Tag Archives: Gimme Lean

Vegetarian Sloppy Joes

Forbidden Rice Blog | Vegetarian Sloppy Joes (3 of 5)

Are you one of those folks who plans their family’s meals a week at a time? I try to be that person… but let’s be real. I really suck at meal planning. Part of the deal is I frequent the grocery store often enough that purchasing the ingredients for just one dinner isn’t a huge deal — often I know I’ll be back in the store again the next day at some point, thus being able to shop for tomorrow’s dinner… tomorrow. The other aspect I somewhat enjoy is the flexibility of not knowing what the hell I’m going to cook. Sometimes I wake up at 8:30 in the morning and think what am I going to make tonight? Then I peruse recipes over my morning cup of coffee for ideas. (Some days this isn’t a pleasant activity; I wake up wishing I knew what was coming so I could cut out the extra work!)

So on a day I had already planned our dinner, and in fact decided I was going to make these burgers, while taking Silas to baseball practice he suddenly said, “Hey! Can we please have sloppy joes sometime soon?” I thought about what I had planned for dinner and realized I could probably transform my plan of burgers into sloppy joes, using ingredients we already had at home. “Sure! We can have them tonight,” I said, only to realize when I got home we were out of ketchup, a staple ingredient in sloppy joe mixture! (Who runs out of ketchup?!) Not wanting to run to the store at the mad-rush hour,  I did a little hunting online and figured out there are many quick homemade ketchup recipes, and simply made my own.

As a kid I remember loving when my mom made us sloppy joes — usually for a weekend lunch option. There’s certainly some childhood nostalgia when you first bite into one of these sandwiches. The culmination of those childhood memories and the deliciousness of the bite are unbeatable.

Forbidden Rice Blog | Vegetarian Sloppy Joes (2 of 5)

Vegetarian Sloppy Joes

Serves 8


For the Ketchup:
2 6-oz cans tomato paste
1/4 cup white distilled vinegar
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 tablespoon cane sugar
2 tablespoons molasses
1 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 teaspoon dried mustard powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon all-spice
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
small pinch of ground cloves
3/4 cup of water

For the Sloppy Joes:
2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
2 tubes Lightlife Gimme Lean Vegetarian Sausage
1 large green bell pepper, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 cup water
1 full recipe of  ketchup (*see recipe below)
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
2 heaping teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon dry mustard powder
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon vegetarian worcestershire sauce
salt and freshly ground black pepper to your desire

8 large hamburger/kaiser/onion buns (really, whatever your preferred type is)
8 slices American cheese (optional)
dill pickles (for serving)

Forbidden Rice Blog | Vegetarian Sloppy Joes (4 of 5)


Make the ketchup: place all of the ingredients in bowl and whisk until thoroughly combined. Refrigerate at least one hour to let the flavors come together.

Make the sloppy joes: Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high. Once the oil is hot, crumble the Gimme Lean into the pot. Continue cooking until nicely browned, stirring frequently, breaking the larger chunks up.

Add in the green peppers and onions. Stir, and then add the 1 cup water, the ketchup and garlic. Stir to combine, and then add the brown sugar, chili powder, dry mustard, red pepper flakes, cumin, worcestershire, salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine, and then cover and simmer over medium-low heat, another 20-30 minutes.

To serve, either steam or lightly toast the buns, open-faced. (I prefer steamed!) Add a slice of cheese if you’d like, then spoon a generous amount of the veggie-meat mixture onto the bottom roll. Top with the other bun and enjoy immediately, served alongside a crisp dill pickle (just do it).

