DDD #137 – Vegan Chicken & Eggplant Casserole

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2019

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.

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Click the image above to watch the video.

Vegan Chicken & Eggplant Casserole

Feeds 4-6

INGREDIENTS

8 vegan chicken patties (like Boca or Quorn)

1 large eggplant – sliced 1/4-1/2 inch slices & sprayed with cooking spray

24 ounce or more pasta sauce (I used Rao’s Spicy Arrabbiata) (my recipe for homemade is HERE)

12-16 ounces vegan mozzarella (at least half of it grated)

Basil for garnish

DIRECTIONS

Make sauce – if you are using homemade.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Grill the eggplant slices on both sides on a grill or in a grill pan.

Assembly instruction is not really important – as long as you have about 1/2 the sauce & 1/4 of the grated mozzarella left to top the casserole.

Layer 1/4 of the sauce in a casserole pan.  Layer 4 chicken patties, all the eggplant & then about 1/2 the cheese.  Top with another 1/4 of the sauce & the remaining 4 chicken patties.  Top with the rest of the sauce & as much grated mozzarella as you like.

Bake for 30-45 minutes or until it is heated through & the cheese is melted.

Serve garnished with fresh chopped basil.

 

Vegan Three “Cheese” & Alfredo Lasagna with Power Greens (Kale, Chard & Spinach)

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2016

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or just print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.

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This lasagna is delicious & 100% vegan.  I made three kinds of vegan “cheese” for this.  You can make the cheeses yourself (they are all very easy) or buy vegan pre-made varieties.  I used three kinds of sauce, a cup of leftover homemade, the remnants of a jar of Rao’s marinara & a little more than a cup of Rao’s Arrabbiata – my favorite jarred sauce.  You can use all homemade or all from a jar – or mix it up – as I did.

I used red chard, kale & spinach.  You can use any combination of greens that you prefer.  I used cheddar cauliflower, because I had it, but regular cauliflower is just as good (it just has less vitamin A).  I used the sort of lasagna that needs to be cooked in advance – mainly because I noticed the no-cook kind had egg in them.  You can use your favorite vegan lasagna noodles.

I am going to post the three cheeses first.  You can choose to make any or all of them.

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Best Fast & Easy Vegan Mozzarella (above) – for Melting & Grating – recipe is HERE.

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Vegan Herbed Tofu “Ricotta”

INGREDIENTS

1 lb extra firm tofu

1 TBS olive oil

1 tsp garlic powder

1-3 TBS mixed chopped fresh herbs (I used thyme & sage)

1 tsp each salt & pepper

1 TBS dry parsley

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DIRECTIONS

Crumble the tofu & mix in the other ingredients.  Set aside.

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Vegan “Parmesan”

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup bread crumbs (I used panko)

1/2 cup pumpkin seeds (pepita) – I used roasted & salted because I could not find raw – but raw will work, too

2 TBS nutritional yeast

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp dry thyme

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DIRECTIONS

I think it would be ideal to grind these ingredients together in a spice mill – but I don’t have one.  You might get a finer result.  I used my food processor & ran it a few minutes.  The pumpkin seeds were not totally ground – but I went with it anyway.

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Vegan Three “Cheese” & Alfredo Lasagna with Power Greens (Kale, Chard & Spinach)

Makes a standard lasagna

INGREDIENTS

1 lb lasagna noodles – cooked as directed

3 cups pasta sauce of your choice

2+ cups vegan mozzarella – grated

for the power greens

1 head kale – ribs removed & chopped

1 head chard – ribs removed & chopped

2 cups spinach

1 cup fresh basil

4 garlic cloves – minced

1/4 onion – diced

1/4 cup vegan Parmesan

Olive oil

for the alfredo

1 head cauliflower – cut into florets

1 cup vegetable stock or water

2 TBS vegan butter

5 garlic cloves – minced

3/4 cup vegan Parmesan

GARNISH – chopped basil or arugula leaves or parsley

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DIRECTIONS

Cook the pasta & drain.

for the alfredo

Boil the cauliflower (maybe even boil it in vegetable stock) until very soft.  Drain (I reserved 1 cup of the water I boiled the cauliflower in).

