Category Archives: Kitchen

Black Pepper Game Changer and My First Recipe!

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it (too) much but vegan cooking can tend towards the bland if you’re not careful.  Without dairy and meat fats and oils to “beef up” a dish, you really have to consider where your flavor is going to come from.  And I have to tell you guys, Black Pepper Sauce by My Crazy Vegan Kitchen changed the game.

I was Pinterest searching the other night for some veg burgers to make for a work camp outing (always interesting to camp with your co-workers …), I traveled down the rabbit hole and found the recipe in the link above.  I didn’t even end up putting it on a burger, but I’ve been putting it on Everything Else I Can Get My Hands On.  Case in point, the portabella cap and polenta in the image below.  Mouthwatering.  It would be great on any vegetable – broccoli, cauliflower, squash (zoodles …. mmmm!)  and paired with a black pepper sauced rice, you’re talking a Foodie Award.  (Is that a thing?  It is now.)

I think I also have my first recipe!  Our usual go-to recipe for weekend mornings or when there’s no other options for dinner goes something like this: Tofu + Can of Beans + Can of Rotel + Anything else in the kitchen + Wrapped in a tortilla.  We eat this a lot.  I was putting together a batch the other day but we didn’t have the usual suspects … and so I think I may have invented my first recipe.  I’m calling it Saucy Taco Salad.   However I didn’t know I was inventing greatness and so I took no photographs to document my culinary experience.  So here’s a recap:
CT’s Saucy Taco Salad:

For the Saucy Part:

1 can vegetarian refried beans
1 can fire roasted and diced tomatoes
1 cup or less of corn (I have been using more white or shoepeg corn lately for a little variety)
2 tsp chipotle powder
1 tsp liquid smoke
2 tsp brown sugar

1. Combine all the above items in a pan on medium heat.  Stir thoroughly and heat through.  Simple!

2.  To make the taco salad bowl, use an oven safe bowl (I used our enamelware camping bowls), lightly grease the bottom of the bowl and drape a tortilla over the bowl.  Bake/toast in the oven at 350 degrees until it seems crispy to your liking.  I think ours took about 5-7 minutes.

3.  Serve!  Fill the taco bowl with lettuce or some form of greens, fill with heaping spoonfuls of the saucy mix and top with whatever you have – we used raw onion and guacamole (the little single serve guacamole cups from Costco are the best.)  Cilantro and a sour cream replacement could work (I’ve make a cashew crema before that was pretty yummy).

Also, has anyone tried charcoal water?  One of our reps for work brought it in (he’s a super buff, marathon and yoga type guy and knows better than to bring donuts thank goodness).  It looks scary and you feel like your teeth will turn out India ink colored but it’s actually pretty good.

Cheers! CT

Wrought Iron Was Here

We have conquered one more light fixture and moved a step forward out of wretchedness!  The nook that is currently our coffee chat/pantry area originally had this fixture which JT dubbed “The Octopus”.

dr nook

I had my eye out for replacement fixtures while we were looking for the living room ceiling fans but hadn’t found anything that was 100% “the one”.   Plus with the future use for this space changing at some point, I wasn’t quite ready to commit to a fixture.

JT is not as commitment-phobic as I am (which is a good thing for me I guess!) and while we were at Lowe’s picking up a vacuum cleaner that could handle massive amounts of dog hair AND stairs (adjusting to life on two stories!), we saw a display of interesting light fixtures.  And we bit.

JT was happy to take down the Octopus (he went to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore along with the original ceiling fans) and up went the new fixture.  I can’t find it online now but I’m pretty sure it is by Allen + Roth for Lowes.


It has the trendy Edison bulb which we have on a dimmer so we can set the light level.  It was only $80 which isn’t bad for a decent light fixture.  I like that it is clear so it doesn’t distract from our view out the window to the mountain.  But it has one little kink in the cord that no amount of adjusting could fix.  I was hoping that it would “hang out” – that over time and with the steady pull of gravity this would correct itself but it has been a few months and that tiny kink is still there.   So it’s probably not a forever light but it’s so nice to have the wrought iron gone and one less ugly light fixture hanging around.


