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!

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!

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!

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!!!!

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?

#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?

Grownup Vegan Stromboli

One of my favorite memories from college is spending Mock Trial strategy sessions at Jerry’s Pizza right across the street from my all girls dorm room. Yes, the proximity to home was a major selling point and so was the vintage PacMan machine that I spent too many hours and too many quarters playing but the thing that kept me coming back for more was the delicious cheesy stromboli.

The old version is ground beef, some kind of tomato sauce with pepperoncini peppers and giardiniera peppers if you ask really nicely. The sandwich was delicious and cheap but it was also big enough to enjoy the other half for lunch the next day. Over the years I have recreated the sandwich ad nauseam, never quite getting it right.

This time though, I’m feeling a little bit cocky.

This time around I made a few changes to correct things I wasn’t happy about in the past. The protein was always a problem for me because let’s be honest, ground meat and tofu scrambles are both greasy and not the greatest. So I replaced it with a Beyond Burger and 100 grams of chickpeas, along with bell peppers (any color you like), garlic and onion. That’s the main base and it’s pretty simple, right?

You’re halfway there. Now it’s time for the sauce and this is where I got a little more creative, a little more grownup and a lot more vegan. I got rid of the canned tomatoes and replaced them with cherry tomatoes on the vine, sun dried tomatoes and roasted red peppers. Toss a clove of fresh garlic, capers, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, soy sauce and lemon juice into a food processor and blend until smooth. This is your fabulous tomato sauce that will bring this vegan stromboli together beautifully.

When the veggies are cooked enough, add the sauce and bring to a boil and simmer until the sauce has thickened to an acceptable level, about 15 minutes.

Once the sauce thickened, I added a few drops of balsamic vinegar and a handful of green olives. Stack it on a long bun or a roll like I did here and you have a perfect vegan sandwich that tastes like it took all day to make.

I added jalapeno peppers to mine because I like things spicy but you can omit them if you want, or add more spice to the sauce. The choice is yours!

Since this was a pretty satisfying meal, I served them as open-faced vegan sandwiches and skipped a side dish. I didn’t want to add greasy fries, even if they were oven cooked and cold veggies wouldn’t have been right with this hot dish.

I’ve finally found a new & improved version of the Stromboli and I’m happy to add it to the rotation so let me know what tweaks you made when you try it at home!

Fiery Tofu Shakshuka

Every few  years some chef re-imagines a dish and then it becomes a craze only to disappear again…until another young chef comes along. You get the idea, right? I’ve been through the shakshuka craze several times on both sides of my switch to veganism and most of the time I felt blah about the dish.

It’s all right, I mean what’s not to like about thick tomato sauce…right? Okay well honestly, that’s where this dish often loses me. I love tomatoes and fresh salsa is one of my favorite things in this world, but tomato soup? No thanks. I’m not a fan of all applications of warm tomatoes and shakshuka was always one of those love-hate dishes to me. I wanted to love it, wanted to wow my friend with my take on the latest craze but I never quite perfected it.

Until now.

I know I sound a little braggy but it was pretty damn good.

The ingredient for this is pretty easy, many of these might even be vegan cabinet/fridge staples.

Let’s start with the sauce because it’s what really made this dish come out so well. You’ll need:

Stewed tomatoes (1 can)

Diced onion

Sun-dried tomatoes (5 to 7 should be plenty)

Roasted red peppers (1 chopped)

Cayenne pepper & Smoky paprika

Spicy red chili pepper

Cumin

Nutritional Yeast

 

Pop it all in a food processor until smooth-ish, add water or balsamic vinegar to help it along.

Set the sauce aside and prep the rest of the ingredients: onions, garlic and smoked tofu (in brine). I add the onions and tofu at the same time to make sure the brine-y tofu gets a bit of crisp. Added bonus? The saltiness of the brine means you can take it easy on the salt and soy sauce.

Cook thee onions and tofu for about 5 minutes and then add the tomato sauce. Bring to a boil and then simmer until you have a thick and spicy sauce. As you can see I let mine sit a little too long trying to get some good photos but it was very delicious. My husband gave it an 8!

Crusty bread and vegan parveggio completed this meal but honestly it didn’t need the vegan cheese, I just knew he would appreciate it.

Toast the bread lightly in the oven and you have a quick and easy vegan brunch that you can whip out to impress your friends. If you want to kick it up a notch, garnish with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and a splash of lime juice. It’s subtle but…wow!

