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!

Garlicky Vegan Mac & Not Cheese

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

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

Oh, the dismay.

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

Source, Forbes 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

vegan alternative to mac & cheese

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

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

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?

Vegan Tuna Casserole

Full disclosure: there is no tuna, vegan or otherwise in this dish.

Think of it more as an essence of tuna casserole because that’s what it is, but this vegan dish contains all the things you miss about this dish without any of the things you could do without.

Instead of tuna or vegan tuna products, I went with simple brown mushrooms. Sauteed in a pan until crisp on the edges and yummy.

Choose a noodle, cheese sauce and bread crumb topping and you’re good to go!

I opted for a creamy cheese sauce that used unsweetened oat milk and half the amount of cheese as similar vegan recipes, some of which might recommend coconut milk. Choose what fits your palate and your diet.

Bake it for 20 to 35 minutes in the oven, until the top is crispy brown and some of the noodles have a crunch.

The only thing missing? An ice cold drink, fit for a grownup.

 

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?

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?

Vegan Mac & Cheese Dinner

I have a well documented love-hate relationship with vegan cheese that, on most days, is more hate than anythings. It’s a variety of factors that include the smell which I know is both odd and hypocritical since I used to love nothing better than a wedge of Camembert (or Brie) in my pre-vegan days. But that’s what it is. The taste is usually pretty good and over the years the vegan cheese market as really stepped up its game. It all depends on what’s available in your area and those of you in places like Berlin, Los Angeles or London probably have a wealth of choices.

Here in Romania I have…three.

Anyway it turns out that I’m one of those people who, without the aide of casomorphin, isn’t a fan of cheese. But it was Tokyo Diner Night once again and the Hubs made a request: mac & cheese.

Oh…what’s a cheese disliking vegan to do?

Improvise, of course!

The rules of this fun game are always the same.

Number one: As long as we have the ingredients, we make it.

Number two: Make it your own.

And that’s just what I did, turned mac & cheese into a creamy vegan mac & cheese dinner with…

Spicy buffalo soy bites!

This part of the recipe is as easy as the Mac. Hydrate the soy in your favorite broth, I had leftover mushroom broth and I added a smashed clove of garlic while it simmered. Add the soy to a hot skillet and turn frequently until the edges start to crisp. Melt vegan butter and your favorite hot sauce, garlic & onion granules and a splash of vinegar and toss the soy. Put in an oven safe dish and set aside.

Just steam or blanch the broccoli for 3 to 5 minutes and set aside.

For the cheese, I consulted an old Welsh Rarebit recipe that I LOVE and used that as inspiration to keep with the spirit of mac & cheese without getting to cheesy about it.

Before we get to the roux, I cooked 30 grams of minced garlic in the skillet and then added the roux.

Start with a roux of vegan butter (in this instance the more fat it has and the less water, the better) and flour. Stir until brown and then add a teaspoon up to a tablespoon of tomato paste and dijon mustard, 1/2 tablespoon of vegan Worcestershire sauce and stir like you mean it. Slowly add a fatty-ish liquid of your choice, I used unsweetened roasted almond milk from Alpro. I love it because it is very low in calories and has a faintly almond taste that doesn’t overpower the dish. It sounds like a shameless plug but it’s not, I just like it best.

Whisk the liquid in slowly until the liquid starts to thicken. If you need to add more, you can alternate between the liquid and water like I did. Or if you’re feeling impatient, use a cornstarch-water mix to thicken it quickly.

Once the liquid starts to thicken, I added about 50 grams of vegan cheese. It was Mediterranean flavored and it had a parm/Romano taste that was really delicious. It was a vegan mac & cheese but…not. It was creamy and yummy and faintly cheesy but the hubs gave it two big thumbs up so…try it maybe?

If you have access to really good melty vegan cheese, use that. But if you want to have the cheesy flavor without the calories too, try this method and you won’t be disappointed.

Toss the pasta, cheese and broccoli together and pop it in a 400F/200C oven for 17-20 minutes and after a brief cooling period, you’re good to  chow down.

What’s your favorite vegan cheese brand? Drop links below…bonus points if they deliver in Europe!

Spicy Braised Tofu & Gnocchi

Things are a little crazy around here because first of all, my book is done! Yay! But that means promo and all the rest and things have been busy and crazy and crazy-busy! You might have noticed by the sporadic posts and the emphasis on quick and easy vegan meals, which has been our specialty lately.

