I have really been enjoying this way of choosing meals that my partner and I have undertaken for more than a year now. Inspired by the Netflix show, Midnight Tokyo Diner, the deal is simple: choose whatever you want to eat and the other person will make it as long as we have the ingredients. Substitutions and your own twist are allowed.
Cooking this way not only allows each of us to stretch our creative muscles in the kitchen, but it allows for unique twists on old favorites. And for us, it’s nice to recreate dishes we haven’t had since going vegan. Trust me when I tell you that it’s an exciting way to cook because you go to the grocery store, buy a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, grains, vegan alternatives and the like, and each night you get a surprise.
Given how life has been for the past 12-14 months, this is a great way to keep things from getting stale in the kitchen, especially if you have the unfortunate luck of living some place there aren’t a lot of vegan takeout food options. You have to do it yourself and we’ve become pretty good at it.
This night, the request was Cajun sausage and rice, one of my favorite dishes as a child. It has everything a good meal needs, rice, spice and a little bit of protein.
As you can see, the ingredient list for this vegan sausage and rice dish is quite simple.
I know, I know. Beans and sausage are both proteins and totally unnecessary in one desk. I know. Really, I do. In fact, most nights of the week I’ll be the annoying vegan making that argument. But a deal is a deal and when we decided, ages ago, that as long as we had the ingredients and the know-how, we would make the dish the other person requested to the best of our ability.
And we’d just bought some Verdino brand vegan sausages, and there are ALWAYS beans in the pantry, so I had no excuse not to do it. Other than being difficult, of course, which I am always happy to do.
But, I didn’t. Bummer.
But, life goes on.
He asked for Sausage & Bean casserole with mashed potatoes and this is what I came up with.
Before we get to the yummy smells and full bellies, we need to gather our ingredients.
Ingredients: Cannellini beans Vegan sausage Onion Garlic Potatoes Bell pepper Dried chili peppers Red wine Tomatoes (fresh or crushed) Vegan butter Plant milk (I used almond, unsweetened) Thyme Bay leaf
You can cook the vegan sausages in the pan to start if you’d like, but I cranked the oven up and cooked them in there, turning every 3 to 5 minutes until good & crispy on all sides. It’s a good way to multi-task and a better way to make this a no oil added vegan dish.
Take a minute to get your potatoes boiling so everything finishes around the same time.
Next, heat up the skillet and add the onion, dried chilies and bell pepper, cook until tender, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add garlic and thyme, cook until fragrant.
Then, add the red wine and simmer until it starts to reduce.
Add beans and cover, simmer 10 to 20 minutes, or until a thick sauce starts to form.
When potatoes are tender, drain and reserve some of the starchy water in a measuring cup. Add the vegan butter to the same hot pot you used to boil the potatoes until it sizzles. Toss in the minced garlic until brown & fragrant, turn down heat and remove the pot to a sturdy, flat surface so you can give the potatoes a proper mashing.
Use plant milk and starchy water to get the consistency you’re going for and return to heat until its warmed through.
Take the vegan sausages from the oven and toss with the bean sauce, serve on top of the potatoes.
This meal is perfect when you want red wine in your dinner instead of with it, when the weather gets cold, which it seems be doing whenever it feels like for the past few weeks, or when you’re in the mood for a protein-heavy vegan meal. It’s pretty much perfect any way you look at it.
Enjoy and if you try this recipe, I’d love to hear/see it, so hit me up on Instagram.
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.
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.
Ah, here we are again. Another day and another night of our Tokyo Diner love fest. Just in case you’re still thinking about whether or not this idea is for you and your family, consider how much easier it’ll make trips to the grocery store, especially when you need to limit your time out of the house more than ever.
It’s simple, you add the staples to your evergreen list, things like onions and garlic, bell peppers, carrots, broccoli…whatever your favorite things to eat are. Make sure you get what you want and then get what’s available, get what’s local and seasonal and then work with what you have.
For this night, I gave my husband one directive: stuffed mushrooms. He could add whatever he wanted, season using whatever flavors struck his fancy and Beyond Stuffed Mushrooms is what he came up with.
There was a half a kilogram package of brown and white extra large mushrooms in the fridge that inspired my request and he cleaned them, tossed them in oil, herbs and spices before popping them in the oven. It can take anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes, depending on your stove and the size of the mushrooms.
In the meantime, saute the mushroom stems, onion, bell pepper and garlic until it’s how you like it. But the beyond part of the equation is that there is a small disc of Beyond Sausage between the mushroom and the vegetables. He sliced 2 Beyond sausages and pressed them into the mushroom with this thumb, allowing them to cook with the remaining liquid from the mushrooms and the residual oil from the sauteed veggies.
Pop them back in the oven for another 15 minutes, just to get everything blended perfectly. Feel free to add your favorite brand of vegan cheese if you like, but he knows I have a love-hate relationship with most vegan cheese so he left if off. (Isn’t he wonderful? :P)
This is the perfect recipe for enjoy a serving of baked fries, you know if you have a slight potato addiction like I do.
This was a delicious meal that was fairly satisfying but meals like this always remind me why I prefer a plant based diet, because it fills you up with the fewest calories possible, allowing you to splurge on flavor.
It’s no secret that I’m not much on processed foods, mostly for health reasons but also because I’m one of those people who just doesn’t trust corporations all that much. But for the sake of my own curiosity and this blog, I occasionally indulge and this is one such instance.
I found a German website that sells tons of vegan products and one of the things I bought were these jackfruit and tofu “Grillers”. I was skeptical but I’ve had (mostly) good experiences with jackfruit and since going vegan, tofu has become a favorite and a staple so I thought, why not?
Best of all? These suckers come in at about 160 calories per link!
Here’s a close up image so you can see what they look like. Inside is just as I said, jackfruit and tofu. The dots are from the soy sauce, mustard and seasonings listed in the ingredients section.
Since it hasn’t even been a year since we left Germany, this was the perfect opportunity for a throwback meal with sauerkraut!
I opted to go with the bun-less sausage & kraut with fries instead of the more traditional application where the potatoes are cooked with the onions and kraut.
But what I did do was saute a large onion before adding the kraut along with some white wine to reduce the acidity of the vinegar in the kraut. If you find that sauerkraut is too sour for you, give it a good rinse before you cook it or eat it.
Add a cut half of corn on the cob and you’ve got a meal that’s 537 calories per serving! That’s a win in my book!
As you can see, my Griller got a little broken up when I tried to remove it from the pan, but it was my own fault. After grilling them (prior to cooking the onions & kraut), I set them aside and then sat them on top of the kraut to stay warm while the fries baked in the oven. This one got a little too soft and since I cooked them, I took it.
The Grillers were good but a little bland. If not for the kraut and the fries, this would have been a pretty forgettable meal. But it was a nice little indulgence and a fun experiment.
Who has a favorite vegan sausage you think I need to try? Let me know in the comments!