Fall has, well, fallen and suddenly it’s getting chilly out, the leaves are starting to turn and pumpkin-flavored everything is popping up all over the place (pumpkin potato chips, anyone?). For me, fall signifies a change in what I’m cooking, and I know I’m not the only one. No longer am I craving the light salads and fresh veggie pastas I ate all summer; I’m ready for some heartier fare! But if you’re not used to cooking plant-based recipes, it can be challenging to know how to replace the animal-derived ingredients with more veg-friendly ones.
That’s why I want to share some tricks I’ve learned for veganizing recipes for fall, and have you creating some plant-based perfection in the coming cooler months.
To me, nothing announces fall’s arrival like a big pot of soup simmering on the stove. And soup’s so easy to “veganize” – it starts with a simple swap of vegetable broth for the chicken or beef broth your recipe requires (trust me, you won’t miss it). And I’m of the mindset that more means better when it comes to vegetables, so I always add in loads of fresh, seasonal veggies for a hearty, healthy meal.
Thick, creamy soups more your thing? They’re a little more challenging but not impossible. Instead of dairy, make your own cashew cream like the one found here. Add it to your soup in place of sour cream or heavy cream for the consistency you desire. And with just two ingredients (cashews and water), it’s a simple and healthy substitution.
You can also thicken your soup with vegetables. Try roasting some diced potatoes and cauliflower with a little garlic until tender, then pureeing and adding it to your soup. Roasting intensifies the flavors, making them a bit more savory and rich. Not into roasting? Just boil the potatoes and cauliflower then puree for similar results.
Hearty and warming, with a touch of spice, chili is the perfect fall comfort food. And you really don’t need meat to make a great chili. Replace it with cooked lentils, or just add more of your favorite beans (black, pinto). Fill up the chili further with diced vegetables like squash, zucchini, onions and peppers. This will be your new favorite!
Cakes, Breads And Muffins
It’s not fall without pumpkin bread. Or pumpkin muffins. Or whatever pumpkin-flavored baked good you love, spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg and making your house smell delicious. With a few easy vegan swaps, all of your baked goods (pumpkin or not) can be even better.
Replace the eggs – My all-time favorite egg replacer is flax meal (ground flax seeds) and water. I seriously use it in place of eggs for nearly everything I bake. For each egg you are replacing in your recipe, mix 1TB flax meal with 2-3TB of water and let it sit for a few minutes to become “gloopy” (yup, that’s the technical term). Bananas also work well to replace an egg, especially in breads and muffins. Use half of a banana, mashed, in place of each egg.
Replace the butter – There are vegan butter substitutes (like Earth Balance) that I love. I do feel there’s a time and place for them (like melted over a big bowl of popcorn with some sriracha and nutritional yeast sprinkled on top – yum!). But in many of my baked goods, like muffins, I like to use applesauce in place of melted butter or oil. It’s a healthier, lighter alternative and, let’s face it, there’s no fall goodie that couldn’t be made tastier from a little bit of added apple flavor.
Replace the milk – This one’s easy. There are so many plant-based milk alternatives on the market that the most difficult part of using them is finding the one you like the best! In my house, we tend to favor rice milk and almond milk. However, soy, hemp, coconut and others will all work the same way to replace the milk in your recipe. Just pick one and try it out!
My Favorite Fall Recipe – Herbed Roasted Root Vegetables
I love roasting vegetables. It’s probably my favorite way to cook them. Not only does roasting bring out the flavor, but since everything gets thrown onto the baking sheet and cooks while you wait it’s simple. There’s nothing I like more than catching up with the latest issue of VegNews (or Real Housewives episode if I’m being honest) while my dinner practically cooks itself. After a summer of trying to keep my oven use to a minimum, I’m turning it on to usher in the fall with this perfect dish.
Herbed Roasted Root Vegetables
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Chop assorted root vegetables (like potatoes, carrots, beets, radishes, turnips, parsnips and celery root) into bite-sized pieces.
Toss with extra-virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and fresh or dried herbs like rosemary, sage or thyme (basically any flavors that can be found in a Simon and Garfunkel classic would work great in this recipe).
Spread onto a greased baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes.
Remove from the oven and stir.
Put back into the oven and bake an additional 20-30 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft and beginning to brown.
More autumn recipes: Apple Date Cinnamon Raisin Bread
Photo: Rachel Acquaviva