When Kelbie Marika Pogoncheff first tried her hand at vegetarian cooking, the results were…not good. “I tried cooking tofu, and it was horrible,” she said. “I fried it because I wanted to make it crispy. But I didn’t read that you had to like press it or didn’t even really know how to cook the whole thing. So I just chopped it up and put it in the pan. And some were hard. Some of it was falling apart. It was bad.”
This was when Pogoncheff was a freshman in high school and decided that she wanted to give vegetarian eating a try.
“My mom said, ‘Do you want to be a vegetarian? You can cook vegetarian yourself because I’m cooking meat,’” Pogoncheff said.
Pogoncheff is now a 21-year-old senior at Baylor University, an environmental studies major with a concentration in environment and society, and has made the transition from a vegetarian diet to totally vegan.
“I took an environment class, and I learned about carbon emissions and then how much eating meat has an effect on your carbon emissions, your carbon footprint,” she said.
Pogoncheff moved to Waco from Tacoma, Washington, to attend Baylor, and admits that “it’s hard to stay vegetarian” in Texas.
“I love a good chicken sandwich, and Whataburger,” she said. But by April of this year, Pogoncheff was “sort of vegan, because I love cheese,” she said.
“But then I started dating my girlfriend, and she eats vegan. She has been vegan for like five years,” Pogoncheff said. “So I was eating vegan on the weekends. And I was like, Well, I have all these vegan groceries. I’m not really buying any meat anymore. I just used up what was left in my fridge and then once I was done with what cheese and meat I had, I just stopped buying it. Then it was easy to cook from there.”
In her cooking, Pogoncheff tries to avoid substituting vegan ingredients when a traditional recipe calls for a nonvegan counterpart. The end result just isn’t the same, and cost is another factor. A jar of vegan mayonnaise, for instance, costs about $8, “so I use it very sparingly,” Pogoncheff said.
Pogoncheff shared several recipes, including her “top two favorite recipes of all time” in the Brussels sprouts and the chili aioli.
“I make Brussels sprouts at least four times a week,” she said. “It’s sweet but also kind of has a little spice to it. It’s the first thing I make for people who say they don’t like Brussels sprouts.”
And the aioli is a “staple” in her kitchen, Pogoncheff said. She adds it to avocado toast, sandwiches, wraps and grilled cheese.
Our contribution to the recipes this month is Sweet Potato-Black Bean Tacos. It’s a vegetarian recipe but can easily be made vegan by using sorghum or agave nectar instead of honey; making the tacos with vegan tortillas, since most traditional tortillas are made using lard; and omitting the cheese or using a vegan variety.
- 3 cups green lentils
- 3 cups coconut milk
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, diced
- 1 inch fresh ginger, minced
- 2 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 2 tablespoons curry powder
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 2 tablespoons cinnamon
- 1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
- 2 nopales pads, sliced
- Sunflower sprouts
- Kale or rice, for serving
Rinse the lentils under cold running water until the water runs clear. In a saucepan set over high heat, add the rinsed lentils, coconut milk and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for 10-15 minutes or until the lentils are cooked through. Skim off any foam while the lentils are cooking.
While the lentils are cooking, add the oil to a skillet set over medium-high heat. Let the oil get hot, then add the onion. Cook until translucent. Add the garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant. Add the chili powder, cumin, curry powder, turmeric, cinnamon, jalapeno and nopales.
Add the onion mixture to the lentils and let simmer for 40 minutes.
Serve over kale or rice, with cilantro and sunflower sprouts. Makes 4-6 servings.
- 1 package Brussels sprouts, sliced in half
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons Sriracha sauce
- 3 tablespoons sorghum (for a vegan dish) or honey (for vegetarian)
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- Everything bagel seasoning
Place the Brussels sprouts in an air fryer for 15 minutes. Halfway through, give it a good shake to turn the sprouts.
In a small bowl, mix together the soy sauce, Sriracha, sorghum or honey, garlic and chili powder. Pour some of the sauce over the cooked sprouts and toss to coat, or use a pastry brush to top the sprouts with the sauce. (Save the remaining sauce for another use.) Sprinkle on seasoning to taste. Makes about 4 servings.
