Caramelized Onion Dip & Vegan Casseroles

Vegan Casseroles by Julie HassonI have been a fan of Julie Hasson’s work for a long time now. If I were to make a top ten list of favorite cookbooks, her comfort food tome, Vegan Diner, would definitely have a place. (The reuben, Smoky Soy Curls, Chicken-style Seitan, and Creamy Sage & Pepper Gravy are just a few of my top picks. My full reviews are here and here.) Now Julie is back again with a cookbook that’s just in time for fall and winter gatherings with a slew of cozy meals in the form of casseroles.  It is chockfull of gorgeous photos and tempting recipes.

Vegan Casseroles has recipes that span from appetizers through desserts. There are cheesy indulgences like Nacho Tots Casserole, old standards like Very Veggie Pot Pie, and classics like Green Bean Casserole. (To my mind, it’s not Thanksgiving without green bean casserole. I’ll be giving her recipe a whirl this year.) Unlike casseroles of yore, these recipes don’t use a base of condensed soups that come out of a can with a squishy plop. Instead, the sauces are homemade, often using a base of cashews for creaminess.

Zucchini Basil Lasagna - Vegan Casseroles by Julie HassonOne of the most well-known and beloved one-dish meals is lasagna. Truth be told, I’d never made lasagna before. I’m usually just cooking for two, and most lasagna recipes are designed with a small army in mind. Plus, David has always been in the anti-lasagna camp, saying that it was too gooey. (He’s averse to that texture in food.) David is also lukewarm about zucchini, and so he surprised me when he said he was up for trying the Zucchini Basil Lasagna.

Zucchini Basil Lasagna - Vegan CasserolesThe nice thing about the Zucchini Basil Lasagna recipe is that it makes enough for 4 to 6. That’s the perfect amount for our family of two, guaranteeing leftovers for the next day. The lasagna noodles don’t have to be cooked ahead of time and instead soften right in the sauce, erasing concerns over torn noodles. I used handmade lasagna noodles from my favorite local pasta maker.

Zucchini Basil Lasagna - Vegan Casseroles by Julie HassonJulie gives the option of making the sauce from scratch or buying jarred. I made it from scratch with the recipe, Quick Tomato Basil Sauce. I made just one change. I prefer spaghetti sauces not to be sweet, and so I omitted the sugar and added a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar to round it out instead. It worked beautifully.

Zucchini Basil Lasagna - Vegan CasserolesThe tofu cheese inside was addictively good right out of the food processor, and I could see myself making it alone simply for the purpose of spreading it on crackers.  We had some Upton’s Italian seitan sausage on hand, and so I added a couple handfuls of that too to the layers of noodles.

Zucchini Basil Lasagna in Vegan CasserolesRoasted Brussels Sprouts with Caramelized OnionsThe lasagna baked for an hour and came out beautifully. I needn’t have worried about David’s past dislike of lasagna. He not only finished his first helping but went back for seconds. It was an absolutely delicious dish that would be dinner party-worthy, but is easy enough to be weeknight-friendly (especially if one used jarred pasta sauce). I served it with roasted Brussels sprouts.

Baked Tapenade & Caramelized Onion DipAs I mentioned earlier this week, I took a couple of dishes from Vegan Casseroles to a pumpkin-carving gathering. I brought Baked Tapenade with a crusty baguette and Caramelized Onion Dip with potato chips.

Baked Tapenade - Vegan Casseroles by Julie HassonWith just 5 ingredients, the Baked Tapenade comes together quickly with ingredients that I always have in my pantry. I liked its inclusion of both olives and capers for their briny flavor. The tapenade is then baked for 15 to 20 minutes and served warm.

After the party, I used leftover tapenade on crackers as a snack and then later added dollops of it to a pizza, which was fantastic. The tapenade was fast and tasty, and would be a great dish to have on hand all the time for slathering on sandwiches, adding interest to wraps, or tossing with pasta.

Caramelized Onion Dip - Vegan Casseroles by Julie HassonThe Caramelized Onion Dip is like an adult version of the onion dip you grew up eating. It is made with a base of cashews for creamy sweetness, seasoned with onion granules and dried onion, and topped with caramelized onions. The dip is made with white wine, and so there are undertones of wine. (If you’re not a wine fan, I bet it would also be good with vegetable broth instead.)

There are still loads of recipes left that I want to try, and now that the weather is turning colder, I have a feeling this book is going to be seeing a lot of use.

The publisher, Running Press, has allowed me to share the onion dip recipe with you today, and you can try it for yourself. Get your potato chips ready!

Caramelized Onion Dip - great with potato chips!

