grown up bento, part 2

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been making double of each of my lunches so that I only have to pack a lunch every other day. Because of that, I only have a couple of pictures to post each week, so I decided to save them up until I had enough for a post. Here’s what I’ve been eating:

Bento #1

20130917-200214.jpg1 – mung bean and cucumber salad, kimchi, marinated shiitake, maple-glazed tofu, seasoned soy bean paste (recipes here)

2 – lettuce (to wrap fillings above), watermelon cubes

Bento #2


1 – lettuce and cucumber sticks, spicy bean sprouts, homemade guacamole, and hidden from view is a whole wheat tortilla (For spicy bean sprouts, sauté for a few minutes in sesame oil, add a few drops of chili oil, and red chili sauce. For guacamole – combine one avocado, juice of one lime, and 1-2 garlic cloves in a food processor or blender. Add in finely chopped and seeded tomato, diced red onion, and chopped cilantro.)

2 – Roasted Japanese eggplant and Lebanese zucchini dusted with chili powder, cumin and coriander; and watermelon cubes

Bento #3


1 – takikomi gohan (brown rice with zucchini, eggplant, tofu, and shiitake)

2 – watermelon cubes, Japanese pickled cucumber, pickled daikon, edamame

Bento #4


1 – fall harvest meal leftovers – orange-balsamic roasted acorn squash, smashed crispy red potatoes, roasted asparagus, stir-fried shiitake

2 – watermelon cubes, miso-ginger tofu, edamame

Bento #5


1 – mango, kiwi, and pineapple chunks

2 – leftover takikomi gohan (brown rice with zucchini, eggplant, tofu, and shiitake), miso-ginger tofu, and edamame

Bento #6


1 – temaki sushi (hand roll) – brown rice, seaweed, marinated shiitake, miso eggplant

2 – cucumber, mango, and green onion sticks; edamame, Japanese pickled cucumber, pickled daikon, spicy bean sprouts (sautéed quickly in sesame oil with a few drops of chili oil)

Bento #7


1 – celery and cucumber sticks

2 – homemade chunky hummus and watermelon cubes (For hummus — mash one can of chickpeas with a fork or potato masher, add olive oil, tahini, minced garlic, and lemon juice)

thermos – vegan cream of mushroom soup (I tried a recipe using cauliflower as the thickener but I wasn’t thrilled with it. When I find a better recipe, I’ll post it)

Bento #8


1 – whole wheat capellini and vegan vodka sauce with heirloom tomatoes, eggplant and mushrooms

2 – watermelon cubes and cucumber sticks

Bento #9


1 – creamy polenta with spinach, mushrooms, and tofu

2 – mango and peach


creamy polenta with spinach and mushrooms



Tonight, I planned to make a mushroom, spinach, and lentil phyllo-wrapped thing for dinner. (Yes, “thing” is the technical name). When I finally got around to cooking, I decided that it would take too long since I’d need to cook the lentils before I could assemble and bake the whole thing. I started googling mushroom, spinach, and phyllo recipes but couldn’t find anything that would be quick and easy to make. I stumbled upon this recipe and decided I would vegan-ize it. Instead of scallops, I used tofu as my protein, but you could use sausage, chicken, beans, etc.

It was creamy, savory, and very filling. I’ve never really done much with polenta before this, but I will definitely be making variations of this dish again. Instead of spinach, you could stir in just about any vegetable you want and I think the end result would be great.



creamy polenta with spinach and mushrooms


  • 3/4 cup polenta
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 bunch spinach, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cups mushrooms, sliced
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • firm tofu, cubed (optional)


