Corn-Jalapeno Casserole

Here is a side dish I made last night by scrounging through leftover bits I’d saved during the week. It was a nice accompaniment to the rice and beans I also made and Mark absolutely loved it. I made ours quite spicy but you can make it as mild or as spicy as you like by varying the amount of jalapenos.

Corn-Jalapeno Casserole

1/2 cup vegan “cheese” sauce (see note below)
2 Tbsp vegan sour cream
2 Tbsp pickled jalapeno “juice” (optional; I added it for some extra kick)
1-3 Tbsp chopped pickled jalapenos
12 oz frozen corn

Note: Since buying the phenomenal Vegan Artisan Cheese, all of my cheese sauces have been made by melting a hunk of pretty much any of the cheeses from that book, generally by whisking water off the boil into it, then whisking in nutritional yeast flakes, garlic and or onion granules, and sometimes fresh lemon juice, and they’ve all blown away any cheese sauces I’ve made in the past. I had half a cup or so of such a sauce left over from serving over steamed cauliflower the other night, although I can’t explain why because I can eat that stuff straight! If you don’t have Vegan Artisan Cheese, first of all, get it, but if you don’t have time to buy the book, make the rejuvelac, and ferment the cheese, use your favorite “cheesy” sauce. The recipe for an old standby is available here.

A note on the pickled jalapenos: I linked to a refrigerator pickle version of pickled jalapenos that I’ve made in the past, but since I discovered and fell in love with canning this summer, I bought a ton of jalapenos at the farmers market, sliced them, and put them in 4-oz canning jars (which I find adorable), along with a couple sliced of carrots and a smashed garlic clove for each jar. Then I poured a hot brine of 50% white or cider vinegar/50% water and some salt into each jar, leaving 1/2″ headspace, and processed in a hot water bath for 5 minutes. I love this size jar for stuff like this and I have plenty of them to last me through the winter. I also love the spicy, vinegary brine – I mix it with tomato sauce and a few other ingredients to make a nearly instant taco sauce. Hmm, perhaps I should do a separate post on all this stuff?

Okay, to the actual recipe I’m supposed to be writing up:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. If you can fit your baking dish into your toaster oven, you can use that (I did).

In a bowl, whisk together the “cheese” sauce, sour cream, and jalapeno “juice” (if using). Stir in the jalapenos and corn. Transfer to a small baking dish (I used a glass loaf pan). The mixture should be just a little liquidy; if it’s not, add a little water or non-dairy milk.

Cover and bake for 20 minutes.

Remove the cover and bake uncovered for 20 more minute or until brown and bubbly.

I served this with rice and beans. The beans are Steubens yellow eye beans, which Whole Foods sells in their bulk bins and which I adore. I think they are my favorite bean; they are very tasty and so pretty! I soaked the beans for a few hours then put in my slow cooker with some liquid smoke and minced onion and garlic in some broth and cooked on high for maybe an hour and a half. Then I drained the extra broth off. I had a few slices of leftover seitan, which I chopped pretty small and fried until crispy in a cast iron skillet. I added some vegan bacon salt and onion granules to it as well as several healthy squirts of liquid smoke. Then I added this “bacony” seitan to the beans, as well as some sliced fresh jalapenos, and warmed it all up. This was topped generously with Tabasco and served over rice with the corn jalapeno casserole accompanying it.

And now for raptor news. Mark and I went to Charleston for the holidays this year and while we were there paid a visit to the Center for Birds of Prey, which was really cool and a place I will definitely be volunteering should we ever move down there. Although the guided tour included only a small portion of the center (really just a few of the outdoor education bird cages), the flight demonstration that followed was worth the admission fee. I’m ordinarily opposed to forcing animals to put on “shows” for human enjoyment, but because these are all education birds that can’t be released, I don’t have a problem with training and shows like this, because all education birds in this country are required by federal law to be used in education programs. It’s either that or be euthanized. And I don’t have a problem with the birds that can fly showing that off, especially since this is an impressive show that really sticks with people and they’ll be more apt to remember things they learned and better appreciate raptors. Plus, if any bird they attempt to train doesn’t show signs within one month that they are willing to learn to do it, they stop trying and use that bird for non-flight programs. I also think it’s actually good for raptors to have to work for their meals, which is essentially what they are doing during a flight demonstration like this. Anyway, if you are at all interested in raptors and you are in the Charleston area, I highly recommend The Center for Birds of Prey. Admission isn’t cheap, but I’m happy to donate money to causes like this and felt that the ability to photograph raptors in flight was absolutely worth the admission. Here are some pictures:

The first birds we came to on the guided tour were a pair of eagles, both amputees:

My only raptor volunteering regret is that the Raptor Conservancy of Virginia isn’t a big enough facility to house eagles, except very young ones. We have to transfer any we get to the Wildlife Center of Virginia.

