Thursday, October 28, 2010

Super Quick Supper: Jarred, Frozen, and Fresh

I’m not sure what it says about my cooking skills, but sometimes the things I put together on the fly are better than meals I spend lots of time cooking. Here’s a dinner I put together quickly after work so we could eat before our 7:00 Italian class.


This is pressed, oven-baked tofu, oven roasted cubed sweet potatoes, and spinach and green peas in jarred Jalfrezi Curry sauce. I had a few sweet potatoes I wanted to use, and everything else I usually keep on hand: spinach from my smoothie stash, frozen green peas, and tofu.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Restaurant: Emanu

Emanu is an East African restaurant in town I’d been wanting to go to for a very long time. On the few nights we go out, we typically chose to visit places we’d already been instead of trying the new place. Thankfully, Emanu is no longer new, and I can’t wait to go back.

If you’re familiar with Ethiopian food, this should look familiar:


This was the food for both of us, served on one plate on injera. Injera is like a fluffy crepe made from fermented teff, which is a fine grain grown in Ethiopia. The striking flavor of the injera, to me, is how it resembles a fluffy sourdough pancake.

In addition to the injera under the food, you get rolls of injera to use to pick up and eat the food. Although they provide utensils, traditionally you pick up bites of the food with the bread and eat with your hands.


As for the meal, we got two orders of what amounts to the combination platter, hiwswas (beyaynetu). As shown below, from bottom left to right, this includes: spiced lentils stewed in red sauce; green beans and carrots; spiced cabbage cooked with onions and peppers; collard greens; and, yellow lentils.


Each of these vegetables was really good. I particularly liked the green beans and carrots, which were sweet and crisp with charred roasted bits. The collard greens were also really good, as were both lentil dishes. Everything was good.

We also ordered the vegetarian appetizer, vegetable sambussa. These were deep-fried pockets of vegetables, onions, and herbs. This is a close-up, they were pretty small and just enough to get introduced to the Ethiopian flavors that were new to both of us.


One thing to know about Emanu is that they do not have a liquor license and instead allow you to BYO. The menu is small, but I will certainly be returning for these vegetable dishes. By the end of the night, we were both full on bread and veg and very pleased with our first East African experience.

So, I hear Ethiopian food is popular these days. Did that happen five years ago for those of you who aren’t in Cincinnati? If so, I’m jealous.

Emanu East African Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 25, 2010

Super Easy Taco Soup

I find many, many recipes I want to make from the blogs I read. Among my friends? Not so much. When I learned that a friend made vegetarian soup, I couldn’t wait to try it.


I’ve mentioned my monthly dinners at Ronald McDonald House before. (And after the next time I go, I’ll write more about that.) Everyone brings something, and after the residents eat, we’ll usually eat some leftover food and hang out for a bit. Typically I’ll stick to my own food, but when a friend mentioned that her soup was vegetarian, I gave it a try.

Yes, I quizzed her about any possible chicken broth or other animal ingredients, and that’s when she shared the recipe. This soup is mostly beans, and that’s certainly fine by me! Plus it’s super easy. If you just open cans, it’s really really really easy. I used frozen corn, frozen beans that I’d cooked from dry beans, and mixed my own seasoning from my ever-growing spice cabinet, and it was still easy.

Taco Bean Soup

  • 2 cups, or 1 can black beans
  • 2 cups, or 1 can pinto beans
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, or Ro-Tel style green chiles and tomatoes
  • 2 cups, or 1 can corn
  • Broth or water, or even the liquid from cans, to make soup desired consistency
  • 1 can refried beans, or 2 cups pinto beans, pureed
  • Taco seasoning mix (recipe here) or store bought pouch

Combine all ingredients and heat through. The refried beans mixed with the water (or liquid from cans) makes the soup broth really thick. I like the sweet pop of the corn, too. This concoction is similar to a chili, but different. At least to me.

Top as desired with cilantro, Better Than Sour Cream, jalapenos, or just eat plain or with cornbread or corn chips.

I used my homegrown jalapeno and a bit of Better Than Sour Cream on top, along with some corn chips. This made a big pot of soup (and next time I’ll include more tomatoes so I expect it to be even bigger) but we both ate all the leftovers really quickly. That’s how I judge a good recipe.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Take Me Out to the Ballpark Pretzels

I have fun making special occasion meals, and one way I’m trying to make more special occasions is to find theme foods to make. Lately, it’s been all about baseball.

