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…

Vegan Lobster Rolls

Now that the weather is getting warm–finally–I like to keep my day meals fairly light and that’s mostly because I don’t want to sweat my butt off in the kitchen when the temperature is in the upper 20’s. But also because I LOVE sandwiches!

Recently I was in the mood for a sandwich but not a burger or a faux meatball sub or even one of my favorites, the stromboli, and I couldn’t think of anything. At first I thought about the little corner shop near my granny’s house in Chicago, this place sold some really great Po Boy sandwiches but that required more work than I wanted to perform on this particular day. Then I started thinking about a lobster roll.

I could just about taste the caraway seed in that creamy lobster sauce, which is weird because one thing I have never, ever been–before or after going vegan–is mayonnaise. It’s just not my thing. Back in the day I could gobble up some Miracle Whip but these days when I need a creamy sauce I use vegan yogurt or coconut cream.

It was shopping day so I had the chance to get all the ingredients I want and began to stack the sandwich in my head.

What you’ll need:

Hot dog buns

Artichoke hearts, rough chopped

Scallions, sliced

Celery, thin sliced

Grape tomatoes, halved

Cumin (lots and lots of cumin)

Cucumber, diced

Parsley & Dill

Vegan Yogurt (plain)

Mustard

Sriracha (Or gochugaru sauce)

The most time consuming part of this meal is chopping up everything, but it took me about fifteen minutes while singing along to old school Whitney Houston tracks. Combine the yogurt, mustard and Sriracha mix and then mix with veggies.

As far as the buns go, I’m not really a fan of slicing hot dog buns down the center. There’s not enough room and that’s a fancy thing you do to make good pictures, but I’m more concerned with tasty food, which I assure you this was.

A healthy spice rack is the key to making this sandwich amazing. I used cumin, fennel seeds, oregano, basil and turmeric in the yogurt sauce and let me tell you, the flavors were AMAZING.

TIP: Toast the buns so you don’t end up with soggy bread!

Add a handful of chips, but not too many because those suckers are HIGH in calories, and you’ve got a quick and easy lunch in under 30 minutes.

Then wash it down with a nice cold drink.

Vegan Burgers ~ Two Ways

I love burgers. I always have and I probably always will.

What I don’t always love is the time and effort it sometimes takes to make a really good burger and double that for a really good grill-able burger. So the last time we had a burger night we made…a few. Okay, it was a lot. About 7 burgers that definitely had a shelf life. But the hubs and I both agreed that it would be ridiculous to eat burgers 3 days in a row. Or 3 meals in a row.

So we got creative.

The burger is made with black beans, garbanzo beans, oats, garlic, cumin, paprika (spicy & smoky), rice, nutritional yeast and…a bunch of other seasonings & herbs. When it comes to flavoring burgers, go with what you know and what you like. And of course, we had lettuce, tomatoes and grilled onions because, burgers.

And we can’t forget the fries! Don’t you love the thick steak cut fries but halved so their totally bite-able?

The key to this burger is to mash most of the beans, leaving some whole so you get that feel good texture on your tongue. You can use a food processor because its easier, but if you don’t have one a potato masher comes in handy here! Since there’s virtually no fat in this burger, make them as thick as you want because they won’t hardly shrink at all.

Enjoy burger night and all the things that go with it like ice cold beer, spicy barbecue sauce or get fancy with pesto or tapenade.

And when tomorrow rolls around, re-purpose those burgers into

…steaks!

If you’re up to the task you can leave the mixture in a bowl and season it differently so you get a completely different flavor or you can add a gravy or sauce. As you can see, we left them as is and paired it with mashed potatoes and peas.

Create your favorite meal from before you adopted a plant based lifestyle. This also makes a really good meatless meatloaf or meatballs for a nice sub sandwich. The point is that you shouldn’t shy away from making a big batch of burger batter because in one shot you can take care of several meals.

These patties were flattened a little bit and then pan fried until the edges started to crisp up and then I tossed them into a preheated oven for about 20 minutes. The inside was soft and moist and the outer edges crispy, very reminiscent of the Salisbury steak TV dinners I used to eat as a kid.

