Lightened up comfort food from my childhood is one of my favorite categories of recipes to veganize. This one a combination of a hot chicken salad and a chicken and rice casserole, only it contains neither chicken–or even a substitute–or rice. I substitute riced cauliflower for the rice and meaty mushrooms for the chicken.
I’m always looking for ways to boost the color and nutrition of recipes. So I use mirepoix instead of just celery and onion to infuse some carrot into the mix. And curly kale leaves seemed the perfect green addition, along with the green peas which are mandatory in chicken and rice casserole.
Some of these casseroles are topped with cheddar and some with mozzarella. I just think of cheddar with broccol–or with southwestern or Mexican dishes–so I chose mozzarella. Whatever you do, don’t leave off the potato chip topping. This casserole is so nutritious and low in calories that you can splurge on the rich buttery crunch of the Ruffles.
Note: I cook the vegetables in the microwave for ease, but feel free to simmer/saute stovetop if you prefer.
Hot Chicken-un Salad Casserole w/ Crushed Potato Chip Topping
8 ounces cauliflower rice 1 cup mirepoix (approximately 1/3 cup each diced onion, celery, and carrot) 8 ounces sliced baby Bellas or other white mushrooms 7 to 8 ounces curly kale leaves, thick stems removed 1/2 cup green peas 1/2 cup slivered almonds 1 teaspoon fresh lemon thyme or thyme 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder 1/2 teaspoon onion powder 1/4 teaspoon poultry seasoning 3/4 cup mayonnaise (I use no calorie mayo from Harris Teeter) OR vegan sour cream 1/2 cup shredded vegan mozzarella cheese 1 1/2 to 2 cups crushed Ruffles potato chips
Grease a 9×13-inch casserole dish and set aside. In a medium-large bowl, place riced cauliflower and mirepoix. Cover with water and microwave for 10+ minutes or until veggies are VERY tender, as they will not cook much in oven. Drain and return vegetables to bowl. Place kale in another similarly sized bowl and microwave for approximately 3 minutes or until wilted and bright green. Add to other vegetables along with all remaining ingredients, except cheese and potato chips. Fold vegetable mixture together until completely mixed. Transfer to grease casserole dish and sprinkle top evenly with vegan mozzarella and crushed potato chips. Bake for 30 minutes.
We all need a little comfort now in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, yes? My comfort food recipe is less recipe and just suggested ingredients, only.
What looks like a huge bowl of calorie-rich mashed potatoes is actually a huge bowl of flavor-rich pureed cauliflower with only one tablespoon of vegan butter, a drizzle of unsweetened soymilk, and salt and pepper. My secret weapons? Grated lemon zest stirred in and a sliced scallion garnish.
I enjoyed the entire bowl for dinner and it fit within my daily 1,500 calorie allocation…even if I hadn’t walked 7 miles here in the neighborhood and at the Norfolk Botanical Gardens.
In the midst of this pandemic, you can inject a little party vibe into your socially responsible social distancing with my simple, but festive recipe. I even cheated and used canned vanilla frosting. But the cookie cake is homemade and goes together in a flash, although it seems like we all have more time these days. I hope you agree, the texture is the perfect hybrid of cookie and cake.
Note: you can bake the cookie cake in the larger cake pan, but you would need to adjust the cooking time down.
Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake
1/2 cup vegan butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp flaxseed meal
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons water
1/2 to 3/4 cup vegan chocolate chips 1/2 to 3/4 cup plain or roasted broken pecans
Approximately three quarters to one cup vegan vanilla or chocolate frosting
Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour a 6-in cake pan or spray with baking spray. Using an electric mixer, cream butter together with brown sugar. Beat in vanilla extract, baking powder, and baking soda. With mixer on low speed or start in by hand flour, 1/2 cup at a time, alternating with about 3 tablespoons water. Stir in chocolate chips and pecans. Scrape into prepared pan and gently smooth top. Bake approximately 37 minutes or until a wooden pick comes out clean when inserted near the center. A little melted chocolate may cling to toothpick and that’s fine. Cool on wire rack in pan for 10 minutes. Loosen edges with a knife and then invert onto wire rack to cool. Frost as desired, either with your favorite vegan buttercream or canned frosting, many of which are vegan. Decorate with sprinkles. Or serve warm with vegan ice cream.
