Vegan Peanut Butter Pumpkin Cookies

I’m not much for sweets but my partner has quite the sweet tooth which feeds my need to bake when autumn and winter roll around and pumpkin & squash are EVERYWHERE!

I really love to grab a big ol’ pumpkin, roast it up and use pretty much the whole damn thing. I’ll soak & roast the seeds, make a soup, cookies, pies, cakes, breads, sauces & creams and whatever else strikes my fancy. It’s just how I roll.

Last week, he jokingly asked if it was possible to have peanut butter pumpkin cookies and I was like…why not?

And here we are.

If you’re looking for a vegan holiday cookie recipe that’s easy and delicious, this one might be the perfect fit for you. If you’re more of a cupcake lover, check out my Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes.

I find it easier to measure in grams when baking because I find that it yields a better final result, but if you’re in the US or you just love imperial measurements, this recipe was adapted from The Natural Nurturer.

Preheat the oven to 175C/350F and put down parchment paper on your baking sheets. The original recipe said this would yield about 18 cookies but somehow I got 37. I might bee because I ran out of whole wheat flour so half of this recipe is soy flour I had on hand, but I can’t say for sure until I try again.

Let me tell you how easy this recipe is: combine everything into one large bowl (except chocolate chips if you decide to add them, which I did not) and mix well until just blended.

Scoop out onto your baking sheets and bake 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.

Let cool for 10 to 15 minutes and gobble, gobble.

Yeah, these vegan cookies are just that simple. If you have time and all the ingredients on hand, kick your fall up a notch with these tasty pumpkin cookies.

The best part about these cookies? They are very calorie friendly as long as you don’t eat a full dozen in one sitting!

The key to any good vegan pumpkin desserts or sauces or…whatever, is the right pumpkin cooked the right way. Cut the pumpkin in half (like the photo below) and rub the flesh with oil. I used coconut oil because I planned sweet applications for the whole thing and roast it flesh side down. It should take about 40-50 minutes if it’s on the large side, but check it every 10 minutes after the 40 minute mark to make sure it doesn’t burn.

Let the pumpkin cool completely before you scoop out the insides. Refrigerate the insides for up to a week or you can freeze what you don’t use right away and it’ll hold for much longer.

What’s your favorite way to enjoy pumpkins?

Seitan Sausage & Vegan Carbonara

Just for the sake of clarification, I should tell you that I am not a tradititonalist when it comes to recipes. I will take something that looks interesting and try it once to decide how I like it, and then I will tweak it to fit my palate, ingredients and desires. But I will totally keep the name.

So when my partner requested “a type of carbonara” I knew exactly what he meant; give me some kind of creamy pasta dish.

And thus this vegan carbonara dish with seitan sausage was born.

If you don’t have access to any vegan sausage at your local market and you want to make it from scratch, you’ll need vital wheat gluten and nutritional yeast or chickpea flour.

You will also need the following:

It’s a pretty simple vegan pasta dish if you’re ever in need of a quick weeknight dinner, or like me, those nights when you end up writing until ten at night and forget all about dinner.

This is a pretty easy vegan recipe to execute. Cook the pasta according to the box instructions, but I recommend that you cook it 1 or 2 minutes shy of the box recommendation because you’ll add it to the hot vegan carbonara sauce and it’ll cook a little more. But if you like very soft pasta, do you.

I like my mushrooms with a bit of a bite so I cook them until the moisture is gone and they start to crisp around the edges, and then I add the onion (cook 5 to 7 minutes) and the garlic (another 2 or 3 minutes, until fragrant). Slice the seitan sausage and add it with the garlic, cooking until the edges start to crisp.

That brings us to the carbonara sauce, which I know is nothing like the authentic Italian carbonara mostly because this is a vegan carbonara which means NO ANIMALS. Instead I used unsweetened almond milk, black pepper, garlic and nutritional yeast. The yeast will help the sauce thicken and give it depth of flavor, but you might want to try your hand at a thick and creamy vegan bechamel (get my recipe here) if you don’t possess enough patience to wait for the sauce to thicken, which it will.

When the pasta is done, add it straight from the water into the pot with the mushrooms, onion, garlic & sausage and pour the vegan carbonara sauce over it, tossing over low heat until combined.

Serve and garnish with fresh ground black pepper and vegan parmesan cheese. I use ParVeggio because it is literally my only option here in Romania, but it is tasty and creamy and salty, and it smells much better than the canned crap I used to eat.

