Easy Spinach Lasagna with Julie Sauce

Lasagna with Julie Sauce

It seems a bit shameless to call this a “recipe,” because it’s mostly assembling, putting together ingredients with bits and pieces of love and memory. But this lasagna recipe includes a new twist for me, something I’ll call “Julie Sauce.” Read on.

Normally, I make Mama Carbone’s marinara for pretty much any Italian dish that calls for a red sauce; the recipe is here. This recipe uses a tomato sauce (gravy, if you prefer) that is so easy you’ll swear it won’t be any good – until you make it.

My good friend and a total cooking genius, Julie Greenberg, relayed this sauce recipe and I watched her a bit skeptically while she made it during Nashville’s recent record ice storm. Forever, it will mean warmth and comfort to me, as the products of her kitchen always do.

Julie’s Sauce
Two large cans roma tomatoes
Half a large, yellow onion
Half a stick of butter
Salt to taste

Put the ingredients in a sauce pan; the entire half of onion goes in intact. Bring to bubbling, then turn down and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove onion. It’s done. That’s it. You can use whole or crushed tomatoes and, if you really like the onion, you can take it out, puree it, and add it back to the sauce. Try it both ways.

Now, on to the lasagna…

ingredient for spinach lasagna

No-bake lasagna noodles
Pre-washed baby spinach
Roasted head of garlic
Fresh parsley
16 oz. ricotta cheese
1 egg
sliced mushrooms
finely grated parmesan
grated mozzarella
shaved parmesan for garnish
salt and coarsely ground black pepper to taste

Beat the egg and ricotta well; set aside. In a deep baking pan, start with a layer of sauce, add a layer of noodles, then a layer of the ricotta mixture. After that, you can add mushrooms or spinach, and parsley in any order you want. Just be sure that each layer contains sauce, lasagna noodles, and ricotta, with mozzarella and parmesan.

Here are some progressive pictures of the assembly, showing ingredients added (left to right in each shot) to layers. You do it your way.

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That’s the roasted garlic you see in the image above.

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There you have it, the finished lasagna! Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes covered with foil, then remove foil and bake a few more minutes until the top layer of mozzarella is bubbly and beginning to brown just a little. Serve with more Julie Sauce, garnished with shaved parmesan.

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Mexican Bean Salad with Blackened Sweet Potatoes

mexican bean salad recipe

Here’s a summery, crunchy, spicy salad that is so easy to make. First, gather your ingredients:

One can black beans, drained and rinsed
Cooked white rice
Kernals of corn (fresh is best), two ears
Red and green bell pepper, chopped
Poblano peppers, chopped finely (to taste)
Chopped fresh tomato
Chopped red onion
Sweet potato
Salsa ~ we like Arriba’s chipotle roasted pepper
Lime juice
Chile powder
Hot red pepper
Garlic powder
Chopped cilantro to taste

The only real cooking in this recipe is for the sweet potato and the corn, and both can be done in the microwave.

Microwave the potato, peel it, cut it into chunks. Heat a non-stick skilled to high, then (after it is good and hot) put a little vegetable oil. Throw in the sweet potato, sprinkle with garlic powder and chili powder, and squirt some lime juice. Toss the potato chunks quickly while they blacken. Set aside to cool.

Microwave the corn in the shuck for 4 minutes; it’s easy to remove the shuck and silks. Let it cool and cut off the kernals.

Toss everything. Taste it to see if you want to add salt; you probably don’t need any. This is a gluten-free recipe, as long as you serve it with gluten-free corn chips.


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Lemony Parmesan Orzo Salad

lemony orzo salad recipeThis is a twist on all those great orzo salad recipes out there. Yours may be different; put in the things you like most from summer’s bounty.

