This Oregon Life

I have been eagerly awaiting decent Oregon weather so I can get out in the woods to enjoy some camping.  With my ready made camping vehicle, I can be on the go without much preparation other than food.  It is so awesome to get in and go!  I’ve been really excited to get out in nature and enjoy my beautiful Oregon.  Let me tell you, I desperately need out of Portland these days!  I enjoyed an extra long trip last weekend and this weekend I did an over-niter just because I can! Nature, beauty and primitive camping is not far from Portland.  Less than a two hour drive brings me to the peace I want.

 

My lovely state did not disappoint!  The weather was perfect both weekends.  Last weekend I stayed at a new campground for me and this weekend I went to an old time favorite spot where I have been camping for years.  Both spots brought me the calm solitude and connection with nature I love.

My sweet princess is not a fan of camping.  Her first weekend she spent terrified and preferred the comfort of my lap or on the bed safe inside my rig.  Even with friends she loved, being out and near the camp fire was much too scary for my little one.  Freshly returned from my second camping trip of the season my little girl is exhausted.  This time she was attacked by a dog much larger than her as we were taking a walk.  Irresponsible pet owners did not have their dog leashed at their campsite.  When we walked by, he ran out to us and attacked my baby. Thankfully, she has only minor physical injuries but she is now a skittish, terrified little thing.  I certainly hope she gets back to her usual spunky happy self soon.  My poor, sweet baby.  That was a terrifying experience for us both.

 

We’re taking a couple weeks break from camping to enjoy other weekend activities, but we’ll be back at it again with more adventures and good food in store!!  I’ve got some camping with dog experience behind me now so I think I’m more prepared for future trips. Every chance I get this coming season, I will be out in the great green of Oregon.  If my plans lay out as I hope, this will be my last summer in Oregon so I am taking advantage of what my great state offers so close to home. (I’ll share more about this later!)

As my usual style, food is the center of attention for my camping adventures.  Remember that raspberry sauce I wrote about not long ago?  Here’s the same version with blueberries added.  It made for a delicious pancake sauce this morning.  There’s nothing like freshly made food in the great outdoors.  It just tastes better!  I added a dollop of plain coconut Greek style yogurt, which is actually quite sweet and not tart like typical dairy yogurts. The combination was fantastic!  Add a steeping cup of fresh brewed java, a little fire to watch dance and this morning was divine!20160626_093914

 

 

 

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Pep In My Step Kale Pesto

Traditional pesto is fantastic, but I don’t eat dairy and I don’t often have a bunch of basil in my fridg.  I do however, almost always have a bunch of kale in there.  I learned long ago how to make a good dairy free basil pesto.  It’s only been in the past few years that I’ve branched out to create different kinds of pesto using greens other than basil.  I love it so much and I always feel good when I’m getting in my greens.  It puts a little pep in my step!

I don’t know what it is about June.  When this month rolls around I get to feeling giddy and happy.  This is exactly where I’m at these days.  Of course, it might be because I’ve actually got several planned vacations through out the next few months.  I’ve officially gotten the time off and I can’t wait to get this party started!!  I am really looking forward to summer, to vacations and to play!!

This pesto will definitely be on my “make to go” list when I’m planning foods for out of town trips and camping.  I mixed it up a bit and tried something new-almonds!  Traditional pesto calls for pine nuts, but they are cost prohibitive.  Walnuts are a more affordable substitute and my usual choice, however when I opened my mason jar of walnuts they smelled rancid to me.  That left me with almonds.  There ya go!  Pesto with almonds is quite delicious so remember, don’t ever limit yourself–in food or in life!

I tossed these simple ingredients into my trusty food processor and whizzed away until my pesto was creamy and mostly smooth.  I used this in a chicken and rice dish, as a pizza crust sauce base, as a salad dressing, in an omelet and even as a sandwich spread, more than once!  All from one simple bunch of kale.  Come on!!  You have to give this a try!!  So tasty and good for you; one bunch of kale can feed you for days when you get creative with it!  You’ll have a pep in your step, too.  Enjoy, my friends!  Happy June!

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One bunch of kale (variety of your choice-I used curly)

1/4 cup sliced raw almonds

2 garlic cloves (I used home grown garlic from a friend and it packed some punch!)

1/4 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp fresh crushed pepper

a small squeeze of fresh lemon juice (about one teaspoon)

I free poured olive oil…guessing an amount? About 3 tablespoons then added water one tablespoon at a time until it reached the desired consistency.

Add all ingredients to a food processor and whiz until smooth.  Enjoy in a variety of creative ways!

 

 

 

Dairy free “ranch” dressing

I got some fantastically beautiful heads of lettuce at the Farmer’s Market this past weekend. The heat has given farmers an abundance of lettuce and there were plenty of vendors offering great buys on what some were calling  “heat wave lettuce”!

I often have dinner with a friend who usually offers salad as part of the meal.  She makes a dairy free dressing for me that is similar to ranch and her base is mayonnaise.  I wanted to mimic this dressing to use for my lunch salads, but my goal was to find a more whole foods way to do it.  I found this creamy alternative and while it did not turn out quite like I had hoped, it was a delicious flavor.  The texture was more like a blue cheese than the smooth “buttermilk” ranch I thought it would be.  I blame that on my blending option.  I used a large blender for a small amount.  When I try this recipe again, I will use my magic bullet instead.  This makes about 1/2 cup of dressing.

