Sunday, December 31, 2006

NYC images, part 1 + happy New Year!

A few quick photos from my trip to New York City. This trip was a chance for me to catch up with Dorota, one of my best friends. It is strange to think that I live so close to NYC, but only get to visit every other month or so. Anyway, this week of bonding did us good!

The night before I left, Daiku and I had a farewell dinner. I got the recipe for this Thai-style curry from a British magazine called "You Are What You Eat" (Dec. 2006 issue, p. 94). Funny name for a magazine, huh? I had never heard of it, but this recipe, and many of the articles in the magazine, were really intriguing.

Here is their recipe for "Butternut, peanut, pea, and spinach coconut curry with cashew salad" with my modifications:

2 TB vegetable oil
1 large onion, sliced
1.5 TB Thai green curry paste
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 handfuls skinless peanuts, chopped
1 lemongrass stalk
400 ml. unsweetened coconut milk
600 ml. hot water
2 green chillies, sliced (I used Hungarian red chillies instead of Thai bird chillies)
600 g. butternut squash, peeled and cut into large chunks
3 TB Thai fish sauce (I omitted)
2 large handfuls peas (I used frozen peas)
250 g. small leaf spinach (not being used to metric measurements, I didn't realize that 250 grams of spinach is a LOT! so I used less, because I didn't have much)

Cashew Salad:

handful of toasted cashews, chopped
2 spring onions, sliced
handful of coriander (cilantro), roughly chopped

  • In a large pot, heat vegetable oil and sauté onion until it just begins to caramelize. Add curry paste and garlic, fry for one minute, stirring often.
  • Add peanuts and fry another minute, stirring well to ensure mixture doesn't stick
  • Meanwhile, remove base and head layers of lemongrass and thinly slice until you get to the woody part- but reserve the woody part
  • Add coconut milk, hot water, chillies, lemongrass slices and the reserved stalk, and bring mixture to a boil. Add squash and fish sauce. Simmer until squash is cooked. Add peas and cook for another 3 minutes, taste and season. Stir in spinach and turn off heat.
  • To make salad, mix the ingredients together. Serve curry with a little salad on top.
This stuff was magnificent! The squash in Thai curry was a first for me, but it came out really well. Try this recipe!

We ate the curry with a side of baby bok choi, steamed, then sautéed and sprinkled with sesame seeds. We also had some baked tofu (I gave Crystal's recipe another try, this time with firm tofu, and it came out beautifully)

Enough for leftovers on the train the next day. (Including Thai take-out leftovers) I had the coolest lunch on that Amtrak, hands down!

A lychee cocktail at Spice Restaurant. We all commented that the lychee kind of looked like a fetus!!

Sorry for the blurry photo: dinner at Spice. My friends Nicole (who was visiting from California) and Dorota were kind enough to order veggie things, so I could try them: spring rolls, potstickers, and Japanese Eggplant salad. Spice is a cute restaurant, with plenty of vegan options (including mock duck!)

Union Square Farmer's market. I used to walk through here every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday on my way to work. Check out these Romanesco Cauliflowers!

Yours truly munching on a whole wheat sourdough baguette at the market. I basically ate my way through the city for the whole week. (Hello, free samples everywhere?!)

Speaking of samples, here is Dorota at the Max Brenner Chocolate by the Bald Man store. Not too many vegan options here, but it is a fascinating shop/restaurant to walk through- chocolate fountains, little plastic syringes for a "shot" of chocolate, chocolate truffles, pizza, ... They had samples of chocolate-covered pecans, the remains of which you see melting on Dorota's hands!

A crazy new Automat restaurant on St. Mark's place. There was only one vegan option (PB & J sandwich), but I was intrigued by the place: simultaneously old-school and futuristic. Fun to walk through.

These cups are among my favorite things that Dorota has ever brought back from Poland:

You'll be innocently drinking your Açai juice when you see something weird.

What is this?! You exclaim as you take a few more sips.

