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Monday, July 21, 2014

Vegan Reuben Bowl

Reuben sandwiches are popular these days, right? Or is it just a Portland thing? I wanted to make something that was sort of a reuben, with a twist, in a bowl. And, I wanted a thousand island dressing for it that didn't contain mayo, even the vegan kind. Here's what I came up with. There was a lot of "num-numming" at the table that night.

Because I have a small kitchen, and a silly little glass top stove that reminds me of a toy, I'm having to rethink the way I cook and the number of pots and pans I use. My recipes from here on will likely be done in a far simpler way than you're used to me cooking. I was the Queen of Using Practically Everything when we lived in Taos. Now I'm becoming the Princess of Simplicity. Maybe this is a good thing.

Reuben Bowl
serves 2

2-4 gold potatoes
2 cups kale or other greens, chopped
1 cup sauerkraut
2 vegan sausages
Cashew Thousand Island Dressing (below)

Wash and cut the potatoes into one inch cubes, cover with water, and put them on the stove to boil.
While the potatoes cook, chop the greens and place them in a large colander.
Add the whole sausages to the boiling potatoes about two minutes before they're done cooking.
When the potatoes are ready, pull out the sausages and cut them into bite sized pieces.
Using the lid to your pot to keep the potatoes in place, pour only the hot water over the greens in the colander to wilt them.
Leave the potatoes in the pot and coarsely mash them by hand, adding a little salt, pepper, and plant-milk if you like.
In wide bowls, arrange layers of potatoes, greens, and sausage bites. Top with sauerkraut and a generous dollop of Cashew Thousand Island. Serve with extra pepper and maybe a little Dijon mustard if you have it.

Cashew Thousand Island Dressing

1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked 20 minutes or more
1/4 cup ketchup
2 T water
2 T rice, white, or apple cider vinegar
1 T + 3 T sweet pickle relish

Drain and rinse the soaked cashews. Place all ingredients, except the 3 T relish, in a blender or food processor and blend on high speed until smooth. Stir in the remaining relish by hand.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Exploring the Alberta Arts District

This is a special edition post, requested by RelayRides, as part of their Hidden Gems page on Pinterest. I have to admit that I'd not heard of RelayRides until they contacted me. I'm so glad they did, because I think it's something Rick and I might be able to make use of! It's a peer-to-peer way of sharing cars, and it makes a lot of sense. Whether you own a car and want to rent it to others when you might otherwise just leave it parked, or if you don't own a vehicle, but want to rent one affordably from time to time, this could be a good way to go. We've actually considered selling our car since we moved to Portland, since public transit is so easy and efficient. But now we have another option! With RelayRides we could have our car when we want it, and let it earn its keep when we don't need it. Pretty brilliant plan.

While we're happily going about our urban downtown life in SW Portland, a whole other world is turning on the other side of town, and the other side of the Willamette River, in the NE Alberta Arts District. The fun and funky neighborhood revival that's taken place there over the years has created several blocks of homegrown, shops, and galleries, and of course restaurants - many of them vegan or very vegan-friendly. While Alberta St. is well known by Portlanders, visitors might easily overlook it if they're staying in a different part of town. We're still new in town, but we've made the drive up there several times now, specifically for the food! We'll be going back often to explore the other businesses, and to graze our way from one end of the street to the other.

Every restaurant we've visited in the Alberta neighborhood has been one we want to go back to. The Tin Shed Garden Cafe is a dog and human friendly eatery with a big, covered outdoor patio, complete with a livingroom-style fireplace, lots of water bowls for the pups, an inventive varied menu with lots of vegan options, and even a special dog menu. We loved it, and even though we didn't have our dogs with us, there were at least seven others dining near us, which just seemed like the way it should be.

We really enjoyed the Fungus Among Us - a rich, gooey, toasty portobello sandwich, and the Baby Beluga - a rich bowl of tiny black "beluga" lentils, sweet potato, jasmine rice, fresh spinach, and yellow curry sauce. There were other dishes we will go back for soon, maybe next time with the dogs.

Vita Cafe is destined to become one of our favorites, with many vegan options, and most menu items easily customized. The welcoming atmosphere is enhanced on warm days by large open windows across the front, the service is efficient and friendly, and the food is really good. We popped in for a late breakfast, and sampled the Faux Turkey Florentine and the Country Comfort. Both meals were like a party on a plate. What's not to love about vegan hollandaise or gravy? I mean, really.

