Jerk Spiced Cauliflower Steaks & Bulgur ~ Easy Vegan Dinners

Since discovering Midnight Tokyo Diner on Netflix, we don’t often do a lot of meal planning per se, we just grab what is fresh and what looks delicious, plus a good helping of pantry staples and favorites. It has been working for us, especially during the lockdown, so there’s no point in changing anything. Right?

So of course when I set eyes on a beautiful head of cauliflower, I knew what I wanted to do with it…and I just had to do some Jedi mind trick to get the Hubs to request cauliflower steaks. Turns out, great minds think a lot and I got to keep my Jedi tricks for another day. His request was simple: cauliflower steaks, seasoned for any style of cuisine I chose.

Gotta love a man who knows you!

The cauliflower steaks will take the longest to cook so I recommend that you season it first and set aside to let the flavors marinate. If you want to be a lazy vegan, may I suggest a good Jerk seasoning spice pack. It’ll make sure you have all the right ingredients to make it authentic without having to worry about it. But if you want to use individual ingredients, here you go: cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, ginger, scallion, scotch bonnet peppers, garlic and thyme.

I used vegan yogurt instead of oil to marinate the cauliflower, letting it get good and flavorful while I prepped the vegetables and grains.

When you’re ready, cook the cauliflower steaks on 180ºC for 30 minutes, adding more time if it’s not cooked all the way through.

The hardest part is out of the way…yay!

For the veggies you can keep it simple. Onion, bell peppers, garlic, ginger and chickpeas. I used a splash of oil (about 5 grams) for the veggies and chickpeas, otherwise I didn’t want to muddy up the flavor profile.

Finish it off with a grain of your choice, I chose bulgur because it has surpassed rice as my favorite short grain in recent years. And that’s it. Pretty easy, right?

Now all that’s left is to plate everything up!

You might notice the eggplant on the left and you’re probably wondering, doesn’t she dislike eggplant…a lot? Yes, I do. A lot.

But this wasn’t my plate, ti was the Hubs and he LOVES it, so I scored it and added the rest of the veggiegurt-jerk seasoning and popped it in the oven. It was a tad overcooked so I suggest adding it during the last 15 minutes of cooking because–DUH–cauliflower and eggplant doesn’t have the same cook time.

Next time you think there’s nothing to be done with cauliflower, think again. This is a quick and easy vegan dinner that you can cook again and again, switching up the seasoning and the grains to go from Jerk spice to Mexican, Indian, French or whatever else floats your boat.

This vegan meal was delicious, it was healthy and well-balanced.

Enjoy!

Chickpeas & Shredded Mushrooms with Turmeric Rice ~ Done in 30 Minutes or Less

What do you do when you still have one more dinner to make and its the day before grocery day? Hit up the pantry for staple ingredients and use whatever fresh leftovers you have. Duh.

The grocery store we frequent has kept a big fat smile on my face with all their mushroom offerings. Usually the options are crimini, button and oyster mushrooms. But lately they’ve had enoki, chanterelle, king oyster and even Caesar mushrooms, which means we have been gobbling up mushrooms like they were going out of style. Or, in my husbands words we have more mushrooms than any two humans can eat in a week.

I think we’re both right.

Anyway, back to the delicious vegan food.

The ingredients here are pretty basic and perfect for those nights when you need to eat dinner but you don’t really feel like cooking.

Chickpeas
Oyster mushrooms
Basmati
Turmeric
Ginger
Onion
Garlic

That’s it. Oh, and oil to toss the mushrooms in before you season them and pop’em into the oven for 30 to 45 minutes.

For the rice, add salt to the water and bring it to a boil. I like to add the turmeric when I add the rice so it colors every grain a beautiful golden color when it’s done.

Mix it all together for an easy bowl meal or serve it separately for the picky eater who doesn’t like his/her food to touch, also known as vegan kids!

There you have it, folks, a thirty minute vegan meal perfect for when you want to order delivery but can’t because…reasons.

Weird But Good Vegan Recipes: Spicy Tofu & Sauerkraut

Let’s keep it real, when it comes to cooking not every meal can be a gourmet masterpiece or the very definition of healthy and nutritious. We hope for one of those of two, but sometimes you just want what you want. Right?

That’s pretty much how this easy vegan meal came about. I felt like having something spicy but I didn’t want to go crazy with calories and I didn’t want to make something that would cost too much time in the kitchen because I was furiously trying to get my book properly formatted so the paperback could be completed.

Update/Shameless promotion: How Could I Forget is finally ready to order in paperback and digital!

Luckily for me, I found some leftover sauerkraut and decided…why the heck not? I love sauerkraut actually. I spent a part of my childhood in Wisconsin where I experienced many Oktoberfest celebrations and learned a lot about German and Polish culture. Then, I went on to spend about 8 years living in Germany, so yeah, sauerkraut is my jam! But, I’ve never used it out side of my seitan & kraut style recipes. So I did what any internet savvy home cook does, I consulted Google to find out other ways to use sauerkraut and what to pair it with.

Turns out, it makes an excellent side dish, with only a little prep time.

Since we’ve talked so much about the kraut, let’s start with that. I like to rinse it a little just so the taste isn’t quite so vinegar-y, then drain and set aside. Chop up one onion and a few cloves of garlic to saute (in oil or water) and when they start to crisp and turn brown, add the kraut. Cook until warm OR you can just turn off the stove and stir together if you want the full health benefits of fermented foods.

While the onions & garlic are cooking, you should re-hydrate your soya (TVP) if that’s what you’re using because that’s why I used in this easy vegan recipe, but you can always use whatever vegan protein floats your boat. I used the big pieces because there’s a lot of surface to cover in yummy spicy sauce and because I wanted a reason to break out my new air fryer!

While the soy chunks are in the air fryer, I added a bunch of spices to a bowl along with soy sauce and just enough olive oil to turn it into a paste/sauce that would work for a tossed coating. My spices: smoky & spicy paprika, garlic granules, ground ginger, harissa powder, piri piri, turmeric and cumin. When the timer beeps, remove the crispy vegan tofu wings and toss in the spice mixture.

If you’re my kind of vegan home cook and you tend to make foods a little on the spicier side, consider adding a cooling sauce for those in your home who don’t love spicy vegan foods the way you do.

I opted for a veggiegurt sauce with lemon juice, cumin, parsley and oregano. The hubs said it helped with the heat…a lot.

If you’re in the market for quick and easy vegan recipes, you will be happy to know that this recipe took about 30 minutes and that includes entering the ingredients into Cronometer.

What do you like to pair with your vegan hot wings?

Soya Biryani with Crispy Onions

Simple food can be good food. There is a time and a place for complicated dishes that take plenty of time, but only when and if you feel like it. Biryani seems like a dish that could be complicated if you let it, especially if you decide to take forty-five minutes to get those onions properly crispy. Luckily for me, this was a night my husband cooked and the only thing I had to do was come up with what I wanted to eat for dinner this night. 🙂

I chose Biryani because it is a simple but flavorful dish that feels like it takes hours and hours in the kitchen, but an efficient vegan home cook could get it done in under an hour.

The best thing, aside from taste, about this recipe is that the ingredient list is simple.

TVP (I use inedit, but use whatever textured protein you can find)
Basmati rice
Onion
Veggiegurt
Ginger
Garlic
Red bell pepper
Peanut oil
Herbs & Spices

I know, it seems impossible that a dish so simple could produce such a flavor explosion on your tongue but…it’s true.

If you’ve never had a vegan Biryani, I recommend you do a little research so you understand the basics, but basically this is a dry dish compared to a curry, for example. The key here is the fried onions because they add SO MUCH FLAVOR!

While you re-hydrate the soya, get those onions going in oil or vegan butter, cooking them low and slow until they start to turn golden and sweet-ish. Once the soya is ready, let it cool and then toss in veggiegurt and Indian spices. My hubs couldn’t wait to make use of our new air fryer, so that’s how he cooked the soya!

While the soya got nice & crispy, he cooked the Basmati rice in salted water with a teaspoon (or two) of turmeric thrown in for the health benefits and that gorgeous yellow color.

When the onions are close to ready, add the red bell pepper, garlic and ginger to the skillet and you’re good to go. Now toss in the soya and top it on a bed of rice.

You can always substitute one protein for another, using chickpeas, tofu or any other kinds of beans. If you use seitan or tempeh, I’d love to know about it!

I truly enjoyed this dish and I’ll probably add it to the rotation, but I’d love to see your take on a vegan biryani dish.

Ugly But Tasty Vegan Salami Pizza

It’s no secret that while I am a pretty good vegan cook, I am not the world’s most talented photographer. Or second most talented. Not even top fifty, just in case you were wondering. And I’m totally okay with that because on our worst days, our vegan meals are still pretty damn good…but sometimes they really don’t look like it.

