If you were a student at Virginia Tech, chances are you spent some time at the Squires Student Center in the north eastern area of campus. It’s home to the University Unions & Student Activities (the organization in charge of all student organizations as well as many campus wide events), the music department and a good place to meet and hang out. Squires was also at the edge of campus, a short walk to downtown Blacksburg. One of the downtown places to catch a quick and tasty bite is Souvlaki. They have excellent pita wraps with cucumber sauce called Tzatziki. Mmmmm….

Tempeh with Cucumber Sauce

For some reason I was thinking back to my times at Tech recently and the regular, uneventful moments. The ones where it’s you and a few of your friends hanging, not really doing anything. Maybe watching TV, maybe having a drink, maybe grabbing a bite. Souvlaki’s was one of those placed I did that.

So in the interest of bringing back old memories I decided to have a go at making my own vegetarian version of their souvlaki pita. Now they have a vegetarian item on the menu, but back then I was more of a meat eater so I threw tempeh into the mix. The result? Pretty tasty but not Souvlaki. There’s no denying that meat is a great flavoring agent for the ingredients it’s added with. Give it a whirl, though. I enjoyed it.

Tempeh Pita Sandwich With Cucumber Sauce

Tempeh Pita Sandwich with Cucumber (Tzatziki) Sauce
Uses the larger hole sizes on your grater so the cucumber shavings don’t slip through the colander’s slots.

2 small pita pockets; cut in half
5 oz english cucumber; peeled and roughly grated
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup greek yogurt (or make your own)
Juice of half a lemon
1 garlic clove; minced
1 tablespoon fresh dill; chopped
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 onion; chopped
5 oz tempeh; crumbled

Toss the cucumber in a colander and hand mix in the salt. Press some of the liquid out and throw in a food processor. Add the yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, dill and process till smooth.

Saute the onions for a couple minutes then add the tempeh and continue to saute for a few more minutes, adding more oil if necessary. Remove to a bowl and add the cucumber sauce until you reach your desired consistency. Fill your pita with lettuce, tomatoes and anything else you like in your pita sandwich before adding the tempeh. Enjoy.

Light Chicken Salad – What's Your Go-To Recipe?

So recently I wanted to create a really great light chicken salad. I know Edwin and I mention the grocery store in our hometown all the time, Ukrop’s, but they really do have great light chicken salad. Sadly the store bought chicken salad I tried at Harris Teeter in Northern Virginia was, well, gross!


This is not the spectacular replica I was hoping for, but it’s a start. I read some forums where others have tried to recreate it, and it seems that the only ingredients used are chicken, celery and mayonnaise. Since it’s labeled “light” chicken salad in the store, I assume that means a low fat mayo is used. I used fat free Miracle Whip in place of mayo, and it didn’t knock my socks off.


I’d really love some help on this recipe if any of you have suggestions or recommendations! I know it’s easy to go wild with chicken salad recipes (adding nuts, cranberries, etc.), but I’d really just like something very basic. What do you think?

chicken salad

Light Chicken Salad

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast
2 stalks celery, diced
1/2 to 1 cup of fat free Miracle Whip
1 baguette
paprika, salt, black pepper and cayenne to taste

Preheat oven to 400F and bake chicken (seasoned with spices above) for 20 minutes. Cut celery while chicken is cooling.

When chicken is cool, use a fork to shred. Combine shredded chicken, diced celery and Miracle with in a large bowl. Add additional spices as desired. Mix well, cover tightly, and chill until serving. Slice baguette while waiting.

My sister recently returned from a year in Marshall Islands working with World Teach. Before that she lived in Alaska for several yearss. With all this traveling, she hasn’t been in the area much, so it goes without saying that our mother was quite ecstatic about her arrival. But she’s not in town long. In a matter of days she’s off to Chicago to prepare for graduate school. Because of this and Father’s day, I decided to spend the weekend in Richmond seeing family and catching up.

Vegetarian Sloppy Joes with Tempeh

I’ve been trying to spend more time experimenting with different varieties of vegetarian dinners; those outside my traditional niche of soup, salads and roasted vegetables. I’ve never done much with the faux meats (tofu, tempeh, seitan), but hey, gotta broaden those horizons. I wanted to start with something that reminded me of what I use to eat when as a kid (this is Edwin’s family post).

