Vegan Smoky Tempeh and Lentil Sloppy Joes

FullSizeRenderI’ve long been a huge fan of Gena Hamshaw’s Vegan Lentil Sloppy Joes recipe. (In fact, I’m pretty sure she singlehandedly convinced me that lentils actually can be delicious.) Naturally, I made a few tweaks over the years, as I tend to do. Recently, I tried the Vegan Sloppy Jane at Denver’s Hops & Pie, which I found absolutely wonderful flavor-wise but missing that hearty, satisfying chewiness that I love in a lentil-based sandwich. Hence, I made a few more tweaks. Here’s the end result, but feel free to make it your own. I’d love to hear your modifications.

Serves 8
Ingredients
1 cup brown lentils, soaked overnight and rinsed (Just wanted to point this out right away, since it calls for some pre-planning.)
2 tablespoons olive oil (I use avocado oil, but really, any kind of neutral flavored vegetable oil is fine.)
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 package of organic smoky tempeh strips, crumbled into small pieces (I recommend the Lightlife brand.)
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1-2 teaspoons chili powder, to your liking (1-mild; 2-spicy)
1 teaspoon ground mustard powder
½ teaspoon paprika
One 15-ounce can of crushed or diced fire-roasted tomatoes (Muir Glen brand is typically my go-to.)
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1½ tablespoons apple cider vinegar (Bragg Organic Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar, always.)
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon molasses
¼ teaspoon liquid smoke
¾ cup vegetable broth
Salt and pepper to taste (*FYI: If you live near a Savory Spice Shop, their Bourbon Barrel Smoked Black Pepper is a natural choice here, but obviously, totally optional. Regular black pepper is just fine.)
8 whole wheat buns

  1. Put the lentils in a large pot and cover with water. (Make sure there’s about 2 inches of water above the lentils.) Boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook for 15-20 minutes, until lentils are chewable but still a bit firm. Drain, rinse and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and bell pepper, and cook for 5 minutes. Then, push the onion/pepper mixture to one side of the pan so there’s a clearing, and add the crumbled tempeh to the open side. Cook for 1-2 minutes, frequently stirring, until tempeh is beginning to brown. (If you’re using a stainless steel pan, you may notice the tempeh sticking to the bottom of the pan a bit—at 2 minutes, just splash a tablespoon or two of vegetable stock on that side, and it should loosen all that up without too much trouble.) Scrape up the bits, and stir together the tempeh and onion/pepper mixture. Cook for an additional 2 minutes, until onions are soft and translucent.
  3. Add garlic, chili powder, mustard and paprika, and cook for another minute, until garlic and spices are fragrant.
  4. Add lentils, tomatoes, tomato paste, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, soy sauce, molasses, liquid smoke and vegetable broth. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, adding salt and pepper to your liking. (*Quick note: See how all the ingredients are grouped together by steps? You can premeasure everything in one bowl as they are grouped—so, say for example, you can measure out all the ingredients in step 4 and put them all in one bowl, so you can just quickly and easily add everything all at once while you’re cooking. You may already do this—but if not, this makes for way less stressful cooking and a lot fewer dirty dishes than putting each pre-measured ingredient in its own little bowl. I’m all for less cleanup.)
  5. Once your Sloppy Joes have reached your desired thickness, take the pan off the heat and it let cool for a few minutes. (You can take this time to toast your buns on your oven’s Lo broiler setting, if that’s your thing.)
  6. Top with whatever sounds awesome. My personal favorite combination is yellow mustard, pickles and sauerkraut. Enjoy!

Dark Woods : [a short story]

Hiking

The trail sloped downward, winding back and forth as we rambled down the hillside, tangles of colorful wildflowers and tall grasses swishing as we passed. I could hear my husband’s feet pounding on the dirt behind me. “This is where the water crossing is,” he announced.

Okay, we’re here! This is what you prepared for, I thought encouragingly. Just change into your water shoes, like we planned. A splintered, wooden sign read La Garita Wilderness Rio Grande National Forest. I pulled out my iPhone and snapped a few pictures to upload to Instagram later, when I could get a signal again. I heaved off my backpack and grabbed my brand new Keen sandals out of the side mesh pockets. See, I’m so prepared, I thought proudly. I carefully balanced myself, one foot at a time, as I changed out of my hiking boots and arch-supportive socks, trying not to lose my balance or get anything muddy.

The river didn’t look very deep. It would probably only go up to my calves—easy enough. I took a few steps. Wow, okay, that’s freezing. The cold water seared my skin. It’s all good, just a few more steps. I stepped quickly, trying to hurry to the other side, and suddenly, I stepped into a small ditch, losing my balance and scraping my ankle against a sharp rock. Ow, pain. Okay, freezing. It feels like I’m getting stabbed. Hurry up; just get out! I leapt the last part, out of the water and onto the soggy bank, splashing mud onto my shoes and legs. My feet throbbed from the shock of the cold water. I slogged up the bank and sat on a large boulder where the trail was dry. I glanced down at my leg and quickly looked away. Omigod, there’s blood. Suddenly my mind raced with mental images of microscopic parasites and bacteria swirling in the water, which were probably now flowing freely into my bloodstream. We were about to enter the woods. I could die of infection out there.

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Pumpkin and Cashew Cream Pasta Sauce – Vegan Recipe

Pumpkin and cashew cream pasta sauce

Sometimes, I’m at the grocery store and find something I’d love to buy, but it’s way too unhealthy or not vegan, so it doesn’t quite work for our household. That was the case when I saw some (cream and butter-laden) pumpkin pasta sauce. So I snapped a picture of the ingredient list and made up a recipe to suit my liking. This time, my experiment turned out to be pretty delicious.

**Tip: Make this sauce on a Sunday, and stick it in the fridge for later in the week when you just want to make something quick and easy for dinner.

Ingredients, grouped by steps

½ cup raw unsalted cashews, soaked overnight
1 small carrot, peeled, roughly chopped and boiled in water – approx. 15 minutes
¾ cup vegetable broth

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
1-2 cloves garlic (approximately 1 tablespoon thinly sliced)

1 tablespoon fresh basil, finely chopped
2 leaves fresh sage, finely chopped
½ teaspoon dried rosemary
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground coriander
sea salt and black pepper to taste

1 cup pure pumpkin puree (canned or freshly made)
1 ½ teaspoon honey OR amber agave nectar (to make vegan)
4 San Marzano-style tomatoes, diced
1 cup juice from San Marzano-style tomatoes

(*Note: San Marzano-style tomatoes typically come in 28-ounce cans, so I drained 1 cup of juice from the can and diced 4 of the tomatoes, reserving the remaining juice and tomatoes for another weeknight dinner – probably tomato-braised jackfruit.)

*Special equipment: blender (or in a pinch, a food processor will work)

Step 1: Make a carrot-cashew cream.

Soak raw, unsalted cashews in cold water overnight. Drain water and put cashews in blender, along with the boiled carrot. Add vegetable broth (approximately ¾ cup, more or less) and blend until smooth and creamy.

Step 2: Sauté onion, garlic and spices.

Heat olive oil in a medium-sized pot over medium heat. Once oil is shimmering, add onion. Sautee for 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic and sauté for 3 more minutes. Add all spices/herbs and sauté for 3 more minutes, continuing to stir frequently to scrape up any spices stuck to bottom of pot.

Step 3: Simmer pumpkin, carrot-cashew cream, honey/agave nectar and tomatoes.

Add pumpkin puree and honey/agave nectar to pot. Stir to evenly distribute. Add San Marzano-style tomatoes and juice. Simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Add sauce to your favorite type of pasta, and top with your choice of garnish, such as toasted pecans or fresh basil.

Under 250 Calorie Dinner: Shirataki Noodle Bowl

Shirataki Noodle Bowl

Serves 2

 
Ingredients:
2 bags Shirataki noodles in water (*I use Nasoya brand, in the refrigerated section, next to the tofu)
8 large frozen cooked shrimp, thawed (*omit or substitute for tofu if making vegan)
1 cup red cabbage, roughly chopped
1 cup Crimini or Shiitake mushrooms, sliced
2 tbs green onion tops, chopped
2 tbs cilantro, finely sliced
2 lime wedge
Broth:
1 cup Swanson vegetable broth
1 cup water
2 tbs soy sauce (*reduce if on a low-sodium diet)
2 tsp each: miso paste, ginger paste, lemongrass paste (*I use Gourmet Garden, but use the fresh stuff if you’ve got it)
1/4 tsp sesame oil
Directions:
1. Drain and RINSE, RINSE, RINSE the shirataki noodles in a colander under cold water (which will help minimize its natural earthy flavor). Set aside.
2. Spray a medium pan with PAM (or similar cooking spray). Add mushrooms and cook until soft and wilted, about 5-8 minutes. If you haven’t already thawed your shrimp in the refrigerator, thaw under cold, running water.
3. In a small pot, add all the broth ingredients, and gently cook on low heat.
3. In a larger pot, bring water to a boil, and add your shirataki noodles. Boil for 2 minutes. They are already cooked, so it’s more about getting them nice and warm. Drain.
4. Divide noodles between two bowls. Pour broth over the noodles. Add shrimp, cabbage, green onion, cilantro, and squeeze your lime wedge over the top.
**The best part about this recipe is that you can easily add more vegetables as you see fit (or have in your fridge). A few ideas: shaved carrot ribbons, spinach, snow peas and snap peas .
230 cal, 3g fat, 22g carbs, 37g protein (According to package nutritional information and MyPlate app.)

Learning Calligraphy

calligraphy

I always wanted an inkwell and a feather quill. Blame it on Anne of Green Gables or on A Little Princess, or any other old-fashioned piece of literature that I modeled my childhood aspirations after, but my imagination was bursting with fantasies of filling leather bound books with fluid, black letters, the sound of a nib scratching furiously against rough-hewn paper.

Of course, my father refused. In his mind, an inkwell might as well have been an indelible stain, ready to explode all over the carpet at any given moment (and with my little brother’s track record, he was probably right). So when a few of my soon-to-be-married friends recently started talking about calligraphy and addressing their own wedding invitations, my interest immediately was piqued. I suddenly remembered all those fantasies I shelved decades ago. I’m not gonna lie, as soon as that box from Amazon arrived on my doorstep and I pulled out my new calligraphy toys, I thought, “HA! I’m an adult now —  I can do what I want!”

But how to learn calligraphy? After some fruitless searches on YouTube and struggling to follow along with a few blog posts, I ended up buying Melissa Esplin’s online calligraphy course, which, if you want to learn calligraphy in a short period of time, I would highly recommend. The production quality is kinda sub-par (keep in mind, I work at Craftsy, which is known for high-quality online craft education, so call me picky), but her content is spot-on. I saw immediate improvement.

I still have a long way to go before my lettering looks like Melissa’s, but I’ll take progress wherever I can get it. And, hey, now I can even address my own wedding invitations.

Mild Obsessions: December

Old Fashioned Cocktail VariationSince I spent pretty much the entire month of December excessively imbibing, dining out and celebrating, it should come as no surprise that some (okay, all) of this month’s picks pertain to the pleasures of gluttony.

The Old Fashioned Variation
Served @ The Populist
Vida mezcal, rose water, agave syrup and rhubarb bitters (shown)
It looks so innocent, doesn’t it? You’d never guess that a modest sip of this clear, ice-cold concoction will roll through your mouth like a billow of smoke and roses, trailed by the lingering flavor of sultry leather. If I could rename this cocktail, I’d call it a Midnight Cowboy … it’s strapping, charismatic and leaves you fantasizing long after your last taste.

Los Chingones
They had me at pork stomach tacos. But that’s just me. This small Mexican restaurant in Ballpark could go unnoticed, except it’s one of the latest outposts by Troy Guard of TAG, which should bring some much-needed attention to that nondescript corner of soon-to-open eateries and shops. The menu has everything from exotic little street tacos to innovative Mexican-inspired cocktails. My favorite tacos so far: Chicken Leg (with achiote, cabbage, queso fresco and crispy chicken skin), Octopus (with cabbage, orange, crispy parsnip and pasilla chile) and Pork Stomach.

Zoku Ice Sphere Molds
After frequenting local cocktail havens like Colt & Gray, I’ve developed an appreciation for those single, oversized ice cubes the bartenders serve with their carefully crafted cocktails, but I haven’t been able to talk myself into buying an ice pick to recreate the effect at home. Hence, this set of silicone ice molds, which easily produces two perfect orbs for your drinking pleasure.

Mild Obsessions: November

Julep nail polish, eucalyptus oil and Tinge Floral bouquet

When I used to work at 944 magazine, we had a monthly column called Mild Obsessions. It was one of my favorite pieces to write. Basically, it was anything new or noteworthy that we had discovered that month that didn’t warrant an entire story but definitely deserved some kind of shout out. I feel like I have those all the time—fantastic little discoveries that I can’t wait to share with my friends, family, Yelp followers (…random strangers, whatever). So, I’m going to start doing my own version. Here’s this month’s roundup:

Julep Nail Polish – After nearly 10 years, I never thought I’d stray from OPI, but I admit it: I cheated, and now I’m in love. I recently picked up the Extraordinary Color Kit from Sephora (birthday splurge!), and I feel like I just bought a little bag of holiday-hued jewels. These super-saturated colors glide on easily, and with two layers of Freedom Polymer Top Coat, I got about a week’s wear of high-shine nails with no chips or breaks, which might be a personal record for me. Bonus: the pink champagne metallic color, Zelda, was so luminous, I actually had to squint while painting my nails because felt like I was being blinded by the shine…in the best way possible, of course.

Eucalyptus Oil – I caught a terrible head cold this month, and when I was just about ready to lose my mind from not sleeping or breathing well all week, my boyfriend brought me home a bottle of eucalyptus essential oil. It’s AMAZING what 10-15 drops of this will do in a steaming hot bath. Next time you’re dying of congestion (or body aches, for that matter), just try it.

Tinge Floral – I’ve never really been a “flower” person. I don’t buy flowers, and I don’t enjoy getting flowers as a gift, because I’ve always thought they’re a waste of money since they just end up in the trash. However, I was recently turned onto Tinge Floral (thank you, Instagram), a Salt Lake City floral designer with stunningly beautiful, imaginative bouquets. It even makes me want a pretty little bunch of flowers on my desk at work. I mean, I DO have plenty of room.

Luxardo Gourmet Maraschino Cherries – You know those bright pink, cloyingly sweet maraschino cherries that come in a tub of syrup? These are nothing like those. It’s kind of like comparing Think deep, full-bodied, dark cherries balanced out by a bright tartness and sweet syrup. They make a delicious Old Fashioned, although half the time, I’m tempted just to pour the whole jar over a big bowl of vanilla bean ice cream.

Meyer Lemons – I love Meyer Lemon season. I’ve been slicing these up for glasses of water, but their sophisticated sweet-and-tart flavor has my imagination running wild with lemon and poppy seed confections, coconut and lemon pancakes, preserved lemons…I might just have to experiment.