Totsgiving Plans & Sweet Potato Pie Casserole

Fun fact: Tator Tots have Oregon pride. Photo credit: Legendsrevealed.com

The past few years have seen me making one or two dishes for Thanskgiving day vegan potlucks, where reclaiming the holiday with close friends with similar values and cruelty-free cuisine really does make it one of the better days of the year.

This year, my possible hosting of my baby brother and has turned into a definitive visit (he’s here!) from my now early-twentysomething year old sibling, and paired with the company of a few close friends who decided that spending the holiday together was better than any other affair, well, there’s a warm and fuzzy week unfolding, and one hell of a theme. Surely, my friends are attending thanks to the guaranteed creativity and awesomeness of our theme: Totsgiving. If only it could bring one Panda Cookie to town…..

Our tentative menu is set to feature:

  • tator tot, greens & mushroom stuffed seitan roulade
  • tator tot-topped shepherd’s pie
  • three corn casserole [tots exempt due to tradition]
  • dinner rolls [from Sweetpea, so tots exempt]
  • pumpkin pie [ditto, cause my friend will be coming from work]
  • apple tator tot crisp
  • chorizo tot strudel [I don't know where my friend is going with this one, but I'm freaking intrigued]
  • smokey & spiced cranberry bbq sauce [clearly, for the tots]
  • gravy [ditto]
  • roasted green beans with balsamic & garlic [to mix things up]
  • sweet potato pie casserole [tots exempt due to tradition]
Who needs a mac & cheese & tot casserole when you have this line up?
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Sweet Potato Pie Casserole, circa 2006.

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Now, It’s been a few years since I’ve broken out the most sentimental dish in my holiday repertoire: my mom’s sweet potato pie casserole, and I was nervous my brother wouldn’t really remember, but Rick was smiling and stoked. I’ve been making it and quietly let my tears fall into the sweet filling in her memory since the Thanksgiving after she passed in 2005, but I think it’s likely he hasn’t experienced it since he was oh, 10. It was always my favorite dish, and the smell is pure nostalgia.  The original recipe was cut out of an edition of New York Newsday from the 1980s, faded with time, and called for eggs, milk and heaps of butter. I used to sub in some soy yogurt or cornstarch for the eggy factor, but there’s really no need. What I’m saying is…Earth Balance to the rescue.
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I’ve posted the recipe before in the past, but it’s always a mess (again, I’m probably crying and all that jazz) and it hasn’t been since I relocated this site (and learned how type complete sentences, or so I hope), and follows below.
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Sweet Potato* Pie Casserole
Filling Ingredients:

  • 8 medium sized yams
  • 1/2 cup nondairy milk, such as soy or almond (I’d recommend against coconut, because this is so decadent as is)
  • ½ cup + 2 tablespoons Earth Balance
  • 1/2 cup organic cane juice
  • 1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • pinch of salt
  • optional: 1 tablespoon of maple syrup
  • optional: 1 tablespoon of bourbon
Topping Ingredients:
Note: I’ve been known to double this for extreme sweet potato pie, and always add more pecans.
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/3 cups chopped (but not super crumbled) pecans
  • 3 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1.5 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 4-6 tablespoons of melted earth balance
  • optional: 1 cup of additional whole pecans

Directions:

  1. Wash and peel the yams, boil for 25-30 minutes in a large pot of water and drain once incredibly pierceable with a fork.
  2. Preheat oven to 350F and lightly grease a casserole dish.
  3. Add the nondairy milk, Earth Balance, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and maple syrup or bourbon, if using, and incorporate. Continue mashing if needed and spoon into casserole dish.
  4. Stir the topping ingredients together, and distribute over the casserole. Consider making a design with whole pecans first, and then sprinkling on the sweetened topping.
  5. Bake for 35-45 minutes, until golden. If you notice the nuts browning, carefully lay a piece of foil on top for the remainder of baking.
  6. Spoon & enjoy!
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Double Sweet Potato Pie Casserole, circa 2007. Pre-baked.

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I’ve also been throwing out the idea of adding a vegan version of this cocktail into our plans, however, I’m not a fan of vomit. We’ll stick to canned beer, water, and perhaps, cranberry old-fashioneds.

