Thursday, December 30, 2010

Harissa Kale Penne

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Christmas is about receiving... er, I mean, giving. For Christmas, I gave VB (and indirectly, myself) a tube of harissa, a spicy North African paste that is super delicious. He's been curious to try it ever since Jeffrey Saad (remember him?) hawked it on the Next Food Network Star. There are different brands of harissa out there, some are spicy and some are not. You can even make it at home. I used Dea Harissa Hot Sauce, which is spicy (but not overpowering) and has a coriander flavor that makes it unique.

I tossed together some harissa (okay, a lot of harrisa) with whole wheat penne, kale, pine nuts and black olives for a quick and easy dinner. You can find the recipe here at 101 Cookbooks. The only modifications that I made were to cut back on the olive oil to only 2 tablespoons and increase the amount of harrisa to 1/4 cup.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas Loot

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Somehow (not that my Amazon Christmas list had anything to do with it) word got around that I like cooking. So for Christmas, I got a collection of new cookbooks! And kitchen items like a new steamer (to replace the one that I burned) and a new pot (to replace the one that I burned) and a cooling rack and a herb keeper (which I broke already, ugh) and a new pizza stone (I actually had nothing to do with the previous one cracking in half).

I'm excited to get cooking. In fact, we already used the pizza stone to make delicious pineapple and jalapeno pizza and broccolini olive pizza.

See the cooling rack in action!

Did I mention we got COOKIES? We got way too many cookies for just the two of us. But we will try our very best, as hard as it may be, to eat every last one. We're tenacious like that. Pfeffernüsse is my very favorite. Must! Resist urge to eat the whole bag.

My plate runneth over, as you can see.

And! For our next food project, we will be growing oyster mushrooms at home. I bought a kit for VB's mom, but couldn't resist the free shipping offer for two. So I got one for myself as well. I'm eager to grow some delicious mushrooms! But that's another post for another day.

Thanks to everyone (you know who you are) for making this Christmas fun and memorable! Sorry I ate so many cookies!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Warm Farro Salad with Yam and Kale

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I've been so busy recently that I can barely dress myself in the morning, nevermind cooking. We subsisted on veggie burgers and leftovers for awhile, but enough is enough! I will not let 12-hour workday and 2-hour commute deter me from having a good meal. So we have here a warm farro salad with some nice winter produce and herbs. It's surprisingly delicious with various great textures. I added mint in the herb mix for the hell of it. It's an ingredient that I tend to shy away from for fear that it might overpower the dish. But it turns out, mint complemented everything quite nicely.

And! I worked with farro for the first time. It's a small grain that looks a little like pearl barley but cooks much faster, about 25 to 30 with no soaking time -- perfect for a busy girl like me. This recipe is inspired by a similar recipe from Coconut & Quinoa, a vegetarian food blog that I discovered recently, but I made it my own with various substitutions and additions.

You'll need:
  • 1 cup of dried farro (try your local specialty food store or Whole Foods), rinsed
  • 2 medium garnet yams, peeled and 1-inch diced
  • 1 bunch of kale, thoroughly cleaned, stem removed and sliced into 2-inch strips
  • 1 15-ounce can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 3 cups of water
  • 10 mint leaves, chiffonade
  • 5 to 8 large basil leaves, chiffonade
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 6 ounces of feta, diced small
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil,divided
  • big pinch of red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper
Begin by adding water and farro plus 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt into a medium pot. Bring to boil. Cover and reduce to simmer for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally and add more water if necessary. Drain and set aside.

Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees. Toss diced yams with 2 tablespoons olive oil, season with salt and generous amount of black pepper. Make sure yam pieces are well coated with olive oil. Spread yam out in a single layer in an oven-proof pan or on a baking sheet. Roast for 40 minutes or until tender.

In a large skillet, heat up 1 tablespoon of olive oil and red pepper flakes. Add kale and season with a pinch of salt. Reduce to low and cover for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Kale is cooked when tender and tastes less bitter.

To a large mixing bowl, add farro, roasted yam, wilted kale along with chickpeas, mint, basil, parsley, and feta. Drizzle lemon juice and toss. Serve warm.

Broccoli and Mushroom Steamed Dumplings

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I'm sure lots of people disagree, but I find winter cooking a bit depressing. I miss the variety of summer produce. I wish there are better fruit options besides apples and oranges (snore), which are currently occupying substantial real estate at Milk Pail. And I'm sick of winter squashes. I know that in California (the land of milk and honey), I can go to Whole Foods and buy a 6-dollar half pint of blueberries or a 5-dollar small bunch of asparagus. But (an accidental 10-dollar melon aside) we don't splurge much on food around here -- it's all about eating well cheaply and healthfully.

Here, I use some commonly found ingredients to make this uncommon dish. Broccoli is not an ingredient that you find in steamed dumplings a lot, but I like the bright bitterness of broccoli paired with the earthiness of the mushrooms. Although this is an economical recipe (you can make 60 dumplings for less than $10), it is also labor intensive. So be forewarned, don't try to whip this out after work, you'll be making dumplings until midnight. This is a good weekend project and dumplings freeze well -- dumplings are the essential freezer food for days when cooking from fresh is not an option.

You'll need:
  • 1 package of dumpling wrappers (if you prefer to pan fry these dumplings, I recommend using potsticker wrappers)
  • 4 medium heads of broccoli
  • 1 cup of frozen fava beans or edamame
  • 6 ounces of fresh shiitake mushrooms, stem removed and quartered
  • 2 sprigs of scallion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon of grated ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon of five spice powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of white pepper
  • 2 teaspoons of soy sauce
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons of shao hsing wine (Chinese cooking wine) (optional)
Start by quickly blanching broccoli head and edamame in boiling water for 4 minutes. Then immediately  shock in ice cold water. Drain. In a food processor, puree broccoli, edamame, mushrooms and scallion until it becomes finely chopped. You should be able to mold the mixture into small balls with your hands. Transfer mixture into a large prep bowl and add ginger, five spice powder, soy sauce, salt, sesame oil and white pepper. Mix well.

