good luck

Happy New Year's Eve

We enjoyed a lovely New Year’s Eve with friends and followed it with a full day of house cleaning and a delicious dinner of pan-fried yellow lake perch, rosemary cornbread, roasted potatoes, and black-eyed peas (we used this recipe as a guide, but Ryan gave it his own spin). Here’s hoping that the new year brings us all plenty of good luck!

Black-eyed peas

Rosemary cornbread

by Valerie | 01.05.15 | For Funsies, Holidaze, Recipes | No Comments »

giving thanks, part II

Thanksgiving 2014

I know this is a bit belated (I caught a bug and was feeling under the weather last week and I’m finally feeling myself again), but we enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner with family and friends. Low, warm dinner lighting doesn’t make for the best photos of food, but it was all so delicious! I am so thankful to have such an amazing husband, who is not only the best partner I could possibly dream up but also an amazing cook. It was so nice to have our dear friends Michael and Jennifer join us for Thanksgiving dinner (and bring along that delicious apple crisp to share – yum!) with Ryan’s Mom at our house. I hope you had a wonderful, delicious Thanksgiving filled with good memories as well as good eats!

Brussels Sprouts

by Valerie | 12.07.14 | Around our home, Holidaze | No Comments »

Giving thanks…

…for family and friends, for our dog Melody (she’s so cute it hurts), for good food, for our beautiful home, and for my amazing husband – who is a great cook, is always easy on the eyes, who lets me put my cold feet on him when I first get into bed to help warm them up, has a wonderful sense of humor, and who happily makes me lattes whenever I ask him to.

We enjoyed Thanksgiving brunch with friends and a quiet, relaxing Thanksgiving dinner at home with just Ryan, Melody, and me. Deviled eggs was the first thing we made, followed by pumpkin pie (which is a long, sad story – but it’s ok because we bought one from the store today to make up for it), bourbon whipped cream, fresh cranberry sauce, brussels sprouts, mashed potatoes, gravy, and turkey. On the floor, under a blanket, by the fire is where I found myself falling asleep early in the evening, with Ryan and Melody by my side.

We served our deviled eggs on a lovely Russel Wright piece. I really love Russel Wright serving dishes; they are so simple with beautiful, muted colors – we’ve picked up a few in recent years at garage sales and resale shops.  I think it made my deviled eggs look extra sexy – well, as sexy as deviled eggs can look, I suppose.

Today, Ryan made me waffles with fresh apple compote for breakfast and we took a walk to a nearby park with Melody. Later, we’ll enjoy some Thanksgiving leftovers and I’m sure to find myself by the fire,  under a blanket again, likely watching some holiday movies.

by Valerie | 11.29.13 | Around our home, Holidaze, Princess Puppy Pants | No Comments »

2012: Week 52

2012: Week 52
Now is a good time for you to explore.

by Valerie | 01.05.13 | Photography | No Comments »

Weekend fun


We enjoyed a fun weekend & some lovely spring weather! There’s a reason they say “April showers bring May flowers” – the world around us is finally, really turning green again; the trees, shrubs, & flowers are blooming &, most importantly for us, our garden is coming to life! The onions we planted several weeks ago have little green shoots popping out of the soil & our other plants are already noticeably bigger – we planted two types of tomatoes (New Girl & Brandywine Heirloom) & more strawberries (Ozark Everbearing) over the weekend as well.

We enjoyed a friendly game of Texas hold’em with friends on Friday. Ryan was able to go on his first mountain bike ride this year on Saturday. And we made some really delicious curry potatoes, with onion & garlic & spices, in the slow cooker for dinner, with samosas & naan from Shalimar on the side of course! On Sunday we made a stop at our favorite flower shop, Pot & Box, saw a movie at the theater (Source Code), planted the strawberries & tomatoes I mentioned above, & had brinner – breakfast for dinner – which was delicious. And now here we are again, back at Monday – it happens so fast, doesn’t it?!?

by Valerie | 05.02.11 | For Funsies, Garden | No Comments »

Mmmmm beer-battered tempeh

Beer Battered Tempeh

So I had a craving for some fried food, and thought I would try something new…beer-battered tempeh. Its kind of like chicken tenders without the chicken. They were pretty tasty morsels and packets of fried nutty goodness, but then again most fried food is delicious, so try them out for yourself.

beer battered tempeh ingredients:

  • 1 package tempeh (we used Light Life Garden Veggie)
  • 3/4 cup beer of your choice (sorry vegans I used Guinness, but I am certain any good stout would work)
  • 1 1/2 tsp of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup flour for batter + additional flour (1/2-1 cups) for dredging
  • 1 tsp course ground black pepper
  • 1/2 -1 tsp mace
  • 1/4 tsp (give or take) onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp (give or take) garlic powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • canola oil for frying (or other oil of your choice)
  • salt and pepper

Combine the beer, 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 tsp paprika, 1/2 tsp of mace, and Worcestershire sauce in a bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the pepper, the remaining paprika, any additional mace you want, onion powder, garlic powder, and additional dredging flour. Cut the tempeh into thin strips, about 1/4″ thick.

Fill a large frying pan with canola oil, about 1/2″-3/4″ deep. Heat over medium heat. You can take a bit of the wet batter and drop it in, if it sizzles and rises to the top you’re ready to cook. Once the oil is ready to rock, dip a tempeh strip into the wet ingredient batter, shake it off some, then dredge it in the dry mix, toss into the oil and watch it sizzle. You can do this in small batches of 6-8 strips at a time. Cook until golden brown, flipping once during cooking. They cook pretty quickly about 3-4 minutes. Once cooked, place them on a plate with paper towels on it (helps soak up the oil), add additional salt, pepper, and any additional seasoning.

You can eat these bad boys any way you want. If you want to eat them like nuggets, pour some bbq-sauce or ranch in a cup and dip away, If you are the vinegar type, try sprinkling on some malt vinegar. I had mine in sandwich form. For the sammich, use any bun or bread of your choice, top with  some sautéed onions (make sure they are nice and caramelized), add some fresh lettuce, and a couple slices of tomato (or ditch the lettuce and tomato for some Brussels sprout slaw!!!). A good side dish is also recommended. Fried food loves to be paired with more fried food so some chips (aka French Fries) would be appropriate. I had mine with some mac ‘n’ cheese.

Oh, and why mace you ask? Apparently mace is often found in another fried delicious thing called the doughnut. I use it typically as a spice rub for barbecue. It has a sort of sweetness and spiciness to it, like nutmeg, only lighter. I figured if it is good enough for doughnuts it would make a pleasing addition to tempeh batter.

Beer Battered Tempeh

by Ryan | 04.23.11 | Recipes | No Comments »

Homemade Pasta with Awesome Sauce

Homemade Pasta

So I don’t know exactly what awesome sauce is; I first heard it the phrase while watching a video of a laser cutter playing the theme song to Super Mario Bros. That was definitely awesome. When Val tasted the sauce, it set her mouth ablaze with spiciness and flavor, and she claimed this sauce was “awesome.”

pasta ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups of semolina flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp of olive oil
  • 2 tbsp of water
  • 1 tbsp of dried herbs (I used our Rosemary Rapture blend)
  • a pinch of salt

ingredients for awesome sauce:

  • 1 red onion diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 head of garlic roasted
  • 1 tsp of dried crushed red pepper
  • 1 tsp of hot sauce (I used Cholula)
  • 1 tbsp of balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp of butchers pepper
  • 1 heaping tbsp of dried Italian seasoning
  • 6 tomatoes on the vine, cored and deseeded
  • 1 small can of tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup red wine (we used a Cabernet Sauvignon)
  • 1/4 cup of veggie stock
  • kosher salt

Homemade Pasta

To make the pasta start by mixing the dried ingredients on a smooth surface. Form a well in the middle of the dried ingredients. Crack the eggs on the counter and break the shell over the well. With a fork start whisking the eggs and incorporating the flour. Continue mixing the flour and eggs, add the olive oil and water as needed. Work the mix until it begins to form a stiff dough. Once formed, put aside for about 30 to 40 minutes.

