My Attempt at Vegan Okonomiyaki

I’m ba-aack! Did you miss me?

Work had gotten a little out of control and I needed to focus so I decided to take a few days away from posting but now I’m back and ready to share with you my version of a healthy-ish vegan okonomiyaki, which is a Japanese vegetable pancake.

I will tell you right off the bat that this recipe seems a lot more daunting than it actually is. Don’t let the long, but not complicated, ingredients list scare you away. To veganize his recipe takes just as much time as the original version, which means the prep work is where most of your time will be taken up, so if you’re willing to put in the effort, let’s do this!

I’ll tell you right up front that presentation is (still) not my strong suit but this vegan pancake did come out delicious and cooked properly, even if she isn’t the prettiest girl on the dance floor.

Let’s start with the ingredients. I’m feeling a little lazy so I just copy and pasted the ingredients list I posted in Cronometer, which works out well because now you’ll have exact measurements too.

This ingredients list includes EVERYTHING you see in the first image, so it includes the Asian slaw and the Korean style tofu, because I like to mix and match my food, my clothes, my languages and my fashion. Oh, and my music!

The first step is grating potatoes, cabbage and scallions for the batter and put them in a bowl. Add flour and water, just enough water to make it smushy, which I know is super vague but I realized as I was writing this hat I didn’t include water in the ingredients. The batter is going to seem wrong, like it’s not nearly enough to produce a pancake, which was exactly what I thought. But I listened to those who know better than I do, if you don’t include all the substitutions, that is. Mix it well and refrigerate it for 10 to 30 minutes. I think this step helped everything come together, so please don’t skip it.

Oil a skillet and pour enough for one large pancake, use a wooden spoon to create a nice little pancake shape and cook 4 to 5 minutes on each side. This type of pancake should be very vegetable-y, so don’t be discouraged that this isn’t anything like your fluffy breakfast pancakes…it’s not supposed to be!

Looking at that one little vegan Japanese pancake seems sad, right? Yeah, I thought so too which is why I rounded out the meal with two little side dishes. One was a cabbage, carrot & scallion slaw mixed with veggiegurt, Sriracha and plenty of herbs & spices. The other was a small bit of TVP mixed with some Asian pastes & sauces to create a full on vegan meal…Asian style.

The sauce you see on top of the vegan okonomiyaki, is the leftover veggiegurt mixture because, who doesn’t love a little sauce with dinner?

This is a great vegan meal for when you want to impress someone, but like someone who already likes you a lot and will feel really special that you went through all this trouble for them. On top of that, it was very tasty and worth the time and effort because now I can say, “Yeah I totally know how to cook vegan okonomiyaki.”

So concludes another Midnight Tokyo Diner meal in our household. If you try this, please oh please send photos here to the blog or on Facebook or Instagram if you’re feeling frisky!

Thanks for stopping by and enjoying another vegan meal with me!

Vegan Fish & Chips Take Two: His Turn

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

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

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

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

Without the cruelty.

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

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

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

Not in my book!

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

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

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

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

A Vegan Twist on Twice Baked Potatoes & Cheesy Broccoli

People always ask me if I feel like I’m missing on out something because I don’t eat or use any products derived from animals. It’s as if they think Beyond Burger doesn’t exist, or tofu or seitan or tempeh. Or vegetables and grains, beans…legumes.

I think I’ve made my point here, right?

The truth is that trying to lose weight can often be super restrictive, but not on a #vegan diet. You see, I can request that the Hubs whip up twice baked potatoes and feel confident that he can bring the meal in under 600 calories because there is no animal cheese, no bacon, no butter…no dairy to increase my inflammation and my butt size.

Now if you’re a particularly determined vegan, then yeah, you can make this as calorie crazy as the animal eaters. But why would you want to?

The best thing about a recipe like this is that it is incredibly easy to customize. Rather than going for vegan bacon, we opted for sauteed onions de-glazed with balsamic vinegar. Add a pinch of smoky paprika and you’ll get that smoky flavor you think you need with bacon, vegan or otherwise.

For the broccoli, just steam or boil for 3 to 5 minutes and then give an ice bath to keep it bright green and beautiful. The cheese is a simple almond milk, corn starch, mustard, nutritional yeast and vegan cheese sauce. It’s quick thanks to the cornstarch, which is also why you don’t need to had several fist fulls of cheese. I learned my lesson from this calorie bomb masquerading as #vegan mac & cheese.

