Easy Vegan Dinner Recipes ~ Chickpea Masala

Life as we know it under normal circumstances is…a distant memory. You know that as well as I do, and as such, we have all been doing the best we can as often as we can. For the purposes of today’s blog, that means making sure you get a good chunk of whole foods in your vegan diet.

When was the last time you ordered/cooked a meal without soy or seitan? How about the last time you cooked a meal, period? Or one that consisted mostly of vegetables, grains, beans and/or legumes? It’s not a judgment, believe me. Some weeks I have to really go through the photos to find a meal without pasta or tofu or vegan burgers. It happens and I’ve forgiven myself.

Have you?

Good because today we have a quick and easy vegan chickpea masala for those nights when you just need something simple, whole and plant based to eat.

The chickpeas are the main source of protein in this, but the good thing about a plant based, vegan whole food diet is that you get tons of essential vitamins and nutrients from ALL of the ingredients.

To get this vegan dinner started, you start with the onion, ginger and hot chili peppers. If you’re using oil, add that into the pan, otherwise look the vegetables cook until fragrant, adding water or waste-free broth a little at a time.

Add the garlic along with any herbs and spices such as: cumin, turmeric, curry, smoky paprika, garam masala seasoning and chili powder. Stir until well coated and then add the chickpeas (rinsed & drained) and cherry/grape tomatoes or just canned crushed tomatoes which is what I used, because this was a day before shopping meal for us.

Add some broth and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring regularly so it doesn’t stick. You want to let this liquid reduce a little so the end result is thick and creamy.

Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.

Add coconut milk (for cooking) at the last five or so minutes, making sure to taste as you go and adjust for flavor preferences.

Serve on a bed of rice and that’s a pretty darn quick and easy vegan recipes, perfect for lunch or dinner.

If you need a little extra spice, jalapenos or Sriracha will do the trick, but my hubs thought it had a nice little kick to it, emphasis on little.

The other thing I loved about this vegan chana masala? It’s super calorie friendly, even with the creamy coconut milk added to it.

This is for one serving but ingredients list is chickpea masala for 2.

Quick and easy and delicious, so next time you’re in need of a whole food vegan meal, consider hitting up your pantry for that can of beans you haven’t used in forever and toss’em in a pot.

Crispy Cauliflower Wings & Fries

When you want something that’s easy to make but seems really complicated, try these cauliflower wings! You can make whatever sauce you want, spicy or sweet, or go crazy and make it spicy-sweet!

This dish is easy but it does take time for the prep work. I couldn’t find bread crumbs so I used some day old bread, which I ripped up and seasoned with salt, garlic, pepper, smoky paprika and oregano. When the bread cooled, I added it to the food processor to break it up evenly and put it in one bowl. Mix in a tablespoon or two of nutritional yeast and more seasoning if desired.

In the other bowl was vegan yogurt, Sriracha, mustard and lime juice. Feel free to add other wet flavor creators here.

Coat the cauliflower in they yogurt mixture first and then the bread crumbs before laying them out on a baking sheet. Crowd the sheet if you must just don’t double up or it will take FOREVER to cook. Spread them out evenly and pop in the oven for 35-45 minutes.

While the cauliflower cooks, get started on your side dishes and your sauces.

Since we like different spice levels, I didn’t want to toss the cauliflower. I made a hot sauce for me, using vegan butter, rice vinegar and plenty of spicy stuff. For him I used a tablespoon of the spicy stuff and added it to more yogurt and we were both happy because there was enough sauce for the vegan wings and the fries!

This requires a lot of oven work so make sure you time it right. The last thing you want are cold or overcooked cauliflower wings. I started with the cauliflower and when it started to brown, I put the potatoes in on the bottom shelf.

This was easy and delicious and even with the bread crumbs it was calorie friendly, at least as far as this vegan is concerned!

Spicy Tofu & Red Quinoa Bowl

Been busy finishing up my latest book but I wanted to share another Buddha Bowl with you. The thing I love most about them, aside from all the healthy stuff, is that you get a little bit of a variety of foods. After a tough workout or just because I’m feeling really hungry, I crave them.

So when I found this organic red quinoa at the nearby Kaufland, I knew it would go nicely with the beautiful broccoli florets that were already in the shopping cart. Okay, the truth is that I had a vegan Buddha bowl on the menu but I wasn’t sure which grain I would use until I checked out what was in stock.

I’m pretty new to the quinoa bandwagon so I put them on first, adding  salt and turmeric to the water when it started to boil.

Next came the onions and bell peppers because I wanted to pop them into the oven to get a little char on’em. As you can see, I got a little more than I wanted but some of that was because of the spice rub I used. Same with the tofu.

Put together your favorite spice blend for the tofu, I used a tandoori spice blend with sumac and baharrat and some other stuff, with a few drops of oil and tomato paste. Rubbing it on both sides of the tofu and pan fry it or pop it in the oven when the onions & bell peppers start to cook.

Steam the broccoli and toss with your favorite seasonings. I used vegan butter and minced garlic. Easy peasy.

Feel free to make a sauce if you like. I thought about it but after tasting it all, I didn’t think it needed it.

This was a quick 30 minute vegan meal that you can use over and over again. Take your spice cabinet around the world and mix up the veggies for an endless supply of easy vegan recipes.

Homemade Vegan Sushi

One of the few restaurants in Ploiesti with vegan options is a sushi restaurant and we love it. I mean, I love it a lot, which is weird because I was never a big sushi fan in my meat-eating days…no matter how hard I tried. But now? Now it’s my jam.

My absolute frickin’ jam.

So of course we were visiting one of those giant stores that sell everything from pots & pans to school supplies and shoes. You know what I mean and some days this place looks so much like the town I grew up in that it reminds me just how alike we all are really are. Anyway, we came across sushi ginger, nor sheets, wasabi and sushi rice–in one place, no less!–and I turned my husband and said, “You should totally make sushi.” He shrugged and said, “Okay.”

So…homemade vegan sushi.

The most difficult part of this recipe is spreading the rice and cutting the roll, at least according to the Hubs, so the person in your house who’s best at delicate work should do those tasks.

The rolls were filled with bell peppers, smoked tofu, daikon radish, scallions, mushrooms, artichokes, sundried tomatoes and tomatoes. There were three different types of rolls that we split and they were pretty darn good. Mostly. And that’s because I have a love-hate relationship with nori. Mostly I hate it, but the sushi place we go to must have different sheets because they are beyond tolerable, they’re almost easy to ignore because the taste is so mild. These were not mild.

All you need is small dishes for soy sauce and you can pop the wasabi and ginger right in the center.

And if you’re feeling thirsty from all that wasabi, wash it down with an ice cold Japanese beer like Asahi, to keep with the theme of course.

Or just grab your favorite cold drink and enjoy!

 

Quick & Easy Spicy Vegan Mushroom Orzo

One of the things I’m guilty of doing when it comes to cooking is getting stuck in a rut. Not a bad rut, but I’ll create recipes surrounding the same ingredients, like bulgur or rice, when there are tons of other grains I could be using. It’s one of the reason I am obsessed with watching cooking shows whether it’s on YouTube or regular television. Thanks to a show with Grill Master Supreme, Bobby Flay, I was reminded of how much I enjoy orzo.

Before anyone gets upset, yes I do know that orzo is a pasta but it’s shaped like rice so I consider it both, depending on the recipe. And for this particular recipe, I used it as a plain ol’ grain.

If you’re unfamiliar with orzo, this is what it looks like, a pasta rice if you will. Anyway it is very easy to cook–boil in salted or unsalted water as the package indicates and then drain–and very versatile as you’re about to learn! But you have to make sure you season the dish properly because otherwise you’ll end up with a bland dish.

We eat a lot of mushrooms in our house. Like, a lot. Sometimes as a meat replacement in things like shredded BBQ mushroom sandwiches or a plant based mushroom bourguignon, but also just because mushrooms are delicious and go great with just about everything. So we have orzo and we have mushrooms…what else?

That’s what makes this meal so quick and easy, it has just a few ingredients: crimini mushrooms, onions, garlic and orzo. Of course you’ll have to add herbs & spices but you have those anyway so you don’t have to buy a ton of extras.

Since orzo is a pasta, I recommend cooking it separately so this isn’t a one pot meal, but it’s close enough that you can keep this vegan recipe in your back pocket for those lazy weeknights.

I didn’t use oil because mushrooms produce SO MUCH water that it really wasn’t necessary, but feel free to add it if you think you need it. I cooked the mushrooms first until most of the water had cooked out, then I added the onions (an onion & shallot blend because we’re always trying to diversify the flavor profile!) and allowed them to use some of the mushroom water to cook without sticking to the pan.