Ah! It was a froggy hiding in my cup! So cute.
I have one of these cups too, with a puppy instead of a frog.

The frog wishes you Happy New Year's Eve! I hope the upcoming year brings everyone peace, health, and love. Daiku and I have a tradition of staying home and cooking for New Year's Eve. I better go help cook.

So long, 2006. It's been real.


Saturday, December 30, 2006

I've been without the Internet for too long!

Hi everybody! I feel so disconnected, having been traveling and without regular Internet access for what seems like forever now... I'm posting this, sitting at a Holiday Inn Express somewhere outside of Cleveland, OH. I will be home by tonight, and hope to catch up to all of your blogs and start posting again soon. (I have SO many photos- how will I catch up??)

Thank you to everyone for visiting and commenting- it has been so fun to read your comments the few times I've managed to get on-line. I hope everyone had a great holiday season and is excited for New Year's Eve tomorrow night!

Above you see a picture of our cat, Bijou, driving with us in our car. At the last minute, we decided that because of her diabetes, it would be best to take her along with us. (Our other cat, Marble, has stayed home with visits from our lovely cat-sitter) Well as you can see, Bijou does not like driving in a car at all! However, overall, she has been a great driving partner, sitting on our laps or in her carrier, and once we get to our destinations, she has been calm, eating, drinking, and using her litter box like normal.

Bijou, Daiku, and I all can't wait to be back home. ;-)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


Hi everyone,

I want to give a shout-out to my friend Natalie, who has just opened a store on If you haven't been to this site yet, it's a very fun place where people buy and sell cute hand-made things. You can visit Natalie's shop at: and take a look at her hand-decorated boxes including the above cupcake one.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Food round-up... and snow!

This will probably be the last food round-up for a few weeks. I will be travelling for the holidays, and while I will try to blog, it might not be too frequently. So before I take off (next week, I'm off to New York City, then off to McLean, VA, then to St. Louis), I will share with you the last of the food pics that I have been trying to catch up on. Because of the sheer number of photos, I will keep the wordage to a minimum.

Gingerbread Men: recipe from Laura's blog. I took her advice to increase the spices, and these were so good!

A not-so-good recipe for basil pignoli dressing from the Natural Grocery Company:

I once had a thick, wonderful pine nut dressing at a restaurant that I have always wanted to recreate, but this wasn't quite it. It was so sharp and garlicky! (I left out the honey, that might have had something to do with it?)

We had it on this simple salad which went with an even more simple dinner...

Daiku and I consider ourselves to be serious foodies, so every once in a while, a meal like this comes along to humble us. Whole wheat spaghetti with (gasp!) store-bought marinara sauce and (ack!) frozen peas... c'mon, it's the end of the semester... nah, I don't even buy my own excuse!


Asian week kicked in.

First up, miso soup with tofu, wakame, dulse, scallions, turnip, carrots, and soba noodles. So satisfying.

We had never worked with yam noodles before... and the label instructions were all in Korean... but everything came out great.

To the cooked cooled noodles we added:

A broth made with carrots, turnips, Thai green curry paste and topped with cucumber, avocado, scallions, fresh basil and mint (thank you, container herbs, for surviving so long!), fried marinated tofu and garlic/chili paste (sambal). Spicy and fresh.

Zaru soba inspired by the Vegan Lunchbox. Ice cold soba tossed with flaked nori, dipping sauce made with mushroom broth (rehydrating dried shittakes in hot water), soy sauce, umeboshi vinegar, and hoisin sauce (this needs some work... we just invented it, and it had a surprising lack of flavor), with sides of edamame and carrot/daikon/cucumber salad dressed with rice vinegar.

Daiku and I were both really happy with the string of Asian-style noodle dishes we made, they were refreshing and light, yet comforting and satisfying. And healthy!

We decided to celebrate the end of the semester with a dinner out with our friends Heather and Eric at a new Thai place called AppeTHAIzing. (seriously) Their menu had tofu as an option for all their soups, curries, and noodles, so we were happy.

