June 28, 2010

Teeth and omelets

When I was a baby, the pediatrician told my mother to feed me an egg every day. She tried. She cooked me an egg each day for years, but I refused to eat it. I hated the look, the smell, the texture and the taste. She never tried to force me — I think she just believed that one day I'd eat the egg, and all her efforts would pay off.

As an adult I came to like eggs. There were so many things you could with them. They were handy in baked goods and puddings. They could be whipped into meringues and cool frostings, dyed and decorated, or stirred into soup or fried rice. Or, they could just be cooked and eaten. Eggs could be a simple dish or a complex omelet or soufflé. Whenever I couldn't think of something to cook, I could always make an egg in one form or another. After I became a vegan I found ways to cook and bake without eggs, and really didn't miss them too much.

When tofu omelets started appearing all over the place, I was mildly intrigued, but I never got around to actually trying one — until today. My motivation wasn't to find a great egg substitute, it was to find a different soft food from the ones I'd been consuming all week. Please, no more cannelini beans and overcooked rice. No more frozen peas and spinach. No more mashed cauliflower. No more yogurt and bananas. You see, I had a back molar removed and was directed to eat soft foods. I've been in dental hell the past week after having my bad molar pried from my jaw. The root was fused to the bone and it took about an hour to get it out — in three pieces. (I was contemplating murdering the oral surgeon but he had all the sharp tools.) The dentist said my jaw would be sore for a couple of weeks. Of course I didn't believe him but here it is a week later and my jaw still aches. This seemed as good a time as any to try the tofu omelet from Vegan Brunch.

As I prepared my omelet, I started to really hope it would taste like an egg. It cooked perfectly, and I couldn't believe how much it looked like an actual omelet. In fact, it looked pretty much exactly like an omelet, and I had used black salt in the batter so the kitchen smelled like someone had been frying eggs. I really wanted to be able to gush about how it tasted just like an omelet, but it didn't. I admit I'm a little cranky and all, and maybe my opinion is a little rough at the moment, and maybe my expectations were too high given the amazing appearance and smell, but I thought the taste was kind of bland. Though I didn't think it tasted like egg, maybe with a little cheese melted inside, more salt sprinkled on top and a flavorful sauce, I'll change my mind. I will try again! (And I didn't not like it. It just wasn't what I was expecting.)

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Odds and ends
Before the tooth extraction, while my husband was out of town, I threw together a few quick 'n dirty meals for my singular eating. Here are a couple that I photographed.

Potato, asparagus and soy curls

Grilled tofu on homemade sourdough toast with lettuce, tomato and avocado

This sandwich was so packed and unstable I had to hold it in order to take its picture.

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Testing recipes
I've been kind of slacking in my recipe testing but here are two I've managed to try.

Jalapeños and friends pickling in a bowl

The finished jalapeños packed into a jar.

Baked doughnut holes

I've got a stash of the doughnut holes in the freezer, and I think I'll excuse myself now and go get one.

June 21, 2010

Father's Day | Birthday | Fremont Solstice parade (nudity alert)

The weekend was full of action with the Solstice, Father's Day and our youngest son's 25th birthday. Our oldest son and DIL hosted a Father's Day/birthday brunch with lots of good food.

Here's the dad and his three sons, smiling for the camera. The birthday boy is the second from the right.

Our middle son (second from the left in the photo) made pita bread, and hummus and baba ghanouj. He made the pita from a Peter Reinhart recipe from The Bread Baker's Apprentice, and the dips were based on recipes found here. Of course, everything was amazing.

The birthday boy brought orange juice and grapefruits, and our DIL made a tofu quiche from The Urban Vegan, and roasted potatoes and garlic. I forgot to photograph the quiche until there was only one piece left in the pan. Never got to the potatoes in time.

I also forgot to photograph my plate until it was mostly demolished. I was really hungry and the food looked and smelled so good. Tasted good, too.

I made the cake but it was more of a brunch cake than a traditional birthday cake. It was apple-cranberry cake but with 1-1/2 cups of fresh, organic blueberries instead of cranberries, and one large chopped apple. I also added a teaspoon of cocoa to the cinnamon-sugar mix but I couldn't really taste it in the cake.

Here's a happy, well-fed party guest.

