Monday, July 23, 2012

6.11.12 Baked Veggie and Ground Turkey Ziti (Penne) Day 8 - 70 DOS

As you know, the move is upon us.  As the closing date seems to continue to be pushed out and might never be here, I am still packing and preparing for my moving crew to get here and to be without dishes/pots and pans along with lacking the desire to cook by preparing a few freezable one pan dishes.  Notice I do not call them casseroles because if you know me, you know I can't stand a casserole!  So the first dish I made is something that my mouth waters for.  I unfortunately can't take credit for the recipe but I will say that I use the copycat version of Chili's Salsa for the sauce (the recipe calls for homemade -my choice- or store bought - yuck).

Check out these mouth watering Veggie Enchiladas and use this recipe for the sauce (I drizzle agave nectar instead of the sugar and add a handful of chopped fresh cilantro to the food processor...the more the better).  Also, you know I am not capable of sticking to a recipe 100% and I also come from and married into a very carnivorous family so I of course added black beans and chopped up boneless, skinless chicken breast to the layers of veggies.  I also use the Flax Seed and Blue Corn blend Artisan Mission Brand tortillas because I haven't tried the homemade yet...maybe one day when I have a bunch of free time...

So onto MY recipe for the day.  I have yet to try making this with eggplant and completely doing away with the pasta but for now, to appease my husband and his family, I am still using the whole wheat penne because I can't find whole wheat ziti anywhere and I prefer whole wheat penne over white ziti.
Boil your pasta and make sure it is a little al dente since it will continue to cook once in the oven.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Next, dice your onions and mince your garlic.  Keep the cutting board out.

Once you start your water to boil, heat your skillet and add the 2 tbs. olive oil.  Once the oil is hot, cook your onions and garlic stirring periodically to keep from browning until the onions are translucent. Garlic cooks a lot quicker than onions though so I would encourage your to cook the onions until they are almost done and then add the garlic.  It is up to you.  Once your onions are cooked, add your ground turkey.  **Since we are moving, I am cleaning out my freezer and had to use some old ground beef but I would not have done so if I didn't need to use it up.  I prefer ground turkey in this recipe.**  Stir and break up your meat until it is completely cooked.  Shake a few good shakes of Italian seasoning into the cooked meat enough to generously coat it throughout.  Salt and pepper to taste and set aside.  If you are using a lean ground turkey, there should be no fat to drain.  If there is, drain it and set aside. 

While your pasta and meat are cooking, grate your cheese or thaw it or if you like the kind that comes in the bag with potato starch included (that's why it is kinda powdery when you take it out and the pot. starch prevents caking but it also prevents ooey, gooey-ness which I think it is a must so I don't use it when I bake.  Yes it is convenient for an occasional baked potato so you don't have to get out the food processor/grater but don't skimp and use it on something you are baking).

Then, wash your mushrooms and zucchini slices.  I encourage to not run water over your mushrooms.  It causes them to get rubbery.  Simply dampen a paper towel and wash off any dirt on them that way.  Remove the stems and slice the mushrooms.  Then, thinly slice - about 1/4 - 1/2 in. thick - the zucchini.  Set the veggies aside.

After that, dump your ricotta into a bowl and add your 2 tbs milk to the cheese. If you like your ricotta mixture being thinner, add more milk of it it is too thin, add less than 2 tbs.  Using a fork, mix the cheese and the milk so you have a smooth consistency - like pretty creamy mashed potatoes.  Set aside.  The picture on the left is the ricotta from the tub, the picture below shows it with the milk added.

Drain your pasta and rinse with cold water to prevent sticking while in the colander.  Grease your 9x12 pan with either an Olive Oil spray or simply by pouring some olive oil in and coating the sides by wiping it all over with a paper towel. 

Next, spread about half the jar of spaghetti sauce on the bottom of the pan, just enough to cover the whole bottom without being a huge thick layer.  I also will often have frozen leftover homemade spag. sauce that I will use but not in this case.  Either is fine.  After the sauce comes a layer of  pasta.  Once again, cover the pan but just a single layer is fine.  

After that, rinse your spatula from spreading the sauce and spread on a layer of your ricotta.  You should use about 1/2 of what is in the bowl.

Next comes the zucchini.  I spread them in rows but you could also chop instead of slicing - it is up to you.  Then liberally coat the zucchini with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and Italian seasoning.  Put about half of your meat mixture on top of the zucchini and then the sliced mushrooms.  On top of the mushrooms goes a layer of mozzarella cheese.  
Then you repeat again - kinda.  I am limited to a pyrex pan.  One my greatest desires is to find a restaurant style deep deep lasagne pan.  Anyone have referrals, LMK.  Until then, I am limited to skinny lasagnes/zitis.  Spread the rest of your red sauce over the mozzarella. Put another thin layer of pasta (whatever is leftover, save for another dish or if you are like me, for your 2-year-old who requests it for every meal.).  Once again, spread the rest of your ricotta mixture and then the rest of your ground turkey on top.  Remember, my pictures have darker meat because it is beef, not turkey - because I was using what I had.   After the meat, put your remaining mozzarella cheese on top to cover.

If you are like me, your pan is now boasting a major mound of food.  I will probably have to put mine on top of a cookie sheet while it cooks just in case there is an overflow - hence another reason I would like a deeper dish!  Put the pan in the oven with a sheet of tin foil just laying across it.  Cook for 30 min. with the foil on and then remove the foil to cook until golden and bubbly - about 15 min. more.  ***One more thing - if I had a deeper pan, I would have also done the layer of fresh spinach but I ran out of room.  Darn pyrex!  Also, if you are not a fan of the veggies, just leave them out and you might be able to fit in another layer of meat, pasta, sauce, and cheese!

Like I said, I am making this for my in-laws for when they come to help us move in the next week or so and am freezing it today.  As soon as I have a pic of a finished product, I will add it to the post.  Until then, happy eating!

  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 2 tbs. olive oil and a little more to grease your pan
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 white or yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 box whole wheat penne (or ziti if you can find it)
  • 16 oz. + grated mozzarella cheese (I usually buy a big block and grate in my food processor and freeze to use as I need)
  • 15 oz. Ricotta Cheese
  • 2 Tbs. Milk
  • 2 zucchini squash
  • 5 - 6 musrooms (white or baby is up to you)
  • 1/2 lb organic spinach (petite is the best kind)***
  • One 24 oz. jar spaghetti sauce (I use the Classico Tomato and Basil)

I can't write a post without mentioning my sweet bubble girl so this is perfect.  As I am typing this post, she is sitting next to me with 4 of her birthday Sesame Character buckets putting bracelets on her wrists and ankles and singing, "Hands up playin' my song, it's gonna be ok..." and repeating it because she doesn't know the rest of the lyrics to her new favorite song - Party in the USA haha!  Oh dear, shout out to Mylie from a 2-year-old.  She is also rotating back and forth between that song and "Books are fun, books are great, let's sit down with a book it book time yet oh I just can't wait, to read a book..."  Ha, thank you Barney for making my child an avid reader...

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