Tag Archives: food

Vegan Lasagna with Tofu Ricotta

Well, Valentines Day is tomorrow.  You know, when someone puts their time and energy into making a homemade meal, there is nothing that could be better or more loving, at least in my opinion. I would much rather enjoy a delicious homemade meal for Valentines Day in the privacy of my own home than to sit in a crowded restaurant with (often) over-priced food.  Maybe that’s just me, but there is something extremely sexy about a man (or woman) cooking in the kitchen for their loved one.

Valentines Day is also one of those occasions where you may want to consume a small (or large) amount of wine – I would like to use Sir Paul McCartney as my example here, when he sings, “I want to tell her that I love her a lot, but I gotta have a belly full of wine”… well, who wants to stop ole Paul from saying that?! And what better a day than Valentines to say or hear those words ‘i love you’… without also hearing an “Uh oh, my dear – we are being pulled over”!  Yes, Valentines Day is a great opportunity to stay home and have a nice candle-lit home cooked meal… and to indulge a bit 😉

So, one of my favorite meals EVER is lasagna. There is nothing in the world like a good lasagna.  There are many things to love about lasagna.  I love how versatile lasagna is.  I love how yummy it is.  I love how you have leftovers.  I love that my kids love it.  I love how you can basically make it out of whatever veggies you have in the fridge.

When I make lasagna, I usually stick to the basics… onion, spinach, mushrooms, zucchini and yellow squash.  Combine those with some noodles, a good sauce (homemade is best, but sometimes you gotta go with the jar), and a good ricotta recipe and you will find yourself content.  Make that very content.

Now I would like to share with you my delicious homemade ricotta recipe.  It is SO easy, and SO good, you better just prepare yourself!

~ TOFU RICOTTA ~

This is my original delicious tofu ricotta recipe.  This is enough for one lasagna. Simply blend until desired consistency in the food processor – be sure to pulse in the basil last so your ricotta wont turn green!

  • 1 block extra firm tofu (drained)
  • 1/2 – 1 cup soymilk
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 cup Vegan Gourmet mozzarella cheese, shredded (you will need one entire block to have enough to shred some on top)
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • salt & pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil (pulse in last)

ricotta necessities (minus basil and tofu)

blending up the ricotta in my food processor

Heres how much basil I used - please note that this amount of basil is for two lasagnas.

TO MAKE (ONE) LASAGNA:

You will need:

  • at least one jar of sauce
  • lasagna noodles (1-2 boxes)
  • veggies of choice (my last lasagna contained: 1 onion/ 1 cup chopped mushrooms/ 2 zucchini & 1 squash, quartered/ 2 cups packed spinach).

Start by cooking your lasagna noodles al dente.  I like to saute my veggies about 5 minutes to soften them up, then I just stir them right into my ricotta to save a step for easy lasagna stacking. Assemble lasagna as shown below in a 13 x 9″ pan and bake for an hour, covered, at 350.  Sometimes I like to broil it uncovered for 2-3 minutes at the end, just to get the top cheese meltier.

(That last step of broiling is unnecessary if you use Daiya cheese, though I LOVE the flavor of the Vegan Gourmet so much, I have actually never tried to make lasagna using Daiya, though I bet it would be just as fabulous. You maybe would need two bags though, since it comes pre-shredded.)

  • shredded cheese on top
  • sauce
  • noodles
  • sauce
  • ricotta/veggies
  • noodles
  • sauce
  • ricotta/veggies
  • noodles
  • layer of sauce on bottom of pan

These are my favorite noodles

dont forget to wash your veggies!

I like to lightly saute all the veggies

Here I am, building up the layers...

Here is one of them about to go in the oven... I would've liked to have a bit more cheese on top but I ran out!

Voila! This slice for my daughter came out beautifully!

I like to eat mine with some good buttered bread on the side! You gotta have bread to wipe up all that extra yummy sauce and ricotta that falls out!

Our family was part of a “food tree” where we signed up to bring a home cooked meal to a friend who just had a baby, hence the two lasagnas.  If you ever have the opportunity to participate in one, sign up!  It feels so good to help people! And you parents (especially you new parents) know how good a nice meal can be when you don’t have to throw it together yourself while the baby is napping!  (And just so you know, they said the lasagna we brought them was “the bomb”!)

Rita’s Vegan Chili

So… Did you know that October is Vegetarian Awareness Month? October 1st is actually World Vegetarian DAY – and of coarse, since we’re talking vegetarian (& since eggs, dairy & cheese is included in the vegetarian diet) there’s NO excuses to not do your part for the Earth by saying no to meat for ONE day! YOU CAN DO IT!!  Hopefully you will want to shoot for all 30 nights of meat-less meals (or more)!!

I have been wanting to share this recipe for a while, which is (like all of my recipes) 100% vegan.  I have had many rave reviews on my vegan chili and I hope I can add yours to my comments below!  Did I mention that my kids really love it too?!  They usually arent crazy about spicy stuff, but they make an exception for this mildly spicy delicious chili!