Not all photos can be IG worthy, but I personally think you should even share the ugly photos because that is the nature of eating. Sometimes you eat for fuel, for comfort, or for pleasure and sometimes that’s enough. As long as you enjoy it, that’s what matters. Right?

Or maybe I’m just projecting because of my ugly vegan pizza!

The ingredient list on this ugly vegan pizza is pretty straightforward:

Pizza dough

Vegan cheddar

Vegan salami (smoky)

Spicy tomato sauce

Tomatoes

Onion

Cook the onions and half-cook the tomatoes so you don’t end up with tiny balls of fire when the vegan pizza is ready to eat.

Then, assemble your pizza: sauce on the dough, vegetables, salami and then vegan cheese. Bake 12 to 15 minutes and you have a homemade vegan pizza that costs way less than delivery, minus the animal cruelty.

It’s hard to make vegan pizza pretty if that’s your goal but I’d prefer it to be tasty, which this was. And it was big ol’ pizza just for me and the hubs which meant I got to pig out a little more than I should have.

#worthit

This was a quick and easy vegan meal, perfect for a lazy Friday night.

Vegan Lentil Lasagna Masala

I’ll just say this right at the top of the post, the only way to make lasagna simply is to buy it frozen or by using a ton of packaged ingredients. If you don’t have the time or patience, those are your options. But if you feel like blasting some old school grunge rock, chick rock or hip hop (maybe that’s just me??) and getting your cook on, might I recommend taking your time to make a killer vegan lasagna?

What I like to do is divide this up into three parts: the sauce, the filling and the cheese. I know it seems strange to consider vegan cheese an element of a proper lasagna but sometimes I like to whip up a béchamel with nut milk and nutritional yeast. But that’s any vegan lasagna in a nutshell, so let’s get started.

This meal was my husband’s choice for his Midnight Tokyo Diner night. He asked for lasagna and I decided to with a lentil lasagna masala because, well because Indian flavors are incredible and I am a wee bit obsessed.

The Sauce

The choice is yours, but I like to get the tomato sauce started first because if you use fresh tomatoes, which I highly recommend, you’ll need time to let it reduce and thicken. I kept this sauce fairly simple, using shallots, garlic, a small spicy red pepper for heat, tomato paste and tomatoes. Don’t forget herbs like oregano, thyme, rosemary or marjoram because they add a nice flavor that’ll remind you why sometimes a good red sauce is all you need, plus curry, ginger, garam masala and cardamom. It’s simple for a vegan lasagna, but I promise the filling has plenty of flavor and so does this spicy tomato sauce. In fact, I think it could also be really great as a pizza sauce or an arrabbiata sauce for your next pasta night.

Saute the shallots and pepper until fragrant and then add the garlic and tomato paste. Stir until it starts to smoke and slowly add the chopped tomatoes, or canned if that’s your jam. When the tomatoes start to break down, add a little water or broth or wine and let it simmer so it can begin to reduce. Reduce until the sauce is nice and thick, checking for flavor as you go.

The Filling

For the filling, I went with basic vegetables such as onion, bell pepper, garlic, spinach and mushrooms. For the vegan “meat” I went for lentils because I thought it would suit the taste profile I was going for better. And, it did. And the best part of all? I did it all in the same skillet!

Get the mushrooms going first and then add the onion, pepper and garlic. When they’re all cooked how you like them, add the lentils and water until just about done, then add the spinach. I used frozen because I’m not a big spinach fan and they keep a lot longer. When the filling is done, set aside and prepare to assemble.

Pop in the oven on 200/400 for about 30 minutes, adding the vegan cheese during the last ten minutes of cooking. If you want the cheese bubbly and crisp, crank the oven up for the last few minutes of cooking.

The Cheese (sorta)

In case you’re wondering, I’m in love with my new oven and if you look really close, you can see my reflection in there…somewhere.

Make sure you check the package of your lasagna noodles because for some reason some of them contain egg or milk powder. How else will they keep you addicted enough to add it to everything you eat?

Just…always read the labels before you buy! End of my PSA, I promise!

