Sweet Fresh Corn Cake. Scoop or Loaf. Both Vegan.

It was that sweet spoonable corn cake that always got me....
...You must click ahead for the full story and two nostalgic, vegan, sweet corn cake recipes...

I'll confess! I had a childhood adoration for those cheesy chain Mexican restaurants. The fake husked palapa or terra cotta tiled roof, the Mariachi band trolling the tables, the all-you-can-eat warm chips and salsa. It was family fun with Mexican flair. And it didn't hurt that my family's favorite location overlooked the deep blue Monterey Bay on Cannery Row.

Table with a View.
Swimming sea otters, lazy brown seals and swooping seagulls-right outside the large glass windows. But what really drove my love of this place was not the picture perfect setting, but that darn sweet corn cake they'd serve on the side of my sizzling hot plate of Mexican food.

Corn Cake Ingredients?
Unfortunately, the restaurant version of the super sweet and creamy corn cake was probably laden with butter, sugar and who knows what else. But to a kids palate, it was heaven in a scoop. Better than ice cream. Well almost...

Corn Cake 2010. I love corn bread and corn cakes. But I wanted to get that same fresh sweet corn, buttery flavor without all the actual butter and refined sugar. These two recipes achieve the sweet flavor of fresh corn (because I use fresh corn) and even get that sweet moist scoop-able flavor with a spicy Mexican twist. Unlike my childhood corn cake, these are vegan, made with all natural ingredients and don't require that you sit through five rounds of Mariachi singing "La Bamba" or "Amor Mio". OK, that last point I'll kinda miss.

Masa Harina Flour. It's not corn meal. And it's a must for this recipe. It's Masa Harina. The same corn based flour that is used to make corn tortillas. Its fine milled and makes for that moist corn cake bliss.

Here are the recipes...

Corn Cake #1: Scoop-able. Spoonable. A super moist corn cake that you can, if desired actually scoop onto a plate. Holds up for a loaf slice, but very heavy from the high liquid level in the cake. Rich. Not crumbly.
Corn Cake #2: Loafed Bread. Same flavors, only less sweet moist texture. A bit crumbly due to the higher amount of corn meal and whole corn and less liquid. Spicier due to serrano pepper. Able to slice into squares or loaf slices.
*For both recipes, to lower fat content, replace part of coconut milk with soy milk. You can also add more soy milk for a lighter version of each cake. As is, these recipes make delicious, rich and dense versions of each corn cake recipe.

Corn Cake #1
Sweet Fresh Corn Cake, Spoonable


2 large ears of corn, kernels removed
1 2/3 cups masa harina
1 cup coconut milk
3 Tbsp corn meal
4 Tbsp vegan buttery spread
1 Tbsp vegan sour cream
1/2 cup natural dry sugar
1/3 cup agave syrup
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup diced bell pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 Tbsp white vinegar
Topping: 1 Tbsp buttery spread and 1 Tbsp natural dry sugar.
Optional: Diced Jalapeno, peppers or another ingredient to add spiciness.

Pulse 3/4 of the corn kernels with 4 Tbsp of buttery spread in a food processor.
Keep a few corn kernels whole.
Pour pulsed corn into a large mixing bowl.
Gradually add the masa harina, corn meal, salt, pepper, baking powder and soda, and dry sugar.
Mix well with fork.
Add in the coconut milk, sour cream, agave syrup and vinegar.
Fold in the remaining whole corn kernels.
Mix well until all flour and clumps are dissolved. Batter should be fairly thin.
Pour into a loaf or cake pan.
Top with a Tbsp of melted butter spread, a dash of salt and a sprinkle of dry sugar.
Bake in loaf pan at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.
Bake in cake pan at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
Allow to cool slightly before serving.
To serve: scoop with an ice cream scoop or spoon.
Slicing will work as well, though the slices will be very delicate and heavy.

