Weekend Happenings

Tim and I enjoyed delicious food, lovely weather, and a fun adventure over the weekend. On Friday night, we strayed from our menu plan and opted for homemade pizza instead. The finished pie had a whole grain crust and was topped with cashew cheese, marinara sauce, chopped garlic, herbs, and kale crumbles. It was a bit puffier than our usual pizzas, so we had leftovers for Saturday lunch!For dessert, I made Lemon Zinger Squares! The recipe for these refreshing treats will be featured in my forthcoming cookzine. I think they might be one of my favorite creations to date. Tim ate most of them. These squares differ from regular cake because you can pick them up and eat them with your hands – kind of like a brownie, but also very different from a brownie!On Saturday, Tim went kayaking, so I stayed home and worked on some miscellaneous projects. When dinner rolled around, I was too lazy to make much effort, but also quite hungry. My usual answer to the hungry/lazy dilemma is a meal-in-a-bowl. I love the ease and versatility. This particular bowl had quinoa, lightly steamed kale, roasted chickpeas, diced bell pepper, grated carrots, avocado, and a citrus tahini dressing. I also added some dried cranberries.On Sunday, Tim and I met a group of friends at Blossoming Lotus for brunch. These occasions are such a special treat since we rarely go out to eat. Tim had the Seitan Rancheros (his favorite) and I had the Pumpkin Battered French Toast (oh my, was this ever incredible!!).

After brunch, Tim and I drove about a half hour to the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge in Washington. We saw (and heard) a massive array of wildlife, including hawks, snakes, kingfishers, frogs, water bugs, rabbits, birds, ducks, cranes, and geese. I feel so comforted when I am surrounded by the sounds of nature.

Here is a sassy Spotted Towhee! Tim loves to record sounds, so if you are curious to hear this bird sing and chirp, listen to his recording here.We also saw a Song Sparrow:Along the hike, we enjoyed views across small lakes and plenty of flowers (and some pretty dandelions, which I guess are actually weeds?).

And then, we drove home and had more leftovers for dinner. It was a fulfilling weekend! Hope you all enjoyed your weekends too!

Bake Sale Crazy

On Saturday, I spent nearly eight hours in my kitchen baking treats for Portland’s Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale. It was a gorgeous sunny day, but that didn’t stop me from laboring away amidst clouds of flour and scoops of sugar. In fact, it only motivated me further since I could open the windows and listen to melodic, chirping birds.

One of my favorite tips for making big baking sprees go more smoothly is to prepare your workspace first:

I like to put all of my ingredients, mixing bowls, utensils, and recipes out on my table before I start. Eventually the rows of jars become a scattered mess, but at least I don’t have to run back and forth between my cupboards and work counter.

Here is what I ended up making:

Pizza rolls filled with bell peppers, spinach, marinara, and Follow Your Heart mozzarella;

Lemon cupcakes filled with lemon curd and frosted with lemon cream cheese frosting;

Hello Vegan Bars (recipe in Let Them Eat Vegan by Dreena Burton) – oaty/coconutty cookie crust with caramel, chocolate, pecans, and coconut;

Biscochitos – a snickerdoodle with crushed anise seeds in the dough (recipe also from Let Them Eat Vegan);

Double chocolate mint chip cookies and ginger cookies

Tim and I dropped everything off at the bake sale Sunday morning. Unfortunately, I was so concerned about transporting the cupcakes safely that I forgot my camera. There was  an absolutely gorgeous array of baked goods to choose from; we ended up with one of Kittee’s pretzel dogs, a cupcake from Dovetail Bakery, and a s’mores brownie. Everything was hit-the-spot delicious. And, the sale raised over $2,400!!! Success!

Catching Up

Can you believe how quickly April is disappearing?! I am very excited for warmer weather, lots of bike rides, and a month-long road trip Tim and I will be taking soon. But, for now, here are some highlights from the past few weeks:

Beautiful Portland sunset taken from my kitchen window


View of the Astoria Bridge and the meeting of the Columbia River and Pacific Ocean (taken from the top of the Astoria Column in Astoria, OR)

Bald Eagle at Fort Stevens State Park on the Oregon Coast

Relaxing under the St. John’s Bridge at Cathedral Park

Tim and his dream bike – We spent an afternoon with my dad (who was visiting from out of town) at some crazy auto-themed flea market at the Portland International Raceway. There was more than enough weird stuff for sale. I saw the coolest El Camino.

Mini gluten-free cutout cookies (I may have eaten the whole batch…)

Shanghai Noodle Bowl = brown rice noodles + lots of shiitake mushrooms + kale + marinated soy curls + tasty sauce

Tomorrow I am spending a majority of the day baking in my kitchen. The World Wide Vegan Bake Sale is happening in Portland on Sunday (Happy Earth Day!!!) and I am bringing plenty of yummy treats! So far my list includes: Lovely Lemon Cupcakes, Pizza Rolls, Chocolate Caramel Cookie Bars, Snickerdoodles, and maybe Ginger Cookies!!! I plan on taking lots of pictures while simultaneously devouring treats, so stay tuned for a recap of the event next week!!

