Monday, September 3, 2012

Superfood Salad

While visiting family recently in the U.K., I had the opportunity to try some of Marks & Spencer's to-go salads and ready-meals, all of which were excellent. I was really taken with one in particular - the "superfood salad." It was so tasty that I decided I would try to recreate it when I returned home.

I should have written down the ingredient list, as by the time I got home I couldn't remember exactly what all went into it. I decided to experiment a little and see what I could come up with on my own. So this isn't an exact replica of the M&S recipe, but it's a decent attempt. Their salad included a tiny pot of yogurt-mint dressing, which I didn't think was anything special, so I've left it out, but feel free to add a little of your own dressing if you like. This makes about 8 1-cup servings.


Superfood Salad

  • 1 Cup Red Quinoa
  • 2 Cups Water
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 Cup Green Lentils
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 2 Cups Broccoli - fresh or frozen
  • 1 Cup Edamame
  • 1 Cup Bean of choice - I used heirloom goose beans from the garden, but M&S used a mixture of kidney, pinto and mung beans
  • 4 oz. Feta Cheese (optional)
Cooking Directions
  1. Add quinoa to 2 cups water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add salt, cover and turn heat to low.
  2. Simmer for 20 minutes. Turn off heat and let sit another 5 minutes. Drain off any excess water, place in a large container and fluff with fork.
  3. Place lentils in small pot and add just enough water to cover. Add bay leaf. Heat to boiling, then turn down to low and let simmer 20 minutes.
  4. Drain, discard bay leaf, and add lentils to quinoa.
  5. Prepare broccoli according to package directions. Add to quinoa mixture.
  6. Cook beans according to package directions. If using canned beans, drain and rinse, then add to quinoa mixture. I boiled fresh green beans for about 20 minutes, or until the water is nearly evaporated.
  7. Stir in edamame
  8. Just before serving, sprinkle a tablespoonful of feta cheese over each serving.

Superfood Salad

Please note that red quinoa works better in this recipe because it stays crunchy after cooking, unlike regular quinoa. Likewise, it is best to use French/green lentils because other types of lentil get mushy, and you don't want that. This salad should be chewy.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Bakersfield OTR

Bakersfield OTR
1214 Vine St.
Tel: 513-579-0446

We decided to drop by Bakersfield OTR recently to sample their Mexican-influenced street-fare tacos, two of which are vegetarian-friendly. The restaurant is smack in the middle of the busy, buzzy Gateway Quarter, housed in a lovingly refurbished brick building next to Lavomatic Cafe.

Bakersfield OTR

The restaurant focuses on tacos, tequila, and whiskey, with special emphasis on Kentucky bourbons. As much as we love our bourbon, the gloriously fine weather begged for something light and fruity, so I opted for a sangria, and it didn't disappoint.

Sangria served in a Mason jar

We ordered a basket of chips and salsa ($3) to nibble on; other options include chips and guacamole ($5) and chips and queso ($5). They also offer two salads, both of which can be made vegetarian.

Chips and salsa

A nice touch is that Bakersfield makes all their tortillas in house, and they are far superior to the store-bought variety. The restaurant's two vegetarian taco selections are Huitlacoche ($4) consisting of corn, corn truffles, roasted poblano, onion, cotija cheese and cilantro, and Rajas ($3) which subs out the corn and corn truffles for portobello mushrooms, and swaps the cotija for queso fresca. Both are tasty. Those lime wedges aren't just for show either - be sure to squeeze them over your tacos for a bright burst of added flavor.

Huitlacoche taco on left, Rajas on right

Steve chose the fish taco ($4), which is topped with shredded cabbage and Tabasco lime sauce, and the Pastor ($3), consisting of marinated pork, pickled onion, pineapple and cilantro. He misread the menu and wasn't expecting the fish to be fried. He didn't care much for it, but was wowed by the flavor-packed pork selection.

Colorful fish taco in foreground, Pastor taco on right

Bakersfield isn't a large place and I can only imagine how packed it gets at night, but it's a tasty place to while away a Sunday afternoon.

