Mexican Tortilla Soup

Mexican Tortilla Soup

One of my favorite things in the whole world used to be Qdoba’s Tortilla Soup. I loved it. Couldn’t get enough of it. However, when I looked up the ingredients, I was astonished! It tasted so simple and delicious. There were a ton of preservatives and an ungodly amount of salt. I never would have imagined that it was so processed! So when it came time to develop my menu for a Mexican cooking class at the Conservatory…I knew what I was going to do. This version is delicious, clean, and a perfect “Welcome to Fall” soup!

  • 1 can jackfruit drained, rinsed 
  • 2 Leeks chopped
  • 3 cloves Garlic (minced)
  • 1/2 Red Bell Pepper (diced)
  • 1/2 Green Bell Pepper (diced)
  • 1 Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce (diced)
  • 1 tsp Cumin
  • 1 tsp Mexican Oregano
  • 1 tsp Chili Powder
  • 1 tsp Paprika
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Pepper
  • 1 cup Chunky Salsa
  • 2 cans Fire Roasted Tomatoes (15 oz ea.)
  • 4 cups Vegetable Broth (low sodium)
  • 3.5 cups black beans, drained, rinsed
  • Toppings:

    • 5 Corn Tortillas
    • Avocado 
    • Chopped Green Onions 
    • Lime Wedges 
    • Vegan Sour Cream 

    Jackfruit:

    Lay the jackfruit on a clean kitchen towel and pat dry. Using your fingers, press the jackfruit chunks and pull apart into large shreds. Set aside.

    On medium heat:

    1. Add leeks and garlic to large soup pot. Sauté in veggie broth, until softened
    2. Add Bell Peppers and Chipotle Peppers, and simmer until softened
    3. Add Jackfruit 
    4. Add all spices and stir well.  Sauté for 2-3 minutes
    5. Add Salsa
    6. Add Tomatoes (with juice)
    7. Add Veggie Broth, and deglaze pan 
    8. Bring to a simmer and stir well*
    9. Drain beans and add to pot
    10. Cover, and simmer on low, or until heated through, about 15-20 minutes.

    Tortilla Strips

    1. Preheat oven to 375° degrees
    2. Cut Corn Tortillas into 1/2″ wide strips
    3. Add strips to a plastic bag or paper sack and toss with 1/2 tsp each: chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, garlic salt etc.  (You can use oil or a little broth to help them stick)
    4. Lay strips onto cookie sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes
    5. Toss occasionally to ensure even crisping.

    *If you want to blend the soup and return to pot for a more authentic Qdoba soup, now is the time. Once pureed you can add the black beans and jackfruit, and simmer through until warmed. About 15-20 minutes.

    **If you wish to add more heat: Use 1 tsp of adobo sauce from chipotle pepper can until you reach desired heat. 

    When soup is finished, garnish with 1 small dollop of vegan sour cream, minced cilantro, small avocado slice, a few tortilla strips, and serve.

    Deconstructed Burrito Bowl

    Deconstructed Burrito Bowl

    We love bowls! It’s one of our favorite go-to meals and makes for a quick dinner. Most times we just use various ingredients we have on hand. Be warned they are suuuuper filling! You can be super creative with your bowls or just keep them simple. The basic bowl is this: One part grain, vegetables, one part protein (we use beans, tofu, or tempeh), and top with some kind of sauce. In a pinch, I have used hummus that has been thinned out as a drizzle! Top with your choice of onions, herbs, nuts, or seeds.

    Deconstructed Burrito Bowl

    • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled, cubed
    • 2 medium russet potatoes washed, cubed
    • 1 medium onion sliced into ¼ ” wide slices
    • 1 red pepper sliced into ¼” thin slices
    • 1 15 oz. can pinto beans (or, bean of choice)
    • 1 tsp ground cumin
    • 1 tsp garlic powder
    • 1 tsp salt
    • ¼ c water
    • 1-2 ripe avocados, sliced, or diced
    • 1-cup brown organic basmati rice (any brown rice will do)
    • 1-cup Pico de Gallo (store bought is easiest)
    • 1-cup cashew queso, thinned (see recipe below)
    • Green onions, diced on bias (optional)
    • Cilantro, minced (optional) 
    • Salt and pepper

    Preheat oven to 400°.  