On Sunday I made a last minute plan to have a couple of friends over for “happy hour” so I used this dressing with a salad made of butter lettuce, red onions, thinly sliced Bartlett pears, dried currents and candied pecans.  It turned out beautifully and received a thumbs up from my guests.  I used the remainder of the dressing for my lunch salad yesterday, but I chose a more hearty salad that can withstand a little travel bouncing.  I used butter lettuce, red onions, shredded carrots and zucchini, toasted almonds and some chili cilantro spiced chicken thigh pieces, cut bite sized.  It was a delicious salad!  I will definitely try this recipe again, adjusting my blending tool for the amount this makes.  Give it a try! It’s a great alternative that provides a great whole foods protein punch!

This is where I got the original version:

http://www.rickiheller.com/2014/05/kale-salad-with-fennel-and-radicchio-in-a-creamy-buttermilk-dressing/

Here’s my version:

1/4 cup hemp seeds

1/4 cup cashews

1 Tbsp olive oil

2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar (I’m trying pickle juice next time!)

1 clove garlic

1 tsp agave

2 Tbsp water

BLEND WELL

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Moms Kick Up The Health Twisted Taco Salad

This is a long overdue post for me.  I put myself on my own loose schedule of blog posting, yet I rarely follow what I mindfully intend so I’m not sure why I even do it.  I guess sometimes it does work.  Blog writing is happening in my mind a lot more than you all see it right here.  I am just having too much fun this summer and have not had the brain space or focus to get this typed.  A definite highlight of my summer was this past weekend.  My good friend; one of my favorite people in this world, came to visit from Baltimore.  I adore that man and spending time with him gives me such deep joy.  I got an extra dose of time with him yesterday, spending the afternoon lounging at my neighborhood park enjoying a very Portland annual event.  I had such a great weekend.  Refreshed and energized, I am ready to get focused on my work week.  My focus is starting now as I write this.  I have another extra busy week, with it being my last week of classes. This means being extra prepared for on the go foods that will keep me fed into the late evening hours since class days keep me from home roughly twelve hours.  I will look forward to a two week reprieve in my time before I begin another round of classes.

Thankfully, I am still enjoying the greens from my dad’s garden.  I hauled home another large harvest to share with friends and to restock my own fridg.  I have discovered an incredibly space saving way to store my abundant produce that is working quite well.  I have also been eating greens at every meal so none will go to waste!  Salads of every variety have been my lunch and dinner meals almost daily.  Green juices, kale pesto, arugula pesto, and a variety of sandwiches piled with greens, wraps made from lettuce leaves, collard leaves…you name it, I am making it!  I have been eating well and feeling very healthy.

When my son called me not long ago to tell me he made my mom’s taco salad for dinner, I suddenly had an unbelievably strong craving for just that.  I loved my mom’s taco salad as a kid.  We all loved her salad.  As adults, my siblings agree that moms taco salad made hot summer evenings cooler.  My personal favorite part of the salad was the crushed fritos she would put in it.  To this day, I admit my weakness is still fritos.  Yes, I have had one too many love affairs with that salty, crunchy, oily goodness.  I always pay for it so I am actively avoiding my desires.  My son gave me my dinner idea and I wanted to have taco salad as well.  My taco salad is a little twisted.  There are no fritos in this one.  It is definitely not moms recipe, but I enjoyed the memories it created as I prepared my version of moms taco salad.  It was super tasty.

I look forward to my week ahead and will continue to eat greens for days to come.  If this week is like my others recently, it will fly by so quickly I will be surprised by the speed at which I get to yet another fun filled weekend.  Next weekend will be spent with a friend, who I refer to as my fast friend.  We met, connected immediately and became great friends instantly.  Five years later, our friendship has developed into a connection I know will be deep and lasting.  We will enjoy holiday festivities among many more wonderful people.  Life is good.  Life is green.  If you find yourself with bountiful greens, give this salad a try, or give it your own twist.  Enjoy!

Twisted Taco Salad

Brown one half pound of organic, grass fed ground beef with chopped white onions in a skillet.  Add spices: paprika, cumin, oregano, garlic powder, turmeric, black pepper to your desired taste.  Add half cup of pinto beans, stir and heat until beans are warmed through. Remove from heat and allow to cool.  Fill a large bowl with romaine lettuce (about 8 cups), torn into bite size pieces.  I added some arugula because I love its spicy flavor.  I topped the lettuce with the beef and bean mixture, some daiya cheddar cheese shreds and kalamata olives.  I avoid tomatoes and avocado, but these would be great additions if you desire.  I drizzled a tiny bit of lime juice over my salad, gave it a mix and stuck a fork in it! Yum!!

