Vegan portobello Philly cheesesteak

Made from massive mushroom caps, this meal for two whips up in a jiffy for under five bucks. While I've never had a cheesesteak in my whole vegan Manitoban life (despite Tim Horton's badly hoping to pull off recycled brisket paninis as cheesesteaks?), I pulled flavours from some interesting sources to embody a juicy, mock-beef taste.

Mushrooms are sliced as wide as your pinky finger, about 3/8", and marinaded in a slight bit of garlic, oregano, ground coriander, and the not-really secret ingredient: hoisin sauce.

A green bell pepper and a small white onion are marinaded in a shot of oil and balsamic vinegar to take the bite off.

Ingredients I // The "meat"
4 portobello mushroom caps
1/3 cup vegetable stock or water
1 tbsp Kikoman soy sauce
1 tsp chopped garlic
1 heaping teaspoon hoisin sauce
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp pepper
-- 2 tsp flour, set aside

Ingredients II // Peppers + Onions
1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 white onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp oil
1/2 tsp  pepper

Ingredients III // Cheese sauce (optional)
2/3 cup cheese alternative (I used Follow Your Heart mozzarella style shreds)
1/3 cup soy milk
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tbsp flour
1 tsp oil
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt

A few buns, rolls, sub buns, etc. 
(I used a 12" submarine bun, sliced in half and toasted.)

Be sure to read the directions over beforehand, I've set them in a particular order so there's no time wasted and you can get these on a plate post-haste! Essentially, you will slice and marinade your mushrooms, slice and marinade your peppers/onions. Create the cheese sauce while these marinade. You'll then fry up your peppers/onions in one pan, your gently squeezed steaks in another.

Start by prepping the mushroom steaks. Flip the mushroom caps over, use a spoon and scrape the, ugh, gills out. (This is without a doubt the most irrational dislike I have for any vegetable.) Pop the stems of and quarter them, no use in wasting those! Awful mushroom lashes, however, can gtfo. Place all of Ingredients I - minus the flour - in a large, non-reactive bowl and cover tightly with cling wrap. Give the bowl a good few shakes to get the marinade evenly displaced. Set aside / place in fridge. The flour will be added in later, to just the marinade, so hang tight.

Next, slice up vegetables in Ingredients II and place in a small non-reactive bowl. Add in remaining ingredients in this batch. Cover tightly with cling wrap. Give the bowl a good few shakes to get the marinade evenly displaced. Set aside / place in fridge.

Let the two bowls sit in the fridge for about 10-15 minutes. 

In this time, prep the optional cheese sauce. Place all ingredients, except the flour, in a small pot or pan. Cook on medium-low until bubbling. Add in flour. Whisk and whisk until flour is incorporated into cheese sauce. Continue cooking on medium low, taste test to ensure flour is cooked out (this takes about a minute). Once cheese sauce is ready, place in a small bowl.

Turn your stovetop onto medium-high. Pour peppers and onions into your non-stick pan or skillet. 

Do the same in another non-stick pan or skillet for the mushroom steaks. However, be sure to give the mushrooms a slight squeeze and let the juice fall back into the bowl they marinaded in. 

I cooked both the veg + the mushroom steaks for about 7 minutes. Toward the tail end of this 7 minutes, whisk the 2 tsp flour from Ingredients I into that bowl of mushroom steak "au jus". Once there are no more lumps, pour into the pan of mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms no longer look floury/cloudy and have a bit of a gloss to them.

Toast your rolls if you like. Place the mushroom steaks on first, followed by the peppers/onions, and top with optional cheese sauce.

Slow Cooker Borscht for 2-4.

Quite alright for your 2qt slow cooker, and serves 2-4 for about $2. 

1 large beet (yielding approximately 1 1/2 cups), peeled and chopped into 1/2" cubes or shredded
1 small onion (yielding approximately 3/4 cups), chopped
2 potatoes (yielding approximately 1 1/2 cups), chopped
1 cup cabbage, shredded
2 tbsp fresh dill
1 1/2 cups water + pinch of salt or vegetable broth

Place all ingredients in your slow cooker on high for 4 1/2 hours, or, on low for 8 1/2 hours. Taste test to ensure the beets are soft yet a little firm, and no longer crunchy.

Season as needed, I added a bit of salt and pepper at the end.

Optional: Place 1/3 to half of the solid ingredients in a blender with a small scoop of the brother. Blend. For a bisque, blend all until smooth.

Optional: top with a variety of garnishes such as dairy free sour cream, cashew cream, lemon juice, vineagar, more fresh dill, etc! Pictured is Tofutti Better than Sour Cream and fresh dill. 

Vegan meatball subs.

A quick and easy follow-up on what to do with my last recipe for vegan-friendly meatballs. This takes about five minutes to make up from start to finish. Add in some onions, spinach or arugula if you fancy.