Let’s just crop out the pantry shelves and look at our little nook like this for now …  Happy Friday!  It’s going to be 115 degrees here today!  Stay cool – CT


Vegan Eats, Tiny Kitchen Edition

When I mentioned in the last post that our kitchen is so tiny, we would just keep getting take out until we renovated it, I was only halfway kidding.  Both JT and I work four (more than) ten-hour days and healthy, from-scratch cooking at the end of those days (in a tiny kitchen) just wasn’t always happening.  Add on top of that my study schedule for the NCIDQ (still no results yet — arrggh!) and I was happy that we found someone to cook for us.  That’s right folks, we have a personal chef…. sort of.  I convinced JT to accompany me to the 4th Annual Vegetarian Festival a while back in Scottsdale and learned of a local company called “The Vegan Taste


Every other Monday a cooler arrives at our front door with fully cooked all-vegan meals in individual portions.  I just stick the menu on the fridge and pick out a labeled Tupperware to reheat for my dinner.  JT does the same and we can even have different things for dinner on the same night (gasp!).  It’s been great.

On the non-delivery weeks we cook.  I try to do a lot of the prep work on the weekends to make it easier on the weeknights.  Here’s a few of our favorite tried and true recipes we love:

Eggplant Meatballs (with pasta and a spicy red sauce) from SkinnyTaste
Creamy Coconut Garlic Mushrooms (also could be with pasta or  spiralized squash … yep, we’ve been spiralizing and it’s great!) from It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken
Chipotle Mac and Cheese (I guess we have a pasta theme going on … I swear we eat more than just pasta!) from the Post Punk Kitchen
Deconstructed Falafel Bowl from Vegan Yack Attack
Thai Peanut Sauce Spaghetti Squash from Leelalicious
Pesto Tortilla Round-Ups from Vegan in the Freezer (great for lunches)

For more ideas and to see what we’ve tried out, check out my Pinterest board here.

In other vegan news, eggs!

I tend to steer clear of the meat and cheese replacers – the fake products are often very processed and I don’t really like the taste of meat anyway so I’m not too interested in a fake meat.  However I saw a vegan egg product at our local Sprouts store that I thought I might try …

It came in a cute little 4 pack egg cardboard carton but what was actually in the carton was the bag of powder … When mixed with cold water as directed, it did actually have that sulfurous smell of eggs but more the consistency of a cornbread batter.  I mixed it up into a kind of huevos rancheros breakfast burritos but at the end of the day I think my opinion of replacement products holds up.  This is not something you could probably ever convince a non-vegan to eat and there are so many yummy other ingredients you could mix in with the beans (rice, avocado, roasted corn, chipotle salsa …) that I don’t think the fake eggs make the cut.  I did however use them as an egg substitute in a cookie that I made for work (Gooey butter cookies also with vegan cream cheese and pea protein margarine) and they were a hit – no one realized they were secretly vegan.  Probably because they were covered in sugar.

So that’ s what’s going on in our tiny kitchen.  Any other must try vegan recipes I need to know about?  Cheers – CT






When Plans Change

As I mentioned the other day, we had an initial plan for our first floor when we moved in and after having lived here for a year and making some furniture investments, it has all shifted.

We knew from Day One that the kitchen was too small.  It didn’t seem to fit in a 3 bedroom, 1600 sf house – JT and I are a family of two and it’s small even for us.  But we had a tiny kitchen in St. Louis (remember that guy, he was in the Small Cool contest once upon a time!) so we knew it could make it work.  And with real estate, you know the saying – location, location, location.  With a mountain in our backyard, we had location covered.

Here’s our first floor plan when we moved in.

\ADMFS1redirectedcthompsonMy DocumentsCT MISC4327CCORRALI took some more photos of the kitchen today just to illustrate its postage stamp size.


And don’t forget the boob lights – a matched pair!

Often when we are cooking in here (especially on the weekend when I like to prep a few meals at a time, the counter can be entirely taken over.


Like so.  Bad picture but you get the idea.  This tiny kitchen gave us just enough cabinet space for our dishes and cookware but nowhere to go with all our food, spices and baking supplies.  So the breakfast nook became the pantry.


