To-Fish Sticks

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I have had the Vegan Lunch Box cookbook by Jennifer McCann for awhile, and I have tried numerous recipes successfully for my family.  For some reason I never tried the Tofu Fish Sticks.  I think the name scared me, like I would have to put in a ton of effort or something.  While searching this morning for inspiration in the kitchen, I revisited this wonderful cookbook and was drawn to this recipe.  After reading it, I saw actually how very simple it was.  You cut some tofu, dredge it in soy milk and batter, then bake.  Well, these were a HUGE hit tonight at dinner in my house.  All 4 kids have them a thumbs up, and it felt good to start our busy week off with a nice home cooked meal.

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So for all you tofu skeptics out there, I would encourage you to try these delicious, nutritious renditions!  The only thing I was missing was the tarter sauce, which I will make the next time we have these.  Actually, I am going to give you 4 recipes from tonight’s meal.  It seems like a lot, but most of the work was in the prep and this was actually a pretty simple meal to prepare.  The meal is 100% vegan except for a tiny, tiny amount of ghee on the beets, which you could easily omit.  I use ghee for the flavor and to add a little bit of animal fat to our diet for variation.  I also used some honey in the carrots and green bean vinaigrette. You can read about some of the health benefits of ghee vs. butter here.

Moving on to the recipes!  First up are the Tofu Fish Sticks, which my family renamed To-Fish Sticks. These are gluten free and vegan!

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To-Fish Sticks (recipe taken from Vegan Lunch Box)

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 Cup fine cornmeal
  • 2/3 Cup sliced almonds
  • 2 tsp. paprika
  • 2 tsp. kelp granules
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. dried dill weed
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound firm tofu, drained
  • extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat the bottom of a glass baking dish with olive oil spray. Combine first 9 ingredients in a high power blender until it turns into a coarse meal. (Note: modify this to your taste. For example, I added extra kelp granules, along with some nutritional yeast. I also omitted the onion powder because I had none, so I doubled the garlic powder). Transfer powdered blend to a wide baking or pie dish. Put soy milk into a bowl. Cut the tofu into just under 1/2 inch slices, then cut those in half. This gave me 18 sticks. Dip the tofu stick into the soy milk, then place it in the cornmeal mix, making sure to heavily coat on all sides. Place in the baking dish (I sprinkled on extra cornmeal mix on top of the tofu sticks), and sprinkle them with olive oil.  Bake for 30 minutes or until crispy.

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Next up, the beets.  So super simple, but such a wonderful flavor.  Thinly slice a red beet and an orange beet (more if needed).  Spray bottom of a shallow baking dish (I use a pie pan). Place your beet slices in the pan and sprinkle with olive oil.  I also added a touch of ghee.  Bake at 400 degrees F for about 20 minutes or until beets are tender.  I like to cook mine until they just start to get crispy around the edges.

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Now for the potatoes.  Cut some golden potatoes into 6-8 pieces, depending on the size of the potato. Boil in water (with a little salt and pepper added) until tender.  Drain the water and place the potatoes back in the saucepan. Coat with some vegan butter and freshly chopped parsley.  Done!

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Finally, the veggies.  This is another recipe from Vegan Lunch Box. It is such an easy vinaigrette to make and so flavorful!  I will tell you that I completely forgot to add the tarragon as listed below. I also added some honey to the vinaigrette to slightly change the flavor.  I loved the way it turned out! I also added some fresh crushed garlic. Keeping that in mind, here is the original recipe below:

Green Beans and Carrots in a Tarragon Vinaigrette (original recipe taken from Vegan Lunch Box)

Ingredients:

  • 3 baby carrots (cut into matchsticks)***
  • 1 handful fresh green beans, trimmed
  • 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. dried tarragon
  • freshly ground black pepper

***I used regular carrots, sliced then then cut them into tiny matchsticks

Add green beans and carrots to a sauce pan with a little bit of water. Bring water to a boil, then lower temperature, cover and simmer for a few minutes until beans are tender. I like mine tender but still a little crunchy. Remove the cover and increase the heat to boil off the rest of the water. This shouldn’t take long, so if you find that for some reason you have a lot of water left after you do this for a few minutes then just go ahead and pour off the excess water.  (At this point I added some crushed garlic to the pan and cooked for a few minutes). Whisk together the vinaigrette ingredients (I added some honey to mine and omitted the tarragon) and toss with the vegetable mix. This vinaigrette could be used with a lot of different foods.  Try it and you will see how simple, yet flavorful it is. It really jazzes up your basic vegetable and brings it to a whole new and fun level!

