I Order My Lasagna to Taste Like Stouffer’s (Or How to Make Stouffer’s Veggie Lasagna from Scratch)

Homemade Stouffer’s-Inspired Veggie Lasagna. The version featured here has an extra layer of Fontina on top, but it’s better with the breadcrumb topping. Trust Me.

I had some time on my hands, so I took the Myers Briggs test. It turns out I share personality traits with Julius Caesar, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Darth Vader. No, really, that’s what the internet says. And the internet never lies.

So, apparently, I am an ENTJ, or a Fieldmarshal. Now before my friends and family die laughing at the absolute truth in this nomenclature (and clamor to remind me I was nicknamed Anakin in college), there are some redeeming aspects to being a bossy rebel like me. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Winston Churchill are/were also Fieldmarshals. According to the Myers Briggs Foundation, we only make up 1.8% of the population, which is probably a good thing considering when our personality goes wrong it leads to nation building through bloodshed and the occupation of the second moon of Endor. When it goes well, you get Microsoft and MacBooks. (I like MacBooks.)

Incidentally, the only personality type more rare than mine (in the US, anyway) is Ghandi’s: the INFJ, which makes up 1.5% of the population. (Curiously, some sites put Hitler and Osama Bin Laden in this classification as well. Other sites say Hitler was an ENTJ, but I say the INFJ’s can have him. I’d rather not add a perpetrator of horrific genocide to my already dubious personality classification.)

So, there you have it. I share a personality type with world leaders and titans of industry and I’m sitting on my couch watching The Empire Strikes Back and trying to figure out how to improve upon my veggie lasagna recipe. I am truly disappointing today.

See, I have attempted a few times to replicate Stouffer’s veggie lasagna in white sauce, and I have come pretty close, but I want to make it even better. Lord, I AM a bossy know-it-all perfectionist, and the only thing I have to boss around today is a bowl of chopped veggies. So Sad.

My version of the recipe is below. It still tastes good even if it isn’t perfect. If you have truly nailed it and want to weigh in, please share your recipe.

If you too want to be horrified by your personality type, you can take a version of the test here.

Stouffers-like Veggie Lasagna

2 C matchstick carrots
2 C broccoli florets
2 C frozen spinach, rinsed and drained
1 medium onion
5 C grated mozzarella (or Fontina)
1 C grated blend of parmesan and romano cheeses
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 large eggs

½ C flour
½ C butter
4 C whole milk
1 ½ tsp salt
¼ tsp nutmeg

1 C breadcrumbs
4-6 T butter (I like more butter, but this is a personal taste thing)

8-12 ounces lasagna noodles

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Bring water to boil in a large pot. Add the lasagna noodles and cook until they are al dente. Drain and set aside. (I like to use Barilla wavy lasagne noodles because they don’t stick together as much as flat noodles.)

Place the frozen spinach in a colander and rinse with warm water to thaw it slightly. Squeeze the excess water from the spinach and pat dry with paper towels. Place the spinach, carrots, onions, and broccoli in a bowl. Add eggs, mozzarella, parmesan, and garlic.

In a medium saucepan, heat ½ C butter until melted. Add flour to create a roux. Do not let it burn. Add milk, salt, and nutmeg and stir until thick, about five minutes.

Melt butter in a separate saucepan and pour over breadcrumbs. Stir to coat. (You may not need all of the butter.)

Pour a layer of white sauce into a 9×13” pan. Add a layer of lasagna noodles followed by the vegetable mixture. Repeat until you have used all of the ingredients. Pour breadcrumb/butter mixture over the top. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for about 35-45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes. Allow the lasagna to cool for 10-20 minutes before serving.

(It is also good if made a day ahead. Plus it freezes well.)

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My Evening of Epic Fails (Or I Screw Up My First Attempt at Cake Pops)

“I don’t think people understand what you’re saying when you say Albus.” My mother said as she sipped her sauvignon blanc.

“Well, that’s why I introduce him as Albus Dumbledore,” I replied.

“Not everyone knows who that is.”

“Of course they do. Albus is a mighty wizard!” I exclaimed indignantly. “Besides, it’s Latin for ‘white.’ I like Latin.” (I did NOT like Latin when I was translating the entire Aeneid into English, but this is not important now.)

“I think they think you’re saying Elvis.”

This from the woman who named me Anika? I’ve been called everything from Anita to Shaniqua over the years, and I’ve been correcting people on the pronunciation of my name since Kindergarten, so she hardly has a foot to stand on when it comes to weird names for offspring – human or dog.

“Well, I nearly named him Chappy Sinclair, but I changed my mind at the last minute.”

By look on her face, it was clear this name would not have met with her standards either. (She does not appreciate Iron Eagle any more than Harry Potter, apparently.)

She’s actually right that people have called my dog everything from “Alvin” to “Elvis,” but I had no intention of conceding this. The little girl downstairs squeals, “Elbis!” every time she sees him. (Even this hybrid is probably toddler for Elvis.)

I should also mention that she doesn’t approve of Woodley’s name either. She thinks it’s confusing I named a fluffy female after a 265-pound linebacker. She’s probably not wrong.

She may have given me a hard time about my dogs’ names, but she did buy me this fabulous pink cake pop pan from Sur La Table, so there’s that.

My fancy new cake pop pan, courtesy of my mother.

I must say, my first attempt at using my new toy was even more disastrous than my attempts at dog-naming.

I was hoping to make Hedwig-like owls that looked like this:

See these perfect owls from Bakerella? Yeah, mine looked nothing like them.

