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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Classic Italian Lasagna





I've never realized that what we assume to be "real" lasagna in our little corner of the world is NOT "Italian".  In case you don't know what I'm referring to as Utah Lasagna - it's typically long, curly-edged noodles layered with ricotta cheese/egg mixture and red meat sauce smothered in cheese.  

Apparently, that is not real Italian lasagna.  A few friends have enlightened me that the real deal does NOT have ricotta cheese and/or eggs (or if you are in Utah, cottage cheese - because most of us try to watch our pennies).  What it does have is a homemade white sauce layered with a rich red sauce with browned veggies blended into it.



The flavors are wonderful together.  My favorite part though, is the absence of a watery lasagna that flows all over your plate.  Of course, you do need to let any cooked lasagna rest at least 15 minutes before you cut and plate, which helps it hold it's shape.

If you've never used a lasagna pan, it makes for easy layering and serving.





This recipe has ground turkey instead of ground beef.  I like to mix the two, so the beef flavor is still there.  You may also use either no-boil pasta or regular.  If you use regular, only boil it for half the recommended time.  

I LOVED this lasagna - I much prefer it over the ricotta/cottage cheese Americanized version.  


Classic Italian Lasagna

Ingredients:

Red Sauce:
2 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs butter
4 cloves minced garlic (or 1 tsp minced dried)
1/2 large onion, diced (about 1/2 cup)
8 oz mushrooms, washed and chopped
1 15-oz can tomato sauce
1 6-oz can tomato paste
1 15-oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
2 tsp Italian Seasoning (or mix of dried oregano & basil)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

White Sauce:
3 cups milk (not skim)
4 Tbs butter
5 Tbs flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Lasagna:
9 lasagna noodles (boiled for half the recommended time) - OR - 12 non-boil noodles (Barilla brand works well)
1 lb (+ or -) mozzarella cheese, shredded
8 oz parmesan cheese, shredded (or use 1-1/2 lbs 3 cheese blend in place of all the cheese)

Directions:

Cook and drain meat, set aside to add to red sauce later.

Add olive oil and butter to a large, deep skillet.  Heat, then add chopped onion and mushrooms.  Cook until limp and translucent.  Add garlic last.  Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, and diced tomatoes.  Heat together at a low simmer for about 30 minutes to develop flavor.

Use an immersion blender (or remove to a standing blender) to puree as desired (you may also reserve part of the diced tomatoes to add later for a little more texture).  At this point, add Italian Seasoning and salt & pepper.  Stir in reserved ground beef/turkey.  Set red sauce aside.



Prepare white sauce by melting the butter, adding flour and seasonings, then whisking in the milk.  Stir constantly as you cook until thickened - being careful not to scorch.  Set aside.

Boil noodles as directed for half the cooking time recommended.  Remove most of the cooking water, leaving just enough to keep them from sticking to one another.  






Now, to layer:  Grease a large, oblong pan (or use a Lasagna pan, as shown - a great tool for more than Lasagna)  If using no-boil noodles, layer four per layer (overlapping slightly as shown).  If using boiled, use three noodles per layer.  



Layer the red sauce, then drizzle the white sauce over, then a generous layer of cheese.  Repeat layers two more times.  I like to reserve enough red sauce that it is the final topping.

Cover lasagna with foil, and bake @ 350° for 30 minutes.  Remove the foil and let lasagna sit for 15 minutes before cutting and serving.  



To prepare ahead, bake as directed for at least 15 more minutes.  You can freeze unbaked lasagna for up to 3 months.  If you freeze before baking, bake from frozen for 1-1/2 hours, covered.  Then remove cover and bake for another 45 minutes to one hour until hot and bubbly.  



Recipe source:  adapted from melskitchencafe.com




Saturday, November 8, 2014

Favorite Granola




I'm a new convert to Granola.  It's my new "legal" snack food - low sugar, lots of fiber, and the crunch is really wonderful.  I usually keep a small "kid-size" disposable bathroom-size drink cup (which holds about 1/4 cup) within reach during the day filled with this granola.  It saves me from refrigerator raiding about 2-4:00 in the afternoon.  I also love it on greek yogurt with frozen tri-berry mix for breakfast. 