But I chose braised tofu as my meal this night and it was my only request, which meant the Hubs could do whatever he wanted. Just gimme my spicy tofu was my mindset and when this weird-ball dish landed in front of me, I was more than pleasantly surprised.

I was expecting regular plain natural tofu when I made the request because that’s usually how I make it, but using smoked tofu added a nice depth of flavor that I found surprising. It paired really nicely with thee spicy Korean chili flakes. Very nicely.

And this is a pretty easy recipe that we originally got from Maangchi and tweaked to veganize it and adjust it to a spice level we both agreed upon. Crisp up the tofu in a deep skillet with a little bit of oil until it’s nice and crispy. Whip up the sauce on the side and pour it over the tofu, using the old boil then simmer method to thicken.

Then, move on to the gnocchi while your tofu is ‘braising’.

I loved this dish because it was so simple but it didn’t taste that way. There’s so much flavor with the garlic and ginger and scallions mixed with all the spicy stuff.

The gnocchi was a nice twist I didn’t expect and it only serves as a reminder that we shouldn’t ever get too comfortable with how things are supposed to be. It was delicious and satisfying and most of all, I didn’t have to wait too long to eat it!

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.

 

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!

Quick & Easy Spicy Vegan Mushroom Orzo

One of the things I’m guilty of doing when it comes to cooking is getting stuck in a rut. Not a bad rut, but I’ll create recipes surrounding the same ingredients, like bulgur or rice, when there are tons of other grains I could be using. It’s one of the reason I am obsessed with watching cooking shows whether it’s on YouTube or regular television. Thanks to a show with Grill Master Supreme, Bobby Flay, I was reminded of how much I enjoy orzo.

Before anyone gets upset, yes I do know that orzo is a pasta but it’s shaped like rice so I consider it both, depending on the recipe. And for this particular recipe, I used it as a plain ol’ grain.

If you’re unfamiliar with orzo, this is what it looks like, a pasta rice if you will. Anyway it is very easy to cook–boil in salted or unsalted water as the package indicates and then drain–and very versatile as you’re about to learn! But you have to make sure you season the dish properly because otherwise you’ll end up with a bland dish.

We eat a lot of mushrooms in our house. Like, a lot. Sometimes as a meat replacement in things like shredded BBQ mushroom sandwiches or a plant based mushroom bourguignon, but also just because mushrooms are delicious and go great with just about everything. So we have orzo and we have mushrooms…what else?

That’s what makes this meal so quick and easy, it has just a few ingredients: crimini mushrooms, onions, garlic and orzo. Of course you’ll have to add herbs & spices but you have those anyway so you don’t have to buy a ton of extras.

Since orzo is a pasta, I recommend cooking it separately so this isn’t a one pot meal, but it’s close enough that you can keep this vegan recipe in your back pocket for those lazy weeknights.

I didn’t use oil because mushrooms produce SO MUCH water that it really wasn’t necessary, but feel free to add it if you think you need it. I cooked the mushrooms first until most of the water had cooked out, then I added the onions (an onion & shallot blend because we’re always trying to diversify the flavor profile!) and allowed them to use some of the mushroom water to cook without sticking to the pan.

When the onions start to crisp a little around the edges, add the garlic. For this recipe I used about 8 cloves, maybe 10 because I planned to add some heat to it and the Hubs can’t handle too much heat.

For herbs & spices, I used a pinch of curry, baharrat, scotch bonnet powder and smoky paprika. These flavors when combined made this dish taste like it had been cooking for hours, which is also a great way to increase the gratitude for those you cook for!

When everything was done, I tossed it all together, using about a quarter cup of the orzo water to give the dish a hint of creaminess without adding any actual cream.

But it turns out that I added maybe one or two too many spices because I had to grab some vegan yogurt for the hubs…

Good news is that the yogurt & lime mixture was a great addition to the meal, according to him anyway so feel free to get (a little) carried away with your spice rack with the confidence that a little bit of yogurt will go a long way.

And you know I had to wash it down with something delicious…right?

Ice cold with a delicious flavor profile, I’d say this beer was created to go with a variety of mushroom dishes.

