Archive for the ‘Pasta’ 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.

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.

Blind Date

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

Our favorite pasta recipe went out last night.  It seemed only fitting that sausage would be the highlight.  I browned the sausage and then placed on a paper towel lined plate.  I then cooked the onions and garlic in the same pan.  The recipe went on as usual, only I added broccoli and sundried tomatoes when I dumped in the pasta.  The tomatoes were plumped up nicely, and the broccoli cooked perfectly.  I threw in the sausage at the last minute.

Photo by Nathan Clendenin

Photo by Nathan Clendenin

All in all, a success.  No extra seasoning… no fuss.  I highly recommend it.

… some kind of day…

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

I rushed out of the house without breakfast this morning.  I didn’t realize until I was halfway to work, but didn’t stress at all because there’s a cafe in the lobby of my building.  I figured I would just grab a bagel or something.

When I arrived, I parked my car, and enjoyed walking to the building in the rain.  I had an umbrella, and I felt quite sophisticated today.  My hair was doing something nice; I was wearing my favorite coat for the first time this season; and I was wearing my favorite pair of pants which are super comfy but also do very kind things to my body, I think.  And then I stepped in a puddle.  My ankles were soaked, my shoes water-logged.  I’m pretty sure I didn’t look too sophisticated then.  The cafe was closed “due to illness”, and I grumpily made my way to the elevator.  The elevators in our building have mirrors on all four side, and the last thing I need at 8 a.m. is that much Jenny to look at.  Today, I didn’t expect it to be so bad, until I saw that I totally forgot to put on mascara this morning.  That’s right, dark eye liner, no mascara.

The day progressed rather similarly, with huge projects that hurt to think about for too long and a constant balancing act between being critical enough to help people improve and not making them angry.  I was bummed to miss the “5:20 funny” on the radio, even though I was in the car by 5:18.  I also unintentionally made a rather inappropriate gesture at work this evening – thank goodness only my office mate was around and brought it to my attention.

Somewhere in the midst of this day, I decided I needed “comfort food”.  Biscuits, for sure, how about macaroni and cheese too?  And what if there were sausage in the mac ‘n’ cheese?  And some brocoli? And so a meal was conceived.

Nathan Clendenin does not take credit for this photo

Nathan Clendenin will not take credit for this photo

I’m much too ashamed to tell you what is in it.  All I can say is that this was one of the heaviest meals I’ve ever had.  Surprisingly so, too.  I got turkey sausage and whole grain noodles.  It was quite delicious, nonetheless, and definitely hit the spot.  As with anything I make, there turns out to be about 4 times more than I intended, so I’ll be eating the leftovers for days.  Yikes!

... nor this one

... nor this one

Still, it was loads of fun to make, and even more fun to eat.