Cuban-Style Black Beans and Rice

Black beans aren’t my favorite. When I’m cooking at home I usually reach for kidney beans before using black beans. I like the flavor more, and somehow I like to think that they’re healthier. Cuban-style black beans on the other hand, I love. When the beans break down they create this great sauce.

I started craving Cuban-style black beans and rice yesterday and went online to find a recipe.  This one looked promising, but it calls for dry Spanish wine, an ingredient I don’t have and didn’t want to improperly substitute.

I ultimately chose this Bon Appétit recipe, though in the end I didn’t follow it very closely. I used a carrot in place of the green pepper (didn’t have one), added spices and hot sauce, and didn’t add the sugar the recipe called for. I also used more broth than the recipe to give it a looser consistency. Next time I make this I would love to serve it with cotija cheese, cilantro, and limes. I guess I just like Mexican-style black beans.

Cuban-Style Black Beans and Rice

Adapted from Bon Appétit

Serves 3 to 4

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 large onion, chopped small
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
4 large garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
2 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed, drained
3/4 cup vegetable or no-chicken broth (or water with Better than Bouillon)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Tapatio or other preferred hot sauce (optional)

Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat.

Add onion and carrot, sauté until vegetables caramelize a bit, about 10 minutes. Stir halfway through.

Add garlic and spices. Continue to sauté until garlic and spices are fragrant.

Add half of the beans to pan. Mash beans coarsely with the back of a wooden spoon.

Add the remaining beans, broth, vinegar, and hot sauce. Cover, and simmer until mixture thickens, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Season beans with salt and pepper to taste and serve with long grain white rice.


Cookbook Review – Vegetarian Nights: Fresh from Hawaii by Bonnie Mandoe

Vegetarian Nights: Fresh from Hawaii

Vegetarian Nights: Fresh from Hawaii by Bonnie Mandoe is one of my favorite vegetarian cookbooks. The recipes are inventive and full of interesting flavor combinations. Indonesian Tempeh, Banana Chutney, and  Green Chile Pesto are just a few examples. Mandoe’s recipes often bring together Hawaiian and East Asian ingredients with more commonplace ingredients.

Mandoe dedicates the beginning of the book to explaining various cooking techniques, and writes about her own considerations and inspirations surrounding her food. She describes how the weather and your mood can affect your cooking. This section of the book really helps give readers a foundation for cooking.

The recipes are divided into the following categories: Soups, Salads, Salad Dressings, Dips & Condiments, Sauces, Hot Pasta, About Rice and the Other Whole Grains, Vegetables, Entrees, Desserts, Baking Bread, and Breakfast. The variety in these categories is amazing! The salad section includes recipes for French Salad, Kalamata Coleslaw, and Curried Rice Salad.

It’s clear to me that Mandoe cares about building flavors. Her recipes all have a unique flavor profile, yet are still connected somehow. She writes extensively about the intricacies of different seeds and green herbs, and how they can enhance a dish.

Perhaps my favorite part of this book is the Salad Dressings section. I usually wouldn’t say that about a cookbook (salad dressings, really?), but Mandoe’s are so unique and so tasty that I have to. The Olympian Dressing is made by blending extra-virgin olive oil, water, tofu, soy sauce, lemon juice, garlic, and kalamata olives. I never would have thought to blend olives into a dressing.

The Sauces section includes Tahini-Miso, Ten-Minute Mushroom Stroganoff, and Chinese Brown Sauce. The variety in this book is a major highlight for me. Plus, none of these recipes are that difficult. A lot of the dressings and sauces are made in a blender.

The variety of vegetarian recipes here is so special. Each entree is filled with unique proteins. The Spinach Lasagna has TVP (textured vegetable protein, also a primary ingredient in the Costco emergency food kit) hidden in the sauce. The Mushroom Burger recipe has mushrooms, walnuts, and brown rice. There’s even a recipe for Tofu Mock Chicken and Gravy.

The desserts in this cookbook are just as inventive as the other recipes. There’s even a Cottage Cheese Frosting (though I’m a little skeptical of it).

My favorite recipe that I’ve made from Vegetarian Nights is the Chile Relleno Cornbread. It’s essentially a basic buttermilk cornbread recipe, with cheese stuffed whole green chilies baked on top! It was gone pretty quickly after I made it.

Vegetarian Nights: Fresh from Hawaii is one of the most unique cookbooks I have. These are recipes I haven’t really seen anywhere else. They are healthy, full of flavor, and just a lot more interesting than some vegetarian recipes I find. Sadly, this cookbook is out of print. I found mine at Goodwill, but there are plenty of used copies on Amazon!