As you can see, the plate was a lot lighter than it usually is which is how he managed to make it tasty and calorie friendly.

This is one of the key points we all need to remember when we enjoy indulgent meals like this, the best way to not go overboard is to make sure you adhere to serving sizes. I would have loved a bigger portion of this, but the medium dress I just bought reminds me why I skip it!

Here’s my tip for enjoying this cheesy vegan dish: eat it on your workout day!

Any vegan cheese recommendations? I’m always in search of something new so tell me, what’s new in your part of the vegan world?

Lazy Vegan Mashed Potato Buddha Bowl

Even though we are vegans with good health, good skin and our food is our fuel, we are still only humans which means we don’t always feel like doing the things we should. Like making healthy food choices, working out (a biggie for me) or making magic in the kitchen.

But, we’re adults and it has to be done. That’s why we get to buy the good booze!

When I’m feeling lazy but still in the mood for something that tastes good but doesn’t take all damn night, I go to my recent favorite: Buddha bowl.

The trick here is to, well it’s to be tricky. Hack your life, so to speak.

Be a lazy vegan by organizing and you’ll never look back.

How do you take all of this food and cook it simply? Easy…you just do it!

First, decide how you want to season everything. If you want it all to have the exact same flavors, clean, chop and measure everything and toss it on a big ol’ baking sheet, season and pop in the oven. That’s the easiest, laziest way to enjoy a delicious vegan dinner.

If you choose to change up the seasoning like I did, just do it separately. Season each element separately and then line them uniformly on a baking sheet like the photo below.

Pick whatever vegetables you want and bake them until crisp around the edges and soft in the center. The soya chunks got nice and crispy without sacrificing moisture.

The mashed potatoes were made on top of the stove. Boil until tender and season how you want. Since I roasted garlic, I just stirred most of it into the potatoes and used the rest as edible decorations!

To finish it off, I added a spicy veggiegurt sauce that it didn’t really need but it was a nice touch since the soya was just a little bit spicy.

Next time you start eyeing takeout menus, remember that as long as you have a few veggies and some grains, a vegan Buddha bowl is just thirty minutes away.

Happy Friday Folks…Thursday Night Vegan BBQ

While I’m trying to get back in the habit of blogging regularly, I’ve decided to post some meals that might not be too photo-worthy and this one definitely fits the bill. We had a little bit of a grill night because it’s so warm here in Romania right now and our balcony is finally clear…just a table and chairs for me and the Hubs.

Like I said the photos, the few of them that were decent, are not great but the food was delicious, I promise!

The premise was simple: barbecue soy cauliflower, grilled with something on the side. That’s what I asked for and this is what I got.

Steak fries and fresh corn on the cob, seasoned with leftover sauce and Korean chili paste!

It was perfectly delicious and healthy if you don’t think too hard about the sauce, even then it was still pretty calorie friendly.

What #veganmeals do you prepare for a BBQ?

Vegan BBQ Bourguignon

Back in my younger days I was a bit of a Francophile, complete with a rainbow of berets, cigarette holder and an lifelong crusade for the perfect shade of red lipstick. In my 30’s I was able to spend a week in Paris and it was…everything I hoped and more.

What’s the point of all this?

Good old Google has a nice little habit of reminding you of all the things you’ve done and places you’ve been. Recently a batch of photos from Paris made an appearance and that little reminder along with a nice string of warm days had me thinking of two things.

One: Can I use wine with the dehydrated soya. Two: I can’t wait to clean the balcony so I can cook on the grill.

And that, my friends, is how BBQ Bourguignon was born.

vegan mushroom and soy bourguignon

You might think this is a complicated recipe but it isn’t, and the ingredient list isn’t long either.

Ingredients: Mushrooms, Onion, Carrot, Garlic, Potatoes, Barbecue sauce, Olive oil, Red Wine, Herbs

I didn’t re-invent the wheel with this recipe either, just hydrate the soya, season and set aside.

Saute the onion, carrots, mushrooms and garlic. Add the wine and let it reduce, then add the barbecue sauce and water if you want a thinner sauce.

Instead of adding the soy to the vegetables, I coated it in the same wine/mustard/bbq sauce mixture and popped it in the oven, hence the little crisp you see around the edges.

For the potatoes, Boil in salted water until tender. Drain and smash gently with a potato masher. Brush with oil and season however you want, using fresh herbs where you can for maximum flavor. Bake about 20 minutes, until crisp.

