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?

Sometimes You Just Want A Vegan Welsh Rarebit Pasta Bake

Hey guys! Hope you don’t mind a Tuesday post, but I spent all weekend in my writing cave and suddenly Monday rolled up and there I was, with no post ready to go. So after spending the morning grocery shopping, here we are, ready to talk two of my favorite things: vegan food and pasta.

Pasta gets a bad rap from plenty of people but you will NEVER hear me say a bad word to the almighty carb. It is a necessary fuel for all of us, plus pasta is truly one of the best things in the world, at least according to this vegan. If you don’t ‘do’ pasta then this isn’t a dish you’ll enjoy, but it was a delicious, fun and indulgent meal that kind of reminded us both of childhood, except you know, vegan.

When it comes to a good pasta bake, I think you only need a few things: pasta, something cheesy and a good dose of aromatics.

Of course, that’s all up to you but here is one of my versions of a cheesy #vegan pasta bake!

Choose your favorite pasta first. I opted for a whole wheat rotini because I think whole wheat pasta adds a flavor and texture that you just don’t get with refined (white) pasta.

Next you have to decide what you want to put in the “sauce”. I like to make the sauce as one big entity but you can make a simple tomato sauce and add whatever variety of vegetables you choose. I opted for onion, bell pepper, garlic and kidney beans because, why not?

Saute the onions, garlic and bell pepper in as little oil as you need to make it how you like it, or you can add a water-soy sauce blend to cook them up. I try to keep my oil/fat to a minimum but sometimes you just want that nice char or carmelization that comes with using oil. Once the veggies are where you want them to be, it’s time to talk tomatoes.

Fresh or canned, that is the question, isn’t it?

For me, yes, that is absolutely the question. Some days I feel all creative and chef-y and I will chop up fresh tomatoes and reduce the hell out of it until I have a thick and chunky tomato sauce worthy of a pasta bake. Other days, I don’t have the energy and I’ll use canned stewed tomatoes that I first, squish with my fingers and reduce it until its palatable. BUT let’s be honest, when you choose canned tomatoes you have to add A LOT of seasoning to get rid of that super sweet taste that is kind of off-putting when it comes to red pasta sauce. Ultimately, the choice is yours, but try them both and see which you find tastier and more time effective.

If you choose beans as your protein, I recommend adding them after the sauce has reduced because you still have to pop this in the oven and cook for another 15 to 20 minutes and you don’t want mushy beans. At least I don’t want mushy beans.

Now the most time-consuming part of this vegan pasta bake is the “cheese” sauce. Since I have a well documented love hate relationship with vegan cheese, I opted for a béchamel style sauce, using unsweetened almond milk, flour, olive oil and nutritional yeast, not to mention salt, pepper, smoky paprika, turmeric, basil and oregano.

Add the oil and flour, stir until blended and kind of meal-y, then slowly add the almond milk. If you want to be creative, and who doesn’t, add some spicy mustard, hot sauce and soy sauce for a Welsh Rarebit style cheesy pasta bake, then add the milk. Slowly still, adding nutritional yeast as needed. I usually start with about 15 grams of nutritional yeast and work my way up from there after tasting it. Always, always taste it as you go. I used about 250-300 ml of almond milk total, adding it slowly, but depending on the size of your vegan pasta bake, you might need more or less than that.

Once everything is done, stir the pasta and veggie red sauce together and place in an oven safe baking dish. THEN it’s time to pour the cheesy vegan cheese-less sauce over the top.

Bake at 200°C/400°F for 20 to 30 minutes. If you want to get a bit of a crisp on top, use the broiler or if you have an electric oven, add the top heat and crank it up for an additional 5 minutes.

Cool for 5 to 10 minutes and then…get your grub on!

Poftă Bună!!!!

Jamaican Inspired Vegan Navy Bean & Lentil Stew

I know what you’re thinking…it’s way too hot for stew. Right?

