Oil-Free Vegan Pesto – Recipe & Tips

When you think of pesto, you probably imagine the light green sauce we know as pesto alla Genovese, made with basil and pine nuts and usually some type of hard cheese. This is my go-to pesto recipe because the flavor of fresh basil is pretty incredible. When I talk vaguely about pesto, this is what I am referring to.

But, that isn’t the only way to make pesto. In fact, all you really need is the right leafy green and you can make pesto out of almost anything. I’ve used carrot greens, spinach, a mix of herbs, sundried tomatoes and now…ramsons!

Making pesto is pretty easy if you have a food processor but if you prefer the old school method that requires a mortar & pestle you’ll need a bit more muscle to get the job done. Either way will work, so pick your method and grab your ingredients.

Let’s start with basic ingredients for vegan pesto!

Vegan Basil Pesto Ingredients

Ingredients
Basil
Scallions (optional)
Lemon (juiced)
Garlic
Pine nuts (I like to lightly toast them)
Nutritional yeast (or vegan parmesan)
Water (if needed and added gradually)

That’s a super basic ingredient list, right? Pesto, for all its delicious flavors, isn’t a sauce that’s over-complicated and that’s certainly part of it’s charm. It’s so flavorful that a little bit goes a long way.

Tip: If you use more than a bunch or 2 of basil, give it a pulse or two on its own before adding the rest of the pesto ingredients. This is especially important if you choose to go oil-free because you won’t get that smooth chop that comes with adding 1/4 cup or more of olive oil to the pesto.

Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl of the food processor and start with a gentle pulse until the ingredients start to blend. If you’re having trouble, add a tablespoon of water and crank up the speed of the food processor until you get the desired consistency.

Tip: Add half the lemon juice up front and the rest as you need more liquid to break up those leafy greens, and then switch to water or you’ll end up with a SUPER lemony pesto.

Tip: Add nutritional yeast a little at a time, tasting as you go. If you use vegan parmesan, please let me know your tips because I have some Violife Parmesan arriving in the mail…any day now today!

If you make a big batch of pesto, I recommend adding a teaspoon of oil after two days to make the batch last longer. If you make enough for one or two days, feel free to keep the pesto oil-free.

My mother-in-law recently returned from the local Farmer’s Market with a huge bag of ramsons, also known as wild garlic or ramps (pictured below) and once I got a whiff of that yummy garlicky scent, I knew this would be perfect for pesto. The first batch, which I didn’t photograph, was super garlicky because I added about 20 grams of roasted garlic to the pesto. It was delicious but very, very garlicky.

Very.

For the second batch, I decided to go with a vegan Ramson Pesto alla Trapanese style vegan pesto which means leafy greens, nuts and fresh tomatoes. I had some heirloom kumatoes that I hoped would work.

Organic Kumato

My Ingredients:
Ramsons
Lemon (juiced & zested)
Walnuts
Kumato
Mustard
Nutritional yeast or Vegan Parm
Tabasco sauce (just a few drops)
Water

Break up the ramsons with a few pulses in the food processor and then add the remaining ingredients, starting with a slow pulse and then giving them a good go ’round until you have a nice pesto consistency.

If the leaves aren’t broken up enough, add water or lemon juice to keep it an oil-free pesto, but if you don’t mind some extra fat, add oil one teaspoon at a time.

Refrigerate and add to your favorite pasta dishes, sandwiches or whatever else you fancy. In fact, tell me in the comments section how you like to enjoy your pesto. My favorite thing to do besides enjoy it on a toasted baguette or crackers, is to add some veggiegurt to it for a creamy, flavorful salad dressing.

Quick and easy oil free vegan pesto!

Next time you make pesto of any kind, I’d love to see it so hit me up on Facebook or Instagram with photos!

Creamy Sweet Potato Polenta & Roasted Veggies

I just love it when we have our Midnight Tokyo Diner nights and my partner chooses something that stomps me…at first. Yeah, I’m not ashamed to admit that his request for sweet potato polenta threw me for a moment but after a few minutes of research, my confidence rose and I was like, “I got this.”

