Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Tofu Rice Bowl

Even if you've never consumed tofu you probably have some opinions about it.

Mine was that chunks of tofu masquerading as meat sounded disgusting.

When I was growing up, we didn't eat much red meat. We weren't quite vegetarians – we ate chicken and fish – yet soy milk and ice cream sandwiches made from tofu (Cuties) were common sights in our refrigerator. We didn't eat much tofu for dinner, however.

In my quest for a healthier diet, I decided to experiment with tofu. I bought Trader Joe’s organic tofu, which is pretty soft and kept in water. Today, I created a recipe that I found surprisingly tasty. I read a comment somewhere that if an eater was wary about eating chunks of tofu, they should utilize tofu as texture in a dish, so that was my inspiration for this rice bowl.

You can cook the rice however you usually cook it. My recipe calls for vegetable broth because I made rice a few nights ago with vegetable broth for a specific dish, and it reminded me of rice I ate in India. I was itching for an opportunity to cook rice that way again! If you don’t want to use vegetable broth or don’t have any on hand, simply omit step 1 and cook rice as normal.

The Trader Joe’s tofu comes in a 19 oz. package. I didn't have a way to measure exactly how much I used, so I've approximated the amount here. 

Tofu Rice Bowl


For the rice

1 cup rice
2 cups vegetable broth
½ Tbsp. canola oil

For the tofu

½ Tbsp. olive oil
½ tsp. red curry paste
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. fresh minced ginger
6 oz. tofu (approximately)
Crushed red pepper flakes to taste
Quick drizzle of soy sauce


1. Fry the rice in the canola oil for a minute or two, and then add in the vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, cover, and lower the heat to simmer until the rice is done, about twenty minutes.

2. Cut off a 6 oz. piece of tofu, and chop it into little pieces. Place them into the frying pan with the olive oil.

3. Cook the tofu over medium heat, and add in the red curry paste, garlic, ginger, crushed red pepper flakes, and a drizzle of soy sauce. Cook until most of the liquid has been absorbed, about five minutes.

4. Scoop rice into a bowl, and serve the tofu over the rice.

Serves 1-2.

I made this for lunch on my own today, and have just enough for leftovers during lunch tomorrow.

The tofu really breaks up in this recipe; it’s not meant to remain in chunks, as you can see in the pictures. It reminded me more of the eggs in egg fried rice. The softer consistency ensured that I wasn't tasting chunks of tofu, but I had sneakily added protein into my rice bowl for a healthier lunch.

The meal was tasty! I’m looking forward to experimenting with all the leftover tofu. I think it would be great in egg fried rice and in certain soups! If anyone has tips on how to cook really yummy tofu, please leave me a comment below. I’d love to hear your suggestions!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Happy Birthday, Hobbes!

Am I still allowed to call Hobbes my kitten baby?

It’s her birthday today! She’s 1! On the paperwork that came with her, her birthday is listed as November 10, which means that one year ago, she came into this world and I didn’t even know her then, or even know that I would be adopting a kitten.

In fact, I blogged a year ago on this date. Those familiar with my thus far erratic posting habits may be a little surprised by this revelation, but here’s the proof. We’d just been robbed. I was a different person then. Yes, I was strong and brave through the experience, but I look back at my past self and feel a little sorry for all that she didn’t yet know. While she was seeking to refresh her perception of home with positivity, and reclaim the space that had been violated, thousands of miles away in Virginia, a cat had just been born. My past self was strong, but she was unaware that the little creature who would open a new vulnerability in her had just entered the world.

Hobbes was about six weeks old when Aaron secretly adopted her from a pet store north of Boston. For the next five days, he took care of her, waiting until that moment when he’d give her to me as one of the best and most unexpected surprises.

She stirred up new feelings in me. I call her my kitten baby, but know I don’t know a thing about what it is to be the mother of a child. Yet caring for this little creature moved something in my heart.

For the first few months of her life, I was terrified that she would somehow accidentally kill herself. She was just so tiny. She didn’t know that refrigerators are not fun places to hang out or that power cords don’t make a tasty snack. I feared the day when she could make the jump to the oven.

Fear was not the right response, and it seems a little silly as I look at her now. She’s big and still tries to eat push pins. Yet fear is not how I want to react to her or to my future children.

