Monday, January 3, 2011

A Great Dinner & Dessert for My Vegan Friends!

My friend Shannon and her husband, Chris, came to visit David and I for New Year's. Since they were traveling quite a long way (from North Carolina), I wanted to cook up something special for them when they arrived! My only challenge I now faced was to make a vegan dinner! Something I had yet to try! I have become very interested in my guests' vegan lifestyle, and have researched quite a bit about it. I recommend checking out their blog at The Road Less Traveled. I've learned about different vegan foods, how to save money, and how to help make our environment greener!

So I began browsing vegan recipes to figure out exactly what I would make them for dinner! Perfect! I would make lasagna! All though this was not going to be an easy task, I was set on making this after reading good reviews about different vegan lasagna recipes. I decided to prepare the lasagna the day before. That way, I could take my time putting it together and I could let the lasagna marinate in its flavors and juices for a day.

Vegan Tofu-Veggie Lasagna

To make this dish, I took the ideas for a vegan lasagna from two different recipes:

  • 1 (8-oz) pkg lasagna noodles (egg-free)
For the marinara sauce:
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 3 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 1 (15-oz) can tomato sauce
  • 3 (15-oz) cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 (6-oz) can tomato paste
  • dried basil
  • dried parsley
  • dried oregano
  • salt
  • ground black pepper
For the "ricotta" filling:
  • 1 (10-oz) pkg fresh spinach, steamed and drained
  • 2 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 1/2 a lemon, juiced
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 (1-lb) packages tofu, one pkg extra firm and one pkg soft
  • onion powder
  • dried basil
  • dried parsley
  • ground black pepper 
For the veggie layer:
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 small yellow squash, diced
  • 1 large zucchini, diced
  • 2-3 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 1 small head broccoli, chopped, stem discarded
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced 
  1. Make the sauce: In a large, heavy saucepan, over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Place the onions in the saucepan and saute them until they are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic; cook 5 minutes more.
  2. Place the tomatoes, tomato paste, basil and parsley in the saucepan. Stir well, turn the heat to low and let the sauce simmer covered for 1 hour. Add the salt and pepper.
  3. While the sauce is cooking bring a large kettle of salted water to a boil. Boil the lasagna noodles according to the package's instructions, then drain and rinse well.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  5. Place the tofu blocks in a large bowl. Add the spinach, garlic, onion powder, basil and parsley. Add the salt and pepper, and mash all the ingredients together. Mix well. Place in the refrigerator until ready to assemble lasagna.
  6. Saute the vegetable layer: In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add all ingredients and saute until vegetables become tender. Remove from heat.
  7. Assemble the lasagna: Spread 1 cup of the tomato sauce in the bottom of a 9x13 inch casserole pan. Arrange a single layer of lasagna noodles, sprinkle one-third of the tofu mixture over the noodles. Distribute 1/3 of the sauteed vegetables evenly over the tofu. Next ladle tomato sauce over the tofu, and top it with another layer of the noodles. Then sprinkle another 1/3 of the tofu mixture over the noodles, top with 1/3 of the sauteed vegetables, then the tomato sauce, and top with a final layer of noodles. Finally, top the noodles with the final 1/3 of the tofu and sauteed vegetables, and spread the remaining tomato sauce over it.
  8. Cover the pan with foil and bake the lasagna for 45-60 minutes. Serve hot and enjoy. 
The next time I make this, I would like to try roasted, thinly-sliced rounds of eggplant (possibly dipped in bread crumbs to give them a nice, crisp texture) in place of the lasagna noodles. I would also add some veggie cheese the next time: a combination of mozzarella and parmesan subsitutes. Yum! I did not add the veggie cheese this time because it unfortunately contains a couple of ingredients that are not vegan. There are veggie cheeses out there that are vegan but my grocery store is so small that they don't carry it... sad. When I try this recipe with these other ideas I will post it!

Now I could not forget about dessert! I wanted to do something special because not only did Shannon and Chris drive so far to come visit us, but they were also recently married (back in July)! So I decided I wanted to make a cake for them to celebrate their marriage! I've been in a Hawaiian-themed mood (probably because my parents were just there) so I decided to take the banana bread recipe I normally make and turn it into a cake with, yep, you guessed it, Hawaiian ingredients a.k.a. pineapple, coconut, and macadamia nuts!

Now, because this banana bread is not vegan, I had to make a few subsitutions! Most importantly, I needed a substitution for the eggs. So in baked goods, eggs are very important for two different reasons: 1.) leavening and 2.) binding. In order to have both of these important effects incorporated into the recipe without eggs I researched a bit and found a recipe from The Vegan Wolf  which is a great substitute for cakes, muffins and quickbreads. And it worked great!

Egg Substitute (equivalent to 1 egg)

  • 1 tbsp ground flax seeds
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp water
  1. Stir together all ingredients until a thick paste forms. Let sit until ready to incorporate into recipe.  
Vegan Ho`olaule`a Cake

Ho`olaule`a means Hawaiian celebration! Perfect for my guests who were just married over the summer.


For the egg subsitute (equivalent to 3 eggs):
  • 3 tbsp ground flax seeds
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp (1/8 cup) water
For the cake:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1-2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups raw sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 (8-oz) can crushed pineapple in water
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 4 ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1 cup macadamia nuts, chopped
For the frosting:
  • 8 oz. cream cheese substitute (Tofutti)
  • 1/4 cup light coconut milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp coconut extract
  • 1 lb (16 oz) organic powdered sugar
  • 1 cup shredded coconut 

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans
  3. In a large bowl, combine all egg susbtitute ingredients and stir until a thick paste forms. Set aside.
  4. To prepare the cake: Whisk the flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder, and cinnamon in a medium bowl to blend. Set aside.
  5. In the large bowl with the egg substitute, beat in the sugar, oil, crushed pineapple and vanilla to blend. Add the dry ingredients and stir just until blended.
  6. In a small bowl, stir together the banana, coconut, and macadamia nuts. Then fold into the batter.
  7. Divide the batter evenly among the cake pans. Bake until the tops are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with no crumbs attached, about 35-40 minutes. Keep an eye on the baking time. Transfer the cakes to a rack and cool before frosting.
  8. To make the frosting: Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese subsitute, coconut milk, and vanilla and coconut extracts in a large bowl until combined. Slowly beat in the powdered sugar until the right frosting consistancy forms. Stir in the coconut. Consistancy will be runnier than most frostings. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before frosting cake to allow frosting to become firmer. After frosting the cake, sprinkle with flaked coconut and chopped macadamia nuts.
This cake with the frosting was amazing. This was my first time making my very own frosting (without a recipe to follow) and I can confidently say that I did well! The only negative comment I have to make about my frosting though is that it was runnier than regular cream cheese frostings, so it was difficult to frost the sides of the cake without it trying to run down the side and accumulate at the bottom of the cake (hence, the mess I made on the cake plate). Okay, so, it was a bit of a mess but I wouldn't change a thing!

I am so glad Shannon and Chris loved the meal I prepared. My hard work payed off! Even David didn't mind it! I really think the word "vegan" throws people off. In reality, it is mostly just healthier eating. Sometimes :) You can make amazing dishes that are vegan though! You also learn to really appreciate fresh herbs and spices more!

Thanks Shannon and Chris for being such wonderful guests! We had a great time and I enjoyed learning more about the kind of vegan meals you prepare at your home! Thanks for sharing some of them with me!


  1. Rachel--Thank you for opening your home to us!! We really enjoyed staying with you and meeting David (and Bella!). I'm glad he didn't mind the vegan lasagna and cake too much. ;)

    I just told Chris to check out what you posted and he exclaimed "The Sexy Cake!". I think you could already tell he loved it (since he ate the whole thing!!), but I think his nickname for the cake really summed it up. Thank you so much for making it! It really was delicious. I think it is going to have to be the cake that I make on special occasions in the future. :)

    And of course, everything else you served was a hit with us too!

  2. Everything looks delicious Rach!! You did a really great job putting all together for your friends! I am actually very interested in trying that lasagna!! Miss you bunches!