Tassajara Vegetarian Whole Wheat Lasagna

September 24, 2009 in cookbook, cooking, ingredient, recipe, review, vegetable


Some time ago I reviewed a cookbook called “Tassajara Cookbook: Lunches, Picnics, and Appetizers” by Karla Oliveira where I covered Tassajara, a magical mountain retreat for the San Francisco Zen Center.

Today’s review covers the related book Tassajara Dinners & Desserts by Dale and Melissa Kent, a beautiful and delicious cookbook that shares simple go-to vegetarian meals used at the Tassajara Zen Mountain Retreat to nourish the monks, trainees and students who live in this amazing place.


The photography is just fantastic, inviting you to dive into this book to learn how to make these tasty dinners. The front cover holds nothing back, just take a look at it!


Foreword by Senior Dharma Teacher Eijun Linda Ruth Cutts


  • What is it like to do active cooking meditation
  • How the zen kitchen works


  • Ginger Hummus
  • Grandma Chu’s Sweet & Sour Marinated Asparagus

Vegetable Side Dishes

  • Pungent Cucumber Salad with Black Sesame ad Ginger
  • Moroxican Spiced Potatoes

Vegetable Entrees

  • James Creek Farm Ratatouille
  • Tagine with Apricots, Olives, and Artichoke Hearts

Baked Entrees

  • Baked Muffaletta Crepes
  • Annie’s Frittata with Caramelized Onions, Goat Cheese, and Sage

Beans & Legumes

  • Butch’s Black Eyed Peas
  • Chickpea Stew with Collard Greens and Indian Spices


  • Dragon’s Head Tofu
  • Mole Verde with Tofu

Grains & Pastas

  • Mushroom Squash Risotto
  • Mint-Cilantro Udon with Fresh Ginger and Meyer Lemon


  • Lemon Sponge Custard with Raspberry Sauce
  • Ricotta Chevre with Ginger Berry Compote

Basic Techniques

  • Vegetable Stock and Variations
  • Basic Ingredients and Sauces

Tassajara Dinners & Desserts: Tofu Lasagna

For this review I chose to make the a vegetarian lasagna with a change to the book’s recipe. Instead of just using a store bought past (fresh or dried) I used some homemade lasagna I made from organic sprouted whole wheat I had made (see this post for information on making your own sprouted whole wheat flour “Making Sprouted Whole Wheat Flour” and this post on how to make lasagna pasta out of it “Homemade Sprouted Whole Wheat Pasta“). I also used homemade goat cheese (chevre) from our own goats in our backyard (Making chevre cheese from our home-milked goat milk) and organic chard I grew in our garden and egg from our chickens (Humble Garden).

Tofu Lasagna with Mushrooms, Goat Cheese, and Chard


  • 1 pound dried pasta or 1.5 pounds fresh pasta
  • Sauce:
  • 1.5 cups chopped onions
  • 1/2 cup diced carrots
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, minded
  • 1 tablespoon dried italian herb seasoning (I used fresh oregano and basil from garden)
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 cups crumbled tofu
  • 4-5 cups diced tomatoes (canned or fresh)
  • Filling:
  • 1 bunch chard
  • 1 pound mushrooms, washed and quartered
  • 1 pound goat cheese, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/4 cups grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 cups grated Provolone, Mozzarella, Fontina, or Gruyere



Saute onions, carrots, and celery over medium heat until soft and a bit brown. Add garlic and herbs without stirring. Turn up heat to brown and then add wine to deglaze (scrape up fond – stuck bits). Add tofu and cook with much stirring until liquid almost gone. Brown the tofu a bit, coat with all other sauce parts. Add tomatoes and simmer for 30 minutes.


Wash greens, remove stems, set the stems aside. Cop stems into tiny bits. Blanch greens and stem bits in boiling water (or steam them) until cooked through. Shock in icy water (this “sets” the chlorophylls so that the chard will be a bright green) and then drain. Chop roughly and then dry completely.

Bake the mushrooms in a 425 F oven or sear them on the stovetop. Set aside with the greens.

Mix the goat cheese, egg, parmesan cheese and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Prepare the lasagna pasta as per instructions.

