Vegan Chocolate-Mint Cups and a Woo-Hoo for Extended Nursing

Okay, so there are about a million recipes for vegan peppermint-patty-type desserts, and they’re all basically variations on the same general theme. So, there is nothing earth-shattering here, but these ones are A. easy – SUPER EASY B. quick C. made with common pantry ingredients and D. delicious.

First, running round-up: I ended up hitting the snooze button a few too many times yesterday and thus slept through Wednesday’s run. Oh well. 3 miles Tuesday, 5 today. My bookclub is taking a weekend trip to one of the SC islands, so I’ll get a good beach run in there. I never, NEVER understood the appeal of beach running until I moved to SC. Up north, at least in my native Massachusetts, the beaches tend to be rocky and debris-filled, which is not exactly ideal for beachy runs. However, here in SC the beaches are nice and smooth, so I finally understand the appeal of running on them.

makes 10-12 large (muffin-size) cups

4 tablespoons vegan margarine

1 tablespoon coconut oil (you could probably use more margarine)

2 tablespoons vanilla-flavored light corn syrup, or brown rice syrup

about 1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon vanilla, if you’re not using vanilla corn syrup

1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract (this is strong stuff, so use with caution! a little goes a looooong way)

approximately 3 cups of confectioners’ sugar

10-12 squares Trader Joe’s Pound Plus dark chocolate, melted (or use chocolate chips)

Line 10-12 muffin molds with muffin liners.

Cream together margarine, coconut oil, extracts, and salt. Add in brown rice syrup or corn syrup; cream together. Work in confectioners’ sugar. Melt chocolate; put a little in the bottom of each lined muffin mold, and move it gently up the side a little using a knife or spoon. Divide the filling into 12 balls; flatten gently, place on top of the chocolate, and pour more melted chocolate on to cover. Cool in the refrigerator.

I’ve been trying to come up with a good post about the whole Times breastfeeding cover controversy. I think I’ve been doubly invested in this particular debate, as both a nursing mom and a vegan. It just strikes me as very, very odd that people object to women feeding children from their own breasts, yet think it is a-okay to feed from the breasts of animals that are a completely different species from us, unable to consent to said feeding, and are animals the consumer will never, ever meet. To me, it is completely natural to nurse my child (or someone else’s who needs breastmilk); it seems completely unnatural to think of nursing from another animal, such as a cow. So, from a purely natural/evolutionary sort of perspective, I just don’t see why people get SO UPSET over breastfeeding moms.

Of course, a lot of it has to do with our society’s somewhat warped views on sexuality. I was in an airport once, nursing of my kids, and noticed a guy giving me some unpleasant looks (he never said anything to me). The magazines being sold at the airport’s Hudson News showed far more boob than I would ever show while nursing, yet people will criticize someone for nursing. It seems weird to me that we’re okay with all of the sex and breasts we see in the media, and even promote such images to our teenage kids, yet a breast being used for its intended use is somehow “gross” and “unnatural”. I heard a local radio station say, in response to the Times article, that past a certain age (before a year), the mom should just “pump and put it in a cup”. The announcers were acknowledging that breastmilk is best for babies and even toddlers, but thought it was (their word!) more ‘natural’ to pump rather than breastfeed! I nursed my first until almost a year and a half and am still nursing my second, and I really don’t see how nursing causes any sort of psychological damage. I think weaning abruptly and suddenly getting rid of the closeness of nursing would cause more damage than the nursing ever could.

Anyways….as a nursing, vegan mommy, I am proud of the woman in the Times story. In the rest of the world, kids routinely nurse to 3-5 years old.  The NYTimes published an article this week about how the US is the bottom of the developed nations for breastfeeding. Maybe stories like the ones in Times will help change this statistic.

