Lately

It’s officially spring which explains the complex mixture of hail, rain, sunshine, clouds, and blue skies we are experiencing in Portland. I need to walk around with my camera more because a few days ago the aforementioned weather patterns collided and made a massive full double rainbow in the sky. Or maybe, just maybe, I need one of those snazzy smartphones. It was a beautiful rainbow but you’ll have to imagine what it looked like since I have no hard proof.

Life is keeping me busy, but not enough for me to neglect the blog! Here are some fun highlights from the last few weeks:

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Aaron Ash, the owner of Gorilla Food in Vancouver, B.C., came to Herbivore to do a raw food demo, Q&A, and book signing last weekend. We had a full house and got to sample some delicious food: ginger nori crackers, guacamole, chile almonds, and vegan sushi! I went home that evening and put a batch of the ginger nori crackers in my dehydrator because they were the best crackers I’d ever tasted. And I happen to know a thing or fifty about tasty crackers. Aaron is mighty talented and you should check out his book!

Pasta Dinner 01I’ve been cooking solo recently because Tim is traveling for work. Usually I end up eating a lot of burritos when he’s away because cooking by myself is way less fun. And I have to do the dishes – lame! So my meals are minimal attempts at best. Last night I had a surge of energy, most likely from eating too many of these (make them! they rule!). With boosts of spirit, I made a baked pasta dish consisting of penne, pesto, tomato sauce, cashew cream, sauteed mushrooms, and lots of fresh parsley. It was good. Although, not the best meal to eat while watching Workaholics.

And lastly, I’ve been busy with freelance writing assignments. There’s an exciting one with a recipe/giveaway coming up very soon. Follow the Vegan Cuts blog so you don’t miss it! I’ll give you a hint: it involves carrots and sugar. Hmmmm… !!!

That’s all for now. Hope you’re all well and enjoying the weekend.

 

 

Quick & Easy Dinner

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Today was spent completing some freelance work and lounging around in my jammies. Breakfast = chocolate chip pancakes with homemade apple butter, lunch = leftover mighty miso soup, and dinner = pasta with marinara, spinach, portobellos, red peppers, and Field Roast Mexican Chipotle vegan sausages. Lots of fuel for lots of laziness I guess!!

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Mini Mac-n-Peas Pies

The weather in Portland has been quite beautiful lately. The days are filled with plenty of sunshine, blue skies, and streets lined with golden leaves. In order to induce fall weather, I have been sipping mugs of tea in the evening and layering the blankets on my bed. It seems to be working because today was cloudy, rainy, and COLD! It’s about time. I love this time of year for many reasons: cozy knee-high socks, foggy mornings, the sound of rain on my roof, increased energy for baking, and warming, delicious meals are a few examples.

The meal above was created in celebration of finally getting our car repaired. We are keeping our fingers crossed that our finicky 2002 Prius stays out of trouble for a while. Seriously, hybrids are wonderful for fuel efficiency and compactness, but when a part malfunctions, you better think about playing the lottery…

Let’s get back to our lunch! Last week I received two logs of Cheddar Teese Sauce from Chicago Soy Dairy. Since Tim and I rarely buy cheese alternatives, it’s somewhat of a luxury to have some in our refrigerator. I created a quick lunch that was both filling and comforting: Mini Mac-n-Peas Pies. They were the perfect accompaniment for watching episodes of Daria (LOVE this show). The idea behind these lil’ pies was to take the traditional bread crumb topping on baked macaroni and cheese recipes and turn it into the crust for a pie. So essentially, the bread crumb topping is on the bottom! This recipe serves two but you could easily double (or triple and make into a standard-sized pie) the recipe if you are serving a larger group of hungry vegans.

Mini Mac-n-Peas Pies

Serves 2

For the crust:

1 cup dry bread crumbs (use gluten-free bread or crackers to make this recipe gluten-free)
3 Tablespoons melted Earth Balance (or vegan butter of choice, or 2 Tablespoons oil of choice)

For the pasta:

1 cup dry pasta shells (I used brown rice pasta)
1/2 cup frozen green peas, thawed
1/2 tube Teese Cheddar Cheese Sauce
1 Tablespoon stoneground mustard (or mustard of choice)
Paprika for sprinkling
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a small bowl, mix together the melted butter (or oil) and the bread crumbs using your fingers. The mixture is ready when it holds together if you press a clump between your fingers.
3. Distribute the mixture evenly between two 4-inch mini pie pans (about a 1/2 cup per pie pan) and press it firmly onto the bottom and up the sides.
4. Place the pie pans on a baking sheet and bake them for 6-8 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Don’t turn off the oven.
5. While the crusts are cooling, fill a saucepan with lightly salted water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, cook your pasta according to package directions. Just make sure it is al dente since you will be baking it later.
6. Drain the pasta and return it to the saucepan. Squeeze about half a tube of the cheese sauce into the saucepan with the pasta. Stir well to distribute and then add in the peas. Stir once more to evenly distribute the peas with the pasta.
7. Divide the pasta mixture between the two pie pans, sprinkle generously with paprika, and salt and pepper as desired.
8. Bake the mini pies for 12-15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before devouring with your dining companion(s).

