Sandwiches are one of my favorite foods in all the world. I’m like Joey when it comes to sandwiches, just give me some good bread, tons of veggies, some good sauce like pesto or hummus or dill-veggiegurt and I am a happy camper! And when you find bread that is delicious and low calorie, well it’s like sandwiches are calling my name.
So when my mother in law brought over a bag filled with little ciabatta rolls just 60 grams per roll, I was ECSTATIC! Like Joey-level excited and I knew exactly what I wanted. Spicy TVP, cooked in the air fryer and tossed in a blend of spices & hot sauce.
This recipe is pretty easy as far as vegan lunch recipes go.
Rehydrate the TVP in water or broth and let it rest to get as much liquid out as possible. When you’re ready, toss it in a variety of seasonings & spices such as: smoky paprika, turmeric, piri piri, garlic, cumin & white pepper…don’t forget the oil.
Pop the vegan buffalo strips in the air fryer for 10 to 15 minutes. I ended p going closer to 15 minutes because I use the big chunks and cut them in half before seasoning them. When the spicy tofu is done, toss it in a mixture of hot sauce, vinegar (optional), and vegan butter (also optional).
For the sauce, mix veggiegurt, dill, lemon juice and thinly sliced scallions. Season with salt & pepper and add to bread.
Then whip up your salad and dress it with a quick vegan vinaigrette (mustard, vinegar, herbs & spices), and your easy vegan lunch recipe is ready to go. If you do your prep work, this is a quick and easy vegan lunch for two but if you’re cooking for more, just double the recipe as needed.
Wondering what that drink is above? Just a little bit of Jameson Caskmates Stout Edition & Bundaberg sarsaparilla, also known as a Lynchburg Beer or, since I used Jameson, Dublin Beer!
I may or may not have shared with you my slight obsession with the TV show Dawson’s Creek. I don’t talk about it much here but if you’ve ever visited my Facebook or Author page, you’ll have seen it. Well I now have an extension to this obsession, which I realize may be too strong a word but if you knew how much I loved Pacey Witter then you’d understand how much Bon Appetit chef Brad Leone reminds me of a grownup Pacey Witter.
Why does any of that matter?
Because I had this conversation recently with a reader and then Brad did this delicious looking roasted tomato and ricotta sandwich which, for obvious reasons, I couldn’t recreate on its own.
So I thought it was a perfect time to share this recipe…and give another shout out to Dawson’s Creek.
So the key to this recipe is the tomatoes. I used vine tomatoes because they looked really good and because I found some really incredible organic rosemary and…well look at it. This is the easy but time-consuming part. Add a bit of oil to the skillet (yes, I know about my oilless stance but I needed to compromise here so I did) and drop the tomatoes and rosemary in as they are. You’ll have to cook them for quite a while, until they start to brown/char a little and maybe even explode.
See the difference? Just cook them until they reach a point you feel they’re tender enough to eat.
While the tomatoes did their thing, I added some garlic and half a yellow chili pepper because they are an important part of the vegan ricotta I tried to make.
So Brad’s original recipe used regular old animal ricotta so I knew I needed to replace it. Somehow. The Google Machine gave me tons of vegan ricotta recipes that used cashews. I LOVE cashews. I’d probably rank them as my second favorite nut behind pecans, but the truth is that I’m still trying to reach my weight loss goals and I just couldn’t do cashew ricotta.
So I got a little creative. Tofu in salty brine water (I used Inedit brand) mixed with vegan cream cheese (Simply V brand). Give them, along with the garlic, lemon juice and chili pepper, a quick run in the food processor until smooth. You might have to add a bit of almond milk or whatever non-dairy milk you prefer. I used roasted unsweetened almond milk so it wouldn’t change the flavor too much.
It didn’t photograph all that well but it was very delicious. I mixed it in a food processor until I got a consistency that satisfied me and that was slightly grainy and smooth.
It’s pretty easy even if it does take more time than a simple vegan sandwich should. It was tasty and well worth the effort, besides I got to share it with you!
Tip: If you need more flavor for the ricotta, add nutritional yeast or vegan Parmesan.
A slightly closer look so you can see all the herbs and green bits added to the ricotta.
