Recipe Reinvention

When I retired on November 15, 2011, I had all sorts of plans to find another part-time job, amp up my volunteer activities and definitely travel more with Roger. I was looking forward to reinventing myself because isn’t that what every active 50-something does when they retire?  Trouble was, I didn’t know what that reinvention was supposed to look like.

I knew I would be helping my daughter over the next year with her wedding plans. I gave more time to my volunteering activities at the Cara Program. It’s rewarding and I’m able to use my HR experience to offer help.

However, searching for a part-time job quickly became very frustrating. I’d been working for the same company and the same boss for 28 years…..yup.  I loved my job and my former boss is a friend and great mentor. But, how do I now go on an interview, much less even get the opportunity? Two years ago, the job market was still very flat; finding something that interested me where I could utilize my skills and experience proved tougher than expected.  I finally got an interview for a part time HR position.  But, alas, I didn’t get the job.  At first, I felt a ‘sting’, but the feeling of relief quickly took over.

That’s when I decided to just ‘let go’ and take one day at a time.  Why did I have to have a grand plan of reinvention? Roger was happy just having me home, (I was, too); and I had begun cooking more!

Several months into our plant-based journey, we tried various vegetarian/vegan restaurants throughout Chicago.  We ventured over to Native Foods before a Cubs/Cardinals game at Wrigley. We maneuvered through their extensive menu and finally ordered. I got a salad and a side of steamed kale. Roger skeptically ordered the Reuben sandwich, still not convinced this was going to be; a) meat-free, and b) good.

I watched as Roger took his first bite of the Reuben sandwich.  His eyebrows raised and a small smile came to his mouth, full of tempeh and sauerkraut!  I knew there was other ‘stuff’ in that sandwich that I wouldn’t use in my cooking, like too much salt and oil, but I wanted so badly to re-create this for him…my way.

So, I set out to reinvent a Reuben sandwich I could be proud of, and he would enjoy just as much.  When I heard angel harp music after Roger took a bite into the Reuben I made, all I could think of was “holy tempeh”!!

Reuben Sandwich

Reuben Sandwich

Tempeh Reuben Sandwich

Makes 4 sandwiches

Inspired by recipes from ChezBettay and the Chicago Diner

Prep time: 20 minutes (not including marinating and soaking time)

Cook time: 10-15 minutes

This recipe calls for overnight soaking and marinating…..but, it’s well worth the prep and wait time!!



1 pkg. regular tempeh

Marinade (recipe below)

1 cup Russian dressing (recipe below)

2 cups sauerkraut

8 slices hearty rye or pumpernickel bread

Daiya non-dairy swiss cheese shreds (optional)

Sliced tempeh in marinade

Sliced tempeh in marinade

Cut tempeh on an angle into 1/4″ slices – not paper thin! Cut the entire tempeh cake and place the slices into a 9×12 shallow pan.


Marinade for tempeh

1 teaspoon coriander

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

2 garlic cloves, crushed

Dash of black pepper

1 large bay leaf, crumbled

2 tablespoons maple syrup

pinch of cayenne

1 cup pickle juice

½ cup beet juice (blend up no-salt beets from a jar)
; this gives the tempeh a beautiful color)

4 tablespoons tamari

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Directions for Marinade: Place all ingredients in a sauce pan on medium high heat and bring to boil, stirring occasionally. Turn heat down to simmer for 10 minutes. Let cool and pour over sliced tempeh. Cover the pan and refrigerate overnight.

Russian dressing ingredients

Russian dressing ingredients

Russian Dressing

Makes 1 ½ cups


Russian dressing ingredients in blender

Russian dressing ingredients in blender

1 cup cashews

1/4 cup low or no-salt ketchup

1/4 teaspoon Organic Vegan Worcestershire sauce
(regular Worcestershire sauce contains anchovies; your choice)

1/4 cup sweet pickle relish

1 tablespoon Italian parsley, finely chopped

2 tablespoons shallot, finely chopped

1 teaspoon horseradish


Soak cashews in enough water to cover them for at least 6 hours or overnight.

Drain them and reserve water.

Put all ingredients into high-speed blender or processor with cashews.

Add the reserved cashew soaking water slowly while blending until you get a smooth, creamy (mayonnaise-like) consistency.

Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

Reuben open face

Reuben open face

Build Your Reuben

After tempeh has bathed nicely in the marinade, gently lift the slices out with a slotted fork. The next step is to grill them stove top or broil in the oven, 4 minutes on each side until the pieces are browned.

Remove from grill or oven and begin to build your sandwich. Lay out two slices of hearty rye or pumpernickel bread. Spread the Russian dressing liberally on one slice, then pile on the sauerkraut.  (Option: add Daiya cheese on top and return to oven to warm). I don’t use packaged vegan cheese and our Reuben was delicious without it!

Reuben Sandwich with side of cucumber covered in extra Russian dressing

Reuben Sandwich with side of cucumber covered in extra Russian dressing










Eat for Your Life! 

2 replies
    • Lauren
      Lauren says:

      This recipe took a little time to pull together, but I was so determined to re-create this delicious sandwich and I was very happy with the outcome. Yes, the pickle juice comes right from the jar. Reuben Reinvention!!

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