October 19, 2011

Vegan Comfort Food.

Credit: Randolph Femmer /life.nbii.gov

We are getting close to setting the clocks back on the East Coast, and that means that cooler weather is really coming.  It’s time to sort clothes and put away the tank tops, figure out who needs a jacket, and find the extra blankets.  It’s also time to start thinking about the vegan comfort foods that go best in colder weather.  Of course, there are some super-easy-to- veganize comfort food dishes that are so standard most of us make them frequently, whether we are vegan or not.  These include items like spaghetti, vegetable soup, and oatmeal.  But, if we don’t get too complacent about what we are cooking, there are also some slightly less regular and delicious vegan comfort foods that can both warm us up and provide that “zing” that we sometimes need to keep from settling into palatal hibernation in the cooler months.  On TheVeganAsana, I’ve posted about Mashed Potato SoupSplit Pea Barley Soup, Colcannon, Butternut Curry Soup, Pumpkin Coconut Curry Soup, Sweet Potato and Lentil Curry, Italian Vegetable Stew, Butternut Squash Risotto, and Vegan Chili, among others.  All of these foods have the richness and warmth that, to me, means comfort food.  But, hey, there are more!  In this post, I present 2 more vegan comfort food recipes, along with a set of general tips for coming up with rich, comforting dishes – with whatever you have on hand.

Tips for Comfort Cooking

Pick a starch/carb.  Comfort foods tend to have a little weight to them and usually get a substantial portion of their calories from starchy carbs.  This is part of what makes them so filling and warming.  You can use rice, pasta, quinoa, bulgar wheat, beans, some sort of flour, potatoes, etc.  Look around and see what is in your pantry to begin your dish.

Pick a “rich” flavor base ingredient.  In non-vegan cooking, this can often be dairy or meat based.  For vegan cooking, that won’t work, but creamy soy, tomato, squashes, apples, etc. are great flavor items that resonate with our feelings of comfort.  You can also go with faux meat flavors (soy sausage, vegan “chicken” broth) if that suits your tastebuds.

Pick your “zing” (or zings).  What ingredients do you have around that would make a good flavor burst in the dish.  This might be something in your spice rack (curry, ginger, cinnamon, red pepper, chili oil) or in your vegetable drawer/shelf (onion, garlic, leeks).  You certainly don’t have to limit yourself to one, but comfort foods are often relatively simple in number of ingredients.

Put it together!  This is the fun (and hard part).  What can you come up with using what you have?  At this point, you may want to add some extras in the form of veggies, a protein, and so on.


 Baked Cheatken Rotini

1 lb rotini
1 cup TVP chunks
1 ½ cups veg broth
1 large can tomato puree
1 ½ cups diced tomato
¼ cup nutritional yeast flakes
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup chopped mushrooms (optional)
1 T olive oil
1 T dried Italian seasoning (or use fresh basil, oregano, thyme)
¼ cup Daiya mozz (optional)

Place TVP in large bowl with onion, garlic, and mushroom.  Heat veg broth to a boil and pour over TVP mix.  Stir and allow to sit and absorb the liquid while cooking pasta.  Cook pasta in water with 1 T olive oil to al dente.  Drain and rinse.  Mix tomato puree, diced tomato, Italian seasoning, and nutritional yeast into TVP mixture and then fold into pasta.  Put parchment paper on the bottom of a baking pan and fill with mix.  Sprinkle Daiya over the top.  Tear off a sheet of foil large enough to cover pan and coat bottom of sheet with sprayed olive oil or nonstick spray.  Cover pan tightly.  Bake at 350* for 45 minutes (check to be sure it is warmed through) and serve.










Spiced Banana Bread
(This recipe makes 2 loaves – freeze one for later!)

4 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegan margarine
1 cup applesauce
4 very ripe bananas
2 t. baking soda
1 T cinnamon
1/2 t cloves (crushed)
1/2 t nutmeg
1/2 t allspice
2 t ginger
1 t. salt
6 T soy milk
1/2 t. white vinegar

Mix dry ingredients in one bowl.  In a second bowl, mash your ripe bananas and add the applesauce.  Warm the margarine slightly (don’t melt it) and mix into the fruit well.  In a cup, combine the soy milk and vinegar.  The vinegar should cause the milk to “curdle” slightly, like buttermilk.  Combine the fruit mixture and the milk mixture and mix well.  Add wet ingredients to dry and mix.  Pour into loaf pan and  cook at 300* for 60-90 minutes – or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

 Now, put on some nice music and your favorite cozy slippers and sit down for a warm bowl of soup and slice of bread, and enjoy the comforts of cooler weather.


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