Saturday night, we watched the Phillies lose their chance to go to the World Series. Honestly, I didn’t care who won. Alex, though, is a Philadelphia native and he was pretty let down. Thankfully, we had homemade soft pretzels to console us. I ate a lot of soft pretzels living in Philly – I used to get a breakfast deal that was a soft pretzel and coffee for $2 most mornings.


Oddly enough, I have another connection to pretzels, too. When I was younger, I worked in one of those pretzels shops in the mall. Yeah, you know which one. I had to sign a some kind of agreement that I would not work at another pretzel shop for however many years (a time almost certainly expired by now). That’s funny to me because I never even knew the pretzel recipe; we would “drop” dough by emptying a large packet of pre-made mix into a mixer with some hot water. I did, however, learn to roll and shape the pretzels.

This time, I used Alton Brown’s recipe with only the slightest of modifications (half whole wheat flour, Earth Balance instead of butter, no egg wash) – and they were amazing. I boiled them, as he directs, which I have only done in the past for homemade bagels. I halved his recipe, and I’m glad I did because I made four big pretzels and they, unfortunately, did not make good leftovers. These pretzels were best right out of the oven. With yellow mustard.


I was also hoping to have ballpark-style nachos, too, with a splurge on Teese Nacho Sauce. I was very disappointed that one of the only stores in town that stocks Teese didn’t have any nacho sauce. But these pretzels did not disappoint.

I’ve already shared my love of beer and peanuts. Do you like ballpark food? – and do you try to bring it home?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Restaurant: Loving Hut

Brace yourselves: Cincinnati has an all-vegan restaurant. Formerly known as Loving Cafe, now Loving Hut, this small, fast casual style restaurant serves an all-vegan menu from soups, salads, and sandwiches to raw creations, smoothies, and a kid’s menu. It’s been a favorite since I first went, more than a year ago.

001 The Loving Hut on Montgomery Road in Pleasant Ridge

There are Loving Hut restaurants in locations throughout the world, and their menus vary. I’m happy to see that through this recent rebranding, the Cincinnati location the menu has remained and the bright chartreuse walls have been toned down. The walls are newly wheat colored and adorned with photographs of famous vegetarians and facts about veganism. Another positive change I’ve noticed is that they no longer use disposable plates; they do still have the trash station divided into recycling, composting, and trash, with helpful labels about what can be put in each bin.

013 Along the front counter, with the new Loving Hut logo above the doorway to the back dining room. An unknown child enjoys the kid’s menu after Saturday karate class.

For all the soup I eat at home, I still enjoy eating soup out. At Loving Hut, it’s a pleasure to know that even the creamy potato soup is safe. Not only that, it’s delicious. Besides pho, which is on the regular menu, the soups change and are listed on the blackboard specials. Several times when I’ve been, I’ve enjoyed the pumpkin chili. This chili is slightly sweet and just hot enough, and it’s full of garbanzo beans. Another favorite is the avocado spring roll, which is served with almond sauce.


Alex’s favorite sandwich is called the American Panini, which is tofurkey, mustard, pickles, vegan cheese, and slaw, pressed and grilled panini style. On our most recent visit, we got the portabella panini, which is similar but with a portabella and roasted red pepper spread. This sandwich is overflowing with goodness.


I’ve never tried the raw pizza or any of their raw dishes, so we got the Raw Reuben. The dehydrated bread brought the rye flavor you’d expect in a Reuben, and there were plenty of marinated vegetables to top it.


I’ve liked everything I’ve gotten at Loving Hut/Cafe. Many of their items are faux meats – those get the attention, but it’s less than a third of the menu. They have great barbecued chickn wraps and one time I had a chickn salad sandwich that was a delicious daily special. My biggest problem is deciding whether to get something I have had and enjoyed, or whether to try something new. Pretty good problem to have, huh?

Loving Cafe on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Thank you, Rachael Ray: Mushroom-Kale Shepherd’s Pie

There are a few recipes that are in the rotation, as Alex puts it. These are things we make repeatedly as tried-and-true favorites. There are many, many other things that are on the list. I find daily inspiration on blogs, in my cookbooks, and from seeing ingredients I want to use. There so many things I want to try. And there’s the third category, which (oddly enough) I can’t think of an appropriate name for. These are recipes that I am compelled to make as soon as I hear of them.