    Make rice.  I add two cups of water to 2 cups of basmati rice to my Instapot and cook for 15 minutes.    Otherwise, follow package directions.   (You will have leftovers.  You can freeze extra cooked rice in ziplock bag.)

    Peel and dice squash into bite-size pieces.  I use pre-diced store bought and cut larger pieces into 1” cubes.   Wash potatoes and cut into 1” cubes leaving the skins on.  Wash and slice red pepper into ¼” long slices.  Peel and slice onion and in half, cut into ¼” slices.   Add potatoes, squash, red pepper, and onions to a large mixing bowl.  Add 1-2 Tbsp of olive oil and toss vegetables with salt and pepper to coat. Add vegetables to a parchment paper lined baking sheet.   Bake, turning once, for 25-30 minutes, or until vegetables are fork tender. 

    While veggies are cooking, add one can of drained pinto beans to a small pot, add cumin, garlic powder, and salt.  Add ¼ cup water, cover, and simmer until warmed through.   Keep warm. 

    Make Cashew Queso:  

    • 1 ½ cup raw, unsalted cashews
    • 8 oz of water
    • 1 tsp cumin
    • 1 tsp garlic powder
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 1 chipotle chili pepper in adobo (or, cut in half if too spicy)
    • 3 TBSP Nutritional Yeast (I use Bragg’s, but you can use any)

    Add all of the ingredients to a high-speed blender.   Blend until smooth.  In my Vitamix it takes about 45 seconds on high speed, stopping once to scrape down the sides.   ***It is very important that queso is completely smooth.  Add more water 1 Tbsp at a time, if needed and continue to blend until smooth. 

    When vegetables are done remove from oven.   Assemble Buddha bowls.  Add up to 1-cup rice per bowl.  Top bowls with the roasted vegetables, beans, Pico de Gallo, avocado, drizzle with cashew queso, and finish with cilantro and green onions, if using.  

    Enjoy! 

    From Here to Eternity…

    From Here to Eternity…

    I will always be a vegan. Now that I know, what I know. I have seen the remarkable effects physically, mentally, and spiritually.  Sounds dramatic, right?  Well, it has been.  In my early 40’s I was carrying around an autoimmune diagnosis, 40 pounds of extra weight, I was depressed and tired.   Now, not quite 4 years later, my doctor still marvels at my annual blood-work. He is amazed that I am at my recommended body weight and not taking any medications.  Amazed because the Mayo clinic estimates 7 out of 10 of us adults are taking some form of a prescription drug, with many of us taking 3 or more meds…and 75% of us are overweight and 40% of us are obese.   Being sick and overweight has become the new norm.  Therefore it’s not surprising that the US is ranked dead last in the “healthy’ category against 10 other wealthy countries in the world.   How is that possible? 

    Well, imagine you are sitting at a table and you keep banging your leg against the chair so long and so hard that it becomes bruised and quite painful.  Finally, someone comes along and says, “Hey, I’ve got a medication that will soothe your pain and another medication that can fix those nasty bruises.”  So you take the pills, and sure enough, the pain goes away and your skin looks better, so you think you’re healed.   But you’re still banging your leg on the chair, and now because the real problem has never been addressed, your original issue has become catastrophic.  Yet nobody ever tells you, “Hey stop banging your leg on the table.” Doctors are taught to prescribe medications for a certain set of symptoms. They are not required to recommend nutritional interventions and, in fact, nutrition is not even a requirement in most medical schools. With the AMA only allowing doctors 15 minutes to spend per patient, it’s not long enough to talk about diet anyway, it’s just long enough to write a script.  Because the truth is there is no money to be made if we are all well, only if we are sick.     

    Heart disease and diabetes are directly correlated to an excessive amount of animal protein consumption and are rarely related to genetics. But a good many people believe they are simply victims of their genes, doomed to a life of middle-age weight gain, cancer, heart disease and diabetes.  And we are seeing a rise in colon cancer rates for the first time in people in their 20’s, a disease not normally seen until our 50’s. A recent study by the Pentagon revealed that 71% of young men between the ages of 17-24 (over 24 million) are ineligible to serve in the military because they are physically unfit. And I am sadder, yet, that we are rearing a generation of kids who are not predicted to live as long as their parents…all because of our food choices.

