Sunday, January 11, 2009

Lasagna Beef 'n' Spinach Roll-Ups

Source: Country Italian Cookbook

I love lasagna, pasta and pretty much any other Italian carb-licious meal. This is a twist on the classic lasagna dish and incorporates the servings into a roll rather than layered with noodles in the traditional favorite.

1 1/2 lbs. ground beef (can use 1lb and decrease from 12 to 10 rolls)
1 28 oz. jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce (Newman's Own Sweet Onion is quite tasty)
1/2 cup A.1. Original or Bold & Spicy
1/2 teas. dried basil leaves
1 15 oz. container ricotta cheese
1 10 oz. pkg frozen chopped spinach, thawed & very well drained
2 c. (8 oz.) shredded italian cheese blend or mozzarella
1/3 c. parmasan cheese, divided
1 egg, beaten
12 lasagna noodles, cooked & drained (make a couple extra for breakage)
2 tbl. fresh or dried parsley

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. In lg. skillet, brown beef over med. high heat until no longer pink (I will usually add a crushed clove of garlic here to add some extra flavor), drain. In a small bowl, combine the spaghetti sauce, A.1. & basil. Stir 1 cup of the sauce mixture into the drained beef. Set aside remaining sauce.

2. In medium bowl, combine ricotta, drained spinach, shredded cheese (save a 1/2 cup for topping), 3 tbl. parmasan & the egg. Spread lasagna noodles on a baking sheet or other flat surface to cool enough to handle and to assemble rolls. On each noodle, spread about 1/4 c. ricotta mixture. Top with about 1/3 c. beef mixture. Roll each noodle from short end; lay each roll seam side down in lightly greased 13x9 baking dish. Pour reserved sauce mixture over noodles. Sprinkle with remaining parmesan cheese and shredded cheese. Add fresh or dried parsley and cover. Bake at 350 F 30 minutes. Uncover and bake 15-20 minutes more or until hot and bubbly.

Serve with garlic bread or a simple cesar salad and a nice glass of wine. Hearty and perfect for a cold winter's night. It's great reheated too!

Baked Potato Casserole

Casseroles often get a bad rap as being a mosh pit of flavors that well...aren't so good. Not to fear! This one is different and takes the simple flavors of a baked potato and melds them into an entree this is both quick to make and yummy to eat. It's been in my recipe box for years and continues to be a favorite!

5 large baking potatoes, peeled & diced
10 slices of bacon (a standard pkg)
8 ox. shredded cheddar or other favorite (i prefer the colby mix)
1 pint sour cream - no reduced fat here!
6 green onion stems
salt & pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 325 F. Place potatoes, cut & cleaned, into a large pot and cover with cold water. Heat to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 20-25 minutes or until tender but still firm. Strain potatoes and keep warm until ready to use.

2. While potatoes are still simmering, chop bacon into small pieces and cook in saute pan. I find that chopping the bacon before hand makes for a better final dish. Feel free though to cook the pieces and crumble after if you prefer (or forget). I try to avoid crispy bacon with this one, but that's just a personal preference. Once bacon is cooked, place on a paper towel to soak up residual grease and continue heating the leftover pan grease to saute the green onions.

3. Place cut green onions in hot bacon grease for 1-2 minutes; drain excess grease and set aside onions. Combine potatoes, a couple pats of butter and salt and pepper in ungreased casserole dish. Add bacon, sour cream, onions & 1/2 of the cheese mixture and stir to combine. Spread evenly in dish.

4. Sprinkle remaining cheese over mixture and finish with fresh cut chives (dried work too). Bake 30 minutes or until cheese begins to bubble.

Monday, December 15, 2008

It's been too long!!!

Ahhh! Can't believe a whole month has come and gone! Not too worry, I have not given up on cooking, much has happened recently and many recipe mugshots are being held hostage on the digital camera. Wedding planning has been very rigorous as of late and combined with the ol' day job and traveling...well needless to say, I've been lax on the posting. You've called me out on it and I am back full force!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Top Chef Recap and What's to Come...

Wow! What a start to the season last week! Not one but two cheftestants got the boot on the season premiere. The candidates traveled to the Big Apple and were met with an appropriate Quickfire Challenge centered around apples. Peeling, dicing, and preparing a dish were all elements but ultimately Lauren was out. I think it takes some serious skills to peel 15 apples with a paring knife! In the Elimination Challenge, the chefs were given a neighborhood in the city and challenged to create a recipe that was inspired by the ethnic foods of the area. My mouth was watering as the dishes were prepared and of course the chaos in the kitchen was entertaining. Jeff completely misjudged the allotted time and was running around like a crazy person trying to plate. Needless to say the judges were not impressed with the final dish. My favorite chef so far is Eugene. He's a very likable contestant and even though he had not made Indian before he inadvertently made a traditional dish that went over very well with the judges. I hope he goes far in the competition! In it to win it was Stefan and win it he did. His attitude is arrogant to say the very least but his lamb dish did look yum. On the chopping block were Ariane and Patrick, a culinary student. I thought Patrick's mistakes were small and he could improve through the competition but the judges sent him and his knives out the door. I think Ariane will be out soon though. Not a lot of moxy or creativity in her cupboard and rookie mistakes that the judges were not impressed with given her experience. Tonight the competition continues and it's going to be a shocking episode judging from the previews. A snippet shows Padma spitting out one of the dishes - can't wait to see what happens! I'll be tuning in as I blog some of my own new recipes.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Top Chef premieres tonight!!!

