Behold! The Tofu Xpress

I can’t lie to you folks– I don’t like the taste of tofu. Nevermind that it actually has zero flavor and takes on whatever flavors you cook it with, I just can’t stand the stuff. The aseptic package tofu has the quivering consistency of jell-o or gross flan and just plain old smells weird. The water-packed variety takes hours upon hours of draining and pressing and wasting my paper towels to get the job done right. I have to keep it between two plates with a brick on top to get it to the desired dryness. If I wrap it in my dish towel, then bits of the block come off on the towel, plus that’s just kind of gross to me.

God(zilla) bless Google. I looked up easier ways to drain the water from my tofu and stumbled across the Tofu Xpress. I was leery but interested. The directions said you could put your tofu in the box and within one hour in the refrigerator you could have totally drained tofu. Still skeptical, I ordered it anyway.

It’s a bit pricey, I have to admit. With shipping it came to about $45 so you gotta really want the Tofu Xpress. I’m a big fan of Alton Brown and his dislike of what he calls ‘uni-taskers’ so I ignored my gut instinct to save the money and just use plates, paper towels, and a brick.

From the picture you can tell how it works. Apparently, you can also add in some marinade, which I will be doing in order to not have to taste the delicious bean flavor. I think tofu tastes like slippery air, don’t you? But, I digress.

There was virtually no assembly and the marinating tray is actually attached to the bottom of the device when not in use so no worries on losing it. I actually like my tofu bone dry so I left the contraption in my fridge for over an hour and kept going in to empty it. I got suspicious leers from various family members each time i brought it out to drain, but i pressed on.  Ha, no pun intended.

Once it was dried out to my liking, I made the most awesome, delicious tofu scramble ever. To me, a tofu scramble is only delicious if I can’t tell it’s tofu. That may sound bad to my fellow veg-heads but I do NOT have a poker face. If I don’t like something, it is impossible for me to hide. I wear my emotions all over my face. Some may even call me…animated. There are worse things to be, I can assure you. Like hypocritical or uneducated, for instance. (Uh-oh…sentence fragment.) So I hope my friends over at the PPK don’t get upset about me posting their recipe but it’s so delicious, I just HAVE to SHARE. I used all caps there to let you know how desperate this situation is.

Basic Scrambled Tofu:

For the spice blend–

2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp dried thyme

1/2 ground turmeric

1 tsp sea salt

3 Tbsp water

For the tofu–

3 garlic cloves, minced (or if you’re like me, 6 garlic cloves. I love the stuff!)

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 pound xt firm tofu, drained

1/4 cup nooch(nutritional yeast)

black pepper, to taste

Blend the spices together in a small bowl, then add the water and mix well. Set aside.

Preheat a large skillet over medium to high heat. Saute the garlic in the olive oil for about 10 minutes. Crumble up the tofu and add it to the pan. Make sure it’s in nice bite-size pieces. Saute for a good ten minutes, stir often. Make sure to get under the tofu and scrape the bits of it off the pan, that’s where the yummy caramelization comes from. The tofu should be browned on one side at least. The water should cook out of the tofu but on the other hand, if it’s too dry add a little water. Moist tofu is a good thing…at least that’s what they tell me.

Add the spice blend and mix to incorporate. Add the nooch and the pepper and cook for 5 more minutes. Serve warm, preferably with some yummy whole wheat English muffins that have grape jelly blobbed on top. I like grape jelly, and in blobs, I like it even more.

The book, Vegan Brunch, has some add-in ideas that you are more than welcome to try. Things like broccoli, mushrooms, spinach, carrots, red bell peppers, onions, and other veggies that would make this a lot more healthy. You go to town with that, I hate all those things. Well, except spinach, but I’m not putting it in my tofu, so there!

My assessment of the Tofu Xpress is that it is a useful tool that can help out anyone looking to incorporate more tofu into their diet. As long as you don’t mind spending a little bit, i would recommend it, for sure.

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Fritz Pastry in Chicago

Pastry box I don’t like to do bakery (or any type of) business reviews on my blog because there  are enough blogs out there that do that kind of thing. Usually the people who write those blogs really know their stuff. Either they went to pastry school or they just plain old did a lot of research. I do neither of those things yet here we are.  I just know how stuff tastes and I’m basing this review off that. So there. Just don’t expect a whole lot of detail and we’ll get along just fine. Not to mention, Yelp seems to do the trick in that arena, although once in a while, I don’t exactly trust some of their, ahem, impartial reviewers.

