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Archive for the ‘stir fry’ Category

I’m not an overly dramatic person (must be the residual effects of my tomboy youth…) but I have to say, the lack of candied ginger in ALL the local Whole Foods stores has me freaking out.  I am officially out.  Like Kyle’s chapstick stash, I had back-ups upon back-ups, but they are all depleted now.  Yikes.  Hoarding fail.

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It gets worse!  The above photo is the last of my carob chip stash too.  Folks, this is a state of national emergency. 

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My pre-packed work eats will just have to do without my beloved ginge. 

More leftover Surprisingly Vegan waffles with frozen bloobs (they thaw by the time I eat/heat it the next day). 

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Plus, some Artisana raw cacao bliss nut butter.  For the record, this flavor needs mega kneading before it’s ready to squeeze, but it’s worth the hand exercise.  Mmmmm…

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Cherries, apple, dried fruit, yadda yadda. 

Not the best snacks for eating on the go, but the weekends are generally slower paced on the weekends so I pack fewer bars and more fresh fare.

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I did have one of my favorite desserts though…easy enough to eat whenever and/or wherever.  Nana’s Oatmeal Raisin cookies are a gift to vegans. 

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My salad is admittedly hideous, so for the record, please ignore it’s appearance.  It has huge amounts of avocado and leftover tofu stir-fry on mixed greens

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Happy weekend all!  Who else is working?  Who is lounging in the sun for me?

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My flight(s) home were a disaster, but I’m here now! 🙂  I’ve actually been back for a couple of days, but I’m still trying to readjust to the time change.
I was sad to leave vacation mode, but if I’m being perfectly honest, I was very ready to return home.

I plan on doing more detailed posts (most likely in flashback fashion) about my trip and being vegan while traveling through Spain and France, but for now, I’m going to soak up everything I missed while I was away.

Shockingly (or not shockingly, depending on who you ask), what I missed most of all wasn’t even food related.  I’ll spare you all the mushy sentiments, but I missed my beau immensely.

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It’s weird being away from him for such a long time.  I’m very much my own person (cue the Destiny’s Child song), but it’s hard to deny how much he’s a part of me.  Anyway.  I’ll cut it off there so nobody starts gagging (ahem, Laura).

So it was absolutely heaven to be greeted in the terminal by my adoring husband.  With a Whole Foods in his hand.  [seriously]

I actually wasn’t hungry, but then I saw the Kombucha and…my Pavlovian response was embarrassing to say the least.

So here’s my top five things I’m happy to be reunited with:

1.  Kyle

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[awwww]

2.  New running shoes

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[the return to exercise (!!)…tri-training here I come]

3.  Fermented tea

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[and the consequential drain on my wallet]

4.  Home-made oats

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[with apple slices, raisins, peanut butter, cinnamon and vanilla extract]

5.  My kitchen

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[oh cooking, how I missed you!]

I made us both dinner, which we ate together.  This isn’t necessarily rare, but doesn’t happen that often due to our different schedules and slightly different diets.  That said, Kyle is eating very little meat these days and actually requested tofu for dinner.  No problem.

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Asian stir fry with tofu.

Prep time: negligible (full disclosure, I had quinoa already going in the rice cooker).  Cooking time: 15 minutes

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I literally threw the frozen veggies in the pan with water, Bragg’s liquid aminos, sesame oil, and covered it to thaw.

Then I drained and pressed the tofu (not very much though because the excess liquid just cooks off in the stir fry anyway).

Once the veggies were cooking I tossed the tofu in.  Then I added more Bragg’s, a dash of soy sauce, a sh!t ton of ginger powder, and a (really) big spoonful of Tropical Traditions coconut peanut butter.

Simmer.  Done.

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Served over quinoa.  Easy and delish.

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Welcome home me.  🙂

Question: When you go on vacation, how long ’til you get homesick?  Or even slightly antsy for your own bed, shower, friends, family, food, whatever?

