Sunday, January 22, 2012

Lasagna

I don't like making lasagna.


But then there's this, and it seemed like a good idea after all.

It's all that browning of the meat, making of the sauce, chopping of the parsley, layering of the noodles and cheese and such, that kind of drives me batty.

However, I made a huge, deep pan of it, enough for 3 meals for my large family, so I guess I'll not complain and instead, share the recipe.

You can completely cut down the time by using jarred sauce, skip the fresh parsley, take some pre-browned meat from your freezer, etc.  I just happen to like fresh when I can.  I do, however, use the no-boil noodles which saves immense time and mess and slop.

I like a combination of ricotta and cottage cheese.  I also used a Italian 5-cheese blend instead of just mozzarella and parmesan.  Use what you like!  Plain ground beef is fine, sweet Italian sausage is better.  I used a combination of home made Italian venison sausage and then some ground beef with extra fennel seed added.  Lasagna should, in my book, have a lot of fennel seed.

This recipe will make a 9x13x3 inch pan of lasagna.  That's 5 layers deep.  It's a LOT of lasagna.  Feel free to try a half recipe in a smaller, shallower pan.

***Tip - make this earlier in the day, let it sit for at least an hour, and re-heat if necessary.

Lasagna


6 cups Red Sauce (spaghetti sauce)
2 pounds of ground beef, sausage, or combination, browned
1 - 16 ounce container whole milk ricotta cheese
1 - 16 ounce container whole milk cottage cheese
2 large eggs
large handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
coarse ground black pepper
2 pounds grated Italian cheeses
25 no-boil, traditional "ribbony" lasagna noodles

In a sauce pan on the stove, combine the Red Sauce and meat, simmer for a few minutes, and correct the seasoning if needed.  Otherwise, just combine the meat and sauce in a bowl.

In a large bowl, combine the ricotta and cottage cheeses with the 2 eggs, chopped parsley, and a very generous grinding of black pepper.

In a 9x13x3 inch (deep dish) lasagna pan, ladle a cup or two of the sauce on the bottom.  Add a layer of noodles, covering the sauce.  Spread 1 cup of the ricotta mixture over the noodles, sprinkle with the shredded cheese, add another layer of sauce.  Start again with the noodles, ricotta, shredded cheese, sauce.  And again.  And yet again!  Press down these 4 layers.  Your ricotta mixture should be gone.  Now your last layer will be just noodles, sauce and cheese.

Place your lasagna pan on a rimmed baking sheet.  Put into a preheated 375 degree oven and loosely tent the pan with heavy duty foil.  Bake for 45-50 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for another 15-20 minutes until the top layer is golden, the edges are bubbly, and there's some crispy ribbons of noodle sticking up and begging to be sampled.

Save those for the cook.

Serve the rest to your family with a big green salad and some crusty bread.  And a nice bottle of Chianti for Mr. and Mrs. Sassy.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Beef Stroganoff

If your beef stroganoff recipe calls for canned cream soup, chuck it.

This here Sassy version is simple and delicious, and you'll never miss the canned soup.

All you need are some basic ingredients and a pretty little 8 year old sous chef.


This is Elsa.  She does not look like her mother, but she cooks and eats and tastes and adds and pinches and loves food just like her mother does.  She's not afraid of knives or gas stoves or strange things like anchovies and stinky cheese.

She's just about the best thing going.

Beef Stroganoff


I'm just going to talk you through this.  Use your own favorite ingredients and TASTE while you cook.  Sheesh, I say that a lot, don't I?

Start out with about 1 1/2 pounds (or 2) of beef.  You can use stew meat, stir fry meat, cubed sirloin, or chuck.  The tougher the cut, the more flavor, but the longer the cooking time.

Get a dutch oven on the stove, and add 3 tablespoons of butter and 1 tablespoon of grapeseed oil.  Get that going over medium heat, and then start adding the beef in batches.  Only enough to cover the bottom of the pan.  Make sure it's hot enough in there to sizzle, but not brown the butter too much.  Sprinkle each batch with salt and pepper, brown a bit on both sides, and then remove from the pot with a slotted spoon.  Repeat until all the meat is done.  Keep that in a bowl and don't lose any of the juice!

