Archive for February, 2011

February 25, 2011

Slow-Cooker Lasagna

Okay people, this is a super easy recipe for Lasagna and it’s AMAZING to me that the noodles go in uncooked. What!? you say? Yes no pre-cooking necessary! Cooking the noodles is the biggest pain in the butt, to me.  Bringing water to a boil, cooking noodles in batches and then working with hot noodles…ugh it sucks and takes the most time!

The most amazing part about this recipe? Are you ready for this because I think it’s a shocker! I made LASAGNA the day before I moved to a new house – with 95% of my kitchen packed in boxes! YES! It is THAT easy!

The slow cooker to the rescue! Most of the work of lasagna can be done all at once – cook your noodles and make a homemade sauce that develops deep flavor with minimal effort. (seriously whoever invented the slow cooker is GENIUS!) If you are like me I like to use homemade marinara or tomato sauce for my lasagna and it takes hours to cook. Then you still have to cook the noodles, and then assemble the whole thing.  The prep time in this recipe is significantly less! (Note: I love white lasagna and am not sure how well the white sauce will hold up in the crockpot, I’ll let you know when I try it).

Alter this recipe using ingredients you like. The sauce below is just a simple sauce I use for weekenights and is not the good tomato sauce I always use, but I was moving so didn’t have any sauce pans out. Don’t hesitate to use your favorite store-bought sauce too. Mix it up a bit and use different meat – or no meat. I used sausage because that is my favorite.

2-28oz cans crushed tomatoes (I used diced but think crushed would work better)
2 teaspoons herbs de provence (or basil, oregano, thyme mixture)
1 clove garlic, smashed  (or 1-2 teaspoons garlic powder)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3 cranks of fresh black pepper
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 large container ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1 cup mozzarella cheese
salt and pepper
1 large package of spinach
1 pound ground beef, chicken, pork, sausage (optional)
1 box of regular lasagna noodles (not the no cook kind)

Brown the meat and set aside.

If you use your own homemade sauce – start it like you would normally and once it is completely assembled and to the point in  your recipe that all it needs to do is simmer, it is ready to be used in the slow cooker lasagna (remember it’ll cook for 3-4 hours in the slow cooker.

Mix the first 7 ingredients together in one bowl.

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In another bowl, mix the ricotta, parmesan, mozzarella and salt and pepper, set aside.

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Assemble:

1.   Put a little sauce in the bottom of the slow cooker;
2.  top with uncooked lasagna noodles. You may have to break the noodles into pieces to make sure you cover the bottom of the slow cooker (don’t hold back make sure you fully cover each layer with noodles even if they are little pieces, nobody will know!);
3.   add two cups of spinach (it looks like a lot but it will cook down);
4.   add 1 cup or so of sauce;
5.   dollop 1 cup or so of the ricotta mixture, then smooth it around;
6.   top with a layer of noodles;
7.   repeat another layer or two (or until you run out of ingredients;
8.   end with sauce and top with mozzarella cheese.

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Cover and turn the slow cooker on low for 3-4 hours, or until the noodles (in the center) are tender.

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February 13, 2011

February 14-20

Sorry for not posting anything the past week – my house has been on Pause because we’ve been sick. It’s like I have been in another world this past week, and I am still not 100% just yet. Such awful timing to be sick, two weeks before we move. I guess it’s better than the week before or the week of our move…(a bright side). This upcoming week all I have been able to think about is what needs to get packed and transferring utilities – none of this is fun – Food has been lower on my list, and that is what I enjoy!

I went searching for some easy meal ideas and lucky for me one of the ladies, whose blog I read often, is holding a contest for easy weeknight meals. She wanted meals that were so easy you could put it in a tweet post (if you are on twitter, you know how short that is!) Lots of people submitted their easy recipe ideas – so I took some of their ideas! I love the community of foodies out there!

Monday

Left over Slow Cooker Brisket (from last week since nothing from last week’s menu was done)

Tuesday

Cauliflower & White Bean Pasta

Wednesday

Leftovers

Thursday

Baked Gnocchi – look how easy: cook sausage and slice, add tomato sauce and heat the sauce through. Cook Gnocchi according to package, drain and place on bottom of oven safe pan, top with sausage, sauce and mozzarella. Broil in oven for 5 minutes until the cheese is melty.

Friday

Eat Out

Saturday

TBD – Last weekend before the move – may be hard to cook. PB&Js and turkey sammies maybe?

Sunday

TBD

February 6, 2011

Week of February 7-13

Okay, so the past weekend has not been much of a weekend at all – I need a re-do! My daughter got sick with a sinus infection, which lead to pink eye and an ear infection. Then to top it off AFTER we went to urgent care and started her on antibiotics she developed the stomach flu and was ill most of the evening into the night. Now she is keeping fluids down and resting. Phew it’s been one hell of a weekend and it’s only Sunday morning as I write this! Not to mention as I write this I’m sitting in my garage having a second day of my garage sale and not one single customer so far – curse the Superbowl! Only kidding I’m just resentful of the entire weekend! I am ready to pack up shop, take it all to Salvation Arm and call it a day. I’m exhausted. I haven’t even thought one bit about this week’s menu. (Oh and I now have two weeks and 5 days until I move, which means I need to get to packing). This month is just a blast so far!

