Fast and Easy Vegan Sloppy Joes

FullSizeRender-4We have an a bunch of extra hamburger buns at the house post-Memorial Day gathering. We already had veggie burgers one night, so I had to think up something else for the rest.  I decided to try a new sloppy joe recipe, did a quick Google search and came up with one on jamieoliver.com. I had everything on hand already — even better.

You can get these on the table in less than an hour —  you can’t beat that. These are actually very similar to the crockpot lentil sloppy joes I made on Fox 2 Detroit a few years back, but are even easier with fewer ingredients. One difference is the balsamic vinegar. At first thought it seemed strange, but you know what the difference is between, say, ketchup and tangy barbecue sauce? Vinegar. It really gives it a nice sweet and tangy flavor at the end.

FullSizeRender-5These will be in the family rotation for sure. I thought they could use a little more flavor. Though the garlic was my own addition, I think next time I’ll add more seasoning — more cumin, more chili powder and go from there. They were, indeed, sloppy. I don’t think I could have cooked them down anymore to be less sloppy, but next time I might try. Really, I think that’s just how it goes. Be sure and have a good solid bun — you’ll probably still need a fork in the end.  If you’re eating open-faced, you’re all set I guess.

The whole family took these down — baby included (sans bun of course). We ate them with a common side dish around here — pan roasted lemon green beans.

Ingredients
• 1 Tbsp. olive oil
• 1 small onion, diced
• 1 small red or yellow bell pepper, diced (I did 3/4 red and 1/4 green because it’s what I had)
• 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
• 2 garlic cloves, minced
• 1 tsp. cumin
• 1 tsp. chili powder
1 c. French lentils (I did a mix of green and brown)
• 3 c. water
• 28 oz. tomato sauce
• 3 Tbsp. tomato paste
• 1 tsp. Sriracha hot sauce (optional… I omitted this for the kids. The baby actually does alright with spice. The older babe, not a fan.)
• 1 tsp. salt
• 2 tsp. balsamic  vinegar
• buns
• optional toppings: onions, pickles, avocado, coleslaw, etc.

1. Heat the olive oil in a medium, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add onion, pepper and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes or until softened.

2. Sprinkle in cumin and chili powder and cook an additional minute. Then add tomato paste and stir to incorporate.

3. Add lentils, water, tomato sauce and hot sauce, if using. Increase heat to high and bring to a simmer. Lower heat so it’s just bubbling and cook uncovered 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. (I accidentally left covered, so my cook time was longer.) Add more water if it cooks out before 30 minutes is up.

4. Taste and if they are tender (they should be a little ‘al dente’ — have just a little bit of bite left), add salt and vinegar. Serve on buns or open-faced on toast.

Simple Stir Fry Sauce

It seems I never get sick of Asian food (of any kind) so when I either A) have no plan for dinnertime and/or B) need to clear out a lot of veggies that will soon turn, stir-fry it is. I always have brown rice in the cupboard  — tonight I used up a little white basmati I had leftover from a recent job.

As I was pulling veggies out of the fridge, I remembered recently seeing a bag of frozen stir-fry vegetables in the freezer. Frozen vegetables, especially when I go to Trader Joe’s, are my weakness. I always think they’re going to come in handy in a pinch, but then I never use them. I always have fresh. I thought tonight was the night! I cooked them as I was throwing my fresh vegetables in the pan…turns out I had plenty. Once they were cooked it was a pathetic little pile of vegetables, so I added them anyway — you can’t have too many vegetables in stir-fry.

This is a really basic stir-fry sauce you could doctor up — add red pepper flakes, more ginger or garlic, more sesame oil, more or less sweetness. It’s a starting point. Or you can use it exactly. This makes a lot — about 3 cups — so you can store it for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator and it will be ready when you need dinner in a pinch again.

Ingredients
• 2 Tbsp. cornstarch
• 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
• 1/2 c. soy sauce, low sodium
• 2 c. vegetable broth (or substitute any or all of it with water)
• 1/4 c. cider or red wine vinegar
• 1 tsp. sesame oil (optional)
• 2 garlic cloves, minced (about 1 Tbsp.)
• 2 Tbsp. fresh ginger, minced (or can use 1 Tbsp. powdered ginger)

1. Whisk sauce ingredients and set aside.

2. Sautee vegetables, tofu, meat if that’s your thing, etc. to your desired doneness. I did this in coconut oil and a little sesame oil.

