Vegan Spaghetti and Meatballs Casserole

IMG_3000     I adapted this Vegan Spaghetti and Meatballs Casserole from a recipe on VegWeb.    Under the spaghetti sauce, there’s a layer of cream cheese with green onions and chives, and I added a layer of meatballs in the middle.  This is easy and pretty quick to throw together, and surprisingly delicious.  It makes plenty, so there will be leftovers, or you could serve it for a dinner party, with salad, garlic bread, and maybe a sorbet for dessert.

VEGAN SPAGHETTI AND MEATBALLS CASSEROLE

Serves 6

INGREDIENTS
8 oz. thin spaghetti or capellini pasta
1/2 Cup vegan cream cheese
1/4 Cup vegan sour cream
1/3 Cup chopped scallions (green onions), white and green parts
2 Tablespoons chopped chives
2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast
2 Tablespoons vegan butter (such as Earth Balance)
12 oz. vegan meatballs  (about 16-20 is good)
24 oz. pasta sauce  (from a jar is fine)
1 Tablespoon vegan parmesan, such as Go Veggie brand

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Add 2 teaspoons of salt to a pot of water, break spaghetti in half and start cooking pasta per package directions.

With a fork, mix vegan cream cheese, sour cream, scallions and chives in a bowl.
When pasta is cooked to al dente, scoop out 1/3 Cup of pasta water and set it aside.  Remove from heat and strain pasta.  Into the empty, still-warm pot, put the butter, nutritional yeast and the 1/3 Cup reserved pasta water.  Add strained pasta back to the pot and with a wooden spoon, mix until pasta is thoroughly coated.

Add half the pasta to the casserole dish and level it somewhat.  Place the vegan meatballs on top of this bottom layer of pasta.  Add the rest of the pasta on top of the meatballs.   Add dollops of the cream-cheese mixture to the top and spread gently with the back of a spoon.  Pour the pasta sauce over all.  Sprinkle with a Tablespoon of vegan parmesan cheese.  Bake 20-25 minutes–you should see the edges bubbling.  I bake the first 15 minutes with the lid on, but am not sure if this is necessary.

Notes:  I use an old Corning Ware 3-Liter casserole dish that is about 8″ square by 4″ tall.  This tastes even better the next day, so it’s a good one to make ahead.  I set out the sour cream and cream cheese for 10 minutes so they soften up a bit.  The variations are endless:  you could lean into a more whole-foods, gluten-free version with spaghetti squash instead of pasta.  Or instead of meatballs, mix chopped walnuts into the tomato sauce, to mimic ground beef and add protein and omegas.  During that summer glut of garden tomatoes, fold some in.  Or mix some chopped spinach into the cream-cheese and scallion mixture, etc.  Buon appetito!

Spanakopita

IMG_3024     I had some leftover Almond Feta, so decided to make vegan Spanakopita.  Here’s a quick Greek spinach pie that’s great for any occasion, even on a special holiday like Easter.  Spanakopita is often made of phyllo dough folded into triangles (think of folding a flag), but here I’ve used Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Sheets to make a simple casserole (photo below) that saves a lot of time.  Often made with eggs, feta and ricotta cheeses, and lots of olive oil, this is a lighter, cleaner dish that still has that savory decadence.  To make it even easier, we’ve used frozen organic spinach, but I did use fresh dill for the sake of authentic flavor.

SPANAKOPITA OR GREEK SPINACH PIE

Makes 8 pieces

INGREDIENTS
1 box Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Sheets,  thawed but cold
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced fine
1 clove garlic, pressed, or smashed and chopped
16 oz. frozen organic spinach, thawed, and drained
1/2 Cup fresh parsley, chopped, stems removed
2 Tablespoons fresh dill, chopped, stems removed

1 Cup Almond Feta
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, ground or grated
Ener-G Egg Replacer to equal one egg
1 teaspoon mild white miso  (optional)
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.   Lightly oil a 9×13 inch baking pan and put it in the fridge.   Remove puff pastry sheets from the box, and set to thaw on the counter. Squeeze spinach in colander until pretty dry, then press it with the back of a spoon to get any last water out.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.   Saute onion until soft, adding the garlic in toward the end.   To the onions, add spinach, parsley and dill, and stir to combine and heat.   Remove spinach mixture from heat and set aside.

