Thursday, April 29, 2010

Carpenter ants, mice in the house. What to do, what to do. My husband and I don't always see eye to eye on this, but we're working on it. Last year we noticed a long line of ants marching right along the power line onto our house. Now if you are not familiar with carpenter ants, let me provide a short summary. They are the only ants that live up off of the ground, and while they don't "eat" wood, it is their habitat, which is created by chewing tunnels throughout it. Well I don't think much more explanation is required to demonstrate they aren't a good sign for wooden structures. As you may have already deduced, we're living a wooden home.

For my spouse, there was no question about what to do, but I still felt guilty. In the end though, we had to protect our home and used baits to rid our house of them. This was after completing extensive research on what was actually effective with this particular species of ants. Most places we consulted recommended spraying the entire house, and this didn't sit well with us. In the end, the baits worked and we did not need to spray everything in sight.

After that ordeal, we ran into yet another issue once fall came around. One of our adopted cats cornered a mouse. We caught it and relocated it to a nature center close to our house. We were hoping it wasn't a problem and a freak occurrence. Then our cat killed another one. Clearly it was more than happenstance.

First our goal was to control the mice without lethal means. We didn't catch anything with the live traps. Nada. Next we called out a company to help seal up the house, and used glue traps to catch the mice after a couple weeks on unsuccessful live trap testing. Then we checked the traps daily. Whenever we caught something, my brave and honorable spouse would use vegetable oil to get the poor mice off the traps, and then relocate them to a nature center by our house. This carried on for a couple weeks and then the mice stopped getting caught on the glue traps. Crap, what the hell were we supposed to do then?

In the end, we used lethal traps. I honestly feel terrible about it, but the other alternatives just weren't working. Our cats WERE NOT earning their keep darn it! All other options were exhausted. I think we both felt badly about it, but my spouse was a lot more freaked out about a mouse in the house. Our family has more of a role reversal going on with feelings on rodents. I think they are cute, but not in my house. They were pooping all over the place, could potentially spread disease to our family - especially the animal ones, and were chewing up stuff. My oldest cat actually caught a tape worm from killing a mouse at my parent's house a few years ago. Not a fun situation by any means. Just like with the ants, we were protecting our home and family. I know there are surely vegans out there who would condemn this, but I'm curious if that is the case, what would you recommend? What would you do?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Peanut Butter Cookies and Cream Cake

Another peanut butter and chocolate goody? Yep, there can never be too many ways to enjoy the perfect combo for dessert. This year my mother-in-law turned 60, so we made her a cake. She is a big fan of sunflowers, so we made sure to have them on the cake. It was a chocolate peanut butter cookies and cream cake. The recipe was based on the "Cookies and Cream" cupcakes from "Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World," but with chocolate peanut butter Oreos. In case you are surprised, Oreos are vegan. It is yet one of many types of food enjoyed by mainstream food consumers which happens to be vegan. 

The cake is a double layer cake. I doubled the recipe to make enough batter, and split it between two pans evenly. It is frosted on the outside with chocolate frosting. The center of the cake was filled with the cookies and cream icing recipe in Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. 

The flowers are made using peanut butter oreos and mini oreos and yellow colored frosting. My hubby is the one who made the flowers on this cake. He is really good at the small detailed decorating. I wish I could take credit for it. The petals of the flowers were done using an icing tip to make leaf petals (see picture).

What's for Breakfast?

Even though we no longer eat eggs, there are plenty of scrumptious options for breakfast. Below you will find the tofu scramble recipe our kids enjoy most. We usually serve it with home-made hash browns, and lately we've been making sweet potato hash browns. They are my new favorite side dish. Top it off with some tasty vegan french toast or pancakes, and who said we needed eggs to make a tasty breakfast?

In all our years being vegan, we've tried a lot of tofu scramble recipes. After many attempts to find one we loved best, in the end we developed our own. Without further adieu here is our tofu scramble recipe.

Tofu Scramble
1 Tbsp. Canola Oil
1-2 Tbsp. Water
2 Tbsp. Nutritional Yeast
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1 avocado cubed
1 lb. fresh tofu

Heat oil in the pan on medium heat. Squeeze all excess water from the tofu. Cube the tofu and avocado. Add this to the heated pan. Mix together the remaining ingredients and add to the mixture. Cook until any remaining water is cooked off. The avocado helps add a creamy texture to the scramble that we like a lot. Feel free to add any other veggies or additions you would like. 

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Pre-school Selection and Prepartion

The rush to research and apply for pre-schools started quite awhile ago. It is hard to believe you need to start applying for pre-school so far in advance, but that is how it is here. Sometimes I put too much thought into things than is really necessary, but I strongly feel early childhood learning is an important part of my child's education. It may be due to having a busy boy who has boundless amounts of energy, but I want to make sure he has good practice learning to follow an instructor's directions, variety in activities, and good social experience.

While being vegan doesn't have a whole lot to do with choosing where to go, it is nice to find a place that will acknowledge and respect our dietary lifestyle. We applied two places and our son got into both. At one school the parents have a rotating responsibility for bringing in a snack and at the other it is provided by the school. They both seem pretty aware about respecting our choices, but one certainly stands out more on that front than the other. When we toured the school, we noticed a chart on the wall with each child's name and a list of common allergens and checks by any restrictions. While this is not a top factor in determining where to go, we also want to be sensitive to our son. What parent doesn't want to make life easier for their child?

Instead of worrying too much about which school, I decided to really start to discuss what we eat and why. This isn't just a vegan thing either. We talk about eating fruits, vegetables, and whole grains because they are good for our bodies. It is interesting to observe how Elliott has responded. Lately he asks what everything is made from and who made it. I think this is great. So many people put little thought into it, and here is our three year old just fascinated with the components for his vegan mac and soy cheese. From mangoes, to vegan pizzas, to soup, and zucchini he wants to know where they came from and who "made it." Whether it is homemade or not, I believe it helps to appreciate the food we have to eat.

The ultimate hope from all this is that he does grow up to put thought into what he eats - vegan diet or not. I've been starting a good collection of books which cover vegetarian/vegan diets, so we can teach him what we eat. This seems to work well for some friends of ours. Their daughter is in pre-school and is completely at home asking if something is vegan. You should check out his blog by the way. It is This Little Piggy Had Tofu, clever name huh? We will find out in the fall how things go. Stay tuned.....