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We’ve been battling a stomach bug for the last week. I had a migraine this morning (I suffer the Classic form or Migraine with aura) so I’ve been low energy all day and I’ve had a chill that I just can’t shake. The kids are still home from school and I wanted something quick and hearty to make for lunch. I wanted to put it on the stove and walk away.
I decided on lentil soup and beer bread. I have a beer bread “system” so that I can make it quickly. When I have a few minutes to spare I combine all the dry ingredients for beer bread in large zipper bags (I keep the bags and re-use them). I usually make three dry mixes at a time. Then, when I want to make a loaf, I just add the near beer and I have a loaf in the oven lickety-split.
I went searching for a lentil soup recipe on the internet. I didn’t find anything that was quite right; some had yogurt, some had meat, others had ingredients that I didn’t have. I ended up using a combination of a couple of recipes with a few of my own additions. This is what I came up with.
Vegan Lentil Soup
In a large pot, heat up:
- 1 tsp vegetable oil
Add to the pot:
- 1 medium onion diced
- 1 carrot peeled and sliced
Sautee until the onion is clear. Add:
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 1 cup dry lentils, rinsed
- 1/2 cup frozen corn (optional)
- ¼ tsp pepper
- ¼ tsp dried thyme
- 2 bay leaves
Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until the lentils are soft, about 45 minutes. Remove bay leaves. Add:
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
Makes about 4 servings.
How adjusting to life with multiple food allergies makes you think twice about what you’re eating.
Okay, let me come clean right off the bat. I’m not really a Vegan. I eat meat. I eat some dairy. I eat eggs once in a while too. So what’s up with the vegan recipes on my blog, you ask? Well, much of the cooking and baking done in my house is vegan. Let me explain.
We discovered that our second son F had a peanut allergy when he was about 18 months old. It wasn’t so bad. We did lots of reading, eliminated all nuts from our home and started carrying around EpiPens. We managed just fine. When F was four we discovered (through skin tests, blood tests and a food challenge at The Hospital for Sick Children) that he had outgrown his allergy. The day we found out I stopped on the way home and bought more than $50 worth of nuts including peanut butter, almond butter and chocolate covered almonds. Never mind that we just about made ourselves sick with nuts over the next couple of days.
When our third son S was about four months old we were at a restaurant. Sitting in my lap, he picked up my spoon and started playing with it. A few minutes later his face was red, covered with small white hives and one of his eyes was swollen. Having had a child with a peanut allergy I knew how potentially dangerous this could be. I was pretty scared. I still had an EpiPen in my bag but thankfully didn’t have to use it. After about twenty minutes S’s face was back to normal. Off to the allergist to find out what the culprit was.
S is now 3. We have learned, from the first skin test and others since that he is allergic to all dairy (cow, sheep and goat), eggs, bananas and tree nuts (specifically walnuts and pecans). It was easy when he was a baby; he was exclusively breastfed for most of his first year and continued breastfeeding until just before his second birthday (he self-weaned; if it had been up to me he would have nursed longer, especially considering his allergies). As he got older he started wanting to eat off our plates, and we got to the point where we had to drastically change the way we were cooking and eating. Giving up nuts is one thing. Bananas, no big deal. But giving up dairy and eggs is a completely different story.
Dairy and eggs are in so many things. Dairy and eggs are in everything it seems! Breads, crackers, cookies, hot dogs, hamburgers, anything breaded, most baked goods and more; a very high percentage of prepared foods contain diary and/or eggs. There is also dairy in the vast majority of margarines; one has to find a “lactose free” margarine (PC makes one) or a vegan margarine (I use Earth Balance). Soy cheese? You wouldn’t think so but yes, there is dairy in many soy cheeses too (it is disguised as casein). You have to look for vegan soy cheese.
Baking is another story all together. Dairy and eggs are staples in most kitchens. Not having them around takes some getting used to. But it’s amazing how we can change our ways. People are impressed that I can bake without dairy and eggs. AND they are even more impressed to find out that it actually tastes good! Some of my family’s favourites are chocolate cake, orange cake, pancakes, cookies, coffee cake, beer bread and pumpkin bread.
Dairy? I’m over it. No, I haven’t eliminated it from my own diet completely (I just can’t seem to give up cheese), but I don’t think it’s the be-all-end-all it’s made out to be. I don’t feel like I need dairy around; I don’t feel like I’m missing anything. Somehow dairy just doesn’t sit well with me anymore (perhaps more on this another time). Even if S grows out of his allergies we’ll never go back to the way we were before. We do quite well without it.
I’ve never been a huge fan of eggs and now that we don’t use them for baking it’s pretty easy to do without them as well. As for meat; I admit it. I like it. But a combination of wanting to be more frugal and eat healthier has made me reconsider the amount of meat we eat. I’m always experimenting with new things and lately we’ve had more tofu, edamame, chick peas and other legumes on the dinner table at night. They go over very well.
So there you have it, my not-so-short answer to why I’m kinda, sorta a Vegan…but not really. I’m always on the lookout for new vegan recipes so if you have one to share let me know.
A Guest Post by Alexandra Macqueen
This is one of those things that strikes a very deep and disturbing chord in me, and I’m coming here just to muse aloud.
My kids have both been accepted to the alternative Whole Child School which is opening up in my neighbourhood, and I just got an invite to come and attend a “Town Hall Session” for the parents of kids who have been accepted to this school. The school is expected to run with a lot of parent involvement and, in fact, there is a requirement for parent involvement (I think it is 20 hours per year).
Here’s part of the invite to the Town Hall meeting:
This [meeting] is where the parent community will start to take their role in shaping the school. The organizing committee will outline the work that needs to be done by September and early in the school year. And we want to hear from you about where your interests, skills, and passions lie as there will be many opportunities to get involved. This is also the first chance for the parents of registered students to meet each other, connect, and start developing a community around the school.
Sounds great, right? Except here’s what comes right afterwards:
We respectfully request that you make your own childcare arrangement for the event, as it will not be possible for us to provide child-minding for everyone’s children.
And that’s the sound of my heart breaking. Look, I know logistically it would not be “easy” to provide childcare (“child-minding”) for all of the kids whose parents will be at this meeting.
But they didn’t even try. There’s, I don’t know, a couple of hundred parents whose kids will be going to this school. What about asking US to come up with some childcare solutions so that all the parents who want to come to this meeting can come?
But more to the point: does this not communicate that children are somehow secondary, or unwanted; and that taking care of children is “less important” than coming to this meeting? ”The important work of building the school will start at this meeting! To create a better future for all of our children! Except your actual children are not welcome. And you’re on your own in terms of child-care arrangements. We’re not ‘child-minders’!”
It isn’t that I can’t find a way to have my children cared for during this two-hour meeting – I can. And it isn’t that I think they “must” provide a space where children are included. Except: I sort of DO think that.
And I also think they are (unwittingly) setting up a hierarchy where kids are at the bottom. The “ideal” Whole Child School parent will not be encumbered by children, but will be able to roll up their sleeves and get to work on building the community for the children…but wait a minute.
Don’t they realize that every single person who is invited to that meeting has at least one child that must be provided for during that meeting? How hard would it have been to get TWO occupancy permits at the school so that the kids could be in the gym, and the adults in the library? And then a few volunteers from among the parent body to supervise the kids – just as one option? (Given that I’ve organized several events at that school, I know it would NOT be hard.)
This is one of my hot-button issues. Not that I am going to get hot under the collar and DO anything. It’s just that…I’ve been a parent for seven years now, and I feel as though I have spent significant amounts of those seven years trying to insert my kids into spaces where they are not welcome. (I’m not talking anything inappropriate or weird; just public places where I feel my kids should have the opportunity to participate. Like church!) And it’s exhausting.
I remember one time when I was at a meeting at the Beausoleil First Nation on Christian Island, long before I had my own kids. The chiefs were meeting on some topic, and there were also kids playing right outside the doors. It was a hot summer day, and I went, independently, to close the windows so that (in my mind) the important meeting would not be disturbed by the sounds of busy, playing children.
The chief of the community called out to me, “what are you doing over there?” and I explained what I was up to. ”No,” she said, “we don’t do that. We are building a better community for those kids, and it is important that we be interrupted by them. We need to always keep at the front of our minds who they are, and what they are doing is more important than what we are doing. They aren’t a disturbance – they are the whole reason we are having this meeting.”
I think about that exchange all the time, and wonder why I can’t find that kind of open and welcoming attitude other places.
Thoughts are welcome.
As a follow up to my Orange Cake recipe, this is my basic vanilla icing recipe. There are several variations, all of which I have tried at one point or another depending the people for whom I was baking and their dietary restrictions/allergies.
In a large bowl mix together with a hand mixer:
- 2 cups icing sugar
- 4 tbsp vegan margarine (or substitute one of the following: butter, shortening, canola oil or other oil)
- 2 to 4 tbsp coconut milk (or substitute one of the following: milk, rice milk, soy milk, water, juice, maple syrup or coffee)
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/8 tsp salt
Add more icing sugar or liquid to adjust the consistency.
I love this cake. Most people aren’t all that thrilled with the idea of an orange cake, but I’ve never had anyone NOT like it once they tried it. It goes really well with vanilla icing or maple icing.
Preheat oven to 350°. Grease or line with parchment paper a standard round or 8 x 8 inch square pan.
In a large bowl whisk together:
- 1 ½ cups all purpose flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp salt
In a medium mixing bowl (or I use a large measuring cup) mix together:
- 1 cup orange juice
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1 tbsp vinegar
- 1 tsp vanilla
Pour wet ingredients into dry and whisk until smooth. Pour into cake pan and bake 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
I started my very first part time job when I was fourteen. I worked there throughout most of my teens and early twenties; there was a group of us who did. In many ways I feel like we grew up together.
There was a girl that worked with us, V. V was about the same age as me and when she was around 17, I’m not sure of her age exactly, she found herself pregnant. I don’t remember many of the details but what I do remember is this; she put her baby up for adoption. I don’t remember the pregnancy being very scandalous as one might think. V was quite open from the beginning about her plans to put the baby up for adoption. It was common knowledge and referred to rather matter-of-factly; V was a teenager, was pregnant, and was putting her baby up for adoption. That was that.
When the baby was born we all heard the news. It was a boy and his name was…what was his name? For the life of me I cannot remember his name. This bothers me; I don’t really know why. I know that I will never think of it in a million years but I wish that I could.
Just as she’d planned V put the baby up for adoption. She used to carry around a picture of him with her; in fact it was two pictures if I recall correctly; one of him as a new baby and one of him at about one year old. He was really cute. I remember his red hair.
Every Mother’s Day where we worked the managers would hand out a single flower, a rose I think, to all the mothers. Every year they gave V a flower and every year I remember her crying on Mother’s Day. I don’t think that she cried openly at other times of the year, or even when you asked her about the baby but everyone always knew that on Mother’s Day V would cry and she’d be sad all day.
It has been many, many years since I have seen V. She has since married and had three children. When I connected with her recently, I was so happy to hear that she’d had kids.
I have thought of V so many times over the years. Only since having my own kids do I understand, in a small way, what that decision must have been like for her. I also realize what an unbelievable gift she gave someone. I am amazed when I think about such a young person having the courage to go through the pregnancy and courage to go through with the adoption. I think of the boy’s family; parents, grandparents, aunt, uncles, cousins; how lucky these people are. It also makes me think about people I know who have struggled with infertility, people I know who have adopted.
Why has this stayed with me? Why do I feel so emotional about V and her baby? I’m not sure. Partly I think its guilt. I wish I’d been more sympathetic. I wish I had *told* V how brave I thought she was; that I thought what she’d done was remarkable. I wish more than anything that I had given her a hug on Mother’s Day.
I have four great kids; I had four healthy pregnancies and four difficult deliveries and as a result I can’t have any more kids. We are very content with our family; we have a great, happy life. But sometimes my heart aches, just a little, for another. V eased the heart ache for one family.
I think about V every single Mother’s Day and I wonder if she still cries; thinking about it always brings a tear to my eye.
Eighteen years ago, one decision affected many lives, probably more than she will ever know.
After writing this I sent it to V to ask her permission to post it. She was honoured. Of her decision she says she wouldn’t change a thing. V named her baby B. She doesn’t cry on Mother’s Day anymore.
This is one of our favourite recipes. It’s very simple, and it doesn’t call for dairy or eggs so everyone in my family can eat it. The kids love to help make it because they get to pour the beer in. You don’t have to use real beer if you don’t want to. My husband pointed out that it can get quite pricy when you’re making this bread often. We use “near beer” (de-alcoholised beer) and it works just fine. From my trusty old copy of The Joy of Cooking.
Preheat oven to 400°. Grease a loaf pan or line with parchment paper. In a large bowl mix together:
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- ½ cup oats
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp salt
Add one beer or near beer and mix just until the mixture is moistened. Bake at 400° for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
I love this bread with soup and cheese or toasted for breakfast with cream cheese and marmalade.
*Update: see this post for my beer bread “system”.
On Friday two dear friends came over and together we made marmalade. Okay, that’s not entirely true. Two dear friends came over, that part is true. What actually happened was that my dear friend AM showed my other dear friend BH and me how to make marmalade. AM took the fear out of preserving and as she so eloquently stated, “awoke the marmalade giant within”. Did she ever.
At the end of the day we had a lovely Orange, Grapefruit, Lime, and Pineapple Marmalade. It is to die for. We tasted it on fresh baked Beer Bread with cream cheese. It was a great day. Learning something new with good friends is a really nice thing to do.
Later that night my family had it as a bedtime snack. Truth be told, I ate most of it. I couldn’t help it. I was just…so…good.
Marmalade, jams, preserves, fruit butters; strawberry, pineapple, mango, orange, lime, peach…what to try next? I have peach lavender jam on my mind…I’ll let you know how it turns out.
One pineapple, one lime, one grapefruit, one orange, 2 quarts water, 7 cups sugar. Boil until jelling point is reached, hot pack, and process!
We are a family of six. Mum and Dad plus four kids. Late last year we sold our 3 storey, 2000 square foot Toronto townhouse. I loved that house. We bought it on paper and it is where I thought we’d live for a long time; where I thought we’d raise our family. It was big, bright and new. It had three bedrooms plus an office, a living room, a family room, a TV room, a spacious kitchen with a centre island and cupboards stretching to the nine foot ceilings, three bathrooms including a master ensuite and gleaming hardwood floors throughout. Sounds great doesn’t it? I really did love that house, but it just wasn’t right for us.
When we told friends and family we’d bought a new house I think they were surprised. One said, “It better not be smaller than this one.” Yes it is. Here’s the thing: we downsized. Our new house is an 1100 square foot bungalow. Yup, a bungalow; three bedrooms, one bathroom, a modest kitchen and a good sized living/dining room. It’s perfect for us.
Our old house was too big and we were way too spread out. My computer was in the third floor office, the TV was on the second floor, the kitchen was on the ground floor and for some reason, the kids loved to spend time in the unfinished basement. Everyone was always on a different floor. Despite the fact that bedrooms were on two separate floors, most nights all six of us would end up in one room. On top of all that we absolutely could not keep up with the housework.
Our front and back yards were pitifully small. Our back yard was only slightly bigger than a postage stamp. We’d watch the kids run around in circles in the back yard and it would remind us of hamsters in a cage.
With all the space of a 2000 square foot home came a whole lot of stuff; stuff we didn’t really need. We had linens; so many that we might have been able to open a small hotel. The same goes for kitchen wares; we had every small appliance, a wok we never used, and enough glassware to host a big party (which we only do once a year). When we took a step back and looked at what we had, it was embarrassing. We didn’t need the house for our family; we needed it for the stuff we’d accumulated over the years. Going through everything was an overwhelming task but in the end, we are so much happier with less.
We’ve been in our new house for several months now and it couldn’t be better. We have a big playroom in the basement and the kids can escape there when they need to blow off some steam. No matter where in the house I am it’s always close enough to know when things aren’t going well. The bedrooms are all next to each other so when the kids need us in the night, we’re close by. Everything is easier here; making dinner, bedtime, getting out the door in the morning, keeping the house tidy…everything. Somehow everything just seems simpler. Our backyard, probably the best feature of the house, is big. It is lined with perennial gardens and backs on to a huge park. We couldn’t ask for anything more.
This experience has really been an interesting lesson. It’s been said a million times but it’s true, less really is more. Fewer linens means less laundry, less laundry means more time to spend with the kids, baking or relaxing. A simpler house is less work and less stress. Fewer square feet mean we’re together more.
So, how much space does a family of six really need? As little as possible.