Vegan Mince & Mushroom Stroganoff

Back in my non-vegan days, I wasn’t a big fan of any type of stroganoff. I don’t like adding sour cream to warm dishes and overall, I just thought it was too weird and creamy with tough beef. I realize now that maybe it was the cook that was problematic and not the dish, but I generally stayed away from it.

Until recently and my ongoing love affair with mushrooms.

We always have mushrooms in the fridge, provided we can find them. White button mushrooms. Shitake mushrooms. Porcini, Enoki, Portobello and my favorite, chanterelle mushrooms. I. Love. Them. All.

But this was my partner’s night to choose, so it wasn’t just mushroom stroganoff, there was some Naturli brand vegan mince added for good measure. So, let’s do this!

This dish is easy to make and doesn’t require very many ingredients. BUT if you want to add more and fancy it up, the choice is yours.

Vegan Bacon w/ Cheesy Broccoli Linguine

What do you do when your latest order of vegan food arrives in the mail and vegan bacon is inside? You make some version of vegan carbonara, but you don’t call it carbonara because all the Italian food purists will throw a giant hissy fit.

My partner made a simple request, vegan pasta carbonara and I got a little creative with the ingredients, including broccoli and my own vegan bechamel-style cheese.

The ingredients for this vegan pasta (not) carbonara is pretty simple: pasta (I used linguine), broccoli, nutritional yeast, vegan bacon, plant milk, garlic, shallots and peanut oil.

Vegan Comfort Food ~ Mac & White Bean Cheese

Hello. My name is Natasha and I have a serious carb problem. Specifically a pasta/noodle problem.

The problem is, I can’t get enough of it. And the bigger problem is that he can’t get enough of it either.

So we’ve been eating a lot of pasta. Maybe for comfort or familiarity or maybe because is just so damn good that why wouldn’t you find reason after reason to eat it?

Let’s stop with the ridiculous questions and just talk about this incredible vegan mac & cheese that’s made with no cheese.

At tall.

Vegan white bean cheese & shells

There’s only thing that’s truly different about this vegan mac & cheese recipe and that’s the white bean cheese so I’ll keep this short and sweet.

Ingredients:
Short pasta (elbow mac, shells, whatever you like)
Garlic
Tofu/soy
Onion
Green bell pepper
Nutritional yeast
Tomato paste
Mustard
Navy beans
Lemon juice
Turmeric powder
Almond milk

Cook your pasta according to the instructions. I like to time it so that the pasta is ready just about the time to toss it with the sauce, but it’s an experience thing so…do your best.

As for the vegan cheese, rinse and drain the beans before you pop them into the food processor and give them a quick pulse, 2 or 3 times. Then add the rest of the ingredients: milk, nutritional yeast, turmeric, mustard, tomato paste and garlic, and run until smooth. Set side until you’re ready.

If you’re looking for a quick and easy vegan meal, you can skip the part where you saute the onions, garlic and bell pepper but it’s what makes it full meal with a depth of flavor that’s guaranteed to satisfy. When the veggies have been sauteed until golden, add the vegan bean cheese to warm through.

Note: If you want a gooey cheese, I recommend adding some tapioca starch.

Toss with cooked pasta and cooked tofu/soy and place into a casserole dish, cooking 15-30 minutes or until the vegan cheese sauce is thick and creamy and gooey.

And there you have it, folk, another easy delicious and totally vegan pasta recipe! Experiment with different types of beans and different flavor profiles to see just how many days man/woman can live on pasta alone!

What’s your favorite way to do vegan mac and cheese?

Easy Cheesy Mushroom & Lentil Bolognese

Happy Monday and a happier November to you all!

Today we’re talking pasta and I mean, really, how many good things can you say about pasta? It’s delicious and comes in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Oh, and carbs are an important energy source for any diet. Did that cover it all?

Hardly.

But one of the best things about pasta is that it’s a pretty forgiving dish so even if you’re not ready to test your vegan cooking skills, this vegan pasta dish will make you believe.

This is a totally plant based vegan dish, using lentils instead of tofu or seitan or tempeh or whatever your favorite meat substitute is. If you want a really thick and creamy vegan Bolognese sauce, cook the lentils in the sauce, but if you’re pressed for time cook it while you sauté the crimini mushrooms, onion and bell pepper.

That pretty much cover the ingredients but, here’s the formal list:

Crimini mushrooms
Onion
Garlic
Red bell pepper
Green lentils
Nutritional yeast
Tomato Paste
Pasta
Olive oil
Vegan parmesan (optional)

Heat the oil to saute the veggies for 5 to 7 minutes, or until slightly brown and crisp on the edges.

Cook the lentils at the same time and if you’re really good at multi-tasking, the pasta too.

Add the tomato paste and water/broth to the sauce and let it simmer with or without the lentils.