When we were buying the house, I had my eye on the wet bar as the solution to our floor plan conundrum.  Standing at the wet bar, you’re within steps to either the kitchen sink or the first floor half bath sink.  So a wet bar sink didn’t seem all that necessary. Here’s a photo for reference (because this post is going to need more photos …)

lr 1

I envisioned walling it off towards the living room, and turning it into a large pantry accessible from the hallway side.  One side of the wet bar is already a coat closet and since we currently have all three of our coats (used mainly for skiing in Flagstaff rather than used in Phoenix) in the laundry room, I thought we could open it all up into one large closet/pantry.  I had dreams of an appliance garage and a mobile baking station and hiding oodles of clutter behind some kind of funky barn door system.

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I still think this plan works well for the space it makes in the living room.  Haha, I just saw that my plan is mislabeled – copy/paste wins again – and there really isn’t a dining component in the living space in this option.  I thought once we walled off the back of the wet bar, we would hang the TV there and make a cool fauxdenza or some sort of media wall.  Then there could be a desk by the patio window.  In the breakfast nook I was planning a counter height or bar height large table with a butcher block top so it could be used as additional counter and food prep space.  This solves a lot of problems with minimal cash outflow (of course at some point I would still love new appliances, countertops and cabinets also ….)

And then one day JT and I were talking about how lucky we were to live next to a mountain and wondering how it came to be that our house ever sat empty on the market for as long as it did.  And we came to the same conclusion – it had to be the kitchen size.  And a new floor plan idea came to life that may actually solve this conundrum.

\ADMFS1redirectedcthompsonMy DocumentsCT MISC4327CCORRAL

In this scenario, the dreaded wet bar and associated coat closet get demolished entirely.  It would mean all new flooring through out this level (good-bye dreary dirt brown floors!)  We would blow out the wing walls around the current U-shape kitchen and open it up as much as possible.  There is still a jut-out in the shape of the floor plate so we would turn that into a nook filled with a 24″ wide all refrigerator, base cabinets and a 36″ wide under counter two door freezer.  The windows in the breakfast nook now go below the counter height so we would have to replace the windows there.  And since we would have to replace the window, I would go down to a 5′-0″ opening so we could have a 24″ wide tall pantry to mirror the fridge.  Continuing into the existing U-shape foot print, we would have one piece of wall blank where we could hang our pots and pans on a rail (I really loved the ease of access for that in our last house.)  I would be able to center the sink on the window (it makes me crazy that it’s off center now) and move the dishwasher to the other side so it wouldn’t be so in the way when it’s open.  I would keep the range in the same location and I think maybe open shelves or some kind of cool upper cabinets would go on that wall that would tie into a proper range hood.   Then we would extend the counter out into the living space so we could have stools on the other side and the person in the kitchen isn’t cut-off from the living space so much.  Opening up the kitchen like this also makes room for an island.  I think we would just do a furniture one versus a built-in but OMG – so much more storage in this option, even though we would lose a wall of upper cabinets.


And if it could end up looking like this house (in Australia, of course) designed by Corben Architects and found here, that would be pretty amazing too.  As you can see, this is a big dream that would involve a decently big budget so we need to figure out our next steps.  Right now I’m just going to get take out and forget we even have a kitchen.

Cheers – CT


Shelves Solved

After my moaning and groaning back in January about not having a good shelf solution for the weird, awkward cabinet-less corner of our rental kitchen, I pretty much promptly went out and solved our problem and then fully neglected to blog about it. Here’s what we were dealing with – a strange space that wasn’t doing much good.

HOLE IN THE KITCHEN We tried living with the rolling cart island from our old kitchen as a countertop extension for awhile.  Not too bad but the lower shelf was broken during the move and so it’s not so functional anymore for storage. KITCHEN FOR A WHILE 2 We’ve actually tried a few other things out in the kitchen – like the tulip table when we very first moved in (hard to believe that was six months ago!). KITCHEN AT MOVE IN It filled the little corner well and was a nice place for breakfast but ultimately it was needed for the dining room. Next we tried  the “beer pong” dining room table that also once lived in our old house. KITCHEN FOR A WHILE It felt a little too low to the ground and didn’t offer any storage either.

