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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