Vegan challenge: Owned it!

(Sorry for the shady picture…bad lighting in my kitchen.  Bad camera too for that matter.)

I have some friends here in Newberg.  Lovely friends.  Friends that love to come over for dinner.  3 that came over on Sunday night:  two of which are vegan and one that has never eaten a meal void of meat or animal products in his entire life (“I’m from Alaska!  So sue me!”).  In fact, he considers the meat-free lifestyle paganism and have dubbed all who adhere to it as “vagans” (lovingly, of course).  When these friends all come for dinner together, it’s game on for me in the kitchen.  What can I make that is animal free yet hearty, satisfying, and makes the carnivores forget that they just went vegan…ahem, vagan?

Well, I have to say that I think I nailed this one.  I pulled together some of my favorite winter ingredients and had this simple yet delicious meal on the table in less than an hour.  The vegans were happy campers, and the carnivore was (not at all) speechless with how tasty the meal was!  His comment might be one of the greatest compliments any foodista could receive.  As he ate, he spoke like a sassy, well-please food critic.  And I quote…

*VIEWER DISCRETION IS ADVISED: The following content may not be suitable for readers until 12 years old.  Food porn up ahead…

“It’s like the kale and the quinoa are headed to a cheap motel room to get it on, and the butternut squash is the “sweet, innocent” cleaning lady who comes to “clean the room” but ends up in the middle of it all! Menage a trois, anyone? And the chickpeas get called in to break it all up, then end up joining it! The ‘icing on the cake,’ if you will, is the avocado, who ends up video-taping it all.  STEAMY!!”  -Robert Hall, ladies and gentlemen.

We all agreed that the tang of the raw kale was beautifully offset by the sweetness of the butternut squash.  The nuttiness of the of the quinoa, tahini, and chickpeas rounded it all out nicely.  And the avocado on top?  Well, that was just to continue the green from the bed of kale, but was like putting a pad of butter on a baked potato…simply perfect.  Bon appetit!

Roasted Butternut Squash and Chickpea Salad (adapted from Smitten Kitchen) on a bed of Raw Kale and Quinoa.

For the salad:
1 large butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2″ pieces
2 medium garlic cloves
1/2 tsp ground allspice
drizzle of olive oil (enough to coat the squash)
s/p
1 15oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/4 medium red onion, minced
1 handful fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
1/2 ripe avocado, cut into long slices

For the dressing:
1-2 medium cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 c lemon juice
4 heaping tbsp well-stirred tahini
2 tsp water
2 tbsp olive oil (more to taste)

For the quinoa:
1 cup quinoa (rinsed)
2 cups veggie broth

For the kale:
1 bunch curly kale, washed, stems removed, and torn into bit size pieces
pinch of salt
drizzle of tahini dressing
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

Method:

Preheat oven to 425°F
In a large bowl, combine squash, oil, garlic, allspice, and pinch of s/p until squash is coated.  Transfer to rimmed baking sheet and roast for 25 minutes, stirring once, or until soft and golden brown.  Remove from oven and cool.

Meanwhile, make the dressing: in a bowl, whisk together lemon juice and garlic.  Add in tahini and whisk away.  Add in the water and olive oil and season to taste.  You may need to add a bit more oil or water to thin it out.

While the squash is cooling, make the quinoa.  In a medium sauce pan, bring quinoa and broth to a boil.  Cover and simmer on medium-low for 15 minutes or until water is absorbed and quinoa can be fluffed with a fork.

Place kale in a large bowl.  Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and start massaging the leaves to sweat them.  They should look shiny and soft.  Toss with apple cider vinegar and a good drizzle of tahini dressing.  Set aside.

Once squash has cooled a bit, combine with chickpeas, cilantro (save a tbsp or so for garnish), red onions, and dressing.  Start with just a spoonful of dressing and add more until squash is coating to your liking.  (If you have leftovers, adding the rest of the dressing the next day is the best).

Plating:

In wide shallow bowls (if you have them.  Plates work fine too) make a bed with the kale, and place one serving of quinoa on top.  With a large spoon, pile a heap of squash salad on top of quinoa.  Garnish with slices of avocado, a small dollop of tahini, and a sprinkle of cilantro.  Serve to your guest and let the compliments start coming.

