Crostini Trio

I’ve always loved sandwiches–one of my favorite memories is going to visit my Grandparents and Aunt and cousins for a couple weeks every summer, and the first thing we did after tumbling out of the hot and sticky East Coast summer car was run into my Grandparent’s kitchen and pull out all the sandwich fixings.  Rye and pumpernickel breads, crispy, cool lettuce, lunch meats and cheeses, mustard and mayonnaise.  I’ve always regarded the sandwich as a comfort food and associated it with happy times.

Oh, Sandwich!  Such melodrama!

I decided to make a trio of crostini one Saturday–little pan-fried bread slices topped with three different toppings.  Maybe it was due to my having just run a 12-mile trail run, and my husband cycling 40 miles around a mountain, but this meal was a smashing success!  One crostini {crostino?} topped with a cannellini bean spread with fresh cucumber slices; one topped with creamy guacamole with olive oil tomatoes; one topped with pistachio basil pesto with fried potato rounds.  These toppings are simple enough for a family gathering, or sophisticated enough for a dinner party.

crostini trio collage 1 crostini trio collage 2

This was a perfect meal for the two of us {although I admit we ate as much as a dinner party would have}.  We treated the pan-fried breads like tortilla chips and dipped away!  I have to warn you–if you ever come over for chips and dip, or crostini, for that matter–we liberally and unabashedly double dip.

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CANNELLINI BEAN SPREAD WITH CUCUMBER SLICES

  • Servings: makes 1 1/2 cups
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 15oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
  • 3 mini sweet cucumbers, finely sliced
  • 1 baguette, if serving as crostini

DIRECTIONS

  1. Smash the Cannellini beans with a fork or a potato smasher to a rough paste.  Add the lemon zest and juice and parsley, salt and pepper to taste, and a swirl or two of olive oil.  Stir together and serve with breadsticks, crackers, or crostini.
  2. To make crostini, slice a baguette on the bias.  Brush with olive oil and bake in a 400F oven until browned on each side, or pan fry in a skillet with olive oil, turning until each side is golden.

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CREAMY GUACAMOLE WITH OLIVE OIL TOMATOES

  • Servings: makes 1 1/2 cups
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 avocado, peeled and pit removed
  • 1/4 cup red onion, very finely chopped
  • 2 scallions, green ends finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
  • zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 1/2 cup grape tomatoes
  • 1 baguette, if serving as crostini

DIRECTIONS

  1. Smash the avocado with a fork or potato smasher to a rough paste.  Add the red onion through the lime zest and juice and gently stir together.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
  2. For the olive oil tomatoes, slice the grape tomatoes in half or in quarters, if they are larger in size, and place in a small bowl.  Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, and stir.
  3. To serve with crostini, slice a baguette on the bias.  Brush with olive oil and bake in a 400F oven until browned on each side, or pan fry in a skillet with olive oil, turning until each side is golden.

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PISTACHIO BASIL PESTO WITH FRIED POTATO ROUNDS

  • Servings: makes 1 cup pesto
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup pistachios
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 2-3 small red, white, or yukon gold potatoes
  • 1 baguette, if serving as crostini

DIRECTIONS

  1. Place all ingredients in a blender, add salt and pepper to taste and start with 3 tablespoons of olive oil.  Pulse the blender until slightly mixed, clean the sides of the blender with a spatula, and blend again, adding more olive oil while blending until the pesto comes together in a smooth consistency.
  2. Slice the potatoes very thinly.  Coat a large skillet with olive oil and heat to medium-high.  Place the potato slices in a single layer in the skillet, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and pan fry until golden on each side.
  3. To serve with crostini, slice the baguette on the bias.  Brush with olive oil and bake in a 400F oven until browned on each side, or pan fry in a skillet with olive oil, turning until each side is golden.

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Balance and Oodles of Noodles

Sometimes life just takes over, doesn’t it?  For the past three months I have felt like I need an extra 5 hours in a day, at the very least, to accomplish my To-Do List.  In some ways it feels whittled down, and in other ways it’s only grown.  One of my first college roommates was a powerhouse of activity, attention to detail, and living life with such clear direction.  She lives this way still–a woman with such purpose!  She recently shared a quote from a book I’ve never read, but was struck enough by the quote to feel like I need to figure out a bit more focus and purpose.

