December 16, 2012

RECIPE SUNDAY: Vegetable Lasagna

Winter is here, which means lots and lots of layers!  While to some this means getting bundled up in sweaters, to us at Cooking Sprouts, it means lasagna!   Lasagna is a great winter meal.  Kids love the mixture of tomato sauce and cheese-- however the secret is loading it up with veggies that are easily customizable to your little sprout's tastes!  Though the recipe requires many steps and a bit of time, it's a fun experience for your sprout, and full of cooking preparation techniques for them to practice and learn!

So! We knew it was time for another experiment in the kitchen. Gathering an assortment of vegetables, we made a Cooking Sprouts rendition of Lasagna, sans noodles! As a tip, you and your sprout can even make your own customizable mini lasagnas! Here's what we came up with:

Vegetable Lasagna

Makes 6 Servings

Component 1: Tomato Basil Sauce

4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
5 cloves of garlic
1 medium yellow onion
1 1/3 tsp salt
pinch red pepper flakes
1 28oz can plum tomatoes (hint! Rao's is the best and well worth the $5!)
1/3 cup fresh basil
1/4 cup red wine (optional, it cooks away ;-) )

1. In a medium sized pot, saute garlic, onion, salt, and red pepper flakes until browned.

2. Squish in each tomato, and add the remaining juice in the can. Add the fresh basil and optional red wine. Bring to a simmer.

3. Let cook for 15 minutes, covered, stirring occasionally.

Component 2: Sauteed Baby Bella Mushrooms

2 1/2 tbsp truffle or extra virgin olive oil 
1 cup baby bella mushrooms, sliced 1/4" thick
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 pinch salt

1. Heat olive oil over a medium heat.

2. Add mushrooms, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes.

3. Add balsamic vinegar, stir, and then let simmer for another 10 minutes, until mushrooms are browned.

Component 3: Roasted Eggplant and Zucchini


1 medium sized eggplant, sliced 1/3" thick
1 large zucchini, sliced 1/4" thick
olive oil for drizzling
freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 425 Degrees F. 

2. In a medium sized bowl, coat vegetable slices in olive oil, salt, and pepper.

2. Lay on a baking sheet, and let roast for 10 minutes, or until slightly browned.

 And now!

The Lasagna Sha-Bang:

15 oz part-skim ricotta cheese
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
3/4 lb. 85% lean ground beef
2 tsp maldon sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp garlic powder
Roasted Eggplant and Zucchini recipe
Sauteed Baby Bella Mushroom recipe
7 oz fresh mozzarella, sliced into thin pieces
1/4 cup parmsean cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

2.  In a small bowl, combine ricotta, basil, and 1 tbsp black pepper.

3. In a medium sized bowl, use hands to combine the ground beef, salt, black pepper, basil, and garlic powder. Meanwhile, in a medium sized frying pan, heat the olive oil on medium heat. Add the ground beef mixture, and cook until brown.

4. Layer a casserole dish (I used a 10 x 10 one) with the eggplant. Next, spread the ricotta cheese on top. Layer with the mushrooms after that, followed by the beef, then more eggplant. Top with tomato sauce and a thin layer of sprinkled parmesean, and finally, the sliced mozzarella. Fill the sides of the pan with the remaining tomato sauce.

4. Bake for 15 minutes, slice into squares, serve, and voila!

December 10, 2012

Recipe Sunday: Pumpkin Mac and Cheese!

There is no doubt that we all have fond memories of Macaroni & Cheese meals through the years-- and I am sure many of them during childhood!! That said, I don't think I have ever met a kid who has ever said no to a macaroni and cheese lunch or dinner.

And why not give it to them?  For parents and adults, it's quick and easy to reach for that blue box to re-create those warm and cozy Mac & Cheese meals for their kids (and for themselves, of course!).   But who wants macaroni and cheese from a box? You see, what many do not know, is how fast and easy it is to whip up from scratch!

I know what you're thinking: Despite it being from scratch, why would Cooking Sprouts even dare to think about posting a recipe that relies solely on cheese and macaroni? Well, well, well...  Because if you do the research, you can very strategically throw in some veggies, and kids will never ever know they are there!   

I knew it was time for a kitchen experiment.

Cruising the aisles of whole foods, with four recipes in hand, I stocked up on ingredients, came home, cooked. I discovered the whole process full of food preparation techniques that are easy and fun for kids as well. They'll love to grate the cheese and chop the veggies! Thus, another successful kitchen experiment! Here's what we came up with this time:

Pumpkin Mac & Cheese with Veggies

Makes 8 Servings

2 tbsp salted butter
2 tbsp whole wheat flour
pinch of salt
sprinkle of black pepper
pinch of nutmeg
1 package (about 8 servings) whole grain macaroni elbows or shells
1 c. pumpkin puree
1 c. 1% milk
1 c. cheddar cheese, freshly grated (any kind! I used extra-sharp)
sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice
1/4 cup olive oil
1 c. brussel sprouts, sliced in half
1 c. porcini mushrooms, sliced in quarters
1. cup baby spinach

1. In a  medium pot, heat 2 quarts of water on medium heat, until it reaches a boil. Add noodles, stir, and drain.

2. Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.  Mix together brussels sprouts and mushrooms in a bowl with olive oil. Lie flat side down on a baking sheet, and roast for 10-15 minutes.

3. In a large pot, whisk together flour and butter until melted, then add salt, pepper, black pepper, and whisk again until smooth.

4. Add pumpkin puree and milk, and whisk until thick.

5. Add cheese, and a bit of the spices, and mix until well-blended. Add salt to taste.

6. Stir in macaroni until all are covered. Stir in veggies, and then finally, the spinach. Cover until wilted. Stir and serve.

Voila! From now on, say no to blue boxes!