Thursday, April 30, 2009

Vegetarian Options at Red Egg in New York City

"chinatown" by 2litros

Yesterday, I was in Newark for work. I'm in New York City today and tomorrow for work.

I love New York City! I wish I could (afford to) live here. Tonight, I'm staying at the Holiday Inn in Chinatown. It's a nice hotel with a friendly staff.

My coworker and I ate dinner tonight at this wonderful Chinese restaurant right down the street from our hotel. The restaurant is called Red Egg (202 Centre Street). For dinner, I had tofu with mushrooms. The restaurant informed me that the dish was made with "house tofu," as opposed to tofu that's been purchased at a market. I've had fresh tofu many times before, and the tofu I had tonight was simply delicious. If you're not a fan of tofu, though, there are approximately 10 other vegetarian dishes that seem worthy of checking out at Red Egg.

I can't wait to take my partner here. I think he would like it.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Chocolate Tofu Mousse or Pudding

Here's an easy, delicious dessert for 4. Take 2 boxes of Silken tofu (firm). Blend the tofu until smooth. Melt 6 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate chips in a microwave. Add the melted chocolate to the blender and give it a whirl until the chocolate and tofu are combined. Stir in agave nectar syrup, to taste (about 1/2 to 1 tablespoon), and chill for about 3 hours before serving.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Mashed Red Potatoes

I don't know why I don't make mashed potatoes more often. It's ridiculously easy. While the potatoes are cooking in boiling water, you can focus on preparing the main course. In my case, the main course was tempeh with a mushroom-lager sauce, which I made on Sunday.

I probably would have served the tempeh over egg noodles. But Vegetarian Times served the tempeh over mashed potatoes, so I decided to do the same.

Mashed Red Pototoes
Serves approximately 4

2 lbs red potatoes, cut into halves or quarters (depending on size)
1/2 cup of half and half
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic
Salt and pepper, to taste

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook for about 20-25 minutes, until the potatoes become tender. (Do not overcook to the point where the potatoes start falling apart.)

In a small pan, cook the garlic in the olive oil over medium heat until the garlic becomes soft, about 3 minutes. Remove pan from the heat and set it aside.

Drain the potatoes and mash them with a potato masher. Stir in the butter and the garlic. Gradually stir in the half and half a little bit at a time, until the mashed potatoes reach the desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Tempeh with Mushroom-Lager Sauce

Although I subscribe to Vegetarian Times magazine, I rarely try any of the featured recipes. But one recipe - tempeh in hearty mushroom-lager sauce - from the March 2009 issue did catch my eye.

This tempeh dish was awesome. I followed the recipe as written, except I added salt and pepper, to taste, right before serving. I served this dish with mashed red potatoes, the recipe for which I will post tomorrow.

Tempeh in Mushroom-Lager Sauce
Serves approximately 4

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 package (8 ounces) tempeh, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (I used 3-grain tempeh)
1 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
8-10 ounces cremini or button mushrooms, sliced
8-10 ounces shitaki mushrooms, stemmed, and sliced
2 tablespoons flour
2 1/2 cups lager (I used Samuel Adams)
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
Freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon agave nectar syrup (or sugar)
2 green onions, white and green parts, thinly sliced, for garnishing

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the tempeh and cook until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes. Add the soy sauce to the skillet and continuing cooking the tempeh, about 2 minutes. Remove the tempeh from the pan.

Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and all of the mushrooms to the pan. Cook the mushrooms until they start to become soft, about 5-10 minutes. Stir in the flour and continue cooking for another minute or so.

Add the beer and mustard, turn the heat to low-medium, and continue cooking until the sauce thickens, about 10 minutes. Add the tempeh and agave nectar to the skillet and continue cooking for another 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper, to taste.

Serve over mashed potatoes or pasta (e.g., egg noodles). Garnish with the green onions.

(Updated on April 28, 2009: the recipe for the mashed red potatoes may be found here.)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Just Vegging Out on a Sunday Evening . . . .

Watching the video of the song, "Highway Patrol," by Junior Brown. As I mentioned on Friday, my partner and I saw Junior Brown perform live on Monday at Wolftrap for the Performing Arts in Vienna, Virgina, which is about 30 minutes outside of DC. Amazing concert.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Weekly recap for the Week Ending 4.24.2009 (Click on Photo)

Clockwise, from top: asparagus spears with orange juice and olive oil; roasted ratatouille;
red potatoes with fresh thyme; and vegetarian ramen noodle soup

I finally took the plunge and bought a new camera. (The photos on this site have all, thus far, been taken with a no-frills, 4-megapixel, point-and-shoot-camera I bought 3 or 4 years ago for $79).

I'm an especially cautious consumer when it comes to purchasing electronic items, especially expensive electronic items, such as a digital camera or an LCD television.

I'm not one to buy the latest and greatest, because those items tend to be really pricey immediately when they hit the market. By waiting for prices to drop, though, I become concerned about the possibility of being stuck with something that becomes obsolete within a very short period of time.

With the Canon camera I just purchased (an older model), I'm pretty confident that I found the right balance between price and longevity.

