Five Fantastic Ways to Enjoy Okra


Okra is abundant in Virginia this time of year, which means shoppers at regional markets can score deals on a lot of this vegetable at a low price. We have had it at our market over the last month and I have done a little experimenting with the vegetable to figure out my favorite ways to eat it. Whenever we have okra at the Chef Demo tent at the South of the James market, people always want to know how to prepare it. Most people complain about the “sliminess” of the vegetable, as okra is a mucilaginous plant. It produces a gooey substance that, while unappetizing for some, contains a great amount of soluble fiber. Although the okra goo can be helpful in thickening soups and sauces, some people prefer to minimize it. Hence the popular question at the market, “how do you keep it from getting slimy?”


Here are a few ways you can try okra at home; some are slimy but most are not. If you can get past the goo factor, you may find that you enjoy this popular Southern cooking ingredient, which happens to be high in calcium, fiber and Vitamins C and K.



As we head into cooler months, gumbo will rejoin my dinner menu rotation. Right now, gumbo is a great way to slow cook your dinner without heating up the kitchen stove or oven. You can stock up on fresh okra now, then slice it and freeze it to toss into soups and stews all throughout the Fall and Winter. Traditional gumbo features chicken and sausage and it cooks for a very long time. If you prefer a healthier version with less fuss, check out my simple recipe for vegetarian gumbo in my BYOBB Lunch posts from last year.

Fried Okra


The most popular way to prepare okra might also be the least healthy way. Fried okra is delicious, and breading and frying okra tends to make it less slimy than other cooking methods. There are even oven “fried” okra recipes that shave some calories if you like your okra crispy but are watching your waistline.

For a more traditional fried okra, try Paula Deen’s recipe here.

For a lighter version, try this one from Cooking Light.

Indian Style Okra



Okra, or bhindi,is a common ingredient in Indian cuisine. This recipe for Indian Style Okra produces a dish that is flavorful with a very nice texture. Paired with another Indian dish like Baingan Bharta and flatbread, this okra gives a very different vibe than the Southern dishes, and it is totally non-slimy. Also try Bhindi Masala for a spicier, saucier version.

Pickled Okra



Pickled okra makes a nice side dish, or if you’re feeling adventurous, a delightful garnish for your Bloody Mary. I quick pickled mine in a brine that contained distilled white vinegar, water, salt, garlic, crushed red pepper, fresh dill and ground mustard. There are a lot of recipes for picked okra, and you can change the amounts of ingredients depending on how sweet, spicy or sour you want your okra to turn out. Here are a few that I found helpful:

Hip Girl’s Refrigerator Pickled Okra

Honest Fare’s Pickled Okra

Roasted Okra



If you have spent any time at all in the kitchen with me, you probably know that roasting is my favorite way to prepare just about any vegetable. Why should okra be an exception? This method maintains the tender-yet-firm texture of the okra, while mellowing out the goo and adding a nice brown crispiness to the edges. I use this simple recipe, then add spices according to my mood.

I am still experimenting, but I think my favorites so far are Roasted Okra and Indian Style Okra. Kyle loves the Indian Style Okra and has always been a fan of gumbo. Next I will try roasting some chickpeas along with the okra and I bet that will be a real treat.

So, I’m dying to know. Have you tried any of these methods before? What is your favorite way to prepare okra?

(Almost) Free Greens

If you love greens as much as I do, you probably pick them up weekly at the grocery store or farmers’ market. I usually get at least one or two bunches a week of kale, spinach, chard, or other greens. Today I want to let you in on a little secret that you may not have discovered for yourself yet. When you buy root vegetables with the greens on, do you discard the greens?

Did you realize that every time you buy beets or turnips at the farmers’ market, you essentially get two vegetables in one? I almost always cook the greens in addition to the root, which reduces waste and saves me money. I have found that while some greens work better with certain flavors than others, I can usually swap the greens called for in a recipe for whatever I have on hand.

Turnip greens are surprisingly delicious, and beet greens are both tasty and attractive on the plate. As with all leafy greens, these taste great simply sauteed in oil with fresh garlic, salt and pepper. A little vinegar added to the pan toward the end of cooking helps cut the bitterness of most greens.

