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Pairings

Growing up in a wine family definitely has it’s perks.  Sure, you may occasionally get dubbed the “wine snob” of the group when you’re eating out, but you also have the good fortune of trying some bomb a$$ wines.  Also, when you ask your dad to share his knowledge on pairings with your readers, he is able to help you out.

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Meet my dad.

He has graciously agreed to give some basic pointers in pairings (with a focus on vegetarian meals), so without further ado…

Wine suggestions for a vegan meal

Like many people, especially Californians, I consider myself knowledgeable about wine.  Unlike many people, especially Californians, I do not consider myself a wine expert.  I know enough about wine to know there is WAY more that I don’t know.  But I continue the journey of educating myself about everything from root stock choices when planting a vineyard to equipment cleaning methods when crushing grapes to learning about new wine regions and varietals around the world.  The wine journey is an endless and enjoyable one.  Adding to that fun, I have enjoyed refocusing on my diet these past few years with Elise’s interest in vegan eating.  The vegetarian, local and organic food “movement” is perfectly poised to make a huge impact on the health of our citizens.  I hope we can pull it off, because there are way too many obese and otherwise unhealthy Americans.  (Stepping off soapbox) …  Getting back to my wine journey, our new diet with more frequent vegetarian meals prepared by my wife Melinda has posed some new learning opportunities about which wines to drink with the likes of curry vegetables on brown rice or butternut squash soup.

Wine pairings with food traditionally have focused on meat.  However, as vegetarian food options slowly are becoming more mainstream, restaurateurs, sommeliers and wine enthusiasts have started to pay some attention to how their wines match with vegetarian/vegan dishes.  The basic rules of wine-food pairing still apply to vegetarian meals, but many cooks have only an experiential knowledge of – for example – why cabernet sauvignon goes well with beef, rather than an understanding of why they taste good together.  Before delving into the science and art of wine-food pairing, it is worth pausing at the outset to make a basic but important and sometimes ignored point about gustatory and olfactory perception:  if something tastes or smells good to you, no one can tell you that it does not taste or smell good.  This is especially true of wine, and it applies to which wines taste good with which foods.  A wine expert’s superior ability to identify qualities and flaws in wines should not discourage a novice to feel comfortable with his/her taste.  Similarly, if you like pinot grigio and steak together, that is perfectly OK (kinda weird, but OK).

It is useful to understand something about the chemical nature and components of legumes, soy, grains, vegetables, etc. in order to find wines that go well with them.  Just as animal fats and proteins affect the choices of wines, the protein content, acidity, sweetness, “heaviness”, richness, etc. of other (non-meat) foods will affect which wines will complement them best.  But this level of analysis is beyond the scope of an introductory discussion of wine pairing, and will wait for a future post.  I also will ignore for now the question “is wine vegetarian?” because it usually is not possible to know if fining (clarifying) agents used in a wine are earth-based or animal-based (TMI, really).

My comments are not meant to be rules, just guidelines.  When you are experimenting with matching wines to vegetarian dishes, don’t worry if you fail at times. There are many variables in how foods are prepared and how the same wine varietal is structured.  Listed below are a few starting points to help match a wine with some vegetarian dishes, but exploration can be fun and there will be exceptions to these ideas.  Generally speaking, white wine drinkers will have an easier time matching food (when in doubt, serve sauvignon blanc).  However, there are many heavier and richer vegetarian dishes that will go quite nicely with certain red wines.

As a starter, you will do well by sticking to these suggestions:

Pair “delicate with delicate”, “robust with robust”.  A subtle wine will taste weak with a spicy dish whereas bold flavored foods match well with bigger wines.

Vegetables: really robust reds (like syrah and cabernet sauvignon), which are best with heavy meat dishes, can overwhelm vegetable dishes.  Try a sauvignon blanc or chardonnay for a white or pinot noir or Chianti for a red.  Meals without proteins may taste bitter with most red wines.

Pastas, pizzas and casseroles are stout enough for medium body reds such as merlot, zinfandel or sangiovese (Chianti).  Tomatoes especially go well with sangiovese, malbec and tempranillo.

Greens: the softer red wines (pinot noir, merlot) do well with greens.  Salads go well with dry white wines such as pinot grigio (pinot gris), sauvignon blanc, dry chenin blanc.

