Easy Vegan Soups ~ Red Lentil & Ramen Veggie Soup

One of my favorite things to make when it’s cold outside is soup. Or stew, or a delicious combination of the two that I liked to call, stewp.

Give me a bunch of veggies and a handful of grains served with a delicious broth and I am good to go.

At least, that’s what I tell myself. But one day after a particularly grueling workout, I couldn’t decide if I wanted ramen soup (which I LOVE) or lentil soup. They couldn’t possibly go together, could they?

Could they?

Turns out, just about anything is possible with the right motivation, and what better motivation than hunger?

Don’t be afraid to load your soup up with a small amount of a large variety of vegetables, especially this season when you need all the vitamins and minerals possible to keep you healthy.

Vegan Meatball Stew & Creamy Polenta

Nothing is better than a nice stewy dish when the weather is cold, and let me tell ya, the weather here has been COLD!!!

I was really in the mood for a hearty vegetable stew but my partner wanted me to make creamy polenta so I split the difference and added a lot less broth and served it on top of polenta. With the help of Beyond Burger vegan meatballs.

Couscous & Vegan Mince Stuffed Mushrooms

I love mushrooms. They are just…delicious.

You can use them as the ‘meat’ replacement if you’re just starting to transition to a vegan diet or lifestyle because they are sturdy and heavy and did I mention, delicious? You can grill them, fry’em, roast them in the oven or pop them in the air fryer. These suckers are very versatile, use them in your favorite mushroom vegan Buddha bowl.

I will put mushrooms in any vegan recipe I can from vegan risotto, to shredded barbecue oyster mushrooms on a bun and even vegan burgers.

I recently came across some of those giant mushrooms that are just perfect for a night of stuffed mushrooms, and then I found out that the new Romanian vegan food brand, Verdino, made a mince and I knew I had to try it out!

The hard part of any stuffed mushroom recipe is figuring out what to stuff it with. Do you load it up with veggies or look for a protein source? Since I already knew the Verdino mince was on the menu, it was time to fill up the giant brown and white mushroom caps.

I decided to keep this vegan dinner recipe simple with easy ingredients for both components of this dish. Inside the mushrooms are: couscous, shallots, sundried tomatoes, garlic, green bell pepper and vegan mince not meat.

Just saute the shallots, bell pepper and garlic, add in the mince last unless it’s really greasy, then add it first so you won’t need to add any additional oil, a perfect option if you want an oil-free diet option. Season and cook until brown and warmed through, set aside.

I recommend that you give it some time to cool down before you handle the mixture because you will end up using your hands.

Now, while this is all going on, you’ll have to make the couscous. Bring salted/seasoned water to a boil and add the couscous. Stir and remove from heat and, voila, couscous.

Annnnd, while you’re doing all that, you should get the mushrooms going in the oven unless you want them to get super water logged while stuffed. Bake them for about 15 to 20 minutes until they are still firm but starting to crisp around the edges.

Stuff the mushrooms with your vegan mince mixture and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes. Oh and as my Hubs suggested, add cheese on top if you want, but you don’t need them.

If you mis-measured the way I did, put the rest of the mix on the plate to make a ‘bed’ of stuffed mushroom goodness.

Since we know this isn’t a proper vegan dinner for any grownup vegan, what will you add with these stuffed mushrooms? You can go with fries because they DO go with just about everything. But I opted for carrot, garlic & ginger soup instead. Please be kind because the photo, well, it isn’t pretty.

It was a very satisfying vegan dinner recipe and it was pretty quick to put together. It was the perfect bistro night dinner, at least in my opinion.

As for the Verdino mince, it was delicious and not too oily. I added a few basic seasoning like salt, black pepper, garlic granules and smoky paprika and that was all it needed. If you find it, give it a shot, and tell me in the comments what’s your favorite brand of vegan mince not-meat?

African Inspired Vegan Chickpea & Peanut Butter Stew

With autumn fast upon us, I thought it was time to start bringing out the vegan soup and stew recipes. What better way to save time and stay warm than a slow cooking pot of vegetables, herbs & spices? None I can think of!

So I came across this recipe on Minimalist Baker and thought to myself, why not?

As always, feel free to make adjustments to fit your palate but unless you have some type of allergy, I really recommend you give it a solid chance first.

