Not Yo Mama’s Vegetarian Lasagna ala Bobbe

I have finally come up with a recipe for vegetarian lasagna that I think is worth sharing. Seriously, we loved this dish!

Recently I was asked by a wonderful lady if I would create a meatless lasagna for her to serve the vegetarians at her dinner party. Happily, I obliged even though I am not typically a lasagna maker. (Something about the ricotta cheese always messes me up and the dish ends up too gloopy.)

I started this dish just thinking about vegetables I like to eat together. Spinach and artichoke always find themselves front and center wearing gold stars, when I start this thought process. Next, what items could I add for taste, color and texture: onions, shredded carrots and chopped Shiitakes! Perfect combo!

Then I thought about my issues with ricotta and I remembered watching an episode of “The Pioneer Woman” where she made hers with a yummy Béchamel sauce (white sauce) instead of ricotta. I questioned this though, because of this being a meatless dish. When there is no meat present, flavors are different and I worried that Béchamel might make a squishy, drippy lasagna. What to do; what to do?

I decided to make a sauce using heavy cream, cottage cheese, finely grated Parmesan cheese, a little corn starch, an egg and some fresh garlic. Then I put together my red sauce and got the rest of my ingredients assembled and ready to go.

Cast of characters:

I should mention too, that I grated a block of Fontina cheese to mix with the bagged Mozzarella for more flavor. To make it easier, and because I was only making this in an 8″ x 8″ pan, I used no boil noodles-they are shorter.

Then it was a simple matter of layering. First, a thin layer of tomato sauce, etc.

Then repeat the layers until the top is reached.

Bake at 375 for 30 minutes covered. Then 10 minutes more, uncovered, until brown and bubbly.

The final secret is to let it cool for 20-25 minutes before serving, otherwise, it will wilt as it did below. (I was hungry! It still tasted great!)

Oh and PS, I tested this recipe the night before I made it for my friend. My version didn’t include the carrots and mushrooms. It also had way too much fresh garlic and I had added too much lemon zest to my white sauce. I like to add a little zest to ricotta because it lightens it up, but it didn’t work here because duh, I was using cream. It actually made the dish a little sour. The recipe posted below includes my tweaks. You’re welcome.

((Hugs and love))


Ingredients:
White Sauce:
2 cups cottage cheese
1 cup heavy cream
2 cloves garlic (minced)
1 egg
1 ½ cups finely grated Parmesan cheese
½ tea. Salt
Red Sauce:
(1) 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes (OR you can buy a can of San Marzano’s and crush them yourself)
½ jar of your favorite prepared marinara sauce + 2 Tbsp. Olive oil
¼ cup freshly chopped basil
½ tea. Salt
½ tea. Pepper

1 pkg no boil lasagna noodles
(2) 8 oz. packages of frozen, chopped spinach
2 cans artichokes, quartered, then chopped
2 medium onions chopped
2 carrots grated
1 c. Shiitake mushrooms finely chopped (you can leave them chunkier if it’s your preference)
(2) 8 oz. bags of shredded Mozzarella
8 oz. grated Fontina
½ c. finely grated Parmesan Cheese

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Prepare both sauces and set aside. Neither has to be heated. Simply mix the ingredients and set aside. This can be done a day in advance and stored in the refrigerator if you like.

Sauté the onions, carrots and mushrooms until the onions are translucent. I started the onions & carrots about five minutes before adding in the mushrooms.

Thaw the spinach, combine it with the chopped artichokes and then squeeze out as much water as humanly possible. I use a cheese cloth. Then mix the cooked onions and carrots.

In a 9 x 13” baking dish, layer as follows:
Red sauce in the bottom
Noodles
Vegetable mixture (about half)
White Sauce
Mozzarella/Fontina Cheese
Red Sauce
Noodles
Repeat
When you reach the top your final layer should be Noodles, Sauce, and Mozzarella/Fontina cheese.
Finish by sprinkling a little Parmesan on top of this.

Cover loosely with foil that you have sprayed with cooking spray.
Bake 30 minutes covered.
Uncover and bake 10 minutes more or until brown and bubbly.
Important: Allow this to cool for 20-25 minutes before you serve it.

PS-I had leftover vegetable filling and cheese that I turned into a crust-less quiche for the following night’s dinner. It was so yummy. Just add 5 eggs and a half cup of cream. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes.

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Breakfast Burritos ala Bobbe. My first video.

Breakfast on Thanksgiving was delicious and a personal favorite: breakfast burritos ala Bobbe! Rater than repost the recipe, I decided to try to make my first video!

Trying to teach myself how to do videos. This is too slow, but it’s a good first try.

