Monthly Archives: October 2012

Vegetarian Pesto Lasagna

The crisp autumn wind that blew in last week made me want to cook comfort food. However, since we are heading to Southeast Asia for the first time next weekend, my main mission has been to cook meals to boost our immune systems (a tip I read for combatting tummy troubles while traveling in a new region). So while everyone knows I’d prefer a nice lamb bolognese or beef chili, I’m here to prove I can cook vegetarian meals that fill the “comfort” quota as well.

I settled on a roasted vegetable pesto lasagna. This was a bit of a process, but since I’d rather spend more time and do less dishes, I roasted the veggies separately. If you have a big pan or a dishwasher, it would be easy to throw them all in together, effectively cutting the cooking time down. Totally up to you. Me? I began roasting the red peppers and mushrooms.

roasted red peppers, roasted vegetable lasagna, vegetarian, pesto lasagna, lea craft spencer, lea spencer

Roast red peppers at 500 for 20-30 min.

mushrooms, roasted vegetable lasagna, vegetarian, pesto lasagna, lea craft spencer, lea spencer

Roast mushrooms at 475 for 10-15 min.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The mushrooms and red peppers supposedly need to be heated at a higher temperature than the rest of the vegetables I chose, although I maintain that throwing them all in one pan together would work just as well. If they’re a little undercooked, that’s okay, because everything will go back into the oven at the end.

zucchini, roasted cheery tomatoes, onions, roasted garlic, roasted vegetable lasagna, vegetarian, pesto lasagna, lea craft spencer, lea spencer

Roast other veggies at 400 for 20 min.

whole wheat lasagna, roasted vegetable lasagna, vegetarian, pesto lasagna, lea craft spencer, lea spencer

Boil the lasagna for 10 min

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In addition to mushrooms and red peppers, I roasted zucchini, cherry tomatoes, red onions and garlic. I also went with a whole wheat lasagna because that’s what we had in the house; whatever type of lasagna tickles your fancy will work just fine. Next up, the pesto:

creamy pesto, roasted vegetable lasagna, vegetarian, pesto lasagna, lea craft spencer, lea spencer

Basil, parmesan, walnuts, garlic, olive oil

creamy pesto, roasted vegetable lasagna, vegetarian, pesto lasagna, lea craft spencer, lea spencer

Then mix and add cream until smooth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I know a lot of people make pesto with pine nuts, but I’ve seen it done many time with walnuts, which are healthier and (again) what I had lying around the house. So I processed the basil leaves with the parmesan, walnuts, olive oil and garlic, then added cream until it was smooth.

(In retrospect, I would have added more salt to the pesto itself instead of just seasoning the veggies as I built the lasagna, but hindsight is 20/20, no?)

roasted vegetable lasagna, vegetarian, pesto lasagna, lea craft spencer, lea spencer

Then start building the lasagna.

After I chopped up all the veggies and mixed them together, I built the lasagna like this: pesto, pasta, veggies, pasta, pesto, veggies, pasta, pesto, mozzarella/parmesan. I read a lot of recipes that included ricotta cheese, but since I was using creamy pesto, I skipped that step. I’d rather have twice the mozzarella if we’re being honest. And I did:

roasted vegetable lasagna, vegetarian, pesto lasagna, lea craft spencer, lea spencer

Top with fresh mozzarella and parmesan.

roasted vegetable lasagna, vegetarian, pesto lasagna, lea craft spencer, lea spencer

Then into a 375 oven until cheese is bubbly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I cracked a little pepper, threw a little salt, then popped my super-sexy tin foil lasagna pan into the oven at 375 until the cheese began to bubble bubble. This dish made a great little dinner for me, plus lunch for both me and mi amor the next day.

roasted vegetable lasagna, arugula salad, creamy pesto, vegetarian, pesto lasagna

Served here with an arugula salad.

Healthy? Check. Comforting? Check. Delicious? Double check. Traveller’s tummy? Bring it on, Thailand; we’re ready. POP POP.

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What makes us happy?

Happiness Project, Happy, Book, Documentary, Lea SpencerI’ve been reading this book, The Happiness Project, which tells the story of a woman spending one year trying to live a happier life. Being a historian by trade, the author spends much of this year researching how difference philosophers and religions view happiness as well as how different cultures and classes view it.

I’m only half way through the book, but having this concept of happiness on my mind whilst surfing the Netflix for a nice documentary to indulge in last night, I stumbled upon Happy, which took viewers on a trip around the world to find out what makes people happy. Sold.

It explored areas like the Louisiana bayou, the slums of Kolkata, the towers of Tokyo and the villages of Namibia. The study of happiness is a segment of psychology that has only recently become a serious area of academia. Researchers have determined that most humans are born with a general range of happiness that they exist in. DNA is supposed to make up 50% of one’s range, while 40% is “intentional activities” or things one chooses to do. Only 10% (if you can believe it) is the circumstances in which one lives, or those things one doesn’t control (where one is born, to whom and with what advantages).

This “happiness measure” also broke down goals into two categories: intrinsic and extrinsic. In this case, intrinsic included “personal growth” “close relationships” and “contributing to the world,” while extrinsic included “money” “image” and “status.” No shocker here: the people who lived their lives in pursuit of intrinsic goals reported more happiness than those who lived in pursuit of extrinsic ones.

Happy, Happiness Project, Lea Spencer, Lea Craft Spencer, Documentary

This isn’t to say that money isn’t important. According to the film, people in the US who earned $5,000 a year reported much less happiness than those who earned $50,000, but people who earned $50,000,000 reported no more happiness than those earning $50,000. So money does influence happiness insofar as it buys the necessities of life and security of future, but once those needs have been met, earning more in terms of material possessions didn’t bring people more happiness.

So what does bring people happiness? Both the film and book reported that the happiest of people all maintain a close support system of friends and family. I suppose it’s true that we aren’t meant to live our lives alone. The film also found that people who live for something bigger than themselves reported more happiness more often. For some religion fills this need, for others it’s volunteering and for some people I imagine their jobs bring them this satisfaction.

Finally, and most interestingly to me, any activity that puts you “in the zone,” so to speak, initiates the flow of dopamine in your brain, which assists in happiness. For some people this is exercise, for some people it’s gardening, for some lucky people it’s their jobs, but finding that activity for yourself and doing it a lot proved paramount. What’s your happiness activity?

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Top Five Memes!

As a woman in the social media realm, I have embraced Pinterest like I would a child who consumes all of my time, but makes me laugh. Below are five memes I did NOT make and am taking no credit for, but that literally made me EL-OH-EL. Which do you like best?

lea spencer, meme, lea craft spencer, funny, pinterest

lea spencer, meme, lea craft spencer, funny, pinterest

lea spencer, lea craft spencer, pinterest, funny, meme

lea spencer, meme, lea craft spencer, pinterest, funny

lea spencer, meme, lea craft spencer, pinterest, funny

If none of these tickled your funny bone, please leave me a link to one that does! I could always use a good laugh. No matter what’s going on in life, a little laughter always helps 🙂

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