Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Homemade lasagna

Tonight's Menu

  • beefy lasagna w/homemade noodles
  • green salad "bar"
Is there anything more comforting than a big ol' pan of lasagna? I think not, people. This one featured homemade noodles and sauce, and I'm not going to lie and say it was fast and easy. But it did seem a whole lot less fiddly and meticulous than the ravioli experiment, which made it FEEL easy. Ish.

Okay, for the noodles I made my usual pasta dough and just rolled it into sheets and let them dry on the counter for a couple of hours. That part WAS easy, now that I've gotten the hang of my cheap-ass pasta machine.

For the sauce, I chopped up an onion and minced several cloves of garlic and cooked them in a big pot in a little EVOO until they were soft. I kept them on a low-ish heat because I didn't want them to brown or anything, just soften. Then I dumped in a large can of tomato paste (the ones that are about the size of a soup can) and stirred that around a bit until it started to smell kind of toasted. I thinned it out with a bit of red wine (pinot noir -- it's what I had), then dumped in a huge can of crushed tomatoes. (It would have been helpful if I'd noted the ounces on these cans before I chucked them, huh? This one was about a quart, maybe? I dunno.) I was worried the sauce was still too thick, so I thinned it out some more with water, then stirred in a couple of tablespoons of sugar, some dried oregano, basil, salt and pepper and let it simmer uncovered for maybe 30-45 minutes.

For the meat, I browned some ground bison (feel free to use beef, turkey, whatever floats your boat) over medium heat in a skillet, then turned the heat down to low and stirred in a couple spoonfuls of sauce to moisten it. Then, just for the heck of it, I stirred in whatever was left of the ravioli filling from the other night (would you believe I STILL had some left, even after stuffing mushrooms with it?).

Then I just layered the noodles, meat, some fresh mozzarella (you could use ricotta, but DH doesn't like it) and the sauce in a 9 x 13-inch pan and baked it uncovered for about 40 minutes at 375 degrees F. It was super tasty and definitely worth the time it took to make it.

The salad bar was the same as last night.

Remind me from now on to BUY my cheese ravioli, but make my lasagna from scratch whenever possible, okay?

Monday, March 23, 2009

The long-awaited reappearance of trout

Tonight's Menu

  • sauteed trout fillets
  • ricotta-stuffed mushrooms
  • green salad "bar"
It's been forever since I made fish for dinner and I'm not really sure why. We were eating a lot of tilapia for a while there, and I guess I kind of got sick of it. Anyway, my supermarket had some really nice rainbow trout fillets today, so I bought a couple and just seasoned them with a bit of salt and pepper before sauteing them in EVOO on the stovetop. I always start them skin-side down but I have no idea if that even matters. They were delicious and the boy had seconds and made a point of telling me how good they were. Remind me to start cooking fish more often!

I had a bunch of cheese filling leftover from when I made ravioli the other day and was looking for a way to use it up. I figured I could either make more ravioli (um, no), make lasagne (maybe, but that would involve the making of a meat sauce, which takes a while) or stuff mushrooms with it (bingo!). I modified the cheese filling slightly by mincing the mushroom stems and a couple of cloves of garlic and cooking those together in a skillet with some EVOO until soft. Then I cooled them and mixed them with the leftover ravioli filling, stuffing the mushrooms from whence came the stems and baking them in a foil-lined pan for about 30 minutes at 375 degrees F. I thought they were absolutely delicious, but DH is not a huge fan of ricotta and prefers the cream cheese-based mushroom stuffing. WHATEVER. More mushrooms for me!

The salad bar tonight was chopped romaine, sliced cucumbers and the last of the carrots from my garden (sliced). Time to make way for the spring veggies!

Sunday, March 22, 2009


Tonight's Menu

  • grilled bratwurst
  • grilled potatoes and onions in a foil packet
  • steamed broccoli
I did not notice until I was putting them in water to parboil them before grilling that I had actually bought BRATWURST at the store instead of Italian sausages. Heh. It's hell getting old, man. But it didn't really matter, because I cook them pretty much the same way -- simmer them on the stove in a big pot of water for about 15 or 20 minutes, then grill over high heat until the skins are nice and brown and crispy. The kids said they actually liked these better than our usual Italian sausages and both had seconds!

For the potatoes and onions, just slice some red-skinned potatoes (or some other waxy potato) and some onions into quarter-inch slices and layer them on a big piece of heavy-duty foil with some little hunks of butter, salt and pepper. Just for the heck of it, this time I stuck a wad of whole herb sprigs (parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme -- the song doesn't lie!) on top before tightly sealing the foil packet on all sides. I stuck this on the top rack of my grill when I lit it, and just let it hang out there while the grill warmed up and the sausages browned. It cooked for maybe 30 minutes total. Then just (CAREFULLY) open up the packet, chuck out the herbs, and dump everything else into a bowl! Easy and delicious!

Broccoli was steamed in the microwave.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Even MORE adventures in homemade pasta

Tonight's Menu

  • homemade cheese ravioli
  • green salad "bar"
I will be honest with you: I don't know that I'll be making homemade ravioli all that often in the future. It's not that it was difficult at all, but OMG, it was SO TIME-CONSUMING. I'm not sure the results were worth all the time that went into this dish. I mean, the ravioli was really good, but I don't know that it was two hours worth of good, you know?

ANYWAY, what I did was mix up a batch of pasta dough (two cups flour, one teaspoon salt, three eggs, whizz it all up in a food processor then wrap it in plastic and stick it in the fridge) and roll it out into sheets. That part was easy.

For the filling, I combined some whole-milk ricotta (if yours is runny or weepy, drain it first) with some shredded parmesan (NOT the stuff in the green can), chopped fresh parsley, salt and pepper. Also easy.

Then, I think I may have done something stupid. I'm pretty sure most people who are crazy enough to make ravioli at home dollop the filling onto the pasta sheets and then lay another sheet on top, sealing everything around the dollops of filling and then cutting the raviolis apart. But I'm such a doof, I wasn't sure I'd be able to get everything spaced out right. So I cut my pasta sheets into squares and made my raviolis one at a time and OH MY GOD, never again. It just took FOREVER, and they were kind of jacked-up looking. Maybe I just need practice.

But whatever, I boiled them in salted water for about five minutes and served them with my usual tomato sauce and they were fine. Really good, even! But holy cats, y'all. My back is killing me from all that ravioli assembly.

The salad bar was just romaine lettuce, sliced cucumbers, and sliced carrots from the garden.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Lamb pita FTW!

Tonight's Menu

  • tiny spiced lamb meatballs w/tzatziki
  • whole-wheat pita
  • green salad "bar"
Hey, so I cooked lamb for the first time ever tonight and it was surprisingly (because as you longtime readers know, I don't have such a great track record with kitchen experimentation) delicious! It almost tasted like I knew what I was doing! Weird!

What I did was take a couple of cloves of garlic and some fresh herbs from my garden (mostly parsley, with a bit of oregano and mint -- my mint is JUST NOW coming back from winter) and whiz them up in a little mini food processor that I always forget I have. It made a sort of paste, which I added to 1.5 pounds of ground lamb, some salt and pepper, dried cumin and coriander, chili powder, garam masala, an egg and some dry bread crumbs. I formed it into teeny tiny meatballs, using about a teaspoon of lamb mixture for each ball, and put them on a foil-lined baking sheet. Then I popped them in the oven at 400 degrees F for about 25 minutes. (Digression -- I ALWAYS bake my meatballs instead of frying them. It's so much easier, and there's less to clean up. Plus they are lower in fat, without the added oil and whatnot. Try it!)

Oh, people. They were so good! Really aromatic without any one spice overpowering another. I only wish I had measured the spices, so I'd know how much to tell you to use if you make this. You'll just have to wing it like I did!

I had never made tzatziki before tonight, either. I know! I love it and could eat it on just about anything, but I've never actually MADE it, and it was so easy! All I did was peel and grate a bit of cucumber (I used the seedless kind, but if you use the regular just scrape out the seeds before grating) onto a paper towel, then wrap it all up and squeeze it over the sink to get most of the water out. Then I dumped the cucumber into a bowl and added a couple of very finely minced garlic cloves, the juice of half a lemon, and a bit of EVOO. I tossed that around with a fork to combine, then stirred in about a cup of Greek-style yogurt (I found this at my local SuperTarget, believe it or not) and a wee bit of salt to taste. I refrigerated it for a few hours to let the flavors meld before serving. It was really good, but I used a WEE bit too much garlic, I think. I'm sort of breathing fire now. At least I don't have to worry about vampire attacks for the next few days. Hee!

The pita was purchased. I've heard it's easy to make and keep meaning to try it, but not tonight!

The salad bar was chopped romaine lettuce, sliced green onions, sliced carrots from the garden, and the last of the cherry tomatoes.