The next time you need a quick and easy vegan pasta dish, consider this creamy, plant based carbonara.

Enjoy!

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?

Vegan Meatball Pizza & Creamy Béchamel Cheese

Sometimes, no matter how committed you are to eating healthy and treating your body as the vegan temple that it is…and all that jazz, you just want pizza.

It took me awhile to rediscover my love of pizza because of my well documented love-hate relationship with vegan cheese and because, holy hell, do you have any idea how many calories are just in pizza dough? A lot, my friend.

A lot.

But when the mood for vegan pizza strikes, you ask yourself a few questions.

Do I deserve this?

Have my workouts been sufficiently grueling to warrant this meal?

Am I gonna have it no matter the answers to these questions?

And then you thaw out a couple Beyond Burgers and create the vegan pizza recipe that’s been swirling in your mind for days and days.

Because of the aforementioned calories in pizza dough, I keep the ingredient list pretty simple:

Pizza dough
Tomato sauce
Beyond burger
Onion
Garlic
Almond milk (no sugar added)
Tapioca starch
Turmeric
Nutritional yeast
Mushrooms

Take the burgers and put them in a bowl with grated garlic and diced onion, plus your favorite herbs & spices. Form into vegan meatballs and pop in the oven for about 10 to 12 minutes.

Saute mushrooms, onion & garlic until crisp.

Add oregano, basil and garlic powder to your tomato sauce and you’re good to go.

Mostly.

For the vegan bechamel: place nut milk in a small sauce pan over medium heat and let it warm while you add seasoning. Once it starts to steam add the turmeric and nutritional yeast, then add the tapioca starch. It will get thick and creamy and once it does, assemble your pizza.

I use a cornmeal & herb mixture to separate the pizza dough from the parchment paper, but use whatever you’re comfortable with, and then put everything together.

I prefer sauce-toppings-cheese order of assembly but that’s just me and this is your pizza. Go wild. Go crazy.

Cook for about 10 to 15 minutes, depending on how crisp you want the dough and whether or not you pre-cooked it, which I always do for a few minutes.

Let it cool and then…enjoy!

I wasn’t going to post this vegan pizza recipe, which is why it’s a day late but I had to remind myself that not everything you eat will be pretty and, even if it is, it might not photograph well. Especially with my limited photography skills.

But it was a damn good pizza and we eat it so rarely, I had to share!

Vegan Sushi Night ~ Smoky Tofu Nigiri & Vegan Crab Roll

One of the things I love about our Tokyo Diner Night meals is that inspiration can come from just about anywhere. For example, in my pre-vegan days I had a love-hate relationship with sushi. As a girl I would read about sushi was “all the rage” and the moment there was a sushi restaurant in my small town, I pounced. I loved it and ate it often, thinking myself the height of sophistication.

And then one dark day, I succumbed to food poisoning from a batch of bad–though not discount–sushi, and thus my wariness began. Spending almost a decade in Los Angeles gave me a renewed appreciation for the dish but now, as a vegan I steer clear of it altogether, mostly because I still have an iffy relationship with nori.

But still, I’ve had some pretty decent vegan sushi over the past three years. So when I was binge watching YouTube last week and saw a brief glimpse of an eel roll, it gave me an idea and that idea became my next dinner request.

Before you begin, you’ll need a few tools: Sushi Mat, Plastic wrap, Sharp knife.

If you’re a committed vegan sushi lover, consider a sushi making kit.

My partner and I watched a few vegan sushi videos online to figure these out and if you’ve done the same, you’ll know that a wide variety of rice is used. For both types of vegan sushi, he used sushi rice. It’s nice and sticky and if this is your first time, it’s better to do it right so that later, when you’re comfortable, you can make changes.

Let’s start with the Nigiri because preparation is so simple. Mix the mirin, soy sauce, agave syrup and rice vinegar in a bowl and brush the smoked tofu or simply let it soak and set it aside while you prepare the other roll.

For the vegan crab roll, you only need three simple ingredients: smoked tofu, vegan mayo or veggiegurt and Sriracha. I’d recommend adding some salt, pepper and maybe even garlic granules but those are optional and totally up to you.

Grate the tofu using a box grater and then add Sriracha and mayo or veggiegurt, stir until combined.

