The Real Food Journal
Some things just happen. Like the confluence of my own birthday with the arrival of petite “honeoye strawberries” at the Farmer’s Market. Yes, Happy Birthday to me! I have a vegan baking class coming up, and the vegan cupcakes that I teach in that class are perfect for a birthday cupcake. So, I dropped in a few strawberries to make strawberry cupcakes. For me!
Strawberry Vegan Cupcakes
These little vegan cupcakes are really easy to make, and the frosting is over the top creamy and sweet. I don’t usually post recipes this “white,” but birthdays are all about decadent little cakes, right? Besides, these are strawberry cupcakes, which makes them a touch more more plant-based.
Cupcakes are Fast and Easy
So, they are very easy vegan cupcakes, just preheat the oven, Mix up the dry ingredients, mix up the wet ingredients. Scoop the batter into the cups, plop in some whole berries. I didn’t cut them, because I didn’t want the juices to pour out into the batter. You could use raspberries, in their place, for a similar effect. The do sink a little bit after baking, but the frosting hides all that.
(Maybe you want a full-sized cake- try my Strawberry Bundt Cake.)
Now It’s a Party!
Of course, a dozen cupcakes is a good excuse to invite over some friends, or take a few to someone who needs a little sweetness in her life. We did our best to eat them, and it was a fine birthday feast.
Life’s too short to eat bad vegan cupcakes- so make your own, and glory in the fresh strawberry flavor in each one.
Strawberry Cupcakes with Buttercream
Vegan cupcakes that nobody will ever suspect are plant-based! These are classic white cupcakes, with a few fresh strawberries popped in, for a birthday, summer brunch, or anytime you crave a sweet treat.
- 1 3/4 cups unbleached flour
- 1 cup organic sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup coconut milk plus more for frosting
- 1/2 cup avocado oil
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup very small strawberries washed and patted dry
- 1 stick buttery sticks or melt spread
- 6 cups organic powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 4 tablespoons coconut milk optional
- raspberry red tinted sugar
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with papers.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a medium bowl, combine the coconut milk, avocado oil, vanilla and cider vinegar. Let stand for 5 minutes, then whisk and pour over the flour mixture.
Scoop a scant 1/4 cup batter into each cup, then drop in 3-4 strawberries, dividing them evenly between the cups. Dollop and remaining batter over the berries.
Bake for 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out with no wet batter attached. Let cool on a rack.
When cooled, place the Margarine in a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Use an electric beater or the batter paddle to cream the fat, then add the powdered sugar and mix on low until it starts to form a very thick paste. This is helpful for working out any lumps of sugar. When smooth, add vanilla, mix, then add coconut milk a tablespoon at a time with the machine running on medium, just until light and whipped looking. test for spreadability, you want it to be firm enough to hold its shape, but creamy enough to pipe.
If desired, transfer to a piping bag fitted with a star tip. Pipe generous swirls of frosting on each cupcake. Sprinkle with flavored sugar, if desired.
Keep, tightly covered and refrigerated, for up to 4 days.
It’s all about that Prep
If you want to eat well, you have to meal prep. One of the most basic meal components to prep is your salad dressing. It’s sooo quick to make, and sooo much better than the store-bought stuff. If you’ve been known to buy salad greens, only to let them languish until you have to scoop them out of the veggie drawer, meal prepping a dressing could be the key to a major dietary turn around. This dressing is so versatile, you can even use it as a stir-fry sauce, or dip veggies in it for a quick snack.
Prep Means Eating More Salad
Even if you don’t get the whole meal prep plan going (as explained in my latest book, Vegan Meal Prep) you can take this one powerful step. Just make a dressing and buy some salad greens. Pre-washed salads may be the most convenient veggie at the store, when you have a great dressing. Once you make the dressing and set your intention to eat that salad, you’ll make it happen.
