Jasmine Turner

Who says pies have to be round?

squaring the circle  with vegan pumpkin pie

squaring the circle with vegan pumpkin pie

I was trying to make a pumpkin pie for a dinner party at Stevie’ and Hegui’s and discovered that I don’t actually own a round pie dish. So I used of a square pan instead! I knew it might look kind of odd but a pie is made in a pan so I reasoned it would be okay. And since this one is vegan, it seems perfectly natural to present it in a distinctive way. Suddenly necessity becomes meaningful and “just right,” which is so often the case with cooking, don’t you think?

Now you’re probably thinking, why in the world are you making pumpkin pie in May? Well, I bought some extra cans of pumpkin during the holiday season so I could enjoy pie out of “pie season.” Stores stop selling canned pumpkin this time of year, which can totally crimp your style.

The pie is unbelievably festive too with the addition of this vegan Cool Whip type stuff from Trader Joes. So, cheers to a non conventional themed square shaped pie not in pumpkin pie season!

My vegan crust is based on this recipe.

square pumpkin pie all around

1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons cold water
¼ cup vegetable oil
3 tbsp vegan butter
¼ tbsp salt
3 tbsp agave nectar or honey
1 can pure pumpkin
½ cup coconut or soy milk
1 tsp Trader Joes pumpkin pie seasoning or similar
More agave nectar for pumpkin mix

Pre heat oven to 450F.

Mix flour, cold water, vegan butter, salt and honey together until smooth and it forms a ball. Oil a square pan with veggie butter (oh, okay, round is fine too). Press out the dough to cover the bottom and sides of your pan. Bake crust for ten minutes until crispy on edges. Take it out and let it sit for a few minutes.

Mix pumpkin, coconut milk and the pumpkin pie seasoning together. Add agave nectar to sweeten to taste. Pour pumpkin mix onto pie crust and put back in oven for 35 minutes. Let cool for about a half hour or so.

When ready to serve whip out the Trader Joes vegan dessert whip and voila pumpkin pie right before summer!

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My friend, Stevie, a WC bigwig, just had a birthday. I couldn’t make it to see him physically that day, as I’m so glamorous that I was travelling abroad or something equally fabulous. But I missed him, so the next time we met for dinner, I brought over a pumpkin pie with a message, “Happy Belated Birthday,” in red cake icing.

cream cheese pumpkin pie

cream cheese pumpkin pie

The process of making the pie and doing all the mixing feels good during the gloomy weather we’ve been having in San Francisco. Creating the dessert feels cheerful and productive, and you get the reward of sharing deliciousness with friends. Every year when it gets cold outside I crave comfort food like pumpkin pie. I try to make my pies healthy, without too much fat or eggs. I’ve been experimenting so this time I tried it with cream cheese for a different flavor. Look here and here for some more variations.

cream cheese pumpkin pie

“Whole Foods” pre-made whole wheat pie crust (making it easy as pie as you don’t have to roll out the dough!)
one package of cream cheese
one can of pure pumpkin
½ cup of maple syrup
¾ cup of pure cane sugar
½ cup of soy milk
3 tablespoons of pumpkin pie spice from “Trader Joes”

Pre heat oven to 375F.

Soften the cream cheese and mix it together with the pumpkin, soy milk, sugar, maple syrup and spices until you get a smooth texture with no lumps. Fill your pre made pie crust. Then bake for 45 minutes for a yummy pie. Cool and decorate if you want.

The cream cheese adds a certain pleasant thickness and consistency that was different from other pies I’ve made. We all enjoyed this with a refreshing after-dinner drink.

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cheers from the Thirsty Bear!

My friend, Mate, originally from Uruguay but now currently resident in Huntington Beach in Southern California, came into town to visit with her family. She insisted on a girls night out and wanted to eat tapas. I searched on-line. Turns out, there are quite a few tapas places in San Francisco, but the one that caught my attention was Thirsty Bear. I had been years ago for a beer and some olives, so remembered it fondly.

welcome to Thirsty Bear

welcome to Thirsty Bear

They have an all organic micro-brew beer selection large enough to quench the thirst of any thirsty bear. Beyond that they also have live Flamenco shows on Sunday nights and a wide array of Spanish inspired tapas. Here’s their “philosophy” which I quote from their site:

The original concept for Thirsty Bear Brewing Company is simple: to pair the ultimate social beverage, beer, with the ultimate social food, tapas.