Really, I am excited to be moving, the place we are moving to is so nice and I will have a 5 minute drive to work, not a 25 minute drive. AND I can walk to the Farmers market starting this spring! YES!

Crossing my fingers I stay healthy this week and don’t end up with the flu or pink eye, that said here is my dinner menu…

Monday

Chicken Noodle Soup (leftover from Saturday)

(Lunch: Ham sandwich w/sliced pears and ricotta)

Tuesday

Sausage Hoagies (didn’t have this last week so we’ll do it this week)

(Lunch: Turkey BLT w/Apple & grape salad)

Wednesday

Leftovers

(Lunch: Chicken Noodle Soup w/some fruit)

Thursday

Slow Cooker Brisket Sammies (courtesy Food Network)

(Lunch: Greek Salad – I’m in love with these at the moment)

Friday

Eat Out!

(Lunch: Left over brisket)

Saturday & Sunday

Since I have two weekends to get packed, I will probably eat leftovers all weekend and cook only if I get extra time!

February 6, 2011

Meyer Lemon Marmalade

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meyer lemons are one of my favorites fruits, sweeter than traditional store-bought lemons with a floral smell to them. As my daughter explained, they smell like a flower. Fortunately, for me, my friend Charlie had some Meyer Lemons to share with me. Thank you Charlie! (Your marmalade is on it’s way!)

This recipe is from Simply Recipes. This is my first attempt at marmalade – mind you, I have never made jam or jelly before. Going into it I knew making marmalade would be a process and during the process I wished I had taken one of Linda’s canning/jam classes to boost my confidence. Nonetheless, here I am winging it on my own, recipe in hand, and pruned fingers (from preparing the lemons). Preparing the fruit took a lot longer than I anticipated. Throughout the whole process I was feeling a little unsure of my skills – and I was hoping I didn’t just waste 2 1/2 pounds of Meyer lemons.

  • 2 1/2 lbs of Meyer lemons (about 9 lemons)
  • 6 cups water
  • 6 cups granulated sugar

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You will need to go through the long process of cutting the lemons in half, then quarter each half. Peel off any of the membrane that is easy to get to, cut off the pith from the middle of the lemon, and remove any seeds setting all this aside to use to make pectin. Once you clean out the membranes, pith and seeds, slice the quarters into thin pieces of lemon (think how big of a piece of fruit you would want to eat). (Note: the portion of lemon segments to water to sugar is 1:1:1 so weigh your lemons)

FIRST STAGE OF COOKING

Place the seeds, pith, and membranes in a double layer of cheese cloth, tie it up into a bag to become pectin. Place the lemons, water, and pectin bag in a pot.

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This is the first stage of cooking. Bring the water to a boil on medium high heat. Cook the lemons until they are softened. 25-35 minutes. Test one of the lemons make sure they are soft and not the least bit chewy. Any chewiness and you need to cook them a bit longer.

Remove the pot from the heat, and remove the pectin bag to a bowl to cool until it is cool enough to touch. Squeeze the pectin from the bag and add it to the lemon mixture.

SECOND STAGE OF COOKING

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This is is the second and final stage of cooking – add the sugar to the lemon mixture and turn the heat back on to about medium-high and bring the mixture to a rapid boil. This is the stage where you have to be very careful not to have the heat up too high so the fruit doesn’t burn. Also, be careful not to over cook the marmalade otherwise you get a gooey marmalade instead of a jelly one – that is how mine came out – more gooey than I wanted.

The marmalade may take anywhere between 20-35 minutes at this point. After about 15 minutes start checking it often. I put 3 or 4 spoons in the freezer and had them read to check.

If you put the jelly mixture on the spoon and it spreads out and thins immediately it is not done yet. If it holds it shape when it hits the spoon and then wrinkles a little when you push it with your finger that means you are good to go! Remove the pan from the heat.

CANNING

Make sure you have some glass canning jars.

I washed all my lids and jars in the dishwasher and when they were done washing I put the jars on the cookie sheet and put them in a 200°F oven while my marmalade was in the second stage of cooking. (they should be in there at least 10 minutes before using).

Using a ladle (to ensure you have evenly dispersed lemons) pour the marmalade into the jars, leaving about 1/4” head space in the jar for a vacuum seal. Making sure your lids are dry and you wipe the rim of the jar clean with a towel or wet paper towel. Place the lids on your marmalade and let sit out on the counter overnight.

You will hear “pop” sounds as the vacuum seal is created.

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Makes 6-8 half-pint jars.

