Archive | January, 2012

Vegan for a Week Challenge

31 Jan

I seem to be all about the challenges these days.

A couple of weeks ago my coworkers invited me to participate in a 7-day vegan diet challenge, naturally I accepted.  This is probably the easiest challenge I’ve taken on, but I’m happy I’m doing it nonetheless.

You may recall that one of my new year’s resolutions was to adopt a vegan diet 90% of the time.  While I had good intentions this hasn’t really been happening and I’ve found myself eating dairy even when a vegan option was available.   So, it’s time to really get into the spirit of things and take this challenge on.

Finishing up day 2, I’ve had no issues sticking to the diet but I know a few of my fellow participants are having a bit of a tough time, so this post is for them.

The key to following a healthy vegan diet, like any diet, is balance.  It’s important that you incorporate proteins, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates into your diet in addition to the veggies.  Otherwise you’re going to be low on energy and half-starved for most of the day.  While I’m admittedly among the first to roll my eyes when asked where I get my protein, I do recognize that it is not always obvious among carnivores.

So in addition to the veggies and fruits you’ll find in my fridge, here is what you’ll find in the pantry to help complete my meals to give them a bit more substance.

–          Beans and legumes: lentils, beans, chickpeas, etc…  These are great for making veggie burgers, soups, popping into stir-fry’s, making dips and hummus, and beefing up your salads, and so much more.   These really are my go-to when I’m in need of adding a bit of protein to a meal.

Lentil stuffed portobello mushrooms

–          Tofu: I know, I know, it’s been getting a bit of a bad rep lately but having some tofu once in a while isn’t going to kill you and it is a good source of protein for vegetarians and vegans.   Remember, the key to good tofu is pressing all that moisture out.  One of my favorite ways to prepare it is mix together 1lb. diced tofu with ¼ c. olive oil, 3 tbsp lemon juice, 1 clove of garlic minced, and some dried basil, oregano, and salt and pepper.  Bake it in the oven or fry it until golden and crispy.  Delicious!

Tofu with peanut sauce and rice noodles is pretty good too 😉

–          Quinoa: not only is this ancient grain an antioxidant, but it also packs a pretty decent amount of protein, fibre and magnesium- a bonus for you migraine sufferers ;).  Try subbing quinoa in place of brown rice in your stir-fry’s or adding it to your soups and veggie burgers.

 

–          Nuts and seeds:  high in protein and monounsaturated fats, nuts and seeds are great on their own or for adding some protein and density to your salads.  Whenever I’m in need of a quick snack I like to reach for some nuts, seeds and dried fruit.  My favorite is a ¼ cup mixture of almonds, sunflower seeds, dried cranberries and apricots.  This will tide you over nicely to dinner when that 3pm potato-chip craving hits.

Other items;

–          Olive oil and avocados- you need healthy (read: monounsaturated) fats to maximize the amount of nutrients your body absorbs in those salads so I always keep some extra-virgin olive oil on hand for salad dressings along with some avocado’s.

–          Grains and Pastas: I’m a runner and I need carbs plain and simple, and as much as I would love to simply live on bread and pasta alone, I know that’s not always the best option.  I like to keep a variety of grains in my pantry including couscous, rice and quinoa.  These help round out my meals and make sure I give me the energy to run longer and faster.

So there you have it, some vegan staples in a nutshell.  At the end of the day, a vegan diet can be both simple and satisfying.  It’s just a matter of getting past the meat and understanding what your body needs to keep you going all day long.

Would you ever consider doing a vegan challenge?

How To Make a Feast With Friends

30 Jan

I hope everybody had a great weekend – I certainly did!  One of our good friends, Sam, came to visit this weekend all the way from Halifax!  She, Jess, and four of the other usual suspects stayed over on Saturday night.  In honor of her presence, we made a nice little feast:

Guacamole

This is one of Jess’ signature dish.  As she puts it – “I know how to handle an avocado”.  For this guac appetizer, she used avocado, lime juice, cumin, garlic, S&P.  Clean and simple.  We served it with some cut up and toasted pita breads, sprinkled with sea salt, paprika, olive oil, and pepper.

