24 Hours in Virginia Beach (and Norfolk!)…

This is how I felt while looking for vegan friendly restaurants to share with all of you!

So maybe I have been slacking slightly with posting, but it is all with good reason.  Seems like out of nowhere, my husband decided to use some more paid leave and along with it, we started going places again like before Raegan was born.  Since this was her first overnight trip out of the comforts of her crib, we were on edge on how she was going to react, hence why we decided to only spend one night at the beach.  Along with the stress of the baby, there was also a HUGE question as to where to go to find vegan friendly food.  For those of you who know me and my family, we L-O-V-E to eat our way through every town/city/destination/etc. but this time we were working on limited time and from what little I saw on the internet, limited resources 🙁  Overall, our end result was perfect and I like to think we used those 24 hours to our best advantage and I am happy to share with all of you my food voyage….
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My Big Fat Vegan Recipe Post…

Spaghetti Squash done two ways…This is a teaser coming up on another post!

I know I am a day late in getting this blog out…Between catering a moving party (Welcome to Charlottesville Michael, Jolene, and Ben!) and social networking to get a decent buzz going on my blog, it’s been a busy past few days.  It was so busy in fact, that it was pretty nice to take a break from blogging and catch up with cooking new recipes (in hopes to share the recipes very soon!)  and also reading Sweetness Without Sugar so I can give it the review it definitely deserves.  I have had a few people ask me here and there if I would ever come out with my own cookbook, and my answer is “Probably not”.  There are so many great vegan cookbooks out there that for me to put one out there would be like “peeing in the ocean”.  I personally feel that my strong point is cooking another author’s recipe and possibly modifying it to make it healthier or maybe cooking something as a homage to my favorite vegan cookbook authors, Sarah Kramer and Isa Chandra Moskowitz.  I had the opportunity to meet Sarah Kramer a couple years ago in DC (she’s seriously a down to earth sweetheart!) and hopefully in September, I will be able to meet Isa at the DC Veg Fest and hopefully snag an autograph for my collection.  With the way this summer has been, I feel that I’m checking things off my vegan bucket list and one of them was to make a healthier Mousakka that I am more than happy to share with all of you.  The other is a modified Frozen Coconut Cream Pie that I saw online that may not be low fat but it is free of refined sugars.

Now on to the Mousakka…The original recipe I used called for a ton of Olive Oil which doesn’t quite sound healthy.  But my local Farmer’s Market is filled with zucchinis and eggplant that it’s hard to not think about making a Mousakka especially when you can get everything so local and cheap!  This casserole dish is great for the whole family or when you want to serve dinner to a few guests without the fuss.  This recipe came from researching over 5 separate cookbooks so it’s too hard to give credit where credit is due so as a result, I am calling this my own 😉  The preparation of this dish takes some time but it is TOTALLY worth it!  What I normally do is make everything except for the topping a day in advance and then keep in the fridge until showtime 🙂 This version actually tastes a lot like the one I had in a Turkish Restuarant called Temel in Fairfax, VA a few years ago….

