Childhood Favorites Gone Vegan ~ Spaghetti & Meatballs

When I was a kid one of my favorite canned meals was spaghetti and meatballs. As a latch-key kid, there was nothign better than racing home from school to crack open a can of ravioli, spaghetti-o’s or spaghetti and meatballs. All of that tomato-y goodness that, in hindsight, wasn’t all that good, waiting to stain your lips and your microwave safe bowl!

Who could resist?

Not me, that’s for sure!

So, when I was walking the aisles of Lidl last week and noted that here in Romania they have started to up their vegan food choices game. I found Verdino brand meatballs and you know what I did, grabbed up the last package with a giddy smile. I knew then what I wanted.

What is that?

Well, let’s see. Combine my love of carbs, noodles and pasta with these vegan meatballs and what do you have? One of my childhood favorites, re-done for the fancy, grown-up vegan I am today.

This is one of those vegan dinner recipes that you can do the easy way or the tasty way. Just kidding, I’m sure your jarred pasta is super delicious, it’s just a little too sweet for my taste. But if anyone knows of any no sugar added options, I’m game to give it a try.

Crispy Tofu, Smashed Potatoes & Mushrooms with Carrot Green Pesto

Some days you know exactly what you want for vegan dinner goodness and then there are those days when you’re just hungry but you have no idea what you want. We’ve all been there and where I live vegan takeout isn’t really an option so we have to do something.

Oh, the pressure!

So when one of us doesn’t actually know what we want for dinner but it’s our night to choose, we’ll just toss out a few ingredients, like say; pesto, mushrooms and potatoes. From there, the world is the cook’s #vegan oyster. You can do whatever you want as long as it contains the aforementioned ingredients.

This vegan dinner recipe is the result of one those nights.

Crispy Tofu, Smashed Potatoes & Mushrooms with Carrot Green Pesto

The other great this about this is that it is a super quick and easy vegan recipe, with most of the work being done by kitchen appliances. But before we get to that, let’s get to the ingredients.

Hot & Spicy Tofu and Oyster Mushrooms w/Pickled Bok Choy

Some days you just feel like getting weird with it and on those days, well, you get weird with it.

I recently bought some new hot sauce, Crazy Bastard brand hot sauce, and so you know I had to indulge my love of all things spicy and delicious. I couldn’t go completely crazy because my partner does not handle the super hot foods all that well and I love him, so I guess I have to take it easy on the fella.

Mostly…

We still had some really good looking oyster mushrooms in the fridge and I knew exactly what I wanted, something simple so the hot sauce could be the star of the meal, and something to take the heat off if necessary. (It was totally necessary, btw)

So, if you’re ready to get hot & spicy, grab your favorite vegan meat alternative, mushrooms, bulgur and bok choy leaves and let’s do this! Oh, and let’s not forget the hot sauce.

Let’s start with the mushrooms because I like to put mine in the oven and let them get crispy on the edges while keeping the moisture in the big part of the cap. Dust off the dirt and grime with a wet napkin or towel, and trim them before you weigh them (if that’s your jam, but it’s totally mine).

Vegan Mince & Mushroom Stroganoff

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

Until recently and my ongoing love affair with mushrooms.

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

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

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

Vegan Mushroom Mapo Tofu

If you’ve never heard of Mapo Tofu, then you are in for a real treat. I came across video by Wil Yeung on YouTube and you know what happened next? That’s right, it ended up on my plate a few days later!

For those of you not in the know, Mapo Tofu is a Chinese dish from the Sichuan province . It is delicious and spicy and pretty easy to make. And best of all? Easy to make completely vegan.

The key to this vegan version of mapo tofu is perfectly cooked crimini mushrooms. I like to start the mushrooms in the oven and finish’em off on top of the stove so you get that nice crispy earthy flavor on the outside and a nice bit of moisture on the inside.

No-Meatball Creamy Curry Risotto

Perhaps my favorite part of getting to choose what my husband cooks on his nights, is coming up with new combinations to see what he’ll do with the dish. On this night, I wanted three things: curry, vegan meatballs and risotto.

It sounded strange even to my own ears, so I hit up the Google machine just in case I was sending him on a fool’s errand. Turns out, I was…kind of.

There were curry meatball dishes for all diets and lifestyles, but I guess most people are purists when it comes to risotto, where I am not. So this is what happens when you ask for curry, vegan meatballs and risotto for dinner.

Meatless Creamy Curry Risotto.

The key to any good curry is a well-stocked spice rack, or finding the right premade vegan curry sauce or seasoning packet. Those aren’t all that easy to come by here in Romania, which works out fine because my spice rack is more like a spice shelving unit and it borders on ridiculous.

Linguine & Vegan Balls with Red Sauce

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

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

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

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

Other than herbs and spices you’ll need:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chinese Takeout at Home for the Lazy Vegan

Most of the time, especially in this strange year we’ve all found ourselves caught in, your desire to have vegan takeout is prompted more by convenience than by taste. Right?

When I lived in Los Angeles and, to a certain extent Germany, there were more than a few takeout places that just had damn good food. But, more often than not it’s the case that the best selling point of the vegan takeout is that I don’t have to cook it. Which doesn’t say much good about you or the restaurant.

But the absolute best thing about 2020 is the abundance of options when it comes to vegan food choices. You no longer have to make your own vegan eggroll wrappers and hope for the best, now you can just buy frozen vegan eggrolls, vegan potstickers, dim-sum, or whatever your favorite vegan Chinese takeout is, and make it yourself!

And that’s just what we did. Quick and easy vegan fried rice with tofu and vegetable gyoza.

We kept it simple with vegetable fried rice and vegan potstickers, but if you’re in search of more, don’t skip the frozen section of your local market because even here in Romania, they are always adding new vegan options to their shelves.

Creamy Vegan Mushroom Tetrazzini

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

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

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

No clue.

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

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

Vegan Risotto alla Bolognese

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

Not on this particular November day, anyway.

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

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

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

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

Now…onto the vegan bolognese!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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