Vegan Chanterelle Mushrooms & Black Rice Bowl

I don’t know how you guys feel about mushrooms but they are one of my all time favorite things to eat, even more so after adopting a vegan lifestyle. There are so many ways to cook, flavor and enjoy mushrooms that it’s almost impossible to get bored or tired of them. Check out my Beyond Stuffed Mushrooms! And if you’re lucky and happen upon a package of King Oyster or Enoki mushrooms, consider yourself lucky. In my (current) neck of Romania, those are what I consider a TREASURE find because they are so hard to come by.

But when I find myself staring at Chanterelle mushrooms in the mushrooms section, well my vegan heart does a little pitter-patter because I know that I’m gonna go a little bit crazy. These suckers are so flavorful and versatile that I actually can’t get enough of them and my only real problem is figuring out how to make them the star of the dish. Okay, that felt kind of like a Chopped intro, didn’t it?

Now, I don’t want to get your hopes up because there is one downside to chanterelle mushrooms and it is that they are a monster to clean. It takes forever. Literally.

At least it used to. But a few moments of internet sleuthing and I came upon a website that was the MOST helpful in finding a more streamlined way to clean them. All you’ll need is a bowl of water and a kitchen towel or paper towel, but be prepared to change that water a few times because these are very dirty mushrooms.

That sounded kinda dirty, didn’t it?

Three hundred years later and the mushrooms are clean…now we can cook!

This was another easy vegan meal, at least if you don’t count the time spent cleaning, with a simple ingredient list mostly made up of pantry staples.

You’ll need: smoked tofu, mushrooms, bell pepper, corn, onion and rice, plus herbs & spices.

I thought about using the air fryer for these but they have so much water I was worried how it would work, so I opted for my trusty mushroom pan which is the opposite of a non-stick pan. So…a stick pan? Just kidding, a good stainless steel pan is your BFF when it comes to cooking mushrooms. Either way, cook them in a pan without oil, stirring often until a lot of that water has rendered and cooked itself out. Then you can add some fat if you want and start sauteing them until brown and slightly crispy.

When the mushrooms start cooking without rendering any more water, I added the smoked tofu because I also like to have the brown parts a little crispy. When those two are close to done, I added the onion and bell pepper while I cut the corn from one fresh cob. While all that is happening, the black rice is cooking for about 20 minutes in my waste free broth.

See how brown and crispy the mushrooms are? In my opinion that gives them an excellent depth of flavor that means you don’t need to go crazy with herbs and spices, just enough to make the ingredients shine.

This is the brand of black rice I normally use but sometimes the “bio” section will have one type of organic black rice that I also love. But use what you can find and what’s right for your budget. And if you’re worried about the color, don’t be. This rice is rich in antioxidants and fiber, plus it gives a simple vegan dish a very fancy air about it, don’t you think?

With a little bit of planning and prep work, this meal can be on the table in about 30 minutes, 45 if you include the mushroom washing time but in my opinion it is totally worth it because one does not happen upon Chanterelle mushrooms regularly.

Not to mention, this is the perfect calorie friendly vegan meal to pair with an ice cold beer plus a tall glass of water!

What’s your favorite mushroom dish?

Lazy Vegan Chickpea Bowl

I’m going to let you in on a little vegan secret: not every meal requires you to be in the kitchen for hours on end. I know that may come as a shock to you, but sometimes you’re just feeling lazy and you want something quick, easy and nutritious.

When it comes to a lazy vegan meal, I try to keep it as simple as possible.

Does the meal have:

◊ Protein

◊ Carbs

◊ Fiber

If it does, you’re good to go…at least I am.

Let’s start with the easiest part of this meal first, the rice. I used a simple Jasmine rice because it was all that we had left in the pantry and because I love the fragrant goodness of Jasmine rice. It only takes about ten minutes to cook, but you want to give the rice time to cool so it gets good and fluffy when you take your fork to it later.

The fiber part of this lazy vegan meal includes crimini mushrooms, red bell pepper and onion. Simple, right? Sauté them up with or without oil until they reach the done-ness level you prefer. I like my mushrooms with a little bit of crisp on them so I cook them first before adding onions and peppers to the mix. The herbs and spices can be whatever you like, but if you’re going for simplicity I recommend, basil, oregano, garlic and thyme.

Sounds bland, right?

It’s not, especially because we still haven’t dealt with the chickpeas.

The chickpeas are the protein and the spice element to this meal for me. Grab a small ramekin and add any kind of spice mixture you like. I opted for cayenne pepper, spicy paprika, tikka masala spice, harissa, curry, turmeric, cumin and garlic granules. Rinse & dry the chickpeas and then toss with the spice blend. Bake on 200/400 for 20 to 25 minutes until they’re crispy and then…voila, your lazy vegan meal in 30 minutes or less.