Melt the butter & saute the garlic for one minute.

In a blender or food processor – blend the cauliflower, stock (or water) butter & garlic, vegan Parmesan & a bit of S&P until very smooth.  Set aside.

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for the power greens

Heat a TBS or 2 in a large saute pan & heat the onion until soft.  Add the garlic & kale, chard & spinach & heat just until the greens wilt.

In a food processor (not a necessary step – but it prevents large & hard to bite pieces of greens in your lasagna that can flop, hot, out of a bite you are taking & burn you – or just make a mess) – pulse the hot greens, the basil, and 1/4 cup of the Parmesan.  Set aside.

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for the lasagna

Heat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a large lasagna pan, put about 1 cup of sauce on the bottom & then layer noodles.  The rest of the layering can be random & at your discretion – but here is the order I used.  I topped the noodles with half the “ricotta,” half the “alfredo,” then noodles, then all the greens, noodles, remaining “ricotta,” cup or more of sauce, noodles, remaining “alfredo,” noodles, remaining sauce & mozzarella.

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Bake for about 45 minutes or until well heated.  I would say “or until cheese melts,” but many vegan cheeses do not truly melt.  So – just eyeball it until you think it seems done.

I stacked two pieces on top of each other for photos & you could do this, too, for an impressive presentation.  Or not.  Your call.  Garnish with basil or arugula or parsley.  Devour!

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10-Ingredient Vegan Eggplant Parmesan Mac & Cheese

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2016

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or just print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.

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Honest to God – this might be the most fucking delicious vegan meal I have ever made!  Seriously!  And to think it only came together because I had a fridge full of random leftovers & ingredients that I needed to be done with.  I had a package of Tofutti American cheese, several slices of their mozzarella cheese (both of which I totally shit-talked in my vegan cheese review) & some leftover pasta.  Oh – and two Chinese eggplants.

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I actually had this selection of vegan cheeses – seen above.  I opted to use the individual slices first because 1) they were getting old and 2) I thought this dish would make better use of (read: mask) their less than fabulous flavor.  Ultimately – I did use some of the other two cheeses, as well.  The result is AMAZING!  You can use whatever vegan cheeses you prefer but you are going to need about a pound of various cheeses – before all is said & done.

I used Chinese eggplant & I recommend them because they are less bitter & carry less moisture than regular eggplant.

I used nutritional yeast but a vegan Parmesan would also work.  Or use neither.

This takes a few steps but all are simple & the result is a decadent feast that nobody would ever guess was vegan – at least with this particular combination of cheeses.  I find some vegan cheeses taste more fake than others – so – the brands you use will matter – but I am certain lots of other brands would be just as yummy – especially the Field Roast Chao cheeses – my favorite of the vegan cheeses I have tried.

Whatever you do – get it together to make this – at least once.  It really is killer!

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10-Ingredient Vegan Eggplant Parmesan Mac & Cheese

Feeds 4-6 depending on appetites

INGREDIENTS

4+ cups or so of cooked pasta

2 Chinese eggplant (or other variety) – sliced 1/2″ thick

1 cup bread crumbs

1/4 cup nutritional yeast (or vegan Parmesan)

1 TBS dry parsley

8 oz (or 12 individual slices) vegan American or cheddar cheese (or a mix) – PLUS SOME  EXTRA – just in case

4 oz (or 6 individual slices) vegan mozzarella – PLUS SOME  EXTRA – just in case

(Extra grated vegan cheese to top the casserole – one that melts would be prettiest)

2 – 3 cups unsweetened vegan milk

1 1/2 – 2 cups pasta sauce (I used Rao’s Arrabbiata)

Basil or parsley (or both) – chopped for garnish

Olive oil

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DIRECTIONS

Heat the oven to 375 degrees.

