Corn & Tofu Taco Salad Bowl ~ Vegan

Today I thought I would do something a little different. Instead of a traditional recipe, because you can add whatever you want to your favorite vegan taco salad, I just want to talk about what I did and how I did it.

I’ve made no secret about how much I love tacos, or taco salads and even taco bowls, so feel free to use any of those for inspiration.

I made corn, mushroom and mince taco salad inside a tortilla salad bowl. Let’s start there.

Before we get into the nitty gritty of what makes a good vegan taco salad bowl, let’s talk about what you can put in your salad bowl.

Spicy Mushroom Vegan Tacos

Taco Tuesdays are a thing in our household, then again we can have tacos or burrito bowls or fajitas or mole, pretty much any night of the week. Mexican cuisines is not only super delicious, but with the abundance of beans in many recipes, it’s really easy to make vegan Mexican food at home.

Any night of the week.

If you want a quick and easy dinner recipe, look no further than these spicy mushroom carnitas tacos.

I prefer oyster mushrooms or king oyster mushrooms for this recipe, but honestly just about any mushroom will work as long as you cook them properly. And by properly, I mean you need to cook them until they are no longer soft or rubbery, unless that’s the consistency you’re going for.

How Make A Vegan Burrito Bowl

As many of you may or may not know, I love a good bowl. I have mentioned it a time or two but today instead of just teasing you with another delicious burrito bowl, I’m going to walk you through creating your very own burrito bowl.

The next time you’re in the mood for a taco, a burrito or even a fajita but you’re looking for a way to cut down on calories or carbs, consider tossing out those tortilla shells in favor or…something else.

Today’s lesson in vegan burrito bowls starts at the bottom. We’re gonna stack this baby up the way it should be, so let’s start with the grains at the bottom of the bowl.

If you want to stick with a Mexican-style bowl, choose your favorite grain of rice. Basmati, jasmine, brown, wild…whatever you like, try it out. If you want a Mediterranean or Middle Eastern flair, use bulgur or couscous. If you’re feeling adventurous, consider quinoa or amaranth, even! The point is, experiment with grains and keep stackin’.

I like to add a little bit of turmeric to the water when I put the rice in for the health benefits.

And the color!

Next, are your greens. I’m partial to Romaine so its my go to but feel free to use butter lettuce, spinach, arugula, kale or any other leafy green that floats your fancy.

Now we’re at the protein portion of the dish and this is where you can get super creative. I used oyster mushrooms because when you slice them into shredded pieces and cook them until they start to crisp around the edges, you’ll get a magnificent flavor that will blow your mind. Add in some sliced onions and bell peppers, and you’ve got a delicious shredded mushroom burrito bowl.

As a vegan, I’m sure you’re no stranger to beans or tofu, both of which are great alternatives. Or feel free to dice up vegan burgers, nuggets or setian sausages and use those instead. Just make sure you season it to fit in with the theme of your vegan burrito bowl.

Now it’s time for my favorite part…the toppings!

I’m a simple girl, give me salsa and jalapenos and I am good to go. But others, like my hubs appreciates a good guacamole, shredded cheese and sometimes even sour cream. If you’re going for another type of cuisine, try vegan yogurt sauce with mint, lemon and cucumber. There are plenty of things you can do, so be creative and when in doubt, consult Google.

I ALWAYS make salsa fresh because I love the taste of fresh tomatoes over canned ones. The recipe is simple: tomatoes, onion/shallot, garlic, parsley, jalapenos, lime juice and hot sauce. Toss in some oregano, cumin, chili powder and paprika and…voila!

Top with jalapenos and serve alongside a nice cold cerveza/beer.

Garden Veggie Tacos

I love tacos. There, I’ve said it a loud and now everyone knows.

I love tacos, for those in the back who need the volume turned up.

But what I’ve discovered over the past few years is that you can make a thousand different types of tacos when you aren’t constrained by things like what’s “supposed” to be inside a taco shell.

This time when I was hit by a taco craving I decided to do something a little different and go for a full on veggie taco.