Strawberry Cupcakes and Veg Kids

A few weeks ago my super-southern mother-in-law made a strawberry cake. It was beautiful, but not vegan and, as it turns out, not even vegetarian. The ‘strawberry’-ness comes from……a box of strawberry Jello. Hmmmph. I decided I needed to try to make a vegan strawberry cake, and luckily, my husband was given several quarts of fresh strawberries that were leftover at a concert reception. We are fortunate to live 10 miles from a fabulous strawberry farm, so fresh strawberries are absolutely wonderful right now. My three-year old helped me make these. She put the liners in the cupcake pans, dumped flour, and helped stir. She is a sweet baking assistant!

I don’t know what the Jello strawberry cake tasted like, but this was delicious. It was not as beautiful as the food-coloring-saturated cake, but it was still pretty, and taste is way more important than looks, right? My daughter has not yet hit the ‘princess’ stage (and I really hope she never does), but these would be a great birthday cupcake for a princess-y party.

makes 12 cupcakes

about 2 cups fresh strawberries

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1.2 cup oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup soymilk

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

2 cups flour

extra strawberries for decorating, optional

Put strawberries, sugar, and vanilla in a bowl; using an immersion blender, blend until somewhat smooth. Some texture/chunks of strawberry is okay. Add in the other liquid ingredients and stir well; add in dry ingredients, except for baking powder, and stir gently. Fold in baking powder gently.

Pour into lined cupcake pans. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes or until top is dry. Frosting with vanilla frosting (I used Earth Balance, vanilla, a splash of soymilk, and confectioners’ sugar).

On to the subject of veg kids….

Last week I had an involved email conversation with an old friend from college, who was my inspriation to become vegan 17 years ago. (Side note: one of my great shames in life is that although I’ve been vegan for a long time and feel very passionately about it, I have never, to my knowledge, converted anyone to veganism. I’ve gotten a few people, including my husband, to be vegetarian, but not vegan. In contrast, I’ve been using cloth diapers with my kids for a little over 3 years, and I’ve convinced at least 5 people to use cloth diapers…..so why can’t I get anyone to become vegan? Argh! Anyways…..) We live multiple states away from each other, but we’re still close and have so much in common. We were discussing raising vegan kids, and the lack of resources for explaining veganism/vegetarianism to kids. There are a good number of cookbooks with kid-friendly vegan/vegetarian recipes, but not many books out there to help explain to kids why we don’t eat animals. The NYTimes reviewed a book last week on the subject but it was for older kids, not pre-schoolers. My three-year-old has been asking questions lately, and I would really like a book to read with her to help answer some of those questions. So far we’ve just been telling her that we don’t eat animals because we love them and eating them hurts them, but I know she will continue to ask questions. Also, we are raising both of our girls vegetarian as opposed to vegan (for several reasons, which I will cover in another post), although they both eat a vegan diet probably 98% of the time. My friend and I decided that there needed to be more resources about raising veg kids; I am planning to do a few blog posts about what has worked for us and what I would like to see happen. In the meantime,  two questions:

1. Are you raising a child vegan or vegetarian? What has helped you to make that decision? and

2. Are there any resources – books, videos, etc. that you have used with your child to explain the ethics of eating and that you would recommend, or not recommend, to others?

Saturday Delights: Vegan Chocolate Soda and a Day of Food

Today’s run: a nice, slow easy few miles with my favorite guy, Shadow. Shadow does so well for an older dog. He used to be able to run 15 miles with me; I’m proud of him for still wanting to run, and being able to do a few miles. He’s my buddy.

I forgot to mention the most delightful part of Friday Delights yesterday: husband accidentally bought a container of chocolate soymilk instead of regular. We didn’t really want to give it to the girls, because we were fearful that this would turn them into chocolate-soymilk-monsters. Alas, what’s a conscientious parent to do but drink it herself? Heh. I love chocolate soymilk. I’m not much on chocolate in general, but chocolate soymilk is a different story. I think because it is sweet and creamy it is somehow better to me than hard, bitter chocolate.

