The Single Best Casual Dinner Party Dish Ever. Period.

Little did I know when I first made this meal for my now-fiance on our fourth date, that it was going to become a staple in our lives. Within hours, he was bragging to his friends about the kick a$$ (vegetarian!) Mexican lasagne that he (a meat eater!) had for dinner. We hosted a party not long after we became an established couple and, of course, I made the lasagne. It’s now been three years and any time we have friends over for dinner, they always ask for this dish. The recipe has made its rounds through my work and through my social groups. I’m making today to take on a girl’s beach weekend, where I’m sure it will be shared some more. It’s been tweaked and adapted, but always enjoyed.

Unfortunately, I can’t give you a taste through the screen, but I can enumerate the reasons that this has become the go-to recipe in my life:

1) As written, it is vegetarian, gluten free, soy free and nut free, pleasing many dinner guests with food limitations.

2) It can be made vegan by replacing the cream cheese with this vegan version made from cashews (note: not nut free), replacing the skim milk with a non dairy version and eliminating the cheese in the layers or replacing it with a vegan shredded cheddar cheese substitute (note: this may not be soy free).

3) Although it is vegetarian, I have never had a meat-eater complain about the lack of animal protein. It’s a one-dish-pleases-all meal!

4) It’s super easy to make – basically throw stuff in a pan (after chopping:) ) and stir for a bit, layer the ingredients and bake.

5) It’s great for parties or local travel because you can make the filling ahead of time and then assemble and bake when you’re ready.

6) It’s very adaptable. Depending upon the intended eaters, sometimes I kick up the spiciness by adding some chili powder and/or more jalapenos. I also throw in other vegetables at times – mainly carrots and/or summer squashes. Don’t like an ingredient? Simple, leave it out.

7) It’s inexpensive, especially when zucchini and peppers are in season.

8) And, last but certainly not least, it is healthy, packed full of vegetables and beans.

Convinced yet? Mouth watering?

Here’s the recipe! (adapted from The Gluten Free Vegetarian Kitchen)

Mexican Lasagna

1 tbs olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1-2 cups chopped bell peppers

2 zucchini, chopped

1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 can pinto beans

1 can black beans

1 can kidney beans

2 cups salsa

1 tbs chili powder

1⁄2 tbs cumin

2 tbs lime juice

8 corn tortillas

8 oz shredded cheddar and/or Monterey jack cheeses

8 oz reduced fat cream cheese

1⁄4 skim milk

1 tbs Chipotle Tabasco sauce
Sauté the veggies in oil until tender. Add beans, salsa, spices, and lime juice and stir for 3 minutes at medium high heat. Simmer for 5 minutes. Arrange 4 of the tortillas in a greased 13” x 9” pan. Top with half the bean mixture and half the shredded cheese. Repeat. Cover with foil (spray the inside of the foil with cooking spray first so that it does stick to the cheese) and bake at 350 for 25 minutes. Meanwhile, combine cream cheese, milk and Tabasco in a small sauce pot. Stir over low heat until smooth. Cover the baked lasagna with the cream cheese mixture.

Some awesome serving ideas:

  • Top with sliced avocado
  • Top with nonfat plain Greek yogurt (tastes just like sour cream!)
  • Serve with baked corn chips to turn it into a dip
  • Top with sliced green onions
  • Serve with sliced tomatoes
  • Or just eat as-is!

Here are some pics of the preparations from today.

Unchopped and ready to begin.

Unchopped and ready to begin.

I like to add the onion, garlic, jalapeno and zucchini first so that they brown just a little and the excess water is cooked off from the zucchini.

I like to add the onion, garlic, jalapeno and zucchini first so that they brown just a little and the excess water is cooked off from the zucchini.

Is there anything prettier than chopped bell peppers? Wait, don't answer that:)

Is there anything prettier than chopped bell peppers? Wait, don’t answer that:)

This is when the house starts to smell amazing!

This is when the house starts to smell amazing!

The finished filling. Ready to be packed in a container to take to the beach:)

The finished filling. Ready to be packed in a container to take to the beach:)

Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of the finished product. I’m waiting until I get to beach to assemble and bake it. Besides, once it’s done, it usually doesn’t sit around long enough for pictures!





Taking Out Your Mental Trash


Meditation (Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn)

We are all too aware of what happens if we neglect to take out the garbage in our homes: the cans overflow, the flies move in, and the offensive odors soon become overpowering. Few of us can ignore these powerful signals for too long, and we clean out the debris, again making the home a pleasant and habitable space.

Immaterial objects in our lives can also outstay their welcome. Do you have any habits, thoughts, or coping mechanisms in your life that are no longer serving you? Examine your inner home and think about how you can best reduce your emotional clutter.

Recycle: Take your old patterns and thoughts and change them into something new and useful. Read the rest on MindBodyGreen:)

The Perfect Summer Lunch

photo-257The tomatoes are beginning to ripen, their plump red flesh whispering promises of the juicy sweetness within. The basil plants are full, green limbs reaching towards the warming sun. The sultry air forbids the oven or meals prepared over a hot stove, asking instead for cool and simple meals that can enjoyed in the shade.

One of my favorite summer meals is a higher protein version of the ubiquitous caprese salad followed with some fresh blueberries. This meal is light yet filling and takes almost no time to prepare. By replacing the usual mozzarella with cottage cheese, the protein is increased and the fat, decreased.

Higher Protein Caprese Salad

3/4 cup low fat cottage cheese

2 ripe tomatoes, sliced

6 basil leaves

a drizzle of balsamic vinegar

Caprese salad made with 2 oz mozzarella: 242 calories, 13 grams fat, 16 grams protein

Caprese salad made with 3/4 cup lowfat cottage cheese: 194 calories,  5 grams fat, 22 grams protein

1 cup blueberries: 83 calories of complete yumminess:)