Weekly Dish: Mushroom and Spinach Lasagna

We are in cold weather season (where the heat from dinner cooking in the oven is welcome), this makes a great winter meal. It is delicious. So delicious, I could eat plates and plates of it. And maybe I have…

Mushroom and Spinach Lasagna

12 whole wheat noodles or brown rice noodles (or 8- or 9-ounce package)*

Ricotta mixture:
15 oz. ricotta cheese
1 1/4 cups Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup minced fresh basil
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon real salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

6 cups homemade tomato sauce:
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 onion, minced
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
1 28oz can diced tomatoes
1 Tablespoon basil
1 Tablespoon oregano
dash of crushed red pepper

Mushroom/Spinach mixture:
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 pound assorted mushrooms
2 garlic cloves, minced
10 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed, thoroughly squeezed dry

1 pound whole-milk mozzarella, shredded (4 cups)

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375.

Cook pasta in boiling water until just underdone, about 4-5 minutes. (You can also use no-boil noodles here if you are so inclined.)

Make the filling: Mix the ricotta, 1 cup of Parmesan, basil, egg, salt, pepper until well combined.

Make sauce: Heat oil in dutch oven. Saute onion in the oil until completely softened. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 10-30 seconds. Add crushed tomatoes and diced tomatoes and spices and cook about 15 minutes.

Make mushroom/spinach mixture: Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet until shimmering. Add the mushrooms and cook until browned, about 10 minutes. Stir in 2 minced garlic gloves and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Off the heat, stir in the spinach and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Spread 1/4 cup tomato sauce over bottom of 9×13 dish. Place 3 noodles on top of sauce and drop 3 tablespoons of the ricotta mixture down the center of each noodle, then spread out evenly. Sprinkle a third of the mushroom and spinach mixture over each layer of ricotta. Sprinkly evenly with 1 cup of the mozzarella. Spoon 1 1/2 cups of the sauce evenly over the cheese. Repeat layering two more times.

For the final layer, place the 3 remaining noodles on top. Spread the remaining sauce over the noodles. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 cup mozzarella and then the remaining 1/4 cup parmesan. Spray a large sheet of foil lightly with olive oil spray and cover the lasagna. Bake for 15 minutes.

Remove the foil and continue to bake until the cheese is browned and the sauce is bubbling, about 25 minutes longer. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Variations: You can also make this as a simple cheese lasagna or with meat.

*If possible, find sprouted whole wheat or whole grain noodles.

Kombucha @ Home

Affectionately termed “rotten mushroom tea” by my father, this tea admittedly seems like a strange thing to voluntarily ingest.But when you learn of its incredible health benefits, and discover its surprisingly zippy and refreshing taste (think along the lines of hard apple cider), you, too will want to grow rotten mushroom tea on your kitchen counter. Warning: it will gross everyone out and make you a target to all those around. It will also delve you further into the “hippie” lifestyle and further away from the normalcy of all of your American friends. But it’s worth it.

The History
Kombucha originated in Russia. There it is called “mushroom tea” or “tea kvass” or just “kvass.” Though, it is unlike traditional kvass in that it is not made with bread at all.

The Basics
A mushroom really has nothing to do with it; it is called a SCOBY (“symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast”). The tea is basically black tea (or another variety), white sugar and this SCOBY. Some call it a mushroom, some call it a culture. Most call it disgusting. As the tea sits on your countertop (or in a cupboard, etc…), the SCOBY will begin to feed on the sugar (yeast and bacteria Looooooove white sugar), removing all of the sugar from the tea and trading it for beneficial bacteria, live cultures, enzymes, acids. Each batch of Kombucha will produce an additional layer  or “baby”  SCOBY on the top of the original “mother” SCOBY. Separate them like you would separate two pancakes. These may be discarded, shared with friends, sold, or used for additional batches of Kombucha.

You wouldn’t think that white sugar and caffeinated tea could produce anything that would benefit health, but it is a curing drink, complete with toxic neutralizing qualities. It aids the immune system and assists the body in cleansing itself, not to mention being a cancer (and other degenerative disease) preventer!

(The culture eats up all of the white sugar so don’t let that concern you at all.)

Why Ferment?
When fermentation happens, there is an introduction of live organisms. You have approximately 3-5 pounds of live organisms inside your body at this very moment. Don’t get too grossed out; they are supposed to be there. There are bad organisms (pathogens) and good organisms (beneficial bacteria). You should have more good than bad. Pathogens, when out of control, cause disease and sickness. Good bacteria’s job is to keep the bad bacteria under control and in check, flushing them out of our system along with toxins and harmful substances we ingest or breathe in every day. Fermentation adds to the colonization of good bacteria, keeping our body healthy and able to fight off infection, pathogens, toxins, etc…

Traditional cultures, going back to probably the beginning of time, have fermented their foods and drinks. Some examples of this: Fermented Cod Liver oil, yogurt, kefir, and many vegetables and fruits. We are unaccustomed to this taste and it is a bit foreign to our palates. But give it a chance! Let it grow on you (or in you. I had to…). Let yourself develop a taste for something that can impart such benefits to your immune system as a whole.

People spend loads of money on quality probiotics. You can make Kombucha (and yogurt, and fermented vegetables, etc…) for literally pennies.

Because of the fermentation, there is approximately .5% or less alcohol in this tea, which means that it is technically a non-alcoholic beverage. The longer fermentation goes and the less sweet the tea becomes, the more alcohol it will have in it.

There are variations of flavors and teas for Kombucha. You may use other teas, but black tea has the highest amount of glucuronic acid, which is the detoxifying agent in the tea. Other teas impart drastically different flavors, but you can also achieve this by adding fruit, fruit juices, or ginger at the end of fermentation, after you have removed the SCOBY.

Now for the recipe:

KOMBUCHA

3 quarts filtered water
1 Cup white sugar
4 tea bags of organic black tea
1/2 cup Kombucha from a previous batch
1 Kombucha SCOBY

Boil 3 quarts water. Pour boiling water over the sugar and tea bags in a glass jar/pitcher. Let tea cool to room temperature. Remove tea bags with a very clean spoon or hands washed with soap and rinsed with vinegar. Add the 1/2 cup Kombucha and the SCOBY pancake into the jar. Cover the jar loosely with a cloth so that the tea can breathe and transfer to a warm, dark place. Depending on the temperature of the space you have chosen to let it culture, it could take anywhere from 7-14 days for the tea to be ready. Taste the Kombucha. It should not be too sweet but shouldn’t taste too acidic, like vinegar, either.

Notes:

  • It is important to use white sugar as this is what feeds the yeast. Do not substitute with brown sugar, honey, stevia, sucanat/rapadura, maple syrup, etc…)
  • It is important to use organic tea. Non-organic tea is often high in flouride.
  • Black tea gives the highest amounts of detoxifying glucuronic acid.
  • Store mushrooms in a glass dish in the refrigerator when not in use. Do not ever store it in plastic.

I am sharing this post at Real Food Wednesday.