More Versatile than Vinaigrette
This one is a good dressing to have on hand, because you can drizzle it over beautiful greens like these, or serve it warm, over vegetables, tofu, or whatever needs a little sauce. Frozen veggie gyoza or springrolls would be a real treat, with this as a dipping sauce. Make a grain bowl, topped with shredded kale and beans, and drizzle with this dressing. Or chop whatever veggies are hanging out in the veggie drawer, stir fry or steam them, and sauce with your sesame turmeric dressing prep.
Take Your Dressing to Work Day
Once you have your sesame dressing, just store it in a jar, or you can portion it into smaller containers to pack with salads to take to work. As always, your homemade meal prep is going to be better than the options at most workplaces. It’s certainly cheaper.
Make a salad dressing this week, and see if it doesn’t change your eating habits for the better. Meal prep does that. Make a habit of it, and you could change the way you eat in a powerful way.
That’s what Meal Prep is all about!
Sesame Turmeric Dressing for the Week
Make a batch of this dressing, and you'll eat salads, grain bowls and stir fries with a versatile and tasty sauce.
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 6 tablespoons water
- 2 cloves garlic pressed
- 1 inch fresh ginger peeled and sliced
- 6 tablespoons tahini
- 1 tablespoon tamari
- 1 tablespoon brown rice miso
- 1 tablespoon sucanat or coconut sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
In a blender, place the water, rice vinegar, garlic, ginger, tahini, miso, brown sugar, and turmeric, and process until smooth. Scrape down and blend again as many times as needed with your blender.
Scrape into a 2 cup jar or storage container. Chill until needed. Keeps for a week.
It’s Strawberry Season.
That means, even here in Minnesota, the best, locally grown strawberries have finally reached their sweet, rosy ripeness. We make do all year with the bounty of California and Mexico, or do without. Until now. It’s a short window, and deserving of its own holiday season status.
You can even pick your own, just follow this link to find a farm.
Strawberry Season Bacchanal
The first berries were spotted at my local farmer’s market last week, and the first pint was eaten out of hand. Juice running down my chin, dipped in a little powdered sugar for old-time’s sake. But I had plans for the other berries I had greedily snatched up. A big fat bundt cake, lush as pound cake, but oh so plant-based.
Bake a Cake with the Best Strawberries of the Year
This cake is a recipe I’ve been working on for a while. It looks odd on the page, with so much oil, and no real egg replacements. The batter looks odd, too, because it’s so thick you might think it is a fail. But it’s not. Trust me. Once you whip all that luscious fat and spread it in the pan, it all bakes up just wonderfully.
As always, I was too lazy to make frosting or coconut whip, but you certainly can. I just wanted a little strawberry glaze on the bundt, to show off the shape and accentuate the flavor, so I pureed a few berries and added powdered sugar. It would be lovely served with a pile of berries and whipped coconut cream, or your fave ice cream.
Strawberry season is short, so I’ll be binge-ing on more of these sweet delicacies for as long as they last. It will be blueberry season, soon, and my favorite plum and cherry grower tells me it’s going to be a good year for those succulent treats as well.
Enjoy your own strawberry season with a cake, and seize the day!
Fresh Strawberry Bundt Cake
This cake is as dense and rich as pound cake, without a smidgen of butter.
- 3 cups unbleached flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest
- 1 cup avocado oil
- 1/2 cup coconut oil melted
- 1 1/2 cup organic sugar
- 1/2 cup mashed banana
- 3 cups quartered strawberries
- 4 large strawberries
- 2 cups powdered sugar approximately
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 cups whole strawberries
- 1/4 cup organic sugar
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Lightly oil a bundt pan and reserve
In a large bowl, whisk the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder and lemon zest.
In a bowl with an electric beater, or in a stand mixer with the batter paddle, beat the avocado oil and coconut oil with the organic sugar for 3 minutes. Add the banana and beat for another minute. Add the flour mixture and stir in just until mixed, then fold in the strawberries using a spatula.
Scrape the very thick batter into the Bundt pan and smooth the top.
Bake for 1 hour to an hour and 10 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out with no wet batter attached.
Cool for about 10 minutes before running a paring knife around the edges and inverting onto a cake plate. Allow to cool completely.
For the glaze, place the strawberries in a blender and puree, scraping down as needed. Add the powdered sugar and process to make a pourable glaze. If it is thin, transfer to a bowl and stir in more powdered sugar to make a thick glaze.
Drizzle over the cooled cake.
To serve, fill the center of the cake with sweetened whole berries.
Driving across Wisconsin last month, I had occasion to look at the prepared sandwiches in the truck-stop coolers.The standard line-up of meat, tuna, and egg salad sandwiches looked thoroughly unappealing, but seeing those egg salad sandwiches reminded me of childhood road trips. It was the only time my Mom made egg salad sandwiches. She’d only make them to eat in the car, and I remember them fondly, with their crunchy bits of celery and slippery egg chunks. As we played car games and squabbled, the flat cornfields of Illinois spun past. Then we ate egg salad sandwiches.
Convenient Meal Prep
When I grew up and discovered tofu, tofu egg salad was one of the first things I learned to make. We even served it at both of the restaurants I cooked in in the early 80’s. It was familiar, understandable, and easy.
With time on my hands, and Wisconsin spinning past my car windows, I wondered what had happened to good old tofu egg salad. You just don’t see it anymore. Is it out of style, or just passed over for the ubiquitous hummus or avocado sandwich that serves as the vegan option in restaurants?
Let’s Bring Back Tofu Egg Salad
When I talk to people about tofu, I get a few responses. One is that it is unfamiliar and weird, perhaps the texture or the lack of assertive flavors is just too strange for people to adopt. Another is that it takes too much effort to prepare- what with draining, marinating, frying or baking, saucing, it just seems like too many steps. What we want is convenient meal prep, that works for a couple of days.
So if you think tofu is a chore, try this blast from my past, with a little update. Adding kimchi gives the salad some tangy umami, as well as a little probiotic power for your inner microbiome.
I like a nice firm tofu for this, locally I buy Wildwood, which has a nice, fresh flavor and nubby texture.
If you pack them to eat in the car, you can contemplate your microbiome, or the interest in fermented foods, as the scenery rushes by. It’s an easy way to eat tofu, with a hint of nostalgia for egg salads past.
Tofu-Kimchi "Egg Salad"
A comforting and easy salad, with nostalgic associations for many of us. Just a little bit spicier and more exciting than the tofu salads of yore, with chopped kimchi for funky spice, and turmeric for golden, healthy color.
- 14 ounces extra firm tofu drained
- 1 large carrot shredded
- 2 ribs celery minced
- 1/2 cup kimchi drained and chopped, save liquid
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- 6 tablespoons vegan mayo
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- black sesame seeds for garnish
- bread and lettuce
Crumble the tofu into a large bowl or storage tub. Add carrot, celery, kimchi and lemon zest.
In a cup, stir the mayo, Dijon, turmeric and salt. Pour over the tofu mixture and stir. Serve about 1/2 cup per sandwich, sprinkled with black sesame and piled with lettuce.
I’ll tell you up front. I’ve never been to the Philippines. I’m not an expert on “authentic” regional cuisine of the Philippines, if there is such a thing. But I love trying the flavors of faraway places, especially when they are perfect for adding to plant-based dishes. So, when I saw recipe in Bon Appetit for a funky condiment called Palapa, I just had to try it. They were putting it on grilled shrimp, but it looked like the perfect topper for jazzing up rice, veggies, tofu, or anything that needs a burst of flavor and texture.
Condiments are Meal Prep
This toasty, spicy condiment is the perfect thing to prep and keep on hand. Once you have a tub of it in the refrigerator a plain bowl of rice or a quick vegetable saute can be transformed into an exotic Filipino treat. There’s more to the condiment than Ketchup and Sriracha.
Palapa is an Umami Bomb
Looking at the recipe, the palapa is made up of shredded coconut, some chiles and scallions and ginger and garlic, and ground dried shiitake mushrooms.The thing that jumped out at me was the ground mushrooms. They are key to adding umami to plant-based foods, and you don’t often see them in recipes. So, I made my own version of Palapa, with a few tweaks.
Because umami is the secret to making plant-based foods more satisfying and “meaty,” I wanted to amp it up. So, I added a little more dried mushroom. I also used dried chiles instead of fresh, because dried have more umami. If you really wanted to give it more fermented flavors, you could use tamari or coconut aminos instead of salt. I didn’t want to veer that far from the original, so I used salt. Maldon’s, to be exact, because good salt makes a difference, in something like this.
You can customize your Palapa
I used fewer chiles than the recipe in BA, and I liked the amount of chile in this recipe, but if you are not a spicy food fan, you can scale it back. Here in Minnesota I often cook for people who really can’t take heat, and I just dial it down to a hint of warmth. I also went a little lighter on the oil in mine. The Palapa in the photo in BA was quite moist and glossy, and I didn’t want it to be too oily. Theirs was also moister because they used fresh coconut and fresh chiles, which both have more juice than dried. I like the fluffy texture of this version.
Once you have a bowl of toasty Palapa, you’ll be set to make easy meals. Roasted sweet potatoes, perfect with Palapa. Popcorn? Heck yes. A bowl of noodles and tofu? Yes please!
Give it a try on your summer market haul, and you’ll eat and enjoy more veggies.
A coconutty, spicy condiment from the Philippines, with tons of flavor and umami.
- 4 dried red Chiles
- 4 large dried shiitake mushrooms
- 2 cups dried shredded coconut
- 2-4 tablespoons canola or avocado oil
- 4 large scallions chopped
- 8 large garlic cloves minced
- 2 inches fresh ginger peeled and minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime zest
- 2 tablespoons raw sugar
- 1 te coarse salt
In a spice mill or coffee grinder, grind the chilis and transfer to a small bowl. Grind the mushrooms to a powder, and transfer to another small bowl.
In the oven at 300 F, toast the coconut for about 8-10 minutes, until golden brown. Alternatively, place in a large saute pan and swirl over medium heat until toasted. Transfer to a plate to cool.
In a large saute pan, pour half of the oil and place over medium high heat. Add the scallions, garlic, and ginger and as soon as it starts to sizzle, reduce the heat to medium low. Saute for about 5 minutes. When fragrant, add the chiles, mushroom powder, coconut and lime zest. Stir frequently for about 5 minutes, until all is fragrant and toasted.
Stir in the sugar and salt and stir for another few minutes. Transfer to a bowl or glass storage tub and let cool. Cover tightly. Keeps for up to 2 months.
Give Me Iced Tea, with Extras!
It’s a thirsty season, Summertime. The heat, the glorious sunshine, and the sure knowledge that Minnesota summers are fleeting all conspire to motivate me to get outside. And with all that biking and gardening and relaxing strolling by the creek, comes thirst. Water is great, but now and then, I crave something a little fancier. Iced Green Tea with Turmeric is a tasty way to rehydrate, and to chug a hefty dose of healthy turmeric, ginger, and other good stuff.
It’s Iced Tea Month, if You Needed an Excuse
Yes, in the social media calendar, June is Iced Tea Month. If you are a tea drinker, like me, the switch to floating ice cubes in your brew is as natural as switching from jeans to shorts. The origin story of iced tea goes back to the World’s Fair in 1904, but who knows. It seems natural to cool your beverages when it gets hot out. But I do sometimes forget to take that extra step, and make something a little nicer than my usual straight, plain tea. Once you have some hot water, you might as well infuse it with antioxidants and brilliant color, with a few slices of fresh turmeric root. I always add some black pepper to recipes with turmeric in them, because it helps you absorb the active ingredients of the orange roots. A bashed stalk of lemongrass will give up a citrusy tang and fragrance that can’t be missed. Green tea is famously healthful, helping with everything from weight maintenance to memory.
