The Plant-Based Meal Builder

Whether for my clients or for my family, I hear the same question almost every day: “What’s for dinner?”

A plant-based diet offers so many choices and  possible combinations, answering this query can leave my head spinning. So, I’ve come up with a method for putting together delicious,  creative, nutritionally balanced vegan meals with enough variety to please everyone!

I think of the meal as a construction project and I visualize it from the ground up. Consulting my menu builder blueprint, I start with the foundation.

  1. The base. I like to include grains, pasta, potatoes, steamed greens, raw or roasted veggies in this group.
  1. The protein. I choose a hearty bean or pulse, a soy product such as edamame, tofu or tempeh; seitan (a product made from wheat gluten) or a pea protein-based meat analog such as Gardein.

Grilled Sesame Tofu with Forbidden Rice and Grilled Baby Bok Choy https://veganflavorista.org/2016/09/22/meaty-grilled-tofu/

  1. The sauce. This category can make the difference between a boring meal and an amazing one. This component should not be overlooked. Here is where the real creativity happens. I decide whether  I want a light or hearty sauce, whether I am looking for spicy, sweet, savory and/or zesty flavors. The variety is endless.

Broccoli Stuffed Potato with Cheesy Sauce and Greek Chopped Salad https://veganflavorista.org/2014/05/22/ultimate-cheezy-sauce/

 

4.  The veggies. This category speaks for itself and basically I choose those that go best with the sauce and flavors I am introducing (example: for an Italian-inspired dish I would choose mushrooms, onion, peppers, tomatoes).

Pasta Primavera

https://veganflavorista.org/2012/09/20/pasta-primavera/

This structure serves as a guideline-a jumping off point for inspiration to create recipe variations as limitless as the imagination!

In upcoming posts, I will share my tried and true components and techniques for creating the meals  I serve to my clients and my family throughout the week.

Stay tuned!

 

 

Portobello Mushroom Stroganoff

IMG_1034

Another super simple recipe! This one comes from one of my favorite blogs, Vegan Monologue. I’ve made this recipe for my family, not all of whom are vegan and I’ve made it for  newly transitioned clients. It’s unanimous–they all love it!

Big chunks of earthy portobello mushrooms and onions in a savory, creamy gravy that tastes almost identical to its traditional counterpart.

Check out the recipe and this exceptional blog here

Tofu Vindaloo

This is a spicy Indian dish I decided to prepare without any added oil. It turned out  tasty and well balanced, served with a fluffy timbale of fragrant jasmine rice.

Tofu Vindaloo

Recipe adapted from the cookbook,

“Vegan Planet” by Robin Robertson

3 garlic cloves, peeled

1/1/2 tablespoons peeled and chopped fresh ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

1/2 teaspoon cayenne

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

3 tablespoons water

One 16 oz. pkg. extra-firm tofu, drained and diced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 large yellow onion, chopped

1/2 large carrot, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4 inch-thick half-moons

1 small red bell pepper, seeded and diced

One 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes, undrained

1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed

1 cup water, or more as needed

Method:

In a blender or food processor, combine the garlic, ginger and spices with 1 tablespoon of water. Process until smooth and set aside. Very lightly spray a non-stick skillet with cooking spray and heat to medium high. Add the diced tofu and sear until nicely browned. This may take up to 10 minutes. Move the tofu around carefully to brown evenly. Remove tofu from skillet and set aside. Season with salt and pepper.  Add 2 tablespoons water to the pan and heat until bubbly. Add onions and carrot, cover, and cook until softened. About 5 minutes. Add red pepper, cover, and cook until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Add the spice paste and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes and juice and 1 cup water and bring to boil.

Reduce the heat to low and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Cover and simmer until vegetables are tender. Add the peas and tofu and heat through. This sauce may be served chunky or smooth. If you prefer a smooth sauce, use an immersion blender before adding the peas and tofu.

