Thursday, February 11, 2016

Will I Ever Catch Up

Time for another holiday post, will I ever get through my old pictures? It is possible. Some day. Goals are important to have.

"Show me how much you love Christmas."

Over the winter break, we visited an art gallery in Round Rock that gets taken over by model train enthusiasts each holiday season.

Their vignettes are so detailed, it is pretty neat to see how much time and effort they put into constructing them. And of course, Jackson and Olivia loved taking turns playing conductor.

Winter village.


The roller coaster had a little car that ran along the tracks, although you can't see it here.

One of the first meals I ever learned to make was pasta with tofu, broccoli, and peanut sauce. Here it is many years later, still in regular rotation. It is a good way to use up those last few ounces in different boxes of pasta that you may have lying around.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

White Tree

My goodness, how is it February already? It seems like we were just getting ready for Christmas. So...that's how I segue into another old-but-unpublished post about the holidays. Smooth, right? 

Tony really wanted a new Christmas tree this year and he wanted a white one. Our former tree had been with us since we got married but it looked so puny in our current home with its high ceilings. So, off to Home Depot he went, and came home with the white tree of his dreams.

It was so tall, he underestimated the amount of ornaments he needed and had to go back and buy more the next day!  As you can see, one whole side was not covered.

All hail the tree!

It matches her Frozen jammies.

Dinner was tacos with roasted tofu, lettuce, tomato, and salsa.

Dessert was pumpkin chia pudding from Plant-Powered Families, recipe available online here.

Hiding from doing homework, ha!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Round Rock Rock'n Lights

I think the reason I have so many holiday posts is because we really went all-out this year, in terms of  trying out as many new Christmas activities as we could find time for, while also continuing with our favorite activities that have become traditions. One new-to-us event was the Round Rock Rock'n Lights, a drive-through lights display.

The scenes were pretty cool and varied. Christmas under the sea? Why not.

Elf throwing snowballs at annoyed yeti? Of course.

O phallic tree, o phallic tree...I don't even know why.

Jackson and Olivia were impressed with the lights, and they are always excited when they get to go out and ride around after their bedtime. So it will probably be a tradition that we continue.

The next morning we met my parents for lunch at Star Coffee in Round Rock. Now, I never, ever eat eggs. I ate them all the time when I was pregnant with Olivia, but ever since she was born, I've had an aversion to them. However, this particular morning, I thought breakfast tacos with eggs, potato and cheese sounded good. And they were pretty good, but I think I have completely fulfilled my egg quota for the next 5 years or more. 

Zen Olivia, starting the day off right.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Vegan Richa's Indian Kitchen

As if the recipes on Richa Hingle's blog weren't amazing enough (cashew cheeze mozzarella sticks, anyone?), she also released her first cookbook in 2015, Vegan Richa's Indian Kitchen. Never before has Indian cooking seemed so approachable. Yes, there's a long list of ingredients.  But the instructions are clear and concise, and her amazingly fragrant and flavor-packed dishes come together in way less time than you would think! As this post will show, I haven't been able to put this book down!

Tofu in Spinach Curry (Palak Tofu)...the spiced, crispy tofu contrasts perfectly with a creamy pureed spinach sauce.

Vegetables in Luxurious Royal Sauce (Navratan Korma) allows you to choose your own vegetable combination. I went with zucchini and carrots. In a rich tomato-cashew sauce, any veggie is going to taste delicious. 

Vegetables in Smoky Tomato Sauce (Vegetable Jalfrezi) was one of my favorites, with fire-roasted tomatoes, chipotle powder, smoked paprika, and liquid smoke adding layer upon layer of smoky flavor.

Kofta Balls in Nut-Free Cream Sauce (Malai Kofta) is one of my very favorite Indian dishes, and this allergy-friendly take is just as bursting with flavor as any restaurant version I've had. Love it.

For the Vegan Paneer and Spinach in Tomato Sauce (Kadhai Vegan Paneer Palak), I first made Richa's almond and cashew paneer. So good! I could've snacked on the whole tray, but I held myself back, and turned it into dinner.

Worth the self-restraint!

Chicken-Free Balti...I've seen baltis on restaurant menus before, but never a vegetarian version. So it was nice to try something new. Seitan strips are spiced, sauteed, and mixed into a velvety tomato-based sauce.

I served the balti with a couple of sauces, Mint Cilantro Chile Chutney and Tony's favorite, Quick Tamarind Date Chutney.

