My Mom’s Lasagna

Having grown up in a household with an Italian mom, I loved Italian food. Especially anything with pasta! My mom made this lasagna (which very well could have been a recipe from the side of the lasagna noodle box), but I really like it. It’s easy to make, but if you don’t have time to make the sauce, you can always buy bottled pasta sauce and use that instead. 

I usually add other things to it too:

  1. Veggies like squash, zucchini, red peppers, mushrooms, etc. Just make sure to pan fry them first to get a bit of the moisture out first as well as to really bring out the flavors of the veggies.
  2. Ground meat (or even ground meatless, if you want to make it vegetarian).
  3. I even like adding some steamed spinach. Make sure to squeeze out the extra water first.

You can either use cooked lasagna noodles (and cook them first according to the package directions) or you can buy no-cook noodles at places like Trader Joe’s. If you do that, be sure to use lots of sauce and spread it over all the noodles.

Sauce Recipe:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 clove garlic, minced (I use bottled minced garlic)

Two 15 ounce cans tomato sauce

One 6 ounce can tomato paste

1/2 teaspoon sugar

Heat oil in medium saucepan on medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until tender. Stir in tomato sauce, tomato paste and sugar. Simmer 10-15 minutes.

Filling Recipe:

One 16 ounce container ricotta cheese (I recommend whole milk vs. reduced fat, since that has a lot of water, but if you do reduced fat, be sure to drain it first)

2 eggs, beaten

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon parsley flakes

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)

In medium bowl, blend ricotta and eggs. Stir in mozzarella, Parmesan, parsley flakes, salt and pepper.

Making the Lasagna:

You’ll also need a box of lasagna noodles and an additional cup of shredded mozzarella.

  1. Make pasta according to box directions (unless using no-cook noodles).
  2. Pour half of sauce on the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish.
  3. Put one layer of pasta, cover with half of the filling, add half of any meat, veggies, etc.
  4. Put another layer of pasta down, then the rest of the filling, the rest of the meat, veggies, etc.
  5. Put the last layer of pasta down, cover with remaining sauce, and then put the 1 cup of shredded mozzarella on top.
  6. Bake in oven at 350 degrees for about 45-50 minutes.
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All about the lentils

Don’t you know that I’m all about the lentils, ’bout the lentils… Oh, sorry.
Recently, I’ve been trying to make lots more lentil dishes. Lentils are full of good protein, fiber and other happy healthy stuff and are super duper cheap. We have been trying recently to eat more veggies and cut down on meat (for both health reasons and cost reasons), so I’ve found a number of really flavorful lentil dishes that are quite easy to make.

The first was a dish my college roommate recently made for me since we had just had a new baby. I enjoyed it so much, I asked for the recipe and in turn made it for us as well as my neighbor who also had recently had a baby. So maybe it’s just great postpartum food, but I think we’d like it anytime.

The second I found while doing a Google search for lentils and squash (since we had a number of fresh in-season squashes and zucchinis from our local farm to use). What I found is an amazingly flavorful Lebanese. Hope you enjoy!

Lentilles du Puy with Roasted Carrots and Beets from Saveur

You can either use true “lentilles du Puy” (from France, likely found at Whole Food bulk section) or just any green lentil. I went to Sprouts for my plain old green variety.

3 small beets, peeled and diced
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
4 shallots, peeled and halved
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 sprigs fresh parsley
2 sprigs fresh thyme
salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 pound lentilles du Puy, or other french-style green lentils
3 tbsp sherry vinegar (also really good with balsamic vinegar)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place beets, carrots, shallots, and 1/2 cup oil in a medium roasting pan. Stir to coat vegetables evenly with oil. Add parsley and thyme, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring once, until vegetables begin to brown, about 20 minutes. Add lentils and 3 cups of water, stir, then cover pan with foil. Cook until lentils are tender and all water is absorbed, about 1 hour. (The water tends to evaporate pretty quickly here in Colorado, so you may need to add some extra.)

2. Remove pan from oven. Remove and discard herb springs, then dress lentils with vinegar and remaining oil. Allow to cool slightly, then stir in chopped parsley. Adjust seasoning and serve.

Variation (from Saveur, I’ve never tried this!):
Different vegetables and dressings can be used for this salad. For instance, roast 2 cups peeled small pearl onions for 20 minutes. Dice celery stalks. Add celery stalks and lentils to onions with 3 cups water, cover and continue roasting. Meanwhile, mix 3 tsp fresh lemon juice with 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil in a small bowl. Stir in 1 minced peeled garlic clove and 2 tsp finely chopped thyme. When lentils are tender and liquid has been absorbed, toss with dressing. Adjust seasoning and serve.

lentils with beets and carrots

Lentil and Bulgur pilaf with green and yellow squash

I used the recipe from food.com and noticed they never said how to cut the squash, so I sliced it in half length-wise and then in roughly 1/4 inch wedges cross-wise. I personally would have added more squash and zucchini, so will likely do that next time.

