Tofu and I

I wanted to write a little note on Tofu, specifically on how I feel about it.  As a vegetarian, it is about time that I addressed this :)

Tofu has become the unofficial face of vegetarianism. How do I feel about that? Read About Me.

As much as I will keep working towards creating more diversity in Vegetarian cooking, I do want to point out that I am not against Tofu! I actually love it.

My whole point of diversity in vegetarianism is not about cutting off using any ingredient. It is about incorporating everything in interesting ways. I like to incorporate Tofu into my meals not as substitute for meat, but as an ingredient in itself respecting it for what it offers.

Tofu is delicious – there I said it. Now I know this is going to throw meat-itarians everywhere into a tizzy but to every one who dismisses it as bland – don’t blame the ingredient; it’s what you do with it. Sure Tofu is bland when in its raw form, but isn’t most meat and even a few vegetables? Would you eat just boiled chicken or boiled cabbage?

Tofu is the food equivalent of a sponge, which makes it a creative cook’s dream. There are infinite ways of using it and infusing flavors into it.

My previous recipe and ones to come in the future will hopefully be a start to show off of this wonderfully versatile ingredient; Of course always using vegetables, herbs, spices, grains and lentils all along.

Design Dilemma

After two and a half  years, I now feel my site needs a face lift. I have decided to mix things up.

Having spent the last two days trying on every theme available, I am now starting to feel like Goldilocks! Nothing seems to fit perfectly.  But I will not give up and will come up with something soon.

So in the near future if you visit me and do a “double-take” thinking you have landed in the wrong blog, it’s probably me trying out designs. Please feel free at anytime to leave me a note whether you like or hate what you see. Any and all feedback will be greatly appreciated.

My Vegan Experiment

S (a dear friend) and I have started a 3 week ‘Going Vegan’ experiment.  On day 3 of our experiment, I am happy to report that apart from a few initial setbacks I am quite into the swing of things!

I initially started this with the intention of supporting S but have myself  gotten quite  into to it now. I have taken this up just to prove that self-discipline is not an impossible thing for me. This was not as scary for me as I’d imagined because I am a vegetarian to begin with. I am a vegetarian by choice. I grew up vegetarian culturally, but now it is a matter of principle. As an animal lover, going vegan certainly fits well into my principles.

So far, the benefits far exceed my temptation. I am not doing this to preach or kill myself over it, but rather just as a small experiment to consciously plan, make my own meals and just be aware of what I eat.

As person from an Indian upbringing, yogurt is my bread and butter! I couldn’t go a day without it and I love ‘yogurt and rice’ as dearly as my life. After a long workday my comfort  go to meal is yogurt and rice. Making comfort food without dairy (yogurt, milk, butter or cheese)…..Now that is the challenge!

The tricky part is also finding nutritious substitutes to the protein and calcium from dairy and eggs. Although tough , it’s not impossible and I am now slowly figuring that out as I explore my options.

My friend S is not a vegetarian, her world of cooking was certainly open to a broad variety of proteins. So this is a tougher challenge for her. As a vegetarian in the US, I am now trained to always think about what’s inside what I eat. Even the obvious “vegetarian” soups and salads, have hidden meat products in them. I just interestingly realized that S has never had to find out if it was cooked in the same pan as an egg, or if things were grilled next to bacon, or if the bread has been brushed with an egg wash.  She is now is asking these questions she never had to ask before.

This is why I love doing this with her, mutual benefits of knowledge sharing. I opened her to the world of “Eastern world”  spices and vegetables which are far more vegetarian friendly. I am learning so much from her because she takes an Indian ingredient and comes up with the most interesting dishes adding things from her own pantry. This helps her keeping her culture and not giving up what she knows and is comfortable with because she is trying to be vegan.

Although it seems like being vegetarian or vegan  narrows your options, it’s really the opposite. You actually start thinking more about food. You get more knowledge and understanding of herbs, spices, fruits, grains, nuts and vegetables and their combinations. It opens up your culinary vocabulary and palette infinitely.

I don’t know if I will continue being vegan past the 3 weeks, but I can say being vegetarian defines me.

So to people like Tony Bourdain and Gordon Ramsey, I am a fan of what you do but I think you have it totally and completely wrong.

Organizing Recipes by Course

It is unanimous. The feedback I have received for a while now is all about one thing: List my recipes by ‘Meal Course’..And…

TA-DA!

There is now a “Menu by Course” option I have added on top of this page below the blog title. This will hopefully make it easier to search not only by ingredients or name of the dish, but also by the meal course.  All feedback welcome.

A big shout out to my dear cousin who “really” pushed me to get this done after months of procrastination. Thanks, V!

Out from my mini hibernation

Wait…Can you call 5 months a “mini” hibernation? or is a full blown proper hibernation?  Either way, I am now crawling my way back into foodie cyber space. 

