weekend dinner inspiration from the web…

A lot of post about food, I know! But we all have to eat, right?

The internet can be a dangerous place when it come to recipe inspiration.  You can start out with the best intentions; looking for healthy family-friendly recipes for meals and snacks and end up on Pinterest looking at something like “five-minute cinnamon roll dippers.”

Is anyone else’s Facebook feed filled with those “easy” recipe videos of food that will probably kill you but look AMAZING? I saw one yesterday for a “healthy and hearty potato soup” that called for butter, heavy cream, sour cream, cheddar cheese and bacon. I swear my skinny jeans actually spoke and said, “please don’t make that.”

My point is, the internet is a scary place… but fear not! I have wasted hours of my life trolling the web so you don’t have to. Here are some recipes from a few of my favorite sites for healthy, veggie-filled, family meal inspiration…

dinner inspiration1. Oh She Glows– check out these crispy quinoa cakes, they are a great alternative to a processed veggie burger and can be made bite size for the little ones. The opportunity to experiment with these is endless. Don’t have kale? Use spinach. Don’t have quinoa? Try millet.

2. Vanilla and Bean – Check out this chickpea salad. I went through about a month where I always had this in the fridge.  It’s so easy to make and tasty! It is good on it’s own straight out of a bowl, in a pita or (my favorite) on some Mary’s Gone crackers as a snack.

3. Minimalist Baker–  Confession, I totally cheated when I made these and used a box of Spanish rice pilaf from Whole Foods. But they were still really good! If you aren’t familiar with this site check it out.  Tons of veggie-loaded healthy recipes.  Leo also really loves her chickpea blondies (you read that right).

4. Nourish Atelier– Why didn’t I think of this as a dinner idea already?!?!  Cut up veggies and fruit in pretty strips and have your kids fill up their own spring rolls!  Full confession, I haven’t made this recipe yet but this week I did this with sushi papers, sticky rice, carrots, cucumbers and avocado and the kids loved it.

Happy cooking everyone and have a lovely weekend!

xo

Our Purple Carrot review is in!

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I’ve vented on this blog before that feeding a family is hard. You know, because everyone knows by now, that you are supposed to feed your kids a diverse diet of mostly fruits and vegetables. It’s just so HARD.  All Leo wants to eat is pizza and cookies. It’s not uncommon for him to abstain from dinner all together when he is served something new, unfamiliar or undesired; which is basically everything that not pizza or avocado sushi rolls. I am very fortunate that Lucy and Lenny will happily eat almost anything that I serve them.

Since we have become vegetarian, figuring out what to cook has been a little more difficult.  I don’t want to get stuck in a pizza and pasta rut and I don’t want to end up substituting eggs and dairy for the meat that we are leaving out because then really, what’s the point?

Enter, The Purple Carrot.

The Purple Carrot is entirely plant-based meal-kit service, that’s right… vegan. Mark Bittman, surprised everyone by leaving his job at the New York Times to become involved a while back. You may know him from the NYT, his cookbooks, or his Vegan before Six diet. The bottom line is that this dude knows good food and he knows how to cook. When I heard this, I was really interested.

I have never tried a meal kit delivery service. My view has always been that they were WAY more expensive than just going to the store and buying something to make dinner. When I heard about Purple Carrot, I was interested because I wanted to learn some new recipes that I could work into our weekly menu. After looking over the offerings for a few weeks, I placed our order.

Here’s what I thought…

The PROS

  1. A lot of diversity in the vegetables, recipes, spices and flavors used. It’s not all kale, people! We are half way into week three and we have made Indian, Korean, and Italian food. I learned that I love parsnips, where two weeks ago I would see them in the store and think, “what could I possibly do with these weird overgrown, pale carrots.”
  2. It makes A LOT of food! enoki  We are doing the family plan, which costs $74 a week for two meals. But that is enough food to feed four of us for dinner and at least 2 or three lunches worth of left-overs.
  3. GREAT RECIPES!  So far, out of five there are two that I am going to add into our regular weeknight dinners. These Pa Jun, Korean vegetable pancakes that everybody loved and a Ribollita that was perfect for a cold night.
  4. Pre-measured ingredients. I am sure it’s this way for every meal delivery service but since this is my first I really love it. Not having to go out and buy a big container of mustard seeds or curry powder when you only need a tablespoon is just awesome. And obviously, not having to measure.
  5. You can skip a week. You get to see the meals ahead of time so if you aren’t into what’s happening next week you can skip, no questions asked (as long as you do it by Thursday).
  6. Totally recyclable or reusable packaging.

