Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna

lasagna ingredients

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Being half Sicilian, I grew up eating a lot of pasta. A LOT of pasta. Spaghetti, penne with Italian sausage, lasagna, all with red sauce, at least once a week. As an adult, I rebelled against red sauce, until I started making my own (but that’s a whole ‘nother post).

I became a much bigger fan of garlic and olive oil (preferably over penne with broccoli), Alfredo, primavera, vodka sauce–anything except marinara. So when I found a recipe that loosely resembled this one, I jumped on it. Of course, I have to tweak, and change, and do things my way, so after some trial and error, I came up with this creamy lasagna that my family LOVES.

Now, I know the package says no-boil lasagna noodles. I know this. I also know that if I parboil them, they still maintain their integrity, so they’re easier to set in layers, but it also cuts the baking time in half. It’s entirely up to you whether or not you want to boil them, parboil them, or just lay them in the pan straight out of the box. Just adjust your baking time accordingly.

lasagna step 1

Start by pouring enough Alfredo sauce into the bottom of a 13×9 to just cover it, then lay down your first layer of noodles and cover with another thin layer of sauce.

onions and mushrooms

Saute a small onion and a package of sliced mushrooms in a little olive oil until lightly browned. Season with salt and pepper, then spread over the noodles and sauce. Lay down another layer of noodles and sauce.

Squeeze as much water as you can out of a 20 oz bag of spinach and combine it with garlic salt and pepper to taste. Spread this mixture over the noodles and sauce, then top with two cups of shredded mozzarella, pepperjack, or a combination of whatever cheeses that you like. Build the final layer with another layer of noodles and sauce, and the last two cups of shredded cheese.

final before oven

It should look something like this when you’re finished building it, and before it goes in the oven. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the noodles are tender.

lasagna slice 2

Serve with a simple green salad and garlic bread for a hearty comfort-food dinner.

What You’ll Need:

One package of lasagna noodles–you’ll use about 12 noodles

Two jars of Alfredo sauce

20 oz package of frozen spinach

small package of mushrooms, sliced

one small onion

salt, pepper, and garlic salt to taste

4 cups of shredded mozzarella, or other cheese

Olive oil to saute vegetables

 

What’s your favorite pasta and sauce combination? Let us know in the comment section below!

 

 

 

 

Israeli Couscous Salad

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Since Stephan and I just moved into a new house and I had to pack, move, unpack, and re-shelve all of our pantry items, I decided to use up some things before making a trip to the grocery store. This simple salad is filling and delicious, and is perfect for hot summer weather, but can be enjoyed year round. You can serve it with hot crusty bread, but it’s also a fine stand-alone meal. The leftovers are even better the next day, because the flavors have time to meld.

couscous salad ingredients

Start by cooking a 12 oz package of Israeli/pearled couscous according to the package directions. For those who haven’t used pearled couscous, it’s firmer and more versatile than the fluffy couscous that you may be more familiar with.

plain couscous

As you can see, it looks a bit like tapioca when cooked. Let it cool for about ten minutes–though I like to throw in a little oil so that it doesn’t clump together while it cools.

mixing 2

Stir in four sliced mini cucumbers, three medium tomatoes, chopped, a six ounce can of ripe olives (any size you want), and approximately half of a bottle of Italian salad dressing. You can use any brand you want, or you can make your own. Stir together and chill for several hours.

couscous salad

When you’re ready to eat, crumble a package of feta cheese over the top and dig in. If you do have leftovers for the next day, you might want to add a little more dressing since the couscous will soak it up, but it should be perfectly fine without adding more. It just depends on how much dressing you prefer.

Israeli Couscous Salad:

12 oz package of Israeli/Pearled Couscous, prepared according to package directions and slightly cooled

6 oz can ripe olives, drained

4 mini cucumbers or 1 medium cucumber, chopped

3 medium tomatoes, chopped

1/2 bottle Italian Salad Dressing

1 package feta cheese, crumbled

Combine the cooled couscous with the tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, and dressing. Chill for several hours and top with feta.

Enjoy with crusty bread, crackers, or use it as a side dish with a cup of soup or sandwich.

 

 

Basque Garlic Salad Dressing

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Several years ago when I lived in Las Vegas, I had to make a few trips north for work, to a small mining town called Elko, Nevada. You have to fly into Salt Lake City and then drive several hours, or take a small plane from SLC. I was working as the buyer for the Red Rock Canyon Interpretive Association at the time, and one of our locations was the California Trail Interpretive Center. It was a nice little museum, and I had to go up a few times a year with the executive director and the director of retail.

The highlight of these trips was dinner at the Star Hotel. Built in 1910 as a hotel and restaurant, it now serves as a Basque bar and restaurant. The people are nice, the food is good and plentiful, and everything is served family style except the entrees.

Each diner orders their entree, then the food starts coming to the table. First, they bring out cabbage soup, bread, and salad with garlic dressing. Then with the entrees, they bring out beans, spaghetti, french fries, and a vegetable (the three times I ate there, it was green beans, but it may vary). Seriously–tons of food. If you leave the Star hungry, it’s your own fault.

To be honest though, my favorite was always the salad. It was just iceberg lettuce in a creamy garlic dressing. Believe me–I know. It looks like nothing special, but oh boy. Once you try it, you’ll be hooked.

I made this for Stephan last week and he couldn’t believe how good it was.

basque dressing

It’s also incredibly simple to make. In a mixing bowl, whisk together 1 tablespoon olive oil, 4 garlic cloves, chopped, 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, and 1/2 cup mayonnaise. Stick it in the fridge overnight to chill and let the flavors meld.

