#TBT ~ Vegan Fried Chick’n & Spaghetti

Hey there!

Today’s post will be a quick one, just to help me get back into the swing of things. I hope you’re all well and still on your vegan, plant based, cruelty-free, healthy journey.

Now let’s talk about one of my most cherished memories with my grandmother. When I finished graduated school I spent a couple months living with my grandmother while adjusting to life off of a college campus and trying to find a job in a pretty terrible economy, which meant that many of my Friday nights were spent at home. Chillin’ with my granny.

I didn’t mind it, in fact I loved it. I’d hop in the car and make the short drive over to J&J Fish (a staple any Chicagoan can tell you about) and grab whatever we wanted, usually catfish for me and perch for her. But sometimes my granny would surprise me with fried chicken and her famous spaghetti. At the time I just called it a basic meat sauce but it’s really more of a bolognese. Anyway, fried chick’n and spaghetti was our Friday night ritual and since we’re 8,000 miles apart right now, the meal will have to suffice.

This is a fairly easy meal but in the spirit of honesty, my husband made this meal as requested by me for our Midnight Tokyo Diner meal! But it took him about 45 minutes from start to finish and the most time consuming part was re-hydrating and then frying the TVP.

All you need is whole wheat spaghetti, onion, bell pepper, garlic & tomatoes plus whatever herbs & spices you like. And some extra large TVP pieces.

Sometimes you want a meal to make you feel something, to transport you someplace other than your weight loss or fitness goals and that’s okay. Let yourself enjoy this amazing way we get to nourish our bodies.

Just remember, nourishment and fuel first.

I hope you enjoyed my Throwback Thursday meal…what’s your favorite comforting meal?

Chicken Fried Tofu Dinner

One of the things that I’ve been slowly starting to do again is add some of the so-called bad foods back to my diet, foods that I stopped eating over the years because they were just too caloric or just too damn bad for ya (and by you I mean me). Well mostly it was that but also it was another Tokyo dinner night and the hubs chose, what else? Fried chicken.

Back in my meat eating days I was known to nosh on a piece of fried chicken or two but combined with the fact that I’m not a fan of deep frying because it’s time intensive and a waste of food unless you deep fry food on a regular basis, which we do not. So this was a nice challenge from a few different angles and the end product was impressive, delicious and not quite as caloric as I expected going into this vegan dinner.

Since the whole chicken fried tofu part of the meal required a few steps, I kept this a simple vegan dinner inspired by one of my favorite TV dinners as a kid.

Let’s start with the soya since it took the most amount of time. I used the dehydrated stuff (Texture Vegetable Protein, aka TVP) which means you need to soak/boil it in hot liquid, and since I used the biggest pieces they have it took about 15 minutes. Then you have to let them sit for at least fifteen minutes to get some of the water out, or else you’ll have a big fat mess when you start breading and frying. Yeah, see? Time intensive.

Once the soya pieces are as dry as they’re gonna get, you can bread them. I used a flour/Panko mixture that I seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic granules, smoky paprika, ground cumin and dry oregano. Blend and coat, then add to a deep skillet. I only shallow fried them to get a good crisp going and then I transferred them to the oven to crisp-ify even more!

Since this is soya and it is already done, don’t get too carried away during the cooking process, just cook it until you get the level of crispiness you’re looking for.

To keep things simple, I added oven fries and some very sweet Spanish corn on the cob to complete the meal.

Sorry to gloat but let’s just take a moment to appreciate the fine cook on this soya. It’s a skill that one, apparently, does not forget over time. I don’t fry or deep fry food often but it’s nice to know that I’ve still got it! 😉

When in doubt about how to eat healthy and vegan without depriving yourself, be smart. Be grown up. Fried tofu isn’t healthy but baking the fries and adding vegetables means you’re being as healthy as this meal allows. Besides, a small indulgence here and there keeps the big, diet-destroying indulgences at bay.

What’s your favorite trick for eating what you want without going overboard?

Simple Vegan Dinner

When I cook a simple meal, I try to make sure that I still get some fresh veggies in the mix and of course, potatoes.

Sometimes simple means letting someone else do the hard work, which is exactly why I ended up with these delicious vegan chicken sticks that are oh so delicious. It cuts down on time in the kitchen and that doesn’t mean you have to eat cereal or a cold sandwich. It means you keep it simple, nutritious and tasty.

I am an admitted potato-a-holic and I never pass up an opportunity to enjoy them. In any form.

A quick boil and you can mash these up with any seasoning you like. I chose vegan butter, salt, pepper and roasted garlic because nothing goes better with ANY type of potatoes than roasted garlic.

If you’re not in the mood for broccoli or salad or anything overtly healthy, may I recommend mushrooms? They are delicious, low calorie and you can add a little bit of extra fat to get them good and tasty. I sauteed oyster mushrooms with onion and bell pepper. Add some Worcestershire sauce and herbs, and you’re almost there.

Nothing makes my mouth water more than buffalo style anything. Chicken sticks, tofu or cauliflower, I’m not picky. Just fry it up, or bake it extra crispy and toss it in something spicy and buttery and we’re in business.

It’s not fancy but it was tasty and calorie friendly and let’s be honest, some nights that is about as good as it gets.

Right?

Quick & Easy Spicy Drumsticks

It’s been a while since I brought up the pre-made vegan food products the Hubs and I occasionally buy online to pique or curiosity or just because we’re having a greasy, junk food craving that can’t be satisfied by firm tofu alone. But I’ve saved the best of the most recent batch for last. Vegan drumsticks, y’all!

Okay so there is a teeny tiny chance that maybe I’m over-selling these, but I’m not. Yes, they are a little bit greasy (15g of fat per 100 grams) but honestly that is a MAJOR part of the charm since we all know I keep my oil intake to a minimum when I can. I’m glad there were just a few in the package because they were THAT GOOD.

As you can see, I really tried my best to keep this meal what I like to call “sane” in calories. The entire package of vegan drumsticks was 250 grams, with each drumstick weighing in at 50 grams a piece. We had 2.5 each and when combined with the corn on the cob and the herb baked potatoes, the meal was delicious, satisfying and calorie friendly.

The packaging wasn’t much to look at but I appreciate that about Vantastic since vegan products can be a bit higher priced than their animal-based counterparts.

Now on to the business. Since all I did was add salt & pepper and vegan butter to the corn on the cob, and a fresh rosemary, salt, pepper & lemon zest for the potatoes, there’s no point wasting your time with that! But here’s a tip to keep this meal quick and easy: prepare the potatoes first and get them started in the oven while you shuck & clean the corn, and make the sauce for the drumsticks.

Did I mention I like spicy things? Well I do.

A lot.

I mixed up a nice blend that contained:

Chili powder

Smoky paprika

Garlic granules

Onion granules

Worcestershire sauce (yes, there are vegan brands out there!)

Gochujang

Lemon juice (half a lemon)

Cumin

Cornstarch

Water

Mix it all into a bowl and then toss drumsticks in the bowl, OR toss it in small baking dish so you can pop it in the oven when you put the corn in there.

If you want to make buffalo style sauce with this, be VERY careful with the butter portion of the sauce because if you look very closely you can see how much grease cooked off the drumsticks.

The cute little sticks are bamboo and edible too!

This photo didn’t come out as impressive as I’d hoped but that’s okay, I just wanted to give you an idea of the size of this meal, which ended up being 478 calories per plate, which isn’t a lot but this was plenty satisfying.

Okay, fine, full disclosure: I made a cocktail with this meal so I had to make sure there was room leftover for Cucumber-Elderflower gin & tonic with lime. It might seem weird but it was delicious and the hubs thought it was a nice help to take some of the spice off the fiery drumsticks.

The oven did most of the work, for which I am eternally grateful, and it took about 30 minutes which was mostly the time it takes for potatoes to get and crispy.

Even though I am not a huge fan of these products, these vegan hanchensticks were a big win for me and yes, I did order more here. (Not a paid endorsement just a shout out for a yummy product…but I am open!)

Food Court Flashback ~ Bourbon Chicken Tofu

Way back in 2004, I was living in Boston working on the 2004 Presidential Election as an eager holder of a Masters in political science and delusions of…something. I had just met my husband, who was one of half a dozen roommates I shared a giant colonial with in Everett. Anyway the office where I worked was right in the Downtown Crossing T stop, which meant there was this great little food court right around the corner. The food was…okay.

But there was this little cart on the way there that had incredible falafels, but that’s for another time. Inside this food court was this tiny hole int he wall that served bourbon chicken. This was back in my meat eating days and I couldn’t get enough of this simple dish that I could eat at my desk without making a mess. The ingredients were pretty simple from what my taste buds could gather and remember, after all this time.

I recently caught up with a friend from Boston and it made me nostalgic for this dish so, of course, I made it.

I’d say this was one of the most straight forward recipes I’ve come up with/recreated in a while.

What you need:

Tofu

Onion

Rice

Broccoli

Brown or coconut sugar

Bourbon (or whiskey)

Ginger

Garlic

Soy sauce

Cornstarch

Water

For this recipe I experimented with the dehydrated soy pieces because I love how you can manipulate the texture by simmering it longer or leaving it sitting in the water longer than recommended. Since this recipe would involve simmering, I chose to get the pieces good and thick so I could get a nice crisp on the outside before adding the sauce.

Stay prepared by making your bourbon sauce first. In a bowl, whisk together bourbon, sugar, grated ginger and garlic, soy sauce, cornstarch and water. Set aside so it’s ready when  you need it.

If you want a bit more flavor, add tomato paste by the teaspoon until you get that yummy umami flavor.

The tofu is the most time-consuming part because you have to simmer it before putting it in the skillet, but it’s well worth it.

For the broccoli I took the lazy cook’s route and chopped it with vegan butter, salt, pepper and garlic before wrapping it in foil and popping it into the oven for 20-25 minutes.

Serve the bourbon tofu over rice and add more spice if needed and voila, you’ve got my favorite fast food meal of 2004 on your table in 30 minutes.

And I enjoyed it with a tall glass of water since there was already 2 ounces of bourbon on the plates!

You can have healthy, delicious vegan meals in no time at all. Believe it!

Caille à Vin (Quail in Wine)

20140729_154427One of the things you may not know about me, and how would you since it’s the first time I’ve mentioned it, is that I am a total Francophile. Ever since I was a young girl I have admire just about everything French from the beauty of the sensual language to the buttery croissants and of course…the wine. So it should come as no surprise that I have tried my hand—not with a ton of success if I’m being honest—at several of the less complicated French dishes.

I have mastered the traditional coq au vin and one day I may even show you my efforts. As you can imagine it is difficult to make this dish with a vegetarian spouse, but I just make half the chicken and only serve him the veggies, sauce and rice or noodles. It works.

Throw in my need (compulsion?) to make traditional dishes in my own way and you can see how I thought this dish would be a good idea. Just ask my husband or my friends, you will often find on my menu things like steak-less Pepper Steak or Welsh Rarebit Mac & Cheese. I’m just a big fan of taking something I have always loved and changing it up to match how I eat now. I love macaroni and cheese, like freakin’ rub it all over my body LOVE it. But you will never catch me noshing on electric orange powder mac & cheese…EVER. I make my own cheese sauce so I can change it up and make it more grown up.

Hence my need to try something else au vin because, let’s face it, food drenched in wine is a pretty good idea. One of the best from the French which I think we should all embrace!