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Taking a Break…

September 7, 2013

Well, if you haven’t picked up on it, I have been on a sort of blogging vacation this summer. I have had a few other goals, like getting back into running and reading an art history book a week to compliment my new AP Art History course this Fall. It was wonderful to sink into a book and get lost in stories of my early academic days. With the help of My FitnessPal and a co-worker coaching me in the weight room, I lost 20 pounds and I am back to running 7:30 minute miles on 5k runs. Running the pace I did in my early 20’s is a great way to say hello to my mid-30’s.

We are making room in our life for lots of new things based on old ideas. Before we were married, we decided we would complete our family through adoption. It seems the time is now. So, we have gone through endless amounts of research about different types of adoption, learned about the positives and negatives of each program, and have decided that international adoption was a good match for our family.  After 6 months of paper work, 2 months waiting for approval from Immigration and the Department of Homeland Security, we started the process of adopting through China’s special needs program, a program for children with birth defects. Very shortly, we will send our paperwork to China, which is when we can start looking for a match. There are so many steps, that we are very nervous about the process and hoping for the best.

An invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of time, place, or circumstance. The thread may stretch or tangle, but will never break.

-a Chinese proverb

In the meantime, we wear red threads around our wrist, as a constant reminder of our child who is living somewhere else across the world right now. We hope in each day that we get closer to them, their life becomes a little easier than the day before. Serafina excitedly talks about all the ways she will welcome them into the family. She has become at pro at explaining the adoption process to friends and family. And, each day she makes a comment about saving something for the baby- be it her treats, a loved toy, or a place at the table. It is amazing how we can love a person we have not yet met. As we learn more and more, I can’t even begin to explain how excited we are for our newest member to join the family. We still have several more steps to go, so the next year will be busy and a little nerve wracking.

In thinking about these changes for our family, I realized that regular blogging does not really fit into this next stage. Responsibilities at work and home are growing to a level that I need to carve out more quiet time, which can mean less time to contemplate new recipes. Right now, as things are about to get pretty complicated with paperwork, reading referral files, getting ready for a new member, travel to China to pick up our child, maternity leave, adjustments at home, encouraging attachment, and a series of surgeries for our new child, life needs to be a calm routine. So, I decided to take a big a break from blogging, and I am not sure if it is a permanent one. For now, I hope you enjoy the rest of the year, and that it is a healthy and happy one!

Polenta and Sauteed Baby Spinach

June 6, 2013

When I became a vegetarian at age 12, my mom supported me in my decision in many ways. She did not pause in her response, and said she would help me. She taught me how to cook to empower me. She explored new dishes outside of her comfort zone to help me create a balanced diet. My mom helped me find articles and books which helped me learn how to eat a balanced diet. She even defended my diet to extended family and friends who might have not understood me 22 years ago. As time progressed, she continues to learn and grow in her understanding of my vegetarian diet, and now my young family’s vegetarian home. I love her for many things, but mostly her endless support with her unique dose of adorable curiosity is definitely up there.

This dish is something I remember my mom making for me in high school. When she tried to find vegetarian food for me, she reached back to her mother and even her grandmother’s cooking. I enjoyed lentils, sturdy greens, white beans, risotto, mushroom ragout — all before they were trendy. My favorite addition to our family menu was the recipe below. Next time you are in the Italian food section, pick up a roll of pre-made polenta. I enjoy making polenta from scratch, but the reality is that this working mom does not have the time to do that often. Polenta rolls are an easy, but healthy convenience food. AAM really loved this dish, and I recommend it from an every day meal to a special occasion.

Thank you mom. I appreciate how you supported my efforts to be true to my beliefs, while also empowering me to grow as a person. You are an amazing mother, role model, and person. Happy Birthday!

Polenta with sauteed garlic baby spinach-

Polenta and Sauteed Baby Spinach

  • 1 Polenta roll, cut into 10 slices, 1 inch each.
  • olive oil, divided
  • salt and pepper
  • 6 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 4 cups of baby spinach
  • splash of vegetable broth
  • 1 cup of warm tomato sauce

1. Preheat the oven to 450. Grease a baking dish with olive oil. Place the polenta in the dish, sprinkle with kosher salt, olive oil, and a generous amount of black pepper. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden.

2. In a sauce pan, heat garlic in 2 tb of olive oil over medium heat. Once the garlic starts to lightly brown, add the baby spinach. Pour a splash of veggie broth on top. Cook until the spinach until it is a bright green and shrunk to a 1/4 the size. Turn off heat, and cover.

3. Serve with spinach on the bottom, polenta, and top with red sauce. Enjoy warm!

Fried Zucchini Blossoms

June 1, 2013

Fried Zucchini Blossoms were very trendy last summer. Zucchini blossoms sound strange to eat, but I promise these are phenomenal. They make a nice appetizer or side with Italian food. Unfortunately, last summer, our blossoms in the garden met an untimely death due to my squash plant rotting. So at the very end of the season, I picked some blossoms up at the Falls Church Farmers Market and brought them to my parents. We made a vegetable casserole, roasted oregano potatoes, and these blossoms on the side. Serafina loved them so much, that I hard to start grabbing extras for my plate so she wouldn’t hog the delicacy. Because I loved the recipe so much, I saved it for the beginning of this summer, so all of you can plan ahead!

Fried Zucchini Blossoms

  • 1 cup of olive oil
  • 2 cups of zucchini blossoms
  • Eggwhite from one egg.
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1 tb kosher salt
  • 1 tb ground pepper

1. In a skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Hot, but not so much that oil will splash outside the pan.

2.  Put the egg in a bowl. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, salt, and pepper. Dredge the blossoms in the egg. Then transfer it to the dry ingredients and stir around.

3. Place the zucchini blossoms in the skillet. Let it simmer for 1-2 minutes. Flip once. Be sure you don’t flip around the blossoms too much. Then remove to a paper towel.

Arugula with Lemon Cappellini

May 27, 2013

This is an easy, healthy weeknight meal. We used the arugula from our garden, but I am sure you could add fresh parsley, oregano, basil, or whatever fresh herb you have on hand. Personally, I love arugula in long pasta dishes, from cappellini to fettucini. The lettuce is small enough that it gently swirls around the pasta, and with big enough flavor that it adds its own element. This would also be a good dish with red pepper flakes, for those like me who love a little spice in life.

Lemon and Arugula

Arugula with Lemon Cappellini

  • 3/4 lb whole wheat cappellini
  • 1 cup of reserved pasta water
  • olive oil
  • 5 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • breadcrumbs
  • 1 tb dried basil
  • salt/pepper
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 2 cups of arugula
  • 1/2 cup of sliced almonds

1. Boil water. Once boiling, add cappellini and cook for 2 minutes. Drain pasta, reserving one cup

2. Heat up a large/deep saute pan with oil over medium/ high heat. Add the garlic, breadcrumbs, basil, salt and pepper. Move the breadcrumbs around the pan, allowing them to crisp. Let the mixture brown, but not burn.

3. Throw pasta, arugula, lemon juice, and the reserved water into the saute pan. Using two forks, toss the pasta and dressing together. Add olive oil for smoother texture as needed. Serve with sliced almonds, freshly ground black pepper and a splash of olive oil on top.

Lemon and Arugula

Non-Dairy Summer Pasta Salad

May 20, 2013

Many people I know can’t stand mayo, which has helped me explore beyond traditional summer salads. Additionally, I have always been uneasy with mayo drenched salads at BBQs. I have heard that foods with dairy can stay out for four hours, but in the DC summer heat, that just seems wrong. So, the past few years, I have been building an arsenal of dairy-free summer salads. Feel free to try one of these awesome salads for Memorial Day weekend

The other day, without the ingredients for the salads above, I made a last minute Summer Pasta Salad to our first neighborhood BBQ of the summer. Having old friends across the street, means a summer of walking dishes back and forth with toddler in hand. We may have moved farther from downtown in order for a house with a yard, but it has brought us endless fun outside. Five different toddlers loved this dish, and the adults too. It is so simple, I am almost embarrassed to post it. However, because it had a strong kid-approval rating, I thought it might be good to share.

Summer Pasta Salad

  • 1lb Whole Wheat medium shell pasta
  • 1 cup of reserved pasta water
  • 1 pint of grape tomatoes, mixed variety, sliced
  • 1 cup of  roasted asparagus, chopped
  • 1/2 cup of roasted red peppers
  • 1/4 cup of vidalia onion, chopped
  • 1 can of black olives, chopped
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 4 tb olive oil, divided
  • 1/4 cup of fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup of parsley
  • salt/ pepper

1. Place a stockpot on the stove, boil the water, then cook your pasta. Meanwhile prep your veggies.

2. Drain the pasta, save a cup of pasta water to throw back on the pasta, then mix in the vegetables. In a separate bowl, stir together the lemon juice, 2 tb of olive oil, basil, parsley, salt and pepper. Drizzle over the salad and toss. Add more olive oil if it is dry.

vegan summer pasta salad--

Risotto Primavera

May 13, 2013

This is a simple spring/summer dish. We love risotto, and it really isn’t as hard as people make it. Be sure you keep the heat at medium low, and add in broth every few minutes. This is definitely a kid pleaser!


Risotto Primavera

  • 2 cups of Risotto
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 cup of yellow onion, diced
  • 1 cup of  carrots, diced
  • 2 tb olive oil
  • 6-8 cups of vegetable broth
  • 1 cup of frozen peas, or fresh
  • 1 cup of chopped, roasted asparagus (olive oil+salt+pepper@425 degrees for 20 minutes)
  • salt/pepper to taste

1. Before you start the risotto, begin roasting your asparagus.

2. In a saucepan, saute the risotto, carrots, garlic, onion, and olive oil over medium heat. When the rice and garlic start to slightly brown, lower the heat, and add 1 cup of broth. Stir the broth in, then add more. Repeat this until you have put in six cups.

2. Add the peas, asparagus, salt and pepper.

3. Stir in more broth, until the risotto is soft. Enjoy warm

Curry Sweet Potato Burgers

May 6, 2013

Hope you are enjoying Spring! Although things have been a bit busy at work, we have been finding ways to garden and enjoy the Spring weather. Serafina helped me put in our lettuces, herbs, and our early batch of tomatoes. As she gets older, she seems to love the dirt and helping more. A definite bonus. Spring also brings easy meals filled with chopped veggies. Toddlers can love veggies, but it helps to have them fresh and tasty. Luckily, after a long day, this quick meal can satiate Serafina and my concerns over a balanced vegetarian diet.  This is fast food in our house:

Toddler Vegetarian Meal-

She followed with a yogurt and banana. However,  if I put those on the plate in the beginning, there would be no veggies consumed.

One hallmark of the coming Spring can be firing up the grill. I have spent a good amount of time trying different packaged veggie burgers, but we decided to try making our own with sweet potatoes the other weekend.

Curry Sweet Potato Burger-

With some forethought, this veggie burger can be a simple dish for dinner. We made them the day before, then froze them to help them maintain their shape. The curry may appear to be an unusual addition, but I find that it can be the perfect match with the blander flavors of beans and potatoes. Also, curry is mild enough that children usually love it. In fact, I use recipes like this and my Curry Egg Salad to broaden Serafina’s tastes. Also, the pearled couscous in the photo was a perfect healthy compliment to the burgers. Just add garbanzo beans, frozen veggie mix, and olive oil.


Curry Sweet Potato Burgers

  • olive oil
  • 2 Sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 can of white beans, drained and cleaned
  • 2 tb tahini
  • 1  tb maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup of dried oats
  • 1/4 cup of panko bread crumbs
  • 2 tb of curry
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • ranch dressing (we used the vegan dressing from Organicville)

1. Preheat the oven to 425. Slather the sweet potatoes chunks in olive oil and roast for 40 minutes. Remove and let the potatoes cool a tad.

2. When cooler, add in the beans, tahini and syrup. Mash the ingredients together.

3. Once the majority of the beans are mashed, add the remaining ingredients. Stir together so they mix evenly. Add more or less breadcrumbs based on how dry your mixture is. Add more syrup if it seems to be drying.

4. Take a 1/3 cup of mixture and shape into a round burger shape. Place on freezer paper and layer in a freezer safe container. Place burgers in the freezer for at least 24 hours.

5. When ready, defrost the burgers. We cooked the burgers on our Cuisinart panini press, but they seemed to hold together enough that I might trust them on a grill.

6. Grill until cooked through. Serve with ranch dressing, romaine lettuce, vidalia onion, and tomatoes.

Curry Sweet Potato Burger-

Ramps and Grape Tomatoes with Fettuccini

April 29, 2013

If you live on the East Coast, ramps might be an item that you would see at a farmer’s market and not be sure what to do with it. Ramps are a regional treat, and have a garlicky-onion flavor. However, their flavor is delicate, so try to let the ingredient shine, don’t drown it. Ramps season is short from April- June, so try to catch them at the farmers market next weekend.

Ramps Fettuccini

Last Saturday, we made our weekly visit to the Falls Church Farmers Market, a cook’s heaven and toddler’s paradise,  we made a meal purely of food purchased there. We used Cavanna pasta and our crusty Italian bread was from Grace’s Pastries. When we made the dish, we opted for chunky breadcrumbs. If you want your noodles coated with breadcrumbs, which I highly recommend, run them through the food processor after toasting on the stove top. We opted for chunky breadcrumbs this time because, why not?

Ramps and Grape Tomatoes with Fettuccini

  • 2 cups of fresh bread, chopped
  • salt/pepper/ olive oil1 bunch of ramps
  • 1 pint of grape tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1 lb fettuccini
  • 1 cup of pasta water

1. Toss your chopped bread in a few tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper. Then toast them in a large saute pan. Once they are crisp, remove them.

Ramps and Breadcrumbs Fettuccini-

2. Separating the bulb from the leaf, chop up the ramps. Keep the parts in separate piles.

3. Heat up a pot of water for the pasta.

4. In the saute pan, drizzle olive oil and add the ramps over medium heat. When they seem to be simmering, add the grape tomatoes. Let simmer for 10 minutes.

5. When the tomatoes appear cooked to your preference, for us it was ten minutes, add the fettuccini to the water (cook for 2 minutes if the pasta is fresh, and according to the box if dried). Add the ramp leaves with just two minutes left to cook the pasta.

5. Stir in the breadcrumbs to the tomatoes, one cup of pasta water, and add in the pasta. Serve warm.

Ramps Fettucini-

Fried Tofu

April 1, 2013

You would think that by my mid-30s, and having been a vegetarian the majority of my life, that I would have tried to make fried tofu before. Alas, it was one of those things that I was scared to make because I had never watched someone make it. One thing I have learned about myself is I tend to do better after watching someone demonstrate, maybe a reason I became a teacher. Although I was intimidated by the task, once doing it, we realized how simple and tasty the dish could be. Kids and adults would love this crispy on the outside and firm on the inside tofu. This is definitely going to be a classic in our house.

Fried Tofu- Vegetarian Salmon

I used my Spring Break as an opportunity to research making fried tofu. We quickly decided that it was best to find a vegan recipe, since we would enjoy the recipe with our vegetable stir fry. Of course, no recipe worked with what we tend to keep on hand. I did not want to resort to using eggs, it just seemed silly to introduce dairy to the dish. So, I combined a few recipes for the dish below, and made sure it was consistent with our pantry. Feel free to modify to work with yours!

Fried Tofu (Vegan)

  • 1 package of extra firm tofu
  • 1 cup of panko bread crumbs
  • 1 tb nutritional yeast
  • t tb minced garlic flakes
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 cup of oil

1.  Slice the tofu loaf in half horizontally. Then, cut it in half vertically. Cut again horizontally four times. This should make tofu pieces about 1 inch deep and 2-3 inches long. Place a paper towel on a tray, then tofu, then paper towel, and finally a plate on top. Let the tofu press for 15 minutes.

2. Stir together the panko, nutritional yeast, garlic, salt, and pepper. Once the mixture is even, dredge the tofu through and place on a plate. Once you are done with all the tofu, put in the fridge for 20-30 minutes to help the breading set.

Breaded Tofu- Vegetarian Salmon

3. Heat oil in a wok or caste iron pan. Heat medium/high**. When ready, place a few pieces of tofu in, and let it sit for 3-4 minutes. Don’t shift it around.

Sizzling Tofu- Vegetarian Salmon

Once the bottom has browned, flip. Cook for another 2-3 minutes. If you need to, keep the tofu warm in your oven at 200, while you finish the batch. Enjoy with fried rice, or any other dish.

*** Please use caution with the hot oil. Some general thoughts, don’t use anything that has touched water when lifting the tofu, or the oil will go nuts. Also, I like woks when frying, because they give depth for the oil, but also give you space to sit back. Turn the oil down if it is splattering.


Guest Post: KDK’s Cuban Black Beans

March 26, 2013

Here is a fantastic recipe from our neighbor and long time friend KDK. Everyone can use a good bean recipe, and Cuban black beans are even better!

Cuban Black Beans- Vegetarian Salmon

From KDK:
Growing up my mom worked full time as a teacher and got home just in time to get dinner on the table.  So there wasn’t a lot of room for originality and we didn’t eat big, elaborate meals.  We ate simple food that was easy to fix and good for us.  My mom is a huge fan of a healthy, well balanced plate and taught me the importance of a “rainbow of colors” on your plate (I still use it to this day when I make dinner).  My mom also didn’t grow up in the U.S., she was born and raised in Cuba.  So, while she didn’t cook tons of Cuban food every night (my dad is American and very “meat and potatoes”), black beans were a weekly staple in our house.  Over rice, pureed into soup, in dip, you name it, we ate it.  To this day, I judge every plate of black beans I eat against my mother’s.  Whenever we go home we ask her to make them, and she makes them now for our kids.  Occasionally I try my hand at it, and I know it’s not quite as good, but they’ll do when she’s not around.  The key to good black beans is time.  They’re not hard to make, not ingredient heavy, they just take time and patience.  I love to eat them over some brown rice, but they’re great in tacos, as a soup or even under a nice Tuna (sorry, we’re not vegetarians!) with some fresh avocado.  Enjoy!

KDK Mama’s Black Beans


  • 1lb. dry black beans (I use Goya)
  • 6 cups water
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 large onion (diced)
  • 1 green pepper (diced)
  • 8 cloves garlic (diced)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 1 Tbs. sugar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 Tbs. red wine vinegar

1. Soak the beans overnight.  In a pinch, you can use hot water instead of cold, mix with beans, bring to a boil, and then let sit for an hour.  But it’s better to just let them soak all night.
2. Cook covered on high until they boil.  When boiling, lower heat (keep covered) and cook for 45 minutes.
3. In frying pan saute onion, green pepper and garlic in the olive oil.

Cuban Black Beans-Vegetarian Salmon
4. When beans are done, take out 1 cup and mash (I use a potato masher, but my mom uses a good old-fashioned fork).  Then return the to the pot and add in the sauteed vegetables.  The add the salt, pepper, oregano, sugar and bay leaf.

Cuban Black Beans- Vegetarian Salmon
5. Stir, cover and cook on low heat for 1 hour.
6. Add the red wine vinegar and cook 1 more hour on low heat.

Buena Suerte!

Vegan Pasta Puttanesca, plus tested Pinterest recipes

March 18, 2013

A few weeks ago, I decided to delve into my very large recipe archive on Pinterest, and cook a new recipe a night. This was a bit of an ambitious goal, and I have to admit that one night I broke down and just cooked white beans with a jar of masala sauce and called it a night. However, the main point was to introduce new recipes that seemed to be easy, healthy, and most importantly, comprised of ingredients we already keep in our pantry. I wanted to update my weeknight routine, and it needed to fit with my new years resolution of being kind to my body. We enjoyed a delicious Inside-Out Spring Roll Salad, Butternut Squash Wontons, Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burrito, a vegan version of a Pasta Puttanesca, and a few others. Some were delicious, others did not live up to their picture.

We loved the inside out Spring Roll Salad with Butternut Squash Wontons

We loved the Inside Out Spring Roll Salad with Butternut Squash Wontons

What I learned about myself is that I can not, under any circumstances, stick to a recipe. The project was to follow 5 Pinterest recipes, and what do I do? I lighten the dressing on Spring Roll Salad. We cut down on the clean up by compacting the cooking process of the wontons by roasting the butternut squash and garlic together. For the burrito, we removed the cheese, and added salsa and guacamole to give moisture. Finally, the pasta needed major changes. So much so, that I realized I had made a different version of the Italian classic. We loved the results so much that I decided to write it up on the blog

Pasta Puttanesca- Vegetarian Salmon

Pasta Puttanesca, meaning “Whore’s Pasta”, is usually cooked with sardines, olives, tomatoes, and capers. The idea is that the recipe is comprised of items people in an lower income economic group could quickly pull together dinner from their pantry. Now, Italian purists have certain convictions about recipe authenticity. Just look at the comments section of the original recipe, where they slammed the author for having cheese and fish together–something that had also struck me odd about the recipe, but I digress. However, Italian food is also fluid based off of seasonal ingredients, much less rigid then say French food. Originally, Puttanesca should have sardines, and well, being vegetarian, that just wasn’t going to happen.  Cooked during winter, we had no fresh basil. Plus, I wanted to make this dairy free, so we had to drop the cheese. So, this meant I needed to play with portions and find a happy medium so we wouldn’t miss the ingredients. We added more olives and much more spice, and the result was a dish with a little more complexity. This is definitely an easy, healthy meal to add to your repertoire. Enjoy!

Pasta Puttanesca

  • olive oil
  • 1 cup of onions, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 2  cans of diced tomatoes (14 oz)
  • 1 can of olives, roughly chopped (not pre-chopped)
  • 1/4 cup of capers
  • 2 tb dried basil
  • 1 tb dried oregano
  • 1 tb red pepper flakes, crushed
  • 1lb of whole wheat cappellini or angel hair

1. In a large saute pan, put in two tablespoons of olive oil and saute the garlic with the onions. Once the onions are translucent, add the next 8 ingredients. Let the sauce simmer, and stir occasionally. Simmer for 20 minutes

2. Meanwhile, boil water. Once the sauce seems to have blended together, cook your pasta in the water. Drain, then fold the pasta into the sauce. Serve hot.

Cucumber Salad

March 11, 2013

We love cucumbers around here. Ever since Serafina started chomping on solids, cucumbers ranked among her favorite foods. I have heard from parents that some of her classmates say they want a “Serafina lunch,” which apparently means tomatoes, cucumbers, pita, cheese bites, and hummus. They tell their parents that “Serafina loves cucumbers.” I thought I was the lazy parent tossing a bunch of healthy ingredients in her little lunch box, and in the end she started a lunch trend.

Cucumber Salad-- Vegetarian Salmon

The other night, we had our best friends over for dinner. Serafina and their daughter Elaine ran wild with giggles around the house. It is amazing how wonderfully these two get along, they truly are partners in crime. The filled the hours playing red light/ green light, stoller derby, and joint coloring on the easel while wearing the same strand of Mardi Gras beads. We decided to roast asparagus and try out the zucchini fritters we enjoyed at Christmas. After doubling the ingredients and adding scallions, I realized I wanted to have a light side for a healthy dinner. Thus, I tossed together a cucumber salad, normally a summer treat, and it worked perfectly for our dinner. In fact, upon sitting at the table I realized I had made a plate filled with green deliciousness, worthy of a St. Patrick’s Day dinner.

St. Patty's Day Green Special: Zucchini Fritters, Asparagus, Cucumber Salad, and Green Salad.

Cucumber Salad

  • 2 English Cucumbers
  • 1 tb kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup of sliced red onion and chopped
  • 1/4 cup of chopped dill
  • 2 tb champagne vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons of sugar

1. Slice the cucumber in half, lengthwise. Using a peeler or melon ball spoon, hold the cucumber over a sink, and carve out the seeds in the center. Next, slice the cucumbers horizontally. Place in a bowl and toss in the salt, red onion, and dill.

2.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the vinegar and sugar until the sugar dissolves.

3. Check your cucumbers and drain any of the water at the bottom of the bowl. Then, pour the vinegar over the cucumbers. Let flavors meld for a bit before you serve. Right before you do share your salad, spoon the dressing at the bottom back on top of the cucumber salad.

Cucumber Salad-- Vegetarian Salmon

Shaved Asparagus Pizza (Smitten Kitchen Inspired)

March 4, 2013

We are big fans of the Smitten Kitchen cookbook. Not only did the author, Deb Perelman, create an enjoyable book to read, but the recipes are innovative without being overly done. A former vegetarian, she even has a section for vegetarian mains. We have tried a few recipes from the cookbook, and all of them end up simple to create and delicious. I highly recommend the cookbook.

A few Saturday nights ago, we decided to have a simple, at-home date night: streaming Netflix and a homemade pizza. Using Perelman’s recipe as a guide, with a few minor adjustments, we created this shaved asparagus pizza, and immediately devoured it. The combination of the scallions and asparagus are phenomenal.

Shaved Asparagus Pizza

Note: I changed the cooking heat, since pizza dough needs to cook from the inside a little slower than what she had provided. I also added Pecorino to give the cheese some kick. We also used whole wheat pizza dough.

Shaved Asparagus Pizza

  • Whole Wheat Pizza Dough
  • Cornmeal
  • 1 bunch of asparagus (20 stalks or so)
  • 1/2 cup of thinly sliced scallions
  • 2 cups of shredded part-skim mozzarella
  • 1/4 cup of Pecorino cheese
  • 1 tablespoon ground pepper
  • Sprinkling of Parmesan

1.Preheat the oven to 450 degrees

2. Roll out your pizza dough on a pizza peel covered in corn meal. Cover the dough with mozzarella and Pecorino.

3. Using a peeler, hold the stalks and peel the asparagus, making shavings. Top the pizza with the shavings and scallions.

Shaved Asparagus Pizza

4. Sprinkle the top with Parmesan and ground pepper.

5. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes. Then, raise the heat to 500, and bake for 5-7 minutes until the cheese is golden and the asparagus lightly browned.

Shaved Asparagus Pizza

Vegan Taco Salad

February 25, 2013

Taco salad is often drenched in cheese, sour cream, and ranch dressing, making it a definite unhealthy menu choice. Sometimes, when we want a light weeknight meal and find an almost empty bag of tortilla chips tempting, we toss together this combo to make a much healthier version. There are so many ingredients, and topped with a quality salsa, you can really enjoy the dish without the fat.


Healthy Taco Salad

Taco Seasoning:

  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Taco Salad:

  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 bag of Boca Soy Crumbles
  • 1 cup of black beans
  • 2 cups of romaine lettuce, sliced horizontally
  • 1 cup of sliced tomatoes
  • 1 cup of corn
  • 1 cup of salsa
  • 2 cups of tortilla chips (preferably the broken bits at the bottom of the bag)
  • avocado, hot sauce, and onions (optional)

1. Mix together the seasoning ingredients. Once it appears even, pour in the water and stir together.

2. On a stove top, saute the soy crumbles in the taco seasoning. Add in the black beans and cook over low for 10 minutes.

3. Assemble your salads, romaine lettuce on the bottom, then soy crumbles, corn, tomatoes and salsa. Mix in the tortilla chips.

Creamy Mushroom and Cannellini Bean Risotto

February 18, 2013

Sometimes, we are all left uninspired about cooking dinner. A few weeks ago, we had nothing in the fridge, and the season finally changed, so I was clueless on where to get started. After looking at a can of cannelini beans and dried aroborio rice, I knew that this could be a magic combination. Looking for inspiration, I googled the ingredients and came upon this recipe on Eclectic Recipes. I thought the warm and creamy flavors would be the perfect comfort food after a long day, and the added bonus would be Serafina loves the key ingredients. And bonus, it fits my nightly vegetables + grain+ protein goal. Cannellini beans are a very bland bean that children like, and the starch from the bean lends a natural creaminess. If your crowd does not love mushrooms, getting a sturdy mushroom like a portobello and chopping up to be a small still adds earthiness without the texture that turns most people off.


About the recipe: I made a few changes to the recipe, to make it healthy and a non-dairy venture. We don’t typically keep creamed soups in the house, and less and less these days. Most recipes that require canned soup are taking a shortcut, for something uncomplicated. Plus, it adds unnecessary dairy, sodium, and fat to your diet. I wanted to make a healthy meal, that would still give that mid-winter comfort food taste that we all love. So, I added some soy milk and veggie broth to help the risotto along. I also wanted to add a bit of green color in, so I put in some frozen peas. Be sure you don’t overcook the peas. The key to adding peas to risotto, a common thing to do, is to cook them just until they are bright green and they give a pop of sweetness when you try one.

Creamy Mushroom and Cannellini Bean Risotto

  • olive oil
  • 1/2 cup of onion, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup of Arborio rice
  • 3 cups of veggie broth, low sodium
  • 1 cup of soymilk
  • 1 can of cannellini beans
  • 1 cup of portobello mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 cup of frozen peas,
  • salt and pepper to taste

1. In a saute pan over medium heat, add a few tablespoons of olive oil. Saute the onions and garlic until translucent.

2. Lower the heat to Medium/Low. Add the rice, and more olive oil if needed. Let the rice lightly brown.

3. Add 1 cup of veggie broth, and stir. Repeat once the rice absorbs the broth. Keep adding broth until the rice has doubled, and test a grain to see if it is soft on the outside, and nearly soft on the inside. Feel free to add more veggie broth or water if it seems like the risotto needs it.

4. Add the soy milk, beans, mushrooms, peas, salt and pepper. Stir and let the flavors meld. Once the milk has been absorbed it should be ready.

5. Serve warm, and top with some ground pepper.



Pecan and Fig Jam Crostini

February 11, 2013

Show your love one you care by giving them a dairy free vegetarian meal this Valentines Day. I know, this sounds insane saying this about the holiday meant for oyster Rockefellar, cheese fondue, butter drenched lobster, and milk chocolate in all forms. All of those decadent items sound like the perfect preparation for a romantic meal. However, what isn’t romantic is how our love of decadence is contributing to a horrendous spike in heart disease and cancer. There is very good research that shows removing dairy and meat from your meal helps your health tremendously. An interesting documentary that goes through the history of medical research and our consumption trends is Forks Over Knives, which can be streamed on Netflix. Currently, I am reading the background research for the movie in a book called The China Study. I have known about the China Study, but held off on reading it until I knew I was ready to absorb the information. After making efforts to learn how to cook well and reduce dairy, we felt like we were ready to read about the connections between health and a vegan diet.

Last year, one of us had a bit of a health scare, where we realized that we were leaning on our vegetarian-ness as a guarantee for good cholesterol and blood pressure. Well, it turns out eating cheese like you are being paid by the dairy industry does not work too well. Without using any drugs, we rapidly reduced our cholesterol levels, and lost weight- soley based on eliminating dairy. Having already written the prescription for Lipitor, our doctor was in disbelief. He couldn’t believe that we made such dramatic changes just through diet. I spent the year learning how to do vegan alternatives to our diet, and we limited to dairy once a day, if any. Now a year later, we were starting to creep into old habits. Definitely not as bad as before, but there was room for improvement. So, we are giving ourselves a reality check with research. Truly, I love my husband and daughter, and I want us to be around for a long, long time, and switching over to eating dairy-free as much as possible is the way I can help contribute to their longevity. I can’t think of a better way to tell them how much I love them.

About the Recipe: This Pecan and Fig Jam crostini is dairy free. It is a variation from Giada’s Kitchen, where she uses hazelnuts and Romano cheese. Hazelnuts tend to be harder to find, so I switched to pecans. Since Romano cheese adds a salty flavor, I took out the cheese and replaced it with a minuscule amount of sea salt. Taking out the dairy also means this appetizer does not need to be refrigerated. Giada also makes the jam from scratch with brandy, but seriously I don’t know a person who has time to dedicate that much to an appetizer. I wanted to come up with something easy that wouldn’t detract from your efforts towards the main event. So, I used a fig jam that I had found at a speciality food and wine store, like the Cheese Shop in Williamsburg,Va or the Balduccis.

Pecan and Fig Jam Crostini

  • 1 whole wheat baguette, sliced thinly
  • olive oil
  • sea salt
  • 1/2 cup of pecans
  • 1/2 cup of fig jam
  • 1 apple, sliced very thinly

1. Preheat the oven to 375

2. In a coffee grinder or by hand, crush the pecans. It can have chunks and dust

3. Place the sliced bread on a baking sheet. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Place in the oven for 7 minutes.

Pecan and Fig Jam Crostini-

4. Remove the bread and let cool. Once they are cool, top with jam, sprinkle crushed pecans, and top with an apple slice.

Pecan and Fig Jam Crostini-

Garlic and Red Pepper Flake Broccolini

February 4, 2013

A simple an easy dish to serve with a number of sides, such as the list here.

Garlic and Red Pepper Flake


Garlic and Red Pepper Flake Broccolini

  • 2 bunches of broccolini
  • 1 tablespoon of Red Pepper Flakes
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 400.

2. In a bowl, whisk together the red pepper flakes, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss with broccolini.

3. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the flowers are crispy.

Black Eyed Pea Salad

January 28, 2013

A few weeks into your New Year, how are you doing with your resolution? If you are like me, you might have gotten so busy you forgot. Generally, I don’t make extreme resolutions for the year, just mantras to keep me going. Since it is a reminder of an approach to life, a mantra negates failure. I use transitions throughout the year, such as the coming of Spring, entering Summer, and the start of the school year to help me reflect and renew my mantras. This year I am trying to look out for the little every day joys and remind myself to honor the body that works so hard. Both of these concepts force me to slow down and enjoy the day. Armed with a 15 session yoga class and a pile of vegan recipes, I am ready to try these mantras out.

Not sure what to do with that can of black eyed peas you never used on New Year’s Day? If you are like me, who for too many times than I can count bought black eyed peas for the hope of a lucky new year, to only forget to cook them New Year’s Day, then you might have some sitting on your shelf. If so, then dust them off and try this refreshingly healthy recipe that will make good on your New Year’s Resolution. A fresh and simple meal for weeknights, we paired this with a Wheatberry Pilaf on New Year’s Day.

Black Eyed Pea Salad-

Black Eyed Pea Salad

  • 2 cans of black eyed peas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 pint of grape tomatoes, sliced
  • 1/2 cup of vidalia onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup of cucumber, chopped
  • 1/2 cup of celery, chopped
  • 1/3 cup of kalamata olives, chopped
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 3 tb olive oil
  • 3 tb red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp honey or agave nectar
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

1. Toss together the first six ingredients. Make sure they are even.

2. Whisk together the rest of the ingredients. Then pour over the black eyed pea salad in parts and stir together.


Wheatberry Pilaf

January 21, 2013

Wheatberry Salad- www.vegetariansalmon.wordpress.comI spent my teen years babysitting at least once a week, and even being a nanny for a summer. These days, AAM and I will drive around my old town, and I will point out that I know the interior of this random house or that. I always found it interesting to be inside other homes and see how they chose to make a house a home. I was always too honest (read: scared) to snoop, but I enjoyed making observations from neutral spaces like the couch or the fridge door.  The pantry and fridge always fascinated me because each home stocks things so differently. As an Italian American, I didn’t understand half of what I saw. Babysitting 5-7 hours at a time, while running 50-70 miles a week, I would get hungry and wander into the kitchen looking for the least problematic item to pilfer. Whatever they seemed to have an inordinate amount of, I would cook up. This was partly to save them the trouble of immediately needing to replace the food, but mostly my fear that I would get in trouble for taking the wrong food. My favorite was the summer I nannied, the mom kept a decent supply of Uncle Ben’s rice pilaf, something I did not eat much of growing up. Easy to make and pretty simple to clean up, I definitely ate an unhealthy amount of  pilaf. To the point that when I came home with a stomach ache one night, my mom made fun of me for not realizing that boxes of rice pilaf every day was not good for me. What can I say, I was a college student. We now ask our babysitters what they would like to eat, and of course to my frustration, they all decline food.

These days, we don’t buy Uncle Ben’s, but I still like to whip up a good rice pilaf, however, my recipe has grown up with my tastes. This vegan recipe is a twist on the traditional rice pilaf. Wheatberries are a whole grain that has a natural protein, a fantastic good for you pantry staple. They also happen to be really tasty, with a nutty and sweet flavor that go well with the mushrooms and almonds in the recipe. Paired with a roasted vegetable, this could be a simple weeknight dinner. It is also a great side in a bigger meal for guests.

Wheatberry Pilaf

  • 1 cup wheatberries
  • 2.5 cups of water
  • 1 portobello mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/2 cup carrots, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup of  almonds, sliced
  • salt and pepper to taste
1. Cook the wheatberries, carrots, and mushrooms in the water. Add soy sauce. Let simmer.
2. After the wheatberries have soaked up the water (about 45 minutes), add the green onions and almonds. Serve warm

Restaurant Review: Yechon or Woo Lae Oak?

January 18, 2013

The past couple of months AAM and I have been exploring Asian restaurants in the Falls Church area. As I previously mentioned, one of the perks of moving to our neighborhood is that we live between two of the largest Vietnamese and Korean communities on the East Coast. This means that beyond the typical cuisine offered at locally owned gastropubs and Italian trattorias, we have an endless list of new dishes to try.

