Pesto Veggie Lasagna

This might be my favorite lasagna ever – and it’s vegan! I know – I’ve been making a lot of “best ever” claims lately, but I’ve really been on a roll in the kitchen. While this recipe is a little bit labor intensive, it’s easy labor – and the end result is beyond worth it.

I made this dish for my family’s Christmas get together in Chicago last week (though it was just vegetarian for them and not vegan, as I couldn’t find Daiya on short notice Christmas eve). It almost didn’t happen; do you have any idea how hard it is to find lasagna noodles at 4pm on Christmas Eve? We had to go to 2 stores, and I got the very last package on the shelf at store #2 (thank you, Target!) It was well worth the search. This lasagna got thumbs-up reviews from even the meat eaters, and I enjoyed it so much that I made it again at home for New Years.

This recipe makes a 9×13″ dish of lasagna – good for 8 serious servings (which in my case means, a freezer full of lasagna!) For the record, it does freeze and reheat very well. If you plan to go that route, let it cool down a bit then portion it out into freezer-safe containers and freeze. You can also make this a day ahead of time and refrigerate it prior to baking, then toss it in the oven when it’s time to make dinner. Just add 5-10 minutes if you’re starting with cold lasagna.

Without further ado, my favorite lasagna recipe of all times:

Pesto Veggie Lasagna

by Shelly Hokanson

Prep Time: 30

Cook Time: 35

Ingredients (8 servings)

Lasagna

  • 1 pkg lasagna noodles (12+ noodles – no-boil are fine)
  • 1 cup pesto – see recipe below
  • 5 – 6 cloves garlic, peeled & minced
  • 5 cups grilled or sautéed veggies – choose from zucchini, eggplant, red or green bell peppers, portobello mushrooms, broccoli, or your favorites. My favorite mix: 1 red pepper – diced, 1 zucchini – cut into half moons, and 1 head of broccoli florets.
  • 2 cups fresh baby spinach
  • 1 lb or 1 – 14oz package herbed tofu, firm or extra firm (Italian herbed tofu works great here), pressed and crumbled
  • 2-3 medium tomatoes, sliced (8 slices)
  • 1 package (8 oz) Daiya mozzarella or other vegan shredded cheese
  • 1 jar of your favorite marinara

Pesto

  • 1/4 cup walnut halves or pieces
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts (or, replace with additional 1/4 cup walnuts)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 cups fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • pinch of black pepper
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, scant
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Instructions

This first step is optional, but highly recommended. Preheat a large heavy-bottomed skillet (such as a cast iron skillet) over medium-low heat. Add the walnuts to the dry skillet and toast for 5 minutes, tossing often. Then add the pine nuts and toast an additional 5 minutes. (If using all walnuts, add them all at the start and toast for 10 minutes).

Set toasted nuts aside to cool.

Prep the Veggies

Preheat the oven to 350F.

In a large saute pan, heat 2 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and saute for 5 minutes.

As you chop up the rest of your veggies, add them to the pan, stirring often. If the pan dries out, add a tablespoon or two of water to deglaze the pan and keep on saute-ing.

Continue to saute the veggies while preparing the pesto.

Prep the Pesto

Add the toasted nuts to a food processor.

Add the minced garlic, basil, thyme, salt, pepper, and nutritional yeast until the basil leaves are well blended, scraping down the sides of the food processor as necessary.

Slowly stream in the olive oil and process until well combined.

Blend in the lemon juice.

Assemble the Lasagna

In a 13×19″ dish, coat the bottom of the dish with a layer of marinara.

Place one layer of lasagna noodles on the bottom of the dish.

Layer more marinara on top of the noodles.

Then, add the baby spinach over the noodles.

Crumble the tofu on top of the spinach.

Sprinkle a layer of shredded Daiya over the tofu, then add a second layer of noodles.

Coat the noodles with another marinara layer.

Add the veggies to the next layer and top with a generous layer of pesto.

Add the last layer of noodles and coat with remaining marinara.

Add the rest of the shredded cheese. Place 8 dollops of pesto across the top, and add a tomato slice onto each dollop of pesto.

Cover the dish with foil and bake for 35-40 minutes at 350F, until the lasagna is warmed through and the cheese is melted.

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Fire Roasted Red Pepper Veggie Burger & Pesto

Pesto Veggie Burger

Another winner from the cookbook, The Best Veggie Burgers on the Planet.

My love affair with this cookbook has been enhanced by the acquisition of a cute little burger press. The link is to one similar to mine, though mine was just a random grocery-store-aisle impulse buy.

