Thursday, April 19, 2012


Ok, even though my goal was only to post once a week with something really super delicious, notable, and seasonal, and this will be my third post this week, it's meant as a rejoinder to yesterday's encouragement to RISE!

I think cooking every meal for yourself, especially when single, is a huge challenge. I am responsible for all the buying, prepping, cooking, and cleaning... And, while it's one of my great loves, sometimes I. Just. Don't. Have. Time. / I. Just. Don't. Wanna! Rather than go for vegan pho every time this mood strikes, I have an arsenal of very quick and easy recipes that satisfy my craving for nutrition, color, and tastiness. (Including a Pho recipe in the works! Dudes, I am addicted.) So, tonight I give you a simple plate of Caribbean Tofu with Greens, Yams, and Quick and Dirty Mango Salsa!

When I cook, I usually make enough for 2- 4 people... Just in case and out of habit. Leftovers are nice, and with a meal like this one, they're also flexible-- tomorrow the tempeh may make a salad, or tacos... Mmmm, breakfast tacos! (A favorite solution to high-protein leftovers!) This meal actually took me 25 minutes prep to plate, but let's say your less of an efficiency goddess (i.e. control freak) than yours truly, it will take you 30- 35. Not too shabby!

So let's start with some pointers for quick cooking:

1- Prep yourself to multi-task. This means setting out all of your ingredients so they're at hand, ditto the necessary tools and a bowl or a produce bag that can no longer be re-used to gather your garbage in.

2- A stove-top timer helps! Once you actually start cooking, set it for the time you know the meal will take, in this case 30 minutes. It will help you time your steps and stay on track without over / under cooking.

3- Clean as you go. It makes cooking more rewarding when the meal time isn't extended by another 30-minutes spent cleaning. Keep it rinsed, washed, and contained.

Now for the recipe!

Caribbean Tempeh with Greens, Yams, and Quick and Dirty Mango Salsa!

Sharp Knife
Small food processor
1/4 teaspoon measuring spoon
1 teaspoon measuring spoon
sealable glass container for marinating tempeh
Large pot and steam basket (I have a stock pot with a steamer that fits inside, I use it more than any other cooking vessel!)
Tongs (optional, but they're helpful for getting things out of the steam basket!)

Caribbean Tempeh
1 jalepeno
1 large clove garlic
1.5" piece ginger, peeled
2 Tablespoons fresh, raw coconut (optional! I have some lying around from a coconut kefir experiment, but this is totally not necessary, just adds a nice sweet dimension and some extra calories.)
1 teaspoon maple syrup
4 teaspoons nama shoyu
juice of one navel orange (about 4 oz)
juice of one lime (about 2 oz)
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon tumeric

1 package tempeh, cut into 8 triangles (Half it, half it again and then half those slices so they're thinner, not smaller)

For the sides
1 medium sweet potato, washed, and cut into 1" cubes. Don't peel it!
1 bunch collard greens or other green of your choice, washed and sliced into ribbons (different greens will need more or less steam time.) Only prep enough greens for the number of people eating. For just me 6 or so medium-sized collard leaves will do.

Quick and Dirty Mango Salsa
1/2 cup fresh mango, diced
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1- 2 scallions
juice from 1/2 lime
1/4 teaspoon ancho chile powder
pinch sea salt

Optional Garnishes
Sliced avocado
raw coconut butter or oil
smoked paprika

With your timer set to 30 minutes, set your steamer on the stove. While the water heats up, slice the tempeh. Steam the tempeh for 10 minutes.

While the tempeh is steaming, make the marinade by pulsing first the solid, then the wet ingredients in a small food processor to combine.

You should have at least 5 minutes left to make your quick and dirty mango salsa and chop the sweet potato before you remove the tempeh from the steamer.

To make the salsa, peel and dice 1/2 cup mango, 1/2 cup cilantro, and 1- 2 scallions. Toss with lime juice, ancho chile powder, and salt. Set aside so the flavors can marry.

When you remove the tempeh from the steamer, place it in your sealable glass container and cover it evenly with the marinade.

Add the sweet potato / yam to the steamer. Note the time, it will need to steam for 10- 12 minutes.

Wash and chop your greens. Clean up your station and start with your dishes.

When the sweet potatoes have steamed for 6 minutes, add the greens and steam for 6 minutes more.

Slice an avocado if you'd like and grab some coconut butter or raw coconut oil to top your greens and sweet potato...I also like a little sprinkle of smoked paprika!

Ok... Your kitchen is more or less clean, your veggies are steamed and your tempeh is marinating and you still have a couple minutes left on the clock! What to do now...?

You can either plate your food as is, or quickly fry your tempeh in a well-seasoned cast-iron pan with a little coconut oil. About 1 minute / side should do it. I usually skip this step to avoid the extra fat, but it is a nice touch!

Plate your salsa, greens, sweet potatoes, and avocado (if using). Drizzle the entirety with a little extra marinade and top your veggies with a little kiss of coconut oil / butter and smoked paprika if so desired. Take more time eating than you spent cooking, and if you can, share with someone you love. Cats count, even if they're eating kibble and not spicy tempeh. (Please don't feed this to your animal companions!)

What's your favorite quick weeknight meal?

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