Grain-Free, Vegan Layered Vegetable Lasagna

Grain-Free, Vegan Layered Vegetable Lasagna | Delectably FreeWhile I own a growing collection of vegan cookbooks — a collection that my tiny kitchen is increasingly struggling to contain — I admit that I rarely make recipes directly from any cookbooks. That’s because I usually find myself trying to think of new recipes rather than make someone else’s. I collect cookbooks because they give me inspiration and help me with the thinking part more than anything else.

That said, there are a few cookbook recipes that fall under my all-time favorites — ones that I will gladly make and share with others, with no shame in that it wasn’t my idea to begin with, because it’s just that good. Ok, maybe there’s a touch of shame that I couldn’t think of the idea myself. But I love these recipes so much, they’re among the rare meals I make without trying to change a thing.

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Cran-Apple Lentil Loaf

lentil loaf

Lentil loaf is one of those ubiquitous vegan dishes that seems to pop up on every blog and website around the holidays. I’m joining in the lentil loaf fun. For years, I’ve wanted to create a decent lentil loaf to post on this site. I’d tried my hand at it a few times and wasn’t too happy with the results. So I gave up. But I figured, what better time than “Thanksgiving season” (if you’re a blogger, you know that Thanksgiving is, indeed, a full “season”) than to tackle this dish once again?

Thankfully, I came up with not one but two versions of lentil loaf that I liked. I could not decide which I liked better, though, so I left that to my chief taste-tester, Gennaro. Truth be told, Gennaro is a pretty horrible taste-tester, as he is very reluctant to give me criticism (great husband, not great taste-tester). But over the years, I’ve developed enough insight into his body language to know when he really loves something, and when he’s just telling me what he thinks I want to hear. In this case, his body language pointed clearly to loaf #1. So that’s the one I’m sharing here.

lentil loaf

This lentil loaf is texturally not exactly like meatloaf, so don’t think you’ll be getting a perfect replica. But it’s a delicious centerpiece to a meal nonetheless, and will definitely go well with all of the typical meatloaf accompaniments. In fact, it works best when surrounded by a supporting cast of mashed potatoes and gravy. The topping is also essential, as it adds a sweetness and flavor to the dish. This is also delicious cold the next day (in my opinion). I ate three slices straight out of the refrigerator for breakfast and lunch and not only did it still taste great but it kept me full throughout the day!

I adapted my recipe from this one at Oh She Glows. I loved the idea of using grated apple in the loaf (I personally think it keeps the filling from becoming too dry). I also liked the idea of processing the lentils (I processed 1/2 instead of 75%) in order to keep the loaf from falling apart. This one holds together remarkably well. The cranberries rounded everything out with a tart-sweetness that added flavor and festiveness to the dish.

I will be bringing this for our vegan family Thanksgiving feast. This is the first year that our entire extended family dinner will be meat-free! It’s funny because in years past, as more and more of us were giving up meat, the family turkey got smaller and smaller as more vegan dishes began to spring up in our lineup. I’m so exited that this year, there will be no turkey at all! This dish will fill in just perfectly.

Note: this recipe is somewhat more labor intensive than what I usually like to make for a weeknight meal. Altogether, it took me about 40 minutes of active prep and then about 45 minutes of baking (during which I cleaned my dirty kitchen!). It’s definitely not the most labor intensive meal I’ve ever made, but I thought I’d give fair warning to those looking to tackle this one in a hurry, as there are a few different cooking components at play here. Also note that for best results, you should have parchment paper on hand to line your loaf dish for easy removal. 

Cran-Apple Lentil Loaf:

Adapted from Oh She Glows’ Ultimate Vegan Lentil Walnut Loaf; Yield: about 8 thick slices

Loaf Ingredients: 

1 cup uncooked green/brown lentils

3 cups water

1 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup raw walnuts

1 cup onion, very finely chopped

1 cup celery, very finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

1/3 cup vegetable broth

2 tablespoons ground flax seeds

1/2 cup grated apple, tightly packed

2 tablespoons Bragg’s Liquid Aminos (use coconut aminos to make this soy free)

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/3 cup fruit-sweetened dried cranberries

Glaze:

2 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 1/2 tablespoons coconut nectar (can also substitute agave or maple syrup)

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon ground mustard

Directions:

1. Add lentils to a small pot with 3 cups water and a pinch of salt. Cover and bring to a boil. Then reduce to a simmer and simmer lentils, covered, for about 35 minutes, or until most of the liquid is gone but lentils remain firm. Drain remainder of the liquid. Set aside.