What I love about the burgers from this book is that they’re so flavorful. They remind me of fancy restaurant veggie burgers – the homemade kind, not the patties-from-the-freezer kind. They’ve all got a great mix of ingredients, and so far, I’ve loved every one.

This was a combination of the Sundried Tomato Pesto burger, and the Fire Roasted Red Pepper burger. Both sounded good to me, so I used the latter as my base recipe, and added sundried tomatoes and pesto!

The result:

Fire Roasted Red Pepper Veggie Burger & Pesto

Fire Roasted Red Pepper Veggie Burger & Pesto

These freeze well, so make a double batch and enjoy for quick lunches or dinners!

Chopped Leeks

Promises, Promises

It’s Vegan MoFo Week 3!

Yes, I know. You missed me yesterday. I’m back this evening for your foodie enjoyment, and a little birdie told me there’s a morning edition on its way, too.

First up: pesto veggie sandwiches! Oh. You mean, you’ve seen those before here? Or here? Hey – I promised I’d try to make 20 posts about food in the month of October. I never promised it’d be different food every day!

What can I say? I eat a lot of pesto veggie sandwiches. To make this instance a tiny bit more palatable, I will show you one of my magic kitchen weapons. This little beast makes chopping veggies super easy:

Pampered Chef Food Chopper

Pampered Chef Food Chopper

It’s the Pampered Chef Food Chopper. I couldn’t really tell you if other choppers work as well. I’ve used this one for years and it still looks and works like the day I bought it. The thing can take a beating (I’m a clutz) – it just keeps chopping away.

Now, I didn’t use it to chop these leeks…

Chopped Leeks

Chopped Leeks

… but I did use it on the baby bellas (got a sweet deal on organics!) and the red peppers:

Leeks, Baby Bellas, and Red Peppers

Leeks, Baby Bellas, and Red Peppers

Sometimes I use onions instead of leeks. It just depends what’s in my fridge. These leeks were on their last legs, for sure. This mix is made of 1 carton of baby bella mushrooms (16 oz), 1 large sweet red pepper, 3 leeks, and 3 cloves of garlic. Saute and salt to taste… voila!

Pesto Veggie Sandwich and Green Bean Fries

Pesto Veggie Sandwich and Green Bean Fries

With my buddies the Green Bean Fries on the side (baked, not fried… 18 mins at 400F… salt and pepper… nom).

Tempeh Sloppy Jims

Skillet Sloppy Jims

It’s 7:21pm. Do you know where your dinner is?

Today, I did not know where my dinner was. I did not know what my dinner was. All I knew was that I was hungry to the max, and I didn’t feel like slaving for a meal.

Enter: the cast iron skillet.

This particular piece of cookware is amazing. It’s naturally nonstick. When things do stick, it’s actually good, because you can deglaze the pan and everything tastes even better! Somehow, everything I’ve ever made in my cast iron has turned out awesome – including tonight’s throw-together mess of deliciousness.

I call it: Tempeh Sloppy Jims.

(Sorry, Joe. There’s no red sauce going on here, so I can’t really call it Sloppy Joes, but this sandwich assembled exactly like a Sloppy Joe, and ate just like one… just tasted different! So I gotta give the nod to Jim).

Tempeh Sloppy Jims

Tempeh Sloppy Jims

Take 1 cast iron skillet.

Add a diced white onion. Sautee in oil (I used peanut oil) over medium heat while preparing the rest of the ingredients.

Dice up a red bell pepper. Crumble a stick of tempeh. Throw them into the skillet. Keep on sauteing.

Pour in a little water or veggie stock. (I used a vegan chicken-flavored stock). Deglaze the pan. Keep on sauteing.

Don’t burn the batch of kale chips you’re making on the side like I did.

Throw a couple big handfuls of baby spinach into the skillet. Toss in some fresh basil, for fun. Awww heck, let’s mince a couple garlic cloves in there, too.

Salt and pepper…. stir until the spinach is wilted…. voila.

Tempeh Sloppy Jim mix

Tempeh Sloppy Jim mix

Tempeh Sloppy Jims! Well, I suppose this could be eaten a lot of ways. I was tempted to just eat it with a fork, but it reminded me so much of Sloppy Joes that I had to put it on a bun (with some melted Daiya mozzarella, of course [vegan… best vegan cheese on the planet!]). Served it with a baked potato and a giant bowl of greens, and some un-photogenic burnt kale chips on the side (not pictured).

