Saturday, May 31, 2008

Making market salads

Because I'm lazy on Saturdays and love to linger in bed until 9, Adam and I had to dash out of the house between torrential downpours to make it to today's farmers' market in Deering Oaks Park. By the time we got there it was a coming down like crazy again. We didn't mind though, since it's been weeks since we had a good soaking rain. (And what's a little wet clothing when in pursuit of farm fresh food?)

According to Simon Frost of Thirty Acre Farm, we missed the worst of it. He said just before we showed up lighting struck on the other side of the duck pond from where the market sets up. Simon said it was pretty wild and the ground actually shook.

The thunderstorm had moved on by the time we dashed from tent to tent looking for goodies. Given our late arrival, much was already sold out. But we did manage to score some micro greens, pac choi, radishes and fresh dill. The dill inspired me to make salads.

First, I made a Big Salad, using the micro greens, the last of the red lettuce I picked up at Wednesday's market, the radishes, the last of my storage carrots and the dill. I dressed it with a red wine vinaigrette.

Red wine vinaigrette

1/4 cup red wine vinegar
dash of sea salt
3/4 cup organic extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. Maine maple syrup
garlic powder
ground black pepper

Pour vinegar into a bowl and add salt. Mix with a whisk. Taste to see if it has the perfect balance between saltiness and acidity. Add more salt as need, or add vinegar. Then add olive oil, maple syrup, garlic powder and pepper. Whisk together and serve.

Then I made a potato salad, another great way to make use of fresh dill. I used two different varieties of Maine-grown potatoes, which gave it great color contrast between buttery yellow and white.

Tangy potato salad

6-7 potatoes, peeled and diced
1 cup frozen peas
1 Vidalia onion, diced
3 small garlic cloves, diced
1/4 cup organic apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup organic olive oil
2 Tbsp. Maine maple syrup
fresh dill
garlic sea salt
coarsely ground black pepper

Steam potatoes until fork tender. When done, steam peas for no more than 1 minute. Mix potatoes, peas, onions and garlic. Drizzle with vinegar, oil and maple syrup. Sprinkle sea salt and pepper on top. Snip springs of dill onto salad. Mix together until well blended. Chill for 2-3 hours.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Greens, reds & gossip at the market

You had to look for them, but tasty treats, including this asparagus and field grown red lettuce, could be found at today's farmers' market in Monument Square . I also saw more lettuce varieties, rhubarb and chives for sale among the seedlings and flowers. I didn't see any fiddleheads, but they were available inside the Public Market House.

While I was shopping, I ran into Dan Sripasert, one of the owners of the Green Elephant, and he told me the restaurant is now doing a Sunday brunch from 10:30 am-1:30 pm. It features Thai style dishes, including a tofu scramble. I'll have to check it out.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Get out the grill

In true Mainer fashion, my husband and I headed out to the lake to help his family open camp this Memorial Day weekend. And since nothing says "camp" to me as much as a cookout, we fired up the grill and cooked Blue Mango veggie burgers.
These all vegan patties are made in Portland and hold up well to a grill. We ate them on the yummy Everything Emma bagels from Spelt Right (also made here in Portland). And since we're talking cookouts, the Sierra Club blog has some great green grilling tips.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Homemade crack corn

Here in Portland, I'm not the only one who's addicted to the popcorn from Little Lad's Bakery. This all vegan restaurant (with locations in Portland and NYC) sells its popcorn at Whole Foods, greatly increasing it's popcorn market share. Because the popcorn is so addictive, many of us affectionately call it crack corn. If you want to try this to-die for popcorn, but don't have a Little Lads or a Whole Foods nearby, no worries. You can still enjoy it by making it yourself (or at least get damn close). Here's how:

Ultimate Popcorn

1/4 cup organic popcorn kernels
Organic extra virgin olive oil
Organic dried dill
Organic coarse ground pepper
Nutritional yeast (this is the secret crack corn ingredient)
Maine Sea Salt Company garlic salt

In a popcorn popper or covered pan add olive oil and then corn. Heat popper stirring (or shaking) rapidly until all kernels have popped. Drizzle more olive oil over kernels. Then add seasonings. If you don't have garlic salt, just use regular salt and garlic powder.

Note: This is my favorite seasoning combo, but the possibilities are endless. Raid you spice rack and see what you come up with.

