Good to Self, Good to Earth

trying on more healthy ways of being, day by day


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Green Lotus Lasagna

SAM_0787

Another delicious variation of my Veggie Mix-Up Lasagna is here!

Ingredients:
Non-Negotiables

(unless you want to get really crazy..)
Olive Oil
1 package lasagna noodles (I use no-boil but I’ve heard it doesn’t matter)
42 oz (2 standard jars) Tomato Sauce – Any “flavor” you like
1 egg
16 oz Ricotta Cheese
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
10 oz fresh Mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced (1 cup of shredded stuff from a bag is OK if you can’t find it fresh)

Vegetables
1/3 head of Broccoli, cut into florets*
1/3 Eggplant, peeled and diced small*
3 Carrots, diced small*
4 small or 3 medium Zucchinis, cut into long thin slices – about 1/3 inch thick
5 oz Corn – frozen, canned (and drained), or fresh (and cooked)
10 oz Spinach, chopped – frozen or fresh (and cooked)

*Since you’re going to be roasting the Broccoli, Eggplant and Carrots, I recommend tripling the amounts for each and then you’ll have some delicious roasted veggies for another meal.  You can even do this part a day or so beforehand to make less work for you on Lasagna Day.
>>If you want to skip the roasting altogether:
 Double the corn, lose the eggplant, and use 1.5 cups frozen chopped broccoli and frozen diced carrots and continue with the recipe. You may want to add some herbs to these for a little flavor boost and you may also want to thaw these and squeeze some moisture out.  (I haven’t tried this with only frozen veggies yet but the concern is that too much water can make your lasagna a bit runny.)

 

Instructions:
Prepare the Layers
1. If you’re using frozen spinach, set it out to thaw
2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees (TAKE NOTE: you’ll change the temp to 375 after roasting the eggplant, carrots, and broccoli)
3. Put a large stockpot of salted water on high to boil for the Zucchini. (If it gets ready before you do, you can just turn it off for a bit and it will heat up again much more quickly when you need it to.)

4. Wash, peel, and dice the eggplant. Toss with a bit of salt and put in a  bowl with a few layers of paper towel to draw out some extra moisture.
5. Wash and cut up the carrots (diced) and broccoli (small florets)
6. Toss each of the vegetables with some herbs (basil, thyme, oregano, rosemary, or whatever) and about 1 or 2 tsp olive oil and place into three small baking dishes (broccoli will do well on a baking sheet too).
7. Cook all 3 vegetables for ten minute increments (I stagger them to make things run more smoothly). Stir each after their first 10 minutes and, unless they are already well-done, cook 10 minutes more. I cooked all three of mine for 20 minutes but I like mine to maintain a little texture.  If you want everything to be really soft and mushy once they’ve gone through the oven inside the lasagna, try cooking the broccoli and carrots for 30 mins.

8. Wash and slice the zucchini into long thin slices, about 1/3 inch thick.
9. Add the zucchini strips to the boiling stockpot and once the water returns to a full boil, cook and stir frequently for 3 or 4 minutes.  The zucchini should be more bendy now and more yellow than white on the insides, nearing translucence in the centers.  Carefully remove the strips from the water and lay out on a paper towel-lined baking sheet to drain.

10. Once it is cool enough to handle, chop the broccoli so that the largest pieces are about the same size as the carrot/eggplant bits.

11. Mix 1 cup carrots, 1 cup broccoli, and 1 cup eggplant together in a small bowl.

12. Once the spinach is thawed, give it a really good squeeze to drain out as much of the water as you can. You can also smush it against the side of a colander.
13. In a medium bowl, beat the egg slightly and then stir in the ricotta cheese.  Then add in half of the Parmesan cheese, drained spinach, corn, and some salt and pepper. (I threw in some red pepper flakes here too.)

If you build it, they will come
13. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
14. In the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch pan, spread 1 cup of your tomato sauce.
15. Cover the sauce with a layer of noodles and spread 1/3 of your ricotta mixture onto the tops of the noodles. Spread 1/3 of your zucchini strips out next and fill in the gaps with 1/3 of your vegetables mixture.
16. Repeat this 2 more times: layering 1 cup sauce, noodles, 1/3 ricotta mixture, 1/3 zucchini, and 1/3 veggies.
17. Add a final layer of noodles and cover them well with all of the remaining tomato sauce and finally, your mozzarella cheese.

18. Cover with parchment paper and then aluminum foil and bake covered for 30 minutes.
19. Remove from oven and uncover, sprinkle with remaining 1/2 of your Parmesan cheese and return it to the oven and bake uncovered for 20 minutes more.
20. Remove from oven, lay the parchment/foil over the top and let stand for 15 minutes before digging in. (Sorry!)

Enjoy! Let me know if you have any questions!