Don’t worry, I also agree. In fact I’d go even further, saying that I have a bit of a compulsion about foods and beverages being the “proper” temperature but we’re only here to talk about why I’m making any kind of stew in the middle of summer, never mind one that’s also spicy.

The easy answer is, the world as we know it.

Usually for lunch I make a salad. Sometimes it might be your garden variety salad, complete with lettuce, tomatoes, scallions and cucumbers, while other days I might toss in some proteins & grains, such as smoked tofu and bulgur, soy pieces and couscous, or my personal favorite a burrito or taco bowl, complete with hundreds of grams of lettuce and rice. When you’re vegan and far from home, that’s how you get Chipotle wherever you are in the world! But I digress. The point is that the state of the world means the markets don’t always have everything I need when I need it, so I improvise instead of making unnecessary trips to multiple stores.

Good enough? I hope so!

Now, back to the stew.

If you’re not into eating soup when it’s hot, and normally I’m not, you can eat this at room temperature or be a weirdo and eat it as gazpacho. I told you I had strong feelings about food/drink temps!

The ingredient list here is pretty simple: ginger, garlic, onion, navy beans, yellow lentils, green bell pepper, chives for garnish and no waste broth!

But you can go crazy with herbs and spices. Since I was going for a Jamaican inspired flavor profile, I used ground scotch bonnet pepper, jerk spice and baharat (a middle eastern spice blend) because I think it adds a delicious flavor that’s pretty unique. Feel free to use whatever spices you have on hand, but don’t be afraid to grab those cheap-o spice packets at the market to see what you like!

In addition to being healthy, vegan and delicious, this Jamaican stew is also a one pot meal!

That’s right, add the oil and chopped veggies (including ginger) to a stock pot and saute until slightly tender. Season as you go and when things are starting to look good, add the lentils and broth. Cook until the lentils are tender which may vary by stove and lentil brand/color/type. Then add in the navy beans. Rinse well with cold water if you use canned beans.

Top with chives or scallions if you want a garnish, otherwise enjoy it as it is.

Or, take that bread that might make it another day or two, mix up a spice blend with some oil or vegan butter, bake it and cut into dipping sticks!

Bread is totally optional, of course, and not really necessary. But when you weigh everything out, you can decide if you have calorie room for something that I love like…bread.

What’s your favorite stew? Share the recipe below and maybe I’ll give it a shot!

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 find 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. 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 200°C/400°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?

 

Lazy Vegan Mashed Potato Buddha Bowl

Even though we are vegans with good health, good skin and our food is our fuel, we are still only humans which means we don’t always feel like doing the things we should. Like making healthy food choices, working out (a biggie for me) or making magic in the kitchen.

But, we’re adults and it has to be done. That’s why we get to buy the good booze!

When I’m feeling lazy but still in the mood for something that tastes good but doesn’t take all damn night, I go to my recent favorite: Buddha bowl.

The trick here is to, well it’s to be tricky. Hack your life, so to speak.

Be a lazy vegan by organizing and you’ll never look back.

How do you take all of this food and cook it simply? Easy…you just do it!

First, decide how you want to season everything. If you want it all to have the exact same flavors, clean, chop and measure everything and toss it on a big ol’ baking sheet, season and pop in the oven. That’s the easiest, laziest way to enjoy a delicious vegan dinner.

If you choose to change up the seasoning like I did, just do it separately. Season each element separately and then line them uniformly on a baking sheet like the photo below.

Pick whatever vegetables you want and bake them until crisp around the edges and soft in the center. The soya chunks got nice and crispy without sacrificing moisture.

The mashed potatoes were made on top of the stove. Boil until tender and season how you want. Since I roasted garlic, I just stirred most of it into the potatoes and used the rest as edible decorations!

To finish it off, I added a spicy veggiegurt sauce that it didn’t really need but it was a nice touch since the soya was just a little bit spicy.

Next time you start eyeing takeout menus, remember that as long as you have a few veggies and some grains, a vegan Buddha bowl is just thirty minutes away.

