Vegetarian Flavor

When I first thought about taking the plunge into a vegetarian lifestyle, I reasoned with myself that I couldn’t do it because of all the things I’d be missing. Of course if you approach anything with the mindset of what you’re losing and not what you’re gaining, struggles are bound to happen. Thankfully when I finally decided to officially make the vegetarian plunge (almost 3 months strong now!), I approached it much differently. While I still have a pang for a cheeseburger once in a blue moon, I’ve discovered so much more in the food world, and have been able to make some pretty simple substitutions.

I abide by the rule that almost anything can be turned vegetarian. Obviously a steak can’t, but there are ways to approach meals and make them just as flavorful, if not more. So, when this week’s Fresh Box included radicchio, I went on the hunt for recipe inspiration  and like most recipes I find, there was a meat component. I found a recipe from Saveur that included pancetta, and immediately decided I could easily swap that out.

For the recipe, I went with Morningstar Farm’s vegetarian styled bacon. This could easily work well with smoked tempeh, and of course, bacon or pancetta. I went with the suggested pappardelle, but if you don’t have any on hand, a fettuccine or other egg styled pasta would work well.

Smoky Pappardelle with Radicchio inspired by Sauver 
– Serves 4 –  

3 Tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, sliced
1 tsp sage
4 slices veggie styled bacon or tempeh*
1 lb. pappardelle or other egg styled flat pasta
1 head radicchio, sliced
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
Parmesan cheese
Salt & Pepper to taste 

1. Heat oil in a skillet and add onion, sage, salt and pepper over medium heat. Constantly stir for about 20-30 minutes until golden brown (it’s a pain, but I promise worth it!). Add in the veggie bacon and sauté for an additional 5 minutes. Add the radicchio to the pan and cook until wilted, about 5 more minutes. 
2. Meanwhile, boil 3-4 quarts of salted water, add the pasta and cook for about 8 minutes, drain (save about 1/4 cup of water).
3. Combine the pasta with the veggie bacon, onion, and radicchio with the 1/4 cup of pasta water; mix well.  
4. Finish off with the balsamic vinegar and top with grated or shredded parmesan cheese.  

*Note: You can buy “fakin’ bacon” that is already flavored tempeh, or you can buy regular tempeh and mix it with some liquid smoke for the same effect.

Meatless Grilling

By default, when it comes to thinking about grilling, I gravitate towards your more typical fare – hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken, etc. But as I find myself eating meat less frequently, I’ve had the opportunity to experiment a bit with what I throw on the grill. We all know I’ve complained in the past about my inability to make non-fall apart veggie burgers, which I’m happy to report is improving. Since that was never much of a success (the one time I “grilled” homemade veggie burgers, they never cooked), I was weary about grilling things like tofu, and tempeh. Alternatively, if you are interested in grilled meats, check out the best turkey injection recipe, for you and your family.

Over the last few months I’ve learned just how versatile tofu and tempeh are, and finally decided to bite the bullet and grill some. While I haven’t grilled tofu yet (it’s on my to-try list, I promise) I did make the easiest BBQ grilled tempeh sandwiches. There is really little to no thinking involved, and for those hot summer nights post work-out where you really don’t feel like turning on the oven or even thinking about dinner, this can be yours in no time.

I’m really looking forward to trying out some new things on the grill this summer, so if you have any suggestions, send them my way! But in the meantime, go make this.

BBQ Grilled Tempeh and Veggie Sandwiches
– Serves 2 –

1 package of tempeh (I used Trader Joe’s)
1 medium green pepper, sliced into rings
1 large red onion, sliced into rings
4 Tbsp your favorite BBQ sauce, plus more for dipping and dunking
2 hamburger buns

1. Preheat grill to medium-high heat.
2. Slice the tempeh in half as evenly as possible (they should be somewhat square shaped).
3. Coat each side of the “patty” with a Tbsp of BBQ sauce. Feel free to add more or less depending on your flavor preference.
4. Spray a grill basket with cooking spray, and fill with the onion and pepper.
5. Bring everything out to the grill, and cook the onion and pepper on the top rack while the tempeh is on the bottom rack, all for  10 minutes, flipping everything halfway through.
6. Assemble your sandwich with the tempeh patty, and onion and pepper rings. Add more sauce if you’d like, and keep some nearby for dunking!

This Week in Yum

This past week was all about meatless meals and sweet treats!

With a craving for something with tangy buffalo sauce, I thought I’d give buffalo tempeh eggrolls a shot. It was super easy, and really delicious. All you need to do is steam a package of tempeh for about 5 minutes, toss it in your favorite buffalo sauce (4 Tbsp), combine it with some slaw mix, and roll them up in wonton wrappers. They only need to bake for about 12 minutes at 425, and you’ve got yourself dinner! Or a really good party snack. Of course, you need some extra buffalo sauce for dipping on the side, and maybe some blue cheese.

Staying with the meatless kick, I made tofu balls as substitutes for meatballs to have with pasta. It sounds weird, and the flavors are definitely interesting, but they are really good. I could even see having these with some type of stir-fry, since there’s peanut butter and soy sauce mixed in. I found the recipe over at the always delicious Post-Punk Kitchen.

