My good friend AB decided to have a last minute Shabbat dinner and make lasagna for a couple of her friends - her boyfriend BS and her friends G & R. I offered to share a recipe and a hand. Nothing like a good Italian-style, comfort food dinner to begin a long weekend!
Main course: Spinach Lasagna adjusted from a recipe by EcoAmanda.
1 jar (26 Oz. Jar) Pasta Sauce (or whatever type of tomato sauce you have - we used 2 "half jars" of pasta sauce and a half jar of pizza sauce)
1 box no-boil lasagna noodles
1 pound Ricotta
½ cups Grated Parmesan
20 ounces, fluid Frozen Spinach, Thawed And Drained
1 cup Shredded Monterey Jack
1 Japanese Eggplant
Spread a layer of tomato sauce on the bottom of the pan (next time I may use more than this.)
Combine ricotta, parmesan and spinach and spoon ½ of the mixture over the noodles.
Put a second layer of noodles over the cheese mixture, then the rest of the cheese mixture. Cover with the remaining sauce. Top with the Monterey Jack.
Cover with foil, domed so that the cheese doesn’t stick to the top.
Bake 45 minutes at 375 degrees.
Remove foil and bake 20 minutes more.
Allow to set for ½ hour before cutting to serve.
Review: This was a very easy lasagna recipe and came out great. I would add an extra layer of lasagna to make it go to the top of the pan. The spinach and ricotta go great together and the monterey jack cheese on top became bubbly and crispy and delicious. This was my first time trying no boil noodles - I heard they were way easier and I was trying to make it simple to teach AB, I know from experience that boiling lasagna noodles is difficult. I found that they were a little bit gummy and not as al dente as real lasagna noodles. BS and others seemed to think they were just as good and both the boys and girls really enjoyed it! The Japanese eggplant was also my own addition, simply because AB had it in the house and wasn't sure what to do with it, and I enjoyed the texture added to the dish. Lasagna is such an easy dish and with noodles, sauce, and cheese - well you can't really mess it up! I would love to add other veggies next time like summer squash or zucchini.
Rating: 4 - pretty jammy
And then a dish I'd be dying to try ever since I encountered it on Tasty Kitchen....
Garlic Butter Crusty Bubble Bread (Everyone one of those words makes my heart skip a beat) by Rebecca
1 stick Unsalted Butter, (or 1/4 Lb.)
4 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Minced Fresh Garlic
¾ teaspoons Italian Seasonings
½ teaspoons Granulated Dried Garlic
½ teaspoons Kosher Salt, Plus An Additional 1/2 Teaspoon For Sprinkling
¼ teaspoons Freshly Ground Black Pepper
3 Tablespoons Instant Yeast
3 Tablespoons Kosher Salt
6 cups Lukewarm Water
13 cups All-purpose Flour
Master Bread Dough Recipe:
Mix water, yeast and salt together in the bowl of a large stand mixer or in a 10 quart food-safe container. Add flour and stir until the mixture is uniform. You don’t have to knead, but you want everything uniformly moist, without dry patches. The dough will be wet and will conform to the shape of its container.
Cover with a lid that fits well, but is not airtight (will a towel work?) and allow to rise at room temperature for about 2 hours or until the dough collapses back in on itself. You can now refrigerate the dough for up to two weeks, using the dough whenever you need it, or you may use it immediately.
To assemble the Garlic Butter Crusty Bubble Bread:
Unwrap butter and place in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat in the microwave until the butter is fully melted. Stir olive oil, garlic, Italian seasoning, granulated garlic, the 1/2 teaspoon of Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper into the melted butter. Set next to you on the countertop and turn your attention to the dough.
Dust the refrigerated dough in the bucket with a generous amount of flour.
Pull dough up from the center and use a sharp knife to cut off a portion that is between the size of a golf ball and plum. Pull the sides down and under while rotating the dough to form a smooth ball. (there are no pictures of this because I couldn't do it...)
On a clean counter, place the dough ball, seam side down, and gently cup the dough with your hand. Rotate it in one direction on the counter while providing gentle and steady downward pressure. This will smooth the surface of the dough ball and make it tight. (I am not sure I did this part right either...)
Carefully deposit the dough ball into the butter mixture and turn to coat completely. Use a fork to transfer the dough to a 9″ x 13″ pan. Repeat until you have at least four rows of three dough balls. If you want very crusty bubbles of bread, stop here. If you prefer crusty tops with softer sides, cut off and roll six more dough balls and place them in the open spaces between rows. Do not crowd the pan to the point where you have to shove or mash the dough balls. Drizzle any remaining garlic butter mixture over the top of the balls and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of Kosher salt.
