Monday, October 24, 2011

Soy-free White Bean Ricotta and Other Discoveries

When Anthony and I first got married, for Christmas my mom gave me the Vegan Planet cookbook by Robin Robertson.  We were vegetarian at that point, but once we tried one of the recipes for lasagna made with tofu-ricotta filling, we never went back to dairy ricotta. The tofu ricotta was so much lighter, not leaving that intense, heavy feeling in our stomachs that can come from cheese-laden Italian food.  When we had kids with soy allergies, though, I had to come up with a new dairy-free replacement for ricotta that was also soy-free so that our family could still enjoy lasagna. Pureed white beans and cauliflower seemed like they would create the right texture, but my first attempt was too dry and low-fat tasting. I gave it another go last week and got it pretty spot on, I think, creating a delicious filling that I could have even used as a dip.  I paired the filling with lasagna noodles slathered in leftover miracle rice sauce and marinara that I had on hand.  This recipe made enough ricotta for a huge lasagna--an 11x17 pan, or a 9x13 plus a 9 in square pan.  My lasagna was yummy enough to share with friends, but take my advice and remember to use a ton of sauce when you make lasagna with the no-boil noodles. They just suck up so much liquid that the lasagna wasn't saucy enough for my taste.

2 cups well-cooked white beans (cannellini or great northern work well)
1/2 large head of cauliflower, cut into small florets and steamed until very tender
1/2 c. canned pumpkin puree
1 c. shredded vegan cheese (I used homemade from the Uncheese Cookbook, but Daiya would work)
3 Tbsp. nutritional yeast**
2 Tbsp. vegan mayo (I used Earth Balance, since the original kind is soy-free)
3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. tahini
1/3 c. non-dairy milk
1 1/2-2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. dried basil
2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. pepper

Place all of the ingredients in your blender and puree until mostly smooth, with a little bit of texture from the beans and cauliflower. Start with just 1 1/2 tsp salt, and then taste and add more if necessary, depending on the type of vegan cheese you use.

**I have had a few people ask me what nutritional yeast is, as it is not an ingredient usually known to those who are new to a dairy-free diet.  See this Wikipedia article and trust me that it is a fabulous ingredient that I wouldn't live without.

Vegan soy-free ricotta was a pretty thrilling discovery, but so was finding this ultra-cute smock in the closet, which my good friend made for Abiline when she was an infant, and now finally fits. I wish I could wear it, too.

 I was also overjoyed to find out that Sawyer was just joking with me when he exclaimed that his favorite blanket was eating him. Phew! We survive another day of fun in the Holden household! (Now we know why the laundry basket is in shambles, eh?)

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