Thursday, November 28, 2013


I usually make my own seitan, but this year I didn't have time. Instead, I bought a Trader Joe's field roast-type thing, and an old-fashioned Tofurky. In the court of popular opinion, the field roast won, hands down. Tofurky is sadly rubbery and too salty by far.

Both the field roast and Tofurky come with stuffing, which is OK. Tofurky also comes with gravy, but I decided to make my own instead because, again, theirs is too salty. To make gravy, I sauté onions and button mushrooms, then add tamari, vegetable stock, herbs, and a little corn starch. I let it simmer for an hour or more before serving. It keeps well in the fridge for several days afterwards and reheats easily in the microwave.

For sides, we enjoyed:
- Roasted yams and sweet potatoes
- Arugula salad with red onion and kumquats
- Kale salad with raspberries, blueberries and walnuts
- Cranberry sauce
- Wild rice and lentil pilaf

For dessert, I made maple pecan pie from the Post Punk Kitchen.

It was totally delicious, although the filling bubbled over the edges of the crust more than I would have expected, and the whole thing kind of fell apart when I served it. Overall, though, I was happy with the flavors and will probably make it again.

My real triumph, though, was the pumpkin spice ice cream. In the blender, I mixed three parts Trader Joe's vanilla soy ice cream with one part canned pumpkin. Then I added plenty of cinnamon and a little ginger. The whole thing got pretty soft, so I put it back into the freezer to set before serving. The consistency came out really perfectly, and the flavor was much more subtle and appetizing than some of the commercially available seasonal ice cream flavors. This recipe will definitely be making an appearance at future Thanksgivings. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Pumpkin Spice Muffins 

These muffins are so festive! And people seem to appreciate how moist they are. The recipe was originally adapted from, which you should definitely check out if you haven't done so already.

3 tbsp water
1 tbsp flax meal
2 tbsp non-dairy milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 ¼ cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup pumpkin purée
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup canola oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon ginger
½ cup chopped pecans

Mix together the flax meal and water in a cup, set aside. This will make a viscous, egg-like liquid. If you only have whole flax seeds, you can make your own flax meal by blending them in a coffee grinder. Once ground, store the flax meal in the fridge or freezer to keep it fresh. Next, in a separate cup, mix your apple cider vinegar and non-dairy milk, and set that aside to curdle.

Measure the remaining dry ingredients into a large bowl and mix. Next, stir in the pureed pumpkin, then gently add the water/flax mixture and the curdled milk mixture that you made earlier. When the ingredients are thoroughly mixed, the batter should have a fairly thick consistency. Now add half a cup of pecans. I like to use pecan pieces, but you could use whole one and break them up by hand before stirring them in. 

Divide the batter into 12, and bake in a greased muffin pan at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes. Alternatively, you can pour the batter into a greased loaf pan and bake for one hour.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Small Plate Lunch

Sometimes, when I don't know what I want to eat, I build a meal around my crockery. Today I decided to play with my little square plates, so I made a bunch of different salads to enjoy. From left to right (top row then bottom row); lentil and olive salad, homemade spicy coleslaw, arugula in sesame ginger dressing, beets and oranges in balsamic vinegar, marinated cucumbers, slices of papaya. 

I used four pre-cooked beets and one orange, sliced, and dressed with balsamic vinegar and sesame seeds. 

For the slaw I used five carrots, one green bell pepper, one jalapeño and a quarter of a yellow onion, all shredded in the Cuisinart, mixed with low-fat vegenaise, apple cider vinegar, salt and black sesame seeds. (I'm on a real sesame seed kick right now).

For this salad I tossed together pre-cooked lentils, half a jar of green pimiento olives sliced lengthways and a small amount of minced yellow onion. 

I used Annie's lite gingerly dressing for the greens. The papaya was a little underripe. There seems to be a knack to buying good papayas, but I don't know what it is. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Product Review: Cherry Pie

Safeway has vegan pies now! So far I've seen cherry and apple. They also come in sugar-free varieties (I'm not sure what they're sweetened with). I like to warm them up and serve them with ice cream. They freeze really well, so they're great to keep on hand for when you need a treat or are having guests over. The pasty is surprisingly flakey and good. A top recommendation. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Sweet Potato Fries

As I've mentioned before, I'm a big fan of convenience. I'm taking a full load of classes at grad school this semester and I work in the psych department at UCSF three days a week. That leaves little time for cooking on weeknights, and I like to have staples ready ahead of time so I can make quick and healthy dinners. 

