Short But Sweet

I’m late in posting this week. It’s been a whirlwind. We’re heading out on a little vacation this week before school starts and there’s always so much to do before leaving the house. This is especially the case when we come back to a school year in full swing. So this trip required a little more organization, so that once we get home we’re ready for the end of summer. So, much like summer, this recipe is short, but sweet. vegan cafe

I had another volunteer day recently. This time it was at the Thanks Jordan Foundation’s Raw Vegan Cafe. The restaurant, as the name suggests, serves all raw vegan cuisine. It’s also run by volunteers. Well, not entirely, there’s an owner, a chef, a teacher, and a few servers, but the rest of the kitchen help is all volunteer-based. The cafe is a non-profit with proceeds going toward cancer research. While I don’t think we’ll be going vegan or raw anytime soon, it was an absolute pleasure to work in the restaurant and I have to admit the food was amazing. I brought several items home and Mike and the kids agreed. They do a fabulous job – particularly with dessert. soaking almonds

And talk about an incredible volunteer opportunity – I got to work in a restaurant! How fun is that?! Not only did I get to help the community, I got to live out a little dream of mine. Even doing dishes was fun – too bad that doesn’t carry over to home. ;) While at the cafe, I had the opportunity to make the raw vegan taco “meat.” I did my best to replicate the recipe at home because after one bite, I was sold. Not only is it healthy and full of protein, but it has an incredible smoky flavor. It starts with almonds which are soaked for a bit. The almonds are then processed until they are crumb-like. chopped almonds

Next up are the carrots – peeled and chopped. carrots

They are then processed until crumb-like as well. chopped carrots

And then the carrots and almonds are mixed together – this creates the texture of the “meat.” carrots and almonds

Next it’s onto the sauce that will give the “meat” its smoky flavor. Again we turn to the food processor (gotta love a one pot meal) where we blend the remaining ingredients – garlic, agave, Tamari (gluten free soy sauce), cumin, fresh oregano, cayenne, chili powder and sun dried tomatoes. sun dried tomatoes and tamari

While processing the sauce, a bit of water is added and blended until smooth, or at least until there are no big chunks hiding in the sauce. taco sauce

The sauce is mixed together with the almond-carrot mixture and voila – you have your taco “meat.” vegan taco meat

We decided to serve some fresh sweet corn with our tacos. Mike took the kids outside for a lesson in shucking (Good thing they learned to shuck before heading to Miss C’s farm to feed the animals!). shucking corn

We seasoned our sweet corn with a mixture of olive oil, shallots and sage before tossing it on the grill. sweet corn

The sage and sweet corn combo is absolutely delicious. I never would have guessed it, but it’s really a good marriage of sweet and savory. shucking the sweet corn

But enough about that, back to the vegan tacos. So you might be wondering how these went over with my carnivorous husband and children. We served the taco meat on organic (albeit not raw) tortillas and topped them with fresh chopped avocado. vegan tacos

Believe it or not, the vegan tacos were a big hit. I’ve already admitted to being a fan of the smoky flavor, so these were 3-1/2 spoons for me. Much to my surprise, they were also 3-1/2 spoons for Mike. So you can be sure these don’t taste like what most meat lovers think of as vegan or raw. This stuff is tasty enough to have Mike ring in a near top mark! raw vegan tacos

The key to this meal (and the others I sampled) is the generous use of various herbs and seasonings. There’s nothing bland about this meal. Even Mr. N was impressed. He came in with 3-1/2 spoons as well. He couldn’t believe that it wasn’t meat. gluten free tacos

Unfortunately Miss A was not as impressed. This meal was a bit too spicy for her. She would have much preferred the raw vegan brownie (which both kids swore tasted just like a homemade brownie). She did enjoy her corn though as well as the fried sage, courtesy of Greg and Katherine over at Rufus’ Food and Spirits Guide. vegan taco night

Overall, this meal was a success and made for some great lunches the rest of the week. I think we’ll be making it again (with something on the side for Miss A). I never would have expected this much flavor out of raw food, but I guess when it’s done right, just like anything, it can be flavorful and satisfying.