I think it varies based on where you are.  In Europe, I think two weeks is when I start getting a bit worn out.  Of course it totally depends how much you are doing.  Our travels were PACKED with very little down time to stop and breathe.  Having relaxing locations without tons of sights to see mixed in with museum & monument heavy cities is ideal.  And if we are talking about Hawaii, forget it.  I could live in a beach paradise for eternity.

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I was going to try and throw down a quick recap of this “holiday” weekend, but alas, my ramblings got the best of me…it may be picture dense, but it’s not so quick. 

Saturday was the main event, if you will, but Friday was pretty sweet too. 

Kyle and I made a Costco run – always dangerous when you’re a foodie living on a student budget.

Key purchases worth noting…

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Almond Butter (this jar is the size of my head)

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Sabra hummus x3 including spinach artichoke and roasted pine nut flavors plus individual mini tubs (bets on how many months days these will last?)

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Crackers, chips, and bars, bars, bars (Clif, Kashi, Mrs. May’s, Chewy – you name it, we now have it)

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And don’t even get me started on the massive amounts of produce

Sometimes Costco’s baby bell peppers are on the weaker side, but this bag was atypically large with a fantastic crunch.  [J’adore]

I could hardly fit everything in the fridge!  In addition to the bulk baby bell peppers and blueberries, there was a block of cheddar cheese so massive that it could double as gym equipment. 

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The fruit basket was a whole other story.  Avocados, bananas, and galas, oh my!

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I resisted temptation and didn’t buy the uber cheap crate of strawberries because they weren’t organic, but the pesticide-free blueberries were fair game. 

How is it that a gum and toilet paper run turned into a $250 trip?  Mysterious. 

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So back to the eats…I clearly helped myself to some hummus lovin’ for lunch.

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Wraptastic.

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Alvarado Street sprouted tortilla, Sabra hummus, spinach, bell peppers, and raw shredded cauliflower

What else does hummus go with?

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Honestly, what doesn’t hummus go with?

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I’ve been having a damn near impossible time finding Sabra in stores, so that’s why I found it necessary to stock up on enough to feed an army (as if I need an excuse).  Still, it’s comforting to know that should disaster strike, I’m good for a while. 

Side note: why are the LA Whole Foods only carrying one kind of hummus nowadays?  I’m not okay with this.  It has drastically reduced my (previously) record breaking chickpea consumption. 

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Dinner was a seitan stir-fry that I was able to throw together in less than 10 minutes. 

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Home-made log seitan plus frozen stir-fry veggies…tossed in a pan with Bragg’s liquid aminos.  No more.  No less.

After a romantic candlelit dinner with my boo, we were joined by my homegirl Alene for some wine and chit chat.

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We got a year long wine club membership to MacRostie as a wedding present and this Cab was the first we’ve tried.  Wow.  I am a Sonoma wine snob after all…  🙂

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Totally delish.  It’s bold flavor rocked my face.

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Saturday started with an “o” meal of oat bran and whole rolled oats.  Sorry that it’s less than thrilling, but not every letter has an appetizing letter that corresponds. 

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The AB does add to the excitement though, yes?  MaraNatha is yum.

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I heaped it on like I was storing up insulation for the winter.

Before working out in the afternoon I did some baking…and snacking.

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[With such delish dough, these activities really were one in the same]

Then Jillian got me sweaty and Kyle forced me into normal clothes.

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Sunday was a detox day.  Back to back wine nights is so not like me! (read: I’m old and can’t handle such frequent boozing)

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I had a hearty breakfast (oats, peanut butter, and a chopped apple).

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Followed by a hearty lunch…and a half-hearty workout

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Every veg in the apartment salad (BN squash, spinny, bell pepps, carrots, cauli, yadda yadda topped in heaps of hummus). 

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Five pounds.  Yes. 

Post-lunch and post-workout, I played in the kitchen (again).  I’m on a roll folks.

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Sorry I keep teasing you with this granola recipe.  I swear it will be coming soon!  This once full tupperware was the perfect afternoon snack.

Anyway, Sunday’s lazying about all led up to a 7 pm call time.

Night shift. 😦

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I packed the above (leftovers from North End Caffe) with roasted butternut squash, apples, and dried fruit.

