Tuesday, January 31, 2012

[belated] Meatless Monday: Vegetarian Tortilla Soup

The East Coast Muse was a bit preoccupied yesterday, and it's only now, Tuesday morning East Coast time, that the Meatless Monday post is being delivered to you. To be fair, it's not everyday one gets to find out the gender of their first child (for those who care - it's a boy!) But it's Tuesday now, and back to work.

This week's Meatless Monday post can be prepared vegan, should you skip adding shredded Mexican cheese and sour cream as garnish in the last step. This recipe is adapted from EatingWell.com - the original recipe called for some hard-to-find Mexican specialty ingredients, and we're all about making vegetarian/vegan cooking accessible to even the busiest singles and most harried mom's out there (let's be honest: negro pasilla and sprig epazote aren't just hanging out in your local grocery, unless you live in San Antonio - in which case, check out the original recipe and knock yourself out).

We hope you enjoy! ECM made this for her lunch co-op last week (post to come regarding this very fun new endeavour and its many benefits) and the ladies loved it - one even remarked that tofu and kale are not something she incorporates in her diet regularly (read: ever) and she gobbled it up and begged for the recipe.

Vegetarian Tortilla Soup
adapted from EatingWell.com

1 15-ounce can diced fire-roasted tomatoes

2 tablespoons chipotle sauce

2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 medium white onion, sliced 1/4 inch thick

4 cloves garlic, peeled

4 cups vegetable broth

4 cups water

1 14-ounce package extra-firm tofu

4 cups chopped kale leaves

½ to 1 teaspoon salt

1 ripe large avocado, cut into 1/4-inch cubes

2 cups roughly broken tortilla chips

3/4 cup shredded Mexican-style cheese (cheddar and Monterrey-jack mix)

Sour cream (optional)
1 large lime, cut into 6 wedges

  1. Place the can of tomatoes and their juice as well as the chipotle sauce into a blender. Blend well.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until golden, 6 to 9 minutes. Scoop up the onion and garlic with a slotted spoon and transfer to the blender with the tomato-chipotle mixture. Blend until all ingredients are smooth.
  3. Return the Dutch oven to medium heat. When hot, add the puree and stir almost constantly until the puree has thickened to the consistency of tomato paste, about 6-8 minutes. Add the vegetable broth and water, and bring to a boil, then adjust heat to maintain a simmer, leaving the pot uncovered.
  4. Drain tofu, rinse and pat dry, then cut it into 1/2-inch cubes. Heat the remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the tofu and cook in a single layer, stirring every 2 to 3 minutes, until beginning to brown – this will take about 10 minutes total. Once the tofu cubes have become nice and golden on almost all sides, add to the soup and simmer for 30 minutes (again, uncovered).
  5. Add the chopped kale to the soup and season with salt to taste, depending on your taste and the saltiness of the broth you used (I found that I needed about a teaspoon of salt – but be sure to add a little at a time and taste as you go). Stir the soup until the greens are wilted, about 3 minutes (you don’t want them mushy, just nice and tender).
  6. Ladle the soup into soup bowls. Divide the avocado, tortilla chips, cheese, and sour cream (if using) among the bowls. Serve warm, with lime wedges.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Macy's Customer Service and their need to do multiplication drills during staff training...

Recently (well, not that recently anymore) the WCM decided to get some new dinnerware. I ordered these (amazing) salad plates from Anthropologie.

To accompany these under-the-sea wonders of beauty, I ordered these dinner plates and bowls from Macy's. Let's all agree at the outset here that these plates and bowls are kind of amazing. Their style pairs perfectly with the nautical look/feel of the Anthro plates - in fact, the bowls even look like seashells. (Please note: this detail is crucial as to why I didn't give up on Macy's customer service 4+ months ago).

In August, I ordered 3 sets of the above-pictured dinner plates, bowls, and mugs.  Each items comes as a set of 4 (i.e. 4 plates come together, 4 bowls come together), so I ordered enough to have 12 place settings (you all are following me with the multiplication at this point, correct?).

To reiterate, please note: this saga began in August. Checking the timestamp on my blog posting, it is now the end of January.

Soon after ordering my plates, I receive a box in the mail from Macy's, containing exactly:
3 plates
3 mugs
3 bowls

Not 3 sets...just 3 individual pieces of each.