I recently came across one such recipes in the most unexpected place: on 30 Minute Meals with Rachael Ray. I was channel surfing and caught the beginning of an episode with her talking about making a vegetarian entree. She had my attention. Full disclosure: she had my attention because she was scraping the gills from some portabellas. I watched to see why she was doing that. In the end, she said she normally leaves them alone but some finicky eaters may want their ‘bellas gill-less.

She was making meatless shepherd’s pie with a base of portabella mushrooms and kale. Also in the soupy base is carrot, onion, garlic, and stock, plus rosemary, nutmeg, and Worcestershire. I used my Bourbon Barrel vegan worcestershire and some fresh rosemary left over from the scones I made.


The original recipe tops this with mashed starchy potatoes along with parsnips, horseradish, and sharp cheese. I gladly omitted the cheese and reluctantly omitted the horseradish. The only vegan horseradish I could find was in mustard, which might not have been that bad. All the prepared horseradish was in a mayo-style base. Does anyone have any advice on horseradish for me? In defiance, I considered using wasabi powder but restrained myself.


Horseradish or not, this was a tasty, tasty meal. We made a full 13x9 pan and ate it all. The soupiness you see in the mushroom-kale mixture was a great accompaniment to my tater topping. This dish has earned a spot in the rotation.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Apple Farm, Pumpkin Patch, Corn Maze

This weekend, along with too many other fellow Cincinnatians, I went to a corn maze. This has become an annual event for us, and one that Alex really enjoys. Whereas I remember it being crowded, with lots of lines and little direction about where to pay or what you are waiting for, Alex likes navigating through the maze. He likes puzzles.

Before we set out, we had a hearty brunch of tofu scramble with mushrooms and spinach, some facon, and apple rosemary scones.


I took this photo this morning with a few leftover scones. Speaking of leftovers, Alex’s sister was visiting and I sent her home with several of these, but the leftovers at our house are going fast.

I used the recipe from Vegan Brunch with the addition of fresh rosemary and apples (skin on, see the flecks of red?). Yum, yum yum. I think the key is shortening, which I have not used in ages. I did get the special non-hydrogenated kind rather than using Crisco, though. I’m not much of a baker, but I think I’ll have to make some regular biscuits too. I feel like I have all the ingredients now that I have white flour and shortening in the house again.


The corn maze was fun, especially for Alex. He posed for many, many goofy photographs. But we found our six hidden boxes, punched our cards, and earned a free mini-cup of cider.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Restaurant: Venice on Vine

I have a backlog of restaurant posts, but I’m actually going to start with the most recent one I have as I was there last night and again today for lunch.

Venice on Vine is a pizza shop that is a part of Power Inspires Progress, or PIP. PIP operates small businesses in inner city Cincinnati to provide positive, meaningful work opportunities for adults with employment barriers. They stress academic learning, life skills and responsibility so that trainees gain the skills, attitudes, education and experience to be successful in the workforce. Yes, that is straight from their mission statement.


Good food for a good cause. As advertised. Venice on Vine is a regular pizza shop, selling whole pies, slices, and hoagies, but the good news is they sell vegan pizza! However, like many downtown Cincinnati businesses they focus on the lunch crowd, so they’re closed early in the evening and on weekends. I’d been meaning to get there, but the hours were never convenient. Excuses, excuses.

I heard they were having a fundraiser pizza party last night and would be open until 9:00 p.m., so I asked Alex if he wanted to go to the $15 pizza buffet. Initially, he scoffed at the price but was easily persuaded that his money was going to a good cause. I had also heard that their vegan pizza would be on the buffet; only a few places in town currently offer a vegan pizza. They had the vegan pizza on the buffet, as well as a really good tossed salad, and Alex (my vegetarian partner) enjoyed several varieties of gourmet pizza including Greek, three cheese, and caramelized onions that were sweet enough to be a dessert.

024 Vegan pizza with Daiya, mushrooms, and tomatoes. Also some Greek pizza with lots of olives and spinach. And some tasty, veggie-ful, salad with balsamic dressing.