Bakersfield bar

Bakersfield OTR on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


2515 Wilson Road
Highland Heights, KY


We were lured into Smashburger by a BOGO coupon included in a recent issue of The Enquirer. The menu looked promising - a black bean burger, several vegetarian salads, unique veggie sides like fried green chilies, fried pickles, flash-fried carrots and green beans, and sweet potato fries. Intrigued, we stopped in to check it out.

a bright, inviting entrance

The interior is clean and inviting, and staff were friendly and very helpful. While customers order at a counter similar to any of the myriad fast food joints dotting highway exits, Smashburger reminded me of the burger equivalent of Chipotle, especially when I noticed that the restaurant, like Chipotle, offers bottled beer in addition to the standard soda fountain drinks. Kentucky locations also offer popular Ale-8-One, the only soft drink invented in Kentucky still in existence.

Clean design

We shared a side of fried pickles ($2.29) to start, and I opted for the Spicy Baja Black Bean Burger ($4.99), which certainly lived up to its name. Chock full of freshly sliced jalapenos and red onion, then slathered in guacamole and spicy chipotle mayo and finished off with melted pepper-jack cheese, this sandwich isn't for the faint of heart. It will light you up - if you can actually figure out a way to eat it. Since we were both curious about their Smashfries (rosemary, olive oil, and garlic, $1.99), I added them to my order as well.

Fried pickles
The wire serving trays may look stylish and bang-up-to-date, but the paper lining does little by way of containing drippings and juice. Messy, messy, messy.

Spicy Baja Black Bean Burger with Smashfries

Steve chose the Mushroom Swiss chicken sandwich ($5.99), which comes with your choice of grilled or fried chicken. He added chili cheese fries to his order for an extra $2.99. Unlike my sandwich, which was packed with flavor, his was limp, bland, and disappointing. Neither of us was impressed with the shoestring fries, which tasted freezer burnt.

Mushroom Swiss chicken sandwich with chili cheese fries

The problem I had with Smashburger is that everything seems thrown together sloppily. From the over-sized patty on a buttery-slick bun to the lashings of condiments, I found it a struggle to handle my sandwich and not end up wearing half. Messy doesn't even begin to describe it. As it happened, I had several napkins in my lap and something still seeped through and ruined a pair of my good trousers. Epic fail!

Even though Steve and I both drank water and used a buy-one-get-one coupon, our meal still clocked in at over $16.00. There are scads of restaurants we can eat at for that price, and have a much more pleasurable experience. Eating should be enjoyable - Smashburger is not.
Smashburger on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Orzo Tomato Salad with Feta

Orzo Tomato Salad with Feta
Serves 8

 A coworker passed along this recipe to me. It was originally published in Bon Appetit in the April 2006 issue. I have tweaked it to comply with a vegetarian diet. I tend to err on the side of caution with the seasoning. I use McKay's instant broth, which is a little salty, but because the orzo is drained and rinsed, much of the salt is washed away. I normally do not season the vinaigrette but instead adjust to taste at the end. Ideally this recipe is to be served at room temperature.

Orzo Tomato Salad with Feta


  • 1/4 Cup Red wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbs Fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp Honey
  • 1/3 Cup Olive Oil
  • 6 Cup Vegetarian broth
  • 1 Lb. Orzo or riso
  • 2 Cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 7 oz. package feta cheese
  • 1 Cup basil, fresh
  • 1 Cup green onion, chopped
  • 1/2 Cup pine nuts, toasted

Orzo Salad ingredients

juicing the lemon

1. Whisk together vinegar, lemon juice, and honey in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in olive oil. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Whole Foods 365 brand of feta cheese is vegetarian.

2. Bring broth to a boil in a large heavy saucepan. Stir in orzo, reduce heat to medium and stir occasionally, until al dente, about 8 minutes. 3. Drain and rinse. Transfer to a large wide bowl and toss frequently until cool.

4. Toast pine nuts. Toasting pine nuts is easy - just heat a dry skillet to medium-high, add pine nuts and stir for a minute or so, just until they start to turn color and are fragrant. Place on a paper towel to cool.

5. Mix tomatoes, feta, basil, and green onions into orzo. Add vinaigrette and toss to coat. Stir in pine nuts. Season with salt and pepper.

