March 29, 2011

Photo Class at the Zoo

Attended a pretty intense photo class yesterday.  Half the day was at the Zoo learning how to capture the right light, motion, and effect.  We basically learned all the features of our camera and how to stay out of the auto button.  I can now do some things I didn't know how to do before.  I can actually shoot what I want to shoot.  I can zoom in on a subject and make the background fade out.  It's going to take some practice, a little daily studying, and some note taking for a bit to get comfortable with the things I learned yesterday. I am pretty excited to do the practicing though.  Hope you see some improvement in the photos posted. I am especially happy with the semi truck photo I took on the way home.  The truck is in clear view while the scenery around him is in motion. I can't believe I achieved that effect on purpose. To demonstrate capturing motion and stopping motion, we all lined up in two long lines and the instructors ran up and down between us letting us know what to do before they started running.  It was a really fun day.

March 24, 2011

Signs of Life ~ Garden 2011

Baby Artichokes

It's almost time to get outdoors a little more often and work in the garden.  I am anxious to get started.   We had a short break in the rain yesterday and it's been quiet at work.  I took the opportunity to do a little work outdoors yesterday.  I planted a few more snap peas, some lettuce, and some kale.  I planted some peas in February but haven't seen much action.  We had a very cold snow storm which probably slowed what growth was going on.  There are some signs of life out there though. The herbs are waking up, onions and garlic are standing up straight. I see radishes popping their first leaves out and I saw some signs of life out of the base of the artichokes.  They worried me a little.  It was hard for me to imagine those black dead stalks had any life left in them.


Snap Pea




March 20, 2011

A Good Time Was Had by All ~ LV Potluck #2

Our second vegan/vegetarian potluck in Longview was again a success.  There were about 25 people and a great variety of wonderful food.  Mike McKee from Willow Grove Farms talked about organic farming and I learned quite a bit about how to improve my own garden this year.  I always learn something new talking to Mike.  I also found out that I shouldn't have my lettuce bowl under the lights downstairs.  Even before unpacking all the supplies from my car, I ran down and moved the lettuce to a cooler spot on the deck.  They're doing great, by the way.  I should be starting up some gardening blogging soon.  Peter Spendelow from NWVeg also came and spoke to us about the WA initiative 1130 to ban confinement cages for chickens.

Among the wonderful food we had:

A couple fresh fruit salads
Vegan Oatmeal Raisin Cookies with vegan chocolate chips and shredded coconut
Roasted Yams and sweet potatoes with molasses
Veggie Ragout with mozzarella cheese
Garden Vegetable Soup
Curried Quinoa Salad
Polenta Casserole
Vegan Deli Cole Slaw
Sengalese peanut, spinach, yam stew
Spanish Rice
Zucchini Pie
Green Salads, herb salads, hummus, and much more.

Thanks to all the cooks, Mike McKee, Peter Spendelow, Jon for arranging the chairs, everyone who helped set up and clean up, and Christy and Lester for allowing us to transform your produce store into a dining room for the evening.  A good time was had by all.

The next one will be in May and I'm hoping to have a raw foods or vegan cooking demonstration.

Vive Bene

Baked Apples with Tamarind Sauce

I got our meals for the week finished pretty early today, we still have a couple salads left from the vegan/vegetarian potluck, the Chana Dal is put away, I made another dish with Lima beans and roasted vegetables, (post to come later), and some baked apples.  I made some tamarind sauce for my Chana Dal and used the rest of it to make a nice sauce for these apples. I stuffed them with chopped pineapple, raw cashews, dried currants, a little maple syrup, some date sugar, freshly ground cinnamon and nutmeg.