If you’ve never had sweet potato polenta before, I hope this recipe inspires you to add more than vegan butter and nutritional yeast to your next batch of polenta.

Before we begin, I’ll tell you right off the bat that this is a pretty cumbersome ingredient list, but that doesn’t mean that it is a complicated or difficult recipe. It just has several different components that are put together separately before they find their way to the same plate.

Vegan Corn & Potato Chowder

You know how sometimes you’re scrolling through Facebook and you see a vegan dish that calls to you? Well that’s what happened to me with this meal. There is no long story about why I love it or why I was craving it, just a simple case of I saw it. I wanted it. I made it.

Back in my non-vegan days, I couldn’t not stand chowder because I have never been a fan of milk or heavy cream, but after seeing a photo, I decided to give a shot. So, after a long walk on a very cold day in Romania, I whipped out my ingredients and tried my hand at vegan corn & potato chowder.

The ingredient list for this vegan chowder is pretty simple:

Couscous & Vegan Mince Stuffed Mushrooms

I love mushrooms. They are just…delicious.

You can use them as the ‘meat’ replacement if you’re just starting to transition to a vegan diet or lifestyle because they are sturdy and heavy and did I mention, delicious? You can grill them, fry’em, roast them in the oven or pop them in the air fryer. These suckers are very versatile, use them in your favorite mushroom vegan Buddha bowl.

I will put mushrooms in any vegan recipe I can from vegan risotto, to shredded barbecue oyster mushrooms on a bun and even vegan burgers.

I recently came across some of those giant mushrooms that are just perfect for a night of stuffed mushrooms, and then I found out that the new Romanian vegan food brand, Verdino, made a mince and I knew I had to try it out!

The hard part of any stuffed mushroom recipe is figuring out what to stuff it with. Do you load it up with veggies or look for a protein source? Since I already knew the Verdino mince was on the menu, it was time to fill up the giant brown and white mushroom caps.

I decided to keep this vegan dinner recipe simple with easy ingredients for both components of this dish. Inside the mushrooms are: couscous, shallots, sundried tomatoes, garlic, green bell pepper and vegan mince not meat.

Just saute the shallots, bell pepper and garlic, add in the mince last unless it’s really greasy, then add it first so you won’t need to add any additional oil, a perfect option if you want an oil-free diet option. Season and cook until brown and warmed through, set aside.

I recommend that you give it some time to cool down before you handle the mixture because you will end up using your hands.

Now, while this is all going on, you’ll have to make the couscous. Bring salted/seasoned water to a boil and add the couscous. Stir and remove from heat and, voila, couscous.

Annnnd, while you’re doing all that, you should get the mushrooms going in the oven unless you want them to get super water logged while stuffed. Bake them for about 15 to 20 minutes until they are still firm but starting to crisp around the edges.

Stuff the mushrooms with your vegan mince mixture and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes. Oh and as my Hubs suggested, add cheese on top if you want, but you don’t need them.

If you mis-measured the way I did, put the rest of the mix on the plate to make a ‘bed’ of stuffed mushroom goodness.

Since we know this isn’t a proper vegan dinner for any grownup vegan, what will you add with these stuffed mushrooms? You can go with fries because they DO go with just about everything. But I opted for carrot, garlic & ginger soup instead. Please be kind because the photo, well, it isn’t pretty.

It was a very satisfying vegan dinner recipe and it was pretty quick to put together. It was the perfect bistro night dinner, at least in my opinion.

As for the Verdino mince, it was delicious and not too oily. I added a few basic seasoning like salt, black pepper, garlic granules and smoky paprika and that was all it needed. If you find it, give it a shot, and tell me in the comments what’s your favorite brand of vegan mince not-meat?

Vegan Risotto alla Bolognese

Is there anything better on a cold November day than some thick and hearty carbs smothered in a creamy sauce that just makes you feel better about being stuck in the house and cold as hell?

Not on this particular November day, anyway.