Add a dollop of the mixture in the middle of the dumpling wrapper, leaving about 1/4 inch around the edge. Dampen half of the edge, fold the dry edge onto the dampened edge and pinch the middle together. Then fold pleats in toward the middle and pinch shot. Steam for 20 minutes or boil for 8 minutes. Serve with soy sauce, vinegar, hot sauce or a combination of the three.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Kale and Mushroom Gnocchi

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Gnocchi is one of many things that I haven't quite mastered, but not for lack of trying. For whatever reason, mine either comes out dense and gummy or disintegrates in boiling water. This batch came out okay, but I think I may have boiled them a bit too long. My other problem was actually getting those damned potatoes cooked. I followed a recipe that requires baking whole Russet potatoes for 45 minutes to an hour in 400 degree oven before ricing them. I'm sorry, but not even I have that kind of time. Besides, even after 45 minutes, mine were still completely raw inside. I got frustrated, chopped them into large chunks and nuked the heck out of them. And that seemed to have done the trick. For future reference, I'm going to microwave potatoes before baking so they get done a lot faster.

If you're not up to making gnocchi from scratch, just plain ol' dried pasta will work here. I think this would be particularly good with whole wheat pasta because of its nutty flavors. I particularly like the earthy qualities of the mushroom and kale combination and that little bit of spiciness from red pepper flakes really wakes up the palate.

You'll need:
  • 1 bunch of kale, stemmed and cut into 1-inch strips
  • 4 ounces of mushrooms (I used a combination of fresh shiitake and oyster mushrooms), sliced
  • 1 15-ounce can of cannellini beans
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, sliced
  • 1 big pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup of white wine
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of butter or margarine (I use Earth Balance)
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon juice (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste
In a large skillet, saute onion slices and in olive oil until softened. Add red pepper flakes, kale and white wine. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes until kale turns bright green and becomes wilted. Add cannellini beans and mushroom slices and toss together. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for another 5 to 8 minutes until mushrooms soften. Add butter or butter substitute and lemon juice just prior to tossing together with cooked pasta. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Mystery Produce of the Week: Red Corn

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Festive corn just in time for the holiday season! Seriously though, I don't know why this corn is red. It has no purpose being red. But it is. In addition to the attractive magenta/mauve/severe sunburn color that the kernels take on, the husk also has a faint red hue.

I had thought it might taste different, like corn crossed with beets or maybe pomegranate. Instead, it tastes like... corn. Just. Corn. It's only disappointing if you were expecting some sort of super awesome delicious corn-y corn. But personally, I love corn just the way corn is. So red or not, it's all good by me.

I turned this mystery produce into a red (corn) and black (bean) burger with avocado and salsa. This particular black bean burger got rave reviews from VB, who said that it should be in the "Favorite Recipes" section... stat! (I think he may have been extra hungry that day.)

You'll need:
  • 4 medium ears of corn (red or otherwise), husk removed
  • 1 15-ounce can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 small sweet yellow onion, large diced
  • 1 cup of bread crumbs plus up to an additional 1 cup (I use panko)
  • 1/2 cup of corn meal
  • 4 tablespoons of whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon of paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon of granulated garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon of onion powder
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • avocado slices for garnish
  • pico de gallo for garnish
  • hamburger buns
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add corn and boil for 8 minutes. Remove and let cool. Slice off the kernels. Mix well with black beans. Take about 3/4 of the corn black bean mixture along with diced onion, paprika, cumin, garlic powder, salt and pepper and puree in food processor until the mixture turns into a wet paste. Add the mixture to a large bowl with the remaining 1/4 of corn and black beans. Add corn meal, whole wheat flour, bread crumbs and mix together by hand. The mixture should be tacky but not wet and can be easily shaped into patties without sticking to your hands. If your mixture is too wet, add more bread crumbs. Adjust seasoning.

Lightly fry each patty on both sides in olive oil, about 3 to 5 minutes on each side or until browned. Then bake in 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. Serve on hamburger buns and garnish with avocado slices and pico de gallo.

Mustard Greens and White Beans Soup

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Thanksgiving was, as usual, full of fun and good food -- turkey, pizza, chicken wings, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and PIES. Lots and lots of PIIIIIIEEEEES. I regret nothing and I still don't. But I do feel a little bit guilty for pigging out. On our way back home, I declared: "I'm going to make the healthiest dinner EVER tonight!" And this greens and beans soup is it. I know it doesn't look like much, but it has lots of healthy fiber from the greens and protein from the beans. It's both filling and delicious. I think of it as my atonement for being very very naughty over the Thanksgiving weekend.

You'll need:
  • 1 bunch of mustard greens (or collard greens, chard or kale. Mustard greens just struck my fancy that day), thoroughly cleaned and chopped into long strips
  • 1 cup of dried white beans or cannellini beans (do not substitute with canned beans)
  • 6 cups of vegetable stock
  • 3 ounces of vegetarian ham or extra firm tofu, medium diced
  • 1 medium sweet onion, medium diced
  • 3 sprigs of fresh thyme, minced
  • 1 sprig of fresh oregano, minced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
Begin by soaking dried beans in water for at least 4 hours.

In a large pot, saute diced onion in olive oil until softened, about 8 minutes. Add garlic, thyme, oregano and diced vegetarian ham. Continue stirring until fragrant, about 2 to 5 minutes. Add beans and vegetable stock. Season with salt. Bring liquid to boil. Reduce to simmer and cover for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add greens and simmer for another 25 minutes. Greens should turn to dark green and beans should be soft. Adjust seasoning and serve with bread on the side.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Sometimes Too Much of a Good Thing is Just Too Much

Pin It So. Anyone noticed that I haven't posted in awhile? No?

VB's parents were in town and treated us to some of the finest dining that San Francisco offers. We ate an unseemly lot. And everything was so delicious. I ate goat and seafood and duck and... VB ate vegetables with some tofu here and there. All this gluttony even before Thanksgiving! Towards the end, I was craving a square homecooked meal -- just an easy, simple, healthy and flavorful meal. I did manage to cook a couple of times during this span and here are some of those recipes.

