Smores Bars

I don’t do camping.  I am what you call a city girl – too many trees and fresh air I say.  One previous misguided attempt at camping was derailed by a leaf falling on the tent which sent me running.  So I was a little late in the game on the whole smores thing. but I am catching up quickly.  I mean who wouldn’t like gooey melted marshmallow partnered with luscious chocolate and that snap of graham cracker??  Thanks to the proliferation of fire pits one doesn’t need to venture into the forest to enjoy a good smore.  I like to enjoy them on our back patio with a nice glass of red wine.

or this!

But what if it’s too hot or buggy out?  What if the thought of your children holding sticks over open fire makes you nervous (or your husband for that matter)?  Then these bars are for you.  My BFF and I thought about wpid-20150524_195514.jpgways to make these even easier by using brownie mix and fluff or marshmallows – I am proud to say she even experimented with it herself (Kar – share in the comments section!).  However, the base recipe is actually pretty easy, especially if you have a stand mixer.  Meringue can take some getting used to if you havent made it before but hopefully the pictures help  Just be careful to not set your broiler to high like it did – 5 more seconds and the whole thing would have been up in flames!  Also make sure to have some milk on hand, as these bars are super rich.  They can sit for a couple of days too so make them today and enjoy tomorrow.  Best way to test a new recipe?  Find a willing taste tester – as you can see these were a hit with the younger crowd.  Since its a holiday I am going to take a break from the menu calendar but never fear the shopping list and menu suggestions will be back next friday.  Happy 4th everyone!

Smores Bars (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:   S’mores Bars with Marshmallow Meringue by Food and Wine Magazine
Special Equipment:  stand mixer (unless you have Michelle Obama arms and can hold a hand mixer for 10 minutes straight)

  • 3 cups graham cracker crumbs (almost an entire box – the rest are perfect for snacking)
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 egg whites
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a 9-inch-square baking pan with foil, allowing 2 inches of overhang on the sides.  This is an awesome way of baking things, especially sticky things, as you can just pull the whole thing out using the tabs and not have to worry about the sad odd-shaped brownie.

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In a medium bowl, using a fork, mix the crumbs, butter, sugar and salt until everything is combined. Press the crumbs evenly into 
the bottom of the prepared pan.  Dont worry if it’s not perfectly even, just make sure the crumbs cover the entire bottom.

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Bake for 8 minutes and then take it out and let cool completely but leave the oven on.   Create a double boiler – that is a fancy way of saying placing a bowl over a pot of simmering water.  Fill the pot with water but not so much it touches the bottom of the bowl.  This is the best way to melt chocolate – it can scorch pretty easily so you want to use indirect heat.

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Put the butter and the chocolate in the bowl and melt them together over medium heat, for about 5 minutes.  It will go much faster if you chop the butter and the chocolate into small pieces and stir it a lot.

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Remove from the heat and whisk in the sugar, vanilla and salt. Then whisk in the eggs until smooth, then stir in the flour until just incorporated. Pour the batter over the crust and use your spoon to even it out. Bake for about 25 minutes, until the edges look fully baked. Turn off the oven and let the bars cool, meanwhile preheat your broiler to medium or the lower setting.  Recreate the double boiler with a clean bowl and add the egg whites and sugar.  Whisk them together until the sugar has dissolved, a couple of minutes.

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A good way of figuring out if the sugar is dissolved is to dip your fingers into the mixture and rub them together.  If you can still feel the grit of the sugar, keep it on the heat.  Once the sugar has dissolved transfer the wpid-20150524_151635.jpgmixture to your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Add the vanilla and cream of tartar and then start beating the mixture.  Start slowly and then increase the speed to medium for a couple of minutes until the mixture starts to firm up (almost like whipped cream).  Continue to beat at a high-speed until super glossy and pretty, about 6 or 7 minutes.  It should be able to form “stiff peaks” meaning when you pull the beater out of the mixture and turn it upside down the egg whites should be able to stand on their own.  Mound the meringue on top of the bars and smooth with a spatula (it doesnt need to be perfect, in fact the more texture the better the browning).  Put it in the broiler for 1 minute.  Check and see if it’s got enough color for you – do not walk away or these will burn!  Take it out of the broiler and let cool.  Use the tabs to pull out the bars and then cut and serve (it’s a little messy to cut so use a really sharp knife).  If serving later put them in an airtight container.

