Saturday, November 20, 2010

Food choices and vegan manicotti

In October of 2008, I read the now-notorious Skinny Bitch book. I didn't care for the tone of the book, but the scientific evidence advocating a diet free of animal products interested me. I decided to try to reduce animal products from my diet in a very serious way, and after sharing what I learned with Brian, he agreed to give it a try as well.  We had several "whoops" moments, and serious cravings to work though, but after 2 years I can say it has been an excellent decision. Now, I eat a plant-based diet with occasional small amounts of seafood and eggs. I'm not militant about it, but mindful.

One of the biggest changes this choice required was cooking from scratch. I'm embarrassed to say that the first year Brian and I lived together we ate a lot of Tuna Helper and Hamburger [Venison] Helper. Blechh. No wonder I gained 30 pounds! I relied on convenience foods high in fat, calories, and sodium, and low in nutritional value. Now I cook from scratch much of the time, and in March of this year I began calculating calorie content per serving. People unfamiliar with vegetarianism and veganism always ask me what I eat, and I eat most things others do, with small changes and more variety. I can make most any thing I want, and make it fit my nutritional choices (although I try not to rely on pre-packaged meat substitutes). I even made a mock-Hamburger Helper skillet meal because I was craving the taco flavor one. 

Tonight, I decided to make a family favorite with a twist. I loved my mom's manicotti as a kid. It was something she didn't make often because it took a lot of time, so I appreciated it a lot more when we had it. By combining her recipe with some tested-and-true vegan recipes, I was able to whip up an awesome supper. I started with the filling:

Vegan Spinach-"Ricotta" Filling (based on the Vegan With A Vengeance recipe)
2 boxes Mori-Nu Silken Tofu
2 tsp lemon juice
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp olive oil
1/4 c. nutritional yeast
2 handfuls of fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup soy mozzarella-substitute cheeze
garlic salt, pepper, and your favorite Italian seasonings (basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, etc.)

Mash up the tofu with a fork, add the remaining ingredients and mix. All ready for your favorite recipes, like lasagna, baked ziti, stuffed shells, or even as a pizza topping.

 To assemble, I poured a little sauce in the bottom of a 9x13 pan (I use Hunt's No Sugar Added. It's cheap, and no HFCS). I next stuffed cooked manicotti noodles with my "ricotta" and placed them in the pan, sprinkled them with the remaining soy cheeze (from the 1/2 c. used in the "ricotta" filling), and poured the rest of the sauce over the top. I sprinkled some vegan Parmesan over the top because my mom always did. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes-1 hour, and ta-da!

I wish you could smell how awesome this is!

Made this way, there are 11 individual manicottis in this pan, at 175 calories each. It's cooling on the counter now while I'm waiting for Brian to come home. I'll probably have two tubes and a spinach salad with Italian dressing. Then I have to go back to bed, in advance of an overnight shift tonight. Have a great Saturday night, everyone!


  1. Do you use an online program to calculate your calories? I have been using My Food Diary again and LOVE it but eventually I know I won't want to pay the $9 per month and I haven't found another program that matches the excellence of theirs.

  2. I just do the math myself on little pieces of scratch paper, which I then leave all over the place :) I've heard there are good iPhone apps for counting too, but I'm not that savvy.