Tag Archives: Lightlife

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)

Meatless Meatball Subs

Forbidden Rice Blog | Meatless Meatball Subs (6 of 8)

During my first year of college, I lived in the dorms, which meant sharing an 11′ x 17′ living space with my roommate, on a floor made up of twelve rooms, filled with all ‘honor student’ females. Our floor also contained a kitchen — not a common commodity in these dormitories!  Dorm-livin’ meant cafeteria-eatin’ and there were many occasions in which the cafeteria dinner options sounded beyond unappetizing. Cereal or frozen yogurt seemed the most viable options. I didn’t cook in those days of dorm living. Unless you consider saimin (Top Ramen) cooking, which, at 15 cents a piece was doable on my student budget.

However, it turned out my friend Oliva across the hall was an excellent cook — her dad being a chef and all. If we purchased the ingredients, she was often more than obliging in cooking a delicious meal (granted we share the meal with her, too — understandable!).

I remember meatball subs being something I hadn’t eaten before, but one evening when ruminating over grumbling stomachs of what should we have for dinner? Olivia very matter-of-factly said “MEATBALL SANDWICHES.” When Olivia had an opinion on what was going to be cooked and eaten, you were better off just going with that (the alternatives being a mad dash across the street to 7-11 for lord knows what, or a run uphill to the cafeteria, just in case they may still be open, or let’s be real – vending machine pop tarts and Pepsi for dinner). So that’s what we had. Soft pillowy hoagie rolls, filled with homemade meatballs, marinara sauce and cheese. A fork-and-knife type of sandwich, but delicious.

This version isn’t what we had in those days. The ‘meatballs’ are entirely vegetarian, the sauce is homemade and filled with flavor. The fork and knife are optional, but probably helpful.

Forbidden Rice Blog | Meatless Meatball Subs (4 of 8)

Meatless Meatball Subs

Yields 6 very hefty sub sandwiches.


For the marinara sauce:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 medium sized bell pepper, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 pound crimini mushrooms, diced
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes (with juice)
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons dried basil
generous amount of black pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup freshly minced parsley

For the meatless meatballs:
2 14-ounce tubes Lightlife’s Sausage-Style Gimme Lean
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
4 tablespoons COLD butter
olive oil

For the subs:
6 hoagie style rolls
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
16 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced into pieces about 1/4-inch thick
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
6-8 fresh basil leaves, julienned

Forbidden Rice Blog | Meatless Meatball Subs (7 of 8)


Make the sauce:
Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high. Add the onion, bell pepper and garlic, then sauté until the onion is very soft (8 to 10 minutes).

Add the mushrooms and sauté 2-3 minutes, just until the mushrooms slightly soften. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, basil, black pepper, oregano, thyme, and salt. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer, partially covered, for 45-60 minutes. Stir in the fresh parsley at the last minute.

Forbidden Rice Blog | Meatless Meatball Subs (1 of 8)

Make the meatballs while the sauce cooks:

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet. Set aside until needed.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the Gimme Lean, onion, garlic, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, eggs and liquid smoke. Use a box grater to grate the cold butter into the mixture. Using your hands (if you prefer a spoon that’s fine, but your hands make this easier!), mix together the mixture until well combined.

Scoop about 2 tablespoons of mixture and use your hands to roll it into a ball. Place on the greased baking sheet. Continue doing this until all the mixture has been used up, spacing the veggie meatballs about 1-inch apart on the baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes (turning once halfway through), or until the meatballs are nicely crisp and browned on the outsides.

Forbidden Rice Blog | Meatless Meatball Subs (2 of 8)

Make your subs:

Turn your oven on its broil setting.

Mix together the 3 tablespoons melted butter and granulated garlic in a small dish.

Split the hoagie rolls in half lengthwise, being careful to try and keep one side intact. Brush the butter/garlic mixture on the split sides of the hoagie rolls. Place on a baking sheet, buttered side-up. Once all the rolls have been buttered, place under your broiler, watching carefully, until the bread is toasted to just-golden-brown in color.

Remove from the oven and spoon about 2 tablespoons of the sauce on each hoagie. Arrange 4 meatballs on each hoagie, followed by 3-4 more tablespoons of sauce. Top with pieces of mozzarella (as much or as little as you prefer), and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.

Return the subs to the oven, under the broiler, again watching closely so your sandwiches don’t burn. Broil until the cheese melts. Remove from the oven and sprinkle a bit of fresh julienned basil over each sandwich.

Serve immediately and enjoy!

Forbidden Rice Blog | Meatless Meatball Subs (8 of 8)

Forbidden Rice Blog | Meatless Meatball Subs (3 of 8)

Forbidden Rice Blog | Meatless Meatball Subs (5 of 8)

Meatless Monday: Bacon Cheeseburger Mac and Cheese


The other day I was on the cross trainer at the gym and bam! vegetarian bacon cheeseburger mac and cheese popped into my brain from god-knows-where. As I added up the miles in my workout, all I could think about was an ooey gooey cheese sauce laden with Gimme Lean sausage, pieces of bacon, and perhaps something like tomatoes to add some color. Something had to be done.

Later on I realized that this idea very, very much reminded me of the Hamburger Helper my mom occasionally made when we were kids. (Side note: did you know that these days if you go to Betty Crocker’s website, there is a whole array of “Helper Products?!”) While these days I can do without a mysterious packet of “cheese sauce mix” and rely on real ingredients, I do fondly remember the cheeseburger Hamburger Helper I so very much loved and learned to cook from this guy:


This mac and cheese is creamy, flavorful, easy to put together and went over well with the kids and adults, both. I used Tillamook smoked black pepper white cheddar but if you cannot find that where you are, please feel free to use pepperjack cheese in its place.


Bacon Cheeseburger Mac and Cheese

Serves 6-8 folks.


1 pound large elbow macaroni
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large white onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
one 14-ounce tube Lightlife Gimme Lean Ground Sausage
one 5-ounce package Lightlife Smart Bacon, diced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
10 tablespoons all-purpose flour
5 cups whole milk
8 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
8 ounces smoked black pepper white cheddar, shredded
4 ounces havarti cheese, shredded
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved


Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Generously salt, then cook the macaroni according to the package directions. Strain and set aside until needed.


In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the diced onion and garlic, salt and pepper, sautéing until the onion is translucent and tender. Crumble the Gimme Lean into the onion mixture (it’s sticky, but do your best with it). Stir occasionally until the Gimme Lean begins to brown. Add the diced bacon into the mixture, again stirring occasionally until the bacon begins to brown and crisp slightly. Scoop the mixture out into a bowl and set aside.

Meanwhile, return the heavy-bottomed pot to the stove. Melt the 8 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour, until smooth. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Whisking constantly, add the milk. Continue whisking until the sauce thickens (5 to 7 minutes). Add the cheese in, about a half cup at a time, stirring to fully incorporate each new addition. Continue stirring until you are left with a thick, creamy cheese sauce. Add in the mustard, salt, pepper and garlic, stirring to evenly distribute everything. Reduce heat to low.


Pour the pasta into the cheese sauce, then stir to make sure every inch of pasta has been covered with sauce. Add in the Gimme Lean mixture and the halved tomatoes, folding everything together.

Serve while hot.



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