Though I’m not eating sandwiches on my fruit/veggie reboot plan, that doesn’t mean I can’t drool over sandwiches past:

Pesto Grilled Cheese (Daiya Mozz)

Pesto Grilled Cheese (Daiya Mozz)

Pictured: two slices of homemade bread cradling a generous bit of Post Punk Kitchen’s Bestest Pesto and ooey, gooey melted Daiya mozzarella vegan cheese… lovingly grilled on the Griddler panini press.

It was magnificently wonderful.

White Fig Jam


Let’s talk about snacks for the kickoff of the last full week of Vegan MoFo.

I like snacks.

Lots of people have lots of opinions on the process of eating – when to eat, how much to eat, how often to eat. I grew up thinking 3 square meals a day was proper. Then, the diet marketing machine jumped in, and advice ranged from juice fasting to eating 6 times a day. Eat many small meals. Eat fewer large meals. Eat a bigger breakfast. Don’t eat less than 3 hours before bed. Midnight snack? Shame on you!

Well, having run the gamut myself on all extremes of health and fitness, I think I have the solution: there is no solution. Not one that fits all, anyway.

I eat a minimum of 3 times a day. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. Most days, I also have a snack. Sometimes, that snack comes around 3pm when I know I’m not having dinner for another few hours. Sometimes, that snack comes around 10pm when I ate an early dinner but my stomach is rumbling and I still have 3 hours to go before bed.

The moral of the story: food is not the enemy.

Sometimes, I eat a handful of nuts as a snack. Sometimes, I eat a PB&J. Sometimes, it’s a bowl of cereal. Sometimes, it’s raisins or a banana. (It’s almost never vegetables, shame on me… thus, the juicer!)

This summer, I was all about making my own freezer jam. I also developed an affinity for figs. Unfortunately, by the time I realized I loved figs (and thought it would be a great idea to make fig jam), it was too late to find fresh figs at the market.

I finally broke down and bought a pre-made fig jam.

White Fig Jam

White Fig Jam

If you like Fig Newtons and have not tried fig jam or fig butter (I hear Trader Joe’s has an awesome fig butter, but there are no Trader Joe’s nearby, *sob*), you have got to try it.

Fig jam

Fig jam

It’s ridiculous. I can’t even tell you how much I enjoyed this sandwich.

Almond Butter and Fig Jam Sandwich

Almond Butter and Fig Jam Sandwich

Snack on, my friends.

Chopped Leeks

Promises, Promises

It’s Vegan MoFo Week 3!

Yes, I know. You missed me yesterday. I’m back this evening for your foodie enjoyment, and a little birdie told me there’s a morning edition on its way, too.

First up: pesto veggie sandwiches! Oh. You mean, you’ve seen those before here? Or here? Hey – I promised I’d try to make 20 posts about food in the month of October. I never promised it’d be different food every day!

What can I say? I eat a lot of pesto veggie sandwiches. To make this instance a tiny bit more palatable, I will show you one of my magic kitchen weapons. This little beast makes chopping veggies super easy:

Pampered Chef Food Chopper

Pampered Chef Food Chopper

It’s the Pampered Chef Food Chopper. I couldn’t really tell you if other choppers work as well. I’ve used this one for years and it still looks and works like the day I bought it. The thing can take a beating (I’m a clutz) – it just keeps chopping away.

Now, I didn’t use it to chop these leeks…

Chopped Leeks

Chopped Leeks

… but I did use it on the baby bellas (got a sweet deal on organics!) and the red peppers:

Leeks, Baby Bellas, and Red Peppers

Leeks, Baby Bellas, and Red Peppers

Sometimes I use onions instead of leeks. It just depends what’s in my fridge. These leeks were on their last legs, for sure. This mix is made of 1 carton of baby bella mushrooms (16 oz), 1 large sweet red pepper, 3 leeks, and 3 cloves of garlic. Saute and salt to taste… voila!

Pesto Veggie Sandwich and Green Bean Fries

Pesto Veggie Sandwich and Green Bean Fries

With my buddies the Green Bean Fries on the side (baked, not fried… 18 mins at 400F… salt and pepper… nom).

Veggie Tofu Pesto Sandwich

Versatile Sandwich Guts

Who’s got time to play chef 7 days a week? Not me.

Who likes sandwiches? Me!

Enter: versatile sandwich guts that I can flavor to my liking with every batch, so as not to grow bored to tears with the ever-repeatable Sandwich.

