Veggie Tofu Scramble

My neighbors moved away. I miss them. During our last get together, they brought over a breakfast ring filled with a veggie tofu scramble. We had it with some coffee. The breakfast ring was so yumm-o! And a fine reminder of the neighbors. Sigh.

Anyway, on with the food.

Any vegetables will do. Just dice them and stir fry them.
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I added carrots, celery, onions(mirepoix!), mushrooms, zucchini, jalapeno, garlic, and frozen corn.

Crumble the tofu over the stir-fried vegetables.

Season with salt, pepper, turmeric, cumin, and nutritional yeast.
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This would be the filling for the breakfast ring if I got pastry in a can, but the filling alone is delicious.

Broccoli Walnut Stir-Fry

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I’ve been making this for a few weeks now and we still haven’t tired of it. I love the crunchiness of the walnuts and the rich flavor.

  • Broccoli (two or three heads of it)
  • Tempeh
  • Hot sauce
  • Soy sauce
  • Walnuts – raw, unroasted
  • cooking oil (optional)

By the way, tempeh is a block of fermented beans and/or grains.
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It’s firm and mostly flavorless so it can take on whatever flavor you put in your dish. I like to cut it up smaller to increase the surface area to suck up the flavor. It will mostly keep its shape because it’s firmer than tofu. Tempeh is optional. The first time I made this, I just had a bunch of broccoli that didn’t fit into the lentil stew I was making. The broccoli was chopped and I didn’t know what to do with it so I stir fried it with walnuts. That’s how I stumbled on this dish. I only started adding tempeh because the next time I was making it, I had a package of tempeh I didn’t know what to do with. This is the unplanned kind of cooking I do. It’s very willy nilly.

Chop up the broccoli and let it cook for a bit first.
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I like to add water to help cook and soften the broccoli because I like my broccoli cooked soft. Oil is optional. Add the hot sauce and soy sauce after the broccoli’s halfway done.

Now add the tempeh to start sucking up the flavor.
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Walnuts need very little cooking time. I add them in, stir it around a bit then turn the heat off to let the residual heat finish it.
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The walnuts really make this dish. They add a rich layer of flavor and crunchy texture. Yum. I like to have this over quinoa or rice or it’s good just by itself too.

Vegan Fare

I tried two new vegan places last month.  One was Fare Well and the other HipCityVeg.  I had tried to go to Fare Well earlier with friends, but given an anticipated 2 hour wait, we went to Union Market instead.  Fare Well turned out to be just okay.  Their food was incredibly salty.  If I ever went back there, (which would be against my recommendation), I’d just get the polenta fries, which, while greasy, were tasty.

HipCityVeg on the other hand, I wanted to go back the next day.  I haven’t yet, but I still think about their chick’n nuggets which taste like how I remember McD’s nuggets. Maybe they figured out what’s in McD’s flavor crystals. Their bella burger was delicious too.  Even better than the nuggets.  None of their stuff tasted overly salty.  Just a well-balanced combination of flavors.

I’m not sure if I’ve written about Mom’s Market’s Naked Lunch counter but it’s worth repeating until I find something better – because they are my favorite vegan food place.  They serve uncomplicated fresh ingredients and they just let the food shine through without being smothered in too much salt, sugar, or grease.  It’s just combinations of good flavors that meld nicely.  And they don’t overdo it with the highly processed fake meat vegan crap which, while they can be tasty (chick’n nuggets for example) I have no idea what the fuck it is.

Omakase at Kobo

I wanted to love this place.  I want to support businesses that acknowledge that it’s important for ethical, environmental, and health reasons to provide vegan options.  Or heck, just plain financial reasons!  But it was good to okay.  Not I-want-to-go-back-take-my-friends spectacular.

The meal started off with a bang.
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These little balls of amazing flavors bursting in your mouth.  Mango with basil sprinkles, strawberry with fennel sprinkles, and lychee with rose sprinkles.  They were fun to eat and tasted true to the flavors.  But this was more dessert than starter to me.

Following on were more littles.  Little bit of tomato tartare.
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A little bowl of tofu with handmade vegan caviar.
A little cone of micro greens.
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None of it was enough, and they knew that, so as the last course, they hit you with a big bowl of gohan.

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That’s rice.  We got a normal full meal sized bowl of rice with bamboo and shiitake.  While good, it really stood out from the rest of the menu which was delicate and bite sized and pretty and then, plop, here’s some rice to fill you up.  Also, the website says it’s a 12-15 course menu, whereas I counted 11 courses, including the welcoming tea and the amuse bouche as two separate courses.

The chef was a great guy.  And he asked us for what we’d recommend to him.
We both told him that even though we probably didn’t need to eat more, and it was probably better we didn’t, we could have had more.

