Summer work and lasagna

Hello blogging world. I’m back for real this time.

What have you been doing?

I’m glad you asked. First, I graduated from Ohio University. After four years of higher education, incubated in the world of Nellie Bly, Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite I’ve been shoved—granted, with a lavish ceremony—out on my butt by the academic world.

Fortunately I found an internship this summer writing for The Chautauquan Daily. Published six days a week, the Daily is the newspaper for the Chautauqua Institution. As one of the religion reporters I am in charge of covering the 2 p.m. Interfaith Lecture Series, the Abrahamic Program for Young Adults and The Mystic Heart Program.

Before this internship I did not know what the Chautauqua Institution was or any of its history. Now I can say that I have tasted the Chautauqua Kool-Aid and it is so refreshing. I cannot describe what is so frequently called “the Chautauqua experience.” It really is something you have to participate and experience for yourself.

IMG_0149Boats on Chautauqua Lake at sunset.

The 2 p.m. Interfaith Lecture Series is, in a word, phenomenal. I have written about Daisy Khan, Rev. Otis Moss III, Jonathan Granoff, Rev. Jim Wallis, Ambassador Sergio Duarte, Rev. Tyler Wigg-Stevenson, Hanan Ashrawi and Galia Golan. There are, and will be, many more amazing and intriguing people.

This past week’s lecture theme was “Nuclear Disarmament.” Although the topic was morbid it did make me reflect on how little it is discussed in the national media. Yes articles appear in The New York Times and The Washington Post, but on the whole the issue is relegated to the sidelines to make way for flashier and bloodier news.

Now that I’ve thoroughly depressed you, I am going to abruptly change the subject: LASAGNA!

My seventh grade English teacher was wrong, I write awesome transitions. (Note to any potential employers: One will never find “lasagna” as a transition in any copy I will produce for you, unless of course I happen to be covering a lasagna competition or something similar.)

The first week in Chautauqua—which will from now on be abbreviated as CHQ because of the awkward number of vowels—I did not much feel like cooking. Suddenly in week two the urge to cook overwhelmed me. If you need a reference point, it was something akin to Dr. Jekyll turning into Mr. Hyde but instead I turned into some sort of amalgamation of Rachael Ray and Ina Garten. I am such a fan girl of those two lovely ladies, I once contemplated driving four hours to have Ina autograph one (or all four) of her cookbooks that I own. Then gas prices hit $3.00+ and I had to settle for reruns of her show on Food Network.

Anyway, this Rachael-Ina person took over the kitchen and she could only think of one thing: lasagna. When I cook I tend to get into what I like to call “Mom mode.” When I cook I want to feed everybody within earshot. I love that feminism happened—I love my vote and the right to my own body—but I also really enjoy cooking for others. That does not mean I will be content to be in the kitchen 24/7/365. Ladies, we are going to be in that big White House on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue soon enough!

Sorry my inner suffragette just comes out sometimes. Back to the food.

I took this recipe from AllRecipes.com. This is a veggie lasagna because some of my dorm-mates do not eat meat. Oh, for future reference I’ve started eating meat again on occasion but that’s another delicious story.

You can find the original recipe through the link above. The recipe below includes my slight alterations and substitutions.

Hearty Vegetable Lasagna (adapted from AllRecipes’ user Sue)

IMG_0051This was awesome.

Ingredients:

·  1 (9 oz) package no-cook lasagna noodles (I used Barilla Lasagne “flat noodles,” but you can also use regular lasagna noodles and make them according to the directions on the box.)

·  1 medium zucchini, sliced

·  2 (8 oz) packages of mushrooms, pre-sliced (You can slice your own, this was just for convenience.)

·  ¾ cup green bell pepper, chopped (Who measures this? Just cut up a whole pepper and be done with it. If you have people who don’t like pepper just cut it in strips that are easy to pick out.)

·  ¾ cup onion, chopped (If you love onions like I do, add more.)

·  3 cloves garlic, minced

·  2 tablespoons vegetable oil

·  2 (26 oz) jars pasta sauce (I think it needs it. I used Wal-Mart brand marinara sauce and it was fine. You can always doctor up the store brand sauces with dried herbs and spices to make it taste more like the name brands.)

·  1 teaspoon dried basil

·  1 (12 oz) container cream cheese (Use the low-fat if you must but remember that real women have curves and you probably won’t be eating entire pan solo.)

·  2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

·  2 eggs

·  ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese (Confession: I used the stuff from the green can. Still came out awesome.)

Method

1. In a large saucepan cook mushrooms, green pepper, zucchini, onion and garlic in the oil until slightly tender. If you are using traditional lasagna noodles prepare them according to the directions on the box and drain them well.

2.  In a large bowl combine the cream cheese, about 1 cup of mozzarella cheese and the eggs. This is optional but I added about ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper.

3.  In a lightly greased 9x13x2 baking pan, put down a layer of sauce, noodles, veggie mixture and cheese mixture. Continue alternating the layers until the either the pan is full or you run out of things to layer—it takes about 3 or 4 layers. On the top put a final layer of noodles over everything. Top that with sauce, the other cup of the mozzarella cheese and the parmesan cheese. Please be generous with the sauce, lasagna should be saucy.

4.  Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Bake uncovered for 40 minutes. Let stand about 10 minutes before serving.


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