Just before Christmas, one of my friends from college gave birth to her second baby girl (a real doll, I might add!). This friend is among a group of five of us who all lived in a tiny blue house not too far from campus. Fortunately, we all still live within an hour or less from each other, so we manage to get together for dinners and beach days now and then. We’ve been through the college years together, then weddings, now kids. Of the five of us, four of us each have two kids. I, of course, am the exception with no kids (by choice). Actually, getting together with them and hearing about their lack of sleep, their frustrations with parenting, their constant feelings of failure — well, it’s the best birth control EVER. I always come home and tell Hubs how smart we are! LOL!
All joking aside, the decision to not have children was something we both agreed on BEFORE we got married. After the previous sentence, I started typing out a big long explanation, but then I deleted it because the bottom line is I don’t owe anyone an explanation. It’s our choice, we’re happy with it – period. This doesn’t mean we’re anti-children. We have seven beautiful nieces and nephews that we adore. Our cousins and friends have some of the sweetest, cutest, smartest, funniest kids I’ve ever met. Kids are cool. We just don’t want our own.
So what does all that have to do with lasagna?! There is a connection here, I promise. I was about to tell you that four of us college buds all went to visit our fifth friend and her new baby, and we brought dinner to share. Let me back up to the string of Facebook messages that discussed date, time and what to bring for dinner. Basically, it was suggested that I bring the same veggie lasagna I brought to a prior new baby visit three years ago. I don’t even remember where I got the recipe, but apparently it made an impression. I don’t know if my friends forget that I’m vegan now or if they think it’s just a phase or what – but that recipe wasn’t remotely vegan. Sorry folks, but whatever I’m bringing – it’s gonna be vegan. I gotta eat, too!
Since this was my first attempt at vegan lasagna and I didn’t have time for a test run, I had to go with a trusted source. When I googled “vegan lasagna” and Oh She Glows’ recipe for Vegan Lasagna with Basil Cashew Cheeze popped up, I knew that was the one. OSG is one of my favorite vegan blogs and Angela, the blog author, is a fabulous cook (I can’t wait for her cookbook to come out). You might recall my most recent OSG Test Report on Cranberry, Apricot & Pecan Wild Rice Pilaf, which was definitely a winner. I read through a lot of the comments on the lasagna and everyone that had made it seemed to love it. The other reason I chose it was because it didn’t involve making tofu ricotta, which I felt was too risky. After all, I would be serving this to four carnivores.
By the way, those four carnivores (including the most skeptical one) all had very clean plates by the end of the meal – which is always a good sign. Personally, I really enjoyed it and so did Hubs (he got to sample a small bite that was left in the pan when I got home). I left the leftovers with my friend, who told me she ate a piece for breakfast the next morning. Hey, she’s got a newborn – she’s allowed. Since I didn’t have time to photograph the recipe process the first time, I had no choice but to make a second batch for you. Fortunately, it’s not complicated.
First, you’ll need to make the Basil Cashew Cheeze Sauce:
¼ cup vegetable broth or water (or more as needed)
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
½ cup nutritional yeast* (gives the cheese flavor)
¾-1 tsp kosher salt (or to taste) + freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp onion powder (optional)
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1½ cups fresh basil leaves (lightly packed)
1 cup raw cashews, soaked in water for 30 mins or overnight
*Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast, which is sold in the form of flakes or as a yellow powder similar in texture to cornmeal. You can find it at health food stores or you can order it online.
Drain and rinse the soaked cashews. Add all ingredients (in the order listed) to a high-powered blender, such as a Vitamix, and blend until smooth. Easy, right?!
YIELDS (1) 9 x 13 PAN OF LASAGNA
½ Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 sweet onion, chopped
2 zucchini, chopped
8 oz. package of sliced baby bella mushrooms
1 large or 2 small red peppers, chopped
1 large handful of spinach
Herbamare or salt/pepper to taste
1½ jars of pasta sauce or homemade marinara sauce
1 box of oven-ready lasagna noodles (no boiling required)
Lemon Basil Cheeze Sauce (from above)
1½ cups Cheddar and/or Mozzarella Style Daiya Shreds
Preheat oven to 400°F. In a large skillet, add oil, onion and garlic; sauté over low-medium heat for 5 minutes. Add zucchini, mushrooms, peppers; sauté for 10 more minutes. Add spinach; sauté for 5 more minutes. IMPORTANT: Season well with Herbamare or salt and black pepper or else you’ll have bland vegetables.
Pour about a cup or so of pasta sauce into a 9×13 pan and spread it evenly. Add a layer of noodles, then half the Lemon Basil Cheeze Sauce, then half the vegetables (sorry, forgot to snap a photo of that layer).
Repeat layers of pasta sauce, noodles, cheeze sauce, veggies. Add another layer of pasta sauce, then sprinkle Daiya Shreds on top.
Cover with foil and slice a few small vents using a sharp knife. Bake for 40-45 minutes. Remove foil and broil for 5 minutes on medium, watching closely so as not to burn the edges.
This recipe is definitely carnivore-friendly. It is full of really great flavor and substance. Even though I used store-bought pasta sauce, the lasagna tasted REALLY fresh because of the Lemon Basil Cashew Cheeze. I wouldn’t hesitate to make this for non-vegan friends again. In fact, it’s time for lunch – who’s hungry for leftover lasagna?!