Full disclosure: I have a tendency to make spicy dishes too spicy, which my husband is not a big fan of, so I preemptively made a cooling sauce featuring veggiegurt, scallions, fresh dill and lime juice. It did the trick…he didn’t complain once about the heat level, which was at about a 6 or 7 (he said 8 but we all know he’s totally exaggerating).

This is a great vegan meal no matter what you’re looking for: quick, easy, calorie friendly and DELICIOUS.

Sometimes You Just Want A Vegan Welsh Rarebit Pasta Bake

Hey guys! Hope you don’t mind a Tuesday post, but I spent all weekend in my writing cave and suddenly Monday rolled up and there I was, with no post ready to go. So after spending the morning grocery shopping, here we are, ready to talk two of my favorite things: vegan food and pasta.

Pasta gets a bad rap from plenty of people but you will NEVER hear me say a bad word to the almighty carb. It is a necessary fuel for all of us, plus pasta is truly one of the best things in the world, at least according to this vegan. If you don’t ‘do’ pasta then this isn’t a dish you’ll enjoy, but it was a delicious, fun and indulgent meal that kind of reminded us both of childhood, except you know, vegan.

When it comes to a good pasta bake, I think you only need a few things: pasta, something cheesy and a good dose of aromatics.

Of course, that’s all up to you but here is one of my versions of a cheesy #vegan pasta bake!

Choose your favorite pasta first. I opted for a whole wheat rotini because I think whole wheat pasta adds a flavor and texture that you just don’t get with refined (white) pasta.

Next you have to decide what you want to put in the “sauce”. I like to make the sauce as one big entity but you can make a simple tomato sauce and add whatever variety of vegetables you choose. I opted for onion, bell pepper, garlic and kidney beans because, why not?

Saute the onions, garlic and bell pepper in as little oil as you need to make it how you like it, or you can add a water-soy sauce blend to cook them up. I try to keep my oil/fat to a minimum but sometimes you just want that nice char or carmelization that comes with using oil. Once the veggies are where you want them to be, it’s time to talk tomatoes.

Fresh or canned, that is the question, isn’t it?

For me, yes, that is absolutely the question. Some days I feel all creative and chef-y and I will chop up fresh tomatoes and reduce the hell out of it until I have a thick and chunky tomato sauce worthy of a pasta bake. Other days, I don’t have the energy and I’ll use canned stewed tomatoes that I first, squish with my fingers and reduce it until its palatable. BUT let’s be honest, when you choose canned tomatoes you have to add A LOT of seasoning to get rid of that super sweet taste that is kind of off-putting when it comes to red pasta sauce. Ultimately, the choice is yours, but try them both and see which you find tastier and more time effective.

If you choose beans as your protein, I recommend adding them after the sauce has reduced because you still have to pop this in the oven and cook for another 15 to 20 minutes and you don’t want mushy beans. At least I don’t want mushy beans.

Now the most time-consuming part of this vegan pasta bake is the “cheese” sauce. Since I have a well documented love hate relationship with vegan cheese, I opted for a béchamel style sauce, using unsweetened almond milk, flour, olive oil and nutritional yeast, not to mention salt, pepper, smoky paprika, turmeric, basil and oregano.

Add the oil and flour, stir until blended and kind of meal-y, then slowly add the almond milk. If you want to be creative, and who doesn’t, add some spicy mustard, hot sauce and soy sauce for a Welsh Rarebit style cheesy pasta bake, then add the milk. Slowly still, adding nutritional yeast as needed. I usually start with about 15 grams of nutritional yeast and work my way up from there after tasting it. Always, always taste it as you go. I used about 250-300 ml of almond milk total, adding it slowly, but depending on the size of your vegan pasta bake, you might need more or less than that.

Once everything is done, stir the pasta and veggie red sauce together and place in an oven safe baking dish. THEN it’s time to pour the cheesy vegan cheese-less sauce over the top.

Bake at 200°C/400°F for 20 to 30 minutes. If you want to get a bit of a crisp on top, use the broiler or if you have an electric oven, add the top heat and crank it up for an additional 5 minutes.

Cool for 5 to 10 minutes and then…get your grub on!

Poftă Bună!!!!

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?