Winter Vegetable and Tofu Korma with Roasted Spiced Cauliflower

My boyfriend and I love Indian food. It may be our favorite cuisine… The creamy curries, spicy sour sauces, and aromatic basmati rice form a really magical combination of flavors.

Our favorite Indian restaurant in Seattle is Taste of India. Located on Roosevelt Way Northeast in the University District, the dining experience there is amazing. Your food comes quickly and they have bottomless chai refills. Plus, I don’t think I’ve ever left there without getting something complimentary. They routinely give diners free appetizers and desserts.

Indian food is very vegetarian friendly. Just about everything on the menu at Taste of India is or can be made vegetarian. Paneer, a firm Indian cheese, is a tasty option available in most dishes.

Sadly, I crave Indian food more often than I can afford to go out to eat. Over the years I’ve experimented with many recipes trying to replicate the kormas and masala curries on the menu at Taste of India. I haven’t been able to get anything exact, but I have come up with some good variations.

This winter vegetable and tofu korma is extremely delicious. In our first week of fall weather here in Seattle, I’ve been craving warm, flavorful dishes. I made this last night to make the most of the cold weather.


The recipe comes from 101 Cookbooks, one of my favorite vegetarian food blogs. I’ve made it once or twice before, but this time it tasted better than ever. I used carrots in place of the cauliflower from the original recipe, and decided to roast the cauliflower and put it on the side. I also cut the original recipe in half since we aren’t the biggest fans of leftovers.

Winter Vegetable and Tofu Korma

From 101 Cookbooks 

For the cauliflower recipe I just rubbed the cauliflower with olive oil, a bunch of spices (cumin, chile powder, cayenne pepper), and salt and pepper. Then roasted it in the oven at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes.

Vegetarian Snacks: Primal Strips

Finding savory, protein-rich vegetarian foods on the go can be difficult. Most packaged vegetarian snacks are full of sugar, carbohydrates, and not much else.

I typically snack on almonds. They’re energy dense and widely available, Trader Joe’s has a great selection.

However, I recently discovered Primal Strips! I found these at Whole Foods along a back wall with other meat jerkies.


Left to right: Teriyaki seitan, Mesquite Lime seitan, Thai Peanut seitan, and Hot & Spicy shitake mushroom

Primal Strips come in soy, seitan, and shitake mushroom based varieties. Seitan is a “wheat meat” made of wheat gluten. It was first developed in China and is widely used in parts of Asia. The soy Primal Strips are gluten-free. The base ingredients are mixed with various flavors, such as soy sauce or peanut butter.

Each strip has about 10 to 12 grams of protein, and they are low in fat. They have approximately 100 calories, which is a good amount for a snack out and about.

So far I’ve only tried the Hickory Smoked soy flavor (not pictured), but I loved it! The texture was the right amount of chewy, with juiciness from all the flavors.

I’ve been able to find Primal Strips at Sidecar for Pigs Peace in the University District for $1.25 a piece, and at Whole Foods for about $1.40 a piece.


It’s hard to pinpoint when I fell in love with cooking. I’ve always loved food, especially desserts and Asian cuisine, but I haven’t always cared about the production side of it.

In high school I started watching the Food Network after getting home from school. I quickly developed favorite chefs and shows. I was drawn to Giada De Laurentiis’ “Everyday Italian” show because of her mixture of traditional cooking methods with fun ingredients and twists.

One of the first intensive dishes I made was Giada’s sweet potato gnocchi with maple cinnamon sage brown butter. It’s a difficult recipe. Making gnocchi involves boiling potatoes, mashing them, mixing them with other ingredients, and forming them into the characteristic little dumpling. It took me hours to make, but me and my friends devoured it all when it was done. It remains one of the best meals I’ve made.

It’s easy to remember how I became a vegetarian. When I was 4 years old I saw the film “Babe.” That movie really affected me! My mother was a vegetarian growing up, but she never made me become one. I remember her taking me to buy frozen chicken nuggets at Ballard Market while she filled the cart with vegetarian ingredients. At that age, I hadn’t yet made the connection that chicken nuggets came from chickens. Seeing “Babe” brought it all together for me. I suddenly realized that all meat had once been an animal, “with eyes,” as I said back then.

I’m not of the belief that everyone should be vegetarian. I care about animal’s rights, but it isn’t necessarily the foundation of why I am vegetarian. I still eat fish (90% of the time salmon), and some shellfish on occasion, but they aren’t a consistent part of my diet. Plus, I only started eating them within the last few years. Technically, I guess I’m a pescatarian, but my diet is heavily vegetarian.

Regardless of labels, I think a vegetarian diet can be healthy, fulfilling, and beneficial for many. There are so many protein sources besides meat. Being vegetarian inspires me to be more creative with my food.