Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Best Lasagna. Ever.

I found this recipe on the Pioneer Woman's website. She calls it The Best Lasagna. Ever. The title alone made a believer outta me. I think that Lasagna is a lot of work to make. Now, I love to cook, but I don't want to take on Lasagna unless I know the payoff is going to be worth it. This one is worth it!

Lasagna noodles, about 8
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb Jimmy Dean Pork Sausage, hot
1.5 lbs ground beef
2-14.5 oz cans whole tomatoes
2-6 oz cans tomato paste
2 Tbsp Parsley (meat), 2 Tbsp Parsley (cheese)
2 Tbsp Basil
1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp salt (water), 1 tsp salt (cheese)
1 Tbsp olive oil
24 oz cottage cheese
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 c Parmesan cheese
2-8oz packages Mozzarella cheese slices


Put the pork sausage, ground beef and garlic in a large skillet. Cook the meat and drain off the grease. Add the tomato paste, whole tomatoes with juice, 2 Tbsp Parsley, 2 Tbsp Basil* and 1 tsp of salt. Mix well and simmer for 45 minutes.

*I used fresh basil instead of dried because I have it (for the Mediterranean Salad I made Sunday). I just rolled six leaves tightly and sliced it thinly. Then I sliced it a few long ways for good measure.


While meat is simmering, bring a large pot of water, 1/2 tsp salt and 1 Tbsp of olive oil to boil. Add the noodles, two or three at a time until pot is full. Boil the noodles for about ten minutes. After draining the noodles and rinsing with cold water, lay out the noodles on a cookie sheet. (for easier handling later)


Combine cottage cheese, eggs, Parmesan cheese, 2 Tbsp Parley, 1 tsp salt. Mix well.

After the meat, cheese, and noodles are ready, make an assembly line on your kitchen counter. Lay four noodles on the bottom of your 9X13 casserole dish, overlapping as you go. I'm using a pretty Polish Pottery Dish that Roger bought me for Mother's Day one year. Spread 1/2 the cheese mixture across the noodles. Lay down 1/2 of the Mozzarella cheese slices. If they are sliced really thinly, go ahead a double up the layer. Repeat with the other half of your noodles, cheese, Mozzarella, and meat. Now generously sprinkle Parmesan cheese on the top of your Lasagna.

Now bake the Lasagna at 350 degrees F for about 60 minutes. Or, if you are like me and made this Lasagna in the morning so you'd free up the afternoon to fight a child that doesn't like to do her homework, cover the Lasagna with plastic and put it in the fridge for later. It can refrigerate, unbaked, for about two days.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Mediterranean Pasta Salad

I got a little worried while I was making this salad. My family generally protests ingredients like raw onions, olives, and tomatoes. But the combination of all these ingredients was pretty amazing. It was a little salty thanks to the feta cheese and the kalamata* olives. It was a little sour and tangy thanks to the red wine vinegar in the vinaigrette. It was really yummy!

Note about kalamata olives: Kalamata olives are a burst of flavor. They are saltier than black olives. You could probably substitute black olives in this recipe, but black olives are very mild and I think you'd be missing out.


4 oz bow tie pasta, cooked
2 cups cooked chicken, diced
1/2 cup feta cheese
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1 cup artichoke hearts, chopped
1 cup kalamata olives, halved
1/2 cup red onion, sliced thinly
5 basil leaves, chiffonade*
1/4 cup pine nuts

*roll the basil leaves together tightly and slice thinly


3 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp canola oil
juice of 1 lemon
1 clove of garlic, minced
3 tsp red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp oregano

Prepare the vinaigrette first. Combine all of the ingredients together in a Tupperware container. Add the lid and shake it up. Set aside to allow flavors to mingle.

Cook the pasta in well seasoned water (per instructions). Drain and rinse with cool water. Add the chicken, feta cheese, tomatoes, artichoke hearts, olives, basil, and pine nuts. Toss the salad with the vinaigrette and serve immediately. I added a little basil to the top of the salad as garnish.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Olive Bread

One of my favorite things to do in Germany was to visit the local bakery. All their bread was yummy, but my favorite was olive bread. It was snack when Kaitlyn and I would go grocery shopping on the German economy. Like every toddler, she knew the routine. As soon as we finished at the cash register, she'd start asking to go to the bakery. Now that we've been back in American for a few months, I'm starting to jones for some olive bread. Olive bread is an amazing snack, I'm sure you could serve it to compliment another dish, but it never lasted that long at my house. We eat it up too fast.

