I was pretty stoked that I made this, from scratch. I’ve never minded cooking and baking, but my husband’s dedication to a plant-based diet these past several weeks has inspired me to take things to an entirely new level. It’s kind of fun.

So, I’m surprising myself a little lately in the kitchen. I’m a foodie, and I do enjoy making meals for my family and guests, but the whole making-things-from-scratch approach has seemed somewhat foreign to me. I’ve left that up to other people. I’ve tried over the years–halfheartedly, here and there, I’ve got to admit–but now, I’m really getting into it. I think it’s due to a few things: Joe’s commitment to eating a plant-based diet (he’s on week 7, has lost 20+ pounds, is feeling great); my interest in experimenting with different foods; and marathon training. Actually, it’s my current training AND also future trainings, since I want more than ever to see what fuel works best for the fitness, health and well-being I seek long-term for my family and for me.

Not long after watching Forks Over Knives together–the reason for Joe’s decision to try a vegan diet (and my decision to eat more whole grains, vegetables and fruits…I’m more of vegetarian at this point, it seems)–I’ve been trying out recipes from the documentary’s “how-to companion” cookbook. This Saturday, after logging my longest run of this training so far, I devoured a plate of Raise-the-Roof Sweet Potato-Vegetable Lasagna. 18 miles is long and far and hard, mentally and physically, and this dish hit the spot. It’s packed with lots and lots of veggies, as well as tofu and noodles. Definitely filling. And you’ll have plenty of leftovers; this recipe serves 10-12. I’m looking forward to having some tonight.

I think this is a great meal post-long run (I’d recommend preparing it PRIOR to your run, since it does require some prep), but it’s also a yummy meal anytime. Note: This ended up being a late dinner for us, so my kids had already eaten something else and didn’t try this (yet). And I’m guessing two of the three–I won’t name names–won’t be especially excited about it, but I think they’d like it once they try it. (One of my kids will love it, for sure. He’s all about veggies.) And, it’s worth noting that in the cookbook, recipe author/firefighter Rip Esselstyn says he and his wife liked this lasagna so much that they chose it as the main dish at their wedding reception.

Raise-the-Roof Sweet Potato-Vegetable Lasagna

Serves 10-12

1 Onion, chopped
1 small head of garlic, all cloves chopped or pressed (I chopped ’em)
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1 head broccoli, chopped (I used an 8-ounce bag of frozen broccoli florets already chopped)
2 carrots, chopped
2 red bell peppers, seeded and chopped
1 can corn, rinsed and drained
1 package firm tofu (I used extra firm since that’s what I had on hand, it worked great)
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon rosemary
2 jars pasta sauce (kinds with minimal or no added oil)
2 boxes whole-grain lasagna noodles (we used rice lasagna noodles since Joe is trying to limit his wheat intake)
16 ounces frozen spinach, thawed and drained
2 sweet potatoes, cooked and mashed (I suggest cooking these while you’re chopping up all the other veggies)
6 Roma tomatoes, sliced thin
1 cup raw cashews, ground (as you can see from the picture, I didn’t grind up the cashews; instead, I crushed them up a little)

1.) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Water saute the onion and garlic on high heat for three minutes in a wok or nonstick pan. Add the mushrooms and cook until the onions are limp and mushrooms give up their liquid. Remove them to a large bowl with a slotted spoon. Reserve the mushroom liquid in the pan. Water saute the broccoli and carrots for 5 minutes and add to the mushroom bowl. Saute the peppers and corn until just beginning to soften. Add them to the vegetable bowl. Drain the tofu by wrapping in paper towels. Break it up directly in the towel and mix into the vegetable bowl. Add spices to the vegetable bowl and combine.

2.) Cover the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch casserole with a layer of sauce. Add a layer of noodles. 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 later of sauced noodles. Cover the spinach with the mashed sweet potatoes. Add the final layer of noodles and a last topping of sauce. Cover the lasagna with thinly sliced Roma tomatoes.

3.) 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 sit for 15 minutes before serving.

I hope to feature more recipes in upcoming posts — you can check out my last one, a recipe for White Bean Chili with Jalapeno & Lime here — and ideally, I’d love to include how to incorporate Michigan-grown produce and Mitten-made products into these recipes. If you have any recipes you think I should try, please let me know!


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