The Grass is Always Greener and an Experimental Lasagna

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The finished product (aka ‘Experimental Lasagna’) – fresh out of the oven and delightfully melty.  I would consider this one of the best things I’ve ever made – and I’ve cooked a lot of dishes

If you’re looking to cook and/or eat the ultimate comfort food, you’ve come to the right place.  I don’t know what I would even call this dish – I guess it’s along the lines of a ‘white’ lasagna, but also kind of like a high-end casserole.  It combines potatoes (scalloped potatoes, to be specific), 3 different kinds of cheese (goat, mozzarella, and Parmesan), a rich, bechamel sauce, lasagna noodles, zucchini, and prosciutto… how can you possibly go wrong with that combo of ingredients???

I was feeling inspired to make something decadent, and considering that I follow more food blogs than I do people on Instagram (I also follow more animals than I do people, since I hate most people, but that’s a topic for another day), I found plenty of ideas. Most of the food blogs I follow are Italian food blogs, based in and/or around Naples, Rome, Sicily, Puglia, etc..  I also follow a number of what I refer to as ‘gluttony blogs’ (think “pizza stuffed with fried mozzarella, topped with french fries” or like, ‘fried chicken, on top of burger, sandwiched between two soft pretzels, and dripping in cheese’ – I’m sick… I know).  Anyhow, I was inspired by the fact that so many of the Italian dishes I see on my IG feed seem to combine potatoes with pasta, or multiple starches and/or carbs in the same dish, which isn’t something I wouldn’t necessarily consider myself.

I don’t think most of these dishes are “traditional Italian” cuisine, per se (although ‘pasta e patate’ is), but DAMN… do they always look enticing when I’m hungry and scrolling down! I’ve seen pizza topped with potatoes, pasta with potatoes, and more pizzas with white sauce than those with typical red sauce.  Being the fat bastard I am, and a lover of all of the ingredients I ended up using in this dish on their own, I decided to combine all of them into this masterpiece. I’ll get to the recipe in a bit….

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Now that the sun is finally coming out and temps are rising, I’m feeling the need to cut back on the number of decadent dishes and maybe aim towards some lighter fare. I’m also feeling the need for a spray tan… although I always end up Oompa Loompa orange when I try faux tanner

One of life’s greatest quandaries seems to be why the grass always greener on the other side.  Lately, my work schedule has been the opposite of my boyfriend’s and half of my friends (since many also work in the hospitality industry). It’s been so awful, that it makes me miss working retail … working retail AT Hollister, if you can believe it.  I know… I know what you’re thinking – but hear me out first.  You know how shit always seems so bad and awful when you’re actually living it, and then years down the road you look back on that time in your life, and it doesn’t really seem so bad at all in retrospect? Like, yesterday’s problems (the ones I had at 26) were few and far between, considering the problems I have now at the advanced age of 31. The biggest problem I had then was trying to get the fuck out of retail…. and making enough to pay rent since my salary was substantially lower.  But in retrospect, the past seems like good times now.

That’s how I’ve been feeling lately.  I think maybe it’s the pressure of being in my 30s now, when I have to actually have the future weighing more heavily on my shoulders than I did at 26-28.  It takes a while for it to sink in that you’re not going to be young and carefree forever (not that I was EVER carefree, but I certainly wasn’t considering the heavier subjects in life, like if I want to married, whether or not I want to have a kid(s) someday, or saving for retirement, or where I would and would not be willing to relocate based on ageing parents, where my family lives, etc.).

I’m not saying I would ever want to go back to working retail, but there were some very good benefits to be had working in retail management which I was too blind to see or even appreciate at the time.