SAM_0788

 

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New Life, New Garden

I was so inspired by the Three Sisters Garden that I learned about while I was visiting the Chickasaw Nation Cultural Center that I decided to incorporate it into my vegetable garden this spring.

First we had to clear out a bunch of grass, clean up a lot of overgrown shrubs in front of the house, bring in a whole bunch of dirt, and build some mounds for planting.
Here’s the “before and after” of that:

 

For the Three Sisters Garden, the object is to grow corn, beans, and squash.  They grow well together, feed each other, and protect one another. I decided to mix it up a bit and choose a few varieties within each of these categories.

Field corn / Dent corn (which is better for corn meal) and pole beans are both recommended for the three sisters garden so that the bean vines can attach to the strong stalks of these corn varieties.  I chose Green Oaxaca Dent Corn and and Pencil Cob Dent corn along with Wando green peas and Kentucky Wonder green beans for 2/3 of my three sisters area. Since I wanted to grow some sweet corn as well, I chose Bantam corn and half-runner Pinto beans. Half-runners are a mixture between a pole-bean and a bush-bean so I’m hoping that they will do alright since they won’t need as much support from the sweet corn.  I will also add stakes as supports for these sweet corn stalks and their beans, just to be safe.

As for the squash, its recommended to use varieties that will grow on a creeping vine (better protection for the other plants) so I am using butternut squash, cantaloupe, acorn squash, cucumber, and spaghetti squash.

So far I’ve only planted the corn and will add the beans and squash in the next few weeks.

In the same front area, I was able to add a few more mounds and rows for a little patch of other vegetables as well.
First, I transplanted some carrot, beet, and swiss chard seedlings which I’m also growing in half-barrels in the back garden.

Then I sowed the following from seed as well:
Zucchini
Yellow Squash
Kale
Lima Beans
Marigolds
Luffa Sponge

Should be having some sprouts real soon!

 

 


1 Comment

Veggie Mix-Up Lasagna

 

This is a great recipe because you can change it up in as many ways as you want. If you don’t like some or all of the veggies that I have included here, you can substitute for whatever you do like (I’ll even give some tips on how at the end).

Experimenting with cooking makes it so much more fun –and I always recommend getting your kids/partner/friends involved too!

Non-Negotiable Ingredients:
(unless you want to get really crazy..)
– 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 package lasagna noodles (I use no-boil but I’ve heard it doesn’t matter)
42 oz (2 standard jars) Tomato Sauce – Any “flavor” you like
1 egg
16 oz Ricotta Cheese
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
10 oz fresh Mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced (1 cup of the shredded stuff from a bag is OK if you can’t find it fresh)

Veggies:
(see below for tips on substitutions)
2 lbs zucchini, thinly sliced into 1/4 inch ribbons
10 oz frozen spinach (thaw and really smush the moisture out)
5 oz frozen corn
1 medium onion, diced
1 Bell Pepper, diced (color of your choice)

Instructions:
– Preheat oven to 375
– Put a large pot of salted water on high to boil
– Thaw and drain frozen spinach (really press the moisture out as much as you can)
– Wash, slice, and dice vegetables and cheeses

– Once the water is boiling, add zucchini strips and blanch (fancy word for ‘boil real quick’) 3 or 4 minutes, stirring gently, until slightly softened and nearing translucence. Carefully remove from water and lay the strips out to dry on paper towels.
– Saute onion and pepper with 1 Tbsp Olive Oil until just barely softened, about 5-7 minutes on medium-high heat. (Feel free to cook longer, I like a little crunch left in mine..)

– In a medium bowl, beat the egg slightly and then stir in ricotta, 1/2 cup Parmesan, drained spinach, corn, peppers and onions, and add some salt and pepper

– In a 9 x 13 inch pan, pour and spread 1 cup of your tomato sauce.
– Cover the sauce with a layer of noodles followed by a layer of 1/4 of your ricotta mixture and then 1/4 of your zucchini strips.
– Repeat this 3 more times: layering 1 cup sauce, noodles, 1/4 ricotta mixture, and 1/4 zucchini.
– Add a final layer of noodles and all the remaining sauce and cover with mozzarella cheese

– Cover with parchment paper and then foil (this keeps your cheese from sticking to the roof!)
– Bake for 30 minutes covered.
– Remove from oven and uncover, sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan and return to oven for 20 more minutes uncovered.
– Let cool about 10 or 15 minutes before digging in (sorry!)