I know, it sounds weird if you’re used to meat or beans, or some of you experienced vegans might have found the beauty of shredded oyster mushroom tacos, but it was just what I needed. The temperature is creeping up past 30°C and while I wanted tacos, I didn’t want anything that would take a long time to cook and I didn’t want anything super heavy.

So we started with…hard shell tacos. It took a few years to make my husband a convert but now he likes them as much as I do.

Next we get to the taco filling and since we’re going with a ‘garden’ theme, I used onion, bell pepper, garlic, corn, zucchini and shitake mushrooms. It was light and refreshing and you can save yourself some health problems if you make your own seasoning. All you need are a few kitchen staples: cumin, chili powder, oregano, salt & pepper, garlic granules, paprika (I prefer hot and smoky but use what you like) and red pepper flakes.

You can’t have tacos without salsa, right? Well instead of salsa, I made a cabbage slaw that allowed me to make the veggies a bit spicier. It’s simple to make and even easier if you have a fancy food processor or even a box grater. All you need is green (or red) cabbage, scallions, carrot, vegan yogurt, lime juice, hot sauce and ground cumin.

It’s delicious and low in calories so feel free to make extra and use it as a side dish and a taco topping!

You want to take your hard shell vegan tacos to the next level? Preheat the oven and then place the shells on parchment paper lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with sea salt and lime juice and then heat for up to 3 minutes. The shells will be crunchy and crispy and super HOT!

This vegan meal was light and easy, done in less than 30 minutes even with the different components.

Use any vegetables you enjoy, are in season or have on hand.

And if you’re feeling in the mood to celebrate, let me suggest this easy blood orange margarita.

It has just a few basic ingredients:

Salt

Smoky paprika

1 Lemon

1 Lime

San Pellegrino (Aranciata)

2 shots of tequila

Run a slice of lemon or lime along half the rim of each glass and then dredge it through the salt & paprika mixture.

Add ice and then tequila (1 shot per glass, about 1.5 ounces).

Squeeze one half of the lemon and the lime in to each glass.

Top with aranciata and stir.

Make it even yummier and impress your buddies by adding a pinch of leftover salt & paprika on top of the cocktail!

Vegan Döner Kebab: Taco Edition!!

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

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

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

Enter, Wheaty, courtesy of Veganic.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Much Ado About Salsa

I know what you’re thinking, salsa is already vegan so why do we need a whole post about it. Right?

Wrong.

Salsa is vegan but it is so much more than that. It is the perfect snack for people in search of low calorie alternatives to chips, chocolate and other junk food. It’s a great source of beta carotene thanks to the tomatoes, and it’s a great way to impress the hordes who prefer the jarred crap, er salsa.

This won’t be a long post because there isn’t that much to be said about salsa, so let’s jump right into it.

A good salsa recipe starts with the right ingredients.

For this salsa I went mostly basic but once you have a base salsa, you can change things up and see how different ingredients change the flavor. Here is a base list of ingredients:

Tomatoes
Limes
Onion
Parsley
Oregano
Chili peppers
Garlic
Cumin
Hot sauce (couple drops)

I used lemons this time around mostly because the limes were too hard and needed a few more days to ripen but typically lime is the way to go in my opinion. You’ll also notice a distinct lack of cilantro and that’s because I’m one of those people who can’t abide it. I won’t try it anymore and I don’t add it to my salsa so…that. But parsley is a great substitute if you’re part of the population who simply can’t do cilantro. I prefer jalapenos because I think they provide great flavor with just enough heat that I won’t burn off my husband’s mouth but sometimes I go a little crazy and use habaneros or Thai chili peppers. For the onions, try red or white or yellow, or even scallions.

Sometimes, like Cinco de Mayo or Wednesday, I’ll add a half shot of tequila mixed with the lime juice for a grown up salsa that is super delicious.

You can choose to hand chop your ingredients for a more rustic style salsa but I just don’t have the time or patience so I refer to my handy food processor/chopper. But there is a method to my madness. I prefer to pulse the tomatoes until they are manageable and then add the rest of the remaining ingredients.