Place almond feta in a small mixing bowl, and add salt, pepper, nutmeg, egg replacer, white miso and flour, and stir until well mixed.   Fold almond feta mixture into the spinach mixture until well combined.

Unfold one puff pastry sheet, and cut and piece it to fit the bottom of the baking dish, gently pinching together any seams.  Spread the spinach/feta mixture on top of the pastry sheet.   Cut and piece the second pastry sheet and place over the top of the spinach mixture.   With a sharp knife, score portions into the casserole (for ease of cutting later).   Bake about 25-30 minutes, until puffy pastry is cooked through and golden and puffy all over.  The corner pieces might puff first, so make sure the center pieces are puffy as well.

Notes:  You can remove the box of puff pastry sheets from the freezer and put into the fridge a few hours ahead.  The mild white miso just adds a touch of umami, it’s not vital.

If you want to, you could make your own vegan phyllo dough, and some other brands of phyllo dough are supposedly vegan, such as Athens brand.  I wrote an email to the Athens company and received this prompt reply:  Amanda, Thank you for your interest in phyllo dough and our products. Yes our phyllo dough and mini phyllo shells are vegan.  Sincerely,  A.J. Shepler,  R&D Chef,  Athens Foods,  13600 Snow Road,  Brook Park, OH 44142.  216-676-8500 ext. 338.

IMG_3021

Vegan Chicken Divan

When I was a kid, my Mom used to make Chicken Divan on special occasions.  Here we have a vegan version in the classic style that’s easy to make if you have all your ingredients prepped.  You can use whatever type of vegan meat you like, but I used the vegan Chicken Cutlets I posted recently.  Gardein cutlets, or homemade seitan should work well too.  This is a casserole you can make and carry to someones house to cook also.  You could even make it ahead and leave it in the fridge for a few hours until you’re ready to throw it in the oven.
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Vegan Chicken Divan

Serves 4-6

INGREDIENTS
10 oz. bag organic broccoli florets, cooked and drained
     or cooked florets from 1 large stalk of broccoli
1/4 Cup Earth Balance Buttery Sticks
1/4 Cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
2 Cups vegetable broth  (I used Better Than Bouillon)
1/4 Cup sherry or white wine  (sherry is traditional)
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 Cup unflavored soy cream  (or soy milk)
2 Tablespoons Nutritional Yeast
2 Tablespoons vegan mayonnaise (I like Vegenaise)
Vegan chicken cutlets, or seitan, or whatever.   I used hydrated Healthy Eating Chiken Cutlets.

2/3 Cup Panko and/or vegan corn flake crumbs (I used 50% of each because I had them on hand)
2 Tablespoons Earth Balance Buttery Sticks
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Use cooking spray on a 9×13 inch casserole dish.
Spread cooked broccoli florets on the bottom of the baking dish.
Dry whisk together flour and pepper.
In a heavy pot, melt vegan butter over medium heat.
Add flour mixture and stir to combine.
Add vegetable broth and stir with a wire whisk until no lumps remain.
Continue stirring until mixture is thick and bubbly.
Remove from heat and whisk in soy milk or soy cream, sherry or wine, lemon juice, Nutritional Yeast and vegan mayonnaise.
Place vegan meat evenly on top of broccoli.
Pour sauce evenly over casserole.

Melt 2 Tablespoons of vegan butter, add salt and Panko and/or Cornflake crumbs, stir very well, and then scatter these buttered crumbs evenly over the casserole.
Dust with paprika if desired.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes.

Notes:  If you want to bulk this up, you can serve it over brown rice or quinoa.  Kellogg’s Corn Flakes are not vegan or even vegetarian, so if you want to use corn flake crumbs, try Erewhon brand.  You could add a little vegan cheese to the casserole if you want to, but I haven’t tried that.  Next time I’ll add a a sprinkle of paprika for a bit more color.  I’m thinking hydrated Butler Soy Curls would also work great here.

Vegan Pot Pie

In my misspent youth, I ate my share of frozen chicken pot pies–those scalding, gluey things that one eats because of hunger for some hot comfort food.  These vegan potpies are a big step up from that.  Adapted from this recipe on VegWeb, I was surprised at how quickly this filling came together.  We enjoyed it, and it makes enough filling to freeze some for a rainy day. I used my own pate brisee pie crust, but you could also use puff pastry for the top, just check the label on the box because some are not vegan.  You can add in faux meats, such as Butler Soy Curls or Beyond Chicken for those who want it, but I would cut them into smaller pieces.  To save time, make your pie crust in the morning or the day before, or pull a prepared one from the freezer the night before.  The pate brisee can be made in 15 minutes and then popped in the freezer, in two single crusts for times like this.  If you roll one single crust out to 1/8 inch thickness, it should make enough crust to cover three individual pot pies.

