One of the most common vegan-related questions I am asked, aside from “where do you get your protein?” is “don’t you miss the foods you used to eat?” I’m convinced that many people must think I literally live on cardboard or food that simply doesn’t taste good just because I am vegan. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. I eat delicious food. And, I believe most vegans, like myself, are real foodies. Recently I saw a t-shirt by Compassion Company that reflects my thoughts on this very topic. The t-shirt which is obviously aimed towards non-vegan says: “Anything you can eat I can eat vegan.” My thoughts exactly.
Just because I don’t eat animal products doesn’t mean that I eat foods that are tasteless or bland. Anything non-vegans eat, us vegans can eat a veganized version. In fact, until recently, there was a whole column in VegNews called Veganize It by Allison Samson of Allison’s Gourmet. Allison is an award-winning and certified plant based chef who is able to “veganize” just about anything, even your grandmothers’ famous meatball recipe for example. Vegans like food just like everybody else. We like (love) food that tastes great, just like everybody else too.
A few weeks ago I received my final subscription of my veganic CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) veggie box filled with lots of seasonal veggies. I really wanted to use up all the veggies while they were fresh so I decided I wanted to cook them up together in one dish. I purchased a package of Upton’s Naturals Italian flavored seitan at my local coop and created my very first vegan casserole.
What’s seitan? It’s a meat alternative, better described by Upton’s website as, “a traditional Japanese food made from rinsing the starch away from wheat and retaining the protein. It has a meat-like texture and robust flavor that is both high in protein and low in fat without the cholesterol associated with meat.” Seitan is also:
-Low in carbs and fat
-A good source of protein (15 grams per serving)
-Trans fat free
Upton’s Naturals makes five seitan flavors: Italian, Traditional, Bacon, Ground and Chorizo. These are readily available in natural food stores all across the country (but if by chance Upton’s isn’t available near you, click HERE to download and print a request form to bring to your local grocer). I chose the Italian seitan flavor simply because I wanted to recreate spicy ground beef in the casserole and that’s almost exactly what Upton’s Italian flavored seitan resembles and tastes like. It’s even chewy like beef. This was my first experience cooking with Upton’s Naturals and I have to say it was a pleasant one! I’d imagine that all their flavors are equally as easy to use and tasty to eat. The Italian flavor crumbled easily and not only worked great in my casserole, but it would make a perfect pizza topping, not to mention a great meat alternative in spaghetti sauces, soups, scrambles, tacos and more. I was pleased with the price point as well. Each package runs about $1.00 per serving (4 servings per package).
And now for the recipe…
Upton’s Seitan Veggie Casserole (makes 6-8 servings)
-1 small zucchini
-1 yellow squash
-8 – 10 mushrooms
-1 green, 1 yellow, 1 purple & 1 red bell pepper (small)
-1 medium onion
-1 package of Upton’s Naturals Italian seitan
-1/2 pound of fingerling potatoes
-1-2 packages of your favorite shredded vegan cheese (I used Follow Your Heart mozzarella & cheddar)
-vegan buttery spread (I used Earth Balance)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Slice all veggies into thin 1/4″ slices.
3. In a saucepan, saute sliced onions in olive oil (enough to lightly cover the pan) in 1 teaspoon of your
favorite vegan buttery spread.
4. Drizzle olive oil lightly covering the bottom of a 3 quart baking/casserole dish.
5. Place sliced potatoes covering the olive oil on the bottom of baking dish.
6. Place a layer of shredded vegan cheese lightly covering the potatoes.
7. Layer in all other sliced veggies (no specific order).
8. Place sauteed onions on top of raw sliced veggies.
9. Crumble a layer of Upton’s Naturals Italian seitan (8 oz package) over the top of the veggies.
10. Top with a layer of more shredded vegan cheese.
11. Place casserole dish in oven to bake for 45 minutes to an hour (note: oven temperatures vary).
12. Change the oven settings from bake to broil for 15 minutes until potatoes are tender and cheese is
13. Cut, casserole into 6-8 servings (squares). Serve warm topped with your favorite ketchup and/or hot