Tasty Vegan Carrot Mac

When it comes to food, I have no problem experimenting. And failing. And trying again.

Call it a quirk or a superpower, just don’t call me a quitter!

My most recent experiment came about because of my dislike of my vegan cheese that I’ve tried (except VioLife slices, those are super tasty) and my desire for something mac & cheesy. I’ve seen quite a few recipes that have carrots in them but they usually combine potatoes or cashews and we all know that I’m not willing to go there…yet. So I thought, why not use only carrots for the “cheese”?

And that’s how this version of Carrot Mac was born.

This was a fairly simple meal with about 6 carrots of varying sizes which I pan cooked but highly recommend that you bite the bullet and boil them because it will save you time and the frustration of having bits of crunchy carrot in your smooth, creamy sauce.

While the carrots are going, add in a sauteed or grilled onion and a whole head of roasted garlic. This is all going into the food processor to make the carrot cheese, just make sure you blend until smooth, adding that carrot water or plain tap water as needed. Just be sure to add it SLOWLY.

I added some tapioca starch and water just before adding the whole wheat spirals in the hopes of creating a thick, almost stringy sauce. It didn’t come out quite that well, but it was super creamy.

Before you start thinking this is in no way a meal, I roasted a small head of cauliflower until the edges were crispy & crunchy and then I stirred it into the carrot mac for heft and nutrients. Let me tell you, it was just what this dish needed.

That, and Sriracha.

You can add other vegan cheese to this if you want, but I opted to sprinkle a bit of ParVeggio on top in lieu of adding more salt.

This is another quick and easy vegan meal that’s perfect when you want something delicious but you don’t want to spend all day in the hot kitchen, especially while it’s 30 degrees Celsius outside!

And if you REALLY want, you can add an ice cold beer to the mix so it doesn’t feel quite so healthy.

Spicy Vegan DanDan Noodles

My noodle addiction strikes again! One night while zoning out and binge watching YouTube videos I came across a recipe for Dan Dan noodles and immediately thought to myself, I have to have it. Soon!

Which meant the next time I hit the market, I grabbed everything I would need for this spicy Chinese Sichuan dish, with a few alterations of course, and prepared to work my magic.

I would have loved to find a better noodle than the Bavete pasta I ended up using, but the only supermarket in town that has a wide selection of Asian noodles had…none. Okay well not none, but there was a basic vermicelli noodle and glass noodles, which have their place and time. It just wasn’t this day and with this vegan Dandan dish.

I replaced the ground meat with crumbled tofu and instead of buying the slightly greasier already ground up version, I pressed a brick of firm tofu and then crumbled it with my fingers. I added a bunch of seasoning to the crumbled tofu including salt & pepper, piri piri powder, ginger, lemongrass powder, Worcestershire and Korean chili flakes, many of which I also used in the sauce. To cook the tofu I used a tablespoon of coconut oil, adding it one teaspoon at a time as needed.

Once it started to brown around the edges, it was time to add the sliced onions, garlic (8 or 9 cloves), ginger and the white stems from some bok choy.

Once the tougher vegetables cooked until they started to crisp around the edges, I tossed in the chopped bok choy greens until they began to wilt. And then I added the delicious sauce which I had to make and tweak so if it’s not perfect, oh well.

I used soy sauce, ground ginger, coconut sugar, tomato paste, gochugaru, Sriracha, grated garlic, water and cornstarch for the sauce. I added a bit more water once the sauce was in the pan just to be sure everything was coated once it was all in the pan together.

In between all this, I worked on a quick garnish and slaw.

This is just about 20 grams of peanuts chopped, a half a scallion sliced on a bias and a few drops of rice wine vinegar to go right on top of your DanDan noodles.

And because this is a pretty spicy dish, at least when I make it, I whipped up a quick slaw to help cool things down for my husband. Not only was it incredibly delicious, but he REALLY appreciated the coolant.

I sliced half a small cucumber on a bias and then halved them lengthwise, sliced a Pink Lady apple, the rest of the scallion from the garnish and about 80 grams of green cabbage. Tossed it with vegan yogurt, cumin, lemon juice and mint and that was it.

Eat up the heat and cool it down with the slaw. It made for a very delicious vegan noodle dish that I will definitely make again and probably tweak about a hundred times until I’m completely satisfied.

Pofta Buna!

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.

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!