Right after I had both girls and was nursing every 45 minutes (or so it seemed), I treated myself to chocolate soymilk. A lot of nursing books recommend that new moms drink a lot of milk to help produce milk (that’s basically complete nonsense, but that’s what the books say) so I would use that as an excuse to treat myself to chocolate soymilk. It was for the good of the baby, yes? And since I’m still nursing, I’m really doing it now for my toddler’s health, right? Right. 😉

I discovered a new and delicious way to enjoy chocolate soymilk. I’d heard of chocolate sodas for a while now but have never had one. After a busy morning of running, walking to the library/coffee shop/town square with the girls, and cooking a quick lunch of homemade tortillas with refried beans, I was feeling the need for a little refreshment. I had one (okay, more than one) glass of the chocolate soymilk and realized I needed to slow down my consumption of it. I decided to try a chocolate soda, having never had one and knowing nothing about them. I figured it couldn’t be that hard – chocolate milk + fizzy water. The only fizzy water we had in the house was some lemon Perrier leftover from my sister’s last visit. I decided to give it a shot, although I was skeptical about the combination of chocolate and lemon.

Goodness, was I wrong! It was SO GOOD. I had two before I could stop myself, and I really want another right now. Here’s the ‘recipe’:

approximately equal parts of chocolate soymilk and lemon fizzy water (not sweet), both cold

Pour into a glass. Delight in the resulting foamy cream, and the sweet-but-tangy, creamy-yet-sharp drink. Seriously, this stuff is fabulous. It is sweet but not overly so; the lemon is not overpowering  but is definitely present; the combination of the fizziness and soymilk creates a creamy, rich drink that is far better than the sum of its parts. This stuff was good. I will definitely make it again the next time we buy chocolate soymilk by accident. Or maybe on purpose.

I drank it too quickly to get a picture. Whoops. Guess I’ll just have to make more, right?

Today has been a day of cooking and baking. We are hosting coffee hour tomorrow. I have made: mini cupcakes (chocolate and vanilla), my mother-in-law’s strawberry-almond bars, and chocolate chip cookies. Husband is making homemade salsa and hummus.

Then, for dinner, I made an approximate version of an Ethopian stew from Isa’s blog. Here’s the recipe: http://www.theppk.com/2008/10/ethiopian-spicy-tomato-lentil-stew/ I didn’t follow it exactly; I used yellow split peas instead of lentils, skipped the paprika because we didn’t have any, and used zucchini instead of peas because I hate peas. Yes, that’s right, I just used the word ‘hate’ with respect to a vegetable, and I don’t take it back. I hate peas. Yup, I just said it again. So there. Anyways, this was a good recipe and pretty quick. It’s worth making.

We grew to love Ethiopian food when we lived in Grand Rapids, MI (of all places!). There were a few Ethiopian places there, and one in particular – Little Africa, in EastTown – was our favorite. It was  total hole-in-the wall, run by one guy who worked when he did; you never knew if the place was going to be open. It happened to be 100% vegan (though not advertised as such) and cheap, cheap, cheap. One time we went with my parents and the entire bill came to 9 bucks for all four of us! Crazy. Plus the food was fantastic. Ethiopian food can be hard to make at home because of all of the spices. I have made berbere before but I don’t tend to keep it on hand.

Upcoming recipes: the afore-mentioned mother-in-law’s strawberry almond bars; maybe a mention of those cupcakes; cranberry-cashew bread.

My favorite vegan spinach pesto

Today’s run: 12 miles. Go me! Music: the last two movements of Brahms 4, all of Mahler 5, and a little bit of Mahler 6. It was pretty warm out today – about 60 degrees when I started the run, which was at about 6:30. Ugh. This does not bode well for a summer of good running. I want to run another marathon in the fall, but I fear that I will not be able to train sufficicently in the brutal southern heat. Bleh. Even at 5 a.m. in August, it is already 70 degrees, which is still SO hot for this Yankee girl. I didn’t get out as early as I wanted to this morning; I prefer to do my entire run in the dark, if possible. However, we are working on sleep training our youngest daughter, and she did not wake up for her normal 5 a.m. nursing session, so I waited until 6:30 to wake her up and nurse her (lucky for my husband, she and the 3-year old slept until 7:45 after that). She’s almost a year and a half old; I don’t mind nursing until she is 2 or 3, but I was getting awfully tired of the 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. nursing sessions that she demanded. She seems to have dropped all but one session in the middle of the night, which is really not bad, as it gives me more than 2-3 hours of sleep at a time. I’ll take it!

