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Kale Cakes

17 November, 2011

Kale Cakes

How Long will this take?

  • Time from start to finish: 30 minutes
  • Labor time: 30 minutes

How many ingredients are there and what kind?

  • Not a lot of ingredients
  • Pantry-Friendly ingredients

How bad is the clean up?

  • One pan, one food processor, one bowl, and whatever plates and utensils used to serve it

What can be made ahead?

  • Nothing

What’s the plan?

  • There’s only one recipe to this dish, so just follow that as is

Back Story

These pancakes are good for breakfast or lunch, or brunch if your kid is a popular social butterfly that hosts brunches often. The kale is hidden in the pancake, which turns it a cool color. So if your kid is a picky eater, this is perfect. It’s also one of the least messy ways to serve a baby vegetables. They don’t store well, but they come together quickly.

Dinosaur kale is a sweet variety that works well here. It’s also good in smoothies. I used to nanny, and knew kids that loved “dinosaur smoothies.”

The recipe below is good for one adult, two toddlers, one very hungry big kid, or one and a half big kids. Multiply as you need.


  • 5 leaves of kale, ripped off the stem
  • 1/3 c of non-dairy milk
  • 1/3 c of flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp spice mix, like pumpkin pie
  • 1 tsp liquid sweetener, like agave or maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • oil

In a food processor, blend the non-dairy milk and kale together, until it’s soupy.

before blending

Pour the mixture into a medium bowl, scraping the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula.

after blending

Add the vanilla and sweetener into the bowl, and mix. Then add in the rest of the ingredients, and stir until it’s a nice retro avocado color.

all mixed up

Add a thin layer of oil to a cast iron pan and heat over medium heat. Make sure to coat the whole pan so that you can cook using the whole pan. That’s the key to making these quickly; just cook all the batter at once. Spoon little silver dollar/Euro sized scoops of batter onto the pan.

Cook until little bubbles pop on the top of the pancake, flipping over to cook for another minute or so.

The batter can be used just like any other pancake batter. So, if you have a special way of cooking pancakes, this batter will work fine with that.

Serve with fruit garnishing, maple syrup, jam, butter, and/or anything else you want to put on it.

"Let me try this."

"Woah! These are good!"


Biggest Loser Stuffed Peppers, and Pasta with Marinara and Homemade “Parmesan”

15 November, 2011

Spaghetti Night

How Long will this take?

  •  Time from start to finish: 1 hour if tempeh is already marinated, at least 2 if not
  • Labor time: 45 minutes if tempeh is already marinated, 1 hour if not

How many ingredients are there and what kind?

  • There’s quite a few, but if the tempeh is already marinated and/or you have some “parmesan” already made, that cuts the amount down a lot.
  • Even with all the ingredients, they’re pretty pantry-friendly, meaning you probably won’t have to substitute or pick up any from the store.

How bad is the clean up?

  • All clean up is contained to pots/pans, cutting board, and dishes.
  • There is some down time towards the end of the cooking process that allows for a head start on clean up.

What can be made ahead?

  • Marinara Sauce
  • Marinading Tempeh
  • “Parmesan”

What’s the plan?

  • Marinate the tempeh, then wait until you’re happy with how long it has marinated until you continue
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
  • Make the marinara sauce and simmer
  • Cut the peppers
  • Grate the cheese
  • Prepare the tempeh crumble
  • Start boiling the water for the noodles
  • Assemble the peppers and place them in the oven
  • Boil the spaghetti
  • Make the “parmesan”
  • Assemble plates
  • Eat

Some Back Story

I call these peppers “Biggest Loser Stuffed Peppers” because I got the idea watching an episode of Biggest Loser. Make fun of me all you want for watching junk TV, but I can defend myself. I like the show because, unless you’re watching a re-run of Roseanne, this is pretty much the only place on TV you can find positive portrayals of working class people that you want to root for and support. I also think the show, although focusing on people not being fat anymore, doesn’t play to fat phobia and stereotypes anywhere near as much as it could. In fact, often times it can challenge anti-fat stereotypes by showing the contestants in a more holistic way, highlighting that what made them fat is not that they’re lazy and glutenous, but other challenges in their life that we can all relate to. It’s far from fat-positive, I know that. But I like seeing those contestants on the show that are working class given a chance to beat so many of the illnesses that disproportionately plague us, while counting how much time with their family they’ve added on to their life. So, there.

I do dislike a few aspects of the show. Most awful are the nutrition “tips.” They’re just commercials for animal products. On this show, Hannah from the previous season came on to make a stuffed pepper that was filled with animal products. It’s so frustrating that plant-based meals are not put forth as a strategy to reduce the risk of diabetes, heart attacks, and high blood pressure, even though there’s plenty of evidence to support that. So I subverted the peppers to make them tastier and healthier.