Love is the easy answer for how I want to react, but love is so complicated. It comprises hope and devotion and the knowledge that your life will never be the same. When confronted with these emotions, it’s easy to respond in fear. A part of my heart has been stripped bare, and I’m not always sure how to deal with that feeling.

The opposite of fear is trust. It’s not always an emotion that comes easily. Yet I’ve learned to trust Hobbes. Trust is one of the bravest emotions, because it means letting go.

On her first birthday, it’s slightly morbid to consider her eventual death. I certainly didn’t think about that when my family first adopted Checkers. Yet I know things now that I didn’t know when I was a little girl with her first cat, and that is although this pet that I love so dearly will someday go to kitty heaven, what she teaches me while she’s on earth is so much more important than that heartbreak. The love and lessons that Hobbes has already given me make these heart-rending emotions worth every minute.

So happy birthday, dear kitten baby, and here’s to all the years you will move me to trust.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Rainbow Roasted Vegetables

In keeping with my idea to eat vegetarian and vegan lunches, I made a dish of colorful roasted vegetables that I wanted to share with all of you because it was so tasty!

I have been very inspired by some gorgeous purple, yellow, and orange carrots that I purchased at Trader Joe's. They are so pretty and add a pop of color because at this point in my food journey, most of my vegetable dishes are entirely green. Long time Sputnik Prose readers can attest that broccoli and Brussels sprouts usually compose the majority of any vegetable dish we make in the Hobbit Hole, so I have been having a lot of fun, especially with the purple carrots!

To gain some extra healthy fats, fiber, and antioxidants, I decided to add nuts to the meal. I had pecans on hand, so I tossed those into the mix. They added a new dimension of flavor and I would definitely use that particular type of nut again, although pine nuts or walnuts would lend themselves well to this dish.

Of course I threw in Brussels sprouts, since they're almost always found in my fridge.

I'm excited to plan out my meals for this week and try to introduce a new vegetable or two to the menu! I'm also considering tempeh or tofu to add protein into vegetable dishes.

Below is the recipe:

Rainbow Roasted Vegetables


3 large carrots
8 oz. Brussels sprouts (this is half of a 16 oz. Trader Joe's bag)
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
small handful pecans
salt and pepper to taste


1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.

2. Slice the carrots into coins, and cut the Brussels sprouts in half.

3. Pour the vegetables into a baking dish (I used an 8x8 glass dish), add in the pecans, and drizzle the olive oil over the mix. Add spices to taste; you can get creative and add in whatever spices you enjoy! I love spicy food, so I added crushed red peppers.

5. Roast the vegetables for 50-60 minutes.

The dish was easy and delicious! I'd love to hear what you would add to this dish. I think potatoes or butternut squash could be really tasty. Let me know if you make it!

Hobbes wants to eat it, too!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Changes and Ideas

First off, yes, this is only my fourth blog post in October, a month that is now almost over. There’s not really much excuse for that, except that my mom visited me for a week in the middle of the month!

It was so great to see her and share our new home with her. Now that we’ve been here for well over a year, it seems strange that some people close to us still have not seen the Hobbit Hole or met Hobbes. Not that I’m blaming anyone; it’s just weird to me that this place has become a part of my identity, for better or worse, and there are still people I count among my closest of friends who only know this side of me through hearsay. It’s the feeling of an exile who has found beauty in their new home.

Of course, I walked outside today to pick up some trash and throw out the compost, and realized with a start that the temperature today (a mild 51° F) was as cold as it ever got during the day where I lived in California. I used to think that was cold. Now it almost feels good. I would sit outside with a blanket by a fire in this weather. However, gone are the stints where I would work outside for hours. In many ways, I’m still adjusting.

A lot of new things have happened this month. The leaves are almost all gone. Aaron has been considering summer internships. I had the opportunity to interview a few of my personal heroes, including new authors Pierce Brown and Edan Lepucki. I was able to show my mom one of my new favorite cities, Boston, and eat bacon grease buttered popcorn with her at J. M. Curley’s, which is still one of my favorite foods. I've also read some unexpected books, i.e., nonfiction, and have really enjoyed them. I hope to do a blog post on that topic next week!

Another of next week’s blog posts will be my new foray into vegetarian/vegan food. I did some research for an upcoming ThriveWire article (although I won’t give you any spoilers yet!) and was fascinated. I've said it many times on Sputnik Prose, whenever I modify a recipe to make it vegetarian, that I have several vegetarian friends, and a handful of vegan friends, and while Aaron and I are pretty solidly in the carnivore category, I have been incredibly fascinated by what they eat.