The CONS

  1. The meals have a lot of prep. I usually spend a least twenty minutes chopping and rising before I even start cooking while my children are whine on the kitchen floor. Next week, I am going to try to do some of the chopping earlier in the day while Lucy naps.
  2. The family meals aren’t totally “family” friendly in the spice department. I’ve had to leave off chili flakes twice and once I had to create a separate side-dish for my kids because the side dish was kim chi. Luckily, I was paying attention and didn’t just dump a bag of chilis into our dinner per the instructions, or I would have been making macaroni and cheese in addition to my beautiful Purple Carrot meal. This only applies if you have really little ones or your family doesn’t like spice.
  3. It’s expensive. It’s definitely cheaper than ordering take-out but not as cheap as going to the store and buying your own ingredients.

The only other thing I could think of as a negative, that isn’t really a negative to our family, is that the meals are a little adventurous. If your kids are picky eaters and haven’t seen Aloo Paratha or Lentils before you may be met with some resistance. But trying never hurt right?

If you are trying to work more veggies into your repertoire, try the Purple Carrot!

xo

 

freaking out is a normal response to childhood illness…

I am no stranger to tense situations,  I’ve had high-stress jobs in events and entertainment. But nothing prepared me for the stress of dealing with a sick baby. When my kids get really sick I tend to PANIC.

Lucy had a really rough time last week. She started coughing on Monday night and it didn’t sound good. When we went in to check on her we could hear her breathing and sleeping peacefully. Tuesday morning, when I turned on the light, it was a totally different story. There was vomit everywhere; all over her sheets, bed and hair. I jumped into action, my heart rate went up to about 170 beats per minute and I started scrambling like the big one was coming and I had two minutes to get my baby out of the house. Leo was so confused as I rushed around at warp speed. I paged Lenny at the gym (yes, you can still do things like that in 2016), I whisked my little girl into the bath dressed her and rushed to the Emergency Room and Children’s Hospital.

There she proceeded to throw up all over me and herself again. My poor little girl looked so stunned and started bawling. I have never seen a staff less phased by anything, they handed me a barf bag then continued chatting about their co-workers party. I wanted to scream, “DON’T YOU SEE MY BABY IS SUFFERING?!?!?!” But instead I went on wrapping Lucy’s vomit soaked dress in my vomit soaked sweatshirt and getting her changed.

The nurse took a look at her. No temperature. A little bit of a high heart rate because she was dehydrated. The doctor took a look at her and listened to her cough. He wasn’t sure, but she might have croup. So another nurse came in and gave her some syrupy cough medicine. Meanwhile, I am still FREAKING OUT. My sassy-girl Lucy was very cuddly and quiet, which are traits she rarely expresses. They sent us home with a “good luck,” “lots of hand-washing” directive and a vague diagnosis. Internally, I am thinking, “you should probably just admit my baby because this is really scary and I am freaking out.” But I knew I would look crazy if I did that, so put Lucy back in her car seat and headed home.

She proceeded to vomit the syrupy cough medicine all over the car seat and start wailing again as we pulled into the driveway. Are you sick of hearing about vomit yet? I had our babysitter come over and hold her while she slept so I could begin the multi-step process of sanitizing the house and car. I ordered pedialyte and saltines from Amazon PrimeNOW which cost about fifty dollars, what was I thinking?!?

When I was done with that round of freaking out, I resumed the holding and snuggling and pretty much did that (with a few mini episodes of sickness and more freaking out) until Friday when she started eating and drinking a little and acting like her normal sassy self. IMG_1531 (1)I am calling this the collage of sadness, my poor sick girl.

I know this was only the flu and there are far worse illnesses for a child to have. My panic is totally irrational. Every mother goes through it; perhaps if you have medical training, you are spared from the freaking out.  There is just nothing worse that your little one being sick. Your heart breaks every time they look at you with their little sad eyes and there is nothing you can do for them except be there.

