Vegan Burgers ~ Funkink Burgers, Bucharest, Romania

So recently we were feeling a hint of cabin fever and decided to get out, only all the fun places in the mountains and the countryside were packed with others who had the same idea, so we ventured into the city.

Which city, you ask?

Bucharest. It’s only about 75 kilometers from Ploiesti so within an hour–give or take for traffic–we can be there with the frustration of city driving behind us. The day was nice and sunny, we got there just late enough to bypass rush hour traffic and parked quickly, so it was mostly an easy journey.

ARCUL DE TRIUMF, Bucharest, Romania

I’ll tell you later all about my new tattoo, complete with vegan, cruelty-free vegan ink. For now, let’s talk food.

Funkink Burgers, formerly known as Sarah’s Burgers, is a fully vegan establishment. The cool thing about this place besides their artisan burgers? It’s a collaborative effort with an NGO, Romanian Vegan Association, to “promote a vegan lifestyle and reduce the consumption of animal products for ethical, economic reasons, to protect health and the environment.”

Pretty cool mission statement, if I do say so myself.

After sitting on a stool for hours until my butt was numb, all I could think about was burgers. Vegan burgers and fries, and homemade vegan dipping sauces. Sign me up. Now.

Funkink Burgers view, Bucharest, RO

The walking path to get to Funkink was a lot like wandering the side streets of Paris, basically a labyrinth of cobblestone streets that feature bars and eateries from around the world. I spotted an American style sports bar, an English pub, several German pubs because Germany is a HUGE influence in this country, and even a Scottish pub that promised “authentic Scottish fare”.

Easy Vegan Dips ~ Shallot & Banana Pepper Relish

Hummus.

Salsa.

Pesto.

Spinach & artichoke.

Romesco.

Tapenade.

Vegan queso.

What do these yummy dishes all have in common? They are delicious vegan dips!

I don’t know about you guys, but I am always looking for different things to dip-ify. My favorite is salsa, followed up with hummus but I can totally get down with a nice tapenade if the olive selection is appealing enough. But any one of these vegan dips can get boring after a while and I find it’s nice to switch things up once in a while, so when my father-in-law brought A LOT of white plums back from a trip to the Romanian countryside, it was the perfect time to improvise.

White plums are not just for sweet vegan dishes

To be fair, white plums are not all that delicious on their own. The texture is very similar to the plums you can find in most supermarkets around the world, but the taste is so mild that it’s almost nonexistent. If you give them a day or two after they’re perfectly ripe, they are much sweeter and perfect for this vegan relish I created. Well…maybe someone else created and I just made it up in my head. Either way, this one is mine and I’m claiming it.

Quick & easy vegan dips don’t have to be complicated. Just add chips!

The ingredient list on this vegan dip is super simple. All you need is: banana pepper, shallot, white plums, fresh lemon juice and rice vinegar. The only seasoning I added was salt, black pepper & garlic granules.

Nothing else.

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Start with the shallots, because you want to give him a little bit of pickling so they don’t overpower the other ingredients. Dice the shallots and add them straight to a bowl, along with salt, pepper, lemon juice and vinegar. Give it a little stir and let it sit while you chop the banana peppers and plums.

I used jarred banana peppers because that’s what I had on hand, and truthfully I don’t think I’ve seen any fresh banana peppers since moving to Romania. Add the banana peppers to the bowl and give a good stir before moving on to the plums.

For the white plums, you can peel the skin off but I kept them on because, you know, fiber. Give them an even dice and add to the bowl. Give everything a quick stir and refrigerate. I let them sit in the fridge for a few days so the flavors could get together and have a little party, but you can dig right in if you want.

And now you have another easy vegan dip added to your repertoire.

And what’s even better? It is SUPER calorie/figure friendly!

cronometer.com

I know what you’re thinking. What the hell do I do with this weird vegan relish?

I’m glad you asked.

Shallot, banana pepper & white plum relish with tortilla chips

You can use this dip in a number of ways

*Mix it with your favorite brand of vegan tuna and make a sandwich

*Grab tortilla chips and nosh away

*Pita chips or pita bread, naan, rustic bread etc…

*Add a few tablespoons to your favorite vegan yogurt or sour cream and make a creamy dip

*Add it on top of your favorite vegan hot dog or sausage, Chicago style

If you’re feeling really hungry, grab a spoon and let go, but I recommend a healthy dose of carbs to go with it.

Vegan Sushi Salad Bowl

As I’ve mentioned before, I have been working on upping my salad game and so, the trend continues into a new week. I had a dental appointment today which was, let’s just say, less than quick & easy. We went grocery shopping today because tomorrow is my release day for my newest novel, and it was 32 degrees Celsius all day.

