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).
Julie 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.
– Zucchini, 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.
– Skillet 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
[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.
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.
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.
[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.
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!