Thursday, July 27, 2006

Birthday Tart

Busy, busy. I was sick, then my best friend flew into town and she is staying with us for the week, so between showing her the vast coolness of Portland and schlepping her to work with me I've been all over the place lately.

Her birthday was last week, so last night we had a little belated birthday bash with a special tart I made, incorporating her favorite treat flavors, chocolate and strawberries.

I'm calling it "Lauren's Birthday Tart". Not terribly creative, I know, but it pays respect to it's inspiration, no doubt. It is a chocolate tart shell and with a creamy, jellish strawberry layer, decorated with fresh slices of strawberries and piped with chocolate frosting. It was a big hit with the birthday girl, even though I forgot to add the decorative chocolate curls I was going to make with a yummy chocolate truffle bar from Trader Joes. Oh well, looks like I'll just have to eat the chocolate bar myself. I'm really sacrificing for my art over here. :P

I will be back to posting fairly regularly again soon. We are actually in the process of buying our first home right now, very exciting, confusing and scary all at once. We are supposed to be closing on August 18th, so keep your fingers crossed that everything works out between now and then so we can move in and start tearing it up! LOL, it doesn't need to be torn up, we just have lots of ideas for the space. Jim and I both have been life-long renters, neither of our parents owned homes when we lived at home, so this is an especially big deal because neither one of us knows what it's like to be able to paint the walls or tear up the carpet or anything like that. Fingers crossed for a smooth and uneventful closing!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Too sick to scream for ice cream....

Oh boy! I have been sick as a dog this week! My throat felt a little weird on Monday, but I didn't think anything of it... until I woke up on Tuesday with my glands so swollen I couldn't swallow! By Wednesday I'd lost my voice and Thursday the head cold portion of it caught up with me and I was just plain pathetic. So, I haven't been cooking. I'm feeling much better now, thankfully, because my best friend is flying in tomorrow to visit for a week and a half.

I've lived this week on a diet of soup, crackers and ice cream. In lieu of Leslie's ice cream post I'm going to do a little ice cream review of my new frozen friends.

First up:

Tofutti Kids! Remember orange creamsicles, with their crisp and tangy orange outer shell and their creamer inner layer? Imagine them with an even creamer inner layer, thanks to Tofutti Cream Cheese, and outer flavors of strawberry, lime and orange made with *gasp* real fruit! The cats and the humans are in agreement, these babies are good.

The other one we are out of and I can't find a picture of them online, not even on their own site! They are also by Tofutti and called Tofutti Rich Rewards. The basic makeup of this fine treat is a stick surrounded by creamy vanilla ice cream with strawberry/raspberry swirls through it, dipped in chocolate. I hadn't really expected much from it, I don't know why, but I was expecting waxy chocolate. OMG, they are so good. The chocolate is so creamy, it just melts like buttah and the ice cream/ fruit swirl... I'm drooling over here. If you ever see these near you, they are in a brown and cream box, buy them. The kicker is they are a nice sized bar and they are under 200 calories each! Double yum!

I just got my supercool Secret Society of Vegans shirt in the mail this week, along with some other assorted goodies, some buttons and a patch that will definitely be going on a bag soon.

I was so happy that the red and black shirts were recently printed on bigger shirts. I'm wearing a large and I typically wear an XL in women's American Apparel, for those of you who are leery of ordering shirts from the UK. Michelle at Herbivore has a small and it fits like an American Apparel M. Very fun shirt, I love it!

Monday, July 17, 2006

We be jammin'...

Yes, I listened to Bob Marley while I was making jam. Can you blame me? How often does that opprotunity present itself?

So, on Saturday, I made jam and marmalade from scratch. And, refusing to settle for freezer jam, I took on the scary task of canning. I grew up with grandmothers that canned a lot of food, but it wasn't carried on by the next generation. Sadly, there's no one in my family that's living to give me any pointers, so I turned to a book on preserves I bought and, of course, Martha Stewart online.