2. In a food processor fitted with a sharp steel blade, process oats together with walnuts for about 30 seconds, until a coarse flour forms (almost like a coarsely ground cornmeal). Pour processed walnuts and oats unto a large mixing bowl and set aside.

3. Add 1 cup of lentils to food processor with same steel blade (no need to wash first) and process until mixture begins to clump together. Set aside.

4. In a non-stick saute pan, saute onion, garlic and celery in vegetable broth over medium-high heat until soft and vegetable broth is gone, about 5 minutes. Add cooked onion, celery and garlic to mixing bowl with the oats and walnuts. Add pureed lentils and roughly mix. Add another cup of the whole lentils, then remaining loaf ingredients and mix well. I actually like to use my hands to mix everything together and make sure all of the ingredients are well-distributed. I don’t bother much to add things in a certain order, as using your hands will kind of help to distribute things well.

5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. While oven preheats, pour lentil loaf mixture into a 9x5x2″ (or similar-sized) loaf pan and press firmly into pan, using hands. Top should be smooth. Then mix together topping ingredients in a small bowl and pour over top, spreading evenly with a spoon or spatula until well-distributed.

6. Bake loaf in preheated oven, uncovered, for about 45 minutes on a middle rack. Remove from oven and let cool for a couple minutes before lifting loaf out of pan with the sides of the parchment. For easy transfer to a serving platter, I gently lifted the bottom of the loaf from the parchment with a long spatula and then pulled the parchment out from underneath. Slice and serve with desired accompaniments.

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Tempeh Shepherd’s Pot Pie

tempeh shepherd's pieI adapted this Shepherd’s pie recipe from one of my favorite all-time cookbooks, Veganomicon. Last year I made the Veganomicon Moussaka for our family’s vegan Thanksgiving main dish. It was a huge hit with everyone. This year, I’m tackling our family’s main dish again. I am contemplating making this, as it’s quite delicious. Though I would love to hear suggestions from everyone else as to your favorite gluten-free, vegan main courses for the holidays.

Of course, this dish need not be limited to just holiday meals. It’s wonderful comfort food that can be served throughout the winter. In fact, the filling actually reminds me more of a pot pie (also a comfort food favorite for many), which is why I am calling this a Shepherd’s Pot Pie. It’s comfort food fusion!

tempeh shepherd's pie

I made several changes to the original Veganomicon recipe. Not because the original is not delicious — I’m sure it is — but because I’m a food creativity junkie and have trouble sticking to exact recipes. I decided to make the topping with a mixture of cauliflower and potatoes rather than just potatoes in order to lighten it up a bit. I’m also a fan of sneaking as many healthy veggies into dishes as I can. I used coconut oil in the topping (instead of grapeseed oil, which was called for in the original), which I feel is a nice substitute for butter, and reduced the amount of oil overall. As far as the filling goes, I omitted the use of oil entirely, didn’t use any corn (mostly because I didn’t have any, so I doubled the amount of peas used) and used some white wine in the cooking process. Instead of flour, I thickened the filling with arrowroot powder. And I used Bragg’s Liquid Aminos instead of Tamari, though Tamari could certainly be used here as well. Finally, I reduced the amount of liquid in the filling, as I wanted the filling a bit on the thicker side.

While my pictures here probably don’t do this dish justice (I was photographing on a super rainy and dreary day), I hope that doesn’t deter everyone from giving this dish a try. I really think it would be a wonderful addition to anyone’s vegan comfort food repertoire.

Tip: The topping can be served alone as a delicious “whipped potato” side dish. Simply follow directions for prepping it and serve after pureeing in food processor (don’t bake). The potatoes turn out light and fluffy and totally amazing — I was licking my spatula!

Tempeh Shepherd’s Pot Pie:

Adapted from the Tempeh Shepherdess Pie recipe in Veganomicon

Serves: 6-8

Filling Ingredients:

2 8-oz. packages tempeh

2 cups water

3 tablespoons Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, divided

1 1/4 cup onions (about 1 large onion), diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/3 cups vegetable broth, divided

1/3 cup white wine

10 oz. cremini mushrooms (about 1 pkg.), sliced

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon ground coriander

2 cups frozen peas

2 tablespoons arrowroot starch

Topping Ingredients:

1 pound russet potatoes (about 8 small potatoes), peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

4 cups chopped cauliflower florets (about 1 small head cauliflower)

3 tablespoons coconut oil

3 tablespooons unsweetened soy or almond milk

1 teaspoon sea salt

Directions:

1. In a large skillet, crumble tempeh into small pieces. Add water and 1 tablespooon liquid aminos. Cover and let boil for 10 minutes (start on step 2 while tempeh cooks). After 10 minutes, remove lid and cook tempeh until remaining liquid has evaporated.

