Quick & Easy Vegan Dinners

It’s no secret that I love to spend time in the kitchen, whipping up vegan recipes from around the world. For me, cooking is another creative outlet that allows me to stay healthy and fit, while forcing me to take a much needed break from my excessive daily screen regimen.

But some days I am just too busy with writing for clients, publishing my books, catching up with family back home in the U.S., and even just doing stuff for me. Days are long and days are busy, but that doesn’t mean I want to crack open a frozen pizza and call it a meal. But there is something in between vegan junk food and elaborate vegan dinners.

Right?

For me, yeah.

So today let’s take a look at a very simple vegan dinner that doesn’t require even an hour in the kitchen. What is this mythical vegan recipe, you ask?

Easy. Vegan falafel balls with a delicious barbecue sauce and one of my favorites…vegan garlic mashed potatoes!

Even the photos look as simple as this meal is to make, which means there is no reason to reach for takeout menus that probably don’t have enough vegan offerings to satisfy your hunger. Do it yourself.

It’s easy, I swear.

Beyond Meatball & Brussels Sprouts Shepherd’s Pie

This is a pretty simple vegan recipe, especially if you’re already familiar with the ins and outs of making vegan Shepherd’s pie. You’ll need: protein, vegetables and of course…MASHED POTATOES!!!

This isn’t one of my own creations but I saw something similar on the internet and then a few weeks later the market actually had a good batch of Brussels sprouts, which honestly had been looking a little sad and depressing for the past few weeks. And even better, they were small enough to accommodate this kind of dish.

If you think you don’t like Brussels sprouts then you’re probably not cooking them right, but I highly recommend this easy vegan recipe to re-introduce you to the tiny cabbage cousin.

The ingredients list for this vegan shepherd’s pie is pretty easy:

Beyond Burgers (2)
Potatoes
Oat & almond milk (no sugar)
Vegan butter
Brussels sprouts
Vegan mozzarella

That’s it. Sounds too simple, right?

There’s no such thing but this is a quick and easy weeknight vegan dinner, ya know, if you’re looking for one.

The photos for this particular meal weren’t all that exciting, but that’s just because the meal is so simple and compact.

Step 1: Clean the Brussels sprouts and mark a little ‘x’ in the bottom, then boil about 3 minutes or until softened. They don’t need to be cooked all the way through, just enough to get the cooking process started since they will finish in the oven.

Step 2: Grab the Beyond burgers and season with salt, pepper, smoky paprika, minced garlic and ground cumin. That will make them plenty flavorful, but add whatever herbs & spices you prefer. Form them into bite sized balls and pan fry or drop in the air fryer for a few minutes. Feel free to add sautéed onion to this and combine the vegan balls, sprouts and onions before it’s time to put everything in the oven so the flavors meld together beautifully.

Step 3: Clean & chop the potatoes and bring them to a boil. When properly softened, mash with plant milk and vegan butter until smooth. Add vegan mozzarella and you’re all set.

Step 4: Assemble. We opted for individual glass ramekins but you could totally put this into a casserole dish and serve it family style.

Step 5: Bake.

Step 6: Eat.

It’s just as easy as that, I swear!

If you want to cut calories from this 700 calorie vegan meal, here are a few tips:

Omit the vegan butter, using some of the starchy water from the potatoes to get the same smooth, creamy texture.

Use one Beyond burger for the vegan meatballs and increase the Brussels sprouts.

Take out the vegan mozzarella altogether. It’s just there for flavor but mashed potatoes don’t need no stinkin’ vegan cheese to taste good!

If you try this meal out, I’d love to see photos! Hit me up on Facebook or Instagram!

Simple Vegan Dinner

When I cook a simple meal, I try to make sure that I still get some fresh veggies in the mix and of course, potatoes.

Sometimes simple means letting someone else do the hard work, which is exactly why I ended up with these delicious vegan chicken sticks that are oh so delicious. It cuts down on time in the kitchen and that doesn’t mean you have to eat cereal or a cold sandwich. It means you keep it simple, nutritious and tasty.

I am an admitted potato-a-holic and I never pass up an opportunity to enjoy them. In any form.

A quick boil and you can mash these up with any seasoning you like. I chose vegan butter, salt, pepper and roasted garlic because nothing goes better with ANY type of potatoes than roasted garlic.

If you’re not in the mood for broccoli or salad or anything overtly healthy, may I recommend mushrooms? They are delicious, low calorie and you can add a little bit of extra fat to get them good and tasty. I sauteed oyster mushrooms with onion and bell pepper. Add some Worcestershire sauce and herbs, and you’re almost there.

Nothing makes my mouth water more than buffalo style anything. Chicken sticks, tofu or cauliflower, I’m not picky. Just fry it up, or bake it extra crispy and toss it in something spicy and buttery and we’re in business.

It’s not fancy but it was tasty and calorie friendly and let’s be honest, some nights that is about as good as it gets.

Right?

Cauliflower Steak, It’s What’s For Dinner!

In my never ending quest to learn how to cook and reconfigure things, this week I decided to take on the elusive cauliflower steak. Okay so maybe it’s not all that elusive but it’s something I’ve wanted to make but simply never got around to doing.

Until now.

I was recently wasting a bit of time on YouTube and came across two guys, Scottish or Welsh I think, doing different things with cauliflower. Of course it wasn’t the first time I’d seen cauliflower steaks but it was the first time someone made it look fairly easy and delicious. So I put it on the menu for the following week, gathered my spices and I hoped for the best.

The first thing you should know is that making this dish really is super easy. All you need for the cauliflower is:

Herbs & spices

Olive oil

Oven safe dish

That’s the end of the list and you’re already intrigued…am I right?

Make sure you get a big-ish cauliflower because the steaks come from the center of the vegetable and you want to be able to cut as many as you need to feed everyone. This was kind of a problem for us because it was really only large enough for 2 actual steaks, but since we haven’t had much success getting his parents to eat and enjoy vegan food, Mama had a small portion that wasn’t very steak-like.

Coat the cauliflower steaks in olive oil, just don’t go too crazy because it is still fat. I used less than a tablespoon for all of the cauliflower and I think that’s plenty. Now, rub the oil all over the steaks and season with salt  and pepper. Then add whatever other seasonings you want and arrange them on some kind of baking sheet. Pop them in the oven on 180°C or 350°F for 20 to 30 minutes. The oven at our rental in Romania isn’t VERY old so it took almost double the time to cook our steaks, but you should be good with 20 to 30 minutes. Check at the 20 minute mark just to be sure.

While the vegan steaks are cooking, you can start on the potatoes and peas, but I started the potatoes and peas first because I wanted to relax with my hubs and a cocktail while the steaks cooked. Boil the potatoes until tender (I didn’t bother to peel them, but do what you like) and drain, reserving some of the water just in case you need it for later. Vegan milk doesn’t have all that many calories so you could use it, but I opted for vegan butter and garlic, cooking the garlic in the butter and then dumping the potatoes on top to mash it all together…with a hand mixer.

All you need is salt, pepper, garlic and vegan butter for the creamiest mashed potatoes around!

I kept the peas simple too, using 1.5 cups of frozen peas. I added a tablespoon of water to help cook the water from the veggies and then I added just three ingredients: salt, pepper and…you guessed it, vegan butter.

I figured since the cauliflower steaks are FILLED with flavor, the rest of the meal could be nice and simple.

The best thing of all about this dish? One proper serving was just 291 calories and there was a big butt of cauliflower left over so you know we had seconds!

Because it was so light on the fat & calories what did I do?

You know what I did.

Totally Plant Based Mushroom Bourguignon!!

I have always been a big fan of mushroom. Stuff them with a bunch of savory flavors, grill’em up with onions and put them on a burger and I couldn’t be happier or add them to an Asian style soup and let me at it. But since adopting a plant based diet mushrooms and I have become close. Very close.

Why?

Mushrooms are thick and hearty, versatile and easy to cook. Plus they have this wonderful gift of taking on the flavors their cooked with so even a picky person like me doesn’t feel like I’ve had mushrooms for three days in a row. One of the things I really missed when we lived in Germany was the distinct lack of portobello mushrooms. When I did find them–that one time–I stocked up and when shroom crazy for a few days.

In Romania there has been no portobello sightings but there are plenty of crimini and oyster mushrooms and if you look very carefully you’ll find delicious chanterelle mushrooms which have become my second favorite over the past couple years. And since going vegan has in no way dimmed my love for all things French, today we have mushroom bourguignon!

I’ve made no secret of my love of wine, traveling or potatoes so this dish shouldn’t surprise you at all. And if you’ve ever tried the traditional version of this meal, you might think it’s more difficult than it is.

It’s not, trust me. Follow the instructions and use your judgment and you’ll be fine.

Oh and do your prep work ahead of time. You don’t want to be peeling and chopping once you need to get that wine down in the pan, unless you secretly moonlight as a TV chef.

