Easy BBQ Tempeh

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It’s our first New Year’s Eve together, just the two of us, since Curtis and I started dating. After a few beers and seitan reubens at our favorite restaurant around the corner, we spend the last evening of 2013 in our (emphasis on the our) living room in our pajamas. It’s been a spectacular end to a spectacular year, and every now and then I raise my eyes from my computer screen and smile at him from across the couch, simply over the moon.

Since we don’t have cable, Curtis has hooked the computer up to our TV and found a website that’s streaming the ball drop in New York City. We curl up on the couch together and watch those very cold people in New York from the comfort of our living room, Curt’s heart beating against my face. We talked about how good the year had been for us, how much we’ve grown together since we started dating almost three years ago, of plans for the future. With him living here in Philadelphia with me, being able to see each other every day, it’s hard to believe we used to see each other for a few hours every other weekend before we had to be on our way and prepping for the work week ahead.

“Are you excited to spend the whole next year with me?” I nod my head as the crowd on television begins to count down from ten.

“Will you spend it as my fiancée?” I look down and suddenly there is a ring – a beautiful moissanite ring with a silver band etched with leaves. “Melissa, will you marry me?”

I break into a smile that hurts my face and am aware that I’m suddenly very sweaty. I nod furiously, mustering a “yes, of course!” before grabbing his face in my hands and kissing him as the second hand ticks into 2014.

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  I’ve never been more sure, or more excited, about anything than I am about starting this chapter of our life together. I am excited to come home to him every night and make dinner together. I’m excited to be introduced as “and this is my wife, Melissa”. I’m excited to always have him in my corner, and to spend the rest of my life in his.

This recipe is one from the early days of our relationship, when we would flip through Curt’s copy of Maribeth Abrams’ book “The 4-Ingredient Vegan”, marking recipes of interest with paper clips and cooking them together in the tiny kitchen of his apartment. This one was a Curtis specialty, always served over a pile of piping-hot brown rice.

I used Stubbs’ Mild Barbecue Sauce in this recipe, but you can use your favorite bottled or homemade sauce. Keep in mind that two tablespoons of Stubbs’ sauce will run you about 25 calories, so alter your nutritional information accordingly.

Easy Barbecue Tempeh
From The 4-Ingredient Vegan
Serves 2

1 8 oz. block of tempeh, cut in half
1 large onion, cut into half-moons
1-2 green or red bell peppers, cut into strips
1 cup barbecue sauce

1. Fill a saucepan halfway with water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer the tempeh for about 10 minutes. Let cool, and cube.

2. In a large skillet coated with non-stick spray, cook the peppers and onions until slightly soft and lightly browned. Add tempeh cubes and cook until the cubes are browned, about 7-10 minutes.

3. Reduce the heat to low and pour the barbecue sauce in. Cover and cook on low for 20-30 minutes, stirring every so often. Serve over rice, quinoa, or burger buns.

Nutrition per Serving: 375 calories, 11g fat, 49g carbohydrates, 21g protein.

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Sausage, Peppers and Onions over Spaghetti

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  As a lover of nostalgia and a compulsive list-maker, New Year’s Eve is right up there in my most favorite days of the year. I love and appreciate the opportunity to reflect on the past twelve months and look ahead to the next.

  2013 was a heck of a year for firsts. I got my first ‘real’ job with health insurance and business cards, made my first big move away from home and settled into my first apartment. On my summer vacation to Long Beach Island, I ran in my first race longer than a 5k, and in November, I welcomed my very first roommate – my wonderful boyfriend.

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  I’ve always been a lover of the little things, because that’s what life is – a compilation of “little things” that makes up our day-to-day. I have adored all the little moments that 2013 has offered me – the first taste of fat heirloom tomatoes, drinking coffee together on our big L-shaped couch on Sunday mornings and the many, many, many meals I have cooked in our sunny eat-in kitchen with the natural wood table and the mismatched chairs.

  I have savored them all.

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Sausage, Peppers and Onions over Spaghetti
serves 1-2

2 oz. whole wheat spaghetti
1 Simple Sausage*, or Italian Tofurky Sausage
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 raw white onion, sliced into half-moons
1 green bell pepper, sliced
1 tablespoon apple cider or balsamic vinegar
2 cloves garlic, grated on a microplane or chopped teeny-tiny
1/2 cup vegetable broth
2 tablespoons tomato paste
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1. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Drop in spaghetti and cook to al dente. Drain very well  – no wet noodles here! – and set aside.

