Warm Potato Salad with Arugula

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Pete is an experienced cross-country skier and racer who loves the sport as much as I love running. He’s had a blast skiing races when it was cold, but not bitter cold, and been miserable during a race or two with double digit below zero temps.

None of my marathons have been run in those temperatures, but I have run half marathons and 10k races in sub-zero temps and it certainly takes a lot of the fun out of the experience, so I can totally relate to Pete stressing about Saturday morning’s upcoming Vasaloppet USA ski race. The overnight low is projected to be -17 F.

A few years back, Pete skied a 35k race when it was -14 at the start and still below zero when he crossed the finish line. Afterwards he said never again in that kind of cold—it just wasn’t fun. This time, he’s skiing a 40k race, so he’s going to be out there for hours and he’s questioning whether he should just skip the race.

Knowing the pressure he’s feeling, plus the fact that Pete loves potatoes, I decided to make a potato-centric supper tonight because what eases stress more than a little comfort food? And what’s more comforting to a potato-lover than a warm potato salad?

Knowing what I had on hand, a little Googling led me to this Food & Wine recipe. I added some Trader Joe’s Italian Sausage-less Sausage as a protein to make a full meal, and voilà, no one’s even thinking about Saturday, at least for now. Enjoy!
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Warm Potato Salad with Arugula

Slightly adapted from Paul Virant’s Food & Wine Recipe

1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, scrubbed

3 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

Salt

Freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon whole grain Dijon mustard or other grainy mustard

2 1/4 teaspoons sherry vinegar

1/2 small sweet onion, thinly sliced (1 cup)

2-3 handfuls baby arugula

A couple servings of cooked veggie sausage or your protein of choice

Preheat the oven to 425°. Cut the potatoes into 1/2-inch wedges. Scatter the potato wedges on 1 large rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with 1 1/2 tablespoons of the olive oil and toss until coated. Season with salt and pepper and cook for about 25 minutes, until browned and crisp, tossing again about halfway through the cooking time for evening browing.

In a small bowl, whisk the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil with the mustard and vinegar and season with salt and pepper. In a large bowl, toss the potatoes with the onion and arugula. Top with the dressing, toss again and serve right away. Serves 4-6 as a side and 2-4 as a main course.

Spicy Tortilla Soup

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Sometimes when paging through a not-so-new-to-me cookbook, I’ll stumble across a recipe that sounds so amazingly good it’s hard to believe I haven’t made it before. This is especially surprising when it’s a vegetarian version of a dish that has always sounded tempting on restaurant menus, but wasn’t meatless.

Going through the fabulous Robin Asbell’s Big Vegan, a collection of over 350 recipes chock full of vegan deliciousness, which I’ve had for several years, Tortilla Soup with Mock Duck and Chipotles caught my attention. Chicken tortilla soup started appearing on restaurant menus about the time I became a vegetarian so I’ve never had it. After reading this meatless recipe the other day, it seemed reminiscent of those restaurant versions, so I had to try it and the timing was perfect—just before Super Bowl Sunday—perfect game day fare! Hearty, healthy (but tastes sinful), and oh so yummy. Double or triple the recipe for a Super Bowl crowd. Enjoy!
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Spicy Tortilla Soup

Slightly adapted from Robin Asbell’s Big Vegan 

Six 6-inch corn tortillas

1 tablespoon grapeseed oil

1 ¼ teaspoon salt, divided

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

1 10-ounce can mock duck, torn into small bite-sized pieces

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 pinch ground cloves

1 quart vegetable stock, homemade if you’ve got it

1 small sweet potato, cubed

1/3 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained

1 tablespoon chipotle chili in spicy adobo sauce

1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican

Garnishes:
Tortilla strips

1 lime, cut into wedges for serving

Sliced or diced ripe avocado

Sliced scallions

Shredded cheddar cheese, optional

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Stack the tortillas and slice them into ¼ inch wide strips. Place the tortilla strips in a medium bowl and drizzle with the grapeseed oil. Sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon salt and toss until tortilla strips are evenly coated with oil and salt. Place strips on a large baking sheet and spread into a single layer.

Bake, stirring every 5 minutes, until the strips are crisp, about 15-20 minutes. Remove strips to a wire rack to cool.

Meanwhile, in a stockpot, heat the olive oil over high heat. Add the onion and lower the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add the mock duck, garlic, cumin and cloves. Stir and let cook for 2-3 more minutes.

