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

No Need to Be Afraid of Vegan Alfredo

Vegan Fusili Alfredo with Roasted Vegetables

We are all afraid of something. I mean, as New Yorkers, we’re afraid of more things than people from other cities – quote ‘Rent’ ‘I’m a New Yorker. Fear’s my life.’ But, everyone is afraid of something.

Some of these fears are totally rational: falling, heights, being buried alive, cockroaches, zombies.

Michael Strahan Kelly Ripa

Pain-O-Phobic Michael Strahan

On Live! With Kelly and Michael, Michael Strahan admitted that he is afraid of needles and, oddly, pain. In spite of the fact that the ex-Giant must have endured great pain and doled some out as well during his football career, Michael Strahan fears pain.

Some people are afraid of things that crawl; mice, rats, gophers, gerbils etc. Some fears are so common that they can draw huge audiences at the box office – Fear of spiders, Arachnophobia. Fear of snakes – Snakes on a Plane. Fear that your house was built on a cemetery where the builder ‘moved the headstones but not the bodies’ : Poltergeist.

It’s amazing where our heads can go in times of great fear. One minute everything is fine and safe, then, a loud noise in the distance and you think ‘Gun fire! Take cover!’ Generally just a car engine backfiring, but, sure, it could have been gun fire.

Scary Evil Witchy Poo

Growing up I was most afraid of Witchy Poo. She was the evil witch on HR Pufnstuf’s television show that ran in reruns on Saturday mornings in our house.

I spent my nights shaking in fear, waking in a pool of sweat from the nightmare of Witchy Poo. I mean, look at her…very scary.

Some fears, however, are less than rational. In California, it’s pretty common to have an awareness and fear of earthquakes – because they happen out there with relative frequency. This is a geographically rational fear.

Earthquakes in New York, however…not so common. We had an earthquake in New York last summer – like summer of 2011. I was home and the building started to just shimmy shake a little. Then, I heard a rattle-y noise and noticed that the handles on my dresser were shaking. I thought it might be an earthquake, but my head went to a completely different place. At that moment, as the rolling 5.8 earthquake rolled through my apartment, shook my floors and rattled the handles on my furniture, I thought….

‘ALIEN INVASION!’…..uhm…What?

Another fear that is not wholly rational is a fear of Vegan cuisine. Last night I went Vegan for no reason and made…

Vegan Fusilli Alfredo with Roasted Vegetables (serves 4)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees and bring a large pot of water to a boil.

1. Cube 1 medium sized sweet potato and cut the florets from one stalk of broccoli  into bite size pieces. (Note you can save the broccoli stalk for vegetable stock if you so choose.)

SuperFood Sweet Potatoes Cubed

Broccoli

Broccoli Florets in Bite Size Pieces

2. In a bowl, toss the vegetables in olive oil, salt and pepper…you can use Jane’s Krazy Mixed Up Salt as well. Just toss enough to lightly coat the veggies.

3. Arrange the vegetables on a rimmed baking pan lined with parchment paper and roast in the oven for :20minutes, turning the vegetables about halfway through the roasting. Once the veggies are softened and gently beginning to brown, remove from the oven and set aside.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Broccoli

Pretty Roasted SuperFoods

4. Once the water is boiling, drop in about 1 cup of fusilli per person. Then season the water generously with salt and a little olive oil.

NOTE: Waiting to add the salt until the water is boiling will help prevent salt stains on the bottom of your pot.

NOW – time to make the sauce…

Vegan Alfredo Sauce Mise En Place

5. While the pasta is boiling…In a food processor, puree 1/4 cup of raw cashews until fine.

Finely Ground Cashews

6. Add in:

  • 1 TBSP of freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 TSP of Dijon mustard
  • 1 TBSP Olive Oil
  • 1 TSP of Soy Sauce
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 TBSP of Nutritional Yeast
  • 1 cup of boiling water from the Pasta Pot
  • 1/2 cup of Almond Milk (at room temperature)

Puree until creamy – you’ll see gentle bubbles of frothiness form. This can take about a minute or so…

Vegan Alfredo Sauce Frothy

7. Drain the pasta, but reserve at least one cup of the pasta water

8. Put the pasta back into the pot over low heat and pour the sauce over it. Stir to combine and heat through. If the sauce is too thick, use the pasta water to thin it just a bit.

9. Once heated through, transfer to a serving bowl and add the vegetables on top. You can also add some sliced cherry tomatoes. Very pretty!

Pretty Vegan Fusilli Alfredo With Veggies

10. Toss and serve. I served with a side of garlic bread and should have served a salad as well…but didn’t.

When I was about 10, I awoke from a dream in which I had witnessed the exile of Witchy Poo. In the dream, the evil witch was sent off to an island in the middle of the ocean. With her in exile, I took back the nights and could finally sleep without fear.

Last night, my guests for Vegan dinner were two cautiously supportive friends. When I served the Vegan Fusilli Alfredo, they each politely took about a spoonful and a half onto their plates. Each smiled through their fear as they went in for the first bite…I waited.

We had a back up plan to order in if the meal proved to be inedible.

‘Wow. It’s actually good.’ One of my friends finally said with surprise breaking the silence and the mystery aura surrounding Vegan cuisine. The other agreed and each helped herself to and finished a real portion of the dish.

I admit…I was skeptical too. I am not a Vegan, but wanted to give this dish a shot. And, I’m glad I did. It was a great, low-calorie option…And, more importantly, I am no longer afraid of Vegan Alfredo.