Tempeh Picatta

Tempeh Picatta

Tangy lemon and capers in a savory butter garlic sauce over pan-seared tempeh. A very easy, enlightened version of the restaurant classic!

Tempeh has been a staple in Indonesia for over 2000 years. It is a highly nutritious fermented food traditionally made from soybeans and its high protein content makes it a wonderful substitute for meat. It is found next to the tofu in the grocery store. I like to use it in recipes that call for a “meatier” texture like for loaves and faux meatballs.

This recipe makes plenty of sauce, so it goes great with pasta or rice on the side.

Tempeh Picatta

from “Chloe’s Kitchen” by Chloe Coscarelli

1 8-ounce package tempeh, thinly sliced

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 cup vegetable broth

1 tablespoon cornstarch

2 tablespoons water

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons vegan margarine

2 tablespoons drained capers

2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley

*In a large pot, place the tempeh in a steamer basket over enough water to reach the bottom of the basket. Cover and steam for 20 minutes, checking the water level periodically and adding more if needed.

IMG_2631

In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat and cook tempeh on each side for 5 minutes, or until nicely browned. Transfer to a plate.

IMG_2632

In the same skillet, heat remaining oil and saute onions until soft. Add garlic and let cook a few more minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Slowly add broth to skillet so the oil doesn’t spatter. Reduce heat to medium and let the broth bubble down for 1 to 2 minutes.

Whisk together cornstarch and water in a small bowl and slowly drizzle it into the skillet, stirring constantly, until sauce thickens. Reduce the heat to low. Add lemon juice and let simmer for a few minutes. Add the tempeh back into the pan and turn over to coat and heat through. Turn off the heat and stir in margarine, capers and parsley until margarine is melted and well incorporated. Check for seasoning and serve immediately.

IMG_2633

*Note: Use this steaming method to remove any bitterness from the tempeh. If you use West Soy Brand tempeh, however, bitterness will not be an issue and you can skip this step!

New Vegan Clam Chowder

Frame-16-09-2015-10-00-19

A rich, thick, stick to your ribs chowder–filled with hearty chunks of potatoes, celery and onion–this one has all the elements of the original, but gets its creaminess from my secret ingredient: navy beans! This version is not only healthier and cruelty-free, but it’s so filling and delicious!

New Vegan Clam Chowder

1 pound dried navy beans

3 strips dried kombu seaweed

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 strips tempeh bacon

1/2 medium onion

3 stalks celery

1 clove garlic, minced

8 ounces oyster or shiitake mushrooms

2 cups vegetable stock

1 large potato, peeled and diced

big sprig of fresh thyme

3/4 cup dry white wine

Handful fresh parsley, chopped

Dulse or kelp flakes (optional)

Frame-16-09-2015-09-46-42

Method:

Frame-16-09-2015-09-47-51Soak beans overnight in water. Cook in fresh water with kombu until beans are soft (they should look cracked open).

Frame-16-09-2015-09-49-32 (1)Drain beans and reserve liquid. Remove kombu and discard. Puree beans with enough liquid to make very smooth.

Frame-16-09-2015-09-50-45 (1)For a very smooth soup, run puree through a fine sieve. Transfer to a large soup pot and warm over low heat on stove.

Frame-16-09-2015-09-51-24

Dice the bacon, onion, celery and garlic.

Frame-16-09-2015-09-52-59

Heat olive oil in large skillet and add bacon.Saute until browned. Add onion and celery and  saute until softened.

Frame-16-09-2015-09-53-39

Add mushrooms and saute until softened. Increase heat and deglaze with white wine until pan is almost dry.

Frame-16-09-2015-09-56-10

Add stock, thyme and diced potatoes. Bring to boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are just tender, about 10 minutes.

Frame-16-09-2015-09-57-48

Add  contents of skillet to pot on stove and heat through. Check for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as desired. You may wish to add dulse or kelp flakes for more of a sea-derived flavor.