For a printable copy of this recipe, click here.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Copper Blue

Copper Blue (A Grub Shack)
900 Main St.
Milford, Ohio 45150
tel: 513-239-8450 

 Named after the fantastic LP by Sugar (in my mind*), this locally owned restaurant is housed in a former Shoney's. They've tinted the windows with a coppery film, spruced the interior up with a bold color scheme, and added music selections right out of the old 97X handbook. We heard Barenaked Ladies playing as we walked in, and they offered up lots of good WOXY-style bands during our visit, including some deep catalog stuff. Nice.

 The menu selections are standard American fare - similar to the big "TGI O'Chilibee's" chain restaurants (think burgers, steaks, huge appetizers etc.), except that most everything is made fresh in-house. I ordered a spicy black bean burger ($7.99) and was surprised to find that it was actually hand-made, rather than a previously frozen patty. It had a nice flavor and was really thick, if a little gummy. While this is the only vegetarian entree on the menu, they offer several good-sized veggie appetizers (black bean dip & chips, or veggie flatbread, each around $6) and a handful of salad options that could stand-in for an entree if desired.

 Others in our party ordered the fish tacos ($8.29), a steak salad ($10.79), and buffalo mac & cheese ($13.99). Portions were large but not belt-busting crazy big like Cheesecake Factory, and everything was plated nicely. Service was excellent; friendly and efficient. Props also for the small but decent selection of craft and imported beer. They stock several from Mt. Carmel Brewing Co. and Bluegrass Brewing Co. as well.

 Their hand-cut fries are probably the best we've had around here - even better than those from Five Guys. In fact, the only ones we've had stateside that are better were at Emmon's Dublin Chipper in Alexandria, Virginia. We'd return just for the fries - but everything about the place was inviting. It's not the sort of place we'd go out of our way to visit, but on the off chance that we are in the Milford area again in the future, we'd go back.

 Sorry for the lack of photos - my camera battery was out of juice.

 *The restaurant is actually named Copper Blue in homage to the owners' respective native lands (the 'Copper' Country of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, and the 'Blue'grass of Kentucky). But I wouldn't be surprised to hear Sugar on the restaurant's playlist.
Copper Blue on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

2012 Vegetarian World Summit

The 2012 Vegetarian World Summit, Veganpalooza,  runs July 11-15. The free online conference promotes veganism to awaken the mind, body and spirit. To register, visit

Friday, May 4, 2012

Asian Food Fest runs May 19-20

The third annual Asian Food Fest will be held on May 19 & 20, 2012 on Freedom Way at The Banks, located between Paul Brown Stadium and the Great American Ball Park in downtown Cincinnati. The festival will feature food from various countries such as Vietnam, Thailand, Philippines, India, Indonesia, and many more. There will also be local craft and Asian beer, live entertainment, children games, and fireworks by Arthur Rozzi Pyrotechnics on Saturday night.
There will be no entrance fee, but donations are encouraged. Vendors will be selling sample size portions from $2-$6. The food festival will be the first weekend-long event held at The Banks and the first festival of its kind in downtown.  The event runs Saturday 11 a.m. -Midnight, and Sunday 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
All proceeds from this year’s festival will be used to host future Asian cultural events and to help build a medical center for the indigenous people in Pleiku, Vietnam through Care2Share.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

VeganEarth potluck and program announced

VeganEarth is hosting their monthly potluck and program on Sunday, April 15 at Clifton United Methodist Church, 3416 Clifton Ave., Clifton. The potluck begins at 2:30 p.m. with "Table Discussions" following.

All attendees are encouraged to bring a vegan dish to share, as well as compostable or reusable plates and utensils.

For more information, call 513-929-2900 or visit".

Thursday, March 29, 2012


1211 Main Street
Tel: 513-381-5999

Mayberry has moved from it's location across from the public library on Vine Street to the building formerly occupied by Courtyard Cafe in Over-the-Rhine. The building has been given a fresh facelift inside and out; it's amazing what a lick of paint, some minor remodeling, and comfortable furnishings can do for a place. The one feature left untouched in the renovation is the lovely old wooden bar. Yes, Mayberry now has a liquor license.


It is nice to have some elbow room at Mayberry; their former space could be downright unbearable during the lunch rush. The new location is vibrant yet relaxing.