Now the hard part, rolling up the sushi. I wish I could give you some pointers but I’ve yet to even perfect my vegan Vietnamese rolls, but I think my Hubs did a pretty good job, don’t you? It’s a vast improvement over the last homemade vegan sushi dish I posted.

You will, of course need proper vegan sushi accoutrements such as pickled ginger, wasabi and soy sauce. All are optional but if you want the whole experience, go all the way with it!

Overall this was one of my favorite sushi meals, even with the nori, because the flavors were unexpected and totally delicious. If you thought your days of eating sushi were over since you adopted a cruelty-free diet, think again my friend.

And stay tuned, more vegan sushi recipes to come!

The vegan sushi set I bought didn’t arrive in time, but next you’ll see these babies on a pretty blue-green set that’ll make you totally jealous!

Vegan Fusion: Falafel Ball Noodle Soup

When it comes to cuisine, I’d love to say that I have no rules. But I do. A lot, in fact. Except when I want something that goes against the rules, in which case I’m the first to proclaim that the evolution of cuisine always starts with someone doing something they aren’t “supposed” to do.

And you know what, I’m totally fine with that because sometimes you just want what you want, and in this day and age when so many of us are spending more time than ever in the house, less time eating out at restaurants and all that jazz, rules must be broken once in a while.

Or longer…whatever you prefer.

Speaking of, let me introduce you to a Pho Style falafel ball rice noodle soup, my own vegan contribution to the vegan fusion movement. (Is it a movement or am I making that up?)

Let’s start with the falafel balls because they went in the oven and they needed time to cook and crisp up.

Falafel Ball Ingredients:

Chickpeas (rinsed & drained & dried)
Scallion
Ginger
Garlic
Smoky & Spicy paprika

Place all the ingredients into a food processor until you get a crumbly mixture. If you’re not sure whether it’s crumbly enough, scoop some into your hands and press it together. If it sticks, it’s good. I recommend you pop it into the fridge for 10 to 15 minutes, but it’s not totally necessary.

Form into uniform balls, whatever size you prefer, and lay out on a baking sheet at 180c/375f for about 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown & crispy.

That’s it. Pretty easy, right?

For the soup, I started with another batch of waste free broth as the broth base.

You will also need: onion, bell pepper, garlic, mung bean sprouts, tomato paste, soybean paste coconut milk, soy sauce and Pad Thai rice noodles.

Start with a big pot and give the vegetables a light saute for a few minutes and then add soybean and tomato paste, stirring until everything looks kind of messy. Then it’s time to add the broth! Stir well until everything breaks apart and starts to resemble a soup. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer until the flavors are what you want.

Cook the noodles according to the package and drop them in your bowl first. Top with broth & veggie mixture and then falafel balls and you are–technically–ready to put it in your belly.

But you can also add garnishes such as jalapeno peppers, basil leaves, lime juice, Sriracha & soy sauce.

And there you have it, my own little twist on vegan fusion food and Asian fusion although I guess it should be vegan Asian-Middle Eastern fusion? That’s a mouthful but not as much as this delicious soup, which I will totally add to the rotation, using all kinds of vegan ball varieties.

vegan salad recipes

Supreme Vegan Salads

We all know the jokes about vegans eating nothing but grass or lettuce or any other leafy green, right?

To a certain extent that’s true for this vegan, but that’s because once you open your mind, salads are damn good. They aren’t just delicious though, they are also packed with vitamins and nutrients that keep you healthy and beautiful! Besides all that, you plenty of natural fiber to keep everything in working order.

Let’s not forget, for those of us looking for a calorie friendly way to satisfy our appetite, salads are super calorie friendly!

So yeah, we vegans definitely know how to do salad right.

vegan salad recipes

Of course you can always make salad with pretty much anything you want, but I prefer to add a bit of beans & grains for a little heft to go along with all the fresh, raw goodness of traditional salad veggies.

My go to salad ingredients are: lettuce, tomato, scallions, cucumber, radishes, olives & sprouts

If I’m feeling creative or if I have some extra time I’ll add shredded carrots, apples, cranberries, fennel, artichokes, sun dried tomatoes or kohlrabi. The point to making delicious vegan salads for lunch or for dinner, is to get creative. Don’t be afraid to test out a vegetable you think you don’t like or don’t know how to cook. You have your phone, never be afraid to whip it out in the middle of the grocery store and type in “how to cook/eat” a particular food item. Phones are tools too, people!

vegan taco burrito bowl

Another thing I love about salad? Adding lettuce to an otherwise super caloric meal is an awesome cheat. Feel like tacos or a burrito? Add the all fixings on a bed of lettuce and you can eat it guilt-free, in addition to cruelty free! And with the addition of grains, you can easily turn a taco salad into a taco bowl…and you can even add your favorite vegan cheese too!

