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Diversify Your Protein, Part III - The final recipe in our series from our resident vegan athlete!

October 10, 2013

This is the final part of a three part series on the integration of plant-based proteins into triathletes’ diets. Just as diversification is an important element of effect triathlon training programs, the diversification of protein sources to include plant-based proteins in triathletes’ diets is crucial for maintaining a healthy, well-balanced diet.

Tofu is an excellent source of plant-based protein that is made from soy beans. Tofu is particularly easy to cook because it assumes the flavor of the seasoning. 

This plant-based protein holds numerous nutrient benefits. One serving of tofu contains roughly 10 grams of protein, is low in fat and calories, and is high in calcium and other minerals. 

When purchasing tofu make sure to purchase an organic, non-GMO brand. I recommend the sprouted tofu from Trader Joes or the brand Fresh Tofu Inc. ( To continue your integration of plant-based proteins in you training diet, my delicious recipe for Fall Vegan Lasagna is provided below.

Fall Vegan Lasagna is a guilt-free vegan alternative for traditional Italian lasagna. The dish gives you that comfort food feel without dairy or meat. It is packed with vegetables, whole grains, and protein that provides you with a balanced meal in a hearty dish. The sauce is made with fresh seasonal vegetables and combines winter squash (I recommend kabocha squash), carrots, beets, and onions and seasoned with fresh herbs, brown rice miso, and ume plum vinegar. The beet provides the rich color of a traditional tomato sauce. To incorporate the “cheese”, I make a tofu ricotta and melt brown rice mochi. Finally, the lasagna is layered with whole wheat lasagna or brown rice (for the gluten free) lasagna noodles and stuffed with caramelized onions, mushrooms and spinach. 

Unlike traditional lasagna, my vegan version contains zero cholesterol, is low in fat and high in nutrient dense ingredients. I combine miso in the sauce and the tofu ricotta not only to season the ingredients but also because miso is a more gentle type of sodium on the body compared to traditional salt. Miso is also a fermented food and provides you with the benefits of live and active cultures to aid in digestion and long-term health.

Enjoy this well balanced, protein packed dish to gear up for your next race!

Melissa Robbins teaches vegan and macrobiotic cooking classes in New York City. Melissa apprenticed with renowned macrobiotic chef and counselor, Melanie Waxman. Melissa graduated from Boston University with a degree in Biology. Outside of the kitchen, Melissa enjoys running, swimming, cycling, Yoga, and CitiBiking. 



Fall Vegan Lasagna


Serves: 5-7

Preparation: 60 minutes total: 20 prep/40 cook

Cookware: 9x 13 baking dish, large sauce pan, small sauce pan, cutting board, hand masher




2 cups winter squash, skin removed and cut into chunks 

3 carrots cut on an angle

1 beet cut into chunks

1 onion diced

1 tablespoon Ume plum vinegar

1 tablespoon barley or brown rice miso

1 clove garlic minced

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

2 tablespoons fresh sage


1 Package whole wheat lasagna noodles cooked

Tofu Ricotta 

1 package of firm tofu crumbled 

1 tablespoon white miso

2 Tablespoons Fresh Sage 

1 teaspoon white miso

Juice of ½ lemon

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Mochi Cheese

8 oz. mochi cut in 1 inch squares

Water to cover

1 tablespoon shoyu

1 teaspoon Ume plum vinegar


2 cups kale or spinach sautéed

1 onion sliced in half moons

3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Salt to taste

½ white mushrooms sliced 

2 Tablespoons olive oil

Preparation Sauce:

1. In a large frying pan, heat the oil on a medium flame and add the onions and a pinch of sea salt. Sauté for one minute and add the garlic. 

2. When the strong scent is removed from the onions add the squash, carrots and beet. Sauté for an additional 3 minutes to coat the vegetables with oil.

3. Add the herbs and just barely cover with water.

4. Bring the water to a boil, cover and let simmer for 25 minutes.

5. Remove lid, cook down any remaining liquid and season with dark miso and ume plum vinegar.

6. Use a potato masher to make into a chunky sauce.


Preparation: Tofu Ricotta and Mochi:

1. In a medium bowl crumble the tofu. 

2. Mix the remaining ingredients together and add to the tofu mixture until well combined.

3. Right before the lasagna is ready to assemble, place mochi, water, shoyu and ume plum vinegar in a sauce pot, heat on a low flame and stir until melted.

4. Heat on a low flame, stir until melted


Optional Preparation for Stuffing:

1. Heat one tablespoon olive oil in a small skillet; add onions and salt and sauté.

2. Add balsamic vinegar and simmer for 20 minutes.

3. In a separate skillet heat 1 tablespoon olive oil, add sliced mushroom and sauté until tender. 

        Add kale or spinach and sauté, season with salt.

4. Combine caramelized onions, mushrooms and greens and set aside.


Lasagna Preparation:

1. Spread a thin layer of the sauce in the bottom of a ceramic baking dish. Arrange 2 or 3 noodles over the mixture depending on the size. Top with some of the tofu ricotta spinach, mushrooms, onions, and mochi. 

2. Repeat, but in the second layer replace the mochi with the sauce.

3. Add the final layer of lasagna noodles. Cover with sauce, pour the mochi over, and some crumbled tofu to garnish. 

4. Bake the lasagna 20 minutes or until the sauce starts to bubble.

5. Let sit for 10 minutes and serve.

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