The Bonding Attributes of Cooking With Le Creuset

What happens when you take a 19 year old son who loves to cook and is a vegetarian and mix that with a momma (who is a card-carrying carnivore) who is working 14-16 hour days for 9 weeks straight but has a brand new Le Creuset  French oven that is just begging to be used and needs to have a recipe tried out in so she can write a blog post about it?
Well, this is what I did: 

I wait until my visa doesn’t arrive in time for me to take a trip to China with my husband thus I finally have a few days at home for a staycation, it rains the entire time I am home, and I enlist the help of that son and proclaim, “Create a vegetarian dish that doesn’t make me think ‘I’m eating a vegetarian dish.'”

 So Buck creates a recipe that he wanted to call “Rat Lasagna” but I convinced him that would only be appetizing to an oddball few so he went with the more descriptive and appropriately named
                                                        Ratatouille Lasagna
1-2 red bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
1 eggplant
2 zucchini
3 yellow crooked-neck squash
1 Vidalia onion (chopped)
2 jars of Bertolli Organic Tomato and Basil sauce
24 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese
15 oz. shredded Parmesan cheese
1 12 oz. Ricotta Cheese
1 pkg. no cook Lasagna noodles
3 cloves garlic
10 fresh Basil leaves
2 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp McCormick’s Herbs de Providence
1 tsp sea salt (add salt to taste)
1 tsp pepper (add pepper to taste)
10 stalks of fresh asparagus

Pre-heat oven to 375 F.
Thinly slice the first five ingredients (easy to do with the Cutco knife seen in this picture)

 Mince garlic cloves and finely chop fresh basil. In a separate bowl mix jars of tomato sauce with basil, garlic, and remaining spices.

 Begin layering ingredients in Le Creuset starting with one-third of the tomato-herb mixture, then one-third of the pasta.

 Add one-third of the sliced vegetables (the chopped onions go on the second layer)

 Spread one-third of the Ricotta cheese over the vegetables, then sprinkle one-third mozzarella cheese and one-third of the parmesan over the Ricotta cheese. (you could mix these cheeses together beforehand but my son enjoys the creative process…).
Begin the second layer adding one-third of the tomato sauce, noodles, sliced veggies – this is where you also added the chopped onions- and the cheeses.
Repeat with the final layers. (My son also sprinkled a few of the spices on the top).
Cook uncovered for 40 minutes at 375 F. Lay asparagus across the top and cover for the remaining 15 minutes.

This is what you have left to clean up.

Hot out of the oven. 

The taste test by the cook 

Anticipation builds

he knows its a winner!

Not too sure about this vegetarian dish…

Magnifico! 

Thank-you, Le Creuset for a fabulous cooking utensil that cooks so evenly and is soooo easy to clean. And thank-you Buck Wise for taking me a giant step in craving good vegetarian dishes!

Here’s the recipe in easy copy and paste form: 

                                      Ratatouille Lasagna
1-2 red bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
1 eggplant
2 zucchini
3 yellow crooked-neck squash
1 Vidalia onion (chopped)
2 jars of Bertolli Organic Tomato and Basil sauce
24 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese
15 oz. shredded Parmesan cheese
1 12 oz. Ricotta Cheese
1 pkg. no cook Lasagna noodles
3 cloves garlic
10 fresh Basil leaves
2 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp McCormick’s Herbs de Providence
1 tsp sea salt (add salt to taste)
1 tsp pepper (add pepper to taste)
10 stalks of fresh asparagus
Pre-heat oven to 375 F.
Thinly slice the first five ingredients.
Mince garlic cloves and finely chop fresh basil. In a separate bowl mix jars of tomato sauce with basil, garlic, and remaining spices. Begin layering ingredients in Le Creuset starting with one-third of the tomato-herb mixture, then one-third of the pasta. Add one-third of the sliced vegetables (the chopped onions go on the second layer). Spread one-third of the Ricotta cheese over the vegetables, then sprinkle one-third mozzarella cheese and one-third of the parmesan over the Ricotta cheese. (you could mix these cheeses together beforehand).
Begin the second layer adding one-third of the tomato sauce, noodles, sliced veggies – this is where you also added the chopped onions- and the cheeses.
Repeat with the final layers. (sprinkled a few of the spices on the top).
Cook uncovered for 40 minutes at 375 F. Lay asparagus across the top and cover for the remaining 15 minutes of cooking.
Remove from oven and  let sit for 5 minutes before serving.
Serves 12.

