Sunday, January 27, 2013

To the Table (and gluten free lasagna)

Sometimes I think the ritual of meal preparation is just as... maybe even more... important than the meal itself. Eating is fantastic of course, but the real love goes into the making of the meal: selecting the most healthful ingredients and carefully assembling them to create a tasty reason for loved ones to gather around the table. It's beautiful, really; rather elegant in it's simplicity.

I paused to savor the experience of making dinner yesterday, and snapped some photos to share. (And the recipe too of course!) Some dear friends were coming to share the meal, and I found myself, as I sprinkled basil and parsely into the sauce, warmly anticipating the taste of the lasagna and the feel of conversation with kindred spirits. The children would eat quickly and ask to be excused, returning to their games, and we adults would linger at the table with a glass of wine smiling, teasing, and loving.

It began with a salad, while not made with our garden's produce (it is January, after all), still organic and from local farms with gangbuster greenhouses. And of course, still made by many little helpers.

 Next came the garlic bread, made from our own garlic, homemade butter and gluten free bread. (I used this bread recipe.)
 In truth, I don't always care for lasagna, but everyone else at my table really, really does. I make it a few times a year to humor those who call it a favorite dish, and smile inwardly that I can bring such joy to my family with such a small effort.

Ready for the recipe?

You will need:
1 lb. ground beef (can be omitted for a vegetarian version- simply add 2 extra cups of chopped veggies such as green pepper or more squash and zucchini)
2 small onions, chopped
6 cloves of crushed garlic
4 cups of vegetable juice
1 6 oz. can of tomato paste
2 cups fresh mushrooms, coarsely chopped
1 cup summer squash, diced
1 cup zucchini, diced
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
1 tsp parsley
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 package gluten free lasagna noodles, uncooked
3 cups cottage cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup grated parmesan cheese

The Process:
Brown the beef in a large saucepan with onion and garlic. Drain excess liquid.
Add mushrooms, summer squash and zucchini to the saucepan and cook for 2 minutes.
Add the vegetable juice, tomato paste, oregano, basil, parsley and pepper. Simmer with beef mixture for 30 minutes. The sauce will thicken during this time. Pause to remember the people you're about to nourish and love with the gift of good food.

While the sauce simmers and thickens, place uncooked lasagna noodles in the bottom of an ungreased 9x13 baking dish.
When the sauce is finished, layer half of it on top of the noodles in the baking dish. Next, add the cottage cheese.
Add another layer of noodles on top of cottage cheese, then add the rest of the sauce. Picture the smiles you will receive as your family eats this meal together.
Top with mozzarella cheese and cover with foil. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, then remove foil and continue baking for an additional 15 minutes. Let stand 20 minutes before serving.

Last, grate the parmesan and sprinkle over the top of the finished lasagna.
Serve with salad and garlic bread, if desired. To be eaten amongst good friends, in good spirits. 

What meals to do you serve to loved ones to fill up both their bellies and their hearts?


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