Smores Bars

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Print

Special Equipment: stand mixer (unless you have Michelle Obama arms and can hold a hand mixer for 10 minutes straight)

  • 3 cups graham cracker crumbs (almost an entire box – the rest are perfect for snacking)
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 egg whites
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a 9-inch-square baking pan with foil, allowing 2 inches of overhang on the sides. In a medium bowl, using a fork, mix the crumbs, butter, sugar and salt until everything is combined. Press the crumbs evenly into 
the bottom of the prepared pan.  Bake for 8 minutes and then take it out and let cool completely but leave the oven on.   Create a double boiler.  Put the butter and the chocolate in the bowl and melt them together over medium heat for about 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and whisk in the sugar, vanilla and salt. Then whisk in the eggs until smooth, then stir in the flour until just incorporated. Pour the batter over the crust and use your spoon to even it out. Bake for about 25 minutes, until the edges look fully baked. Turn off the oven and let the bars cool, meanwhile preheat your broiler to medium or the lower setting.  Recreate the double boiler with a clean bowl and add the egg whites and sugar.  Whisk them together until the sugar has dissolved, a couple of minutes.

Once the sugar has dissolved transfer the mixture to your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Add the vanilla and cream of tartar and then start beating the mixture.  Start slowly and then increase the speed to medium for a couple of minutes until the mixture starts to firm up (almost like whipped cream).  Continue to beat at a high-speed until super glossy and pretty, about 6 or 7 minutes.  Mound the meringue on top of the bars and smooth with a spatula (it doesnt need to be perfect, in fact the more texture the better the browning).  Put it in the broiler for 1 minute.  Check and see if its got enough color for you – do not walk away or these will burn!  Take it out of the broiler and let cool.  Use the tabs to pull out the bars and then cut and serve (it’s a little messy to cut so use a really sharp knife).  If serving later put them in an airtight container.

Spicy Lamb Burgers

For those of you that live in D.C. you all remember the epic snow storm of 2012, lovingly known as Snowmageddon.  As a Boston girl I poo pooed the weather reports for weeks as I had seen the chicken little sky is falling routine time and time again in Washington only to end up with an inch of slush.  I was wrong.  It was an epic storm that will shape the lives of Washingtonians for decades (for those Bostonian readers this is ala the Blizzard of ’76).  Patrick and I hadn’t been dating long, so it was a tough proposition to be snowed in with someone for two weeks – especially after a couple of days when he realized we had run out of food!  Thankfully many Capitol Hill restaurants remained open through the whole ordeal, sending plows to their employee’s houses just so they could make it in, and welcoming snow-covered customers who piled wet mittens and scarfs on their floors.  Our savior was Cava Mezze on Barracks Row.  Now a local chain, back then it was a pretty small family run operation with several standout dishes.  Their happy hour deal on spicy lamb sliders and greek wine was all that stood between us and starvation (and probably a quick break up!).  Years later it is still my favorite thing on their menu and whenever I eat one I am taken back the memories of that crazy winter.

There are lots of lamb burger recipes out there so I played around with a bunch until I found something pretty close to the version at Cava’s.  Previously I used chopped fresh chili peppers to give it some heat but then DSC00114realized foolishly that since one of their staple dishes is fresh harrissa paste served with pita, that the spice in the burger was likely coming from that same hot chili pepper paste mixed in with the ground lamb.  There are lots of recipes for harissa online but I usually buy mine in tubes or small cans at mediterranean markets.  Also Whole Foods started carrying Cava’s version which is outstanding.  If you cannot find it, any kind of pepper paste would work or a chopped jalapeno would work in a pinch.

Also I found that my other attempts using egg and other binders left a burger that resulted in a big mess on the grill.  These patties hold together much better though fair warning, lamb is a “softer” meat so can lead to less than instagram worthy burgers.  One tip is to form the burgers and then let them chill for at least an hour in the fridge before grilling them  This helps them hold together better.  Also a good trick for burgers with mix ins like this one – if you aren’t going to eat all 4 right away still go ahead and make the whole recipe.  Once you have formed the burgers take the patties you are not going to use and put them on a plate or baking sheet.  Place in the freezer for 2 hours – the patty will harden and then you can throw it into a freezer bag for up to 6 months.  When you want to make the burgers again just defrost over night on a plate and you will have a premixed, preformed burger all ready for the grill.  I serve mine on toasted english muffins, a terrific vessel for all burgers, along with my yogurt sauce, arugula and red onion.  These burgers would be great for a family BBQ, a nice alternative to the standard fare, or as we often do for a quick weeknight dinner paired with a large greek salad.  These would be a great addition to your 4th of July menu (as will Friday’s recipe).