VEGETABLE POT PIE

Serves: about six pot pies (each single pie crust will cover 3 individual pot pies)

INGREDIENTS
3 tablespoons vegan butter (Earth Balance)
1 large onion diced fine
1 medium carrot diced fine
2 celery stalks sliced fine the short way
A handful of white mushrooms, washed and sliced
1 russet potato, diced fine (like ¼ inch dice)
½ Cup flour
2.5 cups vegetable stock
2 tablespoons Nutritional Yeast flakes (not brewer’s yeast)
1 cup soy creamer (such as Silk brand)
¾ cup peas
One mini can of corn (approx. 8 ounces)
1/4 cup sherry
3 Tablespoons fresh parsley
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper or black pepper
1 teaspoon vegan Worcestershire Sauce
faux meat (optional)
One single pate brisee pie crust, or one 17 oz. box of vegan puff pastry (many are accidentally vegan)

DIRECTIONS
Make pate brisee dough and let it rest for at least an hour (or overnight) in the fridge (or pull from freezer the night before).  Put your rolling pin(s) in the freezer.    Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large pot, melt vegan butter (Earth Balance).    Add onions, carrots, celery, potato and mushrooms, and cook on medium heat until soft, about 10 minutes.
Measure out flour and nutritional yeast into a cereal bowl, and add ½ cup of the vegetable stock to it and stir to make a smooth slurry.   To the pot, add the rest of the stock, vegan creamer and sherry or juice, and simmer for 10 more minutes.
To the pot, add Add parsley, thyme, salt, pepper and Worcestershire.
Add flour slurry and cook and stir for a few minutes until mixture thickens.
If adding vegan meat, do it now.    Stir in corn and peas, and gently stir.
Turn off the stove burner.

If using puff pastry, see notes at bottom.
Roll out the dough as per directions. Roll out and cut dough slightly larger than the shape of your pan(s).  For example, if  using round ramekins, cut the circles at least ½ inch larger than the top of your ramekin.  I flipped my ramekins upside down onto the rolled-out dough, and cut loosely around them with a butter knife, and then used a spatula to lift the circles.    Fill ramekins to 3/4 inch from top, or put filling in a casserole dish. (The original recipe calls for a 9×13 inch pan).   Place, fold and crimp the dough/crust edges.   Vent the crust with a decorative design or some simple slits of a knife.   PLACE CASSEROLE OR RAMEKINS ON A BAKING SHEET, AS THEY WILL DRIP.   Bake 30-35 minutes, until crust begins to get golden with some slightly-brown edges here and there.

Note: If using puff pastry, place the puff pastry on top of the filling, brush some melted butter over it, and cut a few slits to vent.  If the puff pastry is browning too fast, cover it with some foil until cooking time is done.

Vegan Shepherds Pie

This delicious Vegan Shepherds Pie is traditional comfort food.  I went to my old Joy of Cooking and it said to add the Worcestershire and also “1 cup of leftover gravy.”  I feel the gravy, while it does enhance the dish, is not critical, so no worries.  I’d say by the time you make the casserole and wash the dishes,  you’ll have at least an hour in the kitchen.  I’ve made this with Boca Crumbles, Beyond Beef Crumbles and Yves Meatless Ground, and all of them worked well.  I also make this in individual casseroles for special occasions, as shown above.

VEGAN SHEPHERDS PIE

Serves: about 6

INGREDIENTS
3 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
1/4 Cup vegan mayonnaise  (I like Reduced Fat Vegenaise with the yellow lid)
1/3 Cup soy milk  (I like WestSoy Organic Unsweetened)
3 Tablespoons vegan cream cheese   (substitute vegan sour cream if necessary).
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

1 tablespoon Earth Balance vegan butter (I like the organic one)
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 carrot diced fine
2 stalks celery diced fine
6 mushrooms chopped (optional)
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
2 teaspoons vegan Worcestershire (I like Wizard’s brand)
2 cloves garlic pressed or chopped
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
12 oz. bag of Beyond Beef Beefy Crumble, or  Boca Meatless Ground Crumbles, or Yves Meatless Ground, etc.
Optional: 1 Cup of leftover gravy is nice to add in, but only if you have it hanging around in the fridge or freezer.

