Vegan Cheesy Tomato, Pasta, and Lentil Bake

I learned how to cook lentils last year from a girl who was born and raised in Ethiopia, Africa. She made the most delicious garlicy tomato infused lentils I had ever eaten with this flatbread made of Teff. I thought I had died and gone to heaven.  It was at a vegan cooking demonstration on a Friday night in the hall of a church in the Fenway area of Boston that we all call “The Fens”. I had somehow persuaded my otherwise unwilling husband to attend. I knew he would probably want to skip the whole thing but luckily he was loving me enough that night to suck it up and attend. He ended up leaving happy because he liked most of the food and met another omnivore there dragged by his wife as well. After that I decided I must learn to cook lentils and incorporate them in my diet. They have so many good qualities and I am a sucker for a bean of any sort. So In my steamer I dumped water, salt, garlic, and tomato paste and started cooking my lentils. They take a while and I have learned to pick through them for stones and soak them in water to soften them. But my new favorite thing to do is take them and layer them in pasta or lasagna or any sort of casserole. It adds protein and heartiness without any strange new flavors or weird textures. Even the kids like them and the youngest is pretty much against all bean varieties except canned green beans. So this was the biggest hit of the summer in terms of my use of lentils: Vegan Cheesy, Tomato, Pasta, and Lentil Bake. I think even the mixture over rice would go well but I will try that at Christmas break 🙂



Cheesy Tomato, Pasta, and Lentil Bake

Lentil Mixture

  • 1 Bag of Lentils (Green French Lentils or Plain Lentils Work Well)
  • 1-2 cans of Tomato Paste
  • Water
  • Salt
  • Granulated Garlic Powder


  • (2) lbs of Rotini Pasta (I use the vegetable kind)

Cheesy Tomato Sauce Layers:

  • 4 cans diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup of Daiya Mozzarella
  • 1/8 cup of Galaxy Foods Parmesan
  • 1/2 block Daiya Havarti
  • Salt
  • Ground Pepper
  • Granulated Garlic Powder


  1. Preheat Oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Boil Salted Water for Pasta. Add pasta at rapid boil. Cook until Al dente, Drain and set aside.
  3. Open all Tomato cans.
  4. Fill Steamer with lentils after rinsed and picked through. You can presoak them for 30minutes to aid in the cooking process.
  5. Add water, a healthy amount of salt, and several shakes of garlic to the mixture. Place on Brown Rice setting and begin steaming. You may need to add additional time so check on the lentils for softness and mix 2-3 times during steaming. It may start to get thick so add extra water if needed.

Layering the Pasta Bake!

  1. Once your lentils are prepared and pasta is cooked. Spray a casserole pan with Pam or Olive Oil Spray.
  2. Sprinkle bottom with salt and layer with pasta, 2 cans of diced tomatoes*, sprinkle on a layer of parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, and garlic, then lentils.
  3. Picture 005
  4. Top with Havarti broken into small crumbled pieces like a feta cheese would be.
  5. Then repeat but top with mozarella.
  6. Picture 006


  1. Bake at 425 degrees for at least 30 minutes but no more than 45 minutes. The top should brown slightly.
  2. The layers will have meted together and form a yummy cheesy sauce.
  3. Serve hot! Feeds 8-12.

*Optional: Add chopped zucchini or Beyond Meat Chicken Strips to the layers before or after the tomatoes.


Food is Love.

The Hippie Gypsy

Butternut Squash Pasta Casserole with a Stuffing Topping

The leaves have fallen here in Boston and Thanksgiving is seemingly right around the corner. In a month or so we vegans will be all gorging ourselves on root veggies and Tofurky. I love Thanksgiving. It is one of those days that you can remember just by smell. It has its own foods and own seasonings. I relate Sage and Thyme to Thanksgiving. As soon as I smell them I am like “mmmmmm”. It brings my 10-year-old self back to sneaking stuffing and scoops of mashed potatoes before the Turkey cooled. In my family I am in charge of Thanksgiving. Which I love. I love cooking everything (except the Turkey because the husband does that although I do try to help prep it). I make my own stuffing from scratch and then some bagged for extra and to stuff the turkey which I don’t eat obviously. However who doesn’t have leftovers? I only know one family. My aunt and uncle because they have 11 kids over the age of 16 and many have their own kids. So I was informed there are no leftovers and 20lbs of potatoes involved. It gave me flashes of a catering company trying to work out of my own kitchen. Insanity!

