Monday, December 29, 2008

Hiatus Explained...

Was away for a cruise for a week, then had a not-fun cold for about a week. Will have cruise food photos *soon* to make up for absence!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Restaurant Review: Beaver's!

I had driven past Beaver's on a couple different occasions of exploring unfamiliar streets in my general vicinity. Randomly, this venue's name popped into my head when being asked by a friend about what to do on a certain Friday night this December.

A quick search of their internet revealed a fun website that made the place look more like a "bar with food" than a standard restaurant. This impression was wrong, however. Upon dining [and drinking] at Beaver's, I would say a more accurate description of the place is "Hipster barbeque joint with a solid bar menu". If the cute animal silhouettes on the wall, modern (yet wood-sy) decor, and fun names of menu items weren't enough to assure you, Bar patrons dressed for an 80s prom night (as well as one or two in animal costumes) definitely convince you that Beaver's is a fun place to be. Oh, and they make their drinks strong!

While I didn't fall in love with the Rosemary Rickey that our waitress had recommended to me, the option for ordering a "mystery beer" made it an adventure to go up to the bar. For only $2.75, you can order a Mystery Beer. In return, you will receive a top-shelf beer selection of the bartender's choosing. We got to try some new beers at bargain prices. How can that be a bad thing?

For the most part, the group loved the food. As a vegetarian, I had few options--I was underwhelmed with the Macaroni and Cheese and just plain not impressed with the Vegan Chili. The Macaroni and Cheese clearly took time to bake in the oven and had been labored over. The sauce, however, was too runny and it lacked the necessary amounts of cheesy goodness required in "From-Scratch" Mac & Cheese (except for the cheesy crust baked on top). The Vegan Chili was just plain unoriginal. It tasted like an unfinished work of art. By that, I mean it was enjoyable enough and had potential, yet was missing some flavors and necessary oomph. Plus, I have a bias against mushrooms, which were not a fun surprise to discover amidst black beans.

Two of the boys got the Pit Boss Chickwich and raved about it for several days. Even the coleslaw was good! Though some would simply call it a Chicken Sandwich, the Pit Boss is hearty enough to give you the meat sweats, but thoroughly enjoyable at the same time.

So, would I return? I would love to return for happy hour to sample more of their inventive drinks (like Smokey Julep & Blood Orange Sour) or to bring some meat-loving out-of-town visitors. You will like this place if you enjoy good [Texas] barbeque, want a fun & casual place to eat good food, or have a thing for beavers (and who doesn't like beavers??!!).

Friday, December 12, 2008

Ode to Milo

Though you sit in my cupboard,
untouched for days on end,
whenever we meet, you make me happy again.

You expired years ago,
but now your shelf life is truly done,
and chocolate energy drinks won't be as fun.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

<3 Tea

Among many other qualities that I adore, one of the things J has starting doing for me lately is making tea for me in the mornings. I'm not a morning person, and the last few weeks (months?) have been especially bad. I'm not sure if I've just been more sleepy or simply less enthused to go to work. Either way, having a ready cup of tea in my travel mug really helps get me start the day in a more cheerful way!

Since it is actually snowing in Houston this evening (if you can even call it snow...), J decided that we should have tea tonight. What a fantastic idea! He pulled out all the stops for me and we even had tea of the loose-leaf variety! As I enjoy this delicious minty brew, I just think back on how we've come a long way in our relationship, beverage-wise.

J comes from a household where tea is served iced (and sugared) and coffee is the hot drink of choice. My childhood was pretty much the opposite in that we drank plenty of tea (only hot, and never sweetened) and coffee was only for guests. To get him to be a purveyor of tea seems like we've gone leaps and bounds from our initial encounter!

If you're not a big fan of hot tea, might I suggest sampling a different variety than what you've previously tried? Herbal teas (technically, "infusions") are a great place to start. And I minty or fruity teas are great "starter teas", too.

Of late, our "mutual favorite" teas come from the Tea Spot. We pick it up locally at the grocery store (I've seen it at Whole Foods and Central Market). I've given it as gifts, and I truly believe it is part of the equation that factored into turning J into a [hot] tea drinker. It's that good!

Time to check if there's any more tea in the pot.. I hope to have a 5th cup today!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Wishlists and such.


Sunday, November 9, 2008

Pardoning the Turkey

It was nice to see a Vegetarian Thanksgiving menu in the latest issue of Gourmet magazine's feature on menu planning for the holiday.

While a turkey may have become a recent staple of Thanksgiving tradition, there are lots of yummy and seasonal items to be served to have a vegetarian holiday. To have a "mainstream" magazine feature a vegetarian rendition of the holiday meal may not be a monumental occasion, but is certainly a sign that the vegetarian diet is becoming more commonplace and accepted by the American public-at-large.

And while there was only one "Vegetarian" menu in the magazine, I saw many vegetarian dishes that sounded great on the "regular" Thanksgiving menus, too. To name just a few of those items, see Butternut Squash Soup, Date, Goat Cheese & Mesclun Salad, or Maple Squash Puree.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Why is it that some caterers think an acceptable vegetarian meal is formed by simply removing the meat option from the plate? Even if the meat wasn't literally on the plate, I don't know any vegetarians that are going to get excited about eating the "sides dishes". And doubling the amount of "side veggies" served does not increase the excitement about eating it.

The last two banquets that I've been to at hotels have simply served the predominant meat-centered dish without the meat for the "vegetarian alternative". The fact that they didn't even do a great job with cooking the vegetables makes it even worse. If you're a caterer/restaurant owner/cook who thinks this is an acceptable way of feeding vegetarians, the least you could do is ensure the veggies are cooked right. Adding salt and/or fat (butter/margarine/whatever) does not make overcooked & slimy vegetables more appetizing.

