Casseroles Gone Bad

This post is part of Vegan MoFo, the Vegan Month of Food.  Enjoy, and visit other MoFo bloggers this month too!


Ever spent 2 hours making a mouth-watering recipe only to have the dish come out looking and tasting awful?  Me neither, but, you know, I’ve heard it happens.  Ok, so it happened to me Tuesday.  I followed an amazing-looking recipe for a sort of cornbread/quiche/casserole thing and ended up with a mushy mess that would not bake no matter how long I left it in the oven.  I’m going to guess it was user error, because I generally love the recipes from this particular source, but I couldn’t pinpoint what I did wrong.

With 30 minutes left before Wife arrived home from her nightly bike commute, I had to think fast to save dinner and avoid calling for Thai take-out (again).  The mushiness of the casserole reminded me of the texture of the batter I used to create to make (non-vegan) black bean patties back in the day, so a plan was formed: cornbread/quiche/casserole patties!  I cut the casserole into half-servings, placed each square in a lightly oiled pan, and pressed the squares into 1/2″-thick patties.  After a little browning on each side, voila!  Totally edible (even delicious) casserole patties!  Serve them with the quick and easy chipotle cream sauce below.  Check ’em out:

Zucchini Cornbread Patties

1 whole onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 tsp chipotle powder
1 small can (4 oz) diced green chiles
1 package (12 oz) extra-firm mori-nu tofu
½ cup non-dairy milk
½ cup whole wheat flour
½ cup cornmeal
¼ cup nutritional yeast
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
2 cups zucchini, diced

1. Saute onion and garlic in a little water until onions begin to soften.  Add the spices and green chiles, stir to coat, and continue to saute until much of the moisture has evaporated.  Set aside.

2. Blend the tofu with the non-dairy milk and set aside.

3. Combine the remaining dry ingredients (all except the zucchini & corn) in a large mixing bowl.  Add tofu mixture and onion/garlic mixture and combine.

4. Fold the zucchini and corn into the mixture until well combined.

5. Heat a large skillet and spray to coat with olive oil.  Form the mixture into patties and (optional) press into panko or other bread crumbs.  Pan fry on both sides until browned and heated through.  Serve with Chipotle Cream Sauce on the side.

This mushy mess turned into...

...this tasty little patty!

Chipotle Cream Sauce

1/2 cup Tofutti Sour Supreme or Better Than Sour Cream

1 – 2 Tbsp adobo sauce (find this in a can of chipotle peppers and use the peppers for something else)

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp onion powder

dash of salt

1. Combine all ingredients.  Taste along the way and add more of anything you want!  I like this with extra adobo, because YUM.

Brussels Sprouts for Peeps Who Hate Brussels Sprouts

This post is part of Vegan MoFo, the Vegan Month of Food.  Enjoy, and visit other MoFo bloggers this month too!

People love to hate Brussels sprouts.  I was one of those big sillies until last year sometime, when I read some tips online about how to roast them and season them and load them up with olive oil.  I was a convert and Wife converted right along with me; we made Brussels sprouts probably once a week for months.  Howevs, to paraphrase Forrest Gump (to Wife’s chagrin), life is like an oven of Brussels sprouts–you never know what you’re going to get.  Sometimes my sprouts were tender and delicious, sometimes they were tender and mushy, sometimes they were charred and crunchy-tasty, sometimes they were charred and nasty.  Also, the only way to make sure they tasted awesome was to load them up with 3 or 4 tablespoons of oil.

Well, my little lazies, I’ve converted again.  I will never ever ever again cook Brussels sprouts in the oven because THIS is the way to do it.  It’s almost oil-free and requires only slightly more babysitting than the oven roasting method.

Perfect Brussels Sprouts

Big bowl of Brussels sprouts

Olive oil spray

Salt, pepper, garlic to taste

1. Trim the tough ends from the sprouts and cut them in half from top to bottom.

2. Heat a nonstick pan on medium-high heat and spray with oil.  Add sprouts and 1 or 2 tablespoons of water. Stir in seasonings and cover.  If you feel like it, turn the sprouts so they are cut-side down, which will allow them to char nicely right away.

3. Check out the sprouts every 2-3 minutes to stir, check for tenderness, and add more water if necessary.  The goal is to add just a bit of water at a time so they steam while charring a bit in the pan.  (Adding too much water at a time will boil the sprouts and prevent them from charring.)

4.  Once you have some nicely browned and tender sprouts, pop one in your mouth and add salt if needed.  SO GOOD.

Try not to be distracted by the amazing potatoes in this pic.

