Raw Zucchini Lasagna

A special shout out goes to my Auntie Anne, who sent me a cookbook in the mail called Eat Raw, Eat Well by Douglas McNish. It was a lovely surprise to get this cookbook, as I did not know she was sending it, and I had never heard of the book. The recipes look absolutely delicious, and I finally made one. It’s called Layered Zucchini Lasagna in the book, and I made it with some slight variations. The biggest changes I made were in quantities (I halved most of the sauces), and I added or changed ingredients here and there. Here is what I did.

Ingredients for Cashew Ricotta Cheese
2 cups raw cashews, soaked for 30 minutes
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1/2 yellow or red pepper (I used yellow)
1/2 cup water
1 clove garlic, minced
3/4 tsp dill weed
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp salt

Ingredients for Marinara Sauce
2 tomatoes, quartered and seeded (push out the excess liquid and seeds)
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup fresh basil
1/2 tsp cayenne powder
1 tbsp chia seeds

Ingredients for Pesto
1/8 cup lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
pepper
1/2 cup fresh basil
1 cup spinach
1/4 cup raw walnuts
1/8 cup flax oil (or olive oil)

Ingredients for Parmesan Cheese
Handful of raw almonds
3 tbsp nutritional yeast

Ingredients for Assembling the Lasagna
2 medium-sized zucchini
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

This whole dish requires a good food processor or a Vitamix. A tip I have is to add ingredients one by one so that the blending is easy. I always started with garlic and liquid, and ended with the most solid ingredient. This all depends on how good one’s mixer is.

First, I made the cashew cheese by blending all the ingredients (reserving half of the cashews) in a food processor until smooth,. I added the rest of the cashews last and blended again. I did this to have some of the cashews remain chunky. I reserved the cheese in a container and put it in the fridge.

Next, I made the marinara sauce by blending all of the ingredients, except the chia seeds, in the food processor. I stirred in the chia seeds last. I reserved the sauce in a container and put it in the fridge.

Then I made the pesto. I blended all the ingredients, except the flax oil, all at once in the food processor. I added the flax oil little by little and blended until smooth.I put the pesto in a container and reserved it in the fridge.

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The parmesan cheese is even easier. I pulsed the almonds and nutritional yeast in a food processor until the almonds became a chunky meal. It is important not to over-blend, as the almonds can start to turn into a butter.

To assemble the lasagna, I used a mandolin (thanks to Tom for that birthday gift) to cut the zucchinis length-wise, very thin. I made about 9 sliced. I lay out a piece of parchment paper and drizzled olive oil on top, then put the sliced zucchini on top and drizzled some more olive oil. I wanted the zucchini to be lightly coated, not soaked. I put salt and pepper on top and let them sit for ten minutes.

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Next, I placed three pieces of sliced zucchini on a large dish, side by side. I layered the ricotta cheese, pesto, and marinara sauce, in that order. The cheese took a bit of time to spread without moving the zucchini. I then layered three more pieces of zucchini on top, repeated the layer of sauces, then topped the lasagna with a final layer of zucchini. I added an extra layer of marinara sauce on top, and sprinkled a generous coating of the parmesan cheese on top. I let the lasagna sit for about an hour before eating, which lets the noodles soften and allows the flavours incorporate.

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Voila! I was pleasantly surprised with this recipe. It was delicious and full of flavour. I noticed that water starts to come out of it after an hour, and even more so when eaten as leftovers. It’s probably better made fresh, but we’ll see tomorrow!

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Pesto White Bean Dip and Homemade Bread

This summer has been going by so fast, and I have found it hard to keep up with the recipes I want to post here. Over the past few months I have grown into a hummus fiend; Costco-sized tubs don’t last long enough, so sometimes I make my own. After experimenting with different flavours of this delicious chickpea dip (plain, paprika, and spinach), I decided to use a different kind of bean. I got the recipe for Pesto White Bean Dip from Let Them Eat Vegan by Dreena Burton.

Ingredients
1 can white kidney beans, drained
2/3 cups fresh basil, rinsed
2 1/2 tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1 clove garlic
2-3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted and cooled (bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes, or fry in a skillet for about 3 minutes)
1-3 tbsp water
Optional: 2-3 tbsp nutritional yeast

In a food processor, blend everything except for half of the pine nuts. The more olive oil you add, the richer the dip will be, and the more water you add, the thinner it will be. Stir in the rest of the pine nuts and Enjoy! Delicious in sandwiches and with crackers, and a perfect summer recipe.

Even though I did not make my own bread the time this bean dip was around, I thought this would be a good place to include the Whole Wheat Bread I made recently. I got the recipe from my employer at Bagelino’s, a bagel shop located in downtown Calgary. He won’t give up his secret homemade bagel recipe, but he was willing to share his bread recipe, and threw in some fresh yeast for me to use at home. When he gave me the recipe, he only included the ingredient measurements, but not much in the line of instructions, so I had to apply some techniques from working with fresh yeast at Cordon Bleu.

Ingredients
11 oz warm water
3 cups flour (I used 2 cups whole wheat, 1 cup white, but you can do whatever combo, as long as you adjust the water as needed)
2 1/2 tbsp butter, melted (you can probably guess I used vegan margerine)
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp fresh yeast (1 1/2 tsp if using dried yeast)

Combine flour, salt, and butter in a large bowl. In a small bowl, combine sugar and yeast and then add to flour mixture. Add water and combine. I needed to add a little more flour, as the dough was too sticky, and I did this one tsp at a time. I wanted the dough to be slightly sticky, but also slightly smooth. Knead the dough by throwing it on a lightly floured surface over and over again, folding it on itself, for about 10 minutes. Place in a lightly floured bowl and cover with a towel or a plastic bag. Let the dough rest for 45 minutes.

Punch down the dough and knead again for about 5 minutes. Shape the dough into a log and place in a lightly greased bread pan. Let rise for another 30 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes, turning the pan half way through.

A good tip that my employer gave me was to put a about an inch of water into an oven-safe cup and let it sit at the bottom of the oven while the bread bakes. This avoids a thick crust from forming.

The bread turned out really well; about a third of it was gone before it had time to cool down, thanks to Tom and I snacking on it! I plan on making more – in fact, I plan on making double batches and freezing the loaves if I have time in the fall. The nice thing about making bread is that the part that takes time is the rising, so if I have a day of studying ahead of me, why not punch some dough during my study breaks?

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