Speaking of baked potatoes… why do I let myself buy big 5# bags of potatoes? Usually I just buy 1 or 2 potatoes, because I end up letting them sit until they’re growing eyes, but somehow while standing in the grocery store, I sometimes convince myself that the extra $1.50 is so worth it to get so many more potatoes! And then they go bad. This might have been the only potato I’ll out of the entire bag. Grrr! Why!!! I don’t even like to eat regular potatoes that often… I prefer sweet potatoes… I think I meant to make my favorite asparagus potato soup… except that I ate all of my asparagus. Hmm. Dilemma.

Maybe next time it’s 7:21pm and I’m lost without my dinner, I should study my potato options.

Pesto Veggie Sandwich with Grilled Asparagus

Another holdout

Yes, I’ve been keeping something from you… again. But instead of waiting a couple days to tell you, I’ve waited a couple weeks.

Terrible. I know.

So, I’ve been eating this one sandwich…

(OK, that could probably start every food-blog post this summer).

Rewind. A couple weeks ago, I was at a restaurant called Olivers in Oak Forest, IL. It’s really more of a martini bar & grill. Or a sports bar. Whatever. At any rate, I was having an early dinner at Oliver’s, and ordered their Pesto Veggie sandwich.

It was heavenly.

Pesto, where have you been all my life?

(Full disclosure: I often relax my vegan ways to vegetarian at restaurants. I don’t eat out often, but still, the ethical battle that rages between my non-confrontational nature and my love of the cows is exhausting… but I have to remember that I eat this way to reduce suffering, and I accomplish a lot to that goal!)

Anyway. Where was I? PESTO!

Wow. Pesto. Self, meet basil! I never really knew basil was basil. I’ve had it before but never had a name for it. Now, I know what basil looks like and smells like and tastes like, and I know that basil is in pesto! How do I know this?

Because after eating at Oliver’s, I went out and bought a basil plant and made my own (vegan) pesto. I’ve made 3 batches so far, and almost have it perfected (at which point, I’ll likely post it here). I’m currently digging a mix of half-almonds, half-cashews. (Haven’t tried actual pine nuts, but going for a less calorie-dense version anyway).

So this homemade pesto frenzy has been feeding my new sandwich obsession – a clone of the Oliver’s Pesto Veggie sandwich.

For 4 servings:

  • 1/2 sweet or red onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup or so of mushrooms, diced (I’m liking portobello the best)
  • 1/2 of a red bell pepper, diced

Saute that all up in a little bit of olive oil until the onions are soft. Stack that between a couple slices of bread with a generous smear of pesto and some Daiya mozzarella, and press for 4 minutes in the panini press… oh my word. It tastes great on a crusty Italian sourdough, but also delish on regular ol’ Italian bread (or what I call, junk food bread).

Pesto Veggie Sandwich with Grilled Asparagus

Pesto Veggie Sandwich with Grilled Asparagus

I’ve literally eaten this sandwich 10 times in the past couple weeks. The only reason I didn’t eat it yesterday was that I ran out of pesto (and I seem to have already killed my basil plant… it’s outside now working on its resurrection). I thought I pruned it correctly. YouTube says I did, anyway. Still, it doesn’t seem to be growing new leaves. It just seems to be dying. Sigh.

In other news, I’m still obsessed with grilling veggies on my Griddler. That gadget is one of the best kitchen investments I’ve ever made (and it was really too cheap to call an “investment” – but I use the thing multiple times per week. Love it).

Unfortunately, my kitchen adventures are likely to be boring for the next 2 weeks. I’m 12 days from The Big Move, and have to eat through my freezer by then. I’ve been dreading this time. I don’t know why I stock my freezer full of frozen veggies. I know they’re supposed to be convenient, but I just prefer fresh. Maybe I just haven’t learned how to properly cook using frozen veggies.

My plan is to check the web sites of the frozen veggie manufacturers and find some recipes specifically written for those veggies. Maybe with some techniques under my belt, I’ll find a reason to fill my new freezer with them. (I’d much rather fill it up with jam!)

Do you have any favorite recipes that make use of frozen veggies? Please share! 🙂

Veggie Sushi

First Attempt at Sushi

I’m nothing if not ambitious, my friends!

Veggie Sushi

Veggie Sushi

My family’s Easter gathering is tomorrow, and as a vegan (and even as a vegetarian), if I don’t want to starve, I have to bring at least one dish I can eat. It’s all good; I don’t expect anybody to bend over backwards to make sure there’s something for me to eat. This holiday, I decided to try something new: veggie sushi.

I’ve never had sushi before. In fact, I spent the first 36 years of my life misinformed, thinking that “sushi” meant “fish.” (It doesn’t; sushi is actually the rice). What gets wrapped in that rice? Anything you want! Including veggies.

