News Break!!

Hello everybody! I have some exciting announcements and a few updates to share:

(1) A few of my photographs are in the latest issue of VegNews magazine! There is an article entitled Cart-ography (check out pages 34-41) about food carts across the country and Native Bowl, a local Portland food cart, is featured in the article. My friend, Julie Hasson, who owns Native Bowl with her husband Jay, asked me to take some photographs of the cart, the food, and of course, her and Jay. It was so much fun, and quite challenging too! My photographs are on page 36 of the article.

(2) I got a new job!! Longtime readers know that I quit my long-running job as a legal assistant in July of 2010. Since then I have had some wonderful freelance stints (blogged about here and here) and also worked as a personal assistant/organizer for an inspirational writer and activist. A few months ago, I lost my personal assistant job. Being unemployed certainly has some perks, but in the long term, I get bored. I enjoy having a daily routine that leaves me feeling productive, useful, and happy.

I think losing the PA job was a blessing though because not too long ago I applied for my dream job. I went in for an interview on Tuesday and was offered the job! Want to know where I will be working? Back to Eden Bakery in Portland!!!! Back to Eden is without a doubt my favorite vegan bakery in Portland and I am absolutely ecstatic to be working for them. I start next week as a baker. They recently transitioned their baking facilities (which used to be off-site) to directly behind the storefront. The space is beautiful, open, and bright! I am nervous for sure, but once I establish a routine (waking up very early in the AM) and eat all the whoopie pies learn the job, I will be fine. Baking has always been my true passion and I am beyond grateful to have found a job doing what I love. Wish me luck!

(3) I am hoping to post Part II of my Backpacking Essentials series next week. I will be focusing on what gear, clothing, and accessories are necessary for an overnight (or longer) wilderness adventure.

Speaking of outdoor excursions, Tim and I recently went on an overnight backpacking trip in one of our favorite areas of the Pacific Northwest: the Goat Rocks Wilderness in Washington state. The weather was not on our side though and it was literally freezing by the time we reached our campsite (we were prepared). We had complete solitude, which was nice. I fell on a rock less than a mile from where we pitched our tent and now have a seriously bruised knee as proof. Once our tent was up, put on lots of layers and took a nap! Poor Tim had to cook our dinner in the rain and wind while I wimped out and stayed cozy in the tent. Here are a few shots Tim took from our trip:

Me hiking into a cloud

Our campsite

The trail on day #2 once the sun came out

(4) VeganMoFo 2011 (Vegan Month of Food) starts next month and I will be participating in the daily blogging ritual. Last year I chose an alphabet theme (“A” is for Amaranth, “B” is for Bahama Cake, etc.) and I will be using the same theme this year. Can’t wait to get started!!

That’s it for now. I hope everybody is looking forward to the change of seasons tomorrow! Portland is still in summer mode – it was almost 90 degrees yesterday. Simple proof that it does not rain here all the time. So there.

 

Hip Hip Hooray!

Today I am here to promote my dear friend Kittee’s newest cookzine: Papa Tofu Loves Ethiopian Food. I’ve known Kittee for almost a year now and every time we spend the day together she feeds me the most delicious food. She’s a whiz at creating vegan and gluten-free recipes and this cookzine is a hefty, 85 page masterpiece that proves her culinary skills. Not only are the pages filled with tips, guidance, and recipes, but also Kittee’s hand-crafted artwork. I can tell you with complete confidence that this is definitely a necessary addition to any cookbook shelf. You won’t be disappointed, I promise! Want a copy? Kittee is selling Papa Tofu Loves Ethiopian Food through her website so purchase a copy and support a truly talented and wonderful vegan.

Here are a few examples of what I have made from Papa Tofu Loves Ethiopian Food:

Bakela Dinich W’et (Soy Curls and Potatoes in Spicy Gravy)I added the suggested avocado on top and also untraditionalized the dish by adding chard – oooops!

Ye’miser Sambusas (Spicy Lentil-Filled Pastries)

If you want to see more photographs of recipes from Papa Tofu Loves Ethiopian Food, check out the Flickr group Kittee created. If the photographs alone don’t entice you (shame on you!), maybe knowing that one of the recipes is for an Ethiopian style mac-n-cheese will convince you to purchase this delightful cookzine?

Summer Adventures Part IV

Here is the final installment in my Summer Adventure series. I am sure more adventures will fill my schedule before fall arrives but I am hoping to share some food-related posts soon. This segment features photographs from a recent vacation to Nova Scotia with Tim’s family. It was absolutely beautiful there and we all had plenty of time to relax and enjoy our surroundings.