Source: Bravo TV

Tonight is the night for Top Chef Season 5 to premiere on Bravo! I had heard a lot about this show but did not become an avid watcher until last season when the cast was in Chicago. I am now addicted and cannot wait to watch the next 17 contestents, or should I cheftestents (thanks for the cheesy line Bravo) to hash it out for the top honors. This is a great show to watch for techniques, delish dishes and of course dramatic reality television. Check it out tonight, premiere is at 10/9 c.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Cajun Dirty Rice with Shrimp & Sausage

One of my favorite dishes - lots of hot spicy flavor! Rice is a great staple to have in the cupboard as well as chicken stock to cook it in. It gives the rice great taste and enhances your overall recipe. Everytime I make this dish I variate the recipe depending on the ingredients I have on hand - it always tastes great though and Damon goubles up every bite!

1/2 lb. shrimp (31-40) peeled and deveined
8 oz. andouille sausage (this is a cajun spice sausage - you can use any kind you like though)
1 cup frozen mexican or cajun veggie mix (the mix I like contains corn, black beans, tomatoes, peppers, onions and a seasoning on them. I find it in the frozen veggie section.)
2 tbl. olive oil
2 cloves garlic minced
Worcestershire sauce
1 tbl. red pepper flakes
1 tbl. ground black pepper
1/2 teas. hot chili powder
1/2 teas. salt
3 tbl. butter
1 cup colby jack shredded cheese (or any shredded cheese)

Shrimp seasoning: (the measurements are just guidelines - substitute or lessen/add as your tastes so desire)
1/2 tbl. paprika
1/2 tbl. salt
1/2 tbl. garlic powder
1/2 tbl. black pepper
1/2 tbl. onion powder
1/2 tbl. cayenne pepper
1/2 tbl. oregano
1/2 tbl. thyme

1. Combine all spices in for the seasoning mixture and use about 2/3 to cover the shrimp in a plasic bag. Reserve the remaing mix. Refrigerate while you prepare the other ingredients.

2. Prepare the rice according package directions for 2 servings. In a deep skillet, heat a tbl of oil and saute the cut up sausage for 2-3 minutes, add onion and saute another 2 minutes. Add garlic, pepper flakes, frozen veggie mix and about 3 shakes of the Worcestershire sauce. Once the sausage is cooked through and the veggies are tender, add skillet contents to the pot containing the cooked rice. Cover to keep warm while you get the shrimp going.

3. Using the same skillet as the sausage, add a tbl. of oil to the pan and the seasoned shrimp. Saute 1-2 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Be careful not to over cook shrimp - it will get rubbery.

4. Remove the shrimp from heat and add the rice & sausage mixture to the skillet. Use a spatula or other cooking utensil to scrap the bottom of the skillet and combine all of the ingredients. Add the remaining 1/3 of the seasoning mix and the 3 tbl. butter. Stir until homogenized (love that word!). Add the cheese, stir until melted and serve. Delish!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Baked Pasta

Source: BHG

Got to love Better Homes & Gardens - that checkered cookbook has everything! A highly recommended addition to your kitchen if you don't already have it and a great gift for newlyweds or new homeowners. This baked dish is a simple, hearty meal and freezes if you'd like to make ahead.

8 oz. dried pasta (recipes calls for cavatelli but I've used rotini, penne and gemelli in the past)
16 oz. italian sausage or ground beef (go for the sausage - the flavor is great!)
3/4 c. chopped onion (1 medium)
2 cloves minced garlic
1 26 oz. jar of your favorite pasta sauce
1 1/2 c. shredded mozzarella
1/2 c. parmesan cheese
1/4 teas. black pepper

*tip to note - I keep frozen herbs on hand as well as shallots and garlic. It's great to stock up on refrigerated staples as they have great flavor and it cuts down on your trips to the market for fresh ingredients.

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Boil water and prepare pasta as directed on pkg. While the pasta is cooking, grab a large skillet and combine the sausage, onion and garlic and cook until the sausage is browned and the onions are tender. Drain the meat and pasta.

2. Pour the drained pasta into a 2 quart casserole dish and add the meat. Spoon the pasta sauce, 1 c. cheese (combine parmesan & mozz, will have 2 cups) and the pepper into the dish and stir gently to combine.

3. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in a 375 degree oven for 25 or 30 minutes until nearly heated through. Uncover and sprinkle with the remaining 1 c. of cheese and parsley as needed. Bake another 5-7 minutes or until cheese is melted. Serve and enjoy!!

**can also prepare as individual servings using 5 or 6, 8-10 oz. casserole dishes.