Archive for November, 2010



November 28, 2010

There are many days of the year that I’m thankful for taking “Student Chef” — one of the home economics courses at my high school. While there may have been a few epic fails in team cooking (ask my friends about why I no longer eat peanut butter cookies), I came away with a few basic ideas about how to cook and some starters for recipes.  This lasagna has morphed from our high school recipe over the past 12 years I’ve been making it. The recipe below includes some of my favorite veggies and browned up hamburger. Mix and match to please your tastebuds!

The proportions below will give you a 9×13 version; cut in half if you want a smaller square lasagna.  This recipe also works really well if you need something prepared in advance. Simply freeze it prior to baking. When you need it, thaw and bake away!

You will need:

  • 12 c of your favorite pasta sauce (This is roughly 3 average-sized bottles of sauce if you opt to buy some)
  • About 18 sheets (1 and 1/2 boxes) no-boil lasagna noodles (If you can’t find any, simply parboil traditional lasagna noodles for 5 minutes before incorporating)
  • 1 1/2 c ricotta cheese
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/2 t pepper
  • 3/4 t garlic powder
  • 1/4 t red pepper flakes
  • 1 t oregano
  • 1 t basil
  • 2 c shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 yellow squash, sliced no thicker than 1/4 inch
  • 1 zucchini, sliced no thicker than 1/4 inch
  • 4 oz baby bella mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/4 lb hamburger, browned and seasoned as desired
  • 1/2 c shredded parmesan cheese

Then you…

  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Set a 9×13 baking pan on a cookie sheet with a lip; this will help keep your oven clean, if your sauce bubbles over during the baking.
  2. Cover the bottom of the baking pan with sauce (roughly 4 c). Line the pan with about 6 lasagna noodles; this should be enough to go end-to-end and side-to-side, but depending on how much overlap you allow, you may need a few more or less. I sometime break apart a piece as well to get all the way into the corners.
  3. In a small mixing bowl, combine the ricotta and eggs with the salt, pepper, garlic, red pepper flakes, oregano and basil. Whip it with a fork until light and fluffy.
  4. Top the noodles in the pan with half of the ricotta mixture. Spread evenly.
  5. Add enough yellow squash and zucchini to form an even layer on top of the ricotta. Sprinkle with 1 c of the mozzarella cheese.
  6. Top the cheese-veggie layer with more sauce until covered, roughly 4 c. You can use the sauce to fill in the edges as well.
  7. Add another layer of 6 lasagna noodles. I try to alternate the directions of the noodles. For example, if my first layer went short side to short side, my second layer would be along the long side.
  8. Top the noodles with the second half of the ricotta mixture.
  9. Cover with the ground beef and the sliced mushrooms.
  10. Sprinkle the second cup of shredded mozzarella cheese over the beef and mushrooms.
  11. Add your third layer of noodles.
  12. Cover with the last of the sauce until the edges seem “sealed” and there is some on top of the whole lasagna.
  13. Sprinkle with the grated Parmesan.
  14. Bake about 50 minutes to an hour, or until bubbly and just turning crispy.

Go play! Customize the basic layers: 1. sauce, 2. noodles, 3. cheese, 4. sauce, 5. noodles, 6. cheese, 7. noodles, 8. sauce, 9. cheese


Pumpkin-Chocolate Cookie Bars

November 24, 2010

This year I am sadly not hosting Thanksgiving dinner at my house. Instead I will be hopping on a 6:00 a.m. flight to the midwest for some family time. Because I’m flying, I opted to pack up some Thanksgiving-inspired cookie bars. You could make these as traditional cookies, but they are fun as little bites too!

You will need:

  • 1 c butter or margarine (at room temperature)
  • 3/4 c brown sugar
  • 1/2 c white sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 c pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 t almond extract
  • 1/2 t vanilla extract
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/2 t nutmeg
  • 1/2 t cinnamon
  • 1/4 t ginger
  • 1/4 t ground cloves
  • Dash of ground cardamom
  • 3/4 c whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/4 c all-purpose flour
  • 2 c semisweet chocolate chips

Then you…

  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Line a 9×13 baking dish with foil and lightly grease with nonstick spray.
  2. Cream together the butter and sugars in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Beat in the egg, pumpkin puree and the extracts.
  4. Stir in the salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and cardamom.
  5. Mix in the flours just until combined.
  6. Gently stir in the chocolate chips.
  7. Spread batter in the prepared pan. Bake until fluffy and golden brown, about 40 minutes.
  8. Cool on a rack before cutting into squares for serving.

Plumicot Bars

November 22, 2010

These chewy, fruity bars are a great mid-afternoon snack full of energy.  They will set as they cool so don’t worry if they seem a little soft right out of the oven. I used chopped dried apricots and plums, but you can mix in whatever dried fruits make your mouth water. Try them with raisins, cherries, figs and more! If you are feeling adventurous, consider adding in a little crystallized ginger too!

You will need:

  • 2 c dried fruit, chopped
  • 1 c old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 3/4 c whole wheat flour
  • 1 c packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 c chopped nuts (I used walnuts, but use what’s in your pantry from hazelnuts and almonds to pecans)
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 3/4 t cinnamon
  • 1/2 t ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 t ground ginger
  • 1 stick unsalted butter or margarine, melted
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 1/2 t almond extract

Then you…

  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Line a 9×9 baking pan with foil and lightly spray with nonstick spray.
  2. In a bowl, mix together the fruit, oats, flour, brown sugar, nuts, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.
  3. Stir in the melted butter and the extracts. (Note: if the mixture seems dry and crumbly, add in extra margarine or a little water just until it starts to hold a dough shape).
  4. Press the mixture into your greased pan and spread evenly.
  5. Bake until golden about 40 to 45 minutes.
  6. Cool completely in the pan on a cooling rack.

