Clean Creamy Spinach & Mushroom Lasagna

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

I was browsing through the CLEAN blog for some new recipes to broaden my horizons and this one was practically screaming at me.
Creamy Spinach Mushroom Lasagna!!!

Is this really a cleanse or am I just eating healthier? The deliciousness of this recipe really blurs that line. Being on a cleanse sounds like you should be depriving yourself, but every creamy bite of this lasagna will tell you otherwise.

Like all lasagnas, this one is a bit of a pain to make if you are not into cooking. It takes time, but there is something therapeutic about preparing all the different layers and then putting it together to make one cohesive dish. Plus, this will basically last you 3-4 days of clean meals if you aren't sharing (aka only cooking for yourself). Not sure if you see this as a plus or a minus, but I was more than happy to accept that I had a delicious lunch/dinner waiting for me in the fridge for a few days.
Now, I would like to pretend that I didn't struggle through this seemingly easy recipe but where's the fun in that? Hopefully you can learn from my mistakes :)


Recipe vs Real Life: Noodle Fail

  • Brown rice lasagna might be hard to find, I went to most of the major grocery stores with huge gluten free aisles around the city (ie Fairway & Whole Foods) and came up empty handed. Finally found the Jovial Gluten Free Brown Rice Pasta at a small health food shop which I don't recommend (2* ratings on Soap.com, and for reasons to be mentioned below).  The Clean recipe recommends Tinkyada Brown Rice Lasagna (5* ratings on Amazon....). I will just buy from Amazon next time.  
  • The noodles I bought were really sticking to each other when I boiled it. The longer I boiled it, the more quickly it was starting to stick together so I had to take it out undercooked.
  • I figured since I bought "no boil" noodles, I could continue the noodle cooking process in the oven. Wrong. Usually for regular lasagnas that uses no boil noodles, there's a LOT of moisture in the sauce to help cook. In this version of a CLEAN creamy sauce, the water in the cream sauce evaporates relatively quickly, so unless you really have a SUPER watery sauce (which you don't want to), then your lasagna will dry up, like mine.
Besides my noodle fail, the rest of the process was relatively easy. After sautéing my mushrooms and spinach separately, I had to work on the cumbersome task of making a cashew cream sauce.

Luckily, I've already been obsessing about how to make Cashew Cream Cheese. Through this obsession, I discovered that while doing the Clean Cleanse, it was clutch to make a batch of unflavored Cashew Creme (just cashews and water!) so that I could have a blank slate to do whatever I wanted with it.

I ended up throwing basil, garlic, lemon juice and lemon zest in along with my pre-made Cashew Creme base, so it made this recipe less cumbersome in one sitting. The original recipe didn't call for lemon zest, but I loved the brightness it added to the overall dish. I would definitely add it.

So for the sake of utter transparency, I wanted to finish my notes here with the fact that I made this in my toaster oven. Not sure if I've ever mentioned it but I've never turned on my oven in my NYC apartment since it seems sketchy to me. Like.... will my apartment blow up? No thanks.

I will assure you that a toaster oven is just fine for minimal cooking (not sure about baking) and this toaster oven pan set has helped me make everything that I would want and more.
As you can see in the picture, the lasagna turned out a bit dry and less creamy than I would have wanted. It's mainly because I was trying to use the liquids from my cashew cream sauce to finish cooking my noodles. This was a bad idea. Next time I will ensure my noodles are 100% cooked and follow the recommended bake time of ~20 minutes for the lasagna to just warm through and stay creamy.

Despite my noodle fail, this lasagna definitely lived up to my expectations of delicious cleanse food. I looked forward to reheating this for the next few days because it felt so indulgent, but was clean approved.

Clean Creamy Spinach & Mushroom Lasagna

Adapted from CLEAN Blog
makes 4-6 servings

1 pound mixed mushrooms (shitake, crimini, oyster, etc.), roughly chopped
1 large portobello mushroom, sliced
1 large onion, sliced thin
½ pound spinach
1 teaspoon thyme
½ box gluten free lasagna noodles (Tinkyada brown rice noodles recommended)
2 tablespoon coconut oil
water for boiling noodles
sea salt
freshly cracked black pepper

Basil Cashew Cream Sauce
1½ cups cashews, soaked overnight in water, rinsed and drained
~½ water, more or less as needed
1 handful of basil (20 leaves)
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 large garlic clove
2 teaspoons sea salt

1. Cook noodles. Fill up pot with enough water to cover noodles with enough water to cover. Bring to boil, salt lightly and cook the noodles according to the directions on the box. When tender but slightly al dente, drain and set aside. If you're doing this before any other steps, stack your wet noodles on top of a wet paper towel or towel so that no noodle is touching each other (or else they'll stick)

2. Cook mushrooms. In a large pan, heat up 1 tablespoon of coconut oil in medium high heat and cook your first batch of mixed mushrooms. Season with some of the thyme and a pinch of salt. Cook until tender and browned (5-10 minutes) and set aside. Continue the same process with the portobello mushroom and set aside.

3. Cook spinach & onions. In the same pan, add 1 tablespoon of coconut oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook till soft, about 10 minutes. Season with a pinch of salt. Then, add spinach and cook until wilted, 3-4 minutes. Set aside.

4. Prepare cashew cream sauce. Blend the ingredients for the cashew sauce together (see my post about How to Make Cashew Creme for some tips). You want a smooth and creamy consistency. This sauce has to be spreadable, so add enough water to help thin out your sauce if needed.

5. Assemble and bake. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a baking pan, begin assembling your lasagna. Begin by spreading a little cashew sauce on the bottom of the dish, then add a layer of noodles. Spread a thin layer of cream sauce over the noodles then top with the cooked mushrooms and onion and spinach mixture. Repeat until you have the layers like this: sauce, noodles, sauce, mushrooms & spinach, sauce, noodles, sauce, mushroom & spinach, sauce. Garnish with fresh thyme if you have it. Bake in oven for about 20 minutes, until everything warms up together.

*Shelly's notes: I've mentioned this in my "recipe vs real life" section above, but don't use no boil noodles in this recipe since you shouldn't cook the lasagna in the oven for too long or else it will completely dry out. 

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