Forbidden Rice Blog | Vegetarian Sloppy Joes (5 of 5)

Forbidden Rice Blog | Vegetarian Sloppy Joes (1 of 5)

Black-Eyed Peas

Black Eyed Peas - 2

Happy New Year, folks! Do you have traditional foods you eat to welcome the new year? My mom is Japanese and one of the traditional dishes served to bring prosperity and good luck for the coming year is nishime – a Japanese vegetable stew that often features pork as well. As a kid, I simply examined each component of the nishime with great caution. There were often vegetables we didn’t eat at any other time, like Japanese potatoes and lotus root – plus knots of konbu that I approached with little, hesitant bites. I would gladly eat a bowl of nishime now, but my husband is not Asian and in fact comes from a Southern family. When it comes to traditional new year’s dishes, I go that route – black-eyed peas and greens being the highlight of the meal.

Black-eyed peas are not actually peas, but beans, belonging to the same legume family. There are a number of explanations for why people eat black eyed peas on new year’s day including demonstrating humility, a desire for expanding wealth in the coming year, or simply as a gesture for monetary luck since dried beans are thought to resemble coins. Personally, I simply enjoy the fact that black-eyed peas are a good source of vitamins A, C, and K, fiber, potassium, folate and iron.

I served these black-eyed peas with buttermilk cornbread, dirty rice, and collard greens. We then had a salted honey pie for dessert. The black-eyed peas are flavorful on their own. You can eat them as is, with steamed rice, alongside cornbread… Whatever you prefer!

Black Eyed Peas - 6

Vegetarian Black-Eyed Peas

Makes 10-12 servings. 


3 tablespoons canola oil
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large poblano pepper, roasted, diced with stem removed
1 large carrot, peeled and diced small
1 stalk celery, diced
One 14-ounce tube Gimme Lean Sausage
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
1 tablespoon creole seasoning
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3 cups dried black-eyed peas
8-10 cups water or vegetarian chicken broth


In a large stock pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic, cooking until the onion is translucent (5-7 minutes). Add the diced pepper, diced carrot, celery, and Gimme Lean. Use a wooden spoon to break the sausage up into bite-sized chunks. Stir occasionally, cooking until the sausage becomes lightly golden brown all over.

Add the thyme, creole seasoning, salt, and peas to the pot, stirring to combine everything well. Add the water or broth and stir again, just to combine everything. Cover and reduce heat to low. Cook until the black-eyed peas are tender (2 hours or so).

Serve hot, with steamed rice, cornbread, and/or your preferred accompanying dishes.

Black Eyed Peas - 3

Miso Mushroom Ramen with Vegetarian Wontons and Crispy Tofu

My ideal comfort food is a bowl of noodles. Fancy or plain, it rarely matters. I grew up knowing how to cook Top Ramen by the time I was 7 or 8 and it was one of my favorite go-to after school snacks. In Hawaii we call it saimin (sigh-min). Saimin is essentially the Hawaiian version of what we call ramen here on the mainland. As with so many foods in the islands, the creation of saimin is the result of numerous combined cultures. Traditional saimin recipes include ingredients from a variety of ethnic backgrounds: Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Korean, Hawaiian, Portuguese – in other words, the people who labored on the sugarcane and pineapple plantations existent in Hawaii in the 20th century.

Like with most soups, the real key to a good saimin is the broth. Traditional saimin broth is often based with a Japanese dashi – a stock made of seaweed, dried fish or shrimp, and water. Often added is chicken stock or even beef stock. Toppings include, but are not limited to kamaboko (fish cake), char siu pork, nori/furikake, hard boiled eggs, green onions, spam.

On Kauai where I am from, there is a noodle house I have mentioned before, Hamura Saimin. My favorite saimin to get there is the Special – a bowl of noodles with their magical broth, topped with char siu, kamaboko, half an egg, wontons, ham, bok choy and green onions. I dream of eating this saimin all the time. However, since Kauai is so far away and I don’t cook any meat at home, I had to figure out a way to get my fix.

I wanted a deep, rich broth that was earthy and flavorful. I used mushrooms, miso, seaweed, and fish flakes for that aspect. The inclusion of fish makes this particular broth non-vegetarian, but f you read the note in the directions, however, I’ve shared a way to keep this entirely vegetarian for you as well.

