Vegan Potato Chip-Encrusted Baked “Chicken” Salad Sandwich–Think Vegan Chicken Casserole in Sandwich Form

Potato Chip-Crusted Chicken Salad SandwichesYield: 8 sandwich halves

You can take the girl out of the Deep South, but you can’t take the Deep South out of the girl…

This crunchy-creamy cleaned-up community cookbook classic is a delectable vegan chicken casserole in sandwich form It telescopes me right back to my teen years in Mississippi where my dear Mama’s culinary curiosity–though a different style than mine and not vegan–inspired my love of the kitchen while producing some seriously good eats like this sandwich that is as pretty as it is yummy.

For the recipe and more of the back story, click HERE to visit One Green Planet, who generously published it just this week!

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VegNews Magazine Publishes Blooming Platter Vegan Steamed Tamale Pie in Their Online “Recipe Club” e-Newsletter (Tastes Like Tamales, Not Like Cornbread-Topped Chili)!

Tamale Pie--VegNews--Recipe Club--May 2013Yield: 8 servings

This month, the award-winning VegNews magazine published my Vegan Steamed Tamale Pie in their online “Recipe Club” e-newsletter.  (To receive your own issue, just go to the VegNews home page to sign-up for this free e-publication so you don’t miss anything!)

[Note: Skip to the bottom of this post for my recipe if you aren’t interested in the back story!]

I adore vegan tamales, but they are a bit time-consuming, so I remembered that I had heard of “tamale pie.”  However, all of the recipes I found  online consisted of a filling topped with what amounts to a layer of baked cornbread. That sounded fine, but not what I was after.

Wanting a consistency more like true steamed tamales, I wondered if the “pie” couldn’t be baked in a bain marie (water bath), tightly covered with foil so that it would steam.  I did a little more research and found a non-vegan (pork) recipe made in this way.

My filling went together in a snap as I ad-libbed with onions, bell peppers, garlic, spices, black beans, fire-roasted tomatoes, diced green chilies, fresh spinach, faux “chicken” (the first time) and spaghetti squash (the second time), cilantro, and lime zest.

However, it took me three tries to get the masa dough the correct consistency.  The first two times, I tried it with cornmeal and ended up with 1) a-way-too-sturdy-and-dense top layer, and 2) something that had the unappealing texture of wet sand.  For the third, final, and successful attempt, I stopped by a local tienda and purchased masa harina for tamales.  The flavor, not to mention the texture, was VASTLY superior.  Delicious and quite revolutionary in the tamale pie world!

I think the finished dish was well worth the effort of experimentation and trust you will agree!

But first: No sooner had the recipe been published in “Recipe Club,” than Brandy, one of the readers, made it and posted a photo of it here on the VegNews Facebook page.  What a lovely job she did!

Vegan Steamed Tamale Pie

For the masa layer:

2 cups masa harina (Do NOT substitute cornmeal!  Masa harina is widely available at Latin markets or tiendas and some grocery stores.)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup canola oil

2 cups warm “no-chicken” or “veggie” broth

In a medium bowl, whisk together all ingredients until well-combined.  The mixture should be the consistency of a soft cookie dough.  Cover, and set the masa aside while you prepare the filling.  Whisk the masa well just before using if necessary.

 

For the filling:DSCN0812

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small onion, diced

Pinch sea salt

1/2 large orange bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and diced (red or yellow bell pepper would be nice too)

2 large cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon Ancho chili powder (substitute chipotle if you prefer some heat)

1 teaspoon dried oregano (Mexican, if available)

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1-15.5 ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained

1-14.5 ounce can diced fire-roasted tomatoes, including juice

1-4 ounce can diced green chilies, including juice

1/2 pound “chicken”-flavored seitan (I used an 8 ounce package Morning Star Farms Meal Starters Chick-n Strips, cut into bite-size pieces) OR 2 cups cooked spaghetti squash (halve lengthwise, scrape out seeds and pulp, microwave for 8 minutes, flesh side down, and scrape out spaghetti-like “threads” with a fork)

4 cups lightly packed fresh raw baby spinach

1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro

Zest of one-half of a medium lime

For the Garnish: vegan sour cream and fresh cilantro sprigs, toasted pumpkin seeds, and/or a lime wedge.