Mix the bread crumbs, nutritional yeast & dry parsley in a bowl.  Put about 1/2 cup milk in another bowl.  Heat some olive oil in a frying pan.  Dunk the eggplant rounds in the milk & then through the breadcrumbs and drop into the hot oil.  They should brown pretty quickly.  Flip & brown the other side.  Put on a cooking sheet & into the oven while you repeat the process until all the eggplant is cooked.  You will likely need to wipe out the burnt breadcrumbs & add more oil with each batch.

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In a stock pot, melt the American and/or cheddar cheese.   Add vegan milk in small increments until it becomes creamy.   Stir in the pasta.  At this point – I decided it needed more cheese so I added two slices of this cheese (below) and a bit more milk & cooked it until it looked wet & yummy & creamy.   I am not giving exact directions as to the cheese-milk-pasta ratio because different cheeses might have more or less moisture – and everyone has a different idea of how wet mac & cheese should be.    I would suggest going a little wet – as the pasta & eggplant will absorb it & you won’t have a dry dish.

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Look at that up there!!!!  Doesn’t that look just ridiculous?!  It was all I could do not to just start shoving it in my face.  But I used considerable will power & continued with the recipe.

So – when you get your pasta-cheese-milk ratio to where it looks creamy but still a bit wet (so it won’t dry out in cooking) – take it off the flame.

Grease a casserole pan & layer half the eggplant on the bottom.

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Add another layer of eggplant with the rest of the slices & top with pasta sauce.

In the same pan you melted the cheese in – melt the mozzarella & pour it over your casserole & pop the pan into the oven.

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At this point – I took my dogs for a walk – COMPLETELY forgetting I had this in the oven.  I think it needed 30-45 minutes in the 375 oven – but it got way more than that.  Don’t burn yours.  I kinda did.   Look – not so pretty.

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So – in an effort to make it pretty again – I grated some of that cheese above onto it & popped it back into the oven for about ten minutes.  As you can see – it did little to make it prettier (that cheese did not want to melt) – but when I scooped it onto plates – it looked & SMELLED amazing!

So – maybe do not burn yours & it will be prettier but nobody needs to see it before it hits the plate, anyway.

So – scoop some onto plates & garnish with parsley and/or basil.  I swear – this will fool people out of suspecting it is vegan.  So yummy & comforting!

Waste no time & devour it!

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Roasted Pumpkin Lasagna with Red Chard and Fried Sage Bechamel (with Homemade Pumpkin Puree)

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2014

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.

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This recipe requires a few steps but all are pretty easy & the result is an impressive crowd pleaser.  I roasted a couple of pumpkins myself but you could use canned pumpkin with little change in the result.  The only real difference is that canned pumpkin doesn’t come with seeds & I am going to post a roasted pumpkin seed recipe next & they are SO FRIGGING YUMMY – you will definitely be missing out if you do not try them.

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Roasted Pumpkin Lasagna with Red Chard and Fried Sage Bechamel (with Homemade Pumpkin Puree)

INGREDIENTS

1/2 – 1 lb lasagna noodles (I used about 10-12 noodles)

3 cups pumpkin puree (recipe for homemade is below)

16 oz ricotta cheese

1 bunch red chard (or rainbow or green chard or kale) – thick ribs cut out

1-2 TBS crushed red pepper (optional)

1+ cups grated Parmesan

1+ cups grated mozzarella

S&P

for the bechamel

4 cups milk (I used almond milk)

7 TBS butter

6 TBS flour

1 large bunch of fresh sage

Pinch of nutmeg

S&P

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DIRECTIONS

Heat the oven to 375 degrees.

Cook the lasagna noodles for about half the time recommended for them to be al dente and – being sure to reserve the boiling water – scoop them out & run cold water over them in a colander.  Maybe toss with a touch of olive oil to be sure they don’t get sticky.

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Plunge the greens you are using into the hot water & let them sit 2-3 minutes.  Drain & chop them & set aside.

