Smells Like a Barbecue Pit, Baking, and Recipes

Sigh…my apartment smells like a barbecue pit. Why? Well, it’s my fault and it’s a funny story (which I will get to in a moment)…

First, I must admit that my boyfriend Tim and I rarely go out for dinner. I would guess that we take a night off from cooking once every few months, if that. Saturday just happened to be one of those rare occasions when we didn’t feel like cooking. Where did we go? To a small place called Blossoming Lotus. The restaurant (a cafe really) is located in the hipper/trendier section of Portland called the Pearl District. We don’t hang out in the Pearl District much because we are far from hip. Anyways, Blossoming Lotus is inside a yoga studio, so the environment is very calming. You don’t actually see the yoga classes in action, but you do have to take off your shoes in order to access the potties.

The cafe has an open kitchen and a 100% vegan menu that includes raw foods and desserts. So far so good, right? Hmpf. That’s what we thought too. We were seated promptly next to a window (making for awesome people-watching) and given menus. I forgot my camera, so there are no photos, but the website has pictures! The cafe was out of both the Eight Herb House Iced Tea and the Lavender Lemonade, so we had water. We ordered the Heavenly Hummus with raw flax crackers as an appetizer. Unfortunately, our hummus arrived after our main courses (and only when we politely asked our server for the second time “Where is our hummus?”). For the main meal, I ordered the Monk Bowl which had beans, rice, steamed kale and my choice of spicy peanut sauce or a ginger sauce…so hard to choose…until my server said I could have both! Cool. When my meal arrived, it only had the ginger sauce. Tim ordered the BBQ Tempeh Platter (which came with black bean chili, green salad & spicy corn bread). Both of our meals were good, Tim’s perhaps a bit more.

Since we were seated right next to the dessert case, it was hard to resist some vegan soft-serve and a piece of Live Strawberry Shortcake. The soft-serve had a lovely lemony-vanilla flavor which paired nicely with the shortcake. All in all, the food was decent, but the service was very slow and we were pretty much ignored. Maybe the servers sensed we never eat out? We aren’t hip enough? We don’t do yoga? I don’t know. Maybe we will give it a second chance…

Now the reason why our apartment smells like a barbecue pit:

After our dinner, a thunderstorm rolled in. Portland never gets thunderstorms. Tim and I both grew up along Lake Erie where thunderstorms are very common, so we really enjoyed listening to and watching the storm. It seemed like the perfect night for baking, so I made mini chocolate cupcakes (recipe halved from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World) with chocolate cream cheese frosting. While I was getting the ingredients out of the cupboard, I managed to knock over a bottle of liquid smoke seasoning. The bottle didn’t break, but the lid did, spilling liquidy yellow smoke flavor all over the floor. If you have ever used this stuff, you know that a wee drop will do…an entire bottle is extremely potent! We ended up having to mop the kitchen, wipe down cupboards, drawers and ourselves. To make matters worse, we couldn’t open the windows because the rain was falling sideways. The smell is slowly fading a day later…

I also made a Lemon Currant Granola with Sliced Almonds (recipe follows). I created this recipe after being intrigued by ATXVegn’s Earth Day post where she mentioned buying a bag of Lemon Currant Granola. Who doesn’t love lemons?! I have not had this with soy milk yet, but I did snack a bit on it, and it tastes very good!

Lemon Currant Granola with Sliced Almonds

2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/6 cup canola oil
1/4 cup agave nectar
1 T maple syrup
1 1/2 t lemon extract
1/2 t vanilla extract
1/2 t fresh lemon zest, optional
1/2 t cinnamon
pinch of salt
1/2 cup dried currants (or cranberries)

1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.
2. Stir together oats and sliced almonds. Add canola oil, agave nectar, and maple syrup. Add in extracts and lemon zest if using. Stir in cinnamon and salt.
3. Spread mixture onto a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until the granola is golden. It might be wise to stir/rotate pan halfway through baking.
4. Stir in the currants once the granola has been removed from the oven. Allow to cool before transferring to an airtight container.

The rain continued through Sunday morning and afternoon, so I made something I have been wanting to make for a long time: homemade graham crackers! Yep! I adapted this recipe from a backpacking/trail foods cookbook I borrowed from the library years ago called Simple Foods for the Pack. These are so tasty and simple to make. They take some time because you need to roll out the dough, but they are worth it! I promise.

Cinnamon Graham Crackers (I halved this recipe, and they turned out just fine)

3/4 cup vegan margarine
1/2 cup agave nectar
1 1/2 t vanilla extract
3 cups graham flour (or whole wheat flour)
1/2 cup raw wheat germ
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t baking powder
3/4 cup water

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
2. Beat margarine, agave nectar, and vanilla until fluffy.
3. Combine dry ingredients in a small bowl. Add dry ingredients alternately with water to the creamed mixture.
4. Roll out onto a floured surface to about a 1/4″ thickness. Cut into desired shapes and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment. Prick with a fork. I sprinkled mine with cinnamon-sugar, but you don’t have too. They just taste yummier this way!
5. Bake for about 20 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack.

Lastly, I baked bagels. I used a recipe from Happy Herbivore. These bagels were incredible! Seriously. The recipe is perfect because it makes four bagels, just right for two people. I made two sesame seed and two cinnamon-sugar bagels. Try this recipe! Go do it now! They are easy and have little rising time, so you can eat them faster. I have made several batches, including the everything bagels from the photo below:

That’s it. I need another graham cracker anyways!