Unless you're on a diet.
And THEN food is oftentimes the "enemy."
But no more! I have learned that food and I can co-exist peacefully with my waistline still intact! I just have to TRICK the food into being more.....friendly. More.....anti-flub. More good! Yet....er.....good that's......good! Good.....for ME! And the rest of me......and the rest of me that likes food a lot.....
Yes. Well. You know what I mean.
So, in the spirit of some of my favorite food blogs (yes, there IS such a thing. Do you doubt me?), I have decided to demonstrate the proper preparation technique for GOOD food preparation. The kind of preparedness one would need when they are preparing to prepare GOOD food. As opposed to BAD food (yes, there MUST be such a thing. But I doubt me...).
For my first preparedness seminar, I shall prepare a classic dish of unclassic proportions:
Yet, not lasagna....
Come come, I will SHOW you........
First you must hunt and gather. THESE are the items you must retain for our purposes:
-Lasagna noodles (whole wheat!)
-Olive oil (Omega 3!)
-1% milk (low fat!)
-Ricotta or cottage cheese (part skim!)
-Mozzerella cheese (part skim too!)
-Garlic (nature's gold)
-Salt, pepper, and nutmeg (optional)
-Veggies: zucchini, yellow squash, onion, frozen spinach, carrots, broccoli
Once you have all these fine ingredients together (Kevin, no fussing!), you start with the onions. You must Peel the onions (2 cups worth, or 2 med sized), and Chop the onions, as I have done here.
Small chopping here, no big stuff allowed!
Then , you spray your cooking spray in a fine pot of large-ish proportions (word of the day!), and saute (cook until soft) your 2 cups of onions on med-high heat, as I have done here. Once the said onions are somewhat limp, you add 4 cloves (2tsp) of minced garlic. Then you push all that around in your large-ish pot to get that nice and hot and limp as well. Once the onions start to get a little brown in some areas, dump it all into a large bowl and set it aside.
Next, you chop up those wonderful squashes into small bites and dump the lot o' them into your pot. You should have about 2 cups of each variety, or just throw measurement to the wind and use two of each. Whatever suits your fancy. Add a little olive oil to keep them company and turn on the heat!
You need to saute them until they look like this:
Mmmm. We LOVE limp veggies :)
Once they reach that point, throw them in the bowl with the garlicky onions.
Now for the carrots. You'll need to cut these up somehow, and make them lasagna worthy. I used a cheese grater and that worked fine. The carrots didn't know what hit 'em. 2 cups worth or two good sized ones should do the trick. Add some more olive oil and heat, and stir 'em up.
(The lone zucchini in the picture must be really self-absorbed to make sure his picture was taken TWICE.)
Again, LIMP is the goal. Once that is achieved, add 2 cups of chopped broccoli (I know, I know, someone has a 2 cup fetish--I didn't write the recipe!). I cheated and bought a broccoli cole slaw where the broccoli was chopped into the fine lengths you see here. I had to pick out the red cabbage, but it was a small price to pay. Hey, they even threw some carrots in there---Bonus!
Like before, cook the broccoli/carrot mixture until tender and then throw them into the onion/garlic/squash bowl of fun. Add about 1/2 tsp of salt in there and mix it all up.
Now forget about it for a while.
I guess now could be a good time to turn your oven on. You could wait until the pasta is cooked if your oven preheats quickly (like mine), or you could get a head start on it. Whatever you like, ok? 375, in case you're wondering.
Next step: the sauce. Magnifique! Ya gotta love sauce! White sauce! YUM!
Take your all-purpose vegetable limping large-ish pot and rinse it out. It must be made sauce worthy now.
Dump a 1/2 cup of flour in there--go ahead, it won't feel it. Then 3 and 1/2 cups of milk. Get the cobwebs off your wire whisk and put that baby to work. Add some bubble making heat and stir away! We're looking for thick, here, people. Thick! There'll be NO wimpy thin sauce in THIS lasagna!
While you're waiting for the sauce to thicken, get out another pot of large proportions and boil water in it. This is for the lasagna. I suggest you lay your pasta in the boiling bath and let it sliiiiither down into the warmth as it cooks through. Don't break, beat, or mash your noodles. You can gently guide them down, but don't force. Lasagna noodle cooking is an art. It must be handled properly.