This is an eagle owl; I forget what kind. Eagle owls are all pretty huge though. We have a Eurasian eagle owl (as did the Center for Birds of Prey) at the Raptor Conservancy and it’s enormous.

The rest of the pictures are all from the flight demonstration.

How adorable is this Ural owl? You can see his jesses dangling from the perch. Education birds will usually have leather jesses around their legs. This is what handlers grab onto with their gloves when holding these birds (I know because I get to do this!). When you aren’t doing a flight demonstration (which is not something we do at the Raptor Conservancy), the jesses are attached to a lead whenever the bird is out of its cage.

He’s just been given the signal (he’s prompted with food) to leave that perch and fly to another, and thus he is about to take off:

Because owls are nocturnal, most people very rarely get to see them fly, which is a shame because owls in flight are really amazing. For one thing, they are totally silent.

I never really expected to see a vulture in a flight demonstration, but they had one! This one is for Jes.

Did you know that there is controversy over where to classify New World vultures (like this black vulture) in the animal kingdom? They used to be linked to falcons but genetic testing in the last 20 years or so put them closer to storks. We don’t admit vultures at the Raptor Conservancy. The Center for Birds of Prey, on the other hand, is way into vultures: the bulk of the “tour” was letting us watch them feed the local wild vultures with the scraps their patients refused to eat.

This is some sort of falcon; note he is wearing a radio device on his back. If he flies away during the flight demonstration, this device is how the Center will locate him and bring him home to safety. Remember these are education birds so they have been deemed unable to survive on their own, so catching them if they escape is important for their survival. (I suspect a lot of the birds they use for flight demonstrations are human imprints.)

Here the falcon is on the ground hiding his “prey” of ground beef behind his wings.

Kites seem to be lesser known raptors, at least in this area, but they are neat birds. We don’t have any at the raptor center right now and I don’t think we see too many. But they are fun to watch fly and this guy was clearly loving the opportunity to soar around for a bit on this very clear, beautiful day.

I have yet more raptor pics – we saw a few wild raptors at various parks while we were in Charleston, but I shall save those for another day.

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Soybean Casserole

I make tofu just about every weekend, and last night I dutifully began soaking my soybeans as per usual. Today, though, I found that I just didn’t have it in me to make the tofu. It’s not hard, and I’ve done it so often I can do it in my sleep, but for some reason I just really did not feel like making tofu. That, however, left me with a bowl of soaked soybeans, which I then decided would have to be the basis of dinner. I’ve made barbecued soybeans before, and those are good, but doing that would have required making another dish or two to round out the meal and I was really lacking in motivation. I’ve also made a kimchi soybean dish that is really good, but alas, we don’t have any kimchi right now. So I did a bit of internet sleuthing for ideas (there are surprisingly few whole soybean recipes in all my cookbooks) and ran this one by Mark. He liked the sound of it, so I have veganized it for him, and by extension, you!

Soybean Casserole

1/2 cup bulgur
2 cups vegan “beef” broth, divided
1 onion, chopped
pinch fennel seeds
1/4 tsp celery seeds
1 green bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 carrot, grated
red pepper flakes, to taste
sherry, wine, broth, or water for deglazing (optional)
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1 14 oz. can crushed tomatoes (I used fire roasted)
1 1/2 cups cooked rice
2 cups cooked soybeans (this is probably about 1 can if you are lazy)
hot sauce, to taste (optional) (I used garlic-flavoured Tabasco)
salt or seasoning salt, to taste (I used Vegeta)
vegan cheese, for topping (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Bring 1 cup of the broth to a boil and add to the bulgur in a bowl. Cover and set aside.

I had frozen rice in the freezer. This is how I defrosted it: I sat it in some boiling water (I love that electric kettle!).

Grate the carrot.

Chop the onion and bell pepper; mince or press the garlic.

If you have an oven-safe Dutch oven that you’d like to bake the casserole in, use that. Otherwise, you can use a skillet and a separate casserole dish. In either case, heat some oil in the Dutch oven or skillet, then add the onions, fennel seeds, and celery seeds and saute until soft.

Add the bell pepper and garlic and saute for another few minutes.

Add the carrots and fry for a bit, using sherry or wine (or broth or water) to deglaze the pot if necessary.