Vegan Chili Aioli
- 1/2 cup Vegan Mayonnaise (recipe follows; prepare at least one day before making aioli)
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper or 1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
Mix all the ingredients in a jar and shake or whisk to combine. Add more olive oil or vinegar if the mixture is thicker than desired. Makes 1/2 cup.
- 1/2 cup unsweetened soy milk
- 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1 cup vegetable oil
Bring all the ingredients to room temperature.
Add the milk, vinegar, garlic powder, salt and mustard to a tall container; stir to mix. Add the oil and let sit for 1 minute. Place an immersion blender all the way down in the container, and blend for 15 seconds to emulsify. Then while still blending, move the blender up and down in the jar to add air to the mixture. Blend until thick and creamy. Store in the refrigerator, where the mayonnaise will continue to thicken as it chills. Makes 1 1/2 cups.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup mushrooms, sliced
- 1/2 onion, diced
- 1 green bell pepper, diced
- 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup Buffalo sauce, such as chili-lime flavor
- Vegan Biscuit dough (recipe follows)
- 1 cup vegan mozzarella cheese
- Garlic salt
- Everything bagel seasoning
Heat oven to 375 F.
Heat the oil in a skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook until golden-brown, stirring occasionally. Add the onion and bell pepper and cook until tender. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Remove from heat, and add the Buffalo sauce. Set aside to cool.
Using your thumb, make an indention in each piece of biscuit dough. Place a pinch of cheese on each biscuit and add a spoonful of the Buffalo mix. Pull the dough together to form a pouch, kind of like a dumpling. Roll into a smooth ball between your hands and place on a baking sheet. Baste with additional Buffalo sauce, and add garlic salt and bagel seasoning. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Makes 6 servings.
- 3/4 cup soy milk
- 1/2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup cold vegan butter, cubed
Heat oven to 400 F. Line a baking pan with parchment paper.
Add the soy milk and vinegar to a bowl and stir to mix. Let sit until the milk begins to curdle. (You’re making a vegan buttermilk.)
In a separate bowl, sift the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the cubed butter and use a pastry cutter or fork to cut the butter into the dough, until you have a crumbly mixture.
Pour the vegan buttermilk into the flour mixture. Gently mix until the dough comes together and is a bit shaggy. Don’t overmix the dough.
Once the dough comes together, turn out onto a clean, lightly floured countertop and, using your hands, press out the dough until it’s about an even 1-inch thickness. Use a paring knife to cut the dough into 6 even pieces. (Use the dough at this point to make the Buffalo Biscuits.)
Place the biscuits on the prepared pan and bake for 18-20 minutes or until fluffy and brown. Makes 6 biscuits.
Sweet Potato-Black Bean Tacos
- 1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch cubes
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup yellow onion, diced
- 1 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 can (14.5 ounces) black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup frozen yellow corn, thawed and drained
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
- 10 corn or flour tortillas
- Sliced avocado, romaine lettuce, cotija or feta cheese, for serving (optional)
Heat oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with foil then place sweet potatoes on foil. Drizzle with 3 tablespoons olive oil and toss to evenly coat.
Sprinkle the cumin, paprika, coriander and cayenne pepper over the potatoes, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss to evenly coat. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until tender, stirring once halfway through baking.
Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a skillet placed over medium-high heat. Add the onion and saute until caramelized, about 5-6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds.
Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the beans, corn, honey and lime juice. Heat until warmed through. Add the potatoes and cilantro. Serve over warm tortillas with desired toppings. Makes about 5 servings.
Cranberry Mojito Punch
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 3 cups fresh mint leaves, plus more for garnish
- 1 lime, sliced
- 3 cups cranberries, plus more for garnish
- 1 1/2 cups fresh lime juice, from about 8-10 limes
- 3 cups light rum
- 1 1/2 cups cranberry juice
- 36 ounces grapefruit or lime seltzer, or sparkling water
Add sugar and mint to a pitcher and muddle.
Add the lime slices along with fresh or frozen cranberries to the pitcher. Pour in lime juice and rum, and stir to dissolve the sugar.
Pour in the cranberry juice and stir. Top off with seltzer or sparkling water.
Fill glasses with crushed ice, pour punch over ice and garnish with cranberries and mint. Makes about 12 servings.