Next time you are at the market, select produce with bright, crisp greens and you will enjoy two vegetable side dishes for the price of one. If you need ideas for preparation, here are a few of my favorite greens recipes. It is okay to substitute root vegetable greens for all of these recipes, and they should still turn out fantastic.

Vegetarian Collard Greens

Mediterranean Braised Chard (sub capers for anchovies)

Beer-Braised Turnip Greens

Swiss Chard with Garbanzo Beans & Tomatoes

What is your favorite way to prepare greens?

Extreme Juicing Challenge

If you have noticed that the posts over the last week have been a little sparse, you may feel that I have some explaining to do. The reason I haven’t been writing is that I haven’t been cooking or eating food. It’s not you, it’s me. I haven’t been bringing much to the table lately besides this:

A few weeks ago, I went to a screening of Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, a film about a man who drastically improves his health by consuming only fresh fruit and vegetable juice for 60 days straight. At the conclusion of the screening, my friend and I participated in a Q&A with Joe Cross, the man behind the movie. After hearing about the health transformations that people have made while inspired by Joe’s film, we decided to give it a try. We considered doing a ten day “Reboot” but eventually committed to doing just seven days of nothing but juice.

This is the part of the story where I feel obligated to tell you that a juice fast is not for everyone and you should consult a physician before embarking on a any diet plan. I also should mention that I did a lot of research before choosing the plan that was right for me, and although I may refer to this as a diet, weight loss was not the goal of the fast. I did this for three reasons:

  • To cleanse my body of toxins and give the digestive system a rest so that my body would have energy to heal itself naturally
  • To become more attuned to my body’s nutrient needs and to explore my relationship with food
  • To experience the changes and feelings that other juice fasters had described in online articles and in person, because I was fascinated by some of the typical side effects of an all juice diet

My friend and coworker Liz committed to doing the fast with me and I was looking forward to having support at work for the inevitable times when I would feel like giving up. As we talked to more people about what we were planning to do, we found another coworker who had completed a 3-week juice fast a few years ago and who was interested in joining us. After that, two more women decided to join us with a modified juice diet, in which they included healthy foods and smoothies. In this recap, I will cover the diet that Liz and I followed.

Phase 1: Before the Juice

I knew that my greatest challenge would be giving up caffeine, specifically coffee. Ever since I started working as a barista in a neighborhood coffee shop in my hometown , I have had a love affair with coffee. In fact, before the juice, I had not gone a day without coffee in about ten years. In some states, coffee and I would be just one joint tax return away from common law marriage. One week before the juice fast, I weaned myself off of caffeine by stepping down my coffee consumption and then substituting green tea followed by substituting herbal (naturally decaffeinated) teas. I was still on the green tea at the beginning of the fast, but I was off it for the second half of the diet.

The Join the Reboot website recommends that you slowly transition yourself to a plant based diet during the week before the fast. I do not eat a lot of fruit, so I started incorporating more fruit into my diet the week before. As a vegetarian cook, I typically make sure that my plate is half full of vegetables, so I did not need to make many diet changes during the transition.

On the night before the fast, I got together with Liz to shop, cook and juice. Check out how much produce we bought for three days worth of juice for two people! We spent about $100 on the first trip ($17 per person per day) and bought as much organic produce as we could. It costs less to do this with conventional produce. If you want to do some organic and some conventional, use the EWG’s dirty dozen and clean fifteen as your guide.

The last supper was artichoke spinach lasagna with feta and a glass (or two) of sangiovese. The juicing was a ton of fun and for the apple-carrot-ginger juice, I used fresh ginger for the first time ever. I know, that is ridiculous. I just always used the jar because I didn’t know it made that much of a difference. Now I don’t think I’ll ever go back to the jar again.

Phase 2: During the Juice

Days 1-3

The first three days were the hardest. I started out really excited and motivated, but soon I desperately missed chewing and I started having food cravings.I had lunch on the first day with two coworkers who were doing the plan with me. We were all expecting to have some digestive issues the first few days based on what we had heard. I planned to be near a bathroom for the first three days, but the only thing that I felt was going straight through me was water. No emergencies, no discomfort, no digestive cleanse. I had expected to, as a coworker put it,  “hit the big flush button” on that first weekend. No such luck. My relationship with the porcelain throne was as normal as ever.