Having the tempeh prepared ahead is very helpful, but it’s not too much trouble to whip together the marinade. This past weekend, the family went to our friends’ Blessing Way. It’s an indigenous ceremony that gathers friends and family to share their wishes and prayers for the new life about to join us. It was a very beautiful gathering to show this new member of our community how happy we are that they’ve chosen us to be in their life. For the meal afterward, I marinated ten packages of tempeh. I ended up only having time to cook about half of that, and even that was more than enough. I completely over estimated what amount of tempeh would be both manageable and appropriate. So we have a fridge full of marinating smokey tempeh, which also added to the inspiration for the peppers.


Smokey Tempeh

To save space on this page, check out the smokey tempeh recipe from a previous post. Only follow the steps around boiling the tempeh and marinading it, not cooking it. Consult the stuffed pepper recipe below to figure out how much you’ll need.

Marinara Sauce

Enough sauce for 4-6 servings

  • 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 5 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano

Pre-heat a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the oil and garlic. Saute for a quick minute. Add all the other ingredients, raise heat, cover, and bring to a simmer. Once simmering, lower to the lowest heat setting you can, keep covered, and let simmer until you’re ready. If you get side tracked and the sauce gets too dry, mix in water spoonful by spoonful until it’s the right consistency.

People like eating their garlic in slices. It’s true. Using chopped and sliced garlic makes the sauce look classy, with all its slices, but has all the flavor of chopped garlic.

Oh, slices.


In a saucepan, boil as much water as you’ll need to cover the noodles. Once, boiling, add a serving of noodles for each person into the water. Stir until the long noodles are all under water. Cover, boil for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once cooked, drain the noodles in a strainer, and shock them (run cold water over them to stop them from cooking further). Return to saucepan until ready to assemble the final plate.

Biggest Loser Stuffed Peppers

Each pepper feeds one to two people. The recipe below is for one pepper. Multiply as you need.

  • 1 green or red pepper, seeded and cut in half
  • 5 pieces of marinaded tempeh
  • 1 spoonful of marinara sauce
  • grated vegan cheese

In a small bowl, crumble the tempeh until the pieces are a bit smaller than bite size. Add the marinara sauce and mix.

tempeh + pepper halves

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spoon tempeh into each pepper, packing in as much as you can. Sprinkle with cheese to your liking. I use Follow Your Heart Vegan Mozzarella, and just grated a bit using a grater. I was really into Daiya for the first few months after it came out, but now I’m over it. I think it ruins every food it touches, no matter how well it melts. Teese is my favorite , but I can never find it out here. However, Follow Your Heart never lets me down.

Place peppers onto a cooking tray, place in oven, and cook for 35 minutes.

peppers, ready to be cooked


  • 1/3 cup of unsalted almonds (I used raw almonds)
  • 1 tbs sesame seeds, toasted or not
  • 1 tbs nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp dried lemon zest

In a food processor (clean coffee grinder works best here), grind up the almonds and sesame seeds until they’re a fine dust. There may be a few almond chunks that just won’t be ground, and it’s fine to just take those out.

Empty the almond/sesame dust into a small jar, or whatever other container you want to store it in. Add the nutritional yeast, salt, and zest, and stir. “Parmesan” can be stored an airtight container without refrigeration.

ready to be sprinkled

You can call this whatever you want: almesan, rawmesan, varmesan, or anything else. I prefer to just put it in quotes, so you can say it with some deception in your voice, and maybe even a wink.

All Together

Empty the sauce into the spaghetti saucepan. Serve the spaghetti on a plate, next to a pepper half or two. Sprinkle the “parmesan” all over your spaghetti. Enjoy!

Bonney Cookies/Baby Rusks

7 November, 2011

From what I’ve been told, which may or may not be true, rusks are a food associated with pirates. They store well, and don’t get offensive as they get stale, so they’re good for people on long boat trips. They’re also good for people on bike tour, which is when I’ve eaten them. One of my symptoms of pregnancy was craving to go on a bike tour. It was really inconvenient, since a baby isn’t even supposed to go on a bike until at least a year old. Before that, their neck isn’t strong enough to sustain any sudden impact, even from riding over a pot hole. Since we were due in August, I decided that, just to be sure, we would wait until the baby’s second Spring before we went on any long bike trip. I’m still really nervous about it, but Spring will be here in no time (please?). So I want to be ready no matter what we decide. I figure I’d start with making rusks.

