Simple Vegan Lasagna

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Lasagna can be a bit labour-intensive but this recipe comes together quite quickly and doesn’t take long to cook. The cashew “cheese” makes a great substitute for ricotta and it is super-easy to make. It can also be prepared in advance. 

The tomato sauce can be prepared with fresh or canned tomatoes – I usually use canned tomatoes in the winter and fresh in the summer. A mandolin produces the best results for the zucchini noodles but if you have a sharp knife and a steady hand you’ll be fine. (I use my Benriner for this – its over 20 years old and still one of my most-used gadgets). I like thin zucchini slices but the thickness of the slices is not that important. However, the thinner the noodles, the quicker this lasagna cooks in the oven. 

The inspiration for this recipe came from literally hundreds of gluten-free, vegan lasagna recipes out there. This one contains no oil, sugar, dairy or soy. I find it absolutely delicious! It’s light – but totally satisfying at the same time.

Serve it with a green salad and an oil free dressing, or my Caesar salad with oil-free creamy Caesar dressing.  

Makes 4 generous servings.

INGREDIENTS

Zucchini Noodles

  • 3-4 large firm zucchini
  • 1 tsp. Celtic or Pink Himalayan salt (approx.)

Cashew Cheese

  • 1 cup  unsalted cashews, or 1/2 cup each cashews and hemp seeds
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut or almond milk
  • 1-2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon Celtic or Pink Himalayan salt, scant

Tomato Sauce

  • 1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, no-salt
  • 1 large sweet onion, finely chopped
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 med-carrot, grated or finely chopped
  • 1 sprig of fresh thyme (or pinch dried)
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, torn if large (plus extra for garnish)
  • Pinch crushed red pepper flakes

INSTRUCTIONS

Zucchini Noodles

Top and tail the zucchini and then using a mandolin, thinly slice each zucchini lengthwise about ⅛– ¼-inch thick. 

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Lay zucchini slices side by side in a single layer on a rack over a baking sheet. Sprinkle with enough salt to draw out the moisture from the zucchini and allow the zucchini slices to sweat for 30 minutes.  (You may not need the whole amount of salt called for but don’t worry if you do – it will be rinsed off eventually and will not impact the flavour).

Place the zucchini in a colander and thoroughly rinse off the salt. Gently pat dry with paper towels to remove any excess moisture.

Cashew Cheese

Place all of the ingredients in a high-speed blender or food processor and puree. A little texture is nice – the mixture doesn’t have to be completely smooth. Refrigerate until ready to assemble the lasagna (can be made a few of days ahead).

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Tomato Sauce

Heat 1/4 cup water or vegetable stock in a large saucepan over medium heat. When it starts to boil, add the onion and cook, stirring continuously with a wooden spatula until soft and light golden brown. As the water or stock evaporates,  add more liquid, a couple of tablespoons at a time, to prevent sticking or burning. The onions should be soft and nicely browned in about 5 to 8 minutes. At that point, add the carrot and thyme, and cook 5 minutes more, or until the carrots are soft. Add the garlic and stir for about a minute – just until you can smell it.  

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Then add the tomatoes with their juices and bring everything to a boil.  Stir the sauce to distribute the tomatoes and onions evenly but do not break up the whole tomatoes. (Allowing the tomatoes to break apart naturally results in less bitterness). Lower the heat and simmer for 30-40  minutes, until the sauce thickens a little – most of the tomatoes will have broken apart naturally during the cooking process and the rest should break apart easily with a wooden spoon. Remove the pan from heat and season with crushed red pepper flakes and fresh basil. (Sauce lasts a week in the refrigerator or several months in the freezer).

TO ASSEMBLE THE LASAGNA

Spoon a little sauce into an 8-inch X 8-inch lasagna dish and spread it evenly over the bottom of pan. Lay zucchini slices slightly overlapping on top of the sauce filling in spaces as necessary, to cover the base of the dish.

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Top the slices with 1/2 of the cashew cheese and then 1/3 of the tomato sauce. Repeat layering process with the remaining zucchini, cheese and sauce, ending with a layer of zucchini and tomato sauce.

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Bake, covered, in a preheated oven for 25-30 minutes. Remove the cover and continue baking another 30 minutes. Stick a bread knife through the centre the lasagna to see if the zucchini noodles are cooked. There should be little to no resistance against the knife when the zucchini is cooked.

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Remove the lasagna from the oven and let it sit for 10 minutes before slicing into serving portions. Sprinkle with reserved fresh basil and serve.

Notes:

This recipe can easily be doubled or tripled to feed a larger crowd.

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Clean Green Smoothie

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I don’t have many rules about green smoothies, but I do like them C-L-E-A-N, tasty and just thick enough to feel substantial.  Not too thick. This one is my favourite.

It is just – so – refreshing!

I prefer smoothies without added milks  – not even vegan milks, such as almond, rice or coconut. Not even homemade vegan milks. Or coconut water. Or protein powders. Milks and coconut water can quickly pile on extra calories and fat and most store-bought varieties  contain sugar, preservatives, added flavours and colours. Protein powders are processed from the proteins that have been extracted from the whole food which means they are not a whole food. Furthermore, some protein powders are loaded with toxic compounds such as arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury. An investigation into the safety of protein supplements recently led the Consumer Union to conclude that we don’t need the extra protein or the heavy metals found in supplements.

To keep my green smoothies clean, I liquidize whole fruits and vegetables with filtered water. The fruits and vegetables chosen are ones I usually have on hand so it’s not often that I have to make a trip to the grocery store to whip this up. However, if do find myself without some of the ingredients, the recipe infinitely adaptable to substitutions. The grapes sweeten the smoothie perfectly so no need to add refined sugars or sweeteners. The amount of water I add depends on how thick I want the smoothie. If I really feel that I need a protein boost, I might toss in a tablespoon or so of flaxseed, hemp seed, spirulina or chlorella. 

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 apple, quartered
  • 1 orange, juiced
  • 1 lemon, peeled and halved
  • 1 cup red seedless grapes
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 cups kale, packed
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 cup fresh flat leaf parsley

I use a VitaMix to make this really smooth. There’s not much of a method but I find that everything blends better when I liquidize the fruits with some of the water before adding the greens. 

The amounts are approximate – start with 1/2 a lemon and only add the other half if you like your smoothie with a bit more tang. If you like it sweeter, add more grapes. Same with the cilantro – I usually add more. I love cilantro and no amount is ever too much for me. 

Yield: 1 litre/32 ounces. (2 X 16-0z., or 4 X 8-0z. smoothies). If making ahead, shake well before drinking. 

If you don’t have an orange, leave it out.

Use a fresh lime instead of lemon.

If you don’t have an apple, use a pear.

If you don’t have kale, use spinach, swiss chard, collards or use a combination of several greens. (I would avoid using really bitter greens such as arugula though). 

See where I am headed with this? Select the fruits and vegetables you love and be as creative as you want!

NOTES

Freshly made green smoothies last 2 or 3 days max in the refrigerator so you want to make what you can consume in that amount of time. Or, you can pour the blended mix into containers and freeze it for another time. A nice way to avoid waste is to freeze fruits and vegetables near the end of their shelf life for making this smoothie later.