The transition to waking up in the morning and having nothing but juice was a little difficult for me. I am used to starting my day with a protein, a carb, and some coffee. The juice just seemed incomplete to me. I realized by the second or third day though that it was all I really needed in the morning.

On the second day, Liz and I headed to the farmers’ market and the smells of all the foods we couldn’t have were so overwhelming. I almost couldn’t handle it! We must have looked like some crazy sweets junkies as we drooled over the mulled apple cider with brown sugar, palms sweating, eyes twitching, jonesing for some added sugar. We tore ourselves away from the cider, the doughnuts, the bagels and the Bombolini pasta and focused on the produce. We picked up some local organic veggies at the market and then we made more juice on the third day.

rough morning

By the third day I was easily fatigued and I was experiencing mental fogginess. I woke up congested in the mornings and my skin was less than perfect. Allegedly these are common signs of toxins leaving the body. I also lost 8 pounds in the first three days. A portion of that was a loss of water weight due to the fact that my body was no longer retaining water to aid in the digestion of insoluble fiber (which was left behind in the pulp and was no longer a part of my diet). By the end of this phase, I could easily differentiate between food cravings and hunger and this was a big revelation for me. I started to feel more in control of my health when I was able to make that distinction without difficulty.

We also killed my juicer on the third day due to prolonged use and possibly the presence of water/juice in the motor. It sounded a little funny, then it smelled like burning, then it started smoking. It was ugly. Check out the crime scene photo from my juicer’s violent death:

We had ordered a new Breville though that was due to arrive on day 4 so we were not without a juicer for long.

Days 4-5

Days 4 and 5 were when it really started to turn around for me.I felt like quitting altogether on day 4 and it was really good that I was surrounded by people who were doing the diet with me. I kept trying to visualize plants capturing the sun’s energy and converting it to nutrients that my body could use to heal and re-energize. It helped a little. I was still making lists of all the foods I wanted to eat when the diet was over. Surprisingly, most of them were healthy whole foods. Baked sweet potato, spinach salad, a ripe banana.

My energy improved and my head was clearer by day 5. I started to get creative with the juice combinations and did fancy little things to make juicing feel more special. I created recipes for “mojito juice” and my own version of mean green juice. I got some adorable color-changing straws at Target. I poured my juice into fun glassware, and I tried adding coconut water and sparking water to my juices. I truly started to have fun with it by the end of day 5.

I think my favorite cashier at Whole Foods in Short Pump started to catch on to what Liz and I were doing. What else could we possibly be doing with all this produce?

One of the biggest challenges I had while on the fast was baking a coworker’s birthday cake on day 5. I have mentioned before that in my office, we have a homemade cake for every person’s birthday and last week it was my turn again. Hello carrot cake! I didn’t even taste the batter or the frosting. If you’re ever in the mood for torture, try frosting a two layer cake and then washing your hands instead of licking your fingers. It is tough!

During this phase of the fast, I felt like I finished climbing the hill and started to breezily slide down the other side. My body adapted to the diet and started to crave juice. My hair was really shiny and my skin started to look better. Although (gross-out alert), it appeared that all of the toxins in my body were trying to escape through one facial pore. Ugh.

I also realized how little food I need to get through my day. I hoped that this would translate to better portion control down the road. On day 5 I felt the energy that I had heard other juice fasters describe. I was sick of beets and a little tired of carrots so I started to experiment with new fruits and vegetables. I made a mental note to try and eat a greater variety of foods in the future.

Days 6-7

I felt completely awesome on days 6 and 7. I had energy and I was alert all day. Most of all, I was amazed at how much energy I could have from eating right, with no coffee at all. I learned that when you don’t have the crutch of caffeine to lean on, you are forced to eat good-for-you foods and get a full night’s sleep in order to have energy. As much as I missed eating some foods, I was much better at resisting temptation during these days. Kyle’s dinners didn’t bother me at all.

