Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Spring lasagna using seasonal vegetables

This is a sponsored post by Challenge Butter, but the text and opinions are all mine. Thank you for supporting brands that make Kylee's Kitchen possible!

I cannot stress enough the importance of eating seasonally and eating locally. First of all, fruits and vegetables are most flavorful when they’re in season. That’s because the produce is growing close to where you love, so it can be harvested at its peak when it is most flavorful. It’s not being harvested early and sitting in a shipping container awaiting a trip across the continent before reaching your table. Produce loses a substantial amount of taste when it ripens after it’s picked from the vine. Also, because the produce is being grown closer to where you live, you’re supporting local farmers by buying their products.

When talking about eating seasonally, I can’t neglect to point out the obvious — it’s significantly cheaper! I remember back in December I saw asparagus listed at $3.99 per pound. No wonder people think it’s expensive! But that’s just because it wasn’t in season. Asparagus is known as a spring vegetable, so of course it’s being shipped from somewhere far away in order for it to be available in December. But as asparagus season gets closer, this week I saw it as low aa $1.39 per pound. That’s a huge difference!

Speaking of asparagus, did you know that it’s actually one of the earliest crops available in Indiana. It’s season is from April to June. Spinach is also one of the earliest crops to pop up in the state. So in the spirit of eating seasonally, I decided to create a “Spring Lasagna” using both of those vegetables. It’s much lighter than a traditional red meat sauce lasagna. I think the lemon zest really brings out the flavor of the cheeses. I did not add meat to this lasagna because I haven’t shared any meatless recipes in a while, and I thought it was rich enough without meat. But if you are really dying to get that extra protein, I think pancetta sprinkled in between the layers would be delightful. Or also, you could add shredded chicken.

One last thing that’s important for me to note: I used oven-ready lasagna noodles. Why? Well, first of all, it’s easier, and you all know I opt for the route with less steps. And secondly, oven-ready lasagna noodles are generally thinner which contribute to this dish being lighter than most lasagna recipes.

Spring Lasagna
Yield: Serves about 9 people, depending how big you cut your slices
  • 12 ounces asparagus
  • 1/3 cup Challenge butter
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • 8 ounces Challenge cream cheese
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon salt 
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg 
  • 1/4 cup basil
  • 2 1/2 cups ricotta
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • 1 1/2 cups mozzarella
  • 2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 9 oven-ready lasagna noodles
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  1. Prepare asparagus by cutting off about the last inch of the stalk; proceed to cut asparagus into 1-inch pieces
  2. Microwave asparagus pieces in microwave-safe bowl for 3 minutes to make pieces more tender
  3. Separate asparagus tips from rest of asparagus pieces and set aside; this is because the tips are the “prettiest” part of the asparagus and they will be sprinkled on top in the final step
  4. Start making sauce by melting butter in large saucepan
  5. Add 1/2 cup flour and whisk for 1 minute to make a roux
  6. Add milk and whisk for about 10 minutes until sauce starts to thicken; do not let sauce boil
  7. Add cream cheese, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, and nutmeg
  8. Stir in basil and set aside
  9. Make filling by mixing together ricotta, spinach, mozzarella, salt, and Italian seasoning; set aside
  10. Spray 9x13 pan and put a little sauce at bottom of pan before adding noodles
  11. Add 3 lasagna noodles over top of the sauce; followed by 1 cup of sauce. Spread sauce across noodles to coat evenly
  12. Add half of ricotta cheese mixture on top of sauce, and then add half of your asparagus pieces 
  13. Repeat the steps of this assembly one more time
  14. Finish by adding 3 lasagna noodles; 1 cup of sauce; parmesan; and asparagus tips
  15. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 375 for 35 to 40 minutes

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