Posts Tagged ‘protein’

Faux Pho: Vegetarian Pho

And we’re back. (the royal we, that is, since you have little to do with these posts.) This is part two of our pan-Asian feast, and you should still be hungry after the TVP egg rolls, considering they were over a month ago.

Below is my recipe for faux pho, or vegetarian/ vegan pho with seitan. If you knew me in the last year before my veggie turn, you know that I wanted to inject pho directly into my veins; I used it to celebrate, to mourn, to energize, to relax, to turn on, and turn off. I used to live in a town outside of DC and frequented a place—Pho 75—that looked like a shitty high school cafeteria had a baby with a scene from Apocalypse Now. But they served a huge, cheap, steaming bowl of pho replete with Sriracha and tripe. Wondrous offal aside, the staple beef broth makes pho a no-no, so I had to adapt. Welcome to the adaptation, kids.

And please no asshats who say, “This isn’t pho because it isn’t beef based,” “The noodles/ sprouts aren’t correct,” or any other frivolous critiques. Shut up and, like I say in my about this veg virgin, take my recipe and do with it as your tongue sees fit.

Ingredients for the broth:

7 – 8 cups vegetable broth

1 medium onion, quartered

1-inch hunk of ginger, skinned and sliced

8+ garlic cloves, crushed

2 tbs. ground anise

3 tbs. ground clove

1 tsp. cinnamon

4 tbs. soy sauce

1 tbs. cayenne pepper

1 tbs. olive or sesame oil

Ingredients for everything else:

1 lb. buckwheat soba noodles (or rice noodles)

8 – 16 oz. diced seitan, depending on your protein concerns (tofu also works; just double the amount)

7 scallions, thinly sliced

2 big handfuls of bean sprouts (I used the skinny ones, but the fat are excellent too.)

2 big handfuls of basil leaves, whole

1 – 2 limes, cut into wedges (or a really convenient bottle of lime juice)


hoisin (although I don’t really use hoisin)

Makes 4-6 servings.

To make the broth, heat the broth over a medium to medium-high heat. Use a big ass pot, because it’s a group swim by the end of the recipe. Char—but do not burn!—the onion, ginger, and garlic in the oil. After the broth begins to steam, dump in all of other ingredients for the broth, veggies included. Slowly bring the broth to a boil, drop the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain the broth, and keep the solids if you’re feeling economical. For the faux pho, though, you’ll only need the liquid.

To make the soup, cook the noodles appropriately (or inappropriately, if it doesn’t get too messy and weird). Strain. When you’re getting close to serving time, add the seitan to the hot broth to heat it through. Divide the noodles into the desired portions and portion out the seitan with a slotted spoon. Next, cover the noodles with your beefy non-beef broth. Serve with the basil, sprouts, lime (juice), Sriracha, and hoisin. This is an interactive meal, so everyone can dress as desired.

Enjoy, bitches. Make sure to keep chopsticks, a big-ass spoon, and sweat napkin handy throughout.

Non-Veg Friendly Factor: 4.734. Everyone I served this to loved it, from vegetarians to dedicated and stubborn omnivores, two of who aren’t even big fans of standard pho. The dish was just as comforting, tasty, contingently spicy, and satisfying as I remember. It was at my kitchen table instead of a dive pho place with Vietnamese on the menu, but I found some familiar escape in my steaming bowl of noodles. I will be honest about something: I don’t exactly remember what beef broth tastes like; so while I stand by mine as a good approximation—especially of pho broth—I’m not willing to say it will make you forget about bovine liquid (although the phrase bovine liquid might).


Mac & Cheese: the Omega

I know; I know: this is the quickest turn-around from the VV you’ve seen yet. I promise it’s not premature posting; I just thought I owed you after that, you know, embarrassing performance with the Vurgers. I know you keep telling me that it happens to all new vegetarian cooks, but I’m a little embarrassed, nonetheless.