2. Add potatoes to a large soup pot and cover with water. Add cauliflower to a separate steamer basket and steam until fork tender, or boil in a separate small pot until fork tender. Drain cauliflower and set aside. Meanwhile, bring potatoes to a boil and boil for about 20 minutes, or until potatoes are also fork tender. Add potatoes, cauliflower and remaining topping ingredients to a food processor and process until smooth. You may need to stir contents a few times to ensure proper distribution. Set aside.

3. Once tempeh liquid has evaporated, remove tempeh to a plate. You do not need to clean skillet. Add onion, garlic and 1/3 cup vegetable broth to skillet and saute over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, or until onions are translucent. Add tempeh, mushrooms, thyme, coriander, 2 tablespoons liquid aminos and white wine to skillet and saute for another 10 minutes, or until mushrooms are softened and juicy.

4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

5. Add peas to filling mixture and saute for another minute. Meanwhile, whisk together 1 cup vegetable broth and arrowroot in a separate bowl and add to filling ingredients. Heat through, for about another minute.

6. Add filling ingredients to a large, 9×13″ casserole dish (for the picture, I separated my ingredients into smaller dishes). Top with whipped potatoes and cauliflower and spread evenly over filling. Bake uncovered in preheated oven for about 20 minutes. The Veganomicon girls recommend that if your topping isn’t getting browned by then, simply place under broiler for a couple minutes to brown. Serve warm.

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Gluten-Free, Vegan Green Bean Casserole

Anyone who’s gone vegan, sugar-free or gluten-free knows that often in our attempts at recreating old favorites to fit our dietary restrictions, we end up creating a dish that’s inherently much healthier as well.

This is not one of those dishes.

I’m sorry to say, but there comes a point in ones life where health concerns must surrender in the interest of taste, and for me that point is usually somewhere around the month of December. We can always change back our ways come the new year — that’s what resolutions are for, right?

Now, before I go giving this grean been casserole such a bad rap, let me just say that, well, it is made with a vegetable after all. And vegan sour cream is somewhat less fat-laden than the dairy-made stuff. And I made the topping using reduced fat potato chips — not the full-fat kind. So, there. Take it for what it’s worth.

I was inspired to make a vegan green bean casserole by my friend Charlie, who made one for Thanksgiving using canned mushrooms (thickened with some cornstarch) and dairy-free sour cream. He then topped his with the traditional french fried onions. As my unofficial guinea pig for a green bean casserole recipe (I was secretly waiting to see how his idea turned out before attempting my own…), he reported positive results and rave reviews from his Thanksgiving taste-testers. Thus, confidence in my own green bean casserole attempts immediately soared. Thanks, Charlie!

Because my own taste-tester (that would be the hubs) has some sort of mushroom phobia, I had to proceed with caution in this department. There are only a few things, I’ve learned, that he will really pick out of his plate, and one of those things seems to be certain types of mushrooms (though he will tell you he’s coming around to liking them). As a result, I decided to go with the clear front-runner on his mushroom list, which would be shiitakes. Luckily, their earthy flavor and somewhat meaty texture make them a great addition to green bean casserole, along with some caramelized onions in the filling.

To replicate the crunch of french fried onions in the topping (the ones I’ve seen in stores are not gluten-free), I had many ideas. I considered making my own french fried onions, but nixed that thought once I considered the work that would involve. I thought about baking the casserole with gluten-free bread crumbs on top. I also considered using no topping at all, but immediately dismissed this notion as culinary blasphemy. I mean, what is the point of green bean casserole if you’re not going to top it with something salty and crunchy? Ultimately, I went with crushed potato chips, with the addition of a little nutritional yeast for flavor. It may not be traditional, but it yielded a nice crunch and a wonderful contrast to the creaminess underneath.

