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!

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!!!!

30-Minute Beyond Pasta Bolognese

When I first adopted a vegan diet, I chose the KISS method. Keep it simple, stupid, and the transition won’t be as jarring or difficult. What that means, exactly, is that I used all of my old recipes that I had collected, created or curated over the years and only replaced them with things I had on hand or simple substitutes.

For example, I wasn’t sure if I’d stick to the diet, never mind adopt it as a full on lifestyle, so I didn’t want to invest in vegan products that I might not like, so I used applesauce to replace the binding agent in cakes and cookies. Turns out, I find it too dense. Anyway that’s what I did for just about everything, replaced the meat with beans or mushrooms and eventually, tofu. Same thing with dairy until I was all the way on the vegan train and not looking back.

And with these latest creation, I kept it simple and went kind of old school.

Bolognese or ragu, whatever you call it this is a fairly easy dish to make when you feel like pasta. And if you have a family recipe or one that you’re really fond of and don’t want to replace this or that, don’t.

Just use Beyond Meat or whatever brand you prefer and…BAM, bolognese just like you remember. Minus the cruelty.

When I say I kept it simple, I mean it!

The ingredients include: onion, garlic, bell peppers, nutritional yeast, herbs & spices, tomato paste, canned peeled roma tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and water.

Yep, it really is that easy. One simple replacement and you’ve got a delicious #vegan pasta dish in thirty minutes or less.

Choose whatever pasta you have on hand, just make sure it’s something that will allow the sauce to cling to it…ooh, yummy goodness!

What is your go-to pasta dish? Or the one dish you haven’t been able to vegan-ize perfectly?

Spicy Asian Vegan Beef & Pasta

I hope everyone is all right out there, wherever you are in the world.

Today’s post is another installment of our very own Tokyo Diner and in the spirit of competitive fun, extra time on our hands and a love of mushrooms, I gave my husband two ingredients: crimini mushrooms & Beyond Burger.

This is what he came up with.

This dish was one of my favorites because it has two of my favorite elements: Asian flavor and pasta. I have never and will never deny my love of carbs and since my Hubs knows that, he found another tasty creation.

This will work with any type of pasta, but remember my aforementioned love of pasta? Well it means I’m always on the look out for unique shapes of pasta so that I can experiment with different sauces. This pasta is called caserecce and this is what it looks like.

Cook the pasta according to the instructions and he says to do it last. I’ll tell you why in a moment.

Chop and cook the Beyond Beef first so you can use the rendered fat to cook the mushrooms in. He cooked it over a medium-low heat and I swear to you, the difference was in the taste. The mushrooms had a nice richness to go with the crispy edges that just upped the taste factor on this dish by…a lot. I might be biased, though.

When the mushrooms have reached the done-ness you prefer, add the Beyond burger back to the skillet and toss in minced garlic.

That’s it.

Okay well not totally, but the only thing left to do is make the sauce and it was also pretty simple.

Hoisin sauce, vegan Worcestershire, cornstarch, tomato paste and Shaoxing vinegar. Oh, and water. Mix it in a bowl and toss it over the mushroom mix and let simmer. When the pasta is ready add it straight from the water into the sauce. Stir until blended and it’s time to nom-nom.

There is one thing left to talk about: the spice. I always prefer my dishes on the spicier side but he can only handle so much and there was about a tablespoon of spicy Romanian pepper paste in it and it worked well because it’s way too salty on it’s own, but its the perfect thing to finish off a dish…if your tongue can handle it.

What are you cooking while you’re at home? ARE you cooking more or eating quick & easy?

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.

 

Mushroom & Pea Penne w/Chickpea Alfredo

So we’re going to round out bean week–mostly–with this final meal that actually inspired the theme this week. I’ve been looking for ways to use more beans (and less tofu) in more creative ways. You can only eat so many different bean stew type dishes before you’re ready to pull your hair out and wish for vegan fast food. Or even vegan junk food.

I love hummus. No, we love hummus so I figured if we take chickpeas and thin them out into a sauce, why not give it a go…right?

I looked forward to making this dish all week and when the day rolled around and it was time to decide, I chose to roast a full head of garlic to go into the alfredo sauce, because if you’re going to do this you might as well go all the way, no?

It might seem complicated but this dish was very easy to make. The garlic needs to roast for about 30-40 minutes so I just tossed in the portabello caps as well so I wouldn’t have to do it on top of the stove.

