Before I get on with the review for Julie Hasson’s Vegan Casseroles*, I have a couple of confessions to make. 1) I love one-dish wonders/casseroles. They’re hearty, comforting and make the house smell great when you’re baking them. They’re also great to take to potlucks and holiday parties. 2) I have a soft spot in my heart for Julie Hasson. She’s a sweet the sweetest person ever and she makes amazingly delicious vegan food. When I was transitioning from vegetarian to vegan, I found Julie’s everydaydish.tv video podcasts on iTunes. She (and her guests) broadened my horizons of vegan goodness on how to make vegan Italian sausages, ribs, corned beef, pancakes, desserts, pizza, you name it.
Julie’s videos, various cookbooks, Native Bowl (her former food truck), and her GF cake mixes—Julie’s Original—, never disappoint, and Vegan Casseroles is no exception.
What I Liked About Vegan Casseroles
Vegan Casseroles starts out with a brief intro with basic vegan pantry staples you’ll need to make the recipes, from seasoning, thickeners and baking aids, to proteins, milks and cheeses. It also has a sections on helpful tips and tricks and toppings suggestions. Jumping right into the recipes you’ll find few tasty appetizer recipes, skillet casseroles, old favorites, pasta, vegetables and desserts, and at the end the sauces toppings and basics that you’ll need for certain recipes.
What I really liked about the book, aside from the recipes, are Julie’s helpful tips, variations and how to make it gluten-free (if it already isn’t to begin with). Mauro and I aren’t gluten-free, but we have friends who are and we really like to make sure there’s something for them to eat when we’re hosting a dinner.
The recipes I tried, and the ones my friend Dianne made and I luckily got to try, were all hearty, flavorful and satisfying—as a casserole is expected to be. I made the Truffled Cauliflower Mac, the Olive & Sundried Tomato Quiche and the Sloppy Joe Cornbread Casserole.
I actually made the Truffled Cauliflower Mac 3 times and wasn’t able to get a single picture of my own dish —thanks to the publisher for supplying one with the recipe below. This casserole is so decadent the first time I made it and took it to a potluck dinner, it was the first dish to be completely decimated. There wasn’t a crumb left. The next two times I made it, for other dinners with vegan and non-vegans, the dish suffered the same glorious ending. People just couldn’t get enough of it and it was the highlight of the meals.
The Sloppy Joe Cornbread Casserole and the Quiche we’re absolutely delicious as well—hearty, tasty and satisfying (repetitive, but the best way to describe them). I made these for our own weekly lunches and dinners. No doubt they would be crowd-pleasers, too. The only issue I had was with the quiche. You’ll notice in the pic above that the crust is a little on the dark side. I let the hash brown crust (yummy!) toast too much before adding the filling and once it baked completely the crust had become Darth Vader’s best friend. Oh well, it didn’t ruin dish (just the photo) and we enjoyed it in all its crunchy glory anyway 🙂
The great thing about the dishes I selected is that they all had different textures and consistencies. I sometimes tend to think of a casserole as a dish with a crispy breadcrumb top, and that maybe my own fault for generalizing them in my head, but the book is full of refreshing, new twists on traditional casseroles.
Be sure to try the Truffled Cauliflower Mac recipe below and, if you’d like to give your luck a shot, enter the giveaway below for a chance to win a BlendTec 725 Designer blender or 1 of 5 Vegan Casserole books.
Truffled Cauliflower Mac Recipe
Sometimes you can never have enough truffle–or macaroni. This dish is for those times. It has a very rich flavor, with a creamy truffle sauce, steamed cauliflower, and a panko topping. If you happen to have a fresh truffle, you can go crazy and shave a few ultra-thin slices into the sauce before baking.
8 ounces dried macaroni noodles
1/2 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
1 recipe Almost Alfredo Sauce (recipe follows), using the truffle variation
Truffle salt or fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Double recipe Crumb Topping (recipe follows)
Truffle oil, for garnish (optional)
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease 9 x 13-inch glass or ceramic baking dish.
In a large pot of lightly salted boiling water, add the macaroni and cook according to package directions until tender. When the pasta is about 2 minutes away from being done, add the cauliflower to the boiling pasta water. You want the cauliflower to be just fork-tender and the noodles to be al dente. Drain the pasta and cauliflower well and transfer to a large bowl.
Add the prepared sauce to the cooked macaroni and cauliflower, mixing until the pasta is coated. Add salt and pepper to taste. Scoop the macaroni into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the crumb mixture over the top of the casserole. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the top is nicely browned, and the casserole is heated through. Remove from the oven, drizzle the top of the casserole with a little additional truffle oil, if desired, and serve.
Variation: To make a straight truffle mac casserole, simply omit the cauliflower.
Gluten-Free: Use a gluten-free macaroni, such as brown rice macaroni, as well as gluten-free breadcrumbs in the topping.
Almost Alfredo Sauce Recipe
Makes about 3 cups
2-1/2 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
1-1/4 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 flakes, 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 mixture comes to a simmer, reduce 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. Tip: 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 the 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.
Buttery Crumb Topping Recipe
Makes about 1/2 cup, enough to top an 8 or 9-inch casserole
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons nonhydrogenated vegan margarine, melted
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast flakes
1 clove garlic, pressed or finely minced
Pinch of salt
In a small bowl, mix together the panko breadcrumbs, margarine, nutritional yeast flakes, garlic, and a pinch of salt. Adjust seasonings to taste.
Tip: You can substitute olive oil for the margarine, if desired.
Variation: For an herbed garlic-flavored-topping, add 1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs. For a richer topping, increase the melted margarine to 3 tablespoons.
Gluten-Free: Use gluten-free panko breadcrumbs. My favorite brand is Ian’s, which is also egg-free and dairy-free.
Reprinted with permission from VEGAN CASSEROLES © 2014 by Julie Hasson, Running Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group.
Grand Prize – 1 BlendTec 725 Designer Blender
Five (5) runners up will receive a copy of Vegan Casseroles