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Tofu & Soy

Tofu Banh Mi Collard Wraps with Wasabi Peanut Sauce

Tofu Bahn Mi Collard Wraps

Certain neighborhoods of Philly are infiltrated with Banh mi. The classic Vietnamese sandwich essentially acts as the Chipotle of the Asian food world, but even cheaper. You walk in, select your “meat”, and leave within 5-10 minutes with an aluminum wrapped, $5 foot-long sandwich, ready to be eaten. It’s a great feeling.


Since it’s so easy to pick up a Banh mi around Philly, I rarely take the time to make it. Yet, it’s hands-down one of my favorites of the sandwich world, and so on the occasion that I’m getting a simultaneous desire for both Banh mi and a chef’s knife in my hand, I put on my cooking hat and grab my own tofu to be canvassed.

Tofu Bahn Mi Collard Wraps

When Banh mi making is going down in my kitchen, you can nearly guarantee it’s going to have a little flair to it. What’s the point of making the original version when I can grab that anytime, with little detriment to my bank account?  Besides, if I’m recreating a dish, I’m always about finding further ways to maximize its flavor since the ingredient make-up lays entirely in my hands. No doubt, that’s going on with this recipe. Wassuppppp wasabi?

Tofu Bahn Mi Collard Wraps

I don’t eat a ton of white bread, but when it comes to Banh Mi, a chewy white roll will always oust a whole wheat counterpart. This is one instance where whole wheat just won’t work. The flavor is unfortunately just too overpowering.

Collard wraps, on the other hand, those can create some Banh Mi magic.


Here, collard wraps are able to balance the delicate freshness of the traditional Banh mi composition, while adding an even extra layer of freshness on top of it all. It lightens up the whole meal, while enabling more flavor to shine through. Peel back that one-inch layer of bread, and the notes of deliciousness from the slaw, cilantro and other jamboree of ingredients are able to reach their fullest potential.

Shredded carrots

Be patient with the tofu, and make sure it gets a nice crisp so it can add that contrast to the creamy peanut sauce you’ll place beneath it.

For a fun, spicy twist, this peanut sauce receives a generous punch of wasabi that’ll make it stand out among other sauces. I love the flavor it brings to the subtle sweetness of the peanuts and the carrots.


True to the grab-and-go nature of banh mi — but more so with the intention to make your wrap-eating a little less messy! — envelope your collard packages in aluminum foil. This will seal in all the flavors so they don’t end up on your shirt. Although, if you’re like me, that’ll probably happen anyway.

I brought that big pile up above into work last week, and served it with a slide of Asian slaw for my coworkers. Two thumbs up, all around.

Since these are destined for pre-packaging, this will makes a great recipe for your own workweek lunch. While best the first day, the wraps can certainly withstand being rolled up the night before and kept in the fridge till you head out.

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Thai Black Pepper and Garlic Tofu

Thai Garlic and Black Pepper Tofu

Sometimes you’ve got to spice life up. Sometimes you need to go dancing until daylight savings time turns the clocks. You need to go bowling on a random Sunday afternoon. You need to forget about time, try new interests and let old ones fall behind. It’s weekends like these that remind me, life is not so serious.

Tofu on the other hand, now that’s some serious business. Learn how to press it, and marinade it, and spice it up too, and it can be your new best dinner mate.

My tofu mate? I love a good pan-fried slice, seared with soy sauce and layered on whole grain bread spread with mayo, topped with sprouts, avocado, and a little S&P. Let’s call that some serious lunch.

For dinner, something like this Thai Black Pepper and Garlic Tofu adapted from FatFree Vegan Kitchen does the trick. That’s where all that pressing and marinading and spicing comes into play.

The following recipe creates a super light and veggie-packed meal, perfect for when you’re in the mood for something wholesome. Although, if you’re like me, you’ll richen it up a bit with a splash of coconut milk. That’s how you really spice life up.

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Arugula, Apple and Tempeh Bacon Sandwich with Caramelized Onions

Arugula, Apple and Tempeh Bacon Sandwich

Most times of the year, when I go to the grocery store, 75% of my basket is filled with fruit and vedge. However, lately I’ve been swimming in honeycrisps and butternuts and greens from the farmer’s market where I work. My grocery trips have been minimized, and my produce budget even more so.

Now when I go to the store, I end up with a basket that looks nothing like myself.

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I am a people-watcher. I love the art of observing others. So when going stir-crazy in the Whole Foods check-out line, I’m watching. I’m analyzing what the people in front of me plan to make for dinner. I’m picking out recipes for them in my mind, and I’m judging — er, I mean guessing — their lifestyle and personality traits. All from the items cruising their way to the cash register.

I, of course, am also seeking out my future husband. I’m scanning the lines in search of the handsome guy who’s buying figs and sweet potatoes, brazil nuts and oatmeal, and ingredients you can actually cook with. If you need to find me, I’ll be in that line. And hopefully exiting it with dinner plans. Just kidding.

Lately, however, trips to the grocery store have been scarce, and the farmer’s market is my new best friend. From it, I was able to pick up the fresh fall arugula and apples that compose this meal. Complimented by the rich flavors of caramelized onion, curry and parsley, this creates a surprising and satisfying sandwich. I love adding a sweet crunch in unexpected places, and here the apples carry this out beautifully. Choose your favorite eating variety, and make sure to thinly slice.

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Vegan Eggplant Rollatini

Vegan Eggplant Rollatini

I’ve happily walked into the life of someone who owns a grill. And a pool. Seeing as though I live in a small, city apartment with not even an inch of backyard space, this new addition to my life overcomes me with joy. I’m not talking about the new friend. Just the swimming and the grilling. (Kidding, of course).

While as a kid I had more than enough yard for forts and capture the flag, I didn’t grow up with a grill. Or a pool. But I begged my parents for both. I can see why they didn’t want to take on the latter, but the absence of a grill is still something I’ve never quite figured out. When veggies are in season, I find it to be one of the easiest ways to create a healthy plate full of flavor.

As of lately, I’ve been using my friend’s grill to feast on a ton of portobello mushrooms. It’s as simple as whisking up a 3-ingredient marinade of garlic, olive oil and splash of balsamic. From there, just throw those saucy rounds to the flame. Easy. Add some melted cheese, toast up a bun, and you’ve got summer’s easiest vegetarian burger.


Before I discovered my new friend had grill access, I invited him over for post-yoga dinner of Eggplant Rollatini. If I would’ve known about his backyard status, I would’ve saved this one for a later date. There are only so many eggplant slices you can fit on a countertop George Foreman. Chilling outside while waiting for food to char is one thing. Chilling inside, impatiently counting the minutes till the next batch, is another. Times that by four batches, and you get the true 2-br Philly apartment grilling experience.

Vegan Eggplant Rollatini

If you have a backyard grill, by all means, use it for this recipe. If you don’t, but have a grill pan or other smaller device, I assure you, the slight impatience you may suffer through will be worth the results. Take the time to slice and cook through several batches. Grilling the eggplant first ensures you won’t end up with a chewy, undercooked rollatini. If there’s anything that can easily ruin an eggplant parm or rollatini, it’s an undercooked base. Don’t let that happen.

Here, I’ve created a vegan version of the Italian classic by using a ricotta-like crumbled tofu and then adding bulgur wheat for a little extra texture. Herbs and nutritional yeast make sure this is by no means a flavorless vegan dish, and marinara seals the deal to compliment all the flavors. If you’re lucky, eat this pool-side or deck-side. If you’re not, don’t sweat it. Literally. Grab a beer, open the window and enjoy.

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Veggie Summer Rolls with Crispy Tofu

Veggie Summer Rolls with Crispy Tofu

There are two times when I really miss having a TV. One is when any of the major tennis championships are airing. In this case, Twitter is giving me the play-by-play, which becomes more annoying than missing the match all together. The other time is when I get home from a long day and want to do nothing else but mindlessly flip on the Food Network. Like the Bachelorette has become for certain boys I know (yes, boys), the Food Network was once my dirty little secret. I knew the personalities of every one of the networks’ celebs. I acted like Giada and I were friends, and like Ina Garten would one day invite me to one of her fancy dinner parties. I even got suckered into the crazy reality game shows, which are rarely ever my thing.

A year ago I moved into a new apartment, and with it I got rid of my cable bill. What came next was ridding myself of my Food Network obsession. No more cooking sessions spent in front of a screen watching other people’s cooking sessions. No more drooling over greasy Diner, Drive-Ins and Dives eats — most of which, in reality, I’d never actually want to order. (Also, no more gagging over the way Guy Fieri would inhale those eats himself. Thank god.) No more tensing and clenching from watching people compete over…cupcakes. No more going to bed on an empty stomach from too much food-filled TV. No more Food Network.

While my withdrawal symptoms were brief, I still have a guilty pleasure for the Food Network. Any time I’m near a powered on TV, I try to get the FN on the screen. My mom will tell you, if I’m at her house at night, it’s on, meaning she’s often forced to bear some anxiety through an episode of Chopped.

Veggie Summer Rolls with Crispy Tofu

I visited my mom this past Wednesday, and yes, to her slight displeasure, we watched an episode of Chopped. One of the secret ingredients was spring roll wrappers. A competitor on the show decided to cut them up into noodles. Creative, I thought. But like half of what I see on the Food Network, something I’d never do myself. Spring roll wrappers are just too good in their traditional use of packaging up ingredients that I have little desire to transform them into noodles. I do, however, have a strong and frequent desire to utilize them for summer rolls.

These are my favorite. I order them nearly every time I’m at a spot that serves them, and I try to make the rolls at least a few times per summer on my own, when my ingredients are fresh.

Like the Food Network, they are a pleasure (though not a guilty one) of mine. Working with the rice paper takes some getting used to, but it’s not rocket science by any means. Don’t worry about forming the perfect roll. As long as you’ve got a mix of fresh ingredients sealed inside, you’re good to go.

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