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Fill large pot with cold water and 1 tablespoon of salt.   Place peeled and diced potatoes into the pot of cold salt water. Bring to a boil and then turn heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 minutes until potatoes are tender. Drain.   Place drained potatoes back in empty pot and add mayonnaise, soy milk, cream cheese and sea salt. Mash or whip until creamy and smooth. Set aside.

Heat vegan butter in a large skillet over medium heat, and add in the onion, carrot, celery, and (optional) mushrooms. Heat until softened, about 15 minutes.   Turn heat down one click.  To vegetables, add tomato paste, Worcestershire, garlic, pepper and salt.  If you have it, add the optional gravy here.   Cook at least 3 more minutes, stirring occasionally.   Add in the meatless ground, and stir to mix well.   Cook three more minutes and add a bit of water or broth if the mixture looks at all dry (1/4 Cup or so, if needed).

Spray a 3-litre casserole dish with cooking oil.  Pour Boca/vegetable mixture into the casserole dish and spread mashed potatoes on top.  Spray top of potatoes with cooking oil and then dust with paprika.   Bake uncovered for 30 minutes until edges are bubbling.  Serve hot.

Vegan Meatloaf – Hilo Style

IMG_3045     I adapted this delicious vegan meatloaf from my Auntie Pat’s Hawaiian-style recipe.  I also added in my Mom’s favorite–a surprise layer of green olives in the center.  A nice feature of this recipe is that the tomato soup makes a built-in gravy.  I serve it with my own simple, twice-baked stuffed potatoes.  A salad is nice too, but there are already plenty of carrots and onions hidden inside this decadent meatloaf.  This dish is perfect for picky eaters who want real comfort food.

Vegan Meatloaf – Hilo Style

Serves 6 to 8

INGREDIENTS
1 pkg. Gimme Lean, Ground Beef Style
Ener-G egg replacer to equal one egg
2 heaping Tablespoon Vegenaise mayonnaise
1 rounded Tablespoon Hoisin sauce
2 cloves garlic, crushed or pressed
3 Tablespoons catsup (ketchup)
1 onion, finely chopped
1 cup finely-grated carrots (about three carrots)  (I use a food processor)
2 slices sandwich bread, soaked quickly in water and lightly squeezed, then torn apart.  (or, instead of bread, use 1/4 Cup rolled oats plus 2 Tablespoons golden flax meal)
2 Tablespoons Lipton Onion Soup mix, dry  (plus a little more to sprinkle on top)

1 can tomato soup  (I used Health Valley brand, low-sodium)
Optional: 5-10 green olives, thinly sliced
Optional: 5 or 10 sliced fresh mushrooms, to taste

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.   Set aside tomato soup, olives and mushrooms.   With an electric mixer, mix well the rest of the ingredients.
Pour ½ of the can of tomato soup on bottom of loaf pan.
Put half of the loaf mixture in pans and press with back of spoon.
Optional: scatter sliced olives and/or mushrooms on top of this bottom layer of loaf.
Put the 2nd half of the loaf mixture in the pan.   Pour rest of soup on top.
Optional:  Scatter a few sliced fresh mushrooms on top (I do).
Scatter some remaining dried onion bits from soup mix packet on top, trying not to put  the powdered salty part of the mix on.  Cover tightly with tin foil to avoid leakage.  Place loaf pan on baking sheet and bake 1 hour or more, until bubbling at edges.  It might take one hour and 15 minutes, especially if chilled.

  Bottom layer topped with olives.

Notes:  If you don’t have the Lipton Onion Soup Mix, add some dried minced onions and a sprinkle of salt on top instead.  Another thing you can do, if you’re cooking for two, or you want to freeze some or give some away, is use four of those mini quick-bread foil pans that you buy at the grocery store.  Usually, you can buy them in a pack of five (each pan is approx. 5.63″ length by 3.19″ width by 1.95″ depth).