The trick to loving sandwiches (besides having lots of pinch-hitters in the Sandwich Guts department) is the panini press. I would not tell a lie; I use my Griddler constantly – and not just as a panini press. I grill tofu and veggies on it all the time, too. I’ve got the “Jr” model – the smaller one – and it’s perfect. (A family of 4 might want the full size version).

This recipe was born from the Pesto Veggie sandwich I’ve raved about before (and is my favorite way to use this uber-delish pesto). I wanted something a little more substantial. Thus, the addition of tofu.

The great thing about this dish is that you can season it any way you like. I like to use my favorite Perfect Pinch veggie seasoning, but I’ve also gone the Italian route with great success. Seasonings are up to you! Go wherever your little heart desires. Let your imagination soar!

On the stove (cast iron FTW):

Versatile Sandwich Guts on the Stove

Versatile Sandwich Guts on the Stove

In a nutshell, this is one package of mushrooms (I’ve used baby ‘bellos, white button mushrooms, and shiitake mushrooms in the past – all with great success. I prefer portabellos or shiitake), one onion (or one leek), 3 cloves of garlic, and a few pinches of salt, to taste. Saute until the onions begin to soften, then add a package of pressed, cubed tofu. Sometimes I marinate the tofu first… sometimes I don’t. The pre-marinated stuff would work well here too. Add the seasonings of your choice and saute until the tofu starts to brown and the onions caramelize.

Spoon the mixture onto a slice of crusty bread shmeared with pesto, add a little Daiya vegan mozz, top with another pesto-shmeared slice of that crusty bread, and press in the Griddler for 4 minutes on medium.

It makes a mighty tasty sandwich!

Veggie Tofu Pesto Sandwich

Veggie Tofu Pesto Sandwich

Tempeh Sloppy Jims

Skillet Sloppy Jims

It’s 7:21pm. Do you know where your dinner is?

Today, I did not know where my dinner was. I did not know what my dinner was. All I knew was that I was hungry to the max, and I didn’t feel like slaving for a meal.

Enter: the cast iron skillet.

This particular piece of cookware is amazing. It’s naturally nonstick. When things do stick, it’s actually good, because you can deglaze the pan and everything tastes even better! Somehow, everything I’ve ever made in my cast iron has turned out awesome – including tonight’s throw-together mess of deliciousness.

I call it: Tempeh Sloppy Jims.

(Sorry, Joe. There’s no red sauce going on here, so I can’t really call it Sloppy Joes, but this sandwich assembled exactly like a Sloppy Joe, and ate just like one… just tasted different! So I gotta give the nod to Jim).

Tempeh Sloppy Jims

Tempeh Sloppy Jims

Take 1 cast iron skillet.

Add a diced white onion. Sautee in oil (I used peanut oil) over medium heat while preparing the rest of the ingredients.

Dice up a red bell pepper. Crumble a stick of tempeh. Throw them into the skillet. Keep on sauteing.

Pour in a little water or veggie stock. (I used a vegan chicken-flavored stock). Deglaze the pan. Keep on sauteing.

Don’t burn the batch of kale chips you’re making on the side like I did.

Throw a couple big handfuls of baby spinach into the skillet. Toss in some fresh basil, for fun. Awww heck, let’s mince a couple garlic cloves in there, too.

Salt and pepper…. stir until the spinach is wilted…. voila.

Tempeh Sloppy Jim mix

Tempeh Sloppy Jim mix

Tempeh Sloppy Jims! Well, I suppose this could be eaten a lot of ways. I was tempted to just eat it with a fork, but it reminded me so much of Sloppy Joes that I had to put it on a bun (with some melted Daiya mozzarella, of course [vegan… best vegan cheese on the planet!]). Served it with a baked potato and a giant bowl of greens, and some un-photogenic burnt kale chips on the side (not pictured).

Speaking of baked potatoes… why do I let myself buy big 5# bags of potatoes? Usually I just buy 1 or 2 potatoes, because I end up letting them sit until they’re growing eyes, but somehow while standing in the grocery store, I sometimes convince myself that the extra $1.50 is so worth it to get so many more potatoes! And then they go bad. This might have been the only potato I’ll out of the entire bag. Grrr! Why!!! I don’t even like to eat regular potatoes that often… I prefer sweet potatoes… I think I meant to make my favorite asparagus potato soup… except that I ate all of my asparagus. Hmm. Dilemma.