Place a large pan like a turkey roaster or baking dish larger than 9 x 13″ on the middle rack of oven.  Fill with two inches of water and preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease an 8- or 9-inch square baking dish (or two 5 x 8″ loaf pans) and set aside.  Meanwhile make filling.

In a large cast iron skillet or Dutch oven, heat the tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high.  Add the onion, bell pepper, and a pinch of salt, and saute about 3 minutes, stirring frequently, or until vegetables are softened and beginning to develop some color.  Add the garlic and saute about 30 seconds to one minute.  Add all of the spices and stir well to incorporate, lowering the heat if necessary.  Then add the beans, tomatoes, green chilies, and seitan or spaghetti squash, stirring to incorporate.   Add the spinach in two parts, allowing each to wilt slightly before continuing.  Then stir in the cilantro and lime zest, and remove from heat.

Softly crumble half of the masa into the bottom of the prepared baking dish, gently pressing with your fingers to cover.  Spoon the filling evenly over the masa and then softly crumble the remaining masa over the top, again gently pressing to cover the filling and seal to the edges.  Cover tightly with foil.  Slide oven rack out, place covered baking dish into the water bath, and then cover the water bath with more foil, sealing tightly, but being careful not to burn yourself.  Slide the rack back in and bake/steam for 45 minutes.  (Note: if using loaf pans, follow these instructions, but use one-fourth of the masa mixture for the tops and bottoms of each pan.)

Slide the rack back out, uncover the water bath and carefully remove the tamale pie.  Uncover the pie and allow it to cool for 10 to 15 minutes so that it is easy to cut into squares.  Be sure to do this immediately upon removing the pies from the oven or they will continue to cook.

Serve dolloped with vegan sour cream and the garnish(es) of  your choice.

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Vegan Poppy Seed Chicken Casserole

DSCN0801Yield: 6 to 8 servings

This is one of those recipes that any old-fashioned, self-respecting small town church cookbook would not be without!

I discovered the dish on a recent trip to visit my family in Mississippi following my mother’s serious surgery and long hospital stay.  Their refrigerator was stuffed full of soups and casseroles from friends and neighbors, prepared with love and delivered with best wishes for a speedy recovery.

One of those casseroles, Poppy Seed Chicken, smelled delicious, though it wasn’t vegan, so I couldn’t partake.  But, once home, I set about to recreate it.

And recreate it, I did!  Go Dairy Free generously published my brand new recipe for Vegan Poppy Seed Chicken Casserole and you can access it with a simple click right HERE.

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THE BEST Vegan “Chicken” and “Sausage” Gumbo (Non-Vegan Husband-Approved!)

I am thrilled with my VEGAN Gumbo Recipe–it would make any Cajun proud!

Head over to One Green Planet for the recipe and it’s back story by clicking  HERE.

They only publish one photo with each recipe,

but I thought you might appreciate seeing my oven-baked roux–

inspired by “Cook’s Country–“

which is truly the foundation of “the best” gumbos.

(It looks red in this photo which was taken at night on the stove with no natural light, but it was the color of melted chocolate.)

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Vegan “Chicken,” Green Chili, and Hominy Posole

Yield: 4 servings

This simple, flavorful and robust “Chicken,” Green Chili and Hominy Posole is sure to become a cold weather favorite.  However, unlike most of my recipes, it doesn’t rely on seasonal ingredients, so you can actually enjoy it any time the mood strikes.

I have never made, much less eaten, Posole, but a non-vegan recipe in a recent culinary magazine made my mouth water.  So, recently, with Posole on my mind, I created my own version without even referring to that recipe.  I did, however, check online to make sure I knew what spices to include.

My version departs a bit because, well, that’s what I do, though I still stayed true to the dish.  So, I used the traditional dried oregano, but I substituted ground coriander for fresh cilantro because I didn’t have any, and I used smoked paprika instead of cayenne because those smoky undertones are irresistible to me and seemed perfect for the dish.  Also, I find the more subtle and complex heat of paprika a bit more appealing than that of cayenne.  Plus, the color was also lovely. For some reason, a note of cinnamon sounded good to me, so I added a couple of cinnamon sticks for a background note of warmth.  It was perfect!

The other main difference is that instead of serving warm corn tortillas alongside the soup, I decided to dice up a few and saute them with the onion for additional corn flavor, as well as for texture.  But don’t worry; this is not yet another version of tortilla soup!  It is Posole through and through.