Melt 1 TBS of the butter in a small saute pan & fry the sage leaves for about 1 minute of med-high heat.  Do not brown it.  Drain the sage on a paper towel & set aside.

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Melt the remaining 6 TBS butter in the same pan in which you fried the sage (to take advantage of all the lovely sage flavor) & then transfer it into a stock pot large enough to hold 5 cups of milk.

Set the heat at med-low & whisk in the flour.  Keep whisking until the mixture smells nutty & takes on the color of light sand – about 6-7 minutes.

Meanwhile – in another pot – warm the milk but do not boil it.  Add the milk to the flour & butter roux – one cup at a time – and whisk until smooth & thick.  Reserve a few sage leaves for garnish & then crumble the rest into the bechamel.  Bring to a boil – whisking the entire time.  In 5-10 minutes – remove from heat, add some S&P and the nutmeg & set aside.

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To make assembly easier – I blended the ricotta & pumpkin puree in my food processor.  This isn’t necessary but ricotta tends to be thick & hard to spread so blending it with the puree makes spreading easier & assures an even distribution.

Treat a small lasagna pan with cooking spray & assemble the lasagna.  Put 1/4 of the sage bechamel in the bottom of the pan & top with a layer of noodles.  Layer 1/2 of the ricotta & pumpkin & top with 1/2 of the greens & a sprinkling of crushed red pepper.  Add another 1/4 of the bechamel & another layer of noodles.  Top this with the other 1/2 of the pumpkin/ricotta and the other 1/2 of the greens.  Add more crushed red pepper – if you like – and maybe some S&P.  Add another 1/4 of the bechamel & another layer of noodles.  Top with the rest of the bechamel & spread the Parmesan & mozzarella on top.  Garnish with a few sage leaves.

Bake for about 30 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling & beginning to brown.  Let the lasagna rest about ten minutes & then start hacking into it & shoving it into your pie hole.  Mmmmmm!  Autumn!

Oh!  And in the interest of full disclosure – the pictures I used here of the lasagna on a plate is really TWO pieces of lasagna stacked on top of each other.  You can do this when you serve it – if the deeper lasagna appeals to you visually.

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Homemade Roasted Pumpkin Puree

INGREDIENTS

Fresh pumpkin (I used two small pie pumpkins & got about 4 cups of puree from them)

Water

S&P

DIRECTIONS

Heat the oven to 375 degrees.

Cut the tops off & then pumpkins in half (or quarter them, if your pumpkin is large), seed them (keeping the seeds for roasting!  I will post a recipe for that next) & roast for about 40-50 minutes or until the skin is soft & the meat is fork tender.

Let them cool a bit & then scoop out the meat & puree in a food processor or blender.  I added about 1 cup of water to mine to thin it enough to blend.  Add a bit of S&P.

This puree is REALLY good for dogs & can be a miracle cure for doggy diarrhea if you add some to their food.  Just FYI.

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Cauliflower Noodle Lasagna with Herbed Goat Cheese Bechamel and Garlicky Brussels Sprouts and Mushrooms and Arugula Pistachio Pesto (No Carb – No Pasta)

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2014

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.

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vromans back

Did you happen to miss my appearance on Nicole Richie’s show –#CandidlyNicole @VH1? No worries! Here it is! I show up HERE after the break – about 16 minutes in!
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AND – if you missed my hour-long Oh, Mary! Show appearance this week – well – you are in LUCK! Here are all four segments! LOTSA dirty talk! Many laughs!

Here you go!

http://jlcn.tv/shows/oh-mary/mary-episode-26-segment-01/

http://jlcn.tv/shows/oh-mary/mary-episode-26-segment-02/

http://jlcn.tv/shows/oh-mary/mary-episode-26-segment-03/

http://jlcn.tv/shows/oh-mary/mary-episode-26-segment-04/

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OK – in all fairness – this recipe has a lot of steps.  Without a food processor – it might be too much of a pain in the ass to attempt.  If you have a food processor & an afternoon to kill – this might be a fun project.  It is pretty delicious – though not particularly healthy – despite the no-carb noodles made from cauliflower.  This could be made vegan by subbing out the animal products with vegan alternatives but I will leave that to the motivated vegans out there.  I don’t think I have to say “or vegan alternative” after every egg, butter or cheese ingredient for the vegans to work it out.