Forbidden Rice Blog | Miso Mushroom Ramen with Vegetarian Wontons and Crispy Tofu

Miso Mushroom Ramen with Vegetarian Wontons and Crispy Tofu

Serves 4 – 6 people.


For the broth:
2 ounces dried shiitake mushrooms
2 ounces dried porcini mushrooms
one 4-6 inch strip of kombu seaweed, rinsed and wiped off
one 4-inch chunk of white ginger, peeled and minced
1/2 cup bonito flakes
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1/4 cup tamari (low sodium is okay)
1 tablespoon fish sauce
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 tablespoons mirin
1/2 an onion, peeled and cut into large chunks
6 whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
3 tablespoons light white miso
8-10 cups No-Chicken broth

For the wontons (yields about 3 dozen):
1 package Gimme Lean Sausage Style veggie meat
1/4 cup scallions, chopped
1 shallot, minced (about 1/4 cup)
2 1/2 ounces water chestnuts, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon tamari
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2-inch piece of white ginger, peeled and minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
2 tablespoons of the rehydrated mushrooms from your broth, minced
3 dozen or so wonton wrappers
2 egg whites, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water

For the ramen:
6 – 8 ounces ramen noodles *
2 – 4 hard boiled eggs, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
3 ounces extra firm tofu, diced into small cubes
one cup of sunflower, canola, or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
chopped scallions
red chili flakes

  • For the noodles, I prefer fresh noodles. These Freshpak noodles from Annie Chun are wonderful. The package says chow mein noodles, but they work well in this ramen. I used two bags (so four packs of noodles, as there are two per bag) for this dish. I find these freshpak noodles among other fresh noodles in our grocery store, but I’ve also seen them in the freezer section. If you cannot find good fresh noodles, I have also resorted to buying Koyo Ramen before, just for the noodles. This particular brand bakes their organic noodles, rather than frying them. I would use four packages of these noodles (8 ounces) for this recipe, simply discarding the sauce packet of saving it for future use. Should Top Ramen be the only variety you can find, you can use those noodles too.

Forbidden Rice Blog | Miso Mushroom Ramen with Vegetarian Wontons and Crispy Tofu


Make your broth: Combine all of the listed ingredients for the broth in a large stock pot. Stir well and turn the heat on to medium-high. Once the broth comes to a simmer, reduce the heat to low. Let the broth cook for 3 to 4 hours, occasionally giving it a good stir.

  • To make this a vegetarian broth, feel free to leave out the bonito (fish flakes) and fish sauce. If you do this, you can add a little more miso or tamari for a deeper, richer flavor. Add as much or as little as necessary for your liking.


Make your wontons: In a large bowl, combine the Gimme Lean, scallions, shallot, water chestnuts, garlic, rice vinegar, tamari, sesame oil, ginger, salt, pepper, and mushrooms. Mix thoroughly.


To assemble the wontons, place one wonton wrapper in the palm of your hand. Add about one teaspoon of the mixture to the middle of the wrapper. Dip a finger in the egg wash, and coat all four edges with the wash. Fold the wonton in half, corner to opposite corner, making a triangle. Seal tightly, gently squeezing out the air while being careful not to tear the wonton. Fold the longer two triangle points together and seal to make the wonton shape. Place the folded wonton on a clean, dry baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap to avoid drying out. You can freeze all leftover wontons, as you’ll only use about half of them for this recipe. You can deep fry them as an appetizer as another option.


Prepare your tofu: Place the one cup of oil in a wok or frying pan. Stir in the salt. Bring the oil up to 350 degrees F, over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot enough, gently drop in the cubed tofu (it will splatter, so be careful). Gently stir the tofu as it’s cooking until it turns nice and golden brown. Drain the tofu on paper towels and set aside until needed.

Prepare your ramen: Once the broth has cooked for at least three hours, pour it through a fine mesh strainer (I do this into another large stock pot). Return the strained broth to the stove and bring the heat up to a simmer over medium high.