Allow the dough to rest while preheating the oven to 450°F (230°C or 8 Gas Mark). When oven is hot, place the pan on a center rack and bake for 25 minutes, or until the top of the bread is deep brown. There will still be quite a bit of bubbling butter around the edges of the bread. This is a good thing. Allow the pan to stand on the stovetop until the remaining butter is absorbed.
Serve warm, as-is, or topped with a generous amount of freshly grated hard Italian cheese and a bowl of warm marinara sauce for dipping.
Review: I'm a little disappointed that they didn't turn out as good as they looked on the Tasty Kitchen site. I also split the bread dough recipe in half and still had a good amount left over. I was a bit lazy in measuring the flour (it was a lot of measuring to do!) so I think I ended up adding too much and they were a little bit too dense. Also, the recipe made it sound as if there would be butter bubbling out of the pan when they came out of the oven and there was definitely not - I even ended up pouring more butter on top and they soaked it right up. I was entirely unable to create the dough balls - that was far too difficult. Still, they tasted very good and everyone enjoyed them. I think if I followed the recipe in a more exact manner they would have been better. I think I'd skip them for real garlic bread though.
Today I needed 2 desserts. One is for a Mexican-style supper my co-worker is having and another is for a friend who could use a little butter-and-sugar-and-chocolate-goodness. I even remembered to take some photos - although the first several were from my Blackberry... someday I'll upgrade and take wonderful photos.
Before I show you what I made, I have to share with you some of my exciting new kitchen equipment.
AHHHHH. SO LOVE IT. I have been wanting one of these for so long. I was turned on to cookteen's blog by her sister's friend from school, who happens to be my best friend since I was about 2. Reading her blogs about new attachments and using her standing mixer had made me desire one more than ever. Thank goodness for my amazing aunt who made the dream come true! Isn't it gorgeous?
Also - in case you thought I had normal oven mitts... you were wrong.
Check out these babies....
They are silicon (my mother swears by silicon oven mitts) but also have a separate glove finger for your index finger. Given that my thumb is still not so strong after being hit by a car severely dislocating it a month and a half ago, the use of my index finger comes in mighty handy.
(I'll save the x-ray for another time, I am trying to convince you to eat here.)
And with these tools I created two desserts.
For the Mexican supper I made... Chocolate Chipotle Brownies courtesy of Emeril Lagasse.
1 teaspoon plus 1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1 tablespoon plus 1 cup all-purpose flour
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground chipotle chile pepper (I used a chipotle seasoning, which also had salt etc in it, simply because I couldn't find ground chipotle)
1 cup chopped Mexican chocolate or semisweet chocolate morsels
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Grease and flour an 11 by 7-inch baking pan or dish with 1 teaspoon of the butter and 1 tablespoon of the flour.
Heat the remaining butter and the unsweetened chocolate in a saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly, until melted.
In a medium bowl, stir together remaining flour, sugar, cinnamon, and ground chipotle. Add sugar mixture to melted chocolate mixture, stirring to combine.
Add eggs, mixing until smooth. Stir in chopped chocolate or chocolate morsels.
Pour mixture into the prepared baking pan or dish.
Bake until the center is set, 35 to 40 minutes.
And then remove from the oven...
Cool completely and then cut into small squares.
Review: This recipe was super easy to make. The brownies had a subtle hint that you couldn't quite put your finger on, but they weren't so spicy that you couldn't use them as a normal brownie recipe. I'll update when I get the final review from everyone - but I thought they were pretty good! I could have cooked them a couple minutes longer (45-50 min) and they would have been fine, they still seemed a little fudgy. Overall, a unique twist on the traditional brownie (and an easy way to make them from scratch!); an easy dessert (way easier than flan) for a Mexican-themed party.
Rating: 4 - JAMMY
And then for my lovely friend....
Crisp Oatmeal Cookies adapted from allrecipes.com
6 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup flaked coconut (optional, I didn't include them but they'd be very good in it!)
1/2 cup morsels - I used a combination of white chocolate and semi sweet chocolate. Butterscotch or peanut butter chips would also work well.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets or use a non-stick sheet.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter, white sugar and brown sugar.
Mix in the egg and vanilla until well blended.
Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt (ahh there were our friends missing from the ingredients picture...)
Stir flour mixture into the batter until well blended.
Mix in the oats, coconut (if using) and morsels until evenly distributed.
