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Spinach and zucchini lasagne rollups

We grill vegetables all the time on our outside grill. They make a wonderful accompaniment to salmon, chicken, and beef. I always cook extra vegetables, thinking that I can use them in casseroles, fried rice, and other meals. Dave likes grilled vegetables, but he's not exactly keen on meals made entirely from vegetables.

Conversation between me and Dave :

Dave: What's for dinner?

Libby: I'm going to take those grilled vegetables we had last night, and put them in some pasta.

Dave: Make sure you put in lots of garlic. And meat.

Libby: Garlic, yes.  Meat, no.  There's plenty of protein already.  You don't need meat with this.

Dave (hyperventilating): No meat? For a minute there, I thought we were going to have a NICE meal, but now, you say no MEAT?

Libby: You're going to love's going to be so good.

Dave: I think I might be getting a migraine. I need to lay down.

My husband, the carnivore...he's a Paleolithic caveman, for sure.

So, that's what we had for dinner last night...pasta with leftover grilled vegetables. Don't worry, just because Dave didn't initially welcome this dish with open arms. Frankly, he doesn't welcome ANY meal with open arms unless it consists entirely of bacon. Please, ignore Dave's dire prognostications concerning the meal's awfulness, because these lasagna rollups were delicious. Dave ate it, AND he went back for seconds. He liked this meal, although I doubt he'll ever admit it. I suspect when I make this again, I might have to sprinkle some bacon on top, just to trick Dave into thinking that these rollups are loaded with meat. The fact is that they are so hearty, you'll never know that they are vegetarian.

Lasagne in pan

This recipe goes together easily, and is a perfect weektime meal. If you don't have leftover grilled vegetables on hand, then slice a small zucchini, and saute it for a few minutes in some olive oil. Or, just cook the zucchini in the microwave with a little water.

Spinach and zucchini lasagna roll-ups 

water, for boiling

6 sheets uncooked lasagne pasta

5 tablespoons butter

3 garlic cloves, minced

3 tablespoons flour

1 3/4 cup 1% milk

pinch red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon Herbs de Provence

salt and pepper, to taste

2 cups grated mozzarella divided

1 cup low fat cottage cheese

1 cup chopped grilled zucchini and yellow squash (or cooked vegetables of your choice)

2 cups coarsely chopped spinach

In a large pot, bring about 4 quarts water to boil. Add the pasta and cook, according to package directions (about 11 minutes). Drain and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.

Meanwhile, make a white sauce by placing  the 5 tablespoons butter in a medium-sized pot over low heat. Melt the butter, then add 3 garlic cloves and sauté briefly. Whisk in 3 tablespoons flour. Cook and stir until the mixture foams. Quickly whisk in the 1 3/4 cups milk. Turn heat to medium-low, and cook, whisking gently, for about 6 minutes, until mixture is thickened. Stir in the red pepper flakes, Herbs de Provence, and the salt and pepper. Reduce heat to warm/simmer, and stir occasionally.

In a separate bowl, combine 1 cup of the grated mozzarella andall of the cottage cheese. Set aside.

Lay the cooked lasagna pasta strips on a cutting board. Onto each piece of pasta, evenly layer on the cottage cheese and mozzarella mixture, then top it with the chopped zucchini/yellow squash mixture. Evenly sprinkle over the chopped spinach. Start at the end of each pasta strip, gently roll the pasta, pushing in any vegetables that fall out.  Roll all of the pasta strips. 

Place the pasta rolls into a greased 11" X 7" pan. Top with 1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese. Pour over the white sauce. Top with the remaining 1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese.

Place into the oven, and cook for 25 minutes until bubbly, and slightly brown on top. Serves 4-6.


Easy apple cake, for when you're too busy to cook

We love desserts, but lack the time to make them…thank goodness, because if we had the time to make desserts as often as we wanted, we’d probably be more than a little overweight.  As it is, we find the time about once a week to stir together something delicious to satisfy our sweet tooth.  Usually it’s fruit-based.  Given our busy schedules and our preference for healthy and easy cooking, most of our recipes are far different than what you’ll find in the average cookbook.  We put together our own recipes, usually using our extensive recipe collection for ideas.  This apple cake is inspired by an old family recipe.  We cut down the sugar, and substituted some wheat germ for a little of the flour.  We also changed the steps to make it easier to put together.   

Use any kind of apple you want in this cake.  Any kind will work.  We keep a big basket of apples on our counter, and so what I grabbed were a few small granny smith apples, a pink lady, and a couple of galas.  This is the perfect recipe for apples that are slightly soft, and losing their crispness.  There’s a sweet crunchy topping that covers the top.  Although this topping is our favorite, we can also tell you that it is NOT REQUIRED.  If you feel like living healthier, then leave off this buttery sugar concoction.  You’ll save yourself a few calories (but we can tell you that it does indeed taste pretty good if you leave it on). 

