Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Spinach Lasagna

Ah,  lasagna....  Sauce.  Cheese. Pasta.  Cheese.  Spinach. More cheese.  What's not to love?  I was never a huge fan of lasagna growing up, probably because I never cared for ground beef that much.  But a few years back I stumbled upon this recipe and it quickly became one of my favorite dinners.  This lasagna is my go to recipe any time I'm bringing a meal to someone at church or someone who's had a new baby.  Maybe people are just being nice to me, but everyone who eats it raves about it.  I think it's a winner, folks!

This lasagna often appears as one of my meatless meals for the week.  It's easy to assemble and freezes beautifully (freeze it uncooked.  Allow it to thaw overnight in the fridge before cooking the next day).  The noodles don't have to be precooked, so it's fast and easy to assemble.  I'll often make a few at a time and stick the extras in the freezer as my "back-up plan" for those days I know I won't have time to cook.  The recipe I'm posting makes one 9x13 pan or two 8x8 pans and makes 8-10 servings.  The original recipes comes from the Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen.

Here's what you need:

  • 2 jars of pasta sauce (about 6 cups) 
  • 12 lasagna noodles -I use 100% whole grain noodles.  There is no need to buy "no-boil" noodles
  • 1 pound ricotta  or cottage cheese - often, I will use homemade ricotta cheese.  Otherwise, be sure to buy good ricotta or cottage cheese.  Check the ingredients - it should pretty much say "milk" and that's it!!!  
  • 6 oz of spinach (a few big handfuls) -from the store or fresh from the garden!
  • 1 pound of grated mozzarella cheese (about 4 cups) -Provolone is good too!
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese 

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease or oil pan.

2.  Assemble the lasagna as follows:

  1. Sauce (1/4 of it)
  2. Noodles (1/3 of them)
  3. Ricotta/Cottage Cheese (1/2 of it)
  4. Sauce (1/4 of it)
  5. Spinach (1/2 of it)
  6. Mozzarella (1/2 of it)
  7. Noodles (1/3 of them)
  8. Ricotta/Cottage Cheese (last 1/2 of it)
  9. Sauce (1/4 of it)
  10. Spinach (last 1/2 of it)
  11. Mozzarella (last 1/2 of it)
  12. Noodles (last 1/3 of them)
  13. Sauce (last 1/4 of it)
3.  Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil.  Place pan on a baking sheet (to catch spills) and place in the oven to bake for 1 hour, undisturbed.

4.  After 1 hour, remove from oven.  Take off the foil and sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese.  Return to oven and bake 15-20 minutes more, or until golden brown on top.

5.  Remove lasagna from oven and allow it to rest and cool for 15 minutes before serving.  This helps the lasagna set up, so you can slice it into neat pieces.  

For you visual folks (like me!), I took photos of each step, so you can see how I did it.  I was making two 8x8 pans, which means I had to divide the ingredients between two lasagnas, so it looks a little different than if you were making one 9x13 pan.  

1.  Sauce

2. Noodles (break them up to make them fit)

3. Ricotta/Cottage Cheese

4. Sauce

5. Spinach

6. Mozzarella

7. Noodles

8.  Ricotta/Cottage Cheese

9. Sauce

10. Spinach

11.  Mozzarella

12. Noodles

13.  Sauce

Cover tightly with foil (I wash and reuse the same piece over and over!).  Bake at 350 for 1 hour.

Remove from oven and sprinkle with 1/2 cup of Parmesan.  Stick it back in the oven and bake 15-20 minutes longer.

Allow lasagna to rest and cool for at least 15 minutes.  Beat off small children as they try to snitch bites of gooey cheese.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

In Full Swing

Hello summertime!  School is out and now begins the long, lazy days of summer.  Except that things are not so lazy here on the farm! We're in full swing now, another eventful summer full of caring for animals, tending the garden and preserving the harvest... and hopefully a few trips to the beach here and there, maybe even a short vacation.  We'll see how it works out... it's hard to leave for even a few hours, when there are so many critters dependent on us!  We're thankful for good neighbors who are willing to help out when we're in a pinch.  But we don't have the itch to go places much... we have so much fun on the farm and we never, ever get bored!  We also get lots of visitors during the summer, so it seems like there is always something exciting going on.  

The farm is officially complete for the 2013 season.  That means:
  • New laying hens have been raised and will start laying in late summer.  We purchased 19 chicks this spring to add to our existing flock of 14 hens (yes, that means I have 33 chickens frolicking in my backyard...and pooping everywhere. Muck boots are our friend).  Unfortunately, it appears 5 of those 19 are roosters... which means we'll be having chicken dinner a little sooner than expected.  Perhaps we'll keep one rooster, if he is well mannered and polite around people (they actually do a good job of protecting the hens), but there is no place on our farm for mean, aggressive birds.  
  • Meat chickens are currently living in the garage and will soon be put out on pasture.  They are scheduled to be butchered in late July.  Our freezer will be filled with 25 whole chickens, enough to last us a year.  We haven't had a bite of chicken is months, since we ran out of chickens from last year, so we're really looking forward to eating chicken again!.  
  • Hogs are here and growing bigger every day!  They will be slaughtered in October.
  • 3 colonies of bees have been installed in their hives.  If all goes well, they will pollinate the garden all summer and produce lots of honey for us to harvest in the fall.
  • Goat kids arrived last week. They are so much fun and the children love playing with them. They will help mow and fertilize the pastures and then be slaughtered in October as well (and yes, my children are aware of this).
  • Barn cat Lucy had a litter of kittens, which will keep our cat population thriving (we were down to 2).
  • The garden is mostly in.  I still have a few seeds to plant, but the important things, like tomatoes and peppers are planted.
  • Extra garden plants are sold.  I ended up raising over 130 tomato plants and 75 pepper plants.  Friends and family purchased so many plants, I was able to pay off my bill for seeds (I have a wee addiction to buying seeds), which means all the produce I grow for my family will essentially be free!
  • The strawberry, raspberry and blackberry plants are in.  Hopefully, we'll reap a good harvest next summer.  We're already getting a few strawberries, but we pinched off almost all the blossoms to allow the plants to grow stronger, meaning we'll get a better strawberry crop next year.  
  • We added a peach tree and a plum tree to our "orchard" (we also have 4 apple trees).

  Oh, I could go on and on about what is happening over here, but sometimes I just need to shut up and let the pictures do the talking.  So enjoy the photos, as you get a little sample of our life right now!

Our first taste of asparagus from the garden.  It was fantastic! 

Garden beds full of produce:  Garlic, Red Russian Kale, Ailsa Craig Sweet Onions, Green Star Lettuce in the back bed.  Dragon Carrots, Danvers Carrots and Dakota Tears Onions in the front bed.

Sugar Snap Peas in blossom.  We can't wait to eat those delicious peas!  They rarely make it into the the house - we eat most of them standing in the garden.  

Swiss Chard in the front, asparagus in the background (my son likes to hide behind the tall asparagus plants).

We're getting a handful of strawberries each day and we've got spinach coming out our ears.

To say my daughter is a fan of the strawberries would be the understatement of the year.  You should hear the squeals of pure delight when she spots a ripe berry.

The ladies, looking fine on a sunny morning.

A rare Blue Copper Maran hen and a Silver Laced Wyndotte hen.  Remind me to wipe down that table before we eat off it...

A Silver Laced Wyndotte rooster.

Hampshire hogs at the feeder.  Brutus is a wee bit lazy and just lays down to eat.  Oh Brutus, you're a funny one!  

The pigs in their pasture.  They like to eat all sorts of things - grass, weeds, roots, grubs, bugs, etc.  It's fun to watch them romp around - they play tag, tug-of-war with sticks and of course, roll in the mud!

Their tails unfurl when they're relaxed.  

Barn kitties!  They are just starting to open their eyes.  I think there are a few calico kittens in there...

La Mancha goat kid

Alpine/Toggenberg goat kid

Goat kids getting to work on the one acre pasture.  They were living in a dog kennel at their previous home - this must seem like paradise to them!

Be sure to stop by and see us this summer!  We love having visitors - especially ones willing to help weed the garden :)