Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sunday Night Baked Lasagna (aka Lasagna Al Forno)

Alright, I let my diet fall by the wayside last night so that I could taste the dinner I lovingly prepared for my family. Holy sh** it was seriously delicious and amazing. Pardon moi, but I there are no other vocabulary phrases to describe how good this is - and it's easy to make (to quote an old Guns and Roses song however, "All we need is a little patience.") So I looked on-line to find a recipe and there weren't any I could follow without my palms and forehead sweating, so I pulled out two of my best Italian cookbooks for comfort and guidance: 1. The Umberto Menghi Cookbook and 2. Tony Danza's, "Don't Fill Up On The Antipasto" and simply combined the two. Both books had a meat sauce that they used for Spaghetti Bolognese, Agnolotti con Ripienco di Carne, Tortellini Bolognese and of course, Lasagna al Forno. I've printed Umberto's meat sauce in the past, but will joyfully retype it up here for the lasagna recipe. You'll LOVE it. Just a few things before you get cooking:

You will need a meat sauce, a white sauce (I just used jarred Alfredo), and a few cups of shredded Parmesan (I bought already shredded) and finally, I used "FRESH PASTA SHEETS" I bought from the store. I am not keen on using boxed lasagna because it gets too crispy sometimes.


Meat Sauce or Salsa Di Carne:

Saute 1 large chopped up onion in 1/4 cup of olive oil in a medium heated pan just until the onion is transparent.

Add 1 pound of ground beef and 4 cloves of chopped garlic to the pan and saute until beef is evenly brown.

Add either 6 large ripe and finely chopped tomatoes, or like I did last night, 1 large can of plum tomatoes.

Then add 2 tbsp. of tomato paste, 1 cup of dry red wine, 1 cup of beef consomme, 2 bay leaves, salt to taste and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Let simmer on low heat for 1 hour stirring frequently.

I tripled my recipe last night so that I could freeze the extra meat sauce.

White Sauce or Salsa Bianca:

2 tbsp. of butter and 2 tbsp. of flour, melt the butter in a saucepan on medium heat then add flour and simmer on low heat for 2 minutes, whisking constantly. Add to the flour 1 cup of milk and 1 cup of half and half cream to butter and flour mixture and whisk until it thickens. Season with salt, pepper and my fav, nutmeg. As I mentioned earlier, I bought jarred Alfredo to save me a little cooking time and clean up.

Onto our Lasagna Al Forno!!!!!

If you need to cook your noodles add a little oil and salt to a 5 quart pot and bring water to a boil on high heat and add lasagna noodles and cook until el dente which is 3-5 minutes for fresh pasta, or 5-7 for packaged pasta. It's worth using fresh pasta sheets that you don't even have to cook.

Spread 2 tbsp. of butter and 1/4 cup of the white sauce in the bottom of a 16X12X3 inch baking pan. I did not use butter.

Put a layer of the lasagna noodles over the white sauce. Then spread 1 cup of the meat sauce on top of lasagna noodles and 1/2 cup of the white sauce on the meat sauce.

Sprinkle 1/2 cup of shredded Parmesan cheese on top of lasagna noodles, meat sauce and white sauce.

Repeat this process until there are four layers ending with Parmesan cheese on top. Put baking dish in oven and back at 300 for 30 minutes.

I served with garlic bread and a chopped tomato, basil, and bocconcini salad.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Gewurztraminer Slush From The Eldorado In Kelowna

This is so amazing to die for and a must make. Though I enjoyed it in the summer this past year with a plate of prawn fritters, I am so thinking it will be a super uber hit this Christmas! I got the below recipe from the Globe and Mail. You just need a blender a few ingredients and voila!

Brad Sieben of Kelowna’s Hotel Eldorado has created this cocktail that is made with the local wine (his personal preference is an aromatic 2008 Lake Breeze Gewürztraminer) and is served frozen like a slushie.
Ingredients
1/2 ounce premium vodka
1/2 ounce Limoncello
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup
1 ounce Okanagan Gewürztraminer
Method
To make it, prepare the simple syrup in advance by adding two cups of water to a pot on the stove. Bring the water to a boil and then add a cup of sugar, stirring constantly. Take the pot off the stove when the sugar is dissolved (you don’t want the syrup to boil for too long or it will become too dense). Cool, bottle and refrigerate for up to two weeks. When you’re ready to make the cocktail, put a fistful of ice into a blender before adding all the liquid ingredients. Blend until the ice is crushed and the mixture thickens (approximately 15 to 20 seconds), pour into a cocktail glass and garnish with a strawberry wedge and straw.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Pork Chops in Mustard and Cream Sauce a la Julia Child!!!

