Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Matt's Wife's Lazy Lasagna
Matt's Lazy Wife's Lasagna
Four Pound Pasta
Call it what you will - this dish is quick, easy, and yummy. It's family friendly, budget friendly, fridge and leftover friendly, and freezes very well.
And it's also one of the dishes I like to make (yeah - go back and note how many of MY posts have actually contained recipes. Um - yeah!)
So what are we waiting for? Let's get cooking!
1 lb pasta
1 lb mozzarella (I use part skim)
16 oz jar of pasta sauce**
15 oz container ricotta cheese (I use part skim)
oregano to taste
grated Parmesan cheese
** the sauce is the primary source of seasoning in this dish, other than the oregano. If you like garlic in your pasta dishes, I recommend a garlic based sauce rather than adding raw garlic because there is really no chance for raw garlic to get cooked and for that flavor to mellow. I was in a cheesy mood this go round, so chose the Four Cheese sauce. Diavolo is also a nice spicy variation.
1. Bring one gallon of salted water to a boil in a six quart (or larger) pot. Add your pasta, and cook as directed on the box. Try not to over cook the pasta, as it'll pull some moisture from the cheese sauce. Also, don't pre-cook your pasta. You'll need the heat from the freshly drained pasta to help melt the cheese. (hmm -this sounds like Matt's mac-n-cheese - but he says it so well!!)
2. Shred the mozzarella. You could use a food processer for this, but I like doing it by hand.
3. Reserve about a 1/2 cup of the cheese for later.
4. Combine the ricotta and shredded mozzarella together in a LARGE bowl. You will be mixing everything in this bowl, so give yourself some extra room. I like a stainless bowl, as the tomato sauce will stain a plastic bowl.
5. Drain the pasta and add it to the cheese mixture. Mix everything together thoroughly. Don't give the pasta a chance to cool down -the heat of the pasta will help melt the cheeses and make everything combine more uniformly.
6. Add the jar of pasta sauce to the cheese and pasta mixture. Add grated Parmesan and dried oregano to taste. **if you crush the dried oregano between your hands before adding it, it will release more of it's flavor.
7. Mix thoroughly to combine. Mixture should be on the wet and sticky side.
8. Move the mixture into a large casserole and top with the remaining shredded mozzarella. (nnd of course you can never go wrong with even MORE shakey cheese aka grated Parmesan)
9. Bake at 400F for 20 minutes, or until cheese on top is bubbly and melted.
Serve and enjoy!!!
Thursday, November 20, 2008
This is one of our go-to weeknight meals. It's really easy, and it's tastygood. The original recipe is from Alton Brown's Good Eats (of course), but we've been tweaking it since we first made it.
stovetop mac 'n cheese
1 lb. box elbow macaroni (we like using Barilla Plus Multigrain... but you already knew that.)
12 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, freshly shredded
4 oz. swiss cheese, freshly shredded
4 large eggs
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. dry mustard
1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper*
1 tsp. hot sauce
1 12 oz. can evaporated milk (we use fat-free evap. milk)
1 stick unsalted butter, cubed
*yup, I guess you could use white pepper so you don't see it in the final dish. I like to see the pepper in the final dish.
1. Bring one gallon of salted water to a boil in a six quart (or larger) pot. Add your pasta, and cook as directed on the box. Try not to over cook the pasta, as it'll pull some moisture from the cheese sauce. Also, don't pre-cook your pasta. You'll need the heat from the freshly drained pasta to help build the sauce.
2. While the pasta is cooking, crack your eggs into a medium mixing bowl and beat well with a whisk.
3. Combine the salt, pepper and dry mustard in a small dish, and slowly sprinkle it in as you beat the egg. Add the hot sauce and beat just a little while longer.
4. While still beating the egg, SLOWLY drizzle in the evaporated milk. Have you checked your pasta recently? Good. Set the egg/milk mixture aside until the pasta is done.
5. When the pasta is done, cut the heat, drain the pasta, and return it back to the pot. Add the butter and stir it into the warm pasta to melt.
6. While no one is looking, scoop up a spoonful of buttered pasta, sprinkle on a bit of kosher salt, and pop it in your mouth. Mmmm.... it's good to be the cook.
7. When the butter is melted, pour in the egg/milk mixture and turn the heat to medium. Stir the mixture to heat through.
8. Slowly start adding the shredded cheese by the handful, and mix in to melt.
9. When all the cheese is in the pot, and melted, continue to cook for three minutes, stirring constantly. Serve hot.
This recipe can easily be halved. Just use a small can of evaporated milk. We make it full-sized, and fridge or freeze the leftovers.
Leftovers.... hey, that gives me an idea....
