Vegetarian Moussaka

by Kris on April 27, 2012

I have some thoughts on food that I’ve wanted to share for some time. After reading this article yesterday, I think that time is now. In no way do I want to offend anyone, and my hopes are that you can respect my opinion and maybe even agree.

I am not a vegan, vegetarian, or paleo. I’m not on a gluten free diet nor a raw foods diet and I eat carbs…often. I have, at various points in my life, placed myself in these categories. I’ve protested for animal rights wearing a fur coat adorned with red paint and traps. I was a vegetarian and vegan during different stages of my youth and I even have a few juice cleanses and raw food stints under my belt. At the same time, I grew up surrounded by a family that raises cattle and elk. Living in rural Canada, hunting is also a very important aspect of their lives.

When I was in high school I was an avid animal rights activist. I believed that there was no middle ground. Either you were a vegetarian/vegan or you were the enemy. There was tension between myself and my loved ones. Despite the fact that they raised organic, grass fed cows, I considered them part of the problem.

When I left home for college, my teenage rebellion subdued and my thoughts on food began to change. I learned more about genetically modified produce, Monsanto, and processed food. I discovered that many of my pre-packaged vegetarian staples were made of soy produced by Monsanto and that soy production was ecologically harming the environment.

One weekend, on a trip home, I found myself in a discussion on food with my uncles. I had never taken the time to discuss these specific issues with them, and to my surprise we were all on the same page. With the growing popularity in the bovine growth hormone and questionable cattle feed, they too worried about the future of food. It was this discussion that opened my eyes to the bigger picture.

Despite your beliefs on food, whether you are a vegan or an avid meat eater, we can all agree on one thing; the state of food in North America isn’t good.

While many Americans do not have access to healthy food and live off diets of high fructose corn syrup and saturated fats, many of us have become distracted with the discourse of our own food beliefs and forget about the bigger picture. Whether it is vegan, paleo, raw or locavore, we often pigeon hole ourselves and dismiss others from a different “tribe”.  It’s like food is a sport and we each support only one team. A die hard Maple Leafs fan will never support an Ottawa Senators fan. Although they can both agree that hockey is the greatest sport on earth. (Can you tell I’m Canadian?)

What I am trying to say, is that we all have similar interests and goals. We want to see our children fed with real food, not processed pizza which the government deems as a vegetable. We want to be well nourished and eat food that was grown by a local farmer, not created in a lab. Most importantly, we want our friends and family to live healthy lives and not be struck with diseases that could have been prevented with a balanced diet.

Many people in America don’t have the resources to make these choices. Whether it is a lack of proper nutritional education or lack of affordable options, there is an obesity epidemic in this country that needs to be addressed.

As a food blogger, my goal is to provide information and recipes which will nourish your body and expand your horizons. I no longer categorize myself into one diet, nor does my blog. This tribal mentality towards food only hurts the ones who really need our help. If we could all agree to get along, maybe we could work together and create more change in our community.

Although I now occasionally eat meat, my roots are still in a vegetarian diet. I continue to make vegan and vegetarian meals and encourage others to do so. Meatless Monday is a great example of “tribes” working together. Meat eaters can reduce their meat consumption by participating in this challenge while learning new recipes which may become staples in their household.

I think the vegan community should engage in a similar idea. I propose Vegan Vendredi (which is French for Friday). Whether you are already a vegan, a vegetarian or a meat eater I challenge you to make one vegan meal one Friday every month. There are countless vegan blogs on the web with delicious recipes that are not only easy, but quite affordable.

So in a nutshell, my point is that if we could all come together and stop criticizing other ‘food tribes’ maybe we could create change on a greater level. I will continue to post recipes that I enjoy, whether it be vegan, vegetarian, gluten free, raw, or paleo. I will never judge someone on their diet choices, as food is a very personal thing. I think it is important to realize we all have similar goals and fighting over smaller issues distract us from the bigger picture; easily accessible sustainable food for all.


