Creamy Vegan Indian Butter Cauliflower

This week has been pretty hectic–sorry I skipped Wednesday–but I really wanted to share yet another delicious cauliflower recipe for vegans. Everyone loves to joke about the ‘glow up’ cauliflower has had lately but if you loved cauliflower back when there was just steaming, roasting, sauteeing options, you’ll love this vegan take on butter chicken.

If you’ve ever eaten at an Indian restaurant you’ve probably seen butter chicken on the recipe and thought, “Butter & chicken? No thanks.” And then you tasted it and your world was absolutely rocked.

Am I right?

Well preapare yourself for this super creamy vegan version of Butter Cauliflower.

The ingredient list on this meal is pretty simple:

Cauliflower
Jasmine rice
Tomato paste
Coconut milk (creamy, but feel free to get coconut cream if your waistline can afford it!)
Peanut oil
Onion
Ginger
Cornstarch (or tapioca starch)
Coconut oil
Garlic
Spices: turmeric, smoky paprika, yellow curry powder, garam masala, ginger powder, salt & pepper

The reason there are two types of oil on the ingredient list is because my partner loves our air fryer and decided to give the cauliflower a little crisp before tossing it on the creamy vegan coconut sauce. It takes about 15 minutes on 200C/180F in the air fryer.

Melt the coconut oil over medium heat and add garlic & ginger until it starts to brown and becomes fragrant. This is about when my hunger usually kicks in. Toss in the onion and cook until it starts to soften, about 5 minutes then add the spices (turmeric, garam masala, etc…) and cook for another 1 minute.

Add tomato paste an coconut milk, but if you don’t want this too thick or you want it more soup-like, mix it with water. Otherwise, cook until the sauce starts to thicken and reduce a little, about 15 minutes or so. Then toss in the crispy cauliflower and serve it on a bed of rice, turmeric in your rice is totally optional.

You can serve this with noodles if you want to give it an Asian flare, or just get creative with your grains and use bulgur or couscous. Whatever floats your boat.

As I mentioned earlier, thanks to the creamy coconut milk, this is a fairly decadent vegan dish as far as I’m concerned, but it was crazy delicious. Below I’ve posted the calorie content of this vegan meal for two, courtesy of Cronometer, which I use to track my meals, snacks, booze and anything else I put in my mouth and you really should too!

What’s your favorite Indian dish to veganize?

Soya Biryani with Crispy Onions

Simple food can be good food. There is a time and a place for complicated dishes that take plenty of time, but only when¬†and if you feel like it. Biryani seems like a dish that could be complicated if you let it, especially if you decide to take forty-five minutes to get those onions properly crispy. Luckily for me, this was a night my husband cooked and the only thing I had to do was come up with what I wanted to eat for dinner this night. ūüôā

I chose Biryani because it is a simple but flavorful dish that feels like it takes hours and hours in the kitchen, but an efficient vegan home cook could get it done in under an hour.

The best thing, aside from taste, about this recipe is that the ingredient list is simple.

TVP (I use inedit, but use whatever textured protein you can find)
Basmati rice
Onion
Veggiegurt
Ginger
Garlic
Red bell pepper
Peanut oil
Herbs & Spices

I know, it seems impossible that a dish so simple could produce such a flavor explosion on your tongue but…it’s true.

If you’ve never had a vegan Biryani, I recommend you do a little research so you understand the basics, but basically this is a dry dish compared to a curry, for example. The key here is the fried onions because they add SO MUCH FLAVOR!

While you re-hydrate the soya, get those onions going in oil or vegan butter, cooking them low and slow until they start to turn golden and sweet-ish. Once the soya is ready, let it cool and then toss in veggiegurt and Indian spices. My hubs couldn’t wait to make use of our new air fryer, so that’s how he cooked the soya!

While the soya got nice & crispy, he cooked the Basmati rice in salted water with a teaspoon (or two) of turmeric thrown in for the health benefits and that gorgeous yellow color.

When the onions are close to ready, add the red bell pepper, garlic and ginger to the skillet and you’re good to go. Now toss in the soya and top it on a bed of rice.

You can always substitute one protein for another, using chickpeas, tofu or any other kinds of beans. If you use seitan or tempeh, I’d love to know about it!

I truly enjoyed this dish and I’ll probably add it to the rotation, but I’d love to see your take on a vegan biryani dish.

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 b√©chamel 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!

