Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Meaty, Cheesy Lasagna

Aaron & I have a tradition that we make each other whatever meal & dessert we would like for our birthdays. Since we've been married, Aaron has had very simple requests...he's not a fussy eater and doesn't care about very elaborate dishes. However, this year he threw me a curve ball when he requested lasagna! I was pleased to make it, but truth be told, it was only the second time I'd ever made one. It turned out great...meaty, cheesy, delicious. Served with a side salad and a crusty garlic bread it was a perfect, hearty birthday meal.

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My Meaty Cheesy Lasagna

no-boil lasagna noodles
1 pound ground beef
1 pound Italian sausage8 oz package mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp. garlic salt
1-2 Tbsp. dried oregano
1-2 Tbsp. fresh {or dried} basil
chili powder, to tastegarlic powder, to taste
salt & pepper, to taste
2 {24.5 oz} jars of pasta sauce
1 can garlic, onion, basil diced tomatoes
1 {15 oz} container ricotta cheese
3 eggs, beaten
3/4 - 1 cup grated parmesan cheese1 pound shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350. Cook ground beef & Italian sausage in large pot or skillet over medium heat. I bought 4 Italian sausage links and removed the skin. Once cooked, drain. Return to pot or skillet and add mushrooms, tomato sauce, & diced tomatoes. Season to taste with garlic salt, garlic powder, chili powder, oregano, basil, salt, pepper. Simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl mix together the eggs, ricotta & parmesan cheeses.

Once meat mixture is done simmering, ladle enough to cover the bottom of your lasagna dish. Add a layer of lasagna noodles to fit on top of the meat sauce. Spread about 1/3 of the ricotta cheese mixture over the noodles. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese over the ricotta cheese mixture, then ladle enough meat sauce to cover the mozzarella cheese. Repeat layering twice more and top with remaining mozzarella cheese.

Cover dish with tin foil and bake in pre-heated oven for about 1 hour - 1 hour 15 min. Allow to sit for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Lemon Chess Pie

Aaron had a conversation at work one day about pie, and was excited to have me try two different Southern pies that neither of us had ever heard of. One of them was chess pie, that was described as like pecan pie, minus the pecans. It sounded really good to me, because the filling is the best part of pecan pie! There appears to be many different ways to make a chess pie, but I chose to make a lemon variety and have made it twice since. One of the wonderful things about this pie is the thin, slightly crusty layer that forms on the top. This pie has a delightful, refreshing lemon flavor that is not overpowering. Definitely a new favorite!

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Lemon Chess Pie
Adapted from: Food Network

1 unbaked pie crust
2 cups sugar
1 Tbsp. flour
1Tbsp. fine, yellow cornmeal
4 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 Tbsp. grated lemon rind
1/3 c. fresh lemon juice, with pulp (about 2 lemons)

In a large bowl combine the sugar, flour and cornmeal. Blend well, then add the eggs and combine well. Add the milk and mix then stir in the melted butter, lemon rind and juice. Pour this filling into the crust and cover then edge of the crust with foil to prevent it from burning, taking care not to touch the filling.

Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes, removing the foil after 30 minutes. Cool on a wire rack and serve. This can be refrigerated overnight, but let it sit on the counter for 3 hours before serving to warm up slightly. Serve with whipped cream, if desired.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Perfect Flaky Pie Crust

If you don't usually {or are afraid to!} make your own pie crust, then this recipe is for you. It is so simple and takes about 5 minutes to put together, minus refrigerator time. I use butter-flavored shortening which gives the crust a smooth, buttery flavor, but regular would work just fine.

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Perfectly Flaky Pie Crust

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shortening, chilled
3 tablespoons ice water

Whisk the flour and salt together in a medium size bowl. With a pastry blender, cut in the cold shortening until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Drizzle 2 to 3 tablespoons ice water over flour. Toss mixture with a fork to moisten, adding more water a few drops at a time until the dough comes together.

