In the spirit of my more recent posts where I cut to the chase and get straight down to business aka the recipe, here we go!
Note on the recipe: the focus here was on recreating umami flavors of the bolognese sauce mixed in with Parmesan cheese. So, what you’ll see is a lot of umami ingredients: tomatoes, mushrooms, and marmite.
(Please note that I still enjoy writing and cooking, but the pandemic had imposed some restrictions on how much writing I can do. I will try to stick to sharing the recipes as they come, and I hope you don’t mind the decreased quality of phots which I don’t have time to stage these days. So, unlike the photos, food remains yummy.)
Place a large frying pan over medium–high heat. Once the pan is hot add the oil and onions. Sautéfor 5 minutes, or until onionhave softened. Note that onions, garlic and mushrooms don’t need to be finely chopped, rough chop/slicing is ok.
Add garlic, stir well, and sauté for another 1-2 minutes.
Mix in the chili powder and marmite, then add the sliced mushrooms. Toss everything to combine and sauté for another 3-5 minutes, until mushrooms are done.
While onion, garlic and mushroom mix is cooking, crumble the tempeh into rough crumbles into the large food processor (you can also use a hand held blender stick, in which case crumble into a large mixing bowl).
Add the sautéed mix into the tempeh and process until finely chopped and mixed. Please note that the mix will be hot, so handle with care.
Pour the contents of one large can of crushed tomatoes into the same frying pan you used for sautéing and place over medium heat. Add the tempeh mix, and gently fold everything in and combine. Once it starts to bubble, tomato sauce will start to spray all over so cover with the lid to minimize splatter.
Cook for 10 minutes or so with occasional stirring.
Serve immediately over pasta (my latest discovery is lentil and chickpea pasta, including the spaghetti), and sprinkle with fresh basil and/or oregano. Enjoy!
Do you eat breakfast every day? Many consider breakfast essential – a meal that can’t be skipped no matter what. I personally ebb and flow on this. When I was younger I could not imagine starting a day without a solid meal. Nowadays, breakfast may or may not happen, and it may or may not happen at different times after I wake up. Very often, it is a quick piece of fruit, a banana, apple, or (one of my weird favorites) roasted sweet potato, or my attempt to dethrone avocado toast – the banana toast (huh, you didn’t see that one coming, did you?)
I blame my busy morning for this state of the affairs, so when I do have a chance I try to make breakfast a bit more substantial. Often that means some sort of doughie concoction like muffins, pancakes, crêpes, waffles, scones, or even popovers and I enjoy making them as they are real crowd pleasers. But, I personally prefer a savory breakfast when I have a choice, like a breakfast taco, or something like these soy-free scrambled eggs.
Few days ago I made another version of scrambled eggs (not soy-free), which I am very proud of. The recipe uses tofu, so if you are trying to minimize soy intake for whatever reason, you can refer back to soy-free scrambled egg recipe for instructions on how to make the “egg” base, and combine with the rest of the recipe below.
The recipe is really simple. You will need a blender to create a very smooth mix of silken tofu and arrowroot powder (or starch) that will serve as binder for the scramble, but that’s the only specialized equipment you need here. All the rest you can do by hand.
There are two optional ingredients below – black salt or kala namak and smoked paprika. Black salt is salt that has traces of sulfur containing salts which give it a sulfurous smell, a smell of eggs. I usually skip this, but you may want to experiment with small amounts and see whether you like it or not. For a smokey aroma, I recommend using a small pinch of smoked paprika just before serving. If you prefer to add some heat, you can replace with a pinch of chipotle powder or a drizzle of hot hot sauce, like tabasco.
Vegan Scrambled Eggs with Mushroom and Scallions, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
Vegan Scrambled Eggs with Mushroom and Scallions (oil-free)
What you’ll need:
4-5 scallions (green onions), white parts and green parts, finely sliced
5-6 mushrooms (white or cremini), whole, sliced (I prefer slicing them finely)
1 box (10 oz, 300 g) silken tofu
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon arrowroot powder (or tapioca starch or any other starch you have on hand)
1/2 lemon, just the juice
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 box (14 oz, 400 g) extra firm tofu, drained and crumbled
(Optional) pinch of black salt
(Optional) pinch of smoked paprika for serving (or chipotle powder for more heat)
(Optional) tabasco sauce, drop or two
What you’ll do:
Sauté scallions and mushrooms in a dry pan over medium-high heat, stirring frequently and adding a tablespoon of water at a time as needed to prevent food from sticking to the bottom of the pan. You can use oil if you like – 1 tablespoon should be sufficient here.
While scallions and mushrooms are cooking, place silken tofu and the rest of the ingredients except a block of extra firm tofu, into a blender and blend until smooth.
Once they are done cooking, push mushrooms and scallions to the side of the pan and poor in the silken tofu mix. Deglaze the bottom of the pan, then add the extra firm tofu crumbles, and mix well to incorporate all the ingredients.
Increase the heat to high, and let the mix start to bubble. Mix well to prevent burning, and cook for 3-4 minutes. Serve hot with an optional pinch of black salt, sprinkle of smoked paprika, chipotle powder or hot sauce. A piece of toast and some black coffee would go well with this scramble, too!
Quite frankly, I go back and forth on breakfast. Sometimes I am 100% behind the notion that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. And sometimes I get into skipping meals until lunch or later.
At the moment, I am eating mostly raw, and mostly fruit until dinner time (around 5PM) and then have a cooked meal during the work week. But on the weekend, I still enjoy a spot of brunch.
These breakfast tacos are an example of great brunch (weekend breakfast) recipe, when you have a bit more time to put something awesome on your plate. Actually, these tacos could work as lunch or dinner as well – they are rich, with tofu, beans, and corn, and they can be customized with a range of toppings like salsa, sour cream, cheese, and guacamole. Actually, chopped tomatoes, cilantro and a squeeze of lime would work just as well!
