Southern Style Tempeh with a Side of Hushpuppies

May 29th, 2013 :: 2 comments :: permalink

Oh, how time has flown the last few months. I’ve been behind on logging my cooking projects, largely due to the fact that the sight of food wasn’t very pleasing for the first half of my pregnancy. Now that I’m over that hurdle, I’m raring to eat.

Fried foods are great for a recovering stomach, but I felt I could use something healthier than the usual deep frying method. I first fell in love with hushpuppies when I was eight years old and living in Fort Polk, Louisiana. My dad would order a six-inch high plate of crawfish when we went out to eat. Being a vegetarian in the making, I refused to eat any fish or seafood. I would instead order a tower of hushpuppies and ketchup. I remember always leaving two hushpuppies on the plate, resolving myself to eating every one of them the next time. No hushpuppy should be left behind.


INGREDIENTS: 1) 2/3 cup yellow cornmeal 2) 1/2 cup all-purpose flour 3) 1 teaspoon baking powder 4) 1/2 teaspoon salt 5)1/2 cup finely chopped onion 6) 1/3 cup milk 7) 1 tablespoon vegetable oil 8) 2 egg whites, beaten 9) vegetable cooking spray 10) 2 stalks chopped parsley INSTRUCTIONS: Combine cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; make a well in center. In a separate container, combine onions, milk, vegetable oil, and beaten egg whites. Add to dry ingredients, stirring just until moistened. Spoon 1 tablespoon batter per hush puppy onto a cooking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from pan immediately.
Recipe slightly modified from


INGREDIENTS: 1) 1 brick tempeh, sliced into thin triangles 2) 2 cups all purpose flour 3) 1 tablespoon baking powder 4) 1 teaspoon salt 5) 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder 6) 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper 7) 1 cup corn starch 8) 12 oz water mixed with 1/8 teaspoon of yeast and a pinch of sugar (in place of beer)
INSTRUCTIONS: Heat a pan on medium heat with a generous amount of vegetable oil. Place the corn starch on a plate and set aside. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper in a bowl. Slowly add the water/yeast mixture to the dry ingredients, mixing until batter is smooth. Coat tempeh pieces in the corn starch and then dip the in the batter. Place the coated tempeh in the heated pan and fry until golden brown on each side.

Everyone in the household, vegetarian and carnivore, tried this and thought it was pretty tasty, especially considering the hushpuppies were baked and the “fish” was really tempeh. Next time I may brown the tempeh before coating it in batter to give it a little more complexity, but other than that, this hit the spot. Here’s hoping you can create a healthier version of an old favorite recipe of your own.

Tofu and Veggie Miso Noodles

January 29th, 2013 :: 10 comments :: permalink

Every winter in Chicago I find a new favorite food that gets me through my vitamin D withdrawal. Last year it was XOCO , Rick Bayless’s take on upscale Mexican street food. This year, it’s all about Asian food. Dustin and I have been to Slurping Turtle, a local trendy Japanese noodle shop, at least five times in the last month. That’s a lot for us since I usually cook at home. The first time we went, it was still very new and only a few people had heard of it. Now, my favorite noodle dish comes with a 45 minute wait. It only made sense for me to make my own noodles for my impatient days.

The most important part of this dish, the part which also has the most ingredients, is the sauce. Your sauce has to be flavorful otherwise you’ll be eating a bowl of dry noodles and veggies (lame). Once you gather all the ingredients, it’s easy to make.


INGREDIENTS: 1) 2 tablespoons rice vinegar 2) 2 tablespoons miso paste 3) 1 teaspoon honey 4) 1 teaspoon grated ginger 5) 1 cup water 6) 2 cloves garlic, finely sliced 7)1 tablespoon olive oil 8) 1 teaspoon salt 9) 1 tablespoon lime juice 10) 1 Thai Pepper, finely chopped (very hot, optional)
INSTRUCTIONS: Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and let it sit at room temperature until the rest of your food is ready.


