I learned about some of the recipes in Robin Robertson’s Vegan On The Cheap by seeing them on the blog Two Vegan Boys. All of the dishes looked really tasty, so I bought the book and gave a few recipes a try. I’m not on as strict a budget as I have been at some points of my life, but I still try to keep my grocery bill to a reasonable amount, so I liked the idea of choosing recipes specifically for the low cost.
One thing that this book has going for it is that the recipes are generally hearty, comforting and filling. This is a great quality, but for someone who’s watching their portions and calorie intake, it can make recipe selection a little more complicated. Many of them are higher in carbs than I usually prefer, and I like to bulk up my plate with veggies. So, I picked recipes that worked best for me, lowered the amount of oils called for, and supplemented with veggie side dishes.
These are Mu Shu Burritos, and for a recipe with so few ingredients it was really delicious. The main seasoning is hoisin sauce, which helped with the depth of flavor. (Whole Foods has an organic house brand of vegetarian hoisin which I like.) The recipe calls for seitan but I used soy curls because I already had some in the pantry. What could be more cheap than food that’s already in the pantry? The texture of the cooked cabbage was a nice contrast to the soy curls. I served my burritos with a little chopped broccoli salad seasoned with rice vinegar and sweet chili sauce.
I served up the Three Bean Loaf with beets and roasted brussels sprouts. The loaf was held together by bread crumbs, oats and vital wheat gluten, and it actually loafed! The beans and binders were combined with carrot, celery, ketchup, soy sauce, mustard, brown sugar and cider vinegar, and the combination of sweet, savory and tangy flavors was mouth watering.
The Peanutty Pumpkin Stew was a meal unto itself. The broth was thickened with canned pumpkin and peanut butter, and other ingredients included carrot, potato, tomato, curry powder, kidney beans and green chiles. I added a pinch of cayenne powder for a little bit of heat. The thick/chunky texture may not be pleasing to some, but it really worked for me. Most of the ingredients could be already found in your pantry and vegetable crisper. To get some green in my meal, I steamed some kale and mixed it into the soup.
This Blushing Alfredo Fettuccine was the perfect way to use up a partial jar of marinara that was lingering in the fridge. The sauce includes your typical vegan alfredo ingredients such as cashews, silken tofu and nutritional yeast, but you pump up the flavor even more by starting with sauteed onions and garlic. I served the sauce over shirataki noodles, which are tofu based, very low-cal noodles. They’re not amazing, but I do like to use them instead of pasta sometimes so that I can have a big dish of food without lots of calories. I topped the noodles and sauce with roasted cauliflower, baked tempeh and fresh parsley.
I really enjoyed every recipe I’ve tried from Vegan On The Cheap so far. The recipes and techniques are solid, the flavor combinations are familiar yet tempting, and the recipes live up to the book title’s promise by costing less at the grocery store, and using up some pantry items if you plan well.