Here we have roasted Brussel's sprouts with caraway seeds, Dijon mustard and red wine vinegar. This dish is vaguely inspired by sauerkraut on a caraway seed buns with mustard, but all in one bite. Totally delicious and simple. Just saute Brussel's sprouts in some butter, toss in some caraway seeds, a big heaping tablespoon of spicy Dijon mustard and couple dashes of red wine vinegar. Season with salt and pepper then roast in 425 degree oven for 25 minutes.

Here is a simple potato dish, provided that you have a mandoline slicer and someone who's willing to hand wash it. VB is in charge of dishes around here, and he always bemoans the use of mandoline and food processor, especially when I accidentally leave in the attachments in the mandoline and he has to wash every single sharp and pointy attachment by hand. But at least he likes this dish! Thinly slice big Russet potatoes to 1/8 inch slices and arrange them up in a pie pan. Slice some shallots and stick shallot slices in between potato slices in 2 inch intervals or so. Drizzle with about 1 to 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Bake in 425 degree oven for 45 minutes to an hour. Add a few sprigs of thyme with about 20 minutes left in baking time. This is a Martha Stewart recipe, by the way, but I can't seem to find a link for it. But you get the gist of it.

Here is maple roast winter squash soup with pinto beans, although it's hard to tell because soup always photographs poorly and ends up looking like vomit. It's not vomit, it's soup. Take my word for it. I roasted butternut squash and acorn squash coated with olive oil and maple syrup along with whole cloves of garlic until tender. Then I added the flesh and peeled garlic into a pot with sweet onions, vegetable stock, paprika, turmeric, ginger and pinto beans and boiled until the soup came together. I decided against pureeing it into a smooth soup (mostly due to laziness), but that's always a good option.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Caramelized Brussel's Sprouts with Wild Rice

Pin It A lot of food blogs out there are offering advice on how to prepare a delicious Thanksgiving meal. I only have one piece of advice, but I'm sure you'll find it very valuable -- GO TO SOMEONE ELSE'S HOUSE FOR THANKSGIVING. I've never cooked a Thanksgiving dinner, but I've had fond Thanksgiving memories. That's probably because I didn't do any of the cooking.

Seriously, it looks stressful and awfully difficult. I'm doing a good job at Thanksgiving dinner stress avoidance again this year by going away for the weekend. But I will have lots of turkey, so it's all good.

Back to easy cooking -- this is a simple dish that happens to be very healthy and easy to make. So easy, in fact, I'm not going to write a recipe. That and also I may have ripped this off Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. I can't remember and I'm not going to bother checking the book. Sorry, Mark.

In any event, prep Brussel's spouts by slicing them in half. Place them cut side down into a hot oven proof skillet that has been liberally lubed with olive oil. Once the Brussel's sprouts caramelize, turn them over and stick them (pan and all) into a 400 degree oven and roast for 20 minutes. While still hot, drizzle with some Balsamic vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Serve over a bed of wild rice.

Ta-da! Easy, huh? So delicious and wonderfully seasonal. And! It's nutty and sweet (like me!) and very healthy (not like me...).

Monday, November 8, 2010

Goat Cheese, Roasted Piquillo Peppers and Tomato Focaccia

Pin It You know how sometimes for weeks, you wake up looking like crap and there's nothing you can do about it? Well, the same thing happens to me when it comes to cooking. There are weeks when I can't make an edible meal to save my life. I burned two pots recently -- first, I melted a silicone steamer right into a pot that I've had since college. Then I burned the replacement pot after reducing poaching liquid for way too long. The enamel at the bottom of the pot came up with the black burned on mess. I'm still having trouble saying goodbye to my almost brand new but now toxic and useless pot.

After professional athletes get out of a slump, they always look back and define the turning point of the season -- the one key event that brought their groove back. I think I've hit my proverbial turning point. I made some easy mac-n-cheese plus corn muffins for a friend's early Thanksgiving dinner. Both items came out pretty good. Then, the very next day, I made this --

Hellllllloo, Good Looking! I'm really pleased with how this turned out. And it was pretty easy to do with a bit of planning ahead.

You'll need:
  • 1 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/3 cup of warm water (80 - 100 degrees)
  • 2 teaspoons (one envelope) of instant yeast
  • 2 teaspoon of salt, divided
  • 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil plus more for drizzling
  • 1 jar of roasted piquillo peppers (or roasted red bell peppers would be fine too), drained and rinsed
  • 2 teaspoons of red wine vinegar
  • 2 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 1 medium/large beef steak tomato, sliced thin
  • 2 ounces of goat cheese
  • 5 to 6 sprigs of thyme
Add yeast and olive oil to warm water and set aside until yeast dissolves. Mix together whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour and 1 teaspoon of salt using stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. While the mixer is on low, slowly pour in the warm water mixture until dough comes together. Replace paddle attachment with hook attachment and knead for 4 minutes on medium-low.

Spray large prep bowl with olive oil and then transfer dough into the prep bowl. Turn the dough once over to ensure it is well covered with olive oil. Cover the dough with wet paper towels and set aside for 1 hour, or until the dough doubles in size. Punch down the dough and then spread it flat into a baking pan greased with olive oil. Cover with wet paper towels and set side for another 1 1/2 hours.

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees.

While the dough is rising, combine piquillo peppers, garlic, red wine vinegar and 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Process the mixture until it becomes a smooth sauce using either stand blender or immersion blender.

Once the dough has risen, dimple the dough in two inch intervals. Season with salt. Spread enough of the piquillo pepper sauce to cover most of the focaccia dough, leaving about one inch all the way around. You may have leftover piquillo pepper sauce, which can be served as dipping sauce. Add tomato slices on top. Add nubs of goat cheese and sprigs of thyme on top. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle about a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil on top. Bake for 25 minutes until the bottom of the focaccia is crispy and the edges are golden brown. Serve with extra piquillo pepper sauce on the side.

