Zucchini Lasagna with Walnut and Brown Lentil Ragù

Zucchini Lasagna with Walnut and Brown Lentil Ragù, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

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.

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Walnut and Brown Lentil Ragù, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

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:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 F (220 C).
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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).
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Combine tofu, lemon juice and nutritional yeast in a blender and blend until smooth. Set the besciamella to the side.
  8. 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.
  9. 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!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017

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Avocado Burgers

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

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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. 
  4. Add the avocado purée to the tofu mix, as well as the rest of ingredients.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017

Roasted Tofu Steak Tips

Beef steak tips are tough and chewy, and slightly annoying but these tofu steak tips will have you asking for more!
Roasted Tofu Steak Tips, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
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?”.

Being bland is what makes tofu perfect. It is a blank canvas, ready for you to paint flavors on. I use tofu all the time, and it works in Indian inspired dishes, like Saag Paneer and Mango Chickpea Curry Tofu, in Pad Thai, grilled, as well as Popovers. An eye opening moment for me came when I realized how super easy it is to transform tofu into incredible bacon!

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!

These Roasted Tofu Steak Tips are a great summer food. They are also very grill friendly and easy to transform into kebabs!
Roasted Tofu Steak Tips, Plated via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Once drained, cut the tofu into 1 in x 1 in (2.5 x 2.5 cm) cubes.
  3. 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.
  4. Preheat the oven to 450 F (230 C).
  5. 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.
  6. 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!
  7. 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!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017

Creamy Mango & Chickpea Curry Tofu

Creamy Mango & Chickpeas Curry Tofu
Creamy Mango & Chickpeas Curry Tofu, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
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.

Serve it with Saffron Brown Basmati Rice and you are done!

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

Fresh cilantro

Cooking spray

 

What you’ll do:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Add the spices and mix well.
  5. 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.
  6. Pour the onions and garlic over the mango chunks.
  7. Pour in the crushed tomatoes and mix again.
  8. Add coconut cream and mix to incorporate.
  9. Put the lid on and turn your slow cooker on high for 3 to 4 hours.
  10. When playing, serve over rice, quinoa or couscous and top with fresh cilantro.

 

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017

Grilled Tofu Sandwich with Spicy Cole Slaw

 

Grilled Tofu & Spicy Cole Slaw Sandwich
Grilled Tofu and Spicy Cole Slaw Sandwich, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
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 cole slaw. For this cole slaw you can use any vegan mayo you like, including store bought one. I recommend adding some ground mustard for extra punch. The cole slaw and grilled tofu work incredibly well – they are match made in heaven!

Grilled Tofu Tray
Grilled Tofu, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Grilled Tofu Sandwich with Spicy Cole Slaw

What you’ll need:

FOR GRILLED TOFU

2 14 oz. (400 g) extra firm tofu

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 tablespoon vegan Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon liquid smoke

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon chili powder

Vegetable oil (to oil grill grates)

Bread for serving

FOR SPICY COLE SLAW

16 oz (454 g) bag of Cole Slaw 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:

  1. In a large bowl, mix all the Spicy Cole Slaw ingredients together, cover with plastic wrap and set aside for couple of hours. Cole Slaw needs some time to “mature”, mostly because cabbage needs a bit of time to soften and become smooth and more palatable.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Marinate tofu slices for 1-2 hours.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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 cole slaw 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!

 

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017

Puffy Popovers of the Vegan Kind

Puffy Popovers of the Vegan Kind
Puffy Popovers of the Vegan Kind, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
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.

Puffy Popovers all in the row
Puffy Popovers all in the Row, Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Puffy Popovers

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)

Cooking spray

What you’ll do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 F (220 C). Once preheated, place the popover pan in for 15 minutes to get sizzling hot.
  2. 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.
  3. 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).
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Take out the oven and let cool for 10 minutes. The finished popovers should slide out the pan with ease.
  7. Enjoy warm as is, or with any topping you like!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017

Quick Quiche with Caramelized Onions, Mushrooms and Tofu

Quick Quiche with Tofu and Mushrooms
Quick Quiche with Tofu and Mushrooms, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
Eating pie for lunch sounds so decadent, doesn’t it? And that’s what makes quiche so appealing. I usually stay away from making quiche because I can’t deal with making my own crust. The crust takes time and effort that is beyond my capacity. Luckily for me, and I am guessing many of you, stores carry pre-made pie crusts that are ready to use.

My quiche recipe uses one of those and that really makes it come together relatively quickly. One tip when using the store bought frozen pie crust is to bake the crust by itself first for ten to fifteen minutes while you are mixing and preparing the other ingredients. This pre-baking will help make the crust nice and crunchy and help it hold the filling.