Waste Free Slow Cooker Vegan Broth

One of the things that is a constant struggle for me in the kitchen, is minimizing my waste. I use cloth towels more often than paper towels, I try to re-use any containers that I can and when I can buy in bulk instead of using more plastic, I will.

But the nuts & bolts of food waste is a place where I often fall short and to be honest, I don’t have a very good reason for it.

In fact, the only real reason is laziness.

But recently, that all changed and today I’m showing you my super easy, if you’re willing to spend a little bit of time each day, vegan slower cooker broth.

When I say this is easy, I’m not blowing smoke. I swear.

Preheat your slow cooker and get ready.

Step 1: Collect your food refuse from each meal you cook. Onion tips, mushroom steps, the root of celery or fennel, pretty much anything as you can see. Store it in an airtight container in the freezer until you have enough to get a broth/stock going.

Step 2: Add herbs, spices and seasonings of your choices. This is where you can get really creative, using peppercorns, cinnamon, anise, coriander or mustard seeds, plus your favorite spices. And don’t forget the water, I used filtered water just to be safe.

Step 3: Cook for 4 to 6 hours or until you get the flavor you’re looking for.

Let the broth cool and then drain it into airtight containers to store in the fridge.

I wish I could tell you how long it’ll keep in the fridge but the truth is we don’t keep it long enough to find out. It’s great for a quick vegan ramen soup, use it to make grains like couscous and rice or sauces & gravy recipes.

You’ve already bought the vegetables, why not get the most out of them and leave that too salty vegetable broth on the shelf?

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?

Roasted Tomato & Vegan Ricotta Sandwich

I may or may not have shared with you my slight obsession with the TV show Dawson’s Creek. I don’t talk about it much here but if you’ve ever visited my Facebook or Author page, you’ll have seen it. Well I now have an extension to this obsession, which I realize may be too strong a word but if you knew how much I loved Pacey Witter then you’d understand how much Bon Appetit chef Brad Leone reminds me of a grownup Pacey Witter.

Why does any of that matter?

Because I had this conversation recently with a reader and then Brad did this delicious looking roasted tomato and ricotta sandwich which, for obvious reasons, I couldn’t recreate on its own.

So I thought it was a perfect time to share this recipe…and give another shout out to Dawson’s Creek.

So the key to this recipe is the tomatoes. I used vine tomatoes because they looked really good and because I found some really incredible organic rosemary and…well look at it. This is the easy but time-consuming part. Add a bit of oil to the skillet (yes, I know about my oilless stance but I needed to compromise here so I did) and drop the tomatoes and rosemary in as they are. You’ll have to cook them for quite a while, until they start to brown/char a little and maybe even explode.

See the difference? Just cook them until they reach a point you feel they’re tender enough to eat.

While the tomatoes did their thing, I added some garlic and half a yellow chili pepper because they are an important part of the vegan ricotta I tried to make.

So Brad’s original recipe used regular old animal ricotta so I knew I needed to replace it. Somehow. The Google Machine gave me tons of vegan ricotta recipes that used cashews. I LOVE cashews. I’d probably rank them as my second favorite nut behind pecans, but the truth is that I’m still trying to reach my weight loss goals and I just couldn’t do cashew ricotta.

So I got a little creative. Tofu in salty brine water (I used Inedit brand) mixed with vegan cream cheese (Simply V brand). Give them, along with the garlic, lemon juice and chili pepper, a quick run in the food processor until smooth. You might have to add a bit of almond milk or whatever non-dairy milk you prefer. I used roasted unsweetened almond milk so it wouldn’t change the flavor too much.

It didn’t photograph all that well but it was very delicious. I mixed it in a food processor until I got a consistency that satisfied me and that was slightly grainy and smooth.

It’s pretty easy even if it does take more time than a simple vegan sandwich should. It was tasty and well worth the effort, besides I got to share it with you!

Tip: If you need more flavor for the ricotta, add nutritional yeast or vegan Parmesan.

A slightly closer look so you can see all the herbs and green bits added to the ricotta.

And now…the sandwich!