“We fool ourselves if we think balance means giving equal attention to everything in our lives.  Balance only happens in dynamic tension.  Balance is giving not equal but appropriate attention to each of the various categories of your life.”  {-Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy in “Living Forward”}

Children seem to naturally give not equal but appropriate attention to the various categories of their life, and let all else go.  Before Mile-Long To-Do Lists and Adult-Sized Responsibilities you only had a clear Hope of the What-Could-Be.  And What Could Be was huge.  It could be anything.  How bright and how simple.

My mom once made us Oodles of Noodles, served in our very fine china with painted red, white, and yellow flowers and gold around the rim of the bowls.  {Was Top Ramen once called Oodles of Noodles?}  I cradled the tiny tea bowl in my hands and felt like I’d just been served the dinner of a king.  All those noodles!  In such a fancy bowl!  Just for me!

This bowl of Coconut Lime Soup with Forbidden Rice and Sweet Potato Noodles won’t make your To-Do List magically disappear, but with nutty forbidden rice, sweet potato noodles, hot peppers and chile sauce, zippy lime juice, cool cilantro, and creamy coconut milk, it will make you feel like a giddy kid with a What-Could-Be possibility.

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Here’s your super quick view of ingredients.  10 items.  No, 11 items, including vegetable stock.  That’s all you need to feel like a king!

sweet potato noodles 1

And a noodler.  My brother was nice enough to send this to me and I’ve LOVED making oodles of noodles of all sorts!  First peel the sweet potato, slice off the ends, use the petite-est noodle blades, and noodle away.

sweet potato noodles 2

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COCONUT LIME SOUP WITH FORBIDDEN RICE AND SWEET POTATO NOODLES

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup forbidden rice
  • 1 medium to large sweet potato
  • 1/2 cup diced sweet red pepper
  • 1-2 diced red jalapeño pepper (seeds and ribs may be used or discarded, depending on how much heat you like)
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 1-3 teaspoons Sambal Oelek (depending on how much heat you like)
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 15oz can of coconut milk
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
  • 3 green onions, sliced on the diagonal

DIRECTIONS

  1. Prepare the rice according to package directions.
  2. Prepare the sweet potato.  Peel it and slice off the ends to get flat surfaces.  Attach to the noodler and using the finest setting, turn the whole sweet potato into fine noodles.
  3. Coat the bottom of a large stockpot with olive oil and heat to medium.  Sauté the peppers, garlic, ginger, and Sambal Oelek quickly, until you can smell the garlic and chiles.  Add the vegetable stock and coconut milk,  and let come to a gentle boil.  Add the sweet potato noodles and let simmer until the noodles are tender, about 15-20 minutes.
  4. Add the lime juice, cilantro, and green onions.
  5. To serve, evenly divide the noodles and broth between four bowls, divide the rice in fourths and scoop one fourth into each bowl.  Garnish with extra fresh cilantro, green onions, and fresh lime slices.

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Chickpea Zucchini Burgers and Sriracha “Just Mayo”

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Three common concerns I hear about eating a meatless meal is first, it takes too long to prepare, second, eating so much produce is too expensive, and third, that it doesn’t taste as good as a meal with meat as the main star.  This meal will not just change your mind, but it will blow your mind {and not your bank account}.  Big Time.

If you have time to pat together ground meat for burgers, you have time to make these chickpea zucchini burgers–and you’ll be impressed at how filling and delicious and not greasy these burgers are.  I ate these patties with a salad, and my husband dressed them up as a full-fledged burger, but we both had baked sweet potatoes on the side, and we both topped them with Hampton Creek’s Sriracha Just Mayo.