  1. Put polenta and vegetable stock in a medium-sized sauce pan and stir well to combine. Turn stove to high and cook until the broth starts to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and stir often to make sure the polenta doesn’t clump. Cook until polenta is creamy and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Add spinach and stir to thoroughly combine. Stir in nutritional yeast. Set aside.
  2. Heat a frying pan over medium heat and add about 2 tbsp of olive oil to the pan. Add onions to the pan and sauté until they begin to turn translucent. Add the mushrooms to the pan and sprinkle evenly with salt and pepper. If using tofu, add to the pan at this time (For chicken, sausage, etc., either cook separately and stir in at the end, or add to the pan after the onions and brown all sides before adding mushrooms). Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, then add wine to pan. Continue to cook until wine has reduced by half. Add almond milk to the pan and stir to incorporate. Cook for about 2 more minutes, then remove from heat. Adjust seasoning as needed.
  3. Distribute the polenta between 4 plates and top with mushroom mixture. Serve immediately.


vodka sauce with heirloom tomatoes, eggplant, and mushrooms


I’m pretty sure I broke just about every rule in Italian cooking tonight. I made vegan vodka sauce and I used heirloom tomatoes, almond milk, and nutritional yeast to do it. Not only that, I put eggplants and mushrooms in the sauce. I can just hear all the Italian grandmas rolling over in their graves! But since I’m not Italian (I’m American-Cypriot), I’m not going to worry about it, and I’ll just enjoy my pasta!

My kitchen counter was overflowing today with tomatoes from my garden. I have a few san marzanos, a ton of heirlooms, and even more little yellow pear tomatoes. I knew that I needed to do something about this situation pretty quickly before the tomatoes went bad. I’ve already given away so many that people run away from me when they see me coming… I initially decided to make a tomato sauce that I could freeze for later, but as I started looking up recipes, I started thinking about vodka sauce. I’m not a huge fan of tomato and marinara sauces, but I do love a good vodka sauce! If I order pasta with sauce at a restaurant, it is almost always vodka sauce. I love the creamy, tomato-y (is that a word?) taste and for whatever reason, it doesn’t give me heartburn the way any other tomato sauce does.

A lot of the vegan vodka sauce recipes I googled called for using a jar of spaghetti sauce (seriously?) or needed cashew cream, soy creamer, mashed beans, etc. , things I wasn’t interested in getting involved in tonight. I finally found a recipe that called for almond milk and nutritional yeast as a substitute for heavy cream. Did I mention that I already had the onions, eggplant, mushroom, and tomatoes cooking in the pan before I decided to switch to vodka sauce? Yeah, after spending all that time trying to find vegan vodka sauce, I decided to give up and make plain old tomato sauce. Then halfway through, I grabbed my bottle of vodka, dumped it into the sauce and then I didn’t have a choice! Shockingly, it turned out quite well. It was creamy and tomato-y and I loved it with the eggplant and mushrooms. I will definitely be making this again!


vodka sauce with heirloom tomatoes, eggplant, and mushrooms

adapted from Tomato Vodka Sauce on


  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 medium-sized eggplant (or two small ones), diced
  • 10 crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 8-10 fresh heirloom tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 6 basil leaves, torn by hand
  • 1/2 cup vodka
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper


  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil, and have an ice bath standing nearby. Score an X into the bottom of each tomato. Gently lower the tomatoes into the boiling water. Boil for 30-60 seconds until skin begins to peel away. Remove and place in ice bath. When tomatoes have cooled, peel off the skin — you can use a paring knife for the hard to remove bits. Dice and seed the tomatoes and set aside.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until they begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the eggplant, mushrooms, and garlic and continue to sauté until lightly browned. Add the tomato paste and stir to incorporate. Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.
  3. Add the fresh tomatoes and torn basil and reduce heat to simmer. Simmer uncovered for about 15 minutes, until sauce begins to thicken. Add vodka and simmer for another 20-30 minutes. Sauce will continue to thicken. Stir in maple syrup and simmer for 5-10 minutes.
  4. Add almond milk and nutritional yeast and stir well to combine. Simmer for another 5 minutes until sauce thickens to your desired consistency, adjust salt and pepper as needed.
  5. Serve hot over pasta of choice and enjoy!



