Berry Avocado Smoothie

Smoothies are easy and delicious, but for me they are rarely satisfying as a meal.  I have a vegan protein powder that I like a lot (Arbonne), but I need to pack a lot of yumminess into a smoothie to make up for the no-chewing thing.  This smoothie is loaded with healthy, tasty ingredients.  The avocado is what puts it over the top!  Putting avocado in your smoothie may sound strange, but I promise you won’t feel like you’re drinking guacamole.  The avocado gives the smoothie a creaminess that I haven’t experienced with any other ingredients.

The other components of this smoothie are berries, kale, non-dairy milk, walnuts, dates, and a small amount of protein powder.  I like to use frozen berries and frozen kale to make the smoothie extra cold. Kale is so big and crazy that it takes over my refrigerator, so I like to freeze it. I just got this tip a few months back and it has changed my kale life. I buy the big bunches of kale from the grocery store, then wash, chop, and freeze it in quart sized freezer bags.   Dates add some extra sweetness that I love, but feel free to leave them out or replace them with a tablespoon of pure maple syrup or honey.  Today I used coconut milk (because I made some recently), but I usually use almond milk.  On a whim I decided to throw in some walnuts; once upon a time, I did not like nuts.  Foolishness! Nuts have protein, vitamin E, and zinc (amounts vary according to each type of nut).  Some, like almonds, even have calcium.  Walnuts have more omega-3 than any other nut.

This is not a low calorie smoothie.  I don’t count calories anymore, so I can’t say exactly how many it has. Because I drink this as a meal, I don’t want it to be low in calories.  I have a lot to do.  I need the energy to get it all done!  All of the ingredients are whole, natural foods; my body loves me when I make these!

You can use this recipe as written, or just use it as a guideline to make a smoothie that is perfect for you.  Just try the avocado at least once! You’ll love it.

BerryAvocadoSmoothie

Berry Avocado Smoothie

  • 1 cup non-dairy milk of choice
  • 1/4-1/2 avocado (depending on your calorie needs/wants)
  • 3/4 cup frozen berries
  • 2 pitted dates (soak them for 10 minutes in warm water to soften)
  • 1-1.5 cups frozen kale
  • 2 tablespoons walnuts
  • 1/2 scoop vanilla protein powder (optional)

Put everything in a blender.  Blend until smooth!

If you have a low-powered blender you may need to stop blending a couple of times to shake things around or poke the ingredients down to the blade.   I have a pretty good blender and I still have to do this sometimes (one day, Vitamix, one day….).  It might even work better for you if you use a more tender green than kale, like spinach.  Or you could use baby kale.

 

Magical Chia Seed Jam

SUMMER!  Most teachers graduate with their teaching license and immediately get a regular teaching job. And then that’s it.  Many teachers keep that job forever or maybe switch schools once or twice during their entire careers.  I, on the other hand, took a more roundabout path after graduating.  I was a nanny for awhile, then I was at an awful school for a semester, then I worked at a tutoring center, and then I taught at a year-round military school for two years before moving to my current school.  So even though I am about to start my fourth year of teaching, this is my first actual teacher summer.  I must say, it is glorious.  I am getting our house cleaned up and ready to sell, I get to work out when I want to, I get to keep my beautiful niece, and I can research things for school without feeling like it is taking over my life.  I also have time to browse the grocery store (one of my favorite activities) and cook most meals.  It’s so much fun!

This is  my favorite breakfast right now.  I get stuck on foods easily; when I really like something I can happily eat it several times a week.  I know that I need to take advantage of it now, because once school starts I’ll be back to eating breakfasts that take 5 minutes or less to prepare.

This is what my Extra Time Breakfast consists of: 2 slices of Ezekiel bread, toasted.  One piece of toast is topped with a scoop of refried beans and 1/4 of an avacado, sliced.  I also shake some hot sauce on the top.  The other piece of toast is topped with Magical Chia Seed Jam.  Today I also had some cherries and some cold citrus green tea with my breakfast.