Though she is a little lighter, Lucy is almost back to her normal sassy-self. Here’s a photo to prove that she still remembers how to scream at me when she doesn’t get her way…

IMG_1551I hope all of you Mamas are getting through this cold and flu season! And if your little one is sick, it’s OK to freak out a little (or a lot).

xo, Lisa

a lovely “recipe” for portobello french dips

The whole family was stranded at the Dulles Airport over the holiday, waiting for our delayed plane to arrive. Leo was running all over an empty gate area jumping on chairs pretending to be a superhero and Lucy was making the sign for “more” and digging through my giant purse for food so we decided to sit down and have some dinner. The only place to sit down with the kids to eat that was still open was a “French bistro.”

Eating out  can be tricky now that we are vegetarians. Lenny and I looked over the menu and the only things we could eat were a side of fries and a beet salad. Who wants to eat a beet salad in an airport? Right? While munching on french fries, Lenny kept looking at the menu. He said being a vegetarian hasn’t been hard for him so far (only a few months), but right now he really wanted a french dip. Because, what super-authentic french bistro in an airport doesn’t have a french dip, right?

I took this as a personal challenge. The night after we got back I made french dips. They were not only vegetarian… they were vegan.  Not only were they good… they were great.

I posted a photo on Instagram and so many people asked me for the recipe that I actually made them again and wrote down what I put in them.

Here’s the thing about this recipe, it’s kind of an all-afternoon kind of thing. If you want to skip the gruyere spread and use veganaise or some other kind of cheese- go for it!  If you don’t have time for the au jus maybe experiment with mushroom both or vegetarian “beef’ bullion cubes. I even heard that lipton french onion soup mix is vegan… it’s not exactly clean eating but it’s probably better for you than your average airport french dip right?

Anyways, if you are going to do it all, make the au jus and the “gruyere” way ahead of your mushrooms… you’ll thank me later. I made some errors both times I made these, mainly, using pans that were too small for both the stock and the mushrooms. What a mess! But they were so worth it!

FOR THE AU JUS

2-3 types of dried mushrooms (think they were 1 oz boxes) I used porcini and and shiitake

1 bunch of celery

1 bundle of parsley or greens (I used carrot tops)

2 shallots

1/2 a white onion

teaspoon of peppercorns

YOU MAY NEED

vegetarian chicken boullion cubes (I used Edward & Son’s Not-Chick’n)

vegan Worcestershire sauce (Annie’s brand)

liquid aminos (or soy)

salt to taste

2-3 tablespoons earth balance butter

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Place the mushrooms, peppercorns and all of the veggies in a large stockpot and cover with 10 cups of water.  Cook over high heat until the stock begins to boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 1 hour. Strain the stock and return to the pot and continue to reduce until you only have about 2 1/2 cups of stock left.  Season with salt. Here is were you decide if the stock will be rich enough for a dip. I ended up adding one chicken bouillon cube to my stock at this point. When it was time to serve I added a few drops of liquid aminos, vegan Worcestershire sauce and a dollop of Earth balance butter to each ramekin.

FOR THE GRUYERE SPREAD

3/4 cup of cashews soaked in water for at least two hours, preferably overnight, drained

1 tablespoon of white miso

1 tablespoon nutritional yeast

two cloves on garlic, chopped

2 tablespoons white wine (I used sauvignon blanc)

1-3 tablespoons of water

Place all of the ingredients, except for the water in your blender and blend on high.  Add water, one tablespoon at a time until the mixture is smooth and creamy and has a hummus-like thickness.

FOR THE SANDWICH AND FILLING

1/2 of one large white onion thinly sliced

3 springs of thyme- leaves only

5 large portobello mushrooms- thinly sliced

olive oil

salt and pepper

Red wine

One french baguette

Cook onions in large skillet with 2 tablespoons of olive oil on medium heat, stir regularly. Add thyme and mushrooms once the onions have started to caramelize. Keep and eye on your mushrooms, until they start to release liquid they could burn easily if crowded in the pan (I know you’re not supposed to crowd mushrooms but who has a pan big enough to hold 6 portobellos without crowding them a little!).  Add more oil if this is a problem, I added 2-3 more tablespoons when making mine. Sauté until the mix is dry and add red wine and finish on high heat for 1 minute. Season with salt and generous amounts of salt  and pepper.

NOW ITS TIME TO ASSEMBLE!

If you’ve made your au jus ahead of time put it back on the stove and warm it to almost a boil.  Ready four ramekins for dipping. This is where I placed a little vegan Worcestershire sauce, liquid aminos and earth balance butter in the ramekins.

