Thursday, May 31, 2018

Vegan Burger Challenge

This is not a recipe. This is our Vegan Burger Challenge. For many months now, the vegan Facebook pages have been full of posts about the Beyond Burger. Living in a small town, we have only been able to dream about those burgers and hope one day they would come to our town. Today I FINALLY got my Beyond Burger!

I found the Beyond Burger at a local grocery store, Lowe's Foods. A few members of our local vegan group had found them there & had been kind enough to share this news with us all. My first attempt to get a Beyond Burger failed. Obviously my other local vegans were much quicker getting to the store (Hey, I have kids and I had to wait for payday.. that's Christi's Real Vegan Life 😂😂). 

Today, I finally found them! Since this is a blog about budget friendly vegan meals, everyone can understand my dilemma when I realized I had found the Beyond Burger and it was $7 for 2 burgers. This may not seem like a problem to single vegans or couples, but I feed 5 people every night (some times 8 if my other kids stop by). I come home from work each day to a very hungry & hard working husband, a teenage boy who never gets full, a teenage daughter, & my 18 month old grandson everyday. I would have to buy 4 packages to feed everyone ($7×4 =$28) and that became expensive quickly. I still have to buy veggies for toppings, buns, and cheese. If I buy a side item (which was sweet potatoes tonight) I am looking at a $50 meal... too much for this mama. 


As I mentioned above, $28 for the Beyond Burger is a little too much. These burgers are a "treat" night experience for this family. I could only afford to buy two packages today and spend $14. This is how the Vegan Burger Challenge was born! I had to "sale" it to my family! 

I will buy the less expensive &current family favorite - the Gardein Beefless Burger. The Gardein Beefless Burger was on sale! It was just $4 for four patties. Perfect! Now I'm under $20 and have plenty of food. 

My winner for the price category is a no brainer- Gardein wins this round! 


The Beyond Burger was very easy to prepare. You cook each side about 3 minutes. If you are squeamish, be warned, these burgers are very realistic.  They look like, feel like, and cook like "real" burgers (see picture below). You could easily come home after work and have these burgers on the table in 20 minutes.. a real plus if you have to go from work, to home, to after school activities.  

The Gardein Beefless Burger took a few more steps to prepare, but it was still very easy. You could have this meal in under 20 minutes also. If you are squeamish, this burger is the better choice. It does not appear to "bleed" like the Beyond Burger. 

My winner for this round - it's a tie. While the Beyond Burger was slightly easier to prepare, it may bother people by being a bit too "real". This one is really going to be based on personal preference. 


The Beyond Burger looks REAL in the package. It may be a little too "real" for some vegans. It didn't bother me personally because I already knew what to expect from the postings in vegan groups. I was only bothered by making a trip into the meat isle to get it, but that's another story. When cooking, these burgers look "real". The Beyond Burger even looks "real" when you cut into it (see picture below). The burger appears "meaty", thick, and even "juicy" - think about a gourmet burger at a restaurant. You could definitely win over a few carnivores with these burgers.. which is a good thing for the animals.  

The Gardein Beefless Burger also looks like a "real burger", at least a precooked, frozen, "real burger". This burger is easier to handle if you don't like the appearance of a "bleeding" vegan burger. This burger is much thinner.. think fast food burger patty size. If you like a "double burger" this is the perfect size for stacking. It is a plus that I didn't have to go to the meat isle to buy this burger. It was nestled in between several bags of Gardein products in the freezer isle. Once the Gardein Beefless Burger is cooked, it looks like this: 

My winner this round would be The Beyond Burger because it has such a great appearance once prepared. 


Here's the real test! I seasoned both burgers exactly the same (salt, pepper, paprika, and cumin). They both taste alike, to be honest. 

The winner this round - there's not one. This is just a tie.


The Beyond Burger has a very real feel and texture. If this bothers you, like it did my husband, you will not like this burger. It "eats" like a "real" restaurant style burger. They definitely got the look and texture correct. I really liked this burger because, again, I see potential to win ovet a few omnivores. We all started this journey somewhere. I remember trying Gardein fishless filets the first time and thinking "I can do this!"... 

The Gardein Beefless Burger was the winner with my husband and kids. The texture is less "realistic".. which they all preferred. I think this burger is definitely easier for people who are already vegan to handle. It is a good vegan burger and I think omnivores would enjoy it on their "meatless Mondays" too. These burgers are both great. The texture is a matter of personal preference.