Caramelized Onion Dip

Serving Size: 8

This dip is adapted from a recipe by Dan and Annie Shannon in Betty Goes Vegan. No one will ever guess that it’s not full of sour cream, but heart-healthy creamy cashews instead. I doubled the onion-y goodness with dried chopped onion, which will totally remind you of the quintessential French onion dip. Serve this old-school style, with ruffled potato chips on the side. Prepare to be wowed!


  • 2 cups raw unsalted cashews, soaked for at least 2 hours and drained
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed or finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon granulated onion
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Bragg liquid aminos or low-sodium tamari or soy sauce
  • Fine sea salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons dried chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 jumbo or 2 small sweet onions, cut into quarters and thinly sliced
  • Few pinches granulated sugar


  1. In a powerful blender, combine the cashews, wine, water, lemon juice, garlic, granulated onion, and Bragg liquid aminos. Blend until the mixture is super-smooth and creamy, and there are no traces of graininess from the nuts. This will take a couple of minutes, and you will need to stop to scrape down the blender jar. Adjust seasonings to taste, adding salt if needed.
  2. Scoop the cashew mixture into a small glass or ceramic baking dish, such as an 8 x 5 or 81/2 x 6 (or you can use a standard loaf pan). Stir in the dried onions and smooth the top. Cover and chill for several hours.
  3. While the cashew mixture is chilling, heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add the oil, coating the bottom of the pan. Add the onions and cook for about 30 minutes, stirring as needed, until the onions are caramelized. You may need to lower the heat so that the onions don’t burn. During the last 10 minutes of cooking, sprinkle the onions with a few pinches of sugar and a pinch of salt to help them caramelize. When the onions are soft and nicely browned, remove them from the heat and let cool completely.
  4. When the dip has chilled and thickened for several hours, top with the caramelized onions and serve.


Tip: If you’re using a high-speed blender, you can skip the soaking step for the cashews and just use them dry. Add a little extra water to blend if needed.

Variation: To add an extra onion flavor to the dip, and a little splash of color, sprinkle a handful of thinly sliced scallions over the caramelized onions.

Gluten-Free: Use gluten-free tamari or gluten-free soy sauce.

Reprinted with permission from VEGAN CASSEROLES © 2014 by Julie Hasson, Running Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group.

In conjunction with the release of Vegan Casseroles, the publisher is having a giveaway with a grand prize of 1 Breville Smart Oven.  Five runners up with receive a copy of Vegan Casseroles.  The giveaway ends on November 12th and is open to U.S. residents only.

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Disclaimer: I received this cookbook from the publisher, Running Press, but the thoughts and opinions are my own.  This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Review: The HappyCow Cookbook

HappyCow Cookbook ReviewWhen I heard that HappyCow was coming out with a cookbook, I was intrigued. For years I’ve been using their website to locate vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants when I’m home and while traveling, and their app is one of the most used and appreciated apps on my phone. For finding vegan restaurants when I’m on the road, it is incredibly useful.

Like the global reach of their website, The HappyCow Cookbook features recipes from vegan restaurants all over the world. The restaurants are from across the U.S., Canada, Australia, Denmark, England, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, and Spain. In addition, there are interviews that precede the recipe(s) for each restaurant. They highlight the owners of the restaurants, their most popular dishes, lessons they’ve learned, and what inspired them to go vegan and/or open a vegan restaurant.

So often when I travel, I wish I could bring back a souvenir from the trip that encapsulates an experience that I had, and this book offers that. Of the restaurants listed in the book, I have been to 11 of them: Café Blossom (now Blossom on Columbus), Candle Café, Karyn’s On Green, Millennium, Native Foods, Peacefood Café, Portobello, Real Food Daily, Stuff I Eat, SunCafe Organic, and Veggie Grill. (Click on the highlighted links to read my posts on those restaurants.)

In addition to revisiting some favorites, there’s also the opportunity to learn about restaurants I may never visit and sample some of their offerings. Even without cooking from it, the cookbook would make for a fun coffee table book. So far I’ve made 3 things from restaurants I’ve visited in the past.

Bistro steak sandwich - Native Foods - from the HappyCow CookbookI started with the recipe for the Bistro Steak Sandwich from Native Foods. This sandwich is one of my favorites from Native Foods. The sandwich is a multi-layered affair with marinated seitan steak, crispy shallots (like olive rings but in shallot-form), Native bleu cheese, and oven roasted tomatoes.

With this many elements, it was no small process making all of it. Plus, I had to first make a batch of seitan from scratch. (There’s no recipe for the seitan, just the marinade. I used the white seitan recipe from Viva Vegan and added freshly ground pepper to it.)

The end result was very tasty, but required quite a bit of changes because of confusing and possibly flawed directions. My sense was that the recipe needed more testing, especially with a home cook in mind (as opposed to a restaurant’s needs). However, with some changes, I’d make this sandwich again.