4 cups fat-free chicken broth or 4 cups vegetable broth
1 cup medium grain bulgur (coarse grain also works)
1 cup brown lentils, rinsed and picked over (I used green since I couldn’t find brown, and it worked just fine)
1 medium onion, coarse chopped
1 bay leaf
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 teaspoon allspice
1⁄2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground works best
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small zucchini (cut in half length-wise and then in 1/4 inch wedges cross-wise). I would personally recommend more zucchini than this.
1 small yellow squash (cut in half length-wise and then in 1/4 inch wedges cross-wise). I would personally recommend more squash than this.
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon lemon zest, finely grated
1 1⁄2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
lemon wedge (for garnish)

In a large saucepan, mix together the broth, lentils, onion, bay leaf, salt allspice and pepper and bring to boil over medium heat. Reduce to low, cover and simmer 10 minutes.
Add Bulgar and simmer and cook an additional 25 minutes until the lentils and bulgur are tender. I ended up needing to add additional water since it cooked off quicker than I expected.
Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice.
Meanwhile, in a nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add zucchini and squash and cook 2 minutes. Add garlic and lemon zest and cook an additional 3 minutes until the squash are tender.
Stir in parsley and cilantro. Taste and season with salt and pepper as desired.
Mix the squash into the bulgur and lentil pilaf.
Serve hot with lemon wedges.
lentils and bulgar wheat pilaf

Homemade apple sauce

I am someone who almost always uses a recipe when I cook. I usually feel pretty free to modify as needed (or as I feel), but the great thing about homemade applesauce, is there are so few ingredients, it’s really very very easy! I also like the ability to add tasty spices.

This weekend I made a couple of different batches of applesauce. I used the same kind of apple in each batch (one with Jonagolds the other with Romes, I think. I’m not sure since I got them through my CSA), but you could mix and match your apples and it would turn out just fine. I also have this awesome attachment for my kitchenaid mixer that basically grinds the apples up after they are cooked and spits out the hard stuff (cores, any peel that is too hard, etc), but you don’t necessarily need this either. As long as you core your apples well beforehand, you don’t even have to peel them and you can just chop them up and then once cooked, smash them. I’m just lazy, so I like having kitchen appliances help aid me in that laziness. 🙂

So, here’s what I do:

I typically use about 8 apples, cored (use an apple corer, if you have one) and chopped roughly

Add these to a pot with about 1/4 cup sugar (more if you like it sweeter, non if you want unsweetened) and about 1/3 cup of water. I always start with less water since I figure I can always add more later
If you want spiced applesauce, you can add cinnamon sticks (I added two) or vanilla beans (cut open. Again, I added two). So I made one batch of vanilla bean (with the Jonagolds since they are more subtly flavored) and one batch of cinnamon (with the Romes since they are a stronger tasting apple)

Cook this all on about medium low heat, covered, for about 45 minutes or until the apples are soft.

After they are soft, either smash with a potato smasher or run through that fancy Kitchenaid attachment. And ta-da! You have homemade applesauce which is way way better than anything you can buy at the store. 🙂

Jonagolds (mid-coring)

Chopped Jonagolds with two chopped vanilla beans added to the pot (and the water and sugar) before cooking

Romes before chopping

Chopped Romes

The Jonagolds after cooking about 45 minutes (until smooshy). Make sure to remove the beans before smashing.

The Romes after cooking (with two cinnamon sticks). I removed those before smashing.

My awesome Kitchenaid attachment that makes the smashing go so easily and gives me a smooth consistency. You can make this recipe without it, however!

The final product! You can tell which one had the red apples vs. the gold ones. 🙂 Both are super tasty, though! I didn’t can these (since I knew we’d eat it up before we needed to), but this is an easy thing to water bath can as well.

 

 

Carrots, carrots and more carrots

My CSA has recently been delivering us tons and tons of carrots. The good news is they keep really well. The other good news is this soup recipe which I tasted years and years ago uses a full pound of them, so it means I can use up the carrots pretty quickly.

This recipe is for a Szechwan Carrot Soup. What I like about it is both that it’s incredibly easy to make and very flavorful (I like spicy, and this uses a little bit of red pepper flakes. I always add about twice what the recipe says and it’s still not super spicy). The other great thing that I finally did this time was make the cream sauce topping (using some creme fraiche that I had left over from a different recipe that I made). 🙂 I must say, it definitely added an element to the soup that I had never had before, but I wouldn’t say rush out and buy cream and sour cream to make it. But, if you have it around, it’s worth adding to the finished product.

Epicurious.com is one of my favorite sites to find tasty recipes (I even use the iphone app all the time). Hope you enjoy this recipe!

It’s a little hard to see the beautiful orange of this soup in this photo, but it really is pretty. I use an imersion blender to make it smooth, but you could use a blender. I just think that’s a pain and I do love the easy quick function of an imersion blender!

