Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Ice Cream Social & BBQ

When I decided to expand the ice cream social a friend and I were hosting into a BBQ as well, I was not expecting too many people to come. Luckily my burger recipe is fairly easy to make since at one time I had 17 people at my house. A lot of the people I did not know too well so it was great getting to know them and hear feedback about my burger. I hope to have a restaurant some day, so I created my own burger recipe in hopes to offer it at my future establishment.

The ice cream aspect of the social was fun. There were two ice cream makers; one making a soy based cookies and cream and another making a coconut based pineapple. The cookies and cream flavor was made using Xanthan Gum as the thickener. I think it gave the ice cream an almost gummy texture so I would try something else the next time. My friend thickened hers with arrowroot starch and I liked the texture of hers much more. I am not sure how much was due to the thickening difference and how much is from the base difference, but I am excited to experiment since ice cream is always a good thing.

Restaurant Veggie Burger

1 ½ cups TSP (Textured Soy Protein) or TVP
6 oz Tomato Paste
1 ½ cups Hot Water
2 Tb Braggs
½ cup Olive Oil
¾ cup Gluten Flour
1 cup Quick Oats
¼ cup Sesame Seeds, ground
1 tsp Sea Salt
1 Tb Onion Flakes
2 tsp Poultry Seasoning
1 tsp Garlic Granules

Combine the hot water and tomato paste. Pour into TSP and mix. Let sit 5 minutes. Add braggs, and oil to the TSP mixture. You can also add 1/2 tsp Liquid Smoke if you want a smoky flavor to your burger. In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry and mix until all is combined. Form into patties and place on a greased baking sheet. Bake at 350°F for 20 minutes, flipping burger after 10 minutes. Makes 8 burgers. This recipe can also be used as a base for meatballs.

Did you know? TSP and TVP can be used exactly the same way and are almost identical products. TSP is made from organic soy and goes through a water processing. TVP is not organic, is more processed and are also owned by Archer Daniels Midland Co.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

I Love Frozen Blueberries!

What I love so much about summer is blueberry season (and camping, bike rides, and watching my cats sunbath). Nothing compares to the taste and texture of fresh blueberries. Except maybe fresh, frozen blueberries! I love getting out a cup of frozen blueberries and letting them defrost for about a minute. They are cold and have a crunch that brings out their sweet flavor. I could eat so many blueberries I would turn myself blue, so I have to try and control myself. Luckily, this special treat is also really healthy. Blueberries are low in calories, high in vitamin C and are an antioxidant powerhouse. To find out more, check out the world's healthiest foods website.

Blueberries are fabulous in every possible way; fresh, frozen and baked. Check out my friend Krissy's Blueberry Bar Recipe. Yum!

Blueberry Bars

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup brown sugar
½ tsp salt 1 cup rolled oats
½ cup shortening
2 ½ cups blueberries
¼ cup granulated sugar

Work together flour, brown sugar, oats and shortening (spectrum or earth balance would work great) with pastry blender. Spread a little more than half of the mixture in a greased 8-inch square pan. Pack it down a little. Mix blueberries with granulated sugar. Spread over first mixture in pan, cover with other half of crumbly mixture. Bake at 375°F for 45 minutes. Cut into bars when cool.
Blueberry season may already be over, but check with your local farms just in case. In the Pacific Northwest, all crops have been little late this year. Local farms may offer other wonderful fruit options to enjoy as well. U-pick farms are fantastic since they allow you support your local community, plus, you really can taste the difference.

In Portland, Sauvie Island is a very popular, and beautiful, spot for u-pick experiences. This year I joined a group of vegans and visited a new farm called Klock Farm which was friendly and had no spray blueberries available. They are located at 931 NE Salzman Rd in Corbett, OR 97019. Call first to make sure blueberries are still available at 503-695-5882.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Sandwiches and Guinea Pigs

When I was first told the potluck I was going to was sandwich themed, I was frustrated that my options of foods to bring, and taste, was limited. I really like a good sandwich, but they are hard to come by. I am not usually interested in simply veganaise with tofurky, although it can be good at times. I prefer sandwiches with more creativity and unique ingredients. I decided to make my Pizza Sandwich.