Please don't insult my taste buds by trying to serve that crap and calling it "vegetarian". And please don't insult my financial savvy by try to pass it as a meal worth paying more than the cost of frozen veggies at the grocery store. And, for the hard-working chefs who actually do have talent in terms of cooking, please don't kid yourself into thinking your food is notable because some fool made the mistake of letting you into a kitchen.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Fruit Cake

Thinking of making a fruitcake this year, but a little scared about the aging process going wrong. I am not a fan of wasting food and would be further annoyed because the ingredients to make a fruit cake ain't cheap.

I'll ponder a bit more and will certainly let you know if I'm brave enough to step up to the challenge.

Internet Foodie Link

I just discovered's "The Ten". Don't know how I only just found out about this. Fun lists of food-related tid bits.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Knead Practice!

To my dismay, I haven't had much success as a baker recently. Much of the blame can be attributed toward my stubbornness that leads me to believe I can get away without using a recipe, even when I'm dealing with chemical reactions of trying to get foodstuffs to rise.

My recent crumpet experiment did not turn out horribly, though I can't really say that crumpets were the actual end-product of the baking event.

And what is a crumpet you ask? The simplest way to describe it is as the bread product that would result if an English muffin and a regular ol' pancake were to get together one night and produce offspring. The crumpet inherits its dense holey goodness from its English side, and its soft & flat characteristics from its pancake side. And from both its parents, the crumpet gets its desire to be topped with additional yummy goodness and served at breakfast, or just about any other time of day.

So anyway, I think I killed the yeast in soymilk that was too warm, but I didn't want to waste the liquid, so I went on with the experiment. What resulted is a product that was a bit too dense and chewy, without the lovely holes that are the perfect crevices for such substances like butter.

Luckily they tasted okay, crumpets or not. They were all gone by the morning, eaten mostly underneath jam piles and in the form of "mini pizzas" and breakfast sandwiches. I can't decide if I want to try again or attempt a different dough-product first, but I will certainly post when I make something that resembles a crumpet a little more closely.

And while I obviously did not master the task, I'll post my recipe for those who want to have a go at it yourselves!

1 c. soymilk
2 tsp. yeast
1 tsp. brown sugar
1 c. plain flour
2 T. gluten
1 tsp. salt

Warm the soymilk, then mix in yeast and brown sugar. Let this sit for a couple minutes to let the yeast do its thing. Sift the remaining ingredients together, then add the liquid and stir well. Let the batter sit in a warm place for about an hour.

After resting, spoon the mixture onto a preheated pan into 3-4 inch circles. Let cook on low for about 10 minutes. Bubbles should form and the top will appear holey. For the last minute or so, flip your crumpets so the other side can turn golden.

Grill Time

Some people believe that vegetarians have no reason to own a grill. This is an unfortunate misconception, because there are many delicious vegetarian foods that are barbeque-compatible.

There are the more obvious grillable vegetarian items: veggie burgers, veggie dogs, and veggie kebabs/skewers. But many people overlook the grilling potential of the quintessential vegetarian food item, itself: tofu.

As a nice beginning to the summer barbeque season, I had the chance to enjoy some grilled tofu this week. It was bathed in a spicy soy marinade, which made it nice and juicy on the inside, while slightly crispy with grill marks on the outside. Yay for summer eating!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Nerdy Confession

I am lucky in the sense that I get to eat out on my company's dollar pretty often. When we go to a nice restaurant, the nerd inside me wants to take photos of the food. The sad part is that at the same time, I am conflicted about taking photos of food in front of my coworkers--I don't want to look like some weirdo who has never eaten at a restaurant before. Or like someone who has a strange and unhealthy obsession with food. That certainly wouldn't go over with this crowd.

For these reasons, I tend not to take photos of some of my culinary adventures, and I have to apologize for not having as many beautiful photos of dining out experiences as I'd like to. In addition to being slightly sad about not being able to fulfill my own desire of taking photos of pretty food, I have a guilt for not being able to take photos for my Random Yummies audience. I wish I could share some of those experiences with you!

In lieu of a photograph of a lovely combination of sorbets that I enjoyed at a lunch on Monday, I drew you a picture! The flavors are lime, mango, and a Mexican berry whose name I don't remember. Delicioso!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Everyday Indulgences

Olive Oil is something on which I've become quite reliant over the past few years. I am not sure when exactly this near-addiction began, but I do know that my friends think I use absurd amounts of the stuff. Olive oil is quite literally an everyday indulgence for me.

One of the most embarrassing moments in the history of my olive oil addiction took place at an Italian restaurant with some friends. This was the kind of restaurant where a bottle of olive oil is placed in the middle of the table--alongside some herb mixture and grated parmasan cheese, for you to pour onto your bread plate--for dipping pleasure. Our table's bottle was near the end of its life, with only a quarter to a half cup remaining. I soak up more than my fair share of olive oil with bread and was of course thrilled that our server brought a replacement bottle!

I don't remember what my main dish was, but I do remember the looks on my friends' faces when I poured olive oil all over my food in a manner that others typically reserve for pouring maple syrup on pancakes or waffles. These friends then proceeded to make comments about how they thought I deserve to be much fatter for my [over] consumption of Olive Oil. They might be right, or they might be jealous. I'd like to believe the latter.

And my love of the golden juice is not limited to consumption in food. I have been known to use it as a moisturizer and have tried it as an ingredient to several other homemade health/beauty "remedies".

After hearing that Olive Oil Gelato was on the menu at Mario Batali's Otto, I knew this was something that I had to try. While this might not sound very appetizer to lesser fans of Olive Oil, I'm sure you can tell that I was up for the challenge!