My winner is this category would be the Beyond Burger, but I was out voted 3 to 1. So.. offically the winner is Gardein Beefless Burger. 


Both these burgers are sure to be a hit with your vegan family. There are lots of factors to consider. I enjoyed the Beyond Burger and will probably buy it again in the future, as a treat. 

Our family will continue to purchase the Gardein Beefless Burger for most of our "burger nights" because they are inexpensive and my family prefers them to the Beyond Burger. 

My overall winner is going to be Gardein Beefless Burger, only because my family prefers it.

Honestly, these burgers are both great choices. If you are going for the closest to "real" pick the Beyond Burger. If you are going for an affordable vegan burger, pick the Gardein Beefless Burger.  It's all about personal preference .

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Chic pea Omelet

As an Events Manager, I have to plan menus with clients every week.  Unfortunately, most menus are not cruelty free 😐. Last Sunday, at a lady's brunch, I got to plan a vegan meal for a breastfeeding mama. She was a soy free vegan, so I personally prepared her meal to make sure her dietary needs were met completely. As much as I love my team, they don't always have a clear picture of veganism. Best to do it yourself when it's this important. 

I made this Chicpea Omelet stuffed with portabella mushrooms, onions, colorful bell peppers, spinach, Follow Your Heart vegan cheese, and topped with fresh sliced tomatoes and chives. I served this with Annie's all natural organic biscuits (which are accidentally vegan!) and a parfait made with coconut milk yogurt and fresh berries. When the brunch was over, she thanked me for a great meal. This really made my day! 

As a vegan, you never know what kind of meal you will be served at a function. I have had amazing chef created dishes with fruit sorbet as desert... I have also been served salad covered in ranch with rice mixed with spaghetti sauce served with chocolate cake (the same non vegan chocolate cake served to everyone else). I was very happy to have made this event special for this mama. 


1 1/2 cups chic pea flour
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 tsp. Garlic powder 
1/2 tsp. Onion powder 
1/2 tsp. Turmeric 
2 Tbsp. Nutritional yeast 
Indian black salt to taste(optional)
Salt & pepper
Vegan butter
2 large Portobello mushrooms, sliced
1 Tbsp. Cornstarch 
1/2 cup mushroom or vegetable broth
2 small bell peppers, sliced
1 purple onion, sliced
4 cups of spinach, sliced 
Vegan cheese (optional)
4 roma tomatoes, sliced
Fresh chives 


Mix chic pea flour, water, garlic powder, onion powder, nutritional yeast, turmeric, Indian black salt (or regular salt) and pepper in a mixing bowl until smooth. 

In a medium sized skillet over medium heat, melt enough vegan butter to coat the bottom of the pan. 

Pour about 1/4 the chic pea flour mixture into the skillet.

Allow the omelette to cook, undisturbed, until it "sets" (becomes solid).

Remove pan from heat. 

Use a dinner plate to cover the pan.

Flip the pan over into the dinner plate to remove your omelette from the skillet.(This is the easy way to flip your omelette without tearing it up). 

Place empty skillet back over medium heat. 

Add a little more vegan butter to coat your skillet. 

Slide your omlette back into the pan.

Cook about 2 more minutes. Do not overcook. Omelette should still be able to fold without breaking. It should appear be light & fluffy. 

Repeat with your next 3 omelettes. 

Set your omlettes aside and prepare your filling.

In deep skillet over medium high heat, sautee sliced mushrooms with a little vegan butter. 

When mushrooms are browned, sprinkle with cornstarch and add broth.

Cook mushrooms in broth until a "gravy" forms. Add salt & pepper to taste. 

Set mushrooms aside. 

Sautee onions, peppers, and spinach together until they are tender. 

Set aside.


Lay your omlette on a plate

Put your cheese on one side of the omelette 

Layer 1/4 the mushrooms over your cheese

Top mushrooms with 1/4 of your onions, peppers, and spinach 

Fold your omelette over the vegetables 

Top omlette with sliced tomatoes and chives

Repeat until you have 4 vegan omelettes 

**Makes 4 omelettes**

Monday, May 21, 2018

Chili & Cheeze Gnocchi

This dish started out as an accident tonight, but ended up being a new family favorite. 