His and Her Veggies?

I supplemented the homemade juice diet with juices from our local grocery store Ellwood Thompsons. I even made fewer servings ahead of time just so I could try out new combinations at the ET juice bar. So imagine my disappointment when I walked in on the morning of day 7 and discovered that Ellwood Thompsons’ juicer was broken. I had not made enough juice for the day because I was counting on ET to fill in the holes. So I made the decision to break the fast at dinner that night with a whole lot of vegetables and a wee bit of tofu.

My First Real Meal in Seven Days!

What I really missed the most on these last few days was cooking. Cooking at night in my kitchen is such a stress reliever for me, and I love to do it as much as possible. It engages my mind and body in a creative way and I missed having that outlet while on the fast. So I decided on a simple salad for my reintroduction to solid food, but I also cooked a Thai-inspired sweet potato, tempeh and kale stew for Kyle on the last night. I did not taste a drop of that stew on the first night but the experience of cooking it was ultimately very satisfying.

On these last few days, I felt radiant. I was lighter on my feet and more energetic and passionate about everything. My senses sharpened (allegedly a symptom of starvation) and I could smell and taste every little thing. This continued through my first solid food meal, which happened to taste a little too salty. The flavors of everything were so intense and I really enjoyed tasting every component of the plate. My family and friends told me I appeared to be in a better mood than usual and I absolutely was. I felt a renewed commitment to health by the end of the experience.

Phase 3: After the Juice

I eased back into a solid food diet, starting first with raw or steamed vegetables and fruits and a small amount of nuts and legumes. Then I gradually added soy protein, then cheese, then wheat. I did start drinking coffee again, but not every day. I love coffee too much to give it up forever. I have been eating solid food for four days now and everything is going very well. I am eating mainly vegetables and fruits at the moment, plus a bit of whole grains and plant-based proteins here and there.I have had three fresh juices since completing the fast. I can’t quit you, green juice!

As I reflect on the juice fast, I am very happy that I did it. I believe that I accomplished what I set out to do. I learned a lot about my relationship with food and proved to myself that I have the self-control to make better diet choices every day. I got to experience the energy and heightened senses that always fascinated me when I heard about other juice fasters’ experiences.

I think I detoxified a bit, but to be honest I don’t think I got much out of the cleanse portion of the fast. Because I had no “big flush” and I felt pretty good throughout the whole fast, I don’t think I had many toxins to release. Vegetables, especially the green leafy ones, act as little scrub brushes in your digestive system, cleaning everything out as they pass through your system. Many fruits, vegetables and herbs have detoxifying effects on your liver. Regular cardiovascular exercise keeps your lungs and heart healthy. Because I eat a vegetarian diet with at least 50% consisting of fruits and vegetables, and I live a somewhat active lifestyle, I think that I am naturally cleansing, healing and detoxifying my body all of the time.

However I won’t ignore the notion that the juice could have been healing my body in ways I will never know. All of those nutrients couldn’t have hurt! I don’t know if I will do a “reboot” again, but I do know that juice will continue to be a part of my diet moving forward. I plan to work on portion control and building healthy plates at every meal (not just dinner). I also plan to stop eating when I am no longer hungry, which will be a big challenge for me (especially at dinner). But after successfully completing a seven day juice fast, I have the optimistic mentality that no challenge is too large for me when it comes to my health and wellness.

Cheers to that!

Discovering Daikon: Tofu Banh Mi Sandwiches

In my latest (mis)adventure, I took on this big beautiful root.

From the Japanese words for “big” (dai) and “root” (kon), daikon radish is an interesting ingredient. I had not used it before but I had eaten it in restaurants and seen it in the grocery store, so I decided to give it a try. I love carrots and parsnips, and daikon looks like a giant white one of those, so I thought it would be a big win.

Spoiler alert: It’s not really like a big white carrot. If you’re looking for a big white carrot, stick to the parsnip. Daikon is really more like a big stinky radish.

I decided to make some quick pickled carrot and daikon for banh mi sandwiches. I have wanted to do a veggie redux on these for awhile, so I figured I would kill two birds with one stone, er, root.