With that in mind, sweet potato fries are great! I buy organic, spicy cajun-style oven-bake fries from the grocery store. They cook from frozen in about 20 minutes and they can be paired with pretty much anything that you happen to have in the fridge or freezer. They are significantly more nutritious than regular fries while being lower in calories and fat. Sweet potato is a particularly good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, manganese and fiber, and also contains significant amounts of B6 and potassium.
This evening I ate sweet potato fries with red beans that I had leftover in the freezer from a big batch that I made a couple of weeks ago. The salad consisted of two handfuls of mixed salad greens, two stalks of celery, a scallion, green seedless grapes, and Annie's Goddess Dressing. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Tofu in Enchilada Sauce

I woke up with a cold! This was my first full week back at school, so I guess it was kind of inevitable. I spent all day lounging in my room trying to rest and recuperate, but decided it was important to make myself something nummy for lunch. 

I mixed one package of firm tofu with one jar of thick enchilada sauce and baked it at 350 degrees for an hour, flipping the tofu pieces halfway through. I served it with salad greens and pre-cooked seasoned brown rice with shiitakes which comes in vacuum-packed pouches from Trader Joe's. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Comfort Food

I grew up in a time and place where meat and potatoes (plug a veg if you were lucky) constituted a "proper" meal. Sometimes I still need that kind of food for its comfort and familiarity, so today I made BBQ seitan, one of my favorites. I used store-bought seitan (definitely not as good as homemade), and cooked it in the oven for 40 minutes at 350 degrees after basting it with BBQ sauce. I really like the sweet BBQ sauce, but you should use whatever you prefer. I served it with curly kale, which I sautéed in olive oil with some minced red onion, garlic, salt and a splash of red wine. The potatoes were roasted in a baking pan with plenty of olive oil and salt for 60 minutes, also at 350 degrees. I'm really looking forward to eating the leftovers for lunch tomorrow. 

Planning Ahead

The new semester is just beginning, and I'm expecting to be very busy throughout the fall. That means that I need to optimize my nutrition to stay energized and healthy, but it also means that I'll have less time to prepare meals. I'm going to manage this by planning ahead. I've found that setting myself up for the week ahead by preparing a few batches of staple foods during the weekend really helps. Not only does it make it easy to prepare quick and healthy meals throughout the week, but it's also a relaxing way to spend a Sunday evening. 

I particularly recommend preparing a large quantity of brow rice and a batch of beans. In many places, this combination is a daily staple. Together, rice and beans provide iron and vitamin B as well as being a complete protein (meaning that they provide all 9 essential amino acids that the human body requires for growth and functioning). Together, one cup of rice mixed with one cup of beans contains 20 grams of protein, about 40% of your daily requirement (based on a diet of 2,000 calories per day). Having these staples ready streamlines dinnertime. Try some of these ideas:

  - Heat up some rice and beans and top it with your favorite hot sauce or creaming dressing. 
  - Serve beans with corn tortillas and some store-bought salsa or guacamole for a 3-minute meal. 
  - Toss rice together with some tofu, steamed veggies or seaweed.  
  - Make a cup of miso soup (or take a can of soup) and add some rice for extra body. 
  - You can even eat brown rice for breakfast. Heat it up and toss it with some fruit and agave. 

In addition to rice and beans, it's a great idea to keep prepped vegetables on hand. These can be tossed together for an easy salad, or quickly steamed or stir-fried. I find that doing this encourages me to eat more salads. Having plenty of delicious salad dressings in my fridge helps, too! I particularly like tahini-based dressings, but I also use plenty of sesame ginger sauce, French dressing and fruity vinaigrettes. 

This is the salad that I made for lunch today from vegetables that I prepped ahead of time. The only thing that I chopped at the last minute was the apple to avoid it going brown. I used a couple of handfuls of arugula, two stalks of celery, a carrot, two small beets, half a can of chickpeas, half an apple, some sunflower seeds, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, salt, cracked black pepper.  

I eat dark chocolate almost every day. It's what I do when I don't have time to make a real dessert. This Ghirardelli dark chocolate was 2 for 1 at the grocery store, so I stocked up. 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Baked Plantains

I ate a lot of plantains while I was traveling in Central America; they are an integral part of the desayuno Chapin, or traditional Guatemalan breakfast. It was one of my favorite things about eating with my host family. Typically they are friend, which is tasty but requires a rather obscene amount of oil. For this recipe, I opted for baking them which is much healthier. 

