Posts Tagged ‘vegan lunch’
My Magnum Opus

It’s been a little hard to keep up on the blog posts lately. For the record, most days I eat a lot of whole grains and vegetables. My favorite meal lately consists of steaming some rice and then when it’s almost done, adding vegetable potstickers and vegetables to the steaming rack of the rice cooker. It makes a delicious little bowl. Why do I feel the need to mention this? Well, it’s about to get very ugly around here, and I don’t want everyone to think that I eat this way all the time. I’m talking about my recipe for grilled “cheese”.  I ALMOST entered the grilled cheese invitational this year, and rather liked the idea of showing up with daiya at a grilled cheese competition. It was audacious and irreverent, and I like that. My grilled cheese recipe got me through a lot of rough nights in college, when you just needed something greasy and delicious so you could go back to studying. This sandwich is only possible because daiya is so amazing. I don’t think it would work with any of the lesser vegan cheeses (sorry Follow Your Heart, but you just don’t melt and pull in the same way).

Step 1: Ingredients

Obviously, you want to use Earth Balance instead of butter and daiya instead of dairy cheese. I went with the cheddar daiya, mostly because we ended up with a ton of it in our freezer, and I don’t use the cheddar that much. For my bread, I thought long and hard about what I wanted to use. I decided that I would go with white bread, because at this point why even pretend to be healthy about it? After perusing the bread selection at the co-op, I decided on this savory rosemary and olive oil bread by la brea bakery. If you cant get pre-siced bread, then you need to be really careful about slicing it to no more than 1/2″ an inch. Any more than that and the bread will overcook on the outside before the cheese can melt.

Step 2: The Spread

Pre-heat a pan or griddle to medium-low heat while you spread a generous layer of earth balance on each slice of bread. I let the earth balance reach room temperature first, because the last thing you want is to tear your bread. Make sure that you get spread all the way to the crust, because otherwise you’re just coming off as stingy.

Step 3: The Grill

Lay your bread, earth balance side down, on the griddle. Sprinkle a layer of daiya over the bread. I was intentionally a little stingy with the daiya, just because I didn’t want it to overpower the sandwich. Also, I’ve found that daiya is so rich that I need far less daiya than I would regular cheese. Cover the sandwich with a lid to trap the heat in. Now, you settle in to the long haul. The key is to cook your sandwich low and slow, and it’s not unusual for me to spend at least 5 minutes on a site. When the cheese starts to melt, you can check the bottom of the bread. When it is really golden brown, place the second piece of bread on top and flip. Cook for another 4-5 minutes or until both sides look like this:

Grilled Portobello Sandwich

It’s only about once in a blue moon that I put together a sandwich. I never liked them much growing up, and often limited myself to peanut butter and jelly. In my adult life, I do from time to time enjoy a sandwich, with the following constraints.

Bread: The foundation of any good sandwich will be the bread. I try to stick to artisan bread (for this sandwich I used a rustic olive batard), and I always toast it before assembling. Even if I plan on eating my sandwich cold or at room temperature, I find this step is crucial to protect the crispness of the bread.

Spread: As you know, I am a conscientious objector to mayonnaise. As such, I find it helpful to use my oil-free pesto as a replacement. I have also been known to smash up an artichoke. The spread is important because it helps keep the bread from getting soggy, and once you’ve gone through all the trouble of toasting it, wouldn’t it be a shame to throw that all away?

Size: If you are used to a subway sandwich, you are completely off. 5 inches of bread, max.

Topping Ratio: Never make a sandwich so big that it doesn’t fit in your mouth. If you need to, you can hollow out the bread a little bit and fill it with your sandwich core.

Crab Cakes, Wut?

There are two things that I never say. First, I’ve never said I was a nice person. This gives me free reign to be mean when I have to and not be apologetic about it.The second is that I’ve never said I was a good cook. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy cooking and am always on the lookout for new things to try. Since going vegan, cooking has become one of my main hobbies and something that I enjoy doing with others as well. However, like yoga, soccer, and gymnastics, just because I enjoy doing something does not mean I am good at it.
Case in point. I had a real desire to make my own falafel. The Hungry Pocket, a falafel restaurant/juice bar in Santa Monica, has really amazing falafel. My co-workers grilled the owner about it and came back and reported that the falafel was indeed vegan, so I went down to try it out with them. They were delicious, that is for sure. On the other hand, I knew deep down that I was pigging out on a deep-fried ball of chickpeas. Since I am working on being more aware of fat in my diet, I wondered if I could make my own falafel in the oven, with just a little bit of oil brushed on top.
At any given time, I have about 3 or 4 different culinary schemes brewing in my head, just waiting for the perfect excuse to execute them. I decided to try out my falafel recipe for a picnic. I stuffed them in pita bread with lettuce, roasted tomatoes, and tahini.The idea was great, but the falafel was a little off. I tried a root-cause analysis, but wasn’t able to put my finger on it. Luckily, Short Round (the sidekick to my culinary Indiana Jones) was able to put his finger on it. The cumin in the falafel made it taste more like Old Bay seasoning, therefore giving the entire thing the flavor of a crab cake.
So I am pleased to present my readers with my completely original, absolutely accidental recipe for vegan crab cakes.
Accidental Crab Cakes