 

Y’all, this jam is sExtraTimeBreakfasto good.  I use the recipe from the Oh She Glows cookbook I recieved as a birthday present.  It takes about twenty minutes to make, and it is so much better than store-bought jam.  And because it’s vegan, it doesn’t contain gelatin! Most gelatin is animal based.  I find the idea of gelatin repulsive.  In this jam the chia seeds are the thickening agent.

Magical Chia Seed Jam

  • 3 cups fresh or frozen berries (any kind)
  • 3-4 tablespoons pure maple syrup (the real stuff, NOT pancake syrup)
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. In a medium saucepan, mix together the berries and maple syrup.  Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat.  Stir frequently.  Once it’s simmering, lower the heat a little and let it simmer for about 5 minutes.  Mash the berries with a fork to your desired consistency.

2. Stir in the chia seeds and cook, stirring frequently, until the jam has thickened as much as you want it to.  This will take 10-15 minutes.

3. Once it’s all thick and delicious looking, turn off the heat and stir in the vanilla.  Add more syrup if you want it to be sweeter.

When it’s warm it tastes like cobbler filling!  Try not to shovel it all into your mouth while hunched over the stove.  Your significant other and/or cats will think you have a problem.

This will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for about 2 weeks.

 

 

Chocolate Chia Pudding

Chocolate Chia Pudding

Being a teacher is hard.  Let’s be real, being anything can be quite difficult some days.  Technically a school day is from 7:30-4:30, but most teachers I know put in many, many hours outside of school in order to be prepared to teach daily.  There were some days this winter that the prospect of going home to cook dinner, clean up, and then face 2-3 hours worth of more work to do was enough to bring me to tears.  Something had to give, and unfortunately my healthy lifestyle took a bit of a hit.  I was only partially prepared for my last marathon.  I did well, but it was difficult because I was not eating, sleeping, or working out how I should.

I’m happy to say that with the onset of Spring my resolve to be healthy has strengthened.  I have had a little more free time, which has allowed me to explore my non-teaching interests again.   I can’t tell you how amazing the effect of having some time for myself is.  I know people who need to be busy all the time to be happy.  I am not one of those people.  When I look at a weekend in my planner and see nothing written on it, I’m giddy. Writing this blog is an exploration of my interests.  I just haven’t had the energy to write, even though I have made dozens of delicious vegan meals during the past few months. After a long time period of dormancy, I’m happy to write a post again!

Here is a cycle that I was caught up in for awhile that I know many of you will recognize:
I come home tired.  Because I’m tired, I don’t want to cook.  I also crave junk food when I’m tired, so we end up getting unhealthy takeout, which in turn makes me more tired.  I wake up not feeling rested, deal with tiredness until after lunch, then eat five pieces of candy like a fiend to get myself through the afternoon.  Once my blood sugar crashes from the candy, I am once again too tired to make dinner and the cycle of not feeling my best begins all over again.

So I decided to break the cycle.  I began a detox starting May 1. I’ve been calling it a detox, but I don’t think it would actually be considered a detox by any standard definition.  I made my own restrictions and I’m not following any plan that has been set up by a company or organization.  I’m also eating out.  Many detox plans discourage eating out because of all the added sodium and calories, which is completely understandable and generally a great idea.  But this detox isn’t just about changing how I look, and my diet wasn’t crazy in the first place.  I decided to continue eating out so that I can retain some normalcy in my routine and work to find places to eat that can accommodate my eating principles.  I’m finding food that meets my restrictions without much trouble.   Eating this way has really helped me get away from processed sugar.  I also feel much happier knowing that I am not contributing to unethical animal treatment  by buying and consuming animal products (minus the exception explained below).   I feel like I am detoxing a lot of negative energy from my life.