Tofu: will assume the flavor of what it is cooked with; try sauvignon blanc or Riesling.

Chardonnay stands up nicely to rich sauces.

Roasted vegetables go well with Riesling or tempranillo.

Spicy foods (Thai, Indian) pair nicely with Riesling.

This basic introduction is meant as just that – an introduction.  In a later guest post, I will explore some specifics, possibly including a vegan recipe with a good wine buddy.  Until then, if you are a vegetarian who enjoys wine, you will get plenty of mileage simply by buying some sauvignon blanc and pinot noir.

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Pictured is a vegetarian soup made by Elise’s mom Melinda from ingredients I purchased at Kaiser Oakland’s weekly farmers market (plus tofu), olive bread from Grace Bakery (with Moroccan black olives), and a 1992 Rafanelli Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel (which works in this case because this 19 year old zin has mellowed nicely with age).

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Thanks for sharing your knowledge dad!  You are far too modest.  This guide is a great resource.  I’m typically a red wine person (the bolder the better), so I look forward to testing out more sauvignon blancs.

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Happy holidays everyone!

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It’s Christmas up in here 🙂

I’m working on the 25th, so Santa was nice and obliging and came early this year (this post is from the 21st).

To celebrate as a family, we all went to dinner in the city.

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In spite of the gross weather, we headed into San Francisco early to browse the Ferry Building, check out the tree (in Union Square) and grab some drinks at the famous Harry Denton’s Starlight Room

Views of the Ferry Building…

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Making our way to Union Square…

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SF love

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After soaking up the holiday spirit, we walked around the block to the Sir Francis Drake, home of Harry Denton’s Starlight Room

It’s on the 21st floor and offers the most breathtaking views of the city.

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Amazing, right?  Look at how itty bitty the people ice skating in Union Square look!  And the tree!  It was such a clear day, too, so you could see all the way to the Bay. 

Here’s the most ridiculous part about getting to the bar: it doesn’t open until 6 pm.  Unfortunately, we arrived at 5:50…also unfortunate was the fact that we didn’t learn this until the elevator stopped at the 20th floor and then started going back down to the lobby.  Rather than return to the first floor, we decided to get off at the 15th floor and then take the stairs the rest of the way…

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Six flights later, we arrived to a locked back door.  Ugh.  Luckily someone heard us knocking and we were let in…early…

So although it required a bit of cardio, we did manage to arrive before any other guests.  Early bird catches the worm best views.

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Anyway, we soon got to ordering drinks. 🙂

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I got the Forbidden Apple with champagne, Lairds apple brandy, and Grand Marnier.  It tasted like champagne with booze.  Not very apple-y at all.  Kyle and my mom got the Poire Fizz, my dad got Harry’s Martini, and my other sis got the Cable Car

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Cheers!

Appetizers followed, starting with a hummus platter.

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It was the thickest hummus ever, and required utensils just to scoop it out of the bowl.  Definitely packed in.  The pita was really good, but I only had a little bit because I was saving my appetite for dinner. 

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We also got flat bread with goat cheese, balsamic glazed pears, and arugula.

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And crab cakes with Israeli couscous.

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All together.  🙂

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Then we exchanged presents (since Laura and I have minimal overlapping in our work schedules).

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Only hippie families reuse such awful boxes (the 90’s were so gross). 

Then we took some family photos. 

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No worries Tyra, we taught mom and dad the elbow pop. 

Three sisters…

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Or the three stooges?

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Stooges.  Definitely stooges.

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After we were done taking pics removed from the premises, we made our way to dinner.

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But not without attempting some group shots in the elevator (more than I care to share…).

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Klassy with a k. 

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Maybe those cocktails were stronger than we thought…??  Yikes.

A few blocks later, we arrived at our dinner destination.

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Millennium is a foodie’s dream.  It’s one of the most amazing restaurants in San Francisco – a truly gourmet dining experience. 

From their website: Millennium Restaurant is dedicated to supporting the essential earthly concepts of organic food production, small farms, sustainable agriculture, recycling and composting. We cook with fresh produce delivered every day, and choose organic whenever possible. We believe that a gourmet dining experience can be created out of vegetarian, healthy, and environmentally friendly foods. We are proud to state that our restaurant is completely free of genetically modified foods.

