Cajun Seitan Sausage Casserole

I don’t know about where you live, but here in Romania the weather has been a bit…let’s say temperamental. It’s been incredibly hot and humid one day, chilly and rainy the next, and them my personal favorite, the unbearable mix of super hot and incredibly humid.

Fun, right?

Yeah, I’ve been finding ways to not let the weather get to me, mostly by ignoring the heat, but also making use of the little desktop fan that I have all to myself. When the weather is really ridiculous, I just switch it up and wait until close to sundown to start working & writing, because I have that luxury.

But what about those days when the weather dips just a little? Well, on those days I take advantage and have something unexpected in this stupidly hot summer. Enter, Cajun vegan sausage casserole.

We can all agree that July is just too damn hot for any type of casserole, except when it isn’t. When that day rolls around, I’m taking full advantage. So…here we go!

When you’re in search of an easy vegan casserole recipe, I find the Cajun or Creole style options are wonderful. And very forgiving. These types of vegan recipes work really well if you want a spicy dish or a milder one, and you can experiment with grains to change it up and prevent mealtime boredom.

Vegan BBQ Bourguignon

Back in my younger days I was a bit of a Francophile, complete with a rainbow of berets, cigarette holder and an lifelong crusade for the perfect shade of red lipstick. In my 30’s I was able to spend a week in Paris and it was…everything I hoped and more.

What’s the point of all this?

Good old Google has a nice little habit of reminding you of all the things you’ve done and places you’ve been. Recently a batch of photos from Paris made an appearance and that little reminder along with a nice string of warm days had me thinking of two things.

One: Can I use wine with the dehydrated soya. Two: I can’t wait to clean the balcony so I can cook on the grill.

And that, my friends, is how BBQ Bourguignon was born.

vegan mushroom and soy bourguignon

You might think this is a complicated recipe but it isn’t, and the ingredient list isn’t long either.

Ingredients: Mushrooms, Onion, Carrot, Garlic, Potatoes, Barbecue sauce, Olive oil, Red Wine, Herbs

I didn’t re-invent the wheel with this recipe either, just hydrate the soya, season and set aside.

Saute the onion, carrots, mushrooms and garlic. Add the wine and let it reduce, then add the barbecue sauce and water if you want a thinner sauce.

Instead of adding the soy to the vegetables, I coated it in the same wine/mustard/bbq sauce mixture and popped it in the oven, hence the little crisp you see around the edges.

For the potatoes, Boil in salted water until tender. Drain and smash gently with a potato masher. Brush with oil and season however you want, using fresh herbs where you can for maximum flavor. Bake about 20 minutes, until crisp.

This was not one of our Midnight Tokyo Diner meals, but just something I’d been playing with and wanted to try out.

It was a success, from my mouth as well as the Hubs’!

Catching Up in My Vegan Kitchen…from Romania!

It’s been awhile and I know it. I’m sorry. I hope everyone is safe, indoors and finding fun ways to keep busy.

The truth is that I have been cooking, quite a bit lately, I’ve just been very lazy about writing up posts and selecting photos. Some days I just forgot to take photos altogether, but I don’t want that to turn into a habit, so let’s play a little bit of catch up, shall we?

I rarely posts desserts, not because I don’t make them because I do…a lot. But I am not a good food photographer, not yet anyway. But this little creation was chocolate biscuits (#accidentallyvegan), ripe bananas, peanut butter, cocoa powder and dark brown sugar with orange zest on top. Layered. It’s pretty to look at and it was a crowd-pleaser for vegans and non-vegans alike.

I know it’s spring time and not really the season for soups but one night my husband chose French onion soup as his Midnight Tokyo Diner option which meant I had to make it because sneaky man that he is, made sure there were heaps of yellow and white onions in the pantry.

I think it came out pretty well, probably the best I’ve made so far even thought it was greasier than I would’ve liked. Soon I’ll do a post with the full recipe because I think you might like it.

Gyro night!!! This was a fun night and yeah, you bet your sweet little booty that it was also time-consuming. Making seitan is never a quick endeavor but this was SO worth it. So. Worth. It.

As I always tell my non-vegan friends, proteins are always about the seasonings. Try to eat any protein without salt & pepper. Or any type of sausage without garlic or cumin or caraway. This seitan gyro loaf was no different. I used fennel, garlic, smoky paprika, cumin, fenugreek, ancho chili pepper and a bunch of other spices to get the loaf just right. To round the vegan gyros out, I used mushrooms and onions sauteed with the seitan after it’s simmering session.

Balsamic salad on the side with a vegan lemon and cucumber yogurt sauce, and this vegan gyro night was super fun!

And no list of what I’ve been cooking is complete without some type of Asian creation and this time we have Pho. I used TVP which, in my opinion, is a feat of genius. Seriously, I call it Star Trek meat, a name that never fails to make my husband laugh. It takes on the flavor of whatever you want it to so easily, in this case the yummy spices of a vegan Pho broth. Soy and balsamic soaked crimini mushrooms and generic ramen noodles round out this dish.

The real question is…what have you been up to? Cooking? Relaxing? Trying not to freak out?

Vegan Steak Frites!!!

So you guys know that I’m an author, a traveler and a vegan. But did you also know that I’m a total Francophile? Is that a word you can still use? I don’t know but since I was about eleven years old I have had a deep fascination with France, with French food and French culture and of course, the language.

Back in 2014 the Hubs and I finally went on our (MY) grand Parisian vacation and it was everything I hoped it would be. And more. Keep in mind that 2014 was pretty much a million years before we adopted a plant based lifestyle which means we indulged to the fullest, as you can see based on my chunky face.

