Hiking, Sightseeing & Eating Vegan in Sinaia, Romania

Whenever we’re in the mood to get away for a while without actually hopping a flight somewhere, Sinaia is one of our go-to places. It’s about a sixty-minute drive from our apartment and it has gorgeous scenery if you just want to walk around, visit a castle and be in the outdoors.

Because of the events of 2020 (and beyond), as I like to call the year that wasn’t, it’s been a long time since we’ve done any real traveling, so this was a much needed trip.

The trip started with a visit to Peles Castle. I’ve been there before but there’s always so much to see, plenty of great photo opportunities and on a nice, sunny day, the perfect place to walk around for a bit.

After an hour or two in the sun, you know what it was time for.

Kartoffel (Potato) Vindaloo ~ Easy Vegan Potato Stew

The first time I ate Indian food, I was at a restaurant in Washington, D.C. and I hated it. The food was bland and boring and left such a bad taste in my mouth that it took me about three years before I tried it again. That time, well let’s just say that in our house, Indian food is on the menu at least once a week.

At least.

The dish was lamb vindaloo (sorry lamb!) and it was everything I had been promised Indian food would be. Well-seasoned, flavorful as hell, and spicy. It blew me away and from that moment on, I was hooked. The addiction was formed.

And it was that memory that inspired me to re-create the Kartoffel Vindaloo in all it’s spicy glory.

You’re probably wondering why I named this recipe Kartoffel Vindaloo intsead of regular ol’ potato vindaloo? The simple answer is that after spending almost a decade living in Germany, I’ve decided that I prefer the word kartoffel to the word potato, that’s all. 🙂

No-Meatball Creamy Curry Risotto

Perhaps my favorite part of getting to choose what my husband cooks on his nights, is coming up with new combinations to see what he’ll do with the dish. On this night, I wanted three things: curry, vegan meatballs and risotto.

It sounded strange even to my own ears, so I hit up the Google machine just in case I was sending him on a fool’s errand. Turns out, I was…kind of.

There were curry meatball dishes for all diets and lifestyles, but I guess most people are purists when it comes to risotto, where I am not. So this is what happens when you ask for curry, vegan meatballs and risotto for dinner.

Meatless Creamy Curry Risotto.

The key to any good curry is a well-stocked spice rack, or finding the right premade vegan curry sauce or seasoning packet. Those aren’t all that easy to come by here in Romania, which works out fine because my spice rack is more like a spice shelving unit and it borders on ridiculous.

Easy Vegan Dinner Recipes ~ Chickpea Masala

Life as we know it under normal circumstances is…a distant memory. You know that as well as I do, and as such, we have all been doing the best we can as often as we can. For the purposes of today’s blog, that means making sure you get a good chunk of whole foods in your vegan diet.

When was the last time you ordered/cooked a meal without soy or seitan? How about the last time you cooked a meal, period? Or one that consisted mostly of vegetables, grains, beans and/or legumes? It’s not a judgment, believe me. Some weeks I have to really go through the photos to find a meal without pasta or tofu or vegan burgers. It happens and I’ve forgiven myself.

Have you?

Good because today we have a quick and easy vegan chickpea masala for those nights when you just need something simple, whole and plant based to eat.

The chickpeas are the main source of protein in this, but the good thing about a plant based, vegan whole food diet is that you get tons of essential vitamins and nutrients from ALL of the ingredients.

To get this vegan dinner started, you start with the onion, ginger and hot chili peppers. If you’re using oil, add that into the pan, otherwise look the vegetables cook until fragrant, adding water or waste-free broth a little at a time.

Add the garlic along with any herbs and spices such as: cumin, turmeric, curry, smoky paprika, garam masala seasoning and chili powder. Stir until well coated and then add the chickpeas (rinsed & drained) and cherry/grape tomatoes or just canned crushed tomatoes which is what I used, because this was a day before shopping meal for us.

Add some broth and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring regularly so it doesn’t stick. You want to let this liquid reduce a little so the end result is thick and creamy.

Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.

Add coconut milk (for cooking) at the last five or so minutes, making sure to taste as you go and adjust for flavor preferences.

Serve on a bed of rice and that’s a pretty darn quick and easy vegan recipes, perfect for lunch or dinner.

If you need a little extra spice, jalapenos or Sriracha will do the trick, but my hubs thought it had a nice little kick to it, emphasis on little.

The other thing I loved about this vegan chana masala? It’s super calorie friendly, even with the creamy coconut milk added to it.

This is for one serving but ingredients list is chickpea masala for 2.

Quick and easy and delicious, so next time you’re in need of a whole food vegan meal, consider hitting up your pantry for that can of beans you haven’t used in forever and toss’em in a pot.

