Creamy Vegan Green Chili Rice Casserole (my first “commissioned” recipe–thanks Tofutti!)

Green Chili Rice CasseroleI have some exciting news that I haven’t been able to share until now because I’ve had to be so neglectful of The Blooming Platter since just before Valentine’s Day.

Though it and you are never far from my mind, our school district decided we would make up snow days on three Saturdays, with the first one being February 15.  I made sure my students and I had a great day–they are the best!–but that full day of school on the weekend created a domino effect of scrambling to re-prioritize.  Not only did I host a Valentine’s dinner party that night–with a different (but delicious) menu than I’d originally planned since I had only a few hours to get it all together–but three major freelance writing projects to juggle this past week.  I am NOT complaining–I feel very grateful–but I am explaining why even my Blooming Platter Facebook page sent a message saying basically, “Hey, where are you?”

Here’s the news:  recently, the good folks atTofutti hired me to develop a recipe made with one of their products!  They explained that, unlike with my other guest posts/recipes on their sites, my name wouldn’t appear with it, as they would own it, but that was fine with me.  I am just happy for them to share this tasty and easy recipe with their customers/readers.  

After scanning their recipe files, they determined that they were a little low on rice dishes.  I actually don’t make, order out, or even eat many rice “dishes,” though I serve and order Basmati rice with, say, Indian food or Jasmine rice with Thai.  But when I do prepare rice dishes, it has to be either a salad (like my Thai-inspired black rice salad) or something warm and creamy.  Since it is February, I chose the latter.  

Of the company’s products that are widely available in our area–namely Better Than Cream Cheese and Better Than Sour Cream–I chose the former which, along with the rice, seemed the perfect match-up for something Mexican/Southwestern inspired.  These days, with time at a premium (see aforementioned Saturday School among other things), I also wanted something virtually hands-free.  After a lot of brainstorming. some research, and a little experimentation with cooking method and time, voila!, this Creamy Vegan Green Chili Rice Casserole was born.

Though this spicy side dish spends an hour in the oven–it is made with slower cooking brown rice–all of that time, except for uncovering it and a quick stir, is completely hands-free.

I would love it if you would visit the Tofutti site and “like” the recipe HERE though I’ve included it below.  Olé!

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, diced

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

2 large cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup long grain brown rice

1-4 ounce can diced mild green chilies, drained (about 1/3 cup if you prefer to roast and dice your own chilies)

1/3 cup pitted, sliced black olives

1 cup diced tomatoes (or 1-10 ounce can diced tomatoes, plain or spicy, such as a lime and cilantro variety)

1/2 cup (4 ounces) Tofutti Better than Cream Cheese

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 vegetable bouillon cube

1 cup water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Oil a 7 to 8-inch souffle dish or the equivalent and set aside.  Heat olive oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high.  Add onion and salt and saute, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes.  Add garlic and saute, stirring, for another minute.  Add rice and cook, stirring very frequently, for 3 minutes or until rice begins to turn golden brown.  Lower heat if cooking too quickly.  Add green chilies, olives, and tomatoes, stir to combine and heat through.  Add Better Than Cream Cheese, nutritional yeast, cumin, and crumbled bouillon cube.  Stir until cream cheese is melted and completely incorporated; then stir in water until completely incorporated.  Transfer mixture to prepared baking dish and bake, covered, for 30 minutes.  Remove cover and cook an additional 30 minutes, stirring well halfway through.  Serve immediately as a side dish.  It is also delicious as a filling for stuffed bell peppers.

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Countdown to Thanksgiving–Day 7: Vegan Acorn Squash Stuffed with Creamy Rice and Greens Stovetop Casserole

Acorn-Squash-Stuffed-with-Brown-Rice-and-Greens-Stovetop-Casserole-496x600For the next week leading up to my favorite holiday of the year–a feast that embodies the grateful life–I am going to post some of my favorite Thanksgiving dishes, one per day.

