Tempeh Helper

NoBurger Helper

If you grew up on Hamburger Helper, this bowl of deliciousness is for you.

Behold: Tempeh Helper!

Tempeh Helper

Tempeh Helper

It’s a variation of Isa’s recipe from Appetite for Reduction. If you don’t have the cookbook (umm, why not??!) she’s got a similar version posted on her web site – just minus out the chili powder: Tempeh Helper. The oven mitt hand man is totally creepy.

I can’t promise that this version is as light on calories as hers, but it’s a bit more satisfying. I say this only because vegan cheeze sauces are notoriously thin and less-than-cheezy, and since the advent of Daiya vegan cheese, there’s just no reason not to indulge.

So my version used Isa’s seasoning mix and recipes for the pasta and tempeh, combined with Mama Pea’s use of silken tofu and Daiya for the cheese sauce.

It’s a perfect throwback to Hamburger Helper, and hit a huge vibe in the Comfort Food category. Definitely a winner. This recipe could easily be bulked up with some broccoli or romanesco cauliflower (my new obsession).

In fact, writing this post might induce me to make this recipe again for dinner tonight!

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.

Veggie Sushi

First Attempt at Sushi

I’m nothing if not ambitious, my friends!

Veggie Sushi

Veggie Sushi

My family’s Easter gathering is tomorrow, and as a vegan (and even as a vegetarian), if I don’t want to starve, I have to bring at least one dish I can eat. It’s all good; I don’t expect anybody to bend over backwards to make sure there’s something for me to eat. This holiday, I decided to try something new: veggie sushi.

I’ve never had sushi before. In fact, I spent the first 36 years of my life misinformed, thinking that “sushi” meant “fish.” (It doesn’t; sushi is actually the rice). What gets wrapped in that rice? Anything you want! Including veggies.

So I got myself a $4 bamboo sushi rolling mat, and set to work.

First, I prepped (way too many) veggies.

Sushi veggies

Sushi veggies

I had red peppers, sundried tomatoes, avocado slices, green onions, carrots, and cucumber slices. I also had some shiitake mushrooms and steamed asparagus on the side, and a small batch of buffalo tempeh and a small batch of ranch tempeh spread (inspired by PPK’s Spicy Tempeh Rolls).

I got to rolling. It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be – though the rice is super sticky (keep your hands wet!), and it seems I was over-stuffing my sushi rolls a bit. Still, it all seemed to work out. I need more practice getting the rice to the ends of the nori sheets, though.

This roll was a simple avocado, carrot, and green onion roll.

Rolling up sushi

Rolling up sushi

My 10-pack of nori sheets only had 9 sheets in it! Gypped! That’s OK… since I was over-stuffing the rolls, I only had enough rice for 9 rolls anyway.

9 Uncut Veggie Sushi Rolls

9 Uncut Veggie Sushi Rolls

(Please pardon the “well seasoned” cookie sheet. I need new ones). I left some of the ingredients sticking out of the ends, because in the very first episode of the Post Punk Kitchen, Isa did that, and the end pieces looked cool with stuff sticking out. I’m not sure mine will look quite as cool, but can’t blame a girl for trying.

Next, I discovered just how not-sharp my formerly-awesome-sharp-knife is. Not so good for cutting sushi. I cut up one roll and taste tested it (pretty good!), but I’ll cut the rest up tomorrow.

The result: my very first veggie sushi:

Veggie Sushi

The result: veggie sushi, first try

Not so bad, eh?!
I made a couple buffalo tempeh & cucumber rolls, a couple ranch (actually, Sanctuary Dressing) tempeh and avocado rolls, and a variety of mish-mosh veggie rolls.

I feel like something in there probably needed some salt, but maybe that’s where the soy sauce for dipping comes in.

I’m definitely stoked about sushi now! Can’t wait till July for my Vegas trip, where I will be checking out some Vegas sushi.

What’s your favorite sushi filling?

New Obsessions

It’s no secret that I’m a little bit obsessive-compulsive. Poor asparagus was the most recent victim of my OC ways. (I ate more asparagus soup in late 2010 than I care to recall. Hopefully I will recover by spring when those gorgeous little stalks poke out from the earth anew). This year, I’m off to a bang of a start, with two new food obsessions: kiwi and crumbled tempeh.

Let’s start with my new friend, the kiwi fruit. I’d never eaten kiwi before because – well, it’s furry. Furry food? Ew. But if I learned anything last year, it’s that you can’t judge a food by its cover. So I consulted the premier source for culinary training (YouTube), and investigated how to peel a kiwi. Enter: Pimp That Food.

Gordon taught me how to peel a perfect kiwi fruit. It’s actually very easy – and so pretty! I’ve had a kiwi a day ever since.

Here’s my new friend kiwi hanging out in a bowl of Fancy Oatmeal.

Fancy Oatmeal with Kiwi

And then, there’s tempeh. I like tempeh. I learned about tempeh when I first started cooking vegetarian and vegan dishes. It’s a soy based food, but a lot different from tofu. It has a substantial texture to it – almost meaty, like a veggie burger. It also has its own flavor, unlike tofu. It tastes a bit nutty. It’s high in protein, iron, and calcium. What I’ve had a shortage of is ideas on what to do with tempeh.

Enter: crispy crumbled tempeh. My new obsession. Suddenly, my salads become dinner salads! My wraps become meals! So simple, and so yummy. Make up a batch of crispy crumbled tempeh and toss it on top of everything!