This is my 1st attempt. I don’t think I made a proper rusk. They’re too cookie-like, and there are a lot of banana chunks, some of them on the top of the cookie. That just seems like that will get gross after a while, right?  But, I do think I came up with a healthful treat to keep in the diaper bag. And, it’s a good thing to do with mushy bananas. They’re definitely heavy with a banana taste. Personally, I resent bananas in my baked goods. I think it’s from the olden days when every vegan used bananas as an egg replacer. It was so annoying when I’d go to a potluck and see a delicious looking cake or chocolate chip cookie, and bite into them and taste nothing but bananas. Yuck! But I didn’t mind it so much here. And Ima and the baby loved them.

You can pick whatever oil you want here. I used grape seed oil, basically because it had the most health claims on the bottle. Coconut oil used to be my go-to oil. I liked that it was raw and made food moist. But, a really cool website that I love,, by Dr. Micheal Greger, says it’s bad for you. I reference this website for everything. I’ve joked with friends that I’ve had to edit myself throughout this project and delete “Dr. Greger says…” over and over, so I don’t seem like a front group. But since I’ve learned more about coconut oil, I’ve been moving away from using it. Anyway, this recipe makes about 20 small cookies, which means each cookie has about two grams of fat in it. So they’re a good strategy if you want to fatten up your baby more, like I always do.

  • 1 c quick oats
  • 1 cup quick oats flour (made by grinding a bit more than a cup of oats in a coffee grinder)
  • 2 over-ripe bananas
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 tbs oil of your choice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. In a small bowl, mix the oil, bananas, and vanilla. Mush the bananas up with a fork until there’s only a few lumps in the mixture. Add to dry ingredients and mix well.

rusk mush

rusk mush

Line a cookie tray with parchment paper.

Using a regular spoon, scoop the batter spoonful by spoonful onto the tray.

spoon-sized rusks

spoon-sized rusks

Place the tray in the oven and cook for 15 minutes.

Once cooled, the cookies can be placed in tupperware or a sandwich bag.



I started calling these cookies “Bonney Cookies” after Anne Bonney. She was one of the few women who were pirates and she was originally from Cork. I honestly don’t know much about her, but an old roommate of mine has her tattooed on his arm. I figured I’d just name them after her because I’m not that into pirates. I think their image is more romantic than deserved. A lot of them were misogynists and/or participated in the slave trade. A few pirate ships were slave ships whose captives rebelled, threw their kidnappers overboard, and took over the ship. That seems pretty cool, but it seems like other pirates weren’t all that cool. I know this is a surprisingly touchy subject. I’ve been in several heated arguments about pirates. They all start the same way. Someone says something like “People don’t really know the truth about pirates.” And I say, “I know, right?!” And then it’s soon revealed that they think pirates are cooler than people think, and I think they’re not as cool as people think. And everyone else quickly exits the room, knowing that a bizarre debate between two overly-invested parties is going to take up the rest of our night. Nevertheless, I think bonney cookies sounds cute, tastes nice, and makes a great snack for at least a bike trip to the park.

Samosa Spiced Homefries and Mango Chutney, Hot Sauce-Glazed Tempeh, and Thyme Roasted Asparagus

7 November, 2011

I put the side in this meal first in the title because I’m so proud of it. This is the first of my recipes posted here, and it’s one of my favorites. It’s good for brunch, but quick enough that you can cook it for dinner, too. The Mango Chutney is super easy. The tempeh is another marinade ahead recipe. And, the thyme roasted asparagus barely takes any effort and tastes better than steaming it. All together, the right-before-dinner prep and cook time can take a lot of effort. The day I made this, my partner was working at the pre-school cooperative our friends started all day, so I had to get creative keeping the baby entertained and still getting this fancy dinner that I really, really wanted on the table.

Luckily, while searching our kitchen boxes for ingredients, I found a stashed away spiced cranberry apple sauce from Nama Farm in Vermont. Last year, when our friends Nate and Ama from Nama Farm made this sauce, it was so good that I hid the last jar from myself and my roommates so we wouldn’t just eat all of it in one sitting. I put a bowl of it in front of the baby and got a good 30 minutes of prep time out of it. Thanks, Nama Farm!

Trust me, this is a smile.

Trust me, this is a smile.

Ok, so back to the dinner. The three things that can be done during nap time, or well ahead, are the mango chutney, the marinade for the tempeh, and slicing and cooking the potatoes. Both the chutney and tempeh are, obviously, Veganomicon.

The chutney takes about five minutes to cook, with 10 minutes of prep time. It’s inauthentic, but easy. Since it cooks so quickly, just focus on each prep-ahead recipe separately.

5 Minute Mango Chutney

  • 2 tsp peanut oil (or another oil if your there are any kids not on peanuts yet)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped (i used some unnamed pepper we had in the fridge)
  • 1 large mango, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces, a little under 2 cups of fruit (or unpeeled, whatever)
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar (or other vinegar)
  • 1/2 tsp asafetida* (or other Indian spice blend)

*This is a rare spice in this region, so I used garam masala, which made the chutney darker, like cinnamon apple sauce. It tasted great, but it wasn’t that pretty. If you want it to be prettier, try a lighter colored spice blend.

what kind of peppers are these?

what kind of peppers are these?