Corn Cake #2
Sweet Fresh Corn Cake, Loaf

3 large ears of corn, kernels removed
1 1/4 cups masa harina
2/3 cup corn meal
5 Tbsp vegan buttery spread
3 Tbsp vegan sour cream
1/4 cup natural dry sugar
1/4 cup agave syrup
1/4 cup coconut milk or soy creamer
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 serrano pepper, finely chopped
1/4 cup diced bell pepper
1 tsp salt
2 tsp black pepper
2 Tbsp white vinegar
Topping: 1 Tbsp buttery spread, 1 Tbsp whole corn kernals, 1 tsp sugar.

Pulse 3/4 of the corn kernals with 5 Tbsp of buttery spread in a food processor.
Keep the remaining corn kernals whole.
Pour pulsed corn mixture into a large mixing bowl.
Gradually add the masa harina, corn meal, salt, pepper, baking powder and soda, and dry sugar.
Mix well with fork.
Add in the coconut milk, sour cream, agave syrup and vinegar.
Fold in the remaining whole corn kernals, diced bell pepper and chopped serrano pepper.
Mix well until all flour and clumps are dissolved.
Fold in the remaining whole corn kernals, diced bell pepper and chopped serrano pepper.
Pour into a loaf or cake pan.
Top with a Tbsp of melted butter spread, a dash of salt and a sprinkle of dry sugar.
Bake in loaf pan at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.
Bake in cake pan at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
Allow to cool slightly before serving.
To serve: slice into squares or loaf slices. Spooning bread will work-bread will be a crumbly scoop.

Fresh corn Questions: Note: Use fresh corn! You may be tempted to use canned corn. I can assure you that the flavor will not be the same. However, if needed you can used frozen or canned whole corn. Just be sure to account for any excess moisture and tweak the recipe ingredients a bit. Canned corn will require less coconut milk. Frozen corn should be about the same as fresh, perhaps use a bit less liquid though.


Farm Fresh Corn: Sweet Summertime Super Food.

Farm fresh corn is a seasonal super food bursting with the flavors of summertime. Crisp white and yellow kernels are delicious munched right off the cob or accented with flavors like sweet vegan butter, crimson red spices or simple sea salt and cracked black pepper. Any way you prepare corn you'll be getting some major nutritional benefits. Click ahead to learn more about corn...

Fresh raw corn, nutrition facts
1 large ear
*facts from nutritiondata.com

calories: 123
carbs: 27g
fat: 2g
protein: 5g
fiber: 4g
Vitamin C: 16% RDA
Vitamin A: 5% RDA
Thiamin: 19% RDA
Folate: 19% RDA
Pantathenic Acid: 11% RDA
Phosphorus: 13% RDA
Magnesium: 13% RDA
Potassium: 11% RDA

Corn is an excellent source of Folate, Thiamin and Fiber. It has a good amount of protein, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and Vitamin C. Fresh corn is sweet and hydrating.

How to choose corn: Look for bright green husks with health silky stalk fibers sticking out the top. You can peel back the husk and check for plump firm juicy kernels. Any wilted or black kernels is a bad sign. A healthy corn will be heavier than an unhealthy corn-more hydrated and healthy.

Recipe ideas....

Genetically modified corn has been a big concern in recent years. So, when you can, choose organic corn. Organic corn is always the best choice when available and well-priced. Local farmers market corn is also something to watch for.

Corn recipe accents and ideas:
Corn bread
Buttered corn (vegan butter)
Salt and peppered corn.
Spiced corn with cayenne, chili powder or paprika
Cheesy corn with melted cheese
Barbecued corn-grill marks and all
Fire-roasted corn

Interesting Corn Facts from Soyatech.com:

*In 2005, the U.S. produced 42 percent of the world’s corn. Over 50 percent of the U.S. crop is produced in Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska or Illinois.

*Other world corn producers: China, Brazil, Mexico.

*Over 90 percent of the starch Americans used is produced from corn.


