Today is my 1st anniversary of being vegan!
I am so proud and happy with myself and all of the changes I have made this year, not just with my diet, but the way my thinking has changed as well. I feel I have always been a compassionate person, but over the past 12 months I think I have become more compassionate. This isn't to say that I have turned into a weepy sissy, just more understanding. And I haven't become weaker, just the opposite, I have become physically and mentally stronger. Actually this image sums it up nicely I think :)
Now there have been a few amazing changes to my health as well, the biggest being in remission from Hyperthyroidism (that 1 year anniversary will be next month). When my Hyperthyroidism was coupled with my old lifestyle I think it's amazing I didn't have any worse health issues. From the time I was 24 (I'm now 28) I had high blood pressure, 145/90, and a high resting heart rate, 100-120 bpm. These numbers have been gradually falling, I think I started documenting them at some point, but I have no idea where. On Monday, however, I went to my GP for a check up and and found out that my BP was 103/76 and my HR is 76bmp! I cannot believe how dramatically this has changed!
And of course I have lost weight, something else my doctors are more than happy about. From Christmas 2010-Christmas 2011 I lost 18kg (39.68 lbs). Unfortunately since then I have gained 1.5kg which pisses me off to no end, hopefully that will fall off again soon!
Now my weight loss would have been a lot more, as I am still overweight, if I hadn't been so frickin' lazy!! I didn't feel the need to exercise very much, or at all, as I have a very physical job (excuse number 1). I was also seeing such great results just by the changes in my diet that I didn't feel I had to exercise very much, or at all (excuse number 2). So I didn't.
For some reason, however, I have decided that I need to exercise, which has turned into "I have to exercise or else I am a fat, lazy slob!". I understand that in writing that may send alarm bells off in some people's minds thinking "Whoa,this chica better watch out she doesn't do anything stupid or dangerous!" whereas what it actually means to me is "itchy feet". I am finding that if I walk for an hour or do a Zumba class after work I feel more relaxed, happier, less stressed and I sleep better. I know those of you who are regulars to this exercise thing would be thinking "Well duh!!", but it takes lazy peeps, like me, longer to figure these things out! So now I am loving exercise, just annoyed that this 1.5kg came back whilst I'm doing it! >:-/
Back to the anniversary. To reward myself for everything I have achieved I made my favourite meal. This is something that like my Lentil Bolognese is a childhood favourite that I had a lot of fun veganizing!
NOTE: This isn't a quick recipe, you probably want about an hour or so just to let the mix simmer on the stove, so allow 2-2.5 hours prep/cooking time. The ingredients and methods lists look huge, but don't be discouraged, it's totally worth it. I do recommend the use of an apron!
- olive oil
- 1 brown onion
- 3-4 cloves of garlic
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- 1 400g tin brown lentils
- 2 zucchinis
- 2 carrots
- 250g mushrooms, I prefer button or Swiss brown or a mix
- 100g (or so) frozen spinach
- a nice big bunch of fresh basil, as well as fresh oregano, rosemary and thyme to taste
- 3-4 fresh tomatoes or a 400g tin
- 200-300g firm tofu
- 750g bottle pasta sauce of choice
- ½ cup red wine, I've been enjoying the Yallumba Y Series Merlot for both cooking and drinking :)
- 6-8 lasagne sheets of choice (regular, GF or even tortillas!)
- If you wish TVP (1 cup), veggie mince (1 cup) or crumbled up veggie burgers (about 2 home or ready made) are also nice editions.
- 1 Tbs sugar (optional)
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tub Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese
- 1 tin Carnation soy milk
- 2 Tbs (or to taste) nutritional yeast/Parmazano/"Motzarella" or a combo of all
- 1 tsp nutmeg
- Garden Salad
- Garlic bread (recipe at the end)
- Slice and press, or just press, tofu.
- Drain and rinse lentils, set aside.
- Top and tail and chop the zucchinis, carrots (peeled or not) and mushrooms, set aside
- Finely dice the onion. Heat a little oil in a nice big deep pan or large pot, through in onion. Gently cook on medium to medium-high heat until translucent, stirring occasionally, do not brown. When ready crush garlic into pan, stir.
- When garlic becomes fragrant add tomato paste and allow it to cook off for a minute or two, gently stir every now and then.
- Add zucchini, carrot, frozen spinach, tomatoes and lentils, mix well.
- Add pasta sauce and red wine, mix well.
- Crumble in tofu. if using veggie mince or burgers now is the time to add them as well. If you find that the mix is getting to thick you may want to pour a little water in, or maybe just simmer for less time, you be the judge.
- Tear the leaves of the herbs of the stems and stir them into the mix.
- Now add the mushrooms, sugar, salt and pepper.
- Turn the heat down to medium low, stir very well to ensure all the ingredients are combined. Allow the mix to simmer an bubble away for up to 1 hour, just keep a close eye on it and stir semi-regularly.
- Whilst the mix is simmering away prepare your cream sauce. Combine the Tofutti cream cheese, Carnation soy milk, nutritional yeast/"cheese" and nutmeg. To do this I usually just use my immersion blender or use a medium sized bowl and good spoon or spatula. The process is easier if the Tofutti is at or close to room temperature.
- When The mix on the stove is at a consistency you are happy with preheat the oven according to the directions on the pasta box (usually about 180oC and 30-40 minutes cooking time).
- Get a LARGE baking dish and assemble your lasagne. I layer pasta, veggie mix (make sure it covers the pasta well) and cream sauce until dish is full. I do pasta, veggie mix (3-4 ladles worth) and ¼ of the cream sauce. Repeat this once, then top with pasta and remaining half of the cream sauce. On top of this I sprinkle extra nutritional yeast. If you have a REALLY LARGE baking dish you may just need more layers.
- Pop in the oven for bout 30-40 minutes, it should be nice and golden and bubbly, just like a "real" one.
- Now is a good time to make your salad and start preparing your garlic bread, recipe bellow).
- Woolworths "Bake at Home" Dinner rolls, however many is required for the amount of people you are feeding.
My garlic bread is super easy, but NOT GF so if that is something you require ensure you have GF bread rolls.
- olive oil, about ¼ cup
- 3-5 cloves of garlic, crushed
I know this seems like a lot of steps and a lot of time in the kitchen, but trust me, it's not that bad. The only person I have served this to that didn't like it was my dad, and that is only because he doesn't like zucchini or carrot, oops! Other than that EVERYBODY loves this, even omni hubby told me that he likes my vegan lasagne better than he does my mum's traditional lasagne, a he truthfully wasn't sucking up!
- When the lasagne only has about 10 minutes left to go, pop the rolls in the oven until they are half cooked.
- Mixed the desire amount of garlic and oil together. If you like a more subtle garlic taste use only a little, if you like it more robust use more.
- When ready pull the rolls out of the oven, cut them in half lengthwise and using a teaspoon pour the garlic oil onto the rolls, rub the mix in to ensure decent coverage and not just a clump. Depending on the size of the rolls you may need to repeat this.
- Once covered in garlic oil pop the rolls back into the oven until they are golden brown around the edges. Once ready pull your rolls and lasagne out of the oven and serve.
Just be warned, this amazing tasty garlic bread gives you seriously gnarly garlic breath the next day, consider yourself warned! :)
If you find you have a ton of veggie mix left just pop it in the freezer until next time, it won't be enough mix for a huge one, but you could definitely getter a smaller one out of it.
I also find that this makes fantastic left overs for my lunches.So go on, give it a go, as I said at the beginning this is one of my favourite dishes. If I could be bothered I would make it every week, but eventually I would get sick of it and I do not want that!!