Maybe next time it’s 7:21pm and I’m lost without my dinner, I should study my potato options.

Chickpea Cutlet Burger with frizzled leeks, Green Bean Fries, and Corn on the Cob

Make New Friends, But Keep the Old

Make new friends, but keep the old…

My dinners these days often revolve around two central questions: what produce do I have in my fridge, and more importantly – what’s about to go bad? Today’s answer to the latter: green beans. I love me some fresh green beans, but the word “fresh” wasn’t really true any more in describing these particular beans. Still, I bravely picked through the container and separated the questionable beans from the salvageable ones. (If I die of green bean poisoning tomorrow, you read it here first).

Luckily for my green beans, I just picked up the sequel to one of my all time favorite cookbooks. I’m a huge fan of Clean Food by Terry Walters, and the new Clean Start looks to be even more exciting. Since I’ve of course already read the book cover to cover (yes, I read cookbooks for fun), I knew my green beans had a solid future.

They would become Green Fries.

I don’t think I’ve ever really fried anything, aside from the brief stretch of time when I actually owned a little deep frier. I’ve never fried on the stove-top, though. I tend to avoid frying things (pesky calories and all). Tonight, though, I had some green beans, and I had a new cookbook, and doggone it, I felt like frying something.

For the record, a) frying stuff is dangerous. I could’ve used a reminder before I embarked upon this journey. b) Fried green beans are good, but I’m not sure they’re better than roasting them to eat as fries. The texture is a little better, but might not be better enough to be worth the trouble (and calories) of frying. That said, I still ate a ton of them.

So, green bean fries are my new friend (roasted or fried!)

To go with my green bean fries, I made an old favorite standby – chickpea cutlets from Veganomicon. So easy. So good. Such awesome leftovers. And I actually remembered to add the spices this time.

And I grilled a corn-on-the-cob.


Chickpea Cutlet Burger with frizzled leeks, Green Bean Fries, and Corn on the Cob

Chickpea Cutlet Burger with frizzled leeks, Green Bean Fries, and Corn on the Cob

Word to your mother. Now go be a good scout and eat some plants.

Pesto Veggie Sandwich with Grilled Asparagus

Another holdout

Yes, I’ve been keeping something from you… again. But instead of waiting a couple days to tell you, I’ve waited a couple weeks.

Terrible. I know.

So, I’ve been eating this one sandwich…

(OK, that could probably start every food-blog post this summer).

Rewind. A couple weeks ago, I was at a restaurant called Olivers in Oak Forest, IL. It’s really more of a martini bar & grill. Or a sports bar. Whatever. At any rate, I was having an early dinner at Oliver’s, and ordered their Pesto Veggie sandwich.

It was heavenly.

Pesto, where have you been all my life?

(Full disclosure: I often relax my vegan ways to vegetarian at restaurants. I don’t eat out often, but still, the ethical battle that rages between my non-confrontational nature and my love of the cows is exhausting… but I have to remember that I eat this way to reduce suffering, and I accomplish a lot to that goal!)

Anyway. Where was I? PESTO!

Wow. Pesto. Self, meet basil! I never really knew basil was basil. I’ve had it before but never had a name for it. Now, I know what basil looks like and smells like and tastes like, and I know that basil is in pesto! How do I know this?

Because after eating at Oliver’s, I went out and bought a basil plant and made my own (vegan) pesto. I’ve made 3 batches so far, and almost have it perfected (at which point, I’ll likely post it here). I’m currently digging a mix of half-almonds, half-cashews. (Haven’t tried actual pine nuts, but going for a less calorie-dense version anyway).

So this homemade pesto frenzy has been feeding my new sandwich obsession – a clone of the Oliver’s Pesto Veggie sandwich.

For 4 servings:

  • 1/2 sweet or red onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup or so of mushrooms, diced (I’m liking portobello the best)
  • 1/2 of a red bell pepper, diced

Saute that all up in a little bit of olive oil until the onions are soft. Stack that between a couple slices of bread with a generous smear of pesto and some Daiya mozzarella, and press for 4 minutes in the panini press… oh my word. It tastes great on a crusty Italian sourdough, but also delish on regular ol’ Italian bread (or what I call, junk food bread).