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Add in teas by the kilo, and that’s my night in a nutshell.

I ate shortly before midnight and the hours rolled on without incident. 

I got home by 8 am and guess what!?!  I went straight to bed!  [Okay I showered first but still – I actually fell asleep and didn’t wake up until 11:45 am]

This is progress.

It helped that Kyle was still asleep and so crawling under the covers didn’t mean missing out on normal people awake time.

As you’d expect, I woke up ravenous. 

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I fueled the beast with AB toast before contemplating what (more substantial) breakfast lunch I should make. 

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This MaraNatha almond butter is shovel-down-by-the-spoonful good.  I need to slow my roll or the Costco sized jar is going to be empty by the end of the week!

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My second course was a bowl of granola with bloobs and apples.

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Oh sweet heaven, this stuff is divine.

No napping occurred in the PM (sadly).  I did attempt a beach front jog that left me pretty invigorated. 

Come 6 pm I wound up back in scrubs and headed back to the hospital for a second shift.  My stomach was being kinda questionable, so I didn’t really have a full meal before leaving. 

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I did grab a couple of slices of pumpkin banana bread before hitting the road, though. 

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I struggled through the first few hours of work, feeling pretty yucky. 

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I had an apple around 11 pm, but didn’t feel like anything else at all.  Fortunately I had Yogi stomach ease tea with me, which helped sooth my system. 

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By 1 am I was starving, so even though my GI tract wasn’t game, my priorities were all about ending the growling.  More fiber probably wasn’t the best dinner option, but it’s all I had…leftover lentil loaf with butternut squash on a bed of spinach

Booyah.  Work weekend done.

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The last day 😦

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How sad that I’m now reliving the angst that accompanied this island goodbye all over again…

Since our flight’s departure wasn’t until 5 pm, we decided to make the most of our last day on Kauai and drive up and around to the Northern part of the island that we hadn’t yet seen. 

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Along the way we stopped for lunch at a local veg-friendly joint that had been recommended to us for a good meal. 

Mermaids Cafe was a hop, skip, and a jump away from being a ghetto hole-in-the-wall place.  It was cutely quaint…for lack of a better word.

There was a small window where one (of the three) employees took orders, behind which the other two employees were cooking.  In other words, it was a kitchen with a cut-out to serve the food.  

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We sipped on passion fruit iced tea and lemonade while waiting for our orders. 

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It took a while, and there was a small mix up. 

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This was the Tofu Stir Fry Noodle Plate with broccoli, carrots, red bell peppers, mushrooms, onions and greens seasoned with fresh garlic, ginger, soy sauce and sesame oil over noodles

Only problem was, neither of us ordered that dish…

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Once the staff realized they gave us another customer’s order, it was back to the waiting game…eventually Kyle got the chicken version of the dish that he did order. 

Amid the aforementioned confusion, the cooks (?) informed me that they were out of rice.  Uhhh…ok?  So instead of putting my dish over rice, they offered me a side salad instead.

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This was probably the weirdest salad I’ve ever been presented with.  Red onions and walnuts?  Together?  Not so great.  I pushed it around the plate a bit, but mostly I was just waiting for my main order.

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Voila!

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I got the Tofu Coconut Curry Plate with broccoli, carrot, red bell peppers, mushrooms, onion, and greens cooked with a mild yellow curry in coconut milk, served over rice with a side salad.

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It hit the spot.

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The only thing left on the plate was a sea of oily sauce, that I nearly slurped right up, too. 

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After lunch we made our way next door to a cute local coffee shop called Java Kai.

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Any sign that says “vegan” on it will lure me in…

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The Belgian waffles sign doesn’t hurt either…

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It had much more than local coffee.  The cafe offered everything from fresh juices, smoothies, and hearty breakfast fare, to falafel sammies and raw veggie wraps. 

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What a cute little spot.  Mental note: return here next Kauai trip!

In fact, the entire street was packed with cute little eateries.  I almost wish we had ventured away from the hotel a bit more…almost. 

After getting our coffee fixes, we were back on the road to see some waterfalls.