Friday, November 14, 2008
beer brats and sauerkraut
3-5 bottles of beer, lager or lighter ale
1 package of bratwurst
16 oz sauerkraut, drained
1/2 white onion, sliced
1 t caraway seeds
1. In a large pot, pour in all the beer. Figure about 1 12oz beer per 2 brats, maybe a bit more if you have a larger pot. I know, it's sad, but you don't have to use high quality beer for this. Add some salt.
2. Once the beer bath heats up, poke holes in the brats and add to the pot, then boil for around 12-15 minutes, or until cooked thoroughly.
3. Meanwhile, in a griddle pan, melt a couple pats of butter then add the sliced onions. Cook until soft.
4. Remove the bratwurst from the pot and place on griddle to brown.
5. Once browned, add the sauerkraut and caraway seeds right on top of the brats. Cook until warm, adding a few spoonfuls of the beer from the original pot to keep things moist.
6. Serve bratwurst on a warm hoagie roll with sauerkraut and a healthy dose of beer mustard.
Don't allow ketchup to come within 20 feet of these brats.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
chicken noodle soup
4-6 cups chicken stock
1 stalk celery
1 c. chopped carrots
approx 1/3 box of spaghetti, broken into 2 inch pieces
meat from 2 chicken thighs, torn into small pieces
salt and pepper
parsley (ideally fresh, but dried will suffice)
1. Start heating the chicken stock in a large pot. Add the celery and carrots.
2. Bring the soup to a boil then add the spaghetti pieces.
3. Continue boiling for about 5 minutes, then add the chicken so that it warms up as the pasta finishes.
4. Add salt and fresh ground pepper to taste. A bit of fresh (or dried) parsley will finish it off.
Serve with a nice piece of crusty bread on a cool, fall afternoon.
chicken with fall vegetables
4-5 pounds of bone-in chicken pieces (I used drumsticks and thighs)
1 butternut squash
4-6 red potatoes
1 large white onion
2 cans artichoke hearts
10-12 cloves garlic
several sprigs fresh rosemary
fresh ground pepper
1. Preheat oven to 425F. Cut all vegetables into large pieces. Wash chicken.
2. Place all ingredients into a large roasting dish. Coat with olive oil, kosher salt and a healthy dose of fresh ground pepper.
3. Cook for around an hour, or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165F.
I love to serve food like this family style -- on a large platter piled high.
Monday, November 10, 2008
I picked an English barleywine-style ale as the beer to use. They are high in alcohol (8-11%+ ABV) and strong in flavor. A well-brewed barleywine can have flavors similar to raisins and dates, so I decided to soak chopped dates along with pecans in the ale overnight. The sugar was added to balance some of the bitterness.
Be sure to choose an English-style barleywine, not an American-style. American barleywines tend to be hoppier, whereas the English ones will be fruitier and less hoppy. I used a 2-year old homebrewed barleywine, but there are plenty of commercial varieties available in the US: JW Lees Harvest Ale, Brooklyn Monster, and Weyerbacher Blithering Idiot. For a more complete listing, check out BeerAdvocate.
barleywine baked brie
1/3 c pecans, chopped
1/3 c dates, chopped
1/3 c brown sugar
1 bottle English barlywine-style ale
8oz wheel of brie
1 sheet of puff pasty, thawed
1 egg, beaten
1. Mix together pecans, dates, sugar and enough barleywine to cover in a small bowl. Refrigerate overnight. Enjoy any remaing barleywine.
2. Pulse the mixture a few times in a food processor to break down the dates and nuts.
3. Heat in a small saucepan over medium-low for around 20-30 minutes, until it reduces down. Stir often to prevent sticking or scorching. Let cool.
4. Heat the over to 350F. Slice the wheel of brie into 2 discs. Spread the mixture between the two and reassemble. Spread more of the mixture over the top and maybe around the sides.
5. Spread out the puff pasty and place the brie in the center. Wrap the pastry around the seal.
6. Apply an egg wash across the top for extra style points, then into the oven for about 25 minutes. Let cool at least 10-15 minutes before serving.
Recommended Beer Pairing: Pair this with the exact same barleywine you used inside. Be sure to let the ale warm some to experience it's full flavor.
Sunday, November 9, 2008
curried vegetable couscous
3 cups water
3 cups couscous
1 white onion, chopped
2 yellow squash, chopped
2 zucchini, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
4 roma tomatoes, chopped
yellow curry powder
salt & pepper
1. You've got some vegetable chopping to do, so that's the first step. Chop away!
2. In a pot, start heating the water with some salt.
3. Put all the chopped vegetables except for the tomatoes in a large bowl, coat lightly with olive oil. Add curry powder, some salt & pepper, and mix again to cover. You'll have to take a few tastes to determine the correct spicing levels -- I didn't really measure anything.
4. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the vegetables, mixing frequently. We really just want to heat them through. Overcooking would start making them mushy, and we want to maintain a good crisp texture.
5. While the vegetables are heating, the water should be boiling. Add the couscous to the boiling water, cover, remove from heat, and let sit for 5 minutes. Couscous is super-easy to make. If you can't make couscous, you probably don't belong in a kitchen.
6. Fluff the couscous with a fork, then mix together with the vegetables in a large bowl. Serve.
Saturday, November 8, 2008
Here are the basic building blocks for pasta tosses.
Yup, betchya didn't see that one coming, did you? I like to use "spoonable" pastas, such as rotini, cut fusilli, penne or farfale, in these dishes. They mix better with other ingredients for that "all-flavors-in-one-spoonful" experience. We really like the Barilla Plus mulitgrain pastas 'round here. They are a bit sturdier than standard semolina-based pastas, and better for you, and they actually have some flavor. I used Barilla Plus penne this time out.
Here's where the flavors begin... with your choice of onion, shallot, garlic, celery, carrot, etc. I usually start by dicing a medium-sized onion, and sweating it in olive oil with a pinch of kosher salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Towards the end of the sweat, I'll toss it some minced garlic. I toss it in late so that it doesn't burn.
Protein... or not
There is almost ALWAYS pasta toss-friendly meat frozen safely in our freezer. Chicken is our main staple, but we also have used sausage, and in some cases, we've left out the meat completely, and used portobellos. For the dish (photo) above, I found three links of the pre-cooked Italian sausage leftover from an earlier pasta toss. I bias-sliced it, and added it to the onion and garlic to brown up.
Sorry, Mom always said to eat our veggies, so in they go. In the Summer months, we like to hit the local farm market for fresh zucchini, squash and tomatoes, but canned diced tomatoes and frozen green beans, spinach, broccoli, peas, cauliflower and the like, are terrific and easy to keep on hand. I was lucky to find some young zucchini and yellow squash at our local grocery store (a bit surprised to find nice ones in November), so I had to go with them. To save some cook-down time, I coarse diced them, put them on a microwave-safe bowl, covered them and nuked them for about one minute on high to soften them. I then gave them a quick stir and nuked them for an additional minute. These then went into the skillet with the aromatics and browned sausage and little bit black pepper.
Here's where you pull out your herbs and spices, either fresh, or dried. When we plan ahead, we try to get fresh herbs, but in most cases, I'm punting, so dried herbs work great. Parsley, basil, thyme, oregano, dill, chives, etc. are all great additions. I went simple, and only used dried parsley and oregano, but I added it along with the veggies to give it a bit of time to rehydrate.
A little something special...
Time to go for the "Ooooo" factor. Maybe it's a chiffonade of fresh basil, a few grinds of coarse black pepper, a shake of red pepper flakes, a big honkin' spoonful of feta, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, a bit of lemon or lime juice, a splash of balsamic vinegar... or in this case, a few shavings of peccorino romano. Whatever you choose, it'll help put your dish over the top.
One great thing about pasta tosses is that it is pure creativity with simple ingredients. And the creative part, well, that's where the fun is. Don't be afraid to try something new and unique. If you like a particular combination, scribble it down in your recipe file (future post), and share it with friends... or food bloggers. If you were less than thrilled, think of what you would change to make it an awesome dish of your own.
Friday, November 7, 2008
mom's awesome cornbread
1 stick butter, softened at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
16 oz. can creamed corn
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
2 tsp. baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Cream butter and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time.
3. Mix in the cheese and about 8 oz of the creamed corn.
4. Mix flour, cornmeal, baking powder & salt together, then mix in the corn mixture.
5. Pour into a 8"x8" pan. Place in the oven, reducing the heat to 300F. Bake for 1 hour.
I made a half recipe of this. If you double everything, just use a 9"x13" pan and cook for the same amount of time.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
ham and bean soup
1 ham bone (trimmed down some, but leave some ham and fat on it)
1 bag of mixed beans, soaked overnight
1 medium white onion, diced
3 stalks of celery, diced
1 cup of carrots, chipped
1/2 cup white wine
2 Tbsp minced garlic
salt & pepper
crushed red pepper
1. Heat a large stock pot up over medium heat. Place the ham bone in to start searing the meat and rendering the fat. Turn a couple times, heating for a total of about 15 minutes.
