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HEARTY VEGGIE LASAGNA

Hearty Veggie Lasagna

Hearty Veggie Lasagna

Whenever I cook lasagna I make a HUGE one and I tend to do it on a weekend or an afternoon when I know I will be home for the rest of the night.  If you are going to go to the trouble to make lasagna, why not have it be big enough to last for a few meals?  When I make this lasagna it lasts my family of 4 (2 of which are children) 3 whole dinners!  We eat it fresh out of the oven one night and then I usually freeze the other 2 sections for 2 other nights.  You pop it in the oven for an hour from the freezer, make a salad, and you have a fantastic dinner!

***NOTE***

I just cooked one of my frozen lasagna sections and IT DOES NOT REHEAT WELL when using gluten free lasagna noodles (they turned to mush).  The lasagna tastes AWESOME the first night and when reheated as left-overs, but unfortunately I can NOT recommend reheating it from the freezer.  Bummer. 

The next time I make this lasagna I am going to cut the recipe in 1/2.

There are a few keys to making great tasting vegan lasagna:

  1. All of the components need to taste good enough to eat on their own
  2. The sauce needs to be very fresh and flavorful
  3. The cheese filling needs to have the taste and texture everyone has come to expect

As for the cheese, it has taken a lot of experimenting, but I have finally come-up with what I call my Vegan Herbed Ricotta.  I am not a big fan of using very much soy in general (A LOT of the recipes you will see for vegan lasagna rely on tofu tremendously), so through trial and error I have come up with a recipe that only uses ½ a brick of extra firm sprouted tofu and the rest of the cheese is comprised of beans, vegan goat cheese, and herbs and spices.  When you think about it, ½ a brick of tofu spread out over three dinners for four people is very nominal.

While it is a time investment to make lasagna, the end result is so very worth it and will pay off when you realize you have made 3 meals!

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INGREDIENTS

2 packages brown rice lasagna noodles

2 25.5 oz. jars of tomato basil pasta sauce

4 10 oz. bags baby bella mushrooms

2 medium onions

4 small or 2 large zucchini

1 tsp. olive oil

Simply Organic garlic salt to taste

1 package Daiya mozzarella cheese

VEGAN HERBED RICOTTA

1 cup vegan goat cheese*

½ package extra firm sprouted tofu by Wildwood, drained and crumbled

15 oz. can great northern beans, drained and rinsed

2 10 oz. packages Cascadian Farms frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

1 packed cup fresh basil

4 garlic cloves

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp salt

pepper to taste

* click here for recipe 

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Preheat the oven to 400°

Place a strainer over a bowl and pour one of the jars of pasta sauce into the strainer.  You want most of the liquid to strain into the bowl.  You may need to stir the sauce a few times to help release most of the liquid.

Strain 1 Jar of Sauce

Strain 1 Jar of Sauce

While the pasta sauce is straining, cook the lasagna noodles according to the instructions on the box.  I am always leery about noodles that claim they do not need to be precooked, so I always precook them.  It really doesn’t add much time to the process since they will cook while you are preparing the other ingredients.

While the noodles are cooking, make the Vegan Herbed Ricotta.  Place the vegan goat cheese and sprouted tofu in a bowl.  In a food processor fitted with the S blade, pulse together the basil, garlic, oregano, salt, and pepper.  You will need to stop and scrape down the bowl of the processor a few times during the process. 

Basil and Garlic

Basil and Garlic

Oregano, Salt, and Pepper is Added

Oregano, Salt, and Pepper is Added

Once the mixture resembles pesto, add the great northern beans and pulse only a few times since you want the beans to maintain some texture.  Gently fold the mixture from the food processor into the vegan goat cheese and crumbled tofu. 

Add Beans and Pulse

Add Beans and Pulse

Combine with Tofu and Vegan Goat Cheese

Combine with Tofu and Vegan Goat Cheese

Once well combined, gently fold in the spinach (which you have squeezed ALL of the liquid out of so it forms a nice dry ball).

Defrosted Spinach

Defrosted Spinach

Liquid Squeezed Out

Liquid Squeezed Out

Gently Fold In Spinach

Gently Fold In Spinach

Completed Vegan Herbed Ricotta

Completed Vegan Herbed Ricotta

Now that the noodles are done cooking, rinse them under cool water.  Once rinsed, lay them out in a single layer to prevent sticking (I use sheet pans).