2. Heat olive oil in a large frying pan and brown sausage on all sides. Slice into thick diagonal rounds and set aside.

3. Add peppers and onions to the hot pan. Lower the heat to medium and cook until peppers are very soft. Add garlic and saute 1-2 minutes longer.

4. Add sausage rounds, vegetable broth and tomato paste to the pan. Cook until the sauce has cooked down and thickened slightly. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot over whole wheat spaghetti.

Nutrition per Recipe: 478 calories, 74g carbohydrates, 8g fat, 35g protein.

*Note: Using the recipe from The Post Punk Kitchen, I made six sausages instead of four for a total of 166 calories per link. If you use 1/4 of Isa Chandra’s recipe, or use Tofurky Italian Sausages to create this dish, be sure to adjust your calorie counts accordingly.

Sugar Cookies

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I’ve mentioned before that I’m more of a cook than a baker – because of this, I hesitate to do a lot of my own experimentation when it comes to baking. Really, I just hate the idea of having to waste a tray full of perfectly good ingredients because my chemistry project didn’t work out the way I had planned.

 My brother David is in town for a few days, and loves pillowy soft sugar cookies. For this, I turned to the experts – these cookies are from the Healthy Sugar Cookies post over at Chocolate Covered Katie. Katie’s blog is fabulous for health-conscious vegan bakers – or anyone looking to satisfy their sweet tooth!

  The only modifications I made with this recipe was to the fat in the cookies – Katie uses a quarter cup of vegan butter, but I used three tablespoons of Earth Balance and one tablespoon of coconut oil. The flavor of the coconut doesn’t come through (so even picky eaters like my brother can enjoy them), but it lends a subtle sweetness and all that buttery goodness to the finished product. 

  As Katie notes, these cookies will look very underdone when you take them out of the oven. However, let them cool for five or ten minutes (if you can slap grabby hands away for that long) and they become perfectly soft, tender cookies. Sprinkle with sugar, colored sprinkles or dip in chocolate for a perfect sweet treat.

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Sugar Cookies
from Chocolate Covered Katie
makes 12 cookies

3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 + 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened plant based milk
3 tablespoons original Earth Balance (not whipped)
1 tablespoon coconut oil

1. Preheat oven to 325º. 

2. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda and sugar in a large bowl. 

3. In a separate bowl, melt Earth Balance and coconut oil together. Add vanilla and milk and stir to combine. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix until batter forms.

4. Roll into 1-inch balls and drop onto a greased baking sheet, flattening them slightly. Sprinkle with sugar or sprinkles, if desired.

5. Bake for 9 minutes. Take the cookies from the oven and allow them to cool for 5-10 minutes. Serve with a big glass of your favorite plant-based milk.

Nutrition per Cookie: 76 calories, 10g carbohydrates, 4g fat, 1g protein.

Mushroom Barley Soup

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  This holiday season, for the first time in my young life, I have a full week off from work that I still get paid for. So imagine my delight when I woke up yesterday morning with a sinus cold. It was gonna be a soup kind of day.

Soup and I go way back – in fact, almost every one of my childhood memories revolves around a bowl of the stuff. Every holiday at grandma’s started with a bowl of clear soup with tiny square noodles, snow days ended with a big mug of hearty chicken and rice. Like a subtly-placed, recurring prop in the movie of my life, soup is always there – never taking center stage, never demanding the attention it deserves, but always adding a little comfort and a lot of love to any situation.

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  There’s a real earthiness to the combination of mushrooms and crushed thyme – like Mother Nature just came to give you a great big bear hug. I like to use chewy, savory baby bella mushrooms in this soup, but any regular white mushroom will do very nicely.

  Make this the next time you or a loved one are feeling under the weather – or next time you need a little mushroom hug.

Mushroom Barley Soup
serves 6

1 cup pearled barley, uncooked
2 1/2 cups water
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 white onions, diced
2 large stalks celery, diced
3 carrots, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1-2 teaspoons dried thyme, crushed between your fingers
1 teaspoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 can diced tomatoes in juice
4 cups vegetable stock
2 cups kale, chopped

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1. Cook barley in 2 1/2 cups water until water is absorbed and barley is tender.