One of my favorites is a Chipotle style burrito bowl and you can make it so many times without repeats!

Feeling too lazy to make a big ol’ dinner? Mix your lettuce with some shredded cabbage to fill you up and toss in fifty grams of cooked tofu or TVP and you’ve got a vegan chicken salad that will satisfy your appetite.

I have a cabinet filled with vinegar and there’s always veggiegurt (vegan yogurt) in my fridge for salad because some days I feel like a vinaigrette and others I want something creamy. The options are endless, so the next time someone cracks a joke about vegans eating nothing but lettuce, sit back with a smug smile knowing they if they knew what you now know about salads, they’d be halfway to changing their lives!

creamy vegan pesto salad dressing

And if you find yourself running out of ideas, consider some of your favorite dishes butt salad-ized! (Is that a word? If not, it totally should be!)

Think about it, pasta salad…nix the pasta and add lettuce instead. Take your favorite antipasti ingredients and toss it with a cup or two of Romaine, Spinach or Arugula, whatever tickles your taste buds.

Check out this soy & steak fries salad!

Eating healthy and eating vegan NEVER ever means you have to have a boring meal. All you need is a bit of desire and tons of creativity.

Pofta buna!

African Inspired Vegan Chickpea & Peanut Butter Stew

With autumn fast upon us, I thought it was time to start bringing out the vegan soup and stew recipes. What better way to save time and stay warm than a slow cooking pot of vegetables, herbs & spices? None I can think of!

So I came across this recipe on Minimalist Baker and thought to myself, why not?

As always, feel free to make adjustments to fit your palate but unless you have some type of allergy, I really recommend you give it a solid chance first.

So what exactly makes this vegan stew, African inspired? Firstly, the peanuts or in my case, the peanut butter. And the spices. I used ras el hanout because, let’s face it, this spice blend is packed with flavor and SO delicious. Bonus tip: coat this on your potatoes before making a batch of fries in the oven or the air fryer! I also added harissa paste because I can’t get enough spice.

The ingredient list is pretty simple:

Chickpeas
Onion
Coconut milk (creamy)
Garlic
Tomato paste
Diced tomatoes (fresh or canned, its up to you)
Peanut butter
Bulgur
Coconut oil
Red bell pepper

Heat the coconut oil (or water) in a big pot or skillet and add the ras el hanout and turmeric powder, cooking until fragrant. Then add onion, garlic and bell pepper and cook 4 to 6 minutes, not too much because we’re just getting started. Add salt and pepper.

Add tomato and harissa paste, tomatoes, chickpeas, coconut milk, peanut butter and water or broth.

I only added about 1.5 tablespoons of peanut butter to the actual soup because peanut butter is crazy caloric. Instead I mixed the remaining peanut butter with hot water and drizzled it over the top for flavor and a pretty garnish.

Bring the mixture to a boil and then lower to a simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the liquid is thick and creamy.

You can add corn or tapioca start to thicken if you decide not to go crazy with coconut milk, or just enjoy it more soup-y than stew-y.

I served it on a bed of bulgur instead of rice because I love bulgur and I thought it would add a nice texture to the stew.

This meal wasn’t as calorie friendly as I prefer my vegan meals, thanks to the addition of coconut milk and peanut butter, but sometimes sacrifices have to be made if you want to try something news. Right?

My only regret was that I couldn’t find any African or specifically, West African beer to go along with this meal. Otherwise it was a great new meal to test out and enjoy.

Easy Vegan Char-fu (Vegan Char Siu)

I know, I know, you’re shocked to see yet another noodle dish from me.

Cue: your shocked face!

Seriously though, with everything going on in the world sometimes you just want a dish that brings you comfort and for me that is usually Asian noodles. They are versatile so you can get super fancy with it or do it up as simple as you like. This particular dish is a play on char siu, but obviously we’re not going to be using adorable pigs in our vegan meal, so we relied on good ol’ TVP to get the job done.

This vegan dish is all about the seasoning (and the noodles) but mostly the seasoning.

