Sunday, April 12, 2009

The one Easter dish that I couldn't live without.

My family has always been really into having a big dinner on holidays. It doesn't really matter what one, New Years dinner is just as huge as Christmas. The important thing is that as many family members as possible get together, eat, tell stories, have a few drinks, enjoy each other's company and remember those of us who aren't still around. I suppose one of the reasons that I enjoy cooking and eating so much is that I was raised in a family where food is regarded as a type of fellowship.

Since today is Easter, I would imagine that while I sit in my apartment drinking coffee and typing, my family is sitting down to a huge dinner. Were I there, I am sure that my dad would have made me a large casserole dish of the one thing that I actually miss from Easter dinner, scalloped potatoes. Ham, I haven't really missed since I stopped eating it, but that other staple of Easter dinner (at least in my fam) I still adore and eat whenever I have the chance.

Scalloped Potatoes without ham

5 - russet potatoes peeled and thinly sliced
1 - onion, sliced as thinly as you can possibly manage.
4 Tbsp - flour
1/4 cup - vegan margarine
1 1/2 cups - unsweetened soy milk
2 Tbsp - Nutritional Yeast (if you have it, the recipe works fine without)
1 1/2 Tsp - salt
1/2 cup - shredded vegan soy cheese (Follow your heart is my favorite, again it will be fine without)
garlic powder
bacos (or other fake bacon bits)

1 - sauce pot
1 - casserole dish
1 - cheese grater
1 - whisk (or a fork works in a pinch)
knife, cutting board, etc...

  • Add your flour and margarine to your sauce pot, over medium heat.
  • Stir constantly with your whisk until the margarine is all melted and the mixture is smooth.
  • Add the soy milk, salt, and nutritional yeast and whisk frequently until the mixture just comes to a simmer.
  • Remove from heat
  • Using a little more of your margarine, grease the inside of the casserole dish.
  • Cover the bottom of the dish with an even layer of potato slices, two slices thick.
  • Cover the layer of potatoes with a very thin layer of onion slices, remember this is scalloped potatoes, not scalloped onions, too much will be over powering.
  • Sprinkle the top of the onion layer with just a very fine dusting of garlic, paprika and bacos. Remember, there are going to be a lot of layers, so just a tiny bit is needed.
  • Repeat layers, until the dish is half full
  • Pour half of your soy milk / flour mixture slowly over the top, letting it soak in.
  • Continue with potato, onion and seasoning layers until the dish is full.
  • Pour the remaining soy milk / flour mixture over dish
  • Cover the top with shredded soy cheese.
  • Bake for about an hour at 350.
  • You can test to see if it done by poking the middle with a fork. The potatoes should feel firm still, but shouldn't give too much resistance.
  • I like to finish it off with a few minutes under the broiler, if the cheese isn't all melted and slightly browned yet. I mentioned this before, in the pizza post, but soy cheese needs to be heated to astronomical temperatures to actually melt.
That's about it, but I did want to take a minute to talk about Nutritional Yeast. I know I said I wouldn't be including any hard to find or expensive ingredients in my recipes, but I have to go back on that in the case of Nutritional Yeast. Of course you can leave it out if you want, and the potatoes will still be delicious. Here is my case for including it though.

There is only one nutrient that a vegan can not get from vegetable sources, and that is B12. Up until about the industrial revolution, that didn't matter, because B12 was abundant in the water supply, due to natural bacteria. Today however, our water is so filtered and purified (which I have no problem with) that there is little to no B12 in it any longer. Fortunately, Nutritional Yeast, in addition to being tasty, is rich in vitamin B12. People with B12 deficiency may experience:
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of memory
  • Lack of balance
  • Depression
  • Digestive problems
  • Dizziness
  • Liver enlargement
  • Eye problems
  • Headaches
  • Hallucinations
  • Inflamed tongue
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Loss of memory
  • Palpitations
  • Neurological damage
  • Tinitus or ringing in the ears
You can find Nutritional Yeast flakes at any health food store, and they are popping up more and more often in traditional groceries, particularly those with health food or organic sections. It is sometimes a little pricey, but it isn't terrible and one container will go a long way.

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