Friday Favorite: Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies

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Today’s Friday Favorite is – gasp – not a Happy Herbivore recipe. Shocking, I know. Nor is it a savory recipe like the last two have been. Instead, it’s a sweet recipe from my very first (and much-loved, if currently underused) vegan cookbook: Vegan with a Vengeance. VwaV is full of tried-and-true recipes, and I’ll likely include them in future Friday Favorite posts. But today I want to highlight a relatively simple recipe that I’ve made repeatedly, and always with excellent results.

An upturned palm holding two small chocolate cookies with jam in the center; one is filled with a light orange apricot jam and the other is filled with a red cherry jam.

Cooooookies.

Check out my vintage food photography, circa 2009! I’m holding the Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies here. One is filled with cherry jam, and the other with apricot. I can never decide which variety I like best – usually it’s the one I’m eating at the moment. :) I’ve made these cookies quite a few times, and I posted about them here when I brought them to a gathering of friends.

I always adjust the recipe, substituting vegetable oil for the peanut oil and extra vanilla extract for the almond extract, to make it nut-free for my family and friends with allergies. However, I once made an experimental version with peanut butter swirls and peanut butter centers, rendering them totally unfit for folks with allergies, but also totally delicious for those of us who can partake of peanuts. No matter how much I tinker with this recipe, I always get the most delicious, chewy morsels of chocolate-y goodness. And that, friends, is the sign of a worthy Friday Favorite.

What’s your most tried-and-true cookie recipe? What recipes do you love from VwaV?

Sharing the MoFo Love with a Blog Award

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I’ll be straight with you: I find blog awards a little bit hokey, much like chain e-mails and the chicken dance. That said, I sure do love seeing my name on someone else’s blog in a list of their favorite newly-discovered blogs… who doesn’t want that .5 seconds of recognition and fame?! We all love hearing others say pleasant things about us, right? And making other people feel special and appreciated must be one of the greatest warm-fuzzy inducers ever. So today I’ll put aside my grumpy, ornery self and be gracious for a change. Plus, this award is MoFo-themed and inspired, so it’s automatically awesome. :)

A couple days ago, two lovely ladies included my lil ol’ blog in their list of favorite blogs for the Liebster Blog Award. I’ve been reading and enjoying Brittany’s blog for a while now (check out the cupcakes she made for her cousin’s wedding!), but I only discovered Bethany’s blog this month. Bethany is a Rhode Islander, just like me, giving us that instant connection that only Ocean Staters share. :) I’ve been enjoying her posts all month, especially her most recent retrospective of her trip to Italy. I wonder why… ;)

Anyway, these two fine gals chose me for the Liebster Blog Award. What is that, you ask? Read on!

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The Liebster Award 

‘Liebster’ is German for ‘dearest’ or ‘beloved’ but it can also mean ‘favorite.’ The idea behind this award is to bring attention to bloggers who have less than 200 followers and show your support during Vegan MoFo!

The rules of winning this award are as follows:
1. Show your thanks to those who gave you the award by linking back to them.
2. Reveal 5 of your top picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
3. Post the award on your blog.
4. Enjoy the love and support of some wonderful people on the www!

Thanks, Bethany and Brittany!

I think that many of my top 5 have already been given this award, so I’ll try to find some who haven’t. And I’m not going crazy to try to figure out their number of followers, so… forgive any inaccuracies there. :) Here they are, in no particular order:

