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Christmas Eve Menu: Spinach Lasagna Dinner

Lasagna snap3

I’ll update the photo if I get a good one this Christmas Eve

Tossing around ideas for my Christmas Eve party and settled on lasagna this year. It will once again be gluten-free using specialty noodles. Excited to have our traditional party in the new house.

On the board:

  1. Spinach Lasagna
  2. Tossed Salad
  3. Garlic Bread*

This recipe takes about an hour to prepare and another hour to cook. It easily serves 6 – 8. I will make it a day ahead and refrigerate. It will need additional cooking time to bring center up to temperature.

Spinach Lasagna

Sauce:

  • 3-15 oz cans tomato sauce
  • 2-6 oz cans tomato paste
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 2 tsp oregano, crushed
  • 2 tsp basil, crushed
  • 2 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled & finely grated
  • pinch of sugar (reduces acidity of the tomatoes)
  • Optional: ½ lb ground beef and ½ spicy Italian sausage, browned

Saucepan

Add all ingredients to saucepan on medium-high, stirring constantly until it begins to boil lightly. Turn to low and let simmer while you prepare the remaining ingredients.

Lasagna:

  • 1 pkg lasagna noodles (16 oz), cooked and placed in cool water until layering
  • 16 oz ricotta cheese
  • 8 oz package frozen spinach, thawed or 8 oz fresh, washed and dried
  • 1 egg
  • 12 oz sliced mozzarella cheese
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese

13×9 baking dish (I prefer glass), lightly oiled

To prepare: Mix ricotta, spinach and egg until well blended. Ladle a layer of sauce on the bottom of the baking dish. Cover in a single layer of noodles. Ladle sauce over noodles. Spoon ½ of the ricotta mixture evenly (if you place large dollops evenly like putting cookie dough on a baking sheet, fairly close together, it will spread as it cooks, no need to smooth it). Layer 1/3 of the mozzarella over the ricotta. Repeat: noodles, sauce, ricotta, mozzarella, noodles. On top of the last layer of noodles, add remaining sauce, mozzarella and parmesan cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, uncovered – I like to place the baking dish on a baking sheet to catch any spills as it bubbles. Place knife through the center, if it comes out heated through, remove and let stand for 10 minutes before cutting and serving. If it needs more cooking time, you can cover with foil to keep the cheese from burning and cook 10 more minutes. Let stand uncovered before serving.

Garlic Bread

*I’m going to purchase a gluten free loaf  (we have a great local bakery for that) and I’m also going to make this Slow Rise recipe.  Making the garlic bread is easy. I slice the loaves in half lengthwise, melt butter, add a healthy amount of crushed garlic and brush liberally on each loaf half. Then I top with shredded mozzarella and Parmesan.  Broil until cheese is melted and bread is golden brown. Slice and serve.

Tossed Salad

I try to change it up each year, and I don’t know how I’m going to do this time. Maybe spinach/raspberry or a veggie toss with romaine.

Next up: Dessert Menu



 

Breakfast Pr0n

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Fun With Food: Waffle Iron Breakfast Sandwiches

Breakfast Sandwich

Last month when I was so sick, I spent a lot of time resting on the couch, watching TV. This was on some cooking show, they were making a breakfast sandwich using only a waffle iron. Sounded like fun. It took me a couple of times to get the timing right because it all happens fast. Start to finish it was ten minutes per sandwich. And clean up was a breeze. Paper towel to clean out the waffle iron is all you need.

Biscuits

I started with the biscuits, because I didn’t want the bacon to flavor everything. I first tried refrigerator crescent rolls, but they were hard to work with and way too sweet. My second try was with refrigerator biscuits. I thought they worked about really well. The crew on the show actually reheated store bought bagged croissants. That would work, too. For the biscuit, I used one biscuit that I separated in half to cook. You could use two if you wanted thicker sandwich.

Bacon slices

Next up: bacon. My waffle iron is 7 inches across and easily held two slices of bacon, cut in half. It cooks up fast, so keep an eye on it.

Bacon slices 2b

It was crisped in less than 2 minutes. I then drained off the excess grease and it was time for the eggs and cheese.

Waffle eggs

I had no trouble with it sticking, because the bacon grease kept the waffle iron well oiled. Mine held only one egg. Milk worked better than water for mixing. And my iron has adjustable temperature, so on my second try, I lowered it to the lowest setting and got the egg the way I liked, less brown, more light and fluffy.

The eggs were surprisingly fluffy, no matter what, but milk gave them a bit more loft.  You could easily add green pepper or onions to the mix, maybe even tomatoes. Just watch the amounts because you don’t want the egg to spill out of the sides, then you have a mess.

The key to preparation is to have everything ready to go. Biscuits separated, egg beaten, cheese shredded and bacon cut. Then it is a quick process – biscuit took 2 minutes, bacon took 2 minutes, egg took less than a minute, then I added the cheese and that was another 30 seconds, tops. Assemble and eat. Yum.

 

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I just could not wait…

for the garden to produce a fat juicy ripe tomato to slice for a BLT.DSC_8557 (1600x1060)I suppose we could have gone with the grape or cherry tomatoes that are coming ripe but they are not the same.  We have a few tomatoes from Kroger’s that are closing in on their use by date.  That is a commercial blend of Creole seasoning sprinkled on the sammy.

Chicken Schnitzel

DSC_7912 (1600x1060)A  schnitzel is a boneless cut of meat – could be chicken, pork, veal, or just about anything – that has been pounded flat, coated with flour, egg, and bread crumbs and then fried.  These are chicken “tenders”, part of the breast, and they are tender indeed.  If you are too enthusiastic with the meat tenderizer they will disintegrate.  They got an Italian seasoned bread crumb final coat.

