It was a little over a year ago that I first fell victim to veganism during a holiday in Los Angeles, a vegan’s culinary mecca. No, it wasn’t an effort to stand up for animal rights or a health conscious decision nor was it an effort to fit in amongst LA hipsters, rather it was a complete accident. Being in the presence of practicing friends and fantastic vegan restaurants, the math was simply in favor of veganism. It wasn’t until I was elbow deep in Sweep Potato Flautas at Gacias Madre that I realized I had in fact gone vegan. I searched high and low for vegan dishes upon my return to Dubai trying to replicate the tempah bacon and cashew cheese Bacon Chili Cheese Burger from Sage Vegan Bistro but my vegan diet saw its demise quickly once I returned to the emirate.
Fast forward to New Year’s 2016 when my husband casually suggested a post-holiday vegan cleanse in the interest of
his budding cholesterol levels our mutual health and well-being, visions of the vegan Mocha Brownie Chip Cupcakes from LA’s Erin McKenna Bakery overcame me. Challenge accepted, I eagerly opted in, claiming responsibility for both of our palates for the next seven days bound and determined to replicate my Los Angeles experience here at home. I knew that if I didn’t dive in head first and plan well, it wasn’t going to happen, so I quickly rummaged through Pinterest, gathered a wealth vegan recipes and sprinted to Spinney’s to stock up on enough produce to get us through the week.
My kitchen was transformed in a workshop, I prepared breakfast jars, quinoa salads for packed lunches and prepped for daily dinners. The week was full of lessons and plenty of trial and error, I now know that mushrooms can never replace beef in a Bourguignonne – Julia Child would be so disappointed, I also learned that carbs are consumed in overdrive in an effort to fill the meaty void. Some of our biggest lessons however came when we rented the documentary, Vegucated, midway through the week. The documentary is playful yet enlightening as it follows the journey of three volunteers who embark on a 6-week vegan challenge to ultimately encourage more environmental and humane food choices.
Dubai’s restaurant scene also proved to be more vegan-friendly that I imagined, I built my own salads at Pascal Tepper, indulged in falafel at Operation Falafel, devoured salads and sweet potatoes at Urban Bistro and had a wonderful Wild Mushroom and Truffle soup at The Hampton’s Cafe. Above all, I’ve realized that becoming vegan is absolutely attainable, I wasn’t plagued by meat cravings and felt completely revitalized by the end of the week. Moving forward, I plan on incorporating a lot more vegan choices in my diet and ultimately would like to reduce my meat intake. Below I’ve shared my favorite recipes from the week, I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.
I find it very difficult to find quick breakfast recipes that I can make without a waffle press or a skillet, so this smoothie was the perfect solution. This smoothie bowl in particular is such a treat, sweet, creamy and quite filling, it serves a cross between breakfast and dessert!
- ½ cup almond milk
- 4 bananas
- 2 tbsp peanut butter
- 8 tbsp carob powder or unsweetened cacao powder
- 8 dates (pitted)
- Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. If your blender isn’t powerful, you can use only regular bananas or just blend the rest of the ingredients before adding the chopped frozen bananas.
- Add your favorite toppings. You can add sliced banana, shredded coconut, chopped dark chocolate, peanuts and sesame seeds.
Original recipe from Simple Vegan Blog.
Pumpkin Spiced Chia & Granola Parfaits
I had some leftover pureed pumpkin from the Pumpkin & Sage Penne (recipe below) so I when I came across this recipe on Pinterest I knew that the pureed pumpkin would pair perfectly with chia seeds and so this recipe was born.
- 1 can of coconut milk
- 1 cup of pumpkin puree (I used leftovers from Pumpkin & Sage Penne recipe)
- ½ cup maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon vanilla paste
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, plus additional for garnish
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg, plus additional for garnish
- ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup of your favorite granola
- 3 tablespoons chia seeds (to every one cup of liquid)
- Pour the coconut milk into a small saucepan and place over medium heat. Stir in the pumpkin, maple, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and salt, to combine. Bring the mixture to a simmer, reduce the heat to low, and cook for several minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour into a bowl, and let cool completely.
- Once the pumpkin puree mixture has cooled, gently stir in chia seeds (3 tablespoons to every one cup of liquid – add liquid or chia for desired consistency) until combined and let sit 30 minutes in fridge until the mixture has become like a pudding.
- Layer the pumpkin mixture in serving dishes with the your favorite granola. Sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg, to serve.
Recipe inspired by and adapted from Go Dairy Free.
Chickpea Bowl with Roasted Vegetables and Cilantro Cashew Cream
I’ve always wanted to make cashew cream and this was the perfect recipe to start with, flavorful and ever so easy!
- 1 cup cashews, soaked
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons sriracha
- 2 teaspoons ginger
- water, for thinning
- ¼ cup cilantro,minced
- 2 cups sugar snap or snow peas
- 1-2 large carrots
- ½ red onion
- ½ tablespoon olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
- 1 cup chickpeas, drained and rinsed if using canned
- 1 cup quinoa
- At least 2 hours before preparing meal, place cashews in a bowl and cover with water to soak.
- After time, remove cashews from the water, reserving the water, and place in a food processor or blender along with soy sauce, sriracha, and ginger. Pulse a few times, adding water as you go to thin the mixture down. Let the food processor or blender run until cashews are smooth. Add in cilantro and pulse until cilantro is incorporated and in small pieces. Taste and adjust flavors as desired.
- Preheat oven to 400˚. Cut the carrot and onion into bite size pieces and toss in a roasting pan with peas, olive oil, black pepper, and sesame seeds. Roast for 15 minutes then stir in chickpeas. Roast for another 15-20 minutes until vegetables are tender and the peas are starting to blister.
- Place 1 cup of quinoa in pot, add 2 cups of water and bring to a boil then simmer and cook for 10 minutes until quinoa is cooked through
- In a bowl, toss together vegetables and quinoa. Spoon sauce over bowl and serve. Save extra sauce for later uses.
Recipe inspired by and adapted from Naturally Ella.
Cauliflower Steaks with Cilantro Harissa
This was by far my favorite recipe all week and an all around crowd-pleaser, its vibrant with flavor and incredibly filling. I’ll definitely be adding this to my files for the future.
- 2 heads of cauliflower
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
- ½ tablespoon coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ½ bunch green onions
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup cilantro leaves
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Preheat oven to 400˚.
- Add cumin and coriander to a cast iron skillet over low heat. Toast until fragrant, 3-4 minutes. Remove from skillet and place in a mortar and pestle.
- Take heads of cauliflower and remove exterior leaves and part of the stem. Place stem side down on the cutting board. Cut two ½” steaks from the center of the heads. Reserve remaining cauliflower for Roasted Cauliflower with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce over Brown Rice (recipe below).
- Preheat oven. Carefully rub olive oil over all sides of the steaks and sprinkle with salt and pepper and place steaks on baking tray and roast until tender, 15-18 minutes.
- To make harissa, grind toasted spices. In a food processor, add garlic and cayenne, pulsing until minced. Add in green onions, cilantro, and ground spices, pulsing again. Finally, add in oil, lemon juice and salt. Run food processor, scraping down sides occasionally. Add more olive oil/lemon juice if harissa is still to thick.
- Serve steak over cooked brown rice (optional) with a heavy spoonful of harissa.
Recipe inspired by and adapted from Naturally Ella.
Butternut Squash and Apple Soup
I am in love with butternut squash soup, most often I make it with carrots and coconut milk but was excited to try it with apples and cinnamon for a completely different and subtly sweet taste.
- 1 butternut squash
- 2 apples, peeled, cored, sliced
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp curry powder
- 1/2 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 3 cups vegetablestock
- 1 cup almond milk
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp fresh ginger, chopped
- Preheat oven to 350
- Cut vegetables, spoon out seeds
- Place diced squash, apples and onions on baking sheet, cut side up
- Season veggies with sea salt and olive oil
- Roast veggies halves for 45 to 60 minutes until tender
- Once cooked through, please all veggies in a food processor and add ginger, pulse until pureed
- In a large pot, heat oil and transfer pureed veggie mixture, add cinnamon, curry, cumin, salt and pepper
- Add vegetable stock and almond milk, stir in cook squash
- Simmer on low heat for 15 minutes.
- Garnish and serve
- Garnish ideas: slivered apples, or roasted pecans!
Recipe inspired by and adapted from Lexi’s Clean Kitchen.
Pumpkin and Sage Penne
This was also a favorite of the week although the end result looked sloppy, it tasted fantastic, almost like an alternative mac & cheese recipe. Yum!
- 2 servings penne pasta of choice
- 1 clove garlic
- 1C almond milk
- 2C pumpkin puree
- 1/3 C cashews (pre-soaked for at least 2 hours)
- 1/2t nutmeg
- 6-8 fresh sage leaves, slivered
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Boil water on the stove and cook your pasta.
- Combine garlic in a blender with the pumpkin puree, almond milk and pre-soaked cashews. Blend until smooth.
- Pour in sauce pan over medium heat, adding nutmeg, salt, pepper and fresh sage leaves.
- Stir constantly, until heated through.
- Combine with cooked pasta and enjoy!
Recipe inspired by and adapted from The Collegiate Vegan.
Roasted Cauliflower with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce over Brown Rice
The winner of the recipe is the roasted red pepper sauce, wow, I had no idea this would taste so good and that baking them would make them so sweet. My only regret here is that I didn’t make double the portion and store some for future use!
Grilled Cauliflower and Vegetables
- Cauliflower florets (from Cauliflower Steaks recipe or 1 head of florets)
- 1 package of mushrooms, halved
- 1 bunch of spinach
- 1-2 Tbsp oil
- Preheat your grill to about 350 degrees.
- Preheat oven. season cauliflower florets with salt, pepper and olive oil. Roast at 200C for 25 minutes until cooked through
- In the meantime, add oil to skillet and saute mushrooms until cooked, adding salt and pepper to taste
- Add spinach to pan and saute until cooked
Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
- 2 red peppers
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp garlic, chopped
- 1/4 – 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- Preheat oven and coat bell peppers in olive oil, salt and pepper
- Bake peppers at 200 C for 25 minutes flipping them once until cooked through
- Let the peppers cool and then cut around the stem in a circular fashion and pull the top off with the stem and seeds.
- Remove other seeds in the pepper, trying to retain the juice inside.
- Place the peppers, oil, garlic, salt + pepper in a blender and blend until smooth.
- Taste + add more salt if needed. If the mixture doesn’t smooth out blend in 1Tbsp at a time of diced tomatoes [canned or fresh] until smooth.
- Serve veggies over brown rice and pour over red bell pepper sauce
Recipe inspired by and adapted from the Edible Perspective.