This was not one of our Midnight Tokyo Diner meals, but just something I’d been playing with and wanted to try out.

It was a success, from my mouth as well as the Hubs’!

Spicy Soy & Steak Fries Salad

Any good relationship is about compromise, this is something we’ve all heard plenty of times and probably rolled our eyes at it more than a few times. But this is one of the truisms that helps in all relationships.

Take for example this quick and easy vegan meal I’m about to tell you about, it happened easily.

I planned to make salad for lunch because this was one of my workout days and therefore the best days to create the biggest calorie deficit I can while also eating and enjoying my whole life. I’m not at my weight loss goal yet but my husband is and before he knew what I had planned, he requested some type of fries.

Full disclosure: In my house our French fries are never fried. Always light coated in oil and baked in the oven, but still we call them Fries because calling them Bakeds would be weird.

So anyway, I said “sure” and this oddball vegan creation is what I came up with!

The ingredient list on this easy vegan meal is simple:

Lettuce

Tomato

Scallion

Cucumber

Potatoes

TVP

Pesto

Veggiegurt

Herbs & Spices

Of course you can always add anything else you like but last week my market was out of sprouts, artichoke hearts and radishes so I worked with what I had on hand.

Make the salad and toss all the ingredients together in a big bowl, using a little more than half of the basil pesto cream as the salad dressing. Plate it and then add the spicy TVP and French Fries on top, drizzling the remaining pesto cream on top for color and taste.

As long as you keep your serving size reasonable (400 grams of potatoes and 50 grams of TVP for 2 servings), this is a meal that can be healthy and indulgent at the same time.

What are your healthy hacks for cheat days?

Vegan Fish & Chips…Sort of

I know I’ve said a thousand times that I am not one of those vegans who needs to eat meat alternatives that taste just like the original. Sometimes it is super off putting, and the further my body and my tastebuds get away from my life as a consumer of animal products, the less I need that sameness.

But this is 2020 and we are all out here trying to live our best lives and be better humans, better stewards of the environment and all that, and to that end I decided to give vegan fish a try, to see what the fuss was all about. I approached this like I do all things, with a ridiculous amount of research to see what other vegan home cooks were doing to create that fishy flavor.

I started with an idea: nori sheets, caper brine and lemon juice. I figured that would give me the sea saltiness without that gross fish smell.

She was so hopeful in the beginning…

This is one of those vegan recipes that dos require some prep work so if you’re adverse to spending a little time in the kitchen, this isn’t the recipe for you. Though I will point out that most of the world is at home in search of things to do and this is something you can do while blasting your favorite tunes or listening to your favorite YouTube video.

Just sayin’…

So like I was saying, prep work. First you’ll need nori sheets. These are just seaweed sheets but some can be “fish flavored” and therefore contain mollusks or shells so make sure you read those ingredients before tossing it into your shopping cart. The sheets have to be cut so they line up to whatever vegan protein you intend to use. I used the extra large soya pieces, hydrated and squeezed as dry as I could get them, because there was a run on tofu at the market last week…strange when all the other vegan products were available…

But, I digress. So I used soya and the hardest part was getting the nori to stick to the protein. I put the shiny side onto the soya and it was hit or miss whether or not they stuck, so if anyone has tips I am all ears.

At this stage everything was fine. I soaked the soya in lemon juice, caper brine, hot sauce and lime juice before sticking the nori onto it. Now it was time to fry it and if you know me and where I am on my weight loss journey, then you already know I did not deep fry these, instead I pan fried them. It worked…mostly.

Two or three of the nori sheets ended up sticking to the pan, even through the light breading I used but it didn’t matter because they didn’t taste anything like fish. The taste was more like chicken fried steak without all the dryness, but definitely not fish. Even the nori was overshadowed by the seasoning, so the meal was good but NOT fish & chips.

The potatoes were hand cut and tossed in about 8 grams of oil and herbs & spices before I baked them for 35 minutes in the oven.

It was an interesting experiment, going through all the effort just to make a protein taste like fish, but it was a failure in my opinion. The meal was tasty and nutritious but it tasted more like vegan chicken & chips, which is also delicious.

Not worth the effort in my opinion unless you really miss eating fish. But I recommend soaking the pieces for longer in the brine mixture and maybe adding something stronger or more pungent, if you require that fishy taste.

And if you’re feeling extra creative, whip up your own dipping sauces! One was mustard and vinegar based and the other was ketchup based.

