I like pork. There, I said it. It’s so versatile and delicious. It’s also full of fat and salt and calories and is generally speaking completely bad for you if you are trying to live a healthy lifestyle. Pork is also really bad if you happen to be vegetarian or vegan. Personally, I’m “flexitarian”. I try to eat as little meat as possible but I don’t get too bent out of shape about eating meat. Yesterday was a day when I really didn’t care about it and I had ham. It was so good. Juicy and sweet and porky and mmmmmmmmmm. However, as nice as it is, we must remember that pork is a “sometimes” food. It used to be that those times were breakfast, lunch and dinner. Maybe that’s how I ended up weighing 330 pounds. I’ll have to think about that some more.
What’s a pork lovin’ guy like me supposed to do? Really, it’s not that much of a dilemma. First, you wake up to the fact that too much of a good thing will lead to obesity, heart problems, diabetes, cancer and an early death. No matter how good something tastes it just isn’t worth all of that. Next, you get creative. Alternatives do exist. Here’s one I found this morning from vegancoach.com. It’s for vegan sausage patties. I stumbled across this while I was looking for something to do with the tempeh I have sitting in my refrigerator. I will be trying this very soon and will report back on the results. I am altering the recipe a bit. The original called for bouillon cubes instead of broth. I’m enough of a food snob to shudder at that thought.
Vegan Sausage Patties
- 8 ounces tempeh, cut in half
- 1/2 cup water
- 4 oz. vegetable broth
- 1/4 cup rolled oats
- 2 Tablespoons Tamari
- 1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon each of sage, thyme, and marjoram
- 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or other organic oil, for frying
1. In a small saucepan, add tempeh to vegetable stock. Cook for 10 minutes. Remove tempeh, cool and grate on coarse side of grater. Mix grated tempeh with oats, Tamari, water, oil and spices. Mixture should be moist enough to press into 12 patties. Chill on a covered platter.
2. Heat oil in a large skillet. Brown patties on each side over medium high heat, turning carefully. You may want to do this in small batches, using just a little oil each time. Patties will soak up the oil quickly, but will brown in the dry pan.
Makes: 12 small patties, or 6 large patties
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I’ve been trying to find some healthy and vegetarian ways to re-create some of my favorite foods and tonight I achieved my greatest healthy, vegetarian version of a classic yet. I made jambalaya. Yes, the classic Cajun food that brings together all three food groups, pork, chicken and shrimp and blends them with veggies and rice into a meal that is so good that you remember the experience of having it for years to come. It really is one of the best foods around and I attacked it with gusto and have made a new version that is loyal to the spirit of the dish but is significantly healthier. Behold! My creation!
This delicious dish was the result of a few days of thinking about how to pull off this feat and reading a bunch of different recipes. Eventually, I put everything together and came up with this. Keep in mind this is Jambalaya so it’s a bit of an intense recipe and will take some time to do. However, it is totally worth it.
1 package Trader Joe’s 3 grain Tempeh – prepared per my post on Tempeh bacon
1 pound extra firm tofu
1 tbsp. olive oil plus more for tempeh
1 large onion, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
1 large red bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
2 celery stalks, diced
2 medium cloves garlic, peeled
1 large bay leaf
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp Paul Prudhomme’s Cajun Magic seasoning
1 can (28 oz.) diced tomatoes. I use a Hunts brand called Fire Roasted tomatoes. They are really good in this
1 can (8 oz.) tomato sauce
1 3/4 cup Trader Joe’s low sodium vegetable broth
3/4 cup brown basmati rice, uncooked
- Drain the tofu and wrap it in paper towels. Press it between two plates to squeeze out more liquid.
- While tofu presses, prepare the tempeh. Slice it thinly and give it a bit of cover in liquid smoke. Saute in olive oil until crispy on both sides.
- While the tempeh is cooking, slice the block of tofu in half lengthwise and then cut into long, thin strips. Cover these strips in Cajun Magic seasoning and broil them for 5-8 minutes to continue to get liquid out of the tofu.
- Set prepared tempeh and tofu aside.
- Saute the onion, bell peppers and celery in the olive oil for at least 5 minutes until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and saute for a minute more.
- Add bay leaf, cayenne pepper, Cajun Magic, tempeh and tofu to the pan. Break the tofu and tempeh into smaller, bite-sized pieces while stirring everything together.
- Add tomatoes (with juice), tomato sauce and vegetable broth. Gently simmer for about 5 minutes.
- Pour rice into the pan and stir well.
- Bring the mixture to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, covered for about 45 minutes or until the rice is cooked and absorbs most of the liquid.
- Remove the bay leaf, add any more seasonings you like and serve. Preferably with Tabasco sauce.
I decided to make the recipe this way because it allowed me to capture at least two of the essential elements of jambalaya. The tempeh will serve as a replacement for the pork and the tofu is a good substitute for the chicken. The liquid smoke adds the flavor that is missed by removing pork from the recipe. I left out the seafood but personally wouldn’t be against having some fresh shrimp in there. I also added red bell pepper to the recipe in order to have a bit more flavor. I would have put okra into it had I been able to find any (for some reason, okra isn’t readably available in Maine). Once I sat down to eat this jambalaya, I was surprised at how well it came out. I expected it to be good but I didn’t think it would be as good as it was. I thought I’d be messing with the recipe for a while trying to figure out a good combination of ingredients and methods to capture the essence of this classic food but I pretty much got what I wanted on the first try. That never happens to me, but I’m not complaining. If you choose to try this recipe, give yourself some time and then savor it when you’re done. It’ll be worth it.
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My trip to Trader Joe’s the other night scored me another item for my pantry that comes highly recommended: Trader Joe’s Three Grain Tempeh. Instead of just making fake bacon, I did my research and found a recipe I just happened to have all the ingredients for. Of course I couldn’t leave well enough alone and made some minor adjustments to make it more to my liking and I was quite pleased with the results. In order to attempt this recipe you must like tempeh, chili peppers and onions. If you do, this is totally worth it. The sweetness of the onions really plays off the heat of the jalapeños and the soy sauce brings out the flavors. Then, the crunchy tempeh rounds out the dish very well. Unfortunately the pictures of this didn’t come out as well as I’d like them to but I was trying out the new camera on the phone instead of using my normal camera to get pics of the food.
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 package tempeh
1 yellow onion
1 red onion
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 red jalapeño
1 green jalapeño
1/2 tsp. low sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar
1. Dice the tempeh into small rectangular pieces.
2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet and add the tempeh. Cook the tempeh until it is crispy and brown on all sides.
3. Remove the tempeh from the oil and put aside
4. Cut the yellow and red onions in half from top to bottom and then cut each half lengthwise so that you end up with long strands of onion (think half circle onion rings) – incidentally, this type of cut is referred to as Lyonnaise.
5. Sauté the onions until they are translucent and aromatic. While the onions are cooking, mince the garlic and slice the jalapeños into thin pieces.
6. Sauté the mixture briefly the add in the tempeh and stir around.
7. When everything is mixed well, add the soy sauce and the brown sugar. Stir continuously until the brown sugar has dissolved and the tempeh and onion mixture has been completely coated.
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Sometimes, there are foods that I am aware of but I have never had the opportunity to try or have not made myself. Last night, those two forces combined into one fantastic dinner. For a long time now, I have known about tempeh: a soy product that is related to tofu but contains grains in addition to the soy protein. I had never had it and didn’t know what to do with it. Then, I saw a recipe for tempeh bacon. Needless to say, this intrigued me. I bought a block of tempeh, got out my cutting board and my sharpest knife and sliced the tempeh as thinly as I could. I then covered the tempeh with liquid smoke and seasoning for flavor. I proceeded to fry the tempeh slices in some hot olive oil and they came out crispy, brown and DELICIOUS.
I really liked the flavor of the tempeh. It is a bit earthier than tofu and it’s a lot easier to work with. You don’t need to press it or worry about getting the liquid out of it. Plus, it’s really versatile for cooking. You can bake it, saute it, fry it or steam it just to name a few preparation methods. I took my tempeh “bacon” and I put it on top of a salad. It took an otherwise standard salad to a whole new level. My daughter came out as I was making it, saw the tempeh sitting on my plate and asked me, “Is that BACON?” I explained to her that it wasn’t and offered to let her try some but she politely declined. I think her words were something along the lines of rather having her teeth pulled out than have to try something that gross but she’s only 10 so I can’t blame her for not being as adventurous as I am when it comes to trying new foods. If you are looking for new ways to expand your vegetarian arsenal, I would really suggest checking out this great ingredient. It looks a little weird but it works great in just about anything I’ve seen it in.
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