Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Classic Italian Lasagna

Pic courtesy of My Kitchen Cafe

Who's in the mood for some comfort food? Because this lasagna is absolutely AMAZING. I have been making sour cream lasagna for years and really believed that, as far as lasagna goes, it couldn't be beat. Let me tell you, this Classic Italian Lasagna beats it. It is the creamiest, tastiest homemade lasagna you'll ever make. I could literally eat it for dessert. Warning: it's a bit labor-intensive, but worth every dirty pan.

Classic Italian Lasagna

from My Kitchen Cafe

*Makes one 9X13-inch pan of lasagna

Red Sauce:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
4 cloves fresh garlic, finely minced
1/2 large onion, diced (about 1/2 cup)
8 ounces mushrooms (I used the canned variety), chopped
2 (8-ounce) cans tomato sauce
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1-2 (14.5-ounce) cans diced tomatoes, undrained
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning (or a mix of dried oregano and basil)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

White Sauce:
3 cups milk (not skim, I used 1%)
5 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

9 lasagna noodles, boiled for half the time on the box (or use 12 of the no-boil noodles, of which I far prefer the Barilla brand)
1 pound ground turkey
1 pound mozzarella cheese, shredded
8 ounces Parmesan cheese, shredded

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9X13-inch baking pan with cooking spray or with a napkin dipped lightly in olive oil and set aside.

In a large skillet, brown the ground turkey over medium-high heat, breaking the meat apart into pieces with a wooden spoon. When turkey is cooked through, drain the grease and set aside.

In a medium-size saucepan over medium-high heat, add 2 tablespoons olive oil and one tablespoon butter. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. When oil/butter is hot, add the garlic, stirring constantly. When the garlic is lightly browned, but NOT burned, add the onion and mushrooms. Continue cooking on medium-high heat until the vegetables are soft and browned and the fluid has mostly cooked out. Remove from heat and either using a handheld immersion blender or transferring the vegetables to a blender, blend the vegetables to a paste-like mixture. Return the pot to the heat (pour the pureed vegetables back in, if using a stand-alone blender) and add the tomato sauce and tomato paste. Stir to combine. Then add the diced tomatoes, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Stir. Cover and let the sauce sauce simmer for 30 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. Right before using the red sauce in the lasagna, stir in the reserved ground turkey.

While the red sauce simmers, if using lasagna noodles that need to be boiled, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and boil the noodles for half the time suggested on the box. Once the noodles are cooked, drain, but do not rinse. Add a dab of olive oil to keep them from sticking together. If you are using no-boil noodles, you can skip this step.

Also while the red sauce is cooking, melt the four tablespoons butter and when melted, add the flour, stirring constantly to combine and letting the mixture cook, while stirring, for a minute or two. Gradually add in the milk, whisking constantly. Add the salt and pepper. Slowly whisk the white sauce, ensuring it doesn’t burn on the bottom of the pan, while cooking it over medium heat. Continue slowly stirring or whisking while the white sauce cooks and thickens quite a bit, about 5-7 minutes.

To begin layering the lasagna, keep in mind that you’ll have three layers of noodles as well as three layers of the sauces and cheese – so plan on splitting all the sauce and cheese piles into thirds so you don’t run out at the end! On the bottom of your lightly greased baking pan, layer three pre-boiled noodles or four no-boil noodles, slightly overlapping the no-boil noodles. Layer the red sauce, white sauce, Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses, spreading all to the edges and top with another layer of noodles. Again, layer the red sauce, white sauce, Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses and top with the final layer of noodles. Layer the sauces and cheeses again.

Cover the lasagna with a greased layer of aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and let the lasagna sit for 15 minutes before cutting and serving.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Red Velvet Pancakes

I made these pancakes this morning for Valentine's Day. I also whipped up some fresh cream and dyed it pink...festive, festive. Biting into these is seriously like biting into a piece of red velvet cake...and, who doesn't love dessert for breakfast?
Red Velvet Pancakes
Recipe from Whipperberry

1 1/2 cups Buttermilk
4 eggs
4 Tbs. butter, melted
1 tsp. Vanilla
2 Tbs. red food coloring (1 oz. red found in spice section of grocery store)
2 cups flour
2 Tbs. cocoa
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt

Mix together dry ingredients; set aside. Melt butter in separate bowl, add buttermilk, eggs, vanilla, and food coloring. Blend well. Pour in dry mixture and beat until smooth. Pour 1/2 cup servings onto hot griddle. Cook until done on both sides and serve warm, with desired toppings....we used a bit of maple syrup and fresh whipped cream. Enjoy!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Cowboy Quesadillas

**Photo from Our Best Bites blog
This is a great last minute dinner idea with ingredients you usually have on hand. 

Cowboy Quesadillas
Recipe by Our Best Bites

1/2 C white rice
1/3 C black beans
1 cup diced cooked chicken
1/3 C fresh frozen corn kernels (no need to thaw)
2/3 C diced tomato
3 Tbs sliced green onion
1 1/2 C shredded cheese (any type or combo you like)
1/4 C bbq sauce
6 small tortillas (fajita size, about 6")

Dipping Sauce
equal parts bbq sauce and ranch dressing (here's our favorite)

Combine rice, beans, chicken, corn, tomato, green onion and shredded cheese.  Add bbq sauce and stir to combine.  Place about 1/3 C of mixture on half of each tortilla and fold over to close.

Heat a skillet to medium heat on the stove top.  When hot, spray lightly with cooking spray, or drizzle with canola or olive oil.  Place quesadillas in pan and cook for 2-4 minutes or until golden brown and slightly crisp.  Flip and repeat on opposite side.  Cool for a few minutes and then serve with BBQ-Ranch dipping sauce. 

Friday, February 11, 2011

Lentil Sloppy Joes

Sounds strange, right? If you're trying to cut back on meat, you'll try strange things. This is a wonderful meat-less substitute for good ole' American sloppy joes.

Lentil Sloppy Joes

1 cup brown lentils
1 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 cup yellow onion, chopped
1 Tbs. garlic, minced
1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 Tbs. prepared yellow mustard
1 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
Tabasco to taste
Salt & pepper to taste

Sort through lentils, picking out stones or debris. Cover and cook lentils with 4 cups water in a medium saucepan over medium heat until tender but not mushy, about 22 minutes. Drain lentils and set aside. Saute onion in a saute pan over medium high heat until soft, 8 minutes. Add garlic and saute 1 minute. Add ketchup, syrup, mustard, vinegar, Tabasco, and salt & pepper. Simmer until thick and darker in color, 8-10 minutes. Stir in lentils and simmer 2-3 minutes to warm through. Serve sloppy Joes on buns with pickles, lettuce, and onions.

Vegetarian Enchiladas

We have plenty of Enchilada recipes on this blog, but you must try these vegetarian enchiladas! My family is trying to cut back on meat, and these are surprisingly delicious and completely nutritious! They're delicious with spanish rice as a side.

Vegetarian Enchiladas
Beth Blackwelder

2 Tbs. olive oil
2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup tomato paste
14.5 oz. can vegetable broth
salt & pepper
3 cups (12 oz.) grated pepper jack cheese
15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 box (10 oz.) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 can of corn kernels, drained (I like to use frozen, thawed corn for a fresher taste)
6 green onions, thinly sliced
16 corn tortillas (6" size)

1. Make sauce in medium sauce pan. Heat oil, add 1 tsp. cumin, flour, and tomato paste. Cook, whisking 1 minute. Whisk in broth and 3/4 cup water. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened--5-8 min., salt & pepper. Set aside.
2. Make filling in a large bowl. Combine 2 cups cheese, beans, corn, spinach, half of green onions, 1 tsp. cumin, salt & pepper
3. Pre-heat oven to 400. Lightly oil baking dishes. Set aside. Stack tortillas and wrap in damp paper towels. Microwave on high 1 minute. Top each tortilla with 1/3 cup filling. Roll up tightly and arrange in pans. Pour sauce over and sprinkle with 1 cup cheese.
4. Bake uncovered until hot and bubbly, 15-20 minutes. Cool 5 min. Garnish with green onions.

Pinto Bean, Tomato, and Butternut Squash Soup

This Butternut squash soup is to die for. It's thick and hearty, and packed with nutrition. And your kids will eat it!

Pinto Bean, Tomato, and Butternut Squash Soup

1 Tbs. olive oil
2 cups chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
4 garlic cloves
3-4 cups canned vegetable broth
2 15 oz. cans pinto beans, drained
1 17 1/2 oz. can diced tomatoes in juice
2 cups 1/2 inch pieces peeled, seeded butternut squash*
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper, or less, to taste
6 Tbs. chopped fresh basil

*Tip: for easier peeling and cutting of squash, microwave for 2 minutes to soften slightly, then cut off ends of squash and peel with a vegetable peeler.

Heat oil in heavy, large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and celery; saute until onions are golden for about 7 minutes. Add garlic and stir for 1 minute. Add broth and next 5 ingredients. Bring to boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer until squash is tender (about 15 minutes). Transfer 3 cups soup to blender. Cool slightly, then puree until smooth. Return puree to pot with soup. Simmer until heated through, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into six bowls. Sprinkle each with 1 Tbs. basil and serve.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Fly-off-the-plate Pancakes!