Chai-Berry Short-Cup. Dessert Smoothie. Vegan.

This dessert smoothie blends into swirls of pink and white with berries on top. I dare you to slurp a straw-ful of my Chai-Berry Short-Cup smoothie without feeling light and dreamy...

My Chai-Berry Short-Cup will gladly go up against a Strawberry Shortcake any day! This dessert smoothie is sweet and creamy with a nice punch of nutrition as well. Packed with protein, berry antioxidants and potassium, this smoothie is guilt free!

Bolthouse Farms Chai. I used the brand Bolthouse Farms chai in this smoothie. It is a vanilla soy-milk based chai. But if you can't find this exact brand you can easily brew your own sweet/spicy chai, add soy milk and a few dollops of agave syrup. However, I adore the Bolthouse Farms brand for this smoothie.

Here is the delightfully sweet recipe...

Chai-Berry Short Cup Smoothie
vegan, makes 2 servings

1 1/2 cups Bolthouse Farms Vanilla Chai Tea drink
1/2 raw banana
1/2 frozen banana
3 Tbsp raw unsweetened coconut shreds
1/2 cup frozen strawberries
1 cup coconut water ice cubes
6 raw raspberries (optional)

Blend until smooth!
Garnish with coconut and fresh berries.

*For an extra icy-creamy dessert treat add a scoop of vanilla soy cream!

Bolthouse Farms (chai brand): http://www.bolthouse.com/


Vegan Tofu Enchiladas. Rojo or Verde. Fiesta!

The very first dinner recipe that I learned to prepare on my own was a tofu enchilada casserole. I was just a teenager, but would do an elaborate spread of fiesta foods and flavors for my family. My inspiration came from growing up in Santa Cruz, California where I was exposed to a lot of authentic Mexican cuisine.

Fiesta! I adore 'fiesta' 'taco' or 'enchilada' night. My ingredients are simple, vegan, authentic and just-spicy-enough! This dish is prepared in one large casserole dish for the whole family to enjoy. Break out the guacamole, fresh pico salsa and a heaping mound of shredded vegan cheese! It's fiesta enchilada night and you're invited....

Vegan Tofu Veggie Enchiladas

2 cups tofu cubes, extra firm
1 cup shredded vegan cheese (mix of cheddar and Monterrey jack)
12 corn tortillas
1 cup mushrooms, chopped (any variety)
8 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup zucchini, chopped
1 small poblano pepper
1/2 cup red bell pepper, diced
1 1/2 cups enchilada sauce (red or green)
1 jalapeno
3 Tbsp black olives, sliced
1/4 cup green chilies, canned (mild or medium heat)
3 Tbsp agave syrup
2 limes, juiced
1 Tbsp Mexican seasoning spice mix
olive oil
black pepper
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped-garnish post cooking

*Side Notes: You can also use spinach, corn, onions or any other mix of veggies you'd like. Just be sure to saute them before enchilada assembly!
Also, for a spicier enchilada, add some cayenne or even a few more jalapenos to the veggie and tofu sautes. Habanero pepper slices will add a lot of heat if you are a super-high spiciness lover.

First, prep your enchilada pan by greasing it with olive oil.
Lay 2-3 corn tortillas in the bottom of the pan.

Next we want to prepare all the ingredients that we will be using to fill our enchiladas.

Before we chop our poblano, bell and jalapeno peppers we want to roast - How to Roast a Pepper 101- them on the stove top. If you have a gas stove top you are in luck. Lightly roast each of the peppers. Remove any dark black charred areas and dice each pepper.
Set aside.
(Roasting 101)

Next we'll prep our veggies.
Chop the zucchini, mushrooms and garlic.
Add 3 Tbsp olive oil, the juice from one lime and a dash of salt to a saute pan.
Add the zucchini and garlic.
Saute for a few minutes. You want to steam off a lot of the water in the zucchini.
Next, add in the mushrooms, bell pepper, poblano pepper and about a Tbsp of jalapeno slices.
Saute until the veggies are cooked down and a bit caramelized on the edges.
Set aside.