The great thing about jam is it's a really easy way to learn the basics of canning. The high acidity in fruit kills the bacteria that can turn into botulism so no home botox for any of you! But, thankfully, that dramatically decreases your chances of accidentally poisioning your family, horray!

I made marionberry jam and a mixed citrus marmalade, consisting of grapefruit, orange, lemon and lime. Marionberries and citrus are both really high in pectin, so I didn't add any of the commercial kind. Commercial pectin is typically derived from apples and you can find easy ways online to make your own apple pectin, rather than relying on the boxed stuff.

Here is the flat of marionberries I picked up at a local farmer's market. Yummy! $17 for the flat, not too shabby! I used 8 pints for the jam, "flash" froze 2 (froze them in a flat layer, then placed them in bags) and we kept 2 for immediate consumption.

This is the stove set up. On the left is the canning pot, with jars being sterilized in it. I got a great deal on some very cool mason jars at the Goodwill near us. It's a pay-by-the-pound place and glass is .29 a pound! I found 8 really neat jelly jars and paid $1.70! On the lower right is my pot for making jam and on the top left is a little pot with water for sterilizing the lids. You can reuse jars and bands as much as you want, provided they are in safe working condition, but you should never reuse the lids because you could be compromising the security of your seal.

I got so caught up in making the jam first, that I forgot to take a lot of pictures, so here's a picture of the marmalade cooking. The difference between a jam and a marmalade is that marmalades are citrus based, with bits of sugared rind in them. Jams are fruit that is crushed up, where jelly uses just fruit juice and preserves have large chunks of the fruit in them. Clearly I learned a lot this weekend!

After cooking to the right jelling temperature (it varies by fruit), the hot, sterilized jars are then filled with the hot jam. Jim provided a helpful hand during this process. We were able to pick up a nice set of canning tools, including special tongs and such, for under $8. The cans then go into the canning pot, are submerged in water, and are brought to a boil and held there, covered, for the appropriate amount of time. After that they must be taken out and placed on a surface that will not be a temperature shock. I used cooking racks covered with newspaper for insulation and some kitchen towels. Let them cool, undisturbed, for at least 12 hours.

The marmalade, looking pretty.

And the marionberry jam.

We only had one can not seal, so we just popped it in the fridge the next day, after cooling, and are eating that one first. I was very pleased with the results of this adventure and I will definitely be canning again in the future. It was fun and so far it was made breakfast satisfying on more than one level. :)

And a totally belated picture from last week, of some Field Roast culets served with tomato-bail quinoa and some steamed (frozen) green beans. I finally got creative enough to use my cookie scoop for the quinoa and I really liked the presentation, so I think I'll be buying a bigger scoop soon. Any excuse for more gadgets!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Bread winners!

Okay! I have done some serious thinking (seriously, this is important to me) and I have picked 2 bread ideas that I am working on developing. All of the suggestions were overwhelming if not instantly drool-inducing. Some of the ideas thrown out are ones that I already have in the book, either as breads or muffins so I imagine that will be a pleasent surprise ("garden" muffins with zucchini and carrots, blueberry muffins, banana bread, lemon bread...) Other people commented on disliking "debris" in their food. I run into this from time to time and although I can't fathom why someone wouldn't love a cookie swimming with nuts, I understand that this is a malady that I must cater to. :) Jim also isn't a fan of things in his food, so I'm seasoned in this department.

The first bread idea that I liked and ran with was the idea of the pumpkin bread. This idea was brought up by Mindy and Cheryl. I really liked it, but I liked it even more when I combined that idea with Laura Faye's cinnamon swirl bread idea. I got to play with that this week and here was the result:

This is a picture of the heel, so it's not the best part to have photographed, but what can I say? I'm a putz. Anyway, the first test of this deemed it delicious. Jim isn't normally very interested in pumpkin but wanted me to immediately bake another loaf.

The next kind of bread, which I will be working on soon, is the apple pie bread suggested by Caroline. I love the idea of such a homestyle smell coming from a bread and being so much more manageable, and healthier, to eat.

