My Mom’s Lasagna

Having grown up in a household with an Italian mom, I loved Italian food. Especially anything with pasta! My mom made this lasagna (which very well could have been a recipe from the side of the lasagna noodle box), but I really like it. It’s easy to make, but if you don’t have time to make the sauce, you can always buy bottled pasta sauce and use that instead. 

I usually add other things to it too:

  1. Veggies like squash, zucchini, red peppers, mushrooms, etc. Just make sure to pan fry them first to get a bit of the moisture out first as well as to really bring out the flavors of the veggies.
  2. Ground meat (or even ground meatless, if you want to make it vegetarian).
  3. I even like adding some steamed spinach. Make sure to squeeze out the extra water first.

You can either use cooked lasagna noodles (and cook them first according to the package directions) or you can buy no-cook noodles at places like Trader Joe’s. If you do that, be sure to use lots of sauce and spread it over all the noodles.

Sauce Recipe:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 clove garlic, minced (I use bottled minced garlic)

Two 15 ounce cans tomato sauce

One 6 ounce can tomato paste

1/2 teaspoon sugar

Heat oil in medium saucepan on medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until tender. Stir in tomato sauce, tomato paste and sugar. Simmer 10-15 minutes.

Filling Recipe:

One 16 ounce container ricotta cheese (I recommend whole milk vs. reduced fat, since that has a lot of water, but if you do reduced fat, be sure to drain it first)

2 eggs, beaten

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon parsley flakes

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)

In medium bowl, blend ricotta and eggs. Stir in mozzarella, Parmesan, parsley flakes, salt and pepper.

Making the Lasagna:

You’ll also need a box of lasagna noodles and an additional cup of shredded mozzarella.

  1. Make pasta according to box directions (unless using no-cook noodles).
  2. Pour half of sauce on the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish.
  3. Put one layer of pasta, cover with half of the filling, add half of any meat, veggies, etc.
  4. Put another layer of pasta down, then the rest of the filling, the rest of the meat, veggies, etc.
  5. Put the last layer of pasta down, cover with remaining sauce, and then put the 1 cup of shredded mozzarella on top.
  6. Bake in oven at 350 degrees for about 45-50 minutes.

All about the lentils

Don’t you know that I’m all about the lentils, ’bout the lentils… Oh, sorry.
Recently, I’ve been trying to make lots more lentil dishes. Lentils are full of good protein, fiber and other happy healthy stuff and are super duper cheap. We have been trying recently to eat more veggies and cut down on meat (for both health reasons and cost reasons), so I’ve found a number of really flavorful lentil dishes that are quite easy to make.

The first was a dish my college roommate recently made for me since we had just had a new baby. I enjoyed it so much, I asked for the recipe and in turn made it for us as well as my neighbor who also had recently had a baby. So maybe it’s just great postpartum food, but I think we’d like it anytime.

The second I found while doing a Google search for lentils and squash (since we had a number of fresh in-season squashes and zucchinis from our local farm to use). What I found is an amazingly flavorful Lebanese. Hope you enjoy!

Lentilles du Puy with Roasted Carrots and Beets from Saveur

You can either use true “lentilles du Puy” (from France, likely found at Whole Food bulk section) or just any green lentil. I went to Sprouts for my plain old green variety.

3 small beets, peeled and diced
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
4 shallots, peeled and halved
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 sprigs fresh parsley
2 sprigs fresh thyme
salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 pound lentilles du Puy, or other french-style green lentils
3 tbsp sherry vinegar (also really good with balsamic vinegar)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place beets, carrots, shallots, and 1/2 cup oil in a medium roasting pan. Stir to coat vegetables evenly with oil. Add parsley and thyme, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring once, until vegetables begin to brown, about 20 minutes. Add lentils and 3 cups of water, stir, then cover pan with foil. Cook until lentils are tender and all water is absorbed, about 1 hour. (The water tends to evaporate pretty quickly here in Colorado, so you may need to add some extra.)

2. Remove pan from oven. Remove and discard herb springs, then dress lentils with vinegar and remaining oil. Allow to cool slightly, then stir in chopped parsley. Adjust seasoning and serve.