  1. I could switch my shifts with other managers and usually requested Sunday and Monday’s off, or Mondays and Tuesdays, which was great, since the store closed early on Sunday and I could still do dinner with my boyfriend or go out and party on a Sunday night. I miss those days, since now my window to imbibe is limited only to Friday and Saturday nights when everyone else in the world is out doing the same. You can’t trade shifts working corporate, when everyone works the same damn shift.
  2. I miss having random week days off.  It was nice to be one of the few people who had the ability to do their personal shopping, groceries and run errands on days when the majority of people are working, since you have everything to yourself and a calm exists that just isn’t there on the weekend. I also miss (now that the weather is warming up), the ability to grab a glass of wine at 3pm when the sun is out and no one else is there.
  3. I miss having more than one day a week off with my boyfriend.  Right now, our only day off together is Sunday, so it’s become sort of a sacred day and I don’t want to make plans with anyone else on Sunday – unless it’s like a party or group dinner or something.  When I worked retail, I usually found there was a random weekday I’d have off that would match up with one friend or my boyfriend.
  4. I miss being physically active, moving around, walking, hauling cages of clothes, doing floor sets, folding and doing manual labor – I even miss interacting with customers and helping people.  Back then, I didn’t even have to consider how much I was walking in a day, or do push-ups, since my daily work was a workout in itself. Sitting still is awful. I also get bored when every day is the same and I’m not continually meeting new people or training new hires, or interviewing.
  5.  That sweet, sweet employee discount.
  6. New Merchandise always felt like Christmas morning – ripping into those boxes and seeing the new clothing before anyone else and trying on/setting aside all of the shit I was about to buy for 50% off…

These things said, I don’t miss working every holiday (Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Memorial Day, July Fourth), working on Saturday mornings after going out on a Friday night, and dealing with awful customers or, even worse, dealing with awful district managers or fellow managers.

These thoughts have been floating around my mind all week.  I secretly think I just miss the sense of camaraderie I felt then, since I actually worked with with people I built close friendships with outside of work, and we would talk about our lives and work place drama in the stockroom and while closing down the store each night.  It was nice to have people to leave work with and grab Dunkin’Donuts with, and ride the subway back to Brooklyn with each night.  I don’t have that now and I’m pretty sure I never will if I keep working corporate.

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Committing Carbocide: Self-sabotage, or self-care?

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 box of cooked lasagna noodles (you won’t need a full box)
  • 3 large potatoes; washed and sliced into thin rounds
  • 1/2 white or yellow onion, finely minced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 3 TBS. butter
  • 3 TBS. olive oil
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 log of goat cheese (I believe it’s like 4 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tsp. fresh thyme
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/3 lb. of thinly sliced prosciutto
  • 3-4 green zucchini, cut into thin slices, length-wise
  • 1 ball fresh mozzarella

DIRECTIONS:

  • Bring heavily salted water to a boil in a large pot and pre-heat oven to 400 degrees
  • Cook the lasagna noodles, drain, rinse with cold water, add some olive oil to prevent them from sticking to each other, and set aside
  • Peel and chop the potatoes, and place the slices in a bowl of cold, salted water (this prevents discoloring)
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Potatoes are one of the ultimate comfort foods, no matter how you cook them – french fries, mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, scalloped potatoes, home fries, boiled-buttered potatoes… roast potatoes… and now I sound like Bubba from Forest Gump talking about shrimp….
  • Slice the zucchini and set aside
  • Next, you will make the bechamel sauce.  Heat the butter and a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan/wok over low heat
  • Add in the minced onions, stirring occasionally until onions are translucent and yellow (about 5 min)
  • Add in the minced garlic and cook another two minutes
  • Add in the flour and stir to create a roux (this is the base for your sauce, and the step that makes it thicken while remaining clump-free)

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  • Next, add in the milk, and continue to stir constantly using a wooden spoon, or whisk
  • The liquid should thicken rather quickly
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A nice, thick bechamel in the making
  • Now, add in the goat cheese, continuing to stir until fully melted and incorporated
  • Add in the salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, nutmeg, and some fresh thyme
  • Taste test, and add more seasonings if necessary…. remove from heat.
  • chop the ball of mozzarella or peel apart into thin slices
  • Now for the fun part – it’s time to assemble the lasagna!
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Butter the casserole dish so nothing sticks.  Put down a layer of lasagna noodles first, followed by a layer of zucchini, the bechamel sauce, a layer of potatoes, cheese (a mix of mozzarella and Parmesan) and a layer of prosciutto
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Repeat these layers until the pan is full.  You should have two layers of everything (lasagna noods, zucchini, sauce, potatoes, cheese, prosciutto
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To finish, add another sporadically placed layer of potatoes and cheese and sauce – garnish with the rest of the chopped thyme
  • Once the lasagna is assembled, place it into the oven and bake at 400 for 50 minutes to an hour… the cheese should be browning on top and the sauce bubbling around the edges of the dish when you turn the oven off.
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This smelled like heaven and tasted even better… this is what you want to eat on a cold, rainy night, or a Friday spent at home watching movies with a glass of wine
  • Let the dish cool for at LEAST 10 minutes, before cutting and serving
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Enjoy!