Filling is definitely the star of any quiche and it is traditionally made of eggs and cheese, often with mushrooms, ham, spinach, artichokes or other meat and vegetable components thrown into it. So, the result is usually light in texture but heavy on your stomach and very calorie dense.

In my first attempt to veganize quiche I decided to keep it simple and start with mushrooms, red onions and tofu as main ingredients. Most of the cooking actually takes place in a pan on the stove top as both red onions and mushrooms need to be fully cooked before they hit the pie crust. I recommend taking the time to caramelize the onions nice and slow, as well as let the mushrooms cook most of the way before adding tofu. In this case, the tofu needs to be drained and crumbled but you can skip the “pressing tofu” step that almost all tofu recipes have making this a really quick dish!

Quick Quiche with Caramelized Onions, Mushrooms and Tofu

What you’ll need:

1 store bought pie crust, vegan

1 red onion

10 oz (300 g) white mushrooms

14 oz (400 g) extra firm tofu, drained

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

1 tablespoon corn starch

1 teaspoon dry basil leaves

1 teaspoon dry oregano leaves

Cooking spray

What you’ll do:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C). Once ready, put the pie crust in to pre-bake for 15 minutes.
  2. Cut the onion into fine, thin slices.
  3. Spray the bottom and sides of a frying pan with cooking spray and place it over medium high heat. Add the onion and let caramelize for 5 to 10 minutes. The onion should be nicely browned and soft.
  4. While the onion is caramelizing, clean and slice the mushrooms, or you can always buy sliced mushrooms and skip this step.
  5. Add sliced mushrooms to the onion mix and cook until mushrooms soften, which will take another 5 minutes or so.
  6. Drain tofu and crumble it into small crumbles with a fork or with your hand. The size of the crumbles should be similar to scrambled egg.
  7. Add crumbled tofu, nutritional yeast, corn starch, basil and oregano. Stir well the quiche filling, let brown for another 1 to 2 minutes, then turn the heat off and let sit until your pie crust is done pre-baking.
  8. Pour the filling into the crust, spray the top with some cooking spray and return to oven for another 20 to 25 minutes, until the top is golden brown.
  9. Take the quiche out, let stand for 5 minutes then serve with your favorite salad or top with some sun dried tomato shreds like I did on this occasion.
  10. Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017

Spaghetti Squash Pad Thai

Spaghetti Squash Pad Thai, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
Spaghetti Squash Pad Thai, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
Basic Pad Thai is a simple noodle dish, where wide rice noodles are mixed with eggs and chopped peanuts, then sprinkled with crushed red pepper flakes, lime juice and chopped scallions (green onions) and sometimes fresh cilantro. The whole dish comes together in five to ten minutes and can be eaten as is, or customized with a range of toppings so it is definitely a very popular dish found in every Thai restaurant.

Although it is relatively straightforward to find the right type of rice noodles that are typically used in Pad Thai, I decided to explore whether spaghetti squash would work. Spaghetti squash is a squash that, as the name suggests, has a stringy flesh structure that can be forked into a noodle-like structures. The texture of these noodles is softer than the regular pasta, and they are usually shorter but the flavor is rich and delicious, and the nutritional facts are definitely on the side of the squash when compared to either rice noodles that one would use in Pad Thai or any other pasta.

One down side to using spaghetti squash in a recipe like Pad Thai is that squash needs to be roasted first, which means that a five to ten minute recipe all of a sudden becomes a sixty to ninety minute recipe. Still, I recommend you give it a try especially as the hands on time is not as intense.

Are there any tricks to spaghetti squash? No, not really. The only two tips that are worth mentioning is to roast the squash cut side down on a parchment paper lined baking sheet, and to let the roasted squash cool as it will help with handling the squash as well help the squash noodles come out better defined.

To make this into vegan Pad Thai, I recommend using extra firm tofu instead of eggs. You don’t need to press it, but do let it drain for just a bit. Otherwise it may make your Pad Thai too mushy.

One final modification to the traditional Pad Thai recipe I made is using peanut butter in the sauce and some chopped cashews for the topping. Reason for this? I ran out of peanuts!

Spaghetti Squash Pad Thai

What you’ll need:

1 medium spaghetti squash, 1 to 1.5 lbs (about 500 to 700 g)

2 tablespoons garlic, crushed

2 tablespoons peanut butter

2-3 tablespoons lime juice

14 oz. (400 g) extra firm tofu

7 scallions (green onions), finely sliced

1/3 cup cashews, chopped

Cooking spray

What you’ll do:

