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The Blissed Out Veggie Burger

An honest admission: I was by no means “blissed out” putting this recipe together. I naively assumed that I could pull it off easily. Boy, was I wrong. The first burger was tasty, but it wouldn’t hold it’s shape when cooked. Using egg as a binder was out of the question this week, for no other reason than looking for another creative option (why don’t I just throw a few stones in my path already?). The next burger was good,  but felt a bit too straight, just the usual run of the mill burger. I kept trying to configure different ingredients, looking for something with a bit of a twist, that didn’t feel too exotic for it’s own sake. Try and try again was the order of the week. Working through the creative process, I got a bit cynical. I called my friend Malina, who is a chef and food stylist, and threw her a curve ball: “Why should I even bother with a veggie burger recipe when most people will go to the frozen section, buy the prepackaged type, and sling them on the grill?” Her quick-fire response was, ” there will always be those that buy frozen burgers, [...]

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The California Burrito with Salsa Fresca

Seriously, when is it not a good time for a burrito? It’s such a classic, and hits the spot every time. Toby, Jake, and I love road trips in our 1968 VW bus (that’s our old 1070 Westfalia to the right, parked in Big Sur. We now have an olive green ’68), and while trucking up and down our beautiful state, we have discovered time and time again that Californians really know how to make a killer veggie burrito. In Ojai, they steam zucchini and carrots, then roll ‘em up with brown rice, avocado, and salsa. In Big Sur, they throw in grilled red peppers, yellow squash, queso blanco (a mexican creamy soft white cheese), pinto beans, white rice, avocado, and salsa. In Santa Cruz, the tortillas are toasted to a golden brown, the rice is dotted with fresh cilantro, tangy salsa, pinto beans, and a herby salad. To express my feelings of love for all of these burritos, may I quote Meg Ryan’s character from the film When Harry Met Sally: “YES, YES, YES, YES, YEEESSSS!!!” Now that we are in the full swing of the said thang, we have to adhere to a few laid back rules. Whatever [...]

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Sauteed Rainbow Chard and Carrots with Red Quinoa

I flew back to Los Angeles this week, and with another bout of jet lag, I determined to make another quick and easy dish that is bursting with flavor. Rainbow chard is so beautiful, so tasty, and takes minutes to prepare. Ginger and nama shoyu (naturally brewed soy sauce) give the dish an asian twist without overpowering the earthy sweetness of the red, golden, and Swiss chard. Red quinoa has a subtle nutty flavor, is incredibly nutritious, and cooks in 15 minutes. Whip this recipe out when you’re feeling tired or lazy, but still motivated to feed your soul with a beautifully simple and organic meal in minutes.  Now if you don’t mind, I’m off to sleep myself back into the right time zone. Zzzzzzzzz. Sauteed Rainbow Chard and Carrots with Red Quinoa 2 bunches rainbow chard, rinsed well and chopped 3 medium sized carrots, chopped 2 tbl olive oil half an onion, chopped 1 clove garlic, minced thumb size piece of ginger, chopped nama shoyu to season 2 cups cooked red quinoa (try cooking the grain with vegetable stock. It’s much more flavorful than plain water). 1. On medium heat, saute the onion and garlic in olive oil until [...]

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Vegetarian Bangers and Mash with Onion Gravy

There has been a heatwave in England this week, and London is swinging. Prince William and Kate Middleton comemorative wedding gear is on sale everywhere: Carrier bags, wedding mugs, Union Jack flags, “Catherine and William” biscuit tins (I bought mine from Fortnum and Mason. Helleur.). You name it, it’s out there.  My Royal reusable shopping bag. Class. Girls are swishing around in floral maxi dresses and neon brights, and the boys are rocking their trendy T’s, shorts with attitude, and cool pumps (that’s sneakers to you and I). The energy on the streets is incredibly high, with pub patrons flowing out onto the streets drinking pints, people sunning themselves in deckchairs, and picnicing in Hyde Park. The standard issue British Reserve has been exchanged for sweet smiles. When the sun is shining in London, you really feel like you’re in the center of the universe. The sun and culture can be an intoxicating combination. Here are a few snaps from London on Wednesday. Patriotic peddler in Piccadilly. Trendy on the Tube. All or nothing at The Tate Modern. Stairway to heaven at The Tate Modern. Rain or shine, Bangers and Mash is to England what Burgers and Fries is to America: The ultimate comfort food. Unless you [...]

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Canyon Chili

There’s nothing like a hearty chili to warm up your cockles on a rainy day. When the L.A. blue skies cloud over, I get a bit romantic, enjoying cups of tea and yearning for Merchant Ivory films (further evidence of my inner dork). The downside of infrequent foul weather is that I instantly throw on Annie Hall style flannel shirts, combats, and mooch around, not really in the mood to cook.  Before I give in to the impulse of driving to Erewhon or Whole Foods (my local quick fixes) to buy some veggie sushi, I scanned the shelves. What could I rustle up that doesn’t feel like an ordeal to prepare? Spotted in the fridge and cabinets: A half a block of tempeh, a tin of organic black beans, leftover short grain brown rice, half a can of organic tomato paste, fresh corn, a bag of organic carrots, and spices galore sitting in my cupboards. Reality check: By the time I got in the car, fought through the traffic, snibbled a parking spot, and shopped, I’d be done with my chili, saved gas, stress, and money to boot. I surprised myself by throwing it all together in 20 minutes. On [...]