If you need or want more spice, I recommend adding more peppers (and seeds) into the tomato mixture or get creative with your spice rack, mixing and matching to produce something magical and vegan and delicious.

What’s your favorite way to enjoy vegan Shakshuka? Leave comments below!

Pre-Shopping Day Vegan Pasta Primavera

What do you do when you need to make something quick, easy and nutritious to make for dinner with a fridge full of leftover ingredients? I had no clue but my husband and I have been taking inspiration from the Netflix show, Midnight Diner. It’s a Japanese vignette show centered on a diner where people come up and request whatever they want to eat and the chef will make it, provided he has the ingredients.

It’s been an experiment that’s into the second week now and it’s produced some pretty great results. I think so but maybe I’m biased.

Anyway if you’re unfamiliar, a primavera is a great way to make use of fresh vegetables before they go bad…you know who you are out there.

The easiest way to explain pasta primavera is a pasta dish with fresh veggies, at least as far as I understand it. And after a week of making delicious off-the-cuff dishes, this is what I whipped up when the hubs requested pasta primavera.

The good thing about a dish like this is that it is easy to make vegan and it’s a great dish to make sure you use up every veggie you doled out hard earned cash to buy. For this dish I started with my basics: onion, bell pepper and garlic. Broccoli, crimini mushrooms and smoked tofu rounded out the dish along with this strange mix & mash of pasta that I just couldn’t resist.

I sauteed it the veggies using a little bit of olive oil, adding the mushrooms first so they have plenty of time to get a bit of crisp around the edges and broccoli last so it didn’t get too soft because I like my vegetables with a bit of a bite. I did manage to get a bit of char on the onions and red bell peppers, which only enhanced the flavor of this vegan pasta dish.

The star of any good pasta primavera, in my opinion, is the sauce. I opted for a scampi-style sauce with lemon juice, capers, dijon mustard and nutritional yeast. Instead of dragging the dish down with a heavy cheesy sauce, I sprinkled Parveggio on top as a garnish.

I opted for smoked tofu in this dish because you can’t beat that smoky flavor in a dish like this. I didn’t want to replicate a fishy flavor but I wanted layers of taste and the smoky tofu and smoked paprika helped me accomplish that.

Feel free to add extra like hot chili flakes or fresh greens to garnish, but this was a day before grocery day kind of meal for us and it was an excellent way to clear up the fridge for a new batch of fresh goodies.

 

Quick & Easy Vegan Dips

Things have been a little hectic around here because–yay!!!!–I’ve finally finished my next novel. I’m feeling good but that’s only the first step so my work load had kind of tripled so I’m keeping today’s post pretty simple.

Dips, for me, are the perfect low calorie snack that can easily be made to fit a vegan diet. I never really gave dips much thought when I consumed animals or really until I started taking my weight loss seriously. But in my search for something more than salt & vinegar potato chips which are my absolute favorite to eat when I get a snack attack, I turned more and more to vegan dips.

I’ve got two easy dips, a garlicky hummus and a anti-pasti dip.

These recipes are really easy as long as you have a semi-decent food processor, and you can mix up herbs and spices to your own liking and play with them as you get more comfortable making them.

For the hummus, drain a can of chickpeas (or grab 2 cups of cooked dry beans) and rinse them, setting aside the liquid in case you need it to thin out the dip later. Add in any of the following: tahini paste (I think this is a must but do what you like), 1 head of roasted garlic, pine nuts, roasted red pepper, a few drops of hot sauce, 1/2 lemon, juiced, and run it until smooth. Add salt, pepper and cumin powder. I also added some tikka masala pepper powder for some extra smokiness.

Season it until you’re satisfied, adding water if you want a thinner hummus that’s perfect for dipping.

The anti-pasti dip, as named by me, was kind of an on the fly thing. The hummus was made and I had quite a bit of roasted red pepper left over, which got me to thinking what else could throw together for a–likely–delicious dip?

From the fridge, I grabbed: capers, black olives, green olives, basil leaves, scallions and garlic.

Toss everything in the food processor and pulse until the pieces are nice and small. Keep going if you want a full-on paste, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Season it to taste and top with a swirl of balsamic vinegar. And the best part? It’s less than 60 calories per 100 grams, which is a snack-a-licious dip that puts a smile on my face.

Now let’s talk about dippers, what do you prefer? I like crackers, just about any kind but my favorite are the regular unsalted Saltine crackers. But I also like water crackers, rice crisps and all the rest. Carrots and celery also make excellent dippers. Or pita bread. Naan bread. Sandwich bread even, if you toast it up a little.