Vegan Macaroni and Cheese

IMG_1516

Hand’s down the best mac n’ cheese recipe I have tried, this one comes from Allison Rivers Samson as published in Veg News Magazine. You may know her from Allisonsgourmet.com, a fantastic online source for decadent vegan baked goods.

I made a couple of modifications to the recipe by adding steamed broccoli and substituting panko for the fresh breadcrumb topping. I hope you enjoy making this delicious dish your own!

Here’s the recipe:  Veg News Magazine Macaroni and Cheese Recipe

IMG_1501

Patty Melt

header

The key to a successful patty melt is in the assembly. You want a juicy, messy, melty experience, but you want it to hold together. It’s a bit of a process, but well worth the effort for as often as I make this decadent sandwich–maybe once or twice a year!

prep

Heat oven to 375. Start with your favorite patty. I like Gardein because it has a firm texture that holds up well. Brown it up in a skillet with a bit of oil and salt and pepper, then set aside and keep warm.

cookedonions

In a separate skillet, and simultaneously with the patties if possible, brown sliced onions until well caramelized. Season with salt and pepper and set aside and keep warm. In the same skillet, sauté and season mushrooms with salt and pepper and a couple tablespoons of worcestershire sauce. Keep warm.

When the oven is hot, toast buttered slices of bread on a sheet pan (butter side down) for about 5 minutes, until a bit crisp on the bottom. Add slices of your favorite melty cheeze  ( I use Daiya slices) and return to the oven about 4-5 more minutes, until cheeze is melted and bread is crisp and brown on the bottom.

mushroom madness

Assemble the sandwich carefully while everything is still hot. This takes a bit of organization.

artyshot

Cut and serve immediately.

cut

Thai Sweet Potato Bisque

bowl

This soup is a perfect blend of smooth and creamy, slightly sweet and spicy. Great served on its own or as a first course, it is super-easy to make, too.

Thai Sweet Potato Bisque

adapted from a recipe by Isa Chandra Moskowitz: Red Sweet Potato Curry with Cauliflower and Adzuki Beans

1 pound sweet potatoes (approximately 3 medium) to make 3 cups, mashed
4 ½ cloves Garlic, minced
1.5 tablespoons Ginger, fresh, minced
1 tablespoon Peanut oil
4.5 tablespoons Thai Red Curry paste
3 cups Vegetable broth
3 Star Anise Pods
3  tablespoons Tamari Sauce
1 15 ounce can full fat  Coconut milk
¾ teaspoon Salt (or to taste)
Sriracha (optional)
Lime juice (to taste, approximately 1 lime)
Cilantro for garnish

1. Bake sweet potatoes at 350 for 1 hour first. Peel and mash. :

saute
2. Saute garlic and ginger in oil. Add curry paste, veggie broth and star anise. Let boil about 5 minutes, covered. Uncover, remove star anise.:

boil

3. Add sweet potato, coconut milk, tamari and salt and mix well. Use immersion blender if needed, to get to a very smooth consistency.

smooth

Add lime juice and sriracha to taste.:

Peanut Dragon Sauce

IMG_1113

It’s been a super busy week! When I crave a quick comforting meal, soba noodles are often my go-to food. Here’s an easy sauce to pour over your noodles, steamed veggies or to dip your spring roll into.

Peanut Dragon Dressing

from “Isa Does It” by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

1/2 cup Peanut butter, creamy
2 cloves Garlic, peeled
1/3 cup Water
3 tablespoons Rice vinegar
2 tablespoons Tamari sauce
1 tablespoon Agave nectar
1 tablespoon Sriracha
1 teaspoon Sesame oil, toasted
1/2 teaspoon Salt

Blend ingredients together in food processor until smooth. Enjoy!

Five Minute Asian Peanut Noodles

peanutnoodles

Noodles are high on my list of favorite foods. There is something so comforting in the simplicity of just noodles and sauce. And they are fun to eat.

