So it looks like this is happening. Our daughter has asked repeatedly to try homeschooling next year, and circumstances have aligned to have that be the best option for her. Our reasons are academic and financial for choosing to homeschool, not religious. Unfortunately, that is the market a lot of companies target with their materials, so resources have to be vetted very carefully.

So far, trying to come up with a plan has been the hardest part. How do we approach this? On our own, with an online school, with a Co-op? In the end, since I have a background in higher education, I decided I can figure out most of the curriculum on my own. So I took to planning this the same way I would plan any other class I was going to teach–with lots of time on Amazon and various publisher websites.

My daughter’s current United States History class will end around the time of Reconstruction, so we will pick up right around then next year. I found the series The History of US, which seems to be pretty good, so we will be using volumes 8-10 of that. Several literary works will also tie in, for example, The Diary of Anne Frank (not the actual title, I know, but that is how everyone knows it), War Horse, by Mike Mopurgo, the young adult version of Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand, A Raisin in the Sun, To Kill a Mockingbird, and, probably, Code Talker, by Chester Nez (just need to check that for age appropriateness, but I imagine it will be OK). There are also several movies that we can incorporate, both film versions of books we are reading and others. 

So, at least that is all set!

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Book Review: Raw & Simple

August 25, 2015

The idea of raw foods had intrigued me for a long time, so when I had the option to review Judita Wignall’s Raw & Simple, I decided to have a go at it. The recipes are pretty straightforward, and the pictures are gorgeous–lots of color ones for inspiration and salivating over. At the beginning, there is an explanation of the Raw Food Diet, the benefits, and stocking your pantry. The introductory materials take up the first thirty-seven pages, so there is a great deal of information. The recipe section is broken down into Breakfast, Smoothies, Beverages, Soups/Sides/Starters, Salads, Mains, Fermented Foods, Condiments, Desserts, and Snacks–so it really does cover all meals.

I did take some short cuts. I did not make my own milks, choosing instead to use the ones I buy at the store. So, it is possible to cheat a little if you need to–or if you don’t want to go 100% raw or are short on time.

From the Smoothies section, I made Happy Monkey, which has banana, almond butter, coconut, and cacao nibs and powder. I did buy raw cacao products to see if they tasted any differently–they don’t. I am a huge peanut butter and chocolate fan, so this was delicious! It makes enough to serve two, but no one else wanted to try, so it was all for me!

I chose the Cauliflower Smash as my Side, which is meant to be a mashed potato substitute. I served this to everybody, so I did warm it a little bit, but it mimicked the taste of mashed potatoes nicely. It was a bit grainier than potatoes, but that was the only significant difference.

I had some cabbage from my CSA, so I used it to make the Colorful Cabbage Salad, which is like an Asian Cole Slaw. With purple cabbage and carrots, it was indeed colorful. The dressing had lime juice, so it was also nice and citrusy. We are all fans of cole slaw, so that was a big hit.

I made the Pesto recipe to use on regular cooked pasta. I love me my pesto, so I wanted to compare this to my regular recipe, which, with the exception of toasting the pine nuts, is also raw. This version was a lot more garlicky, but the amount of garlic could be varied according to taste.

The Chipotle Not-Chicken Salad Wraps were also good. Lettuce is used instead of bread, so it is good for those reducing carbs. The main ingredient is sunflower seeds, which I had never used for “chicken” salad before, but it was quite good.

I made two desserts: the Superfood Seed Bars and the Chocolate Haystacks. The bars are a blend of seeds, coconut, cocoa nibs, and goji berries. They came together really well, and could be eaten right out of the freezer, which is where I kept them to reduce temptation. The haystacks reminded me of a treat my grandmother used to make with chow mein noodles and chocolate–only here, the noodles were replaced with coconut. They are really easy to make, taste yummy, and store well in the fridge–to keep the chocolate nice and firm. Not that you are likely to have them for long!

I don’t know that I could eat raw full time, but there are definitely some recipes I will go back to, especially now that I am starting to think again of lunches for back to school–for the teachers and the student!

Recommitting

February 3, 2014

It has been some time since I have posted. Toward the end of last year, things got really busy, and I wasn’t as invested in being healthy–at least, not as much as I wanted to be. My weight crept back up (not a lot, but enough by my standards), and I got discouraged. While it was crazy around here, part of the reason I stopped writing here was, I think, due in part to that discouragement. As cliche as it may be, the start of a new year gave me a chance to reinvest and recommit. I am going back to eating clean, and I have been happy with the results. I really shouldn’t be surprised that paying attention is the key. Didn’t I learn that already?

So, here is to a new year. I look forward to posting again!

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I have been really lax in my posting, which I plan to correct soon, but I just heard about this and wanted to share. Tomorrow, as the above image states, is Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day. In my house, that is every day, but it is nice to have a special reason to go as well!

