Thursday, July 20, 2006

Individual Lasagnas

I started out with high hopes for this recipe (the individualization being my own genius idea) and they were dashed when I tried to go the no-boil pasta route. Even by buying the smaller no-boil lasagna noodles, I had to pain-stakingly break the noodles to fit into the miniture loaf pans. In the future, though it takes a little extra effort, PLEASE go for boiled noodles. Sure it adds a little extra time, but lasagna is sort of a long process anyway, so whats a few extra minutes?

The neat things about this though is that you are making individual servings. So you can easily double or triple this for the freezer. To freeze, the recipe says "The assembled, unbaked lasagna, if wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and then in foil, will keep in the freezer for up to two months. To bake, defrost in the refridgerator for a day or tow and bake as directed, extending the baking time by about 5 minutes." Because these are much smaller, I doubt they would take long to defrost and I don't think it would hurt anything to leave them on the counter for a short while or defrost them in the microwave.

This would go great with some garlic bread. I think I also served it with asparagus and snow peas.

Individual Lasagnas
from The New Best Recipe with modifications and individualization
Serves 2.5

1/2 TBS olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped fine
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 lb ground chuck
1/4 lb italian sausage (removed from casings)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 cup heavy cream
14 oz. diced tomatoes
6 oz. tomato paste mixed with equal parts water

Cheese and Pasta layers
8 oz ricotta cheese
1 1/4 oz parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 egg, lightly beaten
lasagna noodles
1/2 lb shredded mozzerella

3 mini loaf pans

1) Preheat oven to 375º
2) Prepare lasagna noodles according to box directions (if you are making a large lasagna, feel free to go the no-boil route).
3) Heat oil in sauce pan over medium heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally until soft, about 2 min. Add garlic and cook until fragrant.
4) Increase heat to medium high and add ground meat, salt and pepper, breaking th meat into small pieces with a wooden spoon until meat loses it's raw color., about 4 min. Add cream and simmer, stirring occasioanlly, until liquid ecaporates and only fat remains, about 4 minutes. Add tomatoes and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low and simmer slowly until flacores are bleneded, about 3 min. Set sauce aside.
**If you find the sauce is too acidic or "tomato-y" try adding some sugar. That will cut back on the sharp taste.
5) Mix ricotta, half of the parmesan, basil, egg, salt, and pepper in medium bowl with a fork until well combined. Set aside.
6) Spray mini-loaf pans with non-stick cooking spray. Coat the bottom of each pan with sauce, avoiding large chunks of meat. Place a noodle on top to create the first layer. Drop 2-3 TBS ricotta mixture on to the noodle and spread evenly. Sprinkle evenly with mozzerella cheese. Spoon 1/2-3/4 cup of the meat sauce evenly over the cheese. Repeat layering until you reach the top of the pan. Place a noodle ontop and coat with sauce. Sprinkle with mozzerella and remaining parmesan. Lightly spray a sheet of foil with cooking spray and cover lasagnas.
7) Bake for 5 minutes, then remove foil. Reutrn the lasagna to the oven and continue to bake until the cheese is spotty brown and the sauce is bubbling, abotu 25 minutes longer. Cool the lasagna about 10 minutes.
8) To serve, carefully flip the lasagna out of the pan and onto a serving plate. If you have any left, top with sauce and cheese or simply serve as is.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Pork and Vegetable Stir-fry

My first attempts at food photo art!

This is a pretty easy and yummy recipe. My only real comments are to double the amount of "marinade" and use that as a sauce at the end if you're a big sauce person (which I will change in the recipe). I was fine, but the boy wanted a bit more. Also, the original recipe called for pork tenderloin rather than a pork chop, and then white mushrooms, carrots, snow peas, and scallions. I obviously took a few creative liberties with the vegetables, so you should too!

Pork and Vegetable Stir-fry
from Wok & Stir-Fry (with modifications)
Serves 2 (with rice)

1-2 boneless pork-chops, ~1" thick
1 TBS soy sauce
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp chinese rice wine or dry sherry
2 tsp cornstarch paste (equal parts water and cornstarch, blended to a paste)
2 oz. snow peas
1/2 red bell pepper
1/4 cup broccoli florets
1/4 cup onions, chopped fine
2 oz. baby carrots, halved
1/4 cup vegetable oil

1) Cut the pork into thin slices, each about the size of a postage stamp. Blend soy sauce, brown sugar, wine/sherry, and cornstarch paste. Pour half of this misture over the pork to marinate for at least 15 minutes.
2) Trim the snow peas, chop up the onion and red pepper, halve the carrots, etc. with any other vegetables you choose to add. With the exception of the onion, try to keep the vegetable pieces about the same size as the meat pieces.
3) Heat the oil in a preheated wok/skillet. Add pork and stir-fry for 1-2 minutes until color changes. Remove with slotted spoon and set aside.
4) Add heartier vegetables first, such as broccoli, and sauté until it turns a bright green. Add remaining veggies and stir-fry for about 2 minutes. Add salt (to taste) and pork (if the pan looks a little dry, add some chicken broth). Continue cooking and stirring for about one minute, then add remaining marinade sauce and blend well.
5) Serve over white rice.