2. In your soup pot, cook onion, celery, carrot and garlic in olive oil until onions are just translucent. Add sliced mushrooms, thyme and garlic powder and cook for about five more minutes.

3. Add soy sauce, vinegar, tomatoes and vegetable stock. Add the cooked barley and stir well. Cook for about 20 minutes until soup has cooked down a bit. Add chopped kale and cook until greens are wilted. Serve hot with a piece of really crusty bread.

Nutrition per Serving: 181 calories, 37g carbohydrates, 2g fat, 7g protein

Pillowy Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies

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They say you’re either a cook or a baker, and I am definitely a cook. Don’t get me wrong, I love eating baked goods, but baking was always too exact for me. I’m more of a “pinch of this, sprinkle of that” kind of gal, so level cups and three-quarter-teaspoons don’t really do it for me. Once in a blue moon though – usually around the holidays, actually – I get bit by the baking bug.

I’m hesitant to even call these cookies, really. With texture more reminiscent of a Clif Bar, these are everything I want in a dessert – toothsome, substantial and not too sweet.

I started making these for Curtis to bring to Sunday disc golf to share with his buddies. Lately though, they’ve been spending a little more time at home, gradually disappearing out of their Tupperware container on top of the fridge.

This is the standard recipe I use for these cookies, but sometimes I spice things up with add-ins like dried cranberries, chopped pecans, dark chocolate chips, candied ginger or some combination of the above. This recipe makes a dozen hearty cookies, but it’s easily doubled or tripled if you need a tasty treat to bring along to a holiday gathering. The best part is no one will be able to tell that they’re vegan, so you’re free to mention that after they sing your praises.

These cookies are delicious warm and fresh from the oven, but I enjoy them most the morning after they were baked.

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Pillowy Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies
makes 12 cookies

1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup agave nectar or maple syrup
1/2 tablespoon coconut oil, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup quick rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon ground fivespice or nutmeg
1/2 tablespoon ground ginger
pinch of salt
1/4 cup add-ins such as chocolate chips, dried cranberries, etc. (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350º.

2. In a small mixing bowl, combine sugar, pumpkin, applesauce, agave nectar, coconut oil and vanilla until well-mixed. Set aside.

3. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, oats, baking powder, cinnamon, fivespice and ginger. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until everything just comes together. Fold in any add-ins, if using.

4. Using a rounded tablespoon, drop the dough onto a greased cookie sheet and flatten slightly. Bake for 12-25 minutes, or until edges are golden and cookies are firm. Move to a rack and cool completely. Store in a container with a lid.

Nutrition per Cookie: 85 calories, 13g carbohydrates, 1g fat, 1g protein

Recipe Notes: I used applesauce here to cut down on fat and calories. However, I’ve made these cookies in the past with 1 1/2 tablespoons of coconut oil and really enjoyed the delicate coconut flavor it lent to the cookies. Try it out and let me know which you prefer!

Sunday Scramble

Last week, I was lucky enough to spend a few days in beautiful San Francisco for a work event. In the less-than-48 hours that I was able to spend in the city, I explored (and ate) as much as humanly possible. I couldn’t help but feel completely at home in a city where single-use plastic bags are outlawed and the soy milk flows freely.

Aside from backpacks full of organic vegan donuts, the best meal I ate during my short time in SF was a big tofu scramble from The Plant Cafe. Every aspect of the tofu was on point down to the side of fresh watermelon (in December, who thought!), but the most memorable aspect – and the inspiration for today’s recipe – was the texture of the tofu. Instead of being crumbled, The Plant Cafe had shredded their tofu to resemble Daiya mozzarella shreds. At first bite, I knew I had to recreate it once I was back in Philadelphia.

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A salted caramel donut from Pepples Donuts.

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My hotel supplied this fabulous leopard-print robe.

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These shoes saw a lot of the Embarcadero.

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The view from our work event!

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  Sundays are usually my long run days. After Curtis leaves for disc golf, I lace up and head outside for anywhere from 6 to 9 miles along the Schuykill River. When I get back home, I love to take a long shower, make a big cup of coconut coffee and fix myself a huge plate of scramble. Today, I decided to take a page out of The Plant Cafe’s book and run my tofu through the box grater.

