#Vegan Recipe: BBQ Tofu Salad (Perfect leftover use!)

It all starts with Cross Country. It is upon us.

Starting tomorrow and continuing for the next two months, I will be traveling on an un-air conditioned yellow school bus to various invitational cross country meets in Southern California. Let me change that slightly to make you feel even sorrier for me. I will be traveling on that bus with 31 teenagers.

Actually I jest. I love my team and actually enjoy the bus ride (pillows are key!). This week our meet is at Cal Poly in Pomona, so we’re looking at a two hour drive. Add the actual races and the lunch stop in there, you’re saying goodbye to Saturday. Not to mention the bus leaves from the school at 5:00 am. Yes, you read that right.

That brings me, finally, to my point. I love coaching cross country but it is very time consuming. We have practice daily (except Sunday, thank goodness), the meet on Saturday, plus I have rosters to type, results to compile, etc. Of course, I have a full time job, and this whole blogging thing. Plus, you know, I like to exercise a bit here and there. I am fortunate that my husband is my co-coach, so at least we get to see each other during cross country season.

I am time challenged! There are not enough hours in the day. Something’s got to give!

What seems to give first is food preparation. Generally, I cook at home almost all the time. I do that for many reasons. I love to cook, it is obviously much healthier, restaurant food is expensive, plus the lack of vegan restaurants in my area discourages eating out.

Just because I’m busy, I don’t want to give up healthy eating. I am not and never will be organized enough to prepare a full week’s worth of dinners on Sunday. Plus, I’d be spending my only real day off in the kitchen. Instead, I think BIG. Instead of using my small bit of leftovers for lunch, I prepare enough food for at least two meals. Alan’s happy as long as there is one day in between the same dish. And I’m happy to have an easy meal to prepare (can you say “reheat?”)

The other way to think BIG is to use the leftovers to create an entirely different dish. Think of the variations on leftover Thanksgiving turkey. That is what I did for this BBQ Tofu Salad. The other night, I prepared the barbecued tofu (I should say BBQ-style because I cooked it in the oven), and served it with corn. I made an extra portion knowing that I would do something with it later on in the week. This salad is the result.

Before we get to the recipe, check out my video of my Cross Country team rockin’ a gym workout!

Cross Country

 

BBQ Tofu Salad with Arugula and Smoky & Spicy Ranch Dressing

The BBQ tofu was leftovers, but I originally prepared it by slicing a drained block of tofu into three slices, marinating in a mixture of 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1/2 cup vegetable broth, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon Sriracha (or other hot sauce), 1 teaspoon liquid smoke. Cover and bake at 400 degrees for about a half hour. We had two of the slices for dinner and I refrigerated the third slice.

Since the leftover tofu is cold, you might want to warm it up a bit before putting it in the salad. Cut it into small cubes. Combine arugula (or other favorite greens), tomato, yellow pepper, green onions, kidney beans (or other beans of choice), radishes, avocado, and tofu. Toss together with Smoky and Spicy Ranch Dressing (I used the dressing from this recipe and added 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke). Feel free to switch up veggies, add some nuts or seeds, etc. It’s your salad. Enjoy.

One nice thing about those long bus rides. If I bring my computer, they’re perfect for getting some writing done!

Idyllwild

Enjoy my last free weekend for a while last week in Idyllwild.

How do you manage eating healthy in spite of your busy schedule? Any tips to share?

#Vegan Recipe: Quinoa, Avocado, and Mandarin Orange “Chicken” Salad

“Here she is with yet another quinoa recipe,” you may be saying. And you’d be right. I’ve certainly expressed my love of quinoa both here and on numerous other recipe blogs. This high protein, power packed grain is the perfect addition to salads, can be served as a side dish on its own, tastes delicious either hot or cold, and is quick and easy to prepare. What’s not to like?

I eat a lot of salads. A lot of salads. Salads are cool (literally), salads are fast, making a salad doesn’t heat up your house. All this stuff in important during the summer in La Quinta, where we generally say goodbye to two digit temperatures from June through September.

Just because they’re called salads, don’t be thinking that they are some kind of wimpy lettuce and tomato concoction designed to create fast weight loss. My salads have substance. They have oomph. They are hearty. I’d say this is because I have to please a man, my husband, but I’d be lying. I’m the one with the appetite, and my salads satisfy.