Note that if you are looking for something that will taste like an egg, this is not it. Thus scramble is yummy but it is not meant to be egg-like. It stands on its own! For a more egg-like scramble you can try Just Egg – it’s good but it’s not cheap – or my recipe for a vegan scramble.
Drain the block of tofu and place it into a colander to continue draining while you prepare the scallions.
Place a large skillet over the medium high hear, add cooking spray or oil, and add the scallions. Sauté scallions for 3-5 minutes.
While scallions are browning, move the block of tofu into a larger mixing bowl and, using a fork, crumble the tofu into smaller pieces about the size of scrabbled milk pieces.
Add the tofu to scallions. Mix well, add the spices (chili powder and cumin), and scramble everything together.
Add the corn and the beans. If you are using frozen corn and you don’t have time to thaw it, add the corn first, mix well, sauté for 5 minutes then add the beans and sauté for another 3-5 minutes. I do recommend that you thaw your corn first, as it will save you some cooking time.
Warm tortillas in a microwave for 30 seconds, then top with the scramble and any other toppings you enjoy. I like chopped cilantro and finely diced tomatoes!
Tofu seems to be an ingredient that many would like to use more often but don’t know where to start. It is also something that seems to taste so much better when you get it at a restaurant. I’ve seen a lot of people that complain about never getting tofu to be quite as crispy and quite as crunchy or quite as flavorful as when they have it in their take-outs or at the favorite Asian place.
I love making tofu – and I do it without any tofu presses or other special tofu preparing equipment. My favorite way to eat tofu is as a crunchy snack – I take a block of extra firm tofu (extra firm is my go-to kind of tofu for most of my recipes), drain the liquid out, leave in a colander to drain for about 30 minutes, then slice into cubes that are about 2 cm (3/4 in) long. For a block of tofu that you find in US-based supermarkets (14 oz or so), this means cutting it into 48 cubes – you slice the block of tofu in half, then each half into three slices, which gives you 6 mini blocks of tofu. Each mini block is then sliced in half, and each stick of tofu then divided into 4 cubes, giving you 12 x 4 = 48 cubes. If all this is too complicated math-wise, don’t worry, just cube into whichever number works. Remember to keep the chunks, well chunky!
Next, I lay the tofu cubes onto a baking sheet lined with some parchment paper, and spread them out, so that they don’t touch each other. They go into a hot oven (425 F (220 C)), and after about 15 minutes I check them, flip them around and roast for another 10 minutes. What this gives you at the end is tofu that’s crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. I eat these as a snack, as is!
This, of course, is not the end of the story, and you can use the roasted tofu to make number of other dishes. For example, you can use it to make Saag Paneer. You can also toss tofu with your favorite dressing and use in a salad. And: you can use your roasted tofu to make a wonderful stir-fry, like the one I will share with you here.
This stir-fry is actually a sort of Mexican-Chinese fusion recipe, and it is sweet from all the caramelized onions and sweet red, yellow and orange peppers, as well as a bit of agave nectar that goes into the tofu marinade. I kept it sweet to encourage my kids to eat it – they are not big fans of hot spices at the moment. Having said all that, you can definitely spice things up and adding a bit of Sriracha into the tofu marinade, and/or sprinkling some crushed red pepper flakes will add some serious spice punch!
I recommend that you serve this stir-fry with simple rice or, even you are counting carbs, this cauliflower rice recipe will definitely work for you. If you are looking for something totally different, this stir-fry will also go well with polenta, or even baked polenta. Enjoy!
Tex-Mex Stir Fry with Crispy Tofu, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
Tex-Mex Stir Fry with Crispy Tofu
What you’ll need:
2 blocks (14 oz, 400 g) extra firm tofu, drained
1 tablespoon agave nectar
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seed oil
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce (or tamari sauce, if gluten-free)
1/2 yellow or white onion, finely diced
4 scallions, white and green bits, finely sliced
2 tablespoon grated ginger (or pickled ginger, diced very finely)
2 tablespoon canola oil
3 cups finely sliced yellow, orange and/or red peppers sticks
2 cups yellow corn kernels (I used frozen, but fresh or canned would work as well)
What you’ll do:
Preheat the oven to 425 F (220 C).
Take the blocks of tofu out of its packaging and leave in the sieve or a colander to drain for 30 minutes or so. Slice the tofu into 3/4 in-1in (2 cm) cubes (each block should give about 40-48 cubes). Line the baking sheet with some parchment paper and spread the tofu cubes around, so they are not touching each other. Roast the tofu for 15 minutes, check and flip the cubes, then roast for another 10 minutes.
Place agave nectar, toasted sesame seed oil and soy sauce into a large mixing bowl and whisk together.
Slide the hot tofu into the marinade, mix together and set aside.
Place a large wok, or a deep trying pan, over high heat. Add the canola oil, diced onions, sliced scallions, and grated ginger and fry for 2-3 minutes with frequent stirring.
Add sliced peppers and continue to fry at high heat for 10 minutes or so.
Add frozen corn, and fry for another 5-8 minutes.
Finally, add the tofu and the marinade in and stir well. Leave on high heat for another couple of minutes, then turn the heat off. Serve hot over some rice, or polenta – and don’t forget to add some Sriracha to the marinade if you are into spicy!
Eggplant Parmesan – the staple of Italian restaurants in our area, and a frequent favorite of many. Unfortunately, it is so easy to overdo this dish and make it almost inedible. For example, frying the breaded eggplant very often results in a mushy piece of oily eggplant that is far from appetizing. So, to compensate for absence of flavor of a soggy eggplant people usually dump in a whole lot of cheese, usually a mix of ricotta and mozzarella. This makes for a goopy mess of a meal that can be easily avoided by following couple of simple rules. Rule 1: bake your eggplant; Rule 2: make your own tomato sauce; and Rule 3: make the dish 100% plant based.
