Wed. Mar 20th, 2019

Liv B Is Busting the Myth That Delicious Vegan Food Isn’t Budget Friendly

“People think that vegan food is either expensive and time-consuming, or just straight up boring and flavourless. Both are completely untrue!”

The other week, I ordered a $30 head of cauliflower at a trendy Toronto restaurant. I thought it seemed somewhat absurd to charge that much for a meatless dish, but when I asked how it was made, I understood the valuation: the leafy vegetable spent several hours being boiled, braised, basted, roasted and then doused in various homemade sauces. This lovingly created cruciferous was more flavour than any piece of beef I’d ever been served—and it nearly convinced me that I could give up meat for good.

Before the bill was paid, I realized: I don’t have the resources or time to recreate this multi-step recipe. Trendy vegan restaurants and savvy influencer chefs can develop complex dishes that make you swear you’re biting into a burger or a nacho chip covered in cheese, but this style of cooking isn’t an option for the day-to-day eater. The only alternative vegan lifestyle, I thought, was to simply fill my diet with salad, tofu and hummus. Neither option seemed appealing.

Halifax-based YouTuber Olivia Biermann is advocating for a third possibility. Through her cooking channel, Liv B, she’s sharing recipes for people who want to make flavourful vegan food—but who don’t want to spend a ton of time or money doing it. She recreates traditional comfort foods like chocolate chip cookies and mac and cheese for over 650,000 vegan and veg-curious fans, and now, she’s sharing the wonders of plant-based cooking through her first book, Liv B’s Vegan on a Budget.

Courtesy of Liv B’s Vegan on a Budget by Olivia Biermann © 2019

What’s your vegan story? When and why did you stop eating animal products?
Back in university, in my first year, I developed some digestive issues. I discovered I was lactose intolerant and also had a hard time with red meat, so I cut out dairy and meat. I felt a lot better, and over about 2 years I slowly transitioned to being fully vegan, cutting out chicken, eggs and fish. It was a combination of health and ethical reasons, and the more I researched, the more certain I was that being vegan was the right choice for me.

What are 10 staples on your weekly grocery list?
Bananas, spinach, red bell pepper, almond milk, vegan cheese, pasta, tomato sauce, blueberries, granola, coconut yogurt.

What’s one “fancy food item” that you think is worth the splurge?
Nutritional yeast sounds fancy but it’s actually quite easy to find. It can be on the pricier side but it is so worth it to be able to make “cheese” sauces.

What are your three favourite recipes in the cookbook?
Maple Curry penne, Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies.

All recipes courtesy of Liv B’s Vegan on a Budget by Olivia Biermann © 2019 Reprinted with permission. Available where books are sold.

Vegan Maple Curry Penne

Serves 4
Time: 30 minutes

“This recipe was inspired by a dish I had at a cute restaurant in New Brunswick called Lily’s Café, years ago, before I went vegan. It was quite an easy dish to make plant-based: I only needed to use coconut milk instead of heavy cream and omit the meat. It is a super-popular recipe on my YouTube channel; everyone who tries it adores it as much as I do.”


14 oz (400 g) penne pasta
6 tbsp (90 mL) almond butter
2 tbsp (30 mL) tomato paste
1/4 cup (60 mL) pure maple syrup
3 tbsp (45 mL) soy sauce
2 tbsp (30 mL) curry powder
2 tbsp (30 mL) freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup (250 mL) full-fat coconut milk
1 tbsp (15 mL) olive oil
1 large red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 cup (250 mL) baby spinach
Chopped curly-leaf parsley (optional)


1. Cook the pasta in a large pot according to the package directions. Drain and then put it back in the pot. Set aside.
2. Meanwhile, whisk together the almond butter, tomato paste, maple syrup, soy sauce, curry powder and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Slowly add the coconut milk, whisking constantly until smooth. Set aside.
3. Heat a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the oil, bell pepper and onion. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onion is translucent and the pepper has softened.
4. Pour the maple curry sauce into the pan, then add the spinach; simmer over low heat for 3 minutes, stirring frequently, until the sauce has thickened. Add to the pasta and stir to coat.
5. Place the pasta pot back on low heat and heat for 2 minutes, constantly stirring gently, until the pasta is warmed through. Serve.

