Growing up, lasagna was this elusive meal only consumed by cats that sounded like Bill Murray. For some reason, we never ate it at my house. Perhaps it is the lack of Italian ancestors in my family tree? I am not sure.
Any who, fast forward about 20 years, my best friend invites me to her dad’s lasagna party. Every year, her very Italian (and awesome) father cooks multiple pans of delicious lasagna and opens his home to about a hundred of their closest family and friends. This was one of the best parties ever, not only because the wine flowed as fast as the videos of Father Guido Sarducci, but the lasagna was incredible. Now, long story short, at this point in my life, I had eaten my fair share of lasagna, but I still hadn’t ever made it. So, when the time came, I asked my friend to give me some pointers, and what does she do? She straight up gives me a link to re-create her fathers lasagna. Score! So, for the past few years, this has been a stand-by recipe. Only recently have I started to alter it to make it more of “my own.”
I did a couple of tweaks to make it a healthier choice, such as swapping regular ricotta for non-fat, decreasing the amount of meat, and using more veggies. And I am willing to bet that as soon as TJ’s starts to carry whole wheat lasagna noodles, that will be another swap!
Spinach and Mushroom Beef Lasagna
Ready for the oven!
- Lasagna Sauce (see recipe below)
- Ricotta Cheese Mixture (see recipe below)
- 1 bag mozzarella cheese
- 1 package (12) lasagna noodles
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (Fresh if possible)
- 1 tbsp butter
- Make sauce (see below)
- Make ricotta mixture (see below)
- Butter 13×9 dish
- Assemble: noodle, 1/2 ricotta, 1/3 sauce, mozzarella, noodle, 1/2 ricotta, 1/3 sauce, mozzarella, noodle, 1/3 sauce, Parmesan and a little more mozzarella (but not too much)
- Bake at 350 for 35-40 min. Let sit a few minutes prior to serving.
- 1 lb 96/4 ground beef
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 cloves of garlic, or 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 bag mushrooms, chopped
- 1/2 bag baby spinach
- 1 jar Tomato Basil pasta sauce
In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, start to brown ground beef. Once it starts to release its juices, add diced onions and cook until meat is starting to brown and onions are starting to soften. Add mushrooms and garlic and cook until mushrooms begin to soften. Add pasta sauce and put to simmer on a low heat for about a half an hour. Towards the end, add spinach until just wilted and remove from heat.
Ricotta Cheese Mixture
- 1 container non- fat ricotta
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup Parmesan
- 2 tsp basil, dried
- 1 tsp oregano, dried
- 1 tsp garlic powder
Add all ingredients to a bowl and stir until combined.
A nice Chianti
sautéed zucchini sprinkled with parmesan cheese
A light salad with balsamic glaze, meyer lemon olive oil, sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Come on, get appy! No, not an iPhone app, not an appendectomy…an appetizer!
I could eat appetizers all day long. Cheese boards. Baguette. Hummus. Artichoke and spinach dip. Everything just seems to be more decadent and taste better when it is in amuse-bouche form (in fact, quit what you are doing right now, and do a google image search of amuse-bouche. ooooooohhh, aaaaaahhhh). And quite honestly, if I were on Top Chef, this would be my specialty, because I LOVE hors d’oeuvres.
Fun fact about me: I once co-hosted a book club with my best friend just for the appetizers.
Any way, I am sure you can imagine that I try to pass off appetizers as “dinner” from time to time. For some reason, I always feel like it would be transformed into a “meal” if we added a simple salad. Here are some from my repertoire:
Left: Grilled Polenta with Tomatoes and Olive Tapenade
Right: Perfectly Perfect Artichoke
Perfectly Perfect Artichoke
- 2 Artichokes
- About 2 cups veggie broth (home made or store bought)
- 2 Cloves of garlic, peeled
- 2 slices of lemon
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/3 cup Mayonnaise
- 1 Tbsp Garlic Aioli Mustard
- 2-3 Tbsp Reserved veggie broth liquid
- pinch of salt and pepper (optional)
- 1 tsp basil (optional)
- 1 tsp oregano (optional)
- To prepare the artichoke: rinse them, cut the stem off, trim the top of the leaves (because they can be a little prickly.) Cut each artichoke in half and remove the bitter, flower-y part in the middle, between the leafs, and the “choke.” (This also helps get flavor throughout and cook faster.)
Store bought is fine
Place the artichoke, cut side down in a pot. Add two cloves of garlic, two lemon slices and two bay leafs and cover with veggie broth. You can easily make your own, which will be coming in a future post. However, in the words of my favorite celebrity chef, Ina Garten, store bought is fine.
- Cover and simmer until artichokes are tender. Then remove and serve along side of sauce (but don’t toss the veggie broth just yet! You’ll need that for the sauce)
- To make the dipping sauce: combine mayonnaise, mustard, and then a few tablespoons of the veggie broth mixture you just boiled the artichokes in. I think I also added a couple other spices, but I really can’t remember. Maybe some dried basil and oregano? Salt and pepper? I don’t know, but it was delicious. I am sure whatever spice you put in there would be delicious.
Grilled Polenta with Tomatoes and Olive Tapenade
This is REALLY easy to make and will seem very gourmet. I have done this with home made polenta as well as store bought polenta as well as different varieties of olive tapenade. They are all delicious, and it really just depends on how much time you want to invest into this.
- Home-made polenta (like this Rosemary Polenta recipe) or the store bought Organic Polenta
- Approx 1 Tbsp Olive oil or Butter
- 3-4 Tomatoes (“on the vine” or Beefsteak varieties are best)
- 1 container of Olive Tapenade
- 1 container of creme fresh or sour cream
- Handful of fresh basil, chopped
- Preheat griddle over medium high heat and spray with some cooking spray, butter or a little olive oil. Slice polenta into 1/4-1/2 inch pieces and place on grill. Cook on each side for 2-3 minutes, not very long because it is already cooked. Just until heated through and has some delicious looking grill marks. Remove form heat and arrange on dish.
- Slice tomatoes into thick slices and grill like you did with the polenta. Once it gets beautiful grill marks, place on top of each polenta slice. Top with a half Tbsp of Olive Tapenade of your choice (I have used three different Olive Tapenades from Trader Joes, and all are excellent, probably leaning more towards the one found in the refrigeratedsection), a dollop of Creme Fraiche or Sour Cream (or, on that note, Greek Yogurt if you are really trying to make this healthy) and then a sprinkling of fresh basil.