Oil a 9 by 13 inch baking dish, ladle some sauce on the bottom, add first layer of pasta. Spread 1/4th of the filling over the pasta and cover with some sauce. Layer on some tofu, goat cheese, greens, mushrooms as well as mozzarella (if using). Put down the next layer of pasta and repeat as before, 3 more times. The whole thing should end with a layer of pasta at the top and some more sauce. Sprinkle with parmesan and even, possibly bechamel sauce. (I didnt put the bechamel sauce, seemed a bit much to me).

Bake at 350 F for 30 – 40 minutes until the sauce is bubbling and top is toasty brown.

Our Take on this dish:
Everyone from the toddler on up completely enjoyed this dish. Remember that sprouted wheat yields a bit sweeter product (because the sprouting process started some of the starches on their enzymatic journey) and that any whole wheat pasta product will have a different sort of mouth feel than your usual “white bread” sort of “enriched” pasta product. In this case, the pasta had a lot of presence in this dish, lending an almost “meaty” sort of sensation, which was a plus to those family members who like to have meat at every meal!

My Take on this cookbook:

The book is simply beautiful, the recipes are diverse and quite inspiring for all sorts of eaters: vegetarians to omnivores! I can only say good things about this cookbook, it has been a pleasure to review and oogle over. I suggest giving it a try!

Tassajara Dinners & Desserts: Tofu Lasagna

Product Details:

  • Title: Tassajara Dinners & Desserts
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Gibbs Smith (January 12, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1423605209
  • ISBN-13: 978-1423605201
  • Product Dimensions: 10 x 7.9 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds

Homemade Sprouted Whole Wheat Pasta

June 10, 2009 in cooking, How-2, ingredient, recipe



A couple of posts ago, I showed you how easy it is to make sprouted whole wheat flour. In that post, Making Sprouted Whole Wheat Flour, I talked at length on the reasons for sprouting your grains so I wont delve into that today.

Instead, I am going to share one way I have used this flour for lasagna pasta. I will be posting on how this pasta came out a bit later when I review Tassajara Dinners & Desserts.

This recipe is pretty basic, you can piece it together online. As with anything made with flour, the recipe is a guideline because each batch of flour, the world over, will have its own unique level of hydration thus the amount of liquid needed to make it come together will be unique. For this reason, it takes some practice, a willingness to experiment and to fail, even with precious ingredients like this sprouted whole wheat flour that you have spent all this time with. If you lock up with anxiety, then its not fun and then you gotta wonder why you are doing it at all!

Thus, when you give this recipe a try, have a sense of play and don’t stress out if you need to add more liquid, you may very well. I did. I didn’t list the full amount in the recipe because I didn’t want you to start out using that amount but to rather use as needed.

In this case, the extra liquid I used was a freshly juiced spinach and carrot juice that I made on my new Champion Juicer that I got to review and share with you. I will be writing a review on this blog and also at my raw food blog Raw+Simple.

Champion Juicer review

(Spinach being juiced with a Champion Juicer)

Homemade Sprouted Whole Wheat Pasta


  • 3 cups freshly ground sprouted whole wheat flour
  • 1 c whole wheat pastry flour
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons high quality cold pressed extra virgin olive oil
  • Spinach/Carrot juice (freshly juiced)
  • Pinch sea salt


Sprouted Whole Wheat Pasta

(Adding eggs)

On a clean surface, make a mound of the 3 cups of sprouted whole wheat flour and 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour. Make an indentation in the mound and start adding eggs. You will have to get your hands messy for this!

Sprouted Whole Wheat Pasta


Sprouted Whole Wheat Pasta


Add all eggs, oil and 1 tablespoon juice (if using) and then use a fork to carefully break the eggs and do an initial mix of the eggs. Now, with your fingers, start mixing in the flour without knocking down the walls. Just take your time.

Once the dough is together enough to knead, knead it like bread dough for 5 minutes to incorporate. This is the time when you will likely need to add more liquid. I added the spinach carrot juice until the ball came together and was not hard or overtly dry. It took about 4 ounces.

Sprouted Whole Wheat Pasta


Once the dough has come together, put in a plastic baggie, seal, and allow to rest for 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on what your day is like.

