Vegetarian Lasagna

Meatless Mondays – A Hand at Vegetarian Lasagna

I just love this picture of Zoë and Sadie. It was one of San Francisco's more beautifully sunny fall days and they both look so healthy and happy. It's these moments that inspire me to keep my family healthy. I would say that there are times I take it to the extreme (I add flaxseed meal to our hamburgers) and I am not sure if I am now teetering on the edge. I was inspired to adopt Meatless Mondays after watching Food, Inc. The documentary encourages people to be mindful of where their food comes from and to limit the intake of mass produced food. This would include all types of meat. While I don't plan to try to persuade people to eat differently, it has had a profound affect on my thinking and I can't help but to write about it. It will truly affect the way Zoë eats from here onward or at least while I am cooking for her.

I have always been an unapologetic carnivore and my cooking has instilled the same love of meat in my daughter. Her favorite dinner food is a cheeseburger followed by “chicken,” which could include pork or turkey. She thinks all light colored meats are chicken and it has been easier to just let her go with it. Well after watching Food, Inc the days of $2.87 chicken legs on the bone are gone and, as I was shopping in Whole Foods on Saturday, find that they will be replaced by $10 organic whole roasting chickens. Since my wallet is not ready to embrace an organic, grass fed, antibiotic-free carnivore diet, my mind is trying to embrace Meatless Monday. The first shot was a Tuscan bread soup. It was pretty good but took a number of days to make, so I doubt it will become a regular on the dinner menu. Besides, by the shudders and gags at the dinner table, I would say Zoë thought it bombed! The second try was vegetarian lasagna and it was tasty. With some convincing, Zoë ate a whole piece and agreed to have some packed for Tuesday's lunch.

Vegetarian Lasagna

A colleague of mine who I would describe as a political vegetarian, she does eat some meat but for the most part abstains on principal, shared some of her favorite vegetarian dishes to inspire my Meatles

s Monday menu. She has been instrumental in sparking my imaginative embrace of produce. I took the lasagna recipe she gave me and enhanced it a bit. All veggie doesn't have to mean low-cal and less flavor.

2 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
3 carrots, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
1 pound mushrooms, sliced
28 oz can Muir Glen chunky tomato sauce
6 oz can tomato paste
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons fennel seed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
dash of red pepper flakes
4 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped and divided
16 oz part skim ricotta cheese
1 egg
1 pound fresh baby spinach
1 pound part skim mozzarella cheese, grated
4 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated and divided
1 9 oz package no-boil lasagna sheets
1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced lengthwise

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil at medium-high heat. Saute onion, garlic, bell pepper, carrots and celery for 6 minutes, stirring regularly. Add mushrooms. Saute until moisture evaporates, about 12-15 minutes. Stir in tomato sauce, tomato paste, oregano, fennel, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and

2 tablespoons basil. Combine and let simmer 15-20 minutes.

In a medium bowl beat egg. Stir in ricotta, 2 cups of mozzarella, 2 tablespoons of Parmesan and remaining 2 tablespoons of basil. Combine remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheese in a separate bowl.

Grease 9 x 13 baking pan with remaining 1/2 tablespoon of oil. Spread one cup of tomato mixture on the bottom of the pan. Layer 4 uncooked sheets, zucchini slices, 1/2 ricotta mixture, 1/2 spinach, 1/2 cup mozzarella/Parmesan and 1 cup tomato mixture. Layer 6 sheets, the remaining ricotta mixture, the remaining spinach, 1/2 cup mozzarella/Parmesan, 1 cup tomato mixture. Layer 6 sheets, the remaining sauce and the remaining mozzarella/Parmesan.

Cover with foil and bake 50 minutes. Uncover and continue to bake until the cheese is melted. Let stand 15 minutes before serving. If you have any leftover sauce, heat and spoon over slices of lasagna when serving.

Best thing, you don't need to serve a side salad. I just warmed some sourdough bread and it made a stinking good meal!