Great Northern Roast

At first, I thought is was impossible. Ridiculous. No way was I going to be able to make this recipe taste delicious. 

Inspired by the 1967 cookbook An Apple A Day...Vegetarian Cookery by Doctor's Wives, I wanted to take one of the outdated recipes and remake it for today. (Check out last week's post about this fun cookbook!)

The recipe I chose: Proteena Roast. 

I chose this recipe for several reasons. 
  1. It used ingredients that are no longer commonly used today (namely Proteena and MSG).
  2. It was an example of a typical entree from 1967. So many of the recipes in the book were "mix the ingredients together and bake for an hour." 
  3. The note from the cookbook's previous owner indicated that this was "Good" even though I thought it sounded borderline disgusting.
  4. It exemplified a philosophical change to how vegetarian recipes are constructed today. Originally, vegetarian entrees were meat-based recipes with fake meat. I like fake meat, don't get me wrong. But today, good vegetarian entrees focus on using vegetables in creative ways and focus less on meat. So many of the recipes in the book were had meat-based titles and then used fake meat to make it. This recipe was no different.

I wanted to stay as true to the original recipe as possible while still making something that I would actually eat. I also wanted my recipe to show a few of the food trends popular today.  

Proteena is no longer available as it was in 1967. I could have substituted canned mock duck, but that isn't something I regularly eat. Instead, I substituted great northern beans, which I chose because they go great with creamy sauces.

Ah, the sauce. Originally, it was just mayonnaise and lemon juice. While I don't mind that combination on an egg salad, I don't want it baked with my beans. Instead, I made a béchamel sauce, which is just butter, flour and milk. I wanted this to taste less like a tuna casserole and more like a veggie pot pie. 

Because of the pot pie inspiration, I decided to add carrots to the onion and celery mixture and opted to include the mushrooms. Having a wide variety of mushrooms to choose from in stores is very trendy right now, so I decided to go with more specialized mushroom variety: shiitake.

The only seasonings used in this dish are salt and MSG (a.k.a Accent). Not really wanting MSG in my food, I added dried thyme and sage instead. I also added a bunch of freshly ground pepper. 

This dish has plenty of protein already, so I eliminated the hard boiled eggs. The focus was less on protein and more on the vegetables.

For the grated cheese, I chose to add gruyere. I love the way the flavor of gruyere blends with béchamel sauce (like in my vegetarian croque monsieur recipe). Because I love it so much, I increased the amount of cheese three fold. This may seem excessive, but it was delicious!

Instead of crushed potato chips for the topping, I used Panko bread crumbs and coarsely chopped almonds. The almonds leant a wonderful flavor, and the bread crumbs gave a nice contrasting texture. Using Panko as a topping is also very trendy right now.

How do the nutrition facts compare?

Proteena Roast Nutrition Facts
Great Northern Roast Nutrition Facts
Neither dish is low in calories, especially when you see how small the serving size is (about 1/2 cup). The Great Northern Roast is higher in carbohydrates, but most of them are from fiber. The beans, carrots, and mushrooms all contributed to the more robust nutritional profile. Even with the extra cheese, Great Northern Roast is healthier than the mayonnaise, potato chip, mock duck version. 

It was fun to take an older recipe and modernize it using ingredients available today. I'm also really happy with the result. This dish is perfect for a cold winter day and it makes for great leftovers. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Great Northern Roast
8 small servings | 90 minutes | Print

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped celery
1 1/2 cup sliced shiitake mushrooms
2 teaspoon dried sage
2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 15 oz. can great northern beans, drained and rinsed
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour (all purpose or whole wheat)
1 1/2 cup milk (I used 1%; any dairy or non-dairy milk will work)
1 cup shredded gruyere cheese
1/4 cup minced almonds
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and cook for 3-5 minutes or until soft. Add the carrots and celery and cook for another 3 minutes. Stir in the mushrooms, sage and thyme. Cook until the mushrooms are softened, another 3-5 minutes. Stir in the beans. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.
  3. While the veggies are cooking, make the béchamel sauce. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium high heat. When the foam goes down, add the flour. Cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes or until the flour is lightly toasted. Add a splash (about 1 tablespoon) of milk and stir well until smooth. Add another splash of milk and stir well until smooth. Keep repeating this process until all the milk is stirred in and the sauce is free of any lumps. Turn the heat down to medium low and let simmer for a few minutes to blend the flavors. Stir in the shredded cheese and add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Scrape the veggies into a casserole dish. Pour the béchamel sauce over the veggies and stir to combine. Sprinkle the almonds and bread crumbs on the top. 
  5. Bake uncovered for 45 minutes. Turn on the broiler and let the top get lightly brown; this takes about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5-10 minutes before serving. 

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