Baked Tofu Teriyaki Skewers

tofu teriyaki skewersIt took me a long time to understand the purpose of skewering food if you weren’t going to end up eating it on the skewer. I mean, what’s the point? Eating food on the stick always seemed to be preferable to me to just cooking it on the stick, then taking it off to eat. It was a wonder to me that people would go through the trouble of putting a kebab together if they were not going to follow through with the whole stick thing when it came time to eating.

The kid in me still thinks it’s fun to eat things on sticks. Even more fun to me these days, though, is cooking things on sticks, which allows the flavors to meld together perfectly. Add a sweet and salty marinade, which is easily brushed on as a coating, and you have a whole lot of deliciousness married together. Cooked to perfection. On one stick.

Now that I’m older and presumably a bit wiser, I also like the idea of eating things on a stick (have I said “stick” enough yet?), but the key word here is idea. Logistically, it’s much, much easier — and yummier — to remove all the edible components upon eating, and to serve those components over a bed of fluffy quinoa with a side of raw fermented kimchi and just a drizzle of Sriracha. At least, that’s what I did. You do it your way. Heck, even eat this off of the stick if you really want to.

Ok, so I’ve met my quota for typing the word stick in one post. Now,  I can get to the more important issues at hand here. First is the fact that this is an easy, healthy meal that can be rounded out well with some simple sides. So, that’s always nice. But perhaps more important is that I did two tests of this recipe: one with oil, and one without. Gennaro and I both agreed that the oil made absolutely no difference — in fact, I actually preferred the version without oil. So, don’t feel compelled to add any. It isn’t necessary. Unless you’re trying to put weight on or add calories to your diet, I would recommend leaving any unnecessary fat out of the equation. Personally, I tend to feel better, lighter and healthier when I’m not cooking with any added oils. I prefer to save the calories for something really special….like the double chocolate chip cookies I made yesterday…to be shared later…

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Jamaican Jerk Bowls & Creamy Cilantro Dressing

Jamaican Jerk Chickpea BowlsBowls. They’re more than just dinnerware; they’re like an entire subculture of vegan meals. In fact, I would rank bowls — again, not the dinnerware kind, but the stuff inside it — high on the list of things every new vegan should learn about fast. Along with nutritional yeast and cashew cream, bowls might be the single biggest staple in my diet. And the fun part of this staple is that it’s entirely customizable — maybe that’s why I’m so in love with them.

And yet, for a recipe blog highlighting some of my favorite vegan meals, bowls have been completely underrepresented, if not entirely forgotten, on this forum. I feel like a bit of a fraud, in fact, in that my weekday meals usually consist of at least one or two big bowls of beans, grains, tofu, veggies and some sort of sauce — yet very rarely have I shared those meals here. It is apparent to me that a good, hearty “bowl” recipe has been long overdue.

This Caribbean-inspired dish is a great excuse for me to break my habit of not sharing my kitchen sink bowls here, as it’s not quite kitchen sink, but still captures the spirit of what a meal bowl should be. It’s simple, but also just fancy enough to impress, should you need to. And even though I’m sharing the central components of this recipe here, the rest is —  again — entirely amenable to variation. For example, while I used steamed kale as a base in this dish, you might opt for a grain such as cooked quinoa, millet or rice. Or you could just turn this into a salad, using fresh salad greens as a base.

Jamaican Jerk Bowls

I’ve long been a fan of anything Jerk seasoned. In my pre-vegan days, that something was usually chicken. And it was usually dry and overcooked and would have been lackluster had it not been for the seasoning. So it didn’t quite come as a surprise to me when I first tried the Jerk-chickpea combo and loved it more than I ever loved Jerk chicken. In fact, I’m thinking this is going to be a staple in many meals to come. These chickpeas are the perfect salad-topper, high protein snack and, of course, addition to your Jamaican or Caribbean-themed bowls. The dressing is equally versatile. You can use it as a nice change-of-pace dressing, as I plan to do in the future. It also makes a nice alternative to ranch as a veggie dip. I used Brazil nuts for a healthy twist and selenium boost, though I am sure raw cashews would work as well.

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Chocolate-Hemp Granola

chocolate hemp granolaGranola seems to be one of those things people loathe as a child and love as an adult. At least, that’s been the case with me. Then again, granola may have gotten a lot better taste-wise over the years, as we’re now lucky enough to live in an age when healthy eating has become more than just a fad reserved for those uninterested in eating tasty food. In fact, these days “healthy” and “granola” are not necessarily even synonymous. Often, granola is loaded with butter and/or sugar. It can also be quite high in fat, as well. And while not always a bad thing, fat is something to avoid eating in excess. So for all those people characterizing super healthy vegan fare as “granola” – you might want to re-think your descriptors.