 

P’s in a P.O.D. (Reflections on a visit with P. Allen Smith)

It is a Perfectly Outstanding Destination (P.O.D.)  This past May I was able to spend 2 full days in the company of P. Allen Smith and 21 garden bloggers that included fun visits at his garden home (in the historic area of downtown Little Rock) , his Moss Mountain Retreat in Roland, Arkansas, a tour and lunch at the governor’s mansion, and some wonderful activities where we learned about the products from some of the folks for whom Allen is a spokes-person.
Our visit began with a short ride to the Arkansas governor’s mansion, a place that Allen is very familiar with due to his years working there as a teenager. He has had input in designing and updating the grounds and gardens over the years and gave us a tour describing the changes. 

 The wisteria was in fragrant bloom along the trellises in the back courtyard,

as was the nepata (catmint). 

Rose experts Teresa Byington  and Chris VanCleave were able to offer input also as we toured the rose garden area of the mansion. 
Chris in his element! 

Garden Writer Christopher Tidrick was putting his photography skills to good use capturing the interesting garden art at the Governor’s mansion. 

Because of the late spring this year, the azaleas were still in full bloom around the mansion.

If you are around Allen for even a short amount of time, you’ll learn quickly about his love for and ease with animals.

The governor’s mansion has a fabulous working garden. 

 

 The courtyard athe governor’s mansion was cheerful and inviting!

I enjoyed lunch with Byron Ford, Mary Beth Burner Shaddix, Steve Asbell,  MaryAnn Newcomer, and Robin Ripley – who were all eager to tweet about the fabulous gardens we had just seen. 

Being with Allen and the garden bloggers was fabulous enough. Dining at the governor’s mansion with First Lady (and avid gardener) Ginger Beebe made the experience priceless!

Our next venture was to Allen’s Garden House in downtown historic Little Rock.  Garden writer and author Teresa O’Conner is soaking all the info in.

Here we were able to see how he made a small garden area transform into garden rooms that surrounded the home, intertwining his design experience in England with his love of creating a welcoming home environment from the moment you enter the white picket fence. I personally enjoyed checking out the plants he was trialling for Proven Winner Plants. 

On a side note, I really was diggin’ Laura Mathews groovy shoes 

Allen told me what this vine was but I can’t find my note where I wrote it down – anyone want to help me out with this? 

Even Allen’s potting shed had creative touches!

My friend and fellow container gardener Kerry Michael and I were inspired by Allen’s container plantings . 

And the Bonnie Plants’ garden is as pretty as it is practical! 

I wish my potting shed looked like this. 

Garden designer and author Jenny Peterson is grabbing a few shots of inspiration to remember when she heads back to Austin. and grabs a shot of me! 

At Moss Mountain Retreat, one of our favorite gathering places is under the giant oak tree – one of the “sisters” as Allen calls them. 

Camp director Mimi San Pedro keeps us all on track (when she’s not keeping us all giggling with her great stories). 

Time to catch up with garden friends – Jenny, Robin, MaryAnn, and Teresa.

Bear with me as we peek inside Allen’s home…

a view out the back from the screen porch

My favorite room in the house – the sleeping porch. 

the perfect bathtub for a sleeping porch.

I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving!!

This spot on the third floor “cousin’s” attic offered the best view of the river. 

The sparkling heads of Allium.

Did you know that Fritillaria is often planted to keep moles and voles away? 

and it looks pretty, too! 

Take a moment to enjoy the gardens surrounding Allen’s retreat home.

Mary Ann gets some hands on experience with Allen’s heritage chickens.   You can learn about chickens from Allen’s website or from his Poultry Workshop in September

How many barns do you know of that have gorgeous planters that flank their doorways like this one?

This home on the farm was a project that showed how to build an ecologically friendly home with economy in mind!

We were able to be a part of building a pond with Allen’s sponsor Laguna Ponds. 

The vegetable gardens were luscious and practical.

The rose garden was dreamy – thank you Star Roses! www.conard-pyle.com

The king and queen of roses 

 Allen and Berry Nursery’s Heidi Berry (www.berrynurseries.com) showed us some foot stompin’ good  dance moves in the barn after dinner!

And those adorable rain-boot-wearing gals, Carol and Kerrie, who started The Seed Keeper Company, are always ready enhance the party with more fun and laughter!! www.seedkeepercompany.com

Needless to say, you can understand now how a visit with all these People gathered with P Allen Smith made us all P’s in a P.erfectly O.utstanding D.estination.  One thing that these pictures only partially portray is the genuineness of this man and passion that flows from him for restoring and cultivating the agrarian society. To be so well connected, so well educated in many areas, to be so well recognized in the indoor and outdoor design world, Allen is at heart a farmer with a love for people, for history, and for improving the world around us for future generations.  Thank you, Allen, for allowing me to see a glimpse of the beauty you are bringing to the world and the beauty of who you are.