NaNo? No Problem!

Okay, this novel writing stuff? Yeah, It’s ridiculously easy. 50k in 30 days? No problem. Go ahead, make it a 100k, I triple dog dare ya!

It’s only the 25th of the month and I am INCHES away from winning. Like 500 words away. Woo hoo! Eat my dust, NaNo! Next stop, the winner’s circle.

Of course, I’ve sacrificed every weekend afternoon and all my favorite TV shows in the evening to get this far. I ate Zatarain’s Jambalaya mix for dinner. Quite a few delicious Lean Cusisines as well. And, I have to be honest and admit that the entire thing a huge, gigantic pile of crap, that no will ever get to read, but hey, I’ve managed to crank out 49,000 words plus in just 25 days. That’s gotta count for something.

Why am I not getting paid for this?

Anyway, I’m pretty psyched I’ve been able to stay ahead of the game with NaNo and update my blog as well. Last year, I couldn’t do it. I could not multitask and write a novel and blog at the same time. This year, I’m more comfortable, cruising at a comfortable speed of anywhere between 2,000 and 3,000 words a day. It must get easier the longer you do it.

Again, why I am not getting paid for this?? LOL.

I think the reason I’ve done so well with this is because I thought I was going to fail miserably. See, I woke up on November 1 sick. Sick, sick, sick. And remained so for the next three days. You might think, oh, it’d be easy to get a head start when you’re home sick, all you have to do is lay there with a laptop and type. Well, yes, in theory it should work that way, but in reality, my brain was so fogged and medicated I was having trouble concentrating. My word counts the first three days were dismal. I was off to such a rough start, I thought there’s no way I can do this. The minute I felt better I started working extra hard to make up for my loss. Which I did, and then some. Go me!

On one of those sick days, after deciding that the blinking cursor on my screen was making me dizzy, I tossed my novel to the side and turned on the TV instead. To Rachael Ray’s talk show. I’ve said it before, I like her talk show. (This is so embarrassing.) I can take or leave 30 Minute Meals but if I have the chance to catch her talk show on a weekday afternoon, I always do. Come on, Michael Buble was on. And he sang his new song ‘Haven’t Met You Yet’ to an audience member’s pregnant belly. I coughed. I sneezed. I swooned!  He’s adorable.

And she made a delightful fall twist on lasagna that I knew I just had to try! Roasted butternut squash, layered with sweet Italian sausage and a creamy sage béchamel sauce. Sign me up, please!

Well. Making this was quite the ordeal. And all the while, I’ve got my novel breathing down the back of my neck. “Work on me!” It whispered in my ear. “You should not be cooking, you should be working on me! Order pizza!”

I had a few…issues. This recipe and I had a bit of communication problem. You will notice the recipe calls for TWO boxes of no boil lasagna sheets. You will then notice it says that it serves six. Say WHAT? Two entire boxes of noodles for 6 servings. No freakin’ way.

On the show she layered all the ingredients into one casserole dish. Okay, that must have been one HUGE honkin’ dish because there’s no way in h-e-double hockey sticks anything I owned was going to accommodate two entire boxes of noodles. Of course, I didn’t realize this until I was well into the assembly process.

So let me tell you how this ended up working out for me. In the end, it was edible. Not just edible, quite delightful actually. I really like the combo of sweet butternut squash and flavorful sausage. But it was touch and go there for a while.

I made a couple changes to lighten it up a bit, subbing 2% milk for whole and using my standard turkey sausage instead of pork. My package of sausage was 20 ounces, so not quite two pounds. I meant to pick up a second package when I shopped for groceries earlier that day, but for some reason they didn’t have any. Sigh…typical. I figured, okay I’ll just lighten it up even further by decreasing the amount of meat. I kept the quantities of squash puree and béchamel sauce the same.

