Posts made in February, 2013

Food for Thought: Fast Food and Children

The type of food a child is introduced to in his early years determines the kind of food he will crave throughout life. That’s why children in France or Italy have very different food preferences than children in America.

The fast food industry knows this and spends a large amount of its time marketing to children. A child raised on a diet high in fat, salt, and sugar will crave those things throughout his or her years.

Plus there’s the smell factor. About 75% of taste comes from smell, and smell has a powerful ability to bring back memories. The smell of fast food can immediately take an adult back to the warm, happy memories of childhood. A meal at McDonald’s becomes a walk down memory lane and a source of comfort after a long day.

It’s rather simple for the fast food industry: Get a child hooked on fast food and that child will most likely be a customer for life.

So, what kind of flavors and traditions will you introduce to your toddler?

 

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Roasted Red Pepper and Olive Lasagna

I come from an Italian family. When I was growing up, lasagna was made with a large 32 oz (or more) container of ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese and sometimes even provolone. Each layer was then covered with a hearty sauce made with ground beef and, more often than not, there was Italian sausage on top. It was rich, heavy, hearty, and delicious.

When I gave up beef, though, I had to find a new lasagna recipe, for giving up lasagna was not an option. Over the past few years I’ve experimented with adding different vegetables to lasagna and have discovered that I love veggie lasagna so much more than the meaty one I grew up with. The beauty of a veggie lasagna is that there are so many possibilities. When you pull beef out of the picture and use whatever vegetables you have on hand instead, lasagna is never boring.

The recipe I show below is, by far, my favorite combination of ingredients. Plus it’s light and full of so much more flavor than the more traditional lasagna. This is more complicated than most of my recipes, simply because there are so many steps. It’s a good day-off recipe, and it’s wonderful to do with kids. I loved helping my mom build lasagna when I was growing up.

Here’s what you need to prepare before you build the lasagna:

A ricotta mixture which is: 

  • A small container of ricotta cheese (about 15 oz). 
  • A couple cups of fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
  • One clove of fresh garlic
  • One egg (this helps bind the mixture, but I sometimes forget to add it and it comes out fine)
  • Fresh basil, if available, or any fresh or dried Italian herbs
  • Salt and Pepper

Roasted bell peppers or any other seasonal vegetable roasted

  • 2 large or 3 small bell peppers roasted in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes.

My favorite olive mixture

  • I use about 8 oz of kalamata olives (pitted) and about 6 or 7 pepperdews from an antipasto bar. Pulse in a food processor until finely chopped. Make extra. It’s wonderful leftover on bread, pastas and salads. 

Cremini or Baby Bello Mushrooms or a mixture of both

  • I use a couple small containers. I sauté them first with olive oil until they are nice and brown (mushroom tip: don’t add salt and pepper until they start to brown. Also cook them in a large pan and in small batches if you don’t want them to be soggy.) 

A marina sauce of your choice

  • I use my family’s favorite, simple recipe, which I will post at another date. 

You favorite hard Italian cheese

  • For this recipe, I used a combination of Parmesan and Asiago, simply because those were what I had on hand.  

I also use no boil whole wheat lasagna noodles. I know. My Italian great grandmother would have a heart attack if she knew such a thing existed. I didn’t believe they would bake properly at first, either, but it actually works.  I also use a pan that’s around 12×9, but any pan around that size would work.

To build the lasagna:  First, I pour just enough marina sauce along the bottom of the pan to slightly coat it.  Then I add my first single layer of noodles. Now it’s time for the first layer. I do:

  • one layer of the ricotta mixture
  • all of the roasted peppers
  • a few large ladles of sauce, to slightly coat

I don’t have a photo of this layer. Granted, I took a photo, but only after I started the next layer did I realize that I didn’t have a memory card in my camera. Did Ansel Adams ever forget to put film in his camera? I do hope so.

Next layer:

  • top the previous layer with a single layer of noodles 
  • one layer of the ricotta cheese mixture
  • spread the olive mixture on top of the cheese
  • add a few ladles of sauce, to slightly coat

olive layer-5

 

Next layer:

  • Another layer of noodles
  • ricotta cheese (if any left)
  • marina sauce
  • all of the mushrooms
  • sprinkle your choice of cheese on top

mushroom-5

Now top it with the rest of the noodles (one layer), pour lots of marina sauce on top and sprinkle with cheese.

 

finished-5

Cover it and bake in a 350 degree over for 40 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 15-20 minutes.

Finished product:

finished-1

 

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Welcome!

Local Ohio Strawberries

Welcome to my food blog! I now have an official place to share my love of food with the world. I’m still adding and customizing things here and there, but feel free to look around, and come back soon for my first recipe post.

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