Monday, April 30, 2012

Veganish: Day 1

I am going on 15 years of being a mostly-vegetarian (occasional fish, mostly in the form of sushi), but vegan remains an elusive concept that I can't picture because I love eggs and cheese so much. LOVE. Like the other night we went to a diner and I got an omelet and cheesecake. I LOVE eggs and cheese.

Erica's mom apparently had success with weight loss after switching to a vegan diet, and thus Erica wants to try the same. We're going to 'go veganish' for four weeks - ending May 27 - and see what happens. "Veganish" means that, while we will read ingredients, I'm not going to be overly obsessive about it. I'll stick to it as best as possible, but if an Amazing Sushi Opportunity happens, I'm not turning it down. Capiche? So why did I agree to this? I think Erica is approaching it more as a crash diet, but I'm approaching it as a challenge. You know I love challenges. I'm curious to see if I can manage to eat mostly-vegan for a month.

Eating "veganish" will force me to really evaluate recipes and try new things with my cooking, whether it's trying something new or modifying something old. I read one of Denise's paleo cookbooks while I was in Oregon and, while the paleo diet is completely incompatible with being vegetarian, the idea of using fresh, unprocessed foods as much as possible is something that I want to try to incorporate into this challenge as well. I don't want it all just to be mock-turkey and tofu cream cheese and soy "cheeze" and all the other super-processed meat stand-ins. We all know I love my soy crumbles, but I'm not going to go out of my way to veganize a vegetarian recipe solely by substituting in mock dairy ingredients. The farmer's market opens next weekend and that provides an exceptional opportunity to really start working with fresh, local produce again.

So our first meal was Curried Lentil Soup, which I've made before and loved. Something was off this time - I'm not sure if it was the quality of the lentils or if it was the lack of butter? But it wasn't as great as it could have been. This was Erica's first experience with lentils and with curry, so eh, but yay for vegan day 1!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Things I Ate On My Vacation: Part 2

After I left Oregon, I flew down to Orange County, California to meet up with my cousin and his friends and drive 2 hours into the Palm Desert to Indio, CA, where we went to Coachella Music & Arts Festival.


Hologram Tupac, yada yada yada... I am going to post about the food. We camped at Coachella, so we were there for five days. Despite a Walmart run, we bought a LOT of food from vendors - and the food vendors were great. There were stands from local restaurants and co-ops, and lines of food trucks. Being over in PA, I have never even seen a real food truck other than on the Food Network, so this was extremely exciting for me.

So this was the general setup:

{Rows of food vendors}

coachella coachella {Rows of food trucks}

As you can see, some "famous" places showed up. I don't eat meat so I didn't eat at Pink's Hot Dogs, but I was excited to see it represented. There was also a food truck from the winners of season 2 of The Great Food Truck Race on the Food Network: The Lime Truck. Ruth's Chris Steakhouse even had a booth.

I don't remember where I got everything from. I didn't remember to take pictures of all of the food, and I didn't take good notes because I often was sitting and talking to fellow festival-goers and enjoying the experience. The food was slightly overpriced but honestly I thought it was reasonable given the situation (except the $50 pizza from Spicy Pie - I didn't have any pizza, but $50 is way too much!). I know I had curry, I had an amazing breakfast burrito, so much iced coffee, lots of fresh guacamole... It just depended on where I was sitting, what time of day it was, and which music I planned to go see next. I tried not to eat the same thing twice, and I tried to hit a variety to maximize the food experience.

I wanted to get a waffle ice cream sandwich from The WaffleMan but it was just so hot and I didn't want it to melt (it was 106 degrees most of the days we were there!) What an awesome idea though, right?
{His menu}

This food truck, the Voodoo Van, was amazing.

This is the menu:
I had the "TrannyChaser," which was like a fantastic vegetarian version of pulled pork made with seitan and topped with cole slaw. It was super messy and when I dared to ask for a fork I got the "No forks, no knives, no mercy" schpiel. HAH. I did my best. It was delicious. One of my favorite things that I ate all weekend!! And I discovered when I got back that the truck is run by members of a SanFran band called Flexx Bronco. That's awesome.

