(If you stick around or simply want to skip to the end, there’s a lasagna recipe.)
In all the chaos and confusion that’s been life this past week, I forgot to post an update on the stove. The heat pump install was finished on Monday, and so was the stove install. After the HVAC guys left, I kept going into the kitchen to randomly turn on burners, giggling—yes, giggling—at the blue flame that resulted each and every time. I had big plans for that first meal, but you know what? It didn’t really pan out, and that’s okay.
Regardless of the lack of intensive cooking, I have an idea of how well this stove will work for us. Answer: Very Well. It’s fast, which I anticipated given that it’s gas. It’s super clean, with barely a whisper of the odor of gas escaping when you turn it on. The notable exception there was that when we had to “cure” the oven, we had to open half the windows in the house. If marijuana smoke and burnt sauerkraut had a baby… yikes! (And lest you think I’m a pothead, no. My cousin growing up, however, was. That’s how I know what it smells like.) But now that’s finished, we’re good. It’s responsive. And did I mention it’s fast?
The old Whirlpool electric range was none of the above. Our first real clue that something was wrong came a year or so ago when I put in a pan of potatoes and carrots to roast. At 400 degrees, those suckers cooked for three hours and were still not anywhere near done. That little disappointment got the “stove doctor” called on it’s happy butt. After a thorough examination, the repairman who came out put that experience down to “the little lady not knowing how to cook.” No comment. Plenty to say, but no comment.
So this Sunday at noon, I stuck some cherry tomatoes, a chopped onion, a chopped red pepper, and enough garlic to kill a horse on a baking sheet and put it in the new oven, intending to roast them until the tomatoes burst and everything started to caramelize. I figured it would take at least an hour even at 400 degrees. Maybe even ninety minutes. That was in keeping with my experience with the old oven.
Yeah, it took about forty minutes. Talk about that old saying, “cooking with gas”, right? Wowza.
Those yummy and delectable goodies were destined for a pot of veggie soup.
Side note: We had an abundance of cherry tomatoes from the garden this year, and in desperation, I threw them on a baking sheet and roasted them for inclusion in a pot of veggie soup. Oh, my goodness, people. Talk about a sweet soup base. I can’t imagine veggie soup without them now. And I’ll definitely be planting more cherry tomatoes next year.
Anyhow, getting back to cooking. I’m trying to prep up some stuff so that when I have surgery, we’ll have options on leftovers. To that end, tonight’s menu includes veggie lasagna. This will be the first time I’ve made it in the new oven, and I plan to keep the temperature lower than with the old oven and check on it sooner. I have a fancy-schmancy lasagna pan that I got from Amazon (truthfully in which to bake brownies so that they all have crusts), and that’s what I use. It gets done faster even in crappy ovens, and it does a good job. I may or may not use that fancy pan because something tells me it’ll work too well in the new oven. I might save it for the next time I make ‘sagna, when I’m a bit more accustomed to the new stove’s ins and outs.
Now, this lasagna is from-scratch except for the noodles. It’s gluten free, vegan, has very low sodium, virtually no added sugar, no added oil. Are you turning up your nose? Oh, don’t. Please bear with me. I would choose this stuff any day over the old, cheesy lasagna. Seriously. It’s really, really good.
Ready for that recipe? Here you go.
- 1 – 28 oz can Dei Fratelli no-salt crushed tomatoes (I am in LOVE with Dei Fratelli tomatoes.)
- 1 – 28 oz can Dei Fratelli stewed tomatoes, pureed
- 1 small onion, finely diced
- 1 small bell pepper, finely diced. Your choice on color.
- 2 tbsp dried basil
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- black pepper to taste
- garlic – I use a LOT, like three tablespoons of minced. Maybe five. You do you.
- Tinkyada gluten-free lasagna. No need to cook them. Use between one and two boxes.
- 2 cups blanched almonds
- 1-2 cups water
- 1-2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 cup diced mushrooms – I prefer shiitake or portabello.
- 1 small onion, finely diced
- 1-2 cups spinach. More if fresh, less if frozen. (If you have kidney stones, frozen/blanched is your best bet as it helps get rid of the oxalic acid in the greens, which contribute to the majority of kidney stones. You can also leave this out without a problem.)
Sauce: (Needs some time)
Start the sauce by throwing all the ingredients in an Instant Pot or other form of slow cooker/electric pressure cooker. I sauté mine for a few minutes, but you don’t have to. Just cook it for at least four hours at a low simmer. You can also do this on the stove. If you do sauté it, you can use half a tablespoon of oil, but you can also use a splash or two of water. Works just as well. Trust me – you don’t miss the oil.
Open the box. 😉
Place a cup of the water, then the lemon juice, then the blanched almonds in a high-speed mixer or food processor. If it isn’t high speed, it won’t get the mixture smooth enough. Sorry. Blend until smooth, adding water if necessary. You want the consistency of thick cake batter. You can do this a day or two in advance if you like, but you don’t have to. I’ll be doing mine tonight right before assembly. Taste it and make sure it’s tart enough for you – you don’t want it to be too sharp, but you want just a bit of tang that should remind you a little of the bite you get from aged cheese. You can also use unblanched almonds, but they need to be raw, unsalted. Blanched are better though.
Add a tiny bit of oil OR a quarter cup of water to a saucepan, then add in the onions and mushrooms. Sauté them over medium heat until they’re about halfway cooked, then add the “cheese” mix. Turn the heat down and stir to incorporate fully, then add the spinach. If you use raw, you’ll only need about a minute of cooking time. If you use frozen and didn’t thaw it, as I tend to, you might need about three minutes.
- Start layering in your lasagna pan with a generous layer of sauce. Then lay down your first layer of noodles. They don’t have to be cooked – you’re going to be saucing this heavily, and there’s enough moisture to steam the noodles.
- Add a thin-ish layer of the “cheese” and veggie mix on top of the noodles. Conversely, if you like a lasagna that’s heavy on ricotta/cheese, you may want to be liberal with your application.
- Add another layer of sauce.
- Add more noodles.
- Lather, rinse, repeat. No, not literally. No lathering or rinsing here. You get the picture though, right?
You want to build your layers, be generous with the sauce, but reserve about two cups of it.
Finish with a layer of sauce. Cover the whole thing with foil, pop into a 375 degree oven for about thirty minutes. Check it at that point and see if the noodles in the middle are nearly tender. If so, you’re ready to pull it out and let it sit covered for another 15-20 minutes. If they’re still crunchy, give it another ten minutes and then let it sit on the stovetop or what have you for the 15-20 minutes.
Serve it with whatever kind of bread you like – if you’re gluten-free, that’s probably “none” unfortunately. And use the reserved sauce to top it, as the ‘sagna does tend to get a bit dry from the nuts in the “cheese.” Enjoy!
Happy Reading (and eating!)