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Archive for the ‘vegan food’ Category

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Oh boy, do I have a yummy fall recipe for you.

Every year, we use the bushel or so of apples we pick on our annual apple picking trip to make and can apple sauce and apple butter. And I have a bit of a tendency to…well…hoard those jars of apple goodness. I am ever afraid that we’ll fly through our supply of apple sauce and apple butter by the end of December and have to wait until September hits once again to enjoy the fresh yumminess of a homemade jar of apple goods.

I made an interesting discovery this year. Hiding in the back of our cupboard was an extra jar of applesauce from last year and a couple of jars of our yummy apple butter. Oops. Perhaps I was a little overzealous in tucking away those jars. This year, I’m trying to strike a nice balance between canning some goodies to enjoy over the course of the year (and share with friends) and enjoying the fruits of our labor (quite literally) right now.

So far, aside from crunching on the fresh apples in snacks and lunches, we’ve had some simple but delicious baked apples and, inspired by my goal of mastering the art of packed lunches and snacks now that I have one in three-day preschool and another in kindergarten, I decided to give some handmade fruit roll-ups a try. I started with a recipe I’ve used before–my adaptation of a basic recipe for fruit “leather” (a name I just can’t bring my vegan self to adopt) that I found in The River Cottage Preserves Handbook. I added in some cinnamon and just a bit of nutmeg, which you could leave out if you’re looking for that pure apple taste, but I think the spices add a bit of the taste and fragrance of a good apple butter or mulled cider recipe. These are perfect for packed lunches and snacks or to bring along to your local fall festival.

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Apple Spice Roll-Ups

(inspired by and adapted from the fruit “leather” recipe in Pam Corbin’s The River Cottage Preserves Handbook)

Yields: about 8 roll ups

2 pounds, 4 ounces apples
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 – 1/2 cup water or apple cider
7 Tbsp agave nectar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Preheat oven to 170 degrees F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

If you have a food mill with a fine mesh screen or Squeezo style food strainer, wash apples and chop them into even 1 inch chunks without peeling or coring. If you do not, wash, peel, and core the apples before chopping them into 1 inch pieces.

Place the apples in a pan and add the lemon juice and a bit of the water or cider. Cover, bring to medium heat, and simmer until the apples are soft (about 20 minutes), adding water or apple cider as needed to prevent burning.

If you are using a food mill or Squeezo strainer, when they are soft, process the apples through the mill or strainer into a bowl. If you have peeled and cored your apples, use a food processor to puree them. Add the agave nectar, cinnamon, and nutmeg, and stir well.

Pour half of the puree onto each lined cookie sheet (If you have time, you might let the mixture cool for a few minutes first. The hot puree sometimes has a tendency to warp the paper a bit when poured on at a very high temperature, which might make for some gaps in your roll ups but won’t affect the taste one bit. I didn’t bother to let it cool for too long this time and it worked just fine.) Carefully spread the puree on each sheet with the back of a spoon or a spatula until it is a thin even, layer.

Place the cookie sheets in the preheated oven and cook for eight hours. No, that is not a typo. The idea here is that you are not really cooking the puree so much as you are slowing drying it, letting the moisture evaporate so that you are left with a roll-up that holds together, but is still pliant and chewy. If your oven temp does not get down to 170 (or will go down to a lower temp), you’ll need to adjust the cooking time. I wouldn’t attempt a cooking temperature above 200 degrees F.

When the roll up is still pliant, but will pull away from the paper like a sticker without any goopy spots, take it out of the oven. It will cool quickly. Carefully peel each entire roll up sheet off of the parchment paper.

If you will be eating the roll ups bit by bit from home, you can roll each large sheet up and store it in an airtight container.

