Easy Vegan Comfort Food ~ Vegan Schnitzel & Cheesy Pasta

Many of my friends think that eating a vegan diet means always eating healthy, and it doesn’t. Sure, most days I try to eat a whole food, plant based diet with plenty of fresh & colorful vegetables, grains, beans and legumes.

That doesn’t always happen.

As a professional writer and self-published author, there is a lot on my plate and sometimes I just want something hot and yummy and not necessarily totally healthy, and that’s all right because I work out regularly and I am as active as possible when I’m not parked in front of a computer screen.

So when I want to eat a greasy vegan schnitzel with creamy cheesy pasta and broccoli, I do.

This post doesn’t require a full on recipe because you can find your favorite brand of vegan chicken, or make your own vegan fried chicken, and cook in the air fryer or the oven with your desired seasonings. I used garlic, black pepper and smoky paprika and popped it in the oven on 200C so it would be crispy enough not to get soggy on top of the pasta.

Vegan Brunch Recipe ~ Hangover Edition

Happy New Year!

I’m not much for resolutions and all that, so my sincere hope for you is that 2021 is better than the previous year. Cook better. Eat better. LIve better. Be better.

And I just might be able to help you with the first two. Maybe.

Full disclosure: I was not hungover when I whipped up this recipe but as I put it all together, it occurred to me that this the perfect vegan breakfast fry up for when you consume a little too much booze the night before. But hey, even if you don’t overdo it, this is a great vegan meal to put together on a Sunday afternoon, or any other day you enjoy brunch.

Unlike most vegan breakfast recipes, you won’t find tofu scramble here but not becuase I don’t love them, I totally do. The real reason is just simple oversight, I thought I had firm tofu in the fridge and when I went to search for it, surprise! No tofu.

Easy Vegan Pizza Bread

What do you do when you want to make vegan pizza at home, but you don’t want all the calories that come with store bought (or homemade) pizza dough?

You get a nice hunk of bread from the bakery, making sure to read the ingredients that most store bakeries list to look for non-vegan ingredients such as milk powder or cheese powder. I recommend ciabatta bread or some kind of wide-ish roll that will hold enough vegan pizza toppings to satisfy your appetite.

There is no secret to this recipe, it’s vegan pizza only it’s served on bread. So gather your favorite vegan pizza toppings and cook them, or not, depending on how you like it and pop it in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes.

Vegan Bacon w/ Cheesy Broccoli Linguine

What do you do when your latest order of vegan food arrives in the mail and vegan bacon is inside? You make some version of vegan carbonara, but you don’t call it carbonara because all the Italian food purists will throw a giant hissy fit.

My partner made a simple request, vegan pasta carbonara and I got a little creative with the ingredients, including broccoli and my own vegan bechamel-style cheese.

The ingredients for this vegan pasta (not) carbonara is pretty simple: pasta (I used linguine), broccoli, nutritional yeast, vegan bacon, plant milk, garlic, shallots and peanut oil.

Squash & Spinach Vegan Queso Dip

I love a good dip. Maybe it’s because I love chips and vegan dips are the perfect way to enjoy them, or maybe it’s just because I love the act of dipping things into vats of creamy goodness.

Who knows?

Well I was really in the mood for a vegan spinach & artichoke dip but thanks to ‘world events’ a few weeks had gone by without any artichokes–fresh or jarred–so I was forced to improvise. And since I’ve been on a kick making vegan squash and vegan pumpkin recipes, you can imagine that I had quite a bit to use time and time again and I was like, “Well, squash can be made cheesy, right?”

The answer, folks, is yeah. It can.

As you can probably tell by the photo there is a lot of squash in this recipe, because it’s part of the dip as well as the queso, if that makes sense?

Ingredients:
Butternut Squash
Garlic
Spinach (frozen works well here)
Red bell pepper
Shallot
Nutritional yeast
Vegan cheese (for topping)
Tapioca starch
Olive oil
Almond milk (I used Alpro Almond, No Sugars)

Start with the shallots & bell peppers, giving them a quick saute, but do it in a pan big enough to hold the squash because this is a one pot vegan dip! When shallots & peppers are close to done, add the garlic and cook for a minute or two.