I’ve had a tough time cooking with tofu in the past. It would break into egg-like pieces that would stick to the pan. Now that I have a cast iron skillet and use firm tofu, the chunks keep their shape and brown perfectly. My veggies are mixed and matched and based on what I have available in my fridge. I do recommend using a green veggie, such as Brussels sprouts or bok choy, for a nice crunchy texture. These are my personal favorites.


INGREDIENTS: 1) a handful of mushrooms 2) 1/3 cup edamame 3) 2 cups Brussels sprouts 4) 1 block firm tofu 5) 1/2 of a red bell pepper
INSTRUCTIONS: 1) Heat olive oil in a pan and brown Brussels sprouts 2) Remove the Brussels sprouts once they are slightly crispy 3) Cube the tofu and brown it in the same pan 4) Add edamame 5) Add thinly-cut red peppers 6) Add mushrooms and remove everything once browned.


I used regular soba noodles, but added shredded zucchini and beets to my final dish to make it a little healthier. In the summertime, I could easily just eat this dish with veggie noodles, but I like my carbs in the winter. The beets are also a bright and beautiful visual touch.


INGREDIENTS: 1)1 beet 2) Soba noodles 3) 1 zucchini
INSTRUCTIONS: 1)Boil noodles according to instructions and drain 2) Shred zucchini and beet with a spiral cutter


OPTIONAL TOPPINGS: 1) Scallions 2) Red pepper 3) Sesame seeds 4) Olive oil

Once everything was prepared, I started assembling: soba noodles first, followed by the zucchini and beet noodles, then veggies, my desired amount of sauce drizzled on top, and my optional toppings.


This dish is full of flavor and beautiful textures. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Not-So-Sloppy Tempeh Joe

November 5th, 2012 :: 23 comments :: permalink

The last time I had a sloppy joe, I was still watching the television series Alf, playing with GI Joes, and riding my bike without shoes out on the gravel trails of Fort Polk, Louisiana. I was such a picky eater growing up and, as the doctor’s growth charts alerted my mother, slightly underweight. Eating wasn’t my favorite pastime. I would much rather have ridden my bike or played in the fields.

My parents used many tricks to get me to eat. Some of them were bribes, which I think every parent tries. A lot of them were disguising my food as something else. My dad tried the “Close your eyes and you’ll get a big surprise” approach, but that only worked a few times. Sometimes they just flat out gave me what I wanted. I had the metabolism of a gazelle at that point in my life, so why not let me eat a Manwich Sloppy Joe?

Fast forward, many, many years and I am a vegetarian and no longer have the gazelle metabolism. My rendition of a sloppy joe uses tempeh, which is very hearty and has a nice grain like texture, savory veggies and toppings, a sweet tomato drizzle, and a sliced pita bread. Enjoy!

FILLING: 8 oz (1 package) chopped tempeh, half an onion, 1 large pepper or two small peppers, 4 minced garlic cloves, handful of cherry tomatoes, and a pinch of salt.

1. Put a skillet/frying pan over medium heat. Add olive olive oil and peppers. Sauté and let them soften for 5 minutes.

2. Add the chopped tempeh to the skillet (a trick to get the tempeh extra brown is to add a little soy sauce while sautéeing).

3. After the tempeh has started to brown, add the garlic, tomatoes, onions, and a pinch of salt. Cook until everything is wilted.

SAUCE: 1/2 cup tomato sauce, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, 1/4  teaspoon black pepper & 1/2 cup water.

1. In a sauce pan, mix together tomato sauce, brown sugar, salt, chili powder, black pepper & water.

2. After the sauce starts to boil, reduce the heat. Let it reduce for 5 minutes and remove from the burner.

OPTIONAL TOPPINGS: Chopped scallions, olives, sour cream & pita bread.

Toast the pita bread and carefully cut it in half from the side. You can add whatever toppings you like. If you want it more traditional, you can stick with cheddar cheese and just the sauce. I, on the other hand, enjoy savory, so I topped mine with the sweet tomato sauce mixture, olives, scallions, and sour cream.

I prefer to have the tomato sauce as a drizzle and not completely submerge the tempeh and veggies. That way I get to see all the healthy veggies I am about to eat.

Looking at all these pictures makes me want to get a second helping. I think I will.

Raw Spaghetti Recipe

May 2nd, 2012 :: 2 comments :: permalink

I first learned about raw foods from Stacy Stowers, a traveling chef that teaches the health benefits of eating raw and proves, through her dishes, that it can be just as delicious as cooked. Everything she said made sense. The more raw veggies you can get in your diet the better and heat can degrade or destroy some of the health benefits in vegetables. She cooked for me and my co-workers and I was honestly a little skeptical when I heard “completely raw” in her description. My first thought was that I would be hungry in an hour and my second was that it would taste like eating raw carrots. I was amazed at how flavorful everything was. Her raw spaghetti dish was one my favorites. I could enjoy pasta textures without eating pasta…amazing. I built my recipe off of hers.

I love mushrooms (the vegetable), but don’t necessarily like them completely untouched. I soaked the mushrooms in olive oil, salt, pepper, and a little Balsamic vinegar for 6 hours. The longer the soak, the more flavorful the mushrooms. I then took out all my veggies: tomatoes, red and yellow peppers, celery, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, zucchini, basil, arugula, pine nuts, onions and half a lemon. For a simplified version you really only need sun-dried tomatoes, tomatoes, basil and zucchini, but I wanted a little more zing.

Start the sauce by blending or food processing the peppers, pine nuts, celery, onion, pepper and salt until blended. Don’t overdo it, because there is still one more step.

I then added fresh tomatoes, lemon juice, and sun-dried tomatoes to my food processor. I find it better to go in this order otherwise things can get really mushy.

Making the noodles is easy. I don’t own a spiral slicer, which makes noodles that are extremely convincing, so I made linguine style pasta  then topped everything with my marinated mushrooms and arugula. Raw spaghetti prepared this way tastes very fresh and has so much flavor. There is also no guilt if you get a second helping!

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Guilt-Free Lentil Burger

April 13th, 2012 :: 4 comments :: permalink

Continuing on, “Operation: get myself into swimsuit shape” is in full effect. It was Saturday afternoon and I was having huge cravings for something greasy. French fries are delicious, but quickly disappear in my presence, so I brainstormed ways to get rid of my craving. Dustin and I went to a restaurant the week before called, “Topolobampo” by Rick Bayless and they served us raw jicama slices instead of chips with our guacamole. That got me thinking, “Maybe I can use the jicama root instead of fries…and…what goes better with fries than a burger?

I’m trying to be more organized as I cook these days, so I  separated and chopped all my ingredients before hand. I used precooked lentils, which will save you some cooking time if you want to try this one, and used my food processor to chop the garlic, onions, and carrots. I wanted my burger to have a nice texture and taste, so I sauteed the veggies until they were soft and slightly brown.

I then combined the sauteed veggies with eggs, bread crumbs, salt, pepper, and soy sauce in a bowl. I wanted to mix everything up by hand since I knew I was going to have to get my hands dirty a step or two later anyway. After it was all mixed together I started to form my patties. Around that same time, I put a little olive oil in a pan and and let it warm up. I fried the patties on both sides until they were brown. I’ve had veggie burgers that just crumble as you eat them, which I really don’t like, but these guys stuck together really well.

Finally, I dressed my lentil burger with sliced onions, tomatoes, lettuce and cheese. I served Dustin’s burger with the traditional wheat bun, but decided to be more of health nut and eat my lentil burger with lettuce in place of the bun. I think it was just as good that way, but I did cheat a little and use ketchup. It’s the Nebraskan in me. The final touch to the dish was what actually gave me the idea to make lentil burgers in the first place, raw jicama slices that I topped with guacamole.

