Butternut Squash and Mushroom Lasagna

Butternut Squash Lasagna

Looking for Thanksgiving meal ideas? You’ve come to the right place! This lasagna, is downright amazing—your guests will be demanding the recipe.  A similar dish that would also be great for Stuffed Bird Carcass on the Table Day, would be these Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells with Cashew Cheese. So this dish is definitely less complicated than you might think. I recommend preparing the squash and tofu ricotta ahead of time and keeping them in the fridge until ready to use. Because I didn’t saute the mushrooms, the only things I had to do come suppah-time, was boil the noodles and make the white sauce—both no-brainers . . . I promise. Speaking of noodles, I prefer to use the old fashioned kind simply because the no-boil ones are too short and I have found that they don’t always get cooked completely. Should your noodle preference differ from mine, that’s quite all right . . . you get to make those executive decisions in your own kitchen :-) I just like that I can cut the cooked noodles to fit my pan. Either way, this won’t disappoint!

INGREDIENTS:

1 large butternut squash, peeled and diced
4-5 garlic cloves
Olive oil
1/8 C almond milk
4-5 C mixture of shiitake and button mushrooms
Salt and pepper
15 + a few extra lasagna noodles

Tofu ricotta
14-oz tub extra firm tofu, drained and pressed
1 tsp basil
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/3 C nutritional yeast
2 Tbs lemon juice
Optional: 1/4 C vegan mozzarella, shredded

White sauce
1/4 C Earth Balance margarine
6 Tbs flour
1 C vegetable broth
1/2 C almond milk
1/4 tsp nutmeg
Salt and pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 425. To prepare the squash, I recommend peeling the squash and dicing it up. I have found that if you’re going to just puree it anyway, this is the fastest way to roast a butternut squash. As long as you have a decent potato peeler, this step will be a breeze.

squashToss in a bowl with a little olive oil and some salt and pepper. I decided I might as well roast some garlic too, so I took about 6 cloves, cut the tops off (leaving them in the skins), placed them on some foil, drizzled some olive oil on them, then loosely wrapped them up.

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Spread the diced squash on a large baking sheet (along with the garlic) and roast for 30 minutes.roasting

Next, transfer the squash and the garlic cloves (which should slip right out of the skins) into a food processor. Add about an 1/8 C of almond milk and puree. It’s up to you how smooth you want to puree the squash, but I recommend not having too many big chunks remaining. To prepare the ricotta, throw all of the ingredients in a food processor, except the cheese, and puree until smooth. Transfer to a bowl, and if using the cheese, stir it in.

fillings

Slice up the mushrooms. I had just about 4 cups of sliced shiitakes and since we’re obsessed with mushrooms, I decided that wasn’t enough, so I added some white button mushrooms . . . perfect.

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Preheat oven to 375. To begin, I suggest starting the sauce about 5 minutes before you start the water for the noodles. In a medium saucepan, melt the Earth Balance, then whisk in the flour until fully incorporated and you have a thick paste. Add a little broth, then whisk until smooth. Do this until you’ve added all the broth. Whisk it constantly over medium heat until it begins to thicken. Slowly, and bit by bit, add the almond milk, whisking continuously until it thickens. Reduce heat and season with nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Keep an eye on it and don’t let it burn. Hopefully by now, the noodles are about ready. Don’t over-boil them—they’ll cook more once in the oven. Otherwise, they’ll rip while assembling the lasagna. Rinse thoroughly with cold water to keep them from sticking to each other. Ladle some sauce on the bottom of the pan—not a lot; just enough to coat the bottom. I used a 9×13″ baking dish, so I placed 5 noodles vertically in the dish and cut a couple of inches off one end. Spread half of the squash mixture on the lasagna noodles. Then spread a couple of tablespoons of the tofu ricotta on each noodle. (I didn’t use all of the ricotta–I had about a full cup leftover). Next. layer on half of the mushrooms.

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Repeat process with another 5 noodles, the rest of the squash mixture, more ricotta, and the remaining mushrooms. Top with the last 5 noodles and pour sauce on top. (I added a little more almond milk to the sauce because it had gotten a bit thick). Cover with foil and bake for 35-40 minutes. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes, then enjoy!