But now with a little help from Ikea and a little Frankensteining of our furniture, we now have a layout that’s working pretty well.  First the Ikea part: NEW CABINET This guy (the Fabrikor)  has been holding our meager liquor supply for a few months now and has blended in well with the kitchen.  And literally, that’s why I picked it, to blend in well.  I really hate our bland beige yellow wall color but this house is a rental and I just can’t bring myself to paint the whole slam-damn thing.  So this beige-y tan metal cabinet is a great chameleon with the wall and calls less attention to the dingy paint color than a nice fresh white cabinet would.  And since it’s all metal, when we move on to our next house, I’ll just spray paint that baby and leave the beige behind. CONTENTS Having glass on the front and sides is great right next to the window.  It fills the space but still lets a lot of light through.

Now on to the Frankensteining – we took the base from the metal rolling cart and married it up with the wood top from our old, old, old dining table. CORNER NOW Yep, that’s an extra and ginormous bag of dog food hanging out there.  Sorry Pope, we have dogs not kids.  Now the table/cart is a much better size and scale.  I’ve been on the lookout for a few barstools to add around it too but no rush. CLOSE UP JT picked out the poster actually but I rather like it for our crazy vegan kitchen. So that’s what’s been happening in our kitchen.  What about yours?  I caught LizardMan checking the kitchen out too the other day.  He’s cute and I like the blue streaks on his belly but I hope he just keeps checking things out from the outside the house . . . . LIZARD MAN

Phoenix is being very shelf-ish

It’s an age-old conundrum – once you are seeking something specific, you cannot find it.  The universe hides it from you (or something).  Well universe I need a set of shelves for my kitchen and you can stop playing around now, okay!

Here’s what I’m blabbering about:


Why leave such a random hole in such a random place.  Run the counter top to the corner.  Put in a few more cabinets. You’re killing me Smalls.

What’s really killing me is Craigslist.  I think I may have taken St. Louis offerings for granted but the general style in Phoenix seems to be too much money, not enough good taste.


Above is what I have been finding when I search “baker’s rack” on Craigslist Phoenix.  Not quite our style here at Living Analog.

So, like my “Dreaming Of” post, I thought I’d be more proactive in this needle-in-a-haystack search and tell you guys what I am looking for.  For starters something like this gorgeous industrial bakers rack via Hudson Goods.  This one was listed for $1089 . . . .


Or the amazing Decker Bookcase from Anthropologie at a mere $798 . . .


And one runner-up – the Emerson Bookcase from World Market as styled and lived with by the lovely Jones Design Company.  Getting better on price at $349 but still too wide for my weird little space.


I did find something to buy on Craigslist under my search term “shelves” . . .


Really stunning but at $850 and with nowhere to put it, someone else is going to have to buy this beauty. (Pretty please and let me visit it.  Thanks.)

So that’s what I’m searching for.  A three-foot wide set of shelves that is maybe around seven-foot tall.  With glass or metal or wood or whatever combination of those makes sense.  I know it’s out there and I’m going to keep on keeping on until I find it.  What are you searching for?  Any particular item that just eludes your grasp?  Let’s commiserate.  Cheers – CT

Marble makes everything better

Well I have picked up a few household goods on my thrifting expeditions.  When I was out at Goodwill and grabbed up the sandals, I also saw a little piece of marble looking for a new home.


For $2.99 I saw it and immediately formulated a plan.  How my brain can rationalize a purchase while I stand in the aisle of the thrift store and look at something is a special talent I appear to have honed.  At any rate, here’s the plan:  Cake stand makeover.


This one.  It has a dirty secret.


This poor little cake stand (a Pottery Barn wedding gift) was broken somewhere around the vicinity of 8 years ago.  I managed to glue it back together fairly cleanly, but the crack line was still visible.  So to hide it, I would use double-stick tape and cute scrapbook paper over the top to match whatever color scheme of whatever party/event I was using it at.  However this is not the most cleanly of uses for daily life.  Sub in marble for scrapbook paper and we have a much more permanent and beautiful solution.

The marble round had little ceramic feet attached to it which I vanquished in 5 minutes with the help of a heat gun and a scraper blade.


When I was standing in the aisle at Goodwill, I was thinking the marble trivet would probably be a tad larger than my cake stand but it turns out they are dead on the same size.