 Easy apple cake 

This is a delicious middle of the week dessert, and it goes together quickly.

Easy apple cake 

2/3 cup butter, at room temperature

3 eggs

½ cup brown sugar

½ cup white sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 ½ cups milk (we used cream this time, because that’s what we had on hand)

2 cups flour

½ cup wheat germ

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon cinnamon

4 ½ cups apples, peeled, cored, and chopped (this is about 6 small apples)

½ cup chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts, or sunflower seeds)

2 teaspoons cinnamon

½ cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350-degrees Fahrenheit.  Grease an 11 X 7 inch pan (or something close enough). 

In a large bowl, stir together the 2/3 cup butter, eggs, ½ cup brown sugar, ½ cup white sugar, and the vanilla.  Stir in the milk.  On top of the mixture, dump the flour, wheat germ, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and the 1 teaspoon cinnamon.  Stir together all at once, until just well combined.  Fold in the chopped apples and nuts.

Pour into the prepared pan. 

Stir together the 2 teaspoons cinnamon, ½ cup brown sugar, and the 2 tablespoons butter.  Use your fingers to dot this mixture evenly over the top of the cake. 

Place in the oven, and bake for 1 hour, until a knife inserted in center comes out clean.  

Protecting your property from West Nile

Libby and DaveWe live on a small farm just south of Houston, Texas.  Texas is having its worst year ever for West Nile, and we naturally have been concerned.  Carried by infected mosquitoes, West Nile is transmitted from mosquitos to certain types of birds, and then on to humans and some types of livestock.

For humans, the symptoms of West Nile may be unnoticeable.  Or, the infection may be very serious indeed.  West Nile has been known to cause death, and is to be taken very seriously.

Although the majority of humans who contract West Nile will have no symptoms at all, about 20% will become seriously ill.  Symptoms are flu-like, and include fever, muscle or joint pain, headache, nausea, vomiting, fever, fatigue, and diarrhea.  More severe cases may cause West Nile Meningitis, which could lead to paralysis, coma, and death.

You can imagine Dave’s and my concern when we learned that several cases of West Nile have been found in our community.  Knowing that mosquitoes breed in bodies of standing water, we became even more vigilant about routinely emptying birdbaths and other outside water containers.

Standing water, such as that which is present on the water’s edge of this pond, can attract mosquitoes. 

Our large duck pond was of particular concern, until we discovered that the many small fish and minnows eat whatever mosquito larvae are present in the pond.

Duck pond
Fortunately, bigger bodies of water such as this duck pond, support a large minnow population, which eat any mosquito larvae that are present. 

The dogs’ outside water bowl is emptied every evening, and then re-filled in the morning.  Leaf litter and standing water are cleared out, and the cattle water trough that Dave has appropriated as his personal cooling tank is routinely emptied.  On our outside patio, we’re on the alert for poorly draining plant pots…Dave found a plant last week with a 2-inch pool of water on the surface.

Being redheads, Dave and I both long been very careful about protecting ourselves from the sun.  It turns out that the long sleeved shirts, hats, and long pants that we’ve used to prevent sunburn are also mostly good for protecting against mosquitoes.  We also stay inside during mosquito peak biting times (dawn and early evening).  These measures have mostly kept us mosquito-free this season, although I (Libby) did experience a very bad mosquito attack when I decided to spend several hours in the hammock one afternoon.

Mosquitoes are heaviest at dawn and dusk, so plan your outdoor activity (such as reading in a hammock) in the early afternoon. 

Fortunately, this little escapade yielded nothing more than 50-60 mosquito bites (mostly on my head) and I didn’t come down with anything more serious than embarrassment.

Weather here in our area of Texas is getting a little cooler, and our natural tendency is to open the windows and doors and ventilate.  During the summer months, we hover inside under air conditioning (it’s the only way to survive in the 100-degree-plus summertime temperatures), but in the fall, we enjoy the outdoor breezes and cooler temperatures.  Dave and I are spending a few hours this next weekend, repairing window screens (those darn cats), and checking to be sure that our house is ready for fall.

Even if West Nile’s not in your community, it still makes sense to behave sensibly outdoors, wearing appropriate attire to protect against mosquito bites.  And take the time to repair window screens and clean out water containers and other places where mosquitoes could potentially breed.  Do what you can to make mosquitoes unwelcome on your property.

Do what you can to make your property inhospitable to mosquitoes, allowing you to comfortably enjoy the outdoors.

Do you have any techniques or tips for controlling mosquito infestations on your own property?  Care to share something that has worked for you?