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Creamy broccoli-mushroom bake

September 29, 2010

I know I’ve said it before, but permit me to reiterate: I hate comfort food. I’m talking about the American conception of comfort food here—greasy, fatty, high-cal, down-home, soul-food, Paula-Deen-esque, Southern-style cookin’. I mean the buttery, starchy, and (most stomach-turning of all) cheesy-creamy savory stuff that everyone seems to have grown up on—macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, pot pie, fettuccine alfredo, green bean casserole, and so on (not to mention all the meaty fare I’ve shied away from since childhood—can you see how easy it is for me to be almost vegan?!). When food is cheesy, it makes me queasy…and I get squeamish when something’s cream-ish. Desserts aside, I just can’t stand the kinds of dishes usually labeled “comfort food.” (For me, comfort food is more akin to a spicy curry, an exotic stew, or pasta smothered in bolognese, mmm.)

So anyway, as you can imagine, when I come across a recipe like this “creamy broccoli-mushroom bake” from Lauren Ulm’s Vegan Yum Yum cookbook, my reaction is to grimace, mutter a “blech,” and quickly turn the page. As you can also imagine, when I asked Matt to flip through some books one night and find something he’d like me to cook for dinner, and wouldn’t you know it, he selected this creamy casserole, my brain immediately screamed “Veto! VETO!” However, knowing that Matt does love comfort food, and realizing that I never indulge that craving of his, I did the unimaginable and replied with a hesitant “Ok.”

And crazily enough, not only did I bake it, but I liked it!

For the casserole:
1 cup orzo pasta (dry)
1 large stalk broccoli, stem peeled, stem and florets chopped
1 cup mushrooms (any kind), cleaned
½ medium onion, roughly chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
¼ cup panko breadcrumbs
¼ tsp paprika (optional)
1/8 tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp black pepper

For the sauce:
1 cup soymilk
¼ cup nutritional yeast
¼ cup raw cashews, soaked
2 Tbsp arrowroot (or cornstarch)
2 Tbsp Earth Balance margarine (or canola oil)
2 Tbsp Bragg Liquid Aminos (or soy sauce)
2 Tbsp tahini
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, peeled

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and thoroughly grease a 7×11-inch (or similar sized) baking dish. Cook the orzo in boiling water for about 9 minutes, then drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, pulse the broccoli, mushrooms, and onion in a food processor until chopped into small pieces. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the vegetable mixture and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 5-7 minutes. When done, remove from the heat.

While the veggies are cooking, combine all sauce ingredients in a blender and purée until smooth.

Add the drained orzo to the vegetables, then pour on the entire batch of sauce.

Stir thoroughly to combine.

Transfer the mixture to the greased baking dish. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs evenly across the top, then drizzle with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Sprinkle with paprika, salt, and pepper as desired.

Cover tightly with foil and bake for 25 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for an additional 5 minutes to brown the top slightly.

Let rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

After all was said and done, and the casserole was baked and ready, I shushed my doubts and tried a bite. And I liked it! As a matter of fact, I ate a whole piece…and then went back for seconds.

Hmm…maybe I can get on board with this vegan comfort food thing after all.

Yield: 4 servings.
Per serving: 485 calories, 22.6g fat (4.5g sat), 56.6g carbs, 6g fiber, 17g protein.

Question: What foods do you have the fondest memories of from growing up?
And/or, what foods have you hated your entire life?

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Dinner w/Ani Phyo at 105 Degrees
Rotini with walnut sauce (×2)
Vegan biscuits and gravy

38 Comments leave one →
  1. September 29, 2010 1:20 pm

    Looks super delicious! I need to try this!

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      September 30, 2010 12:58 pm

      Shockingly enough (to me), it WAS delicious! Let me know if you try it!

  2. September 29, 2010 1:34 pm

    I’ve always loved veggies, like beets, kohlrabi, broccoli, etc., probably because my parents always made sure I was out gardening as a child, and I was so proud of what I helped grow. Mushrooms were always a favorite too. Maybe my biggest favorite, ever since I was very small.

    Ice cream, too. It was always a big treat to go out for a ride to get an ice cream cone with my Dad!

    Hate? Oh, root beer. Definitely. Blech!

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      September 30, 2010 1:08 pm

      That’s great that you grew up on such healthy stuff! I also think it’s awesome that you’re giving your son that nutritional headstart.