The piquillo peppers really add a nice balance to the tart tomatoes and the creamy goat cheese. (Yes, that tomato was from our "harvest".) Watch out, I may have gotten my cooking groove back.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

(Expensive) Mystery Produce of the Week: Hami Melon

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The title of this blogpost is riddled with misinformation. First of all, this is not a weekly feature as the title would suggest. It's more of a whenever-I-feel-like-it feature, pretty much like everything else in this blog. Secondly, hami melon is not a complete mystery to me. Chinese people (that I know) generically call cantaloupe "hami melon," which are in fact a type of melon from a specific region of China. So I've had "hami melon" many times in its generic sense, but I'm not sure that I've actually specifically had hami melon. But try and fit that story into the blogpost title.

The only accurate information contained in the blogpost title is that this is one heck of an expensive melon. As you know, I am fond of a good mystery produce. As soon as I spotted this melon, I thought, screw you, orange! In my haste, I thought it was $1.48 per fruit, when it was in fact $1.48 per pound. The total cost of this 7-pound fruit is about $10+. Yikes! Good thing I saved money by getting Carmex for 87 cents at Target's clearance section. And then I found out I'm allergic to Carmex. Sigh.

This melon has a weird football shape. And sort of looks like a boob in the above picture (admit it). Inside, the pinky orange part tastes like cantaloupe and the green part tastes like honey drew. Maybe that's why it's so expensive -- you're getting two fruits in one! I wish this was sweeter though.

Another mystery produce -- solved!

Roasted Butternut Squash and Orange Ravioli

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I'm testing a little theory of mine that like colored foods taste good together. Like all oddball theories of mine, this one has very little basis and dubious origins. It sort of worked... with a bit of tweaking.

I roasted some apples, butternut squash, carrots and garlic until softened and then pureed them with some orange juice and orange peel (VB: "Are we having fruit salad for dinner?"). Then I filled them into some store-bought potsticker wrappers. I tried two sauces with them -- first, a traditional sage butter sauce, except with butter substitute. It shouldn't be surprising to anyone that butter substitute is not a good choice here. I don't know what I was thinking (palm to face)! The sauce was greasy and not very flavorful (I think I forgot to bruise the sage). And it also wasn't surprising that the raviolis were too sweet and smelled too much like orange Pledge.

Second sauce attempt was much better. I made some pesto with parsley, scallion, pine nuts, garlic and olive oil. It paired well with the raviolis because they were less sweet with only a hint of orange. And the fresh herbs enhanced the earthiness of the squash, carrots and apples. But the pesto merely elevated the raviolis to "edible," an upgrade from "gross."

Call me stubborn, but I think there's something to my little theory despite what happened here.  This is probably a failure in execution. But I learned:
  • Fruit salad is not a good idea for dinner.
  • Ingredients that belong in potpourri shouldn't be stuffed into raviolis.
  • Respect the butter.
  • But punish your herbs.
  • When in doubt, add more garlic.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sweet Potato and Butternut Squash Galette

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Galette! So fancy schmancy. I'd pay $12 at a restaurant for a galette!

Okay, so it's really not a galette, more like flatbread ($6/serving = not fancy but at least there are actual utensils) or pizza ($2/slice = paper plates and sleeves for napkins). Whatever you'd call it, it's delicious -- like autumn on a plate.

The original inspiration came from Chef Chloe's blog. I took out apples and spinach and added sweet potato, sage and rosemary so it's got even more of those classic fall flavors.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Barley, Tomato and Garlic Risotto

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A couple of weeks ago, I whined very loudly (inside my head and on the blog) about our poor tomato production this year. Well, I may have spoken a little too soon. It didn't look like we'd get a decent batch of tomatoes, but after a couple of weeks on the vines, some tomatoes slowly turned red. Now, seeing that it's mid-October already (in California, but still), these tomatoes are probably not in peak summer shape. But I'm still happy that they're here. Better late than never.

I was just contemplating what I'd do with them (the closest that I came to my pig-in-shit happy moment), when smitten kitchen's new post landed in my GoogleReader. I causally skimmed for food porn until one name caught my eyes -- Yotom Ottolenghi. I clicked through and found his The New Vegetarian feature for The Guardian. The recipes sound so delectable. Basically, this is the kind of vegetarian food that I want to make but for my crippling lack of talent and imagination. Seriously, who can resist a mushroom and tarragon pithivier... whatever that is...? It sounds so.... fancy, like something I'd get all over my dress at a high society dinner party.

To make my food sound fancier, I should start calling ingredients by their British or French names. Instead of eggplant, chili pepper and zucchini, they are now respectively aubergine, capsicum and courgette. Pretty soon, I will really have no idea what I'm talking about.

You can find Yotom Ottolenghi's barley, tomato and garlic risotto recipe here. In case you're curious what "passata" is, I'll save you a trip to Google. According to Practically Edible, passata is "sieved tomatoes -- tomatoes that have been skinned, then passed through sieves to remove the seeds and to crush the tomatoes." Translation: tomato sauce... but fancier.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Spiced Quince Tartlet

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I'm often guilty of making complicated recipes that take too much time and/or have many hard to find ingredients. In my defense, I like to challenge the limits of the human body (mine) on 5 hours of sleep. That's probably why this blog is so incoherent.

Anyway. I want to say, yes, I can too take short cuts and make easy recipes out of simple ingredients. I'm making the crust of this spiced quince tartlet from simple white bread. No pastry, pie crust or dough necessary. No stand mixer, hand mixer, food processor or blender. Just rolled out some plain ol' white bread. That's it!

(Did I mention that quince needs to be poached for at least an hour?)

In case you're wondering, I'm not the genius behind the white bread crust idea. I got the idea from none other than... Melissa d'Arabian. I'm not in her demographics (i.e., moms short on time), so I've never seen her show. But I just happened to catch about 10 minutes of it one Sunday morning and I thought, this is such a brilliant idea!