30-Minute Vegan Potato Curry

Since it’s Friday and the week has flown by (edits are done!) I decided to keep today’s recipe quick and easy. Two of my favorite things when it comes to a good healthy vegan meal because as much as I love to cook, some days you just want to sit down.

And some days your Tokyo Diner idea seems daunting and you say something like, “Just make me a curry. Spicy and with potatoes.” That was the directive I gave to the Hubs and this easy potato curry was his brain child. And bonus points on this recipe because if you felt so inclined, you could pop all the ingredients into a slow cooker on low for 5 to 7 hours. Cook the rice separately but more on that later.

Get your cutting board and your favorite knife because there’s plenty of chopping to be done!

This recipe really is simple, especially if you’ve ever whipped up a curry at home. Grab your favorite pre-made curry spice blend or mix your own and set it aside. Chop up: onion, ginger, bell pepper, garlic, potatoes, cauliflower & tomatoes. My husband prefers fresh tomatoes always so he did that but you can use canned tomatoes. When I use canned, I prefer stewed tomatoes. They’re juicier and the flavor is better in my opinion.

Add some oil to a deep skillet or water if you’re going oil-free and toss in everything but the cauliflower and garlic since they have very short cook times and will burn (garlic) or turn soggy (cauliflower) quickly.

I like to let the veggies cook a bit before I add anything other than salt & pepper, stirring frequently.

Once the veggies start to soften, add the rest and cook uncovered 3 to 5 minutes giving everything a regular stir. Then place the cover on the skillet and let it cook–undisturbed–for a few minutes. Do this until your vegetables reach desired done-ness and don’t be afraid to give the potatoes or cauliflower a fork-test if necessary. It’s your kitchen, do what you want!

The tomatoes go in last and you’ll want to cook them until the juice has been absorbed, leaving a nice thick sauce. Since he insisted on using fresh tomatoes there wasn’t much sauce, so adjust your cooking time to account for that if you do.

Pair it with rice or Naan. Most of the time I prefer naan bread because I love it and I miss it, but I miss it because it is pretty difficult to find vegan naan bread here in Romania and even in Germany too. For some¬†odd¬†reason there’s milk powder in most store bought naan bread, so if you know if any good vegan brands please give me names and links!

Since it was a light day with a salad for lunch and this calorie friendly dinner, I enjoyed a nice Harmin with it…to cool down the extra jalapeno peppers I put on mine!

Spicy Ginger Peanut Fried Rice

Have you ever gone down the YouTube rabbit hole? You know what I’m talking about, you go in search of something¬†very¬†specific and it leads you to a whole world of videos that you never knew existed but wish you knew about a lot sooner. Well if you don’t know, I suggest you try it because that’s how you get amazing dishes like this one. The easiest way to describe it is an Indian spiced fried rice.

Dishes like this are great because they satisfy any kind of takeout cravings you have but you get to decide how greasy you make it!

This recipe does require a bit of planning because you’ll need to cook the rice and let it sit for a few hours until it is cool all the way the through. It’s worth the extra effort.

For the rest of it, I used: ginger (lots and lots of ginger), onion, shallots, red & yellow bell pepper, tofu pieces, peanuts, garlic (rough chopped so you can really bite into it), lemongrass powder, jalapeno (diced with half the seeds removed in concession to my Hubs), coconut oil, and as you can see from the photos, turmeric.

You can add any kind of vegetables you want to this dish, just be sure to add them to the pot starting with the longest cooking time or you’ll have some very mushy vegetables because this cooks pretty fast and at a high temp.

Add the garlic and the peanuts at the same time, tossing for a few minutes. The thing you don’t want to do is just turn the pot of rice over into the skillet, fluff the rice with a fork first and then add it, tossing or stirring until it’s all blended. If you want a bit of grease, you can add a splash of sesame oil on top. I chose a soy sauce and lime juice blend and a few dots of Sriracha.

Cooking it on a high heat gives a nice little char on the edges which is doubly nice for the tofu and the peanuts.

Add a nice icy lager and you’ve got a quirky take on fried rice to satisfy any takeout craving.

Vegan Fish Steaks & Veggie Medley

I’ve made no secret of my desire to keep my plate as plant based as possible with the exception of tofu (is tofu¬†not¬†plant based?) but since I went on an ordering spree a week or so ago, I decided to go all the way.

And let me tell ya, not all results were pleasant.

Enter, vegan fish steaks.