{In case you haven’t tried Just Mayo yet, here’s the big plug:  Hampton Creek is bringing down the house with their eggless, plant-based products!  This “vegan spread has rattled the egg industry“, it will rattle your world, and it will rattle your ham chickpea burger!  The Sriracha Mayo has just enough zing to add enough flavor without too much heat–so it makes your meal taste better instead of totally overpowering your tastebuds.  It’s The Best.}


CHICKPEA ZUCCHINI BURGERS

  • Servings: makes 6 patties
  • Difficulty: easy
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Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Meatless

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • zest and juice of 1/2 of a lemon
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 scallions, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 egg, lightly whisked (vegan option: substitute with 1 tablespoon ground flax seed, 3 tablespoons water mixed together)
  • salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

  1. Grate the zucchini and let drain in a colander to remove extra liquid.
  2. Meanwhile, place chickpeas in a large mixing bowl.  Mash with a potato masher until you have a mostly homogenous mixture.  Add the grated zucchini and the rest of the ingredients, and stir until well-mixed.
  3. Separate the mixture into 6 equal portions, and form each portion into a ball, then flatten into a patty.  Alternately, I used 2 scoops with a #40 scooper to make a patty.
  4. Coat a large skillet with olive oil and heat to medium.  Sauté patties until golden and crisp, about 3-4 minutes on each side.
  5. Enjoy with a salad or with your favorite burger toppings.

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BAKED SWEET POTATO FRIES

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS

  • 1-2 large sweet potatoes, peeled
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Slice the peeled sweet potatoes into large wedges and place in a large mixing bowl.  Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Spread on a large enough baking sheet so the wedges don’t overlap or touch each other.  Bake for 20 minutes, stir/flip/spatula-ize the wedges and bake for another 10-15 minutes until golden and crispy.
  4. These are so yummy if served with Sriracha Just Mayo!!

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A Little Closer to Home

My aim in creating this blog is to showcase satisfying meatless main dishes you can easily throw together without having to totally change your pantry.  I knew I would have a small target audience who already ate in this manner and would have ingredients readily available, but I was hoping to reach out to the “Average Kitchen” and maybe inspire more meatless meals in their weekly prep.

It has recently come to my attention that what I consider “normal pantry items” and a “throw-together meatless meal” is a bit far-fetched for the Average Kitchen.

The last thing I want is for your kitchen to be a scary place.  At the same time, I’d love for your kitchen to become a place where you learn new techniques, new flavors, and try a couple meatless meals, because it’s worth it!  I really, really want eating meatless to be yummy, satisfying, filling, and very not-daunting!!  It really is  easy and can be throw-together, and doesn’t have to be just photos you thumb through in a Williams-Sonoma book and regard as meals prepared in another stratosphere or even another life.

So.  Dialing back the stratosphere…Sandwiches are always good for dinner, right?  Quesadillas?  And there’s nothing wrong with adding some veggies to a quesadilla, is there?  Butternut squash…Poblano pepper…Black beans…Fresh salsa…Cilantro…Drooling yet?

butternut squash poblano quesadilla ingredientsSauté the squash, beans, red onion, and poblano together, layer in the skillet with cheese, and serve it up with fresh salsa and a squirt of lime.  I used Pepper Jack cheese, but if you’d like to keep it vegan, make cashew cream and add cilantro, a diced up jalapeño, red pepper flakes, and some salt and pepper to give it a spicy kick.

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butternut squash poblano quesadilla 2


BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND ROASTED POBLANO QUESADILLAS

  • Servings: serves 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Simple Weeknight Favorites

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 poblano chiles
  • 4 cups butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and diced into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3/4 cup red onion, diced
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 cup Pepper Jack cheese, shredded
  • 8-12 corn tortillas
  • Serve with fresh salsa and lime wedges

DIRECTIONS

  1. First roast the poblano peppers.  If you have a gas stove, you can roast them right on your open flame of the cook top.  Rotate the peppers every few minutes to evenly char all sides of the pepper.  Once charred, place peppers in a large container with a tight-fitting lid, cover, and let the peppers steam for 5-10 minutes.  Allowing the charred peppers to steam will help the skins peel off easier.  Peel all the skins off and scrape out the seeds, then dice up the peppers.  (This Gal Cooks has a great in-the-oven poblano pepper roasting tutorial.)
  2. Coat a large skillet with olive oil and sauté the diced butternut squash with salt and pepper to taste for 5-7 minutes.  Add the red onion and diced poblano pepper, a little more salt and pepper to taste, and stir everything together.
  3. Add the chopped cilantro to the Pepper Jack cheese.
  4. Stacking the quesadillas.  I always add a splash of olive oil to the skillet to get the corn tortilla a little crispy.  Layer:  Corn tortilla, Sprinkling of cheese/cilantro mix, a couple spoonfuls of the butternut squash/bean/poblano mix, another sprinkling of cheese/cilantro mix, top with another corn tortilla.  Toast until golden brown, then flip, adding another splash of olive oil to toast the other side.
  5. Serve with fresh salsa and lime wedges.

