Sunday Brunch: Crockpot Hashbrown Casserole, Whole Wheat Biscuits and White Bean Gravy

Sunday Brunch

More often than not, I end up making pancakes on the weekend, not that there is anything wrong with that. But we were both craving something a bit more savory on Sunday. I’ve made this wonderful Weekend Tofu and Hash Brown Breakfast Casserole from “The Vegan Slow Cooker” before. (Though the book has tons of great recipes, it’s worth buying just for the casserole.) I’ve also made these Herbed Whole Wheat Drop Biscuits from “Vegan Brunch” before, too.

My usual go-to gravy is a simple white gravy, but it’s not exactly healthy. So as I was looking through “Vegan Brunch,” I decided to try out her Navy Bean Gravy, but I substituted cannellini beans for the navy beans. And, wow, I think this might be my new go-to gravy. The picture you see above was taken the day after I made the gravy, so it had thickened considerably, but right off the stovetop it was a wonderfully creamy brown gravy that worked really well with the herb biscuits. And while it still has white flour in it, the beans add more nutritional value than a typical white or brown gravy.

Split Pea and Apple Soup

I don’t know if I’m in the minority here or not, but I love split pea soup. And while the picture doesn’t do it justice, this Split Pea with Apple Soup from “The Vegan Slow Cooker” is quickly becoming one of my favorite versions. For one, it’s made in a crockpot, and two, it packs a ton of flavor for only having a few simple and healthy ingredients. The apples add just a touch of sweetness and work so well with the split peas. A drizzle of balsamic vinegar on top adds another level of flavor to the soup.

What you see in the picture was my lunch today. I combined the soup with a grilled cheese (Daiya) and apple sandwich. The perfect meal for a rainy, fall day.

From the Pantry Pot Pie

This is another dish from “The Vegan Slow Cooker,” and, I have to say, I was kind of disappointed. The vegetable part of the dish was awesome, but the biscuits didn’t really turn out that well. They were kind of doughy. I propped the lid of my crockpot as the recipe suggested and even let them cook a bit longer, but they just would not firm up. So, I ended up taking the biscuits off the top and making herbed whole wheat drop biscuits in the oven, which turned out really well. The biscuit recipe I got from “Vegan Brunch.” Their texture provided a nice crunch to go with the chicken seitan and veggies. I do plan on making this dish again, but I’ll just leave off the biscuits and make a batch separately.

Mini Potluck Meal

I don’t often make meals that feature a lot of sides. My meals usually consist of a soup with cornbread, or a casserole or main dish with a quick salad. I don’t know why that is because I love having lots of options on my plate. I’ve always been a fan of potlucks for that reason.

For this dish, I went all out. I made the Atomic Tofu Pecan Loaf (which I’ve featured on here before) in my slow cooker, and a side of roasted carrots and Brussels sprouts. Looking for a second side, I found a Chickpea-Quinoa Pilaf recipe in Veganomicon. It was so good and so, so easy to make.

All in all, it was a healthy and hearty meal that warmed our bellies on a cool spring day.

Split Pea and Lentil Soup

So this might not be the prettiest dish, but it sure was tasty. The recipe can be found in “The Vegan Slow Cooker,” and it’s another dinner item I have featured in my latest meal plan. Split peas and lentils combine in a wonderful broth. Baby spinach is added at the end for added texture and flavor. The only thing I would change is the amount of salt. I used Better Than Bouillon Chicken Base, which is pretty salty on its own, so you really don’t need to season it with more salt, at least in my opinion. Still, it was so nice to come home to this wonderfully hearty and nutritious soup on a rainy spring day. A side of homemade cornbread goes great with it.

Meal Plan Experiment

For those of you who have been patient enough to follow this blog since its inception, you know my goal has been to create budget-friendly meal plans. As you all know, working full time has a way of interfering with the fun stuff, so it kind of got put on the back burner. I also have been kind of paralyzed with too many details of how, exactly, I wanted to present a meal plan to serve you all.

Well, I woke up this morning and decided to create one based on my recent grocery trip and to just put it out there, warts and all. It’s not perfect, but it’ll give me something to work with for future posts. And I really hope that you all will offer me feedback in terms of what works and what doesn’t. I fully anticipate that the format will change several times in the weeks and months ahead, but I want to get it right. Eventually, I’d love to have a printable and downloadable version so that you can easily bring it with you to the store. (Who knows, maybe one day I’ll have my own app!)

Please keep in mind that I am not a nutritionist; I am just a regular person who is trying to do her best to adhere to a vegan diet in a fairly healthy and budget-friendly way. And if I can help a few readers do the same, then I’ll be a very happy camper.

A few notes: You’ll notice that my meal plan is expected to cover 6 to 7 days. I make my meals with the expectation that we will have leftovers to eat off of for a few days. Also, my meal plans will always be for two people, so you’ll have to adjust according to your household. And, obviously, your total will be different from mine based on where you live, where you buy your food and what you have on hand, but I’m including it to give you a rough estimate. Finally, you’ll notice a list of items that I already have on hand. I cannot stress the importance of keeping your pantry stocked. This will save you money in the long run because I like to create lists based on items that I already have in the pantry/fridge.