This is another gem from the folks at Vantastic Foods, which I’ve been a fan of since I tasted their soy jerky, but this particular product was chosen by The Hubs which is kind of weird since he was vegetarian for two years before going vegan while I scarfed up trout (regenbogen for those of you fluent in Deutsch!) like it was going out of business. I skipped right over the fish products page because I had no interest in them. Another reason we make such a good team.

You can probably see the biggest source of MY own displeasure just by taking a quick look at the list of ingredients. Noriblatter is German for nori sheets, as in seaweed, which I am not a fan of. I can admit that since going vegan I don’t mind it as much because I think my taste buds just didn’t enjoy the blend of nori and raw fish.

Anyway my number one problem with this product was the overwhelming fishy scent. Even when i was a meat eater I NEVER would have purchased or eaten fish that smelled like this since that means it’s bad. But for the sake of science and not wasting money, I had to give it a try and…it wasn’t bad.

It wasn’t great, but combined with seasoned vegetables, it was edible. With hot sauce.

The Hubs cooked this meal and the “steaks” were seasoned beautifully and capped off with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice which is about all you can do for filets this small. A couple minutes in a skillet and these babies are ready to eat.

The mixed curried vegetables helped mask the fishy scent, which weirdly disappeared after about five minutes. Too bad my brain couldn’t erase the smell.

I have learned a very important lesson as a vegan and I suggest that everyone makes this decision for themselves. I don’t need my vegan foods to taste like their formerly living counterparts. I like my burgers tasting like chickpeas, lentils and tofu and I’m totally fine with using plain tofu to transform a former favorite dish of mine. I stopped eating that stuff for a reason and giving me something that smells like fish only reminds me of that.

The Hubs actually liked them and later this week–maybe–I’ll show you how his fish fingers turned out. Spoiler alert: as delicious as your five year old self remembers.

I found that a ice cold red ale Beck’s was the perfect way to wash this down!

What vegan products have you tried that you wish you hadn’t?

Black Beans: Vegan Two Ways

If you’re anything like me, you always have a bag or two (okay, maybe three) of dry beans in¬† your pantry. Dry beans are, in my opinion, a vegan staple and people of all diets should always have them on hand.

My husband on the other hand, gets a little antsy about things being the pantry for “too long” so I decided to use them since corn on the cob is everywhere this time of year and I really felt like a black bean salad. But a problem I often have is incorrectly eye measuring stuff, yet I still find myself doing it. Regularly. So…black beans two ways.

Black bean salad is pretty easy to make, even easier when you don’t have to fret about which protein to put in it and whether or not to add cheese. At least I think so.

All you need is…fresh vegetables. I grilled two ears of corn on the stove top griddle and let them cool before cutting the kernels off. Then I chopped a red bell pepper, two scallions, some Romaine lettuce and cherry tomatoes, halved and quartered, then tossed them into a large mixing bowl. (Is eighth’ed a word?)

Now set aside the bowl because its time to make the lime mustard dressing!

This was pretty simple. All you need is: mustard (I used spicy and sweet), the juice and some zest of a lime, dill, salt, pepper, cumin and smoky paprika. Whisk it and pour it on top and lunch is served.

Don’t forget to add the avocado if you have an avocado lover in your house!

Make sure you toss it until everything is coated¬†and be sure to taste it. Don’t be afraid to let it sit for about 10 minutes before adding more seasoning sometimes all a dish needs is time.

Add a Corona or Negro Modelo to the side and you’ve got a long lunch ahead of you!

 

The problem I had was that I only used 2 cups of cooked beans to make this salad and I had almost 4 cups remaining.

…then my mother in law found vegan gnocchi at the market and got it for us.

What to do with black beans and gnocchi?

Plenty, but what did I choose? Black bean curry with gnocchi.

I don’t know where it came from but that’s how we ended up here so let’s just go with it.

I’ll just get this out of the way now because some consider it controversial. I pan fried my gnocchi in olive oil and garlic. The end.

It’s crunchy and delicious and potato-y and I love it. Boil it if you want.

The curry was a simple one with onions, ginger, garlic, bell peppers and black beans with loads of spices.

I didn’t use coconut milk, instead I made a tomato, soy sauce, sriracha, ginger mix, added water and cornstarch to it and let it thicken that way, but coconut milk is also an option.

Top the gnocchi with the curry, be as generous or as stingy as you want with the liquid.

For the garnish, I thin sliced scallions and mint to cool the spice in the dish.

And that’s how you end up using a lot of beans and creating a new dish!