So far it is working out well and my little cake stand is really more of a produce stand.  There’s a place around the corner called “Summer’s Fruit Barn” that I visit usually at least twice a week.  The produce here in AZ is all so fresh and cheap, it’s great for a veg head like me.  Today’s tangerines looks so cheerful on their new (old but revamped) marble throne.

(Sorry for the tight shot here – there’s something going on back there that I’m saving for a later post . . . anticipation!)

Baking Break

With all this free time on my hands that retirement affords, I’ve been doing a little baking and a lot of cooking.  For Thanksgiving at my aunt’s amazing side-of-the-arroyo house in Tucson, we were in charge of the dinner rolls.  Thanks to Pinterest, I found a recipe for Sage Rosemary Dinner Rolls (via An Unrefined Vegan)


I got myself all set up in our new kitchen and went to town.  It’s amazing how fast your kitchen can descend into a messy madness when making bread.


I specifically went looking for a recipe that included rosemary as we have a big trailing rosemary plant stationed at the front door.


I think they turned out okay but a little tough.  I followed the recipes instructions and kneaded it for exactly 8 minutes.  I think if I had quit when it was all combined into a nice dough ball, the rolls would have been a little softer.  I went to the grocery store later that night and also ended up making a few tubes of crescent rolls too, just in case.

Our at-home Thanksgiving was Chipotle Quinoa Sweet Potato Tacos with Roasted Cranberry and Pomegranate Salsa.  I followed her instructions in the post about the pomegranate and peeled it underwater – it was magic!  The tacos were also magical and made a lot of leftovers.


However, Shenanigan is not impressed with all my vegan creations.  He does seem to be enjoying the stained and stamped concrete floors in our new place.  More soon!   Cheers – CT

Kitchen goodies

When you spend as much time cooking up your dinner as JT and I do (due to my conversion to veganism and a general interest in eating healthy, whole foods), your plates and dishware get a lot of use and abuse.  Way back when JT and I got married (9-1/2 years ago now!) we registered for Pottery Barn’s Great White collection of dishes and I must say they’ve held up pretty “great”.  There are a few permanent discolorations (small and not too noticeable) and I think we have broken one plate (not the plates fault, just slippery fingers).  However,  I did pack away the dinner plates because they’re HUGE!  So big that if you put a regular serving of dinner on there it looks shrimpy.  So on a daily basis we use the salad plates and those are just the right size.

I’ve been on a mission to reduce clutter and miscellaneous items in the house — a few weeks ago I took a few boxes to Goodwill and I have another two filled up in the basement as I type.  One thing that caught my eye as being not-as-much-used-maybe-it-could-go were a set of mocha brown salad plates and berry bowls that I had picked up at Target at least eight or so years ago.


Part of the nice part about the Great White plates is they mix and match with pretty much anything.  A few years ago I was on a big brown/tan kick and that’s pretty much shifted over to a black/gray/blue kick.  So I pulled out the plates and bowls for donation and decided a one-in, one-out policy wouldn’t be too bad for the berry bowls . . .


Especially after I saw these funky beauties at West Elm last Thursday . . . . I’m donating six brown bowls and only brought home 4 of the West Elm bowls so that counts as clutter reduction . . . right?  We have Great White cereal bowls but like the dinner plates, the cereal bowls are a bit large, so these West Elm bowls are a good size for starter salads, soups and other things.  Plus with the blue rim, they look so awesome in our blue kitchen.  Love.


(Above is the cavernous Pottery Barn bowl.  I think these must have been designed for a family of football players or something.  Or fat Americans who don’t understand serving sizes.)  I couldn’t escape West Elm without a few more of the Turkish hand towels.  They’re so lightweight and graphic looking, they dress up the stove instantly when draped over the door handle.


One other little thing came home with me . . . (maybe there’s a reason why I’m not so good at this whole controlling clutter thing after all . . . ) – these cute little gemstone shaped plastic bowls from Target.  (They were a set of two for 99 cents).  Right now it is proudly displaying my latest obsession – Good and Plentys.  I get these almost every time we are at the grocery store.  So much for eating healthy!

