Tuesday, April 29, 2008

1970s flashback

I came across this poster today on the Maine Organic Farmers & Gardeners Association website. It brought back memories of that first Common Ground Country Fair, held in my hometown of Litchfield. The Nearings spoke. Their was a demo about how to make wine. But I don't remember any of that. All I can recall is the rope maze near the booth where my parents were selling organic veggies. This is probably because it was 1977, and I was only 4.

This year's fair takes place Sept. 19-21 at MOFGA's complex in Unity. It'll be light years beyond that first natural foodie love fest in 1977. And while attendance has exploded and the posters have become more sophisticated, the fair's still as down to earth as can be.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Making mujaddara

I first ate mujaddara at the River Cafe in Hallowell, ME. It was an amazing combination of sauteed onions, lentils, rice and spices. It was love at first bite. As a result, I fell head over heels for this sweet Lebanese eatery that knew how to feed plant eaters. I'm so sad it's no longer around.

Thankfully, mujaddara is one of the simplest things you can cook. And it's wonderfully versatile. At the River Cafe, they plated a steaming serving of mujaddara and topped it off with a fresh salad and a tangy vinaigrette. But that's just the beginning. I've served it as a chilled salad with chopped vegetables or hot in pitas with lettuce and tomato. The next day, I saute the leftovers until crisp and serve with homefries and fruit for breakfast. Here, I rolled the fresh mujaddara in a tortilla, burrito-style, added lettuce, tomato and a fresh dressing.

Maine Mujaddara

1 cup dried organic lentils
1 cup organic brown rice
4 cups water
1 large organic onion, diced
1/2 cup organic olive oil
1/2 tsp. organic garlic powder
1/2 tsp. organic onion powder
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Add two cups of water to two stock pots. Add the rice to one pot and the lentils to the other. Bring each pot to a boil, reduce heat to low and allow to simmer with the lid slightly askew. Cook for 35-45 minuts. Meanwhile, add a tsp. of so of olive oil to a cast iron frying pan. Saute the onion until translucent and brown. When all the water has been absorbed by the lentils and the rice, turn off the heat. Mix the lentils, rice, onions, olive oil and spices. Heat a large cast iron pan until it's almost smoking. Add a whole wheat tortilla and toast on each side. Place the mujaddara in the center and top with whatever you have on hand, such as lettuce, tomato, shredded carrots, pickles, olives or avocado.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Habitat in the hood

Even though we're nestled right in the heart of downtown Portland, we manage to give a bit of space to the birds. With food, water, cover and places to raise babies, our garden gets a stamp of approval from the National Wildlife Federation. You can make your garden green too. It's simple.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Is corn king?

You may have seen it on PBS. If not, you've probably seen all the hype in the local press. Like Omnivore's Dilemma, the documentary King Corn explores the realities of chemical-coated commodity corn. But don't be fooled. The yellow kernels are not fit for human consumption. Instead, it's a monoculture crop grown to unnaturally fatten (and sicken) cows for slaughter and brew up obesity-inducing compounds like high fructose corn syrup. Oh yeah, then there's the whole ethanol problem.

Like all the other foodies in town, we're going to try to score tickets to tonight's 7:30 pm screening at SPACE Gallery.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Are you a Green Streeter?

Tomorrow's the last Friday of the month, which means it's Green Streets day. Up your eco street cred and lower your carbon footprint by getting to work another way. Walk, bike, carpool, hop the bus, take the train or ride your horse. Whatever it takes. And if you do it, you not only feel good, but you can score a free coffee too.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Farmers out in force

The farmers' market is hopping in Portland's Monument Square this afternoon. This is the biggest crop of vendors I've seen all season. Not many veggies (other than the ones I had on order from Thirty Acre Farm), but tons of flowers and herbs.

Cookbook notes: The Art of Simple Food

“The Art of Simple Food: Notes, Lessons, and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution,” by Alice Waters, $35

This cookbook isn’t vegan. It isn’t even vegetarian. But it’s a must-have for any plant-eater’s kitchen.

Written by Alice Waters, the rock star among locavores and owner of Chez Panisse in Berkley, CA, the book comes packed with years of practical whole foods advice. I found much to love. Both in its organization and its breath, this cookbook offers non-fussy ways of preparing and thinking about food.