I was looking forward to sampling other items from the "authentic Italian, with a trendy NYC Twist" menu, but couldn't really get my mind off dessert during the courses leading up to it. The antipasti were delicious teasers, and I enjoyed the stone oven baked Quattro Formaggio Pizza more than I expected, but the Olive Oil Gelato really is what made the visit most worthwhile!

I tried the Olive Oil Coppetta, which was Olive Oil Gelato served with Sorbets of Blood Orange and Tangerine, a side of Candied Kumquats, and a Fennel Wafer. The olive oil taste was subtle, but was complemented well by the Fennel Wafer and light sprinkle of sea salt. I liked the candied kumquats and tangy fruit sorbets, but they were a little overpowering for my palette that was searching for the flavor of olive oil.

Overall, I give the Olive Oil Gelato at Otto Pizzeria Three Forks Up (or in this case, Spoons Up). If you get the chance to try it, I think you'll be surprised at how delicious it is and how well it pleases the different sense regions on your taste buds.

Next time I'm at Otto, I will definitely be ordering the Olive Oil Gelato, sans coppetta. I may even get a pint to take home!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Foodie Blogroll

I kept coming across blogs I really liked and realized a pattern; many of them were listed on the Foodie Blogroll. Aspiring to join their ranks, I applied and am now a member!

Random Yummies is about my random adventures in eating & all things food related. I'm Moxie.. someone who never skips breakfast and frequently plans travel around the food. I live with J, my partner in crime. We don't always have the same tastes in food, but they do say opposites attract.

Welcome to any new viewers from the Foodie Blogroll!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Bunny Day!

I discovered these gems on a random trip to Target. And I could not resist...

I'm not a big fan of candy bars. Some nice dark chocolate wins over a Snickers or a Hershey's bar any day. But Kit Kats have a little place in my heart, for some reason. I've placed orders for varieties of Kit Kats not available in the US when family members traveled overseas. I really like the Tiramisu Kit Kat and Kit Kat Chunky, but have many more flavors still to try! (The ones I'm most keen on finding are: Cherry Blossom, Noissette, and Strawberry).

These bunnies were fantastic and fun! Lucky for me J was trying to be healthy and I got to eat his share of bunnies, too!

And did you know that Kit Kats have been around since 1931? These little treats are older than some of my grandparents!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Pastah Disastah

So, I was being a little bit adventurous and decided to try some Angelhair pasta made from rice, rather than the usual wheat or semolina. Rice seemed innocent enough; a lot of Asian noodles are made from rice, and they are quite yummy.

Though I followed the cooking directions on the package precisely, the pasta turned out terribly. It was not very enjoyable to eat, and after sampling, I had to convince J to have a small serving for dinner so we wouldn't have to toss it all out.

When it was not quite al-dente, the Rice Angelhair tasted like uncooked rice. Thirty seconds later, it tasted like mushy rice (in a bad way). It was very glutinous, sticky, and the noodles wanted to break apart into hundreds of tiny pieces. This was not very conducive for tossing with sauce.. or eating.

I felt bad wasting so much, so I loaded it lots of tomato sauce, and more freshly cracked pepper and parmesan cheese than usual so that I could disguise the taste of the pasta itself. This is not one of my proudest cooking moments, but it's a lesson learned. I'm glad I only bought one box, as I certainly don't plan to buy this type of Rice pasta again!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Bánh Mì

While being relatively familiar with several kinds of Asian foods, Vietnamese is a cuisine that I have not had very much experience eating. To my good fortune, I got to sample some bánh mì--Vietnamese sandwiches--at a work function a few months ago.

A tofu sandwich may not sound that exciting to many people, but those people are missing out if they haven't tried Tofu Bánh Mì!

This sandwich packs incredible amounts of flavor and is unlike the usual suspects you'll find in the traditional American sandwich shop. I probably would never have thought to put carrots or cilantro (coriander) on a sandwich, but this combination worked really well for "sandwich greenery" (along with cucumber slices). The slight crunch of the carrots and cucumber added good bite. As a big fan/infrequent chomper of cilantro, I especially appreciated the robust flavor of the herb.

The sandwich is both tangy and sweet. I'm not a big fan of mayonnaise, but on this sandwich it's mixed with some vinegar and sugar. These flavors go well with the tofu and greenery and really help bring the sandwich together.

And did I mention the baguette? This hardy French bread is certainly a nice change from the flavor- & personality-deprived bread that has somehow become the standard for bread in this country. But the best part about bánh mì (apart from the incredible yumminess, of course), is the price... When I scouted out my own bánh mì, I only made a dent of $2.50! Bánh mì certainly beats the unsatisfying and overpriced sandwiches from those chain joints.

So, if you have never tried bánh mì, the morale of the story is to track down the nearest Vietnamese joint and taste it for yourself. Not only are you likely to find a great food bargain, you will you give your tastebuds some excitement.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Long time no post...

“Tofu-lo Wings” were a big hit. I used container’s worth of tofu (which is 1 pound), and I’ve never seen tofu be devoured so quickly. Next time I will try to bake them in the oven so they don’t have to go swimming in oil. They were nice and crispy on the outside, and were soft yet chewy on the inside. And the flavor of buffalo goodness was good enough to satisfy any craving.

Perhaps next time I’ll be brave and try some Blue “Cheese” to go along with it. I’m a little weary of vegan cheese recipes. They often sound better than they taste. The Tofu-lo Wings were tasty enough to not need an accompaniment, but most snack foods are better with a partner in crime for dipping!

Tofu-lo Wings

1 lb. Extra Firm Tofu
Canola oil (or other vegetable oil), for frying

1/4 c. vegetable broth
4 T. hot sauce
1 T. olive oil
2 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. cayenne pepper

1/4 c. hot sauce
1 T. buttery spread, melted

Mix all ingredients together for marinade. Slice tofu into strips about 1/4 inch thick and squeeze/press out liquid. Freeze tofu strips in marinade overnight.

