When life’s layers get too complicated, I build a lasagna.
I see layers in everything – people, words, behaviors, emotions, beliefs, evil – nothing is simply face value with me. I’m constantly chewing on the why’s behind choices and asking myself what is the core issue causing the symptoms I see? With a perception such as this, I find myself mentally and emotionally exhausted some days and totally rely on my “what you see is what you get” spouse. She only sees layers in cake and through her I find a quiet peace I’ve never known.
Within this peacefulness I discover a way to turn these complicated layers of mine into a more entertaining activity for us both. I decided to build a veggie lasagna for our dinner after returning home from a frightfully layered Foster Care Review. Now I have the power to create layers which are delicious, layers that are simple, layers that are tasty, and not complicated. Not to mention that I had garden fresh acid free tomatoes and basil on hand and it had been a very long time since I’d last had lasagna.
I think most people are intimated by lasagna because of its layers. Not me however! I find the layers of lasagna comforting and freeing. I am in control of these layers; I have the power to make them my own. So, with the ingredients I had on hand I only needed to buy the cheeses, which made it twice as easy. Before I even put the noodles in to boil, I started the tomato sauce I would be using. It is a rather simple recipe in which I use 2 cans of organic tomato sauce, 1 large chopped tomato, 1/2 chopped sautéed sweet onion, 2-3 cloves chopped garlic, about 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary, and about 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil, which I stir in last. I just let the sauce do it’s on thing while slowly simmering on the stove. Oh I’d say at least 20 minutes on low heat. Easy smeasy.
Next, per Amy’s special request I sliced two Lifelite Smart Sausage Italian Style links (these are vegetarian – you can use the real deal if you like – Amy and I just don’t eat pork – except on VERY rare occasions) and sautéed them in a pan until they were golden brown and crispy. I season the links with salt, pepper, garlic powder, Hungarian Hot Paprika, and Fennel Seed. Once they are browned I set them aside on paper towels to help absorb a bit of the canola oil as every little bit helps. Then I prep the ricotta cheese. I do use the fat-free ricotta ( I know! *gasp*) but feel free to use the whole milk ricotta if you like. I simply stir into the ricotta one slightly beaten free range egg, a bit of salt and pepper, fresh chopped basil about 2 teaspoons, and a lot of fresh grated nutmeg. Yummy. I love fresh nutmeg and use it in a plethora of dishes.
Once the lasagna noodles are cooked just shy of al dente I remove them and rinse them with cold water until I am able to handle them easily. So, after I’ve preheated my oven to 350 and lightly sprayed my baking dish with Smart Balance Non-Stick Cooking Spray, I begin to build my layers.
1.) Layer One – One ladle of tomato sauce on the bottom of my baking dish, then three Whole Wheat Lasagna Noodles, about a handful of Sargentos Reduced Fat 4 Cheese Italian Blend, one Garden Fresh Sliced Acid Free Tomato, and Fresh Basil
2.) Layer Two – Three Whole Wheat Lasagna Noodles, my Ricota Cheese Mixture, and the sautéed Lifelite Smart sausage Italian Style links
3.) Layer Three – Three Whole Wheat Lasagna Noodles, Fresh Baby Spinach, Feta Cheese Crumbles, and lots of fresh grated Nutmeg
4.) Final Layer – Last Three Whole Wheat Lasagna Noodles, remaining tomato sauce, remaining Sargento Reduced Fat 4 Cheese Italian Blend
Now I just pop it into the oven and allow it to bake a good hour or so until the cheese is melted, golden, and bubbly. All that’s left is enjoying the wonderful smells and flavors of all those not-so-complicated layers. The lasagna is warm and gooey and souful. It is the perfect reminder that in my home, in my kitchen, dining with my wonderful Amy life is not complicated at all.