  1. Greyt Vegan Life. Although Christina isn’t a daily blogger, her posts are always thoughtful and full of lovely photos and tempting recipes. Today, she veered a little of the typical food-based path with an excellent post about the connection between pets, veganism, and domestic violence. On a lighter note, she shares her home with an adorable greyhound who frequently makes his way into her photos. ;)
  2. Angst Loves Spinach. Natalie inspired me to try meal planning – she posts her next week’s meals and then shares candid reviews and critiques of what she makes. I always appreciate her witty, well-written posts and the occasional photo of the titular Angst. (He’s a cat, by the way. Hmm… my first two picks frequently feature animals… is this a trend?)
  3. The Airy Way. For MoFo, Zoa’s been posting macro shots of mystery food items, much like my much-loved Highlights magazine always did when I read it as a kid. The photos are always stunning and occasionally a bit creepy, and I love how they capture the unfamiliar side of familiar foods. During non-MoFo months, Zoa shares unique recipes using uncommon ingredients, and I always find inspiration in her posts.
  4. Kittens Gone Lentil. This is another blog with semi-frequent kitty pictures! Susan is spending MoFo reviewing cookbooks, and I’m continually impressed with her honest, lengthy reviews. Not only does she give her overall thoughts, but she shares the recipes that really impressed her. I have a couple of cookbooks to add to my Christmas list now…!
  5. My Peanut Butter’s Tachy. Another MoFo discovery! I like Kari’s writing style, and I love that she’s doing a time audit of popular cookbook/internet recipes – it’s good to know if you can trust the time estimate for a given recipe! Plus, she did a vegan ice cream round-up. Oh. My. Goodness.

So… there you go! I encourage you to check out the blogs I linked and share the love! And thanks again to Brittany & Bethany for the award – I appreciate your thoughtfulness!

What awesome new blogs have you discovered during MoFo?!

Real-Time Blogging, AKA a Super Cop-Out Post

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MoFos, I am BEAT. Work has been crazy this week thanks to a big customer issue that popped up last Friday, so I’ve been in full-swing project management mode since then. Dudes… I’m a writer. Project management ain’t my thang. Plus, I’m leaving for Italy on Saturday morning, which means I’ve been hard at work prepping MoFo posts for the week I’ll be away… and, um, packing. Plus, my boyfriend AND my roommate are both out of town, making me one sad panda. The only benefit to their absence is that I don’t feel guilty spending the entire night in the kitchen workin’ on MoFo stuff!

But I’m not telling you all that just to complain (although that’s about 42% of the reason). Mostly, it’s to introduce my first-ever Real-Time Blogging event. What does that mean? Well, as I type this post and tell you about the following meal… I AM STILL EATING THAT VERY MEAL. I know. Take a minute to steady yourself. Crazy, right? So… what am I shoving into my greedy trap at this very second?!

Close-up of a bowl of fried rice with baby bok choy, zucchini, onions, cashews, and scallions.

THIS IS BEING CONSUMED RIGHT NOW. AHORA. MAINTENANT.

Lazy girl’s not-so-fried rice, that’s what. Basically, I had a ton of leftover veggies (zucchini, onions, baby bok choy, scallions) and rice in my fridge, so I put it all in a pan, sauteed it up, added some seasoning, and am calling it dinner. Blammo. I even added cashews for that gourmet touch. You’ll have to forgive the crappy lighting and lackluster composition of that photo, though – real-time blogging ain’t pretty, yo.

Now if you’ll excuse me, this sad panda needs to stop typing and start stuffing her face – using a fork, not those chopsticks, because this sad panda sucks at using chopsticks. Truth.

What’s your pre-vacation fridge-emptying technique? What do you make when you have lots of odds & ends in your crisper?

Tester Teaser: Parmesan-esque Sprinkles (and an Italian adventure)

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Today’s post is a big ol’ teaser, and possibly an envy-inducer (wait ’til the end for the envy). I’m testing for Joni Marie Newman‘s new book, which is not just another cookbook. Instead, she’s including recipes and crafts for homemade gifts, edible treats, and all sorts of DIY awesomeness. It’s totally my thing, so I’m really excited to be helping out! This weekend I tried my first tester recipe: Italian-spiced parmesan-esque sprinkles. Don’t they look grand?

A small Ball canning jar lying on its side. It's filled with yellow breadcrumb-y sprinkles, which are spilling out over the lid of the jar.

Sprinkly!

These are the first homemade cheese-y sprinkles I’ve ever made, so I don’t technically have a point of comparison, but these are just great! They’re nicely spiced with just the right amount of nutritional yeast-y flavor. So far, I’ve just eaten them plain (c’mon, I had to try a tiny spoonful!) and sprinkled atop macaroni & cheese (post to come!), but I’ll find something more creative to do with them later. Something Italian-inspired, perhaps?

