Thursday, December 31, 2009

My Top 10 List

Everyone seems to be doing top 10 lists, so I decided to join since it is always good to think of all the notable things from the year passing. I am sure I missed some great stuff but my memory only goes so far and my phone died so I can no longer access my calendar.

10.) Vegan Prom/Try Vegan PDX – Every year, Try Vegan PDX hosts a week of education and fun times encouraging a vegan diet. The classes were well done and the party at the end, the vegan prom, was a blast! Try Vegan PDX is hosting a Vegan in the New Year event this Sunday, January 3rd at 2pm at Peoples Co-Op. Please join!

9.) Juice Cleanse – In February my naturopath suggested I do a juice cleans which I hesitated to do. I was surprised how easy 4 days of just juice was to sustain and was thankful to my friends Deanna for joining me on the fast and Liz for lending me her juicer. I plan to do another one soon.

8.) Mentorship – The girl I have been mentoring for over 6 years graduated from high school and turned 18, all within a few days of each other in June. It is great to see her become a responsible adult and work hard to do something with her life. She has always amazed me with her strength and spirit! As a graduation gift I took her to San Juan Island and we got to kayak, camp, whale watch, pet alpaca and so much more. I love that place!

7.) Everyday Cuteness – My cats Roy and Loki mean the world to me. They are constantly available to be cute or give love or be a pain. Regardless, I am so happy to have them in my life and appreciate them tremendously.

6.) California – I took a trip to California with my friends Deanna and Mark and visited Yosemite, Mono Lake and San Francisco. This was such an amazing trip with the beauty of nature all around us. Mono Lake was a dream it was so astonishing. San Francisco we stayed with my friend Kate and enjoyed the California Science Academy where butterflies can land on you in a three-story simulated rain forest. Truly an experience!

5.) Photo Blog – I finally started a new blog, AnimalKind, focusing on my wildlife photography. I have been enjoying taking photos for a couple years now and even got a new camera this year to help improve my photo quality. It is fun to share my wildlife adventures with others!

4.) Cake – This was the year of cake. My sister does not like cake so I must have taken that trait all to myself since it is my favorite dessert. I made Coconut Cloud Cupcakes for my friend Jenn’s wedding and again for a friend’s house-warming party by request. I appreciate when someone tells me exactly what they want and my friend Liz insisted I make her an Orange Spice Cupcakes for her birthday. My friend Jax requested Carrot Cake and this was my favorite of the year! I also made bundt cake for a neighborhood block party and peppermint cupcakes with chocolate frosting for my family at Christmas; recipe to be posted soon.

3.) The Cove/Sea Lions/Marine Mammals – Marine mammals have been in the news a lot this year. The Cove is a must-see documentary about the Japanese killing dolphins for their meat and it is heart-breaking but important to see. Seals are still killed for their fur in Canada and elsewhere, sea lions are subject to death in the Columbia River for eating fish and a record number of marine mammals have been affected by various human-caused ailments. When in California I visited the Marine Mammal Center who is doing wonders for the animals they can help. The Sea Shepherd Society also has a television series and documentary focusing on stopping the whale hunts every year in the Antarctic.

2.) Going back to school – I decided to change my career and am going to school part time and plan to be a full-time student next fall. Animals have always been my first love, which is why I am vegan. I believe I’m a great cook and plan to still do it a lot, but for a career I am looking at either wildlife sciences (preferably with marine mammals) or an animal rehabilitator. I got an A in my biology class, my first class in over 10 years. I am on my way to new and better things!

1.) Audubon – In the spring, I started to volunteer with the Portland Audubon Wildlife Care Center. The experience has been life changing! I have been able to give fluids to owls, feed red tails, handle northern screech owls, care for swifts, witness necropsies and so much more! This experience has strengthened my resolve to work with wildlife as a career.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Gingerbread Men Veganized

A friend of mine gave me some really cute cookie cutters for gingerbread men for my birthday. I’ve made sugar cookies the last few years and gingerbread years before that, so I was excited for gingerbread men. This base makes a good cookie and allows a good playing ground for decorating the cookies with candy or frosting.

