Sunday, September 30, 2012

OMSI After Dark


OMSI After Dark is "...where science nerds unite for childfree, brain-building science fun".  We're not science geeks, but when we were offered tickets to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry's After Dark Burgers and Brew event we were more than happy to spend an evening exercising our brains in the name of two of our favorite things!

The event truly was an adult-themed night with DJs and a mini-beer festival with 17 local breweries handing out samples via tokens. Along with the traditional exhibits, special demonstrations and exhibits were set up with the burgers and beer theme. There was ultrasonic beer geysers, beer pong physics, flash freezing beer and OMSI's version of beer goggles. Burger themed science demonstrations included learning the chemistry behind BBQ, learning to smell and taste your beef and delicious elk sliders by Nicky USA.

Planetarium Floor
Space Rocket Thing
Science of Beer Pong

We attempted to play their mind games and wasn't very successful.

Mind Games

There were snacks, but only if you knew what each cookie represented on the periodic table.

Periodic Table Cookies

We preferred to play old fashion games like Connect Four with a slightly robotic Science twist. It was a fun night.

Playing 4 Square

Friday, September 28, 2012

VegFest 2012

I decided to make September the month of just eating vegetarian, ok and seafood, but absolutely no meat. It's a good way to wind down all the calories I needed for the summer, start the slow down process and prepare myself for winter. So it was just serendipitous that VegFest occurs every year in September. Held in the Convention Center VegFest promotes sustainable, healthy, all vegan food and lifestyle choices. It is a great event to taste all the new veggie-friendly products available before actually buying them. From previous year's experience one can eat their entry ticket price of $6, which we did quite easily.

The stand outs for us this year were the kale chip companies, the eye opening purified water (did you know Brita water filters are made by Clorox and does not filter out bleach from the water?) and several bakeries and cookie brands, especially the yummy CocoRoons. Other than Organics to You, our local produce delivery company, the majority of the food vendors were selling processed items and we actually found ourselves going for samples that used a carrot or an apple as the scoop because we were filling up on all that soy, seeds and grains. A surprising number of items were gluten free as well and we snagged as many coupons to the restaurants and products we thought we liked. VegFest also gave us an opportunity to try flavored hemp milks, which we haven't liked much in the past, but the new chocolate hemp was very delicious. VegFest makes it easy for you to try alternative sustainable foods before committing to them at the grocery store, plus we basically had brunch for $5 because of a $1 off coupon.

Hail Seitan

Unisex Nugget

Heidi Ho's Vegan Cheese

Kale Krunch

Theo's Chocolate

Grain Beverages

Cracks, Cookies and Pretzels

Coconut Water

Coco Roons

Dave's Killer Bread's Cinnamon Rolls

Cravin Raven Bakery

Vegan Hot Dogs


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Easy and Delicious Berry Cobbler

Contrary to popular belief we do cook at home. Granted our meals have become simplified as of late, and are at times spread apart in between way too many meals eaten out. With the abundance of summer vegetables we tend to cook foods that are available seasonally (cheap) and try to make dishes containing what we've grown ourselves. And because I have been completely lazy with chopping vegetables I tend to lean towards making sweets as my main contribution to a meal (especially since Mike doesn't bake sweets much). We'll leave the savory cooking to him.

So one lazy weekend afternoon I decided to use up the tubs of frozen pitted cherries and raspberries we've been keeping in the freezer for over a year now and make one of our favorite desserts, a berry cobbler. I'm not a big fan of fruit crumbles (I don't like oats as a topping), but immediately fell in love with this cookie topped fruit cobbler and have been making it ever since. I've modified the recipe to make it as fuss free and easy as possible.

Living in the Pacific NW, it is easy to get your hands on buckets of berries for super cheap, if not free, such as with our raspberries, which our small patch provided an incredible abundance this year. The cherries came from our annual Hood River picking trip. This year's blueberries went to jam and we completely ran out of time to pick what was probably a stellar blackberry year. Start with a bunch of fresh berries.

Frozen Berries

Rinse and combine 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of granulated tapioca. Basically you're making a pie filling (follow those directions if they are on the box). I added half the amount of sugar because the cookie topping adds a lot of sugar and I like my fruit to remain tart. Combine and set aside to allow it to thicken.

Tapico and Berries

Next make a batch of your favorite snickerdoodle or sugar cookie recipe. I like the one out of my handy dandy Better Homes and Garden New Cook Book. The recipe is for their snickerdoodle cookie and includes all the basic ingredients I always have around, flour, sugar, butter, baking soda, cinnamon, an egg and vanilla extract.

Ready to make the cookie dough

I combine the cinnamon into the dough and skip the part about rolling into small ball sizes and rolling in a cinnamon/sugar mixture before baking. I do place the dough in the fridge for up to an hour to firm up.

Sugar Cookie Dough

In the meantime the fruit should be firming up and become jelly like. If still runny just toss in the fridge until it is a semi-soft giggly consistency like pie filling. Then place in a round tall baking dish

Berry Filling

When the sugar cookie dough is hard enough to handle without sticking to your hands break off large chunks on top of the fruit in large hap-hazard pieces. What makes this so good is some of the half baked pieces of dough act like a gooey cookie mixed in with fully baked ones.

Berry Cobbler ready for baking

Bake at 350° F until the fruit starts to bubble out in between the cookie pieces or until the top is baked through.

Baked Berry Cobbler

When you cut into this and scoop out a bowl full the cinnamon sugar cookie top mixed in with the sweet tart fruit makes for such a delicious combo. We like to top ours with tart homemade yogurt, but ice cream works well too. The yogurt brings a creamy tangy flavor that just works perfectly with the cookie and berries. The best part is with almost too many berries to eat at one time there's plenty of reason to keep picking well after you've picked enough for a pie or two just so you can freeze them and make this in the middle of winter. Enjoy!

Berry Cobbler

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Vaux Swifts

On what turned out to be one of the last warm beautiful summer nights of the year, we packed a picnic and biked down after work to Chapman Elementary School to catch the Vaux's Swift nightly routine before roosting in the school's chimney. Even though we went well before the sunset show started there were a ton of people so we decided to take a seat on the other side in front of the school verses by the soccer field directly in front of the chimney.

When we first arrived, not a single bird was in sight. As the sun sets, the pinkish-purple sky becomes dotted with tiny little black birds. Then a few more and a few more and then a few hundred more and before you know it the sky is a funnel cyclone of thousands of tiny black birds that whirl around the chimney, above the crowd, way up high into the sky and then back down in the trees. It's strangely quiet and very Alfred Hitchcock like. The whole experience is truly amazing. We watched in awe for almost an hour and gasped in unison as a hawk would swoop in and take out one of the tiny Swifts. As summer winds down, watching the Swifts at sunset is just another way to hang onto summer even if it's just for one more late night picnic.

Chapman School Chimney

Sunsetting Behind the West Hills

The Crowd

Sliding Down the Grassy Hillside

Heading Into the Chimney

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Eastbank Esplanade

We consider ourselves very lucky to bike along the Eastbank Esplanade daily. Guess it all started with Mayor Tom McCall many many many years ago when he refused to let I-5 be constructed along the river on the west side instead building Waterfront Park. Decades later Mayor Vera Katz fought hard to get an east side version constructed. I can't even begin to explain the energy there is biking along the esplanade, with all the bicyclist, joggers/walkers, buzz from the freeway, the smell of the river and then there's the beauty of the esplanade itself with its large art pieces. The Eastbank Esplanade is a true testament to how great Portland really is.

Vera Katz Eastbank Esplanade Sign
NW Waterfront
Esplanade's Floating Pier
The Steel Bridge
Pier Fishing
Fishing on the floating dock
Fishing Along the Pier
Portland Sign
Elevated Grated Plankway
Windy Ramp
Morrison Bridge and Rocks
Rock Platform and the River
Joggers & Walkers
Sitting Area with View of River
Esplanade Seating Area
Hawthorne Bridge
Seating with views of the Hawhtorne Bridge
View of the Hawthorne Bridge
Eastbank Esplanade
Hawthorne Bridge from the Fire House
Sun bathing
Looking towards Riverplace
Riverplace from the Esplanade
This is Eastbank Esplanade