This recipe uses up the remainder of the tomato paste from the meatball recipe (about 2-3 tbsp), Follow Your Heart mozzarella style shreds and sub buns.

Ingredients I
8 meatballs
2 sub buns
Marinara sauce (recipe below)
Mozzarella style shreds

Marinara Sauce
2-3 tbsp tomato paste
3/4 tsp oregano
3/4 tsp parsley
3/4 tsp basil
3/4 tsp coriander
Salt and pepper to taste
Hot water
Optional: hot pepper flakes

In a cereal bowl, place the tomato paste and spices in, and mix well. Slowly add in hot water until you reach your desired consistency. I like mine a bit richer, so I added about 1/3 cup water.

Set your oven to Convection.  Split open a sub bun, place 4 meatballs down the centre of the bun, followed by marinara sauce, topped with cheese.

Keep in the oven until cheese and bun and toasty hot (or to your liking).

Top with a bit of basil.

Vegan friendly meatballs.

Baked meatballs that hold their form! Finally. Made up of tofu, TVP, vital wheat gluten and a whole heap of spices, these bake up in under 20 minutes with 10 minutes prep time. Because of the hearty amount of spices and small amounts of typical "binders" and meat-substitute staples, you don't get the overwhelming amount of tofu / TVP / VWH which is a welcome change. Allowing these to cool for about 5 minutes will yield a firmer meatball. For storage: Freeze, refrigerate, or eat 'em in a worrisome hurry - it's up to you. To re-heat: bake, fry, or nuke 'em.

This batch makes 25-30, depending on the size. I used a heaping teaspoon of the mixture for mine and got 26.

This recipe takes 1 bowl, a few spoons and a food processor. Not bad! Reserve the extra tomato paste from this recipe and check out my next recipe for Meatball Subs here.

Ingredients I
4 oz extra firm tofu (1/2 cup, or, 1/3 package of Sunrise Extra Firm Tofu)
½ onion
¼ cup sunflower seeds

Ingredients II
¾ cup TVP
1 tsp garlic (freshly minced or jarred)
¼ cup parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp arrowroot powder
½ cup nutritional yeast flakes
¼ cup panko
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp BBQ sauce
1 tbsp vegetable stock powder
1 ½ tsp basil
1 ½ tsp oregano
1 ½ tsp coriander powder
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp hot chili flakes
¾ tsp fennel seed
¾ tsp mustard powder
Salt and pepper to taste

Ingredients III
6 tbsp vital wheat gluten
2-4 tbsp water, reserved

In a food processor, place all of Ingredients I in and select the "chop" function (anything but puree/mince will do). The mixture should resemble something like this:

Next, place this mixture in a bowl and add in Ingredients II. Mix this up a heap until well-combined, and taste test for spices. Add in salt and pepper to your liking. I used 1/2 tsp salt and a big pinch of pepper.

Lastly, add in the vital wheat gluten and stir up until the mixture is good and firm, able to be rolled into balls. Should this mixture be a little dry, add the water in 1 tbsp at a time. I used a total of 2 tbsp water. If your mix is a bit too wet, add in 1-2 tbsp vital wheat gluten.

Roll into balls. I used a heaping teaspoon and rolled up tight. They were about 7/8" in diameter. Grease up a pan (I baked in 2 batches. but feel free to use 2 pans) and fit no more than 6 x 3 meatballs to a pan.

Bake for 10 minutes, flip the meatballs, and bake for 9-10 minutes longer. Remove from oven and let cool.

Serve with pasta, or gravy and mashed potatoes. Enjoy in a sub. Alternatively, brave the storm and create your own IKEA poutine.

Sesame Soya Slices // Sesame "chicken", tofu.

Eerily similar to sesame "chicken" at vegan friendly Chinese restaurants. Which are, oddly, freakishly similar to sesame actually-chicken at non-vegan friendly spots in town. 

I picked up my soya slices at Dino's Grocery in Winnipeg's West End. I like Luxmi brand soya slices. Alternatively, check out Bulk Barn for their "So Soya Slices" in Bulk near the TVP.

Ingredients for Soya Slices
3/4 cup dehydrated soy slices*
2 cups hot water
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp garlic, minced
-- Oil, for frying
-- Cornstarch, for frying
-- Sesame seeds, to garnish

Ingredients for Sesame Sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced / 1 tsp jarred garlic
1 inch fresh ginger / 1 tsp jarred ginger
1/2 onion, chopped
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 tbsp Kikkoman soy sauce
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 cup orange juice**
2 tbsp agave
1 tsp Sriracha
1 tsp sesame oil
-- 1 tbsp corn starch + 1/4 cup water, mixed in a cup, kept aside

Ingredients for Lo Mein
Lo Mein noodles
Water for boiling
1-2 tbsp sesame oil
-- Sesame seeds, to garnish

Method for Soya Slices
Bring a kettle of water to a boil. Pour 2 cups of this hot water in a large bowl and add remaining ingredients. Place a plate on top and let sit for 15 minutes. When 15 minutes is up, it ought to look like this:

Method for Lo Mein
Bring a pot of water to a boil, place your lo mein noodles in. Turn down to a simmer and cook about 4-5 minutes. Drain, then drizzle with sesame oil. In a large pan, fry up noodles on medium high. Stir and break up noodles as they start to brown and crisp up in the pan.

Frying the Soya Slices
In a large pan, pour enough oil in to lightly cover the base of the pan - about 4 tbsp.
Squeeze out the soy slices. Coat lightly in cornstarch.
Fry in 1-2 batches (fresh oil for a second batch) for 5-6 minutes, turning as each side turns golden brown and crispy.

Method for Sesame Sauce
Place all ingredients minus cornstarch + water in a pot and bring to a simmer. Once bubbling, add in cornstarch + water mixture. Whisk until thickened and glossy.
**Alternatively, sub the OJ and sweeteners for apricot jelly a la big-bad-RJ in NYC!**

Toss soya slices in sauce, being mindful not to stir in too much sauce.

Top with sesame seeds and serve alongside lo mein.

Lemon-dijon puff pastry with mushroom filling.

30-minutes from prep to finish, this vegan-friendly puff pastry is quick, simple, and easy on the wallet. Fill with any vegetables and/or protein you fancy, so long as you have about 3 cups of filing, you're golden.

1 box puff pastry - I used Tenderflake brand
10 mushrooms
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
2 celery sticks, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
3/4 tbsp dry vegetable stock
3/4 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp garlic, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste

Pre-heat oven to 450F. Defrost your puff pastry. Alternatively, express-defrost in the microwave.

Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large pan, on medium-high heat. Place all vegetables in the pan and saute until soft.

Once vegetables are no longer crunchy - about 10 minutes - stir in lemon juice, dijon, spices.

Roll out pastry to about 10x12".

Place filling across the pastry, width-wise, leaving about 1/2" on the left and right hand side.

Fold pastry over like a burrito.

Brush with soy milk and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Slice into six pieces, without slicing all the way through to the base of the pastry.

Bake for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown and crispy.

Service alongside mashed potatoes, braised tofu, etc.

Good (vegan-friendly) gravy.

Crucial for poutine, this vegan friendly gravy takes about 8 minutes to make from start to finish and puts you no more than $0.60 in the hole.

1 1/2 cups water / vegetable stock
1 tbsp plant-based butter

Ingredients II
1/2 cup chickpea flour
1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp mustard powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp garlic powder / chopped garlic
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp tarragon, rubbed

Bring the water/vegetable stock to a boil.

Make a smooth slurry with all of Ingredients II and add to the boiling liquid.

Whisk thoroughly to ensure there are no lumps. Let boil for a few minutes, it'll start to thicken up. Turn the stovetop down to low, and taste for seasoning.

Strain if there are lumps for some awful reason beyond your common knowledge.

Vegan friendly chicken and cheese nachos

3/4 cup pinto beans (I prepped mine from scratch, but canned works great too!) 
+ 1 tbsp oil, pinch of salt + 4 tbsp water, if re-frying

2 handfuls taco chips
2 Gardein chipotle lime crispy fingers

1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1/3 red onion, slivered

1 jalapeño, chopped
1 avocado, pitted and sliced

Generous handful of Follow Your Heart fiesta shreds

To garnish
Tofutti Better Than Sour Cream
Hot sauce (I used homemade, but El Yucateco is a household favourite)


Preheat oven to 375F.

Arrange chips on a large baking sheet.

Sautee chipotle lime crispy fingers in a frying pan on medium for 5-10 minutes.

Optional: Place beans, water + oil in a small pot or pan, heat thoroughly, and smash to your liking. Set aside
Going for whole beans instead? Skip this step, including the water, salt and oil. 

While strips are crisping up, prep your vegetables.

Once strips are crispy and heated through, chop each strip into 10-12 pieces.

Layer your toppings, starting with your mock meat and cheese, top with veggies, then cheese and avocado.

Bake at 375F for 5-8 minutes or until cheese is bubbling.

Top with sour cream alternative, hot sauce, and cilantro. Add a squeeze of lime if you fancy.

See more food photos over at @ohhhcaitlin on Instagram!

Vanilla almond granola with toasted coconut.

Ingredients I
2 1/2 cups rolled oats
2 cups oat flour (process rolled oats in food processor to achieve this)
3/4 cup pecans
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup shelled, raw, hemp seeds

Ingredients II
1/2 cup organic brown rice syrup
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
Pinch of salt
2 tbsp water
Almond extract

Ingredients III
1 cup coconut (unsweetened, shredded) - toasted in pan

Preheat oven to 320F.

In a large bowl, combine Ingredients I.  Set aside.

In a sauce pan, combine Ingredients II until bubbly and thoroughly combined. Carefully pour the liquid onto the oat mixture and stir well until oats are moist.

Spread this mixture on a baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes.

Turn your stove top on to medium/medium-high. Place coconut in a pan for 3-4 minutes and lightly stir until coconut is golden brown in colour. Place in a small dish to cool.

Remove granola from oven, and break up mixture with a spatula, re-stirring and breaking up so no bits get stuck to the pan.

Bake for another 25-30 minutes.

Once the granola is lightly browned, stir in the toasted coconut and let cool. Store in an air tight container. Serve with almond yogurt & berries, almond milk and agave, or enjoy on it's own.

Boon Burger white patty recipe. Via Ciao! magazine.

Ciao! magazine recently published a real banger including a heap of vegan-friendly, and easy-to-veganize meals and sides. What really stuck out was a 3 page spread on my favourite vegan eatery, Boon Burger.

 I was real pleased to see a recipe for the white patty, my favourite! (along with the Thanksgiving-burger patty), which is paired up with Louisiana hot sauce to make a killer buffalo chicken burger.

 I cooked up mine -- the recipe made 6 patties for me -- in under an hour. They freeze wonderfully. I mixed up melted Earth Balance and Frank's and brushed the whole patty and served on a whole wheat bun with Veganaise, celery, shredded cabbage & carrots.

See the recipe below - or click here for a larger image.

Thanks to Boon for sharing their recipe with Ciao! to share with us.
OH! And check out Boon on Facebook here too, will you?

No bake coconut almond butter cookies

No bake cookies that whip up in a hot minute. Coconut oil helps firm up the cookies as it returns to it's more-so solidified state in the fridge.

Ingredients I
1/4 cup coconut oil, loosely scooped
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp dairy free cream
2 tbsp carob or cocoa powder

Ingredients II
1/3 cup nut butter (I used almond)
1 1/4 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
Up to 1/3 cup add-ins (chopped nuts, chocolate chips, dried cherries etc)

In a sauce pan, heat the oil in Ingredients I. Once fully melted, add in the remaining ingredients.

Let boil for a little under a minute and remove from heat. Add in all of Ingredients II, and stir until well combined.

With an ice cream scooper, scoop onto parchment paper on a 9x13 pan.

Refrigerate for a few hours (however, firms up best overnight)


Paprika and basil lend a hand in creating the smoky, savoury notes of this dish. Serve warm with pita bread, alongside quiona/rice/couscous, cold & slapped on buttered bread, or with tofu scramble.

Ingredients I - finely chop:
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
large pinch of salt
1 large eggplant

Ingredients II - finely chop:
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
large pinch of salt
1 small onion
2 celery sticks
1 green bell pepper
1/2 yellow bell pepper
1/2 zucchini 

Ingredients III
1/4 cup crushed tomatoes (or 2 tbsp tomato paste)
2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1/4 tsp sweet, dried basil
Up to 2/3 cup water, as needed

In a large frying pan, sautee all of Ingredients I, until very tender. Set aside.

Repeat with Ingredients II. Add the eggplant back into your frying pan, and stir in Ingredients III,  slowly adding in some of the water. Let simmer on low for ~15 minutes (adding more water as needed) The dish will be done, when all vegetables are very tender (nearly "mushy") melt-in-your-mouth kind of deal, and the flavours have blended together nicely. 

Smoky maple tofu bacon.

Because either my gustatory receptors can't handle tempeh bacon, or I'm just straight up doin it wrong.

Preheat oven to 425F.

tbsp (light) Kikkoman soy sauce
2 tbsp brown sugar, loosely packed
3 heaping tbsp pure maple syrup
1 1/2 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
1 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp liquid smoke ("hickory" flavour)
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp pepper

Extra firm or pressed tofu - sliced into 1/4" thick pieces

1 tbsp coconut oil, melted (alternatively, canola oil or cooking spray)

Create your marinade. Allow tofu to soak up the flavour in a zip bag. I let mine marinade for ~1hr while I was out and about. Reserve the marinade!

Oil up your 9 x 12 baking pan. Or, use parchment paper. 

Bake for a total of 25-28 minutes. Each 10 minute interval, flip your tofu, and spoon a bit of marinade on top.

Transfer to a cooling rack with parchment paper on top.

I downed mine on an open face sandwich ft. buttered, toasted Canadian rye bread and coleslaw.

For the coleslaw
1/2 cup shredded cabbage
1 heaping tbsp vegan mayo
1 tsp dijon mustard
1/4 tsp celery salt
Pinch of: garlic powder, onion powder, pepper