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?

Pasta at Heart

White pasta fans, you’re in luck.

I’ve spent much of the past 2 days on the phone with my sister, who just returned from a 3 week vacation in Italy. She spent her days working on small farms and her evenings sipping red wine. I’m so proud, and my kitchen has been thinking of her as I recall the brief Sicilian wanderings of my early 20s.

Cashew miso alfredo over fusillata casarecci with sauteed morels and fresh parsley.

This isn’t the first nut-based alfredo that’s come my way, and barring any further, emerging allergies, won’t the be the last. And I just can’t put into words how stellar and succulent the Earth Balance sautéed morels were with this. Wait.

Cashew Miso Alfredo

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup soaked raw cashews
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2-3 cloves worth of sliced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin, cold pressed olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • pinch freshly grated nutmeg
  • pinch fresh thyme
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon white miso (less can be more – same goes for the garlic)
  • salt & pepper (preferably white), to taste
  • fresh parsley
Directions:
  1. Saute the sliced garlic in the olive oil for 3-4 minutes over medium heat.
  2. Remove from heat, and carefully add to blender, along with the rest of the ingredients, with the exception of the parsley.
  3. Gently reheat in a small saucepan, and whisk in more water if needed.
  4. Serve over pasta or other entrée, and sprinkle with fresh parsley and additional pepper, if desired.
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Next up, a vibrant edition in the never-ending, clean-out-the-fridge series. It’s a take on this recipe, which was inspired by the smokey mac at Bang Bang Cafe in Seattle. I left out the (pointless – I was simply out of oil?!) bit of packaged vegan cheese this time around, and skipping the cashews, incorporated both roasted red peppers and coconut milk into the pureed sauce.

Smokey Roasted Red Pepper and Coconut Mac & Cheeze

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Tomatoes are having a slow start this summer. Sadness. I finally spotted some at the Montavilla Farmers Market  a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve grabbed a pint at every market since then. Fast forward a couple of more weeks, and I’m impatiently expecting true sweetness!

Orrechiete with sautéed red and sungold cherry tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, purple and roasted garlic, olive oil, fresh basil, crushed red pepper and fresh black pepper. Served with balsamic roasted green beans, with a pinch of brown sugar. The pasta dish was inspired by a similar meal from a downtown food cart last week.

Yummmmmm Saucccccccccce

It’s a rite of passage for every Oregon-based food blogger: the reproducing of the Yumm sauce.

For those not in the loop, Cafe Yumm! is a chain of eateries based in Eugene, OR that feature bowls topped with their signature Yumm sauce. You can also buy the rather pricey sauce in containers at natural type stores around the metro area, sold in Original, Roasted Garlic & Chipotle varieties.

Portland had its first Cafe Yumm! open in the downtown PSU area this summer and I’ve gone a couple times so far. Cafe Yumm offers what you want in a bowl and they’re famous for compiling it: wholesome beans, grains,  assorted toppings & that memorable sauce.

Now, I have no problem shelling out my lunch money for regular Whole Bowl cart visits, and  I’ll return to Cafe Yumm, but something hasn’t been as fresh or colorful in the to-go boxes or wait at this new Cafe Yumm. I do believe I had a  side of tofu cubes that was… microwaved…what? Even stranger in contrast to how  great their glazed tempeh is.  Regardless, that sauce sure sticks and it’s about time I made it at home, for way less money, for my own grain + beans + vegetables + sauce arrangements.  So, I did. And I’m content.

Red Quinoa with balsamic roasted cremini mushrooms, mini eggplant, carrots, cherry tomatoes, summer squash and simmered pocha beans.

The not-so-secret ingredients that make it soooo yum? Nuts, beans, lots of lemon juice, nutritional yeast and curry powder. My batch of sauce was based on my available ingredients, yearnin’ for spicy chipotles and the tang of a Whole Bowl (yes, I know rumor is that they just ripped off the yumm recipe, but like I can’t name 10 other bowls with sauce off the top of my head anyway! there’s room for delicious bowl competition!) Dear Cafe Yumm, this post was written with nothing but adoration for bowls.

Imitation Chipotle Yummmmmmm-Style Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • ½ cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/3 cup tahini
  • ¼ cup black beans
  • 1/2 cup water
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon chipotle sauce (from canned chipotles)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • ½ teaspoon curry powder
  • Dash dried basil
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

1.  Puree everything in a blender.

2.  Scrape down side sand add more liquid if necessary.

3.  Season to taste.

4.  Sauce it up.

More Recipes & Yumm fanaticism online:

Check out the ‘original’ ‘imitation’ links above. Again, my batch was based on what I had on hand and I am very happy with the results – but there are clear differences in other recipes online, as well as many notes on how to achieve yumm-style authenticity in their comments.

from Cafe Yumm at PSU

Tales from the Nut: Cashew Mushroom Alfredo

Vegan Cashew Alfredo, topped with sautéed Maitake and Porcini Mushrooms

cashew

If you’re vegan and enjoy cooking, I’m sure soaking nuts for cream sauces and vegan cheeses has already entered your culinary repertoire. If not, get on it. I’ve enjoyed my share of tofu-based cream sauces, but the silkiness of soaked nuts usually overrules thick soy.  If you’re allergic to nuts, well, I’ll cry into my cashew alfredo for you, and sympathetically relay my soul-crushing hazelnut allergy developments. It’s hard to admit, because that makes it real.

This recent cashew and mushroom alfredo was inspired by a lovely meal at a famed vegan trattoria down the street, and the never-ending container of soaked cashews in my fridge. I must be secretly hosting soft-toothed squirrels because my cats are simply not capable of such a production.

I loosely followed this recipe for Cashew Alfredo Sauce on Vegweb.  The sauce consisted of soaked cashews, water,  salt, freshly ground black pepper, freshly ground nutmeg, and nutritional yeast. It was pureed in one of the prides of my kitchen (and oh-my-god, food blogging perks), the Vita-Mix. I didn’t have any lemons, so I omitted that, and utilized garlic and olive oil while sauteing local maitake and porcini mushrooms. I half-considered indulgently adding the cream sauce to the mushroom mixture, but my personal preference was to keep things separate.

When I nut alfredo it up again, I’ll be sure to add sautéed or roasted garlic into the actual sauce.

alongside: Balsamic Grilled Sugar Snap Peas

balsamic grilled sugar snap peas

Cashew Alfredo, served over housemade fresh pasta from Pastaworks (a few varieties are actually vegan!)

cashew

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From The Urban Vegan: Sherry Infused Pate

This pate is from The Urban Vegan by Dynise Balcavage, a book I’m slowly but surely, making a regular resource in my kitchen.  It’s simple and sherry-tacular and fancy.

Sherry Infused Mushroom Pate

Urban Vegan: Sherry Pate

Additional pecans sprinkled on top.

Do you like savoury dips?  Do you like pecans, olive oil, and mushrooms?  Most importantly, do you love wine?  This could be the dip for you.  I brought it to a housewarming party this past weekend with seeded baguette for dipping, and it seemed to go over well!  It was my first vegan pate-makin’ experience.

Leta jazzed it up with some garlic salt, her condiment of choice.  A highly awesome touch.