This vegan dinner was a request from my husband a la Midnight Tokyo Diner and I decided to go fairly authentic with the vegan bolognese sauce, so let’s jump right in to this vegan risotto alla bolognese recipe!

To make things easy for me, I made the risotto and the bolognese separately and tossed them together over low heat at the end, but here is the full ingredient list:

I will tell you up front that this wasn’t the most calorie friendly vegan recipe, coming in at just over 600 calories per servings, but holy moly was it worth every minute of working out the day of and the next day!

If you know how to cook risotto or if you have a preferred method, warm up your vegan broth and get it going. If you’re not sure the best way to cook risotto, check out this long ago recipe of mine!

Now…onto the vegan bolognese!

I used a mixture of onions and shallots to cook the risotto and for the sauce, so to get the vegan bolognese started, add a splash of oil to the pot along with the chopped onions, shallot, bell pepper, carrot and celery. Cook until it starts to soften and add the vegan burger meat. This was another new vegan product find for me from a company I was unfamiliar with, Naturli, but the burgers weren’t too greasy and it was very tasty, blended in perfectly with this vegan dinner recipe.

Next add the garlic for 2 minutes, then the fresh tomatoes. Cook until tomatoes start to break down, it should take a few minutes while you stir regularly.

Add tomato paste and some broth and bring to a boil. Reduce to thicken.

When everything is ready, toss together over low heat. Normally I would add some nutritional yeast to the vegan red sauce but it was perfectly seasoned and didn’t need it. See how I patted myself on the back right there? Don’t be afraid to do that once in a while…it feels good.

Now comes the tough question: to add or not to add vegan cheese?

The choice is yours! I didn’t think it was necessary but if you have a vegan cheese you love, feel free to add it and PLEASE drop a link below with your vegan cheese recommendation.

Be sure to season the sauce every step of the way or you’ll end up with bland red sauce. And if you don’t have any fresh tomatoes, canned/jarred crushed tomatoes work well but they are a little sweeter so you’ll have to be more diligent about seasoning.

And there you have it, a delicious vegan risotto alla bolognese. If you try it out, feel free to leave photos in the comments section or share with me on Instagram or Facebook.

Picnic Style Vegan BBQ Buddha Bowl

With the weather turning cold and 2020 being the year that never ends, I was in the mood for something simple to remind me of those times when he weather was nice, when you could outside and have a picnic without worry, when you could just go…outside.

And I just got a new tablecloth and it’s so picnic-y that I just couldn’t resist!

And when you want something healthy with a splash of something less than healthy, vegan Buddha bowls are an excellent choice. Just remember to add: protein, carbs and loads of veggies.

It looks really good, I know, but this is also a very calorie friendly vegan meal, and if you need to cut a little more, I recommend cutting the corn on the cob in half.

The tofu was seasoned and popped into the air fryer for about 10 minutes giving it a crisp & crunchy taste that was perfect with the rice and broccoli.

The corn was par boiled in salted water and then seasoned before it went into the oven for about 15 minutes and I kid you not, it tasted like street food corn, minus the loads and loads and loads of butter.

The broccoli received the same treatment as the corn, only less time in the oven and it was delicious, but I am also a huge fan of broccoli so…yeah.

The best thing about a meal like this is you can easily turn it Mediterranean by switching up the spices, maybe rubbing pesto onto the corn. Add ginger and garlic and garam masala for an Indian taste. Or whatever flavor profile you want because herbs & spices are what makes food taste GOOD.

The point is that you can do what you like because it’s your kitchen and your body, and anything that makes it easier to make healthy vegan meals is what we should all be doing.

What’s your go to meal when you need to change your mood?

Easy Vegan Lunch Ideas – Spicy Buffalo Tofu Sandwich & Salad

Sandwiches are one of my favorite foods in all the world. I’m like Joey when it comes to sandwiches, just give me some good bread, tons of veggies, some good sauce like pesto or hummus or dill-veggiegurt and I am a happy camper! And when you find bread that is delicious and low calorie, well it’s like sandwiches are calling my name.

