A Weeknight Dinner Narrative

What’s a lady to do when she’s had a long day at work, went to the gym, husband’s working late and it’s 6:30 before she even starts thinking about dinner?

Before she even solidifies her game plan, she puts on a pot of whole wheat rotini.  She hasn’t had pasta in a while, and it’ll come together quickly.

She assesses that her pantry and refrigerator and the first things that pop out to her are: a bag of carrots, a bunch of kale that won’t be good much longer, an avocado, 1 orange pepper and 1/2 a yellow pepper, some broccoli sprouts, some garlic.

She grabs the biggest wok she can find, adds a glug of olive oil, puts it on medium heat, and sets out to chop the carrot, mince the garlic, tear the kale, dice the pepper and avocado.

She adds the carrot to the sizzling wok first, followed by garlic.  Then comes to the kale, left for a few minutes to wilt, then the peppers.  She leaves this to do its thing quickly while she drains the pasta.

Back to the wok.  Now everything is nice and bright, hot and crisp-tender, it gets doused in a squirt of lemon juice, a big pinch of dried basil, generous pinches of salt and black pepper, and LOTS of nutritional yeast.  Mmm, cheesy, cheesy nutritonal yeast.

The pasta gets added back in.  Everything gets tossed together.  Then plated.  Then topped with the sprouts and avocado.  And some hemp seeds for some protein.

And some hot sauce, of course.

– Crystal

Curried Butternut Kale Stew

This is one of my favourite types of meals this time of year.  I love kale, as do many foodies, because it’s really delicious and kind of amazing for you.  I feel like a responsible adult when I’m chowing down on kale, you know?

It’s warming, creamy, a bit smoky from the fire roasted tomatoes, and excellent with a dash of hot sauce on top (I say that about everything, though) and served over some brown rice.

1 tsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced

1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups diced butternut squash
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp curry
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
1 19 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 can light coconut milk
couple huge handfuls washed and torn kale, or a small bunch
salt and pepper
In a large soup pot, heat olive oil on medium heat and sautée the onion until translucent.  Add the garlic and sautée for 1 minute longer.  Add the diced butternut squash, stirring to coat in the oil, and cook for 5 minutes until slightly softened.  Add all the spices and a pinch of salt, plus the broth, tomatoes and chickpeas, cover and cook for 20 minutes, or until the butternut squash is soft.  Lower heat and add the coconut milk and the kale.  Cover again and let the kale wilt for about 10 minutes, or until it has reduced in size and is bright green but not mushy.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  

Tempeh Asado Tacos, Braised Kale and Lime Cilantro Rice

A light summery evening called for dinner on the balcony.  What’s more summery than tacos?  Okay, probably a lot of things.  But really, who needs an excuse for tacos?  Tempeh tacos!  Tempeh asado tacos!

We made the tempeh asado from Viva Vegan (you can find the recipe online in Google Books here!) which is one of our absolute favourite ways to eat tempeh and it’s dead easy.

To assemble, lay 2-3 pieces of tempeh onto your tortilla and kind of smoosh with a fork to break them up.  Then, top with shredded cabbage (ours was marinated in a vinegary jalapeno dressing like the Curdito salad, also from Viva Vegan), thinly sliced radishes and tomatillo salsa.  Perfection, thy name is tempeh taco.

Paired with the lime cilantro rice (also from Viva Vegan) and a simple side of garlicky braised kale, it made for perfect balcony dinner food.

– Crystal

Scarlet Barley and Tempeh Stuffed Pepper Squash

Scarlet Barley is probably one of my favourite grain recipes out there!  It’s got the earthiness of beets with the nuttiness of barley, it’s just a winning combo.  I knew I wanted to have that with dinner and came up with the idea to combine it with some tempeh and put it in a baked squash bowl.  This was really lovely and very healthy, I’d make it again.

The squash was cut in half and deseeded, then baked cut-side down on a baking sheet with a bit of water at 400° for 40-45 minutes or until soft.  During this time, the tempeh was cubed and boiled for 10 minutes then drained.  Steaming tempeh in this way readies it to absorb marinade.  After it is drained, I drizzled a generous amount of equal parts soy sauce and white wine vinegar over the tempeh and tossed to coat.  Set aside.  Make the Scarlet Barley (I found the recipe for you folks who don’t have Appetite for Reduction online here).  Once the tempeh has sat for a while absorbing the marinade, give it a quick panfry with a bit of oil to brown up the cubes a bit.  Once that’s done, combine with the scarlet barley, remove your squash from the oven and stuff the cavities with the mixture.  Pop back in the oven for 15 minutes.  Remove and serve with garlicky sautéed kale because you are a good vegan who loves their greens like everyone should.
– Crystal

Mujaddara

Have we ever told you about mujaddara? You have to try it. Its a popular middle eastern dish consisting of lentils, rice, and sweet caramelized onions. Guess what? Its usually vegan, so look for it at your favorite middle eastern place. Or you can make it yourself. We’ve tried a few recipes, but the one we like the best is from Veganomicon.
You just roast sliced onions in oil for half an hour, while cooking the rice and lentils on the stove with cumin and cinnamon. Combine it all when its done, and serve it with some pita chips and salad. This dish also pairs nicely with and assortment of other middle eastern side dishes like hummus, falafel, grape leaves, etc.
We served it with a side of sauteed kale, and some fresh veggies. Check out those tomatoes! We grew those on our balcony.

