Veggie Lasagna

Veggie Lasagna

We had a dinner party recently and I made this veggie lasagna.  I had every intention of taking photos and blogging it.  But then the wine got in the way.  By “got in the way”, I mean we drank too much and forgot to take photos.  That seems to happen at every dinner party.  Then we ate every morsel of the lasagna, so I couldn’t even take pictures the following day.  So I was forced to make it again.  It’s so good that I’m really OK with that.  Plus now we have lasagna for days and days… and days.

vegetarian_lasagna-1Veggie Lasagna Recipe
adapted from The Pioneer Woman

1 pound lasagna
2-3 tbsp olive oil (Separated)
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (28 oz) whole italian tomatoes (squeezed by hand or pureed)
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 c red wine
1 tsp sugar (more if needed)
2 small zucchini, chopped 1/2 inch
2 small yellow squash, chopped 1/2 inch
1 large red pepper, chopped 1/4 inch
16 oz baby bella or white mushrooms, chopped 1/2 inch
20 to 24 oz part skim ricotta
2 eggs (lightly beaten)
1/2 c parmesan cheese
2 tbsp fresh basil, finely chopped
8 oz mozzarella, shredded

1. Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions.  After draining, rinse well with cold water and then lay them flat on a lightly oiled sheet pan.

2. Heat 1 tsp olive oil in medium sauce pan.  Add onions and saute for about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and stir around for 1 minute.  Add tomatoes, basil, oregano, red pepper flakes, red wine and sugar. Bring to a simmer, stir often and let cook for 30-45 minutes, or while you’re preparing the remaining ingredients.  Season with salt and pepper.  Taste and adjust seasonings… if too acidic, add a bit more sugar.

3. Heat a little olive oil in a large saute pan.  Add the zucchini and squash and saute, stirring often until just barely tender.  Season with salt and pepper and add to a large bowl.

4. In the same saute pan, add another swirl of oil and add the red pepper.  Season with salt and pepper.  Saute until just tender and add to the bowl.

5. In the same saute pan, add 1 tsp of olive oil and add the mushrooms.  Saute until brown and the liquid from the mushrooms has evaporated.  Season with salt and pepper when they are almost finished.  Add to the bowl.

6. Combine the ricotta, eggs, 1/4 c parmesan cheese and basil in a small bowl and stir well.  Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

7. Add most of the sauce (except about 1/2 cup) to the bowl of cooked vegetables.  Stir well.  Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.

8. Assemble the lasagna: Add a thin layer of the veggie/sauce mix to the bottom of your large glass lasagna pan.  Mine is about 15 inches x 11 inches.  Cover with slightly overlapping noodles.  I used 4 noodles on the long side and one (with the edge cut off) on the short end. Spread 1/3 of the ricotta mixture on top of the noodles.  Sprinkle 1/3 of the mozzarella next and then 1/3 of the veggie/sauce mixture.  Repeat 2 more times, ending with the sauce.

9. So the order is: noodles – ricotta – mozzarella.  Repeat 2 more times and finish with sauce.  Top with the remaining parmesan cheese and cover with aluminum foil.

10. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 25 minutes.  Remove the foil and increase the temperature to 400.  I also switched on my convection bake option.  Continue baking for about 20 minutes, until bubbly and the top starts to brown.  Remove from the oven and let sit for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Note:  If you like to serve your lasagna with sauce, double the sauce recipe and only add half of it to the vegetables.  I’ll do this next time!

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Broccoli Soup: Improved

Broccoli Soup: Improved

I’ve been making plain ole Broccoli Soup for years, but I’ve made a recent discovery. Quinoa added to pureed soups = heavenly texture.  Really.  I’m not exaggerating.  I had planned on adding the cooked quinoa and pureeing it to to add richness and thicken the soup.  However, before pureeing again, I took a bite and realized that the quinoa gave it a fantastic texture.  The individual grains pop in you mouth.

It’s like a party – In.your.mouth.  And it’s broccoli.  Who would have thought?   Served with some cornbread… it’s a hearty dinner.


Broccoli and Quinoa Soup Recipe

1 lb broccoli
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1 medium onion, chopped small
3 stalks celery, chopped small
3 cloves garlic, smashed and rough chop
4 c low sodium vegetable (or chicken stock)
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp basil, chopped
1/2 c shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 c quinoa (cooked per package instructions)

1. Cut the broccoli florets into 2 inch pieces. Peel the stalk well and cut into 1 inch pieces.

2. Heat olive oil and butter in a heavy bottom pot over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and saute for about 5 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic and continue to cook, stirring often for another 2 minutes.

3. Carefully pour the vegetable (or chicken) stock in and bring to a simmer over medium high heat. Season with salt and pepper and add the dried oregano and thyme. Add the broccoli stalk, lower heat to medium low, and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the florets and simmer for another 5-10 minutes, until florets are tender. If you’re feeling fancy, remove 1-2 florets to garnish the finished soup and set aside.

