Thanksgiving in Tigard

A little late posting, but better late than never. Was just having too much fun since Thanksgiving apparently and had no time to post.


This year, I decided to forgo the “usual” Thanksgiving dinner with the usual suspects in Portland (family/family friends and their kids, now mostly “adults” in their 20s… time flies!). Also, I can’t really eat the typical thanksgiving foods anyways, due to my body’s hostile response to certain organic molecules.

The decision took its course based on the challenge from a close friend’s parents: why don’t you make us a dinner that you can eat in its entirety and that is delicious and we can’t tell it’s xyz-free. To be specific: no egg, no dairy, and no gluten. Challenge accepted…

Not to be a complete spoiler, but I even surprised myself in how good everything turned out, of course not without help of my minions…C,D, and G. (names not published for anonymity)

The first step was to brainstorm dishes. I wanted to include seasonal vegetables, like mushroom and pumpkin/squash. Apparently they have good vitamins and minerals we need with the cold-sunless season coming up, among other reasons. Here’s the final list:

Drink:
Mulled Wine

Appetizer:
Curried pumpkin Soup
Mixed Pumpkin Seed and Currant Salad

Main Course:
Mashed potato-carrot
Vegetable Medley
Turkey with Cranberry-orange sauce

Dessert:
Mini Cheesecakes
Chocolate Mousse

The day before Thanksgiving, I had to figure out what order all these things should be made in. It was almost like a programming problem. Here are all the things to consider:

  1. Time to make dish
  2. How much time after making it would it have to either
    1. Sit before it was good (for something like cheesecake to solidify)
    2. Be eaten before it would cool down and be no longer good to eat unless reheated
  3. What kitchenware was needed, or appliances that were shared, so the dishes couldn’t be worked on simultaneously.
    1. In some cases at all (where it was on the stove and there’s no more space, or there was only one large enough pan, etc.)
    2. other cases only for part of the preparation (i.e. need of food processor for one of the steps of dish).
  4. Who was making the dish (even I can’t be making 4 dishes at once, at least it would be difficult…)

Considering all the above, here is how the list played out, with some overlaps with multiple people helping out.

  1. Turkey
  2. Mini Cheesecakes
  3. Cranberry – Orange Sauce
  4. Soup / Salad
  5. Mashed potato – carrot
  6. Mulled Wine
  7. Vegetable Medley
  8. Chocolate Mousse
  9. Mulled Wine

(Yes I’m an engineer for those of you wondering…and yes, I was very serious about this. All or Nothing. Just to make it more difficult, I biked from Portland to Tigard, carrying part of the food I was going to use. Not crazy at all. Nope. The glass bottle of maple syrup survived my fall on the icy road, not to worry. )

Here are all the pictures from the process:

Cheesecake Crust made of ground dates and hazelnuts in muffin tin
Cheesecake Crust made of ground dates and hazelnuts

Cheesecake no-cheese filling made from cashews, coconut milk, agave, and lemon juice
Cheesecake no-cheese filling made from cashews, coconut milk, agave, and lemon juice

Mini cheesecakes filled with cashew filling and spiced with a variety of flavors: strawberry, banana-rum, raspberries, and moreMini cheesecakes filled with cashew filling and spiced with a variety of flavors: strawberry, banana-rum, raspberries, and more

Homemade vodka tonic with some festive cranberry mixer to improve the mood while toiling in the kitchen
Homemade vodka tonic with some homemade cranberry mixer to improve the mood while toiling in the kitchen

Caramelizing onions as first step to sautéed veggie dish
Caramelizing onions as first step to sautéed veggie dish

Chopping Green beans for the veggie sautéChopping green beans for the veggie sauté

Finishing touches on the green bean-mushroom-onion sauté, simmering on lowFinishing touches on the green bean-mushroom-onion-asparagus sauté, simmering on low flame

Mashed potatoes and carrots with coconut oil and spices. A south french twist to regular mashed potatoes Mashed potatoes and carrots with coconut oil and spices. A south french twist to regular mashed potatoes

Leafy green salad with tomatoes and pumpkin seeds
Leafy green salad with tomatoes and pumpkin seeds and walnuts

Mixing mashed pumpkin and curry-coconut soupMixing mashed pumpkin and curry-coconut soup

Soup ready to eat, garnished with roasted pumpkin seedsSoup ready to eat, garnished with roasted pumpkin seeds

Boiling Cranberries for an unsweetened sauce experienceBoiling cranberries for an unsweetened sauce experience

Food processing boiled cranberries with a fresh orange including the peel. Adds a bitter taste to the soft sour cranberries
Food processing boiled cranberries with a fresh orange including the peel. Adds a bitter taste to the soft sour cranberries

This turkey was incubating in the oven at around 170F since the day before. We had to increase the temp towards the end to kill any remaining bacteriaThis turkey was incubating in the oven at around 170F since the day before. We had to increase the temp towards the end to make the outside perfectly crisp

Finely Chopped bakers chocolate from Trader Joe's to be melted for second dessertFinely chopped bakers chocolate from Trader Joe’s to be melted for second dessert

Accidental art with chocolate. It is ready to be mixed with tofu and coconut milk for the vegan mousseAccidental art with chocolate. It is ready to be mixed with tofu and coconut milk for the vegan mousse

Mousse almost ready: just need to press go!
Mousse almost ready: just need to press go!

