Thursday, April 18, 2013

Vegetarian Lasagna

This will be my first recipe so bear with me! 

Since this is one of my vegetarian recipes and even though I am not a vegetarian anymore, I would still like to share some of my story and journey on this topic. 

I first started cutting meat out of my diet about 6 or 7 years ago.  I gave up red meat for lent one year and have still yet to go back to it.  I felt healthier, was able to lose some of those pesky “freshman 15” pounds, and it was a nice change for me.  That is the year I started running and also started my garden.  As time went by, I decided to cut pork out of my diet and soon after it was chicken and fish.  It sort of just happened that I became a vegetarian. 

I started reading and becoming more educated on the treatment of animals in our meat industry.  I won’t go into detail here but I will say that knowing what I know will probably make me remain off of beef and pork the rest of my life.  

My family was the biggest obstacle when it came to my vegetarianism.  They were brought up meat and potato style, as was I, so they didn’t really understand why and even how I was vegetarian.  But even with their concerns and criticism, I remained vegetarian for quite awhile.  I liked the lifestyle that it created for me and it also allowed me to find out more about myself.  It made me get in tune with my body more as well as helped with my running.    

During that time, I experimented with many new recipes.  It was so new and fun to come up with a healthy, vegetarian dish that tasted really good.  I had to think outside of the box when cooking and sometimes I would just throw ingredients together and sometimes it would work out, other times it didn’t.

I was, however, not able to keep up with the amount of nutrients that I needed and as time went by I felt a bit malnourished and I kept losing weight.  I also knew I wanted to eventually become pregnant.  I know it is definitely possible to be vegan/vegetarian during pregnancy but it was something I didn't really want to pay that much attention to or worry about.  So, as of now, chicken and fish are back in my diet.  

I still like eating vegetarian 2-3 times a week and I have many vegetarian dishes that are staples for Mike and I.  One of those dishes is my vegetarian lasagna.  I don’t know how many versions of this I have tried over the years but I finally came up this winner!

Quite tired of the snow and ready for Spring weather!

It was a cold and snowy day yesterday and I asked Mike if he would rather BBQ chicken or lasagna. I was secretly hoping he would say chicken because it was a bit of an easier dinner.  He said lasagna sounded good!  So I made lasagna and I thanked him for picking it when we sat down to eat dinner!  It is just so yummy!

First, bring a big pot of salted water to a boil and cook lasagna noodles as instructed on packaging. 

Cut up the veggies and heat about a tablespoon of olive in a sauté pan.  Put all the veggies in and cook them until they are soft.  Add in the tablespoon of marinara, ½ teaspoon of salt,  ½ tsp of black pepper, and ½ tsp each of dried rosemary, oregano, and basil. I use a good organic jarred marinara.  But if you're up to it... homemade is always best.

Add enough marinara to the cover the bottom of the pan that you will be baking the lasagna in.  It helps keep the noodles from sticking. 

Assesmble the lasagna.  Noodles, ricotta, salt and pepper (if so desired), ½ of the veggies, marinara, cheese.  Repeat.  Once the third layer of noodles are laid down, cover them in marinara and a good amount of cheese.

When Mike is home he usually watches me cook.  Always asking what he can do, but I usually say nothing because I am a control freak when it comes to cooking.  So he took this picture of me assembling the lasagna.

Cover with aluminum and pop in 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes and then uncover for another 30 minutes or until the cheese is golden.



Vegetarian Lasagna

9  Lasagna noodles
1  Tbsp olive oil
1  medium zucchini (1/4” chopped)
1  medium bell pepper (1/4” chopped)                     
1  cup of steamed and strained spinach
1  jar of good marinara sauce
½ tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
½ tsp dried rosemary
½ tsp dried oregano
1  tsp  dried basil or ½ cup fresh
½ cup of good part-skim ricotta cheese
¾ cup of parmesan cheese
3  cups of mozzarella cheese

1.     Cook noodle according to package directions
2.     Heat olive oil in sauté pan
3.     Combine bell pepper, zucchini, and spinach and sauté in olive oil until soft
4.     Put 1 Tbsp of marinara and next 5 ingredients into the veggie mix and heat for about 30 seconds
5.     Put 1 Tbsp of marinara on the bottom of the pan you will use to bake lasagna in
6.     Assemble lasagna – Lay 3 noodles down, ¼ cup of ricotta, ½ of the veggie mixture, ½ cup of marinara, ¼ parmesan, and 1 cup mozzarella.  Repeat.
7.     On the last layer of noodles, cover with remainder of marinara, parmesan, and mozzarella
8.     Bake covered in a 350° oven for 30 minutes and then uncovered for an additional 30 minutes or until cheese and golden.

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