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Festive Zucchini Lasagna
MAKES 6 TO 8 SERVINGS
It’s unusual for me to make a recipe with this many steps, but this dish is worth the effort. I based it on my grandma’s traditional lasagna recipe and substituted tofu for the ricotta cheese and vegan ground round for the meat, then further lightened it up with long strips of zucchini in place of one of the layers of noodles. This lasagna freezes well, so the time you dedicate to making the dish will pay off in delicious leftovers later.
11 to 12 ounces whole-grain lasagna noodles
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
8 ounces cremini or white button mushrooms, sliced
2 teaspoons reduced-sodium tamari
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon italian seasoning
1 package (14 ounces) vegan ground round
2 heaping teaspoons brown sugar
1 jar (about 25 ounces) marinara sauce
1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
1⁄2 cup chopped fresh basil
14 to 16 ounces firm regular tofu, drained
1⁄2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1⁄4 teaspoon reduced-sodium tamari
Freshly ground pepper
12 to 15 ounces vegan mozzarella cheese, shredded
3 tablespoons toasted wheat germ
5 ounces (about 6 cups, lightly packed) baby spinach
1 teaspoon italian seasoning (optional)
Freshly ground pepper
To prepare the noodles, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the noodles. Decrease the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the noodles are almost tender. Drain and rinse under cool water, then drain well. Transfer to a large bowl. Drizzle with the oil and gently toss to coat.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread some of the noodles on the lined baking sheet in a single layer. Top with another sheet of parchment paper and more noodles in a single layer. Continue in this way with the remaining noodles. (This will keep the noodles from sticking together while you prepare the rest of the recipe.)
To make the mushroom sauce, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened, about 4 minutes. Drizzle with the tamari and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and italian seasoning and cook, stir- ring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Add the vegan ground round, breaking it up with a potato masher or large spoon. Add a small amount of water, 1 tablespoon at a time, if the mixture seems dry. Stir in the brown sugar and cook, stirring frequently, until the vegan ground round is slightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes.
Stir the remaining tablespoon of oil into 1 cup of the marinara sauce and set aside. Stir the remaining marinara sauce, tomatoes, and basil into the mushroom mixture. Decrease the heat to low, partially cover to prevent splattering, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, to make the tofu ricotta, put the tofu, parsley, and tamari in a medium bowl and mash with a potato masher until the mixture has the consistency of ricotta cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Slice each zucchini lengthwise into 1⁄8- to 1⁄4-inch thick strips.
Spread the reserved cup of marinara sauce evenly over the bottom of a 13 x 9-inch glass or ceramic baking pan. Arrange one-third of the lasagna noodles over the sauce. Spread one- third of the mushroom sauce over the noodles in an even layer. Top with all the zucchini, arranged lengthwise (in the same direction as the noodles), then all the tofu mixture, spread in an even layer. Arrange another one-third of the noodles over the tofu mixture. Spread another one-third of the mushroom sauce over the noodles in an even layer. Scatter two-thirds of the vegan mozzarella over the mushroom sauce, then sprinkle with the toasted wheat germ. Top with all the spinach, pressing it down firmly. Arrange the remaining noodles over the spinach, then spread the remaining mushroom sauce over the noodles. Scatter the remaining vegan mozzarella over the top. Sprinkle the optional italian seasoning over the top, along with some salt and pepper if desired.
Cover and bake for about 55 minutes. Uncover and bake for 5 to 7 minutes, until slightly golden on top.
Let cool for 15 minutes. Serve warm.
Maple Tofu Whip
MAKES 4 SERVINGS
When you feel the need for a whipped cream topping or one of those analogs with unspeakable ingredients, try this creamy tofu whip instead. Its smooth texture and delicate flavor will complement almost any dessert, from frozen concoctions to cakes and pies. It’s also great over plain fresh fruit.
5 ounces soft regular or silken tofu, drained
1⁄4 cup plain or vanilla nondairy milk
2 tablespoons maple syrup or agave nectar
1⁄8 teaspoon vanilla extract
Put all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and process until smooth and creamy. Transfer to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, until well chilled. Serve cold. Stored in a covered container in the refrigerator, the topping will keep for 5 to 7 days.
RASPBERRY-MAPLE TOFU WHIP: To imbue this topping with a pretty pink hue, along with a hint of raspberry flavor, add 8 to 12 raspberries before blending.
Carrot and Orzo Soup
MAKES 4 SERVINGS
Served with whole-grain crackers or crusty rolls, this light soup makes a great first course or light supper. Orzo is a rice-shaped pasta that cooks up quickly, making it excellent for adding body to soups.
4 cups vegetable broth
1⁄2 cup water
1 large carrot, diced
1 scallion, white and green parts, sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus more for garnish
1 teaspoon reduced-sodium tamari
3⁄4 cup orzo, preferably multicolored
Freshly ground pepper
Put the broth and water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Stir in the carrot, scallion, parsley, and tamari. Decrease the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for about 8 minutes. Stir in the orzo and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the orzo and carrots are tender, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. To serve, ladle the soup into bowls. Garnish with parsley if desired.