Squash Lasagna

At the season’s end of our last farmer’s market, I decided to load up on a variety of squash. I’ll admit that I am not too big of a squash lover, but I did it for my wife, as she is the one that likes them. But as I stared at the delicata and butternut squash, I decided I would roast both of them. That’s when the idea came into play, probably because I was searching for ideas for dinner and something everyone would love and agree on, and that’s when I thought of lasagna. Lasagna with a twist that is. Who doesn’t love a great dish of lasagna? What no one knew is that I had a good couple of cups of that delish, roasted squash, and ever better I did not tell them until after they devoured a couple of slices. Yep, that’s where my kids are now, two slices, and eating me out of the house.

Squash Lasagna Recipe
Squash Lasagna Recipe

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • 1 delicata squash, sliced in half, seeds removed
  • 1 small butternut squash, sliced in half, seeds removed
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, rubbed onto sliced squashes
  • 9 sheets of lasagna, oven ready, or par boiled
  • 1 lb ground chuck, cooked and fat removed
  • 2 mild Italian sausage links, casing removed, cooked and fat removed
  • 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 1/12 tsp salt, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1 pinch of red chili flakes
  • 15 oz part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 3 cups of your favorite tomato sauce

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Add the squashes to a baking sheet, and cook flesh side up for about 45 minutes, or until fork tender. Once the squash is cooked, scrape out, and mix into a bowl. You will only need about two cups, but feel free to use more or less based on your preference.

Start by cooking both of your meats. Feel free to combine these in a large skillet. Break apart the meat as it is cooking to prevent large clumps. Strain the meat mixture, removing the fat, then return the meat back on the stove on medium heat. Add a pinch of salt, some cracked black pepper, the red chili flakes, and the garlic powder. Give a good stir, cooking for a minute or two, then add in your sauce. Stir, and let this reduce down a bit, cooking for about 10 minutes.

To another mixing bowl, add the egg, ricotta cheese, the squash, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, and half of the parmesan cheese. Give that a good mix so that the squash is fully incorporated into the cheeses.

Now let’s get to this lasagna. Take a good ladle of your meat sauce, and add to the bottom of your lasagna dish. Add the lasagna sheets. Mine fit three to the pan.

Squash Lasagna Ingredients
Squash Lasagna Ingredients

Next, be generous and add enough of the ricotta and squash mixture to cover the pasta sheets. Lightly sprinkle on mozzarella cheese, then more meat mixture, pasta cheese, more ricotta mixture, more cheese, more sauce, then remaining pasta sheets. Cover with meat sauce, the cover with cheese. Shower with the remaining parmesan cheese.

Spray the back of some aluminum foil with some cooking spray. I’ve found this to prevent all of that wonderful cheese from sticking onto the foil when removing from the oven.

Cover the baking dish, and place into a 375 degree oven, cooking for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the foil, and continue to cook for about 20 more minutes or until the cheese is nice and golden.

Let cool for about 10 minutes before slicing into squares.

The end result was everything that is wonderful about a great lasagna, but there was that bit of hidden sweetness from the blended squash that made this one even better. After the kids were finished eating (as well as my wife), I said “So how did everyone like the squash?”. They had confused looks on their face, but all replied that they had no clue it was in there, and loved every bite. What’s not to love about that? Gotta get the good stuff in there somehow, I was successful on that front. Hope you enjoy!

Peanut M&M Bars

We recently joined Costco, and to say the least we love it. I priced things out all of the time as I do the grocery shopping, so you have to watch what you are buying. It’s easy to load things up in their massive carts, but there are items I know my kids are going to go through as they pack their lunches on a daily basis.  On a recent visit I bought a large bag of peanut M&Ms. I figured my wife and kids would go through those pretty quickly as someone is always in the hunt for chocolate, so what a better way to get some nuts into the mix as well.  So one afternoon I was staring at that large bag of M&Ms and decided I would come up with a recipe to surprise my wife and kids when they returned home for the day. That’s when I came up with the Peanut M&M bars, and whoa were these things delicious.

Peanut M&M Bars Recipe
Peanut M&M Bars Recipe

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 whole egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups of Peanut M&Ms
  • 1 tbsp additional unsalted butter

Pretty simple ingredients for something so perfect.

Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees.

During this time, add the butter, egg, peanut butter, and brown sugar into a mixing bowl. Mix until you have a creamy consistency, then add in your vanilla and flour. Continue to mix so the flour is nicely incorporated. Next add in the 1 1/2 cups of the peanut M&Ms. Gently stir.

Lightly coat a baking dish, large enough to hold the mixture, and lightly butter the dish.

Peanut M&M Bars
Peanut M&M Bars

Scoop the batter into the dish, then top with the remaining M&Ms.

Place the dish into the oven, and bake for about 30 minutes. The batter should come out clean when inserting your knife.

Let the bars cool before slicing into squares.

These bars are everything you love about a peanut M&M, but they have this added creaminess from that smooth peanut butter. Get a nice cold glass of milk for these puppies. Hope you enjoy!

Vietnamese Green Nuoc Cham

I have bee tinkering with Vietnamese nuoc cham for some time now, tinkering with both a red version and a green version. The subtle difference between the two is the red uses sambal (which I totally love), and the green one does not. Both versions can be used in many different ways, but my preference for either one is to be used as a dressing, or dipping sauce for grilled meats, or spring rolls. There is something so addicting in both that when no one is looking, I will simply eat it by the spoonful.

Packed full of tart, sweet, and spicy ingredients, this sauce is one of my favorites. Hands down.

Vietnamese Green Nuoc Cham Recipe
Vietnamese Green Nuoc Cham Recipe

As with any nuoc cham, it uses fish sauce, so if you have never tried either, this is a great chance to stock up on some good fish sauce, a super ingredient for umami goodness.

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of quality fish sauce (I like 3 crabs brand or Red Boat)
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 3 green Thai chili peppers, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp lemongrass, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 tbsp shallot, minced

Mix all of these ingredients in a bowl, and mix until you get that sugar dissolved. Give a taste. See? Flavor bomb!

You can keep this out at room temperature until you are ready to serve. This was used in fresh lettuce wraps, along with vermicelli noodles, and egg rolls, all wrapped in lettuce and drizzled with that sauce. My boys, and wife do not care for the sauce as it is a bit too spicy for them, but my daughter and I simply love it. This can be stored in the refrigerator, cover, for a few weeks, but my guess is that if you fall in love with this sauce, that it will not last that long. Hope you enjoy!

Indian Chili

I have had a serious craving for Indian food lately. I mean like a really bad craving. Unfortunately there are not a whole lot of Indian restaurants near where I live, so I had to take matters into my own hands and come up with what I am calling Indian chili. I call it that as while my wife, daughter, and I were eating it my wife had asked what the dish was called. I had no clue, but it was hearty, comforting, and truly delicious, plus it was on a Sunday, a day where I normally make chili, so I coined it Indian chili.

Indian Chili Recipe
Indian Chili Recipe

The recipe has everything I love about Indian food, and is loaded with two types of beans, making it a healthy choice for weeknight meals.

Lets get started.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of red lentils, soaked in warm water for 30 minutes
  • 1 cup of red beans, soaked in warm water for 45 minutes
  • 1 whole onion, diced
  • 2 tbsp grated ginger
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 small potato, diced
  • 1 whole carrot, finely diced
  • 1 red chili, seeds removed, finely diced
  • 2 bonless, skinless chicken thighs, chopped
  • 5 cups of chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tbsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp cumin powder
  • salt to taste
  • whole cashews, optional
  • Naan, warmed, optional
  • 2 tbsp canola oil, divided
  • salt to taste

Start by straining your lentils and beans, and pick out any rocks if you see them. I rarely do, but some times they slip in.

Next, heat a large pot, enough to hold all of this madness, and heat 1 tablespoon of the canola oil. Add in the onions, potatoes, and carrots, and cook until the onion begins to soften. Once softened, add in the ginger, garlic, and chili. Once the garlic perfumes your kitchen, toss in the lentils and beans, and give a good stir. Cook this on medium heat for a couple of minutes, then increase the heat to medium-high and add in the chicken stock. Next add in the chicken, cover, reducing the heat to medium-low, and cook until the red beans have softened, about 1 1/2 hours.

Once the beans have softened, get another small skillet set on medium-high heat, and add the remaining oil.

Indian Chili Ingredients
Indian Chili Ingredients

Once the oil shimmers, get the lid ready to cover, and toss in the mustard seeds. Quickly cover as those seeds are going to start dancing and the oil is going to start popping. Once the seeds pop, add in the turmeric, paprika, and cumin, giving a nice stir. After about 20 seconds of stirring, scoop all of that mixture into the chili pot and give that a good stir. Cook the chili for about another 10 minutes, allowing all of those awesome spices to infuse the chili.

Season the chili with a generous pinch of salt, stir, and taste. If it needs more salt, and it may, feel free to add more.

Ladle the Indian chili into a bowl, sprinkle with cashews, and serve with warm naan.

Talk about a great spin on Indian food, and the comfort of chili, this one is it. If you are looking for a great weekend meal to prepare, and one that gets better for leftovers, give this one a shot. Hope you enjoy!