Robin’s Healthy Vegan Mousakka
1 medium eggplant sliced lengthwise 1/4 inch thick
2 medium zucchinis sliced lengthwise 1/4 inch thick
2 large baking potatoes sliced lengthwise 1/4 inch thich
1 large onion chopped
4 garlic cloves, sliced
28-oz. can low sodium crushed tomatoes (if not low sodium, omit the salt from recipe!)
1 tsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 pound of silken tofu (***do not use Mori-Nu or any in the aseptic packaging! Use the plain one in the refrigerator aisle alongside other tofu***)
1/2 cup of pine nuts OR raw cashews
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon of arrowroot OR cornstarch
2 cloves minced garlic
a generous pinch of nutmeg
First thing you need to do is take your eggplant and sprinkle both sides generously with salt.  Set aside in a colander or towels and allow them to sweat ideally for 15 minutes.  Once the eggplant is “sweated” you want to rinse those slices very well as to not get too much salt in your dish.  While the eggplant is sweating, this is a good time to make your sauce.
In a large saucepan or a deep skillet, take the chopped onion and sliced cloves of garlic and water saute (instead of using oil) until the onions and garlic become translucent.  Then add your crushed tomatoes, oregano, sea salt and black pepper.  Simmer sauce for about 10-15 minutes (it’s up to you!).
The next step is to layer your veggies and sauce like a lasagna so you take a 9×13 casserole pan and layer the potato slices in the bottom of a baking dish, and spoon one-third of the tomato sauce over them. Then layer eggplant, one-third of tomato sauce, zucchini slices, and finally the rest of the tomato sauce.  Preheat oven to 375°. Cover with a baking dish lid or foil and bake for 1 1/2 hours.
Towards the end of your baking time you will want to prepare your topping.  Using your food processor (or a blender) you will want to blend the nuts with the lemon juice.  Ideally, it will form into a gritty paste.  Then at this point you will want to add the tofu, arrowroot (or cornstarch if using), garlic, and nutmeg.  Blend until smooth and add salt and pepper to taste.
Once the casserole is finished baking then you are ready to top with the sauce.  Pull the dish out of the oven and pour tofu mixture over the casserole and bake uncovered for roughly 30-45 minutes until the top is browned like this…
Looks like lasagna but tastes like heaven!
I know you have spent all of your time on this fine casserole but make sure you cool the pan for at least 10 minutes before slicing and serving…
The final product….Time consuming but sooooo worth it!!!
Since I gave you a great recipe for Mousakka, it would be a crime to not give you a recipe for dessert.  Recently, it was too hot to cook anything, let alone dessert and as luck would have it, I ran across this recipe for Frozen Coconut Creme Pie, courtesy of Meet the Shannons.  This recipe is quick and easy and I happened to have a lot of the coconut based ingredients handy since I sometimes tend to go on a raw food kick from time to time.  This version I made on a whim but I managed to get rid of the white refined sugars but I had a hard time cutting back the fat as this recipe basically comes out like an ice cream pie and without the fat content, it would have been mush in a pie crust 🙁  Hope you guys can take this recipe and run with it like I did and I look forward to seeing any modifications you make to this recipe but here’s my take on it…
Perfect for a hot day!!!

The Real Vegan Housewife’s Version of Frozen Coconut Creme Pie
1 graham cracker crust (I used this brand as it has no refined sugars and is vegan!)
1 package of silken tofu (I’m pretty sure I used Mori-Nu)
2/3 cup of Sugar in the Raw (found in every store on the planet!)
3/4 cup of Raw Coconut Butter (the recipe also says you can use vegan butter or margarine but I needed to drain my pantry!)
1 1/4 t of Coconut Extract (I prefer this brand over any out there!)
1/4 teaspoon of Agave Nectar
1 cup of shredded raw coconut
a pinch of sea salt
1 tablespoon of coconut milk
1 Tablespoon of cornstarch

Set your oven to 350. Spread 3/4 cup of Raw Shredded Coconut evenly over a cookie sheet. Place in the oven for 3-5 minutes. Remove when the Coconut is lightly browned and toasted. (keep an eye on your coconut during this step as ovens vary!)

In your food processor puree 1/4 cup Raw Shredded Coconut. Then add Sugar, Coconut Butter (or vegan butter), Coconut Extract, Coconut Milk, Cornstarch, Sea Salt, Agave Nectar and Silken Tofu to your food processor, blend until it is smooth and creamy. Pour into your Pie Crust and evenly sprinkle toasted Coconut over the top. Put in the freezer for 8 hours.

The result should look something like this once it is finished…

Just a bit of fair warning…After slicing, you may want to wait a few minutes to allow the pie to soften slightly 😉

Hope you guys enjoyed my recipe post and I look forward to sharing more with you soon!!!  Any reviews of my recipe (both good and bad!) are also most appreciated.  If there’s anything you want me to veganize or anything that is already vegan that you would like for me to make healthier, please feel free to email me or drop me a line on Facebook or Twitter…Until then “Bon Appetit!” 🙂