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Real food for busy people

Fresh dairy delivered to my door? Why did I not think of this before?

I have been on a bit of a hiatus lately from Cooking on the Fly, busy with other commitments and life in general. Two things have come out of this rush of busy-ness: home delivery and smoothies.

When I say “home delivery”, I don’t mean that a Peapod truck is pulling up outside my house with boxes of Cap’n Crunch and Hamburger Helper. I like to pick my own groceries and browse the aisles, even if it means braving the store on Sunday afternoon. I don’t mind getting a mystery box of fruit and veggies from a CSA at a local farm — that’s an adventure, like having Christmas every week — because what could be more fun than trying to figure out what to do with 10 pounds of kohlrabi, a bag of purslane, and a couple quarts of Kiwi Gold raspberries?

My journey into home delivery actually began when I started noticing South Mountain Creamery trucks around my neighborhood. I checked out their website and found that they were a local dairy farm that delivered a variety of products right to their customers’ doors.

There’s something romantic about the idea of opening up your front door and finding a glass bottle of milk standing on the doormat. At least, it’s romantic to those of us who didn’t grow up in a time when that was a fact of life, like women wearing hats and gloves in the summer and children walking to school in freshly-starched clothes.

Delivery items

Ah, I love opening my door and finding these on the mat! You can see we've already started sucking down the eggnog. We also added granola to our order this week upon the recommendation of a friend — and it is truly sublime.

The first delivery came on my birthday, which was also election day. It was definitely the highlight. A half-gallon of freshly-pressed apple cider, a quart of skim, a pound of sharp cheddar, and a dozen fresh eggs.

With the holidays approaching, I’ve added egg nog to the order, and it has to be the most heavenly egg nog ever. Just slightly sweet with a distinct nutmeg flavor, this nog is so thick and creamy that I feel like taking a bath in it. Move over Lewes Dairy nog — which has always graced our Christmas breakfast table in past years — but South Mountain Creamery has come to town.

Smoothie and blender

Before...

Which leads me to smoothies. A couple of months ago, my husband was reading the October issue of Runner’s World and they actually had an interesting nutrition article. Instead of the usual chit-chat about bagels with peanut butter and pasta with tomato sauce, they extolled the virtues of nutrient-rich smoothies, both savory and sweet.

This struck a chord with me. Our daughter regularly leaves for school as the sun comes up, walking about 10 minutes to catch the subway, so she’s always in need of breakfast on the run. Enter — the smoothie! Now I just whip one up in the morning and hand it to my daughter as she stumbles sleepily out the door.

spinach smoothie

... and after.

The Runner’s World article gave me some good ideas about smoothies, such as slicing bananas and freezing them to toss in the blender, and it also introduced me to using ingredients like spinach and almonds, while encouraging me to experiment. Since I am always looking for convenience, I now keep my freezer stocked with a wide variety of frozen goodies, like strawberries, blueberries, goji berries, chocolate flavored silken tofu, and chopped spinach. I have also become enamored of unsweetened almond milk, which has a creamy texture and slightly nutty flavor, as well as Silk soynog (sorry, South Mountain, but we can’t eat dairy all the time).

Smoothies have often become my lunch of choice lately; as the days have become increasingly busy, these frozen powerhouses have become my favorite lunch-on-the-go. Besides, I figure a low-cal smoothie at lunch means I don’t have to feel too guilty about that half-glass of egg nog for dessert.

Spinach Eggnog Smoothie

Depending on your mood — and how your clothes are fitting — you can make this with Silk soynog or the real thing. Either way, it’s tasty!

1/2 sliced frozen banana

1/2 cup frozen strawberries

1 cup frozen chopped spinach

1/4 cup eggnog or soynog

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

1 tsp. honey

1 tsp. ground flaxseed

Dump all the ingredients into a blender and process until smooth. Yup, that was easy!

