"cheesy" lasagna

No matter how many times I read Slaughterhouse by Gail Eisnitz, watch a PETA video, Google factory farming, or dive into the ever growing resources on animal rights, health, and environmentalism, I still have this embarrassing and insatiable craving for cheese! In their book Vegan Freak, Bob & Jenna Torres attribute this common vegan feeling to the opiate-like casomorphins in cow's milk, which could actually make cheese addictive. Whatever the reason for my cravings, I can't let go of the hope to emulate the taste, texture, and meltiness of this little dairy devil.

So for my version of this classic Italian comfort food, the lasagna layers are loaded with Tofu "Ricotta," Vegan "Cheese," and a nutty pesto filling made with Vegan "Parmesan." To balance out the (non)dairy overload, this dish is also packed with nutrient and fiber-rich green veggies. Don't let those casomorphins get the best of you! The cheesiness of this lasagna will really hit the spot without bending your morals. "Cheesy" Lasagna

9 Whole Wheat Lasagna Noodles
1 cup Vegan “Cheese” (I like Follow Your Heart Mozzarella)
handful Mushrooms**
1 Zucchini, sliced
2 generous handfuls of Spinach
1 crown Broccoli, chopped
2 cloves Garlic, minced
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
**Any variety of mushrooms will work, but remember that plain old white button mushrooms are super rich in dietary fiber like chitin, which lowers cholesterol, and beta-glucan, which stimulates T-cell production and boosts your immune system. White buttons are also rich in protein and unsaturated fatty acids.

Pesto Filling

3 cups fresh Basil
4 cloves Garlic, minced
6 Tbsp Pine Nuts
4-6 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
6 Tbsp Vegan Parmesan

Tofu “Ricotta”
14 oz Extra Firm Organic Tofu, crumbled*
4 cloves Garlic, minced
1 ½ Tbsp dried Oregano
dash Sea Salt
dash freshly cracked Pepper
*You’ll want to lightly drain the tofu before you crumble it, but some moisture is necessary for the right consistency.

Set your oven rack in the position second from the top.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Coat a 9”x13” glass baking dish with a thin layer of olive oil.
Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil.
Cook lasagna noodles for 10 minutes (or follow the directions on the package).
While the water is boiling and the pasta is cooking, you should have just the right amount of time to make the Tofu “Ricotta,” the Pesto Filling, and the vegetables.
Blend all ingredients for Tofu “Ricotta” until smooth.
Blend all ingredients for Pesto Filling.
Add additional olive oil if necessary, but be careful keep the pesto creamy, not oily.
Add a Tbsp of oil to a sauté pan and heat to medium.
Sauté mushrooms, zucchini and broccoli until broccoli turns bright green.
Add spinach and continue to cook over medium heat for 1-2 minutes, until the spinach begins to wilt.
Remove vegetables from heat.
When lasagna noodles are done boiling, lay each noodle flat on a towel so they do not stick together.

Putting it All Together
Line the bottom of the oiled pan with 3 noodles.
Spread about ½ of the Tofu “Ricotta” over the noodles.
Top the tofu with about ½ of the Pesto Filling.
Layer half of the vegetables over the pesto.
Sprinkle 1/3 cup of “cheese” over the vegetables.
Top the 2nd layer with the last 3 noodles.
Spread the remaining tofu and pesto over the noodles.
Sprinkle 1/3 cup of “cheese” on top.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes.
Uncover and continue to bake until “cheese” begins to turn golden brown.
Keep an eye on your dish so that the edges of the noodles do not get crispy. The noodles should stay moist for optimal yumminess.

Let the lasagna cool for 5-10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Serves 9...or 2 with a healthy appetite for leftovers.


vegan calzones

Several years ago, before I became a vegan, I worked at a little Italian restaurant where every dish was packed with dairy. At the time, my favorite end of shift meal was always a cheesy, veggie filled calzone. Although I haven’t been back to this restaurant for years now, I still have occasional cravings for my old favorite. Once I discovered Rory Freeman and Kim Barnouin’s recipe for Tofu “Ricotta” from Skinny Bitch in the Kitch, I finally had the perfect “cheesy” filling to create my own vegan version of calzones at home. By making just a few alterations to the Skinny Bitch recipe and adding my favorite vegetables, these Vegan Calzones turned out to taste so similar to the original; I could almost feel my old apron strings around my waist.

Vegan Calzones

16 oz frozen Bread Dough, thawed
shredded Vegan “Cheese” (I like Follow Your Heart Mozzarella)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Veggies of your choice

Tofu “Ricotta”
10 oz Extra Firm Organic Tofu, crumbled*
4 cloves Garlic, minced
1 Tbsp dried Oregano
dash Sea Salt
dash freshly cracked Pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
*You’ll want to lightly drain the tofu before you crumble it, but some moisture is necessary. 10 oz should be about 3/4 of a package.
Blend all ingredients for Tofu Ricotta to a smooth consistency.

Divide bread dough into four equal parts.
Roll each ball of dough into a circle about 8” in diameter.
Spread ¼ of the Tofu Ricotta onto 1 half of each circle.
Load up your favorite vegetable toppings. We used portabella mushrooms, sun dried tomatoes, kalamata olives, roasted red peppers, and artichokes.
Sprinkle a small handful of vegan “cheese” over the vegetables.
Fold the 2nd half of each dough circle over the toppings to create a half moon shape.
Seal the edges of the dough by carefully curling the bottom edge up over the top of the dough and pressing firmly.
Slice a few hash marks into the top of the dough on each calzone.
Lightly brush with olive oil.
Bake for 25 minutes until tops of calzones are golden brown.
Serve with your favorite marinara and fresh basil.

Serves 4.