In case you’re making it at home, here are my thoughts:

Native Foods seitan steak sandwich - HappyCow CookbookI made a half batch of the crispy shallots, and it was plenty for 4-6 sandwiches. It’s not clearly noted that the salt is divided into two parts of the recipe – one for soaking the shallots and one for salting afterwards.

I think there was a typo with the Native Bleu Cheese, and it should be 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar, not 2 Tablespoons. The full amount of vinegar made it inedible, and I had to compensate by adding double the amount of silken tofu. Again, just a half recipe of the bleu cheese would be more than enough for a full amount of sandwiches.

For some reason, the marinade recipe calls for the reader to make double the amount of marinade necessary. Then they are told to save half of the marinade for another time. Outside of a restaurant situation where you’ll definitely make more sandwiches in the near future, it seems counterintuitive to assume a home cook would want to make more than needed, especially when it’s simple enough to make just the amount you need.

Coconut Milk Butternut Squash Soup recipe from Karyn's On Green - HappyCow CookbookNext I made Coconut-Squash Soup with Garbanzo Bean Garnish. I had this soup at Karyn’s On Green a couple of years ago. This simple recipe has just roasted butternut squash and coconut milk for the soup, and then it’s topped with garbanzo beans that have been browned in a pan and tossed with paprika, salt, and sugar.

The recipe didn’t specify the size of the butternut squash needed, and squash can vary quite a bit. It said to bake the squash for an hour and a half, but mine was totally soft and ready at an hour. After tasting the soup, I ended up doubling the amount of squash, because it just tasted like coconut milk. So I’d recommend using large butternut squash for this recipe.

Because there weren’t any spices in the soup or onions or garlic, I found it to be quite bland. If I were to make this recipe again, I would definitely start by sautéing onions and garlic, and I’d add some spices like cumin, coriander, paprika, or curry powder.

Seitan marsala recipe from Cafe Blossom - HappyCow CookbookFinally, last night I made the Seitan Marsala from Café Blossom in NYC. I visited the restaurant last month, and it was one of the highlights of my trip from a food perspective. This is one of their most popular dishes; although, I’ve never tried it at their restaurant. The recipe calls for seitan filets, but there’s no recipe for the actual seitan. So I made a batch of the chicken-style seitan from Vegan Diner, which is one of my favorite seitan recipes, and cut large pieces from it for the filets.

This dish involves a layer of mashed potatoes, a bed of kale, and seitan that has been cooked with fennel, mushrooms, and shallots in a wine sauce. Since this recipe calls for 2 different kinds of wine, Marsala and port, it was definitely one of the pricier dishes to make.

Seitan marsala - HappyCow CookbookThe recipe is supposed to serve 4-6; however, I made a half amount of the recipe, and it was easily enough for four. There was a lot of liquid that was supposed to reduce in the pan, but after doubling the amount of time it was supposed to reduce, all of the ingredients were still swimming in it. So I removed about a cup of liquid from the pan. Then I took a little bit of the liquid, made a slurry with a tablespoon of flour, and put it into the pan to help it thicken.

The building blocks of this dish tasted good – the mashed potatoes, the seitan filets, the kale, fennel, shallots, and mushrooms. However, the flavor of the sauce was overpowering; it was both bitter and sweet all at once. Perhaps if I had purchased a different variety of marsala or port I would have liked it more. Since those flavors were the most prominent, they covered everything in their path and made it impossible to taste the mushrooms and fennel underneath. As it was, I don’t think I’d make this recipe again. It was too expensive and time consuming for the end result.

Seitan Marsala from Cafe Blossom in the HappyCow CookbookFinal thoughts: Because there were so many contributors in this book and because the recipes are from restaurants that need to cook in bulk, I think the recipes could have used some tweaking for a home cook. For example, there’s a recipe for Chia Pudding from Luna’s Living Kitchen, and the recipe makes enough to serve 7, and the first ingredient is 25 dates. It is more helpful for cookbook recipes to make enough for an even amount of people, so that the recipe can easily be divided. I don’t know who is making chia pudding for 7, but it seems more like the kind of thing a person would make for herself/himself for breakfast or maybe for one another person.

There are also instances where specificity could be improved, like in the size of the butternut squash in the soup recipe above, or in the seitan marsala recipe when it called for kale, but never noted to remove the leaves from the rib or chop them. It simply said to sauté three bunches with olive oil and garlic.

Finally, it would be handy if there was an index by ingredient, as opposed to just the name of the dish and by location. When trying to find a dish, it makes it easier than trying to remember the very specific name or restaurant.

Want to see more? Kelly at has made quite a bit from the HappyCow Cookbook and wrote a lengthy and helpful post with pictures on her blog. 

Disclaimer: I received this cookbook from the publisher, BenBella Books.  The thoughts and opinions are totally my own.  This post contains Amazon affiliate links.