Korean Tacos with Kimchi Slaw

korean tacos recipe

Korean Tacos with Kimchi Slaw recipe
Serves 4

I’ve seen “Korean Tacos” on local menus for a few years now, and while they aren’t an authentic dish, I can’t help but love them. They combine pungent and refreshing korean flavors with ease-of-assembly and customization of tacos. I use Sunja brand kimchi if I’m not at a Korean grocery store, it’s tasty and vegan for those that need it. Any kind of tortilla you like could work for this—I used corn while working on this recipe, but I also love Siete Family almond flour tortillas. If you can find ready-made bao buns, those would be delicious too. The slaw is really customizable so don’t get stuck on these ingredients; I just used what was in my CSA this week. You could try napa cabbage or even a crunchy lettuce. The carrots can be bought pre-shredded and the leftovers used for lunch salads.

For Kimchi Slaw:
4 cups thinly sliced cabbage (from 1/2 head green cabbage)
1 cup shredded carrots
1 cup kimchi, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/2 cup chopped cilantro

For Tofu:
drizzle of grapeseed oil
14 ounces extra firm tofu, sliced into 1/2” strips
1/4 cup arrowroot
6 tablespoons water
2-3 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
2 cloves garlic, minced

For serving:
12 taco-sized tortillas
gochujang hot sauce

  1. Make the kimchi slaw: Toss cabbage, carrots, kimchi, rice vinegar, and cilantro together. Season to taste with salt. Flavors will continue to marinate and blend as you make the rest of the tacos.

  2. Make tofu: Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and drizzle with grapeseed oil. Toss tofu strips with arrowroot and dust off any extra. Pan-fry (in 2 batches if you need to) until all sides of tofu are light golden and slightly crispy. About 3-4 minutes. Meanwhile, combine water, tamari, honey and garlic in a small bowl. When tofu is golden, pour mixture over tofu and let it reduce until excess water is evaporated, about 1 minute. Arrowroot from the tofu will thicken the sauce into a glaze.

  3. Assemble tacos: char tortillas if desired and serve with tofu and slaw. Drizzle optional hot sauce on top if desired.

Thai-style Crab Fried Rice

thai crab fried rice recipe

Thai-style Crab Fried Rice recipe
serves 4

On a recent trip to NYC, I went to dinner at Fish Cheeks. Among our many great dishes, we had Thai-style crab fried rice that was light and delicate. Upon taking my first bite, I told my husband that crab fried rice was now going to be in our home dinner recipe rotation. For my version, I add a whole zucchini, finely chopped, to make this more of a one dish meal. You could easily fold in more herbs or greens at the end to do the same or use a combo of rice and cauliflower rice. To make this vegetarian, just leave out the crab and use tamari or soy sauce instead of the fish sauce. A vegan version could also omit the egg and use a couple shakes of dulse flakes to replicate the sea flavor of crab and fish sauce.

1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon minced ginger
2 cups cooked jasmine rice (from about 1 cup uncooked)
1 medium zucchini, chopped into 1/4” cubes
3 teaspoons fish sauce (or tamari)
2 eggs, beaten
1 6-ounce can of crab meat (picked over for shell remnants)
1 bunch scallions, white and dark green parts thinly sliced
2 cups cilantro leaves
1 lime, cut into wedges
Sambal oelek or hot sauce for serving

  1. In a large skillet, heat oil and saute garlic and ginger for 30 seconds. In 1-2 batches (depending on the size of your pan and how dark you like your fried rice), stir fry rice for 3-5 minutes. Remove rice from pan and add zucchini, adding more oil if necessary. Saute for 2-3 minutes or until tender but still firm.

  2. Add rice back to pan and stir in fish sauce. Stir in beaten eggs until cooked. Add crab meat and scallions and stir until warm. Turn off heat and stir in cilantro. Serve with lime wedges and sambael oelek for heat.

Coconut-Crusted Barramundi

coconut crusted barramundi recipe

Coconut-Crusted Barramundi recipe
serves 2

Barramundi is a mild white fish that’s both high in Omega 3 fatty acids (950mg per 6-ounce serving) and available as a sustainably farmed frozen option. I first learned of barramundi though Australis Barramundi and you can learn more about barramundi and their farming practices via their FAQs. (disclaimer: this post is not sponsored but Australis did send me some free fish to try. I’ve since bought my own at Whole Foods.) I think it’s a fabulous fish for people who don’t like “fishy-fish.” You could also substitute cod, halibut, or mahi mahi for this recipe.

1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 2 ounces barramundi fillets
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 cup unsweetened desiccated coconut
salt to taste

  1. Heat a large nonstick skillet and melt coconut oil. Pat dry barramundi fillets and generously salt on both sides.

  2. Dip each fillet in coconut milk and then in a plate with the unsweetened coconut. Immediately pan-fry for 2-3 minutes per side until fish is fully cooked and lightly golden.