*Suggested wine pairing: Oregon Chardonnay or Pinot Blanc.

Your mouth might not water with this post, but your hunger for the Great Outdoors might start growling.  I spent Friday and Saturday in the Mt. Hood wilderness with my dear friends Crystal and Michael Lary.  They rented the Clear Lake Lookout Tower and invited me to come along.  We clipped in to some cross country skis, loaded our packs with snow clothes, books, food and wine, and headed out early Friday morning to relax for the weekend.

And relax we did.  Once we got up to the tower, we sat around in our sweats, drank red wine, snacked on Trader Joe’s goodies, played Gin Rummy, read poems and Portland Mercury Reader Valentine’s and journal entries from past guests of the tower, took naps, and worried about absolutely nothing.

I didn’t shower for days.  Didn’t do my hair.  Didn’t wash my face.  Didn’t put on a layer of makeup.  Didn’t stare at my closest wondering what outfit would look good.  I didn’t even look at my reflection the entire time I was up there.  And I felt sexy every minute of it.

I feel sexier covered in Mother Nature and fleece than I do covered in makeup and trendy clothes.

There is something to be said about not being concerned with reflection, appearance, or other people.  I felt better about myself this weekend than I have in months.  I was able to get back to my roots, to nature, to my bare bones face and body, and it brought such freedom and peace.  I know I had some zits on my chin caused by some dairy I ate but I didn’t see them so I didn’t care.  I know my hair was disheveled because of my headband but so was Crystal’s and we didn’t care.  I know my skin glowed pasty white when we sat in front of the sun-warmed window but I paid no attention.  It was so liberating and so wonderful.  I’ll take a weekend in a lookout tower over a resort vacation any day.

Heading up to Clear Lake Butte

Cold weather makes for runny noses.  Good thing Crystal’s glove has a nose wiper!  They’ve thought of everything!

The snow sparkle made the most beautiful winter wonderland.

Our home for the night!  Just wait til you see the view from the top…

Not bad huh?  Mt. Hood and Clear Lake to the north…

And Mt. Jefferson to the south.  And some David Hill Farmhouse Red, compliments of some club members at the winery I’ve been working at.  Thanks Carrie and Patrick!  We loved it :)

Talk about a romantic candle lit dinner ;)   We ate til our hearts content then played some good old games.  Crystal is a whiz at Hangman and Michael is cunning at Gin Rimmy.  He sure was pushing my buttons during the game.

All good things have to end right?  Goodbye Clear Lake!  We’ll see you again.  A long, steady uphill trek on the way out.

That beer in ounces was probably more than Crystal’s body weight in pounds!  XC skiing is hard work so we treated ourselves to beer and burgers at Calamity Jane’s in Sandy.  I haven’t hard a burger is FOREVER and it was SO worth it.

Long story short, I felt sexy on Valentine’s Day weekend and I’m taking that with me through the week.

(Photo taked by the lovely Kari Ray)

A couple weeks ago I somehow managed to finagle my way into a recipe swap with some fantastic food bloggers.   For those of your who are unfamiliar with what a recipe swap it, it’s nothing like a clothing swap, because we aren’t actually trading old recipes.  This recipe swap is all about reinventing and recreating.  Let me explain: CM from Burwell General Store found a great old cookbook at a swap meet in LA with some classic old recipes in it.  She had an idea to reinterpret some of these recipes and got a couple other food bloggers on board.  It started with Miss Rosemarried herself, Lindsay, then Toni of Boulder Locavore hopped on board, and now it’s grown to 7.  Our job is to recreate the recipe, changing at least 3 key components of the original, but still keeping with the essence of it.  We have 3 weeks or so to think, dream, test, taste, photograph, and write about our recreations. At first, I felt like a very little fish swimming in a very large pond.  But with determination, I puffed up my gills and decided to swim strong with the big fish.  Challenges are scary and I wasn’t sure I had it in me, but if I want to become a better cook, I have to step up to plate and take a risk.  So here I go!

In honor of Valentine’s Day, Miss CM picked a pastry recipe:
“Company Time” Lemon Cake:

Oooooh boy…baking.  Haven’t done much of it since I got diagnosed with type 1 diabetes nearly 3 years ago.  I’ve done even less since finding out I have a gluten and dairy allergy.  That’s a one/two punch if you ask me.  But lo and behold, there are ways to get around the blood sugar spikes and sluggishness that come along with white sugar and wheat flour.  I just had to find out how.

This challenge kept me up one night because I had so many ideas.  I wanted to keep it gluten free and use some sort of white sugar alternative (read: NATURAL sugar substitute.  Just say no to Splenda, etc).  I also wanted to add an Oregon wine component to it.  All seven of us have a unique stamp on our cooking: Toni isn’t call Boulder Locavore for nothing.  Nay and Lindsay are seasonal, local, farmers market going gals.  Dennis is Mr. Italiano.  Christianna is butter and sugar and French inspired all the time.  So  with some help from my fellow recipe swappers and (BIG shout out to) Karen from Dessert Labs gluten free bakery here in Portland (she started following me on Twitter right when we started this recipe swap. It was meant to be), I narrowed it down and here you have it:

Gluten Free Lemon Poppy Seed Angel Food Cake with an Oregon Pinot Gris Glaze

Ingredients (mostly in gram measurements for precision.  Best to use an electronic food scale.  I’ll give you some approximations):

Cake:

400g (≈13) egg whites
200g (≈1.5 cups) Coconut Palm Sugar*
75g (≈3/4 c) brown rice flour
25g millet flour
22g potato starch
22g tapioca starch
100g Coconut Sugar/Corn Starch blend**
½ tsp guar gum
Pinch cream of tartar
Pinch salt
3 tbsp poppy seeds
zest of 2 lemons

*Available at Whole Foods
**50g coconut sugar and 50g corn starch blended in food processor until texture of powdered sugar.  Or you can just use 100g powdered sugar if you prefer.
(If you live in the Portland area, I highly recommend Bob’s Red Mill for bulk spices and baking needs.)

Glaze:

1 stick unsalted butter cut into chunks
¾ c coconut palm sugar
½ c Oregon Pinot Gris*
zest from 1 lemon
1 tsp vanilla extract

*I used Erath Pinot Gris.  You can find this all over the country in your supermarket or liquor store.

Method:

Preheat oven to 400°

In mixing bowl, combine brown rice flour, millet flour, tapioca starch, potato starch, guar gum, salt, and coconut sugar/corn starch blend.  Set aside.

In electric mixer, whip egg whites and cream of tarter until foamy.  Add coconut sugar spoonful at a time until you get stiff peaks (be sure to taste it…it’ll taste like a toasted marshmallow!).

Fold in dry mix in 4-5 additions until incorporated, then fold in lemon zest and poppy seeds.  Do not over stir and deflate the egg white mixture.

Pour into ungreased 10-inch angel food cake pan.  Bake at 400° for 15 minutes.  Reduce to 375º and bake for another 25 minutes, or until golden brown and toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool, then remove from pan and place on large plate.

In the meantime, make glaze.  In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine wine, vanilla and butter until melted.  Add sugar and lemon and stir until dissolved.  Bring to a boil, then reduce and simmer until thick.  Drizzle generously over cake and let glaze soak in.

Now comes the fun part: eat until your hearts content…and of course share it with you friends!  Lindsay and I spent a lovely Sunday afternoon in her kitchen cooking and baking up a storm which was great since we were the first to taste each others delights.  My one wish is that I lived in the same place as my other recipe swappers.  The treats these brillant minds baked up are nothing short of inspiring:

  • Christianna (Burwell General Store) Meyer Lemon Curd Shortcakes with Orange Flower Water Glaze
  • Chef Dennis (More Than a Mountfull) Italian Lemon Pear Cake
  • Lindsay (Rosemarried) Grapefruit Cupckaes with Grapefruit Curd and Whipped Cream Frosting with Candied Grapefruit Peel
  • Toni (Boulder Locavore) Gluten Free Orange-Cardamom 3 Layer Cake and The Bronx Cocktail
  • Nay (Spicy Living) Lemon Lavender Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
  • Sabrina (The Tomato Tart) Brown Sugar Lemon Rosemary Cake with Rosemary Caramel

This challenge was so much fun for me.  I didn’t know I had it in me, but now I cannot wait until the next recipe swap.  Stayed tuned :)

I am captured by these images today:

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