Summer Squash and Pesto Ricotta Lasagna

A vegetarian lasagna bursting with flavor from summer squash, basil pesto ricotta, and a homemade tomato sauce | http://veggieandthebeastfeast.com

I know that turning on your oven for 50 minutes sounds like the worst thing ever in late July. I get it, but I’m hoping I can convince you otherwise.

A vegetarian lasagna bursting with flavor from summer squash, basil pesto ricotta, and a homemade tomato sauce | http://veggieandthebeastfeast.com

I’ve been eating mostly salads, grilled veggies and veggie burgers, and other oven-free foods lately. I love raw veggies when it’s hot out, but this weekend I felt the need to switch things up and throw some of summer’s best produce into the oven.

A vegetarian lasagna bursting with flavor from summer squash, basil pesto ricotta, and a homemade tomato sauce | http://veggieandthebeastfeast.com

Being a Minnesotan, there’s only a small window of time when fresh, organic, local produce is available at the co-op. Since zucchini is starting to take over gardens around the state, I used that seasonal, beautiful squash in this summertime lasagna.

A vegetarian lasagna bursting with flavor from summer squash, basil pesto ricotta, and a homemade tomato sauce | http://veggieandthebeastfeast.com

When we started dating, Ryan would probably have been uninterested in vegetarian lasagna. He would assume it was bland, because lasagna was all about the meat to him. I assume most people feel this way, and I understand why, but I have to disagree.

These days, when we’re at a restaurant and he considers ordering lasagna, he says, “Well, I shouldn’t order that here, because you make really good lasagna at home.”

Such a sweet talker! That’s a man after my heart.

A vegetarian lasagna bursting with flavor from summer squash, basil pesto ricotta, and a homemade tomato sauce | http://veggieandthebeastfeast.comA vegetarian lasagna bursting with flavor from summer squash, basil pesto ricotta, and a homemade tomato sauce | http://veggieandthebeastfeast.comA vegetarian lasagna bursting with flavor from summer squash, basil pesto ricotta, and a homemade tomato sauce | http://veggieandthebeastfeast.com

To make vegetarian lasagna interesting, you need to layer in the flavors. Instead of plain ricotta, I swirled in some homemade basil pesto. Instead of canned marinara, I made my own with high-quality crushed tomatoes with basil, and dark brown sugar to give it a little smoky sweetness. The vegetable layer includes the fresh, seasonal zucchini and yellow squash I couldn’t resist at the co-op, as well as some super-flavorful sliced leeks. When I don’t know what to add to a dish to give it more flavor, I usually reach for leeks. They have a deep, savory flavor that takes dishes a step further than a regular old onion ever could.

A vegetarian lasagna bursting with flavor from summer squash, basil pesto ricotta, and a homemade tomato sauce | http://veggieandthebeastfeast.com

I’ll admit that lasagna takes more time and effort than most of my meals, but I don’t mind putting in some extra elbow grease when the result feeds me for DAYS. I made this lasagna on Sunday, and enjoyed 3 slices before heading out of town to meet up with Ryan in northern MN. I gave half of the pan to my sister, and I still have another 3 slices waiting for me in the freezer when I return.
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Kale, Tomato and Tofu Breakfast Burritos

A savory breakfast without the eggs! Mega flavorful breakfast burritos filled with superfood veggies like kale, tomato, and red bell pepper | http://veggieandthebeastfeast.com

So today is a pretty fun day. Yes, it’s Tuesday, which is kind of the worst day of the week, but that doesn’t mean EXCITING things can’t happen, right?

Exciting thing #1 – I get a new nephew today! My sister-in-law is having a third adorable little boy to add to the 6 and 3-year-olds that warm my heart on a daily basis. I can’t wait to snuuuuuugle the new little guy.

A savory breakfast without the eggs! Mega flavorful breakfast burritos filled with superfood veggies like kale, tomato, and red bell pepper | http://veggieandthebeastfeast.com

Exciting thing #2 – after 5:00 today I am OFFICIALLY in vacation mode. I’m taking a tiny plane (eeeek) to northern MN to spend 5 days with Ryan’s family. He and my Teia pup are already up there, and I can’t wait to join in on the boating, fishing, and overall sun-soaked bliss.

A savory breakfast without the eggs! Mega flavorful breakfast burritos filled with superfood veggies like kale, tomato, and red bell pepper | http://veggieandthebeastfeast.com

This weekend, on the cusp of all this excitement, I also had my longtime best friend’s wedding. She asked me to take some photographs, which was terrifying because I only take pictures of things that don’t move, but it turned out to be really fun and low stress.

After my picture-taking duties were over, there were some whiskey drinks and a very delicious lemon drop shot. Since my body is not accustomed to hard alcohol, I woke up with the kind of hangover where I just wanted to eat all the salty foods. No sickness, no headache, just intense hunger. I kind of love those hangovers, because everything tastes AMAZING.

A savory breakfast without the eggs! Mega flavorful breakfast burritos filled with superfood veggies like kale, tomato, and red bell pepper | http://veggieandthebeastfeast.com

Saturday morning I made a simple tofu scramble with buttery toast, but it got me thinking – why not put this in a burrito? eh eh eh?

And so I did.

A savory breakfast without the eggs! Mega flavorful breakfast burritos filled with superfood veggies like kale, tomato, and red bell pepper | http://veggieandthebeastfeast.com

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not big on eggs. I’ll bake with them occasionally, but I usually look for alternatives. In lieu of eggs, scrambles made with organic tofu, veggies, and spices are my jam when I need a little savory kick in the morning.

A savory breakfast without the eggs! Mega flavorful breakfast burritos filled with superfood veggies like kale, tomato, and red bell pepper | http://veggieandthebeastfeast.com

In today’s breakfast burrito, I sautéed yellow onion, a juicy heirloom tomato, red bell pepper, and lacinado kale. Then I added crumbled organic tofu and tons of spices. The tofu soaks up the tomato juices along with the spices, and becomes packed with flavor. The texture is similar to scrambled eggs, and works perfectly when wrapped up in an avocado-slathered whole wheat tortilla. I like to add some hot sauce on top for some extra spice, but that’s optional (probably not optional if you’re a little hungover – cause then it is PERFECT).
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Black Bean and Sweet Potato Fritters with Pistachio Pesto

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Fritters with Pistachio Pesto | veggieandthebeastfeast.com

Moderation? Psh, not really my thing.

Making 2 rounds of fritters, and watching 10 episodes of Orange is the New Black in one day? More my thing.

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Fritters with Pistachio Pesto | veggieandthebeastfeast.com

I recently made some curried carrot fritters, and in the process realized that I didn’t just “like” fritters…nope, I might just be a fritter freak.

FRITTER FREAK. What a label.

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Fritters with Pistachio Pesto | veggieandthebeastfeast.comBlack Bean and Sweet Potato Fritters with Pistachio Pesto | veggieandthebeastfeast.com

Making the curried carrot fritters reminded me of a sandwich I order at Brasa, a restaurant in the Twin Cities, that makes a black bean fritter sandwich that haunts my dreams. I crave it ALL THE TIME, so I decided to make a slightly healthier version for at home.

(Quick note – if you live in the Twin Cities GO TO BRASA. GET THE FRITTER AND YUCCA FRIES. k? k.)

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Fritters with Pistachio Pesto | veggieandthebeastfeast.com

Since I love black beans, sweet potatoes and chili powder together, I combined them in these little crispy patties. As you may know, I have fresh basil at my fingertips (thanks, Ry/Beast!!!), so the pistachio pesto was a no-brainer.

To make things a tad less indulgent, I like eating these fritters with some tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and pesto in a blanket of butter lettuce. Yes, the ciabatta bun that the restaurant version comes on is better than lettuce, because OMG CARBS, but if you want a tasty and healthier option, go for the butter, baby.

