Baked BBQ Tofu


I gotta be honest, now that I live in the ‘burbs I can smell about half of the neighborhood grilling on any given weekend and that has left me craving some smoky foods.

As someone who has zero skills at grilling, and also not enough time or patience to actually learn it, I’ve got to find some other way to get my fix with minimal effort. That’s where my oven comes into play.

Baking tofu leaves it chewy and gives it crispy caramelized edges when sauce is applied. Add extra layers of flavor thanks to a dry rub and pickle juice brine, and you’re set with a plate of BBQ tofu that would be welcome at any cookout.

Since I am a self-admitted BBQ novice, I drew inspiration for this recipe from Food Network’s Rib Dry Rub and the sauce is a riff off an oil-free recipe on Inside Kelly’s Kitchen. Both were great jumping off points for mixing and matching to my family’s tastes.


Baked BBQ Tofu

Serves 4 people, 4 slices per serving


  • 2 blocks firm tofu, drained and pressed
  • 4 cups pickle juice (can be from store-bought or homemade)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon coconut or brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 (8 oz.) can of tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon yellow mustard
  • ⅛ teaspoon liquid smoke


  1. Cut each block of tofu into 8 ½-inch thick slices. In a shallow casserole dish, layer tofu and pour pickle juice over. Marinate for at least 1 hour, flipping tofu as necessary for all sides to be well coated.
  2. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  3. In a shallow bowl, mix together cumin, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, sugar, black pepper, and white pepper.
  4. Drain tofu and roll each piece in the dry rub mixture. Place tofu on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, flipping halfway through cooking time.
  5. In a small bowl, whisk together tomato sauce, balsamic vinegar, yellow mustard, and liquid smoke. Set aside.
  6. Once tofu has baked for 20 minutes, use a basting brush to coat one side of tofu pieces with sauce. Bake for 5 minutes. Flip tofu, baste the other side, and bake for 5 more minutes. Serve with any leftover BBQ sauce on the side.

    Nutrition per serving:
    Calories: 181 Fat: 7.5g Saturated Fat: 1.4g Protein: 17g Carbohydrates: 16g Sugars: 7.8g

Easiest Ever Kimchi


I often hesitate to use the word “ever” in a recipe. Descriptions like “The most decadent pie ever,” or “The best breakfast you’ll ever eat,” are just a little bit too over the top because these statements hardly ever turn out to be true. But I kid you not, this recipe for kimchi is the easiest you’ll ever find. You mix up some brine, stir in chopped veggies, and then let it sit out for a while. You’ll be rewarded with salty, funky, and crunchy kimchi that is addictive.

A lot of the ingredients (rice powder, gochugaru pepper flakes, and sesame oil to name a few) that I needed to buy individually (according to kimchi recipes I found in cookbooks) are all ingredients found in gochujang paste. Since I’m on a budget, and didn’t want to buy half a dozen ingredients that I might only use occasionally, I subbed these with a combination of gochujang paste and other condiments.

Now this isn’t by any means a traditional recipe. Honestly, your Korean grandmother might be rolling in her grave right now because of the ingredients list. But even with it taking a different avenue from other versions, the results are a delicious ferment. As with most recipes, feel free to swap out some of the ingredients to make it as spicy, sweet, or tangy as you’d like.


Easiest Ever Kimchi

Makes about 4 pints


  • 2 napa cabbages or large bok choy, roughly chopped
  • 1 bunch green onions (green parts only), chopped
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons salt
  • 1/4 cup grated fresh ginger
  • 10 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup sweet soy sauce
  • 1 cup gochujang paste


  1. In a large bowl, toss the cabbage, onions, and salt. Set aside for 10-15 minutes to sweat. In a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients.
  2. Once the cabbage and onions have wilted slightly, add enough water to the bowl to cover the vegetables. Roughly mix the cabbage and onions in the water with your hands (to remove any excess salt that’s left) and then drain well.
  3. Add the drained cabbage and onions to the gochujang mix. Toss with either gloved hands or tongs until everything is well coated. Put the kimchi mixture into 4 clean pint jars, leaving headspace of about 2 inches. Use a fermentation weight to weigh down the top of each jar, ensuring that the cabbage stays underneath the brine. Now you can either cover each of your jars with a regular lid (and ‘burp’ them daily to release excess pressure) or choose airlock lids for less hassle.
  4. Store in a cool place away from sunlight for 3 to 5 days and start checking the taste of the kimchi on the third day. It’s ready once it’s bubbly and tastes delicious. Store in the fridge for up to a year (but I promise it won’t last that long).

Nutrition per serving (1/4 cup):

Calories: 33 Fat: 0g Saturated Fat: 0g Protein: 1g Carbohydrates: 6g Sugars: 4g

Seitan Shepherd’s Pie

seitan shepherds pie in a casserole dish

While I’m all about fancy foods and impressive dishes, sometimes it’s hard to beat a good casserole. When I’m craving comfort food and want something that’s easy to make, I turn to a classic: shepherd’s pie.

Although it’s usually made with lamb or beef (hence the name), my favorite filling to make a ‘meaty’ dish is seitan (say-tan). This wheat gluten-based food is packed with protein (actually more than tofu) and touts a short, recognizable ingredients list that you can feel good about. Best part? By making a vegan version of this often over-indulgent dish, each serving comes in at just above 200 calories.

I was lucky enough to have Sweet Earth reach out and send me a goodie bag packed to the brim with their multiple seitan products. Their varieties come in different cuts (strips, slices, or grounds) and there are even flavored versions, all of which are delicious. For this recipe I used their ground seitan, which holds up well in the rich gravy and gives a savory boost to the dish.

seitan shepherds pie in a glass casserole dish

Vegan Shepherd’s Pie

Serves: 8


  • 1 bag frozen mixed vegetables (corn, peas, carrots, green beans, etc.)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 2 (8-oz.) packages white mushrooms, sliced
  • 8 oz. ground seitan (like Sweet Earth Traditional Seitan)
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups non-dairy milk 
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast 
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3 cups prepared mashed potatoes


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Steam the frozen vegetables and and pour into a 9×13-inch casserole dish.
  3. In a large pan, bring the olive oil to medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent and fragrant. Add garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Stir in mushrooms and seitan, cooking until the mushrooms have become tender. Add the seitan mixture into the casserole dish.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together water, milk, soy sauce, nutritional yeast, Italian seasoning, pepper, and cornstarch. Add the sauce mix to a large saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring often. Cook for 3-5 minutes, until thickened.
  5. Pour the gravy over the vegetable and seitan mixture and stir together. Spread prepared mashed potatoes on top and cover the dish with foil. Bake for 45 minutes, remove foil, and bake for 15 more minutes. Sprinkle more nutritional yeast on top, if desired. 

Nutrition per serving:

Calories: 208 Fat: 3g Saturated Fat: 0g Protein: 15g Carbohydrates: 32g Sugars: 7g

Sugar Free Aquafaba Cappuccino


The magic of this recipe is that it results in a rich airy drink with no fat or sugar involved. The trick is that aquafaba (cooking liquid for beans) easily turns into a light foam that mimics the texture of finely frothed milk. Combine that with the flavor of vanilla extract and a dash of stevia for natural sweetness, and you’ve got yourself a fine drink to start the morning with.

There’s no need to just stick with vanilla though. I’ve experimented also with lavender and almond extracts, both of which work well in this recipe.

I’ll be the first one to say that I’m by no means a coffee expert, so bear with me using “cappucino” as this recipe title. Does it results in a creamy, sweet, caffeine-filled drink? You betcha. Is it done in a professional manner with a milk frother that will satisfy all the coffee nerds? Not at all. But for those of us without decked-out kitchens you should already have all the required equipment, a stand mixer and microwave, on hand.


Sugar Free Aquafaba Cappuccino

Serves: 2


  • 2 double-shots of espresso (or two small cups of strong coffee)
  • 1/4 cup of plain non-dairy milk
  • 1/4 cup aquafaba (if using canned be sure to purchase unsalted)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon powdered stevia (or two packs of stevia)
  • Cinnamon, optional


  1. In a stand mixer, beat the aquafaba on high until it becomes white and stiff, about 8-12 minutes.
  2. Add in the vanilla extract and stevia, beating until well combined.
  3. In a small bowl, microwave the non-dairy milk for 30 seconds.
  4. In two small mugs combine the espresso or strong coffee with the warmed milk.
  5. Spoon the aquafaba topping over, sprinkle with cinnamon if desired.

Nutrition per serving:

Calories: 24 Fat: 1g Saturated Fat: 0g Protein: 1g Carbohydrates: 1g Sugars: 0g

Two Dollar Tuesday: Double Protein Patties 

By the end of yesterday I found myself without both the time to write a Two Dollar Tuesday or even a recipe to photograph. The fact that these veggie burgers disappeared so fast speaks to the fact that a combination of quinoa and mashed beans make a great (and high protein) patty.

I remade the recipe today and I asked Peter, while he scarfed down a burger, what he thought of them. He managed to mumble “If you keep making these, I’ll keep eating them!”

The original (which was what I based the pricing on) was made with different toppings than the one photographed below, but both combinations are equally delicious.

Double Protein Patties 


Recipe total: $3.52

Servings per recipe: 4

Cost per serving: 88 cents


  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed (59 cents)
  • 3/4 cup cooked quinoa (45 cents)
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped chipotle in adobo sauce (33 cents)
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice (20 cents)
  • 3 tablespoons all purpose flour (3 cents)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper (5 cents)
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (6 cents)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin (12 cents)
  • 4 slices red onion (10 cents)
  • 4 slices tomato (16 cents)
  • 1 avocado, mashed (99 cents)
  • 4 hamburger buns (44 cents)


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

With either a fork or potato masher, mash the black beans until a coarse paste forms. In a large bowl, mix the beans, quinoa, chipotles, lime juice, flour, salt, black pepper, garlic powder, and cumin. 

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Take the bean and quinoa mixture and form 4 patties and place them on the lined sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, flip, then bake for another 15 minutes. 

Serve on a bun with all the fixings (in this case it’s red onion, tomato, and mashed avocado)


Two Dollar Tuesday: Four-Way Chili Mac

“Copy cat” recipes seem to be all the rage as of late. I can’t get onto Pinterest without seeing at least one pin proclaiming to have found the secret ingredients to some sauce or batter. Now this is not a copy cat recipe below, but more of a vegan tribute to something I remember fondly from childhood.

It has been several years since I last ate Three-Way Chili at Steak and Shake, but it was brought to mind when some of the beloved diner chain’s coupons were put (in vain) in our mailbox.

I don’t really know exactly when I first tried that dish, but I have a faint hankering that it was on the way home from a swim team competition somewhere. What I do know though is that my young self was in awe of the meal because it was a combination of two of my favorite foods: chili and spaghetti.

I still love both of those foods to this day, so a vegan update to the dish was a necessary one. The best part is that this recipe makes 6 servings for $4.86, while the single serving dish from the restaurant costs $3.99 each.

Four-Way Chili Mac

Recipe total: $4.86

Servings per recipe: 6

Cost per serving: 81 cents


  • 12 oz. package whole-wheat thin spaghetti (90 cents)
  • 2 (14 oz.) cans red beans ($1.30)
  • 1 (14 oz.) can diced tomatoes (55 cents)
  • 1 (10 oz.) can diced tomatoes with green chilies (59 cents)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced (11 cents)
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder (26 cents)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (12 cents)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste (5 cents)
  • Salt, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch (6 cents)
  • 2 tablespoons cold water
  • 2 (8 oz.) cans tomato sauce (50 cents)
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (12 cents)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce (8 cents)
  • 1 cup diced white onions (22 cents)


Cook the spaghetti according to package instructions.

In a large pot add red beans, diced tomatoes, tomatoes and chilies, garlic, chili powder, cumin, black pepper, and salt. Bring to boil, then lower to a simmer. Combine cornstarch with cold water and pour into the chili mixture. Stir well and continue to simmer until a thick saucy texture is achieved.

In a small bowl, combine the tomato sauce, balsamic vinegar, and soy sauce.

Divide cooked pasta amongst plates, topping each with a few spoonfuls of the tomato sauce, a hearty scoop of chili, and a sprinkle of white onion.

Two Dollar Tuesday: Puttanesca Oats 

Savory oatmeal. Originally that phrase would have caused me to gag and turn away. Now, not so much.

I was at a loss for what to make for Two Dollar Tuesday (I have yet to go grocery shopping this week), and saw a post from about how savory oat recipes were becoming more popular in the culinary scene. Oats are incredibly cheap, so I thought this would be a good trend to try out. I subtly brought up the article to Peter and since he didn’t turn up his nose at the thought, I decided to take the plunge and try making oats for dinner.

The best thing about savory oats is that they make the dishes creamy without needing to add extra fat. I took my favorite spaghetti sauce add-in ingredients (basil, onion, capers, spinach, and black olives) and created a comforting creamy bowl of savory oats. I am now a believer, and can’t wait to try other types of this new dish.

Puttanesca Oats

Serving per recipe: 3

Price per serving: 87 cents

Total recipe price: $3.46


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (10 cents)
  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow onion, about 1 small onion (31 cents)
  • 3/4 cup chopped baby bella mushrooms (50 cents)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (11 cents)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup chopped tomatoes, about 2 small tomatoes (33 cents)
  • 1 cup quick cooking oats (24 cents)
  • 1 3/4 cups tomato juice (44 cents)
  • 1 cup chopped spinach (62 cents)
  • 2 tablespoons capers (48 cents)
  • 1/3 cup chopped olive olives (33 cents)


In a small pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add in the onion, mushroom, garlic, and salt. Saute until the onions are translucent and the mushrooms soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and cook another 2 minutes until the tomatoes are softened. 

Stir in the oats and tomato juice. Cook for 1 minute, then add in the remaining ingredients.

Remove from heat and set aside for 2 minutes so the spinach can wilt.

Since this is a softer dish, I recommend eating it along with something with a different textures to add variety. My suggestions are a crunchy fresh vegetable salad and some toasted baguette slices.