This recipe is quick, quick, quick. You can dress it up or dress it down to its basics. Either way it’s a very simple no-cook sauce with three main ingredients, and easy to remember ratios. That’s my very favorite part.

ingredients

Ingredients:

1/3 of a 10 oz package authentic Chinese dried noodles

1 tablespoon creamy peanut butter

1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar

1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce ( or liquid aminos)

Dash of garlic powder

Dash of ground ginger

Optional Ingredients:

Shredded cabbage, carrots, scallions or other fresh veggies

Fresh cilantro, torn or chopped

Toasted sesame seeds or Gomasio

Asian Chili Sauce or crushed red pepper

Chopped peanuts

Noodles

Method:

Place noodles in a microwave safe bowl and cover with water. Microwave on high for five minutes. While noodles are working, blend sauce ingredients in a bowl with a fork. Add a bit of water if the sauce is too thick. Drain noodles and add to sauce. Toss noodles to coat and add any optional ingredients, chili sauce (if you like it spicy) or other garnishes.

prepYield:

One large or 2 small servings

 

Two Bean and Bulgar Chili

chili

I came across this recipe, while sifting through a drawer. It was a page torn from one of those little paperback supermarket cookbooks at the register called “Meatless Meals”.

There is a handwritten note beside the recipe, “Steve’s favorite 2005”. This little memory jog took me right back to that year when I first met the man who would become my husband, though neither of us knew it yet.

Neither could we imagine the journey we would share–a winding path filled with surprises, some happy, some sad and some bursting with instantaneous joy and laughter.

Two-Bean and Bulgar Chili

1 tablespoon oil

1 medium carrot, chopped

1 medium green bell pepper, chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups water

1/2 cup uncooked bulgar wheat

1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained

1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce

3 teaspoons chili powder

2 teaspoons cumin

1 (15 oz) can dark red kidney beans

1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed

Method:

Saute in oil over medium-high heat, carrot, bell pepper, onion and garlic; cook and stir 4 minutes.

veggies

Stir in remaining ingredients, except beans. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 40 minutes, until bulgar is tender and flavors are blended, stirring frequently to prevent sticking.

pot

Add drained beans and simmer 5 minutes until heated through. Serve with your favorite cornbread.

cornbread

I am really glad this recipe was Steve’s favorite back in 2005, because that was long before we  became vegan. What an evolution together, over time, to a more compassionate lifestyle, a deeper enjoyment of food and a more humble appreciation for nature.

I am ever grateful for my husband’s love and support on my personal journey, and I can’t imagine a better partner with whom to share the ride.

Cilantro Lime Salsa

 

 

Tonight was nacho night and we made the grocery run for the usual ingredients:  black beans, corn, serrano peppers, tortilla chips. When we got to the salsa aisle, though, the labels stopped me dead in my tracks.

I couldn’t bring myself to buy jarred salsa, knowing what I know now, about the acceptable ratio of sodium to calories per serving. The healthy ratio is 1:1. For example if the salsa contains 10 calories per serving, it should contain no more than 10 milligrams of sodium per serving. Pace brand salsa, has 230 milligrams per 10 calorie serving (2 Tbsp.). Who eats only 2 tablespoons of salsa?

So, I decided to create my own salsa, using salt-free canned tomatoes. It was actually very easy and quick. And tasted way better than salsa from a jar!

Cilantro Lime Salsa

1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, with juice, no salt added

1/4 onion, red or white, finely diced

1-2 cloves fresh garlic, finely minced

1/2 fresh jalapeno or serrano pepper, finely minced (optional)

Handful fresh cilantro, chopped

Juice of one fresh lime

Sea salt to taste

Method:

Combine all ingredients well and taste for seasoning. Add sea salt as desired.  Store in airtight container in refrigerator at least 1/2 hour to allow flavors to blend. Keeps about 1 week, refrigerated. Happy, healthy munching!

