Vegan Casseroles Cookbook Review and Giveaway, Plus Creamy Spinach Florentine, Almost Alfredo Sauce and Bumbleberry Cobbler Recipes!

Hi Vegan Runner Eats readers! Today I am excited to bring to your attention a wonderful new cookbook by Julie Hasson called Vegan Casseroles. I’ve been cooking up a storm using recipes from this book for about a month now, and today I’m going to share my experience with you. Don’t miss the giveaway part at the bottom of this post – Julie and her publisher kindly agreed to mail out a copy of Vegan Casseroles to one lucky reader of my blog (US or Canada only).

Review and Giveaway of Vegan Casseroles by Julie HassonJulie Hasson has published a number of vegan cookbooks over the years, including Vegan Pizza: 50 Cheesy, Crispy, Healthy Recipes, Vegan Diner: Classic Comfort Food for the Body and Soul, The Complete Book of Pies: 200 Recipes from Sweet to Savory. With her interest in developing delicious vegan comfort food recipes, it was only logical that she eventually decided to put together a book devoted entirely to casseroles. Traditional casseroles often get a bad rap for being loaded with butter, cheese, cholesterol and everything we would never consider healthy, so Julie’s move to veganize the casseroles most of us have known since childhood was pure genius!

I first heard about this book from a few vegan blogs I follow. Somer from VedgedOut.com wrote a review that made me drool for hours, and shared a couple recipes that I knew I had to make ASAP (you can see her review over here). I went on to make the Bumbleberry Cobbler (p. 153 in the book, plus I’m sharing this recipe below) that weekend, and Rob and I were absolutely stunned by how good it came out! Rob said that it tasted just like a dessert you’d get at a fancy bakery, as opposed to homemade baked goods that sometimes can be hit or miss.

Just after Christmas, Julie and her publisher graciously sent me a copy of Vegan Casseroles to review, so I went to do my work. I was immediately impressed with the extensive chapter devoted to sauces, toppings and other basic casserole ingredients like cream of mushroom soup, nacho cheesy sauce, a variety of gravies (including the Savory Gravy , a.k.a. Crack Gravy from page 171 that was wildly popular with other bloggers), crispy fried onions, salsa fresca, flaky pie dough, etc. These basics were a huge help in making a lot of dishes from the book, but not every casserole recipe calls for them.  The absolute majority of the dishes can be made gluten-free, but please note that not all of the recipes are oil- or added fat-free.

Here are a few recipes from the book that I’ve tried so far:

Aloo Gobi (p. 36 in the book) – a lovely Indian dish with cauliflower, potatoes, tomatoes and onions, fragrantly spiced with cumin, turmeric and garam masala. I’ve made a version of aloo gobi before (and ate it countless times at restaurants), but this was probably our favorite.

EnchiladasZucchini, Corn, and Black Bean Enchiladas (p. 137), pictured above – this casserole turned out just magical! I’ve never used corn tortillas to make enchiladas before, and was discouraged at first as they started breaking when I was filling each one with the veggie and quinoa stuffing. However, once I topped the casserole with Julie’s Everyday Enchilada Sauce (p. 183) and baked it for about half an hour (less than the recipe calls for), the dish came out just perfect. We didn’t even notice the halfway broken tortillas.

Layered Polenta and Mushrooms (p.71) – this combination of pasta sauce, polenta rounds and a simple mushroom filling impressed us not only with its hearty flavor, but also with how easy it was to make! Polenta hasn’t been a staple in our kitchen before, but since discovering this recipe we’ve bought it a couple times.

Jambalaya (p.40) – I’ve had a different go-to jambalaya recipe before, but that one took a while to make. Julie’s version came together in well under an hour, and was absolutely delicious! I added some Mexican Chipotle Field Roast sausage to up the smoky and spicy flavors, and the dish turned out really well.

ChilaquilesSkillet Chilaquiles (p.38), pictured above – I’ve never had chilaquiles before, so I didn’t have a base for comparison with this dish. However, I found this recipe quite simple even though I needed to make Julie’s Everyday Enchilada Sauce first (that one comes together in a pinch). I think next time I would bake it in the oven a little longer as opposed to just broiling for 5 minutes. Then again, maybe chilaquiles isn’t (aren’t?) supposed to be baked until it’s solid?

If your stomach is growling as you’re reading this post, I’ve got something great just for you – Julie and her publisher agreed to let me share three recipes from Vegan Casseroles, so you can experience the deliciousness ASAP!