When I was growing up, there were certain meals we’d always have. Mondays were spaghetti night, Fridays were pizza night (and TGIF!) and not every week, but pretty often there’d be sloppy joes night. I loved sloppy joes night. We never had it with hamburger buns. We always ate it with regular sandwich bread and french fries on the side. So. Good.

Vegetarian Sloppy Joes with Tempeh

So here’s my attempt at replicating that old classic with tempeh and NO can of manwich. Will it fool anyone into thinking it’s the real deal? No. Is it good? Definitely.

Vegetarian Sloppy Joes with Tempeh

1 onion; chopped
3 cloves of garlic; minced
1 red bell pepper; diced
1 celery stalk; diced

1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 can tomato sauce
1 can tomato paste
1 can diced tomatoes
8 ounces tempeh

Sweat the onions, garlic, red bell pepper and celery under medium low heat in a large pan for 15 minutes; stirring occasionally. Add the herbs, sugar and spices along with the three cans of tomato. Raise the temperature to medium and stir for a few minutes. Add the tempeh and continue to cook until everything is heated through. Serve and enjoy.

Chicken & Spinach Pita Sandwich, My DC Area Favorite

Northern Virginia can be a frustrating place to live. The DC Metro Area is home to constant traffic, a very high cost of living and wall-to-wall people (just turn on your news this weekend to watch the swarms of people here for the presidential inauguration!).


But Northern Virginia is also full of hidden gems, my favorite being interesting local restaurants and ethnic stores. Lost Dog Cafe is a neat local sandwich and pizza place with a large selection of beer. The owners also established a foundation dedicated to rescuing stray cats and dogs.


My favorite sandwich at Lost Dog is called “Muttly.” The Muttly is a warm pita full of spinach, chicken, provolone, tomatoes and pesto. Because I’m a picky eater and always trying to figure out new things to tolerate for lunch, I really wanted to recreate this sandwich so that I could enjoy it more frequently (and, of course, cheaper).

sliced chicken

The outcome was great. Make sure you buy large pitas; mine were a bit small so I wasn’t able to pack in as much spinach as I wanted to. I made the pesto from scratch, which always beats adding more ready-made, processed food to your diet, but the recipe I used was time-consuming. To cut down on time I didn’t chop it quite as much as I should have. I hope you will forgive my “lazy” pesto.

spinach and pesto

Please note that this is not a spicy chicken wrap, a Cajun chicken melt or a chicken sandwich smothered in tangy ranch dressing. I seasoned my chicken generously before baking it, but the flavor is mild (though not bland) and it’s not dripping with any condiments. I love this about the sandwich, but I just wanted to warn you not to expect something like Panera’s Chicken Bacon Dijon calorie festival. Happy lunching!

ghost muttly

“Muttly” (Chicken & Spinach Pita Sandwich)
inspired by Lost Dog Cafe

1 package large pitas
1 lb chicken breast, uncooked
1 small tomato
1 package frozen spinach
1 package sliced provolone cheese
2 tablespoons white wine
paprika, salt, pepper, Montreal chicken seasoning, cayenne, to taste

For the pesto
1 bunch of basil
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup pine nuts
3/4 cup parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 F. Cut your chicken breasts in half so that they resemble chicken cutlets. Sprinkle the bottom of a 13×9 baking pan with 2 tablespoons of white wine. Arrange the chicken pieces in the pan and season generously with paprika, salt, pepper, Montreal chicken seasoning and cayenne. Bake the chicken for 25 minutes.

In the meantime, chop tomato and set aside. Cook package of frozen spinach according to package instructions and set aside.

To make the pesto, you can find some great instructions at 101 Cookbooks. Mine didn’t turn out as authentic or attractive because I don’t have a mezzaluna, but the pesto was fine for me and used less oil. I basically followed this recipe except I chopped it until it was minced, not finely minced (because all that chopping took 101 Cookbooks thirty minutes, and that didn’t sound so great to me!). I would also recommend adding a bit of salt to the recipe.

When the chicken is done, allow it to cook enough that you can handle it comfortably (leave the oven on). Slice the chicken into bite size pieces and set aside.

Arrange the pitas on a baking sheet and add one slice of provolone followed by some spinach, pesto, chicken and tomatoes. If your pitas are malleable, fold it over like a sandwich (without breaking the pita).

When you’re finished putting together the sandwiches, set the baking sheet in the oven for approximately 5 minutes (just until the sandwiches are warm). Remove tray and serve! Wrap tightly and store any leftovers (we had leftover sliced chicken and pesto in addition to leftover sandwiches).