I thank you all, with much sincerity, for all of your help and enthusiasm. Working on a book is very difficult work and it's easy to feel overwhelmed but having such a creative and responsive community of people is very inspiring and gives me a lot of motivation. So, Caroline, Mindy, Laura Faye and Cheryl, please be sure I have your addresses to get copies of the book to you when it's done. My email is


Okay, now on another note. I hope you all had a wonderful Sunday. It was beautiful here today. I'm not really sure what the temperature was (one of the downfalls of not owning a television: I never bother to find out what the weather will be like. It wasn't an issue in AZ, but I'll have to start looking into it here), but it was gorgeous. I was up late finishing a wonderful book I was reading, The Devil in the White City which is about the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago, so I slept in this morning. Then we rode down to the farmer's market with our bikes and indulged in a bounty of freshly farmed bargains. We bought 1 1/2 pounds of cherries, Bing and Rainier combined, at $1 a pound (my eyes nearly fell out of my head), some zucchini, sugar snap peas, new potatoes and onions. We then cruised over to a local coffee house and enjoyed some sorbetto. After that we came home and I have no idea where the afternoon went, but this evening we did something that was long overdue. We went to see Al Gore's movie An Inconvenient Truth.

Now, I normally try to keep this blog lighthearted, but I feel very strongly about this movie and the reaction that I've been hearing from the vegan community, so here I am, to state my opinion on the matter. The main complaints about this movie that I have been hearing are that 1.) "it's not going to make a difference anyway" and 2.) "he doesn't bring up the effects of animal agriculture on the environment". Here are my thoughts:

For the people who are saying 1.), what are you doing to help the situation? Here is a man that has politics and celebrity on his side and is using that make a film (which is an accessible media for people of many classes) about one of the biggest topics that we are facing. If you are looking for some almighty person to say and do what you think you would do, were you in his shoes, go talk to your god. He is giving bigger visibility to this topic than has ever happened before and I think that pretty damn big.

For those in the 2.) camp, well, you aren't going to like what I'm going to say. This movie was not created to point fingers are certain industries. He certainly has many opprotunites to do that and he does not. What this movie tries to do is break down and explain global warming in the most accessible way possible, discuss it and get people feeling passionate about it. He does lightly touch on energy uses, or wastes as it may be, but the movie never claims to be a guide that condemns the evil industries and praises the good. And there is a moment when our vegan utopia must be punctured to look at reality. Even if Al Gore himself was vegan, the reality of it is that if he wants to continue to be taken seriously in the political arena he cannot make that a platform or really discuss animal rights period. Clearly it doesn't make me happy to say that, but it's the truth, he would get lumped in with other "earthy hippy" hypes (and that is meant with no offense, as I'm in that catagory myself) and he would be written off by the idiots that are in power. It's easy to think that he could be the one to make a difference, but if no one is taking his global warming campaign seriously no one is going to look at the animal agriculture industry. It's one of those "sad but true" things.

I personally have been a Gore lover for years. I was very young during the first Clinton administration, so my adoration was actually my first political crush, but as I got older and understood the amazing affects of the Clinton-Gore years, the lowest unemployment rate in 30 years, paying off, not just down but off, the national debt and creating a surplus and all the good that they did towards the civil rights of our citizens, well, I couldn't help but love him. I'm sure there are other candidates out there that I would identify with even more strongly that I'm unaware of, but the fact remains that Al Gore is one of the gutsiest politians that I can actually say I admire. I think that Paul Wellstone (RIP) is looking down on him with a tired smile of an equally challenged ally.

So there is my little spiel. I hope I didn't offend anyone too badly. I am not a very tolerant person of those who feel like it's okay to knock people who are trying to make a difference. I know it's easier to complain than give someone credit. It may not be perfect in some people's eyes, but damn it, they are doing something and that's a lot more than most people.

