I’m no chef. I’m barely a baker. I do however make things that are extra-ordinary. As in, ordinary meals (pastas, salads, stews, Mexican…) with a little extra. Extra, meaning I put more of my favorite ingredient in than the recipe calls for.
Southern California is the land of plenty, perhaps too many. Food options on every corner span the globe, from pho to curry to sushi (dang I miss sushi). With all these options right at every gastric bypass intersection it became too easy and too delicious for me and the husband to eat out almost every single night. Growing up the two women in my life that cooked for me (mom and grandma, aka Nana) made most of my meals at home, and mom didn’t hit hard the freezer section of the grocery aisle until I was in high school (two kids, three sports, you do the math on the time). By the way, high five mom (she’s totally reading this).
Moooving to Wyoming meant relocating to a new land, the land of cattle and ranching! Signs are posted on many highway side fields proclaiming Wyoming as “Beef Country”. I’m not vegetarian, and I’m not vegan. I am however trying to eat less meat than I did even before moving to cow town, USA. For $8 I picked up a vegetarian book at one of the best used bookshops in OC (Bookman, in Orange). Simply Satisfying, by Jeanne Lemlin boasts over 200 recipes. Some of which can be easily turned into vegan options as well. I made a promise to myself that I would make one vegetarian meal a week from that book. Looking forward, I realize I’ll probably run out of recipes I want to make before the end of the year. So please send ideas to me, although spring and summer will open up more options when different ingredients are available.
This post is a bit long winded, but I wanted to jot down the beginnings of this endeavor. I promise future posts about recipes and details will be much shorter. Unless epic failure ensues, of which all burnt items will be fully documented.
Here is the first experiment. Rolled Stuffed Lasagna with
Kale Spinach in a Tomato Cream Sauce:
A few tips and the Ooops Section:
The recipe calls for 1 lb of Kale to start with, but ummm, well, I don’t love Kale. I know, I know. I’m working on it. I do however like spinach and it helps with my almost too low iron. I substituted a bag of spinach (8 oz) because I wanted to steam it myself (and steaming is very much a personal decision, as I prefer fresher and less mush). I’m sure canned spinach would work fine too. I should have bought at least two bags (16 oz) to steam. The recipe ended up being heavy on the cheese side so I added one fresh diced tomato to the onion and garlic saute filling. I might add that anyway in the future, it added to the flavor, texture, and vegi ensemble. I also fudged the amount of garlic because I have a jar of it minced in oil in the fridge at all times. For me I use a 2:1 ratio, 2 cloves is about 1 tablespoon. Left the onions a bit more chunky than minced because I like crunchy textures.
The one other big oops besides the spinach amount, was the tomato sauce amount. I’m not a great estimator. Length, distance, height, weight… seriously, not a great estimator. Any rational mind would have noticed there was not going to be enough room in the dish to add all of the tomato sauce and the 8 stuffed and rolled lasagna noodles. I opted to keep the dish and just added less sauce. I’ll try it with another dish next time so that I can use all of the delicious sauce. A 2 qt ought to be about right.
Two more last items, I recommend stirring the sauce constantly or keeping a very watchful eye on it. Recipe says whisk often, but I could have very easily burned the flour and butter mix, or the whole sauce after the milk was added. I also bought shredded mozzarella and diced it up a bit. Either a block or shredded would be fine, whatever is cheaper in my case!
Tasted delicious to me, and I’d definitely make it again. I’m back in the kitchen, learning new things, being creative, making mistakes, and eating to tell the tale. By year’s end I hope to be a much better cook, working with fresh and healthy ingredients, while sparing a few animals along the way. On that note, this dish unfortunately would be very hard to make vegan, but I look forward to trying to make other recipes without animal products.