I didn’t even get to the decorating part, because I ended up with THIS mess.

Albus is ignoring the Chernobyl-like disaster in the foreground and heading straight for the un-sullied cake pops on the counter. Even my dog doesn’t think the others are edible.

I think my first mistake was using a strawberry cake mix for the cake pops, as it was not nearly dense enough. (I’m starting to believe “cake” is a bit of a misnomer and the base of these balls is really more of a cake/cookie lovechild.) My next mistake was purchasing Ghirardelli white chocolate chips to coat my cake-y creations. Despite adding shortening to make the melted mess thinner, it was just too thick and sticky to properly coat the crumbly cake.

Desperate to find another coating substance, I scoured the internet this morning and discovered another option on Bakerella. It turns out it was hidden within another one of my pins. (Oops. I probably should have READ the post first instead of simply pinning the photo at first sight.) Bakerella suggests using Merckens Candy Coating for the pops. I guess I’ll be looking for a new cake pop recipe and then dipping those in Merckens next time.

I’m not really sure what to do with my cake pop rejects. I’m leaning toward feeding them to the squirrels downstairs even if they are the sworn enemies of my poorly named dogs.

Oh, and don’t get me started on what went wrong with THIS watermelon shark carving last night….

This Jedi-eating watermelon monster was supposed to be a shark. Alas, my Shun Sumo Santoku knife was just too big for the finer details.

Have you tried making cake pops? Did you make an epic mess like me?

Too Weak to Chew (Or How to Make a Strawberry Banana Smoothie)

I basically look like this today.

Yesterday, I had this grand plan to make my blue cheese potato salad and go to three barbecues which were inconveniently strewn all over a city teeming with terrible traffic and DUI check points. I planned to celebrate the birth of America with a burger and a single beer and then return home in time to soothe the dogs as they cried over colorful explosions in the sky.

None of this happened. After an attempt to tire out the animals on a hike, I took a nap, woke up feeling worse, and never left the house. What I initially thought was a pulled muscle in my back has basically turned into excruciating pain absolutely everywhere.

Naturally, my body has decided to rebel against me at the most inopportune time possible, as my mother arrives tomorrow. Not only am I facing at least two hours of traffic to pick her up from LAX, but I have to wash three loads of laundry, bathe the dogs, dust, vacuum, AND go to the grocery store to buy pork butt for tomorrow’s carnitas.

So, what am I doing? Watching Star Wars in my jammies, drinking a strawberry banana smoothie, and fighting the urge to go back to bed at 2 in the afternoon.

Strawberry banana smoothies are one of my favorite comfort foods from childhood. Plus they’re easy to make, they don’t require the effort of chewing (which I honestly don’t know if I could manage right now), and they’re all filled with vitamin C, potassium, and whatnot.

The recipe is below.

Oh, and if any of my friends are reading this: please send pizza – the Pizza Bianca with sausage from Pizzeria Mozza, to be exact. I think only sausage, truffle cheese, and crispy sage will give me the will to carry on today.

Without pizza, I’m going to need to summon some serious Jedi strength to get out the Swiffer….

My strawberry banana smoothie pairs nicely with a viewing of Star Wars. What doesn’t, really?

Strawberry Banana Smoothie

¾ C frozen strawberries

1 ripe banana

1 ¼ C milk (I prefer whole milk)

2 T honey

Place strawberries and banana in blender. Pour in milk and blend until smooth. Add 2 T honey and blend.

Tired Glue Gun Trigger Finger (Or How to Make a Chandelier from Coffee Filters)

A few months ago, I discovered the DIY instructions for making a chandelier out of a chinese lantern and coffee filters, and I just HAD to try it. Not because I had any need for the fluffy orb, mind you, but because it just looked like fun to make. I figured I’d will it into some sort of design submission eventually….

Initially, I only intended to make one hanging pendant, but in a turn of events that surprises no one… I got carried away.

As soon as I finished covering my 14″ paper lantern with coffee filters, I went to Pier 1 to buy the actual light bulb part of the lamp. I learned that Pier 1 doesn’t sell hanging light fixtures in California. (It’s due to some law requiring all lamps sold in the state to come with a light bulb in them.)

SO, I had to buy a battery-operated LED pack instead. A few cool things came out of this:

1) The battery-operated element solved my “how-in-hell-am-I-going-to-hide-the-cord?” conundrum.

AND

2) The remote controlled version of the LED only came in a 3-pack. This inspired me to make two more orbs of smaller size.

Of course I ran into some other pitfalls along with way, and I will share them with you to spare you from making my mistakes.

First of all, I recommend semi-soothing music for this task — especially if you’re the hyper sort like me. It takes a long time to cover the orbs, and you’ll start to go a little crazy if you’re listening to, say, the GG Remix of Grenade.

I had to break up the task over about a week and a half to keep myself sane – and to prevent blisters from forming on my glue gun trigger finger.

Incidentally, it also helped that I was still in the “training my Mary J. Blige Pandora Station” stage because I had to stop what I was doing frequently to inform Pandora, “I would like more Trey Songz pretty please.” And, “Less LMFAO, thank you very much.” (LMFAO belongs on my Britney station. For real.)

In all, I think it took about 1,000 coffee filters, and about 300 miniature glue sticks to complete the task.

I still need to adjust the placement of the lanterns now that I have three of them. I also haven’t completed embellishing the orbs with ribbons and beads yet, but I’ll get around to it, eventually….

Oh, and I have absolutely NO idea how to dust them.

Any suggestions?

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