This was Thanksgiving Day breakfast. I have posted the recipe before. The key to these things is not to skip the step of heating and browning in a medium heated pan. Don’t worry if you burn them a little either; that’s extra flavor!

I will be back next week with some new recipes and blogs. Hubs and I catered a Wedding for 250 people last weekend, so this little blog of mine had to take a backseat for a time.

Here are some pictures of what we did. I was very pleased with the results. It was all simple food, but we made it beautiful.

Who Doesn’t love a Kicked Up Grilled Cheese?

Hubs and I decided to make Halloween night a night of favorite comfort food indulgence. What’s better than a fancy grilled cheese, right!?

Hubs and I are usually very regimented when it comes to our meals. He is a body builder, and I am on a never-ending mission to lose weight. We don’t indulge in breads much, because I could eat an entire loaf in one sitting and most commercial breads have a lot of hidden sugar in them. (We try to limit our sugar intake as well.)

Halloween night we were both feeling like doing something fun, so after some discussion, we landed on the option of grilled cheese. When we both let out a simultaneous, “Yuuuummmmmmmm!”, I knew we’d reached our decision.

The next half hour consisted of salivating over the different ways we could amp up this dish. We decided on thinly sliced zucchini, thinly sliced tomato, Swiss and Cheddar cheeses, caramelized onions, freshly chopped basil, yellow mustard and of course some great bread: thick cut sour dough (my favorite).

I confess to being distracted by trick-or-treaters, (or at least the sounds of them), so I didn’t photograph every step. I have to say, with conviction, that everyone should already know how to make a basic grilled cheese! It’s absolutely not rocket science! I have faith you all do!

You should have all of your ingredients gathered together holding hands next to the pan, because once the bread goes down, you want to work quickly so you don’t burn it.

I started by buttering one side of each bread slice. (I always use REAL butter, anything else is unhealthy.) Then I heated a cast iron skillet to medium-high, melted some more butter and about a Tbsp of olive oil, and placed the first piece of bread butter-side down in the pan. These were big slices of bread, so I did one sandwich at a time. I let the bread sit in the pan for about a minute, turned the heat down a tad, then added my first layer of cheese (Swiss volunteered to be first.) Then I sprinkled on a little yellow mustard.

Then came the thinly sliced Roma tomatoes. (We used the mandolin set on super thin to do these these and the zucchini. If you don’t have a mandolin, slice the tomatoes as thinly as possible. You can use a vegetable peeler to pull off long strips of zucchini instead of medallions.) Just like we did with the tarts, we salted them and left them out on paper towels for half an hour to get the water out of them. Blot them dry before you use them.

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Like I said, I didn’t photograph all of my steps so just use your imagination or squint while you look at the next photos. AFTER the tomatoes, I sprinkled on some shredded sharp cheddar, then came the zucchini. I also failed to mention that I season at every turn. So here you can see some freshly cracked pepper. Don’t use salt on the vegetables because you don’t want any more liquid coming out making your sammie soggy. (Sammie soggy; Say that five times fast! -Sammie-soggy, Sammie-soggy, Sammie-soggy…)

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I totally failed at getting the photo of the BEST part and that is the sprinkling of caramelized onions. We keep those on hand most of the time, so I just pulled mine out of the fridge and used them cold. Then a sprinkling of freshly chopped basil, more Swiss and the top goes on.

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By now it’s time to flip because I’m certain the bottom is golden brown. (I forgot to say this earlier. I didn’t do it this time, but it would have been great to have sprinkled a little granulated garlic or garlic salt in that butter before it went in the pan.)

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Yup. Right on the money.

Cut that thing of beauty in half and pair it with your favorite soup! This is tomato-basil, but I confess that I bought it prepared at my local deli.  No recipe for this today, but I’ll post mine soon.


Do you really NEED a recipe for this?

Ingredients:

• 4 pieces thick cut sour dough bread
• Enough real softened butter to coat one side of each piece of bread (you do the math)
• 1 Tbsp real butter & 1 Tbsp olive oil (for melting in the skillet)
• 1 zucchini sliced as thinly as humanly possible.
• 3 Roma tomatoes sliced like the zucchini
• 4 Tbsp caramelized onions
• 8 pieces of pre-sliced Swiss Cheese
• ½-3/4 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
• 2 Tbsp prepared yellow mustard
• Salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Slice your vegetables and lay them out on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and let them rest for half an hour. Then blot them dry with more paper towels.