Prepping the eggplant
Eggplant has a bad reputation for being bitter unless prepared a certain way. However, I don’t remember the last time I had one that was bitter when grilled, or made into a stew. Having said that, for the eggplant parmesan I do recommend that you use the trick that’s supposed to draw the bitterness out. You slice the eggplant, sprinkle with salt and then let drain for 15-30 minutes. The way I did it is to place the eggplant on several layers of paper towels, sprinkle salt, cover with more paper towels, put a baking sheet over the top and weigh with some cans. The amount of liquid that eggplant releases is not enormous but the paper towel should be quite damp.
Breading the eggplant, gluten-free and vegan way
The next step towards your Eggplant Parmesan is breading and baking the eggplant. I don’t recommend frying the eggplant – baking at 425 F (220 C) will give you much better results, and nice crispy eggplant.
To get to a gluten-free version of this classic all you need to do is use gluten-free bread crumbs which are now available in most grocery stores. If you don’t have access to gluten-free breadcrumbs you can use stale and/or roasted gluten-free bread to make your own bread crumbs. Or, if that is not available either, you could use corn flakes and make them into the crumbs! And don’t forget to add some dried oregano and basil to your breading – that just makes everything better!!!
For the breading, you will also need an “egg” mix, in this case some vegan mayo mixed with some plant milk. This mixture gives a nice thick consistency, but if you’d rather skip mayo, you could use just plant milk. The main point of the “egg” mix is to make the surface sticky so that the breading adhere to it well.
Eggplant parmesan breading assembly line
So, your breading assembly line will look something like this – pile of eggplant slices, deep fish (soup plate) with the “egg”, a pie dish with the bread crumbs, and the baking sheet lined with parchment paper sprayed with some cooking spray. An eggplant slice would go from the “egg” mix, to the crumbs, to the pan.
After about 15-25 minutes in the oven the eggplant should be nicely golden and crunchy.
Making the perfect marinara tomato sauce
While the eggplant is baking, you can make your very own amazing tomato (marinara) sauce. The sauce starts with some olive oil and garlic, and includes only five ingredients. You will need olive oil, garlic, crushed and whole peeled tomatoes, and dried oregano and basil.
Vegan eggplant parmesan needs some good cheese
The cheese starts with cashews soaked overnight. It includes nutritional yeast, plant milk, lemon juice and that’s it! As with the tomato (marinara) sauce, this cheese is universally applicable to a range of recipes and dishes. The final consistency is that of a ricotta not mozzarella, but in this case that works great.
Putting the eggplant parmesan together
This magnificent eggplant parmesan starts with a layer of marinara sauce on the bottom, then a layer of breaded eggplant, followed by some tomato sauce then cheese, another layer of eggplant, sauce and cheese, and so on. You can keep layering until you run out of ingredients. Once all the layers are in, put your eggplant parmesan in the oven and let the top and the edges brown. Let the baked dish cool for 15 minutes or so, sprinkle some fresh basil and some freshly ground pepper, then serve with a simple salad. Yummy!
Vegan and Gluten-free Baked Eggplant Parmesan
What you’ll need:
FOR BAKED BREADED EGGPLANT
3 large eggplants, cut across into 1/2 in (1-1.5 cm) rounds
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup mayo
1/4 cup milk
1 cup bread crumbs (gluten-free or regular depending on your preference)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried basil
FOR SIMPLE TOMATO (MARINARA) SAUCE
1 can crushed tomatoes
1 can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 tablespoon olive oil
FOR SIMPLE RICOTTA CHEESE
1 cup cashews, soaked in water for at least 3 hours (overnight in the fridge is fine)
7 oz. silken tofu
1/2 cup almond milk
1/2 lemon, juice
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1/4 teaspoon salt
Fresh basil, finely chopped (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper (optional)
What you’ll do:
Cut the eggplant into rounds, arrange on several layers of paper towel, sprinkle with salt, overlay with several more layers of paper towel, then weight down and leave for 15 minutes. This will draw excess moisture out – your towels should be quite damp, so pat the eggplant dry and set it aside.
Preheat the oven to 425 F (220 C).
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and spray with the cooking spray.
In a large soup plate combine mayo and plant milk together. Whisk well. Next, in a separate plate combine bread crumbs and dried oregano and basil. Take a piece of eggplant, dip in the mayo/milk, then move to the breadcrumbs, and lay flat on the parchment paper. Repeat until all the eggplant is used up. You may need two baking sheets for this, so have another one on stand by just in case.
Spray the top with a bit more cooking spray, then bake the eggplant for 15 minutes. Flip it once and bake for 10 more minutes. Take the baked breaded eggplant out and let it cool before handling further.
While the eggplant is baking, prepare the sauce and the cheese. To make the marinara sauce, place a large, heavy pot (I use a Dutch oven) over the medium high heat, add the oil and sliced garlic. After 1-2 minutes, add the can of crushed tomatoes and the can of whole peeled tomatoes that you have smushed with your hands. Let the sauce come to a simmer, lower the heat down, and leave the sauce to simmer with a lid one until needed for the next step.
While the sauce is simmering, combine all the ingredients for the ricotta and blend until smooth using a blender. Set aside.
For the final step you will need a deep baking dish, like the 13 x 9 in (33 x 23 cm) dish. Pour in some tomato sauce, and spread around until the bottom is fully covered. Layer in the eggplant. Top with sauce, then cheese, then add another layer of eggplant, then sauce, and finally cheese. Keep layering until you run out of ingredients. Depending on the size of your baking dish, you may have 2 or 3 layers. If you end up with leftover sauce or cheese, you can store them in the fridge and use for 5 days or so.
Bake the eggplant parmesan for 20-25 minutes, until the dish is bubbling and the top is browned. Let the baked eggplant parmesan rest for 15 minutes before serving and enjoy!
But, believe it or not, although I loved all of them, I loved some other recipes more. So, here is the list of 10 recipes I developed last year which I simply adore. I could make and enjoy each one of them over and over again, and I do make them every chance I have. The list below is organized from breakfast to dessert, and as you will see shows that I prefer things like soups and sandwiches, grilling and roasting, and really like the simplicity of a no-bake desserts. Simple, affordable, and delicious – these recipes really capture these three guiding principles of my cooking and eating style.
