Celebrating a Birthday

Tim’s birthday was Thursday. We spent a good percentage of the week celebrating because birthday fun should always last at least a few days! The excitement kicked off on Tuesday with a snowshoeing adventure in Mt. Hood National Forest. We took along our friends and enjoyed a day in gorgeous, warming sunshine.

Lower Twin Lake 01

We stopped for lunch (and a hefty dose of much-needed vitamin D!) at the frozen, but beautiful Lower Twin Lake. While we were eating, a curious gray jay landed on my friend’s head – perhaps mistaking her for a mound of snow.

Emiko and a Birdie

When Thursday rolled around, Tim and I headed for the central Oregon coast. The optimal time to visit is during winter because crowds are non-existant and you end up having a massive stretch of beach all to yourself. We spent two hours in pure solitude near Three Arch Rocks National Wildlife Refuge.

Ocean 04

Tim loves recording nature sounds and took advantage of a low wind day to capture the waves ebbing and flowing.

Tim and the Ocean 03

I goofed around,

Cartwheelin' 02

and wrote messages in the sand.

Happy Birthday 02

We wandered to a different portion of the coast and watched people come and go.

Ocean 03

Once back in Portland, we stopped at the downtown Veggie Grill for Tim’s birthday meal (they have a birthday club and if you join, you get a free entree on your special day!). The food was delicious. The photographs didn’t turn out very well, but… There was homemade birthday cake later in the evening!

Cake 01

Double chocolate layer cake with chocolate ganache filling, chocolate frosting, and chocolate curls sprinkled on top. It was… chocolaty! That ends Tim’s birthday celebrations!

Sweet Solace

I had a very bad week. A job was lost, car parts broke, and one of my favorite plants died from a weird mushroom invasion. I should note that all three of these occurrences actually happened on the same day. And all three were complete shocks. My initial response was to live in a thick haze of mope on the futon. I wasn’t lured by the sunshine, colorful falling leaves, or bike rides. I simply wanted to sit, unbothered, and collect dust. Sounds simple enough, right?

Well, it’s not so simple when you live with a partner whose sweet tooth dominates the entire apartment! Tim graciously demanded a treat nearly every day while I hid my face in books on the oh-so-uncomfortable futon. It wasn’t completely out of greed. Tim knows I love to bake. And once I started, it was hard for me to stop. The baking frenzy helped me forget about my crappy week. Want to know what I made? Here, take a peek (all photo credits go to Tim who insisted on capturing his desserts on camera)!

Chocolate Cream Pie

Cinnamon Rolls

Lemon Layer Cake for my friend Chad’s birthday

Carrot Spice Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

There must be something magical about sweets because I am already starting to feel a bit better and I am no longer on the futon!

A Slice of This, A Slice of That

Is it terrible to admit that Tim and I shared two slices of dessert, plus a whoopie pie today? My lucky penny thinks it’s okay. Besides, I had a coupon from Back to Eden Bakery – Buy Two Treats, Get One Free. Who would pass up that opportunity?  We jumped on our bikes, huffed and puffed up a few hills, arrived at Back to Eden Bakery, and gazed into their display case of beautiful treats (seriously, everything is intricately perfect). It took some time before we decided on a slice of raspberry cheesecake, a slice of chai coconut cream pie, and a pumpkin whoopie pie (our staple favorite). We ate the raspberry cheesecake there and rode home in a downpour with the other two desserts (intended for much later in the day, of course!). I didn’t get a shot of the chai coconut cream pie, but here is the raspberry cheesecake right before Tim prodded his fork through the center:

It was delicious.

Speaking of delicious desserts, my friend Kris wrote a new cookbook – Have Your Cake and Vegan Too! Did you know? It is full of 50 recipes (and lots of accompanying photos taken by Kris) sure to make your tummy smile. The first recipe I made was a chocolate peanut butter layer cake:

Amazing! I am already flipping through the pages deciding what to make next. I might have to limit my slice intake to one every few days though – too much cake cannot be good for my 2011 goal of eating less sugar! Ooooops!

