Monday, May 28, 2012

Meatless Monday: Holiday Cookouts

On the unofficial (or is it the official?) kick off of summer, cookouts are a tradition enjoyed by many. There will be many opportunities for sharing summer staples with friends and family in the months to come, and those who choose to reduce or avoid meat in their diets can feel left out when meat plays a starring role in the summer cookout.

While there is plenty of non-traditional fare to enjoy (check out my Grilled Tofu & Veggie Kabobs!), and many standard side dishes are vegetarian, sometimes even the strictest of vegetarians longs for a juicy burger, the versatility of a grilled chicken breast, or even the nostalgia of a hot dog. In the nearly 8 years since I gave up meat for good, I've tried just about every meat substitute you can think of, and am sharing my favorites with you here today.

Gardein Veggie Burger, Baked Beans, and Tortellini Pasta Salad
Burgers: While they can be challenging to grill, my number one choice for a vegetarian burger is the Walnut Burger from The Trempeleau hotel. If you're local, they're easy to find in grocery stores, but if they aren't available near you, you can try your hand at making your own using a recipe like this Cheesy Walnut Burger option. Since my beloved Walnut Burgers aren't readily available for everyone, and since they're decidedly un-vegan, I also love the Ultimate Beefless Burgers from Gardein. They are surprisingly juicy for a veggie burger, cook up beautifully on the grill (just brush both sides with oil or spray with cooking spray prior to grilling), and have a texture, flavor, and aroma so convincing that my husband had to double check the packaging to make sure it really was meatless! If these are not available near you, Boca Burgers   are an excellent option that is also easy to grill, though they tend to get dry and require a bit of dressing up with plenty of fixins to get a more authentic burger experience.

Chicken: Hands down, the only mock chicken products I can recommend for the grill are Naked Chick'n Cutlets from Quorn. The flavor and texture cannot be beat, and if you're careful not to overcook them, they are juicy and delicious. These cutlets are as  versatile as boneless skinless chicken breasts and can be dressed up any number of ways. Eat them on their own, on a sandwich, or cut up into salads or pasta dishes. Yum!

Hot dogs: I'll be honest. I haven't yet found a vegetarian hot dog that I could take more than a bite of two of. I can, however, recommend any of the Gourmet Sausages from Tofurky. The Sweet Italian with Tomato and Basil is my personal favorite, while my husband favors the Kielbasa. As with most other mock meats, you need to be careful not to overcook them or they'll dry out, but alone or on a bun with your favorite toppings, these are a summer favorite around here!

What are your favorite mock meats for the grill?

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Privacy Please

Dear Delilah,

At last, you have discovered the value of potty-time privacy. Up until last week, we kept a potty chair right in the living room. We figured that having it more visible and easily accessible would be a recipe for success. And it was! You've been doing a great job with the potty at home, where we let you go without diapers or underwear so you're able to go as you please. You haven't quite got pulling pants up and down yet, but I've got a feeling that when you get that mastered, diapers will be a thing of the past! Anyway, it was all well and good, but we figured it was time to start encouraging some privacy, and wiping your butt in the middle of the living room just didn't feel right anymore.

Last week, I moved your potty to the bathroom. At first, you needed a bit of reminding that the potty had moved, but you caught on quickly. I supervised, leaning against the door frame, while you did your business, then stepped in to help with wiping and flushing. After a few times through this routine, you decided that my presence was no longer required. You sat down on your potty, looked at me, said "No Mama!", stood up, and shut the door in my face. When you were done, you knocked at the door (you can't quite reach the knob) for me to come in and help you finish up.

My big girl, who has long been so independent, has finally decided she wants privacy in the bathroom. Hooray! Now if you could apply that to the concept that other people, namely your father and I, might also want a little privacy in the bathroom, we'd be all set!



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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Daddy's No Dummy

Dear Delilah,

I really love your father. I mean, really love him. More and more every day, especially since he became a father, because he's so good at it. So thoughtful about it. So aware of what and how he is teaching you.

Case in point:

Last Friday, as we often to on Friday mornings in the Spring and Summer, we took off in search of garage sales in our neighborhood. We found a few sales, but didn't have much luck finding anything to call our own. (Note to those having garage sales, do not advertise your sale as "Huge group sale! Everything!" when it is one garage with two tables of ladies clothes and some horse gear. That is not a huge group sale. That is not "everything".)

On our way back, we stopped at a sale about a block from home and had better luck. Your father found an adorable shirt for you (see? he's awesome!) and I found some unopened paint markers. You were playing in the driveway with a car you'd found, so we added that to the pile. The man running the sale informed us it was "crash test" toy car, designed to be slammed into walls and explode and then be put back together again. It even has a tiny crash test dummy inside; you have to push a button to make his head pop back out after the "accident".