Tofu Scramble, Easy Like Sunday Morning

This post is part of Vegan MoFo, the Vegan Month of Food.  Enjoy, and visit other MoFo bloggers this month too!

I got a new cookbook!  This is big; I hadn’t gotten a new one since instituting an unofficial moratorium on cookbook purchases at least a year ago.  I get plenty as gifts for birthdays and holidays, and I love being the girl for whom a new vegan cookbook is always a great gift option.

Howevs, for this book–The Happy Herbivore by Lindsay S. Nixon–an exception was warranted, as it focuses on recipes that are both low-fat and easy.  Also, I discovered it on my quest to find a delicious scrambled tofu breakfast recipe, and it contains several totally manageable possibilities.  (Yes, I promise a full report when I get around to trying the infamous Black Bean Brownies.)

So far, I’ve made the fairly basic Tofu Scramble on page 18 of the book (also available on Lindsay’s site).  I followed the recipe closely and ended up with a dish that was seasoned just perfectly.  I did add sauteed onion, red pepper, and vegan sausage, but I prepared the tofu just like Lindsay recommends.  Because I was a big copycat here rather than my usual creative culinary genius, I’ll send you to the source to check it out, but here’s a little enticement from my kitchen:

Lazy Sunday morning breakfast

Feeding Non-Vegans (and a Yumm-y Recipe)

This post is part of Vegan MoFo, the Vegan Month of Food.  Enjoy, and visit other MoFo bloggers this month too!

On this first day of blogging for Vegan MoFo, I am preparing to buy a distinctly non-vegan snack for a gaggle of teenagers.  I’m buying it for them because they asked for it, they work hard, it’s easier for me not to have to persuade them to try my vegan snacks, and they aren’t my children (who will not have such an easy time getting non-vegan food from me).

Many vegans would think those are pretty lame reasons to allow my dollars to go toward food that causes heart disease and animal suffering, and I totally get where they are coming from, so I am going to attempt to focus this Vegan MoFo on creating dishes that non-vegans won’t need persuading to eat.  I don’t have time to cook today (and, hey, I already promised the kids this one time), but by next week’s meeting with the teenagers I hope to have some new vegan snacks to share.

Are you vegan?  If so, how do you feed the non-vegans in your life?  My wife isn’t vegan, but she happily eats whatever I cook for her.  This is almost always vegan (because I generally only want to cook one dinner), but I admit I allow Trader Joe’s pizzas to sneak into Wife’s diet when I’m feeling lazy.

For today, here’s a VERY easy dish to throw together for vegans and non-vegans alike–I (and my mother, whose brainchild this is) have served this to many and to universal delight (if we do say so ourselves).  It has more oil than I like, and a major component comes from a jar, but it’s a great way to pack in the veggies and please a crowd.

If you can’t find Yumm Sauce where you are (it’s available in OR, WA, and CA), try this with another vegan jarred sauce like vegan ranch or even a warm-water-diluted hummus.

Roasted Veggies & Yumm Sauce

6 cups broccoli florets

1 or 2 zucchini and/or yellow squash, cut into 3/4″ slices

1 red bell pepper, cut into 3/4″ (bite-size) chunks

1 yellow onion, in bite-size chunks

Other veggie possibilities – mushrooms, asparagus, cauliflower, maybe Brussels sprouts?  You can also limit the dish to just one or two veggies alone–broccoli is my favorite!

1/3 jar of Yumm Sauce (I used Roasted Garlic, but just bought a jar of Chipotle to try)

1. Pre-heat the oven to 400.

2. Chop all the veggies to bite-size and assemble in an oil-sprayed 9″x13″ casserole.

3. Roast until the broccoli is just tender, about 15 minutes.  Don’t overcook, because the squash tends to get mushy.

4. Dump the hot veggies in a big mixing bowl.  Add the Yumm Sauce by the spoonful, until the veggies are lightly coated but not totally soaked in it.

5.  Serve warm or at room temp.  I’ve eaten this right out of the mixing bowl. 🙂

I didn't have any broccoli when I made this batch--I missed it!

Rounding up the veggie webs

Oh, the internets, so full of the information.  Enjoy a round-up of what’s going on today, while I think about getting my butt back in the kitchen (you know, where a woman belongs).

Jess at Get Sconed! etc. has a nice write-up of Veg Fest 2011, which did its thing in my very own little town.  I missed it, which may have been for the best–those decadent food samples are dangerous.

Susan at Fat Free Vegan Kitchen shares her all-too-common struggle to find a tasty low-fat guacamole.  Though I haven’t independently verified it, she says mission accomplished!

No Meat Athlete makes me simultaneously excited to try fruitarianism and cautiously curious about the term “footbagger.”

