Sweet & Savory Southern Platter + 30 Second Barbecue Sauce for One

There are two things that I have to order if I go to a vegan restaurant and they have them on the menu.  The first is a reuben.  That tangy sauerkraut on top of seitan, tempeh, or tofu slathered in dressing and sandwiched between two slices of rye gets me every single time.  The other is a barbecue or soul bowl.  The flavors always play so nice together with the sweet and smoky barbecue sauce combining with creamy vegan mac & cheese or potato salad, slow cooked greens, and then a side of black eyed peas, Soy Curls, or sticky seitan.  Maybe I was a Southerner in another life.  All I know is that I don’t need to look any further at the menu.  My choice is clear.

The last time that I got just such a bowl, I wondered afterwards why I never make that kind of thing at home.  Sure, I make garlicky collard greens or kale almost daily, but the other things don’t get much action.  The main reason is that for a meal with so many elements, it’s the kind of thing I’d make for dinner.  However, David isn’t into barbecue sauce or mac and cheese.  It’s like that Flight of the Conchords song “I’m Not Crying” that’s all about a break-up.  Brett sings, “I’m making a lasagna… for one.”  There are some things that people just don’t make all for themselves.

But this week while having a cup of chamomile before bed, my mind started wandering to mac and cheese.  I couldn’t think of anything else, and as soon as I could get in front of the stove the next day I pulled out Isa’s Mac & Shews recipe from the Post Punk Kitchen blog.  I’ve had that one on my radar for the longest time.  I mean, the secret ingredient for its umami undertones is sauerkraut!  Could anything be more up my alley?  It took some dividing, but I made a quarter of the recipe – enough to last for 3 soul bowls (or in this case plates).

(As an aside here: If you’re an iPhone user, did you know that Siri can tell you things like, “What’s a quarter of 1/3 cup?”  It’s so useful when dividing a recipe by a significant amount!  Not only does she tell you that it’s literally 0.0833 cups, which is admittedly less useful, the phone also gives a full conversion scale with what the amount is in fluid ounces or tablespoons and teaspoons.  Answer: 4 teaspoons.)

I made just 2 small tweaks to the recipe.  I added a little more of the optional nutritional yeast flakes, because I love nutritional yeast.  And after I made the sauce and shells, I didn’t take the final step of baking it.  Instead I ladled the cheesy mac onto my plate and topped it with a handful of Phoney Baloney’s coconut bacon.  I’m sure it’s saucier that way without the additional baking time, but that really worked out for me because it melded with the greens on the plate, making something like creamed collards.   For the collards, I made my usual garlicky sautéed collard greens for my first couple of bowls and then just sautéed kale with garlic the last time around (pictured here).

Then it was time for the barbecued tofu.  Like I said, David isn’t into barbecue sauce, and so I always have a hard time finishing a bottle before I see it in the refrigerator and start wondering, “Now… just how long has this been in here?”

So instead I’ve been making a 30 Second Barbecue Sauce… for One.  It’s made from just 6 ingredients that are always in my kitchen and that you likely already have on hand too – ketchup, apple cider vinegar, stone-ground mustard, liquid smoke, and a pinch of salt.  (The kind of ketchup in my refrigerator now is Woodstock Organic Ketchup.  Keep in mind that brands vary in terms of sweetness.  For my tastes, this barbecue sauce is plenty sweet, but if you prefer a sweeter sauce, I bet a bit of brown sugar would do the trick.)

I’ve made barbecue sauce from scratch several times (including Apricot Barbecue Sauce).  But for something quick and delicious when you need BBQ sauce now or don’t want to commit yourself to a full bottle, this is a great way to go.

I brought a lightly oiled grill pan to a medium-high heat and grilled two 1/2 inch slices of super firm tofu.  After one side easily released from the grill pan, letting me know it was ready, I flipped it and slathered on some barbecue sauce.  When the other side had some good grill marks, I flipped the tofu again, slathered on more sauce, and it was ready to serve with extra sauce for dipping.  On warm summer days, of course, this could be done on the outdoor grill instead.  (If you’re using an indoor cast iron grill pan, you’ll want to make sure you clean it right away since the acidic tomato sauce isn’t good for the coating.)

This bowl so put me in my happy place.  With barbecued tofu, sauerkraut, collard greens, garlic, cashews, coconut bacon, and nutritional yeast, it’s like all of my favorite foods having a party… for one.

30 Second Barbecue Sauce for One

Serving Size: Makes about 1/4 cup


  • 3 Tablespoons ketchup
  • 1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon stone-ground mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon liquid smoke
  • Pinch of salt


  1. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl until smooth.

I’m curious, what dish do you have to order when you see it on the menu at a vegan restaurant?

