Saved by Spinach Seitan Curry

13 Nov

Excessive hunger drives me to eat some rather strange things: a whole bag of Trader Joe’s sweet potato chips, a bag of Garretts caramel/cheddar mixed popcorn, multiple peanut butter snickers, greasy hamburgers with fried egg on top… I get a bit desperate when there’s nothing to eat in my fridge and my stomach starts to growling. It’s sad, and its scary. And no one should have to endure such pain. 

Therefore, at about 3 pm this afternoon, just as I was beginning to feel a bit whoosy and delirious, I decided to save myself from myself. I had to get in the kitchen and grab a damn skillet before things turned serious! A quick scan of my fridge led me to a package of premade curry sieten, an expired pound of tofu and a cupboard full of miscellanous items like artichoke salad, peanut butter-filled pretzels and dried black-eyed peas. Curry it is.

In just under 20 minutes, I ate the most delicious lentil curry I’ve ever had the pleasure of making. To make matters even more delightful, it was easy and contains things we (well, some of us) already have in our cupboards. Bon apetit, hungry monsters!

Spinach Seitan curry

What I Used

2 cups red lentils

3 cups broth

1 cup water

1 red onion, sliced

2 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp asafetida

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp coriander

3 large cloves garlic, minced

1 can diced tomatoes

q tsp liquid smoke

6 tsp curry paste (I realized that I didn’t have any curry powder at the last minute)

1 tbsp butter

1 tsp sea salt


handful of spinach (Mine was frozen)

1 package of seitan

What I Did

1. I melted one tablespoon of coconut oil in a Dutch oven, and sauteed the onion until it was carmelized, about 15 minutes.

2. While the onions were cooking, I mied all the spices together and, once the onions were tender, mixed them into the pot. I let this cook for a couple of minutes, and then added the garlic, cooking for another couple of minutes. 

3. Add the tomatoes, curry paste and liquid smoke, cook for a couple of minutes, then add the lentils, broth and water. Cover and cook for about 15-20 minutes.

4. If you’re using them, add the seitan, cook for another 10 minutes or so, then add spinach and butter. 


You can eat this with rice or naan or really whatever you’d like. I just ate mine with a spoon.



Guess Who’s Back?!

23 Jun

As my buddy Kanye or was it Nas or perhaps P. Diddy once said, “Guess who’s back in the muthf’in house??!”

Yup! ME!

My hiatus has been long, but muy necessary and muy exciting! I decided to quit my job and relocate to the city I love, and I have therefore been eating out of bags, containers and drive-thru windows. My heart is happy, but my guts are ready to mutiny. This past weekend, after celebrating my 33rd birthday, I decided rather than lose my power to something called “entrails” for goodness sakes, I had better get my act together and cook. My wallet will be much happier too.

An adequate amount of shame finally arose to the surface last weekend as I was chowing down on a very delicious barbequed rib when someone said, “Aren’t you vegan?” My answer was, ‘Not when it comes to ribs.”

Which is not entirely true. I’ve just been a hot mess when it comes to meat and eating. I tend to revert to eating meat during highly stressful times. This didn’t happen when I smoked, however, I’d rather live with the pain of inhaling a burger. I do not want to die from inhaling tobacco. So meat it is. Now that I’ve started running regularly and also I’m back at it with yoga, my desire for beef has greatly diminished. Thank goodness!20130623-212200.jpg

All this was the prompt for my trip to Trader Joe’s, which is literally walking distance from my house. It was time to get myself something good to eat. Now normally, I’m anti-too many pre-made meats. But I realize that the reason it’s been so easy for me to eat poorly is that my standards have been too stringent. Either I’ve got to be in the kitchen cooking like I normally do, fancy, most things from scratch, etc. or I’ve got to eat like a dying carnivore. This black and white thinking is neither sustainable nor realistic.

The transition back to healthy eating has to be painless or else I won’t make it. Therefore, I loaded up on seitan sausages, tempeh, polenta, and some other stuff. For tonight’s recipe, I was craving polenta. I paired it with Trader Joe’s Italian sausages, roasted red and yellow peppers, and their delicious Power Greens. I believe even the diced tomatoes I used were from Trader Joe’s. The result was a delicious meal that immediately made me exclaim, “Holy Crap!!” My roommate thought something was wrong, but I clarified, “I’m fine. That’s just really fricking good!” It’s vegan, mostly gluten-free, it’s got carbs, protein, greens and it’ll hold me until my morning smoothie. A good way to start the journey back to good eating. My entrails are happier already.

And apparently somebody named Crooked I sang “Guess Who’s Back” featuring Snoop Dogg. Who the hell is Crooked I?!


Turkish-Inspired Sweet and Savory Tofu

5 May Slice of Dish
First Slice

First slice wasn’t pretty, but it was still delicious.

So I’ve been MIA. Down a rabbit hole. Out of the kitchen and out of commission.

This week, however, I’m on the upswing. Feeling lighter and bouncier and frickin’ hungry! I’m on a mission to resume my vegan ways. I wanted something delectable. Something to make me lick my lips and my fingertips. I wanted sweet AND savory (why has this become a constant dilemma of mine?).

I wanted baklava. But with meat. And not baklava.

This time around, I had no recipes, no input, just memories. I remember a particular date, circa 2003 or so, Chicago, IL. This little spot in Wrigleyville, I believe it was. I just remember how delicious the food was. It had traces of cinnamon and earth. DELICIOUS! And that is what I wanted in my mouth. Cinnamon also happened to be the item for our weekly food challenge this week. So win/win for everyone.

I had originally planned to wrap the phyllo dough or mold it into cups, but when it came down to it, layered just worked better. No complaints when it was in my mouth neither. Don’t let the long list of ingredients fool you. This dish is heavily spiced and rather simple to make. Unless you make your own dough, but I wouldn’t dare.

Just some of the ingredients

Just a few of the ingredients…

What I Used
1 small sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 small knob of ginger, sliced
3 cinnamon sticks

1 container of extra firm tofu
1 1/2 cups of no-chicken broth
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
garlic, to taste
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
tbsp tamari
1/4 tsp Ethiopian spice
1 tsp lemongrass
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/2 roasted bell pepper
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup mediterranean apricots, chopped
1/4 cup coconut, finely shredded
salt, to taste
2 tbsp melted butter
20 sheets of phyllo dough
Dukkah (I used pre made from Trader Joe’s)

What I Did

First, do that whole drain and marinate thing with the tofu. i let it sit in the no chicken broth for about 30 minutes whole. Next time, I would mash it up and let it sit in the broth. While that is marinating, I put the potatoes, ginger and cinnamon sticks in a saucepan to cook. I didn’t let the potatoes get super cooked, just enough so they aren’t still hard.

Next, I sauteed the onions in oil until translucent and added a ton of garlic. Add the tofu, complete with the broth to the mix and let simmer for about 15 minutes. I then drained the potatoes, ginger and cinnamon sticks. I removed the cinnamon, but added the potatoes and ginger to the tofu along with the nutritional yeast, tamari and all of the spices. By leaving the ginger in slices, you’ll get nice gingery bursts throughout the dish. You can always minced or dice it if you’d prefer. Let that simmer until the liquid soaks up and the yeast fattens the mixture up a bit. Your potatoes will mush a bit. If you want them to remain firm, add them with the fruit at the end. This simmered in total around 40 minutes. No liquid, add the bell pepper, raisins, apricots and coconut.Simmer another 5-10 minutes, taste and salt.

The mixture

Next is the tricky part. Grab your 9X13 baking dish. I only had a 8X11 and my ends were upturned and crispy. Pretty, but a royal mess. Spray the bottom of your pan or oil it, your preference and layer the phyllo spraying after every sheet, just like you’re making baklava. After 10 sheets, layer the mixture until it’s even and covering the bottom. you don’t want too thick a layer, but the amount made should be just right. Finish by layering the remainder of the sheets, continuing to spray after each sheet. Once all the layers have been made, pour melted button on the top and sprinkle with Dukkah. If you don’t have anything that “fancy”, sesame seeds would also look really lovely as would additional coconut!

Bake for 45 minutes (or until browned) at 350 and voila. You’re done.

Upclose Pic of Dish

Finished Product

Los Betos Slumming and the Pantry Cleanse

14 Apr Rice Bake

Rice Bake

Brown Rice Tofu Bake

I have a confession to make: I can’t remember the last time I had a real meal.

It seems that I have been subsisting on burritos and sandwiches and sushi. Oh, and coffee. Lots and lots of coffee. The kitchen has turned into Beruit, and I am no soldier.

What is going on?

Well, I’ll tell you… I’m stressed. And a little sad. And busy. The last thing I want to do when I’m any of those things is worry about what I put in my mouth. Though I suppose a more accurate statement is that I tend to desire things in my mouth that are utterly, horribly bad for me when I’m any of those things. Like the aforementioned burrito. Bummer.

I am constantly aware of my goals, though. I’ve got an abdominal muscle challenge going on, an impending half-marathon to train for and it’s almost summer, which signifies the upcoming birthday month and the rebirth of the bikini. I need to be prepared. If I’m honest with myself, none of that stuff really matters. The truth is, I just need to take better care of myself. I can’t be too down on myself though because I have been drinking at least a little water, something which is akin to pulling teeth for me, I’ve continued my running/yoga regime, and I’m just trying to stay aware.

This week, I’m making a concerted effort to turn things around. It starts tonight with this week’s food challenge thought up by my fantabulous friend over at a blog I mention often, Create.Snap.Eat. The premise is that we use what’s on hand to create a dish instead of going out and buying an ingredient. Whatever’s in the fridge/pantry/laying around on the kitchen floor. She mentions the waste our society undergoes, and it makes me want to cry. As a society we throw away at least 40% of the food in our kitchens, but I am probably somewhere closer to 80% here lately. Grrr. I want to do better. I need to do better.

So I went rummaging. And here’s what I came up with. Not only do I have a lunch meal for the next few days, I used up quite a few things in the house. And that feels good. Hooray. Here’s the info for my Brown Rice Tofu Bake

What I Used

1 container of Extra Firm tofu
1/4 cup Braggs
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp garlic, minced
2 cups veggie broth

2 cups water
1 cup nutritional yeast
1 stalks green onion
1 tbsp coconut oil
2 cups brown rice
1/2 cup coconut milk

What I Did

To begin, I drained the tofu and patted it dry. I didn’t weigh it because the extra water wasn’t going to hurt my rice which I figured would be short on liquid anyway. I sliced the tofu in half and then into strips and then into bite-sized pieces. Next I mixed up the marinade, the Braggs through the broth, and let that sit in a glass dish underneath foil for a half hour.

About half-way through, I preheated the oven to 350. To the marinading tofu, I added the nutritional yeast, green onion and rice. I boiled the water just slightly, added the coconut oil and then poured this over the heap of rice. Mixed it all up with a wooden spoon and pop in the oven. After an hour and 10 minutes (You may need to adjust cooking time. I would check every 30 minutes), I added the 1/2 cup of coconut milk and popped it back in the over for 15 minutes. The flavor in this dish is kinda awesome! I will be making this again for sure!

Spiced Popcorn and Date Night Revival

10 Apr


Generally, I’m kind of a hard ass, but occassionally, I am really, really girly about things. Like dates. I love dates. A long time ago, I dated the master of dates: nice dinners at restaurants I’d been dying to check out, impromptu trips out of state, picnics in the park, all night dance parties. It was great. Recently, however, I’ve been a tad bit deprived. My best dates have been with my friends. Folks will look at me crazy when I say, “Yeah, I had a date with so and so.” “Aren’t you two friends?” “Um, yeah. So?”

LOL. Apparently, having dates with your friends is weird.

Whatever. Last night, I had a movie date with my best friend. We have a list of movies we adore or haven’t seen or need to see again. Last night was “Crazy, Stupid, Love”. It demanded popcorn. Yes, how original. Popcorn.

Well, I couldn’t find my popper, or my kernels for that matter, but what we did have was microwave popcorn and a chef’s kitchen worth of spices and such. So we had at it!

Popped the popcorn and then went to town with spices. Nutritional yeast (of course!), cayenne pepper, parmesan cheese, garlic salt and sweet paprika! One day, I’ll make this with air popped popcorn because it’s got to be just heavenly without all the excess gunk of buttered popcorn!

Still as it was, it was delicious! It took us three hours to get through our movie, some tears, giggle fits, potty breaks and heart to hearts. It’s exactly why I’ll always cherish my date nights with my buddies!

Ambivalence and Peachy Almond Dessert

6 Apr

I uncovered this week that ambivalence is sabotaging my happiness. I am currently a container of incongruent emotions and no amount of yoga, meditation or vino can sort it all out for me. Or maybe it can, I just need to be patient. Well, maybe not the vino. The only thing vino clears up for me is that I’ve really got to stop drinking.

This week’s food challenge item is pecans. I even found a way to be ambivalent about pecans. They would be so tasty in an item. Do I really want to go buy pecans? I don’t want to go to the store. I should really participate this week. And back and forth, indecision taking control of what had been such a well-thought about, delicious recipe (Not to worry, that recipe WILL get posted!). Finally, I gave up, said “fuck it” and decided almonds would have to do.

This interesting ambivalence is creating anxiety in my brain which has also amped up my addictive tendencies. It seems that all I want these days is alcohol, meat and ice cream. Oh, and to go shopping. Definitely not the healthiest mental or physical diet. And definitely not how I want to roll.

I did, however, need to give myself something to placate my anxieties. In these instances, I turn to exercise, meditation and laughter. I went to Yoga for Sobriety so I wouldn’t drown myself in alcohol and decided a coconut ice cream dessert would be the perfect thing to appease my sensitives. And it worked. I sat down with my luscious dessert and watched the latest episode of Nashville. Not funny, but it was engrossing enough for an hour.

The hearty, sweet crunch of the “crust” along with the mild crispness of the shredded coconut and the creamy coconut ice cream was exactly what I needed. I couldn’t believe it when I was scraping the bottom of the glass.

This concoction wasn’t especially pretty. It wasn’t planned or well-thought out. Hell, it wasn’t even the right challenge item. BUT it was a much needed substitute for all the bad things this additive personality was craving. And for that, I give myself a pass.

Peach Almond Coconut Dessert Thingie


1/4 cup raw almonds
1 tbsp coconut oil
3 peach slices
4 dates

1 kiwi, sliced
1 tbsp coconut, shredded
So Delicious Coconut Milk vanilla bean “ice cream”


For the crust, I threw everything in a food processor until mixed. I left this mixture “chunky” instead of well ground, but if you’re pressing this into a pie or something, you’ll definitely need to make sure those almonds (or pecans) are mixed well.

I pressed the mixture loosely into a jar and layered with shredded coconut then the kiwi. This was topped with ice cream and then another layer of kiwi. I put it in the freezer while I ate dinner and then enjoyed. For an impromptu dessert, it was magically delicious!

Watch and Learn + Sweet and Savory Grits

3 Apr

Even when people can’t or won’t tell you directly, they will show you the type of relationship they want to have with you. That guy who says he just wants to be friends, but incessantly buys you presents and invites you for drinks – just the two of you. The chick who you really want to get to know as a friend, but who never bothers to reach out to you. And only minimally gives of herself when she does. The chick you’re dating who swears she’s ready for a relationship, but six months in still won’t invite you to her house, introduce you to her friends or open up: all perfect examples of people trying to show you what you mean to them and what place they’d like you to hold in their lives.

I had a friend who used to always tell me she didn’t call or text because she was busy. I called bullshit on her more times than I can count. It takes about two seconds to send a “Just thinking about you” text. This colorful gentleman made a video about using the busy excuse. Even a simple text can make someone’s day which is the exact opposite of going two weeks and not saying boo. I myself am learning not to use busy as an excuse. I’m also learning to let people know when I’m thinking of them. I used to think of people and never actually reach out. I didn’t have the emotional capacity to reach. I’m working on that. I’ve gotten so much better.

My point is really that we make time for the things we care about. Each and every day, we make conscious decisions to give ourselves to one thing or another. If someone is showing you that they’d rather give themselves to something – or someone – else, do yourself a favor, save yourself some heartache, and listen to them.

You should also listen to your belly. Because this is a food blog. And I’m the cook and I say you should. hehe My belly was telling me to commit a serious crime: mix sweet grits with savory grits.


I know. There’s no denying the fact that I love grits. I’ve written about the incessant struggle between sweet and savory grits in Mint and the Geographical Truce. Usually, I am all about the sweet grits. But after recently having had the most delicious savory grits, I had a hankering for a mix of the two.

Unlike some people, my taste buds were telling me exactly what they wanted from me, and for once, I listened. It was quite possibly the best decision I’ve made all week.

What I Used
Trader Joe’s Stone Ground White Grits
1 cup gouda cheese, shredded
1/2 cup raw sugar
1/2 – 1 tsp liquid smoke (depends on taste)

What I Did

I cooked the grits according to specifications, nothing fancy there. If you use someone else’s grits, 1. Don’t expect these to taste the same and 2. Still follow those someone’s else’s cooking directions. After the grits were done, I folded in the cheese, sugar and liquid smoke. Let them set for five minutes and enjoy! Oh so, so delicious. Even my roommate, who doesn’t generally eat anything sweet, liked these!

Thank you, blog readers!

2 Apr

I know I’m a touch late, but I just wanted to end March with a huge thank you to all who read my blogs, Ginger Baby Reviews and The Monkey in My Brain. Many of you have been diligent about subscribing, stopping by and liking my posts.

I have been working hard to create blog spaces that feel authentic, that share pieces of me while at the same time, reaching out to others. I hope that you all continue to stop by, and feel free to drop me a line anytime with opinions, suggestions or just to say hello!

I’m really grateful for all of you, and I look forward to getting know you through the blogosphere.


Hominy, Hominy, Hominy!

1 Apr

I’ve missed you guys! This week our food challenge item was hominy.

Unfortunately, hominy always reminds me of menudo. Menudo, and its resident stomach intestines, makes me a little queasy. Therefore, I was a little bummed at the prospect.

A fellow challenger made grits which were absolutely delicious and inspired a version which I will post later this week, however, I wanted to do something soupy. Perhaps to counteract my menudo retching? Strongly perhaps.

What happened was a mild, bisque-ish concoction with vegetables and lots and lots of flavor. No muss, no fuss, no gagging. Don’t think I’ll be making it again, though.

Canned Goods
What I Used
“chicken” TVP
3 bunches green onions, sliced
2  tsp garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry TVP
1/2 cup water
1 tsp bouillon

3 tbsp olive oil
4 tsp ground cumin
2 1/2 tsp sweet paprika
2 cups veggie broth
1 15 oz can okra, tomatoes and corn (refer to picture. you can add them seperately. I was being lazy)
1 zucchini, chopped
Prepared TVP
45 ozs hominy in juice

What I Did

Heat up the oil over medium to high heat. Saute the green onions until they’re soft and yummy. Add the tvp, water and bouillon. Cook until the liquid is absorbed and the tvp is browned. While this is cooking, throw the hominy with the juice in the blender or food processor along with the spices. Blend until it is smooth and creamy. Pour into a large pot. Add the okra, tomatoes and corn, the chopped zucchini and the tvp. Heat through, or until the zucchini is tender, 15-20 minutes.

Anger, Confidence and Bubble Up Pizza

24 Mar Bubble Up Pizza Dinner

Yoga kicked my ass yesterday. Not in the way that it usually kicks my ass when I’m going on and on about yoga kicking my ass. I mean, I was almost taken down by a yoga workshop. Taken. Down.

Yoga Altar

It was two and a half hours of mostly yoga. We began with meditation and also a writing exercise. In this exercise, we wrote down one thing we wanted to rid ourselves of and one thing we wanted to preserve and/or nurture. Sounds good. I can do this. I started to have my doubts about that midway through the workshop. Why did I sign up for this? How much longer do we have? Why, again? I have to confess. I was angry and frustrated. Two emotions that I have never felt during yoga. It was especially jolting during a workshop that was supposed to be about cleansing and renewal in honor of the Spring Equinox. But, folks, I was not a happy camper.

Why does she keep making us do asanas like this? What about those of us who aren’t as flexible? Does she really think I can do that? And then when the instructor said, “I really just think it’s about your confidence, Elle,” I almost lost it. My WHAT? My…. oh, I’ll show you my confidence, lady, you just…

The inner battle that I was waging was altogether ridiculous. And humbling. And revealing. Here I was fighting to rid myself of the past, to bring forth newness and renewal, and I found myself, instead, wanting to tie the instructor up in pretzel knots  (she’s so bendy, it wouldn’t have phased her) and drip water on her forehead at an excruciatingly slow rate.

I was fighting too much of the time. Fighting my muscles. Fighting my teacher’s approach to instruction. Fighting my body’s lack of flexibility.

Needless to say, there was a lot of self-talk on the way home. A lot of self-soothing and self-validation. I had to remind myself that how I was feeling was not the problem. I was angry and frustrated and my job was to investigate, witness and protect my right to those feelings. My job was not to make them go away or judge them or turn them into some other more “yogi-approved” emotion. So I let them be. I watched them. I talked to them. Anger and frustration told me we wanted pizza for dinner. And wine. And, I mean, when anger’s being reasonable, who am I to deny it its wishes?

Pizza and wine it is. Except I didn’t want greasy Papa Johns or Domino’s. I wanted respectable pizza. Pizza whose ingredients were readily identifiable. I wanted fancy pizza. Celebratory pizza (the moon was, after all, in Leo, and Leos are nothing if not full of celebration). In our household, we generally address our cravings by heading to the nearest grocery store, which is exactly what I did.

I ended up with organic tomato basil sauce, crab and smoked salmon, Gouda cheese, and biscuits (the one questionably unhealthy item). Let the pizza making begin.

I’d seen a pin for bubble up pizza on Pinterest a few days ago, and it looked delicious. I have to wonder though, whose idea was it to name this shit bubble up pizza? I mean, at best the name is.… Cute? Despite the crazy name, I worked over some bubble up pizza. Let’s call my creation BUP 2.0. Just go with it, please.

The process of cooking BUP 2.0 also soothed my ruffled feathers. Brought clarity to my state of mind, and helped me to see that I had just had an experience. No different, better or worse than any other experience yesterday or any other day. Was there something to my frustration with the instructor? Perhaps. With time and reflection, I will understand. Those feelings were just my feelings though, and that’s quite alright. Like making the best damn bubble up pizza on a beautiful and peaceful Saturday night. Confidence THAT my friend!

Bubble Up Pizza 2.0


1 1/2 cups Organic tomato basil pasta sauce
1/2 cup Gouda cheese, shredded
smoked salmon and crab meat, minced (I didn’t measure, I just threw in “enough”)
1 can Grands home-style biscuits
1/4 – 1/2 cup sun-dried tomato
1/2 red onion, sliced
3-4 cloves garlic
salt to taste


The only labor involved, besides mincing and slicing, revolved around the biscuits. I used the Grands which had 8 large biscuits inside. I cut each biscuit in half and then halved each half lengthwise and then cut that in half. Therefore, each biscuit should yield 8 pieces. Put all of the ingredients into a large bowl. Toss well to cover, adding more sauce if necessary.

To bake, I used a cast iron skillet coated with olive oil spray. This worked out really well. I cooked it for 35 minutes at 400 degrees. I let it sit for five minutes while I drooled, and then dug in. Alongside a glass of Shiraz, it was just what Dr. Me ordered.

BUP and Salad