Thursday, May 19, 2011

Vegetarian Lasagna

Needless to say the past couple of weeks have been crazy around here. I'm setting up a wine importing business, which takes a lot of time here as the government expects you to detail every last little item for them, and that's just to get the license. Also, trying to line up good quality wines means going to wine shows and tasting whenever the good ones come up. I had to decline an invite to head over the pond to Italy and partake in Vinitaly in Verona. I'm very disappointed I couldn't make that trip, but there's always next year. Besides that O has been a little clingy lately, so as a good father I can't ignore anyone under 3' high anymore, so she's at the top of the list for hugs, kisses and a few good adventure novels, kiddy style. I have a little time to myself now, so here we go.

I'm not a vegetarian nor am I a vegan, but I do like to skip the meat once in a while to help ease up on my digestive process. It also gives me a chance to challenge myself to create something which is not only flavorful, but healthy.

When it comes to non-meat dishes, having a suitable protein replacement is a essential, especially if you eat this way on a regular basis. this time I chose to go with ricotta, cottage and mozzarella cheese for this as they are decent sources to replace meat with. There are better sources, but I don't want to put pumpkin seeds in my lasagna, at least not yet.

I have been researching this dish for a very long time now, but I've now decided to quit procrastinating and get on with it. I tend to worry how things will turn out, but I'm getting better now as it's best to try different things in the kitchen as often as possible in order to come up with new ideas and to become a better cook.

There are many different ways to build this dish. Lots of recipes call for eggplant, but I chose not to use it this time around, but will try it another time very soon. Instead, I chose to go with zucchini and portobello Mushrooms.

Ingredients

- 12 rice pasta lasagna noodles
- 4 cups of your favorite tomato sauce
- 500 g ricotta
- 500 g dry cottage cheese
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
- 2 cups mozzarella cheese, grated
- 300g frozen spinach, thawed
- 1 small Butternut Squash, cubed into 1" pieces and roasted until soft, then press them down so they are flat with the bottom of a cup or glass
- 3 small zucchinis, thinly sliced and tossed lightly in a bowl with salt to bring out some of the juices
- 2 portobello mushrooms, cleaned and sliced (by cleaned I mean brushed with a small brush not washed)

Directions

1) Heat up the tomato sauce on low so it is warm when assembling the lasagna and cook the noodles according to the directions on the box.
2) Preheat the oven to 400F (205C) as you start assembling. I use a 14' lasagna pan as the noodles fit in nicely, and I used a glass one so I could take some pretty pictures.
3) Ladle a little sauce over the bottom of the pan so the noodles won't stick. Try to save some of it for when you serve the lasagna and you don't want too much sauce as it will fall apart on you. Place the cooked noodles (al dente, right?) over the sauce and then here's the layering process I use: Portobellos, cottage cheese, spinach (I use a potato ricer to squish it and get the liquid out. This is important because you don't want to make lasagna soup),


noodles, sauce, Butternut Squash, ricotta, zucchinis, noodles, sauce Parmesan and finally mozzarella.







* If you notice things look a little different here than what I just said. The mushroom are near the top. If they are near the bottom I believe they will soak up some of the liquid which comes out at the bottom. I didn't have any serious liquid issues, but this would've helped a little bit. 

4) Bake until brown on top, let it cool for 10-15 minutes before serving. This helps it stay together when cutting and serving. Ladle some of your sauce (hopefully you have a little extra left over) on the bottom of the bowl, place the lasagna over top and serve.
Yield: 8 good sized pieces


The portobellos add a meatiness to the dish, the zucchinis add a little bit of a crunchy texture and the squash and tomato sauce add a little sweetness. The rice noodles make the dish not as heavy as regular noodles. I like that because I can eat a bigger piece and not feel bad about it or bloated because of it. I gave some to our Mexican neighbors and they loved it, gave it rave reviews. I was a little worried because I wasn't too sure exactly what they eat, but she said they love all kinds of vegetables and this is full of them and had lots of flavors. Winner!

The next time I make this dish, I may try eggplant, and/or I may try grilling the zucchinis first. This will help dry them out and make them sweeter as well. I like the portobellos as they are a good source of selenium and other vitamins and minerals. They even have a little fiber in them as well. As far as everything else in this dish, you really can't go wrong health wise, unless you are lactose intolerant. If you are I'm sure you can find some reasonable substitutes, like goat or sheep feta instead of cottage cheese for example.

Little O's Menu

She is becoming a little easier to feed now that she seems to be letting down her guard when she trys things she doesn't recognize. She will open her mouth and stick her tongue out to get a taste of what she is about to eat. This may be to check the temperature or taste, not too sure where her little mind is going with that one. She does this when eating some of our granola, yogurt and berries, or when eating some Chili Con Carne. At least she's not being as selective as she was a month or two ago. I did however find something out about her. She kept waking up here and there in the middle of the night for 4 or 5 minutes before going back to sleep. I have started being more proactive in getting her to drink more water, milk and juice and this seems to help her sleep her regular 10-11 hours. I guess she would go to bed a bit thirsty, so our little avocado will now go to bed fed and watered better than before.

Quote Of The Day:

"The wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings. Let food be your medicine."

~ Hippocrates - (460 BC - 370 BC) Ancient Greek physician


Until next time, good eating everyone

Mark