If you happen to be plant-based savvy… you may have seen this recipe, tried it, or thought about trying it. It’s featured in the “Forks Over Knives” original handbook, Engine 2 Kitchen Rescue dvd and on the Engine 2 Diet website and possibly more places.
My post is a little story about our Christmas holiday that goes along with my review of this recipe, which I couldn’t wait until I had a reason to make.
As you may know from my earlier post, our family survived the flu this year, thankfully without antibiotics, and I am grateful for that. I am upset we got it at all. Don’t you think Vegans should be exempt?! All of these super bugs stemming from factory farms which we voluntarily choose to disconnect from! This is why us vegans spread the word! Everyone is affected by factory farms. Back to my story, the bottom line is that we had too much crazy energy happening in the weeks prior to Christmas and I believe it was due to the energetic alignment and 12/21, but it sure had us caught off guard. Luckily, we got over the flu before Christmas and we had energy to clean our house before our friends arrived from out of town. We were pretty excited that good friends of ours were staying with us for Christmas!
I will refer to our friends as T and G… because I have no clue if they want to be named in my blog.
Our friends are so dear to us. We have shared many dinners together, great conversation and a million laughs. We are so grateful to know such good-hearted people like T and G!
My husband and I met our friends when we lived in Raleigh, North Carolina, roughly 6 years ago. We were their first American friends, and what an honor! They had just moved to the U.S. from Croatia and we were happy to welcome them. We made sure that they experienced many of our traditions, including Halloween and an all American Thanksgiving.
Times have changed for us… well… food-wise that is. I still dress up for Halloween!
Our family is now a vegan family and T and G are known to eat similar to their culture in Croatia, where dining might as well be the national sport. And because of this, I was trying to come up with a meal plan (being a holiday with no restaurants open) that everyone would like. I originally thought that I could make something for them that they would enjoy (meat dish), and something that we would enjoy (vegan dish).
The more that I thought about it, the more I could NOT bring myself to do it. It just affirmed for me how far I have come with this vegan thing. It was by no means out of stubbornness or trying to make a point. I just can’t bring myself to purchase meat and bring it into my home. I really feel it’s a bit of a vibrational/energetic/spiritual thing. I have also conditioned myself to cook the opposite of how I used to. I don’t even really remember how to cook meat. I really don’t want to remember how to cook meat. I prefer my kitchen and my body to be light with energy and my counters free from dangerous bacteria. And then there is the whole plant-based nutritionist thing I have going on… feeding meat to my friends would be criminal in my mind and that’s without even touching upon animal rights.
But what would I make? How can I keep everyone happy? Did I mention that T is almost 7 feet tall and and a good sized guy? He will be the first to tell you, he likes his meat and has to have it.
Racking my brain, I remembered this sweet potato lasagna recipe which has been said to be a winner in the plant-based community according to Rip Esselstyn. Well, if it’s good enough for firefighters, then it has to be filling and satisfying! I also remember that my Dad made this recipe a while back and he told me it was worth all the work involved. He had so much food left over – this is what I wanted!
I narrowed it down. My menu for the few days our friends were visiting consisted of a beautiful salad, this sweet potato lasagna, a raw pecan pie that I made from the Cafe Gratitude recipe book, Whole Foods brand vegan blueberry and pumpkin pie (hey, it’s the holidays) as well as their 12 grain artisan bread. The next day I added spinach and “cheese” stuffed shells to the menu, using the recipe for the cheese from my Gluten Free – Spinach and “Cheese” Lasagna Bites post, but stuffing jumbo shells instead of making it a lasagna. For breakfast, I baked vegan pumpkin bread two mornings in a row as requested!
The menu, I thought would be filling. I wasn’t thinking at the time that the dinners would be two pasta sauce dishes and I should mix it up a little more, but it turned out that they tasted totally different from one another. I also took a huge leap of faith that this lasagna would be great. For I had no back up plan.
Luck has it and to our surprise, when our friends showed up, they announced that they had given up Dairy products! YESSSS!!!! That was half the battle right there. See? Just another example of how people are surprising me left and right. Smart people are catching on! We had even more to talk about!
The lasagna ended up to be a bit of work, but enjoyable work as I visualized the outcome while preparing it. And Dad was right, totally WORTH IT! I cheated just a smidge. I used a sauce that was not exactly Engine 2 approved. It was a Trader Joe’s Garlic Marinara. I know it to have a lot of flavor and a little bit of oil. I also added a touch of Himalayan sea salt to the veggie mixture because I wanted to be sure this was bursting with flavor. It was perfect and I have to say, it didn’t need the salt. That is how much flavor it brings on it’s own!
My suggestion… When you make this, just pick a sauce that you KNOW has good flavor, oil or not, as the sauce is so important in a dish like this. I also used gluten free lasagna noodles. I feel that they cooked up on the firmer side because I was cutting it close on sauce. Two jars are not exactly enough to cover the noodles. I think 2 jars plus 1/2 would be perfect. I also bought a throw away lasagna tray from the grocery store that was DEEP. You are going to need that with all these layers. I realize now, that I need to invest in a good lasagna pan!
This lasagna was healthy and satisfying. Full of texture and flavor. It is hard to really explain the end flavors but they go so very well together. T said that he doesn’t usually like sweet potato. Surprise!!! He doesn’t even like lasagna, either! But he just loved this! Phew! Everyone wanted more and we happily ate it for lunch the next day, too!
Not to leave G out, she really enjoyed the meals as well and she got right in my kitchen to help with the dishes. What a doll!
The vegan cheese shells were super filling as well. You really only need to eat a few. Having salad first, bread and then dessert after, we were stuffed.
A million sweet compliments from our friends confirmed that I made a good choice. T said something along the lines of…ya know, I usually have to have meat, but these past few days I really enjoyed everything and haven’t missed meat at all… What a compliment! I hope I influenced them to look at a plant-based diet a little differently and know it can be very satisfying.
We ended up at PF Chang’s on the last night of our visit. I will never forget the nice comment from T. He said, “this food here at this restaurant is good and everything, but it’s nothing like yours, Christa. Look… just the way you cut your carrots vs. theirs…. It’s just different, and so much better”.
When you put love and intention into your home cooked dishes, there is a difference. How many restaurants do that besides some vegan/raw? There is an energy there, and if you are in tune, you can’t deny it. But aside from that, lucky for me, T and G appreciate home cooking, as that is how they were raised. I am not trying to brag here, of course their kind words felt really, really good and it’s always nice to have people appreciate your efforts and support what you do, but much credit goes to Engine 2 Diet for a fantastic recipe!
It meant so much to me to have been able to please our guests and knowing how honest they truly are, I trust that they really enjoyed everything. Food was a small part of the visit of course, we had such a great time catching up and just relaxing. It was so heart warming to hear that this was one of the best Christmases they ever had.
A successful Vegan-Croatian-American-Christmas in the books!
Here are a few pics of the pie. I have made it twice and dream of this one often…
Enjoy the Journey,