Sunday, December 23, 2012

Gingerbread and Poached Pears Christmas Trifle

Gingerbread and Poached Pears Christmas Trifle

Somewhere in the back of my mind is a little place where all the kitchen adventures I want to have live.  One of those adventures has always been to make a trifle and have a lovely trifle bowl.  Its kind of an impractical kitchen item (the trifle bowl) but I DO love to entertain and bake so when I stumbled across one that was on clearance for just $8 (I know!!) I could not pass it up :)

So my first trip into making trifle was pure experimentation. And SO fun.  I cruised the internet for ideas and then came up with my own that I feel has a nice Christmasy feel.  I used this as an opportunity to try poaching pears and making syrup (another couple of kitchen adventures that were living back there in my mind). 

Gingerbread and Poached Pears Christmas Trifle
1 box spice cake mix (baked according to directions on the box)
4 pears
2 cups port wine
1 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsps lemon juice
ground cloves
1 8oz brick neufchatel cheese (or light cream cheese)
3/4 cup icing sugar
4 tablespoons heavy cream
1 container cool whip

Bake spice cake and let cool.  Cut into 1 inch pieces.

Meanwhile in a large saucepan bring to a low boil the Port wine, brown sugar, lemon juice and a couple dashes of cinnamon and a dash of ground cloves (or more to taste)

Peel pears, slice in half and de-seed.  Place in saucepan and bring down to a simmer.  Simmer for 20mins turning once.  Remove pears and let cool.  Once they are cool slice pears.

Reserve poaching liquids and return to low boil. Continue at low boil stirring often until liquid reduces by more than half and has a nice syrupy quality.  Remove from heat.

In a mixing bowl beat cheese, icing sugar and heavy cream until fluffy.  Set aside.


1)Place half of cake pieces in bottom of trifle bowl (like a jigsaw puzzle) to fill part way.  2)Top with a layer of pear slices.  Drizzle half of pear-wine-syrup reduction over pears.  (this will most likely run down into cake - perfect!)  3)Top pears with half of the creamed sweet cheese fluff and spread it evenly.  4) Top the creamed sweet cheese layer with half the container of cool whip - spread evenly.

Repeat 1-4 saving a few of the poached pear slices for decorating the top. Refrigerate for 12-24 hours before serving.

I drizzled the top of mine with the last tablespoon of syrup and sprinkled the top with a bit more cinnamon and ground cloves.  Pictures to follow :)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

vegan hot chcolate

I love hot chocolate but since I've been cutting drastically back on dairy and sugar the regular powdered stuff makes my tummy hurt.

I fiddled around with this this morning and cant believe I didnt do this sooner.  its stupid easy and so, so good!  Reminds me of the 'real' hot chocolate my mom used to make on the stove for us to have coming in from playing in the snow or skating.

Here's what I did:

11/2 teas dark unsweetened cocoa
3 teas splenda (you could use stevia or agave if you are anti-sweeteners)
1 cup almond milk

I mixed the dry ingredients with just a touch of the milk first to get the lumps out and then added the rest and warmed it up in the microwave until hot and steamy.

TRY this.  You could always use soy but the subtle nutty flavour of the almond milk is devine with chocolate.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Chana Masala with spinach

Recently I had the BEST, best chana masala I've ever had at a local Indian restaurant while out with some girlfriends.  It was so good - that I had to bring my hubby and kids back to try it (and other delicious things on the menu).

Since eating out every time I have an craving is out of the question - I wanted to try my hand at making my own.  If you've never had it I urge you to try it!  Its a lovely combination of warm and spicy and tangy and just perfect on a cold rainy (or snowy) day.

This is what I came up with.  I based this on a few recipes that I could find and what I had on hand. 

Chana Masala with Spinach:
1 red onion diced
3 garlic cloves pressed and minced
1 large tomato diced
2 teas grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon yellow curry powder
1 15-ounce can of whole tomatoes with their juices, chopped small
1/2 cup water
 2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup lemon juice
 2 cups chopped spinach

In a large pan saute onion, garlic, ginger and diced tomato until soft.  add spices and stir well.  add chickpeas, canned tomatoes and lemon juice.  stir in chopped spinach.  simmer on stovetop on low-med for about an hour or until everything is soft and flavours are well developed.

