Friday, March 8, 2013

Butternut Squash and Chard Lasagna

It’s March in Atlanta and the weather is crazy. From 60 degrees and sunny one day to 35 with rain and crazy wind the next. I try and cook at least 2-3 times a week, schedule depending, and I always get cravings for certain things. Butternut squash along with sweet potatoes are a staple in my house because the possibilities are endless and Swiss chard comes in my CSA box every 2 weeks for weeks on end this time of year. Sometimes I make soup, some times I roast, sometimes I just steam.
The weather was particularly gross this past Monday and I was craving butternut squash lasagna that I sometimes buy at DeKalb Farmer’s Market, delicious. However, I take great delight, especially when I don’t want to get out in the elements or am feeling lazy, in creating a meal with what I have on hand at home. It’s a skill that some possess others not, like my husband. We can have a fridge/pantry full of things and he looks and says, “there is nothing to eat here”. Wrong! You just have to see beyond, imagine, and be creative. That’s where I come in.  So, with it also being Monday, i.e. Meatless Monday, I was excited to realize that I had everything in house to make a fantastic veggie lasagna. In the summer I do a tomato based with summer zucchini and squash but today called for something creamy, sweet, and bitter. And so here you are, enjoy:

Butternut Squash and Chard Lasagna
Serves 8

12 lasagna noodles*
2 1/2-3# butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1 inch cubes
Olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
2 large leeks, cleaned and sliced thin
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch Swiss Chard, cleaned leaves cut into 1 inch pieces and stems in 1/2 inch slice
2 tablespoons butter    
1/3 cup AP flour
3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon dried thyme
4 cups milk
1 cup grated Parmesan
2 cups grated mozzarella
Cooking spray

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
*Cook and drain your lasagna noodles and toss with a little olive oil. You could use fresh or no boil. If you use no boil the oven time may need to be increased until they are tender.
In a large bowl toss the butternut squash with some olive oil until coated and season with some salt and pepper. Spread evenly on a baking sheet and roast in the oven until tender, about 25-35 minutes, tossing a few times during the cooking.
Meanwhile, heat a few tablespoons olive oil in a large straight-sided sauté pan over medium heat.  Add your leeks and cook for 6-8 minutes, or until tender. Add the sliced chard stalks and cook a few minutes more. Then add your garlic and let it go another few minutes until everything is tender. Add the chard leaves and toss until wilted. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
When your squash is finished remove from the oven and transfer to a large bowl and mash with a potato masher until relatively smooth. Alternatively you could dump into a food processor and pulse a few times. Season with salt and pepper and set aside. Turn your oven down to 375 degrees.
In a large Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat. In a small bowl combine the flour, nutmeg, sage, and thyme. Sprinkle the flour mixture into the melted butter and cook for 2 minutes, whisking constantly, this will be a thick paste. Slowly, while whisking constantly add your milk. Raise the heat to medium high and bring to a boil. Boil for a few minutes, still whisking until the mixture is smooth and thickened. Remove from the heat and add 1/2 cup of the Parmesan and stir until melted and season with salt and pepper.
Spray a 13x9-baking dish with cooking spray. Spoon a little of the white sauce in the bottom of the pan. Layer 4 lasagna noodles, then top with all of the Swiss chard mixture. Top this with about a cup of the white sauce and a layer of mozzarella cheese. Then add 4 more noodles, a layer of sauce, the entirety of the squash puree and a layer of cheese. Add the last 4 noodles, rest of the sauce and top with rest of the mozzarella and Parmesan. Cover with foil and bake for 30-35 minutes then uncover and bake 10 minutes more.  If you want you could broil briefly to get some browning on the top.
*A good way to test to see if the center is hot is to stick a butter knife in the center and touch it to your lip. It will tell you the temp right away. Not warm enough? Let her go for a few more minutes covered back up with a foil blanket.
Allow to cool a bit before serving.

