06 November 2009

Comfort Food Makes Everything Better

One thing we all love about digital cameras is the ability to manipulate our images on the computer. We can fix lighting, crop out distractions, resize images. It's all very good. Except when you download your photos, delete them from the memory card, manipulate said images and save the file, when oops, you discover that you manipulated a little too much. My lovely lasagna photos were accidentally miniaturized, with no remedy available except to include them as a triptych. Life shall go on. Comfort food helps.

I did not meet my goal for healthy food for all of this post-Halloween week. Hubs has been in and out of the city/state/country quite frequently, and since we have him home for this week, I decided to make his favorite--lasagna. I refuse to make a low-calorie lasagna, so instead I tried to increase the overall healthfulness. I replaced the ground beef--ground turkey has a little less fat. I added spinach and mushrooms to raise the nutrient level.

I'm not going to post an actual recipe for lasagna here, but I'll let you in on how I make it and give you some tips.
  • Lasagna is just layers--noodles, meat/sauce, and some sort of cheese, repeated until you use everything up.
  • I start with a coating of sauce (no meat) on the bottom of my pan. It helps keep the noodles from sticking.
  • Boil your noodles first, but for 2/3 as long as the package says. (So if it says to cook them 15 mins, only cook them for 10 mins.) You want to start with them a little undercooked so they won't be mushy after baking.
  • After boiling the noodles, pour them into a strainer, rinse with cold water so they're easier to handle, and then dry them with paper towels or a clean dish towel.
  • You want everything that goes into the lasagna pan to be as dry as possible, so the layers stick together instead of sliding all over the place.
  • Cook your meat (if applicable) and add tomato/marinara/whatever sauce to it.
  • In a separate bowl, mix your cheese with an egg or two to help it solidify and stick.
  • Most traditional lasagnas are made with ricotta cheese. I don't like ricotta cheese, so I use my MIL's method of combining cottage cheese, parmesan and egg for the cheese layer. It makes both me and Hubs happy (because, of course, his mother's lasana is unbeatable.)
  • Once all your pieces (pasta, meat/sauce/cheese) are individually ready, it's time to layer. As mentioned above, I place a layer of plain sauce on the bottom, then a layer of noodles, then meat/sauce, then cheese, more noodles, and so on.
  • This time, I sandwiched a spinach leaf and mushroom layer between noodle layers. For fun. Yes, that's what I do for fun.
  • Mushroom tip: mushrooms give off a lot of water when cooked. Sauté them first, then drain them on a paper towel-lined plate to get rid of all that liquid.
  • Spinach tip: turns out you should cook and dry the spinach first, too. Oops.
  • If desired, adorn the top layer of noodles with slices of mozzarella cheese. This is another method swiped from my MIL. You could do shredded mozzarella instead. It makes a thick cheesy layer on top that is my absolute favorite part. I could make a whole tray of nothing but cheese-covered lasagna noodles.
  • I bake mine at 375° for about 45 minutes, but mine is gigantic, so yours might take less time. I like to make one so big that it will feed us all for 2-3 days, because after I go to all the work of making a lasagna, I don't want to cook again for about that long.

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