Print this recipe: Vegan Raw Tacos

So for the next week, we’re going to head for some peace and quiet. So if we aren’t frequenting your blogs, you’ll know why. We’re heading somewhere we can cook, read, play and just be – the four of us – before the busy new school year kicks into high gear. You see, this year is going to be especially new for us…Miss A will start her first full day of school and her first full week of school. I’m not sure how I’m going to manage watching my baby get on a bus, but I know she’s ready. Mom’s just not ready. Childhood – another thing that is far too short, but sweet. Fortunately, I have a few more years of childhood with my babies…so here’s to the short and the sweet whether it’s summer, a good meal, childhood, vacations or any of those other things that we love so much. Cheers!

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Lentils du Puy and the Archbishop of Canterbury

Well, we have finally reached the end of our French cooking adventure. It’s been a nice little tour through a bit of our heritage. We started with our coq a vin, dined on some delicious leeks, sampled some lovely sables with a delicate mousse, kicked it up a notch with some ratatouille and of course quieted things down with our souffles. As for our last French recipe, we received a special treat – a tin of French Lentils du Puy from the lovely Eva at kitcheninspirations when we met up in Canada earlier this summer. Lentils du Puy

Lentils du Puy are a highly regarded lentil and hail from the Le Puy region of France. Knowing these were special lentils, we’ve been waiting for just the right recipe to inspire us. Then after finding some tart cherries at the farmer’s market, I knew where we were headed – a Lentil and Seared Scallop Salad with a Cherry-Pom Vinaigrette. The recipe starts with the vinaigrette for which we used the tart cherries, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar and a special bottle of pomegranate molasses courtesy of Barb at Profiteroles and Ponytails who you may recall, we also met in Canada. vinaigrette ingredients

We pureed the cherries and a shallot. We then mixed in the vinegars, molasses and some seasonings. After a bit longer in the food processor, we pushed the mixture through a sieve. We mixed the dressing with a bit of oil and placed the vinaigrette into the refrigerator to cool. making dressing

While the vinaigrette chilled we prepared the salad. We used fresh spinach, the lentils (of course!), goat cheese, a few sliced shallots and even a bit of bacon. bacon

Next we seared our scallops using a bit of fleur de sel for that extra French touch. We then served the salad topped with a scallop and a side of the cherry-pom vinaigrette. seared scallop salad

This was a delightful and filling meal. The lentils provided a firm texture and strong flavor which was complemented well by the vinaigrette and goat cheese. Lentils du Puy

I was nervous the strong flavors would overshadow the scallop, but it too worked providing a soft texture and flavor to the meal. It was a definite hit with both Mike and I coming in at a solid 3 spoons. Lentil salad

I was also a bit apprehensive about how this meal would go over with the kids. Well, as you can probably guess, we had mixed reviews. Miss A, not a big fan of salad just yet, was not too impressed. She liked the lentils and ate her scallop. She even picked out the bacon and cheese. The spinach and dressing were left behind. I suppose she prefers her salads deconstructed. It was 2 spoons for her. Lentil and Seared Scallop Salad with Cherry-Pom Vinaigrette

Mr. N on the other hand was a bit less picky. He ate his whole salad and didn’t complain. He too said it was only 2 spoons; although I suspect if I made this again he would eat it. lentils

This was a flavorful and bright way to serve the lentils, especially in the summer. We enjoyed it so much in fact, that we served it as a side salad (minus the scallop) to Friend Sue and Richard for dinner the following weekend. It went very well with the gluten free meatloaf that Friend Sue made for the evening. Perhaps she’ll let me share the recipe soon. It was a winner for sure! Until then, here’s the recipe for the salad: Lentil and Seared Scallop Salad with Cherry-Pom Vinaigrette

