Portobello Mushroom Lasagna – Yum!

lasagna-ck-604775-lWW Stacy recommended this Ina Garten recipe to me this winter, and it is a winner.  The mushrooms make it hearty enough to stand up as a nice winter meal, on its own or perhaps as a side to a nice steak, with a glass of red wine, and of course enjoyed  in front of the fire. (Even though it is spring, it is snowing right now and I’m going skiing this weekend, so I’m still fully rooted in the winter frame of mind!)  BUT, as we are all anxious to get into spring, this recipe is also light enough, and would be perfect with a nice green salad and a glass of white wine.

Don’t let the lengthy looking directions discourage you – it’s very simple and easy to prepare.

Portobello Mushroom Lasagna

kosher salt

good olive oil

3/4 pound dried lasagna noodles (Stacy recommends DeCecco brand)

4 cups whole milk (you can substitute something lighter; I used 2%)

12 tablespoons of unsalted butter, divided

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 tsp ground nutmeg (this flavor really comes through, so if you’re not a nutmeg fan, put in a sprinkle or eliminate – but also delivers a nice complimentary flavor to the mushrooms)

1.5 pounds  mushrooms (I followed Stacy’s recommendation, and used 1 pound of portobello and 1 pound of button (Paris) mushrooms – probably any combination would work – but I do like the idea of using 2 pounds vs. 1.5)

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (Stacy recommends fresh grated Locatelli Romano)

Preheat oven to 375.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil with 1 T salt and a splash of oil.  Add the lasagna noodles and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Drain and set aside.

For the white sauce, bring the milk to a simmer in a saucepan.  Set aside.  Melt 8 tablespoons (1 stick) of the butter in a large saucepan.  Add the flour and cook for 1 minute over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.  Pour the hot milk into the butter flour mixture all at once.  Add 1 tablespoon salt, the pepper, and nutmeg, and cook over medium low heat, stirring first with the wooden spoon and then with a whisk, for 3 – 5 minutes, until thick.  Set aside off the heat.

Separate the mushroom stems from the caps and discard the stems.  Slice the caps 1/4 inch thick.  Heat 2 tablespoons of oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large (12-inch) saute pan. When the butter melts, add half the mushrooms, sprinkle with salt, and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until the mushrooms are tender and they release some of their juices. If they become too dry, add a little more oil.  Toss occasionally to make sure the mushrooms cook evenly.  Repeat with the remaining mushrooms and set all the mushrooms aside.

To assemble the lasagna, spread some of the sauce in the bottom of an 8x12x2 inch baking dish.  Arrange a layer of noodles on top, then more sauce, then one third of the mushrooms and 1/4 cups grated Parm or Romano.  Repeat two more t imes, layering noodles, sauce, mushrooms, and cheese.  Top with a final layer of noodles and sauce, and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

Bake the lasagna for 45 minutes, or until the top is browned and the sauce is bubbly and hot. Allow to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes and serve hot.

If you like truffle flavor, I drizzled a little truffle oil on top as I was serving.  Really delicious!

It’s Still Soup Season

cauliflower-soupI have been remiss in writing for the past couple of weeks. We spent a fun, relaxing week in Vermont skiing, with no access to the internet, which of course contributed greatly to my ability to relax!  And the week back after vacation has just been a crazy race to catch up and get things done.

I had mentioned that I had made a Roasted Cauliflower soup in a previous blog, and a few people requested the recipe.  So I thought I would throw it in here so we all have a permanent record.  It was very easy and delicious.

Roasted Cauliflower Soup

1 head cauliflower (about 2 pounds), trimmed, cored, and cut into 1/2 inch florets, about 6 cups

1 onion, halved and sliced 1/2 inchs thick

4 teaspoons canola oil

salt and pepper

3 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup dry white wine

1 bay leaf

3 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth

1/2 cup half and half (I used light cream, and I think milk would work fine too, if you want to lighten it up, especially since cauliflower on its own delivers such a creamy texture once blended)

1 tablespoon of fresh chives

1.  Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 450 degrees.

2.  Toss the cauliflower, onion, 1 tablespoon of the oil, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper together in a large bowl, then spread the mixture in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet.  Roast until the cauliflower is softened and lightly browned, 30-40 minutes, stirring halfway though.