Sunday, July 9, 2006

Strawberry Milkshakes

Basic Strawberry Milkshake

4 - 6 large strawberries
Breyers French Vanilla Ice cream
1/2 cup milk
1 - 2 tsp sugar

1) Slice the strawberries and place in a bowl. Sprinkle with sugar and cover. Refridgerate for at least 15 minutes (the longer you let them sit, the more strawberry juice you get!)
2) Using your NEW FOOD PROCESSOR a/o WAND MIXER, purée the strawberries.
3) Add 3 large scoops of ice cream and milk to processor. Pulse until creamy! (if it keeps getting stuck, add more milk)
4) Drink up!

Chicken and Pasta Salad

Also prepared just before leaving for the 4th, I tried this recipe for "Spicy Chicken and Pasta Salad" mostly because I wouldn't need to buy any new ingredients. I had the sour cream from the fajitas, a jalapeño from salsa making, scallions from the dumplings, mayonaise and lemon from my last pasta salad, chicken broth from the penne and ham dish, parsely from just about everything, and vegetables from general salad making.

This was very easy to make and the vegetables were delicious and making them the way this recipe called for, is now my new favorite way to prepare these veggies to go in a pasta dish. The dressing was a bit unexciting and not at all spicy, which I attribute to the lack of a food processor. I also attempted to reduce too little chicken broth. The boy also complained of too much mayo, even though I used less than half of what the recipe called for for the mayo and all of what it called for for sour cream. So in the recipe I'll list what I feel is the appropriate amount of broth, mayo, and sour cream, but feel free to adjust as you see fit. It could also certainly do with a spot of salt and pepper.

This dish was by no means bad, but certainly has room for improvement. A nice light meal that would work just as well chilled as warm. Perhaps letting the flavors mingle in the fridge overnight would enhance the flavor.

Chicken and Pasta Salad
from Prevention's Ultimate Quick & Healthy Cookbook, "Spicy Chicken and Pasta Salad"
Serves 2

1/2 cup chicken broth (i tried with 1/4 cup and failed)
1 large chicken breast, cut into 1/2 inch strips
8 oz. gemelli pasta
1 cup broccoli florets
1/2 cup carrot sticks (I quartered baby carrots)
1/2 cup snow peas
2 TBS fresh parsley
1 scallion, diced
1/4 - 1/2 fresh jalapeño, cut into chunks (depending on how spicy)
1 TBS mayonaise
2 - 3 TBS sour cream
1 TBS lemon juice

1) Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat.
2) Bring the chicken broth to boil in a covered medium sauce pan over high heat. Stir in the chicken strips, return to boil, and reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer, turning occasionally, for 3-4 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Transfer chicken to plate and cover loosely with foil. Increase heat to high and boil broth fro 3-5 minutes or until reduced to a syrupy consistency. Remove pan from heat.
3) Add pasta to boiling water and return to boil. Cook 8 - 10 minutes or according to package directions until al dente. About 4 minutes before the pasta is done, add the broccoli and carrots. One minute before the pasta is done, add the snow peas. Cook until veggies are crispt and tender and pasta is done. Drain and cool under cold running water. Drain again. Transfer to large salad bowl.
4) Combine parsley, scallion, jalapeño, mayo, sour cream, lemon juice, and reduced broth to food processor. Process until puréed.
5) Pour dressing over pasta and veggies, add chicken, and toss to combine.

Grilled Steak Fajitas

Sorry for the delay in updating, we went away for the 4th of July. My first soloing adventure with the grill took place before the weekend and it was also my first attempt at fajitas. They came out very well if I do say so myself.

Now, likw I said, I've never made fajitas before and I've always felt that steak fajitas had the leg up on chicken fajitas. But I didn't know what cut of meat to use or how to prepare the steak so that it would come out, well, like a fajita. This recipe worked out wonderfully and was very easy! The meat seasoning/flavor was nothing spectacular, but combined with the other ingredients (especially the sour cream!) they tasted fantastic. I would suggest serving this with spanish rice (from a box!), chips, and salsa.

I'm sure that this would re-heat well for lunch the next day. Also, if you don't have a grill, a cast iron skillet or a grill pan would do. I think you could also get away with broiling, but I would check the cooking times.

Grilled Steak Fajitas
from The New Best Recipe
Serves 2

1/2 - 3/4 lb flank steak (I used the other half of what I used for the beef broccoli!)
1/4 cup lime juice
1/2 red bell pepper
1/4 onion, cut into thick rounds (~ 2)
4 - 6 8" flour tortillas

sour cream*** (a must!)
shredded cheddar/pepper jack cheese

1) Sprinkle the flank steak with lime juice, salt, and pepper.
2) Over high heat, grill the steak until well seared and dark brown on one side, ~5-7 minutes. Using tongs, flip steak and grill about 2-5 minutes for rare/med-rare, 4-6 minutes for med-well/well, or until the interior of the meat is slightly less done that you want it to be when you eat it. Cooking times depend on the thickness of the steak.
3) Transfer steak to cutting board. Tent loosely with foil and let rest until you are about to serve.
4) When the heat has been lowered to medium, place onion rounds and peppers on the grill, turning them occasionally, until the onions are slightly charred (~6 minutes) and the peppers are streaked (~8 minutes). Remove vegetables to cutting board and slice into thin strips.
5) Place tortillas around the edge of the grill where the heat is low. Heat for about 20 seconds on each side or until warm. Be careful not to let them dry out. Wrap in a towel to keep warm until serving.
6) Slice the steak thinly on the bias across the grain. Serve immediately with vegetables, tortillas, with the condiments on the side!