So back to leftovers. We usually have stuffing, roasted veggies, and potatoes. Why not make these leftovers into something you can eat later in the week. It doesn’t have to be thanksgiving everyday for the next month. You may (or may not) get sick of it but transforming it is something that will make it that much better. Or heck just make this casserole as a side dish or a meal anytime in teh fall or winter as it is definitely a hearty and yummy one that my husband gladly eats out of a mixing bowl. Here is my adaptation to a Whole Foods Recipe I noted last thanksgiving that I love for a Butternut Squash Macaroni Casserole.

Picture 575


Butternut Squash Pasta Casserole with a Stuffing Topping


  • (1) package of dry bagged herb stuffing
  • Water or Veggie Broth
  • Sage
  • Thyme
  • Salt
  • Fresh Ground Pepper
  • (1) Can Coconut Milk
  • 2lbs of Butternut Squash Diced into Small Cubes (I buy it already cubed, frozen cubes, or use leftover roasted squash)
  • 2tbsp Olive Oil
  • (1) White or Yellow Onion Diced
  • 3/4-1lb of Pasta (do not use noodles like spaghetti or angel hair)
  • 1cup toasted Walnuts or Pecans
  • Pam or Olive Oil Spray



  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Spray a muffin tin with oil and place nuts in it. Sprinkle them with salt, pepper, sage, and thyme. Bake for 10-15minutes to toast them.   Picture 541
  3. Spray a large casserole dish and place to the side for the casserole.
  4. In a mixing bowl add broth or water to the dry stuffing and salt, pepper, thyme, and sage and a little bit of melted butter or olive oil helps. When welll combined and wet place to the side. This will be your topping.
  5. Use a large sauce pan to boil salted water for the pasta. Cover and place on high.
  6. In a smaller sauce pan place 2tbsp olive oil, salt, and peper over medium until warm adding diced onion into it until soft and golden.   Picture 526
  7. Take onions and puree them with a mixer or blender and dump back in sauce pan.   Picture 533


  1. Add coconut milk (I use Goya or 365) and squash to onion pan mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Allow to cook down.  Picture 527    Picture 535   Picture 544   Picture 546   Picture 548
  2. When water comes to a boil add pasta and cook until al dente.
  3. Drain pasta. Spray bottom of pasta sauce pan with olive oil so the pasta does not stick.    Picture 543
  4. Return pasta to pot.
  5. When the squash is soft and the mixture has thickened add to the pasta and stir until well combined.   Picture 553   Picture 554
  6. Then add toasted nuts and 1-2 tablespoons of chopped sage.  Picture 557   Picture 539


  1. Place mixture in oiled casserole dish and press flat. Sprinkle with salt.   Picture 559
  2. Top with stuffing mixture.   Picture 562
  3. Bake for at least 30 minutes.     Picture 566   Picture 565
  4. Serve immediately. Serves 8.   Picture 568      Picture 581     Picture 577


Food is Love.

The Hippie Gypsy

Rant: People Have Serious Food Issues and It isn’t the Vegan in the Room

Yesterday, I attended the Baptism of my first and only nephew. He was looking good up there and never cried for one moment although my mother did. I was proud of him. The priest even carried him down the aisle at the end and fed him his bottle. It was so sweet I nearly got a toothache.

The not so sweet part came after. I had been diligent to contact the reception hall for the party my brother was having cater the after-event. The hostess that had answered at first was rude when I explained I had “severe food allergies” and wanted to make sure I could eat something otherwise I would bring something myself. She got angry told me she didn’t know what vegan was and said the banquet manager was busy but would call me back. The banquet manager called me a few hours later and was very kind. Assuring that his staff did in fact know what vegan was and I could order anything I wanted when the meal was served without question. This made me confident. Until I arrived.