I used leftover arugula & pistachio pesto that I still had from my Arugula Pistachio Pesto Pasta with Goat Cheese and Ricotta Salata.

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You can make this or any other pesto – or use a store-bought one.

Arugula Pistachio Pesto

This makes enough for at least a pound or two of pasta but it keeps well in an air-tight container in the fridge.

INGREDIENTS

6 oz fresh arugula

2 garlic cloves

1/2 cup Parmesan

1/4 cup pistachios (or other nuts)

1/4-1/2 cup olive oil

DIRECTIONS

I used 1/4 cup olive oil & 1/4 cup of water to thin the pesto.  1/2 cup of oil just seems crazy to me – but you can go all oil if you want to.

Blend into a pesto in a food processor – starting with just the 1/4 cup of olive oil.  Drizzle more (or water) in as it purees until you get the consistency you like.  Set aside.

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I made a homemade bechamel but you could use a store-bought alfredo & get much the same results.

I used chopped mushrooms, leeks & Brussels sprouts – but any mix of sauteed vegetable would work.

I used this pink Himalayan salt that I have become obsessed with but any salt will do.  And I used the Dash Onion & Herb seasoning but any Italian seasoning (or mix of onion & garlic powders) would be fine.

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I used cauliflower “noodles” in this but real lasagna noodles work, too.

No-Carb Lasagna Noodles

INGREDIENTS

1 large head cauliflower – riced (about 10 cups)

3 eggs

1 tsp salt

1 TBS seasoning (see above)

1 TBS oregano

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DIRECTIONS

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

I used a silicone cooking mat treated with cooking spray but greased parchment paper should work, too.  Know that this stuff STICKS  – even to the greased silicone mat – so – slather your cooking shit up.

Take the cauliflower & grate it up with the grater blade of a food processor – or with a manual grater – or get to chopping by hand until it has a rice-like look.

You can zap this in the microwave in 2 minute increments – stirring in between – until it softens but I loathe nuking things.  I submerged the cauliflower in boiling water for about 5 minutes & then drained it in a colander under cold running water.

Once it is cool, in small batches, twist the cauliflower up in a kitchen town & wring as much moisture out of it as you can.

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Then simply mix it up in a large bowl with the other ingredients & press it onto your well-greased cooking sheet (see images above).  Bake it for about 45 minutes or until it begins to brown & is cooked pretty dry.  Set aside & allow it to cool.

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Garlicky Sauteed Brussels Sprouts, Mushrooms & Leeks

I made the mushrooms & leeks first & then decided to add Brussels sprouts so my photos might show a different cooking sequence but it can be done as I will outline now.

INGREDIENTS

Olive oil

2 leeks – white sections only – chopped small

1/2 lb mushrooms – diced

1 lb Brussels sprouts – chopped or sliced fine

1 tsp each S&P

2 garlic cloves – minced

1/4 cup fresh parsley – chopped

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DIRECTIONS

It is important to cut the leeks & mushrooms & Brussels sprouts small so they do not stay too chunky & impede clean slicing of the lasagna.

I chopped the mushrooms & leeks & ran the Brussels sprouts through the slicer of my food processor.

Heat 2 (or so) TBS olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat & saute the Brussels sprouts until they begin to brown a bit.  Add /4 water & steam them soft.  Once the water is absorbed or evaporated – add the leeks & mushrooms & saute until tender – maybe 5 minutes.  Stir in the S&P & the minced garlic and the parsley.  Saute another minute & remove from heat.  Set aside.

