Monday, February 28, 2011

On My Own

I’m not really the most creative cook. I follow recipes, even when I don’t measure precisely, and I have a difficult time imagining how different things will taste together. There are so many obvious combinations that I wouldn’t have thought of unless I saw them somewhere else.


This morning, I saw that Carissa was having a sandwich with almond and cashew butter and strawberries. Not only did this look delicious, but I had the ingredients on hand! I’m normally big on jelly or jam, but if I think that I’d eat peanut butter and banana, or pb and strawberry jam, why not pb and strawberries? It was perfect.

Can you tell that those are delicious ripe red organic strawberry slices? They are. With Trader Joe’s crunchy Valencia peanut butter. Yum. And yes, I like pickles with my peanut butter. Maybe the problem is my palate, not just my imagination.

See, here’s what happens when I open the fridge and try to make a meal with what’s on hand. I make mushroom stuffed mushrooms.


I’ll chalk part of this up to trying to cook on Friday night. I’ve been working really hard lately. And after work, I’ve been exhausted, but I’ve also been trying to do more things around town. All this cuts into my dinner time. (I did try Currito Burritos, though – genius idea! – and one you may be seeing my interpretation of what they do sometime soon.)

Back to Friday. I had ingredients I wanted to use. So I sauteed some cremini mushrooms left over from the stir fry, seasoned them with thyme and salt and pepper, and put them on top of a balsamic-marinated portabella and baked it. Yum, right? Sure, if you like mushrooms!

Have I learned my lesson? If it’s to experiment with some direction, sure. Tonight I’m working on something different, but at least I have a plan. I promise to share the results, good or bad. Hold me to it, okay?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Happily Inspired


I saw this General Tso Tempeh earlier this month. Then I saw it again. Then I made it, and I’m glad I did.

I doubled the recipe and added baby corn, mushrooms, broccoli, and water chestnuts and topped it with green onions and sesame seeds. Yum!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Belated Birthday Black Bottom Cupcakes

I took this photo last week, when the cupcakes were fresh and the weather was mild. I mentioned before that it was Alex’s birthday, and I took requests for what he wanted. In some ways, he’s very predictable, and I knew he wanted black bottom cupcakes. I still asked him, mind you, maybe just to prove that I was right.


I’d never heard of black bottom cupcakes until a few years ago, when my boss would bring them in for food days. These are chocolate cupcakes with a cream cheese center. I actually never had any that she made because I started telecommuting before I had the chance, but I’d hear how popular they were. She shared her recipe with me, and these are delicious and the cake is already vegan. The first time I made this, I called my mom to ask if there should really be vinegar in the recipe. I’ve come a long way.

After my success with the cream cheese frosting on the hummingbird cake, I decided to try using Tofutti for the filling. It came out well, again, even thought I didn’t really do anything except whip up the Tofutti with some sugar.


  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar


  • I experimented and just took half a tub of Tofutti Better than Cream Cheese, softened, and whipped it up with some sugar. I put chocolate chips in half and left half plain.

Mix the cake batter and fill each cupcake cup halfway. The most recent time I made these, I ran out of cup liners (they’re frog princesses) and so I overfilled the cups. Put a spoonful of filling in each.

My boss’s recipe doesn’t say how long to bake them, but I typically put them in at 350F for 12-15 minutes. Yum!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I got an extension on my Valentine’s Day Report

Have you seen that commercial about how Valentine’s Day isn’t about saying I love you, but rather it’s about saying I love us? I can’t honestly say that I was thinking that when I selected V-day presents, but I purchased something I’d been wanting us to have.


Yep, a salad spinner. Alex also gave me a gift that’s something for us, and I’m not referring to the tofu press. We now have another season of How I Met Your Mother.

He wanted to make me dinner, but instead we decided to make something together. This was our first ever vegan lasagne. We used to make vegetarian lasagne all the time, but I hadn’t been brave enough to subject Alex to vegan cheese. I know everybody has their favorite, or not, but I prefer Follow Your Heart. Yes, I have to shred it myself, but it doesn’t have that chemical aftertaste.