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Bowties with Veggies and Roasted Garlic Ricotta

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I’m so happy there are some leftovers! The original recipe uses real ricotta, but not only did I make use my go-to ricotta recipe, I also added/omitted some ingredients. Ricotta cheese has so much fat it’s ridiculous (10 g/fat, 6 g/saturated fat) so even if you do eat dairy, I urge you to try my tofu-version that contains 5 grams of fat, and only 1 gram of saturated fat. Plus, you’ll also benefit from the protein and the no cholesterol! Also, if you think roasting garlic is a pain, it’s really not. It’s so easy to do and takes only 30 minutes, in which time, you can prepare all of your ingredients. Ideally, if you can roast the garlic and make the ricotta the day before, it will be even more flavorful by the time you make this dish. I think you’ll find this is a great main meal or side dish that will please even picky eaters.

INGREDIENTS:

 Tofu-Ricotta:

14-oz pkg extra firm tofu, drained and pressed
1 tsp basil
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/3 C nutritional yeast
2 Tbs lemon juice
Optional: 1/2 C Daiya Mozzarella shreds

The rest:

1 lb bow-tie pasta (any variety would be fine)
6 cloves of garlic (or more if you want)
Olive oil
1-1/2 C cherry tomatoes, halved
4-6 C fresh spinach, chopped
2 C mushrooms, sliced and sauteed
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 C reserved pasta-cooking water

Ricotta Pasta

DIRECTIONS:

To roast the garlic, preheat the oven to 425. Cut off the tips of each garlic clove and place on a piece of foil; drizzle with olive oil. Wrap up loosely in the foil, place on a small baking sheet, and roast for about 30 minutes. Set aside and let cool.

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Meanwhile, however, prepare your other ingredients. To make the “ricotta,” combine all of the ingredients in a food processor, but don’t blend it yet until the garlic is done. You’ll want to add the garlic cloves and blend everything together, along with the 1/4 C of the reserved pasta-cooking water. So until the garlic is ready, at least throw together the ingredients to get started. Cook the pasta according to package instructions while you saute the mushrooms in a small pan with a teaspoon of olive oil. Chop your spinach, slice those tomatoes, and finish off the ricotta by adding the newly roasted garlic and water. (For the garlic cloves, gently squeeze an end and the skins should come right off, then discard).

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Drain the pasta and rinse with hot water to remove as much starch as possible. Return the pot to the stove and over medium-low heat, add the spinach, tomatoes, and mushrooms; saute with a smidgen of water until wilted and heated through.

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Add the pasta and ricotta and combine everything thoroughly, season with salt and pepper, and enjoy!

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Alfredo Ravioli (and a beautiful white morning)

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First, I had to snap a few pictures this morning of the snow because by tomorrow, most of it will be gone. This is a photog’s dream and the time I love snow—so beautiful.

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So anyway, as you probably know, I go through phases when I discover certain meals. For example, when I discovered stuffed peppers, I made about 10 different versions . . . same with frittatas and tofu scrambles. Now I’m on to my latest obsession: Ravioli. At least I have the process down to a science so preparation goes a lot smoother. I was hankering for some of this Alfredo sauce, but I was also craving ravioli. Typically, I don’t like to pair ravioli with a heavy sauce, but to hell with rules; this was too good not to try. I changed up the dough a little because I didn’t have enough semolina flour and it worked out nicely. These are stuffed with tofu ricotta and fresh spinach—a fabulous combo. For a more in-depth description on using a ravioli plate, check out this version.

INGREDIENTS:

Dough:

1 C semolina flour

2 C whole wheat pastry flour

1 tsp salt

1 C almond milk, warm

2 Tbs olive oil

Filling:

14-oz pkg. extra firm tofu, drained, pressed and crumbled

1 tsp dried basil

1 tsp dried rosemary

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

2 Tbs lemon juice

1/3 C nutritional yeast

1/3 C Daiya mozzarella (optional)

2 C chopped spinach

Sauce:

1 C raw cashews

2 Tbs pine nuts

1-1/2 C water

4 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp garlic, minced

1/16 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/4 C nutritional yeast

1 to 2 C mushrooms, sliced

DIRECTIONS:

Start with making the dough. In a large bowl, combine the flours and salt. Create a well in the middle and slowly pour in the almond milk and oil. Using a spoon, or your hands, combine well. Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead for at least 5 minutes. Shape into a ball, cover with plastic, and set aside.

Next, throw together the ricotta. Combine all of the ingredients, except the spinach and cheese, in a food processor and blend well. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the spinach and cheese. Set aside.

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Next, roll out the dough. I used my pasta maker, but you may certainly use a rolling pin. Lay one long sheet over the ravioli mold and fill each pocket with just over a teaspoon of filling.