The recipe below is a vegetarian Moussaka that I really enjoyed. I used cheese in this recipe because that’s what I had on hand. I also included vegan optional ingredients for those of you who stay away from dairy or if you want to try “Vegan Vendredi” today! This recipe can easily be adapted for a gluten free diet by simply using a gluten free flour such as rice or buckwheat flour. Anyone can enjoy this recipe, whatever you special diet entails.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this issue. I know it can be heated, so please just be respectful of each other. If you decide to partake in ‘Vegan Vendredi’ let me know what you ate! I’d love to see links to your vegan recipes. Happy Friday!


Vegetarian and Vegan Optional Moussaka

  • 2 tbsp. kosher salt
  • 2 eggplant, peeked and thinly sliced
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 sweet potato, thinly sliced
  • 1 potato, thinly sliced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 ¾ cup chopped tomatoes
  • 1 ¾ cup cooked chickpeas, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • ¼ cup black olives, pitted and minced
  • 1 cup fresh arugula
  • 1 cup feta, crumbled (or vegan feta)
  • 1 tbsp. fresh parsley
  • 1 tbsp. fresh basil
  • 2 tbsp butter (or vegan margarine)
  • 1 ¼ cup cashew cream (or dairy of your choice)
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 3 egg whites, beaten (or 4 ½ tsp dry Egg Replacer plus 6 tbsp water)
  • ¼ cup parmesan cheese, grated (or ¼ cup nutritional yeast)
  • ¼ cup shredded mozzarella (or vegan cheese, I prefer almond cheese)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375. Grease a 9×13 inch casserole dish with olive oil. Set aside.

Place sliced eggplant in a colander and sprinkle with salt. Place a plate on top of the eggplant and place some heavy soup cans on top. This will help remove some of the bitterness in the eggplant. Let it sit for
at least 30 minutes. Rinse off the salt and set aside.

Place sliced potato and sweet potato on a cookie sheet and drizzle with one tablespoon of olive oil. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes, until tender. Set aside.

In the meantime, prepare the sauce. Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add the onion and sauté for 3-5 minutes until translucent. Add minced garlic and cook for 30 seconds until fragrant. Add red wine vinegar, lemon juice, tomatoes, chickpeas, oregano, onion and garlic powder, and cumin to the pot. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 15 minutes.

While the sauce simmers, heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add 3-5 slices of eggplant (depending on the width of your skillet) and brown on both sides, about 2-3 minutes. Repeat until all the eggplant is browned. Set aside.

When the sauce is finished simmering, stir in chopped olives and arugula. Remove from heat.

Line the bottom of the prepared casserole dish with 1/3 of the browned eggplant. Layer 1/2 of the roasted potato mixture on top of the eggplant. Top with 1/2 of the feta cheese (or vegan feta) and 1/2 of the tomato sauce. Sprinkle with fresh basil and parsley. Repeat layers ensuring the top of the casserole is layered with eggplant. Bake uncovered in the oven for 25 minutes.

While the moussaka bakes, create the topping. In a medium saucepan melt the butter (or vegan margarine) over medium heat. Add cashew cream and flour, whisking well to combine. Bring to a slow boil and continue to whisk until the liquid has thickened and reduced. Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste. Let the mixture cool 5 minutes and then whisk in the egg whites (or egg replacer).

After the moussaka has baked for 25 minutes, remove from the oven and pour the cream mixture on top. Top with parmesan cheese and mozzarella (or nutritional yeast and vegan cheese).

Bake uncovered for an additional 30 minutes until the top has browned. Serve warm.