Millet and Kale Stuffed Acorn Squash

millet and kale stuffed squash

Millet and Kale Stuffed Acorn Squash recipe
Serves 8

I decided to do a twist on my favorite holiday vegan main dish (my Quinoa, Cranberry and Squash Bake) and instead make a stuffed squash version. I subbed millet (a gluten-free grain that cooks up similar to couscous) for the quinoa and used currants instead of the cranberries, and folded in some kale because I can’t help myself. I love the flavor of sage in holiday dishes, but feel free to sub rosemary or your favorite combination of wintry herbs.

4 acorn squashes
Drizzle of grapeseed oil
Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
1 cup millet
2 cups vegetable broth
1 red onion or 2 shallots, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb mixed mushrooms, stemmed and chopped into 1/4” cubes
2 tablespoons fresh sage, finely minced
2 cups lacinato kale, shredded
1/2 cup dried currants
Salt and pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 425.  Cut acorn squashes in half and scoop out seeds (if they are very large, cut into quarters).  Drizzle with grapeseed oil and roast for 30 minutes cut side down. Flip over and roast for 20 minutes cut side up.  

  2. In a small pot, heat drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and add millet, stirring for 3 minutes or until toasty.  Add vegetable broth, bring to a simmer and cover. Cook until all liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes.

  3. In a large skillet, heat another drizzle of olive oil and and saute onion/shallots and garlic for 3 minutes.  Then add mushrooms and sage and cook until liquid is released and evaporated, about 10 minutes. Wilt in kale and season generously with salt and pepper.  Stir in dried currants and cooked millet.

  4. Assemble stuffed squashes: Take a scoop of millet filling and place into center of each squash.  You may have 1-2 cups of leftover filling depending on your squash size.

Sheet Pan Salmon and Broccolini

sheet pan salmon and broccolini

Sheet Pan Salmon with Broccolini recipe
Serves 2

Sheet pan dinners are perfect for beginners in the kitchen or anyone who wants a night off from dishes. If you are creating your own sheet pan recipes, you have to be conscious that all your ingredients take the same amount of time to cook. For this recipe you can sub broccoli or cauliflower for the broccolini. If you use cauliflower, just cut it a bit smaller. Cauliflower is denser than broccoli so typically takes longer to cook.

2 6-ounce salmon portions, skin on
1 tablespoon tamari (soy sauce)
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 bunches broccolini (1 lb)
Grapeseed oil, salt and pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 400 and line a half sheet tray with parchment paper.

  2. Place salmon in center of sheet tray and season with salt and pepper.  

  3. In a small bowl, mix tamari, dijon, garlic and 1 teaspoon grapeseed oil.  Spoon mixture over filets and let marinate 10 minutes.

  4. Slice any large broccolinis vertically to make them all a uniform thickness.  Then toss with more grapeseed oil, salt and pepper and arrange around salmon.

  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes until fish is cooked (thinner fish will cook more quickly and thicker fish will take longer) and broccolini is crispy.

Wild Salmon Poke Bowl

poke bowl recipe

Wild Salmon Poke Bowl recipe
serves 2

I loved the poke bowl idea ever since I was introduced to it a few years ago. Derived from the Hawaiian grocery store staple poke (a raw fish salad usually made with ahi tuna), poke bowls combine the fish with all sorts of colorful vegetables, rice, and seasonings. I love bowl meals like this because they are flexible and allow me to create different meals on weeknights with a lot of the same ingredients. Be sure to use sushi grade fish that’s been properly handled (i.e. defrosted in the fridge and not on the counter). I used King salmon from my fish CSA, Sitka Salmon Shares, so the instructions are written assuming you have a sushi-grade frozen fish but fresh fish would obviously be great too.

for poke:
8 ounces of Sitka King salmon
1 tablespoon shoyu or tamari
1/2 teaspoon of kelp flakes (can sub nori flakes or furikake)
1/2 teaspoon honey
1 scallion, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

for bowls:
1 cup cooked sushi rice or short grain white rice
Cabbage Slaw (see recipe below)
Roasted Maple Squash (see recipe below)
optional garnishes: microgreens, sliced avocado, sesame seeds, chopped nuts

1. Prepare salmon by defrosting for 24 hours in the refrigerator in the vacuum packaging.  (Since the poke is served raw, you shouldn’t defrost on the counter or using hot water.)  Before slicing, place salmon in packaging back in the freezer for 10 minutes—this will help it slice more cleanly.  Then using tweezers, remove any pin bones and using a sharp knife, cut skin off salmon.  Cut salmon into 1/2-inch cubes and place in a glass bowl. 

2. Toss with shoyu/tamari, kelp flakes, honey, scallion, and toasted sesame oil and chill in fridge for 10 minutes while you assemble the rest of your poke bowl with rice, slaw, squash, and garnishes. 

*Cabbage Slaw recipe
serves 2 

3 cups sliced purple cabbage
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
2 scallions, sliced
1 teaspoon white sesame seeds
1 teaspoon black sesame seeds
salt to taste

1.  In a large bowl, combine cabbage, rice vinegar, toasted sesame oil, and salt and massage lightly with your hands to break down cabbage.  Garnish with scallions and sesame seeds.   

*Roasted Maple Squash recipe
serves 2

1 kabocha squash (or butternut, acorn, red kuri), cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1-2 tablespoons sunflower oil

1. Preheat oven to 425.  On a parchment-lined sheet tray, toss squash cubes with maple, oil and salt and roast until tender and golden, 25-35 minutes.