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Spicy Lamb Burgers (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:   Cava Mezze’s Spicy Lamb Sliders
Special Equipment:  none

  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 red onion – 1/2 chopped and 1/2 sliced to top the burgers
  • 3 cloves of garlic – 2 minced for the burgers and 1 minced for the yogurt sauce
  • 5 tablespoons chopped mint, divided – 2 tablespoons for the burgers and 3 for the yogurt sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons harissa (more if you like it spicier)
  • 5 to 6 ounces non-fat greek yogurt
  • 4 english muffins or hamburger buns
  • arugula or lettuce for topping

In a small pan heat the olive oil over medium heat then cook the chopped onion and 2 minced cloves of garlic until softened, about 5 minutes.  Let the mixture cool.  In a large bowl add lamb, chopped mint, the cooled onion and garlic mixture, harissa paste and salt and pepper.  Mix with your hands until just combined (don’t over work the meat or it will become tough).  Divide the meat into 4 and form patties.  If you have time chill for 1 hour in the fridge to make a firmer patty.

Heat grill on high and grill for 8-10 minutes.  Meanwhile mix the remaining garlic clove with the remaining 3 tablespoons of chopped mint, yogurt and salt and pepper to make the yogurt sauce.  Toast the english muffins while you let the burgers rest.

Spicy Lamb Burgers

  • Servings: 4
  • Print

Special Equipment:  none

  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 red onion – 1/2 chopped and 1/2 sliced to top the burgers
  • 3 cloves of garlic – 2 minced for the burgers and 1 minced for the yogurt sauce
  • 5 tablespoons chopped mint, divided – 2 tablespoons for the burgers and 3 for the yogurt sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons harissa (more if you like it spicier)
  • 5 to 6 ounces non-fat greek yogurt
  • 4 english muffins or hamburger buns
  • arugula or lettuce for topping

In a small pan heat the olive oil over medium heat then cook the chopped onion and 2 minced cloves of garlic until softened, about 5 minutes.  Let the mixture cool.  In a large bowl add lamb, chopped mint, the cooled onion and garlic mixture, harissa paste and salt and pepper.  Mix with your hands until just combined (don’t over work the meat or it will become tough).  Divide the meat into 4 and form patties.  If you have time chill for 1 hour in the fridge to make a firmer patty.

Heat grill on high and grill for 8-10 minutes.  Meanwhile mix the remaining garlic clove with the remaining 3 tablespoons of chopped mint, yogurt and salt and pepper to make the yogurt sauce.  Toast the english muffins while you let the burgers rest.

Swiss Chard Pasta

Pasta and cream – oh you are so yummy but oh so bad for me.  Honestly any kind of carb covered in any kind of cheesy or creamy sauce is something I can get on board with, but know I should limit.  So what if you add a ton of dark leafy greens and lean white meat chicken to the mix?  Still not healthy?  Ok fine maybe not healthy but this one pan meal is super satisfying, delicious and not nearly as bad for you as it tastes.  A scant 1/2 cup of cream for 4 servings means only 2 tablespoons of cream per person, which is the smae amount you probably sloshed into your morning coffee anyway.  My mom passed this one down to me (though I have taken some creative liberties) and I loved it from the first time she made it for me.  If you have never cooked with swiss chard before it’s that beautiful green you may have seen at the market with the vibrant red or multi colored stalks.  Most recipes will tell you to just use the leafy parts and cut out the tougher stems but I love their flavor and the bite they give to this pasta.  If you want to mellow them even more you can add the stems first and then the leaves later so you cook them down more.  The red from the chard stems also turns the onions pink which is just fabulous in and of its self.

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The key to chard or really any green is making sure its nice and clean.  Grit can easily find its way into greens and the last thing you want to do is chew down on sand when you are eating.  Prewashed and bagged greens help with this but for all other greens I really like a salad spinner.  It’s an easy way to get them clean and can double as a storage vessel for greens in the fridge.  When you come home from the store just wash the greens, run them through the spinner (I have and really like this one) and then keep in the fridge, they will last a lot longer and be ready to use when you want them.  For this and most recipes where you want to wilt down greens I also like to leave just a little water still clinging to the leaves – this will help create some steam in the pan and move along the wilting process.  This is a really fast dinner, made more substantial by the addition of chicken but it could easily fill vegetarian folks up without.  And the smell of the onions cooking in butter…mmmmm so good.

Swiss Chard Pasta (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  my mom
Special Equipment:  none

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large bunch of swiss chard, cleaned and chopped
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 8 ounces penne or other short cut pasta
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1 to 2 rotisserie chicken breasts, chopped or shredded into bite size pieces (optional)

Heat 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat in a skillet.  While butter is melting also bring a pot of water to boil for pasta and cook the pasta while making the sauce.  When the butter is melted add the onion and cook for 3 to 4 minutes until the onions are translucent.  Start adding the swiss chard in handfuls, tossing with tongs if necessary to wilt the greens and get them all to fit.