On a lighter note, I ventured into the scary world of homemade jams and canning this weekend, which I will post about, which picture documentation, tomorrow. Yay!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Seattle Trip

I went up to Seattle on Tuesday to see my favorite musician Mason Jennings. Luckily, my brother-in-law and his wife live there so I had company and a place to crash. I got there early in the day and went to Sidecar which is the vegan store in Seattle. All of the money benefits a pig sanctuary just outside of town. They have eats much like Food Fight and they have some vegan stuff, like shirts and shoes, but the selection is a little less hip than you would expect. I picked up a new pair of Blackspot Sneakers, a new vinyl wallet and some other assorted little goodies.

From there I met up with an old high school friend. We were going to a vegan restaurant called Chaco Canyon Cafe, but when we got there they said they were having "issues" that day and were only doing take-away, not regular seating. We weren't really in a position to take food anywhere, so we went above the restaurant to another place called Cedar's, where I had some amazing falafel that I forgot to take a picture of. They coated the balls in tahini, rather than just drizzling it on them and it made all the difference. Excellent.

After lunch, I went and met up with my BiL and we hung out until his wife got home. Then it was, you guessed, time for more food! We went to a vegan thai restaurant (no, sadly they aren't vegan, but they've eaten at many of the vegan restaurants in Seattle) called Araya's. It was wonderful! Sorry about the picture quality, there was low light and I used my phone.

This was Katie's dish. I honestly cannot remember what she got, but it involved lots of veggies and a brown sauce.

Max had a drunken mushroom noodle bowl. They were literally the most incredible mushrooms I've ever tasted. I will definitely be getting that if we go back there again.

Good old reliable me, with my curry and coconut milk! What can I say, I know what I like!

Max and I went to the concert that evening and had a great time. The next morning I was going to head back down here, but not before a stop at Mighty O, the vegan donut shop. So, we get our donuts (I got a chocolate glaze and a strawberry glaze) and I'm walking to get napkins and I bump into this guy. I apologize and continue on my way. Then Max and I find a table, which happens to be right by the guy I bumped into. The place is a bit cramped and it's cafe-type seating. So, we sit down and Max leans over to me and says "The guy you bumped into is right behind you. It's Dave Matthews!" Well, I glance over and sure enough, he's literally within inches of me, enjoying vegan donuts and coffee with who I guessed to be his wife and his kids. Shows how much I pay attention, given that I almost fell into him and didn't even make direct eye contact! I think it's great that people in Seattle are respectful enough that he can do normal things even though he's mega famous. So yeah, there's my literal brush with fame!

I'll leave you all with this really cute picture of Moussa eating piece of spinach. So cute!

Bread idea winners will be annouced Saturday, I do believe.

And the sticker goes to....

Cheryl! Please email me at with your address and I will get it out to you ASAP.

I will annouce the bread idea winners tomorrow. I will also blog later today, I went to Seattle for a few days for a concert and I had a delicious time. I also had a pretty huge celebrity sighting at a popular vegan spot... Pretty cool stuff!

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Give It Away, GIve It Away Now!

Okay, folks, I'm doing another giveaway! This time it's for a lovely sticker from The Secret Society of Vegans . They didn't have a very large pic for me to post here, so just follow the link. Super cool company.

Ok, here's what you do. Reply to this posting, just write a comment, and the winner will be randomly drawn. There will actually be 2 winners in this: to be entered you must tell me your favorite kind of quickbread (i.e banana bread... but not banana bread because I already have that). I will use your answers to develop a new quickbread recipe that I will name after the person sumbitting the idea and they will get a free copy of the book when it comes out. Sound like a plan?

So, to recap: reply in the comments with your favorite quickbread or a kind of quickbread you'd like to try (a bread that does not require yeast) and I will randomly pick a winner for the sticker and then intentionally pick a winner for the bread idea. Okay? Okay! The contest will close at midnight on Wednesday July 12th.

My quickbread section is rather lacking, so I need some inspiration. Thanks!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Nutty Weather

So, it was 100 degrees last week. Sweltering. Hot. If I wasn't full of psychological hang-ups I could have slept naked. This week it's been cooler and today it was cold! We had to turn the heat on last night! Today all I wanted was some soup, so I made some after work.