I decided to call Macy's for some help clarifying the matter.
Me: "Hello, dear customer service. I ordered 3 SETS of plates, however I only recieved 3 plates, 3 mugs, and 3 bowls."  
Macy's Customer Service Rep: "Oh right right, we'll be sure to send the rest out."

Time goes on - and I receive nothing in the mail. Stumped, I call Macy's again. 

Me: "Um, just a quick question: where are my dinnerware settings?"  
Macy's Customer Service Rep: "Oh right...about that...it turns out these place settings are on back order...it's going to be another 3-5 weeks."
Me: Internal groan. "Ok fine, I can wait."

A month after placing my original order, I received an email from Macy's whose subject line reads, "Return merchandise confirmation." I call Macy's again.

An increasingly annoyed Me: "What is this email?"
Macy's Customer Service Rep: "Oh, it's a refund for the dishes you ordered."
Me: "And what refund is this? I'm still waiting for my dishes."
Macy's Rep: "I'm afraid those aren't on back order, they're actually out of stock."
Me: "You know, they probably were in stock when I originally ordered them, but you sent me the wrong amount of stuff."
Macy's Rep: "Yeah, right. sorry about that. We will have your money refunded and send you a $25 gift card."
Me: "Ok. Thanks....?"

Two weeks after this exchange, my money still had not been refunded. So I call Macy's again.

Me: "Where the hell is my money?"
Macy's Customer Service Rep: "Good question. Um, let me look through these notes. [insert long pause] Ma'am, it appears that your dishes are on back order."
Me: "Are they on back order, or are they out of stock?"
Macy's Rep: "Back order, so you should receive them."
Me: "Ok fine. I can wait. How long do you think it will be?"
Macy's Rep: "Let me see....oh no wait, you know what? They ARE out of stock. I'm sorry. We'll refund your money."
Me: "If these are out of stock, why are they still on your website?"


This time, Macy's refunded my money. Meanwhile, I happened to find my coveted and long-awaited place settings online at Bloomingdales. Bloomies was selling them individually, so I ordered 12 bowls and 12 plates. 

Bloomingdales sent 1 bowl (one!!), followed by an email whose subject line reads, "Cancellation confirmation. Cancelled items - 11 bowls, 12 plates." So I call Bloomingdales.

Me: "Seriously?! What does this email mean?"
Bloomingdales Rep: "Well, those place settings are out of stock, so your order has been cancelled and refunded...except for the one bowl, because you have that already."
Me, now frantic: "One bowl?! What do you want me to do with one bowl?!? I ordered a set of dishes, and you sent me ONE BOWL! It's like if I had ordered a pair of socks and you sent me just one, rather than the pair. Or if I had ordered a set of silverware and you sent me one knife. Please, for the love of all that's pure and holy, just refund my money."

In December I noticed that the plates and bowls are still on the Macy's Web site. I needed to talk to them about this.

Me: "Are these actually available? I already ordered them once and didn't get them [insert long, dramatic retelling of the story here]."
Macy's Customer Service Rep: "No, they are definitely available! Try again!"

I ordered 3 sets of 4 plates, and 3 sets of 4 bowls (you all can do the math, right? Again - I'm essentially ordering 12 place settings). 

The next week I receive my box, containing 3 plates. Are these people kidding me. So I call Macy's agian.

Me: "Yeah, so 3 times 4 equals 12."
Macy's Customer Service Rep: "We'll get those sent out right away."

The following week, I recieved my new box, which this time has 3 more plates in it. I called Macy's again.

Me: "Ok kids, what the hell is going on out there? I have received the wrong amount of dishes three times."
Macy's Customer Service Rep: "This is a problem at the warehouse. Our systems says "set of 4" but theirs doesn't."
Me: "....Curious, considering that the packing slip in the box says SET OF 4 on it."
Macy's Rep: "We have to fix it on the warehouse's end, give it 5 days and they'll send you the rest of your stuff"

I waited 10 days, all the while giving Macy's the benefit of the doubt, but after 10 days I still had received nothing. I called Macy's.

Me: "[Retell dramatic story]. I am still missing 6 plates and 12 bowls. You told me 10 days ago to expect the rest of my shipment in 5 days. 
Macy's Customer Service Rep: "Oh dear! Let me send that out right away."