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It was a dark and stormy night…

It’s a windy and gray morning in late August. The clouds are hanging low in the sky, obscuring the view of the Washington Monument and other DC landmarks, and a cool breeze is blowing through the heavy pink and purple blossoms on the crape myrtle trees. The dogs are stretched out on the floor by the open back door, their nostrils twitching at the scent of impending rain.

And somewhere in the world, it’s happy hour.

My family recently spent two weeks on the New England coast, where we reveled in the best pizza in the world (Pepe’s in New Haven), munched on the most amazing local corn (a variety known as Butter and Cream), and sucked down the best summertime beer ever made, Thomas Hooker‘s Watermelon Ale. It’s seasonal and we bought the last seven bottles in town to bring back home, trying to extend the vacation as long as possible.

But it was an entirely different drink that made for some all-too-happy hours at our little beach cottage: the Dark ‘n Stormy. This tasty libation, (the national drink of Bermuda, according to the Gosling’s Rum website) is exceedingly popular along the New England coast (where Block Island is known as the Bermuda of New England) and the local package stores all carry the necessary ingredients: Gosling’s Black Seal Rum and Bermuda-style ginger beer. Most people are familiar with the more heavily-spiced Jamaican variety of ginger beer, which fills the nose with its peppery flavor; the Caribbean (or Bermuda) style is slightly sweeter and not quite as spicy.

While in New England, we picked up Gosling’s 151 Proof Black Seal Rum and Barritts Bermuda Ginger Beer, which was the preferred brand locally. This drink packs a serious punch and could not be simpler: fill a highball glass with ice, pour in about 4 or 5 ounces of ginger beer and top with a shot (or two, depending on your stamina) of the rum. Some people add a slice of lime, but this is entirely optional. My husband drank the cocktail as it was, sipping some rum off the top before it began to sink into the ginger beer, but my parents and I liked to stir it up with a finger, then slurp the rum off our fingers before proceeding with the rest of the drink. Personally, I am a bit of a lightweight when it comes to alcohol — especially with 151 proof rum — so I found that it was not a great idea for me to drink my Dark ‘n Stormy while preparing dinner, otherwise our meal would have featured charred bits of oversalted dish towels.

On the hunt for ingredients:

An assortment of rum and ginger beers. You may notice that the bottle of 151 is running on empty.

Upon our return to DC, with a scant half-bottle of Black Seal and three cans of Barritts, we rushed to Hayden’s, our local liquor store, to replenish our bar. Luckily, they had the rum, but no ginger beer. We checked around for ginger beer, but kept finding the Jamaican style, which I thought would have an overpowering flavor. When we got home with the rum, we realized that it was 80 proof — perfect for me, actually, but not quite what my husband had in mind. He checked the other local liquor store, Schneider’s of Capitol Hill, and heard that the 151 proof Gosling’s is not easy to get in our area. I suspect that Rick’s journalistic instincts have now been piqued and that he will be on the search.

However, Schneider’s did yield Gosling’s Ginger Beer — oh, happy day! We did a tasting comparison of Gosling’s and Barritts, with the result that Rick prefers the sweeter Barritts but I really like the slightly spicier Gosling’s, which is still not nearly as highly-spiced as the Jamaican kind. My parents also found the Gosling’s ginger beer when they got back to their home in Florida; my dad said he also heard that the Dark ‘n Stormy is popular at the bar at the Cocoa Beach Pier, although he’d never heard of the drink before. Many years ago, when I was a waitress back in Cocoa Beach (including up at the Pier), dark rum and ginger ale was a standard drink, but I never worked anywhere that carried ginger beer.

Gosling’s for dinner and dessert?

A quick gander at the Gosling’s website also revealed a recipe for Bermuda Onion Soup, which inspired me to create the following recipe. A somewhat cooler evening than is usual for late August made it possible for me to whip this up for dinner last night — and I saved my Dark ‘n Stormy for dessert!

Bermuda Black Rum Onion Soup

3 large onions, preferably Bermuda, sliced

4 cups stock (I used mushroom, but vegetable or chicken would work)

2 – 3 cloves of garlic, sliced

2 bay leaves

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup Gosling’s Bermuda Black Rum (or another variety of dark rum)

1 tsp. sugar

salt and pepper to taste

for garnish:

thick slices of toasted bread (sourdough or a French baguette)

sliced Swiss or Gruyere cheese

dried oregano

optional: additional drizzle of rum

Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and add sliced onions, turning to coat in the oil. Cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the rum, sugar, and bay leaves and continue to cook over low heat, uncovered, for about 20 minutes, until the onions are soft and slightly golden and the liquid is reduced by half. Add the broth and stir in salt and pepper to taste. Allow to simmer for 10 minutes.

Turn on the oven broiler and ladle the soup into oven-proof bowls, leaving about an inch or so at the top. Place toasted bread in the center of each bowl, top with sliced cheese and a pinch of crushed oregano. Put under the broiler until the cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown.

If you wish, drizzle with a few drops of black rum just before serving. Serve immediately. This recipe will feed 6 happily.

September 1, 2010: Here’s some musing about ginger beer from today’s Washington Post.

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Passing the Buck

Making "chipa" in Paraguay — they sound scrumptious.I am cheating a bit this week and am sending my readers to check out a terrific blog post that was written by a high school girl in my neighborhood who is spending a semester as an exchange student in Paraguay. I’ve known Ann Elise since she was probably about five years old — she’s smart, friendly, and pretty spunky, too, judging by how fearlessly she seems to be embracing a very different life in Paraguay.

She is blogging for her friends and family about her life in another hemisphere and it is very engaging reading. I was, of course, especially captivated by a post she did all about food; it’s possible that the local food may be one of the biggest culture shocks for Ann Elise, as it might be for many American foodies — and for any kid who grew up on Capitol Hill, where the farmer’s market at Eastern Market, overflowing with fresh produce, is central to the community. As she notes, the people of Paraguay eat a lot of meat and carbohydrates, which are plentiful and cheap, and not much in the way of fruits and vegetables, which are pretty expensive. They also eat several small meals throughout the day besides a large midday meal, with a salty snack in the midmorning and a sweet snack in midafternoon.

Having grown up in hot climates, this sounds pretty familiar to me. In Paraguay, Ann Elise is having an empanada for her salty snack — in Florida, we were more likely to have french fries from Wendy’s, dipped in mayonnaise. Not to be indelicate, but you sweat a lot when you live in a hot place and that salty snack is essential to keeping your body in balance.

Ann Elise’s sweet afternoon snack generally features dulce de leche (caramel); as I wrote in an earlier post, when I was a child in the West Indies, our midafternoon snack often consisted of a can of sweetened condensed milk, which is not that different. I heartily approve of Ann Elise’s preferred method of eating dulce de leche — all by itself, with a spoon! Why mess with perfection?

Her blog post was featured on the AFS Intercultural Programs website and is well worth the read:

http://afsblog.org/2010/05/time-to-grub-reflections-on-food-in-paraguay.html

I’m hoping that Ann Elise will bring back recipes and give her neighbors some hands-on lessons when she gets home — she seems to be pretty skilled at making “chipa” now!

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Safeway Snobbery

A fireplace and wifi at Safeway? Okay, that is kinda nice.

Two new Safeway grocery stores have opened up in Washington, DC in the past couple of weeks. One is just off Capitol Hill in the Waterfront neighborhood and the other is in Georgetown. The one at Waterfront is nestled between public housing projects and riverside condominiums; the Georgetown store — long dubbed the “Social Safeway” in reference to the well-heeled single yuppies eyeing each other longingly across the cereal aisle — has a parking lot filled with Lexus SUVs tagged with diplomatic license plates.

I will say up front that I am a Safeway Snob, and not necessarily in a good way. My experience with Safeway in DC goes back more than 20 years, when I first frequented the “Soviet Safeway” in the Adams-Morgan neighborhood, nicknamed for its tendency to run out of everything, leaving its shoppers to peruse shelves bare of pretty much every basic necessity except the occasional loaf of Wonder Bread and a half-eaten banana.

