Monday, May 20, 2013

Full is Equal to Happy (Meat and Dairy free Veggie Lasagna Yummy-ness)

Sometimes I crave a big plate of heavy food that is going to leave me feeling full, fat and happy. Gross, right? But really sometimes I just want a giant sandwich or something that has some major substance to shove in my pie hole. Yesterday was on of those days for me. Beans and greens just weren't cutting it. Typically I am really happy with a nice big plate of greens, a grain and some mushrooms or beans, but not yesterday. Maybe because I have been pushing myself extra hard to end this Insanity journey with a bang or maybe because I might be a little homesick. I knew I needed to address this craving before it got worse, I got angrier and picked a fight with everyone around me.

And boy was I craving some good old Italian food like it was my job. So I decided to try some vegan stuffed shells. I took this recipe from Oh She Glows and modified it a bit to look like the stuffed shells my Mom used to make. She used to add in carrots and broccoli and other veggies to make it crunch, give it tons of kick ass texture and overall make them pretty awesome. And it gets all those vital veggies in there the doctors are always talking about. Yay veggies!

But to thwart my plan, the grocery store out here didn't have giant shell pasta (seriously, they have bee pollen but not shell pasta. I can't even handle it.) So I did some creative swapping and switched it up with lasagna. And they had whole wheat no bake noodles so the decision was made.  (And really what is the difference besides the pasta shape?)

So I took the tofu ricotta recipe, added a ton of fresh basil and garlic and it was awesome. I skipped cooking it since I pressed it forever. I also skipped the onion since it was in my veggie layer and the celery. (The idea of celery in something that is supposed to sub ricotta kind of made me gag.) It's not ricotta but it is some good stuff. I would also double it for sure next time. I couldn't get enough of it.

I cooked up some broccoli, carrots, onion and I had some zucchini I forgot to throw in (oops!) But I used this as what would traditionally be the "meat" layer. Although I think I could have thrown the veggies in with the tofu and they could have all had a party. It would have been easier than trying to spread out the tofu onto the noodles/pasta sauce. I also think I might skip using sauce next time too. God knows I don't have an Italian bone in my body and clean jarred sauce is so hard to find. I think some ripe chunky tomatoes and spices would be delish!

Plus this is another great meal that feels like a treat (or cheat) meal. How often can you eat lasagna that is awesome and doesn't have a bajillion calories? Paired with a big old salad, this dinner is a-ma-zing. (Even my carnivorous husband thought it rocked. After he came home and asked if there was anything weird going on in this dinner. I may have lied and told him after he ate three plates worth.)

Here is the recipe from Oh She Glows (it's a great site. Check it out.) And a pic of my awesome creation. (My food photography skills are growing. Go me!)

Tofu Ricotta:
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 medium sweet onion, diced
  • 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves, minced
  • 1/2 cup packed fresh parsley, minced
  • 1 (14oz) package extra-firm or firm tofu, pressed
  • 3 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 3/4-1 tsp fine grain sea salt, or to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes (optional)

1. Rinse block of tofu and wrap with paper towels followed by 2-3 tea towels. Place it on a cutting board or plate and add several heavy cookbooks on top. Press tofu for about 20-25 minutes to drain out the water. Alternatively, you can use a tofu press.

2. Grease a very large casserole dish. I used about 30 shells, but you’ll need to cook more than that as some shells will break during the cooking process. Cook shells in a pot of boiling water until al dente, about 8-11 minutes. Be careful not to overcook. Drain shells and set aside to cool.

3. Preheat oven to 400F. For the tofu ricotta: In a large skillet, sauté the garlic and onion in the oil for about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add in the chopped celery, basil, and parsley and sauté for another 5 minutes or so. Feel free to throw in some spinach for extra greens.

4. For the tofu, you can either crumble it into the skillet with your hands or you can give it a whirl in the food processor and then stir it into the skillet. If you use the processor, the texture will be very creamy like ricotta cheese and if you crumble it with your hands it will be more chunky/crumbly. It’s up to you how you want to make it. I usually opt to crumble it by hand so I don’t dirty the processor. Stir in the nutritional yeast, salt, pepper, lemon, and cayenne all to taste. Over medium heat, cook for about 8-10 minutes or until most of the water cooks off.

5. Spoon about 1 cup of marinara sauce into the casserole dish and spread around. Add about 2 tbsp of tofu ricotta into each stuffed shell and place shells on top of marinara sauce. Cover shells with the remaining 2-2.5 cups marinara sauce and any leftover tofu ricotta. You can add vegan cheese on top, but I don’t bother. Cover dish with tin foil and poke several air holes. Bake at 400F for about 20 minutes or until heated throughout. Serve with a basic green salad and garlic bread, if desired.

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