Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Vida Vegan Con 2011

What do you do after attending Vida Vegan Con

1. Celebrate
2. Sleep
3. Blog

So here I am.

Vida Vegan Con 2011 was held in Portland, Oregon this past weekend and is the first-ever conference of its kind to unite vegan bloggers from around the globe.  How cool is that?!  The next conference is said to be in 2013 although no location has been announced yet. 

After three days of engaging with fellow bloggers, soaking up information in workshops & panels, and honing my own skills as a writer and photographer, here is what I've learned...

Photography Workshop

iPhone cameras can take decent photographs.  Don't believe me?  I'm pretty sure Isa can convince you. 

Cupcakes from Sweetpea Baking Company

Vegan cupcakes are the best.  Seriously, awesome.  I pretty much spent all weekend on a mega sugar rush. Especially after...

The extensive sundae bar with Coconut Bliss ice cream.  It pretty much was the death of me.  (But only because it was so amazing...)

And that is exactly how I learned that I cannot go a single day without consuming fresh juice or something really, really green.  Lucky for me, Portland has a juice bar called Prasad that saved my life.

Marketing Panel

I also learned that social media is really just about being social... and authentic.

The PSU dorm rooms don't come with AC, but they sure do come with a gorgeous view at sunrise.

Galarama & Silent Auction for Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary

There are hundreds of other people in the world that can't live without taking pictures at every meal and think tempeh is seriously rad.

When given the choice between champagne and sparkling cider I should always choose the cider.

My cat is mega cute... but very mischievous when I am away.

Portland is one of the most beautiful cities and morning runs on the waterfront are mandatory.

Podcasting Workshop

Podcasts are a lot of work and as much as I would like to start one... I think I would rather just listen to 'em.

Most importantly, I learned about what matters in my life.  And that is you, my friend.  Cooking and food blogging is something that I couldn't do without each and every one of my readers.  You are the ones that make it fun and rewarding to slave behind a stove and photograph every recipe so that someone besides myself can drool over it for awhile.  I appreciate your every comment, email, and visit to this blog.  Thank you for supporting me in what I love to do and sharing in my passion for food!


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Raw Chocolate Coconut Cupcakes with Avocado Frosting

This cupcake.  Ohh man... this cupcake.  This cupcake is serious business.  This is the kind of cupcake you make when you have not had dessert for a month and you've been dreaming of chocolate for over a week.

This cupcake is rich, dense, and creamy.  You won't believe that a mixture of nuts, agave, dates, cocoa powder, coconut, and avocado came together and formed that.  But, the best part?  Those are the only ingredients!

If you've ever questioned if a raw dessert can be satisfying then this is the one for you.   This cupcake is the cupcake you bring home to meet your mother.  It's that good.

I will be the first one to admit that I am not great with portion control at dessert.  I'm usually not the person who has the recommended serving and then is simply done.  But, this cupcake?  I ate half and had to put the rest in the fridge.  It was that satisfying.

But, don't worry, I came back the next day and finished it off.

For the cupcake base I used a variety of nuts that I happened to have on hand.  I'm pretty sure that you could change up the combination if you desired as long as it came out to 1.5 cups of nuts total.   When I was making these I was also wishing that I had a miniature cupcake tin because these would be super cute as mini cupcakes.  Mini versions might also help with portion control because these are super rich... but super worth it. 

Raw Chocolate Coconut Cupcakes with Avocado Frosting
Makes 4 Cupcakes

1/2 cup macadamia nuts
1/2 cup pecans
1/2 cup walnuts
4 large Medjool dates, pitted
2 Tablespoons cocoa powder
2 Tablespoons raw agave syrup
a tiny pinch of sea salt
2 Tablespoons unsweetened dried coconut flakes, divided

1 avocado, pitted
2 Tablespoons cocoa powder
2 Tablespoons raw agave syrup

Pulse the macadamia nuts, pecans, and walnuts in a food processor until crumbly.  Add the dates, cocoa powder, agave syrup, and salt and process until smooth and batter-like.

Sprinkle one tablespoon of the coconut flakes into four molds of your muffin tin.  This will help to keep your cupcakes from sticking to the bottom.  Divide the batter evenly amongst the molds and press it into the tin to help form it into patties. Turn the tin upside down and the cupcakes should fall right out.  (If you have a stubborn cupcake, use a spatula to loosen the edges and pry it out.  Keep in the fridge until ready to frost.

To make your frosting, add the avocado flesh, cocoa powder, and agave syrup to your food processor and process until smooth and fluffy, scraping the sides with a spatula until the avocado is thoroughly mixed.  Top your cupcakes with the frosting and sprinkle with the remaining tablespoon of dried coconut.  Store in the refrigerator until ready to eat.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

This weekend...