When you're ready to cook your tofu, remember to take it out of the freezer a couple hours in advance. When defrosted, carefully squeeze excess marinade from the tofu. It should still be a pleasant orangish-pink color.

Heat oil in a pan to medium, and place your tofu in carefully. Especially if there is still some water in the tofu, the oil will splatter when you place the tofu in the pan. Cook for 3-4 minutes, or until golden, then turn flip over and cook the other side. Place on a paper towel to drain grease.

Mix together your hot sauce and melted buttery spread. When all your tofu pieces are ready, toss them in the extra sauce. If cooked long enough, they will stay crispy.

Optional: Serve with celery and dipping sauces.
Not Optional: Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Extra-Ordinary Juice!

I've recently discovered that freshly juiced oranges are way tastier than freshly squeezed oranges. I have one of those fancy juicers that claims to get more juice out than any other contraption of its kind while removing all the pulp and spitting out dollar bills at the same time. It was a gift that I've actually come to enjoy very much, though I would never have thought to buy it myself.

Orange juice is a semi-standing item on my grocery list, so I've not really had the need or desire to juice my own. It has, however, been a few weeks since my fridge has seen a carton and I was starting to crave the substance. Luckily for me, I had a couple Navel oranges, which I decided to put through my juicing machine to help get a quick fix.

The resulting product was something that resembled typical orange juice, except was thoroughly more enjoyable. It was delightfully sweet, but had a somewhat thick and creamy texture that reminded me of a frozen yogurt smoothie. It was also full of bubbles that not only looked pretty, but helped add dimension to a beverage that usually provides for a much less interesting drinking experience. Spoonfuls of the frothy top layer were quite satisfying.

If you have a juicer and have never tried this simple recipe, I do recommend it!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Quick & Easy

Today is the first day of an 8-week long Fitness Challenge within my office. This has become an annual event for my work team--I think this is the fourth year.

In the spirit of the challenge, I decided to go to the gym today. The goal is to workout at least three times per week for the 8 week period. It seems like there is never enough time in the day for me, especially when I go to work and try to work out at the gym on the same day. Squeezing in a decent dinner on those days can be hard, even though I know it's especially important to refuel when exercising.

Anyway, I looked in the fridge and saw a bunch of leftovers. There was some Swiss cheese J left for me to eat, as well as an opened jar of spaghetti sauce, an open container of baby spinach, and half a loaf of bread.. In my head, it all came together as a "Grilled Leftovers & Cheese" sandwich.

The sandwich was actually toasted (on a non-stick frying pan), and the contents' status as leftovers is questionable, but it did make a tasty sandwich. I realize that a grilled cheese sandwich is almost the antithesis of what one should eat when thinking about health and fitness, so I promise that next time I will use more spinach!

Saturday, February 23, 2008


Yes, that "s" is meant to be there. Feeling a little nostalgic, and also slightly peer-pressured, I was suckered into buying Girl Scout Cookies today. It has been years since I've had the things, and the cuteness of the "Lemonades" caught my eye.

There was only one box of Lemonades left. The Brownie offered me a sample. They were shaped like little slices of lemon. They tasted like a little lemon-y fresh slice of goodness. Having a small taste of the cookie made me a customer! I was left wanting more of this shortbread deliciousness dipped in lemon icing. Who knew first graders could be so strategic with their selling tactics?

Lemonades have only been around since 2007, so that explains part of my curiosity--I had never seen them before. In fact, I don't remember the last time I bought Girl Scout cookies. I do, however, have very fond memories of pigging out on Caramel deLites and Thin Mints in my younger years. I worked at a Girl Scout Summer camp for a few years, and we had a seemingly-endless supply of the cookies back then.

As cute as the cookies are, and as much as I'd like to support troops of Girl Scouts, I have to go into a bit of a rant about these cookies. It seems like an organization that has such great impact on the lives of thousands of girls across the country should be a little more conscientious about the ingredients in their product.

In the days when I would eat scores of cookies without remorse, I had never heard of trans fats. Therefore, it was a bit sad, upon returning home with my newly acquired Lemonades, that I realized they are made with partially hydrogenated oil. One semi-redeeming factor is that they don't contain High Fructose Corn Syrup [like my old favorite "Caramel deLites" cookies]. Would Juliette Low or the creators of "Girl Scout Cookies" approve of today's manufacturing methods?

I think that next time I support the Girl Scouts, I'll let them keep the cookies.

And for fun, here is the original 1922 recipe for Girl Scout Cookies:

1 cup butter, or substitute
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons of milk
2 eggs
1 teaspoon of vanilla
2 cups of flour
2 teaspoons of baking powder
Sugar, for sprinkling on top

Cream butter and the cup of sugar; add well-beaten eggs, then milk, vanilla, flour, salt, and baking powder. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Roll dough, cut into trefoil shapes, and sprinkle sugar on top, if desired. Bake in a quick oven (375°) for approximately 8 to 10 minutes or until the edges begin to brown.

Makes six- to seven-dozen cookies.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Homemade Bread

For many years, my dad baked bread on a near daily basis. With the help of his trusty bread machine, we had delicious and fresh bread for our daily sandwiches. My dad's whole wheat bread was really soft and tender on the inside, but still had some spring-yness to it. The crust was perfect--crispy, but thin enough to bite into with ease. At lunch, my sandwiches were the envy of my friends, who had no choice but to eat the plain old flavorless store bought white bread their parents procured or -worse- the cafeteria food.