3. Whisk sauce and add desired amount of sauce and cook/boil for about 1 min. I recommend about 1/2 c. per serving. It will thicken slightly upon cooking so keep that in mind.

4. Serve over brown or white rice or quinoa and enjoy.

Miso Vegetable Soup

IMG_4885

As luck would have it, a little spring head cold found its way to me over the weekend. Or maybe it’s allergies. Either way, by Monday morning I was a stuffy, sinus-y mess. I decided a quick miso soup was in order.

When I don’t feel well, whether it’s a cold or a hangover or just feeling blah, my goal is to get as many vegetables into my body as possible. Miso also has many nutritional benefits so it was a no-brainer to throw this together.

FullSizeRender-2In addition to feeling pretty crummy, my 1-year-old, normally a happy baby with an amazing appetite, decided she didn’t want anything I put in front of her. All of which she normally eats up with no hesitation. It all went on the floor and she kept reaching toward the area where I was chopping vegetables and making soup. What should have taken 20 minutes, took close to an hour and by the end of it I threw a little bit of the soup in a bowl to attempt to make her happy. And it did! Obviously, it was a mess, but she loved it. Including the vegetables that were identical to the ones she just finished throwing on the floor. :)

I have every intention of feeding her what we eat, but many nights it’s hard to have dinner ready for all of us before she’s ready for dinner, so I often sauté some vegetables and do whatever’s easiest in the moment. Healthy at the end of FullSizeRender-3the day, but not what I’m making for myself. This is a little reminder to try to do that more often so I don’t eventually slip into the bad habit of feeding her only what’s easy or only her favorites.

When we got down the bottom of her bowl, I tipped it up to show her how to drink the rest of the soup. I may regret this later…

This could include just about any veggie you have on hand. Just chop and throw it in the pot together. I was attempting to hurry, so I didn’t even sauté anything first. I was sure to include a couple of cloves of garlic since it’s super good for you when you’re under the weather too. I tossed it in at the end, since raw garlic is more beneficial. Here’s what I did.

Ingredients
• 4 c. low sodium vegetable broth
• 4 c. mushroom broth
•  5 asparagus spears, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
• 1 small zucchini, diced
• 5-6 large baby bella mushrooms, sliced
• 1 large carrot, cut in quarters and thinly sliced
• 3-4 green onions, thinly sliced
• 1 cup leafy kale, washed and chopped, stems removed
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• sea salt and pepper
• 1/2 pkg. of firm tofu, drained in a tofu press and cubed (optional)
• 1/3 c. white miso paste

1. Pour broth into a soup pot and bring to a low rolling boil.
2. Remove 1 c. of the broth to a small bowl and whisk in miso paste. Once dissolved, add back to pot.
3. Chop your veggies whatever size you like and add to pot.
4. Add garlic, salt and pepper to taste.
5. Cook until veggies are of desired doneness.
6. Add cubed tofu if using and continue to simmer until heated through.
7. Chow down!

Popeye Spinach Muffins

Spinach muffinsI had seen these spinach muffins floating around Facebook for a while. A friend, who also has a 1-year-old, made them and inspired me to finally do it too. I tweaked the original The Green Forks recipe, following her lead.

They turned out great and James LOVES them. My 6th-grader stepdaughter even agreed they taste more like banana muffins than anything. She took them to school to trick her friends and even the veg-hater liked them! :)

I’m going to list what I did, which worked out well. My changes included using coconut oil instead of canola, using 2 5 oz. bags of spinach instead of 1 6 oz. bag, using spelt flour instead of a mixture of all-purpose and whole wheat and using applesauce and honey in place of sugar. (Find the original recipe via the link above).

This recipe made about 40 mini muffins and is supposed to make 16 full-sized muffins.

Ingredients
• 2 c. spelt flour
• 1/2 c. applesauce
• Approx. 2 Tbsp. honey
• 2 tsp. baking powder
• 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
• 1/2 tsp. sea salt
• 1/2 c. coconut oil, melted
• 3/4 c. almond milk (or milk of your choice)
• 2 5-ounce bags fresh baby spinach
• 1/2 c. mashed banana (I used one large banana)
• 2 tsp. vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line your muffin tin with paper liners or set silicone liners on a baking sheet.