By the way, we ended up having one full serving of curry left over and we split it over a bed of jasmine rice so technically, vegan black beans…three ways?

Spiced Chickpea & Tofu Steak Bowl

If you haven’t learned by now that I am addicted to flavors of the Asian continent, then you haven’t been paying attention. There are so many different flavor profiles, cuisines, spices and dishes to try that I worry I won’t get through them all before I die.¬†That’s how much I love them.

So when I’m looking for something that is:

Easy

Healthy

Quick (ish)

I turn to my favorite way to enjoy a vegan meal, a Buddha bowl.

Today we have what I like to call a vegan shawarma bowl.

You get a little bit of everything with a bowl. Spiced tofu steaks, spiced chickpeas, couscous and sauteed onion and bok choy greens.

This meal requires one thing: a very well stocked spice cabinet.

You’ll need everything from cumin to smoky paprika, turmeric (for the couscous water), ras el hanout, baharrat, cardamom….you get the drift, right?

The key to perfectly spiced chickpeas? Drying the beans after you rinse them. I used canned garbanzo beans here so I rinsed them twice and lined a colander with a paper towel and tossing them until dry. Then put all of your spices–salt & pepper included–in to a bowl and add the chickpeas. Toss until well coated and put on a baking sheet in the oven for 30 minutes or until it reaches desired crispiness.

This was a last minute addition to the meal because I wanted to add something green and I wanted to use the last of the bok choy before it went bad. A teaspoon of olive oil along with a halved & sliced onion until translucent and brown, then add the greens for another minute or two.

The yogurt sauce was vegan yogurt, fresh dill & parsley, lemon juice, salt and pepper. It was a nice cooling agent if needed, or just a hint of citrus if you don’t.

The prep time on his meal is about 20 minutes but the tofu and chickpeas go in the oven, couscous is done in 5 minutes and the greens took about 10 minutes total. It seems complicated and it tastes like it takes hours to cook…but it doesn’t.

Next time you’re in the grocery store, grab a few spices you’ve never heard of and test’em out.

Mix & Match Vegan Dinner Bowls

I’ve made no secret of my love of Buddha Bowls, Burrito Bowls, Asian Bowls…you name it and I’ve pulled together the ingredients for a delicious, nutritious meal. These bowls contain everything you need for a well-balanced diet packed with vitamins and nutrients, and the best part of all is that with portion control, you’ll drop any excess weight holding you down.

The thing I absolutely love about a good bowl is that you can slap one together even if you haven’t gone to the store yet or if you don’t have a plan for dinner.

Whether you want the bowl cooked or completely raw–I’m a fan of a blend–this is an easy way to get dinner on the table without a lot of work on your part.

The question you might have is, how do I get started?

Let’s start with the grains. If you’re not super comfortable in the kitchen, start with rice because it’s easy to cook and you can find rice that cooks in 10 to 15 minutes. Besides, there are so many types of rice on the market you could probably go through a dozen vegan bowl recipes and not repeat them. Once you’re feeling a bit more confident, move on to bulgur, couscous, quinoa, amaranth and any other grain that strikes your fancy.

With the grain issue settled, it’s time to get down to the fun stuff…the veggies!

When it comes to a Buddha bowl, I try to use at least 3 different vegetables but really it depends on what I find at the supermarket or the Farmer’s Market. The bowl above has zucchini, carrots, potatoes and bell peppers, all tossed with a drizzle of olive oil, herbs & seasoning and it was tossed in the oven to cook for 20 to 30 minutes.

If you’re feeling adventurous or extra healthy, or if you just want to get a little roughage in your diet, feel free to use 2 cooked vegetables and pair it with a salad, slaw or relish.

This is a cooked corn relish I made with onion, red & green bell pepper and garlic, tossed with lime before it was plated.

vegan buddha bowl

Now it’s time to talk about the “extras”. If you want to add anything else, there’s always tofu. It’s not entirely necessary but I do enjoy cooking and sometimes I want to experiment like here, I used a jerk spice blend on the tofu to get it a little blackened and it worked really well the rice and the corn relish…plus the lemon-dill yogurt sauce!

Which brings me to the final piece of a proper bowl…sauce!

This Buddha bowl was made by the Hubs, and he prefers an earthy nutty flavor like the spicy tahini blend he used here. These sauces don’t have to be incredibly complicated or time consuming. The one pictured above is peanut butter, tahini, Sriracha and herbs.