Vegan and Gluten-free Mac and Cheese with Broccoli

vegan mac and cheese with broccoli

Vegan and Gluten-free Mac and Cheese recipe
Serves 4

Yes I know this shouldn’t be called Mac and Cheese since there is no cheese and not even real pasta. BUT this creamy pasta recipe really hits the spot when you are craving something cozy and gooey, plus it’s a meal in a bowl that we never mind having leftovers of. One tip: don’t skip the tomato paste. Cashew sauces tend to skew very sweet, so you need to add plenty of salt plus something acidic (like tomatoes) to get a sauce more similar to cheese.

12 oz fusili rice pasta
1 head of broccoli cut into florets (stems saved for curry)
Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped into 1/2-inch cubes (1 1/2 cups)
2 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1 small russet potato, peeled and chopped into 1/4-inch cubes (1 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup raw cashews
1/4 cup teaspoon nutritional yeast
Sriracha to taste (optional)
Salt to taste

1. Cook pasta a large pot of salted boiling water according to package directions.  In last 1 minute of cooking, add broccoli florets. Drain in a colander and rinse with cold water to cool down.

2. In a large skillet, heat a drizzle of olive oil and saute chopped onion until it softens, about 5 minutes.  Add minced garlic, granulated garlic, onion powder, turmeric and tomato paste and stir. Add chopped potatoes, cashews, and 2 cups of water.  Simmer until potatoes are cooked, about 10 minutes.

3. Add ingredients from skillet to a blender along with nutritional yeast and sriracha if using.  Blend until smooth adding water to get desired sauce consistency. (I used 1/2 cup.) Taste sauce and season with salt to taste--you’ll probably need more than you expect because real cheese is salty!

4. Return pasta and broccoli to pot and add enough sauce to coat.  You may have some extra sauce. Save for topping veggies, for tacos, or for vegan nachos.

Scallion Sardine Cakes

sardine cakes recipe

In my Omega 3 Fish class, I sing the praises of canned sardines because they hit the gold standards for sustainable seafood, affordability, low mercury content, and of course, high Omega 3 content.  The only issue is that they are really fishy tasting.  (Actually all high Omega 3 fish will be because the high fat/oil content is also what keeps that fishy taste.)  Plus most of the sardine recipes out there combine them with toast, pasta, or breadcrumbs which is fine, but not necessarily the best option if you want to include more anti-inflammatory ingredients in your diet.  These cakes (a play on crab cakes) have been my go-to pantry way to make a sardine dinner.  I find the Asian seasonings help fight the fishiness but you can also try them with Mediterranean seasonings like garlic and parsley instead.  Serve with a big side of veggies like roasted broccoli or sauteed kale.

Scallion Sardine Cakes recipe
serves 2

for cakes:
2 4.4-ounce cans of sardines (in oil or water; with bones or without)
1 egg
2 scallions, minced
1 teaspoon ginger, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon tamari
1/4 cup arrowroot starch/flour
salt and pepper
drizzle of grapeseed oil

for dipping sauce:
1 tablespoon Sriracha
2 tablespoons mayo

1. Drain sardines and lightly mash in a small mixing bowl with a fork.  Add egg, scallions, ginger, garlic, tamari and arrowroot.  Combine into an even mixture with a fork.  (Sardines will continue to break up which is great.)  The mixture may look a little wet but it will still hold together because of the egg.  If it looks super wet or isn't holding together you can add more arrowroot.

2. Heat a large nonstick skillet and drizzle a little grapeseed oil.  Form tablespoon-sized patties and fry lightly until they are golden brown, about 2 minutes on each side.  You should have 10 patties.

3. Combine Sriracha and mayo for dipping sauce and serve immediate with cakes.  They make good leftovers too!

Kitchari Jars

kitchari jars recipe for the instant pot

Kitchari Jars for the Instant Pot recipe
makes 1 jar which makes 3-4 servings cooked
Multiply for however many jars you'd like to make

Kitchari is an Indian home staple recipe and one of the foundational foods in Ayurveda.  It's nutritious and easy to digest and typically seasoned very lightly.  I often call it "Indian congee" to help people picture the desired consistency (like a thick porridge) as well as ways to customize it.  Kitchari is the perfect dish to make in your Instant Pot because pressure cooking really reduces the cooking time and makes it even more digestible.  These jars are a way to cut down prep even more; measure your ingredients all in one go and then have these jars in the pantry for months so you have a quick Instant Pot meal ready to assemble. These are the mason jars I buy on Amazon* as well as the mini plastic bags

for each jar:
3/4 cup white basmati rice
1/2 cup red lentils (masoor malka dal, link here)
1/2 cup mung dal (split yellow lentils, link here)

for each spice packet:
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon hing powder (also called asofoetida but can substitute granulated garlic)
1/2 teaspoon Himalayan sea salt (you can season to taste as well)

To make jars:

Fill mason jar with rice, red lentils, and mung dal.  Take a small plastic bag and fill with spice mixture.  Roll or fold the bag to fit in the top of the jar and then secure the lid.  

