Red, White and Green Lasagne

Lasagne is a staple for many this time of year. It is easy. You can make it ahead of time and it feeds a crowd. While there are some gluten free noodles out there, I usually substitute vegetables sliced super thin, like zucchini or butternut squash. However, at the Celiac Kids Connection (a support group for kids with celiac disease based out of Children’s Hospital in Boston) Holiday Party, I picked up a free sample of Organic Green Lentil Lasagne from Explore Cuisine. It was delicious and made for a festive tray of lasagne. I believe you can order it from Amazon or local to me here, south of Boston, at Good Health and certain Stop and Shop and Shaws locations.

Green Lentil Lasagne

Ingredients

1-8 ounce box of Green Lentil Lasagne

24 ounces of tomato sauce

1 Tablespoon of balsamic vinegar

10 ounces of tomato puree

6 Tablespoons of butter

6 Tablespoons of gluten-free flour (My favorite is Cup4Cup)

1 teaspoon of salt

1/8 teaspoon of pepper

1 teaspoon oregano

about 1 1/2 cups of milk (add more if bechamel is not the right consistency – should cover the back of a wooden spoon)

1 cup of ricotta cheese, reserve about 1/3 cup for top

8 ounce block of mozzarella, shredded, reserve about 1/2 cup for top

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a bowl, mix tomato sauce, balsamic vinegar and tomato puree, then set aside. In a medium sauce pan, add the butter, flour and spices. Cook for a couple of minutes, add milk and whisk until smooth. Take off the heat and mix in ricotta and mozzarella, saving the amounts mentioned above for the top.

Ladle about 1/3 of the sauce into the bottom of a casserole dish. Layer with the green lentil lasagne noodles (or your vegetable/noodle of choice). Pour cheese sauce over to cover noodles. Repeat at least 2 more times. After top cheese sauce layer, sprinkle mozzarella and add dollops of ricotta.

Cover with foil and cook for 30 minutes. Remove foil and cook for another 15-20 minutes until cheese starts to brown and is bubbly. Resist putting a fork into and taking a bite for at least 15 minutes to let it rest.

My sister-in-law once made a lasagne when we visited for the holidays and added the bechamel. That is where I got the idea. It makes for a decadent and delicious holiday meal. No one will even notice that you are using lentil noodles or vegetables as noodles. They will never believe its gluten free!

What are you making for the holidays?

Italian Stuffed Meatballs

A week later and its time to forget about turkey for a little while and switch up your menu! Try these Italian stuffed meatballs and leave your family and friends asking for seconds and thirds! Thanks to my family and friends who tested this for me 🙂

These meatballs would be great for a weekend dinner or even holiday appetizers meal! If you in the mood for Asian flavors, try these Bahn Mi Meatballs.

Italian Stuffed Meatballs

italian-meatballs-with-sauce

Ingredients

About 3.5 lbs ground beef, chicken or pork (I like to use 2/3 pork and 1/3 chicken thighs or 2/3 beef and 1/3 pork for the best flavor)

3 pieces of bacon, chopped finely (or pulsed in the food processor)

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper

½ teaspoon onion powder

2 teaspoons oregano

1 teaspoon garlic paste (or 1 clove of garlic, minced)

2 Tablespoons fresh basil, chopped finely

1 egg

1/4 cup of bread crumbs (use gluten-free breadcrumbs if making this gluten free)

6 to 8 oz of mozzarella, cut into ½ inch cubes

2-3 Tablespoons of olive oil

Directions

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. In a small bowl mix salt, pepper, onion powder, oregano, garlic, basil, egg and bread crumbs. Place meat and bacon in a large bowl and add the egg mixture. Get your hands dirty and mix it all together.

italian-meatballs-ready-to-be-cooked

TIP: Cook a small patty of the meat mixture to taste and adjust seasonings if you need before stuffing and cooking the whole batch.

Roll meatballs. Take a cube of mozzarella and stuff it into the center of the meatball, making sure it is completely encapsulated by the meat mixture.

italian-stuffed-meatballs

Heat a large not stick-pan to medium-high, add olive oil. Brown meatballs and transfer to a baking rack that sits on top of a cookie sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes. You can skip the browning step if you like and just add about 5-10 minutes of baking time.

italian-meatballs

Serve with your favorite tomato sauce and spaghetti, make meatballs subs, serve as an appetizer or freeze for another night when you need an easy meal.

Now, let’s talk ground meat. I grind my own meat using this attachment for my Kitchen Aid mixer. I love it. The meat tastes so much better when freshly ground. You can ask a butcher to do this for you, just make sure if you are keeping gluten free that they are taking necessary precautions to not cross contaminate the meat with marinated meat or spices that contain gluten.

One post down and 30 to go! A post a day until the end of December! Posts filled with gluten-free holiday treats, easy meals and ideas for your holiday gatherings through the new year that everyone will enjoy!

Here are some links to past holiday posts with the regular disclosure that if it was written before April 2014, it may not be gluten free.

Last minute holiday prep!

Rethinking my cooking bucket list and looking forward to 2015

Fresh food and summer fun for you and your family…and I conquered Calamari!

Farmer’s Markets, CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) and local farms are just some ways to can enjoy fresh produce, meats, seafood and dairy, this summer.  Going with your family can be an enjoyable way to spend a summer day and get kids excited about food.