Preheat a small sauce pan over medium-low heat. Toss in the oil, garlic, ginger, and jalapeño. Sauté for about 1 minute.  Add the mango, sugar, and water. Turn heat up to medium, cover, and cook for 3 minutes, until it’s boiling. Add the vinegar and spice, and cook for another minute, uncovered. It needs to be chilled before you use it, so throw it in a jar and put it in the fridge if you have time, or the freezer if you don’t. If using the freezer, shake the jar every so often to allow it to cool evenly.

simmering chutney

simmering chutney

Samosa Spiced Homefries

The 1st conundrum I faced making this meal was which to start 1st, the homefries or the tempeh. I think the homefries are best to start 1st, because if you need to, you can just lower the heat and let it cook undisturbed for however long, letting it get nice and brown.

The 2nd conundrum I faced is that, as much as possible, we don’t let the baby eat spices grown in India. Cars are run on leaded gas in India, and the lead in the exhaust fumes can fall onto farmlands, contaminating the plants. You can read more about it here. There is no safe level of lead exposure for children. If you choose to limit exposure to Indian spices, as well, I’ve added a step to allow for that.

  • around eight medium sized yukon gold potatoes
  • 1 c of chopped fresh or frozen carrots
  • 1 c of fresh or frozen peas
  • 3 tbs olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 tbs curry powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp powdered ginger
  • 2 tbs lemon juice

Begin buy making your own bullion cube of sorts. Mix the curry powder, salt, and ginger in a small cup with the lemon juice. It will make a crumbly season mix. Set aside.

Wash your potatoes. Cut each one in half length wise. Take each half and slice the potatoes width-wise into small slivers. Through the potatoes into a sauce pan and cover with water. Cover, bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer for 15 minutes. Drain cooked potatoes and set aside. If you’re doing this step earlier in the day, place the cooled potatoes in an air-tight container and place in the fridge.

Pre-heat a cast iron pan over medium heat. The cast iron needs to be at least a medium sized pan, but a larger pan will help get the potatoes crispier. Place the potatoes in the pan in an even layer. Cover the potatoes in oil, and mix them around to coat them all. Let them cook undisturbed for about 10 minutes. At this point, you can begin the tempeh and pre-heat the oven for the asparagus.

homefries potato slivers

homefries potato slivers

Flip the potatoes using a spatula, trying your best to keep the potatoes together to slap right down in the same place. It’s really hard to cook homefries in a pan. The only way to get them all brown is to have one of those fancy stove tops in a diner. But they’ll get brown enough. Let the homefries cook for eight or so more minutes.

Add the carrots and the peas, and stir around the potatoes. let them cook another five minutes, making sure all the peas and carrots are are getting cooked.

At this point, if you don’t want any children to eat the curry powder, take out a serving for however many aren’t eating that, and set aside. You can sprinkle a bit of salt and pepper on it, and serve it to them that way.

With the rest of the potatoes, crumble in the bullion-type-thing over the potatoes. Stir until the spices are well incorporated. Remove from heat.

Hot Sauce-Glazed Tempeh

This isn’t heat-hot, but tasty hot. My baby loves hot sauce, and eats this without a problem. If you’re cooking for kids who don’t like spicy flavors as much, try marinating their pieces for just 20 minutes, and cooking them first without adding marinade as it cooks. The 1st time I tried this, I used Siracaha. When I put the tempeh over heat, I ended up pepper spraying the whole house. It was awful. No one could breath. My roommate was hosting a meeting, and they had to leave. We put towels down at the crack under the door to our bedroom, where the baby was sleeping. I crossed my fingers that he wouldn’t wake up, because I didn’t want to open the door and let the pepper spray into the room. We opened all the windows and brought the baby monitor out to the porch while we waited for the air to clear. So, stick with hot sauces like Frank’s or Texas Pete’s. Maybe that was obvious to you, though, and you would never use 1/4 cup of Siracha in anything.

(The steps are similar to the ones for the smokey tempeh in the last post, so I’m going to save time and paste the cutting directions here.)

