Lasagna with fresh basil and parmesan

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I love lasagna, whether it is your typical Italian-American affair or something a little more experimental. This version is one of my favorites – the fresh ingredients give it a lighter, more delicate quality that you would not normally expect with lasagna. Of course, you can switch out the herbs and cheese for the dried or shredded variety, but the taste will be lost in translation.

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Fresh Parmesan makes all of the difference

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup chopped yellow or white onion (1 small)
  • 1 pound sweet Italian turkey sausage (casings removed)
  • 1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can (6 oz) tomato paste
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • ½ cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  • ½ pound lasagna noodles (oven ready)
  • 1 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese, plus additional for sprinkling
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced

Step one:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes until translucent over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and cook for one more minute.

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Add the sausage and cook over medium-low heat, breaking it up with a fork until no longer pink.

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Step two:

Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, 2 tbs of the parsley, all of the basil, 1 ½ tsp salt, ½ tsp pepper. Simmer over medium-low heat for 15-20 minutes, until thickened.

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Step three:

In a large bowl, combine ricotta, 1 cup parmesan, and the remaining parsley, ½ tsp of salt and ¼ tsp pepper.

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Step four: The Layering!

Spoon 1/3 of the sauce into a 9 x 13 pan and spread it over the bottom. Add ½ of the noodles, half the mozzarella, half the ricotta mixture and 1/3 of the sauce.

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First layer, before adding the ricotta
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After the ricotta

Next – add the rest of the noodles, mozzarella, ricotta and finally the sauce. Top with bout ¼ of Parmesan. Bake for 30 minutes until the sauce is bubbling.

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Before I put it in the oven
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The end result:)

Notes:

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I like to press the garlic clove with the flat end of my knife, then cut and mince.

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 The herbs can be chopped with a knife or cut/ribboned with kitchen scissors.

 

 

 

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Apple Pie

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Homemade apple pies are easy; It’s the crust that is always tricky for me. If I have time I make the dough from scratch, but I often cop out and by the ready-made variety. Homemade dough gives you that ethereal, light quality but it  can be time-consuming and easy to make it too tough.

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It’s okay to cheat sometimes! Shhhhh.

One note though, avoid the shells you find in the freezer – they always break no matter how hard you try to avoid it and the taste of a rolled out dough baked in the oven is impossible to replicate. For my dough recipe, scroll down to the end of the post. What follows is my tried and true apple pie recipe.

Apple pie ingredients:

  • 7 cups peeled, cored and sliced apples. This will be about 7 small apples. (I like granny smith, gala or empire or a combo)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar; 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbs all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tbs butter
  • For the crust, you will need enough for 2. One for the top; one for the bottom

Step 1: Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Step 2: Combine apples, sugar, flour, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon in a large bowl. Mix around until the apples are coated and there is no loose powder.

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Brown sugar goodness. Mmmmm.

Step 3. Place the mixture in a dough lined 9 inch pie plate. Dot with slices of butter.

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Step 4: Assemble the top crust and press edges with your fingers in whatever pattern you wish.

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Vent the top of the pie.

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Coming up with different patterns is fun.

Step 5: Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes. After the ten minutes, reduce the temperature to 300 degrees and bake for 50-60 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the apples are tender. Cool upon a rack and serve. If the crust gets too dark, cover it gently in foil.

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Extras:

  • I like to coat the crust with melted butter and sprinkle it with brown sugar and an extra dash of cinnamon.
  • Serve it with some vanilla bean ice cream.

Homeade dough recipe:

This recipe makes enough for 2 or a double crust pie.

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cup all purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup cold water.

Step 1: Combine flour, salt, and sugar. Add butter. Mix (use a hand mixer or processor) until the mixture resembles a crumbly meal ( a few pea size pieces of butter is ok)

Step 2: Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of cold water. Mix until the dough is crumbly, but holds together when squeezed with your fingers. If necessary, add a tiny bit of water at a time until you get the right consistency. To do not overdo it, or your crust will get tough, not flaky. ‘

Step 3: Transfer half of the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap. Form the dough into a circle roughly 3/4 inch thick. Wrap tightly and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour until firm. It will hold up for 3 days and can be frozen for 3 months. Repeat with the second half.

When I am top of holiday game, I will premake a few batches and freeze them until Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Pecan Pie

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Pecan pie is always a hit with my family for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Here is a very simple recipe that I have had a lot of success with over the years. The recipe for the dough is at the bottom of the post.

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup dark corn syrup
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup pecan halves or broken pecans
  • 2 tbs bourbon

Step 1: Heat oven to 375 degrees

Step 2: Beat sugar, butter, corn syrup, bourbon, salt and eggs in a large bowl with a wire whisk.

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A little bourbon never hurts.

Once blended, stir in pecans.

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Pour into a dough lined pie plate.

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Step 3: Bake for 40-50 degrees until the center is set.

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Ready for coffee and ice cream:)

Homemade dough recipe:

This recipe makes enough for 2 or a double crust pie.

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cup all purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup cold water.

Step 1: Combine flour, salt, and sugar. Add butter. Mix (use a hand mixer or processor) until the mixture resembles a crumbly meal ( a few pea size pieces of butter is ok)

Step 2: Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of cold water. Mix until the dough is crumbly, but holds together when squeezed with your fingers. If necessary, add a tiny bit of water at a time until you get the right consistency. To do not overdo it, or your crust will get tough, not flaky. ‘

Step 3: Transfer half of the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap. Form the dough into a circle roughly 3/4 inch thick. Wrap tightly and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour until firm. It will hold up for 3 days and can be frozen for 3 months. Repeat with the second half.