For instance, her grilled ratatouille is wonderfully easy, involves few preparation techniques and tastes great. And everywhere the book's filled with useful tips. Like her salting advice that has kicked my homemade vinaigrette into overdrive.

With its lesson plan style in the first half, it would make a great gift for a newbie cook. While the encyclopedia of staple recipes at the back makes it a valuable reference for the seasoned chef. Check it out. You’re sure to find something to love.

And as Ms. Waters says, “Remember food is precious.”

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Eat your way to a greener earth

In light of today’s big holiday, here are 3 tips for eating with the earth in mind:

1. Eat local foods
Support farmers’ markets, buy locally-grown in grocery stores and grow some of your own food. Locally grown food is fresher, more nutritious, supports the regional economy and travels fewer miles.

2. Eat organic
Plants, animals and humans are part of a complex web stretching from the soil to the sky. When this web is assaulted by things like pesticides and chemical fertilizers, everything in the system gets sick.

3. Eat more plants
Meat, dairy and eggs are luxury items made cheap by artificial price supports, government subsidies, lax regulations and deplorable farm conditions. We pay the full cost with obesity, heart disease, world hunger, water pollution and climate change. Eat more plants and you’ll be giving the earth (and your wallet) a break.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Portland's pizza secret

After 4 pm at O'Naturals on Exchange Street in the Old Port, you can get pizzas on their signature flatbreads. They're definitely worth checking out. Tonight I ordered up one with sunflower seeds, rosemary onions, roasted red peppers, Kalamata olives and spinach. It was to die for. The flatbread was moist and chewy and the veggies were abundant and lightly roasted.

Grow food for prosperity

Today's Portland Press Herald has two stories that deal with the rising cost of food. In one, grocery and convenience stores talk about selling cheap cow's milk. As someone who grew up around my grandfather's conventional dairy farm here in Maine, I can tell you that cheap milk is an ultra gross idea. If you must drink cow's milk, definitely go for the most local, organic, raw milk you can find. And visit the farm to see what the conditions are like. Otherwise you're just shelling out good money for pasteurized cow pus.

In the other story, Fedco Co-Op Garden Supplies in Waterville reports being sold out of 100 of its 900 seed varieties. The last time they saw such heightened demand for home grown veggies was during the Y2K scare. For folks looking to save cash and preserve their health, this is obviously the smarter place to invest when compared to cheap cow juice.

For added inspiration, the photo shows a container garden where I grew things like tomatoes, Swiss chard and green beans when I lived in Chapel Hill, NC. So even when space is limited, I say grow a few veggies and save your money for more important things. Like dark chocolate sorbetto ...

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Bake cookies tonight

These little treats may look all granola and healthy. But don't be fooled. They have enough chocolate-y, sugary goodness to lure in anyone with a sweet tooth.

Chocolate Cherry Oat Nuggets

2 cups organic, rolled oats
2 cups organic, whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2/3 cup organic peanut butter
4 Tbsp. organic grapeseed oil
2 cups sucanat or other minimally-processed sugar
2/3 cup hemp milk
4 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups vegan chocolate chips
2/3 cups organic chopped walnuts
1/4 cup organic dried cherries

1. Preheat oven to 350. Oil baking sheets

2. In a large bowl, mix oats, flour, baking soda and salt. Add chips, walnuts and cherries.

3. In a small bowl, mix peanut butter and oil until well blended. Stir in sugar, hemp milk and vanilla.

4. Add milk mixture to flour mixture. For tender cookies, be careful not to overmix the dough.

5. Bake 13-15 minutes.

How I survived winter

In case you were wondering how I manged to get locally-grown arugula and tomatoes through the frozen depths of a Maine winter, the answer comes from K. Horton Specialty Foods at the Public Market House in Portland's Monument Square. The shop carries lots of local eats, including these fresh greens from the greenhouses of Laughing Stock Farm in Freeport and these juicy tomatoes from Backyard Beauties in Madison. No matter when I stopped by, there always was a fresh selection waiting for me. Add in the bi-weekly deliveries of things like carrots, potatoes, shallots and cabbage I snagged from Thirty Acre Farm, and this has been one of the best Maine winters for fresh, vegan eats.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Party like a blog star

Justin Ellis, the Portland Press Herald writer known for his insightful, witty words, celebrates one year of blogging tonight at Dock Fore in Portland from 7-10 pm. Yes, I know he has a well-documented love affair with bacon, but I still think he rocks.