Gather your ingredients:

dried orzo (I used one cup dry for two people and it was more than enough for a main dish)
extra virgin olive oil
grated good parmesan
cucumber, peeled and chopped
home-grown tomato, seeds and gooshy stuff removed, chopped
fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped
garlic powder
salt and coarsely ground black pepper
lemon juice
crumbled feta cheese
pitted greek olives

ingredientsCook the orzo according to package directions, drain, put in large bowl; drizzle some olive oil (not too much, just enough to coat the pasta) and put in a generous amount of grated parmesan. Let cool while you do the rest.

orzo salad mixChop the tomatoes, cucumbers and parsley and put them in a bowl with the lemon juice (sorry, you know I don’t measure anything) and a sprinkling of garlic powder to taste. When the pasta/parmesan mixture is room temperature, fold the veggie mixture into it. Salt and black pepper to taste. Chill. Before serving, add crumbled feta and garnish with pitted greek olives. Serve with a good, stout bread and olive oil with parmesan and pepper.

lemony parmesan orzo salad

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Hearty Lentil Soup

lentil soup recipeWhen I first became vegetarian, soup was one of the first things I missed. Most soups that seemed fit to eat were made with stock. So, unless you ate tomato soup, you couldn’t be sure there were no animal products in the pot. As time went on, I learned to make soups with vegetable stock, but they were never as rich and complex as their, um, full-bodied cousins. Not until my friend and Soup Maven Julie Greenberg schooled me.

It starts with a mirepoix, that magic mixture of chopped celery, onion and carrots, sauteed in butter or oil. Heat a big soup pot on medium-high, then add oil or butter (butter burns more quickly, so watch it) and when that is hot, add the diced mirepoix. Stir and saute for 5 minutes or so, until the veggies are a little wilted. Add 2 quarts of vegetarian stock, and bring to a slow, rolling boil. Add a bag of dried lentils, some chopped garlic, and a half-teaspoon of Indian Five Spice, and simmer for about 30 minutes until the lentils are soft.

At this point, the lentil soup is ready to eat, served with cheese toast as shown or a pan of soft, fluffy, perfect cornbread. But if you want to kick it up a notch, stir in a jar of tika masala or korma sauce as “background.” People will think you slaved over this exotic blend of a soup.

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It don’t matter.

mexican lasagna recipe

To get to our favorite beach in the Florida Panhandle, my husband and I drive the entire length of the great state of Alabama. In Clanton, just a wide spot in the road, there’s an eatery called the It Don’t Matter Restaurant. It looks like your basic meat-and-three; we’ve never eaten there because, as vegetarians, the Deep South is a mine field for us. But the place is always packed. Where else would you eat in Clanton, Alabama, you ask? Well, it don’t matter because there isn’t anyplace else.

As I’ve said many times on this blog, I don’t like to measure. I am the spawn of a long line of a-pinch-and-a-handful cooks, so that’s how I roll. One recipe that’s quickly becoming a favorite is what I call Mexican Lasagna. It’s different every time I make it, depending on what’s in the crisper. (If they were honest, they’d call it the Good Intentions Bin.) Click here for more about that. Next time, I’m going to try adding the Boca Soy Crumbles, which I use in my vegan chili recipe, because they are a very credible and tasty protein source.

And don’t bother measuring, because…you guessed it. It don’t matter.

P.S. The picture that goes with this post is from the last time I made it, before it went into the oven. Yours will look different.

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Mexican Lasagna

mexican lasagna

I’ve seen recipes for various layered Mexican dishes and decided I didn’t really need a recipe. Since I keep flour tortillas, black beans, canned corn, cheeses, cilantro and different peppers all the time, I just made a run through the fridge and pantry, started chopping, and gathered all the ingredients I had, before starting to layer them into some semblance of a lasagna. Something new I had just bought, that really made this special, is a chipotle salsa from Frontera. Let’s get started. Heat the oven to 350 and coat a loaf-size glass baking dish with oil; just a few drops on a paper towel, wipe the dish, and you’re ready. (You can make a larger version in a full-size lasagna pan. The pictures you will see here are for a loaf-size pan; I don’t measure anything if I can help it.)

mexican lasagna spice

Gather flour tortillas, grated mozzarella and cheddar cheeses, Frontera chipotle salsa, garlic powder, and chile powder.

mexican lasagna veggies

Drain one can each of black beans, niblet corn, and fire-roasted tomato bits. Squash the tomato bits in a bowl with a potato masher, and strain again. Chop your veggies – red onion, scallion tops and ends, poblano peppers, roma tomatos, whatever you have – and remove the stems from a handful of fresh cilantro.

Begin layering with some of the strained fire-roasted tomatoes:

mexican lasagna bottom layer

Next, add cut-up flour tortillas as you would lasagna noodles:

mexican lasagna tortillas

Next, add a layer of black beans and corn:

mexican lasagna corn bean

Then, add mozzarella cheese and continue to layer veggies, cilantro, tomatoes, chipotle salsa (one layer of dollops of this salsa is probably enough, as it is very hot), one more layer of tortillas, and a final layer of cheese.

mexican lasagna layer veggies

mexican lasagna before last bake

Bake covered with tin foil for 50 minutes at 350, remove tin foil, and bake for 15 more minutes. Before serving, let the lasagna rest for 20 minutes. Slice into sections, remove carefully with a spatula (it’s going to be a bit gooshy). Top with a dollop of sour cream and garnish with some of the chopped scallions.

mexican lasagna

Bonus: Since I don’t measure, I ended up with some miscellaneous chopped ingredients after assembling this mexican lasagna. So, I threw them in a bowl, added just a little oil, red wine vinegar, lime juice and garlic powder and BAM! (sorry, Emeril) I have a corn-and-bean salad.

corn bean salad

Toss in some chopped fresh avocado before serving with corn chips.

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Thai Noodles with Brussels Sprouts

0-thai-noodle-recipe-ovo-lacto-pesco

Every so often, I come up with a vegan recipe by accident. Normally, I’ll eat a piece of cheese as big as my head. Eggs provide some extra protein, and I crave fish. Thus…ovo-lacto-pesco. For the following dish, I just happened to have the ingredients on hand, cooked them up, and then decided it would be just as good cold as hot. It was. Here’s what you need and, as usual, the proportions are up to you according to your taste and to what you have calling to you from the crisper.

linguine, or some kind of Asian noodle
brussels sprouts
red bell pepper
mushrooms
poblano pepper, or something hotter if you like
garlic clove, minced
hot red pepper flakes
lemon juice
tamari or soy sauce
lemon juice
vegetable oil
fresh cilantro
beer
brown sugar or molasses
toasted sesame seed

Cook the noodles to al dente, drain, set aside. Chop the veggies.

chopped veggies

Cut off the hard ends of the brussels sprouts and cut a deep “X” in the end of each one. Parboil for 7 minutes, drain, dunk in cold water, and drain again after they have cooled. Cut  each sprout in half lengthwise and set aside.

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Heat a skillet to medium-high and add a little vegetable oil. Quickly saute the veggies with hot red paper flakes, adding a little lime juice and a lot of tamari or soy sauce, as well as about a half a beer. (Don’t waste the other half; drink it.) Throw in the minced garlic and the sugar, turn the heat down to medium, and let the liquid thicken just a little.

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Pour off the veggie mixture into a bowl.

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While the skillet is still hot and has a little of the moisture left in it, turn the heat back up to medium high, throw in the brussels sprout halves, and quickly char them a bit. Add them to the bowl with the veggies. Add some sesame seeds if you want.

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After the veggie mixture has cooled, pour it over the noodles, toss, and put in the fridge. Before serving, add lots of fresh cilantro (stems removed).

Serve, and enjoy.

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Sunday Fritatta

Sunday Fritatta

I love Sunday mornings, when we can have a leisurely breakfast, without work or synagogue or chores intruding. Nothing like sitting down to a simple fritatta, a big cup of coffee, and CBS Sunday Morning – yes, we’re officially geezers – on the tube.

Microwave one large baking potato, then chop it into large cubes.

Raise your oven rack to the top and turn broiler in oven to high.

Chop up:
red bell pepper
green bell pepper
any other mild pepper, like poblano
red onion
mushroom

Beat 4 large eggs with 1 tablespoon of water.

Heat a skillet to medium-high, add a little vegetable oil (heating the skillet first keeps the oil from burning) and saute the veggies.

Heat another skillet to medium – I usually use a non-stick skillet, but this time I used the old faithful, the well-seasoned iron skillet – if you use the iron skillet, you’ll need to wipe it generously with oil first. When the skillet is heated, pour in the egg and quickly add the potatoes and the veggie mixture, distributed evenly across the surface of the egg. Cover with as much grated cheese as you like. Let this cook until the bottom just begins to form a crust, then move the skillet from the stovetop to under the broiler, leaving the oven door cracked a little. Watch it very closely and remove when it begins to bubble with just a hint of browning.