Okay so the first thing  I did was clean and cut my mushrooms. I sliced the oyster mushrooms the long way so, when cooked, they have a texture similar to shredded “meat” and I chopped the crimini mushrooms so they were bigger to give the dish a bit more substance. I had to cook them in batches and you should too because mushrooms release a tremendous amount of liquid and you want to cook them until there’s a bit of crispiness around the edges.

I used olive oil and vegan butter to cook the mushrooms and I know it’s a big decadent and not as fatty as I would normally go but this is bourguignon and if you’re gonna do it, you must do it right-ish.

When the mushrooms are done, it took me about 15-20 minutes, set them aside and add another splash of oil and a pad of vegan butter into the pan and then add the shallots, carrots, celery and thyme sprigs and cook for 8 to 10 minutes. Toss in the garlic and I added chopped celery leaves because they are full of flavor and added a nice depth of flavor.

Now the hard parts are mostly done, I hope you’ve already peeled and chopped your potatoes because you’ll want everything finished at about the same time.

Once the garlic and celery leaves have cooked for a few minutes, it’s time to add tomato paste and red wine. I chose a local Romanian red wine, dry and full bodies, and it worked! Let the wine simmer until it reduces by about a third and then you can add the mushrooms and finish seasoning it to taste.

We paired this with the rest of the wine and of course, a neighbor contributed some cognac to the meal so we were all warm, toasty and totally full from a hearty meal with plenty of mashed potatoes. I would caution you to keep the mashed potatoes simple and let the bourguignon be the star of this show.

I should have let the carrots cook just a bit more, so make sure you give them enough time to cook before you add the wine. Luckily I don’t mind a few crunchy carrots in my food but it was a mistake on my part.

The wine made that mistake much easier to accept and it was the perfect buzz to help me get back to the writing cave!

Vegan Cottage Pie ~ A Shepherd’s Pie Without A Shepherd

One of my favorite cold weather dishes is shepherd’s pie, has been ever since I discovered this bit of deliciousness thanks to a friend who had a fetish for all things English. My very first pie was made with lamb, onions and peas and it was incredible. Since then I’ve made it with pretty much every variation you can think of from, including all of your average proteins and sure, some not so normal ones.

Then I went vegan and since then I have experimented with every mushroom I had access to in Germany and now Romania in an effort to keep my taste buds interested. My favorite is portobello mushrooms because they are gigantic and satisfying as hell but I also like crimini and even white button, oyster and chanterelle mushrooms. They are a perfectly suitable and delicious meat replacement in a cottage pie or as I informed my father in law, a meatless meat pie.

For this shepherd’s pie, I decided to do a blend of chanterelle mushrooms and tofu crumbles because my husband and I are working very hard to get his parents to improve their diets and the tofu crumbles look enough like ground beef to trick their carnivorous brains into thinking it’s meat. I also added onions, garlic, carrots and peas with tomato paste and vegan Worcestershire, which is pretty damn hard to find so if anyone has a preferred brand, drop the brand or link in the comments section.

I started with the mushrooms first because they take awhile to cook and because I like to get them a bit crispy around the edges by heating them in a non-stick pan with no oil. You know how I feel about it, but if you want/need/gotta have oil, then do your thing. Just know that my chanterelle mushrooms are wickedly crispy!

As you can see, I made sure we were all good little grown ups by making a salad to go with the pie.

And the other perfect thing about cottage pie? Mashed potatoes. My potato love is well documented and anytime I get to have mashed potatoes is a good time for me. These particular potatoes included plant butter, sea salt, fresh black pepper and fresh parsley because that’s my favorite way to have them and because I didn’t want to go too ‘exotic’ because this was the first time the in-laws have had this dish.

I used the large 9×13 casserole dish because I’m used to cooking for two people with maybe one extra serving left over for us to split. Not because we’re constant dieters but because both of us are more aware of what we eat and how much, so I make sure to never make that much food for us because, look at the cottage pie, we will eat it just because it’s yummy and we can.

I was so proud of myself with this particular shepherd’s pie because it finally came out like a friggin’ Shepherd’s Pie!! Usually I make too much sauce for the veggie mixture and it never quite comes out like this. One time I made it so dry that basically crumbled when my hubs, Cos, served it up. He’s much better at that part than I am so when he was able to get it out in one piece like this, I cheered.

I literally cheered, y’all.

Of course we enjoyed it with a shot (or two) of Tuica, you know, just in case we didn’t warm up enough from the cottage pie!