My Snowy Weekend In Pictures

I realize that there have been oh-so-many posts about the wacky winter weather we’ve all been having this year, but here’s one more for you, anyway.  I had to write it, as it includes my VERY FIRST SNOW DAY!  Exciting, right?

RIGHT?!

Totally.

As you may recall, I live in Portland, OR and I’m originally from Phoenix, AZ.  My geography has left my exposure to snowy conditions quite rare and I have never in my life had an official snow day.  On Thursday, however, the snow started to fall and I headed out of work a few hours early – knowing it was going to wreak havoc on my bus ride back across the Willamette River.  By Friday morning, the snow was starting to accumulate and it wasn’t letting up.  I was thankful to the powers that be whom opted to close down my office for the day, thus letting my snow day began!  Snowlandia continued throughout the weekend – culminating in thick, dense layers of ice which starting FALLING FROM THE SKY (or, you know, tree tops and buildings and such).

It’s all been very eventful.  Here’s a peek:

I’ve always wanted to make a snow angel and finally got my opportunity on Thursday evening!  My first one ever:

snow angel collage

On Friday (my official snow day from work) the weather compelled me to spend time in the kitchen.  I drank lots of coffee and baked this vegan, gluten free chocolate chip banana bread from The Healthy Maven, which was absolutely delicious:

Slice with mug - edited

I did some running on the treadmill throughout the weekend, because in all honesty, running in the snow was a bit confounding to me.  I know people do it, but how, exactly?  I found myself feeling cooped up, though, and headed out for a couple of walks over the course of the weekend.  It was gorgeous!

Snowlandia 2014 - collage

I stopped for a few snow selfies along the way (and, yes, this IS the first time I’ve actually used the term selfie in regards to any photos of myself – another first!):

Day 3 - Snow Selfie 4 - edited

How was your weekend?  Any snow-filled festivities come your way?

My Birthday Weekend In Pictures

On Friday I turned 33.

I’m pleased to say that my (usual) birthday anxiety this year was fairly minimal, so I was able to enjoy it mostly stress free.

I took the day off work and enjoyed a (well earned) long weekend.  It was three days filled with amazing food, good people, and fun outings.

Since everyone else was at work on Friday, I enjoyed a leisurely day about town on my own.  It started with a morning run (of course) and then I headed to one of my favorite breakfast spots, the AND Cafe, for an absolutely delicious vegan, gluten free waffle covered with mushroom-dill gravy and savory tofu.  I scored a deeply discounted frock at J. Crew and returned home in time to rest up before heading back out with Mr. Move Eat Create and a good friend to catch The Pet Shop Boys in concert at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.Friday Collage

When I returned home, the night was finished off with birthday cake!  If you’re ever in Portland, by the way, do yourself a favor and pay a visit to Back to Eden Bakery.  This 100% plant-based, gluten free bakery is amazingly delicious and my toasted hazelnut cake with vanilla bean frosting was so good I can’t even do it justice.

Outside - edited

Saturday was an absolutely beautiful day for my weekly long run (15 miles this week).  Coffee and my favorite oatmeal from Harlow re-fueled me afterwards.  Enjoyed along with a good book to read over breakfast, I couldn’t have asked for a better start to the day.

Oatmeal and book - edited

Saturday evening was my official birthday dinner at Portobello, my favorite place in town for an upscale, yet relaxed meal.  My delectable (vegan, gluten free) feast included an appetizer of pommes frites, a couple of whiskey drinks, the first pizza I’ve had in months, and a salted caramel hot fudge sundae.  In my excitement to eat it, I forgot to take a picture of the sundae!  You’ll have to take my word for it that it was beautiful and amazingly tasty.

What a meal!

Oh, and of course there was presents!  Here are a few of them.  Can you tell I’m a reader?

A few of my gifts.  Can you tell I'm a reader?

I wish I could do it all over again.  Here’s to another year!

My Saturday Food Spectacular: Portland VegFest and A Night Out at Blossoming Lotus (Or: Oh My Goodness, I Ate Too Much Delicious Food!)

Let’s talk about the day o’ so much food, shall we?

I’m usually pretty regimented with my eating schedule.  I have a routine and it works well for me.  But this past Saturday ended up hosting a confluence of events that led to a very, VERY full day of eating.  Though I’m not complaining, as all day long I was fortunate to be faced with delicious (and healthy!) food events.