But, honestly, given the pace of technological advances, who knows if my assessment was reasonable?

Friday, April 24, 2009

On the Side: Potatoes with Thyme

Last night, my partner and I went to see country singer, Junior Brown, perform at Wolftrap for the Performing Arts in Vienna, Virginia. I bought my partner tickets to this concert for his 43rd birthday, which we celebrated this past Monday, April 20.

I decided to whip up something fairly quick and easy for dinner last night before we headed off to the concert. (I worked from home yesterday.) My partner said he was in the mood for potatoes "or something like that." So, I took off to the grocery store in the afternoon and bought 2 lbs of red potatoes, a small package of fresh thyme, a package of hamburger buns, and 1 large tomato.

For the main course, I made (actually, assembled) hamburgers using Morningstar Farms garden burgers I had in my freezer. For a side dish, I roasted some red potatoes (cut into quarter slices), which I had tossed in extra virgin olive oil (2-3 tablespoons), fresh thyme leaves (about 2 tablespoons), and some salt (about 1 teaspoon) and freshly ground pepper (about 1/2 teaspoon).

I roasted the potatoes uncovered on a baking sheet for 45 minutes in a 425 degree oven. (I stirred the potatoes every 10 minutes or so.)

I've got make this more often!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Popular Skinny Bitch Authors Release Book for Men

"More books!" by yosoynuts

Called "Skinny Bastard." According to the New York Times
article from yesterday:
The authors [Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin] added a section on professional athletes who follow a vegan or vegetarian diet (although not necessarily the one presented in “Skinny Bitch”), including Ricky Williams, a running back for the Miami Dolphins, and Jerry Stackhouse, a shooting guard for the Dallas Mavericks.
The book goes on sale next Monday.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Vegetarian Ramen Noodle Soup

I grew up eating a lot of ramen and udon noodle soups at neighborhood Japanese restaurants in the area of Los Angeles County where I was raised. Shoyu ramen soup, curry ramen soup, and miso ramen soup. It was all good.

While at the Asian supermarket on Saturday, I picked up a bag of chuka soba noodles, which are wheat noodles used to make ramen noodle soups and yaki soba (a Japanese version of chow mein). I thought I would use the chuka soba noodles to make ramen noodle soup.

As a mentioned yesterday, most of the recipes for vegetarian ramen noodle soup I found online called for using vegetable broth and soy sauce. Plus ginger and garlic, among other things.

I thought the vegetarian ramen noodle soup I made last night tasted very good - close to the shoyu (soy sauce) ramen noodle soup I had growing up. I would encourage you to try to find a package of chuka soba noodles at either an Asian market or online. Otherwise, you can use the noodles from packaged ramen and toss the MSG-laden seasoning packet in the trash.

Vegetarian Ramen Noodle Soup
Serves approximately 2

1 onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons canola oil
7 cups vegetable broth
3 tablespoons soy sauce
4 ounces chuka soba noodles (half of an 8 ounce package)
1/2 to 1 teaspoon Chinese chili oil or sesame chili oil
1 teaspoon finely chopped ginger root

Salt, to taste
Green onions, thinly sliced, for garnishing

Heat the canola oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and ginger and cook until the onions become soft, about 3-5 minutes. Add the vegetable broth and raise the heat to high.

When the vegetable broth comes to a roiling boil, add the soy sauce and the sesame chili oil or the Chinese chili oil. Add salt, to taste. Finally, add the chuka soba noodles and continue cooking until the noodles become soft, about 5 minutes. Serve in bowls and garnish with the green onions.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What to Do with Leftover Roasted Ratatouille

This sandwich I had for lunch was so good. I just hollowed out a piece of a french baguette and filled it with some of the roasted ratatouille I made on Sunday.

I wish I had some provolone cheese. Then I would have stuck the whole thing in the microwave for about 10 seconds, until the cheese just started to melt.

Vegetarian Ramen Experiment Tonight

"99 cent ramen" by heyjoeywhereyougoing . . . .

Tonight, I'm going to try making a ramen noodle soup with vegetable broth and soy sauce as the primary ingredients. Most recipes for vegetarian ramen noodle soup I've seen online utilize these two ingredients. Plus ginger, garlic, and other stuff.

I'm Asian, and I'm really not sure about these ingredients. Ramen is traditionally made with beef or chicken stock. This could be interesting. Hopefully, I will be pleasantly surprised.

Full report tomorrow.

Roasted Ratatouille

Quick and Easy. And Healthy.

I served roasted ratatouille on Sunday with polenta on the side. This recipe was adapted from Simple Suppers by the Moosewood Collective. Because this dish uses fairly delicate vegetables, they should be monitored closely as they are roasting in the oven. Although I cut the 45-minute cooking time (as set forth in the cookbook) by 10 minutes, the vegetables still ended up being a slightly overcooked. I will make sure to knock another 5-10 minutes off the cooking time (total cooking time, 25 minutes) the next time I make this dish.

