Category Archives: Lunch & Dinner

Vegetarian Tortilla Soup (Vegan!)

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #CampbellSavings #CollectiveBias

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You may find it surprising that, although I am a PhD student in English, there are plenty of commonplace words that I would not be able to define for you. Most recently, I heard a word that I had not heard in a very long time – about four years, actually – and that seemed like a ghostly echo from some long forgotten past.

The word: summer.

Can you please use that word in a sentence? 

“In ancient times, the period between two academic semesters, when occurring during the months of June, July, and August, was known as summer vacation.

“Of course, recent empirical studies conducted by a reputable PhD student in English Literature and her colleagues have demonstrated that the notion of “summer vacation” is purely mythical.”

I’m guessing 90% of you out there know that feeling. As the awesome lady of manners Maggie Smith once famously asked: “Wh-what is a weekend?”

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Summer may be in full swing for most of the educational world, but here in Grad School Land, every minute not spend researching dissertation materials is either spetd worrying about not spending enough time researching dissertation materials, or girding our loins for the Back-to-School teaching curriculum that, lo and behold, is only two months away. Now somebody tell me, WHEN AND HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?

And I don’t want to hear any Interstellar jokes, okay?

Just the other day, I was mulling over the prospect of starting another school year and started doodling up a list in my notebook. (Note: I love love love making lists!) After jotting down a few thoughts, I realized what I was writing and scribbled a huge title across the top of the page:

<10 Things I Absolutely Do Not Want to Do After Getting Home from a Long Day at School!> <– “Work” also works.… Read more

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Filed under Appetizers, Healthy, Lunch & Dinner, Vegetarian

Grilled Vegetable & Veggie Burger Naan-wich

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #GrillWithATwist #CollectiveBias

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It’s summer! It’s hot! It’s grill time! It’s summer! It’s hot! It’s grill time! It’s summer! It’s…time for a summer-spired story ♪

As a vegetarian, I never used to be a big fan of grilling. Most of my friends never quite know what to do with me when it comes to the good ol’ summer BBQ: “You’re vegetarian,” they’d say, “but is sausage okay?” or “I know you don’t eat meat, but does fish count?”

These are legitimate questions, since there are a lot of different denominations of “vegetarian” floating around these days. For the record, I’ve been 97% meatless for going on four years now–the 3% I reserve for special cultural occasions in which family is involved, because there are just some traditions I’m not willing to give up. I eat eggs and consume dairy products, but about half of my meals are actually vegan (no meat, eggs, OR dairy), and later this month M & I are going to try a week of veganism together! All in all, I’ve learned a lot over the past few years about sustainable, nutritious eating, and I’m pretty satisfied with how far I’ve been able to come since I first laid my eager paws on Michael Pollan’s wonderful book, In Defense of Food.

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Luckily, as the years have gone by and our friend groups back home have expanded, we’ve introduced a few more vegetarians and vegans into our midst, which means that our gatherings are a lot more dietary-need-conscious nowadays. Most of the time we’ll opt for potlucks so that everyone can bring and enjoy something, which is fantastic because then our spreads end up looking like this:

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So colorful and fresh! I’d like to take partial credit for being a good influence ;)

Since I was traveling a lot and didn’t have much time to prep a dish, I decided to bring a good ol’ everyone-friendly veggie patty from one of my favorite go-tos, MorningStar Farms.… Read more

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Filed under Healthy, Lunch & Dinner, Vegetarian

Extra Easy Hummus

The following post has nothing to do with hummus, and it certainly isn’t “extra easy” for me to talk about. I’ll share the recipe for this hummus at the bottom of the post, as usual, so feel free to skip the rest and scroll down if you’re looking for it. If, however, you read on and have any insight to share, please do. Writing from a dark place, I could use the perspective right now.

(Edit: I am SO sorry about the timing of this post. I was writing it from a musty hotel room over the weekend and it honestly didn’t even occur to me that it was Father’s Day until the post went live. I love my daddy to bits and I hope to write him a proper post of appreciation later this week :) until then, these are some immediate thoughts that I hope won’t be a damper. But I’d still love to hear your thoughts ASAP!)