Here are my restrictions:

No meat

No dairy*

No refined sugars or artificial sweeteners*

No alcohol

I am eating some eggs, so there is a caveat to the no dairy rule. I am eating eggs if they are what I call Happy Chicken Eggs.  These are eggs that come from, you guessed it, happy chickens.  My father in law has three chickens, so we are lucky to get fresh eggs from him.
I am using honey and agave nectar sparingly.  Honey and eggs are what keep this from being a strictly vegan diet, but these are allowances that I feel good about.  For the first week I avoided gluten as well.  The plan was to avoid gluten during the whole process, but I just can’t bring myself to care about gluten.  I feel like I would have obvious complications by now that would have convinced me to give it up already.  I could be wrong, though. I’m wrong a lot.  But my week without gluten didn’t feel any different from the subsequent weeks with it, so whatever.  Show me the gluten!

Some people might ask, “Well what the heck are you eating then?”  Lots of things! Vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and healthy oils.  So much deliciousness can be made with these ingredients.  And I feel so much better already.  The processed sugar was killing my energy level and my mood.  I still love sweet things, though, so I want to share a dessert recipe with you that I’ve made a few times lately.  In fact, I had this dessert for dinner last weekend!  I got the recipe from Oh She Glows.  If you haven’t looked at this blog, you definitely should!  Angela also just put out a cookbook.  I really want it!  She takes beautiful pictures of her food, which is not always an easy feat.

Chocolate Chia PuddingChocolate Chia Pudding

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 4 large almond milk ice cubes (freeze these ahead of time)
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 5-6 pitted Medjool dates (Soak them in hot water for 15 minutes if they are super firm. Drain well.)
  • 2.5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (or more if you want)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • pinch fine grain sea salt (brings out the chocolateyness)

This recipe makes 2 servings. Good luck sharing!

Directions:

  1. Put everything in a blender.
  2. Using the highest speed, blend the mixture until it is very smooth.
  3. Eat immediately or put it in the fridge for a little while to allow it to thicken more.

I have a good blender, but it still doesn’t completely break down the chia seeds; this is okay because I really like chia seeds whole in this recipe.  It gives the dessert an interesting texture.

 

Barley and Kale Salad

Barley and Kale Salad

Barley! Barley is one of the many healthy, delicious whole grains I like to throw into salads or stews. It takes a little while to cook, but I like to cook a big batch of it and use it in various recipes throughout the week. This week I used it for this salad at dinner, then I made a breakfast dish with the extra for a few days in a row by mixing it with almond milk, raisins, walnuts, and a tiny bit of honey.

Everyone knows kale is healthy, but it can be a hard sell. It is one of the stronger tasting greens, and it has a very tough texture in comparison to the more easily palatable spinach. Something to note, however, is that when I get kale from my dad’s garden it is smaller and much more tender than the kale I buy in the grocery store. This recipe calls for blanching the kale, which makes it more tender and less overpowering. Enjoy this salad as a side dish, or throw in some protein to make it a one-bowl meal.

This recipe is adapted from a dish in Vegan Cooking for Carnivores.

 Salad

1 ½ cups organic dried barley

4 cups water

2 bunches kale, washed, stemmed, and roughly chopped                                         Barley and Kale Salad

1 bunch scallions, green parts only, thinly sliced

salt and pepper

Dressing

1/3 cup raspberry balsamic vinegar (I got mine from an oil and vinegar store. I love vinegars, and this one is far superior to the balsamic vinegars I buy from Kroger.)

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

¼ cup olive oil

¼ red onion, minced (not chopped, minced)

Salt and pepper

Rinse the barley in cold water. In a large soup pot with a tight-fitting lit, bring the water and barley to a boil, cover, and reduce the heat to low. Cook the barley until soft but not mushy, about 25 minutes. Drain the barley and spread it out evenly on a baking sheet or large plate and refrigerate. (For my salad, this was too much barley. I refrigerated the extra and used it later.)

While the barley simmers, prepare the kale. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Working in batches, blanch the kale for 1-2 minutes and place it on a paper-towel lined kitchen towel, or spin it dry in a salad spinner. Make sure it is as dry as you can get it so your salad isn’t watery. Refrigerate the kale until cold.

