The No-Pasta Lasagna

As I’ve aged a little (I’m 45), I’ve started to back away from the starches as a main course, side or food group. Sure, we eat pastas and breads etc, but in MUCH smaller amounts than in my 20’s and early 30’s. Without getting into the politics of starches and obesity and etc. I wanted to share a version of my NO PASTA Lasagna – a different, perhaps somewhat healthier version than the Italian classic. We have this meal about 2 dinners every 3 months, and it’s usually by request.I use Butternut Squash as the lasagna noodle substitute. In this case, it’s not even a front-and-center Italian flavor profile I am going for – no sauce here. I am using the word “lasagna” to refer generally to the layering of the ingredients, and to the baking thereof, but there is a cheese factor here as you will find below. Don’t be disappointed or pre-judge – this recipe turns out a great presentation that plates really well for dinner guests.

The No-Pasta Lasagna
A different, perhaps somewhat healthier version than the Italian classic using Butternut Squash as the noodle substitute.
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Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
50 min
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
50 min
2101 calories
43 g
459 g
142 g
162 g
88 g
999 g
5271 g
9 g
0 g
45 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
999g
Amount Per Serving
Calories 2101
Calories from Fat 1250
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 142g
219%
Saturated Fat 88g
438%
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 4g
Monounsaturated Fat 41g
Cholesterol 459mg
153%
Sodium 5271mg
220%
Total Carbohydrates 43g
14%
Dietary Fiber 4g
17%
Sugars 9g
Protein 162g
Vitamin A
96%
Vitamin C
582%
Calcium
440%
Iron
28%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Ingredients
  1. 1 or 2 Butternut Squash (thinly sliced)
  2. 1 thin-sliced purple onion
  3. 1 or 2 thin-sliced red bell peppers
  4. Kale, Swiss Chard, or Spinach.
  5. Ricotta Cheese
  6. Fresh Mozzarella
  7. Fresh Parmesan
  8. Pine Nuts
  9. Italian Seasoning – homemade or premixed
  10. Olive Oil
  11. Cracked Pepper/Salt to taste
Instructions
  1. Slice and cook the squash and set aside to cool. Slice the onion and red bell pepper and caramelize/cook in olive oil for 5 minutes. Set aside
  2. Slice the cheeses or grate them, your preference.
  3. Use a casserole baking dish and rub or spray olive oil. Be sure to get the sides of the dish as well. Working in layers, place squash slices, spread a thin layer of ricotta, then onion/pepper slices, sprinkled kale, and cheeses and spices, then repeat. I find the ricotta works best on the squash layer, but the other ingredients can be layered however you like. I press down all the layers before the final top layer of kale and pine nuts is added, and I don’t use pine nuts except on the top. Skip them if you aren't into them. Finish with a sprinkling of Mozzarella and Parmesan. Drizzle olive oil.
  4. Bake, covered, for 20 minutes or so at 325 to 350. Remove the foil covering, and bake a little more to ensure the top cheeses are melted and it gives you a nice “lasagna” style look.
Notes
  1. IMPORTANT: As with any layered lasagna-type casserole, all your hard work will come to nothing if you try to slice it up right out of the oven. Might as well have served goulash out of a pot, because that’s what you’ll get if you don’t let it cool off and firm up for slicing. I allow a minimum 10 minutes of rest after cooking before I slice. Another key trick is to use a spatula and work around all 4 sides of the lasagna, separating the lower layers from sticking to the dish. This prevents crying on your part as you attempt to plate each thick slice and find that half the lasagna slice is still in the baking pan, looking sad and torn up.
beta
calories
2101
fat
142g
protein
162g
carbs
43g
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Behind The Seams http://blog.vhcbrands.com/

Now, anyone who knows me and has been to my kitchen, knows that presentation is easily half of my focus at meal times. Even to the point of miscellaneous items cannot be in the room, on the counter, etc – when food is plated and presented. I even do this with my 3 children and wife when there are no guests. This is a DINING experience – we aren’t eating from a bag here. Atmosphere matters. Every time. And I swear, the food tastes better. But I digress.