If you are using a Dutch oven, add the rest of the ingredients, stir, and bring to a boil. If you used a skillet, scrape the contents into a casserole dish and then add the rest of the ingredients and mix.

Bake for 45 minutes.

Optionally, top with shredded or grated vegan cheese and return to the oven. The Whole Foods near me have started carrying Sheese, which I am super excited about, so I used a bit of that:

Bake another few minutes and remove from oven again.

It ain’t pretty, but it was easy to make and tasty!

By the way, instead of the bulgur, you could use packaged vegan “ground beef” (mince), which I think would have been pretty good if you like that sort of stuff. I’ll probably try that next time, although the bulgur method is the more healthy.

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Reuben Casserole

The following events have all occurred recently:

  • My second batch of sauerkraut finished fermenting.
  • I made my first batch of tempeh in about a month.
  • A package of cheddar Teese arrived on my porch.

I was therefore thinking about how to incorporate these items into my evening meal; after all, tempeh is best as fresh as possible, and I’d already opened the Teese to taste it. So let’s see: tempeh, sauerkraut, and “cheese”…what can I possibly make with that? Well the obvious answer, of course, is everyone’s favorite: reubens, but we didn’t have any bread and although Wegmans is right down the street, I’d already been there once today – and separately, so had Mark – and had no intentions of returning. So what I did instead was make a reuben casserole, which also allowed me to use up the 5 leftover lasagne noodles I’ve had in my cupboard forever. This was a win all around.

Reuben Casserole

4 ounces pasta, any sort (I broke up some whole wheat lasagne noodles)
6-8 ounces tempeh
1 1/2 cups sauerkraut
1/4 cup vegan sour cream
1/4 cup tomato sauce or ketchup (you may want to add a tiny bit of sugar if you use tomato sauce)
2 Tbsp pickle relish
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp Indian black salt (or sea salt)
juice of 1/2 lemon
shredded vegan cheese (cheddar Teese worked perfectly; a portion of the “cheese” recipe in this post or pimiento cheese would also be great)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the pasta; cook until al dente, then drain.

Admire my tempeh. I know I keep forcing you to look at pictures of my tempeh…I’m still always amazed when it turns out so well, and after the lackluster packaged stuff I had the other night, I’m so glad I finally got the hang of making it.

Chop the tempeh into bite-sized pieces.

Heat some oil in a skillet, then fry the tempeh pieces until beginning to brown.

Mix together the sour cream, tomato sauce or ketchup, relish, lemon juice, mustard, and salt.

If you are using a solid “cheese”, shred it.

In a medium-sized casserole dish, place the pasta, tossing it with a tiny bit of vegan margarine or oil.

Add the tempeh in a layer.

Top with the sauce …

… then the sauerkraut. (By the way, I made mine with caraway seeds this time; if yours is plain, you could toss some caraway seeds in with it.)

Top with the “cheese”.

Cover and bake for 20 minutes; remove lid, then bake 10 minutes longer.

It’s not the prettiest thing to photograph a serving of, but it sure was tasty!

Mark liked it a lot. So did I. As for that cheddar Teese, it’s okay, but quite frankly it’s no Cheezly. I didn’t like it by itself on crackers that much, while amazingly we can eat Cheezly that way. It did, however, melt nicer than cheddar Cheezly (though I find mozzarella Cheezly melts perfectly), and I think it would be good in grilled cheese sandwiches or maybe even a quick mac & cheese. I think its best use may well be topping casseroles like this one.

In other news, I woke up on Sunday with Locomotive Breath inexplicably stuck in my head, so I was rocking out to some Jethro Tull in the sunroom. When Mark popped in, the following ensued:

And in cat news, sometimes Brachtune looks like an owl. I took this picture of her and promptly had the Dead Kennedys’ I Am the Owl stuck in my head the rest of the day.

Brachtune is so gorgeous, I’ve often wondered why she doesn’t get a modeling career and support us for a change.

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“Hamburger” Noodle Bake

I don’t remember often hankering for any particular meals when I was a kid. I ate just about everything and I think I was relatively happy regardless of what my mother served on any given night, although I wasn’t very happy when she insisted on making breakfast (eggs or pancakes) for dinner. Really, the food I remember most fondly from my childhood is the salads my mom and I made just about every night in the summers, with vegetables grown in our own garden. Other than the occasional brownies or cake from a mix, picking the veggies for the nightly salad was about the only “cooking” I did as a kid. And my mom even made her own croutons, can you believe that?!