First, begin to boil water in a medium sauce pan. Next, you’re going to cut the tempeh. Like tofu, I like my tempeh cut smaller than usually recommended. First, cut the tempeh width wise. That will give you two almost-squares. Take those pieces and cut an X from corner to corner, making eight triangles all together. Lay each triangle on its base, standing up, and cut it in half so that there are two thin, identical pieces. This part may be confusing to read, so let me bring in some geometry. You want to cut the eight pieces so they stay the same shape, whether they look acute or equilateral. You do not want to cut them so they are right triangles. The goal is to make the tempeh thinner, while keeping the same amount of surface space. Once the water is brought to a boil, add the tempeh, cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Again, the marinade below is for each package of tempeh, and each package serves two adults fine. Tempeh holds up well in marinade, so make as much as you want and you can use any uncooked tempeh later on.

  • 1/2 vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup hot sauce
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (juice from 1 lemon)
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Mix all the ingredients together in a shallow container of an appropriate size for the amount of tempeh. Place the pieces of tempeh in the container, marinading for at least one hour, flipping half way through.

(Same directions as Smokey Tempeh. )When ready to cook, pre-heat a medium cast iron, or bigger, on medium heat, and add about a tbs of olive oil. Place the tempeh in an even layer in the pan, add enough marinade to cover the pan. Let fry undisturbed for about 5 minutes, then flip and cook for another 5 minutes, adding more marinade each time you flip. If you need to, flip again and cook each side for a few more minutes until the tempeh is darker, even charred if you want. If you have more tempeh to cook than fits in the pan, repeat the process until all you tempeh is cooked. Keep cooked tempeh warm in a covered dish with the lid off a bit, to allow the steam to escape and prevent the tempeh from getting soggy.

Thyme Roasted Asparagus

  • asparagus
  • olive oil
  • thyme
  • salt

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Consider how many stalks of asparagus each person will eat, because the asparagus doesn’t store well. However many stalks you’ve decided on, chop off the ends. Place in a baking pan and drizzle with olive oil. Throw in a big pinch of thyme and a little pinch of salt, and mix around with your hands. Bake for 15 minutes.

finished product

finished product

My baby absolutely loved it! He gobbled up the tempeh. He really likes hot sauce. Sometimes he motions for us to put hot sauce on his burrito when we’re putting hot sauce on ours. And he eats it without blinking. So this was the perfect meal for him. He loved the asparagus, too. And, as long as he didn’t get a pea in his mouth, he loved the potatoes and carrots.



"This is awesome!"

"This is awesome!"

The adults liked the meal, too. A lot! Hot sauce-glazed tempeh is one of my favorite things to eat. We had leftover marinading tempeh, which I cooked up for lunch the next day. I toasted some Follow Your Heart vegan mozzerala on bread and made a cheesey tempeh chutney sandwich, which was also amazing. I think I’m going to make this at least three times a month.

Smokey Tempeh with Sauteed Spinach and Tomatoes

5 November, 2011

I’m not a big spinach person, but my partner is. I made the spinach side dish as a favor, basically. But, amazingly, I really liked it. So did Ima, Yaya, and Beppo. The baby ate it, but we ended up having dinner too late at night, so mostly he fed his food to the dogs. But it was delicious food fed to the dogs.

Since I was already running late for dinner, I was a little short sighted about putting a grain in the meal. Tempeh can be both a protein and a grain, if it’s the kind made with wild rice. This was just the kind made of soy beans, though. In a desperate move, I reheated some old white rice. I know, that’s an epic nutrition fail. But, if you have more foresight and aren’t running way behind, you could easily replace the white rice with brown or wild rice and it would taste so, so much better and be even better for you.

These recipes are from Veganomicon, again. Why, yes, I am obsessed with this cookbook, but also, all my other cookbooks are in boxes in the garage eagerly waiting to move into our new apartment. Luckily, this book is huge and I could probably live off this book and this book alone.

The smokey tempeh is another easy, marinate ahead recipe. There are a few ingredients in the marinade, so go ahead and marinate more than you need, and use the rest for lunch the next day. And tempeh holds up in marinade much better than tofu, so this can be started during the weekend to be cooked later in the week.

First, begin to boil water in a medium sauce pan. Next, you’re going to cut the tempeh. Like tofu, I like my tempeh cut smaller than usually recommended. First, cut the tempeh width wise. That will give you two almost-squares. Take those pieces and cut an X from corner to corner, making eight triangles all together. Lay each triangle on its base, standing up, and cut it in half so that there are two thin, identical pieces. This part may be confusing to read, so let me bring in some geometry. You want to cut the eight pieces so they stay the same shape, whether they look acute or equilateral. You do not want to cut them so they are right triangles. The goal is to make the tempeh thinner, while keeping the same amount of surface space. Once the water is brought to a boil, add the tempeh, cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.

The amount of ingredients below is for each 8 oz package of tempeh you plan to marinade. Each package serves two people, with possibly a bit left over, or two people and a kid perfectly. So for the two of us, the grandparents, and the baby, I used two tempeh packages and doubled the marinade.