Use Up that Rogue Spearmint Plant!
My garden is in danger of being overtaken by spearmint, garlic chives, and catnip, so I’ve always got to have some recipes ready to take advantage of the bounty. In this iced tea, I just threw handfuls of mint stalks and leaves into the hot tea and let them infuse. Then, they make a lovely edible garnish at serving time.
One Trick for Clear, Not Cloudy Iced Tea
Folks who make iced tea on the regular know that there is one step you can’t leave out, to keep your tea looking pretty. If you rush, and put hot or very warm tea in the refrigerator too soon, it will become cloudy. There’s nothing wrong with it, should you make this mistake, but you can avoid the faux pas by letting the brewed tea cool completely before chilling.
Once you have this golden elixir in the refrigerator, you’ll have a quaffable, beautiful drink to get you through the summer heat. It’s just barely sweet, and if you like a little more sweetness, you can add more palm sugar. It will still be a better beverage than soda from a can.
So enjoy the summer, and drink golden iced tea. Your thirst will thank you.
Iced Green Tea with Turmeric and Mint
Refresh on a hot day with a lightly sweetened, antioxidant-rich glass of tea.
- 1 large lemon zest pared, juiced
- 8 cups water
- 1/4 cup palm sugar or other sweetener
- 4 slices fresh turmeric
- 1 inch fresh ginger thinly sliced
- 1 stalk lemongrass split lengthwise
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 6 green teabags or 2 tbs tea leaves
- 2 handfuls fresh mint sprigs for tea and garnishes
Pare the zest in a long strip, and juice the lemon. Place zest (not juice yet) in a large pot with the water, palm sugar, turmeric, lemongrass, ginger and peppercorns. Bring to a boil, reduce and simmer for 5, then take off the heat. Add tea and mint and steep for 4 min. Strain into a large pitcher, stir in lemon juice, and let cool completely before chilling.
June 7 is Prince’s Birthday
I’m a Minneapolitan, and let me tell you, we all felt the loss when Prince left us too soon. He was our home town musical genius, rockstar, and part of our personal soundtracks since the 80’s. He was also a quiet philanthropist, sharing his wealth anonymously with a host of good causes in our state and the world. The Sexy M’F’er was also a plant-based organism.
I even interviewed to cook for Prince, back in the day.
Prince the Vegetarian
The Purple one was famously vegetarian, leaning toward vegan. After his passing, his private chefs gave a few interviews, and shared the broad strokes of what he liked to eat. Ray and Juell Roberts cooked for Prince for several years, and he treated them well.
I’ve known a few of Prince’s chefs over the years, and had heard that he was a plant-based eater. My own near-miss was several years ago, when his assistant called me to see if I would cook for him. We talked, but I had a steady gig, and the job was to go on a cross country tour with him, so I passed it on to others.
I sometimes wish I had gone, just to have the experience. But I was never good at being on call 24/7.
So, in his memory, I am posting this purple treat. He loved sweets, and the color purple. He might have thought his was a little too healthy, but it would be an energizing snack for someone who expended so much energy performing.
This bar is completely plant-based, relying on ground flax to provide the structure that eggs would in a conventional bar. Non-dairy milk and lemon juice provide the liquid, and enough acid to activate the baking soda. There are a few different varieties of purple carrots, some are just purple on the outside, while some are purple all the way through. Either way, they add an antioxidant-rich purple hue to the bars.
Whole Grains, Fresh Flour
I used my favorite freshly ground, locally grown flour from Baker’s Field Flour and Bread. It’s a flavorful, whole grain flour that hasn’t been sitting in a warehouse for months, losing nutrients. I know you might not be able to get a locally ground flour, so you can always use whole wheat pastry flour.
For a final flourish, I whipped up an easy “cream cheese” frosting that makes just enough to cover it lightly. If you want a thicker layer, just double it. I used Miyoko’s non-dairy cream cheese, but you can use your fave, or even dairy cream cheese.
The violets from my yard give it a sweet little kiss of color.
Happy Birthday, Prince, wherever you are. We’ll keep playing your music.
Purple Carrot and Blueberry Bars
These moist bars will disappear as soon as you put them out on a plate. With sweet berries and just enough creamy frosting, they pack a veggie punch in a cookie package.
- 1 cup shredded purple carrots
- 1/4 cup coconut oil melted
- 3/4 cup raw sugar
- 1/2 cup non-dairy milk plain
- 1 tablespoon ground flax seeds
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 11/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup frozen or fresh blueberries
- 4 ounces non-dairy cream cheese
- 1/2 cup organic powdered sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Lightly oil a 9-inch square baking pan, and preheat the oven to 350 F.
Shred the carrots and reserve. In a medium bowl, combine the coconut oil and raw sugar and stir. In a cup, mix the non-dairy milk with the flax, lemon and vanilla, let stand for 5 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, ginger, baking soda and salt, and whisk to mix.
Stir the milk mixture into the sugar mixture, then stir quickly into the flour mixture. Don't over-mix. Fold in the berries and spread in the prepared baking pan.
Bake for about 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the bars comes out with no wet batter attached.
Cool on a rack. For frosting, place the cream cheese in a food processor and puree, stopping to scrape down a few times and repeating until the cheese is creamy and has no lumps. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla and process, stopping to scrape down as needed. Spread over cooled bars.
Refrigerate, tightly covered, for up to a week.
Meal Prepping is the Answer
If you want to eat well, save money, and save time, you need to get into meal prep. Specifically, Vegan Meal Prep. Even if you aren’t full-on vegan, you can prep all the plant-based foods. You may find that it’s perfectly satisfying, or you may want to add a little bit of omnivorous food. No judgment, the meal prep plan still works, and gets plenty of healthy plants on your plate.
The Meal Prep Plan Works
Do you walk into your kitchen, open the fridge, and find a jar of mayo and a few out-of-date leftovers? Meal prep is all about making sure you have really useful, delicious prepared ingredients, so you can walk in that door after a long day and get a meal on the table, fast. Just a few hours on the weekend, or whenever you have a spot open, and you can set yourself up.
Beans, Grains, Veggies, Sauces and Desserts, Prepped
Take this delicious wrap sandwich. On my prep day, I made a batch of Cheesy Cashew Sauce, shredded some veggies with my food processor, and cooked some chickpeas. During the week, I can make mac-and-cheese, cheesy broccoli or cauliflower, or this super easy wrap. If you crave the ease of boxed mac-and-cheese, this is just as fast, because you made the sauce on the weekend.
Meal Prep Saves Money
Instead of grabbing takeout, you have saved lots of cash by making your own. Because you planned ahead and cooked the chickpeas yourself, you shaved the costs down even more. Even if you use canned, you will be spending less than you would at a restaurant. Cooking a pot of quinoa is a smart way to keep meal prep in the fridge.
Cashews Make Great Sauce
For this sauce, I used the best non-dairy cheesy ingredients, including raw cashews, almond milk, and nutritional yeast, known affectionately as nooch. Nutritional yeast is the brilliant yellow, inactive form of yeast that adds cheesy flavor and B12, so it’s a win-win. There’s a bit of turmeric to give the sauce a cheddary, orange look, but if you want to go more Alfredo with it, just leave it out.
Meal Prep for Life
Even if you don’t buy my book, Vegan Meal Prep, A 5-Week Plan with 150 Ready-To-Go Recipes, you can start prepping today. Cook a big pot of whole grains or beans, and make some sauces and dressings for the week. You’ll thank yourself at dinnertime!
Vegan Cheesy Sauce Veggie Wrap
- 1 cup raw cashews soaked
- 1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk
- 2 cloves garlic sliced
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons red miso
- 1/4 cup arrowroot
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
- 4 large whole wheat tortillas
- 2 cups cooked chickpeas
- 2 cups shredded veggies
- 2 cups cooked quinoa
- dijon mustard
Place the soaked and drained cashews in the Vitamix, and add the remaining ingredients. Secure the lid and blend, starting on low speed and raising the speed to high to puree completely.
Transfer the contents of the blender to a small pot, and place over medium heat. Whisk constantly until the mixture comes to a boil. Stir until the sauce thickens, then take off the heat.
To serve, keep warm and add to the wraps, pasta, or cooked veggies. To save as prep, let cool, then transfer to a storage container and chill. Refrigerate, covered, for up to 4 days.
Take two foods we love, put them in the same bowl, and you have Taco Rice. It may sound like an American invention, like the Korean Taco, or the Pizza Bagel, but it’s not. No, this delicious bowl-ification of the tender rice we love in sushi and the spicy filling we love in tacos was invented in Japan.
Taco Rice, the Taco of Japan
Like some of the best food fusions, this one came from an occupation. In 1984, a restaurant owner named Matsuzo Gibo wanted to serve more of the American soldiers living on a nearby base, so he created a dish that used ground beef and taco seasoning mix from a packet, a favorite comfort food that the soldiers craved. It was a big hit, and was soon copied in other restaurants. It was designed to be quick and easy, making Taco Rice a dish you can make at home, too.
A Taco Without the Shell
If you’ve ever found the taco shell to be a little tricky to handle, this dish solves your problem. Just eat all the goodies you love on a taco, on soft rice. Instead of that crispy fried shell that shatters when you bite it, or the soft corn shell, that gets soggy if you aren’t eating fast enough, you’ll use a fork, spoon, or chopsticks to move little stacks of rice and “meat” to your mouth.
Sushi Rice is Perfect Under Taco Toppings
I love sushi, and the slightly sweet and sour seasoned rice is designed to be a supportive player under fish and vegetables. That flavor and texture is also a great foil for the savory, spicy taco filling we all love. My Beefy Seitan Taco Meat, in a mash-up with soft sushi rice is a match made in culinary heaven.
Top your Taco Rice To Your Hearts Content
If you look at taco rice menus in Japan, some of them even go so far as to offer bowls with ketchup on top, because, you know, Americans put it on everything. I wouldn’t go that far, but if you like it on a taco, it’s fair game. The usual lettuce, tomato and cheese work, or you can use the avocado and microgreens that I did.
Comfort yourself with this tasty food fusion, and enjoy the best of both worlds.
Beefy Seitan Taco Meat
Copyrighted and reprinted with permission from Plant Based Meats, Hearty, High Protein Recipes for Vegans, Flexitarians and Curious Carnivores (Countryman Press)
Yield: 1 pound, 1 3/4 cups
1 1/2 cups ground seitan
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons sherry
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons oregano
1/2 teaspoon smoked salt
2 teaspoons tamari soy sauce
8 hard or soft taco shells
Lettuce, tomatoes, sliced jalapenos
Prepare or thaw seitan. In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat for a few seconds, then add the onions and stir. Saute, stirring, until softened. Add the tomato paste and sherry and stir to mix well. Add the smoked paprika, cumin, oregano, smoked salt and tamari and mix. Add the seitan and stir to mix and coat the crumbles thoroughly. Keep stirring until thick and browned, and heated through.
Use your taco meat to make a bowl of Japanese-Mexican comfort food.
1 cup sushi rice
1 1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 large avocado
1 large tomato, chopped
1/2 large yellow bell pepper, chopped
microgreens or pea shoots
First, cook the rice. Place the rice and water in a small saucepan and put over high heat. When the water boils, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and cook for 12 minutes. Check to see if all the water is absorbed, then fluff and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes, before scraping out onto a plate to cool.
In a cup, stir the rice vinegar and sugar and drizzle over the rice, fold to mix.
Scoop the rice into 4 bowls and top with taco meat, avocado, tomatoes, peppers, greens, lime juice, and Sriracha sauce.