3 cups bread flour
1 packet of active dry yeast
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup olives, roughly chopped*
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/4 cups warm water
1 tablespoon cornmeal

*The original recipe calls for black olives, but you can really use any kind of olive. The olives in the bread in German were big green olives that were bursting with flavor. For this recipe, I used Tassos Mediterranean Olives.

1.In a large bowl, mix together flour, yeast, sugar, salt, black olives, olive oil, and water.
2.Turn out dough onto a your floured kitchen counter. Knead until smooth and elastic, 5 to 10 minutes. Set aside, and let rise about 45 minutes, until it doubles in size. Punch down. Knead well again, for about 5 to 10 minutes. Let rise for about 30 minutes, until it doubles in size.
3.Round the dough on your kitchen counter. Place upside down in a bowl lined with a lint-free, well floured towel. Let rise until double in size.
4.While the bread is rising for the third time, put a pan of water in the bottom of the oven. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
5.Gently turn loaf out onto a sheet pan that has been lightly oiled and dusted with cornmeal.
6.Bake loaf at 450 degrees F for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 degrees F. Bake for 30 more minutes, or until done.

How to Proof Yeast

If you are a seasoned baker, you know that yeast is a "living" ingredient. As it digests sugar, it releasing alcohol and carbon dioxide that causes your bread to rise. If your yeast is dead, your bread will not rise. "Proofing" the yeast is how you determine whether your yeast is alive or dead.

To proof yeast, combine 1/2 cup of hot water (about 100 degrees), and 1 Tablespoon of sugar. Stir your sugar and water until the sugar is completely disolved. Add a package of yeast. After five or ten mintues, the yeast should begin to form a creamy foam on the surface of the water. If the yeast is dead, there will be no foam in the bowl and you should start over with a new packet of yeast.

Friday, October 8, 2010

California Sushi Rolls

I had a sushi craving last night...so after our appointment at Edward Jones, we stopped by Safeway and bought some terrible, stale sushi. It was awful, but it was also motivation to pull out the old recipes and make some sushi at home.

I'll be honest, making sushi rolls isn't a piece of cake. It takes time...and practice...but even when they look a little lopsided, they taste pretty wonderful. I'll try to keep this entry pretty simple (and I took lots of pictures).

You have a lot of options when it comes to what goes in your sushi. Here is a short list, but my recommendation is to pick only three otherwise your sushi becomes difficult to roll.

cucumber, seeded
red or yellow pepper
imitation crab

Before you get started assembling the sushi, slice the vegetables and crab into long slices.

You'll also need:

a bamboo rolling mat(called a makisu)
sushi rice (see earlier blog entry)
seaweed wraps (also called nori)
roasted sesame seeds
pickled ginger* (also called Gari)
wasbabi sauce*
soy sauce*

*these ingredients are optional

When making sushi, it is a good idea to wrap the bamboo rolling mat in plastic wrap. This makes clean up so much easier because you won't have to pick the rice out from between the pieces of bamboo.

Cut the Nori in half and spread the rice on one side of the Nori.

Flip your Nori over (rice side down) and lay your vegetables down the center of your Nori. I used red pepper, avacado, and cucumber.

Roll your sushi. See that little bit? I am going to add a little rice to cover up the seam.

Roll your sushi again. Now sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Transfer the sushi roll to a cutting board and cover with a piece of plastic wrap.

Cut the sushi roll carefully with a sharp knife. Cut the roll in half first, then quarter, then eights. This helps the sushi maintain it's shape.

Transfer to a plate and serve with Gari, Wasabi and Soy Sauce. Here's what the they look like. I found these ingredients in the Asian aisle at our commissary.