Assuming you’re dining area and kitchen can now pass the food inspector, the critic, and a Food Network contest, and assuming you have separated the lasagna from the sides of the baking pan, the lasagna may now be sliced. Be careful! Be sure to cut it nice and clean, and you have a fork or knife in your other hand, to gently slide it off the spatula and on to the serving plate. Many times a pretty lasagna has been ruined by not gently pushing it off the spatula with an alternate utensil.

For final showiness, I drizzle a little olive oil, and either sprinkle a parsley or chive or basil on the side of the dish. Sometimes I use paprika as a dusting which also looks good. Every once in a while I do a zig-zag of balsamic reduction. You choice, just make it look nice.

Enjoy!

Ken Kline
CEO

There’s no crying in gardening…

In some ways the “official” start of Spring at VHC Brands has nothing to do with products at all, instead, it’s all about the weather.  Each year, we plant a fairly large garden, which in southwest Missouri in the Ozarks, is something we contemplate and discuss and plan from about January 2nd, until we can officially poke holes and stick seeds in the soil. Last frost is always around Tax Day, and by tradition we plant the seeds or sproutings the weekend prior to Tax Day.  This year, the weather was too nasty to plant the weekend prior to Tax Day, and this past weekend (the weekend AFTER Tax Day) we expected (and received some) severe weather, so that didn’t work either.  So we planted on a work day – Monday the 20th.

When you think of gardening, you might think of sunhats, butterflies, the meadow grasses swaying in a gentle breeze, shiny green Smith & Hawken mini rakes, etc.  That would not be gardening in Missouri, at least not our garden – not the VHC Victory Garden.  We started calling it the Victory Garden in 2008….more on that later if we have time.  Turns out it’s not that kind of Victory.

What kind of Victory is it, you ask?  We battle the elements – braving wind, variable temperatures, hungry bugs and animals and rocky soil – quite literally, gardener against the odds.  Today we braved the cold and 20 mile-an-hour winds to get the tiny seeds into the soil.  There’s no crying in baseball, and there’s no quitting in VHC gardening.  WE WILL WE WILL PLANT YOU.  EVERYBODY WE WILL WE WILL…anyway you get the picture. As you can see from the image, the garden is officially started, and it’s going to be a really great garden this season.  We typically end up harvesting 100 to 200 pounds of goodies A DAY in full swing, no kidding. We share with anyone who asks, which makes up for us not actually doing the professional garden prep work ourselves (best left to professionals).  I look forward to sharing stories of the plants, critters and tastes as the season gets into full bloom.

Garden picture 2

 

To all our fellow gardeners – please share your story – and Happy Planting!

Ken Kline, CEO

 

Christmas is coming…

With the flowers and trees finally budding, it doesn’t feel much like Christmas right now, but around VHC we are absolutely buzzing with excitement over our 2015 Christmas products! In fact, we’re so excited about it, we launched new Facebook and Pinterest  pages so we have a place to focus just on the various seasons!

I know you’re asking yourself – What makes this launch so exciting? Well, not only do we have an amazing selection of country rustic options that our customers know us for, but this year we’re also offering some winter whimsy style products too.

Stockings-Jasper-RedFelt-ClassicChristmas_Pillows-Jasper-ClassicChristmas-Tartan_HollyBerry-Bowl_Throws-TeaCabin-Lancaster-ClassicChristmas-Prancer-Barrington-1

Whimsical

 

One thing I love about this year’s Christmas launch is the details! We have cute buttons (and more buttons), ric-rac, cable knit, multi-color whipstitch, applique and more.

Whimsical_TreeSkirt_Closeup2

ClassicChristmas-Throw_Tidings-Placemat1

As they say, time flies, so the Christmas retail shopping season will be here before you know it! But we also know storage space is precious; pre-order now and we’ll delay the shipment of your products for a few months. Don’t wait! We sell out fast, and you don’t want to miss out and not be the cool kid at the Christmas table.

I’m sure you’re dying to see more photos of this year’s collections, see the catalog here.

Happy Shopping!