This weekend began with a trip to the U-District farmer's market.  I loaded up on plenty of donut peaches, lapin cherries, zucchini, yellow wax beans, golden beets, corn, and these gorgeous little tomatoes. There's nothing like fresh, ripe tomatoes in the middle of summer and I just can't get enough this month.

For lunch I attempted to make pizza from scratch.  It was a big fail.  Major.

This was my first try at making pizza dough and I think I might have added too much flour and/or kneaded it a bit too much. Regardless, it was such a big fail that we ended up getting take out instead.

This afternoon I decided that if my cat could speak, he would sound like Alan Rickman (aka Professor Snape). That's kinda freaky, huh?

We spent the majority of today painting our apartment and adding in this merlot accent wall.  My partner and I live in an apartment in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle and we're working on some big updates over the next couple of weeks. Our landlord is replacing the old carpet with hardwood floors in the living room, the walls are getting a paint makeover, and we're hoping to replace some of our mismatched old furniture for more modern pieces.

Our apartment is 460 square-feet which sometimes feels like a challenge for 2 people + a cat.  Hopefully these changes will give us a much-needed update (especially the carpet!) and make the small space more tolerable.  

Our evening ended by watching Die Hard With a Vengeance (the third movie in the Die Hard series).  We watched the first one a few weeks ago and now are addicted to the 90s action and hilarious stunts.  If you haven't seen Bruce Willis with hair, then you need to get on this.

And, most importantly, this weekend means that it's less than ONE WEEK 'til the Vida Vegan Con in Portland.  Are you excited?  I am super pumped!  I can't wait for all the workshops, the galarama, and the opportunity to meet so many other cool bloggers!  If you are not attending, then make sure to check back here next weekend so I can keep you updated on what's what in the blogging world.  If you are going, then I can't wait to see you there!

How is your weekend so far?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Raw Kale Salad with Sprouted Quinoa and Pumpkin Seeds

Sometimes after a long day the last thing I want to do is come home and spend all night making dinner.  I know, I know.  I'm a food blogger and you expect more of me.  But, somedays, this is just how it is.

This week this salad has been my saving grace.  If you look at the ingredients and prep, it can be intimidating. The key is start over the weekend in small steps so it doesn't feel overwhelming.  Don't believe me?  Here, I'll show you.

On Saturday evening, start by soaking some quinoa in a jar.  That's it.   Just add quinoa and water.  It doesn't get any easier than that.

On Sunday morning, before you head off to your yoga class or brunch, drain your quinoa and leave the jar on the counter.  Later that evening, rinse your quinoa, then throw these pumpkin seeds into your oven.  The prep work takes 5 minutes, they bake for 45 minutes, and then you just pull them out, let them cool, and put them into a jar for later.  Done, and done.

On Monday morning when you drag yourself out of bed and silently curse yourself for committing to 6 am spin class, just rinse your quinoa and leave the jar on the counter.  Easy as pie.

Monday evening?  Come home, kick off your shoes, grab something to drink, and rinse your sprouts.  Then massage some kale with a little tahini.  Top with sprouts and seeds.  Sit down and put your feet up.  You deserve it.  Dinner is served.

If you're looking for a heartier meal then add a simple side soup (this one can be made entirely in your blender!). And if you're aiming for a fully raw meal, then lucky you, you can skip the toasting of the pumpkin seeds and leave them plain.

Raw Kale Salad with Sprouted Quinoa and Pumpkin Seeds
Serves 4

1/2 bunch kale leaves (about 6 cups), chopped (de-stemmed if desired)
salt (optional)
1/4 cup tahini
3/4 cup sprouted quinoa (see recipe below)
1/2 cup toasted tamari pumpkin seeds (see recipe below)

Place kale leaves in a large bowl and massage for about 2 minutes to help soften the kale.  A little salt can be added to help drain some of the kale juices and soften it up a bit as well.  Transfer kale to a fresh bowl (and discard any liquid from the kale) and mix with the tahini.  Toss with the sprouted quinoa and pumpkin seeds.

Sprouted Quinoa
Makes about 3/4 cup
(You can read more about sprouting here.)

1/2 cup raw quinoa
Jar or glass container for sprouting
Cheesecloth to cover the jar
Rubber band
Water for rinsing

Put the quinoa in a glass jar and cover with water.  Put the cloth over the top and secure with a rubber band.  Soak it overnight or for at least 8 - 12 hours.  In the morning, rinse and drain the jar well.  There should not be water left sitting in the jar.