I arrived at The Continental restaurant in Saugus Massachusetts and was instantly confronted with a buffet. So I was confused because I thought I would order something and so now I am definitely going to stick out. I grabbed some fruit and sat down. My husband started getting nervous for me because he understood that so far this was not what was discussed. As people began to go to the buffet of pancakes, pastas, bacon, and other brunch foods I realize quickly I am going to need to find a staff member. I see a woman handing out popovers hot in a basket and think perfect! So I walk over and say excuse me but I have a question. She snapped at me that I would have to wait a minute as she was doing something. She addressed another staff member about needing more popovers and then came back a few seconds later. I explained I had called and what the banquet manager had said and she became increasingly more irritated. She yelled back at me that she didn’t know what “vegan” was and that they had a vegetarian plate. I said no I am not vegetarian I can’t have eggs or milk. I only eat fruits, vegetables, grains, oils, and seasonings. She said I can get you plain chicken or fish I said that i don’t eat meat. She said how about pasta bolognese, I said “That has meat in it. I’m sorry but I must not be explaining myself well. ” She started to yell “Well what do you want why can’t you just tell me what you want?” I said “I am trying to”. She said “fine I will get you pasta with butter”. I said “No I can’t eat dairy”. So she finally broke me and snapped, “I’ll get you a bowl of plain pasta and you can just eat that”. I wanted to explain it may have eggs in it but I had finally had enough and I stated that this was ridiculous and condescending and I would just like to talk to whomever prepares the food so perhaps I can articulate to him my needs since she was finding such difficulty. She said I couldn’t and then maybe that I could see the chef but she was the one who was supposed to and as she rambled on and embarrassed me to nearly tears, my sister-in-law was prompted over by my brother to step in. She went with the staffer down to the chef and came up stating they would give me veggies and potatoes sautéed in olive oil and seasoning.

I went down to the bathroom and cried for about 15minutes then outside and screamed at the top of my lungs (into my hands) in the parking lot about 3 times. I ended up returning after being prompted back in with my mother. The food resting before me was steamed veggies and a plain potato. No salt, no seasoning, no oil. Blah.

This brings me back to my rant the other day. Just because it is vegan doesn’t mean I want to eat it or I will like it. Why am I being treated like a leper for a food allergy? My brother is allergic to coconut and none of the vegan chefs found it a problem to not use coconut milk or products in my cake or in my foods at my wedding. However, this comes down to other people’s preconceived ideas of vegans and their own inadequacies involving food. They think that because you are a vegan or a vegetarian you are trying to be better than them or that you are lying in some cases. You aren’t actually allergic or you aren’t really vegan you just say that to be cool or hip or whatever, This reminds me of the gay rights argument. That people choose to be gay. Nope, born that way. I in this case am born this way.There is nothing to judge or be mean about. I am asking for you to make me a dish with ingredients you already have that are far less costly than the food that everyone else is already eating. Restaurants should rejoice. Instead them and people in general snare at us and call us mean things. They feel that we are trying to be healthier just to say we are better or preach or force them to feel bad. We aren’t. I was just trying to eat lunch and blend in. Instead I was publicly embarrassed and humiliated. Part of the humiliation is that my brother and sister-in-law are already pretty unaccepting of my eating issues. They don’t like it and they think I am too descriptive about it. It makes them uncomfortable and apparently it makes others like them uncomfortable for me to make a fuss at a restaurant if I am not being heard. I however do not want to spend the evening ill in the restroom facilities. I think we have all been there as vegans. When a rogue chef tosses butter in any way or we grab a piece of bread that changed its recipe. It just sucks.