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Garlicky Sautéed Collard Greens

night landscapeAs the miles stretched on and fields of soybeans and corn clipped by the roadside, we looked for ways to pass the time.  The radio was offering options of country tunes or spirituals.  We weren’t feeling up for 20 Questions.  But it was still hours before we’d return from our road trip to Kansas City with our friends, Melissa and Ray.  As the darkness descended on the horizon and leftover fireworks from the Fourth dotted the skies, the topic turned to veganism.

Melissa and Ray went vegan about three years ago.  This month marks my 6 year veganniversary, and David is not far off of that.  We talked about how much our diets have changed as the years have passed, and it seemed like the perfect fodder for a new car game.

making collard greens“Let’s all name foods that we’d never eaten before we went vegan,” I suggested.

“Wow,” said Melissa, “that’s practically everything.”

We all started chiming in.



“Coconut butter!”

“Swiss chard!”

“Any Ethiopian food!”

“Tempeh, seitan, red lentils!”

“Leeks and fennel!”

“Millet and amaranth!”

“Oyster mushrooms and turnips!”

“I thought kale was just the thing that decorated the buffet line.”

Garlicky Collard GreensBefore I went vegan, I’d never cooked beans from scratch.  In fact, when we started dating almost ten years ago, David hated all beans.  He flat out wouldn’t eat them.  Now chickpeas and black beans are two of his favorite foods.

While I had tried tofu at Chinese restaurants, it was far from something that I craved.  And even after I went vegetarian (and then vegan), it took a long time before I cracked the code on preparing it.

I’d never made seitan from scratch or split pea soup that didn’t come from a can.  I wasn’t familiar with chipotle peppers in adobo sauce.  I didn’t know that French lentils du Puy were the Cadillac of lentils or that cashews were the magicians of nuts.

“Collard greens,” said Melissa.

“Yep, me too,” David announced.

I’d had collard greens before I went vegan at soul food restaurants and made by friends who grew up with that cuisine, but I’d never attempted to prepare them.  And the first time I tried to make kale or collards, I don’t remember it being a wild success.  They were bitter.  Too strong.  It took time for not only my palate to adjust but also for me to figure out ways to prepare dark greens in a way that fit my preferences.  Now I love raw collard leaf wraps or tacos, adding them to a tofu scramble or Asian stir-fry, but it wasn’t always that way.

Sauteed garlicky collard greensAs I’ve marveled in the past, it really is amazing that going vegan expands variety for so many people.  Leaving out chickens, cows, pigs, sheep, goats, and sea life seems like it would make one’s meals become less varied.  But going vegan is not only expansive in a spiritual sense, it’s expansive in a practical sense as well.  Choosing to do something different gave me license to explore more.  The real estate on my plate where animal products had been was now available for business.  Every farmers market, every season, every cookbook continues to offer a new discovery.

And it seems to be endless.  I am constantly trying something new, something I’d never tried before.  Ironically, often these foods have long histories like millet or amaranth.  They’re not new foods, and yet somehow I’d never noticed them in the grocery store before.

There are over 20,000 species of edible plants in the world.  I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise that replacing the six or seven animals I used to eat regularly with plant foods instead wouldn’t be that big of a deal.  But with the heavy focus that animals and their secretions take up in many cultures, including my own, it certainly seemed like it would be a tough adjustment.

As we trailed off, driving into the thoughts of our own minds, I traveled to where I was six years ago – a vegetarian wondering if I could live without brie.   At that point I couldn’t imagine my en croute going kaput.  But my regrets from those days aren’t that I didn’t take one last bite of cheddar or feta.  They’re that I didn’t go vegan sooner.  In my last few days as a vegetarian, I was well aware of what I would be giving up, but I had no idea of what I was missing.

Garlicky collard greensGarlicky Sautéed Collard Greens

Serves 2-4

This is my go-to recipe for collard greens.  Whether I’m eating them with Latin Baked Tofu, plantains, and oyster mushrooms as pictured above, in a bowl with beans and grains, or on their own, these simple greens have a richness about them and a melt-in-your-mouth quality.  Feel free to add dashes of hot sauce, a bit of liquid smoke, or use smoked salt instead of sea salt.

  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 5-6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bunch collard greens, leaves removed from tough center rib and roughly chopped in medium-sized pieces
  • ½ cup vegetable broth (Or 1/2 cup water + ¼ of a vegan vegetable bouillon cube)
  • Salt, to taste

In a medium-sized pot or skillet with lid, bring extra virgin olive oil to a medium heat.  Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about five minutes.  Add the chopped collard greens and vegetable broth (or water plus bouillon cube section).  Add a pinch of salt if desired, keeping in mind that your broth or bouillon cube may already have salt in it.  Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally.

Once it is simmering, turn the heat to medium low and cover.  Remove lid to stir and check occasionally, making sure there is still enough liquid on the bottom that the collards aren’t sticking.  If they start to stick, lower the heat and add a tablespoon or two of water, as necessary.  Cover and continue cooking for 20-25 minutes, until the collard greens have become soft to the bite.