For the dressing, whisk all the ingredients together. This ratio of ingredients worked for me, but you should taste your dressing after mixing it up and decide if you want a little more of anything.

In a large bowl, toss the cold barley, cooled kale, scallions, and dressing together. Season with salt and pepper and serve. This salad is good the next day as well.

Squash and Bean Balls

Italian Bean Balls with Spaghetti Squash

I made this recipe from Oh She Glows a few days ago, and we just loved it!  Spaghetti squash is a mild, tasty squash. After roasting it, the flesh scrapes out easily and forms a cool noodley shape.  I have made spaghetti squash cakes before, but using the squash as a replacement for noodles is my favorite way to eat it.  Replacing less healthy foods with similar, more nutritionally sound foods is the best way to ease yourself into veganism or any healthier lifestyle.  I am a huge proponent of tweaking all your favorite foods to make them better for you, but I also think that stepping out of your comfort zone to try something totally different is necessary once in awhile.

Using spaghetti squash instead of noodles may seem super weird, but if you never try it you will never know how you really feel about it.  It is important to note, however, that spaghetti squash is a squash.  It does not taste like a noodle.  It has a crunchier consistency and a vegetabley flavor (though it is very mild!).  When you replace foods, it is imperative that you judge them on their own merit.  Spaghetti squash will not taste just like noodles, and bean balls will not taste like meat balls.  But they are not meant to taste like those things! They have their own beautiful, delicious flavors that should be appreciated in their own right.

Speaking of replacements, in most “ball” recipes an egg is used to bind the ingredients together.  In this recipe, a “flax egg” is used.  A flax egg is when you mix ground flax seed with water and let it sit for a few seconds.  It thickens up and can then be used as the binding agent in the recipe.  So cool! Chia seeds can be used in this way as well.  Flax and chia are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids, and chia seed is a complete protein.  Not only do chia seeds make crazy pet plants, but they are yummy and healthy too! Chia seeds were definitely voted Best All Around in high school.

I know I will be making this recipe again.  Extra bean balls can be frozen (make sure you let them cool all the way down first).

How to roast the squash

1. Pre-heat the oven to 375.  If the squash is super big, slice off the stem so you can have a flat base.  Then, slice it in half lengthwise.  Be careful!  This can be tough, so if you HAVE to you can roast it whole.  Just puncture some holes in it.  It cooks much more quickly when it is halved, though.

2. Scoop out the seeds and guts.

3. Brush both halves with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

4. Roast the squash for 35-45 minutes.  Check by sticking a fork into the squash. If it goes in and out easily, it’s done.

5. Let it cool for 5-10 minutes.  With a fork, scrape the flesh out into a bowl.  You should have a yummy, steaming pile of squash noodles.

Bean Balls

  • 1/2-3/4 cup walnuts, finely chopped and toasted (optional, but very yummy.  You could also use sunflower seeds.)
  • 3/4 cup rolled oats, processed into a coarse flour (just swirl them in the blender or food processor for 10-15 seconds)
  • 1 cup shredded carrot
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 2-3 tablespoons finely chopped oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes (about 2 large)   Bean balls
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons ground flax + 3 tbsp water, mixed
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt, or to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Toast the walnuts for 7-9 minutes until fragrant and golden.
  2. Meanwhile, add the oats into the food processor and process until the texture resembles a coarse flour.
  3. Add the grated carrot, chopped parsley, basil, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, walnuts, and oat flour into a large bowl. Stir to combine.
  4. Add the drained and rinsed beans into the food processor and process until finely chopped.  The mixture should be a sort of lumpy paste.  Some beans should still be intact, so don’t puree completely.
  5. In a mug or small bowl, whisk together the ground flax and water. Let it sit for only 15-20 seconds, any longer and it will get too thick. Stir into the vegetable bean mixture until fully combined.
  6. Stir the oil, oregano, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes  into the bowl, adjusting amounts to taste if necessary.
  7. Shape the mixture into 18-20 balls (the size of golf-balls). Place each ball onto the prepared baking sheet an inch or two apart.
  8. Bake for 20 minutes, then gently flip the balls and and bake for another 15-20 minutes until golden on both sides.*
  9. After baking, place balls on a cooling rack for 10 minutes to cool slightly.
  10. Serve with spaghetti squash or pasta and tomato sauce.