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Jerk Tofu with Caribbean Rice and Peas

This is the ultimate party food. The flavors here are a perfect combination: Warming Caribbean spices in the tofu, mellowed by a cooling sweetness of coconut and thyme in the rice, finally set off by a tangy twist of coleslaw. Shooooot!!! Serve this at a barbecue or dinner party, and the meat eaters will ask how tofu can taste so good. The secret: Use extra firm tofu for it’s steak-like texture, then marinate it overnight to give it a punch of flavor.  My husband Toby is not a fan of tofu. If I’m being completely honest, it’s taken a bit of time for him to get into the whole “Vegetarian Thing.” I’ve endured years of this cat and mouse routine: I hand him a plate, he then says, “Hey, what ‘s this (erm, a beautiful plate of food)? Tofu huh?? Oh…ohhhh, that’s goooood. No really! What’s in the rice? Mmmm, I like it. Nic, this coleslaw is killer. Have you put it on the blog (yes, in June)? Is there enough for dinner later?” Lordy.  Serve this meal with Buddha’s Coleslaw on the side (recipe below). It is killer, and it only takes 15 minutes to prepare.  Enjoy Jerk Tofu [...]

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Italian Bake

For years, this bake has been a hit in our house. I created it one day, craving something warm and Italian, but wanted to leave the table without feeling like I needed a pasta-induced nap. I substituted the pasta for brown rice with great results. Bonus: Without the pasta, I can enjoy a healthy sized portion, and not gain any weight the next day (providing you don’t eat the whole tray Ladies and Gents).  It’s great as a side, but we enjoy it as a main, paired with a leafy salad.  Please don’t be scared off by short grain brown rice. A friend turned me on to it about 25 years ago, and I cannot live without it. The subtle sweetness, and moist chewiness of the grain takes flavor so well. It is also delicious on it’s own, or paired with just about anything: soups, sushi, croquettes, and stir frys. Ah, to bounce back and forth between a bite of stir fry, then a bite of plain brown rice. Ooooooh, but that’s another recipe, for another day Italian Bake 3 cups cooked short grain brown rice (I buy Lundberg brand)  10 ounces crushed tomatoes 3 medium zucchini, cubed 2 tablespoons [...]

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Vegetarian Nut Roast with Sherry Mushroom Gravy

Serve this savory, moist, and substantial nut roast with pride on Christmas Day. Top it off with lashings of Mushroom Sherry gravy (recipe below), and the most ardent carnivores will ask for seconds. Vegetarian Nut Roast  3 1/4 cups fresh wholemeal bread crumbs 2 medium onions chopped 2 cloves garlic minced 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 cup portabella mushrooms chopped 1/2 cup grated carrot 1/2 cup grated zucchini (courgette) 1 1/2 cup celery chopped 1/2 cup red pepper chopped 1/2 cup raw cashews chopped 1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds 1/2 cup raw walnuts chopped 3 large organic eggs beaten teaspoon dried parsley teaspoon dried sage teaspoon dried thyme teaspoon sea salt drops of tamari to taste pinch of freshly ground black pepper 1. Dry roast the cashews, sunflower seeds, and walnuts: On medium heat, dry roast the cashews in a pan for 2-3 minutes until they turn golden brown. Add a few drops of tamari and mix to coat the nuts. Turn them into a bowl to cool. Repeat the same process with the sunflower seeds and walnuts. Add the sunflower seeds to the cashews and set aside. 2. In a pan, heat the olive oil and saute the onions and garlic until translucent. [...]

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Traditional Fish Pie

I am very lucky to have two great Mother in Laws. Norma and Judy are both vivacious, fun, and creative. Norma, Toby’s Mom, is a party girl at heart. She has a breezy, go with the flow attitude, that is down to earth, welcoming, and infectious. Her home is bohemian, comfy, and begs you to stretch out and stay a little longer. It’s filled with quirky finds in thrift shops, curiosities from pound stores (similar to our 99 cent store), and watercolors that she paints. You find yourself supported by mooshy pillows, snuggled under wooly blankets, with a cup of Early Grey tea and Ginger Nut biscuits, watching the BBC.  In our time, we have played to a bit of air guitar and disco danced around the house with the music blaring (or is that just me Norma while you laugh at me?). I have spent many a year trying to recreate this energy in my own home. I’m telling you, it’s heaven. I’m almost ready to book flights to London just thinking about it.  Toby’s step Mom Judy is pretty major as well. She and Toby’s Dad, John, live in the West Coast of England. Judy is a master [...]

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Lentils topped with Mildly Spiced Spinach and Yogurt

It’s been a pretty eventful week. After many months of searching, we finally sealed a deal and bought a home. For the past six months, we have been living a zen-like existence, with most of our cherished possessions in storage. What a relief to finally stretch out and relax. There were also lots of Mommy duties this week: Making my Oatmeal and Raisin Cookies for Lil’ Monsters recipe with Jake’s class, putting together a pirate costume for Halloween, and taking pictures for his school’s yearbook. It’s not exactly the same stress as working in the corporate world, but it’s enough for me.  Once in a while, when I am pushed for time, I buy packaged Indian meals from our local store, Trader Joes. I boil some basmati rice, steam some vegetables or serve salad, and warm up their packets of indian vegetarian dishes. One day this week I started to reach for the Sag Panir packet, and suddenly stopped myself. I wasn’t in the mood to cook, but I really wanted something fresh. As much as packaged food saves time, it really lacks the same punch in freshness and flavor (not to mention nutritional value). I took a deep breath, knowing [...]

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