From this...

From this…

Season with salt and pepper.  Cook the chard down until wilted, about 5 minutes, then throw in the white wine and allow it to all cook out, about 2 to 3 minutes.

...to this!

…to this!

When the pasta is ready toss it in the pan along with the red pepper flakes, the nutmeg and cream (and chicken if including it).  Toss the pasta and sauce together and let cook together for a couple of minutes more allowing the cream to coat the pasta and the flavors to meld.

Swiss Chard Pasta

  • Servings: 4
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Special Equipment:  none

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large bunch of swiss chard, cleaned and chopped
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 8 ounces penne or other short cut pasta
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1 to 2 rotisserie chicken breasts,  chopped or shredded into bite size pieces (optional)

Heat 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat in a skillet.  While butter is melting also bring a pot of water to boil for pasta and cook pasta while making the sauce.  When the butter is melted add the onion and cook for 3 to 4 minutes until the onions are translucent.  Start adding the swiss chard in handfuls, tossing with tongs if necessary to wilt the greens and get them all to fit.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook the chard down until wilted, about 5 minutes, then throw in the white wine and allow it to all cook out, about 2 to 3 minutes.  When the pasta is ready toss it in the pan along with the red pepper flakes, the nutmeg and cream (and chicken if including it).  Toss the pasta and sauce together and let cook together for a couple of minutes more allowing the cream to coat the pasta and the flavors to meld.

Chicken Enchiladas and a Shopping List

I know I have mentioned our Fiesta Friday tradition.  I am not sure exactly when it got started but it did come about pretty organically.  I realized I was doing tacos and margaritas on Fridays a lot because it seemed like such a great way to cap off the week.  Of course then I made the mistake of naming it and making it a thing so DSC04503that my husband, friends and colleagues were asking me every Friday what was on the menu for Fiesta Friday.  The pressure was on and while I like the idea of a fiesta to unwind after a long week, cooking a full meal can also be daunting after a week of work.  I knew enchiladas would be the answer to this problem.  Somewhat time-consuming to make but they freeze great and can be cooked right from the freezer so basically all you have to do when you get home on Friday is turn on the oven and pour the margs.  I got the cooking method for this one from Cooking Light magazine but the rest is a creation of my own.  Cooking Light often has great ideas on how to freeze things or do them in advance but I find a lot of their recipes almost too dumbed down.  That’s why its good to scavenge inspiration from a variety of sources – meals eaten in restaurants, magazines, friend’s cooking etc.  This recipe is a chameleon –  make it with shredded pork instead of chicken, tomatillo sauce instead of enchilada sauce, swap the corn for beans – you get it.  I made my own enchilada sauce but guess what?  Totally not worth it – turns out this is one of those times that the store-bought is just as good, if not better.  I would budget 2 enchiladas per person but if you were super hungry then someone could easily polish off 3.

Chicken Enchiladas (printable version at the end of the post)
Inspiration:  Fiesta Friday
Special Equipment: either one 9 by 12 baking pan or two 8 by 8 pans

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 5 chipoltes in adobo, chopped
  • 4 ounce can chopped green chilis
  • 14.5 ounce can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups corn kernels (frozen is fine)
  • 4 scallions
  • chicken from 1 chicken breast, shredded (I used rotisserie chicken or you could roast 1 skin on bone in breast)
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • 1 1/2 cups enchilada sauce
  • 1 1/4 cups shredded jack or cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (do this even if you are freezing them as you need to par bake before freezing).  Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onions and garlic and cook for 3 to 4 minutes.  Add the chipotles, green chilis, tomatoes and corn.  Turn up the heat to medium high and cook for approximately 8 minutes until everything has combined and some of the liquid from the chilis and tomatoes has cooked off.  Season with salt and pepper and stir in the chicken and scallions.  Remove from the heat.

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Spray the pan or pans with cooking spray and put the enchilada sauce in a shallow bowl.  Microwave the tortillas for 20 seconds (do 6 at a time so they stay warm).  Microwaving the tortillas makes them more pliable and easier to stuff.  Spread several tablespoons of enchilada sauce on the bottom of the pan/pans to cover with a thin layer.  Dip a tortilla into the enchilada sauce and shake off the excess.

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This is a messy job so just get into it.  Stuff the tortilla with several tablespoons of the chicken mix and fold over the two sides.  If you have over stuffed the tortilla theends won’t meet, so then just scoop out a little and keep moving.