Light and Flavorful Mushroom and Spinach Soup with Cream Sherry (plant-based/vegan)
This soup will become a go-to any time, but in this age of Coronavirus “shelter in place” orders, it is especially comforting to have on hand. Low in calories and fat, but high in appeal, it nurtures with beauty, warmth, nutrition, and hydration.
(It is so pretty, in fact, that one of my students is creating an oil pastel painting of it for one of her “school closure” sketchbook assignments.)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/4 cup each diced carrot, celery, and yellow onion
1/2 teaspoon veggie base
1/2 teaspoon roasted garlic base
(or 1 veggie bouillon cube substituted for both bases)
8 ounces sliced mushrooms like baby bella
1 bunch fresh thyme, tied with kitchen twine
4 cups veggie stock
6 big handfuls fresh baby spinach leaves (as much as you want, actually)
1/4 cup or so unsweetened non-dairy milk
2 or more tablespoons cream sherry
Sea salt and pepper to taste
Garnish: shredded vegan mozzarella and roasted or smoked almonds
Heat oil over medium high in large soup pot. Add mirepoix (carrots, celery, and onion) and veggie bases and saute, stirring frequently, two or three minutes or until tender. Add mushrooms and thyme and continue sautéing until mushrooms are tender and release juices, a couple minutes more. Add stock and bring to a simmer. Begin adding spinach, a handful at a time, stirring and allowing each to wilt before adding the next. Stir in non-dairy milk, and heat through, followed by sherry. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Remove and compost thyme. Serve soup topped with shredded vegan mozzarella and roasted or smoked almonds if desired.
Note: soup may appear to curdle slightly upon reheating, but stir it well and the little flecks will reincorporate. Alternatively, you can omit sherry, add let each person add his or her own.
Lavender-Earl Grey Layer Cake with Lavender-Earl Grey-Cointreau Cream Cheese Frosting and Lavender-Blueberry Preserve Filling
I created this cake today for my sister’s birthday. I live in Virginia, she lives in Mississippi, so we celebrated long distance. As a high school art and art history teacher with schools ordered closed by our Governor, I have been trying to work about 5 hours and then treat myself with some other activity. Today, it was baking, a second set of dog walks, and Prosecco sipping while bundled up on the deck.
Yield: one two-layer 6 or 7-inch cake
Note: an 8- or 9-inch pan is more traditional, but I like a smaller taller stack. If you only have an 8- or 9-inch pan, you will need to increase batter by about 1/3 or so.
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons non-dairy milk (I used unsweetened soy milk)
2 generous tablespoons Lavender-Earl Grey loose tea
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons vegan sour cream
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
Optional:1/2 to 1 teaspoon lavender extract
3/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup natural sugar
2 tablespoons flaxseed meal
3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
Lavender-Earl Grey-Cointreau Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe follows)
1/4 to 1/3 cup lavender-blueberry preserves (or plain blueberry with optional 1/4 teaspoon lavender extract stirred in)
Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour a 6- or 7-in round cake pan or spray with non-stick baking spray. Pour non-dairy milk into a small saucepan or microwave-safe cup or bowl. Stir in loose tea and heat stovetop or in microwave until simmering, steep a couple of minutes, and then strain through a fine strainer into another cup. Cool.
Whisk together 1/2 cup tea-infused milk and remaining wet ingredients in large mixing bowl. In medium mixing bowl, whisk together dry ingredients and stir into wet ingredients in thirds. Whisk just until batter is smooth. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 25-27 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in cake pan on wire rack for 10 minutes. Run knife around edges, invert onto wire rack, and cool completely. While cake cools make Lavender-Earl Grey-Cointreau Cream Cheese Frosting.
