Archive for the ‘Veggies’ 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.

Meal Planning

Saturday, March 22nd, 2014

Before there are groceries, there are meals.  There’s a plan.  Built on the weather, what’s fresh at the farmer’s market, what’s cheap at the supermarket, and whatever my/my husband’s work schedule looks like this week.  I always try to plan the more complicated meals earlier in the week, because I know I’ll have more energy.  Warm meals should coincide with cold nights.  Grilling with warm nights.  And these days, North Carolina is getting both in the same week.  Plan a salad for Tuesday instead of Thursday, and you might seriously regret it.

Completely unrelated, but I fell asleep while watching Scandal last night, which means I was watching what I had missed this morning, and I just spent the last 5 minutes with my hand covering my mouth, gasping repeatedly as things became more and more intense.  Why did I think this could be a chill watch-as-you-write-a-blog-post show this morning?

And that’s how we ended up with shepherd’s pie planned for this last Monday.  Monday was supposed to be cold.  I had come across a picture of shepherd’s pie on pinterest, and very much wanted to eat it.  Joel has been requesting shepherd’s pie basically since we got married.  I didn’t grow up with it, and thought the whole concept was gross.  But oh, that picture.  I wish I could find it again, but well… you know the internet.

I didn’t even realize Monday was St. Patrick’s Day until I got to school that morning and saw my colleague’s shamrock tie.  But even then, I didn’t put together that shepherd’s pie was a good St. Patrick’s Day dinner.  And if I’m being really honest, Monday was a rough day for me.  I got home and made a huge mistake.  I sat down.  As soon as I sit down in the evenings, I don’t get up.  Knowing this, I sat down anyway.  I browsed instagram.  And whoa… St. Patrick’s Day was happening in a serious way.  It was all soda bread and Guinness.

The coincidence was irresistible.  To the point that I actually got off my hindquarters and made it.

Shepherd's Pie

In the end, it was a whole lot easier than I expected.  Here’s how it went down:

Shepherd’s Pie

Adapted from Alton Brown

For the potato topping:

  • 1 1/2 pounds red skin potatoes, chopped with skin on
  • 3 T. unsalted butter
  • 1/3 c. milk
  • 1 t. salt

For the filling:

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 small carrots, diced
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. black pepper
  • 2 T. corn starch
  • 1 1/2 c. chicken broth
  • 2 t. tomato paste
  • 1 t. gluten free Worcestershire sauce
  • 3/4 t. dried thyme
  • 1/2 c. frozen corn
  • 1/2 c. frozen peas

Get the potatoes in boiling water.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large (preferably oven safe) skillet, cook the onion and carrot in olive oil over medium heat until the onion is just barely translucent.  Add in the ground beef.  Cook until browned.  Add salt and pepper.  Stir the cornstarch into the chicken broth until mixed completely.  Set aside.  Add tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, thyme, and chicken broth mixture to the ground beef mixture.  Continue to cook until just barely thickened.  Add corn and peas.  If your skillet is oven safe, you can use that.  If not, transfer to a casserole dish.

When potatoes are cooked through, drain.  Add butter, milk, salt, and pepper.  Mash.  Spread over the filling, beginning at the edge and working your way to the middle.

Bake for approximately 25 minutes or until potato topping is just starting to brown.

Impressing Guests

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

Last night, we had a guest over for dinner.  A single guy who typically purchases his dinner on his way home from work.  Which is only to say that I could have made almost anything and impressed him.  But the weather outside was delightful yesterday (and promises to be so again today), and I wanted to get that grill going.

Hamburgers.  Joel suggests these often, actually, and I always shot him down.  If I’m going to spend $6 on 4 servings of bread (that’s what Udi’s hamburger buns cost at my grocery store), I’m not going to waste them on hamburgers.  And I stand by that decision.  But we’re lucky enough to have a farmer’s market with a booth dedicated strictly to gluten free bread.  Hello Imagine That Gluten Free!  So far, I’ve only tried their baguettes, but they’re divine.  And baguette slices can make a great partner for hamburger buns.  I buttered them up and threw them on the grill.  Flipped.  Topped with cheese.  Then threw a hamburger and various toppings on.  Then you scarf!

Burger Prep

The prepwork for this meal was easy-peezy-lemon-squeezy.  And then the actual cooking part was done outside with my husband (let’s be honest, he did the cooking), lemonade, and my favorite pup, Ramona.  But I wanted some sides for these burgers.  The sweet potato fries sitting in my freezer were an obvious choice.

I also had a Costco amount of sweet peppers in the fridge.  And that’s where our story really begins.  Cheese stuffed sweet peppers are a go to treat around here.  I keep people believing that they’re super hard to make, but really, they’re pretty easy, albeit a little time consuming.  You just have to core a bunch of sweet peppers.  Then I typically stuff with a cream cheese feta mixture.  This time, we had cheddar on hand, so I went with that.

Burger

They look kinda gross because of the blending of colors, which is why I didn’t take a ton of pictures.  But I’ll say this.  There were leftovers of everything but the peppers.

Cheese Stuffed Peppers

  • Sweet peppers (I made 10, but scale accordingly)
  • 4oz. cream cheese
  • 1/2 c. shredded cheddar (or feta or be creative and try your own thing)

Take out the cores and tops of the sweet peppers.  Cut a slit up one side of the peppers to create an opening.  Mix up the cheeses.  Now stuff the cheese mixture into the peppers.  I grilled them this time, but I’ve also roasted them in the oven at 400 degrees as well.  The cheese is going to ooze out to an extent.  Just go with it.

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.

Growing Up

Saturday, September 3rd, 2011

I’ve been trying to get at least 3 servings of veg into my diet every day.  It’s harder than it sounds.  Maybe it’s not, but it is for me.  That means I have to have 1 serving for lunch, 1 serving for snack, and 1 serving for dinner.  Snack is easy: carrots and hummus.  Lunch is always leftovers from the previous night’s dinner, so… I mostly just have to make sure I eat some veg in my dinners.  I made lettuce wraps early on this week.  I was doing quite well with those.

Then I saw this come up on my google reader.  For starters, I don’t make anything fancy.  I take fancy and make it casual.  It’s what I do.  I’m good at it.  So “Fancy Sloppy Joes” isn’t really my style.  But do you know what is?  Sneaking veg into sloppy joes.  So I ran by the grocery store on my way home from work, all prepared to pick up some carrots and zucchini to put inside of them.

Sloppy Joes

These are a bit on the spicy side of things, but feel free to modify them to your taste.  I wouldn’t at all frown on you if you wanted to use a spice pack, either.  I was going to, but the only brand I could find put all kinds of gluten into it.  Dumb.

I ate it on two slices of Rudi’s multigrain, and while the flavor was great, the texture wasn’t quite right.  The bread fell apart in my hands so I went at it with a fork.  Manageable, though not ideal.

Sneaky, Sloppy Joes:

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 zucchini, shredded
  • 2 carrots, shredded
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 1 c. water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • dash red pepper flakes
  • salt to taste (I probably used a couple teaspoons)

Cook the ground beef and onions over medium high heat.  Drain off any excess grease.  Mix in veg, water, tomato paste, and the remaining ingredients.  Cook until veg is soft and cooked through and excess liquid has thickened.