Smokey Tempeh Marinade

  • 3/4 c vegetable broth
  • 2 tbs soy sauce
  • 2 tbs apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbs liquid smoke
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 2 tsp pure maple syrup
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed

Mix all of the marinade ingredients into a shallow container. Add the tempeh in even layers to the marinade. Marinade for at least one hour, and flip the tempeh at least once.

marinading tempeh

marinading tempeh

When ready to cook, pre-heat a medium cast iron, or bigger, on medium heat, and add about a tbs of olive oil. Place the tempeh in an even layer in the pan, add enough marinade to cover the pan. Let fry undisturbed for about 5 minutes, then flip and cook for another 5 minutes, adding more marinade each time you flip. If you need to, flip again and cook each side for a few more minutes until the tempeh is darker, even charred if you want. If you have more tempeh to cook than fits in the pan, repeat the process until all you tempeh is cooked. Keep cooked tempeh warm in a covered dish with the lid off a bit, to allow the steam to escape and prevent the tempeh from getting soggy.

pan frying tempeh

pan frying tempeh

While the tempeh is cooking, prepare your spinach side dish.

Sauteed Spinach and Tomatoes

serves four

  • 1 bag of spinach
  • 2 tbs peanut oil (you can substitute another oil if you’re baby’s not on peanuts, like olive oil)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced (or thinly sliced if you want it to be extra pretty)
  • 2 tsp fresh grated ginger (powdered ginger is all right if that’s all you have)
  • 1/2 tsp of salt, or more to taste
  • 2 Plum tomatoes, seeded and cut into 1/2 in dice*
  • juice of 1/2 of a lemon

*I used cherry tomatoes, because they’re tasty, easier for the baby to eat, and make less of a mess when cut.

cheating tomatoes

cheating tomatoes

Wash the spinach thoroughly, and cut off the stems if you feel like it (I never do). The spinach and tempeh will be cooked simultaneously, so make sure you have the tomatoes cut, the garlic sliced, and the spinach ready to go before you start the tempeh, and vice versa.

Right after you layer your cast iron with tempeh, pre-heat your other pan over medium-high heat. Add the oil, ginger, and garlic, and saute for a quick minute. Add the tomatoes and saute for another two minutes. Add the spinach and cook until it’s wilted. You can splash a little bit of water, as needed, to help the spinach cook and prevent burning.  Sprinkle with lemon juice, and serve.

simmering spinach

simmering spinach

The flavors go really well together. The spinach has an acidic/citrus taste from the  tomatoes and lemon, that highlights the tempeh’s smokiness.

Smokey Tempeh with Sauteed Spinach and Tomatoes

Smokey Tempeh with Sauteed Spinach and Tomatoes

Everyone at the table was pretty pleased with the meal, as long as it wasn’t past their bed time. The baby was in a bad mood, and ended up throwing all his food on the floor to feed the dogs.

cranky pants

cranky pants

We got him to eat a few bites of spinach before he decided he was going to go lay in the dog bed next to the table. And I could still eat while he laid next to the dog, so whatever.



The rice stuck to his sock and the serving spoon should be noted.

I can’t wait to make this tempeh again. Any excuse to use liquid smoke works for me. I’ll just get it on the table earlier.

Baked Italian Tofu with Tri-Color Shells and Roasted Red Peppers

4 November, 2011

This meal is ridiculously easy. You can marinade the tofu during nap time, and that’s basically the most work that goes into this meal. But it still tastes so fancy!

All you’ll need is some vegan butter, like Earth Balance, tri-colored pasta shells, a block of tofu, the marinade below, and easy roasted red peppers.

Don’t be intimidated by homemade roasted red peppers, like I once was. It’s really just three steps. And they can be made ahead as much as 10 days.

Easy Roasted Red Peppers

  • however many red peppers you want
  •  that same amount in garlic cloves
  • olive oil

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Place the peppers on a cookie try lined with parchment paper. Let them cook until blackened on one side, turn and blacken the other side. Once they’re roasted, place them in a paper bag to cool. This makes it easier to peel off the skin, which you should do once they’re cooled. Don’t run them under water, or you’ll lose the smokey taste. While the peppers are cooling, peel and slice the garlic into thin slices. Once cooled, slice the peppers into manageable pieces. Place the garlic and pepper in whatever storage container you find appropriate, as long as it seals tightly.Cover with olive oil and refrigerate.

Once you’re ready to use them for this recipe, simply chop up however much you want to use, and set aside.

