Thanksgiving Vegan Torta Rustica with Creamed Spinach and Chicken, Scalloped Potatoes & Sweet Potato-Butternut Squash Puree



All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2015

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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OK – this one takes a few steps but all are easy & you end up with a GIGANTIC mound of all things savory & Thanksgivingy!  It is a bread course, sweet potato/squash dish, creamed spinach, scalloped potatoes & chicken courses – all rolled into one.  You can sub out the ingredients to suit your tastes.  This is basically an enclosed shepherd’s pie & is as versatile at shepherd’s pie is.

**PLEASE NOTE** – transferring this tart from the cooking sheet onto a serving platter might prove VERY tricky.  It will be very heavy – and the warmer it is when you try to transfer it – the more delicate that procedure will be.  It would SUCK to put all the work in – only to break it when you are ready to serve it.  If you don’t have two very large spatulas – and maybe an assistant – perhaps consider cooking this on something you can also serve it on.  Surrounding it with leafy kale (or other greens) at the base & a few cranberries & it will look festive & spare you the trauma of transferring it to a platter.  SERIOUSLY consider baking & serving from the same piece.  I am devastated just imagining what a failed transfer would do to my life – and I don’t want that for you.

Thanksgiving Vegan Torta Rustica with Creamed Spinach, Chicken, Scalloped Potatoes & Sweet Potato-Butternut Squash Puree

Feeds 8 easily


for the soft tart dough

4 cups flour

1 tsp salt

8 ounces vegan butter

3/4 cup silken tofu – pureed (I just smashed it all up with a fork)

1/3 cup vegan milk

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for the creamed spinach 

1 small onion or large shallot – diced

1 lb fresh spinach

2 (9 oz) packages vegan chicken (I highly recommend Beyond Meat brand.  Best on the market!) – cubed

4 oz vegan cream cheese

1/2 cup vegan milk

4 slices vegan cheese (I used the Chao below)


Olive oil

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for the scalloped potatoes

2-3 medium potatoes – peeled & cut into 1/4 inch thick rounds

2 TBS vegan butter

2 TBS flour

2 cups vegan milk

7 oz vegan cheese (I used that Daiya below)

1 cup panko or other bread crumbs


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for the sweet potato-butternut squash puree

1 butternut squash – peeled & cubed

1 large sweet potato – peeled & cubed

4 TBS vegan butter

Pinch of nutmeg



Vegan egg wash – small but equal parts agave nectar – soy milk – olive oil

GARNISH – kale (or other leafy greens) and fresh cranberries – to arrange around the tart.

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for the soft tart dough

By food processor: Combine flour, salt & butter in a food processor using a metal blade.  Process with short pulses until the mixture is crumbly.  Add tofu with short pulses.  Add milk, gradually, with short pulses until it begins to clump and – eventually – orbit as a ball inside the food processor.  You might need a little more flour.  When the dough is formed – it will be very soft.   Gather it into a ball & wrap it tightly with plastic wrap & refrigerate for at least an hour but up to 3 days.  When ready to roll it out bring it back to room temperature and flour a work surface to facilitate handling.

By hand: combine flour & salt in a large bowl.  Make a well in the center & add the butter and the smashed silken tofu.  Lightly blend the butter & tofu with fingertips.  With a knife or pastry blade, cut the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until you have a crumbly mixture.  Gradually, add the milk – tossing with a fork until the dough comes together.  The dough will be very soft.  Add more flour if it is too wet.  Gather it into a ball & wrap it tightly with plastic wrap & refrigerate for at least an hour but up to 3 days.  When ready to roll it out bring it back to room temperature and flour a work surface to facilitate handling.

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for the scalloped potatoes

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Melt the butter in a stock pot & whisk in the flour & a little S&P.  Heat until it just begins to turn golden then slowly add the milk – letting it thicken before you add more.  When all the milk is incorporated & it is still sorta thick – melt in the cheese.  Season with salt & pepper.  Toss with the sliced potatoes & place in a greased casserole dish.  Top with panko or bread crumbs & cook for 45-60 minutes or until it is bubbling & the crumbs are browned.  Set aside.

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for the creamed spinach & chicken

Heat a TBS of olive oil in a saute pan & cook the onions until soft.  Add the spinach & let it wilt – then add the cream cheese & milk.  Heat until the cheese melts & you have a thick & creamy spinach.  Season with S&P & toss the chicken in & stir.  Set aside.

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for the sweet potato-butternut puree

Boil the sweet potato & butternut chunks until soft.  I then drained them & mashed them with the butter, nutmeg and S&P.  Set aside.

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to assemble the tart

Heat the oven to 375 degrees.

Line a medium bowl with plastic wrap.  A moderately deep & wide one is best.  If the bowl is too deep – your tart will be too tall & be more likely to collapse.  Also – be sure your bowl opening (at the top) is no wider than the cooking sheet you will be using to bake the tart.