Ashlee, Marketing Director

Non traditional Easter Dinner

This year we didn’t go for the Traditional Easter Meal at our house.  We were all feeling a little “done” with the normal servings of ham, rolls and whatever, after a long “wintry” winter.  So I decided to try a few different things to mix up the menu.

Background: For the “big eat” Easter Brunch meal, we had brunch at Chateau On The Lake, on Table Rock Lake in Branson.  This year, there were thirteen of us at one table and ages ranging from barely 6 to almost 80.  As such, a restaurant setting with a special holiday buffet solves a lot of problems.  We wouldn’t otherwise have had a seafood platter, 15 kinds of desserts, a chocolate fountain etc if we had Easter at the house.  The kids can eat 100% starch, and I can eat oysters, and nobody runs out of anything.  So it’s nice, and easy to overeat.  Which I did.

So how does going to a buffet brunch on Easter morning involve a Non-Traditional Easter Meal at the house?  Different meal – dinner.  Brunch was hours ago.  Plus, I prepped everything in advance of Easter, so BOTH Easter meals really were all about the eating and talking this year.

The Easter Dinner included Barbecue-Roasted Venison Tenderloin, (Bacon) Roasted Asparagus with Carrots, a non-traditional Butternut Squash/Sweet Potato Casserole, Italian-style Spring Peas, and Table Rock Northern Pike in a White Wine Caper Sauce.  Yum!  You don’t even miss the rolls!

The Barbecue-Roasted Venison Tenderloin:

For some reason, my wonderful pictures of the Venison didn’t turn out, so I can’t share that bit of heaven on earth with all you carnivores, in the pictorial sense.  I can say it turned out fabulous.  My brother Kevin hunted deer with a bow for years on his land in Arkansas, and this was the last of the blessings in my freezer from the season – prior to his moving to Hawaii.  I’ll share the ingredients and then the methods:

Marinade:

Coconut Amino (a substitute for Bragg’s and for regular Soy Sauce but you can use whichever suits you) – about 1 cup

Cracked Black Pepper – liberally placed all over the venison surface

Salt – I use a pink salt from the Himalayas but regular is fine – about 1 tablespoon

Barbecue Sauce – many times I make my own but was not in the mood so I just used store bought, about 1 cup

Process:

Thaw the tenderloin, liberally rub or sprinkle with salt and pepper, and baste overnight in the Coconut Soy Sauce and ½ cup of the Barbecue Sauce.  I marinated the meat for over 24 hours and I don’t see that it hurt anything.  The meat needs to be close to room temp to properly roast, per the experts, so I pulled the marinating roast out of the fridge about an hour prior to the oven time.

I set the oven temp on convect and 350 degrees, with an expected cooking time of 40 minutes overall.  I set the timer for 20 minutes, added the ½ cup of barbecue sauce to the roasting pan, and started cooking.  At the 20 minute marker, I ladled the sauce from around the venison back on to the roast, and added a swish of Pinot Noir which was accompanying the venison at table.  A lot of people like their deer and related meats on the not-quite-done or nowhere-near-done side, and I agree with that but didn’t quite achieve that for this roast.  At 35 minutes, I pulled the roast again, and there was a nice pink center, so I stopped the roasting phase, kept it covered with foil, and let the meat REST for 15 minutes in the warming drawer.

The RESTING is very important, as the juices supposedly pull back into the meat and it’s more tender.  After 15 minutes I uncovered the meat, sliced it thinly, ladled the roasted wine/barbecue sauce over each piece – and had a gorgeous magazine/blog-worthy of your imagination.  If I had photos, I would share, but you can imagine how nice it was.

The Butternut Squash Sweet Potato Casserole:

I have a thing for squash, all kinds.  I sneak them in all kinds of meals, all year long.  I thought about writing a cookbook or having a special blog: “Squash Your Appetite” but for time.  Anyway, if you happen to be from the South, you know Sweet Potato Casserole is basically dessert served WITH the holiday meal, not after.  My take on Sweet Potato Casserole honors that lineage with some adjustments to keep it interesting.  In addition, anything with Heavy Crème and Butter and Cinnamon AND Vanilla, can’t be bad.