I loved it and wouldn’t change a thing.  And I hope you agree.  But should you not, have some fun making it your own!  Find the recipe HERE where the good folks at One Green Planet were happy to publish it.

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Not Your Mama’s Vegan Chicken Noodle Soup with Orange-Scented Kale and Pepita Pesto

My Mam-ma was an excellent country cook, but this soul-satisfying vegan soup rivals her chicken-n-dumplings.  Plus, while it hasn’t forgotten where it came from, it’s gone a bit uptown.

Not Your Mama’s Vegan Chicken Noodle Soup is a healthy and simple version of the chicken noodle soup you may remember from childhood.  But, not only is it vegan, it’s a bit more grown-up and “gourmet” courtesy of the orecchiette and, especially, the pesto.    The latter celebrates some of winter’s finest ingredients: oranges and kale.  A dollop of it is optional, but I highly recommend it for a delicious burst of contrasting flavor, texture and temperature atop a mug of the warm soup.

With chilly rain in our forecast starting this evening and continuing through tomorrow, and the fridge is nearly barren of leftovers, I think this soup may be in order to warm up the weekend….but, trust me, t’s just as good when the sun is shining!

Not Your Mama’s Vegan Chicken Noodle Soup

Yield: 6 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup yellow onion cut into 1/4-inch dice

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup celery cut into 1/4-inch dice

1/2 cup carrot, cut into 1/4-inch dice

1 teaspoon rubbed sage

1 teaspoon dried tarragon

1 teaspoon powdered thyme

2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

1/4 cup nutritional yeast

8 cups faux chicken or vegetable stock (I purchase extra large faux chicken bouillon cubes and use 4 with 8 cups of water, as I think the seasoning lends more of a “pot pie” flavor than vegetable stock does)

2 bay leaves

4 ounces dried Orecchiette (ear-shaped pasta rarely made with egg, but check to be sure)

8 ounces chicken-flavored seitan (I use MorningStar Farms® Meal Starters® Chik’n Strips which have plenty of salt and pepper for my palate)

1/2 cup unsweetened soymilk

Sea salt to taste, if needed

Freshly ground black pepper to taste, if needed

Optional accompaniment (but very good!) : a little “glug” of sherry in each bowl or mug

In a large cast iron skillet over medium-high, heat olive oil until shimmering.  Add onion and saute, stirring frequently, until translucent and softened, about 3 minutes.  Add garlic and saute, stirring, for 30 seconds.  Avoid over-browning.  Add celery and carrot and saute, stirring frequently until both are slightly softened, or about another 3 minutes.  Add sage, tarragon, thyme, flour and nutritional yeast, and stir to distribute evenly.  Stir in stock and bay leaves and heat to a simmer.  Add pasta and simmer until al dente, about 7-8  minutes.  Stir in chicken-flavored seitan and heat through, followed by the soy milk.  Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve hot  in bowls or mugs topped with my optional, but recommended, Vegan Orange-Scented Kale and Pumpkin Seed Pesto.  I also LOVE this soup with a little “glug” of sherry added to each serving.

 

Vegan Orange-Scented Kale and Pumpkin Seed Pesto

4 cups stemmed, roughly chopped or torn, and lightly packed fresh kale

1 cup roasted and lightly salted pepitas (pumpkin seeds) (I purchase Trader Joe’s Brand)

1/4 cup olive oil or to taste

Zest of one medium naval orange

2 teaspoons fresh orange juice

Sea salt to taste, if needed

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place kale and pepitas in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.  With the motor running, drizzle in the oil, and turn off the machine as soon as the last drop of oil has fallen in.  Remove the lid and add zest, juice and salt and pepper to taste.  Pulse a couple more times and then chill, tightly covered, before serving.

For 150+ additional inspired seasonal recipes, I invite you to peruse The Blooming Platter Cookbook: A Harvest of Seasonal Vegan Recipes.

 

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Crash the SuperBowl Snack Recipe #2: Vegan Buffalo Wings with Creamy Blue “Cheez” Dressing

The SuperBowl wouldn’t be the SuperBowl without “wings.”

But make sure the only animal in your celebration is the pigskin on the field with my authentic-tasting Vegan Buffalo Wings.  You’ll love their chewy texture and their finger-lickin’ sauce.   They are absolutely habit-forming with my Creamy Blue “Cheez” Sauce and crunchy celery sticks.