My latest salad/wrap combo: mixed greens, diced roasted red pepper, julienne-cut sundried tomatoes, pickles, some homemade cucumber dill dressing, and the now-infamous crispy crumbled tempeh. Sometimes, I cannot resist adding a drizzle of ranch; it goes so well with the tempeh!

(Does anybody else put pickles in salad? It’s so freakin’ good! But I feel like a weirdo).

Salad with crispy crumbled tempeh

Don’t forget to have a big bowl of greens every day!

[recipe-show recipe=”crispy-crumbled-tempeh”]

Tempeh Sausage, Gravy, & Biscuits

I get my taste buds from my father. He loved rich foods. He also wasn’t above having breakfast for dinner, and many a night I’d find myself having sausage, gravy, and biscuits at twilight. I have very fond memories of meals at the local Bob Evans restaurant, with their red and white checkered tablecloths, soaking up sausage gravy with big ol’ biscuits, just like my daddy did.

Eating is a very intimate process, and we tie it inextricably to our social customs as well. I have a lot of memories tied to certain foods – biscuits and gravy being one of them. Having grown up an omnivore, many of those foods include meat and dairy products. Giving up meat doesn’t mean I have to give up those memories, though. I’m realizing more and more that food is just a trigger for those memories, and similar foods bring me the comfort of my memories just the same.

That’s what I pondered as I ate this vegan version of sausage, biscuits, and gravy – all the while remembering those days of playing straw-wrapper hockey with silverware across the table from my dad.

This meal comes from one of my new cookbooks: You Won’t Believe It’s Vegan!: 200 Recipes for Simple and Delicious Animal-Free Cuisine. It’s a great little cookbook – I’m looking forward to trying out a bunch of the recipes in it. I just wish the font for the ingredient lists was a little bigger. I have to squint and stick my face right up to the book to read the fractions. (OK, you can all stop with the old-age jokes!)

First up: biscuits!

These biscuits were quick and easy to make, though I did discover that I don’t have anything in my kitchen to cut biscuits with. I really though I had cookie cutters or something, but I couldn’t find them. I ended up using a tiny little condiment bowl that I surely stole from some restaurant with my doggie bag. (Sorry!) It worked just fine!

Cutting biscuit doughI kept re-rolling the dough scraps and cutting more biscuits until the dough was all gone. The recipe said this would make 12 biscuits, but mine made exactly 24. I have a feeling I rolled the dough a little too thin, as the recipe said 1/2 inch thick. Well…. it seemed like it was 1/2 inch thick! I guess not.

Unfortunately, I ended up over-cooking my biscuits a little. The instructions said to bake them 8-12 minutes, or until golden brown – mine weren’t getting golden brown, so I tacked on 4 minutes or so to the 12. When they still weren’t brown, I got worried and took them out of the oven. Sure enough, they just weren’t going to get brown. (Note – I cooked them all in a single layer on 2 baking sheets – then threw them all together when done because I needed my other baking sheet for the tempeh sausage!)

BiscuitsI’m also afraid my baking soda and baking powder has lost its oomph. It’s several years old (I’m ashamed to say, probably more than 5 years old), and this isn’t the first recipe that hasn’t quite risen as expected. I think it’s time to get some fresh leavening agents!

Next up: the tempeh sausage.

This was my first time cooking with tempeh. Originally from Indonesia, tempeh is a soybean product like tofu, but unlike tofu, it’s made from the whole bean and has a higher protein, fiber, and nutrient count. It has a firm texture – much more firm than tofu.

The first step was to grate the tempeh. I’ve never used a box grater before (I’m not even sure what I have IS a box grater!), so it took me a few tries to get the hang of it. (The bowl kept sliding all over the darn counter, until I figured out a way to grip both the bowl and the grater at the same time).

Grating tempehAlways choose organic tempeh if you can. Most non-organic soy products are made from genetically modified soybeans (yuck! I prefer my food from the earth, not from a test tube, tyvm!)

After adding the rest of the ingredients (including lots of spices), I scooped up handfuls of the tempeh mixture and shaped them into patties. This stuff was really easy to work with!

After baking:

Vegan sausage pattiesLast step: the gravy.

This too was simple to whip up while the tempeh sausage cooked, but my photo of the gravy did not turn out. Boo!

When everything was done, I plated up 2 biscuits (since mine were half the size they were supposed to be), topped them with a tempeh sausage patty, and then slathered on some gravy. My plate looked a little empty, so I toasted an organic whole wheat muffin and topped it with some green garden puree that I made yesterday. Disregard how totally off-center I plated everything!

Vegan biscuits and sausage gravyTurns out, my eyes were bigger than my stomach, and I couldn’t finish the second slice of muffin. But the rest was fantastic!

Would this sausage fool a meat eater? No way. But, does it offer flavors similar to sausage? Absolutely. Did it provide the same memory triggers that its meat-based equivalent would? Oh yeah. (Did it fill me up? OMG, stuffed!)

I think next time I make this (and there will definitely be a next time!) I’m going to try crumbling the sausage into the gravy instead of having it as patties. I think this tempeh sausage would also make a great topping for vegan pizza!

I believe my dad would be proud.

[recipe-show recipe=vegan-biscuits]

[recipe-show recipe=tempeh-sausage-gravy]