When you’re ready to serve, cut a head of iceberg lettuce into squares and dump it into a large bowl. Pour the dressing over the lettuce and toss it together. It will look like there’s not enough dressing to coat the lettuce, but unless your head of lettuce is particularly large, it will be fine. Once all of the lettuce is coated, you’re finished! Serve with bread and soup or pasta. Could you add vegetables and other salad fixings? Absolutely! But do yourself a favor and try it this way first.

finished salad 2

Basque Garlic Dressing:

1 T olive oil

4 garlic cloves, chopped

3 T apple cider vinegar

1/2 t salt

1/4 t garlic powder

1/2 c mayonnaise

1 medium head iceberg lettuce

Whisk the first six ingredients together and chill in the refrigerator overnight. Cut lettuce into squares and toss with dressing. Boom–dead simple.

 

Vegetarian Pasta e Fagioli

 

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If you’ve been following the blog for a while, you know that I was a vegetarian for over four years due to an allergy to meat. While I am now able to eat poultry and seafood, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to eat red meat again. This recipe is a go-to for me when I want a big pot of comforting soup, and it’s super versatile! Want to use ground beef, ground turkey, or Trader Joe’s Beefless Beef? Go ahead! Want to use a different type of pasta? I’ve used shells, elbows, bowties, and others. Want to add more vegetables? I’ve added sauteed bell peppers, and mushrooms, but you can add whatever you want.

pasta e fagioli ingredients

Start by chopping one medium onion and sauteeing it in a large pot in a few tablespoons of olive oil. When the onion is soft and translucent, add two 14.5 ounce cans of diced tomatoes, one 15.5 ounce can of cannellini beans, 32 ounces of vegetable stock, one tablespoon of Italian Seasoning, eight cups of water, salt and pepper to taste, and one cup of TVP (textured vegetable protein). Seriously–just dump it all in the pot and bring to a boil, then let simmer for 20 minutes.

I usually buy my TVP from Bob’s Red Mill, but I found a great deal on it at The Cheese Shop in Stuart’s Draft, VA. It’s a soy protein and soy flour product that works as a meat substitute in any recipe where you would use ground beef.  It has a similar texture, but almost no flavor, so you’ll want to season it before using in other kinds of recipes. In the soup though, you don’t need to season it separately.

pasta e fagioli pot

After 20 minutes, add 2-3 cups of dry pasta (I used elbow noodles this time). Simmer another 20ish minutes until the pasta is cooked.

pasta e fagioli bowl

Serve with rolls, garlic bread, or saltines. This recipe makes a HUGE pot of soup, so you’ll have leftovers for days. After the first night, the pasta soaks up a lot of the broth, so you can either add more broth, or enjoy the leftovers as they are.

What’s your favorite go-to winter warmer?

Scalloped Sweet Potatoes Recipe

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Back in early November, Stephan and I took a quick, one-night trip down to the Outer Banks of North Carolina to read, walk on the beach, eat, drink, and RELAX. Between his schedule and mine, two days and one night was all we could fit in, but it was exactly what we needed. Because we’re foodies, we love to explore farm stands, and there are several along the way to choose from. Our favorite is Morris Farm Market, but we also picked up a huge box of sweet potatoes at Powell’s Roadside Market.

Sweet potatoes are full of fiber, vitamin C, beta carotene, B Vitamins, and calcium–and they’re delicious! We used some of them for sweet potato casserole on Thanksgiving. We had baked sweet potatoes. We had sweet potato fries.  Eventually, I wanted to make something a little different, that would also maybe put a little dent in the box that never seems to empty….

I served these with baked salmon fillets and buttered broccoli, but they would go nicely with almost anything that you’d serve with potatoes, rice, etc.

sweet potatoes prep

Start by peeling 4-5 sweet potatoes and slicing them into 1/4″ thick rounds (roughly–no one is going to get out a ruler and measure them–just make sure they’re all about the same thickness so they’ll cook evenly). Then, grease a 13×9 pan or a large casserole, and place a layer of potatoes in the bottom of the pan.

In the meantime, peel and mince three cloves of garlic and put into a saucepan with two cups of cream and two tablespoons of butter. Heat to a simmer, then take off the heat.

Combine one teaspoon of salt with 1/4 teaspoon of pepper and sprinkle some over the layer of potatoes. Sprinkle Italian Seasoning over them as well. Continue layering the potatoes and seasonings until you’ve mostly filled the pan, then pour the cream mixture over the potatoes. Bake for 30-40 minutes in a 400 degree preheated oven until potatoes are tender. Sprinkle on 1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese and 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (or more if you’re a cheese fan like me). Bake another five minutes until cheese is melted. Remove from the oven and let cool 10-15 minutes to let the sauce thicken, and to prevent burning the heck out of your mouth!

scalloped sweet potatoes

 

Recipe:

4-5 medium sweet potatoes

2 cups cream

2 Tbl. unsalted butter

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp. Italian Seasoning

1 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese and 1/2 cup shredded Mozzarella, or more to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 13 x 9 pan or large casserole dish. Peel and slice potatoes into 1/4 inch slices and layer in pan. Sprinkle salt, pepper, and Italian Seasoning over potatoes, and repeat until the pan is almost full (leave some room for the cream).

Heat 2 cups of cream in a saucepan with 2 tablespoons butter and the minced garlic, then pour over the potatoes.

Bake 30-40 minutes or until the potatoes are tender, then top with the cheese and bake another 5 minutes. Let rest 10-15 minutes and enjoy!

Yield: 4 large servings, or 6-8 small ones

 

What’s your favorite way to use sweet potatoes? Leave us a comment!