I don’t know about where you guys are–feel free to tell me where you are while reading this in the comments–but even if we were eating out these days, the suburbs of Bucharest aren’t exactly a haven for vegan cuisine, which means I can get all the Asian food I want right here in the comfort of my kitchen.

Now, you can too!

What you’ll need:

Onion
Bok Choy
Garlic
Chow Mein noodles
TVP
Peanut oil
Napa cabbage
Soy Sauce
Scallions
Hot sauce

Cook the TVP as indicated, same with the noodles.

Drain the TVP and season it, then pop it into the air fryer, oven or just fry it in a skillet, the choice is yours.

Add peanut oil to a pan or skillet and cook onion, bok choy, ginger and garlic until done, about 5 to 10 minutes, depending on how you like it. Add soy sauce and hot sauce, then toss with crispy soya.

Serve on a bed of your favorite noodles and garnish with fresh, thin sliced scallions.

This quick and easy vegan meal should take you 30 minutes or less in the kitchen, but if you’re feeling like going there, feel free to share your fancier version of vegan Char-fu!

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!

Takeout Friday – Vegan Kung Pao Cauliflower

I know we just did a cauliflower recipe last week but sometimes you just have to make do with what the market provides, and sometimes the market provides…cauliflower.

That’s one of the amazing things about being vegan and doing our Midnight Tokyo Diner meals, as long as you have food, you have a fun recipe that can be whipped up into something fantastic. So, that’s what I told the Hubs, “baby make me Kung Pao Cauliflower.”

And he did.

Under normal circumstances this wold seem like a really complicated dish to veganize, but ignore the long ingredient list and focus on taking it one step at a time.

What you’ll need:

Cauliflower
Wild basmati rice
Ginger
Cashews
Peanut oil
Garlic
Soy sauce
Onion
Red bell pepper
Breadcrumbs
Cornstarch

To get your cauliflower crispy enough that it doesn’t get soggy when the sauce is added, mix the cornstarch with the breadcrumbs and bake it or add it to your air fryer. If you don’t care about oil, you can fry it up in a skillet.

Cook up the onions, ginger and garlic, adding soy sauce and water once you’re ready to make the sauce. If you need to thicken it, add a teaspoon each of cornstarch and water. Serve on top of rice on along side it. Sprinkle chopped cashews on top and you’re good to go.

This vegan Kung Pao recipe is fairly easy and quick, but it has multiple components so it can be intimidating. Don’t let this vegan dish pass you by!

What’s your favorite Asian takeout dish to vegan-ize?

Garlicky Vegan Mac & Not Cheese

I LOVE mac & cheese…at least I used to love it.

Then I went vegan and stopped eating cheese and an odd thing happened; I stopped putting cheese on EVERYTHING. And what’s crazier is that I stopped adding a sprinkle of cheese here and there because I no longer craved it. So began a year of experimenting with pizza and mac without using cheese. I tried all the #veganhacks that included using sweet potatoes, Russet potatoes, carrots, cauliflower…all of it. They were okay but none of them made mac & cheese a crave-able dish for me anymore.

Oh, the dismay.

So I did a deep dive into it and there’s a good reason I stopped needing cheese on dishes when I got off animal cheese. In a word, casomorphin. It’s what makes cheese so addictive, but don’t just take my word for it. Wikipedia explains it here.  If you want the TLDR version, here ya go:

Source, Forbes 2017

Once I had that information, I didn’t feel like a bad vegan for disliking most vegan cheese options available to me in Germany and then Romania. So I decided to get creative about it.

Rather than using vegan cheese whenever I got a craving, I would go for other things like tapenade, pesto or romesco because they are flavorful, vegan and way more calorie friendly than any type of cheese, and my primary focus initially was weight loss, so calories mattered too.

Then I discovered a way to make a cheese-like sauce that was still vegan and calorie friendly, and it satisfied my need for mac & cheese, which let’s be honest was really a craving for carbs drenched in sauce…right?

All you need is: plant milk, turmeric (if you find it raw, grate it straight into the sauce), nutritional yeast, garlic granules, smoky paprika, mustard (optional), salt & pepper.

I employ the ‘low & slow’ method, which means it takes about 10 minutes (maybe longer if you’re using a lot of milk) to get the not cheese sauce nice and thick so it’ll stick to your pasta of choice.