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And more roosters…

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I can’t believe how many different types of landscape and climates there were on Kauai (not sure about the geology terminology there).  On the way to the Canyon it was all desert and dry, and on our way North to Princeville it was lush and green and we felt like we were surrounded by marshlands.

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Garden Isle indeed!

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Our last pic together in Hawaii.

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On our way back from Princeville, we decided to stop off to get airplane eats.

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I had spotted a place called Papaya’s Natural Foods on the way, so I had to check it out. 

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Healthy plane snacks!!

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Vegan donuts?  That’s it, I’m staying in Kauai. 

It was like a smaller scale Whole Foods, complete with a prepared foods hot bar. 

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Excellent.

We got our goodies for the FOUR flights (yes, we had a few layovers getting back to LAX), and bid aloha to our week in paradise. 

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Back to reality…

*If you are going to Kauai and curious about the vegan scene, this site has a very thorough dining guide.  We only spent a few minutes in Princeville, but they have a wide range of veg-friendly places.  Postcards Cafe was recommended to us as was Kilauea Bakery and Pau Hana Pizza

Hope you enjoyed the honeymoon posts 🙂

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Ok this is gonna be a quickie because there’s no point in dragging it out.  Seitan isn’t hard to make.  It gets an unnecessarily bad difficult rap.  If you’re scared to try it, don’t be.  I’m a loser and I can manage, so trust me, you can too.

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Finding Vital Wheat Gluten is actually 75% of the battle.  Try Whole Foods or your neighborhood Co-Op or health foods store.  I usually get Bob’s Red Mill, but I’ve used Arrowhead Mills before too.

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The ratio of vegetable broth to VWG is the variable in most recipes.  It really just depends on how dense or chewy you prefer your seitan to be.  I generally go for a one to one ratio of wet to dry ingredients because I like my seitan like Jillian Michaels likes her glutes…packed tight.

Simple seitan

Wet ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce*

Dry ingredients:

  • 1 cup Vital Wheat Gluten
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast

Mix the wet and dry ingredients separately and then add them together.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

*The main difference between this recipe and my other one is the amount of soy sauce.  More soy sauce = more flavor.  I should also mention here that if you prefer your seitan to be more juicy (and not as tough or chewy) you may want to up the vegetable broth a bit (1/4 cup extra should be enough).

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It looks hideous, but it will all turn out ok.  I promise.  Now is when you get out your frustration.  Make the ball your personal punching bag and knead, knead, knead.  There’s no real right or wrong way to do this, and it’s not like how much you do it will make or break the seitan, so don’t freak out if you haven’t a clue as to the technical kneading protocol.  The goal is to get it into some kind of shape that can be edible.

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The more you work it with your hands, the more dense (and thus chewy) the seitan will be.

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I usually form patties with mine, but you can make smaller nugget shapes or whatever.

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Place them in a cooking pan submerged in a bit of vegetable broth and cook it in the oven for 15 minutes at 350 degrees.

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After 15 minutes, the top side should be browned.  Flip them over and cook the other side for another 10 minutes.

And that’s it!

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Time to go brag to your friends that you have just mastered seitan.  You may get some funny looks with an opening line like that…

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Mmmmm…

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Always store seitan in liquid (preferably leftover broth/soy sauce) otherwise you’ll look like a teething infant when attempting to eat dinner.

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Ta-da!

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If you’re looking for seitan ideas, there are plenty of elaborate recipes on the internet or in vegan cookbooks, but I prefer the simpler dishes.

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Seitan with stir fried veggies and chickpeas.

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Seitan in a whole wheat wrap with veggies.

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Hope that was helpful.  Let me know if you give it a try.

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Va De Vi

It’s about the wine.

That’s the Catalan translation of this restaurant’s name, and indeed it was. 

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Kyle and I had no real occasion to go out to dinner, but we just felt like splurging for a fun date night. 

Va De Vi is a gem of a restaurant in Walnut Creek’s downtown area.  The ambiance is casual but chic, with a friendly and knowledgeable staff, a menu that changes with the seasons, and a wine list to die for. 

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Every direction you turned had more wine displayed. 

