I have some friends (*ahem*—you know who you are) who have expressed to me recently that they’re a bit overwhelmed with having to suddenly cook for themselves at home instead of relying on restaurants, and that it would be helpful to have some ideas for things they can easily make at home without having to make stuff entirely from scratch. So I thought I’d share one of my favorite quick-n-easy dishes, which is really just fancied-up frozen Gardein strips.
I’m not sure if Gardein products are available worldwide (?), but in the US, the brand is sold at Whole Foods, Target, Walmart, and lots of other national grocery retailers. Is Gardein “junk food”? I don’t know, and I don’t really care. It’s yummy, it’s vegan, it’s widely available, and the ingredients aren’t horrible. This particular recipe uses Gardein Szechuan Beefless Strips, which are sort of thin and chewy and a little bit dry, which I guess is kind of like the meat used in beef and broccoli-type dishes. Anyway, it’s delicious, and it comes with a moderately spicy Szechuan-style sauce that I love.
These frozen convenience meals aren’t very cost-effective, though, and honestly, I think they’re a little sad just out of the package with nothing added to them (the broccoli in the picture on the bag is just a “serving suggestion”; it’s not included). I like to use them as a component in a more substantial dish instead of just eating them as-is. Here’s my favorite way to do it. You could definitely substitute it with tofu or tempeh or homemade seitan (and your own sauce), and that’s fine! This is a recipe for when you want something fast and easy, though.
Gardein Szechuan Beefless Strips, fancy-style (vegan)
1 package Gardein Szechuan Beefless Strips (including sauce packet)
1 tbsp oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 bell pepper (any color), diced
2 celery stalks, sliced
1/4 cup cashews, roughly chopped
2 green onions, sliced (optional)
1-2 tbsp sriracha sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce (Bragg’s aminos or tamari are fine, too)
1 tbsp agave (or maple syrup)
1 cup cooked brown rice (frozen is TOTALLY FINE)
Preheat your oven to 425°F (or just turn it on and pretend you preheated it) and prepare the beefless strips following the conventional/toaster oven method on the package. It’s going to take about 15-20 minutes from start to finish for them to heat from frozen, so let them cook while you chop the veggies and get the rest of the recipe going. Put the included sauce packet in a bowl of hot tap water to defrost.
Heat the oil a large skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the bell pepper, celery, and cashews and sauté for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. If stuff is starting to stick to the pan, add a little bit of water to deglaze. Add the green onions (if using) and stir to combine. Add the sriracha to taste, soy sauce, agave, and the entire sauce packet that came with the beefless strips. Combine well.
By now, the beefless strips should be done. Add them to the pan along with the rice. Stir well to combine. Lower the heat a little, add a bit of water if you feel like it’s getting dry, and let it all heat together for a few minutes. Stir to keep it moving.
That’s it! If you’re feeling extra fancy, sprinkle on some sesame seeds! Serve! Enjoy!
Oh, and you can definitely add other stuff depending on what you have. Sometimes I’ll throw in sliced zucchini if I have one I need to use up, or broccoli florets, or even some kale. The key here is really just to get some nice veggies and crunch and spice in with the frozen Szechuan beefless strips so they’re yummier and more nutritious, and so you extend the package to make more than just one meal. Leftovers will freeze or refrigerate and heat up just fine.