Yield 8-10 servings

 

If you like this recipe, you may also like:

Vegetarian Moussaka by Sonia from The Healthy Foodie

Fat Free Vegan Feta Cheese by Lindsay from Happy Herbivore

Red Pepper and Walnut White Bean Spread by Jeanine from Love and Lemons

Spinach and Artichoke Pie by Susan from Fat Free Vegan

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{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Jo April 27, 2012 at 2:25 am

Fairly new to your blog and I’m really enjoying your posts. And your pics are beautiful. I’m not normally one for leaving comments, but I think that this post has a very important message and I’m glad that you have decided that now is the time to share. This is a conversation that we all need to be having. There are so many more things to say regarding this issue, however, I’ll keep it short. Basically, Monsanto and genetically modified foods are scary. And I hope that the small time local farmers can make it in a time where it doesn’t seem like the odds are in their favor. Easily accessible, sustainable, and I’ll add “affordable” food for all is a great goal :)

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Kris May 1, 2012 at 10:59 am

Thanks for sharing your thought Jo. Genetically modified foods are scary! I see farmers struggle to stay afloat in a time we need them the most. My hopes is the local food movement will help preserve local resources, but we need to work together. Power is in numbers.

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Freddi April 27, 2012 at 6:25 am

Hey, really enjoyed this post! I’m glad there are other blogs out there bringing this issue to attention :)

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Kris May 1, 2012 at 10:56 am

Thanks Freddi, me too!

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Kristin Jones April 27, 2012 at 9:44 am

Well done! This is the discussion we should be having, I am thrilled to be reading this on a bright sunny day while eating my daily oats, berries and nana :) I have recently changed my diet and that off my diabetic husband. because of the change he is no longer diabetic (no meds yeah!) and we are both feeling much better and in tune with our needs. I no longer eat meat but do eat fish about once a week and eggs on occasion. I have also stopped all dairy with the exception of yogurt and occasional cheese (VERY occasional). So when people ask what I am, be it vegan, vegetarian etc. I say “I dunno, making it up as I go along”.
I worked in the restaurant industry for years and supported Slow Foods and Local Farmers and really still believe the key to healthy food reaching everyone going back to local farmers suppling food locally as opposed to big Ag, also putting corporate profits over the publics health and well being is disgusting to say the least. I know how expensive it is to be able to eat the way I do. To me knowing there are people that cannot afford healthy food (not talking high end people, just pesticide free, non gmo, whole food) is a complete travesty. When I have traveled (Turkey being the place I remember thinking this the most) the people being poor to rich had the same beautiful fig on their plates for breakfast. Access to good healthy food was there for all, the expensive food was junk food (candy and the like) and it really opened my eyes to what we have going on here in the states.
I also agree – drawing lines in the sand about what kind of eater you are just creates a devision towards creating a healthy life for us all. It is such a personal decision and one that can easily be respected if we open our minds and our hearts.
So, Bravo! I am new to your blog and have been loving it – now I love it even more! Cheers!

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Kris May 1, 2012 at 10:55 am

Wow, that is so great to hear Kristin! Congrats to you and your husband!

It’s interesting how the food available for low income families has changed in the last century. When processed food first made it’s debut, it was expensive and really only an option for middle class and upward families. Funny how things change.

A few years ago, a friend of mine spent a summer in a remote town in Northern Ontario. She was hired to teach English to the children in the community, but quickly discovered that education was not the only service lacking in this fly in community. Their land has always been near impossible to farm, so they relied on hunting for most of their food. There was only one place in this town to buy food, and it was more of a corner store than a grocery store. A gallon of milk cost nearly $8 where a bottle of soda was closer to $4. Many of the people in this community struggle with obesity and the lack of resources is unbelievable. When I heard stories about her experience and the skin disease she developed there from the lack of clean water I was completely appalled. This is happening in my home province. How is this possible?

Thanks for sharing your thoughts Kristin. My hopes are that discussions like this motivate people to promote change in their communities and beyond.

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Courtney Rae Jones April 27, 2012 at 9:48 am

I fully agree and appreciate what you have to say. I feel like our goals should be on health and focusing on fuelling our bodies with natural, whole foods that are not processed and dripping with preservatives. Or genetically modified for that matter. I also think we need to consider the environment in our food choices. And how our food choices affect the global environment (ex. choosing fairly traded products more often). If we look toward our common goals regardless of being vegan, paleo, vegetarian, etc – then we can be supportive of one another and get stuff done! If we build a strong community, the governments and food producers will be less able to slough us off – they will finally see us as a powerful voice with influence.

Also, the moussaka looks delicious! I make a similar version at home :) Yum!