Roasted Ratatouille
Makes approximately 4 servings

1 zucchini
3 onions
1 eggplant, peeled
2 tomatoes
2 red, green, or yellow bell peppers
6 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (optional)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Cut the vegetables into 1-inch chunks. Toss the vegetables, along with the olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper, in a large bowl. Spread the vegetables on a baking sheet (or two) and place it in the oven.

Roast for 10 minutes and then stir the vegetables. Continue checking the vegetables and stirring them every 10 minutes. Remove them from the oven when they become fork-tender (as opposed to mushy).

Place the vegetables in serving bowls, garnish with the chopped basil, and serve. Pass the grated cheese at the table.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Asparagus Spears on the Side

On Saturday evening, I had spaghetti topped with a tomato and white wine sauce, the recipe for which I posted back in February.

For a quick side dish, I sauteed a bundle of asparagus spears (remove tough areas at the bottom of spears) in 2 tablespoons of canola oil over high heat, with a pinch each of salt and pepper, until they became tender-crisp, about 3-5 minutes. I set the asparagus spears in a plate and drizzled about 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and about 1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed orange juice over them. I garnished the spears with some grated orange zest and served.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Just Vegging Out on a Sunday Evening . . . .

I'm jumping on the Matt Alber bandwagon. Love this song, "End of the World," from his CD Hide Nothing.

Weekly Recap for the Week Ending 4.17.2009 (Click on Photo)

Clockwise, from top: panang curry, easy vegan chili, mac and cheese and pasta with onions and blue cheese.

Of all of the dishes above, the panang tofu was probably my favorite. While I loved the mac and cheese, it was sooooo rich. It's one of those dishes I would make, maybe, once every 3 months or so, or for weekday company.

The chili, by the way, tasted better the next day, with all the flavors melded together!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

My apologies for not posting weekly recap

"The letter" by a.drian

Dear Comcast:

Thank you for scheduling us between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. today for technical service and having no one show up.

Your indifference is greatly appreciated.



Friday, April 17, 2009

Pasta with Blue Cheese and Onions

I normally cook something really quick and simple on Thursdays before taking off to Drinking Liberally at Capital City Brewing Company in Arlington, Virginia.

Among the topics of conversation overheard at last night's DL Happy Hour: teabagging, Michelle Malkin's hotness, Ann Coulter's lack of hotness, the state of the economy, health care reform, and Norm Coleman versus Al Franken.

Pasta with onions and blue cheese, adapted from Simple Suppers by the Moosewood Collective, takes less than 15 minutes to make. It has tons of flavor and costs less than $10 to make 4 servings: pasta shells ($1.20); 1 large onion ($0.87), and a small carton of crumbled blue cheese ($3.49).

Pasta with Blue Cheese and Onions
Makes approximately 4 servings

16 ounces pasta shells

1 large onion, chopped

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
4-5 ounces crumbled blue cheese
1/2 cup vegetable broth
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a large pot, bring water to a boil and cook the pasta according to the directions on the package.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, and red pepper flakes, and cook until the onions become soft, about 3-5 minutes. When the pasta is done cooking, drain the pasta, and add it to the skillet, along with the vegetable broth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the crumbled blue cheese and serve.

Chihuahua Blogging on a Friday Morning

During winter, I toss a queen-sized comforter on my living room sofa for my chihuahuas, April and Joy, on which they make themselves comfortable.

I shot this pic of Joy last night. She was buried under the comforter with her little head popping out.

So cute!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Vegan and Vegetarian News

"India - Colors of India - vegetable laid out for sale by mckaysavage

"Best vegetarian cookbooks for Earth Day" and "Ten vegetarian friendly fast food restaurants" via

With regard to the latter, it's been a long time since I've stepped foot in a traditional fast food restaurant (McDonald's, Wendy's, etc.), because there's generally nothing I can eat, or will eat, in such an establishment.

This kind of bites when you're on the road traveling (from, say, D.C. to New York) and the only food available at most rest areas comes from these traditional fast food chains with no vegan or vegetarian offerings. So, you're stuck buying some nuts and soda at a convenience store.

I had no idea, however, that Burger King (at least some of them) offered a veggie burger. And I did enjoy reading about tips on how to purchase a vegan or vegetarian meal at Taco Bell.

As for the veggie sandwich at Subway, I've never been a fan of it. It's essentially a tossed lettuce salad shoved between 2 pieces of bread. I'd rather spend a bit more at Corner Bakery or Au Bon Pain for, say, a caprese sandwich (tomatoes and fresh mozzarella cheese) or a portobello mushroom sandwich, both of which use a better quality, denser, bread.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Panang Tofu

Last Friday, I took a co-worker out to a nice Thai restaurant to celebrate his 30th birthday. He was born in 1979, the year Blondie's "Heart of Glass," Village People's "YMCA," and Sister Sledge's "We Are Family" hit Top 10 on the Billboard charts.

"We are family! I've got all my sisters with me! We are family! Get up everybody and sing!"

At the Thai restaurant, I ordered panang tofu, and it was really good. I mean really, really, really good. I looked online for a recipe for this dish. I found such a recipe via Bon Appetit and decided to try it out, with a few modifications.

The end result? I thought it was good. My partner loved it, which was surprising, because he's not a fan of peanut butter, which is one of the main ingredients in this dish. I would, however, like to further "hack" this recipe in the near future and try, among other things, cutting back, if not eliminating, the turmeric powder, and perhaps kicking up the amount of chili paste and peanut butter.

All in all, though, I highly recommend trying this basic recipe for panang tofu.

The total cost of ingredients (excluding the cost of basic pantry staples) to make this dish came to $12.42, which included the shallots ($0.80), chili paste ($3.99), 2 limes ($0.34), broccoli ($0.58), carrots ($0.69), tofu ($4.68), and 1 can of coconut milk ($1.34).

Panang Tofu
Makes approximately 4 servings

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large shallot, finely chopped (approximately 1/2 cup)
1 teaspoons, finely minced garlic (approximately 2 garlic cloves)
2 teaspoons, finely minced ginger
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1 teaspoon hot chili paste (any basic Asian chili paste will do)
1 cup water
1 14 ounce-can coconut milk
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3 kaffir lime leaves or 3 tablespoons lime juice and 1 1/2 teaspoon of finely grated lime peel (I used lime juice and lime peel)
2 14-ounce packages extra-firm tofu, drained, and cut into 1 inch cubes
3 medium carrots, cut into 1/4-inch slices
4 cups broccoli (1 large crown), cut into bite-sized pieces
Vegetable oil
1/2 cup of corn starch

Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Dredge the cubes of tofu in the corn starch and saute until the tofu cubes are browned on all sides. Remove from the skillet and set them aside.

In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallots, ginger, and garlic, and cook until the shallots become soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the turmeric, cumin, chili paste, and peanut butter, and continue cooking for about 1 minute. Add the water, coconut milk, brown sugar, lime juice, and grated lime peel (or lime leaves). Whisk until all the ingredients in the skillet are combined.

Add the carrots and broccoli, and continue cooking until the carrots become tender, about 10 minutes. Add salt, to taste. Lastly, stir in the cubes of tofu and serve, preferably with white rice. (I would not add the tofu earlier, because the corn starch coating might cause the sauce to overly thicken, which is not the desired consistency.)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Mac and Cheese

I rarely make these types of heavy, cheesy dishes, but I was in the mood for mac and cheese after recently seeing an episode of The Barefoot Contessa on Food Network.

This mac and cheese tasted amazing. Because of the heaviness of this dish, though, I was only able to eat 1 serving out of the 8 servings the Barefoot recipe made. I followed Ina Garten's recipe, as written, except I used less salt (1 teaspoon) and topped the mac and cheese with panko flakes, rather than bread crumbs, before baking, for a really crispy outer layer.

As I mentioned this past Saturday, my goal this week is keep track of how much I spend on ingredients (excluding the cost of basic pantry staples).
The total cost of the ingredients for the mac and cheese (8 servings) came to $24.41. I had to buy the elbow macaroni ($1.20), tomatoes ($3.99), Gruyere cheese ($9.45), cheddar cheese ($4.79), and milk ($1.39). I included the cost of the panko ($3.59), even though I already had it and consider it to be a pantry staple.

I made a simple side salad (4 servings) with fresh (as opposed to bagged) green lettuce ($2.99) and 1 avocado ($1.29) drizzled with a dressing made from olive oil, sherry vinegar, salt, and pepper.

Mac and Cheese
kes approximately 8 servings

1 pound elbow macaroni
4 cups whole milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
4 cups grated Gruyere cheese
2 cups grated extra sharp cheddar cheese
3/4 pound fresh tomatoes (4 small), sliced
1 1/2 cup bread crumbs (I used panko flakes)
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
Extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook the pasta according to the directions on the package. Drain the pasta in a colander. Drizzle a small amount of olive oil over the pasta and toss to prevent it from sticking. Set the pasta aside.

In a small pot, heat the milk over medium heat. Do not bring to a boil. While the milk is heating up, melt 6 tablespoons of butter in larger pot over low heat. When the butter has melted, add the flour to this pot and whisk until the flour and butter are combined, about 1 minute. Add the hot milk to this pot and continue whisking until thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the Gruyere cheese, cheddar cheese, nutmeg, ground pepper, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Stir in the pasta and pour into a 9-by13-inch baking dish.

Layer the top of the mac and cheese with the sliced tomatoes. Toss the bread crumbs (or panko flakes) in 2 tablespoons of melted butter and spread them over the layer of tomatoes.

Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, or until the bread crumb topping has turned golden brown, and serve.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easy Vegan Black Bean Chili

My partner made this dish on Saturday from a recipe he obtained from Jeanne Lemlin's Simple Vegetarian Pleasures.

He said it was actually quite simple, and that we had most of the ingredients already in our pantry, which made it very budget friendly. He just had to purchase one 28-ounce can of tomatoes, tomato paste, and 3 cans of black beans.

This was really good. I like spicy foods and this chili had a lot of heat. And we had so much left over, some of which I used to make a quesadilla on Sunday (I always keep a package of tortillas in the freezer) with shredded mozzarella cheese.