I really liked making my own roasted red peppers because I had such bad experiences with the store bought kind. We’d buy the fancy organic roasted red peppers to put on our hummus if we were having a party or something. Then we’d go to use the rest of it it a few days later, and it would be moldy. It was really sad how much money was wasted.Now I know how silly it was for us to buy roasted red peppers when making them is so easy.
Next, assemble the marinade using the recipe from Veganomicon below for each block of tofu you’re baking. Meaning, double it for two blocks, triple it for three, and so forth. We used one block for two adults and one tofu loving baby. If there’s any tofu left over, you can put it in the fridge for sandwiches tomorrow.

Italian Tofu Marinade

  • 1/2 c cooking wine*
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 2 tbs balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbs Bragg’s or tamari (or soy sauce)
  • 2 tbs fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • a big pinch of dried basil
  • a big pinch of dried marjoram (I’m always out of marjoram, so I used oregano)
  • a big pinch of thyme

*I always replace any wine vinegar with broth or another type of vinegar, depending on what I think fits best, because I don’t drink any alcohol. Even if it burns off in cooking, I’d just rather replace it. I’ve never really noticed a difference.

I like to cut my tofu block into 12 pieces. Eight pieces is the usual recommendation, but I think the thinner the piece the better the texture. To do that,  cut the tofu in half once widthwise, then cut those two pieces in half. With the four pieces you have, divide each of those into three slices, and you have 12 super easy slices of tofu.

Allow the tofu to marinade for at least one hour, flipping every half hour or so. Since I prep during nap time, my tofu usually marinades at least 4 hours, and I flip once around two hours. This time around, I tried to marinade this recipe a day or two ahead, and some of the tofu fell apart in a soggy mess, so stick to just an afternoon.

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Lay out the tofu on a cookie tray covered with parchment paper, and bake for 20 minutes, flip over, and bake for 10 minutes.

tofu ready to be baked

tofu ready to be baked

Save the marinade, and begin the shells and sauce. In a medium sauce pan, bring enough water to a boil for the amount of noodles you plan to use. I’m the worst at judging how much pasta to cook, but the formula I’ve used most lately is a heaping handful/a little more than a cup for each person. Once the water has boiled, toss in the noodles, cover, reduce heat, and cook.



While the noodles and tofu are cooking, begin the sauce. Since the marinade is already prepared, you only have to add butter. Because the recipe is flexible, you have to estimate the proportion of butter and marinade in the sauce that you think tastes best. The basis of the sauce just buttering up the marinade, but still mostly marinade. In a small sauce pan, add all the marinade and simmer over a low heat. Once it’s simmering, add your butter chunk by chunk, for lack of a better measurement, taste testing cooled off spoon-fulls as you go. It takes a bit of butter, so don’t worry if you feel like you’re going to ruin it from adding too much.



Once everything is done cooking, pour the sauce over the noodles and mix well. Toss in the red peppers. Place pieces of tofu right on top of the noodles, and serve.

tofu + shells united

tofu + shells united

This meal looks a little light on the veggies, but there are veggies hidden in the noodles! It’s not exactly the same as vegetable side dishes, but the easy clean up makes up for it. All you have to do is throw away the parchment paper and clean your two sauce pans and marinade dish. And it can be put on the table in no time. So, I consider it a success.

Freeze Ahead Chickpea Cutlets

28 October, 2011

Tonight, I learned something amazing! The delicious chickpea cutlets, one of my favorite recipes from Veganomicon and Vegan with a Vengeance, can be frozen! And they taste exactly the same! This is going to save me so much time! So many exclamation points!

Last week, we got back from a grueling 18 day tour with the great Anne Feeney. We flew out to St. Paul, drove to Spokane and back, flew to Pittsburgh, drove to DC, then took a train home to Boston. Coast to coast with a 13 month old should probably take a lot longer than 18 days, even with planes.  And two days later, my partner went back out on the road for a 6 days to play more shows. So, it’s just baby + me until Monday.

The night before we left for tour, I tripled the recipe for chickpea cutlets, aka punk rock chickpea cutlets, depending on which of the books you consult. I love these cutlets.  They’re not too complicated, but there are quite a few ingredients. For me, that means more prep time and more clean-up time. But it’s the same amount of prep and clean-up time for any amount of cutlets, so I decided to make a bunch and see if they freeze well. 25 days later, I discovered that they do!

To do the same, follow the recipe below, multiplying the ingredient amounts for however many servings you want to make. To store the leftover uncooked patties, lay out a square of wax paper or parchment paper that’s a similar size to a large freezer bag. Place a layer of patties on the paper, cover with another square of paper, layer with patties, and repeat until all patties are laid out. Three layers of patties, about a dozen, fit into one quart freezer bag. Label the bag and place in freezer.

frozen cutlets, complete with a protective layer of ice.

frozen cutlets, complete with a protective layer of ice.