Except back then I couldn’t wash it down with an ice cold, moderately tasty, beer.

What’s your favorite vegan burger?

Anatomy of a Vegan Sandwich

Mondays are usually a busy day for me, running errands and hitting up the farmer’s market and grocery store, which means when I get home in the late afternoon the last thing I want to think about again, is food. But you have to eat and since I’m not really a fan of fast food, it means I have to be creative. A lot.

Being creative doesn’t bother me but sometimes you just want something simple. For me, that means a sandwich. But I’m not talking about two slices of vegan lunchmeat on whole wheat bread. No, I’m talking about full on whole food plant based sammich. That kind of sandwich.

You can also call this the “kitchen sink” sandwich, as in it has everything in it, but the kitchen sink! Or as I sometimes like to tell my husband, “We’re having a salad sandwich.”

He rolls his eyes but that doesn’t make it any less true.

 

It starts with the bread.

Any good sandwich needs the perfect bread to act as its vessel. For this delicious deli style sandwich I chose potato rolls because I love potatoes and because this bread is just dense enough to soak up a little bit of red wine or balsamic vinegar, which we’ll get to later. Actually I love heading to the bakery to find different types of bread to see what I like. Just be sure to check those tiny labels to make sure they didn’t sneak any milk or egg in there.

The Perfect Tomato

There’s a little open air market up the street that sells the most amazing beefsteak tomatoes, or coeur de boeuf as they are sometimes labeled in supermarkets. To me, these are the perfect sandwich tomatoes and for the vegans in the room, it’s the perfect “meat” for a quick deli sandwich. Cut them into relatively thick slices and season with salt, pepper, garlic granules and basil on both sides and set aside.

Don’t forget the VEGGIES

When it comes to cucumbers, the answer is always yes. But if you’re like my sometimes finicky husband, feel free to use pickles instead of fresh cucumber slices. I tore off a handful of butter lettuce, rinsed & spun it until it was dry because I really don’t like wet lettuce and because the vinegar won’t stick to it as well if it’s still dripping with water.

Instead of using mustard and vegan mayo, I grabbed some carrot greens to make carrot green pesto. All you need is:

Carrot greens (a handful or two)

4 Garlic cloves (roasted or raw)

7 Mint leaves

1 Scallion, sliced

1 tbsp. Capers

Orange zest & juice

Drop it all into the food processor until it’s blended. Add more citrus or water if necessary.

carrot pesto recipe vegan

 

As you can see, I was pretty liberal with the pesto and again, the potato roll soaked up some of the juice from it so there was flavor EVERYWHERE!

Other Fixins

Once you have the sandwich basics settled, it’s time to dress it up! I added a few shavings of cheese by using the potato peeler or the slice option on your grater. I rarely use it, but it was a nice addition with the pesto and tomatoes.

Sprouts are your friend and don’t let anyone tell you any differently. I grab a container every trip to the store because they are excellent on salads and sandwiches, and they help aid digestion, contain a ton of nutrients (vitamins A, B, C & E for starters), fiber and even protein. Experiment with different sprouts too, because they do taste different.

Add whatever else makes your mouth water and enjoy!

kidney bean burger w veg fries

Kidney Bean Burger & Veggie “Fries”

Burgers make the world go round, at least this humble vegan thinks so. One of the things that just hasn’t changed as I made the transition to a plant based life is my love of burgers. Sure, it took some time before I found one vegan burger I could live with but now, more than 2 years later I’ve accumulated quite the stash of vegan burger recipes.

The idea for this burger came from The Minimalist Baker and their grill-able burger. The black beans worked like a charm and after having a wonderful kidney bean burger in Wurzburg, Germany, I knew it would be next on the list.

Making this burger is incredibly easy…after a bit of prep, so let’s start with the brown rice. You need to cook it first and let it cool so make it as early as you can and let it sit. And please, oh please, avoid the temptation to substitute white rice for this recipe. You’ll want that heft that comes from brown rice because it will make a difference.

vegan brown rice

While you’re waiting on the rice, drain and rinse the kidney beans before you pat them dry and toss them into a bowl. Mash them up with a potato masher until most of them have split, but not all. Set the bowl aside and prep the rest of the ingredients.