    Truth is, four years ago, I never gave much thought to the likes of a cow, a chicken, or a pig.  I only knew that they would eventually become food bought in a store.   I never made a connection that those packs of chicken and ground beef were once living breathing animals. I didn’t know that they were purposely hidden away on Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO’s), because if we actually saw what was happening to them we would be disgusted and appalled.  I felt better buying cage-free eggs.  Though more expensive, I figured cage-free was better because these chickens were allowed to run around in the sun.    What I didn’t know was that baby chicks have their beaks cut off so they don’t peck other chicks in their cramped living quarters.  And that cage-free really just means that tens of thousands of chickens are crammed in warehouses instead of cages, and where there is only 1 foot of space per chicken on average. Many of them sustain painful lesions and suffer from ammonia blisters due to sitting on unsanitary floors.  A sad life indeed. 

    I also didn’t know that dairy cows were forced to stand in inches of their own excrement while getting milked 10 months out of a year until they are eventually turned into ground beef.  I didn’t know that most E-coli outbreaks in lettuce and kale stemmed from a CAFO’s waste lagoon, or pools of poop, that pollute our fields, rivers, and streams.  And worse, some of these CAFO’s can make the individuals living by them very, very sick.  Don’t even get me started on Duplin County, North Carolina. 

    I have also learned that it takes a lot of money and resources for us to eat these animals.  I didn’t know that lobbyists fought to have our tax dollars subsidize the meat and dairy industry.  I didn’t know that it takes nearly 2,400 gallons of water just to grow just 1 pound of meat.  I didn’t know that 800 million people could be fed with just the grain that livestock eat alone.  And that much of that grain is produced here in the Midwest.  It’s why they call Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, eastern Nebraska, and eastern Kansas the corn-belt because we grow corn for livestock.  In fact, more than 90 million acres of grain is planted here just to feed livestock feed alone.  It is also an area where cancer rates are on the rise and the levels of pesticide use are skyrocketing.   

    But that’s not the only thing…about 24% (some argue it’s more like 50%) of all global greenhouse gases come from our support of commercial agriculture. These warming gases are caused by things like livestock methane gas production, and deforestation, or the clear-cutting of trees in order to make room for more livestock.  You’ve probably heard that the Amazon Jungle in South America in on fire.  That is because they are a developing nation that is looking at places like the U.S. (land of the rich and plentiful) as an example. So now they are cutting down trees in record numbers because they have discovered the economic value in cattle production; those companies who own the factory farms are the fuel for the fire.  And those who have long associated eating meat with affluence and prestige inadvertently fan their flames.    

    Plant-Based eating has never been shown to cause disease. In fact, it has actually been shown in some cases to halt and even reverse many diseases. It is a way of eating that supports our bodies ability to do its job naturally, without drug intervention. It is better for the animals and better for the planet. I am hopeful the tide is turning and more and more people are waking up, so to speak. I remain mindful that a few years ago, I didn’t know any of this either.  And I am joyful at the prospect that others may follow their own journey because of myself, or countless others like me, that have inspired them to do so.  Being a vegan is one of the greatest gifts this life has given me. 

    Vegan Southwest Breakfast Tacos

    Vegan Southwest Breakfast Tacos

    I adore Mexican food. I mean I could literally eat a Mexican dish for every meal. In fact, while we were visiting Colorado this summer we ate at a Mexican Restaurant 8 out of of 11 days. I love the spices, the depth of flavor, and not to mention it’s really easy to “vegan-ize” almost any dish.

    One of our favorites to make at home however, is this tofu scramble. I also adore Dana Shutlz and her Minimalist Baker’s blog. She is truly gifted in the plant-based kitchen and this recipe is a perfect example. A few weeks ago we had 4 couples, their kids, and my mother-in-law over for brunch. Along with mimosas, bloody mary’s, and roasted potatoes with a chipotle cashew queso, this glorious recipe was loved by all! We served them with corn and flour tortillas, and enjoyed them as tacos and burritos! YUM!

    Garnish with salsa, avocados, cilantro, or hot sauce or my favorite Cashew Queso!