Add the juice of 1 lime, 3 Tbsp olive oil and Tbsp agave syrup to your saute pan.
Add the tofu cubes.
Saute on high until the edges of the tofu begin to brown up.
The tofu will take longer than the veggies to saute because you want to cook the tofu completely through.
Add a dash of salt and pepper and your Mexican spices to the tofu about half way through the cooking process.
Set the cooked tofu aside.

Now we are ready to assemble our enchiladas.
Take one corn tortilla and add about a teaspoon of shredded cheese, a Tbsp of veggie mix and about 2 tofu cubes.
Fold over tortilla and place seam side down in your enchilada dish.
Repeat until all the filling is gone and until the dish is filled.
If you have leftover filling, it is OK to simply stuff it into any crevices of your dish.
Then lastly, I'll lay 2 corn tortillas as the top layer.

Next, pour your enchilada sauce over your enchiladas.
Press the sauce gently into the tortillas and make sure you get a nice even spread of sauce.

Next, sprinkle about 1/2 cup of your vegan shredded cheese on top of the sauce.

And lastly, spread your mild green chilies over the cheese and sprinkle your olive slices on top of that. If you have any leftover jalapeno rings, you can place them on top as well.

Rojo Enchiladas:

Verde Enchiladas:

Cover with foil (spray it with oil first to prevent sticking).

Place in a 350 degree oven for 35 minutes. Then uncover enchilada's and broil on high for an additional 5 minutes to brown and bubble the cheese top.

Keep in a warm oven until ready to serve. I like to dab a bit of vegan sour cream on top of each slice-and sprinkle some fresh chopped cilantro.

Serve hot and enjoy your FIESTA!


Top 5 Babycakes NYC Must-Buy Secret Ingredients.

Secret Ingredients revealed from Babycakes NYC! Yippee! I recently received my copy of the new Babycakes NYC cookbook. And before I do a complete book review I knew I needed to test out a few recipes. But to my not-so-surprise, Babycakes NYC cookbook has a few must-have secret ingredients (not so secret anymore) that you will need to obtain in order start crafting your own Babycakes treats at home. Here are the top 5 must-buy secret ingredients used in the Babycakes cookbook....that are probably not in your cabinet...

Erin McKenna Loves Coconuts. And I love her. On a recent episode of Martha Stewart, I watched Erin McKenna, Babycakes founder and owner describe her passionate love of coconut oil. Honestly, I have been confused about its purpose in the past and stood by blindly as co-workers and friends did the 'coconut oil diet' by downing tablespoons of the stuff throughout the day. What always got me was the amount of saturated fat. But Erin proclaimed on the MS show that coconut oil is fabulous because it is stored in your body in a way that is not fat, but energy to use. Now I don't know the exact truth about coconut oil. But I do have a lot of faith in Erin. So I will wholeheartedly embrace her recipes and the delicious vegan gluten-free ingredients she uses in them...

Here are the Top 5 Babycakes NYC Must-Have Secret Ingredients
.....Not in Your Cabinet
(Most Likely).....

1. Coconut Oil.
One of her favorites. She says it is high in omega-3 fatty acids as well as lauric acids which allows the coconut oil to be stored as energy and not fat. Used in many many many of her recipes.

2. Arrowroot Powder.
I discovered arrowroot powder when I was obsessively tweaking my award-winning Lemon Tofu Custard Bars. Arrowroot powder is a thickener. Though similar to corn starch, it is much easier to digest in the body. It has been used for years by native Americans. It has a mild flavor, so I use it in everything from savory soups to sweet desserts.

3. Garbanzo-fava bean flour.
Wow. This one is the kicker. I have never used it, but it is a staple ingredient in many of Erin's cakes, breads and cupcakes. It is meant to be similar to wheat flour, without the gluten! She likes it much better than rice flour. Great for me because I have never really liked using rice flour as a main four ingredient.