We didn't think much of it, other than, "Huh, I've never seen anything like that before!". We paid for our purchases and made our way home to have lunch and let you take your nap. When you finished your nap and joined us outside, Daddy decided to see how the car worked. You looked on as it slammed into our back step and "crashed". At the moment of impact, your father looked thoughtful for a moment, then looked at me and asked "Did I just teach my daughter violence?" I couldn't help but chuckle as I answered "I suppose you did, in a way!" He shook his head and sarcastically muttered something like "Yeah, great! Let's teach 2 year olds to smash things!" He turned his focus to showing you how to make the crash dummy "all better", then relocated the car to the grass for you to play with it without causing any dummy-ejecting accidents.

That thoughtfulness? That it even occurred to him that this toy could be associated with violence and destruction, when most fathers would probably just gleefully slam it into the step harder and harder to see just how big of a "crash" they could make? Just one of many reasons I'm so grateful to be parenting with him.



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Monday, May 7, 2012

Meatless Monday: Gardein Mandarin Orange Crispy Chick'n & Fried Rice

On busy days, I count on being able to pull a few things out of the freezer and making a quick meal with them. We keep our freezer stocked with meat analogues and frozen vegetable mixes for such occasions. In the years I've been a vegetarian, I've tried many mock meats. Many of them are too chewy and have very little flavor, leaving a lot to be desired. Our Target store recently started carrying groceries, and that's where my husband discovered Gardein products. Our favorite so far is the Mandarin Orange Crispy Chick'n, the star of  this fast and easy fried rice meal. This meal is ready in about 20 minutes and serves 4.

What You'll Need:

  • One package of Gardein Mandarin Orange Crispy Chick'n
  • Two packages of frozen "steam in bag" rice and vegetable blends (I used Birds Eye Steamfresh brand)
  • 3 eggs (optional, but highly recommended!)
  • Cooking oil of your choice (I used coconut oil with a splash of toasted sesame oil)
  • Bragg liquid aminos or soy sauce
What You'll Do:

  • Cook Gardein Chick'n according to package instructions in a wok or large frying pan.
  • While Gardein Chick'n is cooking, microwave the rice and veggie blends according to package instructions.
  • When Gardein Chick'n is done, remove from pan (I put mine in the toaster oven on the warm setting to keep it warm).
  • Whisk the eggs together in a small bowl and scramble them in the wok or pan.
  • Add both packages of rice to wok/pan and toss with eggs. Fry rice mixture, tossing/stirring occasionally for several minutes.
  •  Serve in bowls or on plates and top with Gardein Chick'n pieces. 

*For a more toddler-friendly version, we simply cut-up the Gardein pieces into small strips and stirred them in with the rice mixture:


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Sunday, May 6, 2012

Local Business Calling You Fat?

Is a local business calling you fat? Buy a bike…somewhere else! 

It usually takes something either extremely touching or extremely offensive to get me blogging on a Sunday evening. Unfortunately, this particular blog is in response to the latter.

I support local businesses. So last year, when I was in the market for a new bike, I browsed at the local bike shops and settled on an affordable and comfortable bicycle from Buzz's bikes, where I've brought my bicycle-related business over the years.

Shortly after buying my bike, I noticed this sign at Buzz's:

Now, I'm no expert in marketing or business strategies, but I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that one of the biggest rules is "Don't outright offend your customers." Attempting to sell bikes to women by making them feel bad about their bodies is downright shameful. I was bothered by the sign when I saw it, and even my husband remarked that it was extremely offensive. I had forgotten all about it until today, when a friend mentioned being offended by Buzz's signs, and saw that their current sign, which they shared with the caption "Happy Mother's Day!" says:

Because what every mother wants for Mother's day is a family who is thinking about how fat she is, rather than about all the love and energy she devotes to them.

But wait! Buzz's made sure the men got a healthy dose of body shaming too!

Buzz’s is so proud of their body-shaming slogans that they even offer them on t-shirts!

Bicycling is about much more than being less fat. Many cyclists are more motivated by cardiovascular benefits, building strength and endurance, engaging in camaraderie in the diverse local biking community, and using an economical and environmentally friendly mode of transportation than they are by who thinks they’re fat. Drawing attention to the many and varied benefits of cycling would be a far more effective and less offensive means of selling bicycles.

This is one fat bicycling mother who will happily take her business to Blue Heron Bicycle Works, where they are more concerned with helping people ride than they are making them feel bad about their bodies.

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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Cousins

Delilah got to meet her new cousin, Harper, when she was just hours old!

If you missed it, my account of my role as a doula at Harper's birth is here.

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