…speaking of Italy, guess what? I’m going to Florence in five short days! I’m spending a week there with my best friend, who’s currently in Florence finishing up her MA. This won’t be my first time in the city (I visited with my family two summers ago), so I’m looking forward to just spending time hanging out and seeing less tourist-y places, since I’ve already done all those. However, I’ve never been in Florence as a vegan, so I’m excited to see what I can find to eat! Let me know if you’ve been there as a vegan and have any suggestions!

What should I make with my parm-y sprinkles? Have you been to Italy? Where should I eat in Florence?!

Muffin Monday: Banana-Chocolate Chip

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I hope you don’t judge me too harshly for this unoriginal installment of Muffin Mondays. Everyone and their mom’s dentist has a banana muffin recipe, so who am I to add one to the collection? I have no compelling answer to that question, so I’m going to show you a picture and hope that it’ll distract you from judging my boringness too harshly.

Close-up of a muffin cut in half; in the background is a small bowl filled with muffins.

Sliced.

These are pretty simple, but they’re tasty. Brown rice syrup gives them a sophisticated sweetness, and a smattering of chocolate chips makes them a little more playful than your standard banana muffin affair.

Banana-Chocolate Chip Muffins
(makes six)

1/2 T ground flax + 1 1/2 T warm water

3/4 white whole wheat flour (Note: I found that WWWF made my muffins a bit grainy. Next time, I’ll use whole wheat pastry flour.)
1/2 all-purpose flour
1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1/4 t cinnamon

1 large very ripe banana
1/4 C dark brown sugar
2 T coconut oil
2 T almond milk
1 heaping T brown rice syrup
1/2 t vanilla extract

1/3 C chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350° and lightly grease a 6-muffin tin.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flax into the warm water and set aside. In a large bowl, sift all the dry ingredients together and mix well. Add the wet ingredients and the brown sugar to the flax mixture and stir well, making sure all wet ingredients are mixed. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into the well. Mix until just incorporated. Fold in the dried coconut and the pineapple. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin – it’ll come up to the top of each well. Bake for 20 or so minutes or until a thin knife inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Close-up of a small bowl filled with muffins.

Bowl o' muffins.

I’m sorry for posting these so late – I usually draft my posts at night and then edit and publish them when I get into work in the morning, but I hadn’t added the recipe to this post last night, and it was saved on my home computer. Alas! So I had to wait until I got home from work to add it and publish. But here they are!

What’s your favorite banana muffin (or bread!) recipe?

Simplicity Sunday: Roasted Delicata Squash Circles

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Squash and I have never had a perfectly amiable relationship. My child-self didn’t enjoy eating sweet foods for meals that should feature savory items, and I also had  problems with squash’s stringy, squishy texture. Throughout the years I’ve grown much fonder of squash, and I’ve enjoyed trying the many varieties that exist. But, until this week, I’d never tried delicata squash. What a shame, too, because one taste convinced me that it’s easily one of the most delicious and easy to prepare squashes I’ve encountered.

A plate with a stack of roasted squash slices, cut widthwise and sprinkled with cinnamon.

Slice circle.

I’d purchased a delicata squash just days before Kittee serendipitously posted about delicata squash circles, a ridiculously easy way to prepare this squash. I tossed my hollowed-out circles with melted coconut oil, sweet curry powder, salt, and a generous teaspoon of brown sugar. After 20 minutes of roasting, I had a stack of sweet, delicious circles waiting to find their way into my hungry mouth.

Close-up of the squash circles.

Ready for your close-up?

Oh my goodness. These were so sweet and melt-in-your-mouth delicious, with just a hint of curry flavor complementing the caramelized brown sugar. Kittee wasn’t kidding when she talked about popping these like Pez; I couldn’t believe how tasty they were. And the best part? You can eat the skins (assuming your squash is organic, of course)! And you can roast the seeds for a quick, healthy snack. I tossed mine in the leftover coconut oil-curry mixture, and they’re really tasty.

Another close-up.

Stacked.