This granola, though, can still be considered “granola” granola, if you know what I mean. But that’s not to say it’s not tasty. This version is crunchy, sweet and so addicting with a little banana and almond milk. Subtly infused with chocolate, when eaten with milk (non-dairy, of course), you’ll find the added benefit of a nice little bit of chocolatey milk to slurp when your granola is gone. But high in fat, oil or sugar it is not. And that was the goal here — so that I don’t feel quite so guilty loading up my bowl to keep full between breakfast and lunch.

I added hemp seeds to this for some added Omega-3 fats and protein. You can sprinkle some more on top, as shown in the picture, if you’d like. I love to add sliced banana to my bowl, but you can also add fresh berries, sliced pear, or whatever fruit is in season.

And, to borrow a line from one of my favorite movie characters from my favorite movie of all time: that’s all I have to say about that. Not because I couldn’t think of more things to say about this granola. I could, sadly, expound further upon granola and many foods for that matter. But I have made a promise to myself to not push myself too hard to write so much here when I’m busy with other things. It’s part of my ongoing effort to keep my life and priorities in balance. On that note, I hope you enjoy this healthy, oil-free treat as much as I did. More on how well that effort is working out for me in another post.

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Vegan Curried Yellow Split Pea Soup

Curried Yellow Split Pea Soup (Vegan)People tend to say many different things when you tell them you’re from Detroit. Often, adjectives and descriptive phrases come to mind. Usually, “Vegan Haven” isn’t one of them. In fact, I doubt anyone has ever used that term to describe the city of Detroit and its surrounding areas. And there’s probably fair reasons for that. But I’d venture to say it would come as a surprise to most people that Detroit as a whole — the “food desert” pockets of Detroit make for a different story, entirely — does not exactly present a dearth of vegan options, either. While not New York, San Francisco or Los Angeles, Detroit has plenty to boast about in the world of plant-based cuisine. Without getting too ahead of myself, it’s difficult for me to not be optimistic when I look at the upswing of vegan options in this city since I moved back 3 years ago.

Not only are there two exclusively vegetarian restaurants within walking distance of my house in Royal Oak, but another mostly vegetarian and Macrobiotic restaurant is no more than a 7 minute drive away. All offer many vegan options. And that’s not even considering downtown Detroit, where things are getting even more exciting. Since I moved back to the area, a longtime favorite vegetarian restaurant out of Ann Arbor, MI opened a second outpost near Woodward avenue in downtown Detroit. Then recently, an entirely vegan soul food restaurant made its mark on the city. Not to mention that Whole Foods Market famously opened its first location in the city, also right off of Woodward. I’ve been there several times since it opened, and love reporting that it seems to be enjoying continued success. I’m so excited about the growing number of vegetarian and vegan options around here that I’ve long been considering doing an entire blog post with reviews in the near future. So stay tuned!

Curried Yellow Split Pea Soup

But that’s not even where I’m going with this post. See, I told you I can get a bit excited. Hence, my tangent. No, the real point of this post is that in addition to the many exclusively vegetarian and vegan restaurants, there are also many non-veg restaurants in the area that have begun catering to us vegans, including local pizza places offering vegan (and sometimes gluten-free and vegan) pizzas, vegan sushi options popping up at Japanese restaurants (and not just the usual asparagus or avocado rolls) and make-your-own kale bowls topped with veggies and Daiya cheese with Shiitake bacon at the latest local “it” spot.

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Vegan Double Chocolate Chip Pancakes

Gluten-Free, Vegan Double Chocolate Chip PancakesI learned many things in college. As is the case with many a college grad, the biggest lessons were learned outside of the classroom (though not to fear, Mom and Dad, your tuition money was well-spent).

I learned that pulling all-nighters will not make you do better on a test or write a better paper. A little sleep, when it’s needed most, can go a long way. I learned how important it was to eat breakfast, and especially to eat breakfast before downing a triple espresso latte to compensate for those aforementioned all-nighters. And finally, in one of the most jarring revelations of my time in college, I learned that not everyone calls the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday Paczki day (pronounced POONCH-KEY), nor do they eat Paczkis on this day or even know what a Paczki is. With that revelation,  my little metro Detroit bubble had burst, and I realized I was no longer in Kansas Grosse Pointe anymore.

vegan, gluten-free double chocolate chip pancakesAt first, people thought I was making this weird jelly doughnut holiday up, or that it was a family tradition that I had somehow deluded myself into thinking was a national holiday. It was before the days of the iPhone, so I went home to Google the holiday only to discover that it was, in fact, a holiday confined to the Midwest. And since most of my friends were from the East or West Coasts, I suddenly felt so small in this great big world that had never unitarily celebrated a day with Paczkis.