And now…the sandwich!
I smashed the tomatoes a little and poured some balsamic vinegar on top and that was it.
Smear the ricotta on your favorite crispy, toasted bread and top with the tomato mix.
All that’s left is to enjoy it…with an ice cold beer, since we’re all still stuck inside and day drinking is totally appropriate.
In a couple of months it will be my 3 year veganniversary and I have to admit that the overall transition was not as hard as I thought it would be. Quitting smoking was harder to do and the body of evidence available at the time was far greater about its harms but for me it was fourth time’s the charm before I kicked that nasty habit for good. Finding out that eggs are as bad as cigarettes for your heart made it easy to give up my morning sunny side up on an everything bagel breakfast. There was no way I’d let eggs get me when I’d already kicked cigarettes.
Anyway now you have context to know that becoming vegan was a lot easier than finding actual vegan meals to eat while traveling. Obviously that depends on where you go and what the vegan population/culture is like there. In Germany you’ll find some pretty good options but not all over. In Romania, I’ve eaten at vegan restaurants in Bucharest and Cluj, otherwise it’s a la cart city.
Which brings me to a recent ski trip to celebrate the release of my book, How Could I Forget, to Poiana Brasov.
This is the view from the small slice of baby mountain where my husband refreshed my ski recollection. We skiied once before in Austria a few years ago but I was about 80 lbs heavier and basically needed to re-learn this sport. This time my legs were smaller which meant I could wear the ski boots all day without excruciating pain. Anyway this was day one. Check in. Change. Rent gear. Ski until the mountain shut down.
Shower. Stretch. Food.
We chose this place, Vanatorul, because they had a vegetable soup (harder to find in these parts than you might think) and a totally vegan mushroom stew. It was a no-brainer.
Fresh sweet potato chips for an appetizer! BUT only because there was no vegetable soup without meat, because apparently that’s something you have to clarify.
Despite burning a million calories on the mountain, we decided to split everything we ordered, including this platter of grilled vegetables. Light green zucchini, eggplant, red bell peppers and a couple mushrooms filled out the platter. It was only about 200 grams of food.
The mushroom “stew” with polenta was completely vegan and pretty good. It wasn’t hot and the mushrooms were soggy but the mamaliga (polenta) made it a hearty choice for the cold town of Poiana Brasov, especially since we walked here from the hotel!
The food wasn’t great but it was good and it was hot and it was vegan, as promised. I gave it a solid B on the food but the Palinca was too strong without enough flavor.
But there was some pretty great art!
Romania has some pretty great traditional/ethnic art like this all over the country. There’s so much detail that I wish my photography skills were better.
Just in case you’re walking and you go too far.
On day two we hit the mountain again, this time the logical part of my brain was in control and I told myself I wasn’t going nearly as fast as it felt. It also helped that The Hubs made me keep my eyes open and focused on him instead of the snow beneath my feet. I managed to get down more than half the bunny slope without falling. Or freaking out. Mostly.
Then I wanted my husband to enjoy the trip too so I sent him up on the gondola to do the entire mountain a time or two while I practiced, which I did. And that means I fell. A lot. Okay just four times but it felt like a lot more. Thank goodness for Zumba, a strong core and affordable ski rental equipment because I only bruised my ego. And my left calf.
Side note: Ask if helmets and other equipment is made with leather or synthetic fibers if you’re all about that #crueltyfreeliving
After a full day of skiing I burned a zillion calories and I was ready to eat.
We walked and walked and walked, finding nothing but side dishes. So we chose a place that offered vegetable soup, for real this time, and we hoped for the best.
The soup was tasty. Well seasoned with a good amount of hot broth. A little oily but the highlight of the meal.
It warmed me right up and primed me for the focaccia bread which was pretty good.
The grilled vegetables were not good. They were both under and overcooked, and the boiled potatoes were sufficient with salt & pepper from the table.
It was not a fun food experience but we found a giant arcade building with ping pong, life size chess, pool, bowling, darts, a climbing wall and mini golf. I know, after a long day of skiing we must be crazy right?
It was a fun experience though. A few games of ping pong and then my husband wiped the floor with me at pool and we made our way back to the hotel.
The next morning it was very foggy and rainy and my anxiety would not let me venture up on a mountain with skis on my unsure feet.
The trip was fun and I conquered (mostly) my fear of slamming into a tree on skis. I came home relaxed, refreshed and ready to dig back in for a bit. Plus…my book is LIVE!!!
So last week the Hubs and I decided to do another “thing”. A few weeks ago we had a soup themed week where we each cooked a variety of soups throughout the week. Another time it was sandwiches. This past week it was beans.
I know what you’re probably thinking. “Beans, gross.” If that’s what you’re thinking then you are wrong. It was a magical week of delicious food, including the Cajun beans & rice from earlier in the week.
But I will admit that maybe this is a way to cheat the bean thing, but since the English have no qualms about having beans for breakfast it worked in my favor. Cos had been asking for a few weeks now for me to make a vegan breakfast fry up so I set out to exploring different ways to get the sausage component done without wasting an obscene amount of time. I watched a few dozen videos on making vegan sausage when I came up on the Vegan But Lazy channel on YouTube. It was fast and easy, and I am happy to report created a very good sausage-like texture without the gross greasy taste.
The first thing you’ll notice is that this plate looks a little underwhelming compared to most English breakfast plates making the rounds on the internet, and that’s on purpose. I wanted the fry up without the eleven hundred calories that typically come along with it. So I kept it simple with:
Tofu & turmeric scramble
Roasted herbed tomatoes
Toast & butter
We’ll start with the sausage since it does require the most prep time. Get the original recipe here. You’ll need some vital wheat gluten (seitan), chickpea flour or nutritional yeast, herbs & seasoning, olive oil. That’s it. Mix up the ingredients and form sausage shapes and roll into aluminum foil. Simmer for 45 minutes. I followed the Cajun & Italian recipes to the letter, cut them in half and we each had half of one. They were mad delicious!
They aren’t the prettiest, but neither are the ones made with animal flesh, right? But this was what they looked like fresh from nearly an hour of steaming. I brushed them with oil and put them on a sheet pan with the tomatoes so they could crisp up in the oven.
The rest of the meal is easy peasy. Crush a brick of firm tofu and season as you wish. Get my smoky tofu crumble recipe here or check out his recipe here.
The sausages and the tomatoes will cook at the same time and you can toss the buttered bread into the oven during the last 3 to 5 minutes of cooking, or use a toaster if you have one.
You can’t really have a proper English breakfast–vegan or otherwise–without a proper beer, can you?
I can’t but as you can see, I completely forgot to get a good photo of them, so enjoy what you can see. We shared an oat stout and a Scottish stout, maybe not very English but very delicious.
Once in awhile a recipe will make the rounds on the web and I’ll think to myself, “I can veganize it.” Sometimes it’s just me being confident because I’ve spent a lot of time over the years tweaking recipes and some of it is an insane level of hubris. But if you want to keep your palate satisfied and always guessing, it helps to experiment. Try new spices and blends to see what you come up with, you might be pleasantly surprised.
Shakshuka is typically a dish made with eggs but since we’re vegan or plant based around these parts, I had to figure out who would become the star of this show. I could have gone the easy route and went for vegan scrambled eggs but that felt like cheating and it also didn’t match what was brewing in my head. Mushrooms could have worked but I wanted my first vegan shakshuka to be a day meal (like lunch) and I didn’t want to spend a thousand minutes cooking a few hundred grams of crimini mushrooms.
Then it hit me. Beans. There are plenty of types of beans and the trick is choosing the right ones. I wanted to use butter beans but because our theme this week is beans (more on that later) and the hubs had already taken them, I went with cannellini beans, also known as navy beans.
The key to a good shakshuka, at least according to the internet and Alton Brown is the thick tomato and chili sauce. Most of the time I would give some fresh tomatoes a boil to remove the skin and use those, but again this was a lunch dish and I wanted to get some work in, so I grabbed a jar of fire roasted crushed tomatoes and mixed them with fresh plum tomatoes. That way you get the sweetness of the jarred stuff to offset the peppers and the tartness of the fresh ones for more depth of flavor.
For peppers, my advice is to know your taste buds. If you can handle spice, go with a hotter chili or use bell peppers like I did and add in a diced jalapeno or serrano chili pepper. Since my hubs isn’t a fan of spice, I compromise by keeping the seeds out of one side and minimizing them on the other. You can always add more spice later.
So we have tomatoes and chilis. Next we need onions and garlic.
You want to get the onions, garlic and peppers sauteed in a small amount of oil (or none of you choose) before adding the tomatoes. I added the fresh tomatoes first, giving them time to cook. Toss in some fresh rosemary and oregano.
Then add crushed tomatoes, and booze if you choose, then let the sauce simmer until it is nice and thick, 15 to 30 minutes.
Toss in the white beans and simmer a little longer, and if you’re craving some extra vitamin K, toss in a handful of spinach.
And because I saw it in a photo and thought it looked tasty, I added a few dollops of pesto cream, made with Violife “cream cheese” which by the way is very delicious with a clean flavor. Take some leftover pesto and add a tablespoon or two of cream, dropping it on top of your vegan shakshuka.
Toast the bread, using olive oil, salt & pepper, and chili flakes. Bake for 3 to 5 minutes or until crispy and then satisfy your appetite.
After a long day of shopping and people-ing, this meal and an ice cold beer was just what I needed to recover.
In addition to my love of potatoes and Asian noodle dishes, I sometimes get a hankering for a sandwich. Nothing in particular just some really good stuff between some amazing bread. Or some not so amazing bread. My go to sandwich is lettuce, tomato, cucumber and sprouts with various sauces and condiments.
In a pinch, even a burger will do. Or a fried tofu sandwich, especially when I take the time to marinate the tofu. Yeah, I’m a sandwich-a-holic.
But when I was a kid my grandmother would make the most amazing scrambled egg sandwiches and I would slather it with ketchup. Yes, ketchup. And plenty of black pepper. Some days there would be a slice of cheese or a sprinkling of shredded cheese. The other day a memory came to me and that’s all that I wanted.
But of course some changes were necessary.
This was a pretty simple sandwich to make and the only time consuming part is getting the tofu to the right consistency and flavor but it’s totally worth it!
Here’s what I used:
Tofu (1 brick)
Smoky & spicy paprika
Garlic clove, pressed/minced
Salt & pepper
Vegan yogurt (Take it Veggie is my brand but use what you like)
Crumble the tofu with your fingers until it’s good and crumbly and then start seasoning. Take your time and use a small fork or your fingers until every bit is coated. You can add some oil to the pan but I added a splash of almond milk and only when the tofu started to stick. Let it cook for a while on before disturbing it and you can decrease the cook time. Or if you’re feeling brave, crank up the heat and watch it like a hawk, stirring frequently.
I used medium heat while I mixed the yogurt dill “mayo”. Chop some fresh dill and add it to the yogurt along with salt, pepper and garlic granules or powder. I like a little spice so there may be a few drops of chipotle hot sauce added as well.
Now you’re ready to grab a couple slices of bread, I picked up a dark whole wheat from the bakery.
As you can see, I’ve graduated from ketchup to Sriracha.
And since it was very hot and humid, we needed something cold to drink.
Something really, really cold.
A smoothing with blackberries, blueberries, banana, strawberries and the juice of 1 orange.
Plus a splash of water to make it drink-able.
Leftover strawberries that were too delicious to go into the fridge when they were so fresh!
Who said eating vegan was difficult? This is a tasty and healthy (ish) lunch in less than 30 minutes.
One of the things that gives people pause about going vegan is they think it means eating healthy ALL THE TIME. Let me tell you that’s not true. It’s easy to eat crap while eating vegan…if you let it happen. But no matter how bad it is, it is always better than it’s animal-based alternatives. But that doesn’t mean you should shy away indulging your not-so-great urges, it means that you should be honest and understand that desire happens and ignoring it is a one way street back to Junk Food Junction.
Instead, make what you feel like–for example, pizza pockets–and make it as healthy as you possibly can.
What does that look like, exactly?
This recipe was pretty easy and it doesn’t require a lot of ingredients to get the job done. Let’s start with what’s on the inside:
Vidalia onion (1)
Garlic (5 or 6)
Bell pepper (1/2 red & 1/2 yellow)
Rosemary (fresh sprig if you have it lying around)
Thyme & Oregano
Salt & black pepper
Since I didn’t use oil, I cranked the fire up when the mushrooms & rosemary were first added to the skillet until there was a slight char on the edges, when the water begins to cook out of the mushrooms, add a pinch of salt and some soy or Worcestershire sauce but be warned, I’ve found it pretty difficult to get my hands on vegan Worcestershire. Add a little bit of liquid–as needed–to keep from sticking.
Once mushrooms have started to brown, add onion and bell peppers, cook for about 5 to 7 minutes and then add garlic and herbs.
For the pizza dough, I went the lazy route and bought a fresh one from the bakery because it turns out they use olive oil instead of butter so that was a win for me!
Lay out the dough, I did it straight on the parchment paper, and then fill it as you desire. I went with the big ol’ pizza pocket method because the kitchen was very warm and the dough was getting sticky. Lay it out, fill it and fold it up, sealing the edges with water and your fingers. I don’t think you need to brush the top with oil or butter, I just added some cayenne pepper and sea salt to the outside for color and flavor.
While the pizza pocket cooked in the oven, about 20-25 minutes with my oven, I whipped up a quick salad of tomatoes, cucumber, scallions, kalamata & green olives with a lemon mustard vinaigrette and I grabbed some murături from the fridge (okay, from my mother-in-law’s fridge) to finish off the meal.
Seems a little too simple, right?
I thought the same thing but with all the pizza dough, I figured we should go the fresh/raw route to complete the meal because you need that fresh, nutritious fiber in your life, plus all the benefits of eating fermented/pickled vegetables. If you’re curious, it’s cabbage, pickles and cucumber this time around.
If this all vegan mushroom pizza pocket is feeling a little too healthy for ya, I know the perfect way to fix that.
I’m back and ready to talk plant based food with you!
My posts at the end of the year were a little sparse because it has been a long time since the Hubs and I have lived close to family and now that we are, there were plenty of dinners and parties to attend. Lots of family gatherings means one thing: plenty of cooking.
And with so much time in the kitchen, you can imagine that I over cooking. Completely and totally over it.
Enter, beans. Specifically pinto beans.
Most people hear kidney beans and immediately think about re-fried beans, but that’s not the only thing these beans are good for.
They are a high carb food.
They are cheap as hell.
Low in fat & high in fiber.
Plus they are super easy to cook, especially if you have a slow cooker. Pop them in and cover them with water or stock for 6 to 8 hours and you can separate them, refrigerate them and make whatever you please.
…or you can make stew.
I just love stew because I LOVE a big steaming bowl of vegetables with tons of liquid. Make it thick like stew and I’m even happier. It’s a great way to use veggies before they go bad AND a really good way to make sure you get your daily serving of vegetables. Did I mention that soup is low in calories?
Okay so, I gathered all my ingredients: pinto beans, onion, bell pepper (any color you choose), celery, potatoes and garlic. I always like to saute my vegetables before starting a soup because I think it provides a deeper flavor, particularly when you add a bay leaf or two during the simmer time.
Saute it up and then add herbs & spices before you add the beans to the pot. If you do this in a slow cooker, add everything but the bay leaf in at once and let the slow cooker do all the work. For this recipe, I went old school and did it on top of the stove.
Now what makes this bean and potato stew so delicious is the 2 cups of beans that I set aside until they were cool enough to pop into a food processor. Make sure it’s nice and smooth and then pour it into the broth, and then watch it get nice and thick and creamy. You get all the cream without having to add any additional fat to this recipe.
But if you REALLY need the fat, make some cornbread to go on the side.
I was feeling a little fancy so I added rosemary and thyme to the cornbread recipe but don’t give me too many props because it was a simple recipe with flour, corn meal, plant butter, salt, baking powder and herbs. Bake 12 to 15 minutes and then get ready to get your grub on!
And if you want to kick this awesome vegan meal of cornbread & stew, add a delicious smoked stout to a glass and enjoy your meal!
