Monthly Archives: May 2012

A Glorious Feast: Garden Harvest Lasagna

My teenage son became a vegetarian this winter, so I’ve been cooking more meatless dishes whenever possible, or altering my meat-containing recipes (such as soups and stews) so that I can add protein separately. For years I’ve seen recipes for zucchini lasagna and it never sounded very exciting to me, but I love vegetables and want to find new ways to use them in meals other than the usual sautéed or steamed side dishes.

Ricotta ingredients

Now, in early summer when our vegetables start maturing, I usually end up with one of this, one of that, an undersized other—not enough for a complete meal’s side dish.

A recipe for homemade ricotta cheese I found through Pinterest promised to make the best tasting ricotta in about 15 minutes. That caught my attention—and imagination. Thinking back on one of my favorite vegetable pasta dishes, Pasta Primavera, I came up with my own vegetable lasagna dish that totally knocked my socks off! Not only was it one of the best lasagnas I’ve ever had, but it was easy!

I already had most of the vegetables I needed. After a quick trip to Whole Foods I also had ricotta ingredients, pasta sauce, mozzarella.

Try it, you’ll like it!

I found a new 365 pasta sauce I’d not seen before—Sun Dried Tomato & Basil. That turned out to be a very fortuitous choice! I have to say I LOVE this sauce. It’s so good that it tastes great cold, right out of the jar. I think it would be a fantastic dip for pizza-dough breadsticks or as a quick and easy bruschetta. It has incredible flavor, thick sauce and lots of chunks of tomato. Belissimo!

I made a double recipe of ricotta and yes, it was so quick and easy that I don’t know why I haven’t tried that before. It’s extremely fresh tasting, sweet and delicious!

I julienned the vegetables, sautéed them in olive oil until they were only slightly softened and then set up my assembly line on the kitchen island: sauce, raw zucchini “noodles”, ricotta mix, shredded mozzarella. I used an 8×8 Pyrex baking dish. I layered my ingredients, baked at 350° for about 45 minutes and voila, pulled the bubbling beauty from the oven.


The vegetables were perfectly al dente, the ricotta sweet and rich, the sauce an enticing combination of flavor and texture. My guest even spontaneously commented on how delicious and satisfying this meal turned out to be. It was SO good that I had cold leftovers for breakfast the following two mornings.

And as for my son? I had actually made this dish for him. But between his night job at Noodles & Company and spare time spent with his girlfriend, he didn’t have a chance to even try it. One of life’s little ironies!

Garden Harvest Vegetable Lasagna

I made an 8x8 Pyrex baking dish full from the recipe below and cut it into 6 good-sized pieces. I love to serve this with a nice salad and some bread, whether traditional or keto.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 6 servings


Vegetable Prep

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2-3 cups sliced or julienned vegetables of your choice Onions, mushrooms, squash, carrots, peppers, etc.

Ricotta Prep

  • 2 cups ricotta
  • 1 raw egg
  • 1 tsp Dried oregano and parsley
  • salt, pepper, garlic to taste

The rest

  • 2 zucchini (noodle substitute) sliced lengthwise, 1/4" or less thick
  • 2 cups pasta sauce of your choosing 365 Brand Sun Dried Tomato & Basil is highly recommended
  • 2-3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Red wine Not for the recipe, but for you. Well, ok, you can add some to the sauce if you want. 🙂


  • Sauté your vegetables of choice in the olive oil. When limp, add the pasta sauce.
  • Mix together ricotta, egg and seasonings.
  • Add some sauce to the bottom of your baking dish. Put down a layer of zucchini, a layer of the ricotta mix, sauce and then mozzarella. Repeat until you run out of ingredients.
  • Bake at 350° until the lasagna is bubbling and the top layer of mozzarella is browned, about 45 minutes.

More soup! This time it’s Beefed Up (or not) Mushroom Barley

Not very pretty, but it will taste great, trust me!

When we have leftover steak (or chicken, turkey or pork) I tend to freeze it rather than reheat for not-so-exciting leftovers. Then later on I use it for soup, stew or green chili. Today I cleaned out the freezer and found a nice piece of frozen steak. It was marinated in one of my favorite concoctions and so decided that mushroom barley soup with beef would be on tonight’s menu.

I once read that you could call yourself a gourmet cook if you can make a delicious and satisfying meal from whatever you have on hand — no trips to the grocery store. Another confession. I am now so old (and have been cooking for most of my life) that I know what tastes good together.

My typical soup/stew base of carrots, onion, celery and garlic.

But I do love creating something new from what’s available. I think Thomas Edison would have liked me. [Little known fact: he really didn’t invent anything, but he made other people’s ideas better]. And I’m starting to wonder if this blog is really about urban farming, or simply food. Food to grow, food to cook, food to eat. Am I a foodie or an urban farmer? I think they just go together naturally. Whatever you call me, here’s the recipe.

Mushroom Barley Soup

You can make this with out without the beef. Either way it is hearty, delicious and nutritious!
Course: Soup
Cuisine: American
Keyword: mushroom barley soup


  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil

Soup Base Ingredients

  • One chopped onion, 2-3 chopped carrots, 2 chopped celery stalks, 1-2 pressed garlic cloves

Other Ingredients

  • 1/-2 to 1 lb chopped leftover or fresh steak optional
  • 4-6 oz sliced mushrooms
  • 1/2 c pearled barley
  • parsley, bay leaf, oregano optional
  • 1/2 c sherry or red wine optional
  • 4-8 cups stock (beef or vegetable) Amount depends on how much soup you want.


  • If you are using raw beef, sauté cut up meat in olive oil. If you are using cooked beef, you can sauté it with base vegetables. When the vegetables soften, you can add the stock.
  • Add the barley and cook for 20-30 minutes, until they soften. Add mushrooms, wine, herbs and cook for another 10-15 minutes.
  • Serve with some good crusty buttered bread. Yum!