So what exactly makes this vegan stew, African inspired? Firstly, the peanuts or in my case, the peanut butter. And the spices. I used ras el hanout because, let’s face it, this spice blend is packed with flavor and SO delicious. Bonus tip: coat this on your potatoes before making a batch of fries in the oven or the air fryer! I also added harissa paste because I can’t get enough spice.

The ingredient list is pretty simple:

Chickpeas
Onion
Coconut milk (creamy)
Garlic
Tomato paste
Diced tomatoes (fresh or canned, its up to you)
Peanut butter
Bulgur
Coconut oil
Red bell pepper

Heat the coconut oil (or water) in a big pot or skillet and add the ras el hanout and turmeric powder, cooking until fragrant. Then add onion, garlic and bell pepper and cook 4 to 6 minutes, not too much because we’re just getting started. Add salt and pepper.

Add tomato and harissa paste, tomatoes, chickpeas, coconut milk, peanut butter and water or broth.

I only added about 1.5 tablespoons of peanut butter to the actual soup because peanut butter is crazy caloric. Instead I mixed the remaining peanut butter with hot water and drizzled it over the top for flavor and a pretty garnish.

Bring the mixture to a boil and then lower to a simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the liquid is thick and creamy.

You can add corn or tapioca start to thicken if you decide not to go crazy with coconut milk, or just enjoy it more soup-y than stew-y.

I served it on a bed of bulgur instead of rice because I love bulgur and I thought it would add a nice texture to the stew.

This meal wasn’t as calorie friendly as I prefer my vegan meals, thanks to the addition of coconut milk and peanut butter, but sometimes sacrifices have to be made if you want to try something news. Right?

My only regret was that I couldn’t find any African or specifically, West African beer to go along with this meal. Otherwise it was a great new meal to test out and enjoy.

Beyond Meatball Noodle Soup (Vegan)

Can we all just agree that it is incredibly difficult to rename dishes you’ve been using for a lifetime? It is probably one of the most difficult parts of writing this blog, and I constantly find myself using too many descriptors or not enough. Or you end up with the redundancy of saying “vegan” everything. But when it came to this particular meal, the name almost wrote itself.

Beyond Meat is only one of two vegan meat alternatives that are available to me here in Romania, the other is a local brand, Verdino and they only make mici, deli slices and salami. That made it pretty easy to use the word ‘meatball’ and have it accurately apply. But that’s enough about the name of this dish, right? Let’s get down this incredibly delicious vegan noodle recipe.

This is an easy vegan recipe that you can make in less than 30 minutes and you can use whatever you have in your fridge and pantry.

Start with the Beyond Burgers and just add: minced garlic and ginger, smoky paprika, Ancho chili flakes and soy sauce. Use vegan Worcestershire if you have it, but I am currently waiting on a shipment of items that include vegan Worcestershire…still. My brand comes from the UK but if any of you have recommendations, drop them in the comments section!

Mix everything together in a bowl and form into small-ish, bite sized cruelty free meatballs.

I was feeling lazy so i popped them in the oven on 225°C for about 15 to 18 minutes and as you can see, they became nice and crispy without losing any of that signature juiciness that defines them.

The soup part of the equation was simple: my new favorite thing, waste-free vegan broth! You might need to add a little of this and a little of that to get the right flavor profile, but it shouldn’t take you more than a few minutes.

As you can see, I made Udon noodles for my husband and Ramen noodles for myself because we have different tastes and it was no big deal to make two types. Cook the noodles according to the package, just using broth instead of plain old water.

Garnish with fresh scallions, lime juice and Sriracha and voila, a quick and easy vegan lunch guaranteed to satisfy your appetite.

Healthy tip: If you love Ramen noodles the way I do, then you probably REALLY love how calorie friendly they are, right? Well you’ll have to weigh the Ramen after you cook them to get the most accurate calorie count. Those little 60 gram packages total up to about 150 grams once cooked. Don’t take my word for it though, invest in a food scale. This is the one I have. It’s basic but it gets the job done. Oh, and it’s battery operated.

And if you’re feeling a little grown up, add a cocktail. I totally just used this opportunity to break out the new rum, though. It wasn’t completely necessary but appreciated and satisfying.

This was just ice cold rum with lime zest and brown sugar on the rim. It was delicious and refreshing, especially if you like a little heat with your favorite Ramen noodle soup.

What is your go to noodle soup recipe?

