Tag Archives: vegetarian

Brussels Sprouts: Incredibly Versatile

I can only recall one time during my entire childhood when I ate Brussels sprouts. Brussels sprouts were a mystery to me. I wasn’t sure what they looked like — I think I had envisioned something more along the lines of bean sprouts or alfalfa sprouts. All I knew about them is that kids hated them. My friends hated them. Brussels sprouts: BAD!

My first taste did nothing to convince me that what I had heard was wrong. Blech. Plain steamed Brussels sprouts are kind of the worst. Cut to 20 years later and I’m completely on Team Brussels Sprouts! I’ll be sharing three super simple recipes soon. Creativity is required when you’ve got a Costco-sized bag to go through! These are three different ways to prepare/cook these guys and serve as a basis for you to build upon or easily modify to your liking.

Sauteed & Sweet


Roasted “Chips”


Raw & Crunchy


Stay tuned!

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It’s Still Summer. Make an Eggplant Salad!

The days are getting shorter, kids are back in school, Labor Day just passed… but, hey! It’s still summer! And we still have fresh veggies from the backyard so I made a refreshing roasted eggplant salad to accompany dinner the other night.

eggplant salad

This is so easy to make (once you’ve roasted the eggplant) and goes with just about anything as a nice side dish.

Roasted Eggplant Salad

1 eggplant, roasted, cooled and chopped (use the skinny eggplants, not the fat ones)
1 large or 2 medium tomatoes, diced
1/2 small onion, diced
1 tbsp bit of fresh lemon juice1 tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper, to taste


You’ll need to roast the eggplant first and then let it cool. There are a few methods for toasting eggplants — grilling, carefully roasting over an open flame, or broiling in the oven (which is my personal preference).

eggplant salad

Put all your ingredients into a bowl and then mix it up. Easy as pie! Mmmm… pie…

I’m happy to say that I am back in the cooking spirit. Maybe it’s because the weather is starting to cool. Maybe it’s because I’ve been inspired. I’m just glad to start getting busy in the kitchen again!


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A Restful Weekend with Bonus Fruit Salad

I know it’s been awhile, y’all, but don’t worry:

From tumblr.com

Life has felt busy lately and not the exaggerated “I’m soooo busy (marathoning television shows)” kind of busy but the kind that involves having a ton to do at work, traveling a lot for work, and having a lot of family and friend stuff going on. It’s the “I haven’t done laundry in like three weeks” kind of busy. Gross.

Anyway, this weekend is finally a quiet one where I have zero plans other than catching up on my life, vegging out, and doing laundry. I can’t complain too much: I did go on one non-obligatory, 100% for myself vacation last month and visited Jen, my sister from another mister.

smarterrestSide story: I had to sneak into Jen’s place in the middle of the night and scared the crap out of her since she was asleep on the couch. (Don’t worry about why I had to sneak in. I just did. MYOB!) Along with screaming very loudly, Jen threw her eye mask at me. I’m so grateful it was just that and not a lethal weapon. Maybe things would have gone better if she had the Sleep Mask Eye Mask By Smarter Rest, which I had the opportunity to try out. This mask blocks out the light better than any other eye mask I’ve used AND it comes with ear plugs AND comes with its own storage bag. It’s also adjustable so it’ll fit no matter how giant or tiny your head is.

One of the highlights of the weekend was making a Filipino dinner for my friends and that included this easy throwback for dessert:


Yum… lychees! Again, this super simple fruit salad consists of canned lychees, a can of fruit cocktail and almond jello. You can add a can of lychee juice if you want it to be more soupy, or ice cubes to keep it cold. Such good stuff! You should be able to find all the ingredients at any Asian grocery store. If you’re in the Charleston area, we picked up our stuff at the H&L Asian Supermarket. BTW–Jen froze, blended and used it to make a refreshing cocktail after I had already gone home. Sounds freaking delicious!

That’s all for now. I hope everyone is having a wonderful summer!


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Hi. My name is Melissa and I don’t like baking.

This has been true from the time I was 8, had mixed together some cake batter, and then was too terrified to put it in the oven.

Fast forward to last month, when I heard about the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap.

The GREAT FOOD BLOGGER COOKIE SWAP brings together food bloggers from around the world in celebration of all things scrumptious. The premise is this: sign up. Receive the addresses of three other food bloggers. Send each of them one dozen delicious homemade cookies. Receive three different boxes of scrumptious cookies from other bloggers. Eat them all yourself (or, you know, share. If you want. No judgement either way.) Post your cookie recipe on your blog. See everyone else’s cookie recipes. Salivate. Get lots of great ideas for next year’s cookie swap. Rinse and repeat.

I signed up for the online swap before I could talk myself out of it. Then, I panicked. Omg! The last time I baked cookies was the Snickerdoodle experiment that took place on Snowmageddon 2011. This was going to be interesting.

Since I’m a cookie baking novice, I had to find a recipe to follow. I found an awesome recipe in Bake and Destroy which is so easy and unbelievably vegan! Super huge THANK YOU to Joelen of What’s Cookin’ Chicago for giving me this book!


Vegans! You gotta get this book and check out BakeandDestroy.com. For the cookie swap (and also for the Chicago Food Swap, which I will recap in a few days), I followed Natalie Slater’s recipe for German’s Chocolate Cookies. I made a couple tiny changes to the recipe for two reasons: 1) I wanted them to be soy-free so that my sister could try some and 2) I was missing some ingredients.