Broccoli Onion Fritters in Spiced Yogurt...I'm familiar with the use of yogurt as a condiment (i.e. raita) in Indian cooking, but it's such a big part of this dish, I wasn't sure I'd enjoy it. But, like everything else I made from this cookbook, I did. One thing that I love about Richa's book is that the traditionally deep-fried items, such as these fritters, are baked, and yet they turn out just as crispy as you'd want them to be.

Cabbage Kofta in Creamy Tomato Sauce (Patta-Gobi Ke Kofte) was challenging, as my kofta mixture didn't want to form into balls. It seemed too moist, and I may not have chopped the cabbage small enough. I ended up just forming it into patties and baking them as directed. They were lovely with the spicy tomato sauce and rice.

Vegetables in Vindaloo the balti, vindaloo was a term I'd seen on menus, but never tried, since it is usually a meat dish. Again, you choose your own veggie combination for this dish. Potatoes, peas and carrots worked well in this spicy/sour, vinegar-based sauce.

All of this is really just scratching the surface of Richa's book. I haven't even gotten to the soups, dals, flatbreads, or desserts yet! One other thing, if you are looking for a new kitchen gadget to spring for, I suggest a spice grinder! I got one on Amazon for under $20 and it's been fun making my own spices. Freshly ground garam masala (Richa includes a recipe for this too, of course) smells heavenly and adds that much more flavor to your meal.

Friday, February 5, 2016


For my birthday, Tony ordered me a light-up sign from a local furniture store. It was custom made, so it took awhile before it was ready. But now it shines proudly in our living room, and I love it.

Relaxing is one thing Jackson and Olivia know how to do. PJ's until lunchtime? Why not.

Casseroles are a relaxing way to cook. One dish, easy. I made the Quinoa Cauliflower Biryani from Vegan Richa's Indian Kitchen, except I used broccoli since that is what I had. The flavors are just so complex and it tastes very healthy, not heavy at all, in spite of technically being a casserole! I have been cooking a LOT from this book lately, get ready for a whole post on all the good stuff I've tried.

Bonus Olivia, because I can't even with her posing.

She got lots of compliments at school on her pigtails, so now she is willing to let me style her hair more often. Yay!

Thursday, February 4, 2016


Jackson and Olivia had the day off school recently for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. I read them a book from the library about his life. Their reaction can basically be summed up as "incredulous." Like, what do you mean, white kids couldn't sit with their black friends on the bus? Our community is so diverse and that is all they have known, so it seems fundamentally wrong to them to discriminate based on skin color. It was a reminder that such prejudices are not natural, they are taught. But never in our home.

For breakfast I made them blueberry oat squares from Plant-Powered Families.

Then we spent some time at the bounce house. My camera is not good at capturing motion but I wanted to catch their looks of excitement in the block pit. I always appreciate school holidays to spend a little extra time with these monkeys.

For dinner I made hummus tortilla pizzas, another idea from Plant-Powered Families. The kids loved topping their own pizzas. Jackson, who usually avoids greens, even piled on a bunch of basil! Dreena is so smart about kids.

For dessert we enjoyed some two-ingredient ice cream -- frozen bananas and cocoa powder -- topped with roasted peanuts. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Daruma Ramen

A couple of weekends ago, we attended an open house at Canopy, an artist compound on the east side. Besides a number of interesting little galleries, the compound is home to several artists' studios, which were open to the public on this afternoon. I was happy for our whole family to have the opportunity to chat with professional artists and hear about their creative process.

Afterwards we had lunch at Daruma Ramen, which needs to win some kind of award for being the tiniest restaurant in Texas. Get ready to dine communally because that's all there is room for! And once you have a big bowl of hot ramen in front of you, you will stop obsessing over whether you just accidentally grazed this stranger's elbow and how awkward it is that you can hear every word of their conversation while you peruse the menu.

Daruma offers two different vegan bowls. I went with the regular veggie ramen, which came loaded with greens, avocado, tomato, carrots, and onions, atop a glorious pile of perfectly al dente ramen noodles. I asked for a bowl of chile paste on the side, to make it just as spicy as I wanted. This is the best ramen I have had in Austin.

So good, in fact, that we came back the next week. Cedar fever was killing me, and a bowl of hot, spicy broth was calling my name. This time I had the veggie miso ramen, with bok choy, fried tofu, and scallions. Just as good, and my sinuses were cleared up for at least a good hour afterwards. 

On neither visit were any of us brave enough to try the soy sauce-flavored soft serve. Doesn't the cone look like he is just taunting you, daring you to try it? Maybe next time, cone. Maybe next time.