Saute an onion and split it up, using half for the burger mix and the other half as burger toppings.

Mix the rice, beans, sauteed onions, salt, black pepper, smoky paprika, garlic granules, cumin and a handful of walnuts. Run it all through the food processor until blended and dump into the burger mix. Form four thick-ish patties and you’re ready to go!

I did use some oil in this recipe, to brush over the panini press which is how I cooked these bad boys!

kidney bean burger w veg fries

Now, because I like to experiment in the kitchen and because burger buns have a tendency to take a perfectly reasonable calorie count and turning it into nothing but good intentions but hey, a burger isn’t a burger without a bun. Right?

That’s right, so I took 1 carrot and 1 large zucchini and cut them into fries, using garlic, walnuts, nutrition yeast and paprika to make a little bit of breading before popping them into the oven for about 20 minutes.

Vegan veggie fries

I just seasoned the vegetables with salt & pepper, then rolled them through the breading. Simple as that!

creamy guac mayo

For the hubs I made a quick avocado cream to top his burger with and it was super simple, an avocado, fresh minced garlic, lime and a spoon of vegan yogurt. It made about 5 servings.

The thing that took this burger over the edge for me, was the grilled onions. Sweet and slightly crunchy, they were perfect with this grilled vegan burger. Throw on the toppings you love and enjoy!

If you’re looking for ways to make the burger healthier or more calorie friendly, switch out the bun for lettuce, cut out the onions sauteed in onion or butter or minimize your ingredients for the basics. But this is burger night and you’ll need room for, what else?

An ice cold beer.

Vegan burgers & beer

Happy vegan eating!

 

Spinach & Bean Pinwheels with Balsamic Raddichio

I am always on the lookout for new dishes to sample or vegan-ize, thinking that maybe now I’ll appreciate something that, as a meat eater, I didn’t appreciate. Like spinach. Sure, I could kill a bowl of spinach artichoke dip like nobody’s business but let’s be honest and admit that was mostly due to the gargantuan amounts of cheese in that particular dish. In general though, spinach was one of the few dark leafy greens I could do without or tolerate if I absolutely had to.

But over time my taste buds went from tolerance to a slow appreciate, that I can admit, is still totally situational. You won’t catch me eating steamed spinach with lemon and garlic anytime soon and you won’t find me replacing my beloved salad greens either.

Baby steps, people.

So when one of my Facebook friends shared a video of spinach & cream cheese pinwheels slathered with pig flesh, I thought to myself, “Hey I could totally vegan-ize this!” Since my husband loves spinach, I’ve been making an effort and this was one of the few unprompted spinach dishes I’d made.

Thus, the spinach dish was born.

As a good vegan, it might take you some time to find the a decent puff pastry that’s made with plant butter. This is key to keeping it vegan and here in Romania, it took some time to find one. Only one.

Just one.

But, I digress.

I used frozen spinach but only because we bought a kilogram package and I wanted to use it before freezer burn took over. So I set it in some cold water for a few hours and then let it drain while I prepped the rest of the meal.

Start with the white beans first. I used cannellini beans because they get really creamy in the food processor and they act as the “cheese” in this dish. Combined with some sun-dried tomatoes, grilled garlic and onions, I tossed it all into the processor until it was smooth. Then I made the mistake of folding the spinach in, which kind of lost the beans in the process. The flavor was AMAZING but I wanted the beans to be the star and they weren’t, so I’d recommend you layer it instead of combining it all.

Sprinkle some herbs down on the parchment paper and then lay the flat puff pastry onto a baking sheet. Slather the bean-spinach mixture until covered and then start to roll it up, the same way you would if you were making cinnamon rolls, only roll it a little tighter so it doesn’t spill over. Now you’re good to go! Pop it in the oven for 25-35 minutes until golden and flaky.

This is another bonus to vegan cooking, you don’t have to worry about overcooking everything else just to wait until the meat has cooked safely.

Now, while the pinwheels are baking in the oven, grab 2 heads of radicchio, chop it up with onions and garlic, saute it with a minimal amount of oil/fat until soft. I added lemon and balsamic vinegar but radicchio is new to me and it was far more bitter than I realized. (So if you have any tips on cooking radiccio, I am all ears!!!)