If you would like to be able to pack the roll ups individually in lunches and snacks, place each large roll up on a new sheet of wax paper that is slightly larger than the roll up. Using kitchen scissors, cut the roll up and the wax paper into strips (or score with a sharp knife then pull apart), place each fruit strip on top of each piece of wax paper, and roll the fruit strip inside the wax paper, fastening the end with a piece of tape or (for kids big and small) a fun sticker. (You can either cut the wax paper and roll up together so that they are even along the edges–a good option if the roll up is going into another container for lunch or snack–or cut a slightly larger width of wax paper and fold over the sides before rolling to allow for less drying if the roll up will be on its own.) Store the individually wrapped roll ups in an airtight container or zip top bag until packing into each lunch or snack.

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Color Days Collage for Web

One afternoon during Xavier’s first week of kindergarten, he had no sooner hopped off the bus before he announced, “I have something very important for you to read. It’s in my backpack.” After we made it up the street and through the door, he immediately took his backpack off, swung it around, took out his lunch box, and dug his hand into the bottom (reiterating as he dug, “This is really important”). He pulled his hand out, magician style, and proudly produced a sad looking crumpled sheet of paper. It announced that the next two weeks of school would be “color days” for the kindergarten students. Each day, the students should try to wear the color of the day. “How fun!” I told Xavier, trying to match his enthusiasm. He was already plotting where we should hang the list so we wouldn’t forget.

This kid’s excitement about all things school-related is really contagious. Since he was so eager for the upcoming color days, I suggested we try out integrating the colors into his daily lunch and snack. “What kinds of food are red?” I asked him, proud of myself for being so clever. Little did I realize that by the end of the two-week period, when forced to come up with food options for brown, black, and white day, I would be just as eager to be done with this whole color day thing once and for all.

All in all, though, it was a useful exercise. The colors forced me (and Xavier) to try some foods we may not have considered. (On the other hand, were those chocolate chips for black day and vegan marshmallows for white day really necessary? Probably not.) Packing a lunch and a snack everyday is a new experience for both Xavier and I, and since I took photos of each of them every day for two weeks to document the project, I ended up with a record of ten school lunches and snacks. Since parenthood has absolutely destroyed my memory, the record was a kind of revelation.

Looking over the lunches and snacks, I can pause and take an accounting of some lessons learned thus far.

1. One thing I learned last year during Xavier’s last year of preschool but made a special effort to continue this year was to always have him practice opening the containers I use to pack his food. I’ve found that even when I use the same brand of containers, some are trickier than others. And since Xavier’s on the shy side, he would actually go without snack before he asked for help, even from his peers. Also, some kids are better at certain containers than others and having them practice in front of you at home is really the only way you’ll know if they’ve mastered it. I’ve heard plenty of comments from other parents and teachers about what they feel is too tricky for kids to open, but even they are often surprised at what is easier than they expected and what is more difficult. Xavier can open plastic containers with tight clips on each side that need to be flipped open, but he sometimes has trouble with a zip lock bag. Quinn can actually peel a clementine by himself, start to finish, but he has a lot of trouble with snack bags with ready-made slits on the side for easy opening.

2. Every parent has their standbys, the foods you know your child will eat if all else fails. Mine are peanut butter and hummus (close seconds are grapes, baby carrots, and steamed broccoli). After looking over the lunches and snacks for the last two weeks, I was pleasantly surprised that I don’t rely on the two major standbys as much as I thought I would. The two of them were each featured in the lunches only half or less than half of the time. However, I imagine this will get more difficult as the year goes on, particularly since Xavier is a healthy eater but not as adventurous as I’d like. And I’d really like to try not to lean too much on the processed and convenience foods that I tend to turn to just because I know they will be eaten. I’m going to try to make an effort as the year goes on to be careful not to become too reliant on the same foods over and over again.

3. One thing I’ve discovered as I’ve packed Xavier’s lunches is just how much I’ve relied on hot foods for lunch until now. Since the kids have only been in half day preschool and have only rarely brought a packed lunch for a special activity, picnic, or camp, I’ve come to rely on foods like pasta, ravioli, veggie nuggets, pierogies, and other hot meals for lunch. The packed lunch really rules a lot of this stuff out. Or so I thought. On green day, I took a gamble and packed some Soy Boy brand ravioli. To my surprise (and delight), Xavier devoured them. Lesson learned: don’t be afraid to convert a hot dish into a cold lunch.