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Banh mi meets the cabbage wrap

March 30th, 2012 :: 6 comments :: permalink

I’ve only had a Bánh Mi on a few occasions and every time it was from Whole Foods. They are pretty good, depending on who is behind the counter that day, but I wanted to see if I could make one more to my liking. I’m all about flavor and heat, so I wanted to add more of a kick than I’ve tasted in one of these before. I considered many sandwich vessels, mostly different breads, but once I spotted bright purple cabbage in the store, I wanted to figure out a way to use it.

Most vegetarian Bánh Mi’s are served with tofu. I eat tofu every once in a while, but I’m not a huge fan of the texture. I decided to make mine with paneer (a firm type of cheese used in many Indian recipes). It doesn’t have a strong flavor to me, but has a nice crispy texture if you stir fry it.

I mixed lemongrass, cilantro, garlic, salt, and ginger in a food processor, which made a bright green paste. It smelled awesome. I’ve never used fresh lemongrass before, so there was bit of a learning curve there. I had to experiment and make a couple of guesses about which part of the stalk would be the most useful, but figured it out in the end. Once the paste was made, I separated it into two bowls. In one I added my paneer and in the other I tossed some chicken for Dustin. Both bowls went into the refrigerator for a bit to soak up all the flavors.

While I waited, I cut tons of peppers for that heat and carrots for a crunch. In another bowl, I mixed vinegar, salt, and sugar, then dropped in my veggies and let everything sit for about 30 minutes.

I quickly pan fried the paneer and the chicken in separate pans. Who knew that being a vegetarian would double the cooking and clean up time? I toasted some regular Italian loaf, spread on some lemonaise, then topped it with the paneer (or chicken) and my spicy peppers and carrots.

Although I didn’t try the chicken Báhn Mi, it had an awesome smell. I’m sure chicken does a great job at soaking up all the flavors. Finally, I used the beautiful bright cabbage with my paneer and few edible flowers to make a dramatically more colorful Bahn Mi wrap. The cabbage gave a nice crunch and balanced out all the flavors in the toppings. I’d say this was a successful experiment and though I can’t decide which version tasted the best, the cabbage wrap was clearly the most eye appealing.

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Not So Vegetarian – Short Rib Caldo

March 8th, 2012 :: 4 comments :: permalink

As Chicago residents of several years now, Dustin and I have become bigger and bigger fans of Rick Bayless‘s local restaurants. We’ve been to Frontera Grill, have plans for Topolobampo, and have had more than one O’hare travel experience saved by Tortas Frontera. A month rarely goes by, however, without us visiting Xoco, his casual but classy take on Mexican street food. We typically go for their amazing sandwiches, but on a recent visit Dustin decided to try one of their soups. The Short Rib Caldo caught his eye and it’s been a favorite of his ever since. A couple of weeks ago, while looking for projects to include here on Chickypea, he said we should try one of the vegetarian soup recipes on Bayless’s site, but I suggested he do something heavier. As luck would have it, he found a short rib soup recipe based on the Xoco dish. He takes it from here…

Once Joann suggested something heavy, I didn’t look back. Recipe in hand, I dragged her to a local butcher, confessed my ignorance to the staff, and said I was looking for short ribs and oxtail. A quick conversation followed, something about flanken cuts, then what looked like a huge piece of meat was carried to a nearby bandsaw, cut, and wrapped in white butcher paper. Oxtail came next. I guess it never occurred to me that oxtail was a literal name for something, but I immediately understood once I saw an 18 inch long intact cow tail go onto the counter scale. Oxtail…now I know.

Further research revealed that oxtail, when simmered for hours, was especially good at releasing gelatin into broths to thicken soups. Seems a likely reason for its inclusion here considering how little meat came from it compared to the short ribs. Step 1 of the recipe called for all of the meat to be simmered for hours after a quick sear in a hot pan. Short ribs, oxtail, and a sliced white onion joined several cups of water in a large pan for about 5 hours. At the end of that time, it was allowed to cool. I lifted out some of the onions and refrigerated the broth so it its fat would separate by morning. The meat was also removed from the broth and shredded by hand before a night’s rest in the fridge.

The next morning was veggie time. Zucchini, fingerling potatoes, cilantro, arugula, guajillo chiles, ancho chiles, and a couple of limes were all appropriately cleaned, cut, and prepped to join the meatfest in time for lunch.

Preparing the chiles was especially fun as neither Joann nor I had done anything quite like it before. Both types of required chiles were sold dried and the recipe called for them to be toasted in a hot dry pan. Our arm-breakingly heavy cast iron Lodge skillet came in handy here and provided a great visual background to the reds and dark scorch marks of the chiles. Pretty stuff. After toasting, the peppers were soaked in water to rehydrate, then joined a couple of other ingredients in the food processor to yield a paste. This then went into a smaller pan to be cooked and reduced slightly.

The next morning, the broth that had been refrigerated the night before had separated as planned, making the fat easy to skim off the top. It was very clear at this point that the long simmer the night before had done its job and the broth itself was thick and gelatinous, exactly as refrigerated leftovers of Xoco’s soup appear before reheating. I was on the right track. The broth and shredded meat were placed in our largest pan along with several cups of chicken broth and brought up to a simmer.

While the meat and broth were heating, the potatoes and zucchini that had been washed and cut earlier went into the oven for roasting. The chile paste was added to the quickly heating broth and meat mixture, immediately creating the soup’s trademark red color. Once the veggies were done roasting, they were added to everything else and the nearly complete soup was simmered for about a half hour.

I have to confess some surprise at how complex this recipe was, but looking back I think I understand why nearly every step was necessary. Much respect to those who understand details like these well enough to recommend them in the first place. While the final product wasn’t Xoco quality, it tasted fantastic. One thing that I’ve always enjoyed about this soup is how the arugula’s strong flavor balances the meaty and peppery flavors of the soup perfectly. A squeeze of lime also adds a bit of lightness to what is really a hearty dish and the veggies provide a much welcome texture variation from everything else. Really fantastic to eat and a pride-inducing dish to make.

The full recipe can be found at Rick Bayless’s site, which also has a number of other interesting recipes to try.


My dad’s famous beans and rice

January 18th, 2012 :: 1 comment :: permalink

It’s all in the sauce. It may sound crazy, but every major holiday all I want is my dad’s flavorful beans and rice. It’s as close to a steak as I’m going to get as a vegetarian. The beans take on the flavor of all the ingredients that slowly simmer in the sauce. My dad originally made his sauce with bacon, which adds a big hit of flavor. When I became a vegetarian, it took a lot of trial and error to get that flavor back. I asked my dad years ago for the recipe and he said there really isn’t one… just a little of this, and a little of that. I’ve been experimenting with different ways to make it my own for 10 years. It is all about intuition and changing it for your taste buds. Here’s my interpretation of my family’s beans and rice.

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00 Pizza dough

December 10th, 2011 :: 0 comments :: permalink

Living in Chicago and not liking deep-dish pizza didn’t leave me with very many pizza options, so I have been trying to create my own. Over the last few months and through much trial and error, Dustin and I have gotten pretty close to what I would consider perfect pizza dough. After going to Sunday Supper Club (a local dining club that hosts dinners in the chefs’ home, with a new theme each month), we found the missing piece… 00 flour. It is a super fine flour and dough made with it is much more wet than regular dough. Making dough from scratch is more work than just buying it premade or calling for delivery, but it tastes so much better fresh and is so much more gratifying to make (and eat!). I made a vegetarian pizza with seared tempeh and a carnivore’s version with Milano salami for Dustin.

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Salmon without the fishy taste

November 12th, 2011 :: 3 comments :: permalink

I’ve been a vegetarian off and on since I was 15. I don’t remember ever eating fish, because I was incredibly picky with meat from an early age. I still enjoy cooking it for Dustin and rely on his feedback on how it tastes. Every time he orders fish from a restaurant he says that the fish I make at home is better, so that has to be a good sign. Dustin hates the fishy taste of fish dishes so I use ingredients that will get rid of that and add flavors to it.
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