So for everyone out there that is omnivore, carnivore, etc. I am a vegan and I don’t judge you. I actually wish I was like you in that I was mainstream. I wouldn’t be bullied and treated like a sub-par customer simply because a part of my body can’t digest something that yours can. I hope that you can put aside your assumptions and fears and realize that we are just people wanting to have a nice family meal and we don’t want to talk about getting sick we would rather enjoy the company and conversation of others but you force us in a corner to explain how serious are situation is to prove that we are indeed what we say we are and you could harm us. Restaurants and others need to realize food can nourish or it can kill. I am lucky not to have an allergy that will kill me instantly although the shredding of one organ and potential for more could definitely do damage over time. So just understand that we are not trying to be difficult we just want to be able to participate.

Food is love.

The Hippie Gypsy

Examples of people who rant about hating vegans:

Confession of My Vegan Eating versus Vegan Lifestyle: Being Realistic and Supportive

As everyone knows from my “About” and “Why are you Vegan?” sections I was not a voluntary vegan. I think this is important to talk about. Many of my fellow vegans are very much voluntary. You wear vegan clothing and have vegan agendas in mind at all times. You save the animals and pass out pamphlets and use hemp based face creams and all that. Some are even referred to as the “vegan mafia” for bullying those who are not as vegan as they are. Let’s be realistic. This “veganism” is not a contest. I however try to live and ecofriendly lifestyle and am getting more “vegan lifestyle” oriented with the more knowledge I attain but am not quite up to par with my fellow vegan enthusiasts. I am explaining this for all the vegan beginners out there so that you don’t feel pressured or turned off by all this. It is overwhelming to say the least and borders on oppressive at times. I dislike the idea that all vegans are a bunch of carboard granola eating hippies and I equally dislike the vegans that call other vegans not “real” vegans because once this year they caved and ate a piece of cow milk cheese and wore leather Nike’s. Either extreme is just that…. extreme.

I am a vegan and occasionally I get butter in my food at a restuarant and pay for it in the restroom later and once a year (maybe twice) I allow myself to have something I shouldn’t. I wear what I wear and some of that yes is wool. I know they cut their tails off and I am against that but I also didn’t think about that when I bought my cardigan from Ann Taylor that day. I try to wear more cotton and organic materials. I try not to wear polyester which is not ecofriendly but unusually its okay by vegans. Which is strange because petroleum is what makes plastic and polyester and it is composed of biodegraded animals and plants. So I am not sure if that is right because organic honey is supposedly a no-no and killing bugs even though I walk on them everyday and hit them with my car ….. but who am I to judge?

That is the point! Who are any of us to judge? I think we should be healthy and happy and at peace. Does eating vegan make you healthy? Usually… unless you eat nothing but vegan candybars, muffins, and pasta (i’ve been there). Is it better for the environment? Absolutely because when less animals are needed for agribusiness it directly affects the planet. But do we need to change everything at once? No. Everything in moderation or else it is too exhausting for others to accept. No one wants to be scolded for a good effort. So go ahead call yourself kinda vegan or almost vegetarian. Do what you can! I do that everyday. It helps, all of it helps, every inch of it. So do a Meatless Monday or two or a hundred! Don’t worry about it on Taco Tuesday but maybe try again for a meatless morning on Thursday. Every step towards a healthier life is all anyone should wish for anyone else. I hope everyone becomes 1% vegan at least. That would be the best thing anyone could ask for in this Vegan community (and really only equals out to a few days a year so most people probably are).

So please keep pushing along. Be happy. Be vegan. Even if it is only 1% but 100% isn’t something that wouldn’t be amazing to shoot for! I know I shoot for it everyday. Even when I miss bacon and have to watch “Forks over Knives” to keep myself in line!

Food is Love. XOXOX,

The HIppie Gypsy

Vegan Lasagna

Let me just start by saying that when I was NOT vegan, I hated lasagna. More specifically I hated Ricotta Cheese. I am not sure if it was the flavor or the weird goopiness of it all (and yes that is now a word because I said so), but it was definitely not my cup of tea. Fast forward to me as a vegan. The first vegan dish I ever made for my stepdaughters was lasagna. They were fresh off the plane visiting my husband who was just my boyfriend at the time in our 3rd floor walk up in East Boston. It was a humble apartment with high ceilings and a city view and mice and fleas and a heart shaped burn on the family room floor that made me find it charming and oh-so-urban.  We ate in our small dining room with built in china cabinet just off our oversized kitchen complete with a broken dumb waiter. I loved that place. I loved that meal because the kids gobbled it up. Since then I have made some minor changes depending on what I have in the house so I will explain those modifications as “options” but give you the base recipe. It’s yummy and not runny and delicious and healthy and all kids of good things. Eat up!


