Sunday, March 09, 2008

Vegan Lasagna: 2 Ways!

Before I get to the food, an update to the Amazon situation. First, that outlandish price is no longer showing, my publisher straightened out that matter with them... but Billy, next time I'll get you on the case! ;) Also, apparently Amazon has had computer troubles, and for some reason more troubles specific to my ed&bv title. We are expecting to see stock showing for ed&bv early this week and orders being shipped.

Now, on to the good stuff!

I've been on a lasagna kick of late. I often get in cycles with recipes and dishes, and I guess February was not just for Valentine's, but also for lasagna!

I think lasagna is one of those dishes that we feel as vegans that we have to "work at" to have it (1) taste great, and (2) hold together for serving! Phooey on that! Lasagna can be easy, and in fact for both of these dishes it became a quick go-to dish for me on busier weekdays. As for it staying together in layers, there are a couple of tricks... but even if it doesn't, do you really care? As I always say "is Martha coming for dinner?"

So, this first version of lasagna is with a 'bechamel sauce'of sorts, except that... here's the jewel... I didn't have to make the sauce!

I received a sample of Mimiccreme to test out, and I really, really liked it. I was immediately intrigued by this non-dairy substitute because it isn't soy-based, unlike the majority of non-dairy subs on the market. This is a nut-based (cashews and almonds) cream alternative. You can buy Mimiccreme at VeganEssentials, and I understand it might be available through Cosmos soon, as well as natural food stores. To make this lasagna, I chose whole-wheat noodles over the standard white flour variety. I used the unsweetened Mimiccreme (probably about 2/3 - 2/3 of the quart carton). To the creme, I added a clove or two of freshly grated garlic (using my rasp), and whisked in a tbsp or two of arrowroot (since I wasn't sure if it would thicken enough through cooking, and the arrowroot thickened it just enough). I layered the sauce with the noodles, along with some artichoke hearts, and then topped the lasagna with a little vegan cheese. But, you know, the sauce was creamy and rich enough that the cheese wasn't needed. Next time I'll use a sprinkle of breadcrumbs tossed with olive oil and salt to top the lasagna, just for that textural crunchy contrast! To sum up, I definitely thought that this unsweetened Mimiccreme is a terrific pantry staple for us vegans, and I plan to order some online myself to continue to experiment, and enjoy things like creamy fettucine 'alfredo', creamy mashed potatoes, sauces... and more!

Next up is a more traditional tomato-based lasagna. This was sooooo easy, and hearty and delicious. I wanted to add legumes to my lasagna, and was thinking of making my "Hide The Lentils Tomato Sauce" from ed&bv. But honestly, as easy as that recipe is, I didn't have it in me this day to open the can of tomatoes and make that sauce from scratch. You all know that feeling! So, I opened a jar of organic pasta sauce, threw it in a pot with about 1/2 cup of red lentils and a few splashes of water (to help the lentils soften), brought it to a boil, then let it simmer covered until the lentils were soft. I went about my business, did some laundry and tidying, and before I knew it (maybe 20 mins) the sauce was ready. I layered the lentil sauce with the noodles (see all those pretty lentils?!), and kept it as simple as that... no veggies in the lasagna, since I served it with a monster big salad! Not only was this simple, nutritious, and delicious, but the lentils helped give structure to the sauce to hold the portions together (no "slip-sliiiiiding away").

Try either of these lasagnas and you'll see for yourself just how effortless a vegan lasagna can be.

And, a few tips to keep your lasagna from slip-sliding:
1) Don't add too many water-rich veggies like raw mushrooms or zucchini between the layers. They'll release a lot of moisture through cooking, and make for a runny sauce. If you want to add veggies, cook them down first, either through sauteing or roasting, or use things like sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes, and olives.
2) Use a thicker sauce, or as with my lasagna above, add some lentils to the sauce to thicken it. Don't water down your sauce or otherwise dilute it.
3) You can add some thick purees such as dips to spread on one or more layers in the centre to 'bind' the lasagna. Think of artichoke dip or even hummus... or my 'Rawesome Nut Dip' from ed&bv - this is excellent as a layer in lasagna, and I have a post coming up soon to show it to you!

Mamma mia! Go make some lasagna and eat, drink & be vegan!


Marika said...

I'm intrigued by the MimicCrème - I love almond milk so I'm definitely going to give that a try - thanks for the tip! Was wanting to make use of the fresh whole wheat lasagna noodles I picked up last week - now I have two great recipes to experiment with, awesome! :)

mustardseed said...

Hey Dreena, nice sauce! I use Prego pasta sauce most of the time. Never thought of lentils, good idea!

My compliments again on your recipes, I really gotta say, your recipes are fantastic. Everytime I make something not your recipe for my lacto-ovo-veg best friend she says,

"This is nice, I like it, but I miss those chocolate chip cookies!! They were SO GOOD! And and the CHOCOLATE PUMPKIN PIE!! Food heaven! And remember that cake(triple chocolate cream cake) you brought over on your birthday? WOW THAT WAS GOOD. I miss all those!!"

I would smile and suddenly realise, all these come from Dreena.

VegMomma said...

Those look so yummy! I can't believe that I've yet to try a vegan lasagna! Lasagna always seems like such a pain in the butt to make, but you have inspired me to whip one up!

