Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Spring 2014 in Portland

It's officially spring in the Pacific Northwest! And even though I'm stuck indoors many hours of the day, either due to class, lab or homework, I've still had a chance (or two) to get outside and enjoy the beautiful blooming trees and flowers. Portland really is gorgeous in the springtime. Here are a few pictures from my forages into the springtime around my house.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Fusion Food in the Vegan Kitchen: A Review

I am sharing this review with you while wearing an extremely red face; I'm ashamed to admit that I've been holding out on you since January, but just haven't had the time to properly investigate and write about this cookbook until now. All I can say is: being a full-time student is very time-consuming, and I'm excited to have this last bit of spring break before embarking on another intense term.

In the meantime, here's my review of this wonderful cookbook!

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of Fusion Food in the Vegan Kitchen, but all the opinions stated and pictures are mine. 

I have to admit: when I first received this book, I was skeptical as to how many recipes I'd actually be able to try, given my numerous food intolerances and allergies. However, after flipping through and taking a careful look at each page, I started putting more and more post-it notes on pages and got more and more excited about trying the dishes. One of my favorite parts of the book is that each recipe has notations next to it, stating what country the original recipe is from (or at least inspired by), and whether it's quick and easy, low fat, gluten free, soy free, and/or nut free. Those notes were extremely helpful as I inspected each recipe; it saved me the time of looking at every ingredient to know whether or not I could eat the dish.

The PR sheet given to me with the book says this "innovative vegan cookbook combines the best of both worlds - comfort food and ethnic cuisine." I'd have to agree completely. Written by Joni Marie Newman (author of 500 Vegan Recipes, The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutes [I LOVE that book!], The Best Veggie Burgers on the Planet, Hearty Vegan Meals for Monster Appetites, and Vegan Food Gifts [another one of my absolute favorites]), it was pretty much guaranteed to be a hit no matter what the type of food it covered. Although I don't normally find myself reaching for fusion-style cookbooks, this one turned out to be an exception, and I enjoyed every single thing I made.

I decided to make an exciting dinner for myself using four of the recipes found in the book. It was delicious and filling and, I have to admit, not all that healthy, so I'll probably stick to just one dish at a time in the future. However, for one night, I had a great time not thinking about calories or fat; I just enjoyed yummy tastes in my mouth.

I tried the Hot, Sweet and Sour Sauce (p. 25), the Smoky Chili-Lime Sweet Potatoes (p. 118), the Hot, Sweet and Sour Cabbage (using the aforementioned sauce, p. 122) and Pupusas Gorda (p. 95). These weren't the most photogenic foods, but here they are in their delicious glory:

I can't wait to make more dishes out of this cookbook. I have my eye on a Garlic Orange Sauce (p. 19), Potato Mochi (aka Japanese Potato Cakes, p. 32), Indian Spiced Pumpkin and Jackfruit Chili (p. 70) and Sweet Orange Basil Curd (p. 150), just to name a few.

Thanks to Fair Winds for letting me try out this wonderful cookbook, and thanks to Joni Marie Newton for writing another great addition to my cookbook collection!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Spring Break Trip to Spokane, WA

It's spring break! I've actually been on spring break for a week now, since, due to the wonderfully flexible schedule of online classes, I was able to take both my finals last Monday. Last week D and I went up to Spokane, WA, where I went to college at Whitworth University. I graduated in 2005, so Whitworth (and I) has/have changed a LOT.

One thing that really stood out in my head from this trip was just how sunny it was. It was also cold, mind you, and there are absolutely no signs of spring yet in eastern Washington, but it was still much brighter than the weather we get in Portland. I imagine that while I was in school, I didn't really think about the sun all that much, as I was too busy trying to get through school (I graduated in 3 years), but on this visit, it really became apparent.

We found a fantastic place to stay on Airbnb. It was close to downtown, as well as to friends of mine, and it provided the perfect respite for our vacation.

It was only 334 square feet, but it had enough charm (and tall ceilings) to make it feel much larger. It was originally an abandoned electric substation, but it was lovingly and painstakingly re-made into a cozy home (and now, a guest home) for two.

The "bedroom" (literally - there was a mattress on top of the ceiling) was above the bathroom and was accessed by this staircase next to the kitchen.

Here I am standing in front of the humongous area reserved for chickens! They were so cute, and we had quite a few "conversations" with each other.

Here's D on the back patio. If only the temperatures had been a bit higher, I'm sure we would have found ourselves enjoying the view of the chickens and the wonderful yard. Maybe next time...

We visited the Spokane Falls one day, just before sunset. It was gorgeous.

These are my friends from college - A (on the left) and I met by being dorm mates - we shared the bathroom between our two rooms and became friends. We've traveled to Europe and New York City together, and we've kept our friendship strong even through moves, me working for them, children and the current distance from Spokane and Portland. B (whom I've known since he started dating A the same year I met her) is a wonderful friend as well. These are two people I just can't imagine not having in my life.

The drive home was just as beautiful (albeit, a bit warmer) as the way there. We quite enjoyed the views passing us by.

What a nice start to my spring break!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Vegan and Gluten-free Round-up for St. Patrick's Day

Can you believe it's St. Patrick's Day? I definitely can't. It seems like this year is just flying by. I especially like that WINTER is passing along, as that is by far my least favorite season. And here I am, wearing green polka-dotted socks from Target, a short-sleeved green t-shirt, and writing up a St. Patrick's-themed post.

Here are some wonderful green and St. Patrick's-themed foods I've found on the internets lately. Enjoy, and happy spring!

From Chocolate Covered Katie comes this delicious-looking chocolate and mint cake:

From Oh She Glows comes a fantastic vegan and homemade Bailey's Irish Cream - yum!

I really want to try these Mint Chocolate Chip Dessert Bars from Oh My Veggies

Likewise with these Mint Matcha Chocolate Cups from Healthy. Happy. Life. 

How gorgeously green is this Vanilla Bean Coconut Shamrock Shake from Edible Perspective? 

And this St. Patrick's Day Fudge from Whole New Mom looks so vibrant (hint: she uses parsley for the coloring - genius!)!

I'm about to go on a road trip, and I think this Green Tea Latte Granola from Healthy. Happy. Life sounds like the perfect snack food. 

Carrie on Vegan came up with a green-tinted take on the classic Banana Soft Serve:

This Detox Green Soup from Gluten Free Goddess will be the perfect item to finish up with after all of these decadent treats:

If you're looking for even more green goodies, Chocolate Covered Katie created her own round-up of heart-healthy St. Patrick's Day Dessert recipes on her blog!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Happy Pi Day!

Wow, this is the first year I've had my s**t together enough to get a post to you about pie ON Pi Day! I'm pretty proud (and excited) right now. So, happy Pi Day to you! If you don't know what that means, it's the day when nerdy folks (or people who just like a reason to celebrate) enjoy a tasty treat shaped like a pie. The date is 3/14 (the first three numbers of the mathematical number pi). And today I have a special and delicious double review for you today, in honor of Pi Day.

I'm a bit embarrassed by how long it took me to write about these two products*, but just wait until next week, when I review something that's been been sitting around my house even longer. I guess that's just what a hectic school schedule will do to a girl, hmmm? And right now, I should actually be studying for my finals (they are next Monday - woohoo! Then it's spring break!), but instead I'm doing this! Hoorah for distractions.

I'm combining the reviews into one because I'm just that awesome, and also: Pi Day deserves a little extra treat from all of us! Today I'll be talking about Bob's Red Mill brand-new gluten-free pie crust mix as well as Dynise Balcavage's newest cookbook, Pies and Tarts with Heart.

Being the genius I am, I decided to combine the reviews by trying out the crust from Bob's and trying out a pie filling from the cookbook. The thing I like about the cookbook is that there are a few different varieties of gluten-free crusts, so had I not already had a crust in mind, I could have easily put together one from the book. However, since I was so eager to try out the brand new crust mix, I chose to forego the recipes this time and try them another time. 

The crust mix is extremely easy to make. As you can see in the picture above, the instructions are very clear and even include alternate ways of preparation (no butter? use this! no food processor? do this!). I appreciated that, and used some Earth Balance Coconut Buttery Spread instead of the butter that is called for. 

First, I processed the crust mix and "butter". Easy peasy. 

Next, I added cold water and mixed the dough with my hands. Then, I patted it into a disc.

I refrigerated the disk (there are actually two) for one hour, then rolled it out. I used my trusty plastic wrap rolling technique, which worked like a charm.

Finally, I laid the dough into the pie pan and pressed it into place. I was amazed by how well the dough worked in this step, unlike many gluten-free doughs I've made in the past. There was hardly any tearing, and the dough actually (kinda, sorta) stretched as I pushed it into place! Whoa!

As for the filling that I chose from the cookbook, I decided on apple pie because it seemed the most seasonally-appropriate. Although we're bordering on spring, I don't think any fruits are currently ripening in Portland, so I chose to use the always-sturdy and -dependable apple. I used 1/2 cup less sugar than was called for, and I substituted plain old water for the non-dairy milk in the recipe, but otherwise, I made everything step by step. 

I was amazed yet again by how easily the pie crust traveled from my cutting board to the top of the pie. It was almost like I was 6 years younger, using a crust made with whole wheat flour. 

Finally, after what seemed like forEVER (not really, but when you're looking forward to pie, it can seem like a lifetime), the pie was baked and barely cooled and I was putting it into my belly! 

My overall review is this: this pie crust is aMAZing. Go get some. It isn't super flavorful by itself, but when mixed together with filling, it's divine. And the crust works like a piece of glutenous magic. I'm serious; go get some. And this cookbook is fantastic, as well. Now that I've browsed through it more than once, I can't wait to try even more recipes from it, especially if each of them turn out as good as this one did.

And since we're speaking of pies, here's a tasty pie I made from Jennifer Katzinger's cookbook, Gluten-Free and Vegan Pie, and never showed you (I had planned to write a review of that book, but since it was published a looong time ago, I'll just leave it as: it's a good book, and you should check it out.).

*I did not receive either item for free, as a gift or otherwise. I paid for the crust mix with my own money and borrowed the cookbook from the library. I just felt like you should know that. :)


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