Hey Look! I Cooked Something! 2

Cheese Lasagna 

 

This week has been kind of crazy so I wanted to cook something that would give us leftover for lunches and dinners for more than a day: enter cheese lasagna. I forgot to snap a picture of it but I will share my recipe. Please note that I am from a Italian/Sicilian background on my mother’s side so I don’t believe in using cottage cheese in lasagna or melting Kraft singles on the top (you sickos know who you are.)Besides that, there are very few rules with this basic recipe. It would be easy to add meat or veggies to it. There is a lot of room for variation but the basic recipe I am putting here is pretty simple. The problem comes from the fact that it is a recipe I got from my mom and both of us (and even my little old Italian grandma) cook (and give any sort of directions) based on things like “You know..buy the big container and use most of it” Our recipes work great but good luck to anyone trying to follow it. 

1. Locate the  baking dish you own  big enough to hold lasagna noodles. If you kitchen is organized like mine, this may take time.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

3. Boil water in the biggest pot you own (may also take time because you may have to hand wash it because it somehow managed to avoid its turn in the dishwasher after being used to make corn on the cob the night before.) 

4. When water is boiling add one 16oz package of lasagna noodles. DO NOT BREAK THEM IN HALF TO FIT IN THE POT! Give them a minute and they will cook down enough to fit. 

5. While the noodles are cooking mix together one large (little over 4 cups) container of ricotta cheese (no you cannot substitute with cottage cheese, it isn’t the same. Stop kidding yourself), two cups of shredded mozzarella cheese, 1/4 of a cup of grated Parmesan/Romano cheese blend, two table spoons of dried parsley, and two eggs. You can adjust the filling as you like it. Some people like Italian seasoning blend instead of parsley, I think that blend is too strong. I’ve seen some people use four eggs instead of two but since all the eggs do is hold it together I feel like that is more calories for the same result. 

4. When noodles are done (just like any pasta…firm and not mushy) strain them and run cold water over them to keep noodles from sticking together.

5. Put a small amount of your pasta sauce on the bottom of the baking dish to keep noodles from sticking. No spray required. For sauce I use Prego or Ragu original depending on which one is cheaper/available.  I use a plain original pasta sauce because I think this recipe gets enough flavor from the cheese but if you like something else, use it. I recommend getting the extra large plastic jar size because you will need a lot of sauce.

6. Layer noodled horizontally down the dish.

THIS IS WHERE MEASURING ENDS!!  KITCHEN ANARCHY AHEAD!!! 

7. Spoon on several globs (it’s the technical term, I swear) of the cheese mixture and pour on some sauce. I like to spread them around with a plastic spatula to get it even. Don’t be shy about using a lot of sauce. I always ended up using less than I should because before it cooks the noodles look like they are swimming in sauce; trust me when it cooks it will work just fine. Cover with another layer of noodles.

Repeat this until you can’t fit any more in the pain. Use up all the cheese mixture before the top layer.

8. On top of the last layer of noodles pour the remaining sauce and any extra mozzarella and Parmesan/Romano cheese blend that you want. I put a lot of cheese on the top but I like cheese. 

9. Bake for 45 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and the top is golden, which with my oven happened around a little before 45 minutes so keep an eye on it. We’ve lived here for almost a year now and I am still trying to get the hang of this oven. Three years of using the Polly Pocket sized oven that took forever has conditioned me to over cook things in the human sized oven we have now. 

 

Note: I think this lasagna is even better the next day. I packed some in my lunch the next day. We were able to get dinner for two people for two nights and lunch for two people for one day out of this recipe. 

 

 

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Hey look! I cooked something! #1

For a variety of reasons including Jordan’s late school schedule I’ve made a “new school year” resolution to cook dinner more. This week was my first attempt. Anyone who knows me knows cooking is not something I enjoy or that I am very good at. It takes patience and a longer attention span than I am willing to give. My goal is to find easy, healthy, vegetarian recipes so that we don’t rely on fast food and take out during the week.

