Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Mini Veggie Lasagnas - And a Guest Cook

     Over the last few weeks it seems that vegetarian eating is taking up more days than I originally planned. I think I'm eating meat now only twice a week. And I don't miss it as much as I thought I would. Sure the bacon is always tempting me at work, but it's not unbearable. I'd wager that I've had one piece since the beginning of the year, a huge improvement from one piece a day.

     Usually days that I had planned to have off from my vegetarian diet are spent eating my vegetarian leftovers. One dish for lunch and another for dinner. I really need to work on batch sizes I think. Or maybe con my parents into eating meals with me more often. But tonight wasn't a leftover dinner. My daughter didn't have Girl Scouts and she was tired of last week's red beans and rice (that's a story I'll tell another time). So we had time to enjoy something new and I was dying to try something I found while random clicking through another blog that was suggested to me. By the way, check out Oh My Veggies sometime if you haven't already. So many ideas!

     Tonight I decided to try my hand at making Mini Veggie Lasagnas. They just look so cute! "But", a little voice warned me, "your daughter doesn't like vegetables." Then again, this poor girl has had a hard time finding much of anything she really liked since this new journey began. So I decided to try a slightly different tactic to the eat your dinner, get a cookie. 

     She is getting to the point she is very helpful in the kitchen, we bake together all the time, so maybe she could help make tonight's dinner. So I ran that idea by her and she was all for it. She helped me shop for the ingredients, to the point of picking the vegetables we were going to use. I did twist her arm a little for the zucchini, "Just a really little one?" I request. "Well, as long as it's a reeeeeeallllllly little one", she concedes. We also picked up a teeny onion, an orange pepper, four small mushrooms, and a bag of spinach to round out our veggies. She also wanted homemade alfredo sauce instead of red sauce or pesto, so we picked up those ingredients as well. Then it's back home to get to work.
Almost tastes like the real thing.
     I get to work making sauce and browning some mock sausage. I should add, this is an addition she was not happy about. She was ready to eat straight up veggie lasagna before risking another meat like product. She came around after I had her try a piece. "Pretty good!" was her verdict.
      The sauce was simple enough to make: 1 Tablespoon margarine, a small spoon of chopped garlic, 1/4 Cups flour, 3 Cups skim milk, salt and paper to taste, then about a cup of shredded Parmesan and some Romano I had laying around. Pretty tasty and lower in calories than anything from a jar. Less creamy though. But in a dish like this I don't think I would have noticed if I hadn't been tasting my sauce off the spoon.

     As I was busy on the stove, I handed my smallest chef's knife to my seven year old and had her cut all of the veggies. It's not her first time cutting anything, in case you were worried. She learned to cut with her Pop-Pop a while back. She wanted to be shown the best way to cut each veggie, but after an initial cut or two from me, the did the knife work. And a really good job of it too.

Chopping peppers
And onions

     After that we put her vegetables in the skillet with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and more fresh garlic. As those cooked down I taught her the easy way to chop spinach. She then stood at the stove and stirred everything until the veggies were al dente. Turned off the heat, added the chopped spinach, put in about half of the Italian sausage, and set our eyes on assembly.

Looks good already
Chopping spinach by rolling the leaves first

Patiently stirring, and making a small mess

Final mix
     This stage was a little difficult for her, but she helped out for a little while. But it was a simple layering procedure, won ton wrapper, tablespoon of ricotta  tablespoon of veggie mix, tablespoon of sauce, repeat. On top we sprinkled some mozzarella and tossed our muffin pan into the oven at 350 for about 15 mins.

Part of the first layer
Oven ready

     As our lasagnas were in the oven we had a good chance to discuss making dinner tonight. Turns out she really enjoyed the whole process, even if it did mean we were eating dinner later than usual. Much later in fact. She has officially requested that she gets to cut our veggies from now on, and I think it's a great idea honestly. Maybe her involvement will make this all more pleasant for her, and it's never too early to learn good knife skills.

     About then the oven beeps and the moment of truth has arrived, will cooking dinner make eating dinner more enjoyable for her? This is certainly a meal with enough vegetables that she would have protested slightly if I just gave it to her. I give her one to start and watch her take her first bite.... "Mmmmmmmm!" She exclaims. As for her thumb rating? I mistakenly took it for two thumbs up at first. She corrected me though, it's "all the thumbs up, in the whole world". This dish is a winner and then some.

Make a batch for yourself tonight!

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