Quick & Easy Crispy Vegan Biryani

In my household, my partner and I are both self-employed which means that there are nights that roll around when we’re both so absorbed with work that it’s ten or eleven o’clock before one of us realizes that dinnertime has come and gone. We’re not proud of it, but it’s a fact of life and there you have it.

When those nights happen and you live someplace where there are no vegan food options, or very few, you have to be efficient and creative. My go-to quick and easy vegan meal when it’s my night to cook, usually involves some type of vegan noodle dish, because noodles are my jam.

For my partner, it’s usually rice. Or pasta. Or potatoes.

On this night, it was a crispy tofu biryani.

If you’re not familiar with it, biryani is an Indian rice dish made with spices and protein, traditionally animal protein but we don’t do that here, so we’ve used TVP chunks, because they have plenty of protein and are the perfect meat substitute in this Indian rice dish.

This easy vegan tofu biryani has a simple list of ingredients:

Jasmine rice
Peanut oil
Textured vegetable protein (TVP)
Onion
Ginger
Bell pepper
Coconut milk (for cooking)
Veggiegurt
Indian spices

Cook the rice according to instructions, a pinch of turmeric gives it that gorgeous yellow color and smoky flavor.

Rehydrate the TVP and drain, the coat in veggigurt and Indian spices (curry, garam masala, chilies, ginger, garlic, cinnamon & cloves, or whatever spice blend you have handy), then set aside. I have this tandoori masala that I really love, it’s smoky and spicy, but not too spicy if you have someone who can’t handle anything over a 5 on the spice scale.

Use half the oil to sautĂ© the onion, bell pepper and additional spices, and use the other half to pop the TVP in the air fryer to get it nice and crispy. This can also be achieved on the stove but you’ll need to use a lot more oil. If you have the time, consider baking it on high in the oven.

When everything is done, toss it all together and add more seasoning as needed. Serve and enjoy!

Quick & easy vegan tofu biryani

What’s your go-to vegan dish when you need something quick and easy?

Soya Biryani with Crispy Onions

Simple food can be good food. There is a time and a place for complicated dishes that take plenty of time, but only when and if you feel like it. Biryani seems like a dish that could be complicated if you let it, especially if you decide to take forty-five minutes to get those onions properly crispy. Luckily for me, this was a night my husband cooked and the only thing I had to do was come up with what I wanted to eat for dinner this night. 🙂

I chose Biryani because it is a simple but flavorful dish that feels like it takes hours and hours in the kitchen, but an efficient vegan home cook could get it done in under an hour.

The best thing, aside from taste, about this recipe is that the ingredient list is simple.

TVP (I use inedit, but use whatever textured protein you can find)
Basmati rice
Onion
Veggiegurt
Ginger
Garlic
Red bell pepper
Peanut oil
Herbs & Spices

I know, it seems impossible that a dish so simple could produce such a flavor explosion on your tongue but…it’s true.

If you’ve never had a vegan Biryani, I recommend you do a little research so you understand the basics, but basically this is a dry dish compared to a curry, for example. The key here is the fried onions because they add SO MUCH FLAVOR!

While you re-hydrate the soya, get those onions going in oil or vegan butter, cooking them low and slow until they start to turn golden and sweet-ish. Once the soya is ready, let it cool and then toss in veggiegurt and Indian spices. My hubs couldn’t wait to make use of our new air fryer, so that’s how he cooked the soya!

While the soya got nice & crispy, he cooked the Basmati rice in salted water with a teaspoon (or two) of turmeric thrown in for the health benefits and that gorgeous yellow color.

When the onions are close to ready, add the red bell pepper, garlic and ginger to the skillet and you’re good to go. Now toss in the soya and top it on a bed of rice.

You can always substitute one protein for another, using chickpeas, tofu or any other kinds of beans. If you use seitan or tempeh, I’d love to know about it!

I truly enjoyed this dish and I’ll probably add it to the rotation, but I’d love to see your take on a vegan biryani dish.

Vegan Lentil Lasagna Masala

I’ll just say this right at the top of the post, the only way to make lasagna simply is to buy it frozen or by using a ton of packaged ingredients. If you don’t have the time or patience, those are your options. But if you feel like blasting some old school grunge rock, chick rock or hip hop (maybe that’s just me??) and getting your cook on, might I recommend taking your time to make a killer vegan lasagna?

What I like to do is divide this up into three parts: the sauce, the filling and the cheese. I know it seems strange to consider vegan cheese an element of a proper lasagna but sometimes I like to whip up a bĂ©chamel with nut milk and nutritional yeast. But that’s any vegan lasagna in a nutshell, so let’s get started.

This meal was my husband’s choice for his Midnight Tokyo Diner night. He asked for lasagna and I decided to with a lentil lasagna masala because, well because Indian flavors are incredible and I am a wee bit obsessed.