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Back in the Groove

Well, I blinked and the summer is over!  We had a fantastic summer filled with lots of swimming/competing, family visits, summer camps, trips and sleep away camps.  We are going into this school year with a 5th grader, 3rd grader, Kindergartner and Preschooler. That’s A LOT of snacks and lunches!  Here is my first post to get things started – a day’s worth of food for my preschooler:

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Snacks (in handmade sandwich bags at the top):  one has sliced carrots with mini pre-packaged Sunbutter, other has a fig bar and mini container of peanuts

Lunch:  Vanilla Almond Milk, half a Tofurkey/Veganaise sandwich on wheat bread, popcorn, sliced cucumbers and a Clementine

This entire lunch/snack combo was packed the night before.  Think about your child’s day and what his/her needs are, as well as what you have to work with.  For example, the containers you might use for a preschooler would be different from the containers you would use for an upper grade schooler.  Size of the lunchbox is a factor.  Do they need an ice pack?  Snacks probably will be in a backpack or perhaps not refrigerated.  Carrots are a great veggie to pack for snacks because they can last in the backpack until morning snack. Pair them with a nut butter, and you have great brain food to power your child through until lunch.  Most preschools provide snack, but I still choose to send my own for numerous reasons.  My daughter will only attend 3 days a week, but I still want her to eat what I would give her at home.

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Interested in handmade lunchbox napkins, sandwich bags and other creations?  Check out my Etsy store here or click on the link below:

https://www.etsy.com/shop/WholeFoodFriday/items

 

Happy New Year!

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School Lunch: almond milk, carrots, cucumbers, oranges/pineapple, dried apricot, pumpkin seeds, 1/2 “soysage” sandwich

I hope everyone had an awesome past few weeks and is ready to tackle the New Year!  I know 2016 technically started a few days ago, but for us, it starts tomorrow when school is back in session.  I have enjoyed the time off, but I am ready to get back into our routine.  I have a new excitement for feeding the family and packing lunches/snacks with the change of pace the last few weeks!

While I don’t necessarily believe in New Year’s Resolutions (I think ANY time is a great time to make changes in your life!), I do think this time of year is a great time for most people to think about changes they would like to make in their life.  My husband and I always do a few days of drinking mostly vegetable and fruit juices to start off the New Year.  I realize that we have not been juicing lately, and I have been trying to figure out why.  We always have plenty of fresh produce in the house.  I realized that while the base for the juicer is on the counter top, all the parts are in a drawer.  So I moved the juicer beside the sink, and all the parts are now out on the counter next to it.  Having it next to the sink will make it easier to clean and set the parts out to dry on the drying rack.  Can’t get much easier that this!  I will post my food intake over the next few days so you can see what I do.  I always feel so much better after upping my intake of fresh juices.

What do you want to change about you or your family’s eating habits?  I want to hear from you!  Remember, if you don’t know where to start with your children or your family, start with yourself!  Here are a few places you can start if you want to improve your family’s eating habits!

  • YOU eat tons of fresh fruits & veggies – lead by EXAMPLE!
  • ONLY buy what you want your family to eat
  • MINIMIZE processed foods in your house
  • STOP eating out
  • INVITE your children to cook with you
  • ASK for your child’s input on what and how to pack their school lunch
  • PLAN PLAN PLAN!  Plan a menu, plan your grocery shopping trips, plan snacks around your child’s schedule
  • drink tons of WATER
  • JUICE daily if possible!
  • eat meals at home WITH your family WITHOUT media

Tackle these things one at a time.  Pick something each week that you feel you can realistically do.  Take it slow, and remember, ANY change toward healthy family eating is a good thing!

Eating Healthy While Traveling

I know, I know, it’s hard enough sometimes to eat healthy at home, and now I am about to carry on about eating healthy while traveling.  I don’t know about you, but I really don’t like eating out.  It always makes my stomach hurt, and it’s just not something I make a habit of for this reason.  It also just doesn’t make financial sense for a family of six living on one income.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy occasionally eating out.  If I pick the right place, it is usually a positive experience.  Traveling is a different story for me.  I would rather eat healthy familiar foods and eat less than eat out 3 meals a day.  You never know what your options will be, and I would rather be prepared and play it safe.