My son had requested gnocchi with tomato sauce and Gardein beefless crumbles. As I started pulling items out the pantry and refrigerator, I noticed I was missing one key ingredient in this plan: the Gardein beefless crumbles. No problem, I'll just grab some mushrooms. One problem, I didn't have any mushrooms! Mikey doesn't like just gnocchi and tomato sauce, so on to "Plan B".

I started searching the pantry and refrigerator for ideas. Green beans, corn, chipotle Just Mayo, maple syrup, beets, oatmeal.. no. Then I saw 2 cans of vegan chili. Yes. Chili is kinda a vegan "tomato & meat sauce". It was worth a try to avoid a last minute run to the grocery store after a day spent cleaning out the garage in 90° weather .

This "mistake" was perfect! My husband and son both had seconds! I love it when a moment of desperate creativity becomes a masterpiece. The bonus part is that it only took a few minutes to prep, a few minutes to cook, and it was very inexpensive to make. This is my favorite kind of recipe - perfect for a busy mom after a hard day!

If you like this easy vegan recipe, try my Easy Vegan Sunday DinnerCheezy Tater Tot CasseroleMediterranean Cucumber SaladSummer Berry CobblerTurkish Lentils and RicePumpkin Spice Cupcakes, & Kale & Almond Pesto Pasta

On to the recipe...


2 packages of gnocchi
2 cans of vegan chili
1 cup Follow Your Heart vegan cheeze
(That's it!)
Optional: fresh, chopped parsley, to garnish


1. Preheat oveoven to 450°.

2. Bring a pot of water to a boil over medium heat .

3. Once your water is at a rolling boil, add a generous amount of salt.

4. Add your gnocchi to your salted water & boil 2-3 minutes (gnocchi will float when ready).

5. Drain gnocchi well.

6. Grease an 11x13" casserole dish with vegan butter.

7. Pour gnocchi into your greased casserole and top with chili and cheeze.

8. Cook gnocchi 20-25 minutes ,until cheeze is melted.

9. Garnish with parsley, if desired.

Serving suggestion - vegan crescent rolls and salad.

Makes 4-6 servings

Monday, February 5, 2018

Super Bowl Party Food

It's Super Bowl Sunday, a day that can be difficult for vegans who are invited to parties or hosting their own parties. What do we make? What will people think? Will people come and try our vegan food? Well... worry no more. I have the perfect vegan recipes to help you host a Super Bowl party or any party with full confidence. 

Warning: this menu is full of vegan convenience foods, if you are a health food vegan you may want to skip this post! The point of this menu was to show off great vegan alternatives to the usual chicken wings and cheese dips. Besides, no one needs a recipe for a veggie tray. On the menu tonight was vegan chili con queso (Vegan beer cheese sauce mixed with 1 can vegetarian chili), veggie dogs in a blanket (1 pack veggie dogs, halfed & tucked into 2 tubes of crescent rolls- Try Annie's all natural organic - they're vegan!), 2 different salsas, twice baked potato skins, black bean and corn taquitos, Gardein spicy BBQ wings, sausage & mushroom stuffed mini peppers, 2 different types of hummus, and gluten free buffalo cauliflower bites. 

And now... the recipes!! 

Sausage and Mushroom Stuffed Mini Peppers 

1 package LightLife vegan sausage 
1 cup chopped mushrooms 
5 slices of bread (can use gluten-free)
1/2 cup veggie broth
Olive oil
1 tsp. Cumin
1 tsp. Thyme
1 tsp. Paprika 
Salt & pepper
About 40 mini peppers, remove steams

1. Preheat oven to 400°

2. Over medium heat, sautee sausage & mushrooms with a little olive oil for about 10 minutes. 

3. Add bread to a food processor. Pulse until bread becomes breadcrumbs.

4. Add breadcrumbs, cumin, thyme, paprika, veggie broth, salt & pepper to sausage and mushrooms. 

5. Cook an additional 5 minutes until sausage mixture becomes stuffing.

6. Stuffed peppers with sausage and mushroom stuffing and place on a greased baking sheet. 

7. Cook for 20 minutes. 

8. Turn oven up to broil to char the pepper skins for about 2 additional minutes. 

Makes 40 pieces (about 10 servings).

