Category Archives: Cooking

Sweet & Sauteed Brussels Sprouts


Who eats plain old steamed or boiled brussels sprouts anymore? Not me! I had it once and I am OVER it. The good news is that there are so many ways to prepare these guys, and a creative saute is one of the easiest.

1 to 1 1/2 cups brussels sprouts, stems trimmed and cut in halves or quarters
1 tbsp honey or agave nectar
1-2 tbsp walnuts (optional)
safflower or canola oil
salt and pepper

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. Fire up a pan and heat up the oil, enough to coat the bottom of the pan. Toss in your ingredients and saute until brussels sprouts start to turn bright green (or to your liking). Remove from heat and eat!

Soooo easy and yummy! This makes a great side dish or just about any meal. You can add chilies to spice it up. You can use soy sauce and/or sriracha to season for an Asian twist. Or add cumin for a Mexican or Indian flair.

Ooooh the possibilities! Enjoy!

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Easy Quinoa With Mushrooms and Spinach

Quinoa. Mushrooms. Spinach. What could go wrong? Nothing! It’s a great dish for vegans and non-vegans and it’s very easy to make, especially if you have a rice cooker.

Let me take a step back for a minute: I haven’t been the best vegan lately. I can rattle off all the usual lame excuses and legitimate reasons but it really boils down to this: I haven’t been eating well, whether I’m being a good vegan or breaking down and eating a block of cheese with a side of yogurt. I’ve also been exercising a lot more which is great, but I can definitely feel that it’s bordering on unhealthy because I’m not getting proper nutrition.

I’m trying to get back to healthy eating – meaning that I’m trying to ensure that I’m getting all the nutrients I need. This easy quinoa dish is a step in the right direction. It makes a great side dish with tofu or other protein of your choice and is totally versatile. Add some walnuts or sweet peppers or squash! Yum.

Quinoa with mushrooms and spinach

Easy Quinoa with Mushrooms and Spinach

(adapted from Damn Delicious)

1 cup quinoa
1 lb mushrooms, sliced (I used baby bellas)
5 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 cup spinach
1 tbsp canola or safflower oil
salt and pepper to taste

1. Rinse and cook quinoa according to the package instructions. I use a rice cooker and it is perfection!

2. Heat up the oil in a pan. Toss in the garlic. After it starts getting fragrant, toss in the mushrooms, salt and pepper, and saute until cooked, about 3-4 minutes.

3. Lower the heat or remove from heat altogether and toss in the spinach – it all depends on whether you want the spinach fully cooked or just wilted.

4. Stir in the quinoa until well combined.

I ate this by itself, but I encouraged the fam to eat it as a side dish with fish or chicken. Feel free to throw in other spices or veggies! I myself sprinkled some crushed red pepper on this and that added a great kick.

As far as nutrition goes, I felt really good about eating this since:

  • Quinoa is a good protein source AND has a perfect balance of important amino acids AND also has a good amount of fiber and iron
  • Baby bellas are a great source of selenium, niacin, copper and pantothenic acid – all good things
  • Spinach is just awesome. Do I really have to explain why? There’s a reason that Popeye wolfed down a can of it to power up!


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Hot pot!

When Brent and I are feeling particularly lazy but still want to eat something healthy, we make hot pot. This is an East Asian fun thing that can be enjoyed by small groups of friends or just your family. We use a simple electric wok that’s resistant to tipping over and fill it with our favorite kind of broth. It’s a great way to use just about any vegetables that are available in our refrigerator – broccoli, green beans, baby corn, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, bean sprouts, tofu, tofu skins, mushrooms, snow peas, broccoli, carrot, cauliflower, noodles (we use thin rice noodles and konjac noodles). Napa cabbage, spinach and Romaine lettuce are favorites.

