I grew up in a home with two full time working parents. My dad worked in steel construction, Mom was a legal secretary and, eventually, a Paralegal. As an overprotected only child, I was far from being a "latch key" kid, though, and wasn't left alone until I was well into middle school. Even then, it was only during the day for a couple of hours, never at night. I think it was eighth grade when I finally persuaded my parents that I was old enough to find my way home after school, but there were conditions. No guests in the house (especially boys!), doors had to be locked, and since I was home anyway, I would contribute more to the household chores. This included cooking dinner. Now, my family was not very adventurous in the way of eating; meals consisted of meat/potato/vegetable with bread or rolls on the side, and casseroles were king! Don't get me wrong, our dinners were always tasty and filling, good solid food, just nothing too fancy. This made it very easy for me to create a basic menu plan for the nights I was in charge of cooking: Baked, breaded chicken breasts. Baked, breaded pork chops. And some kind of casserole concoction, usually involving beef. Once a year we had fresh dolphin (mahi) caught by my mom's boss, but otherwise the only seafood served was tuna, either in sandwiches or, my favorite, Tuna Casserole. My dad still teases me about that tuna casserole, I guess I must've made it a zillion times! Given the chance, I'd still polish off the creamy, soupy concoction if not for the fact that, oh yeah, I'm vegan.
Like many plant-based folks, I still occasionally long for some of the dishes from my pre-vegan days, but I'm not willing to sacrifice my ethics or morals for the experience. No animal should have to die for my belly. That doesn't mean I have to give up the flavors and memories of those favorite foods, I just need to get creative, or in this case, let someone else do it.
A quick Google search led me to several mock tuna casserole recipes, but this one looked most similar to the casserole I used to make. I gathered the ingredients, threw it all together, and then waited patiently for the end result. Would it be good enough? Could it possibly resemble the original?
Creamy Mushroom Casserole
- 4 tablespoons vegan margarine, divided
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 10 ounces baby portobello mushrooms, sliced
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1.5 cups veggie broth
- 1 1/2 cups unsweetened nondairy milk (I use soy)
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- salt and pepper, to taste
- paprika, to taste
- 1 cup canned chickpeas, drained and mashed
- 8 ounces fusilli pasta (or shape of your choice)
- 1 cup French fried onions (or potato chips, or 1/2 of each)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, and prepare an 8x8" glass baking dish with a quick spray of cooking oil. Heat 1 tablespoon vegan margarine in a pan. Add onion, celery and mushrooms and saute for a few minutes. When mushrooms give off liquid, add soy sauce. Keep cooking until all vegetables are tender, turn off heat.
2. In a medium soup pot, melt the remaining 3 tablespoons vegan margarine over low heat. Stir in the flour and whisk for a few minutes. It will get thick. Start adding the broth bit by bit, whisking all the while and bring to a boil. Add the milk little by little and continue to stir and simmer.
3. Add the mushroom/celery/onion mixture and lemon juice. Season with salt, pepper and paprika. Add the mashed chickpeas a spoonful at a time to break it up evenly throughout the sauce. Add frozen peas.
4. Cook pasta according to package directions, until al dente, approximately 9 minutes. Drain and return it to the pot. Add the mushroom sauce to the pasta and stir gently to combine. Transfer the mixture to the baking dish. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 15 minutes.
5. Uncover the dish and sprinkle crushed chips and/or French fried onions on top and bake for another 5-6 minutes or so or until the top is browned and crispy.
Serving Size: 8 servings
- Calories: 287.9
- Fat: 10.6g
- Carbohydrates: 45.3g
- Protein: 7.9g
The Verdict: Omni-hunny had no fond memories of 1970's casseroles, so he declined a taste. I was left on my own with this whole Pyrex full of..perfection! Rich, creamy sauce mixed with mushrooms and pasta, the epitome of comfort food! The only thing missing was, of course, the fishy taste of the tuna which is why I'm renaming this Creamy Mushroom Casserole. Note: I made a couple of small changes such as the addition of peas, thought they would provide much-needed veggies as well as a splash of color. I used rotini-shaped pasta instead of fusilli. Also, I found the sauce to be a tiny bit more watery than I'd like so next time I'll cut back on the vegetable broth. Otherwise, 5 stars on this dish! Chip really doesn't know what he's missing, and at this point I'm not sure I'll share! Alas, due to the high fat content, this is not a meal I can enjoy very often, at least not without expanding my waistline, but it certainly hit the spot on a day I wanted some comfort food.
We'll be headed down south for the weekend, not sure how much cooking I'll be doing. I might just take advantage of the numerous veg-friendly restaurants down there..shrug..either way, you know I'll be snapping pics and sharing stories here. Hope you'll come back and visit me!
Have a great day,