  • 1 can chickpeas (a.k.a. garbanzo beans)
  • 1/4 a white onion, quartered
  • 2 cloves garlic, cut in half
  • 3 TBSP. parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 TBSP. salt
  • 2 TBSP. corn starch
  1. Drain the chickpeas and pour them into a food processor. Pulse for a few seconds until they start to break down. 
  2. Remove half of the mixture and place it in a medium sized bowl. Add the onion and garlic to the food processor and pulse until smooth. Mix this into the rest of the chickpeas.
  3. Stir in parsley, cumin, salt, and corn starch. If the mixture is too dry, you can add vegetable broth, one tablespoon at a time. 
  4. Refrigerate the dough for about an hour.
  5. Remove dough from the freezer and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Pre-heat the oven to 375.
  6. Form the dough into balls (about the size of a golf ball) and place on the parchment. They will flatten a little bit, but this is the price you pay for better skin and smaller jeans.
  7. Brush the top very lightly with extra virgin olive oil and bake for 7 minutes. 
  8. Flip the falafel and brush the other side with oil. Bake for an additional 7 minutes or until golden brown.
Hell Freezes Over

One of my many quirks is an intense aversion to mayonnaise. I’ve never liked the stuff and I can’t eat  anything that I know contains mayonnaise. This distaste has carried over to veganaise as well. I don’t even know whay mayonnaise tastes like, because I’ve never been able to stomach the site of it, let alone put it to my lips. On the one hand, this is probably not a bad thing, because who wants to eat something that so closely resembles cellulite? On the other hand, my issue with this particular spread (plus my dislike of mustard and my refusal to eat lunch meat, even vegan lunch meat) has long kept me from entering into the world of sandwiches. I’ve never gotten behind them, which can make packing lunch for work a little bit more difficult than it has to be. I was screwing around the Apple store a few weekends ago, waiting for my new bff Collin to activate my new i-phone, and started playing with the Whole Foods application on a demo phone. I will say it was pretty cool, but it also had a great recipe for a vegan muffaletta sandwich. I didn’t bother to write down the recipe or anything, but the idea of a sandwich with mushrooms and roasted red peppers haunted my thoughts all day. So, I gave in to the dark side and made a sandwich. After learning that my vegan jambalaya was a bastardization of all things cajun, I abandoned the idea of even calling my version of the sandwich a muffaletta, but it was very much inspired by the idea of one.
Roasted Red Pepper Sandwich

  • 2 pieces of sourdough bread
  • 1 artichoke heart
  • 1 roasted red pepper
  • 4 white mushrooms,
  • 1/2 a clove of garlic
  • handful of lettuce

1. Slice your mushroom and mince the garlic while heating a pan over medium high. Spray with cooking spray and add the garlic, sauteing for 1 minute.  Add the mushrooms and cook for an additional 4 minutes. You can also add the red pepper to heat it if you plan on serving the sandwich hot.
2. Lightly toast 2 pieces of sourdough bread. While the mushrooms are cooking, cut the artichoke heart in half and smash it into your toast with the back of a spoon. This is your veganaise substitute, and it is MUCH better.
3. Layer a few pieces of lettuce on top of the artichoke, and spoon the mushrooms and garlic over it. Add the red pepper and you are in business.

