Friday, February 11, 2011

Vegetarian Thanksgiving (Tofurkey not included)

My parents came down to visit us last Thanksgiving, so we decided to cook them a feast, vegetarian style. We did have a few traditional turkey legs, but one of the main dishes was lasagna - only with zucchini slices instead of noodles! Low-carb! :) The original recipe came from a cookbook called Simply Delicious Vegetarian by Carla Bardi, and it was pretty tasty the first time we made it, but we decided to put our own (somewhat healthier) spin on it. This one takes a lot of prep time, but we think it's worth it!

4-5 large green zucchini, sliced length-wise (about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick)
1/2 - 1 cup mushrooms, chopped
1/2 - 1 cup asparagus, chopped
1/2 - 3/4 cups sun-dried tomatoes, chopped (soak in warm water for about an hour to soften)
grated Parmesan cheese
1 - 2 cups bread crumbs (we used finely crushed bran flakes instead)
skim milk, both powdered and regular
garlic, salt, pepper
shredded mozzarella cheese (low-fat or part-skim)

Prep the zucchini: It's best to slice the zucchini at least 4 hours ahead of time to help reduce the moisture in the slices. Lightly salt the slices and layer them in a colander, with paper towel between the layers of zucchini. Put something heavy on top (like a stack of bowls) to help press some of the water out of the slices. When you are ready to make the lasagna, broil the zucchini slices 5-7 minutes per side to further reduce moisture.

To make the filling: chop the mushrooms, asparagus and sun-dried tomatoes, and saute them, seasoning them with salt, pepper and garlic. Pour about 1/4 cup skim milk into the pan and stir. Alternately add Parmesan cheese and powdered skim milk to thicken the mixture, until it is almost like a bisque. If you add more milk than cheese, be sure to also add more spices. (Note: if you don't have, or can't find, powdered skim milk, you can use 2% or whole milk, and add more grated cheese than milk to the mixture.) You can experiment with different filling ingredients, like spinach. The original recipe called for carrots, shallots and celery - which we though was a little boring :)

Put it all together: Heat oven to 350F. Layer the bottom of a baking dish with the broiled zucchini slices, spread a thin layer of filling over the zucchini, sprinkle with a layer of bread crumbs, then sprinkle grated Parmesan cheese on top. Repeat this process until all the filling is used up. Make sure to leave enough zucchini for a top layer to cover the last of the filling (making an odd number of zucchini layers). Sprinkle the top layer of just zucchini with bread crumbs, and instead of using Parmesan cheese, top with shredded mozzarella. Bake 15-25 minutes or until the cheese on top is melted and/or browning slightly at the edges. Let cool, then slice and enjoy!


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Savory Cornmeal Muffins

The weather has been awful for the past couple days so Purdue had cancelled classes. I didn’t dare to venture out in the freezing cold to go to the lab, and there is only so much work that I could do from home. After watching The Office on Netflix for about 4 hours, I had to do something productive! Baking seemed like a good way to kill time as it generally takes a while to bake something and there is also a lot of cleaning involved :). We’ve had a packet of cornmeal in our freezer for a while, so I thought of experimenting with it and cornmeal muffins with soup seemed perfect for a snow day. They turned out really good and I’ll definitely be making more of these in the future.

Recipe adapted from:
Ingredients (for 12 muffins)
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup wheat flour
1 tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 egg (Didn’t have eggs, so I used Egg Beaters. Egg whites can be used as well.)
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup oil
2 tbsp melted butter/margarine
~1.5 cups chopped vegetables (I used peas, carrots, green and red pepper and green beans. Any other vegetables can be used as well.)

Preheat oven to 400 F. Mix the dry ingredients (cornmeal, wheat flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and pepper) in a bowl. In another bowl, mix egg, milk, oil and butter and then slowly add the liquid to the dry ingredients. Stir until mixed. Add the chopped vegetables to the batter and mix well. Grease muffin tins and fill each cup ~3/4 full. Bake for ~25 minutes until golden brown.
That’s the generic recipe, but it is pretty versatile. You can add your favorite spices, herbs or cheese to the batter. Enjoy the warm muffins with soup, chili, or just some butter.