My hope is that you might find them to be perfect embodiments of how much we have to be thankful for.

This recipe for acorn squash stuffed with a creamy stovetop rice-and-greens casserole seems to be a favorite of the generous folks on Pinterest, and is so lovely–presented in it’s own edible bowl–that it could easily be the centerpiece of your Thanksgiving meal.  But whether your serve it as an entree or one of the many sides that seem to characterize this holiday, it is sure to be a crowd pleaser!

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Vegan Acorn Squash Stuffed with Creamy Brown Rice and Greens Stovetop Casserole

Yield: 4 servings

[Funny note about this photo:  this post published before I was ready–not sure what key I inadvertently hit–so, since I couldn’t figure out how to revert it to a “draft,” I had to photograph the dish in the midst of Hurricane Sandy as I never post without a photo!  It’s pretty overcast outside, rainy, and chilly–too dark to photograph inside where I normally do–so still in my PJs, I dashed outside into the drizzle and wind to snag a pretty fall leaf for color, and then stood in the blustery doorway for some daylight, holding the squash aloft, and hoping the photography gods were on my side.   I guess it turned out respectably, no?]

Note: though filling acorn squash with this casserole makes for a beautiful presentation and a fun dining experience, the casserole is plenty tasty enough to simply serve in a gratin dish or bowl. 

I seem to be on a roll with humble beginnings lately.  This tasty and comforting dish–simple but pretty enough for company–was inspired by acorn squash that I had cooked a few days ago, but never eaten.  I had been planning to stuff them, but couldn’t decide with what.  But then, my husband and I went to dinner at Yard House in VA Beach for date night last Wednesday.  Neither of us are big starch eaters, so when he left his rice virtually uneaten on his plate, I asked the server to wrap it up along with all of the left-over greens from my very dull salad.  (I had eaten the cucumber and shredded carrots off of it, but that was about all–thank goodness for the very tasty hummus appetizer!)

So, absolutely starving yesterday after my morning yoga class, I remembered all of these ingredients, along with the coconut milk in the fridge leftover from my Spicy Vegan “Beef,” Zucchini, and Pumpkin Chili).  And, in just a few minutes, this mouth-watering dish was born.  It doesn’t have a lot of protein, yet it is filling.  So, I would probably enjoy it with a glass of soymilk and call it a meal.

2 acorn squash (about 1 pound each), cut in half horizontally, seeds and membrane removed with a spoon

1 tablespoon olive oil + additional for oiling baking dish and basting squash

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

Sea salt

4 large cloves of garlic, minced

4 cups mixed greens, large leaves torn if necessary (e.g. baby spinach, arugula, etc.)

Approximately 1/2 cup coconut milk (or other vegan creamer with a low sugar content)

Freshly ground black pepper

2 cups cooked brown rice

Garnish: approximately 12 smoked almonds

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and lightly oil a baking sheet.  Place squash halves, cut side up, in a roasting pan.  Brush lightly with olive oil and sprinkle very lightly with sea salt.  Roast in the center of the oven for 45 to 60 minutes or until tender, yet still firm enough to hold its shape.

After about 30 minutes of roasting, begin casserole.  In a large skillet (cast iron is always be preference), heat tablespoon of olive oil until shimmering.  Add onion and a pinch of salt, and saute, stirring frequently, about 3 minutes or until onion is softened.  Add garlic and saute, stirring, another 30 seconds to 1 minute.  Add greens and saute, stirring, until wilted, but still bright green, about 2  minutes or so.  Stir  in coconut milk, black pepper, and cooked rice.  Check for salt and stir in more if necessary.  Continue cooking, lowering heat if necessary, until flavors marry and mixture is heated through.  Add additional coconut milk if necessary to reach desired consistency, which should be quite thick, like an oven-baked casserole.  When squash has finished cooking, fill each half with one-fourth of the casserole.  Garnish each with 3 smoked almonds and serve immediately.

