Chef makes holiday favorites vegan-friendly

Mike Bacha, the Executive Chef at Emory University Hospital, jumped at the chance to reinvent two favorite holiday recipes, green bean casserole and gingerbread cookies, to give your vegan, or health-conscious, guests something they can enjoy.

"What we've done is just lighten them up a little bit," Bacha says. "You want to make things everyone can eat, again, you don't want anyone to feel left out, where they can't eat anything and are only drinking wine."

Emory University Hospital Executive Chef Mike Bacha reworks two holiday favorites: green bean casserole and gingerbread cookies.

He tackled the green bean casserole first.

"We're going to start with our margarine, plant-based margarine," Bacha says. "We're going to sauté some mushrooms. 

We have shitakes and criminis here. We have shallots, and you can use onions as well."

Emory University Hospital Executive Chef Mike Bacha reworks two holiday favorites: green bean casserole and gingerbread cookies.

Instead of the typical salty cream of mushroom soup, Bacha mixes up his own base.

"We're going to hit that with a little bit of flour, and then we're going to add our vegetable stock and our almond milk," he says. "The flour is going to help thicken our stock."

Emory University Hospital Executive Chef Mike Bacha reworks two holiday favorites: green bean casserole and gingerbread cookies.

When he's finished, Bacha adds breadcrumbs mixed with olive oil and sliced almonds, then bakes until the casserole is golden brown.

To try the recipe yourself, here are his instructions:

  • Green bean casserole:
  • ¼ cup margarine
  • 1   ½ cups of mushrooms (Crimini (baby portabella) and shitakes work great)
  • 1 each shallot or ½ cup of yellow onion sliced
  • 6-7 cups of green beans (blanched) or if using frozen, thawed
  • ¼ cup AP flour
  • ½ cup vegetable broth
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk or unsweetened soy or oat milk
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Pinch of black pepper
  • 1 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • ½ almonds (sliced)
  • 2 TBL olive oil
  •  
  1. Heat margarine in hot pan
  2. Add chopped mushrooms and sliced shallot, Sautee for 4-5 minutes until brown and water evaporates from mushrooms
  3. Add green beans and cook for another 2 minutes
  4. Add flour and stir to incorporate
  5. Add vegetable broth and nut milk
  6. Season with salt and pepper and cook until thickened over medium heat
  7. Top with breadcrumbs mixed with olive oil and sliced almonds
  8. Bake until golden brown at 350 degrees for 10 -15 minutes

Next up, Bacha moves on to gingerbread cookies.

He keeps the sugar, but takes out the eggs and butter.

"We're substituting with plant based margarine and Aquafaba, which is the liquid at the bottom of the chickpeas, a can of chickpeas," Bacha says.

Emory University Hospital Executive Chef Mike Bacha reworks two holiday favorites: green bean casserole and gingerbread cookies.

Aquafaba, or chickpea juice, Bacha says, is an inexpensive egg-replacer, that acts as a stabilizer and emulsifier, keeping the cookies moist, so you don't need eggs and cream.

Emory University Hospital Executive Chef Mike Bacha reworks two holiday favorites: green bean casserole and gingerbread cookies.

"So 3 tablespoons of that juice will equal one egg," Bacha says.

Aquafaba is becoming a popular ingredient in vegan baking, whisked into meringues, chocolate mousse, and buttercream icing.

Bacha adds ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg to his cookies, creating gingerbread men big on flavor -- not on animal fat.

Here is his recipe:

Gingerbread cookies:

  • ¼ margarine
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • 3 TBL aqua faba (egg substitute)
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt 1 ½ -2 cups AP flour
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg  
  1. Whip margarine, brown sugar, molasses, aqua faba and vanilla in mixer on medium speed until all ingredients are blended
  2. Mix together flour, baking powder and baking spices
  3. Add dry ingredients to wet to fully incorporate everything together
  4. Roll out dough on floured surface (looking for 1/8th inch thickness)
  5. Cut out cookies with cookie cutter and place on waxed paper on a cookie sheet (use a floured spatula to transfer cookies to prevent them from sticking or breaking apart)
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 5-15 minutes until desired doneness