Here’s what I didn’t tell him –
This menu, though vegan, isn’t truly vegan-friendly.  I don’t eat meat but I still need protein.  The menu had plenty of carbs from rice and vegetables but the only protein in the entire menu was a tiny bit of tofu and fungi.  Where’s the natto?  Where are the pulses?  And for a Japanese vegan place, they could have incorporated more varieties of plants.  Lotus root.  Seaweed (there was some but I wouldn’t have minded more).  More tsukemono (pickled things – though there was a very interesting pickled ginger flower). I wanted everything to be something I couldn’t make at home.  This was not the case.  Some things were definitely unique, but it felt like the menu petered out at the end.  Instead of a grand finale that wow’d us, it was a sputter to the finish line.

The service was impeccable.  They were all super duper friendly with zero airs.  No snooty pretentiousness.  We slurped.  We picked up our bowls.  We Kirby’d our food.  We felt completely at ease.  And I was hungry by the time I got home.

Union Market

Earlier this month, we planned to go to a little vegan bakery diner place called Fare Well for brunch.  They didn’t take reservations for weekend brunch and when we got there the wait was 2 hours!  So we trekked it over to Union Market.
Union Market
Union Market is a bustling, crowded indoor market with tons of little food stands. It’s tucked away in a corner of what otherwise would look like a totally sketchballz place. Actually H Street looks like a gentrified former sketchy place. It’s now full of fancypants casual restaurants, yoga studios, and a Whole Foods. On our way to Union Market we even passed by a rental apartment sign. 1 bedroom – 1 den – 1 bath for $2,500!
The food at Union Market all looked tasty but unfortunately the seating is very limited so we ended up eating at a restaurant there called Bidwell. Kinda’ pricey for the stuff they sell, but they have tables and chairs! I probably wouldn’t eat there again but I wouldn’t mind going back to Union Market for some of their other food options. I saw a dosa stand that looked pretty good and there’s good people-watching too. Not a resounding endorsement, but eh, on a day where the weather is nice, and I just want to go outside and be among my brethren, it’s a good option.

The key to good alfredo is pepper! Lots and lots of pepper!

I found a bunch of recipes for vegan alfredo online and mixed them up for this:

  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 1.5 cups of raw cashews, soaked in water for a few hours
  • 1 onion
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • lemon juice (1 lemon) – I didn’t have this so I substituted with apple cider vinegar, and it was fine.
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Salt and pepper.  One can never have too much pepper in alfredo sauce.

I don’t remember where I got the idea or learned that alfredo requires mucho pepper.  The first time I had it was from a local Kentuckian chain Italian restaurant and a strong pepper flavor stuck out to me.  I know.  Kentucky, Italian.  This was a memorably good alfredo pasta though.  I think I ate an entire family sized bucket of it in a couple of days.  And it was over a decade ago and I still have fond memories of that bucket of pasta.  Who doesn’t enjoy a nice bucket of pasta?

  1. Stir fry the garlic and onions with a bit of salt and oil. Onions and Garlic
  2. Cut up the cauliflower into big chunks and poach it in maybe an inch of water with some seasoning.  I used a vegetable broth powder, but regular salt and pepper is fine.Cauliflower
  3. In a blender, blend the ingredients together.
  4. Cauliflower Alfredo SauceI added more nutritional yeast at the end to have a richer flavor. I also added about a tablespoon of cracked black pepper. I would have added more but my wrists were tired from the grinding.
  5. Simmer the sauce over low heat for about 30 minutes.  Stir the entire time and cover it with a lid.  Keep the lid over the pot as you move a spoon around in there because this thick sauce tends to spurt bubbles all over the place.

I like to serve it over pasta with green peas. It’s rich and creamy without the after effects of eating rich and creamy. I could eat a bucket of this sauce.

Tomato Rice

Picked up this neat trick on YouTube.

Prepare rice like you normally would (in a rice cooker).
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I like to add red lentils in my rice.
Add one whole tomato in the middle.
Add pepper.
Add a drizzle of oil.
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Once cooked, break up the tomato and stir it in the rice. It’s easy and delicious!
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C-ville

Spent a weekend in Charlottesville, VA. Yes. The Deep South. Confederate flags and all!

We stayed at the Econo Lodge.  It was $70 a night and felt like it.  The package came with squeaky beds and audible upstairs neighbors having a lovely evening which immediately bumped up my rating of the place.  I don’t mute Keeping Up with the Kardishians for just anything.  Live entertainment is always better then TV.

Charlottesville doesn’t seem like much of a food destination.  It’s not bad, but it’s nothing memorable either.  We ate at Bodo’s Bagels, Firefly, Mellow Mushroom, and Mellow Mushroom again.  Granted, that’s not much of a sample size.

We also visited a brewery bar – Three Notch’d Brewery.
Three Notch'd Brewery
Good beers.  I learned that I’m not a fan of very very hoppy beers. Of the ones we tasted, Jazz Fest (sugar cane and pecan ale) was our favorite. You can definitely taste the pecans. Hydraulion Red was number 2. It was just a very balanced beer that was a little bit caramelly sweet. And number 3 was Jack’s Java Espresso Stout. It definitely tasted of coffee. Probably our least fave was Ghost of the 43rd American Pale Ale. It tasted of hops, hops, and more hops.