I smashed the tomatoes a little and poured some balsamic vinegar on top and that was it.

Smear the ricotta on your favorite crispy, toasted bread and top with the tomato mix.

All that’s left is to enjoy it…with an ice cold beer, since we’re all still stuck inside and day drinking is totally appropriate.

Colorful Vegan Buddha Bowl

Sometimes you just want a Buddha bowl. At least I do.

And when I want a Buddha bowl, I can go a little crazy with piling veggies onto the plate. I make no apologies.

The key to making a proper bowl is prep work. And an awesome spice rack.

The first step is to pull out all the ingredients you’ll need so you have some semblance of organization as you move forward. I wanted distinct flavors that blended well so I started with the ingredients with the longest cook times; sweet potatoes, cauliflower and carrots. Toss them with oil or vegan yogurt and seasoning and toss them into a pre-heated oven.

We have lots of colorful veggies with the carrots and sweet potatoes but we can’t forget the most important color: dark leafy greens.

Okay, maybe Bok Choy isn’t all that dark green but it is packed with nutrients and it is super delicious. Saute with leeks, ginger and garlic, a flavor profile that will combine with just about any cuisine style you choose. And then, if you must have grains…have your grains! I added about 60 grams of bulgur to this recipe because I always feel better with some grains on my plate.

Sauces are mandatory and I don’t always make one when I make a Buddha bowl but the carrots came with really amazing greens and there was basil and mint in the fridge, so I added lemon and capers and vegan yogurt for a refreshing sauce that allowed me to add a bit more spice to the different vegetables in the bowl.

Toss it all into the food processor and let’em rip. It’s worth the extra step, I swear!

Don’t make the same mistake I did and ignore the timers or you’ll end up with slightly charred bits of vegetables. It was still tasty but I’d rather not eat charcoal, if you know what I’m saying.

Buddha bowls can take time but I promise that prep work will be your best friend at the end of the day. And you don’t have to add quite so many vegetables as I did, but ever since I started using Chronometer, I’m obsessed with hacking my diet to get a greater variety of nutrients to each plate. The best part of all is that the oven does most of the work, the bulgur cooks in 10 minutes which gives you about 15 to properly saute your favorite dark leafy greens.

It’s an hour well spent in the kitchen in my opinion but if you want to chop that time in half, skip the greens and the grains…but seriously, don’t skip either. Your body needs them.

Easy Vegan Meals In A Pinch ~ Mix & Match Asian

If you were to listen to some of the conversations I have with my friends you notice two things. The first is that I often sound like a broken record because, well what’s true is…true. The second is that they have a hard time understanding how I overcome my love of variety while eating a vegan diet. (Now the broken record thing makes sense, doesn’t it?)

But other than frustration those conversations were the inspiration for today’s post. Well that and the actual meal itself.

Variety, on any diet, starts with your spice rack/cabinet/drawer or whatever, at least in my opinion. If you have a fully developed space for herbs and spices you can turn mashed potatoes (for example) into curry mashed potatoes. Or Asian inspired fries. It is also how a healthy vegan can eat everything and never, ever get bored.

Even when it’s the day before grocery day and you realize your cute little Tokyo diner idea means you sometimes run out of food earlier, and you simply have to make do with what’s on hand.

There were two directives for this particular meal: Asian & Mushrooms.

That made things easy. Sort of. There was about 300 grams of mixed brown & white mushrooms in the fridge along with half a head of cauliflower, bell peppers and scallions, which I love to put in my salads. Not the most exciting ingredients but this is where your spice rack won’t let you down.

Start with Asian basics: garlic, ginger and lemongrass. I find lemongrass pretty hard to find around here and the only grocery store in my town that has it is inside a mall which is a big heaping helping of no thanks for me unless we need to stock up on vegan junk food like cheese and luncheon style slices. So let’s stick with garlic and ginger. Add any or all of the following: soy sauce (or Worcestershire if you want to change it up a bit), tomato paste, lime juice, Sriracha, chili peppers, sesame seeds, miso paste. Take your ingredients and put them in a small mixing bowl. Add a starch & water mix to it and when the veggies are ready, toss it on top.

