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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Cauliflower Fried Rice

When the whole “substitute everything with cauliflower” craze began, I sat there shaking my head, no, no, no. My thoughts? “Yeah RIGHT, this stuff will taste like mashed potatoes”; “Yeah RIGHT, this stuff will taste like rice”, etc. I have tried to like mashed cauliflower, but I don’t. Occasionally, I really like roasted cauliflower, but it’s not something I ever crave, and I mean, EVER. Cauliflower fried rice, however, always leaves me happily satisfied and it’s a dish I make regularly.

(Surprise, it actually does taste like rice!)

This recipe is one that easily lends itself to substitution. I usually just add in whatever vegetables I have on hand; or whatever I think looks pretty; or whatever I have a taste for. Get it? You can use WHATEVER you want. The only rule is that you use the cauliflower in place of rice!

So here I have scrambled four eggs to begin with:

Once they were finished, I removed them to a plate, added in a little more olive oil and then sautéed some chopped onions. (Why? Because I love them.)

Once the onions were translucent, I added in my riced cauliflower. (I always buy this raw, prepared in a bag, but you can use a food processor to get the same result.) I don’t know why I did not get a photo of just the cauliflower, but I didn’t. Just imagine onions and riced cauliflower in a pan.

When the cauliflower and onions are in, I added a few splashes of toasted sesame oil and some minced ginger. Stir, stir, stir and when you are tired of stirring, stir some more. The object is to get the cauliflower cooked through, but you also want to get a little bit of caramelization going. When the cauliflower has softened, knock yourself out adding in whatever vegetables you love. Here I added some frozen peas and carrots and some left over sautéed onions and peppers.

Once your veggies are all in and warmed through, salt and pepper again, add in some more sesame oil and soy sauce, and continue stirring.

Finally, fold back in those yummy scrambled eggs. See that word I used? Fold. That’s fancy. It means to be very gentle so as not to kill the pretty scrambled curds. Dump in the eggs, then using your spatula, scrap the bottom of the pan, folding the contents on top of the eggs until they are incorporated but still in tact.

See how you can still see the pretty eggs?

The entire reason I made this dish was because whenever I make Ahi Tuna, I think it needs to have an Asian flavor to it. I have no idea where this comes from, but oh well. So here you have the finished dish with the tuna (and too much hot sauce on top!) I garnished with fresh cilantro because this lives and thrives in our kitchen 100% of the year.


Ingredients:

1 bag riced cauliflower

4 eggs, scrambled

Half a bag of frozen peas and carrots

1 onion chopped

2 Tbsp butter

2 Tbsp olive oil

1/2 c. Soy sauce

1/4 cup toasted sesame oil

Salt & pepper to taste

1/8 c. Chopped fresh ginger

ANYTHING else you like. The only thing to remember is that if it’s raw, cook it before you add it in.

Directions:

Scramble eggs over medium high heat in 1 Tbsp Olive oil & 1 Tbsp butter. Remove to a separate dish.

Sauté onion to translucent in same pan. Add in 1 Tbsp Olive oil and 1 Tbsp butter, Salt and pepper.

Add in raw cauliflower, 1/2 the soy sauce, 1/2 the sesame oil, 1/2 the ginger. Stir continually to ensure everything is coated in the soy sauce and sesame oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Once the cauliflower is softened and browned a little bit, add in frozen peas and carrots, the rest of the ginger and whatever else you want to add. Salt and pepper. Stir and then add in the second part of the soy sauce and sesame oil.

Don’t forget to savor the aroma. It seriously smells so good!

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!

Pumpkin-Shaped Cheese Ball ala Bobbe!

Halloween is coming! Here is an easy, awesome recipe for a delicious and festive appetizer to take to your party! Who doesn’t love a pumpkin-shaped cheeseball? The bonus is that this is fun thing to make with your kids too!

In honor of Halloween coming, I thought I’d share one of the most fun recipes in my arsenal. I’m sure a lot of you are either hosting or going to Halloween parties this weekend. If you need to take a really fun appetizer, this cheese ball is delicious and it makes a GREAT presentation!

The photos you see here are from an adult cocktail party I catered this weekend, so my pumpkins don’t have faces on them, but you can absolutely dress yours up as a jack-o-lantern if you wish!

Also, I use this recipe for loads of Holiday parties. I’ve formed it into a carrot for Easter, made it into a Christmas Tree for Christmas and it’s even been a heart for Valentine’s Day!

I regret not having photographed the entire process but you are smart enough to picture the ingredients in a bowl. You start by making the cheese mixture. Once it’s combined, you lay it out onto plastic wrap, wrap it up and form it into a ball. Then I usually find a bowl that’s a little more round, place the ball in it and then refrigerate for about an hour. At that point, you take it back out and start forming your pumpkin shape with rubber bands.  See below?

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Once you have the basic shape, put it back in the refrigerator for at least a half hour. Then take it back out and cut off the rubber bands and remove the plastic. At this point you can add a topper. I saved the top of a bell pepper for this one.

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Once you have your topper selected and in place, all you do is sprinkle the outside with pulverized Doritos. If you don’t like Doritos, crush up Cheetos, or any orange/cheesy chip you happen to like.

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At the party last weekend, I made three little pumpkin cheese balls and used them as decorations for my meat trays. As you can see by the photo, I went out to the garden and clipped a few tomato leaves to make the stems.

At this point, you can add your own touches. Have fun with it and enjoy because this cheese ball is delicious and kids and adults alike, LOVE the flavor!


Ingredients:

  • (2) 8 oz packages of cream cheese softened (I leave mine out on the counter overnight)
  • 1/2 package of Taco Seasoning (any brand)
  • 3/4 a small can of sliced black olives (chopped into tiny pieces)
  • 1 bunch of chives, chopped (you could also use scallions or regular onion)
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 small bag of Doritos Nacho Cheese chips (or your favorite orange cheesy chip)
  • Stem from a bell pepper.
  • 4-5 rubber bands

Directions:

  • In a large glass bowl, combine all ingredients but the chips and stem. (I usually microwave the mixture for about 20-30 seconds to soften everything to make it easier.)
  • Turn the mixture out onto a piece of plastic wrap, wrap it up and start to form a ball.
  • Place your newly formed ball into the refrigerator for an hour.
  • Once chilled, form the pumpkin shape by using the rubber bands. Chill again for 30 minutes.
  • Place the chips in a zip lock baggie and beat them until they are dust. OR you can use a food processor, but trust me, beating them is more fun!
  • Cut the rubber bands off, remove the plastic, add the topper, then sprinkle the orange dust.
  • 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.