Note #2: If you don't have a hand-cranked popcorn popper, go out right now and buy one. My friend Lucy gave me this one from L.L. Bean as a wedding gift. I absolutely love it! It's right up there with my Wusthof knives when it comes to my most frequently used kitchen tools.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

And the winners are

Buying from locally-owned businesses is a no-brainer for anyone who wants to live in a greener world. Not only do these businesses cut down on sprawl and keep more of a community's money in that community, they also tend to be more environmentally conscious. My guess is these greener business ways reflect the fact that the owners have deep ties to a particular area and don't have the cut-and-run mentality of most big box retailers and corporations from away. Locally owned businesses don't want poison the place where they live.

With all this in mind I was thrilled to be at Portland's first-ever Indie Biz Awards on Thursday night. More than 150 business owners and community members turned out for this rockin' party. Amazing blues man Samuel James warmed up the crowd.

Local restaurants donated wonderful food for the party. This included vegan dolmas from Silly's and falafel from Spartan Grill. Other donors included: Maple's Gelateria (the home of my sorbetto obsessions), Old Port Candy Co., Portland Fruit and Nut Company and Local Sprouts Cooperative Catering (check out this coming Thursday's Switch Magazine for more details on the cool things they're up to).

And here is the list of winners:
Portland Soul: Videoport
Local Legend: North Star Cafe
Forest City Hero: Washboard Eco-Laundry
Rising Tide Award: North Star Cafe
Beacon of My Neighborhood

  • West End: Coffee By Design
  • East End: Silly’s
  • Downtown: SPACE Gallery
  • Rosemont and North Deering: Rosemont Market
  • Bayside: Portland Time Bank
  • Forest Avenue & Woodford’s Corner: Big Sky Bakery
The Resurgam Community Impact Ward: Coffee By Design
Pillar of the Community: Micucci's

Friday, May 23, 2008

As Oprah goes ...

Yup, it's official. Veganism has hit the mainstream. As part of her quest to become more spiritually connected, cultural leader Oprah Winfrey is embarking on a 21-day vegan diet (which also steers clear of caffeine, sugar, alcohol and gluten). On her blog, she writes: "I never imagined meatless meals could be so satisfying."

If Oprah's feeling the vegan love, it's bound to start sweeping the nation. (Quick buy stock in tofu!)

With this tidbit in the news, what are the chances that we'll be able to score a table at Green Elephant tonight? I'm calling right now!

UPDATE: Just called Green Elephant. It's only 6:15 pm and they're already full. (And they have a waiting list.) They don't take reservations. Looks like Portland needs some more vegan joints ...

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Tonight's hot party

SPACE Gallery reports never pre-selling as many tickets as they have for tonight's first ever Portland Indie Biz Awards. It's bound to be a rockin' good time. Nosh on yummy eats (including many vegan nibbles), network with other local biz people and try to get some camera time with photographer extraordinaire Tim Greenway, who'll be shooting Seen photos for Switch Magazine.

Who will win bragging rights as Portland Soul, Local Legend or Forest City Hero? Only tonight will tell. You won't want to miss it.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Dark chocolate dreamin'

I'm a dark chocolate fanatic. (Okay, addict may be a better term.) The sad truth is not a day goes by when I don't sample at least one square of a dark chocolate bar. (Of course, on a good day it's five or six squares.) One of my favorites is the Chocolove Cherries & Almonds bar. But Whole Foods hasn't been stocking it lately, so I've been forced to forage among the other non-dairy offerings.

Here are the two I picked up the other day. The Divine Mint bar is lusciously dark with sparkly bursts of mint. The Terra Nostra is a bit creamier with a pleasing fruit and nut combo of raisins and pecans. But I do miss those cherries and almonds. Combined with chocolate, it's what dreams are made of.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Art of writing

If you're wondering how to get local art writers to pay attention to your creative efforts, then come out to SPACE Gallery tomorrow night. I'll be there at 7 pm along with Bob Keyes, from the Portland Press Herald, and Ken Greenleaf, from the Portland Phoenix, for a Creative Conversation sponsored by the Portland Arts and Cultural Alliance. With Jessica Tomlinson from the Maine College of Art keeping us on track, we'll dish about how we figure out what to cover and give tips on how to get your work into print. (Here's a tip: I respond well when people send me pinot gris, Maple's dark chocolate sorbetto and original works by Jamie Wyeth. Preferably all three. Okay, I'm totally kidding. Sadly enough if you were to send me any of those yummy items I'd be forced by journalistic ethics to send them back. Although the Wyeth would make me think long and hard about whether I should keep the painting and quit my day job ...) But seriously, we'll give you the real scoop tomorrow night. Bring your questions.

How's your DNA?

