Mexican Lasagna

Feel sorry for Smark. The poor boy had two root canals yesterday. I made him some “Cream” of Asparagus Soup for dinner last night, and I thought maybe I’d have to change the name of this blog to I Eat Soup (which would be fine with me, I love soup), but today he said he was feeling up for something more substantial. I still didn’t think it would be a good idea to make, say, ddukbokki, so I peered into the cupboards and tried to think of things that are fairly soft to eat but don’t make you feel like an invalid. Pasta seemed like a good bet, but I’m inexplicably out of any shapes and didn’t feel like straight up spaghetti. I did, however, have lasagna noodles. I’m not sure what possessed me to make a Mexican lasagna, but that’s what I did.

This lasagna can be as easy or difficult to make as you’d like. You can either use pre-packaged foods for most of the layers or make everything from scratch. I was looking for a pretty easy meal tonight, but I did have to make what I didn’t have on hand from scratch, so mine was a hybrid. By the way, Trader Joe’s No-Boil lasagna noodles have transformed my life! Years ago, when I was first learning to cook, I hosted a dinner party. Even before I learned to cook, I had the terrible habit of trying new dishes for dinner parties, although I used far more actual recipes back then. For this particular party, I was making some sort of vegan lasagna thing and the recipe said I could use no-boil noodles, which I thought would be a real time-saver. Well, the dish was very tasty and was a big hit with my guests, but the noodle were a bit underdone and sort of ruined it. Since then I have hated no-boil noodles and stayed far, far away from them. Consequently, making lasagna always seemed a bit arduous. I’d do it – it’s one of Mark’s favorite foods and I’m quite fond of it myself – but cooking the noodles is sort of a pain; you never end up with a pan full of perfect noodles – half of them are always broken, and they stick together before you’re ready for them. Then a few months ago I saw no-boil noodles at Trader Joe’s and decided to take a chance on them. They worked perfectly! And they are a fun size: just right for an 8×8″ pan, which makes a great size lasagna for 2 to 4 people. In retrospect, I wonder if my failed dish so long ago simply didn’t have enough liquid in it to fully reconstitute the noodles, but I’ll never know because I’ve long since lost the recipe; all I remember is it involved pine nuts. So if you aren’t close to a Trader Joe’s, feel free to try different no-boil noodles, but just make sure your lasagna is brimming with liquid-y sauce. I can’t vouch for any other no-boil noodles, though.

The first thing you need to make for the Mexican lasagna is nacho sauce.

Nacho Sauce
This uses the Yeast Cheeze recipe from the New Farm Cookbook/Simply Heavenly!. This has been a staple at my parties for years, and is gobbled up even by non-vegans. An ex-boyfriend once told me to bottle and sell it.

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 cups water
1 Tbsp soy margarine
1 tsp prepared mustard (I usually use Dijon)
2 cups salsa – use a thick, chunky, tomato-y kind

Whisk together the flour, nutritional yeast, salt, and garlic powder in a medium pot. Whisk in the water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, whisking often, until it thickens. Remove from heat and whisk in the margarine and mustard.

Then whisk in the salsa.

I didn’t have any pre-made salsa so I did this:

I put 3 cloves of pressed garlic, 3 Tbsp minced onion, 1 minced jalapeno, two frozen cubes of cilantro (from Trader Joe’s), some salt, and 3 Tbsp tomato paste into a bowl:

I mixed that all together, then added a 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes and mixed well.

And now the lasagna:

Mexican Lasagna

no-boil lasagna noodles (or cooked lasagna noodles)
1 batch Nacho Sauce, recipe above
1 can refried beans (or make your own from dried pintos)
1 1/2 cup veggie crumbles/mince, ground seitan, “beefy” TVP crumbles, or other “beef” substitute (I used 3 crumbled veggie burgers)
veggies of your choice, about 1 or 2 cups (I used corn, onions, and spinach)
taco or enchilada sauce
vegan cheddar “cheese”, optional

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Smear a thin layer of nacho sauce on the bottom of an 8×8″ pan.

Place a layer of noodles on top of it:

Smear the refried beans on the noodles:

Top with some nacho sauce:

Add a layer of noodles, then the “beef”.

Then some more sauce:

Another layer of noodles, then the veggies:

And the rest of the sauce:

Add the last layer of noodles and top with the taco or enchilada sauce, as well as the cheddar “cheese” if using. I used some taco sauce leftover from the other night, which I made simply by blending together a clove or two of garlic, a can of tomato sauce, some onion powder, and some pickled jalapenos and pickled jalapeno juice. I wish I’d had more of the taco sauce; it provided a nice tang but I only had maybe 1/4 cup left. I’d use more like 1/2-3/4 cup next time.

Unless you love cleaning your oven, put the lasagna pan on a cookie sheet. Cover and bake for 45 minutes, then uncover and bake 15 minutes more. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes before eating. This was good, although I think Mark overestimated his chewing ability because when I asked him after his first bite how it tasted he replied, “painful”. Apparently he hadn’t eaten all day and had forgotten how to chew. He did manage to eat an entire piece, though, and I assure you, it’s not much a workout for your mouth. I think it worked well as a progression food.

This has been a photo-heavy post, so just one picture of my “helpers”:

I hope to be back soon; I haven’t been as busy as I have been the last few months, but I also haven’t been cooking much that’s new or interesting; I’ve been doing a lot of old favorites lately. But that will get boring soon!

