Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Julie Hasson's Vegan Casseroles: Book Review, a Recipe, and Two Giveaways!

Vegan Casseroles: Pasta Bakes, Gratins, Pot Pies, and More by Julie Hasson
There are so many vegan cookbooks out now.  I have a 3 foot tall stack next to my desk waiting for review.  No joke.  And I am sure they all have some amazing recipes in them.  I mean, I probably wouldn't have bought them otherwise, right?  (Well, actually, I think I may have a real problem.  I buy way too many vegan cookbooks.  I just can't help myself.  I need them.  I love them. I bring them into the bathtub with me for a romantic read. I whisper sweet nothings to them every night before I go to bed.)  In all seriousness, I love supporting other vegan cookbook authors, and I want them all to be successful.

But, every now and again, one comes out that is just knock your socks off unbelievable.  One that answers your dreams and prayers.  One full of comfort and goodness, and everything I love to eat.  Vegan Casseroles is one of these books.  

The beautiful and talented Julie Hasson

Starting with the cover, you know that you will be in for a treat.  I mean, come on, look at it! It's a Truffled Cauliflower Mac Casserole! (It appears on page 101 in case you need it, like, right now.) The cover just whets your appetite for what's to come.  A book full of cruelty free goodness that is sure to satisfy every craving for every one-dish-comfort-food you've ever had.

Moving passed the cover, because we never judge a book by it's cover, we find a very well organized and laid out book packed with stunning full color photography and nicely designed pages.  It starts out with the ever important sections on ingredients, special equipment, tips and tricks.  Then...the recipes.  The chapters are well thought out and organized in a matter that makes sense.  Appetizers, mains, desserts, and finally the sauces and staple recipes used within other recipes throughout the book (but that also stand up on their very own.)

So far, my favorite recipe is the Mac and Gravy Casserole on page 90. Because mac. And gravy. And it has a boozy beer variation.  I think that pretty much sums it up, no?

If I had to make a criticism of this book (because if I only say good things abut it, you guys might think I'm doing a little brown nosing) it would be that I miss having the metric equivalents in the ingredient measures.  So often, these days, I measure with my scale instead of my spoons and cups, because it saves time, uses less dishes, and tends to be more accurate.  Adding in the metric equivalents would have been a nice touch.

I had this book on preorder for ages, and when it finally came, I did my usual perusing to mark the recipes I wanted to try first.  But I had to stop because there were more pages marked, than those that weren't.  Then the publisher was nice enough to send one over for review, so now I have two!  That's lucky for you, because I am going to give one away to one lucky reader. (Yes, this giveaway is open to international readers.) Just go ahead and follow the prompts in the widget below.  

The publishers are also doing their own giveaway...of a Breville Smart Oven (!!!) which is open to US readers only.  Follow the prompts in that widget (at the bottom of the post) as well.  And even if you do not win either of the giveaways, you are still a winner because Julie was kind enough to let me share not one but two recipes from her new book.

Creamy Spinach Florentine from Julie Hasson's Vegan Casseroles (page 98)

Creamy Spinach Florentine
Serves 4
(Reprinted with permission from VEGAN CASSEROLES © 2014 by Julie Hasson, Running Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group.)
Ever since I was a child, I have adored creamed spinach. This casserole totally reminds me of the stuffed spinach crèpes I would order as a teenager at this little crèpe restaurant near our house. I could never get enough of them. This casserole doesn’t disappoint, with a luscious creamy sauce, spinach, and some dry sherry thrown in for good measure.

8 ounces dried shell pasta or macaroni
1 (10-ounce) bag frozen spinach, thawed
1 recipe Almost Alfredo Sauce (see below)
3 to 4 tablespoons dry sherry, depending how strong of a sherry taste you like
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
1 teaspoon granulated onion
3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease an 8-inch square glass or ceramic baking dish.
In a large pot of lightly salted boiling water, add the pasta and cook according to package directions until al dente. Don’t overcook the pasta, especially if you’re using one that is gluten-free. Drain the pasta well and transfer to a large bowl.
Drain most of the liquid out of the spinach by gently squeezing it, but don’t squeeze it completely dry. Add the spinach to the pasta, along with the sauce, mixing until the pasta is thickly coated. Add the sherry, Dijon mustard, nutritional yeast, granulated onion, and nutmeg, stirring well. Add salt and pepper, and adjust seasonings to taste. Scoop the pasta mixture into the prepared baking dish. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until hot and slightly bubbly around the edges. Remove from the oven and serve.

Gluten-Free: Use a gluten-free oat flour in the sauce and gluten-free pasta (my favorite here is brown rice macaroni).

Almost Alfredo Sauce
Makes about 3 cups
Although this isn’t exactly a true alfredo sauce with loads of cream and butter, it is an all-purpose creamy white sauce, which works really well in so many recipes. There are a number of variations for it, from adding truffle oil to white wine. It’s so versatile, that it may just become your new secret sauce.

21/2 cups plain unsweetened soymilk
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup raw unsalted cashews, soaked for at least 2 hours and drained
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
3 tablespoons oat flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
11/4 teaspoons fine sea salt, or more to taste
1 teaspoon granulated onion

In the jar of a blender, combine the soymilk, water, cashews, nutritional yeast, oat flour, cornstarch, salt, and granulated onion. Blend the mixture at high speed until completely smooth and no bits of nuts remain. If you don’t have a big blender, blend the mixture in two batches.
Transfer the mixture to a large saucepan and place over medium-high heat. Bring the sauce to a simmer, whisking continuously. Once the mixture comes to a simmer, reduce the heat slightly and cook, whisking continuously until thickened, about 5 to 10 minutes.

Tip: Use a good-tasting unsweetened soymilk for this sauce, as the flavor really comes through. If you’re using a high-speed blender, you can skip the soaking step for the cashews and just use them dry. Add a little extra water to blend if needed.

To make a truffle sauce, to the blender jar add 1 to 3 tablespoons truffle oil to taste and reduce the granulated onion to 1/2 teaspoon. Add a few sprinkles of freshly grated nutmeg.
To make a white wine sauce, replace 3/4 cup of soymilk with an equal amount of white wine.
To make this sauce lower in fat, reduce the cashews to 1/3 cup.
Gluten-Free: Use a gluten-free oat flour.

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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Well, Hello!

Just a quick check in now that we've all had a chance to breathe after MoFo.  Oh my, wasn't is an epic year?  So many blogs, so much good stuff.  I am still reading through posts that I missed during the month.

A few updates on what's happening in the world of JustTheFood and Joni Marie in general:

If you didn't know already, I have moved back to the city.  I had a great time in Trabuco Canyon for the past 6 years, but it was time for Dan and I to be amongst people again. So we are back home in Long Beach, right where we belong. And, oh man, do I love it.  I am close to everybody and everything...except work...but that's okay, I was used to a long commute before we moved, so no big deal.  Best thing about the new house (besides that it's ours) is that it has gas.  I know that sounds silly, but for someone who loves to cook, having to cook on an electric stove at home for the last 6 years has been awful.  Now, I have a brand new stove with gas burners.  So. Very. Stoked.

Going Vegan.  Man, this is such an important book.  Probably the most heartfelt book I have had the pleasure of writing to date.  I was super lucky to partner with Gerrie Lynn Adams on this project, and we hope to do some signings and events around southern, central, and possibly as far north as San Francisco in the upcoming months.

A podcast.  Yep, I am in the process of producing a podcast.  Vegan Road Rants is my addition to the evergrowing world of vegan podcasts.  The entire thing is recorded while I am driving.  Short rants and raves about whatever topic comes to mind as I am driving to and from work, or wherever else my vegan life takes me.  I even have a few interviews (also recorded while driving) that I can't wait to share. I have been recording segments since 2013, and finally have enough to put together a few episodes to kick it all off.  My goal is to have the first episode out by the Thanksgiving holiday.  Shout outs to Scott McClymonds for creating the awesome logos and Cha Meeno for writing, performing, and recording all of the sound bites, including the intro song.  It's so f'ing amazing.  Here's a sneak peak...

Monday, September 29, 2014

Vegan MoFo VIII, Day 29: Falafelogs with Cucumber Relish

Falafelogs with Cucumber Relish from Going Vegan (page 108)

Am I the only one who thinks falafels are the WRONG shape to put in a pita?  Screw tradition and make your falafels into wieners.  I mean, Oktoberfest, am I right?  This recipe is packed full of flavor, is soy free, nut free, and has no added oil or sugar.  If that's your jam, cool!  If not, trust me, this recipe is still yummers.  Come on guys, you think this girl was going to write an oil free, sugar free recipe that didn't pass the Joni-loves-to-add-Earth-Balance-or-Vegenaise-to-everything test?