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Put into the pan with the seam side on the bottom.  Keep going with the rest of the tortillas – if you are making two pans, 6 tortillas will fit in each.  Don’t worry if you have to squish them in to fit, it’s actually better if they are tightly in the pan.

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Microwave the second batch of tortillas and repeat until there are no more tortillas or stuffing.  Spoon over any remaining enchilada sauce and then cover with cheese.  If eating now: bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.  If freezing: bake for 15 minutes then remove from the oven and allow to cool.  Once room temperature, tightly cover with foil and freeze.  Then to reheat bake it straight from the freezer at 400 degrees for 45 minutes.  I baked one to eat immediately and one to freeze which was perfect.

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Chicken Enchiladas

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Print

Special Equipment: either one 9 by 12 baking pan or two 8 by 8 pans

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 5 chipoltes in adobo, chopped
  • 4 ounce can chopped green chilis
  • 14.5 ounce can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups corn kernels (frozen is fine)
  • 4 scallions
  • chicken from 1 chicken breast, shredded (I used rotisserie chicken or you could roast 1 skin on bone in breast)
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • 1 1/2 cups enchilada sauce
  • 1 1/4 cups shredded jack or cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the chipotles, green chilis, tomatoes and corn. Turn up the heat to medium high and cook for approximately 8 minutes until everything has combined and some of the liquid from the chilis and tomatoes has cooked off. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the chicken and scallions. Remove from the heat. Spray the pan or pans with cooking spray and put the enchilada sauce in a shallow bowl. Microwave the tortillas for 20 seconds (do 6 at a time so they stay warm). Spread several tablespoons of enchilada sauce on the bottom of the pan/pans to cover with a thin layer. Dip a tortilla into the enchilada sauce and shake off the excess.

Stuff the tortilla with several tablespoons of the chicken mix and fold over the two sides. Put into the pan with the seam side on the bottom. Keep going with the rest of the tortillas – if you are making two pans 6 tortillas will fit in each.  Microwave the second batch of tortillas and repeat until there are no more tortillas or stuffing. Spoon over any remaining enchilada sauce and then cover with cheese. If eating now: bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. If freezing: bake for 15 minutes then remove from the oven and allow to cool. Once room temperature, tightly cover with foil and freeze. Then to reheat bake it straight from the freezer at 400 degrees for 45 minutes.

Shopping List for June 29 - July 3

Items are tagged with the day of the week they are used so if you don’t want to cook that day just scratch it off

  • sherry (Mon)
  • soy sauce (Mon)
  • cornstarch (Mon)
  • 1 pound flank steak (Mon)
  • chicken broth (Mon/Thurs)
  • oyster sauce (Mon)
  •  hoisin sauce (Mon)
  • Chinese chile-garlic sauce (Mon)
  • ginger root (Mon)
  • 1 onion (Mon)
  • 8 ounces snow peas (Mon)
  • pickled ginger (Mon)
  • brown or white rice (Mon)
  • 1 fennel bulb (Tues)
  • garlic (Tues)
  • white wine (Tues)
  • 14.5 ounce can of chopped tomatoes (Tues)
  • dried oregano (Tues)
  • tomato paste (Tues)
  • Pernod (or just use the white wine again here) (Tues)
  • 1 1/4 pound peeled shrimp (Tues)
  • 5 ounces feta (Tues)
  • couple slices of bread (pulse in food processor to make fresh bread crumbs (Tues)
  • parsley (Tues/Thurs)
  • 3 to 4 lemons (Tues/Thurs)
  • mixed greens (Tues)
  • 12 ounces baby red potatoes (Thurs)
  • 4 chicken breasts (Thurs)
  • thyme (Thurs)
  • 4 ounces crimini mushrooms (Thurs)
  • milk (Thurs)
  • 8 ounces green beans (Thurs)

Goat Cheese and Prosciutto Lasagna

I have already mentioned that I am a reformed ricotta lover, previously eschewing it in any form until I had good ricotta.  Maybe that is why I also was never a big lasagna fan as so often it was stuffed with a ton of bland crumbly ricotta.  Also I think back in the 80’s lasagna was just plain boring – always the same fillings, always meat sauce with ricotta and rubbery noodles, always overcooked and heavy.  I have come a long way since then, as has lasagna.  Now you see more and more veggie options, using bechamel sauce, different cheeses, less pasta and more fillings.  There are several recipes I like, some heavier than others but for the summer a lighter flavor profile seems appropriate.  The best thing about lasagna is that you can make several in advance and freeze them.  I will admit that putting them together can be sort of tedious but then just make a whole bunch at a time so you have a quick dinner any night of the week.  There are two schools of thought on freezing lasagna – to pre bake or not – and I fall in the not category.  Assemble the lasagna, cover it with saran wrap and foil and then when you want to bake it off just leave it in the fridge over night and bake the next day.  I find if you bake then freeze then bake again it can really dry out but try it for yourself and see what you like better.  This recipe would make one large lasagna for about 8 people, or 2 smaller ones for 4 each.  I like to serve it with an arugula salad tossed with a lemony dressing to add some sharp notes but it would also be great with sautéed escarole or a caesar.

