About tahinitoo

I live in Portland, Oregon and have been vegan for seven years. I really enjoy backpacking, snowshoeing, photography, baking, birds, biking and food.

Strawberry Love

Well, it’s summertime in Portland even if the calendar disagrees. We’ve had a steady week of sunshine and temperatures in the 80s. Now, I am typically not a fan of the heat, but I do appreciate the bounty of delicious fruits and veggies it helps produce. Case in point: beautiful Oregon strawberries.

The Big Load

I look forward to berry season every year. Tim and I were off on an exciting road trip (see Part I and Part II) during this time last year and missed one of our favorite activities, berry picking. It is one of the most calming and rewarding ways to spend a few hours. Plus, if you pick your own berries, you save lots of money! The photograph above shows the massive 30 pounds of local strawberries we picked on Wednesday morning. It took us two hours, but we found the reddest, ripest, most yummy berries in the field.

We already have four huge tubs in the freezer, several batches in the dehydrator, an abundance in the fridge, and a hefty batch of jam on the counter. It’s hot, it’s sunny, and walking into my kitchen is no different than walking into a sauna. But I’ve got homemade jam!

Strawberry Jam!

I always use this recipe, because it never fails me and it is super easy and quick. If you are new to canning, I highly suggest trying this recipe as a gentle introduction.

Can’t wait for raspberries, blueberries, pickling cukes, and cherries!

Violet Sweet Shoppe – Seattle’s Newest Vegan Bakery

A few weeks ago Tim and I drove north to Seattle for the grand opening party of Violet Sweet Shoppe – a new all-vegan bakery located near the University District. I’ve been working with the owner, Crystal, periodically since early 2012 taking photographs for her website and promotional materials and was absolutely ecstatic when she invited me to attend the festivities.

The space is adorable. Flowy curtains, twinkly lights, cozy tables, lots of fresh flowers, big windows, and of course, an impressive array of gorgeous baked treats. Crystal’s talents are above and beyond anything I’ve seen before, and I’ve seen a lot of vegan cookies, cakes, cupcakes, tarts, and candies! She has remarkable attention to detail and every creation is a delight.

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It’s been such a joy to be a small part of Crystal’s journey and if you are ever in her neighborhood, I highly recommend stopping in for a special treat. There is tea and coffee too, so stay awhile and have a chat with friends!

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Become a fan of Violet Sweet Shoppe on Facebook so you can see all the beautiful treats baked fresh each day!

Two Treats: One Recipe

Oh boy. I have been sitting on this recipe for years. Literally. Why am I pulling it from the darkest depths to share with you today? Well, because I know how much people love treats and also because I am entering it in a contest! Have you heard about the So Delicious Dairy Free 2013 Recipe Contest? It’s pretty exciting! You can enter up to five vegan recipes and there is a chance to win some spectacular prizes. Voting takes place on the So Delicious Pinterest board and the recipe with the most likes will win!

My contributing recipe is a combination of two much-loved treats: fudgy brownies and rice crispy treats. When I was working on writing a vegan brownie cookbook, this was not only one of my favorites, but also one of my first creations. These brownies have made many tummies very happy, adults and kiddies alike. Try ‘em for yourself and see what I mean!

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Rice Crispy Treat Brownies

Makes 9 large or 16 small brownies

For the brownies:

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons non-dairy butter
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup So Delicious Plain Cultured Coconut Milk Yogurt
1 1/4 cups unrefined sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder, sifted
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/8 teaspoon salt

For the rice crispy topping:

2 tablespoons non-dairy butter
8 ounces vegan marshmallows
4 cups crisped rice cereal

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and lightly grease an 8×8-inch metal baking pan.
2. Melt the butter and chocolate chips in a double-boiler or the microwave. Transfer to a large bowl and allow to cool for several minutes.
3. Add yogurt, sugar, and vanilla extract to chocolate mixture and stir until combined.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.
Add dry ingredients to chocolate mixture and stir until no flour is visible and mixture is smooth. The batter will be very thick.
5. Using a spatula, spread the batter into prepared pan. Bake for 26-28 minutes or until a toothpick inserted halfway between the center and the edge of the pan comes out with just a few crumbs attached (there shouldn’t be wet batter clinging to the toothpick). The center will appear unset but don’t worry, that is how it should look.
6. Remove pan from oven and cool completely on a wire rack.

While the brownies are cooling, prepare the rice crispy topping:

1. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter.
2. Add the marshmallows to the pan and stir continually until marshmallows are melted.
3. Add crisped rice cereal and stir until evenly coated with the marshmallow mixture.
4. Carefully spread rice crispy mixture over cooled brownies. You may need to dampen your hands to prevent sticking. Don’t be afraid to gently press down on the mixture. You want the brownie layer and the rice crispy layer to adhere to one another.
5. Place pan in the refrigerator for several hours so that the brownies set properly (don’t skip this step!).
6. Cut into squares and serve.

Store brownies in the refrigerator for best results.

Oh! If you like this recipe, head over to the So Delicious Pinterest board and vote for me! My pin should be visible in a few days! Thanks everybody. Hope you all have a sweet week.

xoxo

nyl skincare: a review

Here’s a little known fact: I love bodycare products. This obsession goes back to my adolescence — a time when I had multiple collections of lip balms, lotions, soaps, and fizzy bath salts. Can’t blame a girl for wanting to smell pretty and have soft skin, right?

When I went vegan, I was happy to discover a whole new world of bodycare products that were much better than anything in the silly little collections of my youth. And even though I have my favorites, it’s always exciting to try different brands.

Recently nyl skincare contacted me and asked if I would be interested in reviewing their brand and products. I was familiar with their Gentle Sugar Body Polish (amazing, amazing, amazing!) since it was part of the March Vegan Cuts snack box I posted about earlier, so I gratefully accepted the offer (Thank you, Carol!).