“Oh, You Beautiful Dal”

I read somewhere…the spices in Indian food can purify and heal the body. I do believe this to be true. I can almost feel it, when I enjoy a warm, fragrant bowl of Indian dal. Maybe it’s the heat of the cayenne and ginger, or the smoky cumin and turmeric that seduces me into a state of near-euphoria. All I know is I crave Indian flavors and enjoy them whenever I can.

Our favorite spot for Indian delights is Bombay Cafe in Fort Lauderdale. We have been known to make the hour drive just to indulge our craving for spice!  Continue reading

Creamy Pasta Salad

Here’s a delicious reworking of traditional macaroni salad. Prepared with whole-grain pasta and  lots of crunchy fresh veggies, this one is  so nutritious, it can stand alone as a main dish! A refreshing change from the same old salad routine.

Since we went vegan and oil-free, we have given up mayonnaise, even egg-free mayo substitutes, because of the high fat content. So, we have to be a little more creative in how we come up with creamy textures. One indispensable ingredient is raw cashews. The natural fat lends itself well to sauces and toppings both savory and sweet.  Continue reading

Marsala Mushroom Gravy

Monday is typically my take it easy night in the kitchen. Back to work after the weekend, and I stayed up later than usual last night. Mashers are my go-to comfort food on days like this. Back in the day these would have been full of butter and milk. And gravy? I could whisk up a roux like nobody’s business.

It may seem too good to be true, but today’s dish contains only a tiny amount of fat (from the soy milk) and absolutely no animal products. And it is even more flavorful and satisfying than the traditional preparation. Continue reading

Oil-Free Vegan Pasta Primavera

Ok, so I’m back on my healthy eating and exercise plan. Working out, eating plenty of fresh veggies. Pasta is my favorite comfort food, second only to mashed potatoes…yum! But that’s another post for another day.

This primavera has a rich, flavorful sauce made from raw cashews. It’s a great sauce for macaroni and (not) cheese, pizza, nachos, steamed broccoli and it’s crazy good on mashed potatoes. There I go again. Continue reading

Baked Falafel with Quinoa Taboulleh

Chickpeas are a staple in many vegan diets, mine included. I love everything about falafel except for the fact that it is usually served deep-fried. I found a way to enjoy the falafel experience without the fat and calories of added oil. This falafel is baked, then stuffed in a toasted whole wheat pita with organic veggies and lemony quinoa tabloulleh. Topped off with a drizzle of tahini sauce, it’s perfectly delicious!

Baked Falafel

  • 2 cans chickpeas (15 ounces each), drained and rinsed
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • A large handful of parsley, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon coriander
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pat drained chickpeas with paper towels and place  in food processor. Pulse a few times, then add remaining ingredients. Process until mixture forms into a dough.  Adjust seasonings and add additional flour if dough seems too wet to hold together. Shape dough into eight patties and place on parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake for 20-30 minutes, turning halfway through. Serve hot on toasted pita with fresh veggies and tahini sauce.

Quinoa Taboulleh

2 1/2 – 3 cups cooked quinoa (1 cup dried), cooled to room temperature or chilled

1 cup small-diced fresh tomato

1 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped

2 cloves garlic, very finely minced

2-4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (more or less, depending on taste)

Salt and pepper, to taste

This is a very simple side that goes well stuffed in a pita with falafel or on its own, drizzled with a little tahini sauce. Enjoy!

Toss together tomato, parsley and garlic with quinoa then dress with lemon juice, salt and pepper. Yield: 8 servings.

Tahini Sauce

  • 1/3 cup tahini paste (sesame seed paste)
  • 1/2 cup water, or more as needed
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch cayenne

Method: Blend all ingredients in a high-speed food processor for best results, or whisk by hand. You may need to add a bit more tahini to reach a creamy consistency. Drizzle liberally over falafel and taboulleh. Serve immediately.

–Tahini sauce recipe courtesy of Emeril Lagasse