4. Remove from heat and very carefully, puree the hot soup, preferably with an immersion blender. If you do not have an immersion blender, use a regular blender, but only fill 1/2 way, and do not seal the top when pureeing. Instead, cover with several layers of kitchen towels. Otherwise, you will spew hot soup around the kitchen! After the soup is smooth, add the basil and shredded cheese and puree again to incorporate the basil into the soup.

5. Add the cooked quinoa and stir well. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.

Note: Delicious served with a generous dollop of greek yogurt.

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Happy Valentines Day!

Happy Valentines Day!

I know I’m a little late with my Valentines day cake… but I’m officially back! Yes, I’ve said this before, but when my husband, Stephan, designed this gorgeous new blog, I vowed to start blogging again. Thanks honey!

As I mentioned in my blog post last week, um month… OK, fine – a YEAR ago, we’ve changed our eating habits and THIS is even more reason for me to start blogging again. The meat and potatoes girl is now a (mostly) veg and potatoes girl.

Our new diet consists of lots of grains, veggies and fruits. We do eat fish/seafood once a week or so and I will admit… I can’t give up dairy. I loves me some cheese. Baby steps, people! Why did we change our diet, you ask? Check out this movie, Forks Over Knives,  and maybe you too will see the light.

So I saw a Ombre cake in the William Sonoma Catalog last week and I thought: what a cute and unique idea. I MUST make this. Then I googled “ombre cake” and realized that everyone and their dog has made it, blogged it and pinterested it. Oh well. I’m clearly out of the loop. Still made it and loved it, though.


Mini Ombre Cake Recipe
(Adapted from The Essential Baker)

6 oz butter + extra for greasing pans, softened
1 3/4 c granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 3/4 c cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 buttermilk
red food coloring

1. Preheat oven to 350 and prepare pans. Butter four 9” cake pans, line with parchment circles and butter parchment. See Note below.

2. Place butter in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat (with flat beater) for 2 minutes, until fluffy. Add the sugar and keep beating for several minutes until well creamed. Stop and scrape down the bowl often.

3. Add eggs, one at a time and beat well after each addition. Again, scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl often. The mixture may look a little curdled, but will come back together.

4. Add vanilla and keep mixing.

5. Combine the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and sift over a large piece of parchment.

6. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture and the buttermilk in 3-4 stages, alternating dry and then wet. Blend well after each addition and scrape down the bowl often.

7. Divide the cake between 4 bowls. I used 4 large soup bowls and weighed them after adding the batter to ensure I had the exact same amount of batter in each bowl. If you don’t have a scale, then use a measuring cup.

8. Add a drop of food coloring to one bowl and stir well. This is when you have to use your judgement and preference… After you color the first bowl, add a few drops to the 2nd bowl and a few more to the 3rd bowl. Leave one bowl plain. Remember, you can add more color, but can’t take it away so start sparingly.

9. Scrape the batter into the 4 prepared pans and bake for about 20 minutes. The cakes are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for a few minutes and remove from pans to cool completely.

Swiss Buttercream Recipe
(Adapted from Martha Stewart Website)

1 1/4 cups sugar
5 large egg whites
2 cups (4 sticks or 1 pound) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 teaspoons almond extract (or vanilla)

1. Place sugar and egg whites in the heat-proof bowl of an electric mixer. Set bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, and whisk until sugar has dissolved and egg whites are hot to the touch, about 3 minutes. Test by rubbing the mixture between your fingers; it should feel completely smooth.

2. Transfer bowl to mixer stand. Using the whisk attachment, beat on high speed until mixture has cooled completely and formed stiff and glossy peaks, about 10 minutes.

3. Add the butter, one piece at a time, and beat until incorporated after each addition. Don’t worry if the buttercream appears curdled after all the butter has been added; it will become smooth again with continued beating. Add almond extract, and beat just until combined.

4. Switch to the paddle attachment, and beat on the lowest speed to eliminate any air pockets, about 5 minutes. If using buttercream within several hours, cover bowl with plastic wrap, and set aside at room temperature in a cool environment. Or transfer to an airtight container, and store in the refrigerator, up to 3 days. Before using, bring buttercream to room temperature, and beat on the lowest speed with the paddle attachment until smooth, about 5 minutes.

Simple Syrup Recipe

1/4 c sugar
1/4 c boiling water
1 tsp vanilla, rum, almond…

1. Combine all ingredients and stir to dissolve the sugar. Set aside to cool.

Ombre Cake Assembly

1. To make one big cake, set the darkest layer (top side down) on a cardboard round. With a pastry brush, apply simple syrup to the cake layer to flavor and moisten the cake. Don’t use too much as you don’t want the cake to be wet. Top with a thin layer of buttercream. Set the 2nd darkest cake on top and repeat with the other two layers, simple syrup and buttercream.

2. Frost the outside of the cake with the remaining buttercream and refrigerate. When you’re ready to serve, dip your knife in hot water (and dry it) to ensure a clean cut.

Note: I made three mini cakes from the 9 inch rounds instead of one big 9” cake. If you want to make mini cakes, use round cutters. You end up with scraps, but those scraps still taste good.