Exciting news: I ran into another runner on my run! That shouldn’t really be exciting, especially considering I was out for there 12 miles, but it is. The small-town rural southern area in which we live is not exactly known for its activity level, unless you count running from your car to one of the many weekend BBQ festivals as activity. As far as I can tell, there are 3 other runners in this town, and I know all of them. Two are sisters, one of whom is married to another local lawyer. The third, who I ran into this morning, is the dad of the only other rescued greyhound in town. Small world, eh? Anyways, we waved at each other as we crossed paths (he was running in the opposite direction as me). I ran into him at the coffee shop later this morning (again, small world, eh?) and we started talking about running. He was doing a 9-miler this morning; the longest he’s done is a half marathon but he wants to do a full sometime. We started talking about forming a running club, but I’m not sure it’d be a club with just the two of us. I enjoy my solo runs; I get a lot of thinking done while running,  but I would also enjoy having someone to run with every few months.

After the run, the girls and I walked to the town square (well, they mostly rode in the double stroller) and we did some errands, ending up at the coffee shop and the library. I rarely allow myself two coffees in a week, but I decided to splurge and got an iced coffee. There is something just so refreshing about iced coffee, and for some reason I can drink it with just soymilk; with hot coffee I need soymilk and sugar. Weird, huh? We are really lucky to have a coffee shop; it was opened a few years ago by a young Mennonite woman, and everyone who works there is Mennonite. They always have soymilk, which is unusual here in the south. We love having it so close, and it’s right next to the library, so we always stop there too. Now that I have discovered the joys of iced coffee, I suspect that I’m going to be guzzling a lot of them this summer, particularly if this wretched heat keeps up. I may just have to cave and buy a coffee machine so that we can have coffee at home.

By the time we got home it was almost lunch time. My husband made the girls some cast iron skillet tofu (recipe posted under main meals, I think – super easy and yummy) and I made some of my favorite thing ever, spinach pesto. I needed some green veg, and I realized it was St. Patrick’s day, so I thought this was appropriate. I had it over brown rice, but I usually serve it over pasta. My husband had some on a Boca burger. Seriously, this is the BEST recipe I think I’ve ever made, so you need to go make it! Everyone I serve it to loves it. It is cheap, easy, HEALTHY, raw, kid-friendly, etc. Make it now!

Spinach Pesto

1 clove garlic

1/2 – 1 teaspoon salt, to taste (I use a lot because I love salt)

1 6-ounce bag baby spinach

1/4 to 1/2 cup raw nuts * – usually I use almonds or cashews, but use whatever you have.

2 – 4 tablespoons olive oil *

1 tablespoon nutritional yeast, completely optional

Method:

Put all ingredients in a blender or a bowl. I use the immersion blender for this so I use a bowl, but if you have a good blender or food processor, use that. Whatever. If you’re using an immersion blender, you might think at first that it won’t work, but trust me, it will! Just keep blending and pushing everything around. I put the nuts in first and then the spinach on top of the nuts, and the oil on top of the spinach, so that the oil helps blend the spinach and the nuts don’t fly everywhere.

Blend until it is of desired consistency. Eat and enjoy.

This is the first time EVER that I have added nutritional yeast to this recipe. It was fine, but it is completely fine without it, too.

* In terms of nuts and oil, it is perfectly yummy and creamy with 1/4 cup nuts and 2 tablespoons oil; however, the more nuts and oil you use, the richer, creamier, and tastier it will be (duh!). I’m sure I’ve even used less than 1/4 cup nuts when I don’t have enough, so use what you have. Trust me, this recipe is delicious and VERY forgiving. Oh, and very quick. YUM.

