Grilled Corn & Smoked Tofu Salad

Are we back on salads, again? Yes! Yes, we are.

It’s still hot and last time I checked, salad was still delicious. And today, we have a completely different salad for you test out, tweak and enjoy.

There isn’t much to say about making vegan salads that I haven’t said already, so let’s keep this post short & yummy, shall we?

Grilled corn and smoked tofu…what?

I know, right?

But hear me out, you get to eat corn, which is delicious, and grilled smoked tofu which is smoky and delicious and the perfect thing to eat after an exhausting strength training workout.

I used a grill pan because I REALLY wanted to get the grill marks on the corn, even though I totally cut it all of the fresh corn cob. What can I say, I’m complicated. The grill pan isn’t completely necessary but I was trying to be more creative so there you have it.

Vegan Summer Salads ~ Broccoli, Sweet Potato & Chickpea Salad

With this unbelievable and sometimes, unbearable, heat, I have been working to up my salad game.

We’ve all heard the vegan jokes about munching on lettuce nonstop to fuel our malnourished bodies, but the truth is that if I’d known how amazing I could make salads in my pre-vegan days, my life might be very different today. Thank goodness, I didn’t figure it out until now.

This is what my friends think I eat.

Nothing wrong with this…as a side salad.

But this is what my salad actually looks like.

Sweet potato, chickpea & broccoli salad

See the difference?

Vegan Soul Food Lunch Plate

Most days I know what I want to eat for lunch and that usually consists of some type of vegan salad. I’m not talking about your basic iceberg lettuce-tomato-cucumber combo, either. I’m talking a nice salad loaded up with vegetables, colors, vitamins and nutrients, but not with calories.

If you like quinoa, here is a salad for you. Do you prefer bulgur? Here is one for you. Get plenty of tips on how to make glorious vegan salads here.

But some days I’m not sure what I want and one of those days recently, an idea fell into my lap. We had just come from the grocery store where I found turnips with some lovely greens on top so I yanked the tops off of a few more bunches because that’s totally allowed here (and its free) and decided I would make some turnip greens at some point in the future. Then my mother-in-law showed up with a big bag of Monk’s Rhubarb, which I had honestly ever heard of before. But my father-in-law had already rinsed them so I nibbled on a leaf and realized I could add them to the turnip greens for more dark leafy greens.

From there, this vegan soul food lunch plate was born.

Why is it a lunch plate? That’s simple. If you find a soul food restaurant near you, chances are good there will be a lunch plate special that allows you to mix and match your favorite soul food menu items for one yummy lunch. In some areas, you might even find a entrepreneur offering them up around the neighborhood for a very good price.

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!

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. ­čÖé

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┬átechnically 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┬áa 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.

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┬áwhatever 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┬áMur─âturi, then that’s what you have because it reminds me of eating my hometown version,┬ágiardiniera. Plus eating a few pieces of pickled cauliflower, cabbage and cucumber is WAY less calorie dense than fries and this┬áis 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 mur─âturi 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?