Tempeh Sweet Potato Curry. Or, Adventures in Tempeh Land

I know that I’ve previously alluded on this blog to the fact that I have a weird relationship with tempeh, but I’m not sure I’ve ever really offered an explanation for this.  [Don’t worry, there is a recipe at the end of this post!]

In my pre-gan days I had always been a fan of faux meats as well as other meat “stand-ins” such as tofu.  So although I didn’t learn about tempeh until after I had become vegan, I was excited to try it and figured it would become something I ate regularly, just like tofu.

So imagine my surprise when, the first time I tried tempeh, I HATED it.

I don’t remember the first time I had most foods, or what the first vegan dish I cooked was, or anything like that.  But I vividly remember the first time I tried tempeh.  It was after making the Smoky Grilled Tempeh from Veganomicon (and actually I blogged about it in one of my earliest blog posts!).

A round of applause for the blurry 2008 blog photo please!

Those nice-looking triangles were in fact inedible.  The texture–simultaneously chewy and crunchy–was unexpected and unpleasant.  The flavor of the liquid smoke overpowered and really I just hated it.  [As a sidenote, this was also the only time in my entire life that I have made a recipe by Isa Chandra and not liked it!]

This experience scarred me in several ways.   For one, ever since that day I have been extremely stingy with liquid smoke.  I decrease the quantity by at least half in any recipe that calls for it.  Only recently, nearly 6 years later, have I started to become a bit braver with the smokey-smoke.

Additionally, it was a long time until I tried tempeh again, and I was only brave enough to do it in the form of bacon (I think the tempeh bacon from Peace o’ Pie I described in this post was actually the first time I tried it since the above-described debacle).  And even then, I didn’t like it much.  [As a sidenote, this is the only thing I can remember that I ever ate at Peace o’ Pie that I didn’t like.  Are we sensing a theme?]

I only FINALLY started to enjoy tempeh after having it at Good Karma Cafe in Red Bank, New Jersey, near where my parents live.

Tempeh Land 1Sweet mustard tempeh Love Bowl from Good Karma Cafe

I don’t know what kind of magic the crazy elves who work at Good Karma work on the tempeh but holy hell is it delicious.  I often crave specifically THIS tempeh, but sadly I can only get it when I go down to Jersey.  Even my sister M, who has no love for tempeh (but is definitely on Team Seitan!), is a big fan of this stuff.

At some point, I also acquired a liking for the Tofurkey folks’ maple tempeh bacon.  I don’t buy it often because it can be pricey and because I am pretty good at convincing myself that I should eat less storebought stuff, but I do like it.

The other night, as part of my ongoing but recently revitalized effort to scourge our pantry and freezer, I used some overly long-frozen tempeh bacon to make a “California burger.”  [Isn’t that what restaurants always name a burger with avocado on it?]

Pantry 005Of course, you can’t see the avocado in this photo, but it was there, under the lettuce.  The patty was a Quorn vegan burger that was also floating around the freezer.  [Sidenote: these patties are mediocre at best and they also smell really strongly, and not in a good way, if you microwave them.  I don’t particularly recommend them.  Also, Quorn, why is like 99% of your stuff not vegan?  Possibly take a look at the market and reevaluate who your core audience really is.]  The bun was from Trader Joe’s and also had been living in–you guessed it!–the freezer.

Anyway, it was a very tasty burger, and I was really pleased with how well the tempeh bacon froze and reheated in my cast iron skillet.  And I think I should buy some more of it.

Finally, the other day I made a curry because, also in line with the kitchen cleanout, I had the following items that needed to be used ASAP: a sweet potato, a red bell pepper, one broccoli crown, and a package of…wait for it…tempeh (the SoyBoy 5 Grain variety).

And whaddya know, I liked it!  A rich, silky curry recipe like this could warm me up to just about anything.

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Tempeh Sweet Potato Curry, adapted from a free recipe for “Tempeh Curry with Sweet Potatoes and Green Beans” I once picked up in a Whole Foods somewhere
Makes 4 to 6 servings
Easy variation for gluten-free and soy-free 

1 + 1/2 cup vegetable broth (or water), separated
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp. freshly grated ginger
1 tbsp. curry powder
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 package of tempeh (8 oz.), cubed (and pre-steamed if desired…see recipe note)
1 13.5-oz. can light coconut milk
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1 crown broccoli, cut into small florets (use the stems too!)
1 red bell pepper, diced or cut into small strips
1/4 tsp. sea salt
(optional) a few tablespoons of chopped cilantro
(optional) a few dashes of cayenne pepper (how much will depend on your personal tastes plus how hot your curry powder is)

Bring 1/2 cup vegetable broth to a simmer in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat.  Add onion, garlic, and ginger and cook until onion is tender (about 5 minutes), stirring occasionally.

Stir in curry and cumin and cook for 1 minute.

Add coconut milk, potatoes, tempeh, and remaining 1 cup broth.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook 10 minutes.  Stir in broccoli and bell pepper and return to a simmer, uncovered.  Cook about 5-10 minutes longer, until potatoes and broccoli are tender.  Stir in salt and optional cilantro and cayenne.

Serve over cooked brown or basmati rice.  Enjoy!

Recipe note: Some people like to steam their tempeh before adding it to a recipe like this, to draw out some of the bitterness.  To do this, simply cut the block of tempeh in half and place in a steamer basket over a pot with a little bit of boiling water in it, cover, and steam for 15 minutes or until tender.  Remove tempeh and set aside until it is cool enough to cut into cubes.

Variation: You can also make this recipe with tofu in place of tempeh (keeping in mind that you won’t need to add it until near the end of the cooking process), or with veggies only!  This would be useful for those avoiding gluten and/or soy.

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How do you feel about tempeh?  

What foods you have tried and struggled to like?

Vegan MoFo – Gettin’ Down with Brown


The point of this post is definitely not to be like “Look What I Ate!”  Trust me, I am aware that this is not 2007.  But once in a while I get excited about something I’ve made out of whatever stuff I have lying around.

Plus I’m really excited about the little bowl I made today because it fits in with my MoFo theme this week in that it’s full of yummy and under-appreciated brown foods!

Allow me to introduce you to the Brown Bowl (with accents of green of course!):

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You’ve got your quinoa, your steamed kale, tempeh sausage crumbles, and brown rice all in one! (Sorry the image is a little off-center…Wordpress and I are currently having a disagreement over photo-editing.  And of course the rice looks white…sigh.)

Anyway, the bowl.  It’s a super-yummy and healthy option for lunch or dinner!  I suppose it doesn’t technically need a sauce but I like to have one.  Here, I used straight-up sriracha but a tahini sauce would be amazing as well (specifically I’m thinking a sriracha-tahini sauce.  Yeah, I’m obsessed.)

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(And in this one everything is still off-center and looks yellow/orange.  Grr.)

I used the recipe for Tempeh Sausage Crumbles from Vegan with a Vengeance (click for recipe).  As I’ve mentioned before, I’m in the early stages of my tempeh appreciation.  I’m loving this recipe as a cheap and versatile way to incorporate this protein- and iron-rich food into my diet.  Seriously, a single serving of tempeh (1 cup) has 31 grams of protein.  [Source: NutritionData.com]  Compare to a serving of steak (3 oz., and who actually eats that little?) which has 23 grams of protein but is also served with an unattractive side of cholesterol [source].

My first go at the tempeh crumbles recipe made enough to feed me for something like 5 meals.  Last week I packed it up with mashed Yukon Gold potatoes (left over from this recipe) and steamed kale.

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I didn’t eat it in little perfect sections obviously.  Here it is, all mixed up like 311:

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Tempeh sausage crumbles…not just for brunch anymore!

Not Yo Mama’s Happy Meals

Those who know me know that I strongly believe that being vegan is a snap if you plan and are adequately prepared on any given day. Even so, in the midst of busy lives, work schedules, and obligations to family, friends, and significant others, true preparation can be a lofty goal.

I don’t know about you, but I’m feelin’ 22 I find that every aspect of my life runs so much more smoothly when I am on top of my food and eating. Recently, I did a 3-day Detox Cleanse from Maria Guadagno at Bombshell Blueprint (more information here). The cleanse was awesome of course, but what it really showed me was that having a true plan and schedule for what I’m going to eat, when I’m going to eat it, and maybe most importantly when I’m going to prep it, is the key to my feeling happy, productive, and in control of my life and health.

So today I present some of the “happy meals” that I have been eating of late. These are meals that, with a little advance preparation, can be thrown together super-quickly at any given time, whether it’s the usual early-morning-packing-lunch-for-the-workday grind or a getting-home-after-Zumba-and-have-no-time-to-cook-dinner situation.

Ever since my cleanse I have been wild about cooking up a pot of brown rice with shiitake mushrooms at the beginning of the week and using the rice in all sorts of meals. All you do is add the sliced mushrooms to the rice about 10 minutes before the cooking time is up.  You get a whole lot of extra texture and nutrition with little to no extra effort. Best of all, you can eat this rice with basically anything.

For example, here we have shiitake brown rice packed alongside lentils (which my mother-in-law cooked up with a little onion and carrot and gave to me), ready to take to work.

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I stirred some turmeric and cayenne into the lentils and it was absolutely delicious, hearty and filling, not to mention healthy!

I tried the shiitake mushroom trick with soba noodles as well. Scroll down for shiitake soba noodles three ways:

1) with stir-fried green beans and red pepper (also a gift from my mother-in-law):

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2) with sauteed sugar snap peas:

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I topped and tailed these babies the night before, then sauteed them with toasted sesame oil (my LOVE), garlic, ginger, and a little fresh cilantro in the morning and packed it all up to take to work.

3) with the remaining sauteed sugar snap peas, with Sticky Maple Tempeh by Happy. Healthy. Life (recipe here) for dinner:

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Another big reason that meal planning is mentally refreshing for me is that it allows me to actually use up the ingredients I have in my constantly overpacked fridge and pantry, which is especially important this time of year when fresh produce is everywhere. Planning also allows me to utilize a handful of the several thousand recipes I have stored in my email (never mind the ones in all my cookbooks) that I want to try which use those ingredients.

I especially love to make a recipe that leaves leftovers that I can repurpose in another way. One night I made Summer Slaw from Happy. Healthy. Life (recipe here) and used it as a base for jackfruit carnitas tacos (look out for those in an upcoming post).

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The slaw recipe made a TON! So the next day I ate some of it with the leftover Sticky Maple Tempeh. The rest of the week I had it as a side with pretty much everything else that I ate. (I highly recommend both the slaw and the tempeh recipes, but especially the tempeh, by the way. I have had mixed results with tempeh in the past but making this gave me more confidence to try other things with it in the future.)

With a block of extra-firm tofu that was on sale, I made Curried Tofu from Veganomicon. That one block of tofu lasted me more than a week, and was delicious chopped up over salads or used in sandwiches like this one:

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I also recently made Curried Chickpea Salad from Fettle Vegan (recipe here) one night and used it on sandwiches and wraps for days.

Happy Meals 016

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I only used 2/3 of the amount of mayo called for and still found the recipe a little too rich/creamy for my tastes. I’m not sure I would make this specific recipe again but I would definitely tweak it and/or use other chickpea salad recipes (Lord knows there are thousands) because I love the idea of having something like that available for quick meals, snacks, or sides.

Finally, since it’s berry season, I’ve been all about fresh strawberries and blueberries (organic because the other ones scare me). I made Strawberry Mint Salad by Maria Guadagno (recipe here) and ate that over organic baby spinach and oh my.

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For breakfast, some blueberries mixed up with So Delicious strawberry coconut-milk yogurt and hemp seeds.

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Or cherry vanilla smoothies that I made for H and me after finding cherries for $1.99/lb (yay!).

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Each smoothie had about 2/3 cup of pitted cherries, 1 cup of unsweetened almond-coconut milk, 1/4 of an avocado, 1/2 a frozen banana, 1 tbsp of hemp seeds, and 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract. They were really tasty but strangely turned a nasty-looking gray/steel color after 2-3 minutes (?!). Not sure what that was about.  I didn’t take a picture because it was disgusting.

Another popular and quick breakfast has been a sprouted whole wheat English muffin with peanut butter, hemp seeds and banana slices (this breakfast idea came from H, my little hemp seed convert).

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Those are just a few of the happy meals that, along with the beautiful summery weather, have been keeping a smile on my face!

What are your happy meals made of?

The Crave

Anyone else remember this guy?
“Me want Honeycomb!!!” 

Well, today I have the Crave.  Not for Honeycomb, but for food from the Clover truck


Guess what though?  I can’t have Clover, because it’s Passover, and everything yummy that I love to eat from there comes on a big slab of chametz fluffy delicious pita.  Ooh…except the French fries!  But wait, what’s that?  Oh, damn…the wedding diet just leaned over, shook its finger in  my face, and said, “No, piggy, you can’t have those either.”  Sads. 

I can, however, wistfully recount the delightful Clover sandwich I had last week. 

It was Clover’s classic Soy BLT, made with tempeh bacon.  It contains mayo but if you ask for a vegan version, they will leave off the mayo or substitute something way more fabulous like tahini, which is what I had on this baby:


I ate this in about 4 minutes flat.  It was that good, and as I’ve mentioned in the past, I don’t even like tempeh all that much.  And so, next Wednesday, when Passover has ended, I will likely break that record.  I’m placing a bet on myself to scarf 3 of them in 5 minutes.  Watch me.

**UPDATE 12:10 p.m.**:  I received the following information from Rolando Robledo via Twitter–@acooknthemaking If you ask for a boat we’ll make you a sandwich w/ no bread- Works better w/ Eastern sandwiches – Egg & Eggplant & Chickpea.

You see why I love the Clover truck?!

Peace o’ Vegan Heaven

I almost started jumping up and down the other day when I saw this post on Peace o’ Pie’s blog.  Vegan Brunch…must try.  And try I did.  Gorged myself is actually more like it.  Here is a recap:

From the buffet line:

Clockwise from top left, you see: curried tofu, tempeh bacon, smoky mac n cheese, sweet potato home fries, a paprika zucchini potato pancake, and a gluten-free cinnamon walnut pancake (sort of hidden by the potato pancake…sorry!). 

The tofu and the latke were my favorites.  I wish I had gotten more tofu!  The mac n cheese was quite good as well–just in appearance alone, it’s one of those “I can’t believe it’s vegan!” foods.  I mixed a liberal amount of chili garlic sauce into the mac to make it perfect.  Sweet potato home fries, check.  Cinnamon walnut pancake–a bit heavier/denser than I’d normally like, but I am also not accustomed to gluten free eating so maybe it comes with the territory.  Flavorful though, and I enjoyed the big crunchy walnut pieces in it.  The tempeh bacon was the only thing I wasn’t thrilled with; that said, I have tried and failed to love tempeh in the past so my opinion is not terribly weighty on whether this was good or not.

But then there was this:

A cinnamon bun with strawberry cream cheese frosting

Holy crap.  Besides being incredibly photogenic, this thing was delectable.  I ate half of it early in the day with my brunch and the other half for dessert later on.  A finger-lickin’ delight, and I can’t wait to go back for more!

I have alot more to say about Peace o’ Pie in a future post (in  my draft folder right now…along with everything else ever. Sigh.)  All you need to know for now is that it’s friggin’ awesome and any vegans that visit Boston should make it a point to stop in!

Beanie Babies

Chickpea Cutlets from Veganomicon by Isa Moskowitz and Terry Romero (which have been seen frequently in the blogosphere!)

The picture doesn’t quite do them justice…

I have made these four times.  The picture is of my fourth batch, which is the only one I baked (the others were fried).  I also made these with black chickpeas that I had soaked and cooked.  I left out the lemon zest that the recipe calls for because I had no lemons, and I think I actually prefer them this way.  They smelled unbelieveable while baking!  I ate one on a whole wheat hamburger bun with agave nectar-dijon dressing and a little ketchup.  I pretty much consider these a staple in my diet.

Chipotle Veggie-Bean Burritos from Vive le Vigan by Dreena Burton

These were scrumptious.  No other words need be applied.  My dad and I made them and our only deviation from the recipe was that we used fresh tomatoes instead of the canned diced called for. (This was before the current poisonous tomato season began, obviously.)

Cheater Baked Beans from Veganomicon (except that they are technically “peas”, and we didn’t “cheat”!)

Dad and I decided to make these for J’s girlfriend’s graduation party. We thought it would be cool to soak the beans overnight before cooking the recipe rather than relying on canned, despite the fact that the recipe’s title refers to the very fact that canned beans are used! But no matter. We used black-eyed peas, which we soaked overnight, and then proceeded in the morning to make the delicious sauce (we doubled the recipe), add the beans, and put it in the oven to bake for an hour. When we took the beans out of the oven, my dad sampled them and was a little surprised to find that the peas were fairly crunchy…much crunchier than one would expect from baked “beans”. We suddenly realized that we had neglected to cook the beans before baking them!! It was pretty funny actually. We ended up pouring the huge vat of beans into casserole dishes, adding water, and microwaving them for a few minutes at a time in an attempt to cook the beans. In the end they actually came out really well and were a hit at the party (about 2/3 got eaten!). Cooking is fun :-b

Smoky Grilled Tempeh from Veganomicon

Did. Not. Like.  This is the most disappointing thing I’ve ever attempted to cook.  I can’t figure out what went wrong.  All I know is that despite all the great stuff that went into the marinade, the only thing I could taste was the liquid smoke and I just couldn’t eat it 😦 Farley loved it though 🙂

Black Bean Burgers also from Veganomicon (not pictured)

These were so-so.  I made the recipe for a barbecue we hosted when my a cappella group was visiting my house and so I doubled the recipe.  The burgers tasted good but were overly gluteny.  I think that maybe gluten doesn’t need to be doubled even when the rest of the recipe is.  If I made these again I would definitely use less.