I had a lot of success this past week with vegetarian dishes. I was feeling a little bit sick, which I attributed mainly to the gloomy weather, and so have been extra conscious about what I've put into my body since Tuesday (other than mid-week cookies; we all need balance!). I haven’t had any caffeine, and have drunk lots of water and tea. I also made an amazing rice dish with immunity boosters such as ginger and turmeric for lunch on Wednesday, and then made a delicious caprese salad last night, which was a hit even with Aaron! I almost never cook with ingredients like ginger or turmeric, and I've never before made caprese, and cooking these new dishes was really gratifying. Today I made up a tasty vegetarian lunch which I’ll be sharing with you on Monday. The more I've written about food, the more I've realized how much I love it, and I’m really excited to experiment further!

Aaron and I will still be meat eaters (note mention of bacon grease popcorn above) but I’m hoping to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into our diet, which has been something of an ongoing goal for me, but one which I've decided to make more of a priority. We’ll see how this new adventure goes!

If you have any tips or resources or web sites that you think would be valuable to my exploration of vegetarian and vegan food, please, please share them!

So, lots of changes. Not many blog posts. But I’m back with ideas, and excited to share them with you readers!

To end off, I’d like to share some of my recent ThriveWire articles…

Interview with Pierce Brown, Part 1 and Part 2.

Interview with Edan Lepucki, Part 1 and Part 2.

10 Farm-to-Table Ice Creameries around the United States.

I received my first phone call from Italy, and got to speak with Giorgia Caporuscio, an award-winning twenty-somethings pizza maker!

Thanks for reading!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Cut Your Own Hair!

I did something crazy today.

No, it was not eating pumpkin chocolate chip muffins for breakfast or singing to Hobbes all day long.

I cut my own hair!

There’s a backstory to this random crazy decision, and it starts with my husband. Aaron has never paid for a haircut as long as I’ve known him (which is five years now!). In college, he had his hair cut by friends.

When Aaron and I got married, however, he asked me to cut his hair. I didn’t want to cut it at all, but when a friend gifted us an extra razor set that he had, I caved and agreed to try it. I’ll be honest: I’m pretty sure I cried after that first haircut, even though Aaron said he loved it, but we were saving up money and paying off college loans, so I reluctantly agreed to do it again.

Lots of tears and almost three years later, I’ve reached a point where I actually feel like I’m halfway decent at cutting his hair. There are no more tears. I don’t rely on the razor as much. Haircuts are no longer dreaded events in the Cooke household.

However, if you’d told me three years ago that I would have cut my own hair today, I would have politely giggled and privately entertained notions of your insanity.

Yet a few weeks ago, I pinned a tutorial to Pinterest, and that got me thinking. I haven’t had my hair cut since February, so after a few weeks of mulling it over, I decided to try my hand at cutting my own hair. After further incredibly academic and thorough Pinterest research, I found two tutorials to help guide me: one at Diary of a Mad Crafter and How-To Hair Girl.

Right as I was getting ready to take before shots in the backyard, one of our upstairs neighbors came down into the yard to wash his bike with the hose. After Hobbes creepily stared at him (I definitely didn’t do that), I turned on some pump-up tunes (Shake It Off by Taylor Swift and California Gurls by Katy Perry) and cooked dinner while I waited for him to leave. Yep, I’m a creepy hermit sometimes.

Neighbor gone, I got to work. I pulled my hair into a ponytail as the tutorials suggested. 

As I looked at the ponytail, I realized there were three distinct layers in the hair. So I sectioned these off with ponytails, and then cut each of them, one at a time. 

Apprehensively, I took out the ponytail holders. My hair looked okay! I wet it and brushed it and then turned my attention to the front of my hair. I like to have layers around my face, so I cut those by taking a section of hair, and then cutting the section in a downward motion so those pieces closest to my face would be short, and the ones furthest from my face would be long. I also took the strands of hair in front of my ears and did the same thing.

I was pleased, but felt like my hair was still too long. So I put my hair in a low pony and cut off the longest ends.

It wasn't a drastic haircut by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m immensely proud of myself. My hair feels lighter and healthier. 

Even though I was grumpy and cried through the process, I've somehow morphed into a person willing to cut her own hair. Those first few haircuts of Aaron's were awful, in my opinion (although friends assured me they looked fine), but I'm grateful that Aaron pushed me to keep trying. Sometimes I give up too easily. The hair-cutting process, even though it's just a small, silly aspect of life, has taught me about persistence and not doubting myself.

