Plant Based Cooking: Vegan Spanakopita

It has become clear to me that many people who have not tried a plant based diet simply can't imagine what a person would eat and how they would survive without meat. The biggest question I get is, "How do you get your protein?". Trust me, we are not designed to drink breast milk our whole lives and getting protein is easy. Where do you think cattle, sheep, bison, deer, and elephants get protein? Plants, that's where, and you will live healthier and happier. Plants will heal your body, you won't hear that about eating cheese burgers.

That being said, to successfully go plant based, you do need to get proper nutrition. If you try to live off of vegan pizza for 6 months you will fail. For this reason, I'm starting a series of blog posts around plant based cooking and nutrition. The idea is to help people see the amazing food options available and the health benefits.

I happen to be starting with a Vegan Spanakopita. I don't have a ton of free time so I save recipes like this for the weekends. During the week I do really simple fast meals and lot of smoothies.

Let's get started. By the way, I can not follow a recipe to save my life so I always start with one and then modify. Here's how I made the Spanakopita this weekend.

 

Ingredients

• 2 pounds of organic triple washed spinach. If you choose frozen spinach you probably won't need the giant pot that this requires.
• 2 cloves of garlic
• 3 tablespoons of fresh dill
• 1/2 cup + fresh parsley
• 1 medium red onion
• 1 bunch of green onions.
• Lemon pepper and salt to taste
• 1/2 cup silken tofu
• 1/2 cup NU Culture Garden herb cashew spread ( They have it at Market of Choice)
• 1/2 cup extra firm tofu
• Earth balance or olive oil
• 1 package of pre-made phyllo dough - Defrost to room temperature

Step 1.

Preheat oven to 350

Step 2.

Chop all your spinach and herbs. Once you start cooking this goes fast.

Step 3.

In a large pot, add oil and heat the pan. I heat the oil on low so I don't burn it. I have a rather intense burner so I cooked everything at medium low. Once the oil is hot add your chopped garlic, dill, green onions, and red onion and sauté for maybe 5 minutes or until onion has a slightly transparent appearance. Here comes the wonderful aroma!

For the record, I have a regular size set of pots and pans but I got this giant stainless steel pot from Costco. It's part of their pro line series and it was only $16! This giant pot will be working overtime at my house.

 

Step 4.

Add the chopped spinach to the pot and stir frequently until spinach is cooked down.

Step 5.

While your spinach is cooking blend your silken tofu and Nu Culture Garden Herb cashew spread in a blender or with a hand mixer. I actually used my nutri bullet. In a separate bowl crumble a half cup of extra firm tofu. This will add the texture of feta.

Step 6.

Turn off the heat to your cooked spinach and fold the blended ingredients and crumbled feta into the mixture. Sprinkle with lemon pepper seasoning and salt to taste.

Step 7.

Oil a 2 quart or 8" by 9" baking pan or glass baking dish. I used a glass baking dish. Place half of the spinach mixture in the bottom of the dish then add a layer of phyllo dough. Once in place brush it with olive oil or melted Earth Balance and fold the corners in at the sides. Repeat this with several layers of phyllo dough, I did 3 in the middle.

Add the remainder of the spinach mixture and repeat with 3 more layers of phyllo dough on top of the mixture. For a finishing touch, add one more layer of phyllo dough on top but crinkle it. I did a bit of an accordion fold. This is just for presentation but it's a nice tough. It's show time!

Step 8.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes at 350 until there is a slight golden brown to the top layer. I set a timer for 30 and then kept adding 5 minutes. I wound up baking it for 40 minutes. ALL DONE!

Before cooking I read two different recipes. One said to let it sit for an hour and one said to eat while it was hot. I ate it when it was hot and then and hour later. I thought the flavor and texture was better and hour later.  This is a wonderful clean dish. I mean the flavor is so clean and fresh. The dill, garlic, and parsley zing. This is not low fat but it's good fat and packed with nutrition. I thought it was really fun to make and it taste sooooo good. The original recipes called for vegan cheese. I personally can't get into most of the vegan cheeses. However, the Nu Culture is a vegan cheese spread made from cashews. It's my new favorite. It literally taste like cheese spread. I mean to say... it's amazing! I have served it at a party and no one even knew it was vegan. I'm tricky like that :)

Whether you are adding more plants to your diet or just looking for fun recipes I hope you'll try this vegan spanakopita.

Save yourself, save the planet, save another. Eat plants!

Julia Rudisill