I love going to the Farmer’s Market with my family. Walking around different stands, sampling products and buying fun new vegetables and cheeses to enjoy is relaxing. Many markets have music and activities for kids. Here is a link to find a Farmer’s Market near you. http://www.massfarmersmarkets.org/There is pretty much one every day somewhere within driving distance.  Last summer I enjoyed the Wilmington Farmer’s Market (Corner of Middlesex Avenue & School Street, Sundays 10:30 – 1:30 June 17 – September 30, 2012). The Marblehead Farmer’s Market (Marblehead Veterans Middle School rear field off Vine Street, Saturdays, 9 :00 to 12:00 June 9 – November 17) is small but a fun place to pick up some fruit and baked goods for a little picnic on the coast for a day trip. I hope to check out some other markets with my family and friends this summer. There are also many during the week.  I have heard great things about the Lexington Farmer’s Market (Corner of Mass Ave and Woburn and Fletcher, Tuesdays, 2:00 – 6:30, May 30 – October 30). If you’re traveling this summer outside of Massachusetts check out this national directory to find a farmer’s where you are going, http://search.ams.usda.gov/farmersmarkets/. It is a fun place to grab a picnic lunch and really get into the local scene of your vacation destination.
What is a CSA? Community Supported Agriculture. It is a way for you to buy a “share” of a local farm and get great produce all summer (some all year round).  This is a great way to support local farmers and have lots of fresh delicious produce to cook with. Usually you go to pick it up at a specific location once a week or every other week. To find a CSA near you, visit:  http://www.nofamass.org/programs/csa/csa.php. If you are daunted by this and are afraid you might have too many vegetables to use up in one week, split a share with a friend or neighbor and take turns going to pick it up.
Another way to support your local farms and get some entertainment out of it for your children is to visit one. You can go to a working farm for a tour or go to a pick-your-own farm to gather strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and whatever else is in season. To find farm to visit, see the link above for CSA’s. Many offer tours. Here is a link to pick your own farms in the area: http://www.pickyourown.org/massbluerasp.htm. Also check out http://northshorekid.com/category/directory/parks-recreation/farm/pick-your-own/blueberries-pyoNorth shore kid’s blog for more information, as pickyourown.org can be spotty with information. 
Here is a link for what is in season now and throughout the year, wherever you may travel: http://www.fieldtoplate.com/guide.php  and here is the link for MA: http://www.mass.gov/agr/markets/farmersmarkets/get_fresh_seasons.htm)
Regardless of where you get your fresh vegetables this summer (getting them at Stop and Shop or local farm stand like Calareso’s in Reading, http://www.calaresosfarmstand.com/, is ok of course!) here is one example of a fun summer menu:
Roasted Corn on the Cob, Mixed Potato Salad and Boerewors inspired Cheese Burgers with Strawberry Ice Cream
Corn: Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Shuck corn. Place corn right on oven rack and roast for about 20 minutes and serve. Yes, that simple.  Serve with butter and salt.
Mixed Potato Salad:  Peel and dice the same amount of sweet potatoes and white or yellow potatoes. Boil in salted water until fork tender. Drain and cool. While potatoes are cooling, mix about 4 parts Miracle Whip or mayo to 1 part Dijon mustard (adjust amounts depending on your taste).  Add potatoes to dressing mixture and add salt or pepper to your taste. You can add scallions, onions, shallots or celery if you like.
Boerewors inspired Cheese burgers: Boerewors is a South African sausage that I LOVE! I haven’t been able to find it yet around here, so I have found ways to recreate the flavor. Mix 1.5lb ground beef and 1.5lb ground pork with about a ¼ cup of milk, 2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar, ¼ cup panko bread crumbs, 2 eggs, salt, lemon pepper, 2 tsp ground cloves, 2 Tbsp ground coriander, and ½ cup of finely diced cooked vegetables (I use leftover what ever I have on hand, eggplant and onions or carrots and zucchini) .  Tip: always cook a small patty of your ground meat mixture and taste it for seasoning before making burgers. Once it tastes the way you want, make patties and separate them with wax paper and refrigerate until you are ready to grill. Let them come to room temp before grilling.
Serve with your favorite cheese and toppings. Chutney is a fun condiment to use with this burger. 
Easiest Strawberry (or whatever berry you like) ice cream (requires ice cream machine):  Based on http://allrecipes.com/recipe/easy-eggless-strawberry-ice-cream/

 
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups mashed fresh strawberries (or whatever berries you have on hand. Even frozen berries that have been mashed).
  • 1-2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar (optional for a twist)
Directions
  1. In a large bowl, combine the milk, cream, sugar, salt, vanilla, strawberries, and food coloring. Pour the mixture into the freezer bowl of an ice cream maker, and freeze according to manufacturer’s directions.
The number  of recipes out there for fresh summer cooking are endless! Caprese Salad, peas, lettuce, zucchini and more. Here some links to some more veggie recipes: http://www.mass.gov/agr/markets/farmersmarkets/resources_consumers_recipes.htm
 
Enjoy the amazing farms and markets this summer. The kids will love it and you will love the food. Maybe you will even get your kids to eat a vegetable! 
Cooking Bucket List Update: I’ve conquered fresh calamari! I can cross that off my cooking bucket list!  I made fried calamari that everyone in my family ate. Very easy. Just chop the squid tubes and dredge with  flour mixture (flour, salt, lemon pepper, thyme and oregano) and fry in vegetable oil for 2-3 minutes or until gold brown. Drain on paper towel and serve with lemon. We ate it with caprese salad and some leftover mixed potato salad for dinner Sunday night.