Monday, March 8, 2010

Holly Hobbie Broccoli Casserole

When I was young, I thought my aunt was a modern day Betty Crocker (though, for some reason, I called her Holly Hobbie which must have represented the kind of Little House on the Prairie homey-ness that I associated with Jo). Don't get me wrong, though: my mom cooked and her cooking inspires mine still. But, my aunt was a whole different beast. To me, she was always happy and wanted to hug me and, significantly, agreed that I was unfairly persecuted by my parents (who, as the Fresh Prince pointed out) just didn't understand. Plus, she cooked. And baked. While my mom made stuffed eggplant, spaghetti squash with marinara, and quiches, my aunt made casseroles. And that, to me, was the epitome of mom-ness.

For instance, my mom hoped and wished and prayed that I would finally stop believing in Santa*, but my aunt collected Santas by the dozens--so much so that I now often say that it looks like Christmas threw up at her house--and made the same, very special casserole every holiday: broccoli casserole. Her broccoli casserole was basically a brick of mayo, cream of mushroom, fistfuls of cheddar, eggs, and broccoli--topped with cheez-its.

Vegan translation: dairy, dairy, fat, fat, and more dairy--topped with baked artificialish dairy.

For years now, I've toyed with the idea of veganizing it and sniffed around her casserole at the holidays trying to figure out how to replace every ingredient in the dish. I originally though it'd be nice to make a version that doesn't rely on vegan cheese, and the first version attempted that. It turned out like a bland, pressed, baked tofu scramble. Not even close. The second attempt produced the right consistency, but tasted like broccoli in cream sauce cornstarched into rectangular submission. As they say, the third time's the charm, and I figured out a recipe that uses some analogs--like cheese and vegenaise--but has a cheesy, sophisticated depth of flavor. Only the casserole didn't last long enough to get a picture. So, I made another and got these pictures you see here. I meant to blog about it immediately, but never got around to it and, when I went to make it again, the various scribbled on junk mail envelopes and post-its had scattered around the house in the hands of a 10 month old tornado. I managed to scrounge them all up--except the last version that I had liked so much.

So, I pieced together this recipe and it's damn close. But, I did ad-lib a little as I went, so I can't vouch %100 for the measurements. I will make this one more time soon and get the recipe nailed down. In the meantime, this recipe should satisfy and get you close to the memories I have of that dairy-laden goodness.

I'm looking forward to having broccoli casserole this coming Thanksgiving and, frankly, this casserole makes me feel like a better mom. The kind who bakes casserole and crazy healthy food.

Fresh out of the oven.

Holly Hobbie Broccoli Casserole

2 stalks broccoli
1 cup Vegenaise
1 cup blended extra firm silken tofu
1 cup shredded vegan cheese
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 cup cornstarch mixed with 1/4 cup water
1 1/2 T lemon juice
2 t onion powder
1 1/2 t prepared mustard
1 1/2 t salt
1 t garlic powder
1/2 t smoked paprika (heaping)
1/2 t tumeric
1/3 cup cheesy-type cracker, crushed. I used these, but VeganEssentials and Cosmo's both have a cheese cracker that works well.

Wash broccoli and cut the stalk into 1-2 inch pieces. Put in food processor and pulse and until they are coarsely chopped. Do the same for the florets. Steam chopped broccoli until stalks are softened.

While broccoli is steaming, mix the rest of the ingredients in a medium sized bowl. When broccoli is finished steaming, add to the mixture. Mix thoroughly and spread in a medium sized pan (I use a Copco enameled cast iron baker that's not quite lasagna size). Bake at 375 for 25 minutes. 3-5 minutes before the casserole is done cooking, top with crushed crackers.

Let casserole sit for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Served the next day when it sets up a bit better.

*I did. Eventually. Other kids told me for years that he didn't exist, but I just shook my head solemnly thinking "boy, these kids are stupid" and told them they were wrong. Sometime around the age of 11, I finally gave had to admit it and give up the dream.

Vegan Baby Food: Chard and Tofu Ricotta Stuffed Shells

At first, I was really careful about what I was giving Eames and when. I read tons of conflicting advice about when to give him tofu, wheat, and other potentially allergy-inducing foods. I introduced one food at a time--for a while. Around 9 months, though, with no reaction of any kind to any food and no history of allergies in the family, I threw in the towel and starting throwing all kinds of new foods at him, particularly stuff that I was making for us to eat.

First, he had my burrito/taco filling and loved it, which is good since I rely on that as my go to easy meal--much like my mom used to. For the following three days, he had a small bowl of burrito filling for either lunch or dinner. Then, I made stuffed shells for dinner. Since I made the ricotta out of tofu instead of nuts, I figured he could have some. Lo and behold, he ate an entire shell on his own AND did a happy dance, which is a big thumbs up.

(Sorry for the blurry shot of the food. It doesn't really look great smooshed for baby consumption anyway...)

Chard and Tofu Ricotta Stuffed Shells

Tofu Ricotta

1 lb. Extra firm tofu
1/3 cup shredded vegan cheese (one of the white varieties)
1/4 cup nooch
1 T dried basil
2 t dried marjoram
2 t dried oregano
1 T olive oil
1 t salt (or to taste)
dash of lemon juice (a teaspoon or two, I'd guess)
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 large shallots, thinly sliced
1 bunch swiss chard, cleaned and chopped

1 box shells, al dente
Marinara (you can use a jar, but I used some that I made at the end of summer and froze)

Crumble tofu into a medium sized bowl and break up with hands until it looks like cottage cheese. Add the rest of the ingredients through lemon juice. Set aside. Saute garlic and shallots over medium heat until both begin to turn a golden color. Add chard to pan, tossing to coat the chard with oil. Put on lid and leav for 2-3 minutes, until chard wilts. Remove from heat and add chard mixture to tofu mixture. Mix well.

Coat the bottom of a lasagna pan with a thin layer of marinara. Fill each shell with a spoonful of tofu mixture. Line up filled shells in the bottom of the pan. They can overlap slightly. Fill as many shells as you can (you'll probably have a few left). Cover filled shells with marinara. you want to make sure that the sauce covers it well and that non of the pasta shells remain uncovered or the exposed pieces will dry out in the oven. Bake at 350 until the sauce is bubbling around the edges. Remove, let cool, and serve with garlic bread and a nice salad.

I removed 5-6 shells for Eames to enjoy for the next few days.

Serving size for 10 month old= 1 stuffed shell