Serve with rice or naan. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Fort Vancouver National Trust and THEATER??

This past year I've had the most interesting and fun partnership develop with the great folks over at the Fort Vancouver National Trust.  The Trust takes care of the Fort Vancouver Historical site - its buildings, parks, events, fund-raising, restoration, preservation and education programs. You can read about all the things these good folks are up to here:

As part of this - they hired a local playwright to write a dinner theater script based on events that may have happened historically at the Barracks building.  They needed a director, and a cast and the playwright (who I had happened to direct before) put the Trust in touch with me.  And a great working relationship has been the result!

The first dinner theater event was a HUGE success at an annual event last October along with shows open to the public.  We even did a second run of the show in June!  Then again this past month I got the chance to direct another great project about the life and legacy of Mother Joseph.

In each of these projects I have had the chance to work with casts that I love and admire, local playwrights and a fantastic bunch of people at the Fort.  Love, love, love this opportunity!  I am looking forward to many more projects!  Here are some picture highlights to enjoy!

Murder at the Barracks, October 2011:

Murder at the Barracks, June 2012:

Mother Jopseph - Life and Legacy, October, 2012:

Fall crockpot Medley

Pretty good title huh?  :)

This past Sunday Eric and I went to the Farmer's market.  Only a few weeks left and I wanted to get all those great fruits and veggies in season right now- YUM.

I didn't have a plan for what I had on hand today but I knew I wanted to do something in the crock-pot so this is what I came up with.  It sure smells great - hope it ends up tasting just as good!

The ingredients:
Chicken (kinda cut out of the picture here) 1 large sweet potato, two Yukon gold potatoes, two yellow squash (farmer's market), walla walla onion (local), brown mushrooms (local), garlic (farmer's market) and celery.

The Seasonings:

Fresh basil and rosemary (from my yard), fresh dill and cilantro (from the farmer's market), 1 lemon, sea salt, black pepper, Mrs Dash no salt seasoning.

First I cut up the sweet and gold potatoes and put them in my Crock.  I read somewhere that the potatoes should go in first but I can't remember for the life of me why that is.  I did it anyway :)

Then I placed three chicken breasts on top of those (I was gonna use 4 but they seemed big to me - do what you like) And then seasoned them with some Mrs D, salt and pepper and sqeezed the juice of half the lemon on top.
I chopped up my onion, celery, mushrooms, squash and tossed them on top.  Then I added 6 (yep!) cloves of garlic slightly smushed.   I added a bit more seasoning, salt and pepper.  - sorry forgot to take a picture of this step :D

I chopped up the rosemary leaves, tore up some basil and then rough chopped a bunch of dill and cilantro on top of that.  I added the juice from the second half of the lemon over the whole thing.

I put this on high for the first hour, and then I will cook it on low for the next 6hrs or so. 

If you try something like this I'd love to hear how it turned out for you!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Its back! Wait Until Dark 2.0

My friend and Director Dave asked me if I'd like to do this show with him again (different theater company this time) and with a whole new cast - except me of course!

Whaddya think I said?

Wait Until Dark 

opens Oct 12th and runs thru Oct 31st at the Lovestreet theater in Woodland, WA.  Check out the website for tickets and details!

Somehting yummy in the crockpot

Its finally feeling like fall around here and that means CROCKPOT time again!  After a summer of salads and Bbqs I'm craving something warm and comforting - but as always healthful.  Here's whats simmering in my crock right now:

Thai inspired Veggie Curry:

1 large sweet onion chopped
4 small yukon gold potatoes chopped
1/2 cup baby carrots halfed
1 16oz bag frozen cauliflower
1 can drianed chickpeas
1 can lite coconut milk
3-5 small fresh basil leaves torn
I teas each - yellow and red curry powder, cumin and corriander
1/2 teas each - paprika, tumeric, garam masala, sea salt.
a healthy 'dash' of red pepper flakes

I will serve this with a brown basmati rice or whole wheat couscous and a sprinkle of dried coconut.