Music for the night was provided by The Dialtones, a Motown band that had everyone’s foot tapping.

I ended up back there for lunch today, during a Give Back Cincinnati Event where we learned about poverty and homelessness in the city and spent time talking to residents and learning about the organizations that are trying to help. I was really impressed with some idealistic high school boys who are working to change legislation about discrimination in hiring ex-cons who have served their time. I could tell a personal story here: one of the few times I interviewed potential employees, I explained to my then-boss that this interviewee was misunderstood in a gun fight and we should hire him. He served his time, his brother (an employee of the company) visited him every weekend, and we should hire him. Instead, he had the interviewee hired at Wendy's and we did not hire him. There goes my naievete.

I actually brought my own lunch, anticipating the vegetarian option being cheese pizza:


They didn’t have vegan pizza at the event; I brought a sandwich with maple-walnut pesto, lettuce, and tomato on Ezekiel bread. My teammates laughed at me for photographing my half-eaten sandwich, so I explained the blog.


Can you see that this mentions vegan pizza? Not only do they have a vegan hoagie, but they have vegan pizza on their menu now. Go get some, at a great location that is truly great pizza for a great cause.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Not so Fast Food at Home

Do you ever get a new cookbook and have trouble deciding what to make first? Usually I’ll flip through until something catches my eye, or other times I’ll look for a recipe that uses ingredients I want to use. For my first recipe from American Vegan Kitchen, I made the recipe the author said she liked best when I heard her speak at Books by the Banks.


This is the All-American Incrediburger, shown here topped with rice cheeze. I have a side of tots, baked beans, and (can you see it in back?) steamed yellow squash and zucchini thrown in for good measure. Eat your veggies, kids!

These burgers are made from TVP and wheat gluten; Alex was pleased to finally have a burger that doesn’t contain beans. They are steamed in foil and then grilled on a grill pan. Mine looks a little pink, which must be from the paprika, seasoned salt, and tomato paste.

The pickles are homemade. I like them sliced really thinly, and I used fresh dill. I’m still perfecting my pickle recipe, but I am really impressed by how easy and tasty homemade pickles are.

And if any of you don’t have the cookbook yet, good news: you can find the complete recipe here, on Vegan Appetite.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Squash and Beans


Remember when I cooked buttercup squash and adzuki beans with very little seasoning? This time I kicked it up a notch.

I made Maple Glazed Winter Squash with Garlic and Ginger from Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker. I actually threw this together during work and didn’t have an onion, so this was made with garlic, ginger, acorn squash, water and tamari topped with maple syrup and then slow cooked for a few hours. For sides, I made some adzuki beans and red quinoa. The specks you see on the squash are black pepper. The squash was sweet, hot from the ginger, and absolutely delicious. I think I used more ginger and less sugar than the recipe specifications – and it turned out well.

I like how cooking one acorn squash didn’t give us much more than two servings, and the red beans and red quinoa were kind of neat too, in keeping with the same colors. Even Alex enjoyed the beans; typically, he says he doesn’t like beans, so this is a big surprise.

I do agree the uncooked adzuki look much more attractive than the cooked beans. They lose their little white zipper when cooked. Is this meal too red and orange? Especially on the yellow plate? I don’t care. This was good.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Must-Try Scalloped Potatoes

This is another recipe straight from a blog to my plate, courtesy of Tofu Mom. This recipe for vegan scalloped potatoes with lots of garlic looked like something I needed to try!


This dish is brought to you by my impulsively purchased OXO mandolin. I love it, even though it sliced my thumb the first time I used it.


This made short work of slicing my taters. Off they go into a sauce of blended cashews, silken tofu, milk, and garlic and other seasonings!


After baking in the oven, this dish is browned on top and full of thick, creamy, saucy goodness. We enjoyed the mild flavor of the scalloped potatoes along with some balsamic roasted green beans, red onion, orange tomato and a (brown) portabella to round things out.

This is my kind of meat and potatoes.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Suzie Wong’s, Take Two

I hope everyone had a good weekend. Once again I can’t believe it’s Sunday night again. We had some warm weather, but the trees let me know it’s fall.


Alex and I went back to Suzie Wong’s, which now has a liquor license and a patio. We sat outside and had a great view of a beautiful church. Well, I viewed the church. Alex was looking at an office building.