Our two main attractions while visiting Charlottesville were the McCormick Observatory and the Paramount Theater’s children’s musical, Alice in Wonderland.  

The Observatory was a long line where each person got to take a peek through the giant telescope to see Jupiter and 3 of its moons – Io, Callisto, and Europa.  
McCormick Observatory
It was mostly for historical purposes, just to get an idea of how people in the late 19th century studied the stars. Nowadays there are more advanced telescopes (Kepler/Hubble) that sit in outer space. The experience included a good bit of waiting in line while a staff member gave each person a few quick seconds of a look.  I love looking at outer space things.  They’re kind of magical and beautiful.

The Paramount Theater is in “downtown” Charlottesville.  The performance of Alice in Wonderland was given by the Missoula Children’s Theatre by local children in the area.  The company brings the props, a director and other staff and they audition local children and rehearse for about a week and put on the low budget show.  It was pretty cute to watch kids (I’m guessing they were K-12) running and dancing around the stage in costumes. It was as cute as one can imagine. Little kids dressed as lobsters and singing flowers. They waved to their moms, forgot their lines, tripped and stumbled, mumbled their lines and missed some cues. Pretty adorable stuff! Still, even though it was all rather sweet it felt more like something the family or friend of a performer would enjoy more.

And what is a trip without some shopping? I started out at the conventional shops. Ann Taylor. Banana Republic. I didn’t find anything I liked that much. Then while we were at the Paramount Theater, I overheard a mom raving about their local Goodwill stores. She said the best time to shop is when all the university students leave for the summer. I mentally smacked my head, duh! Of course the Goodwill store. So after the play and lunch we went to a Goodwill store.
Thrift Store finds
I got these 4 items for $16! One still had the tag attached and one was a pink cashmere sweater that appeared unworn.

Foodwise – I’m not sure I need to bother talking about Bodo’s Bagels or Firefly. They were both decent but nothing stand-out. The best place we ate was Mellow Mushroom which is why we went there twice. The first time was better than the second though. My first impression was, hey, this is comparable to Lost Dog Pizza here. I got a mushroom hoagie.
Hoagie @ Mellow Mushroom
It was mostly bread, but with a good dollop of marinara sauce, it was decent. Some red onions would have made it even better. On the plus side, it came out very hot and the bread was nicely toasted.
The second time we went, I wanted to try their pizza. So I got a veggie pizza with no cheese.
Vegan pizza @ Mellow Mushroom
Here’s what I got. Looked and smelled good but tasted bland and dry. This is a vegan pizza made by non-vegans. They don’t consider that without cheese, it needs something more to add flavor or moisture. This thing needed oil or a lot more marinara sauce to help improve the lack of cheese situation. This just isn’t a pizza. I realize this isn’t fair to Mellow Mushroom. They sell traditional pizza and I turned it into this monstrosity by choice. So when I opine that it’s sub-par to Lost Dog, I took those particular dings out of the equation. What makes Lost Dog better is the crust, which is thinner and lighter (less dense doughy-ness), the marinara sauce, and more even distribution and generous portions of toppings. To boot, LD on a busy day churns out their food a lot faster than MM on a quiet day. Mellow Mushroom can hack it in Charlottesville but I’m not rushing to go to any of the locations here.

The one place that showed a lot of promise that we didn’t get to was Bluegrass Bar & Grill. The waiting time for lunch was an hour!! After no breakfast, and an hour of hot yoga, we decided to head back to Mellow Mushroom instead of waiting.

The surprising highlight of our weekend turned out to be attending 2 yoga classes. I planned them as time fillers. These were heated vinyasa flow classes and I came out of there totally soaked through with sweat and feeling calm and energized.

And what is a trip to C-ville without a visit to TJ’s UVA?
The Rotunda
Yes, this is The Rotunda. It’s under repair.

Kimchi Rice Bowl

Since I made kimchi last month, I’ve been having it all the time. I’ve already finished 2 big jars of it – one napa and one cubed radish.

Here’s how I enjoy it sometimes.

I cook beans in the steamer cooker (my rice cooker) and then I cook them again with rice to get:
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Rice and beans.

I add any kind of vegetable side dishes I have.
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This time it was mung bean sprouts.

In goes the kimchi and also a cut up avocado. Mmm-mm! A filling and delicious meal.
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The kimchi and kimchi juice provides all the flavoring.

If I don’t have cooked rice ready to go, I’ll boil noodles which takes no time and make a noodle bowl instead.

Baked Ripe Plaintains

I’m not sure what this is. A snack? A dessert? It’s anything. It’s good. My coworker told me this is how she eats plantains, but she emphasized that they must be ripe. Like spotty black ripe!

I washed the plantains first.

Then sliced them in half lengthwise.
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Then baked at 350 fahrenheit for about 30 minutes.
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That’s it!

Is this even a recipe?? It’s like boil a potato. Or boil water. 1 ingredient. Add heat. Enjoy.