Add the stock, sweet potato, quinoa, chipotle and oregano. Cover and bring to a boil. Add 1 teaspoon of salt (if using homemade stock with no salt) or ½ teaspoon of salt if using salted stock. Reduce the soup to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes, until the quinoa is curled and sweet potato is tender.

Ladle hot soup into bowls and top each with tortilla strips, avocado, scallions and cheddar. Squeeze lime juice, to taste, over soup. Makes about 4 servings.

Spicy Giardiniera

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In the seemingly endless world of condiments, I have found yet another to obsess about. Giardiniera (pronounced jar-deen-YAIR-uh, Italian for “from the garden”), is a spicy, pickled mélange of vegetables, marinated in a zesty cocktail of oil, vinegar, herbs & spices and it’s my new “must have” in the refrigerator.

What sparked my recent obsession is a pizza enjoyed at a little restaurant in the tiny burg of Willernie, Minnesota, which is surrounded on all sides by another small town, Mahtomedi. Willernie’s quaint main street is home to Roma Restaurant and Wine Bar,  a cozy Italian place with authentic food and atmosphere, plus there’s a quality craft beer list to please Pete and generous wine pours to please you-know-who.

Appropriately, the pizza I referred to is a wood-fired beauty called The Giardiniera, comprised of marinara, onions, mushrooms, peppers, olives, roma tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and the star of the show, spicy giardiniera.

Shortly after I had this pizza for the first time, I saw a recipe for giardiniera on New York Times Cooking, one of my go-to sources for recipes that always work. And of course, me being me, I had already thought, “I must make some!” Great timing, dontcha think?

The recipe is easy, adaptable, and delicious! The only hard part is waiting a few days for the flavors to meld and mellow a tad. You can vary the veggies and level of spiciness (next time I think I’ll add onions) and it keeps for weeks in the fridge. Serve as an addition to sandwiches, on top a vegan Caesar salad, as part of an antipasto platter, or on pizza (yes, please!). Enjoy!
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Giardiniera

Slightly adapted from this New York Times recipe by Cathy Barrow
If, like me, you end up with extra veggies, make a little extra dressing in a pint jar and add the vegetables

4 serrano peppers, thinly sliced, with seeds removed

2 red bell peppers, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

3 celery ribs, sliced or julienned

3 carrots, sliced or julienned

1 medium head cauliflower, cut into small florets

½ cup kosher salt

2 cloves garlic, slivered

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

½ teaspoon celery seeds

1 teaspoon crushed black peppercorns

1 cup white vinegar

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

½ cup grapeseed or canola oil

In a large bowl, using your hands, mix the vegetables and salt until well combined. Cover the vegetables with water. Cover the bowl and allow the mixture to sit, unrefrigerated, for 8 to 12 hours.

Drain the vegetables in a colander and rinse thoroughly. Sterilize 2 quart-size glass jars, with lids, in the dishwasher or by submerging them in boiling water for 10 minutes.

In one sterilized jar, combine the garlic and all the herbs and spices; add the vinegar and oil and shake well to emulsify the dressing. Pour half the dressing into the other jar.

Pack the vegetables into the jars. If vegetables are not completely coated, make and add more dressing. Screw lids onto jars and refrigerate. Allow the mixture to mellow for a couple of days before serving. Fills two quart jars (I ended up with extra veggies, so I made a little extra dressing in a pint jar and add the vegetables).

Cranberry Lime White Chocolate Tart

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In a serendipitous turn of events, I’m posting a Valentine’s Day dessert recipe an entire month early. But by no means should this delightfully refreshing tart be reserved for the February holiday—it’s appropriate any time.

This all started when a co-worker with a January birthday shared her preference for office birthday party treats as either “a chocolate peanut butter combination or something with fruit.” I debated making a decadent peanut butter cup cheesecake, but for a mid-morning party, that might be a little too rich. Then a recipe made years ago came to mind—a somewhat light tart with fruit in two forms, fresh lime curd and cranberries. Plus almonds are in the crust, so with the incorporation of cranberries, this should qualify as super food, am I right!?!

Decision made, and completely certain I owned the called for 11-inch tart pan with removable bottom (after all, I’ve made this before!), my search for it began. Even though it’s been almost 8 years since I last moved, there are a few things still in boxes and it had to be there if not in my kitchen. After digging through boxes several times with no luck, and not enough time to order one (even with Amazon Prime!), I had to go with my closest option, a heart-shaped pan with removable bottom. Thus, a Valentine’s Day dessert.
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With the heart shape holding less than a round, I knew I would have extra of everything, so I made a cute little round version of the tart for Pete—because he’s such a sweetheart!
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If you don’t have the 11-inch tart pan with removable bottom (the removable bottom is necessary to show off the sides of that pretty fluted crust), you can use a similar sized tart pan with regular bottom or improvise like I did and use a different shaped pan, but keep in mind you may need to adjust the amount of everything you put in that pan. I tried figuring out how to calculate the area of a heart so I could determine the ratio to the area of the 11” pan and that looked like too much work for me, but go for it if you’re so inclined!