When I went to college, I did not often have the luxury of fresh bread. It was nice to come home occasionally on the weekends and be able to eat my dad's bread. For breakfast, I'd have it was homemade bread with Nutella. For lunch, I'd eat it in jaffel/jaffle-form. It was a treat to be able to go home and enjoy homemade bread.

During my senior year, a good friend of mine started making his own bread. I was roommates with his girlfriend, and we lived across the street from each other therefore we ended up cooking and eating together frequently. It was always fun to go over and make fresh bread together. It would be devoured almost as soon as it came out of the oven.

I have a container of active dry yeast sitting in my fridge, hardly used. Thinking back to the days of my fond homemade bread memories, I decided I needed to make my own bread and put that yeast to use.

My bread was incredibly easy to make. No fancy equipment (i.e. bread machines or KitchenAid stand mixers) required.

1.5 tsp active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
2 T. honey
1.5 cups Whole Wheat flour
1.5 cups All Purpose flour
2 T. wheat gluten
1.5 tsp. kosher salt
2 T. olive oil

Mix the honey and warm water, then add the yeast. Stir until bubbly and yeast is mixed in.

Mix all dry ingredients into a bowl, then add the water-honey-yeast mixture. Next, add the olive oil.

When mixture starts to stick, remove from bowl and knead on a flat surface for up to ten minutes, or until it comes together well.

Place dough ball in a greased bowl (if using the same bowl, you may need to wash first in order to get any remaining dough/flour clumps off the sides). Cover with a tea towel and let sit in a warm spot for about half an hour, or until dough doubles in size.

Once doubled in size, remove dough from bowl and need a few more times, shaping dough into desired form. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, letting dough rest during this time.

When oven is heated, bake your bread for 40 minutes.

Next, enjoy how simple it is to make your own bread and how much more flavor your bread has compared to the store-bought kind.

I think this bread would be great with some Italian herbs for added flavor. Perhaps next time, I'll try being more creative!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day!

This is the obligatory cupcake post for Valentine's Day. I actually decided against baking my own cupcakes this year due to the fact that most people I work with and otherwise associate myself with are trying to cut back on sweets and other goods that are not-so-good for their waistlines. Fortunately, my lack of baking cupcakes did not mean that I had to go without cupcakes on this February 14th.

While Valentine's Day is associated with so much commercialism in America today (think Hallmark cards, flower deliveries, and mass candy sales), I think there is still some merit to the holiday. I decided to use Valentine's Day to thank some of the people at work who frequently help me accomplish my day-to-day tasks. The four women who I sought Valentine's Day gifts would not appreciate flowers like many women (nor would I appreciate giving flowers, as I can't bear to spend so much money on something that dies in a couple days). Furthermore, they are all adverse to eating candy for reasons ranging from needing to lose weight, needing to monitor sugar, or being diabetic. If both candy and flowers are out, what else is left in terms of choices of Valentine's gifts for coworkers?

In a spur of random thinking, I ended deciding upon a hummingbird feeder and Crystal Light iced tea mix. They are all frequent iced tea drinkers, and Crystal Light seemed to be one of their indulgences for times when they wanted a switch from regular iced tea. The hummingbird feeder was a very unique blown-glass design, and I thought it went with the "sweet without being fattening" theme.

The gift actually went over *really* well with all of them. Not only were they pleasantly surprised to be receiving a Valentine's Day gift at work, they all appreciated both the Crystal Light and the Hummingbird Feeder and thought it was much more thoughtful than getting candy or flowers, which would not have been enjoyed as much. Proof that celebrating Valentine's Day well doesn't have to consist of falling for the usual consumer traps.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Pierogi Experiment

It's not quite Casimir Pulaski Day yet, but I had had pirogi in the back of my mind for a while and wanted to try my hand at making them from scratch. What are pierogi you ask? Essentially, a pierog is the Polish incarnation of a dumpling. Italians have their ravioli, Chinese have gow (potstickers), and Polish have pierogi. Pierogi are crescent-shaped objects with an outer shell of pasta bursting with things like potatoes and cheese, cabbage, fruit, or meat.

In college, my Polish roommates would frequently cook potato & cheese pierogi. These were the best ones, the claimed. Sometimes they would eat the kraut ones, but neither fruit pierogi nor meat pierogi were deemed "truly Polish" enough for their tastes. The traditional way to cook pierogi, or so they told me, was to pan fry in heaps of butter until slightly golden, then topped with a large dollop of sour cream. (Pierogi are boiled first, but if you purchase the frozen kind, they are generally pre-boiled, so you can go straight to the frying stage.)

So, I wanted to make vegan pierogi. And I didn't have a recipe, so I'd call it an experiment.

2 c. All Purpose Flour
3 oz. Silken Tofu (this is half of a standard-size asceptic container)
1 c. water
1 tsp. olive oil
1 tsp. salt

Leftover mashed potatoes, pepper
Optional add-ins: Onions, Kraut, Cheeze of your choosing

Mash tofu well with fork. When the consistency is smooth, slowly add half of the flour and mix well. Add salt and olive oil. Continue adding the flour and mixing the batter. Stir in 1/2 cup of water. The mixture should be on its way to becoming a dough ball. If needed, add more water. The dough should be a consistency where it can be kneaded. It should not be sticky. Next, roll the dough out to a thin layer. Cut dough into circles with a cookie cutter or the upside-down rim of a glass.

Place a small spoonful of filling in the center of each dough-circle. Fold the circle in half, and seal the edges of your pierogi.

Next, place your pierogi in pot of boiling water, salted. Small batches work best for this. When the pierogi are ready, they will float to the top and you may fish them out. After removing pierogi from boiling water, dry well, and gently fry in your buttery substance of choice. When golden, enjoy immediately!