2010-10-10I get up to take a few photos and he’s making phone calls.

2010-10-101We ordered exactly what we got before; spring rolls, tofu and eggplant clay pot, and orange faux ribs. Just as good as before, I can’t believe we haven’t been back since February.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Restaurant: Cactus Pear

Cactus Pear is a Tex-Mex restaurant, or Southwestern Bistro if you prefer, with two locations, one in Blue Ash and the other in Clifton.

Although I’ve been once or twice before, we went again recently because there was a coupon in one of those magazines that comes in mail, addressed to Resident. Usually I get a little shy and feel like a cheapie when I use coupons – am I alone on this? It was something like get $4 off a second entree, so just enough to make a difference.

The food was good, though. Alex and I went to the Blue Ash location late on a weeknight to treat ourselves after an exhausting trip to the mall.

We got chips and roasted tomato salsa brought out right away. I understand sometimes they charge extra for the chips, but even with our coupon they were on the house. I wonder if it was because we were late, or maybe because we ordered beer?

006 Aztec Tofu, $7.95

Alex chose the Aztec tofu sandwich, which he loved. The tofu was well seasoned and topped with avocado and a chipotle sauce, and even the bread was good. We certainly weren’t expecting great bread at a Tex-Mex place, but we found it. These came with a side of roasted potatoes in a sticky spicy-sweet sauce that was really good.

008 Veggie Tacos, $9.95

I got the vegetarian soft tacos, which was a heaping portion of mixed grilled vegetables including bell peppers, onions,mushrooms, and zucchini, with warm tortillas on the side. They also have fajitas, so I’m not quite sure what the difference is (unless it’s the iron skillet?). There are more fajita choices, too: you can get portabella, eggplant, or tofu fajitas. These veggies were good. I ate them all. They were much less oily than my typical experience Cincinnati-Mexican fare.

All in all, the food was good and our waitress was really helpful when I was asking questions about the tacos. Plus, we practically had the place to ourselves. So although I don’t think Cactus Pear would be at the top of your list when dining in Cincinnati, it’s a nice place to get some good food, especially the tofu sandwich making an unexpected but welcome appearance on the menu.

Cactus Pear on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Go Reds! Cincinnati Chili and Beer

In my nearly three years living in Cincinnati, I’ve made fun of the Reds, the local baseball team. I’ve talked about how easy it is to get to a game and laughed at the locals who skip work for Opening Day and then give up on their beloved team before the All Star Break. But now, the Reds are in the playoffs. For the first time in memory.

This afternoon’s game didn’t look good, but I have hope in the Redlegs to at least pull out a win or two. They’re playing the Phillies, who have made it to the playoffs with their core group of players a lot recently and even won the World Series in 2008. I even said that we should cheer for the Reds now because we’ll probably have a chance to cheer for the Phillies later. I think someone phrased it best saying, “The Reds played like the Reds.”

I mention all this because it’s a coincidence that these two teams are playing each other; I lived in Philadelphia for five years and that’s Alex’s hometown, where we met. Plus, I work out of a Philadelphia office, so there’s no Reds love with my coworkers. But I am hopping on the Reds bandwagon, and I think they can do better than they did tonight!

So, in support of the Reds, I made a Cincinnati themed dinner. Cincinnati seems a little behind the times sometimes, but the interesting consequence of that is how many local oddities there are here. People aren’t advocating progress or globalization. So instead, we have old traditions and things done the Cincinnati way.


One big-deal thing here is Cincinnati chili, which is served over spaghetti and is notoriously sweet. I made my own, adapting this recipe from Allrecipes that got great reviews. This chili includes chocolate, allspice, cinnamon, cumin, cloves, and chili powder. From what I’ve heard, Cincinnati chili came about when Greek immigrants served a traditional Greek stew and rebranded it as a local food. I know the need to rebrand is true; I have a friends whose Greek grandparents had a successful local restaurant by never telling anyone they were Greek.

I made a few changes. Of course I substituted the ground beef (I used tvp) and I also put some pinto beans in the mix, which normally isn’t done. Cincinnati chili starts as a 3-way (spaghetti, chili, and cheese) and you can make it a 4-way by adding beans or raw onions, and it’s a 5-way when you add both. So mine doesn’t fit any “way” – do you think that’s why the Reds lost?


