The Open-Faced Sandwich I Didn’t Know I Was Missing

I’ve never been a fan of mayonnaise. I’ve never been one to slather it thickly on a sandwich or sneak a spoonful of it or use it, heaven forbid, as a dip. Blech! Even recipes that rely on large amounts of it for creaminess (potato salad; slaw) make me nervous. I don’t want to taste it, I just want to use it as a glue on a sandwich or as the otherwise unnoticeable base of a salad or slaw.

But then I discovered the tomato-mayo open-faced sandwich. I could ask where it’s been all my life, but I already have the answer: in the American South, served up on a hot day, probably alongside a pitcher of sweet tea.

That’s why I — Yankee by birth, Midwesterner by college/first-job choice, Mid-Atlantic…er… by current situation — was unfamiliar with it. But man, I was missing out. Because when you take delicious, quality bread, toast it gently, spread it with mayo, heap on freshly sliced tomatoes, and sprinkle a little salt on top, you get a transcendent summer sandwich.

The return of warm-weather lunches. 🌱🍅😍 #whatveganseat

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Now, tomato-mayo sandwich purists might balk at my usage of anything but grocery store white bread, but come on, that’s not my style. I used a white sourdough here and it was perfection. I recommend something neutral in flavor; this isn’t the place for your seven-grain swirled rye masterpiece.

In case you’ve never made one before, here is my take on this summer delight. I can’t wait till I have my own garden-fresh tomatoes to use in it. Come on, summer!

Vegan Tomato-Mayo Sandwich

Serves 1

  • 2 pieces neutral-flavored bread
  • 1-2 TB vegan mayonnaise (I like Just Mayo)
  • 1 tomato, thickly sliced
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Pepper flakes (optional; I like piment d’espelette)
  • Sprouts (optional)

Method

Lightly toast bread. You want it just a bit crispy, but not at all blackened. Spread mayo on one side of each slice to taste, then layer on the tomato slices and sprouts (if using). Sprinkle sea salt and pepper flakes (if using) on top. Eat and enjoy.

PIN ME!

Vegan open-faced tomato-mayo sandwich // govegga.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through my links, it costs nothing extra for you, but I get a few pennies. I’m not looking to make a fortune, just to cover hosting costs. :)

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Easy Vegan Apple Crisp

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Week Four: Memories and Traditions

It was perhaps inevitable that apple crisp would make an appearance during this tradition-based week. I’ve reminisced about the spicy, buttery dessert before, I’ve got a recipe for a quick unbaked version, and I’ve made the classic recipe countless times — including a few nights ago.

Easy vegan apple crisp // govegga.com

Truth be told, I just follow the Betty Crocker recipe, subbing Earth Balance for butter. So simple. Don’t get cute like I did and increase the number of apples without also increasing the pan size and the topping amount, or you’ll end up with a sub-optimal apple-to-topping ratio. You want a thin layer of apple slices so they cook through and absorb all that buttery, sugary goodness, resulting in a gooey, pie-like filling. Bake it longer than you think you need to, till your apples are on the verge of disintegrating into a mushy mess. Don’t worry about appearances — this dish is all about taste.

What’s your favorite apple crisp recipe?

Easy Vegan Lunch: Spicy Noodle Bowl

VeganMoFo 2016 graphic

Week Two: International Week

Happy Saturday, friends. We’ve got houseguests this weekend, and I’m still not really in the mood for complicated cooking, so today I made a super-simple lunch that hit the spot: spicy noodles. I followed this recipe for the sauce, though I used sambal oelek instead of chili powder and served it with wheat noodles and sauteed peppers. Fiery, filling deliciousness. Next time I’ll reduce the sugar, but otherwise it was the perfect easy weekend lunch.

Quick noodle-y lunch.

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What’s your go-to lunch or meal when you don’t feel like cooking?

Chewy Vegan Coconut Cookies

Let’s not talk about the fact that Labor Day weekend has come and gone, okay? Instead, let’s talk about chewy, melt-in-your-mouth rich vegan coconut cookies. The kind of cookies you could bring to a gathering of even the staunchest omnivores and feel good about. The kind of cookies that you just want to keep on eating and eating and eating, even when your stomach groans in protest.

I’ve made these cookies three times in the past few weeks, twice to share at events, and they haven’t let me down. I’ve basically veganized this recipe, toned down the fat and sugar just a bit, and tweaked a few other things to my taste. I highly recommend using shredded (not flaked!) coconut — it seems to melt into the cookies, providing them with coconutty goodness, without those noticeable flaky bits that might distract from your eating pleasure. (I buy it at Wegmans, but Amazon also carries shredded coconut from Bob’s Red Mill.) Adding the coconut early on helps it soften up and become infused with the creamed sugar and butter. The result is a true delight.

chewy vegan coconut cookies

 

Almost as good as the final product? The fact that this recipe is so, so easy — you can make it in a single bowl, plus a small one for mixing up your flax egg. I use my KitchenAid stand mixer, but a hand mixer or even good old-fashioned elbow grease will do the trick.

If you’re feeling decadent, I bet these would be amazing drizzled with chocolate… but I’ve been too impatient to try that!

Chewy Coconut Cookies
Makes ~18 cookies

  • 6 T Earth Balance buttery sticks, softened
  • 1/2 C brown sugar
  • 1/4 C white sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 flax egg (1 T ground flax mixed with 3 T warm water)
  • 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 350˚F and have two cookie sheets ready to go. (You can line them with parchment paper if you’d like; it’s not necessary, but if your sheets are finicky, feel free to try it.)

First, make the flax egg by whisking the ground flax with the water until combined. Set aside.

In your stand mixer (or using a hand mixer or your own brute strength), cream together the Earth Balance, sugars, and vanilla until well combined; it should take two to three minutes. Pour in the flax egg and mix for another 15 seconds or so.  Add the shredded coconut and mix on low until it’s folded in to the creamed butter and sugar.

With the stand mixer (if using) off, add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, then mix on low until all ingredients are incorporated. It should take just a minute.

Scoop rounded tablespoonfuls of dough onto your cookie sheet, leaving about 2″ between each cookie. Press down slightly. Bake for 10 minutes, and let cool for another 5 before removing from the cookie sheet.

Enjoy!

chewy vegan coconut cookies

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through my link, it costs nothing extra for you, but I get a few pennies. I’m not looking to make a fortune, just to cover hosting costs. :)

Easy Cheesy Broccoli & Brown Rice Bake

Well! Hello. For once, my extended absence wasn’t due to good ol’ fashioned laziness. No, this time a minor apartment flood situation kept me from blogging. Our upstairs neighbor’s sprinklers went off, and they leaked straight through her floors and into our living room. S and I rushed home from work and found that though the damage wasn’t terrible—nothing major was damaged, and our furniture is all fine—our ceiling was not in good shape. That same night, a cleanup crew tore up our floor (apparently the water could damage the laminate) and pulled down our ceiling. They left us with about seven industrial-strength fans, two huge dehumidifiers (complete with tubes snaking to our sink to drain the water), and strict instructions not to open the windows, no matter how hot it got.

Kitchen floor and fansa

Our poor kitchen in total disarray!

Well. It got hot. Like, 95˚ hot. That heat, combined with the lack of flooring/ceiling and the constant loudness of the fans and dehydrators, sent us scurrying to S’s mom’s house, where we stayed for nearly a week. Now, about two weeks out, the fans are gone, the water is gone… and our ceilings and floors are still gone.

Ceiling

So industrial chic.

We’re anxiously waiting for a contractor to come out and assess the damage and set up a time to fix things. We’ve mostly been holed up in our bedroom and in the kitchen for now, crossing our fingers that things are resolved soon. (It’s a tricky situation involving two insurance companies, two landlords, and us basically reduced to twiddling our thumbs while we wait.)

BUT. In the hopes of restoring some normalcy, we’ve gotten back to cooking. Our first night back in the apartment, I was determined to make something easy and nourishing. This brown rice and broccoli bake is exactly that. It’s easy as can be, especially if you cook the brown rice in advance. Lots of broccoli-rice dishes require pre-blanching the broccoli or sautéing garlic and onions, but I was in no mood for that many steps when I made this dinner. No, this dish is just about as simple as it gets. You pretty much just mix brown rice and broccoli in a casserole dish and stir it up with a basic cheesy sauce. Easy peasy.