Traditional Korean food is not precisely vegetarian friendly. One only has to look at the peninsula’s location on a map to understand that the cuisine leans heavily on beef, fish, and pickled vegetables, which often are pickled with fish juices. So, AAM and I decided to try one restaurant often recommended as authentic, Yechon, and another that is a bit more fancy and commercial, but also veg-friendly, Wae Lae Oak. Although each deserves their own review, I thought it would be interesting to juxtapose the two, since they have different strengths. For readers looking to explore Korean food, they can decide which is more important to them: authentic experience or vegetarian menu items.


4121 Hummer Rd, Annandale, VA 22003  | +(703) 914-4646

  • Veg Friendly: Not very. You will have to really search the menu or ask for a dish without the fish.
  • Menu: Traditional Korean. Many, many options
  • Cuisine: Casual family of meal with friends.
  • Service:  Fast

Yechon is a restaurant located in the middle of the Korean-American community in Annandale. It is often the most recommended restaurant for those who want to try Korean and understand the experience. Known for being a good restaurant equally for families and the late night crowd, this is a power house restaurant that rocks out meals until dawn– which makes it a fixture in local media such as PBS specials and Washingtonian. We visited Yechon on a Saturday night, but followed the advice on Yelp to go early, since the wait can be an hour or more on the weekend. People in the DC travel from all areas to visit Yechon. A crowded restaurant, buzzing with activity and a waft with the scents of delicious food, you can only get energized when you walk through the door. In a relatively small space for the number of people who rotate through, Yechon is the type of restaurant where you may become familiar with your neighbor, but it is an expected part of the experience. It is not the place for a romantic dinner, but a friendly and relaxed meal. Additionally, the service is very, very fast, but also abrupt. This is not a place where you will get to know the waitstaff, however, you will get your dining needs met in an efficient manner.

Looking through the menu, we realized the list is a challenge for vegetarians. We ordered three classics: a Korean pancake-called a pajeon, a noodle dish- Japchae, and the classic Bibimbap. Even though we asked for it without fish, the pajeon came with fish. Poor AAM had to attack it himself, and it was the size of a large pizza. This is definitely a dish for pescetarians to share. The japchae was pretty good, and I would order it again. The bibimbap was delicious and we both enjoyed it. The best part of Yechon is the number of banchan (side dishes) they place on your table, nearly ten. We nicknamed it Korean Thanksgiving, as there were so many tastes on the side that you almost want to make it a man meal. If you visit Yechon, keep in mind portions. They are used to serving families and groups, so 4 people could have easily eaten the amount we ordered. I recommend Yechon if you want a good experience in Annandale, especially for a group that might have a variety of types of eaters. However, if you are a strict vegetarian, this might not be the Korean food experience for you. The entire dinner was an experience that engaged all senses, and worth a visit at least once.

Woo Lae Oak

8240 Leesburg Pike, Vienna, VA 22182  | +(703) 827-7300


Woo Lae Oak’s Dolsot Bibimbap

  • Veg Friendly: Pretty veg friendly.
  • Menu: Korean
  • Cuisine: More formal restaurant, perfect for dates or celebration dinners in groups
  • Service:  Efficient

I originally noticed Woo Lae Oak when I first graduated college and moved to Arlington. Sandwiched between a few apartment buildings in Pentagon City, it had an odd location, which made it a common conversation piece amongst friends who lived in the area. Was it good? Why was it in the middle of an apartment building parking lot? As soon as I gathered motivation to visit, it closed and moved out to Tyson’s. Back then, Tyson’s Corner felt like going to the Ozarks. However, now that we live in Falls Church, a trip to Tyson’s is pretty regular. Woo Lae Oak’s new location is still a bit strange though, right on busy Leesburg Pike amongst investment banks and law firms, with a creepy garage above it. However, the new location gives Woo Lae Oak more room to become a fine dining venue with larger rooms for families to enjoy celebrations.  The interior of Woo Lae Oak includes romantic lighting, large tables, and thoughtful modern decor. It is just the place that you might want to look nice, but not necessarily need to dress up for. We felt comfortable the minute we sat in our large booth.

We decided to try similar dishes that we enjoyed at Yechon, to compare the quality, as well as figure out if my own bibimbap is good. I was pleasantly surprised to learn about a vegetarian menu. There were about a dozen main course dishes on the vegetarian menu, making this an ideal restaurant for veg groups. We ordered a Cass beer and took a gander. This time, we ordered Dolsot Bibimbap, Vegetable BBQ, and a Vegetarian Pajeon. Yet again, the waitress brought us a pajeon with fish, despite the menu saying a vegetarian version is possible. Either Korean waitresses consider pescetarians vegetarians, or one needs to be clear when they order the pajeon by saying “No fish.” This has only influenced my decision for me to learn how to make it myself!  The vegetarian bbq was good, with a pretty diverse array of vegetables to cook at your table BBQ. We also enjoyed the bibimbap, and eating it made me happy that my own recipe is pretty close to the real deal. The banchan at Woo Lae Oak is much more manageable, with about 4 or 5 tastings. We were able to join just enough bean sprouts and cooked greens with the kimchi that we felt we had yummy bites, without being overloaded. The food was delicious. Although many might look at Woo Lae Oak as maybe more commercial, especially since it is now a chain, we really loved our dinner there. We could see ourselves going back with family, friends, and even maybe more date nights.

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