I am ‘learning to’ slowly getting better at managing a full-time job, an active social/family life, working hard at seriously developing my career in the cooking business and maintaining my foodie cyber relationships. 

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for sticking around patiently while I was away trying to stay above waters through a little thing called life.

Vosges Haut.Chocolat

I have recently taken an interest and liking for exotic chocolates and just in the right time was introduced to Vosges and am since addicted! I went to check out who they were and was instantly attracted to their goal of bringing awareness of various cultures and its spices through chocolate. Simple thought, flawless execution.

I decided to try them out and here’s a look into what you are in for, A beautiful assortment of flavors. Yes you can get your regular truffles, dark, milk or any kind, with your classic nuts and fruit combinations(which are great as well) but for me, these following flavors sealed the deal in making Vosges one my favorite brands of chocolate.

A snapshot of the variety:

When you order gourmet, don’t you hate it when they send you something the size of an atom? Not here, large bars of chocolate as you can see! Another reason to love them.

Here’s all the flavor combinations in detail so you can choose for youself……whatever tickles you.

 

It was a tough competition to pick my favorite flavors among these list of my favorites, but with a narrow edge over the others Barcelona Bar, Woolloomooloo Bar and Red Fire bar win!

These flavors are just barely scratching the surface of their options, check more out for yourself!!

Food Art

A friend sent this to me this morning and since then I have been mesmerized by them! I can’t stop looking at them trying to wrap my head around how intricately this has been done and thought of to use only food. Amazing!

 

Road Trip Day 3 – Wytheville & Nashville

Sorry about the long break in writing about the roadtrip, but it takes quite some time to put together! We took over 1000 pictures and sorting them according to city and then picking, choosing and compiling them is a quite some effort!

I last left off on Day 2 with the incredible stay we had at Trinkle mansion. We couldn’t wait to experience her breakfast the next day and it didn’t disappoint. It was all homegrown and organic ingredients which ultimately made a fresh and delicious breakfast. And if you read my previous post, Patti’s hospitality, attention to detail and personal attention made it even better.

The first thing that caught our eye and made us smile is this personlized menu made just for us. A vegetarian menu ofcourse.

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The table setting was impeccable and gorgeous.

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Best coffee I’ve had in a while. Strong and yummy coffee.

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We started with a fresh fruit salad and a mini muffin. This fruit was salad was not like the one I ussually buy off a starbucks rack, or even the one I put together at home with fruits from my locak grocery store. These sweetness and flavor from these home grown fruits were worlds apart from anything I’ve had before. The mini muffins needless to say were out of this world!

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We then had a main course of scrambled eggs with onions & peppers, hashbrown patty, fruits and homeade buttermilk biscuits.

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Also had marmalade, butter and grape jelly for the biscuits. I have to tell you about this butter. Homemade, creamy and sweet butter. just delecious!

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We then finished off with a pear/cranberry/apple crumble with vanilla icecream. We were so engrossed in eating and having a delightful conversation with Patti that we completely forgot to take a picture of dessert!

After a scrumptous meal and a 2 hour conversation with Patti we headed off to Nashville at 9.30 AM and reached there at 4 PM. It was actually 3 pm local time, totally forgot about the time difference. That extra hour was when I wrote my first post on Day 1 of our roadtrip.

We stopped over at good ‘ol Tacobell for some quick lunch of Bean Chalupa’s on the way. We had a long drive ahead, no time for leaisurely dining. It surprsingly got dark relatively quickly in Nashville! It was dark by 5 PM although it was not very cold. We did some great Nashville touring by the night until 10 PM. Read about it in my other blog.

We went for late dinner to a restaurant called Sunset Grill. It was a laidback and understated place to eat with huge portions of pretty good food.

They were open till really late and beyind 10.30 PM they also have an interesting snack-type late nite menu. We made it before in time for the actual dinner menu though.

The bruschetta was an interesting presentation. It was a deconstructed version of the bruschetta and totally unconventinal. It had a gigande bean salad, grilled haloumi cheese and marniated cherry tomatoes with balsamic vinegar, garlic and basil. Served with toasted baguette.

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The lemon zucchini soup was really yummy.

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This was the highlight of our meal, the Polenta cheese fries. It was creamy and gooey polenta with pecarino romano cheese on the inside, crisp and fried exterior served with a tomato-basil ketchup. Topped with fried basil leaves.

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A spicy and flavorful garlic-basil pasta dish with vegetables of my choice. The pasta shape was really interesting. The first time I’ve ever had this shape of pasta. It was a large, flower-like and squiggly looking pasta! But very very tasty.

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This was the Portabella Melt, a large portabella mushroom grilled and stuffed with a Rye, Vermont swiss cheese stuffing served with yellow-pepper cream sauce and side of crispy roasted cauliflower. Totally unique and delecious!