I used a few different recipes to develop my own twist on the vegetarian banh mi sandwich. In case you aren’t familiar with it, banh mi is a Vietnamese sandwich consisting of grilled, fried or roasted meat and a variety of vegetables or condiments, on a thick crispy baguette. While the sandwich is available in many varieties in several different countries, most of the banh mi I have had have been very spicy. I set out to do a vegetarian version that would give the original a run for its money.

So, let’s get back to my not-so-secret ingredient: diakon. I washed and cut the daikon, in thick matchsticks for this recipe, and then had a taste. I always try to taste a new ingredient raw so that I can understand it better. The daikon was wet and crunchy like a crisp apple, and it had a bitter mustardy taste with a hint of bright spicy pepper. It reminded me of a very mild watered down horseradish. I did a little research, as I always do, and found that daikon is very low in calories and moderately high in vitamin C. From a nutrition standpoint, this vegetable is not at all bad for you, but isn’t incredibly good for you either. I consider it to be almost nutritionally neutral. So I pickled it, of course.

I also marinated and pan fried some tofu, and while the tofu cooked and the carrots and daikon chilled, I prepared the rest of my sandwich ingredients.

Cucumber, cilantro, and jalapeño.

Sriracha mayo.

All that was left to do was toast some bread and assemble the sandwiches. They turned out to be spicy, crunchy, and absolutely delicious. These have a great balance of texture and flavor, and I would love to serve them to guests sometime soon. My only word of warning is to watch the amount of pickled daikon you make. After a day or two in the refrigerator, that stuff gets pungent and it won’t be bad but you won’t want to go near it. I suppose that’s due to its cruciferous nature. Whatever it is, take note. You have been warned.

Vegetarian Banh Mi Sandwiches


  • 1 (14-ounce) package extra firm tofu, drained and pressed
  • 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1/3 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup matchstick-cut carrot
  • 1 cup matchstick-cut daikon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup sliced white onion
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 4 French bread sub rolls, or one large baguette, cut into four smaller loaves
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro sprigs, chopped
  • 2 jalapeño peppers, thinly sliced
  • 1 large cucumber, matchstick-cut
  • 6 Tablespoons mayonnaise or vegannaise
  • 1 Tablespoon sriracha chili sauce


  1. Cut tofu crosswise into 8 (1/2-inch-thick) slices. Press tofu if you have not already done so, to squeeze out all of the water.
  2. Combine soy sauce and ginger in a square baking dish. Arrange tofu slices in a single layer in soy mixture. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight, turning once.
  3. Combine vinegar, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl, stirring until sugar and salt dissolve. Add carrot, daikon, black pepper, and white onion; toss to combine. Let stand 30 minutes in the refrigerator, stirring occasionally. Drain daikon mixture in a colander and pat dry.
  4. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Remove tofu from marinade; discard marinade. Pat tofu slices dry with paper towels. Add tofu slices to pan; sauté 4 minutes on each side or until crisp and golden.
  5. Preheat broiler. Cut bread in half lengthwise. Open halves, laying bread cut side up on a baking sheet. Broil 2 minutes or until lightly browned.
  6. Combine mayo and sriracha in a small bowl. Spread mayo on one side of each loaf of bread.
  7. Place tofu slices on bottom half of bread; top with daikon mixture, cucumber, cilantro, and jalapeño slices. Top with other half of bread. Add more sriracha as needed.

Farmers’ Market Double Feature 07.02.11

Hello and happy 4th of July! This week I hit the Byrd House Market on Tuesday AND the South of the James market on Saturday. All of the summer fruits and vegetables are starting to come in, which makes for some excellent eats on the veg:ology table! The eggplant is looking great, the summer squash is piled high on the market tables, and tomatoes appeared for the first time this season.

At Byrd House Market. . .

  • Eggplant
  • Green Beans
  • Melon (unidentified?)

All I have to say about SOJ Market on Saturday is. . . Oops, I did it again.

That’s a whole lot of fresh local produce!