I first learned about Millennium when I was doing research for potential wedding cakes.  Their bakery is pretty famous (especially in the vegan wedding cake world), but in the end we chose to get a non-vegan wedding cake (and I got my own separate cupcake).

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But back to dinner.

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We started with a Vouvray which we all loved.  The sweetness went perfectly with the spicy flavors of our food.  Speaking of the food…

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I started off with the Sea Vegetable & Avocado Salad.

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Watermelon radish, sea vegetable, noodles, kale, shredded root vegetables, sweet ginger-umeboshi dressing, Korean chile spiced macadamia nuts, wasabi oil.  Deeeelicious.  I can’t even choose the best part of this salad because the whole thing was perfection.  The different flavors were so well balanced, I loved.  Loved!

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My sister got the soup of the day, which was butternut squash with celery root.  She seemed to savor it’s cream-less-ness immensely, although she did spruce up the decoration a bit before digging in.

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Yes, she had to take a picture of her contribution. 

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My mom and dad split the Wilted Bloomsdale Spinach Salad with pears caramelized with thyme & vanilla, smoked tofu, red onion, toasted hazelnuts, and a creamy pear & Witte beer dressing. The photo doesn’t really do it justice.

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Kyle ordered the Winter Greens Salad which featured Satsuma mandarin, rosemary smoked pecans, with a cranberry shallot vinaigrette

We also ordered an appetizer for the table to share, since it looked too good to pass on. 

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Ladies and gents, the Black Bean Torte.  It’s the item that they never take off the menu, with whole wheat tortilla, caramelized plantain, smoky black bean puree, pumpkin-habanero papazul, cashew “sour cream”, and pomegranate salad. 

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Sadly, this picture doesn’t even begin to show off how delectable it was.  It was almost sweet enough to be a dessert, but not really.  The combination of banana and black beans was surprisingly tasty, and all in all it was just a really good dish. 

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Obviously I dug into the bread, too (with the chickpea and sage dip).  Mmmm.

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Before dinner came, we moved onto a second bottle of wine.  Sadly, none of us liked this one as much.  😦

For dinner I went with the waiter’s recommendation and chose the Seared Sweet Potato Griddle Cake.

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Honestly, I wanted to try every single thing on the menu.  It all looked incredible! 

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South Indian black lentil sambar, seared cauliflower & winter greens, coconut, cilantro & lime chutney, and sweet onion pakora. 

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My sister got the same thing, and we were both pretty convinced we chose the best thing on the menu.  It was really really good.  The griddle cake was crispy on the outside, even with all the goodies piled on top.  The black lentils surrounding the cake had a kind of chili flavoring and I couldn’t help but scarf them all first.  0% leftovers. 

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Kyle and my dad both chose the Blue Corn Tamale with smoked poblano chile & butternut squash filling, sautéed fall greens, black bean mole, paper lantern chile-pumpkin emulsion, and apple-cilantro salsa.  Kyle said it was hearty, not too spicy, and generally a great dish. 

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Side note: he was done before I was even half way through mine. 

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Marie ordered the Arborio Crusted Tempeh (which was my runner up order).

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It had Moroccan spiced Israeli couscous with roasted root vegetables, broccoli rapini & dried apricots, cinnamon spiced pecan-pomegranate sauce, and sesame pickled cucumber.

My mom got the most massive and beastly order of all (seriously the plate was piled sky high), which was the Maple Roasted Winter Squash.  This was another runner up dinner choice. 

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How amazing does this look?  It had hazelnut-farro risotto with chanterelle mushrooms, baby artichokes & gigante beans, Formanova beet & red wine reduction, braised fennel & treviso salad.  She had mucho leftovers.  Clearly. 

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Kyle and my dad were the only ones with enough room for dessert.  Kyle said this Chocolate Ganache Cake with Peppermint ice cream was the best vegan dessert he’s ever had. 

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Ya think?

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My dad on the other hand went with the sorbet trio.  Not sure what the flavors were, but he finished it off with ease.

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I love spending the holidays with my family, so even though I won’t be home for Christmas Day, it was nice to get to spend a beautiful evening with those I love.

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And good food.  Millennium is very much on my top ten list.  We were all very very satisfied with our food. 

