Easy Vegan Cherry Crumble

I hope everyone is doing well, wherever you are in the world. Stay indoors and stay safe.

Most of all, while you’re stuck inside don’t be afraid to spend some time in the kitchen like I’ve been doing. Okay, sure I tend to spend some of my rare free time in the kitchen and this time it was for a sweet vegan treat.

The truth is that I make desserts more than I post them because my husband has a wicked sweet tooth and it lets me practice playing with the proportions to reduce sugar and fat without changing the consistency. Anyway the problem with my vegan desserts is that they don’t photograph well. They taste good, at least according to him, but they rarely look good on camera.

Today my cherry crumble has broken the mold. Badump-ump?

No?

Okay, on to the vegan cherry crumble recipe, then.

The ingredients are pretty simple:

Frozen Morello cherries

Brown Sugar

Corn starch

Oats

Cinnamon

Puffed Millet

Petit Beurre biscuits (accidentally vegan!)

Lemon (peel & juice)

Coconut oil (or whatever you’ve got on hand)

Toss the cherries with a tablespoon or two of brown sugar, lemon juice & corn starch. Set aside.

Mix the oats, millet, cinnamon and biscuits with a tablespoon of sugar and vegan butter of your choice. I used Becel because that’s what the market has.

Mix it all together with your hands, slowly adding the butter until you get a crumbly mixture.

Place the cherries in the bottom of a pre-oiled baking dish and sprinkle the crumble mixture evenly on top. Bake 35-45 minutes until it is golden brown and crispy on top and bubbly underneath.

Let it cool slightly and then dig in!

What desserts are you making while you’re inside all day?

Fast, Easy & Low Calorie: Vegan Energy Ballz

When I went vegan a few years ago, my goal was simple: eat what I want and still lose weight. Protecting the environment was a close second and then there was the health and welfare of the animals. Now, as a fully realized vegan, those are all part of my goals but my focus has shifted a bit more. Now I’m also concerned with improving my health instead of just losing weight, which is going spectacularly by the way.

One of my tasks has been to find low calorie and healthier ways to enjoy things like snacks and desserts. My “thing” is potato chips, specifically salt & vinegar but traveling makes them difficult to come by for a variety of reasons. First is that even here in Romania there is ONE brand of salt & vinegar potato chips but they are Pringles, which for some odd reason contains MILK POWDER. So it’s a no go and after months of testing out all the other chip flavors, I’m dissatisfied and off chips until I find my brand again.

But I have discovered something else…energy balls!

I first came across these little treats while watching a video from Those Annoying Vegans. I’ve since taken their recipe/tips and ran with it!

As you can see, the first batch wasn’t very pretty but they were pretty tasty and best of all, they are super easy to make!

What you’ll need is dried fruit and nuts, plus any other additional flavors you might want to add.

This is my apricot, date and puffed millet energy ball.

Making these balls is really easy. Simply measure out your ingredients, pretty evenly, and dump everything into the food processor. let it run until the chunks are small enough to gather and roll into bite-size balls. Add lemon juice a teaspoon at a time until it’s tacky enough to mold into balls and voila…energy balls!

This was my second batch of energy balls. On the left is dates, cranberries, candied ginger, pecans and golden raisins. When they were in perfect circles, I rolled them through coconut flakes. These were my absolute favorite of the first 2 batches I made. Beside them are cranberries and raisins with cashews and lemon juice.

Apricot, pecan & cocoa powder energy balls! (116 calories per ball)

vegan fruit nut balls

Batch three was the most successful and tasty by far! This is cranberry, date, pistachio and coconut flakes with a hint of lime juice. If you want to make them easier to manage, chop the pieces before tossing them into the food processor but I don’t think its necessary. Also, just 67 calories per ball!

papaya macadamia nut vegan balls

These were ridiculously delicious and I recommend that you use extreme moderation because though they are low in calories (about 69 calories per ball), they are still sweet as hell and likely to put your dentist’s kids through college.

This was the most recent batch of energy balls and I used some dried papaya, golden raisins and macadamia nuts. It was buttery and creamy and tangy and sweet and delicious!

Lay them out on parchment paper to keep them from sticking together and then keep refrigerated if you like. I keep them at room temperature because I make small batches that don’t last long! Use them for road trips, midday snacks or even dessert.

The Lazy Vegan’s Guide to Mealtime

It’s been almost two years since my husband and I adopted a plant based diet and aside from concern over my protein intake, the most common question I get asked is, “But what do you eat?”

I usually answer with sarcasm, something along the lines of grass and twigs because, let’s face it, that’s what people expect to hear whether or not it’s true. The truth is that I love to cook and would consider myself something of a foodie but that’s only if and when time permits. As a full-time writer and part-time author, my schedule is pretty packed most days. But a girl’s gotta eat, right?

So when we’re not whipping up fancy vegan feasts or rustic weeknight meals, we take the Keep It Simple, Stupid school of thought.

Step One: Grab some veggies

Depending on where in the world you live, you might find you can’t get all the produce all year long, which means you have to improvise. Don’t be afraid to spend some time in the produce aisle and see what’s on offer and what’s in season, more importantly, what’s not in season. You’ll notice that some fruits and vegetables may be available all year long they don’t always taste how they should.

If you’re not much of a cook, think about easy meals like stir-fry, vegetable medley, curry or a plain old casserole dish.

Step Two: Pick a grain.

This is my favorite part because the grains are where I’ll decide what this dish will be. Reach for bulgur or couscous and give your meal a Middle Eastern or Mediterranean flair, add rice to make it whatever you want, or my personal favorite, add a serving of your favorite Asian style noodle.

You don’t have to stick with any hard and fast rules here, just go with whatever flavors you feel like grabbing from your spice rack.

If you’re feeling really crazy, grab some tortilla shells and turn that veggie-tofu mix into tacos, burritos, nachos or fajitas.

Step three: Get your spices in order.

I firmly believe that the key to good, healthy vegan eating is variety. Eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, beans and legumes, sure. But also variety in your spice cabinet, because this is how you’ll keep your taste buds excited about meal time.

You’ll want the basics like salt and whole black pepper, herbs like dill, thyme, oregano, basil and marjoram if you’re not ready for fresh herbs, but as you become more comfortable in the kitchen pick up more spices and herbs like cumin, cayenne pepper, curry, turmeric, garlic granules, all spice, smoky paprika and whatever else strikes your fancy.

Change up your spices and you’ll never be bored at mealtime.

Step four: Enjoy

Despite what you think or what you may have heard, being vegan doesn’t require you to spend hours in the kitchen. In fact, I would argue that it’s easier because there’s no animal protein you have to cook but we can debate that later.

This is my go-to method for creating quick and easy meals. It’s a fantastic way to eat healthy without ordering fast food or paying to eat out at restaurants on a regular basis.

Veggie taco.

Sticky orange cauliflower & rice

Just add rice & Sriracha and you’re good to go!

Are Farmers Markets Really Cost Effective?

Let me start this blog post by saying that there was a time–nearly a decade ago, mind you–that I was one of those people who believed farmers markets were a racket. I thought the vegetables were overpriced and kind of damaged and mostly I went for the specialty items like corn jelly. I lived in Los Angeles at the time and despite our year round good weather that was perfect for year round agriculture, produce was expensive. And at the farmers market it was even more expensive. Somehow.

I couldn’t figure it out because it made no sense. But I still frequented these markets because, well because in Santa Monica and Beverly Hills there were some really great specialty items and I just couldn’t resist. But I shied away from the produce unless there were items that were hard to come by like romanesco or purple potatoes. But…holy cow they were expensive.

In hindsight though, it was a better bang for my nutritional buck compared to things like beef, pork, chicken, cheese. You get my drift.

In Germany you couldn’t really beat those little side of the road booths where you could buy a five pound squash–perfect for soups, breads, cakes & cookies–for like 2 euros and just shove the money into a little wooden lockbox. The same was true of asparagus, cabbage and strawberries. Oh, the strawberries in Germany were succulent. Delicious. I’ll always associate strawberries with Germany. Not sausages. Not beer, okay beer a little. But, strawberries.

Now, of course, I see things a little differently mostly from experience. Our grocery bills since we went vegan have simply gone down and that’s even when you factor in our maturing alcohol appreciation. Even when we splurge on too many vegan burgers and falafel balls and salt & vinegar chips, the bill is is still lower and that’s even with the currency exchange from LEU or EUR to USD.

The market that’s closest to our apartment is BIG.

We went in for a few basics like scallions, parsley, dill and other fresh herbs for salad dressing. And peppers. We came out with that plus a few giant shallots, a big ass squash, green tomatoes, carrots, parsnips and sweet potatoes. I know, ridiculous.

But the cost of all of it was less than $10 USD. It was just enough to make a few meals for 3, maybe 4 days but it was more than worth it.

And you want to talk about specialty items? There’s this eggplant dish called zacuscă that I do not eat because eggplant is one of those vegetables that I just really don’t like. I recently tasted a vineti which is another eggplant dish that I didn’t hate so…progress. Anyway, back to zacuscă. Everyone’s is different. My mother in law makes it one way and her niece makes it the same but with something extra. At the market you would find different jars of zacuscă and each seller would happily tell you what made theirs more special than the booth ahead or the previous booth. The same is true of ketchup which is not what us Americans would recognize as ketchup but pretty darn good. It’s fresh ingredients, slightly pickled and they go great with plenty of the same dishes where ketchup is appropriate but it has a bit more liquid rather than sauce so it’s not as ideal for dipping.

There were marinated mushrooms which I passed on, plenty of fresh walnuts too which go great with vegan brownies, by the way. Everyone had jam or jelly in nearly every fruit from apricot and quince to sour cherry, apple and those little catina (also known as sea buckhorn which I did not know) berries too. It’s a little too sweet for my taste but the hubs will spread vegan butter on a slice of bread with preserves and call it dessert.

catina berries for preserves
Catina, used in preserves and sometimes liqueurs!

There was plenty of cabbage which was no surprise because everyone loves sarmale. A little bit of everything and you know what I really loved? The fact that so many root vegetables came with their green tops! I didn’t see turnips but I’m keeping my fingers crossed because even though both of my grannies would kill me, I can make turnips and their greens taste like collard greens and potatoes. As soon as I find them, I’ll share it with you.

Also I loved bulk potatoes. I’m a potato snob, I admit it. When I know that I’m making fries for example I know what potatoes I want compared to mashed potatoes or shredded hashbrowns. And when I need to peel the skin I really can’t stand a tiny or misshapen potato which I love when it’s time for potato wedges.

It was a good trip to the market and now I’m itching to go back to get more pumpkin or squash because autumn weather has officially arrived and even now as I look out the window at gold and red leaves barely hanging on to branches, I have a hankering for butternut squash soup, multi-grain bread and sweet potato pie.

Now I just have to find the time to cook it all and remember to photograph it.

Banana Blueberry Oatmeal Squares ~ A Plant Based Sweet Treat!

One of the things you should know about me is that I’m not that big into sweets. Once in a while I’ll make a pan of chocolate-y brownies to satisfy a craving for something sweet, but mostly I make them for the hubs. He has a sweet tooth the size of Alaska and he isn’t ashamed of it, so you can imagine that when we gave up animal products, there was an adjustment period.

Let’s just say that those early days helped break me of my sugar addiction, if I had one in the first place. Applesauce is not my friend. Sure it has its benefits, especially if you want to enjoy baking without the help of eggs, but for me it just made the cakes too dense and they were no good at all for cookies. Then I tried those strange combinations but many of those ingredients weren’t easy to find.

Until Arche VegEgg. A nice little egg substitute that works beautifully in cakes, breads and cookies. But if you can’t find that in your neck of the woods, there are plenty of options for you non-dairy pastry lovers!

There is no big story with this dish, honestly. I was in the mood for a rare sweet treat and there was nothing but a couple mandarin oranges and and a pineapple my hubs had reserved for a delicious cauliflower dish that I’ll be sure to tell you about later. The blueberries I used were frozen because this time of year in Germany, they are less than desirable but they were delicious.

What I used:

Bananas, mashed

Brandy (to mash with the bananas)

Plant butter

Brown sugar

Whole wheat flour

Oatmeal

Blueberries

VegEgg

Pecans

Vanilla extract

Almond milk (plus some for drinking!)

Making the squares is easy, just mix the butter and sugar, add the eggs and then the bananas before adding the extract. Mix the dry ingredients and slowly add them to the wet mixture until combined. Don’t worry if it’s lumpy, that just means it’ll be nice and moist when it’s all done.

vegan banana blueberry bread

I used a 9×13 pan but if you want thicker squares, use a smaller pan or readjust the recipe.

The almond milk–with no sugar added, thank you very much–was mostly for the photo but since the hubs has a much steadier hand, he was tasked with taking the photos and thus, chugging the milk when it was done. I like the almond milk for cooking and sometimes for coffee, but before I switched to a plant based diet, I absolutely loathed milk. I haven’t had cow’s milk since I was 7 or 8 years old thanks to an incident where the milk tasted/smelled spoiled. Ever since then, that’s how all milk tastes/smells to me. And unfortunately that has mostly carried over to being vegan.

Luckily I get my calcium from many other sources so I won’t get into the calcium absorption rates of cow’s milk but I will tell you that dry beans and dark leafy greens are a great non-dairy source, and if you suspect you’re not getting enough of it, add a supplement to help!

vegan banana blueberry oatmeal squares

Here’s a tip when cooking with blueberries: toss them in flour or cornstarch to prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the dish during baking.

Very Berry Shortcake

I recently had a bad craving for strawberry shortcake, probably because it is strawberry season here and about every few kilometers you can find a stand selling them. The air is filled with the almost sickeningly sweet scent of strawberries and I just had to have them.

So I bought some with the plan to make a shortcake soon.