Monday, March 5, 2012

Chocolate Chunck Healthy Crunch Everything cookies :)

Okay so this is a recipe that I have kicked around for ages: Dorinda's Everything cookies.  These have been through a few quite a few modifications over the years as our family tastes have changed.  This morning I decided to try and tweak these again to include some 'healthier' whole food options.

These are a bit of a pricey cookie if you use the organic ingredients I did so save them for a special occasion or feel free to substitute for anything on the original recipe list.  Keep in mind that baking your own cookies is ALMOST ALWAYS cheaper and healthier than store bought cookies witch are loaded with gross things like corn syrup, rendered pig's fat, and preservatives. YUK!!

Chocolate Chunk Healthy Crunch Everything Cookies:
2 1/4cups whole wheat flour (original recipe called for unbleached flour)
2 cups old fashioned rolled oats (original recipe called for quick oats)
2 cups brown sugar
1 teas baking soda
1/2 teas salt
1/2 cup unsalted almond butter (original recipe called for 1/2 cup peanut butter)

1/2 cup butter softened (original recipe called for 1cup butter)
1 med banana mashed (not in original recipe)
2 teas vanilla
2 organic cage free eggs (original recipe called for just plain ol' eggs)
1 cup chopped raw walnuts (original recipe called for 1/2 cup toasted sunflower seeds)
2 bars (3.5oz) each organic dark chocolate chopped into chunks (original recipe called for 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips)
1 cup shredded coconut

These are RICH, decadent, soft cookies with a great nutty, crunchy texture.  Hope you try them :)

Saturday, March 3, 2012

8 grain banana blueberry muffins

It seems like all I do is post recipes that are adaptations of other recipes - and the truth is - I do!!  I love getting inspiration from interesting sounding recipes. I don't know if you are like me - but I love to experiment in the kitchen! I have my own tastes and ideas about what goes well together and basically I HATE having to measure everything so precisely!  Cooking should be fun and an expression of who you are!

That said, baking is one of those areas where you have to at least understand the properties of what goes into a muffin - what goes into a cake - what goes into a cookie before you start messing around with things.  A poorly executed cake can quickly turn into a sweet lump of goo- or a nice smelling brick :)

So when I fool around with baking recipes I am cautiously optimistic as I put things into the oven.  This morning I played around (a bit) with a recipe on the back of my Bob's Red Mill 8 Grain Hot Cereal package.  And it was a hit!

Here is the original recipe for Ruthie's 8 Grain Muffins:

And here is my Adaptation:

1 1/4 cup light vanilla soy milk
1 cup Bob's Red Mill 8 Grain Cereal

1 egg
1/4 cup olive oil (could use butter but I didn't have any)
1 med banana
1/2 cup brown sugar

1 tsp salt
2 teas baking powder (1 teas baking soda would also work but I was all out)
1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup blueberries (I used frozen)
2 Tbs flour (I used whole wheat) to coat the berries

In a bowl combine milk and cereal - let sit on counter at least 10 mins (to soften the grains).  Preheat oven to 400.   Toss berries in flour in a small bowl to coat. Cream together egg, oil, banana and sugar on med.    Add salt, powder, flour and milk and cereal mix stir until just combined.  Gently fold in berries.  Cook in well-sprayed muffin tin - about 15mins.  Makes 12 good sized muffins.

Friday, March 2, 2012

New breakfast favorite!

I just read the book 'engine 2 diet' which is basically the story of a Texas firefighter who helped his fellow firemen at his station change their diets to a 'plant-strong' way of eating. So they all showed vast improvements in weight & health etc.  Its worth a read find it here:

In the book are a bunch of recipes and one that came up as an overwhelming fan favorite is now one of mine.  Funnily enough I am not a huge fan of cereal - but this is just so versatile and yummy!

I changed it slightly to suit my own tastes - you can see the original recipe here:

Here's Mine:
1/3 cup Kashi Go Lean Crunch
1/3 cup All Bran Cereal
1/3 cup Special K
1/2 kiwi cut up
1/2 med banana sliced
1/3 cup blueberries (frozen is fine)
1 cup unsweetened Almond Milk
1 oz raw walnuts

Toss all in a bowl - top with milk and enjoy!!  You'll be surprised at how yummy this is!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Green on Green soup!

Everyone in our house is either recovering from or coming down with the same stupid cold today - so I am making some comforting yummy soup FULL of all sorts of good things to make us feel better.