This time, I immediately received a shipping confirmation. YAY!

Meanwhile, I received a gift card for $100 in the mail from Macy's. Clearly they heard my cries and groans and compensated me. Thank you, Macy's!

Shortly thereafter, I received a box...of 3 bowls.

Now, this is probably the point in the story when you start to doubt my credibility and you want to close your browser window so as not to read anymore, right? Macy's couldn't possibly send you the wrong number of items four times. Oh yes, my friends, yes they did! Also, this is when all my friends (who have been monitoring the saga with me for months) start to say, "It must be written on the Web site wrong? They must come individually, not as sets." Interesting thought but no...I went over this with my Macy's customer service friends (who are now more like close family if you are measuring familial ties based on the number times you call a person in a week. Hell, I call them multiple times a day, it's like we're dating... note to self: dump Macy's).

Call Macy's
Me: "So, listen here. [Recount fiasco in great and dramatic detail]."
Macy's Customer Service: "I can see why this is frustrating. I will get everything else sent out to you right away."

Soon, I received my new box from Macy's...of 2 plates. THIS MUST BE A COSMIC JOKE! Are you kidding me?! FOUR TIMES THREE IS TWELVE. TWELVE!!!

At this point, the current dish count is 8 plates and 3 bowls. 

Last Wednesday, I decided to call Macy's again.
Me: "I want to talk to a manager."
Macy's Customer Service Rep: "Sure, what seems to be the problem?"
Me: "I am not repeating this story more than once. Get a manager."
Macy's Rep: "Sure, hold on."
[Hold for 15 minutes]
Macy's: "Hi, how can I help you?"
Me: "Is this a manager?"
Person on the other line: "No, but I can help." 
Me: "No. Get. A. Manager."
[Hold for 15 more minutes]
Person on the other line: "Just hang on another minute."
[Hold 10 more minutes. Clearly Macy's is not only terrible at multiplication, but they can't tell time, either.]
Person on the other line: "Ok, I have someone who can speak to you, but they need 5 more minutes."
[Hold for 10 more minutes...get transferred....to the Macy's credit card division (?!?!)]
Me: "LISTEN, I have been on hold for 50 minutes waiting for a manager and now somehow I've been transferred to credit cards?!  I don't even have a Macy's card (nor do I EVER plan to apply for one now!). You get a manager on this phone right now!"
[Hold 10 more minutes]
Manager: "Hello ma'am, how can I help you?"
Manager: "Sure thing, right away ma'am." (This is where she also told me that she would put this on her "watch" list so she would call me before I could call her if something was wrong. Take a guess if that happened.)

I received a Fedex shipment confirmation in my email inbox. I notice that the box en route weighs 2.1 lbs. Huh. That doesn't sound like the weight of 4 plates and 9 bowls.

I weigh one of my 3 bowls. 11 oz. Hmm...now if I am supposed to be receiving 9 bowls, that would be 9 x 11 oz = 99 oz ...that's a little more than 6 lbs (plus the weight of the box and shipping materials). Clearly, this is not the rest of my merchandise. But, of course, we wouldn't expect them to realize that because, if we've learned one thing, it is that Macy's staff struggle with elementary mathematics.

Last Friday night, I called Macy's.
Me: "...just send me my dishes already."
Macy's Rep: "Sure. I just talked to Josh* and he is contacting the warehouse directly instead of ordering them through the system. These will ship on Monday, second day, you'll get everything Wednesday."
Me: "Perfect. And what is Josh's extension?"
Macy's Rep: "Um, I don't know."
Me: "Ok, what's his last name?"
Macy's Rep: "Eeeerrrrr...."
Me: "Let me talk to a manager."
Macy's Manager: "Hi, this is Jake Allen."
Me: "Hi Jake, I'd like to receive the merchandise I paid for."
Jake: "Sure sure, Cynthia and Josh just ordered it. You'll get it Wednesday. If you have any problems you can call me."
Me: "Jake, I don't have too much faith in this. You are very nice and you all have clearly understood the issue, but based on previous experience, I'm fairly skeptical."
Jake: "I understand. See we're in Missouri and the warehouse is in Connecticut so it's hard because if it was our warehouse here, I'd just go talk to them myself."
Me: "Jake, I don't care if you have to fly to Connecticut and personally put 4 plates and 9 bowls in a box yourself and then walk them to me in California, get me my plates!" (I actually said this)
Jake: "No worries, I'll be sure to help if you hit any problems. Let's talk Wednesday to see what you get. Here is my direct line"
Me: "PS Jake, I don't feel like I should really be paying for this, at this point."
Jake: "I understand, but did you get our $100 gift card?"
Me: "You know Jake, I'm not really falling all over myself about the gift card because if I were to charge you my hourly wage for the amount of time I have spent on the phone with Macy's customer service, it would add up to more than that."
Jake: "Let's see what you get on Wednesday and then we can talk about some kind of accommodation if you are still unsatisfied."