Vegan Lasagna

Vegan Ricotta Ingredients:

  • 1 package of very firm tofu
  • 1/8 cup Garlic Powder
  • 1/8 cup Nutritional Yeast (“Nooch”)
  • Kosher Salt
  • Fresh Ground Black Pepper
  • 2tbsp+ of Olive Oil
  • Basil
  • 1 can of chickpeas drained and rinsed

Marinara Sauce Ingredients (or just use Rao’s Marinara):

  • 1 small can of tomato pastePicture 077
  • 1/2cup of olive oil
  • 4 regular sized cans of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes (get the kind with chiles for a kick!)Picture 004
  • !/2 cup of dehydrated onion or 1 onion cooked down and pureed
  • Kosher Salt
  • Fresh Ground Black Pepper
  • Basil
  • Pasta Sprinkle (I use a shake or two of this from Penzey’s)

Pasta: I use (1) package of Lasagna Noodles that are no precook and egg free which are super easy to find in any grocery market.

Cheese: Use Daiya Mozzarella and Daiya Havarti to layer and top the lasagna

Options: Sometimes instead of my vegan Ricotta I use just veggies and Daiya Havarti for the layers and mozzarella on top. Recently I layered in diced zucchini and eggplant with the havarti and it was a huge hit and lower calorie/fat. I have also just added chopped veggies as a layer on top of the sauce adn that is always a winner to. Again I stick with zucchini and eggplant. But feel free to add peppers or whatever you like!



  1. Mash all ingredients of the Ricotta in a mixing bowl with a potato masher until the crumbled texture of ricotta. I use at least 2 tablespoon of olive oil and a good amount of garlic powder, salt, “nooch” (nutritional yeast), and pepper. Basil is very important to this mash. Add it last.
  2. Place all marinara ingredients in a large sauce pan and mix until boiling. Simmer and allow to set for at least 45 minutes.
  3. Preheat oven to 425degrees.

Begin layering:

  1. Spray a large lasagna pan with Olive oil/Canola oil/Pam and start with a layer of sauce then noodles then cheese/vegetables and continue. Top wth mozzarella, sprinkle with salt and garlic powder, and drizzle some olive oil over it before placing in oven. I like to use seasoned olive oil from time to time and that is the same as teh pizza oil I use in my pizza recipe.


  1. Bake for at least 30-45 minutes. Or until you can see the cheese melting and browning on top.


  1. Allow to cool and set about 5 minutes so that the cheese is not liquid lava on your tongue. Serve hot and Enjoy!


*Note: I will post more pictures soon. I have to download them!


The Hippie Gypsy

Meatless Mondays Guest Contributer @VeganRebecca : Common Recipes for Vegans

Common Recipes For Vegans

There are many types of vegan recipes on the market. They tend to fall into one of three types – substitutes, subtractions and originals. Each has their place at the dinner table.


The Substitute

Most vegan recipes tend to substitute vegan alternatives for the offending foodstuffs. A great example are vegan pancakes – a simple substitute that removes butter and milk from the equation makes the meal far more friendly to those who are conscious about their food choices.

Ingredients:  1 1/4 cups all purpose flour, 2 tbsp white sugar, 2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 1/4 cup water, 1 tsp oil

Mix wet ingredients and dry ingredients separately. Make a well in dry ingredients, add in wet – stir until blended. Heat a griddle to medium high, cook pancakes until golden brown and then flip.


The Subtraction

Many vegan meals simply feature the subtraction of offending elements. A great example would be a basic noodle soup instead of a chicken noodle soup. The entire recipe takes only moments to make, but still fits with a vegan lifestyle.