Vegan Strawberry Shortcakes

Serves 8
Time: 30 minutes

“Don’t let the appearance of these shortcakes discourage you — I promise you, this recipe is a total cinch to make! All you need are ripe fresh strawberries and some pantry staples. The biscuit recipe is almost identical to my Breakfast Tea Biscuits, but since this is dessert, they are a bit sweeter.”


Crushed Strawberries

11/2 lbs (750 g) fresh strawberries, stems removed
3 tbsp (45 mL) organic cane sugar

Sweet Biscuits

11/2 cups (375 mL) unbleached all-purpose flour (approx.)
1 tbsp (15 mL) organic cane sugar
2 tsp (10 mL) baking powder
1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt
1/2 cup (125 mL) unsweetened nondairy milk
2 tsp (10 mL) white vinegar
3 tbsp (45 mL) cold vegan butter
Coconut whipped cream (optional)
Pastry blender (optional)
2.5-inch (5 cm) thin-edged drinking glass or biscuit cutter


1. Crushed Strawberries: Place the strawberries in a large bowl. Using a potato masher or fork, lightly mash the berries until juice is released and they are slightly broken up. Add the sugar and stir to combine. Refrigerate until ready to use.
2. Sweet Biscuits: Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C).
3. Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.
4. Combine the nondairy milk and vinegar in a measuring cup or medium bowl. Set aside for 5 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, using a pastry blender or two knives, cut the vegan butter into the flour mixture until it becomes crumbly. Add 6 tablespoons (90 mL) of the milk mixture and stir until a dough forms (you want the dough to be slightly sticky but not too wet). Depending on the temperature and humidity at the time of baking, you may need more of the milk mixture (discard any that remains).
6. Gently knead the dough in the bowl 3 or 4 times, until it just gathers into a ball. Transfer to a lightly floured work surface and pat the dough into a disk approximately 1/2 inch (1 cm) thick. Using the drinking glass or biscuit cutter dipped in flour, cut the dough into large rounds, twisting the cutter slightly when it gets to the bottom. Reroll the scraps of dough as needed to make 8 biscuits.
7. Place the biscuits on a baking sheet in two rows, right next to each other. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, until the biscuits puff up and begin to turn golden brown on the bottom. Remove from the oven and let cool on the sheet for 2 minutes.
8. Slice the biscuits in half. Using a ladle, spoon crushed strawberries over each bottom half, followed by a dollop of coconut whipped cream (if using). Top with the other half of the biscuit. Serve.

Crispy Avocado Open-Face Vegan Sandwiches

Serves 2
Time: 40 minutes

“This recipe was inspired by the avocado fries recipe I made on my YouTube channel. Avocado fries are chunks of avocado coated in a crispy batter and baked until golden brown. The outsides are light and crispy while the insides are creamy, almost like a soft cheese. I like them so much I decided to find a way to eat them for breakfast! These open-faced sandwiches are piled high with crispy avocado fries, greens, tomato and a savoury cashew cream sauce.”


Avocado Fries

3 tbsp (45 mL) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (60 mL) unsweetened nondairy milk
1 cup (250 mL) panko bread crumbs
2 tbsp (30 mL) nutritional yeast
1/4 tsp (1 mL) onion powder
1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt
1 ripe avocado, sliced into thick wedges

Cashew Cream Sauce

1 cup (250 mL) raw cashews
1/2 cup (125 mL) water
2 tbsp (30 mL) freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tbsp (30 mL) nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
1/4 tsp (1 mL) garlic powder
1 tsp (5 mL) Dijon mustard


2 English muffins, split in half and toasted
1 cup (250 mL) arugula or baby spinach
1 tomato, sliced


1. Avocado Fries: Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
2. Whisk together the flour and nondairy milk in a small bowl, until smooth.
3. Combine the panko, nutritional yeast, onion powder and salt in a medium bowl.
4. Dip one piece of avocado into the milk mixture and submerge until coated. Allow excess liquid to drip off, then gently dip it in the panko mixture until coated. Place on the prepared baking sheet and repeat with the remaining avocado wedges, spacing them apart on the sheet.
5. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, flipping after 15 minutes, until golden brown.
6. Cashew Cream Sauce: Meanwhile, place the cashews, water, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, salt, garlic powder and Dijon mustard in the blender. Blend on high speed for 1 to 2 minutes, until smooth and creamy.
7. Divide the arugula between the English muffin halves, followed by the tomato and avocado fries. Evenly pour the sauce overtop; serve.

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