Vegan ‘Soul Food’ for the Holidays
RICH IN FLAVOR, CULTURE, AND HISTORY, THE ‘soul food’ experience is a total experience for me. It involves the aromas that fill the house, the beautifully prepared dinner table of dishes made from recipes handed down for generations, and the coming together of family and friends to savor these mouth-watering favorites.
As an African-American ‘soul sistah’ with deep Southern roots, I too love to enjoy a meal of collard greens, cornbread, and corn on the cob with a slice of sweet potato pie on the side. Unfortunately, most homemade ‘soul food’ family recipes rely heavily on meat, dairy, sugar, and salt to flavor, season, or add richness and depth. As a result, there is a high percent- age of obesity, hypertension, diabetes, and some forms of cancer among African-Americans.
As a vegan chef, wellness consultant, and holistic health practitioner, it is my personal mission and my professional objective to prepare, teach, and promote the benefits of a plant-based vegan diet. At the same time, I am working to dispel the myth that vegan ‘soul food’ cuisine lacks beauty, substance, and great taste.
To assist you on your path as a ‘soul food’ herbivore, I’ve included some vegan-converted family favorites for you to try this holiday season. These recipes were recreated to retain the ‘soul’ and the traditional flavor in a meatless and healthful new way.
SOUTHERN-STYLE SKILLET CORNBREAD
For some strange reason, cornbread seems to taste better when cooked in a cast-iron skillet. However, any glass or stainless steel baking dish can be used for this recipe.
Slightly less than 1 1/2 cups plain
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
In a large measuring cup, combine the soymilk and the vinegar. Set aside.
- 1 ½ cups cornmeal
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 Tablespoon baking powder
- 1 Tablespoon Ener-G Egg Replacer powder (Do not premix with water.)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1/3 cup grapeseed oil
- 3 Tablespoons agave nectar or 4 Tablespoons maple syrup
- ¼ cup hot water
- Non-stick cooking spray
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and place a cast-iron skillet into the oven to heat.
In a large bowl, sift together all dry ingredients. Add the ‘buttermilk,’ oil, agave nectar or maple syrup, and water to the dry ingredients. Mix or whisk until the batter becomes thin and puffy.
Carefully remove the heated skillet from the oven and liberally spray with non-stick cooking spray. Pour the batter into the skillet and return to oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until an inserted knife comes out clean. Allow to cool slightly before eating.
SPOON-MOIST SOUTHERN-STYLE CORNBREAD STUFFING
If you add all of the vegetable broth to this stuffing but it is still ‘dry,’ add up to 1 cup water.
- 3 Tablespoons nonhydrogenated vegan margarine
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 large onion, diced
- 3 stalks celery, finely chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
- 1 skillet Southern-Style Skillet Cornbread (recipe above), crumbled
- ½ bag of stale whole wheat bread crumbs or 1 half-loaf of whole wheat bread, wet and crumbled (approximately 5 cups)
- ¼ cup nutritional yeast flakes
- 1 Tablespoon ground sage or to taste
- 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
- 4 cups of low-sodium vegetable broth
- Non-stick cooking spray
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a large saucepan, melt the margarine over medium-low heat. Add the garlic, onions, celery, and green peppers. Cover and cook, stirring frequently, for approxi- mately 15 minutes until the veg- etables are slightly transparent.
Crumble the Southern-Style Skillet Cornbread into a large mix- ing bowl. Add the bread crumbs, vegetables in their broth, nutri- tional yeast, sage, and salt and mix generously until all ingredi- ents are combined. Stir in the vegetable broth, one cup at a time, until the stuffing is moist and semi-wet. Taste, and if needed, adjust seasonings.
Generously spray a roasting pan with non-stick cooking spray. Add the cornbread stuffing and bake for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with some Mushroom Gravy Sauce (below) and/or cranberry sauce.
MUSHROOM GRAVY SAUCE
This yummy gravy sauce can be used to add flavor to most any dish, and it freezes well.
- 1 ½ cups low-sodium vegetable broth
- 1 Tablespoon arrowroot powder
- ½ Tablespoon flour
- 1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 cup thinly sliced crimini mushrooms
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- ¼ cup white cooking wine (optional)
- 1 ½ Tablespoons tamari
- 1/8 cup nutritional yeast
- 1/8 cup soymilk
Pour the vegetable broth into a small bowl and whisk in the arrow- root and flour until dissolved.
Add the oil to a medium-sized saucepan and heat. Add the onions and garlic and sauté for 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and thyme and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add the wine, turn the heat up to high, and bring to a boil for 3 minutes. Stir in the tamari and the arrowroot mixture and continue to boil for 1 minute. Lower heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Add the nutritional yeast and stir until dissolved. Add soymilk and whisk for another minute until thick and creamy.