3. Combine the roasted vegetables and remaining 1 teaspoon oil in a large Dutch oven.  Cover and cook over medium low heat, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower is very soft, 3 to 5 minutes.  Uncover, stir in the garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

4.  Stir in the wine and bay leaf and cook until the wine has reduced by half, about 1 minute.  Stir in the broth and bring to a simmer over medicum high heat.  Cover, reduce the heat to medium low, and simmer for 5 minutes.  Remove and discard the bay leaf.

5.  Working in two batches, process the cauliflower mixture in a blender until smooth, about 1 minute.  Transfer the cauliflower mixture to a clean Dutch oven, stir in the half and half and cook over low heat until hot.

6.  Season with salt and pepper to taste, ladle into bowls, and sprinkle each portion with some of the chives before serving.  (The soup can be cooled and refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 1 month.

Variation:  Follow the same recipe, but add 1.5 teaspoons of curry powder to the pot with the roasted vegetables in step 3.  Substitute 2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro for the chives.

Source:  Cook’s Illustrated

A Winning Dessert – Strawberry Stack Cake

stack_cake200Last weekend I found myself practically alone – except for the company of my 16 year old.  My husband took the other three kids to Vermont for the weekend.  What a blessing to find yourself alone with the ability to do what you want to do.  Usually I dive into the tasks that always pile up in several places around the house.  But instead, I became a cooking maniac.  I made roasted cauliflower soup, vegetable soup, a jalapeno lime butter for salmon and a six layer Strawberry Stack Cake.  I must say I was inspired to find the salmon and Strawberry Stack Cake recipes to round out my Valentine’s Day menu (no I usually don’t go to such lengths, but given I had the time – I decided to take advanage).

The Strawberry Stack Cake was a hit – essentially 6 cookie like layers separated by a homemade strawberry jam.  It was quite easy to make as well and looked beautiful.  It’s almost a different take on strawberry short cake.  Here’s the recipe in case any of you are just dying to bake this weekend:

Strawberry Stack Cake

Filling

2.5 pounds fresh strawberries, hulled and halved (you can also use frozen)

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 T fresh lemon juice

pinch of salt

Bring the strawberries, sugar, lemon juice, and salt to a simmer in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Mash the strawberries with a potato masher and cook until thick and jam-like, about 30 minutes (the mixture should measure 2 – 3/4 cups).  Transfer to a shallow dish and refrigerate until cool, about 30 minutes. (I left mine in the fridge for a few hours).

Cake

5 cups of unbleached flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp of salt

1/4 tsp buttermilk

2 tsp vanilla

8 T unsalted butter, softened

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

2 large eggs

2 T confectioner’s sugar

1.  Adjust the oven racks to the upper middle and lower middle positions and heat the oven to 350.  Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a bowl.  Combine the buttermilk and vanilla in a measuring cup.  With the electric mixer on medium high speed, beat the butter, cream cheese, and granulated sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 mintues.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until combined, then the buttermilk mixture.  Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture gradually until combined.

2.  Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces.  Pat each piece into a 5 inch disk, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm about 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, cut six 9 inch parchment rounds.   (note:  I did cut out six rounds, but I think using just one is sufficient).  Line an 8 inch round cake pan with the parchment paper, and press a chilled dough disk into the bottom of the lined pan.  I just pounded the dough, and pushed is to the edges of the pan as best I could.  Transfer the round to a baking sheet (you can just grab the parchment paper and flip the dough onto the cookie sheet).  I could fit two dough rounds on each cookie sheet, and then into the oven they went, essentially looking like 4 big cookies.  Bake until just golden around the edges, 6 to 20 minutes, switching and rotating the sheets halfway through.  Cool for 10 minutes on the sheets, then transfer to the counter to cool completely.  Repeat with the remaining dough.

3.  To assemble:  Place 1 cooled cake round on a serving platter.  Spread 1/2 cup of the cooled berry mixture over the cake, leaving a 1/2 inch border uncovered, then top with another cake round.  Repeat with the remaining berry mixture and cake rounds, finishing with the cake.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the cake has softened, at least 8 hours or up to 3 days.  Dust with  confectioners’ sugar and serve.  I also had extra strawberry jam, so I put it on the top of the cake in the shape of a heart.  Very delicious!

Source:  Cook’s Illustrated

Another Slow Cooker Friday

chicken-jambalayaWW Stacy passed along this recipe a few weeks ago.  As it was 2 degrees this morning as I sat at the bus stop, the only recipes that will suffice are those that can provide the warmth we all crave. (I’m definitely ready to write about the fresh fish on the grill with green salad with summer peaches!)  And if you have the opportunity to actually experience Jambalaya LIVE in New Orleans, go for it and get the heck out of this Arctic weather!

