Beyond Meatball & Brussels Sprouts Shepherd’s Pie

This is a pretty simple vegan recipe, especially if you’re already familiar with the ins and outs of making vegan Shepherd’s pie. You’ll need: protein, vegetables and of course…MASHED POTATOES!!!

This isn’t one of my own creations but I saw something similar on the internet and then a few weeks later the market actually had a good batch of Brussels sprouts, which honestly had been looking a little sad and depressing for the past few weeks. And even better, they were small enough to accommodate this kind of dish.

If you think you don’t like Brussels sprouts then you’re probably not cooking them right, but I highly recommend this easy vegan recipe to re-introduce you to the tiny cabbage cousin.

The ingredients list for this vegan shepherd’s pie is pretty easy:

Beyond Burgers (2)
Potatoes
Oat & almond milk (no sugar)
Vegan butter
Brussels sprouts
Vegan mozzarella

That’s it. Sounds too simple, right?

There’s no such thing but this is a quick and easy weeknight vegan dinner, ya know, if you’re looking for one.

The photos for this particular meal weren’t all that exciting, but that’s just because the meal is so simple and compact.

Step 1: Clean the Brussels sprouts and mark a little ‘x’ in the bottom, then boil about 3 minutes or until softened. They don’t need to be cooked all the way through, just enough to get the cooking process started since they will finish in the oven.

Step 2: Grab the Beyond burgers and season with salt, pepper, smoky paprika, minced garlic and ground cumin. That will make them plenty flavorful, but add whatever herbs & spices you prefer. Form them into bite sized balls and pan fry or drop in the air fryer for a few minutes. Feel free to add sautéed onion to this and combine the vegan balls, sprouts and onions before it’s time to put everything in the oven so the flavors meld together beautifully.

Step 3: Clean & chop the potatoes and bring them to a boil. When properly softened, mash with plant milk and vegan butter until smooth. Add vegan mozzarella and you’re all set.

Step 4: Assemble. We opted for individual glass ramekins but you could totally put this into a casserole dish and serve it family style.

Step 5: Bake.

Step 6: Eat.

It’s just as easy as that, I swear!

If you want to cut calories from this 700 calorie vegan meal, here are a few tips:

Omit the vegan butter, using some of the starchy water from the potatoes to get the same smooth, creamy texture.

Use one Beyond burger for the vegan meatballs and increase the Brussels sprouts.

Take out the vegan mozzarella altogether. It’s just there for flavor but mashed potatoes don’t need no stinkin’ vegan cheese to taste good!

If you try this meal out, I’d love to see photos! Hit me up on Facebook or Instagram!

Vegan Pub Fare: Falafel Balls & Baked Fries

One of the things I’m always trying to do is find ways to take the greasy foods I love and make them a little bit healthier and more calorie friendly. Thanks to my trusty air fryer, that’s now a possibility. But there are some days when you want to just pop some stuff into the oven and call it a day.

Right?

When it comes to falafel, you usually end up with a lot of oil for frying so this was a challenge. Let’s see if you like what I’ve come up with!

This is a relatively easy dish to make and even more so if you don’t have to stand in front of the stove, turning the vegan falafel balls so each side gets nice and crispy. If you have your own vegan falafel mix recipe, feel free to use it, or just grab these ingredients from the pantry:

Garbanzo beans
Onion (grated)
Parsley (optional)
Nutritional yeast
Soy sauce
Garlic
Flour (whole wheat or chickpea)
Water (only if the mix is too thick)

I prefer to pulse the chickpeas alone in the food processor first so they break down and get crumbly but you can always do everything all at once if you’re a lazy vegan. Season with salt, pepper and smoky paprika, or whatever else you feel like using and form into balls.

You might need to let it rest in the fridge for about 10 minutes and if you have time, I suggest you do that…maybe while the oven preheats (or the oil heats up if you decide to deep fry).

Form the falafel mix into balls and lay on a lightly greased parchment paper, cook for about 20 minutes or until the vegan balls start to crisp up. If you find that it’s taking too long, turn on the top heat and crank up the heat for an extra 5 minutes.

The good thing about this recipe is that you can bake the falafel and fries at the same time!

For the potatoes, just cut into the desired shape/width/length and season. We went for a spicy cajun-masala blend because of the creamy lemon & dill veggiegurt dipping sauce (which I forgot to photograph) so they came out a little on the spicy side.

Bake for about 30 minutes or until crispy and you’ve got easy vegan pub food in 30 minutes or less!

I haven’t had falafels in a long time and this was a good, pita-free, way to enjoy them without sacrificing my love of potatoes!

If you decide to try these vegan falafel balls, please share the recipe with me!

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!!