    SCRAMBLE

    • 8 ounces extra-firm tofu
    • 1-2 Tbsp olive oil
    • 1/4 red onion (thinly sliced)
    • 1/2 red pepper (thinly sliced)
    • 2 cups kale (loosely chopped)


    SAUCE

    • 1/2 tsp sea salt
    • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
    • 1/2 tsp cumin powder
    • 1/4 tsp chili powder
    • Water (to thin)
    • 1/4 tsp turmeric (optional)

    Instructions

    1. Pat tofu dry and roll in a clean, absorbent towel with something heavy on top, such as a cast-iron skillet, for 15 minutes.
    2. While tofu is draining, prepare sauce by adding dry spices to a small bowl and adding enough water to make a pourable sauce. Set aside.
    3. Prep veggies and warm a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add olive oil and the onion and red pepper. Season with a pinch each salt and pepper and stir. Cook until softened – about 5 minutes.
    4. Add kale, season with a bit more salt and pepper, and cover to steam for 2 minutes.
    5. In the meantime, unwrap tofu and use a fork to crumble into bite-sized pieces.
    6. Use a spatula to move the veggies to one side of the pan and add tofu. Sauté for 2 minutes, then add sauce, pouring it mostly over the tofu and a little over the veggies. Stir immediately, evenly distributing the sauce. Cook for another 5-7 minutes until tofu is slightly browned.
    7. Serve immediately with the breakfast potatoes, toast, or fruit. I like to add more flavor with salsa, hot sauce, and/or fresh cilantro. Alternatively, freeze for up to 1 month and reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave.

    ***PHOTO via Minimalist Baker www.minimalistbaker.com

    BBQ Jackfruit Sliders

    To Eat, or Not To Eat…

    As a society, we are collectively bound by our traditions.   And this Missouri girl is no stranger to how deeply those traditions are woven into my Midwestern fabric. Missouri is a political bellwether state. We are known for smiling and waving to complete strangers. The word “honest” is something we live and die by. A person’s word and a firm handshake are all we need to seal a deal. But we also hold steadfast to our traditions and our bullheadedness has earned us the nickname “The Show Me State.”   Creatures of habit, we like things the way we like ‘em, and change is not welcomed here.  That said, change evolves as slowly as a Bootheel drawl.   Now it’s not said that we can’t change, but you’ve got to show us why we should! Particularly when it comes to what we eat.  

    Kansas City, my hometown, sits on the far western edge of the state, and has had a long history of determining what we eat.  And what we eat…is meat.  The cattle industry, a thriving industry for over 120 years, began in the west bottoms of KC in 1871 where the Livestock Exchange & Stockyards operated for 12 decades.  In 1899, the National Hereford Show was founded as a cattle show in the Kansas City Stockyardsand was later renamed the “American Royal” after a 1901 editorial in a entitled, “Call It The American Royal.”It’s also why my city would eventually name their baseball team, The Kansas City Royals.  Twice a year in October and November, The American Royal is host to livestock and horse shows, a rodeo and a barbecue competition, all of which are held in the former stockyards.  

    Though the stockyards closed in 1991, the meat industry in KC still reigns as King…the King of Barbeque.  From the Atlantic to the Gulf coast, bordered by the western outposts of Texas, my hometown lies in the middle of an area of the United States called the “Barbeque Belt”, an area that houses four distinct barbecue traditions – Carolina, Texas, Memphis and Kansas City.   BBQ is as ingrained in me as any Midwestern heritage could be.  And when I decided to stop eating meat, BBQ was a difficult task to master.  I missed the smoky flavor and the unmistakable smell of BBQ pulled pork.  Until now…

    This recipe comes via Tasty and is one of the best recipes for making jackfruit I’ve found. Simmered in a ranchero sauce of sorts, the jackfruit is then slowly roasted in a 350° oven for 25 minutes. The crispy jackfruit is then added back to a skillet and doused with bbq sauce. It’s truly heavenly and it satisfies my craving for all things BBQ.

