Kale & Italian Sausage Lasagna

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I seldom make lasagna. How seldom was brought home to me when I was washing out my food storage bins and discovered that my lasagna was past its expiration date. I had not realized pasta had an expiration date, so there you have it. That poor box of lasagna has been dragged through two moves and I still had not emptied it, so I decided to finish it off and actually make a pan of lasagna. Now, I didn’t happen to have ricotta or mozzarella on hand since I seldom buy specialty cheese as I don’t use them quickly enough and they spoil. So, I made do with substitutes that made a tasty but totally inauthentic lasagna.

But let’s work through it. First I started water boiling. When it began a rolling boil I added eight pieces of lasagna pasta. I also added 3 pieces of Italian Sausage right out of the freezer. I figured why dirty two pans…and if anything the sausage might add some flavor to the pasta.

I got out a rectangular baking dish that was about as wide as 2.5 pieces of lasagna and just a bit shorter than the pasta. I laid down three pieces of lasagna, the middle one overlapping the two outer pieces. I then thinly sliced one of the pieces of Italian sausage and laid it down over the pasta. Taking about 1/2 cup of cream cheese, I dotted cream cheese in the spaces between the sausage. I then layered finely chopped kale on top. I used one full stalk, removed the ribs, and then chopped the kale.

Then I laid down two more strips of lasagna for another layer. I took the other two Italian sausages and  removing the skins, I chopped them up in a bowl and added 1 14.5 oz can of chopped tomatoes with jalapeños. I would have used fresh but didn’t happen to have any on hand. I mixed the sausage and tomatoes together and layered them on the pasta. On top of that I added a layer of black beans from a can, thoroughly rinsed in cold water.On top of that I added some sour cream which made a nice bed for the next layer of kale – using one more more stalk of kale finely chopped. I added a final layer of pasta and baked until done in a 350° oven. When it was done, I sprinkled some parmesan and some pepper jack cheese on top and broiled for just a few minutes to brown the cheese.

So, this made 12 servings which is why I don’t make lasagna very much. Luckily my friend came over and had some, too. It was delicious and easy to make and really did a good job of cleaning out some remnants in my fridge (cream cheese and sour cream). It was not too spicy, rich and flavorful.

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Pumpkin & Kale Soup with Italian Sausage

Pumpkin Kale Soup

 

I love caldo verde and have made it time and time again. However, when I was thinking of what to make for lunch, I focused on using a small pumpkin that had been taking up space in my vegetable basket for two weeks now. I cut it in half and scooped out the insides, intent on saving the seeds to roast. I washed them and set them aside to drain so they would be dry for roasting.

I peeled the pumpkin and cut it up into 1 inch cubes. This gave me about twice what I needed for the soup, so I put half in a plastic bag and stored in the fridge, leaving the remain 3 cups of pumpkin for the soup.

I chopped 1/2 of a small onion and two garlic cloves. Heating 1 TBSP of olive oil on medium low (3 on a 10 scale electric range), I added the onions and garlic, some salt and pepper, and let them sweat for 15 minutes or so until meltingly tender. I wanted rich layers of flavor because I would not be added commercial broth and sweating the onions would bring out maximum flavor. I then added 2 Italian sausages and let them brown. Bringing the heat up to medium, I added enough water to cover the sausages with about an inch of water above them. I put the lid on the kettle and let them simmer for about 20 minutes or so.

Now I spread the pumpkin seeds on a baking dish and sprinkled them with olive oil, salt and paprika, stirring lightly to spread the mixture over all the seed. I put the pan in the oven at 320° F and let them roast.

When the sausages were done and the broth had a nice, spicy flavor, I removed the sausages and cut them into 1 inch pieces and put them back in the pan. Then I added the 3 cups of pumpkin chunks. I let them cook on medium until tender.

Meanwhile. I chopped up two cups of fresh kale, removing the stems and rolling the kale into a pipe shape so I could slice it in a thin chiffonade. I added the kale and let cook about 15-20 minutes until done. By now, the pumpkin seeds were roasted and ready to serve as garnish. This made lots of seeds that I set aside for later.

The sausage is spicy enough that the soup just needs salt and pepper to bring out the flavor of the broth. It’s spicy, hearty and delicious. The pumpkin makes this a very different soup, Less creamy, sweeter, more fragrant. It still has many layers of flavor and texture and the pumpkin seeds add a nice crunch and smokiness. Makes 4 large servings.

 

Italian Sausage, Brussels Sprouts with Mustard Sauce

Italian Sausage, Brussels Sprouts with Mustard Sauce

Heat 1 TBSP of olive oil. Slice two 1/4 inch slices off a yellow onion and dice small. Mince one clove of garlic. Add onion and garlic, salt and pepper to oil and saute until tender. Add 1 Italian Sausage sliced into 1/2 pieces and cook well. Meanwhile, cut the stems off 12 brussels sprouts and quarter them. Add them to the mix with 1/4 cup of water, 1 TBSP of mustard and cover to steam. When sprouts are tender, it’s done.

The heat from the sausage and the mustard gives this a spicy flavor that will wake you up!