This is what I am making today - I adapted this recipe from the FatFree Vegan Kitchen  blog - tons of good recipes on her site  - check it out!

Green on Green Soup:
1 large sweet onion chopped
1 Tbs diced garlic (about 3 cloves)
2 ribs celery chopped
4 carrots (not baby) coined
2/3 cup dried green split peas
3 large handfuls of spinach
1 sweet potato chopped
2 teas dried basil
2 pieces dried seaweed crumbled (opt)
4 cups veggie broth
4 cups water
1 veggie bullion cube
1 teas Mrs Dash seasoning
2 teas nutritional yeast (opt)
1 Tbs lemon juice
ground black pepper and sea salt to taste

Saute veggies in order, add liquids and seasonings. Bring to a boil (about 6mins) and then reduce and simmer at least one hour.  Blend in batches or use immersion blender to blend soup until thick and creamy.

Serve with sour cream or plain yogurt and/or lemon slices.

Friday, February 17, 2012

homemade 'lara' bars

I love these little energy bars - they are a raw food bar that is just SO tasty! I love them and the kids love them - unfortunately, like a lot of really yummy health foods - they are on the PRICEY side at $1=1.50 each. 

So I decided to try my hand at making my own.  So far I have only tried one idea but the possibilities are endless:

1/2 cup whole pitted dates
1/2 cup raw nuts (I used Almonds)
1/2 cup dried unsweetened coconut
11/2 Tbsp cocoa powder

run all ingredients through a food processor until the dates and nuts are broken down and the mixture begins to stick together.  press into a small pan and cut into small squares.  store in the fridge in a covered container.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Super Nutrient Kale Lentil Soup

This is a revised version of our family's favorite soup which is very good and I have blogged it before. (see original recipe here: ) My KIDS love this soup and REQUEST it often.  Here is what I did today:

Super nutrient Kale & Lentil Soup:
2 large Leeks rinsed and coined
4 whole Carrots (not baby) rinsed and coined
1 med-large Sweet Potato diced
1 cup brown Lentils
12 cups water
1 veggie broth cube
1 teas Mrs Dash no salt seasoning
1 teas Pink Himalayan Salt
1 pkg SOY sausage (I used Trader joe's Chorizo - which is nice and SPICY :)
1 large bunch Green Curly Kale chopped or torn (dont use stems)
1 pkg sliced Baby Bella Mushrooms

Saute leeks, carrots, sweet potatoes in a small amount of water.  Add lentils, seasonings and water.  Bring to a boil and then reduce to med-low.  Crumble in soy sausage. Add mushrooms and Kale.  Reduce to low and simmer at least one hour - but the longer you let this stuff bubble away the better and better it tastes!!

chocolate green smoothie

This did NOT sound very appetizing to me when I first read the recipe. BUT I gave it a try - cause I am searching for more whole food, plant based, High nutrient recipes. 

Imagine my surprise when this was ACTUALLY yummy - huh :)

Green Chocolate Smoothie:
(serves 1 - could be doubled)
1 hand-full, baby organic spinach (about 5oz)
1/2 cup frozen blueberries
1/2 banana
2 pitted medjool dates (easily found in bulk section)
1 teas unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup light chocolate soy or almond milk

Blend this up really, really well and it comes out a nice milkshak-y consistency.  The dates are very sweet - I may only use one the next time I try this :) 

Monday, January 30, 2012

It's raining THEATER!

Wow - its been a super busy, crazy theater filled life these past few weeks!!

Into The Woods closed last weekend - what a fun show that is!  I had a pretty small part in this production - so I had lots of time to help with building the set and once we opened helping other cast mates with their quick changes and makeup.  It reminded me how much I enjoy those sorts of creative outlets - arts and crafts, building, painting, makeup etc.  I need to find more ways to be creative in my life!

During our second week of production I had the pleasure of directing a Staged Reading for the annual Fertile Ground Festival in Portland.  Its a festival of new works of art (visual, dance, theater, musicals etc) that runs 10 days in Jan every year.  Its a festival that is gaining momentum and every year it is bigger & better!  I am so pleased to have been a part of it!!