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Fritters with Pistachio Pesto | veggieandthebeastfeast.com

This recipe, friends, uses chia eggs. I know, it might sound a bit strange to some of you, but they are an ah-mazing binder.

If you’re not into vegan binder options, feel free to substitute a chicken egg wherever you see me use an alternative.

Those who know me know I get food aversions sometimes, and currently eggs are one of them. It’s okay though, cause what I lack in egg enjoyment I make up for in fried fritter love.

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Fritters with Pistachio Pesto | veggieandthebeastfeast.com

In related news, Ryan has started singing “Fat kid in a skinny body…” to me on the daily. #friedstuff
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Crispy Whole Grain Honey Cornbread Waffles

Crispy Whole Grain Honey Cornbread Waffles | veggieandthebeastfeast.com
Dear Cornbread,

I’m sorry for all the smack I used to talk about you. I was out of line.

I used to wish you were something different – something saltier, maybe cheesier, and definitely less sweet. I used to think you looked better on the outside than you tasted on the inside.

Crispy Whole Grain Honey Cornbread Waffles | veggieandthebeastfeast.com

Then I had a raspberry cornbread cake that altered my whole cornbread outlook. Then I made some high protein jalapeño cheddar cornbread muffins (book recipe!), and THEN I made some golden brown, crispy, cornbread waffles.

I now realize that you are perfect in that grey area of salty and sweet. You shine in that grey area.

Crispy Whole Grain Honey Cornbread Waffles | veggieandthebeastfeast.com

These waffles are lightly sweetened with honey, just slightly salty, and oh-so-crispy. They become golden brown on the outside, but have a fluffy center with just a bit of cornbread texture.

I’ve made this recipe 3 times in the past 2 weeks, and every time they turned out fantastically crunchy and flavorful. You can make them with non-dairy milk and a flax egg, or with the standard dairy milk and chicken egg – either way is perfect! The recipe makes 3 Belgian waffles (slightly smaller than 8″), but if you are serving a larger crowd you can easily double (or triple?) it.

Crispy Whole Grain Honey Cornbread Waffles | veggieandthebeastfeast.com

You just keep being you, cornbread, because you are pretty great.
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Blueberry Arugula Salad with Lemon Honey Dressing

Blueberry Arugula Salad with Lemon Honey Dressing | veggieandthebeastfeast.com

As I’m writing this from bed at 9pm, the daylight is almost gone, and Teia is licking my fingers as I try to type. She wants to go outside and soak up that last sliver of light. Maybe she’s adopted the Minnesotan need to make the most of these summer days.

Or maybe she’s just acting like a dog who has to pee. Either or.

Blueberry Arugula Salad with Lemon Honey Dressing | veggieandthebeastfeast.com

I’ve apparently been soaking up the tastes of summer, because it’s come to my attention that this is my third lemon-y recipe in the past 2 1/2 weeks.

Overarching statement of truth: Summer should be citrus-y and fresh and enjoyed on as many patios as possible. Preach it, right?

Blueberry Arugula Salad with Lemon Honey Dressing | veggieandthebeastfeast.comBlueberry Arugula Salad with Lemon Honey Dressing | veggieandthebeastfeast.com

If you’re not into blueberries, this salad would be fabulous with strawberries. Feel free to swap out the feta for goat cheese, or omit the cheese entirely if you’d prefer.

My favorite part of this salad is the mix of the juicy blueberries with the crunchy almonds – so much flavor and texture and then a summery POW of lemon and honey dressing.

Blueberry Arugula Salad with Lemon Honey Dressing | veggieandthebeastfeast.com

The salad is best when dressed right before serving, since baby arugula is delicate and gets limp when coated in dressing. To make this a more filling meal, serve it with a scoop of your favorite grain. I loved eating it with a scoop of millet, but barley or quinoa would be great too.

Blueberry Arugula Salad with Lemon Honey Dressing | veggieandthebeastfeast.com

This salad + chilled white wine with a lemon slice + patio = summah bliss.

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