The Sauce

The choice is yours, but I like to get the tomato sauce started first because if you use fresh tomatoes, which I highly recommend, you’ll need time to let it reduce and thicken. I kept this sauce fairly simple, using shallots, garlic, a small spicy red pepper for heat, tomato paste and tomatoes. Don’t forget herbs like oregano, thyme, rosemary or marjoram because they add a nice flavor that’ll remind you why sometimes a good red sauce is all you need, plus curry, ginger, garam masala and cardamom. It’s simple for a vegan lasagna, but I promise the filling has plenty of flavor and so does this spicy tomato sauce. In fact, I think it could also be really great as a pizza sauce or an arrabbiata sauce for your next pasta night.

Saute the shallots and pepper until fragrant and then add the garlic and tomato paste. Stir until it starts to smoke and slowly add the chopped tomatoes, or canned if that’s your jam. When the tomatoes start to break down, add a little water or broth or wine and let it simmer so it can begin to reduce. Reduce until the sauce is nice and thick, checking for flavor as you go.

The Filling

For the filling, I went with basic vegetables such as onion, bell pepper, garlic, spinach and mushrooms. For the vegan “meat” I went for lentils because I thought it would suit the taste profile I was going for better. And, it did. And the best part of all? I did it all in the same skillet!

Get the mushrooms going first and then add the onion, pepper and garlic. When they’re all cooked how you like them, add the lentils and water until just about done, then add the spinach. I used frozen because I’m not a big spinach fan and they keep a lot longer. When the filling is done, set aside and prepare to assemble.

Pop in the oven on 200/400 for about 30 minutes, adding the vegan cheese during the last ten minutes of cooking. If you want the cheese bubbly and crisp, crank the oven up for the last few minutes of cooking.

The Cheese (sorta)

In case you’re wondering, I’m in love with my new oven and if you look really close, you can see my reflection in there…somewhere.

Make sure you check the package of your lasagna noodles because for some reason some of them contain egg or milk powder. How else will they keep you addicted enough to add it to everything you eat?

Just…always read the labels before you buy! End of my PSA, I promise!

30-Minute Vegan Potato Curry

Since it’s Friday and the week has flown by (edits are done!) I decided to keep today’s recipe quick and easy. Two of my favorite things when it comes to a good healthy vegan meal because as much as I love to cook, some days you just want to sit down.

And some days your Tokyo Diner idea seems daunting and you say something like, “Just make me a curry. Spicy and with potatoes.” That was the directive I gave to the Hubs and this easy potato curry was his brain child. And bonus points on this recipe because if you felt so inclined, you could pop all the ingredients into a slow cooker on low for 5 to 7 hours. Cook the rice separately but more on that later.

Get your cutting board and your favorite knife because there’s plenty of chopping to be done!

This recipe really is simple, especially if you’ve ever whipped up a curry at home. Grab your favorite pre-made curry spice blend or mix your own and set it aside. Chop up: onion, ginger, bell pepper, garlic, potatoes, cauliflower & tomatoes. My husband prefers fresh tomatoes always so he did that but you can use canned tomatoes. When I use canned, I prefer stewed tomatoes. They’re juicier and the flavor is better in my opinion.

Add some oil to a deep skillet or water if you’re going oil-free and toss in everything but the cauliflower and garlic since they have very short cook times and will burn (garlic) or turn soggy (cauliflower) quickly.

I like to let the veggies cook a bit before I add anything other than salt & pepper, stirring frequently.

Once the veggies start to soften, add the rest and cook uncovered 3 to 5 minutes giving everything a regular stir. Then place the cover on the skillet and let it cook–undisturbed–for a few minutes. Do this until your vegetables reach desired done-ness and don’t be afraid to give the potatoes or cauliflower a fork-test if necessary. It’s your kitchen, do what you want!

The tomatoes go in last and you’ll want to cook them until the juice has been absorbed, leaving a nice thick sauce. Since he insisted on using fresh tomatoes there wasn’t much sauce, so adjust your cooking time to account for that if you do.

Pair it with rice or Naan. Most of the time I prefer naan bread because I love it and I miss it, but I miss it because it is pretty difficult to find vegan naan bread here in Romania and even in Germany too. For some odd reason there’s milk powder in most store bought naan bread, so if you know if any good vegan brands please give me names and links!

Since it was a light day with a salad for lunch and this calorie friendly dinner, I enjoyed a nice Harmin with it…to cool down the extra jalapeno peppers I put on mine!

Vegan Chicken & Indian Stew

Soup season is upon us! That means it’s time to start experimenting with all the veggies you can get your hands on to warm up your bones, nourish your body without giving it too much of the bad stuff.

This time around I’ve decided to be a little bit naughty in my take on tarka dal, which is just another way of saying lentil stew. It is one of my favorite recipes and this time I used dry soy chunks because, well why not?