Robin_newtoveganism said...

Hi Dreena,
I too have yet to make a vegan lasagna. My family is worried that I will tofu in it. But I wouldn't know what to put in it to replace the ricotta cheese. I am part Italian and in the North East of the U.S. we ate what was traditional and baked ziti, spagettii and lasagna with lots of cheeses were very common. So I have not ventured there yet. But from you are saying one does not have to have a ricotta type filling. I will have to poor family! Tonight I made a Mac and Cheese with nutritional yeast in a sauce and the smaller kids loved it and my husband and the older kids said it tasted wierd. It was not your recipe but I think I saw one that was maccaroni and a white sauce. Was I right? Love to see you posting!


Veg-a-Nut said...

Awsome! I made lasagna this weekend too!. I am going to add the red lentils next time. Great idea!

Eric said...

My favorite vegan lasagna at lunch today was the bean and corn lasagna on p. 120!

(looking forward to trying lasagna with lentils, too)

Anonymous said...

i don't mean to be mean.. no but i highly question products used in vegan dishes.. which includes yours. not uncommon.

though they look good.. how can you be really certain you're not being tricked like so many "honest" companies do in their vegan products.

too many times down the line when you really get into investigating a product sooner or later you come across animal product.. even if it's been diluted beyond capability.

mustardseed said...

Well anonymous, vegans never said they're 100% pure, that'll be just plain lying. But we promised we'd do our best to MINIMALIZE our animal consumption.

You can argue that it's not 0% animal, it never is, but I'd say we do much better than those on the other end of the spectrum, who are near 100% animal consumers.

Andrea said...

thank you so much for the tip on Mimicreme-is this the same product you used for your Mac O'Geeze a few weeks ago? (still holding a vigil for the recipe). Also, can you tell us exactly what you used to top your tomato/lentil lasagna? Soy cheese or reduced mimicCreme with a certain brand of grated soy cheese? The only soy parm available at Whole foods (canned) is powdery and will not grate like a block of traditional Italian parmesan.
Do tell!!!
Right on, Mustardseed! As vegans, we do the best we can. If something is 99.5% vegan vs 100% animal, it's a pretty easy choice.

Dreena said...

Robin, I definitely deviate from the traditional versions of things like pizza and pasta... but I think that's the beauty of cooking, and dishes like pizza and lasagna can really offer countless options for personal variations, which makes cooking and eating very fun! So, for me, I don't think much about trying to replace something like ricotta in lasagna (though, there are vegan recipes for ricotta that you can probably easily find with a google search)... and, you can use thick, creamy spreads to layer in those noodles, like pureeing canned or marinated artichokes with seasonings and a little silken tofu and oil, or even on their own with just the seasonings and oil (maybe add some cooked potato to thicken). Or, something like a nut dip - which I'll post about soon. So, just have fun and play around with ingredients that you like - and/or check out some vegan ricotta recipes online. Good luck!

Anonymous, I echo the comments given by mustardseed and Andrea. I have never claimed personal purity as a vegan. In fact, I think such a thing would drive someone insane and offer very little to encourage others to become vegan and make the changes where they count - not eating meat, fish, eggs, and dairy. I will add that I cook A LOT from scratch, and as a mom of two young kids, this is not always the most convenient thing to do... and I know I'm not the 'norm' for most families out there using many more prepared and packaged foods. We all need a few shortcuts in cooking, and something like mimiccreme can offer that 'cooking-everything-from-scratch' break. What puzzles me is why people like yourself think vegans pride themselves on this type of purity. We do our best, as mustardseed mentioned. Even if we eat only organic produce and beans/legumes and nuts/seeds and prepare everything from scratch, unless all of this food is grown with veganic farming, we know that it isn't entirely 'vegan' in terms of the soil and fertilizer. But, we know we are making the biggest, most important choices that can impact change. Anonymous, I assume you aren't vegan... or a raw foodist (and even that we have to trust in some labeling)... so, with that, how do you ensure the integrity of your food supply? Even if you are one that eats 'organic' meats or dairy, you cannot be certain of the level of adherence of organic certification. As a vegan, I don't expect to live in a state of vegan purity. But I do know that by eating plant-based foods instead of meat, fish, eggs and dairy products, I am making choices that are healthy and compassionate. Food for thought.

Andrea, no I didn't use mimiccreme for my mac-oh-geez, that was a recipe from scratch. As for the cheese on top, I used some follow-your-heart vegan cheese. It's not something I use all the time, simply b/c I don't always have the easiest time melting the stuff - and then it quickly hardens again once out of the oven. But, sometimes, like for lasagna, it's fun to use. We use veganrella as well, which is rice-based (whereas fyh brand is soy-based). Our girls really like veganrella - even cold, whereas fyh is kinda' bizarre when cold! And while I use veganrella in 'grilled cheese' sandwiches for the girls, it's not the best for lasagna b/c it gets very runny with the pasta sauce. Hope that answers your q!

(p.s. mustardseed, I *do* love making chocolatey (and other sweet) treats, I'm very happy to know that you and your friend enjoy them too!!) thanks.

VegMomma said...

Amen, Dreena!

funwithyourfood said...

I think the worst part of lasagna is the cheese... this takes care of that


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