I should mention that if you happen to have several extra cherries lying about after making the vinaigrette, it never hurts to toss them in a crisp with some other fruits hiding in the fridge. We made this Cherry, Blueberry, Peach crisp for dessert that evening. I think you can safely assume this one was 4 spoons all around. Sadly, I don’t have a recipe as I just threw it together for a basic, but delicious crisp. cherry peach blueberry crisp

Well, that successfully concludes our French cooking summer. It’s been a delicious little adventure and it was quite a bit of fun to delve into our own family history. But it’s not all French in our blood. We have quite a bit of English as well, and Mr. N recently channeled his inner Brit to play the Archbishop of Canterbury in a student version of Excalibur. the archbishop

It was his best performance to-date and so much fun for him (and us!). He even developed – and maintained – a quite acceptable British accent. It was a smashing success. His Excellency

Perhaps we should think about revisiting English food as well, but first we have our birthday meal wrap-ups, a stateside adventure and then once school starts we’ll be selecting our new country for the next round of international cooking. I think we’ll be heading back to the Middle East. Enjoy your week everyone! Cheerio and au revoir!

All is Quiet on the Homefront

Well, at least it was for an afternoon. This past Sunday I was part of a group, through my yoga studio, that volunteered to pull weeds in a meditation garden. This wasn’t just any meditation garden either – it was a walking labyrinth. We performed the service in silence and were able to participate in a guided walking mediation following our work. While it was initially quite a daunting challenge for me to think about not speaking for hours on end, I have to admit, it was one of the most peaceful experiences I’ve ever enjoyed. the labyrinth

Now as you can imagine, our house is anything but quiet. But a few weeks ago, I found the perfect way to get the kids to slow down on a restless summer afternoon. We made soufflés. As you may recall, we had just made a delicious Eggs Benedict which required the use of egg yolks. Now since these weren’t just any egg yolks, they were farm fresh, we didn’t want the whites to go to waste; and it just so happens that soufflés fit in nicely with our French cooking adventure. egg whites

As for what kind of soufflé, well this was a no-brainer. We had a lot of fresh raspberries on hand of which we are all fanatics. Now I’m sure you’ve all seen a cartoon or TV show gag somewhere along the line that involves a deflating soufflé due to a loud noise. Well, we told the kids about this as we started to make the soufflés and they were fascinated. I’ve never seen them so quiet – truly.

We started by simply pureeing the raspberries in the blender along with some sugar and a touch of flour. raspberry puree

Next we whipped the egg whites into stiff peaks before adding a bit more sugar and a pinch of salt. stiff peaks

After the whites were whipped, we folded in the raspberry puree. souffle folding

We then filled our butter greased ramekins with the mixture. The recipe makes enough to fill 6 to 8 ramekins depending on the size. pouring souffle

Next we used the back of the spatula to create flat tops for the soufflés. souffle ramekin

And then…it was time for silence. The kids walked slowly through the house so as not to disturb the soufflé as they baked, and for a while they even sat just watching them rise through the oven door. Believe me this is a trick I’m going to remember to use again! The soufflés rose beautifully in the oven, but unfortunately deflated while I was attempting the pictures. deflated souffle

Next time I will have to be quicker! The kids were a bit disappointed that they didn’t stay fluffy, but that didn’t stop them from giving the raspberry soufflés 4 spoons. raspberry souffle ramekin

The soufflés were light and airy and delightfully sweet. Not too bad for our first attempt at this French dessert. Mike and I gave the dish 3 spoons. They were very good, but hard to beat my other favorite raspberry treat…raspberry souffle

Print this recipe: Raspberry Soufflé

Let’s just say I put the leftover raspberry puree to good use. (It helps to have a homemade pie crust on hand in the freezer!) raspberry pie

And a few extra ramekins. This certainly got 4 spoons all around! individual raspberry pie

Eggcellent Adventure

After about a year of dating Mike things were getting serious, and we decided to take a big step and spend the holidays together. So on Thanksgiving our plan was to spend the day at his parents’ house. He picked me up at my mom and dad’s and off we went. Little did Mike realize I would be crying for the entire drive. You see this was the first holiday spent away from my family, and for me that was a big deal.

