Happy Monday, hope you had a great weekend!
Ben and I had one of the best couple of days on record. Friday night he asked if he could take me to the Farmers’ Market in the morning (seriously? Swoon!) so off we went, bright and early on Saturday. It was a beautiful day and the flowers and asparagus in particular were calling our name – as well as the dozen or so people we ran into at the market that we knew. Felt like the whole town was there! : )
(Psst! Click here > to read about one of my favorite market vendors in my latest Join My Journey blog post!)
A special shout also goes out to the Zinnia vendor who took this stunning picture for me after watching me take bad photo after photo. The colors were so striking and I wanted a new summer-themed backdrop on my phone so bad, but I was too short and the flowers were too tall and, well, all was nearly lost until she took pity on me and shot the dang thing herself. Baha! Moving on…
We decided to forego Pupusas (still slightly upset about that…) for brunch at a nearby popular breakfast joint afterwards - Waveland Cafe. This place is a Des Moines institution and I am slightly ashamed that I have never been. Located in the Drake University neighborhood, it’s no frills and slightly eclectic, plus they serve the best dang hash browns. Period. So glad I finally went!
Home was the last place we wanted to head on such a beautiful day, so we hopped over to our new neighborhood to time distances to the grocery store and such, and check out the nearby trails.
I feel like such a wretched traitor for saying this, but the trails near our new home kick the trails at our current home’s boo-tay. Like, slightly puts them to shame. Poor trails. I cannot wait to tie my laces up and get out there for a jog. Not much longer now!
After that we decided to continue the fun with a round of mini golf! I chose the hottest pink ball I could find, natch.
The last time Ben and I played mini golf, about 4 years ago, we got into the biggest argument ever. Neither of us remember what it was about (we probably didn’t even know 5 minutes after,) but thankfully this time was much more pleasant!
The conversation, anyway, not so much the game. Gosh, I just suck at golf! My score for 18 holes, including two penalty shots for landing in the rocks at hole 4 in the water at hole 17? 65. Gulp.
Afterwards, Ben hit at the neighboring driving range for a bit then I convinced him to stop at Scratch Cupcakery on the way home, FTW. As if he needed any extra convincing. Devoured his chocolate chip cupcake in record time then declared it the best cupcake he ever had. HA! Ahem.
Yesterday I worked on a bunch of freelance projects then broke to put some of my farmers’ market finds to good use in Farmers’ Market Vegetable Lasagna!
A few months ago I helped judge a local culinary competition called Morsel Combat which benefits Meals from the Heartland, an incredible, local non-profit that provides food to starving people all over the world – right here from IA. The competition brings out well-known local chefs who cook bite-sized portions of yummy dishes for people to try, which are also judged by a panel of local foodies.
Among all the dishes that were submitted at the event, the winner we chose was a Raw Vegan Lasagna from Fresh Cafe & Market. NONE of the judges, including myself, exclusively eat raw or vegan, but we were all in agreement that the fresh, light dish complete with walnuts that tasted like Italian sausage, and cashew cheese that was a creamy as any dairy-based product, was absolutely incredible.
While I have no idea how to make walnuts taste like sausage, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about that lasagna, so I created a cooked version that incorporates fresh-picked veggies from the market like zucchini, yellow squash, basil, and shallots, with chewy lasagna noodles and bright marinara sauce in a fantastic, summery dish!
Lasagna is a bit more involved than the recipes I normally post here on IGE, but I promise this one’s worth it. Start by boiling 10oz lasagna noodles. I know a lot of lasagna recipes these days call for no-cook noodles which are incredibly convenient, but Ben hates ‘em and I’m not completely sold either. I like the thick, firm and chewy noodles of yesteryear, myself!
After the noodles are done cooking lay them out on a nonstick sprayed baking sheet, spraying the tops of the noodles to layer, then set aside.
Meanwhile, drain 24oz fat-free cottage cheese in a fine mesh strainer, using a spatula to press and make sure all the liquid is gone. If you con’t have a fine mesh strainer, place a piece of cheesecloth in a regular strainer.