baking with avocados


I’ve come to the realization that in order for me to cook regularly, it needs to become a puzzle for me that I have to solve. In the case of vegan cooking and baking, it’s figuring out how to substitute for dairy, eggs, and other animal products in a way that is close enough to the original recipe, or turning it into something completely different and wonderful. Even though I’ve always loved to cook, I never really did so regularly for myself. My two main reasons are because it’s really not a whole lot of fun to cook for yourself, and when you’re done cooking, you’re the only person there to clean up after yourself, and I definitely don’t enjoy cleaning! But when it comes to vegan cooking, since I know I can’t run across the street to McDonald’s or Wendy’s from school for breakfast or lunch, I have to prepare food for myself in advance at home. This has forced me to spend a lot more time in my kitchen than I normally do, and I’m really enjoying being creative in trying and adapting new recipes. I still don’t enjoy cleaning up after myself, but if I’m going to keep cooking, I eventually have to wash the dirty dishes and clear off the counters!

Ever since I stumbled across the vegan muffin recipes in Forks Over Knives – The Cookbook, I’ve been obsessed with vegan baking. I’ve baked vegan ginger peach muffins and banana bread several times in the weeks since school’s started. They are both simple, tasty, and filling items for me to grab for a quick breakfast when I’m running out the door to work. (And are much better than the egg mcmuffin or sausage burrito I’d get from the drive-thru more mornings than I care to admit!) Several days ago, one of the blogs I follow posted a recipe for avocado, blueberry, and orange muffins. I’ll let you head over to Poppy’s Patisserie for the recipe. They were amazing. I had no idea that this funky looking green batter would turn into such delicious, orange-scented muffins. I’ve never cooked with avocado before. Sure, I’ve put it in a million salads and made guacamole hundreds of times, but I had no idea that it was such a versatile ingredient. This got me hooked — if it tasted this good in these muffins (and there was absolutely no hint of avocado flavor at all in there), what else could I bake with it? So the search began…


I turned to my trusty recipe file (i.e. google) and began searching for baking recipes that used avocado. I eventually settled on making scones. I had trouble finding exactly the recipe I was looking for since most either used ingredients I didn’t have on hand, weren’t vegan, or were gluten-free. I’m not ready to dive head first into gluten-free baking yet — those require a little more science and accuracy than I care for at this point. Plus, I don’t have an issue with gluten, so whenever I make gluten-free stuff, it’s more a matter of wanting to experiment with alternative grains.

Anyway, I finally decided I wanted to make orange, cranberry, and ginger scones and would attempt to create my own recipe, adapting what seemed to be fairly standard ingredients and proportions in the scone recipes I found. The only thing I was really unsure of was how much butter or oil one avocado would replace. I couldn’t find anything specific online, but I decided to go for it anyway. The end result turned out pretty well. They looked amazing and the texture was definitely scone-like. The recipes I compared varied from 2 tablespoons to over a cup of sugar so I erred on the side of caution. Next time I’ll add more sugar or maple syrup or something–they just needed a little more sweetness. I also couldn’t really taste the ginger so I’ll either increase the amount of powdered ginger or add grated fresh ginger next time. I’m posting the recipe exactly as I made it, so be forewarned that it may not be sweet enough for your liking. Some recipes called for brushing the top with milk or sprinkling with sugar before baking, so those are some things I might try next time. This recipe could also be adapted to other flavors and mix-ins, so be sure to let me know if you come up with a great flavor combination!

orange, cranberry, ginger, avocado scones


  • 1 large, ripe avocado, peeled, pitted, and diced
  • 1 orange, juiced and zested
  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp powdered ginger
  • 1 tbsp ground flax seed
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup raw sugar
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup almond milk


  1. Preheat oven to 400˚F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Put the diced avocado in the freezer for approximately 20 minutes.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, ginger, and flax seed.
  4. Place the frozen avocado into the flour mixture and work it in using your fingertips or a pastry cutter until the mixture is in small granules.
  5. Stir in the orange juice, zest, and cranberries.
  6. Gradually add in the almond milk until everything is moistened.
  7. Spoon the batter onto your prepared baking sheets (approx. 1/4 cup per scones). They will spread a little as they bake so leave some space in between.
  8. Bake for 10-15 minutes until scones are golden brown and firm to the touch.
  9. Leave on baking sheet for 5 minutes before placing on a cooling rack. Enjoy!


liebster award nomination


I don’t know if there’s an expiration date on these nominations, but I was nominated for a Liebster award about a year ago by my friend, Elisa, whose food blog, The Girl in the Blue Apron, inspired me to start mine. Elisa and I are friends in real life, and we love good food and good wine. We’ve taken many wine appreciation classes together, and enjoy going to try new restaurants and eat amazing food. Sadly, our busy schedules don’t allow for this to happen very often, but it’s always a great time when we can!

