Vegan Beet Bolognese–Mama-Mia!

DSCN1657Yield: 8 servings

I love beets!  Roasted, in salads, in my “famous” Beet Muhummara…you name it, I love me some beets!

And they have been beet-iful at the farmer’s market lately.  I bought a bunch recently–again–but wanted to do something new with them.  I’m not sure why it occurred to me, but I wondered about a pasta sauce, like a Bolognese.  So I searched online, and found a vegan version, but mine is substantially different and, after a little more research, seems more true to the original…without the meat, of course.

A little chopping is involved, but the recipe goes together quickly and easily and it is well worth it.  Most of the time is hands-free while the sauce simmers.

The optional miso, nutritional yeast, and Liquid Aminos, granted, are hardly traditional, but they add a depth of flavor.  Though they aren’t entirely necessary for a satisfying dish, if you have them on hand, I would definitely use them.

Two other tips:  be sure to cook the sauce the full 4o minutes, and avoid omitting the non-dairy milk at the end, as it lightens and mellows the sauce just perfectly.

Otherwise, enjoy over your favorite pasta, including the new Shiratake noodles–very low cal–or cooked zucchini ribbons!  The color is stunning, not to mention the flavor!

A foodie friend claimed that her husband “who never swoons over food” did…all while tasting it cold out of the carton standing over the sink!  But they really loved it heated over pasta as did my Italian friend–another foodie in her own right–who spooned hers over Orecchiette.  None of these folks, by the way, are vegan (though two are vegetarian)!

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, diced

Sea salt

1 small carrot, peeled and diced

1 rib of celery, quartered lengthwise and diced

2 large cloves garlic, minced

1 bay leaf, halved

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1 sprig fresh thyme, rinsed (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)

8 ounces vegan ground beef substitute, thawed if frozen (I used Boca Veggie Crumbles; note: if your product is not already browned, brown in a little oil and remove from skillet before beginning recipe.  If you aren’t a fan of vegan meat substitutes, consider 8 ounces of cooked lentils, maybe some nice red ones.)

1/2 pound beets, peeled and processed in a food processor until almost a paste

14 ounce can fire roasted diced tomatoes, including juice

1 cup red wine (I used a Bordeaux)

1 teaspoon natural sugar

Optional: 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

Optional: 1 teaspoon Liquid Aminos

Optional:  1 tablespoon light miso

1/4 cup tightly-packed fresh basil leaves, washed

Optional garnishes: a sprinkling of nutritional yeast and a pinch of red pepper flakes

1/4 cup unsweetened soymilk (or other unsweetened non-dairy milk)
In a large cast iron skillet over medium-high, heat the olive oil, add the onion, and a pinch of sea salt.  Saute, stirring frequently for 2 minutes.  Repeat this procedure with the carrot followed by the celery.  Add the garlic and saute, stirring, 1 minute.  Season to taste with more salt and with some pepper. Stir in remaining ingredients except soymilk.  Simmer, lowering heat if necessary, for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove and discard the thyme sprig and bay leaves, stir in the soymilk, heat through, and turn off heat to allow sauce to rest for a few minutes before serving over cooked pasta garnished as desired.

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Crash the Superbowl Snack Recipe #5: Vegan Queso Con Carne Dip

This hearty Vegan Queso Con Carne Dip is an oldie but goodie, and the essence of traditional Superbowl snacking.

Though this recipe lacks the seasonal influence of most of my other recipes, like those in The Blooming Platter Cookbook, frozen corn, soy crumbles, soy milk, and nutritional yeast makes it nutritious, and onions, green chilies, Ro-tel tomatoes, and a host of Mexican spices insures that it is fragrant and addicting.

Even though our dog Huff is co-starring in a “Crash the Superbowl” Doritos commercial. I like this “Queso” served with Frito “Scoops” to do just what the name says.  And I don’t feel too badly, as Frito-Lay makes both products.

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Vegan Green Chilies Casserole

Yield: 4-6 servings

What is the largest section of the local church cookbook?  Probably casseroles, the ultimate comfort food, at least for those of a certain persuasion.

When I was a kid, my mom, Sallie Gough, made one that I have not seen anywhere before or since:  Green Chilies Casserole.  It was a fairly creamy and nicely spiced amalgamation of ground beef, onion, sauteed tortillas, diced green tomatoes, and green chilies all held together with, yep, condensed cream-of-something soup.  And surely there was some melted cheese in the mix too.

While I don’t cook or eat like that any longer,  I do have fond memories of that casserole, including making it.  It was super-satisfying to eat, fun to assemble, and created an intoxicating aroma in the kitchen.  So, when I was at the farmer’s market a couple of days ago, the green tomatoes were firm and beautiful.  I instantly thought of mom’s signature casserole and the tempeh at home in my fridge that would substitute nicely for the ground beef.  To stand in for the canned soup and cheese, I decided to make a simple creamy vegan cheese sauce.   And I substituted green salsa with green chilies for the can of green chilies for extra moisture and flavor without an overwhelming green chili taste.