The Bye and Bye is a popular vegan bar. Yes, a vegan bar. Who would ever guess? They don't make a big thing of the vegan-ness, but rather let the coolness of the place, along with the goodness of the food and tasty bevs speak for themselves. Going with friends is a good idea, so you can all order something different and share bites. We did just that, and everybody loved everything. It's regular old good food like you might cook at home, only better, and way more fun. Our group had the Chili Pie, Spaghetti, Samurai Bowl, and Grilled Cheese with tomato, avocado, and fresh, hot jalapeños. While the rest of them sipped sodas and beer, I indulged in a great big pink drink, aptly called the Bye and Bye, and served up in a mason jar big enough to swim in. Woo! That was fun!

If you can even think about food at this point, be sure to visit the wonderful Back To Eden Bakery. Everything they offer is vegan, and gluten free, which will make a lot of gluten sensitive non-vegans happy too. They offer lots of delightful looking pastries, as well as lunch, smoothies, and un-dairy ice cream. We only had a couple of cupcakes on our first visit, but we'll absolutely be going back to explore the menu further.

I think you have the idea. Alberta Street is a happening place for anybody interested in good food and a good time. I have a long list of places we need to try, and will want to spend days there just strolling the sidewalks and poking into shops and galleries. The area may not be exactly hidden, but you're sure to find a few gems of your own when you take the time to visit on your next trip to Portland.

Discover more hidden gems from other bloggers around the world on the RelayRides Pinterest page!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Eating Vegan In Portland

I have news! I've been asked to write a new blog called Eating Vegan In Portland, and of course I'm going to do it. My friend, Paul Graham, who writes the popular Eating Vegan In Vegas blog asked me to take his concept to the next level by expanding to Portland. I think soon there will be "Eating Vegan In" blogs from cities all over the world. What an awesome network that will be!

Paul's blog was made into an e-book a while back, and recently came out in print. (Get them at Kobo and Amazon.) With luck, mine will do the same. For now though, it's all about sharing Portland's vegan love. I hope you'll follow along, even if you don't live in Portland, and even if you're not vegan. My goal is to inspire you to dig deep into your own town's garden of plant-based delights. Everybody needs to eat more vegetables, right?

I've added a link to Eating Vegan In Portland (EVIP) in the sidebar to the right, and will update it weekly when I post on Mondays. My regular day to post here at PV will be Tuesday, and you can always easily get from one blog to the other through the links. Better yet, bookmark them! And even better than that, follow them so they're come right to you each week. I'd like that a lot.

My birthday is tomorrow. I will be 57. I can freak out over a number, or I can look at my life and be grateful for all the positive changes that have happened over the past few years. I'm not sure how, but going vegan changed my entire world, starting with my body and health, and branching out to every part of my life. If I hadn't made the plant-based switch, I'm very sure I would not be living in Portland, and I wouldn't be writing Eating Vegan In Portland. Change one thing, change everything... Funny what can come from eating your greens!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Lemon-Blueberry Babycakes

Blueberries are all over the farmers markets right now, so I have to share this recipe with you. If you can't get fresh berries, frozen ones work just as well. These little bites of sweet-tart delight are a dense, moist cross between lemon bars and cupcakes. They're vegan of course, and gluten free too. Skip the frosting for less of a sugar jolt. They're terrific either way. The original recipe calls for a new product called the Vegg. I really like the way it works in this recipe, but if you can't find it you can substitute flax meal, as I've done here. The result will not be as yellow in color, but the taste is almost exactly the same. I've made a few changes to suit our personal tastes, but the original recipe for Lemon Bars comes from Lindsay Ray in the Vegg Cookbook. The Vegg/Cookbook Combo Pack is available on

Lemon-Blueberry Babycakes
makes 2 dozen
2 T flax meal
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup tapioca flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup almond milk
1 tsp vanilla
zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup lemon juice (usually about 1 1/2 lemons)
1 cup blueberries
TIP! If making the frosting below, zest one lemon into the cake batter, and the other into a second bowl to save for the frosting.

Preheat oven to 350º
Lightly spray a mini muffin tin with coconut oil.
TIP! Bake the cakes in an oiled tin rather than in little paper cups, and then place the cakes into the cups after they've cooled. That way they still look cute, but half the cake won't stick to the paper when you unwrap them.

Place all ingredients, except blueberries, in a large mixing bowl, and mix with an electric mixer for 2-3 minutes until well blended. Spoon the batter into the oiled mini muffin tin, dividing it evenly between the 24 cups. Scatter a few blueberries on top of each cake. Bake at 350º for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove the cakes from the pan after 5 minutes, so they don't get soggy. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

Lemon Buttercream Frosting
As a side note, I made this for some non-veg friends recently. When they tasted it, they could only look at me in wonder and say, "This is real frosting!" Well, yes, of course it is!