Ingredients: 2 tbsp olive oil, 1 cup celery, 3/4 cup carrot, 1 clove garlic (minced), 1/2 cup chopped onion, 1/4 tsp kosher salt, 1/3 cup orzo, 4 cups vegetable broth

Heat olive oil in sauce pan. Add in vegetables, garlic and onion, cook until tender. Add the pasta, and cook pasta until toasted. Add broth, boil over high heat until pasta is tender.


The Original

Perhaps most rare are those recipes that are originally created for vegans. Rather than existing only as a modification of a traditional meal, these meals are created with vegans in mind. A great example is the Avocado Salad – a simple dish that is still quite delicious.

Ingredients: 2 tsp oregano, 1/2 tsp seal salt, 5 tsp olive oil, 1 tbsp lemon juice, 2 cups cooked lentils, 2 ripe avocados (quartered), 1/4 cup toasted hazelnuts (chopped), 1/4 cup minced chives

Combine oregano, salt, lemon juice, and olive oil. Toss lentils with mixture, add avocado, hazelnuts and chives.



For More Information about Rebecca Linen visit her below:



Twitter:  @VeganRebecca




The Hippie Gypsy



Rant: Just because I am vegan doesn’t mean I love everything vegan

After having been away on vacation for a week and having been sick with an esophogus rupture (long weird story) the week before I know I have been a little MIA from this page (although I have been super active on twitter so take a looksy especially if you are going to Orlando anytime soon). I apologize. I haven’t really been cooking anything new, so I figured I would tell you about how things have changed since I went vegan.

Sunday I went to brunch. The same restaurant I go to brunch with my family for various “events” or special occasions and sometimes just because. Abe & Louie’s is a upper class steak house on Boston’s Boylston Street just blocks from the Marathon Finish Line and across the street from Gucci and the Prudential Center. It is a lovely restuarant however it mainly produces meat and seafood which clearly may be an issue for us vegans. So each time I chat the waiter up and I get veggies and potatoes  sauteed in olive oil with some salt and pepper and I am good. This time however they said they now have a dedicated “secret veggie platter’ just for folks like me. I was so suprised as to how things are changing for us vegans out there. Maybe I am still on the “secret” menu but at least I have a menu now. The only obstacle for me is that going to these events can sometimes be trying and depressing. I am a vegan and I am starting to love being vegan however, I was not a vegan convert by choice and despite all logic and reason, I do still crave omnivore menu items. The dessert is when I started to feel like I wanted to cry. It is not that I want to eat the cows milk cheesecake or the butter laden cookie, its just that I want to eat something other than the fresh berries. I want to be able to have an indulgence option too. And it sucks that I don’t. So for all my “vegans” that converted for health reasons or by allergy or force. I am right next to you frowning at food options and dinners out. The moment that I knew I had to stop moping was when my husband realized I was getting upset. He asked what was wrong and I told him and he said well then after this we will go to “True Bistro” in Somerville and get you dessert. It was nice and kind and I love him for that moment. However, I wasn’t going to do it because I knew I didn’t need the calories but it didn’t substitute for the moment being lost. The moment when everyone is enjoying their dessert chatting and grinning about how decadent and creamy their dish is and I am sitting with a cup of black decaf coffee.

So is it hard to be a vegan? yes. It’s less difficult to shop and cook than it is to deal with the emotional backlash sometimes. My brother and sister-in-law are judgemental of my veganism and everyone else now works around it. I just wish sometimes I could say that just because there are vegan “options” on a menu doesn’t mean I want them. Just like their are omnivore and carnivore options on a menu but that doesn’t mean you like them.  What is a girl to do? Say no I am not attending? Or eat her roasted brussel sprouts and deal with it? I ate my veggie and I participated and I felt horrible for feeling disappointed but I was. Plus they forgot my potatoes this time.

How do you feel about going out to omni-centered parties and dinners?


Inspirational Boston Based Quote of the Day:

“If you step back and look at the data, the optimum amount of red meat you eat should be zero.”

— WALTER WILLETT, M.D., of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, director of a study that found a close correlation between red meat consumption and colon cancer.



The Hippie Gypsy