After my standard post-long run meal, I decided to check out the 2012 Portland VegFest.  Touted as being “Portland’s largest plant-based food event”, I figured I’d go and see what the event had to offer.  Tickets were affordable and I was pretty sure that I’d make up for the cost of said ticket with all the free food I would sample.  And, I was definitely right!

The two-day expo featured many events (speakers, video screenings, etc), but I just went to wander around and check out the vendors.  There were dozens and dozens of them and it ended up being quite an enjoyable experience.  I sampled salsa and hummus and ‘cheese’cake and veggie hot dogs and coffee and Chinese food and cookies and spicy peas and carrots and so much more. Oh, and chocolate.   Then more chocolate.   And, still MORE chocolate.  Seriously, the amount of chocolate was sort of obscene.  I am thankful the samples were small so that I could try so many different kinds before I felt like I might truly burst!

I would have liked to hang out to hear some of the talks being given, but I had to keep moving through my food-filled day.

Some of my favorite samples from VegFest – Chinese food!

I had to go home and bake.  My friend had a birthday to celebrate and cake needed to be made!  I will be posting about this cake later in the week, so stay tuned because this cake was good, you all.  Like, surprisingly good.  Pineapple.  Banana.  Cream cheese frosting.  Oh . . . yes.

Since it was my friend’s birthday, there also had to be a birthday dinner, right?  And drinks?  Of course!

A pre-dinner stop at The Woodsman Tavern provided one of the best mixed drinks I’ve had in quite some time.  Thank you, bartender, for opening my eyes to how wonderful honey is added to bourbon.  I had no idea.

Dinner found us at Blossoming Lotus.  Though I’ve lived in Portland for over three years now, I had not been to this little vegan-wonder.  I am regretful that it took me so long.  I ordered the Vindaloo Masala.  Vindaloo being one of my favorite sauces in the world already, I was looking forward to this dish.  What I didn’t know was that I would discover something they call ‘panisse cakes’ – little fried squares of chickpea flour and spring onions.  I’m not sure exactly how they made these so damn delicious, but they were like bites of pure amazing-ness.  So, so, so good.  I want more.

Now.

Sigh.

Anyway, what a food adventure my weekend was!  One of the most remarkable things that I noticed afterwards was how good I felt, even though I indulged so much.  There was a time when food indulgence like this would have meant eating food that was greasy, filled with refined sugar and overly-processed.  While I would have enjoyed it in the moment, I most assuredly would have felt terrible afterwards -physically and mentally.  This time around, though, it was quite different.  While I certainly won’t be eating so decadently (and so much) often, everything I consumed was relatively healthy.  It was natural.  It was real food.   And neither my body nor my mind is one bit upset about it the day after.  What a difference a food-lifestyle makeover can make!

My Weekend In Pictures

My new flex schedule at work provides me with three day weekends twice a month.  I’m loving the extra time and here’s some evidence to prove it!

A lovely little tea service.  Followed by a delicious cucumber sandwich.

Working fast to get caught up with my fellow knit-a-longers on the Holla Back Tank.

Time spent in the kitchen for blueberry jam and plum muffins (recipes to be posted soon).

A trip to the Farmer’s Market.

And an evening chopping veggies for Samosa Wraps.

Plus, a great long run and ordering yarn for another knit-a-long (more on that to come)!

A Tart and A Cocktail: Two Springtime Recipes

Before I get into the heart of this post, I must confess that I cheated.  You see, I wanted to make a tart.  A homemade tart seemed like such a culinary feat.  I’ve never made such a thing before and I came across a recipe that looked too delicious to pass up.

But, I cheated.  I looked at the recipe, made my grocery list, went to the store, and then promptly bought a pre-made pie crust instead of the ingredients I would need to make my own.

I am a tart-making cheater.

But, let me tell you something else.  .  .  . I don’t think I care.

I mean, I love to cook.  I like to bake.  But, I don’t like making fussy things that require lots of kneading and rolling.  It’s just not what I’m cut out for.  Maybe one day when I get a Kitchenaid mixer things will be different, but for now, I’ll leave my kneading to the professionals at Pillsbury.

So there it is.  Now that we’ve got that awkward confession out on the table, take a look at this tart.

The recipe comes from Vegetarian Times and it was fantastic.  The rhubarb filling, fresh strawberries, and apricot cream (not pictured above) were each delicious on their own, but combined, they created a hybrid of sweet and tangy that was even more delightful then I had anticipated.