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In recent years, I have learned the hard way that trust is not something that stands on a solid foundation built from words, assurances, contrition, or even years of trust-building. Instead, it teeters at the edge of a narrow, misshapen precipice, whose sharp point inexplicably–perhaps even miraculously–holds up the imbalanced weight that it bears, so that it seems always on the verge of toppling when the breeze of Doubt blows by–as Doubt will, on some sad occasions with more pertinacity than others.

With parents in particular, this precipice is a tricky one to travel, and one always has the feeling that a misstep will not only cause the entire structure of trust to crumble, but to cast one into a dark void of purposelessness and intense self-hatred that cannot be occasioned by anyone else. Those of us who are lucky enough to have loving parents know that we are born into a system of trust–that we begin, essentially, possessing one or more other beings’ trust without having earned a shred of it, unless you count the act of being genetically (or adoptively) related to someone “earning.” With every subsequent human encounter in our lives, we work hard to foster and maintain that trust–but a parent-child relationship is, for better or for worse, one that begins with a blind willingness to believe in someone we have only just come to know.… Read more

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Filed under Appetizers, Dips/Spreads, Healthy, Homemade/DIY, Lunch & Dinner, Snacks, Vegetarian

Roasted Broccoli + Sweet Potato Black Rice Bowl with Sesame Miso Dressing { #VegFlavorBible Giveaway! }

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Whether you’re a long-standing vegetarian (or vegan!), or just someone who loves cooking and hunting for the perfect flavors to accompany your colorful dinner table, you’re going to love the book I’m sharing with you all today. When Karen + Andrew reached out and asked if I wanted to use, review, and give away a copy of The Vegetarian Flavor Bible, I pounced on the opportunity like Simba nailed Zazu during that memorable scene from The Lion King.

Vegetarian? Flavors? The BIBLE of all things vegetarian flavored? COUNT ME IN.

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Have you ever been stumped when it comes to cooking that ingredient you bought on a random whim–expecting to use it every single day of your glorious kitchen life–and have never even touched? (cough my former relationship to tahini cough) That’s me like, 99% of the time. I’m a total impulse shopper, so often I buy fabulous fresh produce from the farmer’s market, tuck it away in my fridge, and it never sees the light of day again until it’s on the point of going bad and I just steam the crap out of it. You can imagine how often I have guests over for dinner…

With Karen + Andrew’s new cookbook, though, I’ve been seriously whizzing through my produce this month. Not only am I inspired to cook more often–I’m also inspired to try out new (and guaranteed awesome) flavor profiles that help me take full advantage of my stocked (but usually untouched) pantry!

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One of my favorite inspired dishes was this roasted broccoli + sweet potato black rice bowl with sesame miso dressing. It’s got to be one of the best vegetarian meals I have cooked up in a very long time, not least of all because the deep flavors of the black rice complement the nutty sesame, salty miso, and bright roasted broccoli so darn well.… Read more

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Filed under Healthy, Lunch & Dinner, Rice, Vegetarian

Grilled Cheese Rollups

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #PourMoreFun #CollectiveBias (Psst! If you love grilled cheese, you’ll want to check out more cheesy recipes at Kraft.com!)

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If you had to pick five objects that represent your entire childhood, what objects would you pick?

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In no particular order, mine would be an inflatable armchair, the Backstreet Boys Millennium CD, my favorite pair of obnoxiously polka-dotted booger green tights, grilled cheese, and Kool-AidCan I get a hashtag #90sbliss?

(Especially for that sexy inflatable armchair–I owned a blue one like this. Cool kids? You bet your velvet bellbottoms and rainbow slinkies we were.)

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Discovering Kool-Aid Easy Mix as an adult was like stepping into a time machine and being transported instantly back into the head-boppin’, teeny-bopper 90s – except this time, there was no irritated high school cashier to tell me off for refilling at the drinks machine wayyy too many times. I bought all three flavors from Walmart recently – cherry, tropical punch, and grape – and I may or may not have already sipped my way through an entire bottle on my own before I even got around to writing this post. Whoops? (Good thing it has 50% less sugar than comparable regular sodas, right?)

When you live in 90°F springtime California, though, it’s hard not to want to drink Kool-Aid all the time. You can probably imagine that Kool-Aid Easy Mix is kind of nirvana for someone like me: just add water and enjoy? Now that’s my kind of childhood throwback!