Make sure you enjoy your filling it its original form--pierogis are not meant to disguise a lack of yummy-ness.
Don't overstuff the pierogi. The pasta may tear, and they won't look as pretty.
Breaking tradition is okay. The next day, I ate leftover pierogi with leftover pasta sauce.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Happy Chinese New Year!

Going out to eat at a nice Chinese restaurant for the Lunar New Year celebration was a big part of my childhood. Traditionally, we'd go to the same restaurant every year. My grandparents would come along with us, and so would any other relatives who happened to be in town. Sometimes, we'd go with other family friends who celebrated the holiday, but usually it was just an event for our closest family to bond over feasting.

Though many of the things we'd feast on then are things that I no longer eat, I still associate the holiday with eating. I had fond memories of eating things such as Peking Duck and Moo Shu Pork. These were foods generally saved for special occasions in my household.

To my brother and I, who were quite young at the time, there were some things we looked forward to about Chinese New Year more than to the food and the company. Namely, the things my brother and I especially enjoyed were: dining at a particular restaurant Chinese restaurant that was actually an old (permanently docked) boat, the red envelopes (gifts of money!), and best of all was the lion dance. When the lights dimmed and the loud thumping of the drums began, we were both scared and excited! The magnificent creature parading around the restaurant with such rhythm was an incredible sight. When the lion commanded our attention, we were struck with awe. The lion dance was what made Chinese New Year actually Chinese New Year to us.

After living in a series of smaller cities, I was excited this year to be in a place big enough to have an actual Chinese New Year celebration.. with a lion dance! It was also nice to be able to share this part of my childhood with J. This year was hist first time celebrating, and his first time to see the magnificence of a lion dance.

Oh, and since I should mention the food, I had Szechuan Eggplant and Hunan Tofu. A little bit greasier and not quite as spicy as expected, but still quite satisfying. It also made great leftovers!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Ginger Experiment

Lately, I've found myself buying a small piece of ginger root and having it go bad before I get to use it all. To prevent this from happening in the future, I had the idea to freeze it. By freezing it, I would be able to have access to ginger without having to run to the store or finding that my stash had gone bad. It's probably not a very original idea, but I've never done it before and haven't heard of anyone doing it with ginger, specifically.

Before freezing, I peeled it then minced it to the normal size I use. Then I split it out into sections of an ice cube tray and compressed each "cube" of ginger. I debated whether or not to use a little bit of water to ensure that it would stay in cubes, but decided I would just try it this time without adding the water. So then I covered it in plastic wrap and stuck it in the freezer. Next time I get the urge to use ginger, I'll be prepared!

Not the best picture, but want to illustrate anyhow:

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Chocolately Goodness

It seemed like J had been talking about brownies on a daily basis for the last couple of weeks. With all the talk of brownies in the house, the thought of eating them was beginning to stick with me, too.

Part of the reason it took so long to actually make brownies since first having the idea is because we've been trying to avoid making sweets at home. Yes, I realize that homemade goodies are better than the store bought or commercially made alterntives, but I get (and eat) too many cookies and desserts at work. Many of these sugary goods end up coming home with me, so J's belly gets more than its fair share, too.

Brownies were lingering in our minds for days. Finally, J made some...
It was worth it.

These brownies are super moist. Not so much cakey brownies, but not dry and not very dense, either. It's hard to describe them, except by calling them banana-y, chocolate-y, and delicious!

Super Moist Banana Brownies

Dry Ingredients
3/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. flour
1/3 c. cocoa
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. chocolate chips
Handful of walnuts

Wet Ingredients
1/2 c plain soymilk
2 overripe bananas, mashed
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Mix all of the dry ingredients together, except for the chocolate chips and walnuts. Make a well in the dry mixture, the add the wet ingredients and mix well. When the wet and dry ingredients are mixed together, add the chocolate chips and give one more stir.

Pour brownie mixture into a 9 x 9-inch square pan and sprinkle walnuts on top. Bake brownies at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for around 30 minutes or until done.

As you can see, we only put nuts of half of the brownies (because that's the only way we could agree on it).

Note: Instead of chocolate chips, we actually used half of a bar of vegan dark chocolate that was crushed into small pieces. The dark chocolate was fantastic in the brownie; the pieces melted enough to incorporate into the brownie while giving a bit of resistance that was nice to bite into. The flavor of the dark chocolate also contrasted nicely with the sweeter brownie batter. Whether you use chocolate chips or a crushed chocolate bar, I do recommend using dark chocolate for this added yumminess!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Linguine and Zucchini

I love leftovers. But even better than plain old leftovers is being able to use leftovers to come up with a completely new creation.

Over the past week, I had been craving pasta, which is basically a staple of my diet. The craving was not helped by going out for Italian food on Wednesday night, and only eating a salad and some risotto. As delicious they were, I left wishing that I had ordered something else.

Luckily, pasta is something incredibly easy to make at home and I was able to finally satisfy the craving this evening. Conveniently, I had some leftovers laying around that I was able to use to create a fabulous pasta dinner.

The Leftovers
*Zucchini is something I did not truly enjoy on or with pasta until the summer of 2005. I spent that summer living in Verona and was exposed to many new tastes that have stuck with me long since leaving. I had some zucchini leftover from Tuesday's dinner that did not look very exciting sitting in the fridge in a container and alone. Luckily for the zucchini and for me, I remembered that it would be a great addition to the night's pasta creation. I chopped it into more convenient bite-sized pieces, and it was ready to go!
*A few days ago, J had opened up a jar of marinara sauce that needed to be finished. I hear that pasta sauce actually shouldn't be kept very long once it's opened, so I was eager to use it up. The only addition made to this sauce was some garlic powder for extra kick.
*We also had some stravecchio cheese left from the Macaroni and Cheese we made on New Year's Eve. This is one of my new favorite cheese. It is hard, pungent, and versatile. I think it is a great cheese for snacking alongside sweet fruit, using in savory dishes, or simply for nibbling alone. J and I were both surprised that the stravecchio had lasted this long (both in terms of us not eating it and in terms of it not being taken over by mold growth) and decided it needed to be consumed without further delay.

