Colleen Week: Day 1 (Brown Lentil Soup and Drop Biscuits)

Day 1 of my cooking experiment:  Brown Lentil Soup from Color Me Vegan.  (If you didn’t see yesterday’s post, I’m cooking entirely from Colleen Patrick Goudreau‘s three cookbooks this week.)  Not exactly a recipe that is going to get me out of any cooking ruts (I make lentil soup a LOT), but it’s always nice to try another one, and it’s one of the only meals I could make based on foods I already had on hand.  I followed the optional instruction to puree the soup, which was interesting.  It made it really rich and creamy.  But the family tactfully let me know that they prefer their lentil soup intact and brothy…and I think I do, too.

The funnest part of this meal were the drop biscuits from Joy of Vegan Baking.  This is the simplest biscuit recipe I have ever made, and it was fantastic!  I substituted whole wheat pastry flour for the unbleached flour, per usual.  My favorite thing was how small the biscuits are!  The recipe is supposed to turn out 24 biscuits but I only got a batch of 20, so I guess I still made them a tad too big.  I loved the small size, especially for the kiddos.

There were tons of leftovers, so here’s the soup again as today’s lunch.  This time I topped it with a dollop of Better Than Sour Cream and some cayenne pepper.  As often is the case with soup, this was even better the second day.

Baby dug right into his soup and got a big blob of vegan sour cream on his face!  Then he started shoving fistfuls of kale chips into his mouth.  I love how babies and toddlers have no preconceived ideas about food.  They are happy to try just about anything, and for my toddler, the more colorful, the better.

Next on the menu for day 2:  Brazilian Black Bean Stew!

‘Twas the night before Valentine’s Day…

…when all through the house

not a creature was stirring

except my husband’s spouse…

Okay, so I’m not the best poet.  But it is 12:24 am…so cut me some slack!

You see, I’ve been baking up a storm all evening for Valentine’s day.  That day that everyone complains about, but somehow becomes really, really fun when you have kids!  I really wanted to send something fun in their lunch boxes tomorrow, and somehow cutting their sandwiches into heart-shapes just didn’t seem like enough.  Some little heart cookies would be just the thing.

So I perused some of my favorite blogs for a good vegan sugar cutout cookie recipe, and found this one from Mama Pea.  I find that I keep going back to her recipes, as they seem to always turn out perfectly!  I’ll be so excited once her first cookbook comes out.

This recipe requires chilling for half an hour.  So, what would a normal, tired mom do at 10 o’clock in the evening while waiting for dough to chill for 30 minutes?  Why, bake muffins, of course!  What fun would Valentine’s day be if the kids had a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast?  So I took Colleen Patrick Goudreau‘s blueberry-lemon muffin recipe and substituted beautiful, red raspberries for the blueberries.

Meanwhile, I half-heartedly caught up on an episode of Desperate Housewives between batches of heart cookies.   And come to think of it, I only got through part of the episode…I think it’s still on pause in the living room.

I have to recommend this cookie recipe…with reservations.  The cookies contain 100% whole wheat flour, and some applesauce.  They are healthier than your average cut-out cookie.  And they taste healthier, too.  Which is not a bad thing.  It’s just…these are great cookies to make for your family.  You can feel pretty good about your kids eating these cookies.  These just aren’t your “wow all your co-workers with how decadent vegan desserts can be!” kind of cookies.  Fair enough?

I can hardly believe my oldest was only 4 years old when he made this plate at preschool.  Now he’s a second grader!  Where did the time go?

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

Confetti Vegetable Chili, and cooking with kids

Every now and then my seven year old brings a recipe home from school, something they learned to make during class that day.   I love that he and his classmates get a chance to cook during school, and the recipes are printed with very kid-friendly instructions, and notes about which nutrients each ingredient provides!   Last Friday, I was delighted — a totally vegan, delicious-sounding chili recipe.  Not only that, but he told me it was delicious.

So I made sure to buy all the right ingredients and tonight we all set to work!  The kids had such a great time making this chili, and were so proud of themselves because they got to use a sharp knife to cut vegetables.  I asked them if there were any vegetables they would like to add to the chili, and they decided that some chopped carrot would be nice, so they even got to add their own touch to the recipe.  My 5 year old peeled the carrot all by himself and put all his muscle into opening the cans of beans.  My 7 year old diced a green pepper with care and precision, and measured all the spices himself.

We prepped all the veggies, spices, and beans and placed them in little bowls near the stove, so that when it was time to actually cook, it was all ready to go, just like in a cooking show.  I think their favorite part was dumping each bowlful into the pot and mixing all those beautiful colors together.  When we first put the green and red bell peppers in with the onions, my 5 year old squeeled, “it looks like Christmas!”

The finished product was incredibly colorful and delicious, so I’m calling this “confetti” vegetable chili.  The best part?  Both kids gobbled it up with relish, and took second helpings. Since they had prepared it, there was no need for the usual scrutiny and examination of each tiny little bit.

Here’s the recipe for you, but as my 7 year old reminded me, you can add or substitute any vegetables that you like:


  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1 15-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15-oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15-oz can corn, drained and rinsed (or 1 1/2 cups frozen)
  • 1 28-oz can diced tomatoes (I actually diced up some fresh tomatoes since I had them on hand, and added 1 cup water)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 3/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp – 1 tsp salt, or to taste
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • fresh cilantro


Heat oil in a large, heavy-based pan over medium heat.  Add onions, garlic, and carrot and cook until onion is translucent.  Add red and green bell peppers and saute until tender.  Add all seasonings except cilantro and stir until all vegetables are coated with the spices.  Add beans, corn, and tomatoes with juice (or fresh tomatoes and water).   Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes, or until all vegetables are tender.  Serve, sprinkling fresh cilantro on top of each bowl.

Serving suggestion:  We ate this with a side of baked corn chips, guacamole, and salsa.  To make the guacamole, simply mash up 2 avocados, add some salt and lime juice, and then stir in a couple of spoonfuls of salsa.  I particularly liked eating this chili with some guacamole spooned right on top of it.  Deeee-lish.

A little blogger in the making?

My kids are getting used to having a food blogger for a mom.  Before getting to dig in and eat whatever food I have prepared, they patiently wait while I arrange it and photograph it.  So lately, the cutest thing has been happening.  My kids will be having a snack and they’ll arrange it nicely on their plate and say, “Mama, take a picture!”  I often let them use the camera and take some.

Well, today my 5 year old arranged his clementine segments so beautifully in a little ramekin that when he said, “Mama, take a picture!” I couldn’t resist snapping a few myself.  They turned out so nicely that I have to share them with you!

Things I’ve learned from my 5 year old:

1.)  When you are hungry for a snack, fresh fruit is always a great choice.

2.)  You can never have too many oranges.  Seriously.  Yesterday I think he ate about 10 Satsumas at his grandparents’ house.  And I’m not exaggerating!  Hey, it’s cold and flu season, it couldn’t hurt.

3.)  Take time to enjoy the beauty of your food before eating it!

And of course, here’s my little blogger himself enjoying his (maybe 7th?) clementine of the day:

Rosemary Red Soup (Feeding the Whole Family)

Oh my!  How gorgeous is the color of this soup?!

This is another fantastic recipe from the cookbook Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair.  It is a red lentil soup that also contains beets, carrots, onions, and rosemary…a perfect winter combination.  I made this for the first time tonight and it was a hit with EVERYBODY.  I can’t say that very often!  Even our 5 year old, who doesn’t get excited about any soup other than split pea, asked for seconds.  And our 15 month old was literally licking his bowl clean (see photo below).   I think the kids appreciate a pureed soup because they aren’t analyzing every little particle that they see.  They can relax and enjoy the flavors and the smooth texture.  I actually poured this one in my blender rather than using the immersion blender, to achieve a super creamy texture.

I can’t recommend this cookbook highly enough.  Last time I mentioned it was in my post about the perfect whole grain bread, and I still think that bread recipe is worth the price of the book!   However, there are a ton of other great recipes too, like this one – that are wholesome and delicious, and appeal to many palates.  It is not a vegan cookbook, but one glance through the book and you’ll see that the vast majority of her recipes are vegetarian.  And if they are not vegan, most of them are easily made vegan with simple substitutions (i.e. using olive oil instead of ghee, nondairy milk instead of milk, etc.) .

The flavor of this soup was so amazing.  I could not stop raving about it!  The rosemary flavor really shines through – it is worth it to use fresh here.  Rosemary is one of those hearty herbs that will keep for a long time, so you don’t have to worry about using it right away when you buy it.  If you aren’t sure what to do with extra fresh rosemary, try tossing it with some potatoes and roasting them, or adding some to a pasta dish.

You’re in luck with this one – the recipe is actually on Cynthia’s website, Cookus Interruptus, and there is a cooking show segment showing you how to make it!   I love her idea of that pesto-like garnish on the top.  Be sure to check it out!

I’ll leave you with a photo of our littlest one, clearly enjoying every last drop!

Feeding Babies & Children

I couldn’t resist snapping a photo of my pesto-munching baby tonight at dinner time!  He was going ape over it, as my family likes to say.  This photo was taken early on in the meal so he looks pretty clean.  You should see what his onesie looks like now!  We definitely should have used a bib.

One subject that I am really passionate about is the healthy feeding of babies and children.  I aspire to become a dietitian someday and I’ve devoured many books on the subject of nutrition.  Because I am a mom, children’s nutrition is obviously of special interest to me.  During my 7 years of parenting, I have formulated some opinions on how best to feed children in a healthy and delicious way.  Here are some tips that I have learned along my way:

1)  Let baby feed him/herself. See above photo!  My baby is now 13 months old and he has been feeding himself for quite some time.  We tried spoon-feeding pureed food to all our babies for a month or two, but none of them were very interested in it.  As soon as they were about 7-8 months old, we just let them eat real food, and feed it to themselves.  I think this really helps to ensure that babies eat exactly how much food their little bodies want.  It takes awhile for them to get coordinated enough to feed themselves, but it’s helpful to remember that pretty much anything babies touch ends up in their mouths, so it is likely that some of the food will get there eventually!  Some good starter finger foods are soft ripe banana, avocado, soft cooked sweet potatoes, and winter squash.  Silverware aren’t essential at first, but why not let them try to use them?  My 13 month old enjoyed smearing his fork onto his plate tonight and putting it into his mouth.  He used his hands to pick up most of his food, but  he had fun holding onto the fork, and practice is always a good thing!

2)  Let baby/toddler/child eat what the family is eating. This one is so very important.  I have always disliked the concept of “kid food.”  Kids don’t need us to prepare special, bland food just for them.  They can learn to enjoy complex, delicious, healthful meals right from the start.  My baby just enjoyed a dinner of potato gnocchi with pesto sauce and maple glazed carrots.  He gobbled it right up!  I think sometimes parents shy away from introducing foods that they think kids will not like, especially garlicky or heavily spiced foods.  Last night he was eating sauteed kale…and loving it!  We started letting our babies eat whatever we were eating (minus the choking hazards) at about 9 months of age.  Some parents will want to wait a little longer, especially if they are concerned about allergies, but we just went for it at 9 months.  If you start them early, kids will never grow up expecting to have a separate, kid-friendly meal that is different from what the adults are eating.

3)  What’s served is what’s for dinner. Our kids know that they can choose to eat from the food that is offered at the table.  They are not allowed to go to the kitchen and get something else.  I try to make sure that at least one or two foods on the table are things my kids have enjoyed in the past, so if they don’t care for the main dish, then at least their favorite vegetable is being served on the side, or vice versa.  If every dish on the table is healthy, then you really don’t have to worry about what they major on.

And last but not least…

4)  Eat meals together as a family.  Apparently this is going out of fashion.  But according to recent studies, kids who eat with their families tend to have healthier diets, stay out of trouble, and do better in school.  I grew up eating family dinners every single night of the week (thanks Mom and Dad!) and my kids are growing up the same way.

Of course, I am not (yet!) a dietitian or nutritionist, so I encourage you to do your own research and find what works best for your family.  Here are some of my favorite books on the subject.  Not all of these are specifically geared toward vegan children, but all of them are vegan- and vegetarian-friendly, and include some great recipes.

Raising Vegetarian Children by Joanne Stepaniak and Vesanto Melina

The Family Nutrition Book by Dr. William Sears

Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair