Easy Vegan Lunch Ideas – Spicy Buffalo Tofu Sandwich & Salad

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.

Spicy Vegan Buffalo Tofu Sandwich

This recipe is pretty easy as far as vegan lunch recipes go.

Ingredients:
2 Ciabatta Rolls
70 grams TVP ~ I use inedit but use whatever you like
1 Garlic clove (pressed/minced)
Franks Red Hot (which is accidentally vegan!)
1 tbsp. Vegan ketchup
5 grams Olive oil
5 grams Cider vinegar
Sriracha
50 grams Veggigurt
Scallion & Dill
Salad fixings

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).

I used: Sriracha, ketchup, pressed garlic, hot sauce & cider vinegar (just enough to think out the mixture).

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!

Roasted Tomato & Vegan Ricotta Sandwich

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.

Grownup Vegan Stromboli

One of my favorite memories from college is spending Mock Trial strategy sessions at Jerry’s Pizza right across the street from my all girls dorm room. Yes, the proximity to home was a major selling point and so was the vintage PacMan machine that I spent too many hours and too many quarters playing but the thing that kept me coming back for more was the delicious cheesy stromboli.

The old version is ground beef, some kind of tomato sauce with pepperoncini peppers and giardiniera peppers if you ask really nicely. The sandwich was delicious and cheap but it was also big enough to enjoy the other half for lunch the next day. Over the years I have recreated the sandwich ad nauseam, never quite getting it right.

This time though, I’m feeling a little bit cocky.

This time around I made a few changes to correct things I wasn’t happy about in the past. The protein was always a problem for me because let’s be honest, ground meat and tofu scrambles are both greasy and not the greatest. So I replaced it with a Beyond Burger and 100 grams of chickpeas, along with bell peppers (any color you like), garlic and onion. That’s the main base and it’s pretty simple, right?

You’re halfway there. Now it’s time for the sauce and this is where I got a little more creative, a little more grownup and a lot more vegan. I got rid of the canned tomatoes and replaced them with cherry tomatoes on the vine, sun dried tomatoes and roasted red peppers. Toss a clove of fresh garlic, capers, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, soy sauce and lemon juice into a food processor and blend until smooth. This is your fabulous tomato sauce that will bring this vegan stromboli together beautifully.

When the veggies are cooked enough, add the sauce and bring to a boil and simmer until the sauce has thickened to an acceptable level, about 15 minutes.

Once the sauce thickened, I added a few drops of balsamic vinegar and a handful of green olives. Stack it on a long bun or a roll like I did here and you have a perfect vegan sandwich that tastes like it took all day to make.

I added jalapeno peppers to mine because I like things spicy but you can omit them if you want, or add more spice to the sauce. The choice is yours!

Since this was a pretty satisfying meal, I served them as open-faced vegan sandwiches and skipped a side dish. I didn’t want to add greasy fries, even if they were oven cooked and cold veggies wouldn’t have been right with this hot dish.

I’ve finally found a new & improved version of the Stromboli and I’m happy to add it to the rotation so let me know what tweaks you made when you try it at home!

Beyond Animal Fries!!!

Happy 2020!! Things have been crazy around here with editing my book, sending it out to beta readers and all of that, so I’ve been neglecting The Spicy Spatula terribly. I hope you’re still around and ready for another year of easy, healthy, vegan home cooking.

I spent nearly a decade living in Los Angeles and I even ate at In n Out burger a few times, but I must admit that I’ve never eaten their animal fries. I wasn’t on a health kick and I wouldn’t go vegan for nearly a decade. The truth is that it was one of my least favorite fast food restaurants, which is saying something because I pretty much dislike them all, and so I didn’t explore their menu as much as I might have.

But recently I’ve been doing a lot of experimenting with Beyond Burger, chickpeas, tofu and dehydrated soy protein and I figured it was time that I added a few not so healthy recipes to this site…right?

So today we’re having vegan animal style fries made with, (drum roll please), the Beyond Burger!

One of the things I always have to check myself on is trying to be too strict with a recipe. There are a lot of ingredients in animal fries and I don’t know about you, but my weight loss goals can’t take it and this dish is super delicious, but it ain’t worth all that. My point is to go as far as you’re comfortable going and stop there.

For example I kept the fries but I baked them because I always do. This is partially for health reasons but mostly it’s because I’m lazy and I hate to deep fry things. And my tiny Euro-kitchen has no room for anything as big as a fritteuse (that’s German for deep fryer!).

So for my vegan animal fries I used:

Potatoes, 2 Beyond Burger patties, onions, bell pepper, garlic, jalapeno peppers, veggiegurt (vegan yogurt), Sriracha, lime juice, cumin, pickles and herbs & spices. And that’s it, your ingredient list.

Once the Beyond Burger is thawed, I just diced it in a grid fashion because once you toss it in the skillet you can break it apart with a wooden spoon. I added the onions and bell peppers first because the burger “meat” cooks very fast and then added the garlic and burgers at the same time.

Tip: Don’t add oil to the skillet since the burger will release a ton of it during cooking!

When you season this, add burger-seasonings like Worcestershire, cumin powder, smoked paprika and garlic granules. It’ll give you the flavor you’re looking for.

Your potatoes are baking in the oven and your toppings are just about done, which means it is time to make the sauce!

Take a pickle or two and finely dice it up along with a few slices of jarred jalapeno peppers, lime juice, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper, and measure out your veggiegurt. Stir and you’ve got a fun sauce for your vegan animal fries.

If you love spicy foods like I do or if you’re just feeling adventurous, add more diced jalapeno peppers on top and enjoy!

And if you feel inclined, wash it down with an ice cold beverage. I opted for water but I’d love to hear/see what you’d pair with this plate.

The Beyond Burger ~ 3 Nights of Vegan Eats

When it comes to being vegan I am mostly a pretty low-key kind of gal. I can get down with the odd protest or two, but I’m more likely to slide facts you don’t want to hear into everyday conversation in a way that’s guaranteed to make those facts impossible to forget. My friends love that about me, no matter what they tell you.

Why am I telling you this? Just to help you understand my feelings on Beyond Burger.

We found them at a local store called Metro and they only came in a box of ten patties, which meant we needed to be creative in how we used them because freezer space is limited.

We cracked open the box and took out two patties to thaw–at room temperature, not the microwave–and started with your basic, old fashioned hamburger.

Because I had no idea what to expect of the Beyond Burger, I decided to go for super simple lettuce, tomato, mustard and ketchup.

And…it was delicious. It doesn’t taste like meat, which I appreciate, but holy crap it SMELLS like real beef. So much so that I found it a bit unsettling. But what I will tell you, is that it tastes like what a burger should taste like without the tendons and fatty gross-ness common in fast food burgers. My one tip for cooking a regular Beyond Burger? Air out your place while you cook.

Once the regular burger was out of the way, the hubs added a slice of Violife cheese to the second round and he was a fan. I’m still having a tense relationship with vegan cheese so I opted out.

But then we were watching a YouTube video about old brands and there was a flash of people watching TV with TV dinners in front of them and it reminded me of a meal I loved as a child. Salisbury steak. The kind that came in the little aluminum pan and its own gravy. Whip up some mashed potatoes and green beans on the side and I was a happy little kid.

So why not try and recreate the magic in a healthier, vegan, 21st Century kind of way?

Okay so I traded the green beans for peas, but they were frozen peas and came out pretty terrible which only reminded me why I haven’t had peas in ages. Which do you prefer, canned or frozen, when fresh isn’t an option?

I also added a crimini mushroom and onion gravy, with a splash of Oatly to give it that creamy light brown color. It was delicious and much better than the last time I tried to recreate Salisbury steak. So far, the vegan recipe is the tastiest!

Don’t mind the photos, I’m still adjusting to my new phone.

Twelve or thirteen years ago I introduced my husband to another childhood favorite of mine; corned beef hash. We were living in Germany and accidentally stumbled upon the crappy canned stuff that we ate back then and I grabbed up two cans to show him this delicacy from my time in Milwaukee.

So of course when we got our hands on Beyond Burgers, he couldn’t wait to recreate it vegan beef & potato hash. It’s a simple dish of burgers, potatoes and onions, sauteed until crispy. And the thing that makes the Beyond Burger perfect is that it is very greasy (part of its appeal) and that helps everything get that delicious crispy edge that makes dishes like this so addicting.

This was probably my favorite use of the Beyond Burger so far. The edges got all crispy and crunchy and the greasiness was satisfying in a way that I’d forgotten about until I devoured this dish. Add an ice cold beer and you can have your own Lazy Sunday.

Have you tried the Beyond Burger? Drop a link or photo of your favorite Beyond Burger recipe below!

 

Chunky Vegan Sloppy Joe

The key to good, healthy eating at home is variety. Lots and lots of variety, because when you get right down to it, a fully stocked spice cabinet can mean the difference between takeout four times a week or eating what you want. At home. With ingredients you can identify.

And so we happen upon my second attempt at making a delicious vegan sloppy Joe. The first one, with beans & lentils, came out all right but I wanted to experiment with something a little heartier. And spicier. And I wanted to use my latest obsession: soya pieces.

I’ve talked a time or two about these dried soya pieces. They come in several sizes from big extra large chunks all the way down to tiny granules so you can whip up tons of dishes with them. So I was inspired to dust off my old recipe and dress it up a bit.

For the buns, I went with buttery (vegan buttery) brioche buns with sesame seeds on top, toasted of course. Just toast for a couple minutes just before you’re ready to start plating up the food. Toasting the bread will allow it to maintain some integrity when the sauce and filling gets a little heavy.

Now for the Sloppy in the Sloppy Joe:

Diced soya pieces

Onion

Bell pepper (red & green)

Garlic

Worcestershire sauce (without anchovies)

Vine tomatoes (2, ripe to overripe)

Tomato paste

Water

Cornstarch

I have a few special ingredients I use to get this sauce spicy & thick. Gochugang, which is spicy Korean chili paste, a dash of Crystal hot sauce and diced jalapeno peppers. If you’re not into spice, leave it out.

Cook this dish in layers because it will enhance the flavor profile and it will matter, I promise. I started with the soya to dry it out a little and get it crisp around the edges before adding the vegetables.

Add garlic and tomatoes (after a dance in the food processor) later along with water and cornstarch. Simmer and let thicken and then get ready to grub.

Since we went overboard and had 2 sandwiches this night, I’m proud to say I didn’t make any side dishes. This was plenty calorific for a dinner meal and fries, though they would have been delicious, would have also been excessive with this meal.

Tell me, how do you like your vegan Sloppy Joe?

Easy Vegan Sandwiches

It took me a long time to get creative about making sandwiches to fit my new vegan lifestyle but now I’ve finally figured it out. Once I stopped thinking that sandwiches equal meat, my sandwich game stepped up considerably.

Here’s the secret: put whatever you want on the dang sandwich!

I know, it’s crazy but trust me, nothing tastes better than the crazy stuff your mind comes up with when a sandwich craving strikes.

There aren’t many rules but generally there should be some type of bread, roll, sub, wrap, slices or whatever else floats your boat, and something that goes inside of it, preferably a lot of somethings. Sauces and condiments are optional, of course.

Behold, my deli style tofu sandwich! Just kidding, but it was delicious. I used some carrot greens and basil to whip up a rustic pesto, mixed a bunch of Indian spices on the crumbled tofu and added some tomatoes and cucumbers. It was DELICIOUS!

One of the ways I started to come around on having sandwiches again was to take my favorites and replace the meat. Duh, right? I know, but one day I got a craving for my favorite sandwich from Portillo’s, in Chicago. Dipped Italian beef. As a teenager it was my favorite and I used giant crimini mushrooms to replace the beef and it was delicious.

So, I decided to try completely replacing the bbq beef/pork sandwich with mixed vegetables, of course!

Yeah, I totally popped in a photo of my first attempt at big batch vegetable pickling. They were WAY too vinegary but there are some cucumbers working away in the kitchen as I type.

Or if you feel like feeling healthy when you eat a sandwich, add a wrap.

This spicy tofu, potato & onion wrap (those flecks are chia seeds) was delicious and the jalapenos are totally optional.

My point is, do what you want when it comes to sandwiches. There are no rules for it, trust me I’ve checked.

If you’re not quite that brave yet, take someone else’s idea and make it your own.

Check out my Smoky Tofu Scramble

Or if you want something lighter…my Vegan Lobster Roll

More vegan sandwiches

Or this muffuletta if you’re feeling brave!

Roasted Veggie Sub & Oil Free Pesto

Just because you want to eat healthy doesn’t mean you can’t eat good.

This has been the key to my weight loss success this far, finding creative ways to keep the flavor without adding too much extra fat or calories. It’s something that has to be done so instead of whine about it, I just get creative. It’s kind of my thing, I don’t know if you’ve heard.

So sometimes I really just want a sandwich. Some thick pillowy bread fresh from the bakery with just enough crunch to let you know it won’t fall apart when you load it up with veggies. I found these rolls that were like baguettes but softer and wider, basically they were perfect for this kind of sandwich which I came up with when I got a look at the big red bell peppers at the market.