2. Add onion, celery, carrots & garlic.
3. After about 10 minutes, add white wine and stir up any bits stuck to the bottom.
4. Add the beans, then add water until everything is covered.
5. Stir in the spices to taste. Add some others if you'd like -- I'm sure I added some I forgot about.
6. Cook over low heat until the beans are soft, about an hour or so.
7. Shortly before serving, remove the ham bone, trim off as much meat as possible to return back to the soup pot.
I served this with another one of favorite recipes that my mom used to make -- moist and delicious cornbread, which I'll post about soon!
This soup gets even better the next day, as the flavors all meld together. Enjoy.
Saturday, November 1, 2008
Since my intention at first was to be making beer mustard, this will be the first try using beer in the recipe. For this one, I'm using a pretty low-key beer: Red Hook Blonde Ale. It's one I've had sitting in the fridge, but wasn't terribly excited about drinking. I'm doing a direct swap with the 1/3 cup of wine from the first recipe, so that the solid to liquid ratio remains the same.
A small addition of sugar, which I've seen in quite a few other recipes, plus some minor changes to the spice additions, and here's what we have:
homemade beer mustard
3.5 T yellow mustard seed
2.5 T brown mustard seed
1/3 c beer
1/3 c white wine vinegar
1 T brown sugar
1 t onion powder
1/4 t black pepper
1/8 t turmeric
Same directions as last time:
1. Mix everything together in a small glass bowl and put in the fridge overnight.
2. Blend everything together in a blender or a small food processor until you achieve the desired consistency (pasty).
3. Store in an air-tight container in the fridge.
• Still quite pungent, but noticeably sweeter -- probably due to the beer and the addition of some sugar. Might drop the sugar next time around. I've also read that heat can reduce the pungency of mustard, so I might heat the mixture slightly next time to take off a bit of the edge.
• The seeds didn't grind down quite as much as they did last time. I'm wondering if the lower alcohol content of the beer (approx. 5% abv) compared to the wine (approx. 12% abv) played a role in this. Might try a stronger, more flavorful beer next time.
• Overall, I enjoyed this more than my first attempt. I served this with bratwurst at an Oktoberfest party we held last week, and it went quickly. A lot of positive comments on it, especially from those who enjoy a strong mustard. Be sure to stayed tuned for more adventures in my ongoing quest to achieve Bobby's Ultimate Beer Mustard!
The first Halloween Matt and I spent together, away from our respective families, we did what our parents had always done - we went out and bought candy for the neighborhood kids who would come trick-or-treating.We did not even stop to think that we lived at THE dead end of a dead-end road (the end of the road turned into our driveway) and that this road was a turn off of another dead-end road, and that most of the homes were summer cottages, and those few people who were left were years older than we were and unlikely to go trick or treating.
Needless to say we had leftover candy - LOTS of leftover candy (I think I bought four bags).
It was SweeTARTS - I will never ever ever forget that it was SweeTARTS, because I think we were still eating them in August - 2 years later.
Not a lot you can do with leftover SweeTARTS.
We stayed away from buying candy for a while after that - until we bought our house, which is at the corner of a subdivision, right in the village, right across the street from two houses that go OVER THE TOP decorating - and we realized we would get a lot of traffic.Right then we decided two things:
1. we would buy GOOD candy that kids would actually eat, and not be the house with the strange candy or 'gasp' non-candy toys.
2. we would buy candy that we could use in other ways.
... and of course we would buy candy that WE liked.
Our choice ended up being plain chocolate Hershey Bars - very versatile, very yummy. We even used them in lieu of cigars as birth announcements when the Munchkin was born.
Ah - The Munchkin -the new wild card in this Halloween equation. See, now that we have a family member out collecting candy from others, we have lost what delicate control we had over the contents of our candy dish at home.
Enter the "baking with candy" quest - Mommy's proactive search of the internet to see what ideas I could come up with to help wrangle the candy influx. Surprisingly I did not find many ideas - but those that I did find I decided to copy here. Since links are tenuous - and many dead links were found in this quest, I decided to copy the recipes here but to tell you that these little tidbits came from The San Marcos Record in San Marcos, TX.
These have not been field tested by our team - YET. If you try these and have any feedback, please let us know.
Baby Ruth Crater Bars
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups coarse chopped Baby Ruth
Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 15 x 10-inch jellyroll pan.
Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl.
Beat brown sugar, granulated sugar, butter and peanut butter in large mixer bowl until creamy. Beat in eggs and vanilla extract. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Spread dough evenly into prepared pan. Sprinkle with Baby Ruth; press in lightly. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into bars.
