Wednesday, April 23, 2014
By Jeff Peterson
One of the biggest questions I get from folks thinking about preparing and eating vegan meals is, "How can I get my kids to eat it?"
Yes, it seems to be the million-dollar question. My wife and I used to struggle with the same thing.
Bottom line is, don't make it difficult. Take their favorite meals and make them vegan. We have done that with burritos, pancakes and shepherd's pie, just to name a few.
Our children love lasagna, so we decided to do the same with their favorite Italian dish. Most people know you can make lasagna without meat, but to make it vegan, there can't be any cheese either. Instead of ricotta cheese, you use blended up tofu.
We looked up a recipe and with a little help from PETA and some improvising, we came up with a delicious dish. Instead of meat or eggplant, we used spinach.
The green vegetable is very low in calories and fats, contains a good amount of dietary fiber, helps to lower your cholesterol and is fortified with just about every vitamin you can imagine.
Believe it or not, all five of our children loved it. That's a pretty good result when you are dealing with kids and vegetables.
Spinach lasagna is kid-friendly, delicious and good for you. What's not to like?
1/2 to 1 pound (225 to 455 grams) lasagna noodles
2 packages (10 ounces, or 280 grams, each) frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 package (16 ounces, or 455 grams) firm tofu (not silken)
1 tablespoon (13 grams) granulated sugar (optional)
1/4 cup (60 milliliters) nondairy milk (such as rice, oat, soy, almond or hazelnut), or as needed
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder or 2 peeled garlic cloves
Juice from 1/2 lemon – about 2 tablespoons (30 milliliters)
2 tablespoons (5 grams) minced fresh basil (about 20 leaves)
1 teaspoon (6 grams) salt (or to taste)
4 to 6 cups (980 to 1470 grams) tomato or pasta sauce of your choice
Preheat oven to 350 F (180 degrees C, or gas mark 4).
Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions or use "no-boil" lasagna noodles. Drain and set aside.
Squeeze as much water from spinach as possible and set aside. (If using fresh spinach, blanch first.)
Place tofu, sugar (if using), milk, garlic powder, lemon juice, basil and salt in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. The tofu "ricotta" should be creamy but still have body.
Transfer to large bowl, and stir in spinach. Continue tasting until you get the amount of salt just right.
Cover bottom of 9-by-13-inch (23-by-33 cm) baking dish with a thin layer of tomato sauce, then a layer of noodles (use about one-third of noodles). Follow with half the tofu filling. Continue in the same order, using half the remaining tomato sauce and noodles, and all the remaining tofu filling. End with the remaining noodles, covered by remaining tomato sauce.
Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until hot and bubbling.
Jeff Peterson anchors the 5 a.m. and 5 p.m. news on WGME-TV and is a vegan.