Sweet and savory squash adorns the layers of this delicious and hearty Vegan Butternut Lasagna. I decided to make lasagna recently because we were entertaining guests for dinner on the evening of a very busy day. Lasagna is one of those dishes you can make ahead and warm up before mealtime. All I can say is I’m sure glad I did!
I don’t know about you, but it sure seems that most of the best laid plans go awry. I think it’s because I try too hard. You know what Yoda says, “There is no try, only do.”
It’s true I’m no Jedi warrior, but I am learning that relaxation can be a big part of life’s success.
That sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Well, you could consider the source. I have my days.
But think about it. Some of the best athletes in the world talk about the importance of staying relaxed when competing.
OK. Maybe that might work on the tennis courts, but in the kitchen? There’s so much going on and so many opportunities for errors! How can a person stay calm?
Here are some of my favorite tips for Keeping Cool in the Kitchen:
- Downplay the Drama. My dad once told me when I was making my first family Thanksgiving dinner not to sweat it. He said, “If you burn the turkey, we’ll have bologna.” Of course, now days our main course for Thanksgiving is Tofurkey, but the point still stands. The more you can remove pressure from the situation, the more you can relax and enjoy the process.
- Keeping it Calm in the Kitchen. Find ways to keep your kitchen environment as calm as possible. For me that means having my ipod handy so I can listen to a favorite podcast (can you say Terry Gross?), or hum along with a favorite song (or two). Maybe for you it might be having some peaceful pictures hanging on the wall or motivational quotes. Try a few of these and see what works for you.
- Review the Recipes. One thing that always sets my crazy gauge verging on “too-hot-to-handle” is not having the right ingredients on hand once I’m half-way into a recipe. Nowadays I try to take a minute or two to review my recipes to make sure I’ve got what I need before getting started. Having what you need on hand is important to keeping things cool.
- Backup Betty. Have a backup plan. It’s a little bit like what my dad said above, be prepared. If you’re having guests over for dinner and the outcome is really important, just be sure to have some soy ice cream and chocolate syrup in the fridge. That way if you burn the cake, you’re prepared with a fall-back plan.
- Breaking Good. One time I nearly burned down the kitchen boiling a pot of water. A neighbor came to the door as I was preparing dinner and the front-door conversation lasted longer than I expected. The next thing you know there were flames in the kitchen and the fire department had to be called. We learned that the stove wasn’t working correctly…and neither were the smoke detectors. Both problems were fixed immediately and the good news was that blunder happened while we were awake and no one was hurt. Had the smoke detectors failed in the middle of the night, we wouldn’t have been so lucky. Finding the good in whatever you can: That’s what I like to call Breaking Good!
- Breathe. Is this one sort of obvious? First of all, breathing is one of those autonomic kinds of endeavours. You sort of do it without thinking. Sort of. But sometimes putting thoughts to these kinds of mindless activities can be helpful. Take time to do some deep breathing every time you stop to recheck a recipe. Or every time you grab something from the fridge. It’s important and can make a big difference in how you feel.
I’ve been doing these kinds of things more often lately and I’m finding that I enjoy the sense of calm in my life, both in and out of the kitchen. I don’t keep track of my kitchen disasters so I can’t say that this new attitude has resulted in improved results. But what I have changed is my outlook. And for some reason that seems to lead to some fun journeys. This Vegan Butternut Lasagna just happens to be one of them. I had a moment of inspiration to include butternut squash between layers of lasagna and it worked like a charm. It’s a recipe I plan to make again…and again!
Vegan Butternut Lasagna
- 1 large butternut squash
- Approximately 10 Vegan Meatballs (You can buy these at the store or make my Lentil Meatballs ahead of time)
- 1 jar Pasta Sauce (I used a 24 oz jar)
- 1 cup water
- Vegan Ricotta Mixture (see recipe below)
- Vegan mozzarella cheese sauce (see recipe below)
- Oven-ready lasagna noodles
- Optional Toppings: additional mozzarella cheese and dried basil
- Begin this recipe by heating your oven to 350 F.
- Slice the butternut squash in half, lengthwise. Remove the seeds and place the squash face down on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 – 15 minutes until tender. I usually insert a knife to see if the squash is ready or not. Once done, remove it from the oven and set aside to cool. Once cooled, scoop the flesh of the squash into a bowl and use a fork to gently mash it.
- Next, use the recipes below to prepare your Vegan Ricotta Mixture and Vegan Cheese Sauce.
- In a bowl combine the pasta sauce and water and stir. Next, crumble the vegan meatballs into the pasta sauce mixture.
- Spread 1 cup or so of the pasta sauce into the bottom of a 9 X 13 baking dish. Top with one layer of lasagna noodles. Now add half of the Vegan Ricotta Mixture and top that with half of the mashed butternut squash and another cup or so of the pasta sauce (spread out evenly over the top).
- Now you’re going to repeat that step by adding a layer of lasagna noodles, the remaining half of the ricotta mixture, the remaining half of the mashed butternut squash and another cup or so of the pasta sauce (spread out evenly over the top).
- Next add one more layer of lasagna noodles and the remaining sauce. Top this with the Vegan Mozzarella Cheese Sauce. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 45 – 50 minutes, until the lasagna noodles are tender.
- Top the finished lasagna with additional shredded cheese and/or dried basil. Let this dish cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.
Vegan Ricotta Sauce
- Tofutti Ricotta Cheese (or you can use plain extra firm tofu)
- 1 can chickpeas
- 1/2 – 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup nutritional yeast flakes
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder (or 1 – 2 cloves minced)
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 cup shredded vegan mozzarella cheese (Follow Your Heart of Dayia are my favorites)
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until the mixture is smooth
- Set aside.
Vegan Mozzarella Cheese Sauce
- 1/2 cup Earth Balance margarine
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1 cup hot water
- 2 tablespoons Bragg
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 cup Nutritional Yeast Flakes
- 1 package Vegan Mozzarella Cheese (either Follow Your Heart or Daiya)
- In a saucepan, melt margarine over low heat. Add flour with a whisk and beat over a medium heat until mixture is smooth and bubbly.
- Use a wisk to stir in 1 cup of hot water, Bragg, salt, garlic powder, and turmeric, stir well.
- Next shred the vegan cheddar cheese and add this to the cheese sauce mixture and slowly raise the heat on the burner to medium high heat. Stir this mixture until the grated cheese melts.
- Once the cheese sauce is done, allow it to cool.