The tart is quite a versatile dessert—you could play with the curd, making lemon instead of lime, or this time of year, be adventurous and go with blood orange, but then I’d cut the sugar to 1/3 to 1/2 cup. If you’re not big on cranberries, pick a different fruit that pairs well with the curd you opt for. Blueberries would be great with a lemon curd, raspberries or mango would suit the blood orange, etc. I love desserts you can tweak depending on preference or season.

Please note this is a recipe you’ll need to start a couple days before serving, but with a fairly small amount of hands on time. Most of the time involves chilling or cooling, so just plan a bit in advance. And this doesn’t have a rolled crust, you just press it over the bottom and up the sides of the pan—it’s so easy! Enjoy!
Slice

Cranberry Lime White Chocolate Tart

Adapted from this Bon Appetite recipe
Begin preparing the tart two days before you plan to serve it

Lime curd
1/2 cup fresh squeezed lime juice

1/2 teaspoon arrowroot or cornstarch

3/4 cup sugar

6 large egg yolks

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces

2 1/2 teaspoons grated lime zest

Crust
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1/3 cup whole almonds, toasted, cooled

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cranberry Topping
1/4 cup water

1 1/2 teaspoons arrowroot or cornstarch

2/3 cup sugar

3 tablespoons honey

One 12-ounce bag (3 cups) fresh cranberries or frozen, partially thawed


White Chocolate Cream

5 ounces white chocolate, chopped

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sour cream

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Garnish
White chocolate curls

For crust: Finely grind flour, sugar, almonds, and salt in processor. Add butter and vanilla; cut in, using on/off turns, until mixture just forms soft moist clumps. Gather dough into ball; flatten into a disk. Wrap in plastic. Refrigerate 1 hour. Press dough onto bottom and up sides of 11-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom. Using thumb, press dough up sides to extend 1/8 inch above rim of pan. Freeze crust 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake crust until golden brown, pressing with back of spoon if crust bubbles, about 25 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool completely.

For lime curd: Whisk lime juice and cornstarch in heavy medium saucepan. Whisk in sugar and yolks, then add butter. Whisk constantly over medium heat until mixture simmers and thickens, about 8 minutes. Strain into small bowl. Mix in lime zest. Cover; chill overnight.

For cranberry topping: Whisk 1/4 cup water and cornstarch in heavy large saucepan to blend. Add sugar and honey. Stir over medium-high heat until mixture comes to boil. Add cranberries; cook until mixture boils and berries just begin to pop but still maintain shape, occasionally stirring gently, about 4-5 minutes. Cool completely (mixture will thicken).

For white chocolate cream: Stir chocolate in top of double boiler over simmering water until melted and smooth. Remove from over water; whisk in sour cream and vanilla. Cool completely.

To assemble: Spread white chocolate cream into crust; freeze 15 minutes. Spoon curd over; spread evenly. Spoon cooled cranberry topping by tablespoonsful over, then spread carefully to cover completely. Cover and chill overnight. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep refrigerated.)

Carefully remove pan sides; transfer tart to a platter. Sprinkle white chocolate curls around edge of tart.

Vegan Caesar Salad

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My appreciation of the Caesar Salad began years ago about the same time I went meatless. Little did I know there were anchovies in some form or another in Caesar dressing. A fact I discovered, much to my surprise, after after a salad I ordered arrived with anchovies on top (gag!). So sadly, when eating out, I no longer was able to order this umami bomb and was once again relegated to the mundane “garden salad” when I wanted some greens before (or as) the main course.

It’s still that way in restaurants, but a few years back, I came across a recipe that’s not only vegetarian, it’s vegan, so now I can often enjoy a hearty Caesar salad at home. It’s just as delicious, if not more so, than the traditional recipe, plus, there’s no raw egg to worry about making you sick! Yes, it contains tofu, but don’t let that put you off–you’d never know it. Seriously!