  • Pesto basil (CSA)
  • Arugula(CSA)
  • Summer squash (Walnut Hill Farms)
  • Green bell peppers (CSA)
  • Eggplant (CSA)
  • Carrots (CSA)
  • Melon (CSA)
  • Cucumber (CSA)
  • Tomatoes (Amy’s Organic)
  • Green beans (CSA)
  • Peaches (Saunders Brothers)
  • Tomato basil mostaccioli (Bombolini pasta)

This bunch of pesto basil was larger than my head. . . and only one dollar!

Brides take note. . . wouldn't this make a lovely bouquet?

I think I have a lot of cooking ahead of me this week!

One year ago… I bought eight ball zucchini for the first time.


HELP! I bought this pretty thing at the market and don’t know what to do with it!

Do you find yourself uttering these words as often as I do? Never fear, veg:ology is here to help. If you’re new to the blog, you may not have realized that I am an ingredient geek. I love picking up new fruits, vegetables, and other ingredients and learning about how to make them into delicious (and sometimes disastrous) dishes. The farmers’ market is the best place for uncommon produce hunting, and now that the weather has warmed up, it’s open season. I often highlight my finds here, give you a little summary of my food research, and then offer a recipe and play-by-play of how it went. It’s a good day when no one has to call the fire department. It’s a great day when my guests ask for seconds.

So, what to do with fennel?

I have been intrigued by fennel ever since I first heard this versatile plant’s claim to fame: it is a vegetable, herb, and spice. That’s right, all three. The white leafy bulb is a vegetable, the wispy fronds are an herb, and the seeds are a spice. The whole plant has a strong licorice smell. When cooked, the flavor of the bulb mellows out as onions do, yet the fronds retain their strong sweet aniseed flavor. There are several ways to prepare the different parts of the plant if you’re lucky enough to get your hands on a few. I picked mine up from Pleitez Produce at the SOJ Market; fresh fennel can also be found locally at Ellwood Thompson’s.

Fun fact: fennel is one of the primary ingredients in absinthe.

However, that is not what I made with it (bummer…).

Fennel is indigenous to the Mediterranean, although India is the largest global producer of fennel today. It can be successfully grown in many parts of North America, and Virginia is no exception as I have seen it in several booths at the farmers’ market in the last few weeks. The bulb is crisp and sweet and can be eaten either raw or cooked. I had only tasted fennel raw in salads or sides before experimenting with it on my own. World’s Healthiest Foods suggests that you serve it sauteed with onions, braised, or raw and sliced on a salad or sandwich.

Fennel is an excellent source of vitamin C, and it also provides a good amount of fiber and potassium. Throughout history, fennel has been used to cure various ailments, including digestive problems, weight gain, and poor eyesight. Some believe it is a potential homeopathic remedy for hypertension. It is also used globally as a breath freshener. Considering all the reported health benefits, why not give fennel a try yourself?

I chose to use this recipe from Bon Appetit because it used both the bulb and the fronds of the fennel plant. I couldn’t bear to toss out all those beautiful wispy stems so I threw them in this dish.

Olive Oil Roasted Tomatoes with Fennel and White Beans (click for recipe)

You start by slicing the fennel into wedges and sauteing them in olive oil in a very hot pan.

Then you combine with tomatoes, fresh oregano, garlic, and crushed red pepper to roast in the oven. After about 30 minutes in the oven, you add cannelini beans and chopped fennel fronds, bake for 5 more minutes, and season with salt and pepper.

I served this late dinner on a balmy night with large glasses of chilled prosecco. Not the perfect pairing, but my friend Jessica and I were feeling fancy and wanted a little bubbly to cool off with. Overall it was a well-executed experiment.

On another night, I sliced a bulb and roasted it with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Then I topped it with Parmesan and served it alongside quinoa veggie burgers for a more casual meal. The Olive Oil Roasted Tomatoes and Fennel with White Beans was a very nice dinner, but honestly I preferred the no-fuss preparation on burger night. Sometimes simple is better.

It’s CSA Time

It’s that time of year again, and I almost missed it! I just submitted my application for our CSA share with Victory Farms. Kyle and I have been discussing our CSA options over the last few weeks with friends, and I thought I had settled on getting a half share for just the two of us. But that seemed like a whole lot of vegetables, so I wasn’t quite sure.

