I’m still tweaking the flourless “nutella” babycakes I mentioned last week. Ruthie suggested they might make good biscotti and I am completely enamored of that idea – so I’m going to try it again, but first I need to buy more hazelnuts from Trader Joe’s. So in the meantime, you get to read about Life Skills Lasagna!
There’s a candle in my picture above for my friend L’s birthday. The last time I remember making any sort of lasagna was for her birthday in 2010. So I’m a few years late, but happy birthday, L! L is the one who stayed with me after surgery before my family could fly in, and the one who brought me a birthday party at RIO (the 3rd Hospital).
I’m calling this “Life Skills” Lasagna in honor of my former ESL (English as a Second Language) students. I’ve seen recipes for this sort of tortilla-taco-lasagna online, called “Mexican” lasagna and most of my students were from Mexico. I used to teach ESL once a week at my church. I shared my last class with K, and after she told them I was going to go visit Africa they shook their heads at me the next class we had together and made Tut tut sounds. One of them told me, “Lions and tigers are the least of your problems.” (They were concerned, but they were also very sweetly and overwhelmingly supportive.)
He was right. Lions and tigers were not an issue where I was, but I did learn that hippos are really mean and one should be careful of them. Also, I made my first trip to Africa without incident – but I was carrying the danger in my head all along and didn’t know it.
When I woke up in Vibra (2nd Hospital) and started talking (babbling), I told Mom, my ESL students always laugh when we come to a “Life Skills” section in our textbook. Why? She asked. “Because they don’t think I have any.”
They saw me once or twice a week in various degrees of craziness since I was often rolling in straight from work and feeling a little frazzled. They were a very accommodating bunch, though, and we slogged through the grammar I knew by instinct but was learning by rule along with them. And then they got to have K as their teacher a couple days later.
So I made this lasagna with them in mind. I have been inspired to cook, especially after asking the nice people at AVMSurvivors.org for cooking tips and meeting people who are so hardcore it shamed me into trying harder. One of them made a good point – you might receive life-skills training in inpatient rehab while you’re in a chair, but once you’re discharged and get better so you’re standing in the kitchen, you kind of have to figure out what works for you on your own. The need to feed your family is a good motivator even if you have partial use of your limbs.
So yeah – I admit that I’ve never been strong in the “Life Skills” department, but now I’ve got the opportunity to start over, and I’m figuring it out.
Life Skills Lasagna
Preheat oven to 350; grease 2 quart (or thereabouts) baking dish
I made this vegetarian, but it would be lovely with shredded rotisserie chicken or ground turkey or beef. I made this in a 2 qt dish, but don’t quote me on that – just eyeball it. My dish was almost the same size as the tortillas, so I placed them whole, but feel free to rip them up and use more/less. The amounts I used were just enough for my dish, but a little more would not have been amiss, and Mommy told me I could have been more generous with the cheese. Duly noted for next time. This trial, however, I thought was delicious.
3 Whole Wheat Tortillas
½ onion, diced
½ green or red pepper, diced
8 oz frozen cauliflower, microwaved – I used half of a 16 oz bag
1 cup silken tofu
1 cup frozen spinach, microwaved
1 cup frozen peas, microwaved
1 cup fresh salsa – the really mild kind you buy in the supermarket
Taco Seasoning – home made or store bought. I’m trying to watch my salt so I mixed chili+cumin. I probably should have added more things but I got tired.
Shredded cheese for sprinkling between layers and on top.
The idea is to warm the individual components so that the oven cooking time is less and you’re more confident your lasagna is heated through.
Filling 1: Tofu + Cauliflower + a sprinkling of cheese: Buzz the tofu and cauliflower with an immersion blender. I did this lazily since I wanted some chunks in there, not a puree. Brown the onion and pepper; add a couple spoonfuls of taco seasoning, add the tofu and cauliflower, add a sprinkling of cheese, stir around in the pan until well combined.
Filling 2: Peas + Salsa: combine them in a bowl or measuring cup.
Filling 3: Spinach: microwave it.
Assembly: Grease your dish, put a tortilla in the bottom. Lay a tortilla on the bottom. Then Layer something like this: Filling 1 +2, tortilla, Filling 1+3, tortilla, Filling 1+2, or whatever you have left. Sprinkle cheese in between if you like; sprinkle cheese on top so it browns nicely. I baked mine at 350 for about 20-25 minutes. Just keep an eye on it and check to see if it looks brown and bubbly.