Gluten-free Sweet Potato Pancakes – these pancakes are an easy weekend breakfast or brunch that get all their sweetness from the roasted sweet potatoes. No eggs, no butter, no milk required! Making pancakes is a fun activity for the entire family and one of the best ways to fill your kitchen with inviting aromas and signal to the whole household that weekend is off to a great start. You can make these with all purpose flour as well, and use any topping you like – for me it’s usually sliced bananas and a drizzle of nut butter softened in the microwave for 30 seconds or so.
New England Clam-less Chowder – this chowder is simply amazing and with the flavor and texture that matches the original extremely well. I discovered that jackfruit works really well is some of the dishes that traditionally use seafood, and I used it for the Chowder, together with potatoes and a dash of potato starch to give it that chowder texture. My secret ingredient here? Some seaweed wraps which I soaked to create a seafood tasting broth! With a squeeze of lemon and a dash of Old Bay Seasoning, there’s nothing better to put in your bowl except maybe…
Creamy Cauliflower Winter Soup. If the chowder is complex, this soup is simple yet incredibly creamy. It is my favorite soup I’ve made thus far! The soup is nothing more than fresh cauliflower, boiled and creamed using a blender until smooth and silky. What completes the soup is some peas and corn, which I always have on hand in the freezer. The entire pot of soup is inexpensive and filling, cozy and perfect for the winter month, thus the name.
DIY Sushi – I’d never felt brave enough to make my own sushi before, but I finally gave it a go about 6 months ago, and I loved it. My favorite sushi fillers are carrots, avocado and cucumber with a sprinkle of black sesame seeds, so veggie rolls for the win! But you can as reactive as you like. For example, I made a batch with mushy peas and pickled red cabbage, as well as with Seaweed Pearls -aka vegan caviar -from IKEA (!), and tomato “tuna”, which I still need to work on to make it come out perfect
Faux-lobster Rolls – My love of seafood and fish alternatives does not stop at sushi and chowder, as these faux-lobster rolls prove. Some of you who tried were sold on this idea, some though they don’t even come close to the real deal. They work for me with heart of palms or artichoke hearts, both are yummy. What gives these rolls their lobster-y flavor is the seasoning, and to me nothing says “seafood” as much as the already mentioned Old Bay Seasoning, but you can adjust to match your flavor expectations and make them truly your own.
Grilled Tofu Sandwich – I love sandwiches, which explains my selection of both the faux-lobster rolls and the grilled tofu sandwich where a spicy coleslaw completes the ensemble. Plus both of these are light and summer-field recipes that can bring sunshine to your plate even in the dead of winter! For best results you do need to drain and press the tofu – you don’t need to go wild here but
Grilled Portobello Steaks – Grilling is one of the most powerful ways to maximize the umami flavors, and these portobello steaks are a great example of what grilling can do! Although you could grill most of the heartier vegetables and mushrooms as is, I think that marinating in a rich marinade that hits all the main tastes (sweet, sour, bitter, umami (savory), and salty) is a great strategy to get the most of your grilling. It definitely makes these hefty portobellos a stand out!
Simple Summer Pasta Salad – this is absolutely the favorite pasta salad I’ve ever tried. There’s really nothing special about the ingredients – pasta, toasted almonds, olive oil, onion powder and fresh basil get tossed together and that’s that. But I could eat this one by the bucketful. Unlike many pasta salads that can be overwhelming, this one is light yet elegant, and you can serve it warm or cold. It also makes a great contribution to any pot luck!
Shepherd’s Pie – this is the only more serious meal on this list, which is telling. The food I enjoy most is the one that comes together quickly without much fuss, but once in a while there’s an occasion to go wild and elaborate. This Shepherd’s Pie is a fantastic meal to make for a large family gathering. It will be a hit with both herbivores and omnivores in your lives, and it makes a lovely looking centerpiece. The meat replacement strategy here is to combine brown lentils with mushrooms and cook them with lots of rosemary and thyme for that amazing flavor.
Dark Chocolate Almond Butter Cups – no round-up of favorite dishes is complete without some chocolate, and these dark chocolate cups full of creamy almond butter are a perfect treat. They are no-bake, and hassle-free, yet look and taste amazing. If you are looking for a way to impress your guests, these will do the trick. The almond butter filling is super-complementary to the dark chocolate exterior and balances the crunchy chocolate shell out well. If you are trying to avoid nuts, you could try using a nut butter alternatives. Those will work as well.
I hope you enjoy this list, and give these recipes a try. As I said, they were my very favorite!
Let’s cut to the chase and be honest here – although we can pretend otherwise, we are all as obsessed with lasagnas as Garfield is! The layers of soft noodles, amazing sauce, fresh herbs, and most commonly lots and lots of ground meat and soft cheese. All this means that lasagnas are not the healthiest thing on the menu. Having said that, there is no reason to ban lasagnas from your plate; you just need to learn how to keep it healthy and plant-based, and I think I can help you to troubleshoot both of those problems.
Keeping lasagnas meat-free seems to be the problem many have tackled, usually by overloading lasagna with cheese, cheese and eggs, or cheese and a selection of vegetables, like mushrooms, and increasing the amount of tomato sauce and making it chunkier. But, really the most prominent ingredient in majority of meatless lasagna recipes is the cheese. When I was developing this lasagna recipe I did not want to give up on idea of “meat”, so what I came up with is a hearty, meaty, and flavorful walnut and brown lentil “meat” ragù base. My thinking was inspired by my previous, wildly successful Meatless Shepherd’s Pie, which I served for Easter this year as a substitute for a more traditional, lamb-based dish. In that recipe, lentils, mixed with ground mushrooms and cooked with rosemary and thyme, made for an amazing feast.
