Tuesday, August 30, 2011

As Megan wrote, my dreams came true with a great review in VegNews.

I love VegNews.  When I say that, I mean I read every single word in each issue.  My copies of VegNews end up almost tattered by the time the next one comes.

Last week, my issue came in the mail.  I was watching my sister's kids and my own, so I only got to flip through it the day it came.  The next morning, though, I was sitting at my kitchen table taking a closer look while I had coffee with my husband.  While I was perusing my beloved mag, I was telling him how much I'd love to some day see Welcoming Kitchen in VegNews.

Then I let out a scream and cried for close to two hours!!!! Not only was my book in the Media Lounge section, but they loved it.

What to do ... but celebrate?  This time, my sister watched my kids while my husband and I got away for the night.

I have wanted to go the fine-dining vegan restaurant extraordinaire, Karyn's on Green since it opened over a year ago.  Whoa!  It was FANTASTICALLY AMAZING!

Their menu is absolutely top-notch.  They also code everything so that diners know what's raw, gluten-free, soy-free and/or nut- and seed-free.

They serve small plates, soups, salads, large plates, pizzas and sides.  I had Roasted Carrot Potato Leek Soup, Sweet Pea Risotto (totally Welcoming Kitchen-friendly--GF, soy-free, nut-free and included white truffle oil!), and my husband and I shared Caramelized Brussels Sprouts.  My husband's Butternut Squash Soup and Barbecue Seitan were also amazing.

The cocktails were also super-special.  We had a Tree-tini, a yummy concoction that also makes you feel kinda good about yourself.  They plant a tree for every one sold!

If you're in Chicago and looking for a special meal, you really can't do much better than Karyn's on Green, I think.

Can you believe that we had a Welcoming Kitchen-friendly lunch at another restaurant the next day?!

We ate a vacation-y lunch at Irazu, a sweet Costa Rican restaurant in Bucktown.  We have been meaning to come here since our honeymoon to Costa Rica 10 years ago, and now we're kicking ourselves for taking so long!

Pinto Gallo (a traditional Costa Rican dish made from black beans and rice), corn tortillas, sweet plantains, and loaded tacos were not only a bargain, but so delicious!

All around, a good way to end the summer, and a reminder that even with dietary restrictions creative eating options abound!

Happy Cooking!
Kim and Megan

Thursday, August 25, 2011

We are celebrating over here in Welcoming Kitchen land!!

Kim's dream has always been to have her book reviewed by the fabulous magazine VegNews...and today her dream came true.  Not only did they review Welcoming Kitchen...but they gave it an awesome review!  We are humbled that people are loving our book so much.  Kim started Welcoming Kitchen with the idea that "if I can help one family", it will be a success.  

Well - hopefully this means she can help a lot more families!  It truly continues to be an awesome adventure.  I will let Kim tell you about her experience with how she discovered the review, but in her honor, we cooked Welcoming Kitchen style (vegan, gluten-free, and allergy-free) 
at the Hart house tonight .

I found this simple weeknight recipe over at LaLoosh and it just goes to show you that you can make any recipe Welcoming Kitchen friendly with little or no changes... It was delicious!

Here are some of the photos from our cooking tonight...

Chopping onions, ginger, and garlic - delicious smells!

Tomatoes and Cauliflower (perfect at the end of summer!)

Simmering brown basmati rice...anyone else think it smells like popcorn? Ha!

Assembling the curry...

Gorgeous little red lentils...how I love you!

Kids helping in the kitchen - helps them accept new foods too!

The finished, delicious, one big bowl of comfort curry...

Happy Cooking!
Kim & Megan

Monday, August 22, 2011

Lemon Balm Herb
Lemon Balm

I'm so sorry if you live in a part of the country (or world) that is not experiencing delightful weather.

Here in Chicago, we are.  On a gorgeous Sunday afternoon, we took a walk around the neighborhood with our dog.  It was so beautiful we just strolled around and walked a different way than we normally do.

Lucky for us!  We happened to walk past a woman (the lovely, Reina, I learned) who was gardening.  She gave a bunch of herbs to a man who was pushing his shopping cart down the alley, and then she asked us if we would like some basil and lemon balm.  My basil plant just died, so it was great timing.  We gladly took big bunches off her very generous hands.

I had immediate plans for the basil--pasta sauce and pesto, but wasn't sure what to do with the lemon balm.  I decided to throw a bunch of leaves into the cooking water with my artichokes, thinking that might make a nice addition.  I was right.  The lemon balm gave the artichokes a lovely, fresh flavor.  I didn't measure it out, so this is more a cooking suggestion than a recipe.

Before I get to that, though, I have to share some exciting news about my book.  Welcoming Kitchen just got a great review in Library Journal!  You can read it here.

Now, on to the recipe suggestion.

Artichoke with Lemon Balm

1 artichoke
1 handful lemon balm leaves
pinch of sea salt

Trim the spiny ends off of the artichoke leaves with a kitchen scissors.
Put the artichoke into a small or medium saucepan.
Fill with water 2/3 of the way up the artichoke.
Add a pinch of salt and the lemon balm to the water.
Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
Turn the artichoke over to make sure that it's cooked all the way around.
Simmer for 25-45 minutes.  The artichoke is done when you can pretty-easily pull away one of the bottom leaves.

If you want to really up the lemon balm flavor, you can add some minced lemon balm into warmed olive oil or melted Earth Balance, if you like a dip for your leaves.

Happy Cooking!
Kim and Megan

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

We just got back from a trip across the country.  Two boys, one dog, one mom and one dad.

When we started on this food allergy journey, I would have been totally freaked out about having to travel with such restrictions.  Seven years later, it's old hat.

A few tips and tricks I've learned along the way made it a lot easier for us to have a great trip, and maybe they'll help you, too.

1) Plan, plan and plan (and make lists)!  When you know that you can't just stop at the rest stop and pick up a quick bite, you have to think about what you'll need before hand and get it all ready.  Write it down!  Shop, cook, and use your freezer to spread out the work.

2) Bring a variety of snacks -- sweet and savory-- and drinks so that you don't have to munch on the same old trail mix for hour after hour.

3) Take advantage of help when it's available.  

How do these tips translate into a real-life vacation?

The first part is obvious.  Write down what foods, drinks and medications you need to make your travel enjoyable and safe.  Then, write down shopping lists divided by store, so that you get all the ingredients you need in one shopping trip.  Make sure you have all the medications you are going to need.  For us, that's not just EpiPens and Benadryl, but allergy medicines and inhalers and Sea Bands--nifty accupressure wrist bands to prevent car sickness. 

We also pack our own soap and shampoo, even when we're going to a hotel or family member's house that will have them.  When you have a nut or milk allergy, fancy soaps can be dangerous!

The second part is fun.  Part of the joy of traveling by car is eating stuff you wouldn't normally get to enjoy with such abandon!  For this trip, I baked zucchini muffins and blueberry muffins.  I baked them in papers so they'd travel better, then wrapped them in sets of four in aluminum foil and popped those in freezer-safe bags.  I froze the muffins as I made them, so that I wouldn't have to be overwhelmed with work at the last minute.

I also baked up a double batch of granola.  I made little sandwiches with Sunbutter and jelly and others with hummus.  I bought some chips and dry cereal and juice boxes.  We had non-dairy milk boxes and coconut waters for the grown-ups.  We had grapes and apples.  We also got squeezable pouches of apple sauce and apple/banana sauce and fruit leathers.

Each boy got a snack pack, which was his own bag filled with little bags of the snacky-type foods.  That way, they got to have a little control over what they ate and when.  I gave out the muffins in the morning and the sandwiches at lunch time.

The third part is crucial.  We look for help from hotels that we stay at.  Whenever possible, we choose hotels that have a refrigerator and a microwave when we're going to be there for more than one day.   This does not have to be a big, extravagant hotel.  Last summer we stayed at a Holiday Inn Express with a kitchenette that worked out great.   On this trip, we stayed one night at the beginning of our trip and one night at the end at a little motel near my mother-in-law's and it had fridge.  I could unpack my cooler and the ice pack and re-chill everything while we slept.

We ate dinner at my mother-in-law's house.  She was not comfortable buying all the food we would need for dinner, as she doesn't have the experience we have in reading labels.  So, we brought pasta and sauce and cookies with us, and she provided salad and fruit--foods she could feel confident providing.

Before we left, I emailed my sister-in-law with a short shopping list.  I listed brand names of the basic foods I would need to get my family started when we arrived in Virginia.  This was a life saver.  After traveling for two days, I didn't have to jump in the car again to go grocery shopping.  My boys had Beanadillas (refried beans, Daiya and tortillas) for dinner with fruit and more of the cookies I had baked in Chicago.  Later, we were able to go shopping together, so that we could make meals that would work for everyone.

That just left the return trip.  Again, my sister-in-law took me shopping and hung out with me while I baked more muffins (zucchini and apple pie) and made more sandwiches.  I also made a Mexican Lasagna for us to take with us to my mother-in-law's on the way back.

We really had a wonderful vacation, and I can tell you that I didn't worry about food at all.  I have followed these tips for short trips to hotels, car trips, plane travel, and camping. 

All it takes is being prepared and asking for help.  (Shameless plug--a copy of Welcoming Kitchen also came in handy!)

Please share any tips you find helpful in the comments.

Happy Cooking!
Kim and Megan