I cook for a big family and live on leftovers, so I double most recipes, including this one. My kids had so many second-helpings of creamy vegetable casserole that there was nothing left for lunch today. Good for them, bad for me.
Creamy vegetable casserole is true comfort food, and yet it’s the pinnacle of a whole food planted based meal. It’s very low budget as you can use whatever vegetables you have on hand, mixing fresh, frozen and canned supplies. Creamy vegetable casserole is simple, fast, warm and delicious. The secret here is in the creamy, filling and flavorful sauce. Top with bread crumbs, baked garlic tofu and fresh herbs and you’ve got a culinary masterpiece.
This recipe was inspired by Molly at http://www.cleanfooddirtygirl.com. I cannot say enough about her meal plans. Every week, I get a shopping list, step-by-step batch-cooking instructions, and every meal is the best ever. Check her out!
Store-bought vegan cheeses do the job and I use them when necessary. But less is way more. They are filled with oils and additives. They highlight the difference between “vegan” and “whole food plant based diet.” The later is best, but sometimes compromise is called for.
Lately there are lots of recipes out there for homemade plant cheeses. This one is adapted from Molly at Clean Food Dirty Girl. I was pleasantly surprised. I doubled the batch as I cook for a crowd, and have served it in soups, over veggies, made toasted cheese, quickie pizzas and even eaten it plain. The flavor is fantastic and it reheats well-enough.
I made this at Thanksgiving and it was the bomb. In several ways. The mouth-watering aroma advertises a traditional flavor and satisfying spices. The texture is hearty–from a few feet away the only way to know that it isn’t an actual meatloaf is the lack of grease.
I shouldn’t have said anything. A vegan meatloaf isn’t sexy. Maybe that’s because meatloaf has a history of being a low-budget dumping ground for cheap meat and roughage scraps. Maybe it’s because people don’t like “fake” meat and don’t appreciate the healthy diet agenda being shoved down their throat while they are trying to swallow the turkey.
There is nothing fake about this dish. The only thing lacking authenticity is a title worthy of it’s culinary genius. It’s whole food plant-based perfection. “Nut-loaf,” “bean cake” and “mushroom pate” aren’t contenders either. We need something exotic that does this recipe justice. I’m at a loss. “The meal that shall not be named?” Maybe we can use a symbol after the meal formerly know as Øπ? Ok. I’ll stop.
However, this “whatever you want to call it” is AMAZING. Everyone that actually bothered to try it raved. It rivaled the dressing, potatoes and gravy, creamed corn and green beans. And it killed the turkey. Well, not technically. You understand.
This recipe is another from Molly @cleanfooddirtygirl. I added the creamy mushroom garlic gravy option, but she is the genius and I am the student. I subscribe to her weekly meal plans and am never disappointed. I’ve tried several recipes over my vegan years, and none have ever sat up and smiled like this.
Serve this with traditional comfort sides like mashed potatoes and gravy, or get creative as I did with lightly sautéed greens, walnuts and tomatoes.
Sauce Option #1 (a sweet tomato sauce)
½ cup tomato paste
2 Tbsp. water
1 Tbsp. honey or maple syrup
2 Tbsp. yellow mustard
½ tsp. onion powder
½ tsp. smoked paprika
Sauce Option #2 (creamy mushroom garlic gravy)
¼ cup cashews
¼ cup veggie broth
½ tsp. onion powder
½ tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1 small can of mushroom pieces (4-6 oz)
1 cup water
½ cup uncooked steel cut oats, rinsed and drained
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 Tbsp. ground flax seed
½ cup uncooked steel cut oats, rinsed and drained
4 cups mushrooms (about 12 oz), chopped
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup bread crumbs (toast 4-5 slices of bread and blend)
¾ cup chopped pecans and/or walnuts
½ cup diced yellow onion
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
½ Tbsp smoked paprika
2 tsp. garlic granules
1½ tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
¼ cup unsweetened non-dairy milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 5”x 9” loaf pan with parchment paper, including the sides.
Decide which sauce you want. For sauce option #1 (sweet tomato), place all of the sauce ingredients into a small bowl. Whisk until smooth. Set aside. For sauce option #2 (creamy mushroom garlic), blend ingredients until creamy and set aside.
In a small sauce pan, combine the water, steel cut oats, Worcestershire sauce and tomato paste. Bring to a boil, turn heat to low and cover pan with a lid. Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasional so it doesn’t stick. Set aside and allow to cool.
Toast the bread, tear into small pieces and use blender to process into soft crumbs. Transfer crumbs to a large mixing bowl.
Blend mushrooms, pinto beans, pecans, onion, flax, smoked paprika, garlic granules, salt and pepper until everything is chopped into small pieces but not pureed (10-20 seconds). Stop intermittently to scrape down sides. Add mixture to breadcrumbs, along with steel cut oats mixture and nondairy milk. Mix until everything is well combined.
Place mixture into lined loaf pan and pack it down with a spoon. Evenly spread the sauce over the top. Bake for 65 minutes.
Allow loaf to cool for 15 minutes. When it’s cool enough to handle, lift out of the pan by the parchment paper and set on a cutting board. Allow to cool for 10 additional minutes and cut into slices. Serve on a platter.
Dairy free alfredo sauce is just as decadent as the high cholesterol, saturated fat alternative. Eating whole food plant-based is not a sacrifice–it’s a matter of education. A good recipe makes all the difference.
Here’s my favorite for classic alfredo sauce, never mind that it’s dairy free and full of fiber and nutrients. If you are having trouble finding some of the ingredients, check my Amazon shopping list. If you find that tahini is too expensive, you can order raw hulled sesame seeds, store in your freezer and substitute the real thing for store-bought (which often contains added oil).
Serve dairy free alfredo sauce over spaghetti squash, pasta, steamed greens or whatever you like.
Avocado Alfredo is easy and delicious!
One of the hardest things about giving up dairy is the belief that cream sauces are no longer on the menu. Nothing could be further from the truth! Rich and succulent meals can be created from cashews, tofu, squash and even avocado.
In addition to be being filled with fiber, protein, essential fats and a multitude of micronutrients, plant-based cream sauces are much easier to prepare than traditional counterparts. Thickening, boiling and burning are no longer part of the process. In many cases, you don’t even have to cook them (though you can) and they are done in minutes.
Avocado alfredo requires only a high speed blender, ripe avocados, lemon juice, fresh basil, garlic and sea salt. You can use a finger or a spoon for taste-testing and fine tuning.
To be honest, this dish didn’t even require all of that. My summer basil was a casualty to the first frost and raw garlic gives me a stomachache. I simply added a few tablespoons of organic pesto to 4 avocados and gave it a whirl. It was delicious. It was also a bit thick, so I used almond milk to thin it out a bit. Raw veggies, garbanzo beans and gluten free quinoa spaghetti turned this into a crowd-pleasing success.
It took exactly 12 minutes from start to finish, and that includes the time it took to make the pasta.
Add salt to the water before you boil the noodles and coat with a bit of olive oil as you rinse in cold water. This prevents sticking and adds a ton of flavor. Serve al dente, as this slows the digestion of the carbohydrates and lowers the glycemic index of the food. You’ll feel fuller longer and won’t feel as weighed down after eating.
Avocados are filled with filled with micronutrients. They are high in folate, potassium, vitamins K, E and B6 and help lower cholesterol. They significantly increase the absorption of beta carotene and vitamin A. They have been shown to lower breast cancer risk by 43 percent, assist the liver in detox and promote eye health.