The last two...
4. Xantham Gum.
A very important ingredient in Erin's cookies and cupcakes. She says that without it, many delicious bakery creations would fall apart! It adds stickiness and viscosity.

5. Flax Meal and Coconut Flour.
Two powder ingredients that you probably don't own. Coconut flour is a thickener and adds a nice taste. It is used in Babycakes frostings. Flax meal is like a substitute for eggs. It provides protein and adds fiber. Two yummy and healthy ingredients that aide in the nutrition content of the treats from the Babycakes kitchen-any now your own kitchen!!

Order Babycakes new cookbook online, and look for my official review in a bit (once I actually buy all the needed ingredients and head into my kitchen!)


Click here to see the awesome viral video about the Babycakes NYC cookbook...


Hawaii: Locavore Bliss. ...And Samantha Brown!

I love the Travel Channel's host Samantha Brown. She is always cheery, witty and tells it like it is (in her own polite and positive way). And when I recently saw her episode of Samantha Brown's Great Weekends where she traveled to the island of Hawaii, it got me pondering the origin of 'eating local'...

Aloha Locavore's!
Sweet baby bananas, pink guavas, fresh picked pineapple and crunchy macadamia nuts. Hawaiians have had this trendy idea of eating locally grown, regional cuisine, aka 'locavorism', down for a long time. Let's discuss and bask in a few Hawaiian daydreams...

First off. If you don't know the show, it's called Samantha Brown's Great Weekends and airs on the Travel Channel, Saturday's at 10pm. A new season started May 9th. Sam Brown even has a twitter page for the show.

I Love Hawaii. Daydreams. Watching Sam Browns' Hawaii episode got my memories from Hawaiian travels spinning. Such a beautiful part of the world. The breezes are soft and smell of pink hibiscus. Tall green and purple mountains parade into the misty blue sky. Hiking through the hilltops and bamboo forests you will find hidden caves, lush gardens and crystal blue waterfalls. Tropical fruit trees speckle the land and that ethereal aqua green water brush against the white, pink, black and caramel colored sandy shores. Hawaii, it's a magical place where wellness, health and happiness abound.

Locavore Approved. Hawaiians, historically, have had no choice but to eat in a locally inspired way. You can visit a traditional luau full of grass-skirt and flower-shirt wearing tourists and eat dishes like roasted pig, mahi mahi (both not for me, obvi) poi, guava syrup, Hawaiian slaw, taro root, fried rice, mai tai's and pina colada's. But really this isn't just tourist fare. You can visit posh fine dining restaurants on the island and be served the same varieties of foods, with an elegant twist. All local. All fresh. Many organic. All locavore-approved.

Thanks Sam. I love Sam Brown's Travel Channel shows, she is such a friendly person-yet not fake. That's a tricky personality combo to balance. It sealed the deal of my 'Sam fan status' when Sam Brown and her girlfriend's stayed at the Delano in Miami for their 'girls weekend'. Delano-my fave.So if you haven't checked out her Hawaii episode, visit her blog and read a bit of her Hawaiian thoughts....and have daydreams of POG, banana smoothies and pineapple tofu purses. Happy Aloha.

My comment to Sam on her Hawaii blog post:

I loved the Hawaii episode! I love how Hawaiians are the original 'locavore's'. They indulge in the fruits of the island and the result is healthy local cuisine. My favorite memories of Hawaii travels always involved their delicious food: fresh guavas picked right off the trees, sweet juicy pineapple, tiny bananas from a roadside stand or those amazing pancakes with guava syrup and a side order of POG juice. Great episode-thanks for inspiring my memories.


Travel Channels Great Weekend's with Samantha Brown


Picnic Perfect Chickenless Salad Sandwich. Vegan.

