Raise the Roof – Vegan Lasagna!

After being inspired by the Engine 2 documentary about Rip Esselstyn who turned his entire Austin, TX fire department into a plant-based eating community, we started to make the recipes that he showed.  They all got healthier, dropped weight, was able to go off medication, the list goes on of positive effects from adopting a vegan lifestyle.  In that documentary, he showed how to make Raise the Roof Sweet Potato Lasagna. Now before you poo-poo the idea of having sweet potato and lasagna noodles together, you HAVE to make this to believe that it’s amazing!  And cruelty free with the best taste ever…guilt free because there is no fattening cheese to be found!


  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 small head of garlic, all cloves chopped or pressed
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 head broccoli, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 red bell peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 1 can corn, rinsed and drained
  • 1 package Silken Lite tofu (or other light silky tofu)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary
  • 2 jars vegan tomato-based pasta sauce of your choice
  • 2 boxes whole grain (we used rice) lasagna noodles
  • 16 ounces frozen spinach, thawed and drained (I use fresh spinach and it’s amazing!)
  • 2 sweet potatoes, cooked and mashed
  • 6 roma tomatoes, sliced thin
  • 1 cup raw cashews, ground

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Sauté the onion and garlic on high heat for 3 minutes in a nonstick pan using a little water or vegetable broth.  Don’t let pan dry out while sauteeing.  Add the mushrooms and cook until the onions are limp and the mushrooms give up their liquid.  Remove them to a large bowl with a slotted spoon.  Reserve the mushroom liquid in the pan. Sauté the broccoli and carrots for 5 minutes and add to the mushroom bowl.  Sauté the peppers and corn until just beginning to soften.  Add them to the vegetable bowl.  Drain the silken tofu by wrapping in paper towels.  Break it up directly in the towel and mix into the vegetable bowl.  Add spices to the bowl and combine.  (at this point, I have to tell you that you will only need half of this mixture for the traditional pan of lasagna. I freeze half in a huge ziplock and then most of the work is done the next time I make this dish!)

To assemble the vegetable lasagna:  Cover the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch casserole with a layer of sauce.  iphone pics September 007iphone pics September 006iphone pics September 005

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Cover the noodles with sauce.  This way the noodles cook in the oven, saving time and energy.  Spread the vegetable mixture over the sauced noodles.  Cover with a layer of noodles and another dressing of sauce.  Add the spinach to the second layer of sauced noodles.

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Cover the spinach with the mashed sweet potatoes.  Add another layer of sauce, the final layer of noodles, and a last topping of sauce. Cover the lasagna with thinly sliced roma tomatoes.

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Cover with foil and bake in the oven for 45 minutes.  Remove the foil, sprinkle with the cashews, and return to the oven for 15 minutes.  Let lasagna sit for 15 minutes before serving.

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You just won’t believe how amazing these flavors combine until you make it yourself and taste it.  It’s incredible.  This has become a staple in our house. It reheats very well and a pan lasts us (the two of us) for four days of dinners! You can enjoy huge pieces with no guilt!!


Thoughts Become our Reality!

Over the past decade, I have found myself gravitating towards books and documentaries that have to do with visualization and manifestation.  In the past, the winner of the argument between fate and being proactive had not made itself very clear to me.  That is, until I started using visualization.  The documentary that started the whole thing was What the Bleep do We Know?  After that, movies like The Secret and books such as The Artist’s Way found me and dare I say, changed my life.  I began to use these techniques to co-create my reality.  At first, I had to fake it because I was still a little skeptical, but now I can attest to the use of this practice and even have passed it along to my students. To some, this may be a very airy-fairy way of thinking but if you are a dorky science geek like me, you know that this has way more to do with quantum mechanics and much less to do with all things esoteric.  In an attempt to clear up any residual baggage, this book has found its way into my life.

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It’s all about trapped emotions and how to clear them in order to continue on the journey of self-actualization.  Here’s a little nugget that further supports my thoughts that we really do create our realities simply by the messages with which we barrage ourselves on a daily basis.

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So, this got me to thinking.  This is a lot of pressure to constantly be positive and focus on gratitude while at the same time continually be telling myself “You CAN do this!”  Negative self talk and doubt have no place in this equation.  Let the reprogramming begin!