To find a bookstore in your area, you can use this link.

More to come soon–I promise!

My daughter’s birthday is coming up, and to celebrate the occasion, Toys R Us sends her a $3 gift card. Not that you can get anything there for $3, but it is the thought that counts, I suppose, and the fact that the recipient will want to spend it, and inevitably spend more!

Anyway, we took her there on Saturday to see what she could find. She wanted something Harry Potter, but I warned her they were unlikely to have anything, and that was proved correct. Despite the staying power of the books, the ancillary market seems to have died out after the final movie. Then she wanted something featuring Wonder Woman. Nope–lots of Spiderman, Batman, and Superman, but no Wonder Woman. Then she saw the Star Wars section, and asked if there were any Princess Leias. Again we struck out.

Finally we found ourselves in the Star Trek section, and she saw a Mr. Spock action figure. This is from the classic series, not the reboots, which she has not seen. We have been watching Star Trek on TV, and she thinks Spock is cool, so that is what she wanted. We did another lap of the store to be sure, but Spock it was, and now he stands, ready for action, between her photo of President Obama, which he sent in answer to her letter, and a Harry Potter action figure. I have had trouble finding a Hermione one.

I have no problem with Spock–as I told her later that morning, I thought it was cool that she liked him. However, it would have been nice to come home with a female figure. First, I have to note that all this looking we did took place in the boys’ section of the store. The girls section was pretty much limited to Barbie, My Little Pony, and Disney Princesses. None of which she finds appealing. But as I walked past the pink Easy Bake Oven, I was reminded of the petition started by the girl whose brother wanted said oven and didn’t understand why it only came in pink. My daughter wanted a cool superhero toy, and there was nothing specifically for her. It’s bad enough that we still perpetuate the cars and tools sets are for boys and kitchen sets are for girls mindset in the toy industry. But can’t girls even get the tiniest bone thrown their way?

I left the store wanting to open a toy store of my own and stocking it with cool, non-traditional toys for girls, and maybe boys too. It is unrealistic, but I was annoyed. I don’t think my daughter really realized she was shopping in the boys’ department, but she did notice that the store didn’t have the things she wanted. In the end, however, I am happy she found something she liked.

As always, the end of the school year brings with it an over-packed schedule! That is part of the reason it has been so long between posts–just too much going on! Of course, the over-packed schedule means lots of events and lots of cooking for me. And now that camp has begun, that is not going to end anytime soon!

So, to recap–

My daughter participated in an after school club called One Hen, which is a micro-finance site for kids sort of like Kiva. She really enjoyed it, and they raised quite a bit of money through various events. One was a bake sale, and I was persuaded to make cookies. Phoebe loves the Cowboy/girl Cookie recipe from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, so that is what I made. I experimented with the recipe and made it gluten-free–they were still great. I had to freeze them so there were still cookies for the bake sale! And once they were sent it, none made it home!

Cowgirl Cookies

Cowgirl Cookies

Since my daughter’s birthday is over the summer, she brings in a birthday snack around the right date in June, so she can celebrate with her whole class. This year, she asked for cookies–Chocolate Snickerdoodles and Lazy Samoas, both from Vegan Cookies Invade. The latter is a vegan version of the Girls Scouts cookie, and I made it gluten-free as well. They were delicious! Again, they almost didn’t make it to school! Unfortunately, the chocolate cookies were shy and didn’t want to be photographed.

Lazy Samoas

Lazy Samoas

Her class had an end-of-year party, and the parents were tapped to provide the buffet. How is it that the kids get to celebrate and the parents have to do all the work! Anyway, I was also making something for the school picnic after the moving up ceremony, so I turned to an easy stand-by–the Jam Bars recipe from The Vegetarian Family Cookbook. I used cherry preserves and called them Cherry Pie Bars. Sadly, my daughter failed to pass that info onto the rest of the class and most of them came home–but she has been able to take them for snack! For the all-school picnic, I made the Maple Pound Cake recipe from Have Your Cake and Vegan Too. However, with all the rain we had been getting, we opted not to go to the picnic in the end, thinking the park would be a mess. So we have that for snacks as well!

Cherry Pie Bars

Cherry Pie Bars

The last end-of-school baking requirement was for the class field trip, which I had offered to help chaperone. We went on a river cruise, which was nice, and I wanted to make something that was gluten-free so I could eat it to and not dependent on refrigeration. I decided on some Crispy Rice Treats from The Gluten-Free Vegan. I worried about the puffed rice that the recipe called for, but they were fabulous. I used dried cranberries instead of the raisins/currants. It was a challenge to eat just one!

