I'd like to dispel the myth once and for all, that being vegan is about deprivation. Anyone who knows me can tell you that I LOVE to eat. While I'm eating breakfast, I'm already thinking about what I'll be having for dinner. Given the choice between great sex and a decent meal, I'll always pick the food, unless of course, there's some way to combine the two activities. That's why I would never choose a diet that in any way short changes my taste buds. Since I became vegan, I have enjoyed a much greater variety of tastes and textures than I ever dreamed possible as an omnivore.
However, I fully understand anyone's reluctance to believe that this could be true. Since earliest childhood, we have been conditioned to regard eating vegetables as punishment so that we can be rewarded with foods that are really bad for us. Remember your mother's incessant refrain? Eat your spinach (corn, brussel sprouts, whatever) and then you can have your ice cream. If you're an unfortunate soul like me, as a child, you only ate vegetables that came out of a can, so you know that being forced to eat that stuff truly was a form of torture. Just thinking about those pale, soggy, overcooked peas, carrots, and lima beans still makes me want to gag. What child in her right mind wouldn't rather consume milk from a cow disguised in the form of a creamy, sweet, frozen dessert?
But I'll never forget the first time I tasted a real vegetable. I was ten-years-old and had been invited to a friend's house for dinner. Lying there right next to the meatloaf and mashed potatoes, was this strange-looking bright green stuff. I remember cautiously bringing the first bite to my lips and furtively fondling the tender florets of gently steamed broccoli with the tip of my tongue. The crunchy taste and texture seemed wonderfully exotic to me. I ran home that night excited to share this amazing new food discovery with my mother. "Mom, you gotta make broccoli, you gotta make some broccoli!" I cried. But once my mother learned that she couldn't buy broccoli in a can, that was the end of any hope of ever of eating this delightful new food at our house. I don't think I ate broccoli again until I was old enough to vote.
Let me assure you that even if you don't like broccoli, a diet that is completely free of all animal products is not about limitation or deprivation. It's a virtual gastronomic celebration.
You want convenience? I wrote the book on veg*an convenience foods. (Seriously, it's called, So Now, What Do I Eat?) Have you ever tried Rising Moon Organics' Vegan Butternut Squash Ravioli, or how about Turtle Mountain's Mint Chip ice cream made from coconut milk? You will think you've died and gone to vegan heaven.
And if you're feeling truly ambitious, try this undeniably delicious recipe for Tofu-Spinach Lasagna. If the tofu filling doesn't taste a lot like real ricotta cheese, then I'll eat my grass skirt. This favorite dish has made converts out of quite a few disbelievers. Try it, and let me know what you think.
YOU WONT BELIEVE ITS TOFU & SPINACH LASAGNA
1/2 lb. lasagna noodles
3 10-oz. packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 lb. soft tofu, patted dry
1 lb. firm tofu, patted dry
1 Tbsp. maple syrup
1/4 cup So Delicious Coconut Milk (Original or Unsweetened)
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
3 tsp. basil
2 tsp. salt
6 cups homemade tomato sauce or 1 48 oz. commercial sauce
1 pkg. Vegan Gourmet or Daiya Mozzarella, shredded (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare lasagna noodles according to package directions. Drain carefully and set aside. Squeeze the spinach as dry as possible and set aside. Place the tofu, maple syrup, soymilk, garlic powder, lemon juice, basil, and salt in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Cover the bottom of a 9"x13" baking dish with a thin layer of tomato sauce, then a layer of noodles. Follow that with a layer of half the tofu filling and half the spinach. Continue in the same order, using half the remaining tomato sauce and noodles and the remaining tofu filling and spinach. End with the remaining noodles covered with the remaining tomato sauce. Cover with foil and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes or until tomato sauce bubbles. Sprinkle with vegan mozzarella, if desired before returning to the oven. Serves 6 to 8.