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Fremont Solstice ParadeOn Saturday we attended our first Fremont Solstice Parade. I'd been hearing about this parade for years — crazy inventive floats, outrageous costumes, and nude bicyclists. That's right, the parade opens with a mind-boggling number of irreverent bicyclists (and a few walkers) wearing only body paint, and perhaps a few accessories like shoes or hats. (A very few, less bold participants, wear thongs or bikini bottoms.) The paint is extremely creative and the crowd is ultra enthusiastic. I debated whether or not to post my photos, and decided that yes, I would share a few of the more modest shots. But not that modest. You've been warned. I also want to mention that floats are not allowed to be motorized and must be pushed, pulled or peddled by humans. After the bikers go by, the parade continues with dancers, musicians and other participants in bathtubs, on floats, in peddle-powered submarines or just on foot.





















June 17, 2010

Horse(ing around) | World Bread Day

Some time ago, I watched this lovely video, and it brought back a couple of indelible horse memories. I haven't had much experience with horses, actually, these may be the only two, but they were both unforgettable. One was years ago during a trip to England when we detoured from our route to visit the edge of a moor; I had read about the wild ponies of Dartmoor, and was hoping to see them. Plus, Wuthering Heights was one of my favorite books, and although it took place in Yorkshire in a different location on a completely different moor, the romance and mystery of the moors was in my mind. Honestly, I figured I was more likely to see Heathcliff stumbling across the landscape than the ponies. But in a truly magical moment, I DID see them. They appeared out of nowhere, I looked into their eyes, and they looked into mine, and then they were gone.

The second memory is more down to earth, so to speak, and comes from a high school escapade. I attended an all girls, all-academic magnet school in a large urban city. As a whole, the girls at my school behaved well and did not cause trouble — me included. Every so often, though, one or two of us might get a subversive idea or two.

One gorgeous spring day, my friend Ricki and I decided to cut school and go horseback riding. I believe this was Ricki's idea, as I'd never been horseback riding, and it wasn't something I thought about doing. She knew a stable in Fairmount Park, and we went there to ride, in a group, with a guide. Up close to the horse assigned to me, I was shocked. He was about three times the size I was imagining, and once up in the saddle, I could see it was a long, long way to the ground. The guide assured me he was a gentle, obedient horse, and we headed off on a trail. We'd gotten some distance into the park when suddenly, without warning, my horse took off at a full gallop. I was stunned and horrified. Our guide took off after me, and for a few brief moments I imagined myself as "the heroine" on a runaway horse in a movie, with the hero (red bandanna around his neck and cowboy hat on his head) chasing after me in rescue. Yeah, right.

We were in a huge urban greenway, with many trees and other obstacles, and my horse was dodging them at full speed. Then we headed towards a low, open building that would have cut the horse (and me) off at the neck. I figured this was it, but at the last second the horse swerved, and continued its mad run. I truly believed I was going to die, and I actually saw my entire life flashing before my eyes. It was pretty incredible — like a movie reel where each frame was a different event. I mean, I could literally SEE the movie film, frame by frame, in slow motion. It was brilliantly clear, and I was stunned at all the things I'd forgotten. I saw my life with new understanding, and some things that had been confusing were revealed with clarity. (Sounds a little like Lost.) Seeing all these scenes was amazing and uplifting, and I suddenly realized I didn't want to die. I told myself it was stupid and unnecessary to die because of this horse, in this park. (Remember, all this is taking place on horseback at about a million miles an hour, at super-human brain-speed!) I felt myself loosing my balance, and decided the thing to do was to land softly. (I'm laughing here at the memory so it's OK if you laugh, too.) I didn't know exactly how to do this, but as I was headed over the side of the horse I did my best. Land softly, I thought ... land softly. Just land softly and everything will be OK.

Over the horse I went, landing on my back in the gravel. As I lay there afraid to move, the guide who'd been chasing after me without success (no bandanna, no cowboy hat), walked over to where I lay and said, "here's your shoe." I thought he should have been slightly more solicitous and asked if I was all right or if anything was broken. Perhaps I was slightly in shock. Eventually I got up and brushed the dirt and gravel from my clothes. Here my memory fades, and I can't remember why I wasn't escorted back to the stable and my friend. I wandered out of the park, clueless as to where I was, and eventually found a bus stop and made my way back home. By the time I arrived home, hours later, I was dizzy and my head hurt, so I confessed all to my mother and she called the doctor. I really had terrible luck whenever I cut school. Sheesh.