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Crispy Rice Treats

Now that camp has started, we have gone back to Vegan Lunchbox to find more fun menus. The first week she picked one featuring Mini Wellingtons, which had a yummy filling wrapped in puff pastry. I sampled some of the filling before I made the Wellingtons! Since it was Harry Potter camp, I tried making lightning bolts in the pastry, but they didn’t all show up after they were baked. My daughter still thought it was cool though!

Mini Wellingtons

Mini Wellingtons

This week we decided on Chickpea Salad Sandwiches from Vegan Lunchbox. The salad is made using the Cheesy Roasted Chickpeas recipe, which came out quite tasty and would make a wonderful snack on their own. I also made some Strawberry Muffins for snack, using one of the variations for the Basic Muffins, Seven Ways recipe in Vegetarian Family.

Yesterday, my cooking moods continued, helped by the fact that I had gotten snacks out of the way Saturday. We received cabbage in our CSA box, so I made the Cool Slaw recipe from Appetite for Reduction. When making the dressing, I soaked the cashews like the recipe said, but I didn’t blend for the full five minutes–I am too impatient. As the recipe predicted, it was a little grainy, but it was barely noticeable, and it tasted great.

I also switched back to the Masala Baked Tofu recipe in Appetite for Reduction this week, getting a little bored with the Basic one. I wanted to make Buffalo Tofu, but I also wanted to make tempeh, so I compromised and made the Hot Sauce-Glazed Tempeh recipe from Veganomicon. As seems to always be the case, the marinade was more than enough for double the tempeh.

Cool Slaw

Cool Slaw

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Cool Slaw with Hot Sauce-Glazed Tempeh

After all of this cooking, I think tonight will be low key–mashed potatoes from the box and Gardein Chick’n patties (a burger for me!). Just need to add some CSA veggies to go along with it.

The wonderful people at Fair Winds Press sent me a copy of Whole Grain Vegan Baking to review for this very blog, and I have to say I am having a blast with the recipes. Counting the Chocolate Ganache, I have made six of the recipes so far, and they have all come out great.

This is not a gluten-free cookbook although a lot of g-f flours are used in conjunction with the wheat-based ones. I am always a bit nervous modifying a recipe to be g-f since I have had some less than great results in the past. So, I decided to make some as written and modify others to see how flexible the recipes actually are. Since some g-f ingredients were already used, the recipes only required partial substitutions.

The introduction gives a fairly thorough introduction to vegan baking and the different flours and other ingredients used in the book. There are many pictures for inspiration and motivation. The only thing missing is nutritional information, but these are baked goods, so knowing the calories would probably not be a good thing!

My daughter loves pancakes and waffles for any meal, so I made the Fill-You-Up Oat Flapjacks for supper one night last week. This I did modify, so I could have them too, and I did add a bit more flour to make the batter thicker–as mentioned in the recipe notes. My daughter insisted on some chocolate chips in hers, and the recipe made enough to feed all of us–two adults and a child. You could probably stretch it to feed four; I am just opposed to leaving just a few pancakes to be leftovers!

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Fill-You-Up Oat Flapjacks

The Blackberry Allspice Muffins I made pretty much as written, so I had to depend on my tasters for the verdict. My husband thought they could have been sweeter, and there is an option to add more sugar. But that was the only thing, and they are almost gone, so I am guessing they were otherwise OK!

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Blackberry Allspice Muffins

We went on a car trip Sunday, and I wanted to bring a snack, so I made the Kicked-Up Chocolate Cookies. This I did make gluten-free. I am not going to miss out on chocolate! I scooped instead of rolling and cutting, and I got 16 cookies. Since this was a family trip, I did leave out the cayenne to make the cookies more kid friendly. Next time I make the Chocolate Ganache that tops them, I will use about half the espresso powder–the coffee taste was a little too evident.

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Kicked-Up Chocolate Cookies

I just finished making the Peanut Butter Surprise Cookies to serve at my daughter’s book group meeting on Friday. I was out of peanut butter, having taken a spoon to what was left in the jar last night, so I used almond butter. And, since they are for kids, I left out the Siracha sauce. I did tweak these so I could have at least one to try, and the half I just ate was quite good. My daughter ate the other half and she concurs. I used a smaller cookie scoop and got 15 cookies.

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Almond Butter Surprise Cookies

This weekend we are going to a retirement party, and the food is potluck, so I made the Onion Caraway Whole Wheat Loaf to bring along. I made it as muffins to make it easier to serve. I got 13 that way, which left an extra for my husband and daughter to try last night–I did not modify these. Thumbs up from both of them, so we’ll see how the rest of the party goers like them!

Onion Caraway Whole Wheat Muffins

Onion Caraway Whole Wheat Muffins

There are many other recipes in the book I want to try, but I wanted to get the review posted, so I will talk about those another time. Modifying the recipes was definitely not a problem. If you like to bake and are looking for healthier options, do check this book out!

Kim Harrison

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