Before I get into the recipe, I need to emphasize how great this book is. The recipes are awesome and range from breakfast to casseroles to snacks to dips and sauces. GIFT IT TO YOURSELF AND YOUR FRIENDS FOR CHRISTMAS (or just because)!

Vegan German Chocolate Cookies
adapted from Bake and Destroy


2 cups all-purpose flour
⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups sugar
⅔ cup vanilla almond milk or soy milk
⅔ cup canola oil
2 tablespoons ground flax meal
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ⅓ cups rolled oats
¾ cup vegan chocolate chips
½ cup shredded coconut
½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans


1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, milk, oil, flax meal, and vanilla extract. Whisk for about 2 minutes, until the mixture thickens.

4. Stir the wet ingredients into the flour mixture until just mixed.

5. Fold in the oats, chocolate chips, coconut, and walnuts.

6. Drop by tablespoons (I used a cookie dough scooper thingy) onto the prepared baking sheets and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the edges are set up.

7. Let cool on the pans for 5 minutes, then let cool completely on the wire racks.

I was so happy with how these turned out. I may have some baking skillz after all! I got some great treats in return and will be giving kudos to my fellow food blogger cookie swappers in the coming weeks. –Melissa

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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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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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The Lazy Vegan: Sweet Sunday Breakfast

When I think about family meals, I find myself being truly grateful that my parents and siblings and I always ate at the table, together. My parents would cook, we would set the table, get our drinks, and then it would just be us and our meal. There was never any radio or TV or smart phone to distract us. Sunday mornings were especially nice: my parents would sometimes cook what I would now consider to be an extravagant breakfast consisting of eggs and sausages and pancakes, etc. Or, we would stop at Dunkin Donuts on the way home from church and have a junky breakfast together.

Fast forward to today. I woke up alone and wanting something comforting but healthy and easy for breakfast. This meal using items I always have in my kitchen met my criteria and was perfectly satisfying! It’s also a great meal for kids.


Lazy Sunday Morning Waffles w/ Peanut Butter and a ‘Nana

1 frozen Van’s waffle (I love these. There a several varieties, many are gluten-free, and I can find them in any of my usual grocery stores)
1 banana
1-2 tbsp of Peanut Butter & Co. Dark Chocolate Dreams (again… awesome product from a vegan company that I can find in any of my usual grocery stores)


Toast or bake the waffle according to the directions on the box.

Spread the peanut butter on the waffle.

Slice up a banana.

Put it all on a plate.



As easy as it was to make this, I found it to be so comforting. Today is one of those days when a meal can make or break my day. This definitely makes me feel more ready to face my day! –Melissa

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Review: Trader Joe’s Vegan Mozzarella Style Shreds


I’ve been obsessed with making little pizzas ever since my visit with Jen. Follow Your Heart shreds are my favorite with Daiya coming in a close second. On a recent run to Trader Joe’s, I decided to pick up some of their branded Vegan Mozzarella Style Shreds.

It gives me no pleasure to say that I thought the Trader Joe’s vegan cheese was, well, yucky.

The shreds have gotten favorable reviews. The positives are that the cheese melts well and is inexpensive compared to Daiya. It also has a lot more calcium in it. More than one review called it the opposite of Daiya, and that’s something that I totally agree with.


The shreds are dry and thin. Upon opening the bag, I took a good whiff and it smelled like cheese. Unlike Daiya and Follow Your Heart, which retain their shape and color, the TJ shreds seemed to ooze into the rest of the ingredients. It definitely melts like real cheese.


All my pizzas have these base ingredients: Flatout flatbread for the crust (this stuff is so great AND vegan), roasted red pepper, and pizza sauce (I really like the Safeway brand pizza sauce… and I am extremely sad that we will be losing our Dominick’s/Safeway stores in Chicago next month). I constructed the ‘za and baked it.


I was definitely weirded out by the discoloration of the cheese and also some of the ooze factor. The first bite tasted had a really sharp taste. There’s definitely something in the cheese to give it this effect. Then, I felt like the cheese was sticking to my teeth and it felt very powdery in my mouth. I sometimes feel like Daiya has this sort of synthetic stickyness to it that I find annoying. This was worse.

I forced myself to eat the rest of the pizza, but I really had to force it down. I don’t think I will give Trader Joe’s Vegan Mozzarella Style Shreds another chance. I’m really glad I tried it, but I would rather have a cheeseless pizza than use it again. Do you agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments! –Melissa

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Umeboshi; Japanese Pickled Plums

This is one of a long list of things I’ve been waiting to try as a vegan delicacy.  I figured it might be a good start for my re-entry to the land of blogging – a little weird and a little wonderful. They’re reputed to be good for digestion and hangovers. Who knows if I’ll ever get to try the latter out, but until then I’ll give it a shot for my digestion.

This was the first box I’ve seen of this particular product. I was pretty excited to finally see it, scooped it up and brought it home. Of course I paid for it, but that’s another story.

I opened the box and put a whole plum in my mouth and discovered that it really is a pickled plum – salty and sour like a pickle, but with a surprising floral aftertaste. My next stop with these will be to use them for hot pot which is a regular fun thing in our house. I think they’ll make a great addition to our regular szechuan style seasoning. Have you ever tried pickled ume plums?

This is Christie, signing off!

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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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