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Lay another thin sheet of dough over the top, press down and use a rolling pin to seal the edges. Again, refer to this post on how to use a ravioli plate. Place the raviolis on a baking sheet and repeat the process until you have used up all of the filling. I had just a small amount of dough left, but not much. I had 75 raviolis when it was all said and done. Cover and set aside.

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Time to make the sauce. Using a blender, grind the cashews and pine nuts to a fine powder. Add the nutritional yeast, water, lemon juice, garlic, nutmeg, and salt. Blend until completely smooth—about 1 minute. Transfer to a medium saucepan and whisk over medium heat until it begins to boil. Reduce heat and let it simmer for 5-7 minutes; stir in the black pepper. I sauteed the mushrooms first, then stirred them into the sauce.

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Keeping the sauce warm on very low heat, bring a large pot of water to a boil. I cooked about 12-15 raviolis at a time for about 4-5 minutes per batch. Using a slotted spoon, place them in a strainer. Serve immediately, or lay them out on a large pan, otherwise, they’ll stick to each other. You can drizzle a little olive oil on them as well, to keep them separated. Ladle on some sauce and enjoy!

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Vegan Sweet Potato and Ricotta Ravioli with a Butter-Garlic Cream Sauce

I’m very proud of this meal. And it was certainly a labor of love. Three hours of labor, to be exact. (Although that includes the Caesar salad I had to make). Luckily, many of the steps involved can be made way ahead of time and kept in the fridge, making assembly and cooking time a breeze. It may have taken a while to make, but it was nothing compared to my first attempt at raviolis. I got wise and bought a ravioli mold that made the process so much easier!! (Check out this great YouTube video on how to use it). I threw together a butter-garlic cream sauce which looks pretty weird, as you can see, but I promise you, it tastes better than it looks. After using the ravioli mold, I’m excited to try other types of ravioli—it’s less daunting now that I’ve got the right tools. The sweet potato and tofu ricotta are an excellent combo! You can also try my soy-free version. I made enough dough and filling to feed an army; I easily could have made a 100 raviolis. The leftovers are perfect for freezing and saving for another meal. Feel free to half the recipes for the dough, fillings, and sauce to make about 50 raviolis. (One serving is 10-12 raviolis). Even though there are several steps to this meal, they’re very simple and there’s nothing like fresh pasta!

INGREDIENTS:

Dough

2 C flour

2 C semolina flour

1 tsp salt

2 Tbs olive oil

1-1/2 to 2 C water

Sweet Potato Filling

2 sweet potatoes

3 large green onion, minced

2 Tbs almond milk

Salt and pepper

Ricotta Filling

14-oz extra firm tofu, drained and pressed

1/3 C nutritional yeast

1 tsp dried basil

1 tsp dried rosemary

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

2 Tbs lemon juice

Butter-Garlic Cream Sauce

3 large cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 C Earth Balance

3 Tbs flour

3/4 C to 1 C almond milk

Salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS:

Begin by cooking the sweet potatoes. I cooked them in the microwave to save some time—only took 10 minutes. Scoop out the potato and mash it with a fork or pastry blender. Stir in the almond milk and combine well. Add the green onion, salt, and pepper; set aside. To make the ricotta, combine all ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth; set aside. To make the dough, combine the flours and salt in a large bowl of a stand mixer (you can use a food processor too). While the mixer is running, slowly add the oil, then water until you reach a somewhat damp (but not too sticky) dough.

Knead on a lightly floured surface for 3-5 minutes. I used my pasta maker to roll out flat sheets. You can easily use a rolling pin instead. Lay a sheet of dough over the metal portion of the mold. Place the plastic mold on top and press gently, creating pockets for the filling. Place about a teaspoon of each filling into each pocket.

Place another sheet of dough on top and press down, sealing the edges and flattening the top. Using a rolling pin, roll over the top to create the raviolis. (Again, check out the You Tube video at the beginning of the post to see this magic happen).

So much better than trying to make by hand! The mold was worth the $20 I paid for it. Let the raviolis sit for about 20 minutes. To make the sauce, combine the garlic and butter in a small saucepan and melt the butter. Whisk in the flour, one tablespoon at a time. Slowly whisk in the almond milk, using enough to reach a semi-thick consistency; keep warm.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Using a spatula, I placed 12 raviolis at a time, into the pot. Boil for 5-7 minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon to a colander.