Once you’re ready to cook the cutlets, pull them out of the freezer bag and onto a plate to defrost for an hour. I chose to pan fry them, so the oil would add more fat for the baby. I wouldn’t mind losing the rest of my baby weight, but as long as I’m sharing most of my food with a growing toddler, that’s not going to happen. But, if you want to bake them, the patties will have less fat and a chewier texture.

1 cup cooked chickpeas
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup vital wheat gluten
1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs (panko)
1/4 cup vegetable broth or water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, pressed or grated with a Microplane grater
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon Hungarian paprika
1/4 teaspoon dried rubbed sage
Olive oil for pan frying

Smash the chickpeas and olive oil with a fork or a potato masher (but only one of the mashers that are a circle with holes in it because those wavy ones will just frustrate you), until most of the chickpeas are smashed. Then simply add all the other ingredients and mix well. Divide the mixture into golf ball-sized pieces, then flatten with your palms.

To pan fry, heat a table spoon or so of oil in a heavy skillet over low-medium heat. Cook each side of the patties for 6-8 minutes until browned, adding more oil as you need. If you want to bake them instead, place the cutlets on a lightly oiled cookie sheet or skillet, and bake for 20 minutes at 375 degrees.

cutlets on the skillet

cutlets on the skillet

In Vegan with a Vengeance, the patties are paired with a delicious mustard sauce. We served these patties last Easter and the mustard sauce was a hit. However, it’s another recipe with a bunch of ingredients, and I thought the taste might have been too strong for the baby. So I whipped up the quick Veganomicon  Maple Mustard Dressing. I figured it was a nod to the mustard sauce, but with less ingredients and more baby friendly. Turns out, it’s absolutely delicious, and worked well as a quick substitute. Just mix together the following ingredients, and if there is left over dressing, it stores well in an air tight container.

3 tbsp pure maple syrup
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp dijon or whole grain mustard
3 tbsp grapeseed or nut oil
1/2 tsp mustard powder
salt and freshly ground black pepper
mmmmmaple mustard dressing

mmmmmaple mustard dressing

I tend to pair these cutlets with a starch, like rice or potatoes. I mean, c’mon, we have to use a knife to eat these! How often does that happen? So, I like to make them part of a comfort food theme. I’m sure broccoli, or asparagus, or baby bok choy, or other vegetables with color, would pair well, too. But that wasn’t the direction I was going in. I planned to just reheat some mashed potatoes and gravy that we made at the beginning of the week. But it seems that I imagined those leftovers.

I had to think quickly. The cutlets were almost done, and I had to keep running down the hall to keep the baby from waking up his over-worked Yaya. You may notice there’s a very nice kitchen in the background of these pictures. Well, it’s not ours. We’re kind of between homes right now, and staying with my partner’s parents. So I boiled some water, peeled and chopped a sweet potato, and threw it in, never turning down the heat. Luckily, the sweet potato cooked pretty quickly. I threw in some Earth Balance soy butter, a tiny bit of salt (so I could add more to mine later), and pumpkin spice to taste. Phew! It was done just in time, and the baby never successfully completed his mission to wake up Yaya. And, I got the same comforting mashed potato effect, but with a more nutritious sweet potato. Bonus!

All together, the meal was on the table in 20 minutes, minus the hour of defrosting. And it was delicious! The baby loved the cutlets, cut up extra small since they’re so chewy. He kept making “yum,” and “mmmm” sounds, along with empathic head nods every time he dipped a piece into the maple mustard dressing. He was less excited about the mashed sweet potato, but I knew he wouldn’t like that as much. He always seems insulted when I make food that has a similar consistency to baby food. So he ate the entire cutlet, and used the sweet potato to paint the table. Either way, he stayed sitting at the table long enough for me to actually eat dinner.



making fun of myself

making fun of myself

The frozen chickpea cutlet was a really exciting discovery. I’m going to keep my freezer stalked with these. They’re a healthier and cheaper alternative to other frozen mock meats. A friend of mine likes to remind me that foods made in factories can have unlisted ingredients, such as mouse droppings and insect parts. I’m sure you’ve heard that, too. Unless you’re one of the lucky people who has never heard “Hey, you know there’s a certain amount of bug legs allowed in peanut butter?” as you’re eating your pb+j lunch. If so, I’m sorry. As someone who eats most of her daytime meals in pre-packaged bar form, I have to shove this out of my mind often. So these cutlets ease my mind, because I know the ingredients are high quality, preservative free, and that the hair in it is mine, so it’s not a big deal if the baby eats it.


UPDATE: This afternoon, I planned to finish off the rest of our 1st frozen chickpea cutlet batch. But, it completely slipped my mind to defrost them. So when the time came to cook them up, I decided to experiment with just pan frying them while frozen, like a store bought patty. It was totally fine. So, if you don’t feel like defrosting them, just go ahead and drop them in the pan while frozen!