So what exactly is a Liebster award? It’s sort of like a pay-it-forward for new bloggers. It’s a way to recognize bloggers whose blogs you enjoy reading and following, and a way to encourage others to discover their blog. The “official” rules are as follows:

  • Post 11 random facts about yourself
  • Answer the 11 questions the awarding blogger has posted for you
  • Nominate 11 bloggers (with less than 200 followers) and link them in your post
  • Give the nominated bloggers 11 questions to answer about themselves

When Elisa nominated me a year ago, I was at the very beginning of the crazy year where I attempted to direct two musicals at school. Not only was I not doing any blogging about food at the time, I wasn’t cooking, eating anything worthwhile, or able to think about blogging and answering questions. I had forgotten all about the nomination until the other day when a blogger I was following posted about a nomination she had received and I decided it was finally time I paid it forward!

So without further ado, here are 11 random facts about me:

  1. I was born and raised in Kobe, Japan to an American dad and a Cypriot mom
  2. I climbed almost to the top of Mt. Fuji when I was in 3rd grade
  3. I sang on a radio commercial for contact lenses in Japan when I was in high school
  4. I had a drawing published in “Highlights” magazine when I was about 10 or 11 years old
  5. I sang in Lincoln Center in New York City when I was in high school
  6. Most people mispronounce my first name, Yvonne — the “e” isn’t silent — it’s “Ee – vaw – nee”
  7. I don’t have a middle name. Seriously, I don’t. Neither do my sisters.
  8. Mushrooms are my favorite food group. What do you mean they’re not a food group?
  9. I love cooking, decorating, gardening, photography, and organizing (other people’s stuff, not my own) and often wonder what it would be like to do that full time
  10. I have a fat orange and white cat name Jack Daniels. He’s purring quite loudly on my lap right now.
  11. I am a carnivore through and through, and yet I have happily embraced eating vegan 2/3 of the day

My answers to Elisa’s 11 questions:

1. Why did you start blogging?  I wanted a better way to share recipes and photos (mostly of food) with other people besides facebook. And it looked like a lot of fun.

2. When you’re not blogging, what else do you do for fun?  I enjoy going out to eat and trying new restaurants, especially ethnic foods. I enjoy spending time with my friends and their families — I’m not great with small talk so I love being around people where the conversation flows freely.

3. What inspires or motivates you?  I love beauty in nature, food that is pleasing to the eye as well as delicious, and I love to take pictures of these things and share them with others. I think being able to share the things I love with other people through photography is what is motivating me right now. My blog originally was more about sharing photos than it really was about the recipes.

4. What is the one food that you could never give up eating?  I would have previously said bacon, but since going 2/3 vegan (that means two out of three meals a day are vegan), I find myself craving fried eggs more than anything else.

5. Do you have a motto, life quote, or “words to live by”?  My words to live by would be the Bible. It’s hard to just pick out a few verses, but here’s Philippians 4:6-7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

6. What’s the most interesting or unusual food or meal you’ve ever eaten?  Probably the meal that would be the most unusual is one that has been stuck in my memory for years. This was a seven-course mostly raw fish meal at a fancy restaurant in Japan, paid for by a family friend. At the time, I didn’t care for raw fish so it was a really difficult meal to get through. (I would probably love most of the meal now). About halfway through the meal, they brought out a bowl of live shrimp and proceeded to dump them into a boiling pot of sake in the middle of the table. The pot was made out of glass so you could see the shrimp dancing around in there as they boiled to death. Needless to say, I didn’t eat any of those shrimp. My poor parents had to eat most of the stuff my sisters and I wouldn’t touch because they didn’t want to offend our friend who had gone to all this expense. I’ve never forgotten that meal!