Needless to say, delicata squash has now gained a permanent place in my dinner rotation. I’m so glad I tried one!

What’s your favorite variety of squash? How do you prepare delicata squash?

I Found the Holy Grail… of Cookies

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Ages and ages ago (read: two years ago), I tried a VegWeb chocolate chip cookie recipe and was disappointed in the results. So I continued my search for the holy grail of vegan chocolate chip cookies, and a year and a half ago I tried a PPK recipe, hoping it would answer all my cookie desires. It was good, but not great. But Nora left me a comment recommending Dreena Burton’s Homestyle Chocolate Chip Cookies, citing the awesome caramel-y flavor that a healthy dose of maple syrup and a bit of molasses lends them. Intrigued, I gave them a try. But I made the mistake of baking while distracted, and I misread the 1/4 tsp of molasses as 1/4 cup. Yep. Needless to say, the results were not exactly reminiscent of the chocolate chip cookies of my childhood. However, they were still yummy in their own right, and I made a mental note to re-try Dreena’s recipe – I figured that if it could stand up to my horrible miscalculation, it was probably a pretty damn fine recipe.

Two cookies on a plate next to a glass of almond milk.

You have chosen... wisely.

And it is. Oh man, it so is. It’s awesome. I made these cookies last night, and I want to devour them all for breakfast today. Nora was totally right; the maple syrup and molasses combine to make a cookie that is not just sweet, but flavorful. Just like I don’t enjoy things that are spicy for the sake of being spicy, I don’t always like sweetness for sweetness’ sake. I want depth of flavor and a nuanced sweetness, and these cookies bring that to the table (literally). They are so, so good.

Another shot of the two cookies on a plate.

Nom nom cookies.

I made nine big ol’ cookies in this batch; next time I’ll make them smaller so the recipe will yield more. They were delicious when warm and they’re delicious when cooled, and the dough is amazing straight outta the bowl. And that’s an essential part of a good cookie recipe, don’t you think? ;)

So, in short, this may very well be my holy grail of cookie recipes. The 1/3 cup of maple syrup is a bit much, though, so I doubt I’ll make them incredibly often. But when I do, I know they’ll be worth it.

What’s your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe? Have you tried Dreena’s?

Friday Favorite: Happy Herbivore’s Eggless Salad

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I don’t know about you, but egg salad was something I always simultaneously enjoyed and dreaded in my youth. Half of me wanted to find an egg salad sandwich in my lunch box, but the other half of me was wary of egg salad’s most noticeable side effect: that vaguely sulfuric and extremely pungent egg odor. You can’t discreetly eat an egg salad sandwich; everybody in a ten-foot radius knows what’s goin’ down at the lunch table when you’re munching one. But them’s the breaks of eating eggs!

As vegans, we generally don’t encounter egg odors. So you’d think that this week’s Friday Favorite, Happy Herbivore’s Eggless Salad, would be free of olfactory offenses. Not so! This recipe includes black salt, also known as kala namak, and if you’re not familiar with it, here’s a breakdown: it’s not black and it’s highly sulfuric. So it’s perfect for adding a distinctly eggy flavor and aroma to otherwise egg-less goods! Isa Chandra Moskowitz pioneered the use of black salt in Vegan Brunch, and Lindsay uses it to great effect in this tofu-based salad. I’ve enjoyed her Eggless Salad in the past, and this time was no different. Yesterday, I ate it in a pita pocket with a few leftover collard leaves:

Two pitas stacked on top of each other, filled with a light yellow crumbled tofu and a couple collard leaves.

Pocket salad.

Yum yum in my tum. I know I’m not the only one who enjoys this super simple salad; LJ has posted about it more than once at her MoFo blog this month!

I should say, though, that if you haven’t eaten eggs in a while, it’s definitely a little jarring to eat black salt-laden foods because the similarity to eggs is uncanny. But if you’re looking for an eggy flavor to add variety to your eats, give black salt a try! I found mine in an Indian grocery store back in Rhode Island, and it was only a few dollars for a bag that will last me years. Win!