Art Crawl in Portland Saturday Night

Went to play in Portland Saturday night, one of our favorite playgrounds. After an unusually pleasant visit with our son in St. Helens, Oregon, Saturday afternoon, we wandered to Portland towards our final destination, The Alberta Rose Theater for an eight o'clock show.  We stopped at a cute little vegetarian grocery store called Cherry Sprout Produce. We've wanted to stop in many times, but hadn't found the time yet.  Since we were pretty early we stopped in and picked up some wonderful produce as well as a couple seedlings for the garden, a couple fava bean plants, jerusalem artichokes, and some spicy herb blends for herb hill. We found the theater, parked the car, and took a walk in search of food for our camera as well as our bellies.  We stopped in a a Thai restaurant and enjoyed a wonderful vegan meal. Then we wandered around enjoying the paintings, sculptures, and wonderful creations all around us. I do love this part of Portland, it's so full of art everywhere you look.  There was a life size piñata type sculpture of a mermaid on top of one of the coolers of the Cherry Sprout.  A creation of one of the nearby artists.

We met this lovely lady, Laura Stokes, on our Baja Beach Daze trip in 2009.   She was one of the people who got on in San Francisco,  we spent ten wonderful days traveling through California and most of Baja. We spent five days camping at a private beach on the Sea of Cortez, a little north of La Paz. She and her partner travel the world performing their art. We've been looking forward to seeing her performance for sometime.

Last night we finally had the pleasure of seeing this awesome show.  Not one person left that theater wishing they had done something else last night.  The theater was full and there was an enthusiastic standing ovation at the end. There were no words spoken during this performance,  but strong messages about ourselves in this busy, stressful world came through quite clear. Laura and her partner are absolutely impressive as they demonstrated the ability to control every muscle in their bodies.  This is an event I highly recommend if the The Ricochet Project comes to a city near you.  They've been in Seattle a couple times in the past two years, but we haven't been able to make it. Check out this trailer for a sample of some of her expressive art.

I added a little art to our house this weekend too.  My friend Melanie of Oregon Grape Stitch just finished a pair of brightly colored curtains I just couldn't leave hanging in her store.  They made a quick appearance as tablecloths at the potluck, then  we hung them where Kaylee sleeps, she's going to love them.  She also likes the rainbow colors like her grandma.  The room I hung them in is lit by the sunshine in the morning.  At at certain time, it's usually too bright.  The colors in these curtains filtered the sun and brought in the light in a different way. When I came in this morning, I was greeted by a bright, cheery room.

Chana Dal

I've made it a habit to cruise through the local liquidation stores for some of the items I use to cook with.  There's often some great deals on organic and unusual ingredients I like to use.  I always check for coconut milk, I've found it as low as $1 a can.  Lately they've had the low sodium vegetable broth I like to use for 50¢ a carton.  I bought a whole case of those. I'm usually pleased when they are 2 for $5 at the grocery store. I use the vegetable broth pretty regularly.

I picked up a big bag of Chana Dal at the liquidator store the other day which prompted me to make a nice pot of Chana Dal. Chana Dal is a smaller chickpea called desi and the variety that is used most often is called Myles. It resembles a yellow split pea, but is no relation to a pea other than being a legume. I made it twice this weekend.  I made a batch yesterday morning and my husband must have really liked it.  We came home late from a show in Portland last night. I thought I'd have a late night snack when we got home. I looked for it and found that he had eaten the whole pot I made before we had left.  I made another this morning, it is an easy dish and very nutritious. I am impressed with nutrients in this little legume per serving: 21 grams protein, 22 grams fiber, only 6 grams of fat, and no cholesterol.

Chana Dal

    * 1 c. chana dal
    * 7 c. water
    * 1 t. salt
    * 1/4 t. each cayenne, turmeric powder, cumin powder, coriander powder
    * 1 T. tamarind pulp (or 1 T. lemon juice & 1 t. sugar)
    * 1 T. vegetable oil
    * 1/4 t. black mustard seeds
    * 1 clove garlic, chopped
    * Coconut Creme from one can of coconut milk

Measure the dal into a bowl and sort through it to remove any unskinned (dark) dal, small stones or other debris. Soak the chana dal in 4 c. water for 2-3 hours, then wash under running water and drain.
Bring 3 c. water and the salt to boil in a medium-size pot. Add the chana dal and wait for the water to begin its second boil, then cover the pot and cook over medium-to-low eat for 30 min. At this time, remove the cover and stir up the dal. To the open pot add the cayenne, turmeric, cumin, coriander and the tamarind pulp (skin & seeds removed). Stir well and allow to simmer uncovered while you prepare the next step.