Other notable foods:

I had these incredible breakfast tacos made with eggs, potatoes, shredded cabbage, and crumbly white cheese. All of my fellow campers had gotten the aforementioned $50 pizza for breakfast, but I'm pretty sure my $7 tacos reigned supreme at that meal. So good, with some coffee and freshly-made lemonade. Yum!

I also had famous baja fish tacos from Fishermans' Market & Grill's stand, but forgot to take a picture of them. They were incredible! You'd think seafood wouldn't translate well to the desert, but you would be wrong.

Clearly, Mexican food was the winner for me. I had more tacos and burritos than anything else. I also had these amazing vegetarian tacos:
which were basically just cheese and lettuce and pico de gallo and guacamole. And potato chips. SO YUMMY.

When we finally left after four nights of camping and five days of magical chaos, we were haggard and hungry for a nice, air conditioned place to sit and eat food. We randomly found Cheeky's, a really nice place in Palm Springs, and took a detour off the highway to go to it. What an excellent idea! Nothing has ever tasted so good.
{Note my cousin & his friends lying on the sidewalk while waiting for a table. We were so tired.}

{My tomato sandwich topped with fried egg, with a side of truffled hash browns.}

{Scrambled "custardy" eggs, scone, sausage}

{Eggs Benedict}

All in all, California was exciting and delicious and, as a result, I did not lose any weight as I had anticipated. Hah! Oh well. It was a great experience!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Things I Ate On My Vacation: Part 1

Continuing with my vacation update! I went to Medford, Oregon from April 16-19 to visit one of my best friends in the entire world, Denise, who runs the Healthy Living Project. Denise is my love and light; I met her on Livejournal 12 years ago (and 'in real life' many times) and though at times life has gotten in our way, we have ultimately remained very close through all the years. Seeing her was fun and exciting, and while we didn't just eat while I was in Oregon, this is my food blog and thus I will post about the food.

The first day, we went to visit our friend Brooke's coffee shop in Medford, Downtown Grounds. I had never met Brooke in person before, though I've known her through Twitter and Facebook for a couple of years, so that was fun. I'm impressed that she owns a coffee shop. I had a fantastic salted caramel mocha that brought me immense joy. If you're ever in Medford, you probably need to go there.

{Downtown Grounds}

{Me, Denise, Brooke}

Later that day, the three of us went out for sushi at Misoya Bistro Sushi in Medford.


The sushi was excellent and abundant. I had some kimchee on the side. Denise got edamame, and Brooke got some potstickers. There were so many delicious rolls to choose from. And the best thing (that I forgot to get a picture of!) was that any roll could come with a side of macaroni and cheese. I KNOW. BAFFLING. Why we didn't order it, I will never know.

{Denise's lobster roll, complete with fried lobster shell! Lobster Tail, Crab Meat, Avocado, Gobo, Tobiko and Cucumber wrapped in Soy Paper.}

{My Crazy-Boy Roll: Spicy Tuna, Avocado, Shrimp Ebi, Crab Meat, Jalapeno and Panko, deep fried}

{All of our food, including Brooke's yellowtail roll}

The next day, Denise and I went to Ashland, OR, which is Southern Oregon's epitome of typical Oregon hippie-ness. People smoking pot freely in the streets, a police station smaller than my kitchen, a random shirtless guy who looked like the guidance counselor from Freaks & Geeks performing lots of rituals with water and sage in the town circle... etc. It was so fun! We went to breakfast at Dragonfly Restaurant, which is likely one of my favorite places I ate on my journey.


I didn't know what to order because the brunch menu sounded so phenomenal, so I asked the waiter. He was amazing and decided to bring me a single slice of their famous coconut french toast "to try, and spread the word to the East Coast," in addition to my official order of an artichoke scramble. Everything was excellent. The french toast was so good that I bought the owner's cookbook, Isabel's Cantina. I look forward to attempting to make my own coconut french toast now that I am back home! So delicious.