This recipe comes from Joy of Baking and then I veganized it. Veganizing can be so easy! This recipe I simply used vegan margarine instead of butter, switched the white sugar to organic cane sugar and instead of the egg, I used cornstarch and water. Usually only one egg is used for cookie recipes as a binder. Cornstarch and water is a good substitute for this since the starch will work as a binder and the water will replace the liquid from the egg.

Please note, these cookies need 2 hours or overnight to refrigerate in the refrigerator. I forgot and made them late last night and had to wake up early to roll them out and bake them for my co-workers. The funny thing is people keep thinking someone took a bite out of a cookie, until they realize ALL the cookies have a “bite” taken out of them. You can use any cookie cutter for these cookies although gingerbread men are always fun.

Gingerbread Men

3 cups Unbleached White Flour
¼ tsp Sea Salt
¾ tsp Baking Soda
2 tsp Ginger, ground
1 tsp Cinnamon
¼ tsp Nutmeg
¼ tsp Cloves
½ cup Vegan Margarine
½ cup Organic Cane Sugar
1 Tb Cornstarch
3 Tb Water
2/3 cup Molasses

Place the flour, salt, soda and spices in a bowl and whisk to combine. In a separate bowl, cream together the sugar and margarine until smooth. Combine the water and cornstarch in a small bowl and add it to the sugar/margarine mixture along with the molasses and blend until fully incorporated. Slowly add the flour mixture until fully blended. Split the dough in half and wrap in plastic; refrigerate 2 hour or overnight.

After refrigeration, roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to ¼ inch thickness. Use cookie cutters and place on a grease cookie sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes at 350°F. Decorate as desired. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Got any good recipe ideas?

I am taking input! Anyone have some recipes they would like to see on the blog? Please share some recipe ideas to get my creativity going. Thanks!

I am in planning to make Crescent Rolls which are super yummy and a great addition to a holiday meal. For my family’s Christmas dinner this year, I am thinking of making a biscuit-topped pot pie with stuffed mushrooms, salad and dessert. For dessert I am thinking of a peppermint cupcake or a frozen ice cream cake if I can find a good vegan peppermint ice cream. Gingerbread men will be baked as well since I got some fabulous gingerbread men cookie cutters, with a twist, for my birthday.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

White Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie

It's my birthday! At my work we have a policy we have to bring in our own birthday treat, which I think was created because they didn't know how to buy or make vegan cake for me. Not everyone like cake either, so some birthdays we get a unique display of food to share.

This year I did not have too much time and had just bought some White Chocolate Peanut Butter and remembered making a yummy peanut butter pie in the past, so I decided to recreate this tasty treat with some modifications. My co-workers love it!

White Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie

3/4 cup White Chocolate Peanut Butter
1 1/2 - 12.3 oz package of Mori-Nu Silken Tofu (Extra Firm)
1/2 cup Organic Cane Sugar
2 tsp Vanilla

Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth and creamy.

Pie Crust

2 cups ground Sugar Cookies
1 Tb Cornstarch
2 Tb Earth Balance Margarine, melted
3-5 Tb Almond Milk

Combine the ground cookies and cornstarch. Pour in the melted margarine and combine it with the dry ingredients using a fork. Add the almond milk a tablespoon at a time until the consistency is not wet, but when pressed together it sticks together.

Pour the pie crust "dough" into a greased pie pan. Press the crust into the sides, turning the pie pan to cover all sides. With the left over crust, press it into the bottom of the pie pan. Pour the pie filling into the center and spread evenly with a spatula. Place in the refrigerator overnight.

Optional Topping:

1 cup vegan White Chocolate Chips*
1 Tb Earth Balance Margarine
2 Tb Almond Milk

Melt the ingredient over medium-low heat. Whisk together when melted until smooth. The white chocolate chips take away to cook down, so patience will be needed. Pour over pie filling and refrigerate overnight.

*Vegan white whocolate whips can be found at Food Fight! in Portland, otherwise, vegan regular chocolate chips can be used instead. Regular peanut butter can replace the white chocolate peanut butter as well.