All day.

So what else is an exhausted, overheated vegan, author and wife to do? Salad.

But I wanted to do something a little bit different from what I usually do, while also making a salad that was substantial enough to satisfy.

Enter, vegan sushi salad bowl. We probably need a better name, don’t we?

Yeah, but this is the name we got and I promise, the dish tastes much better than the title.

There are quite a few components to this vegan salad recipe, but it’s not difficult at all. Honestly, this recipe is all about the prep work. If you’re willing to prep, this is another easy vegan recipe you can add to your repertoire.

Vegan Mici, Mushrooms & Potatoes Two Ways

Who loves potatoes?

Me. I love potatoes and I could eat them every single day and not having them the same way. Whether its sweet potatoes or mashed potatoes, fries or home fries, I am here for POTATOES. So when I found these vegan mici (Romanian word for “little ones” or “small ones”) I knew it was the perfect way to over-indulge in potatoes.

Just a little, anyway.

And since I’m (still) editing like my life depends on it, I’m going to make this a quick-ish post.

This was kind of a hodge-podge meal, as you can see with just a few mushrooms because there were only a few leftover as it was almost grocery day. Again.

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. šŸ™‚

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!

Weird But Good Vegan Recipes: Spicy Tofu & Sauerkraut

Let’s keep it real, when it comes to cooking not every meal can be a gourmet masterpiece or the very definition of healthy and nutritious. We hope for one of those of two, but sometimes you just want what you want. Right?

That’s pretty much how this easy vegan meal came about. I felt like having something spicy but I didn’t want to go crazy with calories and I didn’t want to make something that would cost too much time in the kitchen because I was furiously trying to get my book properly formatted so the paperback could be completed.

Update/Shameless promotion: How Could I ForgetĀ is finally ready to order in paperback and digital!

Luckily for me, I found some leftover sauerkraut and decided…why the heck not? I love sauerkraut actually. I spent a part of my childhood in Wisconsin where I experienced many Oktoberfest celebrations and learned a lot about German and Polish culture. Then, I went on to spend about 8 years living in Germany, so yeah, sauerkraut is my jam! But, I’ve never used it out side of my seitan & kraut style recipes. So I did what any internet savvy home cook does, I consulted Google to find out other ways to use sauerkraut and what to pair it with.

Turns out, it makes an excellent side dish, with only a little prep time.

Since we’ve talked so much about the kraut, let’s start with that. I like to rinse it a little just so the taste isn’t quite so vinegar-y, then drain and set aside. Chop up one onion and a few cloves of garlic to saute (in oil or water) and when they start to crisp and turn brown, add the kraut. Cook until warm OR you can just turn off the stove and stir together if you want the full health benefits of fermented foods.

While the onions & garlic are cooking, you should re-hydrate your soya (TVP) if that’s what you’re using because that’s why I used in this easy vegan recipe, but you can always use whatever vegan protein floats your boat. I used the big pieces because there’s a lot of surface to cover in yummy spicy sauce and because I wanted a reason to break out my new air fryer!

While the soy chunks are in the air fryer, I added a bunch of spices to a bowl along with soy sauce and just enough olive oil to turn it into a paste/sauce that would work for a tossed coating.Ā My spices: smoky & spicy paprika, garlic granules, ground ginger, harissa powder, piri piri, turmeric and cumin. When the timer beeps, remove the crispy vegan tofu wings and toss in the spice mixture.

If you’re my kind of vegan home cook and you tend to make foods a little on theĀ spicierĀ side, consider adding a cooling sauce for those in your home who don’t love spicy vegan foods the way you do.

I opted for a veggiegurt sauce with lemon juice, cumin, parsley and oregano. The hubs said it helped with the heat…a lot.

If you’re in the market for quick and easy vegan recipes, you will be happy to know that this recipe took about 30 minutes and that includes entering the ingredients into Cronometer.

What do you like to pair with your vegan hot wings?

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 thinkĀ 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?

Fast & Easy Roasted Veggie & Tofu Dip

One of the first things I had to learn to do when I began my health and weight loss journey was to findĀ healthier ways to enjoy a snack here and here. We’re humans, at least that’s what I keep telling my husband I am, and snacking is sometimes inevitable. But instead of using a heap of coconut oil to make too much popcorn on a daily basis, or my absolute favorite, salt & vinegar chips…or anything that you should be having in moderation, I decided you can’t go wrong with dips.

My favorite vegan dip is hummus but some day really soon I’m going to share my newest obsession, falafel dip so you can see just how yummy it is. But today we’re not talking beans, we are talking vegetables.

