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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Asian Noodle Stir-Fry with Kale & Bell Peppers

Asian Noodle Stir-fry with Kale & LeeksMy well of wanderlust has always been deeper than my pocketbook.  While there’s nothing I love more than traveling the globe, exploring far-flung places, the money I’ve had for these adventures has been more limited.  I’ve done lots of traveling domestically and some internationally, but in my dreams for my life, I would have done considerably more globetrotting by now.

To feed the wanderer inside of me, I visit international grocery stores.  I still remember going inside an Asian market for the first time at eleven or twelve.  I was mesmerized by the colorful packages and candies that were unlike any I’d seen before.  At the time I had a pen-pal in Japan, and I felt somehow closer to her there.  In reality I was on the south side of Des Moines, Iowa, but I felt like I was getting a little touch into her world.

Asian Noodle Stir-fry with Kale & LeeksAs I grew older, I had other pen pals, like my Iranian pen pal.  When I moved to Los Angeles, I sought out Persian Square to put my hands on packages of rice printed in Farsi.

I trekked across Little Tokyo and Chinatown, hit up the British imports store for tea, and bought bags of dried peppers in Mexican markets.  I paid regular visits to India Sweets & Spices to wander the rows full of amchoor, asafetida, and anise, and debated how many metal tiffins I could justify owning.  (Probably just one more.  Always just one more.)

Asian Noodle Stir-fry with Kale & LeeksFood is emotional for all of us, and not a small reason for this is that it reminds us of home.  Sometimes home is the place of our childhood or the state where we grew up.  It can be the town that we adopted as our own or the country that we visited and instantly felt like a part of us.  So it makes sense that a simple visit to a grocery store with packages written in other languages seems somehow transportive.  It takes us to the belly of someone else’s homeland.Asian Noodle Stir-fry with Kale & Leeks

ChopsticksWhile I travel the aisles instead of isles, I pick up souvenirs in the form of chopsticks and sauce dishes.  I linger over rice noodles of varying widths, and grab a jar of thick, sweet soy sauce.  In my mind I imagine a feast in the form of a bowlful of savory noodles topped with a hearty helping of vegetables and baked tofu.  It’s topped with cilantro and dashes of Sriracha for an added kick.  No new ink for my passport today, but you can’t beat the price of the ticket.

Asian Noodle Stir-fry with Kale & Leeks

Asian Noodle Stir-fry with Kale & Bell Pepper

Serving Size: 1-2

This savory rice noodle stir-fry is chock-full of kale, bell pepper, celery, and leeks for a filling and healthy lunch or dinner.


  • 3 ounces wide rice noodles
  • 3-4 dashes toasted sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon organic canola oil or other neutral-flavored, high heat oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 stalk celery, sliced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped medium
  • 1/2 leek, white part only, thinly sliced in half moons with end and dark green parts removed
  • 2 leaves of kale, roughly chopped with thick stems removed
  • 1 Tablespoon low-sodium tamari
  • 1 teaspoon sweet soy sauce (I use the Healthy Boy brand)
  • Optional: Baked tofu, chopped peanuts or cashews, Sriracha, fresh cilantro garnish


  1. Boil rice noodles according to package directions, drain, and add 3 or 4 dashes of toasted sesame oil to keep them from sticking. Toss lightly and set aside.
  2. In a large skillet or wok, bring canola oil to a medium high heat. Add garlic, celery, bell pepper, and leek to skillet and sauté for a couple of minutes, until softened and fragrant. Add kale to the skillet and sauté for a couple of minutes more, until the kale has wilted. Remove skillet from heat and set aside.
  3. In a small bowl combine tamari and sweet soy sauce. Add the mixture to the skillet along with the rice noodles. Combine all of the ingredients until evenly coated.
  4. Serve topped with baked tofu*, chopped peanuts or cashews, Sriracha, and a garnish of cilantro, if desired.


*My favorite baked tofu for this recipe is the Savory Baked Tofu from Vegan Eats World. My Easy Baked Tofu with lime juice instead of lemon juice also works well.


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