Creamy Comfort Casserole

Cook 8 ounces of macaroni style pasta until it’s just short of being done, don’t worry if you miss that window, it’ll still taste fine.

In a blender combine:
2 slices whole wheat or Ezekiel bread
1 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt (I use the blend by Mountain Rose Herbs)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Blend until a fine crumb is achieved, empty the blender and set the crumb topping aside.

In the same blender combine:
1 large roasted red pepper (jarred is fine)
1/4 cup cashews
3 Tablespoons nutritional yeast
juice from 1/2 Lemon
3/4 teaspoon salt
a pinch each of nutmeg and cloves
2 teaspoons arrowroot powder
1/8 th of an onion (I read the recipe wrong last time, and it turns out some onion powder works fine too 😉 )
1 1/4 cups of water, rice milk, or soy milk

Blend until well mixed, no lumps, you should have a smooth, runny sauce.

Now place the drained pasta in a casserole dish, this fills a 1 1/2 quart pan quite well, and pour the sauce over the top. It should completely cover the pasta. Then top with the seasoned bread crumbs and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20-25 minutes. The sauce will thicken nicely as it cooks.

And there you have it. A fairly bland (except for the topping), creamy, smooth and comforting casserole dish.

C

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The magic of Chia

I have been searching for a good creamy salad dressing for a while now. Ranch having been my dressing of choice. And although some of my sainted friends have learned to love the taste of greens without dressing, I have yet to join their ranks.
Part of the difficulty has been my reluctance to rely on Mayo substitutes, or silken tofu to provide the creaminess desired. The closest thing I had found to date was a dressing utilizing white beans, but it just wasn’t quite right.
Enter, the humble Chia seed. Among other things it is neutral in taste, and jells up quite nicely just by sitting in water for a few minutes therefore making it an effective thickener.
And to be quite frank with you, that’s enough for me. Even without Chia’s impressive nutritional profile. However, it does have the bonus of containing a lovely balance of Essential Fatty Acids, in addition to high levels of protein, calcium, and magnesium. The most interesting aspect of these tiny seeds however, is that they look kind of like miniature pinto beans. O.k., maybe it’s not the most interesting thing, but I did find myself wondering why a Chia website had a close up photo of pinto beans on it. And then I looked closely at my own Chia seeds, ;-).
And so tonight I have a least partially solved the creamy dressing dilemma.

Creamy House Dressing

Place in blender:
2 teaspoons Chia seeds
1/2 cup water
Just let them sit for 15 minutes.

Add:
1/4 cup cashews
an additional 1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon dijon-style mustard
Some fresh chives (optional)

Blend until well combined and pulverized.
That’s it.

The chives could also be added at the end after all the blending is finished.

C

O.K., It took twenty-seven minutes…

but, that did include taking some snazzy photos

Creamy potato soup, coming up

and letting the raw potatoes fall where they may.

Though you’d find the action on the floor interesting, ;-).

Creamy Potato Soup

5 medium/largish Russet potatoes (just regular large, not Idaho large)
1 small sweet potato or 1 large carrot (if using the sweet potato cook it with the Russets)
1/2 onion
1 large clove garlic
1/2 cup cashews
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon brown rice vinegar
2 3/4 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon Mountain Rose Herbs Seasoning Salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper (black could work in a pinch)

Start the water boiling, whether you’re steaming or boiling the potatoes (not the 2 3/4 cups, unless you’re planning on using the potato water in the soup- which I often do). Then scrub and chop the potatoes into chunks and add them to your cooking apparatus. Here they are in mine, steaming away:

After starting to cook the potatoes, wash and dice the sweet potato and throw it in too. Or… just chop up the carrot and throw it in the blender along with all of the other ingredients. I use the large capacity container on the blender (this makes about 7 cups of soup).

By this time the potatoes should be soft enough to add them in too. If not, just let them cook for a few more minutes (they don’t need to be well done).

Blend together well. If using a Blendtec the soup button is sufficient and since the potatoes are already hot, no need to worry about additional blend time to heat the soup.

The finished product is quite thick,

so if you’d prefer a thinner soup just add more water.

C