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Healthy Comfort Food: Creamy Vegan Casseroles

Today’s multi-use recipe for a Broccoli, Carrot, and Fennel Casserole got oohs and aahs at our table recently, so I promise you won’t want to miss this one! If casseroles aren’t your thing, you can serve it as a veggie side dish or make it a one-dish meal and serve the vegetables with rice or quinoa.

Loyal readers, have you noticed that I enjoy creating dishes that lend themselves to slightly different approaches? You could even turn this into a soup by adding some delicious homemade stock. All these options give you greater flexibility if you’re comfortable enough in cooking to adapt the directions ever-so-slightly to suit your preferences.

I know that many vegans miss eating cheese so much that they substitute with vegan cheeses. You won’t find vegan cheese in this recipe, but I understand why you may want to add some on top! But I generally avoid vegan cheese products for a few reasons:

  • Ayurveda suggests that eating freshly cooked food daily is what we need to eat to sustain vibrant health. Any cheese, by its very nature, is an old food. It’s certainly OK to treat yourself to vegan cheese if your digestive system is strong, but even then, I don’t recommend eating it regularly.
  • Many vegan cheeses are made from highly processed oils with the addition of preservatives and color additives to make them less like real food and more like junk
  • Some of the better vegan cheeses are made with xanthan and/or guar gum. While these are considered safe food products according to the FDA, gums are naturally sticky and that is a problem. Sticky foods can increase ama, toxins, in the gut, and according to Ayurveda, toxins are the number-one cause of many major diseases and can lead to chronic pain.

Some vegan cheeses are cleaner than others, so if you want a vegan cheese, be sure to study the labels. The Treeline Cheeses are made from cashews, lemon juice, spices, and acidophilus. This is the cleanest list of ingredients I’ve seen, so I will be looking for this brand the next time I want to make a dish that cries out for cheese. Also, I’ve tested Kite Hill cheese, yogurt, and sour cream, which are all delicious and made from almonds and various cultures; they also, however, contain some sugar and gum. One of their products contains maltodextrin, which is high on the glycemic index, so shouldn’t be eaten regularly.

If you try this casserole without vegan cheese, you may discover the ultimate experience of healthy and delicious co-existing in one yummy dish. Delight your family and friends with this Broccoli, Carrot, and Fennel Casserole—with or without vegan cheese—and wait for an outpouring of oohs and aahs at your table!

 

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BROCCOLI, CARROT, FENNEL CASSEROLE

Preparation Time: 1 hour or less, about 40 minutes active
Serves 6 to 8

I made this creamy casserole with the help of Cocojune Yogurt, made with only organic coconut milk, spring water, cassava root, and probiotic cultures. You can make this dish as an all-vegetable casserole in a 9-inch square baking dish or mix the vegetables with cooked basmati rice or quinoa in a 9 x 13 dish.

2 cups cooked basmati rice or quinoa (optional)
1 small or medium sweet onion
2 tablespoons avocado oil (plus 1 teaspoon to grease a casserole dish)
1 medium or large fennel bulb and stalks
6 large carrots
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground coriander
¼ cup water
1 tablespoon Bragg Liquid Aminos
4 cups broccoli florets
4 ounces vegan yogurt
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon mineral salt, or more, to taste
Dash black pepper (optional)
¼ cup pine nuts
¼ cup GF breadcrumbs (optional)
¼ cup fresh dill

1. If you decide to mix your vegetables with rice or quinoa in this dish, cook the grain in a separate pot now. Rinse ⅔ cup uncooked rice or quinoa with 1⅓ water and ½ teaspoon salt. If you are making this as a baked casserole (vs. serving vegetables out of the pot onto grains or as a side dish), pre-heat the oven to 400˚F and grease a casserole dish.

2. Dice the onion. Heat the oil in a 4-quart or larger soup pot on medium-low heat. Add the diced onion and sauté about 10 minutes while you prepare the other vegetables.

3. Wash and slice the fennel bulb into quarters, and then cut each quarter into slices about ⅛-inch thick. Also, slice the stalks into ⅛-inch thick rounds, add all the fennel to the pot, and cover it—giving the fennel a head-start on the other veggies.

4. Wash the carrots, halve them lengthwise, and then cut into half-moons about ⅛-inch thick. Once the carrots are prepped, add the cumin and coriander to the pot, and stir well. Then add the carrots to the pot along with water and Bragg’s. Cover the pot while you wash and cut the broccoli into florets. (If you wish, you can use some of the stems, peeled and cut into rounds.) Add the broccoli and stir. If the pot is starting to look dry, add 2 to 3 more tablespoons of water, and cover to let everything steam.

5. Transfer the yogurt to a small mixing bowl. Stir in the ginger, salt, and pepper. Once the vegetables are all tender, add the yogurt mixture to the pot, stir well, and add more salt and pepper, to taste. Finish the dish by stirring in the pine nuts. If you’re serving directly from the pot to plates, either as a side dish or over cooked grains, you can mix the dill in now.

6. If you’re preparing the recipe as a casserole, mix the rice or quinoa with the vegetables. Transfer the full mixture to the casserole dish and sprinkle some breadcrumbs, if you wish. Reheat for about 10 minutes, until the crumbs are slightly browned. Finish the casserole with fresh dill.

Ayurvedic Note: This recipe is fine for all doshas when eaten in moderation. People with diabetes may want to choose quinoa instead of rice.

 

 

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