Goat Cheese and Prosciutto Lasagna (printable version at the end of the post)

Special Equipment: either one 9 by 12 baking pan or two 8 by 8 pans (disposable is best if you want to freeze or gift the lasagna)

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups tomato sauce (either homemade or a good quality like Rao’s)
  • 16 ounces ricotta cheese (either homemade or good quality)
  • 4 ounces goat cheese, room temperature
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup chopped basil
  • 4 ounces prosciutto, chopped
  • 8 sheets of no boil pasta
  • 16 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

If baking right away preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  In a bowl mix the ricotta, goat cheese, egg, basil and prosciutto together then season with salt and pepper.  Put a 1/3 of the sauce in the bottom of the large pan or distribute equally among the 2 smaller pans, using the spoon to spread out the sauce.

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Then add 4 sheets of the no boil pasta on top (4 laid in the bottom of the large pan or 2 in each small pan).  Then add half of the mozzarella on top of the pasta.

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Next you add half of the ricotta mixture – don’t worry if your layers of sauce or cheese don’t cover the whole surface, once these get in the oven everything pretty much melts together.  As you can see I just sort of dabbed  the mixture on.

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Then comes another 1/3 of the sauce, 4 sheets of pasta, the remainder of the mozzarella and the remainder of the ricotta mixture.  Finish it all off with the rest of the sauce and then top with the grated parmesan cheese.

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If you are going to freeze them cover with a layer of saran wrap (tomato sauce plus tin foil makes for a bad reaction and the saran adds an extra layer of protection from freezer burn anyway) then a layer of tin foil.  They should freeze well for 6 months – take it out of the freezer the night before you want to bake it and let it defrost in the fridge.  You could also just assemble these and leave them in the fridge for a couple of days (3 max) and then bake.  Once you are ready to bake put the lasagna in a 400 degree oven, uncovered, for 30 minutes, maybe 40 if it’s coming from the fridge.  It should be brown and bubbly on the top.  Let cool for 5 minutes or so before cutting into slices.

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Goat Cheese and Prosciutto Lasagna

  • Servings: 8
  • Print

Special Equipment: either one 9 by 12 baking pan or two 8 by 8 pans (disposable is best if you want to freeze or gift the lasagna)

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups tomato sauce (either homemade or a good quality like Rao’s)
  • 16 ounces ricotta cheese (either homemade or good quality)
  • 4 ounces goat cheese, room temperature
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup chopped basil
  • 4 ounces prosciutto, chopped
  • 8 sheets of no boil pasta
  • 16 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

If baking right away preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  In a bowl mix the ricotta, goat cheese, egg, basil and prosciutto together then season with salt and pepper.  Put a 1/3 of the sauce in the bottom of the large pan or distribute equally among the 2 smaller pans, using the spoon to spread out the sauce.  Then add 4 sheets of the no boil pasta on top (4 laid in the bottom of the large pan or 2 in each small pan).  Then add half of the mozzarella on top of the pasta.  Next you add half of the ricotta mixture – don’t worry if your layers of sauce or cheese don’t cover the whole surface, once these get in the oven everything pretty much melts together.  As you can see I just sort of dabbed  the mixture on.  Then comes another 1/3 of the sauce, 4 sheets of pasta, the remainder of the mozzarella and the remainder of the ricotta mixture.  Finish it all off with the rest of the sauce and then top with the grated parmesan cheese.

If you are going to freeze them cover with a layer of saran wrap (tomato sauce plus tin foil makes for a bad reaction and the saran adds an extra layer of protection from freezer burn anyway) then a layer of tin foil.  They should freeze well for 6 months – take it out of the freezer the night before you want to bake it and let it defrost in the fridge.  You could also just assemble these and leave them in the fridge for a couple of days (3 max) and then bake.

Once you are ready to bake put the lasagna in a 400 degree oven, uncovered, for 30 minutes, maybe 40 if it’s coming from the fridge.  It should be brown and bubbly on the top.  Let cool for 5 minutes or so before cutting into slices.

