Sunday, July 6, 2014

Lentil Sloppy Joe's - vegan and well, sloppy

Summer time means barbecues and lots of eating outside at our house as long as the weather is not too muggy.  Barbecues mean potato and macaroni salads, pasta salads, corn on the cob and all the flavorful foods that come with summer veggie harvests. Yes, we love veggie burgers but sometimes we need to change it up from the standard burger. A great way to do this is with a sloppy joe - because you still get the sandwich on a roll, but even better yet, a vegan meal packed with protein that is still light and satisfying.

One of the best things for me about making all of our meals from scratch is the ability to control the ingredient content - like the ability to avoid soy in every stinking thing we eat. To my surprise, there is a vegan soy free soy sauce available to those who are trying to avoid soy because of a soy allergy or thyroid issues. This product is available at my local grocery store in the nature's marketplace section of the store and is called Liquid Aminos, made by Bragg's, certified non-gmo and organic. If you are looking for a soy alternative I would highly recommend this product. It tastes nearly identical to soy sauce and has brought homemade chinese food back into my life.

Anyway, this recipe is just one version of sloppy joe's that I make in my house. I also do a version with quinoa and pinto beans. But I changed it up with lentils this time around.

A word about lentils - cook them too fast, or with too little liquid or with the wrong liquid, and you will get crunchy beans. My advice in any lentil recipe is to cook your lentils first all the way through, a 2:1 ration of stock or water to lentils, and then prepare it the rest of the way to finish. If you cook them too long you get mush. But  in this recipe, they will not go mushy with the extra 10 minutes or so in the sauce, because they are being cooked in a tomato based sauce which is acidic. The acid prevents the lentil from breaking down further. Cooking lentils in an acid based liquid will prevent them from ever getting soft enough to enjoy (believe me I have learned my lesson on that one). Trust me, cook them first for 20-25 minutes with no flare, then do the doctoring at the end and you will get the perfect lentil every time.

You can serve these sloppy joe's on hamburger buns, hot dog buns, over rice or however you want to eat them.

Lentil Sloppy Joes

• 3 cups vegetable stock or water
• 112 cups dried green or brown lentils
• 1 onion, chopped
• 1 red bell pepper, chopped 
• 1 tablespoon chili powder
• 1 - 8-ounce can tomato sauce
• 2 tablespoons soy sauce (I use Aminos soy free soy sauce for a soy free version)
• 2-3 tablespoons brown sugar (depends on how much sweet flavor you want)
• 1 1/2  teaspoon rice vinegar
• 1 teaspoon vegetarian Worcestershire sauce
• salt to taste
1. Cook the lentils in the stock or water for 20 minutes-30 minutes. Drain.
2. While the lentils are cooking, start preparing the sloppy joe sauce. Chop your onion, and peppers.

3. Heal oil in a pot big enough to hold the lentils once you need to add them. Add the onions and bell pepper and cook, stirring occasionally until onions soften slightly, about 5 minutes.

4. Add the chili powder and mix in well. Add the tomato sauce, soy sauce, vinegar, worcestershire sauce, and sugar. Mix well, bring to a boil.

5. Now add the drained lentils. Bring to a boil and reduce to low, simmer about 10 minutes.

6. Adjust seasonings to taste in the end - salt, sugar, pepper, etc.

 Serve on whole-wheat buns with whatever else you like to put on these. Serve with potato salad, pasta salad and cooked veggies.

This is a great year round dinner as well and freezes well if you have more than you can eat the first time around.

Vegan Blueberry Muffins and veganizing recipes

Blueberries are here! We love blueberries in my house - pancakes, muffins, smoothies. So with our first bunch of blueberries this season I couldn't wait to make these yummy blueberry muffins.

I am an internet recipe troll. One of my favorite past times is to "veganize" recipes so that I can enjoy them. You guys make a lot of really good food out there - or at least what looks like good food, but the ingredients just won't do for a happy vegan like me. So I comb the files and take the best of what I think will work in a vegan recipe and put it all together for my own creation. (aha! hence the name, Kelli's Kreations? hmmmm).

 A word on making a recipe vegan. Sometimes you can take a straight up recipe, swap out the nonvegan ingredients for vegan ones, and you are off to the races. But most other times, things are not that easy. Generally when you see butter, just use a vegan butter like earth balance or other nondairy butter. When you see milk, use your favorite plant based milk. When you see mayo, just use Vegenaise. When I see eggs, then my heart skips a beat (more than it normally does) because that is when the changing out gets tricky. If you come across a recipe with more than 3 eggs, good luck with that and plan on tossing a lot of research and development in the trash. It can be done, but yikes, 4 eggs in a recipe? I am still working on a cake recipe that calls for 6 eggs. It has been a year......sigh. Quiches can be done with tofu but it takes work. All this to say, if you want a hobby, this is a good one, and veganizing a recipe can be so totally rewarding because in most cases, you can still enjoy the foods you loved before you adopted a plant based diet AND amaze your carnivore friends at the same time. I will have to do a post on substitutes in the near future.

But for now the recipe....

Makes 6 jumbo or 12 regular size muffins.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg replacer, such as Ener-G ( or 1 1/2 tsp of cornstarch mixed with 2 Tbsp of water)
1 cup rice milk 
1 cup fresh blueberries

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Grease muffin cups or line with muffin liners.
  2. Mix up the egg placer and set aside.
  3. Combine the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder with a whisk (this is generally better than a spoon because it whips up all of the powders more evenly and helps with the "airyness" of a baked good.
  4. Mix vegetable oil and egg replacer in a cup or small bowl until well blended, then add to flour mixture.
  5. Add the milk to the flour mixture, first like 3/4 then determine if you need to add more. I generally end up with about a cup in total. Don't go more because you will get a soggy muffin.
  6. Fold in blueberries.
  7. Fill muffin cups about 3/4 full (like I said you will get 6 jumbos so don't fill to the top or you won't get that many and will have really big muffin tops).
  8. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until done.
If you want to add a streusel topping (see below) to these, you can do so before you put them in the oven to bake.

TOPPING: same as for apple pie for Streusel
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 c. flour
1/4 lb. (1/2 c. or 1 stick) vegan butter, chilled
Mix flour and sugar together, rub in butter or use pastry cutter until crumbles form. Set aside.

People have asked me before, what does the inside look like when you make a vegan pastry item, it can't be as light and fluffy as a regular baked good. Well, um, yes it can...

Light, fluffy and oh so yummy.

Happy baking!