Thursday, March 18, 2010


Last week, I noticed a post over at My Kitchen Cafe for classic Italian lasagna. What caught my attention was the lack of ricotta or cottage cheese - 2 things I absolutely cannot stand. I'm used to picking around ricotta in normal lasange - it's a texture thing. I also noticed that this included a cream sauce, and I was sold.

I did a couple of things differently from the original recipe. I used ground beef instead of ground turkey, and I added the beef into the red sauce while it simmered. I also added a little bit of nutmeg to the white sauce. I keep pureed veggies in the freezer to sneak in other foods, so I also added a 1/2 cup of pureed carrot (couldn't taste it, so mission accomplished). Additionally, my white sauce wasn't cooperating on the thickening, so I added a bit of mozzarella to it, and it did the trick. Since I needed to assemble this during naptime, I refrigerated the uncooked dish for a few hours before baking, and it did fine. (The original recipe is quite long, so I won't retype it here.)

This will be my new go-to lasanga. The flavors are rich, but not overwhelming. The red sauce was good enough to eat on its own with pasta, and I think that part of the recipe lends itself to quite a bit of tweaking based on personal taste. This recipe is time-consuming, but not hard. You will get several pots and pans dirty, but it's worth it. Now that I've made it once and I know what tasks I can do simultaneously, I think it will go much faster the next time around. Next time I make this, I'm going to split it into 2 smaller pans, and try freezing one unbaked. I'll let you know how that goes.
Before heading into the oven.

It completely fell apart coming out of the pan, but it was so good.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Jalapeno Corn Chowder and Roasted Pork Paninis

We just returned from a most fabulous trip to Chicago, and I'm sure we've eaten our weights in food this weekend. One of the places we enjoyed was Rosebud Prime, which is one of the newer Rosebud restaurants in Chicago. They had a delicious jalapeno corn chowder, so I came home and tried to recreate it. I didn't do theirs justice, but we did enjoy this chowder - I will tweak it some more next time I make it - like using heavy cream, and maybe adding a little bit of crab meat.
I've also been craving a roasted pork sandwich lately. We used to have a fabulous little lunch spot in town, and they made the best - it was this super-thick, crusty bread, the perfectly cooked pork, and manchego cheese. I went to the small grocery today, so I settled for some Vermont white cheddar, rather than going to another store for the manchego (but it's so worth it if you can get it!).

Jalapeno Corn Chowder

1/6 roasted jalepeno (more or less, depending on your taste)
3 strips bacon, cooked
3 cups frozen corn, divided
14.5 oz chicken broth
1/8 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp sugar
salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup milk or cream

Roast jalapeno. I do this by putting it on an open flame (don't let it catch on fire!) on my gas stove. Once it's blackened on all sides, put it in a plastic bag and let it sweat for 5-10 minutes. Remove from bag and remove skin. Cut jalapeno into strips, removing membrane and seeds. I only used one little slice of the pepper, but you may prefer more or less. Set aside. (Be sure to either wear gloves and/or wash your hands thoroughly before touching anyone or anything - especially your skin or eyes!)

Cook bacon in a skillet or your soup pot until done. In a blender, grind the bacon, jalapeno, and half of the corn, along with some of the broth to the desired consistency. (If you prefer your chowder on the smoother side, you may want to use more than half of the corn.)

If you use the same pot that you cooked your bacon in, add a little bit of the broth to the pan and get up all the bits on the bottom of the pan. Add in the pureed corn, bacon, jalapeno, and broth mixture, as well as the rest of the corn and broth. Add cumin, sugar, salt, and pepper. Bring to a simmer, and then add milk or cream. Turn heat down to medium low and continue to cook for 2-3 minutes, until hot. Serve immediately.

Pork Tenderloin Panini

1lb pork tenderloin
1 tbsp olive oil
salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder, to taste
6 slices of thick bread, or 3 hoagie rolls, sliced in half
9-12 slices of cheese (3-4 per sandwich) - sharp cheddar, manchego, swiss, etc...
handful of spinach for each sandwich

Salt and pepper tenderloin. Heat olive oil in skillet or dutch oven, and brown meat on all sides. Transfer to a preheated 450 degree oven, and bake for 15-20 minutes. Remove meat, and let rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing. Heat panini press.

Slice tenderloin. Assemble sandwiches with cheese, meat, spinach, and any other toppings. Add butter to bottom and top of sandwich and cook in panini press to desired doneness. Serve immediately.

There are so many other things that could be added to this sandwich - the possibilities are endless. Next time I make it, I'm going to try some cranberry sauce or maybe some apple slices.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Cheesy Drop Biscuits

A friend of mine made these biscuits for a meeting a few weeks ago, and I couldn't stop eating them! They are so tasty, and when she sent me the recipe, I realized that they're also easy. This recipe makes about 2-3 dozen mini-muffin size biscuits.

Cheesy Drop Biscuits

2 cups self-rising flour
1 cup melted butter
1 cup (8 oz) sour cream
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Either drop by spoonful onto greased cookie sheet, or bake in greased mini muffin pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes for mini muffins, or 25-30 minutes for drop biscuits. Refrigerate any leftovers.

Friday, March 5, 2010

My Sugar Cookie Quest

I had to laugh this morning when several blogs on my sidebar had similar posts. It seems we're all on the hunt for the best sugar cookie!

I've been trying several recipes, and they've all been tasty. My main problem is that, no matter what I do, my batter spreads and puffs up when I bake the cookies. I've lowered the oven temp. I've put the pans in the refrigerator to cool the dough back down before going in the oven. I've decreased baking soda/powder. Really, nothing I've done has helped. Anybody have any good advice on this one?

Despite the spreading while they baked, they still somewhat retained their shape for me to ice. I just use a basic royal icing (using meringue powder). The two recipes I go back and forth between are the one at Joy of Baking and the second one on the page at Simply Recipes. After doing both, I think I lean towards the one at Simply Recipes. It's more difficult to roll out, but I like the texture just a tad more. Either way, though, you can't go wrong!
The one thing I do differently with both recipes is not using almond extract - I'm not a huge fan of almond flavor, so that's just a personal choice. I've started adding about 1/2 teaspoon of Fiori Di Sicilia from King Arthur Flour, and really like that flavor.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Cooking Club - French Vanilla Tiramisu

Our cooking club is now in its second year, and has moved on to a new cookbook - At the Table by Patty Roper. This book is full of those recipes that you'll go to on regular weeknights - not difficult, but still tasty and filling.

I had dessert this month, and chose the French Vanilla Tiramisu. I'll say up front that calling this "tiramisu" is generous. It doesn't bear a whole lot of resemblance to the real thing, but it is tasty, and a snap to make.

French Vanilla Tiramisu

4 oz cream cheese (1/2 package)
1 1/2 cups cold milk
1 (3.5 oz) package French Vanilla instant pudding mix
2 (3 oz) packages of ladyfingers, split
1/4 cup brewed coffee
1 (8 oz) container whipped topping (I used Cool Whip)
2 squares Ghirardelli semisweet baking chocolate, grated

Beat cream cheese, and add milk and pudding mix. Beat on low to medium speed with electric mixer. Set aside.

Sprinkle cut sides (i.e. - flat sides) of ladyfingers with coffee. Place on bottom and up sides of a trifle bowl (reserve some for the middle layer). Top with half of pudding mixture, then half of whipped topping, then half of grated chocolate. Repeat the process of ladyfingers, pudding, whipped topping, and top with grated and curled chocolate. Refrigerate.