Black Pepper Tofu Curry

As my diet has become increasingly plant-based, I find my self paging through my favorite magazines and mentally substituting plant-based proteins for the animal proteins. It’s actually a great exercise, if only because I love messing with recipes.

I’m also trying to add more vegan recipes to my diet, so this recipe also checks that box. I’ll admit to be intimidated by vegan cooking in the past, but now that I’ve wrapped my head around the basics, I’ve discovered that cooking vegan meals isn’t as hard as I’d once thought…though, yeah, the meal prep does take a bit more time.

Thus, this fantastic (and fast!) black pepper curry. The original recipe calls for chicken, and you can certainly use chicken if you prefer. The black pepper gives a hint of heat and loads of flavor, and it’s a great way to add vegetables to a meal.

Oh, like all curries, it’s even better as leftovers!

Avocado Sauce

I love my avocados any which way. When they’re just ripe, nothing is better than sliced or diced avocado with just a smidge of salt. When they’re starting to soften, they’re perfect for guacamole because they still have a bit of body. And when they’re overly soft?

This amazing sauce. It takes just minutes, and is a great way to utilize avocados that aren’t quite firm enough for any other use. You can adjust the seasonings to suit your personal taste.

I’ve love this sauce with fish tacos, in a cole slaw, and with crab cakes. It also makes a fun salad dressing.

Grilled Fish Tacos

Let me be perfectly clear: while this recipe is for fish tacos, you can make a good taco out of just about anything. Steak, chicken, and carnitas (shredded pork) are popular fillings. But fish tacos are something special. And they’re so easy.

Obviously, since these tacos are gluten-free, they’re not covered in a heavy, and often greasy, batter. Instead, the fresh flavor of the fish shines through, and additional yumminess comes a tangy cabbage slaw. If you’re not up for making a slaw, diced onions and cilantro with a bit of lime juice works just as well. If you like your tacos with a bit heat, add a small amount of diced jalapeno.

Larb, or Ground Meat Lettuce Cups

While you may not have heard of larb by that name, you are likely familiar with the variation known as “lettuce cups”. Lettuce cups often feature Chinese flavors while larb tends to be spicier, with flavors of Thailand and Laos.

This ground meat dish features lime juice, fish sauce, chiles, and herbs. You can use any type of ground meat, though chicken seems to be the most traditional. Serve in lettuce cups and make a little extra sauce for spooning over the completed dish if you’d like.

Once interesting ingredient in this dish is ground toasted rice. It can be optional, but the rice powder adds a bit of crunchiness that is surprising, so I suggest going for it. You can toast the rice on the stove, but I prefer the oven method because it’s less hands-on — I do all the other meal prep while the rice is browning away!

Spicy Peanut Sauce

I love spicy peanut sauce. It’s my go-to for spring rolls (and I make a lot of spring rolls), chicken satay, regular chicken, and even rice noodles. Mix the sauce with hot noodles, add some shredded chicken, and some torn basil…voila! lunch. Or dinner.

The recipe below is just a suggestion — you can mix up the ingredients as you need. Don’t have lime juice? Substitute the mellower rice vinegar. Want to dial back on the heat? Omit the red pepper flakes. I’ve seen recipes that use coconut milk to temper the heat. It’s all up to you.

Vietnamese-Style Pancakes

Let me say this: I am addicted to these pancakes. Completely, totally, wholly addicted. I could eat these every single day. And I would be happy.

You can make these as easy as you want or as complicated as you want. I go for easy, meaning I use leftover meats instead of cooking them on the spot — this lets me make these quickly during the week. In addition to the rice flour and turmeric batter, the ingredients include various veggies cut/chopped/julienned into to small pieces, some meat (I often use leftover shrimp or meatballs), and some bean sprouts if you choose. Top with a spicy dipping sauce, and you are in heaven. Trust me.

The trick to cooking these pancakes is to let them get very well-done on the edges. The undersides will be crispy, and the thin batter cooks all the way through quickly.

Spicy Thai Beef and Basil with Rice Cakes

This is one of my favorite dishes when I go out for Thai food. Of course, the challenge is finding a place that doesn’t use soy sauce (or uses gluten-free soy sauce). And sometimes rice noodles have a bit of wheat flour integrated or dusted on the noodles. Meaning, sigh, that I haven’t actually found a place that makes this dish gluten-free.

Have I let that stop me? Of course not. This is a fast dish to put together (and can be made with chicken or shrimp if you prefer). You can prep all the ingredients while the noodles are “cooking”. The rest is a quick saute in your wok or skillet.

While this dish is traditionally prepared using fresh rice noodles, I’m having a hard time finding them without wheat flour. So I’ve substituted Korean rice cakes (also known as dduk). Rice cakes are actually thick rice noodles; they have a chewy texture and work well with all kinds of flavors. You can purchase them as a long cylinder or already sliced. I’ve also seen them in a gnocchi-like configuration. They keep well in the freezer, so I buy several packages when I’m out shopping. Find them in the freezer or refrigerator sections of Asian grocery stores.

The best thing about this dish? It can be spicy or mild, depending on your mood. Also, it makes fantastic leftovers.