When the onions start to crisp a little around the edges, add the garlic. For this recipe I used about 8 cloves, maybe 10 because I planned to add some heat to it and the Hubs can’t handle too much heat.

For herbs & spices, I used a pinch of curry, baharrat, scotch bonnet powder and smoky paprika. These flavors when combined made this dish taste like it had been cooking for hours, which is also a great way to increase the gratitude for those you cook for!

When everything was done, I tossed it all together, using about a quarter cup of the orzo water to give the dish a hint of creaminess without adding any actual cream.

But it turns out that I added maybe one or two too many spices because I had to grab some vegan yogurt for the hubs…

Good news is that the yogurt & lime mixture was a great addition to the meal, according to him anyway so feel free to get (a little) carried away with your spice rack with the confidence that a little bit of yogurt will go a long way.

And you know I had to wash it down with something delicious…right?

Ice cold with a delicious flavor profile, I’d say this beer was created to go with a variety of mushroom dishes.

Vegan Recipes That Didn’t Make The Cut

One of the things I’ve learned while blogging about my cooking adventures as a vegan, is that not all recipes are created equal.

Duh, right? That’s what I thought too.

But it turns out that for a home cook who specializes in taste, not sight, it’s not that simple.

So I thought today it’d be fun to go through some of the recipes that didn’t make the cut, mostly because they didn’t photograph well but sometimes we were too hungry to take photos before diving in and eating. Sometimes they didn’t turn out–photo wise–how I thought they would or wanted them to. So I scrapped them.

Until today.

This was my attempt at a vegan quiche, not to recreate the eggy flavor of quiche, but just the essence of quiche if you will. I used cornmeal and flour, a couple vegan eggs, almond milk and chopped veggies. It was very tasty but it needed to cook a bit longer and I think I need about 30 grams more of cornmeal.

I was a little liberal with the vegan cheese on top but as you can see it wasn’t very good about melting, but don’t worry I’ll spare you my gripes about the state of vegan cheese. This time.

Then I made a delicious and simple spaghetti dish. Fresh Roma tomatoes blended with sun dried tomatoes, garlic, basil, oregano, piri piri and whole wheat spaghetti. It was yummy. Turns out, not so photogenic.

Spaghetti always provides an excellent excuse to indulge in a little vegan parm.

Maybe there’s something about pasta dishes, because my husband made a sort of mac & cheese pie, using these “macheroni” that are long like spaghetti but they’re hollow so when they expand after cooking they are gigantic. He tried to tame them and with the help of cumin, turmeric, smoky paprika, tofu in salty water (called saramura in Romanian) it was pretty tasty.

But not too pretty to look at.

Then there’s my go to dish when I’m lazy and hungry: fresh veggies & Asian noodles.

Tastes good, but when you add the noodles the photos are weird so enjoy this photo of the oyster mushrooms, asparagus, bell pepper and onions before they were tossed onto a bed of noodles.

Simple vegan meals are always great because they take almost no time but taste like they took a long time!

…and sometimes the chili is a tad too water-y.

With avocado for him and without for me. 😀

And then there are the photos that just don’t do a meal justice, like this vegan gnocchi with green sauce.

Though I hope you enjoyed my missteps, I hope this teaches you a valuable lesson in that you don’t have to worry if a dish isn’t pretty. Unless you have kids, then I’m told that sometimes matters.

Make taste and nutrition, not photo-worthiness, a priority.

Buddha Bowl with Creamy Vegan Pesto

Have I mentioned how much I love Buddha Bowls, because I do. A lot.

But before we get into the goodness of this latest meal, I should apologize for my absences and sporadic posts. Finishing this latest book and exploring the country of Romania with my husband, and time with our family has packed my schedule more than I’m used to and something had to give. The good news is, I have plenty of recipes because taking pictures of the food is easy…posting it all, not so much.

But I’m back and today we’re talking Buddha Bowls.

Why do I love them so hard, you ask?

Simple:

1. They are packed with veggies which means packed with nutrients.
2. Delicious
3. Easy to do
4. Always leaves you enough calories for a delicious sauce!

 

Some people will tell you that autumn is a great time for a Buddha Bowl but I think spring and summer are even better because there are so many vegetables in season which gives you so much to choose from! for this bowl I grabbed a big head of broccoli, a giant sweet potato, carrots, red bell pepper and onion. And just in case you’re wondering, YES, that’s all I used. One of each vegetable and it was enough to feed three people, of course with 1 cup of brown rice.

