Because Smaller Things are Cuter: Petite Lasagna

Little things are cuter! Petite Lasagna

Small things are somehow cuter. Babies are cuter humans. Puppies are cuter dogs. Doll houses, cuter houses, cake pops, you get it….all cuter simply because they are smaller.

If that is true, than why are we so intimidated and fearful of cooking for fewer people. Or, God forbid, cooking for…gulp…one.

There’s a song about a breakup that I first heard in the ’80s when forced to listen to a quasi-muzak station at work and its lyrics have always stayed with me. Though originally written by Burt Bacharach, the kids today may know it because it was also featured on Glee in 2010.

Burt Bacharach Week on Glee

That aside, the lyrics are ridonk:

One less bell to answer / One less egg to fry / One less man to pick up after / I should be happy / But all I do is cry.

Seriously. Those are the lyrics. The singer lost her man and it is so so sad. And, the saddest part is – sigh, wipe tear – that now, every morning she only has to fry ONE egg. One – the loneliest number – the most feared amount of eggs to ever have to fry. Breaks me up every time I hear it.

But then, I think, first of all, what man eats only one egg for breakfast? And, secondly, who cares?!?!? You’ll find someone else to fry an egg for. Until then, enjoy the peace, quiet and fewer plates to clean.

I’m relatively certain that the saddest part of the single egg fryer’s life isn’t having a plethora of unfried eggs in the fridge. I’m actually completely sure of it.

Cooking for fewer people just isn’t sad. Embrace it. Last night I wanted lasagna. I had most of the ingredients already but I didn’t have six people coming to dinner.

Here’s what I did:

Petite Lasagna with Spinach and Chicken (serves 2 – even if 2 is you and your leftovers)

Preheat Oven to 450 degrees

1. Make the spinach mixture:

  • Cheesy Spinach Mixture pre-Chicken

    Heat a saute pan over med heat with 2 tbsp of butter + 2tbsp olive oil

  • Saute 2 cloves of garlic diced and 1/2 shallot diced until fragrant – about 2 mins
  • Add in one 10oz package of defrosted and squeezed dry chopped spinach – stir
  • Add in 2 tbsp of cream or milk – last night I only had 2% and it was fine
  • Add in 1/2 cup of Ricotta Cheese – stir to combine
  • Turn off heat and add 2 tbsp of grated parmesan cheese
  • Add salt and pepper to taste – remember that the parmesan cheese is salty
  • Stir in 2 breasts of cooked chicken meat diced or shredded – I used a rotisserie chicken – face it, you’ll never make chicken as good at home.
  • NOTE: I also didn’t stir the chicken in, because I thought there would be some left over and I didn’t want it all spinach-ified

2. Make a Bechamel Sauce

  • Bechamel Sauce Perfectly Coats Back of Spoon

    In a sauce pan over medium heat melt 2.5 tbsp of butter

     

  • Using a whisk, stir in 3 tbsp of flour – cook for about 2 mins
  • Whisk in a combination of 1 cup whole milk (again, I only had 2% and it was fine) + 1 cup of chicken stock
  • BTB (bring to a boil) RTS (reduce to a simmer) and continue to stir until the béchamel sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
  • Remove from heat and add 1/4 tsp of Salt and about the same of Pepper. You can add a pinch of nutmeg here as well

3.

Sweet Potatoes, because that’s what I had

Cut 1/2 of a peeled sweet potato into fry size pieces, lightly cover with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast for :20 mins – tossing a couple of times during the roasting.

I only had sweet potatoes but roasted squash or zucchini or egg plant or whatever you have and like would be just fine.

TURN OVEN DOWN TO 350 degrees

4. Shred 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese. I didn’t feel like getting the cheese grater dirty, so I just cut the cheese…into small cubes

Get out a 9x5x3 loaf pan (see Banana Bread Recipe)

5. Use no-cook noodles. I had some fresh ones in the freezer that I defrosted in the fridge earlier in the day. Place 4 noodles (or enough to create 4 layers of noodles in a 9x5x3 loaf pan) in warm water just for 1 minute to soften

4. Layer the lasagna

Mise En Place for Lasagna

  • Put enough of the béchamel sauce to thinly cover the bottom of the pan
  • Put one layer of lasagna sheet(s) on top
  • Spread on a layer of the spinach, cheese and chicken mixture

Petite Lasagna Layer 1

  • Add a few of the roasted sweet potato fries – or whatever veggies you have and have roasted. There are no rules here. I like the sweet potatoes because they’re pretty.

Add the Sweet Potatoes – Pretty Colors!