      I hate root beer too! EXCEPT this one place in KC, McCoy’s, that brews their own. It’s unlike any root beer I’ve ever tasted/been forced to taste—thick, caramel-ish and vanilla-y, and almost zero carbonation. I think it’s because they don’t use sassafras in their blend. That said, I’ve only ever tried it twice. Coincidentally, the second time was just last night! I hadn’t eaten there in forever, but Matt and I hit it up for dinner, and I had a sip of his. 🙂

  3. September 29, 2010 1:48 pm

    Since I love broccoli, cheese and rice casserole, this looks like a healthy but similar alternative! Mmm for sure. One of my favorites, as you know, is ice cream. Had ice cream almost every night as a kid because Grandpa did! As for main dishes, loved grilled cheese sandwiches, homemade pizza, lasagna….those come to mind.

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      September 30, 2010 1:09 pm

      Yes, I think you would love this—mushrooms, broccoli, pasta, and a creamy-cheezy sauce.

      I know allll about the ice cream obsession 🙂

  4. September 29, 2010 1:54 pm

    That actually looks really good! At first I thought it was a side dish, but is it more of a main dish???

    Growing up in KS, one of my favorite meals was fried chicken and mashed potatoes. Even in college, when I would come home to visit, that is the meal my mom made for me. Of course, I don’t eat chicken any more, but sometimes I really, really miss it.

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      September 30, 2010 1:11 pm

      I think it could be either! It’d probably serve 6-8 as a side. It is hearty and filling enough, though, to be a main dish 🙂

      That IS quite a Midwestern comfort food meal! My extended family (also in KS!) eats similarly, hehe.

  5. September 29, 2010 3:04 pm

    YUM…that looks yummy! I bet my husband would even eat that, because he loves that type of comfort food. :o)

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      September 30, 2010 1:13 pm

      You know what, maybe I should create a tag for “man-pleaser” meals. Haha! This definitely fits the bill, though.

  6. September 29, 2010 4:29 pm

    You know, I wasn’t raised in the US, so wasn’t raised on those ‘comfort foods,’ but I have an absolute _aversion_ to butter and cheese!

    Having said that, I _love_ creamy – just not dairy creamy! Maybe it turns out you’re the same way? You love hummus, right? I was raised on hummus. Hummus is creamy, so is coconut ice cream and coconut kefir that I make. Nut creams are wonderful.

    So yes, buttery, cheesy things are ‘blech’ for me, but with the ambivalence that I know I’d love them if it wasn’t for that awful cow’s ass taste.


    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      September 30, 2010 1:17 pm

      Yes! I’m exactly the same way! It’s specifically DAIRY creamy-cheesiness I’m averse to. But nut creams, coconut, HUMMUS, those types of creamy things, are divine in my book.

      Oh my, Ela, you made me crack UP with your calling it a “cow’s ass taste”! I can’t argue with that! 😛

  7. September 29, 2010 6:16 pm

    “Veto! VETO!” made me LOL! 😀

    This looks totally delicious! Dare I say, very comfort-foody! Fond memories? Chocolate mousse from a box, homemade bread, spinach ravioli. Foods I’ve always hated? Honey, cherries, beef, sweet corn. I’m a weirdo.

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      September 30, 2010 1:20 pm

      Haha! My inner foodie voice is quite opinionated 😉

      I can understand about beef, but you hate honey, cherries, and sweet corn?! Blasphemy! :-O Just kidding, hehe. I hate mint and oranges, which I’m sure is terrible to some.

  8. September 29, 2010 8:32 pm

    oh that looks amazing and so comforting!

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      September 30, 2010 1:21 pm

      I suppose it was “comforting”! I’ll have make it again when it gets chilly out, I think.

  9. September 29, 2010 9:02 pm

    I do find this post amusing, because “comfort food” is so culturally-defined (and personally-defined, I think). Nothing that you listed in the first paragraph are foods I grew up eating, and I honestly think that comfort food is simply what comforts you personally. So if comfort to one person is peanut butter on oatmeal, or frozen grapes, or beef jerky (?!), then that’s comfort food.

    Wow, that made no sense.

    Suffice to say, I think your dish looks scrummy, particularly as it’s not too gloopy and holds together well. Yum.

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      September 30, 2010 1:23 pm

      It IS so culturally- and personally-defined, I agree. So many weird and idiosyncratic preferences like that become solidified in childhood, and we may not consciously realize it until years later!

      I too liked that it could actually be cut into neat squares. I would’ve had an even harder time trying it if it were gloopy!