Comments (10)

Pickled Jalapenos

Wow, have I been busy! I was thinking earlier today that it has been a while since I’ve made a post and lamented the fact it seemed it’d be even longer until I’d have a chance to do so, until I decided to make burritos for dinner and realized I could use and then write up my pickled jalapenos! Which I was trying for the first time and which turned out fantastic! So here goes! (I’m addicted to exclamation points today!)

Pickled Jalepenos

1 pint jalapenos
1 small carrot, sliced on the diagonal
3-4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 bay leaves
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp Mexican oregano
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp peppercorns
white or cider vinegar to (just barely) cover other ingredients (about 2 cups)

Place all ingredients in a small saucepan.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until jalapenos are soft, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Transfer to a clean glass jar.

Refrigerate for at least three weeks.

That’s it! The hardest part is not eating them for the three weeks. I actually ended up waiting four, but they were worth the wait.

Tonight I minced up a few …

… and stuffed them into a burrito. They were REALLY good! I don’t know why I’d ever buy pickled jalapenos again.

The second hardest thing about the pickled jalapenos was getting a picture of them that didn’t involve Gomez, who kept getting between the peppers and the camera. This picture was taken with Torticia climbing atop me as I squatted on the floor. SO MANY KITTENS!

Nona, if you’re reading this, I really do think he looks like a baby Crookshanks.

So. In other news. Boston. It’s full of Australians and vegans! Mark and I accompanied this handsome Australian fellow to Boston:

We stayed with a friend Smucky’s known “since birth”, Nick, and I’ve decided that all the Australians I know are the greatest people in the world. I’ve never met an Australian I didn’t love! And on top of that, I met a vegan! This is very exciting because I’ve never actually MET a vegan in real life, other than Mark, who converted after I met him and probably because I met him, and this girl who lived in the apartment above me in one of my places in Baltimore (who was probably my biggest inspiration when I went vegan because I figured if she lived in the exact same place I did and she could do it, I could do it). I’ve ALMOST met other vegans numerous times but this is the first time it actually transpired. Not only that, but Smucks, Mark, and I knew him through Twitter for reasons completely unrelated to veganism. So we met up with him on Saturday and he took us to The Other Side, where I ordered the raw Mock Chicken Salad:

Zach promised to take us to Peace O’ Pie on Monday, which I was extremely excited about, but then it turned out they are closed on Mondays and I shed tears of pain and grief (as we were leaving on Tuesday). Apparently the entire city of Boston shuts down on Mondays. Smuckalert asked us to walk along the Charles River with him so he could take pictures on Monday and I told him it was probably closed. (It wasn’t, but it was very, very, very hot. I thought Boston would be an escape from the heat?!) Zach mostly redeemed himself by suggesting we go to Addis Red Sea instead, which was conveniently located right down the street from Nick’s place, and although it took forever the food was fabulous (although not quite DC Ethiopian fabulous; that’s one thing DC does right). I LOVE Ethiopian food, so I was about to burst with excitement, as well as hunger. I was so hungry and excited, I quite forgot to take a picture of the grub, but I DID take this picture, which I wanted to submit to The “Blog” of “Unnecessary” Quotation Marks, but it turned out too blurry.

Not too blurry for my own blog though! (Which may soon turn into the Blog of Unnecessary Exclamation Points.) It says, “Hi! My name is ‘MESOB’. I am serving you as a ‘TABLE’. Please do not lean on, I am very fragile.”

Busy upcoming weekend; it may be another few days before I’m able to post again, but I found a vegan grill cookbook in the library, so I’m looking forward to grilling up a bunch of stuff in the very near future and I’m sure I’ll have my camera in hand. Until then, mates, g’day!

Comments (7)

Lime Jalapeno Dressing

I’m making refried beans as the basis of my meal tonight (they’re cooking now; I’m not exactly sure what’s going to happen with them), but I wanted a tossed salad to go along with it. I realized I didn’t know of any particularly Mexican salad dressings, so I threw this together. It turned out pretty well so I figured I’d post it.

Lime Jalapeno Dressing

1/4 cup olive oil
1 small pickled jalapeno (preferably homemade), minced
2 Tbsp pickled jalapeno brine
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
juice of 1/2 to 1 small lime
1 tsp agave nectar
salt, to taste

Mix all ingredients together and adjust any of the ingredients to taste.

I served it on a simple tossed salad …

… but now that I’m all into grilling, I’m thinking it might be a good marinade for grilled veggies.

These are the pickled jalapenos I used:

I bought a pint of them – they are yellow – at the farmer’s market a few weeks ago and when I realized I wasn’t going to be able to use all of them, decided to pickle them (basically I’m pickling everything that crosses my path this summer). I think I just stuck them in cider vinegar with some peppercorns and hot pepper flakes (the peppers were fairly mild). The following week I made “real” pickled jalapenos by looking up recipes and seeing how you are “supposed” to do it (this involved cooking the jalapenos). I photographed that one, so when they’re ready (two more weeks), I’ll do a post.

Torticia helped me eat my salad.

Sorry, no pics of Gomez tonight; he was sleeping during salad time. He is, however, helping me type this post, although he’s really hindering more than helping. Now I need to extricate myself from Gomez and this laptop and go check my beans.

Comments (2)

Next entries » · « Previous entries