Freezer Shopping – Veggie Lasagna

Brrrrrrrr……..

Winter hit us this week; snow storm, strong winds, school cancelled, the works.  Being temporarily out of commission due to a pesky set of crutches that seem to be particularly fond of me I couldn’t get to the grocery store.

Ba-ba-da-da!! (Insert catchy lilting “eureka” sound byte here…)

It hit me suddenly – We have a deep freeze full of everything wholesome, home grown and nutritious we needed to make some comforting cold weather, “I just want to wear crocheted slippers and an ugly sweater in front of the fireplace” food!!!!  I had stocked up on fresh seafood and meat from the market who sources from local farmers and had the few remaining ingredients on hand, so not only would we not need to get to the store, at least 75% of the ingredients would be locally sourced as well!  May I re-iterate it is January and not much is growing fresh in our neck of the woods = score 1 for the freezer!

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After hobbling down the stairs on one crutch (so I could carry stuff with my free hand), I found everything I needed for 2 pots of soup, a veggie lasagna and stuffed spaghetti squash between the freezer and cold room. I would have gotten the girls to help, but they were too cute sledding in the front yard I didn’t have the heart to call them in…ahhh to be so excited about snow to be oblivious to the actual weather conditions…

So if you are chilly and need a warm, filling, hug from a bowl of soup or a good hearty pasta alternative, the next four posts will include recipes to warm you up!  The first one is Veggie Lasagna because it was the recipe posted on Italian Kitchen that got me craving lasagna in the first place, thanks!

Veggie and 3 Cheese Lasagna (adapted from Italian Home Kitchen)

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From the Freezer (Vacuum sealed fresh from the garden)

2 cups cubed Zucchini (thawed), 4 basil chunks (see Kitty’s Presto Pesto post if you’d like to see how we froze our EPIC basil harvest this year!) – about 4 tbsp, the equivalent of 3 large cans of frozen tomatoes and 1/4 cup chopped garlic scapes

Fresh Veggies

2 big handfuls of spinach and 1 1/2 cups (ish) of mushrooms

From the “Cold Room”

4 cloves of dried garlic, thyme, oregano, chives, chilis and 1 small butternut squash

From the Cupboard/Fridge

2 cups of grated mozzarella, 2 cups cottage cheese, 1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan, 3 eggs

1 box of lasagna noodles (I didn’t have any fresh zucchini to slice into “noodles” with the mandolin).

Sea salt and Fresh ground pepper

How I did it..

The sauce: In a pot, I put all of the whole frozen tomatoes (about 20 or 2L), the garlic, basil, herbs and scapes with 1/2 cup of water and then let it all simmer until it was hot and bubbly.  The few skins that I had been too lazy to remove before freezing floated to the top and I just skimmed them out.

Once it smelled amazing and the juice had the right taste to my liking, I blendered it into a sauce and left it to continue reducing until I was ready for it.

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In 2 separate bowls, I made the filling layers.  The first bowl contained the eggs, well beaten, the cottage cheese and 2 big handfuls of fresh chopped spinach seasoned with sea salt and ground pepper.  The second bowl had the zucchini (liquid mostly drained after it had thawed), mushrooms and thinly sliced butternut squash.

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Layering: Starting with a thin layer of sauce in the bottom of a stone lasagna pan, I alternately layered uncooked noodles, the spinach and cheese mixture, the veggies then more sauce.  I sprinkled each layer with a bit of mozzarella before starting the next noodle level. On the very top, I spread the mozzarella and the parmesan.

Into the preheated oven it went – 350 degrees for about an hour and a half – I covered it with foil for the first 45 minutes.  Once the noodles could be pierced with a fork and everything was bubbly, it was all ready!

The verdict – success!  I served it with a loaf of bread I had found in the freezer from a baking marathon earlier in the winter and a green salad.  Only my wee girl complained about the mushrooms, but she conceded that it was easier for her to pick them out than for the rest of us to put them in! It was a bit runny, the next day for leftovers it was perfect. The only other feedback from the carnivore section was that there was a serious lack of meat, but they too grudgingly admitted that it was delicious without it!

Thankfully I have enough sauce left over to make the meat-a-tarians happy and will make stuffed spaghetti squash tonight. Check back – I might get the girls to take more pictures of that one too!

Eating Local – “Roadside” Squash, Sage and Pancetta Rissoto

September raced by in a blur of back to school, back to sports and dirty harvest hands!  September is by far our favourite month in Nova Scotia; the sun shines bright and warm during the day and the welcome cool evenings allow for comfortable sleeps and a break from the humidity of the summer.  It also brings an abundance of beautiful harvest – squash, pumpkin, herbs, potatoes and of course the best pile of fresh tomatoes! Roadside farmer’s stands wait with piles of fresh treasure and little jars to drop in coins.  The simple trust placed in the “would be” consumers is such a heart warming sight – in a world where it is often scary to turn on the evening news there is a peace to be found in an afternoon drive through the country side seeking out the perfect squash, the clink of a toonie in the bottom of a jar when the prize is scored and the satisfaction of knowing it can’t get much more local than the end of the farmer’s driveway! We picked our own squash from the garden but we couldn’t help ourselves when we found the motherload of Butternut squash on a back road in Sheffield Mills last weekend – I couldn’t let it pass by and of course my tummy growled for my favourite squash recipe – Sage, Pancetta and Squash risotto. It can easily be made with bacon or without any meat at all as a vegetarian option – my “Meat-a-tarian” husband wouldn’t hear of that option! So as a final recipe in our 50% September Local Eating challenge, here is our recipe-ish…

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Our roadside bounty! $2 each and a rogue melon for $1- best price in town!

Local Ingredients

2-3 cups Butternut squash, cut into small cubes

8-10 sage leaves

3 Tbsp olive oil – From Liquid Gold!

4 cups homemade chicken stock (I had some frozen)

4 tablespoons Tatamagouche butter

1 medium onion, cut fine

8-10 sage leaves, chopped

2 1/2 cups of white wine – I used Jost Kabinett because I like a lighter taste, but a dry wine would work very well too (I would use less wine and more stock though…)

From the Store

1/4 pound pancetta, in small pieces

2 1/2 cups of Arborio Rice

1/2 freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper

How we did it…

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In a skillet, we cooked the pancetta to almost crispy. Once cooked I drained it (leaving a few drippings in the pan) and set it aside.  To the skillet I added 1 tbsp of olive oil and the squash over medium high heat until almost soft.  The sage, salt and pepper were added for about 1 minute at the end. The smell is amazing!

In the meantime…

In a large pot, we melted 3 tbsps of butter with 2 tbsps of olive oil and sauteed the onion until clear over medium heat. Then we added the rice and stirred constantly for 2 minutes.  (My minions helped, this is key to multi-task recipes!)

To the rice we added the wine, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until each addition was absorbed.  Then we added the hot stock 1/2 cup at a time (while I sipped a glass of wine of course) until it was all absorbed – roughly 25 minutes.

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Once the risotto was soft and oh-so-creamy, we added the last tbsp of butter, the squash, sage and the pancetta to the pot with most of the parmesan, gently folding it all together.

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Obviously, it was served with the matching wine and sprinkled with the parmesan cheese on top.

Who knew bargain roadside produce could be so rich?!

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