4. I am a big believer in exposing my kids to a lot of different foods–even if they’ve tried and rejected them before. They may never develop a taste for certain foods. But there are some foods that they may need to be exposed to ten or twenty times before they develop a taste for them. I tend to push a little harder at dinnertime, and boy, would I have loved to include leftovers from some of the more interesting and diverse meals I serve up then, when I tend to rely less on processed foods and can be a bit more encouraging in person. But I do feel like I know Xavier’s limits, and I’m trying to avoid challenging him too much when he’s already adjusting to being at school all day. A few times during this two week period, though, I packed things I didn’t expect him to love right away–the oatmeal/peanut butter/agave nectar roll ups (he hates tortillas), the pasta salad (he is averse to any kind of unfamiliar dressing or sauce), the dried edamame (which he alternately loves and hates). And when these things returned home half-eaten or ignored, I was ready to accept that my assumptions were correct and these foods would be rejected again and again. But then, I had a revelation when the peanut butter and jelly sandwich came home with two bites taken out of it, there was still watermelon left over from snack, the raisins were still languishing in their container. These were foods Xavier loved and often asked for more of. It dawned on me that I shouldn’t assume that my child won’t ever eat a certain food just because he doesn’t finish it one day. Things happen. Maybe he got distracted by something at lunch or he ate a huge breakfast and wasn’t really hungry at snack. Maybe someone had a birthday and brought in apple slices for everyone to share. While it may very well be that Xavier will never be a fan of tortillas, I shouldn’t assume that is the case after just one try.

5. As a vegan parent of vegan kids, I am hyper aware that people will pay attention to what my kids eat more than they might pay attention to the foods other kids are eating. And I often pack foods for my kids (and for adults at pot lucks, parties, etc.) as if it is my job to prove to them that vegan food can be attractive, delicious, and varied. But when I am packing lunches and snacks for my kids, I need to remember that it’s most important that they are eating healthful food. Just like many other young kids I know, mine often prefer one or two ingredient dishes (peanut butter sandwiches, grapes, tomatoes, etc.). All three of my children will eat cold slices of firm tofu, uncooked and unflavored. This is like the vegan kid equivalent of plain pasta. It makes a lot of sense when you consider that the texture is accessible and the flavor is extremely bland–two things little kids often gravitate towards. In my mind, eating plain tofu is like eating a spoonful of flour right out of the bin. It is also my worst nightmare of what non-vegans think vegans eat. However, I need to get over my gripes if it means a healthful lunch of plain tofu and steamed unflavored broccoli that my son will eat (note the ghost shaped plain tofu for white day, above). The lesson here? Don’t be afraid of packing nutritionally dense bland food that your kids like.

So what do vegan kids eat for lunch? I imagine the answer to that question varies widely. And even around here, we are still working it out. I’m hoping to have a much better answer to that question by the end of the year (and then learn an entirely new one when Quinn begins kindergarten with new tastes, new habits, and new opinions).

So what, exactly, is in these lunches? If you’re curious, you can check out the contents below. (Note that this is to the best of my recollection. I took the photos each day, but didn’t record the contents as I went, so my descriptions may be slightly off.)

Red lunch: Grape tomatoes, peanut butter/granola/agave nectar roll ups, raisins, strawberries
Red snack: Red peppers
Orange lunch: Hummus sandwich, clementine, orange pepper
Orange snack: Baby carrots, crackers, hummus
Yellow lunch: Peanut butter and jelly sandwich, banana, 2 lemon slices to add to the water bottle (This was a big hit, to my surprise!)
Yellow snack: Unsweetened apple sauce, popcorn
Green lunch: Soy Boy ravioli, cucumber slices, shelled edamame
Green snack: Cucumber slices and green hummus (colored using food coloring, but you could just as easily use a food processor to blend in spinach or kale–when totally processed, the texture doesn’t change at all and, especially in the case of spinach, neither does the taste)
Blue lunch: Chunky peanut butter and banana sandwich, blueberries, dried plum
Blue snack: Grapes
Purple lunch: Pasta salad with balsamic vinegar/Braggs based dressing and purple tomatoes and steamed broccoli, blueberries and dates, figs
Purple snack: Pack of dry roasted almonds, purple grapes
Pink lunch: Dried cranberries and plums, a couple of chocolate covered cranberries, heart-shaped sandwich with rhubarb and strawberry jam (and possibly peanut butter–I can’t recall), grapes, raspberries, steamed broccoli
Pink snack: Watermelon chunks
Brown lunch: Star-shaped peanut butter sandwiches on a bed of peanuts, dates, a couple of chocolate covered cranberries, raisins, soy hot dog (Tofu Pups brand, I believe)
Brown snack: Whole wheat mini pitas, hummus
Black lunch: Tofurky and Vegenaise sandwich, black olives, dried edamame, raisins and a few chocolate chips (There may also be some applesauce ‘hiding’ in the closed compartment.)
Black snack: grapes
White lunch: Extra-firm tofu “ghosts,” unsweetened applesauce, peanuts and Dandies (vegan marshmallows)
White snack: Crackers and hummus, Silk Very Vanilla soy milk (Sweetened soy milk and juice are special treats in our house. Xavier brings a water bottle to school each day and it is his only drink for lunch and snack most days.)

P.S. If you’re wondering, I did make the reusable snack bags featured in the photos above. I tried a handful of tutorials to make a few bags of various styles and sizes. I’ll let you know later in the school year what seems to be working the best.

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The day was off to an ambitious start when I decided just after breakfast that this would be a great time to get started on making a dent in all of those apples we picked last weekend by cooking up the first batch of apple butter. Jeremy had taken Xavier to Milwaukee for a weekend-long father-son adventure and, while it is quite routine for me to have Quinn and Ada all to myself, I felt inspired that, despite the rainy forecast back here at home, we should have a little adventure of our own. So once the apples were on the stove and the little girl was down for her morning nap, Quinn and I got to work on a fall sensory bin.

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Filling the bin is half the fun, so Quinn helped dye three batches of rice yellow, orange, and red. We added popcorn kernels and then went in search of farm animals and people to play in our fall scene. We also added some almonds in their shells, acorns, some silicone cupcake holders for filling, and a couple of funnels.

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When Ada woke up, I moved the bin outside to the porch so she could play, expecting lots of scooping and dumping out. The measure proved completely unnecessary, as she was only interested in the larger bits–the almonds, mostly, which she transported back and forth and in and out of the bin like a little squirrel tucking away her winter feast here and there for safe keeping. When the rain began, we moved the bin inside and Quinn and I made acorn muffins and sang “Happy Birthday” to each lucky playmate in turn. Ada was all smiles during our singing, but quickly returned to the important work of transporting her almonds.

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After all that back and forth play (Did I mention the breaks we for took for smashing apples through the food mill, loading the slow cooker, and getting that apple butter cooking?), we needed some sustenance. And since this was an ambitious kind of day, I decided this was the perfect time to try out that black bean brownie recipe I had my eye on.

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With the sometime exception of Ada, I can’t seem to get the kids to eat beans in any shape or form (except for hummus, of course, but only because Xavier remains unconvinced–or perhaps is willing to overlook the fact–that it actually contains chickpeas). And when your vegan kids don’t eat beans, it definitely limits your repertoire, to say the least. Quinn tends to be fairly open minded about trying new things and had no reaction whatsoever when he saw those beans go into the food processor. It probably helped that we had never made brownies, so he may have figured this was your typical brownie ingredient. I wasn’t eager to set him straight. The recipe couldn’t have been easier and the brownies turned out fudgey, rich, moist, and not too sweet. (In fact, if we’re being honest, I could have used a bit more sweetener in them. These might do well with a slather of peanut or almond butter or some ice cream if you’re looking for a decadent dessert. They’re low enough on the sweet scale that I might even grab one for breakfast.) Quinn gave them two chocolately hands up.

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With the kids finally in bed and my late dinner finally served, I was able to finally can the apple butter that had been cooking up in the slow cooker all day, filling our day with cinnamon and cloves (which is really the only way to do apple butter). For such a packed day, it was also a relaxing one. We didn’t leave the house (and I didn’t leave my pajamas) and there was ample time for collecting acorns, combing through colored rice with our fingers, and licking spoons. I’ve come to this season kicking and screaming so far, but this fine fall day might be just the kick start I needed.

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My goodness, has it been a busy couple of weeks around here.


With Xavier’s help, I canned several jars of applesauce.

He contributed some chopping, hard work at the food mill, and–perhaps most importantly of all–the perfect name for our sauce.


Among oh so many things, the past couple of weeks have also brought us mini pumpkin cupcakes with (vegan) cream cheese frosting (yum)…


…some sorely needed dissertation writing time…


…and some all-important Halloween costume making time (complete with the requisite gnashing of the teeth time followed by triumphant squeals of delight for having outsmarted the pattern makers once again).

We are trying so very hard to embrace this happy chaos. And with a weekend full of Halloween fun ahead of us, we’re just getting started.

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So we’re kind of easing our way into The Grand Soup Experiment. After getting two toddler thumbs down on my first attempts, I decided it was time to try the best gateway drug to soup: pot pies. If the kiddos aren’t sold on the concept of a hearty liquid meal, why not hide it behind a layer of bread? Our working family recipe is a slight variation of one I found in the Winter 2003-2004 issue of Veggie Life magazine. And it follows what has become one of my top rules for preparing meals for toddlers: don’t spend any significant amount of time preparing a recipe for your kids that you don’t like yourself.

          

Here’s the recipe.

For the crust:

1 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons cold vegan butter (we use Earth Balance)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
6 tablespoons soy milk

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the butter until it is in pea-sized pieces. Stir in the thyme and soy milk. Use the back of a spoon to knead the dough until it forms a ball. Pull off a piece of dough (about 1/3 of the ball) and place it on a sheet of plastic wrap. Place another sheet of wrap on top of the dough and use a rolling pin to flatten the dough to about 1/2 to 1/4 inch thick. With the top sheet still in place, place the bowl you are using for the pot pie upside down on top of the dough and press down (turning back and forth a bit) to cut out a circle the exact size of the opening in your bowl. Remove the top sheet of plastic wrap, poke the circle a few times with a fork to make tiny holes, peel off the circle, and place it on a new sheet of plastic wrap. Repeat, reusing the extra dough as you go and layering the crusts between sheets of plastic wrap, until you’ve cut enough tops for all of your bowls. I make smaller tops for the ramekins I use for the kids and larger tops for the grown-up pies. If you have a bit of extra dough, roll it out and cut out shapes with cookie cutters for some extra “crackers” for the kids. These are handy for when the pot pies are still cooling but the kiddos’ bellies are rumbling. Put the crusts and crackers in the refrigerator (sandwiched between layers of plastic wrap, including one on top) until you are ready to cook them.

For the filling:

3 cups vegetable stock
1 cup textured vegetable protein (TVP)
1 bag (4 cups) frozen mixed veggies (your favorite mix)
1 1/2 cups soy milk
8 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste

In a large saucepan, bring the stock to a boil. Stir in the TVP and the veggies. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Give the mixture another stir to combine the ingredients, cover, remove from heat, and let stand for 5 minutes. In a medium bowl, stir together the soy milk, cornstarch, and garlic powder. Stir this mixture into the veggie mixture and bring it to a boil, continually stirring until the mixture thickens up. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Divide the stew between the pot pie bowls. Top each pie with the pre-cut crusts. Note that the crusts will sit just inside the edges of the bowls and not lay over the sides. This is the technique that I’ve found works best after getting frustrated with the sinking middles and overly crispy edges that inevitably result from draping the crusts over the tops of the pies. Place the pies on a cookie sheet (or two) and place the “crackers” directly on the (nonstick) sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, then turn off the heat and leave the pies in for 5 more minutes. (The crackers can come out when you turn off the oven.) The filling will bubble up around the edges of the pies. Remove the pies from the oven and let them cool for 5 minutes before enjoying them, a bit longer for the kids (that filling gets hot!).

The above recipes yielded three medium sized pies for the grown ups, and two ramekin sized pies and three “crackers” for the kids, with a bit of filling to spare, but it really all depends on the size of your bowls (both depth and diameter), so it might take a bit of trial and error.

Everyone in our family seems to have his or her own technique for digging in. Yours truly delights in methodically working my way across the pie, scooping up a little bit of crust to eat with each bite. My other half destroys the whole thing and then relishes in scarfing it all down in big scoops. Xavier enjoyed digging for “buried treasure” underneath the crust (joyfully announcing his finds) and Quinn made a big hole in the middle and worked his way out.


The final verdict? Xavier loved the acorn shaped crackers, but despite the fact that he was “finding” many of his favorite vegetables under that mysterious crust, he hoped we wouldn’t notice that he wasn’t actually eating any of them. We did. After some initial befuddlement over exactly what this was, once Quinn realized it involved eating bread and creamy veggies with a spoon, he was all over it. In fact, he quickly scarfed it down, declared “All done!” and then brought the ramekin up to for a closer look just to be sure. So it was a total score with the little guy and a total failure with the big one. Hey, these days 50/50 ain’t bad.

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Source: New House Project's Etsy Store

Despite the suggestive title, this post isn’t about my kiddos, but about two really great local things I love. Later this week I’ll be posting about our latest efforts to get the kids to eat soup and photos from our (wonderful) escape to the cabin this past weekend, but I didn’t want too much time to pass by before I told you about what we did last weekend.

Unlike this past weekend, the weather on that Saturday was awful. Rainy and cold. All day long. But despite the bad weather, we loaded up the kids in the car first thing in the morning and took off to D.C. to have breakfast at one of our favorite vegan spots, Sticky Fingers. We’ve been big fans of this place since shortly after they opened and offered a small but decadent menu of sticky buns, cookies, and cakes. They have since moved into a larger space and now offer a full breakfast menu on the weekends in addition to lunch and dinner entrees and lots of other yummy stuff.  The kiddos enjoyed their very first sticky bun and then we shared the french toast and pancake platters (which come with sides of grits and tofu scramble). It was such a delicious start to the day that we couldn’t leave without grabbing a couple of sandwiches and cookies to take with us to the main event of the day: the annual Crafty Bastards Arts & Crafts Fair.

Source: Cotton Monster's Etsy Store

Last year was our first visit to the event and we enjoyed it so much we planned our October schedule around this year’s fair. There were too many great vendors to name them all here, so you’ll just have to visit the vendor gallery to check them all out for yourself.

Among our favorites this year were the kids’ mug, plate, and bowl sets from New House Project (see the photo at the top of the post). I’ve got two sets tucked away for the kids for the holidays and a third just because I couldn’t help myself. I added to the kids’ collection of little stuffed friends from My Paper Crane, including a friendly ice cream sandwich for Xavier and an ice cream cone for Quinn. (You might have seen the little acorn from the same vendor hanging out on the kitchen table in my Autumn Equinox pajama post.) We also picked up some great T-shirts for the whole family from Fuzzy Ink and Gnome Enterprises (none from Pinecone and Chickadee this year, but Xavier still loves the shirt we got for him from their booth last year). We also bought a couple of small mugs perfect for little hands from Circa Ceramics.