I want to share my successes and failures because everyone needs to new recipes! I’m taking pictures on my iphone with my kitchen and the food as is. I don’t know how cookbooks, food blogs, and pinterest make such photogenic food but I want to show what food actually looks like. I’m by no means a good photographer or cook. 

Here are my 1st attempts:

 

1. Veggie Enchiladas in Jalapeno Sour Cream Sauce. 

OMG! This was amazing! I used corn and black beans for the filling to add some protein but you can use any veggies you like. I cooked the beans, corn, pepper and onions up in my beloved electric skillet. The filling could use a little more flavor. I think next time I am going to but some smoked chipotle peppers in to give it a smokey flavor. The sauce is what really makes this dish! I used fat free sour cream and it was still super rich. It was a little time consuming and required a couple of pans but really wasn’t difficult and was totally worth it. 

enchiladas 

You can find the recipe here: http://www.amuse-your-bouche.com/veggie-enchiladas-jalapeno-sour-cream-sauce/

Is this recipe a keeper? YES!!!! 

 

2. Garden Crock-pot Pasta: 

I think crock-pot cooking will be really convenient with the late nights Jordan will be in class. I have a cookbook of vegetarian crock-pot recipes and tried this new one. I combined one box of uncooked pasta with a jar of Prego tomato-basil pasta sauce, a can of stewed tomatoes, and a bag of frozen broccoli. The recipe called for squash too but I’m not a squash person. I mixed it up the night before then when I got home from work I put it in the crock-pot on high for 2 1/2 hrs. I went to work out and by the time I got back and cleaned up food was ready! I topped it with chopped up basil and feta cheese. It was a little mushier than I like but was pretty good. 

garden pasta 

Keeper? Not sure. It was simple to make but didn’t knock my socks off. 

 

3. Potatoes and Green Beans: 

Making this recipe I learned two things. First, I need recipes with clear directions. Second, I have no idea how to roast anything. The roasted garlic turned into charcoal. I chopped up some more and boiled it in with the green beans instead. I roasted (I guess) red potatoes covered in olive oil in the oven and boiled fresh green beans. I combined them in a serving bowl with chopped cilantro, green onion, and olive oil. It was a little bland so Jordan thought to add the left over feta cheese from the night before and that really made it! 

potatoes 

Original recipe here: http://theforestfeast.com/post/31462775464/potato-greenbean-salad

Keeper? Yes with some modifications. This dish really didn’t stand on its own as a dinner but would make a really good side dish at a picnic. I actually enjoyed it more when I ate the left overs cold for lunch the following day. 

4. Southwest Style Stuffed Pepper Mixture: 

Neither Jordan nor I like the actual pepper part of stuffed peppers. My grandma always made what she called “stuffed pepper mixture” so with a little creativity I was able to take the southwest stuffed pepper recipe from my crock-pot cookbook and put a spin on it. I cooked up four cups of white rice in the rice cooker. I had a bowl of corn, beans, red pepper and onion left over from the enchiladas. I heated those up in my amazing electric skillet along with a cut up green bell pepper, another onion,  and a tablespoon of chili powder. When the rice was done I added it, the veggies, a jar of salsa and 2-3 cups of Mexican cheese blend into the crock-pot. I stirred them all together and let them get all melty in the crock-pot for a little while. I served with a dollop of fat-free sour cream on the top.

stuffed pepper rice  

Keeper: Yes! It was pretty tasty and a great way to use up leftover ingredients!

 

What I learned this week: One thing that helped meal planning was making some dishes with the same perishable ingredients.  We tend to let things like fresh herbs and veggies go bad because you have to by a bunch as opposed to the amount that you need. I knew I needed a little bit of cilantro for the enchiladas so I found another recipe that would use the rest. I knew the green onions would go bad so I threw the little bit I had left in with the potatoes. This kept things from being wasted since one of the goals of this experiment is to save some money. 

Bonus recipe: Goat cheese and apricot preserves on Italian bread makes a really tasty sandwich. You can put slices of pear on it too.