This is a combination of a few recipes I've tried.  I've changed it slightly from my daughter (Aryn's) recipe, and the dry milk gives it a great flavor and texture.  I've also really loaded it up with walnuts, which I realize are not everyone's favorite.  Walnuts give it such a great flavor and crunch.  Sesame seed is also an unusual addition - but try quinoa, chia seed, and any/all ingredients you love to make it YOUR favorite.

Favorite Granola


Ingredients:

5 cups oats (I used "thick cut" oats from the bulk foods area of my grocery store)
1 cup non-instant nonfat dry milk powder
1/2 cup sesame seed (optional)
1/2 cup flax seed (can be ground, if desired)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup olive oil (light)
1-1/2 tsp real vanilla
2-3 tsp cinnamon (to taste)
2 cups (+ or -) coarsely chopped walnuts, or nuts of your choice
1 cup golden raisins

Directions:

Combine oats, nonfat dry milk, sesame & flax seeds, and cinnamon in a large bowl.  Mix well.  (Do not add raisins at this point)



In a large microwave safe measuring cup - measure out oil, honey, and water.  To this mixture add brown sugar, then microwave on high until sugar is completely dissolved.  Add vanilla and stir until combined.


Pour liquid mixture over mixed dry ingredients. Stir until completely combined.

Pour into a large, heavy baking sheet.  


Place in 275° oven and set timer for 35-45 minutes.  Remove every 15-20 minutes to stir and redistribute granola.  

Add raisins about 5 minutes before baking time ends.  If you add them at the first, they will probably burn.


You may bake this until it is crunchy, but about 40 minutes makes it how I love it - "chewy", yet with a little crunch. 


Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before breaking up and placing in airtight container or ziplock bag.


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Cruise Line 2-Week Bran Muffins





Every time I've been lucky enough to cruise, a good friend suggests picking up a bran muffin to put in my backpack as we leave the ship at each port.  This is a great idea for several reasons.  A bran muffin has to be the 'sturdiest' bread around, able to withstand life at the bottom of your bag without crumbling to pieces.  It's also moist and just sweet enough when you realize you're hungry and don't want to cave in to whatever the local junk food might be.

I did a Google search to see if there is a recipe out there for Holland America's bran muffin.  This (according to many readers) is about as close as it gets.  It only lacks a dusting of bran "twigs" on top of each muffin - which gives it eye appeal.  Because, face it - bran is never pretty!

These are pretty close in my estimation.  The only difference was the presence of raisins.  Raisins are not required, but certainly make a more flavorful muffin.

Recipe from kingarthurflour.com

Cruise Line 2-Week Bran Muffins

Ingredients:

1 cup boiling water
1 cup bran cereal (buds or twigs) - OR - 1-3/4 cups bran flakes
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2-1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 to 1-1/2 cups raisins or currants (optional)
2 large eggs
2 cups buttermilk
1-1/4 cups sugar
2 cups bran cereal (buds or twigs) - OR - 3-1/2 cups bran flakes

Directions:

In a small bowl, pour boiling water over the 1 cup of bran cereal.  Allow the mixture to cool to lukewarm, about 45 minutes.




While the mixture cools, blend together the flour, soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl.  Stir in the raisins or currants.  Set aside.



Whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, and sugar.  Combine this with the flour/raisin mixture.  Stir in the dry cereal.

Finally, add the water, bran, oil mixture - stirring until thoroughly combined.  Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight (and up to 2 weeks).



Preheat your oven to 375°.  Lightly grease muffin pan, or line with papers.  Bake as many or as few as you like, as this recipe can "live" in your refrigerator for a couple of weeks.  



Heap the thick batter in the muffin cups, a generous 1/4 cup is a good amount to use.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until tests done.



Remove and tip muffins in the pan to prevent bottoms from steaming and becoming soggy.  Serve warm, or transfer to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

Makes about 18 standard, or 45 mini muffins.