Waffle Pr0n

DSC_7778 (1600x1060)Mmm… waffles with chicken and white gravy and an egg…DSC_7782 (1600x1060)with maple syrup.  My only regret is that the egg broke while in the pan and I didn’t get a good runny yellow shot.

Crispy Baked Chicken and Gadget Update

Chicken à la noir.

Kinda wish I had that lighting all the time.

This was going to just be a gadget update, but I thought the chicken turned out so good,  I figured I’d include it.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my newest gadget and I’ve been using it pretty consistently since it arrived. I thought I’d give an update, because I’m really pleased with it. It’s almost all pros. It’s a breeze to use, it doesn’t take a lot of force to penetrate the meat. I love the way it infuses the meat with whatever seasoning or marinade I cover it with – quite literally it helps the meat absorb all the marinade in a couple of seconds. Another plus is how neat it is while tenderizing – the meat, especially chicken, doesn’t need to be wrapped before pounding – there is no meat flying around the kitchen. The real plus is how easily it cleans. Because of the guard between the base and the meat, stuff doesn’t get all caught up in the tines. A bit of soap and hot water and the thing is spotless. Really important with chicken. The one con I have, and it may be a strength issue for me, is that sometimes the tines get caught in the meat and I have to pry it out, kind of like pulling a stick out of mud, and start again. This happens with the thicker parts.

Today I used it to tenderize chicken breasts before breading and oven roasting them. When making this basic oven fried chicken, breasts can be difficult because they can dry out easily. Pounding them flat first makes for quicker cooking, less chance of drying out.  And here’s the recipe I used today:

Oven Fried Chicken:

First I seasoned the boneless breasts with salt and lots of pepper. I pounded them on both sides. Then I dipped them in an egg wash (1 egg and 2 tbsp of water per 4 breasts) and then dredged them in a mixture of bread crumbs, panko bread crumbs and seasonings – I used garlic powder, basil, sun dried tomato flakes, rosemary and a touch of oregano.  I lined them up on a foil covered baking sheet, covered them with foil and baked at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Then I raised the oven temp to 425 degrees, removed the foil and baked for an additional 5-7 minutes until crisp.

They were very moist on the inside, with a nice crisp crust. Leftovers will be great in lunch salads…

Breakfast Pr0n

Mmm… sausage egg and cheese muffin.  Mrs J bought a box of whole wheat muffins at the store yesterday, intending to have them with jelly for breakfast.  I had a better idea.

Hot and Sour Soup

I’ve been dithering a bit on using that tofu but I finally managed to use up about half of the block on this Tyler Florence recipe.  I used the dried mushrooms I have in the pantry, some shiitakes I believe, but the original packaging is gone.  I keep them in a big plastic jar.  I looked for some pork to use in this thing but settled on a half chicken breast.  I think I used too much corn starch thickener because the final instruction in the recipe was to stir the soup to set up a swirling current so the egg would self-incorporate.  This was so thick that that just wasn’t going to happen so I stirred it with a spoon as the egg drizzled in.  I never get the egg right in these things.

I’ll get around to that miso soup I talked about the other day, I swear!

Thursday Recipe Exchange: Awesome Chocolate Chip Cookies

Time for cookies. Chocolate chip cookies to be specific. JeffreyW cleaned out his pantry one day and came up with the ingredients for his Awesome Cookies w/Coconut.

JeffreyW’s Awesome Cookies w/Coconut

When I’m in the mood for a double dose of chocolate I make Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Cookies. You just can’t go wrong with chocolate chips.

There are a few recipes I get requests for often. My dark chocolate chip cookie recipe is hands-down the recipe that I get requests for the most. And instead of wanting a copy of the recipe, most people want me to make them, convinced they couldn’t get them to turn out as good. I disagree. There are a couple of simple tricks that make these foolproof. One is to melt the butter before mixing with the sugars. This gives you a crispy on the outside, gooey on the inside cookie. Another is to let the mixture rest in the refrigerator for 15 minutes or more, this brings out the toffee flavors in the dough. And finally, pull them from the oven just before they’re done and let them finish on the baking sheet for the last minute or so, this gives you a perfectly browned cookie and lets them set up just enough to transfer to a…PLATE. I’ve tried a baking rack and they are too gooey and get stuck on the rack. You can put parchment paper on it first, which I’ve done, but a plate works just fine.

Now, what’s your favorite type of cookie? Chocolate, fruit, sugar, peanut butter? I’m always on the look out for the perfect peanut butter cookie. I’m still looking…

Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 2 sticks butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugarcacao chips
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp dash of salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 12 oz 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chips
  • 1-1/2 cups walnut halves, roughly chopped

mixing bowl and cookie sheet

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Cream together butter and sugars. Add eggs and vanilla, mixing well. Sift together salt, soda, and 2 1/4 cups flour, then add to butter mixture, blending well. Add more flour as needed. Add nuts and chocolate chips. Refrigerate for 15 minutes or longer.  Keep remainder refrigerated while baking each batch.  Spoon onto cookie sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes.  Remove just before done and let finish cooking on the baking sheet. Cool on plate or baking rack covered with parchment.

Melting the butter gives you a chewier, crispier cookie.  Letting it rest in the refrigerator enhances the toffee flavor from the brown sugar.  Big cookie bakeries let theirs rest overnight before baking.  I don’t have that kind of patience, I want cookie!  Though I’ve been known to double or quadruple this recipe and refrigerate in an airtight container for a week and make a fresh dozen each day.

You can also freeze the dough balls on parchment paper placed on a baking sheet and then store the balls in an airtight container for quick baking later.

Cross-posted at Balloon-Juice.