Oh, there is one more animal that we hope will be part of the big game:  Huff, our Great Dane.  Read all about his chance at national stardom in the Doritos “Crash the Superbowl” commercial competition here.

For 150 other seasonal recipes for every occasion, I invite you to peruse The Blooming Platter Cookbook.

 

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Vegan Tarragon-Tempeh Salad with Pecans–My Back-to-School Lunch Solution

As a teacher, figuring out what to do for a healthy, quick, and satisfying, but not heavy, lunch is always a bit of an issue.  Believe it or not, I often get a little something in our school cafeteria because I can almost always count on some kind of dark leafy greens, not to mention a hot meal that doesn’t involve a microwave.  And the cafeteria workers are so solicitous of my vegan diet.

I created this salad a week ago on Labor Day, as school started the day after, thinking that I would start the week with my own greens–I had some leftover from a restaurant spinach salad–in this really tasty and beautifully textured Tarragon-Tempeh Salad made into a sandwich.  In addition to the spinach, I happened to have a package of tempeh that needed to be used, some leftover pre-diced onion and orange bell pepper from some nachos, and chopped pecans leftover from some mini apple bundt cakes. 

I enjoyed it all week, never tiring of it on Nature’s Own whole grain 100 calorie sandwich bread with some fresh Romaine hearts.  For the photo, I piled a bit of it on a Wasa cracker.  Served that way, it still delicious and a little fancier.  You could serve it to comapany as an appetizer without them ever knowing it’s a lunch box standard!

2 tablespoons olive oil

1-8 ounce package tempeh, any flavor (mine was a flax variety from Trader Joe’s)

sea salt

1/2 of a medium yellow onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice

1/2 of an orange pepper, cut into 1/4 inch dice

3/4 cup finely chopped fresh baby spinach

2 stalks of celery, finely diced

5-6 tablespoons of vegan mayo

1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, or 1 teaspoon dried

1/4 cup pecan pieces, lightly toasted if desired

freshly ground black pepper

In a large cast iron skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat.  Crumble tempeh into the skillet, add a pinch of salt, and saute, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes.  Add remaining tablespoon of olive oil, onion, and bell pepper and continue sauteeing and stirring for another 3 minutes.   Adjust seasoning with salt.  Remove mixture to a shallow bowl to cool slightly.  Meanwhile, combine all remaining ingredients, except pepper, in a medium bowl (I mix it right in a lidded storage container).  Stir in tempeh mixture just until well combined, and season to taste with more salt and pepper.  Store covered in the refrigerator.  To make into a sandwich that won’t be eaten for a few hours, consider transporting the filling and bread separately, and make the sandwich just before enjoying.  Or if you prefer to go ahead and make it, spread a tiny bit of additional vegan mayo on one side of both slices of bread–or inside a pita pocket–before filling, as the mayo will create a barrier that will help prevent the bread from getting soggy.   This salad is also delicious stuffed into a fresh tomato or eaten with celery sticks and/or crackers or toasts.

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Vegan Gardein Marsala on New Vegan Menu at La Bella Italia, VA Beach, VA

I felt like a had a real grown-up vegan meal this week in an Italian restaurant, which is fairly rare in our area!

Other ethnic restaurants like Chinese, Indian, Mediterranean, Thai, etc., seem to have many more protein-rich options.  But, Italian restaurants can’t seem to do much better than pasta with veggies, which, however tasty, is fairly high in calories and low in protein.

But that was before La Bella Italia in Virgina Beach recently introduced a whole vegan menu (on the back of their specials menu). Kudos to them!

If you live locally, or happen to visit the Hampton Roads area of Virginia in the eastern part of the sate, I highly recommend the dishes created around Gardein brand faux “chicken,” as the rest of the vegan menu is made up of items from their main menu that are naturally meat- and dairy-free.

I ordered the mushroomy Marsala, as you see here.  But this is only half of the order!  It was so large (at $18.95) that I brought half home and enjoyed it for lunch the next day.  I spruced it up a bit for its photo op, arranging the “side” of vegetables (sauteed zucchini–of which there was none leftover for my lunch–red bell pepper, and onion) over the top and adding a sprinkle of pistachios and a couple of basil sprigs (which I highly recommend!).

With several other Gardein dishes on the menu, one even with vegan cheese (!), I can’t wait to go back.  At long last, there is an Italian/continental restaurant in our repertoire that my husband and I enjoy equally.

Bon Appetito!

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