Going out to dinner on Christmas is definitely not a tradition in our family, we are very much a cook all day, eat all day, and lounge-around-with-stuffed-bellies family.  But this was a nice alternative, especially since we are all workig different schedules around the 25th.  Have you changed your holiday traditions now that you’re an adult?  I’m glad to be back in California because now, even though I’m still working the main holidays, at least my commute home is simpler than a cross country flight. 

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Shout out to anyone who recognizes this title (and picture).  Too bad VHS tape players are basically extinct because this is a classic as far as I’m concerned. 

And now, may I present to you, our island of misfit toys…

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Sad, but true, these do not get used often enough.  I have no excuse.  It’s something I’m pretty ashamed to admit actually.  So I hereby vow to use both the slow cooker and the juicer once a week.  Do we have a deal?  Good. 

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The inspiration for this crock-pot soup came from here.  All I did was google “vegan slow cooker recipes” and of all the resources that came up, Savvy Vegetarian has a huge index of recipes that all looked mighty fine.

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I soaked the lentils in water overnight. 

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With a sprig of rosemary and a bay leaf.

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The next day the lentils looked like this.

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All fat and happy after a night of soaking. 

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I then got to work with the rest of the ingredients.

Crock-pot Veggie Lentil Soup

Spices (in no order and unmeasured): rosemary, thyme, bay leaf, cayenne peppers, ginger, garlic gold, ginger, paprika, cumin, TJ’s 21 season salute, parsley (the rosemary and thyme were fresh from my “garden” but the rest were dried spices)

Veggies: carrots, butternut squash, fingerling potatoes, celery, diced tomatoes (with liquid)

Other: whole wheat elbow macaroni, vegetable broth

*I measured nothing and just made sure to add enough liquid so that all the ingredients were submerged.

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For the original recipe, you can click on the link above (from Savvy Vegetarian), but I made numerous changes and I’ll tell you why in a sec.

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But first, let me show you a new item that I’m kinda in love with.  These adorable organic fingerling potatoes were from Purity Organic (a farm in SF) and I bought them in WF.  I had no idea there were different varieties of fingerling potatoes, but there are, and so I chose the ones with the funniest name – Russian Banana.  Maturity of a 10 year old.  That’s me.  

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The recipe said to add various ingredients at different points throughout the cooking process.  It also said to pre-cook the barley.  My response?  No and no.  I’m sorry but isn’t the advantage of the crock-pot it’s simplicity?  I thought the whole idea behind it was you throw everything in, turn it on, forget about it, and hours later you have a delicious home cooked meal with minimal effort. 

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Given my rebellious ‘tude, I made a few alterations to keep the recipe on the simple side (as in fewer than two steps).  Instead of using barley, which required pre-cooking, I used whole wheat macaroni noodles.  And instead of adding the ingredients at the suggested hour marks, I ignored those directions, dumped everything in at once, and hoped for the best.

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I also set it on high for 5 hours instead of low for 8 hours.  I’m such a risk taker.

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Here’s what I learned about slow cookers:

1. They are idiot proof (throwing everything in at once made a FANTASTIC meal, so if you are worried about the timing of adding different things, don’t be).  Eff the instructions and add everything in at once.  I promise it will be (better than) ok. 

2. Veg recipes don’t require as much cooking time because the worst outcome would be al dente veggies (which is fairly impossible after 5 hours of sauna time).

3. You don’t need to pre-cook grains (the macaroni noodles – which were added uncooked – were mush in the end product).  This leads me to believe that barley could have been added uncooked and turned out perfect.

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This is 4 hours into cooking.  The apartment was smelling like heaven at this point which made my rained-in workout as cruel as ever.  Imagine Jillian Michaels screaming fat burning techniques when all you want to do is follow your nose to the island of misfit toys. 

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I am pretty sure you’re not supposed to open the slow cooker in the earlier phases of cooking, but I could tell it was mostly done, so I took the lid off to attempt a photography sesh and give it a stir.

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Once the five hours were up, I turned it off, took a million photos, and divvyed it up in tupperware. 

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It doesn’t look like much, but trust me, it was SOOO good. 

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If I had known how incredibly simple the crock pot would be, I would have gotten on board way sooner.  The best thing was I left for work with my portion (night shift) and Kyle still had a warm home cooked meal waiting for him whenever he was ready for dinner. 

