Category Archives: Vegetarian

Spinach Florentine Casserole by Julie Hasson and a Blendtec giveaway!

‘Tis the season for gifts and giving! Julie Hasson, vegan cookbook author and creator of Julie’s Original gluten-free, vegan mixes offered me the opportunity to review her brand new cookbook, Vegan Casseroles by Julie Hasson printed by Running Press.  What’s even better is that they are offering the opportunity to win a Blentec 725 Design Blender to one lucky winner.  And 5 runners up will receive a copy of the new cookbook Vegan Casseroles by Julie Hasson.

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My family loves variety in their meals.  Like everyone, we grow tired of the same things every week.  My dilemma as a mom and chef are that I want fantastic tasting recipes without a load of ingredients and spending an hour in the kitchen prepping.  I can highly recommend this cookbook for yourself or your dearest friends who love to cook for a great holiday gift.  You won’t be disappointed.  Most of Julie’s recipes are gluten-free or can be simply converted.  And my kids loved every bite of each recipe we’ve tried so far.  And best yet, most of them are ready to go in about 30 minutes. 

I chose to make the recipe for Creamy Spinach Florentine pasta casserole.  Growing up with an Italian mother, I always think of pasta as my go to comfort food.  This recipe reminded me of cold Minnesota winters when I’d come home from school, and my mom would have a huge, warm casserole ready for dinner.  

I chopped up fresh chard that I had along with the spinach the recipe calls for.  I added my own twist by also chopping up a container of baby bella mushrooms to mix.  In the meantime, I cooked the pasta.  You can choose any macaroni, tiny shells or any small pasta shape you prefer.  I used pipe rigate for this recipe which is like a fatter macaroni.

Chopped spinach and shrooms

I made the pasta sauce in my blender which took about 5 minutes and mixed it in with the pasta and other ingredients.

Pasta mixed

I simply scooped all the mixture into a prepared ceramic baking dish, and popped it into the oven.

Close up Creamy Spinach Florentine

The results were delicious and beautiful!  I would make this for company any day.  The sherry and nutmeg combination add the perfect touch of sophisticated flavor to this dish.

Baked Creamy Spinach Florentine

Below is the version from Julie’s Vegan Casseroles cookbook made with small shells.

Creamy Spinach Florentine - Vegan Casseroles

Julie has kindly allowed me to give you the recipe from her new book.

Reprinted with permission from VEGAN CASSEROLES © 2014 by Julie Hasson, Running Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group.

Creamy Spinach Florentine 

Ever since I was a child, I have adored creamed spinach. This casserole totally reminds me of the stuffed spinach crèpes I would order as a teenager at this little crèpe restaurant near our house. I could never get enough of them. This casserole doesn’t disappoint, with a luscious creamy sauce, spinach, and some dry sherry thrown in for good measure.

Serves 4

8 ounces dried shell pasta or macaroni

1 (10-ounce) bag frozen spinach, thawed

1 recipe Almost Alfredo Sauce (see below)

3 to 4 tablespoons dry sherry, depending how strong of a sherry taste you like

1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes

1 teaspoon granulated onion

3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease an 8-inch square glass or ceramic baking dish.

In a large pot of lightly salted boiling water, add the pasta and cook according to package directions until al dente. Don’t overcook the pasta, especially if you’re using one that is gluten-free. Drain the pasta well and transfer to a large bowl.

Drain most of the liquid out of the spinach by gently squeezing it, but don’t squeeze it completely dry. Add the spinach to the pasta, along with the sauce, mixing until the pasta is thickly coated. Add the sherry, Dijon mustard, nutritional yeast, granulated onion, and nutmeg, stirring well. Add salt and pepper, and adjust seasonings to taste. Scoop the pasta mixture into the prepared baking dish. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until hot and slightly bubbly around the edges. Remove from the oven and serve.

Gluten-Free: Use a gluten-free oat flour in the sauce and gluten-free pasta (my favorite here is brown rice macaroni).

Almost Alfredo Sauce

Although this isn’t exactly a true alfredo sauce with loads of cream and butter, it is an all-purpose creamy white sauce, which works really well in so many recipes. There are a number of variations for it, from adding truffle oil to white wine. It’s so versatile, that it may just become your new secret sauce.

Makes about 3 cups

21/2 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

11/4 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, 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 the mixture comes to a simmer, reduce the 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. 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.

Variations:

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 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.

 

Now it’s time to enter to win!

Contest is open to U.S. residents only.  Contest ends 12/11/14.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Where to purchase the cookbook:

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