Without washing the food processor bowl (save yourself some time, there is no real need) place the mushrooms one bag at a time into the food processor and pulse until they are fairly well chopped, but maintain some texture.  Pour the mushrooms into a large pot.  Repeat with the other three bags until all of the mushrooms are chopped. 

Pre-Sliced Mushrooms into the Processor

Pre-Sliced Mushrooms into the Processor

Roughly chop the onions and place them into the unwashed food processor bowl.  Pulse until finely chopped and add the onions to the pot with the chopped mushrooms.

Onions and Mushrooms

Onions and Mushrooms

Turn the burner onto medium and cook the mushrooms and onions down.  Place the lid on the pot to speed-up the process.  Once the mushrooms and onions are cooked (approx. 10 minutes), pour them into a strainer to strain out all of the liquid.  Once strained, salt and pepper to taste.

Cooked Down Onions and Mushrooms

Cooked Down Onions and Mushrooms

Strain the Liquid Out and Season to Taste

Strain the Liquid Out and Season to Taste

Chop the zucchini into 1/8” wheels and sauté on medium heat with 1 tsp oil.  You want the zucchini to brown very slightly.  This should only take 3-4 minutes.  Flavor the zucchini with garlic salt to taste.

Saute the Zucchini

Saute the Zucchini

It is now time to assemble the lasagna.  Pour one third of the unopened pasta sauce (NOT the pasta sauce you are straining) into the bottom of a 10” x 12” deep casserole dish.  Follow with a layer of lasagna noodles, 1/3 of the Vegan Herbed Ricotta, 1/3 of the Daiya, and 1/3 of the mushrooms, and another 1/3 of the sauce.

1/3 Jar of Pasta Sauce

1/3 Jar of Pasta Sauce

Layer of Noodles

Layer of Noodles

1/3 of the Herbed Riccota

1/3 of the Herbed Riccota

1/3 Daiya, 1/3 Mushrooms, and Another 1/3 Sauce

1/3 Daiya, 1/3 Mushrooms, and Another 1/3 Sauce

Follow with another layer of noodles, 1/3 of the Vegan Herbed Ricotta, all of the zucchini wheels, most of the remaining mushrooms (reserve some for the top of the lasagna), most of the remaining Daiya (reserve some for the top of the lasagna), and the last 1/3 of the jar of pasta sauce.

Noodle Layer, Herbed Riccota, Zucchini

Noodle Layer, Herbed Riccota, Zucchini

Mushrooms and Daiya

Mushrooms and Daiya

Top with the last layer of lasagna noodles, the ENTIRE jar of the strained pasta sauce (reserve the liquid for an alternate use…you will not need it for this recipe…if you put it into the lasagna it will become soggy), any remaining mushrooms, and the remaining Daiya.

Last Layer of Noodles, Strained Pasta Sauce, and Remaining Mushrooms and Daiya

Last Layer of Noodles, Strained Pasta Sauce, and Remaining Mushrooms and Daiya

Cover the lasagna with a piece of foil that you have oiled on the inside so it won’t stick to it.

Cook the lasagna for 1 hour at 400°.

 
 
 

Hearty Veggie Lasagna

Hearty Veggie Lasagna

For a printable version of this recipe click here.

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Filed under Cheese, Gluten Free, Main Dish, Recipes, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian

MUNG BEAN NOODLE SOUP – With Miso Broth

Mung Bean Noodle Soup

Mung Bean Noodle Soup

I am a big soup fan.  A few nights ago when we were getting ready to go on our ski trip to Mammoth, I needed to make dinner with the food we had on hand…I wanted to try and minimize what we had to leave in the fridge.  Noodle soup is always a good option.  I keep mung bean noodles (also known as Saifun Noodles) in the pantry for nights like those. Usually each package of dry noodles comes with three bundles of noodles inside, so they pack a big punch for a small cost.

I didn’t have any broth in the pantry, but I did have some outstanding miso in the fridge from South River Miso Company, so that became the basis of my soup broth.  South River Miso is a great small company that really focuses on quality and their products are really special.  To find out more about their company and order their products click here.

South River Miso

South River Miso

INGREDIENTS

Mung Bean Noodles (1 bundle per adult / half for each kid)

Broth of your choice

Vegetables of your choosing (i.e. onion, green onion, leek, spinach, kale, mushrooms, bean sprouts, basil, cilantro, jalapeno, sea veggies)

Accompaniments (Guilin Chili Sauce, sesame oil, tamari, Sriracha, white pepper)

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I begin by soaking the mung bean bundles in hot water.