The dressing has that creamy garlicky bite you expect and satisfies like the traditional recipe with no saturated fat to weigh you down. Homemade croutons, where YOU control the fat content, round out the dish and with the protein provided by the almonds and tofu, it’s a full-meal salad. Enjoy!
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Vegan Caesar Salad

Adapted from Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero

Dressing:
1/3 cup slivered or sliced almonds
3-4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
3/4 cup silken tofu
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon capers
1 tablespoon caper brine
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Croutons:
1 medium sized loaf bread (your choice, Italian, pumpernickel, rye, whole wheat), or your favorite gluten-free variety
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 ½ teaspoons granulated garlic or garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
Salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste

Salad:
1 large head romaine lettuce, chopped, or a combination of red & green leaf lettuce
Handful or two of spinach and/or arugula, torn into bite-sized pieces (optional)

Prepare the dressing: Pulse the sliced almonds in a food processor or blender until crumbly. Empty the ground almonds into an airtight container that you’ll be using to store the finished dressing. Blend the garlic, tofu, and oil in the food processor or blender until creamy. Add the lemon juice, capers, caper brine, sugar, and mustard powder, and process until blended. Adjust the salt and lemon juice to taste. Put into the container with the ground almonds and mix to combine. Cover and allow the dressing to chill in the refrigerator for a minimum of 30 minutes, optimally 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

While the dressing is chilling, prepare the croutons: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Slice the bread into ½ inch slices and cut slices into cubes. Place bread cubes in a large bowl. In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, garlic powder, onion powder, salt & pepper. Pour over bread cubes and toss until bread is well-coated. Spread croutons on a baking sheet and bake for 12 to 15 minutes until crisp. Toss the croutons twice during the baking process. Remove from the oven and cool the croutons on the baking sheet.

To assemble the salad, place the greens in a large salad bowl. Top with ½ cup of dressing and toss to combine. Add more dressing as necessary, to your preference. Toss until greens are well-coated. Add croutons (you may not need all of them) and toss salad again. If desired, add a little more dressing. You will most likely have left over dressing (that’s a good thing—more Caesar salad tomorrow!).

Serves 4 to 6 as a side, 2 to 3 as a main.

 

 

Wild Rice Patties

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A few times in the twenty-some years since going vegetarian, I’ve ordered something in a restaurant and was certain they made a mistake and gave me meat. And then I felt really guilty because it tasted so good. Fortunately, it’s always turned out to actually be vegetarian.

This happened again recently with a wild rice melt when we stopped for lunch on our way back from the cabin. There’s a restaurant in Duluth, MN that from the outside looks like an old Ember’s (which years ago, it was), but there are vegetable and herb gardens in the parking lot and, once inside, you find yourself in an eco-friendly, organic, local food oasis, that still looks like an Ember’s. The Duluth Grill does comfort food right, and makes sure that vegetarians and gluten-free diners have almost as many choices as everyone else.

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A wild rice melt caught my eye on the menu—pretty much a patty melt, but with this wild rice burger. I asked our server if it was vegetarian and she hesitated for a few seconds and then said yes. That worried me a bit. When I took my first bite, a moment of panic—the flavor and texture was so meaty, but after a thorough inspection, I breathed a sigh of relief—no meat! And man oh man, this was good—I couldn’t get it out of my mind. A few days later, I Googled it, thinking I might find a recipe for a similar wild rice burger and lo and behold, I found THE recipe. The Duluth Grill recipe. Seems they have a cookbook and a couple excerpts were included in a newspaper article about the book. Pretty sure I actually squealed with delight.
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After making the recipe a couple times as written, I decided on a few tweaks that made it a little healthier, but just as tasty. These sturdy patties make a great burger on a bun, can be broken up and scattered over a salad, and my favorite way—patty melt style, grilled on bread with some gooey cheese and fried onions. Enjoy!

Wild Rice Patties

Adapted from the Duluth Grill Cookbook

½ cup old fashioned (not quick) oats, toasted

3 cups cooked wild rice

½ cup diced mushrooms (I used cremini)

2 eggs, beaten

1/3 cup mayonnaise (vegan Mindful Mayo works well)

1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt

½ teaspoon white pepper

½ teaspoon sea salt

½ teaspoon granulated garlic

½ teaspoon onion powder

2 teaspoons ground cumin

¼ – ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, depending on the level of heat you like

Place oats in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the consistency of coarse bread crumbs. In a large bowl, mix together oats, wild rice and mushrooms. Stir in eggs, mayo and yogurt. In a small bowl, combine pepper, salt, granulated garlic, onion powder, cumin and red pepper flakes. Stir seasonings into wild rice mixture.

Place mixture in the refrigerator while you preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment. When oven is hot, using a ½ cup measure, scoop a heaping cup of mixture and form into a patty about an inch thick. Place patty on parchment lined baking sheet and repeat with remaining mixture, for a total of six patties.