Here are some other veganized green bean casserole recipes that might be of interest:

Semi-Raw Green Bean Casserole from Pure2Raw

The Best Vegan Green Bean Casserole from Susan at Fat Free Vegan Kitchen

Another take on Susan’s Green Bean Casserole from Gena at Choosing Raw (scroll to the bottom for the casserole)

And just to remind everyone, leave a comment on my previous post (eggnog ice cream) to enter the giveaway for a Cuisiart Mini Food Processor. Even if you already have a food processor, a mini one is great for small-prep items and even has a grind function on it. It’s a great space-saver as well. And, since I’ve heard some feedback that while the food processor is nice, what everyone is really pining for is an ice cream maker, I got to thinking (since it is the holidays, after all). That I might just follow-up this giveaway with a little something along those lines. And, since (in the interest of fairness) all winners will be chosen at random by my computer, who’s to say someone might not get lucky and win both? Anyways, stay tuned…

Green Bean Casserole:

1 1/2 lbs green beans, trimmed and halved

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 yellow onion, sliced thin

10 shiitake caps, sliced

1/3 cup vegetable broth

1 cup Follow Your Heart Sour Cream Alternative

1/3 cup Follow Your Heart Vegenaise

Salt to taste

3 tablespoons nutritonal yeast

For Topping:

40 Kettle Brand baked potato chips, crushed (next time I make this I am going to crush the chips a little more coarsely than shown in the picture for some more texture and crunch)

Directions:

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add green beans and cook for 2 minutes. Drain and rinse immediately with cold water to stop cooking. Set aside.

2. Preheat oven to 350.

3. In a large saute pan, saute onion in olive oil for about 5 minutes over high heat, or until onion is soft, transluscent and browned. Add shiitake caps and saute until soft (1-2 minutes). Add vegetable broth, stir, and turn off heat. Stir in sour cream alternative, vegenaise and green beans. Toss to combine and add a pinch of salt to taste.

4. Turn out green bean filling into a 2 qt. shallow baking dish. Sprinkle with nurtitional yeast. Bake in preheated oven, uncovered, for about 25-30 minutes, or until green beans are softened to your liking and sides are bubbling. Remove from oven and let sit for about 5 minutes, then sprinkle with crushed potato chips and serve immediately.

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Cornbread Stuffing

I still remember the first Thanksgiving my mom spent after cutting wheat, dairy and sugar out of her diet. I sat across from her at the table, sheepishly enjoying my mashed potatoes, stuffing and cranberry sauce as she picked at her plate of boiled potatoes and plain turkey. Wow, I never want to have to do that…I thought to myself. Little did I know that three months later I would be sitting in a doctor’s office listening to a diagnosis that was, essentially, a “not to do” list that included some of my favorite foods. I immediately thought about Thanksgiving. For years, Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday. It’s not just the food, but also the atmosphere. No one is rushed, there is little stress leading up to the big day, and everyone can just eat and relax, take a nap, and watch football. Still, it all comes down to the food, and Thanksgiving just wouldn’t seem the same (at least not to me) without some good old-fashioned sides to go along with the turkey.

Eventually my mom did find a way to bring the traditional sides back to our Thanksgiving meal with some simple substitutions: unsweetend soy milk and Earth Balance in the mashed potatoes, stevia and xylitol for the cranbery sauce, and a cornstarch-thickened instead of flour-thickened gravy. But the one thing we never seemed to be able to replace was the stuffing. This year, I decided to experiment by making a gluten free cornbread stuffing — not an entirely novel idea, but something that, truthfully, I had never thought about making until now. I went traditional with the flavors — nothing too fancy or different — but I think this recipe would be very amenable to additions and experimentaion. I included the gluten-free cornbread recipe here, too, which can be made in advance or just before making the stuffing.

Gluten Free Cornbread:

1 cup cornmeal

1/2 cup sorghum flour

1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 1/2 cups unsweetened soy milk or almond milk

1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons agave nectar

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Add wet ingredients and whisk until incorporated. Pour batter into a greased, 9×9 inch baking dish or cast iron skillet and bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes. Let cool.

Gluten Free Cornbread Stuffing:

1 medium sweet onion, diced

3 celery stalks, diced

2 tablespoons vegan buttery spread

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/3 cup vegetable broth

1 recipe gluten free cornbread

1/3 cup roughly chopped parsley

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. In a large skillet or saute pan, saute onion and celery in buttery spread over low heat until soft and transluscent, about 15 minutes. Add garlic in last 5 minutes of cooking. Add vegetable broth and increase heat to medium. Bring to a simmer. Remove onions and celery from heat. Crumble cornbread into skillet. Add parsley and thyme. Stir to combine and until liquid is absorbed.

3. Transfer stuffing to a baking dish and bake, covered in foil, in preheated oven for 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 5-10 minutes to brown the top. Alternately, use recipe to stuff turkey or any other poultry.

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