Sprouted Whole Wheat Pasta


After resting, portion out some balls that equal about the amount that you think you want for your lasagna sheets. You can make any sort of pasta you wish.

Sprouted Whole Wheat Pasta

(Rolling out)

Roll out sheets on a lightly floured board.

Sprouted Whole Wheat Pasta


Hang up sheets and allow to dry until a bit stiff. Store in the refrigerator until use. I suggest using it as soon as possible as this flour has all of it’s oils and germ, not meant for super long term storage.

When ready to use, do not boil for long and do it right before you assemble your lasagna.

Let me know if you give this a try!

Rededicated Food – a quest for mastery over an uncertain food world

February 10, 2009 in cooking, Gardening

Raw food: getting started

Ever since I have not been spending every moment either driving to or from work or at work, I have been able to spend some time at home reconnecting with the family in ways I have not been able to do in the whole of this past year. There is some qualitative difference for us between 2 and 3 kids that made me feel wildly out of balance with respect to making work and life mesh. Now that I have been able to decompress a bit and even tho the stress doesn’t end due to continued unemployment, I have been able to concentrate on something that was simply beyond my capacity before – our day to day food.

Sure, we have our own dairy goats but we have only one in milk and that was mostly for the toddler (with pasteurized cow milk intolerance). We have still be supplementing with conventional 1% cows milk.

We have bred the girls and there is some chance that soon we will have a visit from the caprine stork who will leave us baby goats (kids) and mommas in milk, thus increasing our milk output. I will be pushing hard then for a total ban on milk from the store.

Sure we have our own chickens and we buy no store eggs but we still have been eating conventional meat (organic store bought meats are WAY beyond our budget). I have been having to buy mostly chicken because that is whats inexpensive (99c/lb often) even though I KNOW that this meat is filled with unknown additives and are veritable nutrient-depleted bags of estrogen and estrogen mimics that are hell on our bodies (many cancers are estrogen-activated).

I have been putting together the seed starting schedule and I have already started indoor mesclun spring mixes for nibbling in the mean time. I have lots of tiny little seedlings which one day will give us fantastic organic nutrient rich eggplants and squash and cucumbers and lots more!

Mesclun sprouts

Yummy green sprouting lettuces

Peaknix: food storage follies

So, as you can see, we teeter between fantastic home-crafted food and cheap store-bought staples – considerable cognitive dissonance for me.

Peaknix: food storage follies

It has been an ambient undercurrent that had been festering for me for quite a while and then just recently the boil burst (to put it crudely) and I was left with an epiphany of sorts.

On the one had our diet didn’t suck all THAT badly. Its not like we drink sodas or eat frozen pizzas day in and out or any manner of things but on the other hand why do I feel so utterly unhealthy and have so much weight to lose? What part of this equation is not working. I think part of this is timing. Its been MANY months since the fresh bounty of our garden – we have not been eating fresh green things, fresh fruity things because those things in ADDITION to meats are expensive.

My epiphany boiled down to the fact that we do not experience natural health because of the things we buy from the store and our bodies are depleted of vital goodness (vitamins, cofactors, fruity juicy goodness).

For this reason I am exploring a diet that brings more living fruits and vegetables into our world, even in the dead of winter (I am looking out at several feet of snow as I type).

Carrot Chip Snowman & KD: coy

I am learning about the raw food diets out there and think I have decided that what makes sense to our family is not your traditional raw food diet. We already drink raw milk and I intend on keeping it that way. Our raw diet will mean that we will not drink any more “cooked” milk from the store. We wont start eating raw eggs but we will look for ways to use them that are easier on the proteins. We will eat MANY more fruits and uncooked vegetables.

Raw Food: meager blender

We here includes our family of young kids and 2 adults. My personal diet is going to be even more raw and less egg intense than the rest. I am enjoying learning how the vegan raw foodists have crafted all manner of recipes that bring texture and variety to the raw table. One way to do this is by using a dehydrator. You can take sprouted seed and grains, add other ingredients (fruits, coconut for sweet; spices, peppers, shoyu for savory) to make crackers and flat sheets that make great wraps or other dish elements.