And being all about the wine, the menu was built around making sure you were able to try as many varietals as you wanted, offering wine by the glass, taste, or flight…or you could just go ahead and get the entire bottle.  ;)  The idea, however, is that you can order several small plates with accompanying wine selections and enjoy multiple flavors and pairings over the course of the meal.  Brilliant!

Plain and simple, wine and small plates are fun.  We ordered a few different rounds over the evening, starting with two salads.

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I got a spinach salad with pickled red onions, fresh apricots, candied and spiced pecans, and a simple roasted shallot-balsamic vinaigrette. 

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Kyle got the wedge.  I have no interest in white creamy stuff or bacon, so this salad appealed to me on no level whatsoever.  Usually Kyle and I have similar tastes in salads, and yet, he saw it on the menu and didn’t even have to think twice about ordering it.  So, although it probably goes without saying, we didn’t share with each other.

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Kyle was nearly licking the plate, he liked it so much, but I still think I got the better salad.

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Look at that fresh fruit!  And the dressing!  Gah!  Spinach salads will never got old, especially when restaurants know what they’re doing. 

The next round of orders started with rock shrimp avocado lumpia.  Kyle and I have a bit of a soft spot in our heart for lumpia (right Ethel?) so we had to order this dish.

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It was crispy on the outside with both warm and cool ingredients on the inside.  And the flavors were yummmmm.  Definitely mouth watering.

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We split them 50/50, but I staked claim on the ginger garnish on top, too. 

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We also got a summer vegetable & tofu stir fry.  It had sugar peas, shiitake mushrooms, beans, carrots, shallots, garlic, tofu, and oyster sauce.

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Good, but very oily.  More oily than necessary in my opinion.

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The tofu was savory but my favorite parts were the Chinese long beans and the snap peas.  I like when they are warm but still really crunchy and the peas pop out in your mouth.  It’s the simple things in life…  😀

To start off the next round we got the grilled yellow tail served with roasted tomatoes, shaved fennel, orange slices, and frisee with a citrus vinaigrette. 

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I had a tiny bite, but the fish was lacking in flavor.  Also, I’m not a huge fan of fennel.  I don’t mind it, but it’s not a flavor that I’m crazy about.  Kyle happily devoured the dish, though. 

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Perhaps it wasn’t good enough to tempt me, or perhaps I was distracted by the arrival of this…

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White bean hummus with toasted French bread.  Be still my heart. 

For some reason we missed hearing the specials and only learned of this dish when we overheard the server telling the table next to us.  I didn’t even have to think twice about it.  We quickly called our waitress over and placed our order.  She was happy to oblige. 

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I dug in with the enthusiasm of a starving Ethiopian, I think I scared the surrounding tables with my moaning too (please note that Kyle was neither surprised nor bothered by my unladylike eating…).  It was absolutely delicious.  It reminded me of Nanoosh’s hummus.  The bread was warm, crispy but still soft, as if it had been toasted in a wood oven like a pizza.  So.  Dang.  Good.

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Our waitress was so on top of it that she noticed the bread was gone but there was a bit of hummus that remained…and went to the kitchen to bring back MORE toasted bread.  Now THAT’S amazing service. 

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We (reluctantly) ended the night with coffee. 

With all the hype surrounding this restaurant,  was nervous it wouldn’t live up to it’s reputation, but I’m happy to report Va De Vi is every bit as delicious as it was built up to be.  I literally can’t say enough about the staff, the food…everything!  The whole meal was one of the best I’ve had in the Bay Area, period.  The bistro’s numerous awards speak for themselves.

*Side note: We almost chose it as the location for our rehearsal dinner.

Sadly, I didn’t take a single photo of the wine.  I guess that means we will have to go back! 

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New toy!

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I’ve never had a French Press before, but Kyle put his high school barista skills to use and taught me how to make myself a steaming cuppa joe.  Sadly, we parted ways with our old coffee maker back in NYC (and haven’t gotten a new one yet), so I’m now having to nurture my caffeine addiction expand my coffee horizon with other methods. 

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Hi reflection!