To cook:

1 Kitchari Jar
2 tablespoons ghee, grapeseed oil, or coconut oil (I prefer ghee)
2 cups chopped vegetables like zucchini, spinach, tomato, onion, cauliflower, etc (this is optional)
5 cups water
juice from 1 lemon
1/2 cup chopped cilantro (optional)

1. Open jar and remove spice packet and set aside.  Pour other contents of jar into a fine mesh strainer and rice thoroughly in cold water until the water runs clear.  

2. Turn on Instant Pot to Saute mode and heat ghee or oil.  Add spice packet and stir vigorously for 30 seconds.  You want to bloom the spices but you don't want them to burn.  Immediately add the chopped vegetables, if using, and then add the water and rinsed rice, lentils, and mung beans.  

3. Hit cancel to turn off Saute mode and secure lid (sealing).  Hit Manual to turn on High Pressure mode and set the timer for 10 minutes.  When timer goes off, let it natural pressure release for 15 minutes, then quick release until the pressure comes down.  Give the pot a little shake (to pop any trapped bubbles) then open lid.  

4. Season with lemon juice and additional salt if necessary.  Garnish with cilantro.  

Stovetop Method:

1. Heat ghee in a large pot. Add spice packet and stir vigorously for 30 seconds.  Immediately add the chopped vegetables if using and then add the water and rinsed rice, lentils, and mung beans.  Add 2 extra cups of water (for evaporation).

2. Simmer on low for 30-40 minutes or until lentils and rice fully cooked and kind of mushy.  If you have more delicate veggies like spinach, you can add them about half way through cooking.

3. Season with lemon juice and additional salt if necessary.  Garnish with cilantro.

FYI here's a pic of the final product:

kitchari instant pot recipe

*affiliate link

Instant Ramen Jars with Miso and Veggies

instant ramen jar vegan recipe

I've seen this Instant Ramen Jar idea floating around the internet, so I decided to create my own version based on my favorite way to make ramen at home: with ginger, miso, mushrooms, and spinach.  In my googling, I found this comprehensive tutorial on other fancy pants variations from Serious Eats.  My version is very similar to Kenji's vegetarian version, although it's a bit more simplified.  (He also adds additional flavorings like tahini and pickled ginger which would probably be phenomenal.)  Any wide mouth 12-16-ounce glass tupperware or mason jar would work, but I like these wide mouth gasket jars.* 

I've heard my students sing the praises of Better than Bouillon vegetable broth base before, so I gave it a try for this recipe.  Not the cleanest label ever, but much better than other bouillons out there and, of course, better than the powdery packets that typically come with ramen.  If you want to skip it, I'd just amp up the miso paste and ginger.  Feel free to double the noodle quantity and/or the tofu to make this more substantial if you typically like a bigger lunch.

Instant Ramen Jar with Miso and Veggies recipe
Makes 4 jars

4 blocks rice ramen noodles (10 ounces; I buy Lotus Foods)
4 teaspoons low sodium Better than Boullion vegetable base
4 teaspoons white miso paste
2 teaspoons Sriracha (or to taste)
2 teaspoons grated ginger
7 ounces (1/2 of a block) firm or extra firm tofu, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 large handfuls baby spinach, roughly chopped
1 3.5 ounce container of shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced
4 scallions, thinly sliced

1. Cook your ramen noodles according to the package directions until very al dente, about 2 minutes in just boiled water.  You want them to be fully cooked but not already breaking apart since we will be adding more hot water when we serve them.  Drain and rinse in cold water and shake off any extra water.

2. Assemble your jars in any roughly 16-ounce container.  Put 1 teaspoon bouillon base, 1 teaspoon miso paste, 1/2 teaspoon Sriracha, and 1/2 teaspoon grated ginger on the bottom of each jar.  Then split the cooked noodles, cubed tofu, baby spinach, sliced mushrooms and scallions equally among the 4 jars.  Seal and store in the fridge for 3-4 days.

To serve: Add boiling water (from a kettle or your office water cooler hot water tap--the hotter the better) to cover all the ingredients.  At this point, I swirl my spoon at the bottom of the jar to break up the flavoring pastes and incorporate them.  Then reseal the jar and let it sit for 2 minutes.  Uncover and eat straight out of the jar or pour into a bowl if you prefer.

*affiliate link

Shakshuka with Feta

shakshuka with feta recipe

Shakshuka with Feta recipe
serves 4

Shakshuka is a Middle Eastern breakfast dish and I have yet to meet someone who doesn't like it.  I make this for me and my husband for weekend brunches, but you can also make a double batch and use a 9X13 baking pan and feed a crowd.  Shakshuka is really defined by the eggs on top so you can't really skip them, but you can easily leave out the feta if you are dairy-free or use chopped kalamata olives instead if you like that salty, briny bite.  You can easily have this for dinner too--just include a piece of whole grain pita or sourdough to sop up that spicy sauce.

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon red chile flake
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 cup crumbled goat or sheep's milk feta
4 eggs
Parsley or cilantro to garnish
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat olive oil in a large high-side skillet.  Add onion, bell pepper, garlic and a generous sprinkle of salt.  Cook for 5-7 minutes until veggies have softened.

2. Add paprika, cumin, turmeric, red chile flake, and crushed tomatoes. Simmer for 10 minutes to let flavors blend. Preheat Broiler on high.

3. Stir feta into tomato sauce and pour into an 8x8 metal or cast iron baking dish.  Make 4 divots into the sauce with the back of a spoon and crack an egg into each. Broil for 12 minutes or until eggs are at desired level of doneness.  Garnish with parsley, cilantro, or extra feta.

Pan-fried Sweet Potato Cakes

pan fried sweet potato cakes with sriracha cashew sauce recipe

Pan-fried Sweet Potato Cakes with Sriracha Cashew Dipping Sauce recipe
serves 2 as an entree or 6 as an appetizer

After shredding up your sweet potatoes in the food processor, these cakes are a breeze to put together.  Although these look a little like latkes, the inspiration for these cakes was actually pakoras, deep-fried fritters made out of shredded vegetables and held together with chickpea flour (also called besan or garbanzo bean flour).  Chickpea flour is simply ground up chickpeas that can be used in savory recipes often in the place of white flour; just be sure to fully cook it, as raw bean flour tastes gross.  Raw cashews make a creamy dipping sauce while also adding extra protein and good fat so this can really be a balanced weeknight meal.  And sriracha is added because it make everything taste better.

for sweet potato cakes:
2 medium sweet potatoes
1/2 cup of cilantro, finely chopped
1 bunch of scallions, white and dark green parts finely chopped
1 cup chickpea flour (also called garbanzo bean flour)
generous sprinkle of salt and pepper
avocado oil to pan-fry

for dipping sauce:
1 cup of raw cashews, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes and drained
1/4 cup Sriracha hot sauce
1/2 cup cold water

1. Peel sweet potatoes shred using the food processor or a box grater.

2. Combine shredded sweet potatoes, cilantro, scallions, chickpea flour, and salt in a large bowl and mix thoroughly.  The mixture should hold together when you squeeze it in your hand.

3. Heat a little avocado oil in a large non-stick or cast iron skillet.  Make a test cake: take 2 tablespoons of the mixture and press together compactly.  Flatten into a freeform patty about 1/4” thick. Pan-fry the cake for 2 minutes on each side until golden brown and fully cooked.  Remove from pan and taste for salt. Add more salt to the rest of the mixture if necessary.

4. Make the rest of the cakes and pan-fry them in batches.  Remove to a platter.

5. Make the dipping sauce: Drain cashews from their soaking water and add to the blender with Sriracha and cold water.  Blend until smooth, adding more water if necessary. Serve sweet potato cakes on a platter alongside a small bowl of the cream.

Everyday Mapo Tofu

vegan mapo tofu recipe

Everyday Vegan Mapo Tofu Recipe
serves 3-4

Spicy, Szechuan Mapo Tofu is probably my favorite way to eat tofu.  Soft, slippery pieces of tofu are dripping in fiery ginger and garlic spiked chili oil that's perfectly soaked up by white rice.  The one problem?  That delicious sauce is like 90% cheap, inflammatory oil, and you eat a LOT of it when you get Mapo Tofu.  I still spring for the authentic version when I'm in Chicago's Chinatown (my go-to is Lao Szechuan), but for home, I wanted to create a lighter and easier to make everyday version.  I also add some roasted eggplant and spinach to this dish (not traditional!) to make it more of a meal-in-a-pot, rather than needing to make a variety of dishes for a balanced meal.  Since this sauce is broth-based (aka water-based) instead of oil-based, it does have less depth and a different texture that the original but I find that it hits the spot when the Mapo Tofu craving hits.  See more ingredient notes below the recipe.  

for roasted eggplant:
1 small eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
drizzle of avocado or grapeseed oil
sprinkle of salt

for Mapo Tofu:
3-4 tablespoons chili oil
1 bunch of scallions, ends trimmed and the rest thinly sliced
3 tablespoons minced ginger
6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1.5 cups mushroom broth (can sub vegetable broth or water)
2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
2 tablespoons mirin
2 tablespoons black bean garlic sauce (optional)
1/4 teaspoon ground szechuan peppercorns, separated
1 14-oz brick of soft tofu, cut into 3/4" cubes
2 tablespoons of arrowroot
2 handfuls baby spinach

1. Toss cubed eggplant with oil and salt and roast on a parchment-lined sheet tray at 400 for 25-30 minutes.  (I get this going first, then prep the rest of the ingredients--by the time the eggplant is done, the rest of the mapo tofu is too!)

2. Heat chili oil in a large pot.  Add scallions, ginger, and garlic and let sizzle for 1-2 minutes, stirring.  Add water, tamari, mirin, black bean garlic sauce, and 1/8 teaspoon of Szechuan peppercorns.  Bring up to a simmer.  Add tofu cubes and simmer until eggplant is done.  

3. Taste sauce (it will be very watery) for seasoning and add more tamari, mirin, or chili oil if desired.  Dissolve 1 tablespoons of arrowroot in 1 tablespoons of cold water in a small cup, and add this mixture to the boiling chili sauce.  Stir with a wooden spoon--you'll notice the sauce starts to thicken immediately and goes a little cloudy.  Keep stirring for 1 minute until its well mixed in.  Add roasted eggplant and spinach and stir to combine, being careful not to break up the tofu too much.  Serve with brown or white rice.