Minestony Soup

November 15, 2010

Everyone needs friends like I have. Especially when they include a friend with a dad who cures his own Italian sausage every winter. It really turned this minestrone soup into a mines-“tony” soup.  If you don’t have any homemade hot sausage in your freezer, just pick up your favorite sausage from the store!  This is a hearty soup that freezes well. Makes about 12 cups.

You will need…

  • 1 lb sausage
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 4 pieces thick cut bacon, chopped
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 3/4 c carrot, chopped
  • 3/4 c celery, chopped
  • 1 small head of cabbage, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3-5 sprigs rosemary, leaves picked off
  • 1/2 c packed basil leaves
  • 1/2 c packed parsley leaves
  • 1 can (14 oz) whole tomatoes, drained and crushed
  • 1 can (15 1/2 oz) cannellini (or white beans), rinsed and drained with half of them mashed
  • 10 c chicken stock
  • 2 t salt
  • 4 oz whole wheat elbows
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Grated cheese to garnish

Then you…

  1. In a skillet, brown the sausage. Put to the side.
  2. In a large stock pot, heat the olive oil. Add the bacon and cook until crispy.
  3. In a small bowl, combine the rosemary, basil and parsley. Chop using kitchen shears.
  4. Add the onions, carrot, celery, cabbage, garlic, rosemary, basil, and parsley to the bacon. Cook while stirring until the greens start to wilt down, about 7 minutes.
  5. Stir in the tomatoes. Cook another 3-5 minutes.
  6. Stir in the beans, stock and salt. Bring to a boil; then reduce heat and simmer, partly covered, about 30 minutes.
  7. Mix in the elbows and the cooked sausage. Simmer for another 15 minutes.
  8. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  9. Serve topped with grated cheese (Parmesan or Italian blend).

Spinach-Pepper Quiche

November 12, 2010

This is a quick-to-whip-up, light quiche that my parents fell in love with during my last visit home.  It’s full of chopped spinach, roasted red peppers, and some feta cheese for oomph. We made it with an egg substitute, but you could always use 4 eggs instead.  Just whisk them up before added to the veggie mixture. When baking, you want to bake until golden brown with a center that does not jiggle.  Then you know it has cooked through!

You will need:

  • 1 pie crust
  • 1 box (~10 oz) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed of excess water
  • 1 jar (~8 oz) roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 oz crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 t oregano
  • 1 t garlic powder
  • 1/2 t black pepper
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 c egg substitute

Then you…

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch pie plate.
  2. Line pie plate with the pie crust.
  3. In a bowl, stir together the spinach, peppers, onion, and spices. Mix in the egg.
  4. Pour the filling into the crust.
  5. Bake about 45-60 minutes until golden and set in the middle.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Brownies

November 10, 2010

Another fall treat. My aunt makes the best cheesecake brownies ever. I won’t even try to compete, but these pumpkin cheesecake brownies “taste like pumpkin pie in a brownie.”  Yumm! Just in time for Thanksgiving…

You will need:

  • 4 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4 c canned pumpkin puree
  • 1 egg
  • 3 T sugar
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1/2 t nutmeg
  • 1 batch of your favorite brownie batter for an 8×8 or 9×9 pan
  • 1 t allspice

Then you…

  1. Heat oven to  325. Grease your square pan, line with tin foil, and grease again. This will make it easy to remove the brownie bars from the pan.
  2. Whisk together the cream cheese, pumpkin, egg, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg till all of the pumpkin cheesecake mixture is smooth. Set aside.
  3. Prepare your brownie batter according to your favorite recipe or box; stir in the allspice.
  4. Spread 3/4 of the brownie batter in your pan.
  5. Drop the pumpkin cheesecake on top by the spoonful. Spoon the remain brownie batter over the filling.
  6. Use a knife to marble the batters.
  7. Bake 45-50 minute or until just setting in the middle. Cool completely before cutting.
  8. Store covered in the fridge!

Cinnamon Applesauce

November 5, 2010

This is seriously simple. This is seriously tasty. You will LOVE it. It’s a great way to use up leftover apples from that trip to the orchard or a bag from the market that was on sale…or even the random apples left in your fruit drawer. I made mine in my crockpot, but you can also use a heavy pot with a lid and cook the apples over low heat on the stovetop. In the end, you should have about 3 cups of sauce.

You will need:

  • one bag (3 lb) apples — I used Gala today, but really they are all delicious
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • 1 cinnamon stick

Then you…

  1. Peel, core and quarter the apples. Place them in the crockpot and sprinkle with the lemon juice.
  2. Cook, covered, on low heat for 5 to 6 hours. The apples will become fall apart tender and slightly caramelized.  You usually won’t even have to break them up at all with a wooden spoon; although you could to speed them up a bit.
  3. If you don’t want cinnamon sauce, stop!  Your sauce is finished, unless you decide to blend it into smooth applesauce.
  4. If you want cinnamon delish, then add in a cinnamon stick about an hour before your want to stop. Remove before serving.

Note: the applesauce will keep for about 2 weeks in the fridge.

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