Homemade Pasta

To cook the pasta, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once boiling add some salt. Add the pasta and cook until tender, about 2-3 minutes. Drain the pasta and lightly drizzle some olive oil on the pasta so it doesn’t stick.

To make the sauce, pre-heat an oven to 450 degrees. Roast the garlic head in the oven for about 20 minutes or until the garlic is soft. Once cool to the touch, or cool enough to handle, peel the skin off of the roasted garlic. In a blender (or with an immersion blender) puree the roasted garlic, tomatoes, tomato paste, veggie stock, and wine to a slightly chunky consistency. Set the puree aside. Heat up a large sauce pan or skillet to medium heat. Add the olive oil, heat for a minute or two. Add the onions and minced garlic cloves. Cook until the onions are translucent. Add the dried herbs, the crushed red pepper, butcher’s pepper, balsamic vinegar, and hot sauce. Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes. Add the tomato puree and bring to a boil. Simmer the sauce for 10-15 minutes or longer. Salt to taste. Note that this sauce has quite a kick to it, so if you don’t like it spicy you might want to leave out some of the pepper or hot sauce here.

Put the pasta in a bowl, top it with some sauce, consider sprinkling some parmesan cheese on top. Enjoy.

A note about making your own pasta:

I’m not entirely sure if making your own pasta is worth it. While the taste of fresh the pasta was great, it did take a great deal of effort to make. The bulk of the effort was not in forming the dough, but forming the noodles themselves. We used our friend’s Kitchen Aid mixer attachment that extrudes noodles. Our first attempt with making linguine yielded noodle mush. So we reformed the dough and used the spaghetti extruder. As the noodles came out the pasta would stick to itself and we had to pull the noodles apart. It was a lot of effort, for something very simple. I don’t know if I needed to have the pasta dough cooler, a bit more flour, etc., who knows. If it wasn’t for the fact that sorting the noodles was like pulling apart several bags of pull-n-peel twizzlers it would be something worth doing all the time. I’ll do some more testing in the next couple week to see what I can do and if I can get it to be a bit easier. If  I can get the noodle part down I think we would fully switch to making our own noodles.

Homemade Pasta

by Ryan | 04.16.11 | Recipes | No Comments »

Valentine’s Day Feast

Valentine's Day Roses

I cook a lot, so as one of my colleagues whose husband also cooks a lot noted, cooking isn’t something that is necessarily a special occasion. But for Valentine’s Day I usually try to up my game and make something that I have never made or try to experiment by making something a bit more complicated than normal. This year I wanted to turn up the heat, bring something sweet, and make a meal with food items known for the aphrodisiac qualities. So with that in mind chiles, avocados, and chocolate were in store. For a bit of food history these foods were commonly used by the Aztecs for their aphrodisiac properties. With that in mind I set out to make a Mexican inspired meal, far beyond any Mexican food I have ever made before. To accomplish that goal I served up a corn, black bean, and avocado salad with a creamy avocado citrus dressing followed by seitan in mole sauce with faux-rizo smashed potatoes. Without too much bragging, our dinner was a display of mad cooking skills. Mad props to me.

Dessert was not my creation, but our meal closed with a couple chocolate covered strawberries and a cookie. We couldn’t eat much more than that after the rest of the dinner.

Oh and why potatoes? They don’t seem to have any sex appeal. Well if you know Val, potatoes are well at the top of her favorite foods list, and a surefire way to her heart.

She loves flowers too, so I picked up this bouquet of pink roses & blooming eucalyptus for her from Pot & Box.