*Yam, baby, yam. The recipe was printed in New York, okay?

mini pizzas & teese & holiday confessions

I was recently afflicted with the pizza bug. It’s been the coldest and driest November I’ve ever witnessed in Portland, and it usually seems much more rational to use the oven over the heater. You get a warm dinner and a warmer abode. Win Win.

Whole wheat crust (Trader Joe’s), homemade marinara, mozzarella teese, sun-dried tomatoes, cremini mushrooms, jalapeño peppers.

I’m always impressed at how well teese holds up upon re-heating.

Variety time!

Whole wheat crust, roasted orange pepper and white bean spread, steamed greens, strips of more roasted orange pepper, and halved  kalamata olives.

As for my holiday time, pizza making confession, it’s totally not the store-bought dough – it’s the music. The first evening of pizza baking marked the first day of the season I welcomed the easy listening christmas music station back into my life. Every night. I can’t help it. I can be pretty damn humbug, but hear Linda Ronstadt wishing me a Merry Little Christmas and go weak with nostalgia. I start cutting out snowflakes and wishing for the marshmallow winter song and Band Aid to come on next and then start picturing my grandfather singing along with Bing Crosby. I may have even put up a fucking holiday tree under the guise that it’s for a shindig. And quite frankly, if I had wine, and mulled wine went with pizza, it would have been on my stove.

A New Tradition in the Life: Marsala, Sun-dried Tomato & Mozzarella Stuffed Mushrooms

The Story:

Stuffed mushrooms were one of the first dishes I learned to pull off and share with guests as a vegan. Italian background, Italian food, check. I can still remember my mom pulverizering the filling in the food processor, and that flavor, which was nothing like the other foods I ate (admittedly, it was full of parmesan and likely, crab, and I was such a picky eater). My late mother actually developed a severe, yet comical,  allergic reaction to mushrooms at some point, yet still kept making these due to popular demand. Nowadays, I usually make them for potlucks, and there’s nearly always wine (because mushrooms should nearly always be drunk), nuts, and breadcrumbs involved. Very recently, my mushrooms-have-the-consistency-of-eyeballs paranoia returned, as it is does now and then, so there I was, with creminis, yet, not wanting to slice them. Stuffed mushrooms are the least of my squishy mushroom fears, and there I went. You could easily sub red wine, or add roasted garlic, steamed greens, vegan crab, etc.  Stuffed mushrooms = versatile.

The Recipe:

Marsala, Sun-dried Tomato & Mozzarella Stuffed Mushrooms

Ingredients:

  • 20-25 cremini mushrooms, stems separated, and gills scraped (optional)
  • 2 cloves of minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup dry Marsala wine
  • 1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup shredded vegan mozzarella (I used Chicago Soy Dairy Teese)
  • 1-2 tablespoons of chopped sun-dried tomatoes (re-hydrated or oil packed)
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs (I used Dave Killer’s Good Seed)
    • Note: I used 3/4 cup initially, and had too much filling leftover, hence the cut. Not the end of the world if you run a little short or extra!
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • pinch hot paprika
  • pinch nutritional  yeast
  • additional olive oil for spritzing
  • additional wine

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375F and lightly grease a casserole dish large enough to fit the mushrooms, such as an 8×8 or 8×4.
  2. Thoroughly mince the mushroom stems, either with a knife or in a food processor.
  3. Sauté the garlic and mushroom steams over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the wine, stir for 1 minute, and simmer for an additional 5, or  until most of the liquid evaporates.
  4. Add the herbs (excluding the salt & pepper!) and stir for 1 more minute. Remove from heat.
  5. Mix the breadcrumbs, sun-dried tomatoes, salt, pepper and nutritional well in a bowl. Carefully mix in the sautéed mushrooms mixture and vegan mozzarella shreds, and incorporate well.
  6. Using a 1/2 tablespoon, fill each mushroom cap with the mixture, packing tightly. Place the caps into your lightly greased baking pan, spray with olive oil and a couple good dashes of additional wine, and cook for 20 minutes. If you have extra mushroom caps, just save them to slice into a tofu scramble or something.
  7. Increase the heat to 425F, and cook for an additional 10-15 minutes, as needed. Check for browning.
  8. Remove from oven, briefly yet cool, pour some more wine, and serve.

