Recipes

The Ultimate Oil-Free Vegan Garbage Plate

For those who weren’t aware (or were thrown off by the Phillies cap), I’m from Rochester, NY. If you’re from the Western NY area or have ever visited, it’s likely you’ve been introduced to, or at least heard of, the Garbage Plate. The dish began at the famous Nick Tahou Hots in Rochester and has become a local delicacy for wobbly patrons stumbling out of local bars at 2am, as well as famished foodies who can’t get enough of this pile of picnic provisions.

While the term “Garbage Plate” is reserved for official menu items from Nick’s, variations exist at nearly every greasy spoon or burger joint in the area — trash plate, rubbish plate, sloppy plate, or just plain “plate.” If you say “plate” here, everyone knows what you mean. There’s even a local vegan restaurant with a Compost Plate and an upscale restaurant with a Plat De Refuse — be sure to stick your nose in the air when you say that one.

Ok so I’m not from there. What the hell is a Garbage Plate?

So glad you asked! A traditional Garbage Plate starts with a thick paper plate or styrofoam takeout container. On it, you’ll find a heap made up of two selections from the following: home fries, french fries, macaroni salad, or baked beans. On top of that, you’ll normally have two hot dogs (red or white), two hamburgers, two cheeseburgers, or any combination of those. There are more options for the protein (sausage, chicken, even fish and more) but those are the most common. Finally and most importantly are the condiments — deli mustard, diced onions, and a ton of Rochester-style meat hot sauce. If you want ketchup, at Nick’s you have to add it yourself. Oh yeah, and you get two slices of stale Italian bread with it — that is literally stored behind the counter in a black garbage bag. Thanks to this awful bread, I’m fairly certain Rochester leads the nation in discarded slices of bread per capita.

So it probably goes without saying that the Garbage Plate is super unhealthy, albeit delicious, so after switching my diet to whole food plant-based (WFPB), I was determined to recreate this local phenomenon as WFPB-compliant as possible.

So after some tinkering and quite a bit of sampling, I present to you the KevCooksPlants version — the Plant-Based Plate!

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Meatless Rochester-style Meat Hot Sauce

In the Western New York city of Rochester, ordering hot sauce on an item will often get you something you may not have expected — a meat-based spicy “sauce” that more closely resembles chili without the beans and veggies. It’s mostly found in Rochester’s “hots” restaurants — greasy spoon joints that serve hot dogs, burgers, and other picnic-type menu items.

In Rochester, we celebrate this hot sauce by slathering it on everything from burgers and dogs to macaroni salad, french fries, and even omelets. So you could imagine how a meat-eater turned plant-based guy like me would be on a mission to “veganize” this regional specialty.

So yeah, I did it. And yeah, I served it to local meat eaters. And yeah, they came back for more!

This recipe is based off the original Nick Tahou’s meat sauce recipe but uses no meat, no oil, and is completely plant-based. Try it on my Ultimate Oil-Free Vegan Garbage Plate!

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Oil-Free Plant Based Macaroni Salad

If you’re a loyal member of the KevCooksPlants Community, you know by now that I detest most store-bought vegan mayonnaise, dressings and cheese. They’re loaded with oil and terrible for you. So I’ve incorporated my Oil-Free Vegan Mayonnaise into an easy recipe for macaroni salad — a summer favorite and necessity for a proper Rochester-style “garbage plate.”

This is really simple, so feel free to add whatever veggies/spices you’d like to customize this to your personal tastes.

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Zucchini Crabby Cakes

Despite my oldest son’s claim that he “doesn’t do seafood” (even though he’s never really had seafood), the whole family, including the kids, love these veggie versions of crab cakes. They’re fairly simple to make, healthy, and delicious!

Enjoy these as a main dish or even a side, in a sandwich or just by themselves. I like to dress these up with a dollop of my vegan mayo, while my wife prefers cocktail sauce. The kids go with ketchup, because well, kids love ketchup. There really needs to be a study done on why kids have such a fondness for ketchup…

Anyway… I’ve recently found that after these crabby cakes come out of the oven, they’re even better with a quick sear from the grill (you’ll want to use foil or a grill mat though). Enjoy!

