Spinach & mushroom lasagna

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I love lasagna. I’ve been making lasagna for about 10 years and have my own recipe mixed together from favorite flavors and methods from other lasagna recipes.. This weekend I made the best lasagna to date with some methods from Cooks Illustrated (who can do no wrong, in my eyes!). I really dislike ricotta, hence the cottage cheese usage here.

Ingredients

  • Enough lasagna noodles to make 4 layers of lasagna in a brownie sized pan
  • 16 oz. low fat cottage cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 20 oz. spinach, stemmed and rinsed
  • 1 lb. button mushrooms, sliced
  • Spaghetti sauce (Prego in a jar is my favorite for lasagna)
  • 8 oz. low fat shredded mozzarella cheese
  • A few tablespoons of parmesan

Instructions

For the spinach

  1. Fill a large bowl with ice water, set aside. 
  2. Bring a pot of water to boil, add 1 tbsp. salt, add spinach and stir until wilted. 
  3. Drain and immediately add spinach to ice water to stop cooking.
  4. Drain and squeeze spinach in a towel to remove all excess moisture.
  5. Chop up spinach.

For the mushrooms

  1. Sautee mushrooms in some garlic and olive oil until browned and no more liquid is released. This is important to not have a soggy lasagna.

For the cheese

  1. Add cottage cheese and 2 eggs to food processor.
  2. Process until smooth.
  3. Mix cheese mixture, spinach and mushrooms in a bowl until combined.

For the lasagna noodles

  1. If you are using regular lasagna noodles, boil them according to package. If you are using no-boil lasagna noodles, soak them in hot tap water for 5 mins.
  2. Agitate noodles so they don’t stick together while boiling/soaking.
  3. Drain and use immediately. If you let them stand, they dry up and stick.

To assemble lasagna

  1. Spoon a few tbsp of spaghetti sauce on bottom of brownie pan. Shake to evenly coat bottom.
  2. Add first layer of noodles.
  3. Evenly cover noodles with some spaghetti sauce.
  4. Spread 1/3 of cheese mixture over noodles. Sprinkle lightly with a handful of mozzarella.
  5. Repeat 2-4 2 more times.
  6. Spread rest of cheese mixture over noodles.
  7. Cover with remaining layer of noodles.
  8. Cover noodles with spaghetti sauce, making sure to cover all the edges so noodles don’t dry out.
  9. Sprinkle with mozzarella until evenly covered. Shake a few tbsp of parmesan over mozzarella.
  10. Cover tightly with tin foil that has been spray with cooking spray (so the cheese doesn’t stick to it).
  11. Bake 30 min in 350ºF oven. Remove tin foil and continue baking until cheese is bubbly, 15 min. Let stand 15 min. Serve.

Dutch cranberry apple pie

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We had perfected the cranberry apple crumble last winter by modifying this recipe, but then I never wrote down our modifications. Last night was our first cranberry apple crumble of the season and we are still puckered from the tartness. Modified version below, to remind ourselves..

For pie shell:

  • 1 uncooked pie shell (frozen pre-made, frozen dough, make it yourself, whatever you want)

For crumble topping:

  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup packed light brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tbsp butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 1 tbsp margarine, cut into ½-inch pieces
  • ½ cup untoasted pecans or walnuts

For fruit filling:

  • 3 large or 4 medium Gala and/or Jonah Gold apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced (~2 lbs)
  • ½ cup frozen (not thawed) cranberries
  • ½ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Equipment:

  • 9 ½-inch glass deep-dish pie plate (6-cup capacity)

Make crumble topping: 

Coarsely chop a bit more than ½ cup of walnuts in food processor by pulsing 5 times with Chop function. Set nuts aside in small bowl. Add flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt to food processor – use Stir function. Add in butter with Mix function until large clumps form, then Stir in chopped nuts. Chill until ready to use.

Make fruit filling: 

Stir together apples, cranberries, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, and lemon juice in a large bowl.

Assemble pie: 

Preheat oven to 425°F with rack in lower third.

Transfer fruit filling to pie shell. Loosely cover with foil and bake until apples droop slightly, about 35 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 375°F. Sprinkle crumble topping over filling and bake, uncovered, until crumble is browned, filling is bubbling, and apples are tender, 40-55 minutes more. Cool completely, 2 to 3 hours.

Thai red curry

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The Thai red curry recipes from Rasa Malaysia and Steamy Kitchen are drastically different. After going through a whole jar of red curry paste, we have developed our favorite version from both recipes.

  1. In a medium saucepan, sautee 2.5 tbsp red curry paste in olive oil over medium heat until aromatic (~2 min).
  2. Add ½ can coconut milk and whisk into the curry paste, so the curry paste breaks up.
  3. Add ¼ can water (or clam juice).
  4. Bring to a simmer.
  5. Add ¼ tsp fish sauce and 2 tsp sugar.
  6. Add vegetables, meat or seafood once curry is simmering. Add the items that take longest to cook first, then add the quick cooking items, so as not to overcook them.
  7. Cook until vegetables, meat or seafood is done.
  8. Serve with rice.

Skillet penne alla vodka

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My favorite dish, only quicker! Modifications made, original recipe from Cooks Illustrated.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3- 14-½ oz cans whole peeled tomatoes -OR- diced tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp EVOO
  • ¼ cup onion, minced
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • salt, to taste
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ – ½ tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/3 cup high quality vodka
  • 12 oz (about 3-¾ cups) penne
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • pepper, to taste
  • parmesan, for serving
  • (optional) sauteed sliced mushrooms, bell pepper, zucchini – any veggie you’d like to add

DIRECTIONS

1. Pulse tomatoes with their juice in a food processor until coarsely ground and no large pieces remain. (Skip this step if using diced tomatoes)

2. Heat oil and saute onion, tomato paste and ½ tsp salt; cook until softened. Stir in garlic and red pepper flakes; cook unti fragrant. Stir in tomatoes and gently simmer, stirring occasionally for 10 mins or until tomatoes no longer taste raw.

3. Stir in water and vodka, then add pasta. Cover, increase heat and cook, stirring often and maintaining a vigorous simmer until pasta is done.

4. Stir in cream and heat through; stir in basil and season. Stir in sauteed veggies (optional). Serve hot.

Quiche

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After having my first quiche in Paris about a week ago, I decided to make my own! I read about a dozen recipes before mashing it up and making my own version.. With a ready-to-bake pie shell, the quiche took about 15 minutes to put together, 30 in the oven, then my mouth!

I made two and one is going into the freezer.

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A fabulous brunch

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It’s spring and asparagus is in season! I went nuts in Chinatown when I saw that the most beautiful asparagus was only $0.79/lb and bought two huge bunches. Then I had to decide what to do with the asparagus, so the first night I made a tomato sauce with zucchini, onion, mushroom, asparagus and kielbasa sausage for my spaghetti. Plenty of sauce was left over and this brunch was born.

Hash browns topped with the pasta sauce, finished off with two poached eggs and roasted asparagus with a sprinkle of Irish cheddar.