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!

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.

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.

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!

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!

How To Spice Up A Sandwich ~ Spicy Vegan Muffuletta

Sandwiches. They are a staple meal when you have a busy schedule but you don’t want to eat out or order in, and if you can make them healthy and delicious then you’ve hit the jackpot.

The Sandwich Jackpot, sounds like a pretty amazing lottery, right?

These last few weeks have been incredibly busy with settling into a new place, dealing with immigration bureaucracy, getting used to being surrounded by friends and family and all that…so of course there was a day when I didn’t feel like cooking. Sort of.

I found an amazing round loaf of bread and it hit me; muffuletta sandwich. For those of you unfamiliar with the deliciously amazing muffuletta sandwich, it is a New Orleans staple named after the muffuletta bread.

The key is to find bread that is thick and hearty enough to hold all the ingredients without being so hard that you scrape the roof of your mouth or find the sandwich impossible to eat. Now for those of you who prefer to eat a certain way, I’ll tell you now that this is a messy sandwich with a capital ‘M’. Don’t be afraid to squeeze the bread to make sure there’s some give and here’s a tip: if you find a round bread that you want to use but it’s too thick, yank out some of the softness to make room for more sammie!

If you’re a non-vegan then you’ll find putting together this sandwich pretty easily because there will be lots of processed meat and cheese but for those of us aiming for something a little different, we need a bit more time and creativity.

Let’s start with the top layer of bread, that’s where the tapenade goes and for my tapenade I used: black & green olives, shallot, garlic, sundried tomatoes, capers, lemon juice, parsley, red bell pepper and a healthy squirt of sriracha. Toss it in a food processor until it is blended and a bit chunky and slather that baby on the top of the bread.

In case you’re wondering what the hell purple kohlrabi is!

For the “meat” of the sandwich I slice and grilled artichokes, zucchini, purple kohlrabi (I sauteed the leaves with garlic to add some dark leafy greens), yellow onions, red & green bell pepper and MORE garlic. I added a variety of seasoning including sea salt & black pepper, oregano, basil and cumin.

And you can’t have a delicious sandwich without a side of roasted herbed potatoes!

One thing to remember about this sandwich is that it works best if you assemble it as one big unit so you can spread all the ingredients evenly and in layers, and then cut it in quarters, or for however many people you plan to feed.

Yes, this is a messy eat but when you’re eating with family, who cares, right?

If you’re really feeling festive or you just love picked veg, add pickles, pickled cauliflower, pepperoncini or giardiniera and ice cold beer for a full, fun & simple meal.

And completely plant based to boot!

poftă bună!’