Tips on Substitutions:
– Get creative!  You can use whatever veggie you want, all you need to do is make sure its going to cook all the way through once its in the oven and isn’t going to release TONS of water and make your lasagna too soggy — don’t worry, its not too complicated.
– Canned and frozen vegetables are great because they often come pre-cooked, all you’ll need to do is drain them well and make sure they are cut in small-enough pieces. (The smaller the pieces, the more you can jam in there!!)
– Fresh veggies can easily be sauteed in a pan or roasted in the oven briefly with a little dab of olive oil, just to soften them up a bit and release some water – you might also squeeze out some extra moisture after you cook them just to be safe.  If you have questions about how to prepare specific veggies for this, just ask me!  I’m happy to help you figure out what needs to be done!
– I want to be able to tell you how many cups of vegetables you should have overall, but I’m really not sure.  My guesstimate would be somewhere between 3-5 cups but as I continue to experiment I will promise to update this recipe. My policy is to always have too much rather than too little because you can always save extra materials for some other future meal.

Suggested Veggies:
Kale
– Black Olives
– Yellow Squash
– Eggplant
– Artichoke hearts
– Garlic
– Green Beans
– Carrots
– Peas
– Winter Squash (acorn, butternut, spaghetti)
– Mushrooms
– Broccoli
– Cauliflower

Any other suggestions?

Have you tried it? I want to hear about your creations!

As I said, please feel free to ask me questions about this – its really hard to write down everything about a recipe that can be played with in so many different ways..

Side note:
I have to give credit to Martha Stewart because so much of the inspiration for this recipe I’m posting comes from her resources.

 

 


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Lemon Pasta Dominique

My absolute favorite thing to make for pot-lucks and summer picnic parties because it requires very little cooking and you can easily double the recipe.  I’ve yet to meet someone who doesn’t LOVE this dish and it’s terrific because it can be served hot, at room temperature, or even right out of the fridge!

Cook:
1 lb linguine (or whatever noodle you choose)

Mix in a medium bowl:
½ c Olive Oil
½ c Green Onion – sliced
¼ c Fresh Parsley – chopped
Zest from 1 Lemon
Juice from 2 Lemons (I recommend zesting before juicing..)
Coarsely ground salt and black pepper

Toss cooked pasta, alternating small additions of sauce and:
1 container (or 6 oz) freshly grated Parmesan Cheese


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Chickpea Stew

This is a delicious one-pot stew that my stepmother introduced me to and I just love to make.  It’s got an Indian vibe but it is definitely not too overwhelming when it comes to the curry flavor.  It is not too heavy and has beautiful colors with the golden broth and bright green kale (I will be sure to add a picture next time I make it).

Adds up to about 6-8 servings.

Part I
3 Tbsp Olive Oil
2 medium onions – thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves – finely minced
2 or 3 celery stalks – thinly sliced
1/4 tsp Curry Powder
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp Garam Masala
1 Tbsp Tomato Paste
Saute, stirring frequently, in a large soup pot until veggies are tender and translucent (about 8-10 mins)

Part II
4 cans chick peas – drained and rinsed well
8 c water
8 tsp “Better than Bouillon” (I prefer vegetable based, but chicken is also fine.)
Add to the pot and simmer for about 5 minutes

Part III
1/2 lb Kale or Collard Greens – coarsely chopped
Add and simmer another 5 minutes


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Recycled Vegetable Soup

Here’s one of what I call my Make-Do Recipes

The basic principles of these recipes are to make do with what you’ve got in the house.  As long as you put love into your cooking it will always come out delicious and full of nourishing goodness.

food love

Right now I live part time in two different places and I’ve always wanted to start a compost pile but based on where I’m living its just not really possible for me.  I always feel so bad throwing away all of my food scraps though, especially when I’m cutting up vegetables and their nutritious skins and ends are all just going to waste.

Instead of throwing them away, I’ve started putting them into quart-sized ziplock bags and sticking them in the freezer.  Once I’ve collected two full baggies of frozen veggies, I dump them into my biggest pot and fill with water just to cover them.  I bring the water to a boil on high and then reduce it to a nice low setting so that it can simmer for anywhere from one to three hours.

veggie scraps

Once I’m ready to move on, I pour the veggie scraps through a large strainer into a big bowl and i smush them in the strainer to make sure I get all of those delicious juices out.  At this point I have made a delicious vegetable broth for soup.   Now I can either freeze this broth and save it for later or get started right away.

I make the soup the same way I make the broth, I just use whatever vegetables I have!  I usually start by sauteing a bunch of onions and garlic in a little bit of olive oil with some spices added.  Then maybe adding some (canned, frozen, or fresh) corn to the mix.  I love to roast vegetables beforehand for a nice stew flavor, you can roast things like carrots, parsnips, beets, cauliflower, broccoli, turnips, green beans, eggplant, zuccini, or any other types of squash.  Its all good!!

veggies roasted

If you’ve already roasted some veggies like I do, you can pour the broth over the sauteed onions/garlic/corn mixture and add the vegetables to the soup.  Raise the heat to a low-medium setting, you don’t want it to cook much more you just want everything to get acquainted in there.  Add a Bay Leaf and a few other spices and voila!  SOUP!!!  sooo good.  Make some rice and serve them together for a delicious hearty meal.

spices