2. Whisk together dry ingredients in a large bowl: flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.

3. In a blender place rest of ingredients except banana and vanilla. Blend on high for 30+ seconds. I used a Vitamix, so I was fortunate to be able to use the tamper to push down the spinach and get it well incorporated. I’m not sure if it was because of the extra spinach or not, but without this, I don’t think it would have blended together as easily. Pre-chopping it in the food processor may have been necessary or scraping down the sides with a spatula to get the spinach in there.

4. Add banana and vanilla, blend on low just to mix.

5. Pour pureed mixture into dry mixture and fold together with a rubber spatula until completely combined .

6. Fill muffin cups about 2/3 full and bake 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Making mini muffins, I thought I wouldn’t need to bake them as long, but I ended up baking them for the full amount of time.

Spiced Maple Pumpkin Muffins

IMG_2743When it came time for my daughter’s recent first birthday, I wasn’t sure how to handle the cake. I couldn’t see ordering a traditional birthday cake. You always end up with a bunch leftover and it just has so, so much sugar. J had never had actual sugar before her birthday. I’m not trying to keep her sheltered forever, but I just thought there must be some kind of compromise — something I could make that the masses might enjoy and our family could eat for days to come if there are lots of leftovers and wouldn’t keep my baby up all night.

The fact is — she didn’t know the difference. And i bet she liked this even more than she would have liked cake. Once we helped her get to the actual muffin, she loved it. She seems to love anything with a lot of flavor. We had pies and these muffins (“cupcakes”) topped with traditional cream cheese frosting (laden with tons of powdered sugar. I’m not a total fuddy-duddy).

Use eggs for the traditional recipe or flax eggs to veganize them. Thanks to Cookie + Kate for the original recipe!

Ingredients
• 1/3 c. melted coconut oil or extra-virgin olive oil (I went with coconut)
• 1/2 c. maple syrup or honey (I went with maple syrup)
• 2 eggs at room temperature or 2 flax eggs
• 1 c. pumpkin puree
• 1/4 c. milk (I went with almond milk)
• 1 tsp. baking soda
• 1 tsp. vanilla extract
• 1/2 tsp. salt
• 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
• 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
• 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
• 1/4 tsp. allspice or cloves
• 1 3/4 c. whole wheat pastry flour (or regular whole wheat or all-purpose flour)
• 1/3 c. old-fashioned oats

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Because I only have 1 set of silicone muffin cups, I used paper muffin cups so I could bake more than one pan at once. For my daughter’s giant muffin, I lightly greased a large muffin tin with coconut oil.

2. In a large bowl, beat the oil and maple syrup or honey together with a whisk. Add eggs, and beat well. Mix in the pumpkin purée and milk, followed by the baking soda, vanilla extract, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and allspice or cloves.

3. Add the flour and oats to the bowl and mix with a large spoon, just until combined. If you’d like to add any additional mix-ins, like nuts, chocolate or dried fruit, fold them in now.

4. Divide the batter evenly between the ten muffin cups. For these muffins, it’s ok to fill the cups a little higher than you normally would. Sprinkle the tops of the muffins with a small amount of oats if you like, followed by a sprinkle of cinnamon (I skipped this since I was going to be frosting them).

5. Bake muffins for 23 to 26 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean. Let muffins cool completely before removing from pan (if not using paper liners) or removing paper from them. I actually wish I would not have frosted ALL of them, so I just had some pumpkin muffins to eat after the party. I look forward to making these again soon!

Cardamom Spiced Granola

I haven’t made granola in quite some time and a brunch with friends tomorrow is all the inspiration I needed. Best part — I was able to pull it together in about 10 minutes with things I had on hand. There were a couple of things I didn’t have on hand — thus sunflower seeds and pistachios from The Kitchn‘s original recipe are M.I.A. but that’s OK. I just added more almonds, pumpkin seeds and oats to make up the difference.

This recipe couldn’t be easier and it’s delicious. My favorite local granola (or granola of any kind anywhere) also has cardamom in it so I knew I would like this. I’ll definitely be making it again soon, probably with walnuts in the mix I think. That’s what I love about recipes like this — you can really make them your own.