The Dish
Whole wheat linguine, with zucchini, a basic tomato sauce, and sprinkled with grated stravecchio cheese. Simple, easy to make, and absolutely satisfying! This is how I like to eat.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Hearty Stew

Soup is one food that I love and don't make as frequently as I'd like. I love thick and creamy soups as well as flavorful broths and refreshingly cool Summer gazpachos and belly-warming Winter stews. In my opinion, some of the best soups are ones that are healthy enough to be a complete meal. My specialty is lentil soup, which actually is more of a "hearty stew". My lentil soup is thick, chunky, low-fat, and made with heart-healthy veggies, hence the name.

Not only is this Hearty Stew super easy to make, another great thing about it is that you can improvise with whatever ingredients you have on hand. Substitute split peas for lentils. Add whatever veggies you need to use up. Skip the garlic if you don't have it.

Here are the ingredients I used this time:

  • garlic
  • onions
  • celery
  • carrots
  • tomatoes
  • lentils
  • veggie broth/water

Usually I add ginger and don't use have the celery or veggie broth on hand. You can add potatoes or other veggies, too. See how flexible this recipe can be!

To make Hearty Stew, chop up the veggies you want to use, and sweat the aromatics, then add remaining veggies, liquid, & legumes and cook for 30 minutes or longer, depending on how mushy you like it. If you desire, you can stick it in the blender, but I like the chunks of vegetables. You'll see there is no added fat, so this is a great dish to satisfy any appetite while keeping it healthy.

And a tip for soup-lovers cooking for only one or two: Make a big batch anyway-- then freeze this soup in individual portions. It freezes well, and is a much healthier ready-meal than frozen dinners from the store! You will be happy that you can just reach in your freezer and heat up this soup when you're craving it and won't have to spend time chopping veggies first.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Ants on a Log

I feel sorry for those adults who didn't learn to eat their veggies as children. This does not mean that I think we all can't dislike some vegetables or must blindly eat whatever is in front of us. Rather, I believe that children who are exposed to a wider variety of foods, especially vegetables, are more likely to build healthy eating habits that last a lifetime.

One healthy snack that I discovered working as a summer camp counselor is Ants on a Log. Though many children [think they] don't like celery, I hardly encountered a child who wouldn't try it served with peanut butter and ants err, raisins. The sweetness from the dried fruit complements the savory peanut butter well, and they work as a great team to help children and adults to better enjoy celery.

I had leftover celery from making soup, so I thought I would reminisce on my summer camp days (and all that sunshine, which we haven't seen much of lately).

Friday, January 18, 2008

Black Beans and Rice

When I got home from work, it was a nice surprise to find dinner already made! J made a delicious and satisfying version of Black Beans and Rice with Tofurky brand Italian Sausage. The rice was very flavorful, while the beans and sausage added a nice contrast of flavors. Many of my favorite meals and simple ones like this. It's always a bonus when something that tastes as good as this isn't terribly unhealthy, either.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


I like to think of this creation as a treat that is not *completely* unhealthy. Though, I wouldn't go as far to calling it a health food, by any means. It's a great way to use up old bananas or to solve a sweet tooth's craving. If you don't want to eat them all at once (or you want to make a double batch), these muffins freeze and re-heat pretty decently. I just microwave them for a few seconds, and then pretend they just came out of the oven!

Banana Chocolate Chip Walnut Muffins

1 c. all purpose flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
1/4 c. cane sugar
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 T. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 overripe bananas
1/2 T. vanilla
1/2 c. soymilk
2-3 T. canola oil or non-hydrogenated margarine (such as Earth Balance or Soy Garden)
1/2 c. chocolate chips
1/2 c. chopped walnuts

Mix dry ingredients, mash in bananas, then add wet ingredients. Fold in the chocolate chips and nuts.
Fill muffin pan 2/3 full, and bake at 400 degrees Farenheit for about twenty minutes, or until golden.
Makes about 12 muffins or 6 jumbo muffins.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


J and I have been experimenting with homemade pizza periodically. Our main challenge is trying to create a pizza dough that we like as much as restaurant-dough. We're not really fussy about how it turns out as long as it tastes good! One would think that it would be easy to find a good dough to make homemade pizza for people who aren't too picky about their pizza, but we've had no such luck!

Our attempts at pizza-making have not been terrible, but the pizza we've made just hasn't been as addictive as restaurant pizza tends to be. I fear that yummy pizza is synonymous for unhealthy & fattening. Next time, I think we'll try all white flour (rather than whole wheat) and see if that turns out any differently from using only whole wheat flour or various mixtures of white and whole wheat.

Spinach and sundried tomato pizza.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Yummy Propaganda!

This is my favorite (newly discovered) propaganda. It appears to have a goal of getting kids to eat their veggies. And I can't stop listening to it. Seriously. So yummy, so yummy!

Watch this video to be inspired (or perhaps threatened by mild guilt) into eating those veggies that you don't love. Or just to have a laugh and get into the groove.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Lazy Shepherd's Pie

Everybody has his own way of making Shepherd's Pie. Some say it must be made with lamb; others forbid particular vegetables from, lest their pie be tainted and and be something other than a Shepherd's Pie. And others again say it's not a Shepherd's Pie unless it contains those same vegetables in question.
In my opinion, real Shepherd's Pie does not just have a potato "topping", but has a complete "crust" made out of potatoes. [It's not apple pie, if the crust is only on top!] This satisfying dish is easy to make and perfect for cold winter nights when you want to snuggle up under a blanket in front of a fire. And if for some reason you need more convincing to go make a Pie of your own, remember that you can use up some of those leftovers in your fridge to make something new and exciting! Those leftover veggies will thank you for giving them a makeover!

Here is my quick and dirty way of making Shepherd's Pie. It's great for fulfilling cravings for comfort food that is both filling and healthy.


12 medium potatoes
1/2 cup plain soymilk
16 oz bag of frozen mixed vegetables (must include peas & carrots--must not include broccoli or cauliflower)
12 oz Boca Ground Burger or "ground meat" of your choice
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic
1/8 cup ketchup
Soy Garden or olive oil

Boil potatoes until tender. Drain. Add soy milk, dash of salt, and buttery substance of your choosing, then mash until fluffy. Spread out potatoes and pack into a layer on the bottom of a 9x9 inch casserole dish. Build mashed potatoes into a "crust" up sides of dish.

In a separate pan, sautee onions and garlic. When onions are golden, add Boca Ground burger and vegetables, and take off heat. Add tomato ketchup and stir until frozen clumps are broken up. This is the filling.

When no frozen chunks remain and the filling is mixed well, add to pie. Use the remaining mashed potatoes to top the Pie. Pat down potatoes and brush with Soy Garden or olive oil to help a crust form while baking.

Cook in oven for 45 minutes at 350 degrees, or until top is desired crispiness.
Leftover mashed potatoes or vegetables will work just as well! Experiment with your fillings until you find something that calls to you.

Layer of Veggies+Boca Filling, pre-baking.

Crispy! Fresh from the oven!

Ran out of potatoes, so the "pie crust" was a little short.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

A Tribute to the General

General Tso's is a top favorite Chinese dish of both J and mine. I actually have several favorites, but it is a very rare occasion when J does not order General Tso's when we get Chinese food. Because of our love for the dish, we thought it was about time to try to make it ourselves.

We had a lot of the ingredients that I wanted to use, but did have to buy the chili and ginger. I decided that we'd try it without the red pepper and onions this time to make it more simple and to concentrate on the flavors of the sauce.

Though it didn't turn out tasting as much like General Tso's Tofu from a restaurant as I wanted, it was still yummy! I think for next time, a little less soy sauce is needed as well as a little more sugar, chili, and vinegar. With this disclaimer, here is the recipe I created (with changes to use for my next attempt!):

2 pounds of firm tofu
1 red pepper, sliced
1 small onion, sliced
2 cloves minced garlic
1 Tablespoon minced ginger
4 thinly sliced green onions
4 Thai chili peppers
Cornstarch for dipping
Canola oil for frying

Ingredients for Marinade:
2 Tablespoons minced ginger
4 cloves minced garlic
2 Thai chili peppers, diced
2 cups vegetable stock
4 Tablespoons soy sauce
3 Tablespoons brown sugar
3 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 Tablespoons Sesame Oil
1 Tablespoon cornstarch

Slice and drain tofu. Freeze at least overnight.

Mix all ingredients for marinade except cornstarch. Defrost tofu chunks and let soak in marinade for at least 30 minutes. Once ready, drain tofu from marinade and set aside the liquids for sauce.

Dip tofu in cornstarch to lightly coat. Heat Canola oil in a pan and gently place tofu pieces. Fry until crispy.

In a separate pan, gently fry slices of red pepper with minced garlic and ginger. Add marinade mixture, chilies, and half of the green onions. Mix cornstarch with equal amount of cold water and add to marinade, stirring well.Bring to a boil and keep stirring over low heat till sauce thickens.

When tofu is crispy, serve with rice and broccoli. Top with sauce and remaining green onions.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

This Ain't Your Grandma's Porridge

Berry Blue Oatmeal

This delicious concoction of J's reminded me of those delicious blueberry muffins that are soo bad for you. I used to eat them all the time when I was little, and am thrilled at how much the oatmeal tasted just like it. Now there's a healthy way to deal with a craving for something sweet and unhealthy!


Add following ingredients to a saucepan and bring to boil:

2 cups rolled oats

3 cups plain soymilk
1 cup water
Dash of salt

Once boiling, reduce heat to medium and cover. Stir periodically if desired.

After about 30 minutes on the stove, add:

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup dried blueberries

Stir and keep on heat for 10 more minutes. Your oats are now ready for enjoyment!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

New Year's Eve Feast

Though we've both said that we want to reduce our dairy consumption, our New Year's Eve feast consisted of an extremely rich and tasty Five Cheese "Macaroni and Cheese." We used whole wheat fusilli mixed with a blend of Australian Cheddar, Fontina val Deosta, Aged Provolone, Grana Padano and topped with crumbled bread and Antigo Stravecchio. Sinfully delicious!

Happy New Year to all! May good food, good friends, and good health be yours in 2008!



1 lb fusilli or pasta of choice
1/2 lb grated Australian Cheddar
1/4 lb grated Aged Provolone
1/4 lb grated Grano Padano
1/4 lb grated Fontina val Deosta

For Sauce:
2 T butter
1/4 c. flour
2 c. plain soymilk
1 T. mustard powder
1 T. garlic powder
2 tsp. chili powder
salt and pepper

For Topping:
3 slices of bread
1/4 lb grated Antigo Stravecchio

Start by boiling the pasta and grating your cheese.
Next, use the butter and flour to begin a roux. Add the soymilk and desired seasonings and salt and pepper to taste. Stir well.

When pasta is almost al dente, drain and spread into a 3 qt. casserole dish, and add the sauce and first four cheeses. Mix together well. Finally, crumble the bread and sprinkle with the Antigo Stravecchio. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until topping is crisp and brown. Enjoy!