Guacamole in the making

And voila!

Salad

Had to get our greens in!  For the first course we had a salad of spinach, tomato, cucumber, onion, sunflower seeds, and dried cranberries, served with a home-made balsamic vinaigrette.  We also had fresh multi-grain bread with vegan butter.

Salad and bread

Doing some catching up

Risotto

On to the main dishes: Jess and Tanya came up with a delicious Squash Risotto.  They cooked the arborio rice in vegetable broth, celery, and onion.  Meanwhile, they baked the squash in the oven.  When both were finished, they scraped the squash shell and added it to the rice, seasoning it all with some cardamom.  I’m so happy they made too much, because I’ve gotten to eat leftovers for 2 days now… yummmm!

So many chefs in such a small kitchen!

Action shot... look at how fast those hands are moving!

Risotto

So much Squash Risotto!!!

Chicken Wings

I had been boasting to everybody about how amazing John’s chicken wings are (they are AMAZING! It’s like a 5 hour long process if done correctly, but they’re more than worth waiting for!).  He was kind enough to grace us with his culinary skills (I’m not the only cook in this family) and made us multiple batches of his chicken wings, marinated in tandoori sauce.

I literally couldn't get a picture fast enough. This was the last of the wings!

We polished off dinner with a round of games, banana bread (Sam’s mom’s secret recipe!), and lots of laughter to help with the digestion. What a fun weekend – we have the best friends (and food) two girls could ask for 🙂

Guest of Honour: Sam!

I concur, Joey.

Zuhri's all tired out from our Shenanigans

-Tess

Jess Editor’s note: I actually used smoked chipotle spice in the guac recipe this time around. But if you don’t have that, then cumin is a good substitute. Oh and garlic is a must! 😉

1 Dish 2 Spoons: Quinoa

28 Jan

Odds are good that you probably have some Quinoa kicking around your kitchen.  No?  Well maybe it’s time to add it to your pantry staples, along with rice, oatmeal, and beans.  Quinoa is such an incredible versatile grain – you can make it savory, sweet, use it in soups, stir fry’s, in baking…. the possibilities are endless!  Here are two examples:

Tess’ Take

When I think of quinoa, two basic meals come to mind: dinner and breakfast.  A spicy quinoa salad is nice at dinnertime, and for breakfast you can use it in lieu of your morning oats.  But I wanted to do something a bit different today.  So I went ahead and Googled “banana quinoa” (don’t ask me why the banana), and by the magic of internet, I found this recipe for Banana Strawberry Quinoa Muffins within seconds of searching.

I changed the recipe a bit from the one on the above website – I re-added the one egg she had omitted, switched the vegetable oil for EVOO, exchanged the yogurt for low-fat sour cream (I’ve always wanted to try that!), and swapped the brown sugar with Sucanat (an unrefined brown cane sugar which retains a molasses flavor.  It’s definitely not “good for you” as it’s still sugar, but it is less processed).

Banana Strawberry Quinoa Muffins

Ingredients:

1/4 cup quinoa

1/2 cup water

1 cup whole wheat flour (or, if you really want to get into the quinoa thing, you could search your local Health Food Store for quinoa flour)

1 tsp cinnamon

1 egg (not pictured, as I decided to use it at the last minute)

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

3/4 cup sucanat (or brown sugar)

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup sour cream (or yogurt)

1 1/4 cup mashed banana

1 cup chopped fresh strawberries

Directions:

1) Preheat oven to 350F.  Line 24 muffin tins with paper liners.

2) Cook quinoa in water.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 10 mins.  Remove from heat, cover, and let stand 10 more minutes.  Fluff with a fork when finished.

3) Meanwhile, mix all dry ingredients in a small bowl.

4) Mix sucanat, egg, and oil in a separate large bowl.  Add vanilla, sour cream, and bananas.

5) By now your quinoa should be done, so add that to the flour mixture.  Now add in the strawberries.

6) Slowly add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients.  Do not over mix.

7) Spoon the muffin mixture into muffin tins.  I found a 1/4 c measuring cup worked perfectly.

Be sure to save a bit of mix on the bowl so you can scoop it out and EAT IT!

