anything with these cheeses too. We make homemade pizzas, hot turkey and Daiya sandwiches, cheese roll ups, chicken and cheese roll ups, etc. There is nothing better than this cheese if you miss cheese and cannot have milk proteins or are allergic. My toddler can't keep his hands out of an open package even!

Another reason why we love them here. They were forwarded a letter that I wrote to another company who uses their cheese for their product and were incredibly helpful and wonderful to us. Trust me when I say our love for these products and the following companies runs deep because of not only their GREAT products but, because of how they are as companies to their consumers...and no not a single company is paying me to say any of this. We just love them all!

Second can't live without product in our food allergy & intolerance home is, Cherrybrook Kitchen's Pancake mix.

My son couldn't live without his buttermilk pancakes and for months now I've tried every recipe, box, etc of pancake  mix ever made. Not a single one made a blip on his radar. In fact, he outright refused most after simply a few bites! Which, if you knew how much he loved pancakes, broke my heart. This mix is nut/peanut, gluten, milk, egg and wheat free. We mixed ours up following the directions using the oil and "milk" of our choice. Put some of DW's "butter" on them and he was hooked after simply one bite! Just a sniff of just the powdered mix alone is heaven.

The company is a family company founded by a women who found herself with food allergies just 11 short years ago and like most of us dealing with allergies, had a hard time finding good food that didn't taste like cardboard. Their website shows all their products, the company history and even gives you links to other allergy helpful sites if you're looking.

The third thing we can't live without here is Tofurky Cheese Pizza.
Made with Daiya cheese, it boasts a crust that is neither too crunchy nor too mushy but absolutely perfect. The taste of the pizza is literally to die for. They have an Italian sausage and a pepperoni pizza as well. Their website itself even has a recipe section and as for the company, they made a fan of my son for life. They send my son a lunchbox, stickers, and a coupon in the mail. He absolutely adored them. This is the company that passed my letter to Daiya cheese. Instead of taking credit, they humbly passed it on to Daiya. In this day and age, that is almost a rare thing. So, for all those reasons, it will always be a staple in my house.

Fourth thing, is quite honestly my addiction and becoming my toddler's now too as he constantly runs by asks me for a drink and gives me the cheesy, 'you know you want to' face! :D It's Steaz's Sparkling Green Tea, black cherry flavor.
Steaz is the great company, that makes these incredible green tea drinks with zero calories. They also make the full calorie one, iced teas and an energy drink as well. As a person that never, ever liked green tea, I was surprised to find myself LOVING these drinks! They antioxidants and B vitamins in them and the green tea alone is worth a try.

Fifth, is another thing brought to us by Daiya cheese. In their response to my letter, they sent me the link to Amy's. Where I was told there would be a macaroni that my sons could have. Their website was amazing. Tons of recipes, product and company information. Really worth the time to peak at it.

Amy's makes two kinds so just be aware of that this one though, is soy free, casein/milk free, gluten free and no GMOs are used in it either. Did I mention it's delicious?! Extremely rich and again, made with Daiya cheese, you won't even know that you're eating macaroni that is not really macaroni. My boys can't get enough of it.

These are the organic, vegan, hypoallergenic staples in our home now and the boys and I wanted to share them with you. If you've never tried any of these, when you get the extra few dollars or are already vegan or eating for allergies, I recommend all of these highly!

Until Sunday, I hope you all are having a great weekend and being safe if you're in flood areas, the areas where the tornadoes have ripped through everything or out west, where the wild fires have a mind of their own.

Have a great weekend and take some time to try one of these great items!