Roll out 2/3 of the dough big enough that it not only lines your bowl but has overhang.

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Place a thin layer of puree in the bottom & then a thick layer of scalloped potatoes & then the rest of the puree.  Put the four slices of cheese on top of that then all of the spinach & chicken.

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Roll out the remaining dough so that it fits the top of your bowl & then fold the edges of the bottom crust over it & use a knife or fork to pinch it sealed.  Line a cooking sheet with parchment paper & invert it on top of your tart – and VERY CAREFULLY – flip it over so your tart is sealed-side down.  Be sure to put the cooking sheet with the parchment ON TOP OF your bowl & flip.  Do not try to just flip the bowl onto the cooking sheet.   This sucker likely weighs more than a turkey & the soft dough will not withstand that much pressure.  Remove the bowl & the plastic wrap.

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I sprayed it with cooking oil but found that did not give me a golden glaze so – mix up a little vegan egg wash (small but equal parts agave nectar – soy milk – olive oil) and occasionally brush the tart as it bakes.  Bake for about 40-45 minutes or until it looks nice & browned.

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Look how HUGE that thing is!  See the pastry brush?  That has to be 12 inches long.

OK – here comes a tricky part.  Let it cool a while before fussing with it.  Once anything that seeped out of it has pretty much cooled – run a knife under it to loosen the tart from the escapes bits.  I used an ENORMOUS spatula & the parchment paper to very delicately shift the tart to a serving plate.  It is a heavy & unwieldy thing – so be very delicate when handling this tart – get assistance, if possible.  If the transfer is too risky for you – consider just putting some leafy greens & cranberries around the base on the pan itself & serve this bad boy directly from the cooking sheet.  Better to go low brow than having this guy fall apart.

This should be served warm but is delicious at room temperature, too.

Happy vegan Thanksgiving!

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Rustic Pizza with Vegan Sausage, Broccolette (Broccolini), Shaved Brussels Sprouts, Mushrooms, Farmers Cheese, Goat Cheese and Micro Arugula

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2015

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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Pizza.  Everyone loves pizza.   So many ways to top them – and I have posted dozens.  Look HERE & scroll down for a recap.

This one I am posting today was quite a show stopper.  I used broccolette – which Wikipedia describes as “a cruciferous vegetable derived from a cross between broccoli and the Chinese kale called gai lan. Also known by the trade names broccolini and aspiration, broccolette has a milder, sweeter taste than broccoli and features thin, tender stalks that can be cooked whole without peeling.”

It looks like that there – next to my shaved Brussels sprouts.

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You could use regular broccoli – if you prefer.

I used Farmers Cheese because I had never seen it before & I was curious.  Look at it there.  Doesn’t it look delicious?

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Here is what Wikipedia said about this cheese: “In the United States, farmer cheese (also farmer’s cheese or farmers’ cheese) is pressed cottage cheese, an unripened cheese made by adding rennet and bacterial starter to coagulate and acidify milk. Farmer cheese may be made from the milk of cows, sheep or goats, with each giving its own texture and flavor.”

In fact, it is sorta like a denser cottage cheese & very mild in flavor.

I also used herbed goat cheese & one of these vegetarian sausages.

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I also used that micro arugula because I LOVE arugula, that micro shit is pretty & it has a really powerful flavor.  Regular arugula would be fine – just not as pretty to look at.

So – like with most of my pizzas – I only list ingredients here – because topping quantities are up to you.  I like thin crust – you might like thick.  I like light amounts of sauce & cheese – you might prefer to go deep dish.  So – I will just leave it up to you.

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Rustic Pizza with Vegan Sausage, Broccolette (Broccolini), Shaved Brussels Sprouts, Mushrooms, Farmers Cheese, Goat Cheese and Micro Arugula


Pizza dough (I always make THIS)

Vegan sausage

Broccolini – chopped small

Brussels sprouts – shaved

Mushrooms – sliced

Tomato sauce (I used a really chunky homemade one I had left over – but you use your favorite one)

Goat cheese (or vegan alternative)

Farmers cheese (or vegan alternative)

olive oil

garlic – minced


Semolina flour (for rolling the dough) – VERY optional

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Heat the oven to 450-500 degrees.

In a large saute pan, heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil & saute the sausage, broccolette, Brussels sprouts & mushrooms until soft.  Add the garlic & saute another minute. Add some S&P.

Roll out the dough in some semolina or other flour.  Semolina will give the crust the speckled look you see here & really seems to add some crunch.  Regular flour is fine, though.  Put the dough on a greased cooking sheet or on a cooking sheet topped with parchment paper.  Top with sauce, add the sausage & veggies.  Crumble some of the cheeses on top.