Things didn’t improve when I moved to Capitol Hill, where my husband and I would wheel our portable shopping cart on the three-block trek to what some called the “Social Security Safeway”; that particular store’s claim to fame came from some snappy investigations in the 1960s by local resident and Washington Post columnist Marguerite Kelly, exposing the store’s practice of raising prices — coincidentally, of course — on the same day that welfare checks were issued to low-income families. There were not a whole lot of grocery stores in the city at that time, so the aisles were so crowded that you could barely move your cart. We used to try to shop during Redskins games, since we didn’t really care about football and it was the one time when you could count on the store being empty.

My hairdresser was really excited about the new Safeway by the Waterfront and told me that it was beautiful and that I needed to check it out — she’s a Safeway Snob, but in reverse. Actually, I have a lot of friends who swear by Safeway and shop there religiously, but it has just never been my cup of tea; they just never seem to carry the kinds of foods that I like to buy. I’m sure my friends think I’m a Whole Foods Snob or a Trader Joe’s Snob, and they could be right.

But there was such a hubbub about the Social Safeway on opening day last week that I impulsively pulled into the underground garage as I was passing by. Crowds of shoppers streamed up the escalators clad in carefully-distressed jeans and Gucci loafers; my first vision was a gleaming sushi bar nestled beside a gourmet cheese display where a cheerful employee gave out samples of an imported Gouda being sold for $17.99 a pound. Black truffles were located in a locked plexiglass case in the produce section for $999.99 a pound. Welfare moms need not apply.

I’ll admit that I called my husband and gushed “Wow, this place is really cool!” I was standing next to the automated deli kiosk where I had just placed an order for a roasted vegetable sandwich on focaccia with garlic aioli, which seemed like a steal for $6.99. Excited shoppers were lined up at the gelato bar, bursting with over two dozen exotic flavors, the cabernet gelato beckoning like an amethyst jewel.

Alas, I had no time to shop, so my husband and I decided to stop at the Waterfront store on Sunday. It was all there — the sushi bar, the Starbucks, the wi-fi café featuring a central gas fireplace. And, as we began going through the aisles in search of food, there were all the other things I remembered: the Wonder Bread, the cans of Hormel Chili (on special with your Club Card), the towering pyramids of Spam. The produce section was definitely better than I remembered from the past, and I was pretty intrigued by the fresh garbanzo beans, like miniature tomatillos in their papery green husks.

But, yeah, for me, it’s still just Safeway. Some people dislike Trader Joe’s in the same way, while I can look past its deficiencies (like those shrinkwrapped packages of zucchini — why, Joe, why?) to find well-priced food that I want. Safeway sure doesn’t need me, serving its purpose for so many others as it continues to thrive, building a Shining Store Upon a Hill that brings yuppies together to share cappuccino and coy glances and provides candy-free checkout lanes for tired working moms with three kids under the age of 5 stuffed into a shopping cart with a week’s worth of juice boxes and Rice Crispies.

Still, I have to admit, the fireplace and wifi is pretty nice, especially on a rainy and unseasonably cool spring day. Maybe I can learn to live with Wonder Bread.

Wonder Bread Soufflé

I used to adore this dish when I was a kid — it was a recipe that my mom would make only for dinner parties. She made amazing cheese soufflés from scratch using the recipe from the huge Larousse Gastronomique that graced our kitchen, but she also liked this recipe when she had to whip up something elegant after a long day at the office.

One loaf of Wonder Bread, crusts removed and each piece buttered

3 eggs

2 cups milk

1 teaspoon nutmeg

salt and pepper to taste

3 cups shredded cheddar cheese

2 teaspoons snipped fresh chives

Make the custard by combining the eggs, milk, nutmeg, salt and pepper in a bowl. Butter a 13″ x 9″ baking dish and place a layer of bread in the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle 1/3 of the cheese, then continue with two more layers of bread and cheese. Pour the custard evenly over the whole dish, being sure that all the bread is soaked in the custard, then sprinkle the chives over the top. Place in the refrigerator for at least one hour and as long as overnight, then bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for about 40 – 45 minutes, or until risen and golden on top. Serve immediately.