This can be served on its own or with rice or bread (e.g., cornbread or even a baguette).

Black Bean Chili
Makes approximately 6 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 teaspoons minced garlic
2 onions, finely diced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flake
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
1 28-ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes, with their juice, crushed by hand
1 tablespoon soy sauce
3 cups water
3 tablespoons tomato paste
3/4 teaspoon salt
4 14-ounce cans black beans, rinsed and well drained
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Parsley, finely chopped, for garnishing

In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, onions and red pepper flakes and cook, about 1 minute. Add the chili powder and cumin and continue cooking, about 2 minutes.

Add all of the remaining ingredients, except the parsley, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to about low-medium and cook for 30 minutes. Serve in bowls and garnish with the parsley.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Just Vegging Out on a Sunday Evening . . . .

I've posted a live performance of singer-songwriter James Blunt before. I enjoy listening to his style of contemporary acoustic folk music. I have an endless list of female folk artists I listen to. I wish, however, I could find more contemporary male folk artists whose music I could also download into my iphone.

I welcome any suggestions you may have of such male artists (newcomer or established) you think I should check out.

Happy Easter!

"Easter Eggs" by queenie13

For those of you who celebrate Easter, I hope you have a wonderful time with your family and friends!



You might find this article about a vegetarian Easter interesting.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Impact of Meat Consumption on the Environment via The Exponent

"Autumn trees" by Kevin Klocker

Came across this column by Kelsey Waters that was published yesterday in The Exponent, Purdue University's daily student paper. In her column, Waters, a senior, discusses a 2006 United Nations report detailing the impact of meat consumption on the environment and states:
Where the environment is concerned, eating meat is like driving a huge SUV. Eating a vegetarian diet is like driving a motorcycle, and eating a vegan diet is like riding a bicycle or walking.
It's a quick read worth checking out.

Weekly Recap for the Week Ending 4.10.2009 (Click on Photo or Links Below)

From left to right, starting from top: colorful vegetable enchiladas; Japanese curry sauce;
breaded "chicken" (seitan) cutlets or katsu; asparagus, mushroom and tofu stir fry;
pasta with basil pesto and seitan; and incredibly hot man who won PETA contest.

I had fun this week freeing myself from written recipes and just sort of winging it in the kitchen. Even with written recipes, though, I usually change things here and there. For example, I probably use way more garlic and crushed red pepper flakes than a recipe calls for. And I frequently substitute less costly alternatives for more expensive ingredients, such as certain types of cheeses.

I'm planning meals for next week with budget primarily in mind. I was doing some research online to learn how much money a family of four spends on groceries per month. The amount seems to be in the range of $330 to $400, and that's for households from 2 to 4 persons. My partner and I spend about $400, which does not include the amount we spend dining out at least once a week.

I think most of the dishes I've posted on this site are budget friendly. Next week, though, I want to actually verify the total cost of all ingredients for each weekday meal serving no less than 4.

Friday, April 10, 2009

PETA Requests that Pet Shop Boys Rename Itself

I saw this article earlier today in which PETA has requested that the Pet Shop Boys rename itself the Rescue Shelter Boys. I think the Rescue Shelter Lads has a better ring to it, but that's probably just me. According to CNN, PETA reasoned that:
by changing its name, the band could raise awareness at every tour stop of the "cramped, filthy conditions" that breeders keep animals in before selling them to pet stores . . . .
Not surprisingly, PSB turned the request down.

BTW: this live version of "It's a Sin" is fierce! (I promised a coworker I would use the word, "fierce," in a blog post before the week ended, and I succeeded. Ha!)

Pasta with Basil Pesto and Seitan

I love freshly made basil pesto and fettucine. Prior to becoming a vegetarian, I would also add breaded chicken strips to this dish for extra protein. Nowadays, I use seitan strips, which are made from wheat gluten formed to look like chunks of meat.

Pasta with Basil Pesto and Seitan
Serves approximately 4

16 ounces fettucine (preferred) or other chunky pasta

1 carton (7 ounces) freshly made basil pesto
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 package of seitan, cut into 1/2 inch strips
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Basil leaves, torn, for garnishing
Parmesan cheese, grated (optional)

Bring a large pot of water to boil and begin cooking the pasta according to the directions on the package.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Dredge the seitan strips in the flour. Add the pine nuts and seitan strips to the skillet. Saute until the seitan strips are browned on all sides, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and pepper flakes and cook until the garlic becomes soft, about 2 minutes. Add the pesto and reduce the heat to low-medium.

Before draining the pasta, reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta water. Add the pasta and reserved pasta water to the skillet. Toss the pasta in the seitan-pesto mixture and serve. Pass the parmesan cheese at the table.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Colorado Bans Vegetarian Woman's "Tofu" License Plate Request

How offensive can this woman's proposed license plate be if the Colorado Department of Revenue official being interviewed is on the verge of laughter at the possible alternative reading of ILVTOFU? (In CNN's cut of the same video, the official actually breaks out in laughter.)