BE SURE YOUR OVEN HAS REACHED FULL TEMPERATURE.  Cook for about 13 minutes – but time depends on your oven & the density of your pizza & your own preferences.  When it looks golden & the cheese are browned & soft – it should be done.

Top with arugula & eat that bad boy.  Alone.  Rejoice!

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Taco Cupcakes with Chipotle Fish & Mango Salsa or Garlic Lime Fish or Spicy Soyrizo or Rustic Corn

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2012

So – I really enjoyed the results I got from the lasagna cupcakes – and thought, “Why not try other savory cupcakes?”  There really is no end to what you can prepare in the cupcake pan.  And what a great way to make lots of little freezable, single-serving sized portions!  So – since I had taco fixings on hand – I thought I’d experiment there.  Here are the four versions that I made but do not feel you need to follow these very loose recipes much at all.  It’s kinda like a Color Me Mine kitchen project where you can put anything into these taco cupcakes that suits your fancy.  I made three different kinds using wontons (as I did with the lasagna cupcakes) and then one version using corn tortillas.  The tortilla version came out a tad more rustic in appearance because I used tortillas cut round with a cookie cutter & therefore they had no outer shell to hold them together.  The others came out a bit more elegantly – exactly as the lasagna versions had.

Here are the corn tortilla taco cupcakes:





corn tortillas OR wonton skins

Grated cheese (I used pepper jack)

Salsa – (I used mango-peach salsa and regular salsa and salsa verde)

Fish (I used tilapia)

Soyrizo or chorizo

1 7oz can chipotle peppers in adobo

Olive oil



1/2 poblano pepper seeded then charred over your stove burner & diced



1 15oz can black beans – drained & rinsed

1/4 onion – diced

1 carrot – diced

1 celery stalk – diced

1/2 tsp cumin

1/2 cup tomato paste

GARNISHES (your choice) – Anything you’d put in a taco –

Guacamole (recipe below)


Cabbage or lettuce – chopped

Diced Tomatoes


Sour Cream

Grated cheese

sliced jalapeno pepper



Chipotle Fish

In your blender or food processor – puree

1 can chipotle in adobo

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup honey

1 tsp each S&P

Marinate your fish (or half your fish) in this for an hour or more.


Garlic-Lime Fish

Place your fish (or half if you are doing a chipotle version, too) in a single layer in a marinating dish.  Squeeze the juice of two limes over it & add a lot of sliced garlic.  I used about 6 cloves.  You can go lighter or heavier.  Sprinle with a little S&P – toss a bit & let marinate for about an hour.


Black Beans

In 1 TBS olive oil, saute the onion, carrot & celery until they begin to soften.  Add the can of drained black beans, cumin & tomato paste.  Stir around for about 5-10 minutes.  Remove them from heat & set aside.


Chipotle & Garlic Lime Fish

Remove from marinade & cook either on a grill or in a grill pan or frying pan sprayed with a nonstick spray – keeping the two flavors (Chipotle & the Garlic-Lime) separate.  Once cooked through – break up into smaller pieces.  Set aside.



Spray your cupcake pan with nonstick spray.  Line each cup with a square wonton or with a corn tortilla cut to the size of the cupcake hole – either with a cookie cutter or the rim of a glass.  I used a cookie cutter & used a smaller circle for the first two layers then the larger one for the top layer in both the tortilla version & cut only the top layer in the wonton version.


I layered the wonton versions three ways:




Wonton Papers

Chipotle fish

mango-peach salsa



Wonton Papers

grated pepper jack

Garlic lime fish

salsa verde



Wonton Papers

blacks beans


poblano peppers

hot salsa

pepper jack



corn tortillas

pepper jack

mango-peach AND hot red salsa

black beans

chipotle fish


So – in each cupcake tin – layer a small amount of the ingredients you selected (or other variation).  Then add another square wonton or round corn tortilla.  Another layer of ingredients and then top with a large rounded wonton wrapper or a larger corn tortilla disc.   Top everything with a little more salsa & top all of them with pepper jack cheese.  In the case of the wonton versions – press the protruding wonton corners down into the topping so they look like little flat bundles.


Cook in the oven for 18-25 minutes – checking frequently to be sure they do not burn.  Remove from the oven & let cool for at least 5 minutes before trying to remove them from the pan.  The corn tortilla ones will naturally be harder to get out of the pan.  Maybe use a large serving spoon to assist in the lifting.


Top with either: sliced avocado or guacamole or more salsa or cilantro or more cheese or jalapeno peppers – whatever sounds good to you.


1 large avocado



Remove the skin & pit from the avocado.  Retain the pit.  In a bowl – chop the avocado very fine.  Squeeze a little lime juice in there & add a little salt.  Mix it up until it become creamy but some small chunks of avocado remain.  Taste. Add more salt or lime to taste.  Once it tastes good to you – put the pit back into the guacamole.  It will keep it from turning brown.