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My Vegan Bangkok Black Rice Salad with Fresh Peach is Published by One Green Planet (This is NOT the rice salad of days gone by!)

Somewhere, there is a juicy summer peach out there just waiting for you to make this gloriously colorful and breathtakingly flavorful salad.

Find my surprisingly simple recipe at One Green Planet.

Don’t keep that peach waiting!

 

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Vegan Thai-Fusion Beet Sushi with Vegan Thai Chili-Garlic-Ginger Mayo

Yield: approximately 12 pieces of sushi

With beets in the fridge and an ever-present craving for Thai food, I decided to “bring” this dish to An Unrefined Vegan’s weekly Vegan LINKY Potluck 7 today.

My husband, “a vegan and more” as he likes to call himself, is wild for sushi.  Many are the times I’ve sat and sipped miso soup, sake, and hot green tea while he satiates himself on huge platters of the stuff.

I think it is absolutely beautiful.  The colors and presentations are beyond reproach.  It’s just the death and dying aspect I have issues with.

So, being a huge fan of beets and able to buy them fresh and local this summer, I was trimming some one day when I had an “ah-ha” moment.  It suddenly occurred to me that thin translucent slices of beet were reminiscent of raw fish flesh and that, perhaps, if I simmered them in some seaweed brine, they might also have a pleasant taste of the sea. And they did!

For some reason, my taste buds were telling me to go with a Thai-fusion approach, so I created a mayo–more often served in hand rolls than on sushi per se–tingly with typical Thai tastes.  As the base, I decided on a sticky coconut rice.  The combination of tastes and textures is as delicious as it is beautiful.  I’m so excited to share this stunning dish with you!

Vegan Thai Chili-Garlic-Ginger Mayo:

Note: you may have more than you need, but save it for another purpose or for extra dipping, as working with smaller amounts is a little tedious in the measuring department.   Also, I refrigerated my sushi for a few hours before serving, which is why it turned pink.  It starts out more of a pale creamy color with flecks of green.

3 tablespoons vegan mayo

1 teaspoon Thai chili sauce

1 teaspoon vegan fish sauce

1 teaspoon fresh lime juice

1 medium garlic clove, minced

1/2 teaspoon grated ginger (about a 3/4-inch piece peeled and grated)

1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro

In a small bowl, whisk together all ingredients.  Cover and refrigerate until needed.

 

Coconut Sticky Rice:

1 cup jasmine rice

1-15 ounce can thick coconut milk (not the sweet “Cream of Coconut)

Pinch of sea salt

2 tablespoons vegan fish sauce (sold as vegetarian fish sauce at Asian markets)

Combine rice, coconut milk, and sea salt in a loosely-covered 2-quart saucepan (I like a non-stick for this) and place over medium-high heat.  When mixture comes to a simmer, reduce heat to medium or a bare simmer and cook, stirring frequently (or it will scorch on the bottom!), for about 20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and rice appears moist and sticky.  Removed from heat, stir in vegan fish sauce, and set aside to cool to room temperature.  Meanwhile, cook beets.

 

Beets:

2 cups water

1/4 cup dulse flakes (red seaweed flakes)

Pinch sea salt

Approximately 3 medium beets, peeled, and thinly sliced into whatever shape/size you desire to sit nicely atop their rice bases (I halved them lengthwise, placed the flat side down, and then thinly sliced them).

In a 1-quart saucepan, stir together water, dulse flakes, and sea salt.  Add beets, cover loosely, and place over medium-high heat.  Simmer gently, reducing heat if necessary, just until beets are tender, about 10 minutes.  Drain, but avoid rinsing.  Some of the dulse may adhere to a few of the slices and, if so, just brush off with your fingers rather than rinsing.  Let cool to room temperature.