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My Favorite Vegan Mac and Cheese

my favorite mac and cheeseI know I have, like, a bagillion mac and cheese recipes or variations of mac and cheese on this site. Actually, I only have 3 others. But in the food blogging world, that sort of seems to me like a bagillion.

At any rate, despite the fact that I don’t need to post yet another mac and cheese recipe here, it would feel disingenuous to go on with life knowing that there’s a go-to mac and cheese that I pretty much make exclusively these days that I haven’t shared here. It’s quickly become one of my favorite meals, and one that I make at least once every few weeks — especially during this cold winter, when I’ve been craving warm comfort food and carbs.

I know the internet, as well, has no shortage of vegan mac and cheese recipes using cashews as a base. That’s fine. What I like about this particular recipe is that there are very few ingredients, it’s very creamy, and the miso and smoked paprika are secret ingredients that sort of make this a perfect blend of delicious, umami, smoky and decadent goodness — without any oil or processed fat. I am willing to go out on a limb and say that, despite its lack of processed ingredients, this recipe will wow even the most ardent omnivore or self-proclaimed “cheese addict” you may be feeding.

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Indian-Spiced Pressure Cooker Black Lentils

Indian-Spiced black lentilsI seem to have a tendency to make things harder on myself than they need to be. When I was a kid, I remember school teachers telling me I was “thinking too hard” about math or, well, more math problems that were giving me trouble. They could see it in the way I furrowed my brow — a sure sign I was hyper-analyzing each and every problem, thinking just a bit too hard about something that was probably, to them, quite simple.

In yoga classes, I’m often told by instructors that I make poses harder on myself than they need to be. While everyone else is doing a simple downward dog, I’m stressing over where each hand and foot is placed on the mat, how high my arch is, or where my shoulder blades are placed. And while it’s good to think about these things, somehow I manage to make them consume my practice. It can be problematic when you’re looking to yoga as a means of de-stressing and relaxation.

I do it in the kitchen, too. Countless times I’ve taken the hard way to get dinner on the table, ending up with loads of pots and pans — many of which were probably unnecessary — in the sink when it’s all over.

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Sugar-Free Chocolate Ganache Strawberries

chocolate ganache strawberriesI mentioned in my last post how inspired I was by Chef Fran, whose book Vegan Chocolate dazzled and delighted me once I got the chance to fully peruse its pages upon my return from New York. I was mesmerized, particularly, but the beautiful photo of chocolate ganache, which was just simply a big bowl of glorious, shiny, deep and rich chocolate. No need to get fancy, there. A bowl of chocolate sauce was enough to pique my curiosity and had me testing things in the kitchen very shortly after my return, as tired as I was feeling… Did I mention that I do not do well on less than 8 hours of sleep?

Anyways, I headed to Whole Foods to see if I could find an unsweetened Bakers Chocolate so that I could start testing recipes for a low-sugar ganache using alternative sweeteners. But once I got to Whole Foods, I found something better: vegan chocolate chips sweetened with…

Stevia!

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My Week at Vegan Academy

photo 1 (2)

With fellow student Renee: a yoga teacher and Ayurveda practitioner from Boston.

Would you like to go to the academy in February?

That was how my mom’s email started last summer. 

Then you can come back and teach us everything. 

That was her sign-off.

Perplexed, I looked at the newsletter that my mom had forwarded to me. It was an update from Victoria Moran on her latest work in the vegan community, starting with the recent graduation of 15 students from her “Vegan Academy”, where she trains students to become Vegan Lifestyle Coaches and Educators.

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Lentil Tacos

lentil tacosThere are joys and frustrations that come with being one among many vegan food bloggers. The joy, of course, is witnessing a virtual food revolution — one in which so many amazing vegan home cooks have found a venue for sharing delicious and beautiful vegan recipes with the world — for free! As an advocate for animal welfare and for health, it has been wonderful to witness the explosion of vegan food blogging in recent years. I love that those curious about meatless meals, meat alternatives and healthy eating have such a rich array of options to choose from, and that they don’t have to buy loads of books or do tons of research to find answers.

The downside to this explosion is that at times I think I’ve come up with a killer and unique recipe, only to find that a quick Google search reveals dozens of other versions of the idea — an idea that seemingly every other food blogger already thought of before I did.

Such was the case with these tacos. For too long, I’d been dreaming of creating a lentil taco filling that was both hearty and healthy. I also wanted something that could serve a crowd and that was above all relatively easy to prepare. I Googled lentil tacos to see what sort of ideas were already swarming out there. There were quite a few, so I decided to lay off my idea for the time being.

But curiosity got the best of me, as I was still interested in how a lentil taco filling would compare to its more meaty counterparts. And I figured, if I’m going to make a recipe, I’d rather have it be something with my own twist. Lucky for me, whatever twists I added turned out to be delicious.

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