Valentine's Day Roses

by Ryan | 02.16.11 | Holidaze, Recipes | No Comments »

Ryan’s Mole Rojo con Seitan, es muy caliente

Mole Prep

For this Valentine’s Day I decided that I wanted to make something spicy and sweet (with chocolate in the dish of course), so mole it was. As we mentioned in another recent post, a few years ago we visited Rick Bayless’ Frontera Grill and chowed down on some delicious Oaxacan Mole. It was perhaps one of the best things I have ever tasted and was definitely the best mole sauce I have ever had, which is a lot to say since growing up on the border I have had lots of homemade mole. While I didn’t want to tackle Rick’s amazing dish step by step, I decided to vegan-ize it and just go with my gut instinct and make my own loosely based on the chef’s recipe. I also added some chorizo mashers and an avocado citrus salad to make this one sexy meal.

Mole sauce ingredients:

  • 4 ancho chile peppers
  • 1 can of chipotle peppers
  • 1 poblano pepper
  • 1 corn tortilla
  • 1/4 cup peanuts
  • 1/4 cup pecans
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 1 white onion
  • 8-10 cloves of garlic
  • 8-10 tomatillos
  • 1/2 of a large banana
  • 1/4 golden raisins
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp butcher’s pepper
  • 1/2 tsp mexican oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 1/2 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 tbsp vegan buttery spread (Earth Balance)
  • 3 oz Mexican chocolate

Making the Sauce

So it definitely seems like a daunting list of ingredients but not to worry here’s the how to. Begin by preheating an oven to 425 degrees. Place the onion (whole in the skin), garlic (whole in skin), and poblano on a baking sheet and into the oven. Cook/roast them until the onion is soft and oozy, the garlic is soft and slightly brown on the skin, and the pepper is brown and the skin puffed.

Roasted Onion & Garlic

On a separate baking sheet place the tomatillos in the oven. You want to roast the tomatillos until they begin to brown. Once they are roasted, remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

Roasted Tomatillos

While the onion, and its friends, are roasting away remove the stem and deseed the ancho chiles. Keep the seed and set them aside. Place the remaining chiles in a bowl of water to rehydrate them (it will take 15-25 minutes). Tear up the tortilla into small bits. In a dry skillet over medium heat toast the ancho seeds and tortillas until they are mostly burnt. Rinse the seeds and tortilla bits off in fine mesh strainer. Put them in a small food processor and grind them.

Chile bath

Mole Prep

In the same skillet, or a different one, toast the sesame seeds, peanuts, and pecans. Get a nice brown on all sides. Add the seeds and nuts to the food processor along with 1/2 cup of veggie stock and puree. Set aside.

Nuts & Seeds

Once your onion, pepper, and garlic are done, remove from the oven and set aside. Put the poblano in a paper bag to steam and cool for few minutes (10 at most). Remove the poblano from the bag. Remove the skin, stem, and seeds and chop. In the same food processor add the canned chipotles (just take them out of the sauce, don’t add all the sauce), the rehydrated ancho chiles (remove them from the water), the poblano, and 1/2 cup veggie stock and puree. NOTE: if you want to cut the heat of this dish don’t use a whole can of chipotles, cut back a bit. I just like things spicy. Set the puree aside.

Remove the skin from the onion and garlic. Quarter the onion or give it a rough chop. Core the tomatillos. Add the garlic, onion, cloves, oregano, pepper, thyme, banana, raisins, tomatillos, and 1/2 cup of veggie stock to a blender and puree. NOTE: you can also cut down the cloves a bit if you’re not a fan of that sort of Jamaican all-spice taste.

Mole Prep

Mole Prep

Once all the purees have been made, heat up a pot or very very large sauce pan to medium heat. Melt the butter spread and add the seed/nut puree. Cook it for a while until it starts to brown a little bit more. Add the tomatillo mixture and cook for another additional 3-5 minutes. Add the chipotle mixture and a bring the pot to a slight boil (if you are scared about the heat, you can also just cut back the amount of pepper puree you put in this step). Add the chocolate. Reduce the heat to low and stir while the chocolate melts.

