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.

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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.

Voodoo Van

Voodoo Van Vegan Seitan Sandwich

While there’s been an increase in the number of food trucks near me, I haven’t seen all that many with good vegan options. Some have nothing at all, some are so close with a vegetarian option but it might as well be nothing.

Then there’s Voodoo Van with their Mister Sister vegan seitan sandwich – spicy sweet jerk marinated seitan topped with red onions. It’s tangy, meaty and filling, I washed it all down with a cucumber soda.

The only problem is they’re not closer to me on a regular basis, I never even heard of Voodoo Van until I spotted their food truck at this year’s Sunset Magazine Celebration. The weekend festival is like an open house at Sunset Magazine’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California.

You can tour their test kitchen, check out various presentations, exhibits and products. There was an outdoor/backyard oven manufacturer handing out pizza samples fresh out of their oven. Luckily, I got there just in time for a slice that had just olive oil and rosemary. So good, I could have eaten the whole thing for lunch but I didn’t want to gobble up all their samples.

Plus I would have missed out one mighty tasty seitan sandwich.

Relax, Isa Does It

Muffin Pan Mini Omelets

I’ll been eating well lately. Really well. Yup, I’ve been living the good life trying out recipes from Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s latest cookbook, Isa Does It. Everything I’ve made so far has been either super easy or easy enough and delectable.

Starting with the first meal of the day, Muffin Pan Mini Omelets (page 247), served with giant strawberries and homestyle potatoes. Aren’t those the cutest little tofu omelets?

It’s certainly a nice change from always having tofu scrambles. And they’re fun to make too, you can watch them rise a bit while they’re baking, then deflate towards the end of the cooking time.

Lentil-Quinoa Stew

I’m still learning to cook lentils and quinoa but I’ve come a long ways from having been at best indifferent to lentils for years and unsure how to pronounce quinoa (say “KEEN-wah”). Now look at me, I’m making Lentil-Quinoa Stew with Lots of Kale (page 148).

Pleasantly surprised at how much flavor is packed into this stew and with such simple ingredients, I’ve since made it several times even without kale and serving it with other veggies instead.

Smoky Incan Stew

More quinoa, this time with beans in Smoky Incan Stew (page 165). Since the quinoa soaked up quite a bit of the broth, I added the leftover tomato juice as mentioned in the notes. I love these helpful little tips and tidbits included in some of the recipes.

To add my own note: I didn’t have red quinoa called for in the recipe but I did have red lentils and swap around the colors, it’s still a bright and flavorful stew.

Cheddary Broccoli Soup

Cheddary Broccoli Soup (page 53), yes, another soup. This was back when I was having jaw pain so there was a lot of soups and stews going on. Having never tried broccoli cheddar soup before, I didn’t expect it to be so rich and without any sort of processed vegan cheese. Not that I have anything against store-bought cheese but cheddar cheesy taste from real ingredients, that’s a winner.

Pesto-Cauliflower Pasta

Finally off of soups, my jaw has healed and I’m back to my munching and crunching ways. Since fresh basil started showing up at the farmer’s market, what’s better than pesto? Bestest Oil-Free Pesto (page 128) for Pesto-Cauliflower Pasta with Breaded Tofu (page 126).

No oil necessary in this pesto, it’s replaced with vegetable broth. But alas, I only had Better Than Bouillon No Chicken Base, not wanting my pesto to taste chicken-y, I just used plain water and it’s totally fine. I usually prefer to bake my tofu but the skillet pan method wasn’t too messy and didn’t take too long. Besides, the nicely browned breading was well worth the effort.

There’s so many more recipes to try now that I can chew food again. From the few I’ve made so far, I wouldn’t be surprised if Isa Does It becomes the go-to vegan cookbook for generations to come.

Still on the fence? Download the free e-book from Amazon, Breville presents Make It Vegan: Recipes from the Yiddish-speaking, Nebraska-living, post-punk vegan, Isa Chandra Moskowitz. Most of the 10 recipes in it are from Isa Does It and includes the breaded tofu pictured above. You don’t even need a actual Kindle, just download the Kindle app for your mobile device or computer. The directions are right there on the product page.

Related Posts
Heavenly Cheesecake From Vegan Pie in the Sky
Chickpea Cutlets From Veganomicon
2nd Avenue Vegetable Korma From Appetite for Reduction

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Spring Garlic Has Sprung

Spring Garlic

For as long as I’ve been a herbivore (and it’s been a long time), I’m still discovering vegetables that are new to me. The variety and variations in the plant kingdom is simply astounding. Oh sure, I have my favorites that I eat on a regular basis, but I also like to try out new vegetables whenever I stumble across them at the farmer’s market.

My newest such “discovery” is spring garlic also known as green garlic, which is just younger garlic with the stalk still attached. It looks a bit like an overgrown scallion. Although the ones pictured above seem to be slightly older, I had other spring garlic with more slender bulbs. You can eat the whole thing, it has a milder, sweeter garlic taste.

Stir-fried Kale with Spring Garlic

To get the full flavor of the spring garlic, I just go with a simple and quick stir-fry of kale with the spring garlic so that the freshness of the ingredients shines through. Other green vegetables would work too. You can also use it in recipes that call for regular garlic. It’s fun to experiment in different dishes but they have a short season. Get them while you can.

Surviving on Soft Foods

Blueberry Banana Smoothie

I feel like such a fool. In my defense, I had no reason to suspect anything was wrong. Little did I know I was heading down the road to overexerting my jaw. It had all the makings of a perfect storm – just back from a teeth cleaning with an unfamiliar substitute dental hygienist, a tendency to chew on one side of my mouth, and munching away on chewy and hard things like tortilla wraps and nuts.

To give my jaw a break and a chance to heal, I’ve been living a soft foods diet. You would not believe how long it took me to come to this realization (hence the feeling like a fool part).

I started with the usual suspects: mashed potatoes, hummus, yogurt and any number of smoothies from Blueberry Banana to Oatmeal-Carrot Cookie.


It’s also been soups galore around here, easy to make and comforting to eat bowls of jook (Chinese rice porridge). I just make sure to cut into teeny tiny pieces whatever extras going into the jook. And the immersion blender has been my best friend for smooth blended soups like Beet Soup and Chipotle Cauliflower Corn Chowder.

Thai Lime Rice and Punjap Eggplant

It’s times like this when it’s handy to have things like Tasty Bite Punjap Eggplant sitting around the pantry. Roasted eggplant in a tomato and onion sauce that’s so soft it’s practically a sauce, served with quick cook steel cut oatmeal instead of rice. And to get some greens in, saag spinach.

Trader Joe's Thai Vegetable Gyoza

Instead of pan frying Trader Joe’s frozen Thai Vegetable Gyoza, I dropped them into boiling water for what amounts to very large wontons. Cook on medium to low heat for about 8 minutes or so, and eaten with a dipping sauce of ketchup mixed with a little soy sauce and sriracha.

Vegan Apricot Almond Scone

Luckily, I can still enjoy Sweet Aha! scones and cupcakes since they’re so fluffy and moist. Although I had to be extra careful eating the almond and apricot parts of the above scone.

My jaw is finally getting a little better, albeit at glacial speed. The hard part is not prematurely jumping back into eating everything and re-injuring myself. It’s probably going to be awhile yet before it’s totally back to normal. Any other ideas on what to eat?

Vegan “Salisbury Steak” Asian Style

Vegan "Salisbury Steak" Asian Style

A recipe transformation hit the kitchen today and made a bit of a mess. Instead of neatly dumping the ingredients for an Asian Lentil Loaf into a pan and be done with it, patties were formed to become Asian Salisbury Steak with ramen noodles no less.

I gotta say despite the extra time and cleanup, the transformation was for the better. A crisp patty instead of a limp slice of lentil loaf is a plus any day in my book. Of course since it’s baked, it’s only crisp when it’s first out of the oven. And who knew ramen is so good with gravy on it?

Vegan “Salisbury Steak” Asian Style
Makes about 10 patties

4 Chinese dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked until soft, then chopped
1 medium leek, white and some of the green part, chopped
2 cups cooked and seasoned lentils
2 handfuls panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
Sea salt and pepper to taste
A sprig of cilantro, chopped (optional garnish)

1 cup vegetable broth
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, mash the lentils. Add in the rest of the ingredients and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.

Scoop out a 1/4 cup of the mixture and shape into a patty on a oiled baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, gently flip over and bake another 15 minutes.

While the patties are baking, make the gravy. Heat the broth with the soy sauce and sugar. Combine the cornstarch with a little bit of cold water and mix until smooth. When the broth comes to a boil, slowly add the cornstarch mixture and stir to desired thickness.

Serve the patties with ramen noodles and top with the gravy and cilantro if using.

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