I made tofu ricotta and a chunky tomato sauce with lots of onion, garlic, and mushrooms. We layered the lasagna sheets with the sauce, tofu ri-not-ta, thinly sliced grilled eggplant, and not-za-rella. Once Alex saw what ingredients I laid out, he cleverly invented these names for the cheeze. I didn’t tell him that they weren’t originals.


This wasn’t the prettiest meal, but it tasted oh-so good. Alex even went back for seconds! While we were assembling this, I told him a few times that he could go to Noodles and Co. for his free birthday noodles (if you give them your email, you can get free birthday noodles, too) if he didn’t like the vegan lasagne. That wasn’t necessary. Oh, yeah, it’s his birthday, so I saved the sweet chocolatey treat for that instead of v-day.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Trying something new: Veg Head Restaurant

I think it’s been a while since I’ve tried a new restaurant here in Cincinnati. When I think about it, though, there are a few places I want to try. Sadly, one closed recently, before I had a chance to visit. But The Veg Head in Loveland seems unlikely to close anytime soon.

See, a while back, I bought a Groupon* for a starter week at RockQuest, our local indoor rock climbing gym. This took us to the suburbs, so I used the opportunity to go from there to the way-out suburbs to try a place I’d been hearing about.


This is called bouldering – Alex is climbing a large boulder. The wall climbs require us both to work, so I don’t have a free hand to photograph.

So, after rock climbing, we headed out to The Veg Head. I’d read about their black bean burgers and their wraps filled with brown rice, black beans, and veggies, both of which can be made vegan. This time, I opted for the burger. I love veggie burgers, probably more than I should.


The burger was thin and served open-faced. I opted for a spread of their house-made hummus instead of cheese, and the toppings were fresh and plentiful. This was a flavorful and crisp burger. The sides are standard: red cabbage slaw and chips.

Alex chose the vegetarian Philly cheesesteak, what with him being from Philadelphia and all, and it was mostly cow cheese and fake steak. I can’t imagine they made that in-house, but I didn’t ask. Other vegetarian options include their Za, which is like a pizza, as well as a hummus plate and tofu spread sandwich.

If we continue rock climbing or if I find myself out that way for some other reason, I’d go back to The Veg Head and try their wrap. Otherwise it’s not worth the trip to the way-out ‘burbs. But even at 2:00 p.m. on an icy Saturday, their six tables were filled, so I think they’ll do okay even if I stay in my neck of the woods.

* ETA: Maybe I didn't need to mention how I came to patronize RockQuest. Going forward, I think my budget, after my recent vacation, is limiting my purchase of Groupons, because I can no longer make the excuse that I need to spend money to save money. But do you think those Super Bowl Ads were offensive? Would that change your buying behavior? I've already heard questionable things about Groupon, but I think that's just sales, period.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A lot of people have one, and now I have one too

Each time I would see people post about tofu presser contraptions, I would briefly think, “neato!” and promptly add it to the very bottom of my wish-list of kitchen gadgets.


Well, now I am the proud (co-)owner of a shiny new Tofu XPress! It wasn’t exactly a birthday gift. I actually got it the day before my birthday. That’s because I didn’t want kitchen stuff for my birthday. You can’t give somebody a gift that says I want you to cook more tofu, although I guess that really isn’t so bad after all, is it? Yes, it’s true, thankfully Alex loves tofu, and so this is for both of us. Aww.

But I can’t figure out how he discovered the existence of this thing. He just tells me that you can find anything on the internet. So, 1. Who told? 2. Kitchen stuff as gifts: pro or con?


I normally buy Trader Joe’s extra-firm organic tofu, and it’s already really firm, but a good bit of water was pressed out immediately. I was curious to see my own before and after photos, and I know these are all over the web as blogger after blogger hops on the bandwagon. Yes, this is easier than what I normally do, and there were no crashes in the kitchen when the canned tomatoes atop the cast iron skillet fell from their unsteady perch.

I can’t say that my life has changed, but I’ll see what happens as I use it more. One thing that was nice is that the tofu crumbled less around the edges and sliced more easily—perfect for oven-roasting in barbecue sauce.