Pesto Veggie Sandwich with Grilled Asparagus

Pesto Veggie Sandwich with Grilled Asparagus

I’ve literally eaten this sandwich 10 times in the past couple weeks. The only reason I didn’t eat it yesterday was that I ran out of pesto (and I seem to have already killed my basil plant… it’s outside now working on its resurrection). I thought I pruned it correctly. YouTube says I did, anyway. Still, it doesn’t seem to be growing new leaves. It just seems to be dying. Sigh.

In other news, I’m still obsessed with grilling veggies on my Griddler. That gadget is one of the best kitchen investments I’ve ever made (and it was really too cheap to call an “investment” – but I use the thing multiple times per week. Love it).

Unfortunately, my kitchen adventures are likely to be boring for the next 2 weeks. I’m 12 days from The Big Move, and have to eat through my freezer by then. I’ve been dreading this time. I don’t know why I stock my freezer full of frozen veggies. I know they’re supposed to be convenient, but I just prefer fresh. Maybe I just haven’t learned how to properly cook using frozen veggies.

My plan is to check the web sites of the frozen veggie manufacturers and find some recipes specifically written for those veggies. Maybe with some techniques under my belt, I’ll find a reason to fill my new freezer with them. (I’d much rather fill it up with jam!)

Do you have any favorite recipes that make use of frozen veggies? Please share! 🙂

Avocado Spinach Sandwich and Asparagus

Lies of Omission

So, I’ve been keeping something from you.

It’s a sandwich – one that I’ve now eaten 3 days in a row.

I didn’t mean to. I thought about sharing. The first time, I was just too hungry to stop and grab the camera.

The second time, I started to prep the sammy for picture time, but it just wasn’t photogenic enough to bother.

Well, the sandwich still isn’t very photogenic, but it’s so darn tasty that I was overcome with guilt today as I made it for, yes, a third time.

So here you go – my current crush of a sandwich:

Avocado Spinach Sandwich and Asparagus

Avocado Spinach Panini and Asparagus

It’s the Avocado Spinach Panini [recipe], inspired by the recipe in the July/Aug 2011 issue of Vegetarian Times.

My version is a slight modification on the original. It’s essentially (for one sandwich):

  • half an avocado, mashed
  • 1/8 of an onion, diced
  • a generous smear of garlic hummus
  • a small handful of baby spinach
  • some sundried tomatoes
  • smashed between two slices of bread and pressed for 4 minutes on the panini press

I’m currently enjoying the High Five Fiber loaf from Great Harvest Bread Company in Palos Heights, IL. If you’ve never had Great Harvest bread, you MUST check to see if there’s a GH near you. Their breads use simple, real food ingredients and fresh whole grain flours – ground daily! The flavor is incredible, and I’m so glad that I found GH at my local farmer’s market. I’ve been looking forward to shopping at GH Charlottesville once I get to Virginia, but it has been so delicious enjoying it here in the meantime!

Of course, I still suck at cutting bread loaves, so my slices are WAY huge. So, people, do not take these photos as an example of how much in grains you should eat at a meal. Leave that to MyPlate! My slices probably end up being 2.5 servings, at least!

But just look at this hot, gooey mess…

Avocado Spinach Panini

Avocado Spinach Panini

Oh, it is so good.

Mashing the avocado is definitely key. I had trouble in my first two attempts with the avocado slices falling out on the panini press or when I tried to eat the sandwich. The mashing also adds to the gooey-factor.

Side note: I’m eating asparagus like french fries now. Loooooove asparagus!

Fave way to prep asparagus: trim off the rough stems. Spray with a little olive oil spray. Sprinkle with veggie seasoning (I’m currently in love with McCormick’s Perfect Pinch Vegetable Seasoning. Yeah, the ingredient list is less than whole-foods-stellar, but it is mighty tasty). Then grill for 3 minutes. (Ahh, this is where having the Griddler is awesome sauce!)

So, as we embark upon this holiday weekend, I urge you to enjoy a tasty sandwich, grill up some veggies, and share some good times with the ones you love. 🙂

Chickpea cutlet sandwich with creamy garlic

Sandwich Experimentation

I’m the happiest foodie version of myself when eating with my hands. I love sandwiches and finger-foods. After an accidentally awesome sandwich creation a couple weeks ago, I vowed to recreate my favorite pizza joint take-out sandwich: the Chicken Club from Nancy’s Pizza.

Last night, I attempted my first batch of the secret ingredient: the creamy garlic dressing.

Now, I don’t have the slightest idea of the ingredient list of the original dressing on this sandwich – so I’m just going to have to wing it by flavor!