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Sweet Potato Egg Rolls With Love

sweet potato egg rolls 1

I remember the very first egg roll I ever had.

I was raised by a single mama who worked and went to school; we didn’t have a lot of splurges.  I was 12 or 13, maybe 14, and my mom dropped me off at the mall.  I don’t remember why–maybe she was doing something at school, and the mall was nearby.  Anyway, I had some time to walk around by myself, window shop.  I got hungry, and I thought I’d just wait until I got home, when it finally occurred to me that I could buy something for myself!  I looked around at my options and an Asian place looked the best to me.  I didn’t have enough babysitting money for a full meal, but I did have .99 cents plus tax for an egg roll.

The egg roll was hot, amazingly crispy and crunchy on the outside, melty and sweet, sour, salty on the inside.  I’d never had anything like it, and instantly loved it!  Mind you, fries, chicken nuggets, and eating out in general were not on our usual list of things to do.  Egg rolls quickly made it to the top of my most wanted list, and I got one every chance I had from then on!  The problem is that every subsequent egg roll wasn’t nearly as good as that first one.  They were dry, stale, had bland filling, or very little filling in ratio to fried wrapper–you name it, egg rolls fell off my list as soon as they went on.

Then I decided to try my hand at them.  I had some leftover sweet potatoes and rice noodles and thought that would make a great base for some additional veggies.  They turned out sweet, fresh, citrusy, and crispy crunchy!  The sweet potato mix did make the wraps soften the longer they sat, so eat them right away, or just reheat them in the oven to crisp them up a bit.

A little flavor…

sweet potato eggroll ingredients

Some veggies…

sweet potato eggroll veggies

Assembly line magic…

sweet potato eggroll assembly line

sweet potato eggroll wrap up

And a spicy soy dipping sauce and coconut cilantro rice on the side…

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SWEET POTATO VEGGIE EGG ROLLS

  • Servings: makes one full pack of large square egg roll wrappers
  • Difficulty: medium-ish
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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 baked sweet potato, peeled and mashed
  • zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon ginger, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups rice noodles, prepared according to package directions
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red pepper, about 2 inches in length
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced snow peas, about 2 inches in length
  • 1/2 cup peeled carrot (peel the carrot stick, then just keep on peeling), about 2 inches in length
  • 1/2 cup sliced scallion, sliced on the diagonal, about 2 inches in length
  • 1 package large square egg roll wrappers
  • 1 egg, beaten

INGREDIENTS FOR THE DIPPING SAUCE

  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon sambal oelek chili paste (more if you want more heat)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Mix the first seven ingredients (the sweet potato through salt and pepper) in a bowl, mix well.
  2. Set up the assembly line:  Bowl of sweet potato mixture, bowl of rice noodles, plate of sliced veggies, egg roll wraps, and beaten egg.
  3. Place a wrapper on the diagonal on the plate.  First scoop 3 teaspoons of sweet potato mixture and place in the center of the wrap.  Layer with 1/4 cup rice noodles and a few slices of each veggie.
  4. Brush the edges of the wrap with the beaten egg.  First fold the bottom triangle over the veggies, then fold the two side triangles and roll.  You may need to seal the final triangle edge with a little more egg wash.  Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  5. Heat 4 inches of canola oil in a pot to 365F.  Fry each egg roll until golden brown on each side.
  6. Stir together all the dipping ingredients and serve with the egg rolls.

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Pesto Pasta with Pan-Roasted Potatoes and Green Beans

green bean potato pesto

I am drooling just looking at this meal; aren’t you?  Homemade Pesto?  Check.  Pasta?  Check.  Caramelized potato hash browns and green beans?  Check.

