Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A look back...

2008 was a year of many changes for me including meeting a new group of friends and creating this blog which I am truly enjoying. Here are some of my favorite memories from the year I wanted to share.

In March I went to some Treehouses in southern Oregon for my friend Deanna's birthday. I hardly knew her then but decided it could be fun. Now I am good friends with her and many others from that weekend. I was also proud of myself for going on the wobbly bridges between the treehouses since I am afraid of heights.

I have started a tradition of visiting a friend in San Francisco every spring. This year I took the Amtrak down since I didn’t want to drive myself and I don’t fly. We ate some great food, had a little vegan ice cream cake every day, walked down to the beach and went paddle boating in Golden Gate Park. We saw lots of turtles, ducks and even baby Grebes!

The weekend of 4th of July I went camping with some friends. As we were on a walk, I started to feel the heat and decided to turn back. On my way to the river to cool down, I spotted an adorable little spider who I nicknamed Spike. I have never found a spider to have so much personality and cuteness before. I talk of him often.

Later that month I went camping with the girl I mentor to Clear Lake. The beauty of this lake is worth mentioning a second time and I definitely want to go back! The morning that we left, we made record time packing up and leaving. The moment we got out of the tent, mosquitoes started their attack so we ran. So bring very good bug repellant when you visit this place.

I visited Lighthouse Farm Sanctuary for the first time this fall. The people who run this place or so kind and the animals seem so happy. There was a donkey who stole my heart cause he was so sweet and got jealous when I tried to say hello to others. The goats were friendly and were very photogenic. Of course the pigmy goats didn't want to have anything to do with us which was a crime since they were so cute. It was great meeting all the critters and I look forward to going to another volunteer work party.

In the fall I was on a bike ride with some friends and suggested we stop by the Rhododendron Gardens which is my favorite place in Portland. I go there all the time and take pictures, visit with the water birds, rats and squirrels. Sometimes you can even get a glimpse at a blue heron, but they tend to be very shy.

This visit I saw a blue billed duck which I remembered to be a Ruddy Duck. I had seen them in pictures but never in person. I was so excited I could hardly contain myself! I didn’t have my camera with me so I made a special trip back the next day and got some pics.

I want to pick a favorite recipe for the year to feature but this is such a hard thing to do. I love so many of my recipes and have so many more to share. I did decide on my Vegan Joys though. They are unique and tasty and you can play with the recipe to make them your own. You can add nuts of any type, use sweet potato instead of regular mashed potato for a different look, or whatever else you can think of. You could also make this in a square dish instead of making balls and just cover the coconut mixture with the melted chocolate and refrigerate.

Thanks for all the people who have visited my blog this year! Next year I have in the works Buffalo Tofu Sticks, Lime Melt-Aways, Pecan Squares, Twix Cut-outs, Creamy Red Pepper Sauce, Pizza Rolls and so much more!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


We have at least one foot of snow in Portland!  I grew up near here and this is the most snow I have ever seen.  It is a novelty for me so parts of me are really enjoying this, although parts are ready for the roads to be clear to drive.  I took the above photo when I thought the snow had stopped and now this angel figurine is completely covered.  The morning of all that extra snow, I went outside and stood in front of my yard and just fell backwards, letting the snow catch my fall.  It was tons of fun and I repeated falling into the snow another three times.  It was a once in a lifetime opportunity since I don't know if I'll ever see this amount of snow again.

Chocolate Oat Thumbprints

1/2 cup Soy Margarine
1/2 cup Organic Brown Sugar
2 Tb. Soymilk
1 cup Unbleached White Flour
1/2 cup Quick Oats
1/4 tsp Salt
60 Chocolate Chips

Cream together the soy margarine and brown sugar.  Add the soymilk and blend until fully combined.  Add the flour, oats and salt and mix until just combined.  Form into 1 1/2 inch round balls and place on greased cookie sheet.  With the palm of your hand, flatten the cookies slightly.  Use your thumb to make holes in the middle of the cookies.  Place 5 chocolate chips in each cookie.  Bake at 350ºF for 15-18 minutes.  When cookies come out of the oven, use a small spoon to swirl the chocolate to a smooth consistency, or leave the shape of chocolate chips.  Makes 12 cookies.

Marionberry Thumbprints

1/2 cup Soy Margarine
1/2 cup Organic Brown Sugar
1/4 cup Soymilk
1 1/4 cups Unbleached White Flour
1/4 tsp Salt
1/3 cup Marionberry Preserve or Jam

Cream together the soy margarine and brown sugar.  Add the soymilk and blend until fully combined.  Add the flour and salt and mix until just combined.  Form into 1 1/2 inch balls and place on a greased cookie sheet.  With the palm of your hand, flatten the cookies slightly.  Use your thumb to make holes in the middle of the cookies and fill with the marionberry preserve.  Bake at 350ºF for 15-18 minutes.  Makes 12 cookies.