My husband will tell you that you can eat dip with a spoon but if you listen to him then you’d both be wrong.

Happy dipping!

Mushroom & Pea Penne w/Chickpea Alfredo

So we’re going to round out bean week–mostly–with this final meal that actually inspired the theme this week. I’ve been looking for ways to use more beans (and less tofu) in more creative ways. You can only eat so many different bean stew type dishes before you’re ready to pull your hair out and wish for vegan fast food. Or even vegan junk food.

I love hummus. No, we love hummus so I figured if we take chickpeas and thin them out into a sauce, why not give it a go…right?

I looked forward to making this dish all week and when the day rolled around and it was time to decide, I chose to roast a full head of garlic to go into the alfredo sauce, because if you’re going to do this you might as well go all the way, no?

It might seem complicated but this dish was very easy to make. The garlic needs to roast for about 30-40 minutes so I just tossed in the portabello caps as well so I wouldn’t have to do it on top of the stove.

Next, I sauteed Japanese mushrooms with two medium shallots, a handful of yellow bell pepper and about half a cup of frozen green peas. When everything is close to done, toss in the already roasted portabello mushrooms, chopped once they’ve cooled.

Now it’s time for the alfredo sauce. Drain and rinse a can of chickpeas (or garbanzo beans depending on where you’re located in the world) and toss them in a food processor along with the peeled roasted garlic. Pulse and then blend until no chunks remain. You might find the texture a bit grainy but this can be easily fixed with water or plant based milk. I kept the grainy texture but not until the chickpeas reached the perfect consistency.

Remove the vegetables from the pot and dump the sauce in, over low heat. Slowly add milk. I used roasted unsweetened almond milk to minimize the flavor interference. Add milk or water as needed to thin out the sauce and then start to season. I used salt, pepper, smoky paprika and nutritional yeast and that seemed to do the trick. Keep tasting as you go and add whatever seasoning you wish.

Just in case you were wondering, the bowl with the drops of Sriracha on it belong to me. 😀

When the sauce is how you want it, add the mushrooms and vegetables to the sauce and stir, adding some vegan Parmesan cheese if desired. If not, drop the cooked pasta into the sauce and toss until coated. Then serve with any garnishments that will enhance the flavor or appearance of your dish.

This dish was easy and super delicious. I hadn’t had anything like this, it was kind of a stoner thought, but it turned out wonderful. Let me know if you decide to try it for yourself!

Simple Vegan Spaghetti Night

Despite my newly developed love of healthy and (mostly) clean eating, I have not gone the low carb route. I repeat, I have NOT gone the low carb route. Nope, I love my pasta, my noodles and even my bread too much. So cutting them out was never an option, but I try not to go too crazy.

But when a pasta craving hits, my go to recipe is spaghetti. Nothing fancy, just a simple meatless bolognese that’s guaranteed to be a gut stuffer.

When I was a kid my granny used to make the best spaghetti and the recipe was pretty simple, so I’ve kept to it, minus the beef.

Onions

Garlic

Bell pepper

Basil & Oregano

Tomato Sauce/Tomatoes

Whole wheat spaghetti

That’s all you need, plus some salt and pepper to make the flavors pop. Saute the onions and bell pepper (use any color you like) before adding garlic. I add 4 or 5 cloves because I love garlic and the health benefits. Add the tomatoes and season, then toss with your favorite pasta and serve.

If you’re worried you might not be satisfied with such a simple dish, add tofu or chopped mushrooms, but I assure you this is plenty satisfying. Add a sprinkle of Parveggio on top with fresh basil and you have a tasty vegan dinner in 30 minutes or less!

If you like it a little spicy, add smoky or spicy paprika to the sauce, or blend a chili pepper with the tomato sauce. Or, if you love spice but your loved ones don’t, add a sprinkle of Sriracha on top just for yourself.

Vegan Recipes That Didn’t Make The Cut

One of the things I’ve learned while blogging about my cooking adventures as a vegan, is that not all recipes are created equal.

Duh, right? That’s what I thought too.

But it turns out that for a home cook who specializes in taste, not sight, it’s not that simple.

So I thought today it’d be fun to go through some of the recipes that didn’t make the cut, mostly because they didn’t photograph well but sometimes we were too hungry to take photos before diving in and eating. Sometimes they didn’t turn out–photo wise–how I thought they would or wanted them to. So I scrapped them.

Until today.

This was my attempt at a vegan quiche, not to recreate the eggy flavor of quiche, but just the essence of quiche if you will. I used cornmeal and flour, a couple vegan eggs, almond milk and chopped veggies. It was very tasty but it needed to cook a bit longer and I think I need about 30 grams more of cornmeal.

I was a little liberal with the vegan cheese on top but as you can see it wasn’t very good about melting, but don’t worry I’ll spare you my gripes about the state of vegan cheese. This time.

Then I made a delicious and simple spaghetti dish. Fresh Roma tomatoes blended with sun dried tomatoes, garlic, basil, oregano, piri piri and whole wheat spaghetti. It was yummy. Turns out, not so photogenic.

Spaghetti always provides an excellent excuse to indulge in a little vegan parm.

Maybe there’s something about pasta dishes, because my husband made a sort of mac & cheese pie, using these “macheroni” that are long like spaghetti but they’re hollow so when they expand after cooking they are gigantic. He tried to tame them and with the help of cumin, turmeric, smoky paprika, tofu in salty water (called saramura in Romanian) it was pretty tasty.

But not too pretty to look at.

Then there’s my go to dish when I’m lazy and hungry: fresh veggies & Asian noodles.

Tastes good, but when you add the noodles the photos are weird so enjoy this photo of the oyster mushrooms, asparagus, bell pepper and onions before they were tossed onto a bed of noodles.

Simple vegan meals are always great because they take almost no time but taste like they took a long time!

…and sometimes the chili is a tad too water-y.

With avocado for him and without for me. 😀

And then there are the photos that just don’t do a meal justice, like this vegan gnocchi with green sauce.

Though I hope you enjoyed my missteps, I hope this teaches you a valuable lesson in that you don’t have to worry if a dish isn’t pretty. Unless you have kids, then I’m told that sometimes matters.

Make taste and nutrition, not photo-worthiness, a priority.

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!

30 Minute Vegan Pasta + Sauce

Ages ago when I first started to change the way I ate, I turned to Food Network for lessons on cooking, picking out the best quality food and even nutrition. It wasn’t a complete education but it gave me the tools I needed to keep moving forward. And it worked. Back then I was still shoveling animal products down my throat but there was a lot less food on my plate and it was a better quality.

Making the switch to plant based eating meant I needed to re-learn some things, such as how to make a meal complete without meat. Most days I don’t mind spending an hour in the kitchen to whip up a good and healthy meal for us and he doesn’t either, but some days I just don’t have the time. Or the energy.

Enter, quick but satisfying vegan meals in 30 minutes.

Normally I prefer whole wheat pasta, the darker the better. But I found this adorable pasta at Kaufland and it was so big and fat that it called out to me, and like any good vegan, the first thing I did was flip it over to make sure the manufacturer hadn’t snuck in some milk (lactic acid) or cheese. They didn’t.

They don’t look like much in the photo but that is a life-size image on the right so imagine how big they will get while cooking. Because I was cooking for 3 people, I used 250 grams instead of 200 just to be sure everyone got a proper serving. Before you gasp at the amount, keep reading.

One of the keys to making a meal quick and delicious is the ingredients. For this particular pasta dish I kept it simple:

Onion
Bell pepper
Garlic
Crimini mushrooms
Cherry tomatoes
Tomato sauce
Leftover pesto(from the creamy pesto)

Add the onion and bell pepper to a skillet–with or without oil–and saute for a few minutes before adding garlic. Then tomatoes and then tomato sauce. You’ll want to add some herbs & spices for seasoning, including oregano, basil, thyme or rosemary.

Add the tomato sauce and stir, adding seasoning as you go until the flavors are delicious without being too salty.

I added about a tablespoon of pesto to each serving because the pop of color and freshness made the pasta even more delicious.

And it only took 30 minutes!

If you prep everything first, meaning chop all the veggies and put the herbs & spices together, you’ll save even more time.

Make it yourself and the next time someone tells you that eating healthy is too time consuming, give them a knowing smile…

and then prove them wrong.

Guten appetit!

Spinach & Bean Pinwheels with Balsamic Raddichio

I am always on the lookout for new dishes to sample or vegan-ize, thinking that maybe now I’ll appreciate something that, as a meat eater, I didn’t appreciate. Like spinach. Sure, I could kill a bowl of spinach artichoke dip like nobody’s business but let’s be honest and admit that was mostly due to the gargantuan amounts of cheese in that particular dish. In general though, spinach was one of the few dark leafy greens I could do without or tolerate if I absolutely had to.

But over time my taste buds went from tolerance to a slow appreciate, that I can admit, is still totally situational. You won’t catch me eating steamed spinach with lemon and garlic anytime soon and you won’t find me replacing my beloved salad greens either.

Baby steps, people.

So when one of my Facebook friends shared a video of spinach & cream cheese pinwheels slathered with pig flesh, I thought to myself, “Hey I could totally vegan-ize this!” Since my husband loves spinach, I’ve been making an effort and this was one of the few unprompted spinach dishes I’d made.

Thus, the spinach dish was born.

As a good vegan, it might take you some time to find the a decent puff pastry that’s made with plant butter. This is key to keeping it vegan and here in Romania, it took some time to find one. Only one.

Just one.

But, I digress.

I used frozen spinach but only because we bought a kilogram package and I wanted to use it before freezer burn took over. So I set it in some cold water for a few hours and then let it drain while I prepped the rest of the meal.

Start with the white beans first. I used cannellini beans because they get really creamy in the food processor and they act as the “cheese” in this dish. Combined with some sun-dried tomatoes, grilled garlic and onions, I tossed it all into the processor until it was smooth. Then I made the mistake of folding the spinach in, which kind of lost the beans in the process. The flavor was AMAZING but I wanted the beans to be the star and they weren’t, so I’d recommend you layer it instead of combining it all.

Sprinkle some herbs down on the parchment paper and then lay the flat puff pastry onto a baking sheet. Slather the bean-spinach mixture until covered and then start to roll it up, the same way you would if you were making cinnamon rolls, only roll it a little tighter so it doesn’t spill over. Now you’re good to go! Pop it in the oven for 25-35 minutes until golden and flaky.

This is another bonus to vegan cooking, you don’t have to worry about overcooking everything else just to wait until the meat has cooked safely.

Now, while the pinwheels are baking in the oven, grab 2 heads of radicchio, chop it up with onions and garlic, saute it with a minimal amount of oil/fat until soft. I added lemon and balsamic vinegar but radicchio is new to me and it was far more bitter than I realized. (So if you have any tips on cooking radiccio, I am all ears!!!)

I added a few kalamata olives as garnish to the dish and swallowed it down with a few fingers of Jameson.

On the rocks.

Orecchiette with Vegan Merguez & Kalettes

One of the things I love about eating vegan is that when you’re having a case of the hungrys, pasta is a quick and easy option, that also lets you kind of pig out…if you want. Since you’re not adding high fat/calorie meat and cheese to your lasagna or spaghetti, you can get really creative with different foods.

I was eager to give the kalettes another try before they vanished or worse, went out of season, just to make sure I truly liked them. When I went to the market and scooped up the last package I felt victorious. And smug because I’d just gotten a package of vegan merguez from Veganic.de and I knew just what I planned to do with it.

My own plant based take on pasta with spinach & sausage.

When I say this dish is quick, I mean it. From start to finish it took about 35 minutes and that’s only because I was too focused on a true crime podcast to move faster.

The ingredients are simple:

Orecchiette
Red onion
Kalettes
Red & green bell pepper
Vegan merguez
Fresh tomatoes (or canned diced/crushed tomatoes)
Garlic
Capers
Vegan parm
Lemon, juiced

Add the onions & peppers to the skillet first (with or without oil) and cook until they start to brown around the edges. I prefer a slightly caramelized taste on the edges because I think it gives a little more depth to the flavors but if time is your priority, give it 3 to 5 minutes and then add the kalettes and then the garlic.

You want to add the merguez about the same time as the garlic because they don’t need a long time to cook and if you add it with the garlic you’ll know it’s warmed through and slightly crispy before the garlic burns. I also like to add a bit of fresh lemon juice to reduce the bitter taste of the kalettes. Toss in a tablespoon or so of capers and you’re just about ready to grub.

Now you’re ready to add the tomatoes! Season with salt & pepper, oregano, basil and any other herbs and spices that strike your fancy, then cook until everything is warmed through. Toss with orecchiette and you’re good to go!

Because some vegans just can’t live without their cheese, here is a little vegan parm to whet your appetite. The hubs added it but I did not, though I did add a couple tablespoons of nutritional yeast to the pasta sauce for an earthy, kinda cheesy flavor.

He added vegan parm and I added smoky spicy Tabasco sauce because I love spice!

This dish was quick, easy and delicious, but it was also extremely satisfying. And in case you’re wondering, I didn’t pair it with anything to drink but I did enjoy a Jameson neat!