Plantains can be eaten when they are yellow and underripe, in which case they will have a starchy texture similar to a potato. If you like them softer and sweeter, buy them after the skins have started to go black. Don't be afraid to eat them, even when the skins are totally black, it's totally fine as they don't go bad like bananas. 

To make two servings you need two plantains, preferably with skins that are beginning to blacken. Peel them and lay them together on a sheet of aluminum foil. Drizzle 1tbsp olive oil over the top, then add 1 tbsp brown sugar, 1tsp garam masala, a liberal quantity of salt, a pinch of chili and a pinch of cinnamon. Wrap them up tightly in the foil and bake them for an hour at 350 degrees. Serve with brown rice and red beans, garnish with scallions or cilantro. 

I found these cocoa dusted almonds at Walgreens, which surprised me! I went with the intention of buying a new notebook for my neuroanatomy class, but I ended up coming home with study snacks as well. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Cha Ya, Chocovivo

Today I didn't have time to get busy in the kitchen, so I'm posting a couple of recent photos from some choice eateries. 

First up is the senroppen salad from Cha Ya, Berkeley's vegan Japanese restaurant. I feel lucky to live so incredibly close to this restaurant. A lot of Japanese food is sadly non-vegan due to bonito or fish-based dashi. However, the menu at Cha Ya is huge and there are lots of great items that you can choose from safe in the knowledge that everything is plant-based. I particularly like the agedashi tofu, which is the ultimate comfort food. I also recommend the stuffed eggplant, the gyoza, and any of the noodle dishes. I do not, personally, enjoy the moon garden, but I know people who are crazy about it. It's a tofu custard topped with lightly seasoned steamed vegetables. It seems to be one of those love/hate dishes. Below is a picture of the senroppen salad. It's advertised as an appetizer, but the serving is really generous so you could have it as a main or share it with a friend. I was impressed by how fresh and light it was. The vegetables were deliciously crisp and consisted mostly of daikon and some other stuff that I couldn't identify. There was some edamame thrown on top and the dressing was a rice wine vinaigrette. 

I meant to post this picture ages ago! It's of a chocolate tasting that I did at Chocovivo in Culver City with my buddy. Thanks for introducing me to this place, Kedar! Unfortunately, I lost the slip of paper that described all of the varieties of chocolate that I tasted. It's kind of irrelevant, though, since they were all extremely good. I addition to the chocolate tasting, I also had a 72% European-style thick hot chocolate brewed with fresh homemade hazelnut milk. This place makes their own vegan nut milks which earns them some serious vegan street cred! 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Vegan Mofo Begins

Vegan Mofo is upon us; a month of vegan blogging launched by Isa Chandra Moscowitz at Post Punk Kitchen. The goal is to blog at least 20 times during the month of September. Due to my vacation in New York I was a little tardy getting started, so I have some catching up to do. 

You can check out Vegan Mofo here (, and see Charlie's Kitchen on the BlogRoll. 

I'm going to continue posting menu suggestions for most meals, plus recipes. That's the goal, anyway. I'm starting back at grad school today, and the semester looks set to get pretty busy. If there's a time crunch, I might have to choose homework over blogging, but my goal is to manage both if I can.


- fluffy pancake with strawberries and slivered almonds* (for recipe see post from 19th August)

- salad of arugula, chick peas, beets, celery, figs, red onion, meyer lemon mustard vinaigrette
- rustic bread

- apricot and blueberry thumbprint cookies from Vegetarian Times

- green bell pepper stuffed with brown rice and soyrizo*, coleslaw*, red beans
- nectarine

I can't believe how easy these stuffed bell peppers were! Not very photogenic, perhaps, but easy and hearty. To make them, take leftover brown rice and mix it with soyrizo (about half and half). Slice the tops off the peppers, scoop out the seeds, stuff them with plenty of filling, and replace the top as a "lid" to help maintain moisture. Cook in a pre-heated oven for 45 minutes at 350 degrees. Serve hot or cold.

