Wednesday, September 05, 2012

The one that started it all...

Tonight's recipe is the first one I made when I decided to go vegan back in May 2012. It was so incredibly yummy that I thought to myself, yes, I can do this! The original recipe is from Susan at, but I've adapted it a little more to my liking.

When I was grocery shopping last weekend, I came across this clamshell of heirloom beans. I have to say, I am a sucker for heirloom veggies. They're just so pretty! So, I decided to make this recipe using one pound heirloom beans and one pound regular green beans. The heirloom beans definitely added some nice colour (especially those gorgeous purple spotted ones!), and a slightly different texture. Yum!

Green Bean Casserole
Yield: apparently it's supposed to yield 6-8 servings, but I think those would be tiny servings as a side dish - we eat this as our main course and usually polish it off as two large servings since it's so yummy! I also don't feel too bad eating so much of it because it's basically all veggies, with lots of excellent plant protein too.

2 pounds (900 g) fresh green beans
6 large mushrooms
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons (30 ml) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (190 ml) vegetable broth
1 tablespoon (15 ml) dry sherry
3/4 cup (190 ml) unsweetened almond milk
2 slices whole grain bread
1 tablespoon (15 ml) Earth Balance margarine (the best vegan brand!)
1/4 cup (60 ml) nutritional yeast*

1) Bring a large pot of water to a boil. While it's heating, wash beans, then cut the ends off. Chop into bite sized pieces.

2) Add the beans to the boiling water. Cover and cook for six minutes. Drain the beans in a colander, then spray for one minute with cold water to stop the cooking process (incidentally, this is called "blanching" the beans). Let the beans continue draining in the colander to ensure as much water as possible comes off of them.
3) While the beans are cooking, wash and chop the mushrooms.

4) Spray a large non-stick frying pan with vegetable oil. Add the minced garlic and mushrooms to the hot pan. Cook until mushrooms are very soft and begin to extrude their juices.

5) Combine the vegetable broth and flour. Whisk them until their are no flour clumps. Add the broth/flour mixture to the pan and stir quickly - it will thicken almost immediately. Reduce your heat to low and add the sherry and almond milk. Keep stirring a couple of more minutes while the sauce thickens and simmers.

6) Combine the sauce and beans in a large casserole dish.
7) Using a food processor, pulse the bread, nutritional yeast and margarine until crumbly.

8) Spread the bread crumbs evenly over the beans in the casserole dish.

9) Bake at 425 F for 15 minutes, until bread crumbs are golden brown.

10) Let it sit for a few minutes, then serve! Yum!

* A note on nutritional yeast: 
Never heard of this stuff before? It's a staple for a vegan diet. Here's a description from Wikipedia:
Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast which is sold commercially as a food product. It's sold in the form of flakes or as a yellow powder similar in texture to cornmeal, and can be found in the bulk aisle of most natural food stores. It is popular with vegans and vegetarians and may be used as an ingredient in recipes or as a condiment.
It is a source of protein and vitamins, especially the B-complex vitamins, and is a complete protein. It is also naturally low in fat and sodium and is free of sugar, dairy, and gluten. Sometimes nutritional yeast is fortified with Vitamin B12.

It has a slightly cheesy flavour, so we often use it if we want something to taste kinda cheesy, without the cheese. Here's what it looks like:

The other reason we like to add it into our meals is that it contains vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is typically found in animal products, which is one of the reasons opponents of the vegan diet say that being vegan isn't natural (humans need to ingest B12 to live). However, animal products only contain B12 because animals eat "dirt-y" food. B12 is actually produced by bacteria in soil. When animals eat the plants from that soil, they invariably eat some of the dirt that the plants were growing in, thus ingesting the B12, then transferring it to their muscles, milk, or eggs which are then eaten by humans. When we used to not wash our plants so much, we also could get B12 from the soil our plants came from. But, now that we wash our vegetables so well before we eat them, we don't get B12 from plants anymore. So, really, it's not that you can't get B12 from eating plants, it's just that you need to eat dirt-y plants which most of us don't because of concerns surrounding pesticides and other contaminants. Most vegans take a B12 supplement to ensure that we're getting enough. The vegan diet is not unnatural; it's more accurate to say that the way we grow and prepare our vegetables these days is unnatural!

Most omnivorous people I know take at least a multivitamin, if not a variety of other supplements, because their diets do not provide them with proper nutrition. That seems pretty unnatural to me. My vegan diet provides all of the nutrients I need without supplementing (save for B12 and vitamin D since I live in a not very sunny climate). I think it's much more natural to get your nutrients from plants, which are real food, than from pills! And if you give this recipe a try, you'll see it's also pretty yummy to eat vegan too!

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