So if you’re in the mood for a little cajun, give this a try (with a full bodied beer I must add).  I’m still on a mission to build my slow cooker repertoire, so if you have any recipes, pass them along!

Slow Cooker Jambalaya

1 pound boneless chicken breast halves, cut into 1 inch cubes

1 pound andouille sausage, sliced

1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes with juice

1 large onion, chopped

1 large green bell pepper, chopped

1 cup chopped celery

1 cup chicken broth

2 teaspoons dried oregano

2 teaspoons dried parsley

2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning (or a blend of S & P, nutmeg, garlic powder)

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1 pound frozen cooked shrimp without tails (Stacy recommended fresh uncooked shrimp, steamed separately for 2 minutes; I used frozen raw shrimp, which I quickly steamed separately and dropped in to the slow cooker towards the end of cooking).

Directions:

1.  In a slow cooker, mix the chicken, sausage, tomatoes with juice, onion, green bell pepper, celery, and broth.  Season with oregano, parsley, Cajun seasoning, cayenne pepper, and thyme.

2.  Cover and cook 7 to 8 hours on Low, or 3 to 4 hours on High.  Stir in the shrimp during the last 30 minutes of cook time.

If you want to add some spice, sprinkle on Frank’s Red Hot Sauce.

Source:  allrecipes.com

Get on Board the Meal Train

mealTrainBadge275275Lately I feel a day doesn’t go by when I’m not amazed by technology.  Probably a lot of this is driven by the fact that I just came into the modern cell phone era, and treated myself to an iPhone.   The ease of texting with my kids to facilitate their daily schedules has opened up a whole new world to me.   Texting on my old cell phone was just short of torture.

The latest very smart  website I just became aware of can be explored at mealtrain.com.  I’m sure many of us have brought dinner over to a friend or a neighbor in the past due to illness, a new baby, or a death in the family.  I’m sure many of us have organized neighborhood meal offerings as well – coordinating times, days and types of food being delivered.  Well, enter mealtrain.com – a website that makes this undertaking so amazingly easy for everyone.

Once registered on mealtrain.com, the recipient of the meals can specify any special needs, time/schedule requirements, and of course likes and dislikes.  The link is then sent out to a chain of friends and/or neighbors, who can then sign up for a specified date, and write in the menu that will be delivered.  You can see the schedule of meal deliveries, as well as the types of meals being prepared, so as not to duplicate.  You then will receive an email reminder before you are scheduled to deliver your meal.

Having been on the “manual” end of orchestrating a “meal train” – I think this concept is brilliant.  I just signed up to deliver a meal to a neighbor, and it was completely user friendly and hassle free.

This is the type of news I like to share – ways to make what we like to undertake as simple and straight forward as possible!

Slow Cooker Friday

beef_stewA snowy morning on the East Coast begs for a warm simmering stew.  Earlier this week I set out to find a beef stew recipe that I could make in the slow cooker before work.  There is nothing better than a GOOD slow cooker recipe, but I do think they are hard to find.  I have a handful of slow cooker recipe books, and I feel that most of the recipes I have prepared have been just so so.

I decided to turn to the internet, and the first Beef Stew recipe that turned up had literally over 1,000 very positive (many times raving) comments, and it looked easy.  So I gave it a try.  It wasn’t too much effort to assemble before work this past Wednesday morning, and when I got home just before 7:00, the kitchen smelled wonderful, and I was able to eek out one serving of beef stew from the bottom of the pot.  Obviously, this dinner had been a success with my kids.

So I thought I would share it.  I have included modifications from one reader (which she took from a compilation of other readers), which I did follow for the most part.  However, I believe the reviewers overall conclusion was that following the beef stew recipe as originally written yielded very good results, and it’s a tad easier since you don’t go through the process of browning the meat first.

Anyhow, following is the recipe as is, followed by suggested modifications.  Either way, I’m sure you’ll enjoy.  Serving over egg noodles or with warm crusty bread is highly recommended!

