Sunday, June 29, 2008

Meaty Lasagna

1/2 box lasagna pasta, cooked and drained
1 lb ground beef
1/2 cup red wine
1 container ricotta cheese
2 tsp dried basil
1 egg
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
3 cups prepared marinara sauce (or any leftover red pasta sauce)
2 cups mozzarella cheese, grated
salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste

Start by browning the meat. When it is cooked through ,drain off the fat and add the wine. Cook a few minutes to cook off the alcohol. Add salt, pepper and garlic powder to season it up, set aside. In a medium bowl, mix ricotta cheese, egg and Parmesan cheese, basil. Add salt and pepper to taste, set aside.

In the bottom of a greased 9x13 baking dish, spread 1/2 cup marinara sauce on bottom then lay 3-4 lasagna noodles on bottom, slightly overlapping them. Spread with 1/2 the ricotta mixture, then top with half the meat mixture then 1 cup marinara sauce. Repeat layers. Cover 2nd layer with 1 cup mozzarella cheese. Top with remaining noodles and marinara sauce, then top with remaining 1 cup cheese. Bake covered in 375 degree oven for 30 minutes, then uncovered for 10 more minutes. Let set for 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Yummy Lentils

I decided today that Id make lentils for dinner and when I went to search for it on allrecipes, or anywhere online, mostly what I found was lentil soups. I wanted something more like what my stepmom, Fran used to make us. Thick lentils over rice. I apologize for the picture, but its really hard to get a nice picture of lentils. Its just not that pretty!

Since I never did find a recipe that satisfied what I was craving, I decided to wing it and see what I could come up with. I must say that it was very good and exactly what I was wanting it to taste like, texture was spot on as well. I used a mixture of veggie and chicken broths and some water. For the garlic, I used 3 cubes of frozen garlic from Trader Joe's since I was in a hurry. Also, I didnt have time to peel tomatoes, so I just cut them in half and grated them like my sister always does in Spain. She never buys canned tomatoes there. She always grates fresh ones, and as you grate it, the skin naturally comes off. Its actually a neat little trick.

We served this over jasmine brown rice. It was rich and tasty and very healthy. I loved it and so did Charlie. He ate a huge serving.

2 large carrots, thinly sliced
3 celery stalks with leaves, chopped
1 sm onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 cups diced tomatoes
2 cups veggie broth (I use the savory veggie broth liquid concentrate from TJ's)
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup water
1 cup lentils, rinsed
1/2 tsp cumin
salt and pepper to taste

Splash a tbsp or more of olive oil in a hot pan let heat for a few seconds, then add onions, carrots and celery and saute for several minutes until crisp tender. Add garlic and saute another minute. Add Tomatoe and liquids and bring to a boil. Add lentils and cumin, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and cover, simmering for 1 hr. Check it every 10 minutes to stir it. In the last 30 minutes, add water by 1/2 cups if you need more liquids. Its done when the lentils are soft, but still holding their shape. It should be the thickness of a stew. Serve it over rice or noodles.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Delicious Taco Salad

This is one of my favorite summer time recipes. Ive loved this salad since I first learned to make it over 10 yrs ago. Any French or Catalina dressing will work, but Dorothy Lynch is the best. If you don't like French or Catalina dressing, then you can omit it and use salsa instead.

Original recipe from Beth Werner.

1 lb ground beef
1 packet taco seasoning
1 head of lettuce, chopped
1 can kidney beans, rinsed
2 tomatoes, diced
1 avocado, diced
1 can sliced olives, drained
1 cup grated cheese
1/2 of a large bag of tortilla chips, crushed
3/4 cup Dorothy Lynch Home Style Dressing
sour cream and salsa for serving

Cook the ground beef until browned, then drain off fat. Add taco seasoning and 3/4 cup water and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly, about 10 minutes. While the meat is cooling, combine lettuce, beans, cheese, tomatoes, avocado and olives in a large bowl. Crush 1/2 bag of tortilla chips and add to the salad mixture. Add dressing, meat and cheese and toss until everything is well combined. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and some salsa on the side.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Dill Pickle Chips