I like using Lightlife Smart Ground in my chili, but there are many different kinds of vegetarian crumbles you can find in the grocery store! Look in the freezer section if you can’t find it by the tofu. (Boca makes frozen crumbles but they may contain eggs if I recall correctly…  that is also typical of Morningstar Farms varieties.  (Unless you are vegetarian, look for the vegan symbol on the box.)  Get one or two boxes depending on how “meaty” you like your chili!

Mmmm! There's nothing like some good homemade chili!!

~Rita’s Vegan Chili~

First, crumble and brown the “meat” in a non-stick pan in a little olive oil. (I don’t even know if this step is really necessary, but for some reason, I always felt weird about just dumping it into the pot… but since there’s no chance of e-coli or anything, you could honestly probably just do that & save a step if you wanted!)

  • 2 packs of Lightlife smart ground (or “mock-crumbles” of choice)

Saute everything in a little olive oil and combine it with the “meat” in a large stockpot – or the biggest pot you have!

  • 1 large green pepper, chopped
  • 1 large red pepper, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

Stir in all other ingredients and cook until heated through!

  • 2 (15 oz) cans black beans, rinsed & drained
  • 2 (15 oz) cans red kidney beans, rinsed & drained
  • 1 (15 oz) can white kidney beans, rinsed & drained (or you bump it up to 3 cans of red kidney beans)
  • 1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
  • 1 (28 oz) can fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 Tbsp cumin
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 3 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1/2 Tbsp each oregano, basil
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 Tbsp raw sugar

Cover and simmer.  The longer it cooks together, the better the flavor!  Top with soy cheese & vegan sour cream if desired! Serve with crackers or cornbread (my personal fave)!  This chili also freezes great!

OPTIONAL: You can even add 1/2 cup – 3/4 cup each chopped carrot, celery, or corn to the mix to throw in some more veggies, but allow some extra cooking time to soften those carrots!

Best Banana Bread

I dont know about your kids, but my kids LOVE banana bread!  This is THE perfect way to use those bananas that are turning brown! The riper the bananas the sweeter the bread! If you are looking for a quick healthy take along snack, this bread is the one! If you are looking for something to bring to a get together, this bread is sure to please both kids and adults! (Want another reason to love it? It freezes well!)

This recipe took shape as I was looking for a way to make a really nice moist bread… I decided to try using silken tofu, which gave it the nice fluffy moist texture I was going for and also some protein! 🙂 And by adding a handful (or more) of chopped walnuts, you also get some of your omega-3’s for the day! Mmmmm! Can I please have some more?!

Banana Bread (makes one regular sized loaf)

Mix in a bowl:

  • 1 3/4 cup bread flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (set aside to fold in last)

Blend in food processor:

  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 5 Tbsp soymilk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • about 1/2 block firm or xtra firm silken tofu (*see note about silken tofu) … I usually use slightly more than 1/2 the block
  • 2/3 cup raw sugar
  • 1/4 cup canola oil

Preheat oven to 350 F. Pour wet ingredients into center of dry ingredients and stir until just mixed. You dont want to overmix nor do you want a pocket of flour hiding in there, so mix it until you feel good about it. (No whisking allowed!) Fold in the walnuts and pour the batter into a lightly oiled (or sprayed with non-stick spray) 9″ loaf pan. Bake 45-55 minutes until golden brown. Let it cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes and then place on wire rack to cool some more.

*I like to use the Mori-Nu Silken tofu. It is in a vacumm sealed box that can be kept at room temperature so it wont be found with the refrigerated tofu. They store it in the aisle with the asian foods at my local health food store. There are different kinds (soft, firm, extra firm) and for this bread I like either firm or xtra firm. In your average grocery store it will most likely be found in the “health” section.

I have never tried this recipe with all purpose flour, so give it a shot if you dare, though I strongly recommend following my recipe for the best results. I really like the texture and nutritional content of the bread flour (the kind I get is in bulk and is labeled “unbleached bread flour” and has a slightly brown speckled coloring to it). This is not pure whole wheat bread flour, which is much heavier & grainier. Regular bread flour should be available at all grocery stores.

Roasted Vegetable Stew

Cooler weather is fast approaching and so begins the start of the season’s wonderfully delicious fall harvest!  There is nothing more inviting than walking into your home on a chilly day and smelling an amazing soup simmering on your stove top!  Roasting vegetables is a great way to enjoy fresh seasonal produce in an easy way and at the same time make your house smell AMAZING!

This simple stew brings the flavors of sweet potato, butternut squash, carrots, and eggplant together into one giant bowl of nutritious delicious LOVE! Even though this recipe contains neither meat or potatoes, I decided it was more of a stew than a soup because it is thick, hearty & filling!  I personally think it pairs wonderfully with a grilled cheese sandwich! Mmmm!

