Monday, January 20, 2014

I'm Sneaky - Pumpkin & Black Bean Lasagna

I've said before that I am starting to get a reputation for someone who manages to hide vegetables in various foods - both savory and sweet. Once I started testing recipes out, I just couldn't stop. It was downright fun finding ways to get my boys to eat more veggies.

In an effort to stretch the meals a bit as well as hide some squash, I started mixing thawed, drained winter squash into my spaghetti and lasagna. It adds body to the flavor, nutrients to the meal, and another serving to the quantity. But I've since tweaked my lasagna even further.

Lasagna with Pumpkin and Black Beans

After I fry up the meat (beef, ground turkey, whichever you prefer) and drain it, I rinse my beef with scalding water to get rid of excess fat. This picture shows my Halloween pumpkins (pie pumpkins, not the tough Jack-o-lantern kind) - before they sat on the porch too long, I roasted them and scraped the flesh, freezing it in 1 cup quantities. Add the pumpkin to the beef and mix in well, keeping the heat on - you want to cook off as much moisture as possible. Add garlic, onions, salt, pepper, and basil to this as it cooks down. Keep in mind the pumpkin doesn't have the seasoning, and neither do the black beans, so adding flavor on every layer is important for depth. (Or, for a vegetarian take on the meal, leave out the meat and simply cook off excess moisture with the seasonings added in. It is just as delicious - Yes, I've tried it.)
I've got a coffee grinder I use solely for flax seed. Flax is a very tough seed and most cooking times won't steam the outer layer enough to release the healthy oils. For anything that steams or boils, I toss the seeds in whole. For anything else, I grind the seeds before I toss them into the food.
Here is the finished mixture - pumpkin and beef cooked down with ground flax seed.
Begin your layers - organic spaghetti sauce (or, even better, this lovely concoction that uses 10 veggies!), Oven-ready noodles (not pre-cooked), ricotta cheese, meat mixture, shredded cheese, and repeat. when you finish with your last layer, take rinsed and drained plain black beans and layer across the top. This adds another element of fiber as well as protein. I will probably add these to every layer next time I make it.
Top with a last layer of sauce and cheese, and bake for at least an hour on 350*. When I am truly productive, I make this at least a day in advance. There is just something about chili and lasagna that makes the flavor better if it is cooked, sits, then is warmed up slowly.
If you choose to make this in advance, you can freeze and reheat it, too. I would recommend that you tent tin foil over the top to make sure the cheese doesn't stick and that excess steam has an opportunity to escape..

I hope you try this! Let me know your thoughts if you do. Considering the winter blast we're supposed to get tomorrow, I am thrilled that we have leftovers in the fridge. There is no better way to warm up after playing in the snow!