Trader Joe’s Mildly Spiced Vegetable Burritos

Back from a trip to NH, and weary from traveling.  So, a quick dinner was necessary for tonight.  These burritos looked a little plain, so I dressed them up with some La Victoria Enchilada Sauce (canned), and an onion.  You can find this enchilada sauce in many grocery stores.  Just put the burritos in a baking pan, sprinkle on half a chopped onion,  pour the can of enchilada sauce over all and bake uncovered for about 40-45 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  You could sprinkle on some Daiya cheese before baking,  or serve withTofutti Sour Cream, but I forgot to.  I served these with sliced avocado and some red beans and rice.  Really fast to put together, and inexpensive, and good to boot!  Plenty of protein too.  Trader Joe’s has an online list of their vegan products, but their web site does not seem to showcase hardly any of their individual items.  See photo of hot dish below.

Macaroni and Cheese

For some, a good vegan mac and cheese is like the Holy Grail.  Maybe it’s because cheese is the hardest thing for many people to give up.  Not surprising, since cheese has opiates in it that are designed to bring the baby calf back to the mama cow.  Yes, the milk in cheese is for baby cows, not humans.  Nowadays, some recovering opiate addicts are even advised not to eat cheese and other dairy.  When VegNews magazine claimed they had the best mac ‘n’ cheese on the planet, I cut out the recipe.  However, i also had a  recipe from the little cookbook Skinny Bitch in The Kitch, called “Macaroni and Four Cheeses.”  So, I wavered between the two recipes, wondering which one to try.  The recommendation on the Skinny B. recipe was very strong, but I won’t quote it here.  And looking at the ingredients, I could tell it was kind of a brilliant recipe, because they use frozen butternut squash puree to help give that neon orange glow we all used to know and love (admit it).  Now, i don’t have four different vegan cheeses in my cupboard, and this recipe made way too much, so I made just a few minor changes, and DANG it’s good.  And the best part is that it was even better the next day!  I think we’ve all reheated the gloppy, congealed mess that is leftover Macaroni and Cheese.  Looking at it is a metaphor for what it does to your arteries, not to mention all the animals that suffer horribly so we can have a bit of gunk. If you haven’t read the best seller Skinny Bitch, then you need to, because  IT  WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE!  Don’t let the title put you off, it’s deceptive.  This is actually a deep and serious book cloaked in a somewhat-offensive kitschy title.  There’s also a male version of this powerful little book.  I halved the recipe (but not the topping) and changed some other amounts too.

VEGAN MAC AND CHEESE

Serves 6-8 (depending upon if you’re serving women and girls, or men and boys)

INGREDIENTS
1 T fine sea salt, plus 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 pound whole wheat or brown rice elbow macaroni
1 10 oz. pkg. organic frozen butternut squash puree, such as Cascadian Farms
1 C soy or rice milk  (I use the 8 oz. boxes for cooking)
3 oz. Daiya Cheddar Style Shreds (approx. 3/4 Cup)
2 oz. (about 1/4 C) vegan cream cheese
3/4 tsp powdered mustard
1/16th tsp cayenne powder

TOPPING
1/4 C whole wheat bread crumbs  (equal to one slice Ezekiel bread)
2 Tbsp vegan parmesan cheese, such as Go Veggie brand (optional)  (could substitute Nutritional Yeast here)
1 Tbsp oil, such as safflower or canola

DIRECTIONS
Pulse and grind 2 slices of healthy bread to fine crumbs.    Preheat oven to 375 F.  Grease or spray a casserole dish (1.5 to 2 qt. size).    Add 1 T salt to a pot of water and cook pasta according to directions,  drain and set aside.

In a medium-sized saucepan, over medium heat, combine frozen squash puree and milk, stirring until squash is defrosted.    Bring squash and milk mixture to a simmer, stirring occasionally.    Remove squash mixture from heat, whisk in vegan cheeses, spices and the remaining 1/2 tsp salt, until smooth.

Return drained pasta to its pot,  and stir cheese sauce into macaroni.    Transfer macaroni/cheese mixture into buttered casserole dish.    In a cereal bowl, combine bread crumbs, parmesan and 1 Tbsp oil.    Sprinkle bread crumb topping over top of macaroni and cheese.    Place casserole dish on a baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes.    Then broil for 2-3 minutes until top is nicely browned.  Don’t walk away here, don’t burn it.

Eat and have flashbacks from your childhood, only better.  I like to chop up some garden tomatoes and sprinkle them with a teensy bit of fine sea salt.  Top with hot mac and cheese.  The next day, you can reheat the casserole dish in a 300 degree oven for 30 minutes.