Tofu Banh Mi with Pickled Carrots and Daikon

Nothing says summer more than street food and beer – but it’s even better when you can make it at home! I was looking for a reason to use the fresh basil, mint and cucumbers picked from our neighbors Dory and Andy’s garden who thankfully have quite the green thumb and are so generous with the neighborhood kids tramping through their carefully tended vegetables and raspberry bushes.

This tofu and veggie Banh Mi with pickled daikon and carrots is fresh, bright and crunchy with a hint of spice and is totally crave-able. Sadly, it doesn’t compare to the outstanding lemongrass tofu Banh Mi we used to buy at Nhu Lan Bakery in Chicago but hey it definitely hit the spot. I also experimented with adding the same ingredients to lower calorie Vietnamese rice paper wraps which was also a big hit.

Ingredients

  • 2 jalapeños, seeded and sliced
  • 1 English cucumber, julienned
  • 1 tofu block of your choice (I would recommend Trader Joe’s baked sriracha tofu)
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro
  • 1 bunch free Thai basil
  • 1 bunch fresh mint
  • French bread roll or Vietnamese bread roll, both toasted slightly in oven or toaster oven until crunchy
  • 2 TB mayonnaise (vegan or regular)
  • 1 TB sriracha
  • Juice of 1/2 lime

Pickled Daikon and Carrots

  • 2 carrots, peeled and julienned
  • 1 medium daikon, peeled and julienned
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt

Bring the pickle mixture to a boil in medium sauce pot, then sit and let cool. Pour over carrots and daikon in a mason jar or glass Tupperware container, then seal and let marinate at least 1 hour in fridge but up to 12 hours overnight is ideal. To make sriracha mayo just combine mayo, sriracha and lime juice in small bowl. If you want it thicker to smear on bread base just leave out lime juice and squeeze on top of sandwich once assembled instead. Assemble sandwich with all ingredients and gulp down with beer!

Lemony Bulgur Tabouleh

Ok. I admit it. I googled what Jennifer Aniston eats. Turns out she’s a fan of salads, no surprise there!

Apparently her favorite go-to salad is a crisp cucumber, bulgur, chickpea salad with fresh mint and parsley. Bulgur is actually a great grain to add to your diet as it’s in rich in vitamins, fiber, antioxidants, iron and other vital minerals as well as making it a solid plant-based protein. Bulgur is also a low glycemic food with fewer calories yet twice the fiber of rice – about 25% of your daily needs in one cup. And seriously it is THE quickest and easiest grain to prepare; just add 1.5 cups hot water to 1 cup of bulgur and let it sit in a bowl for 10 minutes then fluff it with a fork!

For this lemony tabouleh I omitted the feta and pistachios that are featured in The Jennifer Salad but I will try that next time for some crunch. I opted for medium grain bulgur but you can also try coarse grain or fine grain depending on your palette. Just combine all ingredients once the bulgur is cooled. I paired this with kalamata olives, tomatoes and whole wheat pita pocket which was great after a summer’s July 4th bike ride and day outside. Remember – don’t skimp on the fresh herbs!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cooked bulgur
  • 1 cucumber, skinned and diced
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint, chopped
  • 1 – 2 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Mediterranean Fennel Barley Soup

One of my all-time favorite ingredients are lemons. It’s such a versatile citrus packed with vitamin C and adds a distinct tartness to any roasted vegetable. It’s also become my go-to for soup broths that are laden with heavy grains or beans. The lemon juice complements the soft creamy fennel, earthy fire roasted tomatoes and hearty barley in this stew so nicely along with a sprinkle of salty Parmesan on top!

This original recipe came from Eating Well but I switched the white beans to chickpeas and added the lemon juice which really brightened it up. This ones in my fridge for the entire week and only cost about $20 (I doubled the recipe).

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, cored and chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed
  • 1 14-ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 6 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • ¾ cup quick-cooking barley
  • 1 5-ounce package baby spinach (6 cups)
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, fennel, garlic, and basil; cook, stirring frequently, until tender and just beginning to brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in the chickpeas, tomatoes, broth and barley into the pot. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the barley is tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice then add spinach and cook until wilted, about 1 minute. Salt and pepper to taste. Remove from the heat. Serve and top with Parmesan cheese.

A little summer stroll…

Enjoying a rare date night dance at friend Tom and Haeley’s wedding… whiskey in hand

Not Yet Summer Cobb Salad

Well it’s spring here in Chicago which means either it’s the 97th day of January OR the sun busts out after a long, dormant winter and vibrant baby green blooms burst forth! The last few days have been rather fickle, but thinking of summer gardens and long walks on the beach got me in the mood for a nice salad so today I opted for a vegetarian Cobb salad which I especially love because it can be adapted with so many ingredients if you feel adventurous. I used a spinach base topped with freshly boiled red and white baby potatoes tossed in a balsamic vinegar and freshly squeezed lemon dressing. But the biggest surprise here was the salty blue cheese, creamy egg and tart green apple combo which I will definitely be making again!!