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Time for the O Canada! Challenge

WalMart and social conservatism have still managed to creep across the border, despite Canada's best efforts at mounting a strong defense.

When you live in the United States, it is hard to realize that Canada is actually a different country. In fact, we Americans tend to see ourselves as the center of the universe,  forgetting that Canada is a completely separate society, and I don’t just mean because they have universal health care and affordable college tuition (that’s just crazy — what were they thinking?). My husband grew up in Detroit, just across the river from Windsor, Canada. From the Detroit side, Windsor looks pretty much like any slightly-worse-for-the-wear midwestern city, but, once you’re there, you begin to feel the subtle differences.

For me, it began with homemade ketchup. Yup, I said homemade ketchup. I mean, who makes that? Nobody. We stopped for lunch several years ago in Windsor before taking a drive through the Ontario countryside. The restaurant was close to the Ambassador Bridge and the oversized casinos, in a renovated warehouse. The place looked upscale but was really inexpensive, and, yes, when I dipped my french fries (or are those Canadian fries?) into the ketchup, it was deliciously and undeniably homemade. I will tell you now that there is nothing like homemade ketchup, and once you have made it yourself, you will never be able to really enjoy Heinz again.

I find the Winter Olympics in Vancouver to be a great inspiration for my cooking. For the opening ceremonies last week, I tried really hard to come up with something Vancouverian for dinner, but I drew a blank. Finally, I just decided to go with Canadian-themed food and ended up making Canadian cheddar cheese scones, split open and topped with fried Canadian bacon (a meatless one for us, of course) and a poached egg and then smothered with a Canadian cheese and broccoli sauce. Perfect for a cold winter night, and even better when followed by maple syrup ice cream sundaes.

Much to my husband’s chagrin, I am not doing Canadian-themed meals for each night of the Olympics, but I will do a few here and there. Today, however, I was looking morosely at the two feet of snow stubbornly covering my front and back gardens and began dreaming of spring. Distant memories of warm air and soft breezes reminded me of picnicking on a grassy hillside, the clover tickling my bare toes and fat flies hovering hopefully near the leftovers.

A perfect view for a picnic, along the Canadian shore of Lake Erie.

So, tomorrow night, we’re having a picnic. I decided to check around on the internet and see if I could find any Canadian picnic recipes, and I actually came across quite a few, in celebration of Canada Day, which is on July 1st. It may be February, but tomorrow I will be stretching a blanket on the carpet in front of the television set so that we can watch the ice dancing, women’s skeleton, and men’s super-G while munching on the Canadian pressed picnic sandwich — and maybe even a few deviled eggs, because I am, after all, American.

Go Canada! Here’s a link to a few recipes that might give you a little inspiration when you need it most — and let me know what you make!

http://www.razzledazzlerecipes.com/canada/index.htm

If you aren’t in a Canadian frame of mind, you might try making your own ketchup. I enjoy making it for my niece’s boyfriend, who insists on putting ketchup on everything — and I am actually not kidding about that. This particular recipe comes from epicurious.com; there are many others out there, although most recipes are pretty much the same. Personally, I also like to add just a bit of tabasco sauce to this — not enough to make it spicy, but just enough to give it just the teeniest kick as you swallow those fries.

Homemade Ketchup

  • 1 (28-oz) can whole tomatoes in purée
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Purée tomatoes (with purée from can) in a blender until smooth.

Cook onion in oil in a 4-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring, until softened, about 8 minutes. Add puréed tomatoes, tomato paste, brown sugar, vinegar, and salt and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until very thick, about 1 hour (stir more frequently toward end of cooking to prevent scorching).