The Creamy Spinach Florentine was hands-down one of my favorite recipes from the book. The easy Almost Alfredo sauce turned this dish into creamy, dreamy, silky smooth deliciousness. I get a strong feeling that you can make this dish omitting the baking part – just toss the pasta with the sauce and go for it! – and using fresh chopped spinach instead of frozen if you’re not baking it.

The photo credit for the beautiful pictures below goes to Felicia Perretti.

Creamy Spinach Florentine recipe from Vegan Casseroles cookbookReprinted with permission from VEGAN CASSEROLES © 2014 by Julie Hasson, Running Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group.

Creamy Spinach Florentine

[Note from Julie:] Ever since I was a child, I have adored creamed spinach. This casserole totally reminds me of the stuffed spinach crèpes I would order as a teenager at this little crèpe restaurant near our house. I could never get enough of them. This casserole doesn’t disappoint, with a luscious creamy sauce, spinach, and some dry sherry thrown in for good measure.

Serves 4

8 ounces dried shell pasta or macaroni
1 (10-ounce) bag frozen spinach, thawed
1 recipe Almost Alfredo Sauce (see below)
3 to 4 tablespoons dry sherry, depending how strong of a sherry taste you like
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
1 teaspoon granulated onion
3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease an 8-inch square glass or ceramic baking dish.

In a large pot of lightly salted boiling water, add the pasta and cook according to package directions until al dente. Don’t overcook the pasta, especially if you’re using one that is gluten-free. Drain the pasta well and transfer to a large bowl.

Drain most of the liquid out of the spinach by gently squeezing it, but don’t squeeze it completely dry. Add the spinach to the pasta, along with the sauce, mixing until the pasta is thickly coated. Add the sherry, Dijon mustard, nutritional yeast, granulated onion, and nutmeg, stirring well. Add salt and pepper, and adjust seasonings to taste. Scoop the pasta mixture into the prepared baking dish. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until hot and slightly bubbly around the edges. Remove from the oven and serve.

Gluten-Free: Use gluten-free oat flour in the sauce and gluten-free pasta (my favorite here is brown rice macaroni).

Almost Alfredo Sauce

[Note from Julie:] Although this isn’t exactly a true alfredo sauce with loads of cream and butter, it is an all-purpose creamy white sauce, which works really well in so many recipes. There are a number of variations for it, from adding truffle oil to white wine. It’s so versatile, that it may just become your new secret sauce.

Makes about 3 cups

21/2 cups plain unsweetened soymilk [Note from Alina: I used almond milk successfully]
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup raw unsalted cashews, soaked for at least 2 hours and drained
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
3 tablespoons oat flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
11/4 teaspoons fine sea salt, or more to taste
1 teaspoon granulated onion

In the jar of a blender, combine the soymilk, water, cashews, nutritional yeast, oat flour, cornstarch, salt, and granulated onion. Blend the mixture at high speed until completely smooth and no bits of nuts remain. If you don’t have a big blender, blend the mixture in two batches.

Transfer the mixture to a large saucepan and place over medium-high heat. Bring the sauce to a simmer, whisking continuously. Once the mixture comes to a simmer, reduce the heat slightly and cook, whisking continuously until thickened, about 5 to 10 minutes.

Tip: Use a good-tasting unsweetened soymilk for this sauce, as the flavor really comes through. If you’re using a high-speed blender, you can skip the soaking step for the cashews and just use them dry. Add a little extra water to blend if needed.

Variations:
To make a truffle sauce, to the blender jar add 1 to 3 tablespoons truffle oil to taste and reduce the granulated onion to 1/2 teaspoon. Add a few sprinkles of freshly grated nutmeg.

To make a white wine sauce, replace 3/4 cup of soymilk with an equal amount of white wine.

To make this sauce lower in fat, reduce the cashews to 1/3 cup.

Gluten-Free: Use gluten-free oat flour.

Bumbleberry Cobbler recipe from Vegan CasserolesBumbleberry Cobbler

[Note from Julie:] In my book, you can never have enough berry dessert recipes. Ever! This is another perfect berry dessert to add to your dessert rotation, no matter the season. One of the coolest things about this cobbler is that even though the berries go on the top, the batter below bakes up into a cake-like topping over them. I adapted this recipe from my pie book, The Complete Book of Pies.