So…how is this vegan?

Simple, it just is. But there are some people out there who add things like grated cheese to flavor it or other ingredients that might have animal products in it that you don’t know about such as some jarred lime juice brands.

 You should be able to taste all the ingredients in every bite.

 

A few more tips:

*Check your tortilla chips to ensure they are vegan and suitable for your particular diet.

*Make your own tortilla chips in the oven with whole wheat tortilla shells or get really fancy and make’em from scratch

*Don’t be afraid to experiment with other, similar ingredients.

 

Margarita Monday…With A Vegan Twist

I am a big believer in celebrating life whether it is a major achievement or a small step on the path to something bigger or better…or whatever. I am also very much a believer in enjoying each day as it comes and if anyone has ever read my #MustangPrairie series then you know I love giving each day special meaning. In Mustang Prairie it’s #merlotmondays but today it is Margarita Monday.

Why? Mostly because I love cocktails and consider myself a bit of cocktail aficionado. A bit.

So let’s get the first thing out of the way, this is a margarita-less Margarita Monday because I was in a Paloma kind of mood.

All you need is good tequila (I have Cuervo right now) and grapefruit soda like Perrier which is incredible, but I recommend San Pellegrino (Arianciata Rossa) which is a delicious blood orange flavor. Add a twist of lime and you’re ready to get your cocktail hour on…until it’s time to get the vegan taco bar started!

Did somebody say taco bar?

Absolutely! Living in Los Angeles we ate plenty of Mexican food and since taking up a plant based diet, my husband and I have had a great time veganizing our favorite Mexican, South American and Spanish dishes. The best part is finding out how different proteins adapt to the flavors. Black beans offer up a different flavor, taste and texture than mushrooms but sometimes you just want to go back to your college days where you ate plain hard shell tacos…with tofu crumbles.

This was a simple taco bar, starting with tofu crumbles, onions, red bell peppers and corn. The bottom of each hard shell is lined with shredded Romaine lettuce and from there you can stack with whatever you like.

Salsa? Check!

Guacamole? Double check!

Black olives

Jalapeno peppers

Limes

If you have the time, and YOU DO, make the salsa yourself.

In fact, I’m going to do a full post on making a proper salsa just for you lovely people!

This is the perfect plant based taco recipe for when you’ve got a craving for your favorite Mexican style fast food but you want it fresh, healthy and with zero animal products!

And best of all, there’s enough for everybody!

This is a quick and easy meal and it can be made even easier with a side of rice & beans or my favorite, creamy garlic & dill cucumber salad.

What’s your favorite vegan taco?

Sometimes You Just Want A Salad ~ Vegan Salad Hacks

As some of my closest friends will tell you, salad is not food. It is torture in a bowl to those who;

A. Hate veggies
B. Are children
C. Aren’t adventurous

Those are some pretty bold statements, right? I know. But c’mon. Seriously, how can any adult human say they ‘don’t like’ or ‘hate’ salad? Is it all salad or just those without creamy dressing on top? Is it a particular type of lettuce or just the fact that you are literally eating a bowl full of vegetables?

I’ll admit that as a former teenage girl, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with salad for most of my life. Then about a decade ago, maybe more, I became an actual adult, you know, eating foods that are good for you and finding ways to make them more flavorful. Now, I try to eat a salad every day and if not, every other day.

Why?

That’s easy. Salad is packed with fiber thanks to all the raw veggies, which has several amazing benefits. First, the fiber makes you FEEL full which means a calorie-friendly salad is a great tool to put in your weight loss arsenal. Then there’s the fact that every vegetable in your salad has health benefits such as the antioxidant beta-carotene in tomatoes, the dark leafy greens that contain vitamin K along with a host of other antioxidants is another great reason to add a salad to your diet.

Raw veggies can help reduce your risk of cancer, lower blood pressure and reduce your risk of stroke.

Plus making salad is…EASY.