Repeat the process until they’re all cooked. (For the last dozen, instead of removing with the slotted spoon, I placed the colander in the sink and poured the remaining raviolis and boiling water into the colander. That way, the other raviolis that cooled off could be somewhat reheated).

Drizzle a ladle of sauce over a serving of the raviolis and enjoy!

Home-Made Ravioli

I bought a pasta maker many years ago and used it a few times. Then, two years ago, when we moved, I couldn’t find the damn thing. Even though it was something I hardly used, I was determined to find it. But I couldn’t. I figured it had run off with my white Chantel soup pot because it too, was missing. So last December, I was digging around in the laundry room for something else entirely, when I opened a bin that was supposed to contain miscellaneous crap. Well, there it was. Along with soup pot. I let out a celebratory yelp and the Husband rushed in, wondering what my deal was. When I showed him that I finally captured the elusive kitchen appliance, I assumed he’d be as excited as I was and happy that I’d quit lamenting over losing the thing. But he didn’t seem too thrilled.  He left the room and returned with a wrapped box, about the same size of the box I held in my hands. “I’ll take this one back tomorrow,” he mumbled. He had gotten me a new pasta maker to replace the one I “lost.” He was really happy that I found it, but then he had to come up with something else to give me for Christmas.

So jump to October 2011, nearly a year later. It was the first time I used that stupid pasta maker since finding it. I know, it’s terrible . . . the Husband wasn’t even home to enjoy these raviolis! But now that I have some practice, I’ll make more of an effort to use it because there’s nothing like fresh pasta. Making fresh pasta, however, isn’t always easy, especially raviolis—it will take some trial and error to get these right. Regardless of their less-than-pretty appearance, they were delicious!

INGREDIENTS:

Dough:

1 C flour

1 C semolina flour

Dash of salt

1 Tbs olive oil

1/2 to 3/4 C water

Filling: (I used my go-to ricotta cheese recipe)

1-14oz pkg extra firm tofu, drained and pressed

1/3 C nutritional yeast

1 C fresh basil

2 Tbs fresh rosemary

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

2 Tbs lemon juice

1/2 C Daiya mozzarella shreds

The rest:

1 jar of marinara or spaghetti sauce

DIRECTIONS:

Using a food processor with the sharp blade, pulse the flours and salt together. While the machine is running, add the oil and water. The dough shouldn’t be sticky.

Knead the dough using some all purpose flour. Using small pieces of dough, feed it into the pasta maker—the widest setting, then one notch thinner, then a third time on the next thinner notch. The Seventh Grader and I didn’t quite figure this method out until halfway through, but oh well, we had fun experimenting. His job was to cut the rolled out dough into squares.

Place the squares on a cookie sheet or cutting board to dry a little—about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, combine all the filling ingredients, except the mozzarella, in a food processor. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the cheese. Place a small scoop, about a teaspoon of filling in the middle of each ravioli square.

There are other ways of doing this. I think it’s better to NOT cut squares first, but to have a long piece of rolled out dough, place the filling dollops in a line and fold over the dough, then cut using a pastry wheel to seal the edges.

I finally got smart and used the pastry wheel to seal the edges instead of a using a fork, but accumulated an unusable pile of dough shrapnel.

Anyway, we ended up with pretty ghetto ravioli.

In batches of 5-6, add them to boiling water and cook for about 2-3 minutes; remove with a slotted spoon. Top with warm spaghetti sauce and enjoy!

Mushroom & Spinach Manicotti

It’s hard not to please the family with this simple, flavorful dish. Many people think that vegans can’t enjoy Italian food because the cheese factor, but in reality, it’s so simple to veganize. I use my go-to ricotta cheese recipe and Daiya cheese is really delicious, so there’s not reason herbivores can’t indulge in their favorite pasta dishes!

INGREDIENTS:

12-13 manicotti shells

1 jar marinara sauce

1-1/2 C sliced mushrooms

2 C chopped fresh spinach

1 tsp olive oil

2 tsp garlic, minced

1/2 C diced onion

1/2 C Daiya mozzarella

Tofu Ricotta:

1 14-oz pkg extra firm tofu, drained and pressed

1/3 C nutritional yeast

1 C fresh basil

2 Tbs fresh rosemary

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

2 Tbs lemon juice

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350. Cook the pasta until just al dente—it will cook more in the sauce while in the oven. Meanwhile, combine all of the ricotta ingredients in a food processor and blend well. In a small saucepan, heat the olive oil and garlic and add the onion. Cook under tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook another 5 minutes.

