Tag Archives: Cooking

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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Easy Roasted Brussels Sprouts

We write about Brussels sprouts quite a bit, and it’s because they are freaking delicious! They’re definitely a winter veggie for me. I see a Brussels sprout and I think of Thanksgiving and Christmas and Sunday dinners. I’ve toyed around with several recipes, but I finally found one that I think is going to be my go-to recipe.


Easy Roasted Brussels Sprouts
(adapted from About.com > Vegetarian food)

1 1/2 cup Brussels sprouts, cut in half
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp safflower or canola oil
1/2 tsp mustard
salt and pepper, to taste

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

Whisk together the vinegar, salt and pepper together in a small bowl. Slowly incorporate the olive oil until a dressing is formed.

Gently toss the Brussels sprouts in the dressing.

Place in a single layer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle some salt on those babies if you’d like.

Bake for 20 minutes, turning once. Sprouts are done when they are lightly browned.

zOMG. These were so good! The mustard added a nice little pop of flavor that’s been missing from other recipes I’ve tried. The best thing about this is that they can easily be served with any meal, from a vegan roast to pasta to tofu to pizza! Yum. –Melissa

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Monika’s Roasted Tomato Soup


The weather in Chicago has been crisp and cool and sometimes rainy. The leaves are changing color and we’ve started to curl up under our comforters. We are also – HORROR! – wearing socks again. It’s definitely the type of weather that makes me crave warm comfort food.

Do you know what’s more comforting than comfort food? Good friends! And good friends share awesome vegan recipes with their vegan friends. Today’s recipe was graciously shared with me by Monika, my good friend and colleague. Tomato soup is definitely a great comfort food and a great way to use up those summer tomatoes that are still lingering in your kitchen!

Monika’s Roasted Tomato Soup

8 Tomatoes
1 tbsp Balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp Olive Oil
1-1/2 tsp Pepper
1-1/2 tsp Salt
1-1/2 tsp Sugar
2-3 Garlic cloves finely chopped
2 tbsp Basil leaves finely chopped (fresh or dry)
1 Onion finely chopped
1.5-2 Carrots finely chopped

3 cups hot water
1.5 veggie bouillon cube

Vinegar or lemon (if soup tastes too sweet)

Clean the tomatoes  and remove the stem.  Place in an oven safe dish and pour boiling water over the tomatoes. Keep the tomatoes in the dish for approximately 30-60 seconds. Remove from the dish and peel the skin. Cut the tomatoes in half and set aside.

Turn on the oven to 350F as you prepare the baking sheet. Place the tomato halves on  the sheet. Sprinkle tomatoes with salt, pepper, sugar, balsamic vinegar and olive oil.  Bake in the oven for 30-60 mins or until completely soft.

Melt olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add onion, carrots, garlic, and basil. Cook, stirring, until golden brown, set aside.

Mix the stock, set aside.

Remove the tomatoes from the oven, set aside to cool and bring out the food processor/blender.

In a large bowl add: roasted tomatoes, onion/carrots/garlic/basil and process with blender. Add stock, and process again.

Pour the soup into a saucepan and cook over medium-low heat for 15-20 mins. Add salt, pepper as desired. If soup tastes too sweet add a splash of vinegar or lemon.

Super duper tips from Monika:

  • The more time the soup is “cooked/warmed up” the better it will taste.
  • The soup was even more tasty the next day!

I’m so grateful that Monika shared this recipe with me and gave me the chance to share it with you. I can’t wait to try this at home! –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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This post is about making stock for soup, mashed potatoes, French Onion soup, gravy, risotto or whatever you would normally use soup stock for and it’s crazy simple. Even if you like to compost (or have bunnies to ‘process’ your leftover veggies) this is a great way to get more out of your veggies before you throw them in your bin. Get yourself a big old freezer safe storage container. Every time you peel the skins off onions or garlic, cut the ends of carrots or celery, stems from parsley and other herbs, stumps from mushrooms or broccoli… really anything. I add lemon peel from time to time for certain recipes like pho and orange peel for zesty soy curls. Dump it into the container (I like to use a freezer bag) and store in your freezer.

When your container is full of veggie scraps, dump the contents into a pan, cover with water and simmer for at least 2 hours. Strain the liquid into a container and freeze for whenever. Now the veggies are extra mushy for composting or your sink disposal.

