Thursday, November 29, 2012

Vegan Holiday: Cheezy Potato Casserole

Hello again!  Goodness; I certainly have been prolific with the recipes this week, haven't I?  I'm so glad that I've had lots of good things coming out of my kitchen that I can share with all of you for the Christmas season.  We're definitely getting into the spirit here at the Fur Ninja house - watched Charlie Brown's Christmas special last night and this time of year always gives me the cooking bug even worse than usual!

This recipe is another side dish that would be a great addition to your holiday table.  After making it, I couldn't decide what to call it - vegan potatoes au gratin or vegan scalloped potatoes?  What is the difference anyway???  So I actually Googled "what is the difference between potatoes au gratin and scalloped potatoes?"  And here is what I learned: the difference is cheese.  Potatoes au gratin apparently always have cheese, while scalloped potatoes never have cheese.  I suppose you really do learn something new every day!  This still left me with a conundrum, because while these don't have any cheese, they are meant to simulate a cheesy taste with the addition of the nutritional yeast.  So rather than have a semantics argument with myself, I just called this a "cheezy" potato casserole and left it at that.  But no matter what you call them, these creamy and delicious potatoes are sure to please both vegans and omnis alike at your holiday table.  Mike gave these his enthusiastic omnivore approval; these will definitely become a favorite at our house!

Cheezy Potato Casserole
Prep time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Makes 12 servings 


2 lb potatoes (russet or yukon gold)
4 Tablespoons non-dairy butter
2 Tablespoons flour
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1.5 cups non-dairy milk
2 Tablespoons tahini
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 cup tofu, pureed
1 Tablespoon miso
1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons vegetable broth or water, divided
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 cup breadcrumbs
2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast
pinch thyme
cooking spray or olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Scrub the potatoes well since you will be leaving the skins on.  Slice the potatoes into slices between 1/4 and 1/2" wide.  Then stack the slices and slice crosswise into quarters, like this:

Place your sliced potatoes in a 9x13" baking pan or casserole dish.
In a saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the non-dairy butter.  Add the flour and whisk constantly for 2-3 minutes until the mixture is a light golden color.  Add the garlic, onion powder, 1/2 teaspoon thyme, and turmeric and cook another minute.  Whisk in the non-dairy milk, tahini, and 1/2 cup nutritional yeast and increase the heat to medium.  Cook, whisking constantly until bubbly, 2-3 minutes.  Remove from heat.
Puree the tofu with the miso and 2 Tablespoons broth or water in a blender or food processor until very smooth.  Add to the saucepan with the 1/2 cup water or broth, lemon juice, salt, and pepper and whisk until well combined.  The mixture should be thick and creamy but pourable.
Pour the mixture over the potatoes and toss until everything is well coated.
In a small bowl, mix the breadcrumbs, 2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast, and pinch thyme until well combined.  Sprinkle the breadcrumbs evenly over the potatoes. 
Cover the potatoes with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove the foil and spray the breadcrumbs with cooking spray or drizzle with a small amount of olive oil.  Bake for another 20 minutes.  Allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Tips and Tricks:

1. Leave the skin on your potatoes.  It's easier and makes the dish more nutritious.  I almost never peel vegetables for recipes unless it is absolutely necessary.  Why do all that work if you don't have to?  However, if you really must, you can peel your potatoes before you slice them.

2. Measuring tofu - I know I have a few recipes that calls for measured amounts of pureed tofu.  Measuring tofu is kind of a pain and not a totally exact science.  I do it by breaking some tofu off the block and smooshing it into a measuring cup.  It's not 100% exact, but if you smoosh it in there enough (get that smooshing technique down!), it's close enough that you don't need to worry about it.  Use the leftover tofu from a partial block in a stir fry or puree it with tomato pasta sauce to make it creamy and full of protein :)

3. The cheezy sauce used on these potatoes would also be great poured over veggies or pasta.  You can also modify this dish by adding other herbs such as rosemary, parsley, and sage, or tossing in things like broccoli or other veggies, diced seitan, veggie bacon, etc. to make it a main dish rather than a side.  Get creative!

Hope you all love this dish as much as Mike and I did.  I definitely think I'll be making it again in the future with some chopped veggies and high protein add-ins like beans or tempeh.  It's really versatile and easy to make.  I definitely encourage you to try it, and feel free to leave feedback in the comments section!

More recipes to come soon.  I'm getting the cooking bug (specifically baking - started thinking about Chambord-spiked chocolate raspberry cookies last night!) pretty badly, what with Christmas and all.  I'm planning on decorating this place up like Santa's workshop and cooking until Mike and I are both fatfatfat (but happy!)   At the urging of a good friend of mine, I'm also planning on posting some "quick meal" ideas - basically what we eat in Fur Ninja land when I'm not up to cooking from scratch and just need something fast and easy, so be on the lookout for that too.  Until next time!


The Fur Ninja <3

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