Ingredients:

1 Large Butternut Squash, cut up and cooked to softness (microwave or roasted depending on your preference)

2 Medium Sweet Potatoes, cut up and cooked to softness (micro or roasted again)

2 or 3 Cuties or 1 flavorful Orange, or Tangerines etc

Agave Nectar – to taste

Cinnamon

Heavy Crème

Butter (real Butter), maybe 2-3 tablespoons

Marshmallow in whatever form suits you – small, large, topping, spread, etc.

Coconut Oil

Balsamic Vinegar Reduction – if you like

Butternut Sweet Potato Casserole 1

Process:Place the cooked butternut squash in a large food processor and pulverize into a mashed potato consistency.  Remove to a large mixing bowl.

Place the cooked sweet potatoes in the same processor and pulverize same as the squash.  Add to the large mixing bowl with the squash.

Juice your Cuties, Oranges, or Tangerines and add the juice to the squash mixture.  The idea with the citrus is it adds some sweetness but in a more sophisticated manner.  If you add too much, you get Orange Julius casserole…if you don’t add enough, you can’t taste it.  So you want a flavor profile somewhere in between…..

Sprinkle a healthy amount of cinnamon into the mix.

Pour ½ heavy crème into the mix.  Add butter

Mix thoroughly.  Taste for flavor.  At this point, I add the Agave Nectar in spare amounts until I get the right sweet note, and stop sweetening.  I also sometimes use Vanilla which balances the Cinnamon, but can be overdone.  I used a 9 inch pie pan (glass) and sprayed it with Coconut Oil, but any spray will do. Pour in or ladle in the casserole, and top with Marshmallow and more Cinnamon for color.

Given that the main ingredients were already cooked, this casserole requires just a few minutes in the oven.  I set the timer for 10 minutes which was at the top end, and could have done less.  But the topping was nice and melted and with roasted spots like a classic pie with topping, so I felt like it turned out well.

The final ingredient – Balsamic Vinegar Reduction – isn’t necessary, and I didn’t use it this time, but it adds color and a very nice flavor hit along with the hint of orange citrus.  Squeeze it on sparingly or dot the melted marshmallow.

Butternut Sweet Potato Casserole 3

The (Bacon) Roasted Asparagus with Carrots:

Asparagus is a Rite Of Spring, you can’t avoid eating it and consider yourself normal.  Easter is the perfect kick off meal for this vegetable.  However, I find it looks (and tastes) too plain by itself – so I typically dress it up.

Ingredients:

Bacon with fat, chopped finely or coarsely to preference, about 2-3 slices.  I am all for flavored bacon, which works well in this recipe, but I just used what I had on hand.

12-15 smaller asparagus, ends cut, and asparagus cut into 2” lengths

1-2 medium carrots cut into carrot stick type usage

Crushed garlic

Olive oil/grapeseed oil etc

Salt/pepper/spice it if you like

Process:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Blanche the carrots and the asparagus for 2 minutes to bring out the color and pre-cook them, prior to oven roasting.

To seal the color (the blanche effect), place the cooked carrots and asparagus in ice-chilled water, with the ice.  Set aside.

Render the bacon fat and cook the bacon.  I add the chopped or crushed garlic towards the end, into the bacon pan.  No need to make crispy bacon, as it will cook off some more in the oven w/the veggies.

Spray a casserole or pie dish and place the drained asparagus and carrots.  Ladle the bacon, bacon drippings, and garlic mix over the veggies and spread around.  Alternately, you can dump the veggies into the bacon pan and mix, your choice.  In the picture I took, I have not yet added the bacon/garlic, but you can see how nicely the color brightens on the blanched asparagus.

Finish with salt and pepper to taste.  I also add Oregano just for something a little extra, and a splash of olive oil.

Roasted AsparagusRoast for 12-18 minutes in the oven at 350 degrees.  If you like them more roasted and crispy, cook them to taste.  I like grill marks, burn marks, char marks etc on foods, so I cook mine longer but watch them closely.  There is no exact science to cooked/charred with a pleasant firmness on the inside for the veggies, in my opinion, so you can experiment to get it right for you.

 

Enjoy!!