Tuesday, February 28, 2012

What’s for lunch?

I mentioned in my last "What's for lunch?" post  that my favourite lunches are made up of reheated leftovers from the evening before.

For me, a cold sandwich cannot compare to a nice warm meal. And, since you already did the work in preparing your food a day earlier, there is little to do now but enjoy it.

Yesterday, I was fortunate to have Sunday dinner leftovers for lunch. On Sunday, my husband and I both pitched in to make a meal that was a little more special than our average weeknight fare.

For a while there, it looked like spring would come early, and I was craving the types of things we ate last summer—simply prepared barbecued veggies and tofu in particular.

Winter is back, unfortunately, but we were able to somewhat duplicate our summer meal indoors using our oven.
While my husband marinated some portobello mushrooms and prepared some baked tofu, I went to work recreating a sweet potato dish that I had enjoyed at Kale restaurant. We also prepared some asparagus and a quick lentil and rice dish.

What are you having for lunch?

Linking up to the Potluck Party at Lifeologia.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Carrots and Quinoa

by Joann MacDonald
Keywords: boil side gluten-free vegan vegetarian nut-free quinoa sweet potatoes carrots

Ingredients (4 servings)
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes.
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced 1/4-inch thick.
  • 3/4 cup veggie broth
  • 1/2 cup cooked quinoa
  • salt to taste
Place sweet potatoes and carrots together in a medium-sized pot. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Boil until tender. Strain and move to a medium-sized bowl.
Beat the sweet potato and carrot mixture with an electric mixer, gradually adding veggie broth. The carrots will stay somewhat chunky, making a nice textural "surprise" in the end result.
Once the mixture is mashed to your satisfaction, stir in the cooked quinoa and salt to taste.
I like to make this a bit more liquidy than the usual mash.
I cook one cup of dry quinoa and save what I don't use in this recipe for a quick side the next day.
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Easy Roasted Portobello Mushrooms

by Joann MacDonald
Prep Time: 5 minutes + time to marinade
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Keywords: roast side gluten-free vegan vegetarian

Ingredients (6 servings)
  • 6 portobello mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • dried parsley and oregano, to taste
  • freshly ground pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Rinse mushrooms quickly and place in baking pan, tops down.
Combine oil, vinegar, salt, garlic and herbs in a small bowl.
Drizzle marinade over mushrooms.
Season with ground pepper.
Set aside to marinade for 20 minutes or so.
Cook for 20 minutes.
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Quick Curried Lentils and Rice

by Joann MacDonald
Keywords: saute vegan vegetarian nut-free rice lentils

Ingredients (Serves 4)
  • I medium onion, finely chopped.
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil.
  • 1 19 oz can lentils, rinsed.
  • 2 Tbsp Bragg's Liquid Aminos (or soy sauce)
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp curry
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 3 cups cooked basmati or white rice
In a large pan, over medium heat, saute the diced onions in the sesame oil until translucent.
Stir in the lentils, Bragg's, pepper, curry and cumin and saute for 5 minutes, being careful not to let it stick to the pan.
Stir in the cooked rice and serve.
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the veggie nook

Monday, February 27, 2012

Dealing with conflict

People get angry. It’s a proven fact. If you don’t get angry, you probably should. Don’t keep that anger all bottled up inside, where it’s going to mutate your cells or something.

The reason I bring this up is that I came across a couple of parenting resources recently that provide tips for handling conflicts. These two sheets of paper were among the piles that I sifted through in my ongoing quest to organize myself and my home. I’ll get there.
In most cases I should just toss the many “resources” I have gathered from magazines, school hand-outs, etc. But, as a parent who sometimes resorts to yelling as a way to make myself heard, I am going to hang onto these tips for communicating when you are angry.
Some of these tips work equally well for your interactions with colleagues at work. Some people are just downright annoying, aren’t they?
Here are a few of my favourite tips. They seem obvious, but they bear repeating, because when you are angry they are difficult to remember.

·         Don’t attempt to communicate until you regain your cool. You cannot be objective until you settle down.

·         Don’t tower over your child. Physically get down to the child’s level, then talk.

·         Eliminate distractions by turning off the TV and cell phone, and discourage others from interrupting.

·         Listen, without interrupting, to what the child says, even if you disagree. Then, restate what you have heard by repeating it.

·         Unless other people are specifically meant to be included, hold conversations in private. Embarrassing the child or putting him or her on the spot in front of others will lead only to resentment and hostility.

·         Keep preaching and moralizing to a minimum.

·         Tell your child that you still love him or her, but that his or her behaviour is not acceptable. (This one may not work at your job!) See if together you can arrive at a solution.

·         Create plans for those situations that typically create conflict. For example, if you traditionally argue while getting ready in the morning, hold a family meeting to come up with solutions.

·         Use “I” messages to explain how others’ actions make you feel. Instead of “Your room is a mess,” you could try “I feel frustrated when I trip over toys.”

If all else fails, put the kids to bed and have a rum and coke!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Insta-Friday in real life

As I write this, the snow is coming down outside. Just when we thought winter was over. There's not too much accumulation yet, which makes me wonder why the school buses were cancelled today. My daughter insisted on going to school anyway, while my son was thrilled to be able to stay home.

 He and I took the dog for a walk, and enjoyed a brief episode of snow tubing before the dog took off from us and we had to chase her through park and then parking lot. If anyone has any dog training tips, I would love to hear them!
Anyway, here are some highlights from our last week, in cell phone photos.

Last weekend, my kids finally got to use the snow tube that my brother gave them for Christmas. I took a spin on it myself. It makes for a pretty smooth ride!

We followed up our tubing adventure with a visit to my mother-in-law and father-in-law, otherwise known as Nonna and Papa. They live about an hour and a half’s drive away. My sister-in-law and her family joined us, and the kids had a great time laughing and eating Nonna’s food together. My son was so happy to be with his “boy cousins,” since he doesn’t get to see them as often as he would like. My daughter also enjoyed seeing one of her beloved “girl cousins.”

My husband and I enjoyed seeing the whole gang, and, of course, eating Nonna’s food. We only told her we were coming a few hours before dinner time, so we offered to pick up some take-out. But, she would have none of that. I don’t know how she does it, but she had a whole big meal waiting for us. You can see in the pictures the ravioli and spaghetti that the others so enjoyed, the kamut penne that I had, and a dinner plate of: breaded and fried tofu, salad, cauliflower, asparagus and roasted potatoes. Nonna finished with a lovely fruit platter. We later had espresso or tea and a platter of chocolate chip bars that I made from a recipe in How it all Vegan.

On Tuesday, we had fun watching my son and his friends participate in a dribble, jump and shoot competition.

Tuesday was also Pancake Tuesday, and we made pancakes with money in them, as I mentioned earlier in the week.

On other nights, we tried a couple of new recipes, including quinoa with portobello mushrooms and zucchini.

I also made Hannah’s delicious Coconut Vodka Sauce and served it on penne with sides of baked tofu and broccoli with garlic, olive oil and salt.

You know I had to have some sweets too! Besides making my favourite banana bread and some yummy berry oat bars, I also made these berry muffins from a recipe in Vegan Brunch.

When all of this eating occasionally upsets my tummy, I turn to my tea drawer. (It was once a tea chest, but the increased varieties necessitated a tea drawer.) For real tummy emergencies, my go-to brand is this Traditional Medicinals Eater’s Digest tea. It just works somehow.
What did you eat this week? What’s your favourite type of tea? Drop me a comment if you get a chance. I love to hear from you!
Have a great weekend!

Linking up to:

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Pancakes for profit

As you know, yesterday was Shrove Tuesday, or Pancake Tuesday as it is generally known in our house.

As kids, my siblings and I were always excited about Pancake Tuesday, not just because of the pancakes we had for dinner, but because those pancakes had money in them!

I’m not sure where this tradition came from to be honest, and I can’t find a whole lot about it on the Internet.

But, I did find this interesting account from a woman in Newfoundland. And, seeing as my parents are from nearby Nova Scotia, I imagine the tradition is much the same.

Maybe my mom and some of my Newfoundland and Nova Scotia friends can weigh in on this one.

It seems that there is a whole list of items you can put in the pancakes in Newfoundland. I’m not big on the nail, which apparently indicates impending death. Yikes!

Anyway, my kids are just as excited about Pancake Tuesday nowadays. Only difference is, we now have one and two dollar coins in Canada, so the pancake cash can add up. I had to gently remind them yesterday that it is more about fun than about accumulating lots of money.

As I am preparing the pancakes, I only put money in the first four to six. And, I keep track of where the money is so that both kids end up with the same amount ($3.20 this year).

Oh, and in case you are wondering, I scrub the coins thoroughly first. I remember when I got old enough to ask my mom that question!

Monday, February 20, 2012

All or Nothing Granola Bars

Vegan All or Nothing Homemade Granola Bars - a delicious mix of cereals, flax and goodies like dried cranberries and chocolate chips. #vegan #snacks

Today is Family Day in Ontario, a holiday dedicated to celebrating the importance of families and family life. Let’s face it, with the winter here being what it is (about five months long), we will use any excuse for a holiday that breaks up the monotony.

That being said, it is indeed a great opportunity to spend quality time doing something productive with your family. Our schedule for the day was chosen for us, as my son’s soccer team participated in a couple of exhibition games at a local sports facility.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Insta-Friday in real life

Time again for another Insta-Friday, with a look at an extraordinary week through cell phone photos. Love it or hate it, Valentine’s Day can’t be avoided. So, why not focus on the positive?

I couldn’t help but notice that my photos this week are very much centred on treats. Not just treats of the edible kind—although you know I love those—but little gifts geared to bringing small pleasures to otherwise “ordinary” days.

This week was a good reminder that I have a lot to be grateful for, including the wonderful friends, family and readers who voted my blog one of the Top 25 Vegan & Vegetarian Mom Blogs. You guys are the best!

My little one has been begging for a fancy art set like the one her brother got from my mom a while back. Her wish came true for Valentine’s Day.

A couple days before Valentine’s Day, my daughter told me that my gift came from the health food store. She later told me that my gift smelled really good. In her mind, this still maintains secrecy. In any case, I was pleased to get a couple of shiny new notebooks, a delicious-smelling candle, incense, bath salts, soap and some vegan candy bars. Of course, I love the sweet card that my daughter made for me best of all.

I was skeptical about the Titanic book my husband chose for my son—but he was instantly intrigued. Father knows best. The video game went over well too.

These are my husband’s little treats—record and CD wall frames for his basement office, some little edibles, lip balm (which he always seems to need) and a men’s fitness magazine for his lately renewed interest in exercise.

I wasn’t about to cook a big meal on Valentine’s Day, so we ordered something the whole family enjoys—sushi. I feel like I am getting a bit repetitive with this one! As much as I love the vegetarian maki set, I added some fried rice this time—a little bit of warming food to make us feel good. Oh, and some wine helped too.

For dessert, we enjoyed the chocolate peanut butter fudge that I told you about earlier in the week.

This week, we also enjoyed a colourful spinach, beet and orange salad, with ginger-agave dressing, which I made from a recipe in The Get Healthy, Go Vegan Cookbook, by Dr. Neal Barnard. We served it along with some delicious waffle cut fries from Alexia. Yes, we also had some breaded tofu, but I’m not going to show you another photo of that!

I participated in a fun Valentine Swap hosted by Alissa and Caroline. They paired me up with talented singer-songwriter and proud mommy Alle, from Chasing Eden. The swap was all about getting a little treat via snail mail, because who doesn’t miss that experience? Alle knew just what I needed at this rather dreary time of year.

She sent me this lovely Burt’s Bees set to nurture my skin.

She also sent me this pretty lip gloss and nail polish in shades of pale pink that say “spring is coming.” I can use this 4-in-1 foot tool right about now, too! Thanks Alle!


Linking up to:

life rearranged

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Dance me to the end of love

What better way to express your love on Valentine’s Day—or on any day for that matter—than with a homemade batch of something delicious?

Before my husband and I put the kids to bed and settle in to watch Dan in Real Life or Out of Africa tonight, we will exchange presents with the kids and share this lovely chocolate peanut butter fudge.

This simple vegan fudge is adapted from a recipe I found in PETA's Animal Times. I added peanut butter to the mix, because I love the combination of chocolate and peanut butter.

This recipe is super quick and you don’t need a candy thermometer. You can omit the peanut butter and add walnuts if you prefer. 

If you are looking for something less sweet to share this evening, you can fancy up a simple coffee cake recipe by swirling some colourful strawberry jam into the batter.

That’s what I did a couple of days ago, when I made the “East Coast Coffee Cake” recipe from Vegan Brunch. I used light spelt flour instead of all-purpose, and it worked out beautifully. The jam offered a nice surprise change in texture.

The countdown is on...

It's the last day to vote in the Circle of Moms Top 25 Vegan & Vegetarian Mom Blogs contest. Will I hold on to a top 25 spot?

Vote for The Art of the Everyday (currently at 16 on the list) if you like my blog. It's easy to vote and you don't have to register.


Sunday, February 12, 2012

Movin' On Up

If you are a regular visitor to this blog, you have no doubt noticed my fancy new header.
This lovely design was created by my friend and former co-worker, Leo, who is the founder and creative director of Chromazone Creative, a successful multimedia design company. I am so grateful to him for adding some professional pizzazz to my humble blog.

I decided that, with the new header, my blog title should probably now match my URL. So, “The Art of the Everyday” becomes “Woman in Real Life: Exploring the art of everyday living.”
Hope you like the changes! Let me know what you think.

Let me count the ways

Putting the crass commercialism of Valentine’s Day aside for a moment, it really is a lot of fun.
Look at it purely as an opportunity to celebrate the special people in your life—partners, parents, children and friends. You don’t even need to spend any money. Just make a card, or better yet, a cake.

How about a breakfast in bed? Or, for the busy parent, a coupon to be redeemed later for some precious alone time?

It was in this spirit of celebration that my sister-in-law and I held an after-school Valentine’s party for our kids this past Friday. The kids were so excited to spend some time with their cousins, doing some simple crafts and decorating cupcakes.

I tried out a vegan strawberry cupcake recipe from Skinny Bitch: Ultimate Everyday Cookbook. They turned out to be quite delicious, and reminded my sister-in-law of a recipe her (Italian) mom used to make, because they have a little bit of almond extract in them.

The “secret” ingredient combination is silken tofu blended with real strawberries.

The recipe says it makes 12 cupcakes, but I was able to make the 12 and still have enough batter left for this small heart-shaped cake. It was a good thing, too, because the cupcakes didn’t turn out to be enough to satisfy seven of us.

Here’s one of my nieces with her cupcake creation (a little bit of licorice on top).

Here’s my son with his cupcake. He’s often a lone boy in a sea of girls, I’m afraid. Luckily, daddy came home after work to join him.

We did simple, dollar store crafts—nothing too taxing for the moms to come up with. Here’s my daughter with her door hanger craft.

Here’s my niece with a card she made for my daughter.
Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Insta-Friday in real life

The weeks seem to fly by. Here’s another look at my family’s cell phone pictures from the past week.

The best weeks are full of little indulgences that make us feel good, aren’t they? A little food, a nice cup of tea, a fun project completed.

Speaking of making us feel good, we actually had a couple of days of sunshine this week. Quite a pick-me-up. Still, I’m not giving up the Vitamin D drops yet.

My sister-in-law and I went downtown to get our hair done, and we took advantage of the chance to get a little lunch at Kale, a vegan and organic eatery in Toronto. This is my plate of items selected from the buffet, along with a lovely pot of jasmine green tea.

This is my sister-in-law’s plate. The spelt flour perogies are cheese-free and surprisingly delicious. We love the simple, fresh food at this restaurant. It gave us a few ideas for stuff to make at home.

My daughter engaged us all in a contest one day this week. She set up a series of events, including indoor mini-golfing, mini hockey and juggling. Those boys didn’t have a chance. Not to brag, but I came away with seven points, my son had one and my husband got zero. I think the judge kind of favours me though. I never did get the candy promised on the sign-up board.

This is what my kitchen counter looks like on a typical day. I find it very distressing, yet every time I clear it off, it’s back again in a day. See that picture on the right where it looks like I cleaned up? Yep, I stuffed it all in a bag.

The organization experts tell us to develop storage systems in locations right where stuff tends to fall. That’s why we put this little basket on the wall above the kitchen counter. Doesn’t quite cut it, I’m afraid.

I finished my second knitting project, and I am quite proud of this lace scarf. It turns out it’s fun to create something like this instead of just buying it! I'm on the hunt for my next project now.

We had tofu again, of course, this time breaded in some spelt bread crumbs, nutritional yeast and herbs. I talked about easy lunches last week. Pictured above, middle, is one of my easiest lunches of all. When I’m really lazy, I throw some Food Should Taste Good crackers on a plate with some hummus and salsa, and go to town on it. These crackers are amazing—they really do taste good and they are vegan, free of gluten and high in fibre. On the right is garlic noodles, one of our favourite recipes from How it all Vegan.

Last night’s dinner was made up of my favourite easy and delicious recipe—lentils and rice—along with roasted portobello mushrooms and sweet potato fries (from a bag).
Thanks for all your votes for the Circle of Moms top vegetarian mom bloggers contest. I appreciate your support so much. I want to thank my "campaign manager"—my mom. Even with her horrendously slow dial-up Internet access, she makes sure to vote, and she has made a number of phone calls and Facebook requests to solicit votes. It seems a mother's job is never done. She also prints my blog entries so my dad can read them. He will never go near a computer! Hi Dad!
Have a great weekend!

Linking up to:
life rearranged

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