Vegan chickn' with mashed potatoes, gravy and greens (gluten free, soy free, nut free)

A little bit colder now. A little bit colder now.  A little bit colder now. A little bit warmer ...


A little bit colder now. A little bit colder now.  A little bit colder now. A little bit warmer now!

Sorry for anyone who didn't get that reference. The sentiment is intact though I think -- its a little bit colder now in my part of the world! Some people mutter expletives as they realize this but not me! Though I'm not a big fan of winter, Fall has always had my heart. With Fall comes baking, and apples, and mashed potatoes with gravy...and other deliciousness. To honour the changing of the seasons I decided to remove my air conditioner and make a vegan (soy-free) roast dinner!

Today's recipe made me insanely happy. Like grinning from ear to ear happy. Why? Because I don't eat soy or gluten (I am allergic) so there are few to no mock meats for me on the market. I actually like it that way for a few reasons. When I became vegetarian I did not yet know I was allergic to soy or wheat so I ate a LOT of fake meat as I transitioned. Why? I blame laziness and having no clue how to assemble a proper plant based meal without the alternatives I found. I ate a lot of tofu, 'ground round', and fake chicken. I'm not totally knocking these things -- I just think they should be consumed in moderation if at all. I think whole foods should be the basis of a healthy lifestyle and everything else should just be, well, gravy. I honestly don't miss the mock foods much -- they never tasted like meat to me, just like fast food meat which I always thought was gross anyway. But load up a veggie burger with toppings and you won't find yourself to jealous of your family members at a summer barbeque! Once I discovered my allergies I quickly began to make my own vegan meat replacements -- mostly based on beans. These are pretty good but honestly beans hurt my stomach. I really try to limit them these days. Today's recipe is totally different. I have been a fan of roasted cauliflower as a substitute for chicken for awhile now. I'm not saying its a dead ringer for meat but I really enjoy making the swap. I use cauliflower as the base of today's 'chick'n' dish but I don't roast it -- I steam it! Why? Because to me what I loved most about chicken when I ate it was the moist yet firm texture of the meat and the savoury flavour. Roast cauliflower is not moist at all -- its dry and crunchy. Therefore not a great match for roast chicken. Steamed cauliflower however is moist, firm and not crunchy at all. Now I assure you I'm not crazy. I know what chicken tastes like and I know that steamed cauliflower is not an obvious substitute. But steamed cauliflower coated in brown gravy, onions and chives? Pretty amazing alternative in my books! In fact it is the most satisfying alternative to roast chicken that I've ever had (mock meat not included and no I haven't tried beyond meat and cannot try it so bear with me here).

What's roast chicken without potatoes? Today's accompanying dish is a winner. If you don't like potatoes because of their high starch high carb profile, you might like this recipe. It's also lighter than mashed potatoes (and more delicious in my opinion). In my version, potatoes team up with cauliflower to create a smooth and creamy mash. No dairy (butter or cow's milk) is used --  just healthy coconut milk and a splash of extra virgin olive oil. I add lots of garlic as well and some fresh chopped chives for flavour and colour. This velvety smooth mash is delicious on its own but awesome with some easy vegan brown gravy. In fact this entire recipe was inspired by a vegan 'beef' bouillon cube...

Ok so the backstory on the cube -- I found these 'beef' flavoured vegan bouillon cubes at my local health food store. I always look but leave empty handed because most contain wheat or soy or both. These contain neither! Plus the ingredients aren't too shabby at all --  virtually fat free, low in sodium, loaded with dehydrated unsulpherised veggies and spices, a little non-active yeast and molasses. I brought them home and immediately made a cup of broth from one and to my amazement it really tasted like beef broth (consume). I knew I needed to make gravy.

 This gravy is light and so easy to make. Basically you sweat some onions, add water and the boullion cube, thicken it all with a roux of rice flour, buckwheat flour and water and add some extra spices and a touch of coconut milk. It only takes a few minutes to make and is so so so good! The gravy is what makes the "chickn" dish taste like roast chicken. In fact I like it BETTER than roast chicken! Why? No dry meat! I hated dry meat my whole life -- hand me dark meat please. The cauliflower is ANYTHING BUT dry. Its moist and delicious, and once the gravy is on top its amazing and flavourful. But the real reason I love this meal so much is that for years as a vegetarian, roast chicken  has been the one omni meal I missed (and the one I broke my own rules for once a year). In my opinion its hard to fake and as far as cravings go, hard to make vanish (especially during the holiday season). But for the last year or two I have been totally abstaining from meat whether or not I crave it. I just think the industry is awful and I don't want to support it in any way. This usually results in me feeling a little bummed during the holidays. I'm usually relegated to gravy-free sides unless I make my own (which I often do at home). I still often feel like the meal is incomplete when there's no chicken but now I know that I'll be reaching for this cauliflower dish instead with no regrets!

Even though the whole meal is plant based as it is, I felt the need to add some greens for balance. I simply steamed some kale and topped it with this really rad dill dressing. The combo makes for  a really healthy flavourful green veggie dish. To add a little colour and punch I added some sriracha because hot sauce.

If you are vegan and avoid soy, I strongly encourage you to at least try out the cauliflower 'chickn'. You may love it. If you are an omni eater unsure what to feed a vegan or vegetarian this holiday season, I think a lot of people would appreciate a meal like this.

Vegan chickn' with mashed potatoes, gravy and greens (gluten free, soy free, nut free)

BROWN GRAVY:
  • 2-3 cups water
  • 1/4 red onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp evoo
  • 1 vegan 'beef' bouillon cube (I used a low sodium vegan 'beef' bouillon cube from Pastariso, a really good gluten free option)
  • 1 tbsp coconut milk
  • a few cranks of black pepper
1 tsp brown rice flour + 1 tsp buckwheat flour+ 1 tbsp water (mixed into a slurry)
Add oil to a small soup pot, heat over medium heat. Add onion and saute until translucent. Add water and bring to a simmer. Add bouillon cube and mix well until dissolved. Add the slurry mixture and stir very well to dissolve. Once mixture is thickened to your preferred consistency add the coconut milk and whisk in. Add as much pepper as you like and whisk. Reduce heat while you prepare everything.
Chicken:
  • 1-2 cups cauliflower florets
  • Half of the gravy
  • 1 tbsp chopped chives
  • Black pepper
  • Steam cauliflower until totally tender. Place in a bowl with gravy and stir well to coat. Top with chopped chives and a little pepper.
 COCONUT MASHED POTATOES:
  • 3 small potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen cauliflower florets
  • Garlic powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1-2 tbsp coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp chopped chives
  • Black pepper
  • 1 tsp evoo
Boil your potatoes and cauliflower together until the potatoes are soft and mashable. Add to a food processor along with coconut milk and oil and salt and pepper. Pulse until everything is mostly smooth and creamy. Add half of the chives and pulse to incorporate. Scrape onto your plate, top with half of the gravy and the other half of the chives.

GREENS:
  • 2-3 leaves chopped kale or swiss chard
Serve everything with some steamed mixed vegetables or steamed green vegetables. I added some of my creamy dill salad dressing to my greens for colour and flavour.

DILL DRESSING:
  • 1  ripe avocado
  • 1 tbsp coconut cream or coconut milk
  • 1/8 cup water
  • black pepper
  • garlic powder
  • salt
  • handful fresh dill
  • squeeze of lemon
Blend everything together in a blender and adjust spices to your taste. Chill if not using immediately. Makes a delicious salad dressing. 

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