So how do I make up for those ramshackle burgers? The best, most awesomest, pants-wettingest, life-changingest, revelatory mouthgasm that ever involved the words ‘mac’ and ‘cheese’. Flavor aside, it’s goddamn healthy too. Boom. So hopefully any Debbie Doubters resulting from the Veggie Burgers are now Acolyte Annies. Remember: the Virgin reserves his right to any and all hyperbole and salesmanship. Truthfully, though, this meal sometimes feeds me 2-3 times a week, freezes great, and always hits the spot. It’s probably a little high in protein and sodium–not to mention more caloric in the outlined portions for people who are on a strict weight-loss diet–so if you’re really concerned, eat it before or after a hard workout.


1lb. Pasta Barilla Plus (I like the elbows or rotini.)

8oz. fat free shredded mozzarella cheese

8oz. fat free shredded cheddar cheese

5oz. reduced fat bleu cheese (feta also works, but bleu is the best for kicking up the flavor)

12oz. broccoli and cauliflower, steamed (I use the microwave steam bags because, well, why not? They’re easy, fast, and maintain nutrients more reliably; plus they free up a burner.)

8oz. white mushrooms, sliced

1/4-cup butter or butter substitute (Brummel & Brown was listed here before, but if you consult the comments below you’ll see why it was taken out.)

2 tbs. all-purpose flour

2-cups skim milk

Not pictured: black pepper

1 tbs. hot sauce

1/2-tbs. crushed red pepper flakes

1/2-tbs. cumin

1 tbs. ancho chili powder

1 tbs. cayenne pepper

1.5 tbs. paprika

1/3-vegetable bouillon cube, grated (at some point in the future, I’ll show you how to make your own)

(garlic) salt & pepper to taste

. . . feel free to include the kitchen sink, if you want.

Makes 5-6 servings if main dish, a helluva lot if a side.

Boil the pasta. Strain and set aside.

Using the flour and butter, make a rue (check out my Mushroom’s Cream Soup for guidance, since it’s a bitch to write about twice). When the rue is made, add the milk. It helps if the milk is warm so the hot rue isn’t shocked with cold milk, thereby stunting the process a bit; you don’t want it boiling, so a couple minutes in the microwave should do the trick. Now throw in the seasonings and hot sauce. (This is a good time to steam the broccoli and cauliflower, especially if you’re using one of the steam bags.) Once the rue is done—I normally wait for the milk to reach a very slow boil over a medium heat, then drop the heat a little—start adding in the mozzarella and bleu cheeses, about 1/4 of the amount at a time. With a whisk or long fork, keep stirring the mix so the cheeses melt uniformly, also while breaking up and smooshing any remaining clumps of flour-butter. Once all of the cheese is added and melted—making one gooey, cheesey pot of awesomeness—take the cheese sauce off of the heat or drop the burner as low as it can go. Oh, and most importantly, sneak a taste of some and thank me later.

While you’re working your (my, actually) magic with the cheese sauce, coat a shallow, rectangular baking pan—mine looks to be about 11” x 8” x 1.5”—with a non-stick spray. Dump in the pasta, mushrooms, broccoli, and cauliflower and stir it all together. Pour on the cheese sauce and, again, stir the mother. Now sprinkle on the cheddar cheese—but don’t even think of stirring. Jerk. This unassuming sprinkling ends up as a delicious film of melted cheese, and if you want to mess that up then you deserve to die cold and alone. Now here’s a point of disagreement: I’m not one to sprinkle breadcrumbs on top; I don’t need the added crunch. If you’re one of these people, knock your socks off—I recommend Italian breadcrumbs—but if you’re on the fence about it, I say try it first without the crumbs.

Bake for 11-12 minutes at 375 degrees. Dig the hell in.

I promise it tastes better than it looks.

Non-Veg Friendly Factor: 5(trillion-hundred-million). Yea, it’s another typical omnivore dish—eat it. Considering its nutritional profile to gustatory satisfaction ratio, there is nothing not-bitchin’ about this meal. The broccoli and cauliflower add a nice texture without overwhelming—roasted eggplant or peas would work well too; just nothing too crunchy—and the mushrooms are succulent after their time in the oven. Just a warning: this is the type of meal that forces you to unbutton your pants afterward, so I recommend sweatpants or, if it’s a classy function, Gloria Vanderbilt stretch jeans; you know, the ones with the swan.

Pasta Barillla PLUS: Do It.

I guess I should start this post by saying that I don’t receive any kickbacks from any company or product I endorse herein (LAME). I’ll often recommend various things—Sriracha hot sauce; low sodium Kikkoman soy sauce (mainly because other, cheaper brands suck)—but only with the most altruistic and tastiest intentions in mind. (Sidebar: I often find that altruism and taste go hand-in-hand.) Also, this post is really lame and a total nutrition geek-out; I promise to have my baller-ass chili recipe for you in just a few days. Oh, and maybe some healthy chile rellenos!

Since first reading about it years ago, I have not used any pasta except for Pasta Barilla PLUS for any cooking, omnivorous or vegetarian. Before that I used whole wheat pasta because, in all other starchy areas of my life, I use whole wheat or whole grain products—well, except for potatoes and post-workout meals, but that’s a whole other post. Anyway, the benefits of whole grains for regulating blood sugar and metabolism are endless and advertised in many other places. Consequently, I’ll only briefly outline them here.

Because whole grains—a kind of complex carb, as opposed to simple carbs: white bread; potatoes; processed grains—burn slower and require more energy to metabolize, you actually burn calories while digesting them. Also unlike simple carbs, complex carbs do not spike your blood sugar as sharply. Due to evolutionary things that I don’t really understand (I got C’s in biology class), spikes in blood sugar cause the body to store fat. However, your blood sugar doesn’t stay that high but quickly drops back to a base level with simple carbs. Looking long-term, these constant peaks and drops can lead to things like hypertension and diabetes. Whole grains and complex carbs, conversely, handle your blood sugar more gently, thereby keeping your metabolism more regulated.

Ok, enough with the scare tactics and protracted reflection on complex carbs. (I guess that was an obnoxious insight into how my brain works.) It’s time I get to the point: Pasta Barilla PLUS not only has the benefits outlined since it is made with whole grains but it also has protein. You hear that, veg-heads? PROTEIN. Now I am probably a little more concerned with protein-intake than other vegetarians—I must sound like every non-vegetarian with this obsession—but it is, after all, an incredibly necessary nutrient. PLUS gets its protein from two sources. The first is legumes: lentils; chickpeas; flaxseed. Hell, it gets bonus points for giving me some vegetable intake along with my pasta. Second is egg whites, which I know are anathema to some, if not most, vegetarians. Personally, I’m still not sure how I feel about consuming eggs while on a vegetarian diet and, admittedly, I didn’t know PLUS uses egg whites until my research about ten minutes ago. For now, though, I eat eggs, even if only on a limited basis.

Why the concern? Protein is not just for body-builders (although anyone involved in an active lifestyle should know about its benefits). For one, protein, because it metabolizes even slower than complex carbs, has all the aforementioned benefits of complex carbs. Secondly, proteins are necessary for an innumerable amount of the body’s functions. The problem for vegetarians isn’t just that they need to work harder to consume protein, but that even the quality of protein they’re consuming isn’t as good. The top three types of protein are animal, egg, and whey, with casein and soy coming in a more distant second (and possibly third, respectively). Somewhere after that comes protein from legumes. In short, not all protein is created equal. Because vegetarians typically have to fight for protein from lesser sources, it’s important to work them for all they’re worth. That being said, PLUS does have egg whites, which is something that veg people will have to work out for themselves.

Non-Veg Friendly Factor: 5. Like I said, I’ve been eating this for years. Also, I have served it to many dedicated non-vegetarians and non-health food eaters and no one has complained. Unlike typical whole wheat pastas, it doesn’t have the gummy consistency that turns off so many people. Oh, and IT HAS PROTEIN, something which can be lost in more spartan pasta dishes. Hell, simply PLUS with olive oil and salt carried me through some pretty tough times. In short, unless you’re against eating eggs, you should use PLUS whenever you make a pasta dish.