February 9, 2012

Spinach Lasagna That'll Rock Your World

My mother loves Italian food, so although we are German, I grew up eating a lots of classic Italian dishes like spaghetti with meatballs, chicken parmesan and lasagna.  Most everything was loaded with simple carbs, meat, and cheeses; and therefore, also loaded with saturated fat, cholesterol, tons of calories and very little fiber, whole grains, or vegetables.

I have made many meatless balls in my time (see the very best meatless ball recipe here) as a vegan, but I haven't ventured into vegan lasagna making territory....

Until now.










The main reason I haven't done this before is because many vegan lasagna recipes call for tofu ricotta.  I actually kind of hate tofu, but let me give you a quick tofu run down:

Tofu isn't exactly a whole food - it's processed.  HOWEVER, it is very minimally processed.  It's basically soybean milk curds pressed into a block (and for all of you people gagging at the word "curd," at least it's better than cow puss aka cow's milk).  Tofu is generally accepted by whole foods, plant-based peeps.  It's been eaten for centuries in China, is very low in fat and calories, and contains protein, iron, and even a little calcium.  It is very mild tasting - really no taste at all - so it's quite versatile in that it takes on the flavor of whatever sauce or topping you choose.  For me, I don't love the texture, so if I ever have tofu, I prefer it covered with sauce and in little pieces.

Back to where tofu relates to vegan Italian cooking - when you drain and crumble tofu, it does take on a ricotta-like texture that's great for lasagnas, baked zitis or stuffed shells.  You usually have to "doctor it up" with a little oil, vegan cheese, seasonings, etc.  I have tried this type of tofu cheese before in stuffed shells, and it actually wasn't bad.  But it wasn't knock-my-socks off good either.

Well, I finally found a filling that knocked-my-freaking-socks-off.  Tofu free.

I found the original recipe here, from an awesome chef, Chef AJ, the author of one of my favorite health/recipe books, Unprocessed.  This book is where I found the recipe for some amazing raw brownies, which I will share in the near future.

I changed her recipe just a bit - but it's essentially the same.  And it's amazing.  The spinach filling is to die for (it would also be an awesome spinach dip!).  It gives the lasagna that perfect creaminess.  It is one of those meals that you have to keep asking, "Is this really healthy!?!?"  Well it most definitely is - because not only does it not contain the saturated fat, cholesterol, and calories of it's carnivore counterpart, it contains a ton of fiber, vitamins, minerals, calcium, iron - and that's just from the spinach and bean mixture alone!!

Oh, and it's easy too.  Just throw some stuff in the food processor, then start layering your lasagna (you don't even have to cook the noodles!), pop it in the oven, sit back and read People Magazine Moby Dick, and an hour later, you're ready to eat!

You can also fill it with any sauteed veggies you'd like - zucchini and onions would be great, and the original recipe includes sauteed mushrooms to give you that "meaty" texture (recipe below).  I didn't include the mushrooms because I didn't have them.  Instead, I crumbled up some veggie burgers on one side of the lasagna.

Hope you enjoy this as much as I did!  Mangia!!

                            _________________________________________________

Vegan Spinach Lasagna

Yield: 1 big ol' pan of lasagna
Print here.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 boxes De Boles no-boil rice lasagna noodles
  • 2 jars of your favorite marinara sauce (look for ones without oil and sugar!)
  • 2 - 15oz cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 oz (a couple handfuls) of fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 - 3/4 tsp salt (depending on your taste)
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 lbs frozen, chopped spinach (I used three 9oz containers) OR 1 lb frozen kale, defrosted, drained with all the liquid squeezed out
  • 2/3 cup or so of Daiya mozzarella cheeze (optional - see below)
  • 2 veggie burger patties, defrosted and crumbled (optional - I like it better without)
  • 1 - 4oz can sliced olives (optional, for garnish)
Instructions:
  • Preheat oven to 375.  Start defrosting your spinach or kale.
  • Add the 2 cans of beans, basil, garlic, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, cashews, salt and red pepper flake to your food processor.  Puree until smooth (you might have to scrape down the sides of the food processor and pulse it to get it all smooth).

  • Drain your spinach in a colander, pressing all the liquid out.  Add the spinach to the food processor and process again until combined (I had to do this in 2 batches since it's so much filling, my food processor wasn't quite big enough).
  • Pour 1 jar of sauce into a lasagna pan (9x13).  Place one layer of the noodles on top of the sauce.
  • Cover the noodles with a half of the spinach mixture and a sprinkle of the Daiya cheeze (and half of your sauteed veggies, mushrooms or veggie burger crumbles, if using)

  • Place another layer of noodles on top and top with the remaining half of the spinach mixture and another sprinkle of the Daiya cheeze (and other half of your sauteed veggies, mushrooms or veggie burger crumbles, if using).
  • Place one more layer of noodles on top and smother evenly with the second jar of sauce.  Be sure to cover all of the noodles - they cook in this liquid!
  • Sprinkle with remaining Daiya cheeze and olives (if using).