Then, there’s yogurt based sauces which are VERY easy. Dill, lime, salt & pepper and BAM…done.

But let’s not forget about pesto! There’s always room for pesto and if you have some fresh veggie greens and a food processor, well that’s all you need! If you find your pesto packs too big a punch, add a tablespoon of vegan yogurt for a creamy pesto!

Soon, we’ll go over another favorite bowl of mine…burrito bowls!

Quick & Easy Vegan Mujaddara

When friends and family tell me how “easy” it’s been for me to go vegan because I love to cook, sometimes I just have to roll my eyes at the naivete of that statement. Yes, I do enjoy cooking and learning about new types of cuisines. Mostly it’s because I’m curious but it’s also because restaurant food is suspect and I’m not wealthy enough to go to the places where the food is always good all the time, and when you factor being vegan into the whole thing, well just finding a place to eat can turn into an ordeal in itself.

So I cook and experiment. And vegan-ize as much as I can or as much as I want.

But the reason I love cooking is because I find plenty of ways to make meals that are delicious and healthy¬†and quick. Every single day can’t be a two hours in the kitchen kind of day, but it can taste like it and that’s where this vegan mujaddara comes in very handy.

Before we go further, I do know that Mujaddara¬†is vegan and that to say so is redundant but many westerners have added meat and/or dairy to this dish so people looking for those recipes, probably won’t click on me.

Now, let’s move on!

This dish is pretty simple as it only contains a few main ingredients: brown lentils, brown rice, caramelized onions & spices.

The only thing I added was a few chopped crimini mushrooms and I used baharat, ras el hanout, cardamom, black pepper and cumin to season everything.

When it comes to a dish like this, you want to flavor the waters as much as you can. The people who know about these things recommend you don’t salt or season water for cooking lentils, but I added salt and baharat during the last 10 minutes and it made a difference. Do the same for your rice water, add some seasoning so that everything has flavor before you blend it all.

Since this dish was so healthy and easy, I used a plant butter-oil hybrid to get the onions crispy and caramel-y and delicious. It was worth the time and effort because the onions are where you can really add depth to mujaddara.

This dish was light and healthy and satisfying that we ate the rest the next day for lunch…with a beer!

This is an easy vegan meal with lots of flavor that you can cook in 30 minutes.

Enjoy!

Vegan Cauliflower Tikka

When the weather turns unexpectedly cold, I want something hot, spicy and heart as hell. In my house, that usually means curries, Asian soups or chili. This week, it meant Tikka.

If you think you’re not a fan of cauliflower, I recommend you try it in a dish like tikka masala or a curry, where all those strong, vibrant flavors seep into the cauliflower (which is crazy low in calories and an excellent source of vitamins C & K). Just to be sure, I coated the cauliflower with a salt & pepper, curry & powdered ginger layer and popped them in the oven to crisp around the edges. This gave the dish a heartier, deeper flavor.

cauliflower tikka masala vegan

The thing I like best about a dish like this, is that you can use what you have on hand. For me it was cauliflower, potatoes and garbanzo beans, with the basics like ginger, onion, garlic and turmeric. Oh and tomatoes. I used a can of diced tomatoes and added in a few fresh tomatoes as well with an oat cream to thicken it. Coconut milk or cream will work here too, but that’s a matter of taste and preference so do what you want.

One of the reasons I use oil when I cook a dish like this is to infuse all the flavor I can in the dish but adding all the spices while the oil heats up before adding the first batch of vegetables. It’s a trick I learned from a friend and it works, let me know if you agree!

I made the mistake of buying store bought papadums and they were not very good. I forgot how oily they can be and I didn’t use enough oil so they ended up half cripsy & oily and half crunchy but not in a good way. I should have just skipped the papadums and added rice on the side.

Sprinkle some sliced scallions on top and you’re good to go. And if you really like it, have a second bowl.

If you make this dish, tag The Spicy Spatula on social media!

 

Vegan D√∂ner Kebab: Taco Edition!!

When we lived in Germany I got very acquainted with something that I now love; d√∂ner kebabs. They are very similar to gyros in the United States except that instead of tzatziki there are all kinds of yummy veggies and spicy pepper sauce if you want. Some places also offer a crumbly feta-style cheese with it and though it’s not my jam, I had been known eat a d√∂ner or two…per week.

Now that I’m off of animal products, I’ve made a d√∂ner with crimini mushrooms, oyster mushrooms and there was even one terrible attempt at making my own with seitan and soy flour but I’d rather not think about that right now.