2. Spread softened butter onto one side of each piece of bread.

3. Assemble all ingredients prior to putting the first slice in the pan.

4. Heat a cast iron skillet to medium high and melt 1-2 Tbsp butter & 1 Tbsp olive oil in the pan.

5. Put the first slice in, butter-side down, let it sit about 30 seconds.

6. Layer your ingredients: Swiss cheese, mustard, tomatoes, cheddar cheese, zucchini, caramelized onions, more Swiss cheese, then the other piece of bread.

7. Flip and press down. Sandwich is done when the cheese is melted and the outsides are golden brown. Salt and pepper the outside while still hot.

 

Vegetable Couscous Stuffed Acorn Squash! Pretty Food!

Once upon a time around Thanksgiving time, we catered a huge interfaith meal. Because there were many different religious dietary restrictions, it was important that we offered a vegetarian option. As per usual, I wanted the food to be beautiful and colorful, so we came up with this recipe for stuffed acorn squash! I was beyond thrilled with the result!

Last year around this time we were contracted to contribute a vegetarian dish for an Interfaith meal hosted by the church where I am employed. We knew we wanted to make something eye-catching utilitizing a Fall vegetable. Say hello to my friend, Mr. Acorn Squash.

I literally went to the store and searched for something colorful to stuff it with and I found this tri-colored pearl couscous. (Thank you, Lucky’s Market!)

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Next, I knew I needed more than just couscous to make it an actual vegetarian dish. Well, to be honest, the squash and the couscous would have been fine, but it wasn’t enough for me. I decided to sauté some yummy vegetables to add into the squash, so I stocked up on onions, carrots, a few butternut squash, dried cranberries, slivered almonds, etc. I literally just thought about things that I love and went from there.

Next, I needed my big, strong hubba hubba hubby, Charlie, to open each squash and scoop out the innards! Don’t worry, I will reduce this recipe so you aren’t feeding 150 people with it! <<grin>> He also sliced off a bit of the bottom so they would sit on a plate without wobbling.

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After the squash have been halved and scooped out, they go in a pan with a little water, (cut side down) to bake until almost soft. (To make these for the family, you can absolutely do this step in the microwave to save time.)

Then it’s a matter of sautéing the vegetables, (I used squash, onion, carrots, cranberries, toasted almonds) preparing the couscous according to package directions and combining all…then stuffing the squash. Here is my bowl combining my sautéed ingredients with my toasted almonds.

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Here is the couscous combined with the sautéed vegetables and toasted almonds stuffed inside the acorn squash.

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Here, I have spooned in the stuffing.

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And finally, it goes back into the oven, sprinkled with fresh seasonings and then it comes out looking like a work of art! (So colorful!) If you are looking for something new to take to your Thanksgiving pot luck dinner, try this. It looks like you’ve spent hours, yet it’s super easy. You could even prepare all of this a day or two in advance, then bake just before you leave for your event OR before you have your event. These will do well stored warm in a baking dish covered with foil.

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Pretty, aren’t they?


Ingredients:

4 acorn squash, washed, cut in half, seeds scooped out.

1 Package tri-colored pearl couscous (or whatever your favorite happens to be) prepared according to pkg directions.

2 Tbsp Olive oil

2 Tbsp butter

2-3 fresh sage leaves chopped

2 carrots peeled & sliced.

1 large onion diced

1/2 butternut squash, peeled, and cubed (save time and buy this already diced from the market)

1/2 c Toasted almonds

1/2 c Dried cranberries (chopped dried apricots would be great in there too or even yellow raisins)

Salt & pepper

1/2 freshly chopped Italian parsley

1/2 c freshly grated cheese of your choice. (I used Asiago/Regiano)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400

  1. Prepare tri-colored couscous according to package directions, set aside.
  2. Dice all of the vegetables (except the butternut squash) and sauté (until tender) in half the olive oil and half the butter. Season with salt and pepper and the sage. Just prior to finishing, toss in the cranberries to soften them.
  3. When the vegetables are tender, remove to a bowl, clean out your skillet and dry roast the almonds over medium high heat for about 2 minutes until fragrant. Add to the vegetables.
  4. Put the butternut squash in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper, pour out onto sheet tray, bake 20-25 minutes.

Prepare the squash:

  1. Wash the acorn squash, cut in half, scoop out the seeds.
  2. Brush the cut sides and the cavity with olive oil. Sprinkle them with salt & pepper& garlic
  3. Place cut side down in a large roasting pan
  4. Roast in the oven for one hour until tender and still holding their shape.

Prepare the stuffing:

  1. In a bowl, combine the couscous with the roasted butternut squash and the sautéed vegetables and cranberries.
  2. Stir in the parsley
  3. Spoon into the cooked acorn squashes.
  4. Sprinkle the tops with freshly grated cheese of your choice. I like Asiago, but you can use what you like.
  5. Place back in oven uncovered for about 5-8 minutes until just heated through.
  6. Garnish with more parsley.

