Small graces - FamilyEducation

Small graces

November 14,2011
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

This weekend the leaves began to fall in earnest. This time of the year, my husband's leaf-disposal values and my own often clash. He likes to wait until the bulk of the leaves have fallen, and then he devotes almost an entire day to raking and bagging. I like to dispose of them as they fall--sort of like my obsessive-compulsive need to vacuum all the time. I also like the excuse to be outside whe the weather is so quintessentially fall-like, and taking care of leaves is the perfect excuse to put the inside of the house on hold for a few hours.

T. wanted a huge pile of leaves to jump in, but she got frustrated with the whole process half-way through. She's been feverish and fighting some kind of virus, and she stomped off in her monkey pajamas and her fleece hoodie before the pile was complete. Later we read a story together, and she folded up small and vulnerable in my lap. She still fit there, in my arms, in the warm space between my chin and my knees.

We took down Halloween. In two weeks Christmas will be up around the house. T. put up our Be Thankful wreaths--the ones she made last year. As we get closer to Thanksgiving, the kids will write out another leaf to attach to each wreath--what they are most thankful for this year. This fall life has felt especially fragile, for some reason. Friends have been battling health problems--some very serious ones. I make my vow, as I do every year, not to let Thanksgiving slip away, buried underneath all the glittery consumerism of Christmas. 

My parents came for a visit, too. I'm thankful for them, and for the chance we had to browse through the local flea market together, and for my funny boy, who bought this for $2 and couldn't have been happier.

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Last winter I discovered the whole grain quinoa, and while googling recipes, I also discovered a recipe for quinoa pudding.  I settled on one that I adapted somewhat, and made it many times last fall and winter.  But that recipe wasn't vegan, and this go-around I wanted to adapt it to make it dairy-free, which I did, with delicious results. 

Don't be afraid of quinoa--it has a toasty taste to it, and the pudding, a glorious golden mix of cinnamon and walnuts, is divine when served with a drizzle of honey. We've had this pudding for dinner, with cooked gingery carrots on the side, and the pudding is perfect reheated in the morning for a super-start to the day. You can also cook the quinoa ahead of time, and put together the pudding when you get home--timing it for 5:00, that witching hour in households with kids, when you need a little cinnamon and warmth to chase away those mid-afternoon demons.

Vegan Quinoa Pudding

1/2 cup turbinado sugar
2 tablespoons Earth Balance, melted, plus extra to grease the pan
Ener-G egg replacer for two eggs
1 cup vanilla almond milk
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of salt
2 cups cooked quinoa
1/2 cup toasted nuts (I use walnuts, but hazelnuts and even almonds would be fine)

Optional: 1/2 cup raisins or currants

Preheat the oven to 350. Cream Earth Balance and sugar together. Stir in Ener-G, almond milk, vanilla, cinnamon, and a dash of salt until blended. Add quinoa, nuts, raisins (if using) and mix thoroughly. Butter a 1-1/2 quart casserole dish, or individual ramekins.

Pour the custard mixture into the the dish and sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake for 30 minutes until top seems set. Serve with a drizzle of agave syrup or, if you're not vegan, honey.