Purée ketchup in 2 batches in blender until smooth (use caution when blending hot liquids). Chill, covered, at least 2 hours (for flavors to develop).

Update: February 20th

We had a lovely indoor picnic last night — I would highly recommend it as a great way to chase away those I-can’t-take-another-minute-of-winter blues! Here are a few pics:

Here's the Canadian Pressed Picnic Sandwich as I began to slice it. Very beautiful to look at, quite messy to eat. Rick finally resorted to a knife and fork, but I figured out the proper technique and managed to eat it without a bib! Our sandwich was made with a series of cold cuts, smoked provolone, roasted red peppers, olive salad, romaine lettuce, and horseradish sauce.

Rick settles in on the picnic blanket to watch the Friday night competitions in Vancouver.

Our picnic smorgasbord: vegetarian buffalo "wings" with homemade blue cheese dressing, lemon zest deviled eggs, the Canadian Pressed Picnic Sandwich, cole slaw, potato salad, and sparkling lemonade. We had blueberry tarts for dessert, with cinnamon whipped cream. Good thing we aren't actually competing!

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She’s writing about lasagna? Really?

If that's not love, I don't know what is. You can almost smell its bubbling cheesy warmth.

When you’re a vegetarian, you eat a lot of lasagna. For some reason, non-vegetarians (omnivores) become completely stumped by what to feed people who don’t eat meat, so the fallback is generally a lasagna. Luckily, I love lasagna, so this is fine with me, and the result is that I rarely make it at home.

Lasagna is a classic, though — great for feeding a large crowd, perfect for potlucks, and a clever way to get veggies into picky eaters. I actually suggested a vegetable lasagna to a friend the other day when she was telling me about how her teenaged son, who has always been a pretty good eater, is suddenly craving carbohydrates and doesn’t want any vegetables (I think it’s a growth spurt thing). The perfect solution is definitely a vegetable lasagna — packed with noodles and cheesy goodness, the layers can be laden with vitamin-rich produce, so that growing boy can get real nutrition out of every mouthful.

I promised you a recipe, so here it is, with a few prepatory notes.

1. Sometimes in the store you’ll see boxes of “no-boil” lasagna noodles, and I am all for anything that saves me from having to boil a big stock pot full of water. However, any kind of lasagna noodles can be “no-boil” — you don’t need a special kind. If you want to try the no-boil method, then mix 1/2 cup of tomato sauce with a 1/2 cup of water and pour that into the bottom of your baking dish, then assemble your lasagna in the usual way, using the dried noodles and topping each layer of noodles with slightly soupy tomato sauce. When you get to the top, leave off the last layer of cheese and cover with aluminum foil, baking for about 45 minutes at 350 degrees . Then pull off the foil, throw on the cheese, and bake for another 15 or 20 minutes at 375 degrees until it is nice and bubbly.

An assortment of odds and ends can add up to a perfect lasagna.

2. Go through your refrigerator and look for whatever odds and ends you can throw into that lasagna — waste not, want not. In yesterday’s lasagna, I threw in several spoonfuls of olive tapenade along with about a cup of millet that was in the freezer (don’t be scared about millet — it’s just a grain, like couscous, and I made something with it a while ago and froze the remainder because I figured it would come in handy some day).

3. If you have leftover cream cheese or goat cheese, cut it up into bits and throw that into a layer for just that little bit of extra yum. I did find a cup of mashed sweet potato — left over from another meal last week — and I was pretty excited about spooning that into a layer, but, sadly, when I opened it up, it was starting to sour. Oh well — my fault for not paying attention to the leftovers in the fridge.

4. You’ve probably heard this before, but lasagna is actually better when you make it ahead — the layers get a chance to kind of sink into each other and suck up each other’s tasty juices, leaving you with just a luscious casserole that surely tastes the way true love would taste if it had a flavor.