Dancing Queen

Follow me here: Abba Reference -> Mamma Mia Reference -> Greek Recipe
Gyros are something that I never liked as a non-vegan. I had never even tried one, so it was puzzling when I found myself craving them a few weeks ago. I’ve also been making it a point to expand my main dish repertoire. Sure, I give good breakfast, but a girl has to diversify. Also, I’ve been bringing my lunch to work every day, so I’m always looking for something that I can bring in and assemble quickly. I suppose you could assemble these at home without the soy-yogurt sauce, but even then I would worry about my pita getting soggy. As it was, I toasted the pita lightly and packed everything separately. The picture to the right is from when I made them at home for dinner. I don’t want anyone accusing me of doctoring blog photos.
Originally I wanted to use seitan for this recipe, but Trader Joes was fresh out and I did not feel like making a trip to Whole Foods, so I ended up with beef strips. After relaying the recipe to a friend, I was informed that TJ’s beef strips are actually Morning Star beef strips. Morning Star discontinued them, but Trader Joe’s sells them under different packaging. It’s funny to me how elusive some vegan food can be. These beef strips are shrouded in mystery. It really goes to show how far we vegans are willing to go in pursuit of a good meal.

Tzatsiki Sauce
    1 cup soy yogurt (plain)
    1 clove garlic or 1 teaspoon pre-crushe’d garlic
    1 fresh lemon
    1 cucumber small sized
    salt and pepper to taste

In a food processor, pule the garlic, cucumber, and soy yogurt until smooth. Stir in the lemon and salt and pepper. You can optionally add chives


  • 1 package Trader Joe’s “beef” strips
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of minced garlic
  • one bunch of fresh rosemary
  • salt and pepper

Saute the garlic and onion over medium high heat for 1 minute. Add pre-cooked  beef and cook for 5-7 minutes or until heated through.
Stuff half a pita with some of the meat mixture, lettuce, tomatoes, red onions, and Tzatsiki.

Black Bean Burgers
Every vegan loves a good veggie burger, right? Wrong! Most veggie burgers have eggs or cheese hidden in them and are not, in fact, vegan. Most vegan burgers are soy patties made from imitation meat. So what do you do when all you want is to sink your teeth into a delicious veggie burger, but still want to maintain the purity of your temple? Simple, you take matters into your own hands. I love black beans and I love veggie burgers, so it made a lot of sense to combine the two into an absolutely delicious fiber-rich dinner. I served my veggie burgers with daiya cheese, sauteed mushrooms, and lettuce on an english muffin. You could also just serve them over some brown rice or quinoa.

A quick note: Check your breadcrumbs! I used panko because they are the most reliably vegan.

Black Bean Veggie Burgers
  • 1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1.5 tsp. of egg replacer mixed with 2 TBSP. water
  • 1/4 c. panko bread crumbs
  • quarter of a red pepper, diced
  • 2 tbsp. finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 tsp. red chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • salt and pepper
  1. Mash 3/4 of the beans with the ener-g until it forms a thick paste.
  2. Add vegetables, spices, and bread crumbs and mix well.
  3. Take 1/4 of the mixture and form it into a thick patty in the palm of your hand, you will flatten it after you put it into the pan.
  4. Repeat with the rest of the mixture.
  5. Heat a non-stick pan over medium-high and spray with nonstick cooking spray
  6. Place the burgers into the pan, pressing down with the back of a spatula until they are about 1/2″ thick. Make sure that there is plenty of room in between the burgers, and that their edges don’t touch. This will get them nice and crispy.
  7. Cook for about 4 minutes, or until you get a nice crust on one side, and flip, cooking for an additional 4 minutes.
  8. Serve on english muffins, hamburger buns, over rice, and with any condiments that you desire.
yields 4 burgers at 110 calories each
Easy Daiya "Quesa"dilla

The quotation marks are to appease a certain smart-ass coworker of mine who claims that the word vegan quesadilla is an oxymoron.
By now it’s no surprise that I am a big advocate of Daiya cheese. This tapioca-based wonder tastes so good, that I would choose it over regular cheese any day. Lately, I’ve been experimenting a lot with Mexican Food, which is weird because I never used to really care for it. Vegan mexican food is like the holy grail, because most Mexican restaurants are not very vegan friendly. Pure Luck in East Hollywood has a to-die-for burrito, but I have yet to find a vegan quesadilla anywhere but in my very own kitchen. I punch up this quesadilla with sauteed mushrooms, roasted corn, and some garlic salsa. It’s very, very easy to make and a great pack-ahead lunch for work.

2 corn tortillas
1 oz. vegan cheddar cheese (I like daiya because it’s pre-shredded)
3 medium sized mushrooms
1/4 c. frozen corn
1 Tbsp. of your favorite salsa

Spray a nonstick pan with cooking spray and place the first quesadilla inside. Layer half the cheese, vegetables, salsa, and then the rest of the cheese. Place the second quesadilla on top and press down gently.
Cook 2-3 minutes each side over medium heat, or until cheese is melted.