After digging through my vegan cookbook collection and coming up empty, I searched the interwebs for a vegan creamy garlic dressing. My first attempt used this recipe, supposedly from the Chicago Diner (meat-free since ’83!). It turned out much too bland. I added some additional garlic, some fresh basil, and a sprinkle of Garlic Gold (the Italian herb blend) – and while that did make it quite tasty, it’s not quite there. Also, the consistency is much too thin.

Still, that didn’t prevent me from trying the dressing on a sandwich! I made up another batch of Chickpea Cutlets from Veganomicon (and had a total cutlet fail – forgot half of the seasonings. Funny, they still turned out alright – since I’m smothering them in dressing anyway).

Behold: phase one of my quest to veganize the Chicken Club sandwich from Nancy’s:

Chickpea cutlet sandwich with creamy ranchYeah, it’s not much of a club sandwich – I was too tired to make tempeh bacon. This was really just an attempt to get the dressing right, after which point I’ll proceed with the rest of the sandwich. But boy – it sure is a delicious process 🙂

I think my next attempt at the dressing will use silken tofu, similar to Isa’s Sanctuary Dressing recipe (which I am still enjoying almost daily!)

(There’s some Daiya mozzarella on there too). Kale chips and a ring of fresh pineapple on the side. Nom!

Golden Chickpea & Artichoke salad in a pita

Nice to Meet Ya, Artichoke

I fear artichokes.

Well, I did. I mean, they’re just weird. They look funny. They certainly don’t look edible; they look mean!

I’ve had a variety of food aversions in my life that really have no true foundation. I’ve dispelled many of them over the past year. Kiwis are one of my favorite fruits. (Former aversion: they’re furry and ugly… on the outside. Oh, what I could learn from the kiwi fruit!). Mushrooms, as weird as my brain still thinks they are, happen to be delicious. (Former aversion: they’re fungus. Who eats fungus?!). I had no “real” reasons to dislike these foods – just head games.

And so it is with the artichoke. I’ve actually been psyching myself up all year to “try” artichokes. I’ve had them in the form of spinach and artichoke dip, a small handful of times. I like that dip. But tonight, after much kitchen talk with my cousin’s wife (and her reaction of sheer joy and passion for the weird artichoke), I decided to finally pull the trigger and make something with an artichoke in it.

I flipped through my growing collection of cookbooks, and found myself back in the sweet embrace of my latest cookbook crush: the Vegan Yum Yum cookbook. (I can’t help but feel I’m cheating on Isa. I’m so sorry, Isa!) I love that every recipe in VYY has a photograph to accompany it. And so far, I’ve loved every recipe I’ve tried from this book. For as much gushing as my friends have done over artichokes, I was surprised to find very few artichoke recipes in my collection. That’s fine – Vegan Yum Yum it is!

I made the Golden Chickpea and Artichoke salad, and stuffed it into a pita. (I like food I can eat with my hands, and for something that felt as daring and scary as eating artichokes, I needed the comfort factor for my inner utensil-shunning child). I toasted the pita-wich on the panini press, and behold:

Golden Chickpea & Artichoke salad in a pita

Golden Chickpea & Artichoke salad in a pita with kale chips on the side

Whoa, Nellie!

I must admit – with such a simple ingredient list, I wasn’t sure this was going to work. I had visions of tossing the pita to the birds and hoofing it to the fridge for a bowl of cereal for dinner. The first bite actually scared me a little – it seems I didn’t mix the lemon juice well enough and I got a really smirky first bite.

But after that…

Chickpeas and artichokes were in the hizzouse!

I got more excited with every bite; it was delicious!

Chickpea artichoke pita

Gratuitous chickpea action

What can I say? VYY is 3/3. 100% yum. And this one was super easy, to boot.

So, to the artichoke: I’m sorry I ignored you for so long. You’re tasty and I can’t wait to try you in more dishes.

Side note: I didn’t have any almonds on hand, so I used cashews instead. Nom.

Other side note: the blob on the plate is Isa’s Sanctuary Dressing – a veganized ranch stand-in that I am currently obsessed with. It’s from her Appetite for Reduction cookbook. Great for dipping!

Side side note (how many sides does this thing have?!): the co-star here was kale chips. They’re my uber favorite way to eat greens. Nutritious and dippable! They’re ridiculously simple to make. Someday I’ll write a tribute to kale chips, but in the meantime, Kath has done a video on how to make them: