6 go-to Vegan Meals to Have Under your Belt in Italy

If you’re a vegan and anything like me, you always have your go-to restaurant dishes in the back of your head to order in a pinch at any establishment. Coming to Italy as a vegan means adapting your go-to meals to fit the average Italian menu. In the USA, there are tons of vegan options constantly surrounding us that we take for granted like Mexican, Asian, and American style options. In Italy, however, the variety is less obvious. On top of that, Italian Cafe’s, Bars, and Osteria’s have such amazing ambiance that it would be a shame to miss out on them for the sake of keeping to a vegan diet. Luckily, if you keep an eye out for these six basic Italian dishes you’ll be able to enjoy a beautiful, stress free, vegan Italian meal at any restaurant in Italy! Here are my six fool-proof vegan Italian meals:

  1. Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce: This comes in many slight variations, but is always a great choice that will fill you up and taste amazing. Some common variations are different types of pasta noodles, or spaghetti with cherry tomatoes and basil. Gnocchi is also a great option since it is made with potatoes! 
  2. Minestrone or vegetable Soup: I have yet to have a bad bowl of soup in Italy. Each one differs slightly but is equally as delightful. If soup alone isn’t filling enough I often opt for a side of potatoes, french fries, a green salad or a piece of bread or two! Or you can always go fill up on some sorbet afterward…  😉
  3. Bruchetta with Tomato and Basil: As is true of the dishes above, bruschetta will differ slightly from place to place (sometimes it can even come as a panini) but there is almost always a cheese-free option. 
  4. Grilled vegetables: The grilled vegetables in Italy are seriously underrated. They often come beautifully seasoned, slightly blackened, and gorgeously plated. You will see mostly tomato, eggplant, and bell peppers with basil and various other vegitables like carrots, squash, zucchini, potato, artichoke or whatever is in season. Although this dish is more filling than it would seem, if you need something more it goes perfectly with some soup, potatoes, pasta or even bread! I find that I often enjoy the free bread so much that I don’t need more than a heaping plate of veggies anyway. 
  5. Mushroom Risotto: Contrary to what many may think, risotto actually isn’t inherently creamy. The way the rice is cooked just creates a creamy texture, which can be deceptive to those trying to avoid dairy. Having said that, I still like to double-check that there is no cheese or cream in my risotto. Mushroom risotto is on almost every dinner menu, and is one of the most rich, filling, and even decadent vegan Italian dishes you will find. 
  6. vegetable Pizza With No Cheese: Veganism by no means stops me from enjoying pizza just as much as the next guy. All you have to do is find the vegetarian pizza that looks the best to you and ask them to leave off the cheese!

While this is my little list of vegan meals to look for, there are tons of other options and cuisines available in Italy! As usual, many things can be easily veganized or a few sides can come together to make an awesome meal. On top of that, as I continue to eat my way through the city, I am constantly finding that Florence is riddled with amazing options just for vegans! In any case, never fear my fellow vegans – there is absolutely no shortage of delicious meals in Italy!

Vegan Rosemary Flatbread Crust

When I think of some of life’s greatest pleasures, it’s hard not to think of pizza. Unfortunately, it can be tough to find a truly satisfying and delicious vegan pizza, which is why today I decided to take matters into my own hands! The final product was this addicting Rosemary and Brown Rice Flour Flatbread Crust topped with a modified version of my garbanzo avocado mash (see my recent post Worlds Best Garbanzo Avocado Mash), heirloom cherry tomatoes, sliced radishes, and black sesame seeds.

I want to share this vegan pizza crust recipe with y’all because I’m pretty sure it’s the best thing to ever grace my oven, and it will definitely be a staple for me from now on. It has the perfect combination of rich flavors (rosemary is my favorite in this) and crunchy yet doughy texture. It’s also easy and quick to make, and you have the freedom to customize the toppings to your hearts desire! I tried to keep it to as few ingredients as possible, but feel free to add or take out any spices based on your tastes and what you have in your pantry.

You’ll Need:

  • 1 tsp active yeast
  • 2/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/3 tsp salt
  • 1/3 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/3 tsp dried rosemary leaves
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder

Cooking Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, combine 1 tsp active yeast with 1/2 cup warm water and 1 tbsp of all purpose flour, let sit for 5 minutes to let yeast activate
  2. Add in 1/2 cup all purpose flour, 1/2 cup brown rice flour as well as all of the seasonings and 1 tsp olive oil and mix and kneed until dough is soft and slightly sticky
  3. Roll dough into a ball and let sit for 15 minutes, preheat oven to 435 degrees
  4. Add about 1/2 tsp olive oil to the outside of the ball of dough, and use your hands and a bit of flour to spread the dough thin on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper – remember that the dough will rise slightly in the oven so spread it thin, leaving it just slightly thicker around the edges (think 13-14 inches)
  5. At this point you can add sauce and toppings to your pizza, or you can bake it with no toppings and wait until after the crust is cooked to add toppings (depending on if you want the toppings to be hot or cold)
  6. Bake for 17 minutes or until dough becomes golden brown on the edges
  7. Remove from oven, add toppings, and enjoy!

I hope you enjoy this one as much as I did. Pizza is one of my favorite foods, and it’s even better knowing that each ingredient has nutritional value that will benefit my body. I might consider adding hemp hearts or changing up the spices in the future based on what toppings I intend to use, but I can’t imagine an outcome much better than this rosemary and brown rice flour combo!

img_1395

img_1389

img_1396

As I said above, I used my yummy Worlds Best Garbanzo Avocado Mash as topping tonight. I modified the mash by adding some baby arugula, another half of an avocado, chili pepper, and pink Himalayan salt.

img_1377

Stay healthy and stay compassionate y’all! B-)

Smoky Spicy Sunday Night Buddha Bowl

I think we can all agree on one thing when it comes to Sunday nights: in a perfect world it definitely includes meal prepping. If you’re like me, it also includes one last delicious and indulgent meal to end the weekend on a perfect note. But what if you only have an hour to cook and you have to choose between the perfect dinner or a weeks worth of lunches? Your head tells you meal prep… but your  heart and tummy tell you to make one last perfect weekend dinner. Well debate no more, head and heart, because you can do BOTH with this delicious, nutritious, Buddha Bowl composed of healthy week day recipes that will keep in the fridge for the work week ahead!

For my work week lunches, I like to have a big bowl of ready-to-eat greens so that I can quickly throw together a salad with any toppings I’m in the mood for. The thing about most salads is that they wilt and get soggy with time, leaving them basically inedible. I also struggle with bringing dressing with me in the morning, it just takes too much extra time and leaves me lots of Tupperware dishes to wash and lug around. Fortunately, superfood Tuscan Kale exists!! Unlike other types of greens, Tuscan Kale keeps its crunch if left in the fridge with dressing for a few days. It makes the perfect work week salad base, which is why I like to make a huge container of a simple, vegan Tuscan Kale Caesar(ish) Salad (recipe below)!

I think it has become clear at this point that I’m extremely into spicy food. The more flavorful, the better! Any simple meal can be vastly improved with just a little bit of fun flavor, so I always like to keep some versatile little “flavor bombs” of some sort on hand that I can toss into any dish to spice it up. I’ve been on something of a garbanzo bean/chickpea kick lately, so this week I decided to stick with the trend and make some Crunchy Smoky Paprika Chickpeas to use as croutons and toppings on anything and everything (recipe below)!

The sweet potato lover that I am, I can’t last the week without a batch of my Sweet Potato and Heirloom Carrot Hash. I can’t get over this dish because of the versatility of it; I can seriously eat it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or all three. It tastes great with a salad, on some quinoa, in a pita pocket, or even by itself! Another thing I can’t last a week without is a copious amount of ready-to-eat quinoa. Right now I’m really into white quinoa because I love that it goes so well with breakfast foods as well as lunch and dinner recipes. It absorbs and really highlights the flavors and textures of whatever it is paired with, so I like to prepare a good amount of it on Sunday nights so I can quickly put together a filling quinoa bowl in a pinch.

Anyway, I digress.. Back to the star of the show: my Spicy Smoky Sunday Night Buddha Bowl! After preparing all of these work week dishes I was starting to get pressed for time as well as just plain lazy, so I decided to combine all of my meal prep elements into one perfect dish! All I needed to perfect this combination was avocado (of course) and some home made Sweet and Spicy Peanut Sauce (recipe below). Below, you’ll find all the information you need to recreate my little meal prep masterpiece, but don’t be afraid to go off book a little bit and add or subtract any ingredients you want! Cooking is a journey of trial and error… with an emphasis on the error if you’re anything like me. Everything tastes great when it’s tailored perfectly to your tastes, so go ahead and individualize everything (or just stick to my recipes, because I think they’re pretty darn good)! Also remember that some of these recipes make way more than you’ll need for the Buddha Bowl because they’re meant to be kept in the fridge and used as lunch or dinner elements through out the week!

Tuscan Kale Caesar(ish) Salad:

You’ll need:

  • 10 cups Tuscan Kale Leaves (if you can’t find it fresh at your supermarket, you can also use 1 bag of organic Tuscan Kale but make sure to still measure out 10 cups)
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of 1 large or 2 small lemons
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • Chili Pepper, Salt, and Pepper to taste

To Prepare:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, shred the Tuscan Kale leaves into somewhat small, bite size pieces (omitting any stems or spines)
  2. In a small bowl, combine olive oil, lemon juice, finely chopped and crushed garlic, salt, pepper and chili pepper
  3. Pour dressing mixture over shredded kale, and toss until leaves are evenly coated

Crunchy Smoky Paprika Chickpeas:

 

You’ll Need:

  • 1 can chickpeas/garbanzo beans
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

To Prepare:

  1. Preheat Oven to 425 degrees, drain and rinse chickpeas and dry them off a little bit with a towel or paper towel
  2. Combine all spices in to a small bowl
  3. In a larger bowl, combine chickpeas, olive oil, and about 1/3rd of the spice mixture and mix them together until the olive oil and spice mixtures are spread evenly
  4. On a cookie sheet, spread out the chickpeas and cover them with the remainder of the spice mixture, making sure they are fully coated with the spices
  5. Bake for 22-25 minutes or until they are crunchy

Sweet and Spicy Peanut Sauce:

 

You’ll need:

  • 1/4th cup all natural peanut butter (I like crunchy)
  • 1/4th cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
  • 1-2 teaspoons (or to taste) Sriracha Chili Sauce
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • lemon or lime juice to taste

To Prepare:

  1. I’m going to be honest with you here, I’m not sure how you’re supposed to prepare traditional peanut sauce, so I’m just telling you guys what works for me (as someone who is not above cutting corners for the sake of efficiency) – Step 1: Melt the peanut butter over the stove or even in the microwave
  2. Combine all ingredients until combined into a creamy sauce texture. If you are looking for a thinner consistency, add small amounts of water (maybe a teaspoon at a time) until you have achieved your desired consistency.

Spicy Smoky Sunday Night Buddha Bowl:

You’ll need:

  • 1 -1.5 cup cooked white quinoa
  • 1 cup Tuscan Kale Caesar(ish) Salad
  • 1/4 cup Crunchy Smoky Paprika Chickpeas
  • 2/3 cup – 1 cup Sweet Potato and Heirloom Carrot Hash
  • 1/2 Avocado
  • 1/4 cup Sweet and Spicy Peanut Sauce
  • Black Sesame Seeds or Garnish of Choice

To Prepare:

  1. In a bowl, lay down a base of quite quinoa, adding the kale salad and sweet potato hash second, and the avocado and chickpeas afterwards
  2. Drizzle peanut sauce overtop of the quinoa. Sprinkle black sesame seeds or garnish of choice over top
  3. Enjoy!


I hope you guys enjoy this awesome and nutritious Buddha Bowl as well as the recipes included in it! I know I’ll be enjoying them all week 🙂 I would love to hear if you have any great tips to improve any of my recipes or if you made any yummy or nutritious changes. Have a great week, keep it simple y’all!!

 

Sweet Potato and Heirloom Carrot Hash

If I had to pick a favorite food, you best believe it would include sweet potatoes (well.. either sweet potatoes or split pea soup). They’re the perfect food in my book: delicious, nutritious, versatile, and beautiful! The first time I ever had sweet potato hash was at True Food Kitchen, and ever since then I have been trying to perfect a sweet potato hash recipe of my own.

Sweet potato hash is one of my favorite side dishes to have on hand because it’s an awesome compliment to almost anything. In the past I have used it as a topping on nachos for dinner, as a side dish with tofu scramble for breakfast, as an ingredient in a buddha bowl, as a filling for a pita, and of course as a main course in all it’s glory!

Along with sweet potatoes, heirloom carrots are also up there on my list of favorites. The two flavors compliment each other wonderfully. They also take on the flavors of seasonings perfectly which makes them an awesome addition to my sweet potato hash, bringing some new flavors, nutrients, and pretty colors to the table!

You’ll need:

  • 2 medium size sweet potatoes
  • 2 heirloom carrots
  • 6 cloves chopped garlic
  • 1 cup of vegetable broth (I use vegetable bouillon)
  • 1/2 cup diced white onion
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • chili pepper
  • salt and pepper

To Prepare:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees
  2. Thoroughly wash and finely chop the sweet potatoes, heirloom carrots, garlic, and onion and combine them with the olive oil and vegetable broth. Roast them for 20-25 minutes in a glass cooking container.
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium to high heat and transfer the vegetable mixture into the skillet. Add in spices (chili pepper, salt and pepper to taste) and sauté 10-15 minutes or until the potatoes begin to get crispy
  4. Enjoy!

On a nutritional level, this dish packs a great punch as well. Sweet potatoes are an absolutely awesome source of healthy carbohydrates and dietary fiber as well as some key vitamins and heirloom carrots are an excellent source of antioxidants, vitamin A, and several B-vitamins. This is the perfect side dish to serve with any salad or as a carbohydrate and vegetable component of any macro bowl!

img_1486

Finished product, still in the skillet. Feel free to add in any additional spices and cook it to the crispness of your liking.

img_1470

Sweet Potato and Heirloom Carrot Hash as a component of a macro nutrient bowl! One of the endless ways you can use this recipe

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do, and I would love to hear about any modifications or new uses for it! Stay sweeeeeet as yams y’all & don’t forget to keep it compassionate and keep it whole!

Worlds Best Garbanzo Avocado Mash

According to my friend, this recipe is “award winning” so hold onto your hats everyone because this one’s about to blow you away. If you know me, you know that avocados are very near and dear to my heart. I LOVE them, and I know I’m not alone in that. Sometimes, however, it’s nice to mix it up a little bit when it comes to guacamole, which is why I decided to try a garbanzo avocado mash – and boy am I glad I did!

Basically, this is a hybrid of hummus and guacamole. It’s perfect as a dip for chips or veggies, but I also like to stuff it into a pita pocket as a super filling lunch on the go! Once again, it’s unbelievably simple to prepare and you can easily customize it to your tastes.

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 can of garbanzo beans
  • 1 1/2 Avocado
  • 1 carrot
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4th Lemon
  • Sea Salt
  • Nutritional Yeast
  • I also like to add a little heat to everything, so I added a bit of Tajin Seasoning in with this one, but chili powder or any spicy seasoning of your choice will do the trick!

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any simpler, here’s how you prepare it:

  1. Strain and rinse the garbanzo beans,  then in a big bowl mash them with a fork
  2. Add in the avocado, continue to smash
  3. Finely chop the carrot and the garlic and add them in, squeeze in lemon juice
  4. Add in everything else, smash until combined evenly
  5. Watch it disappear

Aside from the fact that this stuff is literally addicting, this stuff is seriously good for you. Garbanzo beans have protein content similar to that of lean meat, which pretty much makes them a vegan super food. They’re also a great source of dietary fiber as well as various vitamins and minerals. Combine ’em with the healthy fats and vitamins in avocado and you’ve got yourself a dose of macronutrient perfection!

I love this recipe because you could easily add more veggies (maybe tomatoes or peppers), seasonings, lime, or anything you like into the mix to give it some extra pizazz. You could also just slather it all over everything you eat, and fill your sandwiches, pita pockets, and burritos with it the way I did! Lots of options, lots of nutrients, lots of love for this stuff.