Use whatever soy (or seitan or tempeh) product you want for the vegan chicken or leave it out. I was in the mood for some soya so I rehydrated it and drained it before seasoning the hell out of it! I tossed it with a variety of Indian and middle eastern spices, which is why there’s such a dark color on the soya chunks.

Next you’ll want to tend to the lentils. Use red or green, but I almost always use yellow for this dish. If you’re feeling creative, try the beluga lentils, just be warned they have a much longer cooking time.

You can cook the lentils separately and add them later or toss them in at the end and let it simmer until cooking is complete. I prefer to let it cook with all the aromatics so while the vegan chicken drained of water, I started chopping.

This dish is as colorful as it is nutritious. The colors are due to onions, garlic, ginger, bell peppers, turmeric and lemongrass if you have it, though some will say it’s optional. I say it’s soup and all the feel good stuff you can toss in will be better for you in the long run.

Saute the aromatics in oil or water until soft, mixing in curry and other spices. Stir in the lentils and the liquid and let it cook until everything is soft and creamy and smelling so good you think you’ll die if you don’t eat it RIGHT NOW. While the soup is cooking, put the rice on. I used a 12 minute Jasmine rice because I love jasmine rice.

In my opinion one of the things that makes tarka dal one of the best stews on the planet is the lemon. Let me say that again, the LEMON. I squeeze half a lemon during the last five minutes of cooking and I add more once its done and more during plating. It’s optional, of course, but if you like spice this will cut down on it a little. If you love spice, add the lemon anyway, it goes great with Sriracha and other spicy hot sauces.

One important thing about using dry soy products is that they take on a lot of water. A LOT. You can add it to the soup mix if you want, but be warned it will be a juicy mess. I kept them crispy in the fridge and served them on top so they could be mixed in during eating. It’s an extra step but it’s more than worth it because you get crispy spiced vegan chicken to go with the creamy lentil stew.

This was super delicious and the best part? There was enough for lunch the next day!

Spicy Soya Bulgogi

Most days I know what I’m going to eat because I am a planner. I plan out the menu each week, create a corresponding grocery list complete with a few snack options for those nights I feel like munching. So yeah, I plan things.

But this week as I sat in the living room waiting for my husband to finished getting dressed while I reconciled with menu with my shopping list app, I found a video for Bulgogi, which I haven’t had since we lived in Los Angeles…a million years ago. Of course this dish was made semi-traditionally and by that, I mean it contained meat, which was no problem because I recently got my hands on Inedit brand textured soya, which I’ve used before but only the big chunks and the cubes. It’s a great dehydrated soy product that you simmer in water to hydrate and then cook per your recipe instructions.

Slowly this vegan bulgogi idea was coming together.

As with any good vegan-ized recipe, you have to be careful because although you can totally make the dish, you might have to juggle around some of the steps to make it work. Step one: get the soy granules into the water and get them going. The package says it needs 20-25 minutes but I think about 10 to 12 is sufficient.

Okay, so here’s the thing about making bulgogi. Mostly it is a spicy beef dish and home cooks like myself often use some sort of ground up product, rather than whole pieces, and you should know up front that I didn’t do a big deep dive into the history of the dish or anything so complicated. I saw a recipe on YouTube and made some adjustments for my plant based diet and weight loss goals.

Now, that’s out of the way…let’s keep going.

My ingredients: shallots, onion, scallions, ginger, Thai curry paste, piripiri peppers, ginger and portobello mushroom caps, just to enhance the satiety of the dish. Oh and I used ramen style noodles instead of rice. And four leftover grape tomatoes for the liquid and lycopene.

The mushrooms went into the skillet first so cook out some of the water before adding the soy texture, which also has some water that you’ll want to cook out for some recipes and keep for others. I planned for a spicy-ish sauce so I wanted them fairly dry. Next went the shallots, onions and ginger.

Add seasoning as you need it, later adding the garlic and tomatoes near the last few minutes of cooking. Then grab a bowl and whip up the bulgogi sauce, which for me contained: soy sauce, That curry paste, hot chili paste, harissa powder, curry, cumin and lemongrass powder. Toss in some water and cornstarch if you want a thicker sauce to coat the noodles, and dump it in the pot…but not before the noodle or rice water gets started cooking.

When you’re ready to put everything together, then you can dump the sauce into the skillet and bring to a boil Simmer until the sauce is thickened and taste for extra flavor. The sesame seeds were a last minute addition after I put the recipe into Cronometer and saw that I had some calorie wiggle room, but in total I added 5 grams of sesame seeds.

 

This is a pretty easy vegan dish to make but like many of my favorite Asian recipes, it does have a bit of prep time. There’s a lot of chopping to be done, so make time for it and you won’t regret it.

I promise!

What recipe do you want to see next? Drop a comment below.