1 stick Earth Balance
zest of 1 lemon
1 pound powdered sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
almond milk for blending

Place the Earth Balance "butter" unwrapped in a mixing bowl with the lemon zest you made earlier, and let it warm to room temperature. Add salt and vanilla. Mix with an electric mixer until smooth, adding almond milk just a few drops at a time until you have the right consistency. Frost cooled cupcakes and top with a single blueberry.

Like this recipe? There are over 100 more in the Recipe Box!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Join Me in the 21 Day Vegan Kickstart

As you know, I'll soon be teaching the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) Food For Life classes. To start with though, I'm going through the 21 Day Kickstart myself, so I'll be more familiar with it, and better able to help my students make their way through it too. It's a three-week program designed to get you started on a super healthy, creative, simple, delicious plant-based way of eating. If you go all-in for the three weeks, you'll likely see some surprising changes in the way you look at food. Most people don't stop at the three weeks, which is really the goal of the program. It's not about miraculous overnight weight loss - although you'll probably lose a few pounds if you have them to lose. It's more about reclaiming your health and discovering how awesome a plant-based diet can be.

I've been vegan for over four years, so I really don't need to learn how great it is. I'm sold! But over the past few months, with lots of unusual stressors in my life, I've slipped into some rather unhealthy eating habits - like way too regular doses of cupcakes and french fries! Comfort food, right? I know better, but I ignored what I knew in favor of high fat treats I was craving on an emotional level. Truth is, they made me feel happy for about three minutes. Then they went to work adding fat I don't want or need to my waistline. Little stinkers. When I realized I'd gained ten pounds in the course of four months, I gave myself a mental slap across the face, with a good Snap out of it! thrown in to get my own attention. It worked, and along with the inspiration I soaked up in DC last week, I came home ready to re-kickstart my own diet.

Some people think that just because you're doing the vegan diet thing you can do no wrong food-wise. Not so. There's plenty of vegan junk food out there, and let me assure you, much of it is quite delicious and alluring. The same over-processed fat/salt/sugar combinations that keep us undernourished and overfed in "regular" junk foods do the same thing in their vegan offshoots. Most of us slip up in "what we know" from time to time. The key is to get a grip and get back on track before a snack or a treat becomes a lifestyle. The four main vegan food groups are as simple as can be - vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains. Stick to those and you'll discover an endless variety of delectable dishes that will keep you healthy and satisfied without weighing you down.

I have a feeling the 21 Day Kickstart will be one of my favorite classes to teach. It's a simple, fun, high-fiber, low-fat way of eating that doesn't count calories or serving sizes. Just eat real food and enjoy it! To me it's a no-brainer, but I realize how kerbobbling such a recalibration can be to someone who's used to having a slab of animal flesh at the center of their plate at every meal. I really want to help people get over the fear and into the fun!

However, if you're a good self-motivator, you can begin the Kickstart yourself with all the wonderful, supportive tools offered on the 21 Day Kickstart Website. It generally starts over at the first of each month, so this is short notice if you want to hop in for July. I decided to start early, and have been kickstarting since Monday. In the first four days I lost two pounds, and I feel clear headed and energetic again. My cupcake cravings are already gone, and french fries just smell yuck. What am I eating? Beautiful bowls of grains, greens, and beans, oatmeal with wonderful toss-ins, smoothies, soups, wraps, spreads, dips... everything that's whole and real, and comes from plants. It's so simple, and I'm so happy to finally be making friends with my new kitchen (which was part of the problem.)

I want to add that weight loss is not always the most important thing in the world. A healthy weight does, however, help us to avoid terrible things like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. Like they say, when you have your health, you have everything. It doesn't hurt to feel good in your clothes and rediscover a bounce in your step either. Dropping those unneeded pounds is a win-win any way you look at it. I already feel re-energized and back in control, and the cupcakes can just wait in the wings for a Very Special Occasion. (My birthday is coming up, and I might invite just one little cake to the party. Treats are treats, not food groups. Sorry, Chocolate!)

So, if you're interested, the online 21 Day Kickstart Program is a well thought out tool, free for you to use. There's also a book, by Dr. Neal Barnard, available on Amazon, and many other places. (Yes, I do get a commission if you buy it through the above link.) Everything PCRM presents is based on extensive research, with no need for opinion, popular "logic", or fad "nutrition." They've been around for 13 years, and they do amazing work. Check out the PCRM website and the 21 Day Kickstart for yourself. It might be just what you're looking for.