Fast forward 15 years and I was crying again, but this time as we said bon voyage to Mike’s parents. They are now part of my family which is something I’m grateful for every day. Cliff and Marilyn have left their home (which was a few blocks away from ours) and headed for bluer skies and greener grass. Look out Florida – here come Nana and Papa! bye nana and papa

While we are all very excited for them to begin their “excellent adventure” that has been 30 years in the making, we are also very sad that they’ll no longer be one mile away. When we moved back to the Chicago area after our stint in Minnesota, we lived with Mike’s parents while we waited for our house in Winona to sell. Now, I’ll admit to being nervous about moving in with my “in-laws”, but in reality there was nothing to be nervous about at all. They gave us our space, made for great company on the nights Mike was teaching, provided the kids with hours of entertainment, and sent Mike and I out on regular date nights. We really all came together as a family that year, getting to know each other and making a lifetime of memories.

I could go on and on about what Nana and Papa mean to us, but they’re not the mushy sort and they know how we feel. What I will say is that what I am the most grateful for is how my kids have gotten to know their Nana and Papa. It’s truly a gift. And while there are many things the kids will miss dearly about Nana and Papa, if you ask them, tops on their list will be Papa’s breakfasts. Papa’s breakfasts were not fancy, but they were absolutely created for his grandkids – waffles topped with ice cream, chocolate syrup and sometimes a bit of fruit. Only a Papa could get away with that!

So in honor of Nana and Papa’s departure we thought we’d share an equally decadent, but a bit more grown-up breakfast treat. You may remember a few months back, Miss A and I had the opportunity to visit Miss C at the farmy – a trip Miss A is still talking about regularly. One of her favorite memories of the farm (aside from Ton and Boo) was collecting eggs with Miss C. Miss A at the Farmy

Miss C was gracious enough to send the eggs Miss A collected home with us and we knew right away how to put them to good use. With our trip to Canada and New York around the corner (the one we just returned from – is it just me or is time flying this summer!), we figured it was time for a stateside recipe. Did you know that according to one account Eggs Benedict originated in New York City at the Waldorf Hotel in 1894? And did you know that Eggs Benedict is best when made with fresh eggs? Well, we can now attest to that! farmy eggs

We made our Eggs Benedict by poaching Miss C’s farm fresh eggs. poaching an egg

We also used regular bacon since the kids aren’t all that big on Canadian bacon (yet – it will grow on them). frying bacon

Mike worked on our Hollandaise sauce made from the farmy egg yolks. Hollandaise sauce

And Miss A buttered our English muffins. buttering toast

Once assembled, we topped our Eggs Benedict with paprika, chives and a wee bit of truffle salt, because let me tell you – truffle salt and eggs equals ooh la, la to me! There is just something about that combo that brings eggs to a whole new level. Eggs and bacon

Now I had never had Eggs Benedict before and was never really a big egg eater. Aside from the occasional omelette, I rarely eat them. However, this little breakfast delight completely changed everything. Perhaps it was the farm fresh eggs – they really do make a BIG difference in flavor. bacon and eggs

Or perhaps my tastes have changed, or maybe I just know how to cook them a bit more properly now. Whatever it was, thanks to this meal, I’ve been eating poached eggs left and right (and making sure to get eggs on my trip to the farmer’s market). Needless to say this dish got a 4 spoon ranking from me – Mike too! Eggs Benedict