Chocolate Mousse garnished and ready to be devoured. There's a separate stomach for dessert, right?Chocolate mousse garnished and ready to be devoured. There’s a separate stomach for dessert, right?

All ready to eat, five hours later. yumm :)All ready to eat, five hours later. yumm 🙂

The table is set, freshly cut linen courtesy of C. All about presentationThe table is set, freshly cut linen courtesy of C. All about presentation.

Mt. St. Helens – the Edible version

This was a journey requiring 1 hour of shopping, 6 hours of mixing and baking, and 1.5-2 hours of decorating. The idea came out of a weekend getaway in the enchantments. On the drive home, a two hour discussion then turned into reality: a cake in the shape of the famous Mt. St. Helens. It even included spirit lake, the logs, and certain contours around the area. Besides that, all the ingredients except for the tan-sand colored frosting was home-made. The base material was made of a sponge cake, the same as what the Hungarian Dobos Torte is made of. Here is the time-lapse in pictures:

First rough cake-looking part. This will be the main mountain.

Image of one of the thin layers. Kind of falling apart but it will be used!

The frosting I made – It is a mixture of coconut oil and semi-sweet chocolate chunks from trader joes

Spirit lake being created…

Cutting out contours for the glaciers

Bird’s eye view of the contoured mountain. Looks like a mess without frosting and cover up.

Closer image of contours

Frosting starting to be applied

Almost finished, only the vegetation missing now.

Finished! (not the best quality…) this is when we presented it to the birthday boy. Maybe next time I’ll put an explosive in the crater or some dry ice or something.

The birthday boy was really happy for the cake. real man hug 😉

The Spanish Indians


It is Thursday, around 2pm. It has been about 2.5 hrs cruising, enjoying the view of the sharp walls and overhung rock faces with water streams free-falling 100s of meters to sea level. Now we are nearing the town of Sogndal, I go into the kitchen to start preparing the fish soup. Should be easy, just dumping the contents of some frozen bags into a pot and let it heat up, mix some milk in, no problem.
But the problem comes in the form of Mads who rushes into the kitchen with a frantic look on his face. He grimaces:
“We have a bit of a… problem… eh… these Spanish are actually not Spanish but Indians and they are süper vegetarians. They don’t even eat fish, eggs, nothing!” At this point I actually half laugh-smile, thinking to myself – this is what I’m good at 🙂 I used to eat completely vegan minus fish for a year.
“Don’t worry,” I grin, “I know how to make food like that. Let’s go out to the village and buy some peas, tomato sauce, frozen veggies, rice…?”
IMG_4911
And so it goes – we get a bunch of random ingredients as I quickly go over in my head what can be made in under 1 hour for these strict-diet Indian women. The lunch ended up being rice with a pea-bean-tomato saucy stew with cooked vegetable medley in a sweet and sour sauce. For some appetizers, we cut melon, bananas, apples, and pears. I had much fun with it, the boat-mate Mathias helping me with it. In the end, the most satisfying thing was that everyone loved the food, I saved someone’s ass, thus being called the “hero” of the day. As a result, my meal was for free as well as unlimited glasses of wine and shrimps in the evening.