  1. Preheat your oven to 425 F (220 C).
  2. Wash the spaghetti squash, wipe dry and cut in half lengthwise. Use a spoon to clean out the seeds.
  3. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Place spaghetti squash on the parchment paper, cut side down. Place in the oven and let roast for 25 to 30 minutes. Check with a knife and it goes in without resistance your squash is done. Take it our of the oven and let cool for at least 30 minutes. Be patient because the squash needs to be cool to handle.
  4. Once cool, take half of the squash, flip over and using a large fork go in and pull the flesh to make the “spaghetti”.
  5. Spray the bottom of a large pan or wok with cooking spray and place it over medium-high heat. Add garlic and let the garlic aroma develop, which will take about 1-2 minutes.
  6. Add soy sauce and peanut butter. Stir well and cook for 1-2 minutes.
  7. Add spaghetti squash and mix with the sauce. Here, I recommend using a pair of tongs to gently fold the squash into the sauce. Once the two are well incorporated add tofu that you have crumbled to small bits that look like scrambled eggs.
  8. Mix everything well together and cook for another 4-5 minutes.
  9. Turn the heat off, add the lime juice, scallions and cashews.
  10. If you like to add some heat you can use crushed red pepper flakes, or a dash of sriracha sauce. You can also top with fresh cilantro for some added freshness.
  11. Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017

Vegan Stuffed Peppers with Homemade Beef Substitute

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Vegan Stuffed Peppers with Homemade Beef Substitute, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
My mom is the queen of stuffed bell peppers. Her peppers have been well-known within our extended family, and frequently requested by friends and family when they visit. What I am saying is that stuffed bell peppers should be in my DNA, but it took me years to transform what I learned in my mom’s kitchen to a dish that will be a crowd pleaser.

The first major breakthrough in my pursuit to a perfect stuffed bell pepper recipe came when I realized that cutting the peppers in half lengthwise makes my life so much easier than cutting just the top off. Cutting peppers lengthwise makes cleaning out the seeds and the spines a breeze, plus helps distribute the stuffing and helps the stuffing stay put. It also helps peppers cook faster. Another thing that I found through many round of experimentation is that it helps if you pre-cooks peppers just a bit before stuffing them. I tried parboiling and it helps but it changes the flavor of peppers in a direction that I don’t really like. So, I recommend par-roasting, which means letting your peppers roast for 10-15 minutes, until they just start to soften and get browned on the surface. This is a great way to jump start cooking your papers and add some flavor.

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Pre-roasted Bell Peppers, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
The second breakthrough came when I discovered that the stuffing does not need to include a starch component. You can have lovely stuffed bell peppers without filling them with rice, or potatoes, or quinoa, or barley, or any of that stuff. I am not saying these are bad things to use, but most recipe use them as space fillers more than anything else. But for me in this recipe, a mix of yellow onion, red onion, white mushrooms, and baby bella (crimini) mushrooms. One tip here is to chop all these to pretty small pieces so that they match the size of ground meat chunks you would usually find in a stuffed bell pepper recipe. Another tip: for a recipe like this you can use both the mushroom tops and stems, and minimize the waste!

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Vegan Stuffed Peppers with Homemade Ground Beef Substitute, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
This brings me to my most recent breakthrough: vegan substitute for ground meat. I followed this recipe I found on Glow Kitchen, with only one modifications – I did not add olive oil and used cooking spray on my baking sheet instead. The recipe produces amazing ground beef substitute and uses tofu and a handful of pantry staples. The prep time is a bit on a longer side, as it takes about 1 hour in the oven with frequent stirring, but it is worth it!!! I think you will love this so much that I recommend doubling the recipe right off the bat.

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Vegan Ground Beef Substitute, recipe via Glow Kitchen, execution via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
Finally, I did use some vegan cheese to top the stuffed peppers, but you can definitely skip that step or top them with fresh Italian (flat leaf) parsley. Or both!

Vegan Stuffed Peppers with Homemade Beef Substitute

What you’ll need:

4 bell peppers (red, orange, yellow, green – any color will do)

8 oz. (225 g) white mushrooms, finely diced

8 oz. (225g) baby bella (crimini) mushrooms, finely diced

1/2 large yellow onion, finely diced

1/2 red red onion, finely diced

1 batch of Vegan Substitute for Ground “Beef”

15 oz. (425 g) crushed tomatoes, can

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/4 cup vegan cheese, shredded

Cooking spray

What you’ll do:

  1. Prepare the ground beef substitute according to instructions here. You can make this a day ahead, which is what I did. Also, you can use any store bought ground beef substitute you like.
  2. Preheat oven to 425 F (220 C).
  3. Wash and dry the peppers, then cut lengthwise and clean out the seeds and spines. Put them into a roasting pan and spray gently with cooking spray. Par-roast for 15 minutes or so. Take them out of the oven and remove any liquid that peppers released during roasting. Set aside.
  4. Lower the oven temperature to 350 F (175 C).
  5. Sauté onions and mushrooms on medium heat with a bit of cooking spray for 5-8 minutes. Stir in beef substitute and sauté for another 5 minutes. Turn the heat off and mix in smoked paprika. Your stuffing is ready for the next step!
  6. Pour the can of crushed tomatoes into your baking dish. Place par-roasted peppers in, and fill them with the stuffing. Cover the baking dish with foil and put in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake uncovered for 10 minutes.
  7. Sprinkle the cheese on top and let it melt which will take another 5 minutes. And that is it. You are ready to enjoy!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017