TLTs for lunch quickie

Here's a favorite quickie recipe that feeds my current tempeh obsession. Use Fakin' Bacon or saute up your own smoky seasoned tempeh (the April issue of Vegetarian Times has an awesome recipe). I didn't have a good, locally-grown onion today. But when I do, I definitely add it. We washed them down with the divine amber of Allagash White.

Tempeh, Lettuce & Tomato Sandwiches

8 oz. tempeh bacon
1 ripe, locally-grown tomato, sliced
2 cups arugula, washed and dried
4 slices locally-baked whole grain bread
2 tsp. mustard
2 tsp. Maine maple syrup
olive oil
salt & pepper, to taste

Heat a cast iron skillet and pour in a tsp. or 2 of olive oil. Cut tempeh strips in half and add them to the skillet. Cook until crisp and browned on each side. Meanwhile, toast the bread. Spread mustard and maple syrup on each half. Add the tempeh strips to one side. Place the tomato slices on the other side, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with pepper and salt. Add arugula. Slice and serve. Makes 2.

Shocker: Spanish chefs discover vegetables!

The May edition of Food & Wine has a story by Anya von Bremzen about the latest trend among Spain's high-end chefs: Locally-grown vegetables. Imagine that revolutionary concept!

She writes "the current emphasis on tubers and greens is a new development in carnivorous and seafood-centric Spain." She then goes on to quote Michelin two-star chef Andoni Luis Aduriz of Mugartiz who says: "Diners tend to idealize luxury proteins. But in our globalized world, those have become nothing more than empty status symbols."

The take away message: Eat veggies. Save the world.

Sounds like a plan to me.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Planting the seeds of art

Tonight we brought home our newly framed baby, Green Tangle, a silkscreen by Friederike Hamann and Colin Sullivan-Stevens of Field gallery in Portland. We are super-thrilled with it.

But is it just me or is this amazing print reminiscent of the artwork on the cover of the revolutionary Veganomicon?

Which makes me wonder: Do I like Green Tangle because it looks like Veganomicon? Or do I like Veganomicon because it looks like Green Tangle? Whatever the case may be, I'm just happy to have both of them in my home.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Do you take bacon with your veganism?

Helena Echlin has a fabulous piece on Chow.com about the dos and don'ts of dinner parties for folks with unique dietary styles. Such as vegetarians who eat bacon. This of course caused a general freak out in the posts below about who's "allowed" to call themselves a vegetarian and who's not.

I say if you steer clear of all meat except smoked pig, more power to you. Just think of all the cow poop you kept out of the waterways. I call that awesome! You go baconarians!

Spelt Right helps kids eat better

Last night I heard some encouraging news about the state of school food. It seems Beth George who runs Spelt Right bagel company in Portland is working with the Scarborough School system to evaluate the link between low-quality cafeteria food and the sky-rocketing costs of special education. George started the bakery after discovering that her son's erratic behavior and digestive problems were caused by the wheat, artificial colors and flavors, preservatives, high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils in his diet. Once they were gone, he got better. As an attorney who's advocated for children with similar issues, she's witnessed this link between behavior and diet on numerous occasions. Now she's working to bring that information to people who can make a difference in kids diets.

It only makes sense that if schools spent more money serving locally-grown, whole foods (instead of the mystery meat and overly processed junk the USDA likes to dump on them), the need for special education (where schools can spend upwards of $100,000 a year on one student) will decline. And that sounds like a win-win for Maine taxpayers and farmers.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

What to make when it's 7:50 pm

You may have noticed I have a tempeh obsession lately. I just can't help it. There's this whole wide world of tempeh out there and I'm just skimming the surface.