This doesn’t have to be about salads all the time! (If it were, I could not do it, I need more depth to my cuisine than that).

We already had a juicer and a butch blender so getting the dehydrator was the final step in preparing for this new way. I am also teaching myself the simple craft of sprouting beans. Tested the family on store bought sprouts and they seemed to like it so its a yes-go!

Raw Food: juicer

As with any diet, there seems to be no end to the fantastic health claims that you see associated with raw foodism (take a peek at the abundance of YouTube testimonials). I am not interested in all of that. I just know that my body is not thriving on the standard american diet (SAD). Neither are the other bodies in my family. If the SAD is what we have tried, not sure how bad it can be (and I am thinking there has to be an enormous upside) to adopting a more raw approach to our food.

Tell me if you have any experience with raw food and if you have any favorite recipes, sites, books, mentors.
I will be writing again about recipes that I like or that I come up with that fit in this category.

I am not big on making faux burgers and such so I will be exploring how raw food recipes can move beyond that inherently disappointing goal on to a more holistic celebration or exploration of food in it’s raw state.



Radical Photons

February 2, 2009 in solar

(This was cross posted to two of my other blogs Peaknix and Humble Garden)

HEAT egg

Recently, I came across a solar cooking wiki and a whole group of YouTube videos about how Africans are adopting parabolic solar cookers in their villages. The importance of this didn’t really sink in for me until I saw how women walk hours through elephant infested nature preserves to find wood that they poach unsustainably. They get chased by angry elephants (its THEIR home after all) and the women spend ALL DAY finding dwindling resources, leaving behind unattended or poorly attended babies and small children.

Parabolic solar cooker

In particular, there is the Zambian Mfuwe Solar Cooker Project initiated by Manda Chisanga, a guide in South Luangwa National Park who had won a guiding award and decided to spend his prize money on Solar Cookers.

“The documentary covers the installation of five SunFire14 Parabolic Dishes – the project has been expanded to 15 and we are looking at ways to get 500 Parabolic Dishes into the community to cover 6000 families.” source

parabolic cooker

With a parabolic solar cooker, all of these risky and ecologically unsustainable practices are stopped immediately. The women can stay with their kids, young girls can go to school instead of watching babies or collecting wood all day themselves.

If that doesn’t sound radical and revolutionary, you are not thinking it through.

You can learn all about the basic principles of solar cooking and see plans for building your own DIY cooker at the Solar Cooking Wiki. Give it a whirl and see what you think.

I have been wanting to make our own DIY solar oven for ages and have finally scraped together some found objects that we have used to make our first winter relevant solar cooker. No cooking is happening yet because I am still testing it and there was no sun to speak of today! We do this in part as a homeschooling project too so the testing is an important part of it.

If you do this, share! Let me hear about how it is going for you.

DIY Solar Oven

DIY Solar Oven

DIY Solar Oven

Found materials and also some high heat enamel spray (which I bought for this project)

DIY Solar Oven: outer box

Cut to fit insulation on bottom of the oven

DIY Solar Oven: interior box

Crafting, with duct tape, the interior box

DIY Solar Oven: box inside box

Need to trim height of the box

DIY Solar Oven: interior box

Trimmed and taped and ready to be sprayed with enamel

DIY Solar Oven:

DIY Solar Oven:

Sprayed, dried, inside larger box, found insulation in place

Next step is to make all manner of reflectors to sculpt the photons into the oven

DIY Solar Oven: for reflectors

Materials for reflectors

DIY Solar Oven:

Two reflectors made. I rigged up a tape slide holder on the backs so that the reflectors are placed without taping them onto the oven part.

DIY Solar Oven: reflector

Slide holder rig

DIY Solar Oven: one reflector

One reflector rigged up

DIY Solar Oven: testing

DIY Solar Oven: testing

Black covered pot and temperature probes

DIY Solar Oven: testing

Solar oven set up inside as we test it out

DIY Solar Oven: testing

Made a third reflector and started testing positioning (which isn’t really intuitive, more experiential)

I know I could buy a solar oven but what fun is that?! Not terribly frugal either :-)

Once we get a good sunny day I will test it properly and share back here!