Next, I sauteed Japanese mushrooms with two medium shallots, a handful of yellow bell pepper and about half a cup of frozen green peas. When everything is close to done, toss in the already roasted portabello mushrooms, chopped once they’ve cooled.

Now it’s time for the alfredo sauce. Drain and rinse a can of chickpeas (or garbanzo beans depending on where you’re located in the world) and toss them in a food processor along with the peeled roasted garlic. Pulse and then blend until no chunks remain. You might find the texture a bit grainy but this can be easily fixed with water or plant based milk. I kept the grainy texture but not until the chickpeas reached the perfect consistency.

Remove the vegetables from the pot and dump the sauce in, over low heat. Slowly add milk. I used roasted unsweetened almond milk to minimize the flavor interference. Add milk or water as needed to thin out the sauce and then start to season. I used salt, pepper, smoky paprika and nutritional yeast and that seemed to do the trick. Keep tasting as you go and add whatever seasoning you wish.

Just in case you were wondering, the bowl with the drops of Sriracha on it belong to me. 😀

When the sauce is how you want it, add the mushrooms and vegetables to the sauce and stir, adding some vegan Parmesan cheese if desired. If not, drop the cooked pasta into the sauce and toss until coated. Then serve with any garnishments that will enhance the flavor or appearance of your dish.

This dish was easy and super delicious. I hadn’t had anything like this, it was kind of a stoner thought, but it turned out wonderful. Let me know if you decide to try it for yourself!

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.

30 Minute Vegan Pasta + Sauce

Ages ago when I first started to change the way I ate, I turned to Food Network for lessons on cooking, picking out the best quality food and even nutrition. It wasn’t a complete education but it gave me the tools I needed to keep moving forward. And it worked. Back then I was still shoveling animal products down my throat but there was a lot less food on my plate and it was a better quality.

Making the switch to plant based eating meant I needed to re-learn some things, such as how to make a meal complete without meat. Most days I don’t mind spending an hour in the kitchen to whip up a good and healthy meal for us and he doesn’t either, but some days I just don’t have the time. Or the energy.

Enter, quick but satisfying vegan meals in 30 minutes.

Normally I prefer whole wheat pasta, the darker the better. But I found this adorable pasta at Kaufland and it was so big and fat that it called out to me, and like any good vegan, the first thing I did was flip it over to make sure the manufacturer hadn’t snuck in some milk (lactic acid) or cheese. They didn’t.

They don’t look like much in the photo but that is a life-size image on the right so imagine how big they will get while cooking. Because I was cooking for 3 people, I used 250 grams instead of 200 just to be sure everyone got a proper serving. Before you gasp at the amount, keep reading.

One of the keys to making a meal quick and delicious is the ingredients. For this particular pasta dish I kept it simple:

Onion
Bell pepper
Garlic
Crimini mushrooms
Cherry tomatoes
Tomato sauce
Leftover pesto(from the creamy pesto)

Add the onion and bell pepper to a skillet–with or without oil–and saute for a few minutes before adding garlic. Then tomatoes and then tomato sauce. You’ll want to add some herbs & spices for seasoning, including oregano, basil, thyme or rosemary.

Add the tomato sauce and stir, adding seasoning as you go until the flavors are delicious without being too salty.

I added about a tablespoon of pesto to each serving because the pop of color and freshness made the pasta even more delicious.

And it only took 30 minutes!

If you prep everything first, meaning chop all the veggies and put the herbs & spices together, you’ll save even more time.

Make it yourself and the next time someone tells you that eating healthy is too time consuming, give them a knowing smile…

and then prove them wrong.

Guten appetit!

Orecchiette with Vegan Merguez & Kalettes

One of the things I love about eating vegan is that when you’re having a case of the hungrys, pasta is a quick and easy option, that also lets you kind of pig out…if you want. Since you’re not adding high fat/calorie meat and cheese to your lasagna or spaghetti, you can get really creative with different foods.

I was eager to give the kalettes another try before they vanished or worse, went out of season, just to make sure I truly liked them. When I went to the market and scooped up the last package I felt victorious. And smug because I’d just gotten a package of vegan merguez from Veganic.de and I knew just what I planned to do with it.

My own plant based take on pasta with spinach & sausage.

When I say this dish is quick, I mean it. From start to finish it took about 35 minutes and that’s only because I was too focused on a true crime podcast to move faster.