  • Bake uncovered for an hour.
  • Let set for 10 minutes before slicing.  Then slice it up and enjoy!  

If you're like me, one slice equals a third of the entire lasagna.  Mmmmmm....



*Daiya cheeze is a vegan shredded cheese product that is basically made of different flours and oils.  There are some gross vegan cheese products out there but this one is a winner!  It's very, very good.  Tastes and looks just like shredded mozzarella.  Nothing scary, nothing weird. Just yummy. 

You should be able to get it at any natural food store. In our area, t
he new Kroger carries it in their natural food aisle.  It's pricey (about $5 a bag), so I use it sparingly. Plus, while it's vegan, it still contains oil, so it's best to just use as little as you can.  However, if you're just transitioning, it's a very, very good cheese substitute to get you through the cravings.



Here's the recipe for the sauteed mushrooms if they float your boat:

Sauteed Mushrooms

Ingredients:
  • 2 lbs sliced mushrooms (any kind - white, crimini, baby portabellas)
  • 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce (or Bragg's Amino Acids or tamari)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large red onion, finely diced
Instructions:
  1. In a large non-stick pan, saute the onion in 2 tbsp of water until translucent, about 8 min, adding more water as necessary.
  2. Add garlic, mushrooms, and soy sauce.  Cook until mushrooms appear to be glazed and there is no more liquid left in the pan.
I have not tried this specific recipe, but it sounds delicious, and I've made mushrooms in soy sauce before and it was amazing.  Chef AJ notes that it's even better if you can marinate the mushrooms in the soy sauce for a few hours or overnight.



10 comments:

  1. Ok so this actually sounds very tasty! I may have to try it. The best part is that Todd would eat it. But one question. What exactly is Daiya cheese? Just curious. Seriously I will make this and let you know how we like it.
    Angel

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Angel, I am telling you this is so yummy and so easy!! Daiya cheeze is a vegan shredded cheese product that is basically made of different flours and oils. There are some gross vegan cheese products out there but this one is a winner! It's very, very good. Tastes and looks just like shredded mozzarella. Nothing scary, nothing weird. Just yummy.

      The new Kroger carries it in their natural food aisle. Or you can get it at any natural food store. It's pricey (about $5 a bag), so I use it sparingly. Plus, while it's vegan, it still contains some oil, so it's best to just use as little as you can. It's gooooood though :)

      I'll update the post with this info and a picture of the bag. Let us know how the lasagna turns out!!

      Delete
  2. Cool, I can't believe they sell it at Kroger! What about rice noodles? They don't happen to have them at Kroger do they? I hate having to go to a bunch of stores. Oh and why the rice noodles? What about whole wheat noodles? I guess those have gluten in them. I am not against gluten myself so I may use some whole wheat ones. If I can find lasagna whole wheat noodles. Never have tried looking for those. We always use whole wheat pasta but I don't usually make lasagna.
    Angel

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I prefer these noodles since I'm gluten free and since they're in line with a whole foods diet - they are minimally processed and have only 2 ingredients: Rice flour and rice bran extract. Love that!

      However, any lasagna noodle would obviously work - although you may have to boil the whole wheat noodles for a couple of minutes first, before baking? I would go by package directions. You want your noodles to be al dente though - not too mushy - so I wouldn't boil them too long before baking.

      Hope that helps!

      Delete
    2. Oh - and the Kroger in Springboro carries the rice lasagna noodles, but not the one in Centerville. The Health Food store carries them as well.

      Delete
  3. This is a great lasagna. Linds made a week ago. I would eat again.
    -the grumbling husband

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. James this is slightly different than the one Linds made - but I think she said she's gonna try this version next week! I hope you like it - Tory LOVED it!

      Delete
  4. This lasagna looks delish and we love spinach! Why don't you put together a vegan cookbook? You seem to have a lot of recipes of your own and the one's from others are often "tweaked"......your photos are wonderful too!

    I suppose you could serve this dish with a tossed salad and/or Italian bread!

    ReplyDelete
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  6. Okay, my hubby is going to make this for me for Mother's day. I will let you know how it turns out. It looks fantastic and I can not wait to try it. Thanks for the recipe. :-)

    ReplyDelete