Ok, the truth is, I've combined two recipes here to make the cooking a little simpler on this gorgeous Friday night!!!! I picked up 8 centre cut pork chops from IGA (all on sale, hello!) Salt and pepper each one and then add 3 tbsp. of olive oil and 1 tsp. of chopped garlic to a pan. Heat up the pan and brown the pork chops on each side about 4 minutes per side. Remove from the pan and put onto a baking pan. Then we're going to concoct the yummy sauce. First however saute a whole chopped onion in the pan with all the juices and oil for 2 minutes. Then add 4 tbsp. of balsamic vinegar to the pan and reduce for 1/2 minute, add 1/2 cup of beef broth (should have been chicken broth, but beef is all that resided in my cupboard), and 1/2 cup of cream, glorious cream....CREAM!!!! Plus...1/4 cup of white wine and 2 tbsp. of Dijon Mustard! Simmer the sauce down for about 10 minutes. If it's ever too salty, add a bit more cream. Put the pork chops into a 300 degree oven for 10 more minutes. Centre chops can dry out easily, so I like to get them out quick. Let rest for 10-15 minutes and drizzle warm sauce over it. Let it seep into a mound of garlic mashed potatoes and for a vegetable, serve up sauteed cabbage, zucchini, and mushrooms...or make a salad! Love you all, have a great weekend!

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving Canada! Here's my menu

As I write this I'm thinking of all the millions of Canadians cooking their turkeys and getting ready to have their family and friends over for dinner. I cooked and celebrated with my family and friends last night and had as usual the most divine time.

The appetizers:

Cream cheese with walnuts and honey crostini: Slice a baguette into 1/4 inch slices, rub with olive oil and coast in the oven until it's just toasted. Take out of the oven and cool. Smear a healthy tablespoon of cream cheese on all the little toasts, top with a couple of walnuts each, put onto a platter then pour a little honey over the toast. Very yummy.

Devils on Horseback: 2-3 cups of pitted dates, pecans split in half length-wise, small slices of bacon to wrap dates. Put 1/2 pecan into date and wrap with 1 inch long bacon slice. Repeat and put onto a baking sheet. Cook in a 350 degree oven until bacon is crisp or how you like it, 20-25 minutes. Drain on a paper towel andd serve.

The turkey: We had it deboned again, like we did last year. It's so much easier to carve. I simply massaged a little olive oil into the turkey with some Kosher salt and paprika. I usually pour a 1:1 ratio of milk to brandy over the turkey to soften up the meat, but I found this simple rub just as lovely.

Sausage Stuffing: My mom made our family favourite sausage stuffing and tucked it underneath the bird. We lined the pan with parchment paper first. The stuffing gets a little greasy, so next time I'm going to put the stuffing into a small casserole underneath the turkey that would fit into the pan.

Gravy: A little flour, cream, and red wine.

Corn Casserole: 2 cans of corn, 2 cans of cream corn, one bag of shredded Tex Mex Cheese, 4 eggs, 1/2 tsp. of dried mustard, 1 tsp. smoked paprika, 1 cup of flour, salt and pepper. Grease up a casserole, mix up all of the above and pour into the prepared casserole. Top with buttered Panko breadcrumbs and bake at 350 degrees for one hour. This is always a hit with all my guests.

Creamed Onions: Boil 14 Spanish onions (do one per person) in a hot pot of water until the centre pops out. Drain. In a slow cooker add the onions, three jars of Alfredo sauce and 1 package of Philly cream cheese. Put on low and let cook until dinner time, stirring occassionally.

Yams stuffed into hollowed out oranges: Cook up two big yams in the oven, cut in half and mash the flesh. Add two eggs, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 2 tbsp. of sugar or artificial sweetener, 1/4 cup of orange juice (that you can get from the oranges you scoop) salt and pepper. Cut oranges into half and scoop out the orange flesh. I first squeeze out the juice into a cup. Once the hollowed out orange halves are scooped, fill with yams and top with a couple of pecans. Cook for 1/2 hour at 350 degrees in the oven.