    BBQ JACKFRUIT SLIDERS

    Ingredients for 12 servings

    BBQ JACKFRUIT

    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1 small yellow onion, sliced
    • 4 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 ¼ teaspoons salt
    • 1 ½ teaspoons pepper
    • 20 oz young green jackfruit, 3 cans, in brine or water
    • 1 ½ teaspoons chili powder
    • 1 ½ teaspoons paprika
    • 1 ½ teaspoons cumin
    • 1 ½ teaspoons liquid smoke
    • 1 ½ cups vegetable broth
    • 1 ¼ cups barbecue sauce

    Preheat oven to 400° Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

    1. Drain and rinse the jackfruit. 
    • In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Once the oil begins to shimmer, add the onion and cook for 4-5 minutes, until semi-translucent.
    • Add the garlic, salt, and pepper, and cook for 2 minutes, until the garlic is fragrant. Add the jackfruit, chili powder, paprika, cumin, and liquid smoke, and mix well. Add the vegetable broth, cover, and cook for 15 minutes, until the jackfruit is soft enough to be mashed and most of the liquid is absorbed.
    • Mash the jackfruit with potato masher or a couple of forks, until it looks pulled or shredded.
    • Transfer the jackfruit to the baking sheet and spread in an even layer.
    • Bake for 25 minutes, until the jackfruit is slightly browned and crispy.
    • Remove the jackfruit from the oven, and pour the BBQ sauce over. Mix well.
    • Return to the oven, and bake for another 10 minutes, until the edges are slightly crispy.
    • Use a large bread knife to cut the whole sheet of slider buns in half, spread the BBQ jackfruit on the buns, then top with any additional favorites (pickles, slaw, more sauce!).

    Enjoy!

    The Road Less Traveled

    The Road Less Traveled

    Next week, I have been asked to speak to a group of middle school girls about body image and self-esteem. Lately, these buzzwords have gained momentum in our culture, a culture laden with false narratives and inaccuracies about value and self-worth. Many expert responses to this narrative, while encouraging, often lack depth and therefore do not resonate or connect with their intended audience. So I knew my words had to be carefully chosen, intentional, and authentic. In other words, they had to come from the experiences gleaned by traveling down a dark and winding road called self-actualization.

    Self-image is simply the story we tell ourselves about who and what we are.  Our stories define our self-esteem, (the manner in which we evaluate ourselves), and our self-worth, (the belief that we are loveable and valuable despite how we evaluate our traits). To make things more complicated our stories are usually co-written by those around us, people who may have the best intentions, but are likely struggling with their own confusing falsehoods.  Add to the fact that human nature is inherently geared toward the negative for survival purposes, and it’s no wonder we are sometimes left feeling insecure and at odds with the world.  All of these elements perpetuate the inaccuracies of our true selves; this leads us to internalize and criticize ourselves, generally culminating in some kind of unwanted behavior.   In some, this may mean eating disorders, drug abuse, and in extreme cases, suicide.

    So what is a girl to do?   The first and most important step is to be present and not unconsciously respond to stimuli.  Life is not about what happens to you, but how you respond to life.   Being present allows us to analyze our behavior; it helps us assess our feelings and thoughts, and allows us to take a much-needed breath or two.  Frankly, it is the most powerful tool in the box.  The next step is to realize that we have a choice to rewrite the script.   The words we choose to use, the ideas that we embrace about ourselves are ultimately up to us.   We are not what others say we are unless WE choose to embrace it and believe it.  We are no longer fighting saber tooth tigers; we are fighting against ambiguous texts, simulated fantasies on social media, and trying to adhere to the impossible task that we must be all things to all people.  

    What is my suggestion to these young girls? Instead of trying to be something…just be. Be your imperfectly perfect selves, work hard, be honorable, and stay humble. Don’t worry about being good or being right. In fact, don’t worry at all. Have faith and fear not, because fear will hold you hostage. Be brave and explore the paths less traveled. Do hard things. In fact, seek out things that make you afraid and uncomfortable and do them. Then you will begin to see what you’re truly made of. We are not confined to a future that has yet to be written. Our destiny and fate can change from moment to moment. Who are you? Who do you want to be? Because for better or worse, what you believe, you will achieve.