Tom Kha soup with coconut, galangal, ginger, lemongrass, and all kinds of goodies like mushrooms and tofu. Every time I taste a good version of this soup, I'm amazed at the sheer perfection of Thai cuisine. Damn.

I have been craving Pad Thai for too long, so I ordered it, without egg, with tofu. This was a great version, though Daiku and I both scratched our heads at the number of dishes here that used lemon instead of lime...

Daiku had Pad Prig Pow tofu, which involved red chili paste, veggies, and coconut milk. He asked for it extra extra spicy, and the restaurant delivered- incredibly spicy, but without detracting from the other flavors.

I'm glad to finally have a decent Thai restaurant within delivery distance of the house!! (Good thing we both like tofu though...)

From Asian to Middle-Eastern...

Our recent trip to Jerusalem, our favorite Egyptian grocery, yielded some fun new finds:

We haven't tried this yet, but smoked bulgur sounded exciting and worth a try. Will report on it as soon as we try it!

This tahini advertised itself as "super", so we laughed and decided to give it a try. Well, I like and use tahini often, but I'd never had it taste this incredible! It was full of an astoundingly fresh and strong sesame flavor. It really is super- if you see this brand, do yourself a favor and pick some up.

While we're at it, never buy tahini from health food stores, the difference between that and real Middle-Eastern style tahini is like night and day.

Ha ha- we *finally* found Beaujolais Nouveau. The first bottle of this stuff is always a cause for celebration. We drank this wine with:

Falafel! We always have dried falafel mix on hand, so we ate these with:

Fresh baked pita bread from Jerusalem (whole wheat as well as white), super tahini, sriracha instead of the more traditional harisa (which we ran out of), stuffed full of spinach, red onion, cucumber, olives, pickles, lemon juice and (finally) the last 5 yellow grape tomatoes from our summer garden. SO good!

And finally,

Thanks to Leslie's post, we just had to have the African-inspired Quinoa Peanut soup by Nava Atlas. We stuck pretty close to the recipe, but left out the zucchini, adding more green pepper, and followed Leslie's advice to add some chili and paprika. This soup was amazing- and very filling.

I will leave you with some of the snow that we got last week. Most of it is already gone, but it was a mess for a few days!

I'm off to New York City on Tuesday, and I'm really looking forward to it. Have a great week, everyone!


Thursday, December 07, 2006

tostones, baked tofu, salad

Here in Syracuse, plantains are ridiculously expensive. So when the local grocery store had them on sale for 50 cents, I grabbed one. I love plantains in any form, but I love the tostones I get when eating out at restaurants. I had never been able to recreate tostones at home, until I saw this recipe on Alton Brown's show, Good Eats. The only change we made was cutting the recipe in half and using a little bit of oil instead of deep-frying like he called for.

Here is a step-by-step guide for yummy tostones:

Cut into 1-inch pieces and fry 1.5 minutes on each side

Remove from oil and flatten

Soak in a mixture of water, salt, and garlic for ~1 minute

Fry again, for 1-2 minutes on each side, remove from heat, season with salt. YUM!

We had these as sides with some quinoa and Puerto Rican style black beans. They were really good! (Now, I've learned from Johanna's blog that these beans weren't too authentic, because we didn't use sofrito, but they were pretty good: onions, bell pepper, hot sauce, and a bunch of spices. Johanna, I promise that one day I will find culantro and make sofrito!)

I was really intrigued by Crystal's baked tofu recipe, so I decided to make some one day. All I had was Mori-nu silken tofu (the kind in an asceptic box), but Crystal had mentioned that she had made hers with silken tofu, so I went ahead and used it. After I kept squishing the tofu, I realized that SOFT silken tofu was probably a very bad idea for this recipe- lol! But guess what? It came out deliciously anyway. For my marinade, I used: tamari, rice vinegar, chili oil, sriracha, fresh ginger, fresh garlic, and a tiny bit of maple syrup.