Source: Cutesy But Not Cutesy's Etsy Store

Again this year, I enjoyed browsing the incredible stuffed animals from Cotton Monster (to call them stuffed animals is to completely undersell them since, really, this woman is an amazing artist) and Xavier carried around her business card with a photograph of one of her monsters for the rest of the day in disbelief that she had given it to him for free. He also had much more fun than I ever expected he would visiting the Cutesy But Not Cutesy booth, where we had gotten one of his coveted stuffed animals last year. He was amazed that “Mama” (the name of his beloved monster, who as I write is accompanying him to preschool for show and tell time) had a whole family of monsters that look just like her. It was unbelievably fun to watch him take it all in.

While noshing on our Sticky Fingers sandwiches and cookies on the way home, Jeremy and I remarked on what a fabulous day it had been despite the constant rain. We’ll leave the kids home next year, though, we’ve decided. There’s just too much to see and enjoy and never enough time to take it all in.

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As toddlers go, my children are pretty good eaters. They love broccoli and carrots. They gobble up hummus by the spoonful. They have recently become (oddly) obsessed with granola. So I don’t have too much reason to complain despite the fact that these days Quinn prefers everything to be prepared in a way that can be eaten with a bowl (“bow”) and spoon (“poon”) and Xavier insists that all of the “strings” be removed from his bananas and ears of corn before he will touch them and that his pasta sauce not have any tomatoes in it (he’s referring, of course, to the visible chunks that are signs to the rest of the world that the sauce is decent and not the cheapo canned stuff).

But a few lightly traveled food frontiers remain, among them leafy greens. I would love to meet someone whose toddlers regularly dig in to crunchy salads filled with kale, spinach, and arugula. Mine are not among them. Our most recent solution? Hiding spinach in shakes. I heard and read about this a while ago in multiple sources, but hadn’t tried it before. A couple of weeks ago, I tried out this recipe (there are tons of them on the web) and the kids (and their parents) enjoyed their chocolate shakes without noticing the handful of spinach pureed into them.  This I will definitely try again.

We’ve been sampling a lot of other recipes both old and new these days. After ODing on Your Vegan Mom’s cashew crock cheese spread this summer, we’ve turned to more cold weather recipes like her baked ziti. We’ve also put the fresh figs that have been showing up in the stores this season to use in her pizza recipe (which, by the way, features a great pesto sauce containing more spinach the kiddos won’t notice they are eating). For Xavier’s back-to-school night, I made chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin cookies using the recipes from The Joy of Vegan Baking by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau (the resource, as far as I am concerned, for vegan cookies). They were entirely gobbled up by the end of the night (much to my family’s chagrin).

Our next culinary frontier? Soup. At the first sign of cooler weather, Jeremy and I begin to salivate over our mental lists of all of the wonderful soups we’ll sample before the warmer weather returns. Our children do not share our glee. Xavier marvels at the process of cooking down onions, garlic, and all kinds of vegetables and greens and turning them into a liquid meal. He takes much less pleasure in eating said meal. And despite Quinn’s aforementioned preference for meals involving bowls and spoons, after oh-so-hesitantly touching a spoonful of soup to his lips, he contorts his face into scowls that 17 month olds should not be capable of. This fall I have resolved to expose my children to enough different kinds of soup enough times that by the winter they will each be able to finish at least one bowl of at least one kind of soup. This can’t be too lofty a goal, can it?

The first recipe we’ve tried this season is a super easy pumpkin soup I adapted from Quick & Easy Vegan Comfort Food. (Ready for the recipe? Mix and heat up one can of pumpkin, one can of coconut milk, and one cup of vegetable stock. Add 3 tablespoons of agave nectar to sweeten it a bit, a couple dashes of red pepper flakes for some spice, and a bit of salt to taste and continue to heat for a few minutes. Serve.) Jeremy and I gobbled it up. The kids tried and rejected it. Last night we tried Your Vegan Mom’s tomato soup (which her toddler son loved). The kids tried and rejected it. Next up is the “Bestest Soup Evah” from Beans and Greens, a perfect way to turn carnival squash into a soup as delicious as they are beautiful. I have no high hopes that my children will gobble it up as hungrily as their parents will, but I’m in it for the long haul. The season is young, after all, and I have oh so many recipes to try.

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