Add the nutritional yeast one tablespoon at a time, letting it simmer and dissolve before adding more, and be sure to taste it in between just to make sure it doesn’t get too salty. Set a timer for 10 minutes and keep going until you get the thickness you prefer.

For this particular dish, I kept it pretty simple with pasta, 30 grams of sauteed garlic, and soy pieces. Add not-cheese and stir. If you’re feeling extra, pop it in the oven for 10 minutes to get a little bit of crust on top but it’s totally not necessary because this vegan mac stands on its own.

vegan alternative to mac & cheese

Just a quick note here: turmeric doesn’t just add the color of American cheese to this dish, it also comes with plenty of health benefits that include anti-oxidant as well as anti-inflammatory properties, which is a nice change for cheese, don’tcha think?

Let me know if you decide to make your own version…what do you put in it?

Easy Vegan Broccoli Stir-Fry

What do you do when you:

A. Work from home

B. Are on lockdown

C. Work well past the dinner hour but NEED some good #vegan food to keep you going?

Easy…a quick vegan stir-fry is where it’s at.

ALWAYS.

The ingredient list is simple: firm tofu, broccoli, scallions, garlic and rice. You can make whatever you want just keep in mind that a good stir-fry is protein, vegetables and a grain.

And sauce, of course. For this one we used soy sauce, Korean chili paste, ginger powder, water and corn starch.

If you want a very crispy tofu, season it and pop in the air fryer if you have one. I LOVE this thing because it gives someone like me–trying to get to a healthy weight–a chance to eat something fried without going crazy on the oil since I’ve talked a lot about my foray into oil-free or minimal oil cooking. It cooks things quicker and gets them super crispy, which I loved in this dish because the tofu doesn’t get soggy, something every vegan tofu eater has had to contend with.

Oh, and the Hubs added the broccoli for a few minutes just to get some crisp on the tips and…it totally worked!

Garnish with the green tops of the scallions if you choose, sliced as big or as small as you like.

There’s not a lot to say about this meal because although it was delicious with a capital ‘D’, it was so late and fairly rushed that I can’t really remember the details…other than enjoying it.

 

Jerk Spiced Cauliflower Steaks & Bulgur ~ Easy Vegan Dinners

Since discovering Midnight Tokyo Diner on Netflix, we don’t often do a lot of meal planning per se, we just grab what is fresh and what looks delicious, plus a good helping of pantry staples and favorites. It has been working for us, especially during the lockdown, so there’s no point in changing anything. Right?

So of course when I set eyes on a beautiful head of cauliflower, I knew what I wanted to do with it…and I just had to do some Jedi mind trick to get the Hubs to request cauliflower steaks. Turns out, great minds think a lot and I got to keep my Jedi tricks for another day. His request was simple: cauliflower steaks, seasoned for any style of cuisine I chose.

Gotta love a man who knows you!

The cauliflower steaks will take the longest to cook so I recommend that you season it first and set aside to let the flavors marinate. If you want to be a lazy vegan, may I suggest a good Jerk seasoning spice pack. It’ll make sure you have all the right ingredients to make it authentic without having to worry about it. But if you want to use individual ingredients, here you go: cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, ginger, scallion, scotch bonnet peppers, garlic and thyme.

I used vegan yogurt instead of oil to marinate the cauliflower, letting it get good and flavorful while I prepped the vegetables and grains.

When you’re ready, cook the cauliflower steaks on 180ºC for 30 minutes, adding more time if it’s not cooked all the way through.

The hardest part is out of the way…yay!

For the veggies you can keep it simple. Onion, bell peppers, garlic, ginger and chickpeas. I used a splash of oil (about 5 grams) for the veggies and chickpeas, otherwise I didn’t want to muddy up the flavor profile.

Finish it off with a grain of your choice, I chose bulgur because it has surpassed rice as my favorite short grain in recent years. And that’s it. Pretty easy, right?

Now all that’s left is to plate everything up!

You might notice the eggplant on the left and you’re probably wondering, doesn’t she dislike eggplant…a lot? Yes, I do. A lot.

But this wasn’t my plate, ti was the Hubs and he LOVES it, so I scored it and added the rest of the veggiegurt-jerk seasoning and popped it in the oven. It was a tad overcooked so I suggest adding it during the last 15 minutes of cooking because–DUH–cauliflower and eggplant doesn’t have the same cook time.