Chocolate Chip Cookies on Crack

Yes that’s right – I said it – chocolate chip cookies on crack.  When this amazing recipe ran in the Washington Post back in 2009 I thought I had died and gone to heaven.  Kim O’Donnell was, I believe, the first food chat on Washingtonpost.com and had a genius way of making accessible food seem fancy and special.  I tucked this one away immediately and met my husband-to-be only two months later.  I can still remember the first time I made this for him and his BFF – not only did I secure his heart but got his buddies to think I was the. best. girlfriend. ever.  Even better?  It is stupid easy, you probably have all the ingredients on hand, and its ideal for making ahead of time.  Quite simply the best dessert recipe.  This was confirmed when my friend Matt asked to come over so I could teach him how to make CCConC- his first time baking and it was a smashing sucess.  Any dessert that is so good it gets a single guy to go out and buy ramekins is a winner in my book.

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Chocolate Chip Cookies on Crack or CCConC (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  Chocolate Chip Cookies on Crack from the Washington Post

Special Equipment:  ramekins or small 6 ounce cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temp
  • ½ cup light or dark brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons milk (original specifies whole but I never have that on hand so I use skim and it works fine – just use what you have)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (I like the classic semisweet here but you could do dark or milk chocolate to mix it up)
  • 1 pint of vanilla ice cream (coffee is also good here – really any kind but please don’t skip the ice cream!)

Mix flour, baking soda and salt together in a bowl and set aside.  Beat butter and sugars together with a stand mixer with paddle attachment (regular hand mixer is ok as well) on medium speed until well mixed, about 1 minute. Beat in egg and milk until absorbed, then mix in the vanilla.  Mixture might look a little chunky but don’t worry.

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Slow the speed (please do this otherwise you will end up wearing the flour) and add in the flour mixture.  Stir in the chocolate chips and you are done with the dough.  From here you can proceed and make the CCConC or scoop into a plastic container and freeze (or store in the fridge for a couple of days).  Just defrost in the fridge overnight if you want to serve (or cheat and just take it out before making dinner and leave on the counter).  The recipe makes enough for 6 people so pull out as many ramekins as you need.  Spray with cooking spray lightly and fill about ½ full.

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Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and place the ramekins on a cookie sheet (this isn’t necessary but makes life much easier when trying to get them out of the oven).  Bake for about 15-20 minutes, more so if the dough is really cold or semi frozen.  Basically you want a golden yummy cookie looking top.  Do not insert a tester cause it will come out all gooey – and that’s how you want it.  This is basically a molten cookie.  Let them cool a bit, then top with a scoop of ice cream.

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Chocolate Chip Cookies on Crack

  • Servings: 6
  • Print

Special Equipment:  ramekins or small 6 ounce cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temp
  • ½ cup light or dark brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons milk (original specifies whole but I never have that on hand so I use skim and it works fine – just use what you have)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (I like the classic semisweet here but you could do dark or milk chocolate to mix it up)
  • 1 pint of vanilla ice cream (coffee is also good here – really any kind but please don’t skip the ice cream!)

Mix flour, baking soda and salt together in a bowl and set aside.  Beat butter and sugars together with a stand mixer with paddle attachment (regular hand mixer is ok as well) on medium speed until well mixed, about 1 minute. Beat in egg and milk until absorbed, then mix in the vanilla.  Mixture might look a little chunky but don’t worry.  Slow the speed (please do this otherwise you will end up wearing the flour) and add in the flour mixture.  Stir in the chocolate chips and you are done with the dough.

From here you can proceed and make the CCConC or scoop into a plastic container and freeze.  Just defrost in the fridge overnight if you want to serve (or cheat and just take it out before making dinner and leave on the counter).  The recipe makes enough for 6 people so pull out as many ramekins as you need.  Spray with cooking spray lightly and fill about ½ full (you can also put them in the fridge now and then just cook off later in the night).  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and place the ramekins on a cookie sheet.  Bake for about 15-20 minutes, more so if the dough is really cold or semi frozen.  Let them cool a bit, then top with a scoop of ice cream.