Anyway, apart from salads, although I remember particularly liking special-occasion meals like baked ham and roast beef, I don’t remember ever requesting my mother make any particular meals…except once, when I remember asking for “that noodle stuff with the meat and cheese” for my birthday dinner. When I went through her recipes this weekend, I discovered it is called Hamburger Noodle Bake and it was my great-aunt’s recipe, and although Mom didn’t make it all that often, I guess it made a big impression on me because I’ve never forgotten it (unlike the alleged pork chops). As more and more years have passed since I became vegetarian (more than 20 now), I’ve forgotten what the dish really tasted like, but I have never forgotten liking it. At long last, the memory is restored!

The original:

1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
2 T. shortening
1 1/2 lb hamburger
1 med. onion
1 tsp salt
3 8-oz cans tomato sauce
1 8-oz package noodles
1 tsp sugar
1 3-oz package cream cheese
1 cup sour cream

Melt fat in skillet. Put in hamburger and brown. Add onion, salt, pepper, sugar, and tomato sauce and cover; cook 15-20 minutes. Cook noodles according to pkg. Combine cream cheese and sour cream together and add in layers starting with noodles, cream cheese mix, and meat Cover with cheddar cheese. Bake 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

Now mine:

“Hamburger” Noodle Bake

1 medium onion, diced
1 12-oz package vegan “ground beef”
5 cloves garlic, minced or pressed (optional, as it wasn’t in the original)
1 tsp salt
freshly-ground pepper to taste
1 tsp sugar or 2 drops stevia (optional; I won’t use next time)
1 15-oz can tomato sauce
8 oz noodles (the rombi shape I used was perfect)
3 oz vegan “cream cheese” (I measured for those of you who don’t have a kitchen scale: it’s about 1/3 cup)
1 cup vegan “sour cream”
1/2 cup grated vegan “cheddar cheese” (I can really only recommend Cheezly, but I realize with grocery bills being what they are right now, most of you outside of the UK are going to think I’m crazy.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Weigh noodles. I usually never scale pasta and just guess at serving sizes, and I always vastly over-estimate. So tonight I scaled it!

Cook the pasta al dente and drain. Meanwhile, bring a large skillet up to medium heat and then add a bit of oil. When oil is warm, add the onions and saute until translucent.

Add the “ground beef” and cook for 5 minutes.

Next I added garlic because I found it inconceivable it wasn’t called for, but that’s just me.

Add the tomato sauce, salt, pepper, and sugar or stevia if using and stir to mix.

Cover and cook for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the cream cheese and sour cream in a small bowl.

Grate the “cheddar cheese”.

Place the noodles into a casserole dish. I sprayed it lightly with olive oil so they wouldn’t stick.

Cover noodles with the cream cheese/sour cream mixture …

… then top with the “meat” and sauce mixture.

Top with the “cheddar cheese”.

Bake for 20 minutes.

Serve with a tossed salad (I do wish for those halcyon days of having a garden that grew an entire salad!) or plenty of veggies.

I made a super-easy zucchini dish by sauteing a sliced zucchini with a few onion slices, then tossing with Hawaiian red salt and freshly-ground pepper. I also steamed some broccoli because I figured Mark wouldn’t touch the zucchini, however, he not only helped himself to some, he stole a slice or two off my plate while we were eating! This is highly unusual; I think it was the salt. Must remember to put red salt on things I want Mark to eat…

Mark, who is on a big health kick, has a habit of asking me if everything I make is “bad for you”. As a general rule, very few things I make are actually downright bad for you, and he actually asks this question of things like steamed broccoli, so the answer he generally gets is, “Are you insane?” His question was a bit more relevant than usual in regards to this meal, because it was made with several processed and convenience foods, which I generally like to avoid or use sparingly. So I told him it wasn’t as great for him as most meals I make, although probably better than the original. However, I wanted to know what this meal from my memory banks really tasted like, and making it with Tofutti products and commercial vegan “ground beef” was the closest I was going to get to that – and it worked: it tasted right. But as I was pulling it together, my mind was already churning with ways to healthify it – or in other words, in typical Renae fashion, make it much more difficult than it needs to be – and sophistify it. I’m thinking bulgur instead of “beef”, cashew and/or tofu cream for the “cheese”, and whole wheat noodles. And I felt the tomato sauce was just calling for wine. It is my plan, therefore, to repeat this meal, using whole foods. I think it will be a fun experiment.

This meal also reminded me of one I was served more frequently as a child: Hamburger Helper.

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