Which brings me to the other thing I LOVE about these bowls. The calorie count is totally irresistible for those of us still trying to manage our weight and these bowls have helped me drop 33kg (& counting!).

It seems like a lot of food and your belly will certainly think you’ve over-indulged but you haven’t. At all.

And like I said, you can create a delicious sauce that maybe not be 100% TOTALLY good for you, because food is meant to be enjoyed!

I made a creamy pesto that began as a regular basil pesto complete with garlic, cashews (couldn’t find pine nuts), lemon juice, Tabasco sauce, salt and black pepper. I split the pesto in half and chucked one half in the fridge for later and for the other, I added a quarter cup of vegan yogurt and a tablespoon of mustard for a delicious pesto cream that complimented the dish perfectly.

Whenever I’m lucky enough to happen upon fresh basil, I instinctively grab 3 or 4 packages because I know how versatile pesto can be, even more for those of us on a plant based diet. Add a couple grilled veggies and slather the pesto on bread for a quick & easy sandwich.

If you notice a shine on the carrot, pepper & onion mixture, it’s because I used (gasp) coconut oil! I figured this was the perfect place to indulge, cooking these veggies in 2 teaspoons of coconut oil with paprika, salt & pepper, baharrat and a few other Northern African spices.

Which brings us to my final tip for Buddha Bowls. Don’t be afraid to experiment with your spice rack!!! I’ve made Cajun Buddha Bowls for a little extra spice, Indian, Asian, Spanish, Mexican, Italian and just about every other cuisine that intrigues me. Your herbs & spices are the key to keeping your diet fresh.

Spicy Broccoli & Tofu Noodles

One of my favorite things is noodles. Asian style noodles. I love them all from the delicious buckwheat taste of soba noodles to rice noodles (thick or thin) and of course, ramen. But I also adore Udon noodles, glass noodles, wok noodles and all the undiscovered noodles out there waiting for me. I. Love. Them.

And most of all, I keep a good stock in my pantry so that when I’m at a loss for what to make for lunch or dinner, or if I don’t feel like having what’s on the menu, I hunt down veggies and pantry staples, grab a pack of noodles and I’m good to go. That’s pretty much how this dish came to be.

The best part is that, despite how complicated the dish seems, it’s really simple to make. For the ramen, all you need is boiling water but be sure to read the instructions carefully because sometimes you boil them for a few minutes and others you let them sit in the water for about five minutes. These were the simple boil for three minutes and they’re done, but I really loved that these particular noodles had only three ingredients: rice flour, turmeric and water.

Turmeric! An amazing anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant that also provides increased brain function and helps stave off brain diseases.

I just used what i had on hand which was a half floret of broccoli, half a brick of tofu, onion, red bell pepper, garlic and ginger. I topped it with sliced scallions and these amazing purple sprouts that were beet sprouts which I found surprisingly delicious considering that beets are one of about three vegetables that my taste buds don’t like.

For this recipe I did use oil, cold pressed olive oil BUT just a half tablespoon which I heated and mixed with the ginger, garlic and two types of curry. As soon as that hearty aromatic scent hit the air, add the vegetables. You can add the tofu last but I cooked it separately in a small skillet so brown it around the edges.

TIP: Give your tofu extra flavor by cutting and marinating it. For this recipe I used soy sauce, garlic powder and curry. I did it first so it sat getting flavorful while I chopped and did everything else.

This is yet another thing I love about Asian cuisine, you can fancy it up or enjoy a quick and rustic style meal. And if you’re a picky vegetable eater you’re not beholden to anyone’s recipe, just use what you already have on hand.

I’m sure you’re wondering where the ‘spicy’ in this recipe came from and the answer is mostly the pinch of red curry and the half Thai chili pepper I used but I removed the seeds because I LOVE it spicy but the hubs…doesn’t. So in the spirit of compromise I just decorated my plate with a bit of Sriracha. Okay, more than a bit.

Sue me, I like it spicy!

Let me know your favorite noodle dish and I just might make it!

Taco Tuesday Vegan Style ~ Spicy Taco Salad

I know we’re a day early for Taco Tuesday but we’re doing this. TODAY.

