Easy Vegan Comfort Food ~ Vegan Schnitzel & Cheesy Pasta

Many of my friends think that eating a vegan diet means always eating healthy, and it doesn’t. Sure, most days I try to eat a whole food, plant based diet with plenty of fresh & colorful vegetables, grains, beans and legumes.

That doesn’t always happen.

As a professional writer and self-published author, there is a lot on my plate and sometimes I just want something hot and yummy and not necessarily totally healthy, and that’s all right because I work out regularly and I am as active as possible when I’m not parked in front of a computer screen.

So when I want to eat a greasy vegan schnitzel with creamy cheesy pasta and broccoli, I do.

This post doesn’t require a full on recipe because you can find your favorite brand of vegan chicken, or make your own vegan fried chicken, and cook in the air fryer or the oven with your desired seasonings. I used garlic, black pepper and smoky paprika and popped it in the oven on 200C so it would be crispy enough not to get soggy on top of the pasta.

Vegan Mince & Mushroom Stroganoff

Back in my non-vegan days, I wasn’t a big fan of any type of stroganoff. I don’t like adding sour cream to warm dishes and overall, I just thought it was too weird and creamy with tough beef. I realize now that maybe it was the cook that was problematic and not the dish, but I generally stayed away from it.

Until recently and my ongoing love affair with mushrooms.

We always have mushrooms in the fridge, provided we can find them. White button mushrooms. Shitake mushrooms. Porcini, Enoki, Portobello and my favorite, chanterelle mushrooms. I. Love. Them. All.

But this was my partner’s night to choose, so it wasn’t just mushroom stroganoff, there was some Naturli brand vegan mince added for good measure. So, let’s do this!

This dish is easy to make and doesn’t require very many ingredients. BUT if you want to add more and fancy it up, the choice is yours.

Linguine & Vegan Balls with Red Sauce

Spaghetti and meatballs, it’s pretty much a classic among pasta meals and it’s been a long damn time since I’ve eaten any variation of them. Part of it is because meatballs can be a really cumbersome task, more so when they’re vegan, at least that was the case when I first went vegan in Germany. The options were limited and getting them to hold their structure in the sauce was, well, a big ol’ mess.

But this is 2021 and times have changed for vegans the world over. Whether you’re looking for a nostalgic meal because you love pasta and vegan meatballs, or you’re looking for easy vegan meals for Veganuary, this is an excellent one to try.

There’s no need to go crazy with the vegan tomato sauce, if you don’t want to, but I always think we should all go a little bit crazy when whipping up a pasta sauce. Here’s a tip: don’t skimp on your herbs. Red sauce loves herbs like rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil or marjoram. Buy the little cheap-o packets in the herbs & spices section at the grocery store to test them out and see what you like.

You’ll thank me for this tip, but you don’t have to. Just knowing that you obeyed and loved it, is enough for me!

Other than herbs and spices you’ll need:

Vegan soy balls (or falafel, seitan, tempeh, or veggie balls)
Onion
Garlic
Linguine (or spaghetti or other long pasta)
Bell pepper
Tomatoes
Vegan Worcestershire
Cornstarch
Red chili flakes

If you cook with oil, you’ll want to sauté the onions, bell pepper and garlic in hot oil, otherwise use water or broth, added periodically to keep them from sticking to the pan, on medium-high heat. Add onions and bell peppers first, adding the garlic when the other vegetables are just about done.

Dice the tomatoes by hand or mix them in a food processor until you have a fresh tomato sauce without all the added sugar. Add the tomatoes and chili flakes to the sauté pan and bring to a boil, then simmer until the sauce starts to thicken. Add a cornstarch-Worcestershire-water mixture to thicken, and don’t forget to season your veggies or your sauce!!!

Cook the pasta according to instructions and when it’s done, scoop it straight from the pot to the skillet to toss with the sauce.

For the vegan meatballs, just season them and pop in the oven for 10 minutes or until warmed through and slightly crispy around the edges. Add to sauce until fully coated. If you want them extra crispy, put them in the air fryer for a few minutes and see what happens.

With a little bit of prep work, this is an easy vegan meal that can be on the table in 30 minutes or less.

The best thing of all about this easy linguine and vegan soy-balls dinner is that you can mix it up, however you want. Add almond milk and vodka for a nice vodka sauce. Or add spicy peppers for a type of arrabiata sauce. Add olives and capers for an upscale vegan Bolognese. The point is this is one of those easy vegan meals that you can switch up by adding different herbs, spices and pasta types to the dish.

What is your go to pasta dish when you have a carb craving and which kind of red wine do you drink with it?

Creamy Vegan Mushroom Tetrazzini

Whenever I think of tetrazzini, instantly I’m propelled back to the 90’s when my former step mother would make this dish with leftover dry chicken (or turkey if it was just after Thanksgiving) and mushrooms and some cream-type style. It wasn’t my favorite dish back then, other than the fact, you know, that pasta is delicious.

In fact, I’d argue that pasta is a lot like pizza. Even cold and a day old, it’s pretty damn good.

So why on earth did I request mushroom tetrazzini when it was my night to choose what we would have for dinner?

No clue.

But here we are, or rather, there we were.

Just so we’re clear, this is a bastardized version of whatever ‘traditional’ tetrazzini is supposed to be, but it’s close enough in my opinion that I’m called it a vegan mushroom tetrazzini, whether you like it or not.

Vegan Shrimp Linguine Scampi

So I know that I’ve said on previous occasions that I’m not a fan of vegan foods that look like animal products and that rings true, but I am an adventurous person and on my latest online vegan food shopping spree I decided to do something bold.

Something crazy.

Something out of the realm of possibility.

I bought vegan prawns. And they look like they are meant to be prawns, which is kind of creepy but hey, it’s 2020 and the world is full of crazy things. This is mine.

The package came in yesterday and I had finally found a package of egg-free linguine that I hadn’t figured out what I wanted for my Midnight Tokyo Diner meal, so I asked for scampi.

Scampi, y’all!

The Hubs kept the recipe pretty simple because to get a good vegan scampi going all you really need is: garlic, capers and onions. But if you want to add a little pizazz to the mix, which he did but there was no white wine to be found in our liquor cabinet, you can also add mirin, soy sauce and vegan Worcestershire if you can find it.

You’ll also need; linguine, corn starch, peanut oil, panko and nutritional yeast.

Cook the pasta according to box instructions.

Sautee onions and add garlic later, then capers. If you have white wine, add it here, otherwise this is where you want to start layering the flavors of the sauce. And, of course, thickening the sauce.

Cook the vegan prawns according to the package instructions or until warmed through and toss together.

That’s it, just as easy as any other scampi recipe you’ll come across, minus the cruelty.

Now, my impression of the vegan shrimp? Meh. It wasn’t bad but it was bland, though I was very happy that it wasn’t at all fishy like some other vegan seafood products, which I appreciate. The texture left much to be desired but this little experiment has cured me of my desire to taste vegan seafood.

The panko-nutritional yeast blend is a step I recommend you do not skip. Sure, you can add vegan parmesan if that’s your thing, but with a little dried parsley and garlic granules, you’ve got a great vegan bread topping!

Overall this dish was delicious with a nice spice level and it was a quick and easy vegan dinner.

Have you tried any vegan seafood that you would try again?

Vegan Risotto alla Bolognese

Is there anything better on a cold November day than some thick and hearty carbs smothered in a creamy sauce that just makes you feel better about being stuck in the house and cold as hell?

Not on this particular November day, anyway.

This vegan dinner was a request from my husband a la Midnight Tokyo Diner and I decided to go fairly authentic with the vegan bolognese sauce, so let’s jump right in to this vegan risotto alla bolognese recipe!

To make things easy for me, I made the risotto and the bolognese separately and tossed them together over low heat at the end, but here is the full ingredient list:

I will tell you up front that this wasn’t the most calorie friendly vegan recipe, coming in at just over 600 calories per servings, but holy moly was it worth every minute of working out the day of and the next day!

If you know how to cook risotto or if you have a preferred method, warm up your vegan broth and get it going. If you’re not sure the best way to cook risotto, check out this long ago recipe of mine!

Now…onto the vegan bolognese!

I used a mixture of onions and shallots to cook the risotto and for the sauce, so to get the vegan bolognese started, add a splash of oil to the pot along with the chopped onions, shallot, bell pepper, carrot and celery. Cook until it starts to soften and add the vegan burger meat. This was another new vegan product find for me from a company I was unfamiliar with, Naturli, but the burgers weren’t too greasy and it was very tasty, blended in perfectly with this vegan dinner recipe.

Next add the garlic for 2 minutes, then the fresh tomatoes. Cook until tomatoes start to break down, it should take a few minutes while you stir regularly.

Add tomato paste and some broth and bring to a boil. Reduce to thicken.

When everything is ready, toss together over low heat. Normally I would add some nutritional yeast to the vegan red sauce but it was perfectly seasoned and didn’t need it. See how I patted myself on the back right there? Don’t be afraid to do that once in a while…it feels good.

Now comes the tough question: to add or not to add vegan cheese?

The choice is yours! I didn’t think it was necessary but if you have a vegan cheese you love, feel free to add it and PLEASE drop a link below with your vegan cheese recommendation.

Be sure to season the sauce every step of the way or you’ll end up with bland red sauce. And if you don’t have any fresh tomatoes, canned/jarred crushed tomatoes work well but they are a little sweeter so you’ll have to be more diligent about seasoning.

And there you have it, a delicious vegan risotto alla bolognese. If you try it out, feel free to leave photos in the comments section or share with me on Instagram or Facebook.

Vegan Comfort Food ~ Mac & White Bean Cheese

Hello. My name is Natasha and I have a serious carb problem. Specifically a pasta/noodle problem.

The problem is, I can’t get enough of it. And the bigger problem is that he can’t get enough of it either.

So we’ve been eating a lot of pasta. Maybe for comfort or familiarity or maybe because is just so damn good that why wouldn’t you find reason after reason to eat it?

Let’s stop with the ridiculous questions and just talk about this incredible vegan mac & cheese that’s made with no cheese.

At tall.

Vegan white bean cheese & shells

There’s only thing that’s truly different about this vegan mac & cheese recipe and that’s the white bean cheese so I’ll keep this short and sweet.

Ingredients:
Short pasta (elbow mac, shells, whatever you like)
Garlic
Tofu/soy
Onion
Green bell pepper
Nutritional yeast
Tomato paste
Mustard
Navy beans
Lemon juice
Turmeric powder
Almond milk

Cook your pasta according to the instructions. I like to time it so that the pasta is ready just about the time to toss it with the sauce, but it’s an experience thing so…do your best.

As for the vegan cheese, rinse and drain the beans before you pop them into the food processor and give them a quick pulse, 2 or 3 times. Then add the rest of the ingredients: milk, nutritional yeast, turmeric, mustard, tomato paste and garlic, and run until smooth. Set side until you’re ready.

If you’re looking for a quick and easy vegan meal, you can skip the part where you saute the onions, garlic and bell pepper but it’s what makes it full meal with a depth of flavor that’s guaranteed to satisfy. When the veggies have been sauteed until golden, add the vegan bean cheese to warm through.

Note: If you want a gooey cheese, I recommend adding some tapioca starch.

Toss with cooked pasta and cooked tofu/soy and place into a casserole dish, cooking 15-30 minutes or until the vegan cheese sauce is thick and creamy and gooey.

And there you have it, folk, another easy delicious and totally vegan pasta recipe! Experiment with different types of beans and different flavor profiles to see just how many days man/woman can live on pasta alone!

What’s your favorite way to do vegan mac and cheese?

Easy Cheesy Mushroom & Lentil Bolognese

Happy Monday and a happier November to you all!

Today we’re talking pasta and I mean, really, how many good things can you say about pasta? It’s delicious and comes in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Oh, and carbs are an important energy source for any diet. Did that cover it all?

Hardly.

But one of the best things about pasta is that it’s a pretty forgiving dish so even if you’re not ready to test your vegan cooking skills, this vegan pasta dish will make you believe.

This is a totally plant based vegan dish, using lentils instead of tofu or seitan or tempeh or whatever your favorite meat substitute is. If you want a really thick and creamy vegan Bolognese sauce, cook the lentils in the sauce, but if you’re pressed for time cook it while you sauté the crimini mushrooms, onion and bell pepper.

That pretty much cover the ingredients but, here’s the formal list:

Crimini mushrooms
Onion
Garlic
Red bell pepper
Green lentils
Nutritional yeast
Tomato Paste
Pasta
Olive oil
Vegan parmesan (optional)

Heat the oil to saute the veggies for 5 to 7 minutes, or until slightly brown and crisp on the edges.

Cook the lentils at the same time and if you’re really good at multi-tasking, the pasta too.

Add the tomato paste and water/broth to the sauce and let it simmer with or without the lentils.

When the sauce is thick and the lentils are done, toss the pasta with your vegan Bolognese sauce and enjoy your meal!

It’s just that easy, I swear and once you feel comfortable with this vegan pasta dish, you can grab a few different ingredients and try a different vegan pasta recipe.

To add vegan cheese or not to add vegan cheese, is always the question…for my partner. I can take it or leave it and with the nutritional yeast, it has a nice depth of flavor that some vegans find cheesy but I just find it…satisfying.

If you’re feeling bold, add vodka and coconut milk for a vodka sauce, or red wine for a different flavor profile. Or you can try this funky Asian pasta dish!

Good luck & happy eating!

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?