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Heat your oven to 400. Slice the baguette in to 4 equal pieces, then slice lengthwise to create four buns and place on a large baking sheet. Generously spread the buns with the gruyere spread.  With your oven rack in it’s highest position put your bread in and turn the oven to broil.  The bread should be warm and brown in about 2 minutes- check it constantly so it doesn’t burn… you know your broiler better than I do.

When your bread is done, divide the filling between the the four buns. Put a pretty toothpick in it if you have one.

Eat your sandwich!  Dip it! Are you exhausted? You’ve earned it.

frech dip

Sorry for the terrible photos- they were all taken when it was dark in my kitchen! I promise to do better next time!

#Resolutions

BEST OF 2015

Look at my my best of 2015 collage! What great memories. This past year was a whirlwind.  I felt like I kept saying to myself, “How is it already March?” then April, then May… now 2016 is here! Where does the time go! 2015 was a blur, so many good times but also so much stress and change.  I dealt with some major health issues, we went from being a family with a toddler and a baby to a family with two toddlers, I went back to school, Lenny changed jobs… a lot happened. With everything going on, the big picture stuff got a little lost.  This year Lenny and I sat down and went over our resolutions for the new year, here are some of our family and personal goals for 2016.

FOR THE FAMILY

  1. SUNDAY FAMILY DAY- Between errands, birthday parties, haircuts, playdates, visits from family, etc. The weekends end up being like a game of tennis, passing the kids back and forth, and we rarely do something as a family with just the four of us.  We are going to try to make this a weekly thing from now on.  It may be something as easy as a trip to the park or a beach day, but we are going to make it happen.
  2. PLANT A GARDEN- If you know me, you’re probably laughing.  I am a perpetual killer of tomato plants. We can barely keep our small patch of lawn alive in the backyard. But we are going to do it!  I think with a little determination and a drip irrigation system we can pull this off. I am not talking about an acre of land or anything… just utilizing the side of our yard to grown some herbs, zucchini, carrots and (with any luck) a tomato plant or two. My hope is that if Leo is involved in growing his veggies, he may actually eat more of them.  It’s also a great way to bring down our family’s carbon footprint.
  3. DO A REAL SPRING CLEANING- No cabinet or drawer left unturned! I’ve already started on this one and it feels great. Goodwill, our stuff in coming to you… and there is going to be A LOT of it!

FOR THE KIDS

  1. CUT BACK ON TELEVISION- No television Monday-Thursday for the kids! I am totally guilty of using TV as a crutch while I am trying to get dinner on the table and 15 minutes turns into 30 which turns into 45… No more! We still do a family movie Friday and Leo can watch a show or two on the weekend. Tomorrow begins our first week of this. Wish us luck!

FOR MYSELF

  1. MAKE TIME TO WRITE AND READ- Writing this blog, fiction and or even emails to friends hasn’t been enough of a priority over the last year. This year I am going to literally carve out time of every week to do this.
  2. TRY NEW PLANT-BASED RECIPES- Since our family has gone vegetarian, we have been in kind of a pizza rut.  I need to add some new things into the dinner repertoire. I am doing a vegan month in January (the kids and Lenny are not).  I did this on my own fruition but apparently it’s a real thing. I signed up for The Purple Carrot, which is like a the plant-based Blue Apron for some help in this department, and I have been researching in cookbooks and on Pinterest as well and there is a ton of stuff that I am excited to try! I figure if I make 20 new dinners this month a few of them are bound to be hits that can be added to the monthly menu.
  3. GO TO BED EARLIER- I need to face reality and realized that my kids aren’t going to miraculously start sleeping in anytime soon. My little alarm clocks are going to go off between 6 or 6:30 weather I like it or not so I have to be in bed by 10PM, especially on school nights.

Wow, that seems like a lot (and there are some that I am not even sharing here). Maybe putting them all on the internet will help us stick to them. Here’s to an awesome 2016!

Here’s to a lovely 2016!

 

Happy 2016 everyone!  We are starting off this year with a ton of resolutions (more on those later) and a family head cold. I wanted to welcome the new year by sharing these photos of the kids. I am totally biased but I think they are pretty cute.

Lenny and I sat out of the family photos this year and Lovechild took these adorable photos of our kids. I found out about these pop-ups a few years ago and have been wanting to do them with the kids but our schedules never worked out; Annie from Lovechild also shot our wedding. I am in love with the results.

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Here’s to 2016!