I added a few kalamata olives as garnish to the dish and swallowed it down with a few fingers of Jameson.

On the rocks.

Plant Based Chickpea Salad Sammie

I’ve made no secret out of the fact that going vegan wasn’t a huge challenge for me, beyond re-learning to pay attention to the ingredients in the products I buy and trying to be a better, more conscious consumer. But there was one area that proved problematic for me from the outset.

Lunch.

This is how I used to think vegan lunch looked…

I work from home as a writer which means I can’t (or don’t) always set aside actual time for lunch. I like to be able to grab something quick and easy that I can eat while I work if possible, and yes I do know all about how bad that is for weight loss, but it is what it is. I tried vegan lunch meat, mostly soy based because it is the most pervasive in Germany which is where I lived at the time, and it was horrible. I couldn’t find any that I liked and that probably had to do with the fact that I wasn’t a fan of animal-based lunch meat even before going vegan. So of course there would be problems with that. Duh.

But I stayed on this track for a few months and there were a few products made from seitan or lupine that I found pretty tasty but they required special trips to out of the way stores so it became more of an indulgence once in a while and salads became my go to lunch meal. Add lentils or beans and you can make a quick and easy lunch.

And boring after a while.

Then I remembered my old friend, tuna. Whip up some tuna salad and pop it in the fridge and I could nosh on sammies every day for lunch. That’s when I had my light bulb moment. You can turn just about anything into a tuna salad sandwich with a bit of creativity.

 This is a REALLY easy recipe and if you make a bigger batch you can get away with not cooking for a few days!

All you need is:

Chickpeas (smashed a bit)
Scallions
Purple cabbage (or is it red?)
Red & green bell pepper
Garlic
Ginger
Cayenne pepper
Salt & pepper

 

Now all that’s left is the creamy sauce that makes this perfect between the right kind of bread. It’s no secret that me and mayo are not friends and we never have been so I used vegan yogurt instead, but feel free to use what you like. Toss in some mustard, fresh dill, along with cumin and any other herbs & spices you prefer and voila, you’ve got a chickpea salad sandwich…almost.

Mix it up well and if you need to loosen the sauce (which you might if you use vegan mayo) add a splash of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice, it’s also a nice splash of acid with all the creamy goodness.

Stack it and you’re good to go!

Sometimes though I’ll add lettuce & tomato, spicy banana peppers, jalapenos, pickles, olives, artichokes or any other sandwich fixing I’m jonesing for at the moment. The point is you can add plenty of other vegan options without sacrificing taste.

Add a handful of chips and be sure to check for the pernicious “milk powder” found in SO many potato chip brands for some reason and you’ve got an easy vegan lunch that’s satisfying and nutritious.

And if you’ve got company, add an icy beer to the and enjoy!

Quick & Easy Plant Based Lunch Ideas

Lunch. It’s the meal that gets you out of the office for an hour and it’s also the meal mostly likely to obliterate all your ideas about eating healthy and controlling your portion size. With all greasy, sugary, fatty fast food options available, there is no end to all the options at your fingertips when the clock strikes noon. Or if you’re like me 2:30 or later.

I work at home so lunch isn’t quite such an ordeal for me, but it can be a pain in other ways. By the time the lunch hour rolls around, I’m deep into my writing groove and the last thing I want to do is stop and worry about fixing up a meal that’s delicious and nutritious and will keep my weight heading in the right direction. But I’ve learned that with a little bit of planning, eating a healthy, plant based meal in the middle of the day doesn’t have to turn into the biggest ordeal of the day.

My go to option is usually some kind of sandwich and when I’m really feeling nostalgic I’ll vegan-ize one of my favorite sandwiches from back in the day. One of those is the stromboli. It may not be a ‘real’ stromboli or whatever but this is what my favorite pizza joint in my college town served and I loved it.

I know it looks complicated but this is pretty easy to make. All you need is: tofu crumbles, onion, bell pepper, garlic, tomato sauce, some kind of long bread and that’s it. Cook it up in the pan for 5 to 8 minutes until the onion and pepper still have a little bite to them, add the tofu and tomato sauce plus herbs & spices and you’re ready to go.