Not Yet Summer Cobb Salad

  • Spinach salad base, chopped roughly
  • 1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives
  • 2 hard boiled eggs, sliced
  • 1/3 cup canned chickpeas
  • 1/2 Granny Smith apple, largely diced
  • 1/4 avocado, diced
  • 1 TB blue cheese crumbles
  • 1 cup boiled red and white potatoes, cut into quarters

BBQ Pulled Jackfruit

Jackfruit as a substitute for BBQ pulled pork?! Sounds crazy … but the simple prep, sweet and tart chewy texture, and uncanny affinity to meat made this unexpectedly delightful dish an enticing weekend lunch! Top it off with some vegan mayo on a Hawaiian roll for a pretty satisfying meal.

Ingredients:

  • 2 20-ounce cans young green jackfruit in water or brine (not syrup)
  • 2 garlic cloves, diced
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • BBQ sauce (any kind, I used a store-bought generic brand)

Drain and rinse your jackfruit, then chop into smaller pieces from the inner core to the outer edges. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F while cooking jackfruit and garlic on medium high in a large pan with vegetable broth for 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently. Using a potato masher, smash the jackfruit lightly just enough to pull apart the fibers. Spread jackfruit on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Remove and add 1/2 cup of BBQ sauce and bake for another 10 minutes until it is sticky and sweet. This literally could not be easier! Try it with avocado, cole slaw or a side of corn on the cob.

Vegetable Rose Tart

My very dear friend and pastry chef extraordinaire Or’Shaundra offered to host Friendsgiving this year so naturally we challenged ourselves to a sweet and savory pie theme. I’m not generally a huge fan of ricotta cheese, but I’ve been meaning to make this elegant vegetable rose tart which is reminiscent of cheesy blintzes and a vegetable quiche all rolled into one dish which features 10 easy ingredients that just SCREAM holidays like nutmeg, cream and sweet carrots. The real surprising ingredient here is the puff pastry crust which sssssshhhh I bought in the frozen section of the grocery store!

Ingredients

  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup cubed fresh mozzarella cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 pinch ground nutmeg
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme, leaves stripped
  • salt to taste
  • 6 carrots, assorted colors
  • 2 zucchini
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Press puff pastry into pie dish, trim off excess pastry edges. Cover the pastry with parchment paper and fill with ceramic pie weights (I used ramekins) and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven; remove parchment paper and pie weights. Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees F. Mix ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, egg, Parmesan cheese, nutmeg, thyme, and salt together in a bowl. Spoon filling into crust and smooth out the top. Slice carrots and zucchini lengthwise into thin strips using a mandoline then place strips on a microwave-safe plate and cook in the microwave until slightly soft, 1 to 2 minutes. Roll 1 vegetable strip tightly into a rosebud shape. Wrap another strip of the same vegetable around to make a full rose shape. Repeat with remaining strips. Arrange carrot and zucchini roses over the filling in a decorative pattern, alternating colors; brush with olive oil. Bake tart for about 40 minutes.

Recipes to feature soon: apple pie and vegetarian Shepard’s pie! mmmmmmmmmmmm

Totally Awesome Asian Swiss Chard Salad

I love any salad that can be tossed with a cold cup of pasta for a hearty, fresh and easy meal either on-the-go or at home with kids. This Asian Swiss Chard salad recipe relies only on your basic knife skills and a quick assembly time, making it a versatile and vitamin-packed addition to your typical work lunch repertoire. The Brianna’s Home Style Ginger Mandarin dressing was on sale for $2.99 this week and is going to a fridge staple in our house as it packs a punch with its zingy creamy gingery flavor. This dish has potential for a great vegan Buddha bowl and can be combined with other key ingredients like avocado, sesame seeds, or nuts.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup broccoli cole slaw
  • 1 cucumber, peeled seeded and sliced into half moons
  • 1 red pepper, julienned
  • 1 yellow pepper, julienned
  • 1 bunch rainbow Chard, stemmed and roughly diced
  • 2 cups edamame
  • Chilled cooked pasta

Polish Dog Rice Bowl

I love anything as a rice bowl. So I recently invested in a Breville rice cooker. It’s not something I ever thought I needed, but we prepare grains like quinoa, rice or farro so I often I felt it was worth a try. Well this baby steams grains to a perfectly soft, stickily tender consistency. My mind has been opened to vegetarian rice bowl possibilities! It really makes my meal preparation so much easier and this appliance has become a staple on my countertop now. 

Today I was in the mood for a Hungarian inspired Tofurkey Polish sausage with cabbage and peppers heaped on top of a steaming bed of rice. The cabbage chunks marinate nicely in a simmering pot of paprika and garlic infused vegetable broth giving it a nice a silky texture, while the peppers and sliced sausages fry up on a medium high setting for a slightly charred, roasted taste in a separate pan. Add a dollop of brown mustard and sauerkraut on top of this dish and you will not be disappointed in this rice bowl version of a polish dog. 