I was a bit nervous about making it, though really with the pie crust made for me, it was a pretty simple process.  The rhubarb cooked down nicely, melting into the sugar and orange juice to create a thick base for the strawberries that were to be nestled on top of it.  The apricot cream could not have been simpler to make and, quite honestly, it is something that I believe I will make again and again to dollop onto any number of things (scones come to mind).  The cream is delicious and adds a somewhat decadent quality when spooned onto the humble tart.

I highly recommend making this for yourself – especially during the few short weeks when rhubarb is at its peak.   The recipe follows this post with a few notes to aid you along the way.

Now, as for the cocktail I mentioned.  Remember the rhubarb liqueur I put together a few weeks ago?  Well, the time had come to finish it up this weekend!  Woo-hoo!  After straining it, I set to work on the very important decision making process regarding what I would do to test it out.  I decided to go with one of my most favorite cocktails and put a spin on it.  Hence, the Gin Daisy with Rhubarb Liqueur was born.

A Gin Daisy is a no-fail drink in my book.  First of all, its primary component is gin – the greatest of all liquors.  That’s right – I am declaring this to be true.  If you haven’t come around to gin yet, consider giving it a try.  If you’re new to the world of gin, I recommend starting with a good, solid London dry gin (such as Broker’s or Beefeater).  If you want to be a bit more adventurous, whip up a cucumber martini with Hendrick’s or try some Aviation – both of which have their own distinct gin flavors. 

But I digress, back to the Gin Daisy.  I am not a fan of very sweet drinks, so the Gin Daisy is perfect really.  It is traditionally made with gin, lemon juice, and grenadine.  The grenadine gives it a hint of sweetness, but the lemon juice adds a bit of sour that I crave.  To test out my rhubarb liqueur, I simply replaced the grenadine with the liqueur.  It was wonderful.  The effect was a refreshing, smooth, summery cocktail with a unique twist from the rhubarb flavor.

Following up my Saturday night dinner with this cocktail and a slice of this tart, definitely made for an enjoyable evening.  If you give either a try let me know what you think!

************************************************************************************************

The Tart:

Strawberry Rhubarb-Tart with Apricot Cream

Just slightly adapted from Vegetarian Times (click through to link above for original recipe)

For the Crust:

1 refrigerated, store-bought pie crust (12-inch if you can find it – I could only find 9 inch, so I had extra filling which I will use on top of frozen yogurt)

For the Filling (Again, this makes enough for a 12-inch tart.  You can scale back for an 8 or 9 inch or save the extra for other uses):

1 cup sugar

2 lbs fresh or frozen rhubarb

4 Tblspns fresh orange juice

1 Tblspn fresh orange zest

1.5 lbs strawberries

For the Apricot Cream:

1 cup all-fruit apricot jam

12 oz non-fat plain Greek yogurt

Directions:

1. Bake pie crust according to package directions.  Set aside to cool.

2. Chop rhubarb into small slices, about 1/4 inch thick.  Combine rhubarb, sugar, orange juice, and orange zest in a large sauce pan.  Bring mixture to a simmer, stirring frequently.  The rhubarb should start to release it’s juices.  Once simmering, reduce heat to low and continue to simmer, stirring frequently, until the rhubarb breaks down and a thick, jam-like consistency is created (about 30-40 minutes).  Transfer mixture to a bowl and let cool.

3.  Once the pie crust and the rhubarb mixture have cooled, it’s time to prepare the tart.  Spread rhubarb mixture evenly into the pie.  Then, top with strawberries.  Cut the tops off of the strawberries and stand them up on their flat ends or cut them in two and lay them flat if you prefer.  Pack them in tight so the entire center of the tart is covered.

4. To prepare the apricot cream, melt the jam in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Once the jam has broken down and is smooth, remove from heat.  Brush the edge of the pie crust and the strawberries with the melted jam.  Put the remaining melted jam in a bowl to cool.  Once cooled, stir into the yogurt and mix well.  Dollop cream onto tart slices when serving.

The Cocktail:

Gin Daisy

Ingredients:

2.5 oz gin

1 tblspn rhubarb liqueur (or grenadine if making the traditional recipe)

1 tblspn freshly squeezed lemon juice

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker, filled 2/3 full with ice cubes.  Shake vigorously.  Strain (preferably into a chilled martini glass).  Serve with a lemon twist.