 

Jamaican Inspired Vegan Navy Bean & Lentil Stew

I know what you’re thinking…it’s way too hot for stew. Right?

Don’t worry, I also agree. In fact I’d go even further, saying that I have a bit of a compulsion about foods and beverages being the “proper” temperature but we’re only here to talk about why I’m making any kind of stew in the middle of summer, never mind one that’s also spicy.

The easy answer is, the world as we know it.

Usually for lunch I make a salad. Sometimes it might be your garden variety salad, complete with lettuce, tomatoes, scallions and cucumbers, while other days I might toss in some proteins & grains, such as smoked tofu and bulgur, soy pieces and couscous, or my personal favorite a burrito or taco bowl, complete with hundreds of grams of lettuce and rice. When you’re vegan and far from home, that’s how you get Chipotle wherever you are in the world! But I digress. The point is that the state of the world means the markets don’t always have everything I need when I need it, so I improvise instead of making unnecessary trips to multiple stores.

Good enough? I hope so!

Now, back to the stew.

If you’re not into eating soup when it’s hot, and normally I’m not, you can eat this at room temperature or be a weirdo and eat it as gazpacho. I told you I had strong feelings about food/drink temps!

The ingredient list here is pretty simple: ginger, garlic, onion, navy beans, yellow lentils, green bell pepper, chives for garnish and no waste broth!

But you can go crazy with herbs and spices. Since I was going for a Jamaican inspired flavor profile, I used ground scotch bonnet pepper, jerk spice and baharat (a middle eastern spice blend) because I think it adds a delicious flavor that’s pretty unique. Feel free to use whatever spices you have on hand, but don’t be afraid to grab those cheap-o spice packets at the market to see what you like!

In addition to being healthy, vegan and delicious, this Jamaican stew is also a one pot meal!

That’s right, add the oil and chopped veggies (including ginger) to a stock pot and saute until slightly tender. Season as you go and when things are starting to look good, add the lentils and broth. Cook until the lentils are tender which may vary by stove and lentil brand/color/type. Then add in the navy beans. Rinse well with cold water if you use canned beans.

Top with chives or scallions if you want a garnish, otherwise enjoy it as it is.

Or, take that bread that might make it another day or two, mix up a spice blend with some oil or vegan butter, bake it and cut into dipping sticks!

Bread is totally optional, of course, and not really necessary. But when you weigh everything out, you can decide if you have calorie room for something that I love like…bread.

What’s your favorite stew? Share the recipe below and maybe I’ll give it a shot!

Waste Free Slow Cooker Vegan Broth

One of the things that is a constant struggle for me in the kitchen, is minimizing my waste. I use cloth towels more often than paper towels, I try to re-use any containers that I can and when I can buy in bulk instead of using more plastic, I will.

But the nuts & bolts of food waste is a place where I often fall short and to be honest, I don’t have a very good reason for it.

In fact, the only real reason is laziness.

But recently, that all changed and today I’m showing you my super easy, if you’re willing to spend a little bit of time each day, vegan slower cooker broth.

When I say this is easy, I’m not blowing smoke. I swear.

Preheat your slow cooker and get ready.

Step 1: Collect your food refuse from each meal you cook. Onion tips, mushroom steps, the root of celery or fennel, pretty much anything as you can see. Store it in an airtight container in the freezer until you have enough to get a broth/stock going.

Step 2: Add herbs, spices and seasonings of your choices. This is where you can get really creative, using peppercorns, cinnamon, anise, coriander or mustard seeds, plus your favorite spices. And don’t forget the water, I used filtered water just to be safe.

Step 3: Cook for 4 to 6 hours or until you get the flavor you’re looking for.

Let the broth cool and then drain it into airtight containers to store in the fridge.

I wish I could tell you how long it’ll keep in the fridge but the truth is we don’t keep it long enough to find out. It’s great for a quick vegan ramen soup, use it to make grains like couscous and rice or sauces & gravy recipes.

You’ve already bought the vegetables, why not get the most out of them and leave that too salty vegetable broth on the shelf?

Catching Up in My Vegan Kitchen…from Romania!

It’s been awhile and I know it. I’m sorry. I hope everyone is safe, indoors and finding fun ways to keep busy.

The truth is that I have been cooking, quite a bit lately, I’ve just been very lazy about writing up posts and selecting photos. Some days I just forgot to take photos altogether, but I don’t want that to turn into a habit, so let’s play a little bit of catch up, shall we?

I rarely posts desserts, not because I don’t make them because I do…a lot. But I am not a good food photographer, not yet anyway. But this little creation was chocolate biscuits (#accidentallyvegan), ripe bananas, peanut butter, cocoa powder and dark brown sugar with orange zest on top. Layered. It’s pretty to look at and it was a crowd-pleaser for vegans and non-vegans alike.

I know it’s spring time and not really the season for soups but one night my husband chose French onion soup as his Midnight Tokyo Diner option which meant I had to make it because sneaky man that he is, made sure there were heaps of yellow and white onions in the pantry.

I think it came out pretty well, probably the best I’ve made so far even thought it was greasier than I would’ve liked. Soon I’ll do a post with the full recipe because I think you might like it.

Gyro night!!! This was a fun night and yeah, you bet your sweet little booty that it was also time-consuming. Making seitan is never a quick endeavor but this was SO worth it. So. Worth. It.

As I always tell my non-vegan friends, proteins are always about the seasonings. Try to eat any protein without salt & pepper. Or any type of sausage without garlic or cumin or caraway. This seitan gyro loaf was no different. I used fennel, garlic, smoky paprika, cumin, fenugreek, ancho chili pepper and a bunch of other spices to get the loaf just right. To round the vegan gyros out, I used mushrooms and onions sauteed with the seitan after it’s simmering session.

Balsamic salad on the side with a vegan lemon and cucumber yogurt sauce, and this vegan gyro night was super fun!

And no list of what I’ve been cooking is complete without some type of Asian creation and this time we have Pho. I used TVP which, in my opinion, is a feat of genius. Seriously, I call it Star Trek meat, a name that never fails to make my husband laugh. It takes on the flavor of whatever you want it to so easily, in this case the yummy spices of a vegan Pho broth. Soy and balsamic soaked crimini mushrooms and generic ramen noodles round out this dish.

The real question is…what have you been up to? Cooking? Relaxing? Trying not to freak out?

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!!!

Vegan Chicken & Indian Stew

Soup season is upon us! That means it’s time to start experimenting with all the veggies you can get your hands on to warm up your bones, nourish your body without giving it too much of the bad stuff.

This time around I’ve decided to be a little bit naughty in my take on tarka dal, which is just another way of saying lentil stew. It is one of my favorite recipes and this time I used dry soy chunks because, well why not?

Use whatever soy (or seitan or tempeh) product you want for the vegan chicken or leave it out. I was in the mood for some soya so I rehydrated it and drained it before seasoning the hell out of it! I tossed it with a variety of Indian and middle eastern spices, which is why there’s such a dark color on the soya chunks.

Next you’ll want to tend to the lentils. Use red or green, but I almost always use yellow for this dish. If you’re feeling creative, try the beluga lentils, just be warned they have a much longer cooking time.

You can cook the lentils separately and add them later or toss them in at the end and let it simmer until cooking is complete. I prefer to let it cook with all the aromatics so while the vegan chicken drained of water, I started chopping.

This dish is as colorful as it is nutritious. The colors are due to onions, garlic, ginger, bell peppers, turmeric and lemongrass if you have it, though some will say it’s optional. I say it’s soup and all the feel good stuff you can toss in will be better for you in the long run.

Saute the aromatics in oil or water until soft, mixing in curry and other spices. Stir in the lentils and the liquid and let it cook until everything is soft and creamy and smelling so good you think you’ll die if you don’t eat it RIGHT NOW. While the soup is cooking, put the rice on. I used a 12 minute Jasmine rice because I love jasmine rice.

In my opinion one of the things that makes tarka dal one of the best stews on the planet is the lemon. Let me say that again, the LEMON. I squeeze half a lemon during the last five minutes of cooking and I add more once its done and more during plating. It’s optional, of course, but if you like spice this will cut down on it a little. If you love spice, add the lemon anyway, it goes great with Sriracha and other spicy hot sauces.

One important thing about using dry soy products is that they take on a lot of water. A LOT. You can add it to the soup mix if you want, but be warned it will be a juicy mess. I kept them crispy in the fridge and served them on top so they could be mixed in during eating. It’s an extra step but it’s more than worth it because you get crispy spiced vegan chicken to go with the creamy lentil stew.

This was super delicious and the best part? There was enough for lunch the next day!