Friday, December 4, 2009

Homemade Lasagna Noodles and Homemade Semolina Lemon Bread

Homemade lasagna noodles tucked between layers of veggie goodness. New house rule: there is no better way to eat lasagna than with noodles made from scratch! They melt in your mouth!

Homemade bread in machine--with semolina flour. This is diffrerent flour from the "00" flour used in pasta making for my recipe.

Finished and cut fresh--this was a moist and flavorful bread, with a hint of lemon, perfect with our lasagna!

I have fallen in love with pasta. Not that I didn't already love it. And, as a runner, there is nothing better for my body than pasta. So we had this "snow scare" yesterday morning (meaning the mention of snow from our weather folks yields major outages of bread and milk in this town)--so the day before, and in anticipation of the snow, I went shopping on The Hill--the Italian eating/grocery/specialty store district in St. Louis. I got all bundled up with list in hand--all of these "special" Italian baked goods I wanted to try needed all of these "special" ingredients. I spent three hours there, browsing, smelling, buying, asking questions (got in some Christmas shopping, too). I just loved it! I shopped alone and was quite happy doing so. The snow scare had many people running to the regular grocery stores, not me--I practically had the places to myself--just wonderful!

The next day, I was up early--looking for snow. Like Yukon Cornelius said in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: "Nothing". It was a huge disappointment for me. I had even puchased new running pants and a wind resistent running jacket (well, and new running shoes) for the affair--snow or not, I was going for a run! I love the snow as much as pasta. I hail from the North, snow is in my blood. I went for a 5 mile jog. It was a good run with the sun out, temps around thirty something--perfect. Then, I even made time for yoga--wasn't I the good, healthy person yesterday? Then, I wanted something big for dinner. I try not to wait until four or five to begin this task, but for some reason, yesterday I was also compelled to order all of my seed catalogs for planning my veggie garden in spring (quite the internet black hole out there for gardeners, honestly--gardening is quite in vogue now). A few hours later, I was scrambling. Dinner didn't come into the picture until four. So, I thought about bread, and I thought about more uses for flour with dinner and then the lasagna came to mind. I have had more fun making pasta with my new pasta maker--honestly! Now, I don't even have to measure--I just scoop the "00" flour into the bowl, a little water, a teaspoon olive oil and feel with my hands how and when to start running the dough through the machine--it's magical!

This lasagna is of my own creation. Not bragging or anything, but I have always been good with the pasta/lasagna recipes--it is not, as I like to say, rocket science. But when we omitted cheese for our vegan ways, I was less-than-willing to try some of my old past times sans cheese for fear I would ruin my taste for them forever, thinking, how in the world could a layered pasta ever be good without gobs of cheese in the middle? Well, have I got news for you--this is probably one of the best vegan lasagnas I've had to date. Why? Good old homemade noodles lovingly placed between each layer (of your own choosing). Melt-in-your-mouth goodnes and texture so divine, I am, again. . . in love with pasta.

Now, for the bread, well--turning to my favorite new cookbook: The Bread Bible by Beth Hensperger, I found just what I was looking for: Semolina Bread. I tweeked a few ingredients and added a slight change in the flour and with the oil part, I added 1 tablespoon lemon olive oil--it worked beautifully! You might think, isn't that overkill on the flour. No. It was a perfect match--pasta and bread! And for convenience, this book offers many of her bread making recipes in both traditional and bread machine types for baking. My other favorite kitchen tool is my bread machine--don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with working dough from scratch, but in a pinch, a bread machine is quite handy!

Homemade Lasagna Noodles: Vegan Lasagna
*Just get a pasta maker, seriously, it makes all the difference!

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 package Gimme Lean Beef
1 large onion chopped
5 garlic cloves minced
1 green pepper chopped
1 medium carrot chopped
1 1/2 cups mushrooms chopped
2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
2 teaspons dried basil
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
Spike or S & P to taste
1 package of fresh spinach
2 tablespoons olive oil (I added some lemon olive oil to this)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
dash of white truffle oil (if you don't have this, it's okay)
1 jar pasta sauce or homemade marinara (I opted for a jar yesterday)
a handful of vegan shredded parmesean cheese
homemade lasagna noodles or a boxed variety--your call!

You'll need two saute pans, and a sauce pan for the sauce. I would go ahead and get the sauce going--I used the jar kind--it needs to be warmed before it is added to the lasagna. My rule of thumb in making any lasagna is to break up my layers with two batches of stuff. So for this recipe, I made a batch of veggies with Gimme Lean as a protein--and sauteed mushrooms. Then a second quick toss of spinach for another layer. Heat olive oil in large pan. Add chopped veggies (except mushrooms) and saute until onions begin to soften. Add seasonings. Add the Gimme Lean and crumble it into the pan so that it is able to cook for a bit. Keep the heat on medium low to get the vegan meat to cook through. The carrots may still be a bit firm and that is okay. Begin your second pan for the sauted mushrooms and spinach. Heat olive oil and add chopped mushrooms first. Let them cook to release their juices. Season with a bit of fresh thyme and spike if you'd like. When these have cooked for about 10 minutes, add them to the veggie mixture. Then, keeping the same pan, add olive oil and balsamic vinegar in pan on medium heat and begin to add the spinach in handfuls. Using tongs, toss to coat and it will quickly wilt. You don't want this to be super soaked and cooked, just tossed and wilted--keep the heat low. Add the whole bag. Preheat oven to 400. Lightly oil a 9 x 13 pan. For the first layer, add ladle full of marinara and spread around. Add first layer of lasagna noodles. Then add veggie layer, a bit of sauce, then another layer of noodles. Then add spinach layer, a bit more veggie mix, and some sauce, and next layer of noodles. Top with marinara and sprinkle with vegan cheese. Cover with foil. Bake for 35 minutes. Remove foil from lasagna and allow to bake uncovered for another 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow dish to sit for about 15--you will not be sorry! Letting a pasta cool a bit makes a remarkable difference!

Semolina Lemon Bread for Bread Machine

1 1/2 cup water at 80 degrees
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon flavored olive oil (*this added a lot of flavor!)
1 tablespoon Florida Crystals sugar
1 1/2 cups bread flour
1 1/4 cups semolina flour
1/4 cup spelt flour
2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
3 teaspoons vital wheat gluten
1 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast

Place in bread machine according to directions. Set on 1 1/2 lb. loaf and light colored crust.

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