 

Assembly:

Scoop up palm-size balls of rice (about 1/12 of the total amount) and squeeze firmly in your palm, shaping into a “log” about 2 1/2 inches long and about 3/4 to 1-inch tall.  Place on a work surface, spread with about 1/2 teaspoon of the Vegan Thai Chili-Garlic-Ginger Mayo, and top with beets, however many slices cover the top nicely.  I like to slightly overlap 3 small slices so that the sushi can be eaten in several bites.  Transfer to a serving platter or plates.  Repeat with remaining ingredients and garnish platter or plates as desired.

 

Optional garnishes:

Whatever you have and/or think would be pretty is what you should use!  I used dabs of spinach pesto because green is so pretty with the color of the beets (but dabs of a mint or cilantro chutney or mint/cilantro oil squeezed into decorative lines would be nice too), cilantro sprigs (but Thai basil or mint would be lovely), and cashews (though chopped peanuts would be appropriate too).

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Vegan Corn Risotto

Yield: 2-3 healthy servings

If you read my Vegan Edamame Risotto post, you know that it was inspired by a dish our friend Jeff Berger ordered at The Green Onion in Virginia Beach last Friday night. He pronounced his dinner, which included a non-vegan corn risotto, “stellar.”

A couple of tiny tastes–just for research–of his creamy-fluffy mound of rice and sweet corn created a powerful craving in me. But I thought I had no corn, so I made an edamame version, which was on the money.

Still, though, I wanted to try the corn. The next day, I found a bag hidden in the freezer, so I made it again. Another keeper! Though the frozen corn was very good, I can’t wait to try the dish this summer when our fresh corn is in season.

As with the edamame version, the flavor of the risotto is largely dependent on stock, so be sure to use one that is very flavorful, but not too salty, as both the flavors and salt become concentrated as the stock cooks down. This happens quickly and, before you know it, you are adding more stock and what seems like protracted hands-on cooking time, “evaporates.”

1 tablespoon olive oil
2/3 cup rice
1 shallot, finely chopped (or about 2-3 tablespoons of finely chopped onion)
2-3 cloves garlic
4 cups vegetable stock
1 cup white wine (I used a Pinot Grigio)
(or 5 cups vegetable stock)
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
coarse sea or kosher salt to taste (you may not need any if your stock is adequately salted)
freshly ground black pepper to taste
optional: 1 teaspoon vegan butter (I like Earth Balance)
optional: 1 tablespoon soy or coconut milk creamer
generous 1/2 cup of fresh or frozen corn (if fresh, just cut it right off the cob, raw)
optional garnish: a sprinkling of nutritional yeast and snipped chives

In a large cast iron skillet or pot over medium-high, heat olive oil to shimmering. Add rice and, toast, stirring frequently. When barely, golden, add shallot and garlic and continue cooking until the color of the rice is a light golden brown. Meanwhile, heat stock and white wine to a bare simmer. Once the rice is the desired color, start adding half cups of the liquid to it, simmering while stirring frequently until almost all moisture is evaporated. Repeat until all liquid is used, which should take about 30 minutes. Be careful that, as the rice becomes creamy, it doesn’t stick to the pan. Lower heat if necessary. After about 15 minutes of cooking, stir in the optional soy sauce and nutritional yeast along with the salt, if needed, and pepper. After about 25 minutes, stir in the edamame and finish cooking the risotto, adding the optional vegan butter and creamer very near the end. Serve warm topped with a sprinkling of nutritional yeast and, if desired, snipped chives.

Note: if you prefer a risotto with a lighter color and less pronounced rice flavor, don’t toast the rice first.

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Creamy Vegan Edamame Risotto

Yield: 2-3 healthy servings

Last night we met our friends Jeff and Debbie Berger at The Green Onion in Virginia Beach for a meal that Jeff pronounced “stellar.” I agree. In fact, my husband and I have enjoyed dinner there every Friday night for a couple of months or more.

I had to sneak a tiny taste–or two–of Jeff’s non-vegan risotto so that I could try to duplicate it at home. His creamy-fluffy mound of rice and sweet corn was stellar indeed. So I set about to create my own vegan version at home.

However, I didn’t have any corn. But I didn’t want to stop at the grocery store because I’d been out and about most of the morning, had 80 pounds of dog food in my car and three hungry pups at home. So I decided I’d have to raid my freezer because I was jonesin’ for some risotto big time. The freezer yielded some nice bright green edamame and so my Creamy Vegan Edamame Risotto was born.

Because stock is what lends most of the flavor to this dish, be sure to use one you really like and that isn’t too salty, as both the flavors and the salt intensify as the stock is cooked down. Since risotto takes a fair amount of easy hands-on cooking time, if you go to your “happy place” in your mind or have someone on hand to visit with, the dish will be ready to dive into before you know it.

1 tablespoon olive or walnut oil
2/3 cup rice
1 shallot, finely chopped (or about 2-3 tablespoons of finely chopped onion)
2-3 cloves garlic
4 cups vegetable stock
1 cup white wine (I used a Pinot Grigio)
optional: 1 teaspoon soy sauce (adds salt, so be careful, but in combination with the nutritional yeast, it creates a really delicious flavor that is difficult to identify)
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
coarse sea or kosher salt to taste (you may not need any if your stock is adequately salted)
freshly ground black pepper to taste
optional: 1 teaspoon vegan butter (I like Earth Balance)
optional: 1 tablespoon soy or coconut milk creamer
generous 1/2 cup frozen shelled edamame
optional garnish: a sprinkling of nutritional yeast and snipped chives

In a large cast iron skillet or pot over medium-high, heat olive oil to shimmering. Add rice and, toast, stirring frequently. When barely, golden, add shallot and continue cooking until the color of the rice is a light golden brown. Meanwhile, heat stock and white wine to a bare simmer. Once the rice is the desired color, start adding half cups of the liquid to it, simmering while stirring frequently until almost all moisture is evaporated. Repeat until all liquid is used, which should take about 30 minutes. Be careful that, as the rice becomes creamy, it doesn’t stick to the pan. Lower heat if necessary. After about 15 minutes of cooking, stir in the optional soy sauce and nutritional yeast along with the salt, if needed, and pepper. After about 25 minutes, stir in the edamame and finish cooking the risotto, adding the optional vegan butter and creamer very near the end. Serve warm topped with a sprinkling of nutritional yeast and, if desired, snipped chives.

Note: if you prefer a risotto with a lighter color and less pronounced rice flavor, don’t toast the rice first.

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Vegan Vegetable-Coconut Milk Rice Pilaf with Vegan Five Spice and Lime Roasted Cashews or Peanuts

Yield: approximately 4 servings

After a beautiful family-style pan-Asian meal at China Grill–much of which I couldn’t eat– over New Year’s weekend in South Beach, I was craving foods inspired by their creations, especially something with their spiced cashews that I picked off of their version of a Caesar salad. Here’s what I came up with and I have found it so satisfying as leftovers all week. Measurements of vegetables are approximate. Use what you have and it will still be wonderful.

Vegetable-Coconut Milk Rice Pilaf:
1 generous tablespoon vegetable oil (you may mix in a little sesame oil)
1 cup sliced green onions
1/2 cup baby carrots, halved lengthwise
1/2 of a yellow or red bell pepper, stem and seeds removed, thinly sliced
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms (shitakes are especially good)
2 cups vegetable stock
1 can (about 1 1/2 cups) coconut milk (I used the “lite” variety)
1 cup Jasmine rice (I recommend not substitute because the fragrance can’t be duplicated)
1 cup of trimmed broccoli florets
optional: coarse kosher or sea salt
Garnish: chopped fresh cilantro and spiced cashews or peanuts (see recipe below)

In a wok or large saute pan over medium-high, heat oil to shimmering. Add green onions and stir fry for a minute to flavor oil. Add baby carrots and stir fry for another minute, followed by bell pepper and mushrooms, stir frying for a minute after each addition. Stir in vegetable stock, coconut milk and rice. Cover (use foil if you don’t have a lid to fit your wok) and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to insure that rice isn’t sticking. Lower heat if necessary. Stir in broccoli, cover, and cook for an additional 5 minutes or until rice is tender, most of moisture is absorbed and broccoli is tender but still bright green. Check for salt and add if necessary. Garnish with cilantro and spiced nuts. Serve warm.

