The Mess Hall

Rants and ramblings on all things edible, wearable, doable, or usable with a focus on Home and Health. Home is fun, easy on the wallet, and “gool” for the greatest game of tag ever (Life). Welcome to my home, the Mess Hall. Get in the Mess!

26 Mar

Veggie Lasagna – and Bechamel Basics

Posted in Makin' Food, Substitutes on 26.03.11 by Octopi

My friend T posted on FB a delic-sounding dinner she had whipped up that included bechamel sauce.  Bechamel is a white sauce that includes the roux (a fat like butter or olive oil combined with flour, stired over medium heat for about five minutes until the mixture has a texture resembling wet sand, according to this NY Times article) and a liquid like milk.  The following bechamel recipe is from the same article – the writer (Martha Rose Shulman) does a great job of explaining….



  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot or onion (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups low-fat (1 percent) milk (I had some cream to use up so I used 1 1/2 cups milk and 1/2 cup cream)
  • Salt to taste
  • Freshly ground white or black pepper
  • Optional:  mushrooms, etc.


Makin it Happen

  • Heat the oil over medium heat in a heavy medium saucepan. Add the shallot or onion, and cook, stirring, until softened, about three minutes. Stir in flour, and cook, stirring, for about three minutes until smooth and bubbling but not browned.
  • The paste should have the texture of wet sand. Whisk in the milk all at once, and bring to a simmer, whisking all the while, until the mixture begins to thicken.
  • Turn the heat to very low, and simmer, stirring often with a whisk and scraping the bottom and edges of the pan with a rubber spatula, for 10 minutes, until the sauce has thickened and lost its raw flour taste.
  • Optional: I also added some chopped, cooked canadian bacon (I added just four- five slices that I needed to use up) as well as a couple cups of sliced mushrooms
  • Variation: Substitute vegetable stock for the milk for a vegan version of this sauce


Veggie Lasagna

Well, it’d be veggie-only lasagna if I didn’t put the chopped canadian bacon in the bechamel – it was only a few slices so mainly for flavoring (I’m trying to use meats as more of a flavor enhancer rather than a main ingredient).  Close enough.  Here’s a lasagna that uses strips of zucchini instead of lasagna noodles.


  • 3 small-medium sized zucchini, cut into strips (so they look like small lasagna noodles)
  • 1 can peeled, stewed tomatoes (sliced)
  • 1 bag of spinach
  • cheese, shredded (I used asiago)
  • 8 fingerling or small red potatoes, sliced
  • olive oil
  • bechamel (see above)


Makin it Happen

  • Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Cut potatoes into slices.  Drizzle olive oil over a cookie pan, place potato slices on the pan, and bake for 30 minutes.
  • While the potatoes are baking, get the bechamel going.  Once that’s been cooked up properly, you can turn your attention to the spinach (or if you’re really got a handle on the bechamel, slice up the zucchini between stirs.  Don’t burn the bechamel on the bottom of the pan though, or you’re screwed). 
  • If you get the spinach that can be steamed in the bag, do so as per directions on the bag.  Otherwise, steam until wilted.
  • Brush the sides of the casserole dish with olive oil.
  • Once the potatoes are out, pour about 1/3 of the bechamel sauce into a casserole dish.  Start layering your veggies, starting with a layer of zucchini, followed by a layer of potatoes, repeat.  Add the can of stewed tomatoes (the whole thing) in the second layer.  Be sure to have enough zucchini slices left for the top.  Pour some more sauce over the dish (get those mushrooms in there!).
  • Keep going until you’ve used everything up.  At the end pour the last of the sauce on top and top with shredded cheese.
  • What I did: Cover and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.  Then uncover and bake another 20 minutes.  What I’ll try next time: Because I used zuchinni instead of lasagna noodles, the final product ended up being a bit runny.  I think next time I’ll bake uncovered the whole time (waiting to put the cheese on until after the first half hour of baking) so the oven can dry up some of the juices as the zucchini cooks.  I’ll let you know how that goes.

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07 Sep

Beam Me up Some Biscuits

Posted in Garbage Recipes, Makin' Food, Substitutes on 07.09.10 by Octopi

I found a good blog that tried out Mark Bittman’s recipe for (yogurt or buttermilk) biscuits from his book, How to Cook Everything. This is a recipe using only “Top 25” ingredients!  This is also a Garbage Recipe; meaning, a recipe for which you can easily take a gander around your kitchen and jazz the recipe up with some additional optional ingredients.

“Wait a minute!” you say.  Buttermilk is NOT in the Top 25 Must Haves!!  OK, it’s not.  But ingredients to make buttermilk substitute is, so there!  There are multiple ways to use substitutes for buttermilk, which is summarized well at this site.  Today we’re using Option #1, milk with lemon juice.

Buttermilk Substitute

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Alrighty, armed with a substitute for buttermilk: on to the recipe!!

Yogurt or Buttermilk Biscuits Recipe
From How to Cook Everything, Mark Bittman


Base Ingredients (All from the Top 25 Must Haves!)

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 scant teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 to 5 tablespoons cold butter (I used about 2.5)
  • 7/8 cups plain yogurt or buttermilk (buttermilk substitute used here was 1 cup of milk with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. I only used about 7/8 of the combined mixture, as per the recipe)


Garbage Ingredients

  • 6 oz. grated cheddar cheese
  • 1-2 tablespoons of rosemary 


Making it Happen

  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
  • In the bowl of a food processor (if you’ve got one), add dry ingredients and pulse until combined. Add butter and pulse until butter resembles coarse meal.  I used a hand mixer to mix ‘er up and it was fine.
  • Stir in yogurt or buttermilk (substitute) until dough comes together. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and add cheese, if desired. Dough will be sticky. Knead dough 10 times and shape into a rectangle, 3/4-inch thick.
  • Drop dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet. You could use biscuit cutters, but I personally think they look cool as drop biscuits.  Some things don’t look good homemade.  Like a couch.  Biscuits do, so dare to drop!  Dough should yield about 10 to 14 biscuits.
  • Bake 7 to 9 minutes or until golden brown. 



  • Most people eat home-made biscuits as a stand-alone item.  How about using some of the extra biscuits for breakfast in the morning?  Scramble up an egg, heat up a biscuit, and voila: egg biscuit!!  Kudos if you eliminate a Fat Layer by not including cheese on it or cutting down on the amount of cheese you put on it (instead of putting a whole slice of cheese on it, try putting just a bit of shredded cheese on top for flavor).


Nutritional content information is here.

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