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.
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).
Way back in 1998 , I was an eager high school graduate headed to downstate Illinois for my very first Freshman orientation with my best friend. We visited the entire campus and I was sure–absolutely certain, in fact–that I, of the dubious navigation talents, would be able to get from one class to the next with ease after this two-day trip.
For those of you wondering, it took me two weeks to navigate the campus freely.
But, I digress. On the first day of orientation, lunch was served in what was considered the “freshman dorm cafeteria” where my bestie and I didn’t end up getting a room, but we had a dish I had never had before. Pepper Steak. It wasn’t very good because the steak was tough, but the sauce was spicy and tangy and delicious. My taste buds were intrigued, needless to say and since then, I have recreated it about a dozen times.
This time, I went for something a little different, pepper steak stir-fry with mushrooms and mince instead of tofu or seitan. Let’s see how it went…
It wasn’t until years later, when the internet became A THING, that I looked up a real recipe and tried to recreate it but over the years I have used pretty much every source of protein and every blend of Asian flavors to get it just right.
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.
Recently I was in the mood for cabbage rolls, but not really, more like spring rolls made with cabbage instead of rice paper. I don’t know why, not really, other than I was reminiscing about some really delicious Vietnamese spring rolls I had once in Wheaton, IL.
Then I was walking down the aisle of a very crowded Lidl and spotted a gorgeous head of Savoy cabbage. I had to have it, knowing it would be great for the wraps, not to mention a vegan soup or two. Maybe even a vegan ramen dish.
The possibilities were endless.
As was the prep time for these vegan cabbage spring rolls. 🙄
The good thing about this kind of vegan recipe is that it’s mostly raw so you’re getting plenty of natural fiber, but also that you can use any of the raw vegetables in your crisper that you just don’t know what to do with. I had a pretty specific idea of what I wanted in my vegan spring rolls, starting with smoked tofu and ending with this beautiful platter you see below.
The ingredient list for the Savoy wraps is pretty straightforward:
Carrots Scallions Bell peppers Cucumber Sprouts (these are radish sprouts) Smoked tofu Savoy cabbage
The most important step is to give the cabbage leaves a quick boil or steam, about 2 minutes. Do it early enough that the cabbage cool and are easy to manage while wrapping. I to roll the first one with the cabbage spine still on it and…it was a mess so I recommend trimming it down but not necessarily cutting it off completely, because that will just make wrapping it harder.
While you wait for the water to boil for the cabbage, preheat the oven or airfryer to 200C and add the seasoned smoked tofu until nice and crispy.
Use the biggest leaves on the Savoy cabbage and wrap them the wide way, across the spine rather than up or down. Trust me, it’ll make the process easier and less annoying.
Take a little of each ingredient and line it up across the leaf, then roll.
If you want to add anything to these vegan spring rolls to fill out the meal, I added soba noodles that I tossed in a mixture of peanut butter, hot water, lime juice, Sriracha and soy sauce. It was easy and delicious..
I also made a quick yogurt sauce for my partner, just in case the smoked tofu had a bit too much tandoor spice on it, which I’m happy to report it did not.
This was a quick (mostly) and easy vegan meal, at least if you make it through the prep work without losing your mind. I rewarded myself for all he prep work with an ice cold beer made without fish belly, thank you very much.
Do you like rolls? How do you prefer to enjoy them?
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?
In my household, my partner and I are both self-employed which means that there are nights that roll around when we’re both so absorbed with work that it’s ten or eleven o’clock before one of us realizes that dinnertime has come and gone. We’re not proud of it, but it’s a fact of life and there you have it.
When those nights happen and you live someplace where there are no vegan food options, or very few, you have to be efficient and creative. My go-to quick and easy vegan meal when it’s my night to cook, usually involves some type of vegan noodle dish, because noodles are my jam.
For my partner, it’s usually rice. Or pasta. Or potatoes.
On this night, it was a crispy tofu biryani.
If you’re not familiar with it, biryani is an Indian rice dish made with spices and protein, traditionally animal protein but we don’t do that here, so we’ve used TVP chunks, because they have plenty of protein and are the perfect meat substitute in this Indian rice dish.
This easy vegan tofu biryani has a simple list of ingredients:
Jasmine rice Peanut oil Textured vegetable protein (TVP) Onion Ginger Bell pepper Coconut milk (for cooking) Veggiegurt Indian spices
Cook the rice according to instructions, a pinch of turmeric gives it that gorgeous yellow color and smoky flavor.
Rehydrate the TVP and drain, the coat in veggigurt and Indian spices (curry, garam masala, chilies, ginger, garlic, cinnamon & cloves, or whatever spice blend you have handy), then set aside. I have this tandoori masala that I really love, it’s smoky and spicy, but not too spicy if you have someone who can’t handle anything over a 5 on the spice scale.
Use half the oil to sauté the onion, bell pepper and additional spices, and use the other half to pop the TVP in the air fryer to get it nice and crispy. This can also be achieved on the stove but you’ll need to use a lot more oil. If you have the time, consider baking it on high in the oven.