So I start assembling. In a 13×9 inch pan. I realize when I’m half way through that I should have laid the noodles in the pan horizontally, thus allowing for four sheets per layer. No. I did them vertically and only got three. That was mistake number one. Mistake number two- I really poured on the puree and the sauce. I mean, practically drowned the thing. It was then I realized, I’m not fitting all these noodles in this pan. Meanwhile, it’s swimming in sauce.

Hm. Due to my error in laying my noodles, I actually didn’t even get ONE whole box in my pan. And even though I doused the thing in puree and sauce I still had quite a bit left. Scared and with the phone in my hand ready to call up for that pizza after all, I tossed that thing in the oven and said a little prayer.

When I removed the foil cover from the pan after 30 minutes, as per the recipes instructions, all I saw was a white, runny, bubbling mess. Eek. I left in uncovered for another 15, as the recipe says to do. Still didn’t like what it looked like after that, so gave it five minutes more. Finally, I decided to take it out and hope for the best.

I let it rest before taking a knife to it. I let it rest a good 20 minutes actually. And when I cut it into it and lifted the first piece out, I was pleasantly surprised at how well it held together. Yes, it was soft, but overall, not too bad. Plus, it tasted good! Really good actually! I’ve only recently started purchasing whole squash and this was a GREAT way to use one. Roasting it in the oven makes it easy to work with.

So, if you decide to take on this recipe, here are my suggestions. 1. If you make the entire recipe, be ready with a giant casserole or two 13×9 inch pans. Then be prepared to be able to feed at least a dozen people. Otherwise, I would plan to use one box of noodles, half the puree and the sauce, and use about a pound and half of sausage. That would probably fit nicely into one 13×9 inch pan and give you 6 extremely generous servings – Actually, more like 8 if you want to be realistic. I will be making this again for sure…with a few adjustments, of course.

BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND SAUSAGE LASAGNA (Recipe adapted from: Rachael Ray)

Note: The recipe below is adjusted to make one 13×9 inch pan, serving 6 to 8. For the entire recipe, click the link above. If you know six people who can eat all that then…wow, you have some very hungry friends!

Oh, and in the interest of full discretion, the photo below was actually taken the following day, after the lasagna had a chance to set in the fridge overnight. The actual first pieces out of the pan after it was made were a bit oozier, so heads up there.


  • 1 pound butternut squash or pumpkin, halved and seeded
  • Extra virgin olive oil, for liberal drizzling
  • Salt and pepper
  • Freshy grated nutmeg
  • 1.5 cups chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoons honey
  • 1.5 pounds sweet Italian turkey sausage
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups 2% milk
  • 6-8 leaves fresh sage, very thinly sliced
  • 1 box no boil, flat-edged lasagna sheets
  • 2 cups grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400ºF.
  2. Drizzle the squash with olive oil and season with salt, pepper and a little freshly grated nutmeg. Roast cut-side down until tender, about 40 minutes. Let cool until it’s cool enough to handle, then scoop the flesh out of the skin and add to a food processor. Puree the squash with the stock and honey and set aside.
  3. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and brown the sausage, crumbling it into very small bits as it cooks, about 7-8 minutes.
  4. While the sausage cooks, heat a pot over medium heat. Add the butter and melt, then whisk in the flour, cook for 1 minute and then whisk in the milk. Season with salt, pepper, a little freshly grated nutmeg and sage. Cook until thickened, about 7-8 minutes, whisking occasionally.
  5. Dot some squash puree in the bottom of a 13×9 inch dish, then add a layer of pasta. Top with a third of the cooked sausage and cover lightly with squash puree. Cover with another layer of pasta, a third of the béchamel sauce and 1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano. Repeat with two more layers, ending each with béchamel sauce and using all of the remaining cheese for the top layer. Sprinkle parsley across the top, cover and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and cook 15 minutes more to brown the top. Let set a few minutes before serving.


1 Comment

Filed under pasta, sausage, veggies

One response to “NaNo? No Problem!

  1. Pingback: The BIG News « Milk & Honey

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