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That’s not the only 90s throwback I’m sharing here today, though. As you can probably tell from the photos of gorgeous, oozing, melty, cheddary cheese that are flooding your lovely Tuesday monitor at this very moment (I’m sorry, did you say you’re at work and want to lick the whole screen right now? … Read more

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Filed under Lunch & Dinner, Vegetarian

The Very Best Kimchi Fried Rice for #SundaySupper

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I rarely get hungry while editing my photos for this blog (I know, shocker!), but every once in a while something like this Kimchi Fried Rice happens on Saturday night at 2 AM and then I get the hangrays. Like, real bad.

Do yourselves a favor before you read on and save this recipe, guys. Seriously. This is NOT just your run-of-the-mill fried rice.

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Fried rice is the Asian goddess of all things leftover. Except when I was really young, we never really ordered fried rice in Chinese restaurants. It’s sort of like going out to a Vegas buffet and only getting bread–you know, the cheap stuff that anyone (in this case, a shoddy graduate student) can make, and still make taste decent. That’s not to pooh-pooh fried rice, because I love the stuff; it’s just not something a respectable member of an Asian household is supposed to indulge in. (Please don’t tell my parents I love Panda Express too, okay?)

Back at home, though, my mom made it every time we had anything to use up–vegetables, tofu, eggs, the whole lot just went phut! into the sizzling wok, and minutes later we’d each have a heaping plateful of amazing fried rice sitting on our plates, ready to be inhaled right up.

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Maybe that’s why, weirdly enough, I never cooked a single Asian dish when I was at home. When you have actual Asian relatives running around the kitchen making amazing, authentic fare, you’re going to want to stick to stuff that isn’t going to make you look like a disgrace to your heritage. Pick a dish that nobody has heard of–the more exotic-sounding the better (for example, pierogies or bouillabaisse!), though–and you’re in business! The family will instantly think it’s the best thing in the world, simply by virtue of having nothing to compare it to.… Read more

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Filed under Lunch & Dinner, Rice, Vegetarian

Picnic Perfect Cauliflower Salad for #SundaySupper

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Considering it’s been 90+ degrees for the past two weeks already, to say we’re in “springtime” might be something of a misnomer. Scorching heats and sunny pool days? Summertime, I’m ready. So I say

Bring. It. ON. 

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But the sad, sad reality is that despite my summertime excitement, the orbital progress of Earth around the sun isn’t quite ready for me yet. I hear that in some parts of the northern hemisphere, spring is actually happening! We were visiting Seattle last week and there were nothing but miles of blue sky overhead–guess we brought the Cali weather with us:

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As it turns out, either Seattleans have really got their A-game going or I’m just woefully ignorant of the froyo options available in my home state, because this wonderful frozen yogurt place named Menchie’s carries a Cookie Butter flavored froyo. I must’ve stood there eating my weight in free samples until my friends had to tear me away from the machine–because if you’ve ever tasted the aromatic nectar known as cookie butter, you’ll know what I’m talking about and forgive my rudeness instantly. Right?

Proof:

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Of course, we spent the first spring days eating our way through Seattle. One of my friends lives nearby, so he took us for an absolutely fabulous dinner at a pizza joint called Serious Pie, where I ordered a mushroom truffle cheese pizza that was off the charts. Also, my seatmate on the flight over was a Seattle native, so we spent a better part of two hours chatting about all the good eats and obscure gems hidden throughout the city. Among her many recommendations was this Russian bakery known as Piroshky Piroshky, located at the heart of Pike Place Market and specializing in the best savory breads around.

When I asked the man behind the counter whether I should get the Garlic Cheese Roll or the “famous” Potato Cheese Bread, he didn’t even hesitate before he stuffed the first one in my bag and asked me if I wanted anything else:

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Like dutiful tourists, we also made sure to get our fair share of donuts.… Read more

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Filed under Lunch & Dinner, Salads, Vegetarian

Miso Kale Salad with Apples, Cranberries, Sunflower Seeds, + Feta

Luck isn’t just a condition of our existence. It’s something we can make happen. It’s an attitude.

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Granted, some people simply are lucky. At least that’s the premise of that awfully addicting 2006 rom-com Just My Luck featuring Lindsay Lohan and Chris Pine, who are the luckiest and unluckiest people in the world, respectively. When they kiss one night at a party, their luck swaps and Chris’s character is suddenly waltzed away into a euphoria of fortunate circumstances that launch his music career and basically turn his life around.

I would highly recommend this movie for a night when the only thing you want in your brain is lots of nothing and eye candy action going on.