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Look how much!

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Scrape, scrape, scrape.  Bu-bye.

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Like I said, it was a night shift night, so I packed up my eats for a (second) dinner at the hospital. 

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It looks brown and blah, but don’t let the aesthetics turn you off.  Kyle texted me at work saying how good it was, and how full he felt after downing it.  And I have to agree. 

I had the soup at 11 pm and didn’t eat ANY of the rest of the things I packed.  SO. HEARTY.

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I am so excited to give the Iced Gingerbread Clif bar a try, though, so it will definitely be gone in a few minutes.  I’m a sucker for the seasonal flavors and I remember reallllly liking this one last year.  If you’ve never warmed Clif bars in the microwave for a few seconds before consuming, I highly recommend. 

I’m off to get some shut eye before tonight’s night shift.  Who else has a slow cooker/crock pot?  Love it?  Or have you managed to lose it on the Island of Misfit Toys?  Tips?  Recipe ideas?

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Sunday’s commute back down the I-5 was, well, whatever.  It’s done, so there’s not much to say about it.  I had packed many food options for the road since I was convinced it was going to take us 8 hours.  In the end, we arrived by 2 pm.

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I’m pretty sure I was meant to be a Brit because in my book, 2 pm is – without fail – afternoon tea time (not to be confused with high tea, which in fact is dinner-time tea).  In any event, I had an almond milky Tazo chai tea with a pair of hippie-roons

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Prince William clearly has no idea what he’s missing out on 😉

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I only have two hippie-roons left.  One for me, one for the future King of England.  [Read: two for me]

I pretty much did nothingness for the rest of the afternoon because my head was still throbbing, but by 4 pm, I managed to get my butt off the couch for a 20 minute jog in the chilly fall air. 

As I prepped dinner I snacked.

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Sugary fingers?  Whatever could this mean?  

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Yup.  Candied ginger.  Obsessed. 

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40 minutes on 375 allowed time for salad making.

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Salad: Spinach, carrots, bell peppers

Dressing: Artisana raw organic cashini butter, Bragg’s liquid aminos, agave

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This is such a unique and flavorful nut butter blend.  It tastes like it should be sinful, but it’s raw, 100% organic, and full of fantastically nutritious and pure ingredients.  I am savoring each and every lick because it’s that good. 

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Finally my sweet potato fries were done.

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And dinner was served. 

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Dessert almost escaped the camera.  Remember these treats?  I still have a few vegan cranberry coconut fudge cups left.  IMG_4720

My sweet tooth wasn’t satisfied so I had another dessert.  Dried cranberries, almonds, and carob chips.  Salty and sweet – check and check. 

In other words: OMGsoDeliciousThankyouVerymuch.

I tried to stay up a little later on Sunday and sleep in a little extra on Monday because I’m gearing my body up for a night shift on Tuesday.  Synching my schedule is harder than I thought, though. 

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It didn’t work very well as I was up and attacking the coffee maker by 8 am.  I fancied my java up with some cocoa-infused froth.  Fabulous.

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Apple and oats?  Nope.  Look closer.

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Quinoa with peanut butter.  No more.  No less.

Kinda held me over longer than usual.  It was 2 pm before my stomach requested more comida.  At which point I obliged with a twist on breakfast’s meal.

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First, I chopped up both a D’ Anjou pear and a Golden Delicious apple.  Next, I heaped on 1 cup of quinoa.  Finally I drizzled peanut butter on top. 

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Yeah boi.

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Afternoon fizzies were all I needed to get me geared up for a jug on the beach.

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30 minutes got me to Ocean Ave with two trips up and down “the stairs” and back home again.  Schweaty.  

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After showering, I holed up in the kitchen, prepping food for the next week.  I was baking, roasting, and cooking up a storm.  Only pausing for sips of tea and hand washing. 

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Recipes are coming your way…

Given how much time I spent with my head in the oven, you’d think I would’ve at least made something for dinner.  But no.

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Amy’s to the rescue.

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I chopped up some carrots to add in the organic vegan chili because I don’t really like have such veg-less meals. 

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Sim-sim-simmah.

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Chili will never be photogenic.  Plain and simple, it’s deliciousness is the reason I crave it, because visually it’s not remotely appetizing. 