Serves 4 to 6

4 cups (1 pound) fresh or frozen mixed berries, such as blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries (unthawed if frozen)
1 cup granulated sugar, divided
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup plain unsweetened soymilk or other nondairy milk
1/3 cup nonhydrogenated vegan margarine or coconut oil, melted
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 11 x 7-inch glass or ceramic baking dish.

In a medium bowl, toss the berries with 1/4 cup of the sugar.

In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and remaining 3/4 cup sugar. Add the soymilk, melted margarine, and vanilla, whisking to combine.

Scrape the batter into the prepared baking dish. Scoop the berries evenly on top of the batter (don’t stir, as the batter will rise to the top as it bakes).

Bake for about 65 to 70 minutes, or until the top crust is nicely browned and looks cooked through and the berries have formed a thick sauce. If it looks like there are a few spots where the batter isn’t cooked all the way through, which you can confirm by lightly touching the spots with your finger, continue baking for another 5 to 10 minutes, or until fully cooked through. Let the cobbler cool on a rack for 15 minutes before serving.

Gluten-Free: Substitute a mix of 1/2 cup sorghum flour, 1/4 cup superfine brown rice flour, 1/4 cup potato starch, and 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum for the all-purpose flour.

And now, it’s time for the giveaway! Julie Hasson and her publisher kindly agreed to mail a copy of Vegan Casseroles to one lucky reader of Vegan Runner Eats.

Giveaway rules:

1. The giveaway starts today, January 28th, and will end next Wednesday, February 4th, 2015, at 11:59 pm PST.

2. To participate, you must be at least 18 years old, and RESIDE IN THE US OR CANADA.

3. Once the giveaway is over, you’ll receive an email from me asking for your address, which will be passed on to Julie’s publisher to mail you a copy of the book.

Disclaimer 1: I was not paid or compensated to write this review and run the giveaway. I received one free copy of Vegan Casseroles for a review and personal use. All opinions expressed are my own.

Disclaimer 2: This post contains affiliate links to Amazon.com. If you make a purchase through affiliate links on my blog, I receive a very small commission that helps me run this blog, at no extra cost to you. Thank you for your support!

About Alina

Alina first made a switch to a vegan diet in 2013 to optimize her athletic performance as a marathon runner. Being vegan eventually opened her eyes on the issues of animal welfare, environmental protection, human rights and feminism. Alina hopes that her blog will help its readers on their path to making this world a better place.
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52 Responses to Vegan Casseroles Cookbook Review and Giveaway, Plus Creamy Spinach Florentine, Almost Alfredo Sauce and Bumbleberry Cobbler Recipes!

  1. Nicollette D says:

    I’m drooling at work right now over this post. Is 9:30 a.m. too early for casserole? I can’t wait to try the Cobbler.

  2. Kristina says:

    I love hummus with pita chips or spicy roasted chickpeas

  3. Holly E says:

    I love raw food snack bars, like Dale’s Raw Foods Protein Bars.

  4. Shari says:

    Fruit is my favorite snack!

  5. Heather P says:

    Wow, the recipes listed above sound amazing, I can only imagine what the rest of the book is like. I am new to the vegan world, do this would be awesome to own.

  6. April says:

    My husband sent this to me and I can’t believe he was interested in casseroles! I’m going vegan in January … sounds like I’ve got some great new things to try!

  7. Nadege says:

    It looks like a lovely cookbook to add to my collection, particularly since it is fat free. I have one question Alina. On the John McDougall FB group, someone posted about nutritional yeast and to be sure it is non GMO (organic). I am not sure if there is a difference between powder yeast or flakes. Any ideas?

    • Alina says:

      Nadege, I stand corrected – the recipes in Julie’s book are not always fat- or oil-free. They can be a good choice when you’re in the mood to indulge though. As for nutritional yeast, I don’t think there’s a connection between powdered version or flakes and GMOs. Both versions may come from the same source, just processed differently. I use flakes because that’s what I usually find in stores.

  8. Martha says:

    I really need this cookbook. My family still resists my plant based cooking. This cookbook looks like the tool I need to get them on board.

    • Alina says:

      Martha, I’m positive your family would love these recipes because they are so decadent! I’ve decided to use this book whenever I’ll be having non-vegans over for dinner.

  9. amyhaha says:

    I’ve been trying to find some easy-to-reheat casseroles for once a week cooking…hooray!