I've also had a plethora of auditions in the past couple of weeks.  I auditioned for the musical You're A Good Man Charlie Brown.  I love this show - I played Snoopy in high school and it remains one of my favorite theater memories.  The script was revised and expanded for a Broadway revival in 1999 and has a bunch of new music -  its fantastic!  I got the part of Sally and even though we just started I am having a BLAST at rehearsals so far!

I also got called in to audition for Imago Theater in Portland.  I had sent my resume to this company some time ago - so it was quite a thrill to be chosen for an audition.  I felt it went well - but the style of the theater is very avant guard, whimsical, edgy, experimental and alternative.  Think - David Mamet meets Cirque de Soliel.   (no idea how that is spelled!)  Anyway - I didn't get a call back (yet:) for that show - but I hope to have the opportunity to audition for them again!

Yesterday I had the chance to participate in a singing 'Salon' with some of Portland's finest voices.  Its quite an honor to be included and once you are 'in' on the salons it becomes a 'soft audition' of sorts.  Lots of sharing, feedback and a very relaxed and encouraging atmosphere!  What a neat experience!!  I sang two pieces and it went very well! The gal 'in charge' made a point of saying how she was looking forward to working with me in the future - that is a very good sign!!  This group puts together some pretty fantastic professional Cabaret shows at a very cool venue in Portland.  Fingers crossed!!!

And finally!  I have started teaching an acting class for adults with one of the local community theaters here in Vancouver.  Its the kind of class I have always wanted to teach - and I am having a good time with it!  It is so rewarding to pass on the things you have learned and see others grow in their craft!  Also, I have a potential job offer from a theater school in West Linn (suburb of Portland) and am waiting to hear back on that - so exciting!!  If I get it - I will be teaching weekend seminars for advanced teen actors in the summer - how cool is that?!

So thats all the theater going on right now for me!  whew!  I'd say that was all - but Hannah is still plugging away with the Junior Symphony of  Vancouver and rapidly growing into a find cellist.  She is also now first chair in her school orchestra :)  And Eric is back in the Pit playing guitar for New Century Players upcoming "Hairspray!".  So between the three of us - there is not one day a week without somekind of rehearsal!!

I wouldn't have it any other way :)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Forks over Knives

We just watched this documentary the other night and I cant stop thinking about it!  There was so much information that I had to watch it again - and I even bought the book!  Basically its a preventative approach to cancer, heart disease, diabetes and other common killers in North America.

The idea is to focus more (or even entirely) on a Plant-based, Whole foods diet.  Thats it.  No pills, potions, and moderate exercise and sleep.  Basically eat 90% (or more) of your foods from things that are plant-based (fruit, veggies, grains, legumes & nuts) and 10% or less from dairy, fish and meat. 

Since I don't eat much, if any red meat and pork anyway - for me this is a pretty simple and enlightening prospect.  I've been reading so much about the benefits of organic produce and wanting to incorporate that more into our day to day living anyway so this is a good fit!  I highly recommend this documentary - available on Netflicks.

Tonite made a recipe that I have made before (usually using lean ground turkey) but this time subbing in tofu instead.  Everyone (except Thaniel) thought the tofu version was even tastier!  Give it a try!

Tofu & Mushroom Asian Style Lettuce Wraps

(this is enough for 4 hungry adults - you could half or double depending on your needs)

In an electric skillet or Large non-stick pan dry fry:
1/2 med onion diced
1 pkg (about 2 cups) mushrooms diced (I used baby bellas but white button would be fine too)
2 pkgs extra firm silken tofu drained and rough chopped
2 cans sliced water chestnuts drained and chopped
1/2 cup raw walnuts chopped
1 bunch cilantro rinsed and chopped

1 teas chinese mustard
1 tbs (or to taste) chili sauce
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce

1 teas hot chilli oil with peanut (optional but good - find this in an Asian grocery)

heat over med until tofu breaks up and mushrooms are cooked through (about 10mins) Mix together mustard, chilli sauce, oil (if using) and soy sauce.  Pour over tofu mixture and stir to combine.

Serve with large green leaf lettuce or iceburg lettuce leaves.  I leave the soy sauce and chilli sauce on the table for anyone who wants it saltier or spicier.