Hummus-y veggie burgers, a cheer for extended nursing, and pictures of my adorable dogs

Hello all,

Well, I am already slacking off on 1. blog posts; 2. running; and 3. cooking every night. Sigh. It has been a craazzzy week. I normally juggle two part-time jobs plus being home with the kids one or two days a week, but this week just got overwhelming somehow. First, I was on jury duty (HA! seriously, they should just exempt all lawyers….we never get seated. The bailiff laughed when he saw me walk in and sit with the jury instead of the attorneys). Then, I’ve just had a lot of work at my regular job (my second job is teaching at a local university, which is actually really fun). THEN, my youngest daughter got sick. She’s okay, but I ended up staying home with her yesterday (husband did that today). She’s not eating basically at all, which makes me REALLY glad that she’s still nursing. She is well over a year, which means in American terms that she is well past the point at which most people wean their babies. However, I decided I’d let her wean when she was ready, which is basically what I did with my first. Yes, pumping at work is a pain, but really, it is so nice to have that snuggly time with her, particularly now that she’s so active. Also, at times like these when she won’t eat, at least I know she’s getting some nutrients and fluids from nursing.

I know nursing and so-called ‘extended’ nursing are somewhat controversial. A friend of mine posted some pretty vicious anti-nursing stuff on FB recently and I had to almost sit on my hands to keep from writing a snide reply. To each her own, right? What’s best for me and my child may not be what’s best for you and yours, or what you chose for you and yours, but just as I don’t criticize people for feeding their babies formula, nor do I expect to be criticized/attacked for nursing, even at such a ‘late’ age as my kids nurse (in the rest of the world, it is far more common to nurse past a year than in the U.S.).

My other rant re: nursing is the whole vegan thing. I was vegan for both pregnancies and have been vegan for nursing both kids. Every now and then some study will come out that says exclusively vegan breast-fed babies just don’t gain weight and don’t thrive, blah blah BLAH. Seriously. Those folks writing such studies need to come photograph my kids’ beautifully chubby baby thighs. Neither of my kids wasted away on a 100% vegan breast milk diet. Again, it’s a personal decision and what works for me and my two chubsters may not work for someone else, but I HATE being even impliedly criticized when it comes to choices I’ve made concerning how I’m going to raise my kids.

Okay. Rant over. TIme for a quick recipe. We DID find the missing camera memory card, hooray, but alas I did not have time to photograph this when I made it last night. I make variations on this all the time (and will post some of those variations, and pictures thereof, soon). This recipe is week-night quick, easy, and TASTY.

Plus, this recipe uses two of my absolute favorite kitchen tools: the immersion blender and my cast-iron skillet. I love, love LOVE the cast-iron skillet. I make everything I can in it.

Hummus-y veggie burgers

Serves: 4, several small burgers each

1 can chick peas, rinsed

2 cloves garlic

1 tablespoon olive oil

salt, to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon)

1/2 cup cooked rice

1/2 cup, more or less, breadcrumbs, or just use more rice

1 large zucchini, shredded

optional: dried herbs, such as thyme, oregano, or basil; a teaspoon or so of nutritional yeast

Method:

Using your handy immersion blender or a potato masher, smush up the chick peas and garlic. This does not need to be a totally smooth puree; you want most of the chick peans smushed, but a few whole ones are fine.

Stir in all other ingredients. Add dried herbs and/or nutritional yeast, if using.

Form into whatever size burgers you want. Cook in a cast-iron skillet that has been coated very lightly with olive oil. Cook each burger for 4-5 minutes per side, or until nicely browned.

We eat these plain, usually alongside pasta, but I suppose they’re hardy enough to serve on bread/a burger bun.

So I don’t have any pictures of these delicious treats, but here are some pictures of my sweet dogs, Whimsy Greyhound and Shadow. Cute, cute, CUTE, eh?

And a question or two, inspired by my friend’s mostly-anti-nursing FB post:

1. If you have nursed a child, have you ever felt that you shouldn’t nurse in a particular place or home?

2. Has anyone reading been made uncomfortable, either in public or in a private home, by the presence of a woman nursing a child?