Ingredient Notes:

I was able to get all of these items at Whole Foods in the international aisle and the spice aisle, but an Asian grocery store would have them as well.  A lot of Asian pantry items can be high in sugar and additives, so choose the best options that work for you.

  • TOFU: use soft tofu if you can find it.  It soaks up the sauce and has a silky texture.  If you can't find it, get silken tofu or firm tofu depending on your preference for slippery or chewy tofu (just don't get extra firm).
  • CHILI OIL: get the Asian-style chili oil that's infused with ginger and garlic or make your own to use a higher quality oil.
  • TAMARI: I always have tamari on hand, but any kind of soy sauce will do.
  • MIRIN: A Japanese cooking wine that adds acidity and sweetness.  A more common Chinese cooking wine would be Shoaxing, but like the tamari, I always have mirin on hand.  I like Eden Organic since there is no added sugar.
  • BLACK BEAN GARLIC SAUCE: This ingredient is totally optional but it adds that fermenty, umami depth to the sauce.  I use Lee Kum Kee brand. You can try whole black garlic or black garlic puree for a more wholesome sub or just leave it out.
  • SZECHUAN PEPPERCORNS: You can get away with black pepper in this recipe, but for it to really be mapo tofu-esque, you'll want to use szechuan peppercorns.  They are more floral and tingly than black pepper (not hot spicy) and provide a "numbing" sensation that's crucial to this dish, traditionally.  I picked some up at a spice store, but I've also seen them with the pepper grinders at Whole Foods.

Smoky Beet Sliders

smoky beet sliders recipe veggie burger

Smoky Beet Sliders recipe
makes 12 sliders or 4 servings

This recipe has a number of steps but it's actually not too hard to put together, especially if you make use of your food processor--it can do everything from grating the beets to slicing the cucumbers to putting the actual burgers together.  Plus I think it's worth it since these are my favorite veggie burgers EVER (and I've heard from some of my clients that they feel the same way.) Although most of my recipes are totally plant-based, I think these burgers benefit from the addition of one egg.  It helps with the texture, but is not necessary.  If you don't eat eggs, be sure to cool your mixture completely to help it hold together and you can also try adding additional quinoa and oats if you find the mix too soft or wet.  

drizzle of avocado oil, plus more for cooking sliders
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup grated beet (from 1 peeled beet)
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 cup rolled oats
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup cooked quinoa
1 egg (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

for serving:
pretzel slider buns or Ezekiel English muffins
feta spread (*see recipe below) or Just Garlic Mayo (vegan)
sliced Persian cucumbers

1. In a large skillet, heat oil and saute onion with a pinch of salt for 5-8 minutes or until it's softened.  Add garlic, grated beet, and smoked paprika and saute for 5 minutes more.  Remove from heat and let cook to room temperature. 

2. Pulse oats in food processor until you get a rough flour and remove to a bowl.  Add beet mixture, black beans, quinoa, egg and a generous pinch of salt to the food processor and pulse until mix and it can form a loose dough but still with some texture.  Remove to a bowl and combine with oat flour.  Cool this mixture in the freezer for 20-30 minutes or in the fridge for a few hours or overnight (This will greatly improve the texture of your sliders and help them hold together better).

3. Make a test slider: take a tablespoon of the mix and form a mini patty.  Heat your skillet with a drizzle of avocado oil and cook the patty, then taste for salt.  Add salt as necessary and form 12 sliders (I used a 1/4 cup measuring cup to make them even).  Cook in batches, about 3 minutes on each side.  Serve on buns with feta spread or vegan mayo and sliced cucumbers.

*Feta spread recipe
makes 2 cups

1 cup crumbled Greek feta
1/2 cup grassfed plain Greek yogurt
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1. Stir ingredients together with a fork or whisk or blend in the food processor for a creamier spread. 

Instant Pot Dal Palak (Lentils with Spinach)

Instant Pot Dal Palak recipe

Instant Pot Dal Palak recipe
makes 5 cups (about 3-4 servings)

First off, this recipe is written for the Instant Pot (a combo electric pressure cooker and slow cooker that has a cult following), but you can make it in an ordinary pot on the stove, just know that your cook time will be longer. (Similarly this will work in a regular pressure cooker, just cook according to your pressure cooker's directions.) However, the Instant Pot is the perfect vessel for making beans, whole grains, soups, stews and other recipes that typically need a lot of time on the stove since it can significantly speed up the cook time and pressure cooking allows some nutrients to become more bioavailable.  You can try this method with any kind of lentil, but I like it here with mung dal (split and husked mung beans), my go-to staple for dal.

2 tablespoons of ghee or coconut oil
2 teaspoons of cumin seeds
1 large red onion, finely chopped (can use yellow or white onion)
3 roma tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon red chile flake
1 cup mung dal, rinsed very well until water runs clear (could substitute red or yellow lentils)
2 1/2 cups of water
salt to taste (I used 1/2 teaspoon of my himalayan salt)
1 5-ounce bag of baby spinach
juice from 1 lemon

1. Heat the Instant Pot on Saute with ghee or coconut oil.  When it's hot, add cumin seeds and let sizzle for about 30 seconds, then add red onion and tomato.  Let these saute and turn golden, about 5 minutes (during this time I rinse my mung dal very well).

2. Add turmeric, chile flake, and rinsed mung dal and stir to combine well.  Add water and turn off Saute mode.  Secure the lid and turn on high pressure cooking mode and set for 10 minutes (on my model you press manual, then toggle to the number 10.  There is no start button or anything to press after setting the number 10).  The pressure will build up (you'll hear steam coming from the release valve) and once it reaches pressure the time will count down from 10. 

3. When you hear the beeping signaling that the time is up, you can press the cancel button (or let it stay on warming, the default) and let pressure come down manually for 10 minutes.  Then release the rest of the pressure manually with the valve, give the pot a shake to make sure there aren't any trapped bubbles, release the valve again, and remove lid.  Stir in salt and spinach (it will wilt very quickly) and lemon juice.  Taste to season for more lemon or salt if desired.  

Notes: This recipe took me 40 minutes from start to finish, including 30 minutes total once everything was in the Instant Pot (about 10 minutes to get up to pressure, 10 minutes cooking, then 10 minutes to come down from pressure.)  You could probably get away with less cooking time, but I like my dal extra mushy with no gritty texture.  

Red Kuri Squash Red Curry

red kuri curry recipe

Red Kuri Squash Red Curry recipe
serves 4

Unique winter squashes like kabocha (recipe here) and red kuri make Chicago winters bearable.  There's just something so cozy about warm, creamy and vibrantly colored squash.  For this recipe, I wanted to create a meal-in-a-pot that would use up a whole squash.  If you can't find red kuri (a squash I find to be sweeter and creamier than butternut), feel free to substitute butternut, acorn, or a sugar pumpkin.  Chickpeas add protein and make this into a full meal, while broccoli adds just a touch of bitterness to make sure the squash doesn't make the dish way to sweet.  I don't use many prepared sauces or pastes but Thai curry paste is so helpful in a pinch and generally has an ultra clean label.  Fresh turmeric and ginger customize the flavor and add an immune-boosting punch, another Chicago winter essential.

1 teaspoon of coconut oil
2 teaspoons grated or minced ginger
2 teaspoons grated or minced fresh turmeric (sub 1 teaspoon ground)
3 tablespoons Thai red curry paste (I like Thai Kitchens brand)
1 15-ounce can coconut milk
1.5 cups vegetable broth
1 small red kuri squash, peeled and cut into 3/4" pieces (3 cups)
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 bunch broccoli, cut into 1-inch florets (4 cups)
1-2 limes, juiced
salt to taste

1. In a large pot with a lid, heat coconut oil on medium and saute ginger, turmeric and red curry paste for 30 seconds.  Add coconut milk and broth and bring to a simmer, scraping the bottom with a wooden spoon to make sure all the paste is incorporated.

2. Add cubed red kuri squash and chickpeas and return to a simmer.  Cover with the lid and simmer gently for 15 minutes or until squash is tender.

3. Stir in broccoli until just cooked (about 1 minute), and then season to taste with lime juice (I like lots!) and salt.  You can also add fresh herbs like cilantro or Thai basil or heat from chile flake or fresh green chiles.  Serve with white rice, brown rice, or flatbread.

Sesame Steamed Kabocha Squash and Kale

steamed kabocha squash and kale

Sesame Steamed Kabocha Squash and Kale
serves 2

Kabocha squash is a Japanese pumpkin that's dark green on the outside and a brilliant, sweet, creamy orange on the inside.  I love it because it's naturally decadent and doesn't need to be roasted to be delicious, plus it's full of beta carotene, iron, fiber and Vitamin C.  Substitute any kind of squash or pumpkin that's available if you need to.  For this recipe, I season the simply steamed squash and kale with tamari, mirin, and toasted sesame oil.  Mirin is a Japanese cooking wine--sub 2 teaspoons rice vinegar and 1 teaspoon maple syrup if you don't have it.  Add steamed quinoa, aduki beans, or roasted chicken to make this a full meal.

1 kabocha squash
2 handfuls of baby kale, about 2 cups
1 tablespoon tamari (can sub low-sodium or coconut aminos)
1 tablespoon mirin (Japanese cooking wine)
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
salt to taste

1. Peel and cut kabocha squash into 1-inch cubes: Cut squash in 1/2 vertically and scoop out seeds and pulp with a spoon.  Cut the halves in 1/2, so you have 4 large wedges.  Slice each wedge into 3 smaller vertical wedges and then cut the peel off each wedge.  Cut into approximately 1-inch pieces.

2. Bring a pot of water with 1 inch of water up to a boil.  Add a metal steamer basket and place the squash in the basket.  Put a lid on the pot and steam for 10 minutes.

3. After 10 minutes, test to see if squash is done by piercing a piece with a fork.  Steam longer if needed.  Otherwise, add the kale on top of the squash, put the lid on, and steam 2 more minutes.  Remove veggies to serving plates.

