About me

I am a lifelong vegetarian, raised in Texas, with a fondness for southern comfort food, Tex-Mex, and international foods from around the world. My parents are both vegetarian, and my mother is vegan, and an excellent cook (look for her comments on this blog).  I first learned to cook helping my mom make desserts and tofu dishes for the holidays. When I left home, however, I still did not know many cooking basics like how to cook brown rice, how to cook dry beans, or how to roast vegetables.

In college I lived in a vegetarian co-op, and there I broadened my cooking experiences.  I served as cook for Friday night dinner, and I had a long stint as “fast food cook” where I made gallons of hummus, salsa, tofu salad, and refried beans. I even served as kitchen manager one semester: my duties included writing the shopping lists, organizing the shoppers, making the bulk grocery orders, approving all dinner menus, and trying to stay on budget while satisfying everyone’s (sometimes contradictory) food requests. Our co-op had 26 residents, as well as about 15 boarders, and we usually tried to cook dinner for 50, so at the co-op I learned some of the challenges in preparing food for a crowd, and a surprisingly picky one at that. (Why do so many vegetarians not like mushrooms or olives?).

The first cookbooks I used were 70’s classics like the Farm Vegetarian Cookbook and Laurel’s Kitchen.  Although these cookbooks now seem out of date, and I no longer cook from them, they still hold a special place in my heart. I grew up cooking Tex-Mex, and although I don’t have any Mexican cookbooks that I use regularly, I enjoy improvising with Mexican ingredients and spices. In the co-op I tasted fresh ginger for the first time, and made my first attempts at cooking Chinese, Thai and Indian foods, but failed more often than not. In the years since, with the help of Madhur Jaffrey, and my local Sri Lankan grocery store, my Indian cooking skills have improved tremendously. My ability to cook authentic tasting Thai food took a leap when I found Nancy McDermott’s cookbook Real Vegetarian Thai. I’m trying to learn to cook Ethiopian, but I’m still at the beginner stage, with no cookbook to guide me. My Chinese and Japanese cooking skills are pretty much nonexistent, sadly, as I have not yet found good vegetarian cookbooks for these cuisines either. (Any recommendations?)

Towards the end of college and start of graduate school, I started becoming interested in modifying recipes to make them lower fat, but in the years since I’ve moved away from low-fat cooking and instead strive to cook healthy but tasty and sometimes higher-fat foods. I try to use unprocessed ingredients, whole foods, and lots of healthy vegetables like dark leafy greens. I try to limit the amounts of highly processed fake meat, refined flours, sweeteners, and other less-than-optimal ingredients. Mostly, I’m trying to find recipes that are reasonably healthy, tasty, and satisfying. I’m still very interested in nutrition, however, and often post the nutritional contents of my recipes. I use the free nutrient-tracking website cronometer.com to compute and occasionally post the nutritional stats of my recipes.

Growing up a vegetarian, I’ve always been concerned with the environmental and societal impact of my food choices: I try to buy local, seasonal, and organic, whenever possible. In Pittsburgh I belonged to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture program, a.k.a. a farm share) for five years, and frequented many of the local farmer’s markets. After 8 years of living in Germany, I just got the opportunity to join our first local, still fledgling CSA. I’m so excited! Of course, I still shop at the local farmer’s market once a week as well.

My husband, Derek, is not a vegetarian, but is very much a foodie. In the past he made a commitment to only eat meat and fish that are the most sustainably and ethically raised.  He did pretty well sticking to his commitment when he lived in Chicago, but now that we’re in a small city in Germany, he’s finding it more difficult. At home, however, he eats vegetarian enthusiastically–he loves my cooking, and perhaps more importantly, does not like to cook, so is happy to eat whatever I make. He’s a very adventurous eater, and loves unusual food combinations. Eating with Derek I’ve learned to love exotics desserts made with tomato and basil, olive oil gelato, jalapeno ice cream, and toasted sesame oil as an ice cream topping. (Hmm, those are all desserts…. Telling.)