8) Bake 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick or spaghetti noodle inserted in the middle of the muffin comes out clean.

9) Let cool for as long as you can stand it, then enjoy!

Yummmmmm!!!!

Wow, talk about MOIST!  I think you could probably omit the egg after all, but I loved how gooey these guys turned out!  They could easily do double-duty as both snacks and desserts.  Or, if you don’t mind some sugar in the morning, breakfast too.

-Tess

Jess’ Take

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is an ancient grain packed with nutrients.

Check this label out: **Note: due to technical difficulties, Jess was unable to post any pictures for this week’s entry.  Sorry folks, you’ll just have to use your imaginations!**

source

So when Tess and I decided to use this awesome nutrient-dense grain as the focus for our 1 Dish 2 Spoons segment I knew I had to make something to do it justice.

There are quite a few quinoa patty recipes floating around the blogosphere but I wanted to put my own personal spin on it- and use up some ingredients I had hanging out in my fridge.

I made use of a flax-seed egg as my binder in this one, but feel free to use an egg or an egg-replacer if you’ve got some.  It should also be noted that quinoa is in fact gluten free so this is a great option for those on a gluten-free diet in search of a veggie burger patty.

If you’re making these in the summer months, grated zucchini would be a great addition as well.

Ingredients

½ c. dried quinoa

1 c. vegetable broth

2 medium sized carrots, grated

½ onion, finely diced

2 cloves of garlic minced

2 tbsp tomato paste

1 tsp smoked paprika

¼ tsp salt

1/8 tsp pepper

Dash of cayenne pepper, optional

1 tbsp ground flaxseed

3 tbsp water

Easy Guacamole

1 Ripe Avocado

1 Lime, zested and juiced

½ tsp cumin

½ tsp garlic powder

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

In a small bowl, combine flax and water, whisk to combine and set aside.

Bring your vegetable stock and quinoa to a boil in a small sauce pan, cover and reduce heat.  Cook until all the liquid has been absorbed, remove from heat, fluff with a fork and set aside.

In a medium skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat sauté onion, garlic and grated peppers.  Season with paprika, cayenne, salt and pepper and then add in your tomato paste.  Let the mixture cook through for 3-5 minutes then remove from heat.

In a mixing bowl, combine quinoa, carrot mixture and flax-egg.  Mix well then form into 4-6 patties (this will be easier if your hands are wet)

In the same skillet as before, heat 1 tbsp of vegetable oil over medium high heat.  Going 1 or 2 patties at a time, brown each side for 2-3 minutes to get a crusty exterior.  Pat dry with a paper towel and repeat until you’ve done this with all the patties.

Place them on a baking sheet and bake 400 for approximately 15-20 minutes until cooked through.

While these are baking, cut avocado in half, remove pit and empty the flesh into a small bowl, combine with lime juice, zest, cumin, garlic, salt and pepper.

Tip: use a pastry cutter or potato masher, to get it all mashed up nice and evenly.

Remove the patties from the oven, top with Guacomole and salsa.

-Jess


Let the stuffing begin!

26 Jan

If you’ve ever read the “Our Story” section on this blog, you’ll see a line where I mention stuffing portobello mushrooms.  They’re a slight obsession of mine.

Actually, I cannot believe it’s taken me this long to post a stuffed mushroom recipe on here so I’m making up for that right here, right now.

These mushrooms are a direct inspiration from my lentil burgers I created for a 1 Dish 2 Spoons segment.   Slightly modified to act as more of a stuffing, I still incorporated the same mix of lentils, carrots, onion, garlic, sundried tomatoes and seasoning for a picture perfect entrée.

Daiya cheese melted on top gives it a nice finish too 😉

Lentil Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms
vegan; soy free

2-3 Medium Portobello Mushrooms

½ lb crimini mushrooms, chopped

1 tbsp olive oil

2 medium carrots, diced

¼ cup chopped sundried tomatoes

½ Vidalia onion, diced

2 cloves of garlic

½ tsp herbamare seasoning

1 tsp balsamic vinegar

1 ¼ c. green or brown lentils, cooked and drained

¼ c. breadcrumbs

¼ c. chopped walnuts

Daiya Shredded Cheese, optional

Directions

Preheat oven to 375F

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and add in onion.  Sauté for 2-3 minutes until softened then add in carrots, garlic, and season with herbamare.  Cook for an additional 3 minutes until carrots become slightly softened then add in your crimini mushrooms.  Allow this mixture to cook down for a good 10 minutes.

