Dinner: Warming, chunky cauliflower chowder

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Every autumn when the weather turns foggy and crisp and the days get dark and depressing, I get the urge to eat soup. Like, lots and lots of soup. The problem is, I find most soups kind of boring and uninspired and will go out of my way not to cook them. So when I made this, I have been craving chowder for a week and was pretty desperate for something quick and simple. The soup really delivered on the chunky, delicious chowder side and being a fan of cauliflower only made me love it more. It was thick, tasty and just what I wanted on a cold autumn night. The recipe is originally from Damn Delicious (http://damndelicious.net/2014/03/22/cauliflower-chowder/), however I tweaked it slightly to make it vegan:

Serves 4 hungry vegans

  • 2 tbsp pure vegan spread
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 4 cups veg broth
  • Optional: 1 cup soy milk (or any other plant milk), at room temperature.
  • 1 head cauliflower, roughly chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper
  • Optional: 4 slices of fake bacon (I used Cheatin’ bacon rashes)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

Melt the vegan spread in a large stock pot. Add garlic, onion, carrots and cook for about 5 mins, or until tender. Add cauliflower and bay leaf, cook for another 4 mins. Stir in the flour until well combined, then add veg broth and milk, stirring constantly until the stock has thickened (about 5 mins). If not using milk, just add more broth. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 15 mins, or until the cauliflower is tender.

In the mean time fry the fake bacon rashes and cut them into pieces. Once the chowder is done, season to taste and add the parsley. The chowder tastes delicious as is, but you can add additional spices to it. I added some ginger and smoked paprika, but anything goes! At this point you can use a blender to give it a more smooth consistency, or leave it chunky. Adjust the thickness of the chowder by adding water if needed. Serve with fake bacon pieces on top and  a slice of wholemeal bread.

Price: £0.85 per portion

Protein: 16g per portion

Dinner: Vegan roast, green bean casserole, mash and gravy

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You know those days when you have a lot to do and don’t really have time to lazy about? And you know how those days seem like the best time to do some experimental, time consuming cooking? Yeah. So I come across quite a few vegan thanksgiving recipes of late and have been meaning to try and make a vegan roast for a while now, so obviously I decided the best time to make this happen was on the busiest day of the week. The entire meal took me just over an hour to make, so all things considered, it was a pretty quick feast.

The recipes can be found here:

http://blog.fatfreevegan.com/2010/11/thanksgiving-meatless-loaf.html

http://blog.fatfreevegan.com/2006/11/best-vegan-green-bean-casserole.html

The mash was the usual boil some potatoes, mash with some soy milk and vegan margerine affair. This was my first venture into thanksgiving cooking and I have to say that the green bean casserole was my favourite. The roast was very delicious, didn’t taste like a meat substitute and made enough food to feed a small village, so I will deffinitely be making it again!

Protein: 40ish grams per portion

Price: £3.30 per portion

Dinner: Lentil, veg and butter bean chilli with guacamole and rice

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This is technically something that got cooked for me, rather than by me. It’s a delicious concoction of healthy veg and pulses and rice and did I mention it has guacamole? Love guacamole. Its an easy recipe and tastes amazing! The original recipe comes from the HelloFresh website, but the one below has a few modifications to it.

Recipe (gives 2 giant portions):

1 red onion

1 red pepper

1 can chopped tomatoes

1 tin butter beans (or kidney beans)

1 courgette

1 avocado

half a lime or the equivalent of lime juice

half tbsp cumin

half tbsp ground coriander

1 tsp smoked paprika

a quarter tsp chilli powder

1 cup uncooked rice (we used basmati)

3 tbsp red lentils

a handful of chopped coriander and fennel leaves (fresh or dried)

Finely chop the onion and cut the pepper into smallish bits. Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Heat a bit of oil in a frying pan and cook off the onion until softened. Add peppers, cook for another few minutes. Add the cumin, ground coriander, smoked paprika, chilli and a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir and cook for another minute.

Cook the rice as per instructions. Meanwhile add lentils, chopped tomatoes and 150 ml water to the onions and pepper. Stir and let it simmer on low heat for 5 mins. Add the butter beans and salt and pepper to taste, then leave to simmer for another 10 minutes or until it thickens. Feel free to add your own spices or some nutritious yeast to make it tastier!

Cut the courgette in half, then each length in half again. Cut these into 5-6 cm sticks or something resembling long, chunky sticks (technical term). Toss the courgette in 1 tbsp of oil and salt and pepper, then roast in the oven for 15 minutes. You can use any other kind of veg, like aubergine or squash! Finally, make a very simple guacamole by scooping the avocado into a bowl. Add half a lime juice, some coriander and a bit of salt and pepper. Mash it all up until you have a gucamole-like consistency.

Now, once the rice is cooked, leave it to sit for a few minutes. Add the chopped coriander to it and stir. Plate up the rice, top with the chilli and courgettes and lastly the guacamole. Enjoy! This recipe works really well if you make a huge batch of the chilli on the day. Leftover chilli will keep in the fridge for up to a week and you can have it with anything: rice, wraps, chunky bread! You can add some water and a bit more lentils to make soup or just make it a sauce for pasta.

Price: £1.50 for the entire thing

Protein: 35 g per portion

Dinner: Vegan sushi!

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I don’t know about you, but I crave sushi pretty much constantly. I only rarely eat it since there’s not much vegan choices at restaurants, so needless to say I was pretty excited about making some myself. Now, I have to be honest, making sushi is a bit of a faff. There’s a lot of mess (or maybe that’s just me) and the rolling takes a bit of getting used to. However, it’s really fun once you get into it and even if you don’t roll the perfect sushi, the thing is still delicious.

Recipe (made about 42 pieces of sushi or enough for 2 hungry vegans):

For the rolling you’ll need a sushi rolling mat, nori sheets and clingfilm. If you don’t have a rolling mat a kitchen towel will do, but the rolls will probably not stick together very well!

For the filling:

Any veg you like (I used avocado, cucumber, lettuce and carrot), cut into thin, long pieces or grated (as was the case with the carrot)

Tofu cut into thin, long pieces (I used smoked tofu that I marinated in soy sauce and then quickly stir fried)

Vegan mayo and sesame seeds to jazz it up!

For the rice:

350g basmati rice

3 tbsp vinegar

2 tsp sugar

1 tsp salt

First, boil the rice. Cut all the veg and prep and cut the tofu. The goal here is to cut everything into thin strips, long enough to span the length of the nori sheet when you’re rolling your sushi. Don’t worry if the pieces end up being shorter, the sushi will just look less neat when cut.

Once the rice is boiled, heat the vinegar, salt and sugar until the two dissolve. Then sprinkle the vinegar over the rice to taste (I use all 3 tablespoons but some might prefer their sushi less vinegary) and mix well. Spread the rice on a plate to cool to room temperature. Once cooled it sould be very sticky.

Prep the rolling mat by placing cling film over it (to ensure nothing sticks to the mat) and then placing one nori sheet on top. Spread the rice on the sheet in a very thin layer, pressing it down into the nori sheet gently. You will probably need a lot less rice per roll than you think! Leave the 2 cm of nori sheet facing you empty of rice. This will help with the rolling. After the rice, add the veg and tofu along the middle of the sheet. Feel free to experiment with fillings and patterns (alternatively I put down some suggestions at the end of the recipe). When you’re ready to roll, roll the empty bit of nori sheet first, rolling away from you. Use only the cling film to roll the empty sheet first, then use the mat to roll the rest of the way. Hold the mat and cling film with your thumbs and roll with your fingers. The roll needs to be firm, so press it down gently while rolling and make sure you’re rolling it as tightly as you can. Once completely rolled, the sushi needs to be pressed together firmly or it will fall apart. It’s difficult to explain the rolling technique so I suggest just giving it a go, or alternatively looking up some pictures/videos!

I transfer the roll via cling film to a cutting board and then cut big pieces using a wet knife. This last part is important as otherwise the knife will stick to everything! Serve it with wasabi, soy sauce, mayo and chilli sauce. Devour.

Sushi suggestions:

  • Avocado rolls. Load up on avocado. It’s all you need!
  • Cucumber rolls. See above.
  • Cucumber, lettuce and carrot rolls with mayo sprinkled on top of the filling before rolling.
  • Cucumber, lettuce, tofu and carrot rolls with mayo and sesame seeds sprinkled on top before rolling. To make a roll with sesame seeds on the outside of the roll you’ll want to leave out the nori sheet and just use cling film to roll your sushi. Sprinkle sesame seeds over it before you put on the rice.
  • Cucumber, lettuce, avocado, carrot and smoked tofu rolls with sesame seeds, a.k.a. everything but the kitchen sink rolls. These were a bit too full of filling, but boy were they delicious!
  • Inari sushi (tofu bags over rice balls). The tofu bags can be found in chinese supermarkets (they come in a can) and are pre-cooked, so all you need to do is roll a ball of rice and put it in the bag.

Lastly, I want to mention that proper sushi usually always comes with wasabi already in the sushi. I’m not a fan of wasabi, so I left it out, but if you like the sweet sweet taste of burning, then by all means add some to your sushi filling!

Price: £2.9

Protein: 20ish grams

Delicious Tofu laksa

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I can’t believe I haven’t tried laksa until now. I had no idea what I was missing! It may have more ingredients than I’d usually want in my mid-week dinner, but it’s quick, easy and so so delicious.

Recipe (2 portions)

1 block tofu

1 can coconut milk

1 veg stock pot

thai red curry paste

2 nests of dry noodles

a few handfuls of sugar snap peas

half a lime

1 garlic clove

2 spring onions

1 tbsp ginger

2-3 kaffir lime leaves

1 tbsp peanut butter

half a bunch of coriander (or some dry coriander)

soy sauce

mushroom sauce

Drain and chop the tofu into thin-ish slices. Mix up a quick marinade of equal parts of soy sauce and mushroom sauce and smother the tofu in it (feel free to skip this part if you’re in a hurry). Fry off tofu in a bit of oil, until it browns then set aside. Bring 500 ml water to a boil and finely chop the spring onion and garlic in the mean time. Grate the ginger and fry it in a big saucepan in some oil. Add spring onion and garlic, fry for another minute. Add the curry paste (to taste, expecially if you’re not a fan of spicy food) and the coconut milk. Stir until smooth and then add the boiled water and stock pot. Bring to a simmer and add kaffir leaves, peanut butter and the lime juice. Simmer for 10 mins, until the soup thickens. Add the noodles, half the coriander and snap peas and cook until noodles are soft enough to eat. Serve into bowls, add tofu and the remaining coriander. I added peanuts at the end and it was amazing.

Price: £1.8

Protein: 28ish g per portion

Dinner: Roast veg with vegetable patty and homemade gravy

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My version of a sunday roast, sans yorkshire puddings because I can rarely be bothered making them. Honestly, the best part of this recipe is the gravy, which is why everything else is smothered in it in the picture. The roasting of veg takes a bit of time, but it’s pretty hands off and the rest is super easy to put together.

Recipe:

Preaheat the oven to 200 degrees. Cut assorted veg into chunks (I used potato, butternut squash, parsnip, carrot and red onion. And some garlic for taste). Sprinkle olive oil, sage and rosemary over veg and mix well. Spread in a single layer onto oven tray and salt and pepper to taste. Roast for 40ish minutes, mixing the veg occasionally.

I used storebought veg breaded burgers and followed cooking instructions. I also boiled some frozen veg as a side.

For the gravy: Dice a very small onion (3 tablespoons) and two cloves of garlic. Sautee in 3 tbsp of oil until golden. Add 3 tablespoons of flour slowly, mixing to avoid clumps, to make a quick roux. Add 1 cup of veg broth and 1 tablespoon of soy sauce and continue stiring. The sauce should thicken quickly, at which point season to taste and add some sage.

MIx all of the ingreedients on a plate and add a dollop of hummus, because why not.

Price: £2.50

Protein: 22 grams per portion (makes two big portions)

Dinner: Spiced moroccan chickpea and lentil soup

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This soup is perfect for a quick, healthy meal after a long, rainy day (and there has been a lot of those lately). It only takes 30 mins to make and tastes spuer delicious.

Serves 2

Half a red onion, chopped

Can of chopped tomatoes

Can of chickpeas

100 g red lentils

1 table spoon tomato puree

Big bunch of coriander, chopped

Ground cumin, smoked paprika, ground cloves 1 tablespoon each or to taste

Vegetable stock cube

Wholemeal pittas

Boil 500 ml water. In 1 tablespoon of oil, fry the onions with the spices for about 5 mins. Add chopped coriander and cook for another minute. Add the chopped tomatoes, purree, water and stock cube. Stir and season with salt and pepper. Rinse the lentils thouroughly and add to the soup. Simmer for 10 mins. Add the chickpeas and simmer for another 10 mins. The soup should thicken. Adjust seasoning if needed and serve with pita bread.

Price: £1.60

Protein: 30 grams per portion

Dinner: Chilli tofu with fried rice

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I’ve had a love/hate relationship with tofu for as long as I care to remember. I want to make it work in dishes, to make it tasty and delicious, but it too often ends up as a flavorless lump of protein instead. I know, I know, it’s not the tofu’s fault! I’ve had amazing tofu at restaurants or from friends, but never had the patience to make some myself. That is, until the other days when I discovered perfect tofu by chance. This shallow fried tofu is crunchy and meaty and in all honesty I’m not sure what made it magnificent, as I’ve been making this recipe for a while. Oh well. Here’s the recipe:

Serves 4

A block of extra firm tofu, drained and cut into chunks

Soy sauce + mushroom sauce if you have it

flour

leftover rice and veg

The drained, cut tofu should be dipped in the soy sauce/mushroom sauce mix and then coated in flour. Shallow fry it in some oil, until all sides are golden and crunchy. This may take some time, as the longer it cooks, the tastier it gets. Fry the rice and veg separately, adding seasoning as you see fit. Drape the tofu over when ready to serve and drown in chilli sauce.

Price: £.70 per portion

Protein: 15 grams per portion, with wild rice and some nutritional yeast

Dinner: Gnocchi with broccoli and nuts

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I have a special place in my heart for gnocchi. My grandmother used to make them from scratch and fry them until they were deliciously crunchy on the outside and gooey on the inside. I love them the traditional boiled way as well, but since going vegan I’ve found little enthusiasm for making thick creamy sauces that go so well with these dumplings. So when I remembered I had this recipe lying around and that it required no sauce and very minimal prep work, I was understandably excited. Confession: this is not the first time I’ve made this recipe, but it is the first time I’ve made it vegan.

http://www.myrecipes.com/m/recipe/browned-butter-gnocchi

The margerine didn’t brown nearly as well as butter would, so if you’re making this recipe vegan, I would suggest skipping the brown margerine entirely. I used almond and walnut chunks instead of pine nuts (because I prefer my nuts low price thank you) and sprinkled (ok, smothered) it with Violife cheese. It was quick to make and very fresh, perfect for spring!

Price: £1.9 per portion

Protein: 17.7g per portion

Baking: Oreo stuffed chocolate chip cookies

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Oh yes, the day has finally come. The day when I combine my love for Oreos with my love for endless peanut butter and chocolate. The recipe for these beauties can be found here: http://www.veganoslo.com/bloglist/2015/2/28/peanut-butter-oreo-stuffed-chocolate-chip-cookies

Asides from the awesomeness of all of the components of this recipe (oreos + cookies = !!!), I was a bit disappointed in the finished product. I substituted tapioca flour for cornstarch and apparently that was a mistake, as the cookie dough was really runny, so I couldn’t shape the cookies well. The dough could use a bit less oil as well, so next time I think I’ll just freestyle that part of the recipe. Oh yes, there will be a next time.

Price: £5.6

Protein: 30ish grams in the entire thing