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!

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!!!!

Beyond Meatball Noodle Soup (Vegan)

Can we all just agree that it is incredibly difficult to rename dishes you’ve been using for a lifetime? It is probably one of the most difficult parts of writing this blog, and I constantly find myself using too many descriptors or not enough. Or you end up with the redundancy of saying “vegan” everything. But when it came to this particular meal, the name almost wrote itself.

Beyond Meat is only one of two vegan meat alternatives that are available to me here in Romania, the other is a local brand, Verdino and they only make mici, deli slices and salami. That made it pretty easy to use the word ‘meatball’ and have it accurately apply. But that’s enough about the name of this dish, right? Let’s get down this incredibly delicious vegan noodle recipe.

This is an easy vegan recipe that you can make in less than 30 minutes and you can use whatever you have in your fridge and pantry.

Start with the Beyond Burgers and just add: minced garlic and ginger, smoky paprika, Ancho chili flakes and soy sauce. Use vegan Worcestershire if you have it, but I am currently waiting on a shipment of items that include vegan Worcestershire…still. My brand comes from the UK but if any of you have recommendations, drop them in the comments section!

Mix everything together in a bowl and form into small-ish, bite sized cruelty free meatballs.

I was feeling lazy so i popped them in the oven on 225°C for about 15 to 18 minutes and as you can see, they became nice and crispy without losing any of that signature juiciness that defines them.

The soup part of the equation was simple: my new favorite thing, waste-free vegan broth! You might need to add a little of this and a little of that to get the right flavor profile, but it shouldn’t take you more than a few minutes.

As you can see, I made Udon noodles for my husband and Ramen noodles for myself because we have different tastes and it was no big deal to make two types. Cook the noodles according to the package, just using broth instead of plain old water.

Garnish with fresh scallions, lime juice and Sriracha and voila, a quick and easy vegan lunch guaranteed to satisfy your appetite.

Healthy tip: If you love Ramen noodles the way I do, then you probably REALLY love how calorie friendly they are, right? Well you’ll have to weigh the Ramen after you cook them to get the most accurate calorie count. Those little 60 gram packages total up to about 150 grams once cooked. Don’t take my word for it though, invest in a food scale. This is the one I have. It’s basic but it gets the job done. Oh, and it’s battery operated.

And if you’re feeling a little grown up, add a cocktail. I totally just used this opportunity to break out the new rum, though. It wasn’t completely necessary but appreciated and satisfying.

This was just ice cold rum with lime zest and brown sugar on the rim. It was delicious and refreshing, especially if you like a little heat with your favorite Ramen noodle soup.

What is your go to noodle soup recipe?

 

Easy Vegan Meals: Crispy Korean Spiced Tofu & Rice

Even on days like this one, stuck in the house, sometimes this vegan just doesn’t feel like gettin’ down in the kitchen. But I have to eat because I love to eat and because, ya know, we all need it to survive and all that, it means one of us still has to cook.

That’s when easy vegan meals come in super handy.

These vegan meals are ALWAYS delicious (but that part is up to you) and flavorful and most of all simple. So simple that no amount of glossy photos will make it look any different, but since we’re all friends here and everyone knows that my photography skills could use some help, it’s cool. Right?

This particular easy vegan meal was one of our now classic Midnight Tokyo Diner meals. I asked for crispy Korean tofu and this is what he made.

What’s your favorite easy vegan meal when you don’t want takeout? I often choose something Asian inspired because there’s always rice or noodles so…carbs!

Roasted Aubergine & Zucchini Vegan Buddha Bowl

Buddha Bowls. What more can be said about them that hasn’t been said already?

They are packed with nutrients, but only if you pack’em.

They offer the spice of life…variety.

They can help you get your daily amount of grains, proteins and vegetables.

Personally, I LOVE Buddha Bowls. I love making them and I really love eating them.

So here we are, for another round of #vegan Buddha Bowl fun!

Chances are good that you’re aware of all the nutritional and health benefits of these fun bowls, but you’ve probably strayed away because they seem time intensive. Let me tell you that it’s really not all that time-consuming, at least not with a little bit of planning.

For this harissa roasted Buddha bowl, the oven will do all the work for you.

First thing you have to do is choose your: Veggies + Grain + Protein

I chose carrots, zucchini (for me) and eggplant (for him), cut into ‘steaks’ + Quinoa + Chickpeas

You’ll notice a little bit of blackness on the eggplant and other vegetables but rest assured, it’s because of the marinade which included: smoky paprika, oregano, salt & pepper, olive oil, soy sauce, garlic powder, curry, garam masala, spicy paprika and thyme. Whip it all up into a bowl and pour it all over the (scored, doesn’t it look so pretty?) veggies.