For these spiced quince tartlet, you'll need:
  • 8 slices of white bread, preferably fresh
  • 8 ounces of cream cheese
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 4 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 portion of poached quince, below
  • pomegranate seeds for garnish
For poached quince, you'll need:
  • 1 quince
  • 3 allspice berries
  • 2 star anise pods
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 7 cups of water
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of honey
  • 1/2 lemon
To a medium pot, add water, sugar, honey, lemon, cinnamon stick, allspice berries, cloves and star anise pods. Bring mixture to boil. In the meantime, peel, core and slice quince into 8 equal slices. I believe quince is Latin for "stubborn pear" (not really) so use a sharp paring knife and watch your fingers. Once the poaching liquid reaches boil, reduce to simmer and add quince. Poach for at least one hour or until quince turns pink and is fork tender. Refrigerate overnight.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Remove the crust of sliced white bread. Ideally, you want really fresh bread so it's pliable and easy to work with. But let's get real here. If you have stale white bread that's been sitting in the fridge, this recipe will work for you too. You need to wrap bread in damp paper towels and microwave on high for 15 seconds. Then roll out the bread flat with a rolling pin while it is still wrapped in damp paper towels. Mold the white bread slices to a greased muffin tin. Bake for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, whip together lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar and cream cheese to creamy consistency. Once the tartlets are baked, remove from the oven. Fill each tartlet with cream cheese mixture and pop back into the oven for 5 minutes. Remove tarlets from tin and top each with a slice of poached quince and some pomegranate seeds and serve.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Glutinous Rice Chicken (Lor Mai Kai 糯米雞)

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I'm a lean, mean, cooking machine! Here, I take on yet another Cantonese dim sum classic, glutinous rice chicken or lor mai kai. Seriously, I just pulled this one out of my butt (not literally... gross). I had no recipe to work with, no idea how to make it, and I've never seen it done. So it's just a big kitchen experiment for me. With that caveat, it goes without saying that this is probably not the most authentic product. In fact, I think it's more of a hybrid of lor mai kai and Taiwanese-style zhongzi. Whatever. It's all good.

You'll need:
  • 2 cups of glutinous rice
  • 1 cup of diced vegetarian ham
  • 2 pieces of five-spice tofu curd, diced
  • 3 1/4-inch slices of ginger
  • 1 tablespoon of vegetarian oyster sauce
  • 1/4 cup of Chinese cooking wine (shaoxing)
  • 1 tablespoon of Chinese rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 3 teaspoons of five-spice powder
  • 2 sprigs of scallion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup of blanched or roasted peanuts
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of sugar
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 1 tablespoon of canola oil
  • 4 large dried lotus leaves
  • some twine for tying
Begin by rinsing and soaking glutinous rice in water for at least 2 hours. After 2 hours, drain and set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Submerge dried lotus leaves. Turn off heat and cover for 20 minutes to soften leaves.

In a large skillet, saute vegetarian ham, five-spice tofu curd and ginger in canola oil until browned. Stir in water, cooking wine, rice vinegar, soy sauce, five spice powder, vegetarian oyster sauce, salt and sugar. Simmer for 5 minutes. Turn the heat up and add peanuts and glutinous rice. Stir fry until all the liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes or so. Discard ginger pieces.

Set up by placing one large lotus leaf flat on the work surface. Place a quarter of the glutinous rice mixture in the center. Fold four sides in tightly like an envelope. Secure with twine. Steam pockets for at least 1.5 hours. Remove. Unwrap and serve with some chopped scallion on top.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Turnip Cake (Luo Buo Gao 蘿蔔糕)

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In the B.C.G. (Before Carnivore Girl) era, VB thought Chinese food was boring. Like so many innocent Americans out there, VB knew Chinese food as fried rice, chow mein, chop suey, and pu pu platter (what is that, exactly?), all thanks to the proliferation of American-Chinese food that barely resembles its origin. I blame every P.F. Changs, Panda Expresses, Jade Gardens, and Dragon Houses out there. Shame on you for dumbing down Chinese food for the American palate! I think everyone can enjoy Chinese food in all its glorious deliciousness.

(Stepping off the soap box)

Now, VB really enjoys authentic Chinese food, particularly Szechuan/Hunan style, which is generally very flavorful and spicy. It's easy to see why -- vegetables doused with hot sauce and spices tend to taste a heck a lot better (it's the secret to Indian food too). VB is not particularly fond of Shanghainese or Cantonese style of Chinese food, partly because they tend to be a bit bland. I'm very partial to Shanghainese food, but I'm not a big fan of Cantonese food.

In an effort to highlight some of the more "bland" styles of Chinese food, I made this Cantonese dim sum classic -- turnip cake. It's a must-have for my family at any dim sum. Unfortunately, this is also generally not a vegetarian dish because it almost always contains dried shrimp and bits of meat. Come to think of it, what is actually vegetarian at a dim sum (apart from dessert)?

For my vegan turnip cake adapted from mmm-yoso's recipe, you'll need:
  • 1 small/medium turnip, shredded (you should have about 2 1/2 cups)
  • 1 cup of diced vegetarian ham (I found this ingredient at 99 Ranch, but you can substitute other fake-meat products like veggie dogs or tofurkey)
  • 6 medium dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in hot water then minced
  • 1 large shallot, sliced thin (or 1/2 cup of fried shallots that you can find at Chinese supermarkets)
  • 2 green onions, diced
  • 2 cups of plain rice flour
  • 1 1/2 cups of water
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground white pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of canola oil
  • 1/2 cup of canola oil for frying shallots (omit if you're using pre-fried shallots)
Start by heating up 1/2 cup of canola oil in a small pan over medium high heat until hot. Add sliced shallot and pan fry until golden brown. Remove and drain on paper towel. Skip if using pre-fried shallots.

In another pot, add shredded turnip and 1 1/2 cups of water. Cover and bring liquid to boil. Reduce to simmer and cook for 15 minutes.