    • rita says:

      Vegan casseroles are my favorite home cooking. And they are omnivore friendly for those family gatherings. This book would definitely get unused in my house!

  10. Sandy says:

    It sounds like a great book. I wonder if there is a substitute for nutritional yeast which I dislike. Maybe I can just omit it from the recipes. I look forward to making the berry cobbler. However, I would probably substitute banana or applesauce for the margerine. I am strictly a no added fat woman! I look forward to your blog and recipes.

    • Alina says:

      Sandy, you can experiment with adding a little bit of Dijon mustard to the sauce to taste instead of nutritional yeast, but no more than 1 tsp at a time, plus use a little more granulated onion than the recipe calls for. Also, light miso paste may work in achieving that deep, ‘umami’ flavor in the absence of nutritional yeast. I haven’t made these substitutions, but if you try this method, please let me know!

  11. I love to make casseroles and it looks like this cookbook has lots of new ones to try!

  12. Katie says:

    My favourite comfort food is bananas mashed with milk and a bit of sugar

  13. Tracy P says:

    I remember a creamy casserole called Broccoli Divan that my mother made. A vegan version would be lovely.

  14. Claire T says:

    enchiladas!

  15. Becca F says:

    I love chili. It’s such a great comfort food for me.

  16. Michelle says:

    My favorite comfort food is enchiladas.

  17. Karen says:

    I am ways on the lookout for a new shepherds pie recipe to try.

  18. Cassie A. says:

    I love absolutely anything with spinach, so I am definitely biased toward the spinach florentine. I love cobbler, too….but then again, who doesn’t!?

  19. Marisa says:

    These recipes sound amazing!

  20. Becky says:

    I’m second in line for this book at the library, but I predict I’ll want to buy a copy for keeps. Pre-vegan my favorite comfort food was probably meatloaf. Now it’s the Sexy Vegan’s lasagna fauxlognese (which I apparently don’t know how to spell).

    • Alina says:

      Oooh I love lasagna! And it’s great that there are so many amazing vegan lasagna recipes out there while the traditional non-vegan lasagnas are all made the same way.

  21. Karen says:

    Shepard’s pie!

  22. Jennifer Judd says:

    OMG! I would so love this cookbook! All the recipes sound and look delicious!

  23. wendy says:

    i make up a huge vat of very chunky veggie soup on the weekends that takes us through the week!

  24. Lydia Claire says:

    One that is creamy! With rice or pasta.

  25. Kim says:

    I would love to own this cookbook. I do not have enough recipes for vegan comfort food.

  26. Joan says:

    Hi, I need all the help I can get. I need something a 17 year old boy would at least try.

  27. Laura Podrasky says:

    My mom just bought this book! I’d love a copy!

  28. Lindsay B-P says:

    Mac (vegan) and cheese! Something so comforting about it!

  29. Fawn says:

    I love casseroles! My fave is Isa’s Pot Pie Stew (AFR).

  30. Corrine says:

    Mac and cheese is definitely a favorite comfort food! Vegan of course.

  31. I entered to win Vegan Casseroles. My favorite casserole would have to be a vegan lasagna.
    Deborah Davis recently posted…Meatless Monday: Collard Greens & Shiitake Mushrooms with Brown Rice Quinoa PilafMy Profile

  32. Racine says:

    I just added this book to my wishlist after paging through it at the library; everything looks amazing! My favorite comfort food is a creamy baked pasta with greens, so that Creamy Spinach Florentine is definitely going on my ‘to make’ list!
    Racine recently posted…Bowl of the Week! And my weekly Workout Schedule!My Profile

  33. Anna says:

    Oh my gosh, I know what I’m making for dinner tonight. Italian food is hands down my comfort food, so that Creamy Spinach Florentine is just perfect haha.

  34. Monica Schiffer says:

    I haven’t made a casserole since going vegan – unless mac n cheese counts? The book sounds amazing and inspiring!

    • Alina says:

      That’s funny, Monica – when I first went vegan, all I was making was casseroles that I kept finding on Pinterest! I even got bummed for a bit thinking that all vegan food was some sort of a casserole. It was nice to discover that I was wrong! These days I love a good casserole every now and then, glad that Julie’s book has so many amazing ones!

  35. Trish says:

    Made this tonight. Super easy and super yum! Thanks for the great recipe!! Will def be making this again. My non-vegan husband and son loved it too!

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