Wordless Wednesday: Healthy Cravings

Theano Vegan – Falafel Pita with Hummus and Feta

SXSE Food Co – King Trumpet Mushroom Scallops

Opera Cafe – Mediterranean Salad with Carrot Lox

Modern Market – Buddha Bowl

Island Thyme Grill – Plantain Bowl

Bento Picnic – Garden Bento with Tofu

Brunch Like a Boss

Move over, breakfast; brunch is really the most important meal of the day. More inclusive for those who sleep late, anyone can enjoy this timeless meal. Balancing sweet and savory cravings through a variety of equally comforting and energizing options, it doesn’t have to be fancy to hit the spot. Make every bite count, especially during Veganuary, by starting with the best vegan brands.

Nature’s Fynd has all the staples you need to take your brunch game to the next level, effortlessly. Using their Fy™ nutritional fungi protein base to build both meatless breakfast patties and dairy-free cream cheese, it’s unlike anything else on the market. This is a complete vegan protein with all 9 essential amino acids that’s grown using a fraction of the water, land, and energy compared to traditional animal products. Whether you want to reduce your impact on the environment, eat healthier, or make more compassionate choices, it’s an easy decision when building your Veganuary meal plan.

Plus, most importantly from a culinary perspective, it tastes amazing.

Build a better bagel sandwich with a schmear of Original Cream Cheese, so smooth and spreadable that you’d think it was softened butter. In fact, it even melts into the toasted surface of a still-warm slice of toast, infusing all that goodness right into the bread itself. It’s perfect for either sweet or savory applications, which makes it incredibly versatile.

Use it to slather on pancakes, or stuff French toast! Strawberry jam is my jam, personally, which creates an experience not unlike cheesecake filling that you can justify eating as an entree.

Step it up with Chive & Onion Cream Cheese for an aromatic allium twist, made with real vegetables rather than weak flavorings and extracts. Fresh, bold, and bright, it adds an extra zing to just about anything. Don’t limit yourself to using it solely as a topper; a dollop livens up a simple scramble, adding richness and umami in one fell swoop. Be it tofu, lentil, or chickpea-based, this plate of plant-based eggs will wake your taste buds right up, even before the first cup of coffee.

For a meatier main, look no further than the Original Meatless Breakfast Patties. Juicy and tender, all you need to do is heat and eat for perfect results every time. Notably high in protein but low in fat, you can’t beat these nutritional facts. They have 75% less fat than pork sausage per serving, too. Pair with hearty hash browns for an instant brunch bowl, balanced and deeply satisfying in a flash. Subtle herbs and spices add nuance to each bite, keeping you coming back for more, while still playing nicely with any other accompaniments invited to the party.

Meatless Maple Flavored Breakfast Patties provide a more complex study of contrasts, bringing together the woodsy, earthy flavor of real maple syrup with savory seasonings. Ideal for those who want a little bit of everything, you don’t have to make any sacrifices here. In fact, you can use them to enhance other goodies like pancakes or waffles by chopping them up and mixing them right into the batter. Since I’m a big fan of filling up all the crevasses of my Belgian waffles with all the syrup they can hold, this is a way to boost that flavor without going overboard on sugar.

The real beauty of brunch is that there’s no one way to do it, all through Veganuary and beyond. Especially if you start with Nature’s Fynd on the table, you’ll always wake up on the right foot.

This post was made possible as a collaboration with Nature’s Fynd. My opinions can not be bought and all content is original. This page may contain affiliate links; thank you for supporting my blog!

Perfect Pairings

Anyone who appreciates good food knows that a careful balance of harmonious and contrasting flavors is essential. That starts with choosing not only the best raw ingredients, but ones that work well together. Similar to how you might pair wine with food, olive oil has so many unique characteristics that can make or break a meal, it deserves particularly careful consideration.

While there are no hard and fast rules on the subject, consider the following guidelines before heating up your frying pan.

Intensity is probably the most important element to bear in mind. A mild, buttery olive oil would be lost in a strong, garlicky stew, while a peppery and assertive option could easily overpower a delicate green salad.

In general, extra virgin olive oils fall into three categories of intensity: mild, medium, or robust.

  • Mild olive oils have a delicate, buttery, or floral taste, with a light peppery finish. This is typically what I choose for baking, since it’s a healthier option than many other neutral vegetable oils, without imparting a strong taste itself. It’s also great for popping popcorn or making mayonnaise.
  • Medium olive oils can be bitter and pungent, but fade to the background quickly, with a light peppery finish. This is my pick for sauteing or roasting vegetables, making pesto, and tossing pasta.
  • Robust olive oils are on the upper end of intensity, often with a strong, lingering peppery bite. I prefer these options for dipping bread, caramelizing onions, and slow simmering braises.

Provenance is a large contributing factor to the flavor of the olive oil. Beyond what it says on the bottle, you can expect certain countries to produce a predictable range of tastes due to the climate and soil conditions.

  • Spanish olive oil is typically a golden yellow color with a fruity, subtly nutty flavor.
  • French olive oil is often more mild, pale green, and overall light.
  • Italian olive oil tends to be a darker green with herbaceous, grassy notes

Don’t forget that the time of harvest also affects the taste, with earlier pressings being more bitter and pungent, while later batches become more buttery and smooth.

It’s a lot to juggle when you just want to make a simple dish. Thankfully, you can’t go too far wrong; even if it’s not the most complimentary pairing, simply starting with quality European olive oil ensures delicious results every time.

This post was made possible as a collaboration with Moms Meet and Flavor Your Life. My opinions can not be bought and all content is original. This page may contain affiliate links; thank you for supporting my blog!

The Everyday Vegan Cheat Sheet

There is no such thing as too many cookbooks when it comes to practical, trustworthy recipes than both comfort and inspire. It’s a difficult balance to strike, but I’ve got the cheat sheet for sure-fire hits every single meal. It all starts with a sheet pan, and my upcoming cookbook, The Everyday Vegan Cheat Sheet!

Move over, one-pot meals: Sheet pans are here to stay! Offering ease, speed, and minimal clean-up, unlock a diverse array of bold flavors and satisfying textures with this essential kitchen staple. While there’s a certain charm to slowly simmered stews bubbling away on the stove, a relentless parade of mushy mains quickly loses its appeal. Banish boredom from the dinner table with over one hundred tried and true recipes for success. It’s time to put the stock pot away and start pre-heating the oven.

Bring back nostalgic favorites like plant-based meatloaf, prepared alongside buttery mashed cauliflower. Bake up bulgogi with broccoli that’s even better than takeout. Prepare pancakes for a crowd without flipping a single silver dollar. Heck, you can even mac it out with the creamiest, cheesiest mac and cheese ever, no boil, no fuss, no regrets.

For new cooks and seasoned chefs alike, there are tips and tricks for making the most of your ingredients throughout the year. Endless options for variations keep these formulas fresh, flexible, and adaptable to all taste and dietary preferences.

Eat well every day. You really can have it all with just one pan.

Pre-order your copy today!

Breakfast of Champions

Who says noodles aren’t for breakfast? The mere idea that any food is off limits at a certain hour of the day is enough to send me into a fit of rage. No one’s going to tell me what I can and cannot eat without explanation. While Americans are more likely to reach for cereal or toast, noodles are established in Asian cultures as a reliable staple starch to fill that same void. It goes well beyond reheated leftovers, like finding yesterday’s pizza in the fridge for a quick fix. There’s a reason why ramen shops open at 7am in Tokyo, and it’s not just for a cup of green tea.

When I saw the Fortune Noodle Blogger Recipe Challenge had only two categories for entries, I knew right away what I needed to make. You could submit a stir-fry, or “for your creative side, create a Fortune Noodles breakfast recipe.” I could almost see the smirk on that smug face, daring me to step out of line. The gauntlet had been thrown down.

Inspired by a combination of Japanese okonomiyaki and Korean buchimgae, my crispy noodle pancakes aren’t the type you’d slather with butter and drown in maple syrup, but a more savory morning entree. Bound by an eggy chickpea flour batter, they’re almost like little omelets with chewy yaki soba inside. Laced with carrots and scallions, they’re simple and comforting, quick and easy, and completely adaptable to any taste preferences.

If you want something spicier to really wake up your taste buds, try using the Hot and Spicy flavor noodles and swap out the shredded carrots for roughly chopped kimchi. Amp up your veggie intake by adding a handful of peas or corn into the mix. Top things of with sliced avocado or guacamole if you can’t face the day without your beloved avo toast. In fact, try all of the above, all at once! The only way you can go wrong is if you don’t embrace breakfast noodles to begin with.

Not a morning person? Don’t worry, these are perfect to make in advance! Just cook as directed, let cool, and then pop them in an airtight container in the fridge for 5 – 7 days. Pop them in the toaster oven or air fryer to reheat in minutes. For long term storage, you could even toss them in the freezer to keep for up to 6 months, though I seriously doubt they’ll stick around that long.

I strongly believe that noodles are, and always have been, the true breakfast of champions. Hopefully the judges agree with me! Check out more inspiration from JSL Foods via Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.

Continue reading “Breakfast of Champions”

Five Dollar Feasts

Heraclitus once said, “the only constant in life is change,” but when it comes to the cost of living, that change is always going up. This is especially true of big cities like Austin, Texas, where newcomers including myself have been flocking in droves. Natives tell tales of $600 rent for a one bedroom apartment downtown, which is utterly unthinkable, if not downright laughable, in the midst of the current housing boom.

Despite these rapidly rising expenses, there’s still a wealth of wildly flavorful, incredibly affordable gems to be found within the burgeoning plant-based restaurant scene. For $5 or less, you can find a veritable vegan feast.

Originally devised as an weekly in-person event to bring the community together, Wheatsville‘s $5 Thursday dinners have shifted to prepared takeout plates for the time being. Not even a pandemic could stop this force of nature that brings hefty portions of protein and two sides to countless tables. Offering a different meat and meatless option every week, I eagerly await the monthly menu to see what’s in store. From shawarma to southern fried, Thai curry to Indian masala, there isn’t a single bad option on rotation.

Fluffy yet filling, the steamed veggie buns at Bao’d Up ring in at $2.95, and you can even add a $1.95 matcha red bean bite for dessert, without going over budget. However, the only thing better than cheap is free, and your first meal could be on the house. You just need to download their app and create an account (use my referral code 2271, please!) to get 500 points, which is enough to redeem three free full-sized bao! Don’t forget, they use vegan mayo in their slaw, so you could very happily round out a meal with veggies for $2.50, pickles for the same price, or spicy Sichuan fries for $3.50. You’ve got lots of cost-effective options here.

While full-sized New York-style thin crust pizzas will cost at least $15 at Big Nonna’s up north or their counterpart Li’l Nonna’s down south, the Sicilian slice will more than satisfy the appetites of the budget-conscious. Each thick, square cut slab of gently blistered dough is slathered in rich San Marzano tomato sauce and housemade vegan mozzarella. One generous piece is a meal in and of itself, bearing the minimal price tag of just $4.

You won’t find a single dish over $7 at Bodhi Viet Vegan, a Vietnamese food truck staffed buy nuns and volunteers from a local Buddhist temple. Most notably, all appetizers, bao, bánh mì, desserts, and drinks are only $3.50 each. Pull together a few friends and you could very well try the entire menu without breaking the bank. The biggest problem with this amazing hot spot is they’re only open for limited hours, Thursday through Saturday. Go early to make sure they don’t sell out of your favorites first!

Though it may not look very vegan-friendly at first glance, rest assured that Biscuits & Groovy has plant-based alternatives to everything listed on the menu. That means bacon, eggs, cheese, gravy, and of course, those fluffy, buttery biscuits are all within reach! The best bang for your buck is the Mc Hammer, which comes with one biscuit, tofu scramble, cheese, and your choices of meatless sausage or bacon all for $4. Don’t forget to ask for gravy on the side, free of charge.

In addition to some knock-out tacos and basic bagels, the wraps in particular are an absolute steal at Opera Cafe. There are four flavorful options all for $5 each, but my personal favorite is the bacon & v-eggs that comes with sauteed onions, crisp cucumbers, tomatoes, and lettuce. It has that perfect balance between rich breakfast comfort food and fresh, healthy ingredients.

Taco Tuesday is always a time to celebrate, especially at The Vegan Nom. Migas tacos are only $2 each, so you can grab two and still walk away with change to spare. Even a single order of these soft flour tortillas stuffed with scrambled tofu, tortilla chips, cheese and tomatoes is pretty darned filling. Best of all, the patio is dog-friendly and you can get a free beer with purchase all day, any day!

Food snobs: avert your eyes. Taco Cabana is not gourmet by any stretch of the imagination, ranking just a step above Taco Bell Quality, but this homegrown fast food chain is pulling out all the stops when it comes to cheap eats. Let me just start with the $2 margaritas, available all day, via pickup, dine-in, delivery, AND drive through, available in at least 8 flavors with many seasonal variations. Food options are a bit limited for vegans, but with Beyond Meat on the menu, quite substantial with a little modification. You’ve got basic soft and crunchy tacos, the cabana bowl (which is like a taco salad), and my favorite, the nachos. Just ask for Beyond Meat nachos, no queso and no sour cream, add guacamole. Even with the extra guac, it still rings up under $5. I don’t remember exactly how much it costs because… Did I mention those $2 margaritas?

Though officially listed at $5.50, the People Project fried chicken sandwich at Project Pollo is actually a pay-what-you-can offering to those in need. The real price is whatever you can afford. If you do pay the full amount, it’s akin to a donation that will cover the meal for two more people seeking assistance. No matter what’s in your wallet, your stomach will soon be filled with a crispy fried vegan chicken patty swaddled in a soft brioche bun, topped with pickles and creamy mayo. Now that’s mutual aid in action.

In a world of over-hyped, overpriced dining disappointments, these staples will never let you down. Rich or poor, vegan or omnivore, no one in this town should go hungry, no matter what.

For anyone truly struggling to make ends meet, please visit one of the many free fridges or pantries sprinkled throughout the city, or find the pop-up emergency relief food distributions hosted by the Central Texas Food Bank. No judgement, no questions asked; we’re in this together.