Now, into the pot goes one sliced or roughly chopped onion, medium size.  Also, mushrooms!  We love fungus at our house, so we tend to favor the "more is better" here, but at least 8 ounces, sliced, and as much as a whole pound.  White button mushrooms are great.  Cook the onion and mushrooms in the beef juice/butter liquid for just a few minutes.  You only want the onions to get soft.  The mushrooms should retain a bit of bite.  Slicing them thicker than thinner helps.

After about 5 minutes, dump the beef and accumulated juice back into the pot.  Over this mixture, sprinkle 1/4 cup all-purpose flour.  Mix it all around well, and pour in 1/4 cup white wine or dry vermouth and 2 tablespoons dry sherry or marsala wine.  You can use all white wine if you have no sherry.  Do NOT use red wine, unless you like pink stroganoff.  Ick.

Stir it well, and it will get thick quickly.  This is the time to stir in 2 cups of beef broth, or chicken broth, or even water!  I had to use water today, all out of broth, tragedy of all tragedies.  Stir well again.  Cook for a couple of minutes to get the floury taste out of there.

Now for the flavor!  2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce, 1 tablespoon ketchup (yeah, whatever), a few big pinches of dried parsley and marjoram (or oregano).  More salt and pepper.  Now TASTE, please.

Turn down the heat and let this all simmer for some minutes, more for tougher beef, less for more tender.  Test the beef, don't trust the name of the cut.

Is it done?  Turn off the heat.  Gently stir in at least one cup of full-fat sour cream.


Go ahead and serve it over some eggy, buttery wide noodles.  Sprinkle with some chopped fresh parsley.  (I didn't have any.)

A batch this size feeds my hungry crowd for a dinner, and maybe a few get some for lunch the next day.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Make and Bake Chicken

Being a life-long suburban Yankee, not a whole lot gets breaded and fried in my kitchen.

Don't think for a second I believe breaded and fried to be unhealthy!  Good lard in a big pot just begs to have something dropped in and turned golden.  I love fried chicken.  I love southern people who make delicious, home made fried chicken.

Anyway, remember Shake n' Bake from the 70s?  Sometime back then, my mom found this recipe for a home made version, which tastes better and is better for you.  It's baked in the oven, which means no mess, and the chicken gets golden and crispy and juicy and perfect.


You probably have all the ingredients and equipment - plastic bag, rimmed baking sheet, oven.

And you might as well make some biscuits to go with it.

Make and Bake Chicken


1 whole chicken (bone in, skin on), cut up, or 8 of your favorite pieces
1/4 cup olive or grapeseed oil
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup bread crumbs
1 tablespoon corn starch
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the chicken pieces in the oil to coat, making sure there's oil on the sheet as well.

In a plastic bag, combine dry ingredients.  One at a time, place the chicken in the bag and shake to coat.  Place back on the baking sheet, non-skin-side down first.

Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, turn chicken to skin-side down and bake for 20 more minutes.  Test temperature of thigh meat to ensure it's fully cooked.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Meatloaf

So Eric says, early in our marriage, that he doesn't like meatloaf.  Seriously?  Humph.

As a result, I only make it about once a year.  The funny thing is, he and the kids slobber all over themselves eating it, declaring it to be delicious and asking why I don't make it more often.

But a girl never forgets a negative comment.

Below is this year's meatloaf incarnation.  I made it, and left home, so they ate it without taking pictures.  The good thing about meatloaf is you can put into it whatever you want and like, within reason.  This is just what sounded good to me.  And tasted good to the Sassy Family.

Enjoy!

Meatloaf


1 1/2 pounds of ground beef, or meatloaf mix (beef, pork, veal), or turkey
1 cup milk
1/2 cup rolled oats (or breadcrumbs)
1 egg
1 teaspoon dried sage
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon worchestershire sauce
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
3 tablespoons bacon grease (if you meat is lean, especially)
1/2 cup chopped onion

Topping:
1/2 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon worchestershire
2 tablespoons fruit jam (apricot, grape, peach, etc)

In a large bowl, combine milk and oats, let soak for a few minutes.  Add all other ingredients and mix with your hands until combined.  Plop it into a loaf pan and smooth the top.