Happy Weekend!!!

Over the River and Through the Woods

The sunshine made an appearance today! Tim and I took full advantage of abundant blue sky and went hiking in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest (located in Washington state). The snow levels this time of year can make finding a trail difficult, so we opted for a lower level hike we had done before called Siouxon Creek. Despite our careful planning, we still encountered snow! It was primarily on the forest roads leading to the trailhead, but it dotted much of the trail as well. We weren’t deterred though-we had the trail to ourselves for most of the day!

This area is absolutely gorgeous. There are plenty of waterfalls, lush greenery, tall trees (Douglas Fir and Red Cedar), and chirping birds to keep hikers company. Plus, the trail parallels Siouxon Creek most of the route. Even though the sun was shining overhead, the forest was COLD! Winter hats, gloves, and fleece pants kept us cozy. And, monster-sized veggie sammies kept us fueled for the 7.5 mile roundtrip hike.

My favorite spot on the hike:

Horseshoe Creek Falls

Unfortunately, the last stretch of the hike was impassable due to a creek crossing over a massive slippery rock. The water level was too high for a safe crossing, so we stopped just shy of the last waterfall and had lunch before turning back to the trailhead. Want to know the funniest part? I was looking through old photographs and discovered that the last time Tim and I hiked this trail was exactly 5 years ago (well, minus 1 day, but still!)!! We didn’t plan that, it was simply coincidental!!

This hike was just what I needed to get me even more excited for warmer weather and lots of hiking and backpacking. Nothing compares to being surrounded by the comforts and sounds of nature.


Sometimes My Apartment is My Gym

I rarely discuss my personal fitness routine on the blog since food usually dominates the scene, but thought this post might be a nice change of pace.

The amount of rainfall in Portland is already breaking records this season. I am usually delighted by heavy dark clouds in the sky and the pitter-patter of rain on my windows. It calms me in a way that is difficult to describe. Lately though, I find myself wishing for some warmth and sunshine. Since my main mode of exercise is either riding my bike or hiking mountain trails, I have been confronted with an exercise dilemma.

This actually started back in November when winter was upon the Pacific Northwest. I was jobless, bored, and depressed. The weather wasn’t cooperating and I really wanted to find a way to exercise from home. My main goal was a good, solid, cardio workout. I don’t like gyms (expensive, smelly, too many people, etc). While my apartment isn’t huge, it does have a decent-sized living room.  My concern was disturbing the people who live below me-the hardwood floors already creak!

I tried yoga, which is quite relaxing, but boring (to me anyways). It also doesn’t boost my heart rate enough to make me feel like I’m making a difference. It did make me more limber and balanced, which is awesome for backpacking and hiking! I stopped practicing yoga, but hope to work it in once or twice a week soon. It should help with anxiety issues.

Eventually I stumbled upon Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred workout. I was having so much fun for the first several months! It was challenging and didn’t require any special equipment other than hand weights (which I already owned). Plus, the jumping around was minimal and I did the workout when I assumed my neighbors were at work (hopefully!). And then, I got bored with that routine too (maybe it’s my lack of patience?).

Last week I learned about a website called Fit Sugar. They have a bunch of fitness videos led by a wide variety of personal trainers and fitness experts. Many of the videos are only 10 minutes long. That’s awesome because it means I can combine a few of them to make a 30 minute, personalized, energizing workout. My favorites so far include:

10-Minute Fat-Blasting Circuit by Andrea Orbeck – This workout makes my heart pump like crazy (and my resting heart rate is already on par with a hummingbird). The instructor is so calming and easy to follow. I am usually exhausted after the 10 minutes are finished. The first few days I did this workout, my legs and bum were so SORE!!

Jackie Warner’s Calorie-Blasting Power Pyramid Workout – Oh my gravy! This workout is a challenge. I go past the 5 reps for each exercise and do 10 instead. I am still a bit uncoordinated in a few of the moves, but that will improve. The instructor makes me feel energized and she smiles the whole time! Plus, she wears crazy sneaker-boots when she is working out.

Tone Your Arms with Andrea Orbeck – I think arm workouts are my favorite. This particular one is pretty special because it is ALL arms. It’s only 10 minutes, but wow, is it ever effective! My arms were operating under their own control when I finished this routine. I am addicted.

10-Minute Bootcamp Workout with Jeanette Jenkins – I tried this routine once and didn’t quite make it to the end. Not because I am incapable, but because my balance is terrible. I was tipping over and couldn’t quite keep up with the group. But, I refuse to give up and will definitely attempt it again this weekend. Must stay positive!

I hope to incorporate some abdominal workouts too. Here are a few that look promising:
3 Easy Yoga Moves to Tone Your Abs
Work Your Abs Without Crunches: Quadruped

I am excited for sunshine because it means more of this:

What are some of your favorite workouts (at home, the gym, or outdoors)? It’s always so inspiring to learn about other people’s exercise routines!