About a week ago I attended Gina Collins’ class at Ellwood Thompson’s called Discovering Greens and learned a ton of different ways to incorporate some new ingredients into my diet. Gina, who is Vice President and co-owner of Victory Farms, also taught us a lot about the farm and the CSA program. I already knew I wanted to purchase a share with Victory Farms this year but I didn’t realize how quickly I was running out of time! Now with the application finished and the check in the outgoing mail, I feel a little more secure about our fresh vegetable future.

In case I am carrying on about something you don’t understand at all, you can read about CSA, or community supported agriculture, here. You can learn more about the Victory Farms CSA here.

Why I like the Victory Farms CSA:

  • VF is a Certified Naturally Grown farm
  • The VF CSA is a debit system, so I can choose the items I want each week and not get stuck with a box of beets if I don’t feel like rocking fuschia fingers all week. Also I can miss a week or double up a week and debit from my prepaid account as I go.
  • The VF CSA members do fun activities like canning parties and gleaning parties, where you can harvest your own food for your own consumption and to donate to the CVFB
  • I can get to know my local farmer, which is so important to me since I have gotten more interested in educating myself about the sources of my food.

I also just learned that Victory Farms has a really informative and extensive Recipes section on their website. You might notice that a certain Richmond food blogger ::cough::vegology::cough:: contributed the Recipe of the Week this week! If my pizza recipe stops just one person from scratching her head about what to do with escarole, then I think I’ve done my job here, folks.

Are you joining a CSA this year? Where is your favorite place to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables?

A Resolution and Quinoa Burgers

Happy Monday!

Whew, I have been running like crazy lately to get back in the groove of things. I started a fantastic new job last week (woo-hoo!) and I committed to a few lifestyle changes to get back on track to being the best possible version of myself, so I have been a little busy. All good things though, so I can’t complain.

One of the household resolutions that I share with Kyle is to create more healthy and economical meals at home, and to eat those meals at a reasonable hour. For the last few months, dinner has gotten later in the evening and I have sacrificed nutrition for convenience. Consequently, we aren’t getting the fuel we need and we are crashing into bed immediately after dinner every night. With the new job comes a new schedule (a better schedule), which leaves us no excuses to get in the way of achieving our goal every day.

We, Lauren and Kyle, do solemnly vow to quit ordering take-out and start rolling up our sleeves together in the kitchen in order to get a healthy home cooked meal on the table (almost) every night.

We stumbled a little the first night when a late trip to the grocery store, oven problems, and poor planning resulted in a dinner disaster. I was so excited to use my new mandoline to make eggplant parmesan rolls, but the rolling and baking process took so long that Kyle was falling asleep in the living room chair before dinner was even close to finished.

I was able to refrigerate them and heat them up the next night just in time for dinner so it was not a total failure. I modified the recipe quite a bit, substituting mache for chard and basil for mint, and they were excellent albeit time consuming. It was that night, as we ate the previous night’s reheated eggplant rolls, that we revised our resolution from “healthy, economical, home cooked meals” to “healthy, economical, home cooked meals. . . at a reasonable hour.” It just takes a little planning and teamwork and we are confident that we will be successful soon. The next night, we achieved our daily goal for the first time, and we have been going strong ever since.

We were inspired by the delicious veggie burgers from Boylan Heights in Charlottesville.

I found the recipe online but with a ton of ingredients and a super involved process, the recipe didn’t meet my time restriction. Plus, among the ingredients are Ritz crackers and other questionable things, AND the whole burger is deep fried which I refuse to do in my own kitchen. We liked the incorporation of quinoa and various vegetables though, so we modified another recipe to work for us.

If you can pan fry them all in one batch, this recipe is super easy to pull off on a weeknight.

We baked some sweet potato fries and green bean fries at the same time, and they were the perfect accompaniment. We are still working on getting a healthy, inexpensive meal together by 7:30 every night, but we have already made quite a bit of progress. It turns out that planning our meals at the beginning of the week, knocking out the grocery shopping on the weekend, and sharing the responsibility for prepping the meal is working for us. Basic stuff, but giant leaps toward our mastery of domesticity!