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Raspberries And Reflections

Our one raspberry bush has produced so much fruit this season I am finding it hard to keep the pace with their succession of ripening.  This is a raspberry bush that was cut back to practically one stalk last fall after the summer harvest.  The bush was not planted in the best location.  It was growing up onto the end of the deck and throwing sprouts in places that just were not good spots for berries to grow, like under our deck.  We had raspberry vines coming up through the planks in the deck!  All the sprouts were removed, one was replanted to a better location but didn’t survive and this one came back with a vengeance in the best kind of way.  It has grown wider around and even though it does still branch out onto the end of the deck, there have been no sprouts under it trying to make their way up through the deck and overall this bush is growing earnestly.

Raspberries are my favorite type of berry (Marionberries are a close second) and I am thrilled with the abundance of this fruit in our yard.  I find myself thinking up the next best recipe using raspberries before they hit their peak and turn to mush, which is really just a few days once picked.  They are such delicate berries.

Playing around in the kitchen always provides plenty of opportunity for reflection. Sometimes I completely immerse myself in my project, using every bit of focus to create a dish, which frees my mind of the clutter that often generates turmoil.  I like to call it my “brain break”. Sometimes my kitchen time becomes the place where I work through an issue I am having or to reflect on life, my surroundings, ideas…or whatever happens to be rolling around in my mind.

Most recently, I have been mulling over my recent travel troubles.  It has taken me quite a few days to work through what I experienced and come to terms with the loss of not only my car but a long term dream that did not get fulfilled.  There have been days when I felt like I just could not take any more challenges or obstacles.  It is still hard not to feel completely defeated by life.  How much can one person handle?  I often feel like I have reached my limit and beyond.  It has been hard for me to reach out, to get support and to find ways that will lift me.  Basically, I have been an incredibly depressed mope!

Thank goodness I have some amazing friends.  One particularly wonderful friend called the other morning and what she said spoke to the deepest part of me.   She listened, she related and she offered kind, wise words.  She encouraged me to keep my dream alive; that this trip was not a failure.  She reminded me of my strengths and my overall positive attitude in even the toughest situations.  Then she suggested we meet for coffee the next day.  I feel like that get together was the lift I needed to begin moving me forward and help pull me from the depths of despair.  Okay, that may sound a little dramatic, but it is certainly not a stretch in the way I have been feeling.   I should add that this friend is also a life coach and quite naturally offers practical, simple advice to guide people on their right path.  She is one of the most genuine and truly caring people I know.  She sincerely wants to help people and offers whatever she can from the kindness of her heart.  She is a gem.

When we met she did exactly what she does for anyone struggling with the torments of life; pulled out her notebook and began a list of weekly things for me to do that will keep me on my right path.  In addition, she gently offered plenty of sage wisdom, lots of love and strokes of  affection.  In the days since we’ve met I have looked at my list a few times, especially when I find myself going the direction of despair.  My list grounds me to the moment and keeps me focused on good things.  I tell myself to just do what’s on the list, even if it feels meaningless.  I find that at days end I feel accomplished.

Things are looking better.  I have purchased a new to me car.  This time I did some thorough research on the make and model, talked extensively with the former owner and asked a lot of questions.  I think I got a great car and one that will last me many years, I hope!   It is definitely the nicest looking and most mechanically sound vehicle I have owned.  I am still cautiously optimistic.

Other things are falling in to place as well.  I have a few aspirations I am following and feel pretty good about those potential outcomes.  I am trying a little harder to stay connected with friends.  I am taking advantage of my time off to do good things for myself like my list says, even if it is just painting my toe nails or checking out a cool library book.  The most exciting thing is my sweetie now has time off and in a couple of days we are going on our own mini road trip that will include camping.  I am looking forward to our together time in nature.  We have amazing travel adventures.

I’ll be back on the road soon, this time with my favorite companion.  I have an assurance that I will not only have a great time, I will not get lost because my sweetie is the best at navigating just about anywhere.  It seems my dismal mood may be nearing it’s end, just like our raspberries.  Those sweet things are just about done producing for the season.

As I reflect on my recent life conflicts, I realize this is just another notch in my growth. Someday I will more fully understand the lessons in these events.  For now, I’ll keep working on closing this chapter and moving forward with the things that make life good–Friends, love, and raspberries. Here’s what I have been doing with those lovely little berries.  Try some of these ideas at your house, or mix it up and use the next cycle of berries that will be ripe soon-blackberries!

Note: I did make some changes with the scone recipe I made.  I used coconut oil in place of palm shortening.  I used hemp milk and I also added a total of 1 1/2 cups of berries.  I used hemp milk in the chia seed pudding; a first that I wasn’t as excited about as when I use coconut milk.  The salad was absolutely amazing!  In addition to chopped kale, which I massaged gently with sea salt and olive oil to make it softer to chew, I added Fuji apple slices, raspberries and toasted slivered almonds.  The dressing was a mix of olive oil, fresh squeezed lemon juice, grated ginger a bit of agave and a little sea salt and fresh ground pepper.

I highly recommend any or all of these delicious dishes!  Take advantage of this season of berries and try these recipes today!

 

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raspberry chia seed pudding using 2 Tblsp chia seeds, 8 ounces hemp milk, 1/2 tsp agave, 1/3 cup raspberries and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

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