Birthday Adventures

Yesterday was Tim’s 34th birthday. We awoke to unusually sunny skies and temperatures nearing 60 degrees – ideal for a bike ride and lunch at our favorite Portland cafe, Proper Eats. I was fooled into thinking spring had arrived early! Although I think the ridiculous headwind we pedaled into for the first half of our bike ride made me realize winter is holding steady. Check out the clouds looming over downtown Portland:

Onward we pedaled…

Proper Eats is a cozy, welcoming place with super kind folks cooking and serving delicious food. The menu is entirely vegetarian (mostly vegan). They support local farmers, businesses, distributors, and artists. I’ve never had a disappointing meal at Proper Eats and the food is so healthy, nourishing, and well-priced. There is a small grocery/bulk foods section at the front of the cafe. The kitchen is open so you can watch people preparing your food – I love that!

It’s challenging trying to capture decent food photos in eateries (especially with low light conditions). Here is what we enjoyed:

Collard Wraps served with Carrot-Ginger Dressing

Potato & Garlic Soup

Spinach Salad w/ Carrot-Ginger Dressing (and local hazelnuts and cranberries!)

Tempeh Reuben (the only thing Tim ever orders at Proper Eats, it’s his favorite sammie)

The bike ride home was easier since we were riding with the wind (and fueled by yummy foods). When we got back to our place we decided it was okay to have some birthday cake a bit early. This poor cake had a traumatic day – it stuck to my cooling rack, cracked in half as a result, and then stuck to the serving plate. What a stinker! The issue of the naughty cake was resolved and disguised with peanut butter filling and chocolate ganache (plus a side of Coconut Bliss ice cream!).

Tim demands pizza for dinner weekly. His birthday was no exception. He kept reminding me over the weekend to make the dough. We learned from a friend that making the dough several days ahead of time and putting it in the fridge (no rising) creates a chewy, crisp-on-the-bottom, pizza. Just remember to let the dough rest on the counter a few hours before you plan to make your pizza.

And then, of course, we enjoyed more cake and Coconut Bliss after dinner. It was a good day.

“B” is for Bahama Cake

Admittedly, I have never been to the Bahamas. I’m sure it is a lovely place for a vacation considering the abundance of warm breezes and sandy beaches. Maybe when my retirement funds kick in I will journey to the tropical wonderland. Until then, I am just going to eat cake and wait patiently (and eat more cake).

I originally named this Paradise (City) Cake because the ingredients reminded me of sunshine, palm trees, and relaxation. When I was mixing everything together, the lyrics to Guns-n-Roses “Paradise City” took over my brain. That’s why the word “city” was in the recipe title. Want to know a secret? I used to think I was going to marry Axl Rose (the lead singer of Guns-n-Roses) when I was a not-so-smart adolescent. Goodness! Obviously I was wrong (thankfully!!). I still made the cake though (and changed the name):

This cake is coconut-y, banana-y, and citrus-y. If you miss summer, this cake will make you happy. I promise.

Bahama Cake

Ingredients:

1/2 cup coconut milk
1/3 cup coconut oil (already melted)
1/2 cup unrefined light brown sugar
1/4 cup unrefined granulated sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon orange extract
zest from 1 large orange (about 1 Tablespoon)
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (whole wheat pastry would work well too)
1 Tablespoon arrowroot
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large banana, sliced thin
1-2 Tablespoons unsweetened coconut flakes

Directions:

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease an 8×8 inch baking pan (metal is best here) and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, stir together coconut milk, coconut oil, sugars, extracts, and zest.
3. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, arrowroot, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until combined. Do not over-mix.
5. Spread batter into prepared pan and top evenly with banana slices. Sprinkle coconut flakes on top.
6. Bake for 22-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out mostly clean. It’s okay if some crumbs stick.
7. Place pan on a cooling rack. Slice and serve once cooled.

Easy! Now go put on your swimsuit, get out your beach towel, and lounge around eating Bahama Cake by the heater.