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My friends Will and Gina invited us over for a “football and crafts” get together. We’d watch some football, crochet, knit, embroider, and eat some tasty food. (Bad hipster that I am, I don’t know a thing about hobbies that involve pointy sticks and yarn, so I opted for the football watching and eating part.) They are gracious and hospitable hosts, putting out a great spread of cheese and crackers, brownies and some tasty craft beers. Wanting to make sure we had something to eat at this shindig, I applied the first and golden rule of socializing with non-vegans: ABF (Always Bring Food).

This lasagna was made with love and lead, apparently. It weighed 20 pounds. How can a vegan lasagna be so dense?

Some vegans might go empty handed to a social gathering, then, when asked why they’re not eating, shrug their hunched bony shoulders and say “there’s nothing here for me.”  They follow this with a heavy sigh and eyes that tilt towards the heavens like a martyr.  Though it might seem like the staunchly principled thing to do, if you do this and you’re a vegan, you’re being a bad guest.

“I partake not in the meat, nor the breastmilk, nor the ovum, of any creature, with a face.”

“What?” you might exclaim.  “I thought you were on my side!  You don’t care about vegan values or ethics!  Only through obvious suffering on our parts can we make the suffering of animals apparent!”

No, silly.  Hear me out.  Your friends care about you, and they want you to be happy, and here you are not giving them any clue as to how to help you have a good time.  So help them!  Follow the ABF rule and soon good times will be had by all.  The benefits are multifold:

1) You’ll be guaranteed delicious vegan food that you know you can eat!  No awkward asking of questions, such as “is there cheese in this?” You can breathe easier and keep your blood sugar levels stable.

2) Your host won’t have to worry about you.  I always shoot my friends an email or text letting them know what food I’m bringing over so they know I’m set (and so they can plan their menus).  I don’t know about you, but I have some really nice friends.  When they have me over, they want to treat me well and make sure I want for nothing.  However, very few of them know about vegan cooking or even what it means to eat vegan.  Thus, by bringing your own dessert (and informing the host ahead of time) you avoid embarrassment to you or your hosts when they realize that you can’t have the awesome cake that they baked for you because they forgot that eggs aren’t vegan.

Hard to sell eating vegetables to omnivores when vegans keep calling them “dirt candy.”

3) You might get people to try vegan food who normally wouldn’t touch the stuff with a 10 foot fork.  This actually might be my secret favorite perk of the ABF rule.  My friends generally think of me as a pretty good cook.  I give homemade pickles for Christmas, I make birthday cakes from scratch for parties, and I often bring cookies to work because I like making my coworkers happy.  I built up a reputation for knowing my way around the kitchen while vegetarian, and even though I’m now vegan, I’m keeping that reputation.  For example, I brought the aforementioned 20 pound lasagna to the football viewing this afternoon, and everyone tucked in.  They knew it was vegan, they knew no meat was involved, but they also smelled delicious pasta and sauce and didn’t feel like making the effort to order pizza or cook something on their own.  They scarfed it and complimented me and were satisfied.  So not only did my husband and I have delicious vegan dinner, so did all of our friends.  Everyone, including the animals, wins in this scenario.

It ain’t over ’til the smoke detector sings.

Now, you might be thinking, “I’m up stuff creek, I don’t know how to cook my way out of a reusable bag!”  Well, you have a couple of options:

1) Bring some of those awesome Gardein buffalo tenders to your next shindig along with a Daiya garlic havarti wedge.

2) Fill a couple containers at the Whole Foods hot bar and pass it off as your own cooking.

3) Read my blog, try my recipes, learn!
Now, I went a little crazytown with the cooking for the football today since it was Sunday, I had a full fridge from grocery shopping, and a little extra time, but all you need is to make one tasty thing to share in order to abide by the ABF rule.
For the curious, here are the recipes I brought to Football and Crafts Day:

This excellent hot artichoke dip with smoked paprika from the blog C’est La Vegan:

Makes you want to stab a Triscuit into your monitor.

My own Spinach Lasagna (recipe follows at the end):

Weird Al would approve.

And for dessert, tasty homemade peanut butter cups with crushed pretzels inside from the blog Healthy Happy Life:

WARNING: Vegan food is not all health food.

Spinach Lasagna

(Serves 12)

1 box of no-boil lasagna noodles

1.5 jars of your favorite pasta sauce

1 16 oz. container of Tofutti “Better Than Ricotta” Cheese

1 bag of Daiya mozzarella shreds

8 oz. bag of baby spinach

1/2 cup of dairy free parmesean (I used Galaxy Vegan Parm)

1 tsp. dried oregano

1 tsp. dried thyme

1 tsp. dried basil

1 tsp. garlic powder

a few leaves of fresh basil, if you have it, roughly chopped

pinch of salt, sprinkle of pepper

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Put a small amount of pasta sauce in the bottom of a large glass baking dish or lasagna pan.  Layer 1/3 of your pasta sheets on the bottom, overlapping if they don’t quite fit.

2. In a bowl, combine the ricotta with the herbs, salt and pepper.  Microwave the spinach in a bowl until it is soft (about 1-2 minutes).  Add the hot spinach to the ricotta and herb mixture and stir until combined.

3. Dollop the ricotta mixture onto the pasta sheets, using about half of it.  Cover with 1/3 of the mozzarella cheese, and about 1/2 jar of sauce (you want enough to cover the pasta, as the sauce is what “cooks” the noodles).

4. Make another layer of another 1/3 of the lasagna noodles, top with remaining ricotta, 1/3 mozzarella, and 1/2 jar sauce.

5. Top this last layer with the last of the noodles, the last of the sauce, and the last of the mozzarella cheese.  Sprinkle the parmesean all over, and a small dusting of additional oregano, basil, and thyme if you please.

6) Cover with foil and bake for 50 minutes.  Uncover and bake for 5 minutes more.

7) Let rest for a few minutes (it will be nuclear meltdown temperature if you try to eat it right out of the oven, and burns are no ways to win folks over to veganism) then share with your friends!