Seitan Sausage & Vegan Carbonara

Just for the sake of clarification, I should tell you that I am not a tradititonalist when it comes to recipes. I will take something that looks interesting and try it once to decide how I like it, and then I will tweak it to fit my palate, ingredients and desires. But I will totally keep the name.

So when my partner requested “a type of carbonara” I knew exactly what he meant; give me some kind of creamy pasta dish.

And thus this vegan carbonara dish with seitan sausage was born.

If you don’t have access to any vegan sausage at your local market and you want to make it from scratch, you’ll need vital wheat gluten and nutritional yeast or chickpea flour.

You will also need the following:

It’s a pretty simple vegan pasta dish if you’re ever in need of a quick weeknight dinner, or like me, those nights when you end up writing until ten at night and forget all about dinner.

This is a pretty easy vegan recipe to execute. Cook the pasta according to the box instructions, but I recommend that you cook it 1 or 2 minutes shy of the box recommendation because you’ll add it to the hot vegan carbonara sauce and it’ll cook a little more. But if you like very soft pasta, do you.

I like my mushrooms with a bit of a bite so I cook them until the moisture is gone and they start to crisp around the edges, and then I add the onion (cook 5 to 7 minutes) and the garlic (another 2 or 3 minutes, until fragrant). Slice the seitan sausage and add it with the garlic, cooking until the edges start to crisp.

That brings us to the carbonara sauce, which I know is nothing like the authentic Italian carbonara mostly because this is a vegan carbonara which means NO ANIMALS. Instead I used unsweetened almond milk, black pepper, garlic and nutritional yeast. The yeast will help the sauce thicken and give it depth of flavor, but you might want to try your hand at a thick and creamy vegan bechamel (get my recipe here) if you don’t possess enough patience to wait for the sauce to thicken, which it will.

When the pasta is done, add it straight from the water into the pot with the mushrooms, onion, garlic & sausage and pour the vegan carbonara sauce over it, tossing over low heat until combined.

Serve and garnish with fresh ground black pepper and vegan parmesan cheese. I use ParVeggio because it is literally my only option here in Romania, but it is tasty and creamy and salty, and it smells much better than the canned crap I used to eat.

The next time you need a quick and easy vegan pasta dish, consider this creamy, plant based carbonara.

Enjoy!

Vegan Fusion: Falafel Ball Noodle Soup

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.

Falafel Ball Ingredients:

Chickpeas (rinsed & drained & dried)
Scallion
Ginger
Garlic
Smoky & Spicy paprika

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.

That’s it. Pretty easy, right?

For the soup, I started with another batch of waste free broth as the broth base.

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.

Easy Vegan Broccoli Stir-Fry

What do you do when you:

A. Work from home

B. Are on lockdown

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.

ALWAYS.

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.

 

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?

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?

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!!!!

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!

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?

Quick & Easy Vegan Smoked Tofu Bowl

With what’s going on in the world lately, we all have to do what we can, right? That means some days or weeks I feel like a #vegan rock star in the kitchen, making my own seitan sausage and whipping up delicious meals while some days I just want something easy, delicious and nutritious. Like all of you, I’m complicated and that’s okay.

And yeah, sure that was my long winded way of saying this post is going to be short because this meal was delicious, easy to make and super fast.

This is one of the many reasons I love Buddha bowls, they are healthy and easy, two of my favorite things when I’m too busy or too lazy to spend time in the kitchen.

This particular bowl was SUPER easy, all you need is onion, bell pepper, garlic, smoked tofu and a grain of your choosing, the photo has bulgur in it. The sauce is a combination of tomato paste, soy sauce and Korean chili paste.

And don’t forget to hit up your spice rack to give this dish an Asian or Italian flair, or whatever you’re in the mood for.

Not every vegan meals needs to be IG worthy, but sometimes they accidentally are! (Hit me up at IndyJaxn if you want to see for yourself.)

What’s your favorite go-to vegan meal?

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?