Three Musketeers Fried Pies
1 (10-count) can biscuits
1 large Three Musketeers bar
Separate biscuits and roll thin. Cut candy bar into 10 pieces. Place 1 piece in center of each biscuit; fold over and seal edges. Deep fry until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with confectioners sugar.
Oatmeal Brownie Crunch Bars
1 (18.5-ounce) fudge cake mix
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup (1 stick) softened butter
4 ounces finely chopped Hershey’s Special Dark (or semi-sweet chocolate bar)
2-3/4 cups quick-cooking or old-fashioned oats, uncooked
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 cup coarsely chopped dry-roasted honey peanuts
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, melted
1-3/4 cups M&Ms or semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 15 x 10 x 1-inch pan with non-stick foil.
Stir cake mix, water, butter, and eggs until combined. Add chopped chocolate and combine. Set aside.
In large bowl combine oats, flour, sugar, nuts and baking soda; add butter until mixture forms coarse crumbs. Toss in M&Ms until evenly distributed. Reserve 3 cups mixture.
Pat remaining mixture onto bottom of baking pan to form crust. Pour prepared fudge cake mix over crust, carefully spreading into thin layer. Sprinkle reserved oatmeal crumb mixture over top of fudge mixture; pat down lightly.
Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs. Cool completely. Cut into bars. Store in tightly covered container.
Peanut Butter Milk Duds Cookie Cups
1/2 cup (1 stick) margarine (not the type in a tub)
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup granulated white sugar, packed
1/2 light brown sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
1-1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 (10 ounces) package Milk Duds candies
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 tsp smooth peanut butter
Preheat oven to 375 F. In a large bowl, cream together margarine, peanut butter, egg, white sugar, and brown sugar. In a smaller bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add flour mixture, half at a time, to margarine mixture, beating well to combine. Place a heaping teaspoon of cookie dough into the palm of your hand. Press one candy into the center and press dough around it to form a ball. Roll in confectioners' sugar and place in ungreased mini-muffin tin. Bake 12-14 minutes, until lightly browned on top. Let cool in the baking tins at least 15 minutes, then remove to racks to cool completely.
Melt chocolate chips and peanut butter together until smooth. Pour into a plastic zip-top bag, squeeze out the air, and seal. Cut a small corner from the bottom of the bag and drizzle chocolate over the tops of the cooled cookie cups.
Note: Rollo candies, Reese's Bites or any other candies that will mix well with peanut butter can be substituted for Milk Duds.
Candy Corn Rice Crispy Treats
1/2 cups butter
10 cups Crispy rice cereal
9 cups miniature marshmallows
2 cups of candy corn
3/4 c miniature chocolate chips
Yellow and red food coloring
Melt butter and marshmallows; stir until smooth. In a large bowl, mix rice cereal, candy corn and miniature chips together. To marshmallow mixture, blend in 2 drops yellow food coloring and 1 drop red food coloring, adding more coloring if necessary to reach desired shade.
Add marshmallow mixture to cereal mixture; stir quickly to combine. Spread on a large buttered pan; press with buttered hands. While warm, press on candy pumpkins spaced 1 to 1/2-2 inches apart. Refrigerate and cut into squares.
Smashed Bugs Candy Recipe
2 cups (about) square snack pretzels
1 package (12 ounces) Rollo chocolate-covered caramel candies
8 (about) large marshmallows, each cut into 8 pieces
1 cup (about) pecan halves
Preheat oven to 300 F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
Place pretzels in rows 1 inch apart on lined baking sheets. Top with chocolate caramel candies.
Place marshmallow on top. Bake for 3 minutes only. Immediately place pecan half on top of each and gently press down so all layers stick together.
Snickers Cookie Bars Recipe
1 package (12 ounces) Snickers Popables chocolate candy pieces, chilled
1 roll (1 pound) chocolate chip cookie dough, at room temperature
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with non-stick foil.
Cut cookie dough in half lengthwise. Oil your hands and use your fingers to gently press the dough into the bottom of the pan.
The layer will be thin. Evenly distribute the chocolate candy pieces on top of the dough and gently press down so they don’t roll.
Bake 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool about 20 minutes, then cut into bars while warm.
Tootsie Roll Ice Cream Sauce
35 Tootsie Roll Midgees
1/4 cup of water
1 extra cup of water
Using the cutting board, cut up each Tootsie Roll Midgee into three or four pieces.
Place the Tootsie Roll pieces and 1/4 cup of water in the smaller of the two pots. Pour the extra 1 cup of water into the bigger pot. Place the smaller pot into the bigger pot (it will float on the water).
Heat on stove, on medium heat, until Tootsie Roll pieces melt.
Stir them together with the water.
Let the mixture cool and then pour on top of ice cream.