Beautiful post. Thanks for sharing. :)

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Kris May 1, 2012 at 10:40 am

Absolutely. The choices we make have a large impact on not only our community, but the environment and the global community. Even if everyone can take small steps, it’s better than nothing. We need to work together, not against each other. Thanks for your thoughts Courtney!

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ally April 27, 2012 at 9:54 am

OMG, I’m droooling and this looks soooooooooooooo good…and good for you…not part of a food tribe…eat about anything…thanks for the great creation! Ally :)

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Kris May 1, 2012 at 10:37 am

Thanks Ally!

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Michael April 27, 2012 at 12:18 pm

I come from a family with a wide variety of dietary beliefs. There are meat lovers, vegans, vegetarians, etc. They range from the casual, to the very hard core. I’ve seen Thanksgivings ruined because one family member didn’t realize that vegetarian dishes must be served with utensils that have never touched meat according to another relative. I’ve seen dietary switches really improve some people’s health, and seen it hurt others as they couldn’t master the ability of maintaining proper nutrition given the restrictions of their chosen diet.

Growing up in that environment left me somewhere in the middle. I’m sympathetic to people on both sides, but don’t favor extremism. I’m just as apt to eat a veggie burger as I am a beef one. If I had to some up my philosophy, I’d probably steal Michael Pollen’s, “Eat real food, not too much, and mostly plants.” My vegetarian and vegan relatives have, in the past, tried to push that “mostly plants” part to “entirely plants,” and get a bit bothered when I don’t go fully there.

The analogy I use with them is that of cars. You may hate hummers and wish everyone would switch to bikes and public transportation, but are you really going to get upset when someone gives up that Hummer for a Prius? It’s a step in the right direction, and you should support that, not condemn them for only taking half-measures.

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Kris May 1, 2012 at 10:36 am

Thanks for sharing with us Michael. I love your car analogy! I think that sums it up so well.

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Ambika April 27, 2012 at 8:45 pm

This looks delicious!! I have been looking out for a good veggie moussaka recipe for so long now! This sounds perfect, will try this soon! :)

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Kris May 1, 2012 at 10:32 am

Thanks Ambika! Hope you enjoy it! :)

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cookingrookie April 28, 2012 at 4:06 am

Great recipe! And beautiful shots!

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Kris May 1, 2012 at 10:31 am

Thanks!

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Rachael April 28, 2012 at 4:31 am

Great post! The origins of our food is certainly a subject that needs to be addressed, no matter what “tribe” we belong to.

I inadvertently had a Vegan Vendredi yesterday with a veggie spin on cassoulet :)

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Kris May 1, 2012 at 10:31 am

Thanks Rachael. There is definitely a lot more to be said on this subject. I think more bloggers need to address the notion of food tribes. As bloggers, we often push ourselves into niches and we may be contributing to this tribe mentality. Blogs are a great method for communication and if we share these ideas, maybe people will become a little more accepting of each other.

By the way, your cassoulet sounds delicious! Roasted garlic and artichokes are always a win with me! :)

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Kannadacuisine April 28, 2012 at 8:34 am

Hi Kris,
Loved reading this post and I so much agree with you. My family is full of people with varied dietary beliefs, chicken-fish-etarians, vegetarian, egg-etarian, no-onion-garlic, each so very unaccommodating of the other. I wish everyone could be the way you have put here- respectful of the others’ choice and be polite about it.
Bookmarked the Moussaka got to try it. I have never had it before!

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Kris May 1, 2012 at 10:24 am

If you’ve never had Moussaka before, you’re in for a treat! Sounds like dinner parties with your family can get a little tense. Maybe you should send them all the Grist article and start a conversation about it. Hopefully you can all find a middle ground you agree on. Good luck :)

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Deborah April 29, 2012 at 12:42 pm

I think that this is one of the most well written articles on this subject. As a meat eater, I’ve never been one to criticize vegetarian or vegans, and I think that we all have such different views, and that we should all just respect each other and work for ways to make every diet healthier. I’m a moderation in everything girl, but there really is some scary stuff out there. I so admire everything that you have written here, and agree with everything. And that moussaka looks amazing!!