Easy Cheesy Brown Rice & Broccoli Bake

Easy Cheesy Broccoli & Brown Rice Bake
Serves three

  • One large head broccoli, chopped into small florets
  • 3 1/2 cups cooked brown rice
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk (and an optional additional 1/4 cup)
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 teaspoon prepared yellow mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder or granules
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • A few shakes or twists black pepper
  • 1-2 tablespoons Earth Balance (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400˚.

Prepare a small* casserole or baking dish by spraying it with oil. Add the brown rice and broccoli florets directly to the dish and stir to combine.

In a small bowl, combine 1 cup of the almond milk, nutritional yeast, mustard, salt, garlic powder, paprika, and pepper and whisk until combined. Pour about 3/4 of the sauce over the rice and broccoli mixture, reserving about 1/4. Stir gently so that the mixture is coated. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, remove the dish from the oven, uncover, and stir. Dot with the Earth Balance. If the casserole is looking dry, add the additional 1/4 cup almond milk. Return to oven (uncovered), and bake for another 10 minutes, then remove from oven and pour the remaining sauce over the top. Eat!

*I use a vintage Pyrex casserole dish that’s about 11.5″ x 6.5″ . That’s not exactly a standard size, but it seems to be a 1.5 quart dish.

~~~

I’ve made this dish twice since we’ve returned to the apartment. It’s comforting and homey—just what I need when my actual home is torn up. Here’s to hoping we get things figured out soon!

Note: This post contains an affiliate link. If you purchase something through my link, it costs nothing extra for you, but I get a few pennies. 

Kale and White Bean Soup

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Years and years before kale was thrust into the spotlight by foodies in search of the next food superstar, my mama started making a kale soup that my entire family loved. I thought of that soup today, the first chilly day of the year, and knew I needed to make it. Kale soup, of course, is nothing new, and I do feel silly posting a recipe for something that’s as simple as simple can be. But if you have yet to discover the combination of kale and white beans, this soup is for you.

Kale and White Bean Soup

Kale and White Bean Soup
Serves six

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 medium-sized carrots, diced
  • 3 medium-sized yellow potatoes, diced (about 1/4″ cubes)
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
  • 3/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon coriander
  • Dash cloves
  • 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 10-12 oz. curly kale, de-stemmed and torn into small pieces
  • 2 cups navy beans (or other white beans)
  • 4-5 cups water (or additional vegetable broth)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot over medium-low heat and add the garlic. Sauté for about 30 seconds, then add the onion, celery, and carrots. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until the onion is translucent. Add the potatoes and spices and give everything a big stir. Add the vegetable broth and turn up the heat to medium. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the potatoes are soft. Add the water or additional broth Add a big scoop of kale and stir it in; after it wilts a bit, add another big scoop. Repeat until you’ve added all the kale. (Or you can just add it all in at once if your stockpot is big enough!). Add the beans and cook for another 10-15 minutes or until the kale is as tender as you like it. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve!

Kale and White Bean Soup

My version of Mom’s kale soup uses a spice blend similar to that you’d find in chorizo, giving it a smoky, spicy flavor. But you can switch up the spices based your tastes. Like most soups, this one is endlessly versatile. You can also add and remove many of the ancillary ingredients. No celery? No problem. Feel like adding some bulk? Throw in some orzo or quinoa. In a rush? Use Trader Joe’s bagged kale; just pull off the larger stem bits. You could even reduce the spices and add some soyrizo.

Mom’s kale soup is, unsurprisingly, ridiculously healthy. A serving gives you 17 grams of protein, 18% of your recommended daily value of calcium, and 29% of your RDV of iron. You’ll also get lots of vitamin A and vitamin C. Thanks, Mom!

What’s your favorite soup?

Sweet Potato and Red Lentil Soup

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11 days into Vegan MoFo and I’ve yet to feature a soup. Shocking! That oversight gets remedied today with a hearty tomato-y red lentil soup that couldn’t be easier to throw together. This ain’t your typical red lentil soup, though—the addition of quinoa not only boosts the nutritional profile, but adds a textural counterpoint to the softer lentils.

This soup is versatile, too. Yellow potatoes could easily stand in for the sweet potatoes, and diced carrots would make a fine addition. If you don’t have quinoa, I suppoooose you could leave it out. And if you prefer a creamier, richer soup, just add some full-fat coconut milk towards the end of cooking. That kiss of lemon juice added at the end is non-negotiable, though. Trust me, you’ll want to keep it.

Sweet Potato & Red Lentil Soup

Sweet Potato and Red Lentil Soup
Serves six

  • 1 T coconut oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 medium-sized yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2″ knob ginger, minced
  • 1-2 T your favorite curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 3 small sweet potatoes, chopped into small chunks
  • 3 C water
  • 15 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 15 oz can tomato sauce (or puree)
  • 2 C red lentils
  • 1/2 C quinoa
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Diced scallions or chopped cilantro for serving

In a large stockpot, heat the coconut oil over medium heat and sauté the garlic for 30 seconds or so. Add onion and ginger and sauté for another 5 minutes or until the onion is translucent. Add spices and sweet potatoes and stir until the sweet potatoes are well-coated. Add the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, red lentils, quinoa, and two cups of the water and bring to a boil. Turn heat to low and let simmer for 25-30 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are fully cooked and the lentils are soft. Check every 10 minutes and add extra water in half cupfuls if necessary.

When the sweet potatoes and lentils are fully cooked, turn off the heat add salt and pepper as desired. Stir in most of the lemon juice, reserving some for serving. Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with the leftover lemon juice, freshly ground pepper, and diced scallions or chopped cilantro.

Sweet Potato & Red Lentil Soup

Red lentils boast an impressive nutritional makeup, and this soup adds a few other key ingredients to nourish you. One serving offers 24% of your daily value of iron and 17 grams of protein… but you might not want to have just one serving.

What’s your go-to soup recipe?

Hot Molasses Mug (and a brief disquisition on iron needs)

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If you’re a woman and you’ve ever gone through a spell of exhaustion, chances are you’ve gotten the “Maybe you’re anemic!” suggestion from a concerned friend or family member. Although anemia is technically a lack of hemoglobin in the blood, the term tends to be used colloquially for an iron deficiency. (1)

So—why can an iron deficiency make you tired, both mentally and physically? In over-simplified terms, it’s because iron is an “essential component of hemoglobin,” a protein that carries oxygen from your lungs to your tissues… tissues like your brain and muscles. (2) In truth, it’s actually rare for people in developed countries to have a serious iron deficiency; it’s more common in the developing world. Most of us get enough iron from our diets. However, pregnant women are often encouraged to take iron supplements because their bodies require more iron—it takes a lot of red blood cells (which carry hemoglobin) to feed the fetus and placenta. (2)

One complication for us vegans stems from the difference between heme and non-heme iron sources. Heme iron comes from animal sources and is absorbed more efficiently than non-heme iron, which comes from plants. Therefore, you technically should consume more iron if you’re vegan. However, you can increase non-heme iron absorption by eating foods containing vitamin C at the same meal—and many iron-rich foods are also naturally high in vitamin C. (1) And the good news is that as far as we can tell, vegetarians don’t have greater incidences of iron-deficiency anemia than meat-eaters. (3)

The CDC’s recommended daily allowances (RDA) for iron vary by age and sex, and it’s good to have a sense of how much you need. As a 27-year-old ciswoman, I need 18 mg according to the CDC. However, the Vegetarian Resource Group notes that vegetarians could require up to 1.8 times more iron than omnivores. (3) That’s about 32 mg for me.

Luckily for us, non-heme iron is not hard to find. One cup of lentils has 6.6 mg. An ounce of pumpkin seeds has 4.2 mg. One cup of cooked fresh spinach has 6.4. And blackstrap molasses—that unassuming viscous liquid!—has a whopping 7 mg in just two tablespoons.

Blackstrap molasses, as it turns out, makes an excellent hot beverage when whisked with hot almond milk. (Thanks for the inspiration, Pinterest!) Beats taking it by straight by the spoonful, as I’ve been known to do.

Hot Molasses Mug

Hot Molasses Mug
Serves one

  • 1 cup almond milk (or other nondairy milk of choice)
  • 2 T blackstrap molasses
  • Dash pure vanilla extract

In a small saucepan over low-medium heat, warm the almond milk until it begins steaming. Transfer to a mug and add the molasses and vanilla extract. Whisk vigorously until combined. Enjoy.

Hot Molasses Mug

With one warming beverage that could barely be any easier to prepare, I’ve got nearly a third of my iron requirement fulfilled. And—bonus!—I’ve found my new favorite fall beverage.

How do you take your molasses?

Sources cited:

(1) http://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/everyone/basics/vitamins/iron.html
(2) http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iron-HealthProfessional/
(3) http://www.vrg.org/nutrition/iron.php

Note:

I’m neither a doctor nor a dietitian; please don’t treat my posts as medical advice! Consult a medical practitioner for specific medical or nutritional recommendations.

TJ’s Gourmet: Polenta with Kale, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, and White Bean Puree

There are few more masochistic things about me than my desire to do most things The Hard Way. If there’s an easy way out… I’m probably not going to take it. There’s definitely some flawed thinking here, though I’m not sure exactly why it happens. Maybe I don’t like to feel lazy? Maybe I like to feel put-upon? I don’t know. It’s probably not good.

But.

Sometimes, even I have to admit that the easy way out is totally awesome.

Like prepared polenta.

And canned beans.

And prepared sun-dried tomatoes.

And organic kale… in a bag.

And getting all those things at a single store.

Yes, I practically live at Trader Joe’s these days. Other than Giant, it’s the nearest grocery store, and it has a good selection of vegan and organic products. Do I miss my Madison co-op and feel horribly guilty for buying non-local bagged kale? Yep. Am I willing to drive to the nearest ridiculously busy Whole Foods and spend absurd amounts of money instead? Nope.

So yeah, we have a lot of TJ’s products in our pantry. Last night, I put a bunch of them together to make an easy dinner with a surprisingly gourmet feel. Sun-dried tomatoes add a pleasant chewy counterpoint to the crunchy kale and soft polenta, and the puree ties everything together.

This is a lazy meal that doesn’t taste lazy. Whizzing up the puree was the hardest part.

Instagram photo of a bed of kale and sun-dried tomatoes with half-moon polenta pieces topped with a white bean puree.

Early sunset = bad lighting = iPad Instagram photos galore!

Polenta with Kale, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, and White Bean Puree
Serves two

For the puree:

  • 1 can (15 oz) Great Northern beans (or any soft white bean)
  • Scant 2/3 cup vegetable broth or water
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 3/4 t dried thyme
  • 1/2 t garlic powder (I would’ve used fresh garlic, but we were out!)
  • Salt, freshly ground black pepper, and paprika to taste

Everything else:

  • A few large handfuls chopped Tuscan kale
  • 1/4 cup sundried tomatoes (the kind that’s packed in oil)
  • Half a tube of prepared polenta, cut into rounds and then sliced into half-moons.

Combine all puree ingredients in a food processor and process until you have a smooth puree. Taste for seasonings and adjust to your preference. Transfer to a small pot and heat on medium-low while preparing the rest of the meal.

In a large non-stick pan, heat a small amount of olive oil on medium. Add the kale and sun-dried tomatoes to the pan and cook for three to four minutes. You can add some of the oil from the sun-dried tomatoes for added deliciousness. (Minced garlic would be yummy as well, but we were out.) After the kale cooks down and shrinks a bit, add the polenta to the pan. It will be crowded, but you can make room! Cook for another five to seven minutes, flipping the polenta once, until the polenta has a bit of a golden crust.

Turn off the heat and serve: make a layer of kale and tomatoes and top with the polenta. Ladle on a healthy scoop of puree and serve!

What’s your favorite easy “gourmet” dinner? Which Trader Joe’s products do you love?