Last night I ordered the Tempehilla (totally made up word) at the Pepper Club. It was sauteed tempeh mixed with vegetables, wrapped in a Napa cabbage leaf and baked. It was seriously yummy.
And while tofu and those freaky fake soy meats are ultra-processed with little of their nutritional integrity left, tempeh is a whole food. The fermenting that turns whole soy beans into tempeh also makes those beans more digestible.

So when I finally walked in the door at 7:50 this evening absolutely starving, I reached for the Fakin' Bacon smoked tempeh strips to help me get dinner on the table fast. This came together in a flash, and we sat down by 8:15. The verdict? Absolutely yummers.

Smoky Pepper Pizza

olive oil
sea salt
1 pre-made pizza crust from the bakery (whole grain, if you can get it)
1 package smoky tempeh strips
1/2 cup organic marinara sauce
1/4 cup roasted pumpkin seeds
1 yellow pepper, diced
1 bunch scallions, diced

Preheat oven to 450. Saute tempeh strips until browned. Remove from pan and crumble. Brush crust with olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and basil (fresh, if you have it). Add marinara sauce. Sprinkle on pumpkin seeds and then add diced bulb ends of the scallions. Add crumbled tempeh and diced pepper. Lower oven temperature to 425. Cook pizza for roughly 10 minutes, or until crust is golden. Remove from oven and sprinkle with rest of scallions.

Monday, April 14, 2008

You're sorbetto-ing me crazy

Here's how I know I suffer from dark chocolate sorbetto addiction: I have a frequent pint card on file at Maple's Gelateria. At least I haven't hit rock bottom yet. Then I'd be buying it by the pan.

Don't eat dumb food

"Closing the Food Gap" author Mark Winne gave a fascinating talk this evening at Rabelais books in Portland. He spoke about how forces from sprawl to government subsidies conspired to give us a land of fast-food and processed everything. But he also spoke of the dawning of a new era of food consciousness and greater access to succulent local eats. I loved his comment about how we and our food have been dumbed down over the years by corporate marketers. All I could think of was Cheetos. I mean, what is in one of those Dayglo things?

Can't wait to read the book!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Common sense trumps big biz

At least in Montville, ME. 

Today's Maine Sunday Telegram has an interesting story about this Central Maine town's recently passed ban on genetically modified crops. It's the first of its kind in the US (outside of California). As anyone with half a brain knows, these frankenfood crops are a financial windfall to chemical companies who cook up seeds with such nifty traits as embedded pesticides and the inability to produce seeds that a farmer can plant the following year. Farmers still stuck in old paradigms of monoculture and chemically-intensive agriculture may fall prey to these companies' slick marketing messages of science overruling nature. But thankfully here in Maine, most farmers are smarter than that.

As the story says: "Rather than compete with farm states in commodity crops that are dependent on genetic modification, why not capitalize on consumer demand and premium prices for organically-raised produce and animals? Rather than hurting the economy (organic gardener Kai) George said, sustainable agriculture could generate new revenue."

All the while protecting Maine's claim to setting the standard for "the way life should be."

Friday, April 11, 2008

Bare skin + derby chicks

We're headed out to the WMPG Fashion Show at SPACE tonight. More than 20 local designers will parade everything from gowns to lingerie across the catwalk. You can catch a full report next week in SWITCH.

Tomorrow night more hot chicks come out to play. This time the action's at the Portland Expo where Maine Roller Derby's Port Authorities take on the Rhode Island Riveters. I hear this season the beer garden will expand beyond the brewskis to serve up wine and cocktails too. Sweet!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Making lentil stew

This utterly delicious soup combines my favorite bean with a savory tomato base. I used locally-grown carrots (the purple kind), potatoes and onions. Because I was out of tomato paste and didn't have any Maine-grown Backyard Beauty tomatoes, I poured in a jar of organic tomato juice.

Hearty Lentil Stew

olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
5 carrots, diced
4 small potatoes, peeled and diced
1/2 gallon organic tomato juice
4 cups water
2 cups lentils
1 cube of organic, vegan bouillon
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Heat heavy bottom stock pot over medium heat. Add olive oil and diced onion. Saute onion until translucent, then add garlic and stir for less then a minute. Pour in the tomato juice and water. Add the bouillon and stir until dissolved. Add the lentils, carrots and potatoes. Stir in seasonings. Cover, reduce heat and cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour. When lentils, carrots and potatoes are all tender, turn off heat, stir in a few tablespoons of olive oil and let steam for a couple minutes. Serve with hunks of peasant bread.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Caiola's plans brunch

I hear West End gem Caiola's plans to start serving brunch on Mother's Day.