Ingredients
• 2 c. old-fashioned rolled oats (gluten-free, if needed)
• 3/4 c. shredded coconut
• 1/2 c. sliced, raw almonds
• 1/2 c. raw pistachios, shelled
• 1/2 c. raw pumpkin seeds
• 1/4 c. sunflower seeds
• 2 tsp. ground cardamom
• 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
• A good pinch of salt
• 3/4 c. maple syrup
• 1/3 c. coconut oil, softened (I imagine you could easily sub this with another oil if you don’t have coconut on hand)
• 1/4 c. tahini paste  (Tahini gives it a mild nutty flavor in the background. If you don’t have any, try almond butter!)
• 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°F.

1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the oats, shredded coconut, almonds, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, cardamom, cinnamon and salt together. Drizzle in the maple syrup, coconut oil, tahini paste and vanilla extract — I whisked them all together then drizzled them in. Toss to coat.

2. Spread the granola mixture evenly onto a baking sheet — no need to oil the pan or anything. The oil, etc. in the granola should take care of that. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. The granola is done when deeply golden and toasted. Cool completely and store in an airtight container at room temperature for about a week or in the refrigerator for several weeks.

General Tso’s Tofu

IMG_2484

I had enough energy before falling asleep one night just long enough to crack open the latest Vegetarian Times magazine that arrived that day, show a picture of this dish to my husband and say “I think I have everything I need to make this.” I say stuff like that all the time. This time, I actually made it happen.

His review? “Officially put this on the list of the ‘hits’ ” — his favorite things that I’ve made over the years. It’s on my list of hits too. Nobody loves fried tofu more than me, but this recipe was a nice reminder that there are other ways to get tofu crispy and delicious without all of that frying. We both devoured this — I came awfully close to licking my plate. (Note: the original recipe says it serves 4. The two of us polished off the whole thing!)

I only did two things differently than the original VT recipe. I like things saucy, so I did 1 1/2 times the recipe for the sauce. I’ll post the original recipe here and you can decide. I also steamed purple cabbage with the broccoli simply because I had some I needed to use up. Looking forward to making General Tso’s Tofu again this week!

Crispy Tofu
• 1 16 oz. package of firm tofu, drained
• 2 tsp. low sodium soy sauce•
• 2 tsp. rice vinegar
• 1 tsp. mirin (rice wine)
• 1 tsp. vegetable oil
• 1/2 tsp. minced garlic
• 1/2 tsp. grated fresh ginger
• 1 Tbsp. cornstarch

Sauce
• 1/2 c. low sodium vegetable broth
• 2 Tbsp. sugar
• 1 2/ Tbsp low sodium soy sauce•
• 4 tsp. mirin
• 2 tsp. rice vinegar
• 2 tsp. sesame oil
• 2 tsp. cornstarch
• 1/2 tsp. tomato paste
• 1/2 tsp. samal oelek chili paste, optional (I didn’t have this, so I put a few chili flakes in there)
• 2 tsp. vegetable oil
• 4 green onions, green parts chopped (about 1/3 of a cup — I used white parts too)
• 1 clove garlic, minced (about 1 tsp.)
• 1/2 tsp. grated fresh ginger

Accompaniments
• 2 c. steamed broccoli and/or other vegetables
• 2 c. brown rice

First, make the Crispy Tofu.
This is how I regularly make tofu, minus the marinade. I just drain, cut, sprinkle with cornstarch and bake. But here are the details:

1. I put entire block into my tofu press for 15 minutes or so. If you don’t have one, cut tofu block into two broad slabs. Wrap slabs in paper towels and place between two cutting boards. Weight top board with soup cans and press 30 minutes. Unwrap tofu and cut into 1-inch cubes.

2. Combine soy sauce, vinegar, mirin, oil, garlic, and ginger in a resealable container. Add tofu and toss to coat. Marinate 30 minutes or overnight. The tofu should absorb all of the liquid.

3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and coat a baking sheet with cooking spray. Sift cornstarch over tofu and turn to coat evenly. Spread in a single layer on the baking sheet. Bake 30 to 40 minutes or until firm and crispy, turning regularly to brown all sides.

Next up, the sauce:
1. Whisk together broth, sugar, soy sauce, mirin, vinegar, sesame oil, cornstarch, tomato paste and chili paste (if using) or chili flakes in a small bowl (Again, I did 1 1/2 times the listed amounts. Next time I might double because it’s sooooooo good).

2. Heat vegetable oil in wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add green onions, garlic and ginger and stir-fry one minute, being careful not to burn. Add the sauce and cook one minute, or until thickened. Stir in tofu. Serve with vegetables and rice

* Use gluten-free Tamari instead and the whole dish becomes gluten-free!