Boat at low tide in Sandy Cove, Nova Scotia

Colorful buoys in Sandy Cove

Beautiful old church with tombstones dating back to 1809

Balancing Rock in St. Mary’s Bay on Long Island, Nova Scotia

Lighthouse on Brier Island

Humpback whale calf (chomp, chomp!)

Humpback whale flukes

Sunset on the Bay of Fundy

Canoeing in Kejimkujik National Park

Annual motorcycle rally in Digby, Nova Scotia that draws in 30,000 motorcyclists and spectators

Boats in Digby, Nova Scotia

Colorful storefronts in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia

Boat docked in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia

Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia

Indifference

Lighthouse at Peggy’s Cove

Starry sky on the Bay of Fundy [photo credit goes to Tim]

Vegan coconut french toast from Jane’s on the Common in Halifax, Nova Scotia

I already miss Nova Scotia and haven’t even been back a week yet. Canadians are so, so, so friendly and the scenery is breathtaking! The only thing I missed was kale. We couldn’t find any kale in Digby (the “largest” town near where we stayed) or Sandy Cove (the teeny town where we rented a cottage). I was deprived! Not to fret, Tim and I made a monster meal of brown rice, four different greens, and tahini sauce when we returned home.¬† Plus we made fresh juice with apples, ginger, lemon and kale!! Hooray for kale!

Backpacking Essentials Part I: Preparing Food for the Trail

I have decided to start a new series on my blog about backpacking essentials. Backpacking is a big part of my life and I thought it might be fun to share some tips on how to get the most out of a backpacking trip. If you have questions you want answered or need some general guidance, please contact me or leave a comment below and I will make sure to address those topics in future posts.

It’s the ideal time of year for backpacking – at least it is in the Pacific Northwest. As the weather cools slightly, pesky bugs and crowds slowly dissipate and venturing into the wilderness brings more solitude. The temperatures in Oregon feel more like what you would expect in southern Texas right now, but that will change once this silly heat wave passes next week. Since backpacking season came late this year due to lingering snow on the trails and unseasonably cold weather in June and July, Tim and I still have¬† a hefty list of trails we hope to hike in the upcoming months.

I’ve been meaning to write a post about preparing food for overnight (or longer) backpacking trips for quite some time. When Tim and I first started backpacking together (waaaaay back in 1996!) we took simple, bland food like ramen noodles, crackers, raisins, and oatmeal packets. We have learned over the years that fresh, flavorful food is much more enjoyable on the trail. It is also better for you since packaged meals contain more sodium and other icky ingredients. We developed a knack for creating exciting meals on the trail when we lived in New Zealand. It wasn’t out of the ordinary for us to make pizza or stir-fry at our campsites! I remember making fried bananas for dessert one night…

Anyways, preparing for backpacking trips is quite easy once you’ve picked a trail and have your map (always have a map!!). Usually Tim checks road/trail conditions while I plan/prepare our meals. We pack our gear the night before so that taking off in the morning is quick and effortless.

We have also learned over the years to pack lighter (I will write a post on this topic in the future). A few years ago we made our own backpacks (Tim uses his, but I don’t like mine very much because it hurts my shoulders), tent, tarp, and sleeping bag (yes, we share a sleeping bag, but the pattern was designed for two and it’s pretty amazing). The combined weight of the last three items is less than that of one regular sleeping bag from an outdoor store (or very close in weight). We have a standard tent that we use on occasion too. The lighter weight of our gear allows us to stretch a bit and use more fresh foods for our meals.

Here is a list of some of our top choices for staying full and nourished on the trail:

Breakfasts

  • Couscous mixed with a bit of sweetener, dried fruits, nuts, cinnamon, and unsweetened shredded coconut (cooked using powdered soy milk mixed with water to make it richer and creamier) – Add a dollop of peanut butter to the top for extra protein

  • Homemade granola topped with dried bananas and non-dairy milk (using soy milk powder and reconstituting with water)
  • Bagels topped with peanut butter and dried fruits or avocado (also nice for quick lunches)
  • Oatmeal topped with chia seeds, nuts, dried, fruits, and maple syrup (we only make oatmeal if we are tired of the other options)
Lunches/Snacks
  • Carrot sticks
  • Dried apple rings
  • Homemade energy bars