After that, all you need is some fresh veg chopped into bite sized pieces and maybe some dipping sauces. Our broth recipe is as follows
1-2  liters of water

1-2 cubes of bouillon (we use “chicken” or mushroom)

1 tbsp of Szechuan peppercorns (we like spicy, what can I say)

2 star anise pods

15-20 goji berries

10-15 scallion onions, chopped into 2 inch pieces

2-3 cloves of garlic, minced

a pinch of ground cumin

2-3 pods of allspice

1 coin size slice of ginger (optional)

juice from 1/2 lemon (optional)

1 tbsp chili or garlic flavored canola oil

salt and pepper to taste

I combine everything but the scallion onions in my pot and boil for 30 minutes or more until it’s fragrant and steamy. Then I add the spring onions and take the pot to our table. You put the veggies into the soup pot and wait for the liquid to return to a boil. Then we remove the vegetables without chopsticks, wait for them to cool or dip them in sauce or not (I like a home-made chili-lime-peanut sauce, Brent prefers a garlic chili sauce) and DEVOUR! Just be careful that the hot liquid doesn’t splash anyone and that the contents don’t spill onto anyone. It’s HOT (hence the name *hot* pot)! This might not be a dish for the faint of heart, but it is for the hungry, adventurous and lazy. Just put down a towel for all the drips and splashes.

As versatile as this particular dish is, there’s something for everyone. Just don’t get hurt when you realize someone ate your mushroom.

This is Christie, signing off!

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Bitter Melon with Tofu and Fermented Black Beans


We were lucky enough to have pleasant weather for the first couple weeks of October, but things got downright chilly last week. Dad started cleaning up the garden and collected the last of the veggies. Bitter melon, or ampalaya, was included in the mix, and Mom cooked it up, vegan-style!

We have blogged about bitter melon before, and here’s another recipe for the adventurous among us. My mom usually makes this dish using steak or roast beef, but decided to substitute tofu instead. Yay! The tofu helped to offset some of the bitterness and the fermented black beans bring both a sweetness and saltiness to the dish.

Ampalaya (Bitter Melon) with Tofu and Fermented Black Beans

1 bitter melon
1 block tofu, pressed and cut into bite-sized cubes
1/2 cup fermented black beans (you can find these at Asian markets)
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt or soy sauce, to taste

1. Slice the bitter melon in half, lengthwise, and scoop out the innards. Then, slice the halves into about 1/4 inch pieces.

2. Heat up a pan and add your favorite vegetable oil (I like safflower or canola).

3. Throw in the onion and garlic and cook until they’re fragrant and the onion is translucent.

4. Toss in the bitter melon, lower heat, and cover. Let it cook for 2-3 minutes, checking to make sure that the bitter melon doesn’t stick.

5. Add the tofu and beans to the pot. Gently mix everything together. Allow it to cook, covered, for another 5 minutes or so.

6. Add some salt or soy sauce to taste and remove from heat.


This dish is best served with jasmine rice or brown rice.

Yay, weird veggies! –Melissa

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Lavish Lavash Pizza

I’ve always liked the idea of homemade pizza, but I’m intimidated by the dough-making process. I just won’t make dough from scratch, okay? You’re probably thinking, “what about pizza dough from the grocery store?” Call me strange, but there’s something about Boboli that I don’t find appealing.

I visited my friend Jen last weekend. Two things from my trip inspired me to make my own pizza at home using lavash. The first inspiration came from the pizzas Jen made using flatbread from Target. The flatbread made the perfect thin crust. The second was the lavash that was served with our hummus at Crave instead of the usual pita or pita chips. Lavash is light and tastes great when it’s soft and warm as well as when it’s baked to a crisp.

I will be eating homemade pizza all the freaking time now.

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I was excited to find locally made lavash at Fresh Farms in Niles. If you’re in the Chicago area, take the trip up to Fresh Farms. They have a huge selection and you’ll find a lot of vegan products there at a lower price than those other stores. One pack of lavash costs $1.79 and I can make about six pizzas with it.

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Now, I’m not a big fan of grocery shopping so I was about to settle for dairy cheese instead of stopping someplace else to pick up daiya (I know, I know, I’m a terrible vegan). But, Fresh Farms rescued me! I found shredded cheese made by Follow Your Heart. I like Follow Your Heart vegan cheese wedges, but this is the first time I’ve seen their shredded products.


I love daiya, but I think I might like Follow Your Heart better. Daiya seems to be seasoned. I always know when I’m eating daiya because there’s a certain taste to it that isn’t found in real cheese. I didn’t notice that in the Follow Your Heart. The texture was good and the cheese melted really well.