Quinoa, Avocado, and Mandarin Orange “Chicken” Salad

Ingredients
1 package Mandarin Orange “Chicken” (Both Gardein and Trader Joes have excellent choices)
1 cup quinoa, prepared according to package directions, cooled or chilled
3 cups mixed greens
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup green onions, sliced
8 oz can mandarin oranges, drained and split (half for the salad, half for the dressing)
1/4 cup sliced almonds, roasted
1/2 cup edamame, cooked and chilled
1 avocado, cut into small chunks
Mango/Mandarin Vinaigrette (see below)

Directions

Prepare the Mandarin Orange “Chicken” according to package directions. (In spite of the heat, I chose the baked method because they come out crispier that way). I let them cool a little.

Prepare the quinoa and set aside to cool, or refrigerate for an hour to chill.

Combine all the ingredients and toss together. Serve.

Mandarin Mango Vinaigrette

Ingredients
1/2 cup frozen mango
1/2 can (8 oz) mandarin oranges, drained
1/2 cup sunflower oil
1/4 cup lime juice
1/8 cup agave syrup
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Put all the ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth.

There you have it. Another quinoa/summer salad. Around here we’ve got another two months of hot weather. Stay tuned, I’ll probably be serving up some more.

Are you a salad eater? Do you have a favorite? Isn’t quinoa the most awesomest food ever?

Chili con Not-Carne. #Vegan Recipe

First, I know you all want an update on Buddy, the dog that Alan found wandering the streets near our house. Well, he is still with us. We put posters around the neighborhood and at Starbucks, kept our eyes out for signs on the street corners, made a few phone calls, but nobody has claimed him.

Which is okay by us. By this time he has really become part of the family. Our pack is still a little hesitant and jealous, but they’re getting better. I expect they’ll be playing soon. Buddy can use the doggy door, is learning how to walk on a leash (he didn’t seem to know how the first day!), and is getting used to being a canine vegetarian. He’s got an appointment on Monday for a check up and neutering, and we’ll get him a proper halter and leash this weekend. And a bath. Definitely a bath.

Another reason I love him already. I think he looks a little like the Traveler’s Insurance dog, one of my favorite commercial dogs of all time. Okay, just a little, but it’s still my favorite and I take any excuse to watch it.

So we’re back up to a six-pack again. It was only a matter of time. Now, on to the chili.

I know that chili is not a meal that is usually associated with summer time and warmer temperatures. I can imagine snuggling up around a fire, wrapped in a comforter, holding a hot bowl of chili to warm me up even more. Well, not really, I live in the desert and I haven’t used my fireplace since I’ve owned my house, but you get the idea.

The concept came, though, when I wanted a quick meal after cross country practice the other night, and upon reviewing the contents of my cupboards, a decided to try using the seitan that I had on hand to create this Chili con Not-Carne.  The meal took about 45 minutes to prepare, including cooking time, but you can let it simmer for a longer time if you’d like, which would make it even more flavorful.

Chili con Not-Carne

Chili con Not-Carne

Ingredients
(note: I made a small batch because of the quantity of seitan I had on hand and because it was just my husband and me. You can easily double the recipe for a family or bigger crowd.)

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Serrano Chile, seeded and chopped (I never seed my chiles because I love the “kick” but it is up to you. You can also use a milder chili if you prefer)
1 cup or 1 package seitan, cut into small cubes
1 28 ounce can tomatoes
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1-2 tablespoons Sriracha (the more the spicier!)
2 15 ounce cans beans, drained and rinsed (I used 1 kidney beans, one white beans)
8 ounces beer (I only had non-alcoholic in my fridge and that worked just fine)
1/2 cup corn
Avocado and Cilantro for garnish (optional)

Directions
Preheat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook until soft (about 5 minutes).

Add the seitan and chile. Cook until the seitan starts to brown.

Add the tomatoes (along with their liquid), Sriracha, chili powder, cumin, paprika and salt. When the mixture starts to bubble, add the beans and stir. Add the beer slowly, stirring as you do so, scraping up anything that may have stuck to the pan. Bring to a boil then stir in the corn. Reduce heat to low. You can simmer anywhere from 15 minutes to a couple hours (you may have to add more liquid if you simmer longer, so don’t finish that beer).

Serve in individual bowls with a few slices avocado and some cilantro sprinkled on top.

Seitan is one of my favorite meat substitutes. It is made from wheat gluten. You can make this chili without the seitan for a gluten free meal (make sure that you use gluten free beer, or substitute water or vegetable broth). It is a great dish to prepare as you’re making the transition to veg’n, or to enjoy for a Meatless Monday, because it is quick, with easy to find ingredients, and has a rich, meaty flavor.

If you like seitan, here are two recipes: Seitan Burritos and Seitan Skillet Meal. Oops, I almost forgot my all time favorite, Rice Salad with Creamy Tarragon Dressing.

So that opens the question: If you are vegan or vegetarian, do you enjoy meat substitutes? If you occasionally go meat-free, do you just skip the meat or use a sub? What are your favorites? (Yes, I know that many are processed, but we’re talking taste here.)

Mandarin Orange “Chicken” Salad. Vegan. Transition Recipe

The other day, when I posted my Vegan Resource article (which included an easy “Chicken” Piccata recipe), I promised another “beginner vegan” recipe. As I mentioned in that post, giving up meat, whatever your reasons, can be challenging. When you’ve based your meals around a meat entree for years, you might be left wondering what you can eat.

I suggest making the transition to a plant based diet by taking baby steps toward learning how to prepare tasty vegan meals. Meat substitutes can help with this transition, allowing you to create dishes that you are comfortable with. As time goes on, you will probably find, as I did, how much fun and how delicious it is to cook with whole, unprocessed foods, and you will gradually move away from the mock meats.

For this recipe I used Trader Joe’s Mandarin Orange Chicken-less Morsels and Spicy Peanut Vinaigrette. Gardein also makes a great Mandarin Orange Crispy Chick’n, but I was at TJ’s so that’s what I used. I was originally going to use a Mango Lime Vinaigrette, but I was shopping, this sounded good, so there you go.

Mandarin Orange “Chicken” Salad

Ingredients
One Package Mandarin Orange “Chicken” Nuggets (either Trader Joe’s or Gardein)
1/4 cup toasted almonds
Three cups mixed greens
1/2 cup yellow cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/4 cup green onions, sliced
1/2 cup snow or snap peas
1/2 cup edamame, shelled
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped (if you don’t like cilantro, you can skip it)
1 avocado, cut into chunks
1/4 cup spicy peanut vinaigrette
1/2 teaspoon ginger
Pepper to taste

Directions
Prepare the “chicken” according to package directions (they give you cooking options, I prefer to bake them for extra crispiness). Allow to cool, but don’t chill.

Spread the almonds in a small pan and toast (at the same temp as the chicken is fine) for a few minutes.

Measure out 1/4 cup of the spicy peanut vinaigrette. Mix in the ginger and pepper to taste.

Toss the greens, tomatoes, onions, peas, cilantro, and edamame in a large bowl. Add the dressing, avocado, and almonds and toss gently. Add the “chicken” and toss lightly.

Serves 2-3.

If you are a “new” vegan, a vegetarian thinking about switching to a plant based diet, or an omnivore exploring options or trying to eat less meat, check out my Vegan Resources for lots of information and links for blogs, recipes, cookbooks, and more.

Are you vegan? How did you make the switch?

Do you have a favorite blog, book, movie, or cookbook that I didn’t list? Share!

Resources For New (or Wannabe) Vegans. And a “Chicken” Piccata Recipe

Last week, I attended an awesome Twitter chat, put on by FitFluential and featuring Sarah Tobin (#FitVegan). Nora is an athlete who excels at most outdoors sports, including skiing, snowboarding, wakeboarding, volleyball, scuba diving, and rock climbing. She created a unique fitness program that incorporates yoga, weight training, beach bootcamp, hiking, running, and more, and offers nutritional information and meal plans. She has been writing a series called the Fit Vegan Challenge, which is posted weekly on Fitfluential.

The Twitter chat was great. Many people participated, vegans, vegetarians, and others who wanted to learn more about living an athletic plant-based lifestyle. So much information was shared, particularly by Nora, about the benefits of a vegan lifestyle. One of the questions that came up over and over again, was, “how do I start?” I decided to move beyond the confines of a Twitter chat and offer a few suggestions and resources.

Since you’re reading this, I will make the assumption that you have either made a decision to make the switch to a plant based diet, are a vegetarian thinking about “going all the way,” or would like to eat less animal products and are educating yourself about the lifestyle. Wherever you are in your journey, I hope that I can answer a few questions, help you find other resources, and support you in any way I can.

There are many reasons for choosing a plant based diet. Some make the switch for the  health benefits. Others for ethical reasons. Still others choose a vegan lifestyle because they have learned that it is good for the environment. Whatever brings you here, I want to say, welcome. If you’re interested, you can read about my reasons for becoming vegan.

Where to Start

So, what first? If you are still eating meat, take the first step by eating less meat. Start by eating one or two meat-free meals per week. There are plenty of resources out there (I’ll list some of my favorites below) that can help you create delicious meat-free meals. Don’t think that “vegetarian” means that you can only eat vegetables. Whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, soy protein (tofu and tempeh), seitan (a meaty textured wheat gluten), in addition to a variety of vegetables and fruits, mean that your diet never has to be boring.

Many new vegetarians and vegans do what I did. When I gave up meat, I used meat substitutes in my dishes and prepared my favorite recipes. There are a lot of mock meat options out there, and many are delicious. They help to make the transition easier. I made spaghetti, “chicken” burritos, “chicken” piccata (recipe below), and others dishes using meat substitutes.

However, meat substitutes, like other convenience foods, are processed, and many contain too much sodium, and other ingredients that one should avoid in a healthy, whole food diet. I encourage you to use them, enjoy them, and gradually learn to prepare your meals with less processed alternatives. Today I’m more likely to make tempeh burgers or tacos, a spicy bean salad, or just about anything with quinoa (here, here, and here).

If you are a vegetarian looking to switch to a completely plant based diet, you will need to become an avid label reader. Animal ingredients lurk in many processed foods, so sticking with natural, whole foods is your best bet. This list can be helpful, it gives the names of animal ingredients that are used in many processed foods.

Can I Meet My Nutritional Needs?

A well thought out vegan diet can fulfill your nutritional needs, with the possible exception of vitamin B12. Here is a link to read more about it, but most vegans need to supplement B12. I use sub-lingual Deva Vegan Vitamin B12, which is available from Amazon.

What About Protein? Can I Get Enough Without Eating Meat?

In a word, yes.  To quote from a post I wrote on this topic, “As any vegetarian or vegan knows, the most frequent question that we are asked is, “Where do you get your protein?” And the vegan standard answer is, “everywhere. Most food has protein and if you are eating enough calories, you are probably getting enough protein.” Read the rest of the article.

Vegan Resources

There is a lot of information out there. It can be overwhelming. Here is a list of some of my favorite resources for information about healthy eating, a vegan lifestyle, nutritional data, and recipes. Please feel free to ask me any questions that you have. If I can’t answer them myself, I’ll either find out or try to point you in the right direction.

Blogs
The Vegan RD – Ginny Messina, RD – Nutritional information
Small Bites – Andy Bellati, RD – He’s not posting anymore, but still a great nutritional reference
Jack Norris, RD – Nutritional Information
Vegan.com – Resources for animal activists and other vegan information
No Meat Athlete – Lot’s of information for vegan athletes.
Vegansaurus – It’s like a dictionary for vegans, written with humor.
The Girly Girl Army – For the stylish vegan
Happy Cow – Looking for a restaurant that is vegan, vegetarian or veg-friendly? Here is the ultimate source. They have an app for iphone or android too!
Meet the Shannons – Annie and Dan Shannon are converting the Betty Crocker Cookbook to delicious vegan recipes.
Almost Vegan – One of the first blogs I followed, Amber Shea now has a cookbook (listed below).
Fat Free Vegan – Susan Voisin creates delicious and healthy vegan meals. The photos are beautiful too.
Healthy. Happy. Life – Another beautifully photographed resource for delicious recipes from Kathy Patalsky.
For the Love of Kale – A FitFluential sister, she posts a variety of delicious vegan recipes.
What the Hell Does a Vegan Eat, Anyway? – Amazing food from a blog with the best name ever.
Oh She Glows – Recipes and more from Angela Liddon.
Choosing Raw – Dip your fork into a raw lifestyle with Gena’s blog (she has cooked vegan recipes too).
Better with Veggies – Heather offers delicious vegan recipes plus useful fitness tips.

Books
Skinny Bitch, by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin. It’s like listening to girlfriends telling you how to eat healthy.
Viva Vegan!, by Terry Hope Romero, great Latin food recipes.
Vegan with a Vengeance , by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, great, inexpensive recipes.
The Indian Vegan Kitchen, by Madha Gadia, M.S, R.D., a must have if you love Indian food.
The 30-Minute Vegan, by Mark Reinfeld and Jennifer Murray, easy, fast, and delicious.
The Joy of Vegan Baking, by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, who also has written more philosophical books on living a cruelty free lifestyle.
The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur, by Kelly Peloza, who also writes a blog with the same name.
Practically Raw, by Amber Shea Crawley, flexible raw recipes that anyone can make.
Thrive, by Brendan Brazier, the vegan nutrition guide to optimal performance in sports and life.
The China Study – It’s what made Bill Clinton go vegan.
Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. He really lays it on the line about what goes on in the factory farming industry.
Vegan for Life, by Jack Norris, RD and Ginny Messina, RD, everything you need to be healthy and fit on a plant based diet.

Well, there a start for you. Oh, and if you need a little push, you might catch the movie Forks over Knives. It’s been a life changer for many people.

Now for the promised recipe. Using Gardein Herb Dijon Breasts, plus a few additions of my own, to create a delicious “Chicken” Piccata. It takes about 30 minutes to prepare.

“Chicken” Piccata

Ingredients
One package (two breasts) Gardein Herb Dijon Breasts, includes sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons capers
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

Directions
Heat the olive oil in a small frying pan over medium high heat. Brown the breasts on both sides. Add the garlic and the mushrooms. Cook and stir for 1-2 minutes. Add the sauce. and the lemon juice. Stir to mix with the mushrooms and garlic, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer until the sauce has thickened. Add the capers and heat for two minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Chicken Piccata

This recipe serves two. Add some rice and salad and you’ve got an easy, terrific vegan meal.

Now it’s your turn. Do you have questions about starting a vegan lifestyle? Would you like to add a link, book, or other resource that you use and would like to share? Any ideas or resources that you’d like to talk about?

Tofu Scramble: It’s What’s For Dinner (and Breakfast)

I love me a good tofu scramble.

The problem is, when I want it, like after a long run or bike ride, or a tough yoga class, I want it. I do not want to cook it. I want it NOW!

Since I live in an area that does not have a vegan/vegetarian restaurant and no other restaurants that are progressive enough to think that offering a vegan option for breakfast would be a great idea, I have no one to cook it for me.

So what’s a girl to do?

My solution: Make up a big batch of tofu scramble for dinner. Refrigerate or freeze the leftovers, then enjoy later for my favorite meal of the week: Post Workout Breakfast!

I can’t believe I never thought of this before. I am the original pizza for breakfast girl (yes, I am). I always keep leftovers in mind when I’m preparing dinner, usually to take to work for lunch.

So anyway, the lightbulb finally when off in my head this week after my hankering for a tofu scramble breakfast went unrequited once again, and I decided to make it for dinner instead. I thought, what if I double it up?

Tofu Scramble Dinner/Breakfast – (makes enough for dinner for two and either one big or two small breakfasts)
16 ounce package of firm or extra firm tofu, drained and pressed.
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
Pepper to taste
1 small onion, chopped
2-4 small red potatoes, cut into small cubes
1 Serrano chili, minced
3/4 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 medium tomato, chopped
Olive oil (for cooking)

Instructions
Blend your spices, including the nutritional yeast, together. In a small bowl, break up your tofu into small pieces. Sprinkle in the spice blend. You may add a tablespoon of water to help with the blending.

Preheat the olive oil in a frying pan over medium high heat. Add the onions and cook for a couple minutes. Add the potatoes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes start to brown. Add the chile and cook one minute more. Add the mushrooms and a little water to the pan, the reduce the heat to medium, cover and let cook until the potatoes are almost tender, about 5-8 minutes. Stir occasionally to keep from sticking.

Remove the lid and add the tomatoes and the tofu. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently for five minutes. Tofu might brown a little, but don’t let it stick to the pan.

Serve with toast or tortillas

Other Optional Additions:
1/2 package Soyrizo
Red, yellow, orange, or green peppers – I am not a big fan, so I don’t use them too much, but if you like them, go for it.
Really, any vegetable that you like, spinach, broccoli, etc.
vegan cheese

I happened to have a can of cajun style beans that I had bought by accident (don’t ask me how because I’m such a label reader. I must have looked at the picture, which looked like red beans). I heated those up, adding about a half of a serrano pepper (yes, I love them), and served the beans on the side, with tortillas.

Then, two days later, I enjoyed my work-free, post-workout, tofu scramble breakfast. Better than going out to eat!

What is your favorite post workout and/or weekend meal?

Do you like dinner for breakfast or breakfast for dinner?

Note: I am definitely getting old. After writing this post, I did a search on my own blog to link to a post I wrote a few months ago when we were in Encinitas and I had a tofu scramble. I found this, which is very similar in content to this post. The recipe is different, though, so I’m going to publish this anyway. I apologize for my memory loss (but at least you get two tofu scramble recipes out of it!).