An Italian Feast

Christmas dinner is always a long discussion in our house, but this year because we were unable to head to NY to visit my husband’s family, we decided to bring his food traditions to our home.  He and his family are Italian through and through and he was definitely missing the massive feast they always have both Christmas Eve and Christmas day.  It consists of a 7 different fish, antipasto (hot and cold), pasta and gravy (marinara for us non-Italians), meatballs, lasagna and lots of wine.  I thought what better way to bring a little bit of his family traditions into our home, than to eat the way they would be!  We cut the amount of food in half, veganized it, and and made it all gluten free and we were still stuffed, had plenty of leftovers and were super satisfied.

Antipasto is one of those things I always look at in awe because it’s presented so beautifully with lots of colors, textures and a variety of different foods groups.  Unfortunately, its full of cured meats, cheeses and bread that I’m unable to eat.  But not this time!  We loaded it up with lots of different vegetables, flavors and textures that satisfied both of us.  I can’t actually take credit for anything on the plate besides the cashew “cheese” and cashew pesto, but I figured I could get a little help from Whole Foods.  They already have an amazing selection of olives, marinated artichokes, roasted red peppers, balsamic cipollini onions,  marinated mushrooms, and grilled vegetables, easy peasy!

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The cashew cheese pictured below was adapted from Minimalist Baker’s Garlic & Herb Vegan Cheese.  I had never attempted to make this type of vegan cheese before, but it was super simple once the cashews were soaked overnight.  You really need two full days of prep because soaking the cashews takes 12 hours and letting the cheese ball rest for 12 hours is highly recommended for the texture you’re looking for.  Although successful for my first try, I think I would go for a different flavor profile the next go-around.  It was a little too lemony (I can’t believe I’m saying that!) for a spreadable “cheese,” in my opinion.thumb_img_9813_1024

We also devoured steamed whole artichokes served with a creamy lemon tahini dressing and some extra cashew pesto.  Plus the a main course of mushroom-pesto lasagna.  It may not be the best photo, but it sure was the tastiest part of the day!  Mike made some homemade gravy like his mom used to do and let it simmer for hours.  It was much more flavorful with quality ingredients as opposed to the conventional jarred kind that’s full of sugar.  I love the meaty texture mushrooms bring to the dish and by using cashews for the traditional ricotta, we didn’t miss the creaminess that is usually brings.  We added a whole pack of basil and lots of spinach to the mixture, which added another depth of flavor.

thumb_img_9810_1024Steamed Artichokes

  • 2 whole artichokes
  • 2 lemons
  • 8 cups of water

Instructions:IMG_1612

  1. Bring water to a boil in a large pot
  2. Trim the tips off of the leaves on the artichoke and using a pearing knife trim off the skin on the stem up to the base.
  3. Once water is boiling, juice 2 lemons into the water, throw in rinds and add artichokes.
  4. Cover and let it cook on medium for about 45 minutes
  5. When you can easily pull off a leaf, you’ll know it’s done

Mushroom-Pesto Lasagna

Ingredients:

  • 1 box of GF lasagna sheets
  • 1 pack of basil
  • 2 cups organic spinach
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 cup cashews, soaked overnight
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 lemon
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb button mushrooms
  • 2 cups organic marinara sauce, homemade or store bought (organic w/minimal ingredients!)
  • 2 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 4 tbsp olive oil

Instructions:

  1. Start by preheating the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add a few sheets of pasta to water and cook until slightly before al dente
  3. While cooking the sheets of lasagna, sauté onion, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper until translucent
  4. Add spinach and wilt leaves
  5. Transfer mixture to food processor, add basil, nutritional yeast, juice of 1/2 lemon and soaked cashews
  6. Heat another 2 tbsp olive oil and begin sautéing some minced garlic
  7. Use a food processor to pulse up the mushrooms until you have medium size pieces, add to sautéing garlic.
  8. Add Italian seasoning and cook until golden
  9. To assemble:
    • Apply a thin layer of tomato sauce on the bottom of a casserole dish
    • Add lasagna sheets length wise
    • Top with pesto sauce
    • Add the mushroom mixture on top
    • Add another layer of marinara on top
    • Place sheets of lasagna the opposite way (you may need to cut sheets in order to fit the baking sheet)
    • Repeat until you’ve filled the casserole dish, cover with foil and bake for 25-30 minutes or until you are able to slide a knife easily through the center
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