Roast in the oven on 200°C/400°F for about 20 minutes, or until they reached your desired level of tenderness or crispiness.

Cook your grain according to the packaging, I used a total of 100 grams of quinoa for 2 adults.

Now it’s time for the protein. CHICKPEAS!!!

Don’t you just love this wonderfully delicious and diverse legume? It makes great dips, falafels, goes excellent in salads or you can even season them and bake them up like nuts for a crunchy snack.

I made another spice blend using cayenne pepper, turmeric, smoky paprika, curry, salt, white pepper and a masala spice blend. But the only way to get the perfect bake is to make sure you dry the chickpeas completely after you’ve rinsed them. Then coat them with the spices and bake for about 25 minutes, less if you want less crunch.

Since each element of this vegan Buddha bowl was SO flavorful, I decided to skip the sauce this time around and let me tell you, the sauce would have taken away from the carefully planned spice profile.

Whenever I’m at a loss over what to make for dinner, I just grab a little of this and a little of that, and 45 minutes later you have a bowl full of yum!

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!

Vegan Fish & Chips Take Two: His Turn

You all know that I’m not one of those vegans who needs to recreate my meals to taste like the old version that involves suffering. I don’t miss the taste of meat or fish or cheese, but I do enjoy experimenting to see how to make those dishes fit for any kind of vegan.

For this version of #vegan fish & chips though, my husband took his turn at bat. You’ll remember my own F&C recipe, which didn’t turn out so well visually but the taste was delicious…if you love nori which I kind of do not.

As you can see, he took a different route than I did, deciding to wrap the nori around the TVP first and then he added the breading, which included a beer batter! It worked out much better and the added lemon and vinegar really decreased the overpowering taste and smell of nori sheets. Maybe it just worked out better because he doesn’t shy away from frying foods the way I do!

This is the point I wanted to make about experimenting with your old pre-vegan days recipes, you can find something really awesome that isn’t exactly as you remembered, but it is something better. Healthier.

Without the cruelty.

I’ll tell you right up front that if you’re expecting it taste like fish & chips, you will be sorely disappointed. But the flavors added provide a nice brine-y sea flavor, and the beer batter meant I was getting something greasy and friend and delicious. I see no problems with that, do you?

And yeah, okay so the “chips” aren’t technically chips but there’s no fish in this dish either, so who cares? But the potatoes were tossed in about 4 grams of oil and tons of herbs & spices, then baked for about 30 minutes. Crispy and delicious and not nearly as fattening as the version that includes actual fish.

You can’t have vegan fish & chips without some kind of tartar sauce, can you?

Not in my book!

We went to our old favorite, veggiegurt, because that’s what’s available to you as a vegan in the part of Romania where we are…if you have a hate-hate relationship with mayo of all types, which I do. Use whatever vegan yogurt or mayo you prefer, just make sure you read the ingredients and the nutritional information.

For the vegan tartar sauce you will need: yogurt/mayo, dill, lemon, salt, pepper, ground fennel. Stir and then refrigerate until you’re ready to use it. For those of you who love a little bit of heat, I like to add a few drops of hot sauce or Tabasco to the tartar.

You’ll notice the plate is much lighter than it normally looks, but that’s because oil has LOTS of calories and frying anything means you have to make room for that in your diet. We did, but you don’t necessarily have to.

But if you do want to add some extra calories, consider an ice cold beer. Maybe a Jameson on the rocks?

Pickled Carrot Udon Noodles

One of life’s greatest gifts, as far as this home chef is concerned, is noodles. Asian noodles or pasta, you name it and I love it. Crave it. Make it often.

Noodles, in general, are an easy go to for a lazy or busy vegan. Just add veggies and you’re good to go!

For this particular meal, I took a quick but flavorful route.

pickled carrot udon noodles

My plan started out simple enough: get a good oil-free caramelization on the leeks, ginger and garlic, toss with udon noodles and sauce. Top with pickled carrots & scallions. The End. Somehow the soya strips got added and here we are, so this is what you do.

What you’ll need:

Udon noodles (I prefer Sukina brand fresh noodles but use what you can find), TVP or tofu or your favorite protein, carrots, ginger, garlic, scallions, lemons, leeks, curry and seasonings.

When it comes to choosing ingredients for your noodle dish, stick to what you like and what you know…and do NOT be afraid of your vegetables! I had intended to keep this simple, no soya pieces but somehow they ended up in the dish anyway.