I met a good friend and a new friend here for coffee this evening and I was very impressed. Walking through the door, Fritz Pastry has a very warm feel to it. The dark colors of the wooden tables, the cozy atmosphere, and the potent smell of baked goods and coffee. A bakery after my own heart!

I brought along my three-year old and I know what you’re thinking: why would you do that to all those poor coffee klatchers who just wanna kvetch about work? Believe it or not, she was sweet as one of the strawberry macarons I inhaled. For the record, I purchased ten different flavored macarons and only five made it home. I also purchased two slices of cake, a pastry with chocolate in it, and a slice of some sort of tart. Please forgive my poor, poor memory but I only recently found this unfinished draft of my visit to Fritz so I can’t remember what everything was. I can tell you with fervent aplomb that everything I ate was magnificent. Most of the macarons were so delicately crisp on the outside while retaining a moist crumb on the inside and the filling was smooth and buttery, yet not to sweet. Certain other flavors had what tasted like some sort of jam on the inside, and that was just fine with me, thank you.

But back to my little peanut– she started out shy but I brought her a bag of books and her magnadoodle and she was good to go. Once she got over her initial shyness, she came over and chatted with Natalie and Lisa and I and then she’d go back to her spot on the Davenport. True story– when I got home later, I would discover that Olivia had lifted the bakery’s copy of The Giving Tree and it was in French, no less! So I quickly mailed it back to them. Oops!

At a later date, I had the opportunity to have a good friend bring me back a box full of goodies from Fritz. Once again, I can’t tell you what everything was but it was all really wonderful. For more detailed information since I’m really bad at having any type of memory about anything that’s even remotely important, please visit the following link…Fritz Pastry

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Representin’ at Renegade

Renegade Craft Fair“Oh stop it, STOP it, Renegade Craft fair….(sobs incoherently)…you had me at giant stuffed penis…”

I’m not going to lie to you, I’ve never liked crafts or any type of craftiness. I scrapbook because I am overly obsessed with visual pictures, not to mention the super cool stickers you can decorate your pages with. But I, like most of the people I know, associate crafts with crocheted owl toilet paper cozies or macrame potted plant holders. You know, stuff you see at your crazy Aunt Linda’s house when you to go to check on her because the neighbors called you to say there was a ‘distinct odor’ coming from next door. Turns out, she was just experimenting with curry.

I first heard about Renegade Craft Fair last year from my friend Natalie. I believe she described it as “not your mama’s craft fair” so I was intrigued by that. It was started in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood in 2003 but has since branched out to San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Brooklyn. It is basically a place for those of us who are sick of sending our money overseas-thanks to corporate machines like Wal-mart- and would like to give our money to real actual people who make cool stuff. As an added bonus, I don’t have to feel guilty about some sweatshop employee getting paid eleven cents per day.

Tara and JessieI made plans with the one and only Cakespy to meet her there and to pick up another piece of her wonderful artwork she made especially for me. This insured that I could not at the last minute back out of my plans to go to the craft fair. I am infamous for making plans then deciding I’m too lazy and unsociable to follow through. It happened last year for Renegade and it really sucks when I sabotage myself like that but what can I say? I’m afraid of people. Well, Mrs. Spy did not disappoint. I love it! I don’t have a camera to replace my old broken one yet and I’m sick of taking pics with my phone so I’ll post a photo of it soon, I promise!! I even bought a set of cute Paris-themed magnets of hers for a dear friend, to remind him that some day…some day.

I brought along my daughter Carmen since she was about to turn 17 and we don’t get to spend a lot of time together as she usually opts for a night with her boyfriend over a night with me. I can’t blame her, my nights consist of whatever her 3 year old sister wants to watch or do until she decides she’s tired, then various B-horror movies for me until about 1 am. And whereas Natalie brings a list of things she needs and looks for those things, Carmen and I wandered around aimlessly checking out the booths that caught our eyes and buying things like mustache pillows and horror t-shirts. I only took so much money with me but I managed to grab the business cards of the stores who I didn’t buy from but still loved. You know for Christmas or birthdays or Rosh Hoshannah, whatever.

One of the first places we went to was R and R Tees where I bought the coolest tribute shirt called ‘Giallo.’ If you had to look up that word, then don’t bother looking at the shirt, it won’t be nearly as cool to you as it is to me. There were so many shirts he had that I wanted but like my own Sophie’s Choice*, I had to choose. Except unlike the movie, I picked this shirt and no one had to die. I also got a kickass bright blue belt free just for getting the shirt. And the only way this shirt could have been any cooler is if it had Fulci’s name on it, too, but I already technically have a Fulci shirt titled ‘Zombie Vs. Shark’ so no worries.