I’ll concede right now that the photos of this delicious sandwich aren’t the greatest, but I am a work in progress. 🙂

This is a pretty easy sandwich but if you need to eat within five minutes of hunger striking, this probably isn’t the meal for you because the oven does ALL the work. For me, it’s an excellent trade off because I can sit at my desk and spend thirty minutes working. Or making an oil free pesto, which isn’t as easy as it might sound.

Gather your favorite veggies, enough to fill the rolls without going overboard. Since I opted out of side dishes for this meal, I went a little veggie crazy.

Grab your favorite herbs and spices and toss everything at once, or individually. I chose to do it individually because I like to mix it up, but you can do it all with one batch of spices. Lay it all out on a baking sheet or casserole dish and pop in the oven.

Then…

I added tomatoes during the last fifteen minutes of cooking and look how juicy and plump they got!

While the veggies cooked, I made the pesto but before anyone gets crazy, I know there is no oil in it so technically it can’t be a pesto…I guess. So it is a blend of fresh herbs, sun dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, walnuts, scallions, capers, lemon juice and hot sauce. Popped it in the food processor and gave it a few go rounds. It takes time without oil but I added a splash of lemon juice here and splash of water there and finally it started to look like more like a tapenade, honestly.

Now you’re ready to build. Spread the pesto/tapenade on the top bun (it’s just a preference, more of a suggestion really but it tastes better this way) and the veggies on the bottom.

In total, it took about 40 minutes, which was worth every minute in terms of taste.

Since the weather has been so HOT, I won’t suggest a beer or even a lemonade. Nothing but ice cold water.

Again, a preference, but once that will make you feel better.

Smoky Tofu Scramble Sandwich

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)

Turmeric

Smoky & spicy paprika

Garlic clove, pressed/minced

Salt & pepper

Cumin

Piri Piri

Dill

Worcestershire

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.

Spicy Bean & Lentil Sloppy Joe

Sloppy Joe is a sandwich that will now and forever remind me of my childhood. As a kid of the 80’s & 90’s this sandwich was right up there with the golden arches in terms of my favorite foods to eat. But of course, as time went on and Cosmo told me how to get lean & sexy, or I simply became too cool for such things, but soon those thick, tomato-y sandwiches became nothing but a memory.

Until I left the United States. It’s funny how things you take for granted end up being what keeps you grounded and reminds you of home. Even before I adopted a plant based lifestyle, I would make plenty of Sloppy Joe variations for my German and European friends who got a kick out of it. Except for the ones who didn’t quite understand it.

Lately I’ve been really in a burger kind of mood which means we’ve had plenty of butter-free burger buns lying around the kitchen, and when it was time to go shopping again, I knew this would be an excellent use for them.

To make vegan sloppy joe sandwiches you have to start with the “meat”. You can go simple and use tofu crumbles that do a good job of recreating that texture of ground animal meat, or you can go another way. For a long time I would go to my old faithful, kidney beans, but this time I decided to use cranberry (borlotti) beans and brown lentils. Weird, right? I know but I was in a weird mood and something told me it not turn out completely terrible.

The ingredient list for this IS intimidating but I promise it’s not complicated, so here we go:

Brown lentils

Bell Pepper (any color, I used red & green)

Onion

Garlic

Tomato paste

Vegan Worcestershire

Gochugaru

Cranberry beans

Firm tofu (half brick, finger crumbled)

Garlic

Buns

Saute the vegetables & crumbled tofu while the lentils cook, adding the garlic last so it doesn’t burn.

Then add the tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce, adding liquid to the pan when it begins to sizzle. This will give your sandwich the depth of flavor as if you used that canned stuff from back in the day.

Add lentils and beans and more water or stock as needed, simmering until a thick paste forms.

And that’s pretty much it!

Now you need to dress your bun and figure out…side dishes.

Between the buns and the beans and lentils, I decided to have veggie chips and found a giant carrot and zucchini. I cut them on a bias, dunking them in an almond milk/mustard mixture before coating them with Panko crumbs. Twenty minutes in the oven, flipping halfway and you’ve got a healthy version of a childhood favorite.

If you’ve got the time or patience, feel free to whip up a BBQ sauce, mayo or ketchup for the chips.

This was fairly easy and quick-ish to make, but the best part was that there were leftovers and the next day we just piled it into a bowl and ate it like a thick soup.

And just in case you were wondering what I drank with it…