I am writing this post as I am currently traveling to an out of town swim meet with my oldest child.  With a little planning and forethought, it is fairly simple to feed your child (and fuel your athlete, in my case) with healthy foods.  Driving to your destination makes it that much easier.  Flying is a whole different story which I will address in a later post.

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Some of my Travel Stash

Pictured above is some of the stash I brought.  We will be gone for 3 days.  I brought the following, some of which is not pictured here:

  • lentil soup (with an easy off lid that doesn’t require a can opener)
  • minestrone soup
  • Kind bars
  • everything pretzel crisps
  • almond butter
  • loaf of whole grain seed bread
  • apples
  • oranges
  • papaya (with a sharp knife to cut it)
  • pasta with loads of soy butter (cooked earlier today)
  • French bread with a little tub of soy butter
  • MEGA protein drink
  • homemade oatmeal raisin cookies
  • whole wheat crackers
  • vanilla soy yogurt
  • lots of carrots, peppers and cucumber slices
  • hard boiled eggs
  • quinoa/brown rice blend

We live an 80/20 lifestyle, so we will take advantage of the breakfast served in the morning at the hotel.  While it has additives and other ingredients I am not a fan of, there will be oatmeal available.  Oatmeal, fruit, bagels, toast, eggs, etc. will be breakfast choices.  The food I brought will carry us through the rest of the days.  I will most likely need to get my son some additional food, but I will be fine.  You can look at traveling as a good time to do a little mini purge, if you will.  Eat plenty of raw fruits and veggies, nut butter, and lots of water, and you will feel great when you go home!

Make sure you remember to bring a sharp knife to cut your fruits and veggies.  You can find plates, bowls and silverware in the hotel lobby. Make sure you reserve a room with a fridge and microwave, and you will be all set!  Oh, and if you are a coffee snob, make sure to bring your coffee and creamer as well!

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Now, I will enjoy my late night snack after driving all evening.  Have a great night ya’ll!

 

Meal Review & New Recipe: Smoky Split Pea Soup

Smoky Spilt Pea Soup

Smoky Spilt Pea Soup

Don’t let this picture fool you.  It looks like mush, but that’s pretty much split pea soup!  It kind of reminded me of the book, Goodnight Moon (and a bowl full of mush…….).  The part of this soup that was key was the smoky flavor simmering in the slow cooker all day.  EVERYONE in my family enjoyed this soup.  It was super flavorful, easy to put together and hearty enough to enjoy alone.  Here is the slightly modified recipe, another winner from Robin Robertson’s cookbook, Fresh From the Vegan Slow Cooker.  I mean really, what’s not to love about throwing a bunch of simple ingredients into the slow cooker, letting it cook all day creating a wonderful fragrance in your home, going out to enjoy a family activity all afternoon, and coming home to dinner warm and ready to eat?!?!?!  Enjoy!!

Smoky Split Pea Soup (modified from “Fresh From the Vegan Slow Cooker” by Robin Robertson)

Ingredients:

  • olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 2 celery ribs, diced
  • 1 medium-size Yukon Gold potato, diced
  • 1 pound green split peas, rinsed
  • 7 Cups vegetable broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. liquid smoke*
  1.  Heat about 2 tsp. of olive oil over medium heat and add onion, carrot and celery.  Saute for about 5 minutes until softened.
  2. Transfer to slow cooker.  Add potato, split peas, broth, bay leaf, salt, coriander, cumin and pepper.  Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.
  3. Stir in liquid smoke just before serving. *My split peas came with a packet of hickory smoke seasoning, so I used this in place of the liquid smoke. I put it in with the rest of the seasonings and let it cook all day into the soup. Either would work fine and give it the same flavor, I think.

I would love to hear if you make this soup using the liquid smoke!  Let me know how it turns out!

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IMG_20150927_192936Review for Smoky Split Pea Soup:

What was your favorite part of the dish?

2-yr old:  Eating together as a family 🙂 

4-yr old:  The broth, potatoes, split peas and carrots.  I’m pretty sure I liked everything.

7-year old:  The carrots and the potatoes.

9-yr old:  The potatoes and the broth.