With an electric mixer, cream together vegan butter, shortening, cream cheese, tea-infused milk, Cointreau, vanilla, and lavender extract. Beat in confectioners sugar, a half cup at a time until desired consistency is reached. Using a serrated knife, cut cake in half crosswise. Spread 1 tablespoon frosting on cake plate and center bottom layer over it to anchor in place. Spread about 1/3 cup frosting on bottom layer. Place all but about 1/3 cup frosting in piping bag fitted with a large star tube and pipe a ring around the edge as a dam. Fill with blueberry preserves. Place top layer over and press down gently. Frost top with remaining 1/3 cup frosting in bowl and decorate with piped frosting swirls.
Refrigerate until serving time, but allowed to come to room temperature before serving for best flavor.
I am cooking the pantry and fridge amidst the Coronavirus pandemic trying to make the cheap staples last, but spiffing them up with judicious amounts of garnishes: garlic-herb lentil soup with homemade line crema, Chimichurri, halved grape tomatoes, and smoked almonds.
This isn’t much of a recipe; more of an approach: when Bob went to the grocery store–what I am starting to call the fringe of the frontier–he found a bag of brown lentils, rather than the red ones I had requested, that came with a little vegan herb and garlic pack. (We may have strong supply lines in America, but the runs on the grocery stored are making it look and feel an awful not like food scarcity.)
So I just cooked about 1/3 to 1/2 cup each diced celery, onion, and carrot in a tablespoon of olive oil, added the rinsed lentils and 10 cups of water, cooked them until they were soft, then stirred in four handfuls of baby spinach and about a couple of tablespoons of ketchup because I didn’t have tomatoes. Oh, and a little white wine went in with that broth. They are honestly delicious.
To serve, I dolloped a little vegan lime crema on top along with hree dabs homemade chimichurri, a halved cherry tomato, and a sprinkling of smoked almonds.
As the recipe indicates, you can store the dough in the refrigerator covered for days. When you are ready to make a piece of naan, simply do this:
Preheat a large skillet over medium heat, and melt about 2scant tablespoon of vegan butter in it as it heats, swirling it around. With flowered hands, pinch off a golf ball piece (or slightly larger) of dough, form into a ball, and then press, pat, and pick up and gently stretch it into an oval or round shape–irregular is great–about 1/4-inch thick. Don’t even worry if it tears, as you can just press it back together. Gently lay the shaped dough into the melted butter in the skillet and cook about 2 minutes on each side or until puffed and golden brown. Repeat for additional pieces of naan. Keep warm inside a folded dish towel or napkin.
This is the easiest bread I have ever baked, and tastiest I have ever eaten. I can’t wait to experiment with flavored oils and vegan butters to serve with it.
Yield: 2 loaves (each serves approximately 4)
2 cups lukewarm water (100°F) 1 tablespoon natural sugar 2 teaspoons active dry yeast 1 tablespoon coarse sea or kosher salt Optional (but recommended): 1 teaspoon garlic powder 4 cups all-purpose flour
In an 8 cup or so bowl, mix together water, sugar, and yeast. Stir in sea salt and garlic powder if using. Stir in flour, 1 cup at a time. The dough will be somewhat wet. Let rise, loosely covered (so gasses can escape), in a warm place for 2 hours. (To create a warm place, I preheat my oven to warm, turn it off, and let it sit while mixing the dough. Too warm of an oven will kill the yeast.)
When ready to bake a loaf, generously flour your hands and lightly flour a board or work surface. Scoop out half the dough onto the board. No need to knead. Just gather the dough together, turning it once or twice and then gently pull dough from the bottom over the top to form a round domed disk shape. (This is called gluten cloaking.) Refrigerate remaining dough, loosely covered.
Tear off a piece of parchment paper large enough for your pizza stone or baking sheet, place the dome of dough on it, and let it rest for 40 minutes. It will puff and fill out just slightly.
