Thursday, June 21, 2012

Tofu Lasagna Ooo La La

Hi Everyone,

It's been a long time since I've last posted and I apologize! My prayers were answered and I got the job that I had been hoping I would get. That's another story though...

Today I want to share with you all a simple and vegetarian lasagna that can be made on a weeknight...and not take you a whole bottle of wine to get through! The best part...this is a 30 minute meal :-)

First you're going to need a few basic ingredients:

1 box of lasagna noodles
6 fresh tomatoes
1 onion
a package of tofu (extra firm)
1 package of soy protein flakes
1 jar of spaghetti sauce
1 jar of Hunt's tomato sauce
3 limes
a few sprigs of rosemary and thyme
sea salt
black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
parmesan cheese

Start by boiling a big pot of water...

While you are waiting for your water to boil, start by crumbling up the block of extra firm tofu with your hands. Yes, your hands :-) This is meant to be fun! And besides, after a long day at work staring at a computer screen, cash register or blank faces this is interactive. When your tofu resembles the texture of ricotta or cottage cheese you're done. Squeeze up the 3 limes into the tofu...removing any seeds. Add some sea salt, black pepper, rosemary, thyme and olive oil.

This is how the tofu "ricotta" will look. YUM! Trust me...nobody will even know it isn't ricotta. Especially when it's been a long work week.

Now that your water is boiling on the stove...

...add the lasagna noodles to the boiling water. Don't break them and don't force them underwater. They will sink in...'s that for simplicity? Now at this point at a generous palmful of sea salt to the boiling will flavor the pasta beautifully.

Get a pan ready with some olive oil and add the diced tomatoes and soy protein flakes (if you buy them frozen you can add them as-is. If you have bought them dry just soak them for a few minutes in a little water). While simmering, add the garlic and 1 can of Hunt's tomato sauce...

i am Italian and can I not "HEART" garlic??

When the lasagna is still al dente, that is they still have some BITE to them, remove them from the stove top. Rinse with cold water and let sit while your soy protein is cooking. This makes them so much easier to handle when assembling in the pan.

All we're going to do is set down a layer of noodles first. Then a layer of tofu "ricotta". Then the soy protein "meat" and so and so on til we reach the top of the pan. Including layers of basil leaves and some sprigs of fresh rosemary. Leave about 1/2 an inch so you can add one the spaghetti sauce to smother the top. OH! and let's not forget the parmesan cheese! Sprinkle that generously over the top...MmmMmm...Set your oven for 450 degrees and it will bake for approximately 45 minutes.

Please let me know when you enjoy this dish!


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Perfect Sometimes

Hi Everyone,

Welcome to Carpinteria, California!

Justin James sings a song called Perfect Sometimes. Click here to give it a listen. It is the perfect soundtrack for this post from Carpinteria, a perfectly chic and cool coastal town in Ventura County.

Good to know!

window shopping...

a California native flower...and a happy new California man!

A to Z what is grown in California...a lot of fresh vegetables and fruit!

I have been intrigued by this little corner of the coast of California for about a year, but had been heading for points north. On Sunday we finally found a reason to go and explore the nooks and crannies. Let's go!

I am going to just say it: I need the beach! I have been to over 15 states and lived in 3 now. New York, Florida and California. That means I have lived along the shores of The Great Lakes, The Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic and finally the Pacific! Surf's UP...

    at Carpinteria State Beach! You may notice the distinct smell of asphalt when you visit here. Don't be alarmed. There is natural tar seepage here. The story goes that the Native Americans used the tar to line their canoes.

TAR! be careful which rocks you sit on...

Now let's see some details as we walk the bluffs...

Lately, I have been celebrating my recent accomplishment. Since November I have been trying to get a professional license to sell insurance. On my 2nd attempt I passed the exam. April 19th was a happy day!  

On May 8th I became an agent. I am still trying to process that and figure out...what's next.

What is next? Do I go back to working for retail to make ends meet? So right now I am looking at jobs left and right. Even more than the last 7 months. I have never been unemployed before this. Since 16 I have been working. No worries. I know God has something incredible in store for my life. I just have to check all options. One of my favorite sayings is that God can part the waters, but if you don't take a step you still get nowhere.

So...I have to keep walking and making footprints...I need to keep believing that anything is possible and that even though things may be rough right now there is so much opportunity. Viewing the ocean reminds me of this. The depth of faith in my life.

Progressing back towards the car I look up onto this trail. The mountains rising up in the distance, reinforcing the solidity of the land. Can having just a little belief in life really help us move mountains?

Don't go fishing for mussels at this time of year. The State will remind you...

One last picture...if you have seen  Monster-in-Law you will remember Jane Fonda's character. Who knew there was a park named after her?

If you have not seen the movie just click on the movie title up above...I promise you will Laugh Out Loud!

Adding a little laughter to every day...

Smile. Just because!

Mark :-)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Cassia and a HUMMER

Well Everyone,

I have had a great day doing some container gardening today! 

There is nothing more magical than being in a backyard oasis  PLUS seeing Rufous hummingbirds flitting and darting around all afternoon. Hummingbirds rarely rest. Did you know they have one of the highest metabolic rates in the world?

It is very challenging to get a picture of one of these tiny birds. So I am borrowing one! When I am armed with more than my blackberry I promise to repay whoever I got this from.

So now to the real topic of my afternoon post! CASSIAS!

Here are the Candlestick Cassia seedlings upon germination...they were planted on April 29th and this is how they looked on May 14th!

On the very next day...May 15th. Check this out!

All this from a plant that was growing along the coastline of Santa Barbara's Shoreline Park!!! Stay tuned for more...

Happy Planting to all the Gardeners out there!
Mark :-)

Dishing Some Kale in CaLifornia

Good morning friends!