I got my lavash. I got my cheese. All I needed now was pizza sauce (you can use your favorite pasta sauce or tomato sauce) and toppings. Top your pizza however you would like. Today, I used roasted red peppers, marinated artichokes, crushed red pepper, and italian seasoning. I can’t wait to make others using fresh tomatoes or eggplant or basil or jalapenos from my Dad’s garden. Or… pineapple and vegan bacon! Or seasoned TVP! The possibilities are endless.


So, pre-heat your oven to 450 degrees, top your pizza, and then bake it for five minutes or until the cheese melts. That’s it! So easy and quick and there’s really no way to screw it up. It’s the perfect Melissa recipe. I am gonna be so fat, you guys. –Melissa

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Vegan Kare Kare 2.0

I haven’t cooked in awhile (I’m a lazy vegan, remember?) but I had a serious craving for kare kare last week. I think it was triggered by seeing the beginnings of my Dad’s garden this summer, particularly the eggplant. I’m so spoiled by the garden! Alas, there are no veggies yet. Thank goodness for grocery stores.

I previously made kare kare using soy curls and it was good, but I wanted to try something different this time. I didn’t want to drop a meat substitute altogether even though all-veggie kare kare would be satisfactory. I didn’t want to use tofu. I didn’t want to use mushrooms. I didn’t want to use squash.

So I used jackfruit — young, unripe jackfruit.

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You can find canned young green jackfruit at any Asian grocery store. Make sure you get the jackfruit in brine, not syrup! It’s not to be confused with ripe yellow jackfruit, which is sweet (and delicious in halo halo… yum). I’ve seen unripe jackfruit used in savory dishes. Luminous Vegans has a great BBQ Jackfruit recipe that’s like a vegan pulled pork sandwich. My Mom adds it to dishes. There is a plethora of vegan Jackfruit ‘Carnitas’ Taco recipes on the Internet. With the shred-like texture of the jackfruit, some imagination and an open mind, the possibilities are endless.

Kare kare always seemed really complicated to me when I was younger and I realize now that it’s because of the meat component. You need to boil the oxtail. Sometimes, you need to boil it forever or use a pressure cooker, otherwise it won’t get tender and it’s just nasty. You need to skim out the garbage that shows up when you boil meat. And it takes a long time!

For vegan kare kare, you’re looking at maybe 15 minutes of prep time and 15 minutes of cook time.

Vegan Kare Kare with Jackfruit

1 can young green jackfruit in brine, drained and rinsed
1/2 onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
eggplant, cut into 2″ chunks (enough to make approx 2 cups, any eggplant will do)
1 cup sitaw (Chinese long beans), cut into about 2 inch pieces — regular green beans are fine, too
bok choy (3 babies or 1 adult)
2-3 tbsp peanut butter
1/2 tsp achiote powder (optional)
salt, to taste

Rinse and chop up all your veggies. for the jackfruit, I cut the chunks that came out of the can in half or in thirds, depending on how big they were. I made them about the same size as the eggplant pieces.

Heat up the pan and saute the onion and garlic in oil. When it gets fragrant, add the jackfruit, eggplant, and 1 cup of water. Mix it a bit, cover, and let it cook for about 5 minutes. Add the sitaw/beans and bok choy, cover, and let it all cook for another 3-5 minutes.


Isn’t it pretty? The thing in the bottom middle is a piece of jackfruit.

When the veggies are just about cooked, stir things up a bit, being careful not to mash up any of the veggies. Then, make a well in the center of the pot and put in the peanut butter. The PB should melt completely. Add salt to taste. Add achiote if you want. It will give the dish a more reddish color. I didn’t add it this time around.


Serve with white rice and bagoong (not vegan!) or a bagoong substitute. If you have the green-floral-border Corelle plates that every Filipino-American seems to have, use that for sentimental value. Follow it up with some halo halo with sweet jackfruit if you can. I’m so hungry now.

I’m pleased with my kare kare and jackfruit experiment, but I have to say that I think jackfruit would work better in sinigang (another Filipino dish) instead. I have yet to try it as BBQ or in a taco. Looks like I’ve got a lot of cooking to do! –Melissa

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Easy Vegan Breakfast on the CHEAP!