Forbidden Rice Blog | Miso Mushroom Ramen with Vegetarian Wontons and Crispy Tofu

Gently lower the wonton into the stock (15-20 of them). They will likely sink – this is okay. Allow the wonton to cook until they float to the surface of the stock. If you are using fresh noodles, lower them into the stock, gently stirring (chopsticks work great for this) them around. Cook until heated through. If you’re using dried noodles, lower them into your stock and follow the package instructions for how long they should cook (usually somewhere around 4 minutes, I think).

To serve, fill the noodles. Next, top the noodles with some crispy tofu squares, half a hard boiled egg, a few wontons, chopped scallions, furikake, and chili flakes if you want. Slowly ladle as much of the broth as you prefer, over the noodles. Serve immediately.

Forbidden Rice Blog | Miso Mushroom Ramen with Vegetarian Wontons and Crispy Tofu

Day to Day Life: Week Forty-Five

Shall we take a look at the last week? Here we go…


Oregon skies this time of year are always breathtaking.


One of the water polo moms offered me some organic pumpkins from her garden. I roasted them for this:


Pumpkin mac and cheese that I’ll share with you next week. I sent a huge pan over to the water polo dinner this week, kept a pan for us, and sent another small pan to the mom who donated the pumpkins. A super tasty experiment!


I got these lightweight, super flexible shoes for the gym. They are the most comfortable gym shoes I’ve ever owned and I am in love. Plus purple shoes make working out more enjoyable.


This is a man requested dinner we had one evening. Tempeh bacon veggie cheeseburgers made with hand-patted Gimme Lean burgers. With a side of fries and 21st Amendment Brewery’s seasonal spiced ale.



Super easy peanut sauce with crispy tofu, fresh broccoli, carrots, and red bell peppers, over jasmine rice. YUM.


This Twitter conversation with Joy the Baker and Tracy Shutterbean made me a happy lady one day. I still get extremely excited when two blogger ladies I thoroughly admire write me back – even when the topic is ridiculous dreams my brain concocts as I sleep. You should check out their podcast while you’re at it.


I found purple sweet potatoes in our food Co-op and I am not ashamed to tell you I about died of excitement. In Hawai’i where I am from, Okinawan sweet potatoes are easy to find. When I was a kid, my mom would simply boil the potatoes then cook them in butter and sugar, caramelizing them. Or we ate Okinawan sweet potato manju and pie. Sometimes pie topped with haupia. I have looked for these potatoes in Southern Oregon for nearly a decade in order to make some childhood comfort food. I finally was able to and I’ll share the recipe soon.


Since we hit the road early to head north for the kids’ sporting events, I made breakfast to-go. Whole wheat black pepper cheddar biscuits, sandwiched with baked eggs, cheese, and veggie sausage.


My older stepson and his water polo team made it to the State Championships this weekend, so of course we traveled up to Corvallis to see where they’d place in State. After a heartbreaking game Friday that we (very unfairly – let’s not discuss) lost, the boys won their Saturday morning game, placing third in the state of Oregon. The girls team also placed third in state. It was incredible watching these kids play – I couldn’t imagine doing what they do in that pool.


On Saturday, Silas played his last football game of the season… at Autzen Stadium, home of the University of Oregon Ducks. He was so fired up for this game. He was a monster at defense (making a tackle in the above photo) and played his little heart out, coming away from the season feeling good about himself and the work he put into the last few months. It was fun to watch and easy (but difficult) to imagine him playing college football someday on this precise field.



My mother in law, Donna, rode up for the kids’ championship games as well. She’s always a fantastic cheerleader for these kids.


This car made all of us laugh, parked in the lot outside of the stadium.


On the drive back from Eugene, Craig, his mom and I stopped in Roseburg at a food truck I found via Yelp. Tino’s Tacos is tucked next to the Shell gas station. I’ll tell you – this style of food is certainly my preference over overly fancy meals. My husband and I each ordered a veggie burrito (his with spicy red salsa, mine with spicy green salsa) and my mother in law ordered two fish tacos. We also got horchata, which was super creamy and amazingly delicious. This is certainly our new go-to place to stop for a quick burrito along I-5. Plus it’s super easy to jump off the highway and back on to get here.