*Our oven is gas and runs a little hot, so I didn’t have to cook my balls this long.  Check yours frequently to make sure they do not burn.

Vegetable Stew

It’s been quite awhile since I’ve blogged!  I really enjoy writing about what I cook, but I’m not so great at stopping and taking pictures before and after I cook something.  I just want to cook and then eat, with very little time in between those two activities.  But now I’m back, so here is a delicious vegetable stew recipe!  I adapted this recipe from one I found on The Curvy Carrot.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, minced
  • 1 medium carrot, minced
  • 1 medium stalk celery, minced
  • 1/2 onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 large portobello mushroom caps, roughly chopped
  • 10 ounces white mushrooms, stems trimmed and mushrooms roughly chopped    Vegetable Stew
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 and 1/2 cups vegetable stock (add more if needed)
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 115 oz can pureed tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 large carrots (about one pound), chopped
  • 4 medium red or gold potatoes (about 1 and 1/2 pounds), chopped
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch1 tablespoon cold water
  • 1 cup frozen peas or lima beans, thawed
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

 

1.  Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat.

2. Add the minced onion, carrot, and celery, and sauté, stirring frequently, until the vegetables begin to brown, about 10 minutes.  (One of our wedding gifts was a Ninja food chopper, and it makes this step SO quick! It is one of my favorite kitchen tools.)

3.  Add the chopped onion and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes.

4. Add the mushrooms, raise the heat to medium-high, and sauté until the liquid they release has been evaporated, about 10 minutes.

5. Add the garlic, Italian seasoning, and thyme and cook for 30 seconds.

6. Add the wine, scraping up any browned bits stuck to the pot.

7. Cook until the wine is reduced by half, about 2 minutes.

8. Add the stock, salt, tomatoes, bay leaf, carrots, and potatoes, and bring to a boil.

9.  Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the carrots and potatoes are tender, about 35 minutes.

10. Mix the cornstarch and with water to form a smooth paste.

11.  Stir the paste into the stew and cook until the liquid thickens, 1 to 2 minutes.

12.  Turn off the heat, stir in the peas, cover, and let stand until the peas are hot, 3 to 4 minutes.

13. Stir in the balsamic vinegar, discard the bay leaf, and adjust the seasonings.  To make the stew a little thicker, blend a portion of it (1-1.5 cups) and then add it back into the stew.  Another awesome kitchen tool I have is an immersion blender.  I can just stick it in the pot and blend it up for a second instead of having to remove anything.

Serve the stew with some chewy bread.

Make-ahead lunch: Wheat berry Salad

This is a delicious salad that you can prep on Sunday to have for lunch all week.  Eating the same breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday is something that definitely keeps me sane and on track.  I love finding new recipes to eat for the week, and getting them all prepped on the weekend is a must–if something is waiting on me at lunchtime, I am much less likely to run to the convenience store for a bag of Doritos.

*This recipe can be changed to suit your taste! Don’t have wheat berries lying around (and who does, really)? Use brown rice.  Don’t like one of the veggies listed? Just sub something else.  Romaine + a whole grain + veggies in dressing = easy, healthy, filling.

Veggie MixtureThis recipe should make 5 good-sized servings.