I'm really into vegan mayo right now, hence the creamy coleslaw. I'm making up for years of lost mayo consumption because until about a week ago I was laboring under the mistaken belief that vegan mayo is gross. Isa Chandra Moscowitz convinced me to give it another try, so I did, and to my pleasant surprise it was actually delicious. Although, perhaps it's just been so long since I had real mayo that I've forgotten what it's supposed to taste like. Anyhow, I'm loving it. Isa says that you have to be careful which brand you buy, because some of them are not as good as others. I don't know about that. All I know is that I bought the only type that they had at Safeway (Reduced Fat Vegenaise by Follow Your Heart) and it's good. To make the coleslaw I used the shredding attachment on my CuisinArt to grate 3 carrots, 1/3 of a large green cabbage, and 1/3 of a red onion. Then I stirred in liberal quantities of mayo (I didn't count, but it was probably somewhere in the region of 6 tablespoons. Makes about 6 servings. 

Thanks to friends Gloria and Wendy for their gift of today's salad dressing; a delightful lemony vinaigrette from Tea Here Now. Highly recommended. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Fruit Sticks

My week of vegan was a huge success. Lots of people visited the blog, and some folks emailed with questions about recipes. One person asked if I could recommend some vegan cookbooks and, as always, I recommended anything by Isa Chandra Moscowitz. 

In the wake of my week of vegan, I'm gearing up to participate in Vegan Mofo, which is a full month of vegan food blogging vaguely inspired by NaNoWriMo. It begins October 1st.

In the meantime here are some fruit sticks. Melon, mango, banana and raspberries on a stick. 

Avocado and salsa on crackers.

Gardein Crispy Tenders with salad.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Week of Vegan. Day 7. 

- avocado sandwich
- honeydew melon
- tea

- vegetable soup
- maple syrup cookies

- eggplant and chickpea curry* with brown rice
- glass of wine 
- banana

This curry makes two servings, and is easy enough for a weeknight dinner. First, take half of a large eggplant and cut it into chunks. I recommend salting eggplant to take away the bitterness, so put the eggplant chunks in a colander and toss them with plenty of salt. Leave to sit, preferably in the sink so that any excess liquid can drain off. Meanwhile, heat a little oil in a pan and fry 1/4 of an onion, diced. When the onion is beginning to brown, add a chopped tomato and half a bell pepper (any color is great). If you have an additional vegetables that you need to use use, you can add them at this point. Continue to sauté for five minutes before rinsing the salt off the eggplant and adding to the pan. Allow another five minutes of cooking time before adding 3/4 cup chickpeas (equivalent of about 1/2 a can), 1/2 can of coconut milk, garam masala and salt. I recommend getting pretty liberal with the garam masala. I think I used about a tablespoon in this recipe, but yours will vary depending on how spicy your mixture is and what your preferences are. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Week of Vegan. Day 6. 

- fluffy pancake with nectarines*
- tea

- leftover salad (last night's quinoa, mango, red bell pepper salad mixed with red cabbage slaw)
- honeydew melon with mint

- dark chocolate almond milk (in a juice box!)
- Maple creme cookies from Safeway

- peanut sauce tempeh* with salad
- glass of zinfandel

Wow, I'm loving this fluffy pancake situation. The recipe makes one big, thick pancake - enough for a breakfast serving. Top it with whatever fruit you have on hand. I used a chopped nectarine which I mixed with 1 tbsp of brown sugar and microwaved for 2 minutes to create a nice sugary caramel-type fruity sauce. While that's happening, pre-heat a small skillet with plenty of oil. For the batter, mix 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup non-dairy milk, 1 tbsp oil, 1/2 tbsp sugar, 1 tsp apple cider vinegar, 1/2 tsp baking soda, pinch of salt. Pour the batter into the pan and cook on one side for about 3 minutes, then flip and cook for another minute or two. 

To make one serving of peanut sauce, mix 2 tbsp peanut butter (smooth or crunchy), 1 tbsp soy sauce and 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar. You can add something sugary, such as mirin, if you prefer it a bit sweeter. Next, heat a little oil in a pan and cook the tempeh until it's beginning to brown on each side, then stir in the sauce and let it heat through before serving. Peanut sauce works well on stir-fried vegetables or noodles, too. It also keeps really well in the fridge, so feel free to store it for weeks or even months at a time. 

And, I discovered these maple creme cookies at Safeway, that just happen to be vegan. They're super sugary, but pretty good. I was also pleasantly surprised to find these juice box-size servings of chocolate almond milk in the dairy aisle. This almond milk is great cold, but even better served hot!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Week of Vegan. Day 5. 