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Herbed Goat Cheese Bechamel

INGREDIENTS

2 cups almond (or other) milk

3 TBS butter

3 TBS flour

2 garlic cloves – minced

8-10 oz goat cheese – room temp

2 TBS chives (or other herb) – minced (optional)

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DIRECTIONS

Melt butter in a soup pan over med-high heat.  Add the flour & garlic & whisk constantly until it thickens, begins to brown & becomes aromatic – maybe 2 minutes.

Add the milk in 1/4 cup increments & whisk it in until it incorporates & thickens before adding more milk.  This should take maybe 5 minutes.

Add the goat cheese & chives & whisk until the goat cheese melts.  Set aside.

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Cauliflower Noodle Lasagna with Herbed Goat Cheese Bechamel and Garlicky Brussels Sprouts and Mushrooms and Arugula Pistachio Pesto

INGREDIENTS

Cauliflower “noodles” (recipe above) or real (cooked) lasagna noodles

1 cup pesto (recipe above) – or any pesto you prefer

Garlicky mushrooms, leeks & Brussels sprouts (recipe above) – or any cooked veggie mix you prefer

2-3 cups grated cheese (I used mozzarella)

Several hunks of fresh (packed in water) mozzarella (optional)

Parsley – chopped (as garnish)

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DIRECTIONS

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

My photos show this lasagna cooked once & photographed & then reheated for a new photo session – hence the paler & more golden cheesy tops.

Prep your ingredients.  Cut the cauliflower “noodles” into three equal portions – or however you can to get some layer-able “noodles.”  Never fear if they break apart & stick a lot.  Patch the pieces in & nobody will ever know the difference.

Assemble the lasagna.  I started with a layer of bechamel (whisk it smooth if a skin has formed while it waited).  Then I added the layers in this order:

1/3 of the cauliflower noodles

1/2 of the pesto

1/2 of the veggies

1/3 of the bechamel

another 1/3 of the cauliflower noodles

the other 1/2 of the pesto

the other 1/2 of the veggies

another 1/3 of the bechamel

Grated cheese – in an amount that looks good to you – I used about 1/2 – 3/4 cup

the final 1/3 of the cauliflower noodles

the rest of the bechamel

More grated cheese & some fresh mozzarella – if you are using it

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 Bake that son-of-a-bitch fr 25-45 minutes or until the cheese is melted & bubbly & looks the color you want it to look – whether JUST starting to brown at the edges – or a bit golden all over.
Let it rest for 10 minutes or so.  Garnish with chopped parsley & eat it up!!!!

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No-Carb No-Pasta Grilled Garden Vegetable Lasagna with Basil Marinara

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.

Hey!  Have you heard?  I wrote a really funny & dirty novel!  www.BathingBook.com.   Check out the reviews on Amazon!  Why not buy a copy?

vromans front vromans back

 

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Say!  Kids!   Got 18 minutes to kill & you already watched as much porn as you can for the day?  Why not wash your filthy hands & culturize yourselves?  Take a gander at my genius boyfriend’s award-winning short film – Pillow.  Available for the first time online!  Feel free to say you saw it here!  And for those of you unfamiliar with indie films & more accustomed to having things spelled out for them – let me just preface your viewing with this insight:  It isn’t a goose.  It is an angel.

Enjoy!

Wasn’t that AWESOME????

OK – on to food!  This a pretty guiltless creation.  Sure – there is some cheese but there ain’t no pasta – just a shit ton of veggies!  This bad boy has to weigh 15 pounds!  The actual vegetables one uses is just a matter of personal preference – so – if you hate eggplant or mushrooms – leave them out.  Love kale?  Throw some of that shit in there.  Make it your own!

I grilled the eggplant but you could skip that part by just slicing the eggplant far thinner than my 1/2 inch slices.  I also grilled the zucchini.  I grilled these guys because 1) I think they taste better grilled & 2) I was attempting to minimize the water they would release into the lasagna.  If grilling isn’t an option for you or it just sounds like a pain in the ass – simply slice those guys up & toss them with a little salt in a colander in the sink & let them drain a while.  That should dry them out a bit – and, I hear – it lessens any bitterness the eggplant might possess.