New York City in the summertime gives me constant daydreams of having a picture perfect picnic in Central Park. It'll be a sunny day with a light sweet meadow breeze, birds chirping, a cool patch of emerald green grass to lay on, and nothing to do but bask in the sunshine, shoes off and a picnic basket at my side. What's inside the basket? Well only the perfect vegan chickenless salad sandwiches of course. Maybe some ginger lemonade and a side of salty apple slices and root veggie chips for snacking. Click ahead to see how I've mastered my recipe. ...So all I need is that perfect day to roll around...

What is that Secret Ingredient? In my Chickenless Vegan Salad there are a few 'secret' ingredients. But the main flavor kicks are the tangy lemon juice or apple cider vinegar, that fennel/basil-like green herb tarragon and a warm hint of paprika and/or cayenne. Also of note: adding a lot of celery gives this salad a nice crunch. And using flat leaf parsley adds a fresh crisp taste. And the natural thickener, arrowroot powder helps this chickenless salad firm up in the fridge. You can even add in a tad more cabbage if you want an extra salad-y chickenless salad. Add a thick sliced onion, tomato and a dab of dijon mustard, and my perfect picnic sandwich is complete. First picnicing activity: the food.

Picnic Perfect Chicken-less Salad
vegan, makes 3 cups

1 package Trader Joe's Chickenless strips
or 1 1/2 cups of grilled seitan, firm tofu or tempeh
1 1/2 cups celery, chopped thinly
2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp paprika
1 small orange, diced
1/2 cup cabbage, shredded
2 Tbsp Tarragon, chopped
4 Tbsp Vegenaise, heaping
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 lemon, juiced or 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp lemon zest
1/4 cup flat parsley, chopped
3-4 Tbsp sunflower seeds, roasted/salted
2 scallions, chopped thinly
optional: 3 Tbsp Arrowroot powder (natural thickener)
optional: 1 tsp cayenne
*Add more Vegenaise if you want a richer creamier chickenless salad

1. Saute, grill, bake or microwave chicken-less strips or seitan/tofu/tempeh. Chop into small cubes. Place into medium sized bowl-set in fridge to cool while you prep the other ingredients.

2. Clean and chop celery.

3. Finely chop tarragon leaves.

4. Shred and chop cabbage. Dice and de-seed orange. Zest and squeeze lemon.

5. Add to a medium glass bowl:
Protein: chickenless cubes or seitan/tofu/tempeh cubes.

6. Add olive oil. Stir oil into cubes.

7. Add celery, orange, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, pepper, paprika, cabbage, parsley, sunflower seeds, parsley and scallions. Mix well. Fold in veganaise and tarragon.

8. Add optional arrowroot powder gradually and fold into salad. Add optional cayenne and more black pepper to top of salad.

9. Press salad firmly into bowl, cover and place in the fridge for a half hour to chill. Chill overnight if you have time.

10. Serve! Add to sandwiches, pitas or eat with hearty grain crackers. Picnic perfect!

tip: use on crusty and toasted grain bread to avoid a soggy sandwich.

More yummy photos...


Spicy Lasagna Verde with Green Basil Pesto. Vegan.

As promised, here is part two in my lasagna two ways series. First came my Lasagna Rosso Classico, and now for my less traditional, Spicy Lasagna Verde. Instead of tomatoes, I fill this lasagna with pine nut basil pesto sauce. A spicy green jalapeno adds a flavor kick. You'll be amazed at how much the pesto sauce reminds you of that creamy dense texture of ricotta cheese. This is a vegan 'green' twist on lasagna that you must check out....
Spicy Lasagna Verde