Back in the day I would have made an extra big helping of fries to go with it but when your mother in law has a big old container of Murături, then that’s what you have because it reminds me of eating my hometown version, giardiniera. Plus eating a few pieces of pickled cauliflower, cabbage and cucumber is WAY less calorie dense than fries and this is just lunch so…

But if you really want to be naughty and have something to go along with this yummy sandwich, I have a suggestion.

But if you have a little more time or you want something a bit more than a sandwich, might I suggest frikadeller? It’s a Danish or German version of a pan fried meatball but when you make them vegan you have WAY more options.

One of those options is vegan tomato frikadellen. All you need is your own combination of vegetables to mix with flour and some kind of binding agent. I like Arche brand VegEgg because it is amazing and it works for meatless balls, loafs, burgers and even baked goods. I’ve never used Follow Your Heart but from what I understand it’s the US equivalent. Mix it all up and let it sit in the fridge before you whip them up.

These are low in calories so we paired it with a side of brown rice and more murături because, have I mention that I love the stuff?

In fact we loved it so much, that the Husband made his own version of frika (my affectionate name for the little balls I fell in love with as a carnivore and then a vegan) with rice, scallions, garlic, carrot, tofu and plenty of herbs and spices. He made two batches one cooked with oil and one without. The oil frika were crispier on the outside so a little tastier but the others would be fantastic between a bun as a vegan burger.

But, we can’t all be good all the time so we paired these with one of my top 5 favorite foods. Potatoes.

It’s important if you want to eat vegan and healthy that you plan your meals ahead of time as much as possible so you don’t end up hungry with nothing available, especially if time is a factor.

What’s your favorite quick & easy vegan lunch?

Fried Tofu Sammies with Raw Vegan Slaw

Sometimes you have a need for something so specific that you just can’t let it go. It happens to all of us, I think, and at any rate it happened to me recently. I really felt like having a chicken sandwich which has proven to be pretty much an empty wish in Romania. In Germany there were plenty of vegan schnitzel options and even a Qorn brand vegan ‘chicken’ breast.

But here there was no such luck so I had to improvise.

At first I was feeling brave and inspired, thinking I would just mash-up a bunch of vegetables into a patty, bread it, fry and voila homemade vegan sandwiches. It was a nice dream while it lasted, anyway. But on a trip to Kaufland they actually had firm tofu and I remembered a recipe I’d recently saved to my Plant Based Plate Pinterest page. I grabbed American style hamburger buns with sesame seeds and because I was trying so hard to be a good little healthy woman, I skipped over the thought of potatoes and opted for vegetables.

Cole Slaw is my jam. Always has been going back to the days where me and KFC were on a first name basis and as soon as I discovered a plain vegan yogurt that I liked, it went back into the meal rotation. I used red and green cabbage, scallions (because I didn’t have shallots), red bell pepper, fresh dill and parsley, lime juice, cumin, paprika and fresh pressed garlic. Oh and mustard. Spicy mustard or whatever you prefer really because you have to eat it. Put the veggies in a bowl and in a separate bowl, mix together the yogurt, mustard, herbs and spices until blended and toss with vegetables. If you make a lot like I did, add the dressing in 3 separate batches until it is all coated.

Set aside or chill if you prefer.

The tofu is a little more time consuming but still pretty easy. You need two bowls one for the vegan egg and milk soak and another for the flour, cornstarch, garlic, cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper coating. How you proceed from here is a matter of preference. You can dip it in the liquid, into the flour and then straight into 1 to 2 tbsp. of oil to fry up. OR you can double dip it for an extra bit of crispness. I added a few tablespoons of flaked coconut to the flour mixture for extra crunch.

I set out mustard, ketchup and leftover yogurt for condiments for the sandwiches and washed it down with an ice col Ciuc.

As you can see, they came out pretty crispy and the skin didn’t fall off until I was a little heavy handed with the spatula. You need a light touch when flipping over the patties or else you’ll peel that breading right off. Also don’t be afraid to turn down the heat if they’re cooking too fast. You want a golden brown crisp not a black too crunchy mess.