Some of my favorite add ins include: scallions, ginger, garlic, hot sauce, cumin, cayenne pepper and smoky paprika. Try out different mixes to see which you like.

I don’t regret the effort or the experience because now I know that I definitely don’t like it and won’t be doing it again…but the Hubs is so intrigued that I have a feeling he’ll be testing out other vegan fish methods very soon.

Poftă bună!!

Colorful Vegan Buddha Bowl

Sometimes you just want a Buddha bowl. At least I do.

And when I want a Buddha bowl, I can go a little crazy with piling veggies onto the plate. I make no apologies.

The key to making a proper bowl is prep work. And an awesome spice rack.

The first step is to pull out all the ingredients you’ll need so you have some semblance of organization as you move forward. I wanted distinct flavors that blended well so I started with the ingredients with the longest cook times; sweet potatoes, cauliflower and carrots. Toss them with oil or vegan yogurt and seasoning and toss them into a pre-heated oven.

We have lots of colorful veggies with the carrots and sweet potatoes but we can’t forget the most important color: dark leafy greens.

Okay, maybe Bok Choy isn’t all that dark green but it is packed with nutrients and it is super delicious. Saute with leeks, ginger and garlic, a flavor profile that will combine with just about any cuisine style you choose. And then, if you must have grains…have your grains! I added about 60 grams of bulgur to this recipe because I always feel better with some grains on my plate.

Sauces are mandatory and I don’t always make one when I make a Buddha bowl but the carrots came with really amazing greens and there was basil and mint in the fridge, so I added lemon and capers and vegan yogurt for a refreshing sauce that allowed me to add a bit more spice to the different vegetables in the bowl.

Toss it all into the food processor and let’em rip. It’s worth the extra step, I swear!

Don’t make the same mistake I did and ignore the timers or you’ll end up with slightly charred bits of vegetables. It was still tasty but I’d rather not eat charcoal, if you know what I’m saying.

Buddha bowls can take time but I promise that prep work will be your best friend at the end of the day. And you don’t have to add quite so many vegetables as I did, but ever since I started using Chronometer, I’m obsessed with hacking my diet to get a greater variety of nutrients to each plate. The best part of all is that the oven does most of the work, the bulgur cooks in 10 minutes which gives you about 15 to properly saute your favorite dark leafy greens.

It’s an hour well spent in the kitchen in my opinion but if you want to chop that time in half, skip the greens and the grains…but seriously, don’t skip either. Your body needs them.

Beyond Stuffed Mushrooms

Ah, here we are again. Another day and another night of our Tokyo Diner love fest. Just in case you’re still thinking about whether or not this idea is for you and your family, consider how much easier it’ll make trips to the grocery store, especially when you need to limit your time out of the house more than ever.

It’s simple, you add the staples to your evergreen list, things like onions and garlic, bell peppers, carrots, broccoli…whatever your favorite things to eat are. Make sure you get what you want and then get what’s available, get what’s local and seasonal and then work with what you have.

For this night, I gave my husband one directive: stuffed mushrooms. He could add whatever he wanted, season using whatever flavors struck his fancy and Beyond Stuffed Mushrooms is what he came up with.

There was a half a kilogram package of brown and white extra large mushrooms in the fridge that inspired my request and he cleaned them, tossed them in oil, herbs and spices before popping them in the oven. It can take anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes, depending on your stove and the size of the mushrooms.

In the meantime, saute the mushroom stems, onion, bell pepper and garlic until it’s how you like it. But the beyond part of the equation is that there is a small disc of Beyond Sausage between the mushroom and the vegetables. He sliced 2 Beyond sausages and pressed them into the mushroom with this thumb, allowing them to cook with the remaining liquid from the mushrooms and the residual oil from the sauteed veggies.

Pop them back in the oven for another 15 minutes, just to get everything blended perfectly. Feel free to add your favorite brand of vegan cheese if you like, but he knows I have a love-hate relationship with most vegan cheese so he left if off. (Isn’t he wonderful? :P)

This is the perfect recipe for enjoy a serving of baked fries, you know if you have a slight potato addiction like I do.

This was a delicious meal that was fairly satisfying but meals like this always remind me why I prefer a plant based diet, because it fills you up with the fewest calories possible, allowing you to splurge on flavor.