7. What’s your biggest pet peeve?  I have so many it’s hard to pick just one… No, seriously. LOUD CHEWERS. Slurping and crunching and all those other noises are just nails on a chalk board for me. I discovered recently that there’s actually a name for this irritation – misophonia. People can actually become filled with blood-boiling rage. Mine’s nowhere near that bad, but listening to someone eating an apple usually makes me want to punch them in the face. I haven’t don’t that…yet…

8. What’s the last book you read that you couldn’t put down?  I haven’t done much reading lately. I guess the last book I read was probably the Hunger Games trilogy. I stayed up late many nights before Christmas so I could finish the trilogy and go see the first movie with my sister over break.

9. What are three things you always have in your refrigerator or pantry?  Lemons, olive oil, and Japanese short grain rice

10. What’s your favorite thing to cook or bake?  I’ve been cooking so much lately that it’s hard to pick. Of the things I’ve made recently, I think my two tastiest dishes would be the miso-ginger roasted chicken and ginger-peach muffins. My all time go-to meal would have to be pork souvlaki, though.

11. Who do you admire?  I hesitate to say I admire people who have it all, but I look at my friends who are wives, mothers, cooks, housekeepers, gardeners, and are also hospitable, gracious, and followers of Christ. I can’t help but think they have it all in the earthly sense. I know that they are not perfect and there are many things I’m sure they wish they could change about themselves or their lives, but I would like to be more like them.

My Liebster Nominees

I’m following over a hundred different blogs right now, but I had a hard time finding eleven who are under 200 followers. Most of the ones I would love to nominate are well over the threshold. But after hours of going through my list, I finally found eleven that fit the criteria! Here they are:

Maija at Mother of Invention – Maija is a friend from my high school days in Japan. She was one of the smartest people in our class and a great actress. She now works in London, has three children, and writes hilarious things about the domestic side of her life on her blog.

Lori at Ballard Adventure in Kenya – Lori is one of my oldest friends. We first met when we were in first grade. She and her family stayed with us in Japan for several days while they were en route to Korea for her dad’s work. We went to the same college and have remained friends ever since. Last year, she and her family spent a semester living in Kenya and she blogged about their time there.

Aaron at Aaron Rambles – Aaron is a friend from college days. He was a long-haired goateed drummer at the time, but is now a short-haired (still goateed) youth pastor with a passion for God, hockey, and his wife and kids (not necessarily in that order). As I write this, I remember that he asked me to guest blog for him earlier this summer and I never got around to responding to his request…whoops! Sorry, Aaron!

Rose at 30, female, & single … and happy! – Rose is another friend in real life. She was in the same grade as my younger sister in school and they were always great friends. Rose has great insight on what it’s like to be single after 30 and I have truly appreciated her honesty and openness.

Alaina and Stephanie at The Cooks Next Door – They are real life sisters who blog about food. The recipes are simple and seasonal, and there are a ton of vegan and gluten-free recipes on their blog as well. Check it out!

Sherimiya at Happy Little Bento –  Sherimiya makes great bentos – Japanese lunches. They are beautiful, clever, creative, and sure look tasty! Her bento posts were part of the inspiration for me to start making bentos for myself this year.

Miss Cruciferous at Sometimes I Miss the Sky – I’ve been a lurker on her blog for the past couple of months. I’ve been looking for more food blogs to follow and I was immediately drawn to this site because of the photos. If the photography on a blog isn’t very good, I usually don’t follow them unless they truly have amazing recipes. In the case of Miss Cruciferous, her photos and recipes look great so check them out! She posts vegan, gluten-free, oil-free and whole food recipes.

Em at Forked – Another blog I’ve been lurking on for several months. Em is a Pittsburgh blogger who writes about vegan cooking and dining out. I like her posts because the places she blogs about are close enough that I can actually go to them, unlike 99% of the other food bloggers I follow.