Here, I wanted to recreate the traditional meat ragù and went for a combination of chopped walnuts and dark lentils. The trick is too cook the lentils separately and add them to the rest of the ragù when they are fully cooked. Also, chop your walnuts into pieces that are about the size of what ground meat pieces may look like. I chopped the walnuts by hand, just by going over walnut pieces with a knife few times, back and forth. You can buy whole walnuts, or walnut halves in store and start from there, but for this a bag of walnut pieces will make your life easier and make the dish cheaper. Walnuts work really well in this lasagna, because they add some of their natural crunchy texture, protein, and a bit of fattiness to the otherwise very lean recipe. Worried about this extra fat? Walnuts are known for having a lot of unsaturated fat, which is the good kind, so don’t skip it! The meatiness of the ragù is further enhanced by a good amount of tomato paste and crushed tomatoes and letting the ragù simmer for a while.
The preparation of any lasagna happens in several stages and this one is no different. In order to make the process more efficient I recommend that you start roasting the zucchini at the same time you start making the ragù, and then start boiling the lasagna noodles when zucchini is just about done. In that way you don’t even need to turn the oven off, you can just lower the temperature from roasting to baking and be ready for lasagna to go in immediately. Please note that I don’t use zucchini as a complete lasagna noodle replacement. I suppose you could, but then you’ll end up in a more of a Zucchini Mousaka territory than lasagna paradise. If you are concerned about gluten, there are now many gluten-free lasagna noodle options for you to choose from and most of them work perfectly.
The final touch on this lasagna is the Béchamel sauce (besciamella), which is a white sauce traditionally made with milk, butter and flour. In this case, the quick white sauce I put together requires only a blender, some soft, silken tofu, a squeeze of a lemon, and a bit of nutritional yeast. It is very much the blend-and-pour type of sauce, so you can do it a in a blink of an eye. The sauce adds a nice, slightly cheesy flavor to this very rich lasagna, and makes for a nice, almost golden glaze.
Zucchini Lasagna with Walnut and Brown Lentil Ragù
What you’ll need (for 9 x 13 in (23 x 33 cm) baking dish):
8-10 lasagna noodles, gluten-free if preferred
1 lbs (450 g) brown lentils
3 zucchinis, cut lengthwise into long strips
2 large carrots, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
1 cup raw walnut pieces, chopped
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 can (28 oz, 800 g) crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon crushed garlic
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
3 tablespoons fresh Italian (flat leaf) parsley
1 lbs (450 g) silken tofu
2 tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
Cooking oil spray
What you’ll do:
Preheat oven to 425 F (220 C).
Prepare the lentils according to the instructions on the bag. Basically, bring 4 cups of water to boil and add the lentils that have been washed and picked over to remove any impurities that may have made their way to the lentils. Bring the lentils back to boil than lower the heat to a gentle simmer, and cook for 20 minutes or so, until lentils are completely cooked. Drain the lentils from excess water and set aside to cool.
While the oven is preheating, and lentils are cooking, prep your veggies. Peel, wash, and dice the onions and carrots, and wash and dice the celery. Wash the zucchini well, remove the ends, then cut into long, thin strips. You can use a mandolin slicer for this, but cutting by hand also works. The zucchini slices should be as close to the thickness of the lasagna noodles as possible, but you don’t need to go crazy here – just keep in mind that a bit thinner is better.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, place the zucchini slices on and spray with cooking spray. You may need to use two baking sheets, since you may discover that you can’t manage to have all your zucchini slices arranged in a single layer. Don’t pile the zucchini on top of each other and do roast in batches if needed. Place the zucchini “lasagna noodles” into the oven to roast. The roasting will take anywhere between 15 and 25 minutes and will depend on the thickness of your zucchini. Keep an eye on the oven and if you are roasting two pans of the zucchini at the same time do rotate the pans mid way through the roasting. You will know that the zucchini is done when the edges are slightly brown and the middle is golden. Once you take the zucchini out, decrease the oven temperature to 350 F (175 C).
While the zucchini is roasting, start your the ragù. Spray the bottom of a Dutch oven, or another type of heavy pan, with cooking spray and heat up over the medium to medium high heat. Add carrots, onions and celery and let them brown for 10 minutes. Add chopped walnuts and let them pan roast for about 2 to 3 minutes. Add garlic, oregano, and basil, and let the flavors develop for a minute. Next comes tomato paste – add it to the pan, mix well and let brown just slightly. This takes about 2 minutes or so. Add the cooked lentils and the crushed tomatoes, and mix well. Let the ragù simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Turn the heat off, add the fresh parsley and mix well to combine.
Once the ragù is simmering, it’s time to start cooking your lasagna noodles. Most varieties ask for a large pot of boiling water and about 10 minutes of boiling time. The noodles don’t need to be cooked all the way through as they will continue to cook in the oven but they do need to soften quite a bit, so 8 to 10 minutes should be enough to achieve that. Drain the noodles and use immediately.
Combine tofu, lemon juice and nutritional yeast in a blender and blend until smooth. Set the besciamella to the side.
Spray the bottom and sides of your 9 x 13 in (23 x 33 cm) pan with some cooking spray. Cover the bottom liberally with the ragù (use about a half of the amount you made), layer the first set of noodles (for me that came to about 5 noodles per layer), then layer the zucchini in a single layer, pour the rest of the ragù, and top with the remaining noodles. Pour the besciamella over and cover with foil.
Place the covered lasagna into the 350 F (175 C) oven and let bake for 30 minutes covered and then about 10 minutes uncovered. Let the lasagna sit for about 10 minutes before serving. I like to add some freshly ground black pepper or a mix of black pepper and red pepper flakes to my lasagna just before enjoying, but you can also sprinkle some fresh parsley, or fresh basil. Have fun!
You probably know that veggie burgers are going through somewhat of a revolution, with companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, leading the way within US in creating plant-based products that taste and look like the real meat. I have not had an Impossible Burger yet, but I can attest to Beyond Burger being everything its creators wanted it to be – a plant-based burger that looks, cooks and tastes like fresh ground beef burger. It is absolutely spot on, thanks to some interesting protein biochemistry and biophysics that transfrorms pea protein into ground beef, as well as the use of plenty of fat for that greasy burger feeling, and a good amount of salt. And fat and salt are likely two components of this burger that, in addition to getting the texture of the protein component just right, make this type of burger so realistic and so delicious and so addictive.