It’s been a lot of years since I last had this casserole, but to the best of my recollection, my vegan version comes close and is a LOT lighter yet it still has that creamy-comfort factor.  I hope it beomes a staple at your house.

Cheese Sauce:

1/4 cup roasted and lightly salted cashew halves or pieces

1/4 cup nutritional yeast

1/2 cup total unsweetened soymilk and beer or nonalcoholic beer (I like about 5-6 tablespoons of soymilk and 2-3 tablespoons beer)

pinch garlic powder

pinch onion powder

pinch sea salt

Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process until very smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.


2 tablespoons olive or canola oil, divided

4 corn tortillas, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

sea salt to taste

1 small onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice

1-8 ounce package tempeh (any flavor)

2 large cloves garlic, minced

3/4 cup green salsa (salsa verde), homemade or prepared (these salsas typically contain tomatillos, green chilies, and cilantro)

1 large green tomato, cut into 1/4-inch dice

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro (leaves and tender stems)

Freshly ground black pepper

about 7 small dollops vegan sour cream

Garnish: sprigs of fresh cilantro and a sprinkling of smoked paprika

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Oil a small round baking dish and set aside.  In a large cast iron skillet over medium-high, heat 1 tablespoon of oil to shimmering.  Add tortilla pieces and a pinch of salt, and saute, stirring frequently until they soften and start to develop some color, approximately 3 minutes.  Transfer tortillas to a small bowl and set aside.  Add remaining oil to the skillet, heat, and saute onion until softened, approximately 3 minutes.   Crumble tempeh into the pan, add garlic and a pinch of salt, and saute, stirring frequently, until tempeh is heated through and just begins to develop some color, again about 3 minutes.  As the mixture starts to dry out, add 1/4 cup of the green salsa and stir well.  Add green tomato, cumin, and smoked paprika, and saute, still stirring frequently, about 5 minutes, adding the remaining 1/2 cup green salsa during the cooking process.  Remove from heat, stir in cilantro and tortilla pieces, and season to taste with salt and pepper.   Then stir in half of the cheese sauce and spoon into prepared casserole dish.  Drizzle remaining cheese sauce over the surface of the casserole dish and dollop with sour cream (I place 6 dollops in a circle and one in the center).  Bake for 20 minutes or until heated through and top appears creamy, but slightly set.  Serve hot garnished with fresh cilantro sprigs and a dusting of smoked paprika.

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Vegan Steak Sandwich Salad with Vegan Horsearadish-Mayo

Yield: 4-6 servings

No animal was harmed in the making of this sandwich, yet here it is in salad form: all of the things meat-eaters love about a juicy steak sandwich with onions and peppers and a dollop of horseradish-mayo piled high on a toasted sesame seed roll.

This salad is mouth-watering served in individual lettuce-lined bowls or martini glasses, but it is also a very tasty sandwich or unique pizza topping. In the photographed version, I combined the two by shaping my favorite pizza dough (made with half all-purpose and half whole wheat four) into four individual oblong pieces that were a little thicker than normal, baking them, and then splitting them lengthwise. A little extra horseradish-mayo moistens the bread or pizza crust nicely.

I made the photographed version of this salad with Morning Star brand barbecue riblets, though without most of the sauce that comes in the package. My intention was to use Morning Star Meal-Starters beef strips, but my grocery store was out of them. So, I decided to just go with the background hint of barbecue-style sweetness and play it up with a bit of celery since it is so good with vegan “wingz.” When I make the salad with beef strips (or home-made beef-flavored seitan), I may omit the celery; but we’ll see. It’s not a typical steak sandwich ingredient, but I love its juicy-crisp goodness.

8 ounces of vegan beef, such as beef-flavored seitan (homemade or purchased), Morning Star Meal Starters beef strips or Morning Star riblets without the sauce, cut into bite-size chunks or strips (if you use a frozen product, defrost before continuing with the recipe)
4 stalks celery, sliced lengthwise and medium-finely diced
6 green onions, the white part and only half of the green part, sliced thin
1/2 of a yellow pepper, stemmed, seeded, and medium-finely diced
16 grape tomatoes, quartered
1/4 cup vegan mayonnaise
2 tablespoons horseradish
1 teaspoon of lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon Amino Acids
1/4 teaspoon soy sauce
pinch garlic salt
coarse kosher or sea salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons sesame seeds, dry toasted in a small skillet over medium-high just until fragrant and golden

Gently mix together first five ingredients in a medium bowl. In a separate small bowl or cup, whisk together mayonnaise and next five ingredients. Pour dressing over salad ingredients and toss together lightly. Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper if desired. Sprinkle toasted sesame seeds over the top and either leave as a garnish or gently mix in. Serve in individual lettuce-lined bowls or martini glasses for a festive presentation, in a sandwich (preferably on warm, toasted bread) or piled on a warm homemade pizza crust.

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