Then one day we were walking around our neighborhood in Stetten (just outside Stuttgart for those interested) and we found a Bio Store which is just a German way of saying organic, but we loved it because they had a solid selection of vegan products.

Enter, Wheaty, courtesy of Veganic.

I am a big fan of this product because it is tasty with all the right döner flavors and it has a meat-like consistency. What I love most is that it has all the good things about meat without that greasy aftertaste. Take a look at the ingredients and the nutritional content and then when your eyes go back in your head, see if the Wheaty brand is available near you.

We visited 3 different markets in search of large döner wraps but they were nowhere to be found. Tortilla wraps were abundant so I improvised with döner kebab tacos, vegan style!

Start with your vegetables of choice. My favorite d√∂ner always had onions and peppers so I kept it simple with half of a green and yellow bell pepper and two small yellow onions. I sauteed them in water because there’s a fair bit of oil in the vegan d√∂ner.

I did add a few slices of garlic during the last couple minutes because garlic tastes good and has tons of health benefits, immune booster being my absolute favorite!

Now that you’ve got the inside of the d√∂ner taco, it’s time to talk about the other fun stuff! I forgot to take photos of my take on the creamy veg offered at d√∂ner kebab shops all around Germany but you can see it on the tacos! It’s thinly sliced onion, red cabbage, grated carrots and zucchini tossed in vegan yogurt, lemon juice, cumin, tahini and diced celery.

As you can see, I heated some of the tortilla shells a bit too much but they were still tasty and we scarfed them up in an attack of the munchies. Out of deference to my hubs I kept the spicy factor low but I add Sriracha to my “d√∂ner tacos”.

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!

Spicy Vegan Black Rice Curry

If you’ve learned anything about me and my family over the past few months, it’s how much we (specifically, I) love curry. It’s my go to meal when I’m hungry as a hippo with no idea what I want and that’s especially true on those days when I’ve put off grocery shopping. Grab some rice or noodles, a bunch of vegetables and the right blend of curry spices and you’ve got a quick vegan curry in no time at all.

Then there are the days when we’re feeling adventurous, or more accurately, the days when we find a good excuse to use or buy some new find from the grocery store. A few years ago we discovered black rice when we lived in Germany and ever since I’ve been a pretty big fan. It has a bit of a bite to it, more flavor and it has a great texture so you know you’re eating rice instead of some unknown, tasteless grain meant to just soak up all the flavors of the dish.

Then I found out that black rice is an excellent source of iron, antioxidants and Vitamin E and I decided to keep it in the meal rotation even though sometimes it can be a very temperamental grain.

If you decide to experiment with darker grains like black rice or even brown or wild rice, make sure to get that water boiling first to make sure you’re not waiting on it to finish cooking once your yummy curry is ready to be eaten. The cook time ranges from 15 minutes to 35, sometimes more depending on the length of the grain as well as how pre-processed it is.

Now…on to the curry!

This particular recipe is pretty easy and it was made by The Husband so you know it fits the man criteria of simple yet delicious.

The recipe seems…busy because there are plenty of tasty ingredients but trust me, it’s all simple to make. What you’ll need:

*Potatoes, scrubbed clean

*Wood ear mushrooms

*Onion

*Chickpeas, rinsed

*Garlic

*Ginger

*Tomatoes, rinsed & diced

*Tofu crumbles

*Coconut milk

Since The Husband was instrumental in helping me see the benefits of cooking without oil, you can guess that he made this meal totally oil-free but the dish didn’t suffer for it as you might imagine. The coconut milk gave everything a smooth, creamy flavor that blended beautifully with the al dente black rice. With the proper seasoning you can get a flavorful dish without all the oil.

Get a good saute on the veggies and then slowly add the broth and or coconut milk, letting it cook until the potatoes are done. The wood ear mushrooms go in last because they cook fairly quickly and if you’re feeling truly fancy, you can set up a nice plate the way The Husband did. His presentation skills far surpass my own, as you can see, and it made for a really great photo!

On top of all that, it was so good that I went back for seconds, of the curry but not the rice because that’s another way we fight temptation, make enough grains for 2 servings so if you want seconds, it’s all veggies. Eating such good food shouldn’t make you feel guilty and this way it doesn’t have to!

If you’re feeling thirsty, I always find an ice cold beer goes great with a spicy curry, especially when that spice is from the Sriracha I added to my plate because we have very different spice level preferences.