Indulging in one of these burgers as an occasional treat is all fine and good, but making it on a daily basis is almost us unhealthy as eating the beef patty. That’s why I’ve been focusing on creating plant burgers (call them veggie burgers if you like) that can work on a grill or in a grill pan, look very burgery, and taste great without huge amounts of salt and fat. My blog now has the entire section dedicated to Burgers, Hot Dogs & More. Some of the burgers I made taste very much like a beef patty, some less so… At the end, what I discovered is that plant burger needs to pass two tests in order to qualify for being on my plate: it has to hold its shape well and sustain grilling on the grill or in a grill pan, and it has to taste amazing. Any burger that checks those two boxes off deserves to be shared!
The patty I am sharing today has three twists. Twist number one is that I decided to try using avocados as a fat source to add some juiciness to the burgers. Avocados, also known as Alligator Pear – isn’t that awesome? – are not something I ever considered cooking with but we recently had a huge avocado sales in my local grocery store and I got more than I should and there is a limit to how much avocado toasts one can eat in a week, so I was looking for something else to do with them. The idea to try making a burger with avocados was inspired by their high fat content and their creamy consistency (when they are ripe and perfect). I did quite a few internet searchers to see what other have done, but I could not find a single recipe that used avocados inside the actual burger patty. So, off I went to see if Avocado Burgers can be made into reality.
My twist number two is one of my favorite tricks to add umami flavor to just about anything – finely ground mushrooms. They work wonders in a dish like Meatless Shepherd’s Pie, or more generally any time you want to recreate that special “je ne sais quoi” of ground beef.
Final twist to this story is using extra firm tofu that has been frozen for few days than thawed all the way over the course of one to two days in the refrigerator. Freezing and defrosting tofu changes its texture daramatically. The tofu becomes tougher and stronger, and it absorbs the marinades and flavors better. There are no tricks to freezing tofu in my kitchen as I just put the container tofu comes in from the store into the freezer, but if you need a more refined method The Spruce has detailed step by step instructions. Before you use tofu, drain it well and then dig in – use your hands to press and squeeze and get the excess water out. I suppose you could use the tofu press for this or a method where you place tofu slices between paper towels and place a large weight on top for twenty minutes, but because tofu that’s been frozen then defrosted has this tougher and stronger texture, using your hands actually works quite well. Plus, you can easily go from squeezing to crumbling, which is the next step. At the end you will end up with a pile of small tofu crumbles.
To this pile of crumbles you will add mashed avocado, ground mushrooms, tomato paste, and couple of staples when it comes to boosting umami and grilled food flavors: soy sauce or liquid aminos, Worcestershire sauce and liquid smoke. The patties will be soft so it is a good idea to stick them into the fridge or a freezer to firm up before cooking. I felt like pairing only some crispy lattice with this burger but pickles, mustard, ketchup, tomatoes, and all the other common burger fixings will go well with it too!
Avocado Burger, step by step, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
What you’ll need:
1 16 oz. (450 g) block of extra firm tofu, frozen then thawed
8 oz. (225 g) crimini (baby bella) mushrooms
1 large avocado, ripe
2 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, vegan
1 tablespoon soy sauce or liquid aminos
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
Cooking spray (for the pan)
What you’ll do:
Freeze the tofu few days in advance and when completely frozen take it out of the freezer and leave it in refrigerator for a day or two, until completely defrosted. Drain the tofu and using your hands squeeze the water out of tofu. The tofu should feel like a relatively tough sponge soaked with water at the beginning, and at the end it should feel moist but not dripping wet. Crumble the tofu into a large mixing bowl.
Chop the mushrooms using a food processor until they are finely ground. Few chunkier bits here and there will not hurt but try to get the mushrooms to be about the same consistency as your tofu crumbles. Add to the tofu.
Cut and peel the avocado, and scoop out the green flesh into a small bowl and mash with the fork until finely mashed. Ideally the avocado should be as smooth as you can get it, and if you are using a perfectly ripe avocado this should not be a problem. Side note: If you discover that your avocado is tough that means that it is not ripe enough. If your avocado is turning black it means that it is past its prime. Unfortunately, when it comes to avocados only the perfectly ripe, perfectly green and perfectly soft will work, for this or any other recipe. If your avocados are tough to touch it means they need to ripen and you can help them out by putting them in a paper bag, closing it tightly and leaving them on the kitchen counter overnight. That usually helps – and if they are really, really green you can a ripe banana to the bag to help avocados along.
Add the avocado purée to the tofu mix, as well as the rest of ingredients.
Mix well to combine using your hands. You want to work the mix a bit, which means squeezing and mixing at the same time. Once everything is combined together, use your hands to form patties. Place the patties onto a tray lined with wax paper, and put them into the refrigerator for 30-60 minutes or into a freezer for 15 minutes or so.
Heat your grill pan or a cast iron skillet over the medium high heat. Spray with cooking spray and add 2-3 patties at a time. You need to leave enough room around tha patties to be able to flip them so keep that in mind. Cook on one side for 5 minutes then flip over and cook for another 4-5 minutes, until both sides are nice and brown.
Serve on your favorite hamburger bun with your favorite toppings. And in case you have couple of avocados still left over, go wild – slice them up, toss them on top, and have yourself a Double Avocado Burger!
One of the most frequent questions that I get when I tell people that I am vegan is: “What do you eat?”. And when I explain I eat plants, then the next question is almost without a fail: “Where do you get your protein from?”.
Putting aside the fact that gluten is a protein and that, therefore, you can get protein from eating wheat bread, there are numerous other plant sources of protein. Peas and quinoa come to mind, as well as beans and chickpeas, edamame, nuts and nut butter, tempeh and tofu. This last one, tofu, does raise some eyebrows and comments along the lines of “Tofu is so bland… How do you make it taste any good?”.