3 Tbsp. Aquafaba
1/2 cup gluten free all purpose flour 
1/2 cup corn meal
1/2 cup unsweetened plain plant milk 
1 tsp. Paprika 
Salt and pepper 
2 small heads of cauliflower, chopped 
Buffalo sauce
Vegan ranch to dip
Oil to fry

1. Preheat oven to 400°

2. Heat about 1/2" of oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. 

3. Whisk aquafaba, flour, corn meal, plant milk, paprika, salt & pepper together in a bowl.

4. Dip cauliflower in bater to coat. 

5. Place cauliflower pieces in the oil. Be careful not to overcrowd the pan.

6. Let cauliflower lightly brown in the oil. 

7. Remove and set on a paper towel to absorb access oil.

8. Place cauliflower pieces on your greased cookie sheet. 

9. Bake 20 minutes or until golden brown. 

10. Remove from oven and drizzle with buffalo sauce. 

11.Return to oven an additional 5 minutes.

12. Remove from oven and let cool about 5 minutes before serving. 

13. Serve with vegan ranch

Makes about 4 dozen bites. (8 -10 servings)

24 gluten free small corn tortillas
1 (15 oz.) Can of black beans, drained
1/2 cup of corn
1 (11 oz) can of tomatoes with green chilis- hot or mild, drained
1 package Follow Your Heart vegan pepper jack cheese slices, cut into 24 slices. 
2 avocados, peeled & chopped  
1/4 cup vegan sour cream 
Chopped fresh jalapenos (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 400°

2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine black beans, corn, and tomatoes. 

3. Tip: corn tortillas are FRAGILE. it is easiest to work with them slightly warm. You can microwave them for 15 seconds in a damp paper towel to make them easier to roll.

4. Place the black bean mixture in your tortilla and top with a slice of cheese. 

5. Carefully roll your taquitos and secure with a toothpick. 

6. Place taquitos on a greased cookie  sheet.

7. Bake about 15 minutes or until golden brown.

8. In a mixing bowl, combine avocado, sour cream, salt & pepper.

9. Smash avocado & vegan sour cream together until smooth. Add jalapenos if desired. 

10. Remove taquitos from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving with avocado dipping sauce.

Makes 24 taquitos (12 servings)

12 small potatoes 
1/4 -1/2 cup of vegan sour cream 
1/2 cup Bacos (vegan bacon bits)
Salt & pepper 

1. Preheat oven to 400°

2. Cut potatoes in half & hollow out the centers.

3. Place the center parts in a microwave safe mixing bowl with a lid.

4. Place potato skins on a greased cookie sheet. 

5. Salt & pepper the potato skins

6. Place in the oven for 10 minutes. 

7. Add about 1/4 cup of water to the bowl with the potatoes & top with a lid.

8. Microwave potatoes until they are soft enough to smash with a fork. (Start with 6 minutes & add time as needed).

9. Remove potato skins from the oven.

10. Smash your potatoes that you just microwaved.

11. Add sour cream, bacon bits, salt & pepper to your smashed potatoes. 

12. Stuff you potato skins with your smashed potatoes *tip: to make them extra fancy, use a piping bag!

13. Return potatoes to the oven for 20 minutes. 

14. Remove potatoes from the oven and drizzle with cheese sauce.

Makes 2 dozen potatoes (12 servings)

Monday, December 25, 2017

Cheezy Tater Tot Casserole

Merry Christmas. This year we have new vegans (yay!!), those limiting their meat intake (yay too!), a baby (!),  and my daughter, who has been diagnosed with Celiac disease. So.. I had to prepare a complete vegan & gluten free breakfast for Christmas brunch. Challenge accepted! 

I probably was great entertainment for the staff at our local Harris Teeter. I walked back and forth through the store,  looking at Pinterest (my saving grace most night!), searching for ingredients, and coming up with a plan to make tge best vegan & gluten free breakfast for my family - one that even the picky ones would eat & enjoy (no pressure 😂).

This was the filling, crowd pleasing recipe I can up with to make everyone happy. My entire meal plan is in the footnotes, if you want to know how to make a gluten free & vegan brunch fir your family.