In the meantime, saute diced vegetarian ham, minced shiitake mushroom in a tablespoon of canola oil until browned, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add soy sauce. Stir in diced green onions and fried shallot. Cook for a couple more minutes. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine rice flour, salt, sugar and ground white pepper. Pour cooked shredded turnip with all the liquid into the bowl. Add vegetarian ham, shiitake mushroom and shallot mixture. Stir to combine. At this point, the mixture should be very thick and sticky.

Prepare your steaming device. I used my extra large stock pot and placed a metal rack inside. I then found a round pan that would fit into the pot and sit on top of the rack. Fill the pan with turnip mixture and spread evenly. Fill the pot with water but water should not touch the bottom of the pan. Cover and bring water to simmer. Steam for 45 minutes to an hour. Remove pan and set aside to cool.

Once the turnip cake is cooked through, remove from the pan and cut into square pieces. Lightly pan fry each piece until golden brown on both sides, about 3 to 5 minutes per side. Serve with spicy yellow mustard and hot sauce.

    Tuesday, October 12, 2010

    Pita Sandwich with Tarator Sauce

    Pin It VB: Do you remember what we had that day at Russian River Valley? You know, during our lunch break from canoeing.

    CG: A big bowl of watermelon?

    VB: We had watermelon?

    CG: Yeah.

    VB: I wasn't thinking about the watermelon.

    CG: Oh.... Hm. That pita sandwich with that white sauce?

    VB: Yeah. That was good.

    CG: Okay.... Random.

    Here it is, the pita sandwich with that "white sauce" from a couple of summers ago recreated. I picked this recipe for our Russian River Valley trip because it keeps well in a cooler since everything is vegan. It turned out great and apparently, it was also memorable.

    For the sandwich, you'll need:
    • 4 pita breads, cut in half and pocket opened
    • 2 medium/large zucchini, diced
    • 1 small yellow onion, diced
    • 2 sprigs of dill, roughly chopped
    • 1 large eggplant, cut into large 1/2 inch slices
    • juice from 1 lemon
    • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
    • 3 medium Roma tomatoes, diced 
    • salt and pepper to taste
    Begin by sprinkling about a teaspoon of salt on both sides of the sliced eggplant. Set aside for 15 to 20 minutes and allow salt to draw out the moisture.

    In the meantime, saute diced yellow onion in olive oil until translucent, about 5 to 8 minutes. Add diced zucchini and lemon juice. Allow the zucchini to cook for 5 minutes until it begins to soften. Add chopped dill and season with salt and pepper. Cook for another 5 minutes or so.

    Pat eggplant slices dry with paper towels. Set broiler on high and place sliced eggplants in a greased pan underneath. It will take about 5 to 8 minutes on each side. Watch the eggplant closely because it can burn rather quickly. After both sides are broiled, remove and allow them to cool. When they are cool enough to handle, chop eggplant into large pieces.

    The "white sauce" (a.k.a. tarator sauce) is adapted from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. You'll need:
    • 1/2 cup of pine nuts, toasted
    • 1 slice of white bread, crust removed and cubed
    • 1 tablespoon of Tahini sauce
    • 1 garlic clove
    • juice from 1 lemon
    • 1/2 cup of water
    • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
    • a dash of paprika (optional)
    Soak white bread in water until softened, about 10 minutes. Combine garlic and pine nuts in a food processor until the mixture becomes granulated. Add Tahini sauce, lemon juice, white bread and soaking liquid and salt. Process until the mixture becomes a sauce. Adjust seasoning, if necessary. It will be pretty runny, but if you let it sit for 20 minutes or so, it will thicken up. Add a dash of paprika prior to serving.

    To assemble the sandwich, stuff diced broiled eggplant, sauteed zucchini and diced tomatoes into the pita pocket. Drizzle tarator sauce over the top and serve.

      Saturday, October 9, 2010

      Our "Harvest" + Creamy Tomato Fennel Pasta

      Pin It When we planted tomatoes a few months ago, I had fantasies of making awesome sauces and chutney from plump, sweet tomatoes that we grew ourselves. Or that I would can them and enjoy delicious tomatoes year round. Or that I would make my own ketchup or barbeque sauce for family and friends. Or all of the above. I just imagined baskets and baskets and sweet tomatoes, so much so that we'd joke about opening our own farm stand. Basically, I hoped to be a pig-in-shit happy, except with tomatoes. Instead, we got this --

      This is truly pathetic. In fact, perhaps one of the most pathetic in the history of harvests. Thank goodness we have day jobs that enable us to actually buy food instead of relying on our "farming" skills to feed ourselves. I blame the poor result in part on the weird weather pattern this year. We hardly had much of a summer at all, then it got ridiculously hot for two weeks in September and now the temperature has plummeted to the 50s and 60s. Also, we planted way too late into the season. There are still a few that may ripen over the next week or so, but the plants are slowly dying and we still have a lot of green tomatoes that may never ripen.

      Well, at least we can get something out of this, right? (besides a cautionary tale of "what not to do next year.") I made this delicious pasta dish to showcase the freshness of these tomatoes. Unfortunately, I had to supplement our "harvest" with store-bought and canned tomatoes. Big sigh.

      For this creamy tomato and fennel pasta, you'll need:
      • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
      • 2 tablespoons of butter or dairy-free butter substitute (I used Earth Balance)
      • 1 small yellow onion, diced
      • 1 fennel bulb, diced
      • 5 medium tomatoes, diced
      • 16-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
      • 1/2 cup of white wine
      • 1/4 cup of cream, half-and-half, milk or soy milk (I used unflavored, unsweetened soy milk)
      • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
      • 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
      • juice from 1/2 lemon
      • 1 pound of dried pasta, cooked
      • salt and pepper to taste
      In a large skillet, saute diced onion in olive oil over medium heat until softened, about 5 to 8 minutes. Add red pepper flakes and garlic and cook until fragrant, about a minute. Add diced fennel and stir to combine. Add white wine and lemon juice and allow liquid to reduce to half. After the liquid has reduced, add fresh tomatoes and canned tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Turn the heat to medium high and cook for 5 to 8 minutes or until the tomatoes are soft. Stir frequently. Stir in cream/milk/soy milk. The sauce should be a nice bright pink color. Cook for another minute or so. Just prior to adding pasta, stir in butter/butter substitute. Toss with pasta and serve.