Apple Cream Cheese Cake

A friend of mine made this recipe for Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year). I wasn’t on top of it enough to make it for then, but I did have lots and lots of apples to use up, so asked her for the recipe so I could make it later. I followed the recipe exactly, and used a silicon bundt pan (since my regular bundt pan always sticks). I do wish I had a larger bundt pan for this recipe, however, as the batter basically filled mine, which meant when it rose, it kind of mushroomed over and wasn’t super pretty. The good news is it didn’t spill over into my oven. 🙂 And it tasted delicious, so it wasn’t a huge deal, but I would recommend a larger bundt pan if you have one. 🙂

Here’s the recipe and a couple photos of mine (the glaze I wasn’t quick enough to put on the cake, so it isn’t so pretty, but again, quite tasty!).

Apple-Cream Cheese Bundt Cake

Ingredients

CREAM CHEESE FILLING: 1 (8-oz.) package cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

APPLE CAKE BATTER:
1 cup finely chopped pecans
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
3 large eggs, lightly beaten

3/4 cup canola oil
3/4 cup applesauce (I used homemade applesauce that I had canned last year)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups peeled and finely chopped apples (about 1 1/2 lb.)

PRALINE FROSTING:
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup butter
3 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup powdered sugar

Preparation

1. Prepare Filling: Beat first 3 ingredients at medium speed with an electric mixer until blended and smooth. Add egg, flour, and vanilla; beat just until blended.

2. Prepare Batter: Preheat oven to 350º. Bake pecans in a shallow pan 8 to 10 minutes or until toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through. Stir together 3 cups flour and next 7 ingredients in a large bowl; stir in eggs and next 3 ingredients, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in apples and pecans.

3. Spoon two-thirds of apple mixture into a greased and floured 14-cup Bundt pan. Spoon Cream Cheese Filling over apple mixture, leaving a 1-inch border around edges of pan. Swirl filling through apple mixture using a paring knife. Spoon remaining apple mixture over Cream Cheese Filling.

4. Bake at 350º for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a long wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool cake in pan on a wire rack 15 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack, and cool completely (about 2 hours).

5. Prepare Frosting: Bring 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup butter, and 3 Tbsp. milk to a boil in a 2-qt. saucepan over medium heat, whisking constantly; boil 1 minute, whisking constantly. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla. Gradually whisk in powdered sugar until smooth; stir gently 3 to 5 minutes or until mixture begins to cool and thickens slightly. Pour immediately over cooled cake (this is where I let mine cool a little too quickly before pouring, so it wasn’t so pretty).

 

The cake after pulling it out of the oven and taking it out of the pan. It’s a bit mushroomed at the (now) bottom, but oh well!

After putting on the glaze (which I let cool a little too much before putting on the cake, so it’s not super pretty).

A view of the inside (with cream cheese filling). This totally made this cake. I’ve made other apple cakes before, which are good and moist. This one with the cream cheese filling totally made it!

 

Using winter veggies

I have a bunch of winter veggies that I needed to use, so was excited when a friend posted this recipe on facebook. I delayed making it so I could find the time to do so, since I assumed it would be time consuming. Now I wish I had just done it earlier. This took very little time (other than waiting for the veggies to roast) and was absolutely delicious and very easy!

Sorry for the lack of pictures, but I’ll let you look at theirs. The only change I made was to swap out collard greens for the kale since that’s what I happened to have this week from my CSA.

http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/kale_and_roasted_vegetable_soup/

Super easy and delicious!

Making my own ketchup… and it’s green!

Last year a friend of mine asked me to help her learn how to can. She had been growing green zebra tomatoes and thought it would be fun to make green ketchup for her son (who loved ketchup and the color green). The ketchup turned out DELICIOUS (rather like a gourmet ketchup!) but apparently her son wasn’t too pleased and said it tasted too “sparkly” (which I adore). My guess is it was the dill he didn’t like too much, but for me it totally made it!

So, this year we grew 3 green zebra tomato plants and I made the same green zebra ketchup recipe. I was so pleased and had all kinds of ketchup to can. And one of my half-pint jars broke while canning it. Which made me ever-so-sad. Luckily I still have lots of it left, but it was such a waste! Alas.

Anyway, I would highly recommend this recipe to anyone who is drowning in tomatoes and doesn’t know what to do with all of them. This was a great recipe and we love using this ketchup on everything. The hardest part of the recipe is patiently waiting for it to thicken up as you cook it. Other than that, it’s really quick easy! Especially since you don’t have to peel or de-seed the tomatoes! Perhaps the thing I was most pleased about is that I got to use garlic, onions and tomatoes that we had grown in our garden. All local, fresh and organically raised! Wahoo!

You’ll note in the photos that I made two separate batches and the color difference it goes through (from light to dark) as you cook it longer. I tried to show how thick it was once done as well. Hopefully you can tell!