The tofu looks mangled, but tasted excellent and had a really good texture. We ate it with wild rice and some broccoli and green beans that we stir-fried with the leftover tofu marinade. I will be making this recipe again.

Finally, here is another one of our famous everything-but-the-kitchen-sink salads:

A mixture of garbanzo beans, fava beans, grated carrots, radishes, bell pepper, onion, currants, shredded carrot, fresh parsley, dried mint, sunflower seeds, flax oil, and red wine vinegar. Usually, I make the crazy salads, but on this night, Daiku surprised me with this, and it really hit the spot! (If I'd made it, it would have probably also had a chopped-up apple in there...)

Sorry for bombarding you guys with food posts, but as you can see, I've had a lot to catch up on... and I'm not done!


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Calzones, Stew, Juice

Talk about comfort food! In the week before Thanksgiving, Daiku and I did some batch cooking, knowing that it would be good to take it easy since we planned on making quite a bit of food for the holiday itself.

First up, calzones. May I say how exciting it was to make these from scratch, because I often crave calzones, and to be able to have whole wheat ones with healthy vegan fillings made them even more satisfying.

For the dough, I used the whole wheat calzone dough from The Vegan Chef website. We made two different fillings:
  • marinara sauce with Gimme lean sausage
(for the sauce, we sauteed onions and garlic, crushed tomatoes, fennel seeds, oregano, basil, and balsamic vinegar and let it reduce a bit to thicken)
  • vegan ricotta and broccoli
(we just kind of invented a vegan ricotta recipe that came out really well: crush some extra firm tofu with the juice of one lemon, 1-2 TB miso to taste, and a bunch of powdered garlic and dried basil)

A weird photo of the calzones coming out of the oven. Mine were little and stout, while Daiku's were long, we don't know how that happened- we used the same-size dough!

Here is a cut-out view of the broccoli/ricotta calzones, with the extra marinara sauce for dipping. They were so good! I haven't found too many vegan cheeses that satisfied me, but this ricotta played its role in these calzones PERFECTLY. Daiku and I even mused that we could serve these to our dairy-loving families and they wouldn't even realize they were eating tofu.

Another big batch comfort food we made was the corn, bean, and pumpkin stew from Fatfree Vegan. This was how Timmy the pumpkin went to pumpkin heaven. (Click here to see a photo of Timmy.) This stew had a really unique flavor, because of all the assertive spices called for. Daiku loved it, and I did too, although it was a bit too smoky for me. I added some lemon juice or vinegar to the leftovers to balance that out a bit. Really comforting food!

Last week, Daiku came down with a weird cold-type thing. He was freezing even when it was really warm in the house and he was wearing a bunch of layers. I figured what better elixir to kick a cold than some fresh organic carrot and ginger juice?

I juiced him this giant glass, using 7 big carrots and a 1-inch piece of ginger. It was pretty good!

Now, a word about our juicer. After hearing me mention wanting it for a long time, my mother was nice enough to buy me a Jack LaLanne power juicer. I already had a juicer, but the infomercial made this one sound out of this world. According to them, you could drop whole fruits in the spout, and the juicer is so powerful that you would hardly get any pulp waste. This sounded good to me, because the amount of pulp that has to be thrown away after juicing always gave me a complex.

So I finally had a power juicer, I was so excited! But guess what? This juicer pretty much sucks. You can drop a whole apple in the spout, if it's an unusually small apple! And the pulp? Just as much as my old cheapo juicer! If you want a really powerful juicer, go for a professional model. If you don't want to spend that much, you can get just as good quality as the power juicer in a much less expensive model. What I'm trying to say is, they say it's commercial quality but it really isn't. Buyer beware.

However, I have come to terms with this juicer. One tip I learned from an online reviewer is to use a large ziplock back to catch the pulp. This way, I have the carrot pulp sitting in the freezer, ready to go into a spaghetti sauce, carrot cake, bread, or muffin. No more waste (and lost fiber!)


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

We've gone Soyatoo Crazy! and Bulbs...