Once the mixture has cooked down nicely, deglaze your pan with some balsamic vinegar, stir well and then remove from heat to allow mixture to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, combine lentils, sundried tomatoes, walnuts, and breadcrumbs in a large bowl, stir to combine.  Add in your carrot and mushroom mixture, mix well.

Remove the stems and gills from the portobellow mushrooms- giving more space for the stuffing to fit in.  Divide the mixture between the Mushrooms (you may have some left over) and place on a foil covered baking sheet.

Place a piece of aluminum foil over the mushrooms and bake for 20 minutes or until mushrooms are tender.  Remove from heat and discard the top piece of foil.  If using Daiya cheese, scatter some of the cheese over the mushrooms and place under broiler.  Broil for 5 minutes until cheese is melted and stuffing is golden and crispy.

Serve and enjoy!

-Jess

Pre-Workout Nutrition

25 Jan

Sorry for the late post guys – today has been literally CRAZY!  First, John and I went to see a house (we want to move into a house with a yard by March), then we went to register gifts, then it was a doctor’s appointment, then a chat with our landlord about our current lease, and THEN a trip to the dog park.  Throw an hour-long chat with my mom in there, and I’m just getting to blogging now, at 9pm.  And I don’t foresee things getting any less crazy :S

Yeah, yeah, poor Tess.  Planning her wedding to the best guy in the world, moving into (hopefully) a beautiful house with her cute a** dog…. poor Tess, indeed.

As I was eating my pre-workout meal today (a workout I never made it to, due to aforementioned craziness), it occurred to me that many people don’t know much about pre-workout nutrition guidelines.  So here are a few quick tips:

– You’ll want to focus your meal on slow-digesting (complex) carbs.  Carbs give you energy, which you’ll need for your workout.  But if you eat things that are too fast-digesting (simple carbs) then you’re going to burn through all your energy before you even step into the gym, and likely end up burning out just as you start your first set!  Good idea: oatmeal, sweet potatoes, vegetables, whole wheat bread, brown/wild rice, beans, or fruit that have a low GI such as apples, oranges, or berries.  Bad idea: white bread, bagel, watermelon, mashed potatoes, white rice, rice cakes, processed cereals.

-Assuming you want to build, or maintain (and not lose) muscle during your workout, you’ll also want to include a clean source of protein.  Good idea: chicken, fish, egg whites, yogurt, cottage cheese, whey (or other protein supplements).  Bad idea: fatty, processed meats such as sausage or steak.

-Finally, you may want to include a moderate amount of fats in your pre-workout nutrition.  Now, not everybody is going to agree with this – most people would agree that carbs and protein are the most important.  But personally, I find that I need just a little bit of fat to get me through my workouts (which can last up to 2 hours).  It keeps my energy levels even, and ensures that I don’t start feeling famished before I’m done.  Just a little bit, mind you!  Like, 1-2 tsp. Every body is different though, so I would experiment if I were you.  Some good ideas: flaxseed, peanut butter, almonds.  Bad ideas: fried foods, chips, lots of nuts, butter…. DUH!

Today's pre-workout meal: sweet potatoes, apple, cinnamon, some flaxseed, and a vega protein shake. If only I'd made it to the gym....

You’ll want to eat this meal between 1-3 hours before your workout.  John likes to wait about 2 hours after eating, so everything is fully digested.  Me, I’m good with 1 hour, so again it depends on your body.  Though don’t eat any closer than 60 minutes to a workout, because well, first of all you may get a cramp!  But also at that point your body will be using most of its energy in digestion, meaning you won’t get its full potential during the workout.

Hope this helps!

