Tofu Steaks with Chimichurri

When it comes to meal planning and grocery shopping, I am a champ. I mean, not to toot my own horn but I’m pretty great at it because I take the time to be. I subscribe to different recipe blogs both vegan and non-vegan because let’s face it, inspiration can come from anywhere. Sometimes it comes from my love of cooking shows, a spark of an idea and sometimes I just re-create the recipe as is…mostly.

Before I went vegan I wasn’t much of a steak eater because my dad is a HUGE steak eater and we ate it too much growing up. So when I became an adult, I shied away from red meat altogether which means I never got to really and truly enjoy chimichurri sauce. Okay, so I never even tried it.

But I saw a recipe for steak with chimichurri and thought, why the heck not, right?

One reason jumped out at me immediately. Oil. Chimichurri contains a ridiculous amount of oil so I figured I’d follow the recipe, mostly and use the oil as needed. If you’re a purist, you’ll hate this recipe…fair warning.

The tofu steaks were pretty simple, just press them and then marinate before you do anything else so that when you’re ready to put them in a hot skillet, they’re ready. Use whatever seasonings you want, I kept it simple to highlight the chimichurri.

I stuck to the recipe pretty closely using: parsley, garlic, sun dried tomatoes, piri piri peppers, fresh oregano, green olives, lemon juice and red wine vinegar. Toss it all into the food processor and it’s ready to go. I used lemon juice to help get everything blended instead of olive oil and sure, it wasn’t as liquidy as traditional chimichurri but I’d argue the taste was more powerful without 1/4 cup olive oil.

The great thing about a meal like this is that the tofu steaks and chimichurri are so flavorful that you can go light and easy on the side dishes or even just make a simple salad like the bulgur salad below.

To feed 2 people there was about 50 grams of bulgur, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber and scallion, tossed together with a dill mustard sauce and ta-da, you’ve got a healthy and delicious meal!

Want even better news? This recipe came in at less than 400 calories per serving!

Eating healthy and vegan doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming.

Don’t be afraid to take a meat/dairy recipe and make it your own!

Impromptu Vegan Soul Food ~ Turnip Greens & Potatoes

One of the hardest parts about trying to eat healthy while traveling is that you’re at the mercy of the food trends of wherever you are, which of course means you can pretty much always find fresh produce. Fruits and vegetables are always in season somewhere nearby, but what exactly is there and it’s quality is always a crap shoot.

But I found that having patience comes in really handy when it comes to finding hidden gems in foreign (to me) supermarkets. One of those gems for me is turnip greens. Both of my grandmothers hail from the southern United States which means soul food runs deep in the veins of my childhood. Though admittedly I haven’t eaten much soul food in the past decade or so, there are times when the craving for it is as strong as the craving for my granny’s corn bread made with actual bits of corn!

Imagine my surprise when I happened upon a big basket of turnips with their greens in tact and in excellent condition.

The thing I love about the fact that the Romanian diet is heavy on meat and cheese is that you can get all types of greens–turnips, carrot, kohlrabi–for FREE! That’s right, because they are basically considered trash or ‘refuse’ you can just rip the greens off the vegetables and toss’em in a bag. I was fully prepared to pay for them and I was doubly excited when the cashier looked at me like I was crazy for wanting to buy “garbage”. Their loss is my win.

Hooray!

Since my diet is a plant based one, it takes a bit more finesse to make the greens rich and flavorful. You can’t just toss in a hunk of dead animal for a few hours so you need to layer the flavors.

But first, wash the turnip greens. I put them in my salad spinner, rinsing 3 or 4 times before they’re ready to go. Peel & chop the turnips and set aside.

Before I add potatoes, turnips, onions, garlic and bell pepper to the pot, I like to add in some cumin seeds for depth of flavor. When they start to pop, add the vegetables and slowly add the greens in batches. I like to add bay leaves for simmering and grated garlic to the water but you should figure out what your favorite flavor profile is before you get started.

Everything, the potatoes, turnips and greens, all cook in one pot so the flavors blend together beautifully. But if you’re feeling fancy, quick fry the potatoes so there’s a nice crunch on the edges that’ll withstand the juicy goodness of the greens.

Hot sauce is totally optional but for me, there’s something about greens and hot sauce that takes me back to Sunday dinners, family gatherings and loud holidays in the Mid-west.

Since we all know I’m focused on getting healthier and losing weight at the moment,I let the dish stand as is but you can always add cornbread to this or even some crispy smoked tofu for that extra fatty flavor.

Since you don’t need to use animal products, this is actually a pretty quick cooking dish. Turnip greens and a lighter and less bitter of the dark leafy greens and the stems are delicious, not to mention packed with vitamins & nutrients.

Don’t take my word for it. 1 cup of turnip greens is just 29 calories, and rich in Vitamins A, C & K.