Today's recipe is from the brand spankin' new Going Vegan: The Complete Guide to Making a Healthy Transition to a Plant-Based Lifestyle.  This book just came out in August, so I really should be pushing it harder than I have been. So, try this recipe, and any of the others that have been posted here on the blog, then head on over to your favorite bookseller and pick one up for a friend who has been thinking about making the switch. Or give one to your family member that always asks you where you get your protein. Or to you best friend's brother who always makes jokes about how your tofu sandwich would be better with a few slices of bacon added to it. (If he reads the story of Sophie the pig who lives at farm sanctuary and still wants bacon, then he really is heartless!) Answers to all of those questions and more, plus recipes for those who want to cure what ails them through food, and those who just want to stop killing and torturing other living beings all for the sake of a tasty meal.  Thanks.  I owe ya one.

Falafelogs with Cucumber Relish
• Soy free
• Nut free
• No added oil
• No added sugar
This dish is like a falafel hot dog! These logs are fun to make, and they’re easy, too. The parsley and cilantro add a bright, fresh flavor.

For Falafelogs:
1 can (15 ounces, or 425 g) chickpeas, drained and rinsed, or 1 3/4 cups (TK) cooked chickpeas
1 cup (160 g) diced yellow onion (about 1/2 large onion)
1 Roma tomato, roughly chopped (about 1/3 cup)
1 ounce (28 g) fresh parsley (about 1 cup fresh leaves)
1/2 ounce (14 g) fresh cilantro (about 1/3 cup fresh leaves)
2 to 4 large garlic cloves, to taste
1/2 cup (60 g) chickpea flour
1/2 cup (72 g) vital wheat gluten flour
1 tablespoon (15 ml) lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

For Cucumber Relish:
1/2 cup (128 g) tahini (See “Veggie Bite” below.)
1/4 cup (60 ml) lemon juice
3 to 4 large cloves garlic, to taste
2 teaspoons dried dill or 2 tablespoons (7 g) fresh dill
1 medium cucumber, seeded and diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced (about 2/3 cup)
1 tablespoon (1 g) fresh chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon (1 g) fresh chopped parsley
Salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
6 to 8 pitas

To make the falafelogs: Add log ingredients to a food processor and process until a loose dough forms. (It should be the consistency of peanut butter.)
Transfer mixture to a bowl, cover, and chill 20 to 30 minutes in the refrigerator. (This step allows the gluten to develop.)
Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C, or gas mark 4). Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment or reusable silicone baking mat.
Scoop about 1/3 cup (3 1/2 ounces, or 100 g) dough and form into a log shape about 6- to 7-inches long by 1 1/2-inches wide (15 to 17-cm long x 4-cm wide). (The dough is very soft, and you may need to form the log right on the baking sheet. Don't worry, they will firm up when baked.)
Repeat until all of the dough is used. Bake 20 minutes, flip, and bake 20 minutes, or until exterior is firm and browned. (They might look dry, but the inside will be nice and soft.)
Meanwhile, prepare the Cucumber Relish.
To make the relish: Into a blender, pour tahini, lemon juice, and garlic. Purée until smooth. (The lemon juice will curdle the tahini (similar to buttermilk), resulting in an airy, fluffy-like mixture.)
Remove mixture from the blender and place in a mixing bowl. Fold in dill, cucumber, tomatoes, cilantro, and parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Chill until ready to serve.
Assemble the pitas by placing the Falafelog in the center and topping with a liberal amount of relish.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Veggie Bite
Tahinis vary in texture and thickness, from very liquidy to very thick. This measure assumes you’re using a more liquid tahini. If yours is very thick, you may need to thin it out with water or vegetable broth to reach the consistency of a pourable milkshake. You want a total of 1/2 cup (120 ml), so adjust tahini amount as needed. You can make the logs gluten free by substituting chickpea flour for the vital wheat gluten flour. The logs may be a little more fragile, but they will still taste great!

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2012 Copyright/Permissions/Disclaimers

All recipes written by me, Joni Marie Newman, unless otherwise noted. Please feel free to refer to or link back to any of my recipes, but please ask for permission, or remember to give credit when reprinting recipes in their entirety. I do provide links to affiliate programs (such as Amazon) in which I receive a small commission for items purchased. I do not provide paid reviews. All reviews done on products or books are of my own unsolicited opinion. On occasion I may receive a book or product to review. I will note when this is the case, but rest assured, it will not affect the authenticity of my review. Thanks!--Joni