It’s a Brownie Wonderland!!

Hey everybody! I recently announced that I am in the development stages of writing a vegan brownie book. Amidst the flour, cocoa powder, and sugar I started a fan page on Facebook for the book. Please join and tell your friends too! You can stay up-to-date on the book progress, see photos, and maybe even help me name recipes! I would love your support and encouragement! Thank you!

Happy weekend!

Mini Vacation Photo Essay

Earlier this month Tim and I took an extended backpacking trip in southeastern Oregon. We chose a three day loop in the Strawberry Mountains. The timing was perfect because I had just quit my job and all of the anger, anxiety, and frustration that had been brewing inside of me escaped (hopefully for good!). It was a wonderful vacation, especially since we were visiting an area that was new to us. Here are some photos from the trip:

We passed through the Biglow Canyon Wind Farm and the Klondike Wind Farm on the way to our destination. Driving past all the turbines was incredibly mesmerizing. They just kept appearing as we approached the top of a hill. When we looked behind us, all we could see were turbines dotting the landscape. And, it was super windy (which makes all those turbines happy!).

As we continued on, we entered into the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, which is essentially a 14,000-acre park in eastern Oregon renowned for its well preserved, remarkably complete record of fossil plants and animals. The scenery was stunning:

Next, we finally (after a good six hours+ of driving) started our hike! Above is a shot of all the gorgeous wildflowers we saw in the first few miles of the trail.

And then we climbed, and climbed, and climbed, and climbed until we reached almost 7,000 feet. It was a pooper of a climb, but the temperature was hovering in the mid 60’s, so it was perfect!

Then I snuck around in the bushes taking pictures of Tim cooking our dinner. We had gorgeous views across the valley:

And a lovely sunset too:

Lots more climbing on day two led to more views:

We actually encountered quite a bit of snow and Tim had to kick steps into it so we could safely traverse the trail. We were happy to make it to the top of a saddle and rest:

Tim is crafty with the camera so we are out of focus here, which is probably best for everybody.

We reached our campsite,

and made dinner.

On day three we crossed lots of creeks,

Goofed around,

and enjoyed nearly 48 hours of total solitude. We didn’t see a single soul the entire hike until the last two miles of the loop. It was wonderful!

On the drive back to Portland, we stopped and admired the Painted Hills:

The weekend was the best way to celebrate escape from a dismal job and kick off new beginnings for the future. You can check out more photos from our trip here (for example, you might want to see the chocolate cake we made while camping!).

I hope everybody enjoys the upcoming weekend!

Cherry Invasion

Guess what? It’s cherry season in the Pacific Northwest!! Oddly enough, me and the gorgeous cherry never enjoyed one another’s company until a few years ago. I was happy to eat cherry-flavored candy, cherry pies, and cherries in canned fruit cups, but fresh from the tree? No thanks! I thought cherries were too tart. I thought their pits were creepy. Obviously I discovered that those feelings were absolute nonsense. Now I can eat a whole pound of cherries (in one sitting) and happily spit pits across the table, aiming precisely for Tim’s face. You think I’m kidding about that last bit?

Last week Tim and I went to an orchard in Hood River, OR and picked a hefty twenty pounds of cherries. Yipes! Want to know the best part? They were only $1.00 per pound and organic! What an amazing deal. Cherry picking is quite relaxing even when you have to climb a twelve foot ladder into the tippy-tops of trees. I had the advantage of being on the ladder while Tim picked from ground level.

What do you do with twenty pounds of cherries? Well, so far we have dehydrated a bunch, packed some into the freezer, and eaten heaps of them alongside all of our meals. Oh, and I made cherry brownies!

The recipe for these brownies will be in my book. Fudgy, chocolatey, cherry goodness.

What are your favorite ways to enjoy cherries? Do you have recipes you want to share? I still have a huge load in my refrigerator!

Big Announcements!

Hello everybody! I hope summer is treating you with amazing produce, relaxation, and plenty of time spent with friends and family. The weather in Portland has been pretty nice – and that’s saying a lot coming from somebody who prefers clouds, cool temperatures, and rain over the heat and constant sunshine. Diagnosis: I have a black, evil soul…

I also have a few super-duper surprises! Since quitting my job earlier this month I have had more time to bake and be happy. My job was consuming my insides and turning me into an empty shell. Sounds dim, huh? Eventually I will be seeking out employment because after all, it is essential. And it helps me pay the bills! In the meantime, I am writing and creating recipes for a vegan brownie book!! Hooray! A few good friends have been motivating and encouraging me to distribute my brownies around the world. That task seems mighty overwhelming so I am splitting the difference. I have been working on recipes for the last three months and Tim was the one who suggested I write a book. It’s going to be lots of work, but so far I am enjoying every minute.

Here, have a look at my Newman O’s brownies:

B-b-b-b-b-b-brownies!!!

My second announcement is that I will be opening an Etsy shop soon and selling handmade cards. It might take me a few weeks to get everything ready, but I will post a link to my shop once I’m done.

That’s it! Happy weekend everybody!

Jammin’!

The word ┬ájammin’ reminds me of a college professor I had my junior year. He taught computer programming and every time a student answered a question correctly, he would gleefully shout “Jammin’!”. In fact, I think he shouted that word any time he was happy, which was often. The title of this post is twofold: (1) I quit my job a week ago and couldn’t be happier about the decision – it was impulsive and unplanned, but needed to happen; and (2) It’s berry season and I’ve been busy making jams!!! Jammin’!!

While I am feeling mighty insecure financially, I have some plans brewing… Hopefully I can share them with people soon… We shall see!

And now, it’s jam time:

Tim and I went raspberry picking a few days ago – a total luxury on a weekday morning – we were the only people in the raspberry field! We didn’t pick our usual 20+ pound haul, but we did pick enough to last us several months (I hope!). A majority of the raspberries have settled cozily in the freezer and our bellies. The remaining bunch made a nice batch of jam. It’s maddeningly hot in Portland and preparing jam makes a tiny kitchen even hotter, but I don’t care. Homemade jam is pretty much a necessity if you live with Tim. What seems like enough to feed and army usually lasts a day or two. That’s a slight exaggeration, but Tim is the biggest jam-snarfer I know. To be fair, he does help with the process by obediently stirring jam on the stovetop and making spaceship noises as he lowers the jars into the canner (and again upon their removal). I am convinced our jam is better as a result.

Anyways, the very first time I made jam I used a recipe printed in my local newspaper. It has become my favorite recipe although I have adjusted the sugar amount slightly (I know this is a no-no, but overly sweet jam masks the flavor of the fruit and I’ve never had any troubles using less sugar). Here is a link to the recipe. I replace the butter in the recipe with Earth Balance (and sometimes don’t even add that because it isn’t necessary). If you have never made your own jam before, you should try, it’s fun and rewarding!

So far this season I have made both strawberry and raspberry jams. Up next: blueberry, cherry, peach, and apricot! Mmm! And, what goes nicely with homemade jam? Homemade bread!

This is a basic whole wheat bread that I rolled in a bunch of seeds. Warm weather is ideal for bread baking because the dough rises like crazy (and quickly too!). Tim and I ate PB&J’s with homemade jam, homemade peanut butter, and homemade bread. Living on a new food budget isn’t so bad!

Enjoy your weekends! Now that my schedule is more open I hope to post more often. Fingers crossed!