Slow Cooker Beef Stew

2 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1 inch cubes

1/4 cup all purpose flour

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1 clove garlic, minced

1 bay leaf

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 onion chopped

1.5 cups beef broth

3 potatoes, diced

4 carrots, sliced

1 stalk celery, chopped

1.  Place meat in slow cooker.  In a small bowl mix together the flour, salt, and pepper.  Pour over meat, and stir to coat meat with flour mixture.  Stir in the garlic, bay leaf, paprika, Worcestershire sauce, onion, beef broth, potatoes, carrots and celery.

2.  Cover, and cook on Low setting for 10-12 hours or on High setting for 4 to 6 hours.

THAT’S IT!  How simple is that?  Now for the modifications if you so choose:

Modifications:

1.  Increase flour to 1/3 cup and substitute seasoned salt for regular salt. Put flour mixture into gallon sized, zippered bag.  Shake beef in bag to coat.  Saute coated beef in 1-2 tablespoons olive oil until browned.  Add chopped onion to beef to saute and soften.  Transfer to slow cooker.

2.  Mix beef broth with 1 tablespoon Worcestershire and 1/2 cup red wine.  Pour into hot skillet to deglaze, then pour over beef and onions in cooker.

3.  Add remaining ingredients with these additions:  Increase garlic to 2 cloves minced, 2 bay leaves; add 1 packet McCormick’s Beef Stew Seasoning (the Beef Stew Seasoning was the only thing I didn’t do, since I didn’t have it on hand.  It probably would have added nice flavor, but also a lot of salt).

Anyone who has a slow cooker recipe that you would like to share, it would be most welcome!  There’s nothing better than walking in the door at the end of the day knowing that dinner is already.

Enjoy the weekend!

Source:  allrecipes.com

Whoopie! Another Dessert Discovered…

Pumpkin_Whoopie_Pies1For Thanksgiving this year, I asked each of my kids to make one recipe to contribute to the Thanksgiving table.  Sam made jello, Jack made cranberry bread, and David made deviled eggs.  Eliza discovered a new use for pumpkin, and this recipe is definitely a keeper – Pumpkin Whoopie Pies.

In case any of you are still in a pumpkin mood heading into the holidays, here’s the recipe:

1-1/2 sticks unsalted butter, 1 stick melted, 1/2 stick softened

1 cup packed light brown sugar

2 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten

1 cup canned pure pumpkin puree

1 T pumpkin pie spice

1-1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

3/4 tsp plus 2 pinches salt

1-2/3 cups flour

4 ounces cream cheese, chilled

1 cup confcctioner’s sugar

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

2.  In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter and brown sugar until smooth.  Whisk in the eggs, pumpkin puree, and pumpkin pie spice, one tsp vanilla, the baking powder, the baking soda and 3/4 tsp salt.  Using a rubber spatula, fold in the flour.

3.  Using an ice cream scoop or tablespoon, drop 12 generous mounds of batter, spaced evenly, onto each baking sheets.  Bake until springy to the touch about 10 minutes.  Transfer to a rack to cool completely

4.  Meanwhile, using an electric mixer, cream the softened butter with the cream cheese.  Add the confectioner’s sugar and the remaining 2 pinches salt and 1/2 tsp vanilla.  Mix on low speed until blended, then beat on medium high speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes.

5.  Spread the flat side of 12 cakes with the cream cheese frosting.  Top each with another cake.

Source:  Rachel Ray

Soup’s On for Thanksgiving

Bacon_Cheese_n_Potato_ChowderI like to have a soup on the stove on Thanksgiving, to hold off those hungry tummies mid day as we wait for a mid afternoon turkey to come out of the oven.  This year I think it will be Ina Garten’s French Onion Soup, but I wanted to share a recipe I’ve made a couple times this fall to rave reviews (well, at least from my 16 year old son).  I meant to publish this sooner, in case anyone wanted to incorporate it into their Thanksgiving day plans, but at least you’ll have it for the start of the winter season.

If anyone would like to share any favorite soup recipes, please do!

Potato Chowder with Green Chiles

Warning:  I’ve found if I follow the recipe exactly, there is way too much heat (and we’re a family that likes spicy).  I’ve written my edits in parentheses.