The Photos:

Filling:

Mixed:

Pre-baked:

Roasted:

The End.

A Day in the Life of Leftovers: Yellow Curry and Favorites

Yesterday’s ginger-riffic take out from Just Thai for lunch really hit the spot. The mellow yellow, (had to be said) brothy curry, chewy cubes of fried tofu and cutely ridged vegetables over steamed rice was super decently priced, quickly prepared, and with a drizzle of Srichacha, was just what my still-dulled-from-sickness taste-buds wanted. As you can see, even before I sat down for a single lunch, the leftovers were incredibly generous. I had the second round today, and there’s 2 more to go.

I’ve never been a big fan of leftovers. Growing up, my family rarely ate casseroles. Green bean what? The closest things in my memories were homemade Italian pasta dishes, and being picky, I didn’t eat most of them.  Nowadays, in my trying-to-be-a-grown-up years, busy life, and an always-cheap-at-heart mindset, I’m better behaved. I just like making something new so much! I’m well versed in what restaurants, and more likely, food carts, offer meals that will yield leftovers for at least a day, and I do take my leftovers from home to work. I mean, I have a rule where I HAVE TO LEAVE the building I work in for AT LEAST A WALK on my lunch hour, because I’m sane –  and I’m usually wary of the microwave and the smell of defrosted frozen meals of death – but I return and eat my lunch more often than not.  It’s actually refreshing when a couple of weeks go by and I realize I haven’t spent additional money on lunch.

I’ll admit that I’m just as likely to make dishes for the week with different components that can be assembled, such as noodle or grain bowls. I live alone, and again, don’t love leftovers, but I’m here to talk about casseroles*, not what homemade vermicelli bowl sauces have spilled in my purse.

Here are some of my favorite meals that yield more than a day’s worth of worthwhile leftovers.

Homemade Leftovers to Look Forward To:

  • New Farm-style, Gluten Free Mac and Cheese with Broccoli – will be posting an updated recipe for this tomorrow. Traditional Mac & Cheese was something else I never ate until college, strangely enough.
  • Sweet Potato Pie Casserole - I don’t make this every holiday season anymore, but it’s the essential dish attached to Thanks, Mom.
  • Lasagna. It’s been forever since I’ve made one. Therefore, the next time I’m invited to a social outing, I’m bringing one.
  • Tomato, Rice, Roasted Garlic and Navy Bean Soup from Veganomicon - one of the soups I’ve made the most in the past few years, since the ‘ole testing days.
  • Persian Eggplant Stew – a new one to my repertoire this past year that is just as soul-warming the next day, just like a stew should be.
  • Curry Roasted Vegetables – cube your protein, roast, add chopped vegetables, roast some more, add broth/curry paste/peanut butter/spices, etc., roast a bit more, serve over grains. Tah dah.
  • Tempeh Bacon: not so much of a dish, but the easiest of the baked proteins to just throw into everything: sandwiches, salads, wraps, smokey greens, etc. In most recipes it’s pan-fried, but I tend to bake it now.
  • Stuffed Mushrooms. I make these the most often for potlucks, stuffed with nuts and wine and herbs and goodness and whenever I do, I think, “Why the hell don’t I have these around more often?”
  • Chili: and it’s nearly always a variation of Tempeh Chili Con Frijoles or Seitan Chili Sin Carne Al Mole in my kitchen – even when I start out with another recipe.
  • Basil Fried Rice. Leftover rice? Acquire basil. Add garlic, veggie, sesame oil and pepper. Rice pudding is even easier, but this is my go-to path.
  • Refried Beans. Because with beans, which you really should be cooking on a regular basis anyway, you have the options of tacos, burritos, nachos, dips, beans bowls with sauce, etc.  Again, eat your beanz!

