Layering veggies…

21 May

My weekend routine includes stopping at the local organic poultry farm for organic and fresh eggs, ground turkey, chicken, grass-fed milk, yogurt and seasonal produce.  Depending on the time of year, the farm sells everything from shelling peas to garlic scapes, as well as a variety of greens such as rainbow chard and broccoli rabe.   On days I have enough energy, I bring either child with me to expose them to the beauty of the local farm.  The older one tends to “help” – with her mini LL bean tote in hand, she assists me by putting my produce in the basket.  We pick up organic legumes and grains for daycare, as well as kiwi by the piece.   Recently, deep purple beets with their beautiful greens attached were available by the bunch.  I grabbed a bunch of these, envisioning a gorgeous chopped salad punctuated by pieces of gem-like beets, cheerful carrots, crunchy celery and cucumber.

The owner of the farm graciously rang up a bag of lentils in advance, and I told my daughter, her special mission was to carry them in her little tote.  She solemnly nodded, abandoned her attempt at carrying every shopper’s shopping basket to the register, and carefully held her tote in front of her – as though offering her lentils.  We waved goodbye to the sheep, ducks, Bantam rooster and his hens, geese and bunnies, and turned out of the drive way to head home.

Back in the kitchen, I thought about what I should make with the ground turkey.  After a month of back-to-back meatballies, it was time to embark on another culinary concoction which would promise a few days of easy dinner assembly, while having enough nutrional variety for the kids.  I rummaged through the pantry, and found a box of no-boil Trader Joe’s lasagne noodles, a jar of organic tomato sauce, as well as a frozen bag of shredded Mozarella cheese I had stashed away.  The refrigerator had a bag of organic spinach and a container of ricotta cheese.  Perfect.

I minced a medium onion, two celery stalks, two carrots and smashed three garlic cloves.  I drizzled olive oil into a medium sized frying pan, and added the garlic cloves.  When the garlic became fragrant, I added the onion, celery and carrots, and tossed them together, lowering the heat to medium. 

 Once the onions became translucent, I scraped the vegetables into a dish, and added the ground turkey into the same pan.  I set the heat to medium high, and browned the turkey, breaking up the pieces as they cooked.   I added the cooked vegetables back into the cooked turkey, and then I added the entire jar of tomato sauce, stirring everything together.  After the ingredients were thoroughly mixed, I put a lid on the pan and lowered the stove until the sauce simmered for 20 minutes.

In the interim, I set the oven to 375, and started preparing a pyrex baking dish to layer the ingredients. 

Although the spinach bag claimed it was “triple” rinsed, I proceeded to quadruple rince the leaves in the sink.  I am a skeptic of pre-washed salads, and I prefer to overwash everything for peace of mind.

I cut the greens from the beets, and saved the roots for later.  I thoroughly washed the leaves, and proceeded to cut them into two-inch long pieces.  I combined the cut leaves with the spinach draining in the colander.

In a bowl, I added a beaten egg to the ricotta cheese  – I’m estimating it is a little less than two cups in each Trader Joe’s container.  I added some herbs to this mixture.

Over medium heat, I melted two tablespoons of Kerrygold un-salted Irish butter in a sauce pan, and added a palmful of whole wheat flower.  I browned the flour, and once the the mixture started forming small balls, I whisked in a cup of whole milk.  I continued to whisk the mixture until it suddenly thickened – and at this time, I removed from the stove.

Once the sauce thicked up a bit, I stirred it up one last time, and ladled some into the bottom of the baking pan.  I then layered the lasagne noodle, added some another ladle of sauce, a large spoon of the ricotta mixture, and then a handful of mozzarella cheese.  I then took handfuls of the spinach and beet green mixture.  I then took a few tablespoons of the white sauce – my theory being the sauce would keep everything moist throughout the layers.  I then added another ladle of the turkey-tomato sauce mixture, and continued layering. 

The final layer had an extra handful of shredded cheese, some grated parmesan, and some freshly cracked pepper.

I then put the concoction into the oven for thirty minutes, with the first fifteen being covered with a piece of tented foil, and the latter without.

The end result was a beautiful lasagne full of vegetables (fiber and vitamins!) without any dry spots. 

Needless to say, after three consecutive days of eating lasagne, both the kids and the husband said, “No more lasagne for another few months….”

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