1 box no-boil lasagna pasta strips
1 container extra firm tofu (about two cups of 1/2 inch thick 'tofu steaks'.)
1-2 cups of shredded Mozzarella or Monterey Jack cheese, vegan (I use Follow Your Heart brand because it melts well.)
For tofu/mushroom/zucchini fillings:
2 cups zucchini, thinly sliced
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/2 cups mushrooms, sliced (any variety you'd like)
agave syrup
fresh lemon juice
For Pesto:
2 cups raw unsalted pine nuts (pignolias)
1/2 cup garlic
1 cup parsley, chopped
1 large bunch fresh basil, stems removed
1/4 cup olive oil
2 large lemons, squeezed
2 Tbsp agave syrup
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt
1 large jalapeno, stem removed
Also needed:
crushed red pepper flakes
olive oil, as required in cooking process.
salt/pepper as needed
fresh basil and chopped parsley for garnish

To make:
First lay out all your ingredients.
You will be pre-cooking most of the filling ingredients so you want to make sure everything is ready and available on the counter top.

First make your pesto sauce.
First lightly toast the pine nuts with a drizzle of oil and a pinch of salt. About 60-90 seconds on high heat in a skillet.
Add to food processor.
Combine all the pesto ingredients in the food processor-lemon,parsley, basil, olive oil, salt, pepper, agave, jalapeno and garlic- grind until smooth.
Set aside.

Grease the bottom of your pan with olive oil.
You may use a 9" round pan or a long rectangle casserole dish.
Layering Note: You can actually layer the lasagna ingredients any way you'd like, but this is how I like to do it.

I put a very thin layer of tomatoes on the bottom layer (because I had some leftover. But you can skip that for a tomato-free lasagna.)
Lay one layer of no-boil pasta strips in pan.
Spread a layer of pesto sauce.
Then a thin layer of cheese.
Then another layer of pasta strips.
A little overlap of the pasta is good.

Put a thin layer of mozzarella cheese on pasta. Set pan aside.

Ingredients prep.
It's time to braise the tofu.

First, slice the tofu into 1/2 inch thick strips.
Add 2 Tbsp olive oil, 3 Tbsp lemon juice and 1 Tbsp agave syrup to a hot saute or soup pan. Add the sliced tofu.
Cover pan and allow to braise for a few minutes over med-high heat.
You want to brown the edges of the tofu, while still keeping the center of the tofu fluffy and moist.
Salt and pepper the tofu as needed.
About 1/2 teaspoon salt/pepper per batch.

Repeat this process with all your tofu rectangles. I had about 10 to work with.

Next, in the still hot pan, add a few drizzles of olive oil, dash of salt and the mushrooms, zucchini and chopped 5 chopped garlic cloves.
I'll also add in some leftover lemon juice and pine nuts to the pan as the cooking process proceeds.
Saute for a few minutes, covered.
Add some fresh black pepper and toss this mixture.
You want the mushrooms to be cooked though and the zucchini to be browned a bit-not soggy.
Make sure a lot of steam comes off the mixture to remove some of the moisture.
Water moisture out, flavor moisture in from the lasagna layers.
Remove from heat when ready, set aside.

Now back to the lasagna layering.

Atop the last layer of pasta, spread a layer of neatly placed zucchini rounds.

You can do another layer of pasta here.
Then a layer of tofu, tightly packed. (Only tofu layer)

Then do a layer of mushrooms and any remaining zucchini.

Then do another layer of pasta.
Then the last layer of thickly spread pesto.

Here, you can either top it with thick mozzarella cheese, or do a layer of pasta, then cheese. If you don't have an additional pasta layer, your top pesto will brown significantly, but will also dry out a bit to taste like a grainy ricotta cheese. I liked this outcome, but if you want to keep your pesto super moist-add pasta-then cheese for the last layer. Confused? I hope not!

Then cover tightly with a greased foil sheet.

Place in a 350 degree oven to bake for 45 minutes.
When the 45 minutes are up, carefully uncover the lasagna and broil it on high for about 5 minutes to brown the top cheese layer and crisp up the edges.

Garnish with fresh basil, chopped parsley and red pepper flakes.


