I don’t remember much about the T.V. show Garfield except that, like most Americans, he was sarcastic, apathetic, bored, and addicted to food. More specifically, the cat craved lasagna. (And let’s not forget about his dominion over his owner, which I’ll be the first to admit is awfully congruent to my relationship with Smitty). But oh the lasagna; in one swoop that cat could swallow a 9 x 13” pan. And who could blame him? Layers of cheese, sauce, and noodle … an Italian classic gone American.
But I’m no Garfield. If I ate a lasagna in one swoop, or if I ate lasagna at all, I’d be sick for hours. Every member of my family is lactose intolerant, and although thanks to Cabot we’ve learned that aged cheeses don’t have lactose, the soft cheeses in lasagna certainly do. With my new quest to go vegetarian, and go at it well, I decided to play around with ingredients to make a lactose-free (and dairy free), vegetarian lasagna that looks and tastes like your typical American lasagna. And boy did I succeed! (Note: I did not tell Jeremy what was in it until after he took a bite … skepticism can ruin any dish!)
I still haven’t created a pithy title for it, so for now I’m going to call it, “Lasagna, what?”
Since I made this up on the spot, I can’t really tell how much of an ingredient to use, so I’ll just use my grandmother’s phrases: a pinch of this, a pinch of that.
In a bowl, throw in a box of soft tofu, a few pinches of basil (fresh if you have it), some lemon juice (half lemon-ish), a few pinches of garlic powder, little pinch of raw sugar, little soy milk, and a bit of pepper.
Put it all in a food processor (look how cute my little one is that I inherited from my brother) or a blender and mix until it looks like Ricotta cheese!
Put this aside and cook your lasagna noodles and pre-heat the oven to 350. (Note: I highly suggest using whole wheat lasagna noodles for a healthier dish. Unfortunately, the market near my house only had white).
While the noodles are cooking, chop up your favorite veggies. I was a little limited because the market near home is tiny (although it is all organic). I used a gold zucchini, sweet onion, carrots, and tomatoes from our tomato plants. If you have spinach, that would be yummy too. I steamed the onion, carrots, and zucchini just enough so they weren’t hard.
If you have a little tomato sauce, put a thin layer at the bottom of your pan. If not, just mash up some tomatoes. Then, start your layers! Put noodles on top of the sauce, your tofu mixture on top, a layer of veggies, more noodles, more tofu mixture, more veggies, a final topping of noodles. I sprinkled some sauce on the top and any left over chunks of tomatoes.
I put some bread crumbs on top. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until it bubbles. And you got yourself a lactose-free, veggie lasagna!
And as you can see, my non-vegetarian Jeremy enjoyed it!
If you like a little more punch in your lasagna, I’d suggest playing around with your spices in the tofu mixture. I might try some oregano or thyme.
I think this lasagna would trim down Garfield’s belly!
A few notes about living vegetarian and dairy free:
I haven’t quite transitioned into a dairy-free vegetarian diet yet, mostly because I love cheddar cheese more than I love Russell Brand (and I’ve got a pretty strong crush on Russell Brand, thanks to my friend Sarah). And at first I never thought I would go dairy-free because I worried about not getting enough calcium, especially because I’m small and come from a family of weak bones. But with some research, I’ve found that the idea that you must eat/drink dairy to get proper calcium is a myth. In fact, there are so many calcium-rich plant foods that give you loads of options. You need to look for plants that are low in oxalates and good sources for calcium, such as broccoli, collards, kale, okra, and turnip greens. Also, white beans and soybeans contain a good amount of calcium. And as always, almonds give you everything you need, including calcium. I like to buy calcium fortified soy milk and yogurt, and apparently, which I haven’t bought yet, you can buy calcium fortified cereals.
But why go dairy-free? Well, aside from that fact that I’m lactose intolerant and it will just make life easier, there are a number of other reasons that people aren’t quite aware of. The funny thing is, I was about to write a long list of reasons, but my friend Chris (my brother’s brother-in-law) just e-mailed me a link to a fabulous blog called “No Meat Athlete” which happens to have an article pertaining precisely to this topic. Check out his site: http://www.nomeatathlete.com/
Here are this blogger’s top 6 reasons to drop dairy (especially milk):
Cruel to calves – Cows produce milk to nourish their young, but calves on dairy farms are taken away from their mothers when they are just 1 day old. They are fed milk substitutes (including cattle blood-ugh) so that their mothers’ milk can be sold to humans.
Cruel to cows – Cows have a natural lifespan of about 25 years and can produce milk for eight or nine years. However, the stress caused by the conditions on factory farms leads to disease, lameness, and reproductive problems that render cows worthless to the dairy industry by the time that they’re 4 or 5 years old, at which time they are sent to be slaughtered.
Cows are also fed unnatural, high-protein diets, which include dead chickens, pigs, and other animals, because their natural diet of grass would not provide the nutrients that they need to produce such massive amounts of milk.
Cruel to kids – Cow’s milk is the number one cause of food allergies among infants and children, according to the American Gastroenterological Association.
Cruel to adults – A U.K. study showed that people who suffered from irregular heartbeats, asthma, headaches, fatigue, and digestive problems showed marked and often complete improvements in their health after cutting milk from their diets. This is especially true for people living with inflammatory conditions and auto-immune diseases.
Cruel to the earth – In California, America’s top milk-producing state, manure from dairy farms has poisoned hundreds of square miles of groundwater, rivers, and streams. Each of the more than 1 million cows on the state’s dairy farms excretes 18 gallons of manure daily.
It’s just weird – Besides humans (and companion animals who are fed by humans), no species drinks milk beyond infancy or drinks the milk of another species.
Of course, blogging is just blogging and anyone can do it, but if you check out his site you’ll see that he’s pretty legit. And I have found similar studies in the book Becoming Vegetarian.
Either way, try my lasagna recipe and let me know if you have found new ways to improve it!