Traveling While Vegan: Poiana Brașov, Romania

In a couple of months it will be my 3 year veganniversary and I have to admit that the overall transition was not as hard as I thought it would be. Quitting smoking was harder to do and the body of evidence available at the time was far greater about its harms but for me it was fourth time’s the charm before I kicked that nasty habit for good. Finding out that eggs are as bad as cigarettes for your heart made it easy to give up my morning sunny side up on an everything bagel breakfast. There was no way I’d let eggs get me when I’d already kicked cigarettes.

Anyway now you have context to know that becoming vegan was a lot easier than finding actual vegan meals to eat while traveling. Obviously that depends on where you go and what the vegan population/culture is like there. In Germany you’ll find some pretty good options but not all over. In Romania, I’ve eaten at vegan restaurants in Bucharest and Cluj, otherwise it’s a la cart city.

Which brings me to a recent ski trip to celebrate the release of my book, How Could I Forgetto Poiana Brasov.

poiana brasov ski vegan

This is the view from the small slice of baby mountain where my husband refreshed my ski recollection. We skiied once before in Austria a few years ago but I was about 80 lbs heavier and basically needed to re-learn this sport. This time my legs were smaller which meant I could wear the ski boots all day without excruciating pain. Anyway this was day one. Check in. Change. Rent gear. Ski until the mountain shut down.

Shower. Stretch. Food.

We chose this place, Vanatorul, because they had a vegetable soup (harder to find in these parts than you might think) and a totally vegan mushroom stew. It was a no-brainer.

Fresh sweet potato chips for an appetizer! BUT only because there was no vegetable soup without meat, because apparently that’s something you have to clarify.

Despite burning a million calories on the mountain, we decided to split everything we ordered, including this platter of grilled vegetables. Light green zucchini, eggplant, red bell peppers and a couple mushrooms filled out the platter. It was only about 200 grams of food.

The mushroom “stew” with polenta was completely vegan and pretty good. It wasn’t hot and the mushrooms were soggy but the mamaliga (polenta) made it a hearty choice for the cold town of Poiana Brasov, especially since we walked here from the hotel!

The food wasn’t great but it was good and it was hot and it was vegan, as promised. I gave it a solid B on the food but the Palinca was too strong without enough flavor.

But there was some pretty great art!

Romania has some pretty great traditional/ethnic art like this all over the country. There’s so much detail that I wish my photography skills were better.

Just in case you’re walking and you go too far.

On day two we hit the mountain again, this time the logical part of my brain was in control and I told myself I wasn’t going nearly as fast as it felt. It also helped that The Hubs made me keep my eyes open and focused on him instead of the snow beneath my feet. I managed to get down more than half the bunny slope without falling. Or freaking out. Mostly.

Then I wanted my husband to enjoy the trip too so I sent him up on the gondola to do the entire mountain a time or two while I practiced, which I did. And that means I fell. A lot. Okay just four times but it felt like a lot more. Thank goodness for Zumba, a strong core and affordable ski rental equipment because I only bruised my ego. And my left calf.

Side noteAsk if helmets and other equipment is made with leather or synthetic fibers if you’re all about that #crueltyfreeliving

After a full day of skiing I burned a zillion calories and I was ready to eat.

Big mistake.

We walked and walked and walked, finding nothing but side dishes. So we chose a place that offered vegetable soup, for real this time, and we hoped for the best.

The soup was tasty. Well seasoned with a good amount of hot broth. A little oily but the highlight of the meal.

It warmed me right up and primed me for the focaccia bread which was pretty good.

The grilled vegetables were not good. They were both under and overcooked, and the boiled potatoes were sufficient with salt & pepper from the table.

It was not a fun food experience but we found a giant arcade building with ping pong, life size chess, pool, bowling, darts, a climbing wall and mini golf. I know, after a long day of skiing we must be crazy right?

We are.

It was a fun experience though. A few games of ping pong and then my husband wiped the floor with me at pool and we made our way back to the hotel.

The next morning it was very foggy and rainy and my anxiety would not let me venture up on a mountain with skis on my unsure feet.

The view from our room in Pensiunea Alex

The trip was fun and I conquered (mostly) my fear of slamming into a tree on skis. I came home relaxed, refreshed and ready to dig back in for a bit. Plus…my book is LIVE!!!

Chicken Fried Tofu Dinner

One of the things that I’ve been slowly starting to do again is add some of the so-called bad foods back to my diet, foods that I stopped eating over the years because they were just too caloric or just too damn bad for ya (and by you I mean me). Well mostly it was that but also it was another Tokyo dinner night and the hubs chose, what else? Fried chicken.