But it wasn’t just my diet that this recipe transformed, even the kids were won over. The same two kids that moaned and groaned whenever we served an egg dish, devoured the Eggs Benedict. Despite even asking for more, they weren’t ready to give it a full 4 spoons and were adamant that it was a 3 spoon dish for them. Well, I’ll take it! That’s certainly progress over the usual, “Ugh! Eggs? I hate eggs!” Hollandaise sauce

The Eggs Benedict was creamy, fresh and full of flavor. While it may not be as kid-friendly as ice cream and waffles, it’s just as rich! It’s definitely not a diet breakfast, but my goodness it is worth every little calorie. I can guarantee I will be making this again sometime soon. Maybe even the next time Nana and Papa come back for a visit (See we’re already trying to entice them to come back soon!) breakfast

Print this recipe: Eggs Benedict
Print this recipe: Hollandaise Sauce

We hope you all enjoyed our little stateside adventure this week. And Nana and Papa – perhaps you can keep your eyes open for some good Florida recipes we can test out. We’ll be back next week to continue our French cooking adventure. It’s becoming our summer in France (don’t I wish!). Until then, I thought I would share a series of photos from the Farmy. This time it’s from the perspective of Miss A, so a bit of a different vantage point.

The farmy through Miss A’s lens:

mommy meets boo

Mommy meets Boo. She likes dogs.

ton

This is Ton Ton. I call him Ton. He liked me.
ton and boo

Boo was silly. He kept trying to take Ton’s frisbee.

Piggies

The pigs were as big as me!

ton again

I like Ton.

chickens

These are the chickens. I got to pick their eggs with Miss C. Then we ate them.

Donkeys, Frogs and Wine

If I said this was a busy summer, that would be an understatement. Particularly these past few weeks. Last week was an extended holiday weekend complete with three BBQs and a sleepover. This weekend we’ve just wrapped up two of three birthday parties with one more to go. Whew. It’s a little how Toronto felt for us too – one big whirlwind of fun. So when we left Toronto to head back home, we opted for the scenic route. wine route

It was time to slow down for a bit, take in some of the outdoors, some wine and even some grape juice. Mr. N and Miss A became quite the aficionados. grape juice drinkers

We began the next leg of our adventure on a wine route on the southern side of Lake Ontario – a great recommendation from Barb. She even pointed out a few great places along the way to stop for lunch and tastings, the first of which was The Good Earth for lunch. It was a gorgeous day and we were able to dine outside. The food was delicious, but the view was what we were lost in. The Good Earth

Good Earth Beamsville

They even had some chickens, so Miss A was in farm heaven. Feeding chickens

After lunch we found a few other wineries along the way – several of which were accessible by hiking a little trail. Now how clever is that! This was by far one of our favorite afternoons. hiking

wine run

father and son

There was even some wildlife along the way. frog pond

And of course some grapes…Hidden Bench

Malivoire

It was one of those days you didn’t want to end. Fortunately we had several more ahead of us though as we headed back toward the Finger Lake region of New York. We had passed through the area a few years ago and really enjoyed it. The lakes are a the quintessential summer getaway with small, friendly towns, rolling hills and scenic drives. (And of course more wineries!) New York wineries

Now don’t worry, while Mike and I were most certainly enjoying ourselves…the kids were too. Many of the wineries are kid friendly (or perhaps our kids are just winery friendly) and most of them have something interesting aside from wine. The Swedish Hill Winery, for instance, has Doobie the donkey. He of course came over to see Miss A. Doobie

Swedish Hill

And a trip through the Rochester area be complete with a visit to the National Museum of Play and the Sesame Street stoop! 123 Sesame Street

Check out how much Miss A has grown since the last time we were here: Miss A in 2011

Miss A 2013

So after a few days of wining, dining, playing and relaxing in the Finger Lakes, it was time to head home. This time we took a slightly different route though and made one last stop – Allegany State Park. It was just a gorgeous area. Lush with trees, wild flowers and beautiful old forestry building. allegany state park

Sitting room

After a picnic lunch we took a short one-mile hike that made a nice loop through the woods. Red Jacket Hiking Trail

We passed remnants of an old zoo, old zoo

and old ski lifts. old ski lifts

The kids especially dug all the caterpillars we saw though. caterpillars

It was the perfect way to end the trip. Relaxed. mom and kids

I think we could use another one of these. ;) Until then, I’m just going to try and adopt Miss A’s happy-go-lucky style. Life is good. happy

Next week we’ll be back with a stateside recipe from New York…it only seems fitting after all. Have a great week!