Hope everyones holidays are filled with laughter and joy!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

'Tis the Season for Rosemary

Today I found out my nephew did a super considerate thing. In one of his classes, they made pie. He wanted me and my sister to be able to eat it so he asked the teacher if he could make it different. He left out the milk the recipe called for an just used water instead. For a pie crust, this should work great. I often find myself around people who know I am vegan but do not make an effort to make sure I can eat what they bring to share with people. It is great to see my nephew already being so thoughtful of others. Now when I visit him and other family members at Christmas, I'll be able to try this fabulous pie.

On a completely different note, I love rosemary. I received the perfect culinary christmas tree as a gift from a friend. I decorated it with tiny ornaments and it is now resting in my livingroom brightening up the atmosphere and contributing a great smell to the area. Now I can make this savory tofu squares recipe anytime since I now have fresh rosemary growing in my house. The recipe is very versatile and the herbs give it a unique flavor that works just right. The tofu is a perfect topping for pizza, can be used in sandwiches or wraps, in burritos and so much more. I hope you find more unique ways to use this as well.

Savory Tofu Squares

2 oz. Tofu, diced
1 tsp Olive oil
1/2 tsp thyme
1.2 tsp Rosemary
1/4 tsp garlic Granules
1 Tb Braggs liquid aminos

Fry tofu in the oil until brown on medium heat. Add the rosemary, thyme and garlic and cook an additional minute. Add the Braggs and cook until all the liquid is absorbed. Use as desired.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Snow Angels and Cookies

Today I was so thrilled to see snow falling to the valley floor.  In Oregon, we only get a good snowfall once every few years and I still hold the childhood excitement for the white stuff.  I woke up earlier than I would have liked and have been thinking about taking a nap all day, but who can sleep when there is snow to play in.  So instead I wrapped some presents, watched a movie, made a sad attempt to make a snow man, and made cookies.

Being a caretaker of two adorable kitties, my first mission was to take photos of the cats in the snow.  Roy was hesitant at first but then adventured out and enjoyed the day, for about 10 minutes at least.  That is all he could handle.  

Loki was a way more apprehensive.  He did not like the snow and did not want anything to do with it.  You could see from his face that he was perturbed about the situation, but that didn't take away from him being so cute.  He has such fluffy fur and it was puffed out for the perfect photo opportunity.  They are my two snow angels.

Cream Cheese-Lemon Snow Cookies

1/2 cup Soy Margarine
4 oz. Tofutti Cream Cheese
1 cup Organic Unrefined Cane Sugar
2 Tb Lemon Juice
2 cups Unbleached White Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
1/2 cup Powdered Sugar

Cream together the margarine and non-dairy cream cheese.  Add the sugar and cream until smooth.  Blend in the lemon juice until it is fully incorporated.  In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt.  Add the dry ingredient into the wet and blend until just combined, careful not to over mix.  

Place by 1-inch round balls onto a greased cookie sheet.  Flatten the dough and scrape the top with a fork to make etchings on the top of the cookie.  Bake at 375ºF for 10 minutes.  Allow to cool a few minutes.  In a small bowl, pour the powdered sugar.  Take a cookie and place it top down into the powdered sugar.  Make sure the sugar covers the top of the cookie with a light layer.  Repeat this step with the rest of the cookies.  If you have a sifter, you can simply sift the powdered sugar onto the cookies.  Makes about 20 cookies.

Friday, December 12, 2008

A quick plug for the holidays.

In case you are wondering last second what to get friends and family for the holidays, let me point you in the direction of my friends' etsy pages. PonyBoy Press offers a unique selection of cards, buttons, notebooks and so much more. RadBean has an amazing assortment of jewelry sure to please. Remember this holiday season to support smaller businesses as much as possible. During these hard economic times, the dollars you spend really makes a difference to individual people.

If you love the fun of making and decorating sugar cookies this holiday season, don't forget my recipe. You can use all sorts of cookie cutters and simple frosting for decorations. Try using some raspberry juice to color your frosting for a natural and pretty pink.

I just read how you can adopt ocean animals, including sharks, from Oceana and you get a cookie cutter with the donation! This would make a great gift idea and is only one of many adopt-an-animal organizations which help animals all over the world. I am wanting to adopt an orca from The Whale Museum and eventually will.

I got to visit with the J pod a few years ago while floating on a kayak and it was truly spectacular! From the photos I took, you can even identify the orcas who graced me with their presence. Granny swam past me and after I identified her I realized she is over 80 years old! Slick breached fairly close to my kayak and I was lucky enough to get a photo. This was off San Juan Island and I want to go back so bad. Hopefully I'll make it there for a visit next year.
This month I hope to do a lot of playing with cookie recipes, so stay tuned for some great recipes!

Friday, December 5, 2008

A sad story I have to share

For some reason I decided to take advantage of the zoo's free admission on Thanksgiving day. It is not that I wanted to see all the animals and how cute they are and how amazing different species are. If I had gone for those reasons, I probably would have been even more surprised than I was. I hate zoos. I feel they are simply holding animals captive in depressing conditions. I do not believe they help endangered species and I question whether they really teach anyone about animals and the threat of extinction. How can you learn about respect for a species when you see the sadness in their eyes, or see they can not spread their wings or find the form of freedom they crave? I did not see one animal which seemed to have adequate space or an appropriate environment. The majority of the animals lived in cement prisons, how is this anything like what they would find in nature?

