A Special Night

Tonight my co-workers and I had our holiday dinner at Blossoming Lotus, an all vegan restaurant located in NE Portland. Gifts were exchanged, food was enjoyed, and desserts were demolished. The food at Blossoming Lotus is always amazing, beautifully presented, and nourishing. Despite the list of specials, I went with my all time favorite, the Crispy Thai BBQ Salad:

Mt. Hood Salad 02December Photo Project 2012: Day #20

This picture was taken in very dim light, but what you see is a Mt. Hood sized plate filled with mixed greens, romaine, cabbage, carrots, cucumber, raisins, crispy rice sticks, fresh herbs, curry peanuts, coconut, Thai spiced barbecue soy curls, sweet ginger dressing and sesame seeds. Crazy delicious. I cleaned my plate with the exception of a few random scallion rings and a leaf of cilantro (I am a hater).

Dessert was a share-all affair. We ordered multiple items from the menu, put them in the middle of the table, and dug in. No rules!

I only got a photograph of the chocolate coconut cake, which was too bad because the best dessert was a mixed berry pie.

Cake 02

My belly is happy and full.

My evening was complete because I got to take home this lovely gift (click to see what was inside the package!!):

Gift 02

Many appreciative thanks to my incredible work family.

Goodnight :)

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!

Tummy Fillers

This morning Tim and I joined some friends for brunch at Blossoming Lotus. We are fortunate to live less that a mile from this wonderful vegan cafe yet we rarely indulge in their delicious food. I think cooking at home will always be at the top of my list!

Tim chose the Benedict which had maple seitan sausage, hollandaise sauce, and some other stuff on a biscuit. I didn’t sample Tim’s meal, but he cleaned his plate with a smile!

I chose the Florentine Scramble which consisted of tempeh (I subbed tempeh in place of tofu), fresh arugula, basil-hempseed pesto, and cashew ricotta. It was very good, but a bit too salty for my tastes. Next time I think I will opt for the Breakfast Parfait which has sprouted buckwheat granola layered with fruit, nuts, and agave-sweetened cashew cream.

Yesterday I created a new recipe for my brownie cookbook: Raspberry Poppy Seed Brownies. They turned out beautifully. This first batch was topped with ganache. The next batch will have a drizzle of raspberry sauce instead since the ganache overpowered the raspberry flavor in the brownie.

And finally, last week Tim and I went snowshoeing with our friend Dave. We were greeted with blue skies right around lunch time – it was a gorgeous day!

It’s supposed to snow later this week so we might get one more opportunity for snowshoeing before spring arrives.

 

“D” is for Dessert

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Last year I had the brilliant idea to open a vegan restaurant called Dessert First – a place where people would order the sweets before the main course. Obviously I never really followed through, but sometimes I revisit the temptation. Dessert makes me mighty happy!

After riding our bikes home from my office Friday evening, Tim decided dinner at Blossoming Lotus was necessary – who am I to argue? Blossoming Lotus is an amazing all-vegan restaurant in Portland with two locations, one just a few blocks from our apartment. The softly lit, fancy-ish interior isn’t the best setting for quality photos when the skies begin to darken so I put all my energies into making the dessert photos count (we did eat main courses too, but I didn’t make much effort with the photos). We actually chose two desserts to share: a live chocolate mousse cake and vanilla soft serve with grated orange peel – perfect for this scenario: Bite of cake, spoonful of soft serve, bite of cake, spoonful of soft serve… Repeat until both dishes are clean.

Live Chocolate Mousse Cake

Vegan Soft Serve

I’m still full.

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!