Enjoy!

Oh You’re SUCH a TART! Tomato Tarts!

A little while back I catered a Birthday party and was asked to be sure and include a vegetarian option. My mind immediately went to these tarts because they are so beautiful (and fun to prepare!).

A little while back I catered a Birthday party and was asked to be sure and include a vegetarian option. My mind immediately went to these tarts because they are so beautiful (and fun to prepare!). I started researching recipes which resulted in a LOT of tarts being made and sampled! In the end, I made up my own recipe, which I will share with you!

Keep these things in mind as the Holidays approach us. They are show-stoppers at any party and the best part is they can be eaten warm, cold or even at room temperature! (Did I mention they are insanely delicious?) I didn’t really  photograph the entire process, so you will have to rely on the recipe and the instructions at the bottom of the page.

I think there are two stand-out, must-do things when you are making tarts.

  1. Slice your vegetables very thinly, sprinkle them with salt and allow them to hang out on a rack for at least 30 minutes before you assemble. Then pat them with paper towels. You want them as dry as possible.
  2. Pre-bake your crusts. I used pre-made roll out pie crust and also puff pastry. I pre-baked both to avoid soggy tarts. (More instructions on this below.)

 

See what I mean about how pretty they are? Since I was making these for a large party, I also worked on making them full sheet tray sized and they turned out beautifully as well.

 

You will probably wonder why I took the trouble to cut my fresh Mozzarella into hearts when it would melt anyway? My favorite shape is the heart and I just wanted all of the Mozzarella to be uniform. PLUS, it’s pretty, right? I like everything I make to start out from my heart and this certainly did!

 

I wasn’t kidding around when I said I made a TON of these things. Everything you see here are samples that my husband and I either ate ourselves or we gave away to the neighbors until we settled on the tastes we liked best!

 

These that were done with puffed pastry were the winners! The one on the right wasn’t intended to look like this. I was going to make the entire thing covered in veggie roses (you can see a few of them made it) but at the last minute I realized I’d sliced my vegetables too thick. Rather than flip out over it, I made it into an abstract design. I loved it and my clients did, too.  The one of the left was also just delightful; simple zucchini and tomatoes.


Ingredients:

  • 4 Tablespoons Butter
  • 2 whole Large Onions, Halved And Sliced Thin
  • Salt And Pepper, to taste
  • 2 whole prepared Pie Crusts (or 1 Good Sized Homemade Crust) **
  • 1-1/2 cup Grated Fontina Cheese
  • 1/4 cup Grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 cup Grated Swiss cheese
  • 1/2 cup full fat ricotta cheese (I didn’t say this was low cal!)
  • 2 cups Cherry Tomatoes (I always look for the ones that come in all colors), Washed And Dried (more If Needed) I keep most of them whole but slice some in half if you want to have fun with your design.
  • 6 Roma Tomatoes sliced as thin as possible.(more if needed)
  • 4 Zucchini sliced as thin as possible.
  • 20 whole Basil Leaves, Chiffonade (more if needed)
  • Zest of one or two lemons.
  • a teeny tiny couple of pinches of nutmeg

Directions:

Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the butter, onions, salt, and pepper and cook for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and deep golden brown. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 450 F.
After you’ve sliced your veggies, lay them out on paper towel and sprinkle them with salt. Let them sit there at LEAST 30 minutes. After that, blot them dry with paper towels and set aside.

Put both pie crusts together and squish into a ball, knead it to combine them, then roll into one large, thin crust. (Trust me. I tried to use both crusts separate and then pinch them together and it just doesn’t work as well.) Lay onto a shallow quarter sheet pan, a tart pan, or cut in half and use 2 standard pie pans. Add the lemon zest and tiny bit of nutmeg to the cheeses and then sprinkle on in a single layer, then lay on the caramelized onions, then arrange your vegetables in whatever design you like over the cheese.

Bake the tart for 15 to 18 minutes, watching carefully to make sure the crust doesn’t burn. (The tomatoes should be starting to burst apart, with some dark/roasted areas on the skin, and the crust should be deep golden brown.) If the crust is getting brown too fast, reduce the heat to 425 F. Or cover it with foil.

Remove the tart from the oven and allow it to sit for 5 minutes. Sprinkle the basil all over the top. Cut into squares and serve!

** You can use puffed pastry in place of the pie crust; just be sure to pre-bake it. You will need to use a piece of parchment paper cut to leave about an inch of crust. Then use some dried beans or pie weights so the pastry will not puff up where you want to build the tart.