Tofu comes in couple of different consistencies and textures so you can pick and choose from silken to extra firm to match the recipe you are making. Extra firm tofu works well for applications where it is critical that the final product is solid and slightly chewy and that’s why I went with extra firm tofu in this Roasted Tofu Steak Tips recipe.
Most tofu recipes start with tofu pressing and draining. You can go professional and get yourself a tofu press, but I am keeping it low tech (for now) and usually just take a block or two of extra firm tofu, drain it and then leave it in a strainer for couple of hours. That usually does the trick for me. Once pressing and draining is completed, you can slice the tofu any way you like or crumble it if you are making something like a ground beef substitute.
Next comes adding flavors, which usually involves marinating, meaning letting your tofu sit in a mix of species, aromatics, and usually some liquids (oil, vinegar, citrus juice of choice, liquid smoke, or other sauces). I recommend being patient and leaving the tofu to marinate for at least an hour. But, if you are pressed for time you could use the marinade ingredients and cook the tofu in them. You will end up with something really flavorful that way as well, just not necessarily grill or broiling friendly.
These tofu steak tips can be roasted, as I did here, but they can also be made into kebabs and grilled. That was my original plan but rain interfered and I went from outdoor grilling straight into the hot oven. The tofu steak tips did not mind at all and come out absolutely delicious!
Roasted Tofu Steak Tips
What you’ll need:
2 16 oz. block tofu, extra firm
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce (vegan)
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
3 cloves garlic pressed
1 tablespoon dry basil
1 tablespoon dry oregano
Zest of one lemon
What you’ll do:
Drain the tofu and press it using a method that works for you. I usually leave my blocks of tofu in a strainer for few hours on the kitchen counter or overnight in the refrigerator. You can do whatever your normally do to prep your tofu.
Once drained, cut the tofu into 1 in x 1 in (2.5 x 2.5 cm) cubes.
Combine all the other ingredients in a large freezer or food storage bag (or a large container with a flat bottom) and mix everything together. Add tofu cubes and let the tofu marinate for 1-2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 450 F (230 C).
Line the baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the marinated tofu cubes on it. Make sure to leave some space between them for more even roasting.
Put the tofu into the oven and roast for 15 minutes. Check, turn over if needed and roast for another 10 minutes. The tofu steak tips should be brown, with charred edges. You can adjust the roasting time to fit your taste preference – I like my steak tips charred and blackened!
Take out of the oven and enjoy with a salad, roasted corn, mashed potatoes, coleslaw, corn bread, pasta salad, or anything else you like. These tofu steak tips are versatile and are a great match for many of the summer favorites. And as I already mentioned they can be made into fantastic kebabs and grilled!
Slow cooker (crock pot) is one of my favorite small kitchen appliances and definitely the best way to make dishes that come together only after long, long simmering. Putting everything into a slow cooker is so much easier than baby sitting a simmering stew bubbling away on the stove top! But: slow cooker is slow and if you’d like to have food ready for the dinner (supper) time, you need to remember to fill it up and turn it on 3 to 6 hours in advance. Once all is set and you press the start button, you are free to do whatever and enjoy the day knowing that your delicious dinner is simmering away.
I use my slow cooker often and I find that it works really well for things like stews, or dishes like Vegan Chicken Tikka Masala. Here is another example of a delicious curry that combines tofu, chickpeas and mango with some crushed tomatoes and coconut cream into a fragrant and very creamy curry.
Creamy Mango & Chickpea Curry Tofu in the Slow Cooker, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
Creamy Mango & Chickpea Curry Tofu
What you’ll need:
2 16 oz (454 g) tofu blocks, extra firm
28 oz (800g) can crushed tomatoes
2 15.5 oz (439g) cans chickpeas
1 cup mango chunks, frozen
15 oz (425g) can coconut cream
1 yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
What you’ll do:
Drain or press tofu for 30 minutes. I usually just leave the block of tofu in a strainer and flip the block over once. That’s usually enough for dishes that don’t need the tofu to be super dense and chewy.
Cut the tofu into single bite chunks. From a 16 oz block I usually get 16 pieces so you can use that as a rough guideline.
Line the inside of your slow cooker crock pot with a liner. You can skip this step of course – I just recommend it as it makes clean up an absolute breeze. Add the tofu, chickpeas that have been drained, and frozen mango chunks. You can use fresh as well but frozen mango chunks are just something I have on hand for my smoothies so it’s a bit of a staple in my kitchen.
Add the spices and mix well.
Dice the onion and slice the garlic. Place in a microwave safe dish, spray with cooking spray and microwave for 5 minutes. This will start the caramelization process of your aromatics and help them develop flavors.
Pour the onions and garlic over the mango chunks.
Pour in the crushed tomatoes and mix again.
Add coconut cream and mix to incorporate.
Put the lid on and turn your slow cooker on high for 3 to 4 hours.
When playing, serve over rice, quinoa or couscous and top with fresh cilantro.
Let’s face it: if you don’t enjoy some grilled food during the fleeting late spring, you are totally missing out. And even if you are a committed vegan or a plant-based eater you should not stay grill deprived.
I’ve already showed you how to make phenomenal grilled portobello mushroom steaks, and flavorful grilled eggplant. Today is the day when we cross the Rubicon of vegan grilling with a Grilled Tofu recipe. Trust me: once you try it, you will not be going back!
Before I dive into the details, I have to give credit where credit is due. In this case it all comes down to a fabulous Tofu Bacon recipe developed by The Buddhist Chef. I made that bacon quite a few times and it is absolutely amazing. That recipe inspired me to look for other ways to cook tofu and get it taste and look in a way you would never expect. So here I decided to see whether I can optimize tofu for grilling.
What I discovered is that for successful grilled tofu you do need to cut thicker slices, so I recommend slices that are about 1/2 in (1.5 cm) in thickness. What you’ll need to do is start from extra firm tofu and drain it really well. I left my block of tofu in a strainer and put a heavy can on top to help the draining. Let it sit for one to two hours then pat dry and slice.
