Vegan Lunch Hack
Southwestern Butternut Squash Bisque

An easy, elegant, low calorie and, of course, vegan lunch hack…

Southwestern Butternut Squash Bisque
Yield: 2 generous servings, app. 200 calories each (including garnish)

Every so often, I go on what I only half-jokingly call an “austerity program,” limiting myself to what’s in my pantry or freezer combined with a few fresh ingredients rather than giving in to whims and cravings that would require more purchases.

I have had some Dr. Mcdougall’s brand organic, vegan Butternut Squash Bisque hanging around in a 17.6 ounce box for a while. I opened it, tasted it, and found it lovely in its sweetness, earthiness, and velvety texture.  But I felt it needed a little boost.  Incidentally, the whole container was only 240 calories.

I also discovered some Frontera brand Green Chile Enchilada Sauce with roasted tomatillo and garlic in an 8 oz package.  This whole container was only 80 calories and it, too, was tasty and silky on its own.

I simply stirred them together, heated the mixture, put a dollop of vegan sour cream and a sprig of fresh cilantro on top, and garnished with a little side salad of mixed lettuces, halved cherry tomatoes, and a wedge of lime. In a very few minutes, lunch was served.

Honestly, I would order this dish in a restaurant and tip generously with compliments to the chef.

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Vegan Southwestern Veggie-Stuffed Peppers
A Low-Cal Dish Packed with Flavor

Yield: 6 stuffed peppers

I’m not sure what I did before the “invention” of riced vegetables, but I know I didn’t eat as creatively when it came to low-calorie meals.  I am rather hooked on the riced cauliflower, riced broccoli, and riced “confetti” (usually cauliflower, broccoli, and carrots), so expect lots of new recipes this summer, in addition to those posted recently.

I think these peppers, with their teaspoon of ground cumin, are perfectly spiced.  But if you prefer to add some coriander, chili powder, and the like, by all means go for it.

Either way, you are sure to return to this easy recipe again and again.

3 large yellow, orange, or red bell peppers, halved lengthwise, and broiled a few minutes, skin-side up, until out skin chars in a few places (I try to slice through the stem with a serrated knife so that each pepper has a cute stem and nice contrast of green)

1 teaspoon olive oil

1/2 large yellow onion, diced

1 large clove garlic, minced (I use a garlic press)

1 pound riced “confetti” cauliflower, broccoli, and carrots (you can rice your own in a food processor, pulsing until vegetables have the fine texture of rice)

1/2 cup water

2 tablespoons vegan cream cheese (I use Tofutti)

2 tablespoons vegan sour cream (I use Tofutti)

2 tablespoons prepared salsa (not pico de gallo)

1 teaspoon ground cumin

2 tablespoons sour cream

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 tablespoons grated vegan cheese (I use So Delicious)

Garnishes: 3 cherry tomatoes, halved, and 6 sprigs fresh basil or cilantro

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large skillet over medium, heat 1 teaspoon olive oil.  Add onion and saute, stirring, until softened.  Add garlic and saute, stirring, for 30 seconds.  Add riced vegetables and water and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes or until vegetables soften and turn translucent and most all of moisture is evaporated.  Stir in cream cheese, sour cream, and salsa, heating and stirring until cream cheese and sour cream melt.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Divide evenly among pepper halves in an oiled casserole dish or individual gratin dishes. Top each with 1 teaspoon sour cream and 1 teaspoon grated cheese.  Bake for about 20 minutes or until heated through.  Served garnished with a cherry tomato half and a sprig of basil or cilantro.

Peppers Prior to Popping in the Oven

 

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Vegan Spinach, Veggie, & Cheese Enchiladas

Yield: 8 enchiladas

Ordering vegan Mexican food in a restaurant here in Eastern Virginia is a bit tricky.  Enter my quick and easy homemade restaurant-quality vegan enchiladas.

It appears, in exchanges with other vegans, that simple foods we thought were safe–like refried beans–are not necessarily.   Apparently many restaurants still use lard in them, yet say they do not.  How much of that misunderstanding is language barrier-based, I’m not sure.  But I’d rather not take a chance.

As it turns out, these enchiladas include no beans at all.  They were inspired by spinach and goat cheese enchiladas I used to make as a vegetarian, a favorite for company from back in the day.

Vegan goat cheese in our area is expensive, so I used a combination of Tofutti cream cheese and Daiya pepper jack flavored shreds.  In addition to the baby spinach–for which you can substitute baby kale–I add a generous portion of a riced broccoli-cauliflower mix. I purchase it for convenience, but you can just pulse 4 ounces each of broccoli and cauliflower in a food processor until very finely minced.

For a sauce, feel free to make your own, but I love the Hatch brand mild green enchilada sauce.  If you are not a green sauce fan, red would be delicious too.  I was going for all green which, as it turns out, is appropriate for this Saint Patrick’s Day post if you overlook the small detail that these enchiladas are not in the least bit Irish.  But they are every bit tasty.

