Spicing up lasagna

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

It's always a wonderful day when something out of the ordinary or unexpected happens, which is what happened to me last week. While I was at work, a woman approached me and asked if I was Susan. I immediately thought if she had a complaint or problem, I wish I could slither under the table.

Much to my surprise the woman was my first-grade teacher, Irma Ward. I have not seen Mrs. Ward for many years. It was so much fun to visit with her and catch up on many lost years. I got to show off my family and tell her about my older siblings who she also taught. It certainly was the highlight of my week.

It never ceases to amaze me how many recipes for lasagna are floating around. This week I have a couple different varieties I think you will enjoy. Have fun with these and try to come up with some on your own.

Creamy Seafood Lasagna

9 uncooked lasagna noodles

1/4 cup butter or margarine

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1/4 cup flour

2 cups half-and-half

1 1/3 cup chicken broth

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 egg, slightly beaten

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 (15-ounce) container ricotta cheese

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 (8-ounce) packages frozen salad-style imitation crabmeat, thawed, drained and chopped into bite-sized pieces

2 (4-ounce) packages frozen cooked salad shrimp, thawed and drained

3 cups (12 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, if desired

Cook noodles as directed on package.

In a 3-quart saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onion is crisp-tender. Stir in flour and continue stirring until bubbly. Gradually stir in half-and-half, broth, salt and pepper. Heat to to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil and stir for 1 minute. Remove from heat and set aside.

In medium bowl, mix egg, cheeses and parsley. Set aside.

Drain noodles. In ungreased 13-by-9-inch (3-quart) glass baking dish, spread 3/4 cup of the sauce. Top with 3 noodles. Spread half of the crabmeat and half of the shrimp over noodles; spread with 3/4 cup of the sauce. Sprinkle with 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese; top with 3 noodles. Spread ricotta mixture over noodles; spread with 3/4 cup of the sauce. Sprinkle with 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese; top with 3 noodles. Spread with remaining crabmeat, shrimp and sauce. Sprinkle with remaining 1 cup mozzarella cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes or until cheese is light golden brown. Let stand 15 minutes before cutting. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon parsley.

Chicken Lasagna

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

2 (10 3/4-ounce) cans cream of mushroom soup

1 1/2 cups milk

1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained and squeezed to remove water

1 egg

2 cups ricotta cheese

12 lasagna noodles, cooked and drained

2 to 3 cups diced cooked chicken (chicken breasts or cooked whole chicken)

Parmesan cheese

Reserve 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese for topping.

In medium bowl, combine soup and milk and set aside. In another medium bowl, combine spinach, egg and ricotta; mix well. In bottom of 13-by-9-inch baking dish, spread 1/2 cup of soup mixture. Arrange 4 lasagna noodles on mixture. Spoon about half of the ricotta cheese mixture over noodles, half of the chicken, 3/4 cup of mozzarella cheese, and 1/3 of remaining soup mixture.

Repeat layers, with 4 lasagna noodles, remaining ricotta mixture, remaining chicken, another 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese and half of remaining soup mixture. Top with remaining noodles, remaining soup mixture, reserved 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese and a generous sprinkling of parmesan cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Let stand 15 minutes before serving. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Susan McClanahan is administrator at the Cape Girardeau Senior Center. Send recipes to her at smcclanahan@semissourian.com or by mail at P.O. Box 699, Cape Girardeau, Mo. 63701. Recipes published have not been kitchen-tested by the Southeast Missourian staff.

Apple Lasagna

6 no-boil lasagna noodles

2 cups (8 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese

1 cup ricotta cheese

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon almond extract

2 cans (20-ounce) apple pie filling

1 cup sour cream

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Combine Cheddar cheese, ricotta cheese, egg, granulated sugar and almond extract in medium bowl; blend well. Spread 1 can of apple pie filling over bottom of prepared pan. Layer half the noodles over filling, about 3 noodles, then spread cheese mixture over noodles. Top with remaining noodles, then remaining can of apple pie filling.

As an option, you can put a layer of cheese mixture over last layer of apple filling and then put chopped pecans on top.

Bake lasagna at 350 degreees for 60 minutes, and then let it cool for 15 minutes. To serve, cut lasagna into squares and garnish with mixture of sour cream and brown sugar.

This recipe for Mexican Lasagna is from Ray and Joan Haring. It was featured in our church cookbook and it is one of our children's favorite recipes.

Mexican Lasagna

1 pound ground beef

1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce

Salsa, enough to fill the tomato sauce can

1 package taco seasoning

4 to 6 flour tortillas

1 (16-ounce) carton cottage cheese

2 eggs

1 teaspoon oregano

2 cups shredded Cheddar or Monterey Jack and Colby cheese blend

Brown meat and drain. Add tomato sauce, salsa and taco seasoning. Simmer 5 minutes. In a 9 by 13-inch pan, layer tortillas (cut one up to fit corners). Layer 1/2 meat mixture, then cottage cheese that has been mixed with eggs and oregano. Layer 1 cup cheese, more tortillas, the rest of the meat mixture, then the rest of the cheese. Bake 30 to 35 minutes at 375 degrees. Let stand for 10 minutes while you toss a salad.

Alaska Salmon and Grilled Vegetable Lasagna

1 (14 3/4-ounce) can Alaska salmon, drained and flaked

1 pound lasagna noodles, cooked

2 (26-ounce) jars marinara sauce

1/2 teaspoon garlic, minced

2 teaspoons fennel seeds, lightly crushed

2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped

1 eggplant, sliced lengthwise

1 zucchini, sliced

1 red bell pepper, sliced

1/2 red onion, sliced

1 pound grated mozzarella, provolone or cheddar cheese, or a combination

Olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Add marinara sauce, garlic and fennel seed to a sauce pot; bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, add basil and cook for 10 minutes, hold warm.

Heat a grill. Lightly brush both sides of the chopped vegetables with olive oil and season lightly with salt and pepper. Place on grill and cook to tender -- time will vary depending on the type of vegetable, size of slices and temperature of grill. Remove from grill and chop into medium dice. Place in a bowl and mix together. Taste, adding salt and pepper as needed. Spread a light layer of marinara sauce mixture into the bottom of an oven proof casserole dish.

Lay out a base of the cooked noodles, overlapping them slightly. Cover the noodles with a layer of 1/2 the grilled vegetable mix, spreading evenly over the noodles. Top the vegetables with 1/2 of the salmon and 1/3 of the cheese. Add 1/3 of the remaining sauce. Add the next layer of noodles, and repeat the layering instructions above. Add a final layer of noodles, topped with the remaining 1/3 of sauce, followed by the remaining 1/3 of cheese.

Carefully press everything down. Cover with plastic wrap, then foil. At this point, the lasagna can be placed in either the refrigerator or freezer for later use. Place the lasagna in the oven and bake 45 to 60 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the lasagna is heated completely through. Remove from oven and let stand 10 to 15 minutes. Frozen lasagna should be baked at 325 degrees for 60 to 90 minutes.

I am out of room so I will wish you a wonderful week and until next time, happy cooking.

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