Post Punk Kitchen totally gets me, and my craving for southern food (for which I blame my dad’s Alabama roots).  Thankfully, PPK also delivers the cure, with this recipe for Blackened Scrambled Tofu & Garlicky Grits.

Finally, I am most excited to announce that Vegan MoFo is coming!  That’s the Vegan Month of Food, and it means that veggie bloggers everywhere are going to be posting like mad.  Keep an eye out for MoFo posts here, and check out others’ extra efforts around the veggie webs.

Creamy Pesto Casserole

My busy September has kept me from cooking often, so I was psyched to have a free afternoon for some fun in the kitchen.  Wife will be psyched, too, because she gets to eat this amazingness for dinner tomorrow.  This one’s a keeper!   Almost makes me sad that we’re going to be at the US Women’s Soccer Team game tonight instead of eating at home.

This recipe is a combination of a favorite pasta dish from my ovo-lacto days and a new pesto recipe I stumbled upon recently (over at Cathe’s Kitchen–check it!).  My old version was a super-easy throw-together of pasta, ricotta, and tomato sauce.  This new guy is much tastier (and definitely just a bit more complex) than the old one, and so so worth it.  It even packs in your veggies!

Creamy Pesto Casserole

12-oz package whole grain pasta (I like rigatoni or penne for this)

1 bulb garlic

1 cup walnuts, toasted in oven for 5 minutes

3/4 cup fresh basil leaves

16-oz package extra firm tofu

2 cups peas (I thawed frozen peas in warm water, which worked perfectly)

1 tsp salt

1/4 cup olive oil (you can cut this down some)

6 cups broccoli florets

1 jar tomato-based pasta sauce (or 3 cups fresh tomato sauce)

2 cups bread crumbs (I like them fresh, made from sourdough)

1. Roast the garlic.  A speedy way to do this: peel the cloves and wrap in a little foil packet with just a light drizzle of olive oil.  Pop in a 400-degree oven for 15 minutes or so, or until fork-tender.  You can toast your walnuts now too (for 5 minutes or so).  Leave the oven on for later, but turn it down to 350.

2. Cook the pasta.  You got this (but do err on the side of slightly undercooking).  Drain and rinse with cool water.

3.  Make the pesto layer.  Combine garlic, walnuts, basil, tofu, peas, salt, and oil in a blender and blend until creamy and smooth.

4.  Put it all together!  Layer half the cooked pasta in an oiled 9×13 casserole.  Top with the raw broccoli florets, followed by the rest of the pasta.   You can mix these together to get an even distribution.  Spread the pesto on top in an even, thick layer.  Top with tomato sauce, followed by bread crumbs.

5. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 20 minutes, checking occasionally to be sure the crumbs aren’t getting too dark.  If they are, use a fork to rake them around and expose a light layer underneath.

6.  Let sit for just a few minutes, then dig in!

Roasted Cherry Tomatoes – One recipe, Three dishes

Saturday morning was nice and lazy, just how I like it (but rarely have it).  Wife and I bailed on a planned hike and decided to go swimming instead–but not until after we got in some serious veg time on the couch.  Veg time for us often means watching the Food Network, and this time we got sucked into a show we normally can’t stand – The Barefoot Contessa.  There’s something that irks me about Ina Garten, but one of her recipes just jumped out at us as the perfect vegan pot luck dish for Sunday’s party.  Here is Wife’s take on Ina’s recipe (thanks for cooking, honey!), along with a couple of fun ways we used the leftovers:

Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

4 pints cherry tomatoes – fresh from the farmer’s market

2 T olive oil

Good herbed salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1/2 cup chopped/sliced fresh basil

1. Preheat oven to 400.

2. Toss tomatoes and olive oil and spread on a baking sheet.  Add liberal amounts of salt and pepper.

3. Roast for 10-15 minutes, or until tomatoes are soft.  Try to catch them before they completely collapse, but it’s ok if you don’t.  They’re still yummy, just a bit mushier.

4. Spoon into a bowl, including as much of the oil/juice as you’d like.  (If you’re going to turn leftovers into a sauce later, you can reserve the juices separately for a day or two.)  Top with the fresh basil.  Serve hot, at room temp, or as a cold salad.  I liked it best cold!

Options:

Roasted tomato brushetta – chill the tomatoes, then use as a chunky topping for crostini.

Pizza – something about this flavor reminded us of really fresh pizza sauce, so try mashing the tomatoes and spreading on a pizza crust with your favorite toppings.

Tomatoes – use where you’d use fresh or canned tomatoes and appreciate the extra flavor!