In the end, some were impressed but I did not like the marmalade as much as I hoped I would. A friend had some Blue Chair Jam, Lemon Marmalade that I tried and I did not much like that one either. There is a particular taste that I do not care for that I tasted in both my and the Blue Chair version– but you may love this! It sure does look pretty though!

February 3, 2011

Whole Wheat Pancakes

Well partly whole wheat but I fear using all whole wheat flour in the pancakes will be dry and heavy, but if you have a recipe that is not, please share! (I will try this recipe with all whole wheat and let you know how it is).

As always, I am looking for good recipes that freeze well for future use. Pancakes and waffles are excellent breakfast options that freeze well, and they are loved in my house. As you can see from the photo below we play with our food…IMG_6708-28

We made these pancakes Monday morning for breakfast and we had enough to freeze and use during the week. I love homemade pancakes topped with blueberries and syrup. Toss the blueberries in the batter if you like cooked blueberries – my daughter likes them fresh not cooked.

3/4 cup all purpose flour

3/4 cup whole wheat flour

2 tablespoon sugar

1/2 tablespoon baking powder (use 1 tablespoon if you like cakey pancakes)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cup milk

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 stick melted butter

Whisk together the flours, sugar, baking powder and salt.

In a separate bowl whisk together milk, eggs and vanilla.

Pour milk mixture into the flour and stir about 10 stirs, then pour in melted butter and stir a few more times – but don’t over mix! Leave it lumpy otherwise you’ll end up with flat flappy pancakes.

Top with your favorite toppings – bananas, strawberries, blueberries, apples, peaches, syrup, powdered sugar, jam or preserves.

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February 2, 2011

Meyer Lemon Curd

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The other day my friend Linda gave me a few Meyer Lemons – my favorite! As a child, one of my closest friends had a neighbor who let us use his pool whenever we wanted. Each summer we would swim almost every day. In the yard was a Meyer lemon tree, but until recently I did not know that these were “Meyer” lemons.  

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Much sweeter and a with a darker peel, these are the kind of lemons you can eat like an orange (they are tart).  With a fragrance that is intense and nothing like other lemon varieties, the fragrant floral/lemony smell fills my house instantly. My daughter explained that they smell like lemon flowers.  A Meyer lemon smell is so distinct that you will know it’s different than a typical grocery store lemon immediately. Most lemon trees in people’s yards in California are Meyer lemons. It’s the smell of summer to me! I only wish we could grow citrus here in Nevada just so I can have a Meyer lemon tree.  

Here is an excellent recipe I got from Linda. At first taste I was blown away.

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MEYER LEMON CURD

4 teaspoons finely grated Meyer lemon zest (about 3 lemons)

1 cup Meyer lemon juice (about 4 lemons)

1 cup sugar

3 large eggs

2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces

1. Wisk together zest, juice, sugar and eggs in a metal bowl and add butter.

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2. Set a bowl on a saucepan of simmering water (or use double boiler) and cook, whisking until thickened and smooth and a thermometer registers 160 about 6 to 8 minutes.

3. Remove from heat and force curd through a fine mesh sieve set over another bowl.

4. Serve warm or cover surface of curd with wax paper and cool completely.

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(NOTE: If substituting regular lemons increase sugar to 3/4 cup.)

February 1, 2011

Frozen Herbs and Citrus

Few more freezer ideas for everyone!

Recently a few tips were shared with me, that I wanted to share with all of you. Thanks to my friend Linda (who once owned a restaurant and has a bunch of helpful tips like these. Lucky for me I can pick her brain – lucky for you, I can share them, here, with you!).  I am not sure about you, but it seems whenever I go to the fridge in need of chopped off up parsley to finish off my dish or when I need the zest of a lemon for my salad dressing I find wilted herbs and moldy lemons.  While I was helping Linda to organize her culinary life on the computer, I was mentioning some of the new ideas I had for my blog. She shared some great ideas with me for herbs and citrus. Most herbs freeze well for purposes of using them in cooking. Parsley will wilted upon thawing, but if you chop the parsley and then freeze it, it is ready to be added to soups, pastas, casseroles or whatever else directly out of the freezer. The flavor remains unchanged and parsley keeps its bright green color.

So for all of you who did not know this wonderful tip – Thank Linda!

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I am sure this will work with other herbs, but I haven’t tried any to test the color and flavor – let me know what your experience has been!

Freezing citrus zest and juice is another tip. First zest the citrus (lemons and limes are what I use most)  and separate your zest so you have one type in its own bag, label the bags and freeze.

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Now juice the lemons and limes and put the juice in ice cube trays to freeze. Once the juice is frozen you can put them all in one big bag and pull out cubes as you need them. 1 cube = about a Tablespoon of juice! Conveniently premeasured too!

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Those are a few quick tips for you…remember to label and date items you put in the freezer!

One last thing, a useful tip for keeping organized, I like to keep a list by the freezer with a list of the items in my freezer. This way I am reminded of all the great things I put in there so things do not go to waste. This is also my quick reference to what’s for dinner!