Better Bites – Yet another place I lurk – this blogger has great plant-based recipes that I keep adding to my list of things to make. Oh, and she also takes great photos, too!

Miss Kitchen Witch – And still another place I lurk. Miss Kitchen Witch is a food blogger who I found through the list of blogs participating in this year’s Vegan MoFo  – Vegan Month of Food. I’ve made a few recipes from her blog so far and am planning to make more in the future. The first recipe of hers that caught my eye was Orange Balsamic Glazed Acorn Squash — I made it this week and it was really good!

Ashley at Ransom Cakes – And one final blog I’ve been lurking on. Ashley posts vegan, gluten-free and soy-free recipes and is another great photography. I also found her through the Vegan MoFo blog roll. I’m stockpiling recipes of hers to try in the near future.

Here are my 11 questions for the 11 of you to answer:

  1. What inspired you to start blogging?
  2. What makes you happy?
  3. What is the one food you can’t live without?
  4. What is your least favorite food?
  5. What is your favorite book?
  6. What are your favorite hobbies?
  7. What would you do for a living if you didn’t have to worry about money?
  8. What is one thing you’d like to change about yourself?
  9. What is your best childhood memory?
  10. What is your dream destination (for either vacation or to live)?
  11. What is your most embarrassing childhood memory?

corn, edamame, peach, heirloom tomato, and pickled red onion salad


This is a really simple salad to throw together and is great when fresh corn is in season. You could use canned or frozen corn but fresh corn off the cob is simply the best! The flavors and colors are bright, you get a mix of sweet and sour from the corn and peaches versus the lemon and pickled red onion.

corn, edamame, peach, heirloom tomato, and pickled red onion salad


  • 2 ears of fresh corn (uncooked), removed from the cob (approximately 2 cups)
  • 1 cup cooked shelled edamame
  • 1 peach, diced
  • 2 to 3 heirloom tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 cup pickled red onion (recipe below)
  • fresh basil, chopped
  • olive oil
  • juice of one lemon
  • red wine vinegar
  • salt
  • pepper


  1. Add the corn through to the red onion to a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat.
  2. Squeeze the juice of one lemon over the salad, and drizzle with 1-2 tbsp of red wine vinegar and toss again.
  3. Salt and pepper to taste. Add the basil and toss again lightly.


pickled red onion


  • 1 red onion, sliced thinly in rings or half moons
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
  • 5 black peppercorns


  1. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a tea kettle or small saucepan. Place the onions in a colander over the sink and pour the boiling water over them and let them drain.
  2. In a two-cup or other container, place the onions and all other ingredients. Stir to distribute the flavors evenly.
  3. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving. They will keep for several weeks in the fridge.


takikomi gohan – brown rice with tofu, zucchini, eggplant, shiitake


This was a spur of the moment meal that I started at 9:00pm Sunday night. I don’t recommend doing that since I added too much liquid to my rice cooker and after two-and-a-half hours, it still hadn’t beeped. I finally checked on it close to midnight and the brown rice was finally done. Learning from my mistakes, what I believe should be a faster recipe is below.

brown rice with tofu, zucchini, eggplant, and shiitake


  • go of brown rice, rinsed
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 1 eggplant, diced
  • 1/2 block of tofu, cut into 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch cubes
  • 8-10 shiitake, sliced thinly
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp mirin (sweet cooking rice wine)
  • water


  1. Put rice in rice cooker and enough water for 2 go according to your rice cooker’s specifications. Add all other ingredients.
  2. If your rice cooker has a brown rice setting, switch it to that, and press start.
  3. When your rice cooker beeps, it’s done! (You may want to check on it after an hour and see how it’s doing, and then every half hour after that. The vegetables will add extra liquid as they cook down, so make sure you don’t make the mistake I did of putting enough water to compensate for all the ingredients.)

fall harvest meal ii


One of my friends recently moved to the neighborhood and last night we decided to cook a meal together. Her kitchen is teeny tiny and she also has the tiniest stovetop I’ve ever seen, so naturally we cooked at my house. When I invited her over to cook, I really had no idea what we would make. I started brainstorming based on what I had in my fridge and pantry and came up with a menu. And then I came up with a second menu that began to sound really amazing to me. Even though it was in the 90s yesterday, I just couldn’t put aside the thought of this second menu, so we decided to brave the heat and roast away in the kitchen. Here’s what we made: miso-ginger chicken thighs*, roasted asparagus, orange-balsamic glazed acorn squash, smashed crispy red potatoes, and stir fried shiitake. It was quite a sight to behold, all those trays lined up in the oven, roasting away right along with us.