In a separate small pot or frying pan, heat the vegetable oil over low heat and add the mustard seeds and chopped garlic to it. When the oil gets hot, the mustard seeds will begin to pop (really. and they may spatter a bit.). When they have ceased popping, add the oil mixture to the simmering pot of dal.

Immediately cover the pot and keep covered for 2 min. while the dal continues to simmer. Then remove the cover and stir once with a spoon to mix in the new ingredients. Cook uncovered for another 5 min. and the dal is ready to be served with rice or bread.

Taste to correct seasoning  This dal is fairly thick in consistency.  I added the cream from one can of coconut milk at the end of the cooking to make it a creamy soup.

Chana Dal Spices: Turmeric, Coriander, Cayenne, Cumin, Garlic Cloves, Black Mustard Seed

Tired Fruit - Inexpensive Goodness

I've found shopping locally and regularly at the same places in town gets me some interesting benefits. I know my farmers and local grocers and let them know I appreciate what they do. The last couple weeks of our local farmer's market, I don't usually pay for too much, they're glad to give it away and not have to take it home. They call it "Customer Appreciation". When something special or unusual comes in or there's a good price for some of my favorites, the vendors are sure to let me know. Last weekend, while doing some produce shopping at Payton's, Lester asked me if I would like a juice box.  He had a few boxes of fruit he couldn't sell, but people often take for juicing.  He said he sells them for 99¢. I never turn down free fruits and vegetables.  We split a a quart blender full of smoothie for breakfast with at least five pieces of fruit every morning.  It wasn't going to go to waste. There was about eight to ten pounds of fruit in the box.  I do make an effort to use everything I bring home.  I am pleased that we don't waste much. Most people would pass right by this fruit, it does look like it's just about ready for the compost pile and much of it was.  I saw it as buried treasure I had to dig up. Much of the produce had to be cleaned and prepared that day, but I'm willing to do it.  I managed to get quite a bit from that box of tired fruit.

I made a large fruit salad and used some of it to make smoothies for the next two mornings.

Fruit Salad

Morning Blend

I made some Coconut Milk Almond Ice Cream and added a couple heaping spoonfuls of the fresh fruit to the ice cream when it was just about frozen.  The ice cream is another version of my vanilla ice cream base using almond extract instead of vanilla.  I also had a carton of hazelnut coconut milk creamer I used instead of one pint of the plain coconut milk.  It's very flavorful with bits of frozen fruit throughout.

Dairy Free Almond, Hazelnut Ice Cream with Fresh Fruit

Begin by making a substitute for condensed milk.

Condensed Milk Substitute

1/3 cup thick coconut milk (The cream at the top of the can)
1/3 cup maple syrup or agave
1 TB melted coconut butter

Whip all above ingredients together and place in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Vanilla base for ice cream

3 TB egg replacer
9 TB filtered water
3/4 cup sucanat
Remaining can of coconut milk from condensed milk substitute
Condensed milk substitute (above)
1 pint coconut milk coffee creamer
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 1/2 TB vanilla extract or the seeds from a whole vanilla bean.

In a large mixing bowl whisk 3 TB egg replacer with 9 TB filtered water until thoroughly mixed and fluffy. Add the condensed milk substitute. Add 3/4 cup sucanat (or brown sugar) and again mix thoroughly. Add the rest of the can of coconut milk and 1 pint of coconut creamer, 1/2 tsp sea salt and the vanilla. Chill mixture for about four hours before freezing according to the directions for your ice cream freezer.

March 13, 2011

Blueberry Goodness and other Culinary Delights

Morgaine and I put our culinary delights together this weekend.  I like going out to her place. She lives on an island on the Columbia River.  It's not very far, about 20 miles, but it seems like I've gone somewhere far when we're out there.  The scenery is a bit different driving along the river, there are many shorebirds and a fresh coastal smell. It was a great break.  She's also a whole foods cook, working with the freshest, local ingredients available. We both love the adventure of just trying something that sounds good with the ingredients currently available, recipe in hand or not.  Dessert was very blue and very tasty.She made some blueberry pie with local blueberries she put up last summer.

I made a vegan blueberry pudding cake, a variation of the lemon pudding cake I've made before from the Vegan Dad cookbook.  I substituted blueberry juice for the lemon juice in the recipe, used orange zest instead of lemon, and put a layer of fresh blueberries on the bottom of the pan before the cake batter.

They were very good together, parfait style with a little soy whipping creme.

For our dinner, I made vegan AuGratin potatoes and roasted a whole acorn squash.  She made some wonderful whole grain bread, vegetables tempura with a nice variety of fresh vegetables, onions, carrots, yams, and more.  She also made a sweet and sour sauce for the vegetables and some sautéed chicken breast.  Most of the meal was plant based.  This is where my flexitarian comes in.  I didn't enjoy a whole portion of chicken breast, but I did have a small taste.  After all, someone did go to the trouble to make it, I am going to show my appreciation for her cooking and try it. I also know that she obtains her animal protein from the most local sources. I used her homemade sauce over the tempura vegetables, it was a great combination.  Together we came up with a great feast and there was some jolly conversation in the room after dinner, but soon there was a quiet that came over the house as everyone settled in very well fed and relaxed.

Vegan Au Gratin
Homemade Fresh Whole Grain Bread
Tempura Vegetables

March 6, 2011

Lemon Thyme Pound Cake & Citrus Tofu Tacos

Lemon Thyme Cake

I made  Lemon Thyme Pound Cake, a Martha Stewart recipe. Another find from the jail waiting room. ::) There was an old copy of Martha Stewart Living. I jotted the recipe down really fast on a piece of scrap paper, then was pleased to find it online when we got home. This is a vegetarian recipe as I used eggs.  But, I use fresh local eggs from chickens that really do go outside.  I don't use eggs much, but when I do, I only use eggs from a local source. Martha's sauce is a Muscat lemon thyme syrup. I made a nice syrup with pomegranate juice, a little lemon juice, apple juice, agave, and thyme. My cakes didn't come out as bright yellow as Martha's. That's because I use unbleached whole grain flour and unrefined sugar.

Before the cake we had some  vegan Red rice and citrus tofu tacos. I used a brown rice medley. They came out very nice. My husband likes the grande size.

Mine was a little smaller.

Vive Bene

Veggie Pot Pie with Plum Vinegar Sauce

I made some veggie pot pie last week with some soy protein bits designed to taste like riblets.  I don't use fake meats much, but I had these in the freezer and thought they should be used.  I made a different version of my vegetarian chicken pot pie. I sautéed the soy protein bits with a sauce made from some of Rachel's plum jam, fresh juice from an orange, a clove of minced garlic, and a little balsamic vinegar. 

Seared Soy Protein with Plum Sauce and  Balsamic Vinegar

Then I sautéed some onions, carrots, shallots. Added some vegetable stock and diced potatoes and simmered until the veggies were tender.  I added some herbs, sage & fennel, and made a rue with spelt flour and vegan margarine. I added the soy protein bits with the plum sauce poured it in a pie dish and baked for about 35 minutes. Mmmm, warm hot vegetable pot pie.

March 1, 2011

Veggie Nut Loaf

Veggie nut loaf with brown rice, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, cashews, oats, carrots, bell pepper, onions, and roasted garlic.

I had a favorite recipe for veggie loaf I've been making for a long time.  I've been looking for another because the one I've been using calls for four eggs and almost a cup of cheese.  There's a reason it's good.  I found this vegan loaf recently on Crooked Moon Mama. It's very good and makes a great non-meatloaf sandwich.  I added some roasted red potatoes and steamed broccoli, there's quite a few vegetables on this plate. 

I especially like how the seeds and nuts: pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, and cashews, mixed with the oats resembles the oatmeal cookie dough I just made.  :)

Never too late -- Michael Franti and Spearhead (SPREAD LOVE)