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IMHO, though, luck is akin to mojo: the better your mojo and your general vibes, the more likely you are to feel lucky, which in turn affects how likely you are to be lucky.

This past week was full of lots of lucky incidents, ranging from small things like wishing away the line at Chipotle (we were trying to order quesaritos and didn’t want to do it if anybody was waiting impatiently behind us) to some bigger things as well. Friday–incidentally, Friday the 13th–I was channeling some serious positive vibes and basically bounced through the entire day from place to place under the (of course) sunny skies of a not-so-wintry March.

It’s amazing how a simple shift of perspective can turn a dismal, dreary week into a fantastic one. On Wednesday, I taught my final class of the quarter and my students clapped so hard at the end that I thought my heart would break from happiness. That’s what I mean when I say that it’s not all about being lucky–feeling lucky is just as important, and I definitely felt lucky, grateful, and blessed when I walked out of the classroom that day.… Read more

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Filed under Lunch & Dinner, Salads

Creamy Carrot Peanut Soup

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I will always be young at heart, but I’m a stodgy old grandma in stomach.

I should know–I just spent the past week with my grandma and spent every mealtime sitting side by side shoveling the same pile of the mushiest, creamiest, dissolveable-iest edible stuff into our mouths. With matching chopsticks and purple down jackets, I might add. (We’re pretty cute like that.)

A huge part of this uncanny resemblance is that, since I started grad school, I have become a weirdly obsessive “texture person.”

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I have somehow always labored under the impression that most people outgrow their pickiness about food as maturity sets in. Either I missed that train or boarded on the wrong platform and am now hurtling full-steam ahead in the opposite direction, because while I have learned to love certain foods I wouldn’t touch as a kid (e.g. eggplant, mushrooms, watermelon), I have also become that person at the restaurant. You know, the one who insists that you order anything for the table (“no really, totally up to you, I’ll be fine!”) and then sits there picking at the steamed broccoli for the rest of the night because she doesn’t particularly like the curry, avocado salad, meat, and/or banana cream pie you ordered.

Whoops.

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Probably the strangest aspect of this retrogression, atavism, degeneration, or whatever you want to call it, is my penchant for creamy things. Set a huge bowl of peanuts in front of me and I might pop one, just to be polite. Plop a jar of peanut butter down, on the other hand, and I’ll ask you nicely for a spoon–along with an affidavit signature confirming that you won’t press charges if you don’t get your PB back. Like, ever.

Garbanzo beans? Eh. Hummus? Step aside, bub.

Carrots? Fine, I’ll eat them. Creamy carrot peanut soup?… Read more

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Filed under Lunch & Dinner, Vegetarian

Creamy Gochujang Peanut Pasta Salad for #SundaySupper

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It feels slightly perverse to be back posting about delicious food and rich baked foods after watching the latest installment of The Hunger Games. We nipped over to a fancy shmancy theater last night to watch it–I actually dressed up as Peeta the baker, using a HIGHLY suspect grimy white apron I tripped over on the sidewalk on my way to buy a white apron from Target (don’t worry, I disinfected it in scalding water!)–and so obviously I come home and have food on the mind. As one would.

I take my cues only from the best: ahem, like JLaw.

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The movie mildly disappointed me, but I wonder if that wasn’t because I’d just spent every waking hour of this past week catching up on everything to do with The Hunger Games: blew through all three books for the first time (I know, I know!), rewatched both film adaptations, struggled emotionally to lead a semblance of a normal life when I wasn’t reading, silently applauded Josh Hutcherson from my couch, and watched every HG interview Google had the good fortune to pass my way.

The pace of this movie matches that of the book: it’s slow, there’s no denying it. That being said, the acting is still grade-A (perhaps I’m mentioning that in the vain hope that somewhere, somehow, one of the talent has stumbled across this post and will give it a big thumbs up), and Josh’s final performance in particular sent tiny cold waves up my spine and right over the nape of my exposed neck. They’ve done a great job bringing the book’s trauma to life, and goodness knows I’m empathizing 110% with Katniss’s confusion about the two boys in her life because #boys.

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At a vastly different level, though, the movie reminded me of issues closer to home: all the nameless faces who wander our local thoroughfares and drag along their hollow stomachs with empty eyes.… Read more

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Filed under Lunch & Dinner, Vegetarian