By the way, I grew up eating cottage cheese in place of ricotta cheese in my Mom’s lasagna, and I just love it. The cottage cheese provides a lean protein punch and, furthermore, tastes really good. That being said, if you hate cottage cheese more than anything, use ricotta instead!
After the cottage cheese is drained, add it to a large bowl then stir in 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese and 1/2 cup packed fresh basil that’s been roughly chopped. Mix then set aside.
K – time to get your chop on! Chop up 4 cloves garlic, 2 large shallots (or 1 small sweet onion) and 2 medium-sized zucchini and summer squash.
Heat 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in a very large skillet over medium heat then saute the shallots until translucent. Add the garlic and saute for 30 more seconds then turn the heat up to medium high, add the zucchini and summer squash, and then saute until they barely start to turn translucent, seasoning with salt and pepper.
Next add 24oz of your favorite marinara sauce. I used Ginos, of course!
Turn the heat down to medium and let the veggies simmer in the sauce until they’re crisp-tender. Don’t let ‘em get mushy!
Assembly time! Normally I’d make this lasagna in a 9×13″ dish, but I decided to split it into 2-8×8″ dishes so I can freeze one for an easy, post-baby meal. First spread a small amount of the veggie sauce in the bottom of the nonstick sprayed dish.
Top with 3 lasagna noodles and 1/3 of the cottage cheese/basil mixture.
Spoon on 1/3 of the remaining veggie mixture, and then top with shredded mozzarella cheese.
Repeat the layers 2 more times, top with a bit of parmesan cheese then bake for 20 minutes covered with foil and 15-20 minutes uncovered.
Allow to rest for 15 minutes before slicing (or 5 in my case – I was starving!) then serve!
Farmers’ Market Vegetable Lasagna
Feeds a crowd, though can be easily halved
10oz lasagna noodles
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 large shallots, chopped (or 1 small sweet onion, chopped)
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 medium zucchini, chopped
2 medium yellow summer squash, chopped
salt & pepper
24oz marinara sauce
24oz fat-free cottage cheese, drained well
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, divided
1/2 cup packed fresh basil, chopped
8oz shredded mozzarella cheese
- Add lasagna noodles to a large pot of salted, boiling water. Cook until al dente then drain and lay on a nonstick sprayed baking sheet. Spray tops of noodles to stack on top of one another if necessary.
- Heat extra virgin olive oil in a very large skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and saute until translucent, 3-4 minutes, then add garlic and saute for 30 more seconds. Add zucchini and summer squash, season with salt and pepper, then saute until just slightly starting to turn translucent, 4-5 minutes. Add marinara sauce, turn heat down to medium/medium-low, then simmer until zucchini and squash are tender, 5-7 minutes (a splatter screen is helpful.) Do not over-cook or vegetables will be mushy. Set aside to cool slightly.
- In a large bowl combine drained cottage cheese, 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, and chopped basil then set aside.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees then spray a 9×13″ pan (could use 2-8×8″ pans) with non-stick spray. Spread a small amount of the vegetable mixture into the bottom then layer in 3 cooked lasagna noodles followed by 1/3 of the cottage cheese mixture, 1/3 of the remaining vegetable mixture, and 1/3 of the mozzarella cheese. Repeat layers 2 more times.
- Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup parmesan cheese on top then cover pan with nonstick sprayed foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil then bake for an additional 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbly. Let rest for 15 minutes before slicing and serving.
- Tip: My favorite marinara sauce (Ginos) tends to get a little watery when heated. Spoon out extra watery-liquid from the zucchini/squash/marinara mixture before layering lasagna to prevent a watery lasagna.
This lasagna was light yet filling, and I loved, loved, loved how the zucchini still had a bit of a bite since I didn’t cook it too long in the sauce.
Serve with a side of crusty bread for dipping, and enjoy the flavors of summer. Have a great week!