Monday, May 20

Whole Wheat Vegetable Lasagna

I don't often make Lasagna, but this one is just too good to pass up. The veggies act as the perfect meat replacement and the combination of 4, yes FOUR, different cheeses make this an ooey, gooey, stringy delight. 
Cook down a colorful array of vegetables. I chose zucchini, yellow squash, bell pepper, onion and mushrooms.
Mix ricotta cheese with herbs, an egg and some parmesan cheese.
Look! Four Cheeses. Ricotta, Shredded Parmesan, Provolone and Mozzarella. Yes, I like to shop at Sprouts.
Veggies cooked down with homemade marinar sauce. You can use whichever marinara recipe or store bought version you like.
Layer it up: Start with a good scoop of the vegetable sauce. 
Then a few noodles. My noodles were too big for my casserole dish, so I split them to size before boiling them.
Start spreading the ricotta mixture, using about a third of what you have.
Now goes the layer of provolone.
Followed by a second layer of sauce, noodles, ricotta, and then a layer of Mozzarella instead of Provolone. Finish with a third layer of sauce, noodles, ricotta and mozzarella, topped off with the fourth cheese, the parmesan.
Bake this bad boy for 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven, switching to the broiler at the end to brown and bubble the cheeses. I make this small version because there are only two of us, but you could easily double it to make a traditional sized lasagna.

Whole Wheat Vegetable Lasagna
1 box whole wheat veggie lasagna noodles, boiled (I only needed about 8 noodles from a box of 20 or so)
1 jar homemade or store bought marinara of your choice
1 T olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 medium Zucchini, chopped
1 Bell Pepper, chopped
1 Yellow Squash, chopped
1 C cremini mushrooms, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
7-8 large leaves basil, chopped
splash of white wine
1 tsp. italian seasoning
4 slices provolone
1/2 ball of mozzarella sliced

Ricotta Filling:
1/2-3/4 C ricotta cheese
1 egg
1/4 C parmesan, shredded or grated
1/2 tsp. italian seasoning
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

Mix together the ricotta filling in a small bowl and set aside. In a large heavy bottomed pan, cook the veggies in 1 T olive oil over medium high heat until browned and tender, about 15 minutes. Add the garlic, cooking until fragrant for 1 minute. Add the basil and italian seasoning, then the splash of white wine to deglaze the pan and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Turn the heat down and add the marinara sauce, stirring to combine. You may want to salt and pepper the sauce, but taste it first.
In a casserole dish, layer the lasagna as follows:

Layer One:
A third of the sauce
Noodles to cover the sauce
A third of the ricotta filling (spreading gently)
The 4 slices of provolone
Layer Two:
Half the remaining sauce
Noodles to cover
Half the remaining ricotta filling
A layer of mozzarella
Final Layer:
The rest of the sauce
Noodles to cover
The rest of the ricotta filling
The rest of the mozzarella
1/4 C parmesan cheese sprinkled over the top

I like to alternate the direction of the noodles each layer. So, the first layer, they are horizontal, the second, they are vertical, and so on.

Bake the Lasagna at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, broiling the cheese at the end until golden and bubbly. Allow to sit for about 5-10 minutes outside the oven before cutting into it.


Friday, May 3

Lavender Margarita

It all started with this little jar of Lavender Salt. I bought it a while back at a Central Coast Winery and it took me a while to decide what I wanted to use it for. Spring arrived and suddenly, I had the urge to create a fresh, sweet and herbal cocktail using the Lavender Salt as a garnish. What better way to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, than with a Lavender Margarita! 
I made a lavender simple syrup using 1 Cup of sugar, 1 Cup of water and a tablespoon of Lavender buds (which you can find in the herbs and spices aisle of most markets).
This is the finished syrup, which I strained into a small jar to keep in the fridge.
To really bring out the Lavender flavor, I decided to add a few drops of extract to the cocktail. You just need a dash and you can find this in specialty markets or online. This is NOT Lavender essential oil, it is an extract made specifically for cooking and baking.
All the ingredients for the Margarita, ready to be shaken up.
Sip this deliciously sweet and sour concoction under the warmth of the sun this Cinco de Mayo.

Lavender Margarita 

The following recipe is for 1 drink, but can easily be doubled, tripled or quadrupled for more guests.

1 1/2 oz tequila (gold or silver)
3/4 oz cointreau
3/4 - 1 oz fresh squeezed lime juice
3 tsp. lavender simple syrup (recipe below)
1/4 tsp. lavender extract
lavender salt to garnish

On a small plate, spread out about 3-4 T of lavender salt. If you can't find it pre made, you can totally whip up your own using sea salt and lavender buds. Round the rim of a glass with a wedge of lime, then dip the top of the glass into the salt. The lavender salt should stick to the rim. Place a few cubes of ice carefully into the glass.
In a cocktail shaker, combine all remaining ingredients. Shake well and strain over the ice into the glass.
Garnish with a few more lavender buds or a sprig of lavender from the garden.

Lavender Simple Syrup

1 Cup Water
1 Cup white sugar
1 T Lavender buds

In a small saucepan, heat all ingredients to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally until all sugar is disolved. Strain into a small jar and keep refrigerated until ready to use. Syrup will keep for a few weeks.