Traveling While Vegan: Creativity & Compromise A Must

One of the things you might have guessed about me is that traveling is at the top of my favorite things to do list. Honestly, I’m not that picky. Okay, I do have an extensive list of places I would like see and the things I¬†really want to do when I get there but what I mean is that I just like to go to new places. Whether it was going from Charleston to Carbondale when I was in college, a quick day trip to Salem when we lived in Massachusetts or a weekend in San Diego when we lived in California…I want to go to¬†there.

We haven’t been too many places in the 18 months since making the change to a plant based diet but aside from a few memorable places in Germany, eating out has been kind of a drag. If you’re lucky then maybe you’ll find a vegan option or two, but what if you’re in the heart of carnivore country and the notion of a animal free meal is as likely as riding a unicorn to get there?

You get creative. You cobble together something resembling a meal with the side dishes. Some form of potatoes–usually fries because everything else has at least butter if not also cream or milk–and broccoli is my go to option but only if they don’t have a problem steaming new broccoli without butter for me. Sometimes you get something amazing like grilled asparagus or roasted Brussels sprouts but usually it’s nothing as glamorous as all that. So…you compromise. Usually I end up ordering a salad, the bigger the better, with French fries and then booze. I can get a little greedy and get a shot and a beer or maybe, if I’m feeling good, a couple cocktails.

But when I get home I have to fix something with some sustenance to it.

Which brings me to the most recent trip: Busteni

Busteni is a small mountain town in Prahova County, Romania with some amazing scenery and a gondola from which you can see it all. This place was gorgeous even though it was just a tad too late to get the full beauty of the autumn colors. And even though it was too windy to ride this particular gondola and even though I moaned and groaned about it, a ride on another gondola much later in the day proved the wisdom of their decision.

I took this shot on the sidewalk outside the train station!

Since this was an¬†up and out the door early kind of day, we decided to grab a quick bite to eat before making the long-ish hike to the telecable building. As we passed eatery upon eatery where there was not one dish without either meat or cheese, though most had both meat¬†and cheese, I saw French fries in my culinary future. And you know what was most annoying? That there was so much variety from traditional Romanian restaurants to Italian, Irish, Hungarian and even a Bulgarian place. But we finally found a place with a lentil soup that sounded like the perfect way to start a day of walking and climbing, but they didn’t have it. After it became clear that we didn’t have many options our waitress said the magic words, “We have a vegetable ciorba.” The hubs and I looked at each other, smiled and asked for two big bowls. Along with some crusty bread and two tall beers.

And then we were off.

 

The gondola took us up first to 1500 meters which was pretty cool and at about the halfway mark is when I began to understand why the other gondola, the one that went up about another 1,000 meters, was closed. There was wind, more than enough for this Chicago girl, but it was enough to ride safely up the mountain so I don’t want to imagine how windy the other was.

2k meters high!

We did a lot of walking and a lot of climbing and the old me would be so disgusted with the new me because, yeah, I had a good time. When the day started my light makeup looked good and my afro was mostly shaped and shiny. But that took no time at all to undo and I didn’t even care. I climb even higher than the 2,000 meters and I made it, something I couldn’t possibly have done 22 kilograms ago! Sure, I huffed and puffed a little but my lungs didn’t burn and none of my muscles gave out.

Yay, me!

We walked around the town and stopped at a few artisan tents to see what was on sale and I found a beautiful ring made of lapis lazuli that I haven’t stopped wearing since.

Then it was time to eat and we did the dance that all traveling vegans know all too well. We stopped at about six different places to look at menus and see if any eateries had vegan meals and if not, who had the best a la carte options to put a meal together. Ultimately we settled on an Indian style restaurant that was the only lowlight of the day.

The mushroom masala was…okay. It was seasoned nicely but nothing to write home about. Unfortunately.

We ordered pizza because nothing else was vegan. Nothing. Else. Here’s a little tip for you: If a place can’t make small adjustments to make a dish vegan, chances are good that all the food has been made ahead of time (at least) and not fresh to order.

The pizza was also lacking with no tomato sauce to speak of, barely cooked vegetables that slid off with every bite and a dough that left a lot to be desired. I wasn’t surprised but I was totally bummed because it was the worst cherry on top of a pretty good plant based sundae.

But it was a great day and that’s what matters…right?

My New-ish Favorite Thing

Ginger.

Ingwer.

Ghimbir.

Gingembre.