Until next time…

Friday, March 1, 2013

Farmageddon and Grow

I just recently watched the documentary Farmageddon and boy did it get me worked up. If you are not already jacked up about our food system this will do the trick. It is shocking how much money the government will spend on persecuting the little people who just want to feed their families and communities healthy, safe food. Hello! We are the United States of America. We should have the freedom to eat as we wish and we should have the right to know what is going into the foods that are available to us. Yet we are forced, almost, to accept a terrible food system that shoves bad food down our throats that in turn makes us sick. Sad. I am embarrassed for us as a nation, for the things that are going on and the things that we accept about our food system.
What can we do? A lot, even though it may seem insurmountable; bottom line is this: how you spend your food dollars counts. DO NOT support big business and big AG; support your local growers and producers, and your community. Your health will be better for it, our society will be better for it, and our environment will be better for it. No, we can’t change all the evil over night, we can’t battle the big companies like Monsanto on our own but we have to start somewhere. If the movement continues to grow and people voice that they are caring about the food that they eat eventually they will have to listen. 

On a brighter note, the other movie that I have seen before and just recently re-watched was the documentary GROW. It is a documentary that explores the NEW generation of farmers out there. Thanks to them we may have a brighter food system future. It is enlightening and refreshing.

My Advice: educate yourself. YOU have the power to change our food!

Also, to come… some thoughts and good things going on as I learned from the 2013 Georgia Organics Conference. I will work on some recipes too, I know it’s been a while!


Monday, February 11, 2013

Books and Movies

So I recently got on the Kindle wagon, we got a new printer at Christmas that has wireless printing and I can even print from my phone, and we now have a new blue ray DVD player that we can get movies via Wi-Fi from Netflix. Finally getting into this century with our electronics!!! What does this have to do with anything you ask?
Well, the printer not much except besides not being very electronic or computer savvy; I am quite proud of myself for setting it up and happy to have more space on my desk since the 1 new printer now takes care of what I had 2 printers doing before (my portable one to print and our almost 10 year old one to scan as it wouldn’t print or copy anymore and the portable one doesn’t have a scan option).
The Kindle, I am now able to download and search for books on my phone. Although I have to say that I am a real book junkie (as the stacks around my bed, in the office, and around the house will attest). I like to hold them, mark the pages, highlight and make notes. All of which I know you can sort of do with Kindle but I am a bit old school, and yes, I use pencil and multiple colors of highlighters. But, the phone and thus the Kindle are always with me, convenient.
The blue ray DVD/Netflix situation is allowing us to catch up on movies that we have missed for the last decade (yes, we are that behind) with just a few button pushes…no waiting for things to arrive in the mail.
That being said I would like to share with you a few things I have been reading and watching lately, you should check them out if you haven’t already.


The American Way of Eating by Tracie McMillan:
Food in World History by Jeffery M. Pilcher:
Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton:
Cook Right 4 Your Type by Dr. Peter J. D’Adamo:
Consider the Fork: A History of How we Cook and Eat by Bee Wilson:
Salad People by Mollie Katzen:

Vanishing of the Bees:

Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead:
Hungry for Change:

Happy watching and reading! 
Peace- V

Thursday, January 3, 2013


So back in July of 2012 I worked on a pilot for this Raw/Vegan Chef named Jason Wrobel.  I have never worked with someone who is more passionate, talented, and just plain fun to be around. That all being said his food KILLS IT! 
Yes, I am a person who loves all food and respects all diets and beliefs of all types of eating, whatever they may be, whether I subscribe to them or not. I am not a Raw foodist or a Vegan but I can certainly stand behind and eat these awesome recipes.
Please check it out and email Cooking Channel and Food Network to tell them how much you love it…Hopefully it will get picked up!!!

Tune in to Cooking Channel on Sunday January 6th at 8pmET/5pmPT to catch Detroit-born chef, Jason Wrobel, as he dishes up a sublime fusion of food and humor as host of the new special, How To Live To 100. Jason turns up the heat on powerful ingredients proven to increase your longevity and whips them up into culinary masterpieces. For more on the show go to: