Archive for the ‘Italian’ Category

Butternut Squash Lasagna

Monday, July 7th, 2014

I remember watching TV once when I was a kid.  If I remember correctly, it was 7th Heaven, but I can’t say with any real authority.  Sorry.  Anyway, one of the characters said something about how they made a vegetarian lasagna, and I (stupidly) said, “ew… gross!”  My mom got a little offended, or maybe she was just calling me on my picky eating BS (it’s hard to call, really), and responded with “My lasagna is vegetarian, is it gross?”

And in my stupid little preteen brain, when I thought of vegetarian, I wasn’t thinking meatless.  I was thinking veggie-full.  And my stupid little preteen brain told me that veggies were gross.

This lasagna is the polar opposite of my mom’s lasagna from back then (although since getting this recipe from my sister-in-law, she only makes her lasagna this way).  There are tons of veggies.  And meat.  It makes no sense, really.  You could make it meatless, sure.  But I prefer not to.

Lasagna Done

And it doesn’t have veggies like my stupid preteen brain was picturing.  It doesn’t have mushrooms and olives, which I still maintain are pretty disgusting.  It doesn’t even have spinach, which even my preteen self was ok with in lasagna (primarily, I’ve stopped eating spinach because I’m pretty sure I was having an allergic reaction to it, at least in the large quantities that I was eating it).  It has a really sneaky vegetable masquerading as noodles.

Say what?!

Yep.  That’s how this thing is gluten free.  Zero pasta.  We could call into question its validity as a “lasagna” at all at this point, but once you see how yummy it is, I’m not sure you’ll want to.

I like to make it in little loaf pans because that’s about exactly right to feed me and my husband for dinner.  But when I’ve had it with my family, I’ve made it in 13×9 pans, and since that’s a more typical amount of lasagna, I’ve made the recipe thus.

On this particular occasion, I made a quadruple recipe and froze a ton of little loaf pans.  My husband and I are the proud owners of a new to us freezer that is currently sitting in our living room.  More on that later.  In the meantime, know that this meal freezes extraordinarily well.  I’ll even tell you how.

Lasagna Prep

Here’s how this lasagna goes down.

Butternut Squash Lasagna

  • 1 medium butternut squash
  • 1 pound ground beef (optional)
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 2 jars spaghetti sauce
  • 2 cups grated mozzarella cheese

Brown the ground beef with the onions.  Add in the spaghetti sauce.  You can leave the sauce alone at this point.  Or I like to add some black pepper and fresh herbs and then just let it simmer.  This is all optional.

Peel the squash, then cut the skinnier part into thin round disks (about a quarter of an inch or less, try to be as uniform as possible).  Then cut the larger part in half vertically if it’s standing on its butt.  (I have no idea the technical terms for a butternut squash, so just go with me on this…)  Use a spoon to scoop out all the seeds and what not.  Now cut these into moon shaped disks.

Spoon a bit of sauce into your pan.  Then cover with a layer of butternut squash.  Top with sauce.  Then cheese.  Then repeat.  And again.  Until all the ingredients are used up.

Here’s where you cover with foil and freeze if you’re into that.  Then you just pull it out of the freezer, thaw, and follow these other directions when you’re ready to eat.

Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 45 minutes or until the squash is fork tender.  Then bake uncovered until the cheese is just slightly blistered.

P.S. The butternut squash really dried out my skin today, a problem I haven’t had when I’ve made this in the past.  I mean, we’re talking peeling skin dried out.  It’s gross.  If you have a similar problem, you should know that a bowl of sugar to rub your hands in and an episode of house hunters should do the trick.

Last Night Jenny

Sunday, November 27th, 2011

You know when your past self did something that makes your present self really happy.  Like the way Past Jenny cleaned her room before leaving for vacation.  That made Today Jenny very happy when she got home from her parents’ house.

The worst part of coming back from a trip is unpacking all of the wires that are absolutely critical to my ability to live life.  The phone charger.  The laptop power supply.  The iPad charger.  Can we say “first world problem”?

But also, I’m determined not to take more than one bag when I travel to my parents’ house.  I mean, one bag for my clothes/toiletries.  I have a bag for kitchen tools/ingredients.  And of course, a bag for wii games, computer, etc.  And then usually a cooler.  No biggie.  But sticking to one bag for clothes/toiletries is no small feat.  I’ve left out pajamas and just borrowed from my sister before.  I also never take shampoo of my own.  But my sister has much drier, much curlier hair than I do.  And she has the shampoo to counteract her hair-type.  The kind of shampoo that makes my hair a little crazy.  I’ve missed my shampoo.

While I was home for Thanksgiving, I cooked lunch for my brother and his family.  I made the easiest baked “pasta” in the whole world.

My mom turned me onto this, and it’s delicious.  It’s gluten free on top of that, and you’d barely even notice.  It’s a super simple baked pasta without any pasta.  Use butternut squash for the noodles.  Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.

I wish it were more complicated, and I could post some fancy recipe.  But basically…

Baked “Pasta”

  • peeled discs of butternut squash (or half moon shapes from the bottom)
  • your favorite spaghetti sauce (with or without meat)
  • mozzarella cheese

Layer the squash and sauce.  Top with mozzarella.  Cover and cook at 350 for about an hour and a half or until tender.  Uncover and cook until the cheese is just starting to brown.  Just like that.

GF pizza: WIN!

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

Remember when I was pouting about being gluten intolerant?  I do.  And my friend Bekah told me all about this.  OMG!  Best. Friend. Ever.

This stuff is boss.  Totally boss!

It's not symmetrical.  Don't judge.

It's not symmetrical. Don't judge.

I tasted a bit before I served any to the boyfriend.  I told him that it tasted like it wasn’t gluten free.  He didn’t believe me.  Until he tried it.  Now he does.  He likes it when I make pizza.

The one downside to this pizza is that it’s a bit hard to serve.  Not impossible, but a little tricky.  Here‘s my recommendation.  You can use it to cut the pizza, and also to help pick it up.  It’s a slightly more effective at desticking the pizza crust than a spatula.

Also, you should buy one.  Period.  You’ll use it way more than you think you will.  I promise.

Stealth Meatballs

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

So the only time I’ve ever made meatballs is when I was in a cooking club in high school.  And I really didn’t do that much.  It was mostly my friend’s mom.  And you know how I don’t like recipes…  You didn’t know that?  Oh, well, I don’t.  Not that much, no.  So I went a bit unconventional here, but it worked out.  And I actually think this is an easier way to make sure the meat is cooked through than other methods.  So here it is…

Meatballs:

Oh wait!  Did I mention that these are stealth meatballs?  They are.  I sneaked all kinds of veg into these little babies.

  • 1/2 eggplant, sliced
  • 1 head of cauliflower (minus whatever I set aside for lil’ buddy), chopped up
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 Tablespoons “Italian” spices
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 425.  Drizzle olive oil into baking dish (or two).  Put the eggplant and the cauliflower into the baking dishes and drizzle with olive oil.  Roast those babies until they start to brown.  Reduce heat to 350.  Then process them.  Process them real good.

Mix all the ingredients together by hand.  Then make your little meatballs.  Cook on medium/high heat until browned.  Transfer to baking dish.  Bake those suckers for 10-15 minutes until cooked through.

Then make them into this…

Photo by Nathan Clendenin

Photo by Nathan Clendenin

<beshamed>I used store-bought sauce for this, no adjustments made.</beshamed>  I topped with a smidgen of parmesan, fresh spinach, and provolone.  And naturally, they were served on homemade rolls.  Do you see me chowing down back there?  That’s how good these were.

Sneaky Vegetables

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

That’s what Nate called this dish.  It’s ’cause he hates peas.  He’s done what he can to make SJ hate them as well.  It worked at first, too, but SJ’s resilient.  :)

The problem with vegetables these days is that they’re rarely integrated into the meal.  I’m trying not to get to education-y on you, but integration means that the veggies (and the rest of the dish) taste better because of them.  We don’t do this, though.  We throw veggies on the side, if at all, as a healthy afterthought.  Not the worst thing in the world, but not really appealing to kids (or grown-ups), either.  The creaminess of this sauce, matched with the spiciness of the pepper and sausage, demands the peas and carrots which offer texture, sweetness, and amazing flavor… not to mention health.  Sneak those veggies in!

Photo by ME!

Photo by ME!

So how’d I do it?

  • 1/2 lb. italian sausage
  • 1 cup shredded carrots (you could probably got lighter, if you wanted)
  • red wine (optional)
  • 1 jar vodka sauce
  • black pepper
  • red pepper
  • 2 teaspoons “italian” seasoning
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 lb. penne pasta
  • cheese (LOTS of it!)

Brown the sausage.  Add the carrots, then the wine.  Let the wine evaporate as it simmers.  Add the vodka sauce and herbs and spices (go as spicy as you’re willing).  Simmer for a good little bit.  Right before it’s done, add the peas.

Cook the pasta.  You know what to do.

Combine the pasta and the sauce in a baking dish.  Top with oodles of cheese.  I wanted to use Fontina, but they were out at the store.  I opted for mozzarella and Parmesan instead.  Bake at 425 until the cheese is melted and starting to brown.