The BBC reported this morning on a recent study from Patiala University in Punjab, India that showed DNA damage among farmers who blanket their crops in pesticides. Researchers believe this DNA damage is tied to the cancer rates among Indian farmers. Such a link between pesticides and cancer is, of course, no surprise to anyone who's studied ecology. This field shows clearly that you can't affect one part of a biological community without causing a ripple effect through the environment. We all know the chemical companies will deny and attempt to confuse this type of research to their grave. Let's just hope they don't take us all down with them.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Meat-free for World Vegetarian Week

I'm sure you all have your calendars marked with bright green broccolis and neon orange carrots so as not to miss out on World Vegetarian Week. In case this somehow slipped your mind, here's what you need to know. This yearly celebration of good eating and clean consciences happens May 19-25.

How can you join the worldwide veggie love in? It's simple. Challenge yourself to go meat-free for the week. Whether you're an animal lover, an eco-crusader or a devotee of healthy living, a plant-based diet is one of the easiest (and most delicious) ways to make a difference in your life and the world.

Here's one little fact from the U.N. to mull over: Even if you gave up your car and somehow cut your transportation-related emissions to zero, your meat eating would more than make up for those carbon cutbacks. Despite all our jet setting and SUV driving, we can take a bigger slice out of our collective carbon footprint by cutting out or cutting down on the amount of meat we eat. Can you do it?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Thai one on

I'm a huge fan of Thai food, and in fact Adam and I chowed down at Pom's Thai Taste last night. So delicious. Tonight, with little time to spare for dinner, I still managed to whip up a Thai-inspired dish. Here's how you can too.

Thai peanut noodles

7 oz. rice noodles
boiling water

2 Tbsp. organic olive oil
1/4 cup finely diced organic onion
1/4 cup organic peanut butter
1 cup water
1/4 cup Thai chili sauce
1/4 cup organic soy sauce
1/2 cup crushed organic peanuts
1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
1 organic lime

Stir fry:
2 Tbsp. organic olive oil
2 cloves organic garlic, finely diced
1 large organic onion sliced in strips (I used a Vidalia)
1 organic carrot, sliced diagonally
1 cup frozen, organic broccoli

In a sauce pan, add oil and saute onion until translucent. Add peanut butter, water, Thai chili sauce and soy sauce. Simmer for 1/2 hour (or longer) to thicken. (If you're pressed for time, like I was, add a tsp. of whole grain flour to thicken.) Add peanuts, sesame oil and the juice of the lime. (Word to the wise: If you're not an organic freak like me, do consider going organic when you eat peanuts and peanut butter. Peanuts are widely grown as a rotation crop with cotton, and cotton is one of the most chemical intensive crops in the US. Of course the peanuts pick up all those toxic nasties. And who wants to eat defoliants for dinner?)

In a wok or stir fry pan, heat the garlic in olive oil for 1-2 minutes. Then add onions and saute for 2-3 minutes and then add the carrots. Saute another minute or two and then add the broccoli.

Meanwhile, boil water. Place the rice noodles in a deep bowl and pour the boiling water over them. Steep a minute or two and then drain.

Once the broccoli is heated through, it's done. Add the noodles to a plate, top with veggies and then sauce. I sprinkled this with a few chopped onion greens from Sunshine Farm (aka the commune).

MRD rolls on undefeated

Maine Roller Derby's Port Authority's skated to their sixth straight victory tonight against the Stepford Sabotage. You go girls!
We were thrilled to have roller rock star Punchy O'Guts skate over to say hi. (We're not worthy!!) All you veggie lovers out there will be happy to know she's a huge fan of tofu cream cheese on her morning bagel. Could that be the source of her derby prowess? Hmmm ...

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Summer beer gossip

A little birdie told me that Peak Organic is cooking up a new brew for summer. Following on the heels of its breakfast-themed spring brew (Maple Oat), the Portland-based brewery's summer reads like a warm weather sorbet: Pomegranate Wheat Ale with Acai. Wow! It sounds delicious. And not only is its beer organic, but it's vegan too. Can't wait to taste it.

No word yet on when it will hit stores ...

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Vote for your indie heros

Next Thursday, May 22, SPACE Gallery is the place to be when the 1st annual Indie Biz Awards rock their way into town. There will be lots of yummy eats -- including falafel and fiddleheads -- and plenty of excitement as we wait to find out who will walk away with awards. But before all the partying begins, you need to get out and vote. Actually, you don't have to go anywhere. Just click on over to and cast your ballot for the best Portland has to offer. What could be easier?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Dirty cheater martini

I love olives, so it's no surprise I'm a big fan of dirty martinis. But since I'm a notorious lightweight, I try to limit myself to one (two if I must), and I tend to make them a little less powerful than most. When I mixed this one the other night, I didn't want to open a bottle of vermouth, so I cheated.