  10. Matt permalink
    September 29, 2010 11:07 pm

    This dish reminded me of home, except I was staring at a hot girl while I ate it instead of at my parents. Amber is really branching out recently. I think she’s just a few short months away from trying a salad again. ;-P

    As for thinks I loved growing up, junk food: star crunches, ice cream cones from Schwan’s, uncooked hot dogs… you know, the usual.

    But I have hated, and always will hate, cottage cheese. Every time someone tells me they love cottage cheese, I think they may have been abused as children. So sad…

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      September 30, 2010 1:26 pm

      Haha, aw. 😀 Don’t hold your breath about that salad, though!

      My mom used to always buy tubs of Schwan’s mint chip ice cream…I remember when the truck would come deliver it to our house!

      I’m with you on hating cottage cheese…but liking uncooked hot dogs? I’m gonna keep my mouth shut on that one [lest I barf]…


  11. September 30, 2010 7:27 am

    I am so glad to see you made this! I had it on my menu a couple weeks ago but took if off because I made the Vegan Yum Yum Sweet Potato Kale Bake and wasn’t all that impressed and the ingredients were similar. Anyway – I think I may have to give this a try since you gave great reviews! Looks fabulous!!

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      September 30, 2010 1:27 pm

      You SHOULD give it a try! Seriously, if it won ME over, I bet you and your family would adore it.

  12. September 30, 2010 7:35 am

    Wonderful recipe! I love the Vegan Yum Yum cookbook. Your reaction to Matt’s recipe choice is hilarious and so familiar to me–Adam and I love the same cookbooks, but we ALWAYS pick very different things out of them! When he selects his recipes for the week, I’m often skeptical (or downright resistant), but it’s rare that they don’t end up being delicious. Vegetarian cookbook authors just know what they’re doing, don’t they? 🙂

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      September 30, 2010 1:31 pm

      The good ones do! 😉 Haha, the biologist in me wonders if we don’t unconsciously seek out mates with dissimilar food preferences in order to create occasions for our body to ingest foods and nutrients we might not normally get on our own. Or maybe I’m reading way too much into this little evolutionary food selection theory… 😛

  13. September 30, 2010 12:01 pm

    ooh, yum! This looks delish! I love dishes that you can ‘make’, then bake and clean up while it’s in the oven 🙂

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      September 30, 2010 1:32 pm

      True! I hadn’t thought of that, but that is a perk of baked dishes. Plus, when it’s cold out, the oven makes the kitchen all warm and toasty. 🙂

  14. September 30, 2010 12:03 pm

    oh yeah, and as if we didn’t share enough similarities, I am so with you on the comfort food thing… creamy, saucy, rich… turns my stomach. My husband on the other hand LOVES that kind of stuff. Funny 🙂

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      September 30, 2010 1:37 pm

      Haha, get out of my head! Or out of my…taste buds? Wait a minute 😛

      I wonder if it’s kind of A Guy Thing to drool over rich stuff like this. Maybe it subconsciously brings up fond memories of their mothers or grandmothers, who lovingly nurtured and nourished them as children, and in doing so, created a sort of unconscious expectation that the resident female in their life will always carry on that practice…I mean, not to get all Freudian about it or anything 😉

  15. October 1, 2010 1:16 pm

    yum! i love how it looks with the orzo. i bet it tasted great.

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      October 1, 2010 2:15 pm

      Thanks! Me too; it definitely contributed well to the body of the dish.

  16. November 27, 2010 5:20 pm

    Making this tonight. Will let you know what I thought! 😀

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      November 27, 2010 7:22 pm

      Awesome, can’t wait to hear!

  17. December 19, 2011 5:22 pm

    What are you thoughts on leaving out or subbing the cashews for something else? My son is dairy and nut (and a bunch of other things) allergic, but I think he’d love this!

    • December 19, 2011 5:23 pm

      Hi Amy! Can your son handle seeds ok? If so, sunflower seeds could work as a sub!

      • December 19, 2011 7:57 pm

        Thanks for responding so quickly!! He is good with seeds, so we’ll give it a try! Just found your site tonight. Looking forward to trying lots of your yummy looking recipes!

      • December 19, 2011 7:59 pm

        You’re very welcome! So happy to hear it; thanks for reading! 🙂

  18. October 14, 2012 2:59 pm

    I just made the sauce for this recipe and poured it over leftover quinoa– so delicious!

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