When the sauce is thick and the lentils are done, toss the pasta with your vegan Bolognese sauce and enjoy your meal!

It’s just that easy, I swear and once you feel comfortable with this vegan pasta dish, you can grab a few different ingredients and try a different vegan pasta recipe.

To add vegan cheese or not to add vegan cheese, is always the question…for my partner. I can take it or leave it and with the nutritional yeast, it has a nice depth of flavor that some vegans find cheesy but I just find it…satisfying.

If you’re feeling bold, add vodka and coconut milk for a vodka sauce, or red wine for a different flavor profile. Or you can try this funky Asian pasta dish!

Good luck & happy eating!

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!

Garlicky Vegan Mac & Not Cheese

I LOVE mac & cheese…at least I used to love it.

Then I went vegan and stopped eating cheese and an odd thing happened; I stopped putting cheese on EVERYTHING. And what’s crazier is that I stopped adding a sprinkle of cheese here and there because I no longer craved it. So began a year of experimenting with pizza and mac without using cheese. I tried all the #veganhacks that included using sweet potatoes, Russet potatoes, carrots, cauliflower…all of it. They were okay but none of them made mac & cheese a crave-able dish for me anymore.

Oh, the dismay.

So I did a deep dive into it and there’s a good reason I stopped needing cheese on dishes when I got off animal cheese. In a word, casomorphin. It’s what makes cheese so addictive, but don’t just take my word for it. Wikipedia explains it here.  If you want the TLDR version, here ya go:

Source, Forbes 2017

Once I had that information, I didn’t feel like a bad vegan for disliking most vegan cheese options available to me in Germany and then Romania. So I decided to get creative about it.

Rather than using vegan cheese whenever I got a craving, I would go for other things like tapenade, pesto or romesco because they are flavorful, vegan and way more calorie friendly than any type of cheese, and my primary focus initially was weight loss, so calories mattered too.

Then I discovered a way to make a cheese-like sauce that was still vegan and calorie friendly, and it satisfied my need for mac & cheese, which let’s be honest was really a craving for carbs drenched in sauce…right?

All you need is: plant milk, turmeric (if you find it raw, grate it straight into the sauce), nutritional yeast, garlic granules, smoky paprika, mustard (optional), salt & pepper.

I employ the ‘low & slow’ method, which means it takes about 10 minutes (maybe longer if you’re using a lot of milk) to get the not cheese sauce nice and thick so it’ll stick to your pasta of choice.

Add the nutritional yeast one tablespoon at a time, letting it simmer and dissolve before adding more, and be sure to taste it in between just to make sure it doesn’t get too salty. Set a timer for 10 minutes and keep going until you get the thickness you prefer.

For this particular dish, I kept it pretty simple with pasta, 30 grams of sauteed garlic, and soy pieces. Add not-cheese and stir. If you’re feeling extra, pop it in the oven for 10 minutes to get a little bit of crust on top but it’s totally not necessary because this vegan mac stands on its own.

vegan alternative to mac & cheese

Just a quick note here: turmeric doesn’t just add the color of American cheese to this dish, it also comes with plenty of health benefits that include anti-oxidant as well as anti-inflammatory properties, which is a nice change for cheese, don’tcha think?

Let me know if you decide to make your own version…what do you put in it?

Pre-Shopping Day Vegan Pasta Primavera

What do you do when you need to make something quick, easy and nutritious to make for dinner with a fridge full of leftover ingredients? I had no clue but my husband and I have been taking inspiration from the Netflix show, Midnight Diner. It’s a Japanese vignette show centered on a diner where people come up and request whatever they want to eat and the chef will make it, provided he has the ingredients.

It’s been an experiment that’s into the second week now and it’s produced some pretty great results. I think so but maybe I’m biased.

Anyway if you’re unfamiliar, a primavera is a great way to make use of fresh vegetables before they go bad…you know who you are out there.

The easiest way to explain pasta primavera is a pasta dish with fresh veggies, at least as far as I understand it. And after a week of making delicious off-the-cuff dishes, this is what I whipped up when the hubs requested pasta primavera.

The good thing about a dish like this is that it is easy to make vegan and it’s a great dish to make sure you use up every veggie you doled out hard earned cash to buy. For this dish I started with my basics: onion, bell pepper and garlic. Broccoli, crimini mushrooms and smoked tofu rounded out the dish along with this strange mix & mash of pasta that I just couldn’t resist.

I sauteed it the veggies using a little bit of olive oil, adding the mushrooms first so they have plenty of time to get a bit of crisp around the edges and broccoli last so it didn’t get too soft because I like my vegetables with a bit of a bite. I did manage to get a bit of char on the onions and red bell peppers, which only enhanced the flavor of this vegan pasta dish.