Dirty cheater martini

1 1/2 oz. Cold River Vodka
1 oz. Divina olive brine
1 oz. Stirrings Spanish olive brine
3 Divina green olives stuffed with sweet peppers

Combine liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake well. Strain into a chilled glass and garnish with olives.

Bring a cup

Network with fellow eco-minded folks at tonight's Greendrinks gathering. It takes place from 5:30-8 pm at Springboard Pilates at 143 Spring St. in Portland. Bring a cup and enjoy free food, free drinks and earth-friendly banter. (A certain local magazine may even ask you to smile for the camera.) Gorillas are optional.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Meal for mothers

I whipped up a seasonal vegan dinner for my mother and Adam's mother in honor of yesterday's Mother's Day festivities. This ensured that neither of them had to do any work, and instead they could kick back with a glass of wine (Kungfu Girl riesling), while Adam and I made sure they were well fed. (It also proved a great excuse to get out the rarely used China.)
Dinner started with a simple and always crowd pleasing bruschcetta, made from Backyard Beauty tomatoes, Olivia's Garden basil, Maine-grown garlic and Maine sea salt. I spooned the mix over toasted baguette slices and they disappeared quickly.
My mother brought a jar filled with dandelion greens down from Sunshine Farm, and I chopped them up and dressed them with the most simple of vinaigrettes (organic olive oil, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar and a touch of apple cider vinegar, plus just a hint of sea salt). Unlike the 1 to 4 vinegar to oil ratio of a traditional vinaigrette, I went heavier on the vinegar because I find the acidity is the perfect balance for the astringent bite of dandelion greens. I sprinkled a bit more sea salt on top and it was the ultimate spring tonic.
In keeping with the wild food theme, I also served fiddleheads from Windy Hill Farm in Windham. I sautéed them with olive oil, thinly sliced garlic and soy sauce. Here they are partially obscured by steam.
Lentil cakes served as the meal's main course. To make these I used my go-to mujaddara recipe, substituting a short-grain brown rice that tends to be much stickier than the long grain varieties. I formed them into patties and lightly browned them in a cast iron skillet. Thai chili sauce gave the cakes an added kick of spice. Olive and garlic rolls from Whole Foods rounded out the plate.
Finally, we concluded the meal with chocolate mousse pie. To make it all you need is two packages of firm tofu (I prefer organic Mori-Nu Silken tofu), a bag of vegan dark chocolate chips, vanilla extract, grapeseed oil, Maine maple syrup and a pre-made graham cracker pie crust. Pour about a 1/4 cup of oil in a blender and then add the tofu and 1/2 tsp. of vanilla extract. Puree. As it begins to turn to the consistency of pudding, add the maple syrup until it is sweetened to your taste. I probably use about a 1/2 cup. Meanwhile, place the chocolate chips in a double boiler and allow to melt. Once it's melted, pour it into the blender and blend until well mixed. Pour this into the pre-made crust and top with crushed walnuts or fruit. Chill for 2-3 hours before serving. Few will ever guess this is made from tofu.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Get your walk score

When I was growing up on the farm, I couldn't walk anywhere. Sure, I could walk down the street to the neighbor's house. But that was about it. Groceries, movies, restaurants, you name it, if I wanted to get there, I needed to drive. Now that I live in downtown Portland, everything I could possibly want is within a few blocks of my house. It's so amazingly convenient, sometimes I have to pinch myself to believe it's real.

I recently found this cool website, Walk Score. It's billed as a tool for house & apartment hunters that allows you to figure out if the home of your dreams will force you to spend a good portion of your life in the car. On the flip side, it shows how living in a walkable neighborhood will allow you to actually get out and enjoy life.

So, I typed in my current address (see map above) and it rated a 94 out of 100. Pretty impressive. But when I typed in the address of the farm (see below), I wasn't that surprised to see it spit out a big fat zero. The place is great for growing veggies and raising goats, but it's pretty isolating when you're a kid without a car. (Or living in an age when gas costs almost $4 a gallon.) Needless to say, I'm psyched to have left the commune for the city. But you probably already guessed that.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


I scored some of the first fiddleheads of the season from K. Horton's in the Public Market House today. At $5.99 a pound these fresh picked delicacies were quite the bargain. According to Kay, the fiddleheads come from Corinna, ME and the guy who harvests them predicts a longer than usual season (due to the heavy snow pack).