Note: I realized after making this soup that I forgot to add the garlic!  Ideally, I would have like to have added 2-3 cloves in with the roasted vegetables, so I included that in the recipe below. This only took me an hour and 20 minutes from start to finish (including baking time)! I also used 4 japanese eggplants instead of 1 big eggplant – either works beautifully! (Japanese eggplants are long and skinny as opposed to the pear-shaped traditional eggplant.)

~ Roasted Vegetable Stew ~

  • 1 large onion, peeled and quartered
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled
  • 5-6 good-sized carrots, peeled (about 1 lb)
  • 1 butternut squash, halved and de-seeded
  • 1 eggplant, peeled
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tsp dry parsley (opt)
  • 2-3 Tbsp olive oil for roasting
  • fresh parsley or cilantro for garnish (opt)

Here are the veggies getting ready to be roasted!

Preheat oven to 425 F.  Cube all the vegetables (except the butternut squash) to roughly 1″ chunks. Put them all on a large baking sheet and drizzle generously with olive oil, & a little salt and pepper & mix around.  Place the butternut squash (flat sides down) on a separate oiled baking sheet (I like to put mine on a sheet of oiled tin foil).  Cook vegetables until soft, about 30-35 minutes but leave the butternut squash in the oven an extra 15 minutes.   (I put the veggies on the top rack and the squash on the bottom rack of the oven.) .  Once the butternut squash is done, set it aside to let it cool slightly.

After roasting... don't sneak too many bites! You'll need them for the stew!

Once the butternut squash is cool enough to handle, scrape it out of the shell and puree.  Pulse/puree the roasted vegetables with the broth in batches in your food processor.  Combine it all together in a large stock pot and add parsley, salt & pepper to taste. Continue to simmer until ready to serve and garnish with fresh herbs if desired. Enjoy!

This stew is great with bread... and it's even better with a grilled cheese on the side for dipping!

Thai Carrot Soup

Ahhh… I love Fall… and my family loves this amazing soup! This is one of my favorite recipes.  It is wonderful as a starter or as a meal on its own.  It is perfect for this time of year because its healthy ingredients (esp. the fresh ginger & garlic) help prepare our bodies for colder temperatures and flu season.

Another wonderful thing about this soup is that it freezes well – my husband always teases me about my obsession of freezing things, but I’m sure many of you other moms know how nice it is when you can defrost something easily that was originally homemade!

While preparing this soup today, my daughter saw the fresh ginger on the counter & said, "What IS that?! It's got FINGERS on it!"

~ Thai Carrot Soup ~

(Since these ingredients will get pulsed in the food processor, you can leave the ingredients chopped kinda chunky, though I would mince up the ginger & garlic to avoid a large chunk in your soup… Also, since it will be blended up, it isn’t necessary to peel the carrots unless you really want to!)

Bring to a boil & simmer until carrots are tender in a large pot (about 20 minutes):

  • 1 small-medium sized red onion, chopped
  • nice big handful of basil, chopped
  • nice big handful of cilantro, chopped
  • 8 chopped carrots (between 4  1/2 – 5 cups, sliced into 1/4″ rounds)
  • 3 Tbsp fresh ginger, chopped/minced (I think the fastest way to peel fresh ginger is to scrape off the peel with a spoon)
  • 3 Tbsp fresh garlic, chopped/minced
  • 5 cups vegetable broth

Process/pulse in small batches in food processor until smooth (or as chunky) as you prefer! This part can get a little messy! Return to pot and add the remaining ingredients.

  • juice of 2 limes (you must use fresh limes – do not use lime juice in a jar!)
  • 1 can regular coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce (I usually use a low-sodium kind)
  • 3 Tbsp brown sugar

Simmer on low-medium to let flavors blend together for several more minutes (don’t let it boil) until ready to serve!

(Though I always blend mine up, I’ve always wondered how this soup would be without doing that!  I think it would still be just as good! If you try it that way, let me know how it is!)

My 3 1/2 year old loves to eat this thai carrot soup!

THIS SOUP CONTAINS… (aka a little health lesson)

The health benefits of carrots include reduced cholesterol, prevention from heart attacks, warding off certain cancers, improving eyesight & more. Most of the benefits of carrots can be attributed to its beta carotene & fiber. It is also a good source of antioxidant agents as well. Carrots are rich in vitamins A, C, K & potassium!

Ginger does many amazing things for the body… It relieves morning & motion sickness, has anti inflammatory properties, is a natural painkiller, provides heartburn relief, helps upset stomachs and is a natural treatment for colds & flu.  It has also been found to help with menstrual cramps, migraines, allergies, coughs, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, toothaches & warts! Its newest findings show that it helps fight colon & ovarian cancer cells as well! I’d certainly call that a super-food!

After my 19 month old finished his, he tried to eat the rest of his sister’s bowl too!

Garlic is one of the most amazing things you can put in your body… It can be used to treat high cholesterol, parasites, respiratory problems, digestion & low energy… Studies suggest eating garlic regularly helps lower blood pressure, controls blood sugar, blood cholesterol & boosts the immune system.  It has also been found to reduce the risk of esophageal, stomach & colon cancer! WOW!