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  I’ll admit it, I don’t think I’ll ever crumble my tofu for scramble again. Not only do the little soy shreds create a fantastic texture, but in a way, I like that this scramble doesn’t even try to give the appearance of eggs – and it’s not even sorry about it.

  I used collard greens, mushrooms and grape tomatoes in this scramble, but you should use whatever veggies you have on hand. The Plant Cafe used a light and fresh basil pesto on their scramble, but with basil around $3.00 a bunch at my local supermarket, I did without.

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  I may have only had a few short days in sunny San Francisco, but I have a feeling that every time I make this scramble, I’ll be transported back to bayside dining.

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Sunday Tofu Scramble
Serves 1

1/2 package of organic super-firm tofu (you can use extra firm, but
anything softer just ain’t gonna cut it for this scramble)
2 cups collard greens, cut into thin ribbons
5 button mushrooms, thinly sliced
5 grape tomatoes, quartered
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tsp olive oil
sprinkle of himalayan pink salt (optional, for “eggyness”)
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp dried thyme, crushed
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

1. Wrap your tofu in a tea towel and place it beneath a few heavy books to drain for about 30 minutes. The drier the tofu, the better. Run the pressed tofu through your box grater or food processor attachment to create shreds reminiscent of Daiya.

2. Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the tofu shreds. Add himalayan salt, cumin, garlic powder and dried thyme and cook until shreds are slightly golden.

3. Add the collards, mushrooms and grape tomatoes. Cook until collards are very wilted and mushrooms are soft.

4. Add nutritional yeast and cook for 3-5 minutes. Serve hot with a side fruit, toast or breakfast potatoes – or all three!

Nutrition per Serving: 216 calories, 29g carbohydrates, 11g fat, 18g protein

Lemon Cake with Cranberry Swirl

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There’s a great episode of Portlandia where Fred and Carrie have a spiky durian fruit delivered in their CSA. At first, they’re excited – how exotic! – but after a few days of having no idea what to do with the thing, it sits on their counter, unused, haunting them.

Enter the cranberry.

I’m actually embarrassed to admit that I purchased this bag of whole, fresh cranberries for a steep, steep discount when they were on sale for the Thanksgiving holiday. I got home, plopped them in the door of the fridge, and there they sat.

It’s not that I didn’t want to use the cranberries. I would open the refrigerator to grab something to drink, see them and think to myself “I should really do something with these cranberries”, I just…well, didn’t.

Today was finally the day to make use of them. I have a nutrition final to study for and a business trip to San Francisco to pack for, so naturally, I’m baking.

Ultimately, I decided to give them the treatment I usually give to fruits that I’m not sure what to do with…make it into a jam! Cranberries’ high pectin content makes them a perfect candidate for quick jam.

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I wound up swirling the sweet-tart cranberry jam into my lemon cake, but with the holiday coming up, consider bringing a jar as a thoughtful homemade gift (use a hot water canning method for safety!). I’m willing to bet it would be delicious warmed up and drizzled over your favorite non-dairy ice cream, too!

Quick Cranberry Jam
makes 1 pint of jam

12 oz fresh, whole cranberries
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup water, orange juice or apple cider
juice & zest of a lemon
sprinkle of ground ginger
sprinkle of ground cinnamon

1. Place all ingredients in a medium saucepan (careful, it bubbles!) and bring to a boil.

2. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until cranberries have “popped” and jam is thick. Let cool and store in a glass jar in the refrigerator.

Nutrition per Tablespoon: 45 calories, 6g carbohydrates, 0g fat, 0g protein

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I love the combination of lemon and cranberries, but you could swirl any jam you like into this lemon cake – raspberry or blueberry would be especially good.

Lemon Cake with Cranberry Swirl
Serves 8

1.5 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
2 tablespoons ground flax
6 tablespoons warm water
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
juice & zest of a lemon
1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/3 cup jam

1. Preheat oven to 350º. Spray a 9×5 loaf pan with non-stick spray.

2. Combine flax and water in a small bowl and microwave for 15 seconds. Texture should resemble egg white – set aside.

3. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. In a separate bowl, combine vanilla, applesauce, lemon juice & zest and almond milk. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix well.

4. Pour batter into loaf pan. Pour jam on top of the loaf and use a knife to swirl it into the cake batter. Bake for 60 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Nutrition per Serving: 202 calories, 49g carbohydrates, 1g fat, 3g protein

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