1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil

1 medium onion, diced

2 large clove garlic, minced

8 ounces riced broccoli-cauliflower mix (or make your own by pulsing 4 ounces of each in a food processor until finely minced)

8 loosely packed cups baby spinach or kale

1 teaspoon ground cumin (or more to taste)

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika or your favorite chili powder like Ancho (or more to taste)

4 ounces vegan creamed cheese

2 cups shredded vegan cheddar, jack, or pepper jack cheese (or a blend; I use Daiya pepper jack), divided

8 gently warmed corn tortillas

1-15 ounce jar green enchilada sauce (mild, medium, or spicy; I use Hatch Green Chile Enchilada Sauce)

Toppings: vegan sour cream, pico de gallo, sprigs of fresh cilantro; optional: lime wedges and roasted pepitas

Oil a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish and set aside.  In a large skillet over medium heat, bring oil to shimmering.  Add onion and saute, stirring frequently, until softened.  Add garlic and saute, stirring frequently, for about 30 seconds.  Add riced vegetables and saute, again stirring frequently, for 5 minutes or so until they have softened, released their juice, and it has been evaporated.  Add spinach or kale, about 2 cups at a time, and cook, stirring, until it begins to wilt.  Repeat until all greens have been added.  Stir in cumin and smoked paprika.  Then stir in vegan cream cheese and 1 cup of the shredded cheese until melted. You can remove the skillet from the heat if mixture seems to be cooking too much, as the residual heat will melt the cheeses.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Divide mixture evenly among the 8 tortillas, spooning it in a loose rectangle in the center of each and gently folding the sides toward the center, overlapping.  Cover the bottom of the prepared casserole dish with a very thin layer of the enchilada sauce and nestle each tortilla into the dish, sides touching with folded side down.  Spoon remaining sauce over the enchiladas, spreading to cover exposed areas of tortillas.  You may or may not have sauce left over.  Sprinkle top evenly with remaining cup of shredded cheese and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove from oven and serve topped with sour cream, pico de gallo, and cilantro sprigs along with optional lime wedges and roasted pepitas.

 

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Vegan Crispy Brussels Sprouts Soft Tacos

Turn Brussels sprouts haters into lovers this Valentine’s Day…

This is less a vegan recipe than a tasty suggestion for enjoying shaved Brussels sprouts in an unexpected but super-easy way. Your plant-based dinner will go together in a healthy and flavorful flash.

Speaking of, I tend to stay busy and move pretty quickly in general, so to achieve the deeply charred sprouts that I favor as efficiently as possible, I crank the oven to 500 degrees and roast theshaved sprouts on a sheet pan with a lip–very lightly spritzed wirh olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt and pepper–for 15 minutes, stirring after every 5. But, adjust the temp and time to suit you.

Because I love crispy sprouts bathed in a “bee stung” Sriracha-agave sauce, I made a Sriracha sour cream and used a sweeter salsa; pineapple in my case.  But you could whisk lime juice or zest, cumin, a little chilies in Adobo or whatever sounds good to you.  And use whatever salsa you prefer.  It will be delicious.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Yield: 1 Taco (easily multiplies)

1 corn tortilla, warmed

1/4 cup roasted and lightly salted crispy roasted Brussels Sprouts, warmed

1 to 2 tablespoons grated vegan cheddar

1 to 2 tablespoons salsa

1 tablespoon vegan sour cream whisked together with 1/4 teaspoon Sriracha

Garnish: 1 teaspoon roasted and lightly salted pepitas and/or cilantro sprigs

Layer ingredients in order given on top of the warm tortilla and seve immediately. Avoid over-stuffing so the taco can be folded and picked up or serve with a knife and fork.

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Vegan Smokey Bean, Pumpkin, and Kale Chili

 

Yield: approximately 10 1-cup servings

I am happy to share another recipe that uses a traditional holiday ingredient–pumpkin–in a dish that bears no resemblance to Thanksgiving or Christmas foods.  I love holiday food as much as the next gal, but enjoy a break in between.

As a chili recipe, I don’t think this one needs a lot of preamble. However, I would say that what sets this recipe apart from the thousands of chili recipes out there, if I do say so, is the beautiful and careful balance of flavors–tangy, hot, sweet, and ever-so-slightly bitter–and textures–chewy, silky, and creamy. The velvety pumpkin soothes the acidity of the tomatoes and chilies in a magical way.

Plus it is bursting with healthful ingredients. And the whole pot is under 2,000 calories or less than 200 calories per 1 cup serving. That’s a whole lot of low calorie, low fat goodness.

Warm up with a cup!

Vegan Smokey Bean, Pumpkin, and Kale Chili

Note: All cans should be approximately 15 to 15.5 ounces:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

1 bell pepper diced (yellow, orange, or red)

3 to 4 celery hearts, finely diced

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

3 to 4 large cloves garlic, minced

1 can fire-roasted tomatoes

1 chili in adobo sauce

1 tablespoon maple syrup

2 cans beans, rinsed and drained, any kind (I like a tri-bean mix plus cannelini beans)

1 can corn, drained

Optional: 1/2 bunch cilantro, tied with kitchen twine

1 can pumpkin puree

1 can green enchilada sauce, medium heat

1 package taco seasoning

1 tablespoon ground cumin

12 ounces beer or nonalcoholic beer

12 cups lighty packed baby kale (I don’t remove stems, but you can)

Up to 1 cup water

Optional garnishes: vegan sour cream, vegan grated cheese, sliced green onion, fresh or pickled sliced jalapeno, sprigs of fresh cilantro, roasted and lightly salted pepitas, corn chips, etc.

Heat olive oil in a large heavy pot like a Dutch oven over medium to medium-high.  Add onion, bell pepper, celery, and a pinch of sea salt.  Saute, stirring frequently, until softened.  Add garlic, and saute, stirring, for 30 seconds.  Then, simply add all remaining ingredients, except kale, bring to a light boil, lower heat, and simmer for about 30 minutes to allow flavors to meld.  Add water to think if necessary.  Remove cilantro.  During the last 10 minutes of cooking, stir in handfuls of kale and allow to wilt. Serve in cups, mugs, or bowls garnished as desired.

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Vegan Black Bean Pumpkin Casserole

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

There is really not much that needs to be said about this addicting dish, which is even good at room temperature.  I am so busy at school that I don’t have time to leave my classroom to heat my lunch, and this casserole is still a new favorite.  Here’s a tip:  life is too short to wrestle with a butternut squash, so my recommendation is to splurge and purchase pre-cut chunks of the squash.  On the other hand, every family budget is different, so do what makes sense.  I am frugal about MANY things; cutting up a butternut squash is not one of them.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 large coves garlic, minced
1/2 cup water or vegetable broth
16 ounces soy crumbles or diced chicken flavored seitan (or 8 ounces faux meat plus 8 ounces cooked rice)
1/2 cup (4 ounces) vegan cream cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded vegan cheddar or cheddar-jack blend
1 package taco seasoning or 1 tablespoon ground cumin, 2 teaspoons smoked paprika or chili powder, and 1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 cups roasted butternut squash chunks (spray 1-inch chunks with non-stick spray and roast at 450 degrees for 10 minutes on each side)
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1-15.5 ounce can corn, drained
1/2-15.5 ounce can pureed pumpkin

Topping:
2 cups or so small Fritos
1/2 cup shredded vegan cheddar or cheddar-jack blend

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Heat olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat.  Add onion and sautee until tender. Add garlic and saute for another minute, adding up to 1/2 cup water if mixture gets too dry. Add soy crumbles and saute until lightly browned. (If using seitan, stir in with beans and corn.) Stir in cheeses, heat until melted, and then stir in all remaining ingredients, combining well. Spoon mixture into an oiled casserole dish, top with Fritos, sprinkle with 1/2 cup cheese, and bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until heated through and top is lightly browned. Serve immediately.

Note: Reheat any leftovers in the oven to maintain crunchiness of topping.  You may freeze the recipe before topping. When ready to bake, simply add the topping and bake as directed.

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Vegan Loaded Mexican Cornbread

Hosting a fiesta at the intersection of Chili Cornbread and Cornbread Casserole is my Loaded Mexican Cornbread. Yes, it is bursting with the unmistakable pungency of Hatch green chilies (I prefer mild over hot), but it stops short of beans and soy crumbles. Instead I load it up with corn kernels, sliced black olives, green onions, sour cream, melted butter, and cheddar-jack blend, all vegan, of course. My first attempt was too dense and moist, if you can believe that’s possible. This version is perfection, redolent of Adobo, cumin, garlic, and oregano. Enjoy it by itself with a glass of cold, non-dairy milk–or a beer–or as a side with a crisp salad or not-too-heavy soup.

I cup naturally vegan cornbread mix (I use Martha White)
1 cup naturally vegan baking mix (I use Bisquick)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegan butter, melted
1/3 cup vegan sour cream
1 teaspoon Adobo sauce from can of chilies in Adobo
1/3 cup non-dairy milk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1-15.5 ounce can corn, drained
4 ounce can sliced black olives, drained
4 ounce can chopped green chilies, mild, drained
2 green onions, sliced
1 cup shredded vegan cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese, divided (I use So Delicious cheddar-jack blend)

Preheat oven to 400°F. Spray a 10-inch skillet with non-stick spray.

In a large bowl, mix cornbread mix, baking mix, baking powder, spices, and salt. In a separate large bowl, whisk together melted butter, Adobo, sour cream, non-dairy milk, vinegar, and baking soda. Add wet mixture to the dry ingredients, a third at a time. Stir in the corn, black olives, green chiles, green onion, and 2/3 cup shredded cheese. Spoon mixture evenly into prepared skillet. Sprinkle with remaining 1/3 cup cheese.

Bake for 35 minutes, or until top is browned, the center springs back when pressed down, and a wooden pick inserted into the center comes out clean. Serve warm or room temp.

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Vegan Tex-Mex Sweet ‘Tater Skins
(with black beans and a Chipotle-Lime Sour Cream Sauce)

Yield: 8 potato skins

Powerful cravings seem to be inspiring a lot of my recipes lately.  This one was based on a dish spotted on the online menu of The Hound’s Tale in Williamsburg, VA: sweet potato and black bean tacos.

However, not feeling like I wanted the additional calories of taco shelsl, it occured to me that the potato “shells” would be the perfect containers–like cute little boats–and these delicious, spicy, but not-too-firey, potato skin boats were born.  An optional Frito scoop garnish nods in the tortilla direction.

Easy and quick, other than baking the potatoes, you can bulk them up many ways by adding additional ingredients like sauteed onion, garlic, and bell peppers for more of a fajita style.  But I like them just like they are.

Hungry though you may be, I would advise against microwaving the potatoes or skipping the extra 10-minute skin crisping step.  I promise the texture will be worth it.

4 medium-small sweet potatoes, scrubbed and lightly pricked all over with a fork

1/2 cup shredded vegan cheddar or cheddar-jack cheese blend (I use the So Delicious brand cheddar-jack variety) + optional 1/2 cup additional cheese

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

4 cups moderately firmly packed baby kale, lightly steamed (I microwave it for 1 minute in a medium bowl)

1-15.5 ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained

6 green onions, thinly sliced (optional: reserve 2 of the sliced onions for garnish)

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Chipotle-Lime Sour Cream Sauce (recipe follows)

Garnishes: cilantro sprigs and optional Frito’s scoops and reserved green onions; roasted pumpkin seeds would also be lovely

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place potatoes on an oiled or Silpat-lined baking sheet and spray them lightly with non-stick cooking spray.  Bake 1 hour.  Reduce heat to 350 degrees.  Let potatoes cool enough to handle and then slice in half lengthwise.  Using a spoon, scoop out flesh leaving a 1/8-inch shell. Spray inside of shells lightly with non-stick spray and return to oven for 10 minutes.  In a large bowl, mash potato flesh with 1/2 cup cheese, cumin, garlic powder, and smoked paprika.  Fold in lightly steamed kale, black beans, and green onions.  Season to tasted with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Divide mixture evenly among potato skins, top with optional 1 tablespoon shredded cheese, and bake for 15 minutes.  Serve immediately drizzled with Chipotle-Lime Sour Cream sauce and garnished, as desired, with sprigs of cilantro, Frito’s scoops, reserved green onions, and/or roasted pumpkin seeds.

Chipotle-Lime Sour Cream Sauce

1/2 cup vegan sour creeam

1 teaspoon adobo sauce from a can of chipotle chilies in adobo sauce

Zest of 1/2 medium lime

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

In a small bowl, whisk together all ingredients until completely combined.

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Vegan Cauliflower Nachos with Best Vegan Queso

­Yield: 2 servings

To make these addicting vegan roasted cauliflower nachos, you will need part of a recipe of my amazing Vegan Queso.

I studied a number of recipes, omitting and adding ingredients to suit my palate.  I arrived at something so delicious that I think you might use it to replace whatever your current favorite vegan cheese sauce is.

I know that’s a bold statement, and I know everyones’ palates are different, but even my picky omnivorous guy liked it. And him liking it is equivalent to someone else loving it.

Vegetable cooking spray

One head of cauliflower, trimmed and separated into florets

Sea salt to taste

Ground cumin to taste

Smoked paprika to taste

About 1/2 cup my Vegan Queso

2 tablespoons can of chopped green chilies, drained

Assorted toppings: black beans, drained, pico de gallo, sliced green onions, sliced black olives, vegan sour cream, fresh cilantro sprigs, or whatever you love piled on nachos

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray a metal baking sheet with vegetable spray and spread cauliflower out on it in one even layer. Spray cauliflower with vegetable spray and sprinkle lightly with sea salt, cumin, and smoked paprika. Roast for 25 minutes. Meanwhile, stir 2 tablespoons chopped green chilies into 1/2 cup vegan queso, or to taste.  Remove cauliflower from oven, divide between serving dishes, top with queso, return to oven for two to five minutes, carefully remove, place serving dishes on a plate, and top as desired before presenting.

 

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