After My Absence I Bring You: A Lasagne Experiment

…Because nothing says “sorry I’ve been gone” like warm, bubbly comfort food.  This is definitively NOT a recipe post, but rather the recounting of a partially successful experiment (to which I’ll return, and absolutely post a detailed recipe if I can get it up to speed!) and a brief meditation on the acceptability of imperfection.  Also quintessentially acceptable?  Roasted, shredded butternut anytime, anywhere.  The lasagne project was inspired by my hope that just as it makes a great replacement for the cheese I can’t use when making a vegan pizza to share with Casey, it would likewise bring something special to a cheese-devoid lasagna.  The squash, at least, never seems to let me down.  Also – a link to a wonderful pumpkin bread recipe.  See?  At least I return bearing gifts.  Squashy, fall-themed gifts, even.

One of my favorite dishes to make for our dinner in fall used to be a white-sauce lasagne with spinach and some sort of squash-action.  Sometimes there’d also be some crushed pecans, caramelized onions, or both.  This, however, was before Casey gave up dairy – and it’s hard to envision a good, bubbly lasagne with no cheese, or a white sauce with no dairy.  So laid my lasagne pan to rest – until recently.  Emboldened by the amazing Cashew-wine sauce and the resounding squash-pizza (best shredded, my initial sliced attempt was good but shredded is better) successes of last winter, I decided to give tofu-ricotta and almond milk white sauce a try.

The result was definitely not perfect – but that didn’t stop us from enjoying it.  Which got me thinking about why I haven’t made more time for this blog.  Partly, because losing the home gym setup cut down my photo-ops but really, most of the photos on here have ALWAYS been food and I knew it.  Really, it was because I’d gotten hung up in the awareness that this blog is far from perfect and I was losing sight of the “point.”  What’s the point?  I love to cook, and I love to work out, and I love to think.  I also love to write, and this is a place I can combine all of those things.  If someone else enjoys it, I’m very excited because these are things I really want to share with other people.  But if not, oh well – and if it’s not perfect, oh well.

Anyway, back to the imperfect, work-in-progress lasagne.

The full line up:

White sauce made with almond milk, vegan butter, onion powder, salt, pepper, and cornstarch.

One block silk tofu, one block regular, stirred up with some garlic powder, onion powder, nutritional yeast (sparing, since ricotta is very mild), salt and pepper.

Shredded squash mixed with salt, pepper, and olive oil.

“Beyond meat” crumbles (soy-free frozen veggie crumbles) in place of ground beef.

Frozen spinach (of course).

No-boil lasagne noodles – because, just, no.  This is supposed to be easy!

What worked:

The “ricotta” worked out great, and the squash topper was absolutely delicious.

What didn’t work so much:

Almond milk is just too thin, even with cornstarch, the sauce vanished.  Really, it needed that amazing cashew sauce or something but that’s a bit more labor intensive.  Maybe I’ll be able to make that in batches and freeze it for future use or something?  Likewise, some of the tapioca (yes, seriously) mozzarella we tried over the summer would have really been nice.  And, the squash: 1) shredding it by hand – seriously?  What was I thinking? and 2) I needed at least twice as much, but see issue #1.

Overall, a tasty dinner we were happy to eat twice but it will need some tinkering.  If I get it down right recipe will follow!

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Since it’s fall and all, and I am a creature of my environment, it’s really just been all orange squash lately.  I finally got around to trying pumpkin pancakes, which were amazing (I just googled up a recipe and went for it) and repeated immediately.  That, of course, meant I had leftover pumpkin hanging around – which in turn, of course, meant pumpkin yogurt for breakfast.  That’s just a little pumpkin mixed into greek yogurt with some honey, cinnamon, and the tiniest bit of nutmeg.  It tastes like pumpkin cheesecake!

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Of course, sometimes having leftover pumpkin is a bit annoying – there’s just something satisfying about emptying out a can of anything, really, into your recipe, isn’t there?  Like the stars have aligned.  Luckily, Smitten Kitchen’s author Deb agrees with me, and posted this fantastic use-the-whole-can pumpkin bread recipe just a few weeks ago.  It’s moist, crusty where appropriate, and just sweet enough without overwhelming the delicate fall spice flavor.  Squash me!

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