2. Portlandi Kiscserkesz Tabor – N.Umpqua River

Kepek

Pentek Reggel elindult ot vezeto, s 5-6 csalad delre Portlandtol. A celjuk: Horseshoe Bend Campground. Itt volt a helyszine a masodik Portlandi Kiscserkesz tabornak. 3.5-4 ora utazas, lerobbant kocsi, s azoknak kimentese utan, cuccal egyutt vegul elert a csapat a taborhelyre. E megprobaltatasok utan is mindenkinek jo kedve volt, alig varta a tabort. Szulok kulon taborba vonultak, s a vezetok: Tunde, Joska, Katie, Ildiko, es az Orban hazaspar Seattlebol kezdtek a foglalkozasokat. Kezdtuk ismerkedo jatekokkal, satrakba bekoltozessel. Azutan volt egy finom paprikas krumpli vacsorara.
A taborba iden kevesebben voltak mint mult evben, de jo csapat gyult ossze: volt egy darazs nevezetu fiu ors amiben harom 6 eves volt, es a Gyongyvirag ors, amelyben harom 8-11 eves lany volt. Orsvezetojuk Joska (15 eves), es Katie (16 eves) volt, akik Washington DCbol jottek el erre a taborra kulonlegesen.
Szombaton hetkor mar ebreszto volt, szemle, zaszlofelvonas, s reggeli. Nap kozben orsi foglalkozasok ahol az egyenruharol, utjelekrol, tuzrakasrol tanultak, sportoltak, enekeltek, jatszottak, es kirandultak. Ebed ido utan egy vizi rohampalyat keszitett Csaba, amiben tobbekkozott vizipisztolyokkal kelett egymast lovoldozni. Kotelhuzas, lufi dobalassal is versenyeztek a kiscserkeszek. Kezimunka is volt, piheno kozben Wiki-sticks-ekkel, gyurmaval is jatszottak. Delutan babszinhazban Csipike, Tipetupa, Kukucsi, Bagoly, es Kecskebeka szerepelt.
Nap kozben fantasztikus foztoket keszitett Enikoe, akinek a 4 eves lanya mindenkinek mosogatott, megkeres nelkul, meg a mosogato orsnek is segitett. Ebedre karfiol es brokkoli leves volt, Vacsorara kituno babgulyas keszult tuz folott.. meg a vezetok sem tudtak megallni megkostolni amig keszult! Nap kozben ketszer uzsonnaztak is a gyerekek, yoghurt, alma, repa, rizs keksz.
Este tabortuzre keszultunk, aminek a temaja a Csipike tortenetbol az “Orias” volt a tema: fizikai, de lelki “oriassagrol” is. Az orsvezetok turelmesen kidolgoztak az orsukkel egy-egy szamot, es a szuloket is meghivtuk, hogy resztvegyenek. Ok is egy aranyos szamot adtak elo az onzosegrol. Tabortuz alatt Csipike (Tunde) orias lett, es Kukucsi (Csaba) varazslatosan elvesztette lusta tulajdonsagat.. meg annyira hogy Vasarnap reggel o ebredt, hogy tornazzon a gyerekekkel.
A Magyar szulok elamulva neztek, milyen sok eneket tanultak a gyerekek, milyen jol szerepelnek a sok ember elott, s milyen jo jatekokat tanultak.
Vasarnap reggel sajnos esore ebredtunk, de megoldottuk: feltettuk Szilvia altal kolcson adott ponyva-satrat, es alatta tartottunk meg egy babszinhazat. Erre a nap is roviden kisutott ami alatt egy akadalypalyat keszitettunk 5 allomassal: vizipisztoly lovessel, kotel at kuszassal, aztan egy szines-ugro puzlival, kotel/csiga ulessel, aztan botokbol haziko epitessel, meg memoria jatekkel fejeztuk be. Ezek utan egy darazsviadal is volt, ami abbol alt, hogy Tipetupat meg kelett vedjek a kiscserszkeszek a harom darazstol. Mindenkire ra volt kotve egy zsak cukor selyem pappirbol keszulve. Ezt ujsagpapir kardokkal kelett pufolni, amig el nem sakad, futas kozben. Vegul a kiscserkeszek nyertek!
Koszonet a vezetoknek, szuloknek, es gyerekeknek a sikeres taborert!

Black Rice Sushi

Who says you need sushi rice to make sushi? Try black rice + risotto mix. Gives a nice sticky consistency without all the extra sauces/bleached white rice 🙂 This batch also has yams, cucumbers, avocado, and various spices such as coriander seed, marjoram, thyme, and ground black pepper. Sesame seed would have been an interesting touch to the blackness too…

What to do with a bunch of cilantro

Normally you would put cilantro in a burrito or some similar salty dish from Mexico.. But today, I decided to try something different. It stemmed from the hypothesis that it may help my digestion.. And anyways it’s pretty healthy. So, I took a fistful that was sitting in my windowsill sort of on the verge of wilting, chopped it up, and threw it in a blender along with some frozen peaches, a frozen banana, a little slosh of orange-mango juice, almond milk, ground Ginger, and fresh vanilla. With my roomate looking on and me peering through the glass, a bit terrified by the contents as i closed the lid, I turned the blender on and watched as the bits of green spun into a liquid twister, emerging back out as smaller bits, until eventually they evolved the mix into a bright green consistency. After about 2 minutes, I look fearfully at my roommate, seeing her reaction equally as curious, but wary… What beast of a smoothie have I just created? Dipping the toe edge of a spoon in the mix, I leverage it towards my mouth, my tongue taking the first onslaught of this concoction. The instant the it touched, neurons fired strongly to my brain signaling —–>——goooooood—>—- omg this—>—is…—–>—-deliiiicious!! Full of flavors all mixed, but matched. The full sensation is impossible to describe, all I can give you is this photo:
cilantro smoothie
But don’t take my word for it.