Meanwhile, Cynthia sends me an email confirmation of all we've discussed and tells me that my dishes will come Wednesday.

On Monday...no shipment confirmation. I checked my order online. Nothing new has shipped.

I called Jake. 
No answer.
Left a message.

Tuesday, still nothing.
I called Jake.
No answer.
Left a message.

Wednesday (yesterday), still nothing.
Called Jake.
No answer.
Left a message.

Have you died Jake Allen? Are you out with the flu Jake Allen?

I called Macy's customer service - the only thing it seems I know to do these days.
Me: "Manager! Now!"
[Hold for 20 minutes]
Macy's Customer Service Rep: "We can call you back...the supervisor is on another call."
Me: "Fine - call me back."
I never received a phone call. Let's be honest - nobody is actually surprised by this at this point.

Meanwhile, I get home from work to that package that we saw in shipment. Ya know, the one that should have weighed 7+ lbs. It was 2 bowls. I. kid. not.

Call Macy's.
Me: "Manager!"
Macy's Customer Service Rep: "I can help."
Me: "No, you can't. Manager."
Manager: "Hi, this is Sandy!"
"[Recap ridiculous story with Sandy (who has turned out to be a real gem and quite attentive in the following days...unfortunately for her, she was getting me at a very frustrated point)]. Sandy, I need you to place an order for me of 7 SETS of bowls and 4 SETS of plates"
Sandy: "But if I do that, you'll get like, 28 plates!!"
Me: "Really Sandy, really? I've received SIX shipments of the wrong thing. I would really be shocked if somehow they suddenly miraculously sent me the correct thing."
Sandy: "Ok right. I'll do it, and send you an email confirmation. Oh and errr... umm, the plates are on back order until March 11."
Me: "Do you know WHY that is Sandy? Because every person that is ordering a set of 4 dishes is getting 1 dish so Macy's is sending 1 dish here and 2 dishes there. So my sweet BIA feathered plates are scattered all over the country. But when those people get fed up and send their three plates back, you're going to send them to me."
Sandy: "You know I could refund the money on a gift card and you could just buy them at the store."
Me: "SANDY THEY AREN'T SOLD IN STORES!!!! Don't you think I would have thought of that after wrong shipment number FIVE?!?!!"
Sandy: "Right, I'll order you 7 sets of bowls and 4 sets of plates. And I'll send you another $100 gift card."
Me: "Thanks, and you might want to check on Jake Allen. I think he might have slipped in the bathtub or something."

*all names of Macy's customer service team members have been changed for their job security. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Vegan Monday : Peanut Isareli Couscous stuffed Peppers

Good friends of the West Coast Muse are in the middle of a 30-day vegan challenge (how San Francisco of them!) Now, the WCM is a pretty serious meat-eater so when I made dinner plans with the aforementioned friends, a bit of panic pulsed through my body. Not only did I need to make a main course that was meatless but also eggless, milkless, and (gasp) cheeseless! Ok, deep breath. People existed and functioned before cheese was invented. Right? People survived prior to goat cheese, yes? yes.

So your WCM searched far and wide for a good vegan recipe but nothing really suited my fancy. So I made up this recipe. ::pause:: Now, I am a pastry chef...I bake things. I make up recipes all the time....for ice cream and cake and truffles. But I will be the first person to admit that when it comes to being inventive with savory dishes, my mind goes blank. I am a great cook if I have a recipe but I can't just create things. So the fact that I made up this recipe AND that it was delicious is momentous. Also, if you're squeamish about vegan eatin' you need to rest at ease because if you're favorite bacon-eater is calling the following recipe delicious, you need to trust, because I am not easily pleased. 

