Lasagna Odyssey 2020

By Michael Elmore

I love lasagna. By far, it is my favorite Italian dish with its rows of hearty pasta, pools of tomato and bechamel sauces, with bursts of meaty goodness. Growing up, it was the one dish I would demand not be altered in any way, shape or form because, to me, it was the perfect dish as imagined. It required no modernizing or changes.

This is all to say that sometimes we all must eat our words, and this time deliciously so. Lasagna is not exactly a diabetic friendly recipe, so we found a way to lighten up the dish and make it slightly more healthy at least. Extra perk? It would be easy to turn this into a vegan dish – just omit the first steps featuring the meat. There’s so many vegetables in this hearty dish that you won’t miss it if you do.

So while traditions are good, moving forward into the future of better awareness of our health, and with no further adieu, we give you or vegetable boosted lasagna! Buon appetito!

Ingredients:

  1. 6 lasagna noodles, cooked per box directions to al dente
  2. 1 pound of ground beef (choose leaner if you want to lighten this up even further)
  3. 1 onion, diced
  4. 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  5. 2 celery stalks, diced
  6. 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  7. Salt
  8. 1 cup diced bell peppers
  9. 2 pints mushrooms, cleaned and cut into slices (we used white button mushrooms)
  10. 28 oz favorite marinara sauce (use homemade if you can but it’s perfectly okay to use your favorite jarred sauce).
  11. 1/2 bunch of kale, stems removed (discard), and leaves chopped
  12. 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
  13. 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  14. 1 cup shredded Parmesan
  15. 1 cup shredded mozzarella

Directions:

  1. In a large pot, heat up approximately 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil over medium high heat.
  2. Add the ground beef, and cook most of the way through, approximately 8 minutes depending on stove top and stirring frequently. With a slotted spoon, remove the beef to a bowl and set aside. Drain some of the liquid on top of the beef but leave enough in the pan to begin the vegetables.
  3. Add the onions, carrots, and celery with a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring frequently, for 3-4 minutes until the onions begin to soften. Add the bell peppers. Cook down another 3-4 minutes. During this time, add the Italian seasoning and cayenne pepper.
  4. Add the mushrooms. Continuing to stir occasionally, cook them down until they are approximately half in size from when you started.
  5. Add the sauce along with the meat and juices. Incorporate everything thoroughly. Bring to boil then reduce to a simmer. We are going to stay here the rest of the way.
  6. After about 10 minutes, add the kale, once again incorporating it well and stirring frequently. This will cook down significantly. Cook another 10 minutes on simmer.
  7. Adjust seasonings then allow to cool before assembling the lasagna.

For Assembly:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Meanwhile, put some of the tomato liquid on the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan and spread along the bottom.
  2. Add 2 lasagna noodles. Spoon some of the filling onto the noodles, flattening it with a spatula. Sprinkle Parmesan and mozzarella.
  3. Add the next 2 noodles and repeat step 2.
  4. For the top layer, once again, spoon some of the liquid from the sauce mixture onto the noodles. Top with more Parmesan and mozzarella.
  5. Bake for 40 minutes, covered with foil that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking oil. At 40 minutes, remove foil, boost temperature to 400, and cook another 10 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven and allow to rest for at least 30 minutes so that it will not fall apart when you cut the lasagna into slices. Serve and enjoy!

Sliders: Sliding into Comfort

By Michael Araj

The burger. Is it the perfect food? It’s hand held, it’s meaty, and it’s topped with salad on it half the time (yes, lettuce, tomato and onion counts as a salad in my book). It is the ultimate blank canvas. The ultimate piece of art.

We made sliders for the Superbowl this year (along with the chicken wings), and they did not disappoint. We used the buffalo sauce from the wings recipe as well as a condiment with some fresh mozzarella. This recipe allows you to innovate and improvise as much as you want. Going Whole30? In one of the photos, you’ll see that we replaced the dinner rolls for butter leaf lettuce, and replaced the cheese and buffalo sauce for a tomato salad on top.

So give this recipe a shot and create your own piece of art.

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ pounds fresh ground beef (we used bottom round that we ground ourselves, you can use store bought but we highly recommend grinding your own or buying from a reputable source).
  • 2  tsp Italian seasoning (we made our own – dried oregano, basil, thyme, garlic powder, cayenne powder; mix them together and play around with measurements to make it the way you like!)
  • Salt and pepper
  • ¼ cup buffalo sauce
  • 8 slices fresh mozzarella

Directions:

  1. Mix the ground beef with the Italian seasoning, salt and pepper, but do not overwork the meat. Formulate into 8 patties, approximately 2 inches in diameter. Push your thumb into one side of each patty in the middle to make an indentation.
  2. Heat a cast iron pan on medium high heat with a little olive oil. Once hot, working in batches, cook the patties 5 minutes on each side for medium doneness. After flipping (only flip once), add the mozzarella after 2 minutes into cooking the second side).
  3. Let drain on a cutting board or other surface and let rest for 10-15 minutes so the juices can reabsorb.
  4. Meanwhile, cut dinner rolls in half (toast if desired). Spread the buffalo sauce on each side of the roll. Add the patty (with the melted cheese) and formulate your sliders. Serve immediately.
  5. Be creative – don’t like Italian spices? Stick with salt and pepper and build a regular slider with ketchup, mustard, mayo and all the usual veg. There’s no wrong answer here – it’s what you like!