I really love pickles. Dill pickles, sweet pickles..pretty much any kind. When I was pregnant with Charlie I ate Claussen pickles quite a bit. I saw this recipe for pickles in a blog I read often called Good Things Catered. I knew that I wanted to try them out and I am so glad I did. They are so easy and yummy! They taste alot like the Claussen pickles and are very crisp. The original recipe says to cut the pickles into 1/2 inch slices, but I used my mandolin and my slices were very thin, less than 1/4 inch. Since my slices were much thinner, they only took 1 day to be ready to eat. These are so good!!

Dill Pickle Chips
Martha Stewart

2 lbs. Kirby pickles
3 Tbsp coarse salt (I use Kosher)
2 c. distilled white vinegar
1 Tbsp dill seed
4 cloves garlic
2 bunches fresh dill, coarsely chopped

-Cut the cucumbers into 1/2-inch-thick rounds, and transfer to a colander set in a bowl.
-Toss well with salt.
-Refrigerate cucumber rounds 1 hour.
-Rinse cucumber rounds well; drain.
-Pat dry between paper towels. Transfer cucumber slices to a large bowl.
-Bring 3 cups water, vinegar, dill seed, and garlic to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring.
-Reduce heat; simmer 4 minutes.
-Let mixture cool slightly, about 10 minutes.
-Add chopped dill to cucumber slices, and toss to combine.
-Pour in the brine.
-Let cool completely, about 30 minutes.
-Transfer mixture to airtight container(s), and refrigerate at least 1 week (pickles will keep 3 weeks more).

(makes 2 quarts)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Quick Pasta Salad

I threw this recipe together in the time it took for the pasta to cook. Its so versatile. Add whatever veggies you have. I would have added tomatoes to this, but we aren't eating them right now with the salmonella outbreak. I served this up with some grilled BBQ shrimp and baked beans.

1/2 box mini penne pasta
1 cup chopped broccoli
1 carrot, thinly sliced
2 cheese sticks, cut into chunks
1/2 cup imitation crab meat, shredded
1/3 cup mayo
1/3 cup Italian dressing (I used balsamic)
2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

While pasta is cooking, prepare veggies and cheese sticks and crab. The last 30 seconds of pasta cooking, add broccoli. Drain and run under cool water to chill. Add carrot, cheese, and crab to pasta and broccoli. In a small bowl, whisk together mayo and dressing. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over pasta, then pour dressing over and toss to coat evenly. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Chill for at least an hour before serving.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Pineapple Wontons

One of my favorite places to have sushi is Ra. I always love to get their pineapple wontons. I decided to try to recreate them myself. I used whipped cream cheese because that was all I had. The cream cheese part just didnt hold together like it would have with regular block cream cheese. The flavors were there though. I served it with a hoisin dipping sauce, but I wish Id have had a sweet and sour sauce or a plum sauce instead. It needed something more sweet and less salty. Hoisin is just such a strong taste.

24 refridgerated wonton wrappers
1 sm can crushed pineapple in heavy syrup, drained
1/4 cup cream cheese

Mix the pineapple with the cream cheese until well combined. Put 1/2 teaspoon filling into center of each wonton wrapper. Wet the edges with water and fold over and seal with your fingers. Just press them together really really good, squeezing out as much air as you can from the filling. Fry the wontons in hot oil till browned on both sides, drain on papertowels.