At the potluck, there were tofurky sandwiches, and also one with grilled veggies and a "chicken" salad which was tasty. Luckily a few people also brought dessert. My favorite part of the day was not any sandwich though, it was meeting some guinea pigs. So here is my complete tangent from sandwiches.

Guinea pigs are unique animals who are no longer considered a part of the rodent family but have their own category. They are fascinating since they have no tail, make interesting noises, are born with their fur and have an amazing ability to interact with people.

When I was seven years old, I got a guinea pig for my birthday. I named her Kristy. Kristy became everything to me; entertainment, friendship, family and support. Whenever I was having a tough time, I would take her out of her cage and she would sit with me. I would just pet her and it would cheer me up. If I was crying, she would purr and kiss my tears away. She was so important to me that my family would have house elections for all our pets, and Kristy was always elected president. No one ever questioned she was the top "dog". Although she may not have been the goddess I made her to be as a child, she is the reason I made it out of my childhood sane.

Whenever a survey asks who your hero was growing up, Kristy is the first individual I think of. She is the one I contribute to teaching me compassion and understanding there is more to an animal than to serve a human's purpose. I did not know then what it meant to fight for animal rights, but I did know that people could be very cruel and that needed to change. Although I did not become a vegan until my college years, Kristy started my path towards caring for other beings.

The guinea pig at the potluck reminded me of all this. She was adorable herself and very social. I spent probably half the time I was there holding her, a fourth the time playing badmitton and the other fourth eating sandwiches and promising to post the recipe for my sandwich on my blog.

The Pizza Sandwich
This is a large version for potlucks or group picnics.

Marinated Tofu:
1 lb Tofu
2 Tb Olive Oil
1/4 cup Balsamic Vinegar
1/4 cup Braggs Liquid Aminos

Cashew Spread:
2 Roasted Red Peppers, whole
1/2 cup Cashews
1/2 cup Nutritional Yeast
1 Tb Balsamic Vinegar
1 tsp Salt

2 Tomatoes, sliced
16 oz. Basil, rinsed
1 loaf Ciabatta Bread (plain or kalamata olive)

Prepare the tofu and cashew spread as directed below. Cut loaf of bread in half. Spread on a good layer of the cashew spread on both the top and bottom pieces of bread. On the bottom half of bread, place the marinated tofu of top of spread, staking tofu pieces on top of each other as needed. Place the tomato slices on top of this and then the basil on top of that. Place top piece of bread over topping and slice into desired quantity of sandwiches. This can be a messy sandwich so bring a napkin.

Marinated Tofu - Cut the tofu into about 15 slices. Mix together the liquid ingredients to make the marinade. Dip the tofu slices in the marinade and place on a baking sheet. Pour remaining marinade on top of tofu. Bake at 350ºF for 30 minutes total or until liquid is absorbed, flipping tofu every 10 minutes. Change oven to broil for the last 3 minutes.

Cashew Spread - Place all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.


Thursday, August 7, 2008

My great idea went up in flames!

The plan sounded so perfect. You make kabobs over a bbq grill so why not a campfire? I had never made kabobs before, but they're just veggies on a stick, right? So I went camping with a container of perfectly cut zucchini, squash, carrots and broccoli, along with marinated tofu.
I have been mentoring a girl for over four years now. We met when she was 12 and she is now 17 and only has one more year of high school left. It surprised me how fast she grew up and became a very bright and responsible individual. She is totally awesome and has been incredibly open to everything vegan. I like to think I opened up her world of food and she definitely opened up my world of caring. We've taught each other a lot over the years.
We've started a yearly trip where we go camping in the summer. The first year we went to Detroit Lake and went swimming in the shadows of Mount Jefferson and had lots of cute chipmunk visitors. The second year we went to the beach and the wind was so bad it almost blew our tent down on us while sleeping. This year, we traveled to Clear Lake about an hour east of Eugene. There are many clear lakes in Oregon, but I think this one deserves the name the most.