So, without further ado, here is my very first meal plan:

Budget: $70
Money spent:
$79.29
Time:
6-7 days

Menu

Breakfast
bagels and cream cheese
cereal
Blackberry East Coast Coffee Cake (from “Vegan Brunch”)

Lunch
Classic Broccoli Quiche ( from “Vegan Brunch”) with kale salad
soup and crackers

Dinner
Tofu, mushroom, carrot and edamame stir-fry and gyoza
Italian sausages with sautéed onions and peppers over polenta
Split Pea and Lentil Soup (from “The Vegan Slow Cooker”) and cornbread

Snacks
popcorn
almonds
apples and peanut butter
yogurt and granola
carrots, cucumber and hummus

List
Silk vanilla soy yogurt (large container)
almond milk
Tofutti cream cheese
(2 packages) extra-firm tofu
(1 package) Field Roast Italian Sausage
(1 bunch) kale
sprouted cinnamon-raisin bagels
(2) broccoli crowns
(3) Fuji apples
2lb bag of carrots
baby spinach
almonds
(4) prepackaged soups
wheat crackers
(1 lb) popcorn
(1/2 lb) granola
(1 lb) split peas
(1) yellow onion
(1) bulb garlic
Dijon mustard
(2) red bell peppers
(1 package) frozen vegetable gyoza
raisin bran cereal
shelled edamame
(1 package) sliced white mushrooms
(1) cucumber

Items already on-hand:
frozen blackberries
all-purpose flour
sugar
apple-cider vinegar
vanilla extract
cinnamon
nutmeg
canola oil
baking powder
sea salt
pepper
olive oil
green lentils
chicken-flavored bouillon
bay leaves
tarragon
thyme
turmeric
marjoram
rosemary
(2) yellow onions
tahini
(2) lemons
(1 can) chickpeas
raw cashews
Earth Balance
cornmeal
Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
Sriracha

Books used:
“Vegan Brunch”
“The Vegan Slow Cooker”

Italian Eggplant Casserole with Cashew-Tofu Ricotta

What can I say? I’m really enjoying “The Vegan Slow Cooker” and not having to deal with tons of dishes every night. This is the fourth recipe I’ve made from the book and it was a hit. Thinly sliced eggplant is layered with a marinara sauce and creamy cashew-tofu ricotta. More like a thick sauce than a casserole, I served mine over a bed of whole wheat rotini pasta and a side of spring mix salad with lemon juice.

The dish was easy enough to throw together, but I used store-bought marinara to make it even easier. Call me lazy. Simply throw the tofu, cashews and other ingredients into a food processor, slice the eggplant and layer with the marinara in your crockpot. Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours. That’s it.

I was worried that the eggplant would turn out bitter since the recipe doesn’t require you to salt and blot it with a towel, but it wasn’t bitter at all.

This dish is definitely a keeper.

Atomic Tofu Pecan Loaf

This meal is the epitome of old-school comfort food: veggie meatloaf, mashed potatoes and peas. The Atomic Tofu Pecan Loaf is the third recipe that I’ve made from “The Vegan Slow Cooker” and it’s my favorite so far. I was skeptical when putting all the ingredients together; it didn’t look very appetizing when I patted it down into the crockpot. But eight hours later, I was shocked to see how “authentic” it looked. The texture and flavors were spot on and definitely something that I could see myself craving. And it’s perfect for slicing so that you can make sandwiches with the leftovers.

The recipe came together really quickly the night before. Most of the ingredients are whipped together in a food processor and then combined with a couple of other ingredients. I did make a few tweaks to the original recipe. Instead of pecans, I used walnuts. I also didn’t have the vegan Worcestershire and steak sauce on hand to combine with the ketchup for the topping, so I mixed the ketchup with a little Bragg’s and a couple of teaspoons of agave, which turned out really well.

As you can see, I’m a little obsessed with my slow cooker right now. I’m going to pick a few more recipes from the book to try and I will post on those soon.

I hope everyone is doing well!

Hungarian Mushroom Soup

As a kid, I loved cream of mushroom soup. You know, the kind that came out of the can with a “plop” and required adding milk to thin it out a bit. I haven’t had it in years, so I was happy to find this recipe in “The Vegan Slow Cooker.”

This is the second recipe that I’ve made from the cookbook. I have to say, while it tasted great, it didn’t turn out as thick as I would have hoped. It was a little too “soupy” for my tastes. But the next time I make it (and I will definitely make it again), I’m going to add a cornstarch mixture to it at the beginning to thicken it. The soup was great with a loaf of crusty bread for dipping and a quick salad of baby Romaine lettuce and lemon and olive oil dressing.

So far, I’m really enjoying crockpot cooking. It’s so nice to throw a few ingredients into a pot and walk away until it’s time for dinner. This week, I’m making the meatloaf recipe that is featured in the book. I’ll have a review and pictures on that as well.

Weekend Tofu and Hash Brown Breakfast Casserole

If you’re looking for a good, stick-to-your-ribs kind of breakfast, this dish is for you. It’s the first recipe I’ve made from the newest cookbook in my collection, “The Vegan Slow Cooker,” and it was delicious. Hash browns are layered in the bottom of the crockpot, vegan cheddar (I used Daiya) was layered on top of that, and then a mixture of silken tofu and spices is added to the top. Paprika and freshly ground pepper top it off before it cooks for two hours in your slow cooker. The tofu mixture firms up nicely to the consistency of scrambled eggs.

I wasn’t sure how flavorful it would be, but the final result packs a ton of it. Still, while the recipe is great on its own, the next time I make it, I’m going to add onions and green peppers to bulk it up and add extra texture and flavor. We added a few drops of hot sauce to give it a kick.

Next up? Hungarian Mushroom Soup. Can’t wait.