When everything is done, toss it all together and add more seasoning as needed. Serve and enjoy!
What’s your go-to vegan dish when you need something quick and easy?
Sandwiches are one of my favorite foods in all the world. I’m like Joey when it comes to sandwiches, just give me some good bread, tons of veggies, some good sauce like pesto or hummus or dill-veggiegurt and I am a happy camper! And when you find bread that is delicious and low calorie, well it’s like sandwiches are calling my name.
So when my mother in law brought over a bag filled with little ciabatta rolls just 60 grams per roll, I was ECSTATIC! Like Joey-level excited and I knew exactly what I wanted. Spicy TVP, cooked in the air fryer and tossed in a blend of spices & hot sauce.
This recipe is pretty easy as far as vegan lunch recipes go.
Rehydrate the TVP in water or broth and let it rest to get as much liquid out as possible. When you’re ready, toss it in a variety of seasonings & spices such as: smoky paprika, turmeric, piri piri, garlic, cumin & white pepper…don’t forget the oil.
Pop the vegan buffalo strips in the air fryer for 10 to 15 minutes. I ended p going closer to 15 minutes because I use the big chunks and cut them in half before seasoning them. When the spicy tofu is done, toss it in a mixture of hot sauce, vinegar (optional), and vegan butter (also optional).
For the sauce, mix veggiegurt, dill, lemon juice and thinly sliced scallions. Season with salt & pepper and add to bread.
Then whip up your salad and dress it with a quick vegan vinaigrette (mustard, vinegar, herbs & spices), and your easy vegan lunch recipe is ready to go. If you do your prep work, this is a quick and easy vegan lunch for two but if you’re cooking for more, just double the recipe as needed.
Wondering what that drink is above? Just a little bit of Jameson Caskmates Stout Edition & Bundaberg sarsaparilla, also known as a Lynchburg Beer or, since I used Jameson, Dublin Beer!
When it comes to cuisine, I’d love to say that I have no rules. But I do. A lot, in fact. Except when I want something that goes against the rules, in which case I’m the first to proclaim that the evolution of cuisine always starts with someone doing something they aren’t “supposed” to do.
And you know what, I’m totally fine with that because sometimes you just want what you want, and in this day and age when so many of us are spending more time than ever in the house, less time eating out at restaurants and all that jazz, rules must be broken once in a while.
Or longer…whatever you prefer.
Speaking of, let me introduce you to a Pho Style falafel ball rice noodle soup, my own vegan contribution to the vegan fusion movement. (Is it a movement or am I making that up?)
Let’s start with the falafel balls because they went in the oven and they needed time to cook and crisp up.
Place all the ingredients into a food processor until you get a crumbly mixture. If you’re not sure whether it’s crumbly enough, scoop some into your hands and press it together. If it sticks, it’s good. I recommend you pop it into the fridge for 10 to 15 minutes, but it’s not totally necessary.
Form into uniform balls, whatever size you prefer, and lay out on a baking sheet at 180c/375f for about 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown & crispy.
You will also need: onion, bell pepper, garlic, mung bean sprouts, tomato paste, soybean paste coconut milk, soy sauce and Pad Thai rice noodles.
Start with a big pot and give the vegetables a light saute for a few minutes and then add soybean and tomato paste, stirring until everything looks kind of messy. Then it’s time to add the broth! Stir well until everything breaks apart and starts to resemble a soup. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer until the flavors are what you want.
Cook the noodles according to the package and drop them in your bowl first. Top with broth & veggie mixture and then falafel balls and you are–technically–ready to put it in your belly.
But you can also add garnishes such as jalapeno peppers, basil leaves, lime juice, Sriracha & soy sauce.
And there you have it, my own little twist on vegan fusion food and Asian fusion although I guess it should be vegan Asian-Middle Eastern fusion? That’s a mouthful but not as much as this delicious soup, which I will totally add to the rotation, using all kinds of vegan ball varieties.
C. Work well past the dinner hour but NEED some good #vegan food to keep you going?
Easy…a quick vegan stir-fry is where it’s at.
The ingredient list is simple: firm tofu, broccoli, scallions, garlic and rice. You can make whatever you want just keep in mind that a good stir-fry is protein, vegetables and a grain.
And sauce, of course. For this one we used soy sauce, Korean chili paste, ginger powder, water and corn starch.
If you want a very crispy tofu, season it and pop in the air fryer if you have one. I LOVE this thing because it gives someone like me–trying to get to a healthy weight–a chance to eat something fried without going crazy on the oil since I’ve talked a lot about my foray into oil-free or minimal oil cooking. It cooks things quicker and gets them super crispy, which I loved in this dish because the tofu doesn’t get soggy, something every vegan tofu eater has had to contend with.
Oh, and the Hubs added the broccoli for a few minutes just to get some crisp on the tips and…it totally worked!
Garnish with the green tops of the scallions if you choose, sliced as big or as small as you like.
There’s not a lot to say about this meal because although it was delicious with a capital ‘D’, it was so late and fairly rushed that I can’t really remember the details…other than enjoying it.
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.