– Trevor

Southern-Inspired

I wanted something a bit comforting and filling for a nice Sunday meal after a day of chores.  Few things are more comfort-foody to me than a big Southern-inspired plate with some mac and cheese casserole, garlicky greens, rolls and watermelon.  Now, I really liked mac and cheese before I went vegan, but I love it now.  Honestly, the vegan versions are so much better than the dairy-based ones, in my opinion.  My favourite of all the ones I’ve tried is the recipe below.  The kale was given the usual treatment – deveined (removing the thick central stem) and cut into smallish pieces.  A few cloves (3-4) of garlic thinly sliced and sautéed in a bit of oil, then add the greens and sautée until cooked down and bright green.  Add salt to taste.

Mac and Cheese 
from Veg News

4 quarts water
1 tablespoon sea salt
8 ounces macaroni
4 slices of bread, torn into large pieces
2 tablespoons + 1/3 cup non-hydrogenated margarine
2 tablespoons shallots, peeled and chopped
1 cup red or yellow potatoes, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup carrots, peeled and chopped
1/3 cup onion, peeled and chopped
1 cup water
1/4 cup raw cashews
2 teaspoons sea salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon paprika

  1. In a large pot, bring the water and salt to a boil. Add macaroni and cook until al dente. In a colander, drain pasta and rinse with cold water. Set aside.
  2. In a food processor, make breadcrumbs by pulverizing the bread and 2 tablespoons margarine to a medium-fine texture. Set aside.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a saucepan, add shallots, potatoes, carrots, onion, and water, and bring to a boil. Cover the pan and simmer for 15 minutes, or until vegetables are very soft.
  4. In a blender, process the cashews, salt, garlic, 1/3 cup margarine, mustard, lemon juice, black pepper, and cayenne. Add softened vegetables and cooking water to the blender and process until perfectly smooth.
  5. In a large bowl, toss the cooked pasta and blended cheese sauce until completely coated. Spread mixture into a 9 x 12 casserole dish, sprinkle with prepared breadcrumbs, and dust with paprika. Bake for 30 minutes or until the cheese sauce is bubbling and the top has turned golden brown.
Note:  I almost never add the shallots, and it doesn’t make a difference.  Use them if you have them, but otherwise just leave it out.
– Crystal

Taco Talk-o

No kiddin’, we love latin food.  We eat lots of tacos and are always trying new things to put in them.  Vive Vegan by Terry Hope Romero is for those of us who like a little latin gusto in our lives.

From that, we have our first taco, stuffed with Tempeh Asado from Vive Vegan.

Tempeh asado, shredded cabbage and carrot, vegan sour cream, salsa and a sprinkle of smoked paprika.  Super good.  See the end of the post for the recipe for the tempeh, which is super easy, nutritious and most importantly, flavourful.
Next up, a chipotle seitan and kale taco with avocado, salsa, sour cream and daiya cheese.  The seitan was the famous Seitan O’ Greatness recipe, which will follow below.  
And another latin inspired plate.  From top left, going clockwise:

Vive Vegan’s Mexican Street Corn, Vive Vegan’s Curdito salad, fried plantains, some rice and a random bbqed potato.  Seen in the far top left of the photo, lime juice and hot sauce…two perfect condiments for all of this.

Tempeh Asado

1 (8-ounce) cake tempeh

Steaming tempeh in a microwave is fast and less messy. Place the sliced tempeh in a glass microwave-safe bowl with a lid and add 1/2 cup water. Toss the tempeh to moisten. Cover and microwave on high 5 to 6 minutes, or until the tempeh has softened and absorbed some of the liquid. Drain the excess water. Your tempeh is now ready to marinate!
Marinade
1/3 cup light-colored Mexican beer or vegetable broth
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons peanut oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed or finely grated
1/2 rounded teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano, crumbled by rubbing between your palms (releases flavor and eliminates any coarse leaves)

1. Slice the entire tempeh cake in half length-wise, then slice it into thirds. From here you can either slice each third on a diagonal to form triangles (good if serving as an entree) or leave as rectangles for use in sandwiches or tacos. Steam the tempeh in either a steamer basket, a covered sauce pan with 1 cup of water over high heat, or a microwave as directed above. Be sure to drain it of any excess water before adding to the marinade.

2. In a square pan or glass baking dish, whisk all of the marinade ingredients together. Add the tempeh and flip each piece over a few times to help it absorb the marinade. Let sit for 10 minutes at room temperature. While this is going on, you can heat a cast iron grill pan over medium high heat. If pan-frying the tempeh, generously oil the pan with peanut or canola oil. Using metal tongs, place the pieces of tempeh on your grill or pan, taking care not to crown the pan. Brush with some of the extra marinade. Grill on each side for 3 or 4 minutes, flip and keep brushing with marinade, using up the rest of the marinade on the tempeh as it cooks. Tempeh should not cook for more than 6 to 7 minutes total, or it may become too dry.

3. Serve hot tempeh immediately. To serve in tacos, cut the tempeh into squares as directed above, grill, and coarsely chop the hot tempeh into bite-size bits. Serve in soft corn tortillas with sliced radishes, chopped cabbage, salsa, and a sprinkle of lime juice.

Seitan O’ Greatness


Can be used in just about any application that calls for something meaty, including just slicing and eating as-is.

1.5 cups vital wheat gluten
1/4 cups nutritional yeast
1 tsp salt
2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cumin
1-2 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
3/4 cup cold water
4 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp ketchup
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp soy sauce

Preheat oven to 325°.

In a large mixing bowl mix dry ingredients. Mix the rest of the ingredients (liquid ingredients) in a smaller mixing bowl. Whisk well until mixed.

Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients. Mix well, then knead for several minutes.

Form into a log (6-8″ long), wrap tightly in foil, twisting ends. Bake for 90 minutes. When done baking, unwrap and leave out to cool all the way. Then wrap it foil or plastic and refrigerate. Slice to use as desired.

– Crystal