TV gets more delicious

A new season of Delicious TV begins April 12 on PBS stations around the country. The totally vegetarian cooking show is filmed in chef Toni Fiore's Cumberland, Maine home and on location throughout the state. You can get a preview of the season and tons of yummy recipes at www.delicioustv.com.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Sunshine from the earth

Here's the yellow kiss of sunshine I found today in our courtyard garden. It's making me forget winter already. 

February? Never heard of it.

Monday, April 7, 2008


I hear there's a hot party on tomorrow night at Maple's Gelateria in the Old Port. Greendrinks promises natural networking, free drinks and whispers of free gelato.

Hot shots at the Fling

Check out the Vegan Chocolate Coconut Hot Shots created by the Pepper Club for this year's Chocolate Lovers' Fling. I think I OD'd on them. (But isn't that what happens every year?) My favorite Pepper Club entry remains the vegan chocolate cake. I like it so much we served it at our wedding.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

This weekend's cocktail of choice

Maine Mochatini

Okay, in the interest of full disclosure, we actually started mixing these up last weekend during Earth Hour. They were so amazingly yummy we had to make some more last night.

1 oz. Cold River Vodka
1 oz. Creme de Cocao
2 oz. chilled organic coffee
1/2 tsp. Madagascar bourbon pure vanilla extract
1/2 oz. Maine maple syrup
3-5 dark chocolate covered coffee beans 

Mix with ice in a cocktail shaker. Strain into a martini glass. Add the chocolate covered coffee beans. Enjoy!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Is Megan the cutest vegan alive?

She looks like a cutie to me, so she's got my vote. Cast your vote for Megan from South Paris, ME in PETA's Cutest Vegetarian Alive contest

Bayside rising

I can't wait for more buildings like this in the neighborhood. The dorms going up next door will be a welcome addition too. I'm so excited that new people will have the chance to live, work and shop on the peninsula. Living in Portland is such a treat!

Wheat & dairy free peach lavender tart

Natural gourmet vegan chef Ryan Henderson of Beetroot Kitchen in Portland cooked up this peach lavender tart for my sister's birthday. The flaky crust was made of rice flour and coconut oil. The peaches were amazing (and so indulgent at this time of year). 

Friday, April 4, 2008

Locavore harvest

Earl Dotter photograph

Another Art Walk venue we hope to hit tonight is the Meg Perry Center where "Farmworkers Feed Us All" is opening. The show by photojournalist Earl Dotter and audio-producer Tennessee Williams was up at the Augusta State House at the end of February. It offers a peek into the lives and working conditions of migrant workers during the 2007 harvest in Maine.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Blood for oil?

Martha Piscuskas image

We'll ditch the car and head out on the First Friday Art Walk tomorrow night. Rain, snow or shine. (That's the beauty of living downtown.) One show on my must-see list is "Oil,"on view at 3 Fish Gallery. It's a group exhibition with a wide-range of work exploring the human relationship with petroleum. Good, bad and disturbing. (See above.) If you can't catch it on Friday, check it out on Saturday, during the official opening reception, from 5-9 pm.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

New camera and Pom's for dinner

It's so awesome to live in downtown Portland.

Case in point: My camera broke over the weekend. (Obviously not awesome.) But yesterday my husband and I headed a couple blocks up Congress Street to Fotoshops to get a new one. The customer service was amazing.

The guy who helped us select our new point-and-shoot even programmed the time and date stamp and then set up the memory card. He stressed that the camera had a year warranty and that we should come back to the shop should anything go wrong. We were both super impressed.

Since we were in the neighborhood, it only made sense to stop at Pom's Thai Taste & Noodle House for dinner. (Twist my arm, why don't you.)

While I'm not a fan of fake meat, those of you who are will be happy to know Pom's is now offering soy chicken and other meat substitutes.