Dry Mung Bean Noodles

Dry Mung Bean Noodles

Pour Hot Water Over Noodles

Pour Hot Water Over Noodles

I tend to make a very mild broth with the intent that people will personalize their soup at the table.  Our family’s taste tends to cover the whole spectrum from very mild to crazy spicy! To make the broth this time I boiled water and added leeks to it for flavor.

Cut the Leeks Lengthwise and Clean

Cut the Leeks Lengthwise and Clean

Water With Leeks

Water With Leeks

Once the leeks have flavored the broth, ladle some hot water into a bowl and mix the miso paste into the water in the bowl.

 

Hot Water

Hot Water

Add the Miso Paste

Add the Miso Paste

Pour the miso mixture back into the hot water and leeks.

 

Add the Miso Mixture Back In

Add the Miso Mixture Back In

Flavor with tamari if needed.

 

Add Tamari If Needed

Add Tamari If Needed

Now prepare the bowls for the soup.

 

Put Raw Sliced Onions and Spinach Into Bowls

Put Raw Sliced Onions and Spinach Into Bowls

Add the soaked noodles.

 

Soaked Noodles

Soaked Noodles

Bowls With Noodles

Bowls With Noodles

Add a TINY Splash of Sesame OIl For Taste

Add a TINY Splash of Sesame OIl For Taste

Pour the boiling hot prepared broth over the noodles and cover for a few minutes.  The hot broth will cook the onion and spinach.

 

Covered Soup Bowls...Cooking the Veggies

Covered Soup Bowls...Cooking the Veggies

Now serve with the accompaniments.

 

Soup Toppings

Soup Toppings

Sauce and Spice Close-up

Sauce and Spice Close-up

Flavor your soup and enjoy.  I was in a kale mood, so I completely covered my soup with kale before I put the broth in and covered it with a lid.

 

My Soup Bowl

My Soup Bowl

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Filed under Gluten Free, Main Dish, Recipes, Soup, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian

VEGGIE DIET IMPROVES SKIN TONE

January 12, 2011 | Susanne Rust | CALIFORNIA WATCH

 

New research from England should make dermatologists happy: A “tan” gained by eating lots of vegetables rich in carotenoids (antioxidant chemicals found in vegetables such as carrots and beet greens) is considered more attractive than a tan obtained from the sun.

At least, that’s the opinion of several British university students.

To test a theory that a healthy diet might make a person more attractive, researchers at the University of Nottingham, the University of St. Andrews and Bristol University showed a series of photographed faces to a few dozen students.

Ian Stephen, University of NottinghamThe middle photo shows the woman’s natural color. On the left, the suntanned. On the right, yellowing from carotenoids.

The students could adjust the skin tone of the photographed faces, making them more yellow, more suntanned or more pale.

According to the new study, the students found yellower faces more attractive and healthy looking.

In another study, the researchers found that students eating diets rich in vegetables and fruits had yellower skin than those who didn’t.

The research will soon be published in the journal of Evolution and Human Behavior.

“Most people think the best way to improve skin color is to get a suntan, but our research shows that eating lots of fruit and vegetables is actually more effective,” said Ian Stephen, a psychologist at the University of Nottingham.

Carotenoids are antioxidants that help the body cope with stress and remain healthy. Scientists have found that they are vital in maintaining healthy immune and reproductive function.

The scientists theorize that skin shining with a carrot-like glow may indicate health to potential mates and allies, and therefore appear more attractive to others.

“This is something we share with many other species,” said David Perrett, a professor at St. Andrews who contributed to the study. “The bright yellow beaks and feathers of many birds can be thought of as adverts showing how healthy a male bird is. What’s more, females of these species prefer to mate with brighter, more colored males. But this is the first study in which this has been demonstrated in humans.”

Examples of fruits and vegetables rich in carotenoids include carrots, cantaloupe melons, beet greens, spinach, kale and persimmons.

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Filed under Education, Research

MY KID’S MORNING JUICE

Ready to Juice

Ready to Juice

As often as I can I try to start the kid’s morning off with fresh juice made from my Breville juicer.  The school week can be really busy and it isn’t always easy to cram in all of the nutrients they need to fuel their afterschool activities.  Fresh squeezed juice is a fantastic way to give their bodies what it craves.  In a perfect world my kids would drink 100% vegetable juice, but reality is different.  I can get the kids to drink their green veggies as long as I temper them with the sweetness of apples and carrots.  Little by little I have been able to add more and more greens. 