I should sub
mit an application to the Virginia DMV seeking a license plate that reads, LOVE69, in reference (obviously!) to the year of my birth and of the occurence of major historical events, including the first successful moon landing, Woodstock, and the Stonewall Riots in New York City, which launched the modern gay rights movement.

I would love to see the faces of Virginia DMV officials upon receipt of my application!

Off to Drinking Liberally now . . . .

PETA UK Announces Winners of Europe's Sexiest Vegetarian Next Door for 2009

Image from

It will take no less than a court injunction secured by PETA before I will agree to remove this photo from this site!

he person in the photo is Ludwig L (33 years old) from Malmo, Sweden, whom PETA named on April 2 as the male winner of Europe's Sexiest Vegetarian Next Door Contest for 2009. The female winner is Fiona (23 years old) from Leuven, Belgium. I would have also posted her photo on this site, but it's a bit too, uh, risque.

The winners each received a 2-night stay at Lancrigg Vegetarian Country House Hotel in the Lake District.

Asparagus, Mushroom and Tofu Stir Fry (Vegan)

Freestyle Week continues at Just Vegging Out . . . .

I had an "almost vegetarian" upbringing. My mother rarely cooked meat. Instead, she made a lot of Asian-style vegetable stir frys. I actually disliked eating them, because I hated the taste of most vegetables when I was young.

After college, I became a huge meat eater. But, much to the surprise of family members, I've
come full circle and now find myself enjoying the kinds of vegetarian dishes I had while growing up.

For last night's dinner, I bought vegetables that I thought would look nice together in terms of color and texture. I added tofu for protein. On the advice of a friend of mine who's Asian American and a vegetarian, I dredged the tofu in cornstarch before sauteing it. As a result, the tofu had a slightly crispy, golden brown, exterior, just like the way I've had it served to me in restaurants.

I recommend serving the following stir fry with white rice or brown rice.

Asparagus, Mushroom and Tofu Stir Fry
Serves approximately 3-4

1 medium onion, halved and cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 portobello mushroom cap, halved and cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 cup asparagus spears, trimmed (white ends cut off), and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ginger, minced
1 package extra firm tofu, cut into 1/2 to 1 inch cubes
2 tablespoons canola oil or vegetable oil
1 cup vegetable broth
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 cup corn starch
1 teaspoon corn starch
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt, to taste

In a small bowl, mix 1 teaspoon of cornstarch to 2 tablespoons of cold water. Set it aside.

In another bowl, dredge the tofu cubes in a 1/2 cup of cornstarch, making sure all sides are coated.

In a non-stick skillet (e.g., a cast iron skillet), heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Add the tofu cubes and saute, until all sides become golden brown, about 3 minutes. Remove the cubes from the skillet and set them aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a 10-12 inch skillet over medium heat. (I would not use a cast iron skillet, because the soy sauce may strip the seasoning). Add the onions, mushrooms, asparagus, garlic, and ginger, and saute until the onions and mushrooms become soft, about 3-5 minutes.

Add the tofu to the skillet. Next, add the broth and stir in the sugar and soy sauce. Gradually add the water-corn starch mixture (in 1 tablespoon increments) until the broth starts to thicken like a gravy. (You may or may not use all of the water-cornstarch mixture). Add salt, to taste, and serve.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Japanese Breaded "Chicken" (Seitan) Cutlets or Katsu

Ommigod, this was so freaking good and so easy to make! I served these breaded cutlets with the Japanese curry sauce I made from scratch last night (see post immediately below).

I used a 1 pound package (8 ounces drained) of chicken-style seitan from West Soy.

Japanese Breaded "Chicken" Cutlets or Katsu

1 package (8 ounces) of seitan
3 tablespoons flour
1 egg, beaten
1 cup panko bread flakes
Canola oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a skillet, add enough oil so that it comes up approximately 1/8 inch from the bottom, and heat the oil over medium-high heat.

Place the flour (with a pinch of salt and pepper), egg, and panko in 3 separate bowls. Take the pieces (or strips) of seitan. Dredge the seitan in the flour, then in the beaten egg, and finally in the panko flakes. Place in the skillet and cook until golden brown on all sides. Place on a baking sheet and cook in the oven (top rack) for an additional 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, cut into 1/2 strips, and serve.

Japanese Curry Sauce

I love Golden Curry (GC), and I use it all the time. My problem with GC, though, is that it contains monosodium glutamate, like many other packaged Asian food products. It also contains disodium guanylate and disodium inosinate, which are flavor enhancers. Disodium guanylate, I learned yesterday, is made from either dried fish or dried seaweed.

I have no idea what, in fact, the disodium guanylate used in GC is made from. But the addition of these flavor enhancers was reason enough for me to investigate curry roux alternatives that were healthier and, of course, animal-free.

How hard could it be to replicate GC? A roux is a mixture of butter (typically) and flour that is used as a thickening agent. The ingredients on the back of a box of GC list flour, salt, and curry powder, all items I already have in my pantry.

Actually, it was not hard at all!