So when my mother in law brought over a bag filled with little ciabatta rolls just 60 grams per roll, I was ECSTATIC! Like Joey-level excited and I knew exactly what I wanted. Spicy TVP, cooked in the air fryer and tossed in a blend of spices & hot sauce.

Spicy Vegan Buffalo Tofu Sandwich

This recipe is pretty easy as far as vegan lunch recipes go.

Ingredients:
2 Ciabatta Rolls
70 grams TVP ~ I use inedit but use whatever you like
1 Garlic clove (pressed/minced)
Franks Red Hot (which is accidentally vegan!)
1 tbsp. Vegan ketchup
5 grams Olive oil
5 grams Cider vinegar
Sriracha
50 grams Veggigurt
Scallion & Dill
Salad fixings

Rehydrate the TVP in water or broth and let it rest to get as much liquid out as possible. When you’re ready, toss it in a variety of seasonings & spices such as: smoky paprika, turmeric, piri piri, garlic, cumin & white pepper…don’t forget the oil.

Pop the vegan buffalo strips in the air fryer for 10 to 15 minutes. I ended p going closer to 15 minutes because I use the big chunks and cut them in half before seasoning them. When the spicy tofu is done, toss it in a mixture of hot sauce, vinegar (optional), and vegan butter (also optional).

I used: Sriracha, ketchup, pressed garlic, hot sauce & cider vinegar (just enough to think out the mixture).

For the sauce, mix veggiegurt, dill, lemon juice and thinly sliced scallions. Season with salt & pepper and add to bread.

Then whip up your salad and dress it with a quick vegan vinaigrette (mustard, vinegar, herbs & spices), and your easy vegan lunch recipe is ready to go. If you do your prep work, this is a quick and easy vegan lunch for two but if you’re cooking for more, just double the recipe as needed.

Wondering what that drink is above? Just a little bit of Jameson Caskmates Stout Edition & Bundaberg sarsaparilla, also known as a Lynchburg Beer or, since I used Jameson, Dublin Beer!

My Attempt at Vegan Okonomiyaki

I’m ba-aack! Did you miss me?

Work had gotten a little out of control and I needed to focus so I decided to take a few days away from posting but now I’m back and ready to share with you my version of a healthy-ish vegan okonomiyaki, which is a Japanese vegetable pancake.

I will tell you right off the bat that this recipe seems a lot more daunting than it actually is. Don’t let the long, but not complicated, ingredients list scare you away. To veganize his recipe takes just as much time as the original version, which means the prep work is where most of your time will be taken up, so if you’re willing to put in the effort, let’s do this!

I’ll tell you right up front that presentation is (still) not my strong suit but this vegan pancake did come out delicious and cooked properly, even if she isn’t the prettiest girl on the dance floor.

Let’s start with the ingredients. I’m feeling a little lazy so I just copy and pasted the ingredients list I posted in Cronometer, which works out well because now you’ll have exact measurements too.

This ingredients list includes EVERYTHING you see in the first image, so it includes the Asian slaw and the Korean style tofu, because I like to mix and match my food, my clothes, my languages and my fashion. Oh, and my music!

The first step is grating potatoes, cabbage and scallions for the batter and put them in a bowl. Add flour and water, just enough water to make it smushy, which I know is super vague but I realized as I was writing this hat I didn’t include water in the ingredients. The batter is going to seem wrong, like it’s not nearly enough to produce a pancake, which was exactly what I thought. But I listened to those who know better than I do, if you don’t include all the substitutions, that is. Mix it well and refrigerate it for 10 to 30 minutes. I think this step helped everything come together, so please don’t skip it.

Oil a skillet and pour enough for one large pancake, use a wooden spoon to create a nice little pancake shape and cook 4 to 5 minutes on each side. This type of pancake should be very vegetable-y, so don’t be discouraged that this isn’t anything like your fluffy breakfast pancakes…it’s not supposed to be!

