Saturday, January 29, 2011

Vegan Eggplant And Red Bell Pepper Lasagna - Low In Calories And Fat, High In Fiber. Perfect For Entertaining!

Eggplant and  red bell pepper lasagna in a 9' x 13" tray
How to Turn Lasagna into a Healthy Family Meal
When you think about lasagna, the words, "healthy", "low fat" and "low calorie" don't exactly come to mind but you can truly made a delicious lasagna that's light and guilt free. 
I don't know what the Olive Garden restaurant puts into their lasagnas but they have managed to turn this traditional Italian delicacy into a "heart attack on a plate". Their own website shows one dinner serving of  their  "Lasagna Classico" has 850 calories, 47 grams of fat, (25 grams of which are saturated), and 2,830 mg of sodium, (nearly twice the daily recommended limit by the American Heart Association). Oh, and by the way, this was their light lasagna! Their "Lasagna Rollata Al Forno" weighs in at 1,170 calories, 68 grams of fat, (39 grams of which are saturated), and 2,510 mg of sodium. And this is before they come around and bury it in extra parmesan and hand you a basket of bread sticks. Is anyone wondering why their is an obesity epidemic in this country?
My yummy recipe has less than 300 calories per serving, only 7 grams of fat, (only 1/3 gram of which is saturated)! You can feel really good about serving this to your family and since January has been "weight loss month", you can even serve this for dinner and easily stay within your 1,200 calorie per day limit!
Ingredients for our veggie lasagna. For 30% more fiber, use whole grain noodles.
Today's recipe bulks up the layers with eggplant that is naturally low in calories, and a good source of dietary fiber, folate, potassium and manganese. It also uses red bell peppers and onions and has a creamy ricotta filling made from tofu. I like SprouTofu, from Wild Wood Organics that uses sprouted soybeans but any organic, non-GMO firm tofu will do.
Steamed eggplant high in fiber, folate, potassium and manganese
Eggplant itself is a very healthful vegetable. The problem is that cooks love to fry it up. Eggplant, for some reason, soaks up oil like a sponge so it's almost impossible to lightly sauté it. The secret to this dish and other dishes, like an Asian stir fry, is to first "steam" the eggplant. In the lasagna, the steamed eggplant will soak up the wonderful flavors of the sauce and the sautéed peppers and onions so you won't miss any flavor but you will cut out tons of calories.
Sauté onions and red bell pepper
Cut the red bell peppers into larger slices and chop the onion and sauté until soft. You can use other veggies too. Add mushrooms or artichoke hearts. Let you imagination go wild! 
Vegan seasoned ricotta 
For those of you who avoid dairy, you can make a ricotta substitute by blending tofu with ground flax mixed into water and some seasonings. It firms up just like ricotta and tastes great! I pulsed in a handful of fresh parsley at the end. You can also use fresh basil if you'd like but right now the only herb still alive in my garden is parsley!
Building the lasagna
Now's the fun part! If you are using a 9"x13" pan that's only 2 inches high, you'll only be making 3 layers of noodles with 2 layers of filling. I usually spread the tofu ricotta directly onto the cooked noodles and layer everything else on top of it. For some added nutrition (especially for vegan critical vitamin B12 requirements), sprinkle Vegetarian Formula Red Star Nutritional yeast over each layer. 
Serve with a raw tossed green salad and dazzle your guests!

Vegan Eggplant and Red Bell Pepper Lasagna
[makes 8 servings]
1 eggplant, approximately 1 1/4 pounds, sliced in 1/2" slices
A few pinches of salt for eggplant
1 pound firm organic, non-GMO tofu, cut into large cubes
2 tablespoons ground flaxseeds
1/4 cup water
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoons sea salt, (or to taste) 
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, (or to taste)
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley (or fresh basil)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 large red bell pepper, (or 2 small), cleaned and sliced
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon dried basil
12 (or more) regular or whole wheat lasagna noodles, cooked according to directions
4 cups prepared tomato sauce, unheated
4 ounces of your favorite vegan cheese, (more or less to taste)
4 heaping tablespoons vegetarian formula nutritional yeast

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 
Take out a 9"x13" baking dish.
Place a steamer basket in a large sauce pan or Dutch oven. Steam eggplant slices, sprinkled with a bit of sea salt, until a fork easily pierces them, about 6 to 8 minutes. You may have to do this in two batches. Remove from sauce pan and set aside. Empty water from sauce pan as you will be using it to cook the onions and peppers.
Place the tofu cubes in a food processor with an S blade.
Mix the ground flax seed in with the water and beat with a fork until well blended. Add salt, pepper and garlic salt and mix together well. Add the flax mixture to the tofu and process until smooth. Pulse the fresh parsley into the tofu ricotta just until mixed. Set aside.
In a sauce pan, heat the olive oil and sauté the red bell pepper and onion, together with the dried basil, until soft, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Set aside.
Cook the lasagna noodles according to the package directions. Leave them a bit "al dente" because they will be cooked again in the oven. Drain, rinse and keep them in a dish or their cooking pot in cold water until needed.
To build the lasagna, put a cup of tomato sauce in the bottom of the 9"x13" baking dish.
Cover the bottom with 3 cooked lasagna noodles. If they have been stored in cold water, shake off the water before using.
Spread half of the ricotta mixture over the noodles.
Lay half of the eggplant, half of the red bell pepper and onion mixture, and one third of the cheese over the ricotta mixture. Drizzle a cup of tomato sauce evenly over the layer and sprinkle half of the nutritional yeast over the sauce.
Cover with 3 more lasagna noodles and repeat, using up all the rest of the ricotta mixture, eggplant, red pepper and onion mixture, and 1/3 of the cheese. Cover with another cup of tomato sauce and sprinkle the rest of the nutritional yeast over this layer.
Top with the rest of the noodles. Cover with the rest of the sauce, making sure to coat the noodles completely and sprinkle the top with the rest of the cheese.
Tent with aluminum foil, making sure not to touch the top of the lasagna with the foil, and bake in the preheated oven until hot and bubbly, about 40 minutes. Uncover and cook for another 5 minutes.
Cut into 8 servings and serve immediately.

Per serving: 291.7 calories, 7.4 g fat, 0.3 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 14.9 g protein, 35.3 g carbohydrates and 7.9 g dietary fiber.

Per serving using whole grain noodles: 286.7 calories, 7.3 g fat, 0.3 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 16.1 g protein, 41.6 g carbohydrates and 10.2 g dietary fiber.

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Debra said...

Great information on Olive Garden's Lasagn-wow, that is a "heart attack on a plate". Your lasagna is absolutely fabulous! I will definately be making this. Thank you:)

Amber Lucas A Mused Blog said...

this sounds great! There is an amazing Puerto Rican restaurant near me that makes a lasagna where the pasta noodles is actually the eggplant. So yummy! i'm going to make this soon!


Dr. Joanne L. Mumola Williams said...

Hi Amber,
I've seen recipes that do that and although I've never tried it, I think it's a great idea, especially if you're trying to avoid wheat or carbs. To do that, cut the eggplant lengthwise instead of in circles. You'll probably need to crisp them up a bit, so instead of steaming them, put them on a cookie sheet, spray with a bit of olive oil cooking spray and broil or bake at high heat until done. Thanks for the comment! Hope you enjoy making my recipe!

Anonymous said...

I like it very much!

Anonymous said...

I like it very much!