032Next, we headed over to the Circa Ceramics booth where I met Nancy and Andy for the first time. It seems weird and creepy to meet people via the internet, but when all you do is comment each others statuses and retweet their tweets, it makes you want to know who they are on the inside, you know? I bought this awesome Chicago flag mug for a friend for Christmas (geez, i hope she doesn’t read this) and I really wanted to say ‘hi’ to Nancy but she looked super busy. I left then came back and I introduced myself to her. She gave me the biggest hug ever and immediately turned around, picked a necklace off  the rack and handed it to me.  It was the Chicago flag necklace I had once told her that I loved. Nancy remembered.  And I almost cried. I know it sounds lame. Bear with me, there are penises ahead, I promise.

Carmen and I checked out the booth of  Tara to the T next. There we ogled the hot babe selling her wares and wondered how we can get our hairs to do that. Almost at the same we said “I want this!” about an amazingly functional yet still cute dress called the Brittany. When you visit the link, picture it in red, then picture it on me, and voila! This is the dress I will be wearing to a wedding then to a Christmas party and who knows what else. I’m not really a dress gal but when I see one that might actually flatter my shape instead of hugging every scary curve, well I want to snap it up immediately.

We then went to Moth Written’s booth where Carmen picked up a shirt that has a ribcage on it and the word ‘human’ written in Arabic. These ladies are trying to bridge a small bit of the gap between the Arabic speaking world and the English speaking.  I wanted a shirt too but my husband is already jealous of Sayid from “Lost” so I figured I’d better not push my luck.

Carmen bought a giant fuzzy plush mustache from these guys. Need I say more? Oh and a mustache on a stick, but I can’t remember where from. If anyone can help me on this, I’d be much obliged!

We also happened upon a lady selling stuffed penises of all shapes, sizes, cuts and colors. All I could do was stare. Then she said to Carmen, “Do you want to stroke the big one?” I shit you not. We just giggled like the dorks that we are and kept walking.

030Last but certainly not least- Seibei!! Carmen took them up on the three for thirty special in which she also got a killer bag, but then I got this sweet little prize. I wasn’t going to buy yet another t-shirt since I’d already purchased one earlier but I had just stopped to chit chat with my aforementioned pal Natalie and she was showing off  her pink and green “Make Me a Sandwich”, so I went back and bought the purple and blue one. I know, I’m such a copycat. Suck on it, will ya? (Just so you know, I’m still waiting their Intramural Zombie Hunting League t-shirt. And yes, Natalie already has one. I didn’t know that before I bought mine though, so it’s okay. I’m not sure how I didn’t know since she is the Zombie queen of the Midwest, but I didn’t. Oh well. She has good taste I guess, right?)

Honorable mentions:

I plan on buying this necklace from Cookoorikoo some time soon. Why? Who knows! I don’t usually wear jewelry but I might surprise everyone and start. I was definitely digging on a dress similar to this one from Pierogi Picnic as well, but mostly because I wanted to smooch the adorable female  seller who actually knew what seitan was. Pretty Theory had the most amazing handbags I’d seen in a long time and I wanted to snatch up the Edgar Allen Poe one to satisfy the emo kid in me but alas, it will have to wait.  Mehoi had some extremely cool earrings that I’m still thinking about, honestly. Diffractionfiber has very interesting pillows including one that looks like a giant fried egg. Yes, I want it. I also want this stuffed asparagus from Steff Bomb. It comes with a spray can, in case I feel like pretending to tag my neighbors garage doors.

carmenWe also stopped for about ten minutes to eat at the Mana Food Bar tent. Carmen had the mushroom slider and I had the peanut noodles with an apple cider. All of it was amazing!034

I had so much fun just walking around and looking at stuff, then meeting online friends, then seeing old friends. I can easily call this one of the best days I’ve had in a long, long time. There was so much stuff at Renegade, I’m shocked it only took me three hours to walk the length of the fair. I wish I had the time and the cash to go to every booth but I’m cheap and lazy. Perhaps next year, I will save up ahead of time…

*yes, I totally ripped off that line from Glee, whatcha gonna do about it??

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Gone Baby Gone

Sorry folks, I’m packing it up for awhile, as if you couldn’t tell. Health issues, children, and school burden equal no time for blogging.
Perhaps we’ll meet again in another forum….

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Picture me saying  this as though I were a zombie. Only instead of “braiiiiiins…” you have…well, you get the idea. I’m pressed for time with finals but here are some pictures of food I’ve made recently. I also don’t have time to write down these recipes but if you email me, I will get them to you because I’m not a jerk.