Vegan Saag Paneer

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Vegan Saag Paneer with Saffron Brown Basmati Rice, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
Few days ago, I shared my recipe for Vegan Chicken Tikka Masala that uses young jackfruit as a substitute for chicken, and slow cooker as a substitute for using ghee to enhance the flavor, as well as huge time and effort saver. Since then I decided to tackle another jewel of Indian cuisine, Saag Paneer. Saag is a traditional Indian dish made of leafy green vegetables, which is a vegan friendly part of this equation, and paneer is soft, white cheese very common in South Asia, a vegan less friendly ingredient. Putting green leafy vegetables, like spinach, together with cheese, spices and cream is a no-brainer, so it is no surprise that Saag Paneer is very popular.

In order to build a vegan version of Saag Paneer, I focused on transforming extra firm tofu into paneer. This turned out to be easier than I expected. First of all, texture of extra firm tofu and your average paneer are very similar. Additionally, they both have mild flavors and creamy consistency. So far so good!

You do need some time and patience with this one though. I prepped tofu the way I usually do by leaving it in the sieve in the fridge overnight. You can use any other method of getting rid of the excess moisture – I prefer the sieve because it requires no work, cans and paper towels are tedious and a bit wasteful, and I am yet to invest in the tofu press. The next morning I cubed the tofu, and let it “marinate” in the dry spice mix for 4-6 hours.

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Vegan Paneer, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
Even after sitting in the spice mix, the tofu paneer is not quite ready. Although you can use it, I strongly recommend that you first roast the tofu for 20-30 minutes. This roasting step locks in the spices and adds slight crunchiness that makes every bite a treat.

Few additional tips that will help you put this dish together are to do with spinach. I use frozen chopped spinach, as it is ready to go. The traditional Saag Paneer recipe uses quite a bit of cream to make the spinach nice and creamy. I use coconut milk to add a bit of creaminess to it, and the coconut milk adds a bit of its own nutty flavor that I enjoy. But, I don’t rely on coconut milk alone and have discovered some time ago that stick (also known as hand or immersion) blender is indispensable for creating spinach that’s beyond creamy! If you don’t have a stick blender, you can use a blender or a food processor to purée your spinach.

Once the spinach is puréed, it is ready to meet the tofu paneer, and after about 15 minutes of simmering the Vegan Saag Paneer will be ready to meet your taste buds!

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Vegan Saag Paneer, before the final mix. Via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Vegan Saag Paneer

What you’ll need:

For tofu paneer

14 oz. (400 g) extra firm tofu

1 tablespoon garam masala

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon garlic powder

For creamed spinach

2 lbs (1 kg) frozen, chopped spinach

1 tablespoon garlic, minced

2 tablespoons tomato paste

7 fl. oz. (200 mL) coconut milk, reduced fat

Cooking spray

What you’ll do:

  1. Place tofu into a strainer and leave in the refrigerator to drain overnight. Then pat dry with a towel and cut into 1 in/2.5 cm cubes.
  2. In a ziplock bag mix dry spices (garam masala, ground cumin and garlic powder) and add tofu cubes to it. Zip the bag and toss gently to coat the tofu pieces evenly. Leave in refrigerator for 4-6 hours.
  3. Heat the oven to 425 F (220 C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and space tofu cubes evenly with some room between the cubes. Don’t brush the spice mix off, just roast the tofu pieces as is for 10-12 min, then go in and flip them over and put them back for another 10-12 min, so that they roast on all sides and get golden brown.
  4. On the stove top, spray the bottom of your pan with cooking spray and heat to medium high. Add minced garlic (I prefer the jar variety that taste great in a dish like this and requires no work), and let it start to develop the aroma for about 1-2 minutes. Next add the tomato paste, and let it mature for 1-2 minutes.
  5. Add frozen spinach. Cook with occasional stirring for 15-20 minutes. Let cool for 15-20 minutes, add coconut milk, and then purée with a stick blender until smooth.
  6. Add roasted tofu and mix gently until tofu is well incorporated. Simmer for 15 minutes. Enjoy with a piece of naan bread, or with Saffron Brown Basmati Rice.

Note: please note that unlike most Saag Paneer recipes I do not add spices to spinach. The flavor intensity comes from tofu paneer, so it is important that your tofu is well coated with the spice mix and nicely roasted until golden brown.

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017