-Tess

Easy Balsamic Vinaigrette

24 Jan

One of my biggest pet-peeves is store bought salad dressing.  Why waste your money? Why? Do you know how easy it is to make your own vinaigrette? Do you?

Before you so much as utter the words, don’t even get me started on the fat-free varieties.  Quick fact: you need healthy fats (aka monounsaturated fats) to maximize your body’s absorption of the vitamins and minerals in your salads.

This is not at all a touchy subject for me.

So the next time you reach for the fat-free or “calorie wise” Kraft bottle, would you reach for the oil and vinegar instead?

I made this simple and delicious balsamic vinaigrette over the weekend when I served a salad with my mushroom and leek pasta.  Have you made this pasta dish this yet? If not, well here’s your meal plan for one night this week.

Easy Balsamic Vinaigrette

¼ c. extra-virgin olive oil

3 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp maple syrup (the real stuff, please)

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 clove of garlic, minced

1 tsp dried basil

¼ tsp dried oregano

Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all the ingredients in a jar or bowl and mix well to combine.  Taste and adjust seasonings, serve with your favorite salads.

If you want an endorsement for this dressing: following Saturday’s dinner, I was asked to make this dressing by the litre next time.  Yeah, it’s that good.

-Jess

 

Resolution Check-In

23 Jan

First of all, thank you everybody for your kind words and support of our engagement – it’s really meant a lot to us.

Now let’s cut the sappy stuff and get real: How are your resolutions going?  Have you even started them yet?

I know how it goes… the first week back from vacation was tough and you didn’t have time to cook properly or get to the gym.  “I’ll start next Monday”, you think.  But then next Monday rolls around, and you say “I don’t even have a good gym outfit to wear!  I can’t work out this week.”  And after a couple weeks, you start to think “well, I’ve put it off this long, so what’s the harm in waiting until February?”

Well, the harm is that if you’ve been ignoring your health (or whatever else) for this long (months, maybe years), then next Monday or next month will never come.  You need to DO IT NOW!

Your resolution was important, or else you wouldn’t have made it.

So far my resolutions have been half-and-half: John and I will be moving into a house with a yard probably next month, so that one (I think) is done.   I’ve only managed to get 1/2 of one extra chin-up, but I’m still progressing.  I’ve been doing yoga twice a week, and have been taking longer (more enjoyable) walks with my dog 🙂  My skin is clearing a little bit, but I have yet to find the magic combination.  Obviously the goal of two competitions has been scratched out, and the certifications and debt goals have seen no progress at all.  This is what I’ve been “putting off”, and I know that I need to take a shot of my own medicine and just DO IT NOW!!!

If you still haven’t started, don’t worry – it’s not too late!  I’ll do my taxes if you get your butt into the gym 😉

-Tess

 

 

 

When we were young, part 3: When Jess met John

22 Jan

In honour of the engagement between a woman I’ve come know as my sister and a man I love almost as much as my brothers, this is for them.

2009

I remember quite clearly the day when John and I first met. It was in the fall of 2009 and a bunch of our Bishop’s friends were getting together for a big dinner.   A few of our friends from Ottawa, Tess and John included, were driving down for the occasion.  Tess and John would be staying at my place as I had a second bedroom at the time.

BU Crew + Spouses

Saturday morning arrived crisp and clear and I eagerly awaited the arrival of Tess and this new mystery man in her life.  The car pulled up and I saw Tess leap out of the passenger side and come running up to the door.  Not too far behind was a man I’d been hearing about non-stop for the past few months.   A big man with a genuine smile and an even bigger heart, my first impression of John, was well, big.

I’m 5’1”- anything over 6” is enormous to me.

I quickly got to know John as a sweet and kind person, one who is protective but not overbearing; easy going but not lazy.  He also quickly understood mine and Tess’ relationship and wasted no time egging on one another in our harmless need to out-do the other. I instantly liked him.

Jess, John, Joey and Karo in Montreal's Old Port

As the months and then years passed, John became a good friend, not just because he was in Tess’ life but because he was just such a fun person who gladly joined in with us.  If we held a costume party, John was decked out from head-to-toe; one of our birthdays, he’d gladly buy you a shot.   If one of us was getting unwanted attentions at the bar, that guy was quickly taught a lesson of don’t mess with these girls because you’ll be answering to me.

Jess, John and crew, bustin a move at Tanya's wedding

Every time I’ve come to Ottawa to visit Tess, I was almost as happy to see John.  He has become a fixture in our group, a member who belongs just as much as Tess.  He laughs at our pre-bar rituals,  shakes his head at our shenanigans, and tries to run as far away as possible when we put a chick-flick on.

When Tess called me yesterday to let me know of her engagement, I have never been happier for two people in my life.  I wish them nothing but happiness as they embark on this new chapter in their relationship and I consider myself so lucky to bear witness to it.

Congratulations Tess and John.  Love to you both.

-Jess

Engaged!

21 Jan

John and I have been talking about getting married for a little while now.  Over the last couple months I’ve been especially “on him” about when he’s going to do it, dropping hints, teasing…. you know, woman stuff.

Well, last night he finally asked!

He had been on a business trip all this week and when he got home last night he said he had some souvenirs for me – a T-shirt, a glass bottle of mini shells, and  a beautiful notebook.  He knows how much I love to journal, and said I could write about any important stuff that’s going to be happening in the next few months.  He said he’d even written out my first entry for me!

On the first page was a beautiful poem he’d written (which I’m going to keep between the two of us).  He told me to flip to the next page, and on it was written “January 20th 2012 is also the day John asked me to marry him, and I said…….”  When I looked at him, he was kneeling and had the ring out

…. and I said “YES!”

This man, I can’t even begin to tell you, has changed my life.  It seems like everything good that’s happened to me has been a direct result of knowing him; I don’t think God could send a clearer sign that he’s the one I’m meant to go through life with.  He’s already a great boyfriend and I know will be a wonderful husband and father.

John, I love you so much.  Thank you for loving me too.

-Tess

One Dish, Two Spoons: Tofu

21 Jan

Jess is completely over the moon this week as our 1 Dish 2 Spoons segment takes on a completely vegetarian spin with our common ingredient TOFU!  This week sees Tess and Jess tackle this vegetarian staple and try it out on some suspicious taste-testers.

Jess’ Take

Tofu.  Say the word and you get a myriad of reactions from people ranging from pure delight to absolute disgust with a bit of apprehension thrown in for good measure.  Whenever someone wrinkles their nose at me and protests my decision to eat tofu, I reply: well, clearly you’ve never tried MY tofu.

Tofu on its own is a plain, flavourless canvas begging you to put your own personal spin on it.  My personal preference when it comes to tofu is the extra-firm variety.   When it comes to food, Texture is a big thing for me and really, the texture of extra-firm tofu is the only one I genuinely like.  The key to preparing Tofu is to press all excess moisture out.  Tofu is like a sponge- it naturally wants to soak up all the liquids and flavours you stick on it, but to maximize that you need to get the water out first.

There are all sorts of contraptions on the market to do this, but so long as you have 2 plates and a heavy object at home, save your money.

When I manage to plan ahead (read: almost never) I will do this overnight; otherwise give yourself 30 minutes to an hour to get most of the moisture out.

This was a dish I used to make, in some form or other, quite often.  For some reason I haven’t made it in well over a year and found myself craving it the other night.  No time like the present to act on making a fun, tried, tested and true recipe!

Actually, that’s a lie; the peanut sauce is totally modified with the addition of coconut milk.  Getting me to make the exact same dish more than once is like asking a celebrity to wear the same dress on the red carpet twice.

Enjoy!

Thai Peanut Tofu and Vegetables

1 lb tofu

Salt and pepper

1 tbsp vegetable oil

¾ c. natural peanut butter

¾ c. lite coconut milk

1 tsp sesame oil

2 cloves of garlic, minced

½ tsp ground ginger

¼ tsp red pepper flakes

1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced

3 medium carrots, sliced into matchsticks

150 g rice noodles

Directions

Combine peanut butter, coconut milk, sesame oil, garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes in a medium sized bowl; whisk until well combined and set aside.

Place rice noodles in a large bowl, cover with boiling water.  Let stand for 5 minutes, drain and set aside.

Press tofu for at least an hour or overnight.  Slice into 1 inch cubes, season with salt and pepper.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium high heat.   Add in tofu and cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly until it starts to turn a golden brown then add in your carrots.  Cook for an additional 5 minutes until carrots start to soften and then add in bell pepper.

Once the vegetables turn tender-crisp add in rice noodles and peanut sauce, toss to evenly coat.  Serve and enjoy.

-Jess

Tess’ Take

I don’t know what it is, but lately I’ve been craving vegetarian food like crazy!  Maybe it’s from months of being on a protein-based diet where I ate meat 6 times a day, or maybe…. nope, that’s probably it.  More than that though, vegetarian/vegan cooking appeals to me because of its fresh and unprocessed ingredients, and natural approach to eating.  The only thing about eating more vegetarian dishes though is all the carbs, which I have a hard time wrapping my head around because, again, for months (no, years) I was on a carb-averse diet.  Which is why having a sandwich for dinner tonight was a bit strange, but also very liberating!!

I make amazing sandwiches.  Ask anyone; the standard meet-and-cheese does not fly with me.  For today’s post I had about a million ideas of what kind of sandwich to make – roasted red pepper with goat cheese, bbq sauce with cheddar and coleslaw, BLT style… (I’ll bet you didn’t know tofu sandwiches were so versatile!)  I usually like to follow recipes when I cook, but there were so many that interested me that I just couldn’t decide!  Finally I just gave into my sandwich A.D.D. and assembled all my favourite ingredients, then somehow managed to pile neatly arranged them on a bun.  This sandwich is vegetarian, but is easily made vegan by omitting the cheese topping.

Tofu Sandwich A.D.D.

Ingredients

(For Spread)

2 tbs Cheezy Hummus

3 sundried tomatoes

1 cup spinach

(For Tofu)

2 tbs olive oil

2 tbs balasmic vinegar

1/3 block firm tofu

(For Toppings)

1/2 zucchini, thinly sliced lengthwise

1/4 eggplant, thinly sliced lengthwise

1/2 red or orange pepper, seeded and cut into 3″ pieces

some thinly sliced red onion

some lettuce or spinach

cheese (not shown)

And of course, a delicious bread of your choosing

Directions

1) Prepare tofu: when preparing tofu you should first press it so it’ll drain any liquid, making it easier to absorb the marinade you’ll be using.  You can do this by first cutting the tofu into 1/2″ pieces, them placing them on a cloth or paper towel between two plates.  Let it drain overnight, or at least a few hours.  If you don’t have time to do this, no biggie.

Pressing the tofu

2) Preheat oven to 350F.  Marinate the tofu in olive oil and balsamic vinegar for 10-20 minutes (See “Ingredients” image).  While it’s marinating, cut up your veggies.

3) Brush a cookie sheet with olive oil or coat it with Pam.  Spread the veggies and tofu evenly.  Bake for approximately 20 minutes until veggies are tender.  Note: I left my tofu in a bit longer because I like it a little bit crispy!  You can also broil it to speed up the process 😉

I also sprinkled the veggies with some of the leftover oil/balsamic

4) While you’re waiting for your veggies/tofu, prepare your spread: mix the oil, hummus, spinach, and sun dried tomatoes in a food processor or blender, and blend until a pesto consistency is achieved.

5) Optional: when your veggies are nearly done, pop in your bread with some cheese on top to warm it up!  You could also use a panini grill once the sandwich is all assembled, which I think would be PHENOMENAL!   If anyone tries this, please let me know how it turns out!

Art-Is-In 12 Grain bun..... yummmmmm


6) Assemble sandwich and enjoy!

Also pictured: vegetable juice (kale, celery, cucumber, beet, and apple)

Between the sun dried tomatoes, balsamic, and peppers this sandwich was actually a little bit sweet, which was a pleasant change.  The spread was AMAZING… hands down, the key to the whole thing.  I know it sounds a bit labour-intensive, but man was it worth it!   I thoroughly enjoyed every single bite, and am very happy I decided to give in to all my cravings in one sandwich.  Good thing I bought 2 loaves of bread 😉