Thirsty Bear interior look at the bullfighter painting

Thirsty Bear interior: look at the bullfighter painting!

Thirsty Bear is quite the place for a taste of Spanish food and culture right in San Francisco. We ordered Sangria made with red wine, brandy, seasonal fruit and spices at first. It was refreshing and superb with lots of fruity flavors. Later in the evening I tried a glass of Spanish wine, Legado Muñoz, Tempranillo, 2010 to sip with the tapas. That’s where Thirsty Bear really shines.

First we got the “yellowtail & Monterey squid salpicon, orange, jalapeño & micro cilantro.” The yellow tail was ceviche style and the squid was slightly sautéed: very good and fresh tasting. Next, we tried empanadas with oil-poached tombo tuna, potato, spicy piquillo sofrito & caper crème fraîche. My friend Mate called these empanaditas ‘cause they are smaller than the ones she remembers her mom made in Uruguay. We couldn’t go without patatas bravas: fried Kennebec potatoes, brava sauce and aioli. These yummy potatoes tasted just like being in Spain!

Thirsty Bear empanaditas

Thirsty Bear "empanaditas"

Mate and me enjoying our sangria

Mate and me enjoying our sangria

patatas bravas

patatas bravas

We decided against the salads as we can always have those and we were trying to have an authentic Spanish experience. Salads are way to Californian! LOL! Since we were off the salads…we debated on desserts. Mate recently went to Spain and loved the churros with chocolate milk, so we got those and a second, apricot and almond cake with almond milk ice cream. Delicious!

This whole event was a wonderful treat. It was great to spend time with my friend, Mate. Thirsty Bear is cool because it’s walking distance to SFMOMA, the Contemporary Jewish Museum and Yerba Buena gardens. I can’t wait to go back again with some more good company, possibly after a trip to one of the many museums. Ciao! Adios!

apricot and almond cake

apricot and almond cake

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carob balls

by Jasmine Turner on September 2, 2011

The idea to make carob balls was inspired from an exercise in a culture awareness class I recently took as part of the curriculum in my counseling/psychology program. Yes, I am studying to become a counselor. As you know food has a direct link to culture. The last assignment for the class was to make a recipe from your family of origin, which would be your mom dad and sister etc., and bring it to share with the other classmates.

carob balls

carob balls

So, I searched my memory and thought of tofu stir fries much like timely tasty tofu, and the traditional oatmeal with margarine we would always have for breakfast, because back in the ‘80’s everyone was using margarine on food instead of butter…even though now we find it has “trans-fats,” so all those years we thought we were doing ourselves a favor we probably should have been using real butter! Unfortunately I couldn’t really bring the tofu stir fry in for breakfast as it was a morning class and it would have needed to be heated.

I had an “aha” moment and recalled a dessert we would get when my dad wanted to give us a special treat, carob balls. Our parents made mostly health food items for us to eat and we weren’t really knowledgeable about chocolate goodies, so we always got the alternative, which happened to be carob. This was back in the day when people used to say, “Can you dig it?” so this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone.

My dad said his recipe actually originated from trying to make frosting for a batch of brownies also made from carob. Carob comes from the ground up seed pod from the carob tree. It is commonly used as a substitute for chocolate (without the side effects)! Carob is very healthy and actually has nutritional value like protein etc. My dad learned about it as a boy because there was a carob tree on his block in N. Hollywood where he grew up. He used to gnaw on the pods and taste sweetness. He relearned about carob later when becoming health food conscience.

carob chips

carob chips

Anyway, the frosting he was trying to make was mixing up too thick and was much too dense to spread evenly on the brownies, so he and my mom just started eating it out of the bowl. Cooling it and rolling into balls was an afterthought to make the mix cleaner and easier to eat. Though now, I think of them as chocolate truffle alternatives. Overall, carob balls bring up recollections of a loving Dad making a treat for his family which kindles good spirits and connections channeled through a yummy family recipe.

carob balls

2 cups carob powder (found in bulk at most health food stores)
¾ cup softened butter or smart butter veggie margarine (now Trans fat free!)
½ cup honey, or as my dad says, a “glob” of honey!
Optional: raisins, carob chips (also available at health food stores), chopped walnuts, sunflower or sesame seeds, maybe even shredded coconut

Blend softened “butter” and carob powder in a mixing bowl. Blend in “glob” of honey. Mix until it’s like a thick frosting. Add optional ingredients(s) if using. Mix it all together and form into balls or cut into squares or lumps: whatever. Then put in refrigerator to cool or freezer to cool faster. These are best served cold, otherwise they might get messy. You can coat the ball with the shredded coconut or sunflower seeds for decoration! Enjoy compliments of my Padre!

