Vegan Casseroles Blog Tour!
By now I'm sure you've heard some of the buzz about Julie Hasson's newest book, "Vegan Casseroles." Julie is quite a dynamo - she's written loads of great cookbooks (including one of my favorites, "Vegan Diner"), she used to run a vegan food cart in Portland called Native Bowl (yum!), and now she's busy launching a vegan & gluten-free baking mix called Julie's Original.
Somehow, in the midst of all that, she also wrote this excellent casserole book. Casserole recipes are often super heavy on the eggs and dairy - since they rely on those ingredients to bind everything together. It's so fun to finally have a whole book of vegan casserole recipes!
ready to go in the oven
The first recipe I tried was the Italian Stuffed Peppers with Fennel and Garlic. This recipe called for TVP (texturized vegetable protein), which I hadn't used in years! Combined with some cooked rice that I already had on hand, this whole thing came together in no time at all. The flavors were absolutely delicious - I especially loved the fennel seeds in spice mix.
I made this dish on a day of the week when I don't typically return home from teaching until later in the evening. Casseroles are so great that way. I made it ahead of time, and had Mr. VE&T pop it in the oven at the appointed time. And then I came home to a delicious dinner! The recipe says it will make you eight halves, and I only got seven. That said, I picked out some pretty giant bell peppers, so I wasn't surprised. We enjoyed these for dinner two nights in a row, plus I had some for lunch for a few days after that. I loved that this dish came together quickly, was packed with protein, was quite low-cal, and made a ton of food!
In fact, Mr. VE&T loved these stuffed peppers so much that he made a batch all on his own for our recent rainbow potluck! He used little mini bell peppers for that occasion and made about 30 halves with the mini peppers.
Like a lot of recipes in this book, you can take the "make it from scratch" route and make your own pasta sauce (she provides a recipe), or you can take the "I want something super easy" route and use store-bought sauce.
Next up on my list of recipes to try was the Creamy Spinach Florentine. Oh dear, this was SO GOOD. The sauce recipe made a ton of sauce and I thought it was going to be too much... but once you mix it all together, the result is a super creamy and rich casserole dish that was not lacking at all. The sauce also calls for sherry and nutmeg, both of which imparted a more sophisticated flavor to the dish.
The recipe suggested using frozen spinach, but I'd rather use fresh spinach, so I just steamed up a pound of fresh spinach and chopped it up. It definitely seems to me that these recipes are easily adaptable and quite versatile. Even Mr. VE&T who is an eager omni eater totally loved this and said "I couldn't have enjoyed this more if it had been made with cheese!"
This dinner was a bit more indulgent than my average weeknight dinner, but seriously, no regrets. I loved it. After I made it I also saw that Julie gives an option to reduce the cashews in the sauce a bit, so maybe I will try that variation next time. There are a load of mac and cheese type recipes in "Vegan Casseroles," and I think I will slowly try my way through them all. For years now I've pretty much avoided vegan versions of mac n cheese, but this dish totally lured me back in. Next up we'll probably try the "Boozy Baked Penne with Caramelized Onions." Doesn't that sound crazy good??
This dish had really excellent flavors - light, fresh, and tangy. We served this with a giant side salad and then some birthday dessert for my mom, so it was just great. That said, this was a lighter dish, and in my opinion, needs a salad or another side dish to be just right. Everyone loved it - including the healthy-palette folks and the not-at-all-health-oriented folks, so that alone makes it quite a winner in my book.
It's also worth mentioning that the book is very friendly to gluten-free folks, especially since Julie herself has been gluten-free for a few years now. The result is that almost all of the recipes in the book are either naturally gf, or easily adapted to gf needs.
Taco Casserole - straight out of the oven!
all served up and ready to eat!
The last recipe I've made (so far!) was the Taco Casserole. This recipe also called for TVP, and came together really quickly - just a matter of minutes really! It called for vegan cheese, but I don't keep any vegan cheese around. Instead I had some homemade noochy queso sauce that I poured on top and that was a nice addition. We got four hearty servings out of this dish. The serving suggestion of lettuce and tomatoes was a really important part of the final presentation. It was nice to have something so crisp and fresh like the lettuce along with the spicy, meaty casserole. In fact, next time I think I will make even more veggies to go with it, since unlike the other recipes I tried, this one didn't have that many veggies in the recipe itself.
Vegan Casseroles has a variety of rich and creamy casserole recipes, along with some that are lighter. Some of the recipes call for pre-made ingredients like "vegan sour cream," or "frozen hashbrowns," or "vegan cheese." If you're like me, and don't usually buy many products like that, obviously you can skip those recipes or just skip those ingredients - or knock yourself out and make the same thing from scratch. That said, there are some really amazing "from-scratch" sauce recipes in this book that are truly delicious and that don't require a ton of effort or weird ingredients.
I think almost everyone is guaranteed to find a few standby recipes in this book that they will really love and will come back to again and again. I'm glad to have this book, especially because it's hard to find tasty and reliable vegan casserole recipes. Casseroles are so great for holidays, potlucks, big gatherings, or when you want to cook on the weekend and eat all week. This book definitely meets those needs and I'm looking forward to trying a lot more of the recipes.
A winner has been chosen! Congrats to Charj!
#2) Also, in conjunction with this blog tour, Julie's publisher (Running Press) is holding a special giveaway you can enter to win a Breville Smart Oven, and five runners-up will win a copy of Vegan Casseroles. That's pretty rad. That giveaway closes on November 12th.