    Chili Cashew Queso

    Chili Cashew Queso
    What an awesome day on Show Me St. Louis.   Dana and Anthony were fantastic!  Here is the Chili Cashew Queso recipe that I made on today’s show.  The recipe is a variation of a Dana Schultz recipe from “The Minimalist Baker.”    Love her, and love her recipes!

    Just because you give up dairy doesn’t mean you have to give up cheese!   Many things can make milk!  You just need milk with higher fat content to make good rich cheese.  Hence, cashews! I keep this cheese on hand all the time. I use it as a sauce for macaroni and cheese, and as a base for my famous black bean dip!  But one of my favorite things to use it for is the base for a broccoli potato soup!  Sometimes, I just shamelessly stand over the bowl and eat it until I’m about to burst.  Loaded with protein and spices, this cheese sauce it my absolute favorite.

    To heat or reheat microwave, covered, in 30-second bursts, whisking at each interval and thinning with water as needed.  Or re-warm on the stovetop, whisking occasionally and thinning with water as needed.

    AMAZING-10-minute-Vegan-Queso-No-cashew-soaking-involved-just-blend-season-and-add-hot-water-vegan-glutenfree-208x300

    Easy Chili Cashew Queso

    1 ½ C. raw cashews

    1 cup hot water

    3 Tbsp nutritional yeast

    1 tsp sea salt

    1/2 tsp garlic powder

    1/2 tsp cumin

    Pinch chili powder (optional)

    1 chipotle in adobo with a little sauce

    Instructions:

    • To make the Queso, add all ingredients to a high -speed blender and blend until smooth. Stop to scrape down the sides at least once.
    • Feel free to substitute salsa, roasted jalapenos, or your favorite hot sauce in place of the chipotle pepper.   The sauce is also really delicious with no heat!

    Cashew Bechemel–White Sauce

    Big thanks to KSDK “Show Me St. Louis’ for having me back! This recipe is one of my favorite dishes in the whole world! So easy to make and so hard to believe that there is NO cheese, NO cream, No Butter, No Oil! Some may think that is equivalent to no flavor. I say to them…Make IT!


    Vegan Pasta Con Broccoli

    There are only a few meals that truly delight my heart and my palate more than a good pasta. This vegan version of the famous recipe is no exception.   It’s almost hard to believe that there is no cheese, no butter, no cream, and no oil!  The cavatelli pasta is light and creamy and is a perfect medium for this mouthwatering sauce. It’s creamy, delicious, and heart-healthy.  And best of all it can be ready in under 30 minutes.  Enjoy!

     

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    Serves 4

    • 8 ounces uncooked cavatelli pasta
    • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
    • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
    • 1 Tbsp nutritional yeast
    • 1 cup small chopped broccoli
    • 23  cup thinly  sliced fresh Cremini mushrooms
    • 1 tsp oregano
    • Salt and pepper
    • 2 cups white Béchemel sauce

    Cook pasta until nearly done, about 8-10 minutes.

    While pasta is cooking, heat large 12-inch rimmed skillet over medium heat, add mushrooms, season with oregano. Dry sauté mushrooms, stirring frequently.  If mushrooms begin to stick, add 2 Tbsp of water/veggie stock and deglaze pan.  Cook until caramelized, season with salt and pepper.   Set aside.

    In a medium saucepan, add tomato paste, nutritional yeast, garlic, and Béchemel sauce. Stir to combine; cook for 3-5 minutes to warm through, add mushrooms and season with salt and pepper.

    When pasta is nearly done, add broccoli to the pasta water, reduce to medium heat and cook covered, for 2 minutes. Reserve 1-cup pasta water, set aside and drain the remaining water (Do not rinse pasta).  Return pasta and broccoli to the pot.  Add Béchemel sauce and warm through.

    **If the sauce is too thick, add reserved pasta water one tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is reached.

    Remove from the heat; add vegan Parmesan (optional) and serve.

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    Hearty Veggie Lasagna—Test Kitchen Style!

    Hearty Veggie Lasagna—Test Kitchen Style!
    Before Kevin and I became vegan we loved consulting America’s Test Kitchen for recipes.    Their recipes are full-proof and delicious—always the result of hours and hours of testing various methods and ingredients.  ATK recipes are truly the best examples of culinary science!   Each recipe has a “What Makes This Work” abstract that walks you through various ingredients and attempted methodologies before they give you their final version of perfection.   That is very appealing to my “But, I need to know why” personality.  So all of that aside…THIS. LASAGNA.