Peppers stuffed with Peanuty Israeli Couscous

When you are imagining this on your "mind's tongue", think pad-thai flavors. 

2 Tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced (or squished through a hand dandy garlic press)

Heat oil on medium heat in a large pot. Add garlic and cook for a few minutes being mindful to not let your garlic get too brown.

12 oz israeli couscous (easily found at TJs)

Add israeli couscous to the oil and garlic and cook, stirring frequently until the couscous are toasted. 

2 1/2 cups water or veg stock
3 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 Tablespoon siracha

Add the above three ingredients to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Cook until your couscous are tender. 

1/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup oil
1/2 teaspoon cayenne

Mix the peanut butter and oil into the couscous until they are well-coated. 

6 small rainbow carrots, chopped
1 can garbanzo beans

Toss chopped carrots and beans into the cous cous and mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Now let's stuff some peppers...Take 6 bell peppers (red, yellow, orange, whatev) slice them in half length-wise and gut them out from seeds and veins. Lay the peppers in two oiled baking dishes and load 'em up with the cous cous mixture. Drizzle a little bit more oil on top and pop 'em in the oven at 400 degrees for 45-60 minutes, until the peppers are tender. 

Top the cooked peppers with with chopped scallions and toasted peanuts. YUM!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Meatless Monday: Sloppy No's

Today's Meatless Monday post is an original recipe by the ECM's dear husband. With a craving for sloppy joe's and a penchant for eating well this time of year, what's a man to do but make a few substitutions? I must say, I'm pretty proud of him. Try this recipe for yourself and let us know what you think!

Sloppy No's
by Eric Asche

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes

1 cup vegetarian ground "beef" crumbles (add more if you desire a thicker consistency)
1 cup garbanzo beans
1/2 cup barbecue sauce (preferred brand: Stubb's)
1/4 cup ketchup
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
1 small jalapeno, finely chopped (remove seeds)
2 or 3 garlic bulbs for a little extra flavor, finely chopped
Healthy dose of Salt / Pepper, to taste

1: Combine ingredients in medium saucepan
2: Bring mixture to a boil
3: Reduce heat to low, cover and let cook for 10-15 minutes, or until onion is tender (remove cover to thicken)
4: Stir occasionally
5: After finished cooking, let contents sit and cool for 5 minutes to help thicken
6: Toast buns, add pickle, slaw, tots and get after it!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Meatless Monday - Low fat vegetarian black bean soup

Hello dear readers, and Happy New Year!

The Muses fell off the wagon a bit in the past couple of months - who knew that promotions / new jobs could mean REAL work to do and less time to play?


It's Monday, and the FIRST Monday of the New Year, at that. We are bringing back Meatless Monday posts in the Big 12, and first up on the roster: low fat, vegetarian black bean soup. What could be more delicious in the chilly winter than some soup? Not only that, but this soup is super inexpensive, super quick to prepare, and uses mostly pantry items that you most likely already have laying around.

The ECM made this for herself and her dear husband last week, and already it's back in the line-up of this week's dinners. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Low Fat, Vegetarian Black Bean Soup
[Adapted from Bon Appetit (August 2004)]

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
One half jalapeño chile without seeds, chopped
2 15-ounce cans black beans, undrained
1 15-ounce can petite diced tomatoes in juice
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth

Chopped fresh cilantro
Low-fat sour cream
Tortilla chips

Heat oil in a heavy large pot (I used my Dutch oven) over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot, and garlic; sauté until vegetables begin to soften, about 6 minutes.

Mix in the cumin and 1 teaspoon jalapeño, and stir for about a minute or so, letting the cumin toast.

Add undrained black beans, tomatoes with juice, and vegetablebroth; bring soup to a boil.

Reduce heat to medium, cover, and cook until carrots are tender, about 15 minutes.

Using a large ladle, transfer 3 cups of the soup to a mixing bowl and using an immersion blender, puree until smooth.

Return the puree to the pot, and allow the soup to simmer for about 15 minutes, until thickened.

Season to taste with salt and pepper (apprx. 1 teaspoon each, but judge by your taste).

Ladle the steaming soup into bowls, and garnish with cilantro, a dollop of sour cream, and some crumbled tortilla chips.