Like most humans, I related the most to the various primates they had caged up. I don't care what other people say, you can see the sadness in their faces, in their eyes. They seem so defeated. I have seen that look before. I knew a dog named Spuds who lived his life chained up in a back yard. I knew him for a short while when he lived as a dog should, in a home where he was fed well and had others to play with and care for him. Then he was taken away to the chains. All the life in his eyes disappeared. I cried every time I saw him. One day I found a way to rescue him. After I did so, the life came back to his eyes and he was the sweetest dog I have ever known. I wish I could find a way out for these other animals.

When my eyes came upon the chimpanzees I almost lost it. One of them was by the glass pane, his back mostly facing me. He was hardly moving and when he did, the movements were very slow. I could tell right away that things were not right. A stupid little boy next to the glass started to taunt him; someone else was taking photos with a flash. Both of these things were disturbing the chimpanzee greatly, and no one seemed to care or notice. I started to say out loud to my friend, "I can't believe these people can't see the pain and suffering these animals are going through. It is so sad. It is unbelievable". I doubt anyone really heard or got it. Years ago I learned a hard lesson about what goes on behind closed doors.

The animal rights group I worked for was able to get a tour of the animal facility at University of Oregon . Professors there do pointless research on rats, owls, rabbits, rhesus monkeys and other animals. After a high profile break-in during the 80s, a professor switched from using kittens and cats to rats, thinking the public would be more accepting of the killing of those animals. The stories of what happened to those cats were heart-breaking. The idea of this now happening to rats, who are one of my favorite animals, is maddening. I read about it through some court documents. I cried often during those times, learning the truth about closed doors and what happens when you are not looking.

So on this animal facility tour, we basically witnessed the animals currently being used and housed at the university. The head of the animal facility tried to talk about how well these animals were cared for and how clean the facility was. There was a lot of heartbreak for me that day, but when I saw the rhesus monkeys my heart stopped. I couldn't see one of them, but the other two were visible. One was going crazy in his cage. He would look at us and freak out, then cower in a corner. He kept repeating this behavior the whole time we looked in the room. Another monkey just looked at me. You could read her eyes. She was so unhappy. She was looking for help and all I could do was go to the next room to witness the room full of animals.

Two years later I was talking with someone who was involved in the law school's animal rights group and who had just gone on the same tour I had previously. I had not told her my experiences and she started to describe what she went through. Everything was the same. And then she got to the part where she saw the Rhesus monkeys. She told the same story I did. I started to cry. Every single day, this is what the monkeys are going through, whether we are on tour or not. The fact we witnessed the exact same behavior showed me they had no escape from their captive, tortured lives.

This is true for the zoo animals as well. As stupid families allow themselves to be herded through the zoo paths, they are unaware that these animals are unhappy every single day of their existences and those families are responsible for this torture. Their admission to the zoo pay for this industry where these animals are bred and sold to the highest bidder, not for the sake of saving any species. Thanks for listening. Sorry to share that. But it is important. I was their witness and I had to share their stories. We need to care about the zoo animals, about the animals used in animal research, and the animals we see in our lives who are not being treated properly. We cannot always do anything to help these animals directly, but there is always something you can do to help animals in general. Please do. We have that freedom.

Here is a link to Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest. Read the positive stories of chimpanzees getting a second chance and donate if you are able.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

My Birthday - I'm eating cheesecake!

Today is my 33rd birthday.  At my work we bring in what we want to share on our day.  I was about to bring a cake, then realized I hadn't had cheesecake in a long time and that sounded really tasted.  Everyone in the office loved it!  I'm off to celebrate the rest of my day.  Enjoy!

Vegan Cheesecake

2 - 8 oz containers Tofutti Cream Cheese
1 - 12.3 oz pkg Silken Tofu
3/4 cup Organic Cane Sugar
1/4 cup Cornstarch
1 tsp Vanilla

Blend all ingredients in a food processor or blender.  Pour into prepared pie shell (or make you own) and bake at 350ºF for 50 minutes.  Cool overnight.  When making your own pie crust, you can shape the crust to a 9-inch cake pan instead of a pie plate to get a more traditional cheesecake appearance.

Make Your Own Pie Crust:  I simply baked some sugar cookies, let them cool, then ground them in my food processor.  I then added some melted margarine and soy milk to get the cookie crumbs to a consistency to stick to the pan.   You can also do the same with other cookies, graham crackers or Almond Meal.

Cherry Topping

10 oz Cherries, frozen
1/3 cup Organic Cane Sugar
1 tsp Lemon Juice
1 Tb Cornstarch.

Heat cherries, sugar and lemon juice in a sauce pan.  When cherries have defrosted and sugar is dissolved, add the cornstarch and stir in.  Continue to heat until thickened.  Pour over cheesecake and cool as directed.