Tonight we had some quick corn chowder with wraps. I made the chowder with a diced onion, some cubed potatoes, carrots and corn and a carton of Imagine brand corn chowder soup. When it's all over and done I add a little rubbed sage to the pot. It makes 4 large servings for us. Sometimes I'll add seitan as well, if it's a main course, but tonight the seitan was in our wraps. I used tomato basil tortillas with fresh romaine and spinach, some tomatoes, seitan and a new roasted garlic dressing I found at the store. Neither one of us was too crazy about the dressing, as it was rather sweet and we both prefer savory dressings, but it wasn't bad. The tortillas were delish and really tender and fresh.

Well, Ravi is down a picture, so I found this cute one of him looking up at me from the coffee table. Yes, our cats can lay on the coffee table. Our rule is anything we can sit/put our feet on they can too, so no counters or kitchen table, but otherwise they have full run of the place. No, Ravi isn't pregnant, that's just his "orange sack" as we call it. He actually isn't fat, it's more like excess skin and our vet says she isn't concerned about it. Because of this, we call him a flying squirrel. Ravi and I have an extra special relationship and we are super close. He's such a little mama's boy. Sigh.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Catch Up

Whew, it's been a couple of days! So, first and foremost, the kitten is still with us (oddly, we've started calling him Seuss. I don't know why). The neighbors, obviously, care less. I'm still not sure what our game plan is with him. We shall see.

I am officially participating in the summer shape-up challenge, which started on the 1st. It runs for 12 weeks and is a body tranformation challenge. I'm not really in a position to be bulking up, I'm using this as a motivator to get my spare cookbook pounds off. Wish me luck! I'll keep you all posted! Now I have to satiate my sweet tooth in more productive ways.

On Saturday we went to the downtown farmer's market. In Portland you can catch a farmer's market on almost any day, but the downtown one is the real deal. We were able to satisfy my fruit tooth with some black raspberries (my favorites!), red raspberries and Rainier cherries. Not pictured are some artichokes and tomatoes.

For breakfast the next morning we had parfaits, layered with both kinds of raspberries, vanilla soy yogurt and granola. Being that we are cooincidentally virtually straightedge vegans, this is the most use our pilsner glasses will get.

We had an otter come visit us! Sorry the picture is so bad, I had to rely on my digital zoom to get a close up picture of him/her. What a cutie!

This weekend I made pierogi, for the first time in months. I will post the recipe soon (as well as the mocha-damia bar one ;) ) and Jim was delighted. I fill them with garlic mashed potatoes (the same one from the shephard's pie recipe) and to up the health factor I use mostly whole wheat pastry flour and some ground flax seed in them. Actually, who am I kidding? I put flax seed in almost everything, it's like my version of Leslie's hemp seeds. I made my pierogi perfectly uniform and in good time with my new cool tool I bought called a pierogi peepa. It basically is a mold that you put the dough onto, fill them, put the top layer of dough over the filled one and roll them out with a rolling pin, which seals the layers of dough together. I love getting new kitchen gadgets.

For the 4th we barbequed! I skewered some of the chick'n nuggets from Food Fight and marinated them in barbeque sauce. They were delicious alongside some grilled corn and steamed artichokes that I steamed in my new pressure cooker (there will be some pressure cooker adventures in the near future, I promise!). It was a delicious meal, enjoyed with a glass of iced Newman's Own limeade and ended with some crisp watermelon. After dinner we went to a local theater that was doing an anniversary showing of Raiders of the Lost Ark. This event reaffirmed 2 beliefs I hold dear:

1. Archeology is cool
2. Harrison Ford is one of the sexiest men to ever grace the silver screen.

After the movie we went and enjoyed some fireworks and came home to call it a night.

Tonight I tossed some sweet potato fries into the oven to go with slices of Savory Mushroom Field Roast loaf and steamed broccoli. Super yummy. I am officially in love with Field Roast. It's the best store bought seitan ever. Well, even my homemade isn't that flavorful. Very few ingredients, all from whole foods, and very healthy, it makes me cringe to think of Tofurky.