Then add the frozen spinach and break it up if you didn’t thaw it in cold water first. Now it’s time to add the…butternut squash! Use a wooden spoon to stir and make sure it’s all broken up, or pop it in the food processor or blender until smooth.

Season with desired herbs & spices and this is where you should also add the nutritional yeast for that pop of flavor.

Slowly add the milk until it’s a little loose and then add the tapioca starch, one teaspoon at a time until you notice that thick cheesy consistency start to form.

Garnish with your favorite vegan cheese and bake for 20 minutes on 180 Celsius. Eat with your favorite vegan dipper!

When this vegan queso dip comes out of the oven it’ll be golden brown and bubbly and HOT. Proceed with caution!

And if you’re like me and can’t get enough spice, add a few drops of Sriracha or your favorite hot sauce on top and dig right in!

Seitan Sausage & Vegan Carbonara

Just for the sake of clarification, I should tell you that I am not a tradititonalist when it comes to recipes. I will take something that looks interesting and try it once to decide how I like it, and then I will tweak it to fit my palate, ingredients and desires. But I will totally keep the name.

So when my partner requested “a type of carbonara” I knew exactly what he meant; give me some kind of creamy pasta dish.

And thus this vegan carbonara dish with seitan sausage was born.

If you don’t have access to any vegan sausage at your local market and you want to make it from scratch, you’ll need vital wheat gluten and nutritional yeast or chickpea flour.

You will also need the following:

It’s a pretty simple vegan pasta dish if you’re ever in need of a quick weeknight dinner, or like me, those nights when you end up writing until ten at night and forget all about dinner.

This is a pretty easy vegan recipe to execute. Cook the pasta according to the box instructions, but I recommend that you cook it 1 or 2 minutes shy of the box recommendation because you’ll add it to the hot vegan carbonara sauce and it’ll cook a little more. But if you like very soft pasta, do you.

I like my mushrooms with a bit of a bite so I cook them until the moisture is gone and they start to crisp around the edges, and then I add the onion (cook 5 to 7 minutes) and the garlic (another 2 or 3 minutes, until fragrant). Slice the seitan sausage and add it with the garlic, cooking until the edges start to crisp.

That brings us to the carbonara sauce, which I know is nothing like the authentic Italian carbonara mostly because this is a vegan carbonara which means NO ANIMALS. Instead I used unsweetened almond milk, black pepper, garlic and nutritional yeast. The yeast will help the sauce thicken and give it depth of flavor, but you might want to try your hand at a thick and creamy vegan bechamel (get my recipe here) if you don’t possess enough patience to wait for the sauce to thicken, which it will.

When the pasta is done, add it straight from the water into the pot with the mushrooms, onion, garlic & sausage and pour the vegan carbonara sauce over it, tossing over low heat until combined.

Serve and garnish with fresh ground black pepper and vegan parmesan cheese. I use ParVeggio because it is literally my only option here in Romania, but it is tasty and creamy and salty, and it smells much better than the canned crap I used to eat.

The next time you need a quick and easy vegan pasta dish, consider this creamy, plant based carbonara.

Enjoy!

Garlicky Vegan Mac & Not Cheese

I LOVE mac & cheese…at least I used to love it.

Then I went vegan and stopped eating cheese and an odd thing happened; I stopped putting cheese on EVERYTHING. And what’s crazier is that I stopped adding a sprinkle of cheese here and there because I no longer craved it. So began a year of experimenting with pizza and mac without using cheese. I tried all the #veganhacks that included using sweet potatoes, Russet potatoes, carrots, cauliflower…all of it. They were okay but none of them made mac & cheese a crave-able dish for me anymore.

Oh, the dismay.

So I did a deep dive into it and there’s a good reason I stopped needing cheese on dishes when I got off animal cheese. In a word, casomorphin. It’s what makes cheese so addictive, but don’t just take my word for it. Wikipedia explains it here.  If you want the TLDR version, here ya go:

Source, Forbes 2017

Once I had that information, I didn’t feel like a bad vegan for disliking most vegan cheese options available to me in Germany and then Romania. So I decided to get creative about it.

