Tofu Banh Mi Sandwich

After one too many trips out of my way to satisfy my craving for this incredible sandwich, I vowed I’d find a way to recreate it on my own. And oh man, this combination of flavors is totally worth it! Inspired by Nourish Cafe’s combo of sweet potato with marinated tofu and a spicy wasabi dressing, I set out to create each piece of the puzzle. 

I started with pickling my carrots and jalapeños, as those are best if they sit at least half an hour. (Ideally, you’d make those the night before and let them really take on a pickled flavor and texture.) Of course, if you’re really short on time, leave out this step and just add some fresh jalapeños to your ‘wich. 

When you’re ready to start your prep, start with the tofu marinade, then roast your sweet potatoes, followed by the tofu going in the oven, and meanwhile whipping together your wasabi mayo. If you have any of these steps done or prepped in advance, it makes a huge time-saving difference too. (That’s what I’m all about!) Don’t let this recipe intimidate you even though it has lots of parts. Once you make it once, it goes much faster the next time. Trust me, this is no normal sandwich! You will be licking your lips every bite of the way through, and craving it again in no time.


Makes 6 sandwiches

Quick Pickled Carrots and Jalapeños
2 large carrots, sliced into thin strips (mandoline or peeler works well) & cut to 3" length
2 jalapenos, sliced into rings (more heat) OR seeded and ribbed, then sliced in strips (less heat)
4 C boiling water
1/2 C rice vinegar
1 C water
1 1/2 t sugar, divided
1 t sea salt, divided
a few black peppercorns
Place chopped vegetables into a strainer in the sink and pour boiling water over them. (I like to do this step over a bowl too, and save and re-heat my water as necessary.) Then when limp, rub 1/2 t salt and 1/2 t sugar into them, and let sit for a couple minutes. Meanwhile, prepare pickling solution in a mason jar, by combining rice vinegar, 1 C water, remaining 1 t sugar, remaining 1/2 t sea salt and peppercorns. Shake to mix. Then add vegetables to jar and mix to submerge evenly. Letting sit even a half an hour will be enough to be delicious, but if this step is done in advance, all the better!

Marinated Tofu & Roasted Sweet Potatoes
6 medium cloves garlic
12 sprigs cilantro, including thick stalks
3 T light brown sugar or palm sugar
2 t ground white pepper
1 t ground coriander
2 t Coconut Aminos (or your preferred soy sauce alternative)
2 (3-inch) segments lemongrass, bruised & chopped**
2 1/2 T avocado oil, divided
1 pound extra-firm tofu, cut into 1/3-inch slabs, carefully dried* (see note)

4-5 medium/large sweet potatoes, sliced into 1/2” rounds, skin on
1/2 T avocado oil
Salt, black pepper, garlic powder

Preheat oven to 400.

Combine garlic, cilantro, sugar, white pepper, coriander, soy sauce, lemongrass, and half of oil in the bowl of a food processor. Process until a paste is formed, about 1 minute, scraping down sides as necessary. Brush or rub half of mixture over tofu slabs, stacking them in a plastic container or on a plate as you go. Marinate for 30 minutes, and start sweet potatoes roasting.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss sweet potato rounds with 1/2 T avocado oil, spread on baking sheet and sprinkle with sea salt, black pepper and a little garlic powder. Roast at 400 for 20 min, then flip and roast 8-10 minutes more. Set aside to cool.

Change oven to broiler setting, and place cooling rack on top of baking sheet. (I like to transfer potatoes to another dish and use the same sheet, lined with parchment, to save on dishes and prep time.) Place tofu slabs onto cooling rack and place the whole set up 6-8" underneath broiler. Turn every 4-5 minutes until getting slightly crispy and golden (about 3 or 4 turns). Remove from oven and slice into smaller pieces if desired, then brush on any remaining marinade.

*Drain off excess liquid from tofu and carefully wrap in a couple layers of paper towels. Place on an upside down plate or something in your sink. Then place your cutting board and something heavy on top and drain out as much liquid that way as you can. When you unwrap the tofu, use the same cutting board and cut into 1/4-1/3" slabs (A 16 oz block should give you 4 slabs). Then place a couple layers of paper towels on baking sheet, place the slabs on it, and cover with another paper towel. Carefully press excess liquid out, and then continue with marinating them.

**Also, if you’ve never worked with lemongrass before, here is a quick tip: Remove the outer layers until down to the hearty white inner layer. Then wash, and chop about 1” off the root end, and the leaves as well. Then chop the stalk into 2 pieces (about 3” each) and use a rolling pin or   something similar to whack the lemongrass several times, until softening. You want to basically break the cell walls up, so it releases it’s fragrance into your marinade! Then chop, and add to food processor for this recipe.

Wasabi Cashew Mayo
1 C cashews, soaked and drained (can skip soaking if you have a high-powered blender)
2 T unsweetened almond or soy milk
4 t wasabi powder
2 T Vegenaise or preferred vegan mayo
2 T lemon juice
1 t rice vinegar
1 t sugar
3/4 t sea salt

Place all ingredients in high speed blender and mix well. Stop to scrap down sides as necessary until cashews are totally creamy. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed (more lemon juice for acidity, zest for brightness, or salt/sugar for salty or sweetness)

What You’ll Need for Assembly:
12 thick slices of hearty bread, or 2 large baguettes (ciabatta rolls would work well here also)
Wasabi Cashew Mayo
Roasted sweet potatoes
Banh Mi Tofu slices
Pickled Carrots & Jalapeños
Cucumbers, sliced
Cilantro

To assemble your sandwich, slightly toast your bread slices, and spread a plentiful layer of Wasabi Cashew Mayo. Then add layers of tofu, sweet potatoes, pickled carrots, jalapenos, and if desired, some cucumber and cilantro. If you see this recipe through to the end, it’s sure to reward you with an amazing burst of flavors that pair so well together. Gourmet Vietnamese that's vegan? Yes please!! Let me know what you think!


With Health + Happiness,

Sarah

 

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

 

I remember finding cookbookaficionado.com several years ago, and feeling right at home! A woman after my own heart. She has set out to veganize her old and/or family favorite recipes, and the results are delicious! Having done the same in my kitchen, I totally applaud the effort and understand how rewarding (albeit sometimes disappointing) trial and error can be! This recipe is hands down a winner! No error on this one. I started with her recipe, and tried to make it as wholesome as possible, subbing in whole wheat flour, and applesauce to cut the fat content. This bread is...

Hearty
Sweet
Soft
Melt-in-Your-Mouth
Pumpkin Pleasing
Deliciousness!

You won't regret making this alllll fall and winter long. And as cravings hit randomly through the year. ;)

Ingredients

1 C whole wheat flour
1/2 C whole wheat pastry flour (or extra regular, if you don't have pastry flour)
1 1/4 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t sea salt
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
1/4 t ground ginger
1/4 t ground cloves
1 15oz can pumpkin puree
1/3 C applesauce
1/3 C unsweetened almond milk
1 T ground flax seed
1/2 C raw organic cane sugar
1/2 C brown sugar
3/4 C semi-sweet chocolate chips (or preferred dark chocolate chunks)

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Lightly oil a regular loaf pan and line with parchment paper going both directions (makes it much easier to lift out).
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (flour-->cloves). In a large bowl, whisk together pumpkin, applesauce, milk, flax seed, and sugars until smooth. Pour the dry mixture into the wet and mix until just combined. (Don't overmix!) Fold in chocolate chips.
4. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and smooth out the top with a knife or spatula (lightly greased helps it not stick to the batter).
5. Bake 65-75 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (Realize you might hit melted chocolate, but you're looking for no dough here...) Let cool for 10 minutes, and then remove and let cool on cooling rack until you just can't stand it, and you have to dig in!!

 

Carrot Dawgs: Your New Best Friend for the Summer!

Back in my carnivorous days, I was a shameless chili dog lover, and I absolutely never questioned quality or nutrition at all, it was all based on how I knew it would taste, and I KNEW it would taste delicious.

Well... things have changed over the years. And now, right up there next to taste (because let's be honest, that's still always #1) is how the food will nourish my body. And unfortunately, a standard hot dog, the original "mystery meat," only offers questionable ingredients, probable carcinogens, and plenty of saturated fat.

Insert--> SOLUTION. Carrots, are the answer for satisfying texture, flavor, and shape for your hot dog replacement at this summer's barbeques! Give them a try!!! I have adapted this recipe from The Easy Vegan Cookbook and have always found success, whether or not they have a long time to marinade, or if I have to sub an ingredient out. Here it is!

Ingredients

6 carrots, cut to bun length

6 toasted hoagie or hot dog buns

Marinade

1/4 C + 2 T rice vinegar

1/4 C + 2 T water

1.5 T sesame oil (toasted is fine)

3 T liquid aminos (or soy sauce)

1/4 t (heaping) garlic powder (or 1 fresh clove, minced)

scant 1/2 t liquid smoke

freshly ground pepper

For Serving (See end of Instructions for Topping combination Ideas)

Chili

Sauerkraut

Mustard of choice

Vegenaise

Chopped onions

 

Instructions

1. Heat water in a pot large enough for all the carrots. Bring to a boil, then turn down to medium heat and add the carrots. Cook for about 10 minutes, or until just tender enough to pierce them with a fork. (You want them to keep some crisp, so be sure to not overcook.)

2. While boiling, whisk marinade ingredients together in small dish.

3. Remove carrots from pot, and run under cold water to stop cooking. Add to a shallow dish, and pour marinade over top. Marinade for at least 2 hours, or up to 8, turning every so often, so that each part of the carrot gets equal exposure to the marinade. (Note: If the carrots are skinny, keep marinating time shorter.)

4. Heat oven to 350. Line baking sheet with parchment, and place marinated carrots on it, just before serving. Roast for about 15 minutes, rotating once or twice (quarter turns) to brown just a bit and heat through. Alternately, these would work well on the grill! Just heat through and get some great grill lines.

5. For serving, lightly toast buns and place roasted carrots on them.

Topping options:

A-The Chili dawg: Add about 3/4 C chili (I usually make a batch of bean+lentil chili while carrots are marinating, but canned bean chili would work just as well and be super easy!), spicy brown mustard, and sauerkraut. (Pictured above)

B-The New Yorker: Vegenaise, yellow mustard, sauerkraut, and chopped white onions.

C-Your Faves: Add ketchup, BBQ sauce, relish, coleslaw or whatever your go-to's are! These are super versatile!

 

Crepes!

"Mangez bien," as the French say. Eat well. And I never feel like I'm eating quite as well as when I'm eating a fancy, delicious, drool-worthy breakfast that was EASY to make. Insert CREPES. Today I'm sharing my quick and delicious recipe devoid of eggs and dairy, but a star contender for the tastiest crepes you've ever had. Topped with any combination of fruits, some special drizzles, and voila! You've got yourself the greatest treat in breakfast history.

Blender Crepes

2 flax eggs (2 T flax + 6 T water)
2 T melted Earth Balance (or coconut oil)
1 T raw sugar
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t sea salt
1/2 t vanilla
1 1/2 C whole wheat flour*
2 C soy milk

In a blender, mix flax eggs and let gel for about 5 minutes in the refrigerator. Then add melted butter, sugar, baking powder, salt and vanilla. Mix a little bit. Add flour and milk and process until very smooth. Add more milk to thin as necessary.

Heat small skillet over medium heat until water sizzles immediately when splashed. Spray lightly with oil, and pour a small circle and quickly rotate pan around to create a thin crepe. If necessary, can use a spatula or crepe batter spreader to thin.

Cook for 1-2 minutes, until bubbles are forming and bottom is lightly golden. Flip gently, and cook an additional 1-2 minutes.

Then go crazy with the toppings!! We like everything from almond butter, homemade jam to maple syrup, coconut whipped cream, and chocolate sauce, sprinkled with slivered almonds and cinnamon. And of course, LOADED with fruit. Some of our favorites are bananas, peaches, berries galore, pineapple, and grapes. Have fun!!

 

 

Cauliflower Rice Lettuce Wraps

These have become a family favorite! Originally inspired by Veggie and the Beast here, I have changed these to suit our family's tastes, and add convenience, of course! Anything that I can pull together quick, and is guaranteed-delicious for the whole family is a WIN here, and makes it into the go-to rotation. We LOVE these!

Cauliflower Rice Filling:
10-12 lettuce leaves*
1 head of cauliflower, processed fine** 
5 green onions, 5 count
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large red pepper, diced
1 large green pepper, diced
2 C grated carrots
5oz crimini mushrooms, chopped roughly
5oz Brussels sprouts, sliced and chopped
cilantro, for garnish
chopped peanuts, for garnish

Sauce: 
1/4 C coconut aminos (or liquid aminos/tamari/soy sauce)
2 T maple syrup
1 T natural PB
1 t chili sauce (more if you like heat)

1. Wash all vegetables. Let lettuce leaves dry on paper towels while preparing everything else.
2. Chop all other vegetables.
3. In large skillet or wok, add green onions, garlic, peppers and carrots with 1-2 T water over medium heat. Cook for 4-5 minutes. Prepare sauce in the meantime.
4. Then add mushrooms, brussels sprouts, and season all vegetables with 2-3 T prepared sauce. Toss every few minutes, and cook until mushrooms and brussels are tender.
5. To the remaining sauce, add 1/3 C peanut butter, 1-2 t maple syrup (taste as you go), and 2-4T hot water and stir until the desired consistency. (Start with 2T hot water, and add more if you like it thinner.) Add a little more chili paste for desired heat.
6. To assemble, add filling to lettuce cups, drizzle with sauce, and garnish with cilantro and peanuts. (Note: Hold off until everyone has served themselves some sauce, and THEN you can lick it straight from the spoon! You'll definitely want to!)


*Smaller leaves like mini red leaf lettuce or butter leaf lettuce work well.
**Time saver: look for pre-processed "cauliflower rice" at your local grocery store. Trader Joe's carries this, and it saves cleaning a food processor! For extra time saving, I like to get pre-julienned carrots and pre-chopped mushrooms too! Give me ALL the extra time, please.

 

Wild Beet Burgers

Tried every black bean burger on the planet and needing to switch up your veggie patty? These are loaded with flavor, and are really quite fast to put together, especially if you have ready-to-use beets. See time-saving tips below for beets and grains! Happy colorful eating, friends!


5 small pre-cooked beets, diced* 
1 1/2 C cooked wild rice (brown would be fine too)**
1 15 oz can of garbanzo beans, rinsed & drained
1/4 jalapeno, ribbed & seeded, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, very roughly chopped
1 T balsamic vinegar
1/2 t dried thyme
1/2 t salt
1/4 t black pepper

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and pre-heat oven to 400.

In a food processor, add beets, garbanzo beans, rice, jalapeno, garlic, balsamic and spices. Pulse several times, until everything is mixed together, but not pureed. Scrape down sides as you go to get it well incorporated. Form the mixture into patties--I like to form a 2" ball in my hands, and then smash it flat and fixes the edges. Place patties 1-2" apart on baking sheet. Bake for 12-14 minutes, until bottoms are golden, then flip and bake another 10-12 minutes, until firm.

Dress your burger with any of the following combinations you like: raw or sundried tomatoes, raw or sauteed onions and mushrooms, smashed & salted avocado, spinach leaves, steamed or baked kale leaves, eggplant pesto, etc. This is the fun part! You get to make it as simple or as decadent as you want! I had leftover Eggplant Pesto (will be posting soon) that was TDF on this burger. Yummmmmm.

*Time saver: buy the pre-cooked ones from Love Beets (@Costco). Or, just roast beets ahead of time and store in fridge. Once they're cooked, the skins will slip off much more easily than trying to shave them raw! 425 for 45-60 min, wrapped in foil, should do the trick. Once they're cooled (they keep steaming in the foil a bit), the skin should rub right off!

**I like to keep cooked grains in my fridge, usually rice, but sometimes quinoa or millet. You could use any cooked grain you have on hand for these, or substitute rolled oats. You can also check your local stores for pre-cooked grains, more and more of them have pre-cooked rice, most often in their freezer section! (Trader Joe's for sure.) If you are cooking your rice from scratch, just get that started first while you get everything chopped (even your condiments).

 

Adding Happy + Healthy one delicious meal at a time,

Sarah

 

March is National Nutrition Month!

I love that we have a whole month to talk about and celebrate nutrition!! There really is NOTHING more powerful than food for one's health. Food trumps exercise and genes in ways that are only beginning to be understood! (Not discounting exercise here, still very important, but not AS important as nutrition.)

And there is no better way to get educated about food and nutrition than to start with Dr. Michael Greger. He is a vibrant young doctor that scours the world's medical journals every single day to bring the latest, most groundbreaking nutritional science to all of us in easy-to-understand quick videos. (His daily videos are just under 5 minutes! And super entertaining I might add.)

The video I've attached here is a bit longer than that, but it packs in so much information, it seriously is amazing how much he gets through so quickly. I promise it is a lecture worth watching to the very end! So take an evening away from the usual Netflix binging :P and watch this one instead, it's worth it! Thank you so much Dr. Greger for making the science so easy to understand!! You can check out his latest videos here: http://nutritionfacts.org/

Here's to staying Happy + Healthy!

Sarah

 

Vegan Frenchie Casserole

So I do a LOT of recipe sampling. And tweaking. And finessing. To get a recipe juuuuust perfect. (Or at least perfectly the way I like it! :P) And this, my friends, will knock your socks off.

An ode to Minimalist Baker for the idea of caramelized apples, and to Easy Not Cheesy for giving validation to my idea of using flax eggs, and of course, a must in my book... PECANS. This new and improved Vegan Frenchie Casserole will please even the eggiest-lover among you. (Yes, we call French Toast "frenchies" around here. It started when our kids were born and it stuck...) Here's what to do:

Casserole:

12-14 1" slices of french or any crusty bread (I used whole wheat ciabatta), cubed

2 C unsweetened almond milk (trust me, this recipe is sweet enough! Use unsweetened.)

1/2 C ground flaxseed

2 T maple syrup

2 T brown sugar

2 t vanilla

2 t cinnamon

Apples:

4 apples, cored and wedged

2 T Earth Balance butter

light dust of cinnamon

Pecan Topping:

3 T Earth Balance, melted

1/3 C brown sugar

1/3 C maple syrup

2 C chopped pecans

1. Cube bread and set aside. Very lightly oil a 9" x 13" pan.

2. Mix the rest of the ingredients for the casserole in a large mixing bowl and set in refrigerator to gel about 15 minutes. When slightly congealed, whisk again and pour evenly over bread, tossing as you go to make sure all the piece get covered. (I do this right in the 9" x 13") Let soak in refrigerator for 1 hour or overnight.

3. Prepare pecan topping and set aside.

4. Just before baking, caramelize your apples. To a large skillet over medium-low heat, add the apples and 2 Tbsp butter. Sprinkle with cinnamon. I like a light dust on all my apples, but do as much or as little as you like, then stir and cover to steam for a bit. When they start to get tender - about 4-5 minutes - remove cover and sprinkle with 1-2 Tbsp brown sugar (this step is optional and will depend on whether you used sweet or tart apples). Continue cooking with cover off until tender-crisp and slightly caramelized. You don't want them to get mushy so be careful not to keep the cover on for too long. Remove from heat to cool slightly.

5. Top casserole with apples, then pecans and cover with foil lightly. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes -1 hour. Uncover halfway through cook time. You'll know it's done when it pecans are getting toasty, and there is bubbling around the edges. If it's jiggly or wet, bake another 5-10 minutes. Allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.

You can serve with a drizzle of maple syrup, but truthfully, it doesn't need it!

Enjoy, friends!!

 

Wholistic Healthcare is Here!

I was lucky enough to hear several amazing speakers this past weekend at Dr. John McDougall's Advanced Study Weekend, including the renowned Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn Jr., and Dr. Michael Greger, to name a few. Their contributions over the last several decades have been absolutely unparalleled and so important to get us to where we are today.

I was also introduced to Dr. Scott Stoll, a physician whose vision for the future of healthcare is exactly the prescription America needs. This young doctor has already made waves sharing the scientific evidence and the undeniable goodness of a plant-based diet in his many varied roles, including as the co-founder of the Plantrician Project, an internationally known group teaching healthcare practitioners about the health benefits of a plant-based diet; as the physician for the US Bobsled team, in his week long immersion programs for patients, and as a husband and father for six children. Talk about busy!

He went on to explain that a plant-based lifestyle can literally affect every level of life, and optimize it! When we eat plants, our epigenome is affected and stabilized, and we can actually influence our genetic expression for good, which has a profound effect on our children and even our grandchildren's genes! At the organ level, sooo much research has been done, proving we can eradicate heart disease, eliminate constipation, diverticulosis, reflux, we can influence cancer's expression, we can elevate our mood, our bone density, and much much more. We know that at the individual level, when we take care of our bodies, we have fewer sick days, increasing productivity, activity levels and bettering our relationships. And when many of us are working together, embracing eating whole, plant-based foods, we can literally change our communities and ultimately influence a much bigger piece of land than the one we reside on. Our food choices affect the health of our planet as well. From each individual cell to the best use of resources to sustain our planet, a plant-based diet optimizes life on earth. It is truly amazing!!

Food is meant to be enjoyable, delicious, and fulfilling. The problem is that people are afraid those things will be compromised eating a plant-based diet. Luckily, that is far from the truth! Try any of my recipes and you will soon see that I only share what is absolutely delicious and satisfying!! Trust me, I've made plenty of mistakes along the way and so these are the tried and true recipes that will keep you begging for more plants!

"Bite by bite" we are deciding our health. Take a look at this quick video of a hospital in Michigan that is leading the paradigm shift for hospitals to take preventative care seriously. I have been saying for years now that I hope one day to change the menus that are being served at hospitals, and here they are producing the very nutritious foods that make the most healthful, healing meals for patients. This is nothing short of inspiring.


 

Triple Berry Crisp

I love dessert. I mean, I really love dessert. I also love packing in extra nutrients to anything and everything I possibly can, so what better way to do that than having a berry-filled dessert? You've got your sweet, and you've got your healthy! Berries stand on their own as a so-called "superfood." They've proven they offer protection against cancer in study after study. Blueberry intake has also shown a better regulation of blood sugar. (So to all those diabetics and pre-diabetics out there, eat your berries!) Think blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, acai berries, goji berries, elderberries, strawberries... so many options!

So I sure didn't feel bad about having this leftover birthday treat for breakfast all week... :)

Enjoy!

Triple Berry Crisp

Makes 12-15 servings

6 C triple berry frozen mix (or 2 small Trader Joe's bags)
2-3 T raw organic sugar
1 1/2 C rolled oats
3/4 C almond meal
3/4 C raw pecans (or any mixed nuts), chopped
1/3 C packed brown sugar
2 pinches sea salt
3 T Earth Balance butter or coconut oil

Preheat oven to 350. Toss berries with raw sugar in large bowl and defrost for 1 minute in microwave to get a little bit of juice going. Pour berries into 9x13 pan.

Mix oats, almond meal, nuts, brown sugar, and sea salt until combined. Add butter and use a pastry cutter or two forks, to mix until the butter is evenly distributed and has no big chunks. Add on top of the fruit and spread evenly.

Bake for 45-50 minutes until sides are bubbling and top is lightly golden.

Let cool for 15 minutes and serve warm. Amazing with non-dairy ice cream, or even just a glass of almond milk for breakfast!