Okay I concede that this photo was just an opportunity to relive one of my favorite travel spots AND to show off my weight loss progress since making the change to a vegan diet. 😉

Back to the dinner.

So steak frites for vegans sounds like a pretty tall order, right?

Wrong!

Okay, that’s a lie. The process for making the seitan steak is pretty darn lengthy and, thankfully, my hubs was the one to make this dish so for me it felt pretty effortless.

Full disclosure: This recipe was adapted from Gaz Oakley (Avant Garde Vegan) so if you want all the ins and outs, I’d seek out his advice because that man knows his stuff. Even better, he has a YouTube channel so you can work right along side him, which is exactly what the Hubs did.

It is pretty simple, if time-consuming. You mix a bunch of wet ingredients with dry (seitan) and then you have to knead it like dough, let it rest and all that. It’s not something either of us would recommend you do if you’re short on time, but the good news is that it makes about 3 or 4 days worth of meals for 2. We made steak, ribs and even a seitan doner!

This is what the seitan steak looks like before it’s been cooked. This perfect half moon is the result of about 5 minutes (or more) of rigorous kneading and shaping. It hasn’t been cooked yet but it’s got good color and texture thanks to the spices and herbs like soy sauce, vegan Worcestershire, paprika and a bunch of other tasty stuff.

Now comes the fun part! We broke out the stove top griddle and gave it a good sear on both sides before brushing it with homemade vegan barbecue sauce and popping it in the oven for about 20-25 minutes.

This is an excellent barbecue sauce and incredibly easy to make. All you need is:

Ketchup

Mustard

Balsamic vinegar

Coconut sugar

Sauce

Mix it in a bowl and set it aside until you’re ready to use it. And it’s also an excellent dipping sauce for those thick cut French fries.

The potatoes were the easiest part. Take 2 large potatoes and cut them into thick-cut fries. Add a about a teaspoon of olive oil along with your preferred seasoning and toss. Give it a really good toss so that each potato is covered. Pour onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and stick it in the oven for 20-30 minutes.

The steak came out pretty tasty. It was a little gummy at first but another 10 minutes in the oven and it was just about perfect. We don’t often do things like this, preferring a more plant based diet, but it was a fun change for a night or three.

And now, as promised, a current photo of me (okay, us) so you can see just how much a vegan diet has transformed both of us and our lives.

The photo on the left is about 4 months before I went vegan and the one on the right is April 2019!

How has going vegan changed your life? Photos welcome!

 

Totally Plant Based Mushroom Bourguignon!!

I have always been a big fan of mushroom. Stuff them with a bunch of savory flavors, grill’em up with onions and put them on a burger and I couldn’t be happier or add them to an Asian style soup and let me at it. But since adopting a plant based diet mushrooms and I have become close. Very close.

Why?

Mushrooms are thick and hearty, versatile and easy to cook. Plus they have this wonderful gift of taking on the flavors their cooked with so even a picky person like me doesn’t feel like I’ve had mushrooms for three days in a row. One of the things I really missed when we lived in Germany was the distinct lack of portobello mushrooms. When I did find them–that one time–I stocked up and when shroom crazy for a few days.

In Romania there has been no portobello sightings but there are plenty of crimini and oyster mushrooms and if you look very carefully you’ll find delicious chanterelle mushrooms which have become my second favorite over the past couple years. And since going vegan has in no way dimmed my love for all things French, today we have mushroom bourguignon!

I’ve made no secret of my love of wine, traveling or potatoes so this dish shouldn’t surprise you at all. And if you’ve ever tried the traditional version of this meal, you might think it’s more difficult than it is.

It’s not, trust me. Follow the instructions and use your judgment and you’ll be fine.

Oh and do your prep work ahead of time. You don’t want to be peeling and chopping once you need to get that wine down in the pan, unless you secretly moonlight as a TV chef.

Okay so the first thing  I did was clean and cut my mushrooms. I sliced the oyster mushrooms the long way so, when cooked, they have a texture similar to shredded “meat” and I chopped the crimini mushrooms so they were bigger to give the dish a bit more substance. I had to cook them in batches and you should too because mushrooms release a tremendous amount of liquid and you want to cook them until there’s a bit of crispiness around the edges.

I used olive oil and vegan butter to cook the mushrooms and I know it’s a big decadent and not as fatty as I would normally go but this is bourguignon and if you’re gonna do it, you must do it right-ish.

When the mushrooms are done, it took me about 15-20 minutes, set them aside and add another splash of oil and a pad of vegan butter into the pan and then add the shallots, carrots, celery and thyme sprigs and cook for 8 to 10 minutes. Toss in the garlic and I added chopped celery leaves because they are full of flavor and added a nice depth of flavor.

Now the hard parts are mostly done, I hope you’ve already peeled and chopped your potatoes because you’ll want everything finished at about the same time.

Once the garlic and celery leaves have cooked for a few minutes, it’s time to add tomato paste and red wine. I chose a local Romanian red wine, dry and full bodies, and it worked! Let the wine simmer until it reduces by about a third and then you can add the mushrooms and finish seasoning it to taste.

We paired this with the rest of the wine and of course, a neighbor contributed some cognac to the meal so we were all warm, toasty and totally full from a hearty meal with plenty of mashed potatoes. I would caution you to keep the mashed potatoes simple and let the bourguignon be the star of this show.

I should have let the carrots cook just a bit more, so make sure you give them enough time to cook before you add the wine. Luckily I don’t mind a few crunchy carrots in my food but it was a mistake on my part.

The wine made that mistake much easier to accept and it was the perfect buzz to help me get back to the writing cave!