As the weather gets colder, I crave savory, comforting foods, and I know I'm not alone. Whether I'm talking to my own clients seeking help with their plant-based diets or working at my other job (as a clinical dietitian) the general consensus that I've found is that cold weather = cravings for comfort food. It makes sense that most people seem to crave heavier meals and carbs in the winter. Limited sunlight means that serotonin production can be decreased causing low mood and cravings for simple carbs. While carbohydrates will improve your mood temporarily, I wouldn't use this as an excuse to eat a bunch of cookies or a huge serving of mashed potatoes, because that good feeling will only be temporary. In order for your body to naturally produce serotonin and reap the benefits, you need protein. Specifically, protein foods that are rich in the amino acid tryptophan which is a precursor to serotonin. High amounts of tryptophan can be found in tofu, lentils, turkey, eggs, and cheese.
Along with the scientific reasons of why I'm sharing this recipe, I also just love getting nostalgic about food. Growing up, the months of November and December were filled with delicious home-cooked meals that my mom and grandma would make. Being Italian and Jewish (interesting combo, I know), I learned how to make a variety of holiday foods. Lasagna was one of my favorite foods to enjoy around this time of year, and since I love recreating vegan versions of my favorite meals, I decided to share the recipe for this lasagna with a healthy plant-based twist.
Two specialty ingredients that I used in this recipe are Explore Cuisine brand of lentil lasagna sheets and Miyoko's vegan mozzarella. I found the lasagna sheets at Whole Foods Market, but if your Whole Foods doesn't carry this, you have a few options. You can custom order it from them (ask customer service, they're so helpful!), try amazon prime, you can also order it from Amazon without amazon prime, or order in bulk directly from Explore Cuisine brand's website. For the Miyoko's mozz, I've seen this at a few different places (Whole Foods Market, Fairway Market in the NY-Metro region, I think I've seen it at Trader Joe's, and even smaller grocery stores will sometimes have it in stock).
For the other ingredients, they're all pretty basic, and you can find them in your local grocery store. This recipe packs 20 g of protein per serving, 6 g of fiber per serving, and is bursting with flavor. If you make it, let me know what you think!
High Protein, Gluten-Free, Vegan Lasagna
*you will need a pan for the stove, non-stick spray, a 9x9/square baking pan and tin foil for this recipe
- 1 container (8 oz.) Explore Cuisine Organic Lentil Lasagna
- 1 container (16 oz.) silken tofu
- 25 oz. marinara pasta sauce (I didn't make the sauce myself, I used Whole Foods brand)
- 2 cups frozen spinach, or 6 cups fresh spinach
- 1 glove of garlic
- 1 tsp. olive oil
- ¼ tsp. basil (I used dried, feel free to use fresh if you have)
- ¼ tsp. oregano (same as above)
- 1 tbsp. nutritional yeast
- 1-2 oz. miyoko's vegan mozz
- Preheat the oven to 375ºF
- Finely chop a clove of garlic and using 1 tsp. of olive oil, and heat on low-medium setting in a pan on the stove
- Add spinach and cook on low-medium heat for a few minutes
- Remove spinach + garlic from the stove and place on the side for later
- Drain silken tofu by pressing down with a paper towel, remove the tofu from the container and continue pressing down with a paper towel. The tofu will be soft in consistency, so don't worry about the slightly off-putting, shapeless consistency
- Spray the 9x9 inch baking pan with non-stick oil spray or lightly grease the pan with additional oil (use vegetable/safflower oil instead of olive oil which has a low smoke-point)
- Place 3 sheets of lasagna on the pan so that the pan is covered, next add a layer of tofu, and a sprinkle of dried herbs (oregano, basil), add a little nutritional yeast, add a thin layer of the spinach-garlic mixture. Cover in a generous amount of sauce.
- Add the next layer by placing 3 lasagna sheets in the same order as above, and repeat the sequence so that you have multiple layers of lasagna sheet-tofu-herbs-spinach-sauce. The final layer should be of 3 lasagna sheets. Top this layer with a generous amount of sauce, add pieces of Miyoko's cheese (you could also shred it using a cheese grater), and add additional herbs/nutritional yeast if desired
- Use a sheet of tin foil to cover the top of the pan, making sure the tin foil does not come into contact with the lasagna. This ensures moisture is locked in, without this, you may find that the top of your lasagna is dried out
- Place in the oven and bake @ 375º for 40-45 minutes.
- Remove from the oven, allow to cool a little, and cut into 4 squares
- Enjoy! Save the remaining by covering completely and store in the fridge for up to 4 days