Butternut Squash & Red Pepper Lasagna
For really no particular reason at all, yet every reason I can think of, I decided that I would spend January in the shoes of a vegetarian.
In general the reasons most individuals choose vegetarianism fall into 2 categories – animal welfare or health. For me it falls mostly on the health side, but that does not leave me with a lack of compassion for said animal. I personally have nothing against eating meat – but when I do, I prefer to know that it hasn’t been pumped full of chemicals, whether through diet or antibiotics. Which leads me to say I am more likely to eat meat a place that takes care in where their’s is sourced from, then say the chicken breast at TGI McFunsters.
On the health aspect, I think there is something very powerful to be said about how meat centric our American diet is in relation to most other cultures around the world. One particular food documentary that I found fascinating is Forks over Knives which explores some of the health benefits of vegetarianism. The most powerful part was the discussion about a study done in China looking at the diet and health of residence in various regions of the country. They found consistently that regions that ate less meat, and also less protein had less history of cancer and other diseases that plague our country. Here in the States we praise protein like it is the nutrient we are all so sorely lacking, it will cure all!, but perhaps its not as beneficial as we thought. The “rich” American society chows down on meat in larger quantities than anywhere else in the world, and our waistlines and hearts are all the worse for it.
Less than 2 weeks in and I will not say its a fantastic new years diet or that I am loosing weight (because lets be honest, its far too easy to eat cheese & crackers and call it dinner), but I will say that I feel great, and never as grossly full as I do after a meat filled meal. While this vegetarian experiment will not likely result in a permanent lifestyle change for me (because lets be honest, I love food, and trying new foods, way to much to limit myself that way) I do think it will very likely become my default when not surrounded by new and exciting flavors I am anxious to try.
So without further ado, now that you have listened to me wax non-poetic about meat, how about a vegetarian recipe! Happy Meatless Monday!
BUTTERNUT SQUASH & RED PEPPER LASAGNA
adapted from Southern Living Farmers Market Cookbook
Time: 2 hours; 45 minutes active
1 medium butternut squash
1 red bell pepper
1 bunch of green onions
2 cups fresh spinach
4 cloves garlic
3 Tbs olive oil
4 cups milk
3 Tbs butter
1/4 cup flour
9 dried lasagna noodles (if not the no bake version, be sure to boil per package instructions)
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup grated parmesan
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Cut squash in half and de-seed then carefully peel and cut into 1/4 inch cubes. Spread squash cubes out in a single layer on a baking sheet, drizzle with 2 Tbs of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt & pepper. Gently toss to evenly coat, and bake for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, chop red pepper in half, remove and discard seeds, and cut each half into thin slivers. Chop green onions and combine in a bowl with pepper, 1 Tsp olive oil and another sprinkle of salt & pepper. Add to partially roasted squash and cook for another 20 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Roughly chop the garlic & spinach and add to a small sauce pan with milk. Bring just to a boil then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered for 10 minutes. Melt butter in a large skillet. Whisk in flour until smooth. Cook 1 minute, whisking constantly. Gradually whisk in the warm milk and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly – about 10 minutes, or until the liquid coats the back of a spoon. Add roasted veggies, mixing gently and remove from heat.
Reduce (or heat) oven to 350 degrees. Spoon 1 cup vegetable mixture into a lightly greased 9×13 baking dish. Top with 3 noodles; spread half the remaining veggie mixture and sprinkle with half the mozzarella. Repeat with 3 noodles, most of the remaining veggie mixture and the remaining mozzarella. Top with final noodles, any remaining veggies and their creamy sauce and top with parmesan.
Cover & bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for 10-15 minutes more or until the top is golden and the sauce is bubbly. Let sit for 15 minutes before serving.