Preheat oven and pizza stone or baking sheet to 450° and maintain that temperature for the remainder of the rest period. Just before baking, with a VERY sharp knife, a straight razor blade taped to a popsicle stick, or a French lame (“lahme”), cut simple marks or a design into the dough about ½-1 inch down. The sharper the blade, the less drag, and the cleaner the cut. (There are YouTube tutorials if you want to get fancy.)
To bake, place 1 cup ice cubes in a metal baking sheet or pan on the rack beneath the pizza stone. (Glass could shatter.) This will create steam while the loaf is baking.
Carefully transfer parchment paper with rested dough onto pizza stone. Bake for 20 minutes, slide parchment paper out from under loaf so that bottom crust can fully crisp, and bake 10 more minutes.
Remove from oven and allow to cool on wire rack. Let loaf rest for 5 to 10 minutes to avoid gumminess. Brush with olive oil, if desired, and slice with a serrated knife. Serve warm with flavored or plain olive oil and/or vegan butter.
This cake is as delicious as it is beautiful. Its dark, rich, and tender layers, redolent of chocolate and coffee with notes of cinnamon and chili (which can be omitted)–are perfectly paired with a gorgeous wedding-pink berry-kissed cream cheese frosting.
If chili and fruit seems like an odd pairing, think BBQ or mole sauces and be prepared to become a believer.
Chocolate-Chili Layer Cake with Raspberry Cream Cheese Frosting
Yield: one two-layer 6 or 7-inch cake
Note: 8- or 9-inch pans are more traditional, but I like a smaller taller stack. If you only have 8- or 9-inch pans, you will need to increase batter by about 1/3 or so.
1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips, melted
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup vegan sour cream
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup strong coffee
1/2 cup non-dairy milk (I used unsweetened soy milk)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 and 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder infused with ground chilis, cinnamon, and sugar (if this is not readily available, simply add 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or ancho chili powder and 1/2 to 1 teaspoon cinnamon, along with increasing slightly the amount of sugar as indicated below)
1/2 cup natural sugar (or slightly more If cocoa powder is not sweetened)
2 tablespoons flaxseed meal
1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Raspberry Cream Cheese Buttercream (recipe follows)
Preheat oven to 350. Spray two 6 or 7-in round cake pans with non-stick spray. With a pencil, trace around the bottoms on parchment paper, cut out, line bottoms of pans with circles of parchment paper with the pencil side down, and spray bottoms again with non-stick spray.
Whisk together all wet ingredients in large mixing bowl. In medium mixing bowl, whisk together dry ingredients and stir into wet ingredients in thirds. Whisk until batter is very smooth, up to 100 strokes if necessary. Divide batter evenly between pans and bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in cake pans on wire rack for 10 minutes. Run knife around edges, invert onto wire rack, and cool completely. Frost with Raspberry Cream Cheese Buttercream.
Raspberry Cream Cheese Buttercream
The night before frosting cake, sprinkle 6 ounces fresh raspberries with 2 tablespoons natural sugar, cover, and refrigerate. 4 ounces (1 stick or 1/2 cup) vegan butter, softened 4 ounces vegetable shortening 4 ounces vegan cream cheese, softened 2 tablespoons raspberry jam 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1 pound confectioners sugar 1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips
With an electric mixer, cream together vegan butter, shortening, cream cheese, jam, vanilla and half of raspberries until smooth. Beat in confectioners sugar, a half cup at a time until desired consistency is reached. Spread 1 tablespoon on cake plate and center bottom layer over it to anchor in place. Spread about 1/3 cup frosting on bottom layer. Place about 1 cup in piping bag fitted with a large star tube and pipe a ring around the edge as a dam. Fill with remaining half of raspberries. Pipe stars of frosting between berries if desired. Place top layer over and press down firmly. Frost sides and top with remaining frosting in bowl and decorate with piped frosting stars and chocolate chips as desired.