Ever had a savory bread pudding? If you haven't, you are in for a treat with this recipe! Comforting, warm, casserole-y, and 100% delicious. This recipe is not exactly like a bread pudding, but it's close enough - somewhere between a bread pudding and a strata so you can be a little adventurous while still staying in your normal "zone" on this one.
I don't know about you, but the holidays start off a season of winter food for me. Whilst always loaded with veggies, I tend to want creamy, dreamy, warm and indulgent things to eat. Before I became vegan, that meant lots of butter, cream, pasta (loaded with butter and cream), soups and casseroles. Which always made me feel "bad," both physically and emotionally for eating it!
But, as a vegan, I've ditched the butter and cream, AND got to keep the soups and casseroles without losing any of the flavor or comfort I take from those recipes. Comfort food that truly comforts me; both psychologically for my own personal benefit, but also for my body, plus the sustainability of the planet by cooking vegan.
Sustainability Spotlight: Did you know there are 5 distinct reasons we crave comfort food? According to scientists at PsychologyToday.com, those reasons are "feel good" (i.e. - the high sugar and high fat send "happy" signals to the brain), "self-medication" (i.e. - emotional eating), "the need to belong" (i.e. - others are eating it / making it - like family or friends and in a social setting, we indulge), "nostalgic eating" (i.e. - this is a big one for me; hello, 5-minute Fudge Frosting blog! Eating certain foods have memories attached), and finally, "special occasions" (i.e. - like the holidays!).
While all these reasons have some affect, you might recognize a specific one that you fall the most susceptible to; like me on the "nostalgic eating." But, I want to focus this discussion on the fact that all of these reasons, while distinct (in and of themselves can be "triggers" for comfort eating), you are likely to find that they overlap. For example, it is likely that nostalgic eating, the need to belong and special occasions have all hit you over the holidays. You are with friends or family who are preparing traditional meals that you only eat over the holidays. All three of these points would then lend you the flexibility (in your own mind) to eat (or overeat) comfort food.
Here's the thing friends, you can lean into comfort food even if you become vegan, and I swear to you, it tastes the same (or better)! Cashew cream is the best thing since sliced bread, and it not only has dairy cream beat, but it's literally a bunch of ingredients in a high-powered blender vs. the dairy version which can curdle, break, or otherwise not "gel." Oh man how finicky and frustrating dairy products are and because it's the "norm," we put up with it!
No more! Take that comfort food you love and make it vegan. It's pretty easy, you just need to use the internet (which I know you know how to you, you are reading this blog). Make sure you pick recipes (and there are a ton!) that seem to jive with how you eat and cook. The rest is up to you. The benefit simply becomes that you can take comfort in your comfort food by not contributing to the environmental impacts of the dairy / animal industry.
Level up your life without losing the comfort of your food with vegan.
avocado oil (as much as needed; start with 1 tbsp)
1 Spanish onion (diced)
6 garlic cloves (diced)
16 ounces mixed mushrooms (chopped) - any kind; I used white and baby bella
1 cup sliced & cleaned leek
14 ounces vegan breakfast sausage (I used Beyond Meat brand) - cooked, cooled & chopped
5 oz container baby kale
1 tbsp diced fresh sage
salt & pepper to taste
1 cup cashews (soaked at least 2 hours in water or overnight; drained)
1 cup filtered water
1/2 cup vegetable stock
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 cup golden onion & garlic (see directions below)
2-3 large multi-grain bakery bread slices (cubed)
1-2 large multi-grain bakery bread slices (turned into bread crumbs in food processor)
1 tbsp avocado oil
Optional Side Dish: Roasted Asparagus - one bunch asparagus, salt & pepper (to taste), and 1 tsp avocado oil. Mix ingredients on a silpat lined lipped baking sheet (jelly roll pan). Add asparagus to oven with your cast iron skillet and roast for ~20 minutes.
Heat a large cast iron pan over Medium-High heat. Add avocado oil and swirl to coat pan. Once the oil shimmers, add onion and a pinch of salt. Saute onion for 5-7 minutes until golden. Add garlic and saute for another minute till fragrant. Remove pan from heat.
Remove ~1 cup (or 1/3 of the mixture) from the pan and add to a high speed blender. Set blender aside for now.
Return the remaining onion mixture and pan to heat on Medium-High and add mushrooms and leek to the pan along with another dash of salt. Saute with additional avocado oil (as needed) for ~3-5 minutes until the mushrooms begin to become juicy.
Stir in breakfast sausage pieces and begin to add kale by the handfuls until all kale has wilted. Add another pinch of salt, pepper and stir in sage. Remove pan from heat.
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.
Add all remaining ingredients of Cream Sauce to a high speed blender. Mix on high for ~1 minute (Vitamix) or up to 5-6 minutes using tamper and scraping down the sides depending on your blender. Once the mixture is completely smooth and creamy, turn off blender and pour mixture into your cast iron pan.
Stir in the bakery bread cubes along with your cream into the vegetable cast iron pan mixture and spread into an even layer in the pan.
In a mini food processor, pulse the remaining bread slices into bread crumbs; pour the tablespoon of avocado oil in the lid of the processor so that it "drizzles" into the processor bowl. Continue to pulse and process until all oil has been incorporated into the crumbs.
Sprinkle crumbs evenly over the top of the bread pudding, sprinkle with pepper, and slide the cast iron pan (Careful! The pan is still hot) into your oven and bake for ~25 minutes. If making asparagus, add to oven now as well; remove at ~20 minutes or until crisp tender. Broil bread pudding for ~2-3 minutes at the end to brown crumbs to golden.
Remove bread pudding from oven and let cool for ~5 minutes and then serve along roasted asparagus (if making).
With love & hope for a better future for all of us - Jamie