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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Vegan Lasagna

I have been wanting to make a vegan lasagna for a very long time, but did not want to use  packaged vegan cheese. I know a lot of vegans eat Daiya cheese, but I just do not enjoy the after-taste. As an alternative, when soaked and blended, cashews make a delicious substitute for cheese. However, in the last year I have had a very difficult time finding peanut-free cashews. At long last, there is a brand of nuts now available at the Independent close to my house that is peanut-free and gluten-free! Check this out for more information. Here is the recipe for vegan lasagna, inspired by ohsheglows.com

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Ingredients for the ricotta cheese

1 cup raw cashews, soaked for a few hours
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp onion powder

Ingredients for vegetable filling

2 tbsp coconut oil or olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium zucchinis, sliced thin
1 small eggplant, diced
1 red pepper, diced
Optional: 1 cup mushrooms*
* I do not like mushrooms, but I can appreciate how delicious they could be in a lasagna

Other Ingredients

1 box lasagna noodles, oven-ready
1 jar pasta sauce, or do what I did and make your own with canned or fresh tomatoes

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I preheated the oven to 400*F. I started by putting all the cheese ingredients in a food processor and pureed until smooth. I put the cheese aside. Next, I heated  the oil in a large frying pan and cooked the onion and garlic until translucent. I added the zucchini, eggplant, and red pepper, and cooked for about five minutes. Then, I took a large casserole dish and sprayed with cooking spray. I layered the lasagna in this order: pasta sauce (1 cup), noodles, cashew cheese (half of it), vegetables, pasta sauce, noodles, cheese, vegetables, pasta sauce, noodles, pasta sauce. I covered the top in a layer of nutritional yeast, but for the Daiya lovers, a layer on the top would probably be delicious. I covered the lasagna in tinfoil and baked the whole dish for 40 minutes. After removing it from the oven I let it sit for a few minutes, then served it.

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Dehydrating and Raw Vegan Crackers

Last summer I became curious about dehydrating. It started off with wondering why anyone would want to be a raw vegan (I still don’t get it – it’s a good idea to eat a lot of raw food, but why deprive yourself of so much good, hot food? I have not found ANY evidence that cooking food makes it toxic), and lead me down a trail of looking at raw vegan recipes. From these, I discovered that a dehydrator is a useful tool in making a lot of cool dishes. Plus, I have never been able to find very much dried fruit that doesn’t have “may contain peanuts” stamped across it.  So, a curiosity of raw vegan-ism lead to a curiosity about dehydrating food. Finally, after months of thinking about it, I bought a dehydrator and a raw vegan cookbook, and started off by drying bananas, kiwi, peaches, and cucumber. The bananas were definitely my favorite, and I plan on dehydrating dozens more.

Dehydrater

dried fruit

In my last post I briefly mentioned Vegucated, a documentary that promotes veganism by explaining why it is important to eat this way. It turns out that more CO2 is expelled because of the meat industry than from all the cars on the road, on top of the fact that there are no regulations on how to treat animals, meaning most animals are treated horrendously from birth until death. This must-see film only inspired me more to try out vegan recipes, and I started with a Veggie Cracker recipe, found in The Complete Book of Raw Food, 2nd edition, edited by Julie Rodwell.

Ingredients

1/2 onion, chopped

2-5 cloves garlic

1 cup spinach

1 cup fresh herbs (I used cilantro)

3 tsp salt

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 large zucchini, shredded

2 carrots, shredded

2 cups flax seeds, soaked 8-12 hours

2 cups flax seeds

Dough

In a blender I puréed the onion, garlic, spinach, cilantro, salt, and lemon juice. I added it to the shredded zucchini and carrot, then added the flax seeds, and an additional cup of water. I mixed the dough well to make sure everything was well incorporated. I spread the dough evenly on my dehydrating racks, which were covered in parchment paper, making sure the dough was not too thick. I dehydrated the crackers 8 hours, then flipped them and continued to dehydrate for another 8 hours, and I rotated the racks every few hours to ensure even drying.

Veggie Crackers

The crackers are good, but maybe a little bit of an acquired taste. I am tempted to make a cream cheese dip for them, but that kind of defeats the vegan thing… I plan on experimenting with some of the other cracker recipes in the cookbook to figure out which ones I like best.

Dehydrating is fun!

Mini Polenta Pizzas

After watching “Vegucated“, a documentary that follows three people as they are challenged to become vegan for six weeks, I have become motivated to eat less meat and use fewer animal products. I decided that rather than going completely vegan, I will eat vegan when I can, and explore different recipes that are vegan and/or vegetarian. I started with mini polenta pizzas, which is a vegetarian recipe.

This recipe was based on the “Pizza Polenta” recipe from ‘Pas Besoin d’Être Végé pour Aimer ce Livre”, which was given to me by my boyfriend Tom, who promised he would speak french with me every time we made a recipe from this book. The recipes are by 35 famous chefs from around Quebec and this recipe is by Gilles Herzog. It includes a recipe for the polenta dough, but there was no polenta flour to be found at the grocery store I was in, so I had to settle for a pre-made polenta dough (I know, gasp!). This is just one of the fun parts of cooking – sometimes you have to improvise when you can’t find what you are looking for.

I started by making the tomato compote by placing 8 tomatoes (cut into quarters and seeded), 1 tbsp brown sugar, 2 tbsp olive oil, and salt in a baking dish and covered it with aluminum foil. I let it bake in the oven for 2 hours on 300 degrees Fahrenheit .

Next, I would have made the dough if I had found polenta flour:

Ingredients

2 cups of vegetable stock

1/2 cup goat cheese

2/3 cup polenta flour

2 tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper

Bring vegetable stock to a boil and incorporate the goat cheese, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Whisk in the polenta flour and let cook for ten minutes, making sure to stir it often. Place the dough in a dish covered with parchment paper and let it harden in the fridge. Form it into a cylinder so that you can cut it like a loaf of bread into mini pizzas.

Next, I made the Black Olive Coulis. I placed 1/2 cup pitted black olives, 1 tbsp capers, 3 tbsp olive oil, and pepper in a blender or food processor and blended until smooth.

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Next, I sautéed 2 zucchinis, 1 clove of garlic, 1/2 tbs fresh thyme, 2 tbsp olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste, for about 3 minutes.

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To assemble the pizza, cut the polenta dough into disks and layer the tomato compote, followed by the zucchinis on top. I started with a layer of goat cheese because I was not able to put it in the dough. Bake on a cookie sheet covered with aluminum foil for 15 minutes at 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Serve the black olive coulis on top of the pizza, and toss some of the olive coulis with 3 cups of arugula. With a mouthful of pizza, olive coulis, and arugula, it was pretty tasty!Image