Rather than using vegan cheese whenever I got a craving, I would go for other things like tapenade, pesto or romesco because they are flavorful, vegan and way more calorie friendly than any type of cheese, and my primary focus initially was weight loss, so calories mattered too.

Then I discovered a way to make a cheese-like sauce that was still vegan and calorie friendly, and it satisfied my need for mac & cheese, which let’s be honest was really a craving for carbs drenched in sauce…right?

All you need is: plant milk, turmeric (if you find it raw, grate it straight into the sauce), nutritional yeast, garlic granules, smoky paprika, mustard (optional), salt & pepper.

I employ the ‘low & slow’ method, which means it takes about 10 minutes (maybe longer if you’re using a lot of milk) to get the not cheese sauce nice and thick so it’ll stick to your pasta of choice.

Add the nutritional yeast one tablespoon at a time, letting it simmer and dissolve before adding more, and be sure to taste it in between just to make sure it doesn’t get too salty. Set a timer for 10 minutes and keep going until you get the thickness you prefer.

For this particular dish, I kept it pretty simple with pasta, 30 grams of sauteed garlic, and soy pieces. Add not-cheese and stir. If you’re feeling extra, pop it in the oven for 10 minutes to get a little bit of crust on top but it’s totally not necessary because this vegan mac stands on its own.

vegan alternative to mac & cheese

Just a quick note here: turmeric doesn’t just add the color of American cheese to this dish, it also comes with plenty of health benefits that include anti-oxidant as well as anti-inflammatory properties, which is a nice change for cheese, don’tcha think?

Let me know if you decide to make your own version…what do you put in it?

Sometimes You Just Want A Vegan Welsh Rarebit Pasta Bake

Hey guys! Hope you don’t mind a Tuesday post, but I spent all weekend in my writing cave and suddenly Monday rolled up and there I was, with no post ready to go. So after spending the morning grocery shopping, here we are, ready to talk two of my favorite things: vegan food and pasta.

Pasta gets a bad rap from plenty of people but you will NEVER hear me say a bad word to the almighty carb. It is a necessary fuel for all of us, plus pasta is truly one of the best things in the world, at least according to this vegan. If you don’t ‘do’ pasta then this isn’t a dish you’ll enjoy, but it was a delicious, fun and indulgent meal that kind of reminded us both of childhood, except you know, vegan.

When it comes to a good pasta bake, I think you only need a few things: pasta, something cheesy and a good dose of aromatics.

Of course, that’s all up to you but here is one of my versions of a cheesy #vegan pasta bake!

Choose your favorite pasta first. I opted for a whole wheat rotini because I think whole wheat pasta adds a flavor and texture that you just don’t get with refined (white) pasta.

Next you have to decide what you want to put in the “sauce”. I like to make the sauce as one big entity but you can make a simple tomato sauce and add whatever variety of vegetables you choose. I opted for onion, bell pepper, garlic and kidney beans because, why not?

Saute the onions, garlic and bell pepper in as little oil as you need to make it how you like it, or you can add a water-soy sauce blend to cook them up. I try to keep my oil/fat to a minimum but sometimes you just want that nice char or carmelization that comes with using oil. Once the veggies are where you want them to be, it’s time to talk tomatoes.

Fresh or canned, that is the question, isn’t it?

For me, yes, that is absolutely the question. Some days I feel all creative and chef-y and I will chop up fresh tomatoes and reduce the hell out of it until I have a thick and chunky tomato sauce worthy of a pasta bake. Other days, I don’t have the energy and I’ll use canned stewed tomatoes that I first, squish with my fingers and reduce it until its palatable. BUT let’s be honest, when you choose canned tomatoes you have to add A LOT of seasoning to get rid of that super sweet taste that is kind of off-putting when it comes to red pasta sauce. Ultimately, the choice is yours, but try them both and see which you find tastier and more time effective.

If you choose beans as your protein, I recommend adding them after the sauce has reduced because you still have to pop this in the oven and cook for another 15 to 20 minutes and you don’t want mushy beans. At least I don’t want mushy beans.