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Cornbread on the other hand, is both tasty AND purty.

After seeing a few posts featuring cornbread and chili around in the blog-world, I had them both on my mind all day. 

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So dinner was a no brainer.

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Don’t let this photo deceive you.  I had 12 cornbread muffins in total, plus a second bowl of chili. 

One can has two servings.  So ridiculous.  If I ever have half a can of soup, somebody slap me. 

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This dinner produced a mega fiber baby.

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I still wanted dessert though.  After just a few hours my metabolism was ready for more…hello sweet and salty…cashews, carob chips, and dried cranberries.

Alrighty.  Time to get some caffeine in my system.  I definitely need it if I’m going to try and synch my sleep schedule for Tuesday’s night shift.  Wish me luck! 

If anyone else has done night shifts before, feel free to chime in with some tips.  I’m starting a 3 day stretch of them…

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Sunny November

The weatherman doesn’t know it’s November, but I’m certainly not going to be the one to break the news…

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I went to the beach this weekend – take that New York. 

So after coffee x3, I had a pear & dried cranberry breakfast with my agave nectar & cinnamon on top. 

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Not too complex of a dressing, but pretty good if I do say so myself.  I had an apple too.  Honeycrisps are all the rage right now, but Galas are still my favorite.

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For lunch I used more quinoa and leftover BBQ tofu to create this dish.

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Since others have been asking, here’s the recipe for the BBQ tofu.  And by recipe, I mean 4 minute/4 step process.

  1. Press tofu (extra firm)
  2. Coat in whole wheat flour (really cake it on)
  3. Dip in BBQ sauce* (again, don’t be shy with the amount)
  4. Bake on sprayed cooking sheet for 35-45 minutes at 375 degrees.

*Annie’s Original BBQ sauce is my sauce of choice, but runner up is Annie’s Smokey Maple flavor.  So good!

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And there you have it. 

Now back to lunch.

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To start I piled the BBQ ‘fu on a bed of quinoa.

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Then I added raisins and tossed the whole thing so BBQ sauce coated each and every bite.  

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This took me nearly 30 minutes to eat.  It was delicious and I savored every morsel. 

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Having the sweetness of the raisins to bring out the sweet tones in the BBQ sauce was perfect.   

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Worth repeating. 

After lunch I went for a 30 minute run on the beach.  The weather was gorgeous and I could have kept going forever just to stay in the sun.

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Throughout the afternoon and early evening I snacked on my newest obsession, candied ginger.

For dinner Kyle and I had a date night planned. 

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Dinner and a movie – such a classic combo can’t be beat. 

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Interim Cafe is a hole-in-the-wall kind of place on Wilshire & 5th. 

Nearly half the menu is vegan and there are tons of gluten free and dairy free eats as well.  However, the rest of the menu is just your typical cafe fare – salads, sammies, soups, and the likes. 

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Did I mention they have quite the baked goods selection?

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The ambiance has a funky kind of feel, with a mix of retro rocker (check out that shiny red bikelite espresso machine), hippie zen (there was a mural of a black Buddha meditating with vegan fro-yo in his hand), and a bizarre Los Angeles chicness to boot.  And yet, all the while there was Spanish music playing in the background, competing with Anderson Cooper 360 on the tv.  Oh, and did I mention how diverse the menu is? 

It took us both a really long time to decide what to get because there were soooo many options.  I wanted about 20 different items on the menu and Kyle wanted a different 20. 

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He ended up ordering the chicken burger with gruyere cheese and a fried egg.

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He literally couldn’t stop raving about it.  It was gone in about 30 seconds too. 

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I finally decided to go with the most famous of all the vegan options (I figure there’s a reason places are known for certain dishes). 

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This was the vegan Seitan Bombay Bowl, a savory Indian stew of seitan, mushrooms, peas, carrots, spinach, squash and a bazillion tasty spices.  The dish is typically served over your choice of vegan whippers or organic brown basmati rice – but I couldn’t decide between the two and requested both.  Yes, BOTH.  What are vegan whippers you ask?  They are a vegan version of cheesy mashed potatoes (with no dairy obviously). 

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Can you taste the flavors through the computer screen?  Because this was maybe one of the most complex dishes I’ve ever had, with taste layered on taste layered on more taste. 