What the Kale? Is it a four-letter word?

Okay, now I know what you’re thinking?  Yes, technically, kale is a four-letter word.  But how is it a four-letter word? Well, only because if you are anywhere and talking to just about anyone, the mere suggestion of “kale” makes folks shriek and cover their ears as if offended to the highest degree.  Poor, poor kale…so misunderstood!

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Kale has changed my life…and makes me look younger.  I’m not joking.  When I have just one of my green drinks, (wait, don’t cover your ears) the next day the lines on my face are less visible.  It’s true.  High in iron and vitamins A, C, & K, loaded with anti-oxidants, inflammation-reducer, and considered a great detox food, kale is about as healthy as it gets and truly is a super food!

By juicing it or using baby kale mixed into your salads (until you get addicted and want the entire salad to be kale like we do), you can work this superfood quite easily into your diet. 

Joe’s Mean Green Juice (from Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead) is a wonderful juice that consists of 6 large kale leaves, 1/2 lemon, 1 apple, 1 cucumber, 2 celery stalks and about an inch of fresh ginger.  Run that through the juicer and you have a really healthy and tasty (Heck yeah!) juice.

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My darling was sweet enough to get me an “Eat More Kale” t-shirt and when I wear it, people always smile and sometimes even share how they eat kale in their diets, too.  So, next time you are at the grocery store, pick up some organic baby kale and give it a try.  If you use the larger leaves, get the lascinato kale and massage it with fresh avocado and then sprinkle some lemon juice on top.  YUM!


Stay-cations Can Calm the Mind and Spirit!

So when we decided to stay home for our vacation this year we had fears that what was supposed to be rest and relaxation would turn into an endless stream of unfinished home projects that needed closure!  Originally, this stay-cation was scheduled to be only one week.  Oh yes, we had micro-adventures of popping our Ikea cherries and going to our free-on-Monday museum, but somehow we never seemed to really relax.

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We hung up some photos and prints that had been meaning to go up after our bedroom remodel and I finally finished my painted of Tara, the female Buddha, that I started 3 years ago.  (yes, you read that correctly…THREE!)

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We did lots of errands and actually went to the beach once.  But somehow, we still never felt that ease of relaxation that was supposed to fill us as we took time off from work. Then the following conversation ensued:

Me to my lovely other half:  “What do you say we take another week off?!  You know, just cancel our lessons (we’re both piano teachers) and extend our stay-cation?”

Kirsten:  “We can’t do that. We’re supposed to get paid this week. I’ve already scheduled my lessons.”

Me:  “We’ll get paid next week and just tell everyone that we decided to take our second week of vacation now.  They’ll all understand.”

Kirsten: “hmmmm….let me see…”

And so it was done.  We contacted all of our parents and as I suspected they all understood that we needed more time.  Wow, a second week?  This is going to be awesome.  And indeed it was!  And you know the best part about it?  We really did relax.  We took in a movie and best of all, we allowed ourselves time to do NOTHING!  No projects, no errands, just BE in that very Buddhist sense.  Honestly, neither one of us are Buddhists but sitting in our breezy Starbucks alcove reading books became very spiritual by the end of the week.  Four days in a row (and honestly it could be five now) we went to that same Starbucks, got our goodies and sat and read and just allowed ourselves to BE!

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Our spirits and minds needed that downtime even if it meant just being a few miles away from home.

Vegan Enlightenment

The title “Vegan Enlightenment” sounds so lofty, doesn’t it?  It really isn’t meant to, but that is how I’m starting to feel…about food, about fellow humans, about animals, about plants and other little critters in the garden.  Having been vegetarian for 25 years, I’ve always felt a certain kinship and compassion for all living things and never wanted to eat anything that “had a face.”  Now, after going vegan (after a documentary fest over holiday break) I realize that in order to live with the level of compassion and the least amount of suffering of animals possible, that I must be vegan to make that happen.  When I realized how awful the dairy industry is, my eyes were opened forever and now feel that I can’t, in good conscience, support an industry that treats animals so cruelly.  So, seven months later, I’ve dropped 18 unnecessary pounds, feel so much better and have a lighter spirit.  I feel more deeply about all living things…and I didn’t think that was possible.