*If you don’t have access to Teese or other commercial vegan cheese sauces, you can use any cheese sauce you prefer for this recipe.
*Try replacing the peas with broccoli, roasted red peppers, or other veggie of choice.
*Sprinkle the tops with homemade cheesy crumbles (I grind equal parts cashews and nutritional yeast in my spice grinder).

Enjoy!

“P” is for Pasta

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Hmmmm… I am beginning to think my theme for this year’s MoFo should have been the alphabet. You know, “B” is for Brunch, “P” is for Pasta, “F” is for Frites, etc… Maybe I will still attempt that but jumble up the alphabet since I didn’t start with “A”. We’ll see!

Anyways, I recently purchased The Urban Vegan cookbook by Dynise Balcavage and have already bookmarked lots of recipes for the upcoming weeks. I love how the sophisticated and stylish recipes are organized into clever little chapters such as: Lunch Cart, The Melting Pot, House Party, and Happy Hour. Plenty of the recipes have international flair which I appreciate since I don’t get to travel as often as I’d like. Plus, there are fun tips and variations on recipes throughout the book so even the same recipe can be mixed-up a bit the second time around. Last night, Tim and I came home from grocery shopping exhausted and hungry so we checked our meal list for a speedy recipe and noticed one from The Urban Vegan: Orecchiette Con Broccoli; inexpensive, fast, and delicious. We couldn’t find the above-named pasta so we used a tri-colored squiggly pasta instead. Topped with some freshly ground chipotle pepper flakes and homemade cashew cheese crumbles, this meal was light, filling, and just perfect for our Tuesday evening.

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If you don’t have this cookbook, you probably should – one more on the shelf won’t hurt!!!

And, don’t forget to enter my giveaway!!!!

Speedy, Speedy… Run, Run!

The sun has been shining in Portland for the last several weeks. I suppose I am willing to embrace the warmth a bit even though I often prefer cloudy days. The approach of summer means eating lunch outside, enjoying the longer evenings of light, and lots of outdoor recreation. Quicker meals become a necessity when the weather creeps into the upper 70′s and 80′s. Here are two meals I enjoyed recently that came together in less than an hour and tasted as though they had been tended to much longer than that:

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Rotini with Roasted Red Pepper, Broccoli & Pecans

The above meal (recipe here) is courtesy of the super talented Sara from The Innocent Primate blog. There are so many creative recipes on the site (especially for smoothies!!!) as well as useful information on detoxing, drying herbs, and keeping healthy. Beautiful photos and menu ideas are also in abundance at The Innocent Primate blog; go and visit if you haven’t yet!!!

I love how quickly this meal comes together. The ingredients are likely to be in your kitchen already and you can adjust seasonings to suit your tastes. Pecans and broccoli provide a lovely texture, roasted red peppers add sweetness, and a drizzling of olive oil finishes it off. Very simple, very delicious. Thanks for sharing the recipe Sara!

And:

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Baked Polenta Squares with Greens and Marinated Portobellos

I don’t have a recipe for this meal. Here is what I did though: 

1. Made a batch of polenta and baked it until firm and golden on top

2. Marinated portobellos in a blend of Braggs, sesame and olive oils, balsamic vinegar, agave, freshly ground black pepper, rosemary, and cayenne (for heat!) – this may look like a horrendous mixture, but trust me, it’s yummy

3. Sauteed the porotobellos with the marinade

4. Added fluffy kale to the saute pan

5. Piled the goodness on a plate

6. Ate the food

See? Easy as heck! And, if you have leftovers:  portobellos make tasty sammies, polenta can be cubed and baked into croutons for salad, and greens can be added to pasta (such as the meal above).

I mentioned outdoor recreation at the start of this post. It has been an ongoing joke of mine with Tim that while we are hiking a rattlesnake will slink out of the tall grasses and snap at my ankles. It’s never happened (thankfully), but last weekend we walked within a few feet of a rattling rattlesnake! Yipes! Luckily he was making noise and warned us of his presence. We were both startled, but facsinated at the same time. Here is a photo Tim took before we hiked past the evil rattler (giving him quite a wide berth):

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You might be thinking, “Why hike a trail with rattlers Amy”? Well, here is why:

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A gorgeous view of the Columbia River Gorge at the top of Coyote Wall (the hike we chose)

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Mt. Hood still covered in snow

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Spring wildflowers (lupine and balsam root)

Pretty! Plus, we had no idea that snakes were lurking on the trail. It’s cool, we enjoyed complete solitude at the summit and sat eating lunch, soaking up the sun, and watching peregrine falcons and other birdies fly around. I hope that the sunshine sticks around because days like the above are my favorites. I hope everybody enjoys the weekend ahead!