Quinoa Veggie Burgers (adapted from Whole Living)

Makes six burgers (makes perfect leftovers for lunches!)


  • 1/2 cup rinsed quinoa
  • 1 medium carrot, diced
  • 1 small zucchini, diced
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 15 ounces great northern beans, drained, rinsed, and mashed
  • 1/4 cup plain dried breadcrumbs
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • Coarse salt
  • Ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 whole wheat sandwich thins
  • Toppings (optional): fresh spinach, sliced tomato, stone ground mustard
1. In a small saucepan, bring 3/4 cup water to a boil; add quinoa, cover, and reduce heat to low. Cook until liquid is absorbed, 12 to 14 minutes; set aside.
2. Combine diced carrot and zucchini in a medium bowl. Add cooked quinoa, scallions, beans, breadcrumbs, egg, cumin, paprika, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Stir until thoroughly combined.
3. Form mixture into six 3/4-inch-thick paties. If too soft, refrigerate 10 minutes to firm. In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium; cook burgers until browned and cooked through, about 8 minutes per side.
4. Serve on sandwich thins with the toppings of your choice.
Sweet Potato and Green Bean Fries
  • 1/2 lb green beans
  • 1/2 lb sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch thick sticks
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Seasonings of your choice: salt, pepper, dried basil, dried oregano, garlic powder, etc.
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Toss green beans and sweet potato sticks in olive oil (together or seperately).
3. Spread out in a single layer on a baking sheet and sprinkle with the seasonings of your choice.
4. Bake at 400 degrees F for 20-25 minutes, turning once during cooking.
To everyone else who is trying to make their resolutions last longer than one week – keep up the good work! And have a delicious week!

Night of the Living Wok

Today I broke out my brand new non-stick wok from Ikea.

The first wok I had ended up in the garbage can about two years ago and was only used twice. I never replaced it because I completely lacked the confidence to try woking again. That wok had died a slow horrible death, and I didn’t want to think about it. See. . . the first time I woked, it turned out okay. I seasoned the pan according to the manufacturer’s instructions and I cooked a stir-fry a few days later, and it turned out just fine. I cleaned the wok, once again according to the manufacturer’s instructions, and something went wrong.

The next time I cooked in it, the seasoning must have come off and everything in the pan smoked and burned. I hastily removed the wok from the burner and hot oil leapt out of the pan and onto my arm. I still have the scar. After my shock and anger at the trauma had subsided, I discarded the burned food and let the pan cool before rinsing it in warm water with a light detergent. I thought I might try again, so I carefully dried off the wok and set it on the counter.

My takeout arrived (when you try new things in the kitchen as often as I do, you learn to program a few takeout places into your speed dial). The next night I noticed that there were rust spots in the wok. I must not have dried it completely. Into the garbage can it went. 😦

And then I saw this non-stick wok at Ikea for $5!

Non-stick = no need to season the pan, or burn your veggies, or burn your arm with hot oil while attempting to save said burned veggies.

This evening I was brave enough to use it for stir-fried tofu and veggies. It was like my old wok had come back from the dead, but now it was stronger and it meant business. I liked it.

Heat oil in the wok until hot and smoking. Add tofu.

So far so good.

Using bamboo utensils, move the tofu around the pan until it is almost browned on all sides. Remove the tofu from the wok. Add more oil if needed and add fresh vegetables to the pan. Employ the same method to cook the vegetables.

Please excuse the dirty stove. I graduated from the “if you didn’t make a mess, you didn’t work hard enough” school of cooking.

When the veggies are cooked, return the tofu to the pan. Ooh eee ooh. Killer tofu.

Add stir-fry sauce to coat (bottled or homemade) and cook for another minute until heated through. Toss with noodles or serve over rice.

Late-night, one-pot, home-made, take-out MAGIC.

I am so glad I have gotten over that fear. This $5 wok is my new best friend. (Sorry Kyle and Melissa… you’re still at the top of my list. Right below my wok.)