Pesto pasta with potatoes and green beans is an old Italian classic.  Traditionally, it is a one-pot meal, all boiled in sequential cook times then drained and stirred together with pesto.  I turn this into a one-pot, one-skillet meal, pan-roasting the potatoes and green beans in the skillet.  And, frankly, if I get hash browns out of the deal, I’m okay with a two-pot meal.


PESTO PASTA WITH PAN-ROASTED POTATOES AND GREEN BEANS

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 pound short pasta
  • 2 medium potatoes, diced in 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 cups green beans, trimmed and cut in 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2-3/4 cup basil pesto

DIRECTIONS

  1. Fill a large stockpot with water and bring to a boil.  Salt the water, add the pasta, and cook until al dente, about 8-10 minutes.
  2. While the water is heating, coat a large skillet with olive oil and heat over medium-high heat.  Add the potatoes, salt and pepper to taste, and roast, stirring until all sides are golden, about 10 minutes.  Add the green beans and stir with the potatoes, until the green beans are golden browned.
  3. Drain the pasta, return to the pot, and add the potatoes and green beans.  Stir in the pesto.  Start with 1/2 cup, taste, and add more according to your taste.
  4. Serve sprinkled with parmesan cheese, or nutritional yeast to keep it vegan.

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Sesame-Ginger Jackfruit: A Review

Sometimes I look at a fruit or vegetable, especially those with a really thick, barky exterior, and think, “How in the world did the earliest folks on earth decide this thing was edible?!”  Enter the Jackfruit:

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What?!

I have exactly one cookbook that has one recipe in it using jackfruit.  The book recommends finding canned jackfruit in an Asian specialty grocery store, and, after reading that, I thought, “Well, there’s a zero chance I’ll be making and trying that recipe.”  You know how it goes, you read a recipe, and it’s either an “Ooooo, that’s gonna be gooooood!” moment, or a, “Um, yeah, I’m gonna pass on that one…” moment.

If you google this fruit, you’ll find some typical facts: It is native to Southeast Asia; on its own, its flavor is a mixture of apple, pineapple, mango, and banana; it is fibrous, and nutritionally speaking is full of fiber, rich in vitamin C, B6, potassium, calcium, iron, and its seeds are rich in protein.  It’s a powerhouse!  It’s traditionally eaten as itself, a fruit, in sweet applications, or the seeds will be cooked down and added to curries.

If you google The Jackfruit Company, you will discover an amazing company that has revolutionized the jackfruit, making it so accessible for your next quick weeknight dinner.  Forget the canned stuff and Asian specialty grocery stores!  Because of The Jackfruit Company, you can find this fruit in four different flavors and in ready-to-eat packages.  If you’ve had a busy day, you can still have Jackfruit BBQ sliders, Jackfruit TexMex tacos, Jackfruit Curry with rice, or a Sesame-Ginger Jackfruit Salad ready within minutes.

{As a side note, you’ll more likely find it in a “health food store” than a typical grocery store–for my local friends, I found it at Sprouts–but for only $5 for a 10oz package {which meant 4 meals for us!}, it might be worth it to find your nearest health food store and try it out.  Also, this item is in the refrigerated section, I found it around the vegan cheeses and tofu hot dogs.}

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I decided to go with the Sesame-Ginger Jackfruit, and paired it with rice noodles and veggies for a delish stir fry.  I wasn’t sure how strong the already-sesame-ginger-flavored jackfruit would taste, and I didn’t want to overpower it with other flavors and seasonings, so I treated the veggies very minimally, just sautéed with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Feel free to make a stir fry with whatever veggies you have on hand; I sautéed broccoli, orange pepper, carrot, snow peas, and stirred the jackfruit, chopped cilantro and sliced green onion into the cooked, warm rice noodles.  Garnish with sliced cucumbers, and you have a happy bowl, happy belly.

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jackfruitstirfry

I am definitely going back for more jackfruit!  I loved my experience–it was sweet, flavored and seasoned just right, and it worked perfectly with the veggies–it wasn’t too heavy, like meat can be, it wasn’t stringy, and didn’t get caught in my teeth.  This was the most melt-in-your-mouth stir fry I’ve had!  Thanks, Jackfruit Company!