Roll dough into walnut sized balls.... (now I'm allergic to walnuts, so what size are they??)....and place 2 inches apart onto prepared cookie sheets.
Bake for 12 minutes in the preheated oven, or until edges are lightly browned.
Review: I'll just say it - this is my new go-to cookie recipe. I'm a huge fan of adding oatmeal to any cookie, and for many years the "Oatmeal Scotchies" recipe on the back of the Nestle Butterscotch Chips has been my standby favorite. These were better. They didn't have quite as much oatmeal which was actually very good and had a lot less butter than many other recipes (which often call for 2 sticks). The original recipe called for shortening but I've never cooked with shortening in my life so I did a simple conversion of 1 cup shortening=3/4 cup butter. Thank you, Google!The girls, AB and ED, really enjoyed them as well - they went great with Guacamole and the Bachelorette! These will definitely be made again, especially in the new standing mixer!
I officially need to stop baking and start running now. The next few recipes will need to be low fat! I did pick up some lovely golden beets and fresh lettuce at the farmer's market this weekend!!
So my aunt is one of my very favorite people in the world. She is one of my close friends and I adore her. And she must like me a lot too, because she got me a standing mixer for graduation! It's very wonderful, so when this recipe was emailed to me by a listserv I subscribe to called "great recipes by M.R. Baker" I thought it was a wonderful excuse to try it out.
Pistachio White Chocolate Chip Cookies Recipe
• 1 cup of unsalted butter, room temperature
• 1 cup of sugar
• 1 cup of dark brown sugar, packed
• 2 eggs
• 2 tablespoons of milk
• 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
• 2 1/2 cups of flour
• 1 teaspoon of baking soda
• 1 teaspoon of baking powder
• 1 teaspoon of kosher salt (regular salt will suffice)
• 1 cup of rolled oats
• 1 1/2 cups of coarsely chopped pistachios, raw and unsalted
• 1 1/2 cups of white chocolate chips
1 Preheat the oven to 350 F. Cream the butter and sugars together on
high speed for three minutes.
2 Add the eggs, milk, and vanilla and beat for 3 minutes, being sure
to scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure even mixing.
3 In a separate bowl combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder,
salt, and rolled oats. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture
slowly, being sure to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl
once or twice to ensure even mixing.
4 Fold in the pistachios and white chocolate chips. Drop heaping
teaspoonfuls onto parchment lined cookie sheets, add an extra
pistachio or two on top of each bit of dough for decoration if
5 Bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to set up on the
cookie sheets before moving to a baking rack to cool completely.
Makes 6 dozen.
So I made a few adjustments. First, I halved the recipe. As you can see, it still made about 19 big cookies. Second, I couldn't find raw, unsalted chopped pistachios. Instead of scrapping the pistachios (which is, logically, what I should have done, I used salt & peppered roasted pistachios. Probably not the best choice .... they didn't add great flavor.
Also, I used a trick that my mom's college roommate taught me... although it didn't work quite as well as normal because there were too many chips/pistachios for the batter. About halfway through cooking, I take the baking tray out of the oven and rap it, I mean REALLY RAP IT. LOUD! At least when this is done with the recipe on the back of the Nestle Chocolate Chips, it makes them so thin and crispy and DELISH! This time, less of a wonderful effect.
Mind you, I'm a HUGE white chocolate fan and I really like pistachios, so I was expecting great cookies. The concept - great. The cookies had I used raw, unsalted pistachios - probably could have been pretty good. The reality (and I am convinced that raw, unsalted pistachios are hard to find... how do they crack open if you don't roast them??) - not so good. The peppered pistachios probably made it even worse. They had too much flour I think and the white chocolate chips were incredibly sweet in a not-so-sweet cookies. They make me want to stick with my oatmeal scotchies. (Now THAT'S a good cookie!)
It's was not good.
(but shhh don't tell my friends yet, because I think they'll be eating them tonight! Or I could spare them and leave the batch in the kitchen at work and hope they slowly disappear throughout the day....)
After much talk, I've finally decided to start a blog instead of just posting my new recipes to Google Buzz.
So although there are no pictures from last night's dinner, I thought I'd share with you the recipes I made and let you know how they were. My friend KCW was in town and enjoyed this meal with me. I'd let him review, but he's not quite picky enough - he even enjoyed the tomato sauce I made the night before with whole instead of crushed tomatoes, leaving it far too thin - NOT acceptable!
Main Course: Balsamic Roast with Mushrooms courtesy of randrok.
