Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Veggie Italian Bake

NOTE: Oh, lawd. I finally tried it. Too many zucchinis, I think. Changed up the recipe some.

This is adapted from a low-carb (noodle-free) lasagna from the Dashing Dish blog.

Veg/Sauce layer:
3 medium zucchinis
1 large yellow onion, diced

1 (16oz) package frozen spinach
2 cups black beans (I made mine from scratch in a crock pot the day before. Cheap!)
1 (15oz) can or jar of pizza sauce
2 cloves of garlic, minced (I use the stuff from a jar)
4 Tbsp Italian seasoning

Cheese layer:
1 (32oz) container of ricotta cheese (I've also made this using 16oz of cottage cheese, which was also good)
1/2 cup grated parmesan (using the powdered kind may help thicken up the juices)
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (this varies, depending how cheesy I want it to be)

1. Slice all the zucchinis into medallions, salt them, and cook them until soft in a stock pot (not crock pot). Salt them lightly to draw out the moisture. This takes a while and requires quite a bit of periodic stirring. Alternatively, spread them on a couple cookie sheets and roast them at 425F for five minutes on each side.

2. If you haven't used the oven yet, preheat the oven to 375F. Microwave the spinach according to the package directions.

3. VEGGIES: In a large non-stick skillet, cook the onion, mushrooms, and garlic until the onion's soft. Combine the rest of the veggies (including zucchini & beans), the seasonings, and the entire can or jar of pizza sauce in the skillet with the onion, mushrooms, and garlic. Simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. CHEESE: Mix the ricotta (or cottage cheese) & the parmesan cheese.

5. Spray a 9x13" baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Begin with a layer of the veg mix, top it with a layer of the cheese mix, then sprinkle mozzarella on top of that cheese mix if you like. Continue like this until the casserole dish is full ending with a layer of mozzarella on top.

6. Cover with foil (try not to let the foil touch the mozzarella) and bake at 375F for 1 hour.

7. Remove the foil and bake another 5-10 minutes until the cheese is bubbly and/or brown (brown cheese doesn't sound good, though).

8. CAREFULLY remove from oven. It will probably have a lot of hot, boiling liquid around the edges. Let the casserole rest for about 10 minutes before serving.


The thinking behind the modifications I made:
1. Beans instead of meat
I am a cheapskate plus I have a family history of gout, so I am trying to cut back on meat.
I realize this recipe probably does not count as low-carb since it includes black beans, but I'd rather have black beans than pasta if I'm having carbs.

2. Spices
I doubled the garlic & spices as per usual.

3. Pizza sauce rather than spaghetti sauce
This is a juicy recipe with all the veg, so you don't really need a ton of spaghetti sauce. I've also noticed that it seems to be easier to find pizza sauce that doesn't contain high fructose corn syrup (or other sugars) than it is to find a clean spaghetti sauce.

4. Zucchini medallions rather than strips
I made it once using the strips that the Dashing Dish called for. I found it to be too much trouble for a supposed structure that was lost when I dished up the portion, anyway. I'm far too lazy for such a low return on investment.

5. Omission of broccoli & cauliflower
I like broccoli but not in spaghetti sauce. It turns out that everything fills the casserole dish very nicely without the cauliflower, too (which was not as gross in the spaghetti sauce as broccoli, but still yuck).