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Perfect Plant-Based Oil-Free Caesar Dressing

I love Caesar salad and so does my wife. Up until now, I really missed it. I tried several recipes for vegan Caesar dressing I found online, but they either had oil in them (which I left out) or just didn’t cut it. Some were cashew-based, some were tofu-based, and one was even hummus-based.

None of them worked. The consistency wasn’t right, or the flavor, or both. Then my genius of a wife said to me one day, “Why don’t you try to use plant-based yogurt? You used to use a yogurt Caesar dressing before we were plant-based. Try that.”

LIGHT BULB –> BOOM.

Immediately I looked for a yogurt-based Caesar dressing online and began “veganizing it” to fit the WFPB diet. After a couple iterations and some tweaking, it’s here — The Perfect Plant-Based Oil-Free Caesar Dressing.

We’re now having fresh Caesar salads a few times a week either as a full meal at lunch time or as a side at dinner. I hope you love this as much as we do!

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Savory Risotto with Squash and Cranberries

Before I made this recipe from one of my vegan cookbooks, I think I’d had risotto only once or twice in my life. But I knew that my wife was a big fan, and this recipe seemed decent, so I thought I’d take a crack at it. And WOW. I’m so glad I went for it! The original was from Isa Does It, but I’ve adjusted it to remove oil and simplify the instructions, as well as make it bit less expensive (most risotto is made from Arborio rice, which is pretty pricey).

While this may appear to be a long process, its really not too bad once you get started. If you’re looking to save time, you can even roast the squash the day before and store it covered in the fridge.

Oh yeah, and it’s freakin’ amazing! The whole family raved about it. I hope yours does too!

Note: Next time I make this, I’ll try it with brown rice and if it works out, I’ll update the recipe to keep it completely WFPB. Since this was the first time I was making risotto, I didn’t want to stray from the recipe that much with such a main ingredient!

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Bhindi Masala with Black Eyed Peas

I enjoy curry and similar Indian-inspired dishes, but they’re not always easy to get “kid approval” on because they’re either too spicy or too weird. I was looking through some of my vegan cookbooks and came across this one that I thought I could modify to take out the oil, simplify the process, and mute the heat if needed so the kids would dig it. Success!

Thanks to Isa Does It for the original recipe.

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Bell Pepper and Thyme Fettuccine

This is a recipe I found in People magazine when they were featuring recipes submitted by celebrities. As a Dolphins and Eagles fan (and Patriots hater), I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit the original recipe was from Tom Brady. I can’t even type that without a shudder. But anywho…

I revised the recipe to remove any processed oil and converted the suggested process of roasting the peppers over an open flame (oh please, Tom, we don’t all have personal chefs!) to cooking the peppers in the Instant Pot and it works perfectly! So yeah, take that Tom Brady. Stick to deflating footballs and whining to referees.

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Amazing Vegan Stuffed Avocados

Folks, I’m speechless. I wish I could eat this every night. With most of the work done in the Instant Pot, these stuffed avocados are not only healthy and delicious, but they’re pretty easy to make too!

I came up with this recipe based on a non-vegan stuffed avocado dish I had at a local Mexican restaurant. That was years ago, and it’s been on my mind to recreate it ever since. I finally did!

There are no unhealthy processed foods in this recipe — no crappy shredded congealed oil passing off as cheese, no oils, no fake stuff.  Guilt-free and incredible. So let’s get on with it…

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Super Easy Instant Pot Lentil Loaf

When we made the switch to plant-based eating, one of the first recurring recipes in our house was a lentil loaf. But this was way back before we ever heard of an Instant Pot! So now I’ve converted our original lentil loaf recipe to the IP and shaved off about 20 minutes of cooking time!

I hope you enjoy this replacement for the meatloaf you probably grew up eating. It’s a real stick-to-your-ribs comfort food kind of meal!

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