Let the fritatta sit a minute before cutting into slices to serve.

Sunday Fritatta served

You’ll notice that there aren’t many measurements in this recipe. You can adjust for more veggies, less cheese, different veggies, whatever you like; it’s hard to ruin this one. Oh, and – somebody kill me for quoting Paula Deen – I’m not your doctor, I’m the cook. If this recipe contains things you don’t like or can’t have, adjust to suit yourself.

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Neil’s Wildly Spicy Ginger Cake

Neil WildingMy neighbor, Neil Wilding, was a fabulous cook. Such an epicure…he once made an Indian dinner for me and my husband that was 12 courses. It took him three days, including driving all over Nashville to find the individual native spices that he ground and mixed by hand to make his garam masala. In the kitchen, as everywhere else, Neil did things right. His individually steeped cup of coffee had to be brewed at the exact temperature for the exact number of minutes, in the exact proportions of water and coffee. Watching him measure out the freshly roasted and freshly ground beans was excruciatingly exquisite.

So it’s kind of funny that my favorite recipe from Neil is so simple. It is the tastiest, spiciest gingerbread cake you will ever eat. I use blackstrap molasses.

Neil’s Ginger Cake
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine and sift:
1.5 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
half a teaspoon salt
half a teaspoon allspice
half a teaspoon cloves
2 tablespoons ground ginger

Combine 1/3 cup Crisco with 1/2 cup boiling water.

Break one egg in an 8-ounce cup and fill with molasses.

Add everything into an 8 x 8 x 2 baking pan; mix well. Bake for about 35 minutes.

Lemon Sauce
I make two batches of this for one pan of cake, because it is so good.

1 tablespoon cornstarch
a half cup sugar
a quarter teaspoon salt
1 cup water
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 egg yolk, beaten
1 tablespoon butter

Mix cornstarch, sugar, and salt in a saucepan. Add water, heat to boiling, cook until clear and thickened, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Mix the lemon juice and lemon zest with the egg, then fold all that (slowly) into the hot mixture. Stir another minute, adding the butter.

I like to chill the lemon sauce and pour it over the cake freshly out of the oven. The combination of hot and cold, with spicy and soothing, is unbelievable.

The only thing healthy about this cake is the dose of enjoyment you’ll get. Neil would approve.

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Kale with Tangelo and Garlic

kale recipe

I never was a huge fan of kale, or turnip greens, or chard. They could be tough and bitter unless you cooked them for about four days, common practice in the old South. But lately I’ve had kale cooked to such sweet, tender deliciousness…notably at Nashville’s own Sunflower Cafe, where chef Gabrielle serves up kale so delicious you’ll want an extra side of it instead of dessert…that I’ve decided to cook some myself.

tangelo kale recipe

This kale recipe is fast and easy, and it preserves the healthful benefit of the greens by not over-cooking them. You’ll need:

one bunch of kale
some red onion, diced
garlic clove, minced
vegetable broth
juice of two tangelos
olive oil
butter

(Sorry for the lack of exact measurements; it’s hard to mess this up, so just eyeball it.)

Cut out the stems from the kale and chop the leaves, not too tiny. Heat a non-stick skillet to medium-high, then drizzle in some oil oil and add a couple of pats of butter. Have the vegetable broth handy, as this goes quickly. As the butter starts to melt, put in the onion, then the kale, stir it around, then turn it down to medium, pour in some broth (maybe a quarter cup), and cover. After about three minutes, take the lid off and turn the heat back up, to cook off some of the liquid. Squeeze the tangelo juice over the kale, and serve.

kale pinto beans sweet potatoes

Home-made cornbread, pinto beans, and mashed sweet potatoes make a good, Southern, vegetarian meal.

Side note… There’s a guy in Vermont who’s trying to make an honest living producing the original “Eat More Kale” t-shirts, in spite of the efforts of corporate giant Chick-fil-A to squash him like a bug. Buy a shirt and help a brother out.

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Posted in Side Dish | Tagged , , | 2 Comments