Variation (from Saveur, I’ve never tried this!):
Different vegetables and dressings can be used for this salad. For instance, roast 2 cups peeled small pearl onions for 20 minutes. Dice celery stalks. Add celery stalks and lentils to onions with 3 cups water, cover and continue roasting. Meanwhile, mix 3 tsp fresh lemon juice with 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil in a small bowl. Stir in 1 minced peeled garlic clove and 2 tsp finely chopped thyme. When lentils are tender and liquid has been absorbed, toss with dressing. Adjust seasoning and serve.

lentils with beets and carrots

Lentil and Bulgur pilaf with green and yellow squash

I used the recipe from food.com and noticed they never said how to cut the squash, so I sliced it in half length-wise and then in roughly 1/4 inch wedges cross-wise. I personally would have added more squash and zucchini, so will likely do that next time.

4 cups fat-free chicken broth or 4 cups vegetable broth
1 cup medium grain bulgur (coarse grain also works)
1 cup brown lentils, rinsed and picked over (I used green since I couldn’t find brown, and it worked just fine)
1 medium onion, coarse chopped
1 bay leaf
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 teaspoon allspice
1⁄2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground works best
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small zucchini (cut in half length-wise and then in 1/4 inch wedges cross-wise). I would personally recommend more zucchini than this.
1 small yellow squash (cut in half length-wise and then in 1/4 inch wedges cross-wise). I would personally recommend more squash than this.
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon lemon zest, finely grated
1 1⁄2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
lemon wedge (for garnish)

In a large saucepan, mix together the broth, lentils, onion, bay leaf, salt allspice and pepper and bring to boil over medium heat. Reduce to low, cover and simmer 10 minutes.
Add Bulgar and simmer and cook an additional 25 minutes until the lentils and bulgur are tender. I ended up needing to add additional water since it cooked off quicker than I expected.
Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice.
Meanwhile, in a nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add zucchini and squash and cook 2 minutes. Add garlic and lemon zest and cook an additional 3 minutes until the squash are tender.
Stir in parsley and cilantro. Taste and season with salt and pepper as desired.
Mix the squash into the bulgur and lentil pilaf.
Serve hot with lemon wedges.
lentils and bulgar wheat pilaf

Whole Foods’ Curried Turkey Salad – trying to perfect a copy

We truly love Whole Foods’ prepared foods. They are delicious… and also cost like $20/pound, so we don’t buy them often. 🙂 We recently decided to try and make our own version of the Curried Turkey Salad, which, if you haven’t had it, I highly highly recommend. It’s delicious, fairly healthy, and goes great on a bed of lettuce for a quick meal.

I often times look at their list of ingredients and try and repeat what they have and guess on quantities, but I actually found a recipe that was fairly close on this one and just made a few modifications.
I started with this site and added a few other items that Whole Foods had listed, and swapped Chicken for Turkey. So, my recipe ended up being the following (which you can halve, third, whatever you want and it turns out just fine):
1) 3 pounds cooked chicken, shredded or diced (I just poached some chicken, which I had never done before, but it’s super easy. Don’t worry about flavoring it while poaching since the flavors of the curry will overpower whatever you do anyway). Incidentally, this is the thing that takes the longest, so start cooking it first.
2) 1/4 cup diced red onion
3) 3 ribs celery, diced
4) About 1/4 cup of diced green onions
5) 1/2 to 1 cup currants (I personally don’t consider this optional since it’s one of the things that makes it taste so good!)
6) 1/2 to 1 cup chopped almonds (I used sliced almonds one time and almonds cut length-wise another time. Both great).
7) 1-1/2 cups mayonnaise
8) 2-1/2 to 3 tablespoons curry powder, or to taste (I used mild yellow curry powder from Savory Spice Shop. Yum yum).
9) Dash turmeric
10) Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
11) Roughly 1-2 tablespoons of lemon juice
12) Roughly 1 tablespoon of honey

Directions:
In a large mixing bowl, combine cooked chicken, red onion, green onion, celery, and currants and almonds.
In a smaller bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, lemon juice, honey, curry powder, turmeric and salt and pepper, combining until smooth.
Pour the mayonnaise mixture atop the chicken mixture and blend, working gently until chicken is fully coated. Refrigerate until use.

Spoon curried chicken onto greens or atop toasted rolls. Feeds 6 to 8.

Using winter veggies

I have a bunch of winter veggies that I needed to use, so was excited when a friend posted this recipe on facebook. I delayed making it so I could find the time to do so, since I assumed it would be time consuming. Now I wish I had just done it earlier. This took very little time (other than waiting for the veggies to roast) and was absolutely delicious and very easy!

Sorry for the lack of pictures, but I’ll let you look at theirs. The only change I made was to swap out collard greens for the kale since that’s what I happened to have this week from my CSA.

http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/kale_and_roasted_vegetable_soup/

Super easy and delicious!

It’s CSA season again! How can I use up all that spinach?

This was the original quiche I made, but the link to the recipe broke

Our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture – a local organic farm who delivers food to us) has started up again, which means we’re loaded with bounties of delicious and incredibly nutritious food. Early season always means lots of greens, this year mostly spinach. Luckily, our particular CSA has started having a guest blogger who is creating great recipes and publishing those for us weekly (or more frequently), which has been great for using up all these veggies! The first one I made was a Spinach and Spring Onion quiche (which I had a link to, and it broke).  What I liked so much about this recipe (other than the fact that it used a whole bunch of spring onions and spinach) was that the crust was from potatoes. This was much more interesting than your average quiche. The one thing I would change would be to chop the garlic scapes into much tinier pieces. They are pretty hard (great flavor, though), so I think I would either mince by hand or just toss into the food processor to chop them even finer.

Since my original link broke, I’m linking to a new recipe I found as well as copying the recipe here so I don’t lose it again! I chose to pull out a frozen pie crust since I didn’t have time to make a crust this time, but I think you can do whatever you have time to do!

quiche2

This was the new quiche I made. It included a thawed pre-made frozen crust to save time and energy. 🙂

New recipe:

3 eggs

1 cup milk, light cream, or evaporated milk

½  tsp. salt

¼ tsp. pepper

Beat together and set aside.

9-inch pie crust or crumb crust or potato crust (see below).Prepare filling (below) and pour into crust topped by egg-milk mixture and ending with a sprinkling of reserved cheese (I put about 1/2 cup of extra cheese on top since my family loves cheese!). Bake in preheated 425F oven for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350F and bake until browned on top and set in the middle, another 25-30 minutes. Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes before cutting and serving.

Green Veggie Filling:

½ -1 c. chopped leeks, scallions, chives,  garlic scapes or combination

2 c. chopped greens: spinach, arugula, kale, chard, turnip greens, or beet greens

1 c. chopped broccoli, peas, or other veggie

1 c. shredded cheese: Swiss, cheddar, or other flavor (I used about 1 1/2 cups. One cup in the quiche and about half a cup on top)

½ c. bacon (fried and crumbled, optional) – I didn’t add since I don’t eat bacon

Saute leeks, etc. with broccoli, etc. in greased frypan for about 5 minutes. Add greens and cook until just wilted. Place bacon and cheese in bottom of crust, then top with vegetable mixture.

Crumb Crust:

1/3 c. flour

1/3 c. whole wheat pastry flour

1/3 c. cornmeal

½ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. baking powder

1/3 c. butter, softened

Fresh or dried herbs (to taste, optional)

Lightly mix together dry ingredients. Cut in butter until crumbly. Pat firmly into bottom and sides of a 9-inch pie pan, adding a little water if needed to stick together.

Potato crust:

3 cups uncooked potatoes (coarsely grated)

3 tbsp. oil

Mix together. Press into bottom and sides of a 9-inch pie pan. Bake in preheated oven at 425 until just starting to brown, about 15 minutes. Add filling and bake as directed.

***

Another incredibly easy recipe (and allowed us to cook on the grill so as to avoid heating up the house anymore during a triple-digit record-heat week) was the grilled pizza. We just bought pre-made dough from the store since that week our nephew was staying with us and we wanted to make something quick and easy. It didn’t use quite as much spinach as maybe I had hoped, but we still loaded it up! The last recipe I’ve made so far from the same blog was for a Moroccan chicken (with apricots) and an accompanying sautéed spinach. What’s so great about cooking spinach is that you can use up one bunch and it cooks down into a much smaller amount. We’ve steamed it as well (and added oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper, which, I kid you not, was my favorite food as a kid). But sautéing it was a nice change as well. This was a little messier to cook (lots of chopping of stuff for the Moroccan chicken recipe), but it used up a bunch of apricots which I had received smushed, so I was grateful for that! All in all, I’m incredibly pleased with these recipes since they are nice and healthy and easy to make. I am looking forward to cooking up a storm tomorrow as well with some grilled beets. 🙂

Can’t believe I’m eating Brussels spouts…

I remember as a kid my mom planting Brussels sprouts (or, as my husband is now telling me to call them, Belgium sprouts. And I want to just call them BS) in our home garden. 🙂 I don’t think I liked them, but it’s possible we never even cooked them. And I don’t think I’ve had them since, until this year when we got them in our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture. Basically a local farm) box and I really wanted to try and do something with them. Conveniently our CSA also referred us to this local blog posting about a recipe for Brussels sprouts. And it’s completely vegetarian (though, not vegan, as they claim, since it has honey in it. But you could easily swap out agave nectar for the honey to make it vegan). I love quinoa and was excited to have a recipe to use more of it, since it’s so easy to cook and is super healthy for you.

So, I tried the recipe. The first time I made it, I followed the roasting time and didn’t check it as it went. Bad mistake. I burned the heck out of the Brussels sprouts. So, the second time I turned down the oven to 375 (since we were baking winter squash at the same time) and actually only roasted them for a little over 30 minutes and they were perfect. And I had just enough white and red quinoa to make a mix of that. I thought it turned out great. And yes, I can’t believe I actually like Brussels sprouts (but still don’t like B.S.). 🙂

Belgium sprouts and quinoa. Yum!

Corn Pudding with Basil and a Side of Citrus Collards (Chard) with Raisins Redux

During the Summer, our house is drowning in vegetables (no, not literally, figuratively. But still!). We get weekly CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) deliveries from a local farm and it seems we can never get caught up. In addition, we decided to get a plot in our local community garden, and our basil plants went bonkers! So, I’ve been looking for recipes that use up lots of what I’ve got.

The other night I decided to make two different things:

1) Corn Pudding with Basil (from epicurious.com)

2) Citrus Collards with Raisins Redux from an awesome cookbook we got a year ago after seeing the author speak and cook at the Denver Botanic Garden lecture series. This cookbook is called “Vegan Soul Kitchen” by Bryant Terry.

The corn pudding is great because I was able to use up about 6 ears of corn that I had been accumulating for about 3 weeks. Luckily corn keeps pretty well in the fridge, but by using up 6 ears, I created quite a bit more space in the fridge. I have made this recipe a couple times in the past. It’s incredibly easy to make (I made it before using corn that Will canned last year), but I found that cutting the corn off 6 ears isn’t that time consuming, even if it is a bit messy. Multiple reviews on this recipe suggested adding some crushed red pepper, so I did that this time (last time we sauteed a few fresh chili peppers and added those. This time I was more lazy). I like this recipe because it tastes delicious and I can use up a TON of fresh basil in something other than pesto. 🙂

Even though the corn pudding is technically a side dish, we used it as a main dish since it had eggs and milk in it, giving it enough protein for us. But it meant I wanted to add a side dish to this. For that, I picked one of my all-time favorite side dishes since discovering this a year ago. I love it because while it calls for collard greens, you can basically use any green leafy vegetable and it means I can quickly use up things like chard, spinach, kale, etc. which otherwise ends up sitting around too long in our house. The recipe is quite simple (and I cut it in half since I was feeding two people instead of 4):

2 large bunches collard greens (I used chard), ribs removed, cut into a chiffonade, rinsed and drained

coarse sea salt

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

2/3 cup raisins

1/3 cup freshly squeezed OJ

1) Boil 3 quarts of water and 1 tab salt. Add the greens and cook, uncovered, 8-10 minutes until softened. Prepare a large bowl of ice water to cool the greens

2) Remove from heat, drain, and plunge greens intot he bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Drain by gently pressing the greens against a collander

3) In medium saute pan, combine olive oil and garlic and raise heat to medium. Saute for 1 minute. Add greens, raisins and 1/2 tsp salt. Saute for 3 minutes, stirring frequently.

4) Add OK and cook for 15 seconds. Don’t overcook. Salt to taste if needed. Serve!

It is so simple, so healthy, and super delicious! We make it quite a lot and have been so pleased.

Corn Pudding with Basil. Simple and yet very flavorful!

Chard greens with raisins and orange juice. I even used the jumbo raisin medley from Trader Joe's. Look at the size of those raisins!