All you need to do is grab a handful of your favorite salad veggies, or better yet, try out some new ones and see what strikes your fancy. Above is a spiced chickpea salad with corn and that only out of the ordinary ingredients I used were the chickpeas and corn, otherwise it was your basic lettuce (butter), tomatoes, scallions, black olives and bell peppers. I added some curry and turmeric to the salad dressing and a quick and easy, calorie friendly lunch.

The best thing about a yummy vegan salad for lunch? You can splurge (occasionally) on a creamy yogurt based dressing…if you make it yourself. You won’t get the same calorie content if you slather ranch or blue cheese on your veggies. Personally, I prefer a quick oil-free vinaigrette because it adds a TON of flavor without all the calories.

Then there are the days where you know you need some fresh, raw veg in your diet but you’re feeling lazy. Bored. Not in the mood to eat healthy. What do you do then?

Easy…compromise.

I recently came across some delicious beefsteak tomatoes, totally out of season but flavorful nonetheless. Unfortunately I couldn’t find any fresh basil so I made do with the dried stuff, added a few shavings of vegan cheese and created a quick & easy Caprese salad…sort of.

The photo isn’t all that pretty, I know, but it was delicious. All you need is tomatoes, cheese, basil, salt & pepper and garlic granules and a splash of balsamic vinegar. It was the perfect side dish to a chickpea burger.

I like to call this a Happy & Healthy Meal.

But don’t go patting me on the back just yet because one of my vegan salad hacks is to add fresh veggies wherever I can and one of my favorite places to do it is Asian dishes. Add a handful of lettuce tossed in scallions and rice vinegar to a noodle or curry dish. But I find it easiest with Mexican cuisines.

Not technically a salad, but these nachos have raw lettuce, tomatoes, onion and garlic (in the fresh salsa & guacamole). Sometimes when I really want to clear toxins from my body–thanks to too much junk food or booze–I’ll add cucumber and shaved carrots to my nachos or tacos, or burrito/fajita bowls.

The point is, sometimes your body just needs a little salad to keep it functioning like the well-oiled machine it is, so make sure to give your body the fuel it needs.

A Lost Weekend in Cluj-Napoca

Those of you who have started reading and following this blog–thank all of you for encouraging me to keep doing this!–know that one of my biggest passions is traveling. That’s right, in addition to being a romance author, ghostwriter, political junkie and vegan foodie, I love to get away.

Anytime.

Anyplace.

And it turns out that Romania is full of hidden gems. Okay maybe they’re not all that hidden but this is my first time here so it’s all brand new to me and therefore feels a little hidden. But some friends that we met in Germany are now living back in their homeland and invited us for a visit to their town, Cluj-Napoca.

cluj napoca romanian

If you’re like me you’ve already paused to Google this city and you’ll find out like I did that it is a BIG city. I mean it’s not my hometown of Chicago or my adopted hometown of Los Angeles but at 400k people, it is way bigger than I expected. So big that instead of heading to the town’s website or Wikipedia, I immediately Googled “vegan cluj napoca” because I was jonesing for a night out with some good, chef made, vegan food.

Lo and behold, there was an option.

Samsara

 

The restaurant was minimalist but nice and sophisticated, none of which I really cared about. The food however, was pretty darn good. We ate there twice and I enjoyed a delicious Thai curry soup, lentil soup the next day, Asian style noodles and a curry dish. Before you ask, no it was a pretty eclectic restaurant with plenty of options, not all of which were vegan which I thought was nice since there was a meat lover dining with us.

The soup was delicious but the noodle dish was a tad salty. All in all it was a mixed bag of treats but if we lived in Cluj it would likely be our lazy night option.

Luckily food was a small part of this weekend. I got a chance to visit a section of the Carpathian Mountains, a mountain range called Apuseni Mountains that was beautiful. And cold.

It was a simple sightseeing trip meant to kill a few hours between catching up and talking business but when you come upon this view, staying in the car is not an option. So dressed in my red Converse All-Stars, I got out–and got wet–just to capture some gorgeous scenery up close and personal.

But like I said, it was cold. Very cold and we didn’t stay in one part of the range for very long but the climb up took us from autumn weather to deeply winter in just a few hundred meters.

And what is a tired and hungry vegan to do after a day in the mountains? Eat, of course.

Toulouse was an adorable little bistro style cafe with a long, dark pine bar and an impressive liquor selection. And oddly enjoy, for some reason American Top 40 was playing…from the nineties. I loved it!

The food was…okay. I was able to get fajitas which made me smile because Mexican is my second favorite cuisine to eat. The vegetables were hot and seasoned well but the tomatoes in the salsa were canned. It probably sounds horribly snobby of me but I never eat salsa that isn’t fresh, not since I learned how to make salsa in college. It’s just a quirk of mine and I don’t mind it because canned tomatoes are entirely too sweet for salsa. Plus the way salsa and lime juice tastes together with parsley and fresh garlic? Anyway so that kind of ruined it for me–a little–but I did eat up every bit of the mushroom, onion and pepper mix. I would have liked more than tortilla triangles because I can guarantee that when it comes to tacos or fajitas, I can be guaranteed to overeat. #truth

That other sauce is guac and I’ll tell you now that I gave it to my husband because there are three vegetables I do not like: avocados, beets and eggplant. I can be pretty fair with everything else, even kale, but those are on my ‘never ever’ list which is probably why the salsa bummed me out so much.

But rest easy, I had my all-time favorite vegetable to cheer me up. Potatoes.

The hubs got a chickpea curry dish that was tasty with just enjoy coconut cream to rub off some of the heat. I love the heat but he doesn’t so I only had a bite to taste. Okay, two bites. Three bites. I had three bites.

The fresh tomatoes added a nice hint of acid and freshness. If we had another day I probably would have come back to try it out.

You’re wondering where the drink is, right?

Well in this oddly international lunch, I decided why not keep up the tradition and ordered a Paloma.

A simple grapefruit soda & tequila drink, this cocktail went perfectly with the fajitas.

Taco Tuesday Vegan Style ~ Spicy Taco Salad

I know we’re a day early for Taco Tuesday but we’re doing this. TODAY.

I don’t know about you but I’ve been doing some form of taco Tuesday since college but let’s be honest every day of the week was Taco Thursday or Pizza Monday or whatever…you get the idea, right? Well now, as an adult, I appreciate tacos as much as ever–7 years living in southern California solidified it–but I don’t always appreciate all the extra calories that come from taco shells.

Maybe I eat too many tacos. Maybe.

Possibly.

Who can really say?

In case you’re wondering I DO love a hard shell tortilla and it’s a plus they’re vegan. But if you knew how many I could eat then you’d understand why I salad-ified my go to Mexican dish.

This is a pretty easy dish to make especially if you opt to use beans, which I did. Or tofu crumbles, which I also did.

Told ya, I can be a bit of a pig under the right circumstances!

Seriously though, this recipe is pretty easy because you cook everything on its own.

Brown rice
Chop, rinse & spin lettuce
Saute onion, bell pepper & mixed garlic
Homemade salsa with tomatoes, jalapenos, parsley, lime juice and tequila
Slice or halve olives
Chop avocado (optional)
Top with sliced jalapeno peppers

Then…the fun part. Loading it up!

Be sure to rinse the lettuce in cold water so you keep a nice crunch with every bite!

The thing I love about this dish, besides its simplicity, is that it’s healthy and packed with veggies. If you use fresh salsa, which I recommend, you get ALL the nutrients from tomatoes, onions, parsley, lime juice, scallions, garlic, bell pepper and all the herbs and seasoning which includes: chili powder, cayenne pepper, cumin, salt & pepper and oregano. It’s jammed packed with flavor and good stuff for your body.

Feel free to omit the 1/2 shot of tequila too. I don’t always use it but I do love the flavor it adds to a really good salsa. Up the lime juice if you want more acidity without the alcohol or go really crazy and mix lemon and lime juice.

Or just do a shot and enjoy your salad with ice cold beer or water.

I prefer both because good skin doesn’t happen without lots of water.

I’ve been experimenting with filters…what do you think? Leave your comments below!