001This was a truly heavenly dish I lovingly giggle about while calling it my world-famous “nut loaf.” Its main ingredients are bread crumbs, carrots, onions, and cashews with a delicious filling of pureed chestnuts. You bake it the way you would bake a banana bread, in a loaf pan. I also made a wonderfully creamy and rich veggie gravy. Throw some mashed potatoes on there and you’ve got one hearty meal even a lumberjack won’t bitch about.

068This was so delicious, words cannot even describe. I’ve never been a huge fan of mock meats but I don’t just want to eat a pile o’vegetables either. I made my own seitan using a modified version of the one in Veganomicon then sauteed it with some Mongolian stir-fry sauce and added a little extra crushed red pepper. I like spicy, maybe you’ve noticed. I served it on top of some Israeli couscous, which is larger than regular couscous. I just like saying couscous. Couscous, whee!! Ahem, the couscous was tossed with fresh basil, toasted walnuts, and lightly browned garlic. Mmmm…

067These were the most amazing treats. I am a huge lover of all things coffee-flavored so when I heard that Starbucks was coming out with their own line of instant coffee called VIA, all I could think was, “Hm, how can I put THAT in a cupcake?” For this, I basically made the chocolate cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World and dissolved a packet of VIA in the soymilk/apple cider vinegar mixture. For added buzzed-up fun, I put one tablespoon of coffee grounds in the dry ingredients, too. Lucky for me, one of my BFFs works at a Starbucks in Nashville and I still had some of the coffee left over that she sent me for my birthday. Next, I made regular old buttercream but instead of using one or two tablespoons of regular soymilk to soak up some of that powdered sugar, I dissolved another packet of VIA into the soymilk. Heaven with a capital V. Seriously.

If you want to read about VIA cupcakes on a much cooler blog, go here. This is my friend’s site who made her own recipe a couple months back.

Coming soon: Undertaker cupcakes! Fun fact: The Undertaker and I share the same birthdate.

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Cheap Eats

pig1If you’re like most people in this country, things have gotten pretty tight as far as money is concerned. If you’re like me and have a family of five and you live modestly (in other words, the hubs I put together don’t bring home six figures) then you start to rethink your budget without compromising your principles. There are days when it becomes difficult. “Mac and cheese on sale for fifty cents a box? What?” Yes, I know it was my decision to have three children but I still don’t feel that I should be held to the same standard as other vegans/vegetarians. The ones who are doing all the yelling are the ones who don’t even have one child, let alone three. I do what I can, when I can and I’m not going to beat myself up about it. If there is a vegan option, I will always choose it. If my only option is to starve, then guess what? I’m eating that mac and cheese.

I visit other blogs written by other moms and I see that most of them make frequent visits to farmer’s markets or they have a vegetable garden in the back yard. I don’t have room in my yard for a garden and try dragging a screaming toddler to the local farmer’s market that’s only available once a week. Good luck! So, I turn to frozen or canned vegetables. I’m in the process of compiling about 100 recipes for a book I’m putting together for those of us who want to live animal free but don’t have the cash for things like saffron threads or $65 worth of fresh vegetables every three days. I enjoy chik’n patties but at over $4 for four patties, they aren’t exactly cost effective. These recipes are also going to be fairly carnivore friendly. My husband won’t go near anything with tofu or tempeh in it so I have to get a little more creative.

Here are three recipes that will work great at a family party or just for your family on any old Thursday night. The first one is taken from John Robbins’ May All Be Fed: Diet For A New World, but of course with my tweaking. The second one is just a cornbread recipe veganized. The third one is my aunt Betty’s recipe,  minus the gross stuff she put in there last time I had it at our family reunion last year. I would not recommend making and eating all three of these on the same day unless you want to hang out in your bathroom for the duration of your evening.

003Tamale Pie

canola oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

4 cloves of garlic, finely minced

1 16 ounce can of tomato sauce

1 16 ounce can of light red kidney beans, rinsed and drained

1 8 ounce can of diced green chiles, drained as well as possible

1 can of corn, drained

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp sea salt

pinch o cayenne

3 cups water

1 cup cornmeal

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tsp salt

Oven at 350. In a large pan, saute onion in oil until translucent, 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 3-4 minutes. Stir in tomato sauce, beans, corn, green chilis, chili powder, cumin, salt and cayenne. Mix well, until heated through, about five minutes. Pour into square baking dish.

In a saucepan, using a whisk, stir together water, cornmeal, mustard, lemon juice and salt. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to simmer and stir constantly until thickened, about 5 minutes.

Spread cornmeal mixture over bean mixture. Bake for 30 minutes. Cool for 10.