4. Dump out all the steaming water except 1/4 cup.  Add tamari, mirin, and sesame oil and simmer for 1 minute.  Spoon this sauce over squash and kale and sprinkle sesame seeds on top.  

Black Bean Pasta with Corn and Kale

black bean pasta recipe

Black Bean Pasta with Corn and Kale
serves 3-4

One of my new favorite packaged products on the shelves now is legume-based pasta.  From red lentil to chickpea to black beans (shown here), different bean flours are used instead of refined white flour to create versatile pastas that are high in protein (about 21g per serving) and high in fiber (about 50% of your RDA).  The higher-end brands (like my favorite Tolerant) will usually be purely bean flour and the more moderately priced ones (like Ancient Harvest Pow!, shown here) are a mix of bean and grain flours like quinoa and brown rice.  Use them like you would any other pasta, keeping in mind that they often taste a little sweeter and have less "bite" than traditional white pasta.  

1 8-ounce box of black bean pasta
drizzle of olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
pinch of red chile flake
3 ears of corn, kernels removed
1 bunch lacinato kale, shredded or chopped
salt and pepper to taste
garnish: pecorino romano, olive oil and/or lemon zest

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add pasta and cook according to package directions (the black bean pasta I used cooked in about 5 minutes).  Drain and rinse pasta lightly in water to remove excess starch and halt cooking.

2. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet and add a drizzle of olive oil.  Saute garlic and red chile flake for 30 seconds until fragrant.  Add corn and saute 2 minutes.  Add kale and saute 2-3 minutes more, until kale is wilted.  If the mixture is very dry, add a splash or two of water to get it going.

3.  Gently stir in pasta and season the whole mixture with salt and pepper.  Garnish with grated pecorino romano (or lemon zest), and a drizzle of olive oil and serve.  

Sweet Potato Noodles with Chickpeas and Greens

Sweet Potato Noodles with Chickpeas and Greens
Serves 2-3

To make noodles out of vegetables, you can use a vegetable peeler or a special piece of equipment called a spiralizer. (Find my go-to spiralizer on the Resources page)  You can create long noodles from hard vegetables like beets, zucchini, carrots, potatoes, kohlrabi, celery root, and even broccoli stems.  And sweet potatoes--my favorite!  While I know some of us (myself included) often dread extra prep steps in recipes--everything from using an extra pot to having to clean the blender--I have never met anyone who doesn't find making veggie noodles fun! I like these best sauteed in oil for a few minutes with a splash or two of water.  You get the perfect mix of tenderness and bite that way.

1-2 large sweet potatoes
2 teaspoons coconut oil
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 garlic clove, minced
2 cups of dark leafy greens like spinach or bok choy, chopped
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon of tamari (soy sauce)
Sriracha or other hot sauce to taste

1. Prepare the sweet potato noodles: Peel sweet potatoes.  Use a the small noodle setting of the spiralizer to make noodles or use your vegetable peeler to shave long strips the length of the sweet potato.  Cut if necessary so they aren’t too long and set aside in a bowl.

2.  Heat a large skillet and add oil, ginger, and garlic and saute for 30 seconds.  Then in 2 batches saute sweet potato noodles until they just begin to soften.  Add a splash or two of water and a sprinkle of salt. Saute for about 2 minutes.   Repeat with other batch and remove to a serving bowl.

3. Next, saute leafy greens and chickpeas with tamari and Sriracha for 2-3 minutes.  Remove to serving bowl with sweet potato noodles and toss to combine.  Serve with extra tamari and sriracha.  Add cashews, sesame seeds or fresh herbs like scallion or cilantro if you like.


Warm Couscous and Brussels Sprout Salad

warm couscous and brussels sprout salad

Warm Couscous and Brussels Sprout Salad
serves 3-4

Cooking up a quick pot of chewy, Israeli couscous is a great way to use up odds and ends from your fridge.  It takes about 15 minutes and has a nice neutral taste that can pair with just about anything.  I use a little sheep's feta in this recipe, but you can feel free to omit and substitute kalamata olives for that same salty and briney bite.  Similarly, if you are gluten-free go with a grain like millet or quinoa.

1 lb brussels sprouts, cut in half vertically
drizzle of avocado oil (or other high heat oil)
1 cup Israeli couscous
1 garlic clove, minced
couple handfuls of baby kale or spinach
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and black pepper to taste
1/4 cup sheep's feta, crumbled

1. Drizzle brussels sprouts with grapeseed oil and sprinkle with salt.  Lay on a parchment-lined sheet tray and roast at 450 for 15 minutes, or until lightly browned and crispy.

2. Meanwhile, in a small pot, heat a drizzle of olive oil and toast dry couscous until lightly golden, about 2 minutes.  Then add 1 1/4 cups of water.  Bring to a simmer and cover and cook until water is absorbed, about 12-15 minutes.

3. Take a skillet and heat another drizzle of olive oil.  Add minced garlic and stir for 30 seconds.  Add and stir greens until just wilted, about 2 minutes.  

4. In a serving bowl, combine couscous, brussels sprouts, and wilted greens.  Season with the red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and plenty of black pepper.  Top with crumbled sheep's feta.