Have you tried black salt? If so, how do you like to use it? How do you feel about pungent foods?

Survey Thursday!

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I knew this would happen sooner or later! It’s time to cash in my Get Out of Jail Free card and take… a survey. Dun dun dunnn! But I’m going to do a new one, not the same one that’s been floating around the internet since MoFo began. So… yeah. :) On to the questions!

A is for Avocado: How do you like yours prepared?

Oh please. As if there’s any other way than in a beautifully simple guacamole!

B is for Bread: Regardless of nutrition, what is your favorite type?

Rye! Or pumpernickel! Basically anything flavorful and crusty. But really, it’s all good.

C is for Chocolate: What is your favorite kind currently?

Anything darker than, say 70%. I had a Chocolove Almond and Sea Salt in Dark Chocolate a few weeks ago, and I’ve been thinking it out ever since.

D is for Doughnuts: You might not currently eat them, but what kind do you fancy?

I haven’t had a doughnut in years! In my pre-vegan days, I was a Dunkin’ Donuts glazed donut kind of girl. Oh, for that sugary sweet stickiness…

E is for Egg(plant): How would you like yours prepared?

How about in a vegan eggplant parmesan? Or in a sandwich with basil, tomatoes, and vegan mozzarella?

F is for Falafel: Yay or nay?

YAY!

G is for Groceries: Where do you purchase yours?

Mostly at the Willy St. Co-op. I go to Woodman’s occasionally; they have a really decent selection of vegan/”natural” foods at cheap prices. I hit up Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods every couple months, and Copps when I’m really in a pinch – it’s but a five-minute walk from my apartment.

H is for Hot Beverages: What is your favorite hot drink?

Oh dear. It’s a toss-up between straight-up dark black coffee and tea… nearly any kind of tea.

I is for Ice Cream: Pick a favorite flavor and add a fun topping.

Umm… chocolate peanut butter cup with hot fudge. Maybe that’s not a very fun topping, but it’s classic.

J is for Jams or Jellies: Do you eat them? If so, what kind and flavor?

My current favorite is Crofter’s organic Morello cherry jam. Oh man, it has these great cherry bits and super delicious intense cherry flavor… and it’s often on sale at the aforementioned co-op!

K is for Kashi: Name your favorite Kashi product?

Probably their Pumpkin Flax Plus granola. I’m also learning to enjoy the Red Berry Crunch Flax Plus cereal; it’s reminiscent of other cereals that feature freeze-dried strawberries, but it’s not too sweet, which I love.

L is for Lunch: What was/is yours today?

Happy Herbivore’s Eggless Salad in a pita pocket and a Starkrimson pear.

M is for microwave: What is your favorite microwave meal/snack?

I don’t actually own a microwave! If I did, I’d go for microwaved popcorn. Not the kind you buy in a gross buttery bag but the kind you make yourself, where you just put kernels in a paper bag, fold over the top, and pop it in the microwave!

N is for nutrients: Do you like carbs, fats, or proteins best?

What a cruel question. At the end of the day, I guess I’d go for carbs.

O is for oil: What kind do you like to use?

Extra-virgin olive oil is my standby. I also like coconut oil.

P is for protein: How do you get yours?

Oh please. I get it everywhere!

Q is for Quaker: How do you like your oats?

Ideally, cooked on the stove (with almond milk, not water – ick!) and immersion blended to creamy bliss with lots of spices. Realistically, cooked in the microwave at work. I always make it with almond milk and a little hot water, and I add dried cranberries.

R is for roasting: What is your favorite thing to roast?

Broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts. Also potatoes.

S is for sandwich: What’s your favorite kind?

Oh gosh. Anything packed with veggies and featuring avocados.

T is for travel: How do you handle eating while traveling?

I always bring lots of snacks, I do my research beforehand, and I look for Asian restaurants in a pinch.

U is for unique: What are some of the unique foods that you like?

Meh, I don’t know. I feel like many vegan stapes are “unique” in that omnivores think they’re weird. I like them all. :)

V is for vitamins: What kind do you take?

I take a sublingual liquid B12 supplement every couple of days, and I take a vegan vitamin D2 pill when I remember. :)

W is for Wiener schnitzel: Do you ever recreate this traditional Czech food?

Never have I ever… yet?!

Have you taken this survey? I want to read your answers!

Leaves & Roots Lemongrass Soup

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In my first post of MoFo 2011, I talked about tatsoi, a new-to-me green. It was delicious and photogenic:

A large bowl of tatsoi, shot from above.

Green leaves.

I enjoyed half my bundle of tatsoi in a simple dish of sauteed greens with marinated tofu, but I wanted to do something different with the remaining half. Many of the comments you all left on that post included your thoughts on how to use this pretty green, but Andrea‘s comment was especially appealing:

What a gorgeous bunch of greens! I like tatsoi in stir-fries and in soup, especially Asian-inspired soups.

Soup – I can’t believe I didn’t think of that! I don’t know about you, but I feel immensely healthy and happy when I eat a giant bowl of soup filled with leafy greens and other veggies. Because you boil the greens right in the broth, you know that any nutrients that seep out during cooking remain in the broth itself, providing you with a slurpable bowl of goodness.

With dreams of soup in my head, I went back to the co-op in search of inspiration. I returned with a big bag of groceries, including the following rustic-looking bounty:

A wooden cutting board with a burdock root, a piece of ginger, and a stalk of lemongrass.

Roots and leaves.

I was so pleased to find burdock root - I’ve eaten it once before in a soup, and I loved its earthy flavor and unique texture. I also picked up ginger root and lemongrass. All these yummy ingredients met the last of my tatsoi for a swim in my big ol’ Le Creuset stock pot, and out came this pretty, colorful soup:

A big bowl of soup sitting on a wooden board. In the bowl you can see carrots, burdock roots, cooked greens, and cubed tofu. To the right of the bowl is a pho spoon. In front of the bowl are sliced green onions and a few slices of lime.

Green soup.

Leaves & Roots Lemongrass Soup
Serves four (or three, if you’re a piggy-pig-pig like me!)

1 T reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 T agave nectar
1/4 t ground ginger
1/4 t garlic powder
1.5 C extra firm tofu, chopped into cubes

1 T olive oil
1 burdock root (about 7” long), well peeled and thinly sliced (yields about 1/2 cup)
2 T reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 T rice vinegar
1 large carrot, sliced (about 1/2 cup)
1 T freshly minced ginger
1 piece star anise
6 C vegetable broth
1 stalk lemongrass (bottom cut in half and then quartered; sliced into 1-inch pieces and gently bruised with side of knife)
3 C tightly packed chopped tatsoi (or other green)
1 bundle mung bean vermicelli noodles
1/2 lime (optional)
Toasted sesame oil (optional)

In a small bowl, whisk the first four ingredients until they’re well incorporated. Add the tofu cubes and give them a little shake so all their sides are covered in the marinade. Set aside.

Add olive oil to a large stock pot and heat on medium-high. When oil is hot, add the burdock root. Saute 5 – 7 minutes or until the burdock root begins to soften; depending on how thinly you’ve sliced the burdock, it might take more or less time. Add soy sauce, rice vinegar, and spices and saute for 30 more seconds. Add the broth and turn up the heat. When the broth is boiling, add lemongrass and boil for 5 more minutes or until the lemongrass is somewhat tender. Add greens, noodles, tofu, and remaining tofu marinade and reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer for seven to ten minutes. If using bean threads, remember that you might need to use kitchen shears to cut them once they soften – they often come in a big intertwined ball.

When the greens are soft and the noodles are ready, drizzle the soup with the juice of 1/2 a lime and a few drops of toasted sesame oil. Ladle into bowls and top with diced scallions and fresh basil leaves, if desired. Enjoy!

I really liked this soup – it had a unique blend of flavors, ones I don’t usually cook with. I did find the lemongrass a little tough, so you might need to cook it for longer (or even saute it with the burdock root). It still hit the spot, though, filling my tummy and making me feel super healthy and satiated.

Have you cooked with burdock root? Do you have any secrets for making lemongrass more palatable?