Archive | March, 2012

Spicy Veggie Tortilla Soup

26 Mar

(This post is from a week ago. I apologize for the time warp but hope you enjoy it anyway.)

I had a delightful kitchen victory on a very sleepy Sunday night. When I say “very sleepy,” I mean running on four hours of sleep for no good reason at all. I was sick on Friday and half of Saturday with a migraine, so as soon as I felt better, I decided to take advantage of it. The mister and I stayed up late playing games and having a ton of fun on a dreary, drizzly day. I rolled into bed at 3:30, an unheard-of hour for me. 7:30 struck the next morning, and I was wide awake with no chance of going back to sleep. My internal clock needs to be bashed over the head.

Anyway, I was unable to go back to sleep but still barely functional all day (thanks also to some nasty cramps, TMI), and yet I managed to meal plan, grocery shop, cook soup, and tidy the kitchen afterward. Victory!

I have been thinking about making tortilla soup for about a month now, and the time finally came. After looking at several different vegetarian versions, I based my final one on this recipe from the FatFree Vegan Kitchen. I tweaked the ingredients quite a bit, but the method is still mostly Susan’s. Here’s my version of:

Spicy Veggie Tortilla Soup

  • Cooking spray
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped finely
  • 1 15-ounce cans diced fire-roasted tomatoes (mine had added green chiles, too)
  • 1 jalapeno or serrano pepper, chopped (seeds removed if you want less heat)
  • 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, chopped (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 4 cups water
  • 3 cups beans (I used two cans of a medley of red kidney, pinto, and black beans)
  • 1 cup frozen or fresh corn (optional)
  • 6 corn tortillas
  • 2 limes, cut into quarters
  • A bunch of Swiss chard, scrubbed and chopped
  • Black pepper (to taste)

Spray a large soup pot with cooking spray and set over medium heat. When warm, add the onions and salt, cooking until softened. When the onions are nearly done, add the garlic and cook about two more minutes.

Meanwhile, pour the diced tomatoes into a bowl and add the jalapeno or serrano, chipotle (if using), oregano, and chili powder into a bowl and combine well with an immersion blender. (If you don’t have one, you can use a regular blender.)

When the onions and garlic are cooked, add them to the bowl (or the blender) and combine. Return everything to the pot and cook over medium heat until the tomato mixture thickens slightly, stirring often. Now add the broth, water, beans, and corn (if using) and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to a simmer, allowing the flavors to marry.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375° F. Cut the corn tortillas in half and then slice into 1/4″ strips. Spray a baking sheet with oil, scatter the tortilla strips, and then spray the tops with oil. Sprinkle a little salt over the top. Place the sheet in the oven and bake for 15 minutes, stirring once every five minutes, until they get crisp but not browned. Set aside.

When soup is done, serve topped with black pepper, a squeeze of lime juice, and a sprinkling of tortilla strips.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

The soup tastes even better the next day! Just store your tortilla strips separately and add them to each serving.

Once again, I prepared this soup in my Le Creuset, much to the mister’s chagrin. It weighs a ton, and he’s the official dishwasher. Sorry, baby, but it’s love. It tastes equally good in a bowl and in a mug.

Sunday thoughts

25 Mar

It is 10:30 in the morning, and my day is off to an exceptionally wonderful start. I hopped out of bed at 8:00 ready to run — literally — which is a good thing, since I have my second 5K in two weeks. By 8:30, I was out the door. Since I’ve been slacking off with training, I decided to enlist the help of my Couch to 5K app and did Week 4. I am not ashamed to admit that it totally kicked my butt. I am out of shape, but pushing myself this morning felt wonderful.

Afterward, I stopped by the apartment to grab my market bag, some moolah, and a warmer shirt and then headed back out on foot. I needed to make a detour to break a large bill, so I grabbed some lavender tea at Groundwork:

Groundwork is about half a mile from home, and it has sensational coffee, sandwiches, and looseleaf teas. However, I tend to find the service unfriendly at best. Today was a nice surprise, though. The guy was very nice and accommodating. Today was my first tango with their hot teas. They give you the hot water, and then you go scoop your own choice of a dozen or more looseleaf varieties into little bags. It was fun and oh so tasty. I almost mixed my lavender with Earl Grey, probably my favorite combo, but I plan to make coffee later, so I wanted to limit my caffeine. Next time, though!

After that, I headed straight to the Hollywood Farmers Market. Today is far from an example of a perfect, sunny SoCal day:

But there’s something about the moodiness in the sky that makes me feel happy, vibrant, and alive. It is just cool enough out for a bit of bite in the air, but not enough that I was uncomfortable in my running clothes. Plus, I love walking the longer-time Angelenos in their coats, scarves, and hats when I’m wearing crops and a tech shirt.

There is so much beauty around us every day, and it can be so hard to see it, but I can’t help but find the joy in little discoveries:

Yes, on the same street where these bloom, all full of fire and delicate strength, it’s normal to smell a little human urine. And yes, two blocks up is the hustle and bustle and weird commercialization that is Hollywood Boulevard. But today, today I feel centered on enjoying what is around me, even in the big, scary, dirty city.

Do you spy the sign in the distance? That’s the view from the end of my street.

Today I want to breathe in life and breathe out negativity. Today is a new beginning. Today I stop to smell the roses.

Today I celebrate a month of marriage with the greatest guy in the world. Happy Onemonthiversary, baby!

Sweet n’ spicy eats

19 Mar

In my last post, I shared some recent restaurant eats. Today, I want to focus on some homemade stuff. We are trying to get back in the swing of cooking again (again again). Here’s what I’ve been brewing in my kitchen:

X’s Spicy Portobello Chili for the billionth time! Every time I make it, I change something because that’s just how I am. I’ve been working on thickening it up lately, so this batch contained:

  • Olive oil spray instead of regular olive oil
  • 2 large Portobello mushroom caps instead of 5 (shh! don’t tell the mister)
  • Closer to 1 cup of water instead of 3
  • 1 can of chickpeas and 1 can of black beans, our current favorite combo
  • 4 chipotle peppers instead of 2, per his request
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder instead of 3
  • No cumin instead of 1 tablespoon because I’m out and way cheap

But everything else is the same ingredients-wise and preparation-wise. This time, I also used my new Le Creuset Dutch oven for the preparation, and I love how it deliciously caramelizes the onions. Thanks to my work committee who bought it for me as a wedding present!

Our pantry and fridge were pretty bare this weekend, but I still managed to concoct a tasty vegan breakfast Saturday morning:

Breakfast quinoa with a few chocolate chips (maybe 7), 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract, two pinches of brown sugar, hefty sprinkling of cinnamon, and toasted slivered almonds. Perfection!

That same day, I made an easy lunch that we both absolutely loved — and it’s one I can add to the quick and easy tag for the first time in forever! Behold:

Barbecued Mushroom Wraps

  • Olive oil spray (or use water or veggie broth)
  • 1/4 of a large onion, sliced thinly
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped finely
  • 2 Portobello mushroom caps, washed and chopped (cremini ‘shrooms work, too)
  • 1 cup of prepared barbecue sauce
  • 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, minced (optional)
  • Hot pepper sauce (to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • Black pepper (to taste)
  • Four whole wheat tortillas

Spray a medium pot or skillet with cooking spray and place over medium heat. Add the onion and salt, cooking until softened. Add the garlic for about a minute. Now add the mushrooms and cook for about two more minutes. Pour in the barbecue sauce, chipotle (if using), hot pepper sauce, chili powder, and black pepper, stirring to combine. Let it do its thing while you heat up the tortillas. I add them one at a time to a dry skillet over low heat, about 20 seconds per side. When they’re pliable, plate ‘em and fill with the barbecued mushroom concoction. Enjoy!

Serves two hungry people.

I served ours more like tacos than wraps because, frankly, I suck at the wrapping thing, and I wanted to maximize the amount of filling we could use.

I have been using a Trader Joe’s barbecue sauce recently, but my other favorite cheap-ish, healthy-ish one is Bull’s-Eye Kansas City Style. It’s still kinda high in sugar, but it doesn’t contain any corn syrup or anything else too nasty.

What’s your favorite kind (or style) of barbecue sauce? I’ve always preferred the molasses flavor of KC-style, as long as it isn’t too sweet.

Vegan on the go

15 Mar

I promise to write more about the wine country honeymoon soon, but I’m pressed for time at the moment and wanted to get a post up so as not to abandon you!

Anyway, we got home late on Monday and, therefore, did not do a big grocery shop this week. Poor little me was forced to grab my lunch on Tuesday. The winner: Whole Foods in Santa Monica. Holy freakin’ crap is that place HUGE. I’ve never seen such a thing! I wish I had known in advance that it would be a photo-worthy event. I opted for the “hot bar” ala the hungriest of hippies, though I realized after that everyone I got was actually cold. Behold:

That’s about a pound and a half of vegan deliciousness. At the bottom is a kale salad and a Swiss chard salad, a little macaroni salad, then lemon pasta, artichoke hearts, marinated mushrooms on black quinoa, tempeh salad, and grilled summer squash and asparagus. Overall I liked my lunch, but I definitely went overboard on all the flavors, which frankly didn’t combine well. I will be wiser next time, and possibly will just opt for the vegan pepperoni pizza and a salad. I can’t wait to come back, though!

I was exhausted that night, so dinner was more takeout, this time from my vegan love Doomie’s Home Cookin’. I rolled with the Country Fried Steak, which came with mashed potatoes, a roll, and an unpictured side salad:

It was really, really good! The texture of the “steak” was very chewy but also incredibly reminiscent of the Village Inn variety I used to consume on a regular basis (God help me). The vegan ranch dressing for my salad was creamy and loaded with dill, which I loved. I ate half the steak and potatoes and saved the rest for Wednesday’s lunch.

Mr. X ordered the Southern Fried Chicken, which also included a roll, mashed potatoes, corn, and unpictured beef curry soup:

The “drumstick” was decent, but the faux white meat was delicious! The curry soup was also quite good, though it was a strange choice to accompany our Southern meal. That’s the man I married, though.

The best news about this meal is that it was seitan/vital wheat gluten-heavy and I didn’t get a stomach ache! Typically I feel ill within a few hours of consuming the stuff, but not this time. Hurray! That means some more fun experiments will be coming to my kitchen soon.

Have you had any odd or interesting restaurants lately? What is the one omnivorous food you miss (or would miss most) as a vegetarian/vegan? My mister made a request for vegan ribs, so I intend to tackle this recipe very soon.

Almost wordless post

10 Mar

Hello from my honeymoon in wine country! I woke up way too early, so I thought I would share some highlights so far in photo form, from Thursday’s drive to Friday’s wine.








Recent eats

7 Mar

I’ve definitely gotten behind on food posting, darn it, so prepare for a brain dump.


The day before my wedding, Mom and I went to the downtown flower market (you must do this if you live in LA!) to, well, get flowers for my wedding. I did a ton of reading on Yelp about the best way to approach it, and several different commenters said you must go to Urth Caffe after. So we did:

They are famous for the above-pictured Spanish lattes (cringe at Anglicized pluralizing of an Italian word), so I ordered one dolce-style (less strong, since at the time I was trying to cut back on caffeine). It was incredibly delicious! It’s made with milk and sugar, so it’s decadent, but if you’re a coffee lover looking for a treat, order one!

I was in the mood for something light (e.g. not a massive omelette), so I ordered the Urth Breakfast:

It is “A butter croissant with the choice of Brie, Jarlsberg, Feta or Gouda, butter & jam.” I chose gouda and blackberry jam, and didn’t use any of the butter. My mom apparently panicked and ordered the same thing, plus a “side” of fruit:

Massive and glorious! This breakfast was absolutely perfect on a temperate morning after wheeling and dealing over flowers. (Did I mention that I got enough fiori for my bouquet and another huge arrangement for $20? Pictures to come in another post.) The croissant was flaky and decadent, and the cheese and jam were just perfect together. I will definitely be back!

Another recent restaurant meal was at my fave, Native Foods. I decided to try something new and went with the Rockin’ Moroccan Bowl:

“Your choice of tofu or Native Chicken marinated in our homemade Moroccan sauce with grilled veggies and quinoa. Topped with currants and toasted almonds.” I chose the faux chicken. It came with an accidentally free side of schweet pertater fries plus the watermelon agua fresca I ordered. This dish was delicious, and the mister even declared it his new fave. It’s pretty massive, which is what he demands in food.

Homemade meals

Not too long ago, I made a quick loaf of bread based on a recipe from Vegan on the Cheap:

It was tasty and bready and super easy. I then ate it for breakfast topped with flavorful Dijon mustard and half of a small avocado:

LOVE THIS. Could eat it every day, no lie. In fact, I probably will eat it every day next week. Holla!

I also made a bean/grain loaf:

I kept meaning to share the recipe, but so much time has passed that I can’t remember the proportions. Isn’t that sad? Truth be told, while it was tasty, it is also lacking in the cohesive department, so I should really do another trial run first anyway. It contains chickpeas, lentils, and quinoa, and I liked it best topped with barbecue sauce.

Training food

I went to another training last week that had an incredible lunch spread:

This Mexican-inspired meal was catered by Homegirl Cafe (read about them — they’re pretty amazing) and was totally vegan! There was also a chicken option, but otherwise, there was nary a dairy nor meat in sight. What you see is their House Salad (“Spring mix, jicama, apple, roasted pumpkin seeds.  Citrus vinaigrette.”), black beans, green rice, and Potato & Grilled Tofu taco innards (three little corn tortillas are in the foil up top) with pico de gallo. SO FREAKING GOOD. I am now dying to visit the actual cafe.

Packaged food

I have been having a love affair with Pop Chips lately. I could eat them every day, though I don’t. They are not a health food, since no chip is, but as things go, they are certainly less bad.

And they’re cute. I usually jam to the jalapeno ones, but I recently tried (because I only recently found) the salt and vinegar variety:

I love these! I would be hard pressed to pick a fave between the two, so it’s great to have a variety.

And lastly, Trader Joe’s recently brought back Cookie Butter, so I had to jump on the blogger bandwagon and get in on the action:

Atop some TJ’s crackers. Speaking of crackers, this stuff is like crack. I keep it at work for snacking, tucked in a drawer so I only remember it’s there occasionally.

So that’s a smattering of my recent eats. I am leaving for my honeymoon tomorrow in wine country and hope to do at least a quick photo post over the weekend. If not, I certainly hope you’ll understand that I’m otherwise occupied. ;)

Budget- and bulge-friendly barley

2 Mar

My cooking lately has been haphazard, thanks to finishing up the wedding plans, actually getting married, and then not shopping this week. However, I did have a few goodies left in my kitchen this week, so I decided to whip up a barley dish. I was heavily inspired by The Broccoli Hut’s Edamame Barley Risotto, as you can see, but I increased the portions and made a few tweaks. Here’s mine:

(Eaten out of a Santa mug/bowl with a red plastic spoon. Classy!)

And here’s my method:

Barley with Mushrooms and Split Peas

  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 container white mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup pearled barley
  • 2 cups plus 1/2 cup low-sodium vegetable broth, divided
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Black pepper (to taste)
  • Crushed red pepper (to taste)
  • Dried oregano (to taste)
  • Dried thyme (to taste)
  • 1/4 cup dried green split peas

Spray a medium saucepan with cooking spray (or use a small amount of olive oil or vegetable broth) and heat over medium. Add the onions with the salt and cook, stirring when needed, until translucent and starting to brown. Now add the garlic and mushrooms and cook, stirring, until they soften. This part takes just a couple of minutes. Add the barley and stir for about 20 seconds, and then pour in 2 cups of vegetable broth, the water, and the spices. Increase the heat to boil the liquid, then cover with the lid slightly vented and reduce the heat to bring the dish to a simmer.

About 20 minutes into the cooking time, add the split peas and the remaining 1/2 cup of vegetable broth and continue cooking until the barley and peas are tender, about 20 more minutes. Add additional spices as needed.

Makes four servings.

I don’t normally calculate calories and such for my recipes, but this one is incredibly tasty, easy, and healthy, so I wanted to share it with you:


Total Fat 0.9 g
     Saturated Fat 0.2 g
   Polyunsaturated Fat 0.4 g
   Monounsaturated Fat 0.1 g
Cholesterol 0.0 mg
Sodium 240.9 mg
Potassium 389.3 mg
Total Carbohydrate 48.0 g
   Dietary Fiber 10.8 g
   Sugars 2.9 g
Protein 8.0 g
Vitamin B-6 12.5 %
Copper 20.8 %
Folate 8.2 %
Iron 15.1 %
Magnesium 13.4 %
Manganese 43.5 %
Niacin 21.8 %
Selenium 33.8 %

Not bad, eh? It’s really delicious, too, and reheats extraordinarily well. Plus, barley has been shown to be one of the most diabetic-friendly grains out there, which is good news for my household.

On top of that, it’s cheap! Excluding the spices (which would only add pennies), the whole dish cost $6.43 to make — that’s only $1.61 per serving! Add a spinach salad (~$1 per serving for organic) with a splash of balsamic vinegar on the side, and you have a complete, affordable meal. Obviously, costs vary according to where you shop, but it is 100% possible to eat well, both taste-wise and health-wise, without breaking the bank.


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