Nutty’s French Toast and a Shopping List

I am not sure when brunch became synonymous with Mother’s Day but every year I get an avalanche of special menus or deals from restaurants trying to get me to over pay for eggs to celebrate Mom.  Do dads not like bubbly drinks and high calorie food?  I say celebrate Father’s Day this Sunday with a brunch in his honor and what better way to do that then with Nutella stuffed french toast??  My dad is a Nutella fan – in fact we had a hamster when I was a kid that I named after Nutella (RIP Nutty).  When I saw this recipe in House Beautiful of all places, I knew it was a must make item.  Usually I am not a huge french toast person, as I think the syrup ends up DSC00053competing with the doughy toast so this is the perfect solution as it requires no syrup at all.  The recipe comes from John Besh, an unbelievable chef with a small restaurant empire down in New Orleans.  Last time Patrick and I were in NOLA we managed to eat in two of his restaurants in one day and his jalapeno grits are something I still dream about.  He says you can stuff these with peanut butter or jam if you prefer, but I think the Nutella is really perfect.  When you punch out the toast rounds don’t worry if they don’t look perfect.  As you can see mine weren’t but once they get a dunk in the egg mixture and fried up they look just fine.  Also sometimes the sandwich got a little stuck in the glass, just poke it up from the bottom and it will come lose.  I decreased the egg mixture and nixed the oj as I didn’t feel it added anything and I ended up throwing a ton of egg away.  If your bread really soaks up a ton then you can just beat in another egg and some milk.  One note – french toast is a pretty tough thing to make for a crowd but you can at least make some of these elements in advance so you don’t spend all your time with your guests in the kitchen.  I made the sandwiches and the egg mixture hours before and just dunked and fried them when ready which takes about 5 minutes.  You definitely want to serve them right away while the Nutella is nice and melty.  Happy Fathers Day to my dad and all the dads!

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Nutty’s French Toast (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:   Stuffed French Toast by John Besh
Special Equipment:  none

  • 1/2 cup Nutella (or other yummy filling)
  • 16 slices white bread – approximately 1 loaf (I used Arnold’s Country Bread – basically something with a little more texture than Wonder bread – also I used the heels of the loaf to no ill effect)
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons canola oil

Lay out all 16 slices of bread and then spread approximately 1 tablespoon of Nutella in the middle of 8 of the slices.  Top those slices with the non Nutella slices to create a sandwich.  Using a pint glass, cut a round sandwich out from the middle, pulling the excess crusts off before lifting the glass.  This step can be done ahead several hours or the day before (if so store sandwiches in a tupperware).

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Whisk together eggs, milk, sugar, butter, vanilla, and salt in a large shallow bowl.  Again, this can be done in advance just let it come up to roomish temperature before dipping.  Heat 2 tablespoons of canola oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Depending on the size of your skillet you may be able to do all the sandwiches at once (I did) if not fry them in batches of 4.  Dunk the sandwiches untill they are fully coated in the egg mixture.   Add sandwiches to the pan and cook until browned on both sides – about 2 to 3 minutes per side.

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Nutty's French Toast

  • Servings: 4 (2 mini sandwiches per person)
  • Print

Special Equipment:  none

  • 1/2 cup Nutella (or other yummy filling)
  • 16 slices white bread – approximately 1 loaf (I used Arnold’s Country Bread – basically something with a little more texture than Wonder bread – also I used the heels of the loaf to no ill effect)
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons canola oil

Lay out all 16 slices of bread and then spread approximately 1 tablespoon of Nutella in the middle of 8 of the slices.  Top those slices with the non Nutella slices to create a sandwich.  Using a pint glass, cut a round sandwich out from the middle, pulling the excess crusts off before lifting the glass.  This step can be done ahead several hours or the day before (if so store sandwiches in a tupperware).  Whisk together eggs, milk, sugar, butter, vanilla, and salt in a large shallow bowl.  Again, this can be done in advance just let it come up to roomish temperature before dipping.  Heat 2 tablespoons of canola oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Depending on the size of your skillet you may be able to do all the sandwiches at once (I did) if not fry them in batches of 4.  Dunk the sandwiches untill they are fully coated in the egg mixture.   Add sandwiches to the pan and cook until browned on both sides – about 2 to 3 minutes per side.

Shopping List for June 22-26

Items are tagged with the day of the week they are used so if you don’t want to cook that day just scratch it off

  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (Tues)
  • couple tablespoons flour (Tues)
  • 1 stick butter (Tues)
  • 4-5 lemons (Tues/Thurs)
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock (Tues)
  • capers (Tues)
  • parsley (Tues/Wed)
  • 2 ounces prosciutto (Tues)
  • 1 onion (Tues)
  • 1 pound frozen peas (Tues)
  • 1 pound ground beef (Wed)
  • hamburger buns and toppings of your choice (Wed)
  • 4 to 6 earns of corn (Wed)
  • 3 1/2 pounds red small potatoes (Wed/Thurs)
  • white wine vinegar (Wed)
  • dijon (Wed)
  • 3 ounces goat cheese (Wed)
  • 1 celery stalk (Wed)
  • 1 shallot (Wed)
  • 2 pork tenderloins (Thurs)
  • package of sage leaves (Thurs)
  • 1 cup creme fraiche or sour cream (Thurs)
  • chives (Thurs)

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