Stir-fried Lettuce

Stir-fried Lettuce

Have you ever tried cooked lettuce?


You’re probably thinking, no way, it’ll be like when the lettuce leaf on a hamburger gets all warm and limp. Yeah, I don’t like that on my burger either. But what I’m talking about is cooking lettuce on purpose. Stir frying lettuce Chinese style.

While the cooking brings out the sweetness, the lettuce ribs retains some of its crispness. In Chinese cooking, there’s hardly any food that’s raw.

I have to admit as a kid I thought it was strange when my mom cooked up lettuce but it’s actually quite good. Back then, only iceberg lettuce from the supermarket was available. Nowadays, I use romaine from the farmer’s market.

I usually make it one of two ways, either with fermented bean curd (Chinese cheese) or a simple sauce. Either method is super quick and easy. And if you have a lot of lettuce that needs to be eaten up, it’s a great way to go as it cooks down quite a bit.

Stir-Fried Lettuce

1 medium head romaine lettuce
1/2 teaspoon oil
1 green garlic or garlic clove, minced
1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
Salt to taste

1 teaspoon tamari or soy sauce
1 teaspoon oil
1 teaspoon rice wine
1/2 teaspoon sugar

Cut the lettuce into approximately 2-inch lengths. In a small bowl, combine the sauce ingredients and set aside.

Heat a wok on high, when hot, add the oil and swirl to coat the wok. Add the garlic and ginger and sauté for a few seconds. Add the lettuce and cook until it begins to wilt about a minute or so. Stir in the sauce and salt to taste and continue cooking for another 30 seconds until the leaves are just wilted. Serve immediately.

Fermented Bean Curd Variation
1 to 2 cubes fermented bean curd
1/2 teaspoon oil

In a small bowl, mash the fermented bean curd cubes in a bit of water and set aside.

Heat a wok on high, when hot, add the oil and swirl to coat the wok. Add the lettuce and cook until it begins to wilt about a minute or so, then add the fermented bean curd water mixture, stir to mix thoroughly and cook for another 30 seconds until the leaves are just wilted. Serve immediately.

Other Greens
Stir-fried Yu Choy Sum
Stir-fried Amaranth with Garlic
Sautéed Spinach

Pressed Juicery Freeze

Pressed Juicery Half Greens Half Chocolate Freeze

For those of you who don’t live anywhere near Palo Alto, California, you might want to turn away and not read any further. Continuing on may very well result in a little sad face.

Okay, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Over the weekend, I stopped by Pressed Juicery in the Stanford Shopping Center to try out their new frozen treat called “Freeze”. Basically, it’s their cold-pressed juice frozen to a consistency like soft serve. But it’s not ice cream. It’s like eating a soft serve popsicle only it’s not icy or slushy. It’s smooth and creamy and airy like soft serve but the taste is similar to a juice popsicle.

It’s amazingly good! And it’s 100% juice, nuts and vegetables. Nothing else. That’s actually Pressed Juicery’s motto. There’s no dairy, no added sugar, no gluten and it’s vegan.

I got half Greens and half Chocolate as I couldn’t decide which flavor to go with. There’s six to choose from:

  • Greens – kale, spinach, romaine, cucumber, apple, lemon, dates, coconut meat
  • Roots – carrots, beets, fuji apple, lemon, ginger, dates, coconut meat
  • Citrus – orange, apple, pineapple, coconut meat and dates
  • Fruit – fuji apple, strawberry, coconut meat, dates
  • Chocolate – almond, dates, sea salt, cacao
  • Vanilla – almond, dates, sea salt, vanilla

I got the small size (4 oz) for $4.95. I didn’t get any but there’s also a range of toppings available and they’re the healthy kind too. Add a dollar for up to 3 toppings, everything from fresh berries, to chia and hemp seeds to granola and almond butter as a syrup.

They also had their bottled juices for sale which I barely glanced at. And while they’re known for their juice cleanse, I probably won’t ever do that, but I would happily stop by anytime I’m in the vicinity for a healthy, nutritious frozen treat.

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Giuseppe’s Cucina Italiana Pismo Beach

Quinoa Farro Salad

Eating out as a large family is a constant challenge with everyone’s likes and dislikes, will eat and won’t eat. But now we have a new favorite for when we’re all together down on the central California coast, where there’s something good for everyone, Giuseppe’s Cucina Italiana in Pismo Beach.

When it was first suggested as a dining option, I didn’t have much hope but called the restaurant anyways to ask about menu options that can easily be made vegan. I was delighted to hear that any of the salads can be made without the cheese and that the pizza dough is vegan.

I’ve eaten there three times now, each time I’ve gotten the salad off the specials-for-tonight menu. Pictured above is from the most recent visit, the quinoa farro salad without the cheese. It was huge. I didn’t expect it to be quite so large and only managed to make a small dent. No one wanted to help me eat it, because you know, it’s “healthy”. I don’t care, it’s more for me.

Vegetable Pizza

I also got a pizza with no cheese, just vegetables. It’s not on the menu but the chef just puts on whatever veggies that are available that night. It’s been different each time I’ve ordered it, summer veggies vs winter, but it’s always comes out great.

I’ve often wondered though, after calling the first time about vegan options, do you call again each time you plan on eating there? Or do you just assume they can make something vegan as they’ve done it before? I usually just assume unless I haven’t eaten there for a long time.

The service really was outstanding and very accommodating (we had a lot of special requests at our table and it wasn’t all me). The setting is casual, cozy, a bit on the small side so when they’re busy, there can be a wait. But it’s totally worth it.

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Summer’s Bounty

Spaghetti with Tomatoes and Coconut Bacon

While my sister was away on holiday, I raided her backyard garden. Because I’m a pirate and that’s what pirates do. Arrrr! That’s pirate talk for “I like vegetables.”

Back in the kitchen with my loot, I made a simple pasta dish so that the freshly picked from the garden tomatoes and basil can really shine. It’s so simple and easy, a recipe is hardly necessary.

Just chop said tomatoes and chiffonade the basil leaves. Mix together with a minced garlic clove, a splash of balsamic vinegar, a dash of extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Toss with your favorite pasta, I like whole wheat spaghetti noodles. Sprinkle with nutritional yeast and top with coconut bacon, because that’s how we pirates roll.

Disclosure: Alas, I’m not really a pirate. I actually had permission to help myself to the bountiful garden. Really. But don’t tell Mom I’ve been fibbing. The recipe is for real though.

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My Sweet Mid-year Status Report

Vegan Chocolate Cupcake with Peanut Butter Frosting

It’s past the mid-year point and well past the time most New Year’s resolutions have fallen by the wayside. Me? I’m still going strong on my resolution to try every cupcake flavor from the vegan bakery, Sweet Aha! And not just the cupcakes, I’ve extended the goal to encompass everything that’s available including the muffins, scones and cookies.

Bet you thought I couldn’t keep such a resolution and that I would crack under such decadence. But no, I’m a trooper and so far I’ve stuck to it and with going to the gym regularly so I can keep up with the resolution. Experts say accountability is the key to reaching your goal. So here goes, the latest flavors I’ve tried:

Pictured above, a classic flavor combo – chocolate cupcake with peanut butter frosting, drizzled with chocolate. The peanut butter flavor is a bit on the subtle side and like all of their offerings, it wasn’t overly sweet.

Vegan Chocolate Cupcake

Chocolate frosting on a chocolate cupcake is just like taking a big bite of devil’s food cake. As always, the cupcakes are all ever so light and super fluffy.

Vegan German Chocolate Cupcake

Another chocolate cupcake, but this time with chocolate buttercream frosting with German chocolate topping. I’ve always loved German chocolate cake back in the day, especially the topping. It’s exactly like it but in a cute cupcake form.

Vegan Chocolate Chip Muffin

I’ve had my share of vegan muffins, can’t say I’ve enjoyed each one. It actually took me awhile to branch out and try a Sweet Aha! muffin (pictured above is the chocolate chip). I don’t know why I hesitated so long, like their cupcakes, the muffins are airy and light and made with all natural, organic, vegan ingredients.

Vegan Lemon Poppy Muffin

In fact, for their lemon poppy seed muffins, they actually squeezed and zested fresh lemons, by hand no less, for a pure, real lemony taste.

Vegan Banana Cupcake with Peanut Butter Frosting

Lest you go away thinking there’s only chocolate, chocolate or chocolate cupcakes available, I also tried a banana cupcake with coffee buttercream frosting with peanuts. Out of their many flavors, there’s usually a selection of three options: a vanilla one, some sort of chocolate one and one other flavor. You really can’t go wrong with any one of them.

Next check-in, end of the year, until then I’ll be striving to stay the course…

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I’m Minecraft-y

Fresh Strawberries

Lately, I’ve been on a fresh strawberries binge. Ever since Tomatero Organic Farm started selling their strawberries at the farmer’s markets. They usually have a few different varieties available, you can sample them all to see which one you like the best.

So with all of this strawberry eating, a collection of green baskets and paper boxes started piling up in the kitchen. That’s how I got the idea to turn the lovely 3-pack of strawberries above into the below Minecraft Creeper piñata.

Minecraft is a video game that builds up and breaks down blocks in various 3-D worlds. And in it are creatures called Creeper and Enderman. I don’t really get it but my niece and nephew are obsess with the game and those are their favorite characters. I made the piñatas for their birthdays.

Minecraft Creeper Piñata

First, eat the strawberries. Recycle the green baskets with one of your local farmer’s market vendor. Save the white paper carton. Repeat. Now you have two paper cartons, this will become the body of the piñata.

I also found a 4-inch square box for the head and a couple of small rectangular boxes for the feet lying around that just happens to be the right proportions for the Creeper.

Minecraft Creeper Piñata

Fit the two strawberry cartons together. Since the ends flare out, just cut and tape to get the whole thing to fit together well. The square head will go over one end. Glue and/or tape the two feet boxes to the other end so that the body rests a little bit on each for support. As I didn’t intend for the piñata to be smashed, I made it sturdier so it would last longer as a decoration/centerpiece.

Instead of painting an undercoat, I wrapped the whole thing in a layer of green streamer paper (crepe paper) using a glue stick. A glue stick was easier and less messy than white glue which caused wet spots in heavy-handed areas which never really went away (it dried darker in those areas).

I was able to plan ahead and only worked on it a little bit each day as free time permitted, so there was plenty of time for drying in between.

Minecraft Creeper Piñata

Measure out a length of streamer paper long enough to wrap around a foot with a little extra for overlap. Fold the length in half and cut fringes in it. Without unfolding, glue the fringed streamer paper around the foot starting at the bottom. Glue the next row of fringed strips slightly overlapping the first row. Keep adding rows until you get to the top edge, then cover the flat portion. Do the same for the other foot, then the body and lastly the head.

I did the head and body separately and attached the head at the very end with velcro. On the head, glue black construction paper cut out in the shape of Creeper’s face onto one side. Drill two small holes in the top of the head and put through a plastic loop before attaching to the body. I like to fluff up the fringes a bit to give it that “devil may care” look.

Mindcraft Enderman Piñata

I also made an Enderman piñata using the same method but with streamer arms and legs. That’s it, all done. I already had everything except the streamer paper making it a fun, cheap, and green project for the summer.

This post contains Amazon links, I get a few coins tossed my way if you click on any of the links and make a purchase of anything.

Manresa Bread Project

Manresa Pumpernickel Rye Bread

Is it bad to eat nothing but bread for lunch? And for dinner too? This is what happens when you get a loaf of bread from Manresa, a Michelin two-star restaurant in Los Gatos, California.

Dubbed the Manresa Bread Project, they’ve been selling their restaurant bread at the Campbell farmer’s market. And they recently opened up a booth at the California Avenue Palo Alto farmer’s market. I’ve seen the long lines and thought “What’s that all about?” But loaded down with fruit and veggies for the week, I had no desire to wait in line to find out.

Then, one fine morning, I happened to be in front of the booth without such a line. Now’s my chance to see what’s all the fuss. All of their bread is vegan except for the brioche and obviously, anything with cheese.

I got the pumpernickel rye for 8 bucks. Taking the paper bag, I was surprised at the hefty weight (1 pound and 8 1/2 ounces). Looking into the bag, it’s not a large loaf by any means, only 4 x 4 x 4 inches. Hmmm, it seems to be quite heavy for its size, I hope I didn’t just spend 8 dollars on a brick.

I heaved the loaf home and have a slice. Packed full of seeds, as you can see, but it’s not dense tasting at all. In fact, it’s flavorful and delicious. I may be biased though as rye is my favorite type of bread. I thought I would make sandwiches but it’s good just by itself all on its own. Hence, lunch and dinner.

P.S. I had a slice as a snack too.

Teriyaki Roasted Tofu

Teriyaki Roasted Tofu

Roasting is still my favorite way to prepare tofu. It’s super easy and relatively quick as there’s no need to press the tofu before using it. I’ve already combined it with buffalo sauce, pesto sauce and black bean sauce. Today, it’s teriyaki.

Before doing anything else, get the rice going in the rice cooker (if serving with rice and if you have a rice cooker otherwise ignore this part). While the rice is cooking, prep the tofu for the oven.

Once the tofu is roasting, make the sauce and any additional sides like a vegetable. In theory, everything should be done right around the same time.

Teriyaki Roasted Tofu
Serves 2

1 14-ounce block of extra-firm tofu
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 green onion, chopped for garnish
Sesame seeds for garnish

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. In a bowl, combine the oil, salt and paprika. Cut the tofu into cubes and gently toss to coat with the mixture. Place each tofu cube in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Roast for 15 minutes on one side, flip over to the other side and roast for another 15 minutes for a total of 30 minutes.

While the tofu is roasting, make the teriyaki sauce.

Teriyaki Sauce
1/4 cup tamari or soy sauce
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed in 1/4 cup water

In a sauce pan or wok, add all of the ingredients except the cornstarch mixture. On medium warm heat, stir until the brown sugar is completely dissolved. Add the cornstarch mixture and whisk to combine. Continue whisking until the sauce thickens, about 4 minutes or so. Turn off the heat and set aside.

When ready to serve, transfer most of the sauce to a bowl. Then add the tofu to the pan and spoon as much sauce as desired onto the tofu and toss until thoroughly coated. Garnish with the green onions and sesame seeds.

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