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?

Disclaimer: Amazon affiliate links

Review: Isa Does It

Isa Does It Chandra Malai KoftaWhen I was a kid, I greatly preferred activity books to coloring books.  With coloring books, you could get a bit creative with the shade of the pictured cartoon dog or smiling cat.  But with activity books, you could make things.  You could form ornaments or fold cut-outs into baskets and boxes.  You could scrawl circles on word searches and decipher crossword puzzles…   Even though it was something you essentially did on your own, there was an interactivity to it.

As an adult, that is something I love about cookbooks.  Not only do you gain a vantage point into the way another person experiences food, you get to pull out your knife and cutting board and follow along.  And after the activity has been eaten, I return to the cookbook to make notes – what substitutions or changes I made, how much I enjoyed it or didn’t, what I would do differently in the future…  And every time I make it, I adjust again depending on what I have on hand, what’s in season, or what kind of mood I’m in.

If you look through my cupboard, it’s very easy to tell which cookbooks have been the most loved Velveteen Rabbit-style.  They are splattered, stained, and scribbled on with notes aplenty.  The most loved recipes fall open right to that page from lengthy sessions in the cookbook holder.  And some of the most battered and beloved cookbooks I own were written by Isa Chandra Moskowitz (often in combination with Terry Hope Romero) of Post Punk Kitchen fame.

When I first went vegan, Vegan with a Vengeance & Veganomicon were my training guides – showing me the ropes of how to prepare foods that were entirely new to me like tofu, tempeh, and seitan.  Before VWAV, I’d never made a tofu scramble.  I had never purchased nutritional yeast flakes.  Things that are second nature to me now were introduced to me with those cookbooks, which hold a special place in my heart, because they were so intimately a part of my process of learning to cook things from scratch and learning to cook extensive vegan meals.

Isa Does It cookbook coverWhen I heard about Isa’s newest book, Isa Does It, I couldn’t wait to add it to my collection.  The book focuses on meals with a minimum amount of fuss that can be put together any night of the week without hours of preparation or hard to find ingredients. The hefty book is over 300 pages, hardcover, and packed with over 150 recipes.  There are loads of cooking tips and tricks, a section on stocking a pantry, and lots of helpful pictures for those visual learners amongst us.  (You can currently see lots of the recipes, style and design with the Look Inside feature on Amazon.)

Something that really sets Isa’s cookbooks apart in my mind (in addition to the crazy delicious food) is her sense of self that comes through in all of the recipes.  It’s a cookbook that not only makes you want to grab a spatula and skillet, but also makes you laugh.  You get a real sense of her sass and attitude, which makes it feel like you’re cooking with a friend.

But you know my whole spiel about writing in cookbooks and making lots of notes?  This one doesn’t make it easy.  It is gorgeous.  With photographs throughout the book by Vanessa Rees, one of my favorite food photographers, I didn’t know how I was going to defile the book with my scrawlings.  A cookbook is always more inviting with lots of big, well shot photographs.  And what I love about Vanessa’s pictures is that she really sets a scene and mood.  The pictures have an “action shot” quality, like they are taken right in the middle of putting it all together.  (Plus, on her blog she regularly features her orange cat, and you know I’ve got to love that.)

Luckily, while I was making the first recipe I tried, I splattered some curry sauce by accident onto the page.  It’s like getting a scratch on your new car.  You’re sad but kind of relieved.  Now you can just use it.  Let the notations begin!

I really have only dipped a toe in as far as all of the recipes I am eager to try.  I’m sure there will be many more posts about all of the creations from Isa Does It that are coming out of my kitchen.  However, I couldn’t wait any longer to share some of the goodness with you!

Isa Does It Down Home CurryIsa Does It Down Home CurryI started with the Down Home Curry with Tofu & Broccoli.  (You may notice from the picture that the broccoli in my curry is strangely pea-like.  When I pulled the broccoli out of the refrigerator, I realized it had become a sad, slimy mess.  Frozen peas to the rescue!)  I never put tofu in my Indian curries, but it added a wonderful toothsome bite that was a nice change of pace from chickpeas.  Additionally, the spicy coconut milk sauce was filled with potatoes and carrots.  As is so often the case, this filling curry was even better the next day when all of the flavors had melded.

Isa Does It Nacho NightA couple of days later, we celebrated with Nacho Night.  I didn’t make every listed component.  (Maybe next time, Pico de Gallo & Guacamole!)  However, I did make the creamy and endlessly satisfying Queso Blanco, made with cashews, miso, nutritional yeast flakes, and spices.  It was poured over chips with hefty spoonfuls of lentil meat, made with lentils, tomato paste, and spices.  I always forget about lentils when it comes to taco night, but it was a tasty alternative to black or pinto beans.  The lentil meat calls for ancho chile powder, but I had to use regular chile powder.  (After visiting three grocery stores, I gave up.  I did find it this past weekend, though, at a local Mexican market for a future taco night!)

Isa Does It Ancho-Lentil tacosThe next day I finished off the lentil meat and queso with Ancho-Lentil Tacos, served on whole wheat tortillas instead of corn tortillas.

Isa Does It Pizza BowlNext, I made the Pizza Bowl with greens, sausages, and olives.  In lieu of homemade vegan sausages, I simplified by using Field Roast apple sage sausages.  The sausages were piled on top of brown rice and served alongside garlicky kale and black olives.  The whole shebang was covered in a creamy roasted red pepper sauce.  The sauce was so good, after I was finished with the bowl, I had to snag a couple more spoonfuls before putting the sauce away.

Isa Does It Pizza Bowl(FYI: Isa notes throughout the book that people without high speed blenders should always have cashews soaking, so that creamy sauces are only minutes away.  However, I have a Vitamix, and so soaking is wonderfully unnecessary.  That means that the many rich and creamy sauces didn’t require any pre-planning on my part.  If you’re short on time and don’t have a high speed blender, before I had one, I regularly used a coffee grinder to grind the whole cashews into a flour first before blending, and that works well too!)

Isa Does It Chandra Malai KoftaFinally, I made the Chandra Malai Kofta.  This dish is basically Indian meatballs (made with zucchini, chickpeas, almonds, breadcrumbs, and lots of spices) in a creamy cashew and coconut milk sauce.  The zucchini meatballs have to sit for at least a half an hour in the refrigerator to set up, and so it would be a good thing to make the day before for an easy dinner the next night.

Isa Does It Malai Kofta ballThis dinner party-worthy meal had wonderful contrasting textures with the crisp-on-the-outside kofta and creamy curry sauce enveloping them.  Isa notes that the recipe makes a generous amount of sauce, enough for covering additional piles of steamed or roasted vegetables.  Since I didn’t make any sides to go with it, we had sauce aplenty, enough that I’ll probably halve the sauce recipe next time if I’m only cooking for two.

(Update:  I froze the leftover sauce, and it thawed and reheated beautifully.  The texture was just as smooth and silky as it was fresh.  It made for a quick dinner by just adding some steamed broccoli, potatoes, and cubed extra-firm tofu.  Chickpeas would also be delicious instead of the tofu.)

In combination with the book release, Isa has released a new video series called Make It Vegan, featuring recipes from the book that are short and hilarious.  You should definitely check them out if you haven’t already!  (I have my eye on this Dragon Noodle Salad, and these Rosemary Chocolate Chip Cookies would be great for the holiday season.)

If you have Isa Does It, have you made anything from it yet?  If not, what are you most eager to make?

Disclaimer:  I was given a review copy of Isa Does It from the publisher, Little, Brown & Company, but the thoughts and opinions are totally my own.  There are Amazon affiliate links in this post.