My original plan had been to make spinach artichoke dip because the Hubs had been asking for it for a while so I bought frozen spinach, got some red peppers to roast up and prepared all of my ingredients…only to realize the jar of artichoke hearts had gone bad.

Take two.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I will tell you that spinach is not my most favorite vegetable of all time. It’s not even my favorite of the dark leafy green family. At best I would say that I tolerate spinach because of it’s many health benefits, so the idea of a mostly spinach dip was…no bueno.Ā So I had to improvise with sauteed onions, bell pepper, garlic and scallions. There may even be a carrot in there, I’m not sure at this point.

With my veggies sauteed and cool I added the thawed spinach and set aside.

It was time to assemble.

For the main part of this vegan vegetable dip, you’ll need tofu in brine. Because it is easily available here, I go for Inedit brand but feel free to use what you prefer or what’s available in your area. Cut up the brick of tofu and pop it into a food processor with roasted garlic and scallions. Run until you get the dip texture you’re looking for and then fold it in to the sauteed veggies.

A few of the spices I added include: smoky paprika, cumin, turmeric, cayenne pepper, curry, ground fennel and chili powder plus a pinch (or two) of nutritional yeast flakes for that cheesy umami flavor.

Next comes the vegan cheese! Sprinkle as little or as much as you need for your dip, just make sure you measure it out first.

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 200Ā°C/400Ā°F for 25 to 45 minutes, until it is crisp and bubbly on the edges and slightly brown on top.

As you can see I added some extra smoky paprika to the top because I just can’t get enough of the stuff!

Because of the current state of the world, I didn’t want to run around to a bunch of grocery stories in search of pita breads so I improvised with flour tortilla shells. Next time, I plan to go for corn tortilla chips in lieu of pita. What’s your favorite dip vessel?

Of course we had to pair it with an icy cocktail.

I made a white wine sangria with mint, lemon and lime. It was…okay. I’m not a fan of white wine but it was a nice lesson learned…and my mother-in-law loved the cocktail. And she ‘really liked’ the dip.

It’s a start, right? What other dips would you like to see?

 

Beyond Animal Fries!!!

Happy 2020!! Things have been crazy around here with editing my book, sending it out to beta readers and all of that, so I’ve been neglecting The Spicy Spatula terribly. I hope you’re still around and ready for another year of easy, healthy, vegan home cooking.

I spent nearly a decade living in Los Angeles and I even ate at In n Out burger a few times, but I must admit that I’ve never eaten their animal fries. I wasn’t on a health kick and I wouldn’t go vegan for nearly a decade. The truth is that it was one of my least favorite fast food restaurants, which is saying something because I pretty much dislike them all, and so I didn’t explore their menu as much as I might have.

But recently I’ve been doing a lot of experimenting with Beyond Burger, chickpeas, tofu and dehydrated soy protein and I figured it was time that I added a few not so healthy recipes to this site…right?

So today we’re having vegan animal style fries made with, (drum roll please), the Beyond Burger!

One of the things I always have to check myself on is trying to beĀ too strict with a recipe. There are a lot of ingredients in animal fries and I don’t know about you, but my weight loss goals can’t take it and this dish is super delicious, but it ain’t worth all that. My point is to go as far as you’re comfortable going and stop there.

For example I kept the fries but I baked them because I always do. This is partially for health reasons but mostly it’s because I’m lazy and I hate to deep fry things. And my tiny Euro-kitchen has no room for anything as big as a fritteuse (that’s German for deep fryer!).

So for my vegan animal fries I used:

Potatoes, 2 Beyond Burger patties, onions, bell pepper, garlic, jalapeno peppers, veggiegurt (vegan yogurt), Sriracha, lime juice, cumin, pickles and herbs & spices. And that’s it, your ingredient list.

Once the Beyond Burger is thawed, I just diced it in a grid fashion because once you toss it in the skillet you can break it apart with a wooden spoon. I added the onions and bell peppers first because the burger “meat” cooks very fast and then added the garlic and burgers at the same time.

Tip: Don’t add oil to the skillet since the burger will release a ton of it during cooking!

When you season this, add burger-seasonings like Worcestershire, cumin powder, smoked paprika and garlic granules. It’ll give you the flavor you’re looking for.

Your potatoes are baking in the oven and your toppings are just about done, which means it is time to make the sauce!

Take a pickle or two and finely dice it up along with a few slices of jarred jalapeno peppers, lime juice, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper, and measure out your veggiegurt. Stir and you’ve got a fun sauce for your vegan animal fries.

If you love spicy foods like I do or if you’re just feeling adventurous, add more diced jalapeno peppers on top and enjoy!

And if you feel inclined, wash it down with an ice cold beverage. I opted for water but I’d love to hear/see what you’d pair with this plate.