The picture above is of my father-in-law & mother-in-law. Ain’t love grand? For me, the answer is a definite & very loud, “Yes!” Happy Valentine’s Day!

  • I found this article, Love Ever After: A Valentine’s Day Special, on TIME LightBox; I just love the 3rd photo here – so sweet.
  • Google Valentine
  • Pucker up
  • “I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where. I love you simply, without problems or pride: I love you in this way because I do not know any other way of loving but this, in which there is no I or you, so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand, so intimate that when I fall asleep your eyes close.” – Pablo Neruda, 100 Love Sonnets

by Valerie | 02.14.12 | Holidaze | No Comments »

365 – Day 357

365 – Day 357

by Valerie | 02.14.12 | Photography | No Comments »

Putting the Val in Valentine’s Day

As I’m anxiously awaiting my delicious, home-cooked, gourmet Valentine’s Day feast next Tuesday by my darling husband,  I was thinking about all things xoxo & hearts & flowers & whatnot…

Putting the Val in Valentine’s Day since 1978 – you’re welcome.

by Valerie | 02.10.12 | Holidaze | 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 »

Faux-rizo Smashed Potatoes

Dinner plate

Val loves potatoes; I like them a lot too. I wanted to make them more than just plain potatoes, so with that our side dish for our Valentine’s day feast was born. Note that in the photo here, the potatoes are underneath our Mole Rojo con Seitan.


  • 2 baking potatoes (good Idaho ones), with the peel.
  • lots of buttery spread (2-3 tbsp worth)
  • 1 package of chorizo style seitan
  • 5 cloves of garlic minced
  • 4 tomatoes on the vine
  • 1 tbsp buttery spread
  • 1 tbsp chili powder (I used my smoked chili powder and La Mesa dark 50/50 blend)
  • 1 tsp of butcher’s pepper
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • some shredded mahon cheese (optional, but recommended)

Prepare the faux-rizo first. Heat an oven to 425 degrees.  Place the tomatoes (removed from the vine) on a baking sheet and into the oven. Roast the tomatoes until the skins begin to wrinkle and brown a bit. Remove from the oven and let cool a bit before handling. Once cooled to where you can handle it, core and deseed the tomatoes. Put the tomatoes in a food processor with the chili powder, salt, and pepper and puree. Heat a skillet up to medium heat, add the butter and melt. Add the garlic and sweat for a few minutes. Add the chorizo seitan and cook until it is cooked through. Add the tomato puree and cook until it is completely incorporated into the faux meat. If you need additional salt to taste you can add it.

Prepare the potatoes however you want – microwave, bake, or boil. Once cooked in a bowl cut them open (this cuts the peels into smaller pieces), add the buttery spread, and mash the potatoes to a texture of liking, I left ours somewhat chunky. Add in about a cup of the faux-rizo and mix into the potatoes until well incorporated.

When you plate the potatoes top with a fair amount of the shredded mahon (or for vegans find a good salty cheese substitute). Enjoy.

Note, this dish makes enough potatoes for 2-3 people with left over faux-rizo for the next day’s breakfast. Also if you wanted to make some rocking taco meat, this is a good first step in my attempts to deconstruct Rick Bayless’ taco skillet sauces. I’d add some additional things like mexican oregano and some kind of chile like a jalapeño or something if I went that route. More to come on that.

by Ryan | 02.16.11 | Recipes | 1 Comment »

Corn, Black Bean, Avocado, Citrus Salad

Corn Bean Avacado Salad

There are many things here that Val loves. Salad, check. Lemon juice, check. Lime, check. Avocados, check. Vinaigrette based dressing, check. Oh and for me, chile and lime roasted corn, check.

Vegan Creamy Avocado Lemon Dressing Ingredients:

  • 1 avocado cut into cubes
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp aged white wine vinegar
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon of chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon of course ground black pepper
  • salt to your taste

Salad Ingredients:

  • lettuce of your choice (I used a mix of baby lettuce)
  • 1 can of corn drained
  • 1 can of black beans drained and rinsed
  • 2 avocados cut into small cubes
  • 1 tbsp chili powder (I used a La Mesa Dark chili powder)
  • Zest of 1 lime + its juice
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup of flat leaf parsley chopped
  • salt to taste

To prepare the dressing, put it all in a food processor or blend and puree. Heat a pan to medium heat. Add the butter and melt it. Toss in the corn and chili powder and cook until the corn begins to brown a bit. Add the beans in and cook until beans are heated through. Remove from the pan and set aside to cool. Once cooled add the parsley, zest, lime juice, and salt. Mix well. On a bed of lettuce add some of the corn mixture, top with the avocado, and finish with the dressing.

Serves about 3-4 people.

Corn Bean Avacado Salad

by Ryan | 02.16.11 | Recipes | 2 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 »

All you need is love…puppy love that is

Valentine's ECard 2011

by Valerie | 02.13.11 | Holidaze, Princess Puppy Pants | No Comments »

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