    Now, I’ve made vegan lasagna before.  Many times, in fact.  But never, ever, like this.  I had always used tofu ricotta, and while the flavor was good, the texture was lacking and it was always too dry.  This recipe skips the tofu and uses cauliflower and cashews that are cooked and blended together.  SO simple, and it gave my lasagna a moist creaminess that it had been missing!  No joke, this is the BEST lasagna I’ve ever had.  I didn’t have any eggplant (we used the last of it for an amazing Baba Ganoush) so I used broccoli (about 12 0z) instead.  It was perfect.  I added the broccoli during the last 15 minutes of roasting the veggies, and it was scrumptious!   So, without further ado…I present this amazing America’s Test Kitchen “Vegan for Everybody” recipe.

    You’re welcome.

    • For the Tomato Sauce:
      • 1(28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
      • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
      • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
      • 3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
      • 2 garlic cloves, minced
      • 1 teaspoon organic sugar
      • ½ teaspoon salt
      • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

      For the Filling:

      • 8 ounces cauliflower florets, cut into ½-inch pieces (21/4 cups)
      • 11/2 cups raw cashews, chopped
      • Salt and peppers
      • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
      • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh basil

      For the Vegetables:

      • 1 pound eggplant, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces
      • 1 pound white mushrooms, trimmed and sliced thin
      • 3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
      • 1 garlic clove, minced
      • salt
      • 1 pound zucchini, cut into ½-inch pieces

      For the Lasagna:

      • 12 no-boil lasagna noodles
      • 1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
      • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh basil
    INSTRUCTIONS
      1. For the tomato sauce: Process tomatoes, basil, oil, garlic, sugar, salt and red pepper flakes in food processor until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as needed, about 30 seconds. Transfer sauce to a bowl and set aside. (Sauce can be refrigerated for up to 1 day.)
      1. For the filling: Bring 3 quarts water to boil in a large saucepan. Add cauliflower florets, cashews, and 2 teaspoons salt and cook until cauliflower is very soft and falls apart easily when poked with a fork, about 20 minutes. Drain cauliflower mixture in a colander and let cool slightly about 5 minutes.
      1. Process cauliflower mixture, 3 Tablespoons oil, and ¼ cup water in clean, dry food processor until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as needed, about 2 minutes (mixture will be slightly grainy). Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer ¼ cup mixture to bowl and stir in remaining 1 Tablespoon oil and basil; set aside for topping. (Mixtures can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.)
      1. For the vegetables: Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Toss eggplant and mushrooms with 2 Tablespoons oil, garlic, and ½ teaspoon salt in a bowl, then spread on rimmed baking sheet. Toss zucchini with remaining 1 Tablespoon oil, and ¼ teaspoon salt in the empty bowl. Roast eggplant-mushroom mixture until beginning to wilt, about 15 minutes. Remove sheet from oven, stir zucchini into vegetables, and continue to roast, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are lightly browned, eggplant and zucchini are tender, and most of the juices have evaporated, 15 to 20 minutes. Set aside. (Cooked vegetables can be refrigerated for up to 1 day.)
      1. For the lasagne: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Grease 13 by 9-inch baking dish. Spread 11/3 cups tomato sauce over the bottom of the of the dish. Arrange 4 noodles on top. Spread half the cauliflower filling over noodles, followed by half of the vegetables. Spread 11/3 cups tomato sauce over vegetables. Repeat layering with 4 noodles, remaining cauliflower filling, and remaining vegetables. Arrange remaining 4 noodles on top, and cover completely with remaining tomato sauce.
    1. Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake until edges are bubbling, 45 to 50 minutes, rotating dish halfway through baking. Dollop lasagne evenly with 8 to 10 spoonfuls of reserves cauliflower topping, and let cool for 25 minutes. Drizzle with oil, sprinkle with remaining 1 Tablespoon basil and serve.
    NOTES
    Feel free to substitute a jar of your favorite pasta sauce. Keep in mind, if you do, you will use a full jar plus 1/3 of another.

    Photograph via: Pamela Salzman