*Speaking of casseroles, the Vegan Iron Chef group in Portland is in the beginning stages of putting together the warmest, more comforting competition ever this winter – The Great Vegan Casserole Off! (a better name is perhaps, in the works)

A Day in the Life: Paradox Memories

Last night, I met my friends for a productive dinner at Paradox Cafe. A few years ago, Paradox seemed to be hands down, the restaurant I visited the most in Portland. I lived in the Sunnyside neighborhood and was there regularly, often deciding between corn and 4-grain pancakes or rice and roasted potatoes on the old early bird list.

It’s amusing to look back on, and to have ever complained about, but it was one of the few places an old boyfriend of mine would ever dine at.  I ordered a whole lot of those pancakes and would anticipating the changing of the seasonal decor and menu. On the bright side, dining at Paradox so often let me actually make my way through the menu. There are so many memories of brunches with old friends in the blue booths, casual dinners, and for some reason – I’m blaming a self-imposed fad in my early 20s?!? – drinking cups and cups of decaf coffee with a little pitcher of soymilk.

Our charming waitress sorta poses for a photo

These days, I don’t go as often as I’d like, maybe a few times a year – it’s Portland and I live in a different neighborhood –  yet, I’ve gladly dined there twice in the past week. First, it was to reacquaint myself with a classic Portland breakfast (for dinner, even better) for Breakfast in Bridgetown, and the other was last night.

 

One of my favorite friends was working (who should comment if they want to be outed!) and I have to say, it seems like new management has brought changes for the even-better in the past year or so.  For starters, “nooch” was on the specials board last week, and the menu looks more versatile – both in selections and pricing.  They’ve added Field Roast sausages, more tempeh, and still have those great pancakes. I should really visit more often…

Paradox Tempeh Scramble - my tastebuds are still sick with the rest of me, so I figured lots of straight-up vegetables was a good move.

The Teese Challenge: Broccoli Raab, Garlic & Teese Rolls

The long-awaited (in my head) goal of recreating the classic broccoli & mozzarella pinwheels of the local pizzerias of my childhood finally came to vegan, teese-covered fruition!

This is definitely the first test batch, but overall, I’m pleased with how they came out.  The one BIG difference I’d change for the next round is to double the pizza dough.  There was a little bit of both fillings left over, and with double the dough, I’d be able to make even large, spiral rolls – aka pinwheels! I used broccoli raab, because, you know, farmers markets, the joy of raab, etc.

Broccoli Raab, Garlic & Teese Rolls

teese challenge

Here’s what you need:

  • Double batch of pizza dough, fully risen.
  • Flour for the dough.
  • One bunch of broccoli raab or small head of broccoli, roughly chopped.
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 4-5 cloves of minced garlic
  • One batch of Tofu Ricotta (I used Nasoya firm with the recipe from Veganomican/Vegan with a Vengeance with the addition of a teaspoon of tahini).
  • One small tube of Mozzarella Teese, shredded.

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Prepare the Tofu Ricotta and set aside.
  3. Sauté the garlic on low/medium heat in the olive oil for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add a dash of crushed red pepper, freshly ground black pepper, a generous pinch of sea salt, and the chopped broccoli raab (or broccoli).  Add a splash of water, and stir for 5-7 minutes, until well-cooked.
  5. Remove the sauté pan from heat, cover and set aside.
  6. Flour your hands and roll out the pizza dough to a large oval.  Use more flour if needed.
  7. Lightly brush the dough with olive oil, or use a mister.
  8. Place large spoonful of tofu around the dough.  Use a spatula to spread out.
  9. Carefully do the same with the broccoli raab mixture.
  10. Spread 3/4 of the shredded teese log onto the other fillings.  It’s okay if it clumps a bit.
  11. Roll up like cinnamon rolls, and precisely cut with a sharp knife.  Rinse your knife between cuts if you need to.
  12. Lightly grease a 8×13 pan (you may need more than one).
  13. Place rolls in the pan(s).  If there is a more open side, place that side up.
  14. Sprinkle the rolls with the leftover (1/4 tube) of shredded teese and a drizzle or spray of olive oil.
  15. Bake for 40-45 minutes.
  16. Serve warm with marinara sauce for dipping.
    Ready to roll

roll

Teese, Teese, Teese! The eventual double-dough rolls will be prettier!

teeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeese

These rolls are part of the official Teese Challenge.  Chicago Soy Dairy generously sent vegan food bloggers their soy cheese to cook with and document.