Combine the tofu mixture and the mushroom mixture in a medium bowl. Stir in the spinach.

Pour about a half the sauce on the bottom of a 9×13″ pan; spread evenly. Using your hands or a spoon, stuff each manicotti shell and place in pan. Cover with the rest of the sauce and sprinkle the cheese on top.

Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake another 5-7 minutes. Let it sit for 5 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Stuffed Bell Peppers with Field Roast, Ricotta & Spinach

I love stuffed pasta shells, but I don’t always love filling up with carbs and wheat from the pasta. This is a fabulous and healthy alternative, which the family raved about. My hegans agreed that these were the best stuffed peppers I made. You can check out the other recipes here.  I used my go-to ricotta recipe, as well as The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook’s Parmezano Sprinkles–both very easy to whip up.

INGREDIENTS:

My go-to ricotta:

1 14-oz pkg extra-firm tofu, press and drained

1/3 C nutritional yeast

1 C fresh basil

2 Tbs fresh rosemary

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

2 Tbs lemon juice

1/4 C Daiya mozzarella

Parmezano Sprinkles:

1/2 C blanched almonds

2 Tbs nutritional yeast

1-2 tsp light miso

1/4 tsp salt

The peppers:

4 bell peppers, washed, tops removed and innards cleaned out

1 tsp olive oil

2 tsp garlic, minced

1 C onion, diced

2 Field Roast sausages, Italian flavor

2 C mushrooms, diced

4 C fresh spinach, chopped

1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, drained

Salt and pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS:

To make the ricotta, crumble the tofu into a food processor. Add the rest of the ingredients (except for the Daiya) and blend until somewhat smooth. You don’t want it too smooth. Stir in the cheese.

To make the parmezano sprinkles, grind the blanched almonds to a fine consistency. Add the nutritional yeast, miso, and salt. Combine well. Store in an airtight container in the fridge. When you get read to use it, give the container a shake to loosen it all.

Preheat oven to 375. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and garlic. Add the onions and cook until they just begin to get tender. Using your fingers, crumble up the Field Roast sausages and add to the skillet. Cook for another 5 minutes.

Add the mushrooms and diced tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes, or until the mushrooms soften. Stir in the spinach and cook 5 minutes, or until the spinach cooks down a fair bit.

Remove from the heat and let sit for about 10 minutes. Drain any excess tomato juices if you need to. Then, stir in 1 cup of the ricotta mixture.

Stuff each pepper with the mixture, pressing down with every scoop.

Bake for 30 minutes. Top with some of the parmezano sprinkles and bake another 5 minutes.

Enjoy!

Chickpea Burgers with “Ricotta” Sauce

I saw this recipe in the January issue of Shape magazine and knew it’d be a great one to make. I had to make some alterations to veganize it and to just make the process easier. The recipe is for 4 burgers, but next time, I’ll make 3. They were a little wimpy as 4 and since there’s 3 in my little vegan family, it’ll just work out better. The recipe also called for panko breadcrumbs, but I forgot to pick some up, so I went with regular bread crumbs. Not a big deal, but I’ll seek those out next time, too. These are pretty simple to throw together and dinner is ready in under 30 minutes.

INGREDIENTS:

1-15 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1/4 C chopped parsley

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp coriander

1 tsp Ancho chili powder

Black pepper

2 tsp egg-replacer powder + 2-1/2 Tbs water

1/4 C +2 Tbs panko or regular bread crumbs

1/3 C ricotta (I had some of my go-to tofu ricotta in the freezer)

2 Tbs plain nondairy yogurt

Whole wheat buns

Cucumber, sliced

Tomato, sliced

Spinach leaves

DIRECTIONS:

Place the top oven rack 8-10 inches from the broiler heat. Preheat oven broiler to high. In a small bowl, whisk together egg-replacer powder and water; set aside. In a large bowl mash the chickpeas a little with a fork; add the parsley, garlic, and spices; season with black pepper.

Stir in the egg-replacer and 2 Tbs of the panko or bread crumbs. Pour remaining bread crumbs onto a plate and prepare a baking sheet with cooking spray. As you shape into 3 (or 4) patties, dredge them in the bread crumbs and place onto the baking sheet.

(I also should have chopped the parsley more)

Broil for 4-5 minutes per side. Meanwhile, combine the ricotta and yogurt in a food processor or blender.

Serve burgers on the buns with the ricotta sauce, tomato, spinach, and cucumber. Enjoy!