We live the lives of busy Moms, friends, entrepreneurs, wives, community members…the list of hats grows long. So it is important that we use our time wisely while the kids are at school and the house is quiet by combining our get together time. Focusing on sharing and connecting, creating new recipes and learning from each other are all great ways to build lasting relationships.
We set up a plan to meet once a month and share new recipes, try each others favorite recipes and expand our regular “go to” menus for our families. Our goal is to prep and make a dinner for that night and then something to put away in the freezer or “put-up” in the pantry to be enjoyed in the future months as a tasty reminder of our day together in the kitchen.
We decide menus by what we have in our refrigerators. For me that is easy; a quick check, since I have just one. But Stew, she has four refrigerators I’m told so she always comes ready for a multitude of options. On our most recent get together, her car was packed and each time she pulled something from her bottomless box of goodies, like a magician, I was pleasantly surprised at what she emerged with: squash, spinach, fresh squeezed lemon juice, herbs picked that day a little bit of this and a little bit of that. I have to confess, Stew Dietz is not your ordinary super mom (a title I think all Moms carry in this day and age) like the rest of us but she is also a caterer extraordinaire so she has menu planning down to a science.
After taking stock of our potential ingredients, we decided the plan was to make a Butternut Squash and Spinach Lasagne, Potato Leek Soup, Parsley Pesto and Apple Butter. These days in the kitchen are very productive. For the Butternut Squash and Spinach Lasagne, Stew found inspiration from a Bon Appétit magazine but we didn’t have all the ingredients they called for and staying true to our creative spirit we improvised and tweaked their recipe to what worked for us:
Butternut Squash & Spinach Lasagna
10-12 Servings 9x13x3” pan
2# Butternut squash, peeled, halved, seeded & cut ¼ “slices
1 Large Yellow Onion, diced small
1# Fresh Mozzarella, grated or cut into small strips
16oz Skim Ricotta
1c Grated romano cheese
Zest from one lemon
4 Sage leaves, minced
1T Fresh Rosemary leaves, minced
2T Fresh Thyme leaves, minced
½ c Fresh parsley leaves, chopped
¼ c Unsalted butter
¼ c Unbleached all-purpose flour
3c Whole milk
2c Half & half
¼ tsp Fresh grated nutmeg
1 Bay leaf
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
1# Lasagna noodles
½ c Parmesan
Toss sliced squash pieces with olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake on sheet pans in preheated 400 oven until cooked, but not mushy, about 20 minutes.
In 10 qt stock pot heat water until boil and cook lasagna noodles until done. Toss with a little extra virgin olive oil to keep from sticking and lay out on extra sheet pans, wax paper or parchment.
Heat 3T olive oil in 8 qt heavy bottom stock pot and saute onions until tender but not colored, about 8 minutes. Add rosemary, fresh thyme & sage and cook adding salt & pepper to taste. Add spinach in handfuls stirring it in until wilted. Cook over high to finish wilting and help evaporate liquid (or drain in colander, reserving liquid for soup!) Stir in lemon rind and fresh parsley. Once cooled blend with ricotta & Romano set aside in a bowl for assembly.
In heavy bottomed 5qt pot melt butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook not letting it brown, about 2-3 minutes. Slowly whisk in whole milk & half and half. Add bay leaves & nutmeg. Slowly bring to boil and simmer stirring almost constantly until thickened, about 10-15 minutes depending on your heat. Season with salt and white pepper. Pour through mesh strainer.
In 9”x13” pan spread about 1/3c béchamel in the bottom of the pan. Top with layer of lasagna noodles, butternut squash slices, Fresh mozzarella, spinach/ricotta mixture & ½ c béchamel. Keep repeating for a total of 3 layers of “filling” ending with noodles/ last of béchamel and ½ c Parmesan.
Bake @ 375 for 45 minutes, turning to broil for additional 5 minutes. Let rest before cutting and serving.
I usually cover the lasagne with plastic wrap and then aluminum foil and write on the foil; What is inside, the date it was made, and date it should be eaten by as well as baking instructions, incase I am not the one making it for dinner. I also add a reminder to remove the plastic wrap beneath the foil.
Other ideas would be to add suggestions of what side dishes to pair with it.
making life sweeter…from Rachelle @ Caramelizelife