Sushi Rice

The first time I introduced my husband and children to Sushi we were in Paris, France. There was a sushi shop next to our hotel so I picked some up and brought it back to the hotel for dinner. Kaitlyn LOVED it. She gobbled it right up. Roger liked it more after he'd had a piece or two. Maura was a little suspicious at first, but I think she's coming around. I love eating Sushi, but I have to admit it's pretty expensive to buy...so I scoured the internet and various cookbooks for a good Sushi recipe...this is what I found.

First you have to start with a good sushi rice....meaning short grain or medium grain. Some packages of rice are marketed as "Sushi" rice, but really any short or medium grain rice will do. You want to rinse the rice until the water runs totally clear (about five or six times). Cook the rice in a rice cooker. The general rule of thumb is a cup of water in the rice cooker for every cup of rice. If you put a little too much in, no worries, the extra water will boil off.

Next you make your Sushi "Su" to mix with the rice. You'll mix 1 part of Su for every 4 parts of cooked rice. The recipe below is enough for about 3 1/2 cups of rice.

1/2 cup rice vinegar*
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 cup mirin

*I think this recipe is a tad too sweet so I splash a bit more vinegar into the su.

1. Heat vinegar, sugar, and sake or mirin in a saucepan just to dissolve and combine. Allow to cool to room temperature.
2. Cook rice according to rice cooker directions. Transfer to large mixing bowl.
3. Pour su (vinegar mixture) over the rice, gently folding to incorporate.
4. Let rice stand for 10 minutes, then fold again.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Found These on My Camera

I found these when I was downloading pictures from my camera. Kaitlyn (age 3) has covertly been borrowing the camera and taking pictures of her meals...just like mommy.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Halloween Pumpkin Cookies

This is a pretty easy recipe to make. I acquired this recipe when Roger and I were first married. It came in the monthly newsletter that our apartment complex distributed...along with safety tips and a reminder that it was, in fact, illegal to sell drugs out of your apartment. Ahhh the memories of being newlywed and broke...

1 stick butter or margarine (Crisco is a good substitute, too)
1/2 c sugar
1 egg
1/2 c pumpkin
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 c flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp of cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl. Add egg, pumpkin, and vanilla. Sift dry ingredients together and add to bowl. Drop by tablespoon onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes or until lightly browned.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Sweet Potato Casserole

My daughter had a writing assignment. The question was, "What is your favorite season and why?" I'm sure that my third grade teacher posed the same question to my class. I have no idea how I answered it in the third grade, but if Ms. Martz asked me that question today I'd say that my favorite season was fall. I love fall. Have I ever mentioned that? I love watching the leaves turn colors. I like the crunchy sound that fall makes when you are walking in the leaves. I used to bring the leaves home and decorate my desk with all the oranges, reds, and yellows. I love my cloth pumpkins made with their Halloween and autumn fabrics that decorate my mantle. I love the smell of baking in the fall...Sweet Potatos, Pumpkin, Cinnamon...it's the most homey, comforting, safe smell. Here is a dish that is perfect for celebrating autumn and it's tasty, too. I like this recipe because the sweet potatos aren't smothered in marshmellows...not that marshmellows are bad...I think I've just outgrown them.

2 1/2 lbs sweet potatos
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 tbsp butter, melted
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
freshly ground pepper
1/4 c pecans, coarsly chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Pierce sweet potatos a couple times with a fork. Bake for 45-50 minutes. Set aside to cool. Turn oven down to 350 degrees F. Peel skin off the potatos and slice into about one inch chunks. Put into a med bowl and mash. Add eggs, butter, brown sugar, and spices. Mix until smooth. PAM a 8X8 casserole dish. Add mixture. Sprinkle with nuts. Bake for 30 minutes. Serve immediately.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Baked Beans

Can we all just agree that there are very few things in this world that don't taste better after you add bacon? My husband loves pork and beans. He hates anything else that contains beans. Go figure. When I first made this recipe for the man of my dreams...well, lets just say that some accusations were made. We'd been married for five or six years and he was of the opinion that I was holding out on him. I'm of the opinion that I've got a secret weapon to wheedle my way back into his good graces the next time I'm in the doghouse.

3 cans (15 oz) pork and beans
1/3 c ketchup
1/3 c brown sugar
1/2 med onion
3 tsp mustard
1 lb bacon

Fry bacon and cut into small pieces. Combine all ingredients into a 5 quart casserole dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.