When I am top of holiday game, I will premake a few batches and freeze them until Thanksgiving and Christmas.

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Pecan Cheesecake bars

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This recipe from positivelysplendid.com popped up among my facebooks friends, so I thought I would give it a try. The pictures looked incredible (yes, I look at dessert photos the same way others look at centerfolds) and the review looked good too.

Verdict: Absolutely delicious

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For the shortbread layer

  1. 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  2. 3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  3. 1/2 cup butter, softened
  4. 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans

For the cheesecake layer

  1. 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  2. 1/2 cup sugar
  3. 1/2 cup milk
  4. 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the pecan pie layer

  1. 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  2. 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  3. 1/3 cup butter, melted and cooled slightly
  4. 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  5. 1/4 teaspoon salt
  6. 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  7. 1 1/2 cups pecans
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. For the shortbread layer: In a medium bowl, combine flour and 3/4 cup brown sugar.

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  1. Although the original link says to use a pastry blender, I used a hand mixer and it worked just fine. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in 1/2 cup pecans.FullSizeRender(10)
  2. Press mixture evenly into bottom of a greased 9×13″ baking pan. FullSizeRender(9)
  3. Bake for 10 minutes; remove from oven, and cool slightly, about 10 minutes.
  4. For the cheesecake layer: Place the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer outfitted with a paddle attachment, and beat at medium speed until smooth. Beat in sugar. Add milk and 2 teaspoons vanilla, and beat until combined. FullSizeRender(6)
  5. Pour the cream cheese mixture over the cooled shortbread layer. Bake for 15 minutes; remove from oven and cool slightly, about 10 minutes.FullSizeRender(8)
  6. For the pecan pie layer: In a medium bowl, combine the remaining 3/4 cup brown sugar, corn syrup, and melted butter. Gently stir in the eggs, salt, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. Stir in 1 1/2 cups pecans.FullSizeRender(7)
  7. Pour pecan mixture over cooled cheesecake layer. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until center is set and pecan pie layer is a rich brown color. IMG_2337

Here is the end result in various shots:

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Arroz con leche

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Arroz con leche recipes vary widely depending on what country you are dealing with. This one is based off a Costa Rican version that I searched long and hard for. I was trying to replicate my guy’s grandmother’s recipe, and with a few tweaks, it was a success. As a boy, he loved to eat it straight from the pan while it was hot and sweet- but it can be refrigerated and will last for days.

You need:

  1. 1 cup rice
  2. 4 1/2 cups water
  3. 2 cinnamon sticks
  4. 3 cloves
  5. 1 can evaporated milk
  6. 2 cans condensed milk
  7. 1 tsp vanilla
  8. 1 egg yolk
  9. 1/2 tbs grated orange skin
  10. pinch of salt

Step one: add orange peel, h20, cinnamon sticks and cloves to a sauce pan.

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Bring to a boil and then add rice. When the rice has absorbed all of the water, add evaporated milk.

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This is the consistency you are gunning for.

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Step two: Bring to a boil again, and then add condensed milk, salt and vanilla.

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Step three: Boil for 10-15 minutes.

Step four: Add the yolk and mix well.

Enjoy:)

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Vegetable: Asian Broccoli

broccoli

This side dish is very easy to make. I often do the same exact thing for fresh green beans in the summer.

You will need:

  1. Broccoli
  2. 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  3. 1 tsp sesame oil
  4. 1 tbs soy sauce
  5. 1 tbs sugar

First, I steam the broccoli and then set it aside.

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I combine 1 tbs of soy sauce and 1 tbs of sugar, and set that aside.

Next, I cook a clove or two of garlic in about a tsp of sesame oil.

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When it is browned, I add the broccoli back in.

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After a 2 minutes or so, I coat it with the soy sauce/sugar mixture and serve.

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Lemon glaze cookies

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The Verdict?

The lemon glaze cookies were delicious, but a bit time consuming to make because of all of the zesting & juicing. I baked them for 17 minutes which was a little too long and made them crunchier than I wanted.

Lemon Glazed Cookies

The Ingredients:

  1. 2 cups flour
  2. 1/2 tsp baking soda
  3. 1/2 tsp salt
  4. 3 lemons: 1 Tbs lemon zest & 2 Tbs lemon fresh lemon juice
  5. 1 stick unsalted butter – room temperature
  6. 1 cup sugar
  7. 1 large egg
  8. 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

For the Glaze:

  1. 2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  2. 2 Tbs zest
  3. 1/3 cup lemon juice

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We zested the lemons first.

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Next, we juiced them.

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We put together the flour mixture. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, zest and 1 tbs of zest.

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The sugar mixture. In a separate bowl beat butter and sugar until fluffy.

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Then, add egg, vanilla, and lemon juice. With mixer on low, beat in the flour mix.

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Spoon onto baking sheets. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 350. I rotated the pans halfway through.

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The glaze.

Combine 2 cups confectioner’s sugar, 2 tbs lemon zest, and 1/3 cup juice. Beat until smooth.

A note on the  confectioner’s sugar. I store mine with a few sticks of vanilla bean, which works into the flavor over time.

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The finished product: The recipe makes about 24 medium cookies.

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