It wasn’t long ago when I first heard this comment stated by my mother in law. “You converted my son,” said she. I stood bewildered at that comment until she further explained herself. “He said he doesn’t like my lasagna. He said I should do something different like make it vegetarian or add cilantro or oregano,” she claims he stated to her. I didn’t believe it. Phillip always ate her lasagna. So, of course, I asked him and he said it was “to greasy”. I understood what he meant. If you don’t drain the meat thoroughly prior to adding it to the layers, the grease will definitely pile up, especially if you’re using full fat cheese. Well my mother in law isn’t a cook. She can cook but she can only follow recipes and directions and doesn’t think to change anything. For example, I would say, “Why not add this, this, and this to make it like this and not like that.” She would say, “But the recipe doesn’t say to do that.” I think that frame of mind is what separates housewives and cooks. Some people cook because they love to, like me. I yearn to cook. I can’t go a day without cooking something. She, on the other hand, goes days on in without cooking something save for microwaving.
So because he didn’t like her lasagna, I decided to try my luck at gluten free dairy free lasagna. The result (quoted directly from my husband): “Omg, this is my new favorite thing you make. It’s so good and creamy…what did you put in it? There’s no dairy, right?” Nope! I decided to play a game of experimentation. A while back I discovered cream of rice cereal. It’s pretty much like polenta except with ground up rice as opposed to cornmeal or more comparable to cream of buckwheat. I did it on a whim to use as a thickening agent and noticed that it gave a delightfully creamy texture to sauces. Well, why not make a cream sauce out of that? After all, we eat rice cheese, no? Some of us drink rice milk, so, what makes this any different, just because it’s for babies? Nothing!
So I used the cream of rice for the cheese layer and I was even surprised at how good it was. Phillip took it to work for lunch the next day and everyone was jealous. So, who says an allergen free dish can’t be good if not better than the norm? I was just sick of using tofu as a cheese substitute. There HAD to be something else out there that worked and wasn’t calorie dense like nut creams. So with some chosen veggies, this lasagna was like a spinach and artichoke dip with tomato sauce. Next time, Phillip said to try it with my ‘fake’ meat or quorn. That boy loves quorn and I love the fact that he does, too. I’m still afraid that he won’t be satisfied with my food but every time he coos when he eats, I know I’ve succeeded.
Spinach Artichoke Lasagna (DF, GF, & SF) ½ cup frozen artichoke hearts 1 cup frozen spinach, defrosted and drained ½ small yellow onion, diced ½ cup chopped mushrooms 1 package of lasagna noodles
2 cups tomato sauce (Okay I made a homemade puree. You can take a shortcut though.)
1 cup cream of rice ¾ cup of nondairy milk 2 tsp oregano Salt and pepper to taste A few leaves of fresh basil
¼ cup shredded rice cheese
Pre-heat to 350 degrees.
Cook the noodles according to the directions stated on the package.
In a medium frying pan, caramelize the onions. Once they reach a beautiful golden hue, add the artichoke hearts and mushrooms, sautéing until soft. Add the spinach, seasonings of basil and oregano, salt and pepper. Set aside.
Add the cream of rice into a mixing bowl. Heat the milk to just boiling in a microwave and then add it to the cream of rice, whisking as you go. It should become a thick mixture.
Add the vegetables to the “cheese” sauce, stirring until well combined. You now have your filling.
Layer the lasagna in a adequate size casserole dish by: sauce, noodles, and then filling. You should finish with a noodle layer with two layers of filling. Assure that there is sauce on the top of the noodles.
Spread the shredded cheese evenly on top. Bake, uncovered, for 25 minutes or so.