Obligatory Thanksgiving Post: w/ Brussel Sprout, Roasted Garlic, Potato & Almond Stuffed Mushrooms

Vegan thanksgiving dinners are up there in my ‘proudest culinary moments’ collection, along with every time I remember to wash my hands after chopping incredibly hot peppers.  As a vegetarian for years and as a new vegan, holiday celebrations tested my patience, as usual, and my attempt at culinary skills.

Potluckin’

potluckin'

Thanksgiving is a day you may make the decision to bring your best vegan cookies and tub of Earth Balance to impress/challenge the level of sanity of an omni table with family and friends, pull out all the vegan stops with a homemade* seitan roast or store-bought Tofurkey for an intimate group, or aim for comfort food greatness with a contribution to a vegan potluck.  Showcasing your North American-Vegan-Thanksgiving-Skills is a beautiful thing on a day revolving around stuffing yourself with a stuffed, dead bird.

It makes you want to Adopt a Turkey, naturally.

I went to my first vegan thanksgiving potluck of the season on Sunday night; my friends Michelle and Aaron host an annual pre-thanksgiving vegan thanksgiving potluck.  I know I’m mentally checked out on Sunday evenings (work in the morning!), so I signed up to bring something I’m comfortable with – stuffed mushrooms.  For some reason roasted garlic and brussel sprouts were calling out to me, so Side Dish Stuffed Mushrooms surfaced. I’m calling them Side Dish Stuffed, but really they’re Brussel Sprout, Roasted Garlic, Mashed Potato & White Wine stuffed, but that’s a bit of a mouthful.  My go-to method for stuffing mushrooms is to reach for the wine & nuts and expand from there, and these have that basis, combined with a tribute to holiday side dishes.

Happy plate. Joanna’s seitan* ruled my world.

potlucky

Side Dish Stuffed Mushrooms (gluten-free)

Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs of white/cremini mushrooms, stems separated and minced (optional: scrape out the gills with a small spoon if you so choose)
  • half a head of roasted garlic
  • 1 clove of minced garlic
  • 6 brussel sprouts, trimmed and chopped
  • 1/4 cup of roasted almonds, finely ground
  • scoop of mashed potatoes (russets mashed with plain soymilk)
  • generous pinch of black pepper
  • dash sea salt
  • dash crushed red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of dried marjoram
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • generous pinches of rubbed sage and thyme
  • generous pinch of nutritional yeast
  • 2 tablespoons of white wine
  • 1 tablespooon of tamari
  • dash of balsamic vinegar
  • olive oil for sautéing and greasing the baking pan
  1. Preheat oven to 375F and lightly grease a 9×13 glass casserole dish.
  2. Saute the minced garlic, minced mushroom stems and chopped brussel sprouts in a teaspoon or two of olive oil in a large pan for 5-7 minutes, being careful to keep the heat below medium and not burn anything.
  3. Add the herbs, crushed red pepper, salt, pepper, wine, tamari and vinegar and cook for another 2-5 minutes, until much of the liquid is absorbed.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the cooked ingredients, the mashed potatoes, ground almonds, nutritional yeast and roasted garlic with a fork, mixing until well combined.
  5. Using a half tablespoon or other small spoon, fill each mushroom cap with the stuffing. Do not overstuff.
  6. Place filled side up in the casserole dish.  If you have extras, feel free to place overlapping bottom layer mushrooms.  Spritz with oil and drizzle with additional white wine.
  7. Bake for 23-28 minutes until golden brown, checking on them after 20.

Side Dish Stuffed Mushrooms, pre-baked (with chopped extra chunks of garlic tossed in)

mushrooms, pre-baked

Baked:

shrooms

As for the actual holiday this year, I’m bringing homemade seitan and cabbage stuffed gyozas to a vegan potluck, and pumpkin pie brownies from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar to a Turkey-roke/Faux-turkey-roke. woo!

More Get Sconed! Thanksgiving-ness (since holidays are all about memories, and pie).

Thanksgiving for 2.

More Damn Vegan Pecan Pie.

Sweet Potato Pie Casserole.

Thanksgiving, Schmanksgiving.

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