1 cup cornmeal

1 cup ap flour

4 tbsp sugar

4 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup soymilk curdled with 1 tsp of apple cider vinegar for five minutes

1/4 cup canola oil

Oven at 425. In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients. In a smaller bowl, combine soymilk with oil, then using a wooden spoon, stir into the dry ingredients. Pour into a square pan that has been sprayed with no-stick or that you’ve poured 1 tsp of canola oil into. Bake for 20-22 minutes. Let cool.

0011Black Bean Salad

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

1 can corn, drained

1 package of taco seasoning (be careful here vegans! some mixes have lactose in them)

1 cup of prepared bulgur wheat (I bought a box of Arrowhead Mills bulgur for less than five bucks and I’m pretty sure it’ll last me until the apocolypse in 2012.)

1 large tomato, chopped

Mix together the beans, corn and bulgur, then mix in the taco seasoning. Make sure it’s nicely chilled before adding in the tomatoes.  How easy was that? If you like, you can add in chopped raw onion and/or green pepper. I hate onions so I’ll pass, thanks.

002This picture was taken before I added the tomatoes. Sometimes I get ahead of myself. Oops.

More to come!


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Toasted Coconut Cupcakes

001Today, you’re going to get a two-fer, as in two recipes on one blog. Yay you! I went on a crazy baking spree last week and in addition to the vanilla cupcakes and chocolate chip cookies I made, I also made these babies. These are the toasted coconut cupcakes with coffee buttercream from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. You will benefit from my desire to put on extra weight just in time for swimsuit season.

In all honesty, these aren’t the cheapest treats to make, after all, they do call for real, pure coconut oil and I paid over $15 for my little tub of the stuff. They also call for coconut milk. Again, not particularly cheap. You can make these for that special person in your life who dreams of coconuts, their delicious milk*, and their wonderful flesh, because only that person will truly appreciate these. Everyone else would be like (with mouth full) “Mm.  Do I ta coco ut in eezz?”

Toasted Coconut Cupcakes

1 cup ap flour

1/3 cup cocoa powder

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 cup coconut oil

1 cup coconut milk

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 tsp coconut extract

1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (I used the sweetened stuff and the sugar police did not come to my home and haul me away)

Oven at 350. Line muffin tin with cupcake liners. Melt the coconut oil in a small sauce pan, then let cool, but obviously not enough to solidify again. Set aside. In a small bowl, sift together dry ingredients. In a large bowl, mix wet ingredients. Add in the coconut oil. Add the flour mixture in batches and beat well. Fold in the shredded coconut. Fill cupcake cups 2/3 full. Bake for about 25 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting with this….

Coffee Buttercream Frosting

1/4 shortening (non-hydrogenated is preferred)

1/4 margarine (see above)

2 cups confectioners sugar

2 tbsp coconut milk

1 1/2 tsp strong brewed coffee, cooled obviously

1/2 tsp vanilla

Cream together margarine, shortening, vanilla, coconut milk and coffee. Add powdered sugar and beat well.

When you have frosted your delightfully delicious cupcakes, you will need to roll the edges in heavenly toasted coconut. I simply took about 2/3 cup shredded coconut, placed it in a fry pan, and tossed it around until it was nicely browned. Once nicely edged in coconut, each cuppie got a coffee bean dipped in chocolate. Just when you thought you couldn’t get any more shaky and buzzed up from the caffeine and sugar in these, I give you that little something to put you right over the rainbow, as Lula might say. Now, go watch Wild At Heart.

*For the record, I like coconut milk in the can, but I think it’s nasty straight from the nut. I tried it last summer at VeggieFest here in Schaumburg, IL. It was fairly gross.

007Banana Cake with Frosting

3 overly ripened bananas

1/2 cup canola oil

1/2 cup sugar

2 cups ap flour

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

Heat oven to 375. Spray a 9 by 9 pan with no stick. Mix wet ingredients in a large bowl, then mix dry ingredients in a smaller bowl. Mix dry into wet. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 40 minutes. Frost with….

You can either use vegan cream cheese frosting, vanilla frosting with banana extract, or if you’re on a budget, just plain vanilla frosting. Any of these works and is fabulous! I used vegan cream cheese frosting here because I had some of the vegan cream cheese left over that no one was touching. I mean, it’s not real cream cheese, and doesn’t even come close in my opinion. It’s really only good for frostings.

Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting

1/4 cup margarine

1/4 vegan cream cheese

2 cups powdered sugar

1 tsp vanilla

Cream together. Frost. Yum.

I have to read Swann’s Way for my literature class. Coming soon…Fight Club cupcakes!


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