I love spring. I always feel such a sense of renewal and with every burst of a new bud on a tree, a little something like hope or joy bursts in me. I am feeling optimistic and ready for a wonderful season. I always try to do a vegan cleanse in the spring, just to clear my system and lighten up for summer eating. I usually do a two-day juice cleanse and then avoid meats for a long while. When avoiding meat and dairy, I always look for new ways to replace the creamy, crunchy, sticky, gooey stuff I like with a really great vegan option. I found this amazing recipe from Delicious Living magazine and took it to the next level by adding Spicy GourGanics and replacing a regular noodle with a beautifully grilled bite of eggplant. The cashew ricotta is really wonderful but you need to think ahead because you have to soak the nuts overnight.

Here’s what you need to make ricotta:

2 cloves organic garlic, peeled

1/1/2 cups raw organic cashews, soaked in water overnight and drained

salt to taste

2 tablespoons fresh organic lemon juice

14 oz package firm organic tofu (not silken)

1/4 cup organic nutritional yeast flakes

1 pound grated vegan organic mozzarella

Here’s what you need for the rest of the recipe:

1 pound organic asparagus, cut into 1 inch lengths

4 cups small organic broccoli florets

3 tablespoons organic extra-virgin olive oil, divided

3 large cloves organic garlic, minced

10 organic cremini or button mushrooms

2 large organic roasted and peeled red peppers thinly sliced

1 small organic eggplant, sliced thin and grilled lightly

2 large handfulls of organic baby spinach

1 bunch organic scallions, thin sliced

1 jar Gourganics salsa (spicy)

Here’s what to do:

Slice the eggplant thin and grill for 3-5 minutes, set aside. Process all ricotta ingredients in a food processor until smooth and creamy, set aside. Bring a pot of water to boil, add asparagus and broccoli, cook 3-5 minutes, drain and shock with a splash of cold water to keep it all crisp and bright. Spread these veggies on a paper towel to dry. Sautee mushroom and bell peppers in olive oil, add 1/2 jar of GourGanics SPICY salsa, set aside. Mix together spinach, mushrooms, peppers, salsa, asparagus, broccoli and scallions.

Preheat oven to 375, spread olive oil in a deep, 9×13 inch baking dish. Cover the pan bottom with eggplant strips, overlapping slightly. Spread with 1/3 veggie mixture, cover with 1/3 ricotta, and a tablespoon GourGanics, then cover with another slice of grilled eggplant. Repeat layers, pressing down slightly. Cover final eggplant with remaining ricotta, salsa and spinach mixture. Sprinkle with a handful of Vegan Mozzarella, cover tightly with tin foil and bake at 375 for 45 minutes or so. Then, uncover, increase heat to 400 degrees and cook for 5-8 minutes to brown the top.

Allow your sumptuous vegan creation to cool at least 5 minutes before sharing with the ones you love.

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