Had I been a little more creative, I'm sure I could have come up with a holiday to celebrate instead of just cutting school to go horseback riding. For example, I could have cut school to celebrate World Bread Day, and baked a bread instead of galloping off to the park. It would have been a lot simpler. But I didn't learn about World Bread Day until today, thanks to Hannah, who posted a spectacular celebratory bread on Bittersweet blog.

To celebrate, I made an easy bread (of course) but spectacular in its own way, with a crackly, crispy crust and tender crumb filled with olives and roasted garlic. I'm going to use World Bread Day to encourage everyone who "doesn't have time to bake" to consider trying the breads from Artisan bread in Five Minutes a Day or Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day. Once you get the hang of it, it really is easy to bake delicious breads with very little effort. You store the dough in the refrigerator and take it out to bake as needed. Yes, it really takes more than five minutes to let the dough rise and bake it of course, but it takes no time at all to shape a loaf if you have the dough on hand.

Before I made the olive and garlic bread, I had to use up the last of my refrigerated dough so I rolled it out and baked it into a flatbread on a cast iron skillet. We used it for lunch, filled with hummus and roasted peppers.






At the top of the post is a bread made from the basic HBin5 recipe and enhanced with caraway seeds. Happy World Bread Day!

June 15, 2010

Pom | Potluck | Bread with soaked farro

A Pom Wonderful smoothie
Why is it so hard to get back to real life (i.e. cooking) after a vacation? I'm feeling so uncreative. Maybe I'm in a rut because I'm tired of cool, gloomy weather, and just really want it to be summer already. Or at least spring! I need a seasonal change for a little inspiration. We had a hint of warmth and sunshine on the weekend but then it was back to same-old, same-old. While the weather was playing at summer, I baked a banana-rhubarb tart, and made a pomegranate-banana smoothie.

The kind people at Pom Wonderful sent me another case of Pom pomegranate juice. The juice is so appealing I have the hardest time thinking up creative ways to use it in cooking instead of just drinking it straight. I kind of compromised with one of the bottles by making it into a delicious smoothie, and I have some ideas for pomegranate-strawberry and pomegranate-blackberry sauce for ice cream. But drinking it plain seems like the perfect way to reap its many benefits. According to the Pom literature, hundreds of scientific tests show Pom to have more potent antioxidants than red wine, grape juice, blueberry juice, cranberry juice, green tea, vitamin C and vitamin E. It's pure pomegranate juice with no additives whatsoever, and it tastes so good.

Full disclosure: I was given a free case of Pom Pomegranate juice with no pressure or expectation to write a positive review. All opinions are my own.

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Mr. EV organized a family potluck dinner Sunday night, and the dish above is a Thai noodle salad brought by one of our sons. I just loved it. He followed this recipe except he added pan-fried tofu, and I highly recommend this dish.

Mr. EV made his standby coleslaw and potato salad from recipes in Vegan Deli, by Joanne Stepaniak. This little cookbook has lots of vegan versions of deli items you may have enjoyed in the past. He made Vinaigrette Coleslaw and Grandma's Potato Salad.

The dinner also included a very spicy chickpea salad tester recipe from Celine and Jonimarie's in-progress cookbook.

I made the aforementioned rhubarb-banana tart.

Here's Miss E, very pleased with her little slice of rhubarb tart and some soy delicious. She ate it all even though she "wasn't hungry." (Photo taken just before the mug fell and soymilk flew everywhere.)

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OK, so maybe I had a little inspiration this week, but it wasn't from the weather. I was tempted by Mihl to make whole grain flourless sourdough spelt bread like the one she highlighted on her blog, Seitan is my motor. It looks like a killer bread, and maybe someday I actually will make it, but you know how lazy I am. Instead, I made a batch of whole grain no-knead bread with added sunflower seeds, black sesame seeds, kalonji and soaked grains. I was intrigued by her use of a Brühstück and wanted to try adding a soaked whole grain to my basic dough. The only whole grain in the pantry was farro so I soaked it according to Mihl's directions, and added it to the dough when I added the liquid. (The no-knead dough was based on the basic recipe from Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day. Though I do use different ingredient proportions and quantities, the procedure is basically the same. Mihl is making artisan bread more like what you'd find in The Bread Bakers Apprentice, my favorite bread baking book, but more of a commitment to time and technique than HB5)



I don't know how adding the farro could have made such a difference, but this was one of the best loaves I've ever made. Both the taste and texture were superior. I guess I'll be adding a new step to my easy bread making. (I used about 1/2 cup farro and 1 cup of water, brought to a boil then allowed to sit for several hours.)