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Saha, San Francisco

by Jasmine Turner on April 26, 2011

what do you think the artist is trying to say here

what do you think the artist is trying to say here? Maybe welcome to Saha?

Our recent visit to Saha, an exciting restaurant in Lower Nob Hill that boasts “a unique blend of Yemenese Arabic Cuisine and boundary pushing California cuisine with French hints mixed in for good measure” began at home. The evening started off with the breaking of my 12-day wine fast. I know, tough, but after Prof. T’s birthday indulgence at Garçon!, I decided that I needed a break to do a bunch of academic work for my classes. That requires a clear head and all my marbles.

Since I finished the bulk of the work and Prof. T had an exciting bottle he “imported” from his recent trip to Barcelona, D.O. Navarra Homenaje Tinto 2009 Bodegas Marco Real, it was the perfect time to pop the cork and start the indulgence. Having the wine at home before dinner, rather than with the meal, is not the classic way and many a French wine-snob would scoff. However, it beats corkage as a cost saving measure in these weak-economy-school-budget times and it can be tremendously romantic to sip your lovely glass of red while staring dreamily into your lover’s eyes in the privacy of your own home.

Actually we had tried Saha about six years ago, right after they opened. The Professor didn’t enjoy it then, so we never went back. But I often think that restaurants struggle a bit after they first open and sometimes it takes them some time to find their groove. Plus Zagat gave a glowing review, so why not try again?

Saha interior

Saha interior

Prof. T and I already having fun at Saha

Prof. T and I already having fun at Saha

Saha does have a kind of tent-feel

Saha does have a kind of tent-feel


The restaurant is behind the lobby of the Hotel Carlton on Sutter and Larkin Streets. The interior is designed with an Arabic tent theme. That’s cool. The place was packed and had that trendy feel, which it did not have last time. Our waiter, Mical, was very welcoming and introduced himself to us in a very casual and friendly manner. We ordered a glass of wine to share since we had already indulged at home, but wanted something to sip with the meal. I ordered the Finca Decero “Remolinos Vineyard” Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina for 8-dollars. It was deep and dark with chocolate, smoke and hints of ripe plums: perfect for sipping throughout our meal.

I ordered some “unmentionable things” for this website, but I have hormonal cravings for iron rich foods sometimes, but that’s another story. We both got the pre-fixe, which included a soup or salad, a small plate and an entrée. Prof. T ordered seafood tangine, a mix of a few different fish and shellfish over rice. I got the soup of the day, a vegan one (Saha specializes in veggie, and vegan dishes) with fennel and coconut milk. It was very intriguing. I’ve grown to love the special flavor of fennel, which I learned to appreciate with weirdcombinations.

Pro. T had the wild arugula, beets, roasted pears, date, candied pecans, blue cheese, with blueberry vinaigrette salad. His seafood tagine had wild salmon, prawns, scallops and ahi tuna simmered in hodeida, a delcious creamy hot sauce. All the seafood was scrumptiously fresh.

Saha wild arugula and blue cheese salad

Saha wild arugula and blue cheese salad

I really enjoyed the bread at Saha

I really enjoyed the bread at Saha

Saha seafood tagine

Saha seafood tagine


gorgeous Dulce Picchu dessert

gorgeous Dulce Picchu dessert

We truly indulged with dessert, Dulce Picchu: a gorgeous pyramid of dulce de leche and cream that was out of this world good.

I’m not really sure what parts of the meal were “Yemenese Arabic Cuisine” but who cares. It was all excellent. So it just goes to show that sometimes first impressions aren’t the whole story. I’m glad we returned to wonderful Saha. If you get the chance, you should go there sometime soon.

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Soluna, San Francisco

by Jasmine Turner on April 22, 2011

Soluna, a cute restaurant in the Civic Center neighborhood of San Francisco, has been on my to-try list for a while.