Earlier in the week I decided to check out Gilt Taste, which is a dangerously delicious counter-part to Gilt Groupe, which has amazing sample sales. As you can guess, Gilt Taste is basically a foodie’s sample sale heaven. You name it, they have it, and it all looks absolutely amazing. There were a few things I decided to order as Christmas gifts, and figured a treat for myself (and my husband) would be appropriate as well. If you’ve never had popcorn mixed in with candy and chocolate, you are seriously missing out. I’ve had a few different variations, and when I saw The Hampton Popcorn Company’s peanut butter cup popcorn, I just had to have it. I don’t know how long this tin is going to last…

I spent Saturday with my parents, and took a trip to Trader Joe’s, since they have one in their town. In addition to picking up some things for my Foodie Pen Pal, I stumbled upon Cookie Butter, and had to grab a jar. Oh. My. Goodness. There really aren’t even words to describe how delicious it is. It sounds weird, I know, but it’s really good. Christmas in your mouth good. I really hope it isn’t a short-lived thing, because I need to go back and stock up. It’s already been eaten by the spoonful, and mixed in oatmeal. I have grand plans for this little jar.

I’ve also managed to stick to December’s goal of running at least 4 times a week. This past week I ran 5 times! Granted two of those runs were only 2 milers, but it isn’t about the distance – it’s about being out there. I ended the week at 25 miles, which isn’t quite as much as I was hoping for, but still not bad. I need to get in a super long run (15-20 miles) this weekend in order to feel remotely prepared for Goofy.

The week ahead is looking busy, albeit yummy. I have some promising dinners planned, miles to run, and Holiday parties to attend. Who doesn’t love the Holiday season?

Meatless Monday: The TALT

There is something magical about a good sandwich. For me, it’s a little bit crunchy, a little bit creamy, and a whole lot of delicious. I’m a huge fan of club sandwiches, paninis, tortas, subs (also known as “hoagies”), and any other sandwich-like food. I grew up eating a sandwich pretty much every day for lunch, and I couldn’t complain – my dad makes a mean turkey and cheese with lettuce!

I had been craving a BLT for quite some time, but decided to make it meatless. Enter the TALT – tempeh, avocado, lettuce, and tomato. So simple, and so delicious. I used LightLife’s “Fakin’ Bacon” which has a smoky almost bacon-like taste when quickly fried in a little oil. For the rest of the sandwich, I just toasted some grain bread and topped the “bacon” with lettuce, tomato, and half an avocado. Perfect for a Monday night.

With the realization that sandwiches are perfectly acceptable dinners, I’m looking to incorporate them more in our weekly meals. If you happen to have any good sandwich “recipes” (I put this in quotes because sometimes, like above, sandwich making is a no-brainer), please feel free to pass them along!

I just recently ordered and received the Peas and Thank You cookbook, and also Appetite for Reduction. I’ve already bookmarked a bunch of recipes I can’t wait to try, and have been inspired to try and create my own concoctions from them. Hopefully this month will be full of cooking (and baking!), now that I’m finally a married woman with slightly more time.

Meatless Monday: Vegan Feijoada

I often hear that vegan food is boring. And I think it’s safe to say that if you haven’t ever had it, just having a general understanding of it, sure, it can definitely sound boring. No real cheese? No animal by-products at all? But what about all the flavor?! Believe it or not, there can be serious flavor with just plant based products!

This recipe comes from Vegetarian Times, which every once in awhile will e-mail or publish a vegan dish. As you know, I’m not a full-fledged vegetarian, so I’m certainly not a vegan. However, I’m always up for new dishes and exciting flavors, so I figured I’d give it a shot; it has black beans, chipotles, and onions in it which are some of my favorite flavors. I added a habanero for extra heat, of course. It also calls for tempeh, which I’d often read about, but never actually tried. Tempeh is made by natural culturing and a controlled fermentation process that binds soybeans into cake form, originating in Indonesia (source). It suggested a smoky variation, so I grabed a package of LightLife’s “Fakin’ Bacon” Smoky Tempeh. I don’t think it tastes anything like bacon, but it’s a great flavor on it’s own, not in comparison. I also made sure to grab the 100% vegetarian vegetable broth to stay true to the recipe. Isn’t it amazing that things like vegetable broth aren’t always completely vegetarian? You really need to pay attention to the labels!

When I first read the recipe, I misread the cooking time, skipping down to the re-heat instructions. Originally I thought it was only going to take about 15 minutes to cook once all the other ingredients were ready, but then I realized I actually needed 45 minutes – whoops! So by the time all was said and done, my fiancé and I were ravenous, and managed to forget to take a picture. So, I’m borrowing the picture from Vegetarian Times (source). While mine wasn’t in such a cool pot, it looked pretty much the same.

I decided to make the whole recipe which serves 8, figuring we could bring it for lunch a few days during the week. Since it’s chock full of beans (four cans!) it’s defintely really filling so the entire meal will really stretch your dollar. That’s another thing – everyone assumes eating vegetarian or vegan is expensive. At times, yes, it defintely is. However, this recipe probably cost about $20 – $25 to make, and it’s going to last us for at least three meals, for two people!

Vegan Feijoada
– Serves 8 –

4 1/2 tsp. olive oil, divided
1 6-oz. pkg. smoky tempeh strips, such as Lightlife Fakin’ Bacon
1 medium red onion, chopped (about 1 1/4 cups)
1 rib celery, chopped (about 1/3 cup)
1 tsp. dried thyme
4 15-oz. cans black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
4 cloves garlic, minced (about 4 tsp.)
1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce, minced
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

1. Heat 2 tsp. oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add tempeh strips, and sauté 2 minutes on each side.
2. Heat remaining 2 1/2 tsp. oil in saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery and thyme, and sauté 6 minutes, or until onion is golden. Stir in black beans, tempeh, broth, garlic and chipotle chile. Bring to a simmer, and reduce heat to low. Cover, and cook 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, and stir in parsley. Season with salt and pepper.
3. To reheat, place feijoada in skillet over medium-low heat. Cover, and heat, stirring occasionally, 15 to 20 minutes, or until heated through.