Thursday, March 20, 2008

The End of the World...

Recipes for the end of the world?? Well, that may be a bit dramatic, but there’s no denying that the earth is in serious crisis. Our unwavering need to consume and repopulate has led to problems that are spiraling out of control. From global warming to overpopulation, we face unrelenting problems that need to be addressed.

With our natural resources such as water and fossil fuels becoming more and more limited, we need to take a serious look at how we can reduce our consumption and conserve what little resources we have left. One major area we can change is our relationship with food and the way we eat.

Albert Einstein once said that “nothing will benefit human health and increase chances of survival for life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.” While I’ve learned from experience that it’s nearly impossible to convince most people to stop eating meat, I do believe that everyone has room for improvement when it comes to their diet. Here are some things I believe we can all do to help:

  • Buy Local. One major way to cut down on fossil fuel consumption is to buy produce grown as close to you as possible. A lot of what you see in the stores has traveled hundreds, even thousands of miles to get there. Buying local not only cuts down on transportation and the pollution it causes, it also means your food is fresher!
  • Use What’s in Season. This one is directly related to buying local. Here in the U.S. we’ve become so spoiled with being able to buy nearly any type of fruits or vegetables we want year round. But just because we can buy tomatoes in December doesn’t mean we should. Those tomatoes have been shipped halfway around the world to get there. Figure out what’s in season and plan your menus around that.
  • Eat Unprocessed Food. Not only does it taste better when you cook your own food, it also cuts down on the energy and packaging involved in preparing and shipping pre-made food items. You also avoid preservatives and other nasty things like high-fructose corn syrup when you cook for yourself.
  • Support Organic Farms. Everyday our water sources are becoming more and more polluted. One major source of that pollution is conventional farming. Pesticides and fertilizers are washed away into our streams, rivers, and oceans, causing a chain reaction of negative effects. By supporting organic farms, we cut down on the pollutants and decrease harmful effects on the environment.

By becoming connected to our food, we become more connected to the earth. Understand where you’re food comes from, how it’s grown, what it took to get it to your table. Your body and the earth will thank you later.

Lasagna Dinner Party

Tonight's Menu
Vegetable Lasagna with Tofu 'Ricotta'
Mixed Greens with Balsamic Vinaigrette
Garlic Bread (recipe not included)
Blackberry Nectarine Galette with Vanilla Ice Cream
*I'll post the salad and galette recipes as soon as I have time!

The Recipes;

Vegetable Lasagna with Tofu 'Ricotta'
This is a fairly classic Vegetable Lasagna with the exception of substituting a Tofu 'Ricotta' for the cheese that would naturally be there. The recipe is broken into three parts which include Tomato Sauce, Tofu 'Ricotta,' and the vegetable fillings. It takes a bit of time to make, but I think its worth it.

Tomato sauce (see recipe below)
Tofu 'Ricotta' (see recipe below)
1 package lasagna noodles
2 medium sized round eggplant
2 large bunches fresh spinach
5-6 medium sized zucchini
salt and pepper

Tomato Sauce:
1/2 of a medium yellow onion, diced
5 cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tbs. Olive Oil
4 Tbs. tomato paste
1 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes
1 cup tomato sauce
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
salt and ground pepper to taste

Tofu 'Ricotta'
20 oz. firm tofu
8 oz. Tofutti soy cream cheese (room temp)
1 tsp salt
1 1/4 tsp granulated garlic
1 Tbs. fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 Tbs. nutritional yeast (optional)

To Prepare:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the lasagna noodles according to the package, taking care not to overcook them (they will cook longer in the oven). Toss the noodles with olive oil after draining to keep them from sticking. Set aside.

While the noodles are cooking, slice the eggplant and zucchini lengthwise into 1/4" thick slices. Coat the slices lightly with olive oil and lay out in a flat layer on a baking sheet (you may need more than one sheet. I like to put the zucchini on one and the eggplant on the other because they cook at different speeds). Season the vegetables with salt and pepper and bake in the oven until they are tender and beginning to brown, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside. Next, cut the stems off of the spinach and wash the leaves in a water bath to remove any dirt. Drain well, and spread out on a baking sheet, sprinkling the leaves with a bit of salt. In the oven, bake the spinach until just wilted, but not mushy for about 5 minutes, turning occasionally. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

While the vegetables are cooking, start the tomato sauce. Heat a sauce pan over medium high heat. Add the olive oil, onions, and garlic and cook until onions begin to turn translucent. Next add the tomato paste and cook for about 1 minute, stirring continuously. Next add the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, red pepper flakes, oregano, and salt and pepper. Cook at a low simmer for about 10 minutes then remove from heat and stir in the chopped fresh basil. Set aside for later.

To make the Tofu 'Ricotta,' crumble the tofu into a bowl, squeezing out as much water as possible first. Add the soy cream cheese and mash together until it is well blended and the consistency of ricotta cheese. (a food processor works well for this if you have one). Add the remaining ingredients and blend together until everything is well incorporated.

Assembling the Lasagna:
In a 9x13 baking pan, spread a thin layer of tomato sauce over the bottom of the pan. Lay out the first layer of noodles, covering the bottom of the pan. Next, spread out half of the eggplant and zucchini over the noodles, and then add a layer of half the wilted spinach, squeezing out any excess water. Cover with a third of the remaining sauce and a third of the tofu ricotta. Add another layer of noodles and cover with the remaining vegetables and another third of the sauce and tofu mixture. Add a final layer of noodles followed buy the remaining sauce and then tofu ricotta. Cover with foil and then bake for about 45 minutes until the lasagna is hot and bubbly. After removing from the oven, allow the lasagna to sit for about 10 minutes before serving. Serve with crusty garlic bread and a salad. Enjoy!!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Recipe for Disaster...

For years now I've wanted to make my own cookbook, but my lack of commitment, time, and energy have always gotten in the way. That and the fact that I hardly ever measure ingredients or keep track of what I'm cooking made it hard to compile a significant amount of recipes necessary for a whole book. The desires still there, though, so I've decided to start a blog dedicated to recording and sharing recipes that I come up with.

All the recipes are vegan, but my level of veganism might not be as strict as some, so take it with a grain of salt if I use honey in a recipe or I don't specify using vegan sugar instead of white sugar. That's the beauty of cooking, though. You can take anyones recipe and mold it to fit your needs. This blog is also about cooking, not debating the merits of a vegan diet, so if you're looking for a debate, go somewhere else! If you're looking for good, natural food, I'm your girl.

So here it cooking blog. Most of the recipes I post will be my own. If they aren't, I'll say so. Recipes are kinda like music though; most everything has been done before and anything new is just rearranging cords. A lot of what I cook is modifications of other recipes which I think is perfectly acceptable!! Enjoy.