Vegan Five Spice and Lime Roasted Cashews or Peanuts:
1 tablespoon olive oil
juice and zest of 1/2 of a lime
1-2 tablespoons brown sugar (start with smaller amount and add more if desired)
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea or kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon (or to taste) five spice powder
1/8 teaspoon (or to taste) cayenne pepper
12 ounces lightly salted cashew halves and pieces or peanuts (reserve can)

Line a baking sheet with a brown paper bag, waxed paper or parchment paper. In a wok or large saucepan over medium high, heat olive oil to shimmering. Meanwhile, combine all remaining ingredients except peanuts. Stir into hot oil, being careful not to splatter, followed immediately by peanuts. Roast and stir for about 7 minutes, lowering heat if necessary, or until exterior is caramelized and peanuts taste slightly roasted. Avoid scorching or you will have to throw out the whole batch. Pour immediately onto prepared baking sheet to cool completely. Store in the reserved peanut can.

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Vegan Thai Coconut Milk Risotto

Yield: 4-6 servings

Last weekend, we flew to North Carolina. Air travel means lots of time to catch up on the latest and greatest in the culinary magazines, and the Thanksgiving issues are some of my favorites. This fall, it seems that risottos are very popular, especially those made with butternut squash. While that sounds really good to me, somewhere along the line, I got the idea to cook the rice in coconut milk for an ultra-creamy Thai-style rice and I couldn’t get it out of my mind.

My instincts were spot-on, if I do say so myself. This recipe is sure to become a favorite if you like Thai food and maybe even if you don’t! I start with a saute of onion, garlic and red bell pepper, but you could add any Thai-compatible vegetables of your choice, like baby broccoli florets, mushrooms, and the like. Pineapple bits would be tasty too, but wouldn’t require much cooking time–just heated through. Honestly, I don’t think it would be possible to go wrong.

In the past, I shied away from risotto because of the protracted hands-on cooking time. But I found that, as long as I had other things I was doing in the kitchen, stopping to give the risotto an occasional stir was no big deal and the time went by quickly.

For a complete meal, try spooning the risotto onto a serving platter, making a slight depression in the top, filling it with crisp tofu cubes, and garnishing with chives/scallions and cashews.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, peeled and diced
coarse sea or kosher salt to taste
3-4 medium garlic cloves, sliced
1/2 of a red bell pepper, diced
1 cup rice (jasmine is nice for an authentic Thai flavor)
1/2 cup intensely-flavored vegetable stock or 2 vegetable bouillon cubes dissolved in 1/2 cup water, warmed on stove or in microwave
1/2 cup white wine (I like something slightly sweet)
1-15 ounce can coconut milk, warmed on stove or in microwave (substitute “lite” if you must)
1-2 tablespoons minced Thai or Italian basil (I used some that was fresh-frozen in my freezer)
1/2-1 teaspoon dried mint (it’s not fresh mint season here right now)
3 tablespoons vegan fish sauce

Garnish:
chives or scallions
chopped or halved cashew nuts

In a large cast iron skillet over medium-high, heat olive oil to shimmering. Add onion and saute, stirring frequently, until translucent. Add garlic and red bell pepper and saute until softened. Add rice and saute, stirring frequently, for about 4 minutes or until it starts to toast. Add vegetable stock and cook, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, for about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to medium if necessary. Add wine and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. If you haven’t already, reduce heat to medium and add 1/3 of coconut milk. Cook slowly, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Repeat two more times until all of the coconut milk is added. Just before the last 10 minutes of cooking, add basil and mint. After the risotto is fully cooked, stir in vegan fish sauce. Garnish with chives or scallions and halved or chopped cashews.

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