I’m still a little surprised we managed to fit everything in. The two recipes completely new to me were the miso-ginger chicken and the orange-balsamic acorn squash. They were both amazing. The chicken is quite possibly the best chicken I have ever eaten. As we were feasting away, I couldn’t help but comment over and over how amazing the chicken tasted. It was spicy and tangy, with the flavors from the miso and ginger melding together creating something quite wonderful. You really need to try this! The acorn squash was sweet and creamy and the citrus added a brightness to the flavor. I’m pretty sure I will be making everything on this menu many times again in the future. Having company over, not to mention a second set of hands in the kitchen, made all of this possible — I never would have gone to all the trouble for just myself. I need to have company more often so I can eat lots of yummy food!

*for vegan followers of my blog – everything on this menu is vegan except for the chicken. I am working on a tofu version of this recipe that I will post when I’ve perfected it.


miso-ginger chicken thighs

from Guiding Stars


  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 3 tablespoons miso paste
  • 2 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 1 lemon, zest and half of the juice
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon red chili paste


  1. Preheat the oven to 425˚ Fahrenheit.
  2. In a food processor, combine everything but the chicken into a paste. Toss over the chicken to coat. (You can marinate it overnight in the fridge, or cook right away — the flavor is very intense even without marinating).
  3. Place the chicken in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, flipping once after 15 minutes.


orange-balsamic roasted acorn squash

from Miss Kitchen Witch


  • 1 acorn squash, cut into 1/2-inch rings
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • juice from 1 orange
  • 1/2 an orange, sliced thinly
  • salt to taste


  1. Preheat your oven to 425°F. Lightly oil a baking sheet and arrange the squash rings evenly.
  2. Mix together the vinegar, oil, and orange juice. Brush the squash with 3/4 of the mix and top with the orange slices. Sprinkle with a little bit of sea salt and bake for about 20 minutes.
  3. Flip the squash and pour the rest of the vinegar mix on top. Bake for another 10-15 minutes or until the squash is very tender. Allow to cool slightly, but serve hot with a little orange zest if desired.


smashed crispy red potatoes


  • 8-10 small red potatoes, scrubbed clean
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • optional: fresh rosemary, thyme, oregano, etc.


  1. Preheat oven to 425˚F. Fill a large saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook until fork tender — approximately 15-20 minutes, depending on size of potatoes.
  2. Drain potatoes into a colander. Do not rinse. Using a towel or pot holder, take each potato and smash it flat with your hand onto a baking sheet. You can use a fork or potato masher if you want, just make sure they don’t completely fall apart.
  3. Drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. If you choose, you can add chopped fresh herbs such as rosemary or thyme.
  4. Roast for about 20 minutes, turning them over after 10 minutes. They should be brown and crispy on the edges. Roast longer if necessary to get the desired crunch.


roasted asparagus


  • 1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed
  • olive oil
  • juice of one lemon
  • salt
  • pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 425˚F.
  2. Place the asparagus in a single layer on a baking sheet.
  3. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Use your hands or tongs to coat the asparagus completely in the seasonings.
  4. Roast for approximately 5-10 minutes, depending on the thickness of your asparagus and your desired degree of doneness. I like mine to still have a bite to it and I don’t like it too charred.

stir-fried shiitake


  • 8-10 shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and ends trimmed
  • sesame oil
  • soy sauce
  • mirin (sweet cooking rice wine)


  1. In a medium-size bowl, dress the shiitake with approximately 1-2 tbsp each of the sesame oil, soy sauce, and mirin. Stir to coat evenly.
  2. Over medium heat, sauté the shiitake for 5 to 10 minutes until mushrooms begin to wilt.


