Craig Bolger is an avid cook. He and his wife Debbie live in Independence and have two sons in college and a daughter in high school.
Q: When did you discover you enjoyed cooking?
When we were first married, my wife, who is a nurse, worked in a hospital emergency room, so she worked long hours. I am a financial planner and often beat her home. I taught myself to cook and discovered I loved to cook, so I often had elaborate meals ready for her when she got home.
She left nursing when our children were small so she could stay home with them, but today I still do most of the cooking for my family and she enjoys wood working and working in the yard. My wife is a great sous chef and we work together to clean up and wash the dishes.
Q: Do you cook for family and friends?
I grew up in Independence and today, my mother, mother-in-law and sisters live close by so I often cook for them, including sharing pieces of these zucchini lasagna roll ups with them. I love to entertain, so we have parties and folks over for dinner throughout the year and will invite family and friends to share the holidays with us.
Q: What are some of your favorite dishes?
These zucchini lasagna roll-ups are a dish that is often requested by my family and I started making them years ago to entice my daughter to eat zucchini. I also enjoy making a cedar-planked salmon with honey mustard sauce. For Christmas I always prepare a standing rib roast, then my tradition is to make beef and noodles from the leftover beef the next day, and that is a family favorite.
Q: What inspires you and where do you find your recipes?
Both of my grandmothers enjoyed cooking. My maternal grandmother was Croatian and enjoyed making the pastries and dishes of her heritage. Today I often find recipes on the Internet. The zucchini lasagna roll ups recipe was one I found online, but then I tweaked it to make it my own.
Q: What are your suggestions for this recipe?
I have always enjoyed Scimeca’s, a local Italian favorite, and while you can use any Italian sausage or marinara in this recipe, I always use Scimeca’s.
The zucchini must be squeezed very dry. I put the shredded zucchini in a kitchen towel and my wife and I take opposite ends and twist, squeezing it over the sink to remove all of the excess water.
Q: What are some of your cooking tips?
First, have fun and try it. Experiment with new flavors. I find lots of recipes on the internet and Facebook and if I want to try a recipe, I send myself a private message with the recipe link so I can easily go back and find it.
Zucchini Lasagna Roll Ups
Makes 10 to 12 servings
Nonstick cooking spray
1 (16-ounce) package lasagna noodles
1 pound bulk hot Italian sausage
1 (23-ounce) jar marinara sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
4 zucchini, peeled, shredded, drained and squeezed dry
2 cups ricotta cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
2 large eggs
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 18-by-13-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.
Cook the lasagna noodles according to package directions. Drain and lay the cooked noodles out on wax paper.
In a large skillet, over medium high heat, cook the sausage until browned, stirring frequently and crumbling it finely. Drain and set sausage aside.
Spoon 2 cups of marinara sauce into the bottom of the baking dish; set aside.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds, stirring frequently. Add the zucchini and cook, stirring frequently, until the zucchini is tender, about 6 minutes. Remove from the heat.
In a large bowl, stir together the ricotta cheese, both the grated and shredded Parmesan cheese, eggs and the sauteed zucchini. Stir in the cooked and drained Italian sausage.
Spoon about 1/3 cup of zucchini-sausage mixture over one lasagna noodle and spread it evenly. Roll the noodle up and place it, seam side down in the sauce in the baking dish. Repeat with all of the noodles and zucchini-sausage mixture. Spoon the marinara sauce over each rolled noodle. Top with the mozzarella cheese. Cover and bake 45 to 50 minutes.
Tip: Taste and add additional seasonings, such as oregano, basil or Italian seasonings to the sauce, if desired.
Roxanne Wyss and Kathy Moore are cookbook authors and food consultants that make up The Electrified Cooks. They have published over 12 cookbooks and thousands of recipes. They are members of Les Dames d’Escoffier and blog at pluggedintocooking.com. Email them at KCComeIntoMyKitchen@gmail.com.