The sliced tofu goes into a marinade, and this is a critical step because no matter how good your grilling skills are, tofu is so subtle tasting that grilling it as is will not produce a rich flavor. The marinade I use builds on the Tofu Bacon recipe by using liquid smoke, smoked paprika, chili powder, and cumin, which all work together towards giving tofu the extra smoky aroma. You will need a bit of oil in this marinade, as well as a bit of steak sauce or vegan Worcestershire sauce. Let the tofu marinate for about an hour, then grill it on high and enjoy with your favorite add-ons.
On this occasion I went with a simple steamed corn on the cob, toasted bread, and vegan spicy coleslaw. For this coleslaw you can use any vegan mayo you like, including store bought one. I recommend adding some ground mustard for extra punch. The coleslaw and grilled tofu work incredibly well – they are match made in heaven!
16 oz (454 g) bag of Coleslaw mix (or 2 cups shredded green cabbage plus 1 cup shredded carrots)
1/2 cup vegan mayo
3 tablespoons white vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons ground mustard seeds
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
What you’ll do:
In a large bowl, mix all the Spicy Coleslaw ingredients together, cover with plastic wrap and set aside for couple of hours. Coleslaw needs some time to “mature”, mostly because cabbage needs a bit of time to soften and become smooth and more palatable.
Drain the tofu and leave in the strainer for 2-3 hours. You can do this overnight in which case leave the tofu blocks in the refrigerator, or you can use any other method of pressing tofu you are used to.
Once the tofu is pressed/drained, slice each block into 8 slices. Arrange in a single layer, in a deep baking dish or any other type of a container with a flat bottom that will allow your tofu slices to rest flat and absorb the marinade.
To make a marinade mix all the ingredients (except bread and oil you need for the grill grate). Mix well and pour over the tofu slices.
Marinate tofu slices for 1-2 hours.
When ready to grill, prepare your grill as you usually do. In my case this means turning all the burners on (I have a gas grill) to full blast, closing the lid and letting any bits and pieces of food from last time burn off for 10 minutes. Then, I turn down the flames, scrape the grill grates well, and oil them with fresh batch of vegetable oil.
For grilling tofu I recommend medium high to high flames, so bring the flame up and place the tofu pieces on. Grill for 5-10 minutes on one side, brush on the marinade, flip them over and grill for another 5-8 minutes. If you like the classical grill marks, you will need to rotate your tofu by about 45 degrees and let it grill some more. If doing that, I suggest you keep brushing on the marinade so your tofu does not dry out.
Keep your grilled tofu tightly wrapped in some foil, to keep it hot while you grill or toast the bread. Once the bread is ready, place a good amount of spicy coleslaw on and top with grilled tofu. I like my sandwiches open faced by you can definitely make this into a standard sandwich, or a wrap. Serve with some grilled or boiled corn for a summer meal worth sharing!
If you never had a popover before let me try to describe it to you: it is light as a feather and hollow, not actually fried dough but tasting as if the fried dough has decided to leave the deep frier and take a yoga breathing class to fill itself with air and become almost weightless. Popovers are a special breakfast treat to rejoice and enjoy, sprinkled with powdered sugar, with a spoonful of jam, or a handful of sliced fruit. Anyway you cut it they are amazing!
Popovers get their fluffy structure from lots of eggs, milk and butter, and their final elevated shape from a specially designed popover pan. Although popover pan may remind you of a muffin pan, which may lead you to believe that you can just your muffin pan to make popover, it’s best not to go there. I tried it, and it did not end well. So, you will need to get a real popover pan if you want to make the puffiest of popovers and there is not substitution for it!
But, is there a substitution for eggs, milk and butter? Of course there is! At first I was very skeptical that I can make popovers work by replacing basically the three quarters of ingredients that make popovers with vegan alternatives, but I did and it does!!!
My vegan, plant-based version is also very simple, with three main ingredients only: silken tofu, white wheat flour and unsweetened vanilla almond milk. To that you can add things like maple syrup, agave nectar or sugar, a bit more vanilla extract, a sprinkle of lemon, lime or orange zest, or cinnamon, for a sweet version, or stick with plain almond milk, a dash of salt and a sprinkle of dry basil and oregano for a more savory version. The basic batter is flexible and customizable, so feel free to make these popovers your own. Of course, you can always stick with the basic batter and add layers of flavors with condiments like jam, nuts, fruit, cashew sour cream, or macadamia nut queso fresco.
The main trick to making perfect, puffy popovers is to preheat the popover pan by itself before pouring in the batter, and then add the batter when pan is scorching hot and sizzling. Then bake the popovers at high temperature for a short period of time, lower it down and leave them to make for a while. I add an extra step where I decrease the temperature gradually so my popovers spend fifteen minutes at 425 F (220 C), then 20 minutes at 375 F (190 C) and finally another 10 minutes at 350 F (175 C). This helps them puff up and then cook through to their final glorious heights.
What you’ll need:
16 oz (454 g) silken tofu
1 1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1 1/2 cup flour
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon turmeric (optional; for color only)
Salt, to taste (h/t to Pamela who left a helpful comment re adding a pinch of salt)
What you’ll do:
Preheat the oven to 425 F (220 C). Once preheated, place the popover pan in for 15 minutes to get sizzling hot.
Drain excess liquid from tofu but don’t press. Place the tofu, almond milk and vanilla extract into a blender and blend on high until smooth.
Add flour 1/2 cup at a time and blend well. Add turmeric if you like to give your batter a bit of a yellow tint and make it visually more egg-like. Mix everything well. The batter consistency should be similar to American pancakes (a bit denser than crapes).
Wearing good oven mittens, take the popover pan out, spray with cooking spray, and pour the batter in, about 2/3 of the way. Place the popover pan on the baking sheet (to minimize splatter) and put it in the oven.
Bake at 425 F (220 C) for 15 minutes, then lower the heat to 375 F (190 C) for 20 minutes and finish at 350 F (175 C) for an additional 10 minutes.
Take out the oven and let cool for 10 minutes. The finished popovers should slide out the pan with ease.