Leave the jar in a cool, dark place while the quinoa sprouts.  Make sure to rinse and drain the quinoa every 6 - 8 hours.  The quinoa will be done sprouting in about 48 hours.

Toasted Tamari Pumpkin Seeds
1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1 Tablespoon tamari

Mix pumpkin seeds and tamari in a small bowl and let sit for at least 15 minutes so the tamari can be absorbed.  Place seeds flat on a baking sheet.  Toast in the oven at 250 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes, flipping at least twice.  The seeds are done with they are dry and crunchy.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Cranberry & Pecan Power Bars

Do you have a little voice inside your head that tells you what to do?  Does it tell you things like eat your greens!  Or, get off this couch - NOW!  Or, stop looking at that pizza like that!  'Cause mine does.  Tell me about your little voice; I promise I won't judge.

The little voice inside my head kicked my butt through 42 miles of cycling on Saturday.  Up and down and up more hills, through long winding flat road, and even through a little bit of rain.  That voice pushed me to go harder.  Sometimes that little voice sounds a lot like Jillian Michaels.  I'm not sure if that's a good thing.

Lucky for me I made these delicious and energizing power bars before my ride.  It wasn't until I started doing long bicycle rides that I understood the point of the power bar.  Before this summer, I had never done a workout longer than 2.5 hours and I didn't realize how badly your body needs carbohydrates and glucose during long workouts.  Having a nutritious and healthy snack during a long ride or workout really makes a difference.


The original recipe called for rice cereal, but I substituted puffed millet and also added in some quinoa flakes for a little extra protein.  There is a lot of room for substitutions and adjustment on this recipe so feel free to get creative.  These bars are chewy, nutrient dense, and definitely keep your energy up.  I also love them with a cup of tea for breakfast or as a post-workout snack.  

Cranberry and Pecan Power Bars
Adapted From Enlightened Cooking
Makes 12 bars

1 1/4 cup puffed millet cereal
1 cup uncooked quick-cooking oats
2 Tablespoons quinoa flakes (optional)
2 Tablespoons ground flaxseed (flaxseed meal)
1/3 cup dried cranberries (or another dried fruit)
1/4 cup cup chopped pecans (or another nut)
1/3 cup brown rice syrup
1/2 cup almond butter (or any nut butter of your choice)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine the millet, oats, quinoa flakes, flaxseed meal, cranberries, and nuts in a large bowl.

Combine the syrup and almond butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until melted and well-blended.  Stir in vanilla until blended.

Pour almond buter mixture over cereal mixture, stirring until coated (you will probably have to get your hands in it to thoroughly mix it).  Press mixture firmly into an 8-inch square pan (sprayed with nonstick cooking spray) using a large square of wax paper to really tamp it down.  Cool in pan on a wire rack and chill at least 30 minutes to help it set.  Cut into 12 bars, wrap tightly in plastic, and store in refrigerator. 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Blistered Green Beans with Ginger & Garlic

How much time do you spend at the Farmer's Market?  How do you decide on what produce to buy?  Do you have a certain routine that you usually follow?

See, I have very specific Farmer's Market behavior that drives my partner Ashley completely crazy.  It goes like this... I have to make at least three complete rounds around the market.

The first round is just for looking.  It's a chance to see what new vegetables have showed up this week, find out price points for produce I'm interested in, and start dreaming of different recipes I want to make.

The second round involves some buying, but mostly more looking.  This is when I buy my essentials that I know I have to have for the week - which usually involves beets, greens, carrots, and onions.  I also usually stop and grab lunch between the second and third rounds.  It gives me more time to decide on other items that I want to buy in the third round.

Then, my third round is all about buying my final picks.  This week I opted for two pounds of green beans, some yellow wax beans, donut peaches, two cucumbers, four green peppers, a half pound of cherries, and some fresh corn.

On occasion, there will be a fourth round in this process if I have to go back for something that I later decide on.  All in all, this process takes at least 45 minutes.  You do not want to rush me during this process.

Ashley's objectives at the market are a little different than mine.  Her only goal is to get out of there as quickly as possible and she does not understand why someone would circle the market several times when you could just buy everything the first time.  Of course, I can usually appease her frustration when I take all of the beautiful produce home and make something amazing.  Hint: like these green beans.

Green beans and me are totally BFFs this summer.   We're making salads together, we're shredding it up, and now we're blistering in a pan covered with soy sauce, fresh ginger, and minced garlic.  I don't have green beans in my garden, but I certainly wish I did because I cannot get enough of them at the moment.  These green beans are a hearty side dish to any meal and they are perfect with some tempeh and brown rice for a simple dinner.  Once you try them you'll have to resist eating them straight from the pan... and you'll be very thankful for all of the time spent at the farmer's market to get them.