  • Fresh grapes, blueberries, and/or pitted cherries (sturdy and refreshing)
  • Kale chips
  • Tofu jerky (homemade is nice because you can control the flavors/seasonings)
  • Bagel sandwiches (sturdy and filling)

  • Nuts
  • Small cookies or squares of chocolate (if it isn’t too hot to melt them)
Dinners
  • Soba noodles with sliced bell peppers, broccoli florets, cabbage, carrots, and coconut curry sauce (made at home and carried in a small leakproof bottle)

  • Pasta with sauteed tempeh cubes (marinated and cooked at home) and marinara sauce (also made at home and packed in a small, leakproof bottle)
  • Soup (better enjoyed during colder weather) – Pack some bouillon cubes, diced veggies, and small noodles and you are pretty much set. If you don’t mind packing a few small squares of cornbread, your dinner will be much more filling. Dried onion, garlic, and nutritional yeast are also nice, flavorful additions.
  • Curry – Chop and prep a variety of veggies at home (carrot disks, green beans, bell pepper, etc) and also prepare a small bottle of sauce. We serve our curry over couscous since it cooks so quickly. But, curry served as a stew is equally nice too.

  • Soft tacos – Pack small soft corn tortillas, a bell pepper, prepared soy curls, and some refried beans (in a ziplock bag, not the can). We usually pack half a can of beans and that is plenty for two people.
Desserts
  • Small cookies
  • Chocolate bars
  • Sturdy brownie squares
  • Graham crackers spread with chocolate hazelnut butter (travel size squeeze packets are great for this!) and topped with vegan marshmallows
  • Pudding, if you have the patience, is so much fun! You just need to mix the proper ratio of powdered non-dairy milk, dried sweetener, cocoa powder, a thickening starch such as arrowroot, and maybe some chocolate chips with water. Backpacking stoves can be fussy, so watch carefully when you cook the pudding.

Tips:
  • If you can find small (1 – 4 ounce sizes work well), leakproof bottles, I highly suggest making the investment. You can tote sauces, cooking oil, biodegradable soap, etc with ease. We use Nalgene brand bottles, like these.
  • Take along a small scrubby sponge (we cut a square from our dish sponge at home) and scraper to make washing pots/dishes less of a hassle. Make sure to use a biodegradable soap like Dr. Bronner’s.
  • As much as I hate having to use ziplock bags, they are essential for backpacking. We wash and reuse our ziplock bags so we don’t need to buy them very often. Ziplocks are great for packing meal components. I even save the bulk spice ziplocks (which are often very small) from my co-op to pack toppings for meals (sesame seeds for noodle meals, shredded coconut for oatmeal, sprinkles for pudding, mixed herbs for soups, etc). Make sure to use a variety of sizes so you aren’t packing extra unnecessary weight and bulk.
  • It also helps to group each meal’s ingredients together. That way, you aren’t digging around looking for noodles in one bag and sauce in another bag. Keeping your meals organized means you save time cooking and can stow food you don’t need out of the way.
  • Prepare as much of your meals at home as possible. If you have been hiking for eight miles, the last thing you want to do is spend an hour or more making dinner. I always make sauces in advance, precook/marinate tempeh or soycurls, wash and chop veggies (except for mushrooms) at home the night before we leave.
  • Label your bags! Make sure to write on each food bag what the contents are and any cooking instructions needed. If you measured oats at home and didn’t write the amount on the ziplock, you’ll be making guesses on how much liquid to add later.
  • Get rid of any excess packaging from store-bought foods. You will save weight (obviously) and will have less trash to pack out after your trip.
  • Speaking of trash, PACK IT OUT WITH YOU!!!! Don’t be a lazy litterbug. Tim and I have come across random garbage on the trail and grumble every single time. We pick it up as long as we have room to pack it out with us. If you can’t be responsible for your own trash, stay at home and live in your stupid mess.
  • Don’t wash your dishes, pots, and utensils in local water sources. It is bad for all the wonderful creatures who live in the water and it is bad for the environment. Wash your dishes with as little soap and water as possible and do so away from your tent (you don’t want to attract critters!). We sprinkle our dishwater away from water sources and our campsite. This is why having a pot scraper is handy – you can get as much food from your dishes off as possible so there is less to dispose of later.
  • Keep snacks more accessible in your pack. Sometimes it’s a nuisance to take off your pack and dig around looking for snacks. I keep a day’s worth of tasty snacks in the lid of my pack so I can reach them with ease.
  • Pack more perishable items a bit deeper in your pack if the weather is warmer. They will stay insulated longer.
  • Speaking of more perishable foods, use them first. For example, if you have a meal that uses tempeh and a meal that is noodles with veggies and sauce, make the tempeh meal first. We have found that fresh veggies last a few days on the trail so don’t fret about them going funny on you.
  • Make sure that you stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. If you are grumpy, you won’t be a fun hiking companion and you won’t have the energy to prepare and eat your delicious meals! We pack Emergen-C packets and teabags for snazzing up plain water. Cocoa is nice in the colder months (add some vegan marshmallows if you fancy that sort of thing).
  • Don’t hesitate to pack fresh veggies. It took us several years to realize that fresh really is better on the trail. Sure, prepackaged foods are lighter, but they don’t bring as much joy to your tummy. If you want to lighten your meal load, check out this AMAZING book, “Another Fork in the Trail – Vegetarian and Vegan Recipes for the Backcountry” by Laurie Ann March (check out Laurie’s website here). I had this book from my library for nearly a month and didn’t want to part with it. There are tons of wonderful recipes inside, many of which require a food dehydrator. I am all for self-dehydrating foods at home rather than buying those meals made specifically for the trail. If you make it at home, you control the ingredients!
  • When you go to sleep at night, make sure you hang your food. Don’t pack it in your tent with you! If it is accessible to creatures and critters, they WILL find it and eat it. We once accidentally left an oatmeal cookie in Tim’s pack and a raccoon ate a hole in Tim’s pack to get to the cookie! You needn’t worry about this if you are in an area where creatures and critters are less predominant. Use your best judgment.
  • Cook and eat your food away from your tent. You don’t want to attract animals to your site.