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A while ago, I received a blog award from Blessedmama, and I'm supposed to pass it along to 12 bloggers. This is too hard, I think. I read and enjoy so many blogs that it's impossible to narrow the field down to 12. If I choose 12 I'll have to choose at least 20 more. Too hard. The last time I received an award I talked about how hard it is for me (an indecisive Libra) to make these kinds of choices. To make things even harder, every time I picked out a blog to give the award to, it already had one! Sigh. I really appreciate the award but I've decided to break the rules (you all know rules were made to be broken, right?), and pass the award along to someone who doesn't even have a blog. I'm giving the award to Courtney (from Minneapolis), a long time commenter on this and other blogs. Courtney's comments are always thoughtful and cheerful, and just seeing her name on the comment list makes me smile. Courtney is a part of the blog world even though she doesn't write her own blog, and it's people like Courtney who inspire bloggers to keep blogging. OK Courtney, now that I've embarrassed you, I hope you'll still visit. :)
If you would like to pass the award on, the bloggers you choose can grab the icon from my blog or Blessedmama's. Just follow whatever rules you choose.

The Rules, should you choose to accept them:
The Sunshine Award is awarded to bloggers whose positivity and creativity inspires others in the blog world. The rules for accepting this award are:

1. Put the logo on your blog or within your post.
2. Pass the award on to twelve bloggers.
3. Link the nominees within your post.
4. Let the nominees know they have received this award by commenting on their blog.
5. Share the love, and link to the person from whom you received this award.

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Father's Day is coming
Will you be making a Father's Day cake this weekend? Matt S from tiepedia
has collected a bunch of pictures of cool shirt-and-tie decorated cakes that he would like to share with you. Perhaps they will inspire you to get creative with fondant! Matt really likes ties and has a whole blog dedicated to them! Stop by to see his clever take on the world of ties.

June 11, 2010

Door County weekend part 2

You gotta love people who go to this much trouble to entertain travelers!
My last post was about the first part of our trip to a wedding in Door County, Wisconsin. Since we lived in Wisconsin for such a long time before moving to Seattle last August, this was a very nostalgic visit for us, and we savored every moment. I was hoping for some of the hot, sunny weather the Midwest had been enjoying but instead we seemed to bring the Seattle rain with us, but even the rain couldn't ruin the weekend. Saturday was all about the wedding, but Sunday was our day to do some hiking and exploring. We visited four ( yup, FOUR) parks plus the town of Fish Creek! In one day. Our day started at 8:30 a.m. with breakfast at the wedding hotel. I had fruit and granola with soymilk (cleverly brought by our friends, Claire and Alan). When the Madison folks had to take off for the drive home, Mr. EV and I hit the road, too, in search of natural beauty and exercise. We also had a couple of restaurants on our list but we found them closed. More about that later.

It wasn't far to our first stop, The Ridges Sanctuary, a very southern remnant of a boreal forest. The first National Natural Landmark in Wisconsin, The Ridges is 1,600 acres of bog, swamp, dune and wildflowers in their natural habitat.

25 native Wisconsin orchids are found there as well as one of the largest concentrations of rare plants in the Midwest. And mosquitoes. Did I mention mosquitoes? Although I miss Wisconsin dearly, I DO NOT miss the mosquitoes.





Can anyone identify this fern?

There was another, beautifully colored dragonfly next to this creature, but it didn't wish to be photographed.

We wandered in blissful solitude for a couple of hours, until the mosquitoes finally wore me down, and I kind of freaked out.

Our next destination was Cave Point County Park. The water-worn limestone cliffs overlooking the lake are beautiful, and the rocky beach is a great place for contemplation.

I have a thing for rocks, and I've always loved this park. We walked along the cliffs and watched the water crash into the rocks below. For some reason I failed to take photos from the high points, concentrating instead on the rocky beach.

It was hard to get Mr.EV off the rocks, but we had a lot to do in only one day. Normally when we vacation we tend to explore broadly in a limited area, but this was a different circumstance, and I was itching to cover a lot of ground in a short time.

Our next destination was Whitefish Dunes State Park, where we hiked for about two hours through the dark, damp, ethereal woods before making our way to the beautiful beach.