½ cups Red Wine (she requested "one you would drink," we all know for me this means the wine that was on sale 2 for $12 at Giant. I may have used more than this as I used the wine to de-glaze the pan I seared the roast in and then added more to the CrockPot)
⅓ cups Balsamic Vinegar
1 pinch Salt
1 pinch Pepper
1 pinch Dried Rosemary
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
Season the roast with salt, pepper and rosemary on both sides. Sear over medium-high heat in the olive oil. Add chopped onion to the bottom of your crock pot. Place the seared roast on top of the onions. Put the soup mix on top of the roast, then pour on the red wine and balsamic. Place the mushrooms on top and set your slow cooker to low. Let it go for 6-8 hours.
Couldn't have been easier to make! I'm officially in love with the CrockPot that just finally came out of the box for the first time. I seared it off in the dutch oven before work, threw everything in the CrockPot, set it to low 8 hours (mine has an automatic timer and turns to "warm" after the time is up), then enjoyed it once the rest of the meal was ready. When it is in the CrockPot before cooking, it doesn't look like much juice, but it has much more once the onions have cooked all the way down. The meat fell apart - which I couldn't believe since it was the thickest piece of meat I've ever bought. The juices turned into an au jour that was tasty poured over the meat. I thought the meat was a bit dry (KCW disagreed, but I also think he'd be afraid to tell me it wasn't good) but the au jour helped. The mushrooms shriveled up and turned close to black - which wasn't all that attractive, but they still tasted good. Overall, definitely would make it again, especially due to the ease.
Side Dish:Spring Vegetable Risotto courtesy of hailskitchen.
(photo credit to tastykitchen)
1 bunch Asparagus, Cut Into Bite-sized Pieces
2 cups Peas
1 wheel Shallot, Diced
3 cloves Garlic, Minced
1 bulb Leek, White Parts Sliced (Not sure what is considered a "bulb" as I bought it in a "bunch" - I used about 3 stalks. I could have used more but didn't feel it was missing anything)
1 whole Lemon, Juiced And Zested
2 cups Arborio Rice
6 cups Broth, Vegetable Or Chicken
1 cup Dry White Wine
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Butter
½ cups Parmesan Cheese
2 Tablespoons Fresh Herbs: Dill, Chives, Or Italian Parsley
Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Add the asparagus and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the peas and cook for another minute. Drain and place in an ice water bath to halt the cooking. Once the vegetables are totally chilled, remove and set aside.
Bring the broth to a boil in a medium saucepan. Turn off the heat, but leave the pan on the burner.
In a large pan or Dutch oven, heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallots, garlic and leeks. Cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the rice, stirring often, until it turns from opaque to translucent (be careful not to brown), another minute or so. Add the wine, stirring frequently, and cook until nearly evaporated.
Gradually stir in the hot broth about a cup at a time. Cook, stirring almost constantly, until the rice absorbs almost all the broth. Stir in another cup and repeat, keeping the risotto at a steady simmer, adding more broth until it’s almost gone and the rice is barely tender, about 20 minutes in total. If you run out of broth or if the rice isn’t tender, use hot water. Add the asparagus and peas, lemon zest and juice and herbs to the rice. Stir well to heat through and then add the cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately with more cheese and herbs.
This was YUMMY! I'm a huge risotto fan, and I loved the veggies snuck into this one. My "healthy diet program" at work would be proud I'm not even a pea fan normally - but with stringy Parmesan cheese and asparagus and risotto they were perfect! By stopping the cooking in the ice bath, the asparagus and peas retained a beautiful green color. However, by the time they were leftovers today, the bright green color had definitely faded. I used a giant lemon for this recipe because I love lemony flavor, but it was still not overpowering (I think Dad and MJL still would have enjoyed it). Also, the 6 cups of broth was plenty for me to get the rice tender - I probably even could have used less, so I didn't need the extra hot water. Also - I left out the fresh herbs because I accidentally bought cilantro instead of parsley. I HATE cilantro!
One interesting note - I remember Rachel Ray (no I'm not a huge fan but I do have a Food Network addiction at times) once saying that when you make risotto you should add the scoop of broth, stir it in, and then not touch it until it absorbs and you add more broth. This recipe says to continue stirring constantly. It definitely is more work to stir constantly, and I'm not sure I noticed a huge difference - although the rice did become perfectly tender in this recipe.
Overall, I LOVED this recipe and will definitely make it again! I would only caution that you should probably halve the recipe unless you are cooking for loads of people. This made a TON of risotto - I'll be eating it for the next few weeks. Although it was so good, trust me this is not a complaint!