I get up kind of early… okay not that early. I mostly get up to watch the bunnies bounce around and have coffee with Brent before I head off to the laboratory. For the record, my older sister turned me on to this and THANK-YOU! I keep the ingredients for my breakfast in my desk. by the time I get to work I’m starting to get hungry so it’s the perfect time while I wait for my experiments to get going.
This is all you need:
1/2 cup rolled oats (my Bag of Bob’s Red Mill cost me just shy of $4)
pumpkin pie seasoning or cinnamon (this little jar cost me $.99)
1 tsp rice nectar (the jar cost me $5)
1-2 tbsp raisins (the tub cost me $5)
1 cup of water
a pinch of salt

I microwave the oats, water, spice, salt and nectar at 30 second intervals until it starts to bubble up and get thick and creamy. Sometimes I add a touch of almond milk but it isn’t necessary. Then I throw in the raisins and know I’m getting some awesome heart healthy oats in a delicious breakfast that takes moments to make even when your brain is on auto-pilot.


The other beauty of this breakfast is that it contains about 280 calories, has a low-glycemic index and a heap of filling fiber for a very low cost. I like the texture of Bob’s Red Mill oats best but the generic store brand costs a mere $2 for a large tub. Each bag of oats lasts at least 3 weeks and tub of raisins lasts me at least 6 weeks. Try doing that with bacon and eggs and still having money leftover for your Lipitor!

This is Christie, signing off.

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Cajun Blackened Tempeh

We found some easy prep red beans and rice and decided to make a Cajun meal (or our version of it) using that, some steamed green beans that we topped with BacUn from Pure Market Express and some spiced tempeh that we coated in our home-made rub and blackened under our broiler.
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp paprika
2 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp garlic powder
1/2 tbsp cracked black pepper (feel free to grind the whole peppercorns with the mortar and pestle)
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp salt


After mixing these spices in a bowl I rolled each piece of tempeh (I recommend marinating it in some veggie bouillon or your favorite marinade for 1-2 hours, some tempeh can be dry) in the mixture. I placed the tempeh in a dish and covered it lightly with a paper towel. I then microwaved the tempeh for 2 minutes total for 30 seconds at a time, turning it over between sessions.


Then I put it on tin foil and placed it near our broiler on each side for 2-3 minutes or until it started to toast.

The result… happy Brent and happy Christie.

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Perfectly Easy Tempeh Bacon

I’ve been working really hard lately and haven’t had time to really cook or even enjoy my meals. My family and my co-workers have been taking good care of me, cooking some meals for me or bringing in vegan sandwiches for lunch. I’m lucky and grateful! But today, before I continue working some more, I wanted to make myself a satisfying breakfast.


Tempeh and I haven’t always been good friends. I eat it but I’m often underwhelmed by it. Today, I tried out something different and super easy. I cooked the tempeh with a mixture of 2 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tsp of maple syrup, and a dash of liquid smoke.


It looks and smells pretty as it cooks. For you Filipinos out there, I think this is a great (though less garlicky) alternative to longanisa that doesn’t take a lot of effort or require hours of marinating time. This would have been great with some garlicky fried rice, but I’ve had a lot of rice lately. So I roasted some potato straws instead, sprinkling them with garlic salt. I completed the meal by making a tomato salad, seasoned with salt and pepper.

Really easy. Really satisfying. Now feeling really energized to get started on all the work I need to get done today! –Melissa

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Chopstick Kebabs

If you’re like me and Brent, you’ve got a drawer filled with chopsticks from your favorite Asian takeout or delivery. We decided to try and get rid of some by making kebabs. Along with those we used the following:
1 block of tofu, pressed and cut into 1 inch cubes (omit or replace with seitan if you’re got a soy allergy)
2 medium zucchini, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 onion, cut into 1 inch squares
1 bell pepper, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 carton baby bella mushrooms
1 carton of cherry tomatoes
Other things that can make kebabs awesome include basil leaves, sliced jalapeños and other hot peppers, and any other veggies that can withstand being skewered. We assembled the kebabs and then placed them into a dish filled with marinade (tamari seasoned to taste with ginger extract and garlic works well, but store bought varieties work well too) until we were ready to cook them (at least an hour). Bake at 350F/175C for 45 minutes or grill until the veggies are tender if you’re so inclined.


Wait for them to cool and EAT THEM! Now there’s space in our drawer for more chopsticks.

This is Brent and Christie, signing off!

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