1 large red bell pepper (I do two – three large bell peppers)

4 large poblano Chile peppers (four makes it too spicy; 2 – 2.5 is enough)

5 cups of chicken broth

1 large potato, peeled and cubed (I throw in a bit more than 1 – this just didn’t seem like enough for “potato” chowder)

1 large onion, chopped

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped (I did not use this at all)

1 tsp salt

1/4 to 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

1/4 cup butter or margarine

1/3 cup flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp dry mustard

1/4 to 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

2 cups half and half (I use light cream, and used 1.5 cups of light cream and 1.5 cups of skim milk)

1 cup milk

1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

6 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled

1 bunch green onions, chopped

BROIL bell peppers and chile peppers on an aluminum foil lined baking sheet 5 inches from heat about 5 minutes on each side or until peppers look blistered.

PLACE peppers in a heavy duty zip lock plastic bag or paper bag; seal and let stand 10 minutes to loosen skins.  Peel peppers; remove and discard seeds.  Coarsely chop peppers.

BRING chopped roasted peppers, chicken broth, and next 5 ingredients to a boil in a Dutch oven over medium heat.  Reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until potato is tender.

MELT butter in a heavy saucepan over low heat; whisk in flour and next 3 ingredients until smooth.  Cool, whisking constantly, 1 minute.  Gradually whisk in half and half.

STIR white sauce and milk into chicken broth mixture; cook over medium heat 8 to 10 minutes or until thickened and bubbly.   Sprinkle each serving evenly with cheese, bacon, and green onions.

Source:  Southern Living (Top Rated Recipe from December, 2000!)

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

A Meal to Consider for Chilly Fall Days

02_PA_1D01_04_98132_s4x3_lgAs the days start and end with that chill in the air, it’s time to start thinking of some hearty meals.  I stumbled across a recipe this past week and gave it a go, and with the exception of my vegetarian daughter, all gave it a thumbs up.  It was easy, and I just happened to have all the ingredients in my fridge or cupboard.

Give it a try if you’re in the mood:

Texas Brisket

3 medium or 2 large onions

1 4.5 to 5.5 lb fresh beef brisket

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup liquid smoke

1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

1/4 cups steak sauce (like A1)

1/4 cup strong brewed black coffee

1.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Slice onions and arrange in center of a roasting pan that will hold the brisket snugly.  Place brisket on top, fat side up.

2.  Whisk together the remaining ingredients; pour over brisket.  Cover pan with heavy aluminum foil, sealing it tightly.  Bake 3.5 hours or until tender.

3.  Remove from oven; transfer meat to a cutting board and cover with foil.

4.  Transfer onions to a blender with a ladle or two of liquid from the pan.  Blend until smooth; stir back into remaining liquid in pan.

5.  Slice brisket across the grain and serve with the gravy.

And add the mashed potatoes for the side.  Not a bad meal, especially in the middle of a busy week!

A Delicious Granola for Snacks or Breakfast

granola-thumbI came upon this recipe in mid August in a cookbook I bought while on vacation, and I believe I have made it four times now.  It goes quite quickly in my household – whether it is for breakfast with fruit and yogurt and/or milk, or as a snack throughout the day.  I always cringe at the high cost of granola in the supermarket – and this beats by far anything I’ve ever purchased in terms of taste.  Plus, ironically enough, all the items for this recipe were in my pantry (that 10 year half used jar of Grandma’s molasses is finally used up!).  Here is is:

Chunky-Chewy Fruit and Nut Granola

3 cups of rolled old fashioned oats

1/2 cup whole raw almonds

1/2 cup raw pepitas (pumkin seeds)

1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts

1/4 cup flaxseed, optional

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup molasses, not backstrap

2 T grapeseed or vegetable oil

1/2 tsp kosher salt

3/4 cups chopped pitted dates (I’ve never put this in, just because I didn’t have them)

1/2 cup dried cherries or raisins

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Grease a heavy large rimmed baking sheet.  Mix the oats, almonds, pepitas, pecans, flaxseed, and cinnamon in a large bowl.  Combine the brown sugar, honey, molasses, oil, salt and 1/4 cup water in a heavy, medium sized saucepan over medium heat and cook until the sugar dissolves, about 1 minute.  Bring the mixture to a boil, then pour over the oat mixture and mix well.  Spread the oat mixture evenly on the prepared baking sheet.  Bake until the granola turns golden brown, stirring occasionally with a spatula, about 40 minutes.

Sprinkle the dates and cherries or raisins over the granola and stir to combine.  Continue baking until brown, stirring once, about 10 minutes longer.  Stir the granola and set the baking sheet aside to allow the granola to cool completely.

Enjoy!

Source:  Blue Eggs and Yellow Tomatoes Cookbook

Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.
Marcel Proust

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