Six Things I Learned About Myself While Making Lasagna (and a Knock Your Socks Off Recipe for Roasted Vegetable Lasagna)

Lasagna

As you might recall from last week, I’ve been having kitchen issues.  A broken dishwasher and oven put me in a lurch for a few weeks, but I am finally back and fully operational, after just a few road bumps.  The dishwasher came late last week, and let me tell you something.  I forgot what it was like to do dishes without having to completely scrub them before putting them in the dishwasher.  Looking back, I don’t know why I was even using the dishwasher.  I was doing all the hard work. I think maybe I was just delaying having to put all the dishes away.

It’s actually been pretty hard to break the pre-washing habit I developed.  I know it’s still early, but I don’t trust that the dishwasher will give my dishes back to me sparkling clean, so I’m testing the waters.  Today, I put in a dried out spatula caked with lasagna remnants to see if it comes out clean.  If it does, maybe, just maybe, I will put some plates in that still have food sauce and drippings on them.  But I digress.  Today isn’t about the dishwasher.  It’s about the oven (and the lasagna).

This past Wednesday was delivery day for the new oven.  It was also the day of the monthly PTA meeting at my oldest son’s school, a meeting at which I, and two other moms, volunteered to cook a lasagna dinner for all the attendees.  Of course I volunteered long before my oven ever broke, and when I got my delivery date, I figured it would arrive in plenty of time for me to bring two piping hot dishes of lasagna to a 6pm meeting.  When the delivery company called the day before to confirm, I winced a little bit at the 1:30 – 3:30 slot I was given, knowing if they arrived at the back end of the window, I would be cutting things a little close.  However, I quelled my fears by reasoning that because my dishwasher arrived early in its window, the same could be expected for the oven.

At 2:30, as I sat with a tray full of veggies prepped for roasting, and no “we are getting close” call from the delivery team, I started to get a little worried.  Bigger than the baking of the lasagna issue, was the issue on the horizon of retrieving each of my sons from two different after school activities.  If the oven came right at 3:30, I would be late to get my boys.  At 3:00, I knew I needed to start devising a plan B, with the first order of business being how I was going to get my boys.  I could easily find another mom to grab my oldest from school, but my youngest was another story.  What I needed was someone to hang out in case the oven people arrived while I was out getting the kids.  So I texted my neighbor.

“U home?”

“Yup”

“I might need to call in a favor.  Waiting for a new oven to be delivered.  Was supposed to come between 1:30 and 3:30.  Could you take delivery for me if they don’t come before I have to leave to pick the boys up?”

“Sure. Np.”

“Awe thx you’re the best!”

Before I had even a moment to relish in the fact that one crisis was averted, my phone rang.  It was the delivery company informing me that they were running behind schedule and my new delivery window was from 3:30 to 5:30.  Ugh.  While it solved the picking up the kids dilemma, it created a new dilemma in that I was now certain there was absolutely no way I was baking any lasagna in my kitchen that afternoon.

So I called my neighbor.  This was too much for a text.

“Hey!  So the delivery company just called and moved my window back to 3:30 to 5:30.  I won’t need you to accept delivery anymore, but now I don’t have an oven to bake the lasagna I am supposed to take to the PTA meeting tonight.  Any chance I can bring my veggies up to roast in your oven while I run and grab the boys from school?”

“Sure, no problem.  Bring it up.”

When I arrived home from picking up my boys, my neighbor had a tray of perfectly roasted veggies waiting for me, along with an offer to bake the assembled lasagna’s there as well, saving me a trip I was going to make to another friend’s apartment a few blocks away.

The next hour and a half was a blur of assembling lasagna, trying to take a shower and make myself look presentable, running lasagna up the the neighbor’s, accepting the oven delivery, getting and keeping my oldest focused on his homework, giving the building staff access to install the new oven, keeping my youngest son out of my oldest son’s hair, walking the dog we are fostering, and picking up the finished lasagna from the neighbor’s.  When all was said and done, other than the fact that my kitchen looked like a tornado had just blown through, everything came together as if I had a working oven in my apartment all along, and the two trays of lasagna were gobbled up at the PTA meeting to rave reviews from many.

So what did I learn from all this?

1)  I have a tendency to over-commit and not want to disappoint.  When my oven broke and I knew it wasn’t going to be delivered until the day of the PTA meeting, I should have graciously stepped aside or ordered my share of the lasagna.  But oh no, that would be too easy.  Come hell or high water I had to make my lasagna.

2)  I can be naively optimistic.  I typically believe things will work out how they are supposed to.  The oven will get here, I will have time, all will be good, etc.  It’s a great way to live, except when things inevitably don’t work out how they are supposed to.

3)  I consistently underestimate how long it will take me to accomplish things and I don’t effectively add in buffer time for hiccups.  This is often a result of item 2 above.  As a result, I am often running around like a chicken with its head cut off the last hour or two before a deadline.

4)  I don’t like to ask for help.  I feel like I should be able to do it all on my own, and I hate the thought of putting anyone out.  So I often don’t ask ahead of time and then I find myself in really desperate pickles where I absolutely can’t survive without help.

5)  I create a lot of unnecessary stress for myself.  See items 1-4 above.

6)  I have great friends, family and neighbors who are kind, generous and loving enough to come to my aid when I get myself into really desperate pickles.  As bad as Wednesday was from a logistical perspective, I ended the day happy and grateful.  Tired, but happy and grateful.  One of the hardest things about moving to New York has been leaving the safety and security of a large extended family in close proximity behind.  One of my greatest sources of anxiety since our move, particularly during times my husband travels, has been what if I encounter a serious problem?  Who would I call?  Who could I share my little pieces of crazy with, without judgment or shame?   Who could I look to if I just needed a hug?  It took me almost three years, but I realized this week I have an extended family here too.  Not a family by blood, but a family by friendship and love and compassion.

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And now for the lasagna.  This recipe is actually both gluten free and vegan.  I’ve taken it to several potlucks and set it beside traditional meat and cheese filled lasagnas.  It’s always a hit and people are shocked when I tell them it’s vegan and gluten free.  If you have a working oven, it’s actually comes together quite easily!

Roasted Vegetable Lasagna

1 10 oz box gluten free lasagna noodles (I use Tinkyada Organic Brown Rice Pasta)

1 to 1 1/2 jars of your favorite sauce (I use Brad’s Organic Roasted Garlic Sauce)

1 cup Daiya Mozzarella Style Shreds

For the Roasted Vegetables

2 cups chopped broccoli

2 cups chopped cauliflower

2 cups sliced Crimini mushrooms

2 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Sea salt and fresh ground pepper

For the Cashew Ricotta

2 cups raw cashews

Juice of the remaining 1/2 lemon

2 large garlic cloves

8 large basil leaves

2 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil

1 tsp sea salt

Fresh ground pepper (I used about 10 turns of the pepper grinder)

1/2 cup + 2 TBSP water

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  After chopping vegetables, place in a plastic bag or bowl and combine with the lemon juice, olive oil, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper to taste.  Make sure that all the veggies are coated evenly.  Spread the prepared veggies in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 20 – 30 minutes.  Check at 20 minutes to ensure they don’t overcook.  When you are finished roasting the veggies, turn the oven temperature down to 350 degrees.

Roasted Veggies Finished Product
Roasted Veggies Finished Product

While the veggies are roasting, put your water on to boil and prepare the lasagna noodles according to the package directions.

After you put your water on to boil, prepare the cashew ricotta by combining all of the ingredients specified above in a high speed blender until smooth.

When the roasted veggies, noodles and cashew ricotta are finished you can begin assembling the lasagna in a 9 x 13 baking dish.  Cover the bottom of the baking dish with 1/3 of the pasta sauce.  (If you like a moister, saucier lasagna, I recommend using 1 1/3 to 1 1/2 jars of sauce.  Save the rest of the jar for pizza or pasta later in the week). Next, layer 3 to 4 lasagna noodles over the sauce.  Top the noodles with 9 tbsp of the cashew ricotta. (Drop the spoonfuls of ricotta evenly across the pan, as if you were prepping cookie dough for baking.)  Evenly spread half of the roasted veggies over the ricotta and sprinkle 1/2 of the Daiya mozzarella style shreds over the roasted veggies.

photo (2)
Making the Layers

Top with another layer of noodles and another 1/3 of the sauce.  Repeat the ricotta, veggie, Daiya layer and top with a final layer of noodles and the remaining sauce.  Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Mangia! Mangia!

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