For dessert my family made a gorgeous variety, but I'll have to get their recipes at another time. I also served store bought pumpkin pie to save me some time.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Red Pepper, Mushroom Soup and Hamburger Stuffed Jumbo Shells

Here is a quick little Tuesday night dinner I made for my family last night and they loved it. Cut up 1/2 onion and 2 red peppers and saute for about 2 minutes over medium heat in a a frying pan with a little olive oil. Then add 1 lb of lean hamburger to the pan and cook until the hamburger is no longer pink. I added a little smoked paprika to the hamburger. It's not hot, but super and subtly flavourful. Then mix and add 1 can of low sodium/low fat cream of mushroom soup with only 1/2 cup of water (you're going to need one more can of mushroom soup for later) and 2 tbsp. of Parmesan cheese to the hamburger mixture and simmer for a few more minutes. Turn the element/gas burner off to cool the hamburger mixture a little so it's not burning hot when it's time to stuff the shells.

In the meantime bring a big pot of water to a rapid boil, and add 2 tsp. of salt to the water.

Add Jumbo Shells, a few at a time, to boiling water. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally for 14-16 minutes or until the desired tenderness is reached. Drain thoroughly and put shells into a casserole dish and begin filling with the above mixture.

I then took one more can of mushroom soup, put into a bowl, and mixed with 1/2 can of water and drizzled the sauce over the shells evenly. Feel free to add some more spice or herb to the mushroom soup sauce.

Then I grated 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese and evenly spread it over the shells. Finally, put 1/4 cup of Panko bread crumbs into a bowl with a tbsp. of butter and put into the microwave just until the butter has melted into the Panko and stir with a fork or spoon to mix all the butter through the breadcrumbs and sprinkle over entire casserole. Bake at 350 for about 20-30 minutes or until the Panko breadcrumbs are nicely brown. Enjoy...my family sure did!

Post Script: Panko breadcrumbs are a really yummy breadcrumb used in Japanese cooking. If you can't find Panko breadcrumbs (though I got mine at Costco), using regular breadcrumbs is just as good.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Two-Bite Garlic Rolls

I'm serving these "Chatelaine Magazine" treats with our succulent pork chops and saurkraut recipe tonight.

Pizza Dough (I make mine in a bread maker), 1/4 cup of garlic butter, a little olive oil.

Spit the pizza dough in half. Roll out into a rectangle and spread with 1/4 cup of garlic butter. Roll up dough into a log. Slice into 12 rounds. Lay cut side down, into a greased muffin tin (can spray with Pam). Repeat with remaining dough. Brush with olive oil and bake at 350 degrees until golden, 20-25 minutes.

Delish!

Succulent Chicken Tagine

I got to finally use some of my preserved lemons last night....well actually I've already used a jar, but I got to use my second jar of preserved lemons, for the first time, for a chicken dish I've been wanting to try, Chicken Tagine. What is tagine do you ask? Well I had no idea, but it is a special pot that you use to cook food over a slow period of time so the meat is succulent and delicious. I don't have a tagine per se, so I used a large dutch oven pot that I had waiting for such an event in my cupboard. Though my succulent chicken tagine is not an authentic recipe, I used what I had in my house and it was still fabulous! It's a two hour process, so pour a glass of wine, get your book and get cooking.

You will need....

12-16 boneless chicken thighs, 4 large russet potatoes washed and sliced length wise (but any potato will do), 4 large carrots sliced, 1 large onion sliced or chopped, 3 cloves of garlic, 1 tsp. turmeric, 2 tbsp. of Indian Marsala, 1 tsp. of cumin, 2 preserved lemons each cut in half, 1/4 cup of olive oil, 1/2 cup of unsalted chicken broth, 1/4 cup of black olive tapenade, and a little salt and pepper to taste.

Alrighty then, put one half of the oil into a pot over a medium high heat and add all the veggies (not the lemons) around the pot and add the chicken thighs and position them so they'll brown a tad. Cook and toss the chicken and veg around in the pot for about 10 minutes, turn the heat down to low and add the rest of the oil over top, stir, cover and cook for one hour, checking it now and then to make sure nothing is burning. After one hour, add the chicken broth, the olive tapenade, and two preserved lemons. Put the lid back on, sip your wine and get back to your book. Feel free to taste the broth and see if you'd like to add any more seasonings.

Serve over rice. Yum!!!!

For the record - real tagine has ginger in it, olives, cinnamon, and cilantro (aka coriander).