Shave the carrots & thinly slice the scallions and toss into a small bowl. Add salt, black pepper, lemon juice (at least 1, maybe 1.5 lemons’ worth), agave syrup or other sweetener, cider or rice vinegar. Toss until coated and set aside, giving it a good mix every now and again for an even quick pickling.

spicy pickled udon vegan noodles

Next, take the leeks, ginger and garlic and saute until done, about 10 minutes, adding herbs and spices like curry, cumin, smoked paprika, cayenne, garam masala, during the cooking process. Cook the noodles according to the package instructions and toss with leek mixture.

Top with pickled carrots and extra scallions and you’ve got a quick vegan lunch and a pretty awesome carb fix on your hands!

30-Minute Beyond Pasta Bolognese

When I first adopted a vegan diet, I chose the KISS method. Keep it simple, stupid, and the transition won’t be as jarring or difficult. What that means, exactly, is that I used all of my old recipes that I had collected, created or curated over the years and only replaced them with things I had on hand or simple substitutes.

For example, I wasn’t sure if I’d stick to the diet, never mind adopt it as a full on lifestyle, so I didn’t want to invest in vegan products that I might not like, so I used applesauce to replace the binding agent in cakes and cookies. Turns out, I find it too dense. Anyway that’s what I did for just about everything, replaced the meat with beans or mushrooms and eventually, tofu. Same thing with dairy until I was all the way on the vegan train and not looking back.

And with these latest creation, I kept it simple and went kind of old school.

Bolognese or ragu, whatever you call it this is a fairly easy dish to make when you feel like pasta. And if you have a family recipe or one that you’re really fond of and don’t want to replace this or that, don’t.

Just use Beyond Meat or whatever brand you prefer and…BAM, bolognese just like you remember. Minus the cruelty.

When I say I kept it simple, I mean it!

The ingredients include: onion, garlic, bell peppers, nutritional yeast, herbs & spices, tomato paste, canned peeled roma tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and water.

Yep, it really is that easy. One simple replacement and you’ve got a delicious #vegan pasta dish in thirty minutes or less.

Choose whatever pasta you have on hand, just make sure it’s something that will allow the sauce to cling to it…ooh, yummy goodness!

What is your go-to pasta dish? Or the one dish you haven’t been able to vegan-ize perfectly?

Quick & Easy Vegan Smoked Tofu Bowl

With what’s going on in the world lately, we all have to do what we can, right? That means some days or weeks I feel like a #vegan rock star in the kitchen, making my own seitan sausage and whipping up delicious meals while some days I just want something easy, delicious and nutritious. Like all of you, I’m complicated and that’s okay.

And yeah, sure that was my long winded way of saying this post is going to be short because this meal was delicious, easy to make and super fast.

This is one of the many reasons I love Buddha bowls, they are healthy and easy, two of my favorite things when I’m too busy or too lazy to spend time in the kitchen.

This particular bowl was SUPER easy, all you need is onion, bell pepper, garlic, smoked tofu and a grain of your choosing, the photo has bulgur in it. The sauce is a combination of tomato paste, soy sauce and Korean chili paste.

And don’t forget to hit up your spice rack to give this dish an Asian or Italian flair, or whatever you’re in the mood for.

Not every vegan meals needs to be IG worthy, but sometimes they accidentally are! (Hit me up at IndyJaxn if you want to see for yourself.)

What’s your favorite go-to vegan meal?

Seitan Gyro Bowl & Tofu Tzatziki

Since I have a lot of time on my hands, being mostly stuck indoors these days, I’ve developed quite the fascination with seitan. You can make all manner of vegan proteins from sausages to steaks, ribs, burgers and patties. If you have a proper spice rack, worthy of a grown up vegan, you won’t have to worry about a thing.

There are tons of seitan recipes online and you can switch up the seasoning to get whatever type of cuisine you prefer.

The seitan recipe I use is pretty simple: 30 grams of gluten flour, 7 grams nutritional yeast, herbs & spices as desired, oil and water. Mix dry ingredients first and taste, add more seasoning as needed. Then mix in wet and shape into whatever food you want. Wrap it in foil and simmer for 45 minutes and that is it.

Now, the rest of the bowl is even easier. Sauteed oyster mushrooms, bell peppers and onion with Greek or Mediterranean seasoning if you want to achieve that classic gyro flavor. Add a grain like rice or bulgur and you’re good to go!