We drank Little Kings Cream Ale, a local beer that comes in 7-ounce bottles. According to their website, this beer has been delighting the masses since 1958.

The Redlegs play again on Friday. My ’Nati Night didn’t help the Redlegs win, but maybe the can get one on their own. What do you think, are you superstitious?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

I can’t blame you if you’re jealous

I took part in the care package swap through Cook. Vegan. Lover. and I got the best partner. This was my first care package swap, and I was looking forward to gathering up some favorite treats and sending them off. But the package I received in return, from Jodie at The Picky Vegan, was beyond incredible.

Just look.


There is so much goodness here, it’s hard to see everything!

She sent some awesome vidalia mustard and blackberry jam, some pure maple candies, mulling spices, and handmade pomegranate acai chocolates, perfect for fall. Alex saw me eating one of the three delicate shell-shaped maple candies and I offered him a tiny bite. He said no thanks, he’d have a candy later, and I had to let him know that he would not be having a candy later. I hid the other two for myself. However, he did eat half the sweet potato chips while I was at work today. Of course, this means I had to finish the bag when I found it open! Delicious!

There’s also a peanut butter and jelly Clif bar that was very tasty (enjoyed Saturday morning while walking downtown to Books by the Banks), oatmeal, coconut water, powdered protein shakes, pumpkin seeds, a lime ginger fruit leather I can’t wait to try, a raw cherry pie treat, a gigantic oatmeal cookie, and snapea crisps (yes they are open in the photo).


No, I’m not done yet. She also sent me pomegranate herbal tea and maple stroopwafels! I ate more stroopwafels than a person should as a student in Belgium, and I’m excited to try these maple ones. Finally, there’s pomegranate lotion, essential oil towelettes, and a candle.

Thank you Jodie!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Quick and Easy Cauliflower Soup

It is cold. Between Saturday and today, it got really, really cold. I wanted soup anyway, but as it’s the first Monday of the month I needed to make a big batch to take to Ronald McDonald House. This soup is almost as easy as those just-add-water mixes, and it’s a million times tastier.

055Creamy Cauliflower and Leek Soup

Poor cauliflower got a bad reputation as a healthy alternative to potatoes. Because we’re used to seeing it white? Because it goes well in soup with leeks?

This soup is delicious, and using cauliflower makes it super easy. No potatoes to scrub or peel. Just chunk the cauliflower and boil and steam it. Cleaning the leeks takes the longest, but even that is quick.

For this large batch, I used four large leeks, sauteed briefly in a olive oil, two heads of cauliflower, and about 6 cups of vegetable broth. It’s okay if not all the cauliflower is submerged in the broth. Cook for 20-25 minutes until the vegetables are tender.

This is where you’ll want an immersion blender. I still make a mess with the immersion blender, but it would be worse trying to transfer the soup to a stand blender. Blend the soup, add a little nutmeg (or other spices, but I like it with the nutmeg) and finish with some almond milk to make this extra creamy. I like mine with some black pepper on top.

Voila! Easy soup. Perfect for cuddling weather.


Food-ful Weekend

Some weekends, I cook a lot. Some weekends, I take it easy and we go out or eat leftovers. This weekend had a major focus on food.

First, Saturday morning, I went to Books by the Banks at the local convention center. This is a celebration of books and authors with a several discussion panels, and the authors were available to talk and sign their books.

I had the pleasure of meeting Tamasin Noyes of Vegan Appetite, author of American Vegan Kitchen. I attended her panel, where she and three other cookbook authors talked about their books and answered questions. I was really pleased to see that when the moderator opened the floor for questions, the first few questions were for her – even if they were “what’s the difference between vegetarian and vegan?” and “my vegetarian friend eats fish and chicken.”*

My favorite part was when the moderator (a chef himself) asked Tami to talk about the flavor gap between meat and vegan dishes. Tami responded, “Good food is good food.” The moderator looked disappointed and unconvinced, but I think the audience’s curiosity in veganism showed his disappointment was unfounded. I loved her answer. She was a great representative for veganism in the Porkopolis.

