Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Tender Tennessee Christmas


Elvis display at the liquor store

Surprise! I took an unplanned, last-minute trip to visit my parents for two days, Christmas Eve and most of Christmas. Originally, we were going to be with Alex’s parents on the big day but things changed a little and I was happy to squeeze in a little visit with my fam.



My mom had decorated the house and the pup enjoyed the gas fireplace.


We had a wonderful Christmas Eve dinner (roasted vegetables and “penny” pasta). We also had a nice lunch before heading to the airport on Christmas Day.

We flew in Thursday night and stopped by Fuel CafĂ©. When I read on Vegan Crunk that their veggie burgers were better than Huey’s (which is just a few blocks up the street), I knew needed to stop in. The restaurant is in an old service station that’s been what seems like a series of restaurants.


(Excuse the blue lighting over everything; it didn’t feel so obnoxious at the time.) We enjoyed the fried tofu appetizer – my parents, who were there about half an hour before Alex and I arrived, ate a plate full while they were waiting on us and suggested we get our own.


This veggie burger was really good. The fries were better. My father made friends with the waiter before we arrived, and he learned that there has been quite a stream of folks coming in to try the burger.

What can I say? It was good, but next time I’m in town, I’m heading to Huey’s. Maybe I’ll alternate. I don’t think it’s fair to compare, because the other place is a long-time favorite for me and I’ve been eating their veggie burgers since before I was vegetarian. Plus I only make it Memphis twice a year these days.

And of course, no holiday travel would be complete without delays. Christmas night I spent three extra hours at the airport, which thankfully is more comfortable than a rental car.


Veggie sub and barbecue chips at Lenny’s.

Don’t fret, I’m still gathering my thoughts on sharing food from Italy. Right now it’s a little overwhelming and I’m otherwise occupied. I hope everyone out there is enjoying the end of the year and getting as much snow as you want.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Home at Last

I am back home. I didn’t mention where I was going. I was in Italy last week on family vacation and had a pretty good time all in all. Now, I’m catching up at work, spending time with my cats, and going through my photos. I am very excited to share the food I enjoyed, but for now, here are some of my favorite non-food photos.

I stood out as a tall, light-haired person. My feet hung off the ends of the beds. During the entire trip, I only saw one other redhead. And I was looking. I had Alex take this photo of me under a hanging light that I thought was about an inch over my head, but this photo makes the distance appear almost reasonable.


This photo looks crazy, but I like it. We’re waiting in the courtyard for Alex’s mom to get ready for supper after a nap on our first day in the country. Alex’s sister and her boyfried are laughing at Italian curses in a phrasebook.


We started our trip in a small town in the hills on the Adriatic coast, with a pretty little compact town and farmland all around. We saw lots of parasol pines, grape vines, and olive trees. The scenery was more beautiful than I could have imagined, and I enjoyed some mild weather until we headed up north.



And on the public transportation, other kinds of beautiful scenery.


Alex, his father, and I were the “dream team” as the family divided down the middle for much of the trip. Below, Alex and his dad on the banks of the Arno River in Florence, and then me and his dad after we climbed all the stairs to the very top of the Duomo.



We ended the trip with a visit to Alex’s aunt and uncle’s beautiful home, and on our tour of their gardens this cat kept climbing trees. Here’s Alex’s mother taking a photograph of it.


We were also stuck in a snowstorm and in the car for 23 hours. More on this separately.


I’m trying to figure out how to organize my thoughts on the food. Something like, “Can you really get tired of Italian food?” Or, “How much pasta can one person eat?” Maybe it will be, “I learned the word for eggplant and used it every chance I got.”

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Too often travel, instead of broadening the mind, merely lengthens the conversation.*

This has not been the greatest food week for me. Instead, I’ve been trying to eat everything perishable from my fridge, which still doesn’t look too terribly empty,


Tossing anything I have left into a pot and calling it soup,


Don’t try this at home, kids: sweet potatoes, carrots, lima beans, onion, garlic, pinto beans, broth, and coconut milk. We’re eating it. Sweet Alex tells me he likes it.

Gathering packable snacks, choosing books, and syncing my iPod,


It’s almost travel time! What is it with cats and suitcases?


What are your best travel tips? If they include not announcing your imminent departure on your blog, oh well: I thought about it and decided I don’t have anything you want. If you drop by, please play with the kitties. They get lonely. But beware the wrath of Twinkie Weener.


*(Cincinnati’s own?) Elizabeth Drew

Monday, December 6, 2010

The beginning of winter and the end of Thanksgiving leftovers

You really can make anything into a patty. Getting patties to hold together was a serious challenge for me in the past, but now? Easy. Maybe I’ve finally learned how to be gentle.

When I read about the sweet potato and white bean patties Jenny was making, I knew I needed to give them a try. That, and I had six large sweet potatoes on the shelf and leftovers from Thanksgiving in the fridge. I needed a way to use up what I had and get some variety at the same time.


I used mashed sweet potatoes, cannelleni beans, bread crumbs, and some sauteed diced onions and garlic. I seasoned the mix with salt and garam masala and ate my patty with leftover collards. Alex ate his with ketchup.


We got our first snow this weekend, and I made homemade tomato soup for the first time. Tomato soup + sweet potato patties doesn’t sound like a lot, but it was a great meal on a cold night.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Southwest Stir Fry

I decided to try this as a different way to cook some of my favorite foods (black beans and corn). Then I decided to search the web to see if I was unknowingly copying someone else’s idea of a southwest stir fry. The first few results were very different, so I’m in the clear. Actually, I’m so far into the clear that maybe I should come up with another name for this.

This dish isn’t too different from times I make black beans and rice, and it’s not terribly different from a Chipotle burrito bol. This is just another chance for me to put together some of my favorite foods. I think it’s better than either one.


We started by frying the tofu cubes, cooking the rice, and cooking the collards (for some reason I wanted these as a side dish). After that is done, this is super easy.

My stir fry is onion, green bell pepper, mushrooms, black beans, corn, and diced tomatoes and green chiles (canned, like Ro-Tel).

Oh, yes, and I made a little dressing to go on it. I really like making my own dressings because I like them so thin.


This was simply a spoonful of Vegenaise cut with the juice from the canned tomatoes and ranch-style seasoning. Right now, this means garlic powder, onion powder, salt, smoked paprika, and a little cumin. And lots of black pepper. I’m still working on my favorite ranch proportions, but I love how easy it is to mix up a little batch just as I need it.