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The seitan stew came with whole wheat chapati on the side, which was new to me.  It was like a perfectly crisped wheat tortilla with a much heartier grainy texture.  The inside was warm and the outside was flaky with golden browned char from the oven. 

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I inhaled it all folded up – sometimes dipping it in the stew to soak up the juice, but mostly I just ate it plain like a quesadilla.  The inside had some melty non-dairy butter substitute in it, so it was delicious all on it’s own. 

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Given the generous portion with rice and mashed potatoes and whole wheat chapati, I never thought I’d finish it all. 

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Of course that was not the case. 

The mashed potatoes and rice in the stew may seem odd, and I admit I was hesitant to give it a go, but I promise it was delicious.  In fact, the entire dish was such a smorgasbord of ingredients, I was a bit nervous about how my stomach would react.  I should have trusted the vegan-ness though, because I left feeling happily full and totally content.  Never mind how good the food tasted, for a small cafe, I was beyond impressed with the extensive menu options and the big portions.  Hole-in-the-wall places can be hit or miss and this was a HIT.

Kyle even said his meal was better than RFD.  What!?!  Better than Real Food Daily?  That’s a bold statement Kyle. 

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It probably has to do with this.  🙂

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Seriously.

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After dinner we made our way to the Promenade to (finally) see The Social Network.  Two thumbs up. 

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I love how Santa Monica is attempting to make us feel like it’s the holiday season with the trees wrapped in Christmas lights.  But I was in flip flops and a tank top.  Seasons be damned, this is the kind of November I can get on board with.  Clearly I don’t miss the East Coast weather, huh?

I had tea and way more candied ginger when we got back home 🙂

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Cheater soup

Cheater cheater pumpkin potato eater.

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Last week my cousin posted a recipe that looked both tasty and vegan-izable, so I starred it and saved it for a rainy day.  Ok, a cloudy day…this is LA after all, not New York. 

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Yesterday was that day…only I had very few of the ingredients on hand.  No matter, I subbed like a pro and wound up with a totally different (but still very tasty) dish.

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It took very little time since I cheated every step of the way, but trust me, cutting corners never tasted so good. 

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I pre-cooked the veggies using the handiest cheater tool ever (giveaway post tomorrow).  Once the carrots and broccoli were soft, I started in with the stove top portion.

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Raw no more.

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While the Imagine soups are tasty enough on their own, I’ve found they are better utilized as soup bases.  I simply bulked up this Sweet Potato soup with whatever I could find in the produce drawer and – bam! – cheater soup. 

[Don’t let the “creamy” description deceive you, the soup is dairy free]

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Before the kale got too wilty or burnt, I poured in the soup, and then added in my next cheater ingredient, beans from a can.

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So sue me.  I’m not on Top Chef after all.

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Next I added the spices, which is where Patti’s recipe came into play…

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Yummmm…

Cheater Sweet Potato Veggie Soup

  • 2 leaves of kale, de-spined
  • 1 ear of raw corn
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 medium head of broccoli florets
  • 3/4 box sweet potato soup
  • 1/2 can (3/4 cup) of kidney beans
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • salt & pepper to taste

Cheater status be damned, I’d make this soup again in a second (ok, maybe two).

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…But only because of my ridiculous trip to HR today, which felt more like The Amazing Race than an exit interview…

The building has 19 floors.  The elevators are split so they don’t all go to every floor.  I had to go to the 19th floor, then the 5th, then the 19th, and then the 5th again.  Because I have nothing better to do right now…like, oh, I don’t know, packing maybe?  The lobby guard thought I was out of my mind as I went back and forth between one set of elevators and the other.  He wasn’t too far off…but hey, at least I get my last pay check now!  Definitely worth it 🙂

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In other uninteresting news, my insomnia has returned in full force, and in the last 72 hours I haven’t slept more than 8 hours.  I guess it could be due to the stress of moving, but I don’t feel stressed, so who knows.  Sometimes the subconscious is a tricky devil woman.

What?  You wanted a food related post?  Ok ok.

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Another raw oat creation (with banana, raisins, cinnamon, stevia, etc.)