Japanese Curry Sauce
Makes approximately 2-3 servings

2 cups vegetable broth

3 tablespoons butter melted
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon soy sauce
Shichimi togarashi (Japanese chili powder), to taste

Salt, to taste

In a skillet (not a pot), heat the vegetable broth over medium heat. In a small bowl, combine the flour and butter. Add a tablespoon of hot vegetable broth to the flour and butter and stir until a thick paste is formed.

Gradually (1 tablespoon at a time) add the flour-butter paste to the vegetable broth (simmering over low heat) until it starts to thicken like a gravy. (You may or may not use all of the paste.) Next, stir in the garam masala, turmeric powder, soy sauce, and a couple dashes of Japanese chili powder (or crushed red pepper flakes). Add salt, to taste.

Add cooked vegetables to the sauce (see note below) and serve over rice.

(Note: I used a pressure cooker to quickly cook some chopped carrots and potatoes. I also served the curry sauce over breaded chicken-style seitan cutlets or katsu, the recipe for which I've posted separately.)

My Baby is 2 Years Old Today!!!

Happy Birthday, April!!!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Colorful Vegetable Enchiladas

It's Freestyle Week at Just Vegging Out!

I didn't have time this weekend to research any recipes to try or to even make up a grocery list. Instead, I went to the grocery store on Sunday without a list and, while there, sort of figured out what I was going to cook for dinner this week.

I knew there was some leftover monterey jack cheese from when I made chiles rellenos con queso two weeks ago. I definitely wanted to use the remainder before it went bad.

For Sunday's meal, I decided to shred the monterey jack cheese to make vegetable enchiladas. I rolled colorful chopped veggies in corn tortillas, which I topped with the cheese and salsa, and baked in the oven.

I thought the end result was really good, especially the vegetable mixture, which had lots of flavor and was very filling. I would definitely make this dish again. The next time, though, I will probably try using flour, rather than corn, tortillas. I know that corn tortillas are more authentic. But I found them difficult to work with. They kept tearing as I was trying to fill them and roll them. It was kind of frustrating.

I will also make sure to use freshly made salsa, rather than the unfortunately tasting jarred salsa I ended up using. The jarred salsa was not by choice. The grocery store was out of both freshly made red and green salsas. The jarred salsa was a bit too sweet and had an odd jelly-like texture that practically screamed, "I am full of artificial preservatives!"

Aside from the salsa, I would deem this freestyle attempt a success. A good way to start the week off!

Colorful Vegetable Enchiladas
Serves approximately 4

1 small yellow squash, diced (1/2 inch)
1 small zucchini, diced (1/2 inch)
1 red bell pepper, chopped (1/2 inch)
orange bell pepper, chopped (1/2 inch)
1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 inch)
1 medium-sized potato, diced (1/2 inch)
1 cup button mushrooms, diced (1/2 inch)

1 cup frozen corn

1 tablespoon garlic
1 teaspoon cumin

1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce (minced), plus 2 tablespoons of adobo sauce

Salt and pepper, to taste

12 corn tortillas (at least), 6 inches in diameter

4 cups shredded monterey jack cheese

2 cups red or green salsa (freshly made preferred)

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Cilantro, freshly chopped, for garnishing

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and bring a small pot of water to boil. Add the diced potatoes to the boiling water and blanch for about 2 minutes. Drain potatoes in a colander, run cold water over them, and set them aside.

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, mushrooms, and garlic, and cook until the onions and mushrooms become soft, about 3 minutes.

Add the yellow squash, zucchini, bell peppers, and frozen corn to the skillet, and continue cooking, about 3 minutes. Add the potatoes to the skillet and stir in the cumin, chipotle pepper, and adobo sauce. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Remove the skillet from the heat and set it aside.

Add enough canola oil or vegetable oil in another skillet so that it comes up approximately 1/4 inch from the bottom. Heat the oil over medium-high heat. Place each tortilla in the skillet for about 5 seconds on each side. Remove and blot with paper towels.

Take a tortilla and add about 2 tablespoons (heapings) of vegetables to the center. Carefully roll the tortilla and place in a baking dish with the seam side down. (You will probably need 2 baking dishes, with each dish holding 6 enchiladas.) After 12 enchiladas have been assembled, spoon any remaining vegetable mixture along the sides of the baking dish(es).

Sprinkle shredded cheese on the top of the rolled tortillas and then pour the salsa over the shredded cheese. Cover with foil and bake for about 15 minutes, until the cheese has melted. Garnish with freshly chopped cilantro and serve.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Strawberry Shortcake

Strawberries and dessert shells were on sale. I couldn't resist!

Update (7:32 pm): I received an email this afternoon asking if I had used whipped cream on top of the dessert shells. The topping is actually the same creme fraiche mixture (creme fraiche, sugar, and vanilla extract) I had used for the grilled pineapple dessert I made last week. The strawberry sauce was simply mashed strawberries with a little bit of sugar added.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Just Vegging Out on a Sunday Evening . . . .

Watching my favorite non-Bob Dylan version of the song, "Times They Are A-Changin'." I recently downloaded Tracy Chapman's version from iTunes and find myself playing it over and over again.

I've seen Tracy Chapman twice in concert, the first time being in 2000 (at San Diego State University) and the second time being in 2003 (at Wolftrap Center for the Performing Arts in Vienna, Virginia). She's an extraordinary live performer. When I saw her, she was was backed by a kick-ass band that gave her performances a jam-session vibe and allowed her to literally rock out. This might sound surprising to those who have only seen her live performances from the '80s, during which time she was, I've been told, a more subdued performer.

Unfortunately for her U.S. fans, she's spending summer and fall 2009 touring throughout Europe. I don't believe any U.S. tour dates have been announced for this year.

FYI: her most recent album, Our Bright Future, released in late 2008, is very good, and I love the single "Sing for You." New Beginning, though, still remains my favorite Tracy Chapman album.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Weekly Recipe Round-Up for the Week Ending 4.3.2009

"Cherry Blossom" from paraflyer

It's Cherry Blossom Festival time in Washington, D.C, which essentially represents the start of our tourist season.

Grilled Pineapple with Creme Fraiche, posted on 3.30.2009
Vegan Thai Drunken Noodles, posted on 3.31.2009
Pasta with Broccoli, Edamame and Walnuts, posted on 4.2.2009
Lemony Apple, Blue Cheese, and Walnut Fruit Salad, posted on 4.3.2009

"Five Myths About Eating Vegetarian" via Meatless Mama

"stop eating animals" by striatic

Nice post over at Meatless Mama from Janet, who has been a vegetarian for more than 20 years.

Among the myths that Janet addresses in detail are that vegetarians don't get enough protein, calcium, or iron.

I agree with the claim in her post that most Americans already consume more protein than they need. I do, however, supplement my own daily protein intake with some kind of protein bar. I think that I'm generally more physically active - bike riding (at least 45 miles a week), tennis (1-2 times a week), weight lifting (3 times a week) - than the average American and, hence, require additional protein for muscle rebuilding and repairing.

Vitamin B12, referenced toward the end of her post, is responsible for making blood cells and maintaining a healthy nervous system.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Lemony Apple, Blue Cheese and Walnut Fruit Salad

Two nights ago, I made pasta with broccoli, edamame and walnuts. For a side dish (2 servings), I tossed cubes cut from 2 Gala apples, 1/3 cup of crumbled blue cheese, and 1/4 cup of walnut pieces, with freshly squeezed juice from half a large lemon and a small pinch each of salt and pepper. I assembled the whole dish approximately 10 minutes before serving.

So simple. So colorful. So good!

Amber and Monty Take All in PETA's Sexiest Vegetarians Contest

Image (untitled) by sunshinecity

On April 2, PETA named Amber and Monty as Sexiest Vegetarians Next Door for 2009.

The winners will each receive a free trip for 2 to Hawaii.

To future male contestants: take note from Monty's win and consider submitting photos of yourselves in casual everyday situations, as in posing in nothing but underwear or an athletic supporter in very public outdoor spaces.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

"The Dark Side of Vegetarianism" via Yahoo

"scary" by nalilo

I came across this article yesterday about new research showing that a vegetarian diet could be masking an underlying eating disorder for some people. The article further stated:
The study, in the April issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, found that twice as many teens and nearly double the number of young adults who had been vegetarians reported having used unhealthy means to control their weight, compared with those who had never been vegetarians. Those means included using diet pills, laxatives and diuretics and inducing vomiting to control weight.
The research did not conclude that a vegetarian diet caused any eating disorder; rather, it showed that a vegetarian diet tended to attract certain individuals, including adolescents, who were struggling to control their weight. These individuals were also more likely to turn to diet pills, laxatives, etc., to control their weight.

Despite its sensationalistic and somewhat misleading title, the article generally touted the benefits of a vegetarian diet.

Pasta with Broccoli, Edamame and Walnuts

This is a dish I make a lot on weekdays. It has tons of flavor, great texture, and a decent amount of protein (from the shelled edamame). It is also ridiculously simple to make. The recipe below was adapted from Simple Suppers by the Moosewood Collective.

Pasta with Broccoli, Edamame & Walnuts
Serves approximately 4

16 ounces rotini or other chunky pasta

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive

1 tablespoon garlic, minced

4 cups broccoli, cut into bite-sized pieces (from 2 large broccoli crowns)

1 cup frozen shelled edamame

1/4 cup fresh basil, julienned or chopped
1 cup chopped toasted walnuts

1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Parmesan cheese, shaved or grated (optional)

Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package.

While the pasta is cooking, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for about 15 seconds. Add the broccoli and 1/2 cup of the pasta water to the skillet. Turn the heat to high and continue cooking the broccoli for about 2 minutes. Add the edamame and basil and continue cooking until the water has all evaporated and the broccoli has turned bright green in color, another 2 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat.

Drain the pasta when it is done cooking. Add the pasta and walnuts to the skillet, along with a 1/4 cup of olive oil, and gently toss. Add salt and pepper to taste. If you wish, you can garnish the pasta with either shaved (looks more elegant) or grated parmesan cheese before serving.