And we can forget the famous cucumber yogurt sauce known as tzatziki sauce. The market was out of my favorite veggiegurt last week so I had to improvise and I did, using left over tofu in brine. I took the tofu, mint, lemon zest and juice, parsley and basil to make a cooling agent, though it wasn’t spicy so cooling wasn’t quite the goal just…flavor.

You can skip this sauce if you want or you can enhance the spice so you can truly enjoy it properly.

This is by no means an authentic dish, but it’s no secret that I can turn pretty much any cuisine into a Buddha bowl!

What’s your favorite Buddha Bowl?

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’!

Quick Scallion Pancakes & Spicy Seitan Sausage

Sometimes you just feel like breakfast for dinner but without the zillion calorie meal that’s common for a breakfast at night feast, even a vegan one.

Sometimes I miss having breakfast even though I’ve never been much of a breakfast eater and I don’t eat it at all these days if I’m not hungry, but when those longings hit, they hit big. So I set aside all my thoughts of breakfast being a useless consumption of the worst kind of calories, and I indulge.

Some.

I like to bargain with myself. “You can have pancakes but make it savory instead of sweet.”

I had plans of making a Korean style scallion pancake that I saw on YouTube but time got away from me and I ended up doing a quick reconfig of a regular old fluffy pancake recipe, making it vegan and removing the sugar, adding scallions and enoki mushrooms to the batter.

It turned out pretty well thanks to the addition of soy sauce and ground ginger in the pancake batter.

For the spicy maple vegan sausage, I relied on my old friend seitan. The color isn’t striking but damn, these are just so tasty that they are totally worth the time it takes to make them. Well, that and the fact that the stove does all the work by…simmering. Add whatever you like but I used spicy paprika, adobo chile pepper flakes, scotch bonnet powder and maple syrup as the primary ingredients in my sausage dough.

Then came time for the tofu scramble. Tofu, turmeric, onions and bell peppers in a skillet until crispy and fragrant and your quick and easy vegan breakfast is complete. Feel free to add ketchup, hot sauce or even syrup if that’s your jam.

This vegan breakfast dinner was a good way to splurge on a workout day without going over 600 calories…if you care about that. If not, just know that this is still plenty of food. Plenty.

What’s your go to breakfast at night meals?

Cheesy Vegan Broccoli Mac

During these endless days when one calendar day turns into the next, sometimes you get the urge to enjoy some comfort food. But you’re also an adult which means you have to eat your greens and your veggies.

So, what do you do?

One of my personal favorites is mac & cheese. Now it’s true that I’m not a huge fan of the vegan cheese options currently available to me but I am a huge fan of vegan béchamel sauce with just a pinch of cheese, and it turns out it was just what my mac & cheese dishes were missing to satisfy that craving.

Just like the mac & cheese you used to eat as a child, this dish is easy and (relatively) quick to make.

This was my third or fourth attempt to perfect my béchamel sauce, alternating between Alpro almond and soya milks in search of a slightly higher fat content to get that thick creaminess I was in search of. The unsweetened soya is better than the almond in terms of fat but not necessarily taste, at least to me.

The ingredient list for this dish is pretty simple:

Pasta (I prefer whole wheat, choose what you like)

Broccoli

Mushrooms

Garlic

Soy milk

Nutritional Yeast

Vegan butter (I used olive oil)

Flour

Water

Make the pasta according to the instructions but if you prefer to bake your pasta before you serve it, cook it a minute or two shy if your preferred doneness. Steam the broccoli and set aside.

For the mushrooms you can saute them on a high heat on top of the stove or season them and bake’em until the moisture is gone. The choice is yours since it’s your time, after all.

The sauce is the most time consuming part and if you want it really thick and flavorful, take your time here. Add fat (vegan butter or oil) and flour. I added a few cloves of minced garlic to the oil and let it cook until fragrant before adding the flour. Once the flour and fat mix starts to brown you can go straight for the liquid (water or milk) or you can do like I did and get fancy with it!

Before adding the liquid, I added a teaspoon (or more) of the following: mustard, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste and Sriracha. It’ll get good and sizzle-y and then its time to add the liquid. Note: You can alternate water and milk if you need a bigger batch of sauce without all the calories, but if you take it easy on the vegan cheese you’ll find the soy milk is pretty calorie friendly.

Once the liquid is in, keep a steady stir over a low heat, adding vegan cheese and nutritional yeast in alternating spoonfuls. A little bubbling is good but if it’s too much, turn down the heat. Add turmeric for that yellow American cheese color and smoky paprika for that smoky, grown up cheesy flavor!

If you choose, pop it in the oven for about 15 minutes, then cool and serve.

With a blackberry & mint margarita!

Cheers and pofta buna and please, pretty please…stay safe!!!

#TBT ~ Vegan Fried Chick’n & Spaghetti

Hey there!

Today’s post will be a quick one, just to help me get back into the swing of things. I hope you’re all well and still on your vegan, plant based, cruelty-free, healthy journey.

Now let’s talk about one of my most cherished memories with my grandmother. When I finished graduated school I spent a couple months living with my grandmother while adjusting to life off of a college campus and trying to find a job in a pretty terrible economy, which meant that many of my Friday nights were spent at home. Chillin’ with my granny.

I didn’t mind it, in fact I loved it. I’d hop in the car and make the short drive over to J&J Fish (a staple any Chicagoan can tell you about) and grab whatever we wanted, usually catfish for me and perch for her. But sometimes my granny would surprise me with fried chicken and her famous spaghetti. At the time I just called it a basic meat sauce but it’s really more of a bolognese. Anyway, fried chick’n and spaghetti was our Friday night ritual and since we’re 8,000 miles apart right now, the meal will have to suffice.

This is a fairly easy meal but in the spirit of honesty, my husband made this meal as requested by me for our Midnight Tokyo Diner meal! But it took him about 45 minutes from start to finish and the most time consuming part was re-hydrating and then frying the TVP.

All you need is whole wheat spaghetti, onion, bell pepper, garlic & tomatoes plus whatever herbs & spices you like. And some extra large TVP pieces.

Sometimes you want a meal to make you feel something, to transport you someplace other than your weight loss or fitness goals and that’s okay. Let yourself enjoy this amazing way we get to nourish our bodies.

Just remember, nourishment and fuel first.

I hope you enjoyed my Throwback Thursday meal…what’s your favorite comforting meal?

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?

From Vegan Dirty Rice to Dirty Fried Rice

So the title is pretty self-explanatory and I forgot to take photos when the Hubs made his delicious vegan dirty rice with kidney beans and veggies and plenty of spices, but I did take photos of my re-mix with the leftovers.

Take your dirty rice out of the fridge and grab a brick of firm tofu while you’re in there. Crumble the tofu and season it like you mean it. Scramble it up in a lightly oiled pan and then toss in the leftover dirty rice.

Toss until everything is coated and yummy. I added a tablespoon of Sriracha and the juice of one lime before tossing.

I also tossed in about a quarter up of green peas because I love the little peas and carrots you get in Chinese takeout!

Don’t forget the soy sauce and any other garnishes you deem necessary.

Spicy Asian Vegan Beef & Pasta

I hope everyone is all right out there, wherever you are in the world.

Today’s post is another installment of our very own Tokyo Diner and in the spirit of competitive fun, extra time on our hands and a love of mushrooms, I gave my husband two ingredients: crimini mushrooms & Beyond Burger.

This is what he came up with.

This dish was one of my favorites because it has two of my favorite elements: Asian flavor and pasta. I have never and will never deny my love of carbs and since my Hubs knows that, he found another tasty creation.

This will work with any type of pasta, but remember my aforementioned love of pasta? Well it means I’m always on the look out for unique shapes of pasta so that I can experiment with different sauces. This pasta is called caserecce and this is what it looks like.

Cook the pasta according to the instructions and he says to do it last. I’ll tell you why in a moment.

Chop and cook the Beyond Beef first so you can use the rendered fat to cook the mushrooms in. He cooked it over a medium-low heat and I swear to you, the difference was in the taste. The mushrooms had a nice richness to go with the crispy edges that just upped the taste factor on this dish by…a lot. I might be biased, though.

When the mushrooms have reached the done-ness you prefer, add the Beyond burger back to the skillet and toss in minced garlic.

That’s it.

Okay well not totally, but the only thing left to do is make the sauce and it was also pretty simple.

Hoisin sauce, vegan Worcestershire, cornstarch, tomato paste and Shaoxing vinegar. Oh, and water. Mix it in a bowl and toss it over the mushroom mix and let simmer. When the pasta is ready add it straight from the water into the sauce. Stir until blended and it’s time to nom-nom.

There is one thing left to talk about: the spice. I always prefer my dishes on the spicier side but he can only handle so much and there was about a tablespoon of spicy Romanian pepper paste in it and it worked well because it’s way too salty on it’s own, but its the perfect thing to finish off a dish…if your tongue can handle it.

What are you cooking while you’re at home? ARE you cooking more or eating quick & easy?