Now the most time-consuming part of this vegan pasta bake is the “cheese” sauce. Since I have a well documented love hate relationship with vegan cheese, I opted for a béchamel style sauce, using unsweetened almond milk, flour, olive oil and nutritional yeast, not to mention salt, pepper, smoky paprika, turmeric, basil and oregano.

Add the oil and flour, stir until blended and kind of meal-y, then slowly add the almond milk. If you want to be creative, and who doesn’t, add some spicy mustard, hot sauce and soy sauce for a Welsh Rarebit style cheesy pasta bake, then add the milk. Slowly still, adding nutritional yeast as needed. I usually start with about 15 grams of nutritional yeast and work my way up from there after tasting it. Always, always taste it as you go. I used about 250-300 ml of almond milk total, adding it slowly, but depending on the size of your vegan pasta bake, you might need more or less than that.

Once everything is done, stir the pasta and veggie red sauce together and place in an oven safe baking dish. THEN it’s time to pour the cheesy vegan cheese-less sauce over the top.

Bake at 200°C/400°F for 20 to 30 minutes. If you want to get a bit of a crisp on top, use the broiler or if you have an electric oven, add the top heat and crank it up for an additional 5 minutes.

Cool for 5 to 10 minutes and then…get your grub on!

Poftă Bună!!!!

A Vegan Twist on Twice Baked Potatoes & Cheesy Broccoli

People always ask me if I feel like I’m missing on out something because I don’t eat or use any products derived from animals. It’s as if they think Beyond Burger doesn’t exist, or tofu or seitan or tempeh. Or vegetables and grains, beans…legumes.

I think I’ve made my point here, right?

The truth is that trying to lose weight can often be super restrictive, but not on a #vegan diet. You see, I can request that the Hubs whip up twice baked potatoes and feel confident that he can bring the meal in under 600 calories because there is no animal cheese, no bacon, no butter…no dairy to increase my inflammation and my butt size.

Now if you’re a particularly determined vegan, then yeah, you can make this as calorie crazy as the animal eaters. But why would you want to?

The best thing about a recipe like this is that it is incredibly easy to customize. Rather than going for vegan bacon, we opted for sauteed onions de-glazed with balsamic vinegar. Add a pinch of smoky paprika and you’ll get that smoky flavor you think you need with bacon, vegan or otherwise.

For the broccoli, just steam or boil for 3 to 5 minutes and then give an ice bath to keep it bright green and beautiful. The cheese is a simple almond milk, corn starch, mustard, nutritional yeast and vegan cheese sauce. It’s quick thanks to the cornstarch, which is also why you don’t need to had several fist fulls of cheese. I learned my lesson from this calorie bomb masquerading as #vegan mac & cheese.

As you can see, the plate was a lot lighter than it usually is which is how he managed to make it tasty and calorie friendly.

This is one of the key points we all need to remember when we enjoy indulgent meals like this, the best way to not go overboard is to make sure you adhere to serving sizes. I would have loved a bigger portion of this, but the medium dress I just bought reminds me why I skip it!

Here’s my tip for enjoying this cheesy vegan dish: eat it on your workout day!

Any vegan cheese recommendations? I’m always in search of something new so tell me, what’s new in your part of the vegan world?

Vegan Tuna Casserole

Full disclosure: there is no tuna, vegan or otherwise in this dish.

Think of it more as an essence of tuna casserole because that’s what it is, but this vegan dish contains all the things you miss about this dish without any of the things you could do without.

Instead of tuna or vegan tuna products, I went with simple brown mushrooms. Sauteed in a pan until crisp on the edges and yummy.

Choose a noodle, cheese sauce and bread crumb topping and you’re good to go!

I opted for a creamy cheese sauce that used unsweetened oat milk and half the amount of cheese as similar vegan recipes, some of which might recommend coconut milk. Choose what fits your palate and your diet.

Bake it for 20 to 35 minutes in the oven, until the top is crispy brown and some of the noodles have a crunch.

The only thing missing? An ice cold drink, fit for a grownup.