Easy Vegan Eggplant Parmesan

This eggplant parmesan is prepared casserole-style and is suuuuper delicious!  My husband loved it the other day, so I’m making it again to bring to a family dinner.  It’s modified from SusanV’s recipe on her FatFree Vegan Kitchen site.  Mine’s basically a shortcut to hers, but I promise it’s still incredibly tasty!  Just faster. 😉 

*This recipe is vegan, but cannot be considered whole foods because it contains some processed ingredients.*

Easy Vegan Eggplant Parmesan

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium eggplant, in 1/4 inch slices
  • olive oil or olive oil spray
  • whole grain breadcrumbs (I used prepackaged, but you can easily make them by toasting and crumbling whole wheat bread)
  • handful of almonds or walnuts chopped fine in a food processor (this is the parmesan “cheese”)
  • marinara sauce (I bought mine, but even better if you make your own!)
  • fresh basil
  • “cheese” sauce:
    • 1/2 block tofu
    • 3/4 cup vegetable broth
    • 1/8 cup raw cashews
    • 1 tsp onion powder
    • 1 1/2 T nutritional yeast flakes
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1/8 tsp black or white pepper
    • 2 tsp cornstarch

Directions:

  • After slicing the eggplant, put it in a colander, sprinkle with salt, and let them sweat while  you’re making the cheese sauce.
  • To prepare the cheese sauce, place all the ingredients into a blender and blend until the mixture is nice and smooth.  If you let it sit awhile before assembling the casserole, you might have to blend the “cheese” again as it may have separated.
  • Rinse the eggplant slices and pat dry with a paper towel.  Lightly spray or coat a baking sheet with olive oil, arrange the eggplant slices in a single layer, and coat the tops lightly with olive oil.  Place the baking sheet under the broiler and watch them CAREFULLY!  Remove them when they begin to brown.  This may take as little as 3 minutes, though in my oven it is always a little longer.  Repeat with the remaining eggplant slices if they didn’t all fit on the baking sheet.
  • Preheat your oven to 350 F.
  • Assemble your casserole in an 8×8 dish lightly coated with olive oil.  First, place half the eggplant slices on the bottom of the dish, edges overlapping.  Next, sprinkle with half the breadcrumbs and half the marinara sauce.  Then, pour half the cheese sauce over the sauce and sprinkle with half the chopped nuts (or vegan parmesan, if you prefer).
  • Repeat the process with the remaining ingredients and finish with some breadcrumbs on top.
  • Bake uncovered for 20 minutes until slightly brown on top.  Top with fresh basil just before serving.
  • Makes 4 servings.

My New Favorite Vegan Cookbook- Naturally Gourmet

A few months ago, one of my husband’s relatives gave us a vegan cookbook- Naturally Gourmet by Karen Houghton.  The recipes are all pretty simple and easy and, so far, all of the dishes have been VERY tasty!  I actually made every single dish at our recent Christmas dinner from recipes in this book:

  • Lentil Roast
  • Zucchini Casserole
  • Whipped Potatoes
  • Dinner Rolls
  • Pear Pie

I’m a pretty big fan of pumpkin pie, so I’ve been extremely interested in finding a good vegan pumpkin pie.  This cookbook just happens to have the best vegan pumpkin pie recipe that I have EVER tasted!

Other recipes I’ve made and really liked:

  • Brazilian Salad
  • Lentil Soup
  • Eggplant & Garbanzo Ratatouille
  • Indian Lentils and Rice
  • Mushroom Gravy- my husband really loves this one!
  • Vegetable Pot Pie
  • Pesto Pizza
  • Apple Walnut Muffins- YUM!

As you can see, the recipes don’t have fancy names.  They usually don’t have fancy ingredients either, which I like.  My ONLY complaint would be that sometimes they call for processed products (such as Better Than Sour Cream).  However, a lot of the recipes don’t, and often you can make your own substitutions. Oh, and here’s the really great part- EVERY recipe in the book is accompanied by a full-page beautiful color picture of the finished product.  As a visual learner, I really respond to this type of cookbook, and so do my digestive juices  🙂  I also love that the cooking directions are simple and to-the-point.  Read-with-a-dictionary words can be fun, but not when I’m a hurry to get some dinner on the table.

Here’s something you can try at home right now- a mushroom gravy recipe that I adapted from the one in Naturally Gourmet.

Vegan Mushroom Gravy

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup raw cashews
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 T cornstarch
  • 1 T La Chikky Seasoning (or similar MSG-free vegetarian chicken or beef seasoning)

    I really love this stuff

  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3-4 fresh mushrooms

Blend water and cashews until creamy.  Add cornstarch, vegetarian chicken seasoning and salt.  Blend well.  Add mushrooms and blend briefly.  Cook gravy in a kettle until thickened, stirring frequently.  Serves 6.

Many of the recipes in Naturally Gourmet use their version of this basic gravy recipe.  I changed it just a tad based on the ingredients I preferred or usually had on hand.  It is delicious over mashed potatoes, in a vegetarian pot pie, or over toast!  If you like it, I would highly recommend this cookbook, especially if you’re new to vegan cooking.  It’s my current go-to when I’m looking for weekday recipes to try.