I’ve lived in Austin, Pittsburgh, and Montreal, and I’ve spent summers in NYC, Chicago, Minneapolis, Baltimore, and New Jersey. I currently live in Saarbrücken, a city of about 175,000 in Western Germany, just 5km from the French border.

In 2015 the birth of our daughter Alma expanded our family of captious eaters. Feeding her is a constant challenge. I’m always looking for recipes that suit her need for familiarity and simplicity, while still satisfying Derek’s and my desire for novelty and complexity. And that can be made in the 30 minutes from when we get home from the park and before ravenous toddler hunger kicks in. Look for her favorites under the category “Alma’s faves” or the tag “toddler-approved.”

Frequently Asked Questions

A few readers have asked why there are no photos on my blog. If you saw my food photos you wouldn’t ask such a question! I have not yet mastered the art of food photography, nor is my food all that beautiful in real life. I’ve been focusing more on taste than presentation. I know, I know, presentation is part of taste, but it’s a part I’ve not gotten to yet. When I’m 50….  In the meantime, be glad there are no photos.

A few readers have asked why there are no recipes for eggplant on my blog.  I must confess.  I’m generally not a picky eater, but there are a few foods I’ve just never learned to abide: eggplant and blue cheese are the top two.  I force myself to try them now and then, but so far they’ve just not for me.  There are other foods that—unless perfectly cooked—often make me a bit squeamish: Spargel (the fat white asparagus that’s so beloved here in Germany), turnips, papaya, certain seaweeds, and super bitter greens.  I do, however, love other often reviled foods, including okra and brussels sprouts.  Derek claims I’m a picky eater, but there are some foods I enjoy that even he doesn’t:  most fruits, most olives (even crappy canned California ones), millet, shiitake mushrooms, and burdock.

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22 Comments

  1. austingardener said,

    Thanks for the compliment. You inspire me to be a better cook.

  2. Deepa Iyer said,

    Chanced on this website when I was browsing for some interesting recipes. I am a vegetarian and havent been able to find really good recipes thus far. Now, I know where to look. You have done an amazing job of all the recipes and I am quite comfortable with the format – you know – makes it a lot easier when am actually in the kitchen.

    Although, there are some ingredients which I dont get here in India (or they are way too expensive), I think your recipes leave a lot of scope for improvements – by adding / deleting ingredients – which makes life simpler for me.

    Way to go girl !

    It would be nice if you can tell / email me your name (tried looking around in your site, but no mention anywhere)

  3. Deeba said,

    I got here from Ann’s at Redacted following the green beans. You got quite a treasure here. I too believe in going local & seasonal all the way; organic is still far too expensive in India…one day!! I prefer veggie food, though am a non-veg. Have been doing loads of veggie posts of late because am in an exploratory mood! Nice blog you have here…all the best!

  4. E.W. Spider said,

    Oooh, the organization of your blog is something to aspire to! I, too, don’t do food photos, but maybe one day….

    There are several good vegetarian Japanese cookbooks out there. A well-thumbed copy on my shelf is by Patricia Richfield, and it’s great for trying things out without feeling hugely overwhelmed.

    I’ll be back to look around some more!

  5. tangstein said,

    Hi – found your link via my blog stats @ tangstein.wordpress.com – would love to swap links if you’re interested! You have a wonderful site, which I look forward to exploring more in the near future. BTW, can you give me some advice on the almond jello post on mine – looking to make it vegan-friendly, and although I was vegetarian for many years, I made a bad vegan (it’s the cheese thing…) and didn’t really learn the art of vegan cooking as well as I could have. Nice to e-meet you! Liza Baker

  6. RogersParker said,

    I grew up baking and cooking, in that order, with foods right off the Michigan farm. I was taught traditional northern European style where salt and pepper was set on the table ‘incase you wanted to add spice’. By the time I was eleven, I had helped one grandmother who was an avid baker of old world breads, pies and cookies, and the other grandmother had taught me the importance of a good gravy. “The Complete Italian Vegetarian” (1997) was the first cookbook that I purchased for myself and thus a new world of vegetables was opened up to me. From that ensued a year of studying food culture in Italy. I continue to mix my farm roots with ways of preparing local vegetables into flavorful side dishes. I still get my meat and veggies from the farm as often as possible, and that cookbook is still my favorite reference when I need a really good recipe.

  7. Jessica said,

    Hi there!!!

    I am aspiring to pull my family thru sad to vegetarian to raw… ;0)

    LOVE your blog here!! I love that you have ratings and notes on your recipes…. this makes it easy for someone like me to judge whether or not to try that recipe on the family or not.. lol…

    Printed off a few recipes…. am def. getting a feed… will be back for more!! Thank you!!! ;0)

    Toodles!

  8. captious said,

    Hi everyone, and thanks for stopping by. Let me know how the recipes turn out.

    captious

  9. Tofu Hunter said,

    Great blog! I love the idea that vegetarians can still enjoy down home and southern style food… thanks for sharing.

    • captious said,

      Thanks. I like your blog name! I’m jealous of all the yummy vegetarian food you can get in Seattle.

  10. Peter Berley’s Spicy Coconut Sweet Potato Soup with Collard Greens « Cookbook Cooks said,

    […] to Captious Vegetarian for introducing me to Peter […]

  11. estherbeadle said,

    Mmmm! Southern food is my favourite, but I always find it so hard to cook it for my friends altogether, as one is a vegetarian. Now I have some ideas! Thanks! Great blog!

  12. ariellandi said,

    nice! I found you through one of those automatically generated similar recipe things at the bottom of a recent post on my blog. Your “About” page is more informative and interesting than many entire blogs I have come across.

  13. annette said,

    hi, captious!

    thanks for the link. can’t wait to delve further into all your wonderful sounding recipes.

    A.

  14. Nicole Rivera said,

    This is a great blog. I found you while searching out more info on Jack Bishop. Now I can’t wait to learn about all of the other chefs you posted about. What an amazing resource you are! Thank you!!

  15. Pamela Rosinia said,

    What a find! I got here by looking for Injera and other vegetarian Ethiopian food calorie counts and I am truly awed by the recipes. Everything else about this blog is so perfect it leaves me speechless.

  16. austingardener said,

    Dr Neal Bernard came to Austin last week to talk and sign his new book. He said that in 1909 the average amount of cheese a person ate in the US in a year was 3 pounds. Now it is closer to 58 pounds. When he asked the audience why 400 folks shouted out pizza. Interesting that the first non-vegan food you ate was pizza at your elementary school cafeteria.

  17. betsy shipley said,

    Hello and I enjoy reading your recipes especially ones that include tempeh! If you ever make it to our area, please let us know and stop by for a tempeh panini!
    betsy shipley

  18. austingardener said,

    Hmmm, It is also the fall equinox and curious minds want to read new posts from the captious vegetarian.

  19. Challenged Chef said,

    Challenged Chef agrees with austingardener, please tell what you are cooking now, captious vegetarian.

  20. Rebecca J. Richardson // The Rebecca Project said,

    Ever since we had a unit on Saarbruecken in our German textbook at High School, I’ve wanted to visit! Sounds marvellous.
    So glad I stumbled upon your blog and am looking forward to reading your archives.

  21. Ask Amma said,

    Found this blog while surveying net opinion on whether or not to consume the soaking water with beans and really liked your writing style. Now I read about you and find you grew up with Laurel’s Kitchen and lived in a vegetarian co-op in school. (Me too 🙂 Can’t wait to explore the recipes here and btw I respect your decision to focus on text.

    I also enjoyed reading the other comments on this page. re: cheese & pizza, when I lived in the veg co-op we had to make meals that vegans could eat so I quickly learned to make pizza with tofu and it was great. Actually I put so many toppings on pizza that I no longer think of cheese as a main or even essential ingredient.

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