Back in my meat eating days I was known to nosh on a piece of fried chicken or two but combined with the fact that I’m not a fan of deep frying because it’s time intensive and a waste of food unless you deep fry food on a regular basis, which we do not. So this was a nice challenge from a few different angles and the end product was impressive, delicious and not quite as caloric as I expected going into this vegan dinner.

Since the whole chicken fried tofu part of the meal required a few steps, I kept this a simple vegan dinner inspired by one of my favorite TV dinners as a kid.

Let’s start with the soya since it took the most amount of time. I used the dehydrated stuff (Texture Vegetable Protein, aka TVP) which means you need to soak/boil it in hot liquid, and since I used the biggest pieces they have it took about 15 minutes. Then you have to let them sit for at least fifteen minutes to get some of the water out, or else you’ll have a big fat mess when you start breading and frying. Yeah, see? Time intensive.

Once the soya pieces are as dry as they’re gonna get, you can bread them. I used a flour/Panko mixture that I seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic granules, smoky paprika, ground cumin and dry oregano. Blend and coat, then add to a deep skillet. I only shallow fried them to get a good crisp going and then I transferred them to the oven to crisp-ify even more!

Since this is soya and it is already done, don’t get too carried away during the cooking process, just cook it until you get the level of crispiness you’re looking for.

To keep things simple, I added oven fries and some very sweet Spanish corn on the cob to complete the meal.

Sorry to gloat but let’s just take a moment to appreciate the fine cook on this soya. It’s a skill that one, apparently, does not forget over time. I don’t fry or deep fry food often but it’s nice to know that I’ve still got it! 😉

When in doubt about how to eat healthy and vegan without depriving yourself, be smart. Be grown up. Fried tofu isn’t healthy but baking the fries and adding vegetables means you’re being as healthy as this meal allows. Besides, a small indulgence here and there keeps the big, diet-destroying indulgences at bay.

What’s your favorite trick for eating what you want without going overboard?

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!

Beyond Animal Fries!!!

Happy 2020!! Things have been crazy around here with editing my book, sending it out to beta readers and all of that, so I’ve been neglecting The Spicy Spatula terribly. I hope you’re still around and ready for another year of easy, healthy, vegan home cooking.

I spent nearly a decade living in Los Angeles and I even ate at In n Out burger a few times, but I must admit that I’ve never eaten their animal fries. I wasn’t on a health kick and I wouldn’t go vegan for nearly a decade. The truth is that it was one of my least favorite fast food restaurants, which is saying something because I pretty much dislike them all, and so I didn’t explore their menu as much as I might have.

But recently I’ve been doing a lot of experimenting with Beyond Burger, chickpeas, tofu and dehydrated soy protein and I figured it was time that I added a few not so healthy recipes to this site…right?

So today we’re having vegan animal style fries made with, (drum roll please), the Beyond Burger!

One of the things I always have to check myself on is trying to be too strict with a recipe. There are a lot of ingredients in animal fries and I don’t know about you, but my weight loss goals can’t take it and this dish is super delicious, but it ain’t worth all that. My point is to go as far as you’re comfortable going and stop there.

For example I kept the fries but I baked them because I always do. This is partially for health reasons but mostly it’s because I’m lazy and I hate to deep fry things. And my tiny Euro-kitchen has no room for anything as big as a fritteuse (that’s German for deep fryer!).

So for my vegan animal fries I used:

Potatoes, 2 Beyond Burger patties, onions, bell pepper, garlic, jalapeno peppers, veggiegurt (vegan yogurt), Sriracha, lime juice, cumin, pickles and herbs & spices. And that’s it, your ingredient list.

Once the Beyond Burger is thawed, I just diced it in a grid fashion because once you toss it in the skillet you can break it apart with a wooden spoon. I added the onions and bell peppers first because the burger “meat” cooks very fast and then added the garlic and burgers at the same time.

Tip: Don’t add oil to the skillet since the burger will release a ton of it during cooking!

When you season this, add burger-seasonings like Worcestershire, cumin powder, smoked paprika and garlic granules. It’ll give you the flavor you’re looking for.

Your potatoes are baking in the oven and your toppings are just about done, which means it is time to make the sauce!

Take a pickle or two and finely dice it up along with a few slices of jarred jalapeno peppers, lime juice, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper, and measure out your veggiegurt. Stir and you’ve got a fun sauce for your vegan animal fries.

If you love spicy foods like I do or if you’re just feeling adventurous, add more diced jalapeno peppers on top and enjoy!

And if you feel inclined, wash it down with an ice cold beverage. I opted for water but I’d love to hear/see what you’d pair with this plate.

The Beyond Burger ~ 3 Nights of Vegan Eats

When it comes to being vegan I am mostly a pretty low-key kind of gal. I can get down with the odd protest or two, but I’m more likely to slide facts you don’t want to hear into everyday conversation in a way that’s guaranteed to make those facts impossible to forget. My friends love that about me, no matter what they tell you.

Why am I telling you this? Just to help you understand my feelings on Beyond Burger.

We found them at a local store called Metro and they only came in a box of ten patties, which meant we needed to be creative in how we used them because freezer space is limited.

We cracked open the box and took out two patties to thaw–at room temperature, not the microwave–and started with your basic, old fashioned hamburger.

Because I had no idea what to expect of the Beyond Burger, I decided to go for super simple lettuce, tomato, mustard and ketchup.

And…it was delicious. It doesn’t taste like meat, which I appreciate, but holy crap it SMELLS like real beef. So much so that I found it a bit unsettling. But what I will tell you, is that it tastes like what a burger should taste like without the tendons and fatty gross-ness common in fast food burgers. My one tip for cooking a regular Beyond Burger? Air out your place while you cook.

Once the regular burger was out of the way, the hubs added a slice of Violife cheese to the second round and he was a fan. I’m still having a tense relationship with vegan cheese so I opted out.

But then we were watching a YouTube video about old brands and there was a flash of people watching TV with TV dinners in front of them and it reminded me of a meal I loved as a child. Salisbury steak. The kind that came in the little aluminum pan and its own gravy. Whip up some mashed potatoes and green beans on the side and I was a happy little kid.

So why not try and recreate the magic in a healthier, vegan, 21st Century kind of way?

Okay so I traded the green beans for peas, but they were frozen peas and came out pretty terrible which only reminded me why I haven’t had peas in ages. Which do you prefer, canned or frozen, when fresh isn’t an option?

I also added a crimini mushroom and onion gravy, with a splash of Oatly to give it that creamy light brown color. It was delicious and much better than the last time I tried to recreate Salisbury steak. So far, the vegan recipe is the tastiest!

Don’t mind the photos, I’m still adjusting to my new phone.

Twelve or thirteen years ago I introduced my husband to another childhood favorite of mine; corned beef hash. We were living in Germany and accidentally stumbled upon the crappy canned stuff that we ate back then and I grabbed up two cans to show him this delicacy from my time in Milwaukee.

So of course when we got our hands on Beyond Burgers, he couldn’t wait to recreate it vegan beef & potato hash. It’s a simple dish of burgers, potatoes and onions, sauteed until crispy. And the thing that makes the Beyond Burger perfect is that it is very greasy (part of its appeal) and that helps everything get that delicious crispy edge that makes dishes like this so addicting.

This was probably my favorite use of the Beyond Burger so far. The edges got all crispy and crunchy and the greasiness was satisfying in a way that I’d forgotten about until I devoured this dish. Add an ice cold beer and you can have your own Lazy Sunday.

Have you tried the Beyond Burger? Drop a link or photo of your favorite Beyond Burger recipe below!

 

Vegan Sausage & Peppers w/Beyond Sausage!!!

The city of Chicago is my hometown and I love it…a lot. I miss it too but not in the normal way you think about missing a location. Of course I have fond memories of Shedd Aquarium or Adler Planetarium, not to mention the House of Blues and Museum of Natural History, but in addition to the places one of the things I miss is…the food.

Of course the last time I lived in Illinois, I wasn’t a vegan so when those cravings strike it’s time to get creative. And I have. A lot. When the recipes are a bit better, I’ll happily share them with you.

Promise.

But recently we came across Beyond Sausage at Metro, one of the bulk stores in Romania, quite by accident. We knew they had the Beyond Burger so we plowed through the first box and six weeks later we went back for another and found the sausage. As soon as I saw them, I knew I’d be making sausage and peppers. A Chicago staple.

If you are an honest to goodness vegan like I am, you might find Beyond Sausage a little unsettling at first. It looks exactly like the sausages I used to hate when I was a meat eater. It’s got that fleshy reddish-white color and as soon as it starts to thaw, the scent is overwhelming. The same is true when you pop it in a pan to start cooking it.

But it is so dang delicious. It’s all the good parts of eating sausage without the fatty juice dripping down your throat, without the gross gristle that reminds you exactly what you’re eating. If I had any real complaint it would be that it tastes almost too much like sausage. And it’s not exactly calorie friendly either, then again you don’t expect any sausage to be, right?

This is a fairly easy recipe. Grab an onion and two bell peppers along with a few cloves of garlic and you’re ready to rock & roll.

Grill it or saute it and when it gets close to your preferred done-ness, add the sausage and cook according to the directions on the package.

If you have a potato problem like me, you’ll use this as the perfect excuse to have some crispy potatoes on the side…another bonus of skipping the bun with this easy vegan recipe!

No matter your reasons for going vegan, you’ll find Beyond Sausage a delicious alternative to revisit some of your pre-vegan favorites. And this is an excellent way to introduce your non-vegan loved ones to healthier, plant based eating.

Leave ketchup, mustard or barbecue sauce on the table and let everyone enjoy how they like!

Crispy Cauliflower Wings & Fries

When you want something that’s easy to make but seems really complicated, try these cauliflower wings! You can make whatever sauce you want, spicy or sweet, or go crazy and make it spicy-sweet!

This dish is easy but it does take time for the prep work. I couldn’t find bread crumbs so I used some day old bread, which I ripped up and seasoned with salt, garlic, pepper, smoky paprika and oregano. When the bread cooled, I added it to the food processor to break it up evenly and put it in one bowl. Mix in a tablespoon or two of nutritional yeast and more seasoning if desired.

In the other bowl was vegan yogurt, Sriracha, mustard and lime juice. Feel free to add other wet flavor creators here.

Coat the cauliflower in they yogurt mixture first and then the bread crumbs before laying them out on a baking sheet. Crowd the sheet if you must just don’t double up or it will take FOREVER to cook. Spread them out evenly and pop in the oven for 35-45 minutes.

While the cauliflower cooks, get started on your side dishes and your sauces.

Since we like different spice levels, I didn’t want to toss the cauliflower. I made a hot sauce for me, using vegan butter, rice vinegar and plenty of spicy stuff. For him I used a tablespoon of the spicy stuff and added it to more yogurt and we were both happy because there was enough sauce for the vegan wings and the fries!

This requires a lot of oven work so make sure you time it right. The last thing you want are cold or overcooked cauliflower wings. I started with the cauliflower and when it started to brown, I put the potatoes in on the bottom shelf.

This was easy and delicious and even with the bread crumbs it was calorie friendly, at least as far as this vegan is concerned!

Vegan Frikadeller & Mash

Frikadeller. Let that word roll around on your tongue for a minute. Got it? Okay. I call them ‘frika’ for short and they are delicious. I fell in love with them when I lived in Germany, especially the way my mother in law makes them with little strips of carrot and onion. I would eat them piping hot fresh from the stove or ice cold in the middle of the night.

I was kind of a huge problem for a while.

Then I adopted a vegan lifestyle and bye bye frika. It was no great loss because I wasn’t having cravings for them and when I first went vegan I had lots of yummy (processed) vegan foods to choose from in Germany. There were several types of burgers and other patties, but no frikadeller.

Then Mama came to visit after we went vegan and brought vegan frika with her. Did you hear me? Vegan. Frika.

They are crazy delicious and something she often makes for us, usually after we’ve been hiking or traveling.

Last week something I like to call ‘Must Season’ has begun. Must (pronounced: moost) is a fermented grape drink and it is insanely good. It tastes like if grape jelly was a boozy drink. The grapes, loosely translated as strawberry grapes, are very sweet and tart and when they ferment you get a little bit of a buzz.

Now is the time the grapes are picked and you can find Must everywhere. Went to a fruit & veg festival, which was oddly more filled with animal products than produce, and it was for purchase there!

To celebrate the first batch of fermented Must with grapes from the farm on which my father in law grew up, Mama made vegan frika, Must and my favorite kind of buttery vegan mashed potatoes: a lot!

Making the frika is pretty simple, shred some vegetables, these are filled with carrots, onion, garlic, zucchini and crimini mushrooms, mixed with flour and mustard and water, then shallow fried in oil until they start to crisp. Then because she knows how we try to eat healthy, she popped them into the oven to get a good crisp around the edges.

The usual dipping sauce is mustard but I like to add a bit of Sriracha to my mustard for dipping.

We also had beet salad and pickled red cabbage for a bit of roughage.

This was a wonderful way to welcome autumn and enjoy the first–of many–bottles of Must to come.