      Sunday, October 3, 2010

      Tofu Mole Enchiladas

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      It's been a light cooking week for me, partly because there are other things in my life that need attention. For example, I have not yet figured out how to walk out of a routine car maintenance at the dealership not completely frustrated and broke. Those folks are good at finding problems. And once they do, they will make sure that you pay handsomely to fix those problems. And it seems like no one can be trusted to do a good job honestly. If you want a good scare for Halloween, you should read YELP reviews on car dealerships.

      So. I do have some exciting ideas and some future food projects in mind. It's just taking me a little longer to get to the point of execution.

      In the meantime, I made some tofu mole enchiladas for dinner one night. Mole can be labor intensive. So it's probably good to make the mole sauce ahead of time so assembly is easy and quick.

      For the mole sauce, you'll need:
      • 2 medium to large pableno chiles
      • 1/2 pound or 6 medium tomatillos
      • 6 cloves of garlic
      • 2 medium Roma tomatoes
      • 10 dried chile de arbol
      • 1/4 cup of raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds), toasted
      • 2 teaspoons of dark coco powder
      • 1 teaspoon of cumin
      • 1 teaspoon of oragano
      • 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
      • 1/4 teaspoon of sugar
      • 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
      • 1/2 teaspoon of onion powder
      • salt and pepper to taste
      Start by broiling pableno chilies on high until skin is charred. Depending on your oven, this may take anywhere between 3 to 8 minutes. My oven generally takes about 5 minutes. If you don't know how long it would take, monitor the process carefully and take the peppers out when the skin is nicely blistered to black. If you have a gas stove, the peppers can be placed directly over the flames to char. Turn so that all sides of the peppers are charred. Remove the peppers and place in a food prep bowl and cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Let the peppers cool down in the bowl. After peppers cool down, remove skin, seeds and stem. Set aside.

      Turn your oven to 400 degrees and roast tomatoes, tomatillos, and garlic for about 25 minutes or until the fruits are softened and lightly brown. In the meantime, remove the stems and seeds of chiles de arbol and soak in hot water for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove chiles de arbol and set aside. Reserve 1/2 cup of the soaking liquid. In a blender, process pableno peppers, roasted tomatoes, tomatillos, garlic, chiles de arbol, soaking liquid, toasted pepitas, coco powder and all the seasoning and spices. Blend until smooth. You can make the mole sauce up to this point in advance.

      For the remaining components of tofu mole enchiladas, you'll need:
      • 6 flour tortillas
      • 1 block of extra firm tofu, diced
      • 1 small yellow onion, diced
      • 1/2 15-ounce can of pinto beans, drained and rinsed
      • 1 portion of enchilada sauce (I used this recipe)
      • 1 cup of shredded Mexican blend cheeses
      • 1 tablespoon of canola oil
      • chopped cilantro for garnish (optional)
      Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Begin by sauteing diced onions in canola oil until softened. Add mole sauce and let the sauce heat through. Add a bit of vegetable stock or water if the sauce gets too thick. Add tofu and pinto beans and cook for about 10 minutes, stir frequently. Meanwhile, ladle one third of the enchilada sauce into a rectangular baking dish and spread sauce evenly to cover the bottom of the dish. Divide tofu mole to about 6 equal portions. Fill each of the six tortillas with one portion of tofu mole and place each enchilada seam down into the baking dish. Ladle the remaining enchilada sauce on top. Sprinkle cheese on top. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Do not overbake. Sadly, mine were a bit overbaked. But they were still delicious! Garnish with chopped cilantro, if desired.

      Monday, September 27, 2010

      Mystery Produce of the Week: Casaba Melon

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      Well, I sorta gave that one away, didn't I?

      I don't claim to be an expert on anything other than my own neurosis, but I do have some experience living in different climates and enjoying various fruits and vegetables that those locales had to offer. It's pretty uncommon to see something in a supermarket that I haven't eaten at some point or another. So when I saw this monster of a melon at Milk Pail, I dropped the watermelon that I had (gently into the bin, not on the floor; I have manners) and impulsively started to gravitate towards this mystery fruit. For $1.75, I had to try this big ugly fruit.

      I had no idea if it's sweet or savory. When VB saw this thing in the fridge, he asked, "Is this a 'melon' or a 'squash' that Chinese people like to call 'melon'?" I said, "Of course it's a 'melon' melon!" Actually, I was bluffing -- I didn't know what that was.

      It turns out, casaba melon has creamy white flesh and really delicate melon flavor -- like a mellower cantaloupe. But it is not less sweet than some of the other melon varieties. The flesh is juicy and has a very tender and delicate texture. Mine also had very few seeds and was easy to clean out.  The exterior looked rather tough and leathery. I was prepared to sacrifice a knife or two just to break this open. But it actually yielded really easily when ripe.

      I tried something new. And it was delicious!

      Thursday, September 23, 2010

      Five-Spice Banana Cupcakes with Coconut Vanilla Frosting. Yes, They Are Vegan(!!!)

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      Vegan and cupcakes go together like an elephant and a pogo stick, which is to say, not at all and a bit absurd. Vegan baking is pretty much the final frontier for vegan cooks. If vegan baking can achieve results that are equal or superior to baking with eggs, butter and cream, then there's no reason not to go vegan. Personally, I've had mixed results the few times I experimented with vegan baking. Just the other day, VB made some vegan cookies using a Duncan Hines chocolate cookie mix. The resulting cookies did not brown because there was no butter and they were doughy and a bit dry. Overall, not necessarily a "fail" but I wouldn't call it a resounding success either.

      So. When I saw Chef Chloe Coscarelli on Food Network's Cupcake Wars, I was skeptical. Really? This fair-skinned chocolate-maned fairy princess (seriously, she looks like Snow White) is going to magically make vegan cupcakes that are better than all the butter and cream confections? No way, I thought and switched the channel.