So I got myself a $4 bamboo sushi rolling mat, and set to work.

First, I prepped (way too many) veggies.

Sushi veggies

Sushi veggies

I had red peppers, sundried tomatoes, avocado slices, green onions, carrots, and cucumber slices. I also had some shiitake mushrooms and steamed asparagus on the side, and a small batch of buffalo tempeh and a small batch of ranch tempeh spread (inspired by PPK’s Spicy Tempeh Rolls).

I got to rolling. It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be – though the rice is super sticky (keep your hands wet!), and it seems I was over-stuffing my sushi rolls a bit. Still, it all seemed to work out. I need more practice getting the rice to the ends of the nori sheets, though.

This roll was a simple avocado, carrot, and green onion roll.

Rolling up sushi

Rolling up sushi

My 10-pack of nori sheets only had 9 sheets in it! Gypped! That’s OK… since I was over-stuffing the rolls, I only had enough rice for 9 rolls anyway.

9 Uncut Veggie Sushi Rolls

9 Uncut Veggie Sushi Rolls

(Please pardon the “well seasoned” cookie sheet. I need new ones). I left some of the ingredients sticking out of the ends, because in the very first episode of the Post Punk Kitchen, Isa did that, and the end pieces looked cool with stuff sticking out. I’m not sure mine will look quite as cool, but can’t blame a girl for trying.

Next, I discovered just how not-sharp my formerly-awesome-sharp-knife is. Not so good for cutting sushi. I cut up one roll and taste tested it (pretty good!), but I’ll cut the rest up tomorrow.

The result: my very first veggie sushi:

Veggie Sushi

The result: veggie sushi, first try

Not so bad, eh?!
I made a couple buffalo tempeh & cucumber rolls, a couple ranch (actually, Sanctuary Dressing) tempeh and avocado rolls, and a variety of mish-mosh veggie rolls.

I feel like something in there probably needed some salt, but maybe that’s where the soy sauce for dipping comes in.

I’m definitely stoked about sushi now! Can’t wait till July for my Vegas trip, where I will be checking out some Vegas sushi.

What’s your favorite sushi filling?

Garden Lentil Burgers

Who needs meat when the lentil burgers taste this good?!

I’m sitting out of the GNOWFGLINS e-course this week, as they’re covering chicken and I’m now 3 weeks into eating vegetarian, but I still did some cooking in the traditional vein. I made a recipe from the GNOWFGLINS web site – garden lentil patties – which I made into garden lentil burgers! They turned out incredibly flavorful and filling. This recipe is definitely a keeper!

First, I soaked dried lentils overnight with some raw apple cider vinegar. (This helps to neutralize the phytic acid in them and improves the absorption of the lentils’ nutrients). I’m new to lentils – to my knowledge, I’ve never had them before, so I had no idea what to expect.

lentils soakingThen I drained and rinsed the lentils and put them on the stove with some fresh water to simmer. While they simmered, I prepped the veggies: carrots, celery, red pepper, and… dang it, I forgot the onion. Oh well. It made for a very colorful bowl of yum, though!

prepped veggiesOnce the lentils were done, I added the rest of the ingredients – some oats, some Italian seasoning, salt and pepper, tomato paste, extra virgin olive oil – and mixed it all up. My hands were way too messy to get any pictures!

I tried my best to mash the mix into patties, but I wasn’t having very good luck. Most of my patties fell apart on the baking sheet. I guess I’m not a very strong patty-maker. Maybe a little more oats would have helped hold them together? I’m not sure. Here’s what they looked like after their first half of time in the oven:

Lentil burgers cookingI then flipped them over, and only a few survived the flip. I had mostly lentil crumbles instead of lentil patties! A couple did stick together pretty well. Not sure what my magic trick was on those ones!

The recipe made 13 patties – I probably should have cut it in half, since I’m only feeding moi. I put one of the better-looking patties on an organic whole wheat bun (Rudi’s ftw!) and added a little veganaise and onion seasoning on top (since I forgot the onions). Served it with some organic spring greens with a little organic caesar dressing, and voila: dinner!

lentil burgersThey may not look pretty, but this burger was delicious! It will definitely make it into regular rotation in my kitchen.

Each patty has about 200 calories (assuming you get 13 out of your recipe, like I did), 6g fat, 29g carbs (8g fiber), 9g protein, and a boatload of vitamins – 45% of your daily Vitamin A, 32% Vitamin C, and 15% of your Iron, amongst others. Yum!

EpicOrganic.net