(Eggplant) Lasagna is for Lovers

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If you’re like the majority of peeps, you’re realizing that Valentine’s Day is THIS week (s&%t) and you need to think of something nice to do for your significant other, or other guests, family or even yourself (because you’re worth it, duh). You can pretty much forget reservations at this point (unless you like eating dinner at 4 pm or you’re trying to get down at The Olive Garden (no judgement)) but DO NOT PANIC- I have an even better idea that involves making dinner instead.

Making a meal for your love on V-day proves far superior for multiple reasons-

1. It’s more cost effective

2. It’s more intimate

3. It’s more thoughtful

4. Nothing says I love you like a home cooked meal (I mean c’mon).

Okay now that you’re convinced you must make your S.O. dinner in order to show them how thoughtful/finance-savvy/romantic/awesome you are, it’s time to move onto the real challenge- WHAT to make. And once again, I’m here to the rescue with the ultimate VDay dinner dish- lasagna. First of all, who doesn’t like lasagna (if you actually know someone I’d question this person’s taste in food and life)? Second, this, my friends, is no ordinary lasagna. This lasagna is decadent, creamy, cheesy, rich in flavor and VEGAN, gluten-free, and Paleo-friendly!! In other words this is a healthy lasagna you can indulge in and still have plenty of room for dessert (wink, wink).

Now I know what you’re thinking- how could this be? What’s a lasagna without cheese/carbs/meat? What’s a lasagna dinner without having to unbutton your pants and take a nap immediately afterwards? But I promise you will not miss ANY of those things in this dish (and on this night). Baked eggplant takes center stage here instead of noodles, and layering it with robust homemade marinara, sauteed garlic spinach and a creamy macadamia nut-based ricotta cheese creates a major veggie-filled palate-pleaser (with tons of fiber and protein to boot). Just ask MLB (meat-lovin’ boyfriend), this is his MOL (meal of choice).

Now I also know that a lasagna can seem daunting with all of the different components, and although this meal will take some time (hellooooo thoughtful!) it’s not hard to make and you can even make some of this dish (marinara, cheese sauce) days ahead. This also makes FANTASTIC leftovers so you can enjoy them lazily in bed together all weekend long. Maybe that’s why they say lasagna is for lovers (or maybe I just made that up because it sounds good, but I’ll never tell).

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Baked Eggplant Lasagna

Eggplant

2 large (or 3 medium)- sized eggplants sliced length-wise into 1/2 inch round slices

small amount of olive oil

sea salt

black pepper

Marinara Sauce adapted from The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook

4 tbsp olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

5 gloves garlic, minced

1 tsp. sea salt

2-4 tbsp fresh herbs ( I used rosemary & basil)

6 cups fresh chopped tomaters

1/2 cup organic tomato paste

1 tbsp agave nectar

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

Macadamia Ricotta

1 cup Macadamia Nuts, soaked for 4 hours

1/2 cup Pine Nuts, soaked for 4 hours

1/4 cup lemon juice

2 tbsp nutritional yeast

2 gloves garlic, minced

1 tbsp white miso

1/2 tsp onion powder

1/2 tsp sea salt

black pepper

Spinach

1o cups fresh spinach

2-4 cloves garlic, minced

2 tbsp olive oil

sea salt

black pepper

PLUS

1 package Daiya Vegan Mozzarella Cheese

1 cup fresh basil

GF bread crumbs (optional)

1. Pre-heat oven to 425. Place eggplant slices on non-stick baking tray or parchment lined tray. Lightly brush both sides of slices with olive oil and sprinkle both sides of  lightly with sea salt and black pepper. Bake for 20 minutes, flipping once halfway through, until golden brown on both sides. Remove from oven and cool slightly. Decrease oven to 375 degrees.

2. As soon as your eggplant is in the oven, get to work on your marinara (or make ahead). In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and saute for about 5 minutes or until translucent.  Then add minced garlic and sea salt. Saute about 2 minutes more.Toss in fresh herbs, chopped tomaters, tomato paste, agave and apple cider vinegar. Simmer uncovered over low heat for about 20-25 minutes.

3. While the sauce is simmering, it’s time to create your ricotta (or make ahead). In a food processor or high-powered blender, add all ingredients and process until smooth and creamy. Use some non-dairy milk or water to thin it out if needed. You want a ricotta-like consistency (much like a sauce).

4. Last but not least heat some olive oil in a large pan and toss in the garlic cloves for minute. Then add the spinach and LIGHTLY saute, sprinkling with sea salt and pepper. You don’t want to overcook this as it will cook more in the oven.

5. Now it’s time to put it all together! In a casserole pan, line bottom with parchment or foil and coat lightly with olive oil to keep from sticking. Layer the bottom of the pan with eggplant slices until it’s evenly covered (just as you would lasagna with noodles) and then top with a generous layer of marinara, followed by a layer of spinach and then a layer of macadamia ricotta. Repeat. You should have enough for at least two or three rounds of layering. Sprinkle the package of Daiya cheese and GF bread crumbs (optional) evenly on the top layer.

6. Bake at 375 for 20-30 minutes, until its thoroughly heated through and the top layer is golden brown. I typically turn on the broiler for just a couple of minutes to give it that perfect bubbly, crispy finish.

7. Allow to cool and sprinkle with fresh basil. Serve with a large green salad and a robust red wine. Then get ready to accept lots of compliments, kisses (and whatever else you want) as the chef. You deserve it.

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Happy VDay Betches!!!

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