The ingredients are simple:

Orecchiette
Red onion
Kalettes
Red & green bell pepper
Vegan merguez
Fresh tomatoes (or canned diced/crushed tomatoes)
Garlic
Capers
Vegan parm
Lemon, juiced

Add the onions & peppers to the skillet first (with or without oil) and cook until they start to brown around the edges. I prefer a slightly caramelized taste on the edges because I think it gives a little more depth to the flavors but if time is your priority, give it 3 to 5 minutes and then add the kalettes and then the garlic.

You want to add the merguez about the same time as the garlic because they don’t need a long time to cook and if you add it with the garlic you’ll know it’s warmed through and slightly crispy before the garlic burns. I also like to add a bit of fresh lemon juice to reduce the bitter taste of the kalettes. Toss in a tablespoon or so of capers and you’re just about ready to grub.

Now you’re ready to add the tomatoes! Season with salt & pepper, oregano, basil and any other herbs and spices that strike your fancy, then cook until everything is warmed through. Toss with orecchiette and you’re good to go!

Because some vegans just can’t live without their cheese, here is a little vegan parm to whet your appetite. The hubs added it but I did not, though I did add a couple tablespoons of nutritional yeast to the pasta sauce for an earthy, kinda cheesy flavor.

He added vegan parm and I added smoky spicy Tabasco sauce because I love spice!

This dish was quick, easy and delicious, but it was also extremely satisfying. And in case you’re wondering, I didn’t pair it with anything to drink but I did enjoy a Jameson neat!

Creamy Vegan Romesco & Whole Wheat Pasta

For as long as I’ve been old enough to worry about things like weight and fitness and beauty and health, there has always been one constant diet “truism” that I loathe. No or low carb.

I admit it, I am a carb-a-holic. Despite that I managed to lose 25kg in 2018 which means that I have no plans to give up my love of healthy, complex carbohydrates anytime soon. And that brings me to the craving I had recently.

Romesco.

For the uninitiated, Romesco sauce is a delicious, hearty and flavorful sauce that originated in Catalonia, but can be found in most Italian restaurants these days to go alongside your favorite pasta dish. Rather than using it as a dip, I turned into a pasta sauce and it was

FAN-TAS-TIC!!!

The key to a good Romesco sauce, in my opinion, is getting a good roast on pretty much everything. I toasted the blanched almonds, roasted the red bell peppers and a whole head of garlic, and for a little extra flavor I added a couple sun-dried tomatoes. Once everything has been roasted and cooled, peel what you can from the peppers and add everything to a food processor. Here is the fun part where you can decide how chunky or smooth you want your sauce to be. Of course for the pasta I wanted it thick and creamy-ish but I didn’t want to add any oil to it, which is also a key ingredient by the way. I relied on the oil from the sun-dried tomatoes which might have totaled 1.5 teaspoons maximum.

To thicken the cream and give it enough oomph for the pasta, I added Take It Veggie brand of vegan cooking cream, about 1/2 cup which was all it needed for about 350 grams of pasta.

vegan romesco

The rest of the sauce was pretty easy, just saute a yellow onion and I added this new dried soy granules, which have the same effect as any kind of tofu crumbles but I was curious how this worked (btw, great!) so I wanted to give it a try. The onions & tofu completed the sauce and all that was left…cook the pasta.

The pasta was the easy part. Just grab a bag of whole wheat anything–I used fusili because I wanted the Romesco to get stuck in all the nooks & crannies of the pasta, so the flavor was EVERYWHERE–and cook it according to the instructions.

This is another simple vegan meal for the lazy vegan in all of us, but the great part is that this is where serving size can really help if you have weight loss goals. This meal is satisfying, calorie & fat friendly and easy to make because the oven does most of the hard work.

Plus if you only eat one serving–moderation and all that–you have plenty of room for a cocktail or dessert!

No surprise which one I chose! Try this recipe and let me know how it turns out and as always, photos are welcome!

Rotini Alla Puttanesca…Vegan Style

In addition to my love of potatoes, which are seriously MY jam, I have a deep and abiding love for pasta dishes. When my husband and I made the decision individually to make the switch to a plant based diet, the only thing I wasn’t concerned about was how to veganize my favorite pasta recipes. And then the hubs, Cos, created a spectacular puttanesca dish that made my toes curl.

No lie y’all…my toes legit curled.

He decided to recreate the dish for his parents who are ride or die meat lovers in an effort to help them live healthier, longer lives. And since I’ve been knee deep in deadlines, book covers and marketing strategies, I was stoked when he sat this dish on the table. For those of you purists who claim it isn’t a proper puttanesca because there are no anchovies, I dare you to try this version and not ooh and aah until you have to roll yourself to bed.