Saturday night, we had a special visitor – Alex’s sister came into town. Being around this much family is absolutely spoiling me. We talked about going out, but we decided to eat at home instead. She was happy to have some home-cooked food and was amenable to me wanting to use up my produce bin. My wish was my punishment, though, because I stayed at home cooking while they were out playing.

013 Roasted butternut squash with whole wheat orzo, basil, pine nuts, and lemon.

I had a butternut squash and some collard greens I wanted to use, so I did a quick search through my Reader and found that many blogs have mentioned butternut recently – including some non-food ones! I made two recipes straight from the blogs.

First up: Lemony Orzo with Roasted Butternut Squash and Pine Nuts from Clean Eats in the Dirty South. I love roasted butternut, and this seemed like a filling main dish and it did not disappoint.

I made a side of collards with garlic, dried cranberries, and pine nuts, and I still let them cook for almost an hour (cranberries and nuts added at the end). Alex’s sister mentioned that she doesn’t like vegetables that are cooked for too long, but I made these collards for me. This is what happens when you marry into a family from a different part of the country. No kidding, when I getting ready to move to Philadelphia my grandfather told me not to fall in love with a Yankee. True story. Plus, I had never eaten green beans that were still crisp until I had the ones their mom made.

021 My plate: equal parts greens and squashy orzo

Also: Curried Squash Hummus from The Kuntrageous Vegan. I used some of my butternut and also an acorn squash, along with some chickpeas and copious spice and heat. This actually got hotter after I tasted it, so this was a pretty fiery dip. But delicious. I was digging in on this before Alex and his sister got home. We ate this with some delicious fresh bread from Shadeau Bakery.

020 Curried squash hummus. I popped this in the oven to keep it warm and it developed a delightful crust on top.

This was a great weekend, and fall has arrived. Saturday I had a big butternut, and now I have plenty of squash leftovers to enjoy.

*I know this isn’t even a question.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Country Life and College Life Revisited


I was just telling you about going back to my brother’s place after our late dinner at Kerbey Lane Cafe. He lives almost two hours from Austin, in the sticks, and about 20 minutes out of town. That’s a big change from me – I live on a busy, noisy, city street, where it’s less than a 10-minute walk to the grocery store.


I didn’t know they grew cotton in Texas.

The neat thing about being in the sticks, though, is a huge backyard for the dogs. Samari is up front; see Lugnut running, along the right?


Samari rolls around outside and picks up burrs in her coat. For anyone who thought my brother is attractive, just look at him plucking burrs from his pup.


All their pets are girls, but they also have two cats. We met Zoe in December 2009 when she was a baby, and now she’s all grown up. Alex, who has met many more cats than I have, says this the only female orange cat he’s ever seen. Does anyone else know if the gingers are all (or mostly) male?

2010-09-291And the newest addition is Thalia. She wouldn’t stay still to pose for the camera.


See the Titans blanket? My brother is a huge football fan. (Good thing he moved to Texas, right?) We spent most of Sunday at their place, watching games, and we cooked. Shelby was really happy to eat some things with us that she doesn’t normally get to enjoy, like chili (even though it had beans and no meat) and tofu stir fry with peanut sauce.

2010-09-292These are two favorite recipes that I don’t need a cookbook to make, and they’re great to share with family. Everyone has really enjoyed them. Or at least been polite.

I know this post is getting long, but I left for Texas a week ago, and I’m ready to be done telling you about it. When I mentioned they live so far from Austin, did you bother wondering where they live? Outside of College Station, Aggieland, home of Texas A & M.

We went out to Ozona, Tex-Mex place, which was having $1 margaritas, served in plastic cups. Ah, college life. We did enjoy some fried pickeled okra, or at least Shelby and I did. Alex ate a few pieces and some loose batter, but Andy wouldn’t touch it. This stuff was great, though – a combo of fried okra and fried pickles! My dinner was great, too, delicious grilled vegetable tacos. This came with a side of beans, and I asked the waitress if they were made with meat. She said no – but before taking a bite, I found big chunks of bacon in them! Shelby, our native Texan, says bacon isn’t meat to the locals.


I’m heading out for the weekend, but I have one last photo to share. This is a local bar advertising pitchers of cold beer and Mario Kart. Minus the Old West theme, this is my kind of place. Have a great weekend – I can’t say that beer and Wii aren’t in my plans for tonight.