What I did, and no one else really followed my example, was fill my pita with chopped romaine, top that with some meatballs, and drizzle some tzatziki on top. It was pure heaven, people. Thank goodness there were leftovers!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

One of the few meals everyone will eat

Tonight's Menu

  • pork spare ribs, spiced & sauced
  • homemade cornbread
  • coleslaw
Seriously, this is one of the few meals I make that everyone in the family will happily eat (with no substitutions of cheese for meat or mundane vegetables for the coleslaw). It's one of those meals that require a bit of advance preparation, but then very little actual work at mealtime. Everyone's happy!

The spare ribs (which are cheap at my local grocery, and very few meats are these days) were rubbed with a mixture of brown sugar, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, smoked paprika, dried oregano and garam masala. Then I stuck them in the oven, in a pan tightly covered with heavy-duty foil, for about 3 hours at 300 degrees F. I usually cook them longer on a lower heat with a bit of liquid, but they tend to fall off the bone when I do that and I wanted these to have some structural integrity so I could finish them on the grill. Which I did! I put them flesh-side down over high heat for about 4 minutes, then bone-side down over low heat for maybe 7 minutes, slathered on both sides with bottled Carolina-style (think mustard-based) barbecue sauce. They came out tender and extremely delicious, if I do say so myself!

I've already given you the recipe for the cornbread. I swear this isn't much more trouble than those "just add water" mixes. This particular cornbread was leftover from last week. It freezes really well! To reheat, I drizzled it with a bit of water and then stuck it in the oven, tightly covered, for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees F. It tasted freshly baked! Honest!

The coleslaw was my usual -- half a head of green cabbage, shredded, tossed with a mixture of mayonnaise, white vinegar, sugar and celery seed. Even the girl will eat this, and she doesn't like ANYTHING.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

More adventures in pasta

Tonight's Menu

  • homemade spaghetti w/quick meatless tomato sauce
  • green salad "bar"
I am determined to get this homemade pasta thing right, y'all. After posting about my most recent attempt at it on my other blog, some kind readers offered tips and I incorporated those this time around with very satisfactory results!

I used the same recipe as last time (two cups flour, one teaspoon salt, three eggs -- is it weird that I have that memorized now?) but after rolling the dough through on a couple of different settings, I folded it in thirds and went back to a larger setting and rolled it through again before repeating the process a couple of times. This time I was able to get it to a #6 thickness before chickening out. My crappy pasta maker has a built-in cutter for spaghetti so I tried it and it worked! I tossed the strands with a bit of flour, then hung them on a kitchen towel over the back of a chair to dry for a couple of hours. They cooked up in about three minutes and were really, really good! Yay! Success!

The tomato sauce was my usual. And actually, it was left over from some purchased tortellini I made several days ago. It keeps well in the fridge.

Tonight's salad bar was chopped romaine and green leaf lettuces, sliced green onions, sliced carrots from the garden, and some tiny cherry tomatoes (I caved and bought some at the store, which I would not normally do this time of year, but I NEEDED tomatoes, y'all).

I am SO excited about this whole pasta thing, can you tell? If I ever get brave enough for homemade tortellini or ravioli, you all will be the first to know.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Breaking the curse

Tonight's Menu

  • fajita-spiced grilled skirt steak
  • sweet potato fries
  • steamed broccoli
Yes, I know. I KNOW. The combination of this particular skirt steak with these particular fries appears to be cursed, at least as far as my household is concerned. But hey, I was feeling lucky. And fortunately, tonight's dinner came off without a hitch! Maybe it's because I served broccoli instead of Brussels sprouts this time.

The skirt steak was sprinkled on both sides with a prepared beef fajita seasoning mix, then stuffed into a big plastic zipper bag with the juice of one lime and some EVOO. It marinated in the fridge for a couple of hours, then I grilled it outside over high heat for 4 minutes per side. After resting for 5 minutes or so, I sliced it across the grain into thin strips (like for fajitas). So yummy!

The sweet potato fries were the usual: several sweet potatoes peeled and then cut into fry-sized sticks, tossed with EVOO, sprinkled with sea salt, garlic powder, chili powder and ground cumin, then popped on a foil-lined baking sheet and into the oven for 45 minutes at 425 degrees F. I tossed them around with a spatula every 15 minutes or so, then turned them off and let them sit in the oven for 15 minutes before serving to allow them to crisp up a bit. I LOVE these fries; they're much healthier than regular fries and make the house smell fantastic while they're cooking.

The broccoli was just steamed in the microwave. Most of it was some Cal-Organic crappe that I bought at the supermarket, but about 15% of it was from my garden -- yay!