Bake 40-45 minutes, flipping patties about half-way through baking time, until golden on both sides. Serve as you would your favorite burger.

Mushroom Lasagna with Butternut Squash Sauce

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It’s been many years since I’ve made the main Thanksgiving meal, but this year I have the honor.  And of course, being vegetarian, Thanksgiving dinner at my house is anything but traditional. I remember one year making what essentially was a pile of veggies and seitan in a delicious sauce, covered with puff pastry, then baked (it was sort of supposed to resemble the shape of a turkey). It was a huge hit, but sadly, I didn’t keep the recipe and have never been able to find it, despite endless Google searches.

This year, the usual hosts are going to another side of their family for the big celebration, so we, I’m happy to say, will take over the hosting duties for the rest of the family. With a busy schedule leading up to the holiday, basing our meal around a entrée that won’t require a ton of advanced prep time and will allow me to actually participate in the appetizers and drinks part of the party, is important.

That’s the nice thing about lasagna. You can prep all the ingredients ahead of time and pop it in the oven while you and your guests enjoy time together before sitting down to dinner. The only extras needed are a salad and maybe some good quality bread; no menagerie of side dishes required. But not a conventional lasagna. I want something seasonal, with butternut squash and mushrooms, that isn’t too rich.

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Don’t forget to roast the seeds!

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I looked at a lot of recipes and most had a béchamel or white sauce in place of the typical tomato, which can be heavy. The recipe I chose to adapt replaces the béchamel with a squash sauce that is amazing! The lemon zest just takes it over the top and makes for a truly unique and memorable (in a very good way) dish.

It’s also a very adaptable recipe. You can change the cheese if you can’t find Gruyere, change up the mushroom variety to what’s accessible, and use any hearty green. You can even add some veggie sausage if you want a more robust meal. I made a half recipe in an 8 x 8 pan as a taste test and it’s definitely holiday company-worthy, and I’m quite sure no one will miss the meat. Enjoy!
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Mushroom Lasagna with Butternut Squash Sauce

Adapted from this recipe
Can easily be halved and cooked in an 8 x 8 pan—cooking time remains the same

1 pound no-boil lasagna noodles, preferably whole wheat

2 to 2 1/2 pound butternut squash (or 2 pounds chopped squash)

Extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

1 large bunch chard, kale, or beet greens, washed, ribs/stems removed and cut into thin ribbons

1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

½ pound oyster mushrooms, cleaned and broken apart

3 cloves garlic, finely minced

1/4 dry white wine

1 cup milk (between 2% and whole), plus additional if needed

1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Zest of one medium-sized lemon

1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves, plus extra for the top of the lasagna

2 cups shredded Gruyere cheese

½ cup shredded parmesan

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Peel and seed the squash, then cut into 1-inch cubes and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil and a generous amount of salt and pepper. Spread on a baking sheet and roast for 40 minutes or until soft, tossing a couple times to ensure even cooking. Remove from oven and set aside to cool a bit.

While the squash is cooking, heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat in a 10-12-inch frying pan. When the oil is hot, add the mushrooms. Cook without stirring until brown, about 5 to 7 minutes. Turn them over and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, until the garlic is fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the chopped chard leaves and the white wine and cook until the greens are tender and wilted. Turn off the heat and season the vegetables lightly with salt and pepper.

Place the cooled squash into a large bowl and add 1/2 cup milk, the nutmeg, lemon zest and thyme. Use an immersion blender to puree the mixture, adding the remaining milk as you go (this can also be done in a regular blender). Add extra milk if necessary to make the sauce smooth and creamy, but not too thin. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Lightly oil or butter a 9×13-inch baking pan. To assemble the lasagna, spoon about 1/4 of the butternut sauce into the bottom of the prepared pan and spread to thinly coat the bottom. Place 1/4 of the noodles on top and then spread 1/3 of remaining sauce on noodles. Top with 1/2 of the mushroom/greens mixture, and 1 cup of Gruyere cheese. Add another layer of noodles, then sauce, then the rest of the vegetables, and the remaining Gruyere. Top with the final layer of noodles and spread the last 1/3 of the sauce over top. Sprinkle evenly with the parmesan and a pinch of thyme leaves.

Cover the lasagna with foil and bake at 375°F for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until the top is golden and the cheese is gooey. Remove from the oven and let stand uncovered for 5 to 10 minutes before cutting and serving. A nice green salad and some good bread make this a meal.