Secret to getting in all your veggies: Go VEGAN

I have a secret, which I shall reveal……one of the ways in which I get all my veggies in and learn how to cook with those weird ones, like collards and turnips, is that I go vegan.

Those of you who know me are saying “wait a minute, you totally eat meat”.  yes, this is true, but I also think like a vegan when it comes to getting in my veggies and I use a lot of vegan and vegetarian cookbooks to help me out.

Here’s my thought: meat is relatively easy to prepare, at least in basic ways.  I can broil, bake, pan fry, bbq, etc and get a nice tasty lean protein.  But I can only eat baby carrots and spinach from a bag so long before I really want something creative with vegetables.

I now cook dark, leafy greens, like collards or kale at least once a week, and often 2-3x/week.  But if you knew me 10 yrs ago, this was soooo not the case.  I was your basic American.  I though canned green  beans and canned corn were pretty fine choices to fill my veggie requirement, especially if I ate them with ketchup (yes, gross, I know – but I was all about making them sweet).

My mom gave me my first vegetarian cookbook, entitled “Vegetarian cooking for everyone” by Deborah Madison about 5 yrs ago when I started to seriously change my diet and wanted to know how to make veggies taste better than ice cream.

I give myself permission to write in my cookbooks.  I see  them as living, breathing entities that capture both the author’s perspective and my own about a dish.  Plus, I’m just a geek and like to make note in books.  it make me feel smart.

thank God I have a very compassionate husband, as some of my adventures did not turn out well…such as the lasagna which had about 5 lbs of mushrooms and a bechamel sauce.  I’m sooo not a French chef, and totally underestimated the importance of cooking fine sauces in a tender way with a proven method.   I think we went out to Mexican that night instead…..

So, I want to share one of my favorite recipes from this book.  This one usually comes out pretty well – even for first timers!  I modified it a bit from the original. It makes an awesome summer salad and you can absolutely go carnivorous with it by adding chunks of chicken or turkey to it, or on the side.

Enjoy!

PS: other cookbooks I like are :”Greens”, also by Deborah Madison, and the Blossoming Lotus cookbook.

Quinoa or Bulgur and Green Lentil Salad with Chickpeas

Serves 2-4, depending on serving size

½ cup French green lentils, washed
1 bay leaf
¾ cup fine or medium bulgur or quinoa
5 scallions, including some of the greens, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves
Grated zest of 2 lemons
6-8 tbsp fresh lemon juice
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp paprika
1.5 cups chickpeas (rinsed and drained if canned)
2 cups finely chopped parsley
1 – 1.5 cups chopped vegetables of your choice: cucumber, colored bell peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, etc
½ cup chopped mint

Cover the lentils with water in a small saucepan, add the bay leave and ½ tsp salt.  Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 25 minutes, until lentils are tender but firm.  Let them stand another 20 minutes.  Cook the grain (bulgur or quinoa as needed)

Whisk together scallions, garlic, lemon zest and juice, oil, paprika, and ½ tsp salt in a large bowl.  When lentils are done, drain them and add them to the dressing.  Press out any excess water.  Add the bulgur along with the chickpeas, parsley, mint, and vegetables.  Toss gently and then taste for salt/pepper. Can be served warm or cold.

Wheat free vegetarian lasagna recipe

Hello all,

I am making a lasagna for a class I teach (titled “off white”, naturally….) and feel the recipe is just too good not to share.

BUT, before I do…a word about the cost of veggies.

You’ve probably noticed an increase in the cost of veggies this year so far.  For instance, I paid nearly $7 for 3 large zucchini for the lasagna.  I feel that the committment to eating “off white” and creating that base of fruits and veggies is going to be more at risk as the cost of “healthy” food rises while junk food stays cheap.  Just today I saw Kellog’s cereals, like Trix, on sale for $1.88/box.  That is quite cheap.  Even in my hayday of eating those items it was difficult to get them for under $2.  It may be that the overlords of processed foods will take advantage of the economic times and tempt us to make choices for economical reasons.

I get it that paying $7/lb for bell peppers (which I heard of today) is not sustainable.  And this blog is all about sustainable, so what can we do to keep our options open?  Here are some ideas.  The recipe is next, I promise 🙂

  • Plant a garden.  Invest in a few  good organic plants (which are inexpensive when they are  small).  Two or three good plants may yield ample amounts to get you through the season
  • Share your garden bounty with friends and trade for what you do/don’t have
  • Buy what is on sale (especially local stuff) and freeze excess.  Frozen veggies and fruits are almost as good as fresh
  • Don’t let those veggies go to waste.  raise your hand if you sometimes throw away produce that goes bad?  At $5-7/lb that won’t happen, right?
  • Shop local farmer’s markets, roadside stands, etc
  • Buy organic frozen veggies when you can and it makes sense for what you are cooking
  • Buy bulk at Costco – share with a friend if its too much

Okay, here’s what you’ve been waiting for:

Sneaky Spelt Lasagna (wheat free, vegetarian)

7 Vitaspelt Spelt lasagna noodle
1 bag frozen organic chopped spinach
1 15-oz container ricotta cheese
8 oz real mozzarella
8 oz mozzarella almond or rice cheese
3/4 cup chopped mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 large jar organic marinara sauce, flavored as you like it
1/2 cup cream of tomato organic soup (optional for added flavor)
3 tbsp fresh basil, finely chopped
2 tsp dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste
3 large zucchini, thinly sliced using a Mandolin or with a knife

Boil noodles to al dente.  Place 3 noodles + 1/2 in the bottom of a lasagna dish.  Mix the marinara with the chopped onion, mushrooms and soup.  Set aside.  Defrost spinach and then add with basil, thyme and ricotta.  Blend until fully mixed.  Shred the cheeses.

Add approx 1/3 of marinara mix to 1st layer of spelt noodles.  Next add similar amount of ricotta mix.  Now add a similar amount of shredded cheese. Add a layer of Zucchini, fully covering the dish (this acts like a pasta layer).  Repeat with the marinara, ricotta and cheese.  Add the last of the noodles.  Add marinara and ricotta layer and THEN ADD 1 MORE ZUCCHINI LAYER.

Finally, coat the top with leftover cheese.

Cook at 375 for 30-40 minutes, with at least 10 of those with the dish uncovered.  It makes A LOT of lasagna 🙂

Other options:

1. use cottage cheese in place of ricotta, or silken tofu, flavored with Italian spices

2. Add 1/2 cup chopped walnuts into cheese mix for added texture and fat

3. Use only almond or rice cheese for a low/non-dairy option

4. Add about 3/4 lb ground turkey to marinara mix for a carnivorous delight