Boil, then simmer until thick and serve it over rice. Delicious Asian style vegan food in 30 minutes. Totally doable.

Your spice rack will never let you down and if you have a cabinet full of grains, you can experiment with different types of rice or you can test out different Asian noodles with recipes like this.

Tweak the ingredients and you can turn this into an Indian or Thai style curry. Add lemon and herbs instead and turn this into a Mediterranean style veggie & rice dish.  The point is to experiment, get creative and hit up the Google Machine for inspiration. It’s out there and once you start, you won’t be able to go back.

If you want to add extra spice…don’t be afraid to dice up a jalapeno or any other spicy pepper and toss it in with the other veggies. Or if you’re cooking for those who can’t handle the heat, it’s a perfect garnish when mixed with mint and parsley.

Pesto Beans & Beyond Sausage

Recently I found myself binge watching this strange British reality show called ‘Can’t Pay We’ll Take It Away’ and it’s pretty fantastic in an awful train wreck kind of a way. Anyway, long story short one of the people who owed money was eating beans & sausage, which I immediately thought to myself was kind of protein redundant. Then I remembered we still had a couple Beyond sausages in the freezer and I decided why not vegan-ize it?

But of course I couldn’t just stop with a fancy vegan tomato sauce for the beans. Nope, I wanted something with a bit more flavor since we’re rounding the corner into winter and there aren’t many chances to enjoy fresh basil and I figured, why not pesto beans with the sausage?

Why not, indeed?

This is another recipe you can file under easy weeknight vegan meals because it took about half an hour and that includes all the time it took to get the pesto the right consistency.

As far as ingredients go, I used canned canellini beans (known as navy beans in some parts of the world), pesto, grilled shallots and two Beyond Sausage links. The pesto contains: basil, lemon zest, capers, scallions, parsley, roasted red pepper (about a quarter), hot sauce, lemon juice, and vegan parm (ParVeggio).

Grill the shallots and when they’re almost how you want them, toss the links into the skillet and cook using the instructions on the package. They are fairly greasy so if you use oil to cook the shallots, take it easy because there will be grease. Drain and rinse the beans, then warm through and toss with pesto.

I even put a little smear of pesto under the vegan sausage to bring it all together and I topped it with a sprinkling of smoky paprika because it smells as good as it tastes and it adds such depth to just about everything.

Just in case you’re wondering, yes I did wash it down with something ice cold, but it was Harmin which I’ve showed you a million times so I decided not to today. Well…that and the fact that I’m still getting acquainted with my new phone, hence the limited photos for today’s recipe.

Spicy Tofu & Red Quinoa Bowl

Been busy finishing up my latest book but I wanted to share another Buddha Bowl with you. The thing I love most about them, aside from all the healthy stuff, is that you get a little bit of a variety of foods. After a tough workout or just because I’m feeling really hungry, I crave them.

So when I found this organic red quinoa at the nearby Kaufland, I knew it would go nicely with the beautiful broccoli florets that were already in the shopping cart. Okay, the truth is that I had a vegan Buddha bowl on the menu but I wasn’t sure which grain I would use until I checked out what was in stock.

I’m pretty new to the quinoa bandwagon so I put them on first, adding  salt and turmeric to the water when it started to boil.

Next came the onions and bell peppers because I wanted to pop them into the oven to get a little char on’em. As you can see, I got a little more than I wanted but some of that was because of the spice rub I used. Same with the tofu.

Put together your favorite spice blend for the tofu, I used a tandoori spice blend with sumac and baharrat and some other stuff, with a few drops of oil and tomato paste. Rubbing it on both sides of the tofu and pan fry it or pop it in the oven when the onions & bell peppers start to cook.

Steam the broccoli and toss with your favorite seasonings. I used vegan butter and minced garlic. Easy peasy.

Feel free to make a sauce if you like. I thought about it but after tasting it all, I didn’t think it needed it.