That’s all I can think of for now. Stay tuned for Part II next week and also the last installment of my Summer Adventure Series in the next few days.

Summer Adventures Part III

It’s time for the third installment in my Summer Adventures series! Did you miss Part I or Part II? Catch up quick because the fourth installment happens later this week!

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you know that Tim and I are lovers of outdoor adventure and travel. Last month we went on the most incredible backpacking trip. We have backpacked many, many, many trails and this particular hike instantly became our new favorite. Our three day trip was filled with icy lakes, thunderstorms, sunshine, glaciers, dozens of snowy mountains, rainbows, solitude, tacos (!!), wildflowers, deer, and dark starry skies. Where did we go? We went deep into the Three Sisters Wilderness near Sisters, OR. The trail we chose was a 25-mile loop around an extinct volcano called Broken Top. It was definitely challenging, but also overwhelmingly rewarding. Here are some photos highlighting the best parts:

Golden Lake – Located about a mile from our campsite on Day #1

Campsite on Day #1 – Broken Top and an unnamed mountain lake are in the background

Dinner on Day #1 - Soft corn tortillas filled with refried beans, smokey soy curls, bell peppers and avocado. We made these under the shelter of a huge pine tree due to on/off thunderstorms all night.

Tim eating tacos in the company of rainbows. There was a small lapse in the rain and we took full advantage of photo opportunities!

Sunset on Middle Sister and North Sister - This was the view behind our tent

Morning light on Broken Top, Day #2

South Sister

Green Lakes Wilderness – Understandably one of Oregon’s most beautiful and popular recreation areas

Mt. Bachelor – A popular skiing area during the winter months in Bend, OR

Can you see the hiking trail?

Dinner on Day #2 – Soba noodles, shiitake mushrooms, kale, carrots, and sesame ginger sauce

Tim making chocolate cake for dessert on Day #2

Eating chocolate cake with chocolate hazelnut butter on top

Climbing, climbing, climbing on Day #3

Lots of colorful wildflowers

Admiring a hidden meltwater lake with Broken Top looming above

Tim executing a perfect rock-n-roll jump on a rock in a glacial lake

Tim hiking across snowfields and red cinder

Me traversing across a massive snowfield

The Three Sisters – South, Middle, and North

That pretty much sums up our backpacking trip! It was unbelievably hot despite the snow and higher elevations. By the time we finally reached the trailhead on Day #3, we were sweaty and covered in layers of dirt, sunscreen, and vegan-friendly bug repellent. Plus, we stunk! Luckily there was an inviting, cool (translation: very COLD) lake to jump into near where we had parked our car. Needless to say, we dropped our backpacks and SLOWLY worked our way into the water. Refreshing!

Later this week I will post my final installment of my Summer Adventures: a recap of a family vacation in beautiful Nova Scotia! Stick around :)

Oh, and here is one more photo from the outtake file:

Apparently Tim’s timing is off…