Gently gather dough particles together into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for at least 30 minutes before rolling.

Apple Pie with Crumb Topping

I made this pie for our church small group gathering at our home last week. It was a much in fact that I made it twice in the same week. I normally prefer a crust top, but I modified this topping a bit and think that this might be a new favorite. Both times I've made this pie, I've used 3-4 different types of apples and I think that using different types gives it a wonderful flavor. If you don't usually, or are afraid to, make your own crust, you need to give this one a try. It is super easy to put together and its perfect flakiness is completely worth the little extra effort.

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Apple Pie with Crumb Topping
Adapted from: All Recipes

1 pie shell
6 cups thinly sliced apples
1 tablespoon lemon juice (optional)
3/4 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Crumb topping:
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup oats
sprinkle of cinnamon
3 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Place sliced apples in a large bowl. Sprinkle with lemon juice if desired. In a small bowl, mix together white sugar, 2 tablespoons flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Sprinkle mixture over apples. Toss until apples are evenly coated. Spoon mixture into pie shell.

In a small bowl mix together the 1/4 cup flour, brown sugar and oats. Soften butter and toss into mixture until moist and crumbly. Sprinkle mixture over apple filling. {There will be a generous amount of topping. Sprinkle liberally!} Cover top loosely with aluminum foil.

Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 25 to 30 minutes, until top is golden brown and filling is bubbly. Cool on a wire rack.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Grilled BBQ Pork Chops and Steak Fries with a Citrus-Thyme Aoli

I've been doing a lot of grilling lately and really enjoying it. Grilling just says "summer" to me and it always gives the food such a nice flavor. We had seen this aoli recipe some time ago and Aaron thought it sounded good, so I decided to finally give it a try. It was easy, easy, easy. I served the chops and fries with a side of cooked spinach {drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with salt & pepper} for a perfectly seasoned, summertime meal.

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Grilled BBQ Pork Chops
I used 6 thin-sliced chops, but you could use however many you wanted. Sprinkle both sides with onion powder, paprika, and sugar. Place all chops in a gallon Ziploc bag with your favorite BBQ sauce {I used Wegmans' "Kansas City"} and marinate for at least 3 hours.

Steak Fries with Citrus-Thyme Aoli
Adapted from: Bobby Flay

1 cup mayonnaise
2 cloves garlic, smashed to a paste
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon honey
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 russet potatoes, scrubbed
1/4 cup canola or olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves

In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, garlic, zests, thyme, paprika, honey and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Put the potatoes in a pot of cold water, add 2 tablespoons of salt and cook over medium heat until the potatoes are tender, but still firm. Drain, let cool and cut each potato in half, then into strips lengthwise so you have 3-4 "fries".

Heat the grill to medium. Drizzle the potatoes with the oil and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Grill until golden brown and cooked through. Transfer to a serving platter or bowl and serve with the mayonnaise.

My Modifications:
I am famous for thinking I have an ingredient I need and I'm in the middle of cooking the dish, realize I don't have it and needing to improvise. This is what happened with the thyme. I was going to use dried thyme anyway, but regardless, I ended up not having any. Instead, I used about 1 tsp. of dried Italian seasoning. I also used regular paprika instead of smoked and only 4 potatoes. I also squeezed in some fresh lemon juice, to taste. Just add a little at a time so you don't get a runny aoli.

If you've never made a paste out of the garlic cloves, all you do is smash each clove with the flat side of your knife (use a wide blade) and continue to press and drag {the flat side}the knife across the garlic. Eventually, you will see it start to get pasty. You can add a pinch of salt to help with this process. The original recipe said to grill the fries about 3-4 minutes on each side, but I threw them on the grill with the pork chops and did each the same amount of time, probably about 10 minutes each side.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Day {not} Wasted

Yesterday was such an emotionally{?} exhausting day. Alex was a mess...well, not as long as I was holding him anyway! He is not usually a cuddler, or very needy, but yesterday he couldn't get enough. I literally spent the entire day holding him. Except for the 1 1/2 hours I got him to take a nap in the afternoon. I'm not sure if he wasn't feeling well or maybe he's starting to teeth. Speaking of which, he's been wearing that dang teething necklace for over a month now and still no teeth! However, teeth or no teeth, the ladies in the nursery say they believe it improves his disposition when he wears it. As do I...but part of me wondered if it was purely psychological.

