Protein-Packed Comfort Food

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Of all of the vegan dishes that I make, of this one, I am exceptionally proud. For me, it ticks so many boxes, from nutritional value to great leftovers to toddler likability. It isn’t easy to reinvent classic comfort foods—many of which are comforting as a result of fat, sugar, or salt—but I’ve managed to do it with my take on the classic, Chicken Divan.

CD is a chicken and broccoli casserole with a creamy sauce. As much as it is delicious, it is loaded with fat and cholesterol, two no-no’s in my world. My recipes are certainly not all fat free (you will see there is a little bit in today’s concoction), but most are low in fat and definitely don’t contain cholesterol, which only exists in animal products. A positive of the original CD is the protein found in chicken. Thankfully, protein can be found in tons of plants, and often, in much greater quantities per serving.

Today, CD becomes TD: Tofu Divan. Yea, tofu (and all soybean products) should be consumed sparingly, according to some research. But then, I visit Japan, with its ultra-healthy, lean population, and see tofu everywhere. So, who knows!  Tofu is an EXCELLENT source of protein that is low in fat, free of cholesterol, and adaptable into both savory and sweet applications. (Check out my togurt and chocolate mousse formulas for more tofu ideas!) I eat tofu in some capacity once or twice a month…nothing to worry about.

Side note: My TD utilizes a block of silken (or soft) and half a block extra firm. What am I going to do with the other half? Since Nolan was just beyond pureed baby food, I’ve been cutting it into cubes, and tossing it with just a splash of amino acids or soy sauce and a little bit of agave syrup. He’s been popping the cubes for over a year and a half now and couldn’t be happier with this easy and baby-friendly snack. He even learned how to use a fork with these tofu cubes.

DSC_2113Ok, back to the TD. I’m using broccolini, or baby broccoli, but you could really use any vegetable you’d like. You can also use any grains you’d like. This is a Fresh Formula, after all. 🙂 Tradition CD doesn’t contain grains, but if I’m going to make a cooked dish, I like to include them, since the bulk of what I eat is typically raw.

DSC_2100My grain of choice today is primarily wheat berries, with a little bit of quinoa I had left over from making Nolan his favorite breakfast: my quinoa muffins. When Travis and I selected our Bountiful Basket offerings last week, we added twenty-five pounds of wheat berries. They aren’t as easy to find as other grains and I love the crunch that they maintain, even after cooked. Now, I just need to find some ways to use them, which is one of my goals today! I first introduced you to wheat berries in my multi-grain salad formula, another one of my go-to favorites.

DSC_2095 DSC_2096The nutrients derived from the produce, grains, and tofu in my TD are unmatched by its animal-based cousin, CD. This dish is delicious right out of the oven and also makes for satisfying leftovers. Mostly importantly, my two-year-old loves it. Still not keen on many veggies as is (although he’ll eat them all day in smoothies), TD is a great way for me to “hide” finely chopped vegetables that he eats without question.

Finally, you’ll see that the casserole is topped with breadcrumbs. Typically, I’d use some of my own freshly baked bread, but with none on hand at the moment, I’m getting creative and using rice cakes! I love this brand. They make for a great snack as is, or smothered in peanut butter and jam. Yum-o!

DSC_2101Bear in mind that making tofu divan takes about ninety minutes, start to finish, depending on what type of grains you use. While brown rice can cook in about thirty minutes, wheat berries need an hour. Just FYI if you’re in a hurry. 🙂 Enjoy!

FORMULA BASE: TOFU DIVAN

Serves 6-8 

  • 5-6 cups homemade veggie stock
  • 3 cups uncooked grains –>  I’m using 2 cups wheat berries and 1 cup white quinoa.
  • 2 cups finely chopped vegetables –>  I’m using broccolini
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs –>  I’m using two tamari and flax seed rice cakes.
  • 1 block silken tofu
  • ½ block of extra firm tofu
  • ½ cup liquid to blend with silken tofu (more veggie stock, water, plant milk, etc.) –>  I’m using unsweetened, unflavored almond milk.
  • ½ of a small onion –>  I’m using yellow.
  • 2-4 cloves garlic –> The more the merrier in my book. 🙂
  • 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 tbsp oil –> I’m using olive.
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp dried minced onion
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper to taste –> I’m using pink Himalayan sea salt and fresh ground black pepper in both the sauce and in the sauté pan.

Thoroughly rinse your grains before cooking. Add to a rice cooker or stovetop pot with veggie stock. If you’re using a variety of different grains, stagger their addition to the cooker/pot based on cook times. Wheat berries, for instance, need much longer to cook than quinoa.

While the grains are cooking, put the silken tofu in a blender with your liquid of choice and puree until smooth. Put in a small sauce pan on medium low heat with all spices, the bay leaf, and salt and pepper to taste. Leave the sauce to simmer, stirring occasionally. If it gets too thick (should be thicker than milk, but thinner than a milkshake), thin out with water, plant milk, or veggie stock.

DSC_2104Heat up a sauté pan on medium high heat with ½ tbsp of the oil. Dice your onion, mince your garlic, crumble your extra firm tofu, and sauté until the onions are almost translucent and the tofu is slightly browned. If you have a starchy vegetable, such as carrots, throw them into the sauté pan, too. Otherwise, finely chopping and adding to the casserole mix before it goes into the often should suffice.

DSC_2112Finally, pulse your bread, crackers, etc. in a food processor to make breadcrumbs.

DSC_2102The grains should have absorbed all of the liquid by the time they are cooked, but drain them if they haven’t. In a large mixing bowl, combine grains, onion, garlic, tofu, vegetables, and silken tofu sauce, sans bay leaf. I am strategic about how I do this. The veggies go on the bottom if they have not been precooked, topped next by the hot grains, which will par-cook the vegetables for me, finishing them off in the oven.

Mix your breadcrumbs with nutritional yeast and the other ½ tbsp oil. Once the other ingredients are combined and spread in a 9 X 13 baking dish, top with breadcrumbs. Put under the broiler on low for 4-5 minutes, or until the breadcrumbs are golden brown.

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