Purposely eating the same thing all week

I don’t know about you, but post Thanksgiving, I’m perfectly happy to not cook for a couple days. Thanksgiving can take a lot of my cooking mental space. The problem with trying that this year is that we didn’t have much in the way of protein leftovers – the leg of lamb Adam roasted was excellent. Also, he estimated servings pretty well, so with much effort (i.e. attempting to cut even more meat scraps off the bone) we had two lunch portions of lamb, each. I mean, hurray, more tasty lamb, but not so much with the not having too cook – we needed a protein/main course for dinners. Have enough left over sides that I didn’t really need to cook any vegetables or stuff… So what did I do?

Cook a vegetable heavy lasagna, of course.

Totally worth it.

For you vegetarians out there, and anyone who just wants to occasionally have a meatless dish, this recipe will totally work in a vegetarian version. It should since the original was developed that way 🙂 We just really wanted some animal protein. And I really dislike mushrooms. It’s a personal failing I’m sure 😉

Cheesy Lasagna

Original from TheKitchn
Makes 8-10 servings
Recipes left to try (& copy…): 9 recipes; Dinner: 1

  • 1 onion, diced small
  • 3/4 lb ground 90/10 beef
  • 1/2 lb smoked andouille sausage, sliced into bite-sized slices
  • 1 eggplant, small – medium (12-16 oz), small dice
    • [psst, go for the smaller size, especially if your skillet or pot isn’t all that large]
  • 1 butternut squash, small – medium, small dice
    • again, go for a squash on the small size
    • your favorite type of squash will work here: feel free to substitute (butternut squash was a pleasant surprise – I had not idea if it would actually work or not walking in, we just need to use up these squashes floating around the house)
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • pinch of red pepper flakes, optional (but totally awesome in)
  • 5-6 oz baby spinach
  • 3 cups tomato sauce
    • (one 24 oz jar worked, but we would have been happier with more sauce. or I failed measuring whilst executing, since 24 oz should definitely be 3 cups…)
  • 15 dry lasagna noodles (not no-boil, you want the regular ones)
  • 2 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 2 1/4 – 3 cups mozzarella, chopped or shredded
    • we used 2 1/4 cups, but would have been happy with more
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Warm some olive oil in a large skillet or pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until they begin to turn translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the ground beef and sausage; cook until the beef browns.
    IMG_0361
    Add the eggplant, squash, and bell pepper; cook until all soften, roughly 3-5 minutes.
  3. Clear some space in the middle of the pan (this is where it would have been easier if I’d used a pot with tall sides…). Add more olive oil, the garlic, salt, and spices – stir until the garlic is fragrant and beginning to turn golden, about 30 seconds. Now stir the garlic and spices into the vegetables. Add the spinach on top and stir until it wilts, about 3-5 minutes later. Remove the skillet or pot from heat.
  4. Spread some tomato sauce in the bottom of a 9″x13″ baking dish (you do not need to use cooking spray or butter the dish). Lay 5 of the lasagna noodles (breaking if needed) in a single layer over the sauce. Spread 1 cup of ricotta on the noodles (I totally reached in and spread out the ricotta with my hands), half of the vegetables, 1 cup of tomato sauce, and 1 cup of mozzarella. Add another single layer of lasagna noodles using 5 pieces, the rest of the vegetables, 1 cup of tomato sauce, and 1 cup of mozzarella (in that order). Top with a final layer of 5 pieces of lasagna noodles, the remaining tomato sauce, and 1/2 cup of ricotta. Reserve the remaining 1/4-1 cup of mozzarella for later.
  5. Cover the dish with a lid or tightly with foil; bake for 1 hour. After 1 hour, check that the noodles are done by inserting a knife – if the knife does not slide easily through all the layers, recover and cook for another 15 minutes. Once noodles are done, sprinkle the remaining mozzarella over the top and return to the oven, uncovered, until the mozzarella melts, about 10-15 minutes.

 

Final pizza from this batch

Definitely not quick weeknight pizza, this one. But very excellent and very fall-like, what with the roasted butternut squash. This one worked well with the dough we tried early so now we’ve got a batch in the freezer as well (woot). Honestly, I don’t have much to say about this one because, other than roasting the squash, this one seems like a pretty standard pizza – dough, mozzarella, and toppings. Okay, kale and roasted butternut squash probably aren’t your standard pizza toppings. Or olive oil and salt instead of a red sauce. Aaaaaand I did skip the bacon – intended to grill some chicken, slice it up and stick it on top. But… I forgot, so we just forged ahead without. Okay, not so standard I guess, but it did still feel like I learned the foundational skeleton of a pizza recipe from this. Might be that it’s the third pizza recipe I’ve tried within the last 3 1/2 months.

