Super Cheesy Vegan Meatball & Gnocchi Bake

I’ve made no secret over the years that one of the things from my old, pre-vegan life that I do not miss is cheese. I mean, cheese is good. It’s fine. It’s just no longer my jam since I’m not addicted to it. I’ve experimented with all types of vegan cheese brands and until the past few months, I’ve been underwhelmed. I’ve even done the alt-cheese thing myself, using white beans, a turmeric & nooch béchamel for pizza, a milk-based cheese-ish sauce, and even a carrot cheese. I have tried it all and made an informed decision that I can take or leave cheese.

And then, I did my semi-regular online order of vegan food from a source in Germany and…wow. This super cheesy vegan gnocchi bake was incredible. Ooey and gooey cheesy deliciousness, minus the need to keep eating and eating.

And eating.

Vegan mac & cheese requires the right vegan cheese, the rest is up to you!

If you know how to make mac & cheese then you know how to make this dish, but there are a few caveats since I got a little fancy with it.

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.

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?

Vegan Meatball Stew & Creamy Polenta

Nothing is better than a nice stewy dish when the weather is cold, and let me tell ya, the weather here has been COLD!!!

I was really in the mood for a hearty vegetable stew but my partner wanted me to make creamy polenta so I split the difference and added a lot less broth and served it on top of polenta. With the help of Beyond Burger vegan meatballs.

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!

Beyond Meatball Noodle Soup (Vegan)

Can we all just agree that it is incredibly difficult to rename dishes you’ve been using for a lifetime? It is probably one of the most difficult parts of writing this blog, and I constantly find myself using too many descriptors or not enough. Or you end up with the redundancy of saying “vegan” everything. But when it came to this particular meal, the name almost wrote itself.

Beyond Meat is only one of two vegan meat alternatives that are available to me here in Romania, the other is a local brand, Verdino and they only make mici, deli slices and salami. That made it pretty easy to use the word ‘meatball’ and have it accurately apply. But that’s enough about the name of this dish, right? Let’s get down this incredibly delicious vegan noodle recipe.

This is an easy vegan recipe that you can make in less than 30 minutes and you can use whatever you have in your fridge and pantry.

Start with the Beyond Burgers and just add: minced garlic and ginger, smoky paprika, Ancho chili flakes and soy sauce. Use vegan Worcestershire if you have it, but I am currently waiting on a shipment of items that include vegan Worcestershire…still. My brand comes from the UK but if any of you have recommendations, drop them in the comments section!

Mix everything together in a bowl and form into small-ish, bite sized cruelty free meatballs.

I was feeling lazy so i popped them in the oven on 225°C for about 15 to 18 minutes and as you can see, they became nice and crispy without losing any of that signature juiciness that defines them.

The soup part of the equation was simple: my new favorite thing, waste-free vegan broth! You might need to add a little of this and a little of that to get the right flavor profile, but it shouldn’t take you more than a few minutes.

As you can see, I made Udon noodles for my husband and Ramen noodles for myself because we have different tastes and it was no big deal to make two types. Cook the noodles according to the package, just using broth instead of plain old water.

Garnish with fresh scallions, lime juice and Sriracha and voila, a quick and easy vegan lunch guaranteed to satisfy your appetite.

Healthy tip: If you love Ramen noodles the way I do, then you probably REALLY love how calorie friendly they are, right? Well you’ll have to weigh the Ramen after you cook them to get the most accurate calorie count. Those little 60 gram packages total up to about 150 grams once cooked. Don’t take my word for it though, invest in a food scale. This is the one I have. It’s basic but it gets the job done. Oh, and it’s battery operated.

And if you’re feeling a little grown up, add a cocktail. I totally just used this opportunity to break out the new rum, though. It wasn’t completely necessary but appreciated and satisfying.

This was just ice cold rum with lime zest and brown sugar on the rim. It was delicious and refreshing, especially if you like a little heat with your favorite Ramen noodle soup.

What is your go to noodle soup recipe?

 

Quick & Easy Plant Based Lunch Ideas

Lunch. It’s the meal that gets you out of the office for an hour and it’s also the meal mostly likely to obliterate all your ideas about eating healthy and controlling your portion size. With all greasy, sugary, fatty fast food options available, there is no end to all the options at your fingertips when the clock strikes noon. Or if you’re like me 2:30 or later.

I work at home so lunch isn’t quite such an ordeal for me, but it can be a pain in other ways. By the time the lunch hour rolls around, I’m deep into my writing groove and the last thing I want to do is stop and worry about fixing up a meal that’s delicious and nutritious and will keep my weight heading in the right direction. But I’ve learned that with a little bit of planning, eating a healthy, plant based meal in the middle of the day doesn’t have to turn into the biggest ordeal of the day.

My go to option is usually some kind of sandwich and when I’m really feeling nostalgic I’ll vegan-ize one of my favorite sandwiches from back in the day. One of those is the stromboli. It may not be a ‘real’ stromboli or whatever but this is what my favorite pizza joint in my college town served and I loved it.

I know it looks complicated but this is pretty easy to make. All you need is: tofu crumbles, onion, bell pepper, garlic, tomato sauce, some kind of long bread and that’s it. Cook it up in the pan for 5 to 8 minutes until the onion and pepper still have a little bite to them, add the tofu and tomato sauce plus herbs & spices and you’re ready to go.

Back in the day I would have made an extra big helping of fries to go with it but when your mother in law has a big old container of Murături, then that’s what you have because it reminds me of eating my hometown version, giardiniera. Plus eating a few pieces of pickled cauliflower, cabbage and cucumber is WAY less calorie dense than fries and this is just lunch so…

But if you really want to be naughty and have something to go along with this yummy sandwich, I have a suggestion.

But if you have a little more time or you want something a bit more than a sandwich, might I suggest frikadeller? It’s a Danish or German version of a pan fried meatball but when you make them vegan you have WAY more options.

One of those options is vegan tomato frikadellen. All you need is your own combination of vegetables to mix with flour and some kind of binding agent. I like Arche brand VegEgg because it is amazing and it works for meatless balls, loafs, burgers and even baked goods. I’ve never used Follow Your Heart but from what I understand it’s the US equivalent. Mix it all up and let it sit in the fridge before you whip them up.

These are low in calories so we paired it with a side of brown rice and more murături because, have I mention that I love the stuff?

In fact we loved it so much, that the Husband made his own version of frika (my affectionate name for the little balls I fell in love with as a carnivore and then a vegan) with rice, scallions, garlic, carrot, tofu and plenty of herbs and spices. He made two batches one cooked with oil and one without. The oil frika were crispier on the outside so a little tastier but the others would be fantastic between a bun as a vegan burger.

But, we can’t all be good all the time so we paired these with one of my top 5 favorite foods. Potatoes.

It’s important if you want to eat vegan and healthy that you plan your meals ahead of time as much as possible so you don’t end up hungry with nothing available, especially if time is a factor.

What’s your favorite quick & easy vegan lunch?