This was a quick 30 minute vegan meal that you can use over and over again. Take your spice cabinet around the world and mix up the veggies for an endless supply of easy vegan recipes.

Spicy Vegan Cajun Beans & Rice

Rice and beans. Some people hear this dish and turn their noses up at its simplicity while other, like me, think of all the ways I can make this basic meal more interesting. Will I whip up a quick Indian spice? Maybe an herb-y Mediterranean style rice and beans dish for the more relaxed vegan taste buds? Or maybe I’ll keep it simple and take it back to one of my favorite U.S. cities. New Orleans.

Beans are a great source of protein if you care about that sort of thing, but they are also an excellent way to fill out a meal on a budget. And that goes double if you get dry beans. A quick rinse and a soak (quick soak or overnight, the choice is yours), and pop a few cups into a slow cooker, then forget about it until you’re ready to use the beans. One batch of kidney beans and you can have three or four days worth of meals.

So, on to the Cajun rice and beans.

This is a pretty easy meal with a minimal ingredient list. You’ll need beans, choose whatever strikes your fancy but choose a mean that is sturdy and firm so it’ll soak up all the juices and enhance the dish. Pinto beans would be my backup for the dish, or cranberry beans. Take care of the beans however you need to and then grab your cutting board to chop up the veggies.

What you’ll need for this dish is: onion, bell peppers, garlic, celery, plum/grape tomatoes, kidney beans and about 25 grams of crumbled tofu.

The tofu is optional but I wanted to fill it out a little more which is why I only 25 grams.

Add some oil (or not) to a pot and saute the onions, bell pepper, tofu crumbles and celery until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and the tomatoes until the tomatoes start to soften and the garlic begins to brown.

Now you’ll want to grab the sauce you whipped up. I use this sauce mix for Cajun or Louisiana-style dishes because the vegan Worcestershire always seems to miss the mark. In a bowl, whisk up: tomato paste, cumin, oregano, chili powder, smoky paprika, vegan Worcestershire sauce, a few drops of dark soy sauce, harissa paste, water & cornstarch. Mix until a sauce forms and add it in with the beans and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer until the sauce is nice and thick.

You can put this in slow cooker if you want, but you can whip it up on top of the stove in about 30 minutes. Toss in a bay leaf to give it the flavor that it’s been cooking all day. Add Jasmine rice on the side and you’re ready to get your grub on!

If you want more spice, add Sriracha or jalapeno peppers to the top, but I went pretty crazy with the harissa so it wasn’t necessary.

And hey, don’t be shy about tossing those celery leaves right in with the rest of the vegetables. They have the same nutritional makeup and they provide a nice depth of flavor.

Simple Vegan Dinner

When I cook a simple meal, I try to make sure that I still get some fresh veggies in the mix and of course, potatoes.

Sometimes simple means letting someone else do the hard work, which is exactly why I ended up with these delicious vegan chicken sticks that are oh so delicious. It cuts down on time in the kitchen and that doesn’t mean you have to eat cereal or a cold sandwich. It means you keep it simple, nutritious and tasty.

I am an admitted potato-a-holic and I never pass up an opportunity to enjoy them. In any form.

A quick boil and you can mash these up with any seasoning you like. I chose vegan butter, salt, pepper and roasted garlic because nothing goes better with ANY type of potatoes than roasted garlic.

If you’re not in the mood for broccoli or salad or anything overtly healthy, may I recommend mushrooms? They are delicious, low calorie and you can add a little bit of extra fat to get them good and tasty. I sauteed oyster mushrooms with onion and bell pepper. Add some Worcestershire sauce and herbs, and you’re almost there.

Nothing makes my mouth water more than buffalo style anything. Chicken sticks, tofu or cauliflower, I’m not picky. Just fry it up, or bake it extra crispy and toss it in something spicy and buttery and we’re in business.

It’s not fancy but it was tasty and calorie friendly and let’s be honest, some nights that is about as good as it gets.

Right?