El Rustico Chocolate

Preparing the seitan with the mole sauce


  • 1 package of seitan (we used Mama Mo Foods Fajita strips)
  • 1/2 purple onion cut into strips
  • 1 tbsp buttery spread

Heat a large pan to medium heat. Add and melt the butter in the pan. Add the onion strips to the butter. Cook until they caramelize. Add the seitan and cook until it begins to brown. Add about 2-3 cups of the mole sauce and bring to a simmer. Cook for a bout 5-10 minutes in the sauce, reduce heat and serve.

This recipe makes enough mole sauce for several meals or one giant feast. There is also enough seitan for at least 4 folks. So be prepared to have leftovers if you’re cooking for two.

by Ryan | 02.16.11 | Recipes | 2 Comments »

Taco Night!!!


Ahoy all! Tonight was taco night as were several days last week, we have had a serious craving for tacos lately and have been making and eating them like fiends. This all started some time ago when we found Mark and Amy’s tempeh tostadas recipe and started adding our own twists to it. Since then our recipe for fake taco meat has changed and transformed in all kinds of ways, but only until recently it changed leaps and bounds. It started by using chorizo-style seitan in lieu of tempeh. And last week our recent addiction used not our own seasoning mix but a pre-packaged taco sauce from Rick Bayless’ Frontera Grill. I’m not one to usually go for the pre-packaged mix, I’m the kind of guy who pre-packages my own spice rubs and seasonings that I commonly use. But a trip to Frontera Grill a few years ago has me convinced that the man really knows how to flavor food and deserved the title of Top Chef Master, so I figured what do I have to lose. So our quest for delicious tacos led us to a plastic bag that makes faux-rizo quite amazing. Add a whole bunch of other stuff, such as yummy beans, cheese, lettuce, and Señor Choppington’s guacamole, and you’ll have a delicious meal in your hands.

Taco ingredients:

  • 1 package of fauxrizo (we use a seitan variety)
  • 1/2 of a large purple onion chopped
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1 poblano chopped
  • 1 tablespoon buttery spread
  • 1 package of Frontera Grill taco sauce (we used the New Mexico one today)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Bean ingredients:

  • 1 can of black beans (we get the “spicy” kind) don’t drain
  • 1 small can of green chiles
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon butcher’s pepper

To prepare the beans, throw all of the ingredients in a pot, heat it up to medium heat until the beans are heated all the way through. Lower the heat to a slight simmer for a short bit, then put on low. You don’t want to boil or simmer too long as the beans will split and you’ll end up with refried bean mush. I like my beans to look like beans.

To prepare the taco “meat,” heat a pan to medium heat. Add the buttery spread (or butter) and let it melt. Toss in the onion, garlic, and pepper. Sweat them for about 5-7 minutes; you could if you want even let them sit longer and caramelize a bit, if you like that kind of fajita thing. Add the seitan and cook until the seitan is cooked all the way through, about 5-6 minutes. Add the taco sauce cook for a little longer on medium then reduce to low for a short bit.

Once everything is ready, go forth and make tacos (or tostadas, or burritos, or nachos)!!!

As a disclaimer, I know that this is sort of right out of the playbook of Semi-Home Made with Sandra Lee, who, as mentioned in previous posts, I despise. But so far we have tried two of the Frontera Taco Sauces and both have proven to be quite tasty. I might in the future try to break down the seasoning and make my own version, if I do so successfully I’ll post it here. Also note, not all the sauces are vegan, so as soon as I figure out a substitute I will let my vegan friends know.

Taco Sauce

This is how Val feels about taco night… Did I mention how much we love tacos?


by Ryan | 02.09.11 | Recipes | No Comments »

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