Adam did turn to me after one bite with a ‘We’re keeping this one!’ So that was nice.

Kale and Butternut Squash Topped Pizza

Original from TheKitchn
Makes one 8-10″ pizza (depends on how well you roll out the dough)
Recipes left to try (& copy…): 11 recipes; Pizza: None! Hurray, we’re done!

  • 1 butternut squash, small – 1.5 lb or less
  • 1 small bunch (or less) of kale of your favorite variety
  • 8 oz mozzarella (smoked if you can find it)
  • 1/2 lb pizza dough, store bought or homemade
  • olive oil & kosher salt
  1. Heat the oven to 450°F. Peel and dice the squash into small cubes, about 1/2 inch. Spread the cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet; drizzle with olive oil. Roast until soft, about 30 minutes.
  2. Wash the kale and pat dry. Strip the leaves from the steams and tear into 1/2 inch pieces. Slice the mozzarella into thin rounds.
  3. Heat the oven to 500°F or as high as the oven will go – if you have a baking stone, place it in the lower half of the oven as it warms.
  4. Shape the dough into a 10″ round. Brush the dough with olive oil and sprinkle the kosher salt over the dough. Lay the mozzarella rounds on the dough, arrange the roast squash on top, and scatter the kale over the top.
  5. Bake in the oven for 7-10 minutes, until kale is crispy and the dough a dark golden. Allow to cool slightly before slicing and serving.

Pasta Interrupted

So this is what I should/wanted to have posted last Tuesday, before I got sick (all better now, thanks. just a cold/sinus thing) – y’all might recognize the roasted squash from last week. In a lot of ways, this recipe (Fettuccine with roasted butternut squash, brown butter, and sage) is comfort food for me – lots of carbs, contrast with some nuts, and slightly sweet squash with some bite.

Man I like carbs. Might explain why I like baking bread. I get to eat the results.

Any rate, this pasta recipe is also rather flexible. As written, it’s vegetarian (not vegan through) but it’d be pretty easy to add some animal protein, especially if you’ve got a little grill – slap a chicken breast on a grill or chop it up and sauté in a pan, then mix in the cooked chicken at the end. If you’re trying this one on a weeknight or just otherwise don’t have time to fully roast the squash, there’s a short-cut version I’ll include. I think it’s not quite as good, but still very decent. The original calls for pine nuts, but those are expensive so I’ve always substituted cashews – bet you could substitute your favorite nut. And it’s not like we keep any sage other than the dried variety around the house, which still works despite the original calling for frying sliced thin whole sage leaves in butter. I mean it sounds delicious, but there are some limits around here. … I’ll get back to you when I actually figure them out.

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Fettuccine with Roasted Butternut Squash, Brown Butter and Sage

Serves 4
original: TheKitchn.com

  • 1 small to medium butternut squash, about 2 lb (don’t worry if all the ones at the store are too big – as long as you can fit all the chunks on a pan in one layer, you’re good)
  • 1/2 lb fettuccine noodles
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • dried sage to taste
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup nuts of choice, chopped
  • Parmesan cheese
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Spray or butter a baking sheet OR lay down enough parchment paper to cover the bottom.
  2. Peel the squash, scrape out the seeds, and cut into roughly 1/2 inch cubes. Toss with a little olive oil and salt. Spread the butternut squash in a single layer on the baking sheet. Roast for 45-60 minutes*, by preference stirring every 15 minutes but will work if left alone. You are cooking until the squash is tender and beginning to have caramelized brown spots. Remove from the oven and set aside.
  3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the fettuccine noodles with a generous amount of salt according to package instructions. Scoop out and set aside 1/2 cup of cooking water before draining the pasta and setting aside.
  4. While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Swirl the pan every so often and cook until butter turns caramel-brown, about 5 minutes. I am told there should be a nutty smell.
  5. Add the sage leaves to the browned butter and allow to fry for a few seconds, until crispy. Add the roasted squash, nutmeg, and 1/2 tsp salt to the pan*; stir until butter coast the squash. Pour in a 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta liquid and let bubble into a thin sauce, adding more liquid if needed. Taste and adjust salt at this point. Add the cooked pasta, tossing to coat and mix evenly. Remove from heat, split into bowls to serve, and top with nuts and parmesan.

Short-cut version:
1) Roast for 15-20 minutes, until squash is tender, but not carmelized.
2) Squish the squash a bit with the back of your stirring utensil.

In which there is failure and a plot does not come to fruition

Recipe Count – 40 left
Section Count – Entrees: 8; subsection – vegetarian: 2

Look, sometimes a recipe just doesn’t work. Sometimes, it’s because the recipe wasn’t tested enough before publication. Sometimes, it’s ’cause I just don’t have the skill level for this. And sometimes it’s because mother-[expletive] lasagna sheets don’t come in multiples of mother-[expletive] 3.25 inches!

So the plan for a Saturday dinner was “Tortellini filled with Winter Squash and Sage” from The Spice Bible. From the start, I knew this one should only be tried on  a weekend, what with the ‘roast for 40 minutes’ in the first step. But the drizzling sage-infused butter over tortellini filled with squash sounded really good. Good enough to mean I was willing to stand up and fold pasta into little packets. Something which making wonton soup for New Year’s Con has pretty much burned out my capacity to do.

New Year’s Con: the college crowd, plus the ever expanding social circle, getting together for the weekend over New Year’s, holing up in an apartment/house the entire time, and being our incredibly geeky selves. We’re up to about 13-15 people. Feeding said small horde for 3 meals a day is … an undertaking, which our hosts have figured out is easier to outsource to said horde. Some of us volunteer to be responsible for one meal over the weekend and for several years, my traditional meal was a wonton soup. That had started out life scaled to two servings. It was good in that I could make the wontons ahead of time, freeze them, and simmer as needed at our get together. But 5-6 wontons per head, for 13 people? Yeah, I don’t make it anymore. At least not for New Year’s Con.

([Expletive]. Now, I want wonton soup again.)

Right, so, tortellini.

Diced onionsThings were going pretty well. The lovely butternut squash had been peeled with a minimum of fuss, the red onion diced with a lesser amount of tearing (let’s be honest – crying).

 

 

 

 

Mashed squashRoasting and cooking until soft had occurred as well as the mashing, cooling, and mixing in lovely ricotta, egg, sage and freshly grated Parmesan and nutmeg.

 

 

 

 

SquaresThe OCD chef’s cutting board had been hauled out and lasagna sheets lined up when I ran into the first ‘maybe this will be an issue?’ thing – the sheets were about 5.75 inches wide. And the recipe called for 3.25 inch squares. So… I could either get one row of 3.25 inch squares or cut the sheet in half lengthwise and get smaller rectangles. I went for the second option.

This was not my only mistake.

The second mistake was actually getting the sheets into squaresrectangles ahead of time. About 10 minutes ahead of time. Which was apparently long enough for the squares to dry out enough to not seal but still be reasonably pliable. Plus the smaller size meant that all the filling, no matter how little I put in went Squish! out the sides.

This is the point where I stepped back, looked at the bowl of mashed butternut squash and other goodness, and started muttering expletives, in a ‘what do I do now?’ moment. This is where it’s really awesome to have two cooking styles in the house. I fix Adam’s baking mishaps. He rescues dinner when a recipe goes completely to pot.

We had lasagna.

Butternut Squash TortelliniLasagna with Sage

serves 8

Filling

  • 2 lb butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 2 tbsp chopped sage

The Rest

  • 1 chicken breast, sliced
  • 1 package lasagna sheets

Ingredients

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Mix the squash in a roasting pan with half the olive oil (2 tbsp) and a generous amount of salt and freshly ground pepper. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the squash is completely soft.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 tbsp oil in a saucepan and gently cook the onion until soft. Put the onion and squash in a bowl, draining off any excess oil. Mash, then leave to cool. Once cool, crumble in the ricotta and mix in the egg yolk, Parmesan cheese, nutmeg and sage. Season well.
  3. In a square baking dish, put in half the squash mixture, a layer of chicken, then cover with a layer of lasagna sheets. Repeat with remaining squash, chicken, and sheets. Cover top with more ricotta and sprinkle sage over the top.
    Pre-Oven
  4. Cook in the 375°F oven for 30 minutes.
    Post-Oven