Vegetable Lasagna

1 box of lasagna noodles (cooked or uncooked, your choice)

3 cups of tomato sauce (jarred, canned, or homemade, but have extra if you decide to do the “no-boil” lasagna)

4 cups of shredded cheese, any variety (I like to mix it up between mozzarella, sharp cheddar, and parmesan, although fontina is also fab)

1 15-ounce container of ricotta cheese, mixed with one beaten egg

Vegetables (this is your opportunity to be creative: go for it! Some suggestions are spinach, mushrooms, carrots, sliced beets, green peas, zucchini, eggplant, peppers, sweet potatoes, onions, water chestnuts, soybeans, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and just about anything else)

Olive oil, herbs, salt and pepper (I like dried tarragon and oregano, about a teaspoon of each sprinkled over the last couple of layers, plus maybe a little smoked paprika and a dash of nutmeg)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Building the lasagna

Here's the lasagna in process; you can see bits of peppers and spinach and carrots peeking from the lower layers. One more layer went on top of the one pictured here before it was complete.

How to construct a layer:

Place a layer of noodles on the bottom of the pan (follow instructions above for no-boil method). Sprinkle about 1/2 cup of sauce (add more if you like your lasagna extra-saucy) over the noodles, then dot with several spoonfuls of ricotta cheese mixture. Top with one of your vegetables, sprinkle with about 3/4 cup of cheese, and a little salt/pepper/etc. That’s a layer!

Keep building your layers to the top of the pan, leaving a little room to add your final layer of cheese — you want to reserve about 1-1/2 cups of cheese for that final layer, and you may want to sprinkle about 1/2 cup of grated parmesan over the top. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle on your herbs, and throw it in the oven. It’ll take about an hour, maybe a bit longer, to reach that perfectly toasted golden goodness. Let it sit for about 15 minutes before slicing.

Cut piece, not the Yoko variety.

In all its luscious glory, each layer is like a little temptress, teasing you to discover the secrets of the perfect lasagna.

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Cooking for Billie Joe Armstrong

There's Billie Joe at center stage, probably not thinking about lasagna. Rolling Stone reported that they like to have a shot of tequila before each show. This shot is from the Spectrum in Philadelphia in 2009 and I can attest to the fact that Green Day puts on a totally cool show.

Tonight I’m cooking for Billie Joe Armstrong. Well, not really, but my daughter is a huge Green Day fan and apparently their frontman, Billie Joe Armstrong, said in an interview once that his favorite meal was Vegetable Lasagna. Now, it’s quite possible that it was just the first thing that came into his head, or it was the last thing he ate, or it was some private joke that we’ll never get, or maybe he actually really does like Vegetable Lasagna.

When I make lasagna, I don’t really think too hard about what’s going in it, and that is the essence of “cooking on the fly”. I was at the grocery store the other day and there was that scent in the air of snow heading our way (and we did get 4 inches last night) and I just felt in the mood for a lasagna. It needs to bake for a while, so it warms up the kitchen and the house has that amazing smell of toasted cheese and it just makes me feel happy. Food should always make you feel happy — but I mean really happy, like it fills your soul and your stomach and it sparks great conversations and the people you love think that you are amazing for making this delicious thing with seemingly little effort.

So, I bought a package of lasagna noodles and picked up some ricotta cheese and a couple of bags of shredded cheese, because, really, there’s nothing wrong with making life just a little bit easier sometimes. Then I swung by the salad bar and threw some fresh spinach leaves and grated carrot into a container. Don’t underestimate the salad bar — sometimes you just don’t need a big amount of stuff from the produce section, and the salad bar has exactly the amount you need for just a couple of bucks. People think that’s a waste of money, when you could buy a bunch of spinach and another bunch of carrots for a couple of bucks, but if you never get around to using that stuff up in another dish, then it rots and that is truly a waste.

I knew that at home I had a couple of bell peppers and some mushrooms and a can of roasted tomatoes and a few other odds and ends. And that’s really all there is to a lasagna. I’ll post pictures and a proper recipe tomorrow! Thanks for reading.

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