Polish Dog Rice Bowl

  • 1 package of Tofurkey Kielbasa, chopped into 1″ chunks
  • 3 bell peppers (assorted red, yellow and orange) julienned in thick strips 
  • 1 head of cabbage, sliced into large chunks
  • 1 cup of vegetable broth
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp granulated garlic
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • Rice (your choice)

Add chunks of cabbage to a large sauté pan along with 1 cup vegetable broth and spices. Cover and let simmer for 30 minutes, turning every 5 minutes. I large frying pan add olive oil, peppers and sausages. Cook on medium heat for 10 minutes turning frequently. Once oil seems to dry out, let the peppers char very slightly in pan. Cook your choice of rice separately, then scoop cabbage and pepper/sausage mixture on top in a serving bowl. Top with spicy brown mustard or stone ground mustard and a small scoop sauerkraut.

Korean Vegetarian Bibimbap

For our 8th wedding anniversary this week my wonderful in-laws took our two rowdy boys for the night (THANK YOU Mark and Debra!!) and my darling hubby fretted about cooking me the perfect meal. Well guys. Lemme tell you. I have been wanting to make a healthy vegetarian Korean bibimbap for months now, and this. was. amazing.

 Traditionally bibimbap ingredients are served in a heated stone pot with plenty of oil, but we opted for a basic nonstick pan and just a tad of sesame oil where necessary to keep it light. The richness comes from the egg yolk that just melts like liquid gold over the dish after you cut it open. (My husband is the egg cooker in our house so he’ll need to write a guest blog post soon!) We roasted the tofu in the broiler instead of frying it in oil. The sweet jasmine rice also gets a light crispy golden bottom in the pan over low heat like a paella, and the veggies themselves only took a total of 10 minutes to prepare. All in all, from getting home at 6:00pm to sitting down to eat was about an hour. Not too bad… it probably helped that there were no children around to pull us in a million directions!


Korean Vegetarian Bibimbap

  • 2 cups cooked jasmine rice (preferably one day old – we cooked the night before)
  • 1/2 cucumber, julienned
  • Salt
  • 8 ounces firm tofu
  • Toasted sesame oil
  • 1 large carrot, julienned
  • 5 cups spinach leaves
  • Toasted sesame seeds
  • 4 cups cooked rice
  • 2 egg
  • 1/2 sheet roasted seaweed (Korean-style kim or Japanese nori), cut into small strips with scissors

Sprinkle cucumbers with salt and leave to drain in a colander for 20 minutes. Squeeze out excess water. Rinse and drain tofu. Cut into 1/2-inch thick slices and drain well. Place on a nonstick baking pan under broiler for about 15 minutes, turning very frequently. Heat a tablespoon of sesame oil in a pan. Add carrots and a pinch of salt and stir fry until cooked through. Remove from pan. Blanch spinach in a pot of salted boiling water, just until wilted and bright green. Plunge into ice water to stop cooking, then drain and squeeze out excess water. Mix in a small bowl with 1 teaspoon sesame oil, a pinch of salt, and a dash of sesame seeds. In a large iron skillet or nonstick pan over medium heat, add a tablespoon of sesame oil and swirl to coat. Add the rice and pack it down evenly. Arrange the cucumber, tofu, carrot, and spinach on top. Place the fried egg on top and garnish with sesame seeds and seaweed. Once divided into individual bowls, cut open egg to allow yolk to cover rice. Mix and enjoy!

Perfect Panzanella 

After a very hectic two months of life upheaval, we are officially suburbanites now – and I absolutely love it! Never thought I would. I guess you never know where you’re headed in life until the opportunity practically hits you in the face and suddenly you’ve found it.

Well, to celebrate the family getting settled we hosted our first gathering for Father’s Day and I made one of my all time favorite dishes – Panzanella. I always forget how versatile and easy this dish really is. It’s perfect as a side dish for dinner or a main dish for lunch, and works for all seasons. It’s also easy to prep and have ready for a big crowd. The secret is the fresh herbs paired with those rich, juicy vine ripe tomatoes that balance with the acidity from a vinaigrette that gets soaked up by … wait for it, that highly addictive chunky, crusty, toasty bread. OMG!! This ones based on the Ina Garten recipe, except I used red wine vinegar instead of champagne vinegar and I also added a tad of parsley:


Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1 small French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes 
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 large, ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and sliced into 1/2-inch thick moon shapes
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/2 red onion, cut in 1/2 and thinly sliced
  • 15 large basil leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup Italian parsley, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons capers, drained

For the vinaigrette:

  • 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup good olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large saute pan on medium heat, then add the bread and salt; tossing frequently, for 10 minutes, or until nicely browned. Add more oil as needed. For the vinaigrette, whisk all the ingredients together.In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, yellow pepper, red onion, basil, and capers. Add the bread cubes and toss with the vinaigrette. Season liberally with salt and pepper. 


Suburban deer…