Next time you think there’s nothing to be done with cauliflower, think again. This is a quick and easy vegan dinner that you can cook again and again, switching up the seasoning and the grains to go from Jerk spice to Mexican, Indian, French or whatever else floats your boat.

This vegan meal was delicious, it was healthy and well-balanced.

Enjoy!

Weird But Good Vegan Recipes: Spicy Tofu & Sauerkraut

Let’s keep it real, when it comes to cooking not every meal can be a gourmet masterpiece or the very definition of healthy and nutritious. We hope for one of those of two, but sometimes you just want what you want. Right?

That’s pretty much how this easy vegan meal came about. I felt like having something spicy but I didn’t want to go crazy with calories and I didn’t want to make something that would cost too much time in the kitchen because I was furiously trying to get my book properly formatted so the paperback could be completed.

Update/Shameless promotion: How Could I Forget is finally ready to order in paperback and digital!

Luckily for me, I found some leftover sauerkraut and decided…why the heck not? I love sauerkraut actually. I spent a part of my childhood in Wisconsin where I experienced many Oktoberfest celebrations and learned a lot about German and Polish culture. Then, I went on to spend about 8 years living in Germany, so yeah, sauerkraut is my jam! But, I’ve never used it out side of my seitan & kraut style recipes. So I did what any internet savvy home cook does, I consulted Google to find out other ways to use sauerkraut and what to pair it with.

Turns out, it makes an excellent side dish, with only a little prep time.

Since we’ve talked so much about the kraut, let’s start with that. I like to rinse it a little just so the taste isn’t quite so vinegar-y, then drain and set aside. Chop up one onion and a few cloves of garlic to saute (in oil or water) and when they start to crisp and turn brown, add the kraut. Cook until warm OR you can just turn off the stove and stir together if you want the full health benefits of fermented foods.

While the onions & garlic are cooking, you should re-hydrate your soya (TVP) if that’s what you’re using because that’s why I used in this easy vegan recipe, but you can always use whatever vegan protein floats your boat. I used the big pieces because there’s a lot of surface to cover in yummy spicy sauce and because I wanted a reason to break out my new air fryer!

While the soy chunks are in the air fryer, I added a bunch of spices to a bowl along with soy sauce and just enough olive oil to turn it into a paste/sauce that would work for a tossed coating. My spices: smoky & spicy paprika, garlic granules, ground ginger, harissa powder, piri piri, turmeric and cumin. When the timer beeps, remove the crispy vegan tofu wings and toss in the spice mixture.

If you’re my kind of vegan home cook and you tend to make foods a little on the spicier side, consider adding a cooling sauce for those in your home who don’t love spicy vegan foods the way you do.

I opted for a veggiegurt sauce with lemon juice, cumin, parsley and oregano. The hubs said it helped with the heat…a lot.

If you’re in the market for quick and easy vegan recipes, you will be happy to know that this recipe took about 30 minutes and that includes entering the ingredients into Cronometer.

What do you like to pair with your vegan hot wings?

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. 🙂

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.

Ugly But Tasty Vegan Salami Pizza

It’s no secret that while I am a pretty good vegan cook, I am not the world’s most talented photographer. Or second most talented. Not even top fifty, just in case you were wondering. And I’m totally okay with that because on our worst days, our vegan meals are still pretty damn good…but sometimes they really don’t look like it.

Not all photos can be IG worthy, but I personally think you should even share the ugly photos because that is the nature of eating. Sometimes you eat for fuel, for comfort, or for pleasure and sometimes that’s enough. As long as you enjoy it, that’s what matters. Right?

Or maybe I’m just projecting because of my ugly vegan pizza!

The ingredient list on this ugly vegan pizza is pretty straightforward:

Pizza dough

Vegan cheddar

Vegan salami (smoky)

Spicy tomato sauce

Tomatoes

Onion

Cook the onions and half-cook the tomatoes so you don’t end up with tiny balls of fire when the vegan pizza is ready to eat.

Then, assemble your pizza: sauce on the dough, vegetables, salami and then vegan cheese. Bake 12 to 15 minutes and you have a homemade vegan pizza that costs way less than delivery, minus the animal cruelty.

It’s hard to make vegan pizza pretty if that’s your goal but I’d prefer it to be tasty, which this was. And it was big ol’ pizza just for me and the hubs which meant I got to pig out a little more than I should have.

#worthit

This was a quick and easy vegan meal, perfect for a lazy Friday night.

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!