There was one thing I’m still dreaming about from my West Elm trip . . . the John Vogel chair in Acorn/Charcoal.  I furtively snapped a picture of it while we were in the store . . . wouldn’t that be dreamy around my tulip table?

west elm chair


Like a Vegan

(Sorry for the cheezy post title.  And apparently being a vegan means you spell cheese with a “z”.  Or at least the “cheeze” vegans eat.)

So, this change/upheaval in my diet has also wreaked a little havoc on our kitchen.  Every dinner begins with chopping broccoli (cue Dana Carvey) and ends with a load of dishes.  Our kitchen is TINY! and only has one 8′-6″ run of counter top (with a sink in it).  So, cooking is fun.  I feel like putting up a sign that says “lather, rinse, repeat” because the chopping, washing, dish-putting-away cycle seems endless sometimes.

E:CT HOUSE3341 JAN 2011 Model (1)

I’ve been looking for ways to streamline/simplify/organize and stumbled on a few.  #1 – Pot Lid racks from the Container Store.  This is one major base cabinet we have for cooking pan storage stuff.  In a perfect world the racks should have been mounted a tad lower on the door but I just centered them and hung them before I fully conceptualized how the dang things actually worked.  But all in all, this is a great space saver and makes the lids a lot easier to grab since they’re not all jumbled up like they were before.


#2 – Cookbooks!  Right now I have been checking out a lot of cookbooks from the library to see which ones I would like to purchase for long-term use.  And of course I print out recipes from Pinterest or the interwebs in general and just stick those on the fridge with a magnet.  I started pinning a bunch of ideas for cookbook storage and then happened across this little rack for $1.81 at Value Village and figured I’d give it a spin.


The biggest, bestest change we have made is in the pantry.  Now just understand that our pantry is a wreck and this change only involves the spices.  The rest is a work in progress.  Okay — remember – spices.  Here’s the pics:


The Elfa Over-the-Door system (also from the Container Store, are we sensing a trend?)  has made cooking SO. MUCH. BETTER.  Before all our spices were haphazardly placed in a pull out bin (see asterisk on the before picture).  In order to get at said spices, you had to pull out the whole bin, search for some precious space on the counter and hunt until you found the right spice (they’re not all labeled on the top).  Thanks to a gift card from my brother and sister-in-law for Christmas we took advantage of the January Elfa sale and splurged on this puppy a little.  But not to despair – it clamps to the top and bottom of the door and tightens down with a screw so we can take it with us forever and ever wherever we go (and we will).  The baskets easily lift off the track for quick spice access.  I could go on and on but let’s just say this thing is the bee’s knees and I love it and want to add a few more baskets.  (Also I just noticed the random black cloth on the sofa in the after picture – I was photographing a guitar for JT’s eBay endeavor and I could see the tan sofa reflecting on the nice shiny black guitar so presto – magical invisibility cloak cloth.)

So just for kicks, I thought I would share with you guys what this kitchen is whipping up:


1. Red Quinoa with Zucchini and Corn from Speed Vegan By Alan Roettinger (this was our first time having quinoa and it was really good!)

2. Jerk Sloppy Joes with Coconut Creamed Spinach from the Post Punk Kitchen

3. Black Beans, Mushrooms and Bok Choy from Speed Vegan


4. Cornmeal-Crusted Tempeh with Carrots and Green Lentils from The Candle Cafe Cookbook by Joy Pierson and Bart Potenza (just the tempeh recipe, the roasted carrots are from Door Sixteen – here.  The lentils we had in the freezer . . . )

5. Hottie Black Eyed Peas with Ginger Sweet Potatoes & Apples from the Post Punk Kitchen

#6 Brownie in a Mug – Improvised from a recipe/segment I heard on NPR.  I can’t find it on the website anymore but here’s my version of the recipe:

Combine 1T vegan butter, 1T almond milk and a splash  of vanilla extract in a bowl or mug.  Microwave until the butter melts.  Then stir in 1T flour, 1T sugar and 1T dark cocoa powder.  I also added some  peanut butter, the recipe also suggests powdered espresso which I would like to try as well. Microwave for 1 more minute and voila – a brownie in a mug!  

This is great since I have a total sweet tooth and JT does not.  Plus there’s only one bowl to clean which is great!  Our dishwasher is about to go on strike.