Anyway, so yesterday was spent cuddling, holding, trying to prevent crying and not much else. Actually, absolutely nothing else was accomplished. If I did have to put him down to go to the bathroom, or take a shower {at 5:00 pm!}, or to do marinate some chicken, it was like I broke his little heart and he just let loose the flood gates. *phew! Around 6pm, I sent Aaron a text that read something {exactly} like this: "Whenever you want to come home would be a really good time!" Sometime after that {almost 7'ish}, I woke up in the rocking chair in the nursery with Alex sleeping in my arms. I put him into his crib and checked to see if Aaron was home. I didn't see his car, but I grabbed my phone and headed downstairs. As if out of nowhere, Aaron appeared on the landing {scared the snot out of me} and saying nothing, hugged me. Guess he'd been home for just a little bit, but didn't want to wake us.

I'll be honest. Part of me desperately wanted to be at work and not holding a psychotic baby. Ok...even more honestly, at one point I actually got onto Career Builder and {briefly} searched available part-time jobs. I don't think I really meant it...I was just feeling a little "flight mode"-ish {stemming from a selfish heart!}. I've been thinking today how, in reality, I am ever-thankful that I can sit home and just hold my needy baby all day. I think a lot of mommies would trade places in a heartbeat. In retrospect, it really wasn't a "bad day". We spent the entire day outside on the screened in porch, the kitties hung out with us, I got some reading done, and we played a little, but for 98% of the day, my entire focus was on him. Sometimes, I think that can get lost in the daily "to-do" list.

And even further and deeper-down, it was actually very pleasing, comforting, and satisfying to know that Alex just wanted me.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Clemetine's Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

I believe this recipe came from the Ghiradelli website a looong time ago and these cookies are fantabulous. The only thing to watch out for is not to over-cook them. I cook them for 10 minutes and at that stage they are browning around the edges, but look a little mushy/runny in the middle. Don't let that fool you into cooking them longer. I just made a batch tonight and let the 2nd dozen stay in for 15 minutes. Not burned, but much browner. I recommend doing the 10 minutes (or until they look as described above), take them out of the oven and let them rest for 5 minutes or so to stiffen up a bit. Then transfer to the cooling rack. This made about 3 dozen good-sized cookies...would have made a bit more had the cookie-dough-monster not shown up! Oh...and no. I have absolutely no idea who clementine is. But I hear she's a darling.

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Clementine's Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from: Ghiradelli

12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup unsifted flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
3 cups oats, uncooked
1 cup walnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 375. In a large bowl, beat butter with sugar and brown sugar at medium speed until creamy and lightened in color (about 4 minutes!). Add vanilla and egg, and mix on low speed until incorporated. Stir flour with baking soda, salt, and spices; add to creamed mixture, mixing well. Stir in oats. Fold in chocolate chips and walnuts. Drop by rounded tablespoons onto ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake 8-10 minutes for a chewy cookie, 10-12 minutes for a crisp cookie. Cool 1 minute on a cookie sheet; remove to wire cooling racks. Store in tightly covered container.

My Modifications:
I have made these twice in the past 3 days and both times I did something a little different and neither time did I use walnuts. In fact, I used no nuts. The first time, in addition to the chocolate chips I also added some leftover butterscotch chips I had laying around. It was probably around 1/2 cup. The 2nd time, I substituted raisins for the chocolate chips to make oatmeal raisin cookies. Still tasted amazing! Next time, I'll probably try cranberries. Mmmm...