And don't take them out until they're LIMP. Limpness is important!
Now, back to the pot o' sauce. Once thickness has arrived (like ranch dressing, we'll say), bless it with a 1/2 t of salt, 1/4 t of pepper, and dash of nutmeg.
Or, you could be like my friend Amie, totally disregard the spice instructions, and dump whatever you like in there. You're the one who's eating it. I could care less.
Whisk it up until it's evenly distributed.
So, here's where we're at: the veggies are hanging out, the water has boiled, the noodles are limping, and the sauce is thickened and spiced.
What you need to do next is make sure your bag of frozen spinach is thawed out. If it isn't, then take the bag and put it in a hot water bath for a while (nothing but the best for OUR veggies!). Once thawed, drain and massage all the water out of the spinach (read: grab chucks and squeeze the spinach as dry as possible, making balls)
Then take those wads of green goodness and sprinkle them over your sauce (maybe not the whole lot--about 3/4 of it). Add a 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese, and stir it all up. It should look like what you see here.
Then forget about it for a while.
Since those noodles are done, drain them and let them get ready for their sole purpose in life. I find that a wire rack dries them fairly quickly, making the noodles easier to lay into the dish. I drain them first, then I lay them out for a minute, then I stack them on a plate until they're needed.
You can do it however you like. Just make sure they're in their place when their king shall call for them.
Next on the agenda is to make the cheese spread. Many people like cottage cheese in their lasagna, but I'm a ricotta girl, so that's what I used. A carton of ricotta, and 1 and 1/2 cups of the mozzerella. I mixed them up, and this is what I got. No egg here folks. Just the cheese and the cheese. Set it aside.
I said NO egg....don't put one in! I'm tellin' ya!
Now, we're down to the fun part: the assembly. At this point, you should have: cooked noodles, a bowl of cooked veggies, a pot of thick spinach sauce, a bowl of ricotta/mozzarella, and a pre-heated oven.
Spray the bottom of your 13x9 baking dish with the cooking spray. Then take 1/2 cup of the spinach sauce and spread it out on the bottom of the dish. Lay 3-4 noodles on top of that.
Then, spread 1/2 of the ricotta/mozerella mixture over the noodles. Don't skimp! 1/2 does the trick!
After that's all even, then you can do the same with 1/2 of the veggies. Spread those out evenly. You gotta make sure every bite is consistent. Don't fall asleep on this step!
Next is the spinach sauce--about 1 cup worth. So at this point, you should have the base: spinach sauce then noodles. Then you have the first layer: cheese mixture, veggies, and spinach sauce again.
Then ya do it all over again.
The layer, that is. Not the base. That was just to be a base. Not a layer. Get it?
After you're done your second layer, top it with another set of noodles, the rest of the spinach sauce, 1/2 cup of Parmesan, and as much mozzarella as you prefer. This is the finished, yet not edible product.
(Yes, I know you can eat it, but you won't! You won't! You MUST cook it first!)
(Look at that layering........ohhhhhhhh......)
Anyhow, you must now cover your concoction with foil and bake it for 20 minutes. Not 22, not 13. I said 20. Follow me, as I follow the directions here people.
Then, you UNcover it and bake it for ANOTHER 20 minutes.
and you wait.....
and you wait......
and you clean your messy kitchen......
And finally what you get is this:
And this is how it looks on your plate:
The yum factor on this dish got 6 stars (one for every person who ate it). I thought it needed a little salt, but, eh, who cares? Salt is easy! Healthy, yummy, mouth watering on a diet is NOT. If you want nutrition information on it, email me. But if you try it, let me know. I had fun making it, even though it's a long process (especially when you're, ahem, taking pictures). It's a good make-ahead Sunday dish, or Saturday time-to-waste meal. We added some chicken breast on the side to round it out.
And just to give credit where credit is due, this is a Cooking Light recipe. Light! It's GOOD for you! Anti-flub!
Ahhhhhh......you can all eat a little easier now.....