I don’t know about you but I’ve been doing some form of taco Tuesday since college but let’s be honest every day of the week was Taco Thursday or Pizza Monday or whatever…you get the idea, right? Well now, as an adult, I appreciate tacos as much as ever–7 years living in southern California solidified it–but I don’t always appreciate all the extra calories that come from taco shells.

Maybe I eat too many tacos. Maybe.

Possibly.

Who can really say?

In case you’re wondering I DO love a hard shell tortilla and it’s a plus they’re vegan. But if you knew how many I could eat then you’d understand why I salad-ified my go to Mexican dish.

This is a pretty easy dish to make especially if you opt to use beans, which I did. Or tofu crumbles, which I also did.

Told ya, I can be a bit of a pig under the right circumstances!

Seriously though, this recipe is pretty easy because you cook everything on its own.

Brown rice
Chop, rinse & spin lettuce
Saute onion, bell pepper & mixed garlic
Homemade salsa with tomatoes, jalapenos, parsley, lime juice and tequila
Slice or halve olives
Chop avocado (optional)
Top with sliced jalapeno peppers

Then…the fun part. Loading it up!

Be sure to rinse the lettuce in cold water so you keep a nice crunch with every bite!

The thing I love about this dish, besides its simplicity, is that it’s healthy and packed with veggies. If you use fresh salsa, which I recommend, you get ALL the nutrients from tomatoes, onions, parsley, lime juice, scallions, garlic, bell pepper and all the herbs and seasoning which includes: chili powder, cayenne pepper, cumin, salt & pepper and oregano. It’s jammed packed with flavor and good stuff for your body.

Feel free to omit the 1/2 shot of tequila too. I don’t always use it but I do love the flavor it adds to a really good salsa. Up the lime juice if you want more acidity without the alcohol or go really crazy and mix lemon and lime juice.

Or just do a shot and enjoy your salad with ice cold beer or water.

I prefer both because good skin doesn’t happen without lots of water.

I’ve been experimenting with filters…what do you think? Leave your comments below!

Cauliflower Bake ~ A Hearty Vegan Dinner

One of the things you learn quickly after about the first six months of eating a plant based diet is that you have to get creative. You have to think outside the box when you can’t just grab an animal protein and add it to some veggies and grains. You need something that will be:

Delicious

Satisfying

Protein sufficient

And you know what vegetable fits that criteria? Cauliflower.

I know, I know. Cauliflower is the redheaded step-child of the produce section. No one wants it and no one is quite sure what to do with it other than boiling it and slathering it in butter. But, hold up, there is a way to cook cauliflower that makes it delicious and satisfying. When it comes to vegetables in particular but a plant based diet in general, the most common myth or misconception out there is that we don’t eat enough or we’re not getting sufficient nutrients.

First, just let me say thank you for your concern over my dietary health.

Now, back to the cauliflower. Let’s start with the important stuff: one cup of cauliflower is just 30 calories. Yep, 30 calories which means losing weight is easier and you won’t feel like you’re starving. But it’s not just its low calorie count that makes cauliflower such a powerhouse, it’s also the vitamins. This vegetable is packed with Vitamins C, K and B6. And don’t let us forget fiber and omega 3 plus 5% protein per cup!

There are plenty of reasons to eat cauliflower and I’ve just given you a few but the best reason of all is that you can turn one whole head into a complete meal.

The first thing you’ll need to do after you’ve washed and trimmed the head of cauliflower is to give it a quick blanch, no more than 5 minutes. This will get the cooking process started so that when you pop it into the oven with all the other goodness, you won’t pull out a gross, stringy and too hard.

Now it’s time to gather your toppings–onion, garlic, tomatoes, parsley, salt & pepper, herbs & spices–and cook them just a bit until the onions and garlic are transparent. You can use fresh tomatoes or canned but the fresh ones really take this dish to a whole new level. That sweet, fresh goodness also allows you to add a hint of spice or if you’re like me…a whole lotta spice.

Pour the sauce over the cauliflower and bake it for 30 to 45 minutes, depending on your oven, until the cauliflower is soft and delicious.

If you’re feeling adventurous, add some vegan parm, but in my opinion this dish didn’t need anything extra. We ate a few slices of bread along side it, choosing to forego the mamaliga and anything else. And trust me when I tell you that two helpings of this cauliflower bake was FILLING. Like I retired to the sofa with my food baby for about an hour before I decided that movement would make it better.

And since I’ve just seen a Thanksgiving cauliflower recipe…I’m thinking about trying it out!