What a great day! Zander and I had a really nice Skype video chat with our friends — Anja, Thomas, and Lea — this morning, followed by fresh-baked pumpkin cranberry muffins for breakfast. This afternoon, Zander went for a long walk outside with his daddy while I did my Fit Moms For Life weight training DVD. Each month, there is a new workout, and this month’s workout is seriously kicking my butt, in a good way. I feel tired, but highly energized!
Before I hit the shower, it’s time for those recipes and photos I promised from last night’s dinner with Heather. First comes the vegan lasagna. OK, so I forgot to take a picture before everyone dug into it, and it’s admittedly messy and not very pretty (hey, what do you expect, all of my photos are taken as sort of an after-thought using my iPhone), but trust me, it tasted delicious and everyone went back for seconds!
12 lasagna noodles (I’ve never been able to squeeze in more than 9, but maybe if you had a deeper dish, you could fit in 4 layers, and either way, it’s nice to have the extra 3 noodles on hand, just incase one of them tears during assembly)
4 quarts boiling water
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion (diced)
6-12 cloves garlic (minced) (I love fresh garlic, so I always use a ton)
4 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp dried basil
2 tsp salt
1 (28 oz) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
1 (28 oz) can tomato puree
3 cups portabello mushrooms (diced)
10 oz fresh baby spinach (optional)
(you could also mix in some vegan ground “beef” to make a heartier sauce, if you’re so inclined)
Herbed Macadamia Ricotta:
1½ cups macadamia nuts, soaked in water for 4+ hours
½ cup water
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic (minced)
¾ tsp salt
1 cup fresh basil leaves (chopped)
1 cup black olives (coarsely chopped)
Cashew Cheese Sauce:
1 cup raw cashews
½ cup water
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp salt
Pre-heat oven to 350°F.
Pasta: Place noodles in a 9×12-inch baking dish (or on deep-sided cookie sheets) and cover with boiling water and a drizzle of olive oil. Let sit about 15-20 minutes until al dente. Drain and set aside. (I absolutely love this new approach to cooking lasagna noodles, as they always stuck together and/or fell apart on me before, when I tried to cook them in a pot. Thank you, Allison Rivers Samson!!! You have changed my life forever!)
Marinara sauce: In a large saucepan (I always prefer to use cast iron) over medium heat, sauté the onion and garlic in olive oil until translucent, stirring frequently. Stir in the oregano, basil, and salt. Then add the mushrooms, tomatoes, and tomato puree (plus veggie “beef,” if using) and cover, simmering for about 20 minutes and stirring occasionally. Add the spinach, cover, and simmer for another 10-15 minutes.
Cashew Cheese Sauce: In a DRY blender (and I cannot emphasize enough here how much I love my Vitamix), grind the cashews into a fine powder. Add water, lemon juice, and salt. Process until completely smooth and transfer to a bowl until it’s time to assemble.
Herbed Macadamia Ricotta: In food processor or blender, puree the macadamia nuts, water, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, and salt for about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of your blender and puree for another minute or so, until light and fluffy. Transfer to a separate bowl and fold in the fresh basil and olives.
Assembly: Lightly cover the bottom of a 9×12-inch baking dish (or a 3-sectioned dish like the one I used in the photo above) with enough marinara sauce to prevent the noodles from sticking to the dish. Arrange a layer of noodles and top with marinara sauce. Spread a generous portion of ricotta over the noodles, followed by some cashew cheese sauce. Repeat these layers with your remaining ingredients. I sometimes like to make a double batch of the ricotta because it tastes so divine, but I should caution that it is incredibly rich, so a double-batch is NOT for everyone…
Optional: Once fully assembled, sprinkle Daiya vegan mozzarella cheese all over the top.
Bake: Cover with aluminum foil (sprayed lightly with olive oil so it won’t stick to the “cheese”), and place the baking dish onto a sheet pan in the oven to catch any drips. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for another 20 minutes or so, until the sauce and “cheese” bubble. Cool for 15 minutes (if you can wait that long) and serve, preferably with a thick slice of homemade garlic bread and a good glass of wine. Enjoy!
CREDIT: My version of this dish is adapted from Allison Rivers Samson’s outstanding recipe featured in the Nov/Dec 2011 issue of Veg News.
Now for the dessert course.
Miraculously, even after eating the lasagna, we all had room for some sticky toffee pudding, topped with Almond Dream Praline Crunch. I should mention that I had never eaten (or even heard of) sticky toffee pudding before I became a vegan, and once I did hear of it, it sounded so good that I became semi-obsessed with finding a vegan version. As it turns out, this dessert is not a pudding at all, but rather a dense cake made from dates that is covered in an absurdly rich and decadent sticky toffee sauce. Below is the recipe.
STICKY TOFFEE PUDDING
2 cups dates, whole (preferably fresh Medjool dates)
2 cups water
3 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
½ cup vegan margarine (room temperature) (I used Earth Balance buttery sticks)
¼ cup soymilk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
2½ cups dark brown sugar
1 cup vegan margarine (I used Earth Balance buttery sticks)
1 cup vegan soy creamer (I’ve used both Silk Original Soy Creamer and MimicCreme, and both have turned out wonderfully)
½ tsp vanilla extract (omit if using vanilla-flavored soy creamer)
Preheat oven to 350°F and thoroughly butter twelve 6 oz. ramekins (I used jumbo-sized muffin tins).
Cakes: Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a medium pot. Add dates, and boil for 5 minutes. Strain liquid—but do not throw it out! Keep it to combine with the dates once they have been peeled.
Put the dates into a bowl of cold water. Working in the water, remove the skins and pits. Then put the dates back into the water used to boil them and puree in a blender (again, I have to sing the praises of my trusty Vitamix).
Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.
In a separate large bowl, combine the confectioner’s sugar and butter, and beat with a wooden spoon until fluffy. Beat in the soymilk and vinegar, then stir in pureed date mixture and mix until smooth.
Pour batter into prepared ramekins/muffin tins.
Bake for 18-20 minutes, until cake is light brown and a toothpick comes out clean.
Sauce: Combine the brown sugar, butter, and soy creamer in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil, stirring often. Remove from heat, and let cool slightly.
Assembly: Poke holes in the top of each cake using a fork, and pour half of the sauce over the top, allowing it to soak into the cake. Keep the remaining sauce hot, and spoon it over the warm cakes just before eating. (Best served warm).
Optional: Add a dallop of vegan ice cream and/or whipped cream just before serving.