      (Off topic, but Food Network needs to stop biting off TLC and Bravo. Cupcake Wars is just a copycat of TLC's Ultimate Bake Off and 24-Hour Restaurant Battle is basically Top Chef's Restaurant Wars challenge minus chefs who can actually cook. Bob and Andrea, you are better than copying other people's ideas. Rant over.)

      It wasn't until I read this New York Times piece on that episode that I realized her magical vegan cupcakes had beaten the butter-laden competition. There may be something to this vegan baking after all. I took her vegan cupcake recipes and gave them a different flavor profile. For my vegan cupcake attempt, I made five spice banana cupcakes with vanilla icing. I know this sounds kooky, but the five spice powder adds a bit of warmth to the cupcakes. And it makes you wonder, "What is that? Let me take another bite..."

      For these vegan cupcakes, you'll need:
      • 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
      • 1 cup of brown sugar
      • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
      • 2 ripe bananas, mashed
      • 1 cup of soy milk
      • 1/2 cup of canola oil
      • 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
      • 1 teaspoon of five spice powder
      • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
      • 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
      Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and five spice powder in a large bowl. In another container, whisk to combine soy milk, canola oil, apple cider vinegar and vanilla extract. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Add mashed bananas and stir until all the dry ingredients have been incorporated.

      Pour into muffin tins lined with paper cups to about 80 percent full. Bake for 15 minutes. If you're a go-big-or-go-home kind of a person (like me) and used giant cupcake paper cups, then bake for 30 minutes.

      Remove from the oven and let cupcakes cool before frosting.

      For the icing, you'll need:
      • 1/4 cup of coconut oil (It is a white solid and comes in a jar. You can find it at Whole Foods)
      • 3 cups of confectioner's powdered sugar
      • 1/4 cup of water
      • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
      First, cream coconut oil with a whisk. It won't look like creamed butter, but it should be softened. Add confectioner's sugar and vanilla. While whisking, pour in the water one tablespoon at a time. By the time all the water is incorporated, you should have icing that has a thick butter cream consistency.

      Frost your cooled cupcakes and add some walnuts on top for crunch. You're done!

      I was really skeptical about the whole thing, especially the frosting. I had tried to make frosting with confectioner's sugar before and they tasted sickly sweet with a very thin consistency. Make no mistake about it, this frosting is sweet, but the coconut oil makes it so fragrant and thick just like buttercream. The cakes are moist and tender with just a hint of spice. These cupcakes are so delicious, they make me wonder, what other delicious flavors of vegan cupcakes can I make?

        Monday, September 20, 2010

        Rodeo Burger + Eating Right Soy Protein Burger

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        I have to admit that working 8 hours a day plus a 3+ hour commute doesn't leave me a ton of sleep or time to cook. There are days that I can't muster enough energy to make dinner. It's at then that I'm thankful for a freezer full of veggie burgers. VB likes to jazz his burger up in the fashion of Burger King's famous Rodeo Burger by adding onion rings and barbeque sauce. It is definitely a tasty combination.

        This brings me to the next installment of product review, where I eat fake meat and tell you if it resembles the real deal. Today, we have Eating Right Soy Protein Burger. This has to be one of the most disgusting veggie burgers that I've ever eaten. The texture is that of wet saw dust -- grainy and tough. Worse yet, it also tastes like wet saw dust but with a very strong soy flavor that even the cheese, onion rings and barbeque sauce cannot mask. Overall, not much to write home about except just to AVOID it. Just say no. Don't do it. You're better off eating that moldy apple in the fridge. Or a stick of butter with some hot sauce. Or mix some pickles with mayonnaise. Really, just about anything is better than this.

        Texture: 1 out of 5 stars
        Taste: 1 out of 5 stars (I'm feeling charitable today)
        Overall: 1 out of 5 stars

        In A Nut Shell: If you lost your taste buds in some tragic accident, then this is the veggie burger for you.

        Sunday, September 19, 2010

        Intruder Alert!

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        It's been a couple of months since we planted our tomato and pepper plants on the back patio. So far so good! It looks like we're going to have a lot of ripe tomatoes and quite a few peppers as well. The Anaheim peppers got so big and heavy that the stem couldn't support them. So we picked a few even though they're probably not 100 percent ready.

        But I found this creepy crawling intruder on the tomato plants the other day and it sort of freaked me out.

        It looks like it has been making itself comfortable -- a lot of the leaves were half-eaten already. Even though VB is a vegetarian, the no-kill policy has not been extended to any bugs or worms. But the catch is -- I'm the resident bug killer of this house. Generally I have no qualms about crushing a bug or two, but this squishy green thing is the size of my pinky finger and probably has gooey and sticky insides. Ew. I chickened out and just took off the leaf with the bug still on it and tossed it over our fence. Sorry, neighbors.

        I hope no more bugs crash our back patio and we can have tomatoes soon! I'm thinking about canning our bounty or make some ketchup or tomato sauce. So stay tuned.

        Sunday, September 12, 2010

        Labor Day Grillin'

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        Yes, these pictures are very belated, but Labor Day was so much fun! VB always wanted to have a big grill in the backyard. Since we're short on space and saving money, we'll have do with a $30 grill. But that doesn't mean we can't have lots of fun! And good food! On the beach!!! That's right, here are some incriminating evidence of us starting a fire where prohibited.

        Pigeon Point Light House -- Pacific Coast's tallest light house, now in a state of disrepair.

        More views of the Pacific Coast -- sort of rocky and not particularly beach-y.

        Fire on the beach!

        VB got some female compliment on the corn -- goes to show that a man with a grill is irresistible. That's tofu "ribs" on the right, in case you're curious. Just some firm tofu marinated overnight in barbeque sauce and maple syrup.

        Eating a portabella mushroom burger with a spoon.

        More tofu "ribs" and some peaches.

        Mmm, grilled peach with rum sauce...

        This is not related to Labor day or grilling, but here's Raisin photobombin' Tangerine's glamor photo shoot.