Mix the topping in a small bowl, pour over the top of the meatloaf.

Bake at 350 for 1 to 1 1/4 hours until cooked through and nicely bubbly.  Let stand for 10 minutes before slicing.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Salsa All'Amatriciana (via Giada)

This recipe comes from Giada de Laurentiis' cookbook "Everyday Italian."

You can buy the book here, and I recommend you do, because I love Giada AND her recipes:

http://www.amazon.com/Everyday-Italian-Simple-Delicious-Recipes/dp/1400052580

So I had most of the ingredients, and some extras, and needed to make an easy pasta dinner for a busy family night.  You know the kind, where people come and go at different times.

Don't shy away at the kale.  It's yummy, healthy, and easy to chop and hide in a sauce.  You can sub spinach or escarole, easily.

Salsa All'Amatriciana


8 ounces bacon, chopped
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus more if necessary
1 onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 bunch kale, washed, stemmed and chopped
1 tsp (or more) red chile flakes
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 - 28 ounce can tomato puree or sauce
salt and pepper
1/2 - 3/4 cup hard dry cheese, grated (parm, romano, whatever you have)
1 pound cooked spaghetti

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium high heat and add the bacon.  Cook until brown and crisp, 7-8 minutes.  Remove the bacon from the pan to a paper towel-lined plate, and drain off most of the grease from the pan.  If you need a bit more oil, add it now.  Turn the heat down to medium low, and add the onion, garlic, kale and chile flakes.  Saute for 5-6 minutes until soft, then add the wine.  Simmer for a minute, add the tomato puree and return the bacon to the sauce.  Taste, add salt and pepper, reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.  You may want to add a bit of the pasta water at the end to loosen up the sauce.  You decide.  At the very end, off the heat, stir in the cheese.

Serve the sauce over spaghetti.

Master Grocery List

Hello and Happy New Year!

Sassy took a teensy hiatus during the busy Christmas month.

I didn't really create any new magic in my kitchen; rather I stuck to our favorite cookies and dishes.  We had a wonderful Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's, birthdays and fun.

But it's time to get back to it!

Do you shop with a list?  Or do you wander the aisles, trying to remember what you need, and end up forgetting half of the necessities and buying a bunch of non-essentials?  I answer yes to both of those questions.

I try my best to do a big shopping once a week, and then fill in with a small trip or two, usually on foot from home with a backpack.  Some weeks it feels like all I do is grocery shop!  And all my kids do is EAT!

Many years ago, I read somewhere about doing a Master Grocery List.  Don't you find you purchase pretty much the same things at the store each week?  I sure do.  Do you usually shop at the same store?  Same here.

The idea is to make a simple table document in Word, or whatever you fancy, with a few columns and headings.  I lay mine out to match the layout of my usual store, so I can scan the list as I roll down the aisles, which helps to not miss things.

Each category has the typical items I buy each week/month.  I leave space here and there to write in specific things.  I put a blank copy of this list on my planner (or posted on the fridge) the instant I return from a shopping trip, so I can start circling the things I forgot I needed.  See?  Even with a good list I forget.

You can train yourself (and your spouse and kids, oddly) that, when you/they use up the last of something, or think of something you/they want you to get on your next trip to the store, CIRCLE it on the list!

To start this simple project, go through your pantry, refrigerator, freezer, spice cabinet, cleaning cabinet, etc.  Write down everything into categories.  Then make your document!  If you are too lazy to make such a document, send me your email address and I'll attach back my document and you can copy it, how's that?

UPDATE 1/22/12 - Here's a link to a pdf file!  Pretty excited to try this new (to me) feature.  Click here https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=explorer&chrome=true&srcid=0B9xpcLqNm8ckMmNiNDlmYTctMjNkMy00YTg2LWJmZWQtMDg3MmE0NmJhM2Iz&hl=en_US to download the list I use.


Here's a pic of the whole doc (hard to see):


And pics of each section: