Is it getting brighter in here? + French onion dip (vegan)

Winter solstice has passed, which is a turning point in the days getting longer. We didn’t have snow on the ground until Dec. 23 so it already feels like winter is shortened. I am choosing to use both of those facts in my mindset….because being inside last March and April was hard. We’re all actively getting outside (even me despite the cold) to try to stave off the winter blahs. The sunshine helps!

Somewhere along the way someone updated the family calendar, which is usually full of activities. By the dates, I am guessing that happened around October. Not sure if the update is funnier or the fact I didn’t notice for 2 months. While each day does feel eerily similar to the previous one, as a family we talk each day about our “roses”—the bright spots.

The daily “rose” is usually the simple things, like literally fresh flowers, or getting a text (or e-card from Esme!) or small self-care like doing my nails or a particularly refreshing video workout. Heck, my rose today is going to be writing this blog post. We all agreed that the things we will appreciate most are “normal” acts of connection during our days. A Twins or Wild game, concerts, plays, coffee or a meal out together, a massage, in person yoga…daily gifts to be treasured. Soon, hopefully.

It was a joy having both boys home for a week at Christmas. Doing the family traditions via Zoom was…..interesting. Not quite the same as watching present opening in person. The highlight was watching my dad open his Kindle with the giddiness of a child. He had borrowed mine in November and discovered the ease of e-reading (and that I am still a voracious reader of good books, which he held all in his hand). My favorite gifts are a t-shirt with one of my favorite sayings on it and some lovely new glassware. 😎

Food was a bit different this year. We ordered prepared items as I am finishing up a big work project. Alec pitched in by making the meatballs (“ew Mom, raw meat is gross.” Yup kiddo. Strategically working on getting him to eat less meat 😇).

5 onion vegan dip

The one thing I did make that was a huge hit was a 5 onion vegan dip. My mother in law always serves French onion dip with Fritos (my absolute favorite junk food) and potato chips for holidays. This fancy vegan version was gone before I could get a pic! Yes they’re still The Hungry Boys.

Vegan butternut squash lasagna
Sweet potato falafel with miso tahini dressing

To save a bit of time, I have been using a new meal planning/recipe service app: Ultimate Vegan Meal Planner. It is working well—making it easier to plan meals for the week and get a shopping list together. Cooking is one of my creative outlets so it’s helping me with a hybrid approach of exploring and time management. Most of the recipes are quick and easy, and some of them will definitely make the rotation (the sweet potato falafel as one keeper).

As the New Year begins, I reflect on the past year with gratitude for the gifts of learning and growth that came from this experience our world has faced. More thankful than ever for the small moments of joy and connection with others each day.

Wishing you peace and hope for a bright(er) 2021.

Vegan French onion dip

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • Vidalia onion, quartered and sliced thin
  • Yellow onion, quartered and sliced thin
  • Red onion, quartered and sliced thin
  • 2 shallots, halved and sliced thin
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 8 oz vegan cream cheese
  • 1 cup nondairy sour cream
  • 2 tbsp vegan mayo
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • Cayenne pepper, salt and pepper to taste (we used a bit of Chipotle Tabasco sauce to kick it up)
  • Sugar or agave if your onions aren’t sweet after caramelizing

Sauté the Vidalia, yellow, red onions and shallots in the olive oil over low heat until brown and caramelized. About 30 minutes. Add a bit of sugar if your onions aren’t sweet enough. Cool until warm and then mix into cream cheese. Add remaining ingredients and season to taste, adding more spice to your preferences.

Serve with corn chips, potato chips or crudités

Serves 8 normal humans, but not enough for 2 Hungry Boys.

Asian Meatballs

This is a versatile recipe either as a cocktail finger food app or as a main dish paired with a side such as Chinese noodles. 

My trick with meatballs is to bake on high heat to start and then lower temp to cook fully. They get a nice crust, yet stay moist. Way easier and less mess than pan sauté. 

Serve these with a readymade condiment of your choice–Sriracha, Szechuan sauce, chili-garlic sauce. No leftovers in our house!
Asian meatballs

  • 1lb ground beef
  • 1lb ground pork
  • 1 slice white bread, torn into pieces
  • 3tbsp milk
  • 2 eggs, beaten lightly
  • 3 tbsp chopped ginger (Ginger paste is a new fav of mine, so easy!)
  • 5 cloves chopped garlic 
  • 3 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tsp Sriracha (optional)
  • 1 tsp sesame oil (optional)
  • 1/3c chopped cilantro

Soak the bread in milk–it should crumble easily but not be soggy. Squeeze out excess milk if necessary. Mix in remaining ingredients by hand, do not overmix! Add sesame oil and/or Sriracha if you like a bit of heat. Roll into 1 inch balls. Make a bit smaller for app size. Or a bit bigger if you just get lazy or impatient hungry boys pressure you to hurry up.

Line a large baking pan with tinfoil, bake meatballs at 500 degrees for 5 min, turn the heat down to 350 (keep the meatballs in the oven) and cook another 15 min. Let them set a bit to cool.