If you’ve never heard of nyl skincare, you’re in for a treat!!! The entire product line is vegan, cruelty-free, gluten-free, eco-friendly, and made with pure and simple ingredients (no icky toxins!). They use the EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database to check all of their ingredients and only use those that rank in the “low hazard” range. In fact, you could eat the products if you wanted to, but then your skin would be sad. What I love about nyl is that their products are handmade weekly in a kitchen, not a big ol’ factory. The point is, nyl skincare makes luxurious, moisturizing products that are good for your body and the earth.

Here is what I received:

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1.) Organic Gentle Sugar Body Polish – A simple, organic blend of unbleached cane sugar, rosehip seed oil, meadowfoam seed oil, grape seed oil, and essential oils. I LOVE this stuff! It has a wonderful, uplifting citrus scent and exfoliates and moisturizes my skin really well. A little bit goes a long way, which is a huge bonus.

2.) Organic Whipped Hand & Body Lotion – This magical, non-greasy concoction is made weekly by hand, with the date noted on the container. It’s creamy and absorbs well into the skin. If you have troublesome dry patches, this lotion will be your new best friend. It has the same uplifting scent as the body polish.

3.) Organic Foaming Castile Hand Soap in Fresh Citrus - I’m a big fan of foamy hand soaps and this one does not disappoint. It lathers up well, smells nice, and made my hands soft. The gentle formula won’t irritate your skin, so if you have sensitivities, this is a pure and simple solution.

4.) Velvet Transformative Serum – If you’re looking to fight the signs of aging (I know I am, even though I’m not terribly old… Preventative maintenance!), this serum nourishes and restores balance to all skin types and transforms mature skin. I loved how quickly this dry oil disappeared into my skin. Plus, it’s rich in vitamin C and antioxidants! I mostly use it around my eyes because years of constant scowling smiling have left teeny wrinkles. :) A little dab will do your skin some serious good.

5.) Organic Rosewater Face Wash – Rosewater is known for its astringent, toning properties. The minimal ingredient list in this product = a very effective cleanser that is also gentle and moisturizing. The smell of rosewater reminds me of my grandma, but I promise you won’t smell like an old lady when you use this face wash.

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You should definitely check out nyl skincare’s website to learn more about the company and their incredible product line. You can even buy sample sizes for traveling! There is also a starter kit that includes most of the products above so you can try a little bit of everything. Go on, make your skin extra happy.

Thanks again, Carol, for the opportunity to sample your product line. Now I just have to exercise product portion control. :)

My Very First Contest + a Recipe!

I have some very exciting news to share! A few weeks ago, the lovely folks over at Ethical Ocean contacted me and asked me to participate in their 2nd Annual Recipe Contest. If you aren’t familiar, Ethical Ocean is an online marketplace featuring eco-friendly apparel, body care, home products, and more. The contest features a selection of bloggers who offer up their very best vegan recipe. The winner is determined by the highest number of votes. You can vote every day, for as many recipes as you like. By voting, you have a chance to win some awesome prizes! The contest kicks off at 9am EST on Friday April 26 and ends at 11:59pm EST on May 17. Please vote for me, I would LOVE your support!!! Check out the details here.

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Once onboard, I immediately started formulating recipe ideas in my head. My initial instinct was to create a decadent dessert since my true love has always been sweets. But, I wanted a challenge. With springtime in full swing, it seemed fitting to represent not only seasonal foods, but also a few foods that are grown happily right here in beautiful Oregon! And that, my friends, is how the Kale Salad with Roasted Asparagus & Tarragon Vinaigrette was born!

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This salad has it all: vibrant green kale, roasted asparagus, crunchy hazelnuts, tart dried cranberries, crisp apples, shredded carrots, and a delicious tarragon vinaigrette. It’s filling, nourishing, and representative of spring.

Kale Salad with Roasted Asparagus & Tarragon Vinaigrette

Tarragon and asparagus are a natural pairing, especially when they are at their peak in early spring. Serve this vibrant, light salad as a side to your favorite meal, or turn it into something more substantial by adding a wholesome protein, such as quinoa, to the bowl. Slender stalks of asparagus work best, but use whatever you prefer.

DRESSING
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1/2 teaspoon agave nectar
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

SALAD
1/2 pound fresh asparagus
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 head curly kale
1/2 cup diced apple, any variety
1/3 cup toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped
1/3 cup shredded carrot
1/3 cup dried cranberries

1) To make dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, and agave nectar until smooth. Add in garlic, tarragon, salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. Whisk again until well combined. Set aside.

2) Preheat oven to 400°F. Snap off tough ends of the asparagus. Wash asparagus with cold water and pat dry with a clean kitchen towel. Place asparagus in a single layer on a baking sheet and drizzle with the olive oil. Roast for 7-10 minutes, or until asparagus is tender-crisp (time will depend on how thick the asparagus is). Remove from oven and drizzle with lemon juice. Set aside to cool while preparing the rest of the salad.

3) Remove stems from kale, wash leaves, and pat dry. Tear kale into bite-sized pieces and place in a large serving bowl. With clean hands, toss the kale with 3 tablespoons of the dressing and massage until kale wilts slightly and reduces in volume. Add in diced apple, hazelnuts, shredded carrot, and dried cranberries. Toss together to evenly incorporate.

4) Chop cooled asparagus into 1” pieces and add to salad. Toss to combine. Drizzle remaining dressing over salad and season with additional salt and pepper, if desired.

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Please don’t forget to vote for my recipe (I’ll send you virtual love). It’s not as important as presidential elections, but you know… It’s vegan food and that makes people extra happy. Plus, there’s prizes!! Woohoo! Thanks a bunch and Happy Spring!