{The famous coconut french toast}

{Artichoke Scramble}

Finally, Denise, her husband Jason, and I went to Bambu, an Asian fusion restaurant in Medford. They have Tiger Rolls, which are kind of like a spring roll version of crab rangoon. SO MUCH CREAM CHEESE. SO MUCH DELICIOUS. They also had excellent Thai iced tea, and I had some great tofu pad thai. I've heard Denise rave about Bambu before, so I was excited to finally try it. Delicious!

And then I finished off my journey with a chocolate chip Brookie's Cookie, a local cookie company run by Brooke's parents. SO AMAZING.

Oregon was fun and I would love to go back there sometime. I'm thankful to my friends for letting me stay with them and taking me to fun and exciting places, and I'm proud of myself for initiating the journey in the first place. Visiting Oregon was a goal I've had for a long time, and it's thrilling that it finally happened.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Beechwood Cafe

I know I have been MIA for the past two weeks, but I had a good reason: I was on vacation! Not for a wedding or for a funeral, but purely for fun! That never happens! I had two stops: Medford, OR, and the Coachella Music & Arts Festival in Indio, CA. I will post about both of those places in due time, but first I will tell you about the brunch I had the day before I left for my trip. Where was this magical place with delicious brunch?


My deeply adored friends were moving (and now have moved) from Jersey City to the other side of the country, so Erica & I met up with them for brunch. We went to Beechwood Cafe in downtown Jersey City. I ordered the Huevos Rancheros, which was basically a huge bowl of tortilla chips, guacamole, chili sauce, green onions, sour cream, salsa, and fried eggs. It was AMAZING. Erica got waffles because we had been watching a lot of Parks & Rec, and the character Leslie eats a lot of Belgian waffles. They were delicious too!

{Huevos Rancheros}

I don't really have a reason to go back to Jersey City, but it's really close to the Statue of Liberty (so close, in fact, that Erica and I randomly made a detour to go visit Lady Liberty) so if I were ever to take friends or family to do that, I'd probably try to make them eat brunch at this restaurant, too. Delicious! We will miss you, Katie & Bryant!

{Me, Katie, & Erica}

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Chile-Lime Glass Noodles

I want so badly to like tempeh! I can't! I just can't! No matter how I prepare it, it always tastes weird and fermented to me - probably because it is weird and fermented! This probably won't be the last time I try to make myself like tempeh, but I won't make this recipe again.


Chile-Lime Glass Noodles
Vegetarian Times, March 2012

4 ounces glass (cellophane) noodles
3 1/2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons lime juice
1/2 teaspoon chile-garlic sauce, such as Huy Fong
1 1/2 tablespoon toasted sesame oil, divided
1 8 ounce package plain tempeh, diced
1 12 oz package button mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
1 pound baby bok choy, thinly sliced on diagonal
2 cups bean sprouts
6 green onions, thinly sliced (1 cup)
2 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1/2 cup chopped basil
1/4 cup roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped

1. Soak noodles in large bowl of hot water 10 minutes. Drain, and set aside.

2. Whisk together hoisin sauce, soy sauce, lime juice, and chile-garlic sauce.

3. Heat 1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil in skillet over high heat. Add tempeh, and stir-fry 4 minutes, or until golden on all sides. Add 1/4 cup water, and cook 2 minutes. Transfer tempeh to bowl.

4. Add remaining 1 tablespoon sesame oil to skillet. Add mushrooms and bok choy; stir fry 2 minutes. Stir in noodles and bean sprouts, and cook 2 minutes. Stir in hoisin mixture, green onions, ginger, and tempeh; stir-fry 1 minute. Serve topped with basil and peanuts.

Servings: 4

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Chickpea & Date Tagine

I don't know why I had something totally different in mind when I was making this, but in general I was disappointed. It was oddly sweet, which I recognized would happen due to the recipe note but still didn't quite expect, and the spices were very mild. I ate it, and Erica ate around the chickpeas, but we agreed the sweetness kind of threw things off. I wouldn't make this again.


