Josh and I make pretty a strong effort to stick to a plant-based, whole food diet as best as we can. Lately we've been slacking a bit on this. We've been diligent about sticking to a vegetarian diet, but sometimes the plant-based (i.e. - vegan) part is tough. It gets crazy around here at times, and we end up grabbing vegetarian pizza or Chinese take-out instead of cooking a healthy nourishing meal.
This is why I wanted to create an easy to cook, hearty, and satisfying dish that felt like a "vegan cheating" meal, even though it's not. The true "cheat" lies in cashew cream, which has a thick consistency like whole milk. It also packs a ton of flavor.
I learned all about how to make cashew cream and cashew cheese in Tal Ronnen's fantastic cookbook called The Conscious Cook. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in vegetarian and vegan cooking, especially beginners! The book is packed with advice for substituting plant based foods for animal ones. A few of the recipes can be a bit intimidating and require obscure ingredients (especially if you're new to vegan cooking), but I found the majority to be straightforward and, of course, delicious!
This recipe is not very complicated, but you have to complete it in two parts with a long wait time in between. The night before you eat it, you must soak the cashews in water to get them ready to make into cream. The next day, you prepare the dish for baking, and then, you guessed it - bake it.
If you plan ahead, it's not really hard. I like to make it on the weekends and even freeze this dish to bake later (for when it gets really busy around our house). Vegan Scalloped Potatoes would also be a yummy vegan addition to your holiday spread. Serve this with a fresh seasonal salad and you're set! Hope you enjoy it!
Vegan Scalloped Potatoes
- 5 medium russet baking potatoes
- 2 cups cashew cream (recipe follows)
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast*
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 TBS vegan butter
- 2 TBS chopped fresh rosemary (plus more for garnish)
- 1 TBS fresh thyme leaves
- squeeze of fresh lemon juice
- 1 tsp ground cayenne pepper
- 1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
- 2 TBS vegan grated Parmesan "cheese"
* nutritional yeast can be found in the bulk foods area in many grocery stores. It is not the same as active yeast that's used in making bread dough.
Preheat oven 375 degrees. Wash potatoes and cut off any funky looking bumps or spots. Slice potatoes to about 1/4 inch thickness. Grease a 7 x 9 inch casserole pan (or a pan of similar size). Layer the sliced potatoes in the greased pan.
Heat a saute pan over medium heat and add the vegan butter and onions. Cook for 5-7 minutes and add the garlic, cooking 2 minutes more. In a large mixing bowl add the cashew cream, sauteed garlic and onion, nutritional yeast, fresh rosemary and thyme, and ground cayenne, a dash of salt, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and give it a good stir. Pour this mixture over the sliced potatoes in the casserole dish. Top with Panko bread crumbs and vegan parm. Bake for 45 minutes, broil on high for 1-2 minutes at the end to give the dish and nice browning. Enjoy!
Cashew Cheese (method learned from The Conscious Cook)
Soak 1 cup of raw whole cashews overnight, or at least for a few hours. Place soaked cashews and whatever water they've been soaking in into a high powered blender like a Vitamix or Ninja. Fill with additional water until the fill line reaches 2 cups. Blend on high for a minute or two. That's it! You've got cashew cheese!