The spring lunch menu includes two vegetarian items: Romaine Salad (beets, feta, cucumber, sunflower seeds, balsamic vinaigrette $7), and Veggie Wrap (marinated veggies, mushrooms, and feta $7). Fans of their tater tot casserole ($3) will be pleased to know it is still on the menu, as are sweet potato fries ($4) and mac 'n cheese ($3). They offer pure cane sugar sodas too; a big plus for those of us who shun high fructose corn syrup.

Veggie Wrap with a side of couscous salad and tater tot casserole

My friend chose the Monte Cristo (turkey, ham, bacon, cherry date compote) and I opted for the Veggie Wrap. The light, tangy marinade reminded me of the sweet rice vinegar mixture I use for pickling radishes. It is a very tasty sandwich. All orders come with a side of couscous salad delicately flavored with raisins and walnuts.

Monte Crisco

The restaurant is open for lunch Tuesday through Saturday, 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. and dinner service runs from 6-9:30 p.m. I'm glad to find Chef Josh Campbell's delicious fare in this new location. It's a plus for Main Street, for the neighborhood, and for Cincinnati.
Mayberry on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Moerlein Lager House

Moerlein Lager House
115 Joe Nuxhall Way
Tel: 513-421-2337

As much as I love beer - and Christian Moerlein in particular - I cannot recommend the new Moerlein Lager House to readers of this blog because of the abysmal vegetarian selections on the menu. We eagerly visited on opening day Monday, and what a disappointment! Vegans get diddly - not even a salad, and vegetarians are relegated to appetizers: parmesan garlic fries ($7), a plate of soft pretzels with a gloppy Velveeta-style cheese sauce (not vegetarian!) and horseradish sauce ($7), deep-fried pickles ($8), or lager bread ($7). The caprese flatbread ($9) is the lone veggie entree on the lunch menu; there isn't anything at all on the dinner menu. It's a real shame that the signature restaurant at The Banks didn't take us into consideration.

The building is lovely, the view amazing and the beer is awesome. Just don't plan on having a meal there if you don't eat meat.
Moerlein Lager House (open 2/2012) on Urbanspoon

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sky Galley

Sky Galley
Lunken Airfield
262 Wilmer Ave.
East End
tel: 513-871-7400

Steve and I are once again training for the Flying Pig Half Marathon and have been scouting out a few new routes to add a little variety and give us a change of scenery. On the advice of a friend, we headed out to historic Lunken Airfield to check out their fitness trails. While there, we happened across Sky Galley, a restaurant and lounge located inside the airport terminal.

Sky Galley

We really weren't expecting much out of an airport diner, but were pleasantly surprised. On the Sunday afternoon we stopped in, the place was buzzing with a good mix of local old timers, pilots, well-groomed elderly ladies, families with small kids, and fitness fans finishing their workouts. We nabbed a table next to the large bank of windows overlooking the runways and settled in to perusing the menu.

Entrance to Sky Galley

There aren't many vegetarian options. I was bemused that they don't even offer a veggie burger, since that is usually the one thing vegetarians can rely on when dining out. The vegetarian entrees offered are a cheese & veggie quesadilla ($8.95), and linguine in garlic wine sauce with a side salad ($12.95). I opted for the latter, while Steve chose a grilled chicken sandwich with Swiss cheese, mushrooms and a side of fries. He was frightened off of his first choice, the Jack Daniels grilled chicken with bourbon hot sauce ($7.95), because the server warned him that the sauce had a "real kick" to it. Fair enough.

Linguine in garlic wine sauce

I thought the garlic wine sauce on my linguine was really nice, if a bit salty. I was glad that the dish came with shredded Parmesan on the side instead of topping the pasta, because it wasn't needed. The pasta came with sauteed onions, red peppers and mushrooms, and several over-boiled chunks of broccoli. Not bad, but not great. Steve was noncommittal on his sandwich but had better things to say about the hand-cut fries.

Grilled chicken with Swiss and mushrooms

While Sky Galley doesn't serve up anything out of the ordinary, there are extraordinary things afoot at Lunken. Flamingo Air offers an hour of sexy time in the air with champagne, chocolates and one very discreet pilot for $425. The Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) also calls Lunken home. Flamingo Air's president, David McDonald, is the organization's national director. And if all this crazy sexy stuff is a little too much for a city renowned for its stodgy sensibilities, the terminal itself - a paean to Art Deco - is oh so cool and well worth checking out.