So I've heard about this fabulous new product called "Soyatoo" for about a year now, and I've been dying to try it. I mean, vegan, healthy whipped cream in a can? How could I not? Except that... it costs $5.99 or more. But recently, Soyatoo has been on sale at our Co-op for "only" $3.29, so Daiku and I snapped up a can.

Our first try was to have it on top of Purely Decadent Raspberry À la Mode ice cream with some sprinkles.

First reaction? I must admit, we were both a little disappointed. It tasted so... soy-like. Its blandness contrasted badly with the sweetness of the ice cream. (I think Raspberry À la Mode is my new favorite Purely Decadent Flavor! I'm usually a sucker for anything chocolate, but this stuff was good, with thick swirls of raspberry and chewy brownies... mmmm).

Our second try was somewhat better... a banana split sundae with bananas, frozen blueberries, ice cream and Soyatoo sprinkled with cocoa powder. Much better combination of flavors.

But it was with THIS:

that we had a revelation! Mexican hot chocolate made with cocoa, cinammon, and chilli powder, topped with Soyatoo and more cocoa. Guess what? Soyatoo is SO much better on hot things than on cold. As it melts, its flavor mellows and becomes sweet and creamy, just what you'd want on top of hot chocolate or chai or nog or...

* * *

On the day after Thanksgiving, Daiku and I knew that we could no longer put off preparing our lawn and yard for winter. So we did some raking, put some things away, and funnest of all, planted our bulbs.

I love planting these bulbs at the beginning of winter, and having them surprise us with beautiful blooms at the beginning of spring. Believe me, after a long Syracuse winter, some simple flowers are all it takes to lift your mood!

What did we plant?

Daffodils, muscari, and scilla. We also have some tulips and hyacinths from last year that we hope will come back.

And it seems like winter is finally here. After being amazed with the lack of cold weather and snow for so long, I can now report that it's freezing and snowy in Syracuse!


Sunday, December 03, 2006

Plowshares Craftsfair and that'll be $14.95, please

This weekend, we had the annual Plowshares Craftsfair & Winter Peace Festival here in Syracuse. It was hosted by the Syracuse Peace Council, and it was so fun to check out the handmade crafts, artworks, food, and good cheer on display.

Daiku and I volunteered at the "Military Alternatives Education Project" table. This group's goal is to educate young people (and their parents and teachers) about how the military markets, cajoles, bribes, and lies to get them to enlist. (I won't mince words about that!) There was information about alternatives to the military for college funding, travel, and volunteer and community activities.

One cute thing we handed out was these toy soldiers with the message "bring me home" attached to them, hoping people would take them and leave them in random opportune places.

Here are some other images we captured at the Plowshares:

cool vintage posters

gorgeous hand-made ornaments

tons of people

stained glass!

t-shirt that says "land of the free (restrictions apply. void where prohibited)"

beautiful sculpted fruits and vegetables

we did not buy much (we are trying to cut down on the number of objects we bring into the house) but when we saw this hand-carved game and talked to the man who made it, we had to have it. do you guys know this game? the object is to eliminate pegs and end up with as few as possible. it's addictive!

* * *
Later in the evening, Daiku and I were really tired and wanted to go out for dinner. However, at the last minute, we decided to stay home and cook instead. We stopped at the Asian Grocery Store (Pan Asian on Erie Blvd.) for some fresh Chinese greens and a few other items.

We found this gadget, which makes strips out of hard fruits and vegetables. (Did Diann blog about these things a few weeks ago? She was right, these are the coolest little tools!)

This little $1.99 implement inspired us to go a bit "gourmet" in plating our dinner of wild rice, roasted sweet potatoes, Chinese greens, and black-eyed peas. We garnished with the carrot strips and dots of Sriracha chili sauce.

And voilà, a meal that was frankly more satisfying than any restaurant meal, healthier and cheaper. That'll be $14.95, please!

I have a lot of food blogging to catch up on, so I hope to post frequently this week and get caught up. Have a great week, everyone!