How We Spent Our Summer Vacation

As Kristy promised the next few posts will highlight our latest road trip across North America. If you haven’t guessed by now, we like our road trips!Toronto
This time a business trip called me to Toronto right as school was ending for Mr. N and Miss A, and that was all the excuse we needed to jump in the car and head to the Great White North. The fact that some of our favorite bloggers are in the area made it an even easier call. After an all day drive on Friday, the first thing on the agenda was a Saturday morning trip to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Hockey HOF
I highly recommend a visit. The trophy room is impressive to say the least – we actually got to touch the Stanley Cup before it was brought back home, and there are lots of interactive things for the kids to do. While Mr. N was clobbering me at NHL trivia (seriously), Miss A was trying her hand at the real thing. 2
Mr. N and I played the goalie interactive game, but it’s probably best there isn’t any photographic evidence of our performance. That evening, I took the kids to a movie, and Kristy got to have a girl’s night out with blogging friends Eva, Barb and Kelly. From all accounts, a great time was had by all. I’m told the conversation flowed (as did the drinks and food) and it was more a gathering of long-time friends than new friends. And don’t feel bad for me, after taking the kids to the movie (and getting them to sleep I might add) I got to kick back and watch the Hawks in a little playoff action. 3Like our weather at home,  Toronto was hit or miss, but the sun seemed to shine on the days we most needed it – like our second visit to Centre Island’s Centreville Amusement Park. (A few of you may recall we spent Miss A’s 3rd birthday at the park a few years ago.) Centreville
carousel
if the boat's a rockin
log ride
The next day, well, the weather was cold and rainy, but that didn’t deter Kristy and the kids. They spent the entire day at the Ontario Science Centre while I was at my conference. Now that the kids are older they can actually spend more than a few hours at a museum without needing a nap (us adults on the other hand…), so it was a FULL day of hair-raising fun. static electricity</a
mom and kids
Toronto was a non-stop whirlwind of fun with much of the thanks going to Eva, who provided a virtual tour book of activities for us including the other places we visited, the Distillery District, Eaton Centre, Marché, and Yorkville. We didn’t make it to everything else on the list, but the cool thing was that what we did see (except for Centreville) was new to us despite having been through Toronto twice before. Thank you again Eva. We’ll be back again to finish off the rest of the list for sure!

Now before we head back to the states (in our next post), and leave our Neighbor to the North we just had to make another stop at Niagara Falls. Niagara

Even though it’s our third visit, it amazes every single time. The amount and force of the water is just staggering. Every time. Again with the kids being older now, we figured a new adventure was in order (and no, not one that involved a barrel, much to the kids’ dismay). This year we braved the rapids on the Maid of the Mist. maid of the mist

And what can I say other than, it completely lives up to the hype. If you’re in the area, it’s an absolute must do. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves (photos were taken on Kristy’s iPhone since the ride is a bit wet): maid of the mist 2Maid of the mist voyage 1
MOTM3
MOTM4
MOTM5
MOTM6
MOTM7
It was another good one for the books (or our memories anyway), there’s always a new adventure around every corner. Toronto and the Niagara region can provide weeks of sightseeing, and they’ll surely keep us coming back for more. (Not to mention – we’ve got some great friends to come back and visit again too!)

Later this week, Kristy will be back with the rest of our adventure. Until then, here’s something else that was new to us this year – lights on the Falls. Lights
Lights 2