korean-inspired lettuce wraps


Clockwise from the top: lettuce, kimchee (fermented cabbage), sukju namul (bean sprout salad), seasoned soy bean paste, maple-glazed tofu, marinated shiitake

My grocery store carries kimchee in the produce section alongside tofu and spring roll wrappers. If you can’t find kimchee, you could maybe add some hot peppers or something else spicy with a bit of crunch. I got the recipe for the sukju namul here at Maangchi, a great Korean food blog. I used Japanese cucumbers from my garden and bean sprouts that I grew in my kitchen! The seasoned soy bean paste is a Korean brand I found in the Asian section of my grocery store. The recipe for Maple-Glazed Tofu can be found at Fried Dandelions, a vegan food blog with a lot of great recipes. The recipe for the marinated mushrooms is below. This is really a simple dinner to make — each element only takes 5 to 10 minutes to make and can all be made in advance.  I made extra of everything so I could take it to work for lunch tomorrow and Wednesday.


marinated shiitake mushrooms


  • 7 to 8 fresh shiitake mushrooms
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp mirin (sweet rice wine for cooking)
  • 1 tbsp sugar


Clean the shiitake and cut them into 1/4-inch strips. Put all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes until most of the liquid is gone. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. (If using dried shiitake, rehydrate them in 2 cups of hot water (enough water to cover) for at least an hour. Reserve the soaking liquid and use 2/3 cup of it in place of the water).

grown up bento, part 1

School started last week which means it’s back to either packing lunches or running across the street to Wendy’s or McDonald’s. I’m trying to stick with the former so I bought myself some cute bento boxes in the hopes that this will help me be creative and excited about packing a lunch, even when my schedule begins to get really crazy. Since I’m following the Vegan Before 6 plan, each lunch needs to be vegan also. So far, I’ve made it a whole week, so that’s progress!

Here is what I packed this week:

Day One 


1 – Corn salad – fresh corn, cooked edamame (soybeans), cucumber, peach, and tomato. Chop everything up and dress with olive oil, lime juice, salt and pepper to taste. (Could also add fresh cilantro or basil, fresh mozzarella or feta if non-vegan, experiment with the spices. Get creative!)

2 – Leftover fried tofu from Mad Mex (that’s a bit of vegan sour cream you see in the picture), and honey dew melon

Day Two


1 – Maple Glazed Tofu with homemade guacamole and refrigerator pickles. There’s a multigrain tortilla hiding under the wax paper below the tofu. I put the guac, tofu and pickles in the tortilla at lunch time. (For guacamole – combine one avocado, juice of one lime, and 1-2 garlic cloves in a food processor or blender. Can also add red onion, cilantro, tomato, tomatillo, etc. For refrigerator pickles — recipe is here on my blog) 

2 – leftover corn and edamame salad from yesterday, and mango and cantaloupe chunks.

Day Three


1 – leftover guacamole from day two. Under the guac is a multigrain tortilla. The greens are leftover from dinner at a Japanese restaurant the previous night. They’re dressed with sesame oil.

2 – leftover maple-glazed tofu from day two and chunks of cantaloupe. I made a wrap again with the tortilla, greens, guac, and tofu.

Day Four


1 – cantaloupe chunks and cucumber sticks (I grow Japanese cucumbers in my garden — they’re long and slender, have no seeds, the skin is thin and tasty, and they are burpless. Much crisper and tastier than your average cucumber. Very similar to Persian cucumbers, only about twice as long.)

2 – leftovers from the Japanese restaurant two days earlier – fried rice and zucchini, and seaweed salad (I ordered the seaweed salad appetizer specifically so I could have leftovers for lunch. I knew that it would be too much food with my entrée but I was trying to be proactive).

My bento boxes are made by Bentgo. Each container has a lid and they stack on top of each other. There’s a plastic fork, knife, and spoon that fits in between the two containers and there’s an elastic strap to hold everything together. I got a great deal on Groupon for them, and I love the colors!