Cooking with Friends

photoMy single friend Lucy does not like to cook much, but she and I both like to eat!  (Imagine)!  I do like to cook, and as we all know, cooking for one can be a real drag.  So this week we decided to have a “cooking day” and cook some larger batch items that we could share.  Lucy is trying to avoid gluten and we are both trying hard to eat healthier, so we tossed around some ideas of what to cook to put in our freezer for some meals-on-the go….or as she put it, “something I want to come home to instead of stopping for fast food!”  Great idea!

So what to cook?  I had several ideas…one of which is vegetable lasagna.  I knew Lucy 20120306_zucchini_lasagna_004didn’t eat much pasta now, but still loved the flavors.  So after talking about it, we decided to use my recipe for vegetarian lasagna with zucchini “noodles”.

 

This recipe makes a lot (too much for one person) so it is a great one to share.  We divided the ingredients list, and cooked together.  We ended up each having a square for our dinner, along with a mixed salad and a fruit desert (under 500 calories, by the way). and packaging up the rest of the squares individually for the freezer.  You can use small plastic containers, or wrap each square first in plastic wrap, then in freezer foil to protect them from freezer burn.  These will last for up to 3 months and can be reheated in the microwave or oven still frozen.  Obviously, take the foil off for the microwave, and the plastic off for the oven!

zucchini lasagna 011

We also talked about trying other things we could cook together and then freeze….like  individual pot pies (with mashed potato topping for her so they are gluten free) using puff pastry squares for me – easy and fun.  Individual berry crisps (oatmeal topping).  Bacon and Egg cups (in a muffin tin) and veggie pancakes (like potato pancakes) for a quick heat up in the skillet, pre-mixed and pre-seasoned “burgers” – I like Moroccan Lamb Burgers and Turkey Mustard burgers but you can also make up mini meatloaf and freeze them as well. Chicken or beef Tamale pie (with corn tortillas) freezes in squares like lasagna, and I also like to mix up ragus in large batches and then divide them into 1 cup servings and freeze for quick thawing sauces and additions to plain meat or over rice or pasta.  Like spaghetti sauce, putanesca, stuffing for peppers, mushroom sauces, and, of course, homemade soups.  I also make pesto and home-made hummus and freeze them in small batches for individual use.  It seems to work to keep me from ordering out or grabbing a handful of chips when I come home tired and not wanting to cook.

Here’s my Zucchini Lasagna recipe:

1 lb ground turkey (optional)
1 T Olive Oil
2 large or 4-5 small zucchini, sliced lengthwise (I do this on my mandolin if I want really thin “noodles”)
1 green or red pepper, diced
1 sweet onion, diced
1 cup carrots, diced
1 fennel bulb, sliced
1 lb fresh mushrooms, sliced
2 –  16 oz cans diced tomatoes – no salt added
1/4 cup red wine
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/8 cup chopped fresh oregano
salt and pepper to taste
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 T fennel seeds (dry)
1 – 15 oz carton ricotta cheese
1 egg
1 – 16 oz pkg frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
8 oz. fresh mozzarella in water
8 oz. block of Parmigiano Reggiano

 

Thaw spinach and squeeze out all excess moisture.  Chop.   Slice zucchini into thin slices.  chop remaining vegetables.  Saute turkey in olive oil( if desired), and add onion, fennel, carrots, peppers and mushrooms. Saute until vegetables are translucent.  Add in tomatoes, wine, garlic and fresh spices to taste. Cook until sauce is thickened.  Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mix ricotta, egg, and squeezed out spinach together.

To begin the layering process.  Place a small amount of tomato sauce in the bottom of a 9 x 13 x 4 inch pan, follow with a layer of sliced zucchini, a layer of ricotta mixture, another tomato sauce layer, followed by a layer of sliced mozzarella and sprinkle 1/2 the parmesan over the top.  Repeat layers ending with cheese.   Bake at 350 for 50 minutes to an hour or until bubbly and browned on top.   Makes 8 large squares.  Freeze individual squares in plastic containers or foil wrapped packages after the lasagna has completely cooled.   Keeps in the freezer for 3 months if well wrapped.

Enjoy….and share!  Cook with a Friend!

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