SOUTHERN MIXED GREENS AND CABBAGE
(Makes eight 1-cup servings)
You can’t call a meal a ‘soul food’ meal without a generous helping of greens! I discovered by accident that cabbage with greens is a wonderful combination! For a little extra flavor, try adding 1 Tablespoon crushed red pepper.
- 4 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 large garlic cloves, crushed, divided
- 1 large onion, chopped, divided
- ½ pound fresh or frozen chopped okra, tips and ends removed
- Two 16-ounce bags pre-cut, pre-washed Southern mixed greens (available at Trader Joe’s, Wegman’s, etc.)
- 1 medium head of cabbage, chopped
- 2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth, divided
- 2 cups water, divided
- Two 16-ounce bags frozen chopped collard greens
- 1/4 cup Bragg’s Liquid Aminos (available in natural foods stores)
In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add half of the garlic, half of the onions, and all of the okra and sauté, stirring frequently. When okra begins to soften, add the mixed greens and cabbage. Pour in 1 cup broth and 1 cup water. Cover and allow to simmer, stirring frequently, for approximately 15-20 minutes or until greens and cabbage have shrunk. Add the collards, Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, and remaining garlic, onions, broth, and water. Cover and simmer over medium to low heat, stirring frequently, for 10-15 minutes until greens become dark in color.
GREEN BEANS AND MUSHROOMS WITH THYME
If you are a garlic lover like me, add two more cloves to this recipe!
- 3 cups water Salt to taste
- 1 ½ pounds fresh green beans, cut and cleaned
- 2 Tablespoons fresh organic thyme, divided
- 1 ½ Tablespoons organic extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 ½ pounds fresh white-cap mushrooms, sliced
Add water, salt, green beans, and 1 Tablespoon of thyme to a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-high and cook for 15 minutes or until green beans become slightly darker in color. Remove from heat and drain.
Add oil, garlic, mushrooms, green beans, and remaining thyme to a medium-sized saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until mush- rooms become spongy or until the green beans and mushrooms are cooked to your taste.
MACARONI ‘N’ ‘CHEEZ’
Do not overcook the pasta in this recipe. It is OK if it is al dente (tender but firm) because the pasta will cook more while baking.
- Water to fill a large pot
- 2 pounds whole wheat pasta
- 1 ½ cups plain soymilk
- 1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce
- 3 ounces extra firm tofu
- ¾ cup grapeseed oil
- 1 ½ cups nutritional yeast
- 2 Tablespoons paprika
- 1 Tablespoon garlic powder
- ½ Tablespoon salt (optional)
- Additional ¼ cup water, if needed
Place all of the ‘cheez’ ingredients, except for the additional water, into a blender or food processor and blend until well-combined. Mix in the additional water if the ‘cheez’ mixture is too thick.
MAKING MACARONI ‘N’ ‘CHEEZ’
- Non-stick cooking spray
- 2 medium tomatoes, sliced
- 1 cup chopped parsley
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Lightly spray a casserole dish with cooking spray. Add cooked pasta, pour the ‘cheez’ over it, and stir to coat the noodles. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven. Lay tomatoes on top of macaroni and sprinkle with parsley. Bake for an additional 10-15 minutes or until the sauce begins to thicken and brown slightly.
SWEET POTATO PIE
(Makes two 9-inch pies or 16 servings)
When you’re pre-cooking the pie shells, be careful not to overcook them. If the pie crusts bubble, gently pierce them with a fork.
- 2 frozen organic whole wheat 9-inch pie shells
- 3 Tablespoons Ener-G Egg Replacer
- ¼ cup hot water
- 4 cups cooked, peeled, and mashed sweet potatoes (Begin with approximately 3 medium sweet potatoes.)
- ½ cup sugar (Use your favorite vegan variety.)
- 4 Tablespoons nonhydrogenated vegan margarine
- ¾ cup unsweetened soymilk
- 3 ounces vegan sour cream
- 1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prebake the pie shells until slightly browned. Set aside.
In a medium-sized bowl, combine the egg replacer and hot water and whisk until foamy. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the sweet potatoes, sugar, margarine, soymilk, sour cream, vanilla, and spices. Mix on high until smooth and creamy. Add the egg replacer mixture and mix for 1 additional minute, constantly scraping the sides of the bowl.
Add the sweet potato mixture to the pie shells and bake for 45- 50 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool before serving.
A. “Chef Ifayomi” Stanton is an accomplished vegan chef, event planner, dancer, fitness instructor, personal trainer, yogi, and holistic health professional based in Las Vegas, Nevada