If you like fluffy pancakes, these aren't for you. Fly-off-the-plate pancakes are thin and sweet, oozing with blueberry goodness. There's a reason they're called "fly-off-the-plate". Combine them with homemade maple syrup, and it's a match made in heaven.

Fly-off-the-plate Pancakes

1 cup flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 Tbs. sugar
1 Tbs. baking powder
1 egg
1 cup milk
2 rounded Tbs. sour cream
2 Tbs. melted (cooled) butter
Dump all the ingredients into the blender for a minute. That's right, this is a one-dish process. I like fewer dishes to clean.
Drop onto hot, lightly greased griddle. Sprinkle a few blueberries (the frozen ones work really well) over the surface as soon as batter has been placed on griddle.

Vegan Fajitas

Don't let the word "vegan" scare you...these are the most flavorful, delicious fajitas (or call them burritos if you'd like) I've about ever tasted. I can't wait to make them again!

Vegan Fajitas
Adapted from Allrecipes.com

1/4 cup Olive Oil
1/4 cup Red Wine Vinegar
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. chili powder
garlic salt to taste
1 tsp. white sugar
2 small zucchini, julienned
2 small yellow squash, julienned
1 large onion, sliced
1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1 green bell pepper, cut into thin strips (I used 2 red peppers instead of a green, since I don't care for green peppers)
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 (8.75 ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained (I used frozen corn, thawed)
1 (15 oz.) can black beans, drained

1. In a large bowl combined olive oil, vinegar, oregano, chili powder, garlic salt, salt, pepper, and sugar. To the marinade add the zucchini, yellow squash, onion, and peppers. Marinate vegetables in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, but not more than 24 hours.
2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Drain the vegetables and saute until tender, about 10-15 minutes. Stir in the corn and beans; increase the heat to high for 5 minutes to brown vegetables.
3. Add to your favorite tortilla (try the uncooked variety, which you cook over your stove--it makes all the difference!)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Chicken with Mushrooms

I made this for dinner a couple of weeks ago and it was so rich and delicious. Brian and I both loved it. If you need a recipe that will mix up your chicken routine, this one will make you glad you did.
picture courtesy allrecipes.com
Chicken with Mushrooms
Adapted from Allrecipes.com

3 cups sliced mushrooms
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 Tbs. onion, chopped
4 chicken breasts (you can pound them thinner for more flavor)
2 eggs + 2 tsp. water, beaten
1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
Sprinkle of Oregano and Thyme
1-2 Tbs. Olive Oil
1/2 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream or milk
Cooked Rice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine bread crumbs and seasonings in bowl (you can use whichever seasonings you like best, but you need enough to season all 4 breasts). Heat half of the oil in large skillet. Dip chicken into egg mixture and then bread crumb mixture til completely coated. Salt and pepper both sides. Brown chicken on both sides in skillet. Place in a 9 X 13 pan. Pour remaining oil in same skillet and saute the mushrooms with garlic and onions until they are softened, about 5 minutes. Add chicken broth and cream/milk to pan. Stir to combine. Pour mushroom mixture on top of chicken breasts and top with mozzarella cheese. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until juices run clear. Serve over fresh rice.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Red Velvet Cupcakes and Cream Cheese Frosting + Gift Idea

**Photo from According to Kelly blog.
What is it about red velvet that is so amazing?  I don't know but these are easy and good!  You must look at the gift idea below.  We made them for our Christmas goodies and they were so cute and yummy and easy.

Red Velvet Cupcakes
From According to Kelly Blog

1 package of german chocolate cake mix
1 small package (3.4 oz) of vanilla instant pudding mix
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup water
1, 1-oz bottle of red food coloring
3 large eggs
1 cup miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips
1. preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. mix cake mix, pudding mix, sour cream, oil, water, food coloring & eggs in a large mixing bowl until well mixed.
3. using a spoon, fold in the mini chocolate chips.
4. fill your cupcake pan, or cupcake liners 2/3 of the way full.
5. place pans in the oven & bake approximately 18+ minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean, or the cupcakes “springs back” when lightly pressed.
6. cool for approximately 15 minutes before frosting.
* more concerned with how red your cupcakes are, as opposed to the chocolate-ness of the cake? start with a white or yellow cake mix instead.