I want to share a simple recipe that adds a good underdog of a vegetable to the menu. KALE.

a Thank You to whomever this picture belongs.

By now we are all aware that adding plant foods to our diet is extremely beneficial. Now let me make you all aware that I have explored nutrition throughout the years. When I was about 14 I became a vegetarian when my dear cousin Melanie, a year younger than I, convinced me to try it. Together we would explore cuisine made without any meat and it resulted in learning things like...

SOY (everything!)
Nutritional Yeast
iCE DREAM (in lieu of CREAM)

After about 2 years of being a vegetarian I decided to go the route of purist and be a VEGAN for some time. Melanie and I would visit beautiful places in The Finger Lakes like The Farm Sanctuary, in Watkins Glen.

This coincides with the time that I was ending high school and beginning college. I set my eyes on a shore far away and moved from NY to Tampa, Florida.

The University of Tampa fortunately had just implemented a fantastic new food scene full of possibilities! Daily I had choices of delightful vegan cuisine prepared by some really great chefs. These stir-frying masters became my very good friends. Especially Nancy. She was a GEM!

Nancy, if you stumble across this blog I hope you remember me and our many chats. I used to make it a point to bring Chef Nancy gifts that a college student could music mixes of our favorite gospel singers, magnets and postcards from places I would visit on days free from class. As a reward she would look up new dishes to try and let me be the first to try them! Thank you, Nancy. From the bottom of my grateful heart.

Now, I will admit that I am no longer a vegan. I returned to having a "regular" diet that now includes meat, chicken, fish, dairy products and honey. The trick is having a balance. Try a bit of everything and see what works for you. There is so much to taste out there in the world. I am finding, personally, that eating more plants than meat is particularly beneficial to my life. Eat what you want and what you may so long as you do it all in moderation. the simple recipe...

Go to your local farmer's market or fine grocier and buy a bunch of kale. Make sure the leaves are all green and healthy. Here Karin had found some kale with purple stems as a colourful treat!

Mise en place. Which in French translates to everything in place. Here I have dished some peanut oil and added some freshly ground black pepper into one bowl. Into the other bowl I have mixed Hoison sauce (you could also use Oyster) and some Sriracha.

Sriracha Sauce. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways! I am a huge fan of HEAT when it comes to food for the right dishes. I am especially appreciative of this garlicky, chilli, red sauce from Thailand. I use it on scrambled eggs, drizzle it over a burger (beef!) and add it to soups for that KICK.

Eat me.
Ironically, the first place I tried this wonderful condiment was in Bozeman, Montana. Melanie's husband took me to this place called Naked Noodle Cafe where they have it sitting on every table. I gave it a try and have been hooked ever since!

So now...chop up the leaves of the kale with sharp scissors or a good knife. Make sure you save the bottom portion, the stems, as they are very good for you and we will be using them very soon. As a matter of fact, get your wok or large frying pan a little warm, pour in the peanut oil and black pepper...and add the stems now.


You may smell something like broccoli or cabbage as this cooks. We want this to begin frying as this is the toughest portion of our kale and the leaves take far less time to become tender.

Go ahead and add the leaves now...give them a stir so the oil and all gives them a nice coat...and next let's get that Hoisin and Sriracha blended in...


Toss evenly in the pan to coat the kale in the sauce...cook for about 4 minutes til just wilted and tender.

I had just some fettucine on hand here, but you could also eat this by itself or any pasta or beans dish.

a palmful of sea salt always is welcome when cooking the flavors them

And presto dinner is done in about 20 minutes! This dish I am proud to say was ravenously consumed at a birthday party held by Karin's dear friend Elana. Happy Belated Birthday from California, Elana! Remember friends to always share food, made with love, with some good friends. It's the secret magic ingredient to anything you make!

Happy Saturday,

Friday, May 18, 2012

EveryBODDY Wants To Be Us...

Hello Everyone,

So I couldn't resist but borrow a famous line spoken by Meryl Streep to Ann Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada for today's title. I am a big fan of Meryl and strongly encourage you to see, if you have not, It's Complicated. It reinstates my love for California!

Today I want to share some more of my recent trip with Carlo to Descanso Gardens. I just counted the number of pictures combined that we took in our 5 hour tour. 519! What can I say? Both shutterbugs are we! This is common for us...just *click* away all day!

Let me show you more of this beautiful place...

First I present one of Pasadena's Showcase Homes for your viewing pleasure.

The Boddy House. Built in 1937

some cool succulents filling a container

I am a sucker for anything KiWi related! Here is a succulent with that name
 This house was featured as a Showcase Home of Design in 2007 so there was a LOT of renovation that happened, naturally, due to this honor. I didn't take many pictures of the interior, but Carlo did! So here we go...

You may want to move in!

Where does this door lead??

Knock Knock...

Get ready...This really is spectacular! I have seen some beautiful homes throughout my travels, but this took my breath away.

The Study

Behind the Looking Glass...

Living room...freshly decorated

OH MY mother-of-PEARL

I'm ready to write my cook book!!!!

Now when I travel I really take my time to see as many details as possible. I am a plant-a-holic! I can't help here you are always going to see lots of gardens...

Kalanchoe 'SiLVER PLATTER': hubba hubba

Victoria Agave

A beautifully designed and living Garden Wall

Reminds me of Provence, France

To round this second story from Descanso out, let's leave with a poetic thought:

Some times are hard
Some times are sad
Let's wake up in the morning
 and climb into a hopeful bed.

For to be radiant when all is well
...when the days are good
 is easy to tell.
Your petals unblemished and untested by the wind.

To fall far down
 and still BLOOM
 is where the secret lies.
Your heart the safe and strengthened haven
 where your true beauty resides.

Have a good night friends,