2 bags frozen tater tots
Olive oil
8 oz. Sliced mushrooms, chopped 
8 oz. Kale, chopped & de -stemed
1 Tbsp. Cumin
1/4 cup vegetarian chick'n broth (or veggie broth)
1 tsp. Onion power
1 tsp. garlic powder 
Salt & pepper


1. Preheat oven to 375.

2. Pour tater tots into a greased 11x13 pan. 

3. Toss tater tots into a little olive oil and paprika.

4. Bake about 20 minutes, until tater tots are brown. 

5. While tater tots are cooking, make your cheezy sauce (see recipe link above).

6. Once cheese sauce is ready, start your vegetables. 

7. Steam your chopped mushrooms and kale in the vegetarian chick'n broth, paprika, cumin, onion powder,  garlic powder, salt and pepper. 

8. Cover & steam over medium heat until softened.

9. Remove tater tots from the oven.

10. Top tater tots with kale/ mushrooms and  the cheeze sauce. 

11. Toss lightly to mix all ingredients. 

12. Bake 30 - 40 minutes, until golden brown. 

Makes 8 servings. 

* Entire vegan & gluten free breakfast plan:

2. Vegetarian baked beans
3. Southern style grits
4. Cheezy Tater Tot Casserole 
5. Olive platter
6. Fruit roasted with pecans 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Italian Roasted Veggies over Chive & Turmeric Mashed Potatoes

It's Summer time and vegetables are plentiful. We have so many fresh zucchini, summer (yellow) squash, green beans, & tomatoes. Roasted Veggies is a very frequent meal at our home in the Summer and mashed potatoes are ALWAYS a let's have BOTH!

This is an easy meal. I'm taking the short cut of using mashed potato flakes and "doctoring" them for convenience (nothing against homemade, please use homemade if you have the time). All you have to do is cut up your vegetables, toss them in your marinade (which becomes a delicious sauce for your potatoes!), and roast while you do your laundry,  help kids with homework, or enjoy a glass of wine while catching up on one of your favorite shows. This is so simple, it will become a staple in your home too.


3 small yellow squash, chopped 
1 large zucchini, chopped 
8 oz. Mushrooms 
2 cups green beans, chopped 
2 cups carrots, chopped 
1 large purple onion, chopped 
1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes w/ juice
1 head of garlic cloves, pealed
1 cup Italian dressing 
Salt, pepper, paprika to taste
6 servings of mashed potatoes 
Fresh chopped chives 
1 Tbsp. Turmeric 


1. Preheat oven to 450°

2. Toss chopped veggies with diced tomatoes (do not drain!), Italian dressing, salt, pepper & paprika.

3. Pour veggies into a large roasting pan. 

4. Cook 30- 40 minutes (depending on how large you chopped your veggies), stirring once about half way through.

5. Prepare your mashed potatoes adding fresh chives and turmeric. 

6. Once your veggies are "fork tender", remove from oven.

7. Layer your mashed potatoes & top with roasted veggies. Make sure you get the pan sauce to pour over your mashed potatoes because it's delicious!

Makes 4-6 servings

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Thai Style Veggie Panang

As any vegan will tell you, ethnic food is one of your best bets when eating a meal at a restaurant. Our family loves Thai food. Our local Thai restaurant offers many vegan options, that make going out to dinner very easy. This is one of our favorite meals when we go out to that Thai restaurant. 

I found panang curry paste at our local Asian Market and decided to give it a try. We usually order panang with tofu, but today I decided to make it with Asian style veggies. Using the veggies, makes this an easy & quick weeknight meal... which is very important in this family! 


6 cups of prepared rice
1 (4 oz) can of panang curry paste*
2 (13.5 oz) cans of coconut milk 
3 Tbsp. Oil
2 Tbsp. Creamy peanut butter (optional, but it makes it creamier!)
2 (14 oz) bags of Asian style veggies, defrosted
Sriracha to garnish (optional)


1. Cook your panang curry paste in oil over medium heat until fragrant. 

2. Add peanut butter.  Let peanut butter melt into the curry paste. 

3. Add coconut milk. Stir to combine. 

4. Add you veggies to your curry. Let the curry come to a boil.

5. Cook an additional 2-3 minutes. 

6. Serve over rice.

* if you want it less spicy, adjust panang paste to taste. 1/2 a can is mild, full can is medium heat.

Makes 4 - 6 servings 

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