Cream Cheese Frosting
From According to Kelly Blog

1, 8-oz package cream cheese
1 stick of softened butter
1 tsp. vanilla
4+ cups of powdered sugar
1. mix cream cheese, butter & vanilla with an electric mixer until smooth & well combined.
2. slowly add powdered sugar, one cup at a time, until desired taste achieved. be sure to scrape down the side of bowl with a spatula.
3. once well combined, beat for an additional minute or so, until everything is creamy & fluffy.
4. using a pastry bag or ziplock bag, smother your cupcakes in mounds of yummy & delicious frosting.

**Photo from According to Kelly Blog

Gift Idea

creating heaven in a jar

From According to Kelly Blog

making mason jar cupcakers is seriously just about the easiest thing in the world. really & truly, it takes just a few simple steps… bake up a batch of your favorite cupcakes (whether it’s from a box or made from scratch), then you smoosh, frost & repeat. see i told you it was easy-peasey. but just in case you need a wee bit more direction, i’ve whipped up a little tutorial for you.
step one: as i said before, the first step is to whip up a batch of your favorite cupcakers. honestly, everything tastes better when eaten from a jar, with a spoon. people have raved about my straight from the box fun-fetti cupcakes (okay, so maybe i throw in an extra box of pudding) & begged for my red velvet recipe (they usually fall in love with the mini chocoloate chips which gives it an extra little umph!)… but really & truly neither of these recipes are all that special. but, when you are eating from a jar, with a spoon…. ahhhh! it’s like holding a little bit of heaven in your hands.
step two: throw away what you know about baking cupcakes, at least for the moment. when you’re making mason jar cupcakes no fancy-pants cupcake liners are needed for this job. so break out the pam, & apply liberally. go ahead – spary the dickens out of the pan, you definitely don’t want your cupcakes sticking. plus, you need the cupcake “sides” looking good & ready for their closeup. considering all you really see of the cupcake is their sides, you want those babies smooth & looking good!
step three: filling the cupcake pan has never been my forte! i always struggled trying scoop the batter into those itty bitty holes, without spilling batter everywhere. luckily one day it finally occurred to me to cheat. these days i use a makeshift pastry bag (a ziplock bag with about a 1/2 inch of the corner snipped off) to fill my cupcake pans quickly, cleanly & with an incredible amount of precision. & since filling my makeshift pastry bag can get complicated with just two hands, i like to put my water pitcher to work “holding open” the bag as i fill it.
step four: fill your cupcake pan according to your recipe (usually about 2/3 full), & then bake. this is my favorite part. i love the smell of baking cupcakes wafting through the house.
step five: now the fun begins. first select your mason jar of choice. personally i like the 8 oz. jars, because they fit two cupcakes absolutely perfectly. (although the 4 oz. jars are darling with a single cupcaker, & the 12 oz. can fit three cupcakes… so really it’s up to you.) next, you place your cupcake on top of your chosen jar & smoosh it all the way to the bottom. you don’t have to worry about man handling the top of the cupcake too much, because it will soon be covered in frosting.
step six: if you haven’t already, whip your frosting (whip it real good). or, if you’ve chosen the slightly quicker, but probably just as tasty route, scoop your frosting from the can. & just like before, once again i am going to use the “ziplock cheater” method. seriously, if you’ve never tried it, promise you will – soon! it will literally change the way you feel about making cupcakes.
step seven: time to frost! using a ziplock bag or a real pastry bag (trust me, you’ll want to use one or the other to get down near the bottom of the mason jar) & top the cupcake with frosting. i like a lot of frosting, so i usually do about a 1/2 inch worth – but do what ever you are comfortable with. & again, you don’t have to worry too much about how “pretty” it looks, because you are going to to be smooshing another cupcake on top of it. 
step eight: REPEAT. that’s right, this is where you get to smoosh & frost again. when you’re frosting this final time though, try not to go too over the top. remember, you still have seal it all up, & “over the top” frosting is just going to get squeezed out. so, try to keep your frosting as level with the rim of the jar, as possible. & when you are all done… seal it up baby!
step nine: once you’ve put your lid on & you are all sealed up, it’ time to pretty up the jar. using some ribbon, or a scrap of fabric, tie a square knot. (you remember how…. right over left, left over right.)
step ten: attach a fancy pants label… download perfectly sized, blank mason jar labels HERE. then, handwrite, or using your favorite editing software such as photoshop or picnik, write a sweet note. print on paper (& tape or glue down), or use avery sticker paper. & finally cut out with a sharp pair of scissors, or a 2 inch circle punch.
step eleven: slid a vintage (or plastic) spoon through the knot & viola! you’ve got the perfect gift, thank you, party favor…