  • one large cucumber, chopped
  • one red bell pepper, chopped
  • 3-4 green onions, chopped
  • one can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1-1.5 cups cooked wheat berries (or brown rice or quinoa)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (or another fresh herb, such as basil or cilantro)
  • chopped romaine
  • salt and pepper

For the dressing:

  • juice of one lemon
  • 1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 finely minced garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Combine the cucumber, red bell pepper, green onions, and chickpeas.  Sprinkle the mixture with just a little salt and pepper and combine; set aside.  Mix all dressing ingredients together in a jar and shake, or just whisk it all together in a bowl.  At this point, taste your dressing! You can add more of just about anything you want, such as: a teaspoon of pure maple syrup or another natural sweetener, more vinegar, red pepper, some fresh herbs. Now pour your dressing on the cucumber/bell pepper mixture and combine.  (You can leave the dressing separate if you’d rather, but I like my vegetables to marinate in the dressing.)

Wheatberry SaladSo, you should have a container of veggies with dressing, a bowl or plastic bag of chopped romaine, and a container of wheat berries.  I take all these containers to work to leave in the fridge, then I just assemble my salad at work.  You might do it differently, but I do not advise mixing your dressed vegetables with your romaine until it’s time to eat.  Soggy lettuce is gross.

Quesadillas with White Beans, Sun-dried Tomatoes, and Artichokes

This is the second time I’ve made this recipe in two weeks.  It is fast and simple.

Ingredients

  • 2 cloves garlic, finely choppedIMG_7282
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary (or about 1 tsp dried)
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 6 oz artichoke hearts, chopped
  • 1 can cannellini beans, drained, rinsed, and smashed up with a fork
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 (10 inch) flour tortillas (I used whole grain)
  • marinara sauce, for dipping

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add the garlic and rosemary.  Cook, stirring, for about two minutes (don’t burn the garlic).  Add the beans, tomatoes, artichokes, salt, and pepper.  Cook, stirring, until heated through.  Remove from heat.

Quesadilla

Heat a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  You will need to work quickly during this next step. Place a tortilla in the skillet and spread on 1/3 of the bean mixture. Top with another tortilla and press down with a spatula. Turn over when the  bottom is lightly browned, then cook that side until it is lightly browned.  Transfer to a plate and cover with a dish towel to keep warm.  Repeat the process for the other two quesadillas.  Cut into wedges and serve with marinara sauce for dipping.

IMG_7308

Baked Potato with Broccoli and “Cheese” Sauce

This is a very simple, quick recipe that will definitely become a standby at our house.  Tyler commented that this would be a perfect dish for people who have doubts about reducing the amount of meat in their diet.  All the flavors are very familiar, and it is a hearty and filling meal.  I got these recipes from Forks Over Knives: The Cookbook.

Note: This recipe serves four, but if you are cooking for two you can just cook two potatoes and have extra sauce to pour on.  That’s what I did. We like things a little saucy!

“Cheese” SauceBroccoli with "Cheese" Sauce

  • 1 large white onion
  • 1 large red bell pepper
  • 3 tablespoons cashews, toasted (toast in the oven at 350 for about 4 minutes…or, don’t toast them. It’ll be fine.)
  • 1 tablespoon tahini, optional (I didn’t have tahini, so I just used a tablespoon of hummus)
  • 1 cup nutritional yeast
  • Salt to taste

Combine all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth.  You’ll have to scrape down the sides two or three times, but after that the mixture will puree well.  You can add up to 1/2 cup of water if needed to achieve a smooth consistency.

Baked Potatoes

  • 2-4 large russet potatoesBaked Potato with Broccoli Cheese Sauce
  • 1 batch “cheese” sauce (recipe above)
  • 2 cups broccoli florets

Preheat the oven to 350.  Poke the potatoes with a fork a few times.  Place them on a baking sheet and bake for 60-75 minutes.  If you want this to be a quicker recipe, you can bake your potatoes in the microwave. They taste much better from the oven, though. Combine the sauce and the broccoli florets in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until the broccoli is tender–about 8-10 minutes.  Split the baked potatoes and squish with a fork.  Add a little salt and pepper to the plain potatoes.  Spoon the broccoli mixture onto potatoes and enjoy!

 

Vegan Lasagna Slice

Vegan Lasagna

The recipe I have to share with you today is a vegan lasagna.  The most interesting characteristic of the lasagna is the cheese.  Cheese, of course, is not vegan.  I have some store bought vegan cheese that is pretty good, but if I am going to eat something that is supposed to be very cheesy I need something different.   The “cheese” is made from…wait for it…CASHEWS! Now I have seen a few cashew cheese recipes floating around the interwebs, but my usual thought upon seeing a cheese made from nuts was “Why?”  Well, now I know why.  I am doing all I can to at least cook completely vegan, but lasagna without cheese seems so sad.  So I tried the cashew cheese.  Result? Creamy deliciousness. And it really isn’t hard at all. So here are recipes for the cashew cheese and the lasagna.  You could use the cheese for any recipe that a spreadable cheese would be tasty in: pizza, sandwiches, wraps, and casseroles come to mind.

Basil Cashew Cheese (Both recipes are taken from the blog Oh She Glows)

  • 1 cup raw cashews, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes (I soaked mine all day while I was at work to make sure they were soft)
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 lemon, juicedCashew Cheese Ingredients
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup vegetable broth or water (or more as needed)
  • 1.5 cups fresh basil leaves (lightly packed)
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast (this is what gives it a cheesy flavor! I got it at Kroger.)
  • 3/4-1 tsp kosher salt (or to taste) + black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder

Basil Cashew Cheese

Drain and rinse soaked cashews. Put everything in your food processor/blender, then process until smooth.  You will need to stop a couple of times to scrape the ingredients off the side.  This will keep in the fridge for at least 3-4 days, so you can make it ahead of time.

Vegan Lasagna
  • 9 lasagna noodles (May depend on the size of your casserole dish!  You can cook extra just in case.)
  • 1.5-2 jars of pasta sauce (I use Hunt’s brand, the Traditional variety.)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 white onion, chopped
  • 2 small zucchini, chopped
  • 1 cup  mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 large red pepper, chopped
  • 1 large handful spinach
  • Basil Cashew Cheese (from above)
  • Daiya cheese (optional–this is a store-bought vegan cheese that I sprinkled on top)

1. Preheat oven to 400F. In a large skillet, sautee onion and garlic over low-medium heat for 5 minutes. Now add in the rest of the veggies and sautee for another 10-15 minutes. *Season well with salt and pepper so your veggies will be flavorful.

2. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Boil lasagna noodles for 8 minutes, drain, and rinse immediately with cold water. *If you cook your noodles as the package says, they will become mushy after cooking more in the oven.  Undercook them a little. Eight minutes worked great for me.

3. Add 1 cup of pasta sauce on the bottom of your casserole dish. Add a layer of noodles, then layer on about 1/3 of the cashew cheese.  Add about 1/3 of the veggies.  Repeat this layering process (sauce, noodles, cheese, veggies) twice more.  End with another layer of sauce and sprinkle with Daiya cheese if you are using it.  *For me, it was easier to lay the noodles out and spread the cheese on them before layering them in the pan.  Once they were in the pan, it was a little too slippery to get the cheese spread all over the noodle.

4. Cover with foil and prick with fork a few times. Bake at 400F for 40-45 minutes.  Then, if you want, remove the foil and broil for 5 minutes on medium. Watch closely so you don’t burn the edges. Remove and let cool for about 10 minutes.  This makes great leftovers!

Something important to remember when buying packaged foods is looking at the ingredients list, especially if you do not want to eat animal products.   When I went to buy pasta sauce at the grocery store, I originally picked up a jar of the regular Ragu brand because it was on sale and I had a coupon.  I looked at the ingredients and saw that cheese was listed as an ingredient! And this is just the traditional variety, not the type that is supposed to be cheesy.  Also, it had quite a bit of sugar.  I went back to my old standby, Hunt’s Traditional.  It’s yummy, there are no animal products sneaking around, it is low in sugar, AND it is pretty much always on sale for a dollar. Win.

Vegan Lasagna Slice