What, if anything, did you dislike about the dish?

2-yr old: Nothing.  I liked it.

4-year old:  Is it OK that I don’t have anything I don’t like?

7-year old:  Nothing.

9-year old:  Nothing.

Would you eat this again?

2-yr old:  Yes.

4-yr old:  Yes, I would eat it again.

7-yr old:  Yeah.

9-yr old:  Definitely

Meal Reviews: New Concept to Encourage Children to Eat/Try Their Meal

Rustic Potpie

Rustic Potpie

I tried something new tonight to encourage the kids to eat their dinner WITHOUT COMPLAINT.  They have no problems eating, trust me!  Usually at dinner, though, there is some complaining about certain things in the meal or not wanting to eat or try everything.  I believe that variety is a good thing, and obviously I want my kids to eat all kinds of vegetables and try new foods. Historically they enjoy meals where all the food is separated.  As of late, though, this is harder and harder for me to do, mainly because of time constraints.  I do a lot of dropping off and picking up kids, and with swim team every day and all the other things that go on in a day, it is much easier to make a hearty meal or soup in the slow cooker.  Tonight I served a recipe made from Fresh From the Vegan Slow Cooker by Robin Robertson.

Rustic Potpie

Rustic Potpie

I left out the mushrooms, used less wine than called for, and also used Tofurkey sausages as the protein.  My version is below.  I told the kids that I needed their help, and I wanted them to answer some questions to “review” the meal.  In order to participate in the review (which would be published on the blog), they had to eat their whole meal without complaint, and if they didn’t like something take at least two bites to try it.  Well, give them an opportunity to break out the computer and give their opinion, and let’s just say we had a quiet, quick, uneventful meal!  Y.E.S.!!!

Rustic Potpie Topped with Chive Biscuits  (from Fresh From the Vegan Slow Cooker by Robin Robertson)

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. dried marjoram
  • 1 Cup plus 3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 3 Tbsp. dry red wine
  • 1 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 Cup vegetable broth
  • 2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into cubes
  • 1 package seitan or other meat substitute (I used Tofurkey Chick’n and Apple links)
  • 1 Cup frozen peas
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1-2 Tbsp. fresh chives
  • 1/2 Cup plain unsweetened soy milk
  1.  Spray slow cooker with non-stick spray.  Saute carrots and onions in 2 tsp. olive oil for 5 minutes.  Stir in tomato paste, thyme and marjoram and cook for another minute.  Sprinkle on 3 Tbsp. flour and stir for 30 seconds.  Add wine, soy sauce and broth and stir to combine.
  2. Transfer onion mixture to slow cooker.  Add potato, meat substitute, salt and pepper to taste, and peas and cook on low for 4-6 hours (I cooked it for 4).
  3. In a bowl, combine remaining flour, baking powder, chives and 1/2 tsp. salt.  Quickly stir in the milk and 2 Tbsp. of oil until just blended.  Drop by spoonfuls on the surface of the simmering stew in the slow cooker.  Turn setting to high and cook for another hour.

The two youngest gave me answers verbally, and the two oldest typed theirs out independently.  It was interesting to hear and read what they had to say.  It is actually really helpful in determining whether or not to cook the dish again, and if so, what, if anything, to change about it.

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Here is their review of Rustic Potpie:

What was your favorite part of the dish?

2-yr old:  Two things.  Sausages and carrots.

4-yr old:  I have three best parts.  Potatoes, carrots, the sausages and the biscuits.  That’s four.

7-year old:  I had two favorite parts. Sausages and biscuits.

9-yr old: My favorite parts of the dish were the biscuits and potatoes.

What, if anything, did you dislike about the dish?

2-yr old: Biscuits:  I changed my mind.  Sausages.

4-year old:  The broth and sausages were kind of spicy.

7-year old: I did not like the taste that the wine gave the broth.

9-year old: I liked everything about that dish.

Would you eat this again?

2-yr old:  Yep.  Yep, I can eat that again.

4-yr old:  Yes, I would eat it again.

7-yr old: yes I could eat that again.

9-yr old: Definitely.

If you could add one more vegetable to this dish for next time, what would it be?

2-yr old:  Cauliflower.

4-yr old:  Sweet potatoes.

7-yr old:  No more vegetables; I liked it the way it was.

9-yr old: Little chunks of broccoli.