The stock will have no added fat or sodium and full of flavor. I like to store the stock in zippered freezer baggies too. If the bag is full enough for about 1/2 inch thickness when lying on its side, then you’ll be able to thaw it quickly.

This is Christie, signing off.

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Christmas Pasta

This holiday season hasn’t felt very holiday-ish. I definitely wasn’t feeling very festive until a couple of days ago. What happened? The weather got frigid, I walked into the State Street Marshall Field’s Macy’s and got overwhelmed by the decor and the crowds, was given a candy cane by a bartender, and then listened to some Christmas carolers over by Cloud Gate. Yay! Christmas! All that’s missing is snow!


Now, whether or not you celebrate or care about Christmas, I’m willing to bet that you’re gathering with family or friends or, at the very least, getting inundated with baked goods by co-workers. It’s been a challenge for the past couple of weeks. I’ve given in to the cupcakes, the cheesecakes, the coffee cakes, the scrambled eggs. Today is Christmas Eve and it won’t get any easier — but I’ve planned ahead in order to avoid falling into traps. After all, there’s no excuse for me to break my vegan diet if I have perfectly delicious vegan food to eat instead.

I’m going to a gathering tonight and there will be plenty of food, none of which is vegan. So I made some pasta which I am calling Christmas Pasta! Next time, I’ll add spinach or some other green veggie so that it actually looks Christmas-y.


It’s still in draft mode until I serve it tonight. I hope everyone at the party tries it and likes it! It’s penne in a marinara sauce with lots of garlic, sliced onion, and eggplant. I’m pretty excited about it. Everyone else can have their turkey or beef or whatever!

Happy celebrations, you guys! Stay safe and don’t eat cows. Santa said so. –Melissa

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Revisiting an Old Favorite: Soy Curl-dereta

For me, one of the joys of turning veganese is that I’ve become better in the kitchen. Cooking isn’t a chore or a crazy thing to do every once in awhile. It’s something that I wish I had time to do everyday. One of the most important lessons that has been learned out of cooking a lot more often is this: it’s okay to change things up, to experiment, to try new ingredients, and to get creative in the kitchen. Make cooking and eating work for you! Sure, it sounds simple, but I used to be one of those people who followed recipes faithfully and wondered if I was eating something the “right” way. For example, is it “right” to stick a whole piece of sushi in my mouth or is it OK to bite it? Sushi purists will tell you that there is definitely a right way to eat sushi, but I don’t quite feel good (or attractive) when trying to eat a whole piece of sushi. Drool and choking become potential side effects. But, I digress.

I recently made some soy curl-dereta (click for my original recipe):

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It’s only the 2nd time I’m making this, which is kind of crazy. I used to worry a lot about missing Filipino food! I can’t be missing it that much if it’s only the 2nd time I’ve made this. The main reason I wanted to talk about this is because I did things a little differently this time around.

  1. I didn’t follow a recipe.
  2. I didn’t have potatoes or bell pepper, so I was missing ingredients (and I forgot some ingredients). Therefore, one can make the argument that this dish is NOT caldereta, but they’re wrong.
  3. I didn’t use the store-bought Caldereta spice packet.
  4. The first time I made this, it was a HUGE production. It was also the first time I ever had soy curls. This time, it was second nature and I wasn’t terrified of the soy curls.

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You guys, I just have to say it: I’m so proud of myself! Look at me, being all casual chef let-me-get-this-stuff-cooked-so-I-can-eat-already! The one major difference is that I browned the soy curls with the garlic and onions and some Butler Chick Style Seasoning before adding the tomato sauce and veggies this time. Since I didn’t have a caldereta spice packet, I seasoned it with salt, pepper, and cumin. I debated whether or not to add nutritional yeast, but opted out. Thinking back, I totally should have done that: some people do add cheese to traditional caldereta.

You might notice that I was working with smaller soy curl bits from the bottom of the bag. It worked out really nicely. The carrots and peas ended up being the star with the soy curls being a nice accompaniment.

Cooking this got me really excited because I couldn’t help but wonder how my 3rd iteration of soy curl-dereta will turn out. I’ll be sure to let you guys know. –Melissa

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Vegan Bistek Part II

It seems like a really long time ago when I posted about Tofustek! and I actually find it hard to believe that it took me this long to make the recipe using soy curls instead of tofu.


Here is the recipe using soy curls:

1 cup soy curls
1/4 c soy sauce
1 tbsp lemon juice or calamansi juice if you’ve got it
2-3 tbsp veggie broth (I used ‘Not Beef’ boullion)
ground black pepper
1 medium onion, sweet vidalia recommended but any onion will do
olive oil

Rehydrate the soy curls as directed on the package, drain, and then add the soy sauce, lemon juice, broth, and black pepper. Mix and set aside to marinate. In the meantime, slice the onion into rings.

Fire up a pan and brown the soy curls in olive oil — do not add the marinade and set it aside, you’ll need it later! When done, put the soy curls in a bowl. Then, put the onions in the pan and cooking to your liking: I like them to be more on the raw side. Add the marinade to the pan and then remove from heat.

Place the onions on top of the soy curls and pour the liquid over everything. Ta da! You’re done!

This goes great with fresh veggies. Try it out! –Melissa


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Help Wanted: Upo Recipes!

I’ve posted quite a bit about my Dad’s garden this summer and I have really enjoyed it. I am so appreciative of the garden. I can grab basil or mint right when I need it, eggplants go from garden to table in minutes, and it’s kind of amazing to see beans and bitter melon go from nothing to ready-to-eat within a day or two. It’s also been really nice and rewarding for my entire family to be able to share the harvest with our friends.

One of the weirder items that my Dad grows is upo aka bottle gourd aka calabash. Here’s a picture of the plant from about a month ago:

And here’s how it looked yesterday:

The ‘meat’ of upo is quite watery. We use it a lot in soups, or we simply stir-fry it. Either way, it requires flavor. Shrimp or pork are typically cooked with upo. So here is where I ask YOU for your help! Have you cooked upo? What vegan recipes can you share? Upo seems to be used in many different ways by many cultures. I’m looking for a little guidance, and I will gladly blog about whatever recipe(s) I try.

If you have a recipe or idea to share, leave a comment! Thank you!!! –Melissa

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Stuffed Bitter Melon (Ampalaya)

This dish originated from a craving for soy curl BBQ, believe it or not. One thought led to another, and next thing I knew, I was grabbing a bitter melon or ampalaya from the fridge and getting to work. I’ve eaten a lot of ampalaya and I’ve eaten it in many, many ways, but I’ve never had it like this.

I made this using one relatively small (6-7 inches) bitter melon, so adjust the recipe measurements as needed if you have lots of melons.

Stuffed Bitter Melon

1 bitter melon
1 cup soy curls (I use Butler)
1 tbsp plum sauce
1 tsp chili garlic sauce
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
olive oil

I cut the bitter melon in half lengthwise, scooped out its guts, and then put it in a bowl of salt water and let it soak. This helps to remove some of the bitterness. I then took the soy curls and put them in a bowl of water to rehydrate. While the melon and soy curls were both soaking, I minced the garlic and ginger.

When the soy curls were ready, I chopped them into small pieces to facilitate stuffing the melon halves. Then I browned them in a pan for about three minutes. I have started sprinkling Butler’s Chik-Style Seasoning whenever I cook soy curls to give it a more meaty flavor. This is totally optional!

I removed the soy curls from heat, placed them in a bowl, and coated them with the plum sauce, chili garlic sauce, and minced garlic and ginger. While the flavors marinaded for a bit, I got back to my bitter melon halves and rinsed them very well to remove all the salt.

I placed the halves in a baking pan and stuffed them with the soy curl mixture. Then I baked them at 325 degrees in the toaster oven for 10 minutes and raised the temp to 350 for the last five minutes. If you use a regular oven, I would bake them at 350 degrees straight for 15 minutes. You may need to keep it in there longer if you want the bitter melons to be tender. I like my melons with a little crunch.

Oh my goodness. OH MY GOODNESS! This was so delicious. It was sweet, spicy, and subtly bitter. I ate it with some rice, but it’s yummy all on its own. I’m glad to report that this was omnivore-approved. If you don’t have bitter melon, bell peppers would probably make a good substitute.

Let me take a minute to praise Butler Soy Curls. This product has seriously upped my excitement for vegan cooking. You can buy them directly from Butler in bulk or from Vegan Essentials, which is a Turning Veganese favorite.

Soy curls stuffed in bitter melon. Who knew?! Happy eating and experimenting, everyone! –Melissa

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