- raisin bran cereal with soy milk
- tea

- baby greens with balsamic dressing, topped with dried apricots and sunflower seeds
- spaghetti with garlic, fresh herbs and breadcrumbs*
- iced pomegranate tea
- dark chocolate

- quinoa, mango and red bell pepper salad* on a bed of greens with black beans and red cabbage slaw

To make the pasta, cook and drain one serving of spaghetti. Set it aside in the colander. Then heat 1tbsp of Earth Balance or olive oil in a pan and sauté two crushed cloves of garlic for a minute or two. Add 2 tbsp fresh chopped herbs (I used parsley and thyme), 1 tbsp breadcrumbs and a pinch of salt. Next, stir in the spaghetti, making sure that the whole thing gets properly mixed before serving. 

For the quinoa salad, I tossed together 3/4 cup of leftover quinoa, 1/4 of a red bell pepper, 1/4 mango, 2tsp olive oil, 1 tsp Cholula chili lime sauce, and a pinch of salt. The flavor is really fresh, I love the combination of crisp pepper and the sweet mango with a hint of spiciness. 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Week of Vegan. Day 4, Friday.

- buckwheat pancakes with banana and maple syrup*
- tea

- big salad (salad greens, quinoa, nori, smoked almonds, sesame seeds, dressing)*
- nectarine

- corn tortillas, red cabbage slaw*, black beans, sautéed kale and salsa fresca
- mango

There's a bag of buckwheat pancake and waffle mix that I'm fairly certain has been at the back of my baking supplies cupboard since I moved into my house over 8 years ago. Today I decided it was time to throw it out or use it, so I used it. I was pleasantly surprised by the results. I got a well-formed pancake that only stuck to the pan in the way that all of my pancakes stick to the pan. It had a dark color and a rich flavor, perfect with bananas and ample syrup. Begin by heating a small skillet with plenty of cooking oil (I used canola). Measure and stir 1 cup of pancake mix, 1 cup non-dairy milk, 2 tbsp canola oil, 1 tbsp sugar, pinch of salt. If you don't have pancake mix, used 1 cup of flour and 2 tbsp of baking powder. Make sure that the batter isn't lumpy, then pour it into the skillet and spread it to the edges with a spatula. My pancakes needed to be cooked on on side for about 3 minutes before flipping and cooking for an additional minute on the other side. Makes two thick pancakes. 

As I've mentioned in previous posts, my friends Brock and Heather told me that they make a point of eating a big salad for dinner at least once a week. So, I always think of them when I'm figuring out which combination of veggies I can throw together to make a satisfying meal. Todays salad was really quick to prepare. Toss together 1 cup of salad greens, 1 cup of quinoa, 2 sheets of torn nori, 2 tsp of toasted sesame oil, 2 tsp rice wine vinegar and 2 tsp of soy sauce. Top with sesame seeds and smoked almonds. 

Red cabbage slaw has to be an all-time easy favorite for getting some color on your plate. Chop the cabbage, sprinkle with salt and vinegar, and leave it in the fridge for a few hours before serving. This goes with all kinds of meals an keeps in the fridge up ages, up to 5 days. Feel free to add carrots and onions, or get creative by adding fruit or jalapeños.  

After thought: I stayed up much later than I meant to and ended up getting hungry for something sugary around midnight. I figured it would be a good time to try out a quick new recipe for microwave coconut pudding cake. Unfortunately, it did not turn out well. It didn't look attractive and the texture was all wrong. Don't try this at home. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Week of Vegan. Day 3, Thursday.

- toasted Alvarado Street California Complete Protein bread, Earth Balance
- tea

- tacos (corn tortillas with salad greens, black beans and salsa fresca)
- banana berry smoothie*

- nectarine
- tea

- sauteed collard greens, black beans and quinoa with garlic tahini sauce*
- orange dark chocolate
- sauvignon blanc

My standard smoothie recipe is super easy; just 3/4 cup non-dairy milk, one large banana and 3/4 cup of frozen fruit. Today I made my smoothie with unsweetened soy milk and mixed frozen berries (including blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and raspberries).

Garlic tahini sauce makes one generous serving. Vigorously mix together 1 crushed garlic clove, 1.5 tbsp tahini, 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar, pinch salt, 1 to 2 tbsp water.