I made a bunch of these and I froze some for quick snacks or appetizers. They reheat pretty good in the oven. I just heat up a pizza stone to 350 degrees and then throw the wontons on. Bake 5 minutes, or until sizzling and heated through. Drain on paper towels and serve immediately.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Healthy Country Bread

I was reading Blake Bakes yesterday and it was about making home made bread. He wrote about how over the years bread somehow went from a weekly chore, to an "art" that takes tons of skill and knowledge. And how really that is just bogus. Ive always been intimidated when it came to baking anything with yeast. Im not sure why. Maybe I was always wondering if I was kneading the dough properly or if Id used enough flour. Well, now that I have a Kitchen Aid Mixer, I have no excuse because it will knead the dough for me! So today I set out to make some of my own, home made sandwich bread. I followed Blake's recipe for white country bread, but I used a mixture of whole wheat flour and oat flour in place of half of the white flour, since we normally eat whole wheat bread around here and Im always trying to sneak whole grains into our diet. The best part of making bread is taking out a little agression on the dough after it rises. Every recipe says to punch down the dough. I never really knew what that meant until I saw a pic on Blakes blog of him punching the dough down. So I did it the same way.

This bread turned out pretty good. Im glad I checked it after only 25 minutes because if it had been in there any longer, it would have began to burn. The bread was more dense than what I was expecting. Im sure that is because I subbed whole grain flour for half of it. I do think that I could have let it rise longer. Maybe it wasnt quite double the size. I froze half of the dough, so I can easily make more when this loaf is gone and next time I will let it rise a bit higher. Over all, it was easy and turned out good.

Adapted from Country White Bread from Taste Of Home

2 packages of active dry yeast
2 cups warm water (110-115 degrees)
1 Tbsp salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs beaten
1/4 cup grapeseed oil
6 cups flour (I used a combo of whole wheat, oat and white)

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in water and let sit for 10 minutes to rest. When yeast is ready, add sugar, salt, eggs, oil and 3 cups of flour; beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough. Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6 to 8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour. Punch dough down. Divide in half and shape into loaves. Place in two greased 9-in. x 5-in. x 3-in loaf pans. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Bake at 375 degrees F for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pans to cool on wire racks.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Buttermilk Biscuits

This is Homesick Texan's recipe and when I saw it today when I was looking at her strawberry shortcake recipe, I just had to try them. I have never pounded and folded my dough like that before and I really wanted to try it. Sam had a lot of fun helping me beat the dough. We used our hands because its more fun that way. Also, he got some of his own dough to make his own biscuits which turned out quite well! I am amazed at what all the pounding and folding the dough makes flaky layers! Kind of like the texture of the Pillsbury Grands biscuits! I know that Homesick Texan would cringe that I said that since she doesn't think biscuits from a can are real biscuits at all, but for me...home made biscuits have never turned out good. They have always been dense and dry! So I rarely tried to make them. Until now. These biscuits are the best Ive ever made. They were so moist and rose almost 2 inches high! I served these with some grilled chicken breast and a nice salad. But I ate 5 of them, so that made this meal very fattening for me. Doh!

Homesick Texan's Biscuits

2 cups flour
1 Tbps baking powder
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick butter, cold (8 tbsp)
3/4 cup buttermilk, cream or half-and-half (I used half-and-half)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Mix all the dry ingredients together.
Cut the stick of butter into pieces, and work into the flour mixture with your hands or a pastry blender until it resembles pea-sized crumbs.
Add the liquid, mixing until a bit loose and sticky.
Pour dough out on a floured surface, and knead for a minute. Dough should be smooth and no longer wet. You can sprinkle more flour on the surface if you find it’s sticking.
Take dough into a ball, and hit it with a rolling pin, turning it and folding it in half every few whacks. Do this for a couple of minutes.
Roll out dough until it’s 1/4 of an inch thick, and then fold it in half.
Using a round cutter (can use a glass or a cup if don’t have a biscuit cutter) cut out your biscuits from folded dough.
Place on a greased baking sheet close together (so they rise up not out), and bake for 15 minutes or until the tops are golden brown.
Makes 10-12 biscuits.

If you don’t want to roll and cut them out, after kneading and beating the dough you can drop the dough onto the baking sheet with a spoon. They’re not as symmetrical (dropped biscuits are also known as cat head biscuits) but they’re no less delicious.