Since we ate at Tino’s at such an odd hour, we decided dinner wasn’t too necessary… and had milkshakes instead. With bourbon.



April 8th is National Empanada Day. Yes, I realize that was a week ago. However! I am in full support of both making and eating empanadas as often as possible, not just on April 8th. If you search “empanada” on Wikipedia, one thing you’ll notice is that there are over 20 countries whose varieties of these little pockets of deliciousness are entirely different. They’re originally from Spain. Typically, but certainly not always, they are a savory pastry stuffed with meats and/or vegetables.

The pastry dough I use for this recipe is delicious! Consisting of only 4 ingredients, it’s rather simple. Plus, with butter, cream cheese, flour, and salt… how can you go wrong?  I try to balance out the not so healthy crust with a veggie filling that is both delicious and nutrient-providing. Filled with brown rice, fresh spinach, veggie meat, and cheeses, the kids still really liked these empanadas.

Empanada Crust

12 oz. cream cheese, brought to room temperature
1 stick of butter, brought to room temperature
1¾ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
¼ tsp. salt


In a food processor fitted with the dough blade attachment,
pulse the cream cheese and butter until very smooth.
Scrape down the sides as needed.
Add the flour and salt a little at a time.
Continue to process until the ingredients are just combined.
Turn the dough out to lightly floured surface.
Knead the dough lightly, adding more flour as needed
to form a soft, non-sticky round of dough.
Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
Empanada Filling (and Assembling)

1 (14-ounce) tube of Gimme Lean Sausage-Style vegetarian “meat” protein
1 lb. fresh spinach, chopped
½ an onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup cooked brown rice
3 stalks of green onion, chopped
¼ tsp. red chili pepper flakes
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
olive oil
salt and pepper (to your taste)
1 egg, lightly beaten
In a pan over medium-high heat,
sauté the garlic and onion in some olive oil
until the onions are slightly translucent.
Add the Gimme Lean and cook until browned.
Add your chili flakes, salt, and pepper.
Don’t overdo the salt and pepper,
as you’ll be able to add more if needed, after the greens are added.
Add the spinach and green onion to the mixture.
When the spinach has just begun to wilt,
add the mixture to the bowl of a food processor, fitted with the large blade.
Add in the cooked brown rice.
Pulse 3-5 times until coarsely ground.
Preheat the oven to 450° F.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator.
On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough to about 1/8 inches thick.
Cut into 6 or 7 inch circles. You can use a bowl or plate as a guide.
After cutting as many circles as you can, collect the scrap pieces and rework them into a disk,
then roll out again and cut more circles.
You should be able to get about 8 large circles of dough.
The dough will be very stiff but will get easier to work with
as it comes to room temperature.
Note: I prefer to roll the dough to about ¾ inches in thickness
then cut with a round 3½-inch biscuit cutter,
and roll each round to the desired 1/8 inches thick
 and 7-inches in diameter.
Put about a ½ cup of filling on half of the round, leaving about 1 inch
of space from the outside of the dough.
Add a couple pinches of cheese on top of the spinach mixture.
Now fold over the top half of the dough.
Starting from one side, start to fold the bottom edge over the top,
packing the spinach filling tightly as you can.
Use a fork (lightly floured) to crimp the folded edges.
Place the empanada on a lightly greased baking sheet.
(I used parchment paper instead of oil.)
Brush the tops with the beaten egg.
Bake for approximately 15 minutes, until the tops are golden brown.
* * To reheat these the following day, I usually microwave them for 1-1½ minutes,then place in a 350° F toaster oven for 5 minutes, so the insides are thoroughly warm and the outside’s still flaky and crunchy.
Note: This dough is very versatile. You can vary the filling as you wish.  I’ve filled them with a blackberry-mango filling before, as well as cinnamon apples.