Now, back to the kabobs. After taking some time to set up camp and checking out the sights of the lake, the two of us started to assemble the kabobs. My first mistake became apparent very quickly. The tofu I used was too soft. They went onto the sticks, but didn't stay for too long. The fire was started without incident and the built kabobs were laid on the campfire grill. When I would flip the sticks, veggies and tofu fell off. Every time I turned the stick for even cooking, food was lost. We realize that for next time, the carrots should go on the ends since this is the one vegetable that did not budge.

The veggies weren't cooking and we were getting hungry. The sticks then started to burn and one eventually broke in half. Long story short - it did not work. Luckily I had brought back up dinner. I recommend sticking with the bbq grill for your kabobs - your veggies will be much safer there! A friend later told me that the sticks should first be soaked in water to prevent them from burning. If anyone has any other tips for me, please share!

Clear Lake, though, was gorgeous! There are parts of a petrified forest in the lake which you can see as you travel in a row boat available for rental. The trees are 3,000 years old! The water goes from turquoise to bright green to deep blue and everything in between. Make sure to also look up since there were many osprey and bald eagles. We even saw a few fighting in the air and doing crazy summersaults.
On the water we saw ducks, a mersanger (type of duck) and her three babies and reflections of all sorts of the natural environment. The trail around the lake is 5 1/2 miles which we did not realize when we walked it. Oops. We did not bring any water and were quite tired by the end of it. I did get a very brief glimpse of a pika, a very shy animal that looks like a cross between a rabbit and hamster. Overall, I recommend visiting this gorgeous place. Just bring lots of really good mosquito repellant.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Cake Goes On A Picnic

This story starts out some years ago when two people were blessed with a little pink baby. Since they liked the baby, she was raised by them. I am sure she had other influences, some good and many bad, but they managed to keep her alive long enough to leave their home. She eventually ventured to Portland and met some really cool people. And this is where the cake was born.

The little pink baby turned into a chocolate fiend and demanded chocolate cake for the celebration of her earthly debut. So I agreed to this request, being that I very much enjoy any type of cake, although vanilla and strawberry are my favorites. Raspberries from my neighbor's garden wanted to take part, so we decided to add them to the cake. Chocolate chips wanted to be mentioned in the story as well, so they jumped in. Finally, there was cake - Chocolate Decadent Raspberry Cake.

Since raspberries make an amazing red syrup, I added it to make the white frosting pink. The cake loved the idea of being dressed up for the special occasion. Soon the cake with the pink frosting and I were making our way to the park. We sat down on the longest picnic cloth ever seen. We ate a variety of yummy vegan food with the special guest and the other cool people who came along for the fun and festivities.

The sun was shining and people were playing. We tried to wait for our lunch to settle while taking in the pleasing park setting, but cake time could not wait. Pieces were cut for all to enjoy and one little piece even got to sit back and enjoy the day with us.

Luckily the birthday girl, Liz, approved of the cake. And she really isn't a brat or anything. In fact, she volunteers her time for many cool things and has many talents. She is an amazing graphic designer and even donated her skills to Try Vegan Week. I am glad she was born!

Chocolate Decadent Raspberry Cake

1/2 cup Soy Margarine
1 1/2 cups Unrefined Cane Sugar
1/2 cup Silken Tofu, blended
1 1/2 cups Soymilk
2 tsp Vanilla
2 1/2 cups Unbleached White Flour
1/2 cup Cocoa
1 Tb Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
1 cup Raspberries
1/2 cup Chocolate Chips

Cream together the sugar and margarine. Add the tofu and cream some more. Pour in the soymilk and vanilla and mix until smooth.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Pour this into the wet ingredients and mix until half combined. Add the raspberries and chocolate chips and finish mixing, careful not to over mix.

Spread into two 9-inch round cake pans. Bake at 350°F for 30-35 minutes. Middle of cake will spring back when poked.

Pink Raspberry Frosting

1/2 cup Soy Margarine
3 cups Powdered Sugar
2-5 Tb Raspberry Juice

Blend together the margarine and powdered sugar. Add raspberry juice a tablespoon at a time until desired consistency. Make sure cake is cooled completely before spreading on frosting.