These were the ingredients in my kid’s juice this morning:

My Kid's Morning Juice Ingredients

My Kid's Morning Juice Ingredients

If your kids are new to juicing, start them off with apple juice (I have never met a kid that didn’t LOVE fresh squeezed apple juice).  Move on from there by slowly adding more and more carrots to the mix (also very sweet).  After a while you will be able to add in greens.  I find spinach, romaine, and sugar snap peas to be very mild in taste, so those are your best bets when starting to add greens to your juice.

You don’t need to own a juicer in order to make fresh juice.  If you own a blender or a Vitamix and have a nut milk bag or cheesecloth, then you can make juice.  It will be a bit more work, but well worth it.  In order to make juice with a blender you will need to add some water to the pitcher, chop in your veggies (watery veggies and fruits should go in near the bottom where the blade is), blend and then strain through the nut milk bags into another bowl.  Work in batches until you are done.

Nut Milk Bag

Nut Milk Bag

Cheesecloth

Cheesecloth

To make the juice, prepare all of your fruits and veggies by washing them and cutting them down to size if they are too big to fit through the opening of your juicer.  Once your produce is ready, set-up your juicer.  In order to minimize clean-up, I like to line my juicer’s pulp collector with one of my recycled produce bags.  Also keep some paper towel or an extra cup on hand for when you remove the juice pitcher.  I block the juice nozzle with a paper towel whenever I move the juice pitcher away…otherwise it will drip onto the counter.

When you juice, make sure you juice the softer fruits and vegetables first (i.e. romaine, cucumber, sugar snap peas, tomatoes) and then push the rest of their pulp through with the harder fruits and vegetables… this will ensure that you get as much juice out of them as you can. 

Softer Produce First

Softer Produce First

Most importantly, get your kids involved.  When children participate in making their food, they are much more likely to actually consume that food.

Get the Kids Involved

Get the Kids Involved

Some kids are very put off by the color of juice that has carrots or greens in it.  I have found a way around that by purchasing some fun cups in different colors.  When my daughter drinks out of her fun green cup with the cool straw, she has no idea what color the juice actually is.  You could also get some wacky straws to help encourage your children to drink the juice.

Using a Fun Colored Cup

Using a Fun Colored Cup

Since we are on the subject of juice, I thought I’d show you what my morning juice consisted of.  Most of you won’t start with this many veggies…work up to it with the same method as described above for the kids.

My Morning Juice Ingredients

My Morning Juice Ingredients

When my daughter saw the juice she named it “Mommy’s Rainbow Juice.”

Rainbow Juice

Rainbow Juice

Don’t forget to compost your juice pulp…your garden will thank you.

Here’s to health!

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Filed under Food Journal, Fresh Juice, Gluten Free, Raw, Recipes, Vegan, Vegetarian

FOOD LOG – JANUARY 3, 2011

Today's Green Smoothie

Me & My Liquid Health

So here’s the low-down on what I ate today.  Since I am in recovery mode from the holidays, there is a bunch of green juice to get my nutrient levels back to where they should be…I guess you could say I am doing a cleanse of sorts.

6am – 32 ounces of water with an entire lemon squeezed in

8:15am – 20 ounces of green juice (made in my Breville juicer)

RECIPE (this made enough for the day)

  • kale stems that I saved from making kale chips
  • mixed greens
  • 5 carrots
  • 1 huge cucumber
  • 1/2 head of napa cabbage

10am – handful of raw nuts… almonds, walnuts, pecans

1pm – 16 ounces of green juice (made in the morning and put in a 16 ounce mason jar filled to the lid in order to prevent oxidation…a trick I got from Kris Carr)

2:30pm – green smoothie

RECIPE

Blend all of the ingredients in the blender.  I use my Vitamix since it completely emulsifies everything.  If you don’t have a Vitamix, any blender will work…you may have to add some more liquid to get it all to blend.

4pm – the rest of the green smoothie

6pm – brown rice, baked beans (recipe from weelicious.com), roasted brussel sprouts

7pm – 3 Cuties tangerines

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Filed under Cleansing, Detox, Food Journal, Recipes, Vegan, Vegetarian