Just remember to keep a light hand with the salt and if you’re worried about a bland dish, don’t. Add fresh herbs to the pot while sauteing the veggies or make a cheese cloth filled with herbs & spices and drop it in while you simmer.

If you have tips or tricks you think I’ve missed, leave it in the comments!

Simple Sun Dried Tomato Pesto ~ A.K.A. Vegan Rosso Pesto!

As an author, blogger and ghostwriter I spend a lot of time at home. In front of my computer. Sometimes hours go by without a break of any kind and the next thing I know…BAM, it’s time for lunch. Of course I’ve planned for lunch but that was when I was young and had fantasies that I wouldn’t work through lunch again and again. Next thing I know it’s three o’clock in the afternoon.

Too late to make a proper lunch without spoiling my evening meal but too early to skip it since I only had a nectarine and coffee this morning.

Enter bread toppers.

Pesto, tapenade, hummus, bruschetta, smears, dips and spreads…I love them.

I crave them.

They save my life.

Today, I’m talking about sun dried tomato pesto.

 

The first thing you need is sun dried tomatoes. You can get the ones in oil or water, or be brave and re-hydrate the dry ones, but make sure you give them a thorough look. I prefer the ones packed in oil because I’m working hard to reduce the oil in my diet and this lets me get a little bit to make it easier in the food processor but not so much that I feel like I’m drinking oil.

This recipe is pretty simple, all you need is:

Sun dried tomatoes
Roasted garlic
Blanched almonds (slightly toasted)
Roasted red bell pepper
Vegan parmesan
Black olives
Balsamic vinegar
Rosemary

Pop the ingredients into a food processor or chopper until the consistency is thick and kind of crumbly. If you add oil it will be a bit smoother but either way works well.

If you want to extend the shelf life beyond a week, oil might help. Maybe.

Not that any of us needs an excuse to enjoy a warm loaf of bread, but a solid vegan pesto is a better reason than most.

But don’t limit yourself to bread, crackers work well as does fresh vegetables like bell pepper strips, celery or carrot sticks can be an excellent vehicle for the pesto.

Add a blend of olives, wine or beer and you’ve got enough for a quick get together after work.

Live healthy. Live vegan.

Spicy Vegan Black Rice Curry

If you’ve learned anything about me and my family over the past few months, it’s how much we (specifically, I) love curry. It’s my go to meal when I’m hungry as a hippo with no idea what I want and that’s especially true on those days when I’ve put off grocery shopping. Grab some rice or noodles, a bunch of vegetables and the right blend of curry spices and you’ve got a quick vegan curry in no time at all.

Then there are the days when we’re feeling adventurous, or more accurately, the days when we find a good excuse to use or buy some new find from the grocery store. A few years ago we discovered black rice when we lived in Germany and ever since I’ve been a pretty big fan. It has a bit of a bite to it, more flavor and it has a great texture so you know you’re eating rice instead of some unknown, tasteless grain meant to just soak up all the flavors of the dish.

Then I found out that black rice is an excellent source of iron, antioxidants and Vitamin E and I decided to keep it in the meal rotation even though sometimes it can be a very temperamental grain.

If you decide to experiment with darker grains like black rice or even brown or wild rice, make sure to get that water boiling first to make sure you’re not waiting on it to finish cooking once your yummy curry is ready to be eaten. The cook time ranges from 15 minutes to 35, sometimes more depending on the length of the grain as well as how pre-processed it is.

Now…on to the curry!

This particular recipe is pretty easy and it was made by The Husband so you know it fits the man criteria of simple yet delicious.

The recipe seems…busy because there are plenty of tasty ingredients but trust me, it’s all simple to make. What you’ll need:

*Potatoes, scrubbed clean

*Wood ear mushrooms

*Onion

*Chickpeas, rinsed

*Garlic

*Ginger

*Tomatoes, rinsed & diced

*Tofu crumbles

*Coconut milk

Since The Husband was instrumental in helping me see the benefits of cooking without oil, you can guess that he made this meal totally oil-free but the dish didn’t suffer for it as you might imagine. The coconut milk gave everything a smooth, creamy flavor that blended beautifully with the al dente black rice. With the proper seasoning you can get a flavorful dish without all the oil.

Get a good saute on the veggies and then slowly add the broth and or coconut milk, letting it cook until the potatoes are done. The wood ear mushrooms go in last because they cook fairly quickly and if you’re feeling truly fancy, you can set up a nice plate the way The Husband did. His presentation skills far surpass my own, as you can see, and it made for a really great photo!

On top of all that, it was so good that I went back for seconds, of the curry but not the rice because that’s another way we fight temptation, make enough grains for 2 servings so if you want seconds, it’s all veggies. Eating such good food shouldn’t make you feel guilty and this way it doesn’t have to!

If you’re feeling thirsty, I always find an ice cold beer goes great with a spicy curry, especially when that spice is from the Sriracha I added to my plate because we have very different spice level preferences.