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As you may have guessed we were too full for dessert.Famished after the 7 hour drive and 5 hour walking tour we barely made it back to our hotel room and Zzzzzzzzzzz………..

Road Trip Day 2 : Washington DC

The last I left off was on Day 1 after a day in Philly we reached DC and had dinner at the fabulous meal we had in the 14K restaurant in our hotel in downtown DC. . Now on to Day 2 of our trip :

Just grabbed a simple breakfast of cereal and coffee and started our hike at 8 AM. We had an exhausting 8 hours on foot in DC. I have been there a few times before but never spent this much time on foot! We walked around for almost 7 hours and covered quite a bit. DC was gorgeous with the fall colors still intact. Flaming red and orange leaves with the bright green lawns and gardens, crisp and cold 40 degree weather made the walking more pleasurable.

Read more about my non food related experiences in DC in my truth blog.
After an exhausting 8 hours on foot, we landed for late lunch at a great Italian place called Maggiano’s. We had a great meal there. Definitely one of the best Italian restaurants I’ve eaten in. It had a huge dining area, friendly waitstaff, beautifully decoration, very laid-back and family type dining atmosphere.

One small setback was I forgot to carry my camera in there I was kicking myself for the rest of the day for this. I had to make do with my cellphone. Pardon the really bad pictures, but hey at-least I got something!

Their menu was huge. And the reason I was in there was because of their vegetarian options usually there are a token 2 vegetarian dishes , but this place had it really figured out! There were so many veggie options that I actually had a tough time ordering.

If you have been reading my food blog for a while you know how much I love zucchini and what better place to get Zucchini Fritters than an Authentic Italian restaurant?

They were just delicious! Crispy on the outside with soft,tender and juicy zucchini on the inside. It was served with a tangy wasabe cream sauce and sprinkled with fresh Parmesan cheese on top. Just phenomenal.

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We also had the Bruschetta. Warm just baked bread, topped with fresh mozzarella cheese and juicy tomatoes soaked in with olive oil, garlic and basil. Sounds heavenly doesn’t it? It sure was! The really fresh ingredients made it so much better than the regular ol’ bruschetta I’ve had in many other places.

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The next dish we had was Stuffed mushrooms. Once again, as some of you might already know, I am not a big fan of mushrooms I always try to avoid it unless I have no other food options! But my husband loves them, hence the order.

This is the second place I’ve eaten in where I’ve loved the stuffed mushrooms. The other one was Tartufo in Newton, MA. Anyway more about then later and back to Maggiano’s.
These were succulent mushrooms stuffed with garlic, butter, breadcrumbs, herbs and baked till soft and delicious!

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Their fettuccine with pesto sauce was sinful. The fresh fettuccine drenched in cheesy pesto sauce topped with toasted pine nuts was comfort food at its best.

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Their cheese ravioli in pesto cream sauce was great. A lot of times cheese ravioli tends to be mealy, over stuffed and too heavy but in this case it was just right. creamy, cheesy yet very fluffy and light.

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Now these potatoes are just about the most novel way of serving them. They were whole potatoes baked in salted butter. The red skin was crisp and salty and the inside was soft, and yummy baked potato. I don’t know how they do it, but I would surely go back just for this!

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Overall we had a phenomenal dining experience there. I will surely go back the next time I am around the DC area.

We headed out of DC after lunch at around 4 PM and drove to Wytheville, Virginia. Why Wytheville? Well that town is mid point between DC and Nashville, TN. We couldn’t drive directly to Nashville because that’s a 13 hour drive, hence the break in Wytheville.

The stopover there started as basically just a pit stop but it turned into so much more. We researched a bit on this town and came across a true jewel in a bed & breakfast inn called the ‘Trinkle Mansion’.

I have written all about them in my truth blog. Make sure you take a few minutes to read about them. The experience there was phenomenal. If you are ever around there, I 100% recommend you go stay at the Trinkle Mansion.

We ended Day 2 with a relaxing and energizing stay in Trinkle Mansion. We couldn’t wait to start Day 3 with the breakfast at Trinkle Mansion and head over to Nashville, TN.

Keep Reading for more……….

Home Sweet Home

We are finally back home from our whirlwind trip! I am totally spent, exhausted and awfully glad to be back home. Although, quite sad the week has come to an end. I’ve had the most exciting, exhilarating, eye-opening, insightful and fabulous time this past week.
It was worth every extra hour of sleep lost and all the exhaustion! I would do it again in a heartbeat ; meeting new people, seeing new places, experiencing southern culture and its cuisine, it was the MOST interesting week I’ve had this year.

I did write about it in a couple of posts before but I really couldn’t write more. Very spotty internet connections and ofcourse extreme fatigue by the end of every day!

Ofcourse I have many pictures and lots of stories to share. Now that I’m back home and back to schedule I will be quite regular with it and for the next few days you will be reading all about everything I did this past week.