The star of any good pasta primavera, in my opinion, is the sauce. I opted for a scampi-style sauce with lemon juice, capers, dijon mustard and nutritional yeast. Instead of dragging the dish down with a heavy cheesy sauce, I sprinkled Parveggio on top as a garnish.

I opted for smoked tofu in this dish because you can’t beat that smoky flavor in a dish like this. I didn’t want to replicate a fishy flavor but I wanted layers of taste and the smoky tofu and smoked paprika helped me accomplish that.

Feel free to add extra like hot chili flakes or fresh greens to garnish, but this was a day before grocery day kind of meal for us and it was an excellent way to clear up the fridge for a new batch of fresh goodies.

 

Vegan Lasagna…with Ricotta!!!

One of the few things I did miss about going vegan was lasagna without ricotta cheese which is strange because it is the ONLY time I like the stuff, and because I didn’t miss any other cheese products. Then I found a recipe for vegan ricotta. My first instinct was gross because personally, I don’t feel all the ‘cheese love’ for vegan cheese products and I’m okay without it in my diet.

But there is something about lasagna that just requires ricotta cheese and now that I’ve had it, I can pass along the knowledge to you.

Let’s get right into it, starting with the tofu ricotta!

What you’ll need:

Firm tofu (1 brick)
Nutritional yeast (2-3 tbsp. per brick)
Salt & black pepper
Vegan Parmesan

Pop those ingredients in a food processor until it is thick like ricotta, it will also have a slightly grainy texture, much like ricotta. Don’t over blend it. Once the tofu ricotta reached the perfect consistency, I tossed it with chopped spinach.

It was thick and creamy and I had to drop it by spoonfuls and spread it with the back of a spoon!

The rest of the vegan lasagna is a blend of crimini & button mushrooms, onions, bell pepper and garlic PLUS a homemade tomato sauce with fresh basil and oregano! Layer it up and pop it in the oven for 40-55 minutes depending on your oven and you are good to go.

This is another area where you can experiment with different vegetables and proteins to get plenty of different idea from a single recipe. I was in a traditional mood so I kept it simple here.

As you can see it turned out pretty well, staying in one piece during the cutting process.

If I could pick apart anything with this recipe it would be the cheese. I used it because this was a traditional vegan lasagna but I still am not a fan and I could have done without all of it, minus the vegan parm. It isn’t melty enough and I don’t like the taste of it but since the rest of the lasagna was so flavorful it didn’t bother me.

Much.

This was an amazing way to satisfy my desire for lasagna but it is time intensive if you make everything the way I did so I don’t imagine I’ll do it often but it was definitely worth the effort.

Black Beans Vegan & Two Ways

Beans, I’ve learned, are a pretty controversial food when they don’t need to be. Beans are an excellent source of protein and fiber, and beans are also incredibly inexpensive which means you get a lot of meal for your buck. We all (mostly??) have our favorite beans, mine include black beans and garbanzo beans because they’re so flavorful and versatile.

Why am I spouting the benefits of beans? The simple answer is that I’ve become quite a bean advocate over the years, looking at it as a cheap and healthy way to cook. These days I love that there are so many beans when I get the urge for a burger or a patty or some kind of meatless balls. But when I tell people I’m having a black bean & corn taco, I get wicked side eye like I said I was eating toenails and cola. They’re missing out and that’s fine by me.

More for me!

I picked up a half kilogram bag of black beans at the market, soaked them and popped them into the slow cooker for most of the day until they were soft enough to enjoy and I only added salt, herbs and vegetable stock for flavor.

Once the beans were done, I chopped: onions, celery (leaves and all), bell peppers, corn and garlic. Get a good crisp on the vegetables before you add the beans to the mix, this will enhance the flavor of Dish #1, black bean stew.

 

Along with the black beans I added cumin, smoky paprika, cayenne pepper, jalapeno, oregano and thyme. Oh, and I took a can of vegan chili beans, sauce and all, and put them in the blender until they were thick and creamy…and I added that to the broth/bean mixture for a thick stew-y texture that made my mouth water.

Scoop it in a bowl and garnish it as you wish and Dish #1 is complete.

Dish #2 is based on one of my favorite things back in my college days. Chili Mac from Steak n’ Shake. About fifteen minutes from campus there was an all night restaurant and chili mac was an amazing distraction, reward or way to commiserate about something I thought was life or death at the time. Ah, the stressful ol’ days.

But I saw this cute lasagna style noodles in the pantry and I knew what to do with the leftover bean stew. Chili Mac!

All you need is noodles, jalapenos (okay, more jalapenos) and cheese (optional) and you’re ready to go.

 

This particular cheese was a vegan Gouda that smelled a lot like Gouda and it wasn’t too bad on the taste buds either. I only added a little to my plate but the Hubs ate it up. Twice!

Grab y our favorite ice cold beverage and enjoy.