Jasmine and Prof. T soak up the vibe at Soluna

Jasmine and Prof. T soak up the vibe at Soluna

I heard about it years ago when it used to be a night-club and flamenco dancing spot in the Financial District. Also, my husband, Prof. T, met Stevie there for drinks at the end of their almost three months trial in the California Superior Court. They both served on the same jury, silly! You thought that something naughty had happened, right? The case was some complicated legal malpractice thingie that brought these two great friends together. (Sounds dull, no?) That was almost seven years ago. Thanks to the legal system, now I’m a part-time blogger!

Well, Hubbie and I finally went to this “iconic” restaurant.

welcome to Soluna Cafe and Lounge

welcome to Soluna Cafe and Lounge

chill Soluna interior

chill Soluna interior

It was not very crowded for a Saturday, but that was okay with me. You always get more attention from the staff that way. The place has an enjoyable atmosphere: quite open with high ceilings and big comfy booths toward the back.

Our server, Suzie, greeted us promptly and cheerily, with info about the specials, etc. We ordered a beer to share ‘cause we had had a drink before we left the house. That’s more glamorous and a cost-saving measure on the drinks portion of the bill. I only recommend it if you’re walking (which we did) or going by taxi (more elegant). Otherwise, you know the mantra: “don’t drink and drive.”

We ordered a basket of their amazing fries, which came in a big tin paint can. They had Parmesan and paprika which gave them a zesty flavor. They were served with a garlic aioli and a minty ketchup dip. We ravished them like wild animals!

fun Soluna parmesan and paprika fries

fun Soluna parmesan and paprika fries

Soluna zucchini soup with olive oil and feta

Soluna zucchini soup with olive oil and feta


We got the zucchini soup with olive oil and feta, but didn’t say we were going to share, because on the menu it says there is a four-dollar sharing fee. That’s outrageous! I hate having to lie. If I must fib, then I want it to be really good. Not some pathetic, “But, uh, no Suzie, the luscious green zucchini soup is all for me. Hubbie is just going to sit there twiddling his thumbs.” I can do so much better than that!

The bread was really tasty too, as it had rosemary and they served it with unsalted butter and sea salt on the side. We ate so much bread and fries and felt so stuffed.

I would definitely return to Soluna. I also hear they have really good deals on happy hour food and drinks from 3-7PM Monday through Friday. Ask for Suzie, she will take good care of you!

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Garçon! was our choice for Prof. T’s recent birthday dinner out. We had driven by there a few times and did a double take when we saw the place over on Valencia near 22nd Street in the Mission.

It always looked so intriguing and FRENCH, which I love. Maybe I was influenced by the startlingly grand exclamation point? Even though it was not my birthday, Prof. T let me pick the venue. I wasn’t worried since I know my darling honey so well: he loves French food, too.

enjoying French wine and arugula salad at Garçon!

enjoying French wine and arugula salad at Garçon!


Happy Birthday, Professor T.

Happy Birthday, Professor T.

Although we really like Jardinière for birthdays and very special occasions, the prices are so high that we cannot justify it right now. Maybe once I’ve finished grad school and get a job, we can go and really splurge. Garçon! was much more affordable (e.g. cheaper). Really about half of what we’d spend at J. For two glasses of wine, two salads, and two main courses and a shared dessert, we spent around $100, which is a deal in San Francisco for fine dining.

quaint Garçon! interior

quaint Garçon! interior

Here’s what we ordered:

Jasmine’s salad: arugula, shaved d’anjou pear, blue cheese, honey pecans, lemon vinaigrette. Prof. T’s salad: beets, endive, watercress, goat cheese fondue, crispy shallots, sherry vinaigrette.

Jasmine’s main: shellfish bouillabaisse with mussels, clams, scallop, shrimp and cod, fregola pasta, basil, paprika aioli. Prof. T’s main: “steak frites,” marinated and grilled hanger steak, truffle butter, pommes frites, watercress. (I know, unmentionable meat consumption, but we can’t judge him for being on his own food path, plus it was his birthday.)

The fries were damn good and I ate half of them, being the wild animal that I am when I see fries and dipping sauces! The steak wasn’t cooked enough so he had to send it back to the kitchen… twice, to get it more well done. Apparently the French like it kind of raw. I know, spare the details…

tasty Garçon! bouillabaisse

tasty Garçon! bouillabaisse

The bouillabaisse was very generous with the seafood, and that was the first time I tried fregola. It was really good. The dish had a special herbal flavor like tarragon or something unusual and unusually good. I soaked it up with lots of bread and butter. I think we got like three orders of bread… I hope my acupuncturist is not reading this because he would lecture me on eating too much white flour which turns to sugar in the body…oh no! And the three orders of bread doesn’t sound very French at all. Maybe American. Oh well, sometimes I feel this irresistible urge to overindulge, and with some tasty wine in my system I can easily get carried away.

you'd probably order more of this, too

warm soft french bread with butter: you'd probably order more of this, too

Dessert, we shared, but I ate most of it: warm dark chocolate fondant, with caramel sauce, salted peanuts, and brandied-orange crème. This was amazing: so rich and melt in your mouth chocolaty. It came with a candle because before we started dinner I told the lovely waiter, “Jeff,” it was my husband’s birthday. He replied in this perfect French accent, “Oh I will take care of it, Madame!” (“Madame,” that’s so darling!) He was so nice. He also recommended a nice French wine to go with our meal, 2006 Château La Grave, Pomerol. This was a medium bodied red with a fruit forward but not overpowering taste. It was lovely.

The meal was an absolute indulgence but well worth the experience. Garçon! Is a lovely place to celebrate a birthday.

: warm dark chocolate fondant, with caramel sauce, salted peanuts, and brandied-orange crème

: warm dark chocolate fondant, with caramel sauce, salted peanuts, and brandied-orange crème

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I am trying to eat more healthily, but who isn’t really? I have this recipe for an omelet that I got from my acupuncturist. I’ve been going in hope of relieving a muscle spasm that has resulted from a bulging disc in my lower back.

spicy scrambled eggs with onion, garlic, celery, tomato and avocado

spicy scrambled eggs with onion, garlic, celery, tomato and avocado

He always lectures me about eating more veggies; taking proper supplements like MSM and vitamin D, iron etc.; and relaxation and exercise. It’s the same prescription for health and well-being you get across the board: eat right, exercise and relax. Life is usually good and in balance if you fulfill these basic requirements.

Anyhow, nutrition plays a big part in making the body work properly. So, I am constantly on a quest to achieve better nutrition. However, cooking omelets is still a challenge, as I can’t ever seem to turn them correctly, so inevitably I switch it up for a scramble. (I think that Julia Child had the same problem when she was starting out.)

key ingredients for spicy scrambled eggs with onion, garlic, celery, tomato and avocado

key ingredients for spicy scrambled eggs with onion, garlic, celery, tomato and avocado

I’ve been eating this quite a bit lately with pleasure and happy in the knowledge that I am following “Doctor’s orders.” My muscle spasm is improving. Who knows, maybe it’s the placebo effect. Whatever the reason, this dish is easy to make and I love to spice it up afterwards with Tabasco sauce, cayenne pepper and coriander. My acupuncturist also says to eat as much raw garlic and cayenne pepper as possible too, so I am on board with that, no problem. It probably helps with inflammation or something.

spicy scrambled eggs with onion, garlic, celery, tomato and avocado

2 eggs
¼ onion
1 clove garlic
½ avocado
½ tomato
1 teaspoon oil
some sticks of celery
cayenne, coriander and Tabasco sauce for spice (optional)
salt to taste (optional)

Crack eggs and mix up in a bowl. Chop up tomato, celery, onion and garlic into small pieces and mix in with the eggs. Heat skillet and add oil. Poor egg mixture onto hot skillet. Cook. If you’re brave, try flipping to make an omelet. Otherwise, scramble. Serve with avocado. Salt to taste. Add optional spices. Get out a plate and have a nice meal!

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PP03: Pumpkin Pie Obsession 3, because more is more!

February 22, 2011

The pumpkin fetish, or adventure, saga or whatever you want to call it is ongoing! My friend Heguie gave me fresh pumpkin cut up into fine pieces, which, by the way I hear is thrillingly FRENCH. So being that I love pumpkins and France, it was serendipitous. He used some for a delightful Brazilian dessert […]

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PPO2: Pumpkin Pie Obsession, the Sequel, or Pumpkin Pie à la Skinny

January 31, 2011

It’s January and I am still in the throws of PPO: pumpkin pie obsession. I can’t get my mind off those round, wholesome, satisfying pies. There is something very comforting about pumpkins and pies. I decided that there was nothing for it but to make a few more. This time, I went totally vegan. Tofu […]

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