Blistered Green Beans
Adapted from Christie's Corner
Serves 4

1/4 cup soy sauce
2 Tablespoons fresh ginger, grated
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons coconut oil (or another oil that can handle high heat)
1 pound green beans, trimmed
1 Tablespoon sesame seeds

Mix the soy sauce, ginger and garlic together in a small bowl. Set aside.

Add the coconut oil to a medium pan and turn to high heat.  Let the oil heat for a minute, then add the green beans and toss to coat them in the oil.  After a minute or so, you should see small brown blister spots.  (If you don't, turn up your heat a bit). Continue to cook them, tossing as necessary, until they are all blistered, about 5 minutes.  

Add the soy sauce mixture to the browned beans and toss to coat. Let the beans saute in the mixture for about 2 minutes before transferring to a serving platter and garnishing with the sesame seeds.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Chickpea Nibbles

Let me be honest with you for a minute.  Sometimes it's not easy to find the time to blog.  I mean, come on?  There's a bathroom that wants to be cleaned, a movie that's not going to watch itself, and some nails that are badly in need of a little TLC.  There's also a sleepy, cuddly monster guarding my computer.  I wouldn't wanna mess with that guy.

Somehow I braved the scary monster and found my way to this blog because I have to tell you about these chickpea nibbles.  Do crunchy chickpeas intrigue you?  Because they intrigue me.  

I'll admit that at first they sounded a little weird.  A roasted bean?  It sounds overcooked, not delicious.  But I promise they will get you too.

For some reason these remind me a little of the corn nuts I used to eat during the summer as a kid, but these are definitely better.  The chickpeas should have a definite crunch and bite to them with a lot of flavor.   If you find that yours taste dry or starchy then they need a few more minutes in the oven.   A few of mine didn't get roasted enough in the full batch so I threw them in for an extra ten minutes and they were fabulous.  Serve these as a snack at your next dinner party or picnic and they're definitely a must for an extra protein boost on your next hike.

Chickpea Nibbles
Adapted from Power Foods
Makes 1 cup

2 cups chickpeas, cooked
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
sprinkle of cayenne pepper
sea salt to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Pat chickpeas dry, then toss in a bowl with oil, cumin, paprika, cayenne pepper, and sea salt.  Spread in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake until crunchy, stirring occasionally, 40 to 45 minutes.  Sprinkle with extra paprika and salt if necessary.  Let cool before serving.  Chickpeas may be kept in an airtight container for 3 days at room temperature.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Perfect Protein Salad

If it wasn't for the PCC Deli, sometimes I wouldn't eat.  And if it wasn't for the PCC Deli, sometimes I wouldn't eat so much.... Yesterday's lunch and dinner came from their deli case and I am always grateful to know that I can walk into any one of their stores and find something vegan, delicious, and healthy in a snap.  

If it's possible to request food now for the afterlife I'd like to place my order.  In fact, it would be great if it could look just the PCC Deli, but be more of a buffet situation if possible.  Please let there be vegan pesto pizza, Emerald City Salad, and Spicy Tofu and Spelt Berries. Oh, and some fresh marinated beets please?  Glad we settled that. 

This delicious little salad originally came from the PCC Deli and is loaded with hearty chickpeas, chewy spelt berries, and fresh veggies.  They use a vegan mayo in their dressing, but I opted for using cashews instead.  Blending soaked cashews creates a creamy, rich dressing and since I only blended them for a few seconds, there's still a bit of texture.  I also added in some fresh basil since I happen to have a ton of it growing at the moment, but you could also leave it out and add in some extra parsley if desired. 

Perfect Protein Salad
Adapted from PCC Natural Markets
Serves 6 - 8

1 cup spelt berries, raw
3 cups water
2 cups garbanzo beans, cooked
1 English cucumber, seeded and diced (I didn't peel mine)
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
3 stalks celery, diced
2 carrots, diced
1/4 red onion, diced
3 green onions, diced
1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
1/4 cup fresh basil, chiffonade

3/4 cup raw cashews, soaked in water overnight
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon dried dill
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon minced garlic

Boil spelt berries in water until tender, about 45 minutes.  Drain and cool.

In a medium bowl, mix together the cooked spelt, garbanzo beans, diced cucumber, bell pepper, celery, carrots, red onion, green onion, parsley and basil.  

For the dressing: drain the cashews and add to a food processor with the lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, dill, salt, and garlic.  Process until creamy, but with a bit of texture (the consistency should be similar to ricotta cheese). 

Mix the dressing with the salad and let sit in the refrigerator until serving. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Raw Cucumber Wasabi Soup

Here are five things that you should never do.  Ready?  Take notes.

#1: Never ride 50 miles on your bike while your brakes are messed up and the brake pads are clamping down on your wheel.  It's not great for your bike, but more importantly... it just plain sucks.

#2: Never hang one of those gross sticky fly strips if you have a cat.  Never.  Because you should always assume that your cat will be the first thing stuck to it. True story.

#3: Never have a glass of wine when you have a very light lunch, a light dinner, and have work to do in the garden.  Well, actually, I suppose that you could do that... Just make sure to pay attention to where your feet are in relation to the garden hose.  Otherwise the next thing you know you'll be tripping over your own feet and find yourself lying on the ground crushing a kale plant.  Safety first people!

#4: Never open your container of roasted broccoli at work and begin eating it at 9:30 am. Who does that anyway?! Apparently I do. Since this is not typical human behavior, your co-workers will not be expecting the smell of roasted cruciferous vegetables first thing in the morning. Naturally, it will lead them to think that there is a gas leak in the building. Then you will have to explain that it's just you and your odd eating behavior. No joke. But, should you find yourself in this situation, you just have to own it.  Otherwise they'll call the fire department.

#5: You should never operate your Vitamix blender without the pad thingy on the base. Come on now, you should know this one! It even says right on there: "Never place blade assembly on base unless assembled to container." Why would you do that?  Now you have to buy a replacement blender part. Lesson learned.

I'm hoping that you didn't damage your blender like I did this week because you really need to make this soup.  Raw soups are one of my favorite things to make because they're delicious, healthy, and super quick to prepare.  And since this only requires a blender, you can spend more time searching for replacement blender parts and less time cleaning dishes.

I've found that a lot of cold cucumber soups can taste a little watery or bland at times.  The green onions and wasabi powder in this version give it a little kick of flavor and some heat which balances out nicely with the cooling properties of the cucumber.  Serve this with some raw flax seed crackers or some raw zucchini "sushi" rolls.

Raw Cucumber Wasabi Soup
Serves 2

2 cucumbers
1 avocado, skinned and pitted
1 cup water
2 green onions
1 teaspoon dill
1/2 teaspoon wasabi powder
1/4 cup cilantro
freshly-ground sea salt and black pepper to taste

Add the cucumbers, avocado, water, and green onions to your blender.  (You might have to chop these items ahead of time depending on the strength of your blender and blades.)  Blend thoroughly, adding a little more water if necessary.  Add the dill, wasabi powder, cilantro, and sea salt to taste.  Blend thoroughly until smooth.  Chill in the refridgerator until serving and top with a little black pepper if desired.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Raw Zucchini "Sushi" Rolls

I'm going to share a secret with you.  I really love veggie sushi.  Like, really.  If I could eat tofu and avocado rolls morning, noon, and night I probably would... but I don't out of fear of growing tired of sushi... because, then what?

I've been making sushi rolls at home for some time now, but this week I started thinking about a raw version that doesn't involve nori.  This raw "sushi" is a fun deviation that uses zucchini instead of nori strips.  Since zucchini is in season and I've had enough zucchini muffins to last me all summer, it was time to find a new way to enjoy it.  

When you're making traditional sushi rolls, you'll use a large strip of nori, roll up your ingredients, and then cut the roll into your individual sushi pieces.  The fun part of using zucchini is that it makes individual rolls and is much easier to handle, especially if you're new to sushi-making.  Soaked and blended cashew are the perfect substitute for rice and you can use any fresh veggies and herbs of your choice in the rolls.  Serve with Nama Shoyu or your favorite dipping sauce.

Raw Zucchini Sushi Rolls
4 servings

1/2 cup cashews, soaked overnight
1 Tablespoon rice vinegar
3 - 4 zucchini (each yields 6 - 8 slices)
2 carrots, sliced into matchsticks
1 cucumber, seeds removed and sliced into matchsticks
4 medium radishes, sliced
1 avocado, peeled and sliced
1 small bunch cilantro

Drain cashews and put into food processor with rice vinegar.  (Depending on how long cashews were soaked you might need to add a tablespoon of water to get the right consistency.)  Process, scraping sides with spatula if necessary, until cashews are a soft paste but still have some texture.

Chop the ends off of your zucchini and use a vegetable peeler to peel your zucchini into long thin strips. Lay zucchini strip flat and add a small spoonful of cashew mixture onto one of the ends of zucchini.  Add a few matchsticks of veggies, avocado, and a couple of pieces of cilantro.  Roll up and enjoy!