Listening to Your Body

Have you ever gotten sick or had a headache or some other malady and had no idea why it was happening?  I know it’s happened to me many times in my life, but I’ve recently begun to work on paying better attention to cause and effect with respect to my health.  I think this is a very worthwhile endeavor because our bodies, when they get sick, are really telling us a lot.  They are saying, “Hey, I don’t like this thing that you did to me or put inside me and now I have to work really hard to fix the problem!”.  Of course, while your body is healing itself, you won’t feel so great.

Oftentimes, there are so many variables in what I’ve eaten or done (or not done) in a day, that it’s difficult to determine the causes of specific symptoms unless I’m really paying close attention.  A few weeks ago, though, I noticed a very specific cause and effect.  It was difficult to ignore.  I was visiting a good friend and we decided to go to the fair one night.  It was close to my birthday, I’d been eating well lately, and thought that I deserved a “reward”.  It was my birthday, after all.  Anyway, I ate a bowl of mint chocolate chip ice cream.  A small bowl even.  It was so-so going down (a little melty), but about 15 minutes later I got the WORST stomachache and heartburn I’d had in a long time!  Stomachaches are not common for me and I hadn’t eaten anything else for a few hours previous, so it was pretty apparent that the ice cream was the cause.  I remained in pain for hours until I finally took a Tums.  My so-called reward definitely wasn’t worth the resulting punishment and I felt quite motivated to stay away from dairy ice cream after that.

Since then I’ve been thinking more about the connection between my diet and health.  What other relationships could I notice to help strengthen my resolve to eat healthfully?  I think for me the best way to practice this is just to think, every time I have a headache or stomachache or tired feeling or whatever, of what was different about that day.  Thinking about more than just food, here are some factors that I have found can really affect how my body feels:

  • Foods I eat
  • Foods I don’t eat
  • How much sleep I get
  • How much water I drink
  • Whether or not I stay on my regular sleep/wake schedule
  • Whether or not I take time to rest during the day (get off my feet)
  • Stress levels
  • Posture while sitting
  • Whether or not I get exercise
  • Sitting for long periods of time vs. stretching every once in awhile
  • Using the bathroom when I need to as opposed to “holding it”

Recently, I decided that most of my headaches occur when I don’t drink enough water.  To test that out, yesterday as soon as I felt a slight headache I rushed to drink a bunch of water and, viola!  No headache after all!  Not very scientific, I know.  I’d have to try that a few more times to make sure, but I’m pretty excited that it worked yesterday.

Once you’ve begun to notice changes in your health caused by things you do to your body, you’ll not only be more motivated to treat your body well, but your new diet will become more meaningful and more personal.  You’ll appreciate whole foods on a much deeper level.  When your diet becomes an intrinsic part of you, it is now a lifestyle and you can continue to enjoy the benefits for many years to come.

Documentary Review: Food Inc.

*Recently, my husband and I watched two documentaries: Fat Sick and Nearly Dead, and Food Inc. We were so inspired and informed by them and I’d highly recommend them to anyone (both are available on Netflix instant play!).*

Food Inc. is a documentary about the food industry.  Most Americans really don’t know where their food comes from, and that’s just how the industry wants it.  This documentary pulls back the curtain and gives us some important insight into where our food comes from, what GMO’s (genetically modified organisms) mean for the future of our food, and why our individual choices really do matter if we ever want to see change.

This documentary may shock you, amaze you, and make you angry.  At the very least, it will probably make you want to change some of your eating choices and habits for both health and ethical reasons.  Food Inc. may change your life!  We were so glad that we have already made the choice to eliminate animal foods from our diet, but after watching Food Inc. we also made a strong commitment to quit purchasing genetically modified foods.

Documentary Review: Fat Sick and Nearly Dead

*Recently, my husband and I watched two documentaries: Fat Sick and Nearly Dead, and Food Inc. We were so inspired and informed by them and I’d highly recommend them to anyone (both are available on Netflix instant play!).*

Fat Sick and Nearly Dead chronicles the journey of a man from Australia, very overweight and stricken with a chronic disease.  He decides to go on a fresh fruit and vegetable juice fast for 30 days while he tours the United States talking to people about their diets.  He has a great accent, by the way!  The first half of the documentary shows his dramatic and amazing transformation.  He actually drives around with a juicer in the back of his car and juices as he goes!  The second half focuses on the even more amazing changes that occur in a man he inspires to follow in his footsteps.  I absolutely LOVED seeing these men take charge of their lives and transform from sick, hopeless, lifeless creatures into energetic, happy, and healthy individuals right before my eyes!  Very inspiring!  My husband and I bought a better juicer after seeing this and are now juicing almost every evening.  When you see what wonderful changes occur when these men simply begin to fill their bodies with naturally-occurring nutrients and stop eating animal products, empty calories, and processed junk, the relationship between nutrition and health will take on a whole new meaning for you.