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Kris May 1, 2012 at 10:19 am

Thanks Deborah! I too am a moderation in everything kind of girl. For example, I try to stay away from processed food as much as possible, but once a month I indulge at the Drive in. Drive in theatres are going the way of the dinosaur and unfortunately the sale of movie tickets are not enough to keep them afloat. Most of them rely on concession sales to keep running. I’m lucky enough to have a drive in theatre in my area, so when I go, I always make a point to buy food from them. Popcorn, candy and french fries are something I try to stay away from, but I eat it (and enjoy it) when I go to the drive in.

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Laura April 29, 2012 at 12:56 pm

Loved that you shared the grist article, such a perfect read for our times. We’re all in it together! Less judging and proclamation, more (wholesome) eating and community feeling, please!

I’m in the same boat as you too. Vehement vegan, carb avoider, fruit eater, whatever, I’ve done it all. I just eat whole, real, local food nowadays and it’s simplified my life completely. It doesn’t give rise to any antagonism from others either.

Totally appreciate these observations and your lovely moussaka recipe too. It looks scrumptious. Thanks! :)

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Kris May 1, 2012 at 10:11 am

I recently read an article that discussed how Whole Foods will no longer buy fish caught in the Maritimes due to sustainability issues. Apparently many fisherman in the area are mad at the government for this decision and think that free market capitalism is the answer. The funny thing is, that’s what the decision was. It wasn’t the government that told Whole Foods to cut ties with the fisherman, it was the company and their consumers. I think more people are trying to eat locally now, and it’s being reflected in food production. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but I think were starting to get somewhere. Thanks for your thoughts Laura.

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Andrea April 30, 2012 at 2:02 pm

this sounds delicious! I am not not a vegan or a vegetarian (although i was for 12 years!) but I am often trying to find meat – free meals to cook. The problem is that often recipes call for Tofu or soy protein as a substitute for the meat texture and I have recently discovered that soy causes me to have migraines…. I can’t wait to try this recipe!

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Kris May 1, 2012 at 10:02 am

It’s so true, Andrea. So many vegan or vegetarian recipes rely on soy, which is something that shouldn’t be a staple in anyone’s diet. Everything in moderation is fine, but to consume soy milk, cheese, meat replacements etc can really take a toll on your body. Hope you like the Moussaka!

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Victoria May 3, 2012 at 8:28 pm

Deeelish! We have recently started a more vegetarian diet due to my husband’s high blood pressure and cholesterol. This dish was so satisfying. I did make a few changes which seemed to work well. I used soy milk and Earth Balance butter spread made with olive oil for the béchamel. I didn’t have sweet potatoes so just doubled the potatoes. I roasted the sliced eggplant cause it is faster and requires less oil. Once I layered the veggies, I put the béchamel on top, covered with tin foil and cooked for 20 minutes. I then took to tin foil off and cooked for another 15 minutes to brown the top. I love the addition of the chick peas. It really rounds out the flavor. Will definitely add this to my faces!

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Victoria May 3, 2012 at 8:30 pm

Oops, I meant to say, I will definitely add this to my list of “faves”. Spell check turned it to “faces”.

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Kris May 3, 2012 at 9:51 pm

So glad you enjoyed it Victoria! Good to know that soy milk works well as a substitution. I was wondering when you said faces. haha! Oh spellcheck…

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SUSAN February 6, 2013 at 4:37 pm

Hi Kris, I just wanted you to know how much I enjoyed your post about the Tribes. I myself am 70% Vegetarian/10% Pecatarian and 20% Vegan, so you will understand why this post struck a huge cord with me. I am constantly judged and accused of not committing to one Tribe(as you would say) and agree totally that we could all learn a thing or two from each other and that we all want the same thing in the end, we just go about it in our own ways. Thank you so much for so eloquently wording what I have been saying for a long time. PLEASE keep getting the word out there and I will continue doing the same. Cheers! Susan

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