Monument Square was full of farmers today (the official start of the market season). They were selling tons of flowers and tempting seedlings, such as strawberries and tomatoes. This Saturday marks the first day of the farmers' market in Deering Oaks Park, from 7 am-noon.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The dirt on makeup

In our buyer beware economy, cosmetics are up there with Chinese toys when it comes to pretty things that can be downright toxic. Like a lot of chicas, I like a good lipstick. But lead poisoning, not so much. Unfortunately that may be just what I'm getting with my petal pink lips.

Tomorrow night at 7 pm author Stacy Malkan comes to Longfellow Books in downtown Portland to read and sign her book "Not Just a Pretty Face." Here are some stats from Stacy:

The $35 billion cosmetics industry is so powerful that they've kept themselves unregulated for decades.Not one cosmetic product has to be approved by the US Food and Drug Administration before hitting the market. Incredible? Consider this:

  • The European Union has banned more than 1,100 chemicals from cosmetics. The United States has banned just 10.
  • Only 11% of chemicals used in cosmetics in the US have been assessed for health and safety – leaving a staggering 89% with unknown or undisclosed effects.
  • More than 70% of all personal care products may contain phthalates, which are linked to birth defects and infertility.
  • Many baby soaps are contaminated with the cancer-causing chemical 1,4 dioxane.
Thankfully, the news is not all bad. You can find clean cosmetics, with tools such as this handy dandy database.I'm sure she'll share more tips at the talk.

1st chives of the season

My mother brought these sweet, succulent chives back from Sunshine Farm (aka the commune). They made a wonderfully fresh topping to last night's Maine baked potatoes, served with organic olive oil, Maine sea salt and sautéed onions. Yum!

Monday, May 5, 2008


This weekend's adventures included ordering a bucket of Peak Organic Pale Ale at The White Heart. Why we've never done this before, I have no idea. I think we may have been inspired by the impending arrival of summer. Or maybe we were just thirsty. (As I recall, there were some cocktails on the table too. But who's keeping track?)

And let me give a special shout out to my friend Emily. Without her tech-savvy, I wouldn't have a photo to share. Emily you rock!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Granny's is back (don't let the sign fool you)

We finally checked out the new home of Granny's Burritos last night. This Portland veg-friendly institution hopped from the Old Port to the West End after a brief hiatus (causing much heartache around town). The food was just as yummy as we remembered, and they continue to have daily vegan specials. They no longer do counter service for take-out, but the interior decor is much improved (a mix of Uncle Billy's and Granny's throw backs)

The new location is at 653 Congress St. (The old Uncle Billy's Rest-O-Bar spot.) A sign must be on its way, but right now it reads Neon Diner. Don't let it lead you astray.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Derby day

Oh yeah, it's time for more girl on girl action. Tonight Maine Roller Derby's Port Authorities take on the Long Island Roller Rebels. The bout starts at 6 pm and doors are at 5. The Edith Jones Project opens the show.

Join us in the beer garden and you too can have as much fun as my gal pals and I had at the last game.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

5 spots for hummus in Portland, ME

Whenever I need a quick and inexpensive meal, I seek out a hummus sandwich. These puppies vary widely, depending on the quality of the hummus, the type of bread and the choice of toppings. Most often, I go for a whole wheat roll up. I tend to pair it with the standard toppings of the famous Maine Italian: pickles (without pickles, why bother?), olives, onions, green pepper, tomato, salt and pepper. Sometimes I add in lettuce too.

My absolute, all time favorite hummus remains the one from the Bagel Cafe in Camden. I've yet to find its thick, veggie filled match in Portland. But I keep looking. In the meantime, here are five solid choices for hummus fans:

Market Street Eats, 30 Market St.
Go for the Avo Cucumber (with pickles, of course).

Vaughn Street Variety, 235 Vaughn St.
They have a hummus wrap on the menu with sprouts and stuff, but I always go Italian style.

The Works Bakery & Cafe, 15 Temple St.
Go for the organic, whole grain bagel. They make their hummus in-house.

Back Cove Deli
, 89 Ocean Ave.
They have yummy Greek olives.

West End Grocer, 133 Spring St.
Again, I modify to fit my pickle/olive needs.

Way with weeds

"Mullein in Field," by John Knight

Despite RoundUp maker Monsanto's best efforts to make us fear native plants, artist John Knight doesn't subscribe to their toxic philosophy. Instead he celebrates these common plants in monumental and boldly colored artworks. You can check out a selection tomorrow night during Portland's First Friday Art Walk. His works are on view at the Portland Downtown District offices at 549 Congress St.

If you want to read more about Knight and his work, be sure to pick up today's copy of Switch Magazine, where I have a story about him in our Art Walk Guide.