However you call it in  your neck of the woods, I love the stuff.

From the moment I started on my culinary tour of Asia–in anticipation of a real tour of the continent–ginger was the flavor that most knocked me back on my fanny. It was kind of sweet and tart, with just a hint of spice to appeal to my love of all most things spicy. Whether curry or Thai Curry or just plain ol’ curry, ginger can be the star or just a backup singer.

I put it in cookies, curry, soups, stir-fry and yes, even a few cocktails.

But my new favorite thing is fresh mint & ginger tea. I had it for the first time in Wurzburg, Germany and this vegan restaurant and I drank it like the it wasn’t 27c outside that day!

vegan tea mint ginger

I don’t have this adorable little plastic tea set, which i am kind of bummed about but I have an old school tea set on loan from my mother in law and it does the job just fine. More than fine. Okay, so maybe I sometimes burn my knuckles when I tilt the tea into my cup but I do like my tea piping hot.

 

https://giphy.com/embed/tRasj2khAXiuI

via GIPHY

 

Back to ginger. I’d wanted to make this tea from the moment I had it but then we got caught up in the move and getting settled and then…settling in. Then we hit up this super-sized supermarket, Carrefour, and there it was mint, lots of it and at a very good price. A¬†very good price which meant I couldn’t resist grabbing four packages of it to go along with the ginger because I wanted to cook up a stir-fry for my in-laws to blow their tastebuds’ minds!

The mint-ginger tea was very easy to make. I cut about six slices of ginger and about 1.5 cups of mint. Put half the ginger in a pot with water along with one cup of mint. Put the remaining mint and ginger in your tea pot and set aside. Bring the liquid up to a boil and then lower to a simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Then cool enough to put in your teapot, ginger, mint and liquid. Steep and enjoy!

 

I put sugar in it mostly out of habit but after the first cup, I left it abandoned and just drank and drank until it was ice cold.

I was even able to get my coffee loving in-laws and my husband to drink it and love it.

And now that I have mastered the difficult task of making my own tea just in time for the weather to turn…if it ever does turn to autumn, well other than the beautiful leaves…

 

Anyway if the weather ever turns to autumn, I’ll be excited to try out some more types of tea.

Like basil…

Tarka Dal: A Delicious Vegan Lentil Treat

Maybe you don’t know this about me, but I LOVE Indian food. I didn’t always, though. Back in 2003 I was visiting D.C. for a training session right before I began working on the upcoming Presidential election and we were treated to dinner at this little family owned Indian restaurant. This was my very first time eating Indian food and to say it was disappointing would be a massive understatement. It was bland and tasteless and awful.

It wasn’t until 2006 when the hubs and I moved to Los Angeles that I had Indian food again and this time it blew my mind. Seriously guys, blew my mind! Anarkali is the name of the place that turned me into an Indian food addict. The first time we visited, I talked with the owners about the different types of curry and the heat levels, and even what was in the delicious spiced tea they served. It was…transformative. From that moment on, I learned everything I could about Indian cuisine and back then I was a huge carnivore–literally and figuratively–and it hasn’t stopped.

The difference is that now that I’m on a plant based diet, I have to plan a little more because you can’t just soak an animal protein in yogurt and toss into a sauce. But then I discovered the beauty and variety of the lentil. Packed with protein and low in calories, this is one of the vegan superfoods of our time. Dramatic much, right? Seriously though, lentils are the BOMB.

Enter, tarka dal.

Good Vegan Eats

I’ve been awhile…a long while but now that I’m (we’re?) back, here’s a visual history of some of the healthy plant based dishes we’ve experimented with over the past few months…or when one of us remembers to snap a photo of our tasty treats!

Sticky tofu with sauteed vegetables & couscous

 

This was my first time cooking tofu, something I previously loathed, and it came out delicious. I marinated the tofu in soy sauce, ginger and Sriracha and then pan seared it for about 1-2 minutes on each side.

 

Cauliflower & chickpea curry

 

Hi, my name is Natasha and I am a curry-a-holic. The hubs knows this so he frequently adds a curry to the nights he cooks and this one was so good I went back for seconds…thank goodness it’s calorie friendly!

 

Buddha Bowl #019 (aka: my newest addiction)

 

Shaved raw carrots (yum!), diced and roasted tofu, steamed broccoli with delicious tahini dressing made this meal healthy and satisfying, but the crimini mushrooms and onions added a heartiness and earthiness that made this dish close to perfect!