What’s your go to stew when you’re feeling too lazy to cook?
We’ve all been there, standing in the produce aisle deciding on whether you want to be a good adult and get just one or two bananas or more. But you are a grownup, one who eats their fruits & veggies daily. Then reality sets in and now you have half a bunch of uneaten, slightly overripe bananas that need to be eaten or tossed.
But who likes super soggy bananas? Not me. Definitely not me.
The adult in question was my husband and the bananas were three. So I mashed them all up with some vanilla extract and bourbon and gathered ingredients for banana bread. This recipe is so simple and quick that you’ll find yourself purposely not eating the bananas so you have a legit excuse to indulge.
Like any proper bread recipe you mix the dry and then the wet and then mix them together. All you need is flour, sugar, baking powder & soda, salt, a pinch of cinnamon and a dash of nutmeg. Cinnamon and nutmeg are optional but they really take this banana bread recipe to a whole new level.
Most banana bread recipes call for a cup or so of mashed up banana but my bread as SUPER moist because I used three. And because my mother-in-law owns an off-size loaf pan so I had to increase the recipe a little. Even still the bananas were plentiful and it made a really moist treat.
Mash the bananas.
Mix the dry ingredients together. Experiment with different spices like clove, nutmeg or allspice to change up the taste.
Mix wet ingredients (plant butter & sugar or oil & sugar) and then mix dry with wet until just blended. Banana bread isn’t a smooth dough so don’t worry about a few lumps.
As you can see it was incredibly long but my impromptu changes still filled out the pan nicely. And adding parchment paper to the pan meant it was easy to take out and slice for serving.
I didn’t add anything else to this banana bread recipe, other than walnuts, but sometimes a nice glaze will make a nice addition to turn this treat into the perfect vegan dessert.
Sandwiches. They are a staple meal when you have a busy schedule but you don’t want to eat out or order in, and if you can make them healthy and delicious then you’ve hit the jackpot.
The Sandwich Jackpot, sounds like a pretty amazing lottery, right?
These last few weeks have been incredibly busy with settling into a new place, dealing with immigration bureaucracy, getting used to being surrounded by friends and family and all that…so of course there was a day when I didn’t feel like cooking. Sort of.
I found an amazing round loaf of bread and it hit me; muffuletta sandwich. For those of you unfamiliar with the deliciously amazing muffuletta sandwich, it is a New Orleans staple named after the muffuletta bread.
The key is to find bread that is thick and hearty enough to hold all the ingredients without being so hard that you scrape the roof of your mouth or find the sandwich impossible to eat. Now for those of you who prefer to eat a certain way, I’ll tell you now that this is a messy sandwich with a capital ‘M’. Don’t be afraid to squeeze the bread to make sure there’s some give and here’s a tip: if you find a round bread that you want to use but it’s too thick, yank out some of the softness to make room for more sammie!
If you’re a non-vegan then you’ll find putting together this sandwich pretty easily because there will be lots of processed meat and cheese but for those of us aiming for something a little different, we need a bit more time and creativity.
Let’s start with the top layer of bread, that’s where the tapenade goes and for my tapenade I used: black & green olives, shallot, garlic, sundried tomatoes, capers, lemon juice, parsley, red bell pepper and a healthy squirt of sriracha. Toss it in a food processor until it is blended and a bit chunky and slather that baby on the top of the bread.
For the “meat” of the sandwich I slice and grilled artichokes, zucchini, purple kohlrabi (I sauteed the leaves with garlic to add some dark leafy greens), yellow onions, red & green bell pepper and MORE garlic. I added a variety of seasoning including sea salt & black pepper, oregano, basil and cumin.
And you can’t have a delicious sandwich without a side of roasted herbed potatoes!
One thing to remember about this sandwich is that it works best if you assemble it as one big unit so you can spread all the ingredients evenly and in layers, and then cut it in quarters, or for however many people you plan to feed.
Yes, this is a messy eat but when you’re eating with family, who cares, right?
If you’re really feeling festive or you just love picked veg, add pickles, pickled cauliflower, pepperoncini or giardiniera and ice cold beer for a full, fun & simple meal.