Ok, so this French Press is actually incredibly easy.  There’s no need to get all anxious before using it like I did.  I’m just a weirdo.  The only real difference is remembering to grind the beans for a french press rather than a paper filter. 

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Also, it looks like a TON of grounds are being used, but if you decide the instructions must be wrong and use way less (because of course a first time user would know more than the people who make the product)…well, you may end up with one weak-a$$ cup of coffee.  I’m learning though.  🙂

Other new toys I’ve broken in include this fatty Calphalon pan.

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A gorgeous wood cutting board and crazy sharp Wusthof knife.

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And a Tofu Xpress!

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I was lucky enough to get this from the company right before moving (thanks Richard!), so I had to wait until we were unpacked and ready to get cooking to try it out.  Given the amount of patience (or lack thereof) I have, it’s no wonder the first meal we made to Christen the apartment involved pressed tofu. 

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The Xpress comes with a little booklet of instructions, ideas for other ways to use the Xpress, plus a cute notecard to write your fave recipe(s) on.  And it can be used for much more than tofu (i.e. eggplant!).  But I digress…

Here’s the deal:

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Pop the block of ‘fu in the press…

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Put on the top, twisting the teeth so they lock the top down…

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And watch the liquid slowly get pressed out!

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I dumped the ‘fu water off about 5 times (it probably took a few minutes between each collection and dump off).  It was so simple and didn’t even require me to dirty my hands one bit.  I literally left it to do it’s thing while I prepped the rest of the meal.  So.  Freakin.  Easy.

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Once there was no more liquid surfacing, I removed the top and voila!

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Pressed tofu without a single dirty rag or paper towel.

I’m embarrassed to admit the hassle of the process and the clean up were the main deterrents that limited the amount of tofu dishes I made.  No longer will this be an issue.  I can’t emphasize enough how simple this tool makes it. 

And now for the actual meal.

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In celebration, we popped some bubbly.  Cheers to the new palace!  Now let’s get cooking!

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Chopping while drinking is ill advised, especially with new (sharp) knives. 

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  • 3 stalks of celery
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 head of bok choy
  • 1/2 can water chestnuts
  • 1 cup of broccoli florets
  • 1 cup of cauliflower florets

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Set aside the chopped veggies and put the tofu in the press.  

While the tofu is getting the celeb detox treatment (read: getting the sh!t liquid squeezed out of it), get crackin’ on the sauce (but for heaven’s sake, don’t neglect the champagne!).

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  • 2 tbsp tamari (soy sauce)
  • 1/2 tbsp tahini
  • 1 tsp ginger (I used powdered but freshly grated would be ideal)
  • 1/16 tsp NuNaturals stevia (or 1 tbsp agave nectar)
  • 1 tbsp Bragg’s apple cider vinegar
  • salt (to taste)

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Stir it all up and set aside for later. 

After the tofu has been pressed (see above instructions), chop and add to pan coated with cooking spray.

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Once they start to turn crispy brown, flip ‘em…and repeat…until the tofu is golden brown all over.

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Then add in the chopped veggies and let it all sizzle for a bit.

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Note the white rice in the background (Kyle sacrifices meat, I sacrifice brown rice…marriage 101 lesson for the day…it’s all about compromises).

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You can add a top to the pan so the steam speeds the cooking time; and once the bok choy starts to get wilty it’s time to get saucy!

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I got every last drippy drop out!

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Simmah simmah.

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Set the table.

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And serve.

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‘Twas a mighty fine first meal (I told you I’m obsessed with the soy/sesame/ginger flavor profile right now).  This sauce was a definite winner.  Kyle and I were both licking our chops and patting our bellies after going back for seconds.

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And I was just giddy throughout the entire cooking process, because each and every minute made me realize how fortunate we are to have a brand spankin’ new kitchen, with brand spankin’ new appliances, and all the space in the world. 

Unlike our New York kitchen sink/oven combo-corner, I was not stepping on top of myself while prepping, no smoke detectors went off, and I was able to throw everything in the dishwasher at the end of it all.  Spoiled much?  Can somebody please pinch me?  This can’t be my life right now. 

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