Do you ever find yourself in a place where even though the people and the things around you and the activities that you’re doing day to day are completely familiar, life just somehow feels a little different? That when you think about it, you really can’t point to any obvious reason to feel more vulnerable or self-aware than usual, but still, you do? Do you ever feel like you’re seeing things differently than before, or perhaps digesting situations and reacting to them in a new way? I feel a bit like I’ve been experiencing that in these past couple of weeks. Like I’m in the process of moving into a new spiritual place, stepping from the plateau that I’m currently on, and onto the next one that’s slightly higher up, my footing a bit wobbly as I make my transition. I feel like the ever-so minute changes that take place in my life, the ones that very quietly happen in a way akin to a growth spurt taking place in a child’s physical form, that you don’t notice until you get out the measuring tape and compare the marks on the door jamb, are making themselves known to me. Truth be told, this way that I’m feeling isn’t completely new to me; every now and then, I experience it when there’s internal growth, spiritual growth, and a glimpse of the fruit of its quiet labor is revealed. And with the beautiful and colorful autumn season upon us, and another year’s Thanksgiving holiday just around the bend, it seems like the perfect time to get a little introspective and bring the “familiar yet different” together in the spirit of gratitude.
Reflective states of mind are wonderful when it comes to being creative with food; and funny enough, at least for me, a meal can often times contain an essence of how I’m feeling internally and reflect that. Now, I’m beginning to crave using familiar ingredients in new and different ways, and mercifully with food, there are no boundaries; the only requirement is that it tastes good. For me, lasagna is that classic, familiar comfort food for which the possibilities are endless when it comes to preparing it in a different and creative way. It’s a cozy and comforting alternative for the Thanksgiving table, lending itself so well to the variety of different ingredients that this season offers up. Bright, roasted butternut squash has a silky-smooth consistency when pureed and makes for an incredible and unique sauce when combined with roasted garlic and a touch of cream. Seasoned ground turkey with fresh sage offers up a traditional Thanksgiving ingredient that when paired along with spinach, rich mozzarella and all the rest, creates a comforting, rustic and seasonal take on one of my personal favorite meals to share. What a tasty demonstration of “familiar yet different” coming together and dwelling deliciously on the Thanksgiving Day plate.
The more I think about it, the more comfortable I get with this idea of something seeming familiar yet different all at the same time. It implies that changes are most likely in the midst of taking place, and that growth and maturity continues to occur in my life. I’ve always thought of the idea of change being the only constant in life as a very encouraging one, and though I may experience some vulnerability and uncertain footing as I climb to the next level of life, at least it’s progress; it’s ascension up the ladder of life. And I can’t think of a more comforting way of bringing the “familiar yet different” together, than sharing some gooey, rich Autumn Lasagna with others at my Thanksgiving table.
Taste what’s good and pass it on.
Autumn Lasagna with Creamy, Butternut Squash and Roasted Garlic Sauce, Seasoned Ground Turkey, Sage, Spinach and Mozzarella Cheese
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(Serves about 10-12)
Olive oil for drizzling
1 ¼ lb. ground turkey
½ teaspoon Italian seasoning
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 clove garlic, finely minced
2 teaspoons chopped, fresh sage leaves
12 lasagna noodles, cooked
Creamy Butternut Squash and Roasted Garlic Sauce (recipe below)
4 cups fresh, baby spinach leaves
4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
-Preheat the oven to 350, and have a 12”x10”x2” (roughly) baking dish on hand.
-Place a large, non-stick saute pan over medium-high heat, and add about 2 tablespoons worth of olive to the pan; once the oil gets hot, add the ground turkey into the pan, and break up the meat with a spatula or spoon; next, add in the Italian seasoning, the salt, pepper and the garlic, and stir to incorporate; cook the turkey for a few minutes until cooked through and no longer pink; remove from heat and stir in the fresh sage; set aside to slightly cool.
-To assemble the lasagna, begin by adding about 1 cup of the Butternut Squash Sauce to the bottom of the baking dish; next, add 4 of the cooked lasagna noodles over the sauce, and then add another 2 cups of the sauce over top of the noodles; next, add about half of the cooked, ground turkey, followed by 2 cups of the baby spinach leaves, and drizzle lightly with some olive oil; next, sprinkle over about 1 cup worth of the mozzarella cheese; repeat the layering process by once again adding 4 lasagna noodles, 2 cups of sauce, the remainder of the ground turkey and the remaining 2 cups of baby spinach leaves, along with a drizzle of olive oil and another sprinkle of about 1 cup worth of the cheese; finish the lasagna by adding the remaining 4 lasagna noodles, and the remaining sauce over top; smooth out the sauce over the noodles, and finish the by sprinkling the remaining 2 cups of mozzarella cheese over the top; add the remaining ½ teaspoon of Italian seasoning over the cheese, and place the lasagna into the 350 degree oven to bake for roughy 30-35 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and lightly golden; serve while hot.
Creamy, Butternut Squash and Roasted Garlic Sauce ingredients:
3 heads garlic, tops cut off
• Olive oil for drizzling
3 teaspoons salt, plus a pinch, divided use
4 lbs. butternut squash, peeled and cubed (I used 4, 1lb. packages pre-cut squash)
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 cup chicken stock, warm
2 cups half and half, warm
4 ounces mascarpone cheese
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
(*This sauce can be made ahead if desired, and kept refrigerated.)
-Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil.
-Drizzle a little olive oil over the 3 heads of garlic, and sprinkle a couple of pinches of salt over top, as well; wrap each head of garlic tightly in foil, and place the heads directly onto the rack of the oven (on the side) to roast; once the garlic heads have roasted for about 10 minutes, toss together the cubed butternut squash with about 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and the black pepper; turn the squash out onto the lined baking sheet, and place it into the oven next to the garlic heads, to roast along side for about 30-35 minutes, or until the squash is very tender (the total roasting time for the garlic will end up being about 40-45 minutes); once the squash is tender, remove from the oven, along with the heads of garlic, and allow the squash and garlic heads to cool slightly, so they can be handled; once slightly cooled, squeeze the cloves of garlic from the whole heads, and mash lightly with a fork (they should be very tender and sweet), and set aside; next, add about 1/3 of the roasted squash into the bowl of a food processor (you will work in about 3 batches), and process with about 1/3 of the roasted garlic, until smooth and pureed; turn the processed squash/garlic into a large pot, and repeat the pureeing process with the remaining squash/garlic and turn that out into the pot once pureed, as well.
-Place the pot with the pureed squash/garlic onto low heat, and add in the warm chicken stock and the warm half and half, and carefully whisk or stir to completely incorporate; next, add in the mascarpone cheese, the Parmesan and the remaining 3 teaspoons of salt, and once again stir/whisk to combine, until the mascarpone and Parmesan are blended in completely; remove the sauce from the heat and set aside until ready to use for the lasagna. (If making ahead, cool the sauce completely, and refrigerate until ready to assemble the lasagna, at which time you can gently re-heat it stove-top.)