Chickpea and Date Tagine
Vegetarian Times, December 2011

North African tagines often combine sweet and savory foods to play off the spices used to season them.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, diced (2 cups)
4 cloves garlic, minced (4 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 15 oz. can crushed tomatoes
3 cups cooked chickpeas or 2 15-oz. cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 cup whole-wheat couscous
1 cup pitted dates, halved
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup chopped cilantro

1. Heat oil in saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, and cook 10 minutes, or until starting to brown, stirring often. Stir in garlic, cumin, coriander, ginger, and cinnamon, and sauté 30 seconds. Add tomatoes, chickpeas, and 1/4 cup water; simmer 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, toast couscous in small saucepan over medium heat 5 minutes, or until fragrant. Add 13/4 cups water, and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand 5 minutes.

3. Stir dates and lemon juice into tagine, and season with salt and pepper, if desired. Serve over couscous, sprinkled with cilantro.

Servings: 6

Monday, April 09, 2012

Baked Risotto Primavera

Last night I made Baked Risotto Primavera (with less lemon, as I'd noted to myself the last time I made it) and it was a lovely spring dinner. I had some leeks so I threw those in, too, and they were a nice addition.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Swiss Chard and Pecorino Cheese

Erica has never had swiss chard or kalamata olives, doesn't like tomatoes, and is afraid of cheeses she's never heard of (like Pecorino Romano). I really didn't think she'd even want to try this pasta. I was wrong! She ate it and she liked it and the world was shocked. I actually really liked it, too. I was a little bit nervous because there are a lot of random things in the sauce, but it was actually delicious. I would make this again.


Whole-Wheat Spaghetti with Swiss Chard and Pecorino Cheese
Food Network: Giada de Laurentiis

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 onions -- thinly sliced
2 bunches Swiss chard -- trimmed and chopped (about 14 cups)
3 garlic cloves -- minced
14 1/2 ounces diced tomatoes with juices
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper
8 ounces whole- wheat spaghetti
1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives -- coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons freshly grated Pecorino cheese
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts

1. Heat the oil in a heavy large frying pan over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until tender, about 8 minutes. Add the chard and saute until it wilts, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes with their juices, wine, and red pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer . Cover and simmer until the tomatoes begin to break down and the chard is very tender, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Season the chard mixture, to taste, with salt and pepper.

2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil . Add the spaghetti and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring frequently, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain the spaghetti. Add the spaghetti to the chard mixture and toss to combine.

3. Transfer the pasta to serving bowls. Sprinkle the olives, cheese, and pine nuts and serve.

Servings: 4

Wednesday, April 04, 2012


I have an old Scottish cookbook from 1929 - first printing! - and I have no idea where I acquired it, but I have it somehow so I was determined to make something from it. And thus, I chose this. I've made Rumpledethumps before, and I've made colcannon before. And honestly, I really kind of just followed the colcannon recipe. BUT TECHNICALLY, I was making this recipe for Rumbledethumps (see, it's different: with a B, not a P). Good luck to you if you follow what it actually says! (And yes, this whole thing is straight out of the cookbook.)

The Scots Kitchen by F. Marian McNeill (1929)


"North: May I ask, with all due solemnity, what ARE rumbledethumps?"

"Shepherd: Something like Mr. Hazlitt's character of Shakespeare. Take a peck of purtatoes, and put them into a boyne - at them with a beetle - a dab of butter - the beetle again - another dab - then cabbage - purtato - beetle and dan - saut meanwhile - and a shake o' common black pepper - feenally, cabbage and purtato throughither - pree, and you'll fin' them decent rumbledethumps."

--Christopher North, Noctes Ambrosianae

F.Marian McNeil notes:
Use boiled potatoes and cabbage in approximately equal quantities. Chopped chives or cooked onion are often added. The mixture may be put in a pudding-dish, covered with grated cheese, and browned in the oven.

*Boyne = large pot
*Saut = salt
*Pree = taste

Monday, April 02, 2012

Super Healthy Dried Fruit Quinoa Salad

Continuing my way through the Hunger Games Cookbook, I went for this quinoa recipe yesterday. It made enough for dinner and to portion out into lunches for the week. I omitted the celery because I don't like celery in things like this, and I used cherry-flavored Craisins instead of dried cherries because they were on sale and that's a good enough reason. This is such a random assortment of flavors but it works really well. It was pretty good last night but it's definitely better the next day. Super-A++ on the lunch box test! I don't know if I'd make it again since I have so many good quinoa recipes, but it was good indeed.


Super Healthy Dried Fruit Quinoa Salad
The Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook, page 64

1 1/2 cups quinoa, rinsed well
1/2 teaspoon table salt
3 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup scallions, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup dried cherries
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup toasted almonds, chopped
1/4 cup sunflower seeds

1. Bring quinoa, salt, and water to boil in a saucepan. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer until quinoa is tender, about 30 minutes. Drain quinoa and transfer it to a larger bowl. Allow to cool for 15 minutes.

2. Stir into the quinoa the scallions, celery, dried fruit, hot sauce, garlic powder, vegetable oil, lemon juice, and sesame oil. Let stand at room temperature for at least 1 hour so flavors can blend.

3. Add the cilantro, almonds, and sunflower seeds and serve.

Yield: 6-8 servings

Unicorn Patties?

I usually make one baked good per weekend - more if there is an event, sometimes one or two additionally things throughout the week if I feel inspired. This weekend I had some bananas that needed to be used so I threw together some Classic Banana Bread. Always delicious!

But then I got a request from a coworker to make my Unicorn Poop Cookies. I have NO IDEA what happened - it isn't like the peanut butter debacle a couple weeks ago where I doubled the butter - but these usually-solid cookies melted and smushed down into a giant sheet of mushy cookie.


Anyone have any guesses what happened? As far as I know, I didn't omit anything or change anything, but there's always room for human error. They haven't even hardened up overnight so I can't even decorate them and call them Unicorn Patties. They're just a mess. Blah! I'll make them again soon.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Butternut Squash Risotto

I have had this on my meal plan for seriously about 3 weeks. I keep planning to make it, and then I never make it. I've been hoping to use up the last of my frozen butternut squash from the last week of the CSA last year. I told you that things have been kind of up crazy lately, but we're getting into the swing of things and everything is starting to be normal. And, to me, normal means cooking. A lot. So last night I baked (I'll post about that later) and I made this risotto. I was afraid it was going to be a boring risotto with squash tossed in, but the beer and the chile powder give it a very subtle but different flavor. It was Erica's first experience with butternut squash and with risotto, so she tried a little bit of it and liked it! Hooray! I would consider making this again.


Butternut Squash Risotto
Taste of Home, February/March 2012

8 cups cubed, peeled butternut squash
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4 to 4 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup water
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups uncooked arborio rice
1 cup lager
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon ground ancho chile pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Fresh herbs, optional

1. In a large bowl, combine the squash, 2 tablespoons oil, salt and pepper; toss to coat. Transfer to a greased 15x10x1 baking pan. Bake, uncovered, at 450 for 20-25 minutes or until tender, stirring once.

2. In a large saucepan, heat broth and water; keep warm. In a large skillet, saute onion and garlic in remaining oil until tender. Add rice; cook and stir for 2-3 minutes. Reduce heat; stir in lager. Cook and stir until the liquid is absorbed.

3. Add heated broth mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly. Allow the liquid to absorb between additions. Cook just until risotto is creamy and rice is almost tender. (Cooking time is about 20 minutes.) Add the butter, chili pepper, nutmeg, and squash; cook and stir until heated through. Remove risotto from the heat; stir in the cheese. Top with herbs if desired. Serve immediately.

Servings: 6