  • Sprinkle on some of the mozzarella cheese and pour about 1/4 cup of the béchamel sauce over it
  • Layer on another layer of the lasagna sheet(s)

REPEAT – creating a complete second layer of spinach, chicken, sweet potatoes and cheese…and a little béchamel sauce

5. On top of the second layer, add the final layer of lasagna sheet(s), cover with about 1/3 cup of béchamel sauce, a sprinkle of mozzarella and some grated parmesan

Oven Ready Petite Lasagna

6. Cover with tin foil and bake for :35 minutes

7. Remove the tin foil and bake another :10 minutes

8. Remove from the oven – it will be bubbling – and let stand uncovered for :10 mins before serving

Lasagna out of the oven ready to cool…

If dinner is for you and someone else, great. If it’s just you dining with your leftovers….Go ahead and pour yourself a glass of wine. Sit in front of the TV. Eat and enjoy. See, was that so sad?

NO! No it was not. This lasagna is petite, smaller than most, and thus, cuter and better.

By the way, this morning for breakfast, I had one, absolutely deliciously fried egg.

One Happily Fried Egg

Sweet Potatoes, A Super SuperFood

Baked Super Sweet Potato Fries (in hand thrown bowl by DG)

I am not normal. And, I think that’s just they way it is. I’ve grown to accept it. I didn’t always like the stuff that everyone liked or want to wear the clothes that everyone wanted to wear – sometimes this was a good thing as no one can produce a photograph of me in bobby socks and MIA flats. I didn’t have a LeSportSac or wear enough makeup or even like the right foods…

I may have been, for example, the only kid who loved liverwurst (did not make me very popular in the fifth grade), Brussels sprouts (granted, I buttered and salted them to death back then) and cottage cheese. And I’ve always felt bad for these hated foods.

In more recent years, however, I have found redemption in the fact that Brussels Sprouts are like totally all the rage. OK, I know it’s still hard to find someone who loves cottage cheese beyond having to eat it for dietary reasons and I highly doubt that I can bring liverwurst into favor – do they even make it anymore? But, one out of three ain’t bad.

So, when I was working on Thanksgiving dinner a few years ago and people totally gasped when I wanted to make sweet potatoes, I was shocked. The first time, I was told that I could make sweet potatoes, but only if I did it ‘southern style’ – with a heap of sugar and melted baby marshmallows on top. The next time, it was only OK to include a sweet potato dish if I promised to make regular mashed potatoes and only if the regular mashed potato bowl was like four times the size of the sweet potato dish. I may have recently been given this as a directive for the upcoming Thanksgiving as well.

I get it. Sweet potatoes are not that easy to love. They’re different, after all.

But it is their difference that makes them so interesting…and, delicious. And, not just for Thanksgiving.

Plus…they’re a superfood! Sweet potatoes are high in fiber, Vitamin A, C and B6. Also they’re high in potassium and manganese. They can, according to Yahoo ‘help stabilize blood sugar…[and] they’re relatively low in calories’. WebMD recommends them and, as if that isn’t good enough…so does Doctor Oz!

So stop with the hate and find a way that works to enjoy this delicious superfood.

One option is:

Sweet Potato Baked Fries with, if you must, a Maple Mayo Dipping Sauce (serves 4)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees

1. Peel 3 large sweet potatoes and then chop into 1/4 inch thick fries

Pretty Peeled Sweet Potato

Raw Sweet Potato in Fry Form

NOTE: getting the sweet potatoes peeled and cut into fry form is the hardest part. And, I’m a little klutzy with a knife. So have a sharp one and be careful.

2. Toss the sweet potato fries with olive oil, Jane’s Krazy Mixed Up Salt or Sea Salt and Pepper. Just enough to coat the fries. You can also add spicy spices here if you want them with a little kick – cayenne, paprika etc.

3. Arrange in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper

Sweet Potato Fries-To-Be Ready for Baking

4. Put into the oven for a total of :20 – :25 mins

BUT: toss the fries about every :05 minutes. This will help even cooking.

Sweet Potato Fries in the Oven

5. Remove from the oven and let cool for :03-:05 mins

   and since you’re not sure you really like sweet potatoes…serve with a Maple-Mayo dipping sauce

Maple Mayo Dipping Sauce

All you need for a Maple Mayo Dipping Sauce

Mix together 1/2 cup of mayonnaise, 1/8 cup of pure maple syrup and 1 1/4 TBSPs of brown sugar. And chill at least :15 mins before serving.

Super Sweet Potato Fries with Sweet Dipping Sauce

Sweet potatoes aren’t just a Superfood, they’re a Super SuperFood. Keep trying them until you find a way to love them. If nothing else, their bright orange color brings newness and energy to your table and can liven up the appearance of any plate.

Plus, they can become a fry – yes, you can actually fry them in hot fatty oil, but try not to negate the super-ness and just bake them – would you?

OK, off my soap box for the underrated and sometimes hated sweet potato. Just eat and enjoy. I mean I’m not asking you to love liverwurst…