Looking at that one little vegan Japanese pancake seems sad, right? Yeah, I thought so too which is why I rounded out the meal with two little side dishes. One was a cabbage, carrot & scallion slaw mixed with veggiegurt, Sriracha and plenty of herbs & spices. The other was a small bit of TVP mixed with some Asian pastes & sauces to create a full on vegan meal…Asian style.

The sauce you see on top of the vegan okonomiyaki, is the leftover veggiegurt mixture because, who doesn’t love a little sauce with dinner?

This is a great vegan meal for when you want to impress someone, but like someone who already likes you a lot and will feel really special that you went through all this trouble for them. On top of that, it was very tasty and worth the time and effort because now I can say, “Yeah I totally know how to cook vegan okonomiyaki.”

So concludes another Midnight Tokyo Diner meal in our household. If you try this, please oh please send photos here to the blog or on Facebook or Instagram if you’re feeling frisky!

Thanks for stopping by and enjoying another vegan meal with me!

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 béchamel 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!

Vegan Chanterelle Mushrooms & Black Rice Bowl

I don’t know how you guys feel about mushrooms but they are one of my all time favorite things to eat, even more so after adopting a vegan lifestyle. There are so many ways to cook, flavor and enjoy mushrooms that it’s almost impossible to get bored or tired of them. Check out my Beyond Stuffed Mushrooms! And if you’re lucky and happen upon a package of King Oyster or Enoki mushrooms, consider yourself lucky. In my (current) neck of Romania, those are what I consider a TREASURE find because they are so hard to come by.

But when I find myself staring at Chanterelle mushrooms in the mushrooms section, well my vegan heart does a little pitter-patter because I know that I’m gonna go a little bit crazy. These suckers are so flavorful and versatile that I actually can’t get enough of them and my only real problem is figuring out how to make them the star of the dish. Okay, that felt kind of like a Chopped intro, didn’t it?

Now, I don’t want to get your hopes up because there is one downside to chanterelle mushrooms and it is that they are a monster to clean. It takes forever. Literally.

At least it used to. But a few moments of internet sleuthing and I came upon a website that was the MOST helpful in finding a more streamlined way to clean them. All you’ll need is a bowl of water and a kitchen towel or paper towel, but be prepared to change that water a few times because these are very dirty mushrooms.

That sounded kinda dirty, didn’t it?

Three hundred years later and the mushrooms are clean…now we can cook!

This was another easy vegan meal, at least if you don’t count the time spent cleaning, with a simple ingredient list mostly made up of pantry staples.

You’ll need: smoked tofu, mushrooms, bell pepper, corn, onion and rice, plus herbs & spices.

I thought about using the air fryer for these but they have so much water I was worried how it would work, so I opted for my trusty mushroom pan which is the opposite of a non-stick pan. So…a stick pan? Just kidding, a good stainless steel pan is your BFF when it comes to cooking mushrooms. Either way, cook them in a pan without oil, stirring often until a lot of that water has rendered and cooked itself out. Then you can add some fat if you want and start sauteing them until brown and slightly crispy.

When the mushrooms start cooking without rendering any more water, I added the smoked tofu because I also like to have the brown parts a little crispy. When those two are close to done, I added the onion and bell pepper while I cut the corn from one fresh cob. While all that is happening, the black rice is cooking for about 20 minutes in my waste free broth.

See how brown and crispy the mushrooms are? In my opinion that gives them an excellent depth of flavor that means you don’t need to go crazy with herbs and spices, just enough to make the ingredients shine.

This is the brand of black rice I normally use but sometimes the “bio” section will have one type of organic black rice that I also love. But use what you can find and what’s right for your budget. And if you’re worried about the color, don’t be. This rice is rich in antioxidants and fiber, plus it gives a simple vegan dish a very fancy air about it, don’t you think?

With a little bit of planning and prep work, this meal can be on the table in about 30 minutes, 45 if you include the mushroom washing time but in my opinion it is totally worth it because one does not happen upon Chanterelle mushrooms regularly.

Not to mention, this is the perfect calorie friendly vegan meal to pair with an ice cold beer plus a tall glass of water!

What’s your favorite mushroom dish?