And the results are pretty fantastic! Overall, I’m really pleased with the haircut.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Weekend Souvenirs: Fun Edition

How is your fall weather treating you? Many of my California friends have been complaining about their 90 degree weather. They want pumpkin lattes and sweaters. Friends, I'll take your 90 degree weather. I'll trade you all the clouds we had this week. I've never really understood clouds unless there is rain falling out of them.

However, I won't trade you the utterly perfect weather that I have this afternoon. It's sunny and at last, there's not a cloud to be found in the sky. I can wear a sweatshirt comfortably in 63 degree weather. I had to brush red leaves off this chair to sit down. The slopes by our house are cloaked with a gentle mantle of yellow.

I spent most of my day listening to Eluvium, which is my preferred writing and working music. I can get anything done with those melodies floating from my computer speakers. It only makes sense that I share one of my favorite Eluvium songs with you today (although really, if you like it, check out the whole Copia album).

This Friday, I'll share a perfect fall recipe sent to me by my sister in law. It's for Quinoa Apple Cheddar Soup, and I will be doing all in my power to cook it this upcoming week!

From Cooking Quinoa

These chai-scented candles are also perfect for fall!

From Hello Natural

I love this beautifully designed word art:

From Society 6

Hopefully wherever you are in the world, you'll get some time to curl up and read this weekend! We have a weekend off, and in these next few days, reading is going to be my main agenda. I'll looking forward to it.

Here are some links for you all:

Do you know anything about the science of coffee?

Why our imaginations are not safe, and why we should embrace that.

Kitchen incubators are inspiring places where those who have the passion for food find resources to start their own businesses.

Here's how to treat yourself to a foot soak this weekend.

Foie gras doughnuts? Frog legs in a spicy Dr. Pepper glaze? You can eat them at Do or Dine!

Five novels that changed the way this editor reads the Bible.

These women are passionate about candy, and helping you regain your inner candy maker.

Have a fun weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Hobbes In Photos

It’s been a while since Hobbes had a blog post all to herself. She’s about full grown now, and I’d estimate that she’s about 8 or 9 pounds. She’s a little smaller than Checkers was, but just as opinionated.

Today, for example, I was eating a snack and noticed that Hobbes was crawling all over me. She always makes her presence known at meals, yet today she was being incredibly obtrusive. Then I realized why…I was holding a banana. That’s right. Hobbes now loves bananas. There's video evidence.

It’s so fun to watch this crazy adventurer on her little life journey. She changes all the time, yet remains as fierce and loving as ever. Along with her recent interest in bananas, she’s developed a strong passion for the bathroom sink. She will remain in the sink even if someone turns the faucet on, and commence licking the water off her back. She’s even climbed in as the water was running. If Aaron and I are reading or on our computers, and we suddenly notice that the house is extremely quiet, the first place we check is the bathroom. Often she’s in there, hanging out in her new favorite place.

Sorry about our not cute bathroom...but the expression on Hobbes' face makes me laugh every time!
Sometimes she’s incredibly smart. This past weekend, we were getting ready to leave for a visit up to Boston. It was an overnight visit, so we left her behind for the night. Even though her travel case was still in our stairwell closet, she hid under the couch as we started to take things up to the car. However, we’d packed in my backpack and Aaron’s messenger bag, which is what we take to the university other days of the week. There weren't many indicators that we were going to Boston, yet Hobbes totally knew, and she thought we were going to take her. So she hid under the couch. When Aaron came back inside to lock up, she’d climbed on top of the tower he built for her, but as soon as he walked through the door, she darted back under the couch. She knew! Luckily for her, we left her in the Hobbit Hole.

Sometimes I feel like I've known her forever. I jokingly call her my spirit animal, and even though I don’t really believe in spirit animals, I do share a bond with that crazy little cat. I’m sure other pet owners can empathize with this feeling. We know they’re animals, and although they are incredibly smart, probably can’t understand every word we say. Yet they definitely know how we feel. 

I can’t believe Hobbes isn't quite a year old; I can’t imagine life without her.

Here are a few more of our favorite recent moments, including the time today when she decided to help me work...

Or her hilarious vacuum cleaner face... 

She's a character.

Tell me about your pets! (Especially if they're cats!)