Sky Galley on Urbanspoon

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Recipe: Potato Soup

There is nothing quite like the warming quality of a hearty, home made soup on a cold winter's day. This potato soup recipe is dead easy, cheap as chips and utterly delicious. It comes courtesy of my mom; she has been whipping up batches for over 60 years. I am hesitant to say how many servings this recipe makes because it depends on the size of the potatoes, but we usually get around 12 servings out of it.

Mom's Potato Soup


  • 10-12 potatoes, peeled and diced
  • water to cover
  • 2 small onions, diced
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 ribs celery, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Cup half and half
  • 1 Cup vegetable broth (I swear by McKay's)

Potato Soup ingredients

1. Place potatoes, onions, garlic, and celery in a large pot or Dutch oven. Pour in just enough water to cover the potatoes. Add salt and simmer about 30 minutes.

2. Remove 3 cups of potato mixture and mash thoroughly, then return to pot. This thickens the soup while still leaving lots of satisfying chunks. If you want a creamier soup, go nuts with the immersion blender.

3. Stir in half & half and broth. Heat through.


After running out of McKay's seasoning recently, I realized that it is not an easy item to locate in the Cincinnati area. I came away empty-handed from all area groceries, including Whole Foods, Trader Joe's and Jungle Jim's International Market, and the shipping fees on the company's website are simply too high. I ended up stopping by Health Foods Unlimited while visiting family in Dayton, as it is the only place I have been able to find it consistently. Before we moved to Newport, Health Foods Unlimited was my go-to grocery for all things vegetarian and healthy, and I'm quite happy to continue giving them my custom - but if anyone knows where I can buy McKay's seasoning in town, please let me know!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Want to try Green B.E.A.N Delivery?

I recently had the opportunity to try out the Green B.E.A.N. Delivery Service, a food distribution company providing healthy, organic and sustainably-grown local foods to the community at affordable prices. It works like this: users sign up with a credit card and go the website to create an online standing order, which consists of the produce bin of your choice (minimum charge $35), and delivery frequency, such as weekly or biweekly. Each produce bin is 100 percent customizable, and you can add local dairy, meats, bread and other grocery products on top of your minimum produce order. Members can choose from over 400 products, which are guaranteed all-natural and free of additives and preservatives.

Would you like to try it too? Read on for a special promo code for readers of Veggie Option!

Customizing my produce bin was fun; there are so many interesting fruits and vegetables to choose from that it is easy to get carried away. The list is a drop-down menu that is mix & match to a price point. I tried to choose as many seasonal items as I could, even ones that I usually shy away from in the grocery store (kale, I am looking at you).

My bin arrived on the front porch Friday afternoon - Northern Kentucky's designated delivery day. The produce is well-packed inside an insulated liner that includes a large, reusable ice pack.

Green B.E.A.N. produce bin

There was one hiccup with my order: as I crossed off each item on the invoice, I discovered that I was shorted two apples but didn't know which ones were missing because the apples I received weren't marked or labeled. Was I missing two organic Pinatas, or two organic Pink Ladys? I contacted the company, but since they were already closed for the weekend this issue hasn't yet been resolved.

Always double-check your invoice

To gauge the value of the service, I visited my local Kroger (a Kroger Marketplace at Newport Pavilion) and tallied up the prices on their organic produce and compared it to that of my Green B.E.A.N produce bin. Kroger didn't carry either of the organic apples I'd chosen from Green B.E.A.N., so I used their standard organic apple price, which is $1.69 per pound. The Kroger order came to $29.47 compared to Green B.E.A.N's $35. I think $5.53 is a fair price to pay for the convenience of having the order delivered directly to my doorstep, so in that respect Green B.E.A.N. Delivery is good value for money - especially if you don't live close to a grocery that carries a lot of quality, organic produce.

Veggies are well-packed in the insulated cooler

The haul: Russet potatoes, red potatoes, carrots, yellow onions, cabbage, cauliflower, lime, Cara Cara orange, apples, Concorde pears, Butternut squash, Romaine heart lettuce and one bunch red kale.

Interested in giving Green B.E.A.N a try? Readers of Veggie Option can use promo code VOnkAB for 50 percent off their first order (this does not apply to any grocery items added to the first order). Also, the promo code expires on January 22, 2012 and is for new members and reactivations only. For more information or to sign up, visit