I made a simple basil marinara but your favorite jarred sauce will do.  Feel free to add some actual cooked lasagna noodles, if you fancy.  I’m not here to judge.  This is a fairly simple recipe despite the various steps, so do not be intimidated.  And this baby is PACKED with flavor!

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No-Carb No-Pasta Grilled Garden Vegetable Lasagna with Basil Marinara

INGREDIENTS

For the basil marinara

1 (28 oz) can of crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce

3 garlic cloves – chopped

1/4 cup fresh basil – chopped

1 tsp sugar

10 cherry tomatoes (quartered) – optional

Olive oil

S&P to taste

For the garden vegetable lasagna

5-6 large zucchinis – sliced the long way into faux lasagna noodles

1 eggplant – sliced

5 huge mushrooms (or equivalent) – sliced

10 cherry tomatoes – cut into quarters

1-2 cups fresh spinach

2 cups grated mozzarella (or cheddar mozzarella blend or other mix)

1 large ball fresh mozzarella

Olive oil

Italian dressing for grilling (optional)

Parsley or basil – chopped as garnish

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DIRECTIONS

For the basil marinara

Heat 1 TBS olive oil in a stock or soup pot.  Add the garlic & heat for less than a minute.  Do not be alarmed!  I like huge chunks of garlic.  You can cut yours up more, if you like, just don’t burn it!  Also – those brown bits in there are remnants of the sauteed mushrooms.  Just soze you know.

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Add the canned tomatoes (they sputter in the oil so do not get burned).  Add the basil, cherry tomatoes & the sugar.  Simmer 15 minutes or more.  Add S&P to taste.  Set aside or allow to simmer on low as you prepare the lasagna components.

For the garden vegetable lasagna

I lightly coated the eggplant with a cheap, Italian dressing & grilled them.  I grilled the zucchini naked.  You can do this or opt to slice those guys up & toss them with a little salt in a colander in the sink & let them drain a while.  Either way, set the eggplant & zucchini up & then set aside.

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In a frying pan, heat 1-2 TBS olive oil (less if you can get away with it) & saute the mushrooms until they begin to brown.  Set aside.

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Get a casserole or other dish appropriate for your lasagna & cover the bottom with a thin layer of the basil marinara.  My pan is about 3 inches deep & maybe 6″x9″.  This is not a science.

Then – basically layer all the ingredients (except the fresh mozzarella & the cherry tomatoes) in any order that suits you – as long as the final two layers are sauce & then grated cheese.  Here is my assembly.

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Then – top with the cherry tomatoes.

Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes.  Take the dish out & top it with sliced fresh mozzarella.

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Bake it for about another ten minutes or until it looks like this.

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Let it rest a good 10-20 minutes before cutting into it so you have some hope of it holding its shape.  I was impatient.  I cut right in because I am a food whore and I have no will power & that’s just how I roll.

If you wait a bit – it might slice up like this.  Might.  You make the call.

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Pasta Roses: Ham & Fontina and Zucchini, Mozzarella & Basil with a Spicy Pink Sauce

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.

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Well now – here is an embarrassing blog post: I am posting two recipes here WITHOUT any photographs of the final results.  (Update!  I made these a second time in 24 hours & have result photos to share.  They will follow at the end of the original post.)  This happened because I had a dinner party yesterday & by the time these guys came out of the oven – I was more interested in serving them & eating them that I was in photographing them.  Let me assure you – there were no visual surprises when they came out of the oven so do not be afraid to try these.  They are easy & delicious!!!!  They are an interesting alternative to tradition lasagna.  My sauce was made with the produce I had handy – which included a leek & both a red & yellow pepper.  You need not use two colors of pepper nor a leek.  Onions alone would do as would just a single red bell pepper.  I am going to list quantities here but they are really approximates.  When making dishes like this that require layers of assembly, I always err on the side of making or buying more of each ingredient than the recipe calls for.  That way, you do not run out of sauce or cheese or whatever midway through putting it all together.  This made about a dozen of each of the two rose varieties.  And – as a brilliant coincidence – I served my guests pasta roses & after they left – my awesome stud of a boyfriend, Miles, presented me with these roses!  At like – 11pm.  It was a total surprise.  Isn’t he great?

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Pasta Roses: Ham & Fontina and Zucchini, Mozzarella & Basil with a Spicy Pink Sauce

INGREDIENTS

Approximately 1.5 lbs lasagna noodles (I cooked two boxes but threw a lot away)

For the sauce

1/2 onion – diced

1 bell pepper – diced

1 leek – diced

6 garlic cloves – minced

1-2 TBS olive oil

2 (29 oz) cans of tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes

2 TBS crushed red pepper

2 TBS fresh basil – chopped

1 cup heavy cream

S&P to taste

For the ham & fontina roses

Approximately 1/2 lb sliced ham

1/2 lb sliced fontina

For the zucchini, mozzarella & basil roses

1-2 large zucchini – sliced into rounds

12-16 oz fresh mozzarella – sliced

1 large bunch basil

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DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cook the lasagna noodles.  About 2-3 minutes before they are done – add the zucchini rounds to the water.  I cooked mine for 5 minutes – which was too long.  Then – rinse the noodles & zucchini under cold water.  Then set the zucchini aside & lay the noodles out to dry.

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For the sauce, heat the olive oil in a stock pot & saute the onion, bell pepper, leek (or additional onion) & crushed red pepper for about 5 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.  Add the garlic & basil & stir for another minute or so.  Add the canned tomato sauce & simmer on medium heat for about 20 minutes.  Stir in the heavy cream.  I used an immersion blender here & pureed the sauce into a smooth & creamy texture.  You can do this in a blender or skip this step & leave the sauce with the vegetable texture.  Set aside.

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To assemble the roses, layer a casserole pan with the sauce.  I needed two casserole pans to fit all my roses.  Roll the ham & fontina in some of your lasagna noodles.  No need to roll them tightly.  A nice loose roll is good.  Stand the roses up in the pan.

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I cut the ribbon edge off one side of the lasagna noodles on the ham rolls so I could identify which roses had meat in them & which did not.

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Roll up some zucchini, mozzarella & basil in the other lasagna noodles.

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I had a little extra zucchini & mozzarella left over so I just stuck in in where I could fit it – once my casserole dishes were filled to capacity with roses.

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I then slathered lots of sauce on top of both casseroles.  You might want to go lighter than I did & leave the edges of the lasagna noodles uncovered.  That way they will brown & curl a bit & create the rose effect you want.

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Bake for 20-30 minutes – or until the top of the noodles are golden.  Again – apologies for the lack of final result images!!!  Serve with additional sauce if you have more left over.

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UPDATE at 3:00pm!

I made these again so I could show you results.  This time – I used oven-ready lasagna noodles soaked in warm water until they were pliable.  I cut them in half to make smaller roses.

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I made the ham & fontina again and the zucchini, mozzarella & basil again.  I added some amazing garlic sauce that I bought at Super King to the veggie ones but I might not in the future.  It made them too wet & sort of limp in the end.

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Here is the assembly of the two versions.

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I’ve read that slicing an X into the tops of the roses will allow the lasagna noodle to curl outward as they cook – creating a better blooming effect for your roses.  I neglected to do this.  Just cut about a 1/2 inch down into the tops & you should get a good curl.

I baked them in about 1/4-1/2 inch of the spicy pink sauce at 350 for about 20 minutes.  I then took them from the oven & added a tad more sauce & some grated Parmesan to the roses.

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Ten minutes later – they looked like this.

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And they serve up looking like this!  Whew!  What a relief!  I felt like such a fraud!

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Pretty, right?  And yummy!