Wii Active vs. Wii Fit vs. Life

There is a new fun and fitness-oriented virtual reality video game on the market called Wii Active, from the EA Sports brand. Wii Active is the first fitness game to compete with the highly popular Wii Fit program by Nintendo. Lets compare Wii Active to Wii Fit, and my commentary on the fitness gadget industry...

Wii Fit.
Wii Fit was the first widely successful Wii based video game to use the fun and fitness, exercise as the 'game' theory. Uses a board based program: Wii Balance Board.
Price: Around $90.
Activities: Yoga, Strength Training, Balance Games, Aerobics and tracking features.
Maker: Nintendo.

Wii Active. Wii Active is the new video game to use fun and fitness. Uses a jump-rope like hand-held device based program: the Nunchuck.
Price: Around $60
Activities: Various activities including running, dancing, punching, sports, and a wide variety of movement activities.
Maker: EA Sports, endorsed by celebrity trainer bob Greene.
Notable: Marketed mainly to women. Has an active online community that features weight loss profiles and a motivation center.

Big differences?? I see price as a major point. Yes the Wii Active system is only $30 less, but that thirty bucks can be a significant value when consumers are deciding on which brand to buy. The other difference is the interactive gadget. The Wii balance board vs. the Nunchuck. Arm/hand based vs. bottom/foot based balance board. Depending on your activity favorites, the gadget may also be a determining factor. Those who love boxing/upper body activities may be excited about the Active. While yoga or lower body activity fans may be balance board loyalists. Since the Wii Active from EA Sports is still new, came out on May 19 2009, we will have to wait for the consumer demand to say yay or nay.

*Have you tried either of these? Post your experiences in the comments section.

*I have not personally tried either of these products. I don't own a Wii or any video game console. But I do have an opinion on the philosophy of video game/trend/gadget fitness values....

Fitness Tech Chick.
I'll be the first one to admit that I love fitness technology trends, gadgets and innovations. As a teenager, I was always the first one at my community sports club to try out a new innovative brand of workout machine. The new StairMaster 3000, the latest elliptical machine and that handy new heart/fat monitor gadget. I tried them all and loved them all. Good healthy fun. But as much as I loved those trendy new gadgets, I never stopped to ask myself how trendy workout gear influenced my lifetime wellness. Today, years later, I do not use a StairMaster 3000 or 4000 or a trendy workout machine or even a futuristic heart monitor to keep me fit. My fitness values were not formed by healthy gadgets. My health values were formed by real exercise lessons that I learned in PE class, after-school sports and with my active family.

My lifetime fitness values: A simple pair of tennis shoes, the ability to go for a jog whenever I choose, the ability to recognize my likes and dislikes of certain sports, knowing that I love yoga, long mountain hikes, tennis, skiing and basketball.

Question: Are these Wii Fit and Active programs acting as a crutch for users? Is computer game fitness simply "the latest" gadget that may not stand the test of time? Consumers may use Wii fitness to get a few good years of exercise into their lives, but couldn't you say the same about 'trends' like the thighmaster or 80's home aerobic videos? When their time has passed, what then? I hope that Wii users, especially kids, are getting a wide variety of fitness activities--and not only the virtual reality kind. Onto my values...

Life cycle Fitness Values.
In college I lived in a small dorm. There were only two ways to exercise: 1) Fight for a machine in the crowded gym. or 2) Break out my tennis shoes and go for a jog on the not-crowded track. Yay track. I certainly didn't have a StairMaster3000 in my dorm room. But that was OK because I knew how and where to workout, move and get active without a fancy gadget. And this is my point. We can't teach our kids to rely on technology as the main form of exercise. The point of exercise is to move, run, jump, sprint, laugh, spin, travel, run, hike and swim out and about. To move. To go. And simply jumping around in one place-your living room-might get the immediate results done, but may not be a lifelong solution to building fitness values. Someone could easily say: "I play tennis on my Wii, but I've never picked up a racket." Sounds unauthentic. And almost sad , to me. What do you think?