I could have spent hours staring at the lake. It looks just like an ocean, (though it's missing the ocean-y smell of fresh salt air), and the sand dunes, with their sunlit blowing grasses, offer a peaceful visual respite. We were pretty surprised to see people swimming since the air temperature was cool, and I can only imagine the uninviting temperature of the water. Brrr is all I can say. Besides, I'm a real wimp when it comes to possibly dangerous swimming conditions and the emphatic rip tide warnings would have scared me too much.

After all that hiking we were starving, and planned to pass through Egg Harbor for lunch on our way North. There were a couple of restaurant possibilities that were supposed to be vegan friendly, but unfortunately, both were closed, so we visited Greens 'N' Grains yet again, for wraps, and a few other items in case we ended up eating dinner at the hotel. The wraps got devoured quickly and unceremoniously in the car, then we headed to Fish Creek.

Mr. EV is befuddled by an extreme collection of things on sticks.
It had been years since we'd been in this little town, and seeing it didn't even jog my memory. I think I had confused it in my mind with Minoqua, a town in Northern Wisconsin. Fish Creek is a small, picturesque village on Lake Michigan, and is home to a large community of artists and craftspeople. The fabulous Peninsula State Park is also located here. We spent our visit to Fish Creek wandering in and out of the many shops, and enjoying a little sunshine that had finally appeared. I spotted a tiny, hidden, smoothie and organic food shop but it was closed so we couldn't take advantage of their offerings.

Our fourth and last park visit was to beautiful Newport State Park, Wisconsin’s only formally designated wilderness park, with 2,373 acres and 11 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline. It was getting late, and we were feeling tired from the long day, so we only did a short hike before heading to the lovely beach to stare at Lake Michigan, yet again. We were really lucky that Sunday was a state park open-house day, and admission to all the parks was free! (Cave Point is a county park and is always free.) Of course, our whirlwind tour didn't do justice to any of the parks we visited, any of which deserves at least several days or more of exploration. But it was still exhilarating to have spent time in so many inspiring natural areas.

The day had turned to early evening and we were thinking about food again. We knew the two casual restaurants we had picked out back in Egg Harbor were closed, and dressed in hiking clothes, grubby and exhausted from a day of hiking and wandering, we couldn't really show up at a "fine-dining" establishment without a reservation (and a shower), so we headed back to our hotel with the emergency provisions we'd bought earlier, and decided to eat in.

We had purchased a huge bag of local, organic mixed salad greens, raw sunflower seed dip and a carton of butternut squash soup at the natural foods store in Egg Harbor. In the little kitchenette in our huge room, we assembled giant salads with dressing made from the sunny dip, and heated bowls of soup in the microwave. I loved the dip (Mr. EV said it upset his stomach) and even ate it on crackers for breakfast the next day. The soup was OK. It had a powdered ginger aftertaste that I wasn't so fond of, but it served its purpose well, and I'd be willing to eat it again under similar circumstances. I was also happy that it contained much less sodium than similar choices. Just want to mention that the "washed and ready to eat" greens contained a few things you might not want to eat, like a live ant. Remind me to wash my greens!

Monday was our departure day, and we didn't have much planned, but a necklace I'd admired and passed up in Fish Creek the day before, was weighing on my mind. Both Mr. EV and I suspected this would happen, though I really did try to resist, so we packed up, checked out of our hotel, and headed back to Fish Creek. I had no idea which shop it had been in but Mr. EV recognized exactly which one it was, Bath, Body and Soul Essentials, and the necklace became mine. I really do love it.

We continued on to the Green Bay airport for the first leg of our return flight. The trip home was easy and uneventful. We had barely enough time in the Minneapolis airport to rush to our favorite airport eatery (French Meadow Bakery) to grab two Spa Salads to take onto the plane, for lunch. These salads contain an enormous amount of organic greens topped with tofu, olives, edamame, carrots and more, and the creamy vegan dressing comes on the side, just the way I like it.

When we finally arrived home Monday evening, we were tired, hungry and facing an empty refrigerator so decided to do take-out from a neighborhood restaurant. We
chose Janjay, a vegetarian Thai restaurant a few blocks from our house.


When we tell the staff at Janjay we're vegan, they know exactly what we mean, and make sure the food we order is what we expect it to be. For example, the peanut sauce that comes with spring rolls contains dairy, so they offered a substitute sauce. We got spring rolls, scallion flatbread, and a broccoli lovers entree. We also ordered a clear soup with vegetables that was really filled with veggies.

We had a great time on our four-day getaway but we both agreed it felt like we'd been gone for a month!

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