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Followed by a caramel apple

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Well.  Caramel greek yogurt + an apple.  But, it’s basically the same thing…

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For lunch I made a vat of guacamole with the remaining 1/2 of an avocado, raw corn off the cob, carrots, red bell peppers, and Garlic Gold salt nuggets.

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I supplemented my raw guac with a side plate of raw Livin’ Spoonful raw crackers, carrots, and hummus.  This is a big plate, so you can see how big the crackers really are.

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And yet, two raw crackers ALWAYS turns into four.  Why only four you ask?  In case you were thinking that I suddenly grasped the concept of moderation, think again.  The crackers are sold in packs of four. 

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Later in the afternoon I snacked on apples and peanut butter.  Lately, I haven’t been liking peanut butter.  I think almond butter has ruined it for me.  In an effort to stimulate my taste buds, I mixed crunchy (blech!) PB with soymilk and cinnamon to make a peanutty sauce which I then drizzled over the apple slices.  Not so great.  After eating half, I scrapped the rest of the nuttiness off and finished the apples solo.  I have such issues with nuts.  I really want to like them, and sometimes I’m all about them, but other times the sound of them makes me nauseous. 

For dinner, Kyle and I took a break from our semi-contained zone of destruction (it looked like Haiti up in hurrr) to grab dinner with some friends (my last monthly dinner date with my girls).

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I had been wanting to go to Souen for quite some time, but when I saw how Maggie raved about it a few days ago, my mind was made up. 

SoHo isn’t exactly an easy commute from the UWS, but I’ve been macro curious lately, and anyways, I needed a break from staring at piles of clothes, books, pots and cords.

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The restaurant went from nearly empty to full in a matter of minutes.  Thank goodness we arrived a bit early.  We snagged a table for 4 just in the nick of time.  My girlies arrived, and still the wait staff was beyond aloof.  Tick tock tick tock…finally we flagged someone over to order wine.

In a word: blech.

I don’t generally like Bordeaux’s, but I wasn’t the one picking, so I went with it.  The wine was far too warm and pretty mediocre all around.  In Heather’s defense, the choices were minimal, so it was kinda slim pickins.  Kyle had to order three different beers (from the menu) before they finally had one.  Not a great start…

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We decided to start off by sharing the Steamed Dumplings (six wheat dumplings filled with seitan, nappa, ginger and scallions).  Not impressed. 

I can definitely appreciate clean food, but the dish was devoid of flavor all together! 

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Even the accompanying sauce wasn’t able to rescue the appetizer.  They were basically plain steamed rice noodles.

Despite the two strikes, I was still optimistic about my dinner.  I had a serious craving for warm veggies and kabocha squash, so I found the perfect dish on the menu.

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A huge bowl of Hayato Soup (with tofu, cabbage, sprouts, broccoli, squash, shiitake, onions, carrot, bean sprouts and green in miso broth).

It arrived piping hot and took well over 20 minutes to cool down to a reasonable temperature, but I waited patiently.  And waited.  And waited.  And finally tasted it…

Macrobiotic = bland

Plain and simple, this soup had nothing going on in the flavor department.  And I really wanted to like it, so believe me when I say, it was VERY disappointing.

Kyle ordered Blackened Cod which looked great, and he liked it a lot, but the portion was TEENY tiny and didn’t fill him up at all.

I did try Heather’s Pad Thai which had an AWESOME peanut sauce with lime.  She had the best order for sure. 

Marisa got Vegetables and Soba Noodles in soup, but she had the same issues I did.  It was too hot, and when she finally did taste it, it was just plain bland.

I was sad that I didn’t love this place, but even more sad that I didn’t even LIKE the place.  Their service was slow, they didn’t seem knowledgeable about the menu, and half the items on the menu weren’t actually available.  Bummer.